Apr 11

Doing right by doing good

According to a survey undertaken by Equilar, Inc., on behalf of The Wall Street Journal, many more CEOsCashbonus
of America’s largest companies are turning down their bonuses. At least eight top kicks turned down their 2007 bonuses. That’s compared to only four in ’06. And, based upon today’s economy, I’m sure we’ll see the number expand dramatically next year.

That said, experts quoted by the Journal say a deferment sends mixed signals and can be interpreted by employees as a ‘ho hum.’

First American Corp CEO Parker S. Kennedy is doing it the right way. Instead of saying, ‘no thanks’ to the board, he’s asking that his $800,000 bonus be disbursed among eligible employees. That’s really smart. It not only says, ‘Hey, I know times are tough and I’m not going to take advantage." It also says, ‘But, I want my best employees to suffer as little as possible.’

Employees are any company’s ultimate brand ambassadors and, in my opinion, the most important target audience to influence. Employee actions or inactions can make or break a company’s fortunes in a Recession. Just look at Bear Stearns. Or, Arthur Andersen.

More CEOs of publicly-traded companies need to emulate Kennedy. It portrays him as a caring, responsible chief executive who does the right thing when the chips are down.

I think Wall Street and Main Street alike will reward those CEOs who not only turn down bonuses in down times, but truly share the wealth. It’s a great example of doing right by doing good.

Mar 25

Up Next on Fox Business: We Throw a Rock in a Glass House

Guest blog by Gene Colter.Fox_2

The marketing folks at Fox Business have violated one of the most important Commandments of
Advertising: Never talk about your competitor. Their sin, a print ad that pokes fun at CNBC shouter Jim Cramer’s bad call on Bear Stearns, can be seen here.

Some rules (if not commandments) are made to be broken. This is not one of them. Talking about your competitor – good or ill — at best muddles your message and at worst reminds the consumer who else is selling whatever it is you are making.

The Fox Business ad uses a trio of famously wrong prognostications as a lead-in to a quote from Cramer imploring folks not to pull their money from Bear, because Bear will be fine. (Bear wasn’t.) The ad’s bottom line? “Turbulent Times Call for a Credible Network.” That’s Fox Business.

This takes the worst-case scenario described two paragraphs ago and finds ways to make it worst-case-to-the-nth degree. Let’s document just a few, starting with the oh-so-obvious.

The day will come when Fox Business pundits make their own bad call. In fact, that day has already passed, with the upstart network’s anchors getting dinged in the earliest days for factual errors and mischaracterizations. News organizations, especially new ones, are allowed to make mistakes. But they shouldn’t gloat about it – in a paid ad – when their compatriots stumble.

And about that CNBC “mistake”: James Cramer’s catch-all bag of admonitions, predictions, protestations and discount Dadaism are his own, not CNBC’s. (Full disclosure: My wife previously was employed by Cramer-founded Web site The Street.com.)

Finally, hubris and Schadenfreude mixed together make for a particularly venomous cocktail coming from an established leader, much less a network that’s been on the air for all of 12 minutes.

Some readers will deem this commentary naïve, pointing out that I should expect as much from Fox. I don’t see the world that way: Fox is part of media leader News Corp. and worthy of analysis that doesn’t resort to simplistic stereotyping.