Oct 11

Did you hear the one about the executive assistant we’ll never forget?

The Peppercomm team will be coming together next Thursday night to salute our late, great colleague, Dandy Stevenson. We’ll be holding one of our patented stand-up and improvisational comedy fundraisers in her name. All proceeds will be donated directly to the ASPCA (like me, Dandy had a soft spot for four-legged creatures).

This blogger will be serving as emcee, and seven or eight current and former Peppercommers will be performing seven to eight minute sets. We’ll also be joined by sereval professional comedians as well as Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer Clayton Fletcher.

Having held countless fundraisers in the past I must tell you this one will be very special indeed. I hope you (and your BFFs) can be there to experience it with us.

For information, how to purchase tickets and to reserve your seat, visit the event page here.

Sep 17

Semper Paratus

My dad passed away Saturday morning just 41 days short of his 98th birthday. The number 41 is significant since that’s the year my dad raced to the nearest recruitment station to enlist in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

While he wanted to be shipped to the Pacific (to exact retribution) he was told, instead, the only immediate opening was with the U.S. Coast Guard.

He signed the papers and forever rued the fact that he wasn’t alongside his brother, George, fighting Nazi Germany or with his other brother, Chris, doing battle with the Japanese as a member of the fabled Merrill’s Marauders.

But, make no mistake. He served his country.

Pop-Pop, as he was known by family, friends and restaurant waitresses alike, lived a very, very full life. Indeed, his life spanned 17 separate presidential administrations.

He was not a superstar in business. Instead, he put in his time as a blue-collar worker raising three children in a decidedly blue collar town. But he, and my mom, scrimped and saved to assure all three of their children would be able to attend college.

Pop-Pop really didn’t come into his own until my son, Chris, and daughter, Catharine, were born.

Any shortcomings as a father were more than made up by his being a superb grandfather and, in the past year, the proud great grandfather to Adrian Joseph A.J. “The Juice” Cody who, ironically, marked his first birthday on the very same day Pop-Pop passed away.

I would be remiss in not singling out the remarkable relationship formed between Pop-Pop and Chris, my son, and his first, and only, grandson. They spoke every single day over the past few decades.

I’d like to end by explaining the headline: Semper Paratus. It’s The U.S. Coast Guard’s motto and, translated, means “Always Vigilant.”

Pop-Pop was always vigilant of the phenomenal family he had surrounding him and always insisted we spend as much time together as possible. We did so, right up until the moment he drew his final breath.

I’m still hard at work arranging for my mom’s and dad’s ashes to be interred at a Veterans Memorial Cemetery in NJ (replete with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps).

If you should be so inclined, you can make a donation in his name, Arthur Cody, at the Coast Guard Foundation. The instructions are self-explanatory.

Semper Paratus, Pop-Pop.

Sep 07

How do you judge success?

Today’s oh-so-timely guest blog is authored by Laura West, Peppercomm’s Head of Analytics. Btw, we’d love to know your take on the Nike campaign, so comment at will…

There are any number of ways to evaluate Nike’s Kaepernick campaign. Some call it: “shrewd.” Others say it’s “a bold statement.” The president called it “a terrible message.” Pundits say it’s “a calculated risk.”

Is Nike’s ad a success? What do the facts say? There is always a friendly bit of data pointing at an answer we may like, no matter our political/social opinions:

  • Fact: The President of the United States has denounced Nike’s ad
  • Also fact: Lebron James has lauded it
  • Fact: #NikeBoycott was trending on Twitter on Tuesday
  • Also fact: #Nike and #JustDoIt were trending on Wednesday

As most people in the industry have come to appreciate, it is not an isolated bit of data that leads to true insight. It is contextualized data; not “there were this many mentions” but “there were this many positive/negative mentions.” And not “someone denounced the company” but “X influencer or X% of the target audience denounced the company.” The context is determined by the prioritized goals.

Is the most valuable metric sales? If so, the ad may have been a bad decision (since Morning Consult reports that purchasing consideration is down). Is the most valuable metric the amount of buzz generated? In this case, the move was an unquestionable success (generating more than $43 million worth of media exposure according to Bloomberg).

Morning Consult reported that Nike’s favorability has dropped by double digits since the campaign announcement. However, if Nike cares most about what certain athletes think of the company’s move, then favorability among more general audiences may not be the most important data point, since success would be measured according to this elite audience’s reaction.

So, how would you measure success?

 

Sep 04

23

It’s hard to believe that Peppercomm began its improbable rise to fame and fortune 23 years ago today.

I say improbable because there was no reason to expect success. After all, why would yet another start-up in the highly competitive PR firmament succeed?

The answer? Our name.

I decided to name the firm in honor of my late black lab, Pepper.

The name turned out to be a godsend.

It was at that precise moment in time the dotcom boom was in overdrive. Venture capitalists were pouring billions of dollars into dotcoms with any semblance of a business plan (as well as many that did not).

The phone began ringing off the hook. Why? Because dotcoms mistakenly thought Peppercom (there was only one M in those days) was a dotcom specialist. We weren’t.

But we hired tech PR specialists faster than you can say IPO and, by 1998, O’Dwyer’s had TWICE named us the fastest growing PR firm in the country (which isn’t that impressive when one considers we started with no billings whatsoever. But, still….).

Our firm shot through the PR firmament like Halley’s Comet. And then, just as suddenly as it had all started, the dotcom bubble burst.

One $35,000 per month dotcom client after another either declared bankruptcy, stopped all work or, in the case of a true dotcom wanna-be called iFrame, took us to court demanding a refund (we won).

Thankfully, we had managed to attract, and win, blue chip clients such as Steelcase and GE (the latter courtesy of The 10 Company’s Valerie Di Maria. Thanks for your Peppercomm service, Val).

And my superb partners took it from there.

Fast-forward to today and tomorrow.

Peppercomm’s success has always been fueled by innovative products and services (some of which exceeded beyond my wildest dreams while others withered and died on the vine).

We’ll be building on a 23-year record of innovation by introducing a first-of-its-kind “societal crisis” offering next week.

Called StandSmart (sm), the service will provide CCOs, CMOs, CHROs, CEOs and boards of directors with:

– A predictive, data analytics tool that helps our clients anticipate relevant industry and societal crises as they initially bubble up (Think: NRA, NFL or NAFTA;  Internet privacy, phishing and prevarication; trade and Twitter wars to name just a few).

– An overlay to any organization’s existing crisis response/management plan that leverages the company’s higher purpose to respond quickly and accurately to any news, false or otherwise. Google’s response to last week’s POTUS attack is a superb example.

– Sitting down with the client and her team to identify each, and every, issue that is relevant to the organization and preparing responses in advance, and in cooperation with the in-house general counsel and CEO.

StandSmart is the logical next step for an iconoclastic agency named in honor of an iconoclastic canine.

Here’s to the next 23 years.

#Woof

Aug 29

Google “Trapped Animal”

Today’s guest blog is authored by Steve Goodwin, a principal at Brand Foundations, a strategic branding & purpose partner of Peppercomm’s. Enjoy…..

Yet again this week, we’re reminded that a trapped, wounded animal is dangerous. Like an orange pain-riddled bear with his leg hopelessly caught in a snare trap, President Trump lashed out at Google, accusing the search giant of baking the results in favor of liberal media outlets so that a search of “Trump news” always returns negative stories. [An aside: I’d offer the president the same gentle advice I’ve been giving to clients for years: “Uh… you have more control over this than you may think.”] As is far too often the case, the president’s info started as a discredited story being peddled on Fox before it made its way into his never-used-a-computer brain and out his tiny tweeting fingers.

Google, to its credit, responded with a statement within what appeared to be minutes of the nastygram. That statement leads with purpose: “When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds.” Bam! Pure “north star” stuff that:

  • was clearly the result of a thoughtful process;
  • was 100% on-brand as a result; and
  • enabled a speedy response because Google’s comms team had it at the ready: they didn’t need to create a one-off statement in a panic and then run it up the chain in a frenzied attempt to get agreement on a final version by the end of the day’s news cycle.

It was also a powerful opener and a perfect springboard for the rest of the statement, which went on to refute the president’s charge in greater detail. The statement wouldn’t have been nearly so strong had the order been reversed.

Of course, Trump vows to “look into” the matter, ensuring the story will stay in the news for a bit… as does the fact that the leaders of Facebook, Google and Twitter are slated to appear before a Congressional committee next week to talk about censorship and election interference.

Like the trapped bear striking out in fear at what it can’t comprehend, Trump’s howling at the tech world at least proves that there is no industry he won’t go after. No matter how big, deep-pocketed or popular, no company is safe. And the fact of the matter is that in our current fractured climate of tribalism and corporate reckoning, threats to an organization’s brand and reputation can come from any direction at any time… not just from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave or Mar-a-Lago during yet another fitful night.

That’s why smart organizations that play on the national stage are well-advised to proactively undertake a process that identifies, assesses and monitors for enterprise-wide reputational risks and guides the creation of purpose-driven plans and content that allow for taking a reasoned, rational and rapid stand… one that rises above the level of the incoming attacks.

Funny I should mention it, because that’s exactly what StandSmartSM – a new in-the-works joint offering from Peppercomm and BrandFoundations – is designed to deliver. Stay tuned for details (but reach out now if you want a preview).

With trapped animals as with trapped presidents, the only predictable thing is their unpredictability. And as Google and countless other companies have learned, you don’t need to pick a fight in order to find yourself in one. Stand ready. Stand strong. Stand smart.

Aug 23

Updated Packaging Keeps Animal Crackers Out of the Soup

I had the distinct pleasure of working with Chris Tennyson at Hill & Knowlton at a time in history when H&K was considered the Tiffany’s of the PR universe. There was H&K, and then there was everyone else.

But, that was then and this is now.  

After leaving H&K in the mid-1980s, Chris went on to build a formidable career on both the corporate and agency sides of our business.

Today’s guest blog is excerpted from his upcoming book, “The Crisis Preparedness Quotient – Measuring Your Readiness to Weather a Reputational Storm.” 

The excerpt, just like the book itself, is a MUST read for anyone counseling a CCO, CMO or CEO. Enjoy!

This week the Nabisco division of Mondelez International unveiled a newsworthy packaging redesign of its Barnum’s Animals cookies. Since 1902, small boxes of America’s favorite brand of animal crackers have been adorned with images of circus animals caged in boxcars. Not anymore. The majestic lion, elephant, zebra, giraffe and gorilla on the updated packages now roam free.

Great move by Mondelez to keep an iconic brand in step with the times – and avoid a crisis.

In Chapter 3 of my book, The Crisis Preparedness Quotient – Measuring Your Company’s Readiness to Weather a Reputational Storm, I discuss nine common sources of crises. They all start with the letter “P”: people, products, priorities, policies, performance, politics, procrastination, privacy, and past. “Packaging” didn’t make the list, but I believe the Barnum’s Animals redesign provides an excellent example of a company knowing when it’s time to address a problematic “policy.”

According to an article in the August 21, 2018, USA Today (“Nabisco uncages its animal crackers after 116 years”), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals first called for a change in what they considered insensitive packaging back in April 2016. Commenting on the redesign, Modelez’s Chief Marketing Officer Jason Levine explained, “When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary.”

Good move. The new art in no way diminishes the appeal of the product (the brand’s distinctive yellow and red color palette and fun illustration style have been maintained to draw in customers of all ages). And the folks at PETA are happy. The group’s Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman confirmed, “PETA is celebrating this redesign.”

No shaming, no boycott, no crisis.

Smart policy updates should not be seen as any less heroic just because they were made in response to outside pressure. CVS discontinuing sale of all tobacco products, SeaWorld ending its controversial orca whale breeding program, and the Miss America organization’s elimination of the swim suit competition are examples of corporate decisions, generally well-received, influenced at least in part by looming reputational threats.

Timing is important. Slow response to changing mores contributed to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus folding its tent for good in 2016, just a year after begrudgingly announcing that it would phase out elephant acts. So, the responsive cookie brand survives, while the stubborn institution it was named after no longer exists.

There’s a valuable lesson in that scenario for marketers and communicators wanting to improve their crisis preparedness quotient.

*Animal Crackers in My Soup was a hit song performed by child star Shirley Temple in the 1935 film Curly Top (it’s probably not on your playlist).

Aug 21

A brand brave enough to embrace its weakness

Fact: The Cleveland Browns lost every single game last season. They hold the distinction of being one of the few NFL franchises to ever record such a dubious accomplishment.

Fact: Bud Light is one of three or four mega beer brands that routinely spends hundreds of millions of dollars to convince the NFL faithful to sip their suds while lounging on couches and channel surfing from one game to another.

Fact: The two organizations partnered to shine the spotlight on Cleveland’s horrific team AND create a brilliant, breakthrough campaign that has this blogger shaking his head and thinking, “How come I didn’t come up with something this smart and strategic?”

Then I remember that my personal and professional motto is: “Expect Less.” That comforting reminder enables me to de-stress.

But I digress.

In case you don’t want to read the article link, here’s the gist of the campaign:

If, and when, the Cleveland Browns win their first game of the season, free beer will be made available in multiple locations in the “Mistake by the Lake” thanks to Bud Light’s “Victory Fridges.”

The specialty-designed fridges, painted brown, chock full of Bud Light beer AND chained shut will be unlocked by smart technology as soon as the game ends.

The football team’s official Twitter site announced the campaign with the following: “You’ve stood by us through it all. We love you for it and so does @budlight.”

FYI, the chained fridges will open regardless of whether the Browns win at home or on the road.

Analyzing this campaign from a strategic communications standpoint, I feel compelled to point out the following:

  • This would NEVER have happened if the Browns hadn’t embraced their vulnerability. That tells me they have wise, humble ownership (a rare commodity in any business).
  • In one fell swoop, Bud Light outflanked every one of its competitors vying for market share in BrownTown. Critically, though, they also connected with NFL and beer fans alike by “rooting for the underdog.” I’m not a Browns fan and I don’t drink Bud Light, but you can bet your last glass of Sancerre that I will be closely following the Browns’ exploits and maybe, just maybe, will buy a six-pack of Bud Light to join the celebration.

The latter is called “consideration” by marketing types and it’s the currency of the realm. If ANY marketer can disrupt my typical buying (or viewing) pattern AND get me to consider their product in my selection process, then they’ve completed the sales equivalent of a Hail Mary pass.

I wish the Browns well, salute their willingness to embrace vulnerability and lift my wine glass to the brilliant marketers at Bud Light.

Aug 16

It’s Not a Matter of If, But When

In our tumultuous scandal-riddled, societal crises-driven landscape, organizational vulnerability has never been more fragile. And the role of the CCO/CMO has never been under greater stress.

But, for those who anticipate, plan, test and re-test the societal crisis response systems, the opportunity to rise above the fray and bring clarity to the fog of war has never been more readily available.

Ah, but one needs to know where to look, determine what constitutes a brand threat, assure your response will align with the organization’s higher purpose AND then decide if, how and when to respond.

I had the amazing opportunity to co-host an IPR-sponsored webinar (playback available next week) yesterday with Linda Rutherford, SVP and Chief Communications Officer of Southwest Airlines. We were simultaneously addressing the best practices IPR and Peppercomm, my firm, had gleaned from in-depth interviews with 50 leading CCO/CMOs.

I enumerated the top-line research findings (doing my best to intersperse such late-breaking crises as):

  • The war of words between POTUS and Harley-Davidson
  • The latest revelations about Roman Catholic Church priests running amok in Pennsylvania
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s baffling remark that, “America was never great.”

(Note: I made the editorial decision that the Donald/Omarosa nonsense didn’t warrant any more attention).

Linda went way above-and-beyond the call of duty to share the inner workings of SW’s iterative, rapid response model using such examples as the Texas Bathroom Bill to explain how each and every facet functioned.

Our central themes were two-fold:

  • The days of remaining silent as social crisis after social crisis unfolds outside your corner office are over.
  • The social issues crisis you overlook is the one that will put you on the front page of The New York Times faster than you can say Gail Collins.

To wit, we briefly addressed a recently-released list of 15 U. S. organizations with high-priced, long-term contracts with the controversial government agency I.C.E. (Think: separation of children from their parents along our country’s Southern borders).

To my knowledge, only two of the 15 have been savaged by internal constituents for “apparently” endorsing human misery. And only one has found itself a front-page story in the Times: Deloitte.

I have no idea if Thomson Reuters, Dell or the other mega players playing with I.C.E. (Or F.I.R.E., if you prefer), have issued statements clarifying why they continue their relationships but they better do so soon.

Any crisis counselor, whether old school or new, knows the best way to manage a highly politicized crisis is get out in front of it. Explain why you’re in bed with I.C.E.

Follow Deloitte’s lead in explaining that NONE of your contracts have anything whatsoever to do with separating children from parents or detaining the kids in medieval holding pens and double down on your higher purpose and guiding principles.

I hope yesterday’s webinar attendees grasped the immediacy of the situation and the need to overhaul whatever crisis plan their global agency may have created back in 2003. Those work plans are about as relevant as a Blackberry in today’s workplace.

If I need to scare you even more, consider this: the mid-term elections are just a few months away. If your organization is headquartered in a state holding Congressional elections, you better be prepared for employees (and, perhaps, board members) to insist your CEO speak up on everything from gun control and tariff wars to Russian hacking and NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

And, if you should happen to find yourself on the receiving end of a vicious attack by President Trump, you better have already decided whether to respond, if an employee and dealer-only e-mail a la Harley’s strategy is sufficient as well as how your multiple constituent audiences will respond.

It seems to me the days of sticking one’s head in the sand are gone with the wind (and trust me, when the wind hits your company, it will probably carry the wallop of a Force 5 Hurricane).

So, get thee prepared. Now!

Aug 13

Virginia Dandridge Stevenson

I loved Dandy Stevenson. And I deeply regret never having told her so while she was alive.

Dandy had been my executive assistant for 15 years, before being forced to retire and eventually succumbing to lung cancer this weekend.

But she was far, far more than my executive assistant.

Dandy was my biggest cheerleader. She was more excited than me when Mcgraw-Hill published my first (and only) book in 2003. And she would whoop it up with her North Carolinian shouts whenever I would win some type of recognition from one of the awards programs (or be named to a prestigious board).

But she wasn’t just there in the good times. Dandy would also bend over backwards to prop me up after an evil client had just fired us or a key employee walked out the door. “They’ll find out they made a mistake and come crawling back,” she’d predict. And she was right on more than one occasion.

Dandy not only felt like a member of the Peppercomm family; she felt like a member of the Cody family as well. She would never, ever hesitate to help my 97-year-old dad (who always referred to her as his “passion flower”). Dandy just adored him. For me, it was a don’t ask/don’t tell. And she would help Angie, Chris and Cat in a New York minute as well.

She grieved with me when I lost my mom as well as Mick, the best dog I ever had. And she rejoiced with me when Crain’s New York Business named Peppercomm the single best workplace in New York.

Dandy, along with Sir Clayton Fletcher, Maggie O’Neill, Deb Brown, Jackie Kolek, Ann Barlow and, perhaps, this blogger were instrumental in creating a workplace that Crain’s judges rated the very best among some 933 other NYC businesses. That remains the most important award my firm has won in its 23-year history.

If you stumble across the Crain’s article, you’ll see Dandy’s face smiling back at you. In fact, I can see her smiling back from the screen of my iPhone as I’m writing this.

Three final memories before I let my fellow Peppercommers share a few thoughts:

1.) Dandy took my Repman blog far more seriously than I did. And I cannot tell you how many heated arguments we had debating whether I had once again stepped over the line. I always respected Dandy’s intellect and sensitivities and, almost always, let her carry the day and spike the offending or self-aggrandizing blog.

2.) Dandy prided herself on being the note-taker for our twice-a-month staff meetings. And I must tell you, her reports were as unique as the woman herself. They were equal parts hysterical, insightful and, at times, baffling. But, boy, did Dandy love it when I would send her an e-mail afterwards telling her how beautifully she’d captured the spirit of the meeting.

3.) Dandy was tough as nails and beat the bejesus out of any incompetent, uncaring or abusive customer service representative. I often had to run over to her desk and ask her to lower her voice when she was in the midst of eviscerating some unsuspecting United Airlines ticket agent (I think Dandy hated United even more than me). Dandy feared no man (or woman). But she loved Mr. Coffee, her cat.

And now my colleagues will weigh-in:

“The world truly lost its sparkle yesterday.  Dandy was a light like no other, and the light that helped Peppercomm shine for so many years. She brought her own brand of NY sassiness coupled with southern charm and motherly care to Peppercomm’s offices each and every day.  She cared immensely, laughed wholeheartedly and embraced life in a way that I only hope I can.  The last time I saw Dandy we had a few too many lunchtime sparkling roses toasting memories, gossiping a bit and focusing on a commitment to life well lived.  Dandy told me to always take chances, don’t put things off until tomorrow and don’t ever settle.  The spirit she gave to Peppercomm and the impact she left with me will certainly live on.  I just hope I can pull it all off half as well as she did.”Maggie O’Neill, partner and managing director 

“It could be easy to forget that under Dandy’s impish demeanor lay a razor-sharp wit, one that we would get an occasional glimpse of when she wrote up the ‘minutes’ of our staff meetings. I think it was fair to say that we looked forward to her write-up more than the meetings themselves, much as we love to gather as a team. This wit, in turn, was only outdone by a remarkable level of thoughtfulness and empathy when you were hurting. When my dad was sick and then passed away at the end of last year, she couldn’t have been kinder, even though she was dealing with her own illness at the time. I’ll miss her more than I can say.”Ann Barlow, partner and managing director

“Dandy was truly one-of-a-kind and will be greatly missed.  No matter what you had going on in your life, how busy you were or how stressed you might be, the sight of Dandy would always bring a smile to your face.  Her pink raincoat, her orange shoes, her fluorescent green blouse, she was truly always the bright spot of the day.  I will miss her ripping her glasses off her face to give you the best expression of shock, glee or joy.  She was a physical comedian who did fantastic impressions (a certain gazelle will always be my favorite).  Dandy embodied the true spirit of Peppercomm by not only working hard, but playing harder.  She was more than a colleague, she was family.  Even when her own health was deteriorating, she never failed to ask after your parents, spouse, children or pets.  She will live on in our hearts and we’ll be telling stories of the Danderoo for generations of Peppercommers to come.” Jacqueline Kolek, partner and managing director 

“There are so many beautiful and warm and wonderful things to say about Dandy. But one that I’ll always cherish is how she always genuinely cared so much about others and put others first. I will miss her dearly.”Deborah Brown, partner and managing director 

“I am not sure words will ever be able to capture the woman that Dandy Stevenson was to all of us. A pillar of the Peppercomm family. She cared about us fiercely and loved us individually. A woman who embraced and welcomed me from day one and kept me laughing each subsequent day. She kept us in line when needed but also egged us on and joined in on our fun. I will always remember her helping a few of us prank Steve by filling his closet with plastic ball-pit balls while he was in London so he would return to an unexpected shower when reaching in for a rain jacket. She was the absolute life of the party who lived her best life and it was a honor not only working beside her, but getting to know her. She will be greatly missed, but a piece of her lives on with each of us Peppercommers. We are better for having known her.” – Samantha Bruno, former manager of client relationships 

“She was always the most thoughtful person! No matter what was going on with her, she took the time to ask what’s new in your world. Every time I ever spoke to her, I knew she was really listening. She loved to laugh and I loved to make her laugh, too. R.I.P.”Clayton Fletcher, Comedian 

Aug 01

You’re Fired!

I’m impressed by the actions of Fallon, Olson Engage and Initiative to step up, stand out and fire their client Papa John’s in the aftermath of the N-word controversy.

Skeptics could argue that, by firing Papa John’s, each agency will now attract new, and more reputable, clients as a result. One could also surmise such a move will motivate existing employees to stay put while attracting recruits with a desire to work for an agency with ethics.

Perhaps.

But I can tell you as an owner of a 22-year-old firm, it’s very tough to walk away from guaranteed billings. Very tough indeed.

Setting aside higher purpose for a moment, the owners of Fallon, Olson Engage and Initiative also have a payroll to meet. And, that’s when an entrepreneur has to stop and think about the implications of firing a quasi blue-chip client like Papa John’s.

Sure, your Millennials will love telling their peers you did the right thing, and they work for an agency that places ethics above profits. And, in your mind, you HAVE done the right thing.

But then your CFO strolls into your office and says, “I truly respect your decision to deep-six Papa John’s, but it’s put us in a real bind. We either reconsider or reduce our workforce by 10 percent or put an indefinite freeze on raises and bonuses.”

And that, my friend, is why it’s so lonely at the top.

I’ve fired quite a few clients during my tenure as Peppercomm’s CEO. But, none were a result of what I’d call a societal crisis a la Papa John’s N word debacle.

I’ve deep-sixed clients because:

– They were beyond abusive to our account teams (I’d rather keep good people than uncouth clients).

– They poached a key employee without first extending the courtesy of asking my permission (a clear breach of ANY client-agency letter of agreement).

– They were actively interviewing other agencies while we were under contract and none the wiser to their Machiavellian machinations.

– They demanded too much for too little.

Having the spine to fire a client sends a strong message to one’s employees and reinforces the organization’s higher purpose. But, it’s a decision that carries serious financial implications as well (which I doubt the average account manager appreciates).

Firing Papa John’s would have been a no-brainer for me (regardless of the billings).

It’s the gray areas that keep turning what little hair I have left even grayer.