Beware of the Groundhog: Groundhog Day Lessons

Punxatawny PhilAs public relations officials, we are constantly on the lookout for media opportunities for clients; some even call them “PR stunts.”   February 2, aka “Groundhog Day,” is one that is often used by politicians.  Everyone wants an end to winter so why not?  The politician will get the photo op and even if the hog sees his shadow, it’s still a win right?  Well, ask New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. In 2014, when doing the Groundhog Day event, he dropped Staten Island Chuck. Not a good move. Instead of seeing a shadow, Chuck saw stars. And unfortunately, did not recover. (See links below)

What do we take away from this? First, make sure when you do a special event or media event you are well prepared. Walk through what you have to do. Talk about contingencies and if you are not comfortable with picking up a groundhog, don’t do it. The negative press that will be short term and long term can be problematic.

From a marketing perspective, Groundhog Day is cute and there are certainly campaigns and social media comments that can be used to attract some attention.  Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. This year it falls on the first Tuesday of February. Groundhog Day can be a day to actually get your marketing on track. If you have stumbled and have failed with your marketing New Years resolutions, get started again and set your goals for February. You have six weeks till spring (despite what Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck and Malverne Mel say).Groundhog

Need some inspiration and a laugh? Watch Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and directed by the late Harold Ramis.  The marketing and life lesson here? Just ask Einstein and his famous quote on the definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Bill Murray’s character in the movie – Phil Conners – is stuck in a day that he is forced to relive over and over and over again.  Unbeknownst to him, he is changing what he is doing every day. He may not know why at first, but eventually figures out that he has to change who he is to get the girl. After potentially living the same day over and over for years, he makes the changes and he wakes up on February 3. In marketing we have to adapt and change our messages until they resonate with target audiences. Look at what works and what does not. Make the changes and keep track.  Learn from Phil Conners and take Einstein’s advice.


“How am I doing?” a personal branding lesson from Mayor Ed Koch


Ed Koch, three-term Mayor of New York City, passed away today. Mayor Koch developed, grew and maintained a personal brand that we can all take away many lessons from. I have written about politics and how it is the ultimate forum for personal branding before. When you look at politicians and public figures over the past half century Mayor Koch was certainly one of the standouts. His personality and brand resonated well beyond the boundaries of New York City.

I met and saw Mayor Koch several times and heard him speak in person on a few occasions. There was no doubt his presence in a room was felt by everyone. Whether you agreed with him or not you knew his point of view and he stuck to it. People knew where he stood on issues and his other interests, something that we could use more of today in both politics and business. His direct style angered some, but there is no disagreement that he will be remembered as one of the most straightforward Mayors in New York City’s long history.

From a PR and media relations perspective Koch didn’t shy away from the media and was comfortable in any media setting. From hosting radio shows to holding as many as 10 press conferences in just one day, he saw the power in the media and used it. We could all benefit from politicians who host more press conferences and provide candid answers to questions.St Pat's

What I always appreciate about Mayor Koch was his desire to get feedback about the job he was doing. The “How am I doing?” question that the catch phrase he uttered thousands, if not tens of thousands of times, is unforgettable in itself. Koch wanted approval and to find out what the “people” of New York truly felt about him. When was the last time you asked this question to your customers, clients, business contacts and those you work with? If it has been a while, start asking this question periodically. Small businesses can take it a step further, conduct a survey of clients and customers to find out what they think about how you are doing. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Social media allows businesses to constantly ask this question. Add surveys and questions about service to your social media activities and assess the responses. Be prepared for the responses you receive and listen to them. Let them help you to modify your customer service, marketing and sales approaches.

Be straightforward, stick to what you believe and your goals and get feedback from customers. All lessons that we can learn from looking at the life, politics and personality of Mayor Ed Koch.

Vote Today

Its Nov 1, 2010 Election Eve. Remember that voting is our most important right and that millions of Americans fought for, many making the ultimate sacrifice to protect this right and the other freedoms we enjoy. No matter which party or candidate you support, we all owe it those who shed their blood and gave up their lives to protect our nation and our right to vote, to go to the polls tomorrow.

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