Jun 24

Barry Schultz puts it all in perspective

My hamstring hurt. My allergies were bothering me. And, I was than thrilled to be rising at 5:30am thisFundraiser_2
past Saturday to drive 110 miles south to Cape May County, NJ.

It was already hot, humid and windy as hell when I arrived in a godforsaken schoolyard in the middle of the Pine Barrens. I was there along with hundreds of other bicycle riders to compete in a charity fundraiser. It was a great cause. But, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled to be there.

Then, I met Barry Schultz. Barry has been struck down by ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was diagnosed with it two years ago, but shows little ill effects from a malady that carries a prognosis of two to five years.

Words do not due justice to Barry’s can-do attitude. He’s bright, bubbly and outgoing. And, he was champing at the bit to start the fund-raising bike ride.

And, ride we did. And, ride Barry did. And, sure enough, my hamstring cooperated, my allergies subsided and I cruised through the woods to the seashore.

It was cool to finish the race. It was cooler still to watch my fellow riders cheer Barry a few minutes later when he wheeled across the finish line.

Our team raised $19,000 for Barry and ALS research. It’s a drop in the bucket to be sure. But, every dollar counts.

What counts more is the lesson Barry taught us on Saturday. He showed us how one can, and should, live one’s life. Despite the death sentence, Barry makes the most out of each and every minute he has.

What a different world this would be if Barry was the norm, and not the exception. Talk about image and reputation management! Barry could, and should write a book. There are quite a few CEOs and politicians who would learn a great deal from it.

Jun 20

When push comes to shove, the bottom-line is still the bottom-line

I attended a fascinating panel discussion Wednesday night at Manhattan’s Penn Club. The event was co-hosted by the Arthur Page Society and the Council of PR Firms, and focused on the former’s recent white paper booklet, entitled: ‘The Authentic Enterprise.

The Authentic Enterprise should be must-reading for every PR professional. It addresses the emerging role of the chief communications officer and includes interviews with 31 chief executive officers (a superhuman feat in, and of, itself).

The findings point to the CCO’s emerging role in a world of social media and transparency. The panel included such luminaries as: Harvey Greisman of Mastercard, Paul Jensen of Weber Shandwick, Valerie DiMaria of Willis, Roger Bolton of APCO and Maril McDonald, who runs one of the sharpest communications consultancies in the country.

The group believes we, as an industry, are better positioned than ever to help the corporation ‘interact’ with each and every constituent audience. They also believe CEOs ‘get’ the importance of social media, are concerned by its lack of control, but turn to the CCO for guidance (which is a big win for the industry).

For me, though, The Authentic Enterprise panel/white paper discussion literally lacked a bottom-line component. Sure, the CEO will turn to the CCO in times of reputation crisis and, perhaps, to engage with Web 2.0 audiences in new and more meaningful ways. But, the CEO’s 24×7 world revolves around one fundamental issue: satisfying the Street.

Roger, Valerie and Harvey did a good job in addressing my questions about how The Authentic Enterprise connects to an ROI-driven C-suite. But, frankly, I was left wanting more. So, here’s hoping the Page Society commissions groundbreaking research on an ongoing basis. I’d love to read a follow-up entitled, ‘The authentic, bottom-line focused enterprise.’

Jun 19

Think you’ve got image issues? Try selling Buicks

The New York Times has a brutally depressing story about a failing Buick dealership in Columbus, Ohio.Buick_2
The piece is a sad, yet compelling, read because it encapsulates
so much of the pain being felt by Americans everywhere.

Buick has been in trouble for years. It’s perceived as a tired brand for an older, dying audience demographic (indeed, Buick owners average 60 years of age). That said, it took the recent gas crisis to apply the coup de grace to many dealerships like Len Immke Buick. Why? Because Buick doesn’t make any small, energy efficient automobiles.

Instead, what remains of the Immke dealership tries to peddle three different types of large, gas-guzzling boats. In their halcyon days, Len Immke sold 200 cars a month. Today, they’re lucky to sell that many in a year. Some days, no one even enters the store. The sales team was downsized a few years ago, everyone took pay cuts and the salesmen now double as janitors after hours since they can’t afford to hire an outside service.

Buick is dead. The body may still be showing a pulse. But, it’s just a matter of time before the plug is pulled. And, when it is, Len Immke Buick and hundreds of similar dealerships will close. The ripple effect will heighten the pain that already exists in towns and cities like Columbus. And, what will the salesmen, many of whom are in their 40s and 50s do for employment and health care coverage?

When senior management fails at its mission, everyone loses. And, when a brand’s image and reputation are beyond repair, it’s time to euthanize the body. It’s just too bad the men who mismanaged Buick over the years aren’t held accountable for this debacle. As one of my bosses liked to say, “Someone should take a bullet.”

Jun 18

Larry Bossidy would be proud of Omar Minaya

Omar Minaya and the Mets management are so inept that they even bungled the firing of their fumbling,Minaya
bumbling manager, Willie Randolph.

Rather than do the humane thing by removing Willie while the team was playing at home and in the midst of a dismal losing streak, they chose instead to make Randolph fly cross country to Anaheim. There, they fired Willie at the stroke of midnight after the Mets’ second consecutive win. What a travesty! Poor Willie.

That said, Minaya’s style reminds me of ex-GE Vice Chairman Larry Bossidy’s approach to executive executions. According to ‘Jacked Up,’ Bill Lane’s kiss-and-tell expose of GE during the Jack Welch regime, Bossidy was Jack’s go-to guy for axing underperforming managers.

Bossidy would start his day by hopping on the GE corporate jet in Connecticut. He’d then fly from one company town after another (ie. Louisville, Syracuse, etc.) He’d be met by the local business unit’s human resources manager. Together, they’d ride to the office in a chauffeured limo. Bossidy would get out, walk into the exec’s office and terminate him. Then, it would be back to the jet and two or three more firings.

Bossidy would be done with the executions by early afternoon. He’d then direct the jet to fly to Augusta, Georgia, where he’d get in a round of golf before returning to Connecticut for dinner. Nice.

Note to Omar: after the Mets dump you at the end of the season, maybe you could connect with Bossidy and/or get a referral to GE? They’d love the way you handled Willie’s going away party.

Jun 17

Where’s Mr. Blackwell when you need him?

Forbes is great at compiling lists. They publish the 400 richest, the 100 best investments, the 300Top_10
Spartans. Oh wait. The latter wasn’t a Forbes list.

Regardless, Forbes has just published its list of the 75 most reputable companies in the U.S. There are lots of names you’d expect (Johnson & Johnson, GE and FedEx, for example) as well as a few surprises (Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley). I found the latter two names particularly interesting in light of the sub-prime disaster.

But, enough about the good guys. I’d like to see a list of America’s least reputable organizations (a Forbes 500 version of Mr. Blackwell’s 10 worst dressed Hollywood stars, if you will).  Who would you put on the least reputable list?

Here’s my top 10 (bottom 10?):

1.) Jet Blue – From a reputation standpoint, this airline is a midair collision. And, what’s with JetBlue and bathrooms? First, they won’t allow passengers to use restrooms during a nine-hour delay on Valentine’s Day. Then, more recently, they forced a passenger to fly in a lavatory for an entire flight? (Note to self: use the restrooms before boarding).

2.) The entire airline industry minus Southwest.

3.) ExxonMobil, Shell and their ilk. How much longer before top oil and gas industry executives start fearing for their lives because of astronomically high gas prices?

4.) New York City crane suppliers.

5.) A New York City political infrastructure that allows crane safety standards to go by the boards.

6.) Ford (talk about being asleep at the wheel as the gas/environmental crisis loomed large on the horizon. They’ve finally begun shutting down assembly plans that make the gas guzzlers).

7.) Chrysler and the rest of the beleaguered American auto industry (imagine losing an 80 percent market share and still being in freefall?)

8.) The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, inc. (Mr. Wilpon: now, that you’ve finally fired Willie Randolph, it’s time to turn your sights on Omar Minaya. He’s the chief architect of this mess. Dump him ASAP and hire a GM who can build a blended team of veterans and up-and-comers.)

9.) The National Basketball Association. The game is a farce. Showboating "what’s in it for me?" players sharing the court with crooked referees makes for an NBA that’s on a fast break to oblivion (or, if not, at least becoming a legitimate rival to professional wrestling).

10.) The fast food industry. I still think they’re part of the problem, not the solution.

Thanks to Rob Longert for the idea.

Jun 16

Read the non-verbals

It doesn’t take a behavioral psychologist to read the negative non-verbals of beleaguered Mets Manager7jz0fkb3
Willie Randolph.

Each post-game press conference is more painful to watch than its predecessor. Willie shuffles up to the podium, swigs some water, sits down, folds his hands and says, “Well, guys, that was a tough one to lose.”

A funereal air permeates the proceedings as Willie then tries to explain exactly why his team blew another, late-inning lead:

“Joe had good stuff in the bullpen. He just threw one bad pitch,” or “That’s why we pay Billy the big bucks. He’s going to succeed in those situations 99 times out of a hundred,” or, my personal favorite, “I saw some positives tonight, despite what the score might indicate.”

Willie will then shake his head, rub his eyes, emit a long-exasperated sigh and keep his arms folded. Rather than pump his fist, raise his voice and exhort reporters, fans and players alike to believe in the team, Willie simply retreats further into himself. Talk about a shell of a man. Phew.

Continue reading

Jun 13

Canadian dollar looking strong, but is anyone looking?

Steve and Ted are joined by a special guest from Canada, Esther Buchsbaum, to discuss the strength ofCanadian_dollar
the Canadian dollar
and what this means for their country’s image and reputation.

The discussion is centered on the fact that the Canadian dollar is stronger than the U.S. dollar for the first time since 1974.

How does this sway the U.S. perception of Canada, if at all? How do Canadians feel about the fact that they have a higher value in the dollar than their American counterparts?

Jun 13

Mugabe Squashes a Beacon of Hope in Africa

Guest post by Joe Becker.Robert_mugabe

There’s a famous story about a impoverished man who grew up in a small town in Rhodeshia who went on to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for African independence from European colonists and then get elected as the head of government for Zimbabwe.  This man was invited to speak at the United Nations as the leader of an African nation which was seen as a beacon of success for peace, economic growth, job development, personal safety and commerce.  Not 25 years after the UN speech, which was met with universal fanfare and hope, Robert Mugabe has transformed his homeland into an example of heartbreak. 

The New York Times ran a news piece on Mugabe’s arrest of opposition party leaders being arrested for treason.  If you didn’t already follow this story, Mugabe has strong armed voters, rigged election results and harmed thousands in his quest to iron fist his role as leader of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years. Recently he actually lost a reelection to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, getting 43% to his 47.9%.  I can’t imagine how many more people actually voted for Tsvangirai to overcome the fixed election, but Mugabe has been fighting the results and recounting votes in select areas of the country for weeks now.  Mugabe who once offered hope and peace instead invented hyperinflation, expelled tens of thousands of people from their homes and built a government of corruption and brutal repression. 

I share story because my wife studied urban and rural planning in Zimbabwe a number of years ago and speaks fondly of happy people, trusting people and a people looking for hope and reform.  I’m not entirely oblivious; I know governments and people can be corrupt, I’m just sadden that one man can temporarily destroy a country and its sprit. 

I look forward to seeing how this story and election plays out in Zimbabwe, I’m optimistic but the results to come are slightly predictable and sad.

Jun 12

The only thing we have to worry about is worry itself

Many years ago, we had a management supervisor who literally fell asleep during client meetings. TheSleeping
first time it happened, we apologized to the client and warned the MS not to let it happen again. The second time it occurred, we moved him off the account and told him to fix the problem. When it kept happening, we parted ways.

Since he was reticent to explain exactly why he was passing out at work, we guessed there was some sort of serious sleeping issue. But, we never would have guessed he might have been getting too much sleep!

According to a new report, our chronically fatigued MS may have been getting too much sleep at night. It sounds counterintuitive, but too much sleep is just as harmful as too little.

Researchers say most people believe they’re not getting enough sleep. That perception, in turn, causes them so much stress that they don’t sleep. As a result, they go to work battered, beleaguered and believing they won’t be able to function. The truth is that most of us only need five or six hours. The problems arise (pun intended) when sleepers get too little or too much.

Fear of getting too little sleep, say researchers, is a root cause of the insomnia epidemic. The experts urge insomniacs to get up, walk around and distract their minds when they can’t sleep. Such activity actually enhances sleep since it distracts the mind from the fear of not sleeping.

Bottom-line? As FDR might have said, “when it comes to insomnia, the only thing we have to worry about is worry itself.”

Jun 11

This gives a whole new meaning to getting to second base

Baseball’s latest ‘scandal’ would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious.  According to various sources, RogersViagra_2
Clemens and other major league ballplayers routinely pop Viagra for on- and off-the-field performance enhancement.

Not content with their existing surfeit of steroids, athletes are now apparently ingesting the fabled little blue pill as well. Yes, Viagara, the bedroom drug of choice for Baby Boomers has become quite the ‘hit’ in baseball locker rooms from coast to coast.

Looking at this latest revelation from an image standpoint, one wonders who has the ‘bigger’ challenge: ballplayers such as Clemens or the big pharma company, Pfizer, which markets Viagra? Certainly the latter can’t be faulted for any misuse of its product. And, today’s generation of ballplayers have become so ‘tagged’ with drug use and abuse that the Viagra revelation leaves me, well, deflated.

As a matter of fact, I think this particular news item will last about as long as the average dose of Viagra. The larger question is this: who knows what long-term damage the ballplayers are doing to their bodies and to our national pastime.