The Internship (at PW, not the movie)

Neelam

Neelam Phalke, Senior at the University of Southern California

The internship season is underway at companies throughout the nation. The eponymous movie has just been released.
 
And we are happy to introduce our very own 2013 summer intern–Neelam Phalke, a senior at the University of Southern California, majoring in biochemistry with a minor in business administration.
 
Neelam (pictured right) has been a lab technician, research assistant, tutor, student ambassador, president and public relations chair of the Trojan Chemistry Club. She currently is editor of the Undergraduate Science Journal.
 
For Neelam, a classic achiever who plans to earn an MBA as well as enter medical school, the internship represents yet another new learning experience, allowing her to explore the business world, concentrate on the firm’s healthcare sector clients, and extend her affinity for communications. For us, it was Neelam’s diverse background, combined with her communications skills, which placed her as our top choice.
 
Welcome, Neelam, and have a great summer.

 

Roger Pondel, rpondel@pondel.com
 
 

Scroogenomics

Scroogenomics

Scroogenomics by Joel Waldfogel

It’s early December, so my annual nervous breakdown over shopping for friends and family is right on schedule.
 
What to buy?  How about gift cards for everyone?  Practical, but rather impersonal. That pretty much sums up my personality.
 
How about jewelry for my wife? Personal? Yes. Practical? Hardly. Really, aren’t 6,485 pairs of earrings enough?
 
Here’s an idea. How about nothing? Now, before you pass judgment there is actually some sound financial science behind this idea put forward recently by Joel Waldfogel, author of Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays.
 
Waldfogel isn’t some Grinch dumping lumps of coal into stockings, he is an economic guru as the chair of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. In a recent Time Magazine interview, Waldfogel says he objects to holiday spending because “it doesn’t result in very much satisfaction.”  Really? I still remember the electric football set I got when I was 8 years old. Of course, I can’t really remember any present since, so maybe Waldfogel is right.
 
Waldfogel elaborates further that, “Normally if I spend $50 on myself, I’ll only buy something if it’s worth at least $50 to me. But if you buy something for me, and you spend $50, since you don’t know what I like, and you don’t know what I have, you may buy something I wouldn’t pay anything for. And so you could turn the real resources required to make things into something of no value to me. And that would destroy value.”  Hmm, I wonder if that logic will work on my wife and kids?
 
Waldfogel does promote gifts cards, gift certificates and giving to charities as practical alternatives for the holiday season.  One gift Waldfogel probably wouldn’t mind people giving each other is a copy of his book.
 
In honor of Scrooge, I’ll wait for the paperback version.

 

Ron Neal, rneal@pondel.com
 
 

Business Noose

The next obit many legacy media companies may be writing is on the death of business sections.  When times get tough, second-tier publications often relegate business sections to the back of the sports or metro pages, and then, without nary a whimper, the business section is kaput, KO’d, a grizzled piece of charred meat that you were thinking about eating because you were still hungry but couldn’t stomach the idea of putting in your mouth.
 
So where do you go to satisfy your hankering for business news?  Fox Business?  CNBC?  The Wall Street Journal?  Maybe you lost your appetite or never had one for business news.  Maybe the financial collapse is inducing your gag reflex and business news is on par with your fondness for acid reflux.  Reflex, reflux, whatever it is about business news, it is time for some reinvention.  It is time for a new way to portray business news that engages, debunks, and denudes the financial mavericks that got us into this mess in the first place.
 
Below is a brief list of media outlets that offer a fresh take on business news. Some will entice. Some will repel. But at least they are attempting to resuscitate an important subject that is too critical to lose to gimpy newsprint.
 
Footnoted.org – Each day, Footnoted looks under the hood of companies’ SEC filings and tries to make sense of what they are saying.
 
Planet Money – NPR’s take on the global economy.
 
SEC Data Guy – Stats and analysis of EDGAR and IDEA data.
 
10Q Detective – Former analyst waxes on quarterly results, SEC filings and the like.
 
Market Folly – A blog primarily focused on hedge fund portfolio tracking.

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

socIal netwoRking

There is something about the word “Twitter” that makes my hair stand up. And then there’s the word “Tweet,” which really gets my goat. Why? Because I have this perception that all of these social networking activities are nothing more than digital pollutants, clogging up the arteries that feed the Internet.
 
From an investor relations perspective, many social networking tools are being utilized to promote stocks, whether justifiable or not. And therein lies the rub: How do you distinguish the good information from the bad?
 
Personally, I think it comes down to social responsibility. For example, if an IRO would like to Tweet about a company’s 20% increase in revenues, I say Tweet on, as long as the news has already been publicly disseminated. But how about the use of Twitter to spout off about unsubstantiated information? Ultimately, there is a certain social responsibility that Tweeters should abide by to ensure that important messages do not get lost amid the cacophony of superfluous Twits, I mean Tweets.
 
Instead of perceiving social media as another outlet to senselessly bombard audiences, they should be perceived as a privilege, a tool, an effective method that, when used judiciously, provide valuable information.

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

Beware the Bloggerwocky

With the proliferation of financial blogs it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine the credibility of supposed financial gurus and their stock recommendations. Compounding this is that popular Internet portals are publishing blog posts that appear to have compelling information but in reality are simply the regurgitate of already-public information (i.e., news releases, corporate Web sites, SEC filings, etc.), often with a little extra hyperbole to further entice the reader.
 
Public companies like to see their stocks go up. And glowing remarks are usually welcome, wherever they may come from. But what happens when an uninformed or even malicious blogger with a reasonable following begins to spew negative information? All of a sudden you find yourself at the mercy of an online smear campaign.
 
But before the vitriolic ping pong match begins, do your homework. Identify the source of the information. Study the extent of their “news” delivery platform. Google them. Use sites like www.alexa.com to see who else links to their blog. Study social networking sites, too. This will give you a reasonable sense for the author’s credibility. Then assess the content. If you find factually false and misleading information, there may be grounds for libel. If there are no factual errors and the source is simply expressing his or her opinion, make sure the context of the opinion is not written as a fact reported by the company. Look for transparency and see if the source discloses whether they are shareholders, long or short. This may provide further insight into their motives. And finally, be prepared to issue a formal statement to correct any misinformation before it spreads on the Internet. Nonsense verse can be fun and even enduring but when it challenges a company’s hard earned reputation, it may be time to remove that vorpel pen, go snicker-snack, take the bloggers head and go galumphing back.

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

Stay-cation Trumps Vacation

Plane ticket?  Check.  Sunblock?  Check.  Huge floppy sunhat and beach ball?  Check and check.  Money?  Check … or was that credit?
 
Going on vacation is on everyone’s minds these days as summer unfolds.  But with cash flow woes weighing on our savings accounts and credit scores, how about planning a “stay-cation” instead?  Part of enduring a recession is to accept that our plan for a great summer getaway dwindles as we delve into a bleak financial underworld.  However, with new situations come new and recycled ideas and experiments … a renaissance, so to speak.
 
By staying local, people can support their communities and businesses without breaking the bank.  Organize an itinerary of sightseeing activities that draws tourism to your area.  Rediscover museums, parks, and local eateries all the while reestablishing your connection to home.

 

PondelWilkinson, investor@pondel.com
 
 

Etymology

Strange Words from the New Yorker Not Typically Known to Most of Mankind
 
Since words play such an important role in what we do as corporate communicators, the editor-in-chief of this blog asked me to do a periodic posting on this subject, following the initial one I did late last year.
 
As a kid, I always read the Word Power feature in Reader’s Digest, a subscription to which I received from a great uncle. It was the only part of the magazine I read. For PW Insight, I will continue to bring unusual words to your attention from my favorite magazine, The New Yorker.
 
Try your luck at these ten, scrolling down for the answers. Scroll further to see if you can pick out the word that was invented by the mother of late author David Wallace:
 

  1. Maw
  2. Shtarkers
  3. Heterodoxy
  4. Fillip
  5. Greebles
  6. Abstemious
  7. Chockablock
  8. Krait

 
ANSWERS…
 

  1. Symbolic center of a voracious hunger of any kind
  2. Extremely tough guys
  3. Any opinions at variance with the official position
  4. Anything that tends to rouse, excite or revive
  5. Little bits of lint, especially those which feet bring into bed
  6. Characterized by moderation
  7. Extremely full
  8. Any of several large, banded, usually placid but highly venomous snakes

 

…As to the totally fabricated word by David Wallace’s mother—Number 5, greebles.

 

Roger Pondel, Chief Etymologist, PondelWilkinson, Inc., rpondel@pondel.com
 
 

Recessionary Cocktails

Honestly, we’re not big drinkers at PondelWilkinson, but who can resist a good cocktail recipe to take the edge off the recession? The following are suggestions from The New Yorker.
 
Long Island Iced 401(k) – Put hopes in shaker. Add dreams. Shake until dashed, then drink all the vodka, gin, tequila, and rum left in liquor cabinet.
 
Broke & Tan – Fall asleep in yard on weekday, wake up sunburned and so dehydrated that anything tastes good.
 
Nasdaiquiri – Add a dozen I.P.O.’s to portfolio, wait until bubble bursts, drink all day every day.
 
Blackberry Sling – Discover that your BlackBerry doesn’t work because you haven’t paid the bill. Sling it against the wall, then buy a prepaid phone and make some rum in your toilet.
 
Please feel free to submit other suggestions and they will magically appear on this blog. Cheers.

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

Margaritaville

It has yet to be determined whether Warren Buffet and Jimmy Buffet are related.  The two certainly have taken divergent paths in life, and yet they share one similarity that is undisputable:  Both have amassed wealth far beyond what the average American can fathom.
 
The two Buffets also share another characteristic:  humility.  Whether it’s Jimmy crooning about “Wastin’ away in Margaritaville,” or the self-deprecating, folksy tone of Warren’s shareholder letters, the Buffets have their way with words.
 
And so, as Jimmy says, “if you’re living on sponge cake … and there’s booze in your blender,” why not take a little time to consider the following key message points from Warren Buffet’s most recent musings in his 2008 shareholder letter for Berkshire Hathaway.
 
“By year end, investors of all stripes were bloodied and confused, much as if they were small birds that had strayed into a badminton game.”
 
“The watchword throughout the country became the creed I saw on restaurant walls when I was young: ‘In God we trust; all others pay cash.’”
 
“The U.S. – and much of the world – became trapped in a vicious negative-feedback cycle. Fear led to business contraction, and that in turn led to even greater fear.”
 
“In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone ‘all in.’”
 
“Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel.”
 
“Weaning these entities from the public teat will be a political challenge. They won’t leave willingly.”
 
“Like it or not, the inhabitants of Wall Street, Main Street and the various Side Streets of America were all in the same boat.”
 
“During 2008 I did some dumb things in investments.”
 
“Furthermore, I made some errors of omission, sucking my thumb when new facts came in that should have caused me to re-examine my thinking and promptly take action.”
 
“Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”
 
“We like buying underpriced securities, but we like buying fairly-priced operating businesses even more.”
 
“Home purchases should involve an honest-to-God down payment of at least 10% and monthly payments that can be comfortably handled by the borrower’s income.”
 
“Putting people into homes, though a desirable goal, shouldn’t be our country’s primary objective. Keeping them in their homes should be the ambition.”
 
“Beware of geeks bearing formulas.”
 
“We never want to count on the kindness of strangers in order to meet tomorrow’s obligations.”
 
“Beware of the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.”
 
“Derivatives are dangerous.”
 
“Participants seeking to dodge troubles face the same problem as someone seeking to avoid venereal disease: It’s not just whom you sleep with, but also whom they are sleeping with.”

 

Evan Pondel, epondel@pondel.com
 
 

Finally, Sound Fiscal Policy

…to get the economy on track.  Only, it’s more than two thousand years old.
 
“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”– Cicero, c. 55 BC

 

PondelWilkinson, investor@pondel.com