Dec 10

Beware of third person people

I first became aware of third person people while watching the egomanical Reggie Jackson brag about his exploits throughout the late 1960’s, ‘70s and early ‘80’s. 

Whenever he was interviewed after hitting a walk off home run, the superstar would always begin by saying, “Reggie was expecting a fastball outside in that situation so Reggie simply hit the ball where it was pitched. Period.”

“Seinfeld” beautifully captured the absurdity of the third person self-brag in the classic “Jimmy” episode in which Jimmy inspires George Costanza to begin referring to himself in the third person.

I mention Reggie, Jimmy and George because it was one year ago today that our Peppercomm new business team pitched Clyde Tolson (not his real name, but FBI aficionados should make an immediate connection). Clyde was a third person person.

Clyde was the CEO of a fast-growing, deeply funded software company that was in search of a strategic public relations partner. Clyde’s CMO invited us to travel to Austin to pitch Clyde and the business.

When I asked if the prospect would be willing to share the travel and hotel costs I was told, “Clyde doesn’t believe in that. If you want Clyde’s business, you’ll demonstrate it.”

That should have told me all I needed to know but, frankly, last December was a lean month and we were hungry for new business.

Fast forward to pitch day. We were told by the CMO that we’d have one hour with Clyde and to be sure to leave time for Clyde to ask questions. Duly noted.

We arrived a half hour early and were ushered into the conference room. We sat for 25 minutes before the CMO and a consultant who was managing the agency search entered the room.

The CMO said Clyde would be a few minutes late.

Fast forward another 25 minutes. Enter Clyde, stage right.

Clyde introduces himself, tells us to begin our presentation but added, “Clyde needs his lunch first.” So we watched as Clyde’s personal assistant entered the conference room carrying a silver tray containing Clyde’s bowl of soup and a glass of sparkling water.

Clyde ate as we rushed through our truncated pitch deck.

At the end, Clyde said, “Clyde needs you to understand that ANY PR effort is about Clyde first and the company second. Got it?” Apparently Clyde had his sights set on running for political office in 2020.

We nodded and rose to shake Clyde’s hand as he left the room.

The CMO and search consultant said we’d done a great job and thought we’d answered Clyde’s questions thoroughly.

When I asked how soon they’d make a decision, the CMO replied, “Yesterday. Clyde wants to get going right after the first of the year.”

Well, guess what? We never heard from the CMO, the search consultant or the legend-in-his-own-mind Clyde. We called. We e-mailed. We prayed. Nada. Radio silence.

We’re still waiting for someone at Clyde’s business to extend the common courtesy of telling us WTF happened.

Repman thinks Clyde was on a fishing expedition and wanted ideas from unsuspecting agencies like mine. Repman thinks Clyde never intended to hire a firm.

Repman sees this as a cautionary tale that extends far beyond the business world. Caveat reader: Beware of anyone who refers to herself/himself in the third person. Life is far too short to feed the oversized egos of others.

Do you have any third person tales you’d care to share? Repman would love to hear them.

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Dec 02

The decline and fall of the English Language

I wanted to share a list of recent assaults on the English language published by BuzzFeed and headlined, “23 Spelling Mistakes That Are So, So Dumb But So, So Funny”.

While I agree they are indeed so, so funny, I also find them so, so sad. 

It’s a sadness I’ve witnessed firsthand over the years as I’ve read blatant assault & battery crimes on spelling and word usage from past employees, recruits, vendors and, yes, even clients.

Here are just a few that made me laugh and cry at the same moment:

  • “Let’s stop going back-and-forth with the lawyers and end this rigor morale.” Happily, I caught this horrendous mistake before it reached the client. Our self-proclaimed “writer as a hobby” account supervisor (who left long ago) had butchered the word rigmarole and turned it into two words that, due to spell check, were readily accepted. I quickly called this would-be Hemingway aside, explained her mistake and stressed the need to first research words and phrases that were foreign to her. God knows if she listened or is causing even more rigor morale wherever she is today.
  • “I broke my teeth on media training!” A bold, if painful, response blurted out by a top executive to a prospect who had asked about our media training credentials. While the executive in question may have taken an inadvertent fall during a prior training session and dislodged some front teeth, methinks she was actually looking for the phrase, “I cut my teeth on media training.”
  • “Our proprietary system takes the grey matter out of measurement.” One can only think the synapses in this man’s grey matter weren’t firing correctly the day he uttered this abomination. Otherwise, minus grey matter, how could one even create a proprietary measurement system in the first place?

Sadly, I’ve read many other truly painful misspellings and abuses of the English language. And, it just seems to get worse with each passing year.

Many blame Twitter and texting as the root cause. I blame the toxic combination of individual laziness and a primary and secondary school system that no longer stresses the importance of mastering spelling or writing skills.

None of this would matter if one were, say, applying for a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. But committing such atrocities in the PR/marketing world is a sure-fire way to limit one’s career path.

Or is my blog just another example of rigor morale?

Btw, PLEASE post any examples you can add to the list. I’m planning to write a book with the working title, “The Decline and Fall of The English Language” and need all the help I can get. Truth be told, I’d rather not break my teeth looking for content.

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