Jun 29

These guys know sh*t from Shinola

resizeI’ve just purchased my first American-made watch.

It’s a Shinola, and I took the plunge after hearing great word of mouth, reading highly positive editorial comments and, finally, visiting their site (www.shinola.com).

I was immediately hooked by the watch’s industrial/sport/fashion appearance.

I was also impressed by the relatively young company’s line extension into everything from bicycles to doggy products.

But, what sealed the deal was a video depiction of the @shinola work force and their focus on high-quality manufacturing, packaging and customer service.

They also celebrate their Detroit headquarters office, and boast that Shinola is the first handmade watch maker to build a watch factory in Detroit (which makes sense. Where else would a Detroit watchmaker make watches?).

I’ve only had my Shinola for a week or so, so the jury’s still out. But, I will say the brand has ever so slightly changed my POV on all things Detroit-made.

I’ll never abandon my M3 for a Big Three competitor, but I can see myself including other, quality Detroit-made products in my lifestyle.

And, it’s all because these guys DO know sh*t from Shinola.

Jun 25

Hey Mets Fans, It’s A.P. Style Guide Day at CitiField

This post is dedicated to Matt “Long-suffering” Purdue.


It comes as no surprise to this blogger that my beloved New York Mets, who find themselves in the midst of an epic June Swoon, also have the least literate fans in Major League Baseball.

According to a new survey undertaken by Grammarly, Mets fans top the Majors in possessing the worst command of the English language. The team also happens to boast the worst offense in the National League, but I don’t believe one is connected to the other.

In reaching their not-so-surprising conclusion, Grammarly experts analyzed 150 reader reviews from the news section of each MLB team’s website (an average of 10,592 words per team).

Like their on-the-field counterparts, Mets fans committed the most errors, making 13.9 per 100 words. Their rants contained misspellings, mixed metaphors and general abuse of the English language.

Surprisingly, the Cleveland Indians, an equally inept franchise, happen to attract the most literate fans in baseball!

Both Chicago teams finished in Grammarly’s top five, as did the Padres and Mariners.

Interestingly enough, the high and mighty New York Yankees don’t attract a high-brow fan base. In fact, the Bronx Bombers’ fans performed almost as badly as their inter-city rivals. Methinks both New York franchises should announce an “A.P. Style Book Giveaway Day” at their respective ballpark (and hand out the venerable spelling and grammar guides to the first 15,000 attendees).

So, will the Mets on-field, or online, performance improve any time soon? Hey, ya gotta believe!

Jun 24

The journalist as shill

Presentationaaaaaaqa3Have you ever received an unsolicited e-mail from Frank Rich of The New York Times or Dana Mattioli of The Wall Street Journal? If you have, were either pitching you to sign-up for a Times-sponsored webinar or encouraging you to buy tables at a Journal awards dinner?

I ask because my in-box is besieged with such sales pitches from the editors and reporters of our industry’s trade publications.

I find such spam troubling for several reasons:

– Journalists are trained, and hired, to report the news and not to fill the coffers of media properties (Think: separation of church and state).

– Were these journalists reporting on, say, the automotive aftermarket, I’d turn a blind eye. But, these representatives of the Fourth Estate cover PR, a field that prides itself on full transparency and editorial integrity.

Yet, no one publicly decries the spam because, frankly, CCOs and agency leaders alike depend upon these very same journalists for favorable coverage and awarding awards.If the industry trades ever hope to command more respect, I suggest their editorial sides spend more time covering the news and less on hawking products.



Jun 22

It’s all about striking the right balance

It’s axiomatic that culture is intrinsically linked to organizational success. Alienate your employees, and watch them leave. Then watch as your biggest customers follow suit.

And, yet, cold, cutthroat cultures still abound in every industry known to man. This despite some compelling, new research proving that boorish behavior will not only cost you your best and brightest. It may also end up killing them. One statistic in particular leapt out at me: “Stressful jobs increased the risk of a cardiovascular event by 38 percent.” Holy heart attack, Batman.

That said, I’m not a fan of those “warm and fuzzy” organizations that insist on pampering their troops and only hire employees who match the corporate weirdness. The April issue of Inc. Magazine highlighted some truly bizarre examples. To wit:

– Zappos: Where employees wear everything from pajamas and pirate costumes.

– Kimpton Hotels: Manager orientation includes taking shots of tequila from a large plastic cow and Hula-Hoop competitions.

Such bizarre behavior works for these organizations because, well, they want to attract wacky people.

For the vast majority of organizations, though, I’d counsel senior management to strike just the right balance between toughness and creativity. Peppercomm is a case in point.

As many of you know, we embed stand-up comedy training in our management training. We do so because it not only improves an employee’s listening and rapport-building skills but, critically, sets just the right tone for our workplace culture. We also encourage people to dress in their school colors during March Madness and wear whatever costumes they choose on Halloween. Our employees even produced their very own rap video.

But, we won’t hesitate to fire abusive managers in a heartbeat, downsize underperformers or blow-up fiefdoms before they take root. I’d describe it as tough, but fair. I’d also describe it as striking just the right balance.

And a tip ‘o Rep’s cap to Peppercommer Lia Lobello for suggesting this post. 

Jun 18


Are you consciously, or unconsciously, enabling your child to be obese?

A recent study in Childhood Obesity revealed more than three-quarters of parents of pre-school obese sons and nearly 70 percent of parents of pre-school obese daughters described their children as “about the right weight.”

That means those parents are either in denial or we have a widespread case of early onset myopia among adults.

eating_2240071bThe study’s author, Dr. David L. Katz, has coined a word for the problem: oblivobesity.

He says some parents turn a blind eye to pleasingly plump offspring, hoping they’ll eventually grow out of it. Other parents, who also happen to be obese (and, ergo, serve as role models) aren’t about to change their dietary habits in order to slim down the kids. And, then, there’s the political correctness of the new normal which celebrates plus-sized women while decrying the waif-like appearance of runway models.

Besides the obvious, and very real, long-term damage obesity wreaks on the body, parents should also consider the image and reputation handicaps a hands-off weight management styles will cause their kids. While I don’t have any readily-handy statistics to support my POV, I do believe obese, and severely obese, children (and adults) will face additional challenges as they progress through life.

It’s tough enough to succeed in today’s celebrity-looks obsessed society. Why allow Johnny or Janey to fight image barriers while they simultaneously combat diabetes, high blood pressure and countless other side effects of obesity?

Jun 16

Silence is not a strategy

What do Rachel Dolezal, Archbishop John C. Neinstedt and Joyce Mitchell have in common?

i-passed-for-white-top-sonya-wilde-everettAll three covered up their transgressions and find their names front and center in today’s news.

If you’ve been asleep for the past week or, like me, distracted by your son’s wedding, allow me to fill in the blanks:

– Rachel Dolezal has been forced to quit as NAACP chapter president in Spokane because she refused to admit she didn’t have a single drop of black blood coursing through her veins.
Nienstedt resigned his post in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis amid accusations of covering multiple sexual abuse claims involving priests.
– Mitchell is the upstate New York prison employee who not only covered up her role in helping two convicted killers escape but, allegedly, also had sexual liaisons with both cons and fell in love with the elder one.

Silence may have been a strategy in the past, but in today’s 24×7, Google search-dominated world, your skeletons will, indeed, be outed. To paraphrase Joe Louis, one of the great heavyweights of all-time, “You can run. But, you can’t hide.”

That’s why we walk away from clients who ask us to help cover-up past transgressions. It’s also why I went public long about having played a lead role in the CIAs botched assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. I knew someone, someday, would find out and derail my modestly successful career.

So, as painful as it may be, it’s best to ‘fess up early and often. The reputation you’ll save will be your own (or your client’s).

Jun 11

My extra special favorite boy

steve and chris for Jun 12 blog

Random people will often stop me on the streets of NYC and, after begging for money, will ask, “Hey, Steve, what was the single best moment of your life?”

I smile and say, “That’s easy. It was watching my son, Chris, being born.” It was the highest of highs and an endorphin rush I’ve yet to match (Note: watching my daughter, Catharine, being born three years later runs a close second).

From day one, Chris and I established an amazing bond. Right or wrong, he quickly became not only my son, but my best friend. In fact, Chris would delight in telling anyone and everyone he was my extra special favorite boy.

Chris is being married this Sunday to his soulmate of many years, Olivia “O.P.” Porcello. And, he’s asked me to be his best man. How cool is that?

I’m still framing my remarks, but you can bet your wedding bouquet I’ll find a way to weave-in the extra special favorite boy descriptor. That’s because he was, is and will always be just that. Enjoy the day, Chris.

Jun 10

Cleveland can’t kick, throw, bat or jump

baby-with-glove1Has the world been treating you badly? Did your significant other just send a text ending the relationship (and adding it was her fault, not yours)? Is a newly-won client surreptitiously interviewing other firms behind your back?

Relax. Things could be far, far worse. You could be a Cleveland sports fan.

The Cavaliers recent run on the NBA title notwithstanding, Cleveland’s various sports teams have gone 147 seasons without winning a professional sports title. Yes, Virginia, It’s been a full half-century since the Browns captured the NFL title.

To put that yawning gap in perspective, the last time a Cleveland team claimed a championship, LBJ was entering his first year in the White House, the Beatles had just burst upon the American consciousness and Ed Moed was still in God’s pocket.

According to a New York Times analysis Cleveland’s record of ineptness far surpasses such other contenders as:

– Atlanta (70 seasons without a title)
– Buffalo (101 seasons)
– Minneapolis (87 seasons)

So kick back and chill the next time you experience a serious setback. You could be living in Cleveland and still waiting to celebrate just one bloody championship.

Jun 08

Another one bites the dust

nphys1312-i1Did you know that J. P. Morgan just eliminated voice mail service on the phones of two-thirds of its global workforce?

Did you also know that Coca-Cola has made voice mail optional for each and every employee?

These moves make perfect sense considering:

1.) The overall cost savings will be massive

2.) Who in hell even receives voice mails anymore?

3.) Does anyone at all enjoy the hassle of retrieving voice mails?

I’m guessing that, as we become even more obsessed with our mobile devices, land lines will soon follow voice mail, faxes and the overhead projector on the scrap heap of discarded technologies.

I’m not at all shocked to read about the J. P. Morgan and Coke moves, I’m only surprised it took their financial and technology whizzes this long to pull the plug.

Jun 04

But can they microwave the leftovers?

Scientists from Harvard and Yale have determined that chimpanzees have the cognitive ability, patience and foresight to resist eating raw food and, instead, cook their meals. In fact, chimps “…would give up a raw slice of sweet potato in the hand for the prospect of a cooked slice of sweet potato a bit later.” Who wouldn’t?



In the wake of this remarkable news, I foresee two immediate happenings: a spate of new TV reality shows and myriad fast food chains aimed at animals and humans alike.

Turning first to the reality shows, how about these potential titles:

– “Chopped Chimps” Three up-and-coming chimp chefs are each given a variety of serendipitous food items from the Serengeti (i.e. the tail of a Wildebeest, a flamingo’s beak and a giraffe’s neck). They then prepare a meal that is judged by three superstar chimp chefs. The winner receives an all-expense paid trip to The Culinary Institute of America to refine her/his skills.
– “Chimp Start-Up” Renowned chefs such as Bobby Flay trek to Tanzania to provide hands-on instruction and harsh evaluation of meals created by the local chimps. Losers are tossed into a pride of lions and the winner receives a $1,000 gift certificate to the Arusha Wal-Mart.
– “African Idol” This show would feature chimps who can not only cook, but belt out top pop songs as well. The winner would be flown to Abbey Road Studios, taught how to record an album and prepare Fish n’ Chips.

Turning to the fast food business opportunities, I could see a latter-day Ray Croc or Howard Schultz capitalizing on this new type of cuisine to open a chain of restaurants from Cape town to Cairo. Suggested names for the joints:

– McChimp
– Rwanda-fried sweet potatoes
– Jungle’s Best

While I’m pleased to learn the chimps are following in the footsteps of Julia Childs and cooking up their own sumptuous meals, I am concerned about two very significant impediments standing in the way of success:

– The chimps don’t know how to start a fire. As a result, they need to depend on a neighbor’s backyard grill, a Civil War that features any number of burning buildings or a friendly poacher willing to share his lighter.
– The chimpanzees also lack access to electricity, so there’d be no ability to re-heat what isn’t eaten and served two or three days later. For me, the lack of leftovers is a deal breaker.

Until they surmount those two challenges, I’d advise against investing in any chimp-led start-up venture. I’m just not seeing a path to profitability.