Nov 30

Re-branding You

Peppercomm is one of several, high-profile public relations agencies that have re-branded themselves this year as fully integrated strategic communications and marketing firms. 

We re-branded ourselves for two reasons:

1.)    To clearly communicate that, thanks to acquisition and organic growth, we now provide a complete solution of channel-agnostic solutions. We listen first, last and always to a client’s audiences and then recommend the precise set of communications and marketing strategies needed to engage in a transparent way. And, we aren’t myopic enough to believe that traditional PR, and PR alone, is always the answer to a client’s communications needs.

2.)    We needed an excuse to add a second 'm' to our name in order to stop vendors, prospects and the great, unwashed masses from incorrectly pronouncing our firm’s name as Peppercorn. We figured that even a kindergartner couldn’t butcher Peppercomm if there were two ms instead of one (which some people read, instead, as an r and an n, respectively).
To make sure our now 100-strong staff fully understood why we had undertaken the re-brand, and to help them correctly communicate it to friends, families and total strangers alike, I’ve begun holding a series of workshops. In them, I place as much importance on the re-brand of Peppercomm as I do on the importance of branding or re-branding each employee’s image and reputation.

Knowing that three-fourths of the Millennials everywhere will, statistically speaking, move on to hold some six or seven other jobs in their careers, I urged ours to learn as much as possible about Peppercomm, and what sets us apart. The smarter they appear in various conversations and the more astute they are in explaining their specific role and set of skills within our larger solutions set, the greater the impression they, themselves, will make on our prospective clients and their future employers.
This seemed to sit well. While I was asking employees to proselytize on my behalf, I was also strongly advising them to begin aggressively networking for their own, personal reasons. In effect, I suggested they re-brand themselves as they explained our re-brand.
I concluded by sharing a list of very talented former Peppercomm employees who have gone on to achieve considerable success with other employers, including: Robert Dowling (Fleishman-Hillard), Andy Hilton (Xylem), Stacy Roth Nobles (Wolters Kluwer) and Peter Harris (MSL).

At the end of the workshop, one of our employees asked, “How can we help you, Steve?”  I appreciated the question, and responded by suggesting they ask the ‘what if’ question. Ask me, “What if Peppercomm were to offer this solution?” or “What if Peppercomm were to expand to that market?” I told them entrepreneurs love employees who ask the what if question. 

I ended the session by asking Peppercommers to ask themselves the ‘what if’ question as it related to their career paths: What if I went to more networking events? What if I had a better grasp of the various career paths available to me today at Peppercomm? and What might I do tomorrow at another employer where I can apply all I’ve learned here?’

The what if question is a great starting place for any agency or individual re-brand.

Nov 29

RadioShack is Seriously Disconnected

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Tim Mambort.


Most people are caught up in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday/holiday shopping craze right now. I joined the crowds this weekend in search of something practical for my drive back from Ohio- an iPhone car charger.

In order to avoid the mall or big box stores, I ventured to my local RadioShack for what I assumed would be a quick and simple visit, especially since I was the only person in the store. How could I be wrong when their tagline claims that “RadioShack is Seriously Connected:  Inside our comfortable and easy-to-shop stores, you'll find industry-leading support and expert advice that makes it easier to choose just the right solution for your lifestyle needs.”

I was, in fact, wrong.

Upon entering, a lady approached me (sans warm smile) to ask what I needed and pointed me in the direction of the car chargers. I grabbed one under the $19.99 sign and happily jetted over to the counter, pleased with the short shopping spree.

The total came to $34. I questioned the price and she said it must be marked incorrectly. I know these things happen in stores, so I went back to the original wall and only saw this option. I turned back around and saw the sales rep with her head down on the counter, obviously upset with my problem that I was now causing her. I asked if she could direct me to other options, and this was just too much for her to handle as she grunted at me and pointed in another direction. Since I didn’t understand where she was even pointing, I kindly asked her to lead me in the right direction. Unfortunately for me she had just woken from her afternoon nap, so she wasn’t able to muster up the energy to move from behind the counter.

By this time I knew I was going to take my business elsewhere, but I asked for her name out of habit. This is when she pulled the classic customer service move; she flipped her name tag over so I couldn’t read it. I had to laugh at her smart thinking at this point.

Many of us experience poor customer service that strays from a brand’s tagline and we feel disappointed or turned off. It is a tough situation for brands/stores since there are so many people involved in the interaction between brand and consumer, from the sales clerk to customer service on the phone.

But I can’t stress how important quality customer service is from every pinpoint and angle. I will never walk into another RadioShack or visit its website based on this single episode. With so much competition out there, both in-store and online, brands can’t afford to turn away customers on a regular basis. And after doing a quick search, I was not surprised to see that RadioShack’s stock had tumbled in 2012 and wondered if it could be linked at all to its terrible customer service. It sure can’t be helping.

As someone in the PR business, I would tell RadioShack to own up to its mistakes and overhaul its training program to ensure consumers receive better customer service.  A few years back, RepMan guest blogger Ann Barlow wrote about how Domino’s admitted to failing to offer up the best pizza. After implementing improvements, Domino’s has seen its value skyrocket and gain respect from existing and new customers.

It’s your move RadioShack, what will you do?

Nov 28

And they lived happily ever after

D7992ab263e1f57be9dc8bfbeec1bbf4One reviewer says it's riveting. Another calls the film positively mesmerizing. A third proclaims it a definite contender for movie of the year.

They're all speaking of Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln” and, from an artistic standpoint, I'd tend to agree. The acting is superb. The sets are authentic and the pacing is strong, if a tad tedious at times.

But, Lincoln is also disingenuous. It leads the viewer to believe that Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was a veritable demi-god who was instrumental in assuring that Abraham Lincoln's post war wishes, expressed in the immortal words of his second inaugural address “…with malice towards none and charity to all” were, in fact, enacted.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Stevens (and his fellow Radicals) made sure the defeated South WAS treated with malice towards all and charity to none (except the newly freed slaves, that is). The Radical Republican Reconstructionists sent so-called Carpetbaggers south to pillage what was left of the Confederacy's shattered economy. They also made sure newly-freed slaves were elected to both houses of Congress and kept an occupying army in the defeated states for 12 years!

The Radical Republicans so infuriated the erstwhile Southern plantation aristocracy that the latter quickly banded together to create the Ku Klux Klan. And, after the U.S. Army had finally departed, the Southerners undid most of the 13th Amendment's provisions, and installed the heinous Jim Crow laws.

So, rather than a happily ever after ending as suggested by Spielberg's Lincoln (and, his beatification of Stevens), the facts are quite the opposite. Southern blacks continued to be treated as little more than slaves until the passage of LBJ's landmark Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Spielberg drew obvious parallels between 1865 and 2012 (including the ironic ways in which the Republican and Democratic Parties have literally flip-flopped in terms of their basic platforms). But, he did the casual movie viewer a very real disservice by suggesting Stevens was a hero (and the 13th amendment the seismic event) that both appear to be in the movie.

It would take another century of lynchings, shootings, church burnings, Freedom Riders, race riots in Little Rock, Newark and Watts (and, of course, the non-violent leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,) to finally even begin to deliver on Lincoln's words.

But, maybe we'll see that in a Spielberg sequel? If so, I'd suggest the title, 'Life After Lincoln: What Really Happened.'

Nov 27

It’s like Tony the Tiger saying, ‘They’re Awwwwwful!’

A tip of RepMan's Jets helmet goes to Fireman Ed Moed for the idea.

The New York Jets football team just lost its most loyal
. For those of you who don't know Fireman Ed Anzalone, he's
been a fixture at every Jets home game for nearly three decades.

In addition to wearing a fireman's helmet adorned with the
team logo, Firemen Ed would routinely lead his 80,000 or so fellow Jets fans in
belting out the team's signature chant: 'J-E-T-S. Jets! Jets! Jets!' It was a
cool thing to experience, especially in person.

Sadly, though, the franchise has fallen on very hard
times. I won't bore you with the particulars, but the Jets are about as popular
with the current fan base as Barack Obama is in, say, Buffalo, Wyoming. And so,
sickened by the abuse he's taken from fellow fans for still supporting the
overpaid and underperforming team, Fireman Ed has decided to hang up his spikes
(and helmet). He quit.

The Jets losing Firemen Ed as their iconic team symbol is
akin to:

 - Snap, Crackle and Pop bolting Rice Krispies to become
lead spokesmen for the embattled Long Island utility, LIPA (and using their
signature line to warn residents of the thousands of live power lines STILL on
the ground).

– The Jolly Green Giant undergoing a radical color
transformation, size reduction and start hawking Mini Coopers (and, changing
his signature line to: Go! Go! Go!).

– Ronald McDonald finally facing up to the facts, having
quadruple bypass heart surgery and moving to Subway's as their official mascot.

– Or, Tony the Tiger saying Frosted Flakes are awwwwful,
turning to a raw vegan diet and becoming lead spokesperson for The National
Wildlife Federation.

Fireman Ed's departure may not seem like a big deal to
non-Jets fans, but it's a significant image and reputation crisis nonetheless.
When an organization loses its mojo and its public persona, a lot of other
building blocks seem to crumble in its wake. For the 2012 Jets, Fireman Ed's
resignation isn't a mere blip on the radar screen; it's the final nail in the
coffin of a leadership team that MUST go.

Nov 26

38 (un) special

I made the mistake
of arriving 15 minutes early to Saturday's screening of Lincoln. Aside from
some surprising historical inaccuracies in the film (i.e. Radical
Reconstructionist Thaddeus Stevens depicted as a hero?; Lincoln portrayed as
physically enfeebled?; etc.), my issues weren't with the movie but, rather, with
the interminable, 38-minute-long advertising assault on my senses PRIOR to the
flick's showing.

It began with non-stop ads for such upcoming TV swill as
'Cougartown'. That was followed by scores and score of 15- to 30-second TV
spots for everything from video game headphones to breakfast cereal.

My wife was appalled, and grew increasingly agitated with
each successive sales pitch. 'I can't believe this!' she said. I could. I told her
the movie theatre is one of advertising's few, remaining refuges.

Unlike television, which affords us the gleeful (Glee was
yet another bogus TV show that was hyped in the pre-movie assault, btw), option
to TIVO or DVR our way past mindless commercials, movie aficionados are a
captive audience.   

And, after we were done being pummeled by a full
20-minutes of TV spots, the packed theatre was next assaulted with trailers
from no fewer than 12 or 13 upcoming films. These ranged from a series of uber
violent Westerns that would make Sam Peckinpaugh blush to three successive
upcoming Disney rehashings of time worn material (i.e. The Wizard of Oz, etc.).

I checked my watch. A full 38-minutes had passed since
we'd first settled into our comfy seats. That's nearly three-quarters of an
hour that advertisers had stolen from my life. That may not seem like much to
you, but it's precious to me.

Movie theaters are one of the few remaining refuges for
advertising. Billboards, airports and the space above urinals are three others.
And, the only reason these remain effective is because we, consumers, are a
captive audience. We have no fast forward button in which to either speed past
or, better yet, erase completely, the dreck in these venues.

Advertising will die. It's just a matter of when. What
amazes me is the hundreds of millions of dollars marketers still pour into a
medium that no one, and I mean, no one enjoys.

I'll save some of the other, glaring historical  inaccuracies in Lincoln for a future blog,
but here are a just a few to whet your appetite:

– The actor portraying Grant looked about 20 years older
than the actual figure did in 1865.

– Despite Grant's diminutive  5'7" frame in real life, he stood
eye-to-eye with the movie's Lincoln (a 6' 3" giant for his time).

– Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was relegated to a few,
brief, supporting roles that did the entire movie a disservice.

– While Lincoln's assassination is depicted, the movie
glosses over the horrific attack made that very same night on Secretary of
State Seward (who, for some reason, is given a major role up until that seismic

– Finally, the average, U.S. history-challenged viewer is
given the impression that Lincoln's plans for reconstructing the South were
willingly implemented by a mourning, fawning administration. Try telling that
to the Jim Crow South, the KKK, and legions of blacks who had to endure another
100 of oppression, etc.

Some scriptwriter clearly didn't read, 'Team of Rivals' (upon which the movie is based). I think a suitable punishment would be to
force him (or her) to sit through the 38-minute barrage of ads, commercials and
trailers that precede Lincoln's showing. In that case, the punishment would fit
the crime. 

Nov 20

Die, Twinkies! Die!

Twinkie-funeral-pall-bearers"I'm Steve, and I'm a recovering DevilDogAholic." (Note: recovering DevilDogAholics in the audience should respond by shouting, "Hi Steve!").

I was thrilled to see that, because of union demands for more money, Hostess was being forced to retire Twinkies, along with some of its other, heart-clogging, fatty and processed foods. But, at the preliminary bankruptcy proceedings yesterday, the judge suggested the union figure out a way to save the heart attack catalyst! Holy congestive heart failure!

McDonald's should hire this judge as a stand-in for Ronald when the latter takes ill.

I grew up positively addicted to Drake's Devil Dogs. And, my mom was what Jeff VanVonderin of A&E's Intervention would call an enabler. She made sure that, whenever I visited home, there were two full boxes of those synthetic, sugar-laden, cream filled, mini-cakes awaiting me. And, believe it or not, I routinely polished off those two boxes in a single weekend.

And, then, at age 27, I developed a case of mononucleosis. My attending doctor pointed out my horrific diet as the chief culprit. He said I was stuffing my body full of soda, burgers, fries and, yes, Devil Dogs. At the same time, I was an exercise nut so, I was completely ruining my immune system by pushing it to the max with long-distance treks without replenishing the spent calories with smart and nutritious food. And, so I went cold turkey.

I began attending weekly DevilDogAholic meetings, and pursued a 12-step process intended to keep me away from those heinous Drake's Cakes.

Now, decades later, I pick up a newspaper and see a judge and a purveyor conspiring to keep one of the least healthy foods ever invented alive. And, I say, NO! Stop the union deal! Let the Hostess Twinkie die!

I'm not a numbers cruncher, but I guarantee you'll see a slight, but very real, decrease in obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks if that little yellow cake is banished forever.

I'm Steve, and I'm a recovering DevilDogAholic (Please shout, "Hi Steve!"), and I say, "Die, Twinkies. Die!"

Nov 19

How wide is your industry’s San Andreas Fault?

ImagesDespite the plethora of awards, self-congratulatory pats on the back and feel good phrases such as ‘attaining the fifth seat’, the fact remains the fact: the PR profession is woefully ignorant about the actual end-user experience. As Monday’s Daily Dog reports, new research from the Customer Contact Association warns, “…There’s a major fault line separating the board room, marketing suite and customer contact center.”

As a result, says the CCA, many brands are falling short of meeting the expectations of an increasingly demanding customer. No duh.

I’ve known this ever since reading Emily Yellin’s seminal book on the subject, ‘Your Call Is (not that) Important to Us.’ As a result, my firm has changed the way we think and begun offering a service called Audience Experience that helps corporations change the way they think and close their particular fault lines.

I’m saddened to report, though, that most marketers and chief communications officers with whom we’ve spoken, have turned a blind eye to the CCA’s warning (and our service offering). Why? They cite such excuses as:

– Budgetary restrictions (“We just haven’t budgeted for what you’re talking about, Steve.”)
– A reluctance on the part of the old white guys to change the way they market (“We totally get what you’re saying, but we’ll never get the corner office guys to buy into it.”)
– Or, my personal favorite, (“That’s just not part of my job description. Have you tried our sales folks?”)

Ask most CCOs how they stay in tune with the ever-increasing demands of consumers (and please read the customer-word in its broadest context: we’re talking about employees, CFOs of Fortune 500 corporations, busy moms, local community leaders, prospects, etc.) and they’ll respond in one of two traditional ways:
-    They wade through increasingly dense reams of data from market research companies, hoping against hope to gain some sort of insight.
-    They ‘listen’ to what’s being said about their brand on social channels and then take the negative conversations offline to fix the problem.

Both approaches are archaic and lazy.

The best ways to close the San Andreas fault lines that separates customer care from marketing communications and the C-Suite are two-fold:

-    Elevate the role of customer service within the organization and stop treating it like the ‘office ghetto’, as Ms. Yellin calls it
-    Roll up your sleeves, slip into a comfortable pair of shoes and experience your brand exactly the way your audiences do (i.e. walk into a retail store and see how the sales clerk sells your product as well as your competitors, try connecting to a living, breathing human being on your 1-800-customer service line, wade through your web site and see how long it takes to find the exact information you’re looking for, etc. Find each, and every, touch point and experience it yourself to uncover weaknesses.

The C-Suite and CCO’s need to meet the increasingly demanding customer where he or she wants to meet. That means abandoning traditional forms of advertising, PR and social media, investigating the 5Ws and asking the why question that drove your customer’s purchasing decision. It also calls for greater understanding of exactly where your product, service or organization fits in your customer’s decision-making tree. Most CCOs would be shocked to discover they are near, or at, the bottom of the list.

Finally, brands need to stop relying on their data to determine exactly who their ideal customer is. I remember one home security company was so sure their end user was a 32-year-old male who was an early technology adopter and was seen as arrogant by his BFFs, that they even gave him a name: Tommy. Another brand thinks it knows its time-starved, self-absorbed mother of three so well that they’ve come to calling her Debrah. Talk about inside-out, top-down MarketingThink! Ugh. Consumers would be appalled to learn how top brands have marginalized them (“I’m not Tommy. I’m Ed. And, I have nothing in common whatsoever with that 32-year-old jerk!’)

If Corporate America wants to avoid sustaining a 9.1 customer earthquake, it needs to start treating customer care with the respect it deserves. It’s time to elevate the job title and compensation structure of these hard-working individuals, break down the silos within Fortune 500 corporations and, most importantly, get CCO’s out of their ivory tower and begin walking in their customer’s shoes. The latter, however, would mean missing the upcoming industry award shows and conferences. Who would be there to accept the trophies on their behalf?

Nov 16

Hard-selling a soft-sell solution for Corporate America

CarsalesI believe comedy is the next BIG thing for corporate and employee communications. Why? Because comedy is based on the two most fundamental criteria in any communications program: truth and authenticity. Learn comedy's twin tenets and you'll become a better, more authentic storyteller. Period.

I once again experienced this phenomenon yesterday. Along with Peppercomm's Chief Comedy Officer (and professional comedian) Clayton Fletcher, I led a three-hour stand-up comedy workshop for executives of America's top pharmaceutical companies.

You might be thinking: What do comedy and marketing drugs for deadly diseases possibly have in common? Having trained lawyers, rocket scientists, oncologists and just about every other serious occupation one can imagine (except tinker, tailor, soldier and spy), I can report that each profession shares the same fundamental needs:

– To communicate and CONNECT with target audiences in new and unexpected ways.
– To differentiate themselves from competitors.
– To bond in new and meaningful ways with their peers (having grown weary of trying everything from Kaisan to Covey).

The pharma executives yesterday greeted us the way every client group does: with arms folded, daggers in their eyes and texting away on other, more important matters.

And, when we left a few hours later, those very same executives gave us multiple rounds of applause, told us they'd learned new and valuable techniques to bring back to their jobs and, critically, bonded as a group in a way they'd never expected.

This end result happens time and time again. We train executives to stand in front of their peers and share authentic stories. We may ask them to slightly exaggerate the tales in order to elicit some laughs, but I can honestly tell you EVERY single, serious business executive tells hilarious stories in their three or four-minutes 'on stage'.

The executives also learn the subtle ways in which comedy techniques can free them from PowerPoint slides, help them build better audience rapport and, critically, close a sale (however one defines the word sale).

I apologize for making a hard sell on a soft sell solution for Corporate America, but someone needs to make the point: comedy is a HUGE differentiator that smart communicators and human resource managers will eventually stumble upon on their own. I'm just trying to give them a wake-up call.

Comedy can, and will, transform your people, your culture and your bottom line. So, tell me, what's it going to take to get you on the phone, call me and say, “Steve, I need Peppercomm's Comedy Experience Featuring Clayton Fletcher?”

Hey, if you do, I'll tell you what I'm willing to do. I'll toss in a free set of radial tires, undercarriage rust protection and leather seats as well. Just don't tell my manager.

Nov 15

Both Sides Now

Today's guest post is by Syd Steinhardt, Sr. Director of Public Relations, NYU-SCPS

Alice_looking_glassI've looked at life from both sides now,

From up and down and still somehow,
It's life's illusions I recall,
I really don't know life at all.
    – Joni Mitchell, 1969

One day long ago, when I was an account executive at a respected midsized PR agency, the senior vice president and I were discussing some management changes at our division’s biggest client. “What do they do in corporate communications?” I asked, rhetorically. “It seems that all they do is go to meetings, while we get to do the fun stuff.”

By “fun stuff,” I meant the brainstorming, the program creation, the pitch formulation and then, the pitching of the story to the media. If you’re an agency person reading this, you probably agree – and you probably wonder what the heck your client does all day.

Having been on the client side for five years after more than a decade as an agency guy, I can assure you that we are not all burned-out, lazy, incompetent, risk-averse, paper-pushing, clock-watching, 401(k)-obsessed, long lunch-taking bureaucrats. They exist, to be sure, but it helps to understand how clients became what they appear to be.

In my experience, client contacts fall into three broad categories. Most have not worked in an agency, so they may not understand or care that much. Others know something about PR, but they trust the agency to run the show, as long as they are kept informed. Then, there are those who have left agency life, but still retain their passion for the business and want to be fully engaged in the account as an active partner with the agency.

For all of those stereotypes, which are admittedly exaggerated, there are those that exist on the client side, too: Agency people can’t write. They’re a mile wide and an inch deep. They’re more concerned with upselling us for an increased fee and they don’t pay enough attention to our existing business. They lie to us because they don’t think we know anything.

These are all true, to some degree, so let’s address them. Start with the poor quality of writing that comes from PR agencies. Much has been written about this, yet nothing ever seems to change. There’s really no excuse for it. There are four essentials that should be on every PR person’s desk: a dictionary, a thesaurus, “The AP Stylebook,” and “The Elements of Style.” To stay ahead of the competition, add “The Associated Press Guide to News Writing,” William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” and George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” to that list.

Poor writing is often a symptom of sloppy thinking, but it also may be created by unrealistic expectations. Clients want it fast and right the first time – but don’t have the time to explain the concept to the agency, then make it wait weeks for review and approval.

As for the agency being shallow, the burden is on the client to take the time to explain his business to his agency and to keep doing it until he’s satisfied. The account reps don’t have to know everything; just enough to interest third parties in talking to the client about his product or service in greater detail.

Consider the pressures that an agency is under. Of all of its clients, not every one of them has first call on it for every announcement, such as an assistant district manager’s pending induction into the Mid-Atlantic Widget Hall of Fame. Not everything is a story.

Remember that PR works as a marketing support function. It’s the client’s job to keep his agency on track. Clients spend 40 or more hours a week on their business, but the agency may be spending less than that on it per month. Value the agency’s time; it’s productive to do that.

Like it or not, clients, hiring a PR agency is not like hiring a housecleaner; it cannot execute without your active involvement. Unfortunately, some clients act as if the agency is a nuisance to be patted on the head and sent on its merry way. The next time that you want to complain about your unproductive agency, think about what you are doing to help it to help you.

Nov 14

The Civil War 2.0

Texas-secessionYou have to tip your stove pipe hat to Steven Spielberg for the superb timing of his new epic, 'Lincoln'.  Not only is the film debuting in the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in recent history, but it's breaking in the midst of what appears to be Civil War 2.0.

As The Huffington Post reported on November 13th, no fewer than 31 states have filed petitions to secede from the Union. Shades of April, 1861!

This neo and nascent Confederacy represents the block that delivered so many votes to the Romney/Ryan ticket. Their desire to leave the Union can be best summed up by someone named Mitch H. of Arlington, Texas. His petition, filed on a White House website, has already generated more than 83,000 signatures. (That's roughly the number of Rebel soldiers Robert E. Lee led into the Battle of Gettysburg, BTW).

Mitch's complaints contain the usual litany of Obama administration's domestic and foreign policy failures. What makes the petition interesting, though, is Mitch's belief that Texas could easily become an independent nation (since it has “the world's 15th largest economy and a balanced budget”). That may have worked well in 1836, but I'm not sure well it would play in 2012.

And, could you imagine if the 30 other states decide to secede as well? The implications are staggering to contemplate:

– How could the Super Bowl be played if the AFC's best team, The Houston Texans, now represents a foreign country?
– How would parents of small children suffer and sweat their way through DisneyWorld if they also have to endure the indignities of passport control at the Orlando Airport? Those lines would make the ones at Space Mountain pale in comparison.
– And, would the new Confederacy follow its predecessor and print its own currency? My guess it it'll be worth less than my PartnerShipCentral dotcom stock options (or original Confederate dollars, if you prefer).

The Secessionist movement needs a firebrand to galvanize the renegade states and organize a fighting force (assuming Obama would follow Lincoln's lead and invade the South in hopes on preserving the Union). They're in desperate need of a latter-day John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis or Stonewall Jackson.

Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann might be potential candidates, but I can't see either leading troops into battle. And, I doubt the massive Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh could even mount a stallion to lead the Third Battle of Manassas. And, as for Chris Christie, well, that would be pure animal abuse.

And, speaking of the New Jersey governor, I see that my home state is among the 31 renegades. That puts me in the same position as Lee. Do I stay loyal to my home state or the Union? In my case, I know too many guys named Tommy Two-Tongues and Paulie the Pooch who, if I do stay loyal to the U.S., will make sure I'm swimming with the fishes sometime soon.

What about you? Where do your sympathies lie?

I'd continue, but I just read a breaking news item saying that Tea Party troops have set up cannon in Charleston Harbor and are threatening to bombard Fort Sumter. I need to make sure my musket and saber are battle-ready.

And tip of the hat to College of Charleston student extraordinare Chris Piedmont for suggesting this post.