Feb 13

Can PR move the markets?

Bill Lane, erstwhile speechwriter for Jack Welch and author of ‘Jacked up,’ thinks speeches and articlesWelch
can move the markets.

In his kiss-and-tell book, Lane points to at least two occasions where his words moved GE’s stock price. The first came about as a result of a Welch speech to analysts. The second followed a USA Today article that lifted key words and phrases from a Welch annual report letter. The speech and letter were written by Lane.

Claiming that PR moves markets is a slippery slope. PR certainly had a huge impact on day traders during those Wild West dotcom days. But, that was pure hype and, as we all know, pretty much a joke.

I do think public relations can have a profound impact on financial analysts’ thoughts and feelings about a publicly-traded company. And, those feelings could, in fact, result in a ‘buy’ recommendation that moves the stock. But, as Peppercom Editorial Director and former Wall Street Journal Editor Gene Colter is quick to point out, “It’s a company’s operational excellence (or lack thereof) that moves a market. Period.”

I’ll stick with Colter and distance myself from Lane when it comes to PR moving markets. Plus, I doubt any words I’ve written or will write will ever appear on an analysts’ radar screen.

Feb 12

Another reason why advertising is Yin to PR’s Yang

Nina DiSesa, chairman of McCann Erickson, has written a new book entitled, ‘Seducing the boys club.’Boysclub
Summarized in a recent Adweek column, DiSesa’s book makes the point that advertising, like most industries, is still dominated by a boys club mentality. Women, says DiSesa, need to use the arts of seduction and manipulation ‘…to earn men’s affection and even their respect…’

Many industries may, indeed, still have the glass ceiling DiSesa complains about. But, PR isn’t one of them. Today, PR has many powerful women running agencies of all size. They range from Marcia Silverman and Helen Ostrowski at Ogilvy and Porter Novelli, respectively, to Margi Booth and Marina Maher at the midsized agency level. And god knows how many gifted female PR solo practitioners and small agency owners are out there.

I’m not sure exactly why women have done so well in PR, but it’s probably a combination of people skills, being more consensus oriented and a host of other attributes.

Unlike the ossified business model that’s hampering advertising’s ability to adapt to our quicksilver Web 2.0 world, public relations provides a level playing field for men and women. It’s one of many reasons why PR is growing in importance while the S.S. Advertising continues taking on water and listing to port.

Feb 11

I’m pretty jacked about ‘Jacked up’

Bill Lane’s kiss-and-tell book all about the lunacy and leadership of Jack Welch’s GE is a ‘must read’ forJacked_up_2
anyone in public relations and anyone looking to lead a business.

In essence, the book distills Welch’s methods for not only transforming GE’s business model but, more to the point, how he totally changed the way company executives communicated.

Welch was absolutely ruthless in the way he coaxed, coerced and chastised company leadership as they’d present in front of him. He’d scream, throw papers at them or get up and simply walk out. And, if Jack walked out, the odds were good the presenter would be walking out of GE on a permanent basis.

Jack’s presentation philosophy was as blunt as the man himself: give the audience something they can act on immediately. Don’t bore them with minutia and pie charts. Don’t wax poetic about the time and effort involved in putting the presentation together. And, by all means, DO share best practices fron within and without the company.

Lane goes on and on about Welch’s egomaniacal ways but comes across as pretty self absorbed himself. In fact, the book jacket laughably calls Jacked up ‘…..the only book a leader or aspiring leader will ever need on effective communications.’ It’s excellent but, c’mon Bill, the BEST ever? What would Jack have to say about that?

Jan 30

Here’s why some surveys lack credibility

The media may say otherwise, but they have an insatiable appetite for surveys. Which is why we publicSurvey
relations types churn them out in endless quantities. Some are well done and contribute to thought leadership. Others tell you what you already know. A precious few actually break through and identify new and noteworthy trends.

Then there are those like this one from Cision that simply defy logic and strain credulity.  It reports that General Motors finished SECOND in Cision’s annual corporate reputation index just behind Microsoft.

Talk about stupifying! General Motors is the second most admired corporation in America? Is this the same company that has handed away its market share year-after-year to Toyota? Is this the same company where management is totally insulated from reality and continues to churn out inferior products year-after-year? Is this the same company that helped turn Detroit and the state of Michigan into a 2008 version of ‘The grapes of wrath’?

I’d love to know what hallucenogenic drug the Cision survey respondents were ingesting when they selected GM for such an accolade. It has to be some kick-ass stuff.

Jan 17

Image enhancement 201; Winter semester, 2008.

Professor Reputation: "Ok, ok, settle down, class and welcome to Image Enhancement 201. I’m ProfessorDetroit
Rudyard Reputation, or Prof. Rep for short.

For those of you who remained semi-conscious during the long Winter break, today’s assignment should be of interest. In fact, it may be the most challenging assignment of the entire semester, so pay attention: you’re the head of a large advertising or public relations agency. The City of Detroit’s travel & tourism bureau has just contacted you, asking for a comprehensive program to rehabilitate the Motor City’s horrific image. As you hopefully know, Detroit has become synonymous with the demise of the US economy and the media have been piling on lately with lots of doom and gloom articles.

So, you’re running the average large ad or PR agency and have lots of off-the-shelf solutions to offer. Which ones do you suggest? Yes, Ms. Rousseau."

Rousseau: "It’s actually Mr. Rousseau, Professor Rep. I underwent a transgender operation over the holidays."

Prof: "Way too much info, but please proceed Mr. Rousseau."

Rousseau: "I’d opt for the tried and true name change recommendation a la Philip Morris becoming Altria in order to distance itself from killing so many people with its cigarettes."

Prof: "Go on."

Rousseau: "So, I’m thinking we give the city a new, more positive name without losing the core identity. How about ‘Uptroit,? Or ‘Newtroit"? Or, how about being counterintuitive and renaming the city ‘Jobtroit’?

Continue reading

Dec 05

I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore

Remember the classic line from the movie ‘Network?’  I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore’Weingarten
was shouted by newscasters and news viewers alike in response to the demise of serious news coverage in favor of ‘happy talk.’

Well, I feel the very same way after seeing some high and mighty media types take potshots at public relations professionals.

Everyone and their brother has already weighed in on Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson ‘outing’ 300 or so publicists who annoyed him with e-mail pitches.

Now, there’s Gene Weingarten writing in the Washington Post and beating the bejesus out of PR once again.  Like his Wired peer, Weingarten bitches about voice and e-mail messages from PR people. Rather than out specific ‘flacks’ though, he decides to instead publish his answers to one firm’s queries aimed at updating his profile in their database.

In his incredibly barbed, published response, Weingarten crucifies PR. To wit:

– In explaining his specific ‘beat,’ he says it: ‘…mostly involves ripping PR professionals a new one.’
– In decrying some perceived coupling between PR and marketing, he says ‘the unholy alliance between PR and the soulless marketing industry…makes the team of Hitler-Mussolini seem benevolent.’
– And, asked what tips he’d give PR professionals who may want to contact him, the always affable Weingarten says, ‘I encourage midnight visits to my home by PR professionals who have no immediate relatives or close friends.’

Continue reading

Nov 29

When BusinessWeek suggests you’re irrelevant, it’s time to go to plan B

The current BusinessWeek cover asks a question I’ve been wondering about for some time: ‘Is Madison  Avenue racing towards irrelevance? I’d say so.Business_2

Traditional advertising is in a freefall as documented by the BW article. Growth has slowed, profits are down and clients are going elsewhere for solutions. Why? Because the big ad shops like Saatchi, which is the focus of BWs profile, simply aren’t retrofitting their basic model fast enough to keep up with rapidly-changing consumer buying patterns.

Saatchi’s recent campaign for JC Penney is cited as a textbook example of advertising’s growing irrelevance. Despite crafting a campaign that dazzled the ad industry and will, no doubt, win countless Gold Lions at Cannes, the effort did absolutely nothing for sales. Nothing. Why? Because consumers have far too many other sources of information today and don’t have the time for, or trust in, advertising.

BW says direct mail, media buying shops and interactive agencies are the big beneficiaries of advertising’s decline. And they are. But, so too, is PR. From everything I see and read, more and more marketers ‘get’ PR and understand its far more powerful and credible strategies for connecting with fickle, web 2.0-enabled consumers.

So, what’s a poor ad man to do? BW says Saatchi’s CEO Kevin Roberts is contemplating everything from ‘green communications’ to ‘retail design consulting.’ Ouch. How do you spell desperation?

PR has long been seen as advertising’s poor stepsister. So, it’s hard to shed many tears for all the high and mighty creative geniuses whose ‘breakthrough’ work simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Maybe some of them can find jobs in direct mail, interactive or, gasp, even PR?

Sep 19

Who are those guys?

Tom Martin, current executive-in-residence at the College of Charleston, and former client of PeppercomAngryboss
as corporate communication chief at ITT, penned a fascinating opinion piece about abusive workplaces.

In his article, Tom, references conversations with several young people who complained about abusive bosses. These were heads of public relations agencies who, said the staffers, shouted, screamed and managed by fear.

Like Tom, I’m befuddled by the fact that leaders who are retained by Corporate America to manage image and reputation could be so oblivious to not ‘walking the walk’ themselves.

I once worked for a screamer and shouter and know how toxic such an environment can be. In that case, the CEO was a former NFL offensive lineman (talk about an appropriate job title), the firm was in the management consulting field and the times were decidedly different.

When the Council of Public Relations Firms, PRSA, Arthur Page and other professional organizations ‘screen’ for new members, they should include a background check on managerial style/corporate culture. And, prospective clients should conduct better due diligence in their searches (we’re rarely asked to discuss agency culture or our management style in new business pitches).

The Vince Lombardi School of Abusive Management should have died when the great Packers coach did. To hear that it is not only alive, but well, is depressing. To realize that such deportment is going unchecked in our own industry is a disgrace. We must police this sort of boorishness if public relations is to one day claim its long-coveted seat at the table.

May 17

Ad industry should do its homework first before asking PR: why can’t we all just get along?

I’m reading more and more articles in the ad trades about PR’s growing importance and its seeming ‘encroachment’ into such ‘traditional’ advertising domains as word-of-mouth.

This week’s Ad Age contains an interesting piece by Noelle Weaver that asks, in effect, why we can’t all just get along. Alongside it, though, is a telling list of comments from various readers, that explain, in part, why the disconnect continues.

One observation from an integrated marketing agency executive inadvertently nails the ‘problem’ on the head. Intending to illustrate how each discipline contributes thinking to the other, he writes, ‘…..PR people often identify the Big Idea and write great headlines and taglines, and the ad creatives come up with great promotions, events and story placement ideas.’ And, therein lies the problem.

Ad people still think of PR as being limited solely to stunts, press releases and media relations. It isn’t. And, it hasn’t been for some time. The best PR is being leveraged to create new, and serious, dialogues with a rapidly-changing end user landscape, and ranges from viral and digital initiatives to thought leadership and strategic partnerships. As long as advertising types continue to see us as stuntmen and women, they’ll continue scratching their heads wondering why we can’t all just get along (and continue to lose more and more of the client’s overall marketing budget).