Apr 12

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Plan abI had the great fortune to spend the past few days lecturing, mentoring and networking with the College of Charleston's faculty, alumni and students.

I had that opportunity because I've been a member of the CofC's Department of Communications Advisory Council for the past five years.

I must confess that, aside from my alma mater, Northeastern University, the College of Charleston is my extra special favorite place (that's a riff on what the young Rep, Jr., used to call me).

During my visit, I participated in a speed networking event with 60 or so sophomores, juniors and seniors. As is the case with students I've met from other schools, yesterday's group ran the gamut from the superbly poised and prepared to those who, shall we say, were somewhat lost at sea.

The best and brightest had it all:

– Relevant internships
– Significant pro bono/volunteer service
– A strong digital footprint
– A poised, professional manner
– The ability to listen and respond in the moment.

They also knew exactly what they wanted to do after graduation. One was combining her original interest in health care with her current passion for communications and intended to work within a large medical center after graduation. Another one had focused on internships in the fashion world and intended to combine that hands-on retail experience with her communications skills to work in the marketing group of a well-known department store.

And, then, there were the others. When I asked one senior how many interviews she'd lined up prior to graduating next month, she replied, “Oh, I'm much too busy studying for finals to worry about that. I'll start looking after graduation.” Good luck with that.

Another admitted she had no real interest in communications at all and intended, instead, to pursue a completely different career. Oh. That immediately reminded me of a Millennial who recently interviewed at Peppercomm. When asked why she was interested in a career in PR, she responded, “Well, I'd really prefer to be a teacher.” End of interview.

Success in life is the end result of careful planning and hard work. Like their peers who are graduating from thousands of other schools this spring, some CofC students will become absolute rock stars. Others, though, will wake up in a few years' time and realize they've let the world pass them by.

So, note to all college and university undergrads: the time to map your future isn't after graduation. Focus on your passion now, land the internships that will build your credentials and network, network, network.

As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Knowing how unpredictable the future will be, it's that much more important to put a plan in place this morning and begin implementing it this afternoon. Otherwise, you'll find yourself waking up at one minute to midnight with few, if any, career options.

Apr 11

Acquisition is a poor substitute for strategy

ImagesGary Hamel was a dream client. We represented his consulting firm, Strategos, a while back and I have to tell you, Gary was a walking, talking sound bite.

Gary, you see, counseled Fortune 500 companies how to either create, or recreate, their strategic planning processes. So, he knew all there was to know about outflanking the competition. And, whenever one major company acquired another, we'd offer up Hamel as a 'contrarian thinker' to the business press. They dug Gary's words because, while some Harvard professor would praise the acquisition du jour and a Booz-Allen consultant would rave about the added scope and reach of the new combination, Gary would call the machinations a poor substitute for strategy.

I thought about Gary the other day when I read about Marissa Mayer's acquisition strategy at Yahoo.

Since becoming CEO and banning telecommuting, Meyer has also been gobbling up small, technology firms such as Summly, Stamped, OnTheAir, Snip.it, ProPeld and Jybe.

Mayer's made the acquisitions for two reasons:

– To play catch-up with rivals Google and Facebook
– To infuse some semblance of entrepreneurial spirit in Yahoo's ossified hallways.

The first strategy may work, but I'd never buy another firm in the hope that their workplace spirit would magically lift mine. That's a very, very poor substitute for strategy and a desperate attempt to change embedded, decades-old patterns of behavior.

One entrepreneur told the Times he was being simultaneously courted by Facebook, Google and Yahoo. The first two companies dazzled the guy, and impressed him with their due diligence, saying they, 'basically know what size underwear I wear.' Each organization was also buzzing with activity and the reception areas stocked with shiny, new tablet computers.

His Yahoo experience was the exact opposite. The entrepreneur arrived to find an empty parking lot and deserted offices. He checked in on dusty, clunky desktop computer that ran outdated web browsers AND the Yahoo executives with whom he met had no clue who he was, or how his business model might fit within their disorganized organization.

As Colin Gillis of BCG Partners said, 'If you are a quality start-up, Yahoo is still not the place to be.'

And buying smaller, B-level technology start-ups believing they'll instill a robust entrepreneurial spirit is a pipe dream. An organization either has that spirit in its DNA, or it doesn't.

Snapping up a start-up here and there may make Wall Street happy, but Ms. Mayer will soon discover her buying binge is a poor substitute for strategy.

Where's Gary Hamel when you need him?

Apr 10


Flying-fickle-finger-of-fate– Blogger says result is a first in the annals of market research –

New York, April 10, 2013 — Outspoken blogger Steve 'Repman' Cody announced today that he himself had topped this year's annual Repman Distrust Barometer. Cody edged out Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong, the Blackberry and the country of North Korea to be named this year's least trustful person, place or thing.

“I'm humbled to say the least,” said Repman. “How often does someone actually win one's own poll? This HAS to be a first in the survey world although, since I'm so distrustful, I wouldn't want anyone to quote me on that.”

The annual Repman Distrust Barometer is a totally bogus, superficial survey of a few co-workers, the building security guards at 470 Park Avenue South, the fruit stand guy who works outside the building and several arrogant United Airlines flight attendants and New Jersey Transit conductors. Unlike its far more successful and respected competitor, The Annual Edelman Trust Barometer, the Repman poll serves no real purpose.

Repman thinks he knows why he edged out such dubious and devious characters as A-Rod and Sir Lancelot. “People are never sure whether I'm being serious or joking around,” reflected Cody. “And, that's particularly true with the written word. So, my readers distrust just about everything I write.”

Move over PR Week

Repman says his blog is seriously considering an awards ceremony that would rival those of PR Week, The Holmes Report and the PRSA Silver Anvil.

“There's no reason why I can't transform these annual polls into a huge cash cow for the Repman brand,” mused Cody. “Why not hold a Repman Distrustful Industry Awards show? My goal would be to shine the spotlight on the most sketchy people, programs, agencies and corporations in our field. And, as sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, I'll bet the finalists for Most Distrustful Large Agency of the year will each buy six or more tables to the tune of $10,000 per. Ch-ching!”

Cody says he's thinking of calling the awards either 'The Reppy' or 'The Bad Boy'.

“I like the Reppy because it rhymes with preppie, a person universally distrusted throughout time. And, in thinking it through, I must admit The Bad Boy would be invariably be seen by some as sexist,” he observed.

The Repman Annual Distrust Barometer was fielded a few days ago and included about 10 or 11 responses. The results were analyzed by a complete stranger Repman met in an elevator. For a complete copy of the report, ask Ja'Maine at the 470 Park Avenue South security desk.

Apr 09

Thanks for being the worst

StewardessAs United flight 453 taxied to gate C93 at Newark Liberty International Airport, the pilot made a curious statement. “I want ask each and every passenger a favor,” he said. 'I'd like you to personally thank our fine flight attendants for their hard work as you de-plane.”

I laughed out loud at the audacity and absurdity of the statement. To begin with, we passengers are paying customers. The pilot and flight attendants should be thanking us. Second, the on-board service was fair, but certainly not exemplary. Third, and most important of all, United has routinely disappointed me with its horrific service.

And, according to a recently published report,I'm not alone. The annual Airline Quality Rankings by Wichita State University and Purdue University says airline passengers are more frustrated than ever. “If it's an uneventful experience that's about the best you can hope for,” said Dean Hadley, one of the study's authors.

And, guess what airline led the nation with the MOST registered complaints in 2012? Yup, good ol' United logged a total of 11,495 complaints. That's the population of my home town, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. Imagine having an entire town hate you?

United's management should muzzle its flight crew and tell them not to further enrage passengers by making absurd comments such as the one uttered by flight 453's skipper. His ill-timed remarks would be similar to Jets Coach Rex Ryan asking fans to thank each, and every, player and coach of last year's abysmal 6-10 squad. Why ask for trouble?

Just yesterday, I counseled a worried CEO that a proactive PR campaign wouldn't turn around his organization's image. “Your product is broken,” I said, “and you need to fix that before you can launch any semblance of a positive PR campaign.”

United needs to do the same thing. Stop chest-thumping and start fixing the problems.

Since acquiring Continental Airlines, the carrier has been running ads proclaiming, 'It's not who's merged that counts. It's what's about to emerge.' I can tell you what's emerged: chaos. And, 11,495 other United passengers agree with me.

So, I'm not about to thank ANY United pilot, flight attendant, gate attendant, mechanic or reservation clerk until, and unless, they fix what's broken. 

Oh, and do me a favor after you read this: post your horror story about flying in general, and enduring United's oh-so-unfriendly skies in particular. And, if you should feel like thanking me on your way out, go ahead.

Apr 08

It’s good to be the king (or the ambassador)

Jpk-67097973903I've just finished reading 'The Patriarch', a fascinating book about Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the scion of the legendary Kennedy Clan.

Written by David Nasaw, who has also penned profiles of William Randolph Hearst and Andrew Carnegie, the Kennedy biography paints an unvarnished picture of a driven, manipulative, diabolically clever, wildly carousing, but, ultimately, loving family man.

Contrary to public opinion, Papa Joe (as Hollywood sex goddess, and lover, Marlene Dietrich, called him), didn't make a dime selling bootlegged whiskey. Instead, he was simultaneously a master stock manipulator (whose personal net growth skyrocketed during the Great Depression) AND a Hollywood movie mogul, who cashed in big time when the industry switched from silent to talking pictures.

From there, Papa Joe came to FDR's attention who, knowing that no one knew more about insider trading and fraud on Wall Street, appointed Kennedy to be the first Securities & Exchange Committee chairman.

Later, Roosevelt named Papa Joe the first Irish-American to be ambassador to the Court of St. James. It was in this latter post where The Patriarch fell from grace. He not only supported British P.M. Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policies towards Hitler, but pleaded with FDR NOT to provide ANY support whatsoever to England after that island nation stood alone against Nazi aggression. He was subsequently recalled, and forever painted as a cowardly defeatist.

As we all know, Joe began a second career by stage managing his son, Jack's, rise to The White House in 1960. Three years later, though, Kennedy was stricken by a massive stroke that left him physically crippled yet mentally alert (in fact, he lived long enough to learn about the assassinations of both Jack and Bobby).

The Patriarch was a complicated, compartmentalized and deeply flawed, if fascinating man. For example:

– He kept a Roman Catholic priest on a monthly retainer. The priest's job was to hear J.P. Kennedy's confession after each, and every, fling, thereby “wiping the slate clean” with god.
– He kept the powerful New York Times Editor Arthur Krock on a monthly retainer to help write his speeches as well as edit his book AND son Jack's ('Why England Slept'). Krock also wrote glowing columns about 'The Ambassador' throughout the 1930 and '40s. So, in effect, the top Timesman was a Kennedy shill.
– He kept a drop dead gorgeous French woman on retainer during his annual summer visits to the South of France. Her duties: to serve as his personal caddy on Joe's daily rounds of golf. The author quotes Joe in letter to a friend describing Amy as “…the most gifted caddie the golf world's ever known.”

As Mel Brooks said in his portrayal of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in 'History of the World: Part One, “It’s good to be the king!” Or the ambassador, if you were Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.

As for his wife, Rose, she believed to her dying day that Joe had been a faithful, devoted hubby. Of course, the Patriarch provided her with an opulent, pampered lifestyle that would have made the toga-wearing, hard partying former Tyco CEO, Dennis Kozlowkski, green with envy.

I highly recommend 'The Patriarch'. It's a great read for any PR professional interested in learning how powerful men and women can control the media. It also provides tremendous insight into how and why Jack and Bobby became the men they were. Finally, the tome reinforces the old adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Apr 05

Tony RoMo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Nicole Hall.

Tony-romo-cologneWhat do $55 million, six years and one NFL playoff win have in common? You guessed it – Tony Romo. Ever since the Cowboys franchise offered Romo a contract deal that knighted him the league's highest-paid player, the internet has exploded with all kinds of creative insults about the Dallas quarterback's talent (or lack thereof) and his over-the-top new salary. In my opinion, all NFL players are overpaid, but that is for another discussion.

According to the NFL
, the franchise didn't have much choice. A clause in Romo’s contract stipulated that if no deal was reached by the end of the 2013 league year he would become a free agent. Romo looks great on paper, and there are no other great up and coming QB stars to replace him. Essentially, it would have been worse for the team had they given Romo the Cowboy boot.

As a Dallas native, I have grown up with the mentality that in the NFL there are the Cowboys, and everyone else. So despite their recent season records, I still proudly don my bedazzled #82 Witten jersey amongst a sports bar of Giants fans.

The typical reaction to my attire is: "Ew, you're a Cowboys fan?! At least you aren't wearing Romo's jersey." The funny thing though is that even amongst the small niche of Cowboys fans in the land of Giants and Jets, those who wear Romo jerseys are mocked by fellow fans.

So why is there such a disconnect between Romo's football resume and his reputation amongst NFL fans? There is no definite answer here, but in my opinion, a large part has to do with the Cowboys’ status as “America’s Team.” With that title comes more scrutiny and big shoes to fill.

There is also the team aspect of the game. The past seven out of 10 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. It is no secret that the leader of the team gets the praise when they succeed and the flack when they don't.

Thankfully, though, the team is not called the Dallas Romos, so he can’t be the only one to blame for the lack of playoff wins. Sure, Romo can throw 300 yards in a game, but when no one (from HIS team) is able to catch it, it defeats the purpose (and the salary).

Apr 04

Give ‘em what they want

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Jason Green.

Sexist+advertsBooze, women and cars. Look around. I bet all of the men in sight are thinking about one, if not all three, of those things right now.

Yet, some people, sorry RepMan, are still searching for the reason why companies depict men as one-dimensional, thoughtless goofs. In my humble opinion, IMHO for the millennial readers, brands are not given much of a choice. At Peppercomm, we espouse the gospel of listening, engaging and repeating. From my experience, with men of all ages, that is exactly what brands are currently doing.

When it comes to planning well-rounded family vacations, ensuring that the house/apartment is germ free and spotless, feeding the family and/or pets nutritious food, etc., women have the market cornered and it would be a waste of resources for PR professionals and marketers to attempt to connect with men on these issues. A recent Village Voice piece shines an extremely bright light on the subject (thanks, Laura Bedrossian). The message is clear: men want MEN’s products and don’t want to concern themselves with much else.

What’s more, men don’t seem to care or think it is necessary to stick up for our gender. This is one of the main reasons I think that the “Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends” video spread like wildfire. I’d like to present exhibit A: the straight man’s response to the video. In short, it says, “we know we’re idiots, and we don’t care at all.” It is satire, but as the old saying goes, there is a little truth to every joke.

BuzzFeed recently reported on the “man’s version of Pinterest,” called Manteresting. At least before the existence of Manteresting, there wasn’t an online destination for men to “nail” and “bump” their desires. This was the final straw for me and I hope it was for others. While women are out having a thoughtful debate about what is means to “Lean In” and if that is possible for every woman, men are racing back to the Stone Age.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t thoughtful, organized, less-hedonistic men out there, but I think it is clear at this point that we are not the majority. Based on the chasm between products marketed to women and men, I’d say our industry is onto something. Their message is resonating and it looks like they are planning to repeat it. I can’t blame them.

The days of just bringing home the bacon and being detached from household decisions and responsibilities is long gone, in case you needed to hear it again. It is up to us now. We need to “dig in” and change the way men are perceived. Otherwise, I fully expect to see whiskey flavored Greek yogurt on the shelves to satisfy a man’s desire to further comingle breakfast and drinking.

Apr 03

This former Met needs a Miracle

Today’s guest post is by Thom Powers, lifelong friend of RepMan and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man of the Year Candidate. Please support this charity and "vote" for Thom by donating to the LLS: Click here.

What would you say about the New York Mets if I told you that they blocked a former member of the 1969 “Miracle Mets” from receiving his World Series ring?  I think like me you would want the Mets to right this wrong.  You see Kevin Collins started the 1969 season as a member of the Mets.  In fact he appeared in 16 games for the Mets that season. 

Then on June 15, 1969 at the trading deadline Kevin along with highly regarded pitching prospect Steve Renko was traded to the Montreal Expos for first baseman Donn Clendenon.  Donn, if you remember your baseball history ended up being a key component in the Miracle Mets drive to win the World Series.  In fact he was the MVP of the 1969 World Series.  If you played, even for a small part of the season, or worked in the front office for a team that won the World Series you would normally get a World Series ring. 

Interestingly in 2010 Bengie Molina started the season with the San Francisco Giants and was traded to the Texas Rangers.  As both teams faced each other in the World Series, Bengie ended up getting a World Series ring from the winning Giants and also got his AL Championship ring from the Rangers.  However, in Kevin’s case the Mets told him that since he was traded to a team within their division (the thought is that someone could throw games for his former team) he was prohibited from receiving a World Series ring. 

Years later Kevin went back to the Mets and asked if they could give the ring manufacturer the green light to produce a World Series ring for him and that he would pay 100% of the costs.  Once again the Mets said NO!  As it turns out Kevin is now a neighbor to my brother Dennis in Naples, Florida. 

The retired player still hopes that the Mets might right this wrong.  Let’s hope that this “Miracle Met” will soon get his Miracle.    
NOTE:  Mets PR director Jay Horwitz was sent this post and given the opportunity to reply prior to publication. He said he would not comment on this; it was before his time, and “so long ago.”

Apr 02

Just hangin’ around?


Hi folks, Dandy here. Thought you all might like to see what RepMan is up to this week. (Well, for starters you can see he's up pretty HIGH.)

Rep sent me this picture and sez: "This was taken about 3,000 feet up on Tunnel Vision today. It's a way cool 5,000 foot mountain in Red Rocks, Nevada. As the name suggests, Tunnel Vision features a very narrow tunnel one has to navigate through in order to reach the summit."

Editor's note: Rep you are crazy and I am going to take out a nice fat insurance policy out on you.

Apr 02

Mourning on Facebook

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.

Mourning A Facebook acquaintance’s college-age daughter was tragically killed in a freak accident three weeks ago. I’ve never met her (let’s call her ‘Jane’) and didn’t know her daughter (‘Mary’) but we have a close friend in common and developed a nice on-line connection over the last couple of years.  Jane has always been very active with Facebook; nary a day went by that she didn't make at least three or four posts. Needless to say, after Mary’s death her page was flooded with messages of sympathy and support and her activity increased dramatically.

Jane has grieved very openly on Facebook. She posted two extensive photo albums of the service, has lengthy conversations with her daughter’s college friends and re-told many touching and humorous stories about Mary. I know this activity on Facebook is very healing and helping her at this excruciatingly difficult time.

A scholarship fund was established in Mary’s honor and Jane chronicles each contribution as it comes in. She promotes the fund heavily, and asks every one of her Facebook friends to not only make a donation, but to ‘share’ the request on their own pages and, in turn, ask each of their friends to do the same and on and on….

She found a penny and felt it was a sign from Mary, a la ‘Pennies from Heaven,’ asked everyone to look for similar signs (read: pennies) and to post a picture of said penny on their page. Jane then comments and shares that picture and conversation thread on her own page.

Mary’s favorite color was blue and after seeing a rare blue butterfly she decided that, too, was a sign and asked people to send pictures of butterflies, and if you dress in blue, that is a sign that you are remembering Mary and her spirit lives on. Oh and Jane would like you to post that photo too.

Each day begins with an inspirational quote or story about Mary.  She tags Mary in photographs as if she were still alive. Mary’s Facebook page is still active.

And then she got really aggressive: she recently posted “What have YOU done to honor Mary today?” Unfortunately, I was not the only one to feel offended by this challenge… this supposition that I have done something wrong if I have not reported a penny, an insect or sent another check.

I know I am on shaky ground to criticize how someone handles the unspeakable trauma of losing a child. But, I can’t help but think that maybe Jane would be better served by making more face-to-face, or voice-to-voice connections to help her get through this. 

She is falling deeper and deeper into a world where comfort and condolence are measured in exclamation points, “I am here for you!!!!!!!,” repetitive vowels, “I miss her sooooooo much,” and emoticons ":(" 

Social media is a beautiful thing. Sometimes. But not always.