Dec 08

An old dog can indeed learn new tricks

I'm a big believer in lifelong learning. In fact, along with my exercise regime, I believe it's what    keeps me young (and has many people believing I'm Ed's little brother.)

Marmar_dog_reading_the_book_1ddvkhshi51wvzE9LivL Maureen Broderick's new book, “The Art of Managing a  Professional Services Firm” is a great example of the impact lifelong learning can have on an old salt like this blogger. One might think that after a millennium of working in public relations, I know all there is to know about running a professional services firm. But, One would be wrong. So, very, very wrong. (So, shape up, One!)

Broderick's book* has opened my eyes to any number of new strategies, policies and procedures that I think will benefit Peppercom (and, any professional services firm for that matter). Here are just three:

– Several advertising agencies have created formal onboarding programs for new clients. One boasts a highly structured, seven-part discussion document that introduces the nascent client to the agency team, its work policies and procedures and reporting structures. Written program outcomes are also put in writing by both parties during the onboarding meeting. (Note: This process is repeated WHENEVER there is a staffing change on the client side, thereby lessening the chance a new sheriff will make an immediate agency change. That's so simple, but SO smart.)
– A top engineering firm manages its client portfolio by categorizing accounts in four ways: strategic (these are the largest, most profitable clients,) core (these are the most loyal ones,) emerging (accounts with the greatest growth potential) and opportunistic (one-off projects.) The firm uses a chart containing this information to drive their growth and staffing discussions and decisions. Again, elementary, but wicked smart.
– An integrated marketing firm has created a five-question e-mail evaluation form that is automatically sent to each and every client on a quarterly basis. Any score that comes back with a 'satisfactory' or lower rating is immediately forwarded to a member of the senior management team. One of them will then pick up the phone and call the client asking for a meeting to address and fix the issues. It's turned out to be a superb early warning system that's saved countless relationships. As one of my old dotcom clients used to say, “It's an elegant solution.”

There are scores of other tips and best practices, but you'll have to read the book yourself. I may be a lifelong learner, but, I'm a selfish, self-centered one who only thinks about making my own firm the very best it can be. That said, I can guarantee adopting one or more of Broderick's principles will improve your firm's image and reputation with all constituent audiences. And as The Who put it, “I call that a bargain. The best I ever had."

*click to order: AmazonBarnes and Noble.

Dec 07

What do professional services firms such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte and Peppercom have in common?

Firms ranging from Korn Ferry and Egon Zehnder to Hewitt and KPMG all have something in 51wvzE9LivL common. So, too, do Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte and, yes, Peppercom. What is it, you ask? Well, it turns out we're all featured in a brand new book entitled, “The Art of Managing Professional Services” by Maureen Broderick (disclosure: we're helping to publicize the book).

Broderick's tome is a veritable treasure trove of war stories from leaders of the very best run firms in the world.

In the book you'll learn the common characteristics of successful firms, how to make values stick, mastering the client management lifestyle (my kingdom for a clue as to how best to do that) and the ways in which top firms plan and budget.

There's a case study on how Korn/Ferry changed its culture on the fly. Another one focuses on Ogilvy PR's global growth strategy (bring it on, Ogilvy). And, there's a fascinating section all about two simultaneous mega-crises that shook KPMG to its very roots.

“The Art of Managing Professional Services” should be on the reading list of any public relations firm owner or executive, as well as anyone who aspires to one day lead an Edelman, Makovsky or Golin Harris. Truth be told, I wish I'd read the book when Ed and I first opened shop in his squalid, one bedroom apartment. I would have avoided many mistakes.

Author Maureen Broderick's insights were gleaned from in-depth interviews of more than 130 leaders. I can state that reading it has made me smarter and more attuned to 'what's next' and 'what could be.'  And, for any leader, regardless of the sector in which he toils, that's huge.

Now, if only Ms. Broderick could author a book entitled, “The Art of Managing the U.S. Government.” Oh well, such is the stuff of dreams.

Dec 06

A Star Is Born

Kmart creep final 2.I highly recommend you listen to the latest Repchatter podcast. In addition to hearing some fascinating views on ‘Christmas Creep’ and new product launches gone bad, you’ll be witnessing the birth of a new star: Brendan ‘Muggs’ Mullin. The latter has joined the Repchatter crew as my co-host. (Note: I’d had enough of the cavalier attitude of Ted ‘Ludacris’ Birkhahn and summarily gave him the boot.) So, download the file onto your iPod (or whatever) and listen to Muggs wax poetic with Dr. Dawn Lerman, Marketing Area Chair and Associate Professor of Marketing Graduate School of Business Administration Fordham University. Is an anchor role at the CBS Evening News in Mullin’s future? Stay tuned.


 

Dec 03

You Can Go Your Own Way

This post is dedicated to the long suffering Ann Barlow, President Peppercom West.

This is a cautionary tale about a professional services firm that exemplified a Fleetwood Mac lyric Goaway_sm_000 written with a different meaning in mind. To wit: “Players only love you when they're playing.”

The professional services firm in question has only 'loved' us when they were 'playing' at retaining a PR agency.

They first played with us three years ago. At that time, we were one of several firms to pitch the account. We were told we lost because we lacked an office in the firm's headquarters city (a criterion not mentioned once in previous meetings). Nice.

They next played us about six months ago. In the midst of a mega crisis, they asked us to attend an immediate meeting with their partners. We did so at our expense. The meeting went so well that we were asked how soon we could begin, whether we'd be available for a start-up session the following week, etc. Then, nothing. Radio silence.

More recently, the very same firm re-surfaced asking for help with search engine optimization. Being the naïve optimists that we are, we sent recommendations. Again, nothing. Radio silence.

We're done with this player. They've loved us for the last time. Borrowing from another Fleetwood Mac standard, “(They) can go (their) own way."

Dec 02

Cats Who Like Dogs Who Like Dogs

In effort to compete with the brand new reality show from the Sundance Channel called ‘Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys’, The Canine Network (TCN) today announced it would be airing its first reality show, Cats Who Like Dogs Who Like Dogs …. (A Species Apart).
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I recently caught up with the show’s creator, co-producer and star, Mick  Cody. Mick had just finished a strenuous backyard workout with his mom and was having his muddy paws cleaned as we began our chat…

Rep: ‘Mick, thanks again for finding time to meet with me. Man, are you ever panting!’
Mick: ‘Yup. My mom really puts me through my paces. She’s a personal trainer.’
Rep: ‘So I’ve heard. So, tell me about your new reality show, Cats Who Like Dogs Who Like Dogs …. (A Species Apart).
Mick: ‘Sure. The impetus was human reality TV programming. My co-producer, Rooney Cody and I are totally really fed up with it. This latest nonsense about girls who like boys who like boys was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or, the stick that broke the dog’s back, if you prefer. So, we decided to produce a program that would simultaneously mock human reality shows while taking the entire genre to a whole new level.’
Rep: ‘Do tell.’
Mick: ‘I’d need a Beggin’ Strip to do that.’
Rep: ‘Damn. How many of those things do you down in a day? Fine. Here. And, lay down. You’re still panting heavily.’
Mick: (now stretched out comfortably in front of a roaring fireplace): ‘Human reality shows have gone so far beyond bizarre that they leave me speechless (literally). I mean I can respond to your command to speak, but I can’t speak per se.’
Rep: ‘I get your point. Please stay on subject.’
Mick: Sorry. Well, I mean, who cares about girls who like boys who like boys? Boys who like boys who like girls? Gimme a break. And, gimme another bone while you’re at it. Anyway, we’ve decided to go far beyond mere hetero/homo/transgender content and elevate the programming to a new level: trans species content. That’s why we’re using the subtitle: “A Species Apart.” I always loved that old Merrill Lynch tagline.’
Rep: ‘It’s bold and brash to be sure. Can you give us an idea of the plot?’
Mick: It’ll be fashioned along the lines of The Jersey Shore which, as you know, is the only TV reality show Rooney and I will watch with you. It’ll be set in our back yard. Rooney and I will have different monikers: I’m JMick and Rooney is FleaMan. We invite cats to our crib and then treat them like the scum they are. Instead of calling the ugly ones grenades, though, we’ll call them Furballs.’
Rep: ‘You have some real issues with cats, don’t you?’
Mick: ‘They serve no purpose whatsoever and are arrogant, egotistical asses. Cats Who Like Dogs Who Like Dogs will reveal the sleazy underbelly of the cat world. It’ll be positively groundbreaking. And, speaking of ground-breaking, I need to go out again. Would you mind?’
Rep: ‘Not at all. Best of luck with Cats Who Like Dogs Who Like Dogs. I’d use the old showbiz expression ‘break a leg,’ but I know that can be fatal with canines.’

Dec 01

Instant Recess is gonna get you

Two completely different articles have reinforced something I already knew: the vast majority of 1190 Americans are in horrific physical condition.

The first piece was an Advertising Age article reporting that our nation's kids “…overwhelmingly chose McDonald's as their favorite fast-food restaurant (37 percent picked Mickey D's, 10 percent liked Subway and a mere eight percent opted for Burger King).”

McDonald's is so successful with kids, says one industry analyst, because of its Happy Meals. Eric Giandelone of Mintel says the calorie-laden meals make going to McDonald's “…fun for kids.” I'll bet the trips they make later in life to obesity clinics won't be as much fun.

McDonald's disturbing success with our nation's youth dovetailed neatly with an excellent Jane E. Brody column in a recent New York Times Health Section. In it, Brody profiles Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA, who says, “Being sedentary is the norm in America.”  Ninety-five percent of Americans, says Yancey, “…spend most of our waking time sitting, reclining or lying down.' Let me repeat that statistic: 95 percent of us do nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. A Happy Meal legacy, perhaps?

Dr. Yancey has a name for America's inertia. She calls it “sedentary behavior disorder.” I call it laziness.

She has a solution for SBD and has even written a book about it called “Instant Recess.” Unlike the recess we remember from grade school however, this newer, adult version consists of “two, 10-minute breaks of enjoyable community activity as part of people's everyday lives.” Yancey suggests brisk group walks wherever people gather: workplaces, day care centers, conferences, etc. She says instant recess beats structured exercise since most people “get tired when they exert themselves just a little bit, which of course discourages them from exercising.” I'd call that laziness as well.

I'm all for Dr. Toni Yancey's instant recess strategy. I just hope the group walks don't pass by a McDonald's. I can just see one of the members suggesting an instant recess from the instant recess.