Category Archives: Miscellaneous

You look like you’re in PR

Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper recently wrote an article for PR News titled “In Public Relations, Looks Aren’t Everything (But They Sure Can Help).” Immediately I thought of an instance a few years ago: I was car shopping, and I sat down with a sales representative at a dealership to chat. When I told her I was in public relations, she said, “You look like you’re in PR!”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I’m still not quite sure, but I took it as a compliment. Jessica and Meryl’s article was a good one, and I especially like this statement: “Public relations is an image business and how you look is as much your calling card as the one in your wallet.”

Public relations is all about building relationships: the word “public” encompasses fans, customers, potential customers, the media, and everyone in between. So first impressions are vital. If you can’t build a relationship based on a first impression, then it’s likely you won’t get a chance to make another impression. Building new relationships in the public relations field is like going on a new job interview each time. Early in your career, it’s hard and nerve wracking, but eventually, you become a pro and ace them all! And most important, if you’re really passionate about public relations (and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be in the field) you begin loving the rush of the relationship building, with all its benefits and challenges.

That said, obviously, first impressions are based on a few vital things: your personal appearance, which includes clothes, hair, and accessories, all the superficial physical traits that aren’t always important, but certainly are when you’re building professional relationships. Above all, though, is the absolute necessity of having a winning personality to match a winning physical appearance. You’re a complete package. You can certainly have one without the other, but it won’t land you that amazing client or that coveted gig.

Since we’re on the topic of personal appearances, I’d like to give shoutouts to my two favorite fictional PR professionals, Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones and The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg. These ladies clearly exemplify a point the authors make in their article: you have to dress the part based on who your client is. C.J., White House press secretary, wouldn’t have worn NYC PR agency-owner Samantha’s sexy outfits, while Samantha wouldn’t be caught dead in C.J.’s conservative ensemble for her flashy, high-rolling clients.

I know, it’s fiction, but there’s still a lesson there!

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Everyone’s invited to your web site redesign party: 5 internal communication tips

Creating a new company web site should be an exciting time, and things can go a lot smoother if there’s open communication, especially internally. Here are 5 tips to make the transition more like a party than a funeral for employees:

1. Treat a web site redesign like editors do at print magazines or like the world does leading up to each New Year’s holiday: create a countdown. Make sure your internal users – staff members, stakeholders, other constituents – know that a redesign will occur and when the transition will take place. Internally, there shouldn’t be any surprises: everyone should know the change is coming months before it happens.

2. Keep internal constituents pumped about the change! Drop hints in a company newsletter or your employee Twitter account about interesting, useful and unique capabilities or features the new site will have. Remind everyone consistently that the change is coming and that it’ll make their lives better. Some folks may think it’s cheesy (and possibly annoying) to be reminded of the change every time they turn around. Prevent this by keeping your messages short, simple and clever.

3. Educate and train: in some organizations, a central entity creates a web site’s template, and then individual offices are responsible for updating their section. So if your new web site requires folks to learn how to work with HTML code or anything different than what is currently being used, hold workshops well before the launch date to train employees. Be patient  and be kind, and your colleagues will appreciate you making their transition to the new web site easy. And offer free snacks at the workshops, in addition to holding them in a room with natural, bright light.

4. Design by suggestion: we all know designing by committee hardly works, but if your organization is open to input (and all really need to be), allow employees to suggest ideas for the web site, whether it be content, colors, images or style. Including everyone in the process will ensure employees on every level feel as if they have a stake in the change. And they do have a stake because the change affects them.

5. And finally, have a large focus group (consisting of your employees) test out the new site before it goes live: There’s nothing more frustrating than coming across a problem months after a redesign launch and wondering if hundreds of others have also gotten frustrated and left your site (ending with potentially a lost customer or client). In addition, employees use various parts of an entire web site. Someone in finance may see a problem with a section that someone in marketing wouldn’t.

When a print magazine completes a redesign, it completes the redesign. Just because web sites are dynamic and can be changed easily doesn’t mean we should count on changing things later. When you launch, make sure it’s as perfect as possible.

And make it a party!

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Advertising: Who benefits from women not feeling beautiful?

“America the Beautiful” is a 2007 documentary by director Darryl Roberts that sets outs to answer the question “Who benefits from women not feeling beautiful?”

He begins the documentary by introducing us to Gerren, “every man’s dream,” a model by profession, strutting her long, lean body in a bikini on a rooftop full of other models, naked in a swimming pool, and booze being poured all around her.

“Now, I don’t want you to think I’m prudish or anything,” Roberts says sarcastically, “But I guess I forgot to tell you, Gerren’s only 12 years old.”

He then talks to another 12-year-old, Ashley, an African-American girl with similar qualities to Gerren, and with an obvious freshness and youthful innocence, just like what Gerren exudes.

“I never thought I was pretty,” Ashley says. “I just think I’m ugly.”

But why? Roberts keeps asking.

“I don’t have a certain reason, I just think it,” Ashley continues, smiling nervously. “No one’s ever told me, but I’m sure people think I’m ugly.

“There are only two girls I think that aren’t prettier than me,” she says. Why aren’t they pretty than you? Roberts asks.

“‘Cause they’re really, really ugly,” says Ashley, and she names off four or five famous women she considers to be pretty.

So starts the documentary, a 70-minute film that centers around the life of Gerren, the 12-year-old model, and analyzes the forces surrounding her on a daily basis, the forces Roberts is convinced influences both Gerren and Ashley’s polar-opposite behavior: targeted advertising and editorial content in magazines, television and billboards that unrealistically portray a standard of beauty that doesn’t exist.

Here are some interesting quotes from industry folks who contributed to the film. As a marketing professional, you walk a fine line when you voice an opinion on a topic as sensitive as this. But then again, marketing professionals have choices in what they choose to promote.

Some food for thought (notice: these folks held these titles as of the making of this film.):

Denise Fedewa, marketing planner at Leo Burnett Advertising, comments on the beauty-product advertising industry: “I think that was true for a long time: establish a problem and position yourself as the solution.” Denise runs the beauty campaigns for L’oreal Paris and Proctor & Gamble.

She continues: “Women are at different places in terms of how beauty-involved they are. There are some women at the top end that are super beauty-involved. They just enjoy it. There’s another group of the same super beauty-involved women who I do feel a little sorry for. They’re almost kind of vic – they are kind of the victims. They always hate the way they look, and they always want to look better. They don’t have very much self-esteem. So they try to boost their self-esteem with trying to conform to the standards, and they’re never happy. And so they are often the target for a lot of these products.”

Roberts cuts to a high school class in Vancouver, Washington, where students are taught about deciphering advertisements. The class has created what the teacher calls their “Great Wall of Porn,” a large bulletin board where they’ve posted cutouts of sexual images from print advertisements. Images that, the teacher and students say, blatantly sell sex instead of a product, especially since, as the teacher points out, sometimes a product isn’t even present in its ad.

Editors-in-chief of Cosmo Girl, Seventeen and Elle magazines:

Cosmo girl: Susan Schulz, “I’m not going to say it’s not partly the media’s fault,” Schulz says, citing airbrushed photos where there are no zits and no hairs out of place. “We could change, but if we change then we won’t make as much money, and when it comes to the bottom line, if you’re not gonna make the money, people look at what’s the point?

Seventeen: Atoosa Rubenstein, “I don’t think that advertisers or marketers are these people who want to make anyone feel bad. They just want to make a buck. I’m somebody that a lot of very big advertisers bring in when they want to figure out how to get that teen audience.

Elle Girl: Brandon Holley, “We’re not the only ones promoting a body type that is –I mean, there’s a billboard of Jenna Jameson right there (she points out her window), the most famous porn star of all time, wearing almost nothing. And how many thousands of kids walk by that billboard?”

Promotion and publicity: Why I’m the &%$@!#* coupon queen and how you can be one, too

During my last trip to Kroger, I got $71.79 worth of groceries for $30.98.

25 items—all ones I like and won’t waste—at an average cost of $1.24 each.

I’m the Coupon Queen. It’s a terrifying, exciting spectacle to behold. And I’m here to say that if you shop regularly at Kroger, and you don’t use coupons, you’re being crazy with your money.

(Why Kroger? Given my current city of residence and based on three-plus years of shopping around at each available area retailer, Kroger is my favorite because of selection, location, and they double coupons up to 50 cents.)

Coupons are among the most traditional sales promos in marketing: manufacturer’s coupons for food and non-edibles; “one time only” department store coupons; free DVD player coupon with the purchase of car. Some are worthwhile, and some just serve as silly bait to draw in customers.

Manufacturers use coupons for promotion of an item and may sometimes work with retailers to slightly increase the price of a product. While consumers still save, manufacturers don’t “lose” as much. And retailers don’t lose anything, as far as money. If you’ll notice on your coupons, there’s a note to the retailer with instructions for sending them back to the manufacturer for reimbursement. (It would be interesting to see statistics for retailers doing the work to get their money back. I bet those coupons are transported in armored cars!)

So how did I get my groceries for almost 60 percent off? Here are my rules:

  • Seek out coupons: Sunday newspapers, magazines, coupon Web sites, product Web sites (I’ll list my favorite coupon Web sites below)
  • Before you go into the store, pull out the coupons you want to use for only the items you need (saves time in the store AND it helps you stick to your list)
  • At the same time, take all your coupons inside the store, just in case there’s a fantastic deal on an item you don’t need, but you kind of want to try and you know you’ll use, and it’s so cheap you have to buy it. Just keep separate stacks. But you rarely dip into this second stack.
  • Make time for shopping: I spent 1.5 hours buying 25 items. I realize not everyone has the luxury of such browsing, but if you really want to save money, you’re going to have to find the time.
  • In order to really save, you have to purchase items that are on sale AND that you have a coupon for. Example: a few weeks ago, a brand of 12-grain bread was 3 loaves/$5. I just needed one at $1.67/loaf. I had a 50-cent coupon, doubled, and I got my loaf of bread for $0.67. Yummy.

For this recent trip, I used manufacturer’s coupons and my Kroger card, of course. In addition, Kroger was having a promotion within their store: mix and match 10 participating items and get $5 off your entire order (50 cents off each of the 10 items). Oh, and don’t forget, coupons up to 50 cents are doubled.

Let’s break my shopping cart down:
*note: even among remembering coupon values, doing math late at night and deciphering my receipt, the margin of error for the figures below still is pretty minimal.

4 – 24 oz bottles of Propel water (2 black cherry, 2 peach mango)
On sale with Kroger card: .99/bottle
Mix and match promo: .49/bottle
Manufacturer’s coupon:  -1.00/4 bottles
Final cost: $0.24/bottle

1 box Nabisco Wheat Thins Artisan Crackers (Vermont white cheddar)
On sale with Kroger card: $2.20
Mix and match promo: $1.70
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00/box
Final cost: $0.70

1 bag Farm Rich frozen cheese sticks
On sale with Kroger card: $4.49
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00
Final cost: $3.49

3 bags Valley Fresh Steamers frozen vegetables
On sale with Kroger Card: $1.99/bag
Mix and match promo: $1.49/bag
Manufacturer’s coupon:  -$1.00/3 bags
Final cost: $1.16/bag

2 Reach toothbrushes (pink and green, medium bristle)
On sale with Kroger card: $2.49/toothbrush
Manufacturer’s coupon: Buy one get one free
Final cost: $1.25/toothbrush

1 bag Solo plastic cups (30-count)
On sale with Kroger card: $1.99
Mix and match promo: $1.49
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$.75
Final cost: $0.74

2 boxes Orville Redenbacher popcorn (light butter)
On sale with Kroger card: $2.99/box
Mix and match promo: $2.49/box
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00/2 boxes
Final cost: $1.99/box

2 Kraft cheeses (medium cheddar, Colby Jack & Monterey)
On sale with Kroger card: $1.99/package
Mix and match promo: $1.49/package
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00/2 packages
Final cost: $0.99/package

2 Healthy Choice microwavable soups (chicken tortilla)
On sale with Kroger card: 2 for $4
Final cost: $2/bowl

Healthy Choice frozen dinner (chicken alfredo florentine)
On sale with Kroger card: $1.88
Manufacturer’s coupon: buy 2 Healthy Choice soups (above), get 1 frozen dinner free
Final cost: free

1 box Gorton’s grilled tilapia
On sale with Kroger card: $3.79
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$.50 (double: -$.50)
Final cost: $2.79

1 can Hormel white chicken chili
Kroger sale price: $1.34
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00
Final cost: $0.34

2 bags Chex Mix snack (sour cream and onion, honey nut)
On sale with Kroger card: $1.99/bag
Mix and match promo: $1.49/bag
Manufacturer’s coupon:-$.50/2 bags (double: -$.50)
Final cost: $0.99/bag

1 loaf of Rustic Pugliese bakery bread
On sale with Kroger card: 2 for $5
Manufacturer’s coupon: -$1.00/1 loaf
Final cost: $1.50

Cost: $1.00

Obviously this shopping trip wasn’t an absolutely critical one. Also, I didn’t need items like veggies and fruit, for which coupons are rarely available. I purchase groceries every 1.5 to 2 weeks, and on average, I save at least 40% using coupons and my Kroger card. It takes time and dedication. But it’s addictive. And worth it. What am I going to do with the $40 I saved? Do this again in about two weeks!

My favorite coupon Web sites:

1) upload coupons to your Kroger card – no paper! Keep note of which coupons you have
2) choose and print
3) choose and print
4) choose and print
5) Proctor & Gamble used to allow you to print coupons online, but people like me probably ruined it for everyone. But, you can still go online and preview what will be in the Sunday paper in your area!
6) you can upload coupons on your Kroger card directly from their site
7) upload to Kroger card

Magazines: A woman is “desperate” when she asks out a man? What year are we in?

In the January 2010 issue of Redbook, a reader writes in to the “Your Love Life” section, explaining that she hasn’t dated much since her divorce a year ago. There’s a guy she’s interested in asking out and wants to know if she should initiate a date.

The “experts” tell her: “Don’t do it. There’s a whiff of desperation, the least sexy odor in all of dating, that inevitably comes with the lady issuing the invitation.”


Are these experts in Redbook serious? Did our fore-sisters really fight for equality (and are we still fighting) only to be told to wait around by the phone or e-mail in order to know if we’re going out on a date Friday night?

Obviously men and woman think differently, interpret actions differently, and analyze differently. But when it comes to asking someone out on a date, man or woman, we’re all taking a risk, increasing our vulnerability and maybe risking our short-term self esteem.

So what?

If there’s an amazing job you’re dying to land, you don’t wait around and hope they’ll call you and make you an offer. You aggressively throw your hat into the ring and you make sure they notice you.

If there’s a house for sale and you know it’s your dream home, you don’t hide in a closet, hoping no one makes an offer so yours will be accepted. You work day and night to make that dream a reality. There’s nothing “desperate” in pursuing either of these things you really want.

Why are relationships any different?

I’ll tell you what’s “the least sexy odor in all of dating”: regret. And this regressive advice.