Sep 11

How Come Water’s Never Discussed at the Water Cooler

Our office is a microcosm of workplaces around the world. And, like their global counterparts, our people love to talk politics. You should have heard our loyal Republicans and Democrats discussing Sarah Palin the other day. They went back-and-forth on such issues as national security, terrorism, the economy, education, crime and gas prices, to name just a few.

But, they never mentioned water. Or sanitation, for that matter. As a matter of fact, I’ve yet to hear McCain, Palin, Obama or Biden discuss the global water and sanitation crisis. And, trust me, it’s a huge crisis. Millions and millions of people in Third World countries are suffering, if not dying, because of poor water and sanitation conditions. In fact, horrific water and sanitation issues have so impacted the Third World that it’s caused a ripple effect, exacerbating everything from poverty and disease to worker productivity and a country’s global competitiveness (or lack thereof). To put it in perspective, consider this: eight out of 10 of the major river systems in one Third World country are completely contaminated by arsenic.

Girls are much more severely affected than boys. Water and sanitation systems are so bad in most Third World schools that one in four girls refuse to use the facilities and, as a result, never complete their primary education (that’s compared to one in seven boys. I’m not sure what that says about us guys, btw).

I guess water and sanitation aren’t "hot" enough issues to register on our top politicians’ agendas. That’s why it’s refreshing to see the private sector step up. Our client, ITT, has just announced a partnership with an organization called Water for People.  TheLogo partnership is intended to improve the water and sanitation systems in schools in three initial countries: India, Honduras and Guatemala. It may only be a drop in the bucket (pun intended), but the ITT Watermark endowment will have a profound impact on the lives and futures of children in those countries.

Water and sanitation aren’t someone else’s concern. As a matter of fact, because we live in an increasingly interconnected global economy, it’s everyone’s concern. So, the next time you hear Sarah bashing Barack or Joe questioning McCain’s economic credentials, ask yourself why they’re not discussing the global water issue.

Sep 10

It’s All About Engaging in the Conversation

Our very own Sam "The Hilltopper" Ford moderated a most excellent PR Week webcast yesterday on the subject of digital communications. Specifically, Sam and his three panelists (Paula Berg from Southwest Airlines, Russ Castronovo from Sun Microsystems and Paula Drum from H&R Block) discussed best practices for closing the gap that exists in many corporations between communicators who "get" digital" and senior management who don’t.

Each panelist had different success stories and cautionary tales, but each seemed to focus on one central theme: the best way to convince the c-suite of digital’s importance is to share what’s being said about the organization on the Web. To be more precise, Paula Berg showed her executives what Southwest’s customers were saying about the airline in various chat rooms. From there, it was relatively easy to convince them to not only begin blogging, but to be strategic about it. She cited her company’s anticipation of Aloha Airlines’ chapter 11 filing and Southwest’s aggressive Web postings that offered stranded passengers immediate solutions.

Castronovo said Sun is blessed with a culture that revels in blogging and believes that not responding to what’s being said on the Web is akin to not answering the phone.

For her part, Drum credits H&R Block’s digital communications program with helping to re-position the firm away from being solely seen as "store fronts on a corner" and, instead, as a financial counselor.

Each panelist agreed that, when it comes to digital, seeing is believing. Paula Berg said her CEO’s "Eureka" moment came when she forwarded a Twitter comment from a customer. He immediately sensed the new technology’s importance and asked for a 45-minute tutorial.

I’ll add other observations in coming blogs, but rule one for closing the digital divide with the C-suite seems to be sharing what’s being said about the brand in Cyberspace and encouraging the decision-makers to engage in the dialogue.

Sep 09

A Tale of Two Teams

I must admit to cherishing the plight of the best baseball team money can buy. Yes, those big, bad Bronx Bombers are languishing in fourth place in the American League’s Eastern Division, and their chances of making the playoffs are as realistic as a last-second Hillary Clinton comeback. Yankeesfrustrated

As a lifelong Yankees hater, it does my soul good to see them struggle (especially in light of the many barbs I’ve suffered over the years at the hands of Peppercom’s Bronx Bomber fans. To wit: "Why don’t you root for a real baseball team?").

That said, the Mets are providing their usual roller coaster of a ride. Always talented and always troubled, the Mets almost always play with our affections. In fact, I liken them to a former Miss Jersey beauty pageant contestant I once dated who, eWrightvery now and then, would let me know how it could be with her. Most of the time, though, she would withhold her charms. And, like the aspiring beauty queen of yesteryear, the Mets are little more than a big tease (they gave us championships in 1969 and ’86, respectively, but left us panting the rest of the time).

Still, give me the underachieving, underdog Mets any day of the week. It may not be as rewarding as rooting for baseball’s highest paid team but, image-wise, there’s something inherently cooler about being a Mets fan.

Sep 05

Mick Cody’s Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take it Anymore

Mick Cody is one angry dog. The five-year-old pit bull is incensed over Governor Sarah Palin’s recent comments at the Republican National Convention: "You know what they say the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."

Cody, who is co-founder and managing partner of the National Pit Bull Awareness Association (NPAA), says Palin’s negative remarks perpetuate misleading stereotypes. "We’ve worked tirelessly to change people’s misconceptions about pit bulls. If treated decently, we’re warm, compassionate and caring creatures, unlike a certain Alaskan politician."

Mick was reached for comment in Ohio, where he’d been addressing a local NPAA chapter. "The major parties and media are totally overlooking a powerful (and, I do mean powerful) voting block. Palin’s comments not only antagonize pit bulls, but they anger the 50 million dogs currently residing in America. And, critically, many of my fellow canines are of voting age (editor’s note: that would be three years old or older)."

Cody says the NPAA has offered speaking opportunities to both parties, but has been turned down cold: "Not so much as a whimper from either camp," he snarled.

As a result, Mick says he’s taking matters into his own paws and, along with his new eight-week-old little brother, Rooney, making a run for the presidency. "It’s time canines had a chance to run things. Sure, our life expectancies may not enable us to last for a full two terms, but we’d do a better job than the current occupants," he howled.

When questioned about his youthful running mate’s qualifications for the VP slot, Mick snapped: "Rooney’s been around for three months. That’s almost a full year in human terms. How much more experience does the hockey mom have?" Mick added that the only thing Rooney hasn’t mastered yet is field dressing a moose. "But, give the little guy some time," he chuckled.

The Mick/Rooney ticket hopes to hold a quick convention in the Cody backyard ("Our mom’s promised to clean it up first with a pooper scooper," noted Rooney.). They’ve also developed a campaign theme they say "….runs rings" around the others: "Paws for a change."

Mick says the double entendre will resonate with humans, canines and the all-important undecided Feline vote.

"Pit Bulls specifically, and dogs in general, are mad as hell with negative stereotypes. It’s time to muzzle Palin and her breed once and for all," concluded Cody.

Sep 04

Triple-tasking on the Train

I’ll bet three-quarters of my fellow NJ Transit riders are doing exactly what I’m doing: reading a book or newspaper, listening to tunes on their iPod and periodically scanning their blackberries.

We’re an A.D.D.-addled society that seems to absolutely revel in the fact. We’ve not only adapted to more information and less time, we seem to take perverse delight in it. Is that because we’re so self-centered we couldn’t possibly imagine the world getting by without us being aware of, if not opining on, the various issues of the day?

Various studies have shown the average American’s attention span is now condensed to something in the order of three seconds. We literally can’t focus on one assignment without immediately multi-tasking to a second, or third. Mmedia

I think multitasking is a significant contributor to the physical and mental health problems besieging our country. I think it’s also a factor in our waning global competitiveness (by paying attention to so many other countries, we’ve managed to neglect our own).

I’d posit other thoughts, but I need to fire up UB-40 on the iPod, scan the various sections of the Times and Journal, and finish reading an outrageous mountaineering book called Dead Lucky……all before I reach Penn Station.

Talk to you later, blogosphere.

Sep 02

Talk About the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

I rarely watch "The O’Reilly Factor" on Fox News because:

   a) I don’t care for O’Reilly’s point of view
   b) I find his manner and personality offensive.

So, as I was lazily channel surfing on Palin Day (need I say more?), I made a quick pit stop to hear what Big Bill had to say. What I heard made me stop in my tracks. Rather than leading a reasoned discussion on why John McCain had just picked an obscure, neophyte Alaskan politician as his running mate, O’Reilly was instead lambasting MSNBC for its coverage of the announcement.Oreilly_the_finger

It seems he didn’t like the words MSNBC had streamed across the bottom of the screen as Governor Palin was being introduced to the masses. To wit: "How many houses will McCain have now?"

O’Reilly was right to suggest the rival network was editorializing instead of reporting. But, he himself went far beyond reporting on MSNBC’s non-reporting. He went absolutely ballistic. He suggested the network should be ashamed of itself, called Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams "cowards" for not speaking up and implied that MSNBC’s left-wing rhetoric was being dictated by Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, MSNBC’s parent company. Puh-leese.

I dislike blatant editorializing on either side of the equation. But, for an outspoken conservative like O’Reilly to point a finger at MSNBC for its liberal editorializing is akin to the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

It’s sad to see how divided our country has become. The rich have never been richer. The poor have never been poorer (at least not since 1929), the red states have never been redder and the blue states never bluer. And we’re stuck with ersatz journalists like O’Reilly and ersatz news networks like MSNBC. Is it any wonder this country’s image has never been worse?