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A lot more for Oliver: How social media savvy helped one show go on

Herald Cover 1_edited-1After a 14-year hiatus, my mom went back to teaching at Pacelli Catholic Schools in Austin, Minn. While most of her contemporaries have either long since retired or are dead, my mom, now in the second year of a two-year contract at the ripe young age of 75, teaches music everyday to kids from first grade through seniors in high school. This past Fall she added another duty at the school: the music director for the school’s production of the musical “Oliver.”

For months prior to the play in November, on more than one occasion she expressed concern to me the play could be a financial sinkhole for the school. There are a couple factors I was unaware of that contributed to her anxiety. Number one, it costs several thousand dollars upfront to secure the rights from a publishing house just to get the scores and scripts in order to do a play. Number two, attendance for Pacelli’s plays for the past several years had been lousy. According to the director, a young attorney with a Thespian bent named Cameron Davis, there were times when there were more people on stage than sitting in the audience. To pay for “Oliver,” they were going to need a successful box office, i.e., lots of paying customers.

Like many private schools, Pacelli is a small school with a dedicated faculty who work long and hard but don’t get paid a lot of money. Given my experience and expertise, I offered my help to the administrators at Pacelli with the PR and marketing for the play. I told them I’ll do anything they want me to do and I’ll keep them 100% in the loop as to what I was doing. I submitted a plan for their approval. They were all in. In fact, I took it over.

My strategy combined some old school PR with some “new school” media, including social media.

First, we utilized te most obvious audience for a Catholic school — the three Catholic parishes in Austin. We made sure the church bulletins on Sundays had information on the play. Moreover, I gave the parish priests two talking points to recite during their “announcements” at the end of mass. The second line read, “Check out the Pacelli Facebook page for some cool video.”

Head Shots 7

That’s where new media came into play. I shot video not just of the dress rehearsals but produced interviews with the directors and actors. Armed with extra video, I approached the editor of the town’s newspaper, the Austin Daily Herald, with an offer: If I put a Herald slate on a video piece, would they run it on their web site accompanying the story on the play? “Consider it B-roll for newspaper,” I said, which, although it’s done ALL the time on TV newscasts, is kind of a new concept for newspapers. The editor thought that was a great idea. Not only did they post the video, they ran their feature on the play right on the top-of-fold front page!

Combined with a great show done by the Pacelli students, our efforts produced results. They did four performances (Nov. 20-23). Two were sell outs (Friday and Saturday) and the other two were well attended. The bottom line wasn’t frightening at all. They made enough money to pay for the entire production of the play — the rights, the set, the musicians, etc. And my mom was pleased!

“I’d been doing plays at Pacelli since I was in seventh grade,” Sarah Kahle, a senior who played Widow Corney, told me. “I’d never seen such a turnout. It was absolutly amazing. I’m really glad I got that opportunity to perform in front of such a group.”


Why Michael Floyd Will Succeed

After returning from the NFL Draft in New York City, I ran across a piece on Yahoo! Sports about Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner at Colorado who was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears 17 years ago. Four years later his football career was finished. The piece takes its quotes mostly from a recent Chicago Tribune story on Salaam. To use the popular sports vernacular, he was a “bust.” According to the story, he partied a lot and used marijuana, which led to his downfall. “I had no discipline. I had all the talent in the world,” he said. How did the Chicago Bears miss so badly in their evaluation? How can anyone think they can treat their body like that and excel at their profession?

One guy you wouldn’t have to worry about is Michael Floyd, the Notre Dame grad from St. Paul, Minn., whom the Phoenix Cardinals selected with the 13th pick in the first round. Yes, he had brushes with the law during his college career over drinking, but I know the guy so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe he’s gotten his wake up call and won’t wind up like Salaam. Move past that and you realize this is a guy who works at his craft. Moreover, he loves playing ball and doesn’t mind the training it takes to be an elite athlete. Blessed with natural talent, he’s worked hard to become a first round draft choice. Work ethic isn’t something you can easily measure though. It takes doing homework.

The NFL Combine, which happens in the dead of winter at the end of February, has become it’s own TV event. It’s kind of a cross between an old ABC-TV “Superstars competiton” and a job fair for prospective on-the-field NFL employees. And it serves its purpose: It’s a way management and scouts can get a last look at players before the draft and get last-minute information on players. The physical tests — 40 yard dash time, bench press test, etc. — serve as a way for NFL GMs to collect as much tangible information on the physical qualifications of their prospective employees. And, in a round about way, to justify their picks. Peter Lynch, the money manager who ran the Fidelity Magellan mutual fund  in the ’80s, explained why so many on Wall Street invest in the big familiar names (IBM, GM, etc.) as opposed to the smaller, more unknown growth companies. The reasoning is simple. If IBM goes down, people will ask, “What’s wrong with IBM?” If you invest in a small regional auto parts retailer like Pep Boys and it goes down, people will wonder, “What’s wrong with you?!” Relating it to the draft, the Kansas City Chiefs took Dontari Poe with the 11th pick even though he didn’t have a great deal of production on the field during his career at Memphis. The guy proved to be an athletic freak at the combine, so if he doesn’t pan out the Chiefs can at least offer the excuse that the guy had all the physical tools but he couldn’t pick up the pro game. Ironically, that’s what you’re looking for — players!

Unfortunately, having great “measureables” doesn’t mean a guy can play let alone if they’d make an ideal team mate. What exactly does a work out in shorts and a t-shirt at the NFL Combine prove? Shouldn’t a concrete evaluation of every prospect’s talents already be in the hand by this time? Personal interviews are part of the combine, too, and there’s a benefit to a face-to-face conversation. However, in my experience if you want to find out about a player’s work ethic, one group of people you want to talk to are the equipment managers. They deal with the athletes every day on a personal level and will give you an unbiased evaluation. Unlike a coach, they have no ego invested in a player. But that’s where the effort on the part of the scout comes into play. You can’t just show up at the games and expect to get that sort of information. It takes more work than that. I seriously wonder how many scouts put it in that sort of effort.

Great talents like Michael Floyd in football are like great talents in other walks of life — they make things look easy. But it’s not. James Kaplan, the author of a recently-published biography on Frank Sinatra, “Frank: The Voice,” told Fox News he was struck by Sinatra’s work ethic. While Sinatra knew he was a gifted singer, he didn’t just rely on his talent to make it. “One of the big surprises working on this book for me was to learn how incredibly hard he worked on his singing, on the lyrics, on his breath control, on every part of his craft,” Kaplan said. “He made it look easy. It was not easy!”

Take from the Chairman of the Board. If you want to make it in New York, New York, or the NFL or anywhere else, work ethic can’t be replaced.


Money Monday: The Revolution is Here!

Rick Santelli Converts Pickup to Run on Natural Gas: From Start to Finish.

One of my passions is investing. I rarely watch ESPN; instead CNBC is constantly on my TV. While I do enjoy some of the morning radio guys in the Twin Cities, I’ve been around sports enough if I really want to know something I can just call a contact and find out. Sports is a business. While I respect the athletic abilities of those I watch — and some are truly amazing — there’s no fascination left for me.

If you’re tired of paying close to four bucks a gallon — or if you’re in California $5 per gallon — good news. Competition to gasoline is close at hand: liquid natural gas. I learned this last summer, and the momentum has increased since. The reason is simple: With the price of oil hovering around $100 a barrel and the fact that it comes from countries who are hostile to the West (and lots of other parts of the world), it only makes sense to look at alternatives. Europe is further ahead than we are in North America at adapting to natural gas. In Europe, natural gas cars made by the likes of General Motors are on the road.  Our side of the Atlantic we may be catching up.

The game changer will be what’s know as surface fleet fleet vehicles — your Fed Ex trucks, UPS trucks, the garbage trucks, trucking companies, etc. They want a fuel that is cheaper than diesel. Natural gas fits the bill because it’s cheaper and just as dependable as the fuels derived from oil. Plus, if you’re into the green thing, they it has less carbon emissions. Waste Management (WM) now has 1,400 trucks that run on natural gas. Of course, there are those who raise the question, “Well, what happens if natural gas up in price?” Natural gas has a natural price hedge that oil doesn’t have: your local garbage dump. That stuff can be burned and turned into methane which, in turn, can be converted into natural gas.

Rick Santelli just converted his truck into a LNG (liquid natural gas)-powered vehicle for CNBC. The conversion cost him, but once the surface vehicles start using natural gas en masse the passenger cars will become more prevelent as well. Where would one gas up? The gas station. Pilot Flying J truck stops, in cooperation with a company called Clean Energy Fuels Energy (CLNE), is building LNG pumps at their stations across the country. By the end of 2013, you’ll be able to go coast-to-coast and fill up at a Flying J. And that’s just the beginning.

We are still in the infancy in this, but unless Washington screws it up, bet on it happening. Can’t wait to pay less than two bucks a gallon to fill up.


Union College Hits the Jackpot

Union College hit the jackpot on its way to Tampa to play in the Frozen Four ice hockey championship. Matt Futterman, a Union College grad who now scribes for one of the top newspapers in the free world, the Wall Street Journal, wrote an op ed apology describing how wrong he was when he vehemently campaigned against the college’s reinstatement of the hockey program when he was an undergrad there 21 years ago. As a college senior, Futterman feared hockey was not a worthwhile pursuit for a college with the academic standards of Union. He describes his story HERE on the Journal’s web site.

Good thing he has had a change of heart. Head Coach Rick Bennett has done a great job picking up where Nate Leaman, now at Providence College, left off. Winning at Union can’t be easy. I’d liken it to recruiting for sports at Stanford. There are only so many males out there who are really good athletes who can also score well enough on the ACAT/SAT in order to get in. And who are diligent enough students in the classroom who can stay in. In short, you’re looking for a special breed of cat. Apparently, they found enough of them to win at Union. My eyes were opened to Union when they played here in Minnesota during the Mariucci Classic tournament during the Christmas-New Years break in 2010. They beat the Golden Gophers in the tourney’s first game, 3-2 in OT. Understand something: The Minnesota fan base does not think their team should EVER lose to someplace called Union College.  If we must lose sometime, we lose to brand names — North Dakota, Wisconsin, Boston College. Not Union. It was a big time wake up call for the Gophers, but more so for the rest of college hockey. Union may have it going, people.

Having the Wall Street Journal run Mr. Futterman’s piece in the paper plus doing a video with him is icing on the public relations cake. First, dumb people do not read the Wall Street Journal. Opinion leaders do. Smart people, people in leadership, people who can donate financially and maybe even afford to send their kids to Union read the Journal. Secondly, everyone except the most callas of people like a Prodigal Son story. Instead of pleading insanity for being the son of a psychotherapist and a lawyer, Mr. Futterman takes full responsibility for being wrong, even going so far as to apologize in person and on camera to the past president, Roger Hull, who spearheaded the drive to get a hockey program back at Union. Generally speaking, people don’t like to admit they are wrong, let alone do it publicly. Watching the video on the Journal’s site, it’s hard not to like Mr. Futterman.

Alas, he does have a vociferous critic in Zach Pearce, a contributor to — you guessed it — the Union College Hockey Blog. In a rant on his blog, Mr. Pearce doesn’t buy Futterman’s mea culpa and thinks he belittled Union’s history because he referred to it as “slightly-less-than-illustrious.”

“The troubling part of Mr. Futterman’s article is that it reads dangerously as a misinformed personal attack on the school,” Pearces asserts. Really? Union has its cadre of distinguished alumni to be sure, but lest’s be realistic: It’s not Harvard. In athletics it won’t remind you of Stanford either. The Wikipedia list maintained by Union itself is a little short on famous graduates since, say, 1960. It doesn’t mean Union isn’t a terrific school with wonderful people. However, as a contributing alum, Matt Futterman has done more to elevate the visibility of the school than President Chester A. Arthur has done lately. To use Mr. Futterman’s description of himself as a Union student, Mr. Pearce comes across as much of an “obnoxious punk” as Mr. Futterman was 21 years ago. Funny how history repeats itself.

If I were Rick Bennett, I’d welcome back Matt Futterman with open arms. In fact, I’d give him a jersey and have him write a piece on the program for the team’s web site. After all, he just did your program a favor by acknowldging his youthful stupidity to about three million Wall Street Journal readers. A lot of those people never knew about Union College. Now they do. Way to go, Dutchmen!


When Ivy League Diplomacy Failed…

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention what I think was one of the more odd moments from my hockey season.

During the Winnipeg Jets-Minnesota Wild game back in February, the Jets’ Tanner Glass got into it with the Wild’s Darroll Powe. A fight during an NHL game isn’t unusual. What made it unusual was that the combatants are supposed to be bright human beings, at least brighter than your average dolt on the street. Besides the fact they are both from the providence of Saskatchewan in Canada — surprise! — they also have another thing in common: They both attended Ivy League colleges. Glass went to Dartmouth and Powe went to Princeton.  And they spent all four years there, which means it’s likely they are Ivy League graduates! You won’t know that by reading their bio info on their respective team’s web sites because it’s not mentioned. A missed opportunity to get a story line out there, but that’s a subject for another blog post.

Nevertheless, I don’t think either one of them majored in any sort of government relations/diplomacy field of study. If they did, they’d probably get peace-loving Canada into a war with another country. Seriously, who doesn’t like Canada? Than, again, hockey doesn’t lend itself to on-ice diplomacy.


Muzik’s Best Hockey Photos from this Year’s State of Hockey

There’s no playoff hockey here in Minnesota (again) this year, so we are confined to watching the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV (once again). All I’m left with now are souvenir photos. And more time to complete my taxes and let my sore lower back heal up.

Along with my co-editor (my dad), I put together my best hockey photos from thirty-three NHL games and a bunch of Minnesota Gopher games. While I live in St. Paul, Minn., judging by the photos you’d think I lived in Edmonton, Alberta. That’s because we saw the Oilers four times four times  (one preseason game, three regular season) by the first of the year. Please let me know what you think. You leave a comment on my blog or friend me on Facebook and leave a comment there. (To go to Facebook, please chick HERE.)


Meet the Next Lawrence Taylor

I hated the way ESPN overhyped USC running back Reggie Bush when he was in college. They actually did a segment comparing him to Chicago Bears great — and NFL Hall of Famer — Gale Sayers. Comparing a college kid to an NFL legend was ridiculous. College football and the pros are not the same game. Bush was taken second overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, and I think Bush is more famous for dating Kim Kardashian than for what he has done on the field.

But I’m about to jump on a bandwagon of my own making. You must see Daeshon Hall, a junior in high school from Lancaster, Texas, play football. This kid has some special ability. He’ll committed to Texas already, so you’ll see him in Longhorns burnt orange in 2013.

One of my free lance jobs is editing video for national Preps. I spent February watching a lot of high school football from the state of Texas. Young Mr. Hall just stood out. In Lancaster they play him as a defensive end, although I think he’ll project as an outside linebacker in college — and in the NFL. At 6-foot-6, 225 lbs. he has the build of a basketball player, and, in fact, he does play hoops. However, he has the body type of a small forward, unlike Julius Peppers who played basketball at North Carolina and played defensive end in college and the pros. Peppers has the build of a power forward; he’s bigger in the lower body. But Hall has some unbelievable physical ability — and he’s much stronger than you would think.

If Young Mr. Hall is a diligent student and makes wise choices off the field, the sky’s the limit for this fellow. My edited video of Hall runs just under three minutes, so check it out.