Friday, January 30, 2015

Good Kipp, Bad Kipp: Comcast's dis-service culture starts at the top

"The spoon thing? Bag of shells. But for the
life of me I can't cancel my Comcast service."
One of the least vulgar Urban Dictionary definitions of "comcastic" is "something that is not merely horribly bad, but actively offensive in some universal way," as in “Comcast’s customer service is comcastic times xfinity.”
The latest chapter in their saga features a “rogue” employee who renamed one of their customers “a**hole” over a billing dispute. But this employee isn’t alone. Comcast seems to be a veritable rogues’ gallery of vindictive “customer service” reps.
And it apparently starts at the top.
Steve Kipp, Comcast’s regional VP of communications who’s doubling as road manager on this most recent apology tour, was himself Comcast’s “Rogue of the Month” back in May 2011.
The cable exec's swan dive onto the hard slab of public opinion was prompted by a tweet that expressed appropriate—and pretty much universal—disgust that the FCC Commissioner who voted to approve the $30 billion Comcast/NBC merger "is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?" (sic) Much to Kipp's chagrin, the tweeter was Reel Grrls, a nonprofit that teaches media production to young women, and which is funded in part by Comcast.
So Kipp fired off this email:
"Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. ... I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding ... I respect your position on freedom of the press. However ... I cannot continue to ask [my bosses] to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one."
For this digital dressing down, Kipp received the widespread condemnation that Comcast seems to court on a regular basis But he also gave us the opportunity to review a few basic PR commandments:
  1. Don't cite your respect for the First Amendment just before punishing someone for exercising their First Amendment rights.
  2. If you're a multi-billion-dollar corporation with a reputation so compromised that your marketing slogan is commonly used as an insult, don't threaten charitable nonprofits.
  3. Before you hit “send,” take a breath and consider what Mickey Rourke said to William Hurt in Body Heat. “Any time you try a decent crime, you got 50 ways you're gonna [screw] up. If you think of 25 of them, then you're a genius … and you ain't no genius."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bleak House Revisited

Bert G. channeling Charlie D.
I was looking at the FlackOps analytics and saw that just today someone came to our fine establishment after searching "john doyle consultant hornback" and "bert g. hornback falsely accused." Our googler no doubt had great expectations of finding this article and it appears this person found it, because he or she seems to have revisited the post several times--either that our they shared the link with friends.

Either way, I would be a less than hospitable host if I failed to offer my assistance to this inquisitive soul. So I am reposting the article in question in hopes that our mutual friend will see that, indeed, I did not falsely accuse acclaimed Charles Dickens scholar, Bert G. Hornback, of anything. I simply posted his email to me in which he admitted being ... let's just say, inappropriate. My contribution to this post was to simply offer context--the hard times I went through, if you will--and additional insight where it was lacking.

I also note that it is exactly one week shy of a year since I originally posted that piece. In honor of the occasion, I think I'll have a drink. The only question left--olive or twist?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Today's Lesson: Lessen the Lessons

"Still think it's all fun and games? Try swimming with your legs chained together."
"Still think it's all fun and games? Try swimming with your legs chained together."
Want to kill a kid’s interest in something he enjoys? Make him take lessons “to get better at it.”
When I was a kid, I liked to swim. My technique was appalling but I could cut through the polluted water at Ideal Beach with no effort at all. And whenever I stepped on a crab, I was a regular Mark Spitz.
But apparently this wasn’t good enough for my mom, who signed up the four of us kids for swim lessons at the Red Bank YMCA.
Everyone who takes swim lessons at the Y starts as a Pollywog before advancing to Minnows, Flying Fish, and then the ultimate achievement—Sharks. Being a Shark in and of itself was pretty cool. But they also got to use the high dive, so you just had to get to Sharks.
First, however, you had to graduate from Pollywogs by demonstrating that you could swim … their way. Apparently, what I was doing did not qualify as swimming, so I got stuck with the five-year-old Pollywogs while my brother and two younger sisters advanced to Minnows. I was 12 years old.
It gets worse.
Before they even let me paddleboard with the other kiddies during free time, I had to demonstrate that I knew how to hold my head underwater without breathing. To do that, they had me bend at the waist with a paddleboard in my outstretched hands, take a breath, put my face in the water, exhale, turn my head to the left to take in a breath and repeat the process 10 times.
I couldn’t do it. For six weeks I couldn’t do it.
Those six weeks passed slowly. I’d watch as nervous new kids—“fish” we called them—entered the pool for their first day of swim lessons. And then, when they learned their lesson, I’d pat them on the back and wish them well as they advanced to Minnows. Sure, I was envious at first. But I knew I was never getting out of that hell hole so—over time—it made me happy to see those little tykes get over the wall, so to speak.
As the summer--and our swim lessons--were coming to a close, I asked my instructor in a final act of desperation if I could turn my head to the right to breathe. “Sure,” she said. “A lot of good it’ll do ya.”
Well, it worked. I could swim—their way. In one day, I graduated from the Pollywogs, blew through Minnows and became a Flying Fish. By the end of the week, I was a Shark.
True story.
But now I hate to swim. And I’m afraid the same thing is happening to people who enjoy telling stories. You can’t swing a life guard’s whistle these days without smacking into some self-described expert who wants to teach you how to tell a story.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you already are a great story teller. Sure, there are ways you can improve your unique technique, as you’ll see in this video*. But when it comes to telling stories, you’re incredible. A regular Mr. Limpet.
* This video originally appeared in our QuASAR Method Video Series.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Channeling your inner sewer monster to connect with your audiences

"And these stones were imported from ...
try to keep up with me people. There's
still more to see on the tour."
My experiences with sewers goes back to my early childhood when I got stuck in a debris catch basin about 20 yards into a sewer pipe near our house in Camp Lejeune. I was only stuck there for 10 minutes, but I spent every second desperately trying to hoist myself up out of the trap. The wall was just a little too high for me to escape, so all I managed to do was waterboard myself. That experience has left me terrified of the sight and sound of water rushing through culverts. True story.
Years later, we hoodlums would line up empty Knickerbocker Natural beer bottles on the sewer grate near Marius Overhand's house and throw rocks at them until the cops drove by, which usually gave us about five minutes of bottle-smashing time.
The most hilarious sewer-moment of my life actually involved Marius. After a night of drinking (a lot of) Knickerbocker Natch', we convinced ourselves that all of the coins we had dropped down the holes in the manhole cover on Bayberry Lane were still there and that it only made sense to get a crowbar, lift the manhole cover, and scoop up the loot.
Once we lifted the cover, Marius jumped in and climbed down. To our great disappointment, there wasn't any money down there. To Marius' greater disappointment ... well, I'd better let him tell the story. But remember, we had drunk a LOT of Knickerbocker Natural.
But I've matured some since then and am now putting sewers to a far greater use--as the centerpiece of a lesson on how to connect with your audiences. You can check out the video here.
If you didn't already, check out the Knickerbocker Natural link above. It is a bizarre--yet strikingly accurate--super-8 portrayal of young men being idiots in the early 70's. It made me a little verklempt, not gonna lie.
Also, if you have any sewer-related tales, share them with the class in the comments section.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Pepcid Generation--Overcoming the challenges of the inter-Internet crowd

"Live streaming?? Mister, we can't
even get channel 9 half the time."

If you’ve ever shoved a Frampton Comes Alive! 8-track into the cassette player bolted to the dashboard of your mom’s Dodge Dart …
If you’ve ever pulled the kitchen phone so far into the dining room in a futile attempt to get a little privacy that you stretched the spring right out of the cord …
If you’ve ever thumbed through yards of Dewey Decimal drawers in search of a code that will lead you to a distant corner of the library where the book you need for your term paper used to be hidden before it was checked out by someone else …
You’re part of the inter-Internet generation.
The inter-Internet generation is comprised of millions of people just like you who are struggling to keep up with their younger social-media savvy staff while trying to convince their older Internet-ignorant boss that their organization needs a stronger online presence.
Meanwhile, social media is disrupting your tidy little 20th century infrastructure that was humming along just fine until about two years ago. Your event attendance and membership numbers are down, the media wants to know if you will be "streaming" your news event (while your biggest technical concern is how to attach your organization’s logo to the podium), and the one reporter who did show up asked you, "How many trees did you have to kill to make all those press kits?"
Sound familiar? If so, click here to learn how you can use social media to take back control of your staff, your boss, and your career.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Can ya hear the train a-comin'? It's rollin' 'round the bend ...

"Hold on a sec. I can't hear you
over that train whistle."
And it's about to crush your organization.
The train is called progress--communications progress to be exact. Social media is reshaping our communications landscape in ways we never imagined. It is disrupting companies and organizations with such speed and such force that 20th century corporate giants are toppling over like Russian semis in a YouTube video.
Having reshaped corporate America, social media disruptions has its sights set on the ideas industry--trade associations, nonprofits, advocacy groups--any organization that trades in ideas.
You need to act. You need to get out of the way of the train. We can help.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Be wary of Weight Watchers' ways.

Weight Watchers is in an existential tailspin. This short video explains what they must do if they hope to survive in the Interactive Age.