B&O Street Insights: Andre Lauren Benjamin

Credit: Gage Skidmore
Credit: Gage Skidmore

The next installment of the B&O Street Insights comes by way of Mr. Andre Lauren Benjamin, better known as Andre 3000 from the hip-hop duo Outkast. In 1996, Benjamin recited text for the chantey, “Elevators,” where he discussed the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with the media.

And I replied that I had been going through the same things that he had
True, I’ve got more fans than the average man,
but not enough loot to last me to the end of the week
I live by the beat, like you live check-to-check
If you don’t move your feet then I don’t eat, so we like neck-to-neck
– Andre 3000

Benjamin emphasizes that for pre-IPO companies, fame is not always equivalent to prosperity (ok, I made quite a jump here, but stay with me). While the start-up lifestyle filled with expensive furniture, fancy office décor, a Keurig and a fully stocked kitchen may seem lavish, that is far from the reality.

Although it is true that putting out a successful product and/or service has gained him numerous media and analyst advocates and made him richer than the common man, he’s far from being set for life (one can only assume that the company is currently running on seed money). Benjamin has no other job so his entire well-being depends on the media coverage he and his company achieves across business and trade press. Therefore, despite the fact that his popularity is much higher than the average beat reporter, their responsibilities and work ethic are actually quite similar.


  • Good rapport with reporters is essential to positive media coverage
  • Never neglect one’s brand advocates – particularly those with ties to the VC community
  • Reporters are people too (sometimes)
  • Members of the media aren’t normally good dancers

Bill Rundle also contributed to this post.

B&O Street Insights: Malik Isaac Taylor

Karppinen / Wikimedia Commons
Karppinen / Wikimedia Commons

2015 is well under way and through this blog, we have picked up right where we left off last year: continuing to provide you with our unique commentary on the key trends making headlines in the communications industry. However, one burning question has remained constant among the readers of Above the Fold – what happened to the B&O Street Insights?

As many of you may recall, my colleague Bill Rundle and I launched B&O Street Insights last year to pay homage to old-school rap – but also to uncover the hidden PR messages often buried beneath the rhymes, fat gold chains and Kangol hats. Although the knowledge from the streets has been on hiatus, I’m pleased to announce the re-launch of B&O Street Insights taking place in the first half of this year. Bill and I appreciate everyone’s continued support during our time away, as we hunkered down in the lab for weeks and months, gathering a refreshing set of lyrical PR magic.

For a preview of the 2015 edition of B&O Street Insights, we turn to one Malik Isaac Taylor, more commonly known as “Phife Dawg” from the acclaimed hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. In the 1991 arrangement entitled “Check the Rhime,” Mr. Taylor provides his recommendations on launching a new venture and the importance of a strong executive bench:

Now here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am 
Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram 
I’m like an Energizer cause, you see, I last long 
My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong

– Malik Isaac Taylor

We all know the saying, “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” While a company launch can be an exciting time, Mr. Taylor reminds PR practitioners that the birth of a new company should be communicated with confidence and vigor and validated with strong leadership.

As Taylor so eloquently suggests, a business’s coming out party should start with a dynamic and personable CEO and be backed by a strong executive team which sets the company’s foundation for a long and fruitful existence. The presence of a strong C-Suite should then be communicated to all of the relevant media audiences including one’s parents, legal guardian or caregiver.


  • Introducing a new company must be accompanied with a bit of confidence and moxy from the CEO
  • The staying power of a new company or venture should be communicated to one and all
  • Be sure to highlight the existence of a strong executive team that is in it for the long haul
  • Since the telegram has obviously been replaced by more real-time communication avenues, Mr. Taylor should be applauded for his dry wit

Bill Rundle also contributed to this post.

B&O Street Insights: Christopher George Latore Wallace

Credit: Bad Boy Records
Credit: Bad Boy Records

Continuing the Blanc & Otus tradition of looking to the streets and old school rap innovators for PR insights, this month’s B&O Street Insight comes from Christopher George Latore Wallace – also known as Biggie Smalls/The Notorious B.I.G.

The larger-than-life Wallace often peppered his work with advice for enhancing brand perception and media relations, and he was a staunch advocate for street-based educational programs. A great example of this is found in one of his popular works titled Juicy:

Living life without fear
Putting 5 karats in my baby girl’s ears
Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool
Considered a fool ‘cause I dropped out of high school

Mr. Wallace recommends that brands ignore their position in the market, the limitations of their product and realistic evaluations of their financial position and engage in fearless communication programs that tell consumers “it’s all good.” He uses the example of adorning an infant with five-carat diamond earrings (which must be worth at least $50,000) to give the perception of affluence, enhancing brand equity.

Once brand perceptions are in the “Baller” quadrant, organizations need to maintain the illusion of grandeur by organizing long boozy lunches with top tier media, analysts and influencers. Never one to forget his humble roots, Wallace also recommends keeping tier two influencers in the loop with less formal brunches to save on budget. From this point on, all media interviews must be conducted by a pool – preferably an infinity pool to add to the mystique.

There’s a fine line between the “Baller” and “Vomit-Inducing Wealth” quadrants, so after “Baller” status has been achieved, organizations should begin rolling out Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to win the love and respect of their less-affluent brand advocates. In Wallace’s case, he became a vocal crusader for street-based education programs and would often speak at events, sharing his own experiences with alternative tutoring.


  • Don’t let realism hold you down, reach for the stars
  • Consider the environment for all media/influencer engagements. What’s your swimming pool strategy?
  • Deliver a one-two punch: Create the illusion of affluence and follow up with the illusion of caring about others

If you don’t know, now you know…

Neil Torres also contributed to this post.

PR Best Practices from Old-School Rap Geniuses

Credit: Raelene Gutierrez
Credit: Raelene Gutierrez

In the sprit of knowledge sharing, my colleague Bill Rundle and I recently debuted B&O Street Insights.

What started as friendly banter between a guy from the “Yay” and another from the “mean streets of South East Auckland” morphed into an internal communications initiative. Now, we’ve decided to share this musical treasure trove with you – the fine readers of Above The Fold. The purpose of this project is to take our fondness for old-school rap/R&B/hip-hop, and use it to further enhance each other’s knowledge on the key concepts of PR in a unique, fun and (sometimes) creative manner.

Basically, we’re going to show you how the old-school rap geniuses were actually speaking to music lovers all over the world about communications best practices. Our first four installments are below. Come along for the ride and enjoy the lyrical journey.

Volume I: Mr. Robert Matthew Van Winkle

Stop, collaborate and listen.

This nugget of wisdom comes from the profound words of the poet Vanilla Ice. An evangelist for teamwork and active listening, Mr. Ice reminds us that we should take time to stop what we are doing, think about how we can collaborate with our co-workers and clients, and listen to customer and industry feedback.

Volume II: E-Z Rock and Robert Base

Ladies love me, girls adore me, I mean even the ones who never saw me
Like the way that I rhyme at a show, The reason why, man, I don’t know

Robert Base describes a situation in which his personal brand is known and adored, reinforcing the value of word of mouth. His brand ambassadors were born as a result of high-quality messaging being delivered through a successful speaking and awards program. When asked about his strategy to build brand ambassadors and fan loyalty, Mr. Base was hazy on the details.


  • The most successful PR campaigns build brand reputation, loyalty and generate word of mouth.
  • Agency staff need to remember to save their PR plans on the server so they can be replicated at a later date.

Volume III: Jonathan Smith

Shots shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots
Shots shots shots shots shots

Mr. Smith refers to a popular form a of liquor consumption (a shot) multiple times throughout the prose. He expresses enthusiasm for the micro-portions of alcohol with a raw and unrefined delivery. Smith’s approach is highly engaging and persuasive, and stands out as an example of highly effective messaging.


  • Keep messaging simple and concise
  • Repetition builds familiarity
  • It’s all about the delivery
  • Shot Friday is an essential element of the PR lifestyle

Volume IV: David Jude Jolicoeur

Hey how ya doin’
Sorry ya can’t get through
Why don’t you leave your name
And your number
And I’ll get back to you

As PR practitioners, we are often caught in situations where we are unable to answer the phone, and Jolicoeur’s best practice guide to voicemail greetings still rings true today.

His voicemail strategy involves a greeting delivered in a friendly yet professional manner, which acknowledges the inconvenience that your absence might have caused the client/journalist/influencer. Jolicoeur then recommends callers leave their name and number, before communicating intention to return their call.

While most voicemail strategists agree that callers should be encouraged to leave their name and number, many have criticized Jolicoeur’s weak suggestion (‘why don’t you leave your name and your number’) and believe this should be a firm request.


  • Ensure your voicemail is friendly yet professional
  • Encourage callers to leave their name and their number
  • Communicate your intention to return their call
  • It was probably the Wall Street Journal so return that call as soon as possible

That’s all for now. Get at us next month for more rap-infused PR tips and tricks.

Bill Rundle also contributed to this post.