When the media tries to become the story

The CNBC-hosted Republican debate turned into a debacle.  From the first question, it was clear that CNBC didn’t want to be the conduit of information for the candidates.  They wanted to insert themselves into the debate by asking ridiculous, mean-spirited and mostly irrelevant questions.

Candidate Ted Cruz, after several questions, took them to task and received loud audience approval.  He blasted the questioners for wanting to turn a civil debate into a “cage fight.”

This post has nothing to do with politics.  It has to do with money.  Since Donald Trump entered the race, the Republican debates have earned Fox, CNN and now CNBC big ratings.  And big ratings translate into big ad revenue.

It was no accident that CNBC asked the questions they asked.  They wanted the “debate” to be as bloody as it possibly could.  They wanted to turn it into a reality show that is talked about and YouTubed over and over.  And by doing so pump up the ratings.

The question is: what is the role of a news organization that hosts an election debate?  Are they supposed to ask meaningful questions that allow each candidate to state his/her positions on important issues, or is the media’s role to grab as many eyeballs as possible for its own bottom line?

The historic 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate, which cemented John Kennedy’s election, was the first televised presidential debate.  But it was not an exercise in who could mess up the most.  CBS took its role as a news organization seriously and allowed each candidate to talk about the issues, not about their personalities, short-comings, poll ratings and everything else that had nothing to do with being president.

But, unfortunately, that time may have come and gone.  Today news organizations are profit centers and they cherish the opportunity to host election debates because they make money, especially if there are fireworks.

And if it takes a network like CNBC to flame the fires, well, so be it.

On the other hand, the fall-out from the CNBC was so pronounced and embarrassing that future primary and then election debates may actually do what they are supposed to — showcase the candidates qualifications for the most powerful job on earth.

Let’s see if that is the case.


Lamar Odom shows us the new cost of fame

As of this writing, former LA Lakers and Clippers player Lamar Odom lies in a hospital bed in Las Vegas fighting for his life.   This latest life-threatening drama for the troubled athlete started after three days at a Nevada brothel that included lots of drugs and resulted in an unconscious Odom.

When these episodes happen to the rich and famous, the media dig for all the dirt they can get their hands on.  That always includes the “backstory” of what was going on in the person’s life that led him/her to the situation.  In the case of Odom, it really is no surprise.  He has been in the news for years, even after his basketball career ended, because of his role on the reality show ?Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

Although much has been written about the tragedies Odom faced and lived through — even before entering the NBA — it is being said that his professional basketball career was doomed in large part because of the reality show.  Apparently, according to the gossip sites, no team wanted anything to do with the Kardashians and the show, which demanded locker room access, front row seats for Odom’s former wife and family and on and on.  The Lakers cut him as did the Clippers.  Team management wanted the focus to be on their franchises, not the Kardashian reality show.  Plus, there were rumors that Odom was using drugs and needed rehab.  Too much drama for a basketball franchise worth upwards of a couple of billion dollars.

Some say Odom didn’t know what he was getting into when he marrried Khloe Kardashian.  He soon wanted out of the show, and it took a toll on his marriage.  So he turned to drugs, again, which is not surprising as his father is a former drug user, so the reports say.

Most people dream of fame and the fortune that often comes along with it.  At his peak, Odom was earning upwards of $10 million a season.  But for Lamar Odom, fame seems to have been a curse.  He was a good athlete and had a future if he was able to focus on that.  For some reason the distraction of the show, which put him on a different exposure level, was more than he could handle.

And the result, as of today, are not pretty.

As the old adage says, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

Steve Jobs on marketing — the master explains the re-branding of Apple

Steve Jobs was unquestionably the master marketing genius of our generation.  When I teach PR courses and workshops, I often show this video of Jobs presenting Apple’s re-branding campaign, and the strategy behind it.  This presentation was given when Jobs returned to Apple after being fired in a dispute with the Apple board.  Jobs went on to found NEXT Computer and Apple went on toward bankruptcy.  They brought Jobs back and the rest is history.

If you want to learn all there is to know about how to brand your company, nonprofit, institution or product, watch the master at work.