Jun 30

We really shouldn’t be blaming BP, Halliburton or the government


Kurt
I
was whipping through Kurt Vonnegut's 'A Man Without a Country' when I was
stopped in my tracks by this passage: 'We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a
state of denial. And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our
leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what
we're hooked on.' That was written in 2005.

Man's
wanton destruction of planet Earth is nearing a crescendo in the Gulf of
Mexico. And, talk about an exclamation point. Wow.

We
shouldn't be blaming the Gulf disaster on BP, Halliburton, Obama, Cheney, W. or
anyone else. It's everyone's fault. We're the ones who chose to ignore the
1970s oil crisis. We're the ones who took so long to seek other, alternative
fuel sources.

As
a result, we're stuck with at least another 20 years of 'drill, baby, drill'
because the alternative energy infrastructure simply isn't robust enough to
handle the load.

Did
you read that another deep horizon type drilling was just approved in Alaska?
Since each of the major oil companies has the same exact crisis response plan
(probably authored by one of the holding company PR firms, btw), maybe we'll
have competing oil spills?

It
could be a World Cup of Crude. I can imagine the play-by-play: Chip, the
Alaskan oil spill has really picked up momentum in the past few hours. They're
up to 2 million gallons spilling into the Bering Sea as we speak. I have to believe
we'll begin seeing some seals and polar bears washing up on shore any minute
now.'

'That's
right, John. The Gulf folks must be worried. They've held the top spot for 72
days now and, sure, they've killed thousands of creatures, but this new Alaskan
spill has gotten everyone's attention. This may turn out to be a real horse
race. Or, should I say a real sea otter race?'

But
I digress.

Image and political pundits shouldn't be opining about who did what right or wrong.
That's tactical thinking. They should be talking big picture. They should be
pointing the finger at the entire human race. We should be taking the image hit
on this one.

Fish
and wildlife die. Shorelines are destroyed and the ecosystem teeters on the
brink of collapse. All because, as Vonnegut wrote, 'We're joined at the hip to
the most abused, addictive and destructive drugs of all time: fossil fuels.' 

Jun 29

Success is what we can make of the mess we have made of things


June 29
Those
aren't my comments. They were spoken by T.S. Eliot, author of the some of the
most memorable poems in the 20th century.

Eliot's
quote appeared in the Boston Globe in honor of his graduation from Harvard 100
years ago. Despite his later success, Eliot was anything but a
model student. In fact, he racked up only three As to go along with eight Bs,
six Cs and one D. Those low marks, coupled with a spotty attendance record,
bought Eliot academic probation in 1906. Nice, T.S.

Eliot's
story doesn't surprise me one bit. For every overnight success story a la the
founders of Google and YouTube, there are exponentially more 'failures' such as
Alexander Graham Bell (who accidentally invented the telephone as he tried
building a more effective hearing aid), Edison (who said it took him 10,000
tries to invent electricity) and Buckminster Fuller who, at the age of 32, had
had enough of failure and was contemplating suicide. He decided to give life
one more shot, and went on to author 28 books, receive 25 patents and collect
47 honorary doctorates. Talk about comeback player of the year!

Failure
gets a bum rap in today's society. And, I see far too many people, young,
middle-aged and old, who are afraid to fail. So, instead, they choose the path
of least resistance, accept mediocrity and end up being miserable.

The
beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that it forces one to confront
failure on a daily basis. Ed and I have failed countless times since starting
our company. Some have been minor. Some, as the Japanese executives at Sony
used to say, were 'epoch-making.'

Each
and every failure is a tremendous learning experience if you're able to pick
yourself up, shake off the dust and try something just a little bit differently
the next time. Edison failed 9,999 times in his search for electricity. Talk
about OCD! And Fuller figured he'd hit a literal dead-end at mid-life. Look at
Harry S. Truman. He was a complete failure and destitute at the age of 40.

As
the Globe's editor put it, 'Life is messy and unpredictable.' The individuals
who recognize that and see failure as an opportunity are the ones who
eventually succeed. Sadly, we never hear about the vast majority of others who
give up.

So,
here's a homage from one mediocre student to another. T.S.: I was never a fan
of your poems or your genre, but I sure respect your perseverance.

Jun 28

We get what we deserve


Grown ups
I
used to blame Hollywood producers, directors and actors for causing the dumbing
down of America. But, after reading Stephen Holden's scathing review of the
latest, mindless movie from Adam Sandler, I realize we have no
one to blame but ourselves. We get what we deserve.

In
discussing the dreadful content of 'Grown Ups,' Holden opines, 'The movie is
symptomatic of a social attitude that might be called the security of incompetence.
There's something reassuring about a bad movie that doesn't ask you to think or
feel or even pay attention; we can all be happy D-minus students huddled
together in communal self-disgust in a D-minus world.' That, my friends, is an
A-plus observation.

The
pabulum served up by the likes of Sandler, Stiller and their ilk is atrocious.
But, the great, unwashed masses pay to see it, so why shouldn't they continue
churning out one tired wretch of a movie after another?

I
feel the exact same way about Howard Stern and his T&A/flatulent-obsessed,
shock jock peers. My business partner, Ed, will sometimes liken my caustic
comments to Stern, but I prefer to see myself taking the higher, satiric road
of, say, a Johnny Carson or Don Imus. Their wit carries a rapier-like message
with it. Stern's content, on the other hand, is exactly like Sandler's flicks:
one doesn't need to think or feel or even pay attention to it.

And,
so, the ongoing dumbing down of America continues. There are myriad reasons why
our country is on an increasingly steep downside of greatness. One can argue a
lack of political leadership, a loss of confidence in business & industry
and a complete betrayal by the church. But, one should not overlook the
contributions made by the entertainment industry.

There's a reason moronic comedians such as Adam Sandler have become multi-millionaires.
And, that reason is staring right back at you in the mirror.

The
fault lies not in our stars (Hollywood, or otherwise), but in ourselves.

Jun 25

The acceleration trap


Obama
What
do President Barack Obama and Peppercom have in common? We're both challenged
by the acceleration trap.

The
acceleration trap is the title of a fascinating Harvard Business Review article
co-authored by Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges (Download Acceleration Trap). Its premise? Successful
individuals and organizations can unknowingly become victims of their own
success. Emboldened by one success after another, they take on far too many new
initiatives without clearing their plates of existing ones. As a result, they
end up doing too many things poorly instead of a few things well.

Consider
Obama's plight. He's either tackled, or been tackled by, far too many
challenges:

-
passage of a comprehensive health care program

-
a weak economy

-
high unemployment

-
the usual instability in the Middle East

-
the Gulf disaster

-
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively

-
rank insubordination and back-stabbing from, and among, his top civilian and
military advisers

-
a financial sector run amok

-
the ineptness of the Big Three Detroit automakers

-
a rotting infrastructure of roads, bridges and tunnels

-
and, many more that I can't think of at the moment

By
choosing, or being forced, to choose to deal with these issues simultaneously,
Obama has appeared weak, indecisive, detached and beleagured (and that's on a
good day).

The
acceleration trap authors would counsel our president to immediately put most
of these initiatives in a 'holding pattern.' They'd suggest he hold a 'wake'
for those initiatives he kills (so, that those individuals who have worked long
and hard to make them happen, can have a period of mourning). They'd also tell
'The One' to give his staff and the nation periodic 'time outs' to re-group and
refresh. Think about it. We are bombarded multiple times a day with negative
news about one or more of Obama's initiatives either stalling or going South
(housing starts, unemployment figures, the 'runaway general,' a possible
hurricane approaching the beleagured Gulf, etc.). Phew! Man, do we need a time
out from negative news, or what?

As
for Peppercom, we live and die by innovation. We pride ourselves on outflanking
our competition and staying one step ahead of clients' needs by developing new
and different service offerings. Many have been very successful (i.e.
licensing, digital, tailored workshops, etc.). Others have become sacred cows
that exist in a permanent state of limbo that demand staff time but produce
little, if any, revenue.

We've
taken the acceleration gap very seriously and have been meeting on a
fortnightly basis to clear out the closets, shelves and files. We've put some
initiatives on hold and euthanized others. We have a long way to go, but the
benefits are already obvious. We're also looking for ways to provide more
time-outs for our people.

The
White House needs to do the very same thing. Obama needs to focus on two or
three macro issues and drill down deep on each (oil spill pun was
unintentional). He needs to do far fewer things. And, he needs to do a much
better job on the issues he does select. If he doesn't, The One will be a one
and done president.

Success demands flexibility.
The successful individual or institution has to know when to say when and
either avoid the acceleration trap or, like us, find ways to extricate oneself
from it.

Jun 24

An Ice Cream Campaign Worth Screaming For

Today's guest post is by Kristin Davie, Peppercom JAE. 

Ben&Jerry(2) There are three people a girl can count on to carry her through any heartbreak- her father and good ole’ Ben and Jerry. 

Turns out, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t just help mend a broken heart, they’re not half bad at social media either.

To commemorate the creation of its New York Super Fudge flavor, the Ben & Jerry’s NYC Scoop Truck has been making its way around Manhattan delivering tasty, frozen treats- over 500,000 samples in 6 weeks.  What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of such a flavor staple than in the city that served as inspiration?

Every Wednesday, Ben & Jerry’s accepts suggestions from hungry Manhattan tweeters as to where
Ben&Jerry(1) they should stop next- and after a great group tweeting effort (including a rather persuasive picture of some hungry Peppercommers), Peppercom was fortunate enough to be paid a visit yesterday.

The campaign is a great example of social media reinforcing brand loyalty.  Not to mention, it made publicists out of everyday consumers, as more and more people took to Twitter to spread the message and encourage friends and office mates to submit a 140 character pitch of their own.

Yes, we took the tweeting pretty seriously.  There’s a rumor I pumped my fists in the office kitchen when I heard the good news (DISCLAIMER- I’m from New Jersey), but who could blame me?  Cold, delicious ice cream is a welcome reward when the temperature is nearly 90 degrees outside. 

At the end of the day, Ben & Jerry’s reminded me that I shouldn’t limit myself to picking up a pint when a boy breaks my heart.  The brand can help make some happy memories, too- just check out the smiles on all of us. 

Jun 23

This Gun’s for Hire

I’m sad. In fact, I’m depressed. Truth be told, I’m downright despondent. No one, not one single
HiredGun_01 manufacturing company has ever sent me a free product sample in the hopes that I’d write a glowing review.

I don’t deal well with rejection. I tend to internalize things, cut myself, contemplate ending it all in some dramatic way. So, when I read that pay-for-play is a big, and growing, trend in blogging, I curl up in the fetal position for a whole weekend.

All I need is some sign. Some indication that an Apple or a Panasonic or a Coach knows I’m not only alive but ready, willing and quite able to blatantly hype their product. I’ll shill. Just show me some love.

And, here’s another benefit. I won’t tell anyone you’ve given me your product either. There will be none of that transparency nonsense with this blogger. In fact, I’ll follow the lead of Louise Crawford, who created an annual blogging event she calls  ‘Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’ (say, what?). 

Crawford was recently called on the carpet by the blogging community for accepting Absolut Vodka’s offer to sponsor her contest. Absolut even created a special drink for the festival called the Brooklyn Spike (named in honor of Spike Lee, another event sponsor). BTW, if it’s a festival for bloggers, how come I wasn’t invited? Looks like another weekend spent in the fetal position. And, check this out, Absolut offered participating bloggers free gifts, including a bottle of Brooklyn Spike and a small digital camera in exchange for coverage. In all, nine bloggers accepted the vodka and eight got cameras. Me? I didn’t even get a dirty shot glass.

Critics of such blatant pay-for-play dubbed Ms. Crawford’s festival a ‘ShillFest.’ Others felt it exposed the sleazy underbelly of blogging. It turns out many bloggers never, ever reveal the largesse driving their content (note: even the legendary TechCrunch was recently nailed when a writer accepted a MacBook computer in exchange for covering a start-up company. That seems like a pretty good deal to me). As the Brooklyn controversy took hold (much as a second shot of vodka starts to take hold and dull one’s senses) some of the pay-for-play bloggers began admitting they’d received gifts from Absolut. But, good ol’ Ms. Crawford didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “I thought of my post as a piece of writing,” she whined, “and they sent me a bottle of vodka.” Good for you, Ms. Crawford. And, I’ll bet the vodka made your writing that much more creative.

So, here’s a plaintive plea from a lonely, dejected overlooked blogger who’d positively kill for a cool pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, a Mammut trekking jacket or a shiny, new Rolex. Send me the freebie and I’ll make it sound like the best thing since sliced bread. Hell, I’ll even write a positive blog if Chevy, or Chevrolet, or whatever the hell they’re now calling the company, sent me one of their clunkers. I can be had, Corporate America. This gun’s for hire.

Jun 22

Nobody Beats the Rep!

How’d you like a million dollar idea for just $5?  Sound too good to be true? Not if Jim Kukral has
Seinfeld-wiz-768864 anything to say about it.

Jimmy Five Bucks (as I call him) reminds me of one of those web scam artists who offer to deposit a large sum of money in your bank account. All you have to do in return is pay some incidental upfront costs and, voila, you’ll be an instant millionaire. And, all Jimmy needs to get his creative juices flowing and make you a millionaire is $5. Such a deal!

To his credit, Kukral does promise to return your $5 if he doesn’t deliver.

But, he’s not getting my $5. That’s because, in the spirit of our great, free enterprise system, I’m going to undercut him.

That’s right. Starting today, I’m introducing the $4 RepMan challenge. Send me $4 and I’ll give you a million-dollar idea in exchange. Just think what you can do with that extra buck! In fact, if you send me four dollars a day for a full year, you’ll have saved $365! Man, oh man.

You want to know my million-dollar idea credentials before sending me your moola? Fine. Check this out:

- I came up with the name Peppercom for our firm (PR Week called that a million dollar idea when they profiled us back in 2000. Put that in your $5 pipe and smoke it, Jimmy.)

- MSL’s Petey Harris and I came up with an idea for an online learning site that helped attract a million dollar client to the then nascent Peppercom. The same idea has since been dusted off multiple times and used for many subsequent clients. Ka-ching.

- I came up with the name for my wife’s personal fitness company, FitBitch. She hasn’t turned it into a million dollar business yet. But, the name’s worth a million dollars. I guarantee it.

Forget about Jimmy Five Bucks. Nobody beats the Rep! I’ll give you a million dollar idea for just $4!

And, I’m flexible. You can send me the $4 in a check, money order, rolls of quarters. I don’t care. In fact, it doesn’t matter at all. Why? Because I’m not returning your damn money. If you’re dumb enough to send it, I’m smart enough to save it.

Nobody beats the Rep!

Jun 21

Bill, baby, bill

Hatred unites America. Think about it. We hated Japan after Pearl Harbor. We hated bin Laden
PA-9051085 in the aftermath of 9/11. And, boy oh boy, do we sure hate BP’s Tony Hayward after this past weekend’s YachtingGate. In fact, a quick perusal of Sunday-morning talk shows revealed consensus among right and left-wing pundits, politicos and poseurs alike. Each and every ‘expert’ agreed the Isle of Wight sail put the proverbial final nail in Hayward’s BP career. And, each and every expert alike opined that Hayward’s malaprops, misdeeds and maladroit management precluded a ‘second career’ as a PR counselor. Wrong!

Give it a year or two, and I guarantee Mr. Hayward will be working for either the world’s largest, independent public relations firm or one of the scores of lookalike holding company PR firms.  Why? There’s a variety of reasons:

1.) Big agencies absolutely fawn over ex-CEOs, governors, White House press secretaries, senators, or heads of the EPA, DEP or Homeland Security, respectively. Why? Because their names attract deep-pocketed, multinational clients like bees to honey.

2.) “The rich are not like you and me,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. Neither are the uber-powerful. They move in rarified circles not open to mere mortals like you and me. Hayward’s Rolodex alone is worth millions of dollars.
3.) Hayward’s Rolodex = Access. And, access equals power in Washington, D.C., New York and elsewhere. Hayward can open doors with a single e-mail or phone call.
4.) Large agencies can bill Hayward’s time at unconscionably outrageous hourly rates. Hayward = profits for cash-starved large agencies.

I can even visualize Mr. Hayward’s business card in my mind. It will read: ‘Tony Hayward. Energy sector/sustainability strategist.’

And, despite his horrific performance in the current disaster, boards of directors will nonetheless line up to retain Hayward’s counsel. Why? Because, in a year or so, Hayward will have penned his autobiography (suggested working titles; “I Wanted My Life Back” or ‘The Gulf Is a Big Ocean’). He’ll have made the rounds of the talk shows, professing sincere regret for his mistakes, explaining how his forced retirement provided a much-needed respite for soul-searching and introspection and, (and, this is the game-changer) that he now wants to share what’s he learned with businesspeople and politicians around the world so they don’t make the same mistakes he did. It’s absolutely brilliant. And, I guarantee he’s already formulated the strategy.

So, please, Argentina, don’t cry for Tony. His future is as bright as the Gulf waters are murky. And his wallet will be as green as the Gulf waters are black. Tony Baloney may be a phony. But, he’ll be a very well-compensated big PR agency phony soon enough.

Jun 17

If Obama’s lost the New York Times, he’s lost the nation

Watching the evening network newscasts one night in the
midst of the Vietnam War morass,
Obama-tv-460x276 President Lyndon Johnson witnessed a withering
assault on his policies by none other than CBC News anchorman Walter Cronkite.
LBJ sighed, wearily shut off the Oval Office TV set and famously quipped, “If
I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the nation.” And, sure enough LBJ had lost
the legendary Cronkite and, in turn, the entire nation. He scored poorly in a
few early 1968 Democratic presidential primaries and decided not to run for
re-election.

Now, fast forward to the ides of June, 2010. President
Barack Obama is himself experiencing a later-day LBJ-Cronkite experience. In
the immediate aftermath of Obama’ televised Oval Office address Wednesday night
on the BP oil spill, both the lead Times
editorial
as well as the rhetoric of its resident, caustic, left-wing liberal
columnist, Maureen Dowd’s positively savaged ‘The One’s’ indecisiveness.

This is Obama’s Vietnam moment. With Dowd, et al in the role
of Cronkite.  If the President has lost the Times, then he’s most certainly lost the nation. Looking ahead to
2012, and borrowing a phrase from the upcoming Wimbledon Tennis Tournament,
it’s ‘Game. Set. Match’ for Mr. Obama. I can already visualize the January 2013
O’Dwyer’s headline reading, ‘Former President joins Edelman’s public
affairs office. Obama to counsel high-level clients on crisis issues. Joins
endless array of other erstwhile Capitol Hill power brokers to provide senior
counsel.’

So, what went so terribly wrong?

Unlike W. and Cheney, who shot first and asked questions
later, Obama vacillates to a fault. He waits. He ponders. He evaluates. He
fiddles while Rome, or in this case, Rome, Louisiana, burns. Obama’s Oval
Office speech was deemed a rhetoric-pocked, action-lacking failure by left-wind
pundits, And, if Dowd and company are unimpressed, god knows what the likes of
O’Reilly, Limbaugh and that ultimate pit bull, Glenn Beck, are saying (note:
for reason pertaining to my personal health and well-being, I will not watch
Mr. Beck. He not only baits in Josef Goebbels-like ways, he also bears an
uncanny physical resemblance to one of the worst clients in Peppercom history.
Note: think purple).

Like many moderates and liberals, I’d hoped that Barack
Obama’s ascendance signaled a new era in politics. I answered the clarion call
of change and voted for B.O. who, sadly, is literally living up to his initials
and stinking up the place.

The BP oil spill and Gulf disaster are the Teapot Dome and
Credit Mobilier of our era. One can also throw in Watergate, Iran-Contra and
Monica Lewinsky’s beret, for good measure. It’s been building to a slow
crescendo since his swearing in, but Barack Obama has clearly self-destructed
in the past few weeks.

I’m now convinced he’s a one-term President. That said,
who’s waiting in the wings? Weird Al Yankowicz?

The combination of a relentless 24×7, news beast salivating
at the thought of savaging any new candidate, along with the limitless personal
wealth available in the private sector, has scared away America’s most talented
managers. What’s left is  a dog’s breakfast of dysfunctional miscreants
and career mediocrities who can neither talk nor shoot straight.

It’s enough to make a blogger ask for a third round of
Sancerre and go gently into that good (and oil-riddled) night. As former New
York Mets Manager Casey Stengel asked of his horrific 1962 squad: “Can anyone
here play the game?”

Jun 16

Mick Cody announces new, political party; calls ‘Animals Matter’ America’s first serious third party movement since days of Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose

Lincroft, NJ, June 16, 2010 – Noted animal rights activist, Mick Cody (who also happens to be an
Dogs animal) announced today he was forming a new, third political party to be named Animals Matter. Calling it America's first serious third party since 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican vote with his Bull Moose movement and handed the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Cody says Animals Matter is the ultimate grass roots movement. 'We don't just represent grass roots ideas, we eat the damn things daily.”

Cody says Animals Matter is a direct response to the complete ineptness of humans to solve man-made problems. “In my short lifetime, I've witnessed house pets dying in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, pit bulls being savaged by Michael Vick and dolphins washing ashore on the beaches of Alabama courtesy of BP. We believe animals can do a better job,” he barked. Mick said Animals Matter will also provide a platform for animals of all kinds to posit their views on the ecological damage being wreaked by man.

“We welcome the siren calls of whales, the howls of coyotes and, yes, even the meows of cats,” said Mick. “We live, eat and breathe inclusiveness.”

Cody said Animals Matter intends to place candidates on tickets during the upcoming midterm elections and that he, himself, is weighing a run at the Presidency in 2010. “Look, Reagan was over 70 when he won in 1980. I'll be 10 in 2012. That's pretty much the same age. If Dutch can do it, why can't I?” he whined.

Cody acknowledged the need for a balanced ticket in order to attract voters in 2012. “I've appointed my long-time chief of staff, Rooney Cody, to head an exploratory committee to find the right VP. I'm looking for a savvy sea otter, a cunning chimp or maybe even an energizing eagle. Any of the above could easily whip Sarah Palin in an IQ test,” he whimpered.

Animals Matter is temporarily headquartered in the Cody backyard, which has been renamed the 'Animal Farm.' Mick says his nascent party is accepting contributions in the form of checks, money orders and dog treats.

“We will take back the environment from mankind. I may not live long enough to join my fellow animals in the Promised Land, but I've been to the top of the mountain and I've seen what lies ahead. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” Mick growled.

Animals Matter is a non-profit organization created to advocate on behalf of animals everywhere. For more information, please call 1-800-B-A-R-K-I-N-G or go to www.mickispissed.canine.