Jan 06

Simply Botched Service

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

In 2010, the New York City Department of Transportation and the MTA New York City Transit decided to put a new type of bus service into action on First and Second Avenues: the Select Bus Service (the bus with the blue lights), which is supposed to speed up the buses by 20 percent. Two months ago, the City decided to expand the program up and down 34th Street. Instead of paying on the bus, you need to insert your MetroCard into one of two free-standing kiosks by the bus stop and get a receipt. You can then enter through any door. This is similar as to how you would get on a subway car – you pay first and then get on any car.

In theory, this seems like a good idea. I’m sure the City believes it’s demonstrating that it’s innovative in finding new solutions to move people faster and having riders feel more positive about the transit system. However, as a daily rider of the 34th Street bus, the slogan “Select Bus Service: Simply Better Service” doesn’t ring true. Here’s why:

First, since November, from my experience, at least 30-40 percent of the time one or both kiosks are either out of service and/or the paper receipt doesn’t come out. The kiosk is happy to take the $2.25 from your MetroCard, it just decides not to give you a receipt. This poses a problem if the transit police decide to check.

Second, if the transit police decide to randomly check a bus, and you explain that the paper receipt didn’t come out, they will still issue you a $115 fine. Why they don’t have mobile readers that can check your MetroCard to see if you paid is beyond me. I still don’t have a clear answer as to how you fight the ticket and prove that you paid.

Third, if both kiosks are out of service at one of the stops, EVERYONE who got on at that stop must get off at the next stop and pay and get a receipt. Talk about defeating the purpose of this bus! It’s supposed to speed up the ride, yet imagine 20 or more riders at a stop getting off to get a receipt and then get back on.

Fourth, if you’re running for a bus, you may make it if you just pay on the bus. But, if you’re running for a Select Bus, you now have to take several more seconds to hit start, put in your MetroCard, and wait for the receipt (if it comes out). I have witnessed some kind bus drivers who patiently wait for the rushed riders, and I have seen others who leave just as the person receives his/her receipt, leaving the poor rider to wait for the next bus.

Fifth, one objective of the MetroCard was to eliminate paper receipts for transfers. Now, we have paper receipts just to get on the bus.

Sixth, two stops were eliminated from 34th Street: Lexington Avenue and Madison Avenue. This speeds up the ride, of course, but also makes for some unhappy passengers who used to get on or off at those stops.

Seventh, one of the two M34 buses turns on 34th Street and Second Avenue and proceeds to 23rd Street and First Avenue. At that First Avenue stop, there’s no kiosk. The City apparently didn’t realize that you can’t put kiosks there for some reason (probably because there isn’t enough room). So, anyone who gets on that stop gets on for free.

Eighth, I’m sure there are some who are skipping the kiosk altogether and simply getting on for free, which is frustrating to all of us who pay. It’s like jumping the turnstiles in the subway, only a lot easier.

The City should consider changing its slogan to “Select Bus Service: Simply Botched Service.”

Dec 28

REPMAN PODCAST: Hi, my name’s Kim. I’m 25, a Leo and totally, like, fried

Stress-womenA recent Forbes.com article not only suggested that Millennial women were burning out at a faster rate than their male counterparts but, get this, female PR millennials were topping the ‘fried at 25’ list.

In an attempt to get to the heart (if not soul) of this frightening trend, I recently invited six Peppercom interns to air their views (note: we had an even balance of men and women in the discussion).

So, kick back (if your schedule permits you to do so), turn up the volume and listen to hear if Peppercom’s millennial women agree with the basic Forbes.com premise (note: all three were multi-tasking as they answered my questions, so some answers may be garbled. The guys, on the other hand, were yawning, stretching and fighting hard to keep their eyes open).


Dec 20

The Danderoo Award

Throughout 2011 there has been no shortage of creative, eye-catching and hilarious visuals sitting next to RepMan’s prose, thanks to his Chief Illustration Officer, Dandy “the Danderoo” Stevenson. But, which one is the best of the whole year?

Below are the nominations, submitted by RepReaders.  For your chance to win the first annual Danderoo Creative Graphic Award, simply comment and indicate what number is your favorite.

In the spirit of good will to all men (and women) voters names will put into a hat and a random draw will decide the winner, who will receive a vintage peppermill, which was given in 1995 as Peppercom’s first holiday gift. To all THREE of our clients.

Here are the 12 final nominated graphics, and a brief description of the post each accompanied:

1. RepMan professed his love for the Big Apple, which finished 49th in a Reputation Institute survey of world cities. London was top followed by Geneva. Geneva?!



2. November’s Repchatter podcast was all about the benefits of comedy in the workplace, illustrated thusly (and in a way we can all identify.)6a00d8341c39e853ef015436ba0867970c-800wi________________________________________________________________________


3. A couple of weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALS the government said that porn was found in his hideout.



4. RepMan received a cover letter from a college grad looking for a break. The grad said he would work for free. RepMan blogged. Our creative director got creative. See?



5. RepMan told us that 37.8 percent of the population of Evansville, Indiana is obese. This honor was illustrated by two ladies waiting for a McDonald’s to open. Note the time on the clock.



6. In April, RepMan regaled us with a story of a stroppy, demanding new business prospect, charmingly represented by this little darling:



7. When RepMan discussed the dawdling response to allegations of pedophilia by the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Danderoo chose this to illustrate:



8.Two separate opinion pieces in two separate industry trades agree on one basic principle:  agencies and marketers alike are overlooking the customer in their rush to do the right thing. RepMan agreed and the Danderoo added this:



9. Inspired by the PRSA’s campaign to redefine the term PR RepMan launched his own Definition of PR Contest, the winner of which would receive the following trophy featuring one devilishly handsome Pepperdude:



10. The graphic below accompanied Rep’s ‘Headline from Hell’ award honoring godawful, unfathomable and buzzword-riddled headlines.


That’s it folks. Vote early and vote often. (And thanks to all of of you for helping make RepMan PR News’ 2011 Blogger of the Year!)


Nov 09

Getting serious about comedy

Comedy again.Can stand-up comedy really provide an organization or an individual with a strategic competitive advantage? I think so.

But, don’t take my word for it. Deb ‘Kangoo Kid’ Brown and I recently co-hosted a Repchatter podcast with fellow Peppercommer (and former client) Valerie Di Maria as well as stand-up comedy legend, Clayton Fletcher (www.claytonfletcher.com). Together we answered such pressing questions as:

  • Would stand-up comedy fit within the cultures of some of the world’s biggest and most serious businesses?
  • Would bottom-line obsessed CEOs ever consider comedy as a new and more authentic way in which to communicate?
  • Will these questions ever end?”

Click below to listen and let us know what you think.


Sep 06

Remember Me and You (Part II)

It was 16 years ago yesterday that I washed up at the front door of Ed Moed’s squalid, one bedroom apartment and we began building what was to become one of the nation’s top independent strategic communications firms.

To mark what is a very, very Sweet 16th anniversary, I thought I’d create a two-part blog (Part I ran yesterday) that captures the 16 events (good, bad and otherwise) that are permanently seared on my brain. Note: I suggest you listen to Rebelution’s “More Than Ever” as you pour over the remembrances. Written as a love song, it works equally well in a business context.

Here, then, are the second set of memories from our first 16 years:

9.) The dotcom crash brings the PR world to a complete standstill. We lose one $35k per month account on eight successive days, prompting Ted Birkhahn to ask me, “Steve, what’s going to happen to us?”

9A.) Ed’s very own dotcom, PartnershipCentral, goes belly-up and we lay off 26 hapless employees.

10.) 9/11. Ed and Ted are in Houston. I’m in Manhattan. Chaos reigns for a few days. Ed and I hold a staff meeting the following Monday telling employees we have no idea what the future holds for us, our industry or our country (note: phone and e-mail traffic literally died for two weeks because no one was sure if PR was ‘still appropriate under the circumstances’).

11.) Peppercom rebounds from the dotcom crash and post 9/11 blues and is hired to publicize GE’s ‘Imagination at work’ campaign. Nonetheless, Alex Constantinople, our client contact, refuses to let Ed or me meet with GE’s CEO, telling us we weren’t ‘Jeff ImmeltWorthy’.
11A.) Chris ‘Repman, Jr.’ Cody and Catharine ‘Goose’ Cody do stints as Peppercom interns. The experience convinces them they have no interest whatsoever in following in their dad’s footsteps. Nice.

12.) A Northeastern University intern twice flips Ed the bird at a holiday party, ensuring her simultaneous demise and immortality in Peppercom folklore.

13.) To test my theory that Ed is ADD to the max, I arrange for his couch to be moved to my office, and vice versa. We then hold an office pool to guess whether he’ll spot the switcheroo in a day, week or month. After a month, we begin switching my family photos with his. Then, we trade artwork from his wall to mine. Finally, three months later, we hear a loud, ‘WTF!’

14.) Peppercom wins the triple crown of industry awards in 2006, being named agency of the year by PR Week and PR News and ‘most innovative’ by The Holmes Report.

14A.) Fifteen months after hiring us but refusing to allow us to announce the win, Yahoo announces our termination in a PR Week front-page article. Classy.

15.) Dawn M. Lauer and Darryl Salerno debate the existence of god in what would become the most incendiary podcast in Repchatter’s six-year history.

16.) Peppercom’s one-of-a-kind stand-up comedy training program is featured on MSNBC, WNBC, Ad Age, the Council of PR Firms ‘Forum’ and Inc. Magazine. It’s now become a service offering that, after 16 years, enables us to say we’re now literally laughing all the way to the bank.

These are my 16 most memorable moments. But, quite a few Repman readers are current and former employees, as well as clients, former clients and friends. I’d love to know if you have a particular memory of Peppercom that you’d be willing to share. I know I’d appreciate it. And, I think Ed will too (as soon as he moves his couch back into his office).

Jun 20

Are All Men Dogs?

6a00d8341c39e853ef015433238a99970cIt seems like just about every week now another powerful man is being brought down a mega sex scandal. From Elliott Spitzer and the ‘Governator’ to Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner, lots and lots of powerful men have been caught behaving badly. In fact, no less an influencer than The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has declared, ‘All men are dogs.” But, are they? Are these high-profile flameouts indicative of men as a whole or, instead, isolated incidents? Perhaps, most importantly, what effect is the salacious, 24×7 barrage of media coverage having on our nation’s young men and boys? Are they growing up guilty until proven innocent?

To address these incendiary questions, we invited three Peppercom women, who also happen to be moms, to posit their views. What follows is, I believe, one of the very best RepChatter podcasts in the medium’s sordid, six-year history. Click here to listen (and feel free to post a comment if you agree, disagree or have a completely different POV)…..


May 04

Was O.J. Simpson responsible for more than two murders?

Soap opera.Join Brendan ‘Muggs’ Mullin and yours truly as we interview Sam Earl Ford, co-editor of the book,  The Survival of the Soap Opera. Sam posits his views on why nearly all of TV’s great soap operas have gone belly up and, in the process, fingers the notorious O.J. Simpson as one of the main culprits. If so, I’ll never forgive the Juice for depriving me of seeing Greenlee, Binks and the other femme fatales from All My Children.

Click on the gray bar below here to listen to arguably the best Repchatter podcast since Dawn M. Lauer and Darryl Salerno debated the existence of god.


Apr 07

The Fed’s Fireside Chats

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer, and RepChatter Co-host, Brendan Mullin.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has declared he will hold quarterly  press conferences during our current Great Recession much like President Roosevelt launched his fireside chats in March 1933 during the Great Depression. Then, FDR sought to connect with Americans to discuss complicated issues and reassure depressed countrymen that brighter days were ahead. Ironically, in his first fireside chat, FDR spoke to the nation about banking and why so many banks had failed.  Sound familiar?

Storm_fig01bBut, the question of the moment is, “Will the Fed’s modern day update on the fireside chat prove useful?”

While everyone is for more transparency – and make no mistake that is what this move is intended to symbolize – many wonder if it is enough or if it will even work.

Dow Jones managing editor Neal Lipschutz wrote recently that he believes Bernanke has the right personality to handle the pressure of open communications but wishes there would be more than just four “meet the press” moments during the year for the chief banker (note: “Fed chief” and “personality” are as closely linked as “Britney Spears” and “class”).

Others have made the argument it’s just not necessary as the Fed’s monetary policy is already parsed to extremes.  As we’ve seen the last few years in particular the markets hang on the Fed’s every word.  Will we now see wild market swings based simply on Bernanke’s non-verbals!? 

It ought to be interesting (or comical) to see the pundits analyze Bernanke’s look and style during his April 27th inaugural press conference as much as the substance on which he speaks. And, I can envision Bernanke’s flack instructing him on the eve of the press conference, “Remember Ben, dark suit, white shirt, solid tie. Oh, and be sure to sit on your coat tails.”

Kidding aside, disclosures and transparency on monetary policy and global economic realities are very serious matters. I just hope the concept – or experiment – of a “press conference” is genuinely meant to be more open about the fiscal decisions the Fed make. And yes, I’m talking about those decisions that have profound effects on the markets, and directly impact everyday citizens who, knowingly or not, are participants in the very delicate economic conditions the Fed seeks to monitor and maintain.  

Maybe Bernanke & Co. did listen to FDR’s first fireside chat and believed it when he said, “After all there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people.” As we wait for curtain to rise on Bernanke’s first press conference later this month, for Ben’s sake, let’s hope FDR was also right when he said, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.”

Get your popcorn ready. 


Mar 29

Does music matter?

Polls Beethoven.That’s the question substitute host and Peppercommer Paul ‘Music Man’ Merchan debated along with  regular Repchatter co-host Brendan ‘Muggs’ Mullin and a cast of thousands. So, click below, download, tune in, turn on and drop out as you listen to our team of experts debate whether Lady Gaga is, in fact, the reason our world has gone positively insane.

Part 1

Part 2


Dec 06

A Star Is Born

Kmart creep final 2.I highly recommend you listen to the latest Repchatter podcast. In addition to hearing some fascinating views on ‘Christmas Creep’ and new product launches gone bad, you’ll be witnessing the birth of a new star: Brendan ‘Muggs’ Mullin. The latter has joined the Repchatter crew as my co-host. (Note: I’d had enough of the cavalier attitude of Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and summarily gave him the boot.) So, download the file onto your iPod (or whatever) and listen to Muggs wax poetic with Dr. Dawn Lerman, Marketing Area Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing Graduate School of Business Administration Fordham University. Is an anchor role at the CBS Evening News in Mullin’s future? Stay tuned.