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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Friday, June 29, 2007

Scrushy & Siegelman Go to Jail: Crime Doesn’t Pay

Seven-year sentences for Richard Scrushy, former HealthSouth CEO, and his enabler, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (a Democrat).

Fraud during Scrushy’s reign is estimated at $2.7 billion (with a b).

Ken Lay may have gotten around jail time by conveniently dropping dead, but it’s good to see at least some of these scoundrels doing time.

Speaking of scoundrels…The Washington Post has run an amazing series on VP Cheneythis week–must reading for anyone who cares about politics and the future of the US.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Could This NYC Energy Plan be a Blueprint Around the World?

A politics-neutral report on how to vastly reduce New York City’s energy use could serve as a model for cities around the country, and around the world.

Some of the plans make a huge amount of sense, especially for a city like NYC with a well-developed transit system and large inventory of existing buildings.

In NYC, most of those buildings have flat roofs. I have long advocated using those roofs for food and energy self-sufficiency, through garden spaces and solar collectors. The report points out that solar hot water is 60-70% efficient–far better than photovoltaic (solar systems that change sunlight into electricity). In my own very non-urban house, my experience bears this out. Our solar hot water system works extremely well, but our photovoltaic panels generate a much smaller percentage of our energy than I’d hoped. The three hot water panels immediately sliced out a big part of our electric bill (we had been heating our water with electricity), while the four PV panels made a much smaller reduction.

Better still, says the report, would be a crash program to retrofit existing buildings with low-energy light bulbs and capture the heated or cooled waste air that escapes (often because tenants in overheated apartment buildings actually keep windows open in winter!).

Combine that with a serious program to switch from cars and trucks to other transit alternatives, and NYC would slash its energy use.

While this report mentions a number of technological alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, I feel one area where it’s weak is in evaluating those technologies. It gives lip service to the major problem of food displacement if there was a widespread switch to biofuels, but doesn’t go into any detail. And then it brings up tired dead horses with high energy and pollution costs, such as oil shale extraction. Haven’t we learned something in the last 30 years?

Still, this report has enough easily- and cheaply-implemented strategies to be well worth a look–as long as we use a critical thinking filter to evaluate the ecological and dollar consequences of each recommendation.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

When to Say No to a Sale

About ten years ago, a local PR agency decided to subcontract some overload copywriting projects. She asked me if I wanted to try out wrking together. The first assignment she gave me was for a manufacturer of luggage–sounds innocuous enough, right? This was a local company, and I knew that they had a number of DOD contracts to make cases for weapons.

Well, when she sent me their sell sheets, they were so jingoistic and pro-war that they made me sick to even look at them.

I knew the PR agent was overwhelmed and didn’t want to mess her up (especially on the first project)–but after an hour of thinking about it, I realized there was no way I could work on this account–it was too at odds with my values.

So I very apologetically called the PR agency and told her I’d be glad to help her out, but not on this account, and sorry to strand her.

She immediately gave me a different account. I’ve never been sorry I turned that first one down.

OTOH, about a decade earlier, I did some work for Smith & Wesson involving sales materials for their police training program. The material was not rah rah, shooting is good–but emphasized the need for cops to be well-trained before being unleashed on the streets with lethal weapons. I decided that well-trained cops was an agenda I could support, at least to the point of doing this assignment.

In Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I go on at some length about when to say no to a sale. Discomfort with the politics of the client is a legitimate reason. At the same time, you don’t want to suddenly walk away from a big chunk of your income.

And this works two ways. Although I disagree with the position of making gay marriage illegal, I respect the right of a right-wing fundamentalist to say no to an account promoting gay marriage, for instance. It’s not congruent with their values. (Something I blogged about this idea a year ago, in fact.) I hope we and other activists can eventually change those values–a very hard thing to do and a whole other discussion.

Arrogant Cheney and Other Bushies Threaten Liberties Again

Item: Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, notes that Vice President Cheney has been claiming an exemption for his office from the rules governing handling of classified information. Hmmm, didn’t Scooter Libby of the Veep’s office get sent to jail for just such a security breach? Perhaps that’s what Waxman means when he writes, “I question both the legality and wisdom of your actions. … [I]t would appear particularly irresponsible to give an office with your history of security breaches an exemption from the safeguards that apply to all other executive branch officials.”

(This is one of several charges against Cheney by Waxman. Click here for the full list.)

Item: Bush nominated John Rizzo as the CIA’s General Counsel–yes, the same Rizzo who wrote to Gonzales that U.S. laws prohibiting torture “makes plain that it only prohibits extreme acts.”

Item: Yes, they’re finally talking about closing that disgrace and embarrassment of a torture center at Guantanamo…but opening up a new one in Afghanistan, no doubt so they can once again argue that U.S. law doesn’t apply.

Item: the U.S. is openly discussing, and has for six months, having U.S. military special operations forces working on American soil. I don’t know about you, but that makes me very nervous. Do we learn nothing from studying Hitler’s early years in power? Read Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America,” published by Chelsea Green. (I have sent an article about her to my webmaster for posting, but it hasn’t appeared yet.

Item: Cheney’s KBR (subsidiary of Halliburton) just got another fat military contract, shared with three other companies and totaling half a billion dollars. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

All of these were brought to my attention in just a single news bulletin from Citizens for Legitimate Government, which sends out several such bulletins every day. They follow the news closely and link to the original, mostly mainstream media, sources–as I have done here. Subscription costs nothing. Be informed, or be sorry later. (Standard disclaimers: my only connection is as a fairly recent subscriber.)

And why are the Democrats still funding the war? And why aren’t they talking about impeachment?

Rep. Waxman’s Complete List of Charges Against VP Cheney

If you need more context, read my post from earlier this afternoon.

As downloaded from the PDF on his website–scroll down to “Documents and Links.” The numbers at ends of paragraphs refer to footnotes in the original document:

Since 2001, Vice President Cheney has made repeated efforts to shield the activities of his office from public scrutiny. These efforts include exempting his office from the presidential executive order governing the protection of classified information, challenging the right of the Government Accountability Office to examine the activities of the Vice President’s energy task force, and refusing to disclose basic facts about the operations of his office, such as the identity of the staff working in his office and the individuals who visit the Vice President’s residence.

Exempting the Office of the Vice President from the Executive Order on Classified National Security Information. Over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from Executive Order 12958, which establishes a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified information. In response to the protests of the National Archives, the staff of the Vice President proposed abolishing the office within the Archives that is in charge of implementing the executive order.1

Blocking GAO Oversight. In 2001, Vice President Cheney headed a task force to develop a national energy policy. After GAO sought to learn the identity of the energy industry officials with whom the Vice President’s task force met, Vice President Cheney sued the Comptroller General to prevent GAO from conducting oversight of his office.2

Concealing Privately-Funded Travel. Vice President Cheney has refused to comply with an executive branch ethics law requiring him and his employees to disclose travel paid for by special interests.3

Withholding Information about Vice Presidential Staff. Every four years, Congress prints the “Plum Book,” listing the names and titles of all federal political appointees. In 2004, the Office of the Vice President, for the first time, refused to provide any information for inclusion in the book.4

Concealing Information about Visitors to the Vice President’s Residence. The Vice President has asserted “exclusive control” over any documents created by the United States Secret Service regarding visitors to the Vice President’s residence.5 This has the effect of preventing information about who is meeting with the Vice President from being disclosed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Allowing Former Vice Presidents to Assert Privilege Over Documents. An Executive Order issued by President Bush in November 2001 provided the Vice President with the authority to conceal his activities long after he leaves office. Executive Order 13233 took the unprecedented step of authorizing former Vice Presidents to assert privilege over their own vice presidential records, preventing them from being released publicly.6

Had enough? Click below to cast your vote in the national Cheney Impeachment Poll.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sometimes, Redundancy is a GOOD Thing

As a copywriter and editor, I spend a lot of time chopping out redundant words, phrases, and concepts–even though I’m aware of the saleswriting mantra, “tell them what you’re going t say, tell it to them, and then tell them what you’ve told them.”

Still, for the most part, I try not to be too repetitious.

But with technology, redundancy is a good thing. Any website should have redundant backups, any e-mail should have multiple routes available.

This week, I did a live two-hour seminar on book creation and marketing. My co-presenter brought two mini-recorders; I brought a laptop with recording capability. We presold a few copies of the recording and also have a web page up where people can continue to buy the program.

Thank goodness for our redundancies! Only one of the three devices worked. But it worked beautifully, and as soon as we do some cosmetic cleanup on the file, we’ll have a nice new product.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I’ve converted my newsletters to a new blog

While I’ve been blogging since 2005, at , I’ve been publishing the first two of my monthly e-newsletters all the way back to 1997 (I added another one in 2003, and had planned to launch a fourth son).

At the time I started my zines, I had one website, spam was almost a non-issue, and you could be pretty sure that when you sent an e-mail it would be not only delivered but likely read. At that time, I only had one website: , which went live in the spring of 1996.

But I’ve been thinking for quite some time that e-newsletters have lost much of their effectiveness I know that e-mail deliverability is by no means certain anymore, and you can’t rely on getting a bounce notice if it doesn’t get in.

Also, I know that lots of mail that does make it through gets deleted unread. This is certainly true in my own ebox, where I simply can’t compete with the volume of incoming mail. A few weeks ago I started a big purge and got my inbox down from 2400 to 800–it’s already back up to 1190, after five days on a business trip. And that doesn’t count the approximately 100-2009 per day that I throw out in my spamfilter–or the dozen or so that I try to rescue from the spamfilter but never arrive (9ne of my biggest peeves).

This month I asked the 8000 subscribers of my two largest zines if the format was working for them–and got very definite feedback that while the content is valued, the long-form single-email text only format doesn’t work.

But I *know* HTML email doesn’t work. I’ve seen the hideous results when they are corrupted in transmission, and I also know a lot of spam filters automatically catch anything with HTML.

After thinking it over, I decided to convert to a blog. Yesterday, I sent the first one in the new format–a brief email with a sentence or two about each story and a link to the TOC on my blog (which in turn has live links to all the articles).

I’m sure it will evolve (and hopefully take less time to set up, now that I can refer back to certain repeating articles, such as the one about my books).

We’ll see what happens..

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thanks, Ted–I’ve Changed My Slug

Ted Demopoulos commented that both Joan Stewart and I use a “slug” to identify ourselves in comment posts. In my case, it’s “Shel Horowitz, Ethical Marketing Expert.”

Ted took it a step farther, and now has his slogan, “Ted Demopoulos, Blogging for Business,” incorporated as the name he uses when he posts to his own blog.

You’ll notice that starting with this post, I’m doing the same. We all learn form each other–I never thought of that before Ted’s post.

So much of marketing is about repetition of the brand. And people do notice.

Unfortunately for the strength of my brand, I’m a person of many interests and skills, and probably dilute my slogans too much–but I have more fun that way. Fortunately, as I write in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, the real brand is not the slogan but the customer/prospect’s experience of you–and in that regard, I do quite well at creating a very positive impression.

I can wear whatever hat is appropriate at the moment: ethical marketing expert, master copywriter, author of seven books, speaker, activist, even expert on having fun cheaply–to name a few. Somehow it all works out.

What do People Think about Sigs on Blog Comments?

While writing the post about slug lines, a thought occurred to me that I’d like feedback on.

What do other bloggers think about using sigs in blog comments?

I’ve been ambivalent. On the one hand, I love getting extra inbound links and visibility for my core offerings. On the other hand, I don’t see them used much, and I wonder if they’re offensive.

So sometimes I’ve posted and sometimes not, and I’m more likely to post on, say, a newspaper comment page than a blog.

This is the sig I’ve been using, when I use it–looking at it, it occurs to me that one obvious solution is to shorten it, pick one URL per sig, maybe have several versions of say two lines each–what do you think?


Shel Horowitz, shel (AT), 800-683-WORD/413-586-2388

Marketing & publishing consultant/copywriter, award-winning author of

* Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts

People First

* Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers

* Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World /

–>Join the Business Ethics Pledge - Ten Years to Change the World,

One Signature at a Time (please tell your friends)


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

In China, Death Sentence for Ethics Conviction

For seven years, Zheng Xiaoyu headed China’s Food and Drug Administration–a time in which that agency was filled with scandal, from tainted toothpaste to poisoned pet food. Both animals and people died in large numbers as a result, The New York Times reports.

Mr. Zheng, 62, has been sentenced by the Chinese government to death–not for the poisonings, but for the bribery that enabled them.

One more reason to stay honest, o ye corporate executives and government officials.

Of course, there are plenty of others–including, as I point out repeatedly in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, that it’s actually easier for an honest business to profit and thrive.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Rock-Bottom Remainders

Ever been to a rock concert where the merchandise sales tables has more books than CDs? I went to one Friday night in New York: the literary all-star band called the Rock-Bottom Remainders (a remainder, in the publishing world, is a book that the publisher gives up on and sells at a deep discount–these are the fancy $30 art books you see marked down to $8, for instance).

This band consists of people known for their books–Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, among others. they did have Roger McGuin of the Byrds sit in for a few songs (and he sounded great!). Missing the introductions while waiting to get in on that looooong line, I couldn’t figure out who the female singer with the black hair was who could actually sing. (I did figure out that it wasn’t Amy Tan, who has brown hair.) Later, my distributor, who came with me to the concert, told me it was Mitch Albm’s wife. But for the rest of them, it’s good clean fun, and the idea isn’t so much to sound terrific as to throw a great party.

And they did, singing mostly songs of the 1960s and early 70s–everything from “My Boyfriend’s Back” to “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

It’s been a decade or two since I’ve been to a packed New York nightclub–in this case Webster Hall, a fabulous old theater on East 11–and I’d forgotten that in New York, they multiply the legal capacity by several times when they determine the number of tickets to sell. The place was so crowded I literally couldn’t take off my backpack (filled with books and a laptop and probably weighing around 10 pounds). Ever try dancing like that? I could only stay an hour before my feet, worn down by eight hours of walking the BEA show floor, told me I had to stop.

But unlike the typical NYC crowd, nobody was rowdy on that long line to get in. All the booksellers and publishers sedately stood and waited our turn (in our case about 20 or 30 minutes).

FedEx Should be Scared–and Intrigued

…And they should be trying to invest in this.

In three days at Book Expo America, I saw one technology that could really alter the world.

Because FedEx’s whole model is based on the need to transport paper around the world quickly–in situations where fax or e-mail isn’t practical for one reason or another. Situations that require a physical signature on an original document. FedEx, DHL, UPS, USPS, and all the other courier services need to know that the real business they are in at least as much about transporting signatures as in transporting large documents that would be unwieldy via electronic technologies.

Frustrated by the demands of wearying multicity author tours, acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood was signing for a package on an electronic tablet. I’m sure you’ve done it. Mistakenly, she believed that she was actually creating a physical signature on a piece of paper, remotely–so, she thought, why can’t I sign a book in my house? After all, it’s been possible for years to do author events by video or audio, remotely. Why not a long-distance book signing?

And now she can. Using two-way videoconferencing, she can interact with a fan or group of fans anywhere in the world, and when a bookstore staffer puts a book under the pen at the other end, she can inscribe and personalize the book.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the company’s promotional material focuses on the “Green” feature: the amount of carbon saved in not flying. Of course, the author who doesn’t have to slog through international border crossings, airports, hotel rooms, and the rest of the grind may or may not be thinking about carbon offsets. And, of course, it’s going to be waaaay cheaper than a year’s worth of book tours–though once the novelty wears off, readers/fans may not find it as satisfying as a real in-person appearance.

Atwood’s company is called Unotchit and the product is Long Pen ™. I couldn’t find any pricing information on the site but I’m sure that in most cases, a bookstore or other venue will install the device and then loan out the writing tablet (and, if necessary, the video cam) to the author, so the equipment cost will be relatively manageable. And I’m guessing, ironically enough, that a lot of those tablets and cams will be shipped by FedEx

This has huge implications–not only in publishing but in sports, finance, real estate (think about closings with absentee owners), music, international business, and probably dozens of other industries.

You heard it here first.

Too Cool Not to Share: Women in Art

This is the first viral video I’m linking from in a year and a half dong this blog.

A film that morphs the faces of women from great paintings throughout history.

Of course, the marketing implications of viral travel of humor or inspiration over the Net have been known for a while–but this one made me think about art in an entirely new way. The paintings really seem to be alive.

As a marketer, I want to know why this had such a profound impact on me that I was instantly moved to share it not only with my humor email list, but for the first time, with my blog.