An angry mom takes aim at the NRA


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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Shannon Watts is my hero.  As you’ll read in this riveting account of one week in her life, Shannon is putting everything on the line (including her life) to mobilize moms to stop gun violence. In fact, she has already succeeded in helping to pass gun safety legislation in 20 states.
Shannon is a Type-A mom with a cause. She’s authored a book called “Fight Like a Mother” and founded a non-profit called Moms Demand Action that has more followers than the NRA. Watts began her one-woman crusade in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook mass school shooting in 2012. Since then, she has been the Energizer Bunny of the anti-gun violence crusade (Note: Moms Demand Action isn’t anti-gun. It’s anti-gun violence). Make no mistake that Shannon Watts knows she is putting her life at risk by taking on the more extreme elements of the NRA. In
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Still think global climate change is a Chinese hoax? Ask Mount Everest climbers their POV


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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As someone who dabbles in high-altitude mountain climbing, I’ve been closely following the horrific events on Mount Everest in the past month. While most news coverage has focused on the lax standards that have allowed hundreds of climbers to be caught above the death zone in complete gridlock (and many die as a result), I stumbled across an equally disturbing trend of late. Thanks to global climate change, warmer temperatures and melting ice, scores of long-dead bodies are suddenly emerging from their ice tombs on Everest. In fact, it’s now a routine occurrence for guides and climbers alike to spot human bones poking up from the ground, smooth and ice encrusted. As one guide told the New York Times, “Snow is melting and bodies are surfacing. Finding bones has become the new normal for us.” The plethora of long-gone, perfectly preserved climbing corpses has caused something of an ethical
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The client from hell


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Every agency has had its fair share of truly horrific clients.  You know the ones I mean: the screamers, gropers, the ones who keep losing the invoice that’s already 180-days old. And then there are those who poach your talent but never ask permission or compensate you for the loss (despite contractural wording to the contrary). My two favorites were a retail chain that told us they were reallocating our money to expand their internal IT infrastructure, and an industry group that replaced our budget to sponsor a rock group’s tour (FYI: Our program for the concert lovers has been named a finalist for three separate major awards). But I digress. I have to say that after reading John Carreyrou’s spellbinding book about Theranos and founder Elizabeth Holmes, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-Up,” I am equal parts empathetic and appalled by the actions of
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“You can pay me now or pay me later”


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To mix metaphors, a brand’s reputation is only as strong as its weakest link. Case in point is the recent donnybrook surrounding the backlash from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s accepting donations from the infamous Sackler family The Sackler Family owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals which manufacturers OxyContin. Just recently, the family had to pay the state of Oklahoma $270 million as part of a settlement in which they were accused of aggressively marketing the highly addictive painkiller that has laid waste to generations ranging from pre-teens to Octogenarians. Last week’s backlash against the Met and the museum’s decision to no longer take donations from “members of the Sackler family presently associated with Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin,” is indicative of the mega exposure that for-profit corporations and non-profits institutions alike now face: Have they invested in questionable business concerns or, as was the case with the Met, has an
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Actions speak louder than words


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Philip Morris International (PMI), which has earned a well-deserved reputation for saying one thing and doing another, is at it again.  Close on the heels of PMI’s launch of a global marketing effort for its heated tobacco vaporizer called IQOS (or, I Quit Ordinary Smoking), the Big Tobacco brand was caught marketing its killer weed to unsuspecting young people. Happily, an alert Reuters reporter spotted the social media transgression and called out the nefarious nicotine maker for violating its own marketing policy. Allegedly intent on helping smokers ease their way off the killer weed through IQOS AND not marketing to younger, impressionable teens who see vaping as the cool, new thing, PMI featured 21-year-old Alina Tapilina, a Russian model/influencer, endorsing IQOS on Instagram. Caught red-handed (or black lunged, if you prefer) PMI chose to suspend the marketing campaign and yank the IG post VERY LATE on a Friday
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Big Tobacco is Baaaaaack!


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Not content with having tempted and trapped countless generations of unsuspecting high schoolers to become nicotine addicts, Big Tobacco is back in a new and insidious way. As detailed in this superb opinion piece by legendary ad man, Alex Bogusky, Big Tobacco has jumped on the coolness of a new delivery mechanism, vaping, as a way to tempt today’s middle and high school kids. Marketed as a tasty, fruity and fun way to enjoy tobacco, vapes have immediately became fashion statements for Kool Kids, who also see them as a new way in which to rebel against their parents and teachers. Some schools have stepped up and “banned” vaping in classrooms. But, naturally, the kids have found a way around that rule. They blow a day’s worth of the vaped cigarette smoke into water bottles and “sip” it down as they tread innocently from classroom to classroom. So where were
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An American Original


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If you missed knowing Missy Shorey, you missed out on something very special. Missy, who passed away at the ungodly young age of 47, was an American original. We first crossed paths when we met at a long-ago Spring Conference held by the PRSA’s Counselors Academy. It was clear from the get-go that, while we were in the same PR world, we were worlds apart in our respective POV’s on life. But we never let it stand in the way of our becoming fast friends who routinely shared the good, the bad and the ugly of agency ownership. I last saw Missy when we shared the stage at the 2017 Counselors Academy Spring Conference. Our topic was something along the lines of: “How to counsel your clients in the aftermath of a Trump Tweet attack.” Needless to say, Missy offered a suggestion that I immediately took umbrage with
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‘Go woke, go broke’


This post is by from 21st-century PR issues › Paul Seaman


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As predicted by 21st Century PR Issues earlier this year, Gillette sales are falling following the release of its high-profile – much debated and viewed – advertisement which denigrated its core customer base.
The ad, entitled ‘We Believe’, was released in January. It asked men to “shave their toxic masculinity,” while blaming an entire gender for the actions of a small percentage of sexual abusers, rapists and perverts.

Virtue-signalling is especially damaging when a leading manufacturer issues an advertisement designed to appeal to those people who really do hate (as in despise) everything that that firm’s brand has traditionally stood for. So it’s no wonder that many men – who bought into the once carefully cultivated and appealing brand image – are now turning their back on Gillette and going elsewhere to buy their razors. Read more

There isn’t a tool or technology in the world that will ever replace great storytelling


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It was just about three years ago that I listened to a digital guru (dressed in all black, of course) predict that public relations would be dead by now. He went on to state that, unless PR professionals immediately transformed themselves into digital gurus, they would either end up as Wal-Mart greeters or baristas at Starbucks. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery. PR didn’t die. In fact, it not only survived, PR thrived. Today many industry pundits and gurus see public relations as THE dominant marketing discipline. The reason is something so obvious that it’s eluded countless, nattering nabobs of negativity such as the guru mentioned above. The most sophisticated programs, dashboards and automation are useless if they exclude the need for basic human interaction and, critically, great storytelling. Two recent articles in the marketing and PR trade press illustrate the point. Marketing Dive reported
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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 3 stars from 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 than content employees
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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:

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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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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23


This post is by Steve Cody from Rep Man


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It’s hard to believe that Peppercomm began its improbable rise to fame and fortune 23 years ago today. I say improbable because there was no reason to expect success. After all, why would yet another start-up in the highly competitive PR firmament succeed? The answer? Our name. I decided to name the firm in honor of my late black lab, Pepper. The name turned out to be a godsend. It was at that precise moment in time the dotcom boom was in overdrive. Venture capitalists were pouring billions of dollars into dotcoms with any semblance of a business plan (as well as many that did not). The phone began ringing off the hook. Why? Because dotcoms mistakenly thought Peppercom (there was only one M in those days) was a dotcom specialist. We weren’t. But we hired tech PR specialists faster than you can say IPO and, by 1998, O’Dwyer’s had
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