Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

Service of “I Don’t Know” When Nobody Does Yet Some Insist They Do

Thursday, May 28th, 2020


I had a boss who couldn’t say “I don’t know.” He’d ask for a PR proposal and would make up information about a prospective client rather than admit he hadn’t had time to read background.

We’ve all known people who no matter what you mention have already read the book, seen the movie, eaten at the restaurant when it opened, attended the play in previews, are up to speed on technology and are familiar with the latest jargon in every industry–or so they say. [It’s exhausting.]


We are used to pundits who share their intel with appropriate scientific backup and/or data to reassure. But that’s not what’s happening now. And it’s hard to accept. The twists and turns as Covid-19 plays out astound as they keep happening: You might carry and spread the virus to others yet not feel sick; children at first free from danger now are not. At first we were advised by some to physicians to disinfect groceries before putting them away and now the CDC advises you needn’t. [I still do.]

In spite of the uncertainty there are people who assert that they know for sure what’s best for communities, industries and fellow citizens. With equal assurance others maintain that they are wrong. You almost can’t blame those who crowd beaches the old fashioned way or mock social distancing and other suggestions to help stem the spread of the virus–as the advice and conclusions are quixotic. We’re all grasping at straws with hope for a cure or a vaccine ASAP.

To figure out next steps the president tossed the ball to governors and governors to local officials. With all the opinions and latest “facts” shooting at us from all directions citizens are ultimately left to decide what to do. When local restaurants open for business, are you in? Is a day at the beach in your near future? Planning a vacation that involves hotel stays? Are you unsettled by the ambiguities regarding Covid-19? Are you secure in the paths you’ve chosen to follow?



Service of Learning Whatever You Do: Info About Pets You May Not Know

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Ultimate Air Dogs competition @ Super Pet Expo

A college student in a PR class asked me “How can you represent something that’s boring?” My answer was “the more you know about a product or organization, the more interesting it becomes.” I’ve advised countless students and others to at least consider jobs that didn’t appeal at first. Why? You might surprise yourself.

Photo: Pig Placement Network

I knew it would be fun to publicize Super Pet Expo, coming up tomorrow at 3 pm and running through the weekend at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, because I love animals. I’ve owned and loved a few and have been a neighbor or relative to many. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn when I interviewed some of the people exhibiting or producing special events–a happy bonus.

For example, Did You Know……

  • How many wolves there are in the wild of New Jersey? Answer: None. They live mostly in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
  • The difference between a pot belly pig and a farm hog? Answer: As much as 920 lbs. Pot belly pigs grow from between 80-150 lbs.; farm hogs as much as 1,000 lbs.
  • What you can teach a pig to do? Answer: Sit, give a hoof, go through a tunnel and teeter-totter, just to name a few tricks. There are therapy pigs who visit schools and assisted living homes too.
  • What lure coursing is? Answer: It’s the sport for dogs that are born to chase.
  • How long cats remember? Answer: Cats learn quickly and have a long short-term environmental memory—16 hours—vs. 10 minutes for dogs.
  • Which reptiles make a good first pet? Answer: Several species of snakes’ feeding requirements are not demanding, requiring a meal once a week, and the upkeep of their habitats is fairly easy.
  • The Ultimate Air Dogs jumping record? Answer: A whippet jumped 30 feet 7 inches.

Cat agility

What do Ultimate Air Dogs do? Vic Sparano the trainer and judge said that visitors will see four-legged athletes soar through the air into a four-foot deep pool vying to win at four games: jumping the farthest; knocking down a “Fetch-It”  bumper; “Catch It,” and being fastest in the “Chase-It” swimming contest to win a coveted ribbon at the finals on Sunday.

The answers to the other questions came from Super Pet Expo founder/producer Eric Udler; Sheryl Rotondi, special events coordinator at the Pig Placement Network; Roeann Fulkerson, Director of Marketing and Business Development, The International Cat Association; Vinnie Reo, owner of Wolf Visions and Billy Healy, Repticon’s COO. The latter is a showcase of hundreds of reptiles and amphibians from around the world such as boas, pythons, bearded dragons, monitor lizards, skinks, turtles, tortoises and dart frogs, to name a few. Experts are on hand to tell prospective reptile owners about care and feeding.

At the show you’ll also see a pig who can paint. You can buy one of her “Pig-Cassos.” Friends Ruth, Jim and Ken lived for years with George, a smart marmalade colored cat who, on command, shook your hand. Have you known pets that did extraordinary things? Did you know most of the answers about pets in Q and A above? Have you had a job or client that you hesitated working for or representing but when you did, surprised you in a good way?

New pet bought at Super Pet Expo

Service of Inflation II

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

blahblahblahThis is the second in an inflation series. The first came closer to the standard meaning of the word, addressing rising prices in light of government assurances that they weren’t. The inflation in today’s post is about overstuffed promises.

Ethan Smith covered a story in The Wall Street Journal, “Live Nation’s Diller Resigns as Chairman Amid Turmoil,” in which early in the article he described a PowerPoint presentation given by Live Nation’s chief executive Michael Rapino at a summer investor conference that Smith described as “disastrous.”

Smith wrote: “One slide in a Powerpoint [sic] presentation implied that with the help of Live Nation it would take a contemporary recording artist just three months to vault from obscurity to selling out concert arenas.” Smith continued, “Most in the music business believe a more realistic timeline to be on the order of two years.”

bloatNo wonder Barry Diller resigned. More people should discourage this kind of fact-bloating behavior.

You may have read posts and comments here that illustrate claims as outrageous as Rapino’s. The reaction of too many is to shrug and think, “Business is business.”

No it isn’t.

On the one had we have specialization to the nth degree in everything from medicine and law [people who help select juries] to sports [the left handed pitcher who shows up to throw to the left handed batter and returns to the bench for the duration].

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who know nothing about a subject and babble on about it with overstated claims. I’m not referring to the face cream marketing and sales types who assure that their glop will remove your wrinkles or the pill pushers who claim theirs will slim a person by 20 lbs in a month. I think they know better.

loudmouthI am referring to the people you’ve worked with and/or observed in action who attract business with Rapino-like outrageous claims and they don’t know what they are talking about. Do they keep the customer or client? Do they sleep at night? Do they care?

Checking out services and claims is so easy today with easy access to online information and linking in with knowledgeable people around the country without having to move from a chair. How come so many of us still appear numb–even mesmerized–by inflated claims?

strawberrygiantIs it because we can’t get over the bigger is–or must be–better syndrome from huge tasteless strawberries, enormous restaurant portions, gargantuan boxes of snack foods and cups of soda, humongous houses and ginormous hedge fund and entertainment [star and sports figure] salaries?

So I repeat: good for Mr. Diller.

Can you share examples of inflated promises that tick you off or of high profile people who put their foot down and refuse to be associated with the verbal inflation approach to business?


Service of Double Checking

Monday, July 19th, 2010


I improve what I’ve written every time I reread the copy but there’s a limit to how much time I can spend on a project as nobody will pay for unlimited hours to edit and rewrite. Under ideal circumstances, I like an hour to pass before picking up and reviewing copy–overnight is even better. If in a severe time crunch and the copy is more than a memo, I ask another writer/editor to review it.  Being clear and error-free matters.

[I digress, but have you read books by some well regarded contemporary authors lately? It appears that nobody, not even their Aunt Sadie, an editor or even the author has read the book cover to cover before it goes to press looking, at the least, for facts repeated a few pages apart.]

bashingbrandsI don’t bash brands on this blog, but the instances to which I refer are so widely known that I am making an exception.

I wonder what was going through Steve Jobs and the Apple tech team’s minds to put a flawed phone on the market when someone had to know the antenna would give trouble. Just as poor copy won’t kill anyone, [unless you are writing dosage and side effect information for potentially lethal meds or assembly instructions for parachutes or bombs], an imperfect phone won’t either [except if the caller is dialing 911 for help and touches the antenna on the rim, which causes a dropped call.]

This lack of double checking [or ignoring the results of someone who has] seems to be communicable. Where was it going on at BP before crews sank a pipe in water far deeper than standard? And now that the horse is out of the barn-or rather, the Lockerbie bomber is out of jail and back home in the lap of luxury–we find out that he isn’t as sick as the judge thought/was told and he may live another 10+ years. [Apart from nobody checking the doctor’s prognosis, since when should we care so much about the final days of a killer like this? But that’s another subject.]

weddingflowersAt the same time as some think of serious double-checking as a waste of time, we have reporters postulating where Chelsea Clinton’s wedding will be. TV reporters are stalking passersby in Rhinebeck, New York to gauge whether locals think the wedding will take place there or, as Erica Orden in The Wall Street Journal wrote on Friday in “Rhinebeck Conspiracy Theory,” when she quoted a resident police officer, “My wife thinks this is a decoy location….” On Sunday, in the Style section, The New York Times had its own, slightly different version of guessing the where and when.

Do you think that we should apply the sharp brains being wasted on this fluff to double check what’s going on in so many crucial areas such as finance and the war, or do we need the frivolity to survive the consequences caused by the rampant lack of double checking, even by some in the media, our traditional watchdogs?


Service of Full Disclosure

Friday, July 16th, 2010


In his column, The Ethicist, Randy Cohen wrote recently in The New York Times, “Your wife should err on the side of caution and not take anything of value from a supplier.” The woman supervised travel for a company and she’d won the grand raffle prize of two roundtrip tickets to Japan at an event sponsored by several airlines. There were some 1,000 guests.

matchbookIn my first job out of college I worked at Dun & Bradstreet writing credit reports. We were told that if a company we visited manufactured matchbooks not to take a single match, even to light a cigarette. That has been my guideline ever since.

Yet I think that Cohen is being harsh in this instance. He softens at the end of the column, noting to the husband who sent in the query, “At the least, she must disclose her winnings to her supervisors and get their green light before she packs her bags.” I’m comfortable with that.

Some in the media won’t let a PR person buy them so much as a cup of coffee. Others gather enough loot over years to fill a strip mall. Reporters and editors don’t have a lot of time to schmooze over lunch these days, nevertheless, just as business is done by some on a golf course, I can’t imagine how, for the price of a lunch or a coffee, anyone would sell their soul and run photos of horrible looking, poorly made or faulty goods in a new product column or run positive coverage of a lackluster ad campaign or sleazy business.

bookstarsWhat about a book or movie reviewer who is sent/given a galley or invited to preview the flick? I don’t recall reading in their reviews that they didn’t pay for the book or seat at the theatre and it doesn’t bother me. What about a beauty editor sent samples that aren’t samples but entire bottles and jars? No problem in my mind. Making up samples would cost a fortune and wouldn’t provide the same experience. Packaging–how the beauty product looks and how the dispenser works–is part of the evaluation.

Full disclosure: I send promo codes to reviewers who ask for them so they can try a client’s smartphone application and have given hundreds of yards of fabric and countless rolls of wallpaper and dinnerware and flooring to be used for newspaper or magazine new product pages or to decorate a home that a magazine photographs.

Obviously, if a company pays any of the reviewers for their assessments, they must disclose this relevant piece of information, whether they write for a blog, web site, an online or print newspaper or magazine. Special sections or advertorials are paid for by the participants and are clearly identified by publishers, usually at the top of the page.

Because attitude and service are more than half of the experience, I think that a restaurant, hotel or travel reviewer should be anonymous and pay for all his/her expenses, no exceptions. 

What about stock brokers? Should they tell you that they’ve been told to push an investment by the boss?

Where do you stand on full disclosure? Do you care?


Service of the Passive Tense

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

firing1People use the passive tense to address something painful or uncomfortable such as a death or firing: “Joe will be missed.” Those words are removed from the situation and don’t tug at heartstrings. They are impersonal and far less difficult to say than “I or we will miss Joe.” I’ve always felt that this is why people who normally speak clearly revert to an archaic, haughty turn-of-phrase like this.

responsibility1A boss or parent who wants to duck confrontation might say, “Responsibility must be taken,” instead of “Felicia, please make this happen-I’m counting on you.” The first version is so fuzzy that the speaker risks nobody within hearing distance picking up that gauntlet. The effect? I predict inactivity and more increasingly desperate passive pronouncements.

Some think the passive voice is appropriate for formal occasions because it makes them sound elegant, like a proper English butler. “It is expected that our members enjoy the holiday punch,” makes my eyes glaze over and not because I’ve had too much of the spiked potion. So much more, well, punch accompanies “Members crowd the bar from Thanksgiving through New Years for the frisky fisherman’s punch.”

mountrushmore1The passive comes in handy when a writer doesn’t know something or can’t be bothered to look it up. “Likenesses of US Presidents are carved into a South Dakota mountain,” sounds as though there’s a chunk of information somewhere when actually the writer was too lazy to look up that “Gutzon Borglum sculpted the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,  Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln into Mount Rushmore, located in the Keystone, S.D. vicinity.”

Do you use the passive tense? When? Does hearing it spoken annoy you more than reading it?


Service of Too Much Information

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

A reader of this blog, NYC advertising man Hank Goldman, wrote me the other day, “Aren’t there some things a person would rather NOT KNOW?!?!?!?”

He was referring to an iPhone app [application] that for $1 tells you who dropped you as their Facebook friend. Otherwise, if you pay attention to such things, you’d only know that you had fewer friends by looking at your total, but you wouldn’t know who the culprits are. [Maybe if you’re dropped by a rash of friends, you’d best review your Facebook posts. That may be the reason.]

I agree with Hank.

I must be part ostrich, unlike so many who rush to Google to find out every detail about some new twinge. When I go for checkups, I am far more afraid of learning how I am than anticipating pain or discomfort from the standard tests. I know you are supposed to be riveted by how every vein and artery is functioning but….in too many instances the chicken in me votes for a head in the sand approach.

I never look at needles heading in my direction, be they for vaccines, drawing blood or delivering Novocain and in the dentist chair, my eyes are clamped shut for dear life no matter what. I also can’t look at car accidents.

I don’t want to know what’s in the traditional Scottish dish, haggis [made of sheep innards and other things]; I love meat but don’t want to see it butchered, and I arch my back when asked what I consider impertinent questions such as “what did you pay for that?” or “how much did you get for your house?” 

Should someone say, “For years I’ve been wanting to buy a laptop, a raccoon coat, a couture gown or a weekend home in Columbia County, do you have an idea what the price range is these days?” that doesn’t bother me.

I could never be a reporter who rushes up to somone who has just lost a beloved child, parent, husband or sibling and asks, “How do you feel?” Could it be because I know the answer? 

I believe that trade secrets should remain secret and war strategies the same.

If I’m supposed to know something I’ve learned that in time, I will find out the details soon enough whether or not I want to.

Are there any things that you could live without knowing too much about or are you a brave sort who stares the gory facts head-on? Is it easy for you to ask personal questions? Do you think you appear uncaring or disinterested if you don’t?


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