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 04

An N.I.T. Sponsorship? Clueless

Imagine you’re a ‘me too’ brand. You’re Pepsi vs. Coke, Burger King vs. McDonald’s or Avis vs. Hertz. YearNit_2
after year, you struggle mightily to improve your quality and service to change the status quo. And, one would hope, you make damn sure your marketing strategy reflects your desired goal. As a result, you associate your brand with everything that Frank Sinatra might describe as, ‘…A number one, top of the heap.’

So, how do we account for MasterCard’s sponsorship of the N.I.T. College basketball tournament? Why would the perennial number two credit card company lend its name to an also-ran tourney that absolutely no one cares about? What were they thinking? Was the strategy to ‘own’ mediocrity? Did someone in MasterCard’s Purchase, NY, headquarters sigh and say, “You know what? We know we’re second best. Everyone else knows we’re second best, so why not strike a partnership with a second rate tournament?”

Thousand of dollars to underwrite target market golf events? Smart. Hundreds of thousands of dollars to ‘own’ category exclusivity at the upcoming Olympics? Strategic. Millions to sponsor a totally bogus college basketball tournament? Clueless.