Aug 09

When your CEO isn’t New York Times worthy

Remember the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine Bennis, running low on contraceptive devices,
Nytimes1 had to decide which boyfriends were and weren't sponge worthy?

The episode came to mind recently when we were fired by a client CEO whose story, despite our very best efforts, was found by reporters at the 'old, gray lady' not to be New York Times worthy.

Never mind that we had scored tons of superb placements in outlets such as Fast Company, general business press, vertical industry and trades. The narcissistic CEO felt his epic tale should be splashed across the front pages of the 'print' edition of The Times. Aside from feeding his Mt. Everest-sized ego, the Times hit was uber critical to the CEO because the other power players in his social circle also routinely appeared in the paper. So, he HAD to be there or else.

Unfortunately, the Times editorial staff disagreed (no matter how many angles we tried). And, since we failed to produce the seminal Times hit, we were summarily discharged.

The CEOs self-aggrandizing misbehavior reminded me of the stereotypical typical dotcom founder who, armed with a freshly-minted Stanford MBA, a me-too business model and millions of dollars in venture capital seed money insisted his mug be front and center on the cover of BusinessWeek. His CMO henchwoman (they were almost always henchwomen, BTW) would nod her head vigorously and add, "How could they not put Halsey on the cover?" Well, nine times out of 10, the professional journalists laughed off the pitch as not being cover worthy and the henchwoman would discard us like yesterday's newspaper.

All of which reminds me of a superb observation the legendary Manhattan PR wizard Howard Rubenstein shared with a PRSA audience many years back. When a prospect or client CEO demanded to be on the front page of The New York Times or the cover of Fortune, Rubenstein said he'd let out an exasperated sigh, lean over, pull open his desk drawer and produce a toy gun. “You want to be on the cover of Forbes? Fine. Go murder someone and I'll get you on the cover of Forbes.” I think that sums it up beautifully.

Stanley Bing's book "Crazy Bosses" contains a hilarious chapter about the care and feeding of self-absorbed, narcissistic maniacs who believe the sun rises and sets with their every move. My only addition to Bing's pearls of wisdom would be to determine expectations BEFORE a relationship begins. If you run into the next George Steinbrenner who needs his ego stoked with one front page feature after another (and you believe the actual news value akin to what Lindsay Lohan was served for breakfast in the L.A. County jail, walk away). Tell the prospect he or she isn't client worthy.

Sep 27

I want to be sedated

I love to laugh at some of the shlocky commercials that air on my local cable station. One features aDentist
sleazy, Bill Murray-type lounge singer earnestly pitching $14.95 shrimp dinners at a local bistro (er, no thanks). Another hawks something called ‘sedation dentistry,’ trumpeting it as a breakthrough solution for an angst-riddled society. Come again? Sedation dentistry?

Yes, indeed. And, in a true problem-solution approach, the dentist promoting the sedation therapy warns that more and more Americans are avoiding the dentist chair because of anxiety. As a result, he says, they suffer such serious consequences as gum disease, tooth erosion and god knows what else.

Happily, though, there’s a solution: sedation dentistry. And, it’s so effective that one patient beams, ‘I remember sitting down in the chair and then I don’t remember anything else until I left.’

Excuse me, but that’s more than a little scary. In fact, it conjures up all sorts of bizarre scenarios (i.e. the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry wakes up to see his disheveled dentist and nurse quickly buttoning up their tunics).

Sure, shlocky commercials are a hoot. But, when they raise more questions than they answer, one might question the cost-benefit ratio (not to mention the image and reputation of the advertiser).

Sedation dentistry may be an alternative for a few antsy folks. But I, for one, want to have my wits about me when someone is drilling deeply into my oral cavity. That said, I may sedate myself the next time I see that woman pop up on my screen.