Aug 11

Talk About Fiddling While Rome Burns

I had to laugh when I read all about BP Products North America’s new lifestyle publicity campaign. It’s intended to show consumers how its new BP gasoline with Invigorate cleans and extends the use of engine parts, in the same way a healthy lifestyle contributes to a longer lifespan.

Oh, puh-lease. Is this the same BP that is racking up ungodly, $38 billion quarterly profits courtesy of its hyper-inflated gas prices? Is this the same BP that touted its environmentally-sensitive thought leadership only to be caught time and again abusing the ecosphere?512pxbp_logosvg

BP should stand for "beyond profits." Or, "Beyond the pale," if you prefer.

If this bad boy of the oil and gas crisis wants to launch a credible lifestyle campaign, they could use the very same Invigorate model, with one modification. They should focus on all the consumers who are now forced to walk, run or bike countless miles to get to and from work because of the oil company’s predatory pricing. As a result, they’re living longer, healthier lives! What a meaningful, unselfish contribution on BP’s part!

Someone at BP should have put the Invigorate campaign through the "sniff" test. When a company is being pilloried for its windfall profits, lack of corporate social responsibility and corporate misdeeds, should it launch a "feel-good" campaign highlighting athletes over the age of 30, who "….despite their age or abilities…..exemplify the Invigorate promise of feeling ‘younger for longer.’" I think not.

BP’s Invigorate campaign gets my vote for most out-of-touch program of the year. I only wish I could hit them with a surcharge for poor strategy.

Aug 08

Nowadays, a Vote of Confidence is Akin to a Kiss of Death

If you believe what GM Director George M.C. Fisher says, Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner’s job is safe and secure. "We are absolutely convinced we have the right team under Rick Wagoner’s leadership to get us through these difficult times and on to a bright future," said Fisher. Uh, sure. Gm_jpeg_image

Fisher’s either blowing smoke or inhaling a special kind of smoke if he expects shareholders and GM watchers to believe that hyperbole. Wagoner and his team are responsible for GM’s dire straits. They totally blew the hybrid car opportunity (think: Toyota Prius), were slow as molasses in curtailing the outrageous costs of lifetime health benefits for employees and retirees and, most recently, were asleep at the wheel as fuel costs skyrocketed and the company kept pushing gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks. On top of everything else, GM’s stock has dropped from $40 per share in October to $10 today. Talk about reckless driving.

I wish I had a dollar for every time a board director, team president or general manager has expressed confidence in a failing executive or manager only to turn around and later fire the sad sack.

Like Willie Randolph was to the Mets, Rick Wagoner is a distraction to GM. He’s become a lightning rod for anger, frustration, ranting and raving. If the ailing auto company has any hopes of pulling out of its death spiral, it needs to be focused.

Fisher and his cohorts will wake up at some point and relieve Wagoner of his duties. And, Rick will drive into the sunset with hundreds of millions of dollars in a severance package and a smoldering wreck of a company disappearing in his rearview mirror.

Aug 06

Just Call Me the Billy Packer of Blogging

PRWeek is launching a 32-blogger, NCAA-type, winner-take-all tournament tomorrow and yours truly has decided to handicap the field. I figure if Billy Packer can do it for the NCAA college basketball tournament, why can’t I provide the same prognosticating for the wonderful world of PR?Blogcompetition_rev2_23365

So, without further ado, here are my favorites (note: in order to satisfy Web 2.0’s relentless demand for truth, honesty and the transparent way, I must disclose that my partner-in-crime, Edward Aloysius Moed, is one of the 32 competitors. While I am not picking Ed to be a finalist, I could see him playing a real spoiler role right through the Sweet 16 [think: Loyola Marymount or Providence College, if you will]).

The PR Week Final Four:

Richard Edelman (he’s the John Wooden of PR blogging. With Edelman’s thousands of employees to vote on his behalf, Richard is my odds-on favorite to go all the way).

Steve Rubel (if Richard is the John Wooden of PR blogging, then Steve Rubel is the James Naismith of the sport. He was there on day one and has been THE major player ever since. Edelman vs. Rubel in the final with Edelman winning on some last-minute voting from the Far East).

Shel Holtz (Shel is a serious University of Kentucky-level competitor, whose blog is insightful and spot-on. He was also right there at the dawning of the PR blogosphere and will play his way into the Final Four.

Katie Paine (Forget Wooden and Naismith. Katie is the Adolph Rupp of PR measurement. Nobody’s done more to advance measurement in PR, and her blog is always spot-on. Look to Katie to also be a semifinalist.

FYI, my Great Eight would also include Pit Bulls and Labradors if for no other reason than I love both breeds. Let the games begin…..

Aug 05

This Channel has Become History to Me

Have you checked out The History Channel’s programming of late? Guess what? It has little, or nothing, to do with history anymore. Instead, there’s pablum like "Ice Road Truckers" and "Modern Marvels."History_channel_logo

What became of historical documentaries? Or, "Movies in Time?" Or, a good, old World War II redux?

I’m not sure what happened. Did the cable network’s research team suddenly decide that viewers would be more interested in a reality series about Alaskan truckers? Or, that we’d love to know the engineering secrets of various buildings, famous or otherwise?

The Learning Channel did the same thing not too long ago. It completely lost its way and opted to steer away from programs intended to help one learn and, instead, began featuring circus sideshow material. Perhaps both are emblematic of the ongoing dumbing down of America?

I used to include The History Channel among my "must views." Now, sadly, it’s history. And, its image and reputation have become a joke (at least to me).

"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it," according to the old bromide. Well, I intend to tempt fate. Because, until they resurrect their original programming charter, I intend to not only ignore The History Channel, but to channel surf right past it.

Aug 04

If it’s Good Enough for the Council, Why isn’t it Good Enough for the Awards Programs?

Peppercom was one of the founding members of the Council of PR Firms (www.prfirms.org). In those early days, the Council was often criticized as being a "big agency" mouthpiece. I never felt that way, but I did understand the sentiment.

The Council retrofitted its structure, created tiered sections and now reflects the interests of small, medium and large sized agencies. Critically, the Council also tiered its membership fee structure. So, for example, Weber Shandwick pays a significantly higher fee then, say, a firm that only bills $5 million on an annualized basis.

So, why don’t PR Week, The Holmes Report, PR News and the various and sundry other industry trade media follow the same approach with their awards programs?

PR Week, for example, just announced its 2009 awards competition and lauded the fact that "…a record-setting 957 entries…" were received last year. What they fail to mention, though, is that a disproportionate percentage of those entries came from the largest agencies. Nor do they mention that large agencies almost always receive the most nominations and the most awards.Pr20weekaward

This is simply unfair. Large agencies have the wherewithal to devote the time and resources to compete for the awards. Indeed, quite a few have dedicated resources just to manage their array of submissions.

How level a playing field do we have when a Burson or Fleishman can submit 50, 60 or more entries while a small or mid-sized firm can only afford one or two? The answer is simple: the media should adopt the Council’s tiered pricing program. Large agencies should pay considerably more per submission tha
n do medium or smaller sized firms. Fair market pricing would dramatically level the playing field and make the awards programs less of a big agency feast and more of a true industry competition.

Aug 01

All Work and No Play

It took me quite a few years to figure this out, but pursuing one’s hobbies or dreams outside the workplace is hugely important. It’s important to one’s health and well-being. It’s important to one’s psyche. And, yes, it’s even important to one’s individual "brand."

For me, it’s all about stand-up comedy, climbing and, now, swimming. To Deb Brown, it’s all about ice hockey. To Kelly Walton and Beth Starkin, it’s about singing and acting, respectively. And, to Michael ‘Mickey’ Cowdroy, it’s all about playing bass guitar in a rapidly-rising rock band.

By day, Mickey is a meek, mild member of Peppercom UK’s crackerjack staff. But, by night, he’s riffing along with his two band mates in what seems to be a very hot pop/rock ensemble.Sts9old

Mickey tells me his group finished in the runner-up spot in a recent, nationwide competition (the winning band landed a gig as the opening act for The Police). Now, they’re about to engage in another countrywide battle of the bands.

The odds are obviously stacked against Mickey’s becoming the next Keith Richards. But, as the New York Lotto TV commercials like to remind us, "…..Hey, you never know."

In the meantime, I applaud Mickey, Deb, Kelly, Beth and the many others like them who want more from life. For me, it’s simply a case of better late then never. And, for Mickey, I say, "Rock on!"