Jul 16

All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be in PR

Knowing what you know now, would you choose the same career? That’s the question Adweek recently asked some industry hotshots.

Some of the answers are revealing, to say the least:20080716145203

– "I would be braver about my choices – less linear – and take jobs that would provide completely different experiences"

– "I always wanted to play lead guitar for Led Zeppelin and to be the founder of Google. So depending how far back in time we’re talking about, that would be my career arc."

– ‘"I would still choose advertising because I can’t think of any other job where you get to do so many things every day, where every day is unlike the day before."

Bingo! PR is the same way. Every day is unique.20080716145300

And, aside from playing center field for the Mets, I couldn’t imagine a better job than mine. Sure, there are some bad times, bad clients and bad people, but the positives far, far outweigh the negatives.

Too many people sell themselves short too soon. They marry, find themselves saddled with mortgage payments and settle for a job they hate. 

I’ve come to believe that fun and job satisfaction are intertwined with risk taking. The more one is willing to risk to pursue his or her passion, the happier he or she is. I’ve climbed mountains with guides who live at, or near, the bottom of the socioeconomic scale, but are high on life because they’re doing exactly what they want. In my book, they’re the truly rich people.

So, while I may not be tracking down fly balls at Shea or leading climbers up the Matterhorn, I don’t regret a moment. To paraphrase the wording on W.C. Fields’ tombstone: "All things considered, I’d rather be in PR."

Jul 15

Sorry Keith, But I Beg to Differ

PR Week Editor-in-Chief Keith O’Brien is typically spot on with his editorial POV. That said, he missed the mark with this week’s treatise on the Kekst sale to Publicis.

Keith argues that the acquisition is the first of many to come in the months and years ahead. Perhaps. But, I doubt it. Not in this economy where the multiples just don’t make any sense for most sellers. Nrd2206i2

More to the point of this blog, however, is Keith’s contention that, in combination with Cohn & Wolfe’s merger with GCI, the Kekst sale is all about global reach. He says, "There will, of course, always be room for local agencies and niche firms. But the onus is on mid-size and large firms to consider how truly ‘global’ their offerings are……. Clients and prospectives might seem more concerned with digital, CSR or green today, but the days when every client puts a global footprint at the top of its wish list are coming. Everyone needs to be prepared."

I disagree. And, I wish Keith had been covering the industry when his predecessors wrote similar tomes in the 1980s, ’90s and more recently.

The fact is global footprints rarely succeed. We’ve created one that we believe to be unique, but I’m not here to tout our approach. Rather, Keith needs to know how dissatisfied clients and "prospectives" are with existing global models. Here’s why: the holding company model may indeed have "on-the-ground" capabilities in 35 or 40 countries. But, each office has a different specialty. So, if I represent a US chemical company that needs local support in, say, Milan, I’m stuck with the holding company’s offering, which probably specializes in fashion.

Global networks of independent PR firms aren’t much better, and are really nothing more than pure geographic plays. So, while someone may have vetted the member firm at some point, do I really want to entrust my multinational client relationship to a Sao Paulo agency that happens to be a member of my network?
I think not.

Too many clients have attempted one-stop global shopping in the past, only to realize it’s far smarter, more strategic and cost effective to create a "best-in-class" solution set.

I’m sure Keith can show me examples of seamless, global solutions. But, I guarantee I can show him many more examples of smart, a la carte client programs. And, I’d be delighted to share our approach to solving a client’s need for a global footprint.

Jul 09

Media fanning the flames of a recession

Steve and Ted discuss whether or not there is a direct correlation between media and the downturn of theRepchatter_logo_2
economy.

The discussion centers on the abundance of doom an gloom stories many media outlets have been writing on the present state of the economy.

Are they fanning the flames of a recession or are they just stating the facts? Is this negative press putting citizens in a frenzy?

Jul 08

Bottom rail on top now

It warms the heart of this public relations practitioner to read the June 23rd PR Week headline: ‘AnPr
unstable media landscape has journalists seeking PR positions.

Frank Washkuch’s article says that more and more journalists are leaving the newsroom to, gasp, go over to the dark side and become PR practitioners. Yes, Virginia, the handwriting is on the proverbial wall (or whiteboard, if you prefer) and the exodus has begun.

Over the years, many an erstwhile journalist has left his chosen profession to become a PR flack for the higher pay and better stability. But, says Washkuch, the recent across-the-board downsizing at all the major media outlets has turned the trickle into a torrent.

I think it’s great for the public relations profession. We benefit when we have more and more seasoned journalists to help noodle over client challenges. And, we really benefit from their built-in bullshit detectors. Journos know what constitutes a story and what doesn’t. Sadly, there are more than a few PR types who churn out ‘brochure speak" and have no nose for news.

So, give us your hungry, your poor, your huddled masses of journalists. We’ll take ’em. And, in the meantime, maybe some of you journalists should think twice about bashing public relations in your next column. The industry you skewer may one day be your own.

May 02

What’s next? “To Catch a Cleaning Lady?”

Having exhausted the various permutations of their long-running ‘To Catch a Predator’ series, NBC is nowTomandjerrytomstrapomatic2
launching a new one called, ‘To Catch a Contractor.’

The promo heralds a show that will uncover all sorts of sleazy, diabolical and even criminal practices being perpetrated by those always perplexing, always behind schedule and always over budget contractors. Fair enough. Who hasn’t had a bad experience with a contractor? In fact, it’s almost a rite of passage to be a homeowner.

But, I draw the line with NBC’s tactics. I never liked ‘Predator’ because I thought it crossed over into entrapment. And, something tells me the same will be true with contractors.

I can just imagine the various ways in which NBC and some ‘social justice’ group will ensnare some unsuspecting, but altogether sleazy, contractor. We’ll hear an NBC ‘plant,’ posing as a sultry, seductive housewife call out: ‘The door’s open, c’mon in. I’m just folding some wash in the nude. I made some brownies and iced tea. Put your tape measure down and have some.’

In my opinion, the whole thing stinks.

And, where will this mindless content end? Will we see future shows aimed at ‘catching’ cleaning ladies? How about the mailman? The FedEx delivery guy? You know a country’s moral fiber is scraping the bottom when we sit around at night watching one strata of society entrap another. Get a life, America.

Apr 25

The Pope comes with a message, but does he leave with followers?

Steve and Ted sit down with guests Darryl Salerno and Dawn Lauer to discuss the Pope’s recent visit to theRepchatter_logo_2
states. 

The discussion centers on the Pope’s recent delivery of the message of the Catholic Church and how it resonates with the people in the states.

Was the pope’s visit a success from an image and reputation standpoint? Did the press favor him in news coverage?

Apr 21

Judging the success of a CEOs trip

Intent on shoring up a slow, but steady decline in one of his most important markets, a CEO recently paidPopebenedictjpg
it a whirlwind visit.

He met with prospective and existing customers as well as those who had chosen one of several competitive models. He also set aside time to hold a few job interviews and made it clear he was not only CEO, but director of human resources as well. The local media followed his every move in their best paparazzi imitation, prompting some to wonder what all the fuss was about.

The CEO followed textbook crisis communications by apologizing for past product flaws and suggested a new quality control process to lessen the likelihood of such issues in the future.

There was a lot of positive buzz swirling about as the CEO made his departure from the key market: his meetings had gone well, media coverage was universally positive and early indications hinted at possible market share improvements which, after all, was the trip’s purpose in the first place.

But, the Catholic Church’s two fundamental flaws, celibacy and pedophilia, remain in place, with the harsh restrictions of the first paving the way for the pernicious reality of the second.  Papal visits remind me of client retreats: everyone gets together for a short while, drinks the corporate Kool-Aid, get all charged up and then return to their jobs with absolutely nothing having changed.

It was nice to host the pope but, until he changes the basic dogma, this trip will be judged at best as a short-term marketing success. Your eminence, you need to work with the product engineers to fix the system. Then, and only then, can marketing really deliver on future visits to key markets.

Apr 14

We haven’t fallen behind. The rest of the world has caught up.

Dr. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and a guest speaker at Thursday’s Arthur PageFareedzakaria_2
Society’s Spring Conference delivered one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard.

Speaking without notes, Zakaria covered such topics as terrorism (we’ve never been safer, he said), competitiveness (the U.S. hasn’t fallen behind, the rest of the world has caught up, he observed) and immigration (it should be viewed as a strength, not a weakness, he argued).

Zakaria made a powerful argument for free trade and open borders. He believes, as we all do, that U.S. health care costs as a percentage of overall GDP are absurdly high. He also believes, as most reasonable people do, that the Iraq misadventure is sucking us dry and has cost our beleaguered economy anywhere from one to three trillion dollars.

Zakaria shed new light on fears that other countries like China and India are graduating far more engineers than America. Zakaria dug into those stats and reports that tens of thousands of so-called engineers are no more advanced than the average air-conditioning repairman.

There’s much to celebrate right now, says Zakaria. He says the 24×7, ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ media is to blame for many of our fears. The facts tell a different tale, he says. For example, there are far fewer civil wars and deaths caused by organized force than ever before. And, the current economic downturn is far less severe that any of the four recessions during the 1950s, a timeframe now looked upon as a period of significant growth. What’s lacking on our end is perspective.

The Page Society has always delivered outstanding speakers at various events over the years. Dr. Zakaria was not only the best I’ve seen to date, he also delivered macro views that not only enlightened, but uplifted. And, when’s the last time any of us could report back on an experience like that?

Apr 04

Employees struggle to maintain work-life balance

Steve and Ted sit down with guest, Melissa Vigue, to discuss the importance of a healthy work-lifeRepchatter_logo
balance.

The discussion centers on recent articles that question whether or not spending time at home can be hazardous to one’s chances of climbing the corporate ladder.

Is it possible to successfully balance work and home? Are workers pressured to stay late and/or on weekends in order to achieve success in the business world?  Can choosing time with family over work cost you a promotion?

Mar 27

1.67 pennies for your thoughts

The U.S. Mint recently admitted that it now costs 1.67 cents to produce a single penny. They say penniesPenny_2
now are 97.5 percent zinc with thin copper plating and admit that the value of the metal exceeds the coin’s face value! To borrow Peppercom’s Deb Brown’s favorite expression, ‘you simply can’t make this stuff up.’

So, in a period of tremendous economic uncertainty, market flux and job loss, our country is deficit-spending to create coins that no one wants or uses. What’s wrong with this picture? A penny for your thoughts. Make that 1.67 pennies for your thoughts.

I’m surprised I haven’t read more news stories about this farce. I’m also surprised McCain, Hill or Barry haven’t jumped on the issue to position it as yet another example of big government waste. God knows Clinton and Obama need something right now to distract negative stories.

If I were running the show, I’d tell the U.S. Mint management team we’ll be deducting an extra .67 cents from their annual salaries for every new penny they make. That should get their attention. I’d also enroll them in an Economics 101 class ASAP.

Whoever’s running the U.S. Mint is one bad penny. One might even call them cents less.

Thanks to Deb Brown for the idea.