Apr 30

Spotted: Peppercom AE devouring the latest episode of Gossip Girl on Metro North…

Guest Post by Laura Mills.Gossipgirlimage

Yes, at 25 (old enough to have an SAT score graded on the 1600 scale) I watch the CW’s Gossip Girl.
Fortunately, I’m not alone.  Millions share an obsession with the high school teens of Manhattan’s elite, anticipating each scandalous episode, narrated by an enigmatic blogger against the backdrop of New York’s trendiest hot spots.  On paper the concept sounds ridiculous.  Yet, while pausing an episode on my iPod to arrive at a Connecticut train station, it occurs to me how progressive Gossip Girl really is.

A recent New York magazine article reports that new episodes of Gossip Girl pulled in an average of 2.5 million viewers before the writers strike, an atrocious number, considering the 23.6 million tuned into last week’s American Idol.  Traditionally, this measurement should lead to quick cancellation.  Yet, the new show thrived.  As New York points out, new episodes regularly rotate at the top of iTunes’ most downloaded list, while hundreds of thousands watch free episodes from the network’s Web site.  Personally, I think a television show revolving around a blog should have its own life online, but while Web components and a Second Life presence don’t independently make Gossip Girl a digital standout, the fact that it is the first television show to find primary traction online is a significant development in the media landscape.

Gossip Girl viewers adapt to new technology faster and use it in more ways than ever.  They have at least one iPod and communicate via text message, IM and Facebook 24 hours a day.  Diaries are no longer hidden under mattresses, but documented with password access through LiveJournal.  They can’t comprehend a time when a handwritten middle school assignment was acceptable, and therefore naturally identify with the integration of new media social issues with classic teenage archetypes.  This generation is our future. 

As marketers, we will be targeting these plugged in, socially networked, skeptically over-stimulated viewers.  In fact, companies are already cashing in on the show’s success through product placement and integrated Web promotions, including Verizon and Victoria’s Secret, as well as a plethora of fashion designers and retailers.  So, while it’s just a mere teenage drama, Gossip Girl shatters the glass ceiling to reach viewers via multiple platforms and keeps them coming back for more.  Perhaps the high school characters aren’t the only ones who should be taking notes?

Apr 29

Girth of a nation

The mainstream media has been laden with stories about America’s losing fight against obesity. EachAmbulance
year, it seems more and more Americans fall behind in their personal battle of the bulge.

By now, everyone knows about the various side effects of our super-sized population (i.e. Heart disease, diabetes, etc.).

But, what had escaped my notice until recently, were the various cottage industries that have sprung up to ‘support’ our country’s weighty issue. 

One such example is a new generation of super-sized ambulance equipment. Fire, rescue and first aid departments around the country are investing in stretchers and gurneys that can accommodate patients who now routinely weigh up to 600 pounds and more.

A friend of mine, who is a volunteer fireman, can attest to the need for these extra-strength units. He told me he and his fellow volunteers are becoming increasingly worried about injuring themselves and their patients because of the latter’s obesity.

How sad is it that American ingenuity can provide a ready-made solution to transporting increasing numbers of morbidly obese citizens, but still be unable to solve obesity’s root causes?

America’s falling behind in every conceivable global competitiveness measure except, perhaps, in inventing new widgets to deal with our self-destructive wantonness. It’s enough to make a blogger say, ‘Hey, ‘weight’ a minute. Has anyone in a position of power noticed that our dollar has shrunk in inverse proportion to our expanding waistlines?

Apr 28

I’m leaving my heart in San Francisco

If there’s one city that consistently lives up to its image and reputation, it’s San Francisco. Sanfrancisco_2

Beyond the obvious things like the Golden Gate Bridge, the trolleys, the hills, and the cool, crisp temperatures, there’s the city’s sheer beauty. Its physical presence overwhelms me in a way that New York, Chicago, London and others never have (that is, when the fog isn’t obscuring the bay and surrounding hills).

There’s also a hint of mystery about the city. I can see why Hitchcock chose this location for so many films. San Francisco also has a whimsical way about it, what with the world’s most crooked street, Alcatraz Island and Haight-Asbury.

I’ve visited bigger, louder and more boisterous cities, but none that has the hold on me like San Francisco.

It’s nice to see that city planners are carefully controlling its growth and modernization. Because, I plan on visiting the city by the bay time and again and continue to leave my heart here in the process.

Apr 25

The Pope comes with a message, but does he leave with followers?

Steve and Ted sit down with guests Darryl Salerno and Dawn Lauer to discuss the Pope’s recent visit to theRepchatter_logo_2

The discussion centers on the Pope’s recent delivery of the message of the Catholic Church and how it resonates with the people in the states.

Was the pope’s visit a success from an image and reputation standpoint? Did the press favor him in news coverage?

Apr 25

With friends like Jack Welch, who needs enemies?

Jack Welch never ceases to amaze. He’s arguably the greatest chief executive in American businessWelch
history. He’s earned every conceivable accolade. And he’s worshipped by businesspeople near and far.

So, why does he feel the need to publicly bash his hand-picked successor, Jeff Immelt?

Speaking to reporters after Immelt accepted full blame for GE’s mediocre first quarter, Welch said he would ‘…get a gun out and shoot’ Immelt if he missed his financial goals again.

Ouch. What’s that all about? Talk about second guessing someone. Talk about slamming your own golden boy.

Welch obviously comes from the Vince Lombardi ‘tough love school of management.’ And, even though he’s no longer running the show at GE, he’s still trying his best to motivate Immelt by fear.

Management by fear is totally bogus. I never liked reporting to a menacing CEO and found myself being less strategic, less creative and less productive as a result.

Retired CEOs should stay retired. Or, they should write columns for BusinessWeek. Or they should charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for one hour speeches. But, they should not publicly bash their hand-picked successors.  It’s bad form and reflects poorly on the image and reputation of all concerned.

Apr 24

Before Oprah, Ellen and all the others, there was Edward R. Murrow

I’m in the midst of watching a fascinating DVD compilation of Edward R. Murrow’s landmark televisionEdwardmurrow
series ‘Person to person.’

Broadcast on CBS between 1953 and ’59, the series featured one-on-one interviews between the uber journalist become talk show host and celebrities from all walks of life. There’s John F. Kennedy, speaking from his Boston apartment just one month after marrying Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953. Another segment shows Norman Rockwell discussing his painting techniques from his Stockbridge, Massachusetts, art studio. A third follows Eleanor Roosevelt around her Manhattan apartment in 1954.

There’s also Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, Sammy Davis, Jr., and so many other legends.

Murrow’s ‘technique’ was to sit in his New York studio and, via newly-developed technology, speak to the celebrities directly from their homes.

Person to person is a fascinating snapshot into a long gone America. It was a simpler time and Murrow served up simpler questions. There’s no antagonism, no hints of scandal or intrigue, and no discussion of anything other than blue skies and happy times. That said, the interviews are anything but bland.

Murrow and his guests are direct, to the point and, dare I say it, humble. The watchwords of Person to person are civility, urbanity and compassion; three words that are nearly absent from any contemporary talk show.

It may have been superficial in content, but Person to person reflects Murrow’s impeccable image of truth and honesty. Compared to the Jerry Springer’s, Howard Stern’s and others on our airwaves today, Edward R. Murrow is a breath of fresh air (despite his omnipresent cigarette).

Apr 23

Don’t look back. Someone may be gaining

A recent PR News-Peppercom survey of 500 communicators showed that two-thirds were concerned theyLooking
were parallel to, or behind, their competitors when it came to digital communications.

The finding is scary in a number of ways. It tells me that communicators are either unable to convince their management to make a strategic digital spend or they simply don’t care. While the latter statement may sound glib and superficial, it may also be true. I suspect there’s more than one Fortune 500 marketing executive who simply doesn’t want to worry about digital communications. He or she isn’t comfortable with the new, Web 2.0 world, finds it impossible to control and nearly impossible to explain to the C-suite. So, why not let the next shift worry about it?

If, however, the survey finding indicates an inability on the part of marketers to ‘sell’ digital to the c-suite, then I suggest a competitive audit is exactly the way to do so. Most CEOs move like greased lightning when shown clear evidence of a competitor’s strategic maneuvering. And, what better way to get Avis to move, for example, than by showing the CEO what Hertz is doing in Web 2.0?

Digital is not only a game changer that’s here to stay, it’s a game changer that can help you stay ahead of your competition.

Apr 22

The Marines are looking for a few good women

The U. S. Marine Corps has launched an aggressive new advertising campaign aimed at attracting moreMarines
women recruits. It’s a smart move since the all-volunteer Corps is struggling to make its annual quotas. And, while the Corps has accepted women in administrative roles since 1918, it’s only recently begun putting the distaff side in harm’s way.

War being the dirty business that it is, the Corps has to do what the Corps has to do to create awareness and build credibility. But, I must say I find the new ads disingenuous at best.

One, for example, features a very aggressive-looking woman and a headline that reads: “Wanted: leadership that inspires Marines under your command and Americans everywhere."

There’s no doubt that Marine Corps training build confidence, moral and physical strength and, I’m sure, leadership qualities. But, I believe the Corps also needs to let female recruits know what they’re getting themselves into. The current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan shows no sign of letting up, much less improving. So, while the recruits may indeed be leading fellow Marines and inspiring Americans everywhere, they’re also likely to be shipped to an active war zone. And, that’s the rub. I’m just not sure very many prime, 18-year-old prospects understand the grim realities of Baghdad, Falujah and elsewhere. And, I think the U.S. Marine Corps owes our nation’s youth a fully transparent story.

I applaud those who volunteer, but I’d also like women everywhere to realize what they’re signing up for.

Apr 21

Judging the success of a CEOs trip

Intent on shoring up a slow, but steady decline in one of his most important markets, a CEO recently paidPopebenedictjpg
it a whirlwind visit.

He met with prospective and existing customers as well as those who had chosen one of several competitive models. He also set aside time to hold a few job interviews and made it clear he was not only CEO, but director of human resources as well. The local media followed his every move in their best paparazzi imitation, prompting some to wonder what all the fuss was about.

The CEO followed textbook crisis communications by apologizing for past product flaws and suggested a new quality control process to lessen the likelihood of such issues in the future.

There was a lot of positive buzz swirling about as the CEO made his departure from the key market: his meetings had gone well, media coverage was universally positive and early indications hinted at possible market share improvements which, after all, was the trip’s purpose in the first place.

But, the Catholic Church’s two fundamental flaws, celibacy and pedophilia, remain in place, with the harsh restrictions of the first paving the way for the pernicious reality of the second.  Papal visits remind me of client retreats: everyone gets together for a short while, drinks the corporate Kool-Aid, get all charged up and then return to their jobs with absolutely nothing having changed.

It was nice to host the pope but, until he changes the basic dogma, this trip will be judged at best as a short-term marketing success. Your eminence, you need to work with the product engineers to fix the system. Then, and only then, can marketing really deliver on future visits to key markets.

Apr 17

I’ll let my successor deal with this

The most excellent Arthur Page Society Spring Conference was chockablock this year with great speakers.Awp
One, in particular, was Rick DeLisi of the Communications Executive Council (CEC).

Rick analyzed the rapidly-changing landscape and shared his views on how organizations are changing the way they communicate. Most, he said, are moving towards knowledge sharing. It’s no longer a ‘top down, here’s what management thinks and wants you to think’ strategy. Rather, the communications model is quickly evolving towards the market deciding what it thinks and wants, and organizations struggling to keep pace.

The good news: the corporate communications functions will be at the epicenter of facilitating knowledge sharing. The bad news: most corporate communicators interviewed by the CEC admitted they’d made absolutely no change to adapt to this changing environment.

The CEC questionnaire provided multiple choices, including: ‘greater centralization of your function,’ ‘deeper integration in marketing,’ ‘change in hiring profile,’ ‘change in function’s reporting line,’ ‘greater decentralization of communication’s staff and resources,’ or ‘deeper structural integration with human resources.’

But, the corporate communications types overwhelmingly selected ‘no change.’ Are they whistling past the graveyard? Fiddling while Rome burns?

I think the answer may be more basic. Guessing that most senior corporate communicators are well into their middle age, I wonder if they feel adapting to change will be their successor’s headache? Most are nearing retirement, are probably in comfortable positions and may not want to rock the boat.

I really hope I’m wrong. But the CEC findings speak for themselves. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake the respondents’ fast-track successors are as swift as the adjective suggests.