Tag Archive: RFP

“Now if this (Ketchum, Inc. client Vladimir Putin allegedly protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine) sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s. All the Germans that were … the ethnic Germans, the Germans by ancestry who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they’re not being treated right. I must go and protect my people and that’s what’s gotten everybody so nervous.” – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


“Hitler makes cameo appearances all the time within American political narratives about emerging international crises. He’s an easy and recognizable shorthand that signals danger.” – Former State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley.

During the past few days, the Washington Post, CNBC and others have questioned Ketchum Public Relations representing Russia, even though the country invaded a strategic portion (e.g., Crimea) of its neighbor, Ukraine. Ketchum states its only advancing Russia’s economic development and investment goals, not foreign policy. However, a New York Times op-ed, authored by Putin and placed by Ketchum, criticized the foreign policy of the United States in the context of Syria.

When is it time for an international public relations agency to jettison a client, even one paying $55 million so far, based upon questionable at best behavior? Or does the legal tender reign supreme? Would Ketchum theoretically accept any client, telling its “economic development and investment” story, regardless of the circumstances? Does Corporate Social Responsibility apply to agencies as well? What if an international client with a difficult story to tell came to Ketchum or any other international agency…let’s say back in 1938.

Ketchum, a division of Omnicom Group Inc., would turn down the business. Right?

The scene is a large meeting room in Germany’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. The time is September, 1938.

Propaganda Minster Joseph Goebbels: “Herzlichen Willkommen zu dem Vaterland und das dritte Reich, Herr Ketchum.“

Ketchum EVP: “We are delighted to have been selected from several firms competing for your RFP (Request for Proposal) to help tell Germany’s story and to facilitate understanding of what your Führer is trying to accomplish in Central Europe.”

Goebbels: “The pleasure is ours. We are particularly pleased to meet with Ketchum Public Relations. Apparently, you have a solid track record of representing nations that don’t have…how should I say it…the easiest public story to tell.”

Ketchum EVP: “It’s nice to be recognized for our track record. We are particularly good at competing in the arena of public opinion and national brand management for countries that want to insure their rightful interests are respected and understood.”

Goebbels: “As you know, earlier this year we peacefully completed an Anschluss bringing together German-speaking Austria together with das Reich. We believe this connection was only fair and just.”

Ketchum EVP: “And now, if I understand you correctly, Germany wants to do the same for the ethnic Germans that were artificially separated from the Vaterland by the Versailles Treaty and the establishment of thrown-together states, such as Czechoslovakia.”


Goebbels: “That is exactly why you are being paid so handsomely, say $1.6 million in U.S. currency every six months, to tell the Führer’s great story. He is fully aware of our meeting today, and is pleased you are joining our team.”

Ketchum EVP: “Let me get this right. Your Führer will soon be meeting with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to discuss the Sudetenland question. How can we help? We have offices in Berlin, Munich, Prague and London. We are prepared to assist both here in Germany and elsewhere.”

Goebbels: “Don’t worry about Germany. My ministry has Alles in Ordnung when it comes to spreading our message within Germany. We could use some help in New York and London, However, you may have a conflict with our account and your Prague office.”

Ketchum EVP: “Let me reiterate that we really want your business. We have already taken the steps to register our business relationship with Germany with the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. We have a track record of placing an op-ed for the oligarch of Russia with the New York Times. We could do the same for your Führer, advancing him as a Thought Leader when it comes to hegemony in Europe.”

Goebbels: “Sehr gut, but what about the upcoming summit in Munich between der Führer and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain? We really need help with Fleet Street in the City of London.”


Ketchum EVP: “We have already taken the liberty to brand the Munich conference as “Peace for Our Time.” Our goal is to ensure that the appeasing and pleasing “Peace for Our Time” is on the lips of informed publics, particularly in London, New York and Washington. Those are our prime audiences.”

Goebbels: “And what about your Czech office in bothersome, Prague”?

Ketchum EVP: “Kein Problem Herr Minister. We will set up the Mother of All Chinese Walls. Our Prague office will not interfere with your plans for German media and our assistance in the U.K. and the USA. I trust that everything will go along swimmingly.”

Goebbels: “We will have indeed have ‘Peace for Our Time.’ Ha…”

Ketchum EVP: “We are happy to represent you in selling your assistance to the Sudetenland ethnic minorities to skeptical publics. Is there anything else we can do”?

Goebbels: “There is this matter of the Polish Corridor…Maybe we should discuss a retainer relationship.”

Ketchum EVP: “We really love retainers…”










“If you must use more than 10 slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business.” – Silicon Valley Author and Venture Capitalist Guy Kawasaki.

“The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.” –  Moore’s Law.


Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule for PowerPoint presentations may not have the lasting power and global prominence of Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s “Law” for the expected growth of semiconductor complexity.

Having acknowledged the obvious, Kawasaki’s rule does provide guidance for using presentation graphics to make a persuasive case to critical audiences.

Kawasaki recommends 10 slides; 20 minutes; 30-point font or above. There is a beauty in the simplicity of this rule.

One must wonder why so many rebel against this wisdom.

Sitting through more New York and San Francisco investor conference presentations than I care to remember in my Silicon Valley days, there was a War of the PowerPoints.

Companies were dueling each other with dazzling colors, impressive content and how many graphics could be jammed into a 30-minute time slot to extol their respective technology bits, bytes, bells and whistles. In short order, these presentations started to resemble real estate tours with each one-story ranch-style house with vaulted ceilings looking the same as every other one-story ranch-style house with vaulted ceilings.

Eventually these conference-sponsoring, sell-side companies rebelled (e.g., Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley)  against the so-called Death by PowerPoint. No more PowerPoints …replacing them with FDR-style ”Fire Side Chats.”

Instead of curing the problem, the sell-side folks killed the patient. There were no more projected-onto-the-screen facts and figures for the audience to chew on. Instead there was an overpaid analyst quizzing a grossly overcompensated CFO about a myriad of gross margin, operating margin, cap-ex, R&D, SG&A numbers and percentages without any visual aid for the struggling audience.

Was that 15 percent growth or 50 percent growth?

No bueno.

Reflecting back on my trips to Tokyo with the Semiconductor Industry Association and LSI Logic, I was fascinated by how much detail our Japanese colleagues in particular could pack onto each PowerPoint slide.

Some of these slides reminded me about the bewildering grid of the Tokyo subway system regardless of whether it was in Kanji or English. Both, the PowerPoint slide and the Tokyo subway grid, resembled a plate of spaghetti with meat balls, tomato sauce and parmesan to make the picture even more complicated.


There was a message in these PowerPoints begging to be released, but it was trapped in the barbed wire of complexity.

Fast forwarding to our present information overload society, PR/Marketing/IR pros are even more challenged than ever to break through the competing noise and deliver messages that resonate with low-attention span, easily bored and constantly distracted target audiences.

Is Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule perfect for all situations? Almost DailyBrett will let the reader make that determination.

There is no doubt this rule is far better than what is informally called, PR Agency Disease. What is this contagious malady, and how should avoid this addictive carcinogen?

Let’s say an agency is competing against seven others in responding to a huge multi-billion corporate client’s RFP (Request for Proposal) “cattle call.” The client has generously allotted 80 minutes for an agency presentation.

The agency responds with six speakers … no let’s make that eight speakers … and 60 PowerPoint slides … oops, we need 64 PowerPoint slides. Even someone with zero math acumen knows the number of presenters and the diarrhea of slides does not correspond with the time set aside for the presentation. One of the symptoms of PR Agency Disease is the insistence by the agency types to talk about themselves and not the potential client.

Approximately one week or more after this 64-slide (no typo) orgy with the potential client having virtually zero opportunity to ask questions, the competing agency finds out it was not selected. There is anguish. There are fingers pointed internally. Someone must be held responsible. Here’s the solution:

There were not enough PowerPoint slides. When in doubt: Add more slides to the presentation.

As a venture capitalist, Kawasaki, and his colleagues have sat through more PowerPoint (and conceivably Prezi) presentations than they would care to count. Obviously, some are better than others.


Likewise students have endured PowerPoint-assisted lectures (including my musings), which brings to mind the research by University of Oklahoma Professor L.D. Fink. His findings indicate that approximately 15 minutes into a lecture, 10 percent of the audience is showing signs of inattention, and after 35 minutes everyone is inattentive. Fink concluded that as the length of a lecture increases, the proportion of material remembered by students’ decreases.

When one contemplates Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule, one pictures the ubiquitous service club luncheon. There is the pre-lunch grip-and-grin, followed by the rubber-chicken entrée covered by a mysterious sauce, the 20-minute presentation by the invited speaker, the obligatory Q&A and followed by Rotarians, Optimists, Lions, Tigers and Bears etc. glancing at their watches to get back to the office.

The general rule for PowerPoints is two minutes per-slide with some taking less than that time and some taking more.  This simplistic math translates into 10 slides for 20 minutes.

Keep in mind the poor folks in the back of the room have to be able to read the slide, and that’s where the 30-point font comes into play.

And if you can add a photo, pie or bar chart or caricature to graphic without complicating the message all the better.


Here’s to hoping that Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 Rule matches Moore’s Law in terms of longevity and influence. Maybe, there will even be a museum dedicated to the man who saved the world from Death by PowerPoint.











The courage to stare someone in the eye and tell them something they do not want to hear is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in today’s society.

As Almost DailyBrett has commented in “Losing the Art of Verbal Confrontation,” digital technology has provided us all with the means to be analog cowards.

If you need to deliver some unpleasant news to a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, also-ran job seeker or one of the losing competitors for a RFP (Request for Proposal), then simply send an e-mail…or even more touching, deliver the news via a text.

Think of the beauty of this gutless approach, you don’t have to see the look of the recipient’s face or faces. You don’t have to hear the reaction. The transmission of unwelcome and uncomfortable news has never been easier.

When singer/songwriter Phil Collins decided to split with his second of three divorced wives, he had to compose a hard-copy message and feed it into a fax machine, and wait for electronic confirmation that the message had been delivered. How primitive.


Today, we don’t have to worry about fibre-optic lines. We can dispatch the unwanted message via wireless technology with the aid of a handy satellite or two, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

What I am about to do is very un-male-like: Admit a romantic setback.

My policy at Almost DailyBrett is to omit the exact name of the person involved; in this case because she may be tad uneasy and maybe a smidge embarrassed, even though she has every reason to be proud. I will refer to her as Mizz “A.”

Over a  dinner last Sunday of grilled pesto chicken breast on a bed of linguine, steamed green beans and pinot gris, Mizz “A” told me that she had boiled down her romantic finalists to “Ron” and myself. I restrained the impulse to campaign for her vote, simply thanking Mizz “A” for her candor.

Three days later, she sent me an e-mail asking if I was available for drink after work. We met in downtown Eugene (or what passes for “downtown” in Eugene). She looked at me and said, “Let’s get a glass of wine (“wine” is a bad sign; “dinner” is a good sign).” My male intuition (not an oxymoron) turned out to be correct.

After some procedural small talk, she prefaced her remarks by saying, “This is not what you want to hear…” Ron had won the competition for her heart. Similar to Bert Parks and the “Miss America” contest, I was the first runner-up (translated: I was the first loser). My competition got the girl.

She expressed her sympathy to me. I replied that she was a “stand-up woman,” someone rare in our modern society. I told her that a phone call would have been sufficient; how it was miles better than the ubiquitous text or email. She didn’t even think that a phone call would have sufficed. Gee, there is a reason I liked this woman.

I asked, what were the deciding factors? She said there were two: First, Ron had expressed a desire to live overseas, something that has always interested Mizz “A.” I countered by reminding her of my receipt of the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut and how I always wanted to live in a Schloss, drinking schnapps and clicking zee heels in the Bavarian Alps. She also said that Mr. Ron was a very religious and spiritual man, and that was very important to her. Alas, that is not me…and that clearly separates the two final contenders.

Upon departing, I resisted the temptation to say to her that she could contact me if things do not work out with Mr. Ron. That statement in my humble opinion sounds weak and may be perceived that I am rooting against their relationship, which is not the case.

Looking back at this experience and venturing forward to the continuation of my post-marriage (I am a widower after 22 years of blissful matrimony) dating life — characterized by more activity than accomplishment — I know that at least one person exists out there who knows how to treat people right. She clearly follows the Golden Rule.

Sooner or later, we all have to deliver less-than-cheerful news. The rule that I humbly submit is the more that someone genuinely puts into a relationship, the search for a position, the quest for a project, the more they deserve a face-to-face delivery of your difficult news and an explanation of your decision. That may not be physically possible every time, which leaves the phone as a distant second best option (at least you can hear the reaction). E-mails and texts should never be used to deliver bad news to those who have invested considerable time, resources, emotion and effort. If you do, it says more about you (and your organization, if applicable) than the person or persons receiving the news.

One last point: If you are fearful of an inappropriate reaction to your eyeball-to-eyeball transmission of less than stellar news, then I would opine that you shouldn’t be in this “relationship” in the first place. Have to call me as I see em.

Editor’s note: Here are three recent Almost DailyBrett blog posts about the adventures of mid-life crisis dating and social media.







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