May 29

Synarchy sounds like anarchy to me

Those legendary ‘unnamed sources’ that journalists love to quote say WPP may name its specially created,Stress
Dell-exclusive agency Synarchy. Anarchy is more like it.

The agency, code named DaVinci, won all of Dell’s estimated $100 million in annual revenue last December. At the time. WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said DaVinci would have 1,000 employees in place by March 1. They would be culled from the holding company’s various units and constitute a ‘best and brightest’ team for Dell.

Well, guess what? WPP/DaVinci is 400 employees short and two months late. Dell’s spokesperson says it’s no big deal and WPP says it’s looking for quality, not quantity. Yeah right. Another one of those unnamed sources, a recruiter, summed up the DaVinci/Synarchy opportunity best: ‘Lack of a culture, lack of variety, lack of a career path. And then on top of all that, this specific client.’ Talk about lose-lose-lose.

There’s no way a truly talented agency person would work for DaVinci/Synarchy/Anarchy. Agency work is all about variety. One works for a professional services client in the morning, a consumer goods company at lunch and a Fortune 500 organization in the late afternoon. One has a crisis. Another has become an also ran. A third aspires to become a more socially responsible outfit. Every day is fresh and new.

Imagine being an agency guy and living, eating and breathing nothing but Dell all day long. Every single day. Ugh. Mix in the reality that clients come and clients go, and one has all the ingredients for a dead end career move.

I can’t speak for the 600 Synarchians (Synarchites?) already in place, but I’d strongly advise the 400 other applicants to think long and hard before signing up. This particular DaVinci is anything but a work of art.

May 28

Diddy does Cannes sans Ciroc

Guest blog written by Nicole Lowe.

While partying in Cannes, Diddy was spotted at the Belvedere bash to launch the "Jagger Dagger," a newCiroc
Belvedere drink designed by Jade Jagger.  No big deal, its Cannes, its another party, of course Diddy was there. My guess would be that the party also took place on a yacht since Diddy seems to frequent yacht parties in Cannes.  The problem is that Diddy has a multi-year deal to develop Ciroc Vodka.  Being seen at a competing vodka’s party, where he and his entourage were allegedly enjoying many a Belvedere cocktail, cannot be good for the brand awareness Diddy is trying to generate in interviews and advertisements.  However, his appearance at the Belvedere party is keeping Ciroc in the news and on celebrity blogs. I personally had never heard of Ciroc before Diddy inked his deal, but Diddy endorsing the brand also has not prompted me to try Ciroc (but I did download Kanye’s "Flashing Lights" after watching the Ciroc New Year’s Eve commercial.)  So good or bad, Diddy’s association with Ciroc has increased awareness of the brand, but has it increased sales?  And does Diddy’s attendance at a Belvedere party hurt sales?  Well, if it does hurt sales, ultimately Diddy is the one who takes the hit – at least in his wallet, since his deal with Ciroc reportedly nets him 50 percent of the profits, and could be as lucrative as $100 million over the course of their relationship. 

May 27

The ‘N’ Letter

Steve Cody wasn’t allowed through San Francisco Airport security this morning. Why? Because hisBoarding_pass
boarding pass read ‘Steve’ and his driver’s license reads ‘Steven.’ This raised all sorts of possible terrorist warnings to the crack TSA agent, who promptly sent me back to the ticket agent.

I dutifully trooped back, waited on line and explained what had just happened. The ticket agent sighed and said, “Where do they find these idiots?” She then logged onto her computer and began changing the reservation. But, lo and behold, the airline’s computer system wouldn’t allow her to do so because I was on the ‘open’ second leg of a round trip. Oh.

Now, she’s pissed. She has to grab her supervisor and explain the situation. I hear him exclaim, “You must be joking!”

Long story short, he handwrites some sort of hieroglyphics on the boarding pass and has the ticket agent personally escort me back to the surly, oh-so-vigilant TSA agent. He looks her over, looks me over, listens to her explanation and says, “I don’t like it one bit, but I’ll let him through. As for you (pointing to me),” he sniffs, “Next time you book a flight, do so with your full and correct legal name. Got it?” Got it. Yes sir. Thank you, sir. And thank you for defending our freedom and security, sir.

Gimme a break.

May 23

Countrywide’s image problem is clearly systemwide

Countrywide, the lender most closely associated with the disastrous home loan/mortgage crisis, can’t
catch a break when it comes to reputation management.

Already pegged as the Peck’s ‘Bad Boy’ of the crisis that has bankrupted countless consumers and left untold others facing foreclosure on their homes, Countrywide’s Chairman Angelo Mozilo is facing court hearings and possible prison terms for alleged fraud.

Apparently not content with that sobering scenario, however, Mozilo further fanned the flames by misfiring on an important e-mail exchange with a customer.

After receiving a distraught plea from a hearing-impaired loan recipient for some sort of financial relief, Mozilo lashed out with his own e-mail. Thinking he was sending his ‘unbelievable’ response to an internal-only audience, Mozilo instead punched the ‘reply’ button. The astonished and outraged Countrywide customer who received Mozilo’s missive prompted posted it on a leading website. Now, Mozilo is dealing with a different kind of ‘thrilla’ as he tries to position himself as something other than an 800-pound digital gorilla.

There really should be an e-mail training session for CEOs. Having learned some valuable lessons myself, I’d be happy to lead the course. I’d start with a quick review of the keypad. I’d then move on to explain the difference between ‘forward’ and ‘reply.’ For the truly technology-challenged chief executive, I’d even share best practices for establishing an internal filtering process to enable someone in the know to read the e-mail before it ever sees the light of day.

Mozilo’s digital fumblings have made Countrywide’s systemwide problems exponentially worse. Along with everything else, he’ll now have to explain exactly what he meant when he typed the comment.

On the upside, though, Mozilo might luck out and be sentenced to a minimum security prison that offers a top notch e-mail course for white collar criminals. Hey, maybe he’ll become so adept that when he finally gets out, Mozilo can apply for a loan online.

Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea.

May 22

What happened to objectivity?

Senator Edward M. ‘Ted’ Kennedy has been all but buried by the mainstream media. Kennedy

The senator’s unfortunate bout with brain cancer has been big news for big media. The only problem has been a rush to debate how long the ailing pol will survive. It’s become a media death pool.

I find this all-too-typical pack mentality disturbing to say the least. Sure, there have been some objective, balanced reports aimed at educating readers, viewers and listeners. Sadly, though, most members of the Fourth Estate are awash with rumor, innuendo and speculation. What happened to responsible reporting? What happened to respecting the rights and privacy of the family? And, why are there not more checks and balances to mitigate this sort of paparazzi-style reportage?

Many media are quick to point the finger when they see examples of amateurish, unprofessional behavior by public relations executives. The Kennedy death watch is just the latest example of why someone or some ‘body’ needs to shine the spotlight on irresponsible journalism.

May 21

Mom always said to think before you speak

Guest blog written by Meaghan Hayden.Foot_4

Three weeks ago, “Costas Now” re-appeared on HBO, touting a roundtable discussion on the role of internet media (i.e. blogging) in the sports industry.  The show’s guests for the evening were “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger, editor Will Leitch, and Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Braylon Edwards.  What could have been an intelligent conversation between men with differing views on what constitutes sports “news” quickly fell apart as Bissinger attacked Leitch, proclaiming, “I think you’re full of ****” less than two minutes into the show.

Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize winner, then continued on an angry rant against Leitch and all sports bloggers, using profanity and sweeping generalizations to accuse bloggers of being profane and inaccurate.  Predictably, Bissinger’s bitter tirade hurt himself more than Leitch or the sports blogosphere.

Aside from being massacred by bloggers everywhere (a group Bissinger would no doubt ignore), Bissinger’s fellow print journalists fell in line to criticize his lack of control. New York Times reporter Richard Sandomir called him the symbol of “the mainstream media’s fear and suspicion of [blogging’s] influence,” and the  Wall Street Journal praised Leitch’s response to the episode, believing he showcased well-placed restraint and politeness when confronted by Bissinger.

To cap his stellar performance, Bissinger used one of RepMan’s favorite phrases, “perception is reality,” in an attempt to force Leitch to admit that public perception of blogs is poor and therefore blogs are a poor excuse for journalism.  Maybe Bissinger should have repeated that statement to himself before going on national television because public perception of Mr. Bissinger is, well, not so great anymore.

May 20

It was over before it began

Guest blog written by Jackie Kolek.Call_2

I had a truly bizarre call with a new business prospect last week, let’s call them Company X.  Sadly, it was not the first time I have received these types of calls.  We were contacted by Company X, who told us that they were looking for a new agency.  Great.  The prospect sent us a link to their web site and a backgrounder on the company.  Terrific.  So, we set up a call to get a download on their business and tell them a little bit about our agency and our relevant experience.  All sounds good up to this point, right?

Yet, when I got on the phone with Company X last week the senior PR communications person immediately asked me to tell them my thoughts on their business and give them my recommendations on messaging and strategies for a PR program.  WHOA.  There are so many things wrong with this scenario that I could go on forever.  For now, I’ll focus on the two most critical flaws. 

First, the junior person who we were dealing with probably had not set expectations internally with her boss or bosses.  They most likely ordered her to go find a new firm and didn’t give much more direction than that. While we had spoken and exchanged a few emails, we clearly agreed (in writing) that we would do a 30 min call to get some more background on Company X and tell them about us.  Obviously that had not been communicated on Company X’s end and they were expecting us to come in with a specific proposal for them.  Even if that was a good idea, this disconnect immediately put us at a disadvantage with the decision-makers and probably didn’t make our junior point of contact look good either.

Second, and most disturbing, is that Company X was looking for us to deliver thoughts on messaging and strategic recommendations before we’d ever had a real conversation with them.  Without the benefit of hearing the client’s business goals and growth objectives any sort of communications recommendations would have been superficial and meaningless.  Sure, we could say "you need to be on the cover of the Wall Street Journal" but what does that mean?  First and foremost, we need to understand the client’s business in order to identify how communications can help them achieve those goals.  Are they looking to break into a new target audience?  Raise their profile with potential investors?  Recruit and retain better talent?  Reposition themselves in the market?  Fix a tarnished reputation?

When I explained this to the senior marketing person at Company X, her response was "any firm we hire should be able to answer these questions."  Well, enough said.  We told Company X that we were probably not a good fit for their needs.  I am sure they’ll go hire some firm who will tell them whatever they want to hear in order to win the business.  And in six months time, Company X will be shopping for another firm.

May 19

The redundant school of redundancy

Until this morning, I thought the expression, ‘last and final’ was limited to those crack train conductors onTrain
NJ Transit. Not so, a U.S. Airways gate agent just used the very same redundancy to let us know we’d better hustle if we wanted to make it onto the LA flight.
I once tried to correct an NJT conductor after he used the puzzling term. I said, ‘By the way, did you know that last and final mean the same thing?’ He gave me one of those quizzical looks I can remember receiving from one of the rocket scientists I went to high school with, and walked away.
No one expects train conductors and airport gate agents to be grammarians. Still, it would be nice if their employers held basic communications workshops every now and then. And, that’s my last and final comment on the subject.

May 16

Sue Simmons curses like a sailor causing concern for her image and reputation

Steve and Ted discuss the Sue Simmons blunder and how it will affect her image and reputation. Repchatter_logo

The discussion centers on Sue’s recent and unsuspected use of profanity during a live promo for the nightly news.  The New York Post later wrote an article detailing numerous accounts when Sue was seen drinking before her 11pm news segment.

Is this the end of Sue Simmons career or just a minor bump in the road? What can she do to make amends?

May 15

Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight

Why do some relationships last a lifetime while others go south in a fortnight?Heart

Whatever the reason, it always hurts when a personal or professional relationship sours, especially when one is the ‘dumpee’ as opposed to the dumper.

We just experienced a truly mysterious parting of the ways after only 45 days. What made it mysterious was the total absence of warning signs. There was no heads-up, no request to move someone off the account, no complaint of too little coverage or too many reports. Nothing, nada, zilch.

Instead, we received a Friday afternoon ‘cease and desist’ e-mail from the CMO. Since I’d had a warm relationship until then with CEO, I immediately asked him what had happened. He didn’t know. The decision had been made without him. Hmmm. Now, that’s really interesting.

When we finally were able to speak with the CMO, we were told our account manager hadn’t been visible enough. Oh. OK. So, why can’t we fix that? No response. We asked: why end things after only 45 days? Both parties lose in that scenario. No response. Just a curt ‘We think it would be best for both parties to end things.’ Oh. Sure. Ok. That makes perfect sense.

Paul McCartney once wrote: ‘Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.’ He was oh so right. And, when it does, it hurts.