Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Memorial Day Traditions - A Flowery Tribute to Those We Love

     It's time for the annual migration back to my family's ancestral home. I'll drive 400 miles to spend the Memorial Day holiday visiting relatives in the Midwest. For a lot of people Memorial Day is the Traditional start of the Summer season. For some, it means a day off from work. And for others, it's a day filled with parties, barbecues and parades.

     In Northwest Ohio- where we're all from- it's a Tradition to decorate the graves of our dearly departed. We spend a few hours going from cemetery to cemetery, planting flowers to honor our loved ones. This year, I'll be making my first Memorial Day visit to my Father's grave. I'll finally see the monument we ordered. It was such an ordeal getting one engraved the way we wanted. There's Dad's name along with some poems he wrote. Mom's name is on there too- but we expect Mom to be with us for a long time yet. At the top of the stone there's an etching of daffodils. Dad especially liked daffodils- whenever we'd move Dad would dig up his daffodils and take them with us to the new place. Dad was always a big part of our Memorial Day observances. I have vivid memories of Dad leaving flowers at his parents' graves. And at his Grandparents' too. There were always visits to the graves of our extended family- Great Grandpa's Brother, Grandma's Sister and so on. I suppose it might sound a bit odd to people not familiar with this Tradition. But in truth, we reminisce, we share stories, we remember. It's actually very nice.

     We'll stay at the family cottage- which isn't even in Ohio. It's in Indiana, about 5-miles over the state line. We call it going to the lake. And opening the cottage for the Summer is another Memorial Day Tradition we've observed for many years. My family started going to the lake in 1910. There was no electricity, no air conditioning and no fridge. We had an ice box that we filled with real ice to keep food chilled. We had to fetch water from a hand-pump a quarter mile down the road. Great Grandma Strayer planted lilies out in front. The original place was just a big tent- the kind made out of heavy canvas- like the ones soldiers use. Sometime in the 1930's, somebody ordered a pre-fab garage from the Montgomery Ward catalog. There was no foundation- they perched the garage atop four 50-pound nail kegs filled with cement- one at each corner. We installed wood paneling over the garage door and cut a doorway in the side. And that was our cottage. Over the years, we added a porch, a bedroom and even a toilet- but no shower. We used to take baths in the lake.

    Over memorial Day we'll remember the old days. We'll talk about how Great Grandpa Friedrich- he was a tavern owner- took a keg of beer on the Ferry. People on the boat heard two loud splashes. The first splash was the keg falling overboard. The second splash was Great Grandpa Friedrich diving in after it. And yes, he got the keg back on the boat. We'll go to the local fire hall on Saturday morning- for the annual Memorial Day pancake breakfast. And we'll go "round the round" just like Grandpa Bud used to do. Bud would drive around and around a phone pole down by the railroad tracks- just to listen to all the kids squeal. The phone pole isn't even there anymore. But we'll be sure to drive around and around in a circle where it used to stand.

    About 10 years ago our cottage collapsed- a victim of old age. Dad had it rebuilt before he died. The new one is very modern- it doesn't smell moldy- and it has a shower too. The old place is long gone, but Great Grandma Strayer's lilies are still right there. And this Memorial Day I'll be right there too- along with the rest of my family. It's Tradition.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Avoiding Armageddon - #Rapture #Fail

     I admit it. I was going to write this last week. But when checking my datebook I noticed "EOW" (End Of World) penciled in  for Saturday. So I decided writing could wait. I mean, there wasn't much sense publishing a blog that no one would see. But the end of time is apparently running late. So I now have time to address the Armageddon issue. From a practical standpoint the Rapture was a total flop- obviously nothing happened. But you have to admit it was a marketing marvel of biblical proportions. Bloggers were blogging about it. The Rapture was all over the news and the internet. It was featured in the Doonesbury comic strip. Everybody was talking about it. But since the world did not actually end I proudly present the Rapture winners and losers.

     Losers: Credibility

     Oh sure, Harold Camping is rolling in cash and now he's internationally-famous. But his credibility has to be the biggest loser. For those of you living under a rock, Camping is the guy who predicted the Rapture-that-never-was. The 89-year-old evangelist is the owner of Christian Family Radio network which is based in Oakland, California. Camping, who used to be a civil engineer, developed his prediction by using information from the bible and some kind of mathematical formula. Apparently there was some fuzzy math involved. Camping, who predicted a similar EOW in 1994, is said to be "flabbergasted" that he and the rest of us are still here.

     Winners: Social Media 

     This was another chance for SM to flex its muscles- and it did. Over the weekend, Twitter's trending topics include #HaroldCamping and #Rapture. The posts using those hashtags were piling up so fast you could hardly see them all. There's even a #Raptureplaylist for EOW music fans. There are also Top Ten Rapture status lists over on Facebook. It seems as if everyone wants to comment on the Rapture. One Facebook friend dryly warned me not to waste my time mowing the lawn on Saturday. Thanks Bill, now it's raining again.

     Losers: Followers of Harold Camping

     Some of Camping's followers quit their jobs, sold their possessions and donated the money to Camping's organization. The cash apparently financed a well-orchestrated media campaign designed to let people know their days were numbered. Now, those true believers have nothing; no money, no jobs and no idea what happens next. As of this writing, Camping hasn't said whether anyone might get some of that money back. Seems to me that his misguided followers deserve a No Rapture Rebate. Sadly, you sometimes get what you pay for..

     Winners: Comedians

     For whatever reason the Rapture hit a  funny bone. David Letterman aired the Top 10 Ways to Make the Apocalypse More Fun. That list included #9) Crazy hats like at the royal wedding and #6) Telecast of the Real Housewives being vaporized. One person posted this snarky tweet, "It's my first rapture and I'm trying to figure out what to wear." And how about this tweet from @mcm_kyle, "Harold Camping spent a lot of (his & others') money to promote rapture, but what makes it worse is that he went all in on Linkedin at $115."

     Losers: Bloggers

     This seems kind of obvious. But now all of us bloggers will have to do the actual hard work of finding other topics to write about.

     Winners: The Truth

      The Rapture had lots of people fessing up to their sins. #endoftheworldconfessions" was a popular stopover on the twittersphere. One woman admitted that she faked it in bed- every time. Ouch! @XJulieeO, tweeted, " I'm the one that took my sisters mascara sorry Amanda!" A thoughtful woman reminded us all that tomorrow is another day, tweeting, 
"Harold Camping, don't worry... it's not the end of the world". 
Get 'em while they last!
Yes, it's Ironic. 
BTW, I've decided to sell custom Tee shirts emblazoned with this inspirational message, "I Survived Armageddon 2011!" You will cherish your Armageddon Tee forever- however long that might be. Order now! This is a limited time offer!

Editor's Postscript:
May 24th

We've now heard an explanation from Mr. Camping. He had predicted that during the Rapture the faithful would be lifted to Heaven- those remaining would face hell on earth until the final day of reckoning. In his new vision, Camping claims the Rapture actually did happen but says it was an "invisible" judgement day. However, the end of the world will occur as scheduled. Camping insists that his prediction is on the money and that the end of humanity is set for October 21, 2011. So, save the date! As far as the followers who donated money (in some cases their life savings) Camping has no intention of giving it back. In his words, "Why would we return it?" since the world is going to end in October. In other words, we still haven't heard the last from Harold Camping.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

PRom PRoposition PRovokes PRedictable PR PRoblems - A PRescription for Bad PRess!

     So, up in Connecticut, there's a teenage boy who asks a girl to the prom. The next thing you know the state legislature is involved and the story is making worldwide headlines! The torrent of negative press is a perfect storm of bungled public relations.

     James Tate is a senior at Shelton High School. Tate earned his 15 minutes of fame when he tried to impress his intended prom date. Rather than ask her out during a phone call or while riding on the school bus, James pasted up his proposal in 12" letters over the school's entrance.

     It read simply, "Sonali Rodrigues, will you go to prom with me? HMU  -Tate." HMU stands for Hit me Up.

     Sonali said yes. But Shelton High School said no.  Since posting the invitation was against school rules Tate was ordered to serve an in-school suspension. And at S.H.S anyone who is suspended after April 1st for any reason cannot attend the prom.

     People complained.  They said the punishment didn't fit the crime.

     The school's headmaster, Beth Smith, released a statement that said in part, "This regulation is reinforced over the course of the spring by daily ... announcements, posted signage in common areas of the building, and in classrooms, as well as information letters and automated phone messages to parents... These communications are intended to remind our students and parents of the high school expectations and consequences. This unfortunate situation is a result of one of those consequences." 

    Clearly, that poorly-worded statement reads like a desperate plea for negative media coverage.  But you have to admit, it's some first-rate gobbledygook.

     Members of the Connecticut state legislature began drafting legislation to help Tate out of his jam. Yes, they were talking about passing new LAWS because this school was enforcing a zero tolerance policy that sounded pretty dumb to a lot of people.

     According to a CNN report, "Calls to Shelton High School, the Connecticut State Department of Education and the Shelton school superintendent's office were not returned."

     Let me just say that stonewalling in the face of public outcry is always a good idea.

     A Facebook page popped up titled: Let-James-Tate-Go-to-the-Prom At last look 195,005 people liked this. Supporters started calling themselves "Team Tate". Meantime, the suddenly famous Tate was making appearances on the Today Show and Jimmy Kimmel's late night show.

     What went wrong: Instead of admitting that the school policy was a little stiff... instead of making an exception... instead of graciously responding to community concerns and seeking a workable solution- school administrators strictly adhered to their policy. And predictibly, they came off looking like humorless twits. 

     What went right: In the face of growing pressure, the headmaster announced that Tate would be allowed to attend his prom! He will now face some kind of alternative punishment. And in the future, penalties for rules violations will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Hallelujah! Common Sense prevails. Now school administrators don't look quite so silly.

     After her reversal, Headmaster Smith told reporters, "I never thought that such a decision would lead to international notoriety..." She thought wrong. 

     The Lesson: Boneheaded decisions are no longer limited by the city limits. Think it out before your misguided mistakes go viral- way, way viral.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Public Relations NunSense - Religious Groups Take On Wall Street Over Executive Pay

     A comedian named David Brenner used to do some clever observational humor. I remember one schtick about bizarre signs. Brenner claims a sign outside a Los Angles hospital said "No Barking". He quipped, "either the dogs in LA can read or the people here bark". Then there was the billboard outside a convent that said "No Tresspassing. Violators will be Prosecuted to the Fullest Extent of the Law". It was signed by "The Sisters of Mercy". Ba Da Bum.

     If David Brenner were telling this story, he might start by saying, a Nun, a Priest and the CEO of a Jewish group walk into a corporate shareholders meeting...  Sorry, I don't have a punchline. But it's no joke. A coalition representing Nuns, Priests and a Jewish group did show up at Goldman Sach's Annual Shareholders Meeting. They demanded to know why Goldman Sachs executives are being paid huge amounts of money. And that created a bit of public relations trouble. Here are some actual headlines:

"Nuns put Goldman Sachs on Spot on Exec's Pay" - Washington Times
"Philadelphia Nuns Call Out Goldman Sachs" -
"Nuns Outraged by Goldman Sachs" -

     Those religious groups want to know why Goldman's top five suits earned 69.6 million last year- even though profits declined significantly. The Nuns may think those sky-high salaries are sinful but that wasn't the point. The religious groups are longtime investors in Goldman Sachs- and they're concerned that humongous salaries are hurting the bottom line. The Nuns introduced a shareholder resolution asking Goldman Sachs to evaluate executive pay. Goldman Sachs urged investors to vote down the proposal- and investors did just that.  Only four percent supported the Nuns. In fact, 73% supported the executive pay package.

     I think it's fair to say Goldman Sachs has been taking it on the chin lately. Many people viewed the company as one of the villains in the financial meltdown. Last year the investment giant paid $550 million to settle an SEC lawsuit which claimed Goldman's misled investors about a mortgage-linked investment. Another recent headline explained that GS spent $700 million on legal representation last year. I guess that's not too surprising. Then there's a scathing Senate report on Goldman's (and other firms) activities during the financial crisis. That report has been sent to the Justice Department for additional investigation.

     The Outcome: most of the headlines before the annual meeting focused on the Nuns. That put Goldman's in a tough position. I mean, how do you attack a position held by Nuns? As far as I can tell Goldman's ignored the Nun/Executive pay issue. Did this work? Is it an effective PR strategy? In news reports that followed the annual meeting- I didn't see any references to Nuns. Most reports noted the executive pay proposal was voted down and that was it. But is Goldman's stand good public relations strategy? Is it wise in light of the ongoing legal troubles? What should Goldman's have done instead? As SteveBauerMedia has said before- paying executives gobs of money when so many Americans are jobless makes companies look heartless. That said, Goldman's appears to be doing just fine. And yet, I still think there's a significant possibility the company might someday be "prosecuted to the fullest extent" in the court of public opinion. What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

FTK! Young Slugger Launches Major League Public Relations Campaign

    There are some unmistakable signs that Spring has sprung. The snow pack is finally beginning to melt here in Central Pennsylvania, the Robbins are defrosting, and once again, SteveBauerMedia is out with another feel good story. Oh, and one more sign of Spring- 12-year-old Elliot Mast is swinging for the seats. This blog post is about a young baseball star's quest to help sick children and how he's tapping into the power of social media.

     Last year Elliot used his prodigious baseball skills to raise $5,000 for Pittsburgh Children's Hospital. Elliot plays for the Caporuscios Baseball team- part of the East End Youth Baseball league in Altoona. Here's how it works. For every hit Elliot gets each of his sponsors pay $2. For every home run Elliot belts the sponsors pony up $10 apiece. And for every strike out that Elliot pitches his sponsors donate $5. So far this season Elliot has two homers, six hits, and 16 strike outs. That means each sponsor will donate $112 to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital- and the baseball season is far from over. So why is Elliot doing this? He says it's FTK- For The Kids. Here's what's posted on his blog page.

     "Why am I helping Pittsburgh Children's Hospital? I was born with a club foot and I didn't think I would walk. They helped me to walk and play baseball. I had to wear a cast on my leg & foot everyday till I was 8 months old, then I had surgery and had to wear a special shoe and brace! They helped me!"

     It's a great story. But it's Elliot's use of technology that I find really interesting. Off the field he's a Social Media "All Star". For starters, I first found out about Elliot through a posting on LinkedIn.

     You can learn about Elliot's ambitious fundraising campaign by visiting: Elliot's blog page 
     Become a sponsor or make a one time donation through his PayPal account.
     You can friend Elliot on Facebook.
     Follow Elliot on twitter @Elliotmast. You can also add a Twibbon to your twitter account to help spread the word.
     You can watch video's about Elliot's FTK program on YouTube. Here's his 2011 campaign fundraising video.

     This media campaign is working. Elliot has already been featured in several newspaper articles and TV reports. A Google search for "Elliot Mast" turns up 7,590 entries. Google your own name and see how many hits you get. And this is all to help kids who need medical help. You can go ahead and start feeling good now. And I'm going to help you feel good by testing the power of social media. I'm posting this story on Twitter- and I'm asking my followers to retweet it. Let's see if we can all help Elliot's message reach an even larger audience. Maybe we can help this caring young man raise some extra money. I'll be sure to post any information I get from Elliot. FTK!

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