Apr 16

What’s in the Black Box?

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer and RepChatter Co-host Deb Brown. Be sure to check out Deb's blog, StandUpExecutive.com.

Boxes1 Last week, one of my colleagues and I sat in on a webinar about measurement in public relations.  We were curious as to what the speakers had to say, especially since we have our own proprietary measurement program at Peppercom called Business Outcomes.  The webinar included one of the large PR firms talking about the industry and discussing their measurement program and best practices.  Also included was an executive from a major corporation who talked about a recent campaign.

After hearing the speakers, it’s clear that a) nothing seems to have changed when it comes to measurement in public relations and b) the measurement everyone is still talking about is elementary. 

One comment, in particular, jumped out at us.  The woman from the large PR firm said, “We’re challenged by clients all the time when they ask ‘Where did you get the number?’”  This was brought up as the discussion centered around Big Data.  How do we effectively measure when there’s an overwhelming amount of data? 

The speakers talked about how big data –unstructured data – is put into an unknown black box that generates some mysterious analytic. This is the number that clients are questioning. 

Clients should never have to ask that question, and ours never do.  Or, if they do ask, it’s never a challenge.  It’s always an easy explanation. The reason is that we have complete transparency in our system and we focus on what the client wants measured.

The other major takeaway was how topline or superficial measurement in PR still is.  Our system is anything but.  Yes, we can show topline information and holistically look at the account. But, we can also dig deep and show, on a granular level, where there may be an issue with a campaign and how to fix it, as opposed to aborting the campaign.

So, how is our measurement system different from what we’re seeing in the industry to date?
•    It’s completely tailored for the client’s definition of success – it’s not a one size fits all.
•    It’s  able to tell clients, very specifically, what is working or not working with a campaign.
•    It’s able to show multiple correlations among various data points.
•    It’s extremely flexible and can measure any type of data that is important to a client.
•    We show our clients exactly what is being measured and how.  There are no secrets.

If this webinar truly represents the PR industry, then it’s clear that the industry hasn’t made much progress at all on measurement. 

On the flip side, if this webinar truly represents the PR industry, then it’s clear that there’s a difference in Peppercom’s Business Outcomes program – a truly measurable one.

Apr 13

Three percent of nothing is nothing

PouponU_diploma_largeHaving just learned the PRSA's Universal Accreditation Board's pass rates rose in 2011, I was reminded of a now legendary story from Peppercom's early days.

We were recruiting Peter Harris, then a promising account supervisor from a large agency, and had promised him a three percent equity stake in the embryonic Peppercom. When he spoke to the large agency's CFO, she sniffed and said, “Three percent of nothing is nothing.”

Today, that very same promising account supervisor is one of the top corporate PR strategist in the country, (albeit with another firm) and his three percent stake in what has become a $16mm business would certainly amount to a handsome pile of cash.

That said, had the CFO in question been speaking of the PRSA accreditation process, I would have been in total agreement.

According to their press release, a total of 212 souls earned their Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credentials, which equates to 71.43 percent of the total number of test takers. Lovely.

I congratulate the newly-minted APRs, but suggest they use their sheepskin to, say, decorate a bathroom wall, use as a dart board or file away in some deep, dark recess of their basement. Why? Because the APR is totally worthless.

It proves nothing, qualifies you to do nothing and is totally overlooked by employers in the recruitment process (and most assuredly by prospective clients in an agency search mode).

All of this wouldn't be such a big deal IF the PRSA didn't charge serious cash for taking the test or making participants endure a 'readiness review' prior to the actual exam. And, it wouldn't be such a big deal if the PRSA, and the ever-dwindling number of accredited PR professionals, didn't pass this ersatz title off as our industry's equivalent of passing the bar exam. It isn't. It's a sham credential that proves nothing.

PR is one of those fields where real-world experience counts for everything. Prospects are hired not based on three letters after their names, but the actual experience they bring to the table. And, clients retain PR firms not because the entire team handed out highly embossed business cards that included the APR accreditation. They make hiring decisions based on an agency's sector expertise, creative thinking and chemistry. Period.

I began in this business when Grover Cleveland sat in the Oval Office, and I can tell you that, in all the years since, not one client, prospect or agency has ever asked, much less required, me to have an APR.

It's time for the PRSA to do one of two things:

– Stop charging good money for a bogus credential
– Drop the APR program completely

I'd recommend the latter, and would paraphrase the large agency CFO's words in addressing the newly minted APRs by telling them: '212 of nothing is nothing.'"

Apr 12

Now, that’s what I call adult entertainment

9519743-adult-man-in-toy-airplane-on-white-backgroundI'm penning this blog as I sit in a first class seat on Delta Flight 401 to Atlanta. Seated directly behind me is a screaming, crying kid who is not only wreaking havoc on my eardrums, but also pummeling my lower back with deadly efficient kicks from his surprisingly strong little legs.

I mention my plight not to complain, but to praise. The praise is for the top brass at Malaysian Airlines who have just declared ALL business class sections of their airlines off limits to children under 12. If I knew the Malaysian expression for 'You guys rock!' I'd gladly insert it in this sentence.

It's high time airlines begin paying more attention to their best customers. Screaming, misbehaving kids who are left to run amok by their indulgent parents should be positively verboten in business and first class.

In fact, I'd argue that ANY airline flying to, or from, Orlando (home of the uber nerve racking, positively hellish experience otherwise known as DisneyWorld) be required to seat adults in their own, separate planes. There's nothing worse than boarding a flight to Orlando and spying an army of screaming brats sporting Mickey Mouse ears on their heads. It makes me air sick before I've even left the ground.

Misbehaving kids are one of many reasons air travel has gone from being an enjoyable pursuit to a positive nightmare. Happily, though, at least one airline is flying right.

A child-free business class? That's what I call adult entertainment! A child-free flight to Orlando? That's what I'd call wishing upon a star.

Apr 11

Bait and switch with a twist: The Sequel

Slide1I was very pleased to see the PRSA's Board of Ethics and Professional Standards held a discussion to address the issue I raised in a previous Repman blog entitled: 'Bait and switch with a twist.'

The blog concerned a new twist on the large agency world's propensity to bait-and-switch team members in order to win a piece of business. The wrinkle in this particular case was the agency's failure to tell the unsuspecting client that each and every team member was a freelancer! The client, frustrated by her inability to reach team members, finally called the large agency's HQs and was told “…no one by those names worked at the firm.” The client was appalled, and so was I.

Unfortunately, though, PRSA board member Emmanuel Tchividjian didn't share my concerns over the moral and ethical implications of passing off hired guns as full-time employees. Speaking on behalf of the ethics board, he said, “It is up to the agency to make sure that the freelancer's skills and experience are adequate for the job to be done. What matters is that promises made to the client be kept and that the quality of the work performed is consistent with the reputation of the agency.” Say what?

Either Mr. Tchividjian didn't read my blog or worse, if he did, didn't grasp the implications of what was written. This wasn't a matter of an agency not disclosing it had hired a freelancer or two to supplement their full-time team. This was a deliberate lie made to a prospect. The large agency presented a complete team of freelancers but passed them off as full-time employees. I don't care how competent they were, the freelancers were hired guns. And, the prospective client should have been told that fact during the pitch process. Period. 

I'm at a complete loss as to why the PRSA doesn't see this as a fundamental breach in ethical business behavior. How can we, as an industry, present ourselves as the moral compass of business & industry when some of us not only practice sleazy sales tactics, but have those tactics blessed by our industry's governing body? It's a scandal within a scandal and I, for one, am very disappointed with the PRSA.

Rogue agencies will come and go. But, we'll never advance professional standards when our industry's top trade association turns a blind eye to misrepresentation and fraudulent practices. It makes each and every one of us look bad.

Apr 10

Hey Kids, pack your period costumes. It’s Disaster Re-enactment Month!

Titanic_420065Is it just me or were you also a tad perplexed by the Titanic Memorial Cruise ship that set sail Sunday with 1,309 passengers on board, the same number as were on the Titanic.

The ship intends to retrace the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic's maiden voyage and stop on the exact spot where the unsinkable behemoth sank 100 years ago. And, quite a few passengers have actually dressed in period costumes for the occasion.

All this re-enacting and dressing up makes me wonder if:

– The captain of the modern craft will mimic his predecessor by disregarding iceberg warnings and cruise at full speed?
– Will he try to slide by the berg instead of ramming it head on (a maneuver many historians say would have damaged, but not sunk, the mighty Titanic).
– And, will the cruise line's owner re-enact White Star's Bruce Ismay shameful behavior that night and dress as a woman in order to escape on one of the few lifeboats?

It's all so bizarre. But, it's also a marketing bonanza for opportunists and a dress-up dream for reenactors gone wild.

So, why stop with re-enacting just the Titanic calamity? A cursory search reveals that April should be named Disaster Re-enactment Month. It's a veritable mother lode of epic tragedies, including:

– The San Francisco Earthquake. April 18, 1906. I think I'd dress as Enrico Caruso, who performed the night before the quake struck. “Mamma mia. This is some crazy city!”
– The Bataan Death March, which began on April 10, 1942. I'd dress as the ill-fated U.S. General Jonathan Wainwright. “I know we outnumber your Japanese army by more than three-to-one, but we're hungry.”
 - The Bay of Pigs. April 17, 1961. I'll roll up my white dress shirt sleeves, play Bobby Kennedy and counsel the president not to rescue the hapless, U.S.-sponsored Cuban freedom fighters. “Let it go, Jack. Besides, er, ah, I have an idea for exploding cigars. We'll get Castro one way or another.”

The month of April also played host to:

– The Chernobyl nuclear disaster (April 26, 1982)
– The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1968)
– The Rodney King riots in South Central L.A. (April 29, 1992).

For serious reenactors like the crackpots on the Titanic Memorial Cruise, April is like Christmas in July! It's a fun-filled, 30-day period when they can recreate countless tragedies, dress in period costumes and live life to the fullest (while all the time dredging up memories of lives lost and families torn asunder). I ask you: is there a better way to spend a vacation?

“Hey honey. Hey kids. Don't forget to pack an extra stack of bibles as well. April 19th is the anniversary of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco. That'll literally be a blast to re-enact!”

Apr 09

Dead brand walking

YahooDiedAfter learning that Yahoo had just slashed another 2,000 jobs, Damon Vickers, a money manager in Seattle who closely follows tech stocks, said: “(Yahoo) lost the search game to Google a long time ago”. He followed that up with a poignant question, 'What do you do with a cadaver? Where do you place your organs when you die?”

Yahoo is indeed Silicon Valley's version of Whitney Houston. It's a dead brand walking. And, last week's bloodbath was its fifth massive layoff in as many years.

I had the 'opportunity' to represent Yahoo for 15 tumultuous months and witnessed massive dysfunction including, but certainly not limited, to:

– A highly siloed organization. Business units never communicated with one another and, in fact, often cannibalized each other's clients.

– A near-total lack of internal communications and coordination. Sales didn't talk with R&D/technology and neither paid any respect whatsoever to marketing. The latter, in turn, trembled in their collective boots if the sales leaders expressed displeasure with an article, advertisement or event that didn't praise Yahoo's latest product.

– A toxic culture. We witnessed firsthand the rise and fall of Carol 'the F-BombShell' Bartz. Her reign of terror rivaled that of Marat's and Robespierre's during the French Revolution. She antagonized long-time employees who longed for a strong leader while alienating the board and the media with her foul language and strong arm tactics. Worst of all, Bartz's blame game style infected the entire organization (and trickled down all the way to the external agencies).

– Chaos du jour. Yahoo could never get out of its own way. Our direct reports kept asking for strategic plans but, instead, kept us focused on putting out a new crisis each and every day. When the new VP of PR arrived, his henchman fired us, saying we “…hadn't demonstrated a strategic understanding of the business of their business.” His comment would have been laugh out loud funny, if it hadn't hit us so hard financially.

When I read about Yahoo's death throes, I think back to the glowing PR Week cover story of the company's newly-minted VP of PR (the one who didn't have the courtesy or guts to fire us personally). When asked by PR Week to name his number one goal, he said, “That's easy. I'm tired of seeing people at Yahoo wondering what Google's up to. I want people at Google wondering what Yahoo's up to.”

I'll bet the people of Google ARE wondering what Yahoo's up to. They probably have a dead pool organized to guess the exact date Yahoo either declares Chapter 11 or is sold at a fire sale price.

It's no longer a matter of if, but when. Yahoo is a dead brand walking.

Apr 06

A Fit Reputation

Peppercommer and Stand-Up Executive Deb Brown interviews fitness expert and International Kangoo Master Trainer Mario Godiva about the correlation between being fit and successful in your job.

Mario godiva green 640-360How does being fit help your personal image and reputation at work?

When people are fit, they’re more energetic, more motivated, and have a confidence about them.  They’re generally more productive, handle stress well, and other people admire them.  Studies have shown that when employees are fit and attractive, they are usually more successful and paid more.  But, it’s not just because they look fit.  A lot of it is because of the effects of exercise:  mood, energy, motivation, and productivity. 

What do you say to people who say they just don’t have the time to exercise?

Anyone who tells me that they are too busy to work out, I say “You know what? There is always someone busier than you who exercises and eats healthy. Don’t make excuses, make the time.”  If you aren’t responsible enough to take care of your own personal health and wellbeing and make it a priority, how can you be responsible enough to take care of anything else and be efficient and excel at your job? Instead of talking to your friend for an hour, you can work out for an hour. It’s all about prioritizing.

Why don’t bosses encourage exercise?  What’s the barrier?

The barrier is cost.  It’s expensive to eat healthy.  It’s a lot cheaper to order pizza.  Some companies are good about it and provide a gym membership.  Those companies are few and far between.  Companies are looking to cut.  The last thing they want to do is spend more money.

Can exercise make a difference in how bosses manage employees?

Absolutely.  Exercise affects your mood. Exercise produces endorphins, which help to relieve stress.  They’re induced by exercise as well as by laughing.  Employees who are mean are the ones who don’t experience those endorphins. If they exercised enough, they would be happier, calmer.  They don’t know how to take care of their stress, so they take it out on others.  If they’re exercising, they’d be better at handling that stress. 

When you do corporate training, are most employees fit or not fit?

It depends on the company.  There’s usually a small subculture that is fit.  Unfortunately, at some companies, I’ve met with people who’ve gained weight because of working at the company. They may have gained 10, 15, 20 pounds because of the stress. And, that’s more of a common theme that I see. They get a new job and then gain weight because of the stress that accompanies the job, or they’re sitting all day, or they’re eating the unhealthy food in the cafeteria.  It’s a very sad thing to hear.  

Can being fit help you move up the corporate ladder?

Yes. You become more visible, you stand out more.  You’re the calm one, you’re the one handling stress.  It’s the feeling that exercise gives you that makes you more successful.


Apr 05

Hands Up, Baby, Hands Up …

Today’s guest post is by Mark Pepper. Mark Pepper is Peppercom’s man in Spain. We let him think he’s the head of Peppercom’s European Division. In reality, he is just a man in Spain. He always wanted to work for a company with Pepper in its name. It took more than forty years.

Photo boy raising handI was around the age of six years old when I made my first PR faux-pas. It was at my first school, a tiny private establishment that nestled anonymously along a leafy road of well-to-do homes.

My class teacher that year was the school’s headmistress, a woman whose shadow, forty years on, still casts an unrivalled pall of terror across my otherwise care-free childhood memories. I went to school in an age when kids were – quite rightly – scared of their teachers and not the other way around, and Mrs Benson was the living embodiment, the very personification, a veritable exemplar of all that the modern child needs but lacks when they enter their graffiti-daubed corridors. She scared the living poop out of us.

 It was close to home-time one afternoon, and Mrs B. looked even more stern than usual. She stood up at the front of the class, glared omnividently at us all, and announced that she had a serious matter to discuss. Two children died there and then. Poor little hearts just gave out with the fear.

It was a lifetime ago, but I can still picture it vividly and what follows is probably fairly close to verbatim.

“Six squares of fudge have been stolen from my desk drawer.” (Mrs B. used to reward good work and behaviour with a piece of fudge. This was before adults knew/cared that creamy blocks of sugar made your teeth fall out.)

No one said a word.

“I know how many pieces there were, and six have been taken. Which of you is responsible?”

Not a sound, save for the dead weight of another child’s forehead crashing into their desk-top.

“None of us is leaving this room until I find out who has stolen my fudge. Your parents will have to wait in the road, and you will all go without dinner.”

Slowly, reluctantly, a hand was raised. The kid was already crying.

“How many did you take?”


Jeepers, man, just admit to the six so we can go home.

“Go and wait outside the room.”

The shame-faced urchin shuffled out, leaving a trail of salty drops along the linoleum.

“That leaves five more.”

Eventually, another hand went up, then another. Two pieces stolen, one piece stolen.

“There are still two pieces to be accounted for.” Damn, this woman was good; she was teaching us maths while simultaneously scaring us to death.

I looked around the classroom. We all looked around the classroom. Watching for signs of wobbly chin or welling eyes. Time slowed to a crawl, as those caught in car crashes often report it does.

I stuck my hand in the air.

“Mark Pepper, how many did you take?”

“Two,” I said.

“Go and wait outside the room.”

The atmosphere outside was very sombre and, it has to be said, pretty mucousy. I tried to lighten the mood. I didn’t feel at all bad. Had my guilty cohorts known what a sociopath was, they’d have thought I was one.

Shortly, our parents arrived and were told the ghastly truth. My mum was livid. She made me go home and get my saved-up pocket money and she took me to the local shop and made me buy a box of chocolates big enough to exhaust my cash entirely.

The next day at school, my mum marched me into the classroom and forced me to stand on a chair and make a formal apology to Mrs B. and the innocents of the class, before I moved around the room, handing out the chocolates to some annoyingly smug little faces. None of the other culprits made a similar gesture of atonement. Ironic, when I was the only one who hadn’t touched the bloody fudge.

The day before, I hadn’t stolen anything; I’d just wanted to go home. I didn’t tell my parents this. I sensed they would have been more annoyed by my idiotic martyrdom than by the crime itself. I was in my late twenties before it occurred to me to own up to them. We laughed ourselves silly.

I was put in mind of this story by an article I read on Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, The Short Life of a PR Fiasco. It essentially looks at the way in which our modern technological world has affected how PR disasters can be handled. The days of keeping a lid on things are over. One whisper, one believer, and it’s viral.

The Journal surveyed several PR experts on their views on how such crises pan out, and categorised their responses as "the shiny object", "the loyalty issue", and "the lack of choice". Respectively, you have the big fuss that’s fleetingly in and out of the public mind as the next big fuss inevitably takes centre stage and nudges it into the wings; the reliance on the loyalty of those who have favoured, and will forever favour, the accused, no matter what; and the reluctant public shrug that signals the acceptance that there are no other viable options available.

But what I really liked was a comment by corporate PR guru Robert L. Dilenschneider, who said, "Tell it and tell it fast. If you do that, it goes away in a day. The attention span of the public is very short."

Wow. Tell the truth. What a novel idea. It’ll never catch on, of course, but I love it. I love it when people just hold their hands up – whether to fudge or fraud. It restores a little human faith. Come on, people, we all know who’s done what, so just say it. You’ll feel so much better.

“Hey, I screwed up, sue me …”

Ay, there’s the rub.

Dilenschneider admits that you can’t take the simplistic fess-up approach with really serious issues. Regulators may be scandalously lax at times, but, when they do take action, they do more than just frogmarch you down to the sweetie shop to buy some chocolate.

“Grab some cash, Dick, you’re coming with us. Hands up, who wants what? Mary? Tootsie Roll?”

Apr 04

RepMan Extra News Alert: Ford Takes Out Virtual Restraining Order against Corporate Stalkers

Today's guest post is by Peppercom's Director of Digital Strategy, Sam Ford.

Too_much_mailMarketers sure know how to wear out a welcome. How often these days do you find a store you like, a publication you follow, or a cause you care about–only to pull your hair out at the barrage of junk they send your way days later?

Consider MoveOn.org. A few years back, I signed a petition the organization was circulating on a subject about which I was passionate. Soon, I started receiving emails from them on a regular basis, assuming that I agreed with the organization on a wide range of issues that only rarely had anything to do with that narrow subject; many were concerning supporting particular political candidates, or rallying against particular candidates.

But it isn't just pushy political groups committing such gaffes in their zealousness. Every trip to the mall to purchase something leads to an inquisition about all my contact information. Soon, giving them my business is rewarded with a mailbox (physical and virtual) full of junk. Our switch to more online purchasing is likewise rewarded with being added to mailing list after mailing list. And, after booking trips on Travelocity and Orbitz, both groups started to email me on a regular basis, telling me about rates to cities I had a one-time business trip to months ago. I find it of great service to interrupt my day on a frequent basis to delete emails about the rate for a flight to Ithaca, NY, or Cleveland, OH, next week.

Perhaps the most frustrating offender for me is the publication TelevisionWeek. In my early days of online writing back in 2005–as the lead blogger for the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium–I regularly relied on Jon Lafayette, Daisy Whitney, and others who were writing for TVWeek back then to learn about how entertainment producers and brands were innovating how they were communicating with their audiences through television and online video. The publication became my go-to source on television news, and I enthusiastically subscribed to email updates from them.

In September 2010, a particularly significant situation occurred in the television industry: a gunman entered Discovery's headquarters and held hostages. TelevisionWeek sent out breaking news updates. For those of us who knew people who worked at Discovery, it was a harrowing day, and I was thankful to the publication for going out of its way to keep me updated.

However, after that day, TelevisionWeek started sending EXTRA ALERT emails on a more regular basis. Consider this EXTRA ALERT from June 2011: "TVWeek Extra Alert: Clarence Clemons, of Springsteen's E-Street Band, Dies." Or from February 2012: "TVWeek Extra Alert: Davy Jones of the Monkees Dies." Sure, both were interesting and beloved performers, but qualifying this as breaking television industry news is ludicrous. Perhaps the strangest of all was this EXTRA ALERT email subject line from November 2010: "TVWeek Extra Alert: 'Wheel' Contestant Even Stuns Sajak with Answer." Yes, a Wheel of Fortune contestant guessed a 7-word phrase after just having only a single "L" revealed. I was shocked Walter Cronkite didn't rise from the dead to interrupt my regularly scheduled programing for that one.

And, over time, TVWeek's frequent digest of important television industry news has started to fill up with entertainment gossip, obituaries, and all sorts of other updates that–while sometimes interesting–didn't fit with my expectations as a reader. Eventually, I quit paying so much attention to what was once a trusted daily news source. After a while longer, I moved to deleting TVWeek emails altogether, as soon as they appeared.

Now, I've had enough. I've spent the past few days on a spam email purge, unsubscribing to everything I delete as soon as I see it. I'm starting to take out virtual restraining orders against my corporate stalkers. Plenty of companies I like are included on that list, but I am happy to sacrifice their unwanted communications with delusions of waking up in the morning without a full inbox of messages to delete.

In the process, I noticed a trend. Several of the companies surveyed why I was unsubscribing and included as an option: "You send me too many emails." Please, they beg, we can scale back a bit–don't delete us completely. It seems the organizations are well aware of the nuisance they've become, but the supposed ROI of their email blasts just make it look on paper too profitable to quit bombarding people. Perhaps, as I've queried in the past over at Fast Company, a little bit of empathy could teach marketers to cease fire. Until then, I'll remain on my unsubscribing purge.

So TelevisionWeek, my old friend: you have once again inspired me. Thanks, and goodbye.

Apr 03

If only Jury Duty could hire a PR firm?

Today's guest post is by Peppercom Senior Director Maggie O'Neill

Jury11Last week another colleague and I had the “privilege” of serving jury duty in our respective counties in New Jersey. The implied air quotes around privilege surely need no explanation to anyone who has served or received the dreaded summons in the mail.  But that’s the picture they try to paint as each state pays $5 a day for our jury service.  Sorry, but there is a lot of rebranding and crisis comms Jury Duty needs first before I start to think of it like American Express where “Membership has its Privileges.”

So, I can’t imagine many folks disagreeing when I suggest that Jury Duty needs a PR Firm. Here are a few reasons why and how this marketer might approach the challenge:

Have you seen the negative press?  In just one week in March, Denver alone had two negative stories about jury duty.  One was about a nine-year-old boy called for jury duty…twice; and the second about a hair stylist arrested for a jury duty scheme.  And while there is positive press – such as the New Jersey governor actually completing his civil service – Hudson County should think twice about leaving up the article years later when said governor is under investigation for moving funds illegally.  Oh well, so what is said institution to do?

Get your house in order.  Managing customer complaints and expectations has become front and center in today’s world of 24 hour social and consumer driven media.  Jury Duty, as a brand, would need to do a better job of addressing issues and fixing what it can internally first.  Customers have a high tolerance for the unavoidable (say a recall), just not the avoidable (like poor back-end processes).

Messaging, messaging, and messaging. In the first 30 minutes of my service I heard from three different sources – including an outdated VHS video – that while this is a privilege, everyone knows we hate it and avoid it.  Seriously?  I am all for admitting fault during a crisis, but this was overkill.  Even the judge said he understood our frustrations with having to serve.  Not exactly an endorsement for the brand or a way to engage your audience (although captive).

Fixable?  Maybe.  Consider updating the delivery– think streaming video not VHS – and also the content.  The judge in question was from the early 1980’s when even I was not old enough to serve.   And the negative commentary just led to more complaints amongst the jury pool.  Why not show cases where a jury – fair or unfair – truly changed the course of our lives – pop culture or not.  Makes the opportunity at least a bit more intriguing.  What would I have done with O.J. or Casey Anthony?

Put yourself in our shoes.  Here at Peppercom we call this the Audience Experience; at jury duty it could resemble one of Dante’s levels of hell, but worth the exercise for sure.  The whole experience from the assaulting summons to the online check-in, and from the 1970’s jury holding room to the soda-only vending machines, needs a revamp.  As someone who crafts events from conception to execution, I can say that every element that touches your consumer has to be thought out.  Now, I don’t have the luxury of it being illegal not to come to my events, but if the folks who are part of the system looked around at the brand experience of Jury Duty, they would certainly make some significant changes.

After an immersive sixteen hours of the Jury Duty experience, I know this rebranding is just a pipe dream; that things will likely never change; and that Jury Duty would certainly not be a dream client.  Truthfully, I was hoping as their PR firm I would just get excused once and for all.  Oh, well…see you in three years, Jury Duty.