Jul 30

Hello, Is There Anybody in There?

Believe it or not, there’s a Mastercard print ad running right alongside massive coverage of a horrific assault on a British honeymooning couple on the tropical paradise island of Antigua.

The advertisement depicts a beautiful, deserted island and the headline: "Arriving: Priceless." Ouch. Talk about bad timing. Talk about horrific placement. Suffice it to say there was nothing "priceless" about this use of the corporate sobriquet. Getawaymc150

Who’s to blame when something like this occurs? Is it the paper? Mastercard’s advertising agency that bought the space? Or, does the final responsibility lie with the brand itself? Surely, it’s the brand that suffers the image and reputation damage from such an obvious blunder.

Mistakes happen, and to err is human. But, if I’m a friend or family member of the ill-starred honeymooners, I’d be slow to forgive Mastercard. This particular advert is tasteless, not priceless.

Jul 14

Is full transparency always the smartest move?

Is full transparency always the smartest move?474910328_2a788caeff

Crisis communications 101 teaches us that full disclosure of an ‘issue’ early and often is the best course for mitigating negative fallout.

The approach seems to work especially well in politics. How many politicians have short circuited such potential career disasters as drug use and infidelity by pre-empting an investigative reporter with a hastily-called press conference? The announcement is followed a feeding frenzy of short-term coverage but, usually, life goes on.

As we know, the pre-emptive, full disclosure strategy is aimed at defaming the media in particular. So, I found it fascinating last week to see a top reporter employ the very same technique in his own behalf.

The reporter was David Carr of The New York Times. His subject: the alleged ‘pit bull’ media relations strategies of Roger Ailes and his Fox Network. Sensing that his kiss-and-tell column would engender a spiteful retaliation, Carr ‘outed’ his own prior drug and alcohol abuse. Fair enough, such an admission may well have pre-empted a Fox counter offensive. But, at what personal cost?

I’ve long admired Carr and his work. Now, though, I’ll always think of him as David Carr of the Times, the recovering drug and alcohol addict. And, all future news searches will pull up the same information. Is that a good thing? 

The Web 2.0 world in which we live enables us to create and manage our personal image and reputation. So, my question is this: by disclosing his past problems in order to prevent a future Fox assault, did David Carr win the image battle, but lose the war?

Jun 13

Mugabe Squashes a Beacon of Hope in Africa

Guest post by Joe Becker.Robert_mugabe

There’s a famous story about a impoverished man who grew up in a small town in Rhodeshia who went on to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) for African independence from European colonists and then get elected as the head of government for Zimbabwe.  This man was invited to speak at the United Nations as the leader of an African nation which was seen as a beacon of success for peace, economic growth, job development, personal safety and commerce.  Not 25 years after the UN speech, which was met with universal fanfare and hope, Robert Mugabe has transformed his homeland into an example of heartbreak. 

The New York Times ran a news piece on Mugabe’s arrest of opposition party leaders being arrested for treason.  If you didn’t already follow this story, Mugabe has strong armed voters, rigged election results and harmed thousands in his quest to iron fist his role as leader of Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years. Recently he actually lost a reelection to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, getting 43% to his 47.9%.  I can’t imagine how many more people actually voted for Tsvangirai to overcome the fixed election, but Mugabe has been fighting the results and recounting votes in select areas of the country for weeks now.  Mugabe who once offered hope and peace instead invented hyperinflation, expelled tens of thousands of people from their homes and built a government of corruption and brutal repression. 

I share story because my wife studied urban and rural planning in Zimbabwe a number of years ago and speaks fondly of happy people, trusting people and a people looking for hope and reform.  I’m not entirely oblivious; I know governments and people can be corrupt, I’m just sadden that one man can temporarily destroy a country and its sprit. 

I look forward to seeing how this story and election plays out in Zimbabwe, I’m optimistic but the results to come are slightly predictable and sad.

Feb 05

What you don’t know can hurt you, your career and your organization’s image

The marketing geniuses at Woolworths (now a UK company with no stores in the US) must150014678lolitaposters
have skipped their English Literature class en masse while growing up. How else to explain their total ignorance of the blockbuster book and movies, ‘Lolita’?

Woolworths just had to recall an entire line of girls’ bedding named after the ubiquitous and promiscuous 12-year-old heroine of the Nabokov novel, Lolita.

Parents were justifiably outraged at the mere thought of purchasing bedroom furniture that celebrated the antics and acrobatics of the pre-teen tart. And Woolworths’ defense? They’d never heard of the character, the book or the movie.

One would have to lead a fairly sheltered life to have missed the any of the movies, starting with the "original" featuring a comely Sue Lyon as Lolita, a sinister James Mason as her paramour Humbert Humbert and a pathetic Shelly Winters in an Oscar-nominated performance as Lolita’s mother. But, then again, the mass ignorance at Woolworths could merely be indicative of a prevalent and disturbing trend among marketers of a certain age (read: youngish): if an event happened before they ‘came of age,’ it simply didn’t exist.

The losers? The young girls, their parents. Woolworths’ image and reputation, and all of us. Which is why I urge young people to read, read and read some more. The more you know, the smarter you’ll be. The smarter you are, the less likely you’ll be to make foolish mistakes that can derail a career and sideswipe a corporate image.

Dec 26

Is it Murder?

Guest blog written by Deb Brown.

Recently, a 17-year-old girl desperately needed a liver transplant and, which we hear too often, theCigna
insurance company — in this case CIGNA Healthcare — refused to pay for the operation. It wasn’t until 150 teenagers and nurses protested outside CIGNA’s offices that the insurance company finally decided to reverse its decision.  But, it was too late.  The young girl died last Thursday.  And, the family is planning to press murder or manslaughter charges against CIGNA.

Maybe we do need insurance companies to be charged with murder and have several top executives thrown in jail for callously refusing to try to save a person’s life.  Why does it take producers like Michael Moore, protests from teenagers, or the media in general to force insurance companies to reverse their decisions and pay for life-saving operations? This is the reason we all pay insurance premiums in the first place…so we don’t have to worry about critical procedures or medications.

Apparently, the health insurance industry doesn’t seem to care too much about its reputation.  According to a Harris poll from 2006, health insurance companies and HMOs are only ahead of oil and tobacco companies when it comes to doing a good job. 

The attorney of the family who just lost their daughter during this holiday season says, “The insurer ‘maliciously killed her’ because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare.” 

Maybe it has something to do with H Edward Hanway’s salary and compensation? According to Forbes in 2006, Hanway, CIGNA’s CEO, had a total compensation package of $28.82 million. 

It’s tragic that insurance companies can continue to make these heartless decisions.  This is certainly a case to follow.  If CIGNA is charged with murder or manslaughter and some executives spend some time in jail, maybe then, and only then, will they see a child as a child and not as a claim form.

I wonder if Hanway has a 17-year-old daughter?

Nov 12

Religiously pursuing profits

Televangelists sure give fundamental Christianity a black eye. These self-righteous men and womenPlate
pound their podiums, thump their chests and offer lots of false hope: all in the name of Jesus and the Almighty Dollar.

So, it’s nice to see the government finally step in and investigate the charlatans who preach poverty but live in the lap of luxury.

Ah, there’s nothing like a good Congressional investigation to put the fear of God in a double-talking, bible-thumping fraud. And, while there are undoubtedly some legitimate preachers out there, my gut tells me the majority simply prey (pun intended) on the fears and ignorance of the great unwashed masses.

Organized religion deserves its checkered image and reputation. Too many scam artists have hurt too many unsuspecting faithful over the years.

So, let the investigations begin. And, hopefully, some of these profit-hungry pastors will be doing their preaching in prison and not on the boob tube.

Oct 04

Jesus Christ, super salesman

That guy from Galilee is back again. This time He’s a super salesman for a new line of red and whiteGrapesofgalilee_3
wines called, what else?  ‘The Grapes of Galilee.’

Yes, Jesus Christ, super salesman, is back. Or at least, his name and likeness are back on the labels of everything from chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The importer said he’ll be targeting the ‘holy water’ to Catholics for the upcoming holiday season. “This is a wine for a special occasion like Christmas dinner. It will be a big talker,” said Pini Haroz.

Well, it’s got me talking. And, personally, I find it distasteful (the promotion. Not the wine. I haven’t sampled the vino yet).

Using Christ to push alcohol is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Especially considering the historical Jesus was all about poverty, humility, etc. Sure, he changed water to wine, but that was a one-time gig as I recall.

Anyway, I think Christ would be royally pissed at this misuse of His name and image.  In fact, I could see a modern Christ rampaging through the local liquor stores on Christmas Eve and breaking any bottles with his likeness on the cover (a la His assault on the moneychangers in the temple).

I’m sure Christ savored a good wine as much as the next savior. But, I’ll bet He would gag if he saw how Pini Haroz, wine importer, was ‘crossing’ the line.

Sep 18

Double standards are wrong, regardless of race, creed or color

NY Knicks President and Coach Isiah Thomas advanced the ongoing devolution of American society Isiah
yesterday by testifying that the use of the ‘B’ word is less offensive when uttered by a Black, rather than White, male.

Thomas, who by all ‘insider’ accounts, is a truly bad guy, is accused of sexual and workplace harassment by former MSG senior marketing executive, Anucha Browne Sanders. In her testimony, Ms. Browne said Thomas repeatedly referred to her as a *itch.

Thomas shrugged it off, saying the derogatory term is less offensive when used by a Black man towards a Black woman. Oh, puh-leese. That same warped logic has been used to defend Gangsta rap lyrics and other horrific examples of deportment.

Wrong is wrong. Isiah Thomas is wrong. The Gangsta rappers are wrong. And, our society’s leaders are wrong to let these double standards pass unchecked.

The real losers are the kids who, having fewer and fewer role models, will choose their own definition of right and wrong. And, that too, is wrong.

Aug 28

Christ should charge a commission

Jesus Christ should receive a commission from all the celebs and sports figures who have invoked HisChrist
name, asked His forgiveness and/or turned their lives over to Him.

Michael Vick is just the latest fallen superstar to have miraculously ‘found’ Christ amidst the rubble of rack and ruin.

Sadly, Christ has become part of a formulaic crisis response plan being implemented by the PR firms and publicists of Messrs. Vick, Gibson and others.

Rather than placing himself in the hands of the Lord, though, Vick would be better served by donating a significant sum of money to animal rights.

Hiding behind the Good Shepherd’s robe may be smart image counseling, but it’s been tried one too many times in recent years to ring true.

As the bible says, ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’ In Vick’s case, the lord, in the person of NFL Commissioner Goodell, has clearly taketh away and, all the contrition in the world won’t get it back anytime soon for Brother Vick."

Vick also told courthouse gatherers that his dog-fighting dilettantism was "immature," and he has some growing up to do. Indeed. Part of growing up is learning to say "sorry," but that’s a word you won’t often find in defense lawyers’ vocab list. On the other hand, as the Christlike Vick must surely know, the bible mentions contrition in a few thousand places.

Aug 27

Vick case has ‘Sharpton opportunity’ written all over it

About 100 people turned out at Michael Vick’s Richmond, Va., hearing this morning to support the NFLVick_2
superstar and self-admitted dogfighting thug, Michael Vick.

It’s sad to see a hard-core following continue to support a bad, bad guy who confessed to animal abuse, torture and murder. Not to mention illegal gambling and, possibly, drug trafficking.

And, what’s with the race card angle? Is the Vick saga merely an updated OJ Simpson deal where a predominantly black jury decided to ‘stick it to the man?’ Are there really societal elements who believe in Mike Vick, regardless of his transgressions? And, if there is, might the Rev. Al Sharpton be waiting in the wings to capitalize on the opportunity?

It seems to me the lines between what used to be ‘right’ and what used to be ‘wrong’ are blurring rapidly.

Michael Vick pled guilty today and will be sentenced on December 10th. In the interim, watch his supporters launch one subterfuge after another to muddy the facts and to, some how, some way, position Vick as the victim of a racist society. One can only hope the judge doesn’t cave to the pressure.

If those poor dogs could testify, Vick’s fans just might change their minds (and, perhaps, see Vick for the criminal he is).