Disco Riot Anniversary: A Social Media Perspective

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.12.25 PMHe wobbled, stared at me with glassy eyes and mumbled, ” Wow man, I’ve never pissed on second base.” Next he fumbled with his zipper then sprayed his impulse all over his pants, shoes and eventually the intended target. In baseball terms he stole second and in stoner lingo he scored and fried. I still smile when I think of that unknown, fellow rioter on the baseball field from an infamous promotional campaign that is now part of Rock ‘n’ Roll, baseball and Chicago media lore, Disco Demolition.

35 years ago this week, two high school friends, Ralph, Mark and I made a last minute decision while listening to our favorite Rock Radio station to drive 40 minutes from Northwest Indiana to Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, the former home of the Chicago White Sox. Admission to the double header between the Sox and Detroit Tigers was 98 cents (the radio station promoting the event was WLUP, The Loop FM 98) and a 45 rpm disco record, which looked like an oversized CD with a hole in the middle. Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 12.37.35 PM

WLUP disc jockey Steve Dahl had recently been fired from a rival station after it converted to disco music programming. This promotion carried out his revenge and our disdain for the genre. In between the games, Dahl, dressed in an anti-disco military uniform strutted to a dumpster in center field and fired up 59,000 fans with “Disco Sucks” chants. When he reached his destruction destination, he blew up thousands of records and ignited the mayhem. A giant plume of white smoke and gunpowder smell blended with the blue cloud of burning weed that had been wafting before the first pitch was even thrown. Seconds after that explosion, I heard, “Let’s Go,” and we were off. From center field, our thundering herd flew over seats, sprinted down ramps and hurdled retention walls until we landed on the grass near first base. Our trio slowly wandered and gazed up toward the empty seats marked by Disco Sucks banners while dozens of other knuckleheads set fires throughout the field. For at least a half-hour, everyone disregarded the pleas, “Holy Cow, please get off the field,” from famous announcer Harry Caray. We savored every second of our major league debut until tactical police units arrived on horseback with billy clubs.

It would have been cool to record all that action like we do today with our mobile devices even though I hold onto vivid memories of the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the entire stadium rumbling during the initial rush, which is a great thing. I embrace social media and I’m uncertain what kind of thing this is, but I believe that if Disco Demolition was promoted today, it would not spontaneously combust because of the medium’s ability to spread news so quickly. An audience much bigger than fans of Steve Dahl would control or crash the party for five reasons:

  1. Twitter would be trending with #discodemolition #discosucks and #disco prior to the event
  2. Instagram would be rolling for days with selfies of kids wearing Disco Sucks T-Shirts
  3. Vine and YouTube would be filled with videos of teens destroying disco records
  4. Facebook pages of WLUP RadioThe White Sox would be smothered in disco-hating rants
  5. Organizers would react to the social media conversation and take preventive steps and bring in extra security 

Disco Demolition

Back then, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of ourselves. Now, we watch old footage on YouTube and recall this anniversary through our memories of the sights, sounds and smells that connect a bygone media era to today’s social media. There could even be a lesson as we chronicle so many moments on social media. Before, during or after that selfie, think about pausing for a moment and engaging all of your senses to remember and interpret; not knowing it at the time, this worked for me at Disco Demolition and just might help make your milestones more memorable.

With Disco Demolition, Steve Dahl became a media icon because he was an outrageous visionary who understood the power of being himself. Today, he’s active on social media, has his own network with podcasts and is just as real as he was in 1979.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich and the days of hating disco are way behind me even though I still fear dancing. 

picture of Ron Petrovich

picture of Ron



Twitter and TV go hand in hand to make history

I am so proud of my fellow-couch potatoes that I’d stand up and applaud except that I am holding three remotes and an iPhone in my hands and resting a MacBook Pro and Kindle on my lap. Tweeting and watching TVWe used to watch TV open-mouthed and drool on the furniture but that was so 2010. Today we’re onto to something big-our consumption of traditional and social media is making history. TV used to own the prime real estate of ratings and now it wants to share with social media. This is a good thing because the giant consumer research company, Nielsen, recognizes this trend and for the first time ever, has begun measuring Twitter and TV together like traffic and weather. TV shows like Dialing For Dollars, entertainment oriented web pages, blogs and Facebook built the framework to share a programming experience and today, Twitter has made interacting even better. It’s fast, easy, reaches millions of people and lights up the globe during big events. When the horse California Chrome lost his big for the Triple Crown at Belmont, the reaction to his owner’s tirade about fairness instantly ignited a real time conversation #CaliforniaChrome that has lasted for days. tweets on california chrome Why is this happening? It’s simple-television and Twitter have altered our brains and fingers to work as one to watch, talk and listen. I have to credit our daughter, @manthapetrovich, a TV aficionado, for introducing us to Jimmy Fallon and his creative use of #hashtags to engage his audience, as shown by buzzfeed.

(Article from buzzfeed that shows examples of hashtags with Jimmy Fallon

Anna Washenko Anna Washenko posted this story on the TV industry’s leadership of #hashtag use.  She references the creative crime solving comedy hit (now concluded) Psych on USA Network and how it invited viewers to help catch a criminal on Twitter. Twitter sees this potential too and has been testing TV engagement. It is probably biased, but I agree with this study conducted by Brandwatch and posted by the staff at Hashtags.org that says TV shows with hashtags deliver better viewer participation, which possibly translates to ratings. Personally, I remember events better while Tweeting because to me it’s like taking notes. As mentioned in the top of this post, TV ratings company Nielsen has started measuring how Tweets and TV complement each other. (more in this report by ABC) It found that the Grammys, Oscars and SuperBowl generated the most tweets and reached the most people. Breaking Bad, one of the best TV shows ever, led the way with engagement, averaging more than 500,000 tweets per episode.

Click on this image to read the post on Nielsen Ratings

Click on this image to read the post on Nielsen Ratings

News organizations are using this same brand journalism formula. Reporter Dr. Nancy Dr Nancy SnydermanSnyderman is a journalist who brands herself and NBC News on Twitter. While she connects with audiences on TV and Twitter, she is also developing good sources for future stories and growing her fan base. What will the future bring? It’s logical to assume that the barriers between all the media are blurring and that there might be more happy places for popular platforms to prop each other up, something we all need when we’re in couch potato mode. Fellow coach potatoes, if it’s not too much effort, here is another chance to see Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake take hashtagging over the top. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.

All communicators need to know multimedia

If you want to flourish in today’s fractured media environment jump in and don’t worry about your age or your technical ability.

Graphic showing different positions in social media

Graphic showing different positions in media and journalism

Many of my former TV news colleagues say I’m too old to be learning social media and my family will attest that I can barely load paper in our printer, operate the TV remote or organize the dishwasher.  Despite this, I am doing OK with social media and multitasking with multimedia, proving that if I can do it, anyone can. If you work in communications, you need to learn these skills now.

An instructor at San Francisco State University, Rachele Kanigel Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 5.38.25 PMwrote this blog post about journalism in the 21st century. She mixed reporting skills and multimedia storytelling which received a positive reaction from students.  Her lessons apply beyond the classroom and journalism.  If you work in media today you should always think about delivering your story on TV, radio, newspaper, blogs and mobile. You can drive the same message with slight alterations through multiple social media tools and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vimeo.  No longer is this an extra; it is now  a requirement for your job.

This strategy can potentially reach thousands and millions of people at very little cost and it will increase your value as an employee. Today’s integrated workflow affects journalism, marketing and every other facet of communications. Rachele, thank you for preparing students for the future and teaching  all of us about the importance of communicating effectively on multimedia. Definitely worth a retweet!


Brand Journalism creates new opportunities

We are living in the Golden Age of news and information because consumers have more news choices than ever.  These sources that deliver instant messages range from credible to unreliable, balanced to biased and newsworthy to inane.  It’s messy and yet still better than the good ole days when we watched anchorman Walter Cronkite dominate TV news against two other networks.  In those times every town supported at least one daily newspaper and we accepted that because it’s all we knew.

Walter Cronkite delivering news

Walter Cronkite

Back then, media groups had a license to print money and faced minimal competition.  In the 1980’s Ted Turner built 24 hour cable news and Gannett created USA Today with a mission to publish articles with colorful pictures and graphics.

Logo of USA Today

Logo of USA Today

This ignited the digital media revolution that has exploded with satellite TV, the internet, mobile and social media offering a stream of unlimited data.  Admittedly a lot of it is garbage; at least you can decide what you consume.

A new survey by my alma mater, Indiana University (reported in this article by Romenesko) says journalists believe that we’re headed in the wrong direction.  Several news managers posted on social media that they aren’t too surprised by this because journalists are typically cynical.  Despite their nonchalance they admit that they are facing daunting challenges. Recently Slate reported that newspapers hit a milestone-Ad  revenues are the lowest since 1950.

In my opinion this evolution is natural and is creating unprecedented opportunities.  New versions of journalism, communications and marketing are forming, especially with branded content.  The definition of brand journalism is evolving.  Consider this definition by marketing, communications, technology expert Ben Stroup, who says it’s an effective way to distinguish yourself and quiet the noise by telling your story with a journalistic approach. Firehead says there are three types:

1. Sites that are produced in-house or by an agency

2. Messages that target a  persona

3. Content producers that create and report the news

To me, brand journalism is individuals, media and organizations telling their story by branding themselves and the content they are producing. This material needs to be real and engaging because today’s savvy audience can sniff out marketing posers. The Poynter Institute published this article by Joe Grimm on journalists strengthening their own brands and Mark Glasser, writing for PBS Media Shift added his thoughts about this trend. Today’s customized Twitter feeds are branded journalism and essentially yesterday’s news wires.

Twitter feed

Twitter feed

I am involved in a branded journalism project with the Mayo Clinic News Network as cited by Lindsey Kerr from The BuzzBin who profiled this trend in health care.  This opportunity reaches beyond health-related communication and is a powerful tool for any individual or organization. The key is to deliver accurate and credible content.

While attending Mayo Clinic Social Media Week in conjunction with Ragan Communications in the fall of 2014, branded journalism speaker Lisa Arledge Powell stressed that marketers need to tell not sell their stories.  She’s right and that’s why journalists will prosper in this evolution, they’ll just look a little different.

Below are two articles that add more perspective to this conversation, including a feature on Coca-Cola, considered to be a leader in this area.

Inside the Coca Cola Newsroom

Wall Street Journal cover

Agencies model news rooms for real time marketin


The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.

picture of Ron Petrovich

picture of Ron

NBA Boss Adam Silver Puts On News Conference Clinic

The new commissioner of the NBA thrust himself into the limelight with his decision to ban the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, for life. There is wide support and some disagreement about his actions but one thing is certain, Adam Silver held a clinic on how to conduct a news conference.

Silver was succinct, framed the situation with context, referenced his supporters by name, and then announced his decision with conviction, all in less than four minutes. He appeared to be well-prepared and answered questions slowly and patiently with apparent honesty. If he didn’t know the answer, he admitted that, which is fine as long as there was follow-up with the media person who asked the question.

His non-verbal communication of swaying back and forth can improve, but his message resonated. If you or a client ever hold a news conference, take a half hour and watch this.

Lee Jenkins @SI_LeeJenkins from Sports Illustrated penned this insightful report on Silver that detailed his formative years in New York and highlighted his ability to interact with just about anyone. Jenkins wrote that prior to that news conference, Silver focused more on the message than the punishment, gathered input from colleagues prior to this media event, but in the end reflected on his life experiences and went with his gut.

Here is a full transcript of the news conference posted by USA Today, and below that, tweets, including one by Dennis Miller @DennisDMZ, with reaction. Under the tweets, there’s a video of the entire news conference. (note, there is a 15-20 second commercial prior to the video on nba.com)


link that takes you to video from nba.com

Click on image to view entire news conference

A lesson from NBC’s The Voice to help your voice

Do you know somebody with a voice and speaking pattern that makes you cringe? Is it the umm, umm, ummer, the uptalker, the person who always says “like”, the run-on sentencer, or a speaker with one of these irritating traits listed by the National Speakers Association? An annoying voice stays with your memory like a bad smell and more importantly it detracts from your message.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 2.41.14 PM

Click to learn more about Sophia Bush fan page

Now turn that around and recall a pleasant voice and speaking pattern. Actress Sophia Bush or James Earl Jones both have distinguished voices and memorable speaking styles that I like. You don’t need to speak like a performer, you just don’t want to distract your audience. In today’s world of branded content and branded journalism, it’s likely that you or a colleague will present to a group or appear in some type of video or audio piece. It might be recorded from your mobile device or high end production gear.

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 2.44.54 PM

Click to learn more about this program

The hit NBC Program, The Voice, is about more than singing, it’s pitch is perfect for every day life, especially in today’s world of multimedia messaging. In the first round of competition, the judges make their selection exclusively on voice, not appearance.

When I was a television news producer, a very smart news director taught us to evaluate on-air talent on three levels. Just like The Voice, first he made us listen to the candidate with our backs turned. If the candidate passed this most important voice review they would move onto the silent, non verbal communication test. In the third phase we would grade the applicant with voice and visuals combined. The person with the best voice and clear delivery style was usually selected. Our exercise which targeted news reporters and anchors applies to anyone who appears in any form of multimedia and today that could be an executive, a CEO, or a random spokesperson.

Communications consultant Roshini Rajkumar says it comes down to how you sound, how you deliver and how people perceive you through what they hear. To manage internally and externally, this vocal expertise has an impact on your organization.


Forbes Magazine contributor Cheryl Conner profiles a book titled Pitch Perfect: How to Say it Right the First Time, Every Time in which author and former TV reporter Bill McGowan offers helpful speaking tips, among those, giving your audience a headline which is quoted below.

The Headline Principle. Get attention for a topic by sharing your best information first, McGowan says, especially if it’s a thought-provoking line that makes listeners think “I want to know more.”  This is golden wisdom. It applies to investment pitches, sales presentations, and, of course, to articles, press releases and blog columns as well. As I like to put it, writing a great press release or article is like telling a joke backwards: You begin with the punchline. Then you proceed down the pyramid to fill in the color and the additional details.

In addition to these suggestions that will help you deliver your branded content message more effectively, here are three other ideas that might help you:

  1. Record yourself and listen to your interview or presentation. It’s very uncomfortable but can help you identify patterns.
  2. Just follow the arrow. If you are uptalking and want to vary your delivery, draw an up, down or sideways arrow at the end of each sentence and intonate accordingly.
  3. Keep your thoughts simple. When possible make your points in groups of three.

If you try a few of these simple suggestions, maybe the audience won’t bash you on Twitter when you’re talking and your colleagues won’t pick up fake phone calls when they hear you approaching. With the low cost of producing content on platforms like YouTube, podcasts and webinars, the odds are pretty good that sometime soon, you’ll be using one of your most powerful marketing tools to brand your content, Your Voice.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.

Why do teens like Instagram so much? Facebook and Rob Lowe seem to know.

Link to Rob Lowe book, Love LIfe

Rob Lowe title of book, Love LIfe

If Rob Lowe does it, it must be cool and trend-setting. The author of this new book, Love Life, recently shared from his Instagram account, this nostalgic outfit from Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks on display at 30 Rock in New York.

Seeing this just now at 30 Rock made my day!! #Dreams

A post shared by Rob Lowe (@robloweofficial) on


He is middle-aged and facile with Instagram, a social media tool, which for the first time, recently topped Facebook in use among teens.

We know why Rob Lowe is so popular. He’s funny, good-looking, starred in Parks and Rec and put Pawnee, Indiana on the map. But what about Instagram?

Like teens, he seems to understand Instagram. So does Facebook, which bought Instagram a couple of years ago for a billion dollars.   Facebook wins either way because teens continue to use FB, but just differently.

I wonder if teens grow tired of hearing old people gush on Facebook about their “special”, “gifted”, “talented”, “amazing”, “accomplished” children. Perhaps teens need a place to hide together? Maybe it’s because they can spend time with adults in the living room (Facebook) to stay in touch and find their space on Instagram by easily sharing pictures and short videos?

This article by Jennifer Van Grove of CNET digs much deeper than my shallow observations.  She illustrates the trend with this graphic by piperjaffray who wrote, Taking Stock with Teens .

Graphic of teen use of Instagram

Teens using Instagram

While Facebook prepares for the future with the next generation on Instagram, it’s making changes on the basic Facebook platform to make more money.  Not all users are happy with this, but what do they expect?  It’s free and if they want more exposure they will need to pay for more prominent placement.  Just one example of the new Facebook-we are seeing bigger ads and less organic content popping up in our news feeds, which Tech Crunch explains.

I don’t have a lot in common with Rob Lowe except our age, movie star good-looks (#sarcasm) and affinity for the Indianapolis Colts, but he’s onto something.  I think Instagram will continue to grow with early adopters like him and the next generation. So now we’ll have Instagram in common too, where I’ll try to do better than just posting about my 30 year old Sorel Boots.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich.