Sep 09

Purpose Goes Back to School

There’s been an overwhelming amount of coverage about the critical role of organizational purpose (especially in light of the recent Business Roundtable announcement. But how many high schools do you know who are in the midst of developing their reason for being?

Longtime Peppercomm Partner and New York General Manager Jackie Kolek has quite the tale to tell. Enjoy (and please share your thoughts, reactions, etc.)….

Last week I attended the annual back to school night at my kids’ high school. I typically skip the principal’s opening remarks, but since we have a new principal this year, I decided to check him out. I walked in expecting to hear the same spiel about academic excellence, building resiliency, helping our kids manage stress and what a wonderful school we have. What I wasn’t expecting was a 20-minute purpose workshop.

Taking over as principal of one of the top high schools in the state is no easy feat. Where does one go from there? Well, turns out that with our top SAT scores, high college acceptance rates and competitive athletic programs there was still one thing missing: a purpose.

Corporate purpose has been the buzzword of 2019, but I never thought about the need for a purpose at a public high school. In explaining how he is working with the teachers, staff, administrators and students at the school in creating their purpose, Principal Thomas walked the parents through an exercise to create our own purpose. He instructed us to ask ourselves five key questions:
1. Who are you?
2. What do you love to do?
3. Who do you do it for?
4. What do they want or need from you?
5. How are they changed or transformed by what you give them?

This is brilliant in its simplicity. Over the course of twenty minutes, he really got the whole audience thinking about why we show up every day. In my client work I often run into brands that are confusing their mission or values with their purpose. Purpose, our new principal explained, must be intentional and it must tap into your passion. It isn’t a tagline and it isn’t a goal for revenue or market share. Rather, its what moves us all forward and keeps us engaged and driven to succeed.

This month Peppercomm will mark its 25th anniversary. Due to a recent business transformation, we are in the unique position of having 25 years of experience and expertise, coupled with the hunger and drive of a start up with just one year under our belts. I’m looking forward to asking these five critical questions of myself and asking my colleagues to answer them as well.

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Aug 30

Ding Dong: Purpose and Peril Calling

Today’s guest blog is authored by longtime Peppercomm partner, Margaret “Maggie” O’Neill. Please share your reactions on the social channel of your choice…

Just this week, the Washington Post (and others) reported on Ring’s nationwide partnership with 400 police departments as a part of their “new neighborhood watch” mission.  With this mission comes growing privacy and surveillance concerns that are certainly getting louder. 

So, where does the good outweigh the bad for Ring, and for other brands with such clearly defined purpose?

I remember when Ring launched at the Consumer Electronics Show. I was in a taxi and saw a media clip from Las Vegas TV talking about the new company and how they had outfitted a high-crime neighborhood in Las Vegas with new doorbells and had already made a reduction in crime leading into the show.  I thought it was brilliant.  An idea that serves the greater good and is able to make a splash at the biggest tech show, is marketing gold.

Since that January morning, Ring has become a household name, breaking ahead of the other ten doorbell/security companies that launched that year, and expanding its influence far beyond the technology it provides. Its Neighborhood Watch program allows Ring users to opt-in to sharing their camera footage with law enforcement partners.

And even with the privacy backlash, Ring is standing behind their commitment (one that is authentic to the brand and has been in place since its inception). Eric Kuhn, general manager of Neighbors, Ring’s companion app, was quoted in The Washington Post saying, “The mission has always been making the neighborhood safer. We’ve had a lot of success in terms of deterring and solving crimes that would otherwise not be solved as quickly.”

So, all good, right?  Apparently not.

Well, according to the article, “legal experts and privacy advocates have voiced alarm about the company’s eyes-everywhere ambitions and increasingly close relationship with police, saying the program could threaten civil liberties, turn residents into informants, and subject innocent people, including those who Ring users have flagged as ‘suspicious,’ to greater surveillance and potential risk.”

So somewhere between sparking paranoia and protecting neighborhoods lies the mission that Ring set out on when they started.  While the brand appears to have a large enough user base, brand loyalty and support from police to ride this out, scrutiny will only increase as the debate rages on.

As for me, I remain impressed with the first efforts in Las Vegas and with the brand’s continued focus beyond just their product. As long as Ring continues to walk the walk and remain consistent in their mission, they can weather this storm.  But in a world where brand loyalty changes quickly, they need to stay ahead of the privacy pundits and ensure their opt-in policies remain just that.

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Aug 14

What sets us apart

Beginning about 12 years ago, I injected stand-up and improvisational comedy into the body of Peppercomm. The results were nothing short of game changing and played a critical role in our winning so many workplace culture awards. 

Fast forward to today and the new, red hot Peppercomm (see my recent Tweets about being named US AOR for three global brands) and comedy training for our team is something still very much a part of our DNA.

Last week, Sir Clayton of Fletcher (aka Clayton Fletcher), led a half-day stand-up session for 12 of our newer employees.

Clayton (@claytoncomic), Peppercomm’s chief comedy officer (Note: he is one of two chief comedy officers in the world. The other works at a nuclear power plant in Kazakstan), was kind enough to pen today’s guest blog which features one of last week’s stand-up training participants, Janine Savarese.

I think you’ll find their conversation interesting since it captures the why of why we did this for so many years in the past and why we will continue to do so for many years to come.

Comedy is one of Peppercomm’s key differentiators since oh-so-many agencies take themselves oh-so-seriously. Not us 😎

As Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer, one of my responsibilities is teaching all Peppercommers how to do stand-up comedy. Seriously! After a recent comedy training session at Broadway Comedy Club, I spoke with Peppercomm’s new Senior Vice President, Janine Savarese, shortly after she made her “comedy debut” in front of her fellow Peppercomm employees.

CLAYTON: First off, congratulations on joining my favorite company this past January. How have your first seven months on the job been?

JANINE: Joining Peppercomm has been great! I’ve spent the majority of my career on the agency side of the business, and had my own consultancy before joining Peppercomm. I’ve been familiar with Peppercomm for a very long time and I’m excited to now be a part of such a creative and progressive firm. I feel very fortunate to have been able to join this talented team at a particularly exciting time for the company.

C: Now you’re a busy person, juggling a large roster of clients and managing countless other responsibilities. What was your reaction when you were told that you were coming here, to Broadway Comedy Club, for a class in stand-up comedy?

J: I thought I might be able to get out of it! I was terrified, honestly. When I was younger, I was never afraid of public speaking or performing. When you started talking about how it’s normal to get nervous when getting up in front of people, it hit home for me. In the last few years, I’ve noticed that I am so critical of myself now in these situations, especially when I am nervous and have seen that as a weakness in myself. One of the key lessons I learned through your session, is that being nervous conveys to the audience that I am emotionally invested in the presentation, and that causes them to care about me as a human being. Clearly, that’s a relationship I want to be able to build with anyone with whom I come into contact, so I’m now less critical of my nervousness and more accepting of it. And, a little less nervous too!

C: Well, the truth is you didn’t seem nervous at all, just fired up, excited and passionate about the story you were telling. Audiences want to see someone take a risk, and the longer you were on onstage, the more risks you took. I watched you become increasingly invested in your story about how your husband didn’t make the bed properly, and I couldn’t stop laughing! Do you think it will be easy to translate that fearlessness into your job?

J: Yes, I do. What was so rewarding about the process was learning about myself. It made me think differently about how I interact with others. Addressing my fear was exhilarating, but the real takeaway was rethinking how I connect with an audience, whether it’s one person or a hundred. At the end of the day, people care about the time they spend with others, and it’s reciprocal.

C: Absolutely! So many speakers forget that the audience isn’t rooting for failure. In the comedy club, everyone hopes I’m funny. Likewise, you’ve never gone to a business presentation in hopes that the speaker would make no sense and have no connection with the crowd. We all want the same thing, a real story that inspires us.

J: And another major takeaway was the importance of listening. Learning to pick up on cues, both verbal and nonverbal. Particularly in a new business pitch, feeling the sentiment in the room is so important, because if it’s not resonating you need to change course! I think too many times we forget that and just focus on all the points we want to make, or even our own nerves, rather than really listening and connecting with the other people in the room with us.

C: How was the comedy training session different than you thought it would be?

J: Well, first off, just walking into this place and feeling the creative energy here was unexpected. I thought we’d be in a conference room somewhere, fluorescent lights, and some guy would try to teach us all how to be funny. I’ve always thought you’re either funny or you’re not. But as I stood in the hallway on my conference call, I noticed all these creative types roaming the hallways, pictures of Rosie O’Donnell and Chris Rock on the wall, and I knew I was in for something different. Especially as a big fan of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I started to feel glad I didn’t actually manage to get out of it. As a group, we all got to know each other in a different way, and that was terrific. I was skeptical that I was going into a “drink the Kool-Aid” situation, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much value there was to it. The three hours flew by, as well!

C: Oh, good! Do you still think that a person is either funny or not?

J: I don’t think the goal was to teach people to be funny. Instead, we learned to think about how you are with different people, and how to use a natural sense of humor in a variety of situations. We learned to story-tell in a different way. We learned to use our powers of persuasion, how to communicate in a clear way, and the importance of having fun! I was also shocked at how funny some of our quieter, more introverted colleagues ended up being too.

C: Most of the hilarious professional comedians I know are introverts at heart. I think the public would be very surprised to meet some of the dynamic and charismatic performers they’ve seen here, after the show ends.

J: Well, that’s something too, isn’t it? Sometimes the best experiences in life are the most unexpected.

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Jul 09

The female professional network

Today’s guest blog is authored by Peppercomm’s amazingly amazing Courtney Tolbert. I do hope you will read it and share your thoughts on her POV…

Why would women need a separate professional networking platform? I imagine this is the number one criticism that Sophia Amoruso’s new “Girlboss” platform will receive. It’s a fair question. After all, women are free to use existing platforms like LinkedIn, why not just capitalize on the features and networking opportunities there? I would tackle this question with one of my own – why do minority or underrepresented groups tend to form their own advocacy groups? 

While college educated women are no longer the workplace minority in terms of numbers, a pay gap still exists, and they still fight corporate stereotypes that hold them back professionally (i.e. mothers can’t or won’t go back to work after giving birth). The answer to the aforementioned question would be: women need to connect and work together with other successful and capable women who understand why and where they are coming from professionally – and arguably more important, where they would like to go with their careers.

There are existing professional networking platforms that focus on women a little more such as Bumble Bizz; however, Girlboss seems more enticing to me because from the preliminary stages, it is interested in the longevity of one’s career. When signing up for the platform, users are prompted to answer three questions: “I’m good at ____,” “I’d like to learn ___,” and “I’d like to meet ___.” These are seemingly simple questions, but they get you thinking about where you are and where you want to go next, at least they did for me.

This post is not meant to serve as an ad for Girlboss, though I think the platform holds a lot of promise. It is meant to draw attention to the fact that while women have made amazing strides in the professional space, we are still not treated the same as our male counterparts. It is to highlight available tools and networks that women can take advantage of while we continue to strive for professional excellence and work smarter and harder. Girlbosses unite.

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Mar 06

Do you finally understand Storytelling? Good. Forget it. It’s now all about Storymaking

storyThe lemmings otherwise known as public relations, advertising and marketing communications executives routinely jump from one buzzword or phrase to another every 18 months or so. Someone will coin a new phrase or service such as disruptor, data analytics, Big Data, behavioral science, digital-driven programs and, of course, Storytelling. And, within a week or so, every marketer in the known universe will be including the hot new word or phrase in every other sentence.

Storytelling was critical to every marketers’ earned, owned and paid media campaign, correct? It had to be because today’s consumer (whether she is a REIT manager or full-time mom) wants to engage with products or services that do the right thing, educate and entertain her and, most importantly, fit within her lifestyle. That objective was accomplished by crisp, clear and compelling storytelling. And, we were all Storytellers.

Not anymore.

Mastercard’s just changed the game. They’ve abandoned Storytelling and now focus on Storymaking.

Allow me to allow Mastercard’s CMO Raja Rajamannar to explain: “As recently as a few years ago, people sat in front of a TV, with the whole family gathered during prime time…Today, the world is very different. People still come together in the family room, but it’s a collection of individuals who are all in their own private worlds with their own connected devices.”

So, Mastercard has morphed from Storytelling to Storymaking. They now collaborate with consumers to slice and dice their legendary “Priceless” storytelling campaign to four categories:

  • Priceless Surprises, which gives cardholders unexpected experiences, such as meeting celebrities.
  • Priceless Cities, which curates one-of-a-kind experiences and exclusive promotions only available to Mastercard cardholders.
  • Priceless Causes, which generates donations to particular charities when consumers use their Mastercard.
  • Priceless Specials, which provides various offers and benefits.

The fundamental difference between Storytelling and Storymaking, says Rajamannar is this: “Consumers don’t want to hear brand stories; they want to be part of the story. We enable, create and curate experiences for consumers.” That change may seem subtle to some but it’s actually quite profound.

You can read more about Mastercard, Rajamannar and Storymaking here, but, as Sr. Maria Eucharia used to warn my fellow eighth graders at St. Francis Grammar School, “A word to the wise is sufficient.” Get a firm grasp of Storymaking ASAP and figure out how to use it to better connect with your target stakeholders. And, for god’s sake, begin including the word in your agency/internal corporate storytelling and explaining how it’s different and more relevant than yesterday’s buzzword.

Get used to Storymaking. It’s the new orange of marketing communications. That said, be prepared for it to be replaced by the next, new orange in 18 months or sooner.

 

Dec 27

How the Second Quarter Stole Christmas

cowToday’s Repman is by Nicole Newby…

The Cowboys are breaking records all over the place this season, so my Christmas present came early this year. But the team facilitated a bigger (and much more meaningful) Christmas miracle: a $250,000 spike in donations to The Salvation Army, which will help serve an additional 91,000 meals to people in need.

After rushing two yards for a record-breaking touchdown during the second quarter in last Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott celebrated by jumping into the oversized iconic red kettle behind the end zone. In the two days following Zeke’s leap, The Salvation Army received $850,000 in donations.

But just like every great Christmas story, this one also has a Scrooge. The NFL charged the Cowboys with a 15-yard penalty for “using a prop in a touchdown celebration.” There were also talks of a potential hefty fine for the team. I could go on and on about the ridiculousness of this rule in general, but to penalize the team for drawing attention to a charity during the holidays just screams “bah humbug.”

In response to the potential fine, Elliott said he would match it in a donation to the charity. That must have inspired the NFL’s heart to grow three sizes, because they ultimately decided not to charge a fine. Elliott, however, tweeted that he was donating $21,000 to The Salvation Army regardless, and encouraged his fans to add $21 contributions of their own, which has separately raised about $17,000.

So why was Elliott’s red kettle leap so successful in drawing attention to the cause?  One word: authenticity. This wasn’t a pre-planned publicity stunt and it wasn’t sanctioned by either organization involved. Elliott has a genuine passion for this organization. Aside from his public call for donations, he and his teammates volunteered at The Salvation Army in Fort Worth on Thanksgiving. Audiences saw this and were able to relate to—and rally behind—the cause.

 

Dec 27

Citizen Christmas

I’ve been a proponent of, and practitioner in, citizen journalism for quite some time now.

I believe each, and every, one of us should express our POV EXCEPT when it:

– Espouses a doctrine of hate

– Takes a rigid ‘my way or the highway’ approach

– Regales me with tales of people, places or things that have no relevance in my life.

The latter proliferate at Christmas time in the form of ‘year-end’ family letters.

We all get these. Some come from friends. Others come from family members. The ones I receive almost always come from an acquaintance I once met when Ronald Reagan occupied the White House.

Typically, year-end Christmas letters are written by a member of the distaff side of the family (as in, ‘It was yet another amazing year for Bill, Bill Jr, Little Amy and me. We hope that all of our loved ones have a reason to feel as blessed as we do this Christmas’).

The letters also, always, make a few, mistaken assumptions:

– That I have first-hand knowledge of the protagonists (‘Nicole started a new physical therapy job in November.’ Awesome. Who’s Nicole?).

– That I’ve been following their family’s annual successes and setbacks, and will understand why Danny’s third root canal in as many years is a cause of concern.

– That I’m not appalled by poor grammar and spelling (‘Sebastian would of yelled at the admissions officer but me and Sebby, Sr., didn’t rase our kids to act that way,’).

– That I actually care what happened to these complete strangers (‘Well, after three years of waiting, Ted finally popped the big question to our dear, darling Mary Ellen. Words cannot describe her delight, or ours”).

santa-clause-600x450

I have a friend who created her own, faux Christmas family letter. It begins with the salutation: ‘Did you have as amazing a year as our amazing family did? Of course not. How could you? Your family simply isn’t as amazing as ours.’

And, I think that about sums up year-end family letters. They exist for one reason:

– To enable the author to remind herself, as well as her friends and complete strangers like me, how amazing she, and her family, are.

The best citizen journalists know how to engage a reader. One does so by making the written content crisp, concise and compelling.

Citizen Christmas letters, on the other hand, are bloated, befouled by bad grammar and beyond boring.

‘….So, let me tell you about my kids, Chris and Catharine, and the amazing things they accomplished in 2013…’

Aug 26

Doctor Baseball probes A-Rod scandal

Join Wayne “Doctor Baseball” McDonnell, Clinical Associate Professor at NYU, Deb ‘PED’ Brown and Steve ‘Juicer’ Cody as they discuss Alex Rodriguez, baseball’s steroid scandal and the Yankees stretch run for the American League East Division crown.

Please leave a urine sample before you click on link: