October 08, 2007

THE CUBS AND A LOOK BACK AT THE WALLS OF WRIGLEY

Now that the Cubs have been swept, I have to say it was still a great season. Yes, I know they lost without much of a fight, but for a Cubs fan, just being able to root for your team in October is an extraordinary gift.

With the season now over, I was thinking about my earlier post about Under Armour’s advertising on the walls of Wrigley Field…I asked the question then as to whether or not this was this going to be great marketing idea or a public relations fumble…I even lost my mind a little and compared it to defacing the Mona Lisa…well, after going to Wrigley several times this year and seeing the success of the team the Cubs put on the field, I have to tip my hat (or in the case of Wrigley Field, a polish sausage) to the Cubs and Under Armour. Sports are an expensive business and talent is what wins divisions (and hopefully someday a Championship). Acquiring Alfonso Soriano, keeping Carlos Zambrano and hiring Lou Piniella didn’t come cheap. And, advertising and sponsorship is what pays for it all…so, to answer my own question, Under Armour created a brilliant, effective and tasteful campaign, …and as a bonus, helped the Cubs win a division.

Now if Under Armour can just help us get a little more offense and a pitcher or two, I promise to paint their logo on my forehead…

Posted by Michael Kempner at 09:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 01, 2007

A New Age of Financial Disclosure

Earlier this week several members of my team were deeply involved in the innovative disclosure of Sun Microsystems' quarterly earnings results. Sun chose to release its numbers via its Web site and RSS feeds ten minutes prior to more traditional dissemination via PR Newswire.

Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced his intention to distribute the news in this manner via a blog entry the week before - "a small, but exceptionally symbolic change" was how he labeled it. An opportunity for every constituent to receive the news at once and for free. In my view, a prelude to the direction of things to come.

Not surprisingly, executives at the paid wire services are coming unglued by this development. One executive even went as far as to call Sun's move a return to the 'dark ages of disclosure." Sounds to me a bit like the dinosaurs bellowing at a coming ice age. If there's one thing we've seen in this business it's that the Internet breeds innovation and demands evolution. Sun's decision to distribute it's news via its website should serve more as a wake-up call for the paid wires rather than a battle cry.

RegFD calls for the simultaneous disclosure of material information to all investors. A pretty simple concept to grasp, no? In my professional opinion, Sun's recent distribution conformed with both the letter and the spirit of the law. None of the pundits have said otherwise, I might add.

Not only was the information available to all via a free and open Web-based resource...and the location and release time for that information pre-announced...the procedures were backed up with a simultaneous filing of a Form-8K with the SEC. For those of you watching the clock as the news rolled out, you may have noticed that by 4:01 pm (ET), the same time Sun posted the results on their site, the company's 8K posted on Yahoo! Finance via Edgar.

While this may have only been an "exceptionally symbolic change," I am confident that it's just a preview of the innovations in communications to come, both from Sun and other companies for which transparency and one-to-one connections with constituents is critical. Perhaps rather than fight evolution our friends at the news wires should start thinking about how they can help shape the future direction of financial disclosure. It's coming...with or without them.

Disclosure Note: Sun Microsystems is a client of MWW Group.

Posted by Michael Kempner at 04:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 01, 2007

Hillary For President: Why I'm Supporting Her

I think we can all agree that the next presidential election will be the most important one in our political lifetime. The next president will inherit two wars, a raging Middle East, a lack of any meaningful energy policy and an unprecedented loss of American prestige around the world. This is on top of a massive deficit, global warming, unprecedented Washington corruption, a rapidly growing China and a loss of democracy in Russia...this is no ordinary time and one that begs for strong and unique leadership. We cannot afford the luxury of on the job training for our next president. They have to be able to step in and lead on the very first day in office.

Over the past 6 months I have had the privilege of spending considerable personal time with all of the Democratic presidential candidates. Private lunches, dinners and visits to their homes. All in all, I found them to have skill sets that would make each of them a good president. This year the Democratic Party is blessed with a very strong field and any of the contenders have the potential to be a strong leader. This is in stark contrast to the Republicans, who are still without a candidate that can win...or make a great president.

So, after months of meetings and discussions with the entire field, I have decided to become one of the co-chairs of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in New Jersey. The irony is that I had started out thinking that I would work for anyone but Hillary. But after meeting extensively with each of the candidates there is really no choice. Hillary is smart, warm and has a deep grasp of the issues facing us domestically and internationally. She can hit the ground running unlike any other potential president. Plus, she has already stated the she will use Bill Clinton as a special ambassador to work with countries around the world to reestablish our critical relationships. While others like Obama, Richardson and Biden would all make good Presidents, none have the depth of experience, the grasp of the issues and the relationships around the world that must be immediately dealt with by our next chief executive.

The times are tough and demanding...our future, in many ways is at stake...and in my mind, Hillary is the only one ready to take on the challenge and lead us out of this mess created by George Bush. No president in modern times has inherited two wars, plus the all of the other major issues that will need to be dealt with on day one...we can’t afford to lose a year of leadership while someone learns how to be president.

This election is the most critical in modern history. That is why I am working hard to make sure that Hillary Clinton is our next president.

Posted by Michael Kempner at 02:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 31, 2007

Blog Relationship Building: My Point of View

MWW Group recently launched an innovative product sampling initiative in the blogosphere. We invited 50 bloggers interested in taking great pictures to try out a new camera sold by our client. The structure of the program is almost identical to how new products are introduced to print and broadcast journalists at The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, CNN and virtually every other reputable news outlet you can think of. Why? Because we firmly believe that bloggers are, in many ways, journalists. The same ethical considerations that shape a marketer's interactions with print and broadcast reporters should also be respected and adhered to when dealing with bloggers. And that objectivity, accountability and transparency are a must.

The rules of this sampling initiative:

1) Invite select bloggers to try out a new camera for a set period of time

2) Bloggers who accept participation are loaned the product for a set period of time

3) At the end of that time period the product must be returned to the company or purchased by the blogger at an editorial discount

4) Should the product be purchased, all monies are donated to a related charity

5) Should the blogger choose to talk about the product and its performance on their blog, or any other forum, they must also reference the sampling program, specifically that they were loaned the product, so as to guarantee transparency

Simple. Clear. Clean. So clean in fact that 46 of the 50 bloggers we invited to participate immediately accepted. Of the remaining four, two haven’t had a chance to decide yet and two declined as they were engaged by other PR firms and felt it would be a conflict.

This program has raised a debate on the marketing and public relations blogs. Does a sampling program carry with it an expectation of coverage, and in the extreme, an expectation of favorable coverage? Are bloggers selling out if they participate in such programs? In my opinion the answer to all those questions is a resounding "NO."

Sampling programs such as ours are based on a desire for coverage, discussion, testimonials and good word-of-mouth recommendations, not an expectation of coverage. Nowhere was coverage mandated. More importantly, nowhere was favorable coverage mandated. Sure, we’d be pleased if participating bloggers noted the quality product they had tested. Just as easily though they could write nothing. Or, they could test the product and say that it sucked.

As with any ethical journalist, the choice to write or not write is clearly theirs. To presume otherwise is an insult to bloggers and their integrity...and frankly it's a juvenile, poorly reasoned argument cloaked in false ethics.

It’s interesting that the loudest protesters of this program are individuals who weren’t invited to participate…or who emailed us asking to be included…and in one case harassed my staff and even threatened us if he were not given a camera. Unfortunately, the program had already been filled. It would appear that for some, not being included has suddenly fostered mock outrage and a pretense of higher ethical standards. I guess wounded pride can make some people act in a self serving and personally destructive manner.

But, I can’t say that I am unhappy with the debate. I’m really pleased that this program has stirred discussion and constructive debate. Honest debate is good…I’d love to hear more of it. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Posted by Michael Kempner at 05:02 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

April 04, 2007

MWW Goes Green - The Interview

The other day I did an interview with Keith O'Brien over at PR Week.

Michael Kempner is CEO and president of MWW Group.

He blogs at Straight Talk.

MWW Group launched a sustainable technologies practice, which focuses on “marketing eco-responsible technologies and in effectively positioning technology companies for which environmental sustainability is a key tenant of their R&D regime and product set” in November 2006.

What is the easiest thing a client can do today to kick start a green image?

There’s a basic cost of entry in the green game – [you must] strive to manage your business in an energy-conscious, conservation-minded manner and steadily improve on your environmental record over time.

Claim to be green but pollute, waste energy, consort with companies known for poor environmental records, exclude recyclable materials from your supply chain, and never improve your record, someone will call you on it - often loudly and always publicly.

In other words, if you’re not really committed to going green, then don’t. Demonstrate value elsewhere.

However, if your “green fees” have been paid and your organization is truly committed to a green culture, yell it from the mountaintops. Jump start your green image by engaging your constituencies via new media channels – a Web-based sustainability report, an eco-focused micro site, a podcast series highlighting conservation tips for the home and office, a syndicated sustainability blog, etc. These tactics are inexpensive, easily implemented, and global. The number of people you reach with your green message and the impact it has on your corporate reputation is only limited by your imagination.

What is the most important thing a client could do tomorrow to maintain serious green credibility?

Maintaining credibility and advancing corporate reputation in any arena requires favorable momentum. Keep executing on the green front but raise the volume over time.

In that vein, many organizations are content to join associations, donate money, volunteer time, and join the cacophony…and for some that’s just fine.

For my money, and for my clients, the counsel is often to create a leadership vehicle that closely ties together the organization’s core business with their environmental values, and that draws other companies and external constituencies into their cause. Utilize new media channels to inform your constituents of your leadership activities, growing third-party support, and overall good works in the green arena, then you have the makings of a strong green marketing initiative.

Engage… Lead…Report…Repeat!

What NGOs are good partners for a solid green initiative?

To finish reading the interview go on over to PR Week's Target Green blog.

Posted by Michael Kempner at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 13, 2007

Another Bush Scandal Du Jour...But, "ProsecutorGate" is the Real Deal...

Remember back to the good old days of ridiculous, minor scandals that were trumped up by the right wing to discredit the Clintons? Remember the charm of the media frenzy surrounding irrelevant things like Hillary Clinton's "travelgate" or the totally absurd "murder of Vince Foster?" Can you believe that we spent taxpayer dollars on a special prosecutor for that?...but those were the good old days...when there was no substance to these scandals, just a weak media and some cleverly financed right wing Republicans.

Unfortunately, those days are past...the scandals today are real. The corruption is almost indescribable...almost too pervasive to believe. Dead American soldiers based on a false war, the reputation of the U.S. destroyed around the world based on the whims of the Vice President, no bid contracts for Halliburton, favors to the Oil companies, the President refusing to follow laws he doesn't believe in, the abuse and illegal use of the Patriot Act, the Walter Reed Hospital disgrace, and Scooter Libby covering up for his boss, Dick Cheney. Frankly, there is something new everyday...it's actually hard to keep up with all the corruption and total abuse of power. These guys make Richard Nixon look like an amateur. And the difference is that Nixon's damage was primarily contained to his presidency and a few years after it...while, the Bush legacy will have an impact on us and the world well beyond his administration...likely for dozens of years if not more.

And now, this morning we find out that the Bush Administration...including Attorney General Gonzales, Karl Rove and the President himself, used federal prosecutors to carry out their political agenda .. and if any prosecutor failed to follow orders, they were fired. This one isn't just some run of the mill scandal. If the Valerie Plame outing didn't convince you, this one truly exposes their corruption to its core...this one shows their total disdain for the law and their continuing abuse of civil liberties, all in the name of Republican power. Their blind eye towards Republican corruption and their targeting of Democrats for prosecution of even the weakest cases (often timed to coincide with the election cycle...just look at what happened to Senator Bob Menendez in New Jersey) is more than just abuse of power. It's a crime of the highest order. Unlike Clinton and the famous blue dress, these crimes are worthy of impeachment. Someone besides a fall guy like Scooter Libby needs to pay the price for these crimes.

History is going to look back on this time and wonder how we let this all happen? Why the Congress or the Courts didn't act? It's time for the American people to demand that they be stopped and held accountable for their actions.

Posted by Michael Kempner at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 05, 2007

MWW Group Goes Green

Last week, MWW Group began a company wide initiative…"Take Charge, Initiate Change, Get Green." This campaign is designed to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint and to minimize our use of natural resources. By taking simple steps, like becoming carbon neutral and mandating recycling and energy saving light bulbs, we are doing our small part to prevent global warming and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

We hope that our example will inspire our clients and other public relations firms to also go green. By reducing our energy consumption and moving towards more renewable technologies, we will not only save ourselves from the devastating impact of climate change, but we will have a profound impact on our economy and national security. We would love to hear your suggestions and encourage you to join the effort. It's critical to our future.

Please read the full press release after the jump, it will give you much more information on our campaign.

Continue reading "MWW Group Goes Green"

Posted by Michael Kempner at 02:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)