Soleil as Cleopatra, Child Goddess

These four portraits of my daughter Soleil, feature her dressed up as Cleopatra, Egyptian Goddess. Soleil asked me to take the photos of her last winter, so we went and purchased two costumes, and booked some studio time at Union 206 Studio. Jessie Campbell did the makeup. Unfortunately, I had some significant life events that interrupted the effort. Seven months later the composites are done, just in time for Soleil’s birthday next week.

Egyptian Concept and Influence

The project was deeply influenced by Josh Rossi‘s Wonder Woman effort, where he spent $1500 to turn his daughter into the Amazonian superhero. This effort cost approximately $600, more of a bootstrap effort, in comparison. Soleil’s Egyptian concept allowed us to put together two costumes piecemeal via various manufacturers on Amazon and Etsy.  We bought tunics, Halloween costumes, wigs, and costume jewelry.  It was just Jessie, Soleil and I in the studio,
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No Make-good

When you make a mistake this egregious, there is no make-good -- even a public apology isn't sufficient.  How the campaign made such an error is still unknown and the candidate, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, says she wasn't the one at fault.  From a PR perspective, it is an indication of sloppiness in communications operations and materials.  The first rule is accuracy and it is obvious someone violated it.  In an era of "fake news" when people make up facts as they go along, there is a premium on getting it right the first time.  Heitkamp should know that, and now she has to struggle with an unforced error.  Campaigns are difficult enough without making obvious goofs.

Lies, damned lies and facts

It’s an inconvenient truth that facts don’t convince people. In fact, there is evidence that facts can work to convince people to believe the exact opposite, even more strongly than they did before. In the UK’s EU referendum the Leave… Continue Reading

Dirty Laundry

In the internet age, nothing prevents an employee or ex-employee from exposing to the world the dirty laundry of an organization.  Consider this case.  An ex-employee, six years removed from a Google job, spills his anger at the company and the top manager of his group, Google+.  His series of Tweets are ugly and there is nothing the company can do about them.  Pointing out that the designer worked there only eight months and is hashing over old times doesn't help.  Neither does the fact that Google is shutting down Google+.  The Tweets were inflammatory enough that Business Insider took notice and gave them wide currency.  Organizations everywhere need to be prepared for online tell-alls.  There will be many more, and they can spark a crisis quickly.


The Trump administration is about to rule that pharmaceutical companies have to list the price of their drugs in TV ads if the medicines cost more than $35 a month.  The industry, of course, is opposed.  It wants to direct consumers to web sites where the cost is enumerated.  Critics of the proposal say it is unclear how exposing drug prices would do anything to control their rise.  Also, the proposal would be voluntary and the government would rely on shaming companies that fail to follow the rule.  The idea is interesting and might have a chance of working.  Transparency is missing in the drug industry.  (Few people hear or read contraindications mandated with advertising.)  Would it be the same with pricing?  The only way to find out is to do it, but pharma companies are threatening to tie the rule Continue reading "Transparency?"


What is platinum? Platinum has been called “white gold”; its name derives from the Spanish platino, meaning “little silver”. Platinum is special – in chemical properties, colour and symbolism. Platinum is the name of a new book – more on that below. The alchemical symbol for Platinum connects those of silver (moon) and gold (sun). … Continue reading Platinum


This article asks a good question.  If humility is so important in a leader, why are so many arrogant?  It goes on to define three kinds of humility, including one dubbed "humbition" -- humility combined with ambition. Arrogant managers like being in charge and telling people what to do.  They don't listen: They glory in power.  There are too many to name who fall in this category, including the current President. PR practitioners know too well the kind of leaders they serve.  They can tell stories of humility and arrogance. They will relate to you privately that X is a good person or they will whisper one or another outrage a CEO has committed.  PR is often a receptacle of CEO demands, whether reasonable or not.  

Native American?

Elizabeth Warren has released a DNA test that reports she had a Native American in her past at least 6 to 10 generations ago.  This makes her a tiny bit indigenous and refutes the mockery of President Trump.  However, it is scarcely enough for her to point to her heritage and proudly proclaim her lineage.  No matter, it will remain a talking point in her campaigns and Trump will continue his jibes.  The two of them have a bitter relationship and it is not destined to get better as time passes.  It is likely Warren will be on the national scene longer than Trump.  She is a senator with a relatively safe seat.  From a PR perspective, it would probably be better if she downplayed her heritage.  It is so distant as to be insignificant.  Who among us doesn't have some odd mixture as one traces genealogy generations back?   

Social Web Recap 15.10.18

My weekly annotated summary of significant social web platform developments from the previous week, with links and carping marginalia as needed . . . Posted every Monday morning or thereabouts.
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Love the Numbers

What the hell is that image you ask. It represents the total number of faces on average that people can remember. A team including Dr. Rob Jenkins at Toronto’s York University studied how many faces people could recall from their personal lives and the media, as well as the number of famous faces they recognized. Well, guess how many — 5,000 faces! In a summary of the study, Science Daily claims that “Humans have typically lived in small groups of around one hundred individuals, but the study suggests our facial recognition abilities equip us to deal with the thousands of faces we encounter in the modern world — on our screens as well as in social interactions.” Are all Continue reading "Social Web Recap 15.10.18"

Search And Reputation

One might not think search results from an online engine would be injurious to reputation.  Microsoft's Bing has proved that wrong.  The software produced racist answers for words like "Jew", "Muslim", and "black people."   Microsoft acknowledged that it needs to work on the responses and refine its algorithms but the damage was done. It seems the no. 2 search engine is that way for a reason.  It doesn't produce as satisfying answers as Google.  Microsoft has spent billions on Bing and gotten virtually nowhere.  It might be past time to give up on it and accept that Google owns the field both now and in the future.  Even if it doesn't, it has to work on its programming to prevent ugly results from showing in the future.

Emerging tech: Your bookmark for 2019

Data has a better idea “We know from human history that developments in technologies over the centuries, ranging from the Industrial Revolution through to the invention of the automobile, then airplanes and so forth, the landscape of progress is littered with human casualties. People die because of these things being tested.” A provocative statement, the first thing you hear in episode 1 in the third season of the Digital Download podcast that I did with host Paul Sutton last month in which we discussed emerging technologies and communications and what’s predicted to hit the mainstream within the next two to three years. That statement was intended to sharpen focus on the dilemmas confronting all of us when we want to try something new or radically different to advance our knowledge, our well-bring, our development, where there are risks in doing so. It’s an extreme example of risk and consequence on the journey to that
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Smart PR

It's smart PR to take something destined for a landfill and to recycle it into an environmental substance.  That is what students and teachers in New York City are doing in the Billion Oyster Project.  They are rescuing oyster half-shells from restaurants, cleaning them and using them as substrates for new oyster spat that is planted on the sea bed in reefs that clean the water and break the force of ocean waves.  It is a win-win for everybody.  The restaurants are glad to do it because it is less expensive than putting the shells into the trash. Teachers and students are happy to have a guaranteed source for shells.  Environmentalists support the project because it is cleaning the harbor.  Students are learning hands-on ecology and some of them will go on to become scientists studying the effects of pollution and how to prevent Continue reading "Smart PR"

Did you hear the one about the executive assistant we’ll never forget?

The Peppercomm team will be coming together next Thursday night to salute our late, great colleague, Dandy Stevenson. We’ll be holding one of our patented stand-up and improvisational comedy fundraisers in her name. All proceeds will be donated directly to the ASPCA (like me, Dandy had a soft spot for four-legged creatures). This blogger will be serving as emcee, and seven or eight current and former Peppercommers will be performing seven to eight minute sets. We’ll also be joined by sereval professional comedians as well as Peppercomm’s Chief Comedy Officer Clayton Fletcher. Having held countless fundraisers in the past I must tell you this one will be very special indeed. I hope you (and your BFFs) can be there to experience it with us. For more information and tickets visit the event page, here.


This proves once again that people are gullible.  They don't think and yet, try to please their interviewer.  One wonders if they were envisioning Brett Kavanaugh while answering the Christopher Columbus question.  It is a concern for PR practitioners because there is always a percentage of any audience that will believe anything they are told.  It calls for a premium on accuracy and clarity.  One should spell out a message and not assume people will get it.  Of course, if one is trying to be snarky as Jimmy Kimmel was, then anything and everything goes.  There is a danger in mocking people, however.  It can lose an organization friends and reputation.  

Find Joy and Meaning Along the Long and Winding Road of Life

A moment if you will…away from everything else. Sometimes I wonder how I got here. If I had to be honest, I would say that none of it was intentional. And if I had to be fully transparent, there were many throughout my life who believed I wouldn’t amount to much. There was a time when I believed them. I let it define me. The truth is that I still think about it from time to time. Am I supposed to be here? How do I earn the right to stay here? I’m not sure when or where or how, but something clicked along the way. I should say that it’s still clicking. I realize that none of this is easy nor is it meant to be. I still struggle like anyone else. I still fight to stay relevant in an ever-increasing sea of really smart people. I still wonder
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Google pulled a dumb maneuver in an effort to protect its reputation and avoid regulatory scrutiny.  To protect itself after a data breach that affected 500,000 of its Google Plus users, it hid the exposure and didn't tell anyone.  Now that the news is out, Google's reputation is not only tarnished but the company also looks deceitful.  Someone should have told the corporation that its approach was a lousy idea and it would have been far better off taking a hit early on and moving forward.  Now, Google will have to answer to regulators and work hard to repair relations with customers.  Google, of all companies, should understand that in the internet age there is no hiding.  The company should apologize and swear never to make this mistake again.  

Practical Joke

This was an international practical joke that still has people scratching their heads.   Moments after a contemporary artist's painting was sold for $1.4 million, it was partially shredded as it dropped from its frame.  Call it Banksy's nose-thumbing at the art world and over-priced paintings.  From a PR perspective, it was a statement that couldn't be missed, and it generated publicity around the globe.  No other artists have tried anything so provocative and chances are they wouldn't.  It is hard enough to get sales at any price.  That Banksy could destroy one of his own works to make a point is breathtaking.  The odd outcome of the mockery is that his work may even become more valuable as a result. 

Social Web Recap 08.10.18

My weekly annotated summary of significant social web platform developments from the previous week, with links and carping marginalia as needed . . . Posted every Monday morning or thereabouts. CANADIAN THANKSGIVING EDITION!
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Love the Numbers

Nike’s ‘Just Do it’ advertising campaign featuring footballer Colin Kaepernick (he of the ‘taking a knee’ to protest racism in the U.S.) has brought into sharp relief the question of what role brands should take in tackling social issues. A new study from Edelman — a leading global communications marketing company — released this month leaves little doubt, as CEO Richard Edelman writes, “Brands are now being pushed beyond their classic business interests to become advocates for a better society. This is a new relationship between company and consumer — purchase is premised on a brand’s willingness to live by its values, operate with purpose, and if necessary make the leap into activism.”

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Humanity and Transparency are Genuine Value Propositions

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to keynote #SMMW18 in San Diego on the “State and Future of Social Media” and how we can (and need to) take back control of technology’s role in our lives. It was the first time speaking on the subject after walking away from it for several years. It was a big talk…first time presenting it. It was also a big audience…several thousand attendees. I was nervous and human and trying to stay centered. On my way to the room, my friend Carlos Gil stopped me in the hallway to ask a few questions for his show. I think I was “in the zone” at the time, so watching this was a surprise in many ways. I couldn’t remember what we talked about or what I said. When he shared it with me however, I wanted to immediately share it with you. In a
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