Archive for April, 2018

Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Photo: thoughtcatalog.com

I met some of my oldest friends at or through work. And while the article that inspired this post focused on weddings, there are many special occasions—50th birthday parties, 25th wedding anniversaries, a child’s momentous event–that might create the same dilemma: which office friends to invite when faced with constraints of a budgetary nature or of space?

The title of Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal story “The Dreaded Wedding Decision: Which Co-Workers to Invite?” covers a lot. You spend more time on the job, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, more than with most family and friends. It’s natural to share event plans and glitches or address family kerfuffles with these folks as you munch lunch. But who gets cut from the list: Cousin Frank and his nasty wife–which will cause a rift with your aunt and uncle and create stress for your parents–or Frieda and Fred in accounting?

Photo: one-stop-party-ideas.com

According to Shellenbarger, the reaction of one groom with 18 office friends and space for only three: “Just because you’re really cool with and close to a friend at work doesn’t mean you’re going to be cool and close in your personal life.” When a bride’s work friend told her she couldn’t wait to attend her wedding, she said: “I’m really sorry, but we have kind of a strict guest list. I hope there are no hard feelings.” There weren’t.

One bride in her story opted for fewer flowers and a less expensive dress so she could invite all 15 of her co-workers. A wedding expert shared the obvious point that you should invite the entire group if you’re inviting most of a small team of co-workers. As for inviting the boss, another expert suggested to think twice if she/he is buttoned up and your family is wild and loves to party.

Photo: excelle.monster.com

“Couples agonize over which co-workers to include and how to cushion the hurt among those they leave out. Balancing your needs without damaging important relationships requires nuance.”

One couple who worked in different departments at the same airport invited 30 guests and kept mum about their wedding. When they returned to work the bride was bombarded by co-workers with questions as to why they weren’t invited. To smooth things out she promised to invite to a housewarming party one person who would no longer speak with her.

Shellenbarger reported on a survey by The Knot of 13,000 couples which showed that guest lists shrank last year by 13 people to 136, as couples are increasingly passing on spacious banquet halls in favor of smaller venues like historic mansions or barns.

Social media postings spill the beans at work even if you don’t: Shellenbarger reported that nine out of 10 couples post engagement pictures.

Have you been in this situation or observed others who were? What is the best way to handle the stomach-wrenching dilemma if you can’t, or don’t want to, invite the entire office gang? Do you have other issues to consider if you are a manager?

Photo: historicwaynesborough.org

Service of Mistakes That Are Not All Bad

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Photo: viralnovelty.net

“As long as they are well-intentioned, mistakes are not a matter for shame, but for learning”– Margaret Heffernan, Businesswoman. That’s what you read after Matt Schiller’s signature on his e-mail. He’s advertising and business manager for Catholic New York. I noticed the quote when I was in touch with him earlier this week. Heffernan, headquartered in the UK, is an international businesswoman, author and TED speaker.

The quote reminded me of a perfect way to finesse a mistake that impressed me years ago. The speaker was VP of design for a luxury brand; well regarded in the interior design world; a big deal at the American Society of Interior Designers and president of the International Furnishings and Design Association at the time of this story. One of his board members proudly presented a brochure on furniture design at the annual meeting that her committee had just published. Instead of speaking with this person privately, a busy-body, also on the board, raised her hand and said, “I saw a typo on page four….” Robert replied, [and I bet it wasn’t true]: “We always place an error in our marketing materials just to see if people are reading them.”

Photo: leadershipstyles.org

When I told Matt about this incident he admired Robert’s response, “his defense of a team member and his non-confrontational way of handling what could have become a tense situation. That’s the kind of leadership we need more of in every aspect of life.” Matt added: “I have often said to colleagues, ‘I have made an incredible number of mistakes in my life, and I have tried to learn something from each of them.’”

My biggest mistakes happen when I don’t follow my gut and when I work when too tired. I don’t always listen to my instinct and I don’t stop when I know that I’ll get whatever I’m working on accomplished in a fraction of the time the next morning.

Other mistakes happen when dealing with vendors who deliberately hide information or don’t volunteer what may change a prospect’s mind about accepting their proposal. They hope you won’t ask the pertinent questions. These are the mistakes Margaret Heffernan refers to. The fix: Experience. You learn what questions to ask.

In what category do most of your mistakes fall–when you don’t listen to your gut; you work when exhausted; you’re misled and haven’t asked the right questions to unearth the facts or something else?

Photo: agapegeek.com

 

Service of Losing to Win Time: Do Kids Benefit?

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

 

Photo: atlantaparent.com

Five years ago I wrote about toys and board games “light,” called “snack toys” by the industry because they are rigged to take less time for parents to play with their children than traditional Monopoly, Parcheesi and other games. Time continues to be a premium along with patience.

Today some parents cheat so their kids will win quickly or turn to technology to accelerate the process. Greg Bensinger wrote in The Wall Street Journal that parents “are palming cards, strategically adding pieces when the children aren’t looking and sometimes outright lying. Not without irony, some parents have used technology to make games go faster.”

In “Parents Rig Board Games To Lose Faster,” Bensinger reported that “Sales of games and puzzles in the U.S. grew 27% between 2015 and last year, hitting $2.09 billion, according to NPD Group Inc., far outpacing sales growth for all toys.”

Photo: poki.com

Data analyst Ethan Markowitz’s son can’t get enough of Chutes and Ladders. He “says there are nine ladders and 10 chutes, ‘which means a bias toward losing.’ So he programmed a simulation of 10,000 two-player games, which showed the dreariness could last as many as 146 turns. His solution was to tape a new ladder to the board between space 47 and 72. That lowered the longest game to 110 moves.”

Another father, Barry Wise, president of a data analytics company, “suggests eliminating the longest chute, spanning square 87 to 24.” He “ran his own simulations of the popular games 200,000 times.” Wise recommends “avoiding Candy Land, with its 3.4% chance of running longer than 75 moves (compared with 0.76% for Chutes and Ladders), or eliminating the rule of sending pieces backward.”

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

One mother in the article hesitates to let her daughter win all the time as it doesn’t prepare her for life, though she admits to “miscounting spaces” to her daughter’s advantage to get the game to end sooner. Another told her teenage kids that she’d cheated when they were small, hiding the best cards and giving them to each during the game. She resorted to this because otherwise the “one quick game before bed” lasted endlessly so she felt forced to find a shortcut. Her kids don’t let her forget it.

“Hasbro Inc. plans this June to release a Cheaters Edition of Monopoly….The new edition will reward players who can, say, move a rival’s piece without notice or collect rent for an opponent’s property.” The impetus for this version wrote the reporter: More than half of respondents to a survey admitted to cheating at the game.

According to Bensinger, Candy Land “stands apart as the patron saint of board-game monotony.” Hasbro encourages people to change the rules as they see fit.

When you were a kid, what were your favorite games? Did you play mostly with your parents, siblings or friends? Do you think adults have always cheated to end games faster or to let a child win? Did you cheat when playing with kids? Do you think you should always let a kid win or only sometimes? Are you surprised at the resurgence of popularity of traditional games?

Photo: pinterest.com

Service of Marketing Tone Deafness in a Global Economy

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Photo: Twitter.com

There are some things that seem so clearly offensive, at least to me, that I can’t understand why manufacturers need diversity, cultural-awareness and sensitivity committees and training to prevent them from producing distasteful products. They do need something: Common sense and a team of educated, aware marketers, design employees and independent contractors.

Photo: Crate & Barrel

Take the H&M hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” modeled by an African American child. In South African stores customers knocked over manikins and clothing racks where it was sold. You don’t need to be South African to find fault with hat hoodie. The same with Zara’s tee shirt: you don’t need to be Jewish to question the yellow star and its placement on the shirt, reminiscent of what Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. I wrote about a similar embellishment faux pas on a top in a post, “Service of What Were They Thinking?” in April, 2012.

Tiffany Hsu, in her New York Times article, “How to Prevent a Racist Hoodie,” listed these and more items such as shirts in which women were compared to dogs and other tops decorated with words like slut and slave.

With corporations selling to countries worldwide, I can see the necessity of knowledgeable people weeding out images and words that are benign in some places but not in others. But often the bad taste is glaring and obvious.

Photo: steemit.com

The major excuse manufacturers give for the blunders is lack of time to approve designs because so many are introduced at once and so quickly these days. One website introduces 4,500 a week wrote Hsu. An industry supply chain expert observed that it’s easy to overlook mistakes when you have two hours, not two months to approve a line. The hoodie and star, slut and slave should have been flagged in two seconds. Zara is using an algorithm to scan designs for offensive motifs. Good luck with that.

Another simple solution: stop introducing so many products that you don’t have time to vet them. H&M isn’t finding the model works that well for them. According to Hsu, it is currently “sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold goods…”

Photo: childhoodtraumarecovery.com

Let’s admit it: We can be too SENSITIVE these days. Some things are bound to slip by regardless of well-meaning measures. One example Hsu shared would have flown right over my head. She wrote: “Heineken pulled a series of commercials for light beer with the tagline ‘sometimes lighter is better,’ after an ad sparked criticism for being racist.” Before I finished reading to the end of the sentence I guessed the injured parties might have been people trying to lose weight. Wrong.

There was an image of a frog on a skirt that reminded some of a “cartoon character called Pepe, which was designated a hate symbol of the alt-right by the Anti-Defamation League,” wrote Hsu. I have seen neither cartoon but why would a Spanish artist who lives in London and is responsible for the frog in question design such a reptile for a skirt with hate and violence in mind? Wouldn’t he look for a more prominent object?

Waiting to pay at Trader Joe’s the other month someone left behind on a table just before checkout a carton of “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” I took a picture [below] because I thought it was such a stupid name for a drink, the result of a bad case of “aren’t we hip?” at the brewery. The marketers no doubt  hoped the carton filled with cold ones would stand out from the well known brands and appeal to would-be cool customers. I’ll take the Coors, Brooklyn Larger, Blue Moon or Rolling Rock.

How would you suggest companies determine the funny and hip from the nasty, offensive and cruel for their product designs and advertising campaigns? Have any offended you? Do you think some consumers can be too thin-skinned?

Service of a Newspaper’s Reporter Hemorrhage

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Photo: keithedwards.com

I’ve nibbled around the edges of this topic—the impact of the loss of local news delivered by newspapers—and the obvious major reasons for it: decreasing readership and advertising as well as advertising dollars moving elsewhere. A segment of “CBS This Morning” on Saturday covered the daring move by the Denver Post’s editorial page editor, Chuck Plunkett.

“In the defiant and desperate editorial, Plunkett and a host of other writers criticized the paper’s hedge fund owners, Alden Global Capital, for slashing staff, and they warned Denver it may lose its century-and-a-half-old newspaper,” according to CBS’ Barry Peterson.

Barry Peterson. Photo: cbsnews.com

Said Plunkett: “We call out other people who we feel like [sic] aren’t doing their job or living up to their obligations. We should be able to call out our own owners, and that’s why I did it.” The impetus: another giant layoff at the paper, this time of 30 reporters. Photojournalist John Leyba was one: He’d worked at the paper for 30 years, since his first job in the photo lab at 19.

Aside: I’ve written here before that I’m alarmed by the few if any people to approach at major regional papers with news pitches. Syndicated stories are often the norm and the fact it’s harder for PR people to get out a client’s information is unimportant—we find ways. The resulting paucity of oversight of local businesses, government or organizations and the people who work for them is critical. Plunkett called it a paper’s watchdog role. Plus, it’s nice to know what’s going on where you live.

Photo: uft.org

Back to Peterson: “The striking editorial includes a photo filled with silhouettes of the journalists who were laid off or have left since the paper won a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. The various articles said the paper’s ranks have shriveled to around 60, placing blame squarely on what one writer called the ‘vulture capitalists’ at the hedge fund.”

Plunkett is looking to the Denver community and its civic leaders to “step in to save the flagship local newspaper.”

The CBS report continued: “Alden Global Capital is the primary equity holder in Digital First Media, which owns 97 newspapers. According to the NewsGuild union, some papers have lost more than 70 percent their workforce. A recent lawsuit alleges Alden mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars from the news chain.”

The dynamic at this paper does not seem to match what’s happening at many others where the wolf is at the door. “Media experts nationally and locally have reported that Alden is making a profit of around 20 percent.”

Do you feel that newspapers are so “last year” that they serve little purpose in today’s world? What, if anything, has taken their place—is drive time radio making a comeback or are online news resources and websites filling the gap? Where do you get local news? Do you think communities will suffer without the fourth estate’s role as a watchdog?

 

Photo: pinterest.com

 

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 Goofy Things Kids Do: Overnight Challenges in Stores & Restaurants

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Photo: guff.com

We made silly phone calls and tossed paper bags filled with water out the window into a courtyard to make a crashing sound to scare the neighbors. One Christmas Eve, kids–I assume it was kids–broke windows on the sidewalk side of every car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Ours was one. Kids who have no financial constraints steal candy and small items from stores for sport.

Photo: flickr.com

Jennifer Levitz, in “Where’s Your Teen Sleeping?” wrote about what some kids are up to these days. According to the sub-head of her Wall Street Journal story, they are “Adventure seekers hiding overnight in stores for ‘24-hour challenge’—and are really, really bored.” They hide in fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that close at night or hang out for 24 hours or more in those that stay open.

She wrote about the adventures of a few teens at a McDonald’s: “After the initial thrill of escaping detection, they passed the time by going down the small slide, flipping water bottles and filming themselves whispering in the dark.” Sleeping was hard. One tried to do so in a toy car.

“Young people boast of holding the overnight challenges in trampoline parks, bowling alleys, home improvement stores and supermarkets, too. Companies mostly seem perplexed,” Levitz reported.

What nutty things did you do when you were a kid and what wacky things do your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren do today?

Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Zoom Zoom: Benefits and Casualties

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Photo: zoomzoommag.com

Speed provides many benefits along with some casualties.

Photo: visionware.org

I’m grateful for advancements in medicine starting with glaucoma tests. I was very young when I had the first one when my father was diagnosed with glaucoma. It took forever, was uncomfortable and horrifying. Today’s test [photo right] is over in a flash. Thank goodness for dentists’ high speed drills. In another field, I’m grateful to see  links to articles shortly after they’ve been posted, as a result of pitches I’ve made on behalf of my clients. Thank you Google Alerts.

In “Service of Cooking Under Pressure” I wrote about the Instant Pot that works for many but blows up and intimidates others.

I heard about another casualty of our zoom-zoom expectations on the Len Berman and Michael Riedel morning show when they interviewed legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus earlier this week. Golf is losing players and followers among the young because it takes so long to play or watch on TV: 4 hours vs. 3 hours-and-change for most other sports. Nicklaus admitted that the golf pundits must figure out ways to speed things up.

Speaking of speed, do people still speed read today? It used to be a big thing that never caught on with me.

What do you appreciate that takes less time today than before? Are there some things that should be slow or shouldn’t–or simply can’t–be revved up?

Photo: golfdigest.com

Service of Civility II: BookTV Panel & Some Surprise Assessments

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Photo: benice.org

 

A day after I heard about Laura Ingraham’s bullying one of the Parkland student survivor/spokespeople, hitting him below the belt on a very touchy subject –taunting him about four college rejections—I saw a fitting panel on BookTV covering the topic of why civility is important. With Geoffrey Cowan as moderator—USC Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership—panelists were Jon Meacham, author, presidential historian and executive editor at Random House; Tim Miller, Definers Public Affairs partner and Amie Parnes, reporter and co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Miller started. He’d been Jeb Bush’s 2016 communications director. While calling out the current president’s attacks on his then boss’s wife, he asked where do we draw the lines while pointing out that DT wasn’t the first in politics to step over some. He didn’t offer examples of but Meacham did when it was his turn to speak. He reminded us that one reason George Washington didn’t serve a third term was because he didn’t care for the incivility in politics and the attacks on him.

Meacham observed that civility is when “things are going my way;” that currently we are in a state of “strife and nature” and that in December, according to reporting in The New York Times, the current president told his transition staff to think of each day he is president as a TV show in which “I vanquish my enemies.” Meacham added that discord and disagreement are the oxygen of democracy. “We’re in the political equivalent of climate change: Some days hot, some cold.”

Jon Meacham Photo: Wikipedia.com

The president sets the political tone and those who reached out with hope have been the most successful, said Meacham. As examples he called out Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and more recently, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan whom he called the architect of optimism. The Reagan anecdote he shared was the President’s description of a kid who finds a pile of manure in the living room and says, “There must be a pony in there somewhere.” The opposite were presidents who ran on a fist clenched in fear. This one thrives on a rhetoric of fear.

Parnes spoke of being an object of personal attack about her Hillary Clinton book and earlier when she was a journalist, with people threatening her and even attacking what she looks like. She observed that social media has made it worse. In this regard, Meacham said he’d told his kids, ages 15, 13 and nine, “don’t write on a computer what you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.” He added that keyboards have been much quieter in his house as a result. Miller blames social media less than tribalism. The common culture of the 50s and 60s was for white people, he said. Cowan chimed in that politics is determined by zip code these days.

Meacham observed that the press is far less ideologically driven than people think. “Give us a fight and that’s ideal.” The president takes advantage of this.

Photo: indianexpress.com

Back to Ingraham, who reminded me of a now well-regarded New York Times columnist who wrote a nasty piece in that paper’s Magazine section about Chelsea Clinton, all of 11, whom he called unattractive and awkward among other things. Bullying is dreadful dished out by anyone but worse when it’s adult vs. child. The Parkland student wasn’t passive—he reached out to Ingram’s advertisers and more than a dozen of them have dropped her show at this writing.

Meacham’s “civility is when things are going my way” may answer why so many feel we are in a period of incivility on steroids, sensed in politics since the 18th century.  Where do you stand?

Photo: aplacecalledhope.com

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