Jun 16

Communication breakdown

Blog-or-facebookI'm perplexed. I'm faced with a communications conundrum and need your help to make a  decision.
Here's my problem. Several months ago, we decided to simultaneously post the latest Repman blog on my Facebook page. I thought this was a smart move since the lines between the personal and professional are becoming more blurry than the meaning of Sarah Palin's latest Tweet. LinkedIn is no longer the exclusive enclave of one's professional networking life. And, the business world seems to be becoming ever more prevalent on Facebook.

So, we decided to post Repman on my Facebook page.

And, that's when my communication breakdown began.
Almost overnight, the number of comments decreased on the Repman blog website itself and increased on the Facebook comments section accompanying each blog post. Blogs that would sometimes generate as many as 50 comments on Repman site were now being abandoned in favor of direct postings on my Facebook page. And, all of a sudden, I started receiving Facebook alerts to new comments all day long.
So, here's my conundrum. Like all marketing communications blogs, Repman is rated on the quality and quantity of its content (and comments). With the latter suffering as a direct result of my simultaneous Facebook posting, Repman reader comments are becoming scarcer than positive coverage of Anthony Weiner.
I see three possible courses of action:

1.) Do nothing and let the blogosphere decide when and where it wants to engage with Repman/me.
2.) Pull down the Facebook posting and go back to the future with Repman content existing solely on www.repmanblog.com.
3.) Figure out some sort of hybrid solution (i.e. maybe we post the blog on Facebook later in the day?).
These are clearly high class problems. I love writing blogs that engender good, bad and even ugly comments in response. I'm just at a crossroads as to how best to maintain the buzz for the original Repman while still engaging with new, and different, readers on my Facebook page.
So, what would you do?

May 02

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Or was it?

If two leading trade journals are any indication, the advertising industry is suffering from a Mood-swings1 severe case of manic depression.

On the one hand, there's The Delaney Report (TDR), which humbly bills itself as 'the international newsletter for marketing, advertising and media executives'. TDR just ran a lead story entitled, 'We'll Take It from Here.' The text provides a sobering report about inroads being made across the board by public relations. “No longer is it uncommon to have a PR agency compete for a client's services (PR, digital, advertising and direct) versus a traditional advertising agency.” TDR says, “PR is now in the sweet spot of a company's marketing plans.” Nice. Very nice.

Unfortunately, though, TDR then dives deep into PR's gains in social media and corroborates its thinking with observations from the heads of three PR holding companies: Harris Diamond of Weber, Gary Stockman of Porter and Ken Luce of H&K. Now, I could be wrong, but I'll bet an annual subscription to TDR (a damned pricey proposition, BTW), that none of these three, old white guys personally blogs, tweets, posts comments, podcasts or does anything else that would remotely resembles engaging in social media. Asking these three for their views on social media is akin to asking a couch potato what it's like to compete in a 230-mile cycling race. “Tough, dude. Very tough.” C'mon TDR, show some journalistic chops, dig a little deeper and interview PR executives who actually walk the talk.

And, now, for something completely different, take a gander at another ad industry trade: Michael Wolff's supercharged revamp of AdWeek, which calls itself 'The Voice of Media.' Methinks this particular voice suffers from laryngitis.

How else to explain its love fest with all things advertising? You'd never know traditional advertising is staggering like some drunken sailor on shore leave. Or, that other disciplines such as PR and interactive are stealing away market share faster than you can say land grab.

Instead, AdWeek's pages are an unapologetic homage to the 30-second TV spot (ugh) and mainstream TV advertising in general (Yuck. What's become of one-on-one marketing and engaging in a conversation with customers?). There are even photographic retrospectives of Doyle Dane Bernbach's and McCann-Erickson's offices from the halcyon days of the 1960s (should PR Week retaliate with a photo essay of, say, the Lobsenz-Stevens offices of the mid-1980s featuring an adolescent wunderkind named Edward Aloysius Moed?).

Like just about everything else, I suspect the truth about advertising's massive struggle to reinvent itself lies somewhere in-between TDR's doom-and-gloom report and AdWeek’s sunshine-and-roses tome.

I'd suggest readers view the two the way I do The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and Fox News and MSNBC, respectively (absorb the extreme POVS of each, realizing the truth lies somewhere in the midst of the murkiness).

In the meantime, though, a quick note to the big agency PR guys: I'm happy to issue an apology if you fellas actually do engage in social media.

Apr 13

A blog about blogs

Remember the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer writes a coffee table book about coffee table books? Well, this is a blog about blogs.

Attack-of-the-blogI began blogging in 2006. Since then, Repman has been named best in industry, consistently ranked among the AdAge Power 100 and attracted hundreds of subscribers and thousands of pass-along readers. It's also landed me in a lot of hot water. One blog antagonized Jack O'Dwyer so much that he lambasted me on the cover of his trade publication for two straight weeks. Another, criticizing the inherent flaws in industry awards programs, earned me a lifetime ban as a PR Week Awards judge. (Note: I stand by my original POV's and find having been fired as a judge makes for a great cocktail party conversation starter.)

All that said, I still have no idea what makes my blog successful. Oh sure, I know it's important to keep the content short and sweet. It's also essential to generate new content daily. And, it's critical to provide readers with a unique perspective. I think it's also important to avoid the breaking news of the day and posit views on less well-known, but equally important, facets of reputation management. (I tend to take the road less traveled when it comes to blogging.)

When I say I have no idea what makes my blog successful, I'm referring to reader response. I've written some blogs that I thought were so edgy and, dare I say it, so insightful, that they'd generate a significant response. And, then, nothing would happen. Nada. Zilch. At other times, like last week, I'll pull together a hastily written blog about the five most influential TV shows in my life and, voila, the flood gates will open and I'll receive 45 or more comments (insert link).

I'm fortunate to have my blog featured on the front page of The Daily Dog and CommPro.biz. I share those home pages with 15 or 20 other top bloggers. And, I must say, I don't get why some of those blogs are successful either. Like the agencies and service shops they represent, the other blogs tend to be good, bad or just plain ugly. To wit:

– One blogger is an inveterate name dropper and loves to let you in on the latest world leader, Hollywood celebrity or media mogul with whom he's dined and opined. Big deal. I once sat alongside Robby Benson on a flight from West Palm Beach to Newark.
– Another blogger's essays are meticulously researched, beautifully crafted and invariably as dull as dishwater.
– Then there's the blog from hell, authored by an agency leader who clearly played hooky when basic English grammar was being taught. His tomes are endless rants, replete with every spelling and punctuation mistake possible.
– There are also the blogs written solely about media training or video communications. These are the one trick ponies of the PR blogosphere.

And, so I end where I began: clueless as to what constitutes a good blog and why some blogs I find self-serving and self-important routinely sweep the industry awards (could paid advertising have anything to do with it?). Oh well. I've also never figured out why 'little people' don't constitute a minority and never come up in conversations about the need for greater diversity in PR. But, that's a subject best left for another blog or the stage of the New York Comedy Club.

And a tip o' the hat to Mrs. RepMan (aka Angie Cody) for this idea.

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.

Dec 22

Bloggers of a certain age

December 22 - menofacertainage I'm starting to warm up to the new TNT series, 'Men of a Certain Age.' It stars Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher as three erstwhile college buddies who have stayed tight and are now helping one another navigate the murky waters of middle age.

Romano, who owns a party store, has lost a marriage because of a gambling addiction. Bakula, meanwhile, is an actor, who pays the bills as a temp working at an accounting firm and dates a 25-year-old woman. Braugher is an obese, diabetic who holds down a stressful job as a salesman at his father's car dealership.

The guys bond during a daily, two-mile hike in the hills. It's there that they discuss women, careers and failed ambitions. It's good stuff.

I like the gritty reality of the show. Middle age brings with it a stark reality that young people simply can't imagine. Parents die. Friends grow old. The eyes grow weak. The joints grow stiff. The reactions become noticeably slower. And, yet, the Mets and Jets still somehow keep losing (at least there are some constants).

Middle age is also an interesting battle ground for one's image and reputation. My friend, Maria, is appalled by people 'our age' who have 'given up' and refuse to exercise or party because '….they think they're too old for that.' She argues that, actuarially speaking, people of a certain age still have another 35 or 40 years ahead of us and should 'keep fighting the good fight.' I agree, Maria. Go get 'em.

While I fight my daily battle to keep things in place, I also look forward to learning new things and experiencing new experiences. Someone once said, 'youth is wasted on the young.' I don't necessarily agree. I don't think I would have enjoyed running Peppercom, performing stand-up comedy, climbing on ice, snow and rock, cycling, blogging or the myriad other things that fill my days and nights. The fact is I wouldn't have had the depth or breadth to do most of the things I've done in middle age.

December 22 - mountain
Many men of a certain age possess a world weariness to be sure. But, others exude the confidence and wisdom that only comes with experience. That's huge. And, that's why I really enjoy being a blogger of a certain age. Sure, I have my fill of bad days. Days when I feel like chucking it all and settling down on Scotland's Isle of Skye for perpetuity. But, then, some new challenge or opportunity presents itself and, boom, I'm off and running again (literally). The newest challenge: occasional guest blogger Rob Longert and I will be running the Central Park half-marathon in late January. Brrrr.

Middle age? Bring it on. This blogger of a certain age is ready for what's next.

Dec 21

I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike

Guest Post By Matt Purdue, Peppercom

As the first 10 years of the 21st century draw to a close, one of the most successful social media tales of the decade is still peaking. It offers great lessons for anyone involved in this emerging communications space.

December 21 Eldon Nelson, 43, started his blog in 2005 as a way to share his tongue-in-cheek experiences riding his bike in an effort to lose weight. The Fat Cyclist became popular thanks to Nelson’s everyman approach to a subject to which many of us can relate. But, ironically, Nelson’s blog really took off after his wife was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Mixing equal parts humor, pathos and unabashed honesty, Nelson recounted his family’s long struggle with the disease in graphic detail.

After Nelson’s wife died in August 2009, traffic to his blog tripled.

Nelson has used the increasingly popularity of his blog to accomplish incredible good works. He helped form virtual teams of cyclists who raised more than $600,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. More recently, he inspired some 3,700 readers of his blog to donate more than $135,000 to LAF and World Bicycle Relief. The efforts earned Nelson a ride with Lance Armstrong and his new team.

Nelson’s formula presents a fantastic lesson for social media planners:
– Be honest…always
– Address subjects that people are passionate about
– Write with the everyday reader in mind
– Get your readers involved
– There are ways to measure success other than widgets sold

Happy holidays to Fatty and everyone out there.

Aug 11

Mommy Bloggers – To Blackout or Not to Blackout?

Guest post from Maggie O-Neill

According to MomDot, mommy bloggers were encouraged last week to take a much needed girls’ week off (August 6-10) to recover from “blogger burnout” via a PR Blackout Challenge. 

August 11
First off, I want to start this post with “good for you.”  At least from the perspective of someone who would like a week off to focus on myself and getting back to basics. And I get some of the burnout issues mommy bloggers must be facing – their quick rise to fame in the last few years has propelled them to one of the most powerful consumer voices across most industries. For this reason, I applaud them, engage with them and rely on them for insight from a personal and professional level.

But a publicized PR Blackout? Was it really necessary? Did it make a difference? The call-to-action stated that these moms have put aside what is important and become PR for their audience, and therefore have to get back-to-basics. It goes on to compare their deadline stress to what GM’s CEO must feel driving to work every day. Somehow I doubt that (no disrespect). Last time I checked, there was no U.S. implosion of the mommy blogger industry, and Detroit is not full of unemployed bloggers.

So, in a typical, “we don’t need them, they need us” strategy, mommy bloggers turned their cheek last week at some of the folks who helped propel their blogs into the spotlight. Media and PR professionals have done this dance for years; and we know at the end of the day, we really both need each other in order to stay afloat and relevant. 

Sure moms could go back to talking about just their kids and family, but I’m not sure they really want to; and from my experience, most of the blogs are meant to help this group, not harm. In fact, the mom bloggers I talked to this weekend love the job they have created. It allows them to not only be moms, but be moms with a voice that is heard outside of their four walls.

Not sure how the blackout played out, if anyone noticed, or if it helped moms get back-to-basics.  But, for an industry that changes on a daily basis, stepping out last week may be a vacation that is tough to come back from.

Jul 20

Won’t you listen to what the man said?

Listening Listening is critical to success. That’s what I’ve heard or read three times in the last few  days.

The first occurred at a Cablefax-Peppercom daylong workshop for some 26 sales, marketing, operational and IT types representing programmers, broadband providers and multiple system operators. Some of the participants were incredibly savvy when it came to social media; others were relative Neanderthals. Yet, all agreed the key to social media success was to listen to what customers were saying, where they were saying it and how they’d like to be engaged. Almost all agreed that, while they got the importance of listening, their C-suite bosses were still entrenched in the old, top-down ‘…here’s my corporate message’ school of communications. While there are no silver bullets to convince old school executives to cede control to customers, the group did agree on a number of smart strategies to start the ball rolling: suggest a ‘walk before you run’ approach, share what best-in-class competitors are doing and, most importantly, demonstrate ROI.

The next reminder came during a podcast with Joanne Davis, a top marketing search consultant. When asked the number one mistake most agencies make when pitching new business, she said, “Listening.” Ms. Davis said agencies are too quick to force their own thinking and past experiences on a prospective client. Instead, she said, it’s critical to pick up on the verbal and non-verbal cues being sent and provide real-time solutions to the pain points.

The final example came from the book “Your Call Is (not that) Important To Us.” In the text, the author quotes a JetBlue Airlines supervisor as saying he uses ‘sympathetic listening’ with the most irate customers. “I’ve found that a huge amount can be defused by just taking the time to listen. If you’ve got an irate call and the person is in tears, it’s important to take the time and listen— listening for when they’re wound down and then resolving the problem.’

While it seems so obvious, too many organizations continue to pursue a ‘field of dreams’ strategy in their marketing and customer service. It’s not about what we say but, rather, how well we listen to what our customers and prospects are saying that will determine success.

Jul 13

Hell hath no fury

July 13 - woman The alleged murders of erstwhile sports stars Steve McNair and Arturo Gatti have given new meaning to the old phrase, 'Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.'

From what I've been able to piece together, McNair and Gatti both shared a fondness for the ladies, but made the mistake of two-timing the wrong ones. McNair was the apparent victim of a murder-suicide while Brazilian authorities say Gatti's wife is the lead suspect in his slaying.

McNair's assailant had purchased her murder weapon just days before, again pointing to the need for more stringent gun control laws. I'm not sure what Mrs. Gatti used to deliver the final knockout to her ex-pugilist hubby, but the odds are good she bought it recently.

Weapons of choice aside, what's with the sudden rash of cuckolded concubines committing the ultimate crime of passion? I'm sure there are myriad societal factors involved in each, not the least of which is the pro athlete's belief that he can do or say anything and get away with. And, I'm sure Mrs. Gatti's defense team is already preparing a case of justifiable homicide as the rationale for her actions.

Whether it's easy access to guns, sports stars who think the rules don't apply to them or criminals blaming society for their heinous actions, something has gone badly awry.

The same society that vilified Michael Jackson now worships him. Sarah Palin, despite delivering a rambling, nonsensensical resignation speech, remains beloved by seven out of 10 Republicans. And, now it looks as if the Bush Administration deliberately withheld classified CIA information from Congress. What's a reasonably rationale blogger to make of all this?

It all comes down to one word: accountability. The rules have changed and the guilty are no longer being held strictly accountable. Black is now white and white black.

If nothing else, aging and randy sports stars should study the McNair/Gatti massacres and think twice about their next liaison. In a society gone mad, mad women are feeling more empowered than ever.