Jul 31

Is Beijing the Berlin of 2008?

I’m not surprised that Chinese officials are banning press access to such controversial Web sites as Amnesty International. After all, your average dictatorship doesn’t care much for criticism.

I’m also not surprised to learn the International Olympic Committee agreed to China’s request that on-site Western media be prevented from accessing certain sites. After all, the IOC caved in to Hitler’s demands in 1936, as well.

I am surprised, though, that so many politicians, business executives and IOC-type organizations keep ignoring the old adage, "Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Did the IOC not think that censoring the media would cause image and reputation issues? More to the point, did the executives involved not understand the moral and ethical implications?

If Beijing is little more then a latter-day Berlin, then maybe we can hope for another Jesse Owens-type performance. This time, though, the heroics would have to come from one of the attending media. Let’s see if an enterprising journalist rises to the occasion to defy the Chinese government and their IOC lackeys and files a no-holds-barred expose on the real "games" being played in China.

Jul 30

Hello, Is There Anybody in There?

Believe it or not, there’s a Mastercard print ad running right alongside massive coverage of a horrific assault on a British honeymooning couple on the tropical paradise island of Antigua.

The advertisement depicts a beautiful, deserted island and the headline: "Arriving: Priceless." Ouch. Talk about bad timing. Talk about horrific placement. Suffice it to say there was nothing "priceless" about this use of the corporate sobriquet. Getawaymc150

Who’s to blame when something like this occurs? Is it the paper? Mastercard’s advertising agency that bought the space? Or, does the final responsibility lie with the brand itself? Surely, it’s the brand that suffers the image and reputation damage from such an obvious blunder.

Mistakes happen, and to err is human. But, if I’m a friend or family member of the ill-starred honeymooners, I’d be slow to forgive Mastercard. This particular advert is tasteless, not priceless.

Jul 29

London Doesn’t Do A.C.

I’m in the midst of a minor heat wave in London and, sad to say, the great, old city simply can’t cope. London

Whether it’s a theatre, a restaurant or happy little Hoxton Hotel, most buildings here have little, or no, air conditioning. And, with 80-plus degree temperatures, the end result can be a less-than-satisfactory experience.

I’m not sure if it’s always been this way or merely the latest manifestation of global warming. Regardless, one would think the powers that be would do something about it. (And, sad to say, I can recall sweating through similar London experiences the past two summers).

One expects cool, rainy days when visiting Jolly Old England. Maybe that’s why nothing’s changed?

Whatever the reason, I’d post a caveat traveler to anyone coming to London the rest of this summer or next. Be sure to check in advance that hotels, theatres, restaurants and others venues are properly wired for A.C. Otherwise, you may lose more than your money.

Jul 28

The Second Battle of Britain

It usually starts as soon as I leave the plane. Paparazzi joust with journalists, who push aside commoners, all to get a look at Repman.

"Rep, over here!" screams one photographer. "Hey Repman, will you be blogging about Britain?" shouts a London Mail reporter, "Rep, oh Rep, please sign this t-shirt for my mum. She’s a huge fan," implores a mere commoner.

I put up with the all the fuss because, well, it goes with the turf. I’m no different than most celebrity bloggers. Our lives are no longer our own. 

So, imagine my surprise this time around when, after touching down at Heathrow, there was no gaggle of adoring fans. No lines of flashbulb-popping paparazzi. No line of hoi polloi imploring the great Repster for some sort of recognition.

"What the heck?" thought I. "Did the local media not know I was coming?" And then, I glanced at one of the television screens and it all became obvious. Obama! He was in town at the same time as me. "Curse him!"_done_obamaparliament

London was the final stop on the Illinois senator’s much-heralded "world tour." And, the British press were pulling out all the stops for him (or, should I say, "Him?").

Judging by the press coverage, Britain loves Obama. And, after eight years of W, who can really blame them?

Speaking on behalf of my fellow celebrity bloggers, though, I’m not happy. I miss the adulation. Who wouldn’t? And, I’m not sure whether to blame my schedulers, press agents, advance team, the London tabloids or Team Obama for not giving me a heads-up.

They’ll regret it. No one pre-empts the Repman’s local market coverage and gets away with it. In fact, I just may write a less-than-positive blog about the Obama phenomenon, and put a rather vicious British spin on it. How’s this for a headline: "Never has so much been said by so many about someone who has done so little?"

Jul 25

Is it SWAG or Schwag?

So, I’m in the midst of reading the current RunnersWorld issue and come across an item marked, "Best race ever for Schwag."

And, it strikes me that I’ve seen many spellings (and pronunciations) for what’s better known as branded merchandise.

So, which is it? Futurist, wizard, bon vivant and raconteur par excellence Watts Wacker told me in no uncertain terms that the word is SWAG and is an acronym for "Stuff We All Get.’"Dictionary

So, how come I see so many other versions with the "schwag" spelling? And, why does everyone give it a guttural Yiddish/Hebrew/Jewish pronunciation?

So, help me blogosphere. I’m confused and would like to be straightened out. Ordinarily, I couldn’t care less. But, I love getting and wearing SWAG/schwag and want to be sure I’m using the preferred spelling.

Jul 24

Talk About Paying to Get Screwed

Up until now, I thought that only prostitutes and the airlines made one pay to get screwed. Now, we can add the New York Metropolitan Baseball Team.

The Mets are an abysmal, rudderless team that, despite a recent renaissance, will go nowhere this year. They’re a bad product that consistently whets fans’ appetites with occasional above average and sometimes even stellar play, only to fall apart when the chips are down. Take last season, please. And take Tuesday night’s debacle against the Phils, please.

So, what does a consistently disappointing team do? Double the cost of ticket prices naturally.

Raising Mets season-ticket holder prices is wrong for every conceivable reason. In addition to further alienating a fan base that is ready to choke the next player who chokes in a critical spot, the Mets have made attending one of their games prohibitively expensive (it’s always been emotionally expensive. Now, it’s just a plain rip-off).

One can count on death, taxes and the Mets blowing a lead. Here’s hoping the Mets organization can count on a lot fewer paying fans next season. 
If ever a team decision deserved a fan boycott, it’s this one.

Thanks to Greg Schmalz for the idea.

Jul 23

You Can Blame TV and the Movies for PR’s Alarming Gender Imbalance

College of Charleston Executive-in-Residence Tom Martin hits the nail on the head with his call to action on the PR industry’s growing gender imbalance.

Like Tom, I lecture at many college campuses. I also speak at PRSSA conferences and the Council of PR Firms’ most excellent Summer Internfests. Like Tom, I’ve noticed the increasing gender imbalance (he cites a current PRSA member survey revealing that 89 percent are women!). And, like Tom, I agree the lack of men is troubling, since we need to reflect the society in which we live.

Unlike Tom, though, I’m less than sanguine about the success of any education campaign aimed at attracting more young men to our ranks. Why? Because I think peer pressure is the real reason keeping the average college guy from expressing interest in public relations. What red-blooded guy wants to be seen as a "party girl?"

Most high school and college students see PR as a mix of "cocktail parties," "fashion shows" and all things "glam." The reason why is obvious: popular culture has squarely positioned PR jobs that way. "Sex and the city," "The Hills" and hundreds of lesser659x600websatcsamantha known TV shows and movies almost invariably portray PR professionals as
gum-cracking, hair-twirling young ladies. But, as those of us in the profession know, Hollywood is grossly distorting the truth. Most distaff members of the PR industry work on everything from crisis communications and new product introductions to high-level executive coaching and strategic counseling. The Lizzie Grubmans are few and far between.

But until, and unless, we can lobby Hollywood to alter its misleading stereotyping, PR will continue to be totally dominated by young women. And, that lack of gender diversity spells big trouble in the long-term, just as it would for any industry that is too heavily skewed towards a particular race or gender.

Jul 22

Overcoming the “Not Invented Here” Idea

One of the biggest challenges facing public relations firms, advertising agencies and businesses in every sector is the "not invented here" syndrome. It works like this: new ideas are dismissed, put on the back burner or not properly funded because, well, they weren’t invented by the organization’s inner circle.

Detroit’s a great example of the not invented here syndrome. Top executives literally sat around for decades collecting paychecks, recycling old ideas and rejecting new ones because the Big Three had a proven formula. Well, the proven formula is a wreck and the Big Three are now eating the dust of foreign competitors.

John Kanzius is an out-of-the-box thinker. He also happens to be a retired radio and television executive who maybe, just maybe, has discovered the cure for cancer. Happily, Kanzius had the financial wherewithal to invest in his novel idea and happily, he found two major research centers, the University of Pittsburgh and M.D. Anderson, who were willing to risk taking Kanzius’s idea to the next level. The latter is critical. Kanzius’s idea never would have seen the light of day if the research organizations hadn’t been willing to embrace the new and unexpected.

The best organizations invite thinking from all employees, They also embrace outside thinking. We’ve purposely hired academics, journalists and designers precisely because they think differently than we do.

Ossified thinking kills businesses. Look at Smith-Corona. Or Pan Am. Those organizations who ignore the John Kanzius in their midst do so at their own peril.

Thanks to Deb Brown for the idea.

Jul 21

Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer

I distinctly remember the moment at General Motors headquarters when those underhanded competitors from the East (read: Toyota) launched an aggressive marketing campaign on GM’s home court.

The first wave began with an avalanche of Toyota truck promotions and sponsorships in Texas. "They can’t do that," said one GM executive. "We were first to sell trucks in Texas. That’s our turf." Well, Toyota did just that and quickly supplanted GM as the top truck in the Lone Star State.

Then, adding insult to injury, Toyota announced it would be the number one car company in the state of Michigan. And, sure enough, the Japanese carmaker was soon outselling its arch-rival in the Wolverine State as well. Imagine the reverse. Imagine seeing more Chevys than Camrys in Tokyo. The mind boggles.

These are just two great, regional market examples of quality and service always trumping customer loyalty.

The Toyota/GM mismatch came to mind the other day as I boarded my NJ Transit train to the city. A group of nautically-attired, New York Waterway street gangs were handing out pamphlets that read, "This Summer, imagine having two extra hours a day." Hmmmm. "Sounds appealing," I thought. "What up with this?"Ferry

The pitch: the ferry saves commuters up to two hours a day when compared to the onerous, chronically late and overcrowded train.

I loved the fact that NY Waterways was marketing right on NJT’s home turf. It was Toyota and GM all over again, but this time, it was happening right in front of my eyes.

I’m a big fan of "enemy market marketing." It sends a statement and can also have a powerful impact on the morale on both parties. Toyota was on the upswing and aggressively gaining market share when it assaulted Texas and Michigan. GM was reeling back on its heels. The "in your own backyard" strategy by Toyota applied a powerful, psychological coup de graces to the GM mindset.

Will the NY Waterways ploy work? Maybe. If the ferries were closer to my house and the schedule more flexible, it would be a no-brainer. Until then, though, I’ll have to live with NJT and their well-earned moniker: "Just train bad."

Jul 17

Add “No Fuel” To “No Frills”

US Airways should be heavily penalized if what its pilots’ union says is true.
Eager to cut costs wherever possible, US Airways is allegedly forcing pilots to fly with less fuel than pilots feel they should.

Forget about image and reputation. If true, US Airways is playing loose and fast with our lives. And, say the union representatives, the airline is punishing those pilots who’ve blown the whistle.

This is a disaster that US Airways needs to correct ASAP. I’ve heard of no frills airlines, but now we may have a no fuel airline on our hands. It’s disgraceful.

Thanks to Deb Brown for the idea.