Lead Balloon - Public Relations, Marketing and Strategic Communications Disaster Stories

A Business, Marketing and News podcast featuring
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What constitutes "politics" in America has crept into new, ugly territory. And with the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6, it finally became impossible for businesses to ignore the danger that rising nationalism poses to democracy. In minutes, that realization changed everything about the way businesses and organizations communicate about politics, and the Lincoln Project is a major force driving that shift. Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson is a political strategist, a former member of the Republican party, and a media consultant with a rich, broad background in the world of political ad strategy. And in this episode, we'll discuss the business imperative driving a growing number of conservative business organizations to turn on the modern Republican party. We’ll learn in-depth details about the strategic media offensive the Lincoln Project led against Donald Trump’s re-election. And we’ll discuss why, like it or not, the illusion separating the worlds of business and politics shattered on January 6th. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
With Covid-19 vaccination efforts finally getting underway, communicating properly about this process is critical to saving lives and re-opening the economy. That responsibility extends beyond the traditional bounds of public health communication, according to public health experts, and touches nearly every strategic communicator in the country--and indeed every American citizen. In this episode, we welcome back two past guests to the show. Bill Pierce was formerly a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush Administration. Today he’s a crisis communications consultant at APCO Worldwide and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University. And Dr. Maria Sundaram is an epidemiologist and post-doctoral fellow at IC/ES, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, and a global authority on Covid-19. These world-class public health communicators are in agreement that how we all communicate about the vaccination process going forward will play a major part in how many lives are saved. We’ll also explore what needs to happen from a StratComm standpoint, the best ways to deal with all the misinformation about vaccines, what went wrong in the last year, and why this could be a turning point in the war on Covid. Because if we do it right this time, communicators could still help save the world.  (Pictured in this week's podcast art: Dusty's hero, his wife, getting her vaccination as a frontline M.D.) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In public relations, "going rogue" is a notion that sets teeth on edge for most PR practitioners. But sometimes, when the conventional approach fails, the only way forward is to throw carefully-laid plans out the window and wing it. In 2013, when a government shutdown closed the National Parks to visitors on the eve of her long-planned PR junket, (W)right On Communications founder Julie Wright faced a choice. She could either abandon months of planning and waste an opportunity to showcase some of California's most epic scenery to a hand-picked group of influential travel writers, or she could bend the rules, take a calculated risk and skirt some barricades. So she went rogue, and the trip that resulted was as hair-raising as it was memorable. In this episode of Lead Balloon, she shares the epic tale, as well as the important lessons she learned about asking forgiveness instead of permission... and BEAR SAFETY. Travel writers Diane Lebow and Laura Kiniry also share their recollections of the trip, and explain why every PR practitioner needs a little bit of "rogue" in them. Learn more about (W)right On Communications, visit Diane Lebow's website and check out Laura Kiniry's Instagram feed. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Lead Balloon Season 2 launches on January 5! But in the meantime, we wanted to share some exciting behind-the-scenes updates about our small--but growing--company. Larry Kilgore III starts today as Podcamp Media's Production Services Manager. And with a pandemic raging and all work being conducted virtually for the foreseeable future, Dusty had to meet him at the Wisconsin-Illinois border to hand off the equipment he needs to work from home. So, in the spirit of Lead Balloon, enjoy this quick onboarding interview, conducted in a SOCIALLY DISTANT, pandemic-friendly and unconventional manner--with Dusty and Larry sitting down to talk from their individual cars in a Culver's parking lot, a mic cable strung between their vehicles. 2020 can't end soon enough. See you all in 2021, folks! Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in a tank is an image that has become synonymous with abject public relations failure. And for marketers and PR practitioners, it serves as an enduring reminder of the power that our mistakes have to burn down powerful people and institutions in one moment of lapsed judgment. Josh King was a junior campaign staffer for the Dukakis campaign, and went on to serve as White House director of production for presidential events under President Bill Clinton. Kevin Sullivan served as White House communications director under President George W. Bush. And with another election this week--chock full of its own PR lessons and case studies--Josh and Kevin will shed new light on the political legend of Dukakis in a Tank, offer a glimpse behind the scenes of the Clinton and Bush administrations, and explore 32 years worth of other presidential PR blunders. Because, after participating in democracy this year, we've all earned a good chuckle... Also, please vote if you haven't yet. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
We've just received some incredible news here at Podcamp Media world headquarters in Milwaukee. Lead Balloon is Adweek's 2020 "Marketing Podcast of the Year," and Dusty is "just gobsmacked." This is like pulling down an "Emmy" or an "Oscar" in podcasting. And since it's 2020 and, well, Covid, there won't be an opportunity to accept some hardware on a podium. So in this quick special update, Dusty attempts to parse his thoughts on what it means for the show and the future of Podcamp Media. Please do sign up for the Podcamp newsletter for more updates on new developments. Cheers everyone. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Right or wrong, there are some products that most PR and marketing professionals want nothing to do with. The Squatty Potty, a plastic platform that purports to alleviate constipation, is certainly not any conventional marketer's dream client. But under the guidance of the Harmon Brothers agency, this ignoble brand launched the most successful viral marketing video of all-time, landing hundreds of millions of video views and millions of dollars in sales. And they owe it all to an animatronic unicorn who poops rainbow ice cream. Harmon Brothers' social media success was even recognized with a 2016 Webby Award, and other notable campaigns have included the OraBrush, Poo-Pourri toilet spray and Chatbooks. In this episode, Harmon Brothers CEO Benton Crane tells the story of the agency's origin and trajectory, explaining the fusion of science and art that powers their reliable viral successes. It turns out that there is no such thing as a "bad client" for an agency willing to embrace data-driven outlandish creativity, irreverence and poop jokes. Plus, Boeing's retired VP of Communications Jim Schlueter weighs in. Learn more about his family's project alextheartist.com. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Not everyone in marketing set out from Day One to become a marketer. And for outside creatives transitioning into the corporate world, there are tough lessons to master, dangerous pitfalls to avoid and unwritten rules to learn. Before he was brand strategist, David Allen Moss was an industrial designer, an artist and a musician. His impressive and meandering career as a marketer has touched brands like Best Buy, Wynn Las Vegas, Gateway Computers, Costco and Red Lobster. And the time he spent working for American Greetings and EDR Media in Ohio is littered with war stories of high-profile clients, high-pressure business meetings and high-strung personalities. These days, David is the Chief Creative Officer at Evergreen Podcasts in Cleveland. But he says his experience in the trenches made him the professional he is today, even if, as an idealistic creative in the corporate world, it was an especially vexing puzzle to navigate. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
With great marketing tools comes great responsibility--and marketing automation, email marketing and customer relationship management are no exception. Use them correctly, and you can tap into the efficiencies inherent in automation, with a demonstrable return on investment. Use them incorrectly, and you can crater your customer relationships with the touch of a button. Misty Dykema and Abby Bell from Simantel Group have watched these dramas play out, over and over, as they try to coach different businesses through the marketing automation learning curve. They've seen the worst-case scenarios, and often been called in to clean up the mess when marketing technology adoption goes wrong. In this episode, they share cautionary tales from the front lines, and outline the potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. Plus, Dusty surprises Abby with a podcast karaoke session. Yeah, that really happened. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the corporate world, unspoken rules about what constitutes appropriate workplace conversation provide white employees with a safe, comfortable space free from discussion about controversial topics like race and police brutality. But for people of color, there's no escaping these conversations--they shape the reality that Black people live every day in America. They can't turn it off or "take a break from it," and that's a form of white privilege right there. Everyone has a part to play in building a better society, and it starts with knowing how to have uncomfortable conversations. So in this episode of Lead Balloon, three people of color who work as professional communicators discuss their experiences with racism, privilege and the corporate world. Randy Crump from Prism Technical Management and Marketing Services, Dr. Monique Liston from Ubuntu Research and Evaluation, and Kennita Hickman from Catera Omnivision also share tips for how their white colleagues can help the cause instead of contributing to the problem. Because if you haven't been uncomfortable lately, you're part of the problem. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The Hail Mary: a last-chance, desperation plan with a high risk of failure, turned to as a last resort when all other options have failed. It's not just a football play; it's a mindset that professional communicators must adopt from time-to-time. Beth Tomkiw is the Chief Content Officer at Trusted Media Brands, the publisher of Taste of Home, Reader's Digest and many other recognizable publications. Previously an editor at Playboy, she also worked in custom publishing and content marketing for more than a decade. In this episode, Beth Tomkiw tells the tale of the Hail Mary play she drew up as a content strategist at McMurry to save the agency's contract with the Ritz-Carlton brand. (Original photo by WiNG, CC BY-SA 3.0) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
There's no need to sugarcoat it: things looks grim. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has exacted a brutal price in lives, public health and global economic activity, and there's little respite in sight. But with a likely recession setting in, those of us fortunate enough to still have jobs in marketing and communications are looking for ways to do more with less. Enter Joe Pulizzi. In the midst of the last recession, his fledgling company changed marketing forever, rebranding the notion of "Content Marketing" and forging a media empire. From the ashes of the Great Recession, he raised the Content Marketing Institute, three best-selling books and “This Old Marketing” the Podcast. In this edition of Lead Balloon, Pulizzi shares his tale, as well as advice for communications professionals hoping to weather the storm. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Communicating with the public during a crisis is as critical as it is difficult. And if it's seemed to you like President Donald Trump has been hitting many of the wrong notes during his daily media briefings, you're not alone. "They threw the plan out, and started to make up a new one, and they didn't need to," says Bill Pierce, who served as a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush Administration. "There are some basic fundamentals that they should have adhered to and didn't, unfortunately." In this episode, Pierce taps into his deep expertise in crisis communication and pandemic response planning to critique the federal comms response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus so far--what they've done right and what they've done wrong. Plus, Dr. Maria Sundaram, an epidemiologist at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, takes calls from listeners to bust some myths about the pandemic which have been circulating on social media. Watch video of Dr. Sundaram's Q&A session here. Special thanks to Daniel Matarazzo for sharing his clever, uplifting Coronavirus musical parodies with the world. Check him out on Twitter or YouTube. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Everybody remembers the McDonald's Monopoly sweepstakes. But until HBO's McMillion$ came out, most folks didn't realize that the reason it suddenly vanished in 2001 was because it was rigged from the start. In the hit series, directors James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte tell the fantastic story with panache and aplomb of how McDonald's was scammed for $24 million. And in this episode of Lead Balloon, they examine the story through a PR and marketing lens, explaining how McDonald's and the FBI tried to save face in the midst of disastrous circumstances. And, PR agency owner John Boyanoski shares his tale from the day when the FBI visited his newspaper office to avert a McMillion$ PR disaster. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
It might be tough to imagine these days, but public relations work still got done in the era before cell phones and broadband. Somehow. But like the show Seinfeld, one of the most popular sitcoms from the '90s, the slow speed of information back then could cause challenges and miscommunications during high-stakes PR events--which might otherwise have been solved with a quick phone call. In this episode of Lead Balloon, Pittsburgh-based PR consultant Tim O'Brien shares a tale from his days at the Ketchum agency, where insane pressure, bad luck, poor timing and colorful characters all came together to create a situation worthy of its own Seinfeld episode. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Patrick McSweeney is a cliché warrior. If it's a hackneyed, over-worn marketing and PR trope, he’s gone to battle against it. But when you choose creativity and innovation over familiarity and stagnation, there can be hidden dangers. They might result in a sticky mess and hundreds of dollars in damage, but ultimately, isn't that a lesser risk than failing as a storyteller? In this episode, Patrick re-lives a couple of embarrassing moments from his career, along with his former colleague Katrine Strickland. News editor Jason Maddux explains why he never runs ribbon cutting photos in the newspapers he manages. And with Patrick, we explore the importance of authenticity in PR and media relations, and how to be prepared for anything in a field where everything can happen. (Includes music by Alavedra, McColl & Levine / CC BY 4.0) Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
During Super Bowl LIII in 2019, Bud Light launched a new advertising strategy that was... unconventional, even for them. Instead of frogs or "wazzap" guys or silly superstitions, this campaign focused on attacking Bud Light's rivals for using corn syrup to brew their beers. Stranger still, outside observers noted that the beer giant borrowed other conventions from the world of political mudslinging, twisting facts, doubling down on vague talking points and attempting to build a consensus against Miller Lite and Coors Light. But the brewing barons at Anheuser-Busch didn't count on the little guys... specifically, members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) who took exception to the attacks and rallied to the defense of MillerCoors. In this episode, Neil Caskey from the NCGA recounts the tale of their beer war with Bud Light, Paul Gatza from the Brewers Association explains why big brewers are feeling the pinch and might resort to such infighting, and Kyle Brown helps break down the ultimate failures of "the Corn Syrup Offensive." Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
At the end of his first week working in public relations, Dusty Weis did something so dumb, he could have been fired on the spot. During a meeting with one of his new bosses, prominent Milwaukee politician Jim Bohl, Dusty made a bad assumption and recklessly insulted Jim to his face. But Dusty wasn't fired, and the two went on to work well together at City Hall for five years. But they never again spoke about what was said on that fateful day in 2012. Until now. With the help of colleague Ken Leiviska, Dusty recounts the hilarious tale of the dumbest thing he ever did. Then, he and Jim revisit the insult to note some important lessons for media professionals transitioning into a career in political PR. And finally, Dusty checks in with two other City Hall officials, city clerk Jim Owczarski and public information manager Bill Arnold, to see just how close he actually came to getting fired in his first week on the job. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
It was supposed to be a historic day at Madame Tussauds wax museum in San Francisco. The storied attraction was launching, not only the first animatronic exhibit in franchise history, but the first exhibit based on a famous internet cat. In fact, "Grumpy Cat" herself was there for the big unveiling, along with scores of excited fans and a gaggle of local and national press. But there was a problem--a big one. And, as Madame Tussauds marketing coordinator Jesse Russell raced the clock to sort it out, he battled one of the great horrors of the 21st century. Because it turns out that, in the internet age, even cats have pushy, demanding managers. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On Dusty's fourth day as a public relations professional, he walked into a meeting with one of his new bosses—a prominent local politician—and insulted him to his face.And for the first time since that fateful day in 2012, he's going to rehash that incident with the politician himself, moment by cringe-inducing moment.Coming in January, Lead Balloon is a podcast dedicated to PR, marketing and strategic communications disaster stories, re-told by the well-meaning communications professionals who lived them. Subscribe now to make sure you don't miss an episode.But in the meantime, enjoy this preview of one of the show's first episodes.
PR. Marketing. Strategic communications.These are rewarding fields, filled with creative professionals giving it their all.But when things go wrong, it's never pretty. It's usually very public, and it's always spectacular.Lead Balloon explores these tales of PR disasters, professional crises and half-baked campaigns gone awry, giving well-meaning communications professionals a platform to re-live the worst moments of their careers.Because sometimes, there are important lessons to be learned from someone else's worst day.And sometimes, it's just more convenient than group therapy.Lead Balloon is hosted by Dusty Weis, and launches in January 2020, with new episodes monthly.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Podcamp Media
Podcast Status
Oct 29th, 2019
Latest Episode
Feb 2nd, 2021
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
44 minutes

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