Program for Thursday, September 25th

Mark Tosczak is our speaker this Thursday. He says his last name is pronounced like "Toe Zack." He's originally from Canada (when I told Jim Kennedy Mark was from Canada, he smiled and said "we walk among you, unnoticed") but since this is the Southland, I think he should say it the same way Buster asks Grandfather Lewis to hand over his burlap bag, "Grandpappy, reach in that there tote sack (toe-sack) and whack me off a plug of chawin’ terbackky."

This post violates my blogging protocol. It’s not funny. It doesn't have pictures. And it's way too long. So if you just want to read about tomorrow’s program, scroll on down to ok, about tomorrow’s program…

I met Mark or rather he called up and introduced himself to me three years ago. He was then with Triad Business Journal and writing a feature article. That was 2003. Seems Buffett was busy, Templeton was meditating and so he had to settle for me. Anyway, he wrote the best piece of journalistic reporting the Triad Business Journal ever printed, if I say so myself. Maybe you remember it. Buster wagged it around from table to table. All I know is it cost me a happy dollar and I still couldn’t use it in our advetising and marketing efforts. Seems Mark did such a fine job, that if I sent so much as one copy to one prospect, I'd be guilty of violating the SEC's rule prohibiting the use of testimonials. Why? Good question. In interviewing our clients about their customer experiences with us, Mark asked questions in the same persistent way with which he asked us, and kept on scribbling until he realized this particular client wasn't going to utter a single unfavorable remark (unbelievable), and so Mark went on with the story, just like it was given to him. To this day, I do not know how Mark happened to choose the only client who happened to like us (hey, it was 2003), but he did. Like I said, he did such a good job that all I could do with the article was put in a happy dollar and frame it on my wall. Still, I have to say that reading that article today gratifies and humbles me greatly, as well it should. And not being able to circulate didn't take one thing away from JSCO.

  • You can pretty much skip this unless you're starved for info. Explanation: Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisors Act [15 U.S.C. 80b-6(4)] states that “it shall be fraudulent, deceptive, or manipulative act, practice, or course of business for any investment adviser registered or required to be registered under section 203 of the Act [15 U.S.C. 80b-3], directly or indirectly, to publish, circulate, or distribute any advertisement which refers, directly or indirectly, to any testimonial of any kind concerning the investment adviser…” Section 206(4), in my opinion, was intended to deal with any untrue statement of a material fact, or which is otherwise false or misleading, of which there are legion, and then somebody thought that a crooked investment advisor might just try to buy votes (wonder where he got that idea) and then somebody else felt well, just because so and so had a favorable client experience with such and such firm doesn’t mean that every client will and so we better not such and such firm advertise with the testimonial because some future client might not have such a favorable experience with such and such firm, but if they hadn’t read that testimonial, they wouldn’t have made the decision to go with that guy who gave them an experience that wasn’t as delightful as the guy in the testimonial.
  • You can skip this too. Merrill Lynch can use testimonials. So can AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. These firms can hire any celebrity or athlete to say anything they want them to say, pretty much. My personal favorite is the cartoon animated housewife whining to her friend about transfer fees, of all things, as if eliminating transfer fees was all that stood between her and sustainable financial utopia found at Charles Schwab.
I digress. I learned later anyone could have asked for a copy of Mark's article and I could have sent it to them or told them where it was on the Web. But if they didn't ask for it I couldn’t have sent it. With Wall Street coming unglued, it sure makes me wonder just how many places there are to put blame. And then this stupid testimonial rule raises its ugly head and sticks out its tongue at me. Surely you’d think the Securities and Exchange Commission can find bigger fish to fry than those of advisors advertising customer testimonials, even if true. Now maybe you’ve got some idea of the biggest, most messed up company of all, the United States Government. Sorry, I didn't mean to get wound up.

Back to Mark and tomorrow’s program. Don't hold it against him, but he and I are still friends. He's been incredibly helpful, like turning me on to LinkedIn, transforming the mess I made of out of Justin's press release into this stroke of clarity, plus other ideas to grow our business.

Ok, about tomorrow’s program…

With 14 years of communications and journalism experience, Mark joined RLF for the opportunity to help build a great marketing and public relations firm. At RLF he has worked on national and local media relations for clients in health care, financial services and real estate. He has also managed marketing collateral projects, online communications and client strategy. Before RLF, Mark, an award-winning journalist, was a senior reporter for The Business Journal of the Triad and a staff writer at the Greensboro News & Record. He worked as a freelance writer and consultant, writing for The New York Times, Wired News and a variety of local and state publications. He started his professional career at The Herald-Sun in Durham, N.C., where he was a copy editor, reporter and business editor, and, to be sure, in charge of the coffee pot. Mark has a master's in business administration from Elon University and has a bachelor's degree in English from N.C. State University, where he was editor of the student newspaper. I better stop here or I won't have anything left with which to introduce him tomorrow.