Lou Capozzi to Me: You Are Like a Right Wing Talk Show Radio Host

A few weeks ago, I wrote a fairly critical post entitled “Lou Capozzi: Why the World Thinks America Sucks.”
The post was based upon a podcast recorded with Mr. Capozzi, Chairman Emeritus of Publicis Public Relations and Corporate Communications Group, by Eric Schwartzman of “On the Record.”

I knew that I was stating some views that were likely to get people fired up, so I a) sent an email to the organization that Mr. Capozzi was representing in the podcast, Business for Diplomatic Action, as well as to a former colleague at Fleishman-Hillard who is on the board a well as to Eric Schwartzman.  My hope in doing so was to state that a) the post is there so you may as well read it, and b) provide contact information in case anyone took exception with it and wanted to respond.

On November 10, I got a brief email from Cari Guittard of Business for Diplomatic Action:

Thanks for sending, CEG

Cari E. Guittard
Executive Director
Business for Diplomatic Action
415.608.0806c
Sent by GoodLink (www.good.com)

And I thought it was done.

Not so fast.

Yesterday, I received a comment (posted here as well) from Mr. Capozzi, Chairman Emeritus of Publicis Public Relations and Corporate Communications Group, which I have posted in its entirety:

By now I guess it’s safe to say almost nobody saw this, since I have had no reaction from anyone other than the email you sent to BDA, but I don’t want your assessment to stand without comment.

Your post reminds me of the kind of comments you hear from right-wing talk show hosts talking about books they haven’t read, based on the title and the author!

It’s pretty clear you weren’t there to hear my talk, because if you had you would never have written this. And it sorrows me to see a fellow public relations professional so willing to shoot his mouth off without bothering to do the research first.

It’s also apparent you didn’t bother to visit the BDA website, http://www.businessfordiplomaticaction/com, because you would have found the large body of research behind the presentation.

Next time I give a talk why don’t you come to hear it before dumping on it!

Lou

Let me address your comments, Lou.

  1. Mr. Capozzi says: “By now I guess it’s safe to say almost nobody saw this, since I have had no reaction from anyone other than the email you sent to BDA.”My response: So the presumption is that since only one person sent it to you, no one else read it?  What about the comments from some of the most respected voices in the social media space, like Jason Falls, Geoff Livingston and even Eric Schwartzman himself?  And I assure you, Mr. Capozzi, that this was the highest ranked post I have ever done in terms of page views.  And that’s not counting others who commented about it in Twitter.  Stating that no one saw it because you got it from one source is, a best, not factual.  It is at worst, wishful thinking.
  2. Mr. Capozzi says: “Your post reminds me of the kind of comments you hear from right-wing talk show hosts talking about books they haven’t read, based on the title and the author!” My response: This is the one that really has me scratching my head.  Mr. Capozzi, if you had read my post carefully, you would have noted that I state, before almost anything else, the following:  “Eric interviewed Lou on about his luncheon keynote at the PRSA International Conference on restoring America’s connections with the world.  This took place in Detroit at the end of October.  So, caveat #1:  I was not there to hear the speech and #2) Mr. Capozzi was presumably limited in the amount of time that he had on Eric’s show.”  I lobbed criticism, and when you live in a glass house, you have to expect people to throw stones.  But at least have your facts straight.  When I state, even using the word “caveat” that I was not at the PRSA conference, but was writing about the podcast itself, it seems pretty clear, I would think, even to the uninterested observer THAT I WAS NOT AT THE CONFERENCE.  I based my comments on the interview itself (pretty clear) that was posted AFTER the conference.
  3. Mr. Capozzi says: “It’s pretty clear you weren’t there to hear my talk, because if you had you would never have written this.My response: The answer is pretty clear from my last response, but let me say this, Mr. Capozzi:  I listened to your interview with Eric three times while writing this post.  IF THERE IS ONE QUOTE, ONE SYLLABLE, THAT IS FACTUALLY INCORRECT, ONE WORD THAT YOU DID NOT SAY, contact me and I will take it down.  You can’t claim that you were misquoted in an autobiography.
  4. Mr. Capozzi says: It’s also apparent you didn’t bother to visit the BDA website, http://www.businessfordiplomaticaction/com, because you would have found the large body of research behind the presentation.”

    My response:
    I am getting carpal tunnel correcting what is a firm grasp of the obvious.  You’ll note that I link to the BDA Web site in the post, so clearly I have visited it.  I got Cari Guittard‘s contact information from the Web site, so of course I have visited it.  I saw that a former colleague on mine at Fleishman-Hillard was on the board and emailed him.  All of which give a pretty good indication that I have been on the site.And finally, if you are going to criticize me for not visiting the site, the least you could do it offer the proper URL.  It’s” http://www.businessfordiplomaticaction.com “not ” http://www.businessfordiplomaticaction/com

And since we are about correcting the record, did you or did you not say:

  • Customs officers are “very threatening…foreboding” and that is one of the reasons why people don’t like to come to America?
  • “Picture the guy in Bermuda shorts with a camera and his hat turned to the side walkin’ down the Champs Elysee. We just aren’t as sensitive as we need to be to the way that we conduct ourselves’?
  • “There is a broad perception out there that globalization has been fueled by America…Our reputation is really in trouble,” when you work for a global public relations and communications firm who has benefited from globalization?

The bottom line is this:  no one likes begin criticized.  I get it.  Troll this blog for people who think that I am full of it.  But I expected a little more from someone who is the Chairman Emeritus of Publicis Public Relations and Corporate Communications Group and has spent 40 years in the public relations industry than being called a “right wing radio talk show host” and for “shoot[ing] [my] mouth off without bothering to do the research first.”

I did the research, Lou.  It’s all above.

Maybe you should too — and might I suggest by going back and reading the original post.

Mark

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Comments

  1. You know, this is an interesting validation of procrastination on my part. I read the original post, and was going to answer with a rather lengthy explanation of how I’ve lived overseas, and that many people have conflicted feelings about Americans: they love our openness and friendliness but dislike our lack of a true world view, and how they lament the presence of “fast food” but fall victim (as we all do) to time constraints in a fast-paced society (at least the McDonald’s in Germany serve beer), and how when we lived abroad we’d play “spot the American tourist” because you usually could.

    But after reading his response, I don’t want to cede any ground to his viewpoint. For someone connected with an organization with ‘diplomatic action’ in its title and URL, he is surprisingly undiplomatic.

    You go, Mark!

  2. Hello Mr. Capozzi. Allow me to introduce you to the concept of out of touch.

    Astonishing.

  3. There are certainly elements I’d side with Lou on. Speaking as someone who lived in America for a while before 9/11, the immigration and visa procedures were pretty unpleasant – particularly after a 8.5 hour flight!

    And I’d say they do less to deter terrorism than changing the global opinion and policies of America etc.

    But to respond to criticism in the way he has definitely shows a lack of awareness which is pretty shocking.

  4. I am amazed. Ignorance and arrogance make such an unlovely pairing.

    Still it does illustrate the pre-meteor dinosaur mind very well. When will these people learn that their assertions can be instantly verified or disproved via INternet search? When will they start to get the picture that their prior statements continue to not only exist online but are also easy to find?

    Sickening.

  5. Mark Story Says: November 21, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you ALL for your comments. I’m glad we are not all in agreement. That’s what an Internet debate is all about. That and, well, researching your facts.

    Mark

  6. Becky Richardson Says: November 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I must admit, when I first read the post about Lou Capozzi, I did not fully understand what the kafuffle (as Neville Hobson says) was all about. But when I read Capozzi’s response to Mark’s blog post, I was so taken aback that I decided to listen to the podcast for myself. I found Eric Schwartzman’s first question to be quite ironic. In reference to Mr. Capozzi’s presentation titled “Repairing America’s Connections with the Rest of the World,” Mr. Schwartzman asked, “How do you cover a topic like that without being divisive?” Interesting…since I found Mr. Capozzi’s response to Mark’s blog to be, in fact, divisive. Mr. Capozzi said we (Americans) “just aren’t as sensitive as we need to be to the way you conduct yourself…” (he was referencing what he called the “ugly American” overseas, which he described as a Bermuda-short and camera wearing American walking down the Champs Elysees—perhaps this was meant to include the “right-wing talk show host”). On the podcast, Mr. Capozzi said that we are in the “conversation age”–a “two-way, interactive model.” There tend to be differences of opinion in a two-way conversation; perhaps the conversation would be more productive and “connections” would be “repaired” (to Mr. Capozzi’s words) if insults were left out of the dialogue. Is there a term for Internet “Bermuda shorts?”

  7. I listened to the podcast. Not sure what Mr. Capozzi was trying to get at and certainly did not hear him offer any meaningful solutions. These comments are especially bizarre coming from someone whose job is to promote his corporate clients – most of whom would disagree with his diagnosis of the state of the American image.

    And Lou, why would you respond that way to another PR professionals blog? This blog actually carries weight.

    Granted, Mark, I think you did assume more extreme meanings behind statements that weren’t intended to be so extreme. Still, Lou, of all people, should understand the power of the online voice. If Lou thought people didn’t read this then they sure will now. Do a quick qoogle search on ‘Lou Capozzi’ and you’ll notice that Mark’s original post is THE THIRD RESULT! This could have been a unique moment of intellectual discourse from a corporate PR exec, but Capozzi unfortunately chose not to take that path.

  8. Mark Story Says: November 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Very good comment, Joe.

  9. Adriana Gallegos Says: November 23, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    The mission of businessactionfordiplomaticaction.org is building new bridges of cooperation, respect, and mutual understanding across cultures and borders through business-led initiatives to improve the standing of American in the world. With that being said Lou Capozzi was just doing his job for businessactionfordiplomaticaction by discussing ways to improve our image abroad. Having lived abroad I know there are many things we as Americans need to change and other countries as well…..nobody is perfect. A democracy allows people to vocalize their opinions no matter how extreme they might be. As Mark was able to get his views heard so was Lou by replying back to Mark saying that he sounded like a right wing host so I see nothing wrong with this. In the end we all must learn how to work together to find a common ground so that we can continue to lead and have support from others in the world. Without the support from the rest of the world it will be hard to be taken seriously. And as pr communicators we want the rest of the world to think highly of us so that we can continue to grow…..after all we live in a global market.

  10. Mark Story Says: November 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Adriana,

    I hear what you are saying, but I think that your comment misses the mark. What I am saying in the second post has very little to do with America’s image abroad, nor BDA’s role in it.

    The point that I am attempting to make is that a) I based my original post not on the PRSA conference but on Eric Schwartzmann’s podcast (which I am pretty sure reached more people than did the conference) I thought that Lou Capozzi’s comments seemed a little out of touch, and b) why would someone who has been in public relations for 40 years (and talked about social media in his podcast interview as the Chairman of a global corporation that owns several interactive agencies) have such a poor response to my post?

    As I stated, I have been criticized online my share of times, but online reputation management 101 is engagement, not criticism. When you go after someone — in a personal way — with a rebuttal that is more emotion that fact, you keep the issue alive.

    Mark

  11. Mark Story Says: November 24, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Becky,

    Thanks for your comment. And I appreciate you listening to Eric entire interview as well.

    “Diplomatic” and this “kerfuffle” definitely do not go together.

    Mark

  12. Thira Sannikorn Says: November 24, 2008 at 10:58 am

    This blog made me feel that people should understand more about social media. Like Joe said why Lou respond that way to another PR professional. In my view, I thought that it is not an appropriate way to respond like this. And now I believe that people did read his post. This allows me to remind to myself that I should be careful when I am going to respond something on social media (do research or make sure that I got right information). One easily thing which obviously see from Lou’s post is the website that Lou advice Mark to visit “http://www.businessfordiplomaticaction/com”.
    Is that really proper website. I clicked on it and it showed “object not found”. For me, I won’t offer something, which can’t be found, to other people to discredit myself. The most easy example is that why we have to put accurate citations or references in our reports!

  13. In the first weeks of intersection we witnessed online the discussion that led to a write-up in the NYTimes. One thing that stuck with me that we talked about in class is that people are all involved in online communities and with that, they have an online reputation.

    With that said, I feel that in Mark’s first post, he made some very reasonable and intelligent comments about the material he heard. While above, someone says he might have read into it too much, I disagree.

    Why? Because with online communication and use of podcasts, a listener or reader can not always tell a persons tone and certainly can not see facial expressions. Therefore, how he interpreted what he heard might be very different from what another listener might have thought or what those surrounding him during his podcast thought. What we learned from the Motrin case in the past couple weeks is the perfect example of how one person can interpret a scenario total opposite another.

    What we did learn from Mark’s previous interaction is that if you can have a professional, intelligent and reasonable argument, it is fine – that is what this is hear for – to hear other’s voices and ideas. I feel each argument that Mark gave had some research behind it and was well thought out. After reading Lou Capozzi’s response, I feel there was very little thought behind his response and that his response was not very timely. Further, it is obvious that we not only see him for the person he is, we also see him for who he represents. In my mind, one identity a person has is as an employee of an organization or company. If I do something out of line, it reflects poorly on my organization. Sounds to me that people are most shocked by Mr. Capozzi’s previous experiences in relation to the comments he made – does not look so good for the organizations he represents are has been affiliated with.

  14. Adriana Gallegos Says: November 25, 2008 at 8:26 am

    I understand that Lou’s response to Mark could have been better, but maybe he felt that was the best way to respond.

  15. Lindsey Brothers Says: November 25, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    What I found most compelling was the following quote and comment:

    “There is a broad perception out there that globalization has been fueled by America…Our reputation is really in trouble,” when you work for a global public relations and communications firm who has benefited from globalization?

    On June 17, 2005 an article titled, “Publicis to buy majority stake in public relations firm” was published in the International Herald Tribune, which is the New York Times’ international edition. The article reported on Publicis’ purchase of a majority stake in Freud Communications, a London-based public relations firm.

    Freud Communications “specializes in promoting glitzy movie premieres and other celebrity-oriented events,” and “will help Publicis expand its public relations portfolio…[and] might allow the company to move into additional cities.”

    At this point, I’ve gathered from this article that Publicis is expanding themselves globally, not just their global clients, by purchasing a large stake in Freud.

    As I continued, I then read a comment by Kris Thykier, Vice Chairman of Freud Communications, “This puts us in position to be a bigger player in what is increasingly a global business.”

    At this point, my understanding is that both organizations are coming together for the benefit of maximizing their global reach and ultimately bringing in more dollars.

    I then read Lou Capozzi’s comment, “The addition of Freud Communications to the group will strengthen our consumer public relations capabilities, specifically through their broad expertise in consumer branding and entertainment marketing.”

    This was the last sentence in the story, which left me wondering what all the hype is about with regards to globalization when Mr. Capozzi is part of the expansion himself.

    He criticizes globalization but a) represents global clients and b) works to expand Publicis so it can continue in its global business. What are you for Mr. Capozzi??

    For somebody that also authored the book, “Reputation Management,” I would think he would think twice before criticizing his own organization’s global work.

    The International Herald Tribune article can be found at:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/06/16/business/adfirm.php

  16. Lindsey Brothers Says: November 25, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Although I commented a lot about Mr. Capozzi’s global criticisms, I also wanted to comment on his response to Mark’s blog post. I would have expected a more thought out response than what he sent. Before getting to Mark’s breakdown of Mr. Capozzi’s comments, I was already scratching my head wondering where Mr. Capozzi was coming up with his comments. It is apparent that he was offended and I could picture him typing away with anger as his motivation. What should have been his motivation was to respond to Mark with an intelligent explanation of why he felt the way he did, leaving out the personal attacks which only made him look weak. I think he would have earned more respect had he handled himself in a professional manner.

  17. I don’t necessarily agree with much of what Mr. Capozzi said in his podcast and in his response, however, I do agree with Joe and think that Mark might have overanalyzed what he was trying to say and making it more extreme than it could have been.

    That being said, instead of analyzing the podcasts and the actual content of this discussion, I want to focus on applied learning and discuss the reaction that Mr. Capozzi had. I am confused by this comment; “By now I guess it’s safe to say almost nobody saw this, since I have had no reaction from anyone other than the email you sent to BDA, but I don’t want your assessment to stand without comment.”

    It is clear that Mr Capozzi was not being proactive and searching through blogs to find content that is referencing him. There are even some blogs linked to him if you search in Technorati. I think it is a learning experience and not only people, but companies, non-profits, PR agencies, etc. should be proactive in seearching and analyzing blogs. The conversation is out there, so you, (or someone within the company), need to be searching for blogs and online conversations and not simply reacting to posts retroactively (similar to Capozzi’s post). To his credit, I don’t believe that he put too much effort into his response because he assumed it would only be read by Mark and not put in a public forum.

  18. I think this series of comments and blog posts is quite interesting. It is a great example of what can happen in the blogosphere, and how tone can affect message, and therefore response. And of course, how all of this affects one’s reputation.

    Mark, your original blog post set the tone for the rest of the conversation. While you may not have intended this (I don’t know as I wasn’t in your head at the time), but your original post took on a bit of a flippant tone. More than that, it was a very informal tone. You didn’t just criticize what he said, but you criticized him on a personal level.

    Mr. Capozzi’s response was a bit out of line, but he responded in also an informal manner to something he was offended by. As we have discovered with the motrin moms issue, it doesn’t matter how many you offend, but simply that you have offended someone. I don’t agree with a few of the things Mr. Capozzi said, or the way that he phrased his opinions. It also took on a very harsh, critical tone.

    Mark’s response was equally harsh, and just as informal and personal. From a reputation management stand point, this was not a good discussion for either Mr. Capozzi or Mark. Neither of you came off positive, despite the actual message. This could have been a great discussion of America’s reputation on a global standpoint.

    One of the initial problems with Mark’s first post is that he took Mr. Capozzi’s interview from a critical, American point of view. Mark reacted negatively to the interview on a large scale, taking offense as an American and not looking at it as someone from another country. The reality is that there are people around the world who hold those viewpoints, among others, and are critical of many America(n) customs, etc. This would have been a great discussion on the different points of view of America(ns) from a global perspective and from an American perspective. Unfortunately, it all became someone what of sleazy mud-slinging competition.

  19. It is amazing to see that a professional like Lou did not look into other social media out there. It seems that Lou responded on the basis of not noticing other people’s response as he stated.

    I feel that this emphasizes the importance of proactively participating and being aware of the social media that is being put out about you or your company.

    As Mame stated, it is hard to tell the tone of a message as well have a misintepretation. As we have learned throught the semester, when we communicate via mediums like social media we have to be careful what we represent and what we state because of how people may interpret it. Also the fact that there are many people listening through these mediums.

  20. Heather Lovett Says: November 26, 2008 at 10:08 am

    First I have to say I almost died laughing when you said that he needs to stop going out for lunch in response to ugly Americans in their Bermuda shorts walking down the Chaps Elysee. I, like many of you, don’t understand the point he is trying to make. People don’t like Americans because we have McDonalds, lines at immigration, and wear tacky clothes while visiting other countries? To my American defense, I love taco hell, I wait in lines to enter other countries and while I’m there I try not to dress like a skank. With that being said, I kind of feel sorry for Lou. If you’re reading this – keep your head up, Lou!!

  21. So, from a reputation management perspective, I think Mr. Capozzi went wrong at the first place by showing a certain level of ignorance and responding with a considered-to-be-arrogant attitude.

    Without a face-to-face interaction, I think it’s even more crucial for a professional to be careful with any word he/she is putting out there. What surprises me the most is Mr. Capozzi’s opening.. it appears to be a little bit irresponsible to me.. Besides, Mr. Capozzi didn’t really back up his statement with any explanation that in the end, the receiver is still confused and unaffected. On contrary, I think Mark at least did a good job, regardless of the contents, in responding with detailed information to support his statement. With such highly-circulated online communication world, communicators should be more cautious before making any statement since that, in prob an hour or so, his/her lack-of-solidity claim could get shot at by countless online audience. (like what’s happening now..)

    Though, I consider Mr. Capozzi’s willingness to respond as a good mark in terms of feedback management. However, if the response composes nothing else solid in addition to emotional shout-out, it’s probably better to not respond at all?!

  22. Anca Bilegan Says: November 26, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I was astonished to learn that Lou Capozzi said about Mark’s post “it’s safe to say almost nobody saw this, since I have had no reaction from anyone other than the email you sent to BDA”. Just because Lou Capozzi didn’t personally received comments about Mark’s post, doesn’t mean people are not talking about it. He should have made a quick research before saying this. As Claire said, from a reputation management perspective, Lou showed ignorance when he failed to support his affirmations with facts. I have to disagree that the discussion between Mark and Lou was not a good one for any of them. I don’t think the discussion affected Mark in a negative way: he simply stated his opinion and backed it up with facts. Furthermore, some people will agree with Mark, some won’t, but there’s nothing bad about it.

  23. Shilpika Das Says: November 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I’ll have to agree with Dan Thornton here. As a non-immigrant in the US, I should say that America’s front desk can be “pretty unpleasant.” The wait in those long, immigration lines can be intimidating and the tone often is “threatening and foreboding.” I understand the concerns after 9/11 but I certainly don’t think that warrants the kind of behavior foreigners sometimes have to put up with.

    That being said, I don’t think, THAT, in any way, is the reason people dislike America. It may not be the best first impression….but definitely not reason enough to dislike a country.

    Mark, in all fairness, I think you had a pretty strong first reaction there — even if your arguments were valid. What I do appreciate, however, is that you took the trouble to e-mail the Business for Diplomatic Action organization, your friend on the board and Eric Schwartzman — giving them a heads up about your blog post. I think that’s the kind of netiquette that should be encouraged.

    I do think Lou Capozzi should have paid more attention to your post before responding. Even if he had a valid point of view, and I am not saying he did, he discredited himself with his lack of attention to detail and research. I think he should have known better than to shoot off a hasty reply and engage in name calling.

    The bottom line, I think, is to engage in a discussion and refrain from making it personal.

    It’s okay to agree to disagree. Question ideas, not people.

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