Jul 06

Focusing on the Good Part II: The Invisible Illnesses

And, here’s the second of two guest blogs from Peppercomm’s Taylor Shawver…

Focusing on the Good Part II: The Invisible Illnesses

“Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there” – The Invisible Illnesses

Breaking the stigma around mental health has been a topic of conversation in recent years. There have been more people trying to bring down the biases against mental illnesses.

During my time at the College of Charleston (CofC), I had the opportunity to work with a woman who is now changing the world with individual’s stories and education. A fellow CofC graduate and Student Government Association colleague created The Invisible Illnesses, a nonprofit organization aimed at reducing the mental health stigma one story at a time. Founder, Emily Torchiana, initially created the organization as a project with her photographer Jesse Volk. The project shared weekly stories from College of Charleston students regarding their struggle with mental illnesses.

The impact of these stories quickly grew, and The Invisible Illnesses nonprofit organization was born. The Invisible Illnesses provides a public platform for individuals who suffer from mental illnesses to share their stories and connect with others.

It has truly been amazing seeing the development and growth of Emily’s success and The Invisible Illnesses. When her project kicked off on the CofC campus, many people were moved by the stories and were unaware of how many classmates suffered quietly. It is inspiring to watch how Emily and her team have expanded the awareness from the CofC campus to now, world-wide through 70 feature stories and 30 campus representatives at universities across the country.

Emily travels around the country to speak at different schools, events, and conferences about her experience with cyber bullying and mental health. Her courage to share her story has allowed many others to follow and open up about their experiences. This year at the Jefferson Awards, Emily received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Public Service. This is an award won by some of the most prestigious public figures including Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs.

Emily shared the most rewarding aspect of creating The Invisible Illnesses Organization: “The entire mission of this organization is to help those silently struggling to know they are not alone. So, it is incredibly rewarding because we have been able to create a support system for those who share and let those who are still hiding their struggles know it’s OK to get help.”

A recent college graduate is on her way to changing the world and has already affected the lives of many individuals. Remember, you are what you put your mind to, and you can accomplish anything no matter your age.

If you’d like to learn more about The Invisible Illnesses, please visit https://www.theinvisibleillnesses.org/.

Jul 05

Focusing on the Good Part I: Believe in Yourself

There are many, many worthwhile projects one can participate in, and truly make a difference.

Today and tomorrow, Peppercomm’s Taylor Shawver will talk about two in particular that are near, and dear, to her heart (and should be of interest to you as well):

Focusing on the Good Part I: Believe in Yourself 

With so much craziness in the world around us, it’s easy to forget all of the good that is happening.

This two-part blog post series is dedicated to those who are doing good things and making this world a better place.

Sometimes, the most important conversations have a tendency to get lost in the mix of breaking news and “hot topics.” Conversations such as positive body image and cyber bullying are not always at the forefront of our daily news. Thankfully, there are people out there who, despite all of the other “stuff” going on, remember the importance of these topics and strive to raise awareness about them.

Sam Sisakhti, CEO of UsTrendy, a popular online shopping site for young women and juniors, created the Believe in Yourself Project after growing increasingly concerned about the cyber bullying and body shaming he sees online.

As a young woman, this topic hits close to home for me. Positive body image is not a main subject covered in school or health class. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard friends and strangers comment on how they wish they looked like a celebrity, model, or Instagram influencer. The feeling of needing to compare yourself to others can be stronger than ever with the use of social media, and the models we constantly see as society’s “ideal” women.

The past few months, Sam has traveled throughout the United States delivering dresses to underprivileged girls as well as bringing in guest speakers to talk with them about building a positive body image. With hundreds of dresses already donated, the project is on its way to donating 10,000 dresses by the end of the year.

This summer the project is beginning its national mentoring programs. These programs will feature weekly interactive meetings in various cities across the country as well as in online seminars to reach girls all over the world. The meetings will include open-table discussions where women will mentor and have conversations with girls about creating and maintaining a positive body image, and how to combat and deal with cyber bullying.

The increasing emphasis on social media emanates higher levels of bullying and body shaming. People are more apt to compare their life with someone else’s on social media. Sam saw this issue and decided to take action, helping girls all across the world by opening the conversation. I believe this open dialogue will allow for greater awareness as well as help young girls to realize the importance of these issues and how to deal with them.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Believe in Yourself Project, please visit http://www.believeinyourself.org/.

Jun 20

The Progress on Purpose

Arthur W. Page Member Marcia DiStaso recently authored a Page Turner blog that provides a deep dive into 70 organizations, revealing the progress they have, or haven’t, made in determining their Purpose, Corporate Character, Mission, Values, Principles and Beliefs.

I purposely provided that laundry list since, as DiStaso’s research pointed out, different organizations use any, or all, of the above terms to more or less describe the same thing. (Note: I found the very same lack of consensus when I recently interviewed 23 CCOs and CMOs on behalf of The Institute For Public Relations. If memory serves, not one respondent described digital in the same way.)

But, back to DiStaso’s work. She found that:

– 73 percent of respondents had examined or redefined their mission/vision/purpose in the past three years, and 43 percent had done so in the past year;

– 67 percent had examined or redefined their values/principles/beliefs in the past three years; and 36 percent has done so in the past year; and

– More than one-quarter indicated their organization needs to examine or redefine corporate character (which, in my opinion,  means they haven’t done a thing).

I found the report fascinating since we’re knee-deep in defining an updated Purpose that will align with our re-positioning and branding. While we’ll remain a public relations firm at heart we will, in fact, be digitally-driven. Indeed, we’ve hired scores of researchers, designers, digital strategists, data analytics specialists and an HVAC repairman named Harry. I’m still trying to figure out his role in the grand scheme of things.

For those organizations that have succeeded in defining their “new” corporate character, CEO buy-in was a MUST. So, too, were “getting the semantics right”; “ensuring buy-in at all levels”; “aligning with business strategy”; and “keeping it simple”. I’ve found the latter is usually a deal breaker whenever decisions are made by consensus.

A few other interesting tidbits:

– More B2C companies have a defined corporate character that do their B2B counterparts (I’m not sure if the first cohort did, or didn’t, include Uber. Regardless, the company needs yet another new Purpose).

– More non-US companies have a defined corporate character than those in the good, old U.S. of A. That was a bit of stunner for me.

– And larger organizations were far more likely to have a Purpose than small businesses. That seems obvious since the latter can’t invest the same level of time or resources to examine all of the elements that comprise corporate character.

One last point: ALL respondents from the consumer packaged goods and telecommunications industries had a defined Purpose.

Many in the technology, food & beverage, healthcare/pharmaceutical, financial services and energy fields were laggards, pure and simple. That’s puzzling, if not downright troubling.

It strikes me that, in an era marked by fake news, hate crimes, intense divisiveness and god knows what else, a carefully-defined corporate character has never been more important. It does far more than address why you exist and what higher purpose you serve; it provides something of a safe harbor for every organization’s constituent audience in the tsunami-like seas of 2017. And, lord knows, we need as many safe harbors as we can find.

Dec 22

Is H&K’s re-brand more newsworthy than Al Qaeda’s?

BlogThere's something inherently wrong with an industry trade press that bombards readers with

breaking news bulletins to let us know Hill & Knowlton is now H+K Strategies, but chooses to ignore Al Qaeda's re-branding.

Call me crazy, but I think Al Qaeda's name change in an effort to distance itself from 9/11, bin Laden and other 'collateral brand damage' in order to attract a new generation of terrorists is just a tad more newsworthy than an ersatz cosmetic facelift by a Top 10 PR firm.

I'm not saying the PR trades are making a mountain out of a molehill with the latter and being completely irresponsible in overlooking one of the most fascinating image and reputation stories of the year with the former, but what the heck?

So, here's a quick note from a citizen journalist to our crack PR trade journalists: what defines news in your mind? And, why would you alert the world to a non-story while choosing to ignore a truly significant one? This inquiring mind would like to know.

Nov 14

Sandusky, Ohio’s PR challenge

1849658501pLet’s suppose for a moment that your name is Daniel J. Kaman. For the past seven years, you’ve been president of the city commission of Sandusky, Ohio. During that time, you’ve no doubt had to deal with all the things city commissions deal with: taxes, infrastructure, tourism and attracting business to the city. Then, in the waning months of your seven-year term, boom! The earth, the moon and the sky itself suddenly fall on your shoulders. Your city’s name is front and center, day-in and day-out, right smack in the middle of the year’s uber crisis: The Penn State University scandal.

Can you imagine a worse image and reputation challenge? How do you deal with the fact that your city’s name is now synonymous with one of the worst alleged pedophiles in American history? What do you do?

I’d suggest several options for Mr. Kaman and the city commission’s consideration:
-    Ignore the crisis completely. Your terms end on 12/31/11. Let the incoming commission deal with the image and reputation fallout.
-    Call together the best image and branding minds in the city, county and state and brainstorm new and different ways to position the city’s outbound marketing.
-    Change the city’s name. This is a big deal though since, in 2018, Sandusky, Ohio, will mark its 200th anniversary.

I’d opt for the third choice if I were in Mr. Kaman’s shoes. Like it or not, his city’s name creates insurmountable business challenges. To wit:
-    Can you imagine some Mid-West husband shouting upstairs to his wife, “Hey honey, let’s bring the kids to Sandusky this summer!” Just placing the words Sandusky and kids in the same sentence sends shivers up and down this blogger’s spine.
-    Or, how about a CFO and risk manager making this recommendation to their CEO: “Sir, we’ve conducted our due diligence and made our choice. We believe it’s in the best interests of Moed, Moed & Birkhahn to move our corporate offices to Sandusky, Ohio. Yes sir, we’re aware that Jerry Sandusky is the Jack the Ripper of modern times, but we believe the tax breaks and local community environment outweigh the fallout we’d receive from every one of our constituent audiences.”

The city has to change its name. But, they can do so in a smart and strategic way.

I’d counsel Commissioner Kaman to involve Sandusky’s citizens in the name change exercise. Create a microsite that is linked to the city’s website and invite local kids, parents and seniors to contribute names. Or, maybe Kamen is a revenue-driven guy and decides, instead, to approach a technology or Web 2.0 company and offer his city’s naming rights for, say $1 million? Maybe Sandusky, Ohio, becomes Godaddy.com, Ohio? I have to believe those Godaddy types would love this sort of negative buzz.

Whatever he does, I do hope Mr. Kaman does something. The name Sandusky will be forever linked in the minds of Americans to pedophilia, cover-up and disgrace. And, what city wants to have to deal with that albatross when trying to market itself?

Oct 14

It’s the worst of times (for men)

Feminist1If a visiting alien was asked to evaluate the roles of men and women based solely on the current rash of books, movies and TV shows, the E.T. would undoubtedly conclude that all men are not only dolts, they're also emasculated fools who can't make any decisions on their own.
 
In fact, I think the title of Maureen Dowd's 2005 book best sums up the current wave of ManBashing. It's called "Are Men Necessary'?"

And, sadly, Alessandra Stanley's review of the Fall TV season in the New York Times confirms that these are, indeed, the worst of times for men.
 
Every new show, ranging from 'Man Up!' and 'Last Man Standing' to 'How To Be a Gentleman' and 'Whitney' go to ever greater lengths to marginalize the role of men in society. And, says Stanley, the trend will only continue since "…female viewers outnumber men and network executives know what women want."
 
That may be great for feminists (and the ratings), but it's very bad news for male adolescents and boys. I don't care how many problems you have with men, ladies, but you need to speak up and stop this never-ending, ever-escalating emasculation. Here's why: you owe it to your kids, nephews, younger brothers and friends' kids.
 
By focusing on the short-term ego gratification of women, the mass media is dealing a major psychological blow to future generations of men. Not only will boys and adolescent males buy into this totally ersatz, politically correct stereotyping but, worse, their female counterparts will reinforce it.
 
But, maybe that's OK with you, Virginia. Maybe you're fine with women becoming the dominant gender. But, somehow, I doubt it. If 50 percent of the population feels permanently marginalized, how in the world will we ever regain our global competitiveness? You ladies are terrific. But, you can't do it alone. Sorry. You can't.
 
So, here's a plea to the movers and shakers in Hollywood, and on Madison Avenue and at the major publishing houses. Lay off men. Now! The psyche you save may be that of your son. And the future you save may be that of your own country.
 
 Now, though, we return to our regularly scheduled programming…
 
“…Male lead admits he's too afraid to lift weights at the gym. Female lead nods her head knowingly and sighs, “I always knew you were a dumbbell, Adam. But, I never thought you'd be afraid to lift them.” Audience laughs and applauds. Screen fades to black.”

And a tip o' Repman's gender neutral beret to Jackie Kolek for suggesting this post.

Sep 22

The flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere

Warning: Some readers, especially those who post or Tweet inspirational quotes, may be offended  by the following blog. Reader discretion is advised.

Idoms-793706I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with the countless inspirational quotes that clog up my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Here’s just a random sampling from the last hour:

-    ‘The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret to outward success.’
-    ‘The only validation a young company needs is customers.’ 
-    ‘Lead if you can! Follow if you must. But, don’t stand still.’

What, exactly, am I supposed to do with these inspirational quotes? They’re not actionable items. They don’t change the way I think or my day-to-day existence. More to the point, they only clutter an already cluttered blogosphere. If I want inspiration, I simply turn on the tube and find an ironman triathlon to watch.
The inspirational quote’s evil cousin is the daily horoscope. Here’s a few from this morning:
-    ‘Today is a good day for an Aries to invest wisely.’
-    ‘A Taurus should beware of making new acquaintances today.’
-    ‘Cancers take warning. All signs indicate to a possible loss of a close friend.’

Again, why should I care about someone else’s daily horoscope prediction when I don’t give a rat’s posterior for my own? Horoscope readings, like inspirational quotes, are the flotsam and jetsam of the blogosphere. They’re useless bits of debris floating by you on the vast ocean of life.

More to the point, people who continually post inspirational quotes as well as their daily horoscopes tell me something about themselves: namely, that they don’t have an original point of view so they co-opt someone else’s. A journalist would call that plagiarism. I call it spam. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to check my horoscope to see if it’s safe for me to go for a run.

Sep 13

White Castle’s conundrum

White-castle
What would you do if you sat in the White Castle CEO seat? The low end, fast food purveyor has been peddling fattening fare for decades but they've just been sued by a severely obese customer who says the 'restaurant's' booth seats are too small!

This could only happen in America.

It's also a classic conundrum. White Castle exists to fatten people up for the kill. But, the 290-pound Wall Street stockbroker wants to be compensated because he can't squeeze his already massive hulk into a White Castle seat. So, what to do if you're White Castle? It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. (Want to check your own weight status? click here.)

I have a win-win solution.

White Castle should embrace its core differentiator, declare itself America's first 'Friend of the Fat' and partner with the roly poly stockbroker to redesign the chain's booths. How cool would that be?

In fact, WC should expand (ouch) on my idea by creating a crowdsourcing contest and invite the obese, severely obese and morbidly obese of the world to submit their ideas. The person who submits the winning booth design would receive a lifetime supply of those disgusting, little burgers and have all the medical expenses paid for his or her upcoming massive stroke or quadruple bypass.

This has Silver Anvil award written all over it.

As Don Levin, my first boss at Hill & Knowlton used to say, “Where the client sees a challenge, we see an opportunity.” White Castle doesn't have a conundrum. It has a unique branding and marketing opportunity. Carpe diem, White Castle. Now's the time to declare yourself the very first openly friendly friend of the junk food junkie. Oh, and by the way, you should make that money-grubbing, slob of a stockbroker your new corporate spokesperson. You were made for each other.

Aug 26

The Pol Pot of supersized portions

First it was Hosni Mubarak. Then, Muammar el-Qaddafi. Now comes news there's been a coup d'etat at Burger King as well, and the King has been banished.

The media cited words such as 'creepy' and 'disturbing' to explain the king's overthrow. I'd add “…horrific role model, guilty of encouraging millions to eat themselves to an early grave”.

Ronald_mcdonald_arrestedWith the king gone, I'm hoping that, like the Arab Spring, we'll now see an Obesity Fall. And Ronald McDonald should be the first to go.

The sadistic-looking clown is public enemy number one. He's the ultimate fast food despot who, in fact, has a far creepier and disturbing side than the late Burger King. Ronald, you see, was purposely created to be a junk food version of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. Kids loved Ronald and, boy, did Ronald love kids (mind you, I'm not suggesting pedophilia was a motivator. To the best of my knowledge, Ronald was never ordained).

Ronald McDonald ensnared generations of unwitting kids with his mini amusement park rides, Happy Meal treats and 'life is a blast' at Mickey D's marketing campaigns. The bastard is single-handedly responsible for countless cases of morbid obesity and their associated complications. He's the Pol Pot of supersized portions.

So, here's hoping that, with the king gone, we'll now see Ronald McDonald deposed. And, let's not stop there. The Obesity Fall should include Colonel Sanders, the Pillsbury Dough Boy (who should be chained to a treadmill until he losses those multiples layers of dough) and other icons of obesity.

The king is dead! Long live sensible eating!

Now, let's round up some mercenaries, a platoon or two of paramilitary types and order a NATO air strike on Oakbrook, Illinois (where Ronald and his family maintain their palatial estate).

Aug 15

Would Gaga go to war?

I'm flying through “Our Mothers' War”, a brilliant examination of the roles of women on the home  front and abroad during World War II.
 
01-women-working-poster-us-wwiiWritten by former New York Times reporter (and Peppercom consultant) Emily Yellin, the book shines the spotlight on a completely overlooked aspect of the Second World War: what women did and how profoundly their actions changed society. It's also an inspirational read that examines an American society that was united as one in its fight against the Axis Powers (a far cry from today's pathetic, polarized, soon-to-be second-class successors).
 
The book is chock full of fun and little known facts, such as:
 
– Betty Crocker, the ultimate role model for American housewives in the 1930s and '40s, was a fictional character. Her surname came from a General Mills executive and another employee, who thought Betty was a bright, cheerful name. Most Americans never knew she was ersatz, though, and often wrote long and compassionate letters to Betty asking for advice. In 1943 a Fortune magazine poll named her the second most famous woman in America, after First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

– Captain Ronald Reagan sent a photographer out to search war factories and plants in Southern California for attractive Rosie the Riveter types to feature in the war effort's propaganda program. At a parachute factory, the photographer stumbled across an 18-year-old housewife named Norma Jean Dougherty, who stopped him in his tracks. He asked, “Where the hell have you been hiding?” Norma Jean agreed to pose for a few photographs. Those, in turn, led to a few more. All of which led to her divorcing her husband, dying her hair blond and changing her name to Marilyn Monroe.

– While I knew all about Bob Hope and the countless shows he arranged for front line troops, I had no idea how many A-level Hollywood actresses did the same thing. Marlene Dietrich, a German born actress who was despised by Hitler and actually placed on his hit list, courageously followed Patton's army as it plowed through Europe. Carole Landis, Martha Raye. Mitzi Mayfair and Kay Francis, all A-level actresses and performers, toured North Africa and actually sang for the troops in a makeshift bunker as they were being blitzed by bombs from Nazi planes.
 
I was amazed not so much by the image and perception of women 60 years ago but, rather, by their willingness to roll up their sleeves and pitch in (especially the Hollywood stars). Betty Grable, Bette Davis, Clark Gable and Tyrone Power all did their bit. Carole Lombard died on plane flight back from selling war bonds. Jimmy Stewart served as an Air Force colonel and flew scores of bombing missions over Germany.
 
Can you picture Lady Gaga, Britney, Lindsey, Leo, Johnny, Brad or any of today's superstars not only putting themselves in harm's way but, like their predecessors, actually serving coffee and food to the troops (and cleaning their pots and pans afterwards)?  Unlike Carole Landis for example, those that have gone have not had to duck into bunkers to avoid bombing runs.
 
Yellin's book chronicles a major flash point in the evolving role of women in American society. And, as she points out December 7, 1941, was very likely the start of the feminist movement in America.
 
Our Mothers' War is a great read for women or men interested in history. But, it's an even better read for public relations and marketing executives who study image and perception. The greatest generation clearly earned its moniker. Today's sorry lot should be called the slacker generation.