Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

March 24, 2011

I’m Back!

After a much-needed hiatus, I’ll be dusting off this old blog later this afternoon. Hopefully you’ll want to take the journey with me!

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November 22, 2010

Marie Claire Magazine: Damage Control Mode

Photo Credit: Derek K. Miller, Flickr

Blogging allows organizations to engage in active, informal, two-way communication with key publics. Print media, especially, benefit from this communication channel, since their industry operates around deadlines that prevents them from producing content as rapidly as other media (like television and radio). An effective blog can further an organization’s mission and reach new publics, or, in the case of Marie Claire after a recent public relations faux pas, can put the organization in some deep water.

Maura Kelly, a Marie Claire blogger, recently revealed her personal feelings about the overweight and obese population, in response to a television show she recently viewed. In her article, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)” Kelly writes:

So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

She goes on to write:

But … I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.

(I’m happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them — but long story short, eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, read labels and avoid foods with any kind of processed sweetener in them whether it’s cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, increase the amount of fiber you’re getting, get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more — even while using your computer — and walk more. I admit that there’s plenty that makes slimming down tough, but YOU CAN DO IT! Trust me. It will take some time, but you’ll also feel so good, physically and emotionally. A nutritionist or personal trainer will help — and if you can’t afford one, visit your local YMCA for some advice.)

You’re waiting for the context for these comments, and unfortunately, I can’t offer much in the way of a defense. Obviously, this article offended Marie Claire readers. In fact, the article received 3,860 comments, varying in severity and disapproval (with some offering support).

As a result of the backlash, Kelly posted an “update” (my interpretation: presumably-forced apology) that reads:

I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I’ve said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much. A lot of what I said was unnecessary. It wasn’t productive, either.

I know a lot of people truly struggle to lose weight — for medical and psychological reasons — and that many people have an incredibly difficult time getting to a healthy size. I feel for those people and I’m truly sorry I added to the unhappiness and pain they feel with my post.

I would like to reiterate that I think it’s great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows — and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese. (Morbid obesity is defined as 100 percent more than their ideal weight.)  And for whatever it’s worth, I feel just as uncomfortable when I see an anorexic person as I do when I see someone who is morbidly obese, because I assume people suffering from eating disorders on either end of the spectrum are doing damage to their bodies, and that they are unhappy. But perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to judge based on superficial observations.

To that point (and on a more personal level), a few commenters and one of my friends mentioned that my extreme reaction might have grown out of my own body issues, my history as an anorexic, and my life-long obsession with being thin. As I mentioned in the ongoing dialogue we’ve been carrying on in the comments section, I think that’s an accurate insight.

People have accused me of being a bully in my post. I never intended to be that — it’s actually the very last thing I want to be, as a writer or a person. But I know that I came off that way, and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset.

Now, do I understand freedom of expression? Sure I do. Could these remarks made by Kelly simply be a sincere example of wrong word choice? It’s possible, though appears not to be the case. Regardless of the motive or intent behind the article, the damage has been done, I’m afraid. Kelly’s comments failed to align with the the Marie Claire mission, which is:

Marie Claire is more than a pretty face. It is the fashion magazine with character, substance, and depth, for women with a point of view, an opinion, and a sense of humor.

The Marie Claire reader is interested in seeking out fashion, beauty, and shopping ideas from a magazine that brings her both inspiration and access—a magazine that challenges her mind as well as her sense of style. Each issue is edited for a sexy, stylish, confident woman who is never afraid to make intelligence a part of her wardrobe.

Marie Claire is a culturally relevant experience that touches women beyond the newsstand. We understand that our readers are more than any label or stereotype could place on them, and we celebrate that every reader is more than a pretty face.

Hmm. Well, these words are certainly hard to misinterpret. It appears to me, and more importantly to the readers of the magazine, that Kelly’s opinion undercuts every letter of the organization’s mission. And while I have no personal investment in the matter (I openly admit the only time I’ve read Marie Claire was in the check-out line at the grocery store), I can see how this flub would jeopardize relationships with readers.

What Do You Think: How should readers of Marie Claire feel about the situation? How would you respond? And what, if anything, should be done to remedy and repair the relationship with key publics who were offended by Kelly’s piece?

November 22, 2010

Enjoy the New Design!

I’ve spent a majority of today working on the new design, so, what do you think?

More content headed your way tomorrow! (Well, today!)

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November 10, 2010

Office Gift-Giving: The Do’s and Don’ts

One of my few quirky neuroses is my incessant planning. So, it should be no wonder that I’ve already begun my holiday shopping. I’m happy to report that my 5-month old niece, Paisley, has already accumulated three gifts of her own, and I’ve only just begun. Shopping comes naturally to me, and shopping for a bubbly, wonderful, headband-loving newborn is easy. Unfortunately, we all have those hard-to-shop-for gift recipients— uncles, neighbors, and the obligatory acquaintances like the lady who collects your mail when you’re out of town— but no one is harder to shop for than a coworker.

The true extent of ‘oh, well isn’t this awkward’ isn’t fully realized until you’re attending an office holiday party, gender-neutral fuzzy socks in tow for the annual Secret Santa debacle.

Photo Credit: DanielleT, Flickr

There are some general tips one should follow when shopping for those at the office, offered by Vincent Hyman:

  • Model good manners. Manners are not about rules, but rather fundamental human values: respect for the intrinsic value of other people; consideration of their feelings; integrity, or staying truthful to personal (and company) values; graciousness, or putting other folks at ease; and humility, or seeing the wisdom of deferring to others.
  • Keep it simple, low-cost and public. If you are going to hold a white elephant or secret Santa event, set a price limit affordable to the lowest-paid employee and tell everyone the rules. Let them know that breaking them (e.g., overspending, competing, belittling gifts) can make others feel bad.
  • In work groups, keep it private. If work groups are going to exchange gifts, they should do so in private and away from others, so no one feels excluded. If at all possible, carry gifts home and open them in private. Work groups can have greater flexibility in gifting when they’ve been together a while and share team norms openly.
  • Don’t give a private gift to the boss. It can be seen as currying favor. (But if you are the boss, receive graciously and quietly.)
  • Receive gracefully, no matter what. Ingratitude is always ugly.
  • Never give gifts that might be perceived as intimate. Stick to things that can’t be misinterpreted; at the office, bland beats grand.

All fairly obvious, right? But then there’s the struggle of just what to get. Hyman offers the following as ideas of good gifts:

  • The gift of giving back. Some workplaces have foregone gift-giving but taken up collections to give to a local charity, such as a food shelf. Some adopt a family in need and provide food and presents for children. Some join in volunteer groups to help people during this time. All are good, provided expectations of donations of time or money are kept low and respect staff’s limited resources.
  • The gift of thoughtfulness. Staffers especially like it when the boss thinks hard about what they might like. For example, Whitney C. runs a nonprofit environmental group. “I started giving a book — mostly environmental classics — when we were a small group. We’ve grown to 17, but I’ve kept it up; I have to keep a list of who’s gotten what. I also gift wrap each book myself. It has become a major undertaking each year, but I enjoy it, and the staff appreciates my personal approach.”
  • The gift of utility. A little creativity can quickly lead you to an enormous number of gifts that are not expensive, not specific to a religion and not overly personal: plants, work-related books, subscriptions, cooking items, candy, desk gadgets, fruit, restaurant certificates, online gift certificates — all have been well-received and most fall in the $5 to $20 range.

What Do You Think: What is the most awkward or memorable gift you received from a coworker? What rules should colleagues follow when purchasing gifts for those at the office?
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Source: The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Gift-Giving, Vincent Hyman

November 4, 2010

It’s a news release, not a novel.

We’re in the business of communication, but we could stand to do a little less of it. According to Mark McClennan, Senior Vice President and Research & Measurement Lead at Schwartz Communications, public relations professionals are simply being too wordy.

He speaks in length about the billions of dollars spent on search engine marketing and optimization in 2010, and the actions taken by practitioners that undercut these efforts.

News releases will always play an integral role in communications. McClennan added, “an optimized news release can vault to the top of search results and attract the attention of key influencers.”

The Schwartz Communications Research Group/Business Wire researched how well professionals are doing with release optimization. The group analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period.

Findings revealed “only 18.4% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer (which will fully display them in Google).” This does align with a common SEO suggestion to keep all headlines under 70 characters. McClennan also stated:

The majority of releases are under 150 characters, but 2% of releases had headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,000 characters. The shortest headline was 18 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of their keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters.

Other surprising findings from the study found:

  • Companies located in the tech hubs – Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, etc- often do the worst job of optimizing headline length. The releases from New York, Philadelphia and Chicago were the best at keeping headlines short.
  • We love buzzwords – but not in headlines: While PR people overuse buzzwords at least we don’t use them in headlines. Only 14% of releases have the most common buzzwords in the headline.

Moral of the story? Keep it simple, Stupid. Effective communication can and should be done with brevity. In order for more individuals to see our messages, we must condense.

McClennan sums it up best by suggesting:

1. Keep the release headline under 66 characters so the whole thing can be displayed in Google Search.

2. Keep the headline under 23 words so that it can be displayed fully in Google News.

3. Favor keywords over buzzwords whenever possible.

What do you think: In six words or less (ha, I’m kidding), are PR professionals being ineffective communicators by simply saying too much?

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Source: PR Pros: Stop Cramming Everything Into the News Release Headline