Aug 30

There’s chocolate on your Facebook

More evidence of the power of social networking as it relates to PR. In case you missed it, CadburyEdis04_2

  Schweppes is bringing back a defunct brand (the Wispa candy bar) because social networkers demanded it. Cadbury, better known in the U.S. as the maker of Snapple and Nantucket Nectar, discontinued Wispa in 2003—and almost immediately fans sprung up asking for it back. In June, two chocoholics stormed the stage during Iggy Pop’s set at a UK music festival and held up a “Bring Back Wispa” banner. But what really tipped the scales for Cadbury were the nearly 14,000 Facebook members who have joined the online campaign to revive the product. You can read more about it here.

Cadbury’s response is a perfect example of why tracking customer sentiment– using search engines and services like Cymfony and Nielsen Buzzmetrics– and responding to consumer sentiment has become a top priority for brands and PR pros.

This was certainly a good piece of news for Cadbury to counteract the negative press it’s been getting lately over being forced to delay or even cancel the sale of its beverage division due to the global credit crunch.

Above is a great B2C lesson, but also watch out for this on the B2B front. The WSJ recently picked up on the emergence of professional-level social networks that enable executives to interact with peers. Just as Facebook and Bebo are driving change in the consumer sector, social networking is quickly seeping up into the B2B world. As one obvious example, pharmaceuticals companies are going to need to monitor these sites for what doctors are saying about new drugs.

Guest blog written by Matt Purdue, Senior Analyst for Peppercom.

Aug 29

In Boulder, somebody’s always fitter than you

So I’m in the midst of a very cool, all-outdoor activities Summer vacation in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder

To say that Boulder is a mecca for fitness freaks would be akin to saying that Baghdad attracts a few malcontents with ill intentions. The place literally swarms with runners, bikers, kayakers, rafters and every other type of outdoor type known to man

In point of fact, Boulder is fitness on steroids. To illustrate the point, I ‘bumped’ into a woman while climbing 7,500-foot Mt. Sanitas yesterday. As I huffed and puffed my way up, she was trotting down. She smiled and told me I was halfway to the summit. I grunted to acknowledge I’d understood what she’d just said. She smiled and replied, “It could be worse. You could be climbing this mountain four times in one day like me. This is my third trip.” I was incredulous. “I have to keep pushing myself,” she replied, sensing my disbelief. “In Boulder, someone is always fitter than you.”

Which I guess is a good thing. I’d rather compete with runners, hikers and tennis players, who are better than me than, say, go mano-a-mano with some highly political, backstabbing fast tracker in a Fortune 500 corporation. 

I like this woman’s unofficial city motto for Boulder and wondered what variations might work for other top U. S. cities:

- ‘In Houston, someone’s always fatter than you.’
- ‘In Newark, someone’s car is always being stolen before yours.’
- ‘In Hollywood, someone’s always got more silicone than you.’
- ‘In Detroit, someone’s always been downsized more times than you.’
- ‘In Seattle, someone’s always more depressed than you.’

I have to believe the city fathers of Boulder are delighted with their image and reputation. They may not attract the ever-expanding Double Mac-gorging, channel surfing, trailer park crowd, but something tells me they’re cool with that.

Aug 28

Christ should charge a commission

Jesus Christ should receive a commission from all the celebs and sports figures who have invoked HisChrist
name, asked His forgiveness and/or turned their lives over to Him.

Michael Vick is just the latest fallen superstar to have miraculously ‘found’ Christ amidst the rubble of rack and ruin.

Sadly, Christ has become part of a formulaic crisis response plan being implemented by the PR firms and publicists of Messrs. Vick, Gibson and others.

Rather than placing himself in the hands of the Lord, though, Vick would be better served by donating a significant sum of money to animal rights.

Hiding behind the Good Shepherd’s robe may be smart image counseling, but it’s been tried one too many times in recent years to ring true.

As the bible says, ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’ In Vick’s case, the lord, in the person of NFL Commissioner Goodell, has clearly taketh away and, all the contrition in the world won’t get it back anytime soon for Brother Vick."

Vick also told courthouse gatherers that his dog-fighting dilettantism was "immature," and he has some growing up to do. Indeed. Part of growing up is learning to say "sorry," but that’s a word you won’t often find in defense lawyers’ vocab list. On the other hand, as the Christlike Vick must surely know, the bible mentions contrition in a few thousand places.

Aug 27

Vick case has ‘Sharpton opportunity’ written all over it

About 100 people turned out at Michael Vick’s Richmond, Va., hearing this morning to support the NFLVick_2
superstar and self-admitted dogfighting thug, Michael Vick.

It’s sad to see a hard-core following continue to support a bad, bad guy who confessed to animal abuse, torture and murder. Not to mention illegal gambling and, possibly, drug trafficking.

And, what’s with the race card angle? Is the Vick saga merely an updated OJ Simpson deal where a predominantly black jury decided to ‘stick it to the man?’ Are there really societal elements who believe in Mike Vick, regardless of his transgressions? And, if there is, might the Rev. Al Sharpton be waiting in the wings to capitalize on the opportunity?

It seems to me the lines between what used to be ‘right’ and what used to be ‘wrong’ are blurring rapidly.

Michael Vick pled guilty today and will be sentenced on December 10th. In the interim, watch his supporters launch one subterfuge after another to muddy the facts and to, some how, some way, position Vick as the victim of a racist society. One can only hope the judge doesn’t cave to the pressure.

If those poor dogs could testify, Vick’s fans just might change their minds (and, perhaps, see Vick for the criminal he is).

Aug 24

You can have my blackberry but not my book

If I were stranded on a desert island for a year, I could do without a lot of things.  Sure, I’d miss iceImage_3
cream, movies, my weekly tennis game and my Blackberry – a lot – but I’d get by.  But if, on the other hand, someone said I couldn’t read a single book for the whole year, I’d start making my own sailboat.

Which is why I was bummed to read that according to a new AP-Ipsos poll, one in every four Americans did not finish a single  book from cover to cover last year.  I could certainly understand if the reason so many people aren’t reading is because they’re working 12-hour days, taking care of families and falling into bed at night, only to start all over again the next day.  I’d still argue that one of the best ways to relax and escape is with a good book, but I’d get it.

Unfortunately, the reasons are less noble and more predictable.  Increasingly according to another, similar study, we’d rather spend our time watching TV, playing video games or online.   It’s probably the same quest for instant gratification that makes us prefer fast food to a well-cooked meal that takes time to prepare.  Like fast food, these other forms of entertainment good in the moment but ultimately less satisfying and probably not so good for you in the long run.

During the most stressful times in my life, books have helped me lose track of time, place and worries.
  And as they did, I also learned a lot of history, philosophy and culture.  They also helped me to learn how to think and how to write.  But mostly, they just entertained me.

I don’t know how to encourage people to read more books, but I can sure recommend a few good ones, beginning with the business books to the right here.  If you want some suggestions for lighter reading, try "Everyman" by Phillip Roth, "1776" by David McCullough, and "Time and again" by Jack Finny (great, great book about time travel and the NYC of 1888).

Aug 22

Never underestimate the power of a website

Marketing Consultant Robb High’s survey of 132 agency executives and 118 client decision-makersImage_2
confirms the importance of agency websites.

According to High’s survey, 97 percent of clients on the prowl for a new agency examine an agency’s site as part of the due diligence process. And, more than three-fourths of client decision-makers believe the ‘people/staff’ profile sections are the single most important component of an agency’s site.

Yet, almost half of the agencies polled have sites that only contain profiles of the two or three most senior people. And, 18 percent don’t feature anyone on their sites.

High’s results confirm what we’re seeing: more and more prospects asking for biographies of the ‘team’ that would work on their account. It’s always been important but, I think, so many ‘clients’ have been burned by the big agency ‘bait-and-switch’ model that they’re insisting on the team ‘meet and greet’ before pulling the trigger.

It makes sense, but can be difficult for the agency since the ‘team’ a prospect meets with, say, September 5th might not be the one that’s available on October 5th when the client makes its final decision. That’s because a day or a week at an agency can be like a year in more traditional businesses. Clients come and come. Accounts wax and wane. And, while Johnny, Janey and Akbar may have had time available when they first met the prospect well, stuff happens.

High’s survey is instructive and we, for one, will be making changes to our web site to make it more user friendly and people-focused. Prospects will be seeing more Peppercommers on our site, but they’ll have to balance that with the realities of agency life when it comes to the composition of their actual team.

Aug 21

Amelia Earhart flies again

I’m a name freak. Interesting company, product or service names intrigue me. So do unique human
names.
Name

For example, I just watched a local Denver traffic report delivered by
Amelia Earhart. I kid you not.

While she may be 110-years-old, Amelia was nonetheless up in the sky, reporting traffic patterns live from a Sky 9 helicopter. She looked great, made no mention of having been MIA for 70 years and would neither confirm, nor deny, reports that World War II-era Japanese soldiers had imprisoned, raped and tortured her. Amazing stuff.

I wonder what would have possessed Amelia’s parents to saddle her with such a moniker? Did they know that one day she’d be a traffic reporter and need a memorable name? Regardless, she’s back in the sky where she belongs and all is well.

Continue reading

Aug 20

An exit ramp marked common sense

Every now and then, I make a point of catching one of the Sunday morning televangelists. Image_2_5

Ordinarily, I avoid them like the plague because:

      a) I’m not a fundamentalist Christian and
      b) too many televangelists take advantage of the poor and uneducated elements of society to pad their own pockets.

Nonetheless, I felt adventurous, did some channel surfing and landed on Joel Osteen’s teleministry.

If you haven’t caught Joel’s act, he’s worth checking out. Osteen’s not only right out of central casting (think Burt Lancaster in ‘Elmer Gantry’), but he also provides some of the more laughable personal anecdotes available anywhere.

Sunday morning, for example, Joel told his virtual and physical congregants that he’d almost missed the taping. Seems he’d been caught in a massive traffic jam among mere mortals. But, being an appointed prophet, Joel felt the hand of God on his shoulder. And, like Moses parting the Red Sea, God apparently parted the gridlock ahead of Preacher Osteen enabling him to make it to his state-of-the-art Church just in the nick of time. Phew, that was close!

Pardon me, Joel, but I don’t buy it. I don’t think ‘He’ looked down from on high, spied a man of God stuck in traffic and, with a wave of His hand, made the other cars give way.

And, yet, as the cameras scanned the assembled multitudes, I could see heads nodding, lips murmuring and other signs of an enraptured faithful buying Brother Osteen’s story hook, line and sinker.

I’m sure Joel does lots of good works for lots of people, but he’s also one of those ‘God helps those who help themselves’ televangelists (think Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker).  In fact, as soon as Joel had finished his ‘parting of the Red Sea’ traffic story and taken a commercial break, a ‘pre-recorded Joel’ came on to hawk his new book, which not only contains seven tips for living a more spiritual life but, praise the lord, will be available for purchase as soon as October.

The faithful will undoubtedly plunk down their hard-earned wages and buy Joel’s book. But, I honestly don’t understand where his street cred comes from. In my opinion, well-heeled, smooth-talking, multimillionaire televangelists like Joel distort many of Christ’s teachings.

Whatever happened to: ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.’? Guess they’re still stuck in Joel’s traffic jam. Not me, though. I’m taking that next exit ramp marked, "common sense."

Aug 17

How NOT to win friends and influence people

Kpbs_logo2_2Ever suffer through one of those never-ending Public Broadcasting fundraising efforts? They’ll debut some
very cool new documentary or concert that will draw you in, but then they’ll interrupt every 15 minutes or so with nattering program managers and pseudo-intellectual, B-level actors or actresses who implore you to give, give,
Splitdoug_2give.

I take no issue with the strategy since PBS does, in
fact, need our individual contributions to continue providing the kind
of content that it, and it alone, seems capable of producing
(Frontline, The American Experience and any Ken Burns documentary come
immediately to mind).


So, why in God’s name, would a local PBS general manager at San Diego station KPBS, go out of his way to alienate current and prospective viewers cum donors with absurd, Neo-Nazi like comments?

This sort of boorish, ‘bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you’ behavior not only undermines the overarching PBS philosophy, it reflects poorly on the organization’s carefully crafted image of being the arbiter of all things liberal, avante garde and sophisticated.

So, here’s one pledge that PBS can count on: you can forget about any donations from this particular blogger/viewer until Neanderthals like San Diego General Manager Doug Myrland are given the hook.

Aug 16

Did you know what you wanted to be when you were 14?

Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood, NJ, is forcing incoming freshmen to declare their majors beforeImage_816_4
the very first day of class. Administrators say it will "…make students stay interested until graduation" and "…stand out in the hypercompetitive college admissions process." I say balderdash.

This is an absurd idea. Few, if any, 14-year-old kids I know have clearly formulated career goals. I know at that age, I was set on either succeeding Tommie Agee as the Mets centerfielder or cajoling Mick Jagger into finding a place for me with the Stones. I’d never heard of public relations or entrepreneurship
for that matter.

There’s enough pressure on adolescent kids today without adding a ‘career’ burden. ‘Repman, Jr.,’ for example, is stressing out big time about his future career path (and, he’s a college senior).

I’m all for improving the quality of our secondary school education system and its graduates, but forcing kids to make decisions that will impact their entire lives is unfair and potentially destructive. Let’s let them be kids a little longer.