Oct 05

Top 10 reasons why David Letterman did a great job of managing his crisis

10.) He was prompt
9.) He admitted fault
8.) He called his actions 'creepy'
7.) He made the announcement on national TV
6.) He apologized
5.) He used comedy, a powerful weapon, in an appropriate way
4.) He made clear he hadn't violated the workplace policies of either CBS or his own company
3.) He made clear that the timing of the workplace liaison predated his becoming married
2.) He was genuine in his remarks, and, drum roll please…………….

1.) He used the right platform at the right time and in the right way to convey the message

October 5 - david-letterman-heart-surgeryToo many CEOs balk at disclosing negative information. Or, they bumble their way through stiff, obviously rehearsed remarks. Or, they stop short of admitting fault and assuming responsibility. Or, they'll have a PR spokesperson handle the media on their behalf. Or, they'll let the lawyers control the message which ends up sounding like pure gibberish. Or, they'll bury their heads in the sand and hope to ride out the storm.

The Letterman story may have additional chapters before it ends. But, in my book, the man handled the image and reputation elements of the communications as well as I've ever seen.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, here's Paul Schaefer and the 'Late Night' Band playing, 'I'm a Man,' by Chicago.

Sep 22

The ‘it’ girl of the in crowd

September 22 - facebook

I was just friended on Facebook by the 'it' girl of my high school 'in' crowd.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to you, but to an image and reputation guy like me, it's huge.

September 22 - facebook_golfThat's because, in high school, I had very little image and even less reputation.

My high school, like yours, had a rigorous social structure, akin to the Caste System in India. At the top were the Brahmins who reigned supreme. And at the bottom were the Untouchables who, were well, untouchable. And unlikeable. And pretty much unnoticeable.

I existed somewhere in the middle. As a very shy and introverted adolescent, I was quite content to just get by. I'm not sure why, but I made it my mission to fly under the radar at all costs. I simply didn't want to stand out.

The ‘it’ girl, on the other hand, moved in rarified circles. Like a Disco-era Marie Antoinette, she decided who she would like and whom she would allow to like her. She naturally dated the 'it' guy and together they ruled the roost as the it couple.

And, that was cool. And, that was then. And, this is now.

Since last crossing paths with the ‘it’ girl, I've lost my adolescent inhibitions, become fairly outgoing and done a few pretty cool things. Cool enough, I guess, to be accepted into the ‘it’ girl's virtual inner circle.

I feel a little like the late JFK who, after listening to Marilyn Monroe's sultry and sensuous singing of 'Happy Birthday' to mark his 45th birthday, said: “I can now retire from politics having heard the words of 'Happy Birthday' sung to me in such a sweet and wholesome way.” Ditto. I can now retire from the image and reputation wars having finally been accepted by the Brahmin of Brahmins.

Jul 28

May 21, 2011: Are you ready?

July 28 - harold_camping-2011 I was surfing through Comcast's cavalcade of countless channels the other day when I happened upon Harold Camping and his Family Radio Network.

Oh boy. The guy stopped me in my tracks. Harold Camping is a televangelist with a terrible twist.

Unlike his peers, Harold Camping does not pack a positive punch. Camping is no Joel Osteen with a set of pearly whites to go along with his message of do good and make money in this lifetime. No sir. No way. Not this televangelist. He doesn't have the time.

That's because 88-year-old Harold Camping is laser-focused on the end of days. He's close to the end and he wants to make sure we know we're close to the end of our days as well.

In fact, Harold knows the exact date of his end, and ours: May 21, 2011. Yup, May 21, 2011. Camping's pieced together various Bible passages that, he says, pinpoint May 21, 2011, as the end of the world. He says 5-21-11 is the date when the 'Rapture' will begin.

If I heard him correctly, the Rapture is a period of 155 straight days of nasty, horrible and terrible things that will beset Planet Earth (think: locusts, floods, long-standing PR accounts going up for review, etc.).

Happily, though, Brother Camping and his devoted followers will survive. Nay, thrive. And, when the 155 days are over, Brother Camping & Co. will ascend to Heaven and all the good things that go with it (Christianity's version of Islam's 73 virgins?).

News flash: Brother Camping is the latest in a long line of prophets, fakirs and whatnots who have predicted the end of days. Sane people ignore them. But, the vulnerable do not. And therein lies the issue. Far too many people buy into the end of days mythology and end up selling their worldly possessions (Think: Jonestown, Waco and others). Real people with real problems get badly hurt when a Brother Camping decides it's time to cash in his (and others') chips.

And what happens when the end of days doesn't happen? Well, the Brother Campings of the world just end up blaming others for the apocalypse that wasn't. And the devoted find a new prophet with a new dire prediction.

It's so sad and, in some individual cases, apocalyptic. And, from an image and reputation standpoint, just further tarnishes the overall image and reputation of organized religion.

Apr 29

This cannot be good news for Sparks, Morton’s and Ruth’s Chris

April 29 - no_red_meatA newly-released study of more than 500,000 Americans confirms that men and women who consume the most red and processed meat are likely to die sooner, especially from heart disease and cancer. Results of the decade-long survey were published in a recent issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

As a long-standing fan of fish, the news comes as comforting confirmation that I was right in withstanding all that peer pressure over the years from the Ed Moed's and Art Cody's of the world who'd say, 'C'mon Steve. You're at a steak house. Order a damn porterhouse!'

More to the point of this blog, thought, it'll be interesting to see how the meat packing plants, trade associations and multiple steak houses will deal with this news (not to mention good old McDonald's which, in this blogger's humble opinion, has done more damage to more arteries than any other entity in the history of mankind).

How will the pro-meat spin doctors spin these new facts? My guess is they'll trot out some medical shill who's been on some company's payroll for awhile. Taking a page out of the tobacco industry strategies of the 1960s, said 'medical expert' will present contrarian evidence proving that meat is a beautiful thing and, like those Wonder Bread commercials of yesteryear, '……helps build strong bodies in 12 ways.' (Note to Wonder Bread: What, exactly, were the 12 ways white bread helps build strong bodies?).

So, if you're a Peter Lugar, Morton's or Sparks Restaurant whose claims to fame are outrageously tasty steaks, what strategy makes the most sense?

– Aggressive counter-claims
– Reactive messaging to be trotted out only if, and when, the subject comes up, or
– Simply adopting a 'this too shall pass' philosophy?

Image aside, what are the moral and ethical implications of continuing to dish out a food product that has now been directly linked to disease? Do I see a Surgeon General's report in the making?

As for me, I'll continue to order the Dover Sole and keep my fingers crossed there isn't another study underway that links fish consumption to, say, leprosy.

Apr 23

Referencing the wrong reference

I’m a big fan of networking and believe very seriously in the importance of references and referrals. All three have been fundamental to my success.

April 23 - hire me What happens, though, when the image and reputation of a reference is less-than-stellar? For example, I’d expect a baseball manager would be much more likely to give an aspiring baseball player a try-out if the player said David Wright suggested he contact the manager (as opposed to, say, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens).

This sort of thing just happened to me. I received a note from a job seeker that referenced someone we both knew, but whose reputation is, shall we say, less than stellar. Truth be told, Pol Pot had a better image.

The job seeker began his note in this way, ‘I’m writing at the suggestion of (insert name of anti-Christ reference) who thought I’d be the perfect, high-level fit for Peppercom….’

Talk about a non-starter. Talk about the kiss of death. Talk about a classic Pavlovian response. I replied to the job seeker in a courteous way, but let him know we weren’t hiring at the moment. But, even if we had, I’m not sure I would have given him a chance. I know that’s wrong. But, aren’t we judged by the company we keep?

For me, it’s a great example of the type of due diligence necessary in today’s incredibly competitive job market. It’s no longer enough to have a great reputation. Nor is it enough to know people who know people who can open doors. You need to also make sure you know the right people with the right reputations. With so few jobs and so many aspirants, referencing the wrong reference is a sure fire one way ticket to Palookaville.

Apr 21

This is wrong in so many ways

Can you believe US Airways Flight 1549 Co-pilot Jeff Skiles is being represented by a 15MIN speakers' bureau that is positioning him as a for-hire expert authority on training, teamwork and corporate culture?

It's unconscionable and yet another example of the shameless society in which we live.

Skiles deserves all the credit in the world for the heroic work he and good ol' Cap'n Sully did in landing the crippled airliner and achieving what New York Governor Patterson memorably coined as 'The miracle on the Hudson.' But, our hero quickly goes from mythological to moneygrubber status when he tries to cash in such a patently bogus way.

Leading Authorities, the bureau representing Skiles, is asking somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 to $20,000 for an hour-long speech from this overnight management guru. And, you know what? A few clueless organizations will pony up the money. Skiles will rake in an extra hundred grand or so for the next year or so (or until he becomes yesterday's news.) And, Leading Authorities will collect a handsome commission.

The whole tawdry tale cheapens what occurred on the Hudson that day and, in the final analysis, is really sad to see.

But, Jeff Skiles isn't to blame. We are. We've allowed our standards of basic human decency to sink in the same precipitous way US Airways 1549 sank beneath the Hudson that fateful day.

Call me old fashioned, but heroes of the past simply didn't capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame. In our reality TV show world of 2009, though, Jeff Skiles is just the latest in a long line of get rich quick schemers and dreamers that includes Joe the Plumber and every single contestant to ever appear on “American Idol.”

It's almost enough to make me want to take the train the next time I travel. Almost.

Apr 02

Just Like Two Peas in a Pod

What do Comcast and Crest Pro Health toothpaste have in common? They're both horrific consumer products.

Repman readers know of my recent travails with Comcast cable service. After having disrupted my premium cable service for a full week and bouncing us from one voice mailbox to another, a cool customer service rep named Frank finally intervened and promised the service would be restored. He also assured me my experience was a true anomaly. 

Well, guess what? Comcast pulled the plug again on Tuesday even though our account's paid in full. Voice mailbox hell is as unhelpful and aloof as ever. And Frank? Well, I shot him an e-mail only to receive an out-of-office response. Nice. 

Comcast deserves a special place in customer service hell (assuming one believes in such a place. If not, a never-ending ride on New Jersey Transit will suffice).

Keep your eyes on Crest Pro Health toothpaste, though. It's a strong, up-and-coming competitor to Comcast. ProhealthPasteLo

Have you tried this stuff? It leaks. Everywhere. The crap oozes out of the tube and spreads across the sink like the blob in the classic Steve McQueen Sci-fi. It not only pools up like a gooey peat bog, but Crest Pro Health also proves amazingly difficult to clear away (In fact, each time the muck oozes out, I feel like a member of the Exxon Valdez clean-up crew). Who devised this stuff? More importantly, who was responsible for the market research?

Did no one speak up? I can imagine the focus group……

Crest market researcher: "So, how does everyone feel about the new toothpaste?"

Focus group participant: "Very tasty. And my teeth seem whiter than ever. There is that problem with the aquamarine goo that oozes out on my sink. It's impossible to clean up."

Crest market researcher: "'Excellent. Would you recommend it to others?"

Focus group participant: "It's tasty, but I spend more time mopping up the mess on the sink than I do brushing my teeth."

Crest market researcher: "Excellent. So, you're suggesting that Crest Pro Health also provides an upper body workout?"

Focus group participant: "Well, my forearms are sore and I'm angry with the mess it causes."

Crest market researcher: "Thanks so much. This is great feedback and may suggest some smart marketing partnerships for the brand with fitness clubs and anger management specialists."

Now that I think about it, maybe I'll use Crest Pro Health to terrorize Comcast into taking some positive action. I could sneak into their local offices and leave behind packages of the nasty, gooey toothpaste along with a note: "Enjoy cleaning up your sinks. You'll keep finding this horrific substance in your restrooms until and unless my premium cable service is restored. Signed, A repelled and rebellious Repman."
Apr 01

Suits, Ties and the American Express Card: Don’t Leave Home WITH Them

U.K. media are in a positive tizzy over the G20 Summit meeting in London. Some headlines suggest it's now or never for the world's economic future. Others predict embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown needs to pull an economic rabbit out of his hat to hold onto his job. And, those omni-present paparazzi marvel at Michelle Obama's wardrobe ("……It's spot on, Penny" or "…..I must say I find it a tad too upscale for these times, Fiona" ). 

Other headlines warn "City" employees to dress down. They say that irate working class Brits are livid at their banking sector peers and might very well follow their French peers' lead and hold bankers hostage, rough them up or even worse. "…….So, keep those suits and ties on the hanger for the time being," warned The Times of London. 
RBS 01.04.09
Security and media outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in London in anticipation of protests

Amidst the chaos, I found the American Express card's near universal rejection almost comical. I've come to Europe many times in the past and seen acceptance of the Amex card spotty at best. Now, in the wake of the global crisis and the eight years of damage done to America's global image by Messrs Bush and Cheney, I'm experiencing outright contempt by local retailers when I do present the Amex card. One Glaswegian restauranteur sniffed and said, "An American Express card? Are you kidding? Not only are their retailer charges totally excessive, but they treat us like dirt. And, a card with the word 'American' in it?" he asked, with an arched eyebrow. "Put it away now," he advised. 

Yes, Virginia, being an American on European holiday can be a dodgy thing (as the Scots like to say). We're being blamed for everything from Middle East discord and terrorism to the economic recession and global warming (source: our Ben Nevis guide). If it's bad, it's America's fault. 

I've found avoiding the BBC news feeds helps. So, too, does mountain climbing and stand-up comedy. Now, I can add another stress buster to my personal "to do" list. Leave the American Express card at home. 

It's too bad Karl Malden's no longer among the living. American Express could dust him off, throw him a few greenbacks and have him insert the word "WITH" instead of "WITHOUT" in those old "…Don't leave home…" TV commercials. Come to think of it, they may want to consider a name change in about 150 countries outside the U.S.
Mar 25

How to Set Yourself Apart in a Brutal Job Market

Jobs right now are harder to find than a cab in the middle of a Manhattan downpour. That's why it's so critical to set yourself apart from the pack. We, for example, have already received more than 150 resumes for three, count 'em, three Summer internships.

Most job inquiries contain the requisite cover letter and resume. A few, though, are incredibly creative. And, since we purport to be in the business of image and creativity, these entreaties get my attention.

Check out the one below from Matt Rakow. Matt may not land one of our three Summer intern positions but his out-of-box inquiry earned him a shot. And, nowadays, that's half the battle.Top-10

So, before you hit the send button and forward 300 copies of a bland cover note, think about ways in which you, like Matt Rakow, can set yourself apart…

1.  I am a standup comedy junkie and performed a 5 minute set at Caroline’s and was the Comedy Chair for the Student Activities Board at Ithaca College

2.  I am a huge fan of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade and as the Comedy Chair I was able to hire John Mulaney from UCB to perform at the college

3.  Although I do not yet climb actual mountains, I walk up and down the hills of Ithaca every day which is getting me in shape for a future climb

4.  You could expand your “Pain-based selling” concept into “Pain-based hiring” since finding a good internship is keeping lots of students up at night, me included

5.  I think naming your company after your dog was clever

6.  I am organized

7.  I am creative

8.  I am motivated

9.  I have strong communication and writing skills

10.  I will be a great addition to your next intern podcast

Mar 24

Worst Foul of the 09 NCAA Tournament: Domino’s Pizza

Guest post by Laura Mills

If you know me, you understand that March Madness is my favorite time of year.  Nothing thrills me more than a double over time nail-biter, willing whatever team is on my bracket to make that last second jump shot.  Spending this past weekend on my boyfriend’s couch watching the NCAA, I was in complete bliss…until I saw the latest advertising campaign from Domino’s Pizza.Dominos

Domino’s CEO David Brandon campaigns for Domino’s Big Taste Bailout Package in the company’s latest commercial.  The advert capitalizes on the idea that the company is bailing out “main street” with their pizza deal, featuring the CEO marching through Washington DC in a pizza parade.  Mr. Brandon says that he is “not bailing out the fat cats on Wall St.” As he rips a pizza out of the hands of a suited man, he continues: “Sorry Mr. Hedge, I’m bailing out you hard working people on Main Street.” 

Keep in mind that I’m watching this with my boyfriend who was laid off last month from his hedge fund position.  Before then, I vividly remember him coming home from work at 3am, monitoring his blackberry for another hour after he was in bed and waking up at 7am to check the close of the Asian markets.  Then there is my friend, Amanda who has an entry level position at Goldman Sachs.  Amanda averages three hours of sleep a night, works almost every weekend and leaves the office so late that she has to take a taxi service because it’s not safe to take the subway alone at that hour. 

These people work harder than anyone I know.  For the CEO** of a major brand to suggest otherwise is in outrageously very poor taste.  I do understand the timeliness of a campaign against corporate greed to appeal to the everyman, but if companies are going to take this stance in external communications, they should do so in a tactful way and address the real problems, none of which include a lazy Wall St.

**Just to note, Domino’s is owned by a Boston-based private equity firm and, according to pages 18 and 19 of the company’s 2008 proxy statement, Domino’s granted CEO David Brandon an $850,000 base salary for ‘08 (an increase from ‘07), and he is eligible for a bonus of up to 200% of that base salary, based on company performance.  That’s nearly $2.5 million, not including stock options, folks.