Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Leadership New Jersey Wrap Up: Ralph Izzo of PSEG

Ralph is Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated. He spoke about environmental issues. Focused on CFL bulbs. Consumers are looking at the pricing of bulbs. PSEG just announced a new 400 megawatt power plant today, estimated $250-$300 million cost.

Higher "hurdle rate" for CFL bulbs. Need to correct the flaw in the marketplace. Need to make the customers into investors willing to pay more for the CFL bulb knowing that the savings are real over time.

Renewable energy sources are a key component of energy efficiency going forward, and clean power plant operations.

State will need a new nuclear power plant. Not proposing to do it right now, will take 10-12 years to get any electricity produced. It is carbon-free source of electricity. PSEG has a site it already owns for the plant.

Firm believers in NJ at PSEG, Ralph says.

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Leadership New Jersey Keynote Speech: Gary Rose, Economic Growth Chief, State of New Jersey

Gary Rose, New Jersey's Economic Growth Chief, speaks at the Forum on the Future of New Jersey, 10/24/07, Trenton, NJ

Gary (official state bio) was introduced by Ann Limberg of Bank of America

Gary is speaking about what NJ needs to do to "win" in the economic marketplace.

About to release second revision of state's strategic economic plan. Commerce Commission was restructured to focus on marketing the state. Was doing tourism too, was unfocused. All the resources that think about how we promote NJ has a common theme.

Given fiscal situation of NJ, economic succes means productive and profitable businesses and jobs by growing the revenue line "the right way," not by just raising taxes but by raising tax revenues.

How are we doin'? Gary thinks we're ok, but results maybe, maybe not.

Independent players say NJ is doing better. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation ranks NJ #2 on states leading transformation of their economies based on "gazelle" firms.

Other rankings look good too, but there's room for doubts. Forbes, NJ in the top 20 for business, CNBC top 15 for biz and #1 quality of life. NJMonthly is skeptical.

Tax Foundation ranks NJ 48 or 49, but encourages audience to understand their methodology. Doesn't agree with methodology, state measures itself by different criteria.

Reduce greenhouse gases and achieve energy efficiencies. Challenges but create economic opportunities. Energy companies like PSEG need to be players in the work to achieve these goals.


Rose was asked what the next "big win" is going to be. There are a couple of companies about to announce major expansions in pharma area that will tie them more closely to NJ and create jobs. He says 2-3 in pharma. Would love to see new pharma mfg facility in NJ.

Gov. broke ground yesterday on the Jets practice facility in Florham Park, brings a $110 million payroll out of Long Island. Income tax throw-off to state more than services the state's investment in the land for the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center facility. Jets spending $100 million, state spent $10-20 million on the land.

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Leadership New Jersey Panel 3 (10,000 Foot View): National and International View

Panel 3: The Natitonal and International View (from 10,000 feet)
Leading Corporations discuss the challenges they face in remaining in the state.
Moderating is Kathy Kish of MarketEntry, a marketing communications firm.

Leadership NJ Panel 3: Panelists discuss national and international perspectives on the regional economy. From left: Nick Montalto, Diversity Dynamics; Tom Morr, Select Greater Philadelphia; Jay Biggins of Biggins Lacy Shapiro, a location economics firm; Tom Tauke, EVP of Public Affairs, Policy and Communications of Verizon; and moderator Kathy Kish of MarketEntry.

Tom Tauke, Executive VP, Public Affairs, Policy and Communications of Verizon, billed as moderator, actually gave an overview summary.

Notes that he visited Google last week to see new version of Google Earth. Driver said he was using Google Earth today to get to Trenton. Even with Google Earth you need the right address. There's a difference between Stockton Street and South Stockton Street. "Nothing here looks familiar." Sounds a lot like New Jersey in general, huh?

Not a NJ resident, but spends most of his time here because of his work for Verizon.

In NJ, Verizon can't charge a late bill fee to nonpayers. Says something about state's mindset. Also strange to people from outside the state that you can't pump your own gas in NJ. It says there are forces here that prevent pepole from doing "normal" things.

New Jersey has a great comms infrastructure. Fiber to the home $1 billion/year means state will be most wired in the country.

Reputation of state worse than biz climate. State's government viewed as corrupt. Businesses want to invest in places with stability and where the processes work right. Doesn't think NJ deserves the bad reputation. State gets a bit of a [bad] rap. Business climate is viewed badly, partly because of momentum in attracting high wage jobs. Decline in the # of high wage jobs in the state. Need to find ways to break out of that.

Leadership is a key issue.Good leadership will cause people to take a "second look."

Exchange among the panelists:

Jay Biggins, Biggins Lacy Shapiro

Kish asks Biggins, small state, small business is important but we are very respectful of the big companies like Verizon that have regional or corporate HQs here. Do we want those companies to stay?

Biggins notes involvement of his location economics firm in harbor development in New York.

On NJ, he says that one of our most important industrial assets is R&D, knowledgeware. Losing that, major pharma companies, some have said publicly won't invest further in NJ. Won't move, but migration "by attrition." We have a tax base and legislature, even as we cooperate as a region, have healthy competition. PA is very effective in pharma industry, peeling off large opportunities but also small entrepreneurial companies. NJ doing reasonably well with startups, but regionally losing more than we are gaining.

Tampa FL has a "Wall Street South" - lots of financial svcs jobs sailed right over NJ and PA, in labor surplus markets where the regulatory environment was hospitable and costs low.

NJ regulatory environment "unpredictable or worse." Captured by interest groups where we are not achieving balance, even with aggressive advocacy on all sides. NJ needs to do a lot in fact and in perception to "break out of the morass," both the facts and the perception that it is a difficult place to do business.

Leadership New Jersey: Program chair Michael Willmann and the studio audience listen to Panel 3 discuss the national and international view, at the Forum on the Future of New Jersey, 10/24/07, Trenton NJ.

Tom Morr, Select Greater Philadelphia

Mentions famous sign on Trenton-Morrisville bridge, "Trenton Makes, The World Takes." -Things do not stand still, every place is a work in progress. Philadelphia/NJ region has remade itself. Fewer manufacturing jobs in region than national avg. Service based, knowledge driven economy. Most of the world doesn't know that. Perception of declining rust belt area with low income populations and unemployment.

Need to help create the parade for the leaders to lead. We're the stewards, need to help the leaders make the decisions they need to be able to make. We need to be "very afraid" of where we are going to be 20-25 years from now.

Nick Montalto, Diversity Dynamics
Nicholas Montalto says: Global marketplace. The talent-attracting "nodes" will be most successful in the global economy.

Not all environmental regs are good, properly applied, or properly sized, says Biggins. Have a guerilla campaign going on that is "almost beyond civility" in some cases. Need to achieve balance between economic development and quality of life, but lookat the extent to which economic development will vote with its feet because it is being restrained.

Morr: You avoid those places that make business difficult. If regulations are tough on both local and nonlocal companies, that's OK, but it's the consistency thing. Need to have higher expectations of elected officials and create mechanisms that bring resolution and harmony. Electronic voting in Congress makes it impossible for members to duck issues that may be good for economy or harmful to their constituents.

Nick Montalto: If we are to attract best and brightest, pepole look for opportunities to enjoy leisure activities, so a strong environmental sensitivity is important. Also important strong arts and culture infrastructure, and vibrant ethnic communities. Ethnic diversity is one of our great strengths, are we tapping into it?

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Leadership New Jersey, Panel 2: The Regional View (from 500 ft)

Panel 2: The Regional View (from 500 ft.)
Regional agencies offering their strategies for attracting business and the investments needed to ensure the state's competitiveness.
Moderated by Jack Lettiere of Nation's Port

Leadership NJ Panel 2: Regional View. From left: Susan Bass Levin of Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; Joe Montemarano of SMART; Carl Goldberg of NJ Sports & Exposition Authority; Tom Carver, Casino Reinvestment & Redevelopment Authority; Bob Gross, Delaware River Port Authority; Moderator Jack Letierre, Nation's Port

Panelists Comments

Tom Carver, NJ Casino Reinvestment and Redevelopment Authority;

Assets we have are "blatant." Problems we have challenges are to use them intelligently. We "bifurcate" our thinking into North and South Jersey. Example, "that little gritty port in Camden." great desire to get rid of it to build nice waterfront properties, but without planning to replace it.

Major growth will be in the southern part of the state. Trying to coordinate through CRDA all of the state agencies involved in land use and transportation infrastructure. Gov. office has bought in and everyone is on board.

Doing the research to put in new master control for traffic system in Atlantic City. Dynamic signage and traffic control. Also talking about extension of Patco High Speed Line.

Talking to DEP about land use.

Bombarded every day by politicians promising not to raise taxes. Thinks they don't understand the problems.

Tom singles out Steve Adubato who is running a North Ward center in Newark and is "saving kids" by getting them out of the Newark school system.

Bob Gross, Delaware River Port Authority

Need to compete not among ourselves, but with other states. Camden port - can accommodate retail, entertainment and port activity if we work smarter.

Carl Goldberg, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority;

Now have $1.3 billion stadium "finest football facility in the US" built by JV of Jets and Giants. Will have mass transportation link, rail connection to sports complex, Feb 2009. Bring people from Bergen, Morris, Monmouth, Hudson Counties, and NYC to Meadowlands for sports events.

Jobs, tax revenue being created by construction, but also hope that sports complex will help that region of NJ become a tourism destination. Thinks tourism will help drive NJ economy, ranked second now bringing people to the shore, wants to bring them to Meadows.

Surprising that one of most important "eco tourist" destination is the 6,000 acres of the Hackensack River estuary area where people are coming to visit.

Housing costs are a problem, very expensive to live here. Have to look at overrregulation, how to incent the development community to build houses, office, and retail in areas of the state where that is desirable.

Susan Bass Levin (Wikipedia), Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Website is, but as of 11:26AM it was coming up as not reachable.

Former mayor of Cherry Hill, getting things done, because it's a bistate agency, take longer because of the strategic view, longer tail solutions for problems. NJ a very small crowded state with the perfect location. Road and transit, bridges, tunnels, all far beyond capacity. But election to election, local government will not solve those problems. That's why a bi-state agency is important.

Building ARC "Access to the Region's Core", new tunnel for trains to NY. Cost $7.6 billion, but will take cars off the road.

72 percent of new households in the region will be west of the Hudson, that's NJ. People from here want the jobs that will be created in NYC. Tunnel also creates construction jobs and economic development in the towns served. Not a short-term project.

Joe Montemarano, SMART (Strengthening the MidAtlantic Region for Tomorrow).

We are not prepared to compete against other parts of the country. Need to get better coordiantion. Need to work together to identify common areas and market that to other parts of the country and the world.

The game has changed. What we have begun to develop is entrepreneurial spirit in NJ that wasn't present even in the early 80s. The sectors, pharma, biotech, IT, military, there are ups and downs in the sectors. Fortunately not all "in the toilet" at the same time.

Silicon Valley successful because if things don't work out at one company, you go across the street to another, you don't have to move.

Question Period

Susan Bass Levin - Public transit (in response to audience question) needs to be reliable, fast and cheap. Basic question is these things aren't cheap, talking billions of $ and multiyear commitments. Question of where do you put trains. In Cherry Hill looking at expanding train service, had a "raucous" meeting where everyone objected to the noise and train traffic that expansion would bring.

PATH system is looking at increasing capacity. Right now at peak capacity. Need to be looking at long-term solutiopns. At PATH, top to bottom modernization program, will help Newark and Harrison increase economic development potential.

Bob Gross - PATCO looking at expanding west in Philadelphia and east into NJ. Multibillion-dollar projects, difficult, one thing they are doing is a transit-oriented development component, to fold smart technology into stations that make them more than just a railroad stop.

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Leadership New Jersey Panel 1: Insider's View, on the ground

Moderating panel is Andrew Sinclair of Princeton Public Affairs Group.

Forum on the Future of New Jersey: Panel 1, Business and academic leaders discuss why businesses locate in NJ. From left: Ann Limberg, NJ president of Bank of America; Jim Hughes of the Bloustein School at Rutgers University; Ken Traub, American Bank Note Holographics; Greg Bohn of Advanced Drainage Systems; and moderator Andrew Sinclair of Princeton Public Affairs Group

Panelists opening comments on why businesses choose NJ when they can go anywhere.

Greg Bohn, Advanced Drainage Systems (NJ connection is in this BusinessWire release)

Facility in NJ is most expensive and time-consuming they've every built. Regulations weren't impossible but a significant drag in the timeframe, 6-9 months behind their plan. Influence of construction costs related to unions, they did a great job, and got a great facility, but it was a challenge that raised costs "and some blood pressures." Happy to be in NJ, good run so far.

Estimates $1 million in transport cost savings by being closer to customers locating the plant here.

Jim Hughes, Dean of the Bloustein School at Rutgers

1980-2000, reinvention of NJ economy. Badly fading manufacturing dynamo, by 2000 knowledge based economy, with 4.1 million jobs, enormous high density concentration of jobs. One million can be considered key knowledge-based jobs, advanced post-industrial jobs in three sectors, information (telecom, internet, publishing); professional and business services; financial activities (traditional banking and very advanced Wall Street-type brokerage employment.)

Given that concentration, gives the state second-highest median household income. Maryland just knocked NJ off its #1 perch. Income in New Jersey 33 pct higher than the rest of the nation. one of the most "potent" consumer markets in the country.

NJ has one of the finest labor forces, fifth among the states in percentage of adults with BA or higher degree. Third among states in Ph.D degrees. Attractive for pharma companies, "a lot of workers to steal from companies that are already here."

Geography is good - NYC still the "dominant economic node" in the country, and being near it is important.

Ann Limberg, New Jersey market president for Bank of America

Incredibly important market, highly talented workforce. Company nationally and internationally is focused on the consumer. More than 60% of revenue comes from consumer bank. NJ one of largest markets for the bank. Consumer opportunities ranging from highly wealthy individuals to students. NJ have 6,000 employees, and it's the most expensive place for bank to do business.

Kenneth Traub, American Bank Note Holographics.
Move to NJ was consolidation from Westchester County, New York; Dalton, Massachusetts; and Pennsylvania.Turned out to be a teriffic move for his company. Ironic reaction to Chris Christie's remarks about corruption, he says he took control of the company after previous CEO was caught committing securities fraud. Very ironic considering that company makes security holograms for document and currency protection.

Should be looking at positives, gets encouragement from Rep. Rush Holt to locate here. Increased his space 80% but saved over half a million dollars in operating expenses.

Comment from Joseph Montemorano, Princeton University, state hasn't reinvested in its research universities. Sees a lack of comprehensive strategy, except becoming a "one-industry" state, namely pharma. Thinks state needs to make transformation from telecomm to IT, but needs someone at state level to discuss where the investments should be made. Universities otherwise may pursue paths independently of state.

Question from audience member: What are some of the givebacks from companies, re diversity, community, minority and women-owned businesses, what are the commitments on that?

Bohn's company has donated to special needs children in Florida. Came from a casual conversation between two executives.

Questioning was thin and softballs mostly.

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US Attorney Chris Christie at Leadership NJ's Forum on the future of New Jersey

Chris Christie, US Attorney in New Jersey (Republican in a very Democrat state) - wikipedia entry here.

Little relationship between security against terror and restrictions on business, Christie says.

Ft. Dix 6 were not radicalized in Pakistan or Afghanistan, they were radicalized in Mt. Laurel and Cherry Hill, in front of their computers, in their bedrooms. They had videos of Osama Bin Laden, last will and testiment of 2 of 19 9/11 hijackers on their computers. Were caught making a training DVD that they emailed around to other like-minded folks. Two of the five biggest terror cases since 9/11 have been in New Jersey, and demonstrates that law enforcement is on the case. Store clerk who saw the video called Mt. Laurel PD, and because of their sensitivity post-9/11, they contacted federal authorities leading to the investigation that led to the arrests.

Why is economic growth a problem in NJ? Some problems outside my job description, Christie says. But one problem he hears about is lack of integrity in the state and how discouraging to try to interact with government without feeling you're being shaken down at the point of a loaded gun. Basic problem in NJ is "we don't trust each other, and we certainly don't trust our government," and it's at every level from local up to state. Business has good reason not to trust government.

Record of prosecutions 124-0 Christie says, prosecuting elected officials and government officials.

Undercover investigation bought five members of Pleasantville NJ Board of Education, FBI created a fictional insurance brokerage, Coastal Solutions. Citing other examples of local officials offering to get investigators contracts with government

FBI forgot the envelope in one sting, $5,000 cash, official stuffed in his pocked, then put his arm around the FBI guy, and said "I love you, man."

You can't make this up, Christie says. The guy pleaded guilty on Friday.

Businesses looking to interact with city governments that have this corruption are uncomfortable, says Christie.

NJ is the "butt of derision" around the country.

He quotes an editorial from the Statesman Journal in Salem Oregon, which wrote about some of the corruption and then concluded, "Ah, New Jersey."

This may be one of our ugliest periods, but we have a long and rich history, he says of the state. We have an obligation to leave this place better for children and grandchildren than it was left for us.

Asides: We don't have a state song, but as a Springsteen fan, Christie hints that he has some ideas...Readers, vote for your favorite version of Born to Run...

Christie concludes: We can't afford the "luxury" of cynicism. It's unpatriotic to be cynical. We have the responsibility to change what's happening in the state, "a long and ugly slog."

Politicians don't think the public is watching. And when they make promises they don't keep, and are caught, "they are like a child." We need to start holding them to account, Christie says. It's the beginning of the slippery slope to criminal conduct, he believes.

NJ is a great place to live, and we're not going to allow the corrupt to define who we are, Christie concludes. Tells his assistant US attorneys, "every day they work in your name."

Liveblogging Leadership New Jersey's Forum on the Future of New Jersey

Today we are producing podcasts for Leadership New Jersey at the studios of NJN in Trenton. We did this last year, and you can still hear last year's podcasts at the podcast blog. The Forum on the Future of New Jersey also has its own site.

That's also where we will be posting the podcasts from this year's program, which is just getting underway with welcoming remarks from Diane Brake, LNJ '90, of PlanSmart NJ.

Diane Brake

Michael Willmann of WMSH Marketing Communications in Haddonfield is the organizer of the Forum.

Here's the lineup of speakers/panels. We'll blog each one separately.

1. "Is New Jersey in the game...or on the bench?" - US Attorney Christopher Christie on the challenges of balancing business needs and the duty to guard against terrorism.

Panel 1: The insider's view (on the ground)
Academic and business leaders discussing why businesses choose to locate in New Jersey. Panelists are Greg Bohn, Advanced Drainage Systems; Jim Hughes of the Bloustein School at Rutgers, Ann Limberg, New Jersey market president for Bank of America; and Kenneth Traub, American Bank Note Holographics.

Panel 2: The Regional View (from 500 ft.)
Regional agencies offering their strategies for attracting business and the investments needed to ensure the state's competitiveness.
Moderated by Jack Lettiere of Nation's Port
Panelists: Tom Carver, NJ Casino Reinvestment and Redevelopment Authority; John Matheussen, Delaware River Port Authority; Carl Goldberg, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority; Susan Bass Levin, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Joe Montemarano, SMART (Strengthening the MidAtlantic Region for Tomorrow).

Panel 3: The Natitonal and International View (from 10,000 feet)
Leading Corporations discuss the challenges they face in remaining in the state. Moderator, Tom Tauke of Verizon. Panelists: Jay Biggins, Biggins Lacy Shapiro; Nick Montalto, Diversity Dynamics; and Tom Morr, Select Greater Philadelphia.

Keynote speaker at lunch is Gary Rose, Economic Growth Chief, State of New Jersey.

There are about 150 attendees at the New Jersey Network studio in Trenton for the program. We'll be back with more as Chris Christie gets his speech underway momentarily.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Twitter is rocking my professional life

Like a lot of people, I've been wrestling with how to understand Twitter. I think I've finally figured it out. Kami Huyse calls it "Instant Message on steroids." I'm going way back to the Dark Ages before the 'net and calling it "CB Radio for the 'net."

We all used to drive around pretending we were truckers, saying things like "Breaker 1-9 for a 10-36" and hoping there was someone out there who would tell us what time it was so we could chat for a few minutes. Or we would meet friends on the air and make arrangements to stop for coffee.

It was fun but it was only useful within a really short radius because the radios were limited to 5 watts of AM power, which gets you about two miles away on a good day.

Twitter gives you the same partially random network but with global reach.

You make connections you might otherwise not make. Example: Alex Hillman of Independents Hall in Philadelphia tweets yesterday about how quickly Hyku posted some photos online. I'm sitting in a PRSA Conference panel that is just about to start when I read this tweet. Hyku, a/k/a Josh Hallett, is sitting on the panel. So after the program I go over and say, "So what's this about you and Alex Hillman and some pictures?" Josh does a slight double take and says "how did you know,", but his eyes immediately widen with recognition when I shrug and say "Twitter."

And people can enhance each other's day by being coaches or giving tips or just by reacting to what they are hearing in a way that offers dynamic feedback to the person being tweeted. Today, Josh came to my program on using podcasts to promote thought leadership. At one point he tweeted a negative challenge in reaction to something the other presenter said, and I was able to adapt my response to an audience question in a way that addressed his concerns -- a dynamic morphing of the presentation tailored to some real-time feedback from the audience.

This could be really powerful if we could get the hang of reading and typing and speaking all at the same time.

More on John Bell's presentation from PRSA International Conference

Picking up where we left off with John Bell's presentation, a few more highlights...

The Aveeno campaign included connecting people to the YouTube timelapse video of chalk artist Julian Beaver creating one of his outstanding 3D chalk sidewalk drawings. They created a Flickr gallery for the press and consumers, with the twin goal of activating the media, and also activating the Julian Beaver fanbase.

Making content shareable helps meet the key goals of engaging consumers through social media, giving people a voice, embracing third party messages, but also leveraging the ability of social media to enhance search engine positioning.

John really gets outstanding when he goes into the measurement metrics. His measurement suite includes the following elements:

Engagement and Reach
Page impressions
Time spent
Emails opened
Audio/video plays

Word of Mouth
# of mentions
# of posts
# of recommendations
# of mentions per user
# sent to friends

Earned Media

Search Visibility
Higher mentions
Share of search
3rd party

Customer/stakeholder feedback
Product sampling

The breadth of this measurement suite is really comprehensive. We should all be striving to provide this value to our clients in the overall evaluation of social media campaigns.

John Bell's workshop at PRSA International Conference on the 360degree conversation

Public Relations professionals face the challenge of mastering social media so they can make fresh, creative recommendations to their clients , according to John Bell, Managing Director of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide's 360 degree Digital Influence. Bell presented a workshop on using the social media to engage in a 360-degree conversation with customers and other audiences.

Responding to a question in the session, John said that public relations people need to stop considering themselves only as the "arms and legs of media relations," but must be proactive in learning as much as they can about how to engage in social media.

Bell talked about deepening levels of consumer engagement with companies, ranging from the simplest interaction of branded online entertainment up through the more complex engagements of content creation, social collaboration like bookmarking, wikis, tagging and voting, up through content co-creation like consumer generated ads and crowdsourcing.

A campaign created for Sleep Number beds involved creation of a web portal leading to an RSS feed mashup  highlighting sleep conversations.

The goal is to create shareable content that is useful; to consumers. A campaign for Aveeno included creating a relationship with street artist Julian Beaver, famed for ultra realistic chalk paintings. Check out this video and this Flickr site created to support the campaign.

More later. Have to prepare for my session on podcasting for thought leadership.

Monday, October 22, 2007

PRSA New Media Ethics Panel Photo

PRSA International Conference panel on New Media Ethics.  Here's the lineup below: Left to right: Peter Himler of Flatiron Communications; Katie Paine of KDPaine & Partners; Rick Murray, me2revolution at Edelman: Josh Hallett of Hyku.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Farrow blogged her way across Africa

Mia Farrow, at PRSA conference, says the blog posts she dictated by sat phone back home got 30k hits a day on

Mia Farrow at PRSA Intl Conf

Mia Farrow is speaking at PRSA international conference in Philadelphia. She confronted the lack of pressure being put on the Chinese government, which supports the genocide in Darfur through its economic and military support for Sudanese Government.

She noted that many US companies sponsoring Olympics are also represented at PRSA conference and also noted that China has hired big US PR firms to burnish its image.

She called on US companies to put pressure on China to pull its support for the genocide.

Still no news release in response from those PR firms helping China hide the blood on its hands...

Friday, October 19, 2007

This one has to rank with the "mystery cougher" that BL Ochman loves to hate...

You all know about the disgusting PR idea that Ricola cough drops has resurrected? The "mystery cougher" who goes around in public coughing on people randomly, and if you give him a Ricola cough drop you could win a prize?

Well, is right up there with Ricola in the Annals of PR Ideas That Weren't Fully Thought Through. The PR firm that billed Partida Tequila what must have been hundreds of thousands for a glitzy website and high production videos came up with the idea of conducting person-on-the-street interviews in which people confess to things they did when they were drinking tequila. Sounds like, as the agency put it, "a fun way" to get people to learn about the benefits of the product.

There's one problem with this. The centerpiece of the website, the signature video clip, is an interview in which a young man confesses that while getting drunk on tequila in Chicago, he apparently had a one night stand that produced a pregnancy, and he now has a child in Chicago.

Very funny stuff, right?

Sure, unless you're this irresponsible idiot's kid, or one of the kid's friends, and recognize his "Say, Jane, you are a good sport" dad.

People, the Internet is forever. You can't unring this bell and eventually you will hear from lawyers for people whose social and professional lives are irreparably damaged by this cavalier attitude toward personal behavior.

If you hate it when your mom drags out your baby pictures, imagine how you will feel when your boss calls up your Tequila Confession and asks you for more receipts to justify those expense account entries...

I just hope the PR firm that cooked up this brain bullet (apologies to Lucy Kellaway and Martin Lukes at the FT) also baked some legal fees and a crisis PR plan into their budget. They are going to need both.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chrysler gets social media better than GM, despite GM's head start in the blogosphere

General Motors got a lot of buzz when it launched the GM Fast Lane Blog a couple of years ago, with one of the highest-profile executive bloggers, vice chairman Bob Lutz, who engaged several hundred passionate car and truck enthusiasts in a dialogue about engine design, one of his personal passions.

But for all its novelty, the GM blog pretty much slapped down any visitors who wanted to talk about real issues like GM's massive financial losses over the past several years, or the important cost, environmental, and design issues confronting the industry.

Then Mr. Lutz either got tired of blogging daily, or someone on GM's board suggested that there might be better things for him to do to help stop the $12 billion that hemorrhaged from the company last year.

In any case, GM started a new blog, FYI, in which less-well known bloggers (read "the PR staff") would post useful nuggets, mostly culled from the releases they were writing for various product groups.

To my surprise, some of my colleagues in the PR blogosphere heaped lavish praise recently on GM for posting to the Fast Lane blog an item about the then-impending strike by the UAW.

The item basically said, "This is not something we're going to talk about in the blog, we're going to negotiate with the union the traditional way."

Shel Holtz thought it was courageous of GM to even mention it in the blog. But I don't think GM went far enough, and Chrysler has proved this point very nicely.

I responded to Shel's posting (see comments #2 and #4) that I think corporate blogging isn't going to do very well if companies continue to circle the wagons and muzzle their blogs when the dialogue turns difficult or uncomfortable, leaving the so-called "conversation" with constituencies only for the "happy news." And yet, that's what most companies, even those that encourage employee blogging like Microsoft, do. When it's a bet the company crisis, they all go to radio silence.

Or almost all. Well, Chrysler, newly taken private, has shown exactly how to do it right.

First reported in PRWeek,they've got a comprehensive multimedia blog site called that includes management interviews, videos, audio, and huge media briefing books articulating management's viewpoint on the issue. There is a lengthy audio interview with the SVP of Employee Relations, and a range of video clips related to the labor discussions.

You may not agree with their bargaining position or their view of the issues, but you have to give them points for taking their case to the public in a full and comprehensively thought-out way.

The value for the company is they get their message distributed publicly, unfiltered by news media who don't understand the nuances of the issues, unlimited in time and space, not compelled by the publishers and broadcasters to keep their answers to 30 seconds or less, or 25 words or less. They aren't at the mercy of a tech savvy union that might sway the public all by itself, using a blog while the company dithers, as has often been the case in previous labor disputes.

Chrysler is setting a new standard in not letting its management be a punching bag for its critics. It's about time.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

LOBP#33: Podcast of PRSA Philadelphia Chapter Ethics Panel, 9/20/2007

This podcast features a panel discussion on ethical practice for public relations professionals, held at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on September 20, 2007. The program was sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Panelists were:
  • Christopher Bauer, president of Bauer Ethics Seminars

  • Former Philadelphia Managing Director Phil Goldsmith of Goldsmith Kahn and Associates

  • Dave Frankel of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads, LLP

  • David Kirk, APR, Fellow PRSA, President of The PR Guy, Inc.

Moderating the panel was Jonathan Morein, vice president and chief ethics officer, PRSA/Philadelphia.

Download the podcast here (76.5 mb stereo MP3 file, 00:55:43 duration).

A video podcast of this panel is also available on the PRSA/Philadelphia website and on the Professional Podcasts Video Feed..

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Marking the passing of Commerce Bank


Commerce Bank, the Cherry Hill based darling of many analysts for its seven-day a week lobby hours and its "penny arcade" coin counting machines, fell to the merger machine yesterday as its board accepted an $8 billion offer from TD BankNorth. We're quoted on the topic in today's Newark Star-Ledger

Before being bought by Toronto Dominion Bank, TD BankNorth was a tiny New England-based institution that nipped at the heels of my former employer, FleetBoston Financial.

It's sort of deja vu. TD BankNorth had purchased Hudson United Bank, and had a few branches around South Jersey, but not enough to gain what bankers call "critical mass." It's expensive to build new branches, $1-2 million a pop by most estimates. Cheaper to buy an existing network of branches, because they already have the land leases, the physical building, and as a nice bonus, they come with depositor money already in the vault.

It's almost a direct rerun of when Fleet came out of New England with just a smattering of branches in New Jersey (the result of its earlier purchase of NatWest), and scooped up Summit's 460 branch network, only to later succumb to Bank of America.

But the demise of Commerce (and it will be a demise, once they finish the "merger integration" and change the signs) doesn't mean the end of small hometown banks. Far from it. Since Bank of America came to New Jersey, many of its refugee executives have launched de novo (that's banking industry jargon for "new") banks.

Bank mergers are like the Whack-a-Mole game. You hit one in the head and knock it down, and three more pop up out of the other holes.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sad state of the PR community in Philadelphia...

How pathetic and sad is this item from the O'Dwyer PR website?

Comcast Taps Burson After RFP

Burson-Marsteller wins RFP process for seven-figure pact to support PR efforts for the growing cable company.

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The largest private employer in Philadelphia selects a PR agency to handle a seven-figure contract and the agency doesn't even have an office in Comcast's home town?

Why are the companies in this market so insecure that they feel compelled to hire New York agencies for PR and advertising (and all the associated baggage of higher billing rates and big markups for the donuts served during client meetings) instead of trying, just trying to work with some of the really excellent, talented people in the creative community closer to home?

Comcast is getting all kinds of tax breaks for its giant monument to itself in Center City, taxes that will come out of local residents and commuters who work in Philadelphia, NOT from people who work 85 miles to the northeast in Manhattan. They probably think we call the business district of Philadelphia "midtown."

Is anyone in the Philadelphia advertising or PR community going to write to Brian Roberts to ask how in the world they could choose a New York agency?

This explains why he hasn't been responding to emails...

According to the Talking Biz News Blog, Carl Lavin of the Philadelphia Inquirer has jumped to names new managing editor

We met Carl at BlogPhiladelphia earlier this year (see photo), and even interviewed him in one of our podcasts. He said he was trying to figure out how the Inquirer could benefit from all the conversations going on in social media. Too bad the Inquirer won't be benefitting from his research efforts.