Jun 09

A tale of two crises

This is a tale of two crises. One was handled flawlessly. The other was badly bungled.

The first dominated yesterday's PR news world and concerned the ill-advised attempt by Delta Airlines to charge returning Afghanistan veterans $200 for their extra bags. Ugh.

A social media savvy vet captured the unfortunate and oh-so-unnecessary airport confrontation between the vets and the “Sorry sir, but rules are rules” airline worker. He posted the video on YouTube and it spread faster than Anthony Weiner's nude pics.

In the blink of an eye, Delta suddenly had a 747-sized crisis on its hands. But, that's when the airline turned on the after burners, fastened the seat belts and weathered the increasingly bumpy ride. A Delta blogger, identified only as Rachael R (is Rachael Ray moonlighting?)  quickly posted an apology AND announced an immediate change in the airline's baggage policy for traveling U.S. military personnel. A simple, yet brilliant move. Crisis averted. Delta and the vets can move on. And, Rachael R. can get back to her cooking.

Now, compare Delta's response with the Bank of America's incredibly, ham-fisted mishandling of a Florida couple's mortgage payment.

Warren and Maureen Nyerges had purchased their foreclosed home outright.   However, while on a foreclosure frenzy, BofA decided the property’s foreclosure was still in force and past due.  So, the bank went on with their foreclosure on the hapless Nyerges. With no other recourse, they hired a savvy lawyer who turned the tables on the bank in a brilliant legal maneuver that would impress even the legendary Mike Lasky of Davis & Gilbert fame.

The couple's lawyer proved the home was free and clear and demanded the bank pay their $2,500 legal fees. BofA refused. So, get this, the lawyer got a court order to go to the local bank branch and take possession of their furniture. Ya gotta love it!

Sheriff deputies and a moving van showed up at the bank. But, the brain-dead BofA branch manager STILL wouldn't comply. It took a full hour before he finally gave Mr. & Mrs. Nyerges a check for $5,772.88 as restitution. This local news clip below is a MUST SEE and should be included in any crisis planning workshop.

 

Did BofA issue an explanation, an apology or announce a change in their foreclosure policy? Nope. There wasn't even a peep from the massive financial institution.

So, here's an idea. Since BofA has shown itself so inept at managing crisis communications, why not outsource the function to the Delta Airlines team? I'm sure the ailing airline could use the incremental income and Bank of America desperately needs competent PR counsel. Hey, maybe BofA can even convince Delta's Rachael R. to cook the Nyerges a special 'forgiveness meal.'

Jun 08

Forget WeinerGate. What about JudgmentGate?

How Cartoon11 come we're hounding Congressman Anthony Weiner out of office but allowing Brother Harold  Camping to continue scaring people and collecting millions of dollars for his ersatz preaching?

In case you don't recognize the name, Camping's the lunatic who predicted Judgment Day would occur on May 21. As a result of his rants, people emptied their pocket books, quit their jobs and sent Brother Harold more than $9 million.

Camping predicted Judgment Day would begin worldwide at 6pm local time on 5/21. It would feature a rash of terrible earthquakes that would kill millions, unearth every casket and see only the “true believers” rising to heaven. Survivors of Judgment Day would chill with the now undead until October 21st, at which time God would mercifully finish off the planet.

Needless to say, there were no earthquakes. In fact, the only rumblings came from some of the believers Camping had bilked out of their life savings. One misguided European teenager actually committed suicide in anticipation of Judgment Day.

And, yet, Brother Harold's back on TV and radio with a slightly corrected prediction. He says we experienced a quiet Judgment Day and that we're still on track for an October 21st blitzkrieg from the Big Guy.

Camping is a zealot. And, zealots are dangerous. I'd label him a religious terrorist. He's using fear to once again whip up a frenzy, scare the uneducated and rake in a whole lot of additional loot. But, the mainstream media's giving him a free pass.

I'm not suggesting politicians such as Arnold and Anthony shouldn't be pilloried for their misbehaving. But, as far as I know, neither stole money from people, ruined lives or caused at least one suicide. So, how come the media's going 24×7 about WeinerGate but ignoring JudgmentGate?

Camping's a brilliant scam artist. He uses ersatz math to formulate an end of days pronouncement. Then, when it doesn't happen, he simply pushes the date back six months and says it will still happen. In effect, he's saying God has granted us an extension. But, unless I've missed something, God doesn't work for the IRS and we're not talking about tax filings.

I believe religion, and not money, is the root cause of all evil. Fundamentalists like Camping are no different than terrorists such as bin Laden. The former's weapon of choice is words. The latter's was, of course, weapons.

The media will wake up again only when Camping begins spending millions of newly-collected dollars from his fearful flock in early October. At that time, he'll once again proclaim the end of the world and TV's talking heads will once again joke about end of the world parties. Until then, though, the Fourth Estate will stay focused on the sleazy and sordid behavior of politicians and celebrities instead of exposing this nut job's dangerous ways. The former hypes ratings. The latter could save lives and fortunes.

May 19

The 11th commandment should read: ‘Thou shalt blame others for thy sins’

BlogIt was only a matter of time before U.S. Catholic Bishops chose to adopt the victim strategy in  defending its priests' rampant pedophilia. In a comparison that is almost laughable were it not so pathetic, the Church is now blaming the sexual liberation of the 1960s and '70s for its priests' predatory tactics.

The bishops say neither celibacy nor pedophilia were the root causes of their priests' problems. And, get this, they say their problem has been pretty much cleaned up. Yeah, right, and the Mets will win the World Series this year.

Catholic Church leaders MUST be living in a parallel universe. First, they fast track Pope John Paul II for sainthood based upon two rather shaky miracles. (Hey, I can point to a REAL miracle maker. How about Gil Hodges, manager of the 1969 Mets? Any votes for beatifying St. Gilbert of Flushing?)

Second, the bishops publicize this totally bogus report that assumes no responsibility whatsoever for the conduct of their priests. Hundreds of priests ran amok for decades, destroyed lives and then were simply transferred from parish to parish as the Church desperately tried to cover up its mess (all done, BTW, under the aegis of the soon-to-be Saint John Paul II).

If the Catholic Church can blame the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s for its wrongdoings, so should everyone else. Heck, if I were advising Arnold Schwarzenegger right now, I'd just tell him to go with the church defense. I'd tell the governator, “Look, Arnold, baby, fathering your maid's kid wasn't your fault. It's that damned sexual liberation of the '60s.” Ditto with Lindsay Lohan's problems. Blame the 1960s and '70s. Don't like ObamaCare? Tough. It's a direct result of the sexual liberation. Are you a Cubs fan still waiting for the first world's series title since the Flood? At least you can blame the sexual revolution for distracting the owners, managers and players for the past 50 years.

I know the New Testament advises followers to turn the other cheek. But, where does it also say to point the finger at others for one's own poor behavior?

The Catholic Church should be ashamed of this latest cover-up. Blaming sexual liberation for rampant pedophilia is akin to Detroit's explaining its woes by pointing to better engineering and quality from Japanese and German auto makers. Puh-lese!

I believe Shakespeare was a member of the Church of England, but he must have been thinking of Catholic Bishops when he wrote, “The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.” And, to paraphrase Hippocrates, “Bishops: heal thyselves!”

May 11

Ten days to go!

Harold-campingAccording to Bible scholar and Family Radio personality Harold Camping, Judgement Day will occur  on May 21, 2011. (Note: Harold & Co. spell judgment with an “e” so RepMan is compelled to honor their mistake. But me wonders if their math is off too…?) That's right. We have 10 days until “The Rapture” begins. But, don't sweat it too much. May 21 may be Judgement Day but, says Camping, we have until October 21, 2011, before God actually destroys the entire earth. Whew. That was a little too close for comfort.

Camping bases his calculations solely on God's predetermined time line. That's the one that began when 'He' created the world in 11,013 B.C. and will come crashing down this coming October 21st (and, isn't it a real bummer that He couldn't wait until AFTER Halloween to end things? There's nothing merciful about this god).

As proof that the end is well nigh on hand, Camping cites such “biblical prophecies” come true as:

– the complete degradation of the Christian Church (I'll grant you that Catholics have, in fact, done a superb job of completely mucking things up, but who has any image issues with Methodists, Unitarians or other Christian sects?)
– the complete breakdown of society (I'll give Camping this one. 'Jersey Shore' was, in fact, the final sign that society had gone to hell in a handbasket)
– the rise of the national state of Israel in 1948 (OK. So?)
– the rise of Gay pride (this is starting to sound like the Bill O'Reilly Show).

Camping says Judgement Day will kick off with a catastrophic earthquake (Wait. Didn't that just happen in Japan?). Based upon the description Brother Camping provides though, this does sound like the mother of all earthquakes. It will “open every grave in the world and only true believers will rise to heaven.” Non-believers will chill with earthquake survivors and await the actual end of days on October 21. At least that still gives them a full summer's worth of tanning and jet-skiing. I take back my crack about His being unmerciful.

I must admit to being at a loss as to what to do in my final 10 days. Should I learn to play acoustic guitar? Nah, not enough time. Foreign language? Ditto. Ten days does not a language master make. Hey, I know, maybe I'll set my sights on stealing away a client from a large holding company. I guarantee there's a client out there right this second who's had it up to here with her account team's constant turnover, the agency's exorbitant billing and its minimal results. And, winning a $1 million account in the next 10 days would certainly qualify as my definition of rapture.

What about you? Suppose, just suppose, Brother Camping is right and Judgement Day WILL begin in less than two weeks. What would you want to accomplish between now and then? By the way, this whole end of days thing has to be a real impediment to funeral parlor recruiting. How do you attract the best and brightest to an industry whose end product will be jumping out of their respective caskets in a matter of hours? Talk about a dead end.

May 09

A little something for the al Qaeda operative in all of us

Article-0-0BF14C4E00000578-929_634x387 A little less than a week after the death of Osama bin Laden, New York-based Kuma Games has  introduced an Internet-based game called ‘Episode 107: The Death of Osama bin Laden.’ That’s nice.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the free enterprise system, being first to market and all that, but check out this feature: game players can not only pretend to be members of the elite Navy Seals Team 6 that took down bin Laden, they can also choose to defend bin Laden. Yes, that’s right. Little Johnny can don a virtual robe and turban, pick up his AK-47 replica and begin wasting some of the storming Navy Seals operatives. That’s just so wrong in so many ways that it defies logic.

If I had lost a loved one on 9/11, or in one of the two wars that followed on its heels, I’d be planning to launch a personal Jihad against these bozos. And, I wouldn’t build-in an option for players to defend Kuma Games either.

Can you imagine your 11-year-old son, double-clicking on episode 107 link and yelling, “Hey mom, I’ll be down for dinner in a half hour or so. My al Qaeda mates and I have to disrupt this Navy Seals operation. It’s imperative we get bin Laden and his family safely away.”

Episode 107 is billed as the latest in a franchise of video games that recreate military missions, including the capture of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. There’s no indication if the Kuma Klan also provided an option for game players to defend Hussein and secret him away to another, new hiding place. But, they probably did. Nor is there any indication whether Kuma has created similarly-themed video games that enable players to say, whisk Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun away from their Berlin bunker in early May of 1945, or find an escape route from Elba that would provide Napoleon one last shot at conquering Europe and killing millions.

I’m not a child psychologist, but enabling an impressionable youngster to defend bin Laden might tend to soften the youngster’s views towards the mass murderer, no? And, in my mind, that could lead to any number of unintended, and very serious, real world consequences.

So, let me borrow a page out of the Ronald Reagan speech book and demand of Mr. Kuma (or whatever nut job runs the company) to: Take down that game!

Tip o' RepMan's Green Beret to Catharine "Goose" Cody for the idea for this post.

May 05

Krispy Kreme is pleased to announce we’ll be awarding special prizes to any runners suffering strokes or heart attacks during today’s run

Polls_KrispyKremeCake2_1755_385816_answer_3_xlargeThere’s gross. There’s negligent. There’s just plain stupid. And, then there’s the Norcross High  School Relay for Life.

Intended to raise money for charity (which is always a good, wise and noble thing), this particular race is underwritten by Krispy Kreme doughnuts. And, if there’s one foodstuff that makes a Big Mac seem healthy in comparison, it has to be a Krispy Kreme doughnut. In fact, I have to believe the average KK doughnut packs more calories than an AK-47 does bullets. And, I can only imagine the immediate and profound damage inhaling one, if not six, of these caloric-laden mounds of mush must have on the cardiovascular system.

But, why should a runner’s health, nutrition and wellness concerns stop Norcross High School and Krispy Kreme from staging a race that requires competitors to eat a half dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts halfway through!  Are they serious? Never mind the long-term damage. Ever try running on a full stomach? It’s not fun. Ever see The Office episode in which Dwight and Michael conspire to ensure the latter wins the Dundler-Mifflin 5k race by having Michael load up on carbohydrates by consuming a plate of pasta just before race time? It wasn’t pretty.

Krispy Kreme’s race sponsorship deserves immediate enshrinement in the Repman Marketing Hall of Shame. It also belongs on Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks segment (if such a segment existed).

On the other hand, if Krispy Kreme can sponsor runs, why can’t Lucky Strike cigarettes sponsor long-distance cycling races? And, how about Absolut Vodka awarding cash prizes to mountaineers who can consume a fifth of vodka en route to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro? The possibilities are endless.

So, how about it, Rep readers. Gimme some of your suggestions on corporate sponsorship ideas from hell. We did well with the recent soy industry re-positioning taglines. But, that was a walk in the park compared to this atrocity. So, let’s have at it. And, if possible, please consume six doughnuts before posting your ideas. Distended stomachs can produce a lot of hot air.

And  a big starter’s gun shoutout to Greg Schmalz for this post idea.

Apr 26

Hey nineteen

I first became aware of the yawning information gap between my generation and Millennials on  Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was there, while taking a break at 15,000 feet, that I happened to mention the seminal TV character, 'Archie Bunker.' My son, Chris, and our climbing buddy, Stafford, both Millennials, responded with a resounding, “Who”?Confused-Man

In fact, the more we spoke about events of the 1960s, '70s and '80s, the more I was reminded of the Steely Dan song, 'Hey Nineteen' (“No, we got nothing in common. No, we can't talk at all.”).

Since the dilly on Kili, I've encountered many examples of a twenty-something not knowing what I thought was pretty basic information about the people, places and things of my era.

In fact, my curiosity began to grow as I compared the information gap between Millennials and Boomers, and what I believed was the LACK of such a gap between Boomers and our parents (aka The Greatest Generation). While Millennials seemed stumped about many things that happened before 1990, my generation appears to know quite a bit about, say, Benny Goodman, the Sudetenland and Fibber McGee's Closet (even though we weren't alive to see or experience any of the above).

So, I put my hypothesis to the test. I asked Peppercom's Millennials if they knew about 10 people, places and things from my generation. I was pleasantly surprised overall, but positively stunned by the following:

– 80 percent had never heard of Glasnost (that would be like my generation not knowing about 'appeasement').
– 50 percent didn't know about the Iran-Contra Affair (easily the biggest political scandal to hit Washington after Watergate and before Monica Lewinsky).
– 90 percent had never heard of Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. ice hockey team that pulled off the biggest upset in Olympic history. Eruzione was the team's poster child, a media darling and appeared positively EVERYWHERE).
– 60 percent didn't know former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle (now, some may argue that Dan Quayle himself might have a hard time identifying 41's VP, but would Baby Boomers blank on Richard M. Nixon? Hardly).
– 40 percent didn't remember Bo Jackson, arguably the greatest, all-around athlete of the 1980s. (He was also the star of Nike's 'Bo knows' global ad campaign. Bo may know, but Millennials sure don't know Bo).

I'll leave it to sociologists, historians and other experts to explain why so many Millennials seem to know so little about so much that came before. But, it doesn't bode well since, as we know, those who don't learn the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

So, what do you Boomer and Millennial readers make of all this? How about you Gen X types? Why does the information gap exist? Perhaps, even more alarmingly, will the coming generation be even LESS aware of the recent past than their Millennial predecessors? If so, Archie Bunker would undoubtedly have called them "meatheads".

Apr 19

The death of the role model

Remember role models? They were the athletes, celebrities and other influencers who we looked  up to as kids. Mine included Joe Namath, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali. And, while each had a dark side (Joe Willie had a fondness for the ladies, Sir Paul liked his hallucinogenic drugs and Ali perfected, if not invented, trash talk), none ever purposely endorsed products that were bad for kids.

Snoop-dogg-smokingBut, that was then and this is now. Now, we have role models such as Charlie Sheen, Barry Bonds and the Kardashians. They're all train wrecks. But, their personal lives aside, some of today's role models have become dangerous because they're endorsing products and services that are anything but good for our nation's kids.

Take Snoop Dogg. Please.

  An article in Monday's New York Times profiles a new advertising campaign for Blast from Colt .45. Snoop stars in the fully integrated campaign. In a YouTube video, for example, the Dogg poses in a white fur coat, surrounded by models in skimpy dress and holding a can of Blast. So what's my problem? Well, it turns out that Blast is the latest, coolest, cutest and hippest gateway beverage that introduces kids to the wonderful world of alcohol. One alcohol industry watchdog calls Blast, which comes in flavors such as grape and raspberry watermelon, an “alcopop."

Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, says: “What is happening here is an obvious attempt to foist this stuff on young African-American men. Colt .45 has invested in the black consumer market for years, and if they weren't looking for an African-American audience they wouldn't be using Snoop Dogg.”

But, why should Snoop care? According to industry analysts, the flavored malt beverage category generated some $967 million last year. And, the Dogg's getting a long, green sip of that brew courtesy of his endorsements. Proving what a terrific role model he is, Snoop's been nice enough to mention Blast on his Facebook page (where he has eight million followers) and on Twitter (where 3.1 million fans follow him). He also mentions Blast in "Boom", a single in his new album, 'Doggumentary'. Daren Metropoulos, who owns Pabst, Colt's parent company, says Snoop's adoration of the toxic beverage is “…just him being a true partner and saying I'm not just an endorser.” That Snoop. What a stand-up guy!

Would Namath, McCartney or Ali have knowingly promoted gateway drugs in their prime? It's hard to say. But, I doubt it.

In the meantime, we're left with role models like Snoop Dogg who make sweet-tasting, brightly colored, highly potent alcoholic beverages seem cool to unsuspecting, underage kids. Snoop is one dog who's leading his pack astray and being paid handsomely to do so. And, here's the saddest part of the tale: we're doing nothing to stop Pabst, Colt .45 or Snoop.

Apr 14

I guess the South will rise again

Gone_with_the_Wind(070311092656)Via_col_Vento_6A just-released CNN/ORC poll marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War showed  an astounding 42 percent of respondents said slavery WAS NOT the main reason southern states seceded from the Union. Holy Abraham Lincoln!

When broken down by political party affiliation, most Democrats said southern states seceded over slavery, independents were split (which is why they're independents, I guess) and MOST Republicans said states' rights and not slavery, was the reason for secession. Gimme a break.

The South seceded solely to protect 'the curious institution' as they called slavery. Period. To say otherwise is to rewrite history and reminds me of the nut jobs who claim the holocaust never occurred either.

I'm not surprised the Tea Party-inspired Republicans believe the way they do. It actually fits like a glove. Still, it's a sorry commentary on the current state of affairs and an affront to the hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who were killed and wounded to preserve the union and end slavery.

I think the survey speaks volumes about the image of the Republican Party and, frankly, am surprised the Rachel Maddows of the world aren't making a bigger deal about the findings. I'm also surprised reactionaries such as the Reverend Al Sharpton aren't leveraging the survey to further fan the flames and advance their personal agendas.

BTW, here are a few other key findings:

– One in four Americans surveyed sympathize more with the Confederacy's cause than the Union's. Nice.
– That statistic increases to an astounding 40 percent among Southerners. Even nicer.
– 80 percent of Republicans admired the leaders of the southern states (all of whom were slaveholders, BTW).

I suggest CNN/ORC survey the same group in November of 2012, when we mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. I wonder if an overwhelming number of Republicans and Southerners will still insist the Civil War wasn't fought to end slavery? Silly me. Of course they will.

I guess the South will rise again.

Tip o' the hat to Chris 'Repman, Jr.'  Cody for suggesting this post.

Apr 11

“Let’s see, 11 fatalities should add up to, yup, a bonus of just about $180k for each of us.”

Blood-MoneTo paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “CEO's aren't like you and me.” How else to explain the  decision by Transocean CEO Steven Newman to split a year-end bonus pool of $898,282 with four other C-suite executives?

If the name Transocean sounds vaguely familiar, that's because they're the engineering geniuses who built the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in 2010, killed 11 people and caused the worst environmental crisis in history (think: BP oil spill).

Newman & Co. split the loot after proclaiming 2010 to “be the best year in safety performance in our company's history.” Can you imagine what the worst year must have been like?

After the bonuses were announced and an incredulous public recoiled in disgust, Newman swiftly backpedaled and cut the bonus pool to a mere $650,000. Now, that's more like it. This way, the five fat cats only pocket a little under $130k per cadaver.

As might be expected, the chief executive officer appeared suitably humbled by his heartless heavy-handedness and issued a statement (probably after being prompted to do so by his chief communications officer). He said: “The executive team made this decision (to take fewer dollars) because we believe it is the right thing to do. ”Huh? The right thing to do? How about not taking any bonus at all? How about starting a fund to pay for the college tuitions of the children of the dead workers? How about waking up to reality?

Imagine if Transocean had, say, built the World Trade Center complex or the Japanese nuclear reactors? The management team would be set for life.

Sad to say, Newman's behavior doesn't surprise me one bit. Fortune 1000 CEOs aren't like you and me. They're much closer in type to pampered, superstar athletes such as Barry Bonds, Brett Favre and Roger Clemens. They're surrounded by handlers, schedulers and sycophants, and made to believe they walk on water (a most unfortunate phrase in the case of the Transocean guys).

In fact, Newman's behavior reminds me of John Thain's whining after the crash and fall of Merrill Lynch. Despite overseeing the worst year in the Thundering Herd's history and being forced by the government to sell the firm to Bank of America, Thain still demanded a performance bonus of $25 million!

Is it any wonder the average American now lists CEOs right alongside lawyers and used car salesmen as the least respected profession?