Tag Archive: John Chambers


“We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.” – Joe Namath, Miami Touchdown Club, January 9, 1969

“Broadway Joe” either had stones or as reported, he was intoxicated.

namath

His New York Jets were an 18-point underdog to the then-Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.  According to conventional wisdom, an upstart AFL team could not beat the NFL champions. That perception obviously did not stop Namath from making his brash pronouncement. His coach Weeb Ewbank was less than pleased.

Three days later, Namath backed up his pronouncement with the game of his life as the Jets pulled off one of the biggest upsets, 16-7, in sports history. Namath was either lucky, good or both.

For mere public relations mortals representing sports teams, publicly traded companies and campaigning politicians, managing public expectations is a tricky inexact science. It requires the skillful and measured practice of public relations/investor relations particularly in the face of baiting reporters, editors and analysts who want to create an expectation that translates into juicy stories…particularly those on embarrassing projections that simply fail to match reality.

The day after President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention there seemed to be a letdown. For some reason the address did not meet Obamesque expectations. It was a solid speech, skillfully delivered and the audience urged him on. Many pundits were disappointed.

And yet…there was the anticipated post-convention bounce.

Is it time for President Obama to do his best Joe Namath imitation, be brash, be bold and guarantee a victory on November 6? He knows better, and his “handlers” know better. There is a political lifetime between now and then, including three presidential and one vice presidential debates.

The biggest hurdle is the management of expectations for these encounters. There is little dissent on the notion that the debates played a huge role in John F. Kennedy winning the presidency in 1960 and the one presidential encounter, “There you go again” and “Are you better off than you were four years ago?,”paved the way for the Ronald Reagan landslide 20 years later.

Twelve years ago, the political community was having a grand time making fun of George W. Bush’s “single-digit IQ.” Bush’s advisers were publicly laughing along with them, and at the same time praising the “carefully schooled and trained technique” of then-Vice President Al Gore.

George W. Bush, Al Gore

How could Bush possibly win? After all, Gore had debated 35 times during the past 12 years (e.g., Ross Perot). There was no contest, until there was a contest.

Bush’s team played down the governor’s abilities, while they lauded the vice president’s rhetorical skills. The goal in the expectations game was to lower the bar for Bush and make the same bar way too high for Gore.

If yours truly was advising Romney, I would counsel him to follow the George W. Bush “aw shucks” playbook (without saying “aw shucks”). Romney is seen as wooden and corporate. He should use this less-than-flattering perception to his advantage.

Conversely, Obama is regarded with good reason as a great orator and a superb debater. Romney is the underdog. Americans love to root for the underdog. Instead of “Rudy,” the Republicans will portray “Romney” on October 3. One trusts that Obama knows a trap when he sees one. Watch for his team to offer a modicum of respect to Romney’s presentation skills, citing the plethora of Republican debates in 2011 and earlier this year.

Playing the expectations game does not just apply to Super Bowls or presidential debates, it also manifests itself in setting the table for investors, analysts and employees. How many times have you witnessed publicly traded companies exceed Wall Street profitability expectations by just one-cent per share? For the longest time, CEO John Chambers of networking gear supplier Cisco Systems exceeded the Street for a series of one-cent bottom line victories quarter-after-quarter.

This success did not occur by magic or accident. Company public relations gurus spend twice as much time setting expectations in a company’s “business outlook” section of a 10Q quarterly earnings release as they do in preparing the actual quarterly results. Think of it this way, meeting and (better yet) exceeding the expectations of Wall Street is a “good thing” in the words of Martha Stewart. Undercutting the expectations of the sell-side analyst types is the PR equivalent of stepping on a rattlesnake: the fangs strike the body and the poison is injected in the form of an almost certain downgrade and stock sell off.

Joe Namath would have looked downright foolish, if the Colts had blown out the Jets in Super Bowl III. It all worked out for Broadway Joe. Sometimes you can win in Las Vegas by betting big. Most of the time you just lose the shirt off your back for failing at the expectations game.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_III

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/248373-debates-obama-romney-face-to-face-seeking-knockout-blow

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,56496,00.html

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“Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days.” Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days.

glorydays

Remember the PC/Internet connectivity era?

The one that ended about a decade ago?

Remember when investing in Intel (NASDAQ: INTC); Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT); Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) was close to automatic profits on Wall Street?

Of course, you wanted to invest in these stocks and so did everyone else…but over time the world changed: Pentium processors became a commodity, just like all other semiconductors. Microsoft operating system announcements became less-anticipated and the results less than stellar…most of all they were being used for ubiquitous PCs. Cisco makes switches and routers. They work. The Internet works. Thank you very much…and just this week the company laid off 6,500 workers. And Dell? Well, Dell produced a great model for inventory…How about big-time results?

If you are engaged in public relations, marketing, employee communications and social media for these four companies, you are probably singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” if you are singing anything at all.

So what is the connection between music and technology public relations?

Two days ago CNBC after-market anchors were hyperventilating about another blow-out quarter for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), they really had nothing negative that they could say about the company as the stock reached $400 a share for the first time. Reportedly, the company sold every iPad that it made.

And then one of the talking heads asked the rhetorical question: “What happens when the music stops?”

For companies such as Apple, search engine Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), social media Facebook, cloud computing Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) and social media LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), it is downright heresy to suggest that the music will stop someday…but based upon history it will because in virtually all cases it has to.

Ten years ago, Apple was trading at $9.07 per share. Today, Apple is listed at $387.90. Anybody remember Gil Amelio? Hint, he was the guy running the show before the resurrection of Steve Jobs. Remember all the hoopla about Blackberry’s and Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM)? The music stopped.

Ten years ago, Google didn’t exist. All the search discussion focused on Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO)…but the music stopped for Yahoo as Google went public in 2004 at $101 per share. Today the Google is trading at $606.78: Yahoo at $13.61. And just this month, the company introduced Google+, taking dead aim at its chief competitor, Facebook.

Facebook didn’t exist 10 years ago. Its eventual founder Mark Zuckerberg was a secondary school student attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He was still a couple of years away from that famous dorm room at Harvard University.

Ten years ago, Salesforce.com was privately held and still going through the growing pains of a two-year old company. The company went public in 2004 at $15 per share. Today Salesforce.com trades on the big board at $149.16.

LinkedIn.com was the first social media company to go public, debuting two months ago at $45 per share and today trading at $101.02 per share. The biggest question is whether the shadow of Facebook will stomp on little ole LinkedIn, if Zuckerberg et al decide to take Facebook public.

The music is playing fast and furious for Apple, Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Times are good. Reporters/editors/analysts/investors can’t get enough of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and to a lesser extent Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.

Now imagine for comparison reasons if you were managing public relations/marketing/employee communications/social media for Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and Dell. These used to be hot jobs; not as much today…Keep in mind that a job is a job in this economy.

Ten years ago, Intel traded at $29.97; today, $22.69.

Microsoft was priced at $33.60; today $27.10.

Cisco was a $20.61 stock 10 years ago; today $16.39.

Dell traded at $27.61 a decade ago; today, $17.46.

dell

Anyone want to hear another story about Moore’s Law? How about the genius of Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Bet ya it’s a whole lot easier to get an interview with John Chambers of Cisco, but does he really want to talk about layoffs? And how many Silicon Valley-based reporters are accumulating frequent flyer miles to spend time with Michael Dell in Austin?

The point of this Almost DailyBrett exercise is to remind PR types that nothing lasts forever. If things are going great, don’t get giddy. If things are heading south, keep your wits about you. And if you have stock options in a high-flying company, start selling in increments as the stock moves upward. There are two kinds of remorse when it comes to options; the one that you sold too early…and then there is the other one.

And never lose hope. Apple was a dead company before Steve Jobs came back. But also don’t be guilty of drinking your own bath water. In most cases as Don McLean once wrote in “American Pie” there comes a day “when the music died.”

DISCLOSURE TIME: The author of Almost DailyBrett presently owns shares of Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Decisions regarding the impartiality of my rhetorical ramblings are left to the discretion of the reader.

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/07/19Apple-Reports-Third-Quarter-Results.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salesforce.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkedin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_Exeter_Academy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Amelio

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