Jan 04

Worst curtain call ever?

January 4 - giants curtain As a lifelong New York Jets fan, I must admit to taking special delight in the total collapse of the hated New York Giants. I especially enjoyed their curtain call at Giants Stadium two weeks ago.

The team's marketing and PR types had made a big deal about a special halftime celebration that would commemorate the team's many accomplishments in the soon-to-be-leveled edifice. But, they failed to factor in a horrific first half performance by 'Big Blue.' By half time, the game was clearly over and, with it, the team's chances for making the playoffs.

But, the celebration went on and 80,000 depressed fans suffered through highlights of the greatness that once was and was no more.

It was a horrible curtain call, to be sure. But, not the worst. That notable distinction belongs to my very own NY Mets who, in their collective wisdom, decided to hold a huge celebration at the conclusion of the team's final game at Shea Stadium in 2007. The Mets, though, had once again blown a late season lead to the hated Phillies and entered the final game needing a win to force a playoff. Guess what? They rolled over and played dead, falling behind by five runs in the first inning. The team made no effort to fight back and ended up losing by a lopsided score. Fans left in droves as each inning passed.

By the end, there were fewer than 10,000 people in the stands. Yet, some marketing whiz decided to go ahead with the Shea celebration anyway, and the team paraded the great players of yesteryear past the shell-shocked fans. It was easily one of the weirdest scenes I've ever witnessed.

So, note to sports marketers everywhere: if you have a mega, anniversary-themed event in the making, be sure to hold it BEFORE the contest begins. And, force the home team players to watch the hoopla. Maybe it'll inspire better performances than those turned in by the '09 Giants and '07 Mets, respectively.

Jun 03

Identify your arch nemesis

I just attended this year's PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference.

I've belonged to the Academy for at least 15 years and believe it to be the single, smartest professional development I've ever made.

I always seem to take away a gem of an idea or two that make me and my firm just a little bit better. And this year's conference was no different.

June 3 - geek-squad2 Monday's keynote speaker was Stephen Roberts, founder of Geek Squad, a 24,000 employee strong, global tech support company. Despite being a self-confessed geek, Roberts is way cool. And, way smart. And a big believer in public relations. He thinks "advertising is the price you pay for being unremarkable." He sees PR as the real deal since reporters have to be convinced your story is of value to their readers, viewers or listeners or else it ends up in the circular file (virtual or physical).

Roberts shared his views on how he created and expanded his company and how he keeps it authentic. He also told us what keeps him up at night: the fear that a newer, hipper, more cost effective competitor will appear unexpectedly and steal market share.

To prevent (or forestall) that from happening, he's in the process of creating the Geek Squad's 'arch nemesis.' Check this out: he's literally creating the business model for a company that would compete with his own. He's anticipating everything from virtual service models to lower pricing structures. How cool is that? It's a 2009 version of Clayton Christianson's disruptive technology strategies of eight to 10 years back.

And, it got me thinking.

When I conjure up images of an arch nemesis, brands like Edelman, Weber and other aircraft carrier types come to mind. But, then, I think, nah: Peppercom's real arch nemesis is some start-up or some hybrid model I'm not thinking of. The traditional firms won't be the big winners in a few years time. And, it may not be the independent midsized firms either. In fact, it may not even be a PR firm.

I have no idea who my arch nemesis is (or will be), but I do know that I want to devote several hours of our upcoming management retreat to think long and hard about the type of agency I'd create today if I wanted to take away Peppercom's market share tomorrow.

And, that my friends, is why I belong to the Counselors Academy.

May 12

World class networking and a chance to honor Valerie Di Maria? What more could you ask for?

May 12 - big apples Winning PRSA New York's Big Apple awards in the mid and late 1990s helped put a fledgling Peppercom on the radar screen of PR's movers and shakers. The events also helped yours truly hone my nascent networking skills.

So, when I was asked to chair the sponsorship committee for this year's event, I readily agreed despite the challenges of doing so in the worst economy in recent times. I'm happy to report we've raised quite a few bucks and that the event, set for May 21st at the Rainbow Room, should be way cool.

I'm doubly pleased that longtime buddy and erstwhile client, Valerie Di Maria, will be receiving the John W. Hill Award that night. Valerie, you see, was also instrumental in my firm's early success. It was Valerie who, as head of GE Capital's corporate communications at the time, rolled the dice and hired a very new and still relatively inexperienced Peppercom for a major branding program. It was a huge breakthrough win for us and established our street cred in a major way.

So, here's hoping you can join hundreds of other PR types in an uber networking event and pay homage to a most deserving industry leader, Valerie Di Maria. Trust me, it's a relatively small, but strategically smart, investment for you and your organization.