Customer Service Sets You Apart – Especially When Things Go Wrong


In the past two days, my perception of two brands changed for the better, even though things went wrong with both of them.

This week we are rapidly closing-in on two coincidental yet important events: Father’s Day and my annual family vacation.  Usually before we leave for a week in the Carolinas, I stock up on a few things and invariably order items online.  And with Father’s Day on the horizon, a lot of guy stuff is on sale.  So here’s what I shopped for and why my perceptions changed.

One of my clients gave me a gift card from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  I had never shopped there before as the nearest location is about an hour away, and I have literally no brand perception of Dick’s beyond hearing the company’s ads on sports radio.  I decided to use the gift card to order a new tackle box.  It arrived yesterday, in time for my trip, but it was missing some pieces (not sure why).  I called Dick’s and without any fuss, the company agreed to send me another tackle box via overnight delivery.  (I have to ship the incomplete one back but on Dick’s dime).  Despite the fact that someone didn’t properly check my original order, Dick’s created a favorable impression with me because when I complained, they treated me right.  I didn’t have to beg, raise my voice, ask to speak with a supervisor or otherwise “escalate” it to a higher authority.  So guess what?  Even though there isn’t a Dick’s Sporting Goods store within 30 miles of me, the next time I want to order golf equipment or other fishing gear, Dick’s will get the nod.

Also in advance of the trip, I made my annual “kicking and screaming” pilgrimage to buy “menswear” for work and off-days when I’m supposed to be presentable.  Again, everything is on sale in advance of Father’s Day, and I have been regularly bombarded with ads from the oddly punctuated clothier JoS. A. Bank (turns out Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, Inc. is a NASDAQ-traded company that has been around since 1905 and has more than 600 locations.  I had no idea).  So I went to the store near my house and bought several dress shirts and a few pairs of pants.  Said trousers were supposed to be hemmed before I left on vacation, but the store called a couple days ago and said the tailor had been sick and it would take a few extra days.  I called them back and politely told the store manager that the delay was unacceptable as I would be leaving town in a few days and needed to wear pants.  When pressed about the pants (ha), he agreed to have them done for me on time.  When I stopped in to pick them up (they were ready with no further hassles), the manager was so nice and apologetic that I decided to do some additional shopping.  Amazingly, I found a blue blazer that fit me right off the rack (which has never happened, ever – ever).  The price was right and I bought it, but when the clerk took the coat into the back room to pack it up, he noticed a tiny hole where the shoulder met the sleeve of the coat – and he wouldn’t sell it to me.  Frankly, I would have never noticed the itsy bitsy hole had he not pointed it out – Mrs. David would have, but not me.  I tried-on another blazer but I couldn’t find one that fit as well as the original, pin-holed version.  The charge was reversed and I left the store without a new coat, but with a whole new appreciation for JoS. A. Bank.  I still don’t understand the name and how they abbreviate it, but I like the brand.

Muhammad Ali once said: “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”  How we handle adversity in customer service has as much to do with our brand’s success as the quality of our product and the nature of our message.  I imagine the “The Greatest” would agree.

I wish everyone a great summer and a Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there.  And if you are still looking for a last-minute gift, might I suggest Dick’s Sporting Goods or JoS. A. Bank

Have you ever had a similar experience, when good customer service trumped a bad experience?  Let me know.


Author: John P. David

The Trouble with Naming Rights


We can prevent thousands of future public relations problems by implementing one simple rule: Never name something after a living person.

I have been musing about this topic for years but decided to offer up my rule after private prison company Geo Group this week withdrew its $6 million donation to become the name sponsor for Florida Atlantic University’s football stadium in Boca Raton.  Geo Group’s CEO, an FAU alum, made a truly generous offer to have his company’s name grace the stadium.  Problems arose though when some pesky students realized that Geo Group has been tagged with a number of human rights violations at its prisons.  Next came protests, boycotts and petitions, and after a few weeks of fireworks, Geo Group withdrew its donation.  I think the end came shortly after some clever protestors started referring to the stadium, the home of the FAU Owls football team, as “Owlcatraz.” 

Now, we can’t stop private companies from putting their names on facilities; there’s just too much money involved.  American Airlines Arena, Coors Field and Lucas Oil Stadium et al. are here to stay.  But we can stop naming such things after living people.  The risk of negative publicity is too high and the examples of PR disasters are too numerous.  Here are a few, just off the top of my head:

•    In Miami, for a brief period of time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we had a road called Jose Canseco Street.  At the time, the former big league slugger and current outspoken steroid user was an adored alum of the school located on that street.  Today, not so much.  Once local officials learned Jose was juicing, they unceremoniously took his name off the street sign.

•    Last year, administrators from Penn State University were forced to remove the statue of legendary Coach Joe Paterno due to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal and cover-up. 

•    In Coral Gables, Florida, officials from the University of Miami removed the name of convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro from a campus athlete lounge.  Shapiro, currently doing time, had pledged big bucks to the school.  (UM gave the money back.)

I can go on and on.

Earlier this week, Miami-Dade commissioners decided that the board’s auditor must complete a background check on any “person, organization, place or thing” under consideration for a naming.  It’s a good move.  The Miami Herald reported that the decision comes “on the heels of bad publicity surrounding Banah Sugar… City and county leaders christened a stretch of Southeast 10th Avenue ‘Banah Sweet Way’ in its honor.  Commissioners later found out that the firm’s owner had served prison time for cocaine trafficking. Banah filed for bankruptcy in February.”  Classic.

My rule makes sense.  Certainly if you can’t safely erect a statue in honor of former living legends like Paterno, then everyone else should be persona non-grata.

I know this will be unpopular.  For example, a quarter mile from my house sits Evelyn Greer Park, named after the first mayor of my little village called Pinecrest.  Greer, who is still very much alive, was a fantastic mayor, did a great job getting our village off the ground and helped increase my property value by a goodly sum.  Sadly, under my new PR naming rule, she would lose her park.

Say goodbye to the Bill Clinton Library. 

Also on the chopping block: Peyton Manning Pass, the street in Tennessee named for the famous quarterback. 

I would also suggest removal of Bobby Bowden’s name from the field in Tallahassee bearing his name and [audible gasp] even the statue of Tim Tebow outside the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (that name stays because Griffin has passed.)

In the future, we can build statues, name streets and christen ships after great men and women all we want.  We just have to wait until they rest in peace.

This rule will save so many institutions from public relations embarrassment that PR people will recognize it for years to come.  But if they want to name the rule after me, please wait until I’m pushing up the daisies.


Author: John P. David

Specialists Outflank Daily Newspapers


Each morning, I walk outside and pick up my copy of The Miami Herald, rescuing it from my driveway after its morning skid along the asphalt.  Sometimes I wonder how many dinosaurs like me remain, actual subscribers who read the print edition of a daily newspaper.  Except for the Sunday edition, which still has some heft, the Herald continues to thin.
Experts and novices alike have been waiting to “call the body” on dailies like the Herald for more than a decade.  But the publication lives on, as do dozens of other “major” dailies around the country.  Not only are the metro dailies thinner, but the long-term revenue model appears untenable (has for years).  And a daily newspaper has to be the “least green” product imaginable – it’s made from trees and is usually obsolete a few minutes after it hits your stoop.
While the advertising model is a monster challenge and the printing costs are exorbitant, what I believe is truly grinding down dailies is their continuing effort to try to be media generalists.  Papers like the Herald cover national news, the crime beat, entertainment and food, fashion, sports, neighborhood happenings, and on and on.  If I tried to get venture capital funding for a business that wanted to cover all these areas on a metro level, I would get laughed out of the room.  Speaking to my friend and really smart marketing guy Carlos Blanco about this, he was cold-bloodedly forthright: “The Internet killed the generalists.”  My take: He’s right and the big dailies don’t know it or can’t seem to admit it.
Meanwhile, the specialists soar.
One of the breakout stars of the 2012 election coverage was a wonky blogger named Nate Silver.  His blog was licensed for publication by the New York Times, and for the final weeks of the campaign, his polling prognostications were like “must see TV.”  Friends on Facebook were checking his blog several times a day with cult-like verve.  Silver is the ultimate media specialist.  His Wikipedia bio calls him “an American statistician, sabermetrician, psephologist, and writer.”  I don’t even need to look those up; certainly, he’s no generalist.  A couple days after the election, Silver appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!”  (Watch it here).  I’m guessing this was the first time Stewart featured a psephologist (which is an expert in the study and scientific analysis of elections – OK, so I did look it up).
For local stories, specialists triumph too.
One of the biggest “Miami” stories in recent memory is the saga of Ponzi schemer and ne’er-do-well former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.  Yahoo Sports first reported his exploits, which allegedly included supplying cash and prostitutes to football players.  Somehow, a gifted specialist working for the editorial side of a flagging search engine swooped-in and scooped the Miami Herald on one of its most-prized beats.
Another big story, the steroid scandal involving Major League Baseball players, more UM athletes and others, was first reported by Miami’s New Times, a paper with the main goals of muckraking and entertainment coverage.
And it’s not just here.  Do you think daily reporters in Chicago and South Bend, Indiana were happy to see Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s story break on  Aside from learning the wacky details of the fake girlfriend, I was surprised to read that several members of the team of specialists from the DeadSpin were actually interns.
Back home, generalist daily publications like the Herald are trying to cover subjects as varied as the Everglades, county hall, Castro, condos, Art Basel, the Heat and the humidity.  It’s an impossible mandate because the reporters, regardless of their talent, don’t have the time to cover all of these areas well.  And if they dig-in on one topic, they will have to leave another unguarded – and that’s when the specialists will jump in and eat their lunch.
I’m not sure what the answer is for metro dailies.  They face tremendous institutional pressure to be the catch-all media outlets in their markets.  Sadly, I don’t think it will necessarily be printing costs that lead to their ultimate demise.  As long as metro dailies remain “masters of none,” the specialists will continue to siphon-off their readers and their revenue.

Do you still get a daily newspaper delivered to your home or business?  Let me know.  And to see other blogs from top Florida marketing minds, visit


Author: John P. David

Turn Your Oreos Into News


While the lights were out at the Super Bowl, Nabisco sent out a tweet with an image of an Oreo cookie and the caption: “You can still dunk in the dark.”  The free tweet garnered as much post game attention as many of the million dollar commercials and also showed how quick and clever social media marketing can outpace the most expensive mainstream campaigns.

While I can’t say I have ever made national news from a clever, well-timed tweet, I can say that one can regularly get news coverage by jumping on a trend or taking advantage of breaking news.  It’s actually a cornerstone of media relations, and one PR professional recently coined a term for it: “Newsjacking.”

Marketing guy David Meerman Scott wrote a book on the topic and also talked about it at South by Southwest (SXSW), the film, interactive and music festival/conference that takes place every spring in Austin, Texas.  He defines it as “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real-time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.”  You can buy his book at here.  Most interesting to me was this graphic which shows the best time to capitalize on a breaking news story.


Most media relations pros have been newsjacking for decades.  A couple years ago, we were discussing the latest happenings in the automobile dealer world with our client, attorney Alex Kurkin of Kurkin Brandes, and he mentioned that he was swamped with calls from his dealer clients who were confused about the “Cash for Clunkers” stimulus/rebate program.  We jumped on the case and pitched his perspective to reporters around the country.  We ended up securing several interviews for him, and he was widely quoted in the New York Times.

Last year, as Facebook was slowly rolling out its Timeline feature, we learned from our client The Lifeline Program that its senior citizen Facebook fans were up in arms about the change.  Lifeline had switched its Facebook page to Timeline early to try to prevent confusion but instead got hit with blistering complaints from angry octogenarians (some of them can swear with the best of us).  We quickly pitched this story to tech reporters who had been monitoring the big switch to Timeline, and a journalist from the San Jose Mercury News interviewed Steve Terrell of Lifeline.  The story was picked up by dozens of newspapers around the country including the L.A. Times, Kansas City Star and Chicago Tribune.

And I did some newsjacking of my own recently.  After writing a blog post early on about how Lance Armstrong could mount a comeback, we pitched our PR expertise and landed an interview with Metro in London.  The reporter’s story was picked up by a number of outlets online including Spiegel in Germany.  Call it an international newsjack.

My Keys to Newsjacking
In the interest of complete disclosure, I haven’t read Scott’s book.  (It would probably just upset me that he thought of it first.)  But I’m confident that I can offer some tips that can help anyone newsjack a national story.

Be quick.  As Scott’s diagram shows, you have to identify a trend that you think will be national news before it reaches the top of the arc.  For example, Lance Armstrong announced his intention to come clean on a Friday afternoon.  I saw the story over the weekend and got inspired to blog about it.  Our news release on the topic was distributed shortly after the news broke that he would appear on Oprah.  We had some credibility because we had already posted about the topic, and we were ahead of other PR people with the same idea.

Use real examples.  It’s not good enough that you are an expert on a topic.  Wiggling your way into a big story requires you to have an opinion and hopefully some real world examples.  For our client Alex Kurkin, he had firsthand experience with the chaos being created by Cash for Clunkers.  Steve Terrell of Lifeline had been deleting expletive-laden comments written by angry seniors from his Facebook page.  The examples give a story color, and an expert needs to talk specifics, not just generalities.

Take a position, now’s your chance to give your opinion.  When major news is forming, people are starting to take sides.  If you are on the “less popular” side, you have a better chance of getting coverage.  I’m not suggesting you always look for the contrarian position, but it helps if you can make arguments for either position.  Whenever I ask my commercial litigator brother Chris for his opinion about a legal case in the news, his answer is always the same: “What side am on?”  Having a counter-balancing opinion can pay off.

Keep pushing.  The PR game is a marathon, not a sprint.  If you feel as though you can be an expert on short notice for national media, keep pushing for it.  New stories come along every day, and the media’s attention shifts like the wind. 

Have you ever newsjacked a national story?  And more importantly, do you dunk your Oreos?  Let me know.


Author: John P. David

Reality TV is None of Your Business


It’s nine o’clock on a Sunday night and my wife and two children are watching the season finale of a reality show on Bravo called “The Shahs of Sunset.”  For some reason, the show has been on television in my house all day, and quite frankly, I’m waiting for all three of my kin to wander out with their gray matter actually oozing from their heads due to an overdose of brain-melting vapidity.

This particular show features an ensemble of fabulously wealthy Persians in Beverly Hills.  Scantily clad girls in heavy make-up and “manscaped” dudes in designer threads, the “Shahs” party hard and, in general, create drama by taking major offense when a member of their group does anything annoying – real or imagined.  Today, I watched two instances where cast members “uninvited” another cast member to two separate events.  Think about that: They picked up the phone and called a girl and said “Hey, we decided we don’t want you at the birthday party tomorrow.”  Then they did the same thing in the next episode, to the same girl: “Hey, we are uninviting you to the trip to Mexico.”  Cold-blooded.

In my opinion, so much of what is on reality television is just so wrong.  From the plastic surgery overdoses to the manufactured conflicts to the gratuitous displays of wealth (without evidence of employment), reality TV is actually mauling our sense of, well, reality.  (Also, it has led to the likely permanent destruction of the word “fabulous.”) 
Aside from showcasing a whole lot of non-reality to our young people, reality TV has changed how one becomes famous in America.  Sure there have always been people who were famous for being famous: Think about half the “stars” on game shows when we were kids.  For example, I don’t think the regular judges on “The Gong Show” were Oscar winners.  Today, however, hundreds of people are famous for seemingly no other reason than they look good in a cocktail dress and know how to sling a good insult.

If I had my own television network, I would implement some programming guidelines that not only apply to improved reality shows but also to good business and marketing.  Here are the programming rules of JohnTV:

Do an Actual Job Well 
Sorry, on JohnTV, being a Hilton is not a job, nor is being an NBA player’s ex-wife.  If you want to be on my network, open a real business, add to the economy, showcase your expertise and pass on your knowledge.  Ratings winners: “Pawn Stars,” “Oddities.”

Do It Better or Cheaper
If you know how to remodel a home or save a business, then you are a candidate for JohnTV.  If you are house flipper who creates artificial emotional conflicts or a star chef who enjoys berating his employees, take a hike.  Show me how a business can improve or how to remodel on a budget and I’m sold.  Ratings Winners: ‘Restaurant Impossible,” “This Old House,” “Undercover Boss.”

Teach Me Something
We are big fans of Food Network, but any show where people merely talk about the best thing they once ate has no shot on JohnTV.  Show me how to make perfect lasagna, how to stop my dog from chewing-up the sofa or how to escape a world-class jam and I’m all ears.  Ratings Winners: Cooking shows where people actually cook, “Man vs. Wild” and “Dog Whisperer.”

Make Money
Sure your hobby may be interesting, but if it doesn’t generate income, JohnTV will respectfully pass.  If you can finance the purchase of a commercial fishing boat, fend off icebergs, dodge flying metal, outflank competitors and actually make money, your show is a contender.  If you can rummage through someone else’s junk and figure out a way to earn a living, I’m watching.  Ratings winners: “Deadliest Catch,” “Storage Wars,” “American Pickers.” 

So there you have it, core values for business, marketing and my network.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for entertainment on television, but on JohnTV, we want more than ratings for ratings sake and fame from being famous.  Now, can anyone help me find re-runs of “The Gong Show?”

Which reality shows do you think teach business skills and lessons?  What would you put on your TV network? 


Author: John P. David

Check out this link to an old Gong Show clip.  Can you find the young David Letterman?


Write The Book On It

Writing a business book offers many marketing opportunities: It adds credibility, speeds-up the author’s chances to be a media source and creates a marketing platform.  If you add-in that publishing your own book has never been easier and that we typically hold authors in high regard, it clearly makes sense to be the one who “wrote the book” on a topic.

Right now, I know several executives who are either writing or have finished books on subjects as diverse as small business loans, branding, IRAs, cruise line safety and financial planning.    

Be the Expert
While there are millions of books on the market, your category may still be open.  For example, my friend and client Chris Hurn of Mercantile Capital Corporation wrote his book “The Entrepreneur’s Secret to Creating Wealth” about a little known U.S. Small Business Administration loan program which helps small business owners grow their wealth by owning, rather than renting, their commercial property.  Hurn was already regarded as a media source on SBA “504” loans, but publishing the book cemented him as the leading expert.  He also has effectively boxed out his competitors, who may have thought about writing a book but are now likely discouraged.

Friend and branding expert Bruce Turkel has written two books: “Brain Darts: The Advertising Design of Turkel Schwartz & Partners” and “Building Brand Value: Seven Simple Steps to Profitable Communications.”  When I asked him about the benefit of writing his books, one of his first answers was credibility.  “They’re the best business cards ever designed as they provide almost instantaneous credibility,” he said.  Turkel has spoken about branding around the world and has recently been a guest on a number of cable news shows.  Being an author is another valuable line on his resume.

Another client is working on a book for the reasons mentioned above but also because it will help differentiate him from his competitors.  If you are in a business with an 800-pound gorilla, then writing the book offers a way to be viewed as an expert despite the long shadow of a competitor.  I recently advised a young entrepreneur to consider writing a book about her nascent industry.  While her market isn’t crowded, one major competitor secures a big share of the publicity.  If the new kid on the block can “write the book,” then she has a credential that can be used to differentiate her company from the more established competitor.

Marketing Platform
For Mercantile’s Hurn, his book has been the cornerstone of his company’s marketing in 2013.  He has done a number of local and national television appearances since his book was published last October as well as dozens of radio interviews to go along with blog mentions and other press coverage.  Hurn talks about his book but also the commercial real estate market, and his company gets a favorable mention too.  And for his PR team, the credential of being an author adds to the strength of media pitches.

Education Curve
Upon further discussion with Turkel, I learned of yet another benefit.  Your book can educate your prospects and directly aid your sales process.  “If our clients or potential clients read the books and use our nomenclature when they’re discussing branding, it makes it much easier for them to understand what we’re talking about and to hire us,” said Turkel.  Just imagine the value of a prospect “already speaking your language” before you even start your sales pitch.

“Amazon Democracy”
While the actual act of writing a book hasn’t gotten any easier, getting published certainly has.  I call it “Amazon Democracy.”  A quick search online will find dozens of book publishers who can not only help you write your book  but also secure distribution through and other online booksellers.  Getting into brick and mortar bookstores still remains a challenge, but sadly those companies have their own issues to contend with.

Let me know if you are interested in writing a book for marketing purposes.  While I haven’t written mine yet, I have heard a lot of war stories and can probably help you avoid some pitfalls.

Both Hurn and Turkel are active bloggers and social media heavyweights.  Visit Hurn’s page at, read his blog at and follow him on twitter at @thechrishurn.

Visit Turkel’s page at, read his blog at and follow him on twitter at @BruceTurkel.


Author: John P. David

Resolve to Start by Starting

With the fiscal cliff averted and the holidays behind us, it’s time to yet again get back to work.  Many of the firms we represent, dominated by small business owners, attorneys and financial services professionals, are looking at 2013 as the year they more fully engage in marketing.  Most companies have plenty to say, but just don’t know how to say it.

Here are a few tips for the New Year:

Start by Startingimage
If your business isn’t using social media, then you are behind, but it’s never too late.  My advice to business owners is to “start by starting.”  Registering your company on Facebook is an easy first move, and it’s not just for kids.  In fact, most kids view FB as uncool because their parents use it, which is precisely why every small business should be on FB.  More people visit FB each day than visit Google, and if you look over the shoulder of many American white collar workers, you will see they are viewing FB on a regular basis.  It’s where the eyeballs are, so get to it.

Prepare to Share
When your company has news, be prepared to share it – across social media platforms.  If you write a news release, make sure you distribute it to your e-mail contact list, post it to your FB page, send out a tweet and encourage your employees to do the same.   Of course, a main public relations goal is to have your news published by a major news outlet, but you can reach a tremendous audience by publishing news yourself.  You want to build your name recognition among your key audiences.  Most professional services firms, for instance, are referral based.  By publishing your news to your customers and the friends of your firm, you are increasing your chances of referrals.  Trust me, it works.

Consistency and Frequency (Repeat), Consistency and Frequency (Repeat)
Marketing and public relations is a marathon not a sprint.  While it is fantastic to be featured on CNN or Good Morning America, such great media hits do not make for a comprehensive marketing strategy.  Every business owner should be looking for ways to consistently and frequently communicate his or her message.  If you are publishing an e-mail newsletter, set a goal of distributing it monthly or quarterly and stick to it.  If you want to get value from social media, post daily or weekly.   If you advertise, buy a flight of ads that will cover several weeks or months of impressions.  And most importantly, continue to keep at it.  Augment your marketing efforts but always hit your main goals – consistently and frequently.

Quick and the Dead
The 24-hour news cycle offers up many opportunities, as news outlets (online and broadcast) have massive content needs.  But the world is spinning really fast, and today’s hot issue is tomorrow’s “old news,” literally.  Be prepared to quickly comment on the news of the day and capitalize on opportunities which may be fleeting.

* * *

This and That
I went to two sporting events over the holiday weekend: the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic and the Discover Orange Bowl football game.

In order to buy a beer at the basketball game at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, the clerk swiped my ID.  So, now I’m officially on the grid for buying Advil Cold and Sinus at the pharmacy and for buying a beer at a ball game.  Please tell me they will do the same if I ever buy an assault weapon…

Keep your eye on Instagram.  Two boys in the row ahead of us at the football game spent most of it posting photos and texting on the social media photo sharing site.  I joined it myself, much to the chagrin of my 12-year-old daughter.

Best of luck and prosperity to everyone in 2013.


Author: John P. David