Aug 31

The Fifth Character

I've had the
sublime pleasure of watching today's guest blogger grow up, mature and become a
smart, young PR professional. Like her dad, though, Catharine Cody isn't shy
about sharing her POV. Her guest blog concerns the iconic TV show 'Sex & the
City' and how it shaped (if not, warped) her generation's view of PR.
Enjoy….

The goose

"Sex & The City" ruined the image of PR for
just about every girl my age. Growing up, we all thought Samantha Jones had
just the coolest lifestyle possible. And, then we landed gigs in PR and, well,
let's just say, the truth was a little different.

But, I wouldn't change the basic plot of Sex. It was too
good to tamper with. I would, however, add a fifth character who REALLY lived a
PR executive's life.

I'd call her The Goose. She'd be the youngest of the
group and an intern at a hot, midsized Manhattan PR firm. But, unlike Samantha,
the Goose would do lots of administrative tasks. And, afterwards, she'd
decompress with her BFFs and have a conversation along these lines:

Samantha: "Oh, I'm so tired. These new Pradas are
killing my heels and I've got a huge party at Lotus tonight. P'Ditty, Lady Gaga
and Snoop Lion will all be there."

Carrie: "Big's MIA again. He won’t answer my calls."

The Goose: "At least it's only one person not
returning your calls. Try calling 100 reporters each and every day and getting
them interested in flow valves. Talk about rejection!"

Carrie: "Big was supposed to go apartment hunting
with me. There's a to-die-for one bedroom in SoHo that has our name written all
over it. Now, someone else will grab it."

The Goose: "Try sharing a two-bedroom apartment
with four other people in a crumbling walk-up in Secaucus. You want to talk
about to-die-for? My commute kills me!”

Samantha: “Ariana Huffington wants to do lunch, but I
just don’t like the cut of her jib. 
How’d she even get my number?”

The Goose: “Wait, you’re complaining about how Ariana
Huffington got your number?  I give mine
out to every single reporter I meet and my phone barely ever rings!”

It would definitely be interesting to see how this
dynamic would play out with girls in high school and college who are just now
figuring out what they want to do in life(and think PR is all about glamor.)  Had I known most of my day would be full of
“sorry-not interested” and “Can you just email this to me?” I might have had
different expectations about the real world of public relations. Now excuse me,
I need to go pitch a new cleaning product that’s safe for the environment.  

Aug 30

It’s called enabling

Laura 'Bedrock' Bedrossian is one of Peppercom's brightest
and hardest-working employees. Recently named a runner-up in PR Week's
prestigious and hotly contested 'Young PR Professional of the Year'
competition, Bedrock has graciously agreed to author today's guest blog.
Enjoy…


Millennial

The millennial generation has been under fire for some time,
especially in the past year or so. I frequently see articles and reports
popping up with ridiculous “reasons” for why my generation “is the way it is.”
I was alerted to an article in The Wall
Street Journal
titled: Delayed
Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain
” (special thanks to Steve Cody
and Ann Barlow for sending it my way). This article was no different in terms
of the tone. 

The piece begins by pointing out that many parents of the
millennial generation are worried that their respective children don’t have a
career, aren’t married and/or aren’t financial independent—to name a few issues.

According to the article, this is all OK because recent
research suggests that the brain develops at a pace that makes people better
equipped to make major life decisions in their late 20s rather than earlier in their
lives.

Great? From this millennial’s perspective, absolutely not.

First, this seems like another excuse to explain and project
a behavior of a small group upon an entire generation. This can’t be too
drastic of a development in the brain, otherwise I would think groups should
probably start lobbying to raise the legal age of adulthood. Why position it as
the reason for why millennials “act the way they do”?

Second, for those who do exhibit any irresponsible behavior,
hopefully the millennials parents’ minds are not at ease because this research is
just an easy way to justify poor choices. And guess what, Mom and Dad, those
poor choices are coming from you too—it’s called enabling.

On a base level, this research is very interesting and makes
a tremendous amount of sense, especially in terms of how the average age people
are marrying has risen by six years. However, (and, full disclosure: I am not a
scientist) it sounds like this is how the brain has been developing since the
dawn of man?

So, we’re better equipped to make bigger decisions in our
late-20s? Why is it that all of the previous generations have been capable of
functioning without having full-scale investigations launched to figure out why
they aren’t “successful”?

This article and ones like it stereotype millennials to seem
like we are all dysfunctional humans unfit for this world. I’m not sure where
all of these examples are coming from; I know plenty of younger people with
“underdeveloped brains” who have not been financially dependent on their
parents for some time (myself included).

Of course, when I hear some of the examples people have
about their freeloading kids, I have the same natural reaction and tone of the
authors of said articles—I am incensed. But I think there is a larger issue at
work here.

Let’s discuss the group of millennials giving the entire
generation the bad name. It is safe to say that parents from an early age want
to make sure their child has the best life possible—which includes college. But
what are parents really telling their kids? Are they letting their kids know
that while college is important, it is still equally as important to pay for
said education and also be a functional member of society? Education can become
very expensive, very quickly. Why can’t a kid take a gap year and start saving
to pay for school? Why can’t they take part-time classes while working to help
make school more affordable? Also there is nothing wrong with delaying or not
even attending college. I was always told there is nothing wrong with hard
honest work, and to be honest, it’s made me who I am today.

Clearly, some parents choose to coddle their kids by
allowing them to stay financially dependent for them to focus on their studies.
At that point, is the millennial to be fully blamed? Those who act entitled had
to learn that they are entitled from someone.

We are a smart and resourceful generation. We seem
drastically different because we are dealing with a very different world—a
world and economy that our predecessors created for us.  We work hard. For those of us who do not,
guess what, there are people who are lazy in every generation.

To circle back on the article, I myself am in my late-20s
and I made very big decisions in my life starting at age 18 up until now. My
brain may not have been fully developed yet, but I still made those decisions
and used research and advice from those who have been in similar situations and
made the best choices. I am still standing and have been on my own two feet for
some time and I certainly did it on my own. I speak on behalf of all millennials
as I say “pick on someone your own age!”

Aug 29

Call Me (Not Just) Maybe

Repman readers have
patiently read my many missives about misbehaving clients. Since turnabout is
fair play, I've asked Syd Steinhardt, a former agency colleague and current
client-side type, to share his story of the agency from hell. Enjoy!

Screaming  executive

It is the scourge of every PR agency
pro: the client from hell. 

This occupational hazard can be any
one of the following: the inexperienced manager whose insecurity compels him to
insert himself to such a degree that he impedes progress on the account; the
corporate bureaucrat who thinks that he knows everything, but really knows
nothing, about PR; or the onetime agency person who acts out his pent-up hostility
to former clients by abusing his outside PR firm.

Having been an agency guy myself for
12 years before going in house five years ago, I have seen them all. To help
manage such clients, I offer the following tips to make your life easier.

1)     
Communicate. Contact your client every day to let
him know that you are engaged with his account. It doesn’t have to be a long
conversation or an extended email exchange. If you don’t have a reason to call
or write – think of one! You’re supposed to be a bottomless well of creative
ideas.

2)     
Be respectful. Don’t insult your client’s
intelligence by serving up a sloppy pastiche of half-baked notions and
incomprehensible jargon, and call it a PR plan. Style is important, too; a
mishmash of fonts indicates a cut-and-paste job, while spelling and grammatical
errors add to the insult.

3)     
Understand.  If you don’t get your client, his needs, his
audience or his strategic objectives, keep talking to him until you do. Understanding
also means not padding your media list with journalists whom you know are not
appropriate. It is all right not to pitch the New York Times and Wall Street
Journal, for example, if your client’s story doesn’t fit. There are occasions where
a placement in a well-regarded trade publication would serve your client better.
By the way, clients can tell when a media list is nothing more than an unedited
Cision or Vocus search.

4)     
Listen. If your client requests something, do
it. If you think that the request is unreasonable, say so. Suggest
alternatives. Keep the dialogue going. The constant back and forth can yield goodwill
and good results. Ignoring your client creates frustration and resentment, and
can ultimately cost you the account.

5)     
Act professionally. You should be friendly with
your client, but not his friend. I’ve had account reps talk to me as if we were
at a frat house kegger. Don’t drop the f-bomb and all of its permutations with
impunity, thinking that such behavior is ingratiating. It is not. Nor is badmouthing
co-workers (yours and his), other clients, or members of the media.

6)     
Be transparent. Clients don’t like surprises,
such as unexplained expenses, sudden disappearances and replacements of account
team members, or evasive answers to simple questions about account activities.
Such surprises erode trust.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t
take your client for granted. If you work with him, you can learn from each
other. That is not only good business, but it is what a true partnership should
be. And a partner, by definition, is not a client from hell.

Syd
Steinhardt is public relations director of the NYU School of Continuing and
Professional Studies. A former Peppercommer, Syd stresses that none of the bad
examples depicted in this blog applies to Peppercom.

Aug 28

A disruptive technology for the body

Kangoo will be to Zumba what Amazon was to
Borders: a disruptive technology.

In case you're not familiar with disruptive technology,
the term was first coined by Clayton Christianson, a Harvard professor who
penned the best-selling business book entitled, 'The Innovator's Dilemma'. In
it, he described not only how business models such as Amazon's were disrupting
the status quo, but also what executives could do to ensure their organizations
weren't prone to being Amazoned (I know all this because we publicized the
book. Thank you very much).

At any rate, I know a disruptive technology when I see
one and Kangoo is the real deal. All it lacks is an aggressive marketing
campaign.

Kangoo already possesses a brilliant role model in Mario Godiva.

I've worked with Mario, and one of his top associates,
Eric Daniels (elifestyletraining@gmail.com).
Together, they've completely disrupted my prior training regimen, and the way
in which I think about wellness.

Mario's led Kangoo dance and fitness classes as well as
Kangoo runs with many of my fellow employees at Peppercom. And, Eric's working
with some of my associates on their overall wellness programs.

In my case, I've literally stopped using sneakers to run long
distance. I now do it in Kangoos. And, the training by Mario and Eric provides
a post workout high that rivals the very best laughing gas in the world (I know
my way around the dentist's chair). 

But, here's why Kangoo will disrupt Zumba and other FOD's
(fads of the day). Kangoo was originally designed to help people recover from
back and knee injuries. The rebounding/running boots reduce 80 percent of the
pressure on one's knees and lower back while simultaneously engaging the core. Kangoo

It's an amazing balancing act that has captivated kids
from eight to 80. I say again, kids from eight to 80.

Kangoo is both intense and a blast. And, unlike Zumba,
there's no post workout joint pain. And, there my friends, is the rub. One gets
a high without any residual pain. That's disruptive.

I was running five miles in my Kangoo boots just this
morning. As I rounded a corner, a guy yelled out, 'Hey, isn't that cheating?' I
smiled and said, 'If it is, then I'm the Lance Armstrong of the hood because I
love cheating in my Kangoo boots.'

Try them. You'll like them.

Aug 27

Black October

Today's post is dedicated to Peppercom Co-founder, Edward "Aloysius" Moed.


Peppercom opened Suit_1920sfor business 17 years ago this Friday.
That's when two men, burnt out by the red tape and politics of big agency life
and chomping at the bit to capitalize on a bullish economy, gave the
entrepreneurial life a go.

And, Ed and Steve had a tough slog in the beginning.

The first month was dedicated to creating an
infrastructure, so they set up a checking account, had business cards printed
and did all the other things an embryonic, two-person business needs to do.

The duo's second month was spent on business development.
So, while Steve wined and dined former clients, prospects and the heads of
global agencies (asking the latter for any morsels too small for their
digestive tracts), Ed was smiling and dialing.

Between them, the co-founders set two new business
meetings each and every week of the second month. And, sure as the leaves fall
in an Autumn storm, every single prospect canceled at the 11th hour. Ed called
it Black October. Steve opted for Bleak October. Either way, it was one grim
month to be sure.

Then, in early November, their luck changed like the
seasons (this is starting to sound like a Sinatra song, isn't it?). It began
with a memorable lunch at The Yale Club. They were there with Ben Case, a former
client at Duke University. The entrepreneurs begged Ben to give them his
account. He played hard to get, saying they'd be so focused on building their
own business that they wouldn't pay attention to his. The trio agreed on a
compromise: three free trial months. If Peppercom delivered, Ben would put them
on retainer. They did. And, he did.

Being able to name drop Duke as an existing client worked
wonders with prospects. Soon, Ed and Steve landed two or three more accounts.
And, they never looked back.

Epilogue: I liken entrepreneurship to a roller coaster
ride. In fact, we're helping a client right now to build a new website aimed at
entrepreneurs. I suggested a roller coaster visual. They agreed, and will be
using it as one of their main visuals.

The roller coaster ride came to mind because there are
far more downs than ups in business, and resiliency is critical to an
entrepreneur's success. So is preparation.

That's why I advise any Mark Zuckerberg wanna-be to read
'The Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. It describes the importance of first
logging 10,000 hours of practice before grabbing for the brass ring.

Mozart, the Beatles and Steve Jobs, among others, all put
in countless hours of blood, sweat and tears before they achieved their
success. Ed and I did the same at two prior agencies, where we amassed our
10,000 hours of practice.

As a result, we already knew who would do what and how
we'd differentiate ourselves on day one. It made all the difference in the
world. It also enabled us to survive Black October.

Aug 23

I’d love to, but I’m working the graveyard shift

88913.max1024Tired of the usual 9-to-5 routine? Looking for a sure-fire solution to your insomnia? Look no further. Brian Mandelbaum is your answer.

That's because Brian has just created the first 24×7 agency. So, if working 22 or 23 hours a day sounds good to you (and, why wouldn't it, since you can't sleep anyway?), then Brian's your boy.

Mandelbaum believes clients want a firm that will monitor and engage in social media while the rest of the country sleeps. And, he may be right.

Brian's firm intends to hang out the shingle in the third quarter. In the meantime, though, he's hunting for wide-awake employees and a name for his agency. I have a few thoughts on the latter. How about:

- The Salt Mine
- Eyes Wide Open
- White Line Fever
- Speed-R-Us
- The Meth Lab

I'm sure Brian will attract a few clients and a few insomniacs as well, but I doubt his embryonic firm will one day win a best workplace award. More to the point, though, his value proposition is a weak one since many firms, including ours, already provide 24×7 monitoring and engagement courtesy of our U.K. and San Francisco offices.

I wish Brian well, but I sure wouldn't want my kids to work for him. I see The Salt Mine (or whatever he ends up calling his shop) as a gateway drug to long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems. And, lord knows, the world has enough of all three already.

Aug 22

The Ty-D-Bowl Man finally has company

BildeDo you remember the Ty-D-Bowl man? I'm sure he's been in retirement for some time now, but, when he was active as an advertising pitchman, the miniaturized Tidy Bowl man actually sailed around inside some unsuspecting housewife's toilet bowl and cleaned it up. He'd always end up catching the woman's attention just before she pulled the handle (which would have ended the pitchman's career in a most unpleasant way).

Well, the Ty-D-Bowl man now has company, and lot's of it! Two enterprising brothers have created the Star Toilet Paper Company and are making toilet paper with advertising. Their motto: 'Don't rush. Look before you flush.'

This is simultaneously funny and sad. It's funny for the obvious reasons. It's sad because advertising is now in danger of blocking out the sun's rays. It's everywhere! Sports stadiums are littered with it. Airports, which are a dismal experience to begin with, are further weighed down by millions of ads and banners that become more annoying with each passing minute of each new delay.

And, now advertising is even invading one of the last vestiges of man's privacy. Literally.

On a more positive note, I could see engineering a consumer survey that would ask which politicians or brands MOST deserve to be on a roll of toilet paper. I'll bet Joe Biden and Mitt Romney would give Ronald McDonald and Comcast a run for their money.

And, thinking ahead, the Star Toilet Paper Company could start producing all sorts of themed toilet paper lines. How about:

- Greatest baseball players of the 20th century for sports bars? (“Hey, Ed, I've got Honus Wagner on my roll!”)
- Greatest artists and musicians in history (The Mozart Collection, if you will). They'd be ideal in the stalls at, say, Carnegie Hall or the Met (and would certainly give a whole new meaning to, say, a Beethoven movement in G).
- Despots of the ages (toilet paper featuring every conqueror from  Alexander the Great and Napoleon to Hitler and Pol Pot). “They wiped out millions. Now it's your turn to get even!”

And, why not Star Trek-themed toilet paper for the U.S. Space Station? Sadly, the potential is limitless. Or, should I say bottomless?

I've always despised advertising's intrusiveness. And, I revel in my ability to fast forward through mind-numbing commercials littering my favorite TV shows. But, like death and taxes, advertising eventually catches up with you and ruins your day, your week, your month and even your year.

Now, thanks to Star Toilet Paper, I won't even be able to enjoy the privacy of a bathroom stall without seeing the Nike Swoosh, Ronald's smile or a pitch from the local Freehold Nissan dealer. It's enough to cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (would the latter be the chicken or the egg in this particular case?).

And a tip o' RepMan's cap to Peppercommer Ann Barlow for this suggestion.

Aug 21

The icons of my youth

Leave-It-To-Beaver-It seems a day hardly passes without a CNN breaking news alert letting me know yet another B-level icon of my youth has died. One day, it's the guy who played Robbie Douglas in My Three Sons. The next day, it's Davy Jones of The Monkees. And, then, just yesterday, one-hit wonder, Scott McKinzie's passing earned CNN Breaking News coverage.

No offense to the deceased entertainers, but do Robbie, Davy, Scott and the actor who played Horshack on 'Welcome Back, Kotter' really deserve breaking news coverage?

It seems to me that, when everything constitutes breaking news, nothing actually is.

Having said that, though, I WOULD issue a CNN Breaking News alert when Jerry Mathers breathes his last breath. Now, there's a '60's TV icon worth remembering.

Along with Ali and McCartney, Mathers, who played Theodore 'Beaver' Cleaver in 'Leave It to Beaver' was my childhood hero. As a little guy growing up, I adored watching Beaver, his older brother, Wally, their buddies, and their tough, but loving, parents as they dealt with one mini-crisis after another.

Unlike, say, Dennis the Menace or the kids on the Donna Reed Show, the Beav got into trouble I could relate to: he'd ruin his brand new suit by soaking it in bleach in the tub, make up essays about his dad's exploits as a CIA agent (Ward was, in fact, an insurance salesman) or get his arm lodged inside a rail fence, necessitating a rescue by the Mayfield fire department. That stuff happened in real life!

After having gotten himself in trouble, the Beaver would always turn to Wally for help. After admonishing Beaver by saying, “Gee, you little goof, you really messed up good this time,” Wally would help the Beav cover up or escape his mess. But, that never worked and, sure as rain, Ward and Beav's mom, June, would find out and administer tough, but fair, justice. And, the Beav would learn a valuable life lesson in the process.

In retrospect, Leave It to Beaver featured just about every type of character I'd later encounter in business. There was:

- Judy, The Beav's arch-nemesis in second grade who, as Little Miss Perfect, always impressed the white hot teacher, Miss Landers (my first crush). I've encountered many a Judy in business, and while each may have been perfect, few were liked. I'll take liked over perfection any day.
- Eddie Haskell, the uber cool, uber hip know-it-all who would say one thing to your face (“My, Mrs. Cleaver, those pearls make you look so young.”) and something else entirely once you'd disappeared (“Hey Wally, as soon as your parents leave, let's ditch the runt, call Mary Ellen Rodgers, get her to bring her friends over and have a wild party!”). I wish I could enumerate how many clients over the years have promised one thing only to do the exact opposite.
- Lumpy Rutherford, the clownish oaf who could never live up to his father's expectations and always messed up. Lumpy's unique type of mediocrity can be found in the hallways of every business in America today.
- Fred Rutherford, Lumpy's dad and Ward's best friend, who loved to name drop and brag about his son's accomplishments. I've learned to steer clear of big talkers and name droppers such as Fred Rutherford because, without fail, they're interested in self-aggrandizement and not team success.

I could go on but, like the Beaver, I'm thinking of going over to Whitey Whitney's house with Larry Mondello (America's prototypical obese kid, BTW) and just mess around. Gus the fireman said he'd teach us neat tricks to do with a rope and then we're all going to pull Violet Rutherford's pony tail when she walks by.
So, how about you? What childhood icon's passing will have the same kind of impact on your consciousness? And, please don't give me the business for getting all mushy about the Beav.

Aug 20

Every now and then

Thanks to flight cancellations with no explanation, attendants with chips the size of boulders on their shoulders and delays caused by bizarre reasons even Lewis Carroll couldn't invent (i.e. too MUCH jet fuel), United Airlines sits atop my list of least-liked brands (edging out Comcast and New Jersey Transit, respectively.)

United's problems began when they acquired an otherwise excellent airline, Continental. The subsequent merged entity has been poorly managed, overly hyped and, according to one highly placed source, hampered by an intense, internal culture war (i.e. former Continental employees resent their second class status and aren't shy about it sharing it with the outside world).

So, it's nice to see when something actually goes right at United. As you'll see in this video, a superbly-trained flight crew safely landed a 757 after its front wheel blew up on take-off and parts wedged themselves in one of the jet's two engines.

That must have been quite the experience for pilots, flight attendants and United's long-suffering passengers alike. But, at least everyone landed safely. It's also nice to see a United plane actually take off in the first place. I've begun thinking it's actually a regional train in disguise.

Aug 17

As American as baseball, apple pie and AK-47s

ImagesHere's today's pop quiz….

Who buys more Kalashnikov AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles?

A) The Russian army and Moscow police.
B) The average, gun-toting American Joe Six-Pack.

It's a trick question because, according to a riveting (ricocheting?) article in The New York Times, the Izhevsky Machine Works factory in Russia sells an equal amount to each.

In fact, according to Maksim V. Kuzyuk, a board member of Izmash, which manufactures the deadly weapons, the company is focusing ALL of its marketing efforts on the United States. Maksim (or, Maxie to his friends and family) says, “Typically, the American family will have five or six short- and long-barreled guns.” Clearly, the Codys are NOT keeping up with the Jonses.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the need for weapons in the home. We face unprecedented threats to security including, but not limited to:

- Marauding herds of Al Qaeda-trained deer.
- Home-grown Ground Hog supremists, who are likely to waddle into any park at any time and wipe out the entire squirrel population.
- Those seemingly nice people from Jehovah's Witnesses who tell you they're trying to peddle copies of 'The Watchtower', when they're actually plotting a home invasion.

According to the Times articles, Americans are buying so many assault weapons from Izmash that they're enabling the factory to re-tool and build a next generation rifle, designated the AK-12, and intended for use by the Russian army. Talk about foreign aid! But, not to worry, American gunsmiths don't see their funding a foreign country's construction of new and more sophisticated assault weapons as unpatriotic. Owen Martin, a NH-based gunsmith, says the absolute avalanche of AK-47s in the U.S. is actually helping to keep the prices low. Ah, the beauty of free enterprise.

I'd go on, but we have a minor infestation of mice on the fifth floor and, having just received shipment of my very own AK-47, I have some unfinished business to attend to. Go ahead, Mickie and Minnie. Make my day.