Oct 16

Vegan diet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

An in-depth article in USA Today (sounds oxymoronic, doesn’t it?) says vegan diets aren’t all they’reVeg
cracked up to be.

Citing two experts, the article warns that a vegan food plan doesn’t provide enough nutrition and can lead to serious deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Even worse, vegan diets can do a real number on growing children, who can be placed at risk for malnutrition, digestive distress, allergies and immune system breakdowns. Holy cow! That’s enough to make anyone lose his or her appetite.

The zealousness of many verbose, proselytizing vegans reminds me of those smarmy, born-again Christians. Not content to munch away on their beans, soy and carrots, many vegans insist on telling you how much healthier their systems and lifestyles are. They love to drop words like ‘cleansing’ and ‘purging’ in every other sentence. And, in restaurants, they love to alert the waiter (and every fellow diner within earshot) of their very special dietary needs.

To each their own, I always say. But, narrow-minded, crusading vegans can be just as off-putting, if not as dangerous, as fundamentalists. And, I do worry that the health of large numbers of unsuspecting kids is being marginalized by their vegan vamping parents.

Worship who you like. And, eat what you like. But, like your Bible-quoting brethren, you vegans need to open your minds to facts and reason.

Oct 15

Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

There’s a fascinating cover story in the latest issue of HR Magazine entitled, ‘Are you too family friendly?Baby_2

The article asks if, in light of political correctness, employers have gone overboard in granting too many perks and privileges to employees with children. According to the article, a growing number of childless workers are saying flex schedules and other concessions made to working moms and dads are unfair, if not, discriminatory.

It’s a slippery slope since publications like Fortune routinely include such benefits as a prerequisite to being named to their ‘Most Admired’ list. In our own industry, The Holmes Report in particular lavishes praise on family-friendly workplaces in its annual survey.

HR Magazine says the childless perks pushback is only going to grow. One in four American households now consist of a single, childless person (and there are now 92 million single or childless citizens 18 years of age and older).

So, what’s an employer to do? One HR expert suggests a cafeteria-type benefits offering from which employees can choose to best meet their personal needs. That sounds fair to me.

It’s a genuine image and reputation conundrum for every organization. In our rush to meet the needs of employees with children, we’ve unconsciously overlooked the single/childless workforce. However enlightened such organizations may seem, the fact is, they’re not.

It’s time that Fortune, The Holmes Report and other publications wake up to this new trend and factor a ‘balanced’ benefits program into their annual rankings.

Oct 11

I don’t trust people who wear their religion or patriotism on their sleeve (or lapel)

The Barack Obama American flag lapel crisis would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad. Talk about a tempest inBrk
a teapot. The ‘holier than thou’ Right Wing is truly making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill with this non-event.

I’ve seen too many examples of too many chest thumpers who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Just think of all the outspoken Evangelical Christian types who’ve decried homosexuality only to have gotten caught in flagrante delicto with a same sex partner. The same goes for the American flag wavers who are freaking out about Obama’s flag-free lapel.

Give me a break. Patriotism has nothing to do with wearing lapels and everything to do with how one feels and acts.

I’m not an Obama fan, but I support his right to wear a lapel (or not). This issue is a non-issue and says more about the image and reputation of the attackers than the attackee.

Oct 10

The tale of the magic wristband

Long ago and far away there existed a mighty financial institution whose leaders decided to takeMortgage_2
advantage of something called subprime mortgages. They saw an opportunity to make millions and millions in new fees by offering ridiculous mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them. Even worse, the intricacies of subprime mortgages escaped the unsuspecting borrowers who chose instead to be bedazzled by the prospects of owning their dream house.

Well, the housing bubble burst and many of the poor homeowners lost their houses, their savings and, in some cases, their futures. And, the big financial institution was pilloried in the press as being the bad guys who had lured unsuspecting consumers into the mess with aggressive marketing and pricing.

All the bad publicity hurt the big company. Its stock plummeted, its CEO was attacked in countless interviews and 12,000 employees were laid off.

This made the company’s executives angry. So, they hired a big PR firm and announced an aggressive internal and external campaign aimed at ‘taking the offense.’ It was a real beauty.

Continue reading

Oct 09

It’s all about the writing

I was asked by a University of Vermont professor what qualities we value most in new employees. “That’sMichaels600_2
easy,” I said. “Good writing.” My fellow panelists at the UVM career day seminar this past Friday, shook their heads in agreement.

For whatever reason(s), good writing is as rare in PR as a NY Jets Super Bowl ring is in the NFL. And, for
whatever reason(s), writing (like the Jets) is getting worse with each passing year.

Which is why I read Gretchen Morgenson’s homage to the late Forbes Editor James Michaels, with such interest.

Michaels, according to Morgenson, was a real bear when it came to writing. He not only routinely rejected poor writing and editing by his reporters, he did so with a flourish. To wit:

– “This is a paid advertisement. Did you forget to say he walks on water?”
– “This is so full of holes, it’s like Swiss cheese.”

And, my favorite….

– “If I can’t stay awake editing this, how can a reader stay awake reading it?”

I never met Jim Michaels, but it seems he made quite an impression on the men and women who did. It also seems that Michaels and his breed of editor/writer who demanded clear, concise and compelling writing are an endangered species. Sad to say, the copy I see being written by most young people today would probably make the late Mr. Michaels turn over in his grave.

Oct 08

Win at any cost is a losing management style

George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, told Manager Joe Torre yesterday to ‘findSteinbrenner
a way to win the Cleveland series or find a new job.’ Nice.

Steinbrenner is such an ass.

I know, I know. His teams win for him. And, he expects the team with the highest payroll in baseball to bring home a World Series trophy year-in and year-out. And, yes, I know that Yankees fans respect Big George because he does demand winning at all cost. But, I just couldn’t imagine working in that culture. The money, the fame and the Yankees ‘tradition’ wouldn’t be enough to lure me into that dysfunctional organization. Not no how. Not no way.

Imagine working for a Steinbrenner in Corporate America? They used to be legion (think Chainsaw Al Dunlap). But, as political correctness has reared its ugly head and workplace culture has been linked to everything from productivity to employee retention, the Steinbrenner-style manager has slowly disappeared (or, more likely, submerged).

That’s not to say management by fear is dead. Far from it. One of our client organizations, for example, recently underwent a merger and the key operatives were absolutely paralyzed by fear. Sudden ‘redundancies’ had put their jobs at risk. Despite having done admirable work up until that time, our clients’ firm was the lesser of two equals in this so-called merger of equals. And, so they were shown the door, virtually overnight.

Continue reading

Oct 05

If an ad bugs me, does that make it successful?

I truly despise the Sally Field commercials for Boniva. It seems like every time I pop on the TV, up popsSally
Sally sashaying her way around her spacious, but curiously sterile, ‘house.’

She tells me time and again that she only has one life and one body and that, courtesy of Boniva and its anti-osteoporosis ingredients, she intends to live it to the max. Well, bully for her!

Then, Ms. Field swishes down a staircase or pirouettes in front of a mirror in anticipation of some big night out on the town. Ugh.

I don’t like the commercial. I don’t like Sally Field. And, I absolutely cringe at the thought of having to escort her on some imaginary date listening to her drone on and on about Boniva.

So, do my reactions mean the campaign is successful? After all, it certainly broke through the clutter and got my attention.

Even though I’m clearly not part of the intended target audience, I’d argue the campaign is a failure. Favorability is a key component in the purchase cycle. And, while Ms. Field has captured my attention, her dramatics and self-centeredness give me, well, a big pain in the back.

So, Boniva, leave-a me alone!

Oct 04

You may have found Waldo, but i found Christ

Yet another disgraced athlete announced he had ‘found’ Christ in his time of distress. This time it wasMarbury_2
Knicks bad boy Stephon Marbury who, caught up in the disgraceful Isiah Thomas sexual/workplace harassment case, told reporters Christ had entered his life on June 29th of this past Summer (Repman’s b’day, btw). I don’t know about you, but I am sick of hearing fallen heroes like Mel Gibson, Michael Vick and Marbury suddenly ‘get’ religion. The only thing they’re getting is textbook advice from some crisis PR counselor.

Oct 04

Jesus Christ, super salesman

That guy from Galilee is back again. This time He’s a super salesman for a new line of red and whiteGrapesofgalilee_3
wines called, what else?  ‘The Grapes of Galilee.’

Yes, Jesus Christ, super salesman, is back. Or at least, his name and likeness are back on the labels of everything from chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The importer said he’ll be targeting the ‘holy water’ to Catholics for the upcoming holiday season. “This is a wine for a special occasion like Christmas dinner. It will be a big talker,” said Pini Haroz.

Well, it’s got me talking. And, personally, I find it distasteful (the promotion. Not the wine. I haven’t sampled the vino yet).

Using Christ to push alcohol is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Especially considering the historical Jesus was all about poverty, humility, etc. Sure, he changed water to wine, but that was a one-time gig as I recall.

Anyway, I think Christ would be royally pissed at this misuse of His name and image.  In fact, I could see a modern Christ rampaging through the local liquor stores on Christmas Eve and breaking any bottles with his likeness on the cover (a la His assault on the moneychangers in the temple).

I’m sure Christ savored a good wine as much as the next savior. But, I’ll bet He would gag if he saw how Pini Haroz, wine importer, was ‘crossing’ the line.

Oct 03

If it had been Auto Dealer Weekly, the typo wouldn’t be so egregious

PR Week has been promoting its upcoming ‘green’ conference with a series of e-mail blasts to the publicPr
relations community. Sadly, though, a basic grammatical mistake in the headline not only distracted me, but also undermined the event’s credibility in my mind.

Why? Because PR Week represents the entire industry and is our standard bearer to other, more mainstream journalists and industry representatives. So, when PR Week trumpets the availability of
‘on-sight’ registration, it reflects poorly on each and every one of us.

To err is human. To forgive, divine. But, since I’m about as far away from divinity as one could find, I’m having problems forgiving this gaffe. If it had happened with an auto supply or manufacturing trade pub, it would be a non-issue. But, in my opinion, PR Week needs to be held to a higher standard. Here’s hoping they find a new copy editor with better ‘sight’ soon.

Thanks to Ted "Ludacris" Birkhahn for the idea.