Sep 15

I have some good news and some bad news

Your name is Julian Green. You had been director of media relations for CoorsMiller. 

The good news: You've just landed a new gig as VP of communications and community affairs for the Chicago Cubs.

The bad news: You've just landed a new gig as VP of communications and community affairs for the Chicago Cubs.

GravestoneFor those of you may not know, the beloved Cubbies are major league baseball's biggest losers. They hold the record for going the most years without winning a World Series… 103 years!

In fact, the last time the Cubs won the series, Teddy Roosevelt was president, the HMS Titanic had yet to be built and Betty White had just begun dating (only kidding with the last one).

Don't get me wrong. Any gig with a major league baseball team has to be a complete gas. But, the Cubs? They're so bad they even make my lamentable Mets seem respectable in comparison. They're such a disaster they make the BP oil spill seem like a small leak. Collectively, the franchise has disappointed more fans over the decades than the combined populations of China and India.

So, how'd you like to be responsible for managing their image and reputation? In my opinion, Mr. Green has one of two options:

– He follows the lead of legendary ad man, Jerry Della Femina who, in attempt to attract fans to see the woeful Mets of the late 1970s and early '80s, ran a campaign entitled, 'The magic is back'. But, it wasn't. Not by a long shot. In fact, the only magic at Shea Stadium was seeing fewer and fewer fans each and every losing season.

– He embraces the franchise's futility with a campaign entitled, ‘A century's worth of heartaches’. Green holds contests asking Cubs fans to submit stories telling how, say, the '69 Cubs broke their hearts by blowing a nine game lead to the Miracle Mets. Others could wax poetic about the '84 Cubs collapse in the NLCS to an incredibly weak San Diego Padres team. Or, how about the infamous game in 2003 when, just five outs away from an NLCS championship, a Cubs fan reached out, snatched a sure out away from a Cubbie outfielder and the team went on to blow the series? Green's got a treasure trove of ineptness with which to work.

Whatever marketing path he should chose, I do wish Mr. Green and his beloved Cubs all the luck in the world. But, I suggest he load up on a season's worth of Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol and a scrip for some Xanax as well. Something tells me the Cubs have another century or two to go before winning another World Series trophy.

Jun 14

Good-bye to you

Ever happen to hear an old song that not only evokes a frozen moment in time, but also perfectly expresses your current feelings about a person, place or thing? No? Well, I have.

It just happened this past Saturday as I was working out in the gym at our corporate apartment. Having forgotten my trusty iPod, I was forced to listen to the gym's music, which was blasting out a VH1 'Remembering the '80s' mix. That's when I heard Patty Smyth and Scandal belt out their memorable “Good-bye To You”.

 

Note: In addition to being head-over-heels in love with the then 25-year-old Smyth (not to be confused with the cadaverous Patti Smith), I always loved her independent, free-wheeling interpretation of the lyrics (and thought it perfectly captured my own wayward bachelor's POV on life and love at the time).

As I listened to it again for the first time in a quarter century, though, I realized the song also nailed my current feelings for the New York Mets. (I'm neither pleased nor embarrassed to say I've yet to watch a single half-inning of Mets baseball this entire season. They bore me.) And, that's what the song's lyrics capture:

These last few weeks (years)of holding on, the days are dull, the nights are long, guess it's better to say, good-bye to you

I've said good-bye to the Mets once before— right after they traded away Tom Seaver and before they began building the great '86 championship team.

I think it's ok to walk away from a person, place or thing if, like the Mets, they're causing too much psychic or physical damage. I've abandoned other 'things', including:

– All American-made cars
– Devil Dogs (after 30 years, I still consider myself a recovering Devil Dogaholic)
– The Roman Catholic faith
– TV sitcoms (minus 'Curb', 'Seinfeld' and 'The Office')
– TV reality shows (minus 'Mob Wives' 'I Shouldn't Be Alive' and 'Intervention')
– Attending any event in the Meadowlands (traffic, noise and hooliganism trump any upsides)
– Working for a holding company PR firm (life's far too short to have to deal with the internal politics, bureaucracy and shark-infested waters).

I may say hello to the Mets sometime in the future. I have before.

In fact, I imagine they'll one day reach out to me with an unexpected e-mail entitled, “Hi, do you remember me?” And, like a jilted lover, I'll respond tentatively with a, “Um, yes, I remember. You broke my heart.” And, the Mets will suggest getting together again over a drink. And, sucker that I am, I'll agree. And, then I'll be hooked.

But until then, I'll heed Patty Smyth's final lyrics and tell the Mets, “Good-bye baby. So long darling. Good-bye to you!”

 

Feb 23

Wretched excess

I sometimes shake my head in wonder at how utterly detached from everyday reality our role Article-0-0D4F3118000005DC-11_634x381 models have become.

Take the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter. Please. I think the Yankees would like another team to take the aging superstar off their hands. In addition to his eroding, on-the-field skill set, Jeter just brought himself and the Yankees some very unnecessary publicity with the construction of a 30,875-ft palatial estate in Tampa which neighbors are calling “St. Jetersburg”. Yankees fans may be struggling to make ends meet, but their captain has built himself a Vatican City-sized enclave that serves to only further illustrate the increasing gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ in the America of 2011.

At the same time, at least one Major League Baseball general manager is finally stepping up to the plate and drawing a line in the sand (infield dirt?). Kenny Williams of the Chicago White Sox described talk of $30 million-a-year ballplayers as “asinine” and said he'd support a work stoppage to bring fiscal sanity back to baseball. Good. Someone has to stop the ever-escalating madness. Compensation for major league sports stars is way out of line, especially in the midst of a continued weak economy and nine percent unemployment.

Then again, why should Derek Jeter care what the great, unwashed masses think? And why should St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols think twice about demanding the equivalent of the gross national product of a small Caribbean nation when negotiating his next contract?

I once worked for a semi-delusional CEO who kept predicting a secular crisis between the haves and have nots. I don't think we'll be seeing an Egyptian or Libyan-type insurrection anytime soon in America. But, I do think what we're seeing in Wisconsin and other states is an indirect backlash at the wretched excess of detached, uncaring and pampered superstars like Derek Jeter who think they deserve to live in mansions that would make King Louis XIV of France green with envy.

Where will it all end?

Jan 12

A day like any other day? Not quite

1969-ny-daily-news-jan-320January 12th is just another day for everyone in the world. Everyone that is, except for New York  Jets fans.

That’s because it was Sunday, January 12, 1969, that the New York Jets won their one, and only, Super Bowl. It was a magic day that remains to Jets fans near and far, and young and old, a Camelot-like ‘brief, shining moment.’ It was also a major image and reputation moment for the old American Football League since, by winning the game, the AFL’s Jets brought instant credibility to the junior league and expedited an eventual merger.

Since 1969, though, each January 12th has been little more than a drab, early winter day to me and every other member of Gang Green. Will this January 12th be remembered differently? Will it be recalled as a midpoint on the way to a second Jets Super Bowl victory? I sincerely doubt it. But, hope springs eternal for Jets fans and this year’s team is certainly talented, if inconsistent.

So, here’s hoping that today’s otherwise utterly mundane, forgettable date is, instead, a key milestone along the road to a second trip to the Promised Land for Jets fans.

Dec 15

The best possible preparation for a career in PR? Being a Mets and Jets fan

A Tip o' RepMan's cap to Sir Edward Moed for this idea.

 Forget about four years of undergraduate study at Syracuse, Northeastern or The College of  Charleston. And, don't stress about landing world-class internships at say, Ketchum, Coyne or Airfoil. If you really want to succeed at public relations, just adopt the New York Mets and Jets as your teams of choice.

2008_12_jetsdolphinsfans 300_thank-god

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's why: rooting for the Mets and Jets perfectly parallels a career in PR. Both the Mets and Jets were built to disappoint their fans. Cheering for them toughens one up, opens one's mind to the harsh realities of the world in which we live and teaches one to bounce back from the most devastating of failures.

Think about it. PR is rife with ups and downs. And, like the 1969 World Series and Super Bowl victories by the Mets and Jets, respectively, the highs in PR can rival a long hit of crystal meth (that's anecdotal evidence, BTW). But, the unexplained client firings, the unwarranted editorial 'thumbs down' from PR Week's Keith O'Brian in 2006 and the countless serial prospects who pick your mind clean of ideas and then leave you hanging, can transform a Charlie Chuckle to a Debbie Downer in a heartbeat. And, those heartbreaks beautifully mirror the average Mets and Jets' seasons.

Rooting for the Mets and Jets is superb training for PR. I do not exaggerate when I say the resiliency that comes along with being a long-suffering Mets/Jets fan has made me a better public relations executive. I'm able to maintain a steady keel when others tend to panic. I treat small wins for what they are and don't allow myself to hop on the roller coaster ride that is the average day, week, month or year in PR.

I thank the Mets and Jets for toughening me up. That thick skin has served me well for years of 100 percent growth and 20 percent decline. It's also made me increasingly philosophical as I watched an over-achieving 2010 Mets team peak this past June before plummeting in July. And, it's been an invaluable asset as I've winced in pain as the once high-riding, trash-talking 2010 Jets have crash landed in a particularly ugly way.

So, do you want to succeed in PR? Switch your team allegiances now. You'll hate the decades of losing, but you'll thank me one day for the lessons in stoicism you've learned along the way.


Oct 26

A Yankees’ Postmortem

Today's guest blog is authored by Peppercom receptionist, raconteur and all-around good guy, Ray Carroll.

The World Series matchup has been set. And, while the average Yankees fans is mourning the team’s unexpected playoff exit, many are somewhat oblivious to three much larger loses.  This past season, a tyrannical boss, a legendary stadium voice, and an unofficial team mascot all relocated to the field of dreams in the sky.  Revered by many (and, in the boss’s case, despised by even more), the trio’s starkly contrasting personalities made each a Big Apple institution. 

Temporarily curbing my preference for the Mets’ blue and orange, and as a lifelong fan of our national pastime and the city itself, I feel compelled to pay homage and commemorate the lives of the ‘Pinstripe Three’.

The first is, of course, George Michael Steinbrenner III. As everyone knows, ‘the boss’ was a maniacal owner and domineering sports figure whose antics will never be duplicated.  His intensity and single-minded focus on winning resulted in adoration and hatred alike.  A curt and shrewd businessman, GMS was who he was. He held no punches even as his image plummeted.

GSM pic 1I’m interested to see if his surviving family members (most notably, son, Hank) can extend the winning tradition that George had returned to the franchise (note: prior to the boss becoming owner, the Yankees had languished for many years as an also-ran).  I give the Texas Rangers credit for superior hitting and outplaying the Yank in their just-concluded American League Championship Series. But, after witnessing owner Nolan Ryan’s laughter as his Rangers catapulted towards victory in the 9th inning of Game 4, I wondered how GMS would have reacted. One thing’s for sure. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

GSM pic 2 Praised and loathed by fans, George’s achievements are undeniable. His distinguished vision for success boasts seven World Series rings and the creation of Yankee Global Enterprises, LLC.  By departing the scene in 2010, the cagey businessman neatly dodged some serious estate taxes, saving his family one-half billion dollars.

The second great Yankees loss this past year came with the passing of Bob Sheppard. Sheppard was the orator’s orator who emulated the voice of god and exemplified 

1BobSheppard elegance from a century past.  For five-plus decades, he’d been the unforgettable stadium voice for the Yankees & New York’s football Giants alike (note: the Giants had played all of their home games at Yankee Stadium prior to the creation of Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands of New Jersey). Sheppard’s pronunciation was perfect and his elocution expressed pure class.   

 In fact, opposing players eagerly anticipated hearing their names introduced with Sheppard’s remarkable diction.  In an interview, Sheppard said he focused on the Three C’s: “clear, concise, and correct” – an outlook shared with PR.   Watch Bob remark on his time-honored career here.

Last, but certainly , not least, is Freddy Schuman (a.k.a. Freddy Sez). Unlike Steinbrenner or Sheppard, Schuman was a humble man who graced Yankees home games with a witty sign, spoon and shamrock clad pan.  His moniker derived from the signs he created for each and every game.  Freddy was a fixture at the stadium, and brought a great deal of joy to the other faithful in the stands.  As a matter of fact, Freddy rarely, if ever, missed a game. As sure as the Yanks’ were outfitted in pinstripes, so, too, was Freddy with his paraphernalia.

1FreddySez For two decades, Freddy was not only seen at every home game and championship parade, but also as an unofficial ambassador at the St. Patrick’s Day Parades (see: House of Pain’s Jump Around video – 3:34 mark). He also cheered local university basketball games and even starred in Nike commercial (here at 0:52 mark).  Freddy Sez was a living asset to the stadium. His memory was honored prior to ALCS Game 3, and his name and image illuminated on the center field scoreboard. 

The Yankees will pursue their 28th championship next season. But, they’ll have to do so without “The Boss”, “the Voice”, and “Freddy Sez”. For me, though, they’ll always live on as three of the New York’s sports scene’s most memorable and charismatic characters.

I’m confident the Yankees will be in contention next season, but will a loss of non-athletic influencers affect their team culture?  Will they absorb the multiple losses or begin a long downward spiral of soul searching?  What are your thoughts?  How do you think Steinbrenner, Sheppard and Freddy Sez stack up against some of New York’s other legendary sports figures of past eras?

 

Sep 15

Yet another September to (not) remember

As a long-suffering Mets and Jets fan, I'm agonizing through yet another painful month of  MetstoJetsFrame September. But, as a communications professional, I'm fascinated by the starkly different communications strategies taken by each squad.

Let's begin with the hapless Metropolitans. After three or four seasons in a row in which they claimed to be the National League's best team (but weren't), the 2010 Mets' communications plan was decidedly low key.  I distinctly recall outfielder Jeff Francoeur being quoted during Spring Training and saying something to the effect, “We really like the balance on this team. And, we also really like being underestimated by the experts. Some are even saying we'll finish as low as fourth place. Ha. We'll see,” he said with a smile. Well, guess what? The Mets are indeed mired in fourth place and Francouer is gone with the wind, having been traded to the Texas Rangers.

Now, let's turn to the hapless Jets. Led by head coach Rex Ryan and coming off a surprising run to the AFC championship game last season, the Jets have been bold and brash, predicting nothing less than a Super Bowl victory. Their trash-talking swagger was brilliantly captured by HBO's 'Hard Knocks' series and further exacerbated by countless articles quoting Ryan and others as saying that anything less than a Super Bowl win would be considered a failure.

Well, the offense failed badly in Monday night's season opener and the brashness and bravado went darker than a coal mine collapse in Chile. Further undermining the 'image' of these new, Super Bowl-bound Jets was a weekend story about player harassment of a female Mexican sportscaster.

It seems to me a communication strategy should be based upon facts and results, not projections of what might be. We sometimes come to verbal blows with clients in media training sessions over this very issue. They want to talk about soon being masters of the universe in their particular field. We push back, knowing a jaded media will laugh at such hyperbole.

It's a shame sports teams don't provide better counseling to coaches and players about messaging that sets false expectations. Naturally, there's a need to generate fan excitement and sell tickets but, at least with the Mets and Jets, the communications strategies seem to always parallel the end result. Whether it's a “…You just wait and see” or “…We're on a one-way ride to the Super Bowl,” neither team seems able to deliver on its communications strategy (or win a championship, for that matter).

Jul 29

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Today's guest post is by Greg Schmalz, President, Schmalz Communications

National Football League training camps open this week and six weeks from tomorrow 
American-football-2
(Thursday,  Sept. 9) Minnesota and the Saints square off in New Orleans in a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game won by the eventual Super Bowl champion Black & Gold.

All eyes will be on Minnesota as there are a lot of questions surrounding the Vikings. Will running back Adrian Peterson hold out in a contract dispute? Will veteran quarterback Brett Favre return for yet another season?

Methinks that Peterson will report to training camp and Favre will play once again. He hasn’t ruled it out to this point and I doubt he would leave the team hanging. Then, again, it’s Brett Favre. He could show up in camp in late August and still be ready for the regular season opener.

The oppressive heat will once again be a major concern during training camps. It was nine years ago that Minnesota All-Pro offensive tackle Korey Stringer collapsed on the field and subsequently died from complications brought on by heat stroke. Athletic trainers will be tasked with keeping players and all personnel properly hydrated.

Then, of course, you have the RepMan’s beloved New York Jets. Despite finishing 9-7 during the regular season, the Jets showed some spark in the playoffs with road wins at Cincinnati and San Diego before losing to Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game.

A new coach and a new quarterback helped the Jets make some strides last season. Rex Ryan built an aggressive defense and limited rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez’ passing attempts. Rather conservative, but it worked.

What’s on the horizon for 2010? A new stadium that the Jets will again share with the Giants. But they’ll face a tougher schedule this season and they will have to open up the passing game that ranked next to last a year ago if they are going to be successful.

May want to enjoy it while you can, RepMan, because there’s a better than even chance that the players will strike next season as they struggle to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The issues between the players union and the owners aren’t about money. It’s all about greed.
 
 
 

Jul 20

Who needs talent when you have teamwork?

Sitcom impresario Jerry Seinfeld paid a recent visit to the New York Mets broadcasting booth to
Jerry_seinfeld discuss everything from Keith Hernandez's legendary guest appearance on 'Seinfeld' to Lady Gaga's typically gross behavior at a recent Mets game.

Jerry told the viewing audience that he was really impressed with the 2010 Mets. In fact, he predicted they had what it takes to go all the way to the World Series this year. Jerry turned to Keith, and asked Hernandez what he thought. “Well,” Keith stammered. “They have a lot of heart, but the 2006 team had more talent.” To which Seinfeld responded, “Who needs talent when you have teamwork?"

As it turns out, you need both. And, as recent weeks have painfully shown, the Mets are mighty short on talent. To wit:

– They have an over achieving pitching corps that is now being chewed up by competitors.
– They have a less than formidable closer who is now being chewed up by competitors.
– They have an injury-prone shortstop/lead-off man who always seems to spend more time on the injury list than on the field.
– They have two outfielders who, in the grand tradition of Jim Fregosi, George Foster, Bobby Bonilla and Mo Vaughn, are clearly past their prime (read: over-the-hill).
– They have a general manager who makes all the wrong moves and should have been fired last season.

That said, the 2010 Mets do seem to pull together and support one another when the chips are down. But, that's not enough.

Teamwork alone isn't enough in business either. We need talented people who can strategize, write well, doggedly pursue the media and be creative when they hit stone walls. It's important that they get along and be supportive, but 'team' without talent gets you only so far.

The Mets are finding that out as we speak. They've lost four straight series and were crucified last night by the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. Jerry Seinfeld knows humor, but he doesn't know baseball. Talent is just as important as teamwork.

Jul 14

A different type of pitch for this PR guy

Pictures 060 Thanks to freelance publicist extraordinaire Greg Schmalz, this blogger had the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at last Friday night's Lakewood BlueClaws game.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to a guy who grew up loving all things baseball, it was huge. I'd even call it a bucket list kind of thing.

It was unbelievably cool to take the mound in front of 7,200 fans (most of whom had naturally turned out to see the heralded RepMan's pitching debut). And, I need to thank Tommy Powers, the David Clyde of credit unions, for warming me up prior to my big moment.

Once given the ball, I'm pleased to report that I grooved a high, hard one right down Broadway and smack into the catcher's mitt. In fact, I think I spied a feint puff of dust explode from his mitt as a result of the ball's impact. And, like a crack addict, once I'd thrown one pitch, I needed to throw more. Lots more. I was ready to toss seven or eight strong innings had the BlueClaws felt the need to call upon the skills of a crafty, veteran lefty. Alas, no such summons was forthcoming and I dutifully returned to my seat in the stands.

Now that I've thrown out the first pitch in a professional baseball game, I need to move on to new, and even cooler, challenges. Maybe Sir Paul McCartney needs a stand-up comedian to open for him on his next tour? Maybe not.