Archive for November, 2010

November has been quite the month and I’m proud to say the thing that excites me every day is my Fu Manchu. It ages me 10 years, draws interesting looks from the ladies (not all of them bad), and it’s for a good cause.

November is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and for the third year in a row, I’m participating in Movember, a challenge for men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache. The moustache becomes the ribbon for men’s health, the means by which awareness and funds are raised for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG.  Much like the commitment to run or walk for charity, my fellow Mo Bros and I commit to growing a moustache for 30 days.

I’ll be the first to say that I look a little goofy with a moustache and sometimes I look like the sick folks on NBC’s “To Catch A Predator,” but if that’s all it takes to help find a cure for prostate cancer, than count me in.

Growing a moustache can be intimidating for guys that have never grown one before and I frequently receive questions about the Movember process. Hopefully, some of the information below will help guys overcome their hesitancies and offer insight to ladies.

Jill, Mark and me during the 2009 Movember Gala in Chicago

How does one cultivate a lip caterpillar?

Similar to the development of a butterfly, growing a moustache is a long and sometimes difficult process that ends in a beautiful creature. I’ve tried several different techniques over the years and I’ve determined that the easiest way to grow a mo is to start by growing a beard. Because each guy grows facial hair differently, a beard will help you understand your moustache growing abilities.

One of my pitfalls last year is that I started to shape my crumb catcher earlier on and I trimmed one of the corners too tightly. Confronted with a difficult situation, I decided to shave my moustache and state over. This year, I grew a beard and developed the perfect working environment for my masterpiece.

After growing a beard for 1-2 weeks, it’s time to show the world your testosterone driven work of art. This year I went with a classic Fu Manchu because it worked well my first Movember and it looks pretty badass. Since clean shaven is preferred in most work environment, it’s important to remember that your moustache will be the first thing a person notice about you, what message does yours send? My says, “I’m going to stick it to the man.”

New Challenges to Tackle

Contrary to popular brief, a living with, and maintaining, a moustache is not a turnkey operation.  Similar to a dog, child and Lamborghini, a fair number of obstacles are associated with moustache “ownership.”

The biggest challenge for me is in regards to my other facial hair. Prior to Movember I could go three to four days without shaving and claim I was trying to mimic the Dave Beckham scruffy look that women find attractive. Now that I have a moustache women have gone from saying “Ooh la la” to “Oh he’s just lazy.” Some of the additional challenges I’ve faced include:

-Eating barbeque wings and getting sauce on the side of my Fu Manchu.

-Avoiding beer foam in my moustache.

-Talking to women in a bar. (Just kidding I don’t have trouble talking to women, they have trouble accepting the intense manliness of my moustache.)


Me during a recent trip to Miami

Oh Joey. – Grandma

That is an AWESOME moustache. Well done sir. – A fellow moustache connoisseur at a wedding in Milwaukee.

I’m sorry but I can’t take you seriously with that moustache. – My co-worker and friend Noelle

*Inquisitive look / hand gesture to face* So what’s with the moustache? I like it. – Random girl at a bar in Milwaukee.

I can’t look out you with that moustche. – My sister Kimberly

Your moustache is looking exquisite Mr. Piehl. – My friend Theresa (via Facebook)

Additional Information

A moustache is like a coat of arms for a man’s face.

Every guy deserves to grow a little bit of luxury. (This year’s slogan.) profiled seven historical figures who were absurdly hard to kill, ALL of them had facial hair.

Understanding Prostate Cancer via the Prostate Cancer Foundation

Shameless Plug for Support (and Your Hard Earned $$$)

Hopefully, it’s clear that growing facial fur isn’t an easy task. The thing that really caught me off guard this year is a new stat saying one in six guys will develop prostate cancer during their life. Unfortunately, this means that one of the guys on my office team will develop this terrible disease.  So if you see a bro growing a mo in the hallway or on the street tell them to keep up the good work, give them a fist bump, or tell him he looks nothing like the guys on “To Catch a Predator.” If you can, a few bucks in the “donation can” would also help.

To donate to either my Movember team or me, click here.

With a stache,


p.s. I’ll send a team photo to everyone that donates to my Movember crew and me.


The last few months have been filled with trips nearly every week.  From weddings and visiting friends to work trips galore, at the end of this month I will have visited 12 different cities in three months (September – November) and it has been a whirlwind adventure.

Each trip was fun and I’ve always learned something new. In Portland I met the man who started the city’s microbrew culture, in South Bend I attended my first NCAA football game EVER and during several of the trips I had the pleasure watching my friends get married.

The Combos Team with Rob Widmer, one of the founding brothers of the Widmer Brothers Brewing Company and the Portland microbrewing culture.

The majority of my work trips have been on the weekends because two guys in my office and I are creating 10 city profiles for the Combos Facebook page. Earlier this year COMBOS, a client, released a ranking of the Manliest Cities in America and our video profiles highlight the manliness of each city. (The video profiles can be seen here.)

Since it doesn’t take more than an eight hour shoot to create our 2-3 minute profile, most of our trips are around 30 hours from the time we leave for O’Hare to the time I plop down on my bed and avoid laundry. And despite the years of traveling I’ve done with my family, these trips, combined with weddings and other trips, have forced me to hone my travel skills.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a young professional starting to travel more, below are a couple things I’ve learned from my travels.

1) Learn to sleep on a plane.

According to the Harvard Business Review, sleeping on a plane is one of the keys to corporate success. And from my own experience, learning how to do so will make your 4 hour flight feel like 2 minutes. When you can, throw a small travel pillow in the carry-on you plan to put below your feet. Also, try to snag a window seat.

2) Never check a bag.

Don’t believe me?? Mama Piehl works in the lost baggage office for an airline in Milwaukee and she can talk to you for hours about why you shouldn’t check a bag. If you have to check a bag, keep a spare set of socks, underwear and a shirt in your carry on, along with the essentials you can’t live without (house keys, medication, glasses, etc.).  Everything else, deodorant, tooth paste and a spare shirt, can all be replaced if your bag is lost or delayed.


3) Pay the bills ASAP!

If you’re traveling for work, bring an envelope and at the end of every day put all of your receipts in it. The last thing you want to learn two weeks after your trip is that you lost the receipt for your rental car or one of your meals. If you’re traveling with friends, ask them to bring their checkbooks so everyone can square up before you head to the airport.

4) Prepare for the security line.

Going through TSA stinks, and if you’re following my second tip, you’ll probably have two bags with you. Make TSA breeze by wearing shoes that easily slip on and off, putting your lovely bag of toiletries at the top of your carry-on, and taking off anything you know you’ll have to take off at the front of the line while you’re waiting in line. Imagine how simple screening will be if aren’t fumbling with a watch or trying to jungle your laptop in one bin and everything else in another.  (Hint: Don’t worry about your belt. A certain amount of metal is acceptable in the screen process and you can cheat the system by placing your hand over it when walking through the metal detector.)

5) Act like your trip is a night on the town.

Flying used to be a romantic event categorized by men in suits and fedoras and flight attendants that would make a teenage boy red in the face. Now an airport terminal is filled with men reading the soft core porn they purchased at the Hudson News store and women in velour tracksuits. Guys, use this as an opportunity to throw on a blazer, look sharp and travel like you’re the James Bond of coach. Ladies, nothing will turn heads like a pencil skirt and a pair of pumps walking through O’Hare or JFK – and if you see me at the airport bar, come say hi. Your first drink is on me.

In all seriousness… when you look nice at an airport, you’ll be more inclined to treat the occasion like a formal event and you’ll treat people better than normal. And in return, they’ll show you the same kindness, which might mean the window seat I mention in my first tip.

What are your travel tips / rituals? Any horror stories from TSA or an angry passenger?



If your company or client isn’t participating in social media you’re missing a chance to create a community and build advocates. Unless you’re connected to a mediocre product, or non-profit organization, interacting with your supporters can turn them into brand ambassadors. But who is the best group of people to manage the community you’re trying to cultivate?

From an agency perspective, the best group to do this is a public relations agency. I’ve felt this for a while but Tom Martin’s  Advertising Age article (Why Ad Agencies Should Own Social Media) prompted me to write down my thoughts and add the PR perspective in the article’s comment section.  As someone that has been interested in advertising since high school, I can agree with many of Tom’s points. The ad industry has phenomenal talent, the most experience driving consumers to purchase a product and experience integrating the same message through multiple channels… but this isn’t enough.

One Voice

The social media voice of a client should be limited to a small team of 1-2 people and the overall voice of a company is more than just advertising, it’s a variety of agencies and campaigns. However, PR plays a critical role in shaping the key messages used in proactive media campaigns, company announcements and crisis situations.

I’ve had an opportunity to work on about a dozen crisis situations, varying in scope, and one of the first places clients go to for messaging counsel is their PR agency. Nothing is more critical during a crisis than messaging that accurately responds the conversation occurring on the news and in social media. During the H1N1 outbreak of 20009, colleague monitoring the conversation on Twitter caught wind of an inaccurate Reuters’ article that would have been extremely damaging to the pork industry. By understanding and leading our client’s social media, he was able to have Reuters stop the article before it was published and respond accurately to consumers that had questions about other misleading articles.

One of the agency’s digital leaders was visiting Chicago a few months ago and he best described by PR should play an active role in a client’s social media:

Every client agency wants to manage the brand’s social media… until a crisis happens. Then they’re more than willing to give it up.

Creating a Community and Building Advocates
Most companies rarely have a crisis, which means they have an opportunity to engage consumers in a positive setting and create a community. Creating a community is the most important asset that can be gained from social media and unlike advertising, it is a two way conversation. The public relations industry excels in this area because our success is partially based on the conversations we have with reporters and the relationships that develop.

PR professionals understand that social media strategy needs to be about more than just pushing a product, it should be about creating a place where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and contributing to a conversation that is larger than the brand itself.  Maybe it’s just me but I’m always disappointed to see a brand that never interacts with its followers on Tweeter or never shares content that doesn’t directly mention them or their product. Why wouldn’t a brand share information and articles that would interest their supporters?

Playing Nice in the Sandbox

Tom hits the nail on the head when he comments that social media cannot be in a silo and that it should be integrated into the brands communication programs. I’ve noticed from inter-agency planning that some ideas work as a cool advertising campaign but doesn’t have ability to garner a consumer’s attention beyond controlled media and the marketing section of a newspaper.

In PR we understand the importance of collaboration and sharing different media channels. One of the nicknames that floats around our office when people are in the middle of pitching a client story is  “bulldog.”  And as weird as it sounds, when someone calls a colleague a bulldog it’s compliment because like a bulldog you have to be aggressive, confident and the willing to fight for our client’s story. Sometimes this means “sharing” the spot light with a competitor or several other clients in a trend piece or “round up” article. My colleagues and I know this will always happen and we understand that providing information that adds to an article will make the reporter’s job easier and it will elevate the brands status. Our ability to play with other brands shows that we have the ability to look at the big picture and recognize that content will always be based on input from multiple sources. And similar to the bulldog itself, we know how to tackle a project and achieve success, no matter how much punishment we’re forced to absorb.

So Where Does Advertising Fit In?
Ad agencies should play a role in a client’s social media channels, especially in regards to content creation. We’ve seen amazing and moving pieces come from their creative departments and that talent should not be forgotten. However, PR agencies have the best track record for two-way communication (a.k.a. Talking to other people).

As everyone prepares for 2011 budgets and campaigns, we need to remember that we as agencies aren’t silos and that we all contribute to the success of our clients. A social media should strategy reflect these contributions and understand that the best content won’t always come from one source. Hopeful the new year will bring more inter-agency collaboration because at the end of the day, everyone’s budget grows when our clients grow.



Sandbox Photo: Source

Microphone Photo: Source