Mar 01

Attitude, Arrogance and A-Rod

Attitude, arrogance and A-Rod seem to go together like soup and sandwich or love and marriage.

Why do so many uber athletes like A-Rod, Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong not only cheat, but maintain an aloof, arrogant attitude that alienates millions while doing a major number on their image and reputation?

In our never-ending quest to seek answers to such weighty questions, we turned on our RepChatter microphones and invited Wayne G. McDonnell, Jr, a clinical associate professor at NYU’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management to show us the way.

Click on the link below to listen to one of the coolest podcasts we’ve recorded in a long, long time. And you MUST listen to Peppercommer Paul Merchan’s Rap introduction of the recording. Unlike A-Rod’s reputation, it’s priceless…..


Sep 05


Inspired by the recent story of a Wall Street Journal researcher who Tweeted a marriage proposal to his West Coast-based girlfriend we decided to ask soon-to-be-married Peppercom women to share their engagement stories with us.

In addition to being creative and funny, some of the Peppercom proposal stories were downright poignant. (Lia LoBello went through an entire box of tissues in retelling how her fiancé finally popped the marriage question after a seven-year waiting period.)

Co-host Deb Kleur-Brown-Kleur and yours truly pulled no punches in uncovering such other gems as whether:

  • The beau dropped to one knee to pop the big question.
  • The big moment came as a complete surprise or was more predictable than Paul Ryan’s Republican Convention speech.
  • It went down in a public or private setting.
    – The big lug first asked the girl’s father’s permission (I did, for the record).

The big takeaway was the ladies’ anti-Jumbotron sentiments. Single Peppercom girls DO NOT want to be asked for their hand in marriage in front of 60,000 Yankees fans. And, neither would I, for that matter. I’d much prefer the intimacy of CitiField. In fact, I’ll bet the 500 or so die-hard Mets fans who still attend games would have hung on my every word (and, been able to hear them in the far reaches of the upper-deck bleachers without any amplification!).

Anyway, please click on the link and listen. Whether you’re a guy in search of creative ways to pop the question, a young woman who’s been waiting forever for that special someone to drop to one knee or, like me, already sizing up the future, fifth ex-Mrs. Cody and wondering if the act of proposing has anything to do with the marriage’s future success, you’ll find something for everyone. And, just wait until you hear poor Deb’s proposal story. You’ll need to ask Lia for an extra box of tissues to just get through it…


Aug 01

Delta: Still Has a Long Way to Climb

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog,

Delta-new-storageRecently, my husband and I decided to fly Delta from New York City to Prague for vacation. We don’t particularly like Delta, or any airline for that matter.  But Delta was the only one that had a nonstop flight available for the day we wanted to leave.  So, Delta it was.

When we arrived at the Delta terminal in New York, it was clear to me why airlines have such bad reputations.  They don’t even try to understand logic nor do they understand the definition of customer service. We only had one bag to check.  One bag per person is free unless, of course, it goes over the weight limit.  Our bag went over, but we only checked one bag, not two. 

So, here’s where the logic – or lack thereof – came into play.  The representative at the counter charged us $100 since it went over by a few pounds.  But, I tried to explain that if I took those few pounds out and put them in a second bag, which we were allowed, then both bags would be free. She agreed.  But, it didn’t matter, the extra pounds were in the one bag.  But, if the same amount of pounds is in one bag or two, does it matter?  It’s still the same amount of weight on the plane.  She couldn’t grasp that logic and insisted we pay the $100 or we’d fly to Prague without our clothes. 

Of course, our lovely experience didn’t stop there.  After everyone boarded the plane and we were ready to go, the flight attendants said we’d have a little delay. Apparently, when the plane landed a couple of hours earlier, they realized that none of the six toilets on board were working.  I don’t know at what point they realized that for the previous passengers, but that’s another story.

We had to sit at the gate for an hour-and-a-half until they were able to finally fix four of the six toilets.  But, again, if you think about this logically, if they knew there was a problem ahead of time, why did they board everyone?  Shouldn’t they have fixed the problem first?  What was Delta’s backup plan if the toilets couldn’t be fixed and would just…well…back up?  Was their plan to fly and tell us just to hold it in for 8 hours?

We eventually took off, and, of course, neither the reading lights nor the entertainment system worked for the entire flight.  That was minor when you think about how much worse it could have been without working toilets.  But, hey, shouldn’t we at least get something back since the airline didn’t deliver on what it promised – maybe, let’s say, the $100?

In case you haven’t noticed, Delta’s new company slogan is “Keep Climbing.”  On one hand, that fits since they have a long way to climb.  On the other hand, as their brand promise, if Delta is claiming they’ll enable passengers to keep climbing, they failed.  In my case, the tagline doesn’t ring true.  Not only didn’t we climb, but we came to a screeching halt and fell off the cliff. 

Thank goodness that didn’t happen in the air.

It must be difficult for Delta to find a slogan that rings true.  For example, over the years, they’ve had:
•    Delta Gets You There With Care (1984-1987):  Hmmm…maybe with Care…but with no lights, no entertainment and, almost…no toilets.
•    We Love to Fly and It Shows (September 1987):  It doesn’t show.  And, you may love to fly but we, the passengers, are fed up.
•    Ready When You Are (ca. 1992):  No you’re not. We were ready and you kept us waiting as you figured out how to fix the toilets. 

Instead of “Keep Climbing,” Delta may want to consider this tagline:  Delta…just be glad you get to your destination in one piece.  Nothing else should matter to you. So, leave us alone. 

I realize it’s long and not very catchy.  But, it does ring true.

Share some of your airline experiences with us.  Do you believe the airlines can change or is it a lost cause?

Jun 01

No Soda with Your Donuts!

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog,

Image_jonessoda_2007_holiday_chanukahpack_jellydoughnut_bottle1How is it possible for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to say, yesterday, that he wants to ban the sale of any sugared soda larger than 16 ounces and, in practically the next breath, say that New York City supports National Donut Day?!   Bloomberg is obviously a smart man; after all, he built his own empire from the ground up.  Yet, how can he not see this as a HUGE public relations gaffe – not to mention he just undermined his own reputation as the Mayor trying to create a healthier New York. 

Bloomberg claims that he wants to take away New Yorkers’ choice to drink over 16 ounces at a time, yet is happy to support the fact that the sugared, fried treat will be given away to New Yorkers today.   According to a report on WNBC-TV this morning, one donut has more sugar and calories than a bottle of soda (It looked like a 12-ounce bottle that the reporter held up).  

Whether you agree or not with the Mayor on the soft drink ban issue is irrelevant.  The issue is that you simply cannot say one food group is bad for you and causes obesity while another food group, which appears to have even more calories and sugar, is fine to stuff in your mouth. 

Yet, for New Yorkers who believe that we have every right to decide what we want to eat and when, this gaffe actually comes as a blessing.  How is it possible to take the Mayor seriously about his proposed ban on sugared drinks when he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth? 

When a reporter asked Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs about the mixed messages, she stated, “The work of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reflects the mayor’s public health agenda. The celebratory events, the naming days in honor of individuals or items, or frivolities that are fun and [bring] exceptional joy are quite distinct from a public health agenda."

Really?  Come on Ms. Gibbs.  We weren’t born yesterday.  Your comment is definitely too hard to swallow.

So, if you want to eat a box…or two…of donuts today…or any day…that’s fine.  Just make sure the soda you drink with it is under 16 ounces.  Or better yet, save a few calories and drink a diet soda.

Apr 25

You Can’t Be Angry at Someone Who Makes You Laugh

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog,

300px-Happy-birds What’s one of the best ways to diffuse anger?  Humor!  We prefer to say comedy, but according to Michael H. Smith, Ph.D., humor creates an unexpected response that can change an angry situation into a productive one.   The reason we, at Peppercom, prefer comedy is because, in the words of our great Chief Comedy Officer, Clayton Fletcher, humor makes you smile and comedy makes you laugh.

In addition, Smith talks about the importance of self-deprecating humor and how it can turn an argument into a calmer discussion.  “It’s safest to laugh at yourself. Even if you don’t believe you’re at fault, a funny, self-deprecating remark can reduce tension.”

This is why comedy (or humor) is so important in the workplace.  When employees are under a lot of stress, it’s very easy for one person to lash out at or start an argument with a colleague.  Yet, saying something unexpected that is also funny can quickly diffuse the situation.  After all, if you laugh at something someone says, it’s almost impossible to remain angry at that person.

But, organizations need to think about incorporating comedy on an ongoing basis in order to create a good workplace that consistently demonstrates respect for one another and understands how to handle stress.  Comedy will never eliminate tension from an office, but it will help employees deal with it in the right way and improve overall morale. 

Comedy has to become part of the workplace’s DNA so that it becomes second nature to the employees.  And, I don’t mean telling jokes at the water cooler every morning.  When you incorporate comedy into the workplace, you learn how comedic skills translate to business skills.  And, when comedy becomes part of the culture, the way employees deal with stress completely changes. 

When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel good. When you feel good, you can’t be angry.

My boss, RepMan Steve Cody, reminded me of a story he heard from public relations executive Howard Rubenstein at a conference.  He and one of his account teams were in a very tense discussion with a client.  The client was yelling that he deserved to be on the cover of BusinessWeek and it was the agency’s team’s fault for not making it happen. Rubenstein leaned back in his chair, pulled out a toy gun, slid it across the table and said, “You want to be on the cover of BusinessWeek?  Here, go shoot someone.  We’ll get you on the cover.”  After a second, the client laughed out loud and the tension was relieved.

Have you ever diffused a bad situation by making someone laugh?  Has anyone done that to you?  How did it make you feel?

Apr 16

What’s in the Black Box?

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog,

Boxes1 Last week, one of my colleagues and I sat in on a webinar about measurement in public relations.  We were curious as to what the speakers had to say, especially since we have our own proprietary measurement program at Peppercom called Business Outcomes.  The webinar included one of the large PR firms talking about the industry and discussing their measurement program and best practices.  Also included was an executive from a major corporation who talked about a recent campaign.

After hearing the speakers, it’s clear that a) nothing seems to have changed when it comes to measurement in public relations and b) the measurement everyone is still talking about is elementary. 

One comment, in particular, jumped out at us.  The woman from the large PR firm said, “We’re challenged by clients all the time when they ask ‘Where did you get the number?’”  This was brought up as the discussion centered around Big Data.  How do we effectively measure when there’s an overwhelming amount of data? 

The speakers talked about how big data –unstructured data – is put into an unknown black box that generates some mysterious analytic. This is the number that clients are questioning. 

Clients should never have to ask that question, and ours never do.  Or, if they do ask, it’s never a challenge.  It’s always an easy explanation. The reason is that we have complete transparency in our system and we focus on what the client wants measured.

The other major takeaway was how topline or superficial measurement in PR still is.  Our system is anything but.  Yes, we can show topline information and holistically look at the account. But, we can also dig deep and show, on a granular level, where there may be an issue with a campaign and how to fix it, as opposed to aborting the campaign.

So, how is our measurement system different from what we’re seeing in the industry to date?
•    It’s completely tailored for the client’s definition of success – it’s not a one size fits all.
•    It’s  able to tell clients, very specifically, what is working or not working with a campaign.
•    It’s able to show multiple correlations among various data points.
•    It’s extremely flexible and can measure any type of data that is important to a client.
•    We show our clients exactly what is being measured and how.  There are no secrets.

If this webinar truly represents the PR industry, then it’s clear that the industry hasn’t made much progress at all on measurement. 

On the flip side, if this webinar truly represents the PR industry, then it’s clear that there’s a difference in Peppercom’s Business Outcomes program – a truly measurable one.

Apr 02

Slime By Any Other Name…

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog,

BeefThe pink slime crisis for the beef industry has certainly been an interesting one to watch, especially in terms of the industry’s reputation and transparency (or lack thereof).  Those for eliminating the pink slime from ground beef are concerned that the filler, once used for dog food, is now being consumed by humans, especially since it’s sprayed with ammonia.  Those in favor believe that it’s safe, keeps beef prices in check and saves 1.5 million cows per year from being slaughtered.

For years, the beef industry has been calling the pink slime “lean, finely textured beef,” which certainly sounds better than the “pink slime” phrase coined by US Department of Agriculture scientist Gerald Zirnstein in a 2002 email.

What caught the beef industry by surprise, and what shouldn’t have, was the fact that social media, combined with a report from ABC-TV, emotionally grabbed the public and put consumers into action. 

Just as one young woman fought Bank of America over a monthly five dollar fee with an online petition, a Texas mom and blogger quickly sprang into action, collecting more than 200,000 signatures in nine days, asking the USDA to remove the pink slime from school cafeterias.  It also came to light that McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell no longer use hamburger meat laced with ammonia and pink slime. These major brands, of course, add a lot of weight to the opponents’ argument.  After all, if the “kings” of fast-food beef refuse to sell it to the public, then how could we possibly allow our children to consume this in school or purchase the slime in supermarkets?

One quote that jumped out at me in the articles was from USDA spokesperson Mike Jarvis who said, “We think it’s a safe product.”  The operative word here is “think.”  Thinking a product is safe and knowing a product is safe are two different things.

The beef industry has “herd” the cry from consumers loud and clear.  And, here are three things that they need to learn moving forward:
1) Calling something by a different name doesn’t make it any healthier or safer.  The filler is still disgusting.
2) Don’t ever underestimate the power of social media and consumers.
3) Remember….every word and message counts.  Saying “think” instead of “know” leaves the door wide open to scrutiny.

I don’t eat much meat to start with.  But, if I decide to order pasta with meatballs, I’ll make sure to tell the waiter to hold the slime and the ammonia. 

Feb 21

Be Careful What You Wish For

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host, Deb Brown.


We all know that restaurants live or die by their reputation.  Yet, one restaurant, which RepMan wrote about in the past, called the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, is proud of its insane theme and 6,000 calorie Triple Bypass Burger.  Last Wednesday, a man in his 40’s suffered an apparent heart attack while munching on the pound-and-a-half burger and, before the paramedics were called, people thought it was part of the ambiance. After all, when your waitresses and cooks are dressed as nurses and doctors, respectively, you’d think that a guy having a heart attack was probably part of the act, right?  Finally, someone realized at some point that he wasn’t part of the act and was actually dying.  I’m not sure if it was when his eyes rolled back in his head, his lips turned purple, or he just looked too motionless for too long.  Luckily, he’s reportedly recovering in a hospital. 

Now, you would think that might be a loud wake-up call to the owner of this bizarre establishment. Think again.  An anti-meat advocacy group wants to shut down the restaurant.  So does the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. But the owner, Jon Basso, is keeping the killer restaurant open by saying it was built on values our “Founding Fathers intended us to live”…or in this case, die by.

So what does this pound-and-a-half Triple Bypass Burger include besides way too much meat?  How about buns dripped in lard, half an onion cooked in lard, a whole tomato (the only healthy item on the burger), 15 pieces of bacon, cheese and special sauce (which probably contains lard, lard and more lard).  I’m not sure if the man who suffered the heart attack also had the Heart Attack Grill’s side of fries cooked in lard and/or one of the butterfat shakes – as if pure milkshakes weren’t fattening enough.

Apparently, the fact that we have a serious obesity problem in the United States somehow bypassed Las Vegas. 

Feb 15


Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter co-host, Deb Brown.

CFOs and a sense of humor? Seems like an oxymoron, right? Our CFO at Peppercom has a great sense of humor, but, in general, I don’t equate CFOs with a sense of humor. So, imagine how surprised – and pleased – I was to find out that 79 percent of 1400 CFOs surveyed said “an employee’s sense of humor is important for fitting into the company’s corporate culture.”

This is GREAT news because if CFOs can understand the importance of a sense of humor in the workplace, then, ideally, the rest of the C-suite should as well.

This is especially important because a company’s culture always starts from the top…whether it’s fun or fearful. For example, at Peppercom, we have a fun, collegial culture that incorporates comedy because the co-founders of Peppercom set that tone. A client we had in the past worked for a CEO who was the definition of hell. She set the tone of fear throughout the organization so that the only choice employees had was to flee. And, so they did, until she was finally given the boot by the board (since they were pretty much the only ones left).

However, when we’ve conducted Comedy Experience sessions, attendees have asked if they could influence and change the culture in a division if they don’t have influence over the entire company. The answer: absolutely. If you’re a manager, you have control over setting the tone of the work environment for your direct reports. And, a positive work environment in one division can start spreading to others. Employees will talk and that could, potentially, influence other managers.

It seems counter-intuitive for bean counters to appreciate a sense of humor. I would like to borrow Stephen Colbert’s “Tip of the Hat” and tip mine to the 79 percent of CFOs for acknowledging the importance of humor. Now, if we can only get the other 21 percent to at least smile.

What do you think your CFO and C-suite think of humor in the workplace? Were you surprised by this survey?

Jan 26

CNN: The Worldwide Leader in Pranks

Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter co-host, Deb Brown.

Last week, I wrote about my disappointment with the CBS Morning Show. Basically, the show promotes that it has a new hard news format, but when I watched it for 30 minutes, it was anything but hard news. And, Repman, himself, mentioned that the History Channel and other brands are not delivering on their promises either.

So, let’s now switch channels to CNN. After all, CNN promises to be the “worldwide leader in news.” Well, except for maybe early in the morning. The brilliant management at CNN decided to try a new segment in which the anchors use their coveted rolodexes to unknowingly wake up famous people as part of their “Wake ‘Em Up” show who are usually asleep at 5am (or 2am if the poor soul lives on the West Coast). The lovely anchors decided to debut their new segment by waking up Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and told her to make sure she doesn’t say any F-bombs because the show is live. As if that wasn’t enough, they asked her if she still has haunting memories from her father’s assassination and reminded her that she was eight years old when he was killed. That’s nice to wake up to, isn’t it? Apparently, the executive producer of CNN must be sleeping during this segment since it continued past that debut call.

On a separate call, the anchors try to reach a celebrity but accidentally dial the wrong number. The person who answers speaks in Spanish and one of the anchors jokes “This is the FBI.” The horrified guy quickly hangs up. Nice. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still living in fear.

Now, when I turn to CNN, I expect to see the “worldwide leader in news.” Not a teenage prank show. And, to top it off, the anchors are upset that Jon Stewart, the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Channel, is making fun of them. Really? That’s what these anchors care about?

Is anyone at CNN awake to understand that you promise NEWS, not PRANKS? Talk about a disconnect between the experience CNN promises and what it actually delivers. This gap is so wide that even the great Evel Knievel wouldn’t try to jump it if he were alive today. At least he can rest in peace since the anchors can’t call him.

My favorite response from a reader to one of the websites that wrote about this debacle of a news program said “WTF is this show supposed to be about? Why not just air some old episodes of Punk’d?”