Tag Archives: marketing

The Overwhelmingness of Christmas

It’s only December 5 and I am already stressing out about the holidays. Believe it or not, today was a much better day that the last few, which have been riddled with online shopping, searching for coupons and discounts codes, picking up tinsel and making sure the tree has enough water so it lasts through Christmas.

I love the holidays. Thanksgiving tends to be my favorite because it was always the biggest in our home; probably because we grew up in an interfaith family. We always did Christmas and Hanukkah but Thanksgiving was the creme de la creme of all the celebrations. This year, Thanksgiving was gone almost before it even started, so we’ve been full steam ahead into Christmas for weeks now.

I love Christmas, I do. The lights, the decorations, the festiveness – it all gives you a warm and cozy feel. And the fact that my year-and-a-half old daughter is smitten with Santa, Christmas trees and The Elf on the Shelf, it’s even more fun. But with all the fun that comes with this lovely holiday, there are plenty of stressors that creep up at Christmastime.

Before we even started defrosting the turkey, there were so many emails and commercials for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (now it’s Cyber Week?!?). I don’t go out on Black Friday, ever. But, this year, I started my shopping even before Thanksgiving hit. There’s handful of people to buy for and when you’ve been buying gifts for them their whole lives, or a good portion of it, for Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, etc. it gets tougher each year. And then there’s the advertising, telling me it’s my last day to save big, blah, blah, blah. I just couldn’t keep up. And before I knew it, another email would come telling me the sales were extended and even more bonuses or savings were added. Then I found myself calling the retailers trying to get the better deal and those calls always took at least 30-60 minutes. It was exhausting. Over the last week, I’ve felt like I was a slave to my computer, wasting every free moment looking online for gifts. And of course, you know I’m still not done.

Between all the shopping and boxes that are lying around full of Christmas decor waiting to be hung, I’ve felt like I was suffocating at times. So today, it was so nice to just take a break from all the shopping and craziness of the holiday season to enjoy a day that consisted of our norm: playdates, the gym, going out to lunch and soon, a nice glass of wine. Plus, it’s Friday. That’s my bonus deal of the day.

As much as we’ve done, there’s still so much more to go and do. Yet, even with all the craziness going on, I’m still loving the warmth of Christmas and have so much to look forward to; the excitement in my daughter’s eyes whenever she spots Santa; our first real Christmas tree; the anticipation of wrapping a ton of gifts (I really do actually love this part); the delight when everyone opens their presents; the holiday traditions; and finally, and most importantly, celebrating the season with friends and family.

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You Don’t Know PR

After more than 12 years in the business of public relations, it still amazes me how little people know about it.

I got my start in PR simply by chance. I looked for months for my first job out of college with little luck. Then a guy I used to babysit for recommended me to someone he knew in the city and that’s how I got my start.

I began working in beauty and fashion public relations in 2001. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea for a variety of reasons (low pay, no benefits; think of a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ environment where this Jersey girl just didn’t quite fit in) but I made it a little over a year there before I knew it was time to make a change. Ahh, how much easier it was to quit your job and decide to ‘start fresh’ at 23 than at 36. What I did take away from that job was that there was always a way to get something done, no matter what obstacles stood in your way.

I spent three years at a PR agency where I felt I learned everything I needed to get my start. The hours were awful and the management was mixed, but the pay and advancement were awesome. I got to work with some cool media companies and really got my start at understanding the power of public relations and why having a team of professionals like myself was so important to a brand.

Moving on to the non-profit world, there weren’t as many fancy raises or title changes, but there was so much more satisfaction. Managing and creating a communications department (where one didn’t exist) and knowing that the work you did was directly impacting lives and the bottom dollar that helped your organization grow was an indescribable feeling. There was also this warm and fuzzy feeling you got collaborating with your co-workers.

When I got laid off from my favorite job ever (see above), I spent a handful of months unemployed before I singlehandedly started running the PR department at a large media agency. It was here, after nearly a decade in the business, that I finally accepted how completely clueless people were about public relations.

With the exception of my first PR job, I have spent my entire career explaining what I do and what public relations really is, even to those who have hired me. Granted, that’s I’m there for, but within the last 10 years, nearly every client or company has been in the dark about this craft. That’s what can make it a lonely job, especially if you’re the only one running PR. People don’t understand your plight and companies usually don’t know where to put you. In fact, many don’t even have a communications or public relations department to begin with. Who is talking to the press for you? Who is advising you on internal and external communications? Who is making sure your messaging is in line? I could go on forever. In this day and age, with all the social media, real-time blunders, amongst other no-brainers, PR should be a requirement, not a luxury.

It takes a special person to work in PR. You have to be storyteller; you have to have patience, understanding, a thick skin and the ability to turn nothing into something. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain that everything is not “PR worthy.” Translation: not every burp and fart is newsworthy. People aren’t interested in every executive move your company is making, nor do they care about internal “rebrands.” Companies will give you a million reasons why they think “this is a great story,” and when you advise them it won’t get much, if any coverage, they don’t follow suit. I finally started calling reporters I had solid relationships with and asking them why they weren’t interested in covering something I was forced to make a story out of. It’s turned out to be one of the best and most honest tactics I have used in my career.

Another thing that aggravates the hell out of me (and is probably my biggest pet peeve of all) is when the PR person is left in the dark. All public relations heads should be at the executive table. We don’t care about your bullshit office politics, we just want the information before it’s spreading all over the office and we’re clueless when the press starts calling because some joker leaked it. This is a huge blunder companies make – they don’t think their PR person is important or plays an integral enough role in the business, primarily because they are not a revenue generator. What they don’t realize is that we can help save your brand. When the CEO leaves unexpectedly, when someone dies, a huge client is lost or you’ve got a scandal on your hands, you need your PR person in the loop. I’ve never understood how executives can manage billions of dollars and thousands of people, yet have zero idea how to communicate externally.

Public relations practioners get little recognition. Many say it’s a thankless job and quite frankly, it can be. When you get a great press hit, win an award or execute a successful campaign, the people behind it are usually forgotten. The brand gets visibility, the company, the executive(s) behind it, and while internally you may get some positive feedback and hi-fives, no one on the outside world really knows how it got on the front page of The New York Times, and you know what, they don’t care.

So why I have been doing PR for so many years? I’m good at, I like people, I love to write and there’s this feeling I get when something I spearhead goes from my desk to being broadcast nationally on TV or in the news. I landed in PR by chance. I’m now a stay-at-home-mom who very occasionally consults and tries to keep up with the trends. In the meantime, I hope Olivia Pope and all the other ‘fixers’ and ‘problem solvers’ out there are continuing to pave the way for us PR heroes.

In Support of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for a variety of reasons. I love the time of year in which it falls and the traditions my family and I have built around the occasion. Plus, being both Jewish and Catholic, it’s nice to just celebrate without having to bring religion into the mix.

I feel bad for Thanksgiving though because it’s like the red-headed stepchild of Halloween and Christmas. As soon as Halloween is over, I jump at the thought that we’ll soon be cooking turkey, making stuffing and spending time with family and friends.  Sadly, as soon as Halloween is over for most, especially retailers, we are thrown right into Christmas. Can’t we give Thanksgiving a chance?

I know Christmas is the holiday almost everyone (who celebrates that is) gets most excited about. Advertisers throw out the big guns to make those end-of-year profits, kids get excited for presents and let’s be honest, who can compete with Santa Claus? But over the last few years, Christmas has been making an early appearance on TV and in stores, leaving poor Thanksgiving in the dust.

Even when Thanksgiving does get some props, it’s mostly because of Black Friday sales and the start of the holiday shopping season. And these days, deals are being launched before you even put down your drumstick!

I don’t need to be swayed, but I hope that I can convince some of you to enjoy one holiday at a time. Give Thanksgiving a chance – don’t let it be trampled on by Christmas trees and tinsel. Be thankful for the occasion that reminds us to give thanks for all we have and shows us that holiday is truly about family and friends, not Black Friday deals and doorbusters.

When Did We Stop Giving Back?

Recently, the U.S. Postal Service held a food drive soliciting donations from millions of Americans across the country as part of their Stamp Out Hunger campaign: a cute and catchy tagline with the postage stamp, and a great way to get people to donate to a good cause, Feeding America. Plus, being that they’re the post office, free marketing: they were able to put flyers in millions of mailboxes across the U.S. without paying postage! Brilliant!

I participated in the program. It was easy. Pack up food in a bag and place it at your mailbox. It gave me an opportunity to give back to the community AND clean out my cupboards!

I packed up as many goods as I could that were acceptable to donate. I found stuff I didn’t eat anymore, things I shouldn’t eat anymore, and foods that might make people who don’t have the luxury to eat the way I do a little happier.

I arrived shortly before my postman (an awesome guy I have grown to know after months of long-term unemployment!) with my bag full of goodies and was sorely disappointed. There were five bags of groceries for the hungry at our mailboxes.

I live in a luxury building in Hoboken that houses over 200 units. Of all those apartments and rich people who parade around this place, only five bags were left for the hungry!?! Are you friggin’ kidding me?

Unemployed, and saving my own pennies, I found a way to donate a little bit to those less fortunate than myself.  What I don’t understand is how people who live with the luxuries of personal trainers, nannies, dog walkers and Maseratis (yes, I’m serious!) can’t give a box of pasta or can of soup to the needy. Get it together America!

Why Career Fairs are a Waste of Time

On Friday, my husband and I attended a career fair in New York City, sponsored by Careerbuilder.com. We thought it would be a great way to network ourselves and get in front of employers versus sending resume after resume via email for yet another day. 

The night before, we printed out about three dozen resumes at Staples. That in and of itself was a struggle, as the machine printed our resumes crooked and stapled everything incorrectly. At the time, it was utterly frustrating; looking back, we have to laugh, but nonetheless, it certainly was not worth the $9 we spent.

I have been to career fairs before and left thoroughly disappointed, so I don’t know why I expected this one to be any different, but I did. I guess I thought because there are so many people out of work, employers would be eager to help out (or at least look like they wanted to help out) the 5 million of us who have lost jobs. Basically, I had some hope. Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

We waited on a line that was around the block. It wasn’t too bad, but maybe that was because I had someone to wait with. 

My husband and I knew the list of employers weren’t directly in our industries, but we took a shot anyway because the event was sponsored by companies like AOL and PIX, and we were open to exploring new opportunities. Boy, did we misjudge this one. 

There must have been about 10 employers at this thing and at least 500 people in attendance by the 10 o’clock hour. Every job seemed to be in sales. And if that wasn’t bad enough, all these employers, who we all were getting the chance to meet face-to-face and make that lasting impression with, told us to apply for the open positions available at their companies online.
What?!?

So we stood online, as did hundreds of other people only to be told that we should go to the company’s website and apply in their career center portal? Why the hell was I here? Additionally, there were so few jobs that offered anything but sales. I felt like I was back at college at their career fairs. I’m not knocking sales jobs, don’t get me wrong, but every career fair I have ever been to, since I was an undergrad, everyone is always looking for salespeople, never any broader, niche occupations, like public relations, marketing or communications.

While we did make the effort to talk to some employers and shake a few hands, there was nothing there for us. And anything that seemed relatively worthwhile, we were told to head to the website and apply for the open position there. Oh, and let me tell you about that one: the website they gave us didn’t even work (Prudential)

Even though the career fair wasn’t for us, I really hope that the hundreds of other people that attended the event found it worthwhile because people need jobs. It’s amazing, yet daunting, how many people are looking for work right now. I saw a million types of people standing on that line or walking around the less than full room of employers. 

Unemployment does not choose. It’s like a disease. You can’t control who its bestows itself upon, it just happens, by no fault of your own. No matter how hard you may have worked, no matter how long you may have worked; regardless of race, gender, age, or religion, unemployment can happen to you. We are just one of millions of people looking for a cure.