How would YOU motivate Boeing’s battered, bloodied and bewildered workforce?


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Following the introduction of a Next-Gen Airbus in 2010, Boeing reportedly rushed production of the 737 Max 8, a more powerful and fuel-efficient upgrade of the existing 737, without providing ANY flight simulation training to unaware pilots soon to be situated in the cockpits of the new plane. Boeing, if the implications are borne out, knowingly sent unsuspecting pilots, flight crews and passengers to their deaths. In fact, according to this New York Times piece, flight training on the 737 Max 8 won’t even be available until 2020 at the earliest (assuming the plane is eventually cleared to fly again). While it’s obvious why the world’s press is fixating on what Boeing knew and when they knew it, I couldn’t help but think what it must it be like to be one of the Boeing rank-and-file who, until the two recent air disasters, felt justifiably proud of their corporation’s
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McKinsey embraces transparency (sort of)


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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You know the business world is changing when a highly secretive firm like McKinsey opens the kimono and actually addresses the myriad scandals that have befallen the firm in the past year. As you’ll read in this Fortune column as well as a more in-depth Q-and-A that’s embedded in the piece, McKinsey’s top partner, Kevin Sneader, has ushered in a new era of authenticity and responsibility by sending a letter to employees acknowledging “mistakes” and “learning from those mistakes.” We shall see if either promise becomes reality. I’ve blogged about McKinsey’s high-profile missteps in South Africa, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Each also received massive coverage in the New York Times. But in each Times article, one needed a magnifying glass to find the briefest of statements from a McKinsey spokesperson that either admitted wrongdoing or spoke to how the firm would avoid committing such transgressions in the future. If
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Does the D in Digital Stand for Dying?


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I’ve read quite a few recent articles in the advertising and marketing trade press suggesting the halo surrounding the magical word “digital” is not only fading, but actually becoming a bit of an albatross. According to this article in Marketing Week, more and more marketers are disbanding their separate digital departments and teams and folding them into the larger marcom group. Why? Because, just as was the case with social media, digital is no longer perceived as a standalone “thing.” It’s now seen as simply one more channel in the never-ending battle to engage with stakeholder audiences in a holistic way. And, as the article points out, we all live in a digital world. So let’s move on and get back to calling ourselves marketers and not digital specialists or influencer specialists or CSR specialists, etc. We’re marketers, pure and simple. This development comes as no surprise to
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Designed to Fail.


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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It seems that every new day brings with it another egregious self-inflicted crisis caused by racially and gender-insensitive marketers. The most recent examples are the truly horrific gaffes committed by Adidas and Gucci, respectively;

How could anyone think this was okay?

“There are somethings that just don’t make sense in life; Adidas celebrating black history month with this shoe is one example”

While the in-house marketing team and agency partners are unquestionably at fault for their lack of social awareness, I think the real genesis of these blunders lies with the designers and engineers. These are the uber cool and uber insulated types who are constantly trying to come up with the hippest, sleekest and most cutting-edge sneakers, sweaters and widgets. Having worked with designers and engineers alike, I know they live within their own ivory towers. They obsess over trends, technology and ease-of-use, but are oblivious to the
😎
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Shattering Glassdoor’s Reputation


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Achieving five stars on Glassdoor for an organization is the equivalent of a restaurant receiving the same rating from the Michelin Guide. But based on an explosive Wall Street Journal expose, all that glitters at Glassdoor is most certainly NOT gold. Here’s Peppercomm Partner Deb Brown’s POV. Personally, I’d give it 4.5 stars: What happens when your entire business model is questioned? That’s what happened to Glassdoor recently when the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report titled, “How Companies Secretly Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings.” That title has to hurt, especially when on its website, Glassdoor states, “Built on the foundation of increasing workplace transparency…”

Employers flood the ranking site with 5-star postings requested from enthusiastic staffers, leading to unusual spikes, a WSJ investigation found.

To be fair to Glassdoor, employees who are upset at their former or current employer are probably more likely to post negative reviews
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It’s a close shave


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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No matter how one analyzes Gillette’s controversial new campaign “Is this the best a man can get?” it’s fraught with uncertainties. And it most certainly has further divided an already divided country.

Truly the best a man can get?

First, though, a tip of the hat (or razor) to Gillette’s management for having the courage to double down on its purpose and values. But have they? Or is the campaign a mere ploy or stunt as some detractors claim whose only goal is to drive sales? I think there are several factors to weigh when analyzing the Gillette campaign: 1) Is alienating a significant percentage of the male shaving market worth the risk of taking a stand and saying the right thing? We asked that very question of 50 CCOs and CMOs we interviewed in a joint research study with the Institute for Public Relations. One CCO, who managed
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What Businesses Should Do Before Taking a Stand on Social Issues


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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It wasn’t very long ago when staying quiet and avoiding controversy were the tried-and-true PR rules for businesses. But the consumer-company relationship is quickly evolving, along with people’s expectations of companies. A recent study by Clutch shows that 71% of people expect companies to take a stance on social movements. Because this expectation is so new, many businesses struggle with what to say and when, always being aware of the risks involved. Best case scenario? They speak out and their stance resonates with the majority of their consumers, resulting in higher revenue, an elevated brand, and greater awareness for the issue. Worst case scenario? They speak out and their stance alienates consumers to the point of revenue loss and tarnishes their brand. Staying silent isn’t safe either. Silence might keep the company out of controversary, but if it’s regarding an issue relevant to the company’s brand, it could hurt the
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“Success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan.”


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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While it’s a day late and a dollar short, I’m pleased to share this infographic with you. Created in partnership with BrandFoundations, our longtime strategic marketing partner, the list below analyzed the best and worst managed societal crises of the past year Note: We define a societal crisis as anything ranging from a mass school shooting and the Southern border chaos to trade wars and environmental rollouts. We’ve also included #MeToo crises and self-inflicted wounds. Traditional crises such as product recalls, financial malfeasance and price fixing were not included in the analysis. As you will see from the infographic, we chose to grade the organizations based on three criteria: – Speed: How quickly did the organization take a stand on a societal crisis that either aligned with, or was the polar opposite of, their values? – Strength: Was the stand taken by the organization unequivocal, or could it be interpreted
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9 Tips for Taking a Stand When a Societal Crisis Hits


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Social injustice, gender issues, immigration, #MeToo, gun control, and trade wars. These are just a few of the many societal issues about which large and small businesses alike are finding themselves increasingly pressured to stand up and speak out.
We entrepreneurs may think our comparatively small size protects us from the slings and arrows of the hourly news cycle or employees picketing outside company headquarters. But it doesn’t. A Glassdoor survey of 1,000 employees from organizations of all sizes found that 62 percent expect their employers to take a stand on important societal and political issues of the day.
Do I have your attention? I should, since remaining silent or saying the wrong thing could imperil everything from employee recruiting and retention to business continuity and even your exit strategy.
Source: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

My firm, Peppercomm, has interviewed more than 150 chief communications officers in the past 18 months,
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What if Santa’s database were hacked


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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In the spirit of the season (and a sad reflection of the times), I’ve allowed myself to briefly escape to an alternate universe and imagine the ultimate Christmas crisis. What if Santa’s database were hacked? Let’s assume I’m the hacker and, thanks to a huge assist from a freelance elf named Yuri (a quick tip of the babushka to Yuri), I’ve gained access to the mother of all holiday databases: Santa’s list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. I’d swiftly change a few of Santa’s decisions and create my own. Here’s who would fill the top three slots on my naughty and nice lists, respectively (as well as the gifts an unsuspecting Santa will be putting in their stockings on Christmas Eve): NAUGHTY: 1.) POTUS. No surprise here but, hey, the guy’s latest chief of staff has gone on record as calling him “a terrible human
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The year of the tireless spammer


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I don’t know about you, but for me 2018 will be remembered as “the year of the tireless spammer.” I’ve been receiving spam e-mails ever since Al Gore invented the Information Superhighway (remember that term?). But I have never, ever seen as many completely absurd, off-the-mark spam e-mails as I have this year. I’ve been approached by everyone from realtors and remodelers to temporary search firms and tug boat leasing companies. What makes this year so special, though, is the individual spammer’s persistence. I just can’t rid myself of these pests. I unsubscribe, but they come back like some monster that refuses to die in one of those horrible slasher flicks. Here’s a typical example:
From: Kathy
Date: December 13, 2018 
Hi Steve,
Just a gentle touch base for my email below. Please suggest if you’d like to connect over a call to discuss our services. Help me with
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Peppercomm/Directors & Boards Survey Shows Societal Crises are Keeping Nearly ALL Board Directors Up at Night


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Eight-in-10 admitted their companies aren’t prepared.  A recent survey of 43 directors of public and private boards revealed that nearly 90 percent are extremely or somewhat concerned about a societal crisis striking the company of which they are a director. An additional 84 percent of the directors said their company wasn’t prepared for crises ranging from mass shootings and trade wars to #MeToo and Twitter attacks from President Trump. The survey was fielded immediately following a day-long simulation of a fictitious societal crisis created by Peppercomm, in partnership with Directors & Boards Magazine. Other key findings included:
  • 77 percent of the participating directors were worried about their personal exposure and reputation as a result of the crisis.
  • 14 percent were EXTREMELY worried about their personal exposure.
The directors’ biggest concerns about a societal crisis impacting their company included:

Mega problems for mega industries


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I never thought I’d be writing a blog that included the NFL and Big Tobacco at the same time but, hey, social media makes for strange bedfellows. Both obscenely rich businesses find themselves in a world of hurt due to denial, deception and delay.   Let’s kick-off with the NFL. Did you know there are 72,000 FEWER high school students playing the sport today than just four years ago? Would you believe that outdoor track has overtaken football as the most popular high school sport? Somewhere Jesse Owens must be smiling. The reason why is obvious. Parents simply won’t let their sons play the vicious sport which, despite a few superficial changes to the rules by the NCAA and NFL, remains the ultimate end zone for players suffering from CTE and other debilitating brain injuries. By the way, here’s an interesting stat that was buried in the articles I read
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How Does a Beloved Brand Apologize to Billions?


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Today’s guest blog is authored by Melissa Vigue who suggests a few things Dolce & Gabbana might consider doing if they ever want to sell another product in China…. This weekend, we observed as one the world’s iconic luxury brands took a lashing following a huge cultural misstep in China. ICYMI, Dolce & Gabbana released eating with chopsticks, a series of videos, in the lead up to what was billed as one on China’s biggest fashion events ever, expected to draw not only the fashion elite but China’s most revered cultural icons. In an effort to grab attention by being humorous (?), the brand and its patriarchs have deeply offended those of Chinese descent worldwide and the rest of us who don’t think using race or cultural practices as fodder for marketing is acceptable. The situation was further exacerbated by supposedly racist Instagram posts by Gabanna. He and
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Ho. Ho. Whoa!


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Some organizations throw lavish holiday parties to celebrate the season. Others set aside a full day to help a local charity. And then there’s a Wisconsin company that is, hold for it, giving every employee a handgun for Christmas. I do my best to stay apolitical in blogs, but there are so many reasons why CEO Ben Wolfgram (pretty cool name, no? Fits his gift-giving idea like a gun to a holster) really shouldn’t be adding to the proliferation of firearms AND tying it to the season of peace, joy and glad tidings to all. Wolfgram, whose business, BenShot, sells beer mugs, wine glasses and shot glasses with BULLETS planted into their sides, says he had NO concerns about providing employees with firearms. “We wanted to give something nice and memorable to our employees,” said Wolfgram (who could be Instagram’s evil twin for all we know). “There were two aspects
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All Things Must Pass


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I’ve always likened agencies to baseball managers and football coaches. We are hired to be fired. Make no mistake. The termination clock starts ticking as soon as the letter of agreement is signed. The relationship may last a month, a year, a decade or, in the case of Ogilvy, 75 years. But it will end. In Ogilvy’s case, the “Dear Agency” letter came from Ford when the latter decided it was time to seek a divorce from WPP (Ogilvy’s owner). The reasons for the break-up included: “….Ford’s slumping sales, weak demand in Europe and trade tariffs with China.” Mix that toxic potion with the reality that “….clients are increasingly taking work in-house and using the giant online platforms of Google and Facebook” and you have the perfect storm for any freshly-minted CMO whose most logical first move would be to blame the incumbent agency and hire fresh
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Ready for another walkout or two?


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Get ready for another global organization to experience what went down at Google last week when employees around the world staged a walkout in protest of the company’s response to a widespread #MeToo scandal. This time, though, I predict the spotlight will be on three of the world’s best known and most highly admired strategic management consulting firms: Booz-Allen, McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group. That’s because The Sunday New York Times chose to devote front page coverage to the trio’s extensive (and incredibly lucrative) contracts with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who was recently fired for his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Not only are the firms reaping ungodly amounts of money from the repressive Saudi regime but, critically, NONE withdrew from participating in last month’s Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh (at a time when virtually every other company, journalist and executive universally
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Your Walkout is Coming


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Today’s timely guest post is from Ann Barlow, the leader of our West Cost office and the current Board Chair for Watermark.  Too many companies are caught by surprise when fed up people take action. It’s time for them to know where they’re vulnerable, where they need to do better, and step up. Including Google. In a year of so many #MeToo incidents laid bare, I wondered if I was becoming as numbed by reports of sexual harassment and discrimination as I am by the other outrageous behavior reported each day. So I was surprised, but also a little pleased when the New York Times piece and yesterday’s walkout by Google employees stirred up so much anger and frustration within me. Anger that company leaders over and over and over again look the other way when a rainmaker mistreats others. Frustration that even those companies that pledge to do
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Work Hard, Play Hard, Vote Hard


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Today’s guest blog comes from our two U.S. office leads, Jackie Kolek of New York and Ann Barlow of San Francisco, ahead of next Tuesday’s election day. Go vote! Peppercomm has always fostered a work hard, play hard culture.  We are constantly looking around the corner to see what’s next, creating new solutions and capabilities to prepare our clients for the new world of social activism and enabling them to address these challenges head-on and leverage the opportunities. On November 6th we’ll temporarily put aside our relentless dedication to client service and put our employee’s civic duty at the top of our to-do lists.  While the past two years have delivered a seemingly never-ending cycle of negative news, personal attacks and arguing across party (and sometimes family and friend) lines, the upside has been the growing passion about, and attention to, the critical issues that matter to
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The Last Laugh


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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One of the things that sets Peppercomm apart is our embedding stand-up and improvisational comedy training into our management development programs. There isn’t another firm I know of that has embraced comedy to the extent we have. The benefits have been enormous and range from improving employees’ presentation skills, to knocking down silos and bringing our people together in new and unique ways. Another benefit is having been named NYC’s top workplace by Crain’s New York Business. We’ve also tied-in comedy to raise money for a whole host of charities over the years. And, in those fundraisers, the Peppercomm employees have performed five-minute sets at major NYC comedy clubs. How many professionals in our industry can add that accomplishment to their C.V.’s? It’s a beautiful thing, especially when you can hold a charity comedy fundraiser in honor of a fallen comrade. That’s exactly what we did last Thursday
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