Jun 20

When push comes to shove, the bottom-line is still the bottom-line

I attended a fascinating panel discussion Wednesday night at Manhattan’s Penn Club. The event was co-hosted by the Arthur Page Society and the Council of PR Firms, and focused on the former’s recent white paper booklet, entitled: ‘The Authentic Enterprise.

The Authentic Enterprise should be must-reading for every PR professional. It addresses the emerging role of the chief communications officer and includes interviews with 31 chief executive officers (a superhuman feat in, and of, itself).

The findings point to the CCO’s emerging role in a world of social media and transparency. The panel included such luminaries as: Harvey Greisman of Mastercard, Paul Jensen of Weber Shandwick, Valerie DiMaria of Willis, Roger Bolton of APCO and Maril McDonald, who runs one of the sharpest communications consultancies in the country.

The group believes we, as an industry, are better positioned than ever to help the corporation ‘interact’ with each and every constituent audience. They also believe CEOs ‘get’ the importance of social media, are concerned by its lack of control, but turn to the CCO for guidance (which is a big win for the industry).

For me, though, The Authentic Enterprise panel/white paper discussion literally lacked a bottom-line component. Sure, the CEO will turn to the CCO in times of reputation crisis and, perhaps, to engage with Web 2.0 audiences in new and more meaningful ways. But, the CEO’s 24×7 world revolves around one fundamental issue: satisfying the Street.

Roger, Valerie and Harvey did a good job in addressing my questions about how The Authentic Enterprise connects to an ROI-driven C-suite. But, frankly, I was left wanting more. So, here’s hoping the Page Society commissions groundbreaking research on an ongoing basis. I’d love to read a follow-up entitled, ‘The authentic, bottom-line focused enterprise.’

Apr 30

Spotted: Peppercom AE devouring the latest episode of Gossip Girl on Metro North…

Guest Post by Laura Mills.Gossipgirlimage

Yes, at 25 (old enough to have an SAT score graded on the 1600 scale) I watch the CW’s Gossip Girl.
Fortunately, I’m not alone.  Millions share an obsession with the high school teens of Manhattan’s elite, anticipating each scandalous episode, narrated by an enigmatic blogger against the backdrop of New York’s trendiest hot spots.  On paper the concept sounds ridiculous.  Yet, while pausing an episode on my iPod to arrive at a Connecticut train station, it occurs to me how progressive Gossip Girl really is.

A recent New York magazine article reports that new episodes of Gossip Girl pulled in an average of 2.5 million viewers before the writers strike, an atrocious number, considering the 23.6 million tuned into last week’s American Idol.  Traditionally, this measurement should lead to quick cancellation.  Yet, the new show thrived.  As New York points out, new episodes regularly rotate at the top of iTunes’ most downloaded list, while hundreds of thousands watch free episodes from the network’s Web site.  Personally, I think a television show revolving around a blog should have its own life online, but while Web components and a Second Life presence don’t independently make Gossip Girl a digital standout, the fact that it is the first television show to find primary traction online is a significant development in the media landscape.

Gossip Girl viewers adapt to new technology faster and use it in more ways than ever.  They have at least one iPod and communicate via text message, IM and Facebook 24 hours a day.  Diaries are no longer hidden under mattresses, but documented with password access through LiveJournal.  They can’t comprehend a time when a handwritten middle school assignment was acceptable, and therefore naturally identify with the integration of new media social issues with classic teenage archetypes.  This generation is our future. 

As marketers, we will be targeting these plugged in, socially networked, skeptically over-stimulated viewers.  In fact, companies are already cashing in on the show’s success through product placement and integrated Web promotions, including Verizon and Victoria’s Secret, as well as a plethora of fashion designers and retailers.  So, while it’s just a mere teenage drama, Gossip Girl shatters the glass ceiling to reach viewers via multiple platforms and keeps them coming back for more.  Perhaps the high school characters aren’t the only ones who should be taking notes?

Apr 16

Matt Waters run deep

Hats off to Matthew O. Waters of Doylestown, Pa. Matt read my blog about the dearth of hand-writtenLetter
letters from Gen X and Gen Y job seekers and, yes Virginia, sent me a lengthy, handwritten note with his resume.

Good for you, Matt. You’ve not only differentiated yourself, you’ve gotten a blog written about your iconoclastic ways.

Matt’s a University of Vermont graduate who’s seen me speak and visited Peppercom’s office in Manhattan. That arguably gives him an advantage over, say, your average Drew University student. But, Matt took his game to a new level by writing to me about himself, his grandfather and his desire to work for Peppercom. His approach would have been commonplace in 1978. In 2008, it’s downright revolutionary.

So, Matt, rest assured I will not only forward your materials to the appropriate people, I will also guarantee an interview if you can make your way to the Big Apple. After that, though, it’s up to you.

It’s nice to know people like Matthew O. Waters do exist. They do listen. And, they do do the right things to differentiate themselves and begin building their own brands. It’s enough to make a jaded, middle-aged blogger stop and smell the roses.

Feb 25

The ultra rich are different than you and me

Stephen A. Schwartzman is chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, the super aggressive, superSchwarzman
successful private equity firm that recently went public.

A profile in the New Yorker chronicles Schwartzman’s rise to the top, paying particular attention to his Machiavellian management style and his Dennis Kozlowski-like personal excesses.

It’s the latter that registered on my image and reputation radar screen. A recent Schwartzman Christmas party, for example, boasted a James Bond theme, featuring models circulating as ‘Bond girls’ and a tuxedo-clad Schwartzman himself posing as ‘Bond. James Bond.’ I wonder if Moneypenny and Q were in attendance as well?

Not content with merely emulating the Ian Fleming playboy, Schwartzman pulled out all the stops at his recent 60th birthday bash. He literally transformed the Park Avenue Armory into a replica of his $37 million Manhattan apartment, replete with a full length portrait of himself. Dinner was served in a faux night club setting with orchids and palm trees. Comedian Martin Short handled MC duties and Marvin Hamlisch, Patti LaBelle and Rod Stewart serenaded him and his guests.

Not bad. Not bad at all. But, not smart for the CEO of a publicly-traded company either. What don’t the Schwartzman, Ebbers, Schrushy and Kozlowski of the business world get? It’s one thing to live life in an opulent, in-your-face manner if one’s finances are private. But, living the high life a la Stephen Schwartzman, is a sure fire way to attract some aspiring whistle blower’s or district attorney’s attention.

I’m not suggesting Blackstone’s big boy has done anything wrong but, if he has, throwing a 007-themed gala might not be the smartest way to stay under cover.

Dec 18

Playing in the big leagues

I played in the big leagues last night. It was my first time and I hope it won’t turn out to be just a ‘quickLaughfactory_logo_2
cup of coffee’ as long-term minor league baseball players call their brief stints in the ‘bigs.’

You see, I performed 15 minutes of stand-up at the Laugh Factory. And, while I’ve probably done 25 previous gigs at other venues, this was my first one in the bigs. The Laugh Factory is the real deal, with top-of-the-line facilities, audio/video support systems, a closed circuit television system and A-level comics. In fact, the room itself reminded me more of a Vegas lounge than a Manhattan comedy club.

I did well. As well as I’ve ever done. So, I was pleased when I sat down afterwards (and my blood pressure returned to near normal levels). Then, I watched as real, professional comedians dazzled the audience. And, I was humbled (and very thankful for my day job).

Playing in the big leagues is a scary, but exhilarating, experience. I think I’ve mastered the timing and techniques, but now I know it really is all about material.

So, just like the minor league phenom who gets his shot with the major league parent club but sees how much he still needs to refine, I’m now heading back to the minors. I’ve got to learn to hit the ball out of the park before I can reasonably expect a second cup of coffee at the Laugh Factory.