Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Monday, October 30, 2006

NBC Won't Air Dixie Chicks Add

When I saw Robin Williams' movie yesterday (see my previous blog post), one of the coming attractions was for "Shut Up and Sing," a movie about the Dixie Chicks and their battle to avoid being completely suppressed after one of them made a public remark opposing the GWB administration. It was a great trailer; Dina and I put that movie on our go-to-see-it list.

Lo and behold, today I stumbled on a story (via Alternet) that NBC has refused to air a promo for the movie because it "disparaged President Bush." You can find stories here with every point of view from conservative Matt Drudge to various left-wing bloggers.

You can also see the spot--a much-condensed version of the trailer I saw--by clicking here.

Hmmmm. Sounds suspiciously like the old Divine Right of Kings theory and its dictatorial corollary that you weren't allowed to criticize the royal government without severe consequences, if you ask me.

Earth to NBC: It is NOT the job of the media to sanitize controversy. It is, in fact, the job of the media to investigate the news and report it, even if that means exposing a government buried in corruption, lies, and power grabs. With far too few exceptions (one of whom is NBC's own Keith Olbermann), the large corporate media have not been holding their end of the bargain. But still, whether or not they act like it, the mainstream media should be (as the Quakers say) "speaking truth to power"--not helping to protect that power from ever hearing criticism.

As it is, it is utterly shameful that the American people have allowed their protests to be marginalized and their picketers herded into enclosures far form the targets. I call that un-American and unpatriotic, and I salute those brave Americans who continue to defend the right of protest. Including the Dixie Chicks.

Robin Williams in “Man of the Year” — Go See It!

Just saw this movie today. Not only is Williams brilliant as the comedian running for President--and dealing with the ethical dilemma of his life--but the movie makes wonderful points about vulnerability of electronic voting machines, ruthlessness of certain corporations, politicians of both major parties and their all-too-cozy relationships with special interests, and more.

No matter what your politics, it's a great romp making serious points. Ideally, see it *before* the election. And tell your friends.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Andy Bourland Understands–Competitors are Allies

Andrew Bourland, founder of ClickZ and a very successful entrepreneur, did a wonderful blog post on how proud he was of his competitors, and how their strategy of offering great information all year round made their expensive conference a very easy sell.

So chances are good that they are one of the resources you would have turned to, along with Business Blog Consulting, for information and guidance on business blogging. You might have bookmarked us both in your list of RSS feeds you check regularly, and if you haven’t already, you should.

But something may have happened around mid-August or September when you were reading all those great articles that Teresa, Steve, DL and our very own Dave Taylor regularly write: you might have noticed they had a conference coming up.

And then as time progressed, you might have thought you ought to go… and then, if you were one of the smart and fortunate ones who wisely reserved a seat at their conference this past week

This is something I've been writing and talking about for many years, especially in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First.

Disclosure: I "know" Andy virtually because we were both active participants for many years on the now-defunct (and sorely missed) Internet Sales Discussion List.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Questionable Ethics of Non-Disclosed Allegiances

By coincidence, I received two pieces of e-mail today that both deal with the question of how
much disclosure is appropriate when someone takes up a cause and is quietly paid to do it.

First, a ray of hope from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association: a proposed list of 20 questions marketers should ask themselves to determine if their buzz campaign is ethical--and prefaced with these instructions:

  • Ask these questions before launching any word of mouth marketing campaign.
    Get answers from your agencies and vendors, as well as from their subcontractors.
    Think about the risks to your reputation before you cross any ethical lines.

  • Remember: Consumers come first, honesty isn't optional, and deception is always exposed.

    Just as an example, # 8 of the 20 asks,

    Do we forbid the use of expressly deceptive practices from our employees/advocates, such as impersonating consumers; concealing their true identities; or lying about factors such as age, gender, race, familiarity with or use of product, or other circumstances intended to enhance the credibility of the advocate while deliberately misleading the public?

    This is a draft, and they're actively soliciting public comment.

    But then the other post was a note from blogger BL Ochman about "flogs"--fake blogs--in support of Wal-Mart, by people who were paid by the retail giant's PR firm to be in support of Wal-Mart and until recently didn't disclose this relationship.

    She cites a much more in-depth article about the situation.

    That post says, in part,

    As a result of the new transparency, every entry on the blogs is now credited to one of three contributors: Miranda, Brian or Kate. A click on these single monikers reveals biographies of [the PR firm] Edelman employees Miranda Gill, Brian McNeill and Kate Marshall, whose clients include Working Families for Wal-Mart, the sites say.

    While noting that he was speaking in generalities and not to this specific situation, Dave Balter, president of the Boston word-of-mouth marketing firm BzzAgent, said: "Even if you're doing the right thing but you know you're going to deceive people, you have to do everything to make sure it's completely transparent, and any tactic that crosses that line you're doing a disservice to the brand [and] the consumer."

    Now, Edelman has decided, finally, to disclose these relationships. What were they thinking trying to hide them?

    My suggestion to the floggers: go back and read those 20 questions from WOMMA, and try to answer them honestly. Otherwise, people will answer them for you, and it may not be pretty.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Connecting the Dots: Ford Earnings Losses, Skilling Sentencing, Democratic Gains in Polls, and Bush's Sunken Ratings

    The four big issues I name in this post's headline--Ford Motor Company's massive earnings losses of $5.8 billion in the third quarter of 2006, Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling sentenced to 24 years, Democratic hopes raised with some 48 House seats in play and at least four of the six Senate seats needed to shift control expected to go Democratic, and the no-confidence vote President George W. Bush has been getting in recent polls--may seem on the surface to have nothing in common--but actually, there's a strong thread running through all of them.

    This is the common thread: The American people are totally sick of being lied to, manipulated, and stepped on by powerful interests who care only about a narrow agenda of partisanship and greed. To say it another way, the real issue in the psyche of America right now is ethics.

    And as someone who has started an international movement to tilt business toward higher ethics and written an award-winning book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, about how ethics is one of the strongest drivers for business success, I see this as a positive trend.

    And it's clearly time for a change, in both business and politics. In my opinion, the last ethical Presidents--both of them had a strong sense of personal integrity, even as their politics were vastly different--were Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Now, as regular readers of this blog know, I have no love for the policies of Reagan, or for some of the very creepy people he surrounded himself with (some of whom have prominent places in the GWB administration)--but the man himself always impressed me as someone who honestly believed in the things he was saying, and the numerous ethics scandals of his administration never seemed to enmesh him personally, and seemed far more a matter of a hands-off governance style. As for Carter...could anyone imagine that the man who freely admitted to "lust in my heart" but knew how to control that lust going through the shameful charade that Bill Clinton engaged in? And Carter as an ex-president has been a world statesman for social and economic justice around the world. I daresay he has made more of a difference in the last 26 years than in his four in the Oval Office.

    So how does Ford fit into all of this? It's simple. Not once but twice, Ford has been caught with its ethical pants down, putting short-term profit above human safety, failing to rework known design flaws that cause fatal accidents, because its actuaries decided that paying the wrongful death lawsuits would be cheaper than fixing the problem. You'd think the company would have learned from the mess it made with the Pinto's exploding gas tanks in the 1970s, but they were back with the same attitude about the Explorer's little problem staying upright in hot weather--a problem the company apparently was well aware of before the car even began production. Compare that short-sighted and dangerous attitude with the amazing response of Johnson & Johnson to the Tylenol poisoning scare--and it's not at all surprising to me that J&J rebounded very quickly after spending a vast sum to warn everybody about the problem and institute a massive recall of all Tylenol products.

    I can tell you that when I went car shopping two years ago, I didn't even bother checking into Ford. I figured any company that would rather pay death benefits than spend a couple of bucks to fix a known cause of fatal accidents was not a company that I wanted to entrust with my family's safety for the next five or ten years. And I suspect a lot of other people have done the same. The safety blowback may have even been a factor in Ford's quiet decision a few years ago to purchase Volvo, a car manufacturer known for its concern with safety.

    I would absolutely love to see Ford start practicing all the groovy, concerned, and earth-friendly messages that Bill Ford says the company stands for--but I have to laugh when we get all these Green talking points from the company that unleashed the massive, gas-hogging Expedition. Sure, Escape hybrids are a step in the right direction, but a small one. My non-hybrid gas-powered small sedans get better mileage than an Escape even with the hybrid boost. So I don't expect that a lot of people buy Escapes because they want to save gas.

    Skilling, of course, got hit hard in part because he was unlucky enough to have his literal partner in crime Ken Lay drop dead before the sentencing. But as the New York Times points out, the sentence was as strong as it was because people got hurt by his lies:

    The higher sentence, the judge said, was because he found that Mr. Skilling had lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission about the real reasons for his sales of Enron stock before the company’s collapse in December 2001. Mr. Skilling said he sold the stock only because of the impact on the market of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    And one very positive aspect of this case is that the government is going after his--and Lay's--ill-gotten gains. Of course, the lawyers will get a huge chunk, but they are actually discussing restitution to those who were badly burned as the company's failure sucked the life out of their retirement savings.

    * * *

    Before I close...a quick thank-you for several recent articles encouraging people to help stop future Enron and Ford scandals by joining the Business Ethics Pledge...and especially to blogger Jill Draperand e-zine editor John Forde (sorry, I can't find a link, but you can subscribe to his newsletter at for their rousing endorsements.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Tellman's Experiment

    Tellman Knudson is conducting an experiment in list building and traffic building. He's asking people to comment on at least one post per day on this one of his blogs, and to link back to each of our comments over a five day period. My first comment is to the post, Seminar Dos and Don'ts, where I added two tactics that have been successful for me in seminar networking.

    This post will grow a bit over the next few days, as I will simply edit in new links.

    Since tomorrow will be my try-to-be-weekly day off the computer, I've done two today. The second was on his post about long-term relationships with your list members--something I'm a big believer in.

    Saturday, October 21, 2006

    Krugman: Options Backdating Scandal Hits New Low

    As someone who writes about business ethics, I have, of course, been following the appalling scandal of backdating stock options--rewarding overpaid CEOs and other executives by pretending the option was issued earlier, at a lower price--creating a windfall for the employee, whose stock is immediately worth more than it's supposed to be. It has tax consequences, too.

    But I'd somehow missed the part about at least one company providing backdated stock options to the estate of its deceased CEO! Paul Krugman writes about this in yesterday's New York Times:

    The moral of the story is that we still haven’t come to grips with the epidemic of corporate misgovernance revealed four years ago by the Enron and WorldCom scandals, then drowned out as a political issue by the clamor for war with Iraq. Even now, we’re still learning how deep the rot went.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    "The Secret": A Review and a Rant

    For maybe a year now, there's been huge buzz about the movie "The Secret" and its cast of well-known millionaire lifestyle gurus. I saw the trailers many months ago and was frankly blown away by them. They were intensely cinematographic, full of sound and motion, filmed at least as powerfully as anything I've seen coming out of Hollywood--and, like any good promo piece, they created a desire to experience the entire film. You can see the latest version of the trailer here, although this time it crashed Firefox twice when I tried.

    Yet I held back. There's so much I need to do on the computer, every single day, that it's hard for me to find the time to watch a 108 minute movie, especially since when my computer is paying a DVD, it hides all the other applications.

    Yesterday, after two days in a row where I hadn't gotten a lot done, I received an e-mail from my colleague Joe Nicassio, containing a link to a copy posted at MySpace, with no charge for viewing. Knowing that such things didn't happen by coincidence and figuring perhaps it would help me get out of my rut, and understanding that watching it on MySpace would let me work on other things in the background, I gave it a try.

    And the movie held my interest all the way through--something that's not easy when most of it is "talking heads": interviews of people, one on one. Sometimes they put more active sequences behind the voice, but there's a lot of looking at people's faces while they talk. And in the MySpace copy, the picture and sound are slightly out of synch and the film is slightly out of proportion, so that these heads seem unusually tall and thin. I imagine you don't get these minor glitches if you pay your $4.95 for the official copy.

    For the first 30 or 40 minutes, I didn't even do anything else at the same time. After that, I felt I knew where it was going and started multitasking. Yet there were a few key sections where I stopped and gave it full attention.

    However, I really didn't see it as worthy of the hype. The core of the movie, the big secret of the title, is something I've known about for years: the Law of Attraction that says you attract to yourself whatever you focus on. And maybe for that reason it didn't ultimately move me very far, because I've been living that truth for a long time. If this is the first time you're exposed to it, it could easily shake up your whole world.

    I started learning this lesson a few years after I published by fourth book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook: a book that shows people how to enjoy a lifestyle that would cost most people a lot of money, while spending little to nothing to achieve it. Perhaps because I've figured out many ways to slash the cost of travel, entertainment, fine dining, etc., I've never had a desire to be super-rich. I don't need to. I travel frequently, live in a beautiful home, see lots of top-name concerts, etc., and in that e-book, now eleven years old, I tell others exactly how. But money is a means to these things, not an end. I have achieved them without anything close to a seven-figure income. You might say I've used the Law of Attraction--which, in my world, I call the Abundance Principle (and discuss in some detail in Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First--to bring those things into my life, bypassing money as an intermediary.

    The film makes the point that you can use the Attraction Principle to improve your life and improve the world, not just on the material plane. But still, far, far too much is devoted to envisioning the car or house or beautiful necklace of your dreams, and far too little to healing the illnesses within yourself or in the world at large.

    These small parts of the movie I think actually are life-changing: the woman who cures herself of cancer, the paralytic who beats the doctors and learns to walk again, the idea (quoting Mother Theresa) that if you want peace you don't attend an anti-war rally, but a peace rally, because you don't want to attract more war by paying too much homage to it...these concepts I'd have loved to see in more detail, but the coverage is scant. I love the idea that you can overcome even the toughest adversity by focusing on what you actually want, rather than where you're stuck--and was deeply moved to hear people like Jack Canfield and Joe Vitale talk openly about the adversity in their own childhoods, that they'd learned to move past. I was especially struck by one doctor who was told as a child that his communication disorders were so severe that he'd never learn to write or converse.

    When they make a sequel about applying these principles to social change, I want to be there!

    My recommendation: see it, but know that what you take away from it may be something other than what the hype has led you to believe.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    MacDonald Asks Hard Questions of Apple--AND Greenpeace

    On his own ethics blog, Chris MacDonald looks at questions raised by Greenpeace about Apple's commitment to the environment. He brings a journalist's healthy skepticism to claims on both sides. Fascinating reading.

    Full disclosures: I have been an Apple user/loyalist since 1984, and I have on occasion given money to Greenpeace.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    655,000 Dead Iraqis? Time to End the War NOW!

    It is possible that as many as 655,000 Iraqis have died in the invasion and occupation of that troubled country--the vast majority civilians.

    This according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists, funded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies, and published in Britain's premier medical journal, The Lancet. That link will give you the original (not very readable) article in PDF format.

    The results were much more accessibly summarized in The Guardian, a major UK newspaper,

    Thus they calculate that 654,965 Iraqis have died as a consequence of the invasion. It is an estimate and the mid-point, and most likely of a range of numbers that could also be correct in the context of their statistical analysis. But even the lowest number in the range - 392,979 - is higher that anyone else has suggested. Of the deaths, 31% were ascribed to the US-led forces. Most deaths were from gunshot wounds (56%), with a further 13% from car bomb injuries and 14% the result of other explosions.

    I became aware of the study through a commentary by Paul Craig Roberts, who had been an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under conservative President Ronald Reagan. Roberts is blunt--he calls it "genocide."

    So even some people with solid Republican conservative credentials are saying "enough!"

    I think this study provides a leverage point for organizing. Just as we don't want to be complicit in the deaths at Darfur, we (those of us who are American or British, anyway) certainly want no complicity in the genocidal actions of our own governments.

    It is time to demand withdrawal--NOW! With a concerted effort and a firm commitment to rapid withdrawal, the troops could be home in 60 or maybe even 30 days--and we would stop making enemies and inspiring future terrorists. It is long past time to admit that the US/UK Iraq policy is a massive failure, a disaster, and deadly to the lives of the people we are supposedly there to protect.

    Out now!

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Ritskowitz: Shame on Infomercial Makers Who Deceive

    I couldn't agree more with John Ritskowitz's blog entry criticizing the marketers of a new anti-wrinkle product that was actually Nestle's Quik powder--yup, the chocolate breakfast drink of your childhood.

    This was a test by NBC's Dateline, to see if they could find a marketing firm unscrupulous enough to take on the project despite dubious clinical results. And they did.

    His blog includes a link to the Dateline report, which describes informercial scoundrels as "television terrorists."

    Masquerading as a representative from "Johnston Products," a Dateline reporter contacted a marketing firm and told them up front that he didn't think the product would help many people, and that no clinical trials were run to test its effectiveness.

    And what did the marketing firm think? They thought there wouldn't be a problem, as all that was needed was "somebody in a white coat" to give the impression that the product had been scientifically tested. That and a few paid testimonials.

    The real shame was that the marketing firm then found a real doctor, a well-credentialed doctor, a hospital's Chef of Dermatology, in fact (Dr. Margaret Olsen, then of Santa Monica's St. John's Hospital), who gave a glowing endorsement without ever examining the product. Yuck!

    Ritskowitz goes on to cite several other products that give marketers a bad name, and were eventually pulled off the market under government pressure.

    I totally agree with is analysis that this deceitful crap makes it much harder for us legitimate marketers. And of course, I agree with his call to sign the Business Ethics Pledge, which I founded (big grin). We currently have signatories from 24 countries, and I'd love you to be the next to sign.

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Feingold: Iraq is Far More Scandalous than Foley

    It's wonderful to see a national figure like Senator Russ Feingold who's not afraid to connect the dots. In an insightful piece on Huffington Post, he all but calls the Foley-lusts-for-boy-pages scandal a distraction from the continuing disaster of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld's totally failed Iraq policy:

    We all saw the recently declassified key findings of the National Intelligence Estimate. One thing those findings underscored is that our continued and indefinite presence in Iraq is benefiting global terrorist networks that threaten our country. The war has been a disaster, but the Administration refuses to admit its mistake. It refuses to do what's right for our national security. By "staying the course," this Administration is ignoring the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the growing threats we face around the world.

    I hope this guy runs for President! But the Dems will probably run Hillary Clinton, and if they do, I'll vote Green--I will not vote for a candidate who still doesn't understand that the Iraq war is a moral and practical failure, and who as far as I know has not repudiated her support for the so-called Patriot Act (which was one of the most unpatriotic pieces of legislation in its time--unfortunately surpassed by last month's shameful embrace of torture and spying).

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    One More Good Reason to Scrap the Nuclear Power Program

    Since 1974, I've been deeply concerned about the economic, safety, and environmental hazards of nuclear power generation. It was the subject of my first book, published in 1980.

    Today's edition of my local paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, reported that three nuclear plants were awarded a combined total of $143 million in a court judgment, because the federal government has broken its contract to remove the waste.

    The article is subscription-only, but here's an excerpt:

    It also could foreshadow a series of additional financial awards to operators of reactors nationwide who have argued the federal government broke contractual agreements that promised the waste would be taken away by 1998.

    The award, granted by Court of Claims Judge James Merow on Saturday, was unsealed Wednesday.

    It gives $32.9 million in damages to Yankee Atomic Electric Co., operator of the former Yankee Rowe reactor in Massachusetts; $34.1 million to Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Co., operator of Connecticut Yankee reactor, and $75.8 million to Maine Yankee Atomic Power Co., operator of the Maine Yankee reactor.

    Note that first paragraph. As a taxpayer, I am far from enthusiastic about a long series of payouts to nuclear utilities.

    The reason the feds can't take the waste s they have nowhere to put it, and that's in large part because there is no safe way to store the stuff for tens of thousands of years, and that's what would be required. so it's not surprising that local activists don't want a waste dump shoved down their throats. This was true even before anyone thought they might be a terrorist target.

    'Nuff said--shut 'em down!