Sep 29

You wouldn’t have caught the young Repman standing on a street corner selling lemonade

I just completed a first-of-its-kind online survey that tells entrepreneurs like me whether we were "born" or "bred."

The born vs. bred debate has been raging for years, with lots of so-called experts convinced it’s oneLstand  or the other. But, until this particular survey came along, no one had ever thought to ask entrepreneurs themselves what they thought (note: in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that the survey is being fielded by one of our clients, Northeastern University).

So, anyway, I took the survey and, no surprise, I found out I wasn’t a born entrepreneur (the young Repman never had a paper route or hawked lemonade on the corner). In fact, I had never had any entrepreneurial ambitions until I figured out who I was, what my strengths were and whether I enjoyed and respected working for others.

My entrepreneurial "eureka" moment came when I was working for one of the large agencies. After just 15 months of pure hell, I was convinced I could do PR at least as well as the big guys and, amazingly I was right (I think).

Anyway, if you’re an entrepreneur, or have aspirations of becoming one down the road, take the test and see what you think. If you do, maybe I’ll buy you a glass of lemonade.

Sep 29

Is this any way to run, or report on, a war?

Dexter Filkins, a former New York Times correspondent who covered the war in Iraq, says things are so dangerous there that the Times sub-contracts actual, on-the-scene reporting to a group of 70 Iraqi nationals. They do so, says Filkins, who is now a Fellow at Harvard, because Western journalists are prime targets for local terrorists.

As a result of the horrific surroundings, the Times has constructed a facility in Baghdad that 186321m_1 reminds me of the old movie, "Fort Apache, the Bronx." It’s surrounded by "45 full-time Kalashnikov-toting security guards who patrol its two blast-wall-enclosed houses." There are also machine gun nests on the roof and three fully armored cars. The Times also pays hefty insurance premiums for the five reporters who hunker down and do the actual writing inside the fortress.

So, what we read in the Times every day is once removed from the actual incident. Perfectly understandable in terms of safety and security, but if true, a major scandal. The Times is the bastion of liberal America and the number one cheerleader against the war in Iraq. If they rely on locals to collect the news and information, how do they (and we) know it’s not slanted one way or the other? How do they (and we) know it’s 100 percent accurate?

To compound the problem further, Filkins says the U.S. Military is just as out-of-touch with the day-to-day realities of daily Iraqi life as their counterparts at the Times. Soldiers are mostly confined to bases and don’t interact with locals at all. Filkins summarized his report (which appeared in Editor & Publisher) by saying that 98 percent of Iraq and most of Baghdad is simply off-limits to western journalists.

So, the administration is basing its decisions on what its military leaders tell it to do. But, they’re so hunkered down that they see very little of what’s what. And, the media are so scared that they hire others to do the actual fact collecting.

So, what are we left with? In my mind, no one really knows what’s going on, why it’s going on or if it will ever end. In the meantime, one of the greatest newspapers in the world is reporting second-hand news? The only winners in this scenario are the bad guys. When the credibility, image and reputation of both the government and the media are called into question, it’s time to either immediately fix things or pack up one’s tent and go home.

Sep 28

Cablevision blunder could be impetus for groundbreaking PR campaign

Cable TV operator Cablevision Systems Corporation announced Friday it had inadvertently awarded stock options to a vice chairman named Marc Lustgarten. No big deal ordinarily, except for the fact thatD8764_1  he has been pushing up daisies since 1999.

Typical of most big companies, Cablevision followed its fiduciary responsibilities by reporting the embarrassing mistake, but wouldn’t comment further on the Lustgarten affair.

But, why bury it (pun intended)? Why limit the awarding of stock options to just one deceased former vice chairman? Just think about it: Cablevision’s crack communications department could really jump on this idea and rollout a nationwide, grassroots (again, pun intended) campaign asking consumers to nominate famous dead Americans who should receive Cablevision stock options. There would have to be some tie-in to Cablevision’s business for it to make sense, so maybe consumers should be directed to think about the history of television as they make their stock nominations.

If I were voting I’d give strong consideration to this pantheon of dead entertainers and broadcast industry notables:

1) Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television set

2) Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel (stars of the prototypical TV sitcom)

3) Milton Berle (TV’s first superstar)

4) Johnny Carson (my favorite talk show host ever. Conan? Please…)

5) John Lennon and George Harrison (who, with their still breathing bandmates, made television history on the Ed Sullivan Show)

6) Carroll O’Connor (Archie Bunker remains my all-time favorite TV character)

I’m sure there are many other dead stars who would appreciate being remembered via posthumous Cablevision stock options. Who would you vote for? Let me know. Or, better yet, let the Cablevision corp comm people know. They’ll need your input to complete the PR plan.

Hat tip to Greg Schmalz for the heads-up about Cablevision’s blunder.

Sep 28

The Scissor Sisters should stick to their knitting

Scissor Sisters, the NYC-based band that is currently red-hot in the UK, has shot itself in the collective foot (feet?) as a result of lead singer Jack Shears’ accusations that U.S. record stores0926  charge exorbitant fees for CDs.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the statement, communications 101 teaches us to think about the impact of our statements before making them. Sadly, Shears didn’t think before he riffed about a particular retail outlet’s high CD prices. Now, he and his band, who have the UK’s best selling album, find themselves with limited U.S. Distribution. Why? Because a huge music retail conglomerate, Trans World Entertainment, took umbrage at Shears’ charges and has simply refused to stock the album in over 1,100 of its stores, which include Sam Goody, For Your Entertainment, Wherehouse, and others. Ouch. Talk about retribution.

Sad to say, it seems like neither side is willing to back down and smoke a peace pipe (or whatever kind of pipe rock stars smoke these days). Instead, both sides are escalating the self-destructive drumbeat.

If I were advising Scissor Sisters, I’d tell them to back off, issue some sort of apology and move on. Why alienate a major source of your revenue unless you have an alternative source of incoming pounds sterling lined up backstage? Picking fights with an 800-pound gorilla simply isn’t a smart career move. And, the entertainment industry graveyard is littered with the tombstones of artists who got a little too big for their britches too soon (Lenny Bruce and the Monkees come to mind. Comedian Bruce insisted on using expletives in a still puritanical society while the Monkees, believing they were bigger and better than the Beatles, managed to piss off nearly every TV and record company executive of import).

Humble pie (another classic Rock group, btw) can be tough to swallow for a rock group. But, in the case of Scissor Sisters, I suggest they break out the carving knife ASAP and make amends.

Sep 27

Can pride trump quality?

It will be interesting to see how well Chevy Trucks’ shift in campaign strategy will work out. Threatened once again by arch enemy Toyota’s foray into the truck category, Chevy is abandoning its decades-old "Like a rock" theme song sung by Bob Seger to, instead, wrap itself around the American flag with a campaign called, "Our country. Our truck." and a theme song from John Mellencamp.

According to auto industry analysts, Chevy, Ford and Dodge truck owners are indeed very loyal when it comes to their pick-ups. But, Toyota is renowned for its quality and has made unbelievable inroads in terms of North American market share. Although Toyota is a Japanese company, it has integrated itself into the American culture by opening a manufacturing plant right in San Antonio.

In my opinion it will come down to price, passion and quality. GM has been amazingly competitive when it comes to pricing, so who knows? And, Chevy Truck owners are genuinely proud of their trucks and their patriotic feelings according to what I’ve read. But, Toyota is synonymous with quality and routinely finishes at or near the top of the J.D. Power quality rankings.

So, gentlemen (and ladies) start your marketing engines and let the best truck win.

Sep 26

Optimum Online touched me in inappropriate ways

This past Saturday started off exceedingly well. I’d had a good night’s sleep, woke refreshed, enjoyed a long, relaxing run and looked forward to a day in Red Bank where my wife and I would see a movie and have dinner.

But, then Optimum Online came into my world and began to reach out and touch me in highly inappropriate ways. First, it was a television commercial as I was catching up on last night’s sportsOpton_2   scores. Then, later, as I began reading my latest British murder mystery book, I was subjected to an Optimum Online radio spot. Ok, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I can deal with two commercials from the same advertiser.

As we drove to Red Bank, though, I spotted not one, but two, hideous billboards proclaiming the benefits of Optimum’s cable and Internet services. The car radio also carried another spot (note to self: get Sirius or XM Radio installed). But, the coup de grace came as we entered the movie theatre and sat down to await the screening of "Little Miss Sunshine" (which is highly overrated btw. Reminded me of "National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation," but not as funny). So, as the screen flickers to light, guess what I see? Another friggin’ Optimum Online commercial!

In less than a half-day, this company had managed to totally invade my private space and intrude on my relaxation time. Not only was their advertising ineffective, it was counter-productive. When will marketers wake up and realize that they need to reach me in smarter, less intrusive ways that I "opt-in" to? If part of their message is speed and another is programming choices, they should figure out smart and strategic marketing programs to reach me when my mind is open to suggestion (i.e. Since I just purchased a BMW M3, what about some sort of co-brand? Since I prefer several series on Showtime and HBO, how about some sort of smart product placement/mentions in "Weeds," "Brotherhood" or "Curb"?).

As for now, I’ve decided to "opt out" of any Optimum Online purchase consideration. Their "integrated" advertising campaign may have reached out and touched me, but rather than a gentle caress, I feel like I’ve been mugged by a cast member of the Sopranos.

Sep 25

Repchatter show #25 posted

Ted and I are joined by our special guest, Dawn Lauer, for a discussion on the Pope’s recent remarks on Islam, in which he quoted a 14th century Christian emperor as referring to elements of the Muslim faith as “evil and inhuman.” Some say it has proven to be a major PR blunder that risks undermining dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world for years to come.


Sep 25

A new solution to end world terror?

Women in Pereira, Colombia, just may have unlocked the key to ending world terror. Fed up by the death and destruction caused by their drug-peddling boyfriends and husbands, Colombian women have banded together to announce the "strike of the crossed legs." They’re giving up sex until their42081840203  men give up their guns. Primitive, to be sure, but oh so effective.

I have to believe the strike is having its desired effect on the men. Money, power, violence and the rush that comes from such a lifestyle are one thing, but a life with no sex is something else all together.

Just imagine if the strike of the crossed legs does, in fact, work. Women around the world could implement a similar initiative in their war-torn locale. We’d see the women of Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Sunni and Sh’ite Muslims band together and "just say no." Maybe the women of North Korea and Iran would withhold their favors as well. And, if we’re really, really lucky, the wives (and, dare I suggest, the mistresses) of Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove would also turn thumbs down until, and unless, all the sabre rattling has ceased.

In my opinion, this is the first proposed solution that truly "attacks" terrorism at its root (no pun intended) and offers a ray of hope.

Men may be treacherous, deceitful, egomaniacal, territorial and many other things. But, we’re also men. So, here’s hoping the women of Colombia are just the first wave of what will become a worldwide movement to hit the terrorists where it hurts the most. My only hope is that the "significant others" of PR executives don’t see such a strike as a smart ploy to get what they want in their part of the world as well.

Sep 22

Measuring Up

Note to my loyal Repman readers: My partner and "business wife," Edward Aloysius Moed, has launched his own blog called "Measuring Up." Since Ed and I usually disagree on almost everything (except how we run our firm), I’m looking forward to becoming the "medical supply executive" of Measuring Up. But, I don’t want to be a lone voice of reason. Visit Ed’s blog and see if you don’t agree with me that he’s usually wrong 90 percent of the time 🙂


Sep 22

A rose by any other name… still sleazy

There are many different ways in which to rehabilitate one’s image and reputation after a downfall. When I think of the prototypical role models, former president Jimmy Carter comes to mind. So does former junk bond salesman Michael Milken. How about Ellen Degeneres? These three totally turned around negative images and are now seen in a mostly positive light.

Then there’s Pete Rose. Major league baseball’s all-time hits leader has been banned from Hall of Baseball Fame consideration because he was caught betting on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, while he was managing them. For years Rose denied the allegations, even while serving time in prison. Then, needing money in his post baseball life, he penned an autobiography of some 500 pages and devoted, I believe, one or two pages to the scandal, finally admitting that, indeed, he had bet on baseball games.

Since then, Rose has bounced around the fringes of baseball, showing up at autograph shows, hosting a radio program and doing pretty much anything to scrounge up some money. Now comes news that Rose is selling signed baseballs on his web site to the tune of $499 per that read, "I’m sorry I cheated on baseball." How sleazy. The man who refused to admit he had cheated is now trying to make money from the fact that he did.

If Rose really wanted to improve his image and reputation, he’d create a whole line of "I cheated and I’m sorry" merchandise and donate each and every penny to some sort of charity. At least it would be a step in the right direction. Instead, he sinks further into the image abyss with this disgrace.

That said, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, I think Pete’s missing the big picture. If you think about it, the "I cheated and I’m sorry" tagline could work for many different situations in life and be attractive to multiple markets. For example:

1) for the college student who wants to apologize to his parents, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on my exams."

2) for the small business owner who wants to impress the IRS agent sitting across the desk, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on my taxes."

3) and, for the spouse who’s trying not to get booted out of the house, a Pete Rose signed baseball that read: "I’m sorry I cheated on you."

Considering the sleazy depths that Pete Rose is willing to go to, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did see such a line extension (and, Petey, I want a commission for the line extension idea). In the meantime, though, I continue to believe that baseball’s greatest hitter has struck out in terms of rehabilitating his image.

Hat tip to Isaac Farbowitz for this idea.