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


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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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.

Instagram? More like InstaSpam


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I’m announcing my resignation as a member of the Instagram community. Note: My resignation has nothing to do with the shocking departure of Instagram Co-Founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom. But it’s effective immediately and, to paraphrase what corporations everywhere say when they’ve just dumped a top executive, I’m leaving to pursue other channels. I’m stepping down because I am appalled at the vast spam wasteland that Instagram has become. I doubt I’m alone in making this observation, but I now spend more time deleting unsolicited ads on the platform than I do liking or commenting on member’s posts. I realize Instagram needs to turn a profit, but the sudden tsunami of unsolicited ads is a complete turnoff. I realize the entire advertising universe is going through a very tough time (witness the huge turmoil at the major holding companies), but Instagram is making a huge mistake in terms of customer
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Semper Paratus


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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My dad passed away Saturday morning just 41 days short of his 98th birthday. The number 41 is significant since that’s the year my dad raced to the nearest recruitment station to enlist in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. While he wanted to be shipped to the Pacific (to exact retribution) he was told, instead, the only immediate opening was with the U.S. Coast Guard. He signed the papers and forever rued the fact that he wasn’t alongside his brother, George, fighting Nazi Germany or with his other brother, Chris, doing battle with the Japanese as a member of the fabled Merrill’s Marauders. But, make no mistake. He served his country. Pop-Pop, as he was known by family, friends and restaurant waitresses alike, lived a very, very full life. Indeed, his life spanned 17 separate presidential administrations. He was not a superstar in business. Instead, he put in his
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“All Ashore That’s Going Ashore!” Especially Kids!


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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I like to foment unrest. It’s part of my DNA. I’d rather be remembered for taking a stance on a subject than disappear alongside the vast majority of Americans who choose to go with the flow. That’s why I’m devoting today’s column to Viking Cruise Line’s decision to ban ALL children from their highly-acclaimed river cruises. Let me begin by stating that river cruises hold no allure for me. I’m not the type to sit around with well-heeled, aging Boomers and gape at a Gothic cathedral as the ship glides majestically by. Nor am I the type to go sightseeing (unless I can first include an intense two-hour workout). The above notwithstanding, I salute Viking’s decision to prohibit kids from their uber high-end cruises. I’ve always said I adore my kids, but I disdain other parents’ offspring ? My feelings are based on multiple, first-hand experiences, two of which include the
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How do you judge success?


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Today’s oh-so-timely guest blog is authored by Laura West, Peppercomm’s Head of Analytics. Btw, we’d love to know your take on the Nike campaign, so comment at will… There are any number of ways to evaluate Nike’s Kaepernick campaign. Some call it: “shrewd,” others say it’s “a bold statement”. The president called it “a terrible message.” Pundits say it’s “a calculated risk.” Is Nike’s ad a success? What do the facts say? There is always a friendly bit of data pointing at an answer we may like, no matter our political/social opinions:
  • Fact: The President of the United States has denounced Nike’s ad
  • Also fact: Lebron James has lauded it
  • Fact: #NikeBoycott was trending on Twitter on Tuesday
  • Also fact: #Nike and #JustDoIt were trending on Wednesday
As most
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