Nov 24

Rifles? Check. Smartbombs? Check. PR? Um…

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.

While we are safe at home with our families this weekend, trying to figure out how to fit a   Hires_080709-M-6668G-021b chicken, inside a duck inside a turkey, take a moment to think of our troops overseas on this Thanksgiving—and if you do no other work on this holiday, read this report. You’ll find it shocking from a PR perspective.

Clearly the war in Afghanistan has taken a terrible toll in blood and treasure. Earlier this year, the Afghan conflict became the longest war in American history. Now this new study is out providing a hint as to why this war may be so hard to win.

The International Council on Security and Development, a thinktank based in London, reports that in the Afghan provinces where fighting has been fiercest, 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed know nothing of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that precipitated the invasion. More than 70 percent of respondents “view foreigners as disrespectful of their religion and traditions,” and 40 percent believe that “foreigners are in Afghanistan to destroy the country, to occupy Afghanistan, or to destroy Islam.

The conclusion is obvious. "The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier," ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters.

If you were called in to advise the Pentagon, what would you tell them? America’s armed forces have often made PR a part of the war-fighting effort. Certainly they’ve tried in Afghanistan, too. But, somehow, the message does not seem to be resonating with the Afghans.

If you could spend five minutes with these guys, how would you advise them to win hearts and minds in a country where 85 percent of citizens live by agriculture, and Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare are nowhere to be found?

Let’s hear from you.

Nov 01

Which witch is which? Wiccans aren’t sure when it comes to Christine O’Donnell.

The following is a special election eve guest blog from friend and former co-worker, Peter Engel.

Peter once dated a witch and, if given the chance to debate Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell, tells me he'd confront her with the following riff on Lloyd Bentsen's classic remark to Dan Quayle" "Ms. O'Donnell, I knew a witch. And Ms. O'Donnell, you're no witch."

Enjoy the blog and be sure to vote tomorrow for your favorite witch, warlock or druid…

When I worked for him back in the mid-Nineties, RepMan took much amusement from the fact that I dated a woman who called herself a practicing witch. While it’s been over 15 years since that ended, hIconurle still enjoys dredging that up, even though she’s not Christine O'Donnell.

But O'Donnell ended up playing a role in an exchange between Steve and me in his blog post about poor service in a Boston Panera Bread. O’Donnell’s increasingly outrageous statements about “dabbling in witchcraft” or her awful "I'm Not a Witch" TV ad brought up a question like this: why haven’t practicing Wiccans jumped into the fray to denounce O’Donnell for creating misperceptions about them? Why haven’t their spokespeople taken to 24/7 cable media outlets, the blogosphere, or NPR/PBS-type outlets to chastise O’Donnell and opportunistic media outlets for belittling their deeply-held beliefs? 

It turns out that they really don’t feel a need to. A conversation with Rachael Watcher, national public information officer for the California-based Covenant of the Goddesses, revealed that being a part of the noise doesn’t fit organization’s communications strategy. Watcher doesn’t see how bloviating on Fox News Channel is consistent with what Wiccans are about.

 “There are legitimate questions raised about the Wiccan religion and witches,” Watcher said, ”shouting for ourselves doesn’t do us any good.”

There was already a lot of information available about the Wiccan religion and witches. But the high school experience O’Donnell has described – the one that “didn’t involve blood and stuff” – has Watcher perplexed.

“Whatever it is she ran across, it’s not our religion,” said Watcher. “What’s come out has been so ridiculous. Right now, it’s just the media looking for sensationalism.”

So what IS the Wiccan religion about? Wicca, or Witchcraft is the most popular expression of the religious movement known as Neo-Paganism. Based on nature and respecting the Earth’s elements, Wiccan revives ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapts them to contemporary life. Wiccans believe in God and prayer, honor all religions and want the world to be a better place. There are over 800,000 Wiccans in the U.S, with several local and regional organizations to be found through the Internet or word of mouth.

The Covenant of the Goddess, non-hierarchical and governed by consensus, has members in North America, Europe and Australia. According to the Institute for the Study of American Religion, it’s the fastest growing religion in Canada, and it’s coming up fast in the U.S.

Here’s what it’s NOT about: Satanism, flying broomsticks, pointy hats, boiling pots, Samantha and her mother Endora, stealing, killing (not even flies), lying, men who call themselves warlocks, or working 'black magic.'

While Wiccans feel anything but victimized by O’Donnell’s statements or the current hubbub, they do see a need to do more education and remove common misperceptions. After the election, Watcher hopes that Covenant of the Goddesses and the worldwide Wiccan community will have a less frenzied environment to build awareness about their practices and beliefs, and demonstrate how mainstream they really are.

The Wiccan religion builds its reputation through spiritual experience; they aren’t particularly eager for publicity in the traditional sense. While that probably won’t mean business for agencies, their communication strategy of first tuning out the noise is refreshing.

I’m Repman and I approved this guest blog.

Peter Engel has over 20 years experience in marketing communications working with clients in automotive, business-to-business, consumer marketing, education, financial services, healthcare, media, real estate and technology. Peter lives happily in New York City and no longer has nightmares about his experiences working with Steve and Ed at Earle Palmer Brown.

Sep 18

The dangers of inside-out marketing

September 18 - Jesus Freak 2 Those of us who suffer the daily indignities of the 7:27am New Jersey Transit ride to Manhattan are periodically subjected to old-time Bible thumping by a dyed-in-the-wool, certifiable Jesus Freak. The guy sets up shop directly across the tracks from us, cites a Bible passage or two and then warns us to abandon our wicked and wanton ways before heading into the latter-day version of Sodom & Gomorrah.

I ordinarily tune him out as quickly as I'm tuning in Pink Floyd, Ziggy Marley or Luigi Bocarini on my iPod. Today, though, the Jesus Freak got my attention with a particularly nasty assault on the evils of Islam. How insensitive, I thought. Hasn't he factored in the Muslim commuters on the platform? Or, doesn't he care? It also occurred to me that I was sharing the platform with any number of commuters who were looking forward to the Jewish high holidays. Hmmm. Another target audience down the tubes.

And, then it dawned on me. The bible thumper was making a classic inside-out marketing mistake. He wasn't thinking about his audience. He wasn't taking the time to figure out who they were, what sort of information they'd like to hear and where they'd be most open to engaging him in conversation. Instead, the sermon on the platform was all about him and his views.

I see inside-out marketing coming from some of the allegedly best and brightest brands in Corporate America. Alongside the amazingly dysfunctional internal operations at many of these companies, inside-out marketing is one of business and industry's better-kept, dirty little secrets.

Despite all the hoopla and posturing about social media and best practices for reaching the newly-empowered consumer, inside-out marketing still ricochets through the hallways of America's best companies like some sort of rampant, mutant H1N1 virus.

NJT's resident Jesus Freak is obviously oblivious to inside-out marketing (he's most likely oblivious to most things in life). But, there's no excuse for highly-paid, uber powerful marketers who keep making the same mistake 'He' does.

Wise up, Corporate America. It's later than you think. And, speaking of thinking, it's no longer about you or what you think. It's all about what we the consumers (and commuters) think.

All aboard!

May 29

Father Cutie’s cutie forces right decision

May 29 - Alberto Cutie This former alter boy is psyched to see Roman Catholic priest Alberto Cutie walk away from the absurdities of the Church's celibacy rule and, girlfriend in hand, move to the Episcopalian faith.

It's a big deal since Cutie is extremely high profile and known as Miami's 'Father Oprah.' He was beloved by parishioners, but caught making out in public with his girlfriend. And, that's a no-no for a Catholic priest. So, the Church gave him an ultimatum: ditch the woman or the faith.

Rather than walk away from his natural feelings and the love of his life, Father Cutie instead turned his back on celibacy and the Catholic Church. And, I say 'Bravo!'

Church leaders established celibacy in the Middle Ages to prevent married priests from passing down their accumulated wealth to the next generation. They wanted the money to stay right where it was: in the church coffers.

Celibacy is simply not a natural state of life. In my opinion, it's also the root cause of the Church's long-standing problems with pedophilia. Celibacy attracts men who want to be with other men and, sadly, with little boys as well.

As a current non-practicing Catholic, I applaud Father Cutie's move. I hope he and his cutie have a happy and healthy life ahead. As for the Church, this is yet another image and reputation setback for an institution that is badly out of sync with the realities of the modern world.

Nov 12

Religiously pursuing profits

Televangelists sure give fundamental Christianity a black eye. These self-righteous men and womenPlate
pound their podiums, thump their chests and offer lots of false hope: all in the name of Jesus and the Almighty Dollar.

So, it’s nice to see the government finally step in and investigate the charlatans who preach poverty but live in the lap of luxury.

Ah, there’s nothing like a good Congressional investigation to put the fear of God in a double-talking, bible-thumping fraud. And, while there are undoubtedly some legitimate preachers out there, my gut tells me the majority simply prey (pun intended) on the fears and ignorance of the great unwashed masses.

Organized religion deserves its checkered image and reputation. Too many scam artists have hurt too many unsuspecting faithful over the years.

So, let the investigations begin. And, hopefully, some of these profit-hungry pastors will be doing their preaching in prison and not on the boob tube.