Jan 17

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Talk about a case of the shoemaker’s children having no shoes," how about the latest misstep from Sprint? According to the Associated Press, a Sprint operator refused to provide information to help locate a toddler who was in his father’s SUV when it was stolen.

The incident went down just before Christmas when Jason Cochran buckled his 10-month-old son Cochran_child_1 into his car seat and ran inside the house to collect his three-year-old. While he was inside, the car was stolen with Cochran’s infant and cell phone, equipped with a GPS system, inside.

Despite frantic calls from Mrs. Cochran to Sprint to provide the coordinates, the company operator refused to cooperate, saying it wouldn’t release the information without a subpoena and a $25 service fee. Happily, the SUV and the child were found within a few hours, safe and sound.

But, what about Sprint’s horrific behavior and the nonsensical bureaucratic policies and procedures of its operator? In my opinion, they should be severely chastised in the court of public opinion. Yet, as far as I know, there hasn’t been much fallout beyond the article.

Sprint’s boorish behavior is yet another example of performance trumping image and reputation. In other words, all the public relations and advertising in the world won’t make any difference if the organization’s product, service or, in this case, conduct, are shabby. Hopefully, the powers that be at Sprint have made some changes based upon this "near miss." Next time, they and their customer may not be so fortunate.

Jan 12

You can’t judge a book by its cover…

…because Oprah sure can’t. A departure from Nobel Prize-winning works for her Book Club of must-reads is the subject of a heated debate that boils down to nothing more than what section of the book store the public should find A Million Little Pieces, a book on substance abuse and recovery by James Frey.Frey

After the muckraker site TheSmokingGun.com posted a damning report on the veracity of Frey’s harrowing tale of alcoholism and crack addiction this week, the author, and even his mom, have taken to the Web and the air to defend not only the book that "kept Oprah up at night," but the memoir genre itself.

Frey’s story is about his experience as a 23-year-old man who wakes up broken, bloody, and with his teeth nearly dangling out of his mouth on a plane heading to Minnesota, where he is to begin rehabilitation treatment. While he is trying to sober up, he must face the demons in his very near past, which include arrest warrants in three states.

TheSmokingGun.com claims this is a flat out lie and that Frey was never wanted in three states and that he never served any jail time. In fact, they devote eight pages to dissecting the lies that "abound" in Frey’s book on their site.

In an interview last night on Larry King Live, James Frey offered that, by definition, the memoir genre, whose rules and boundaries as a new genre have yet to be outlined, lends itself to the embellishments of the author. In fact, he admits that the book was originally shopped to different publishing houses as a novel and that the decision was ultimately made by Random House to distribute it as a memoir.

This is where the debate begins and where it should end. James Frey is not a liar, he’s an author who got a very nice check for writing a good book and his publishers decided to label it X while some people (perhaps without book deals of their own) would prefer to call it Y.

Whether Frey was missing one tooth or three by the time he arrived in rehab or whether he served three months or three years in prison as a result of his drug use has nothing to do with the fact that the author was in fact a young man who hovered near death in the grips of addiction. To call the author a fraud, or worse, a liar, is ridiculous.

As is TheSmokingGun.com’s headline "The Man Who Conned Oprah."

Even Oprah would agree with that, as she made a surprise phone call to Larry King last night to say that despite the controversy surrounding Frey’s story, she made a connection with his words and so have hundreds of thousands of other people. This, she says, is what critics should focus on: the impact of a writers words, the quality of the story, and the lessons to be gleaned from it.

Kudos to Ms. Winfrey for subtracting herself quickly and masterfully from a rather bland debate by pointing out the bottom line for Larry King and his viewers: A Million Little Pieces is a good book that will scare anyone straight on even casual drug use and it should continue to inspire future readers.

As with anything involving Oprah, she always comes out on top. Now THAT’s reputation management…

Jan 05

Good night and good luck

And so, after all his protestations and arguments to the contrary, it appears that Jets coach Herm Edwards is in the final stages of leaving to accept the top spot with the Kansas City Chiefs.

How sad is it that leaders in all walks of life today say one thing and then do the exact opposite? It Herm seems to me that Herm’s behavior is now the norm and not the exception.

Why isn’t the media holding our leaders more responsible for living up to their promises? Why aren’t there repercussions for people who act and behave the way Herm Edwards has done in recent days?

Herm’s behavior (i.e. re-assuring the press and fans that he wasn’t interested in the KC job while negotiating with Chiefs management behind the scenes) reminded me of an incident at Peppercom during the dotcom heydays.

As we were growing to the tune of about 100 percent annually, we decided to reward one of our top performers with a partnership in the business. The negotiations were heated at times, and took the better part of the Summer as "I’s" were dotted and "T’s" were crossed. Finally, the deal was struck. We called together the staff, issued a press release and lifted our champagne glasses to toast our newly-minted partner. About a week later, she resigned to take a corporate gig (with whom she was obviously negotiating all the while).

To both our erstwhile partner and the departing Herm Edwards, I’d borrow the signature sign-off of legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow and say, "good night and good luck."