May 14

TO: Sue Simmons FROM: Sammy Glick, publicist

Sue baby. How are ya, kiddo? Listen, forget about last night. I loved it and I know, deep down, ChuckSuesimmons
adores you for doing it live like that. So, listen hon, the apology wasn’t bad. Not bad at all. But, we’re blowing some major career-enhancing opportunities for you if we don’t act fast. In fact, we’re gonna take a page out of the Mel Gibson celebrity crisis handbook, mix in some Karl Rove dirty tricks and make you the biggest thing to hit this town since George and Ira Gershwin.

Here’s the plan of attack. Everyone and their brother will be watching you tonight at 11, right? It’s like watching a train wreck. They won’t be able to help themselves. Here’s what you do. You get really good and liquored up this time. Tell Jean Georges to send me the tab. So, anyway, you stagger on at 11, push Chuck out of the way and announce to the world that you’re taking an immediate sabbatical (I love this sabbatical thing. Came to me while I was showering this morning).  Anyway, you apologize for your behavior, admit that your alcohol abuse is way out of control and, get this, you’ll be checking yourself in immediately at some detox center for a 90-day journey of introspection and soul-searching. Am I friggin’ good, or what?

But wait, this is where it gets really, really good. While you’re in detox (we’ll find some cool place in the Hamptons for you, btw), you and me and some burnt-out writer I’ll dig up, will bang out your memoirs. I already have a working title, ‘What the F*** was I thinking?’ I’ve already got Random House interested in a cool $1 million signing deal. From there, we leak excerpts to the Post, New York Magazine, all the scandal sheets, etc. Then, get this, we book you on a three-month long college speaking tour (at schools of communications, natch). Finally, we arrange with WNBC-TV for your triumphant return on, when else, New Year’s Eve!!!! Sue: this is magic, baby. This is why you put in all those years sitting alongside sourpuss Scarborough. We’re gonna rock your world!

We’re going to the top, the absolute toppermost of the poppermost, as John Lennon used to say. So, head over to Jean Georges now. I’ll meet you there and we’ll start guzzling.

May 14

Ask not who wrote the original draft

Ted Sorenson’s new book, ‘Counselor’ finally confirms what many suspected. He wrote most ‘…first draftsTed_sorensen_kennedy
of chapters’ in ‘Profiles in Courage’ and, along with Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy, authored JFK’s memorable inaugural address.

Sorenson says the significant sum proffered by JFK for contributions to ‘Profile,’ ‘…diminished any interest I might otherwise have had in recognition of my role.’ Hmmm. That must have been some payday.

I’m a huge Camelot fan and continue to read anything and everything I can about JFK, RFK and all things Kennedy. But, this admission is a real image and reputation bummer. It not only confirms that Kennedy wasn’t the intellectual heavyweight many thought he was, but also shines the spotlight on a less-than-honest author.

Beyond his well documented recklessness, womanizing, drug ingesting and other curious lifestyle choices, it seems JFK was also quite content to take credit for someone else’s work.

Despite this latest bombshell, JFK will undoubtedly remain one of our all-time favorite presidents. After all, he’s forever frozen in time as a dashing, daring and direct chief executive who left us much too soon. But, if he hadn’t been assassinated, one wonders what sort of image and reputation he’d enjoy today. I have to believe that, instead of being at or near the top of most ‘favorability polls,’ Jack would find himself listed alongside Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding and the current incumbent at the bottom of the barrel.

May 13

A market research company that doesn’t do market research

I love irony. The thicker, the better. How rich, then, is this voice mail?
Phone_call_2

“Hey Melissa, this is xxxxxxx xxxx calling from xxxxxxxxxxx. Um, I had been speaking with Dandy, and uh, I had been speaking with Steve Cody before he left Peppercom, um, regarding market research with you guys. So when you have a moment if you could give me a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx. If you want to check us out online before you call we’re at xxxxxxxxxxx.com. Thanks, Melissa.”

This poor guy not only believes that ‘…Steve Cody no longer works for Peppercom, but he’s also trying to pitch his market research company’s services to our very own Melissa Vigue. Ouch!

No need to expound on the damage a market researcher who doesn’t do market research can wreak on a market research company’s image and reputation (and, try saying that line three times fast).

May 12

We love dirty laundry

Americans love gossip. The juicier, the better.  We love to see, hear and read about dirty laundry, be itTdr1
Lindsey Lohan’s, Tom Cruise’s or Steve Wick’s. Yes, the Steve Wick.

For the uniformed, Steve Wick was marketing chief at Memphis-based golf products seller True Temper and, according to industry gossip sheet par excellence, The Delaney Report, he’s "…out after only six months." Poor Steve.

The Delaney Report (TDR) is the People Magazine/Hollywood Tonight of the advertising, marketing and media worlds. It’s a great source of news, information, trends and, well, gossip (salacious or otherwise).

TDR’s back page carries a section called "Agency Rumblings." It’s not only a must read for industry patrician and plebian alike, but a career maker or breaker as well. I distinctly remember the damage a long-ago Delaney Report "rumbling" caused my now-defunct employer Earle Palmer Brown. The TDR piece about EPB’s alleged hostile work environment caused clients to call, prospects to pause and resumes to flood the street. It was a horror show.

TDR doesn’t play favorites either. They’ll bash the Interpublic Group and Time Inc alike via unnamed, inside sources. ("What IPG needs to show is two-to-three years of competitive growth, not two-to-three months," said one IPG executive. And, "Everybody expects the bloodletting to continue. There is a lot of grumbling about it," a TI source said.).

Yes, Virginia, Americans love gossip. Except, maybe, poor Steve Wick. Hey, maybe TDR needs a competitor? What about The Wick Report? Wick Illustrated? Wick World?

May 09

Hillary would never make it as a timekeeper

Senator Hillary Clinton told reporters Wednesday that it ‘was still early’ in the campaign season and thatHillary_2
‘…the dynamic electoral environment’ could still swing her way.

Gimme a break. Early in the campaign season? It’s one minute to midnight and Hill’s goose is cooked. Her refusal to concede and allow the fractured Democratic Party to unite behind Barack Obama is disingenuous, deceitful and depressing.

I’ve never been a fan of Senator Clinton’s, but she’s sunk to a new low with this latest statement.

The time (pun intended) to finally step up and display some class and graciousness is now. Mark Penn and the rest of Hill’s consultants need to tell her what any public relations professional would tell a client in a similar situation. Do what’s best for the brand. And, the brand in this case is the Democratic Party.

The longer Hill delays, the more likely ’43’ will be succeeded by John McCain as our 44th president. So, look at your wristwatch, Senator Clinton. It’s later then you think.

May 08

Cody curse becomes a verb

Business travel has become so bad that everyone is ‘Cody Cursed.’ In fact, friends and family alike nowPlane
use the once ‘inner circle-only’ catch phrase to describe their most recent business trip from hell (i.e. ‘I’ve been Cody Cursed on my way to Denver. We have an indefinite delay.’ Or ‘Sure enough, the plane landed on time, but I was Cody Cursed with a no-show limo driver.’).

I’m less-than-thrilled to report that I’ve been Cody Cursed once again. My return flight from O’Hare two nights ago was early (‘That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. We should be in Newark a full 30 minutes early tonight,’ bellowed our effervescent captain). But, once we were on the ground, bingo, the good ol’ curse kicked in again (‘Ah, ladies and gentlemen, Captain Stanley Kowalski here. As I said, we did arrive early but, unfortunately, there’s no gate for us. As a result, we’ll taxi on over to an open area and wait. So, sit back, relax and as soon as we have an update, well I’ll be right back in touch.’). Piss off.

Thirty minutes later and we’re still sitting. At least, I can feel some comfort in the knowledge that, along with Kleenex and Xerox, the Cody Curse has become a generic term. A ‘Murphy’s Law’ in the air, if you will.  And, that’s a good thing (except, that is, when you’re caught in the middle of one).

May 07

The B-school brain drain game

BusinessWeek reports that India’s best and brightest business school students are no longer flocking toBusiness
the Kellogg’s, Wharton’s and Darden’s. Why? Because India’s top b-school’s have at least caught up with, if not surpassed, our creme de la creme. Why should India’s best minds relocate to Philadelphia when they can stay in New Delhi?

To add further insult to injury, America’s top B-school recruiters such as BCG and McKinsey, are shelling out massive bucks to newly-minted Indian MBAs (how does a starting salary of $360k sound to you?).

I’m not surprised Indians are staying home. Having represented quite a few business schools over the years, I’ve always been struck by the internecine warfare and naval-gazing that abounds on our top campuses.

I’ve witnessed faculty turf wars that make Antietam look like a skirmish in comparison. I’ve heard corporate recruiters bemoan the lack of real-world experience, communications and team skills demonstrated by recent US b-school grads. And, I’ve listened to faculty, administrators and management spend hour after hour debating tactical, incremental curricula change.

I’m hoping Duke, UCLA and Tuck don’t emulate Detroit and become the GM, Ford and Chrysler of their industry.

America needs its business schools to remain the very best. It goes far beyond mere image and reputation; this is a global competitiveness crisis that needs to be addressed now.

It’s clearly time for America’s B-school deans to do some cramming and figure out a solution. Otherwise, we’ll all be left behind.

May 06

Be slow to promise, but quick to deliver

I wouldn’t be writing this blog if the Continental Airlines pilot and flight attendants hadn’t waxed poeticPlane_2
about our arriving 30 minutes earlier than expected.

First, the pilot told us the good news. Then, the flight attendants chimed in as well. ‘Cool,’ I thought, ‘That doesn’t happen very often.’

And, as it turns out it didn’t happen this time either. Oh, we arrived 30 minutes early. But, then the captain announced the following, ‘Ah, ladies and gentlemen, the good news is we did indeed arrive 30 minutes early. Unfortunately, though, there are no gates available. So, we’ll have to sit and wait.’

Thirty minutes later and we’re still sitting.

One of the best pieces of image and reputation advice I’ve ever heard came from a ‘grey beard’ at Hill and Knowlton many years ago. He told me to wait before responding to an urgent client request of one sort or another. He told me to think through my response and said, ‘…be slow to promise, but quick to deliver.’ It was great advice.

Although I’m sure they couldn’t care less, the Continental Airlines crew should learn a lesson from today’s miscommunication. By mismanaging customer expectations, they now have a cabin full of restless, unhappy passengers.

Oh, and, guess what? We still haven’t budged.

May 05

What did they know and when did they know it?

PR Weeks’ annual agency business report provides a nice dive into the country’s top 47 firms. It’sMarkpenn_2
polished, professional and to the point. But, curiously, it leads with a questionable selection and an even more questionable word choice.

Each of the top agencies in the section, you see, is defined by a word selected by the PR Week staff. Weber Shandwick is called ‘the heavyweight.’ No argument there. Ketchum is given ‘the linchpin’ moniker. Ah, ok, if you say so. And, Fleishman is proudly proclaimed ‘the titan,’ which sounds like something straight out of Jason and the Argonauts.

But, and here’s where I wonder what the PR Week folks were thinking, they lead off their entire list with Mark Penn and Burson-Marsteller, proclaiming both as ‘the counselor.’ Ouch. Talk about bad timing.

Why lead with Penn, when he’s just been pilloried because of improper connections with Hillary (hey, that rhymes!)? A John Budd letter to the editor earlier in the very same edition takes Penn to task for his obvious conflict of interest mistake. And, yet, a few pages later, there he is in all his glory.

All of which leads me to wonder if PR Week’s left and right hands were not communicating. Or, did someone decide, ‘Hey, what the heck? It’s a nice photo of Mark and he is a counselor, a counselor whose credibility and ethics have been seriously called into question, but so what? Let’s go ahead and lead our special section with him anyway.’ Or, worse, did someone not connect the dots?

It’s all very puzzling, and leads me to ask the age-old journalism question of our lead trade journal: What did they know and when did they know it?