Oct 17

Dogs against Wall Street join worldwide movement; Canine Activist Mick Cody to lead

Lincroft, NJ, October 17, 2011 — Man's best friend has just joined the growing worldwide protests against greed with today's announcement of the formation of 'Dogs Against Wall Street'. The grass roots effort (whose members love to graze on grass), will be headquartered here and led by canine activist and one-time U.S. Congressdog Mick Cody. 6a00d8341c39e853ef014e5f21d843970c-8.....00wi“Everyone knows our sense of smell and hearing far exceeds that of man's,” explained Cody, lifting his leg on a hastily built placard that read, “Piss off, bankers!” As a result, said the controversial mutt, “…dogs have known forever that the rich have been getting richer while the poor have been getting poorer. We'll be adding what I call four-legged power to the movement.”

Cody said some 5,000 suburban dogs will descend on Manhattan's Tomkins Square Park sometime Monday afternoon. “A lot depends on how quickly our masters can drive through midtown traffic,” he confessed.

Once firmly entrenched, the pooches will join their human counterparts in marches, protests and guerilla raids on the homes of the rich. “We'll bring additional weapons to the fray,” promised Congressdog Cody. “If we spy a rich dog, we'll mount him or her on the spot. Hell, gender has never mattered anyway when it comes to establishing dominance. And, if we should catch, say, Morgan Stanley's John Mack or JP Morgan/Chase's Jamie Dimon on the street, just watch out. We'll have several dogs simultaneously mounting those rich bastards and soiling their pant legs.”

Just like their human counterparts, Cody admits Dogs against Wall Street has no solution whatsoever. “Hey, we need the exercise. Plus, many New Jersey dogs in particular are interested in viewing the new 9/11 memorial, so it's a real win-win.” The canine activist shook his hind quarters and whines when asked how protesting pooches would respond if confronted by trained police dogs. 'I'd like to think the Shepards will unleash themselves and join our cause, but Germans have always proved unpredictable throughout history."

Some analysts say the former Congressdog is merely capitalizing on the media frenzy surrounding Occupy Wall Street to test the political waters. “He's a damn smart pooch and, intellectually speaking, he's already more savvy than five or six of the top Republican contenders,” said James Carville, speaking on a special, Animal Planet edition of ‘Meet the Pooches’.

Repman bloggers will recall that Mick Cody first rose to prominence in the controversy surrounding Michael Vick's return to professional football. He subsequently rode a wave of popularity to become the country's first elected Congressdog, only to be forced to resign after texting topless photographs of himself to a cat.

Cody continues to claim the sexting scandal was little more than “feline entrapment” and “yet another example of society's liberal power structure putting down alpha males such as Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner and me. And, trust me, I freeze whenever I hear the expression 'putting down', he whimpered."

Oct 14

It’s the worst of times (for men)

Feminist1If a visiting alien was asked to evaluate the roles of men and women based solely on the current rash of books, movies and TV shows, the E.T. would undoubtedly conclude that all men are not only dolts, they're also emasculated fools who can't make any decisions on their own.
In fact, I think the title of Maureen Dowd's 2005 book best sums up the current wave of ManBashing. It's called "Are Men Necessary'?"

And, sadly, Alessandra Stanley's review of the Fall TV season in the New York Times confirms that these are, indeed, the worst of times for men.
Every new show, ranging from 'Man Up!' and 'Last Man Standing' to 'How To Be a Gentleman' and 'Whitney' go to ever greater lengths to marginalize the role of men in society. And, says Stanley, the trend will only continue since "…female viewers outnumber men and network executives know what women want."
That may be great for feminists (and the ratings), but it's very bad news for male adolescents and boys. I don't care how many problems you have with men, ladies, but you need to speak up and stop this never-ending, ever-escalating emasculation. Here's why: you owe it to your kids, nephews, younger brothers and friends' kids.
By focusing on the short-term ego gratification of women, the mass media is dealing a major psychological blow to future generations of men. Not only will boys and adolescent males buy into this totally ersatz, politically correct stereotyping but, worse, their female counterparts will reinforce it.
But, maybe that's OK with you, Virginia. Maybe you're fine with women becoming the dominant gender. But, somehow, I doubt it. If 50 percent of the population feels permanently marginalized, how in the world will we ever regain our global competitiveness? You ladies are terrific. But, you can't do it alone. Sorry. You can't.
So, here's a plea to the movers and shakers in Hollywood, and on Madison Avenue and at the major publishing houses. Lay off men. Now! The psyche you save may be that of your son. And the future you save may be that of your own country.
 Now, though, we return to our regularly scheduled programming…
“…Male lead admits he's too afraid to lift weights at the gym. Female lead nods her head knowingly and sighs, “I always knew you were a dumbbell, Adam. But, I never thought you'd be afraid to lift them.” Audience laughs and applauds. Screen fades to black.”

And a tip o' Repman's gender neutral beret to Jackie Kolek for suggesting this post.

Oct 13

What Is Life: More thoughts on “George Harrison, Living in the Material World”

Today's guest post is by Julie Farin (@JulieFarin)

I recently had the opportunity to attend the NY Film Festival’s big-screen premiere of Martin Scorsese’s 2-part HBO documentary on George Harrison: Living in a Material World.  As a lifelong Beatlemaniac, John Lennon has always been my favorite of the Fab 4, with Paul McCartney a close second, and George Harrison a dark horse at third.  For some reason, I never took a serious interest in the solo career of the Quiet Beatle, as I did Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band or McCartney’s Wings ("Silly Love Songs" notwithstanding).

GeorgeMy zeal for the Lennon/McCartney powerhouse overshadowed my appreciation for Harrison’s contribution to the band that pulled the trigger on the British Invasion.  Being a third wheel to one of the most successful songwriting teams in popular music had to be frustrating for the youngest Beatle.  As the nearly four-hour documentary demonstrates, Harrison handled his creative competition with the dynamic duo as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and even managed to land a very memorable song or two on several Beatles albums, most notably Rubber Soul ("Think for Yourself") Revolver ("Taxman"), The White Album ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps") and Abbey Road "(Here Comes the Sun," "Something").

Part 1, which chronicles Harrison’s upbringing in war-torn Liverpool through the rise of Beatlemania in America, was not a revelation.  Most of these stories have been told and re-told countless times (although some amazing never-before-seen photos and footage of the early Beatles is a highlight).  In Part 2, Harrison was described by many friends, family members, and colleagues as having two distinct personalities that were constantly at odds with each other.  Ringo Starr described The Beatles’ lead guitarist as “a bag of beads” as well as “a bag of anger.” 

Harrison’s inner turmoil with the trappings of fame and success led to his quest for inner peace through Eastern philosophy, Indian mysticism, and Transcendental Meditation.  However, he never totally renounced the material things in life, as most notably witnessed by his purchase of Friar Park, a 120-room Victorian neo-Gothic mansion in Henley-on-Thames in England. In Part 2, Harrison recounts the joys of chanting the mantra and his quest for the spiritual, while his widow, Olivia, alludes to how “George loved women and women loved George.”  He also struggled with drug addiction during certain periods of his life.

Even though Harrison died of cancer at the age of 58, I was left with the feeling that he was satisfied with having led a full life of accomplishments, as short as it was.  He told an interviewer that apart from his son, Dhani, who needed a father, he couldn’t really think of anything else keeping him here on this earth. He was ready to go.  All things must pass.  And according to Olivia Harrison, upon George’s death, “There was a profound experience when he left his body.  It was visible.  He just lit the room.”

George Harrison, Living in the Material World  can be seen on HBO On Demand.

Oct 12

While my Blackberry gently weeps

SMG_Harrison_EgmondI highly recommend the new Martin Scorsese documentary about the late Beatle George Harrison. Called 'Living in a Material World', the HBO film is chock full of terrific interviews, rare photographs and outtakes and deep insight into the man known as the quiet Beatle.

It's a MUST see for anyone, young or old, who believes in lifelong learning. In fact, if there's one fundamental difference that set George apart from the other members of the Fab Four, it had to be his continual quest for spiritual enlightenment while battling his very real appetite for, shall we say, worldly pleasures?

Scorsese’s movie shows the many, many sides of a gifted artist who was, and always will be, overshadowed by John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. But, while Lennon focused on anti-war activities and McCartney continued writing 'Silly Love Songs', Harrison plunged deeper and deeper into the very meaning of life.

I must admit to having been somewhat alienated by Harrison during his Hare Krishna days but, having now viewed the new documentary, I understand it was just another stage in the man's unending quest to better understand himself and the world around him.

The documentary is well worth seeing and, for me, has added new insights to some of my favorite Harrison songs, including: 'Wah, Wah,' 'All Things Must Pass' and, in my opinion, his best love song of all: 'Long, Long, Long'.

As an aside, whenever I'm pressed by college and university students to name the key to career success, I always say, “lifelong learning”. In researching the song's origins, I found out that Harrison's quest for lifelong learning partly inspired him to write, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Mine certainly inspired me to entitle this particular blog, 'While my Blackberry gently weeps'.

One Harrison lyric from Guitar is more relevant than ever: 'From every mistake, we must surely be learning'.  We clearly weren't learning when Harrison first wrote the lyric in 1968 and, lord knows, we've learned even less in 2011. And that's why his guitar and my Blackberry still weep.


Oct 11

Drowning in data

The following is the first in a two-part series analyzing a first-of-its-kind study of 1,700 chief marketing officers from 64 countries and 19 industries by the IBM institute for Business Value. I'd like to thank IBM for providing this blogger with access to the study's lead researcher, Carolyn Heller Baird.

ManDrowningInData A global study of 1,700 chief marketing officers in 64 countries shows the majority share one common trait: they're drowning in a sea of data.

Conducted by the IBM Institute of Business, the CMO survey confirms that while marketers know data holds the key to customer insights, some 80 percent still rely on such traditional sources of information as market research, while an astounding 68 depend on sales campaign analysis to make their strategic decisions. Ugh. Talk about yesterday's news!

The 'marketer as Luddite' findings come at a time when the lifespan of the average CMO varies from between three and four years (less than any other member of the C-suite). And, to add even more stress to an already tenuous existence, IBM says CMOs and their bosses, CEOs, both identified “getting closer to the customer” as one of three key prerequisites to success in the 21st century. So, if the CMO knows her boss wants to get closer to the customer, but she's still living in the past when it comes to embracing ways in which to do so, it might be time to update the old resume.

Carolyn Heller Baird, IBM's lead CRM researcher and director of the global study, says CMOs ‘get’ that they have to do a MUCH better job interpreting all the data, but still cling to “…tracking markets and not individuals, and transactions rather than relationships.”

Why? Because finding the best new analytical tools is easier said than done, says Baird. “For one thing, CMOs are incredibly time pressed. For another, they're limited by budget and, in some cases, culture. So, change can't happen overnight.”

Where change IS happening, though, it's producing dramatic results. IBM featured Kraft Foods' Oreo Cookie as a case in point. Kraft had been struggling to take a bite out of the vast consumer pocketbook in the world's largest market for nearly 20 years. Then, finally, after LISTENING and ENGAGING with living, breathing human beings and not relying on data, Oreo struck gold (or cream, if you prefer). They made the cookie smaller and less sweet-tasting. Sales have since skyrocketed by more than 80 percent and in-store sales in some regions have more than tripled. Man, that's a whole lot of cookies!

To duplicate Kraft's success, says Baird, CMOs need to foster greater collaboration across the enterprise, especially with the chief information officer. They also need to build a staff with new and different skill sets all aimed at understanding the critical emotional connection a product, brand or organization must build with a customer.

Last, but not least, the best CMOs need to leave their ivory towers and personally walk the walk. “Look at your organization through your customers' eyes, as they progress through the full relationship cycle. Be a customer. Drop in on stores and sites. Go to your call centers and sit with randomly selected customer representatives. (Ask yourself) how easily can customers interact with your organization – before, during and after the sale?” says Baird. The best CMOs know the only true key to success is listening to individual customer wants and needs.

As Repman readers know, that's what I've been preaching for at least the past year. My awakening came after I suddenly woke up one day and realized I'd never experienced my own brand. Then, after surveying CMOs and PR managers, I found that most had never put themselves in their customers' shoes either. Now, I'm born again and proselytizing to the best of my ability.

Embracing new and dynamic forms of data research and building tighter bonds across the organization are two critical steps a CMO must take. The third, and perhaps most important, is both the easiest and hardest: finding the time to slip into a pair of customer's shoes and as Kraft did with Oreo Cookies in China, living the customer experience first-hand.

For more information about the IBM study, entitled 'From Stretched to Strengthened,' e-mail iibv@us.ibm.com. Tell them Repman sent you.

And, stay tuned for part two of my report on the IBM CMO study. I'll be speaking with Ms. Laird about which industries are leaders and which are laggards, and why.

Oct 10

Does genius trump abuse?

Rotten-apple I must admit to being taken aback by the universal outpouring of grief, passion and adulation at the recent passing of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs. It reminded me of the reaction that followed the passing of Michael Jackson and George Steinbrenner, respectively. I've added 'Jacko' and 'The Boss' to a list that includes Jobs because, frankly, all three were very, very bad guys.

Articles about Jobs and his abusive behavior were plentiful before he contracted pancreatic cancer (but curiously scarce since then). In fact, here are links to just five pieces from such reputable media outlets as Forbes, CNN.com and The London Daily Mail (insert links).

I'll let you read the full texts, but consider the following excerpts:

– Despite an estimated net worth of $7 billion, Jobs had NO public record of giving to charity.
– He and his board covered up his initial pancreatic cancer diagnosis for nine months, a totally unethical, if not illegal, stunt by the CEO of a huge, publicly-traded company.
– His factories regularly employed young teenagers and people below the legal working age of 16, made them work grueling hours and tried desperately to cover it all up.
– Jobs had two Apple security guards search the home of a San Francisco man and threatened him and his family with immigration trouble if he didn't return blueprints for a missing iPhone prototype.

But, that's just scratching the surface of a man who was clearly one of the all-time nasty leaders in the history of business. Consider these tidbits:

– Forbes named Jobs to their 'Bully Bosses Hall of Fame'.
– Jobs routinely parked his Mercedes in the handicapped parking space.
– He consistently reduced employees to tears and fired long-time subordinates in front of their peers, often after ridiculing them as “bozos”.
– He claimed personal credit for scores of ideas and patents that other Apple employees had invented.
– Stanford professor Robert Sutton said he was “…besieged with Steve Jobs stories” when he announced he was writing a book entitled, 'The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't'.
– Jobs always considered himself the smartest guy in the room, and Apple's employees and products were either “insanely great” or “shit”.
– Unhappy with a product called MobileMe, Jobs told the product development team, “You've tarnished Apple's reputation. You should hate each other for having let each other down.”

Two final tales:
– A former employee said of Jobs, ”No one greets him or says hi to him. Low-ranking employees are afraid of him. I remember him walking around the campus one time and groups of people in his way would just split and let him walk through.”
– Former Apple PR chief Laurence Clavere once told a colleague that before heading into a meeting with Jobs, she embraced the mindset of a bullfighter entering the ring. “I pretend I'm already dead.”

So, there you have it. Multiple examples from impeccable sources that Jobs was arguably one of the worst human beings to ever lead a global organization. And, yet, the fawning, hagiographic profiles completely dominate the media and paint Jobs as some sort of Thomas Edison/Mother Theresa hybrid.  Is that because:

– The media really is a pale imitation of its former self, and balanced, objective reporting simply no longer exists?

– Or does genius totally trump abusive and unethical behavior? Are we willing to turn a blind eye to one man's endless record to inhumanity to his fellow man and paint him as a god because of his genius?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, you won't catch me dropping off a bouquet of flowers at the nearest Apple store or lighting a candle in his memory. I'm more likely to quote the classic line from 'The Wizard of Oz' and sing: “Ding dong the Witch is dead. Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!”

Oct 07

Big agency think

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I recently had the opportunity to speak on a cable industry panel that addressed such subjects as client-agency relationships, social media and what's next.
100802.logobigger1 I was paired with a branding expert and a big agency guy. The former was somewhat out of his depth since the audience was far more interested in discussing media relations 101. The latter was all about basic blocking and tackling, so he was eating it up.

The big agency guy waxed poetic about his knowledge of the media, the intricacies of wire
service reporting and how best to construct a press release. I kid you not. It was all smart and on-target, if somewhat rudimentary,
But, then, the moderator asked a question about the Holy Grail of PR: measurement. She asked if we experts had found the right solution. I said if we had, everyone in the audience would already know about it and you, the moderator, wouldn't be asking the question.
That's when the big agency guy barged in and said, “We rely on advertising equivalency to validate our programs. For those of you unfamiliar with the approach, we determine the cost of a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, for example, and tell our clients that's how they should measure an article of the same length.”
I was speechless (which is quite rare for this blogger). Anyone and everyone in strategic communications knows that equating advertising with editorial is an ersatz approach. And, using it to evaluate the ROI of a PR campaign is misguided and disingenuous. Here are the obvious reasons why:
– A company pays for advertising. As a result, it determines what it says as well as when and where it appears. The end result: zero credibility from a reader standpoint.
– An article written by a professional journalist contains no company bias whatsoever. The article is balanced, contains positive and negative commentary and appears when and where the media property's editors decide. As a result, the content is far more credible to a reader.
I'd like to think my fellow panelist's POV on measurement was an anomaly. But, something tells me it reflects the archaic, stultifying thinking that can infect many holding company cultures. The big leagues love to pitch their depth and breadth but, sadly, many of their top people seem stuck in the 1980s when it comes to thinking about what's next. And, that's fine with me. I've always thought the best ideas and smartest people work at the smaller firms. Wednesday's panel only reinforced that belief.

Oct 06

Experiencing the brand before creating the plan

I had the good fortune yesterday to address an audience of cable industry communications 

It was a panel discussion whose goal was to identify best practices for client-agency partnerships, understand the fast-changing media relations landscape and predict what's next.

BrandExperience I saw the panel as an opportunity to once again ask the marketing and PR types in the audience if they had ever put themselves in their customers' shoes and experienced the brand from the outside in. About half had done so.

I congratulated those who had and suggested that those who hadn't done so do so immediately.

I've come to believe it's impossible to create an effective communications plan unless you literally walk the walk and experience what your customer experiences.

For a cable industry communications executive, that would mean experiencing, say, The History Channel through each and every one of its online and offline touch points. And, it would mean putting oneself in every constituent audience's shoes.

Then, and only then, would a cable executive be able to craft the precise plan with which to engage in a conversation with each and every audience on THEIR terms. That's critical, because it's all about being where they are. "They" being the customer.

Too many organizations still rely solely on quantitative data to inform their branding and messaging communications. That's not only yesterday's approach, it's taking the easy way out.

Smart communicators are beginning to realize the nuances and insights to be gleaned from experiencing the brand BEFORE creating the plan. It may involve some heavy lifting but, trust me, the pain will be worth the gain. I should know. We put ourselves in our customers' shoes and, while the overall experience wasn't bad, we identified areas for improvement and have  tweaked our communications program accordingly.

If a PR firm can do it, so can a cable company. Or, any company for that matter. The longest journey begins with a single step.

Oct 05

How NOT to make it in the Big Apple

Your name is Naomi Nitwit. You've held a variety of design and production jobs over the past two decades but, for personal reasons, moved away from the Big Apple a few years ago.

Now, though, you're refueled, recharged and ready to re-engage. And, gosh darn it, you're going to write the best, show stopper of a cover letter the New York advertising and design field has ever seen. Why? Because, you want to get back to the hot lights and late nights of the City, that's why.

But, there's only one problem, Naomi. You forgot to re-read the letter and resume before hitting the send button. As a result, each and every track change is visible. Just take a gander:
Slide1Ouch! In the first graph she writes "…this job seems perfect." And what exactly would that job be, Naomi?  BTW, I love the letter's penultimate line. It reads, “Need a sentence here saying you are interested in getting back in the industry in NYC, I think.” Safe to assume that came from a job coach?

Your resume also contains track changes and reveals such interesting items as date changes (so, did you leave the real estate gig in ‘07 or '08?).

I also found myself bemused by the word change from 'blast' to 'marketing' and the accompanying note that reads: “blast is a very negative concept”. I agree.

Naomi, I know you're trying your best. But, it's a cold, cruel world and you really need to take ownership of what I like to call 'The brand of you'.

You'll never make it back to the Apple with a cover note and resume that contain track changes. Maybe you should change your strategy and, instead, team up with the football playing college senior who sent me an e-mail blast? No, wait a minute. Blast is a negative concept!

And, a tip o' the mortar board to Jason Dodd for this suggestion.

Oct 04

Prostate cancer needs a Susan G. Komen

Pink-pimp-3-20102One would have had to be color blind to miss the splashes of pink adorning every NFL player and stadium this past Sunday. The same goes for the bright pink worn by countless walkers, runners and cyclers participating in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month events. And, that is as it should be.

But, did you know that September was National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? I sure didn't. And, I didn't see one NFL player or stadium sporting light blue, which is the initiative's official color. Nor did I see any walkers, runners or cyclists supporting the cause.

A quick check of Zero: The Project to End Prostate Cancer (insert link) revealed these sobering facts:
– One in eight American women is diagnosed with breast cancer. But, ONE IN SIX American men is diagnosed with prostate cancer.
– Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed disease among men and is the second leading cause of men's cancer.
– 240,000 men contract prostate cancer every year.
– Sixty percent of men who contract prostate cancer are African-Americans.

According to Zero, '…Significantly more federal dollars, more attention and more support are being afforded breast cancer.' They don't say why, but I can hazard a guess: the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It has to be one of the most powerful marketing and fundraising machines of our time. Sadly, though, there is no male version of Komen; no prominent, well-healed victim who can strike a chord and rally a cause.

I think the NFL has bowed to political correctness and wrapped itself in pink for two reasons:

– Perhaps one simply doesn't say no the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

– It's smart marketing. The NFL already has the full attention of every red-blooded American male. By embracing breast cancer, the NFL is doing some very smart target marketing towards women. It's a no brainer.

I should note that, unlike the NFL, Major League Baseball hasn't ignored prostate cancer. Indeed, MLB has declared Father's Day, June 18th, as prostate cancer awareness day.

So, why can't the NFL launch its season with a prostate cancer awareness month and adorn its players and stadiums with light blue wristbands, socks and bunting? There must be a reason. While it's probably not the case, perhaps the Komen folks demanded exclusivity with the NFL?

It's high time the NFL lend a helping hand to its core male audience. It's also clear that prostate cancer desperately needs its own Susan G. Komen to jump start a long overdue need.

 I'd love to help. I'm a big supporter of the Young Survival Coalition and would gladly lend my support to Zero or any other organization that, unlike the NFL, won't turn its back on half the American population. Besides, powder blue has always been my favorite color.