Tag Archive: Wall Street


“I don’t want to say much about them as individuals but I’ll just say that this particular fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi — it’s really emblematic in a lot of ways of sort of like elitist fraternity culture … They’re just so incredibly wealthy. Their alumni are very influential … They’re on Wall Street, they’re in politics.” – Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely

“No ritualized sexual assault is part of our pledging or initiating process. This notion is vile, and we vehemently refute this claim.” – Statement by Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”  — Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana apologyUVAfraternity1

Political and corporate PR pros can spot them a mile away.

They are supposed to be objective reporters. However, they harbor a deep-seated ideological agenda.

They are interested only in facts that fit their preconceived narrative and anything and everything else is immediately deemed to be irrelevant and discarded.

They are bound and determined to produce copy (e.g., conventional, digital, broadcast) that triggers an impact. They are committed to social change at your expense.

And they will get away with it, unless there are those with the courage to proclaim they are wrong, dead wrong.

The “Right” Target

“The story and Erdely’s comments about it, moreover, suggest an effort to produce impact journalism … It starts with this business about choosing just the “right” school for the story. What is that all about?” – Erik Wemple of the Washington Post

It’s difficult to find a more sensitive subject than rape on campus, and for good reason. It unfortunately happens, and in each and every case it needs to be addressed quickly, decisively and severely by universities and law enforcement.

Erdely wrote about a student named, Jackie, and an alleged incident at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia on a late September weekend two years ago. The fraternity claims that no social events were scheduled at the house that particular weekend, and steadfastly defends itself.

No alleged perpetrator from the fraternity was interviewed by Erdely for her Rolling Stone, “A Rape on Campus” piece. The fraternity has been the scene of massive protests and the house was vandalized. Fraternity and sorority activities have been suspended on the UVA campus.

The reliability of Jackie has come into question, so much so that Rolling Stone issued an apology.rollingstonestory

The public relations issue here pertains to targeting, in this case the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

“I made contact with a student activist at the school who told me a lot about the culture of the school — that was one of the important things, sort of criteria that I wanted when I was looking for the right school to focus on,” said Erdely.

Hmmm … She contacted an “activist.” UVA was the “right” school. There was an “elitist fraternity culture.” Their alumni are on “Wall Street.”

Almost DailyBrett must ask: What do these social justice “facts” have to do with campus safety? Zero.

“Dry-by Journalism”

“Like a neighborhood thrown into chaos by drive-by violence, our tightly knit community has experienced the full fury of drive-by journalism in the 21st century.” — University of Virginia Rector George Keith Martin

“… She (Erdely) did have an agenda and part of that agenda was showing how monstrous fraternities themselves as an institution are and blaming the administration for a lot of these sexual assaults.” – University of Virginia co-ed Alex Pinkleton

There is no doubt about the ideological leaning of music and entertainment-oriented Rolling Stone. The same can be said for oodles of other media outlets, some on the right, more on the left.

If a publication, news aggregator, blogger, broadcaster is known for editorially advocating a certain point of view, it still needs to ensure that its favored ideology is not dominating reporter copy. Forget about objectivity; the majority of these reporters are not fair and balanced, and therefore they really need editors willing to ask the tough post-reporting questions. That obviously didn’t happen at Rolling Stone.rollingstonecover

For the public relations professional of the “target” institution (e.g., Wall Street, Fortune 500 company, major university, incoming majorities in Congress), you must keep your powder dry.

For instance, the University of Virginia needs to be able to immediately cite chapter and verse about anything and everything it does to protect all of its students. There is little doubt this list is extensive. Get ready to recite.

For fraternities on campus, you are a target. Get used to it. Be ready to defend your fraternity.

Forget about going to the editor, the reporter needs to be confronted. This person is not your friend, and never will be your friend. While maintaining your professionalism, you need to call this reporter out. Tell the reporter that your employer is being targeted, and you know this is indeed the case.

Remind that person that you are fully prepared to defend your organization, including using digital self-publishing (e.g., University of Virginia). This most likely will neither be the first time nor the last time you will be in a fight with a reporter. This is all part of the job.

Expect an impassioned response complete with name calling (e.g., class privilege, system of exploitation) all intended to bully, intimidate and stifle dissent.

Let’s face it: The notion of pure objectivity by reporters, editors, bloggers, and correspondents is a joke. The vast majority of reporters have a personal ideology, but the best put these thoughts aside and do their jobs. There are a chosen few, who are not there to report the news, but to “impact” social change. They are not journalists, but activists in disguise.

Ms. Erdely needs to be shown the door by Rolling Stone. Look for her holding up a sign right by the bull statue on Wall Street.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2015/03/23/charlottesville-police-make-clear-that-rolling-stone-story-is-a-complete-crock/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/12/15/u-va-rape-survivor-rolling-stone-reporter-had-an-agenda/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/12/05/rolling-stones-disastrous-u-va-story-a-case-of-real-media-bias/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-fraternity-to-rebut-claims-of-gang-rape-in-rolling-stone/2014/12/05/5fa5f7d2-7c91-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/u-va-board-leader-denounces-drive-by-journalism-of-rolling-stone/2014/12/19/47980410-87b7-11e4-9534-f79a23c40e6c_story.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-rolling-stone-rape-story-20141205-story.html

http://www.virginia.edu/

 

“Public scrutiny of business is constant and intense, and in the past decade, disillusionment has grown over excesses in executive pay, questionable accounting practices, drug recalls, and moral laxity on the part of corporations.” — Paul A. Argenti, Professor of Management and Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Should communication students be encouraged to work for publicly traded companies either from inside the corporation or providing external advice as a hired gun at public relations or advertising agency?

Or should these very same students be galvanized against the excesses of capitalism, demonstrating against Wall Street under the banner of social justice?

floodwallstreet

Are these questions mutually exclusive? Are you either for or against capitalism or for or against social justice?

These questions are magnified and intensified against the backdrop of underachieving employment, wage and real estate markets, while the NYSE and NASDAQ remain persistently bullish.

It appears this persistent economic scenario quite possibly will greet graduating students at least for the next academic year or two.

Examples of Corporate Excess

Finding examples of corporate excess is relatively easy.

Almost DailyBrett has joined the scads of other bloggers that take issue with seemingly brain-dead or just plain greedy antics by the leadership of large-cap publicly traded companies:

  • The author’s former company, LSI Logic, provided a seven-or-eight figure Golden Parachute to former CEO Abhi Talwalkar as he drove the 33-year-old specialty semiconductor designer into the abyss.
  • Spirit Airlines famously stiffed a decorated 76-year old, dying of cancer Marine veteran asking for a mere $197 refund, telling him literally to pound sand because he didn’t buy trip insurance. The carrier generously offered a partial credit, if he succumbed to the Grim Reaper before his flight.
  • October is right around the corner and that means (drum roll) even more corporate efforts to tie marketing bonanzas to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both 5-hour ENERGY and “Buckets for the Cure” KFC have become global leaders when it comes to “Pink Washing.”
  • Largest corporate bankruptcy-ever, Enron, is the poster-child when it comes to corporate greed and wrongdoing. And yet there were innocent people who were just trying to do their job, including telling the corporate story, until they realized they too were being misled.

Considering these examples and literally hundreds more, it is easy to give a broad-sweeping thumbs-down to multi-national corporations. At the same time, it should be remembered that these companies make the products and provide the services that we use on a daily basis (e.g., Apple = Macs, iPads, iPhones, iPods). They hire and provide benefits to literally tens of thousands (e.g., Boeing, 168,400; Starbucks, 160,000; Amazon, 88,400; Nordstrom, 58,140), Microsoft, 55,455). They provide wealth-accumulation prospects for the 54 percent of Americans who buy stocks, mutual funds and bonds (e.g., America’s investor class), including 73 percent of college graduates, and 83 percent of post-graduates.

Profit Motive

One of the major beefs espoused by the Occupy Wall Street movement three years ago, and the Flood Wall Street demonstrators earlier this month, is that publicly traded companies are focused on profits. These statements are accurate, but it should also be pointed out that companies have a legal (e.g., Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA 1974) and moral (e.g., Fiduciary) obligation to produce the best bottom-line return possible for shareholders. Failure to do so invites almost certain civil and possible criminal litigation against the companies and potential dismissal of C-level executives.

floodwallstreet1

As a master’s degree candidate four years ago at the University of Oregon, the author of Almost DailyBrett noted the unrestrained celebration of competitive advantage and buy low/sell high mantra at the business school, and the unrestrained embrace of social justice including redistribution of income at the journalism school.

It seemed that one would build a statue of Adam Smith, while the other would throw flowers at the feet of Che Guevara. One would urge students to work and advise corporate America and the other would implore becoming an activist, marching, demonstrating and hopefully not being arrested.

Which is the better option for graduating students in making corporate America, particularly fallible publicly traded companies, more responsive to communities, the environment and let’s not forget, its own employees?

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility or CSR should not be seen as an oxymoron. The concept of doing good (CSR) should not be viewed as contradictory to doing well (fiduciary responsibility). Graduates of communications, journalism and business schools can and should emphasize the value of doing BOTH to improve the bottom line for investors, including employees, while doing good deeds for communities, the planet and the rank-and-file employees.

Certainly the likes of Occupy Wall Street, which never found a unifying message, and Flood Wall Street, which tied capitalism to climate change, have their First Amendment Rights to (preferably) peacefully demonstrate. These NGOs need trained communicators and message developers.

Conversely, graduates could also choose to work internally to make companies better. They can stand for both fiduciary and corporate social responsibility. They can advocate against excessive C-level compensation. They can take stands against Pink Washing and Green Washing. They can ensure that the public is provided with good products at fair prices and everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

And heaven forbid, if another Enron is in the offing, they can courageouly tell the uncomfortable truth using their communication skills.

Is it better to be inside the corporation under the banner of capitalism or out in the streets (or in tents) calling for social justice?

There is more than one way to make corporate America better for everyone.

http://exec.tuck.dartmouth.edu/about-us/faculty/paul-argenti

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/22/flood-wall-street-arrests_n_5865468.html

http://nypost.com/2014/09/22/climate-change-protesters-flood-wall-street/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/farewell-lsi-logic/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/lessons-from-the-spirit-airlines-pr-debacle/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/evil-spirit-airlines/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/5-hour-pink-washing/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/shameless-5-hour-energy/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/buckets-for-the-cure/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-enrons-pr-chief/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/adam-smith-vs-che%e2%80%99-guevera/

 

 

Investing without research is like playing stud poker and never looking at the cards.” – Über-investor and former Fidelity Magellan Fund manager Peter Lynch

peterlynch1

Couldn’t help but note Lynch’s gambling metaphor when it comes to investing in global markets.

There are many who absolutely contend, and will not be convinced otherwise, that investing in Wall Street is nothing more and nothing less than gambling. They even talk about playing the market.

Are the Manhattan-based NYSE and the NASDAQ stock markets, Las Vegas East?

Or is Las Vegas, Wall Street West?

Can’t say the author of Almost DailyBrett is an expert about either gambling (never been to Lost Wages) or investing, but I do know enough about Wall Street to be dangerous.

And based upon this finite knowledge, let me proclaim IMHO: Investing in Wall Street is not gambling, provided that you do your homework, and as Peter Lynch has stated, “Invest in what you know.”

Strategic Business/Financial Communications

The academic paper for my M.A. project at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication provided the backdrop for the creation of an upper division college course: Strategic Business/Financial Communications. I was privileged to teach the course that I created.

Many students thought that Strategic Business was a math class. Ahh … I flunked geometry in high school. Screw the Pythagorean Theorem. Yours (left-brain challenged) truly cannot and will not ever teach a math class. Instead, communications’ students learned a new language – speaking, writing, hearing, reading – the lexicon of Wall Street.

There is a reason why financial communications/investor relations are easily the highest compensated segments of the public relations profession. According to Salary.com, IR directors received in the range of $97,753 to $201,565 annually in 2013. Corporate PR directors received $86,469 to $167,836 in the same year.

This is serious money, not including stock purchase plans and options. And why is that? Both jobs demand qualitative excellence (e.g., developing relationships with analysts, investors, reporters, employees) and quantitative skills (e.g., reading income statements, balance sheets and cash-flow statements).

investorrelations

Which brings us back to the point as to why Wall Street is investing and not gambling. The answer lies with responding to a basic question: How does a company make money?

Microsoft sells software and video game consoles. Boeing produces airplanes. Google is the No. 1 search engine. Apple is Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads. Nike makes athletic shoes. Amazon is the No. 1 digital retailer etc.

And backing up the answer to these questions is a plethora of facts, figures and information. Looking up a stock on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, MarketWatch.com, The Street.com and others is the easy part.

There are also the aforementioned income statements (revenues and net income…there is a major top-line and bottom-line difference), balance sheets (assets and liabilities), CEO letters, annual reports, analyst reports and more. The sheer volume of this data can be overwhelming, but it is all there, free of charge.

Leading or Trailing Indicator?

“ … Don’t care where a stock has been, only where it’s going.” – CNBC Mad Money Jim Cramer.

Cramer is fond of stating that he really does not care about a stock’s past, only its future. That answers the leading vs. trailing indicator question. Stock prices are an indicator of the expected/anticipated/projected/forecasted upward or downward direction of a company’s business prospects.

cramerbuy

How do we know whether a company is doing well or not? Certainly there are oodles of information online, maybe even too much data. There is also your personal experience.

Ever observe the perpetual line out the door at Starbucks as people queue to pay $4.00 for that overpriced grande mocha with no whip.

Ever notice that Southwest Airlines only offers peanuts and a soda; you can choose your own seat; the airline only flies Boeing 737s; and the flight attendants are actually Pharrell Williams Happy?

Ever note the high prices, superior quality, commitment to service and high-traffic stores at Nordstrom?

And did you ever wonder about all the hoopla about “The Cloud” or the access of Big Data contained in mega servers and offered in manageable chunks by a company such as Salesforce.com?

When one mentions “Hog,” your mind may conjure a barnyard or you may think about high-performance, big muscle motorcycles. Want to invest in one of the country’s great comeback stories? Just enter NYSE: HOG or Harley Davidson into the search engine.

“The House Always Wins”

When one is mathematically challenged, it is best to stay away from Texas hold-em or the black-jack table. Can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase: “The House always wins.”

wallstreetgambling

That’s not to say that there are not legitimate complaints about Wall Street, particularly as it applies to executive compensation for underperforming CEOs. And there are those who contend the market is rigged against the little guy, the retail investor.

There is no doubt that cash is king. And the buy-side (e.g., PERS, Fidelity, Putnam) and the sell-side (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan) own the lion’s share of company shares. The respective analysts for these investment houses naturally draw the most attention from publicly traded company execs.

Having said all of the above, there are still opportunities for the retail (e.g. Charles Schwab, eTrade, TD Waterhouse) investors. The time-tested tenets of diversification, doing your homework, know who you are buying and why, still apply.

Sure beats investing in a 0.02 percent passbook account, plunging hundreds of thousands into real estate that could go underwater, stuffing dollars under the mattress or even playing the Roulette wheel in Vegas.

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

http://25iq.com/2013/07/28/a-dozen-things-ive-learned-about-investing-from-peter-lynch/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838187

http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/jim-cramer-stock-picks-money-tips/

http://www.salary.com/

 

 

 

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