Jul 14

A different type of pitch for this PR guy

Pictures 060 Thanks to freelance publicist extraordinaire Greg Schmalz, this blogger had the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at last Friday night's Lakewood BlueClaws game.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but to a guy who grew up loving all things baseball, it was huge. I'd even call it a bucket list kind of thing.

It was unbelievably cool to take the mound in front of 7,200 fans (most of whom had naturally turned out to see the heralded RepMan's pitching debut). And, I need to thank Tommy Powers, the David Clyde of credit unions, for warming me up prior to my big moment.

Once given the ball, I'm pleased to report that I grooved a high, hard one right down Broadway and smack into the catcher's mitt. In fact, I think I spied a feint puff of dust explode from his mitt as a result of the ball's impact. And, like a crack addict, once I'd thrown one pitch, I needed to throw more. Lots more. I was ready to toss seven or eight strong innings had the BlueClaws felt the need to call upon the skills of a crafty, veteran lefty. Alas, no such summons was forthcoming and I dutifully returned to my seat in the stands.

Now that I've thrown out the first pitch in a professional baseball game, I need to move on to new, and even cooler, challenges. Maybe Sir Paul McCartney needs a stand-up comedian to open for him on his next tour? Maybe not.

Jul 09

Tat’s all, folks!

Is it just me, or is there an ever-increasing percentage of people sporting tattoos? Is there also  
Bibby2
a  simultaneous increase in the percentage of available skin being devoted to tats? I sure think so.

I believe I reached the tat’s tipping point this past Sunday when I spied one on the calf muscle of my good friend and cycling partner, Greg Drury (publisher of The Holmes Report). Justifiably proud of having completed six triathlons, Greg’s right calf is now adorned with a bright red ‘tri’ logo. Man, I thought, if ‘they’ got Greg Drury to sport a tat, they’ve got everyone. Don’t ask me who they are, but they’ve won nonetheless.

I’m not a big fan of tats. I especially hate the over-the-top tats that seem to run amok on the torsos of NFL and NBA players. Some players have their kids’ names tattooed on their biceps. That’s cute. Others feature verses from the Bible (hoping, perhaps, that God will let them make that three-point shot at the buzzer?). And, some have those Japanese and Chinese letters on them. They look very cool, but what’s the point if no one understands what they say or mean?

If I were going to sacrifice my skin permanently, I think I’d charge money for it. In fact, if the price were right, I’d consider adorning my calves, biceps and triceps with any number of hip, but environmentally-sensitive, sponsor logos. I like Mammoth outdoor gear, so that would be one. I wear Saucony running shoes, so their logo would make the cut. And, I’d also want the world to know I’m a man of discerning tastes, so I’d go with a Zegna or Armani icon on, say, my wrist.

Tats are a personal image and reputation statement. But, I’m not sure exactly what statement is being made. Is a tattoo nothing more than a plaintiff cry for attention? Is it a must-have fashion accessory that, unlike a watch, can’t be taken off every night? Or, is it a peer pressure kind of thing? (i.e. “If Lindsay and Heather have tats on their shoulders, then I have to have one on mine. So there.”).

All this tat thinking has me thinking. If it were trendy at the time, would Lincoln have had a tat? My guess is he’d have gone with the opening line of the Gettysburg Address and put it on one of his biceps. The rail splitter had to have been cut. I’ll bet Napoleon would have had multiple tats. He did have a Napoleonic complex, after all. And, my guess is Winston Churchill would have had that big, fat cigar permanently tattooed on his neck.

If and when I do decide to follow Greg Drury’s lead and get a tattoo, I know what it will be and where it will go: it’ll be the Peppercom logo and it’ll be right smack on the small of my back. And, yes, it will be a plaintive cry for attention. Tat’s all, folks.

Jun 15

Do I want my ashes placed in an urn with a Mets or Jets logo?

There's a fascinating article in today's New York Times sports section about the inroads being
Casket1102 made by licensing in such sports as baseball and football.
 
For a mere $4,000, one can now choose to spend eternity in a casket emblazoned with his favorite team's logo. Logo-adorned urns, which would be my vessel of choice for traveling to the after world, cost a mere $799.

Talk about a bargain!
 
Licensing is a big business for sports leagues. (Note: in the interests of transparency, I should report that Peppercom is one of the few, if not only, PR firms with its own licensing division.) According to The Licensing Letter, Major League Baseball alone will rake in $2.75 billion in sales of licensed goods this year. That enough to fill an awful lot of cemeteries.
 
Of course, branded merchandise extends far beyond burial items, but why not go beyond just caskets and urns and create a fully-branded death and bereavement experience? I'd probably opt for a Jets afterlife experience (since they've killed my joy less often than the Mets have). So, I envision the following:
 
  – Joe Namath jerseys for those kind enough to eulogize me
  – Freeman McNeil sweat pants for mourners who will be spending the weekend at my wake and funeral. Why not provide some branded casual wear for their use during downtime?
  – I'd like the funeral home to use green and white bunting instead of the usual funeral purple
  – How about having the priest wearing throwback New York Titans vestments? Now, that would be cool.
  – I'd like Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer to be available to comfort my immediate family.
  – Fireman Ed would be on hand to lead one last cheer of “C-O-D-Y. Cody! Cody! Cody!”
  – Last, but not least, I'd like my green and white urn to contain the signatures of every player from the Super Bowl-winning 1968-69 Jets, including Ridgefield Park's very own Hatch Rosedahl.
 
Licensing types need to think large. Besides paying taxes, death is the only thing we can count on. So, why limit the afterlife merchandise to caskets and urns? The sky's the limit. Actually, since we're talking about eternity, even the sky isn't the limit.
 
I'd be open to any and all licensing suggestions: how about a green-and-white hearse emblazoned with Joe Willie's “We'll win. I guarantee it” Super Bowl III boast. Or, maybe a reunion of the fabled Sack Exchange? They could tackle someone from my life who caused me grief (i.e. a particularly heinous client or former employer, etc.). How about a grave dug to resemble the exact proportions of the new Jets-Giants Meadowlands stadium? I don't know about you, but I'd want to be laid to rest right on 50-yard-line. No nose bleed seats for this cadaver.
 
Put me in charge of afterlife licensing for major league sports and I'll make that $2.75 billion figure seem like chump change.

May 17

Why am I not surprised?


Mets_logo
However anemic their
offense, defense and pitching may be, the New York Mets do lead the major
leagues in one key category: the single steepest decline in season-to-season,
per game attendance. And I, for one, am not in the least
bit surprised.

On average, the Mets
attract no fewer than 6,852 less fans per game than last season. That's enough
to populate a major city in Wyoming or South Dakota. And, I'm proud to say I am
one of those 6,852.

I've decided that, despite
a brand new field and a team that, for once, actually hustles, I will not set
foot in CitiField. In fact, I will not park my frame in a Mets seat until Omar
Minaya is thrown out for impersonating a general manager.

Minaya has done to the
Mets what the management teams of Toyota, BP and Bear Stearns did to those
once-proud institutions. In a period of just four years, Minaya has taken a
World Series caliber team and slowly, but, surely, decimated it. He's let great
free agent talent slip away while signing such $18 million losers such as Ollie
Perez. He's watched his pitching corps deteriorate season after season while
arch rivals like the Phillies and Yankees enrichen their respective staffs.
He's clung to overpaid and oft-injured malcontents such as Beltran, Reyes and
Wright instead of trading one or all for some real major leaguers.

The Mets are a team in
tatters. And, as long as Omar Minaya remains at the helm, I'll stand fast with
my fellow 6,852 disenchanted brethren and boycott the ballpark.

It was in 1973 that legendary Mets reliever Tug McGraw rallied his team
and Mets fans alike with his 'Ya gotta believe!' battle cry. I'll begin
believing again when a new general manager takes the helm.

Apr 02

An accident waiting to happen

With the Major League Baseball season once again about to begin, hope springs eternal for fans throughout the land. That is, of course, with the exception of Mets fans.

April 2 The last four years in particular have been a holocaust for Mets fans. First, there was the epic, record-breaking total collapse at the end of the 2007 season. That, in turn, was followed by another crushing, if not epoch-making collapse in 2008. Then, there was last season's impressive 70-92 campaign that was chalked up to bad luck (lots of key players had suffered injuries).

The truth about this particular assortment of Metropolitans is that they're a bunch of brittle, underachievers who sport a mediocre offense and defense, abysmal pitching and zero esprit de corps. But, as is the case in business, the fault lies not with the players, but with management. Omar Minaya is a terrible general manager. He's not only built a dysfunctional organization but, as it reels from one crisis to the next, he acts just like a classic CEO in denial (think: Ken Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, Pope Benedict XVI). With Minaya, it's always someone else's fault. Or, he goes with the Bernie Ebbers 'Gee, I didn't know about that at the time' defense.

Spring Training has been a horror show for the Mets. The always-injured Jose Reyes was felled by some sort of mysterious disease. Carlos Beltran elected to have surgery that will keep him out until June. Daniel Murphy just injured a leg that will cost him two to six weeks. And, the pitching staff, which Minaya refused to improve with off-season acquisitions, has had the stuffing beaten out of it in Florida.

Minaya's ever optimistic, though. As is his lackey, Manager Jerry Manuel. They both 'like what they see' whenever reporters ask about the latest Spring Training debacle. Both must be sight impaired.

Yes, Mets fans, this is the spring of our discontent. We have little to look forward to except, perhaps, the ultimate demise of Messrs Minaya and Manuel. Until the front office cleans house, the Mets will continue to be the laughing stock of New York, if not the entire nation.

Mar 24

March Madness vs. The NBA Finals? Talk about a blowout

March 24 - MarchMadness Does March Madness just keep getting better every year, or what? And, does it become more universal every year, or what? When I attended college in the late Middle Ages, guys were into the NCAA basketball tournament. Period. Now, it seems women are even more engaged in ‘bracketology’ than the men. And, how cool is that? (unless you happen to be a certain Kansas alum/intern who told this blogger her Jayhawks would win the national championship. Ouch!).

I think March Madness has become an opiate for the masses because of the success of such mid-majors as Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s. In the old days, it seemed like UCLA, Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Maryland, Duke and a few other schools had a lock on the brackets. Now, it’s a wide open, fast break that any school can win. Even the smartest Ivy Leaguer wouldn’t have predicted Cornell would be a Sweet 16 team.

I reiterate the obvious because I just saw a print ad entitled, ‘Coming soon. The most anticipated television event of the year. The culmination of a long, emotional journey. A win or go home contest. All played out in front of a record-breaking national audience. America, are you ready for….The NBA Play-offs on TNT.’ I’m not. I could care less.

Aside from fans in Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles and a few other markets, I think most sports fans find the NBA irrelevant. In my mind, it’s become the professional wrestling of big time sports. It’s all flash and razzle dazzle, featuring individual showmen trying to outduel one another (Gilbert Arenas pun intended). There’s no sense of teamwork or camaraderie in the NBA. The season is endless. And, the champion isn’t even crowned until mid-June.

That’s what makes the advertisement so irksome. I understand why the NBA is trying to leverage the national mania stirred up by March Madness. And, that’s fine. But, to run full-page ads suggesting the NBA Playoffs is the most anticipated television event of the year is ludicrous, if not borderline fraudulent.

My March Madness bracket may be worth a plug nickel at this point, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching each and every remaining NCAA game. As for the NBA finals? I think I’d rather watch grass grow.

Feb 10

The Who should know when to say when

February 10 - who Did you catch the surviving members of The Who performing at the Super Bowl halftime show? It was grim.

Don't get me wrong. I admire the energy and passion Messrs Daltry and Townsend demonstrated in Miami. But, the ravages of time sure showed.

Daltry's voice was raspy and he didn't dare try his microphone acrobatics in front of millions of viewers (I could just see it coming down and plunking him on the noggin). Nor did we see Townsend do his patented slide along the stage on his knees or bash the bejesus out of his guitar when he finished his licks.

These elder versions of The Who just didn't have it in them. But, how many 65-year-olds would?

Which is why The Who should know when to say when. I liked what I saw. But, what I saw was a bit of a bus wreck.

But, who am I to say The Who are through? So, I thought I'd take a quick, but wide-ranging, demographic sounding to ask others what they thought of the dino rockers. Here's what I got:

– 21-year-old Catharine Cody: 'Well, we liked the graphics and recognized the songs, but wondered why someone younger and cooler like Lady Gaga wasn't performing.'
– 24-year-old Chris 'Repman, Jr,' Cody: 'The homies and I love classic rock and enjoyed The Who. Renny (his friend) especially enjoyed 'Teenage Wasteland.'
– A 20-something Peppercom employee: 'We hit the mute button and listened instead to music we like.'
– 30-something comedian Clayton Fletcher: 'I turned it off. That says it all.'
– A 50-something corporate communications chief: 'I was grossed out seeing Pete Townsend's navel poking out from his shirt.'
– 55-year-old Tommy Powers: 'Their performance reminded me of an over-the-hill Willie Mays stumbling in centerfield in the 1973 World Series. They were way off their game at the Super Bowl.'
– Septegenarian Richard Harte: 'I loved their energy and envied the amount of money they must have been paid.'

I'll go with the majority and stick with my original opinion: The Who need to know when to say when. And, I think the NFL needs to know when to say when, when it comes to trotting out washed up rockers. Rock and roll may never die, but the Super Bowl halftime viewership ratings surely will if the producers don't wise up and book younger performers with broader appeal.

I’d like to open it up to you. Who would you like to see perform next year?

Jan 20

My g-g-g-generation

January 20 - tehshow-superbowl Have you noticed how ever since Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl halftime show wardrobe malfunction in 2004, the NFL powers that be have opted for burnt out rockers? Fearful of another prime-time, real-time show-and-tell, the league has brought us Sir Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce and, now, the surviving members of The Who.

Don’t get me wrong. I love staying tuned to see what these dinosaurs still have left and, with the exception of Sir Paul’s gig (which I witnessed firsthand in frigid Jacksonville), have really enjoyed the shows.

But, knowing market demographics as well as I do, I wonder what’s going on. Is the average NFL fan an aging Baby Boomer whose idea of cutting-edge music some combination of ‘Live and Let Die,’ ‘Start Me Up,’ ‘1999,’ ‘Born in the U.S.A. or  ‘Magic Bus’? My gut tells me the average fan’s age has to be decidedly younger and, dare I suggest it, skewing towards urban and country tunes. Yet, we continue to see senior citizen rockers playing dramatically shortened, sanitized version of 40-year-old classics.  

And, that’s just fine by me. In fact, borrowing a phrase from The Who’s ‘My Generation’ classic, ‘….I hope I die before I get (real) old…’ and have to suffer through Snoop, Sizzla, Tim McGraw or Faith Hill performing at halftime. I think, instead, I’ll just f-f-f-fade away.

Thanks to Tom Powers for his assistance in researching this topic.

Jan 13

Child, please

Controversial Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) and his use of the phrase, 'Child, please' has received widespread attention of late. In fact, it's become his brand signature, if you will.

(Note: This video is intended for mature audiences only.)

A cursory glance at urbandictionary.com reveals the X-rated nature of the words but, my sources tell me that ‘Child, please’ can also be used as a substitute for such time worn expressions as:

– 'Gimme a break'
– 'Are you kidding?'
– And 'Yeah, sure.' (Fans of the Jim Bouton book 'Ball Four' may recall the special occasions in which the rejoinder, 'Yeah, sure' was employed. It still brings a smile to my face).

Anyway, it got me thinking. I believe ‘Child, please’ would make an excellent addition to the BusinessSpeak dictionary (right alongside such bon mots as: 'Let's take this conversation off line.' 'I have a hard stop at 2:30,' and 'I'll circle back after I've had a chance to socialize the idea.').

So, in effort to be the professional services equivalent to Ochocinco, I thought I'd serve up various scenarios in which I could see ‘Child, please’ working well in PR, business, and the world in general:

– 'Steve, we loved your team, your ideas and your energy. It was a tough choice, but we're going with another firm. That said, if it doesn't work out, you'll be the first person I call.'. Child, please.
– 'I want to work in public relations because I like people.' Child, please.
– 'We appreciate the hard work (agency name) has given to (client name) over the years, but have decided we need fresh thinking.' Child, please.
– 'Attention passengers on Continental flight 57 to Palookaville. The in-bound flight is running 15 minutes late. That said, we're still projecting an on-time departure.' Child, please.
– 'Recognizing the challenges of the current economy and respecting the long-term nature of our relationship, our law firm has decided not to raise our hourly rates in 2010.' Child, please.
– 'New Jersey Transit trains are running close to, or on, schedule.’ Child, please.
– ‘(Insert name of a recently fired top executive) has decided to pursue other interests.' Child, please.
– 'I did not have sex with that woman.' Child, please.

And, my personal favorite:

'We're only looking at a handful of agencies.' Child, please.

What am I missing? Do you have examples from your world in which ‘Child, please’ would be the ideal response? If we work together as a team and stay focused on the desired end result, we can make this an everyday expression. Child, please!

Jan 12

January 12th is an important date in the image and reputation wars

There are a number of reasons why today, January 12th, is an important date for me. One reason, in particular, pertains specifically to image and reputation.

January 12 - superbowliii-19692 It was January 12, 1969, that the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts to win their first, and only, Super Bowl victory (stay tuned on the latter, though).

It's an important image and reputation milestone because, up until January 12, 1969, the mainstream sports/business establishment hadn't taken the upstart American Football League seriously. Created in 1960, the AFL had been seen by most as little more than a circus.

But, by 1965, the tides had turned. Fueled by the signing of Joe Willie Namath and other top college players, the AFL began earning a modicum of respect. In fact, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was forced to concede that his league's championship was no longer a 'world's' title, and agreed to a match of each group's best team.

The first two contests were blowouts, with Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers humiliating the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, respectively.

Ah, but then came January 12, 1969, and Joe Willie's Super Jets. The Jets win wasn't just a sports victory but, in fact, a seismic sea change for the AFL's image and reputation. Within a few years, the two leagues merged to create the NFL as we now know it.

It's nice to reflect on past glories while reveling in the knowledge that today's Jets are in the thick of the playoffs (while the hated Giants are cooling their heels on the sidelines).

Considering the fact that the reverse is almost always the case, I'm reminded of a quote from the Ken Burns documentary about the Civil War.

At the very end of the war, a Union soldier who happened to be black, was watching a column of captured Rebel prisoners pass by. Suddenly, he spotted his former master. The black soldier smiled and said, 'Bottom rail on top now, massa.'

I think I speak for Jets fans everywhere when I say to our Giants counterparts: 'Bottom rail on top now.'