Sep 17

Semper Paratus

My dad passed away Saturday morning just 41 days short of his 98th birthday. The number 41 is significant since that’s the year my dad raced to the nearest recruitment station to enlist in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

While he wanted to be shipped to the Pacific (to exact retribution) he was told, instead, the only immediate opening was with the U.S. Coast Guard.

He signed the papers and forever rued the fact that he wasn’t alongside his brother, George, fighting Nazi Germany or with his other brother, Chris, doing battle with the Japanese as a member of the fabled Merrill’s Marauders.

But, make no mistake. He served his country.

Pop-Pop, as he was known by family, friends and restaurant waitresses alike, lived a very, very full life. Indeed, his life spanned 17 separate presidential administrations.

He was not a superstar in business. Instead, he put in his time as a blue-collar worker raising three children in a decidedly blue collar town. But he, and my mom, scrimped and saved to assure all three of their children would be able to attend college.

Pop-Pop really didn’t come into his own until my son, Chris, and daughter, Catharine, were born.

Any shortcomings as a father were more than made up by his being a superb grandfather and, in the past year, the proud great grandfather to Adrian Joseph A.J. “The Juice” Cody who, ironically, marked his first birthday on the very same day Pop-Pop passed away.

I would be remiss in not singling out the remarkable relationship formed between Pop-Pop and Chris, my son, and his first, and only, grandson. They spoke every single day over the past few decades.

I’d like to end by explaining the headline: Semper Paratus. It’s The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto and, translated, means “Always Vigilant.”

Pop-Pop was always vigilant of the phenomenal family he had surrounding him and always insisted we spend as much time together as possible. We did so, right up until the moment he drew his final breath.

I’m still hard at work arranging for my mom’s and dad’s ashes to be interred at a Veterans Memorial Cemetery in NJ (replete with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps).

If you should be so inclined, you can make a donation in his name, Arthur Cody, at the Coast Guard Foundation. The instructions are self-explanatory.

Semper Paratus, Pop-Pop.

Sep 10

“All Ashore That’s Going Ashore!” Especially Kids!

I like to foment unrest. It’s part of my DNA.

I’d rather be remembered for taking a stance on a subject than disappear alongside the vast majority of Americans who choose to go with the flow.

That’s why I’m devoting today’s column to Viking Cruise Line’s decision to ban ALL children from their highly-acclaimed river cruises.

Let me begin by stating that river cruises hold no allure for me. I’m not the type to sit around with well-heeled, aging Boomers and gape at a Gothic cathedral as the ship glides majestically by. Nor am I the type to go sightseeing (unless I can first include an intense two-hour workout).

The above notwithstanding, I salute Viking’s decision to prohibit kids from their uber high-end cruises.

I’ve always said I adore my kids, but I disdain other parents’ offspring 😎

My feelings are based on multiple, first-hand experiences, two of which include the so-called Magic Kingdom.

Speaking of DisneyWorld, hell can best be defined in two ways:

  • Taking a United Airlines flight to, or from, Orlando and being systematically kicked in the lower back by the tot seated directly behind me. To add insult to injury, I always seem to attract the terrible two-year-old sitting directly in front of me who has decided the best way to spend three hours is constantly popping up, turning around and shouting, “Boo!”
  • Standing in mile-long DisneyWorld lines surrounded by screaming kids and losing a pound of water weight every 15 minutes (thanks to Orlando’s horrific combination of excessive heat and humidity).

I don’t want other peoples’ kids ruining a vacation I’ve paid serious bank to enjoy.

In Viking’s case, I believe they did the right thing. They listened to the wants and needs of their constituent audience and acted accordingly (knowing full well there would be a backlash from parents everywhere).

The litmus test of today’s organization is its ability to anticipate audience needs while doubling down on its purpose. In Viking’s case, their value proposition is providing a serene sail down the Seine. Screaming tots shred that value prop to pieces.

Having posited the above, I will return to my twin pursuits of mountain climbing and stand-up comedy (both of which are blessedly kid-free zones).

Sep 07

How do you judge success?

Today’s oh-so-timely guest blog is authored by Laura West, Peppercomm’s Head of Analytics. Btw, we’d love to know your take on the Nike campaign, so comment at will…

There are any number of ways to evaluate Nike’s Kaepernick campaign. Some call it: “shrewd.” Others say it’s “a bold statement.” The president called it “a terrible message.” Pundits say it’s “a calculated risk.”

Is Nike’s ad a success? What do the facts say? There is always a friendly bit of data pointing at an answer we may like, no matter our political/social opinions:

  • Fact: The President of the United States has denounced Nike’s ad
  • Also fact: Lebron James has lauded it
  • Fact: #NikeBoycott was trending on Twitter on Tuesday
  • Also fact: #Nike and #JustDoIt were trending on Wednesday

As most people in the industry have come to appreciate, it is not an isolated bit of data that leads to true insight. It is contextualized data; not “there were this many mentions” but “there were this many positive/negative mentions.” And not “someone denounced the company” but “X influencer or X% of the target audience denounced the company.” The context is determined by the prioritized goals.

Is the most valuable metric sales? If so, the ad may have been a bad decision (since Morning Consult reports that purchasing consideration is down). Is the most valuable metric the amount of buzz generated? In this case, the move was an unquestionable success (generating more than $43 million worth of media exposure according to Bloomberg).

Morning Consult reported that Nike’s favorability has dropped by double digits since the campaign announcement. However, if Nike cares most about what certain athletes think of the company’s move, then favorability among more general audiences may not be the most important data point, since success would be measured according to this elite audience’s reaction.

So, how would you measure success?

 

Sep 04

23

It’s hard to believe that Peppercomm began its improbable rise to fame and fortune 23 years ago today.

I say improbable because there was no reason to expect success. After all, why would yet another start-up in the highly competitive PR firmament succeed?

The answer? Our name.

I decided to name the firm in honor of my late black lab, Pepper.

The name turned out to be a godsend.

It was at that precise moment in time the dotcom boom was in overdrive. Venture capitalists were pouring billions of dollars into dotcoms with any semblance of a business plan (as well as many that did not).

The phone began ringing off the hook. Why? Because dotcoms mistakenly thought Peppercom (there was only one M in those days) was a dotcom specialist. We weren’t.

But we hired tech PR specialists faster than you can say IPO and, by 1998, O’Dwyer’s had TWICE named us the fastest growing PR firm in the country (which isn’t that impressive when one considers we started with no billings whatsoever. But, still….).

Our firm shot through the PR firmament like Halley’s Comet. And then, just as suddenly as it had all started, the dotcom bubble burst.

One $35,000 per month dotcom client after another either declared bankruptcy, stopped all work or, in the case of a true dotcom wanna-be called iFrame, took us to court demanding a refund (we won).

Thankfully, we had managed to attract, and win, blue chip clients such as Steelcase and GE (the latter courtesy of The 10 Company’s Valerie Di Maria. Thanks for your Peppercomm service, Val).

And my superb partners took it from there.

Fast-forward to today and tomorrow.

Peppercomm’s success has always been fueled by innovative products and services (some of which exceeded beyond my wildest dreams while others withered and died on the vine).

We’ll be building on a 23-year record of innovation by introducing a first-of-its-kind “societal crisis” offering next week.

Called StandSmart (sm), the service will provide CCOs, CMOs, CHROs, CEOs and boards of directors with:

– A predictive, data analytics tool that helps our clients anticipate relevant industry and societal crises as they initially bubble up (Think: NRA, NFL or NAFTA;  Internet privacy, phishing and prevarication; trade and Twitter wars to name just a few).

– An overlay to any organization’s existing crisis response/management plan that leverages the company’s higher purpose to respond quickly and accurately to any news, false or otherwise. Google’s response to last week’s POTUS attack is a superb example.

– Sitting down with the client and her team to identify each, and every, issue that is relevant to the organization and preparing responses in advance, and in cooperation with the in-house general counsel and CEO.

StandSmart is the logical next step for an iconoclastic agency named in honor of an iconoclastic canine.

Here’s to the next 23 years.

#Woof