Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolve for 2015 to Learn When to Shut Up

By Sarah Larson
No, I can't take your call right now. I'm covering the Memorial Day parade.

During my 20 years as a journalist, I dealt with innumerable public relations folks who did not know when to shut up. They didn’t know how to pitch me a story. Out-of-town agencies kept calling, long after the advent of caller ID allowed me to dodge their calls. They excitedly pitched me completely irrelevant “exclusives.” They couldn’t grasp the concept that a shooting or a bank robbery trumped their carefully orchestrated press conference. All in all, many of them seemed truly mystified at how to work with journalists.

After moving into public relations myself about two years ago, I have seen firsthand how understanding how journalists think and work is a huge benefit to my clients. It’s also a benefit to both sides of the PR equation – public relations folks and journalists – because it saves everyone time and frustration, and fosters better working relationships.

So, on behalf of journalists everywhere – pressed for time, paid in peanuts, and always being asked to do more and more with less and less – I offer this roundup of advice from journalists to public relations folks. Many good PR professionals know these things, but even those who do don’t practice them enough, or don’t do an effective job of helping clients set their expectations.

Here is what journalists today wish PR folks did – or didn’t do. A follow-up post will explore some of the things PR folks wish reporters would do or not do.

Understand first and foremost that nearly all news is local, whether “local” is a geographic region or a topic. If you want to pitch a national story or a national issue to a local or regional media outlet, you must find a local angle. Says one suburban Philadelphia journalist, “The only real problem I had is when one firm called me six times in one day (no lie) to pitch me a non-local story on pet insurance and related products.” Says another, "Don't pitch me stories that have nothing to do with my beat or my state."
Source: American Society of News Editors

Understand that everyone’s time is valuable and finite, and journalists are under incredible pressures to produce more. “Your pitch is not the center of everyone else’s world.” Newsroom staff nationwide has shrunk by 35 percent since 1990, according to annual surveys by the American Society of News Editors. That means fewer people to cover the news – and raises the threshold of importance in deciding what does and doesn’t get covered. It also means that those people still working in newsrooms have more to do; be respectful of their time and get straight to the point.

Do your homework – or do it better. Spend some time researching the reporters and the topics/beats they cover. Only pitch them on a story if you can find an appropriate angle for their audience. Says one Lehigh Valley-based reporter, “Don’t repeatedly send me press releases about events/stories that clearly aren’t related to the area that I cover. No need to send me information on an event in Philly when we don’t cover the city.” A sportswriter agreed. “The biggest thing that annoys me as a sportswriter is when I get releases that have nothing to do with me. Like stuff about traffic patterns or news stories. So basically, the best thing is to know who you are sending to instead of just the universal email database.”

Be organized and plan ahead. Says one business reporter, "If you're sending something that is on the daily news cycle, make sure your clients are available for comment. This has happened far too many times in the past, often with press releases on major management changes at local companies. If you have a new CEO, that person should be available for additional comment when you send out the release." If time is limited, scheduling a conference call between the client and a group of journalists can be helpful.

Think visually. Providing an interesting setting for interviews or an event is crucial if you are hoping for photographs or video coverage. From a television producer, “A bunch of talking heads at a podium or a conference room is the most boring television ever. Help us tell your story by showing us your story.”

Do not name drop. It’s annoying. “No need to tell me that State Rep. or Senator so-and-so is going to be there in an attempt to make it seem like a bigger deal than it is. Their presence, to me, means absolutely nothing.”

Find out how each newsroom that is important to you or a client operates. Learn what their deadlines are, when their shifts start, when their planning meetings are held, and take that into consideration when pitching stories or scheduling events. From a television producer, “Contact the local media and ask THEM what would be the best time to hold a press conference...my daysiders come in at 9:30 a.m., so if you schedule a presser for 9 a.m., you can pretty much forget about us showing up. Also, allow for travel time.”

Consider offering the story ahead of time on an embargoed basis. The more lead time journalists have to prepare coverage, the better. Working with reporters with whom you have developed trust and giving them the story in advance can help improve the odds of getting coverage. Says one reporter, "Breaking news aside - because the world still stops for breaking news - the more lead time I have on a story, the more likely it is that I can arrange my schedule to include it. I've found that more PR firms are offering stories on embargo. I appreciate that trust and the recognition that I'm not sitting by the phone waiting for news to happen."

Send calendar invites for events. Says one editor, "Attach an i-calendar item with an emailed press release that a reporter can just click on and add to their Outlook calendar with all the necessary information right there. Even if they haven't decided whether they will cover your event when you send the release, making it easy for them to add to their calendar gives you a better chance that it will be reconsidered in the days before."

Understand the types of stories that are good for TV/video or for text. A TV journalist says, “Don't bother sending us releases about events that already happened (unless it's like final numbers for fundraising totals). Tell us BEFORE so we have the option to cover your event.” Print and online journalists, however, often will welcome information about an event that has passed, especially if there are photographs to share or final numbers for attendance, funds raised, etc.

Never, ever take it personally. It’s not about you, or your client. “If your pitch doesn’t succeed one time, no bitching or whining about it next time. That will pretty much guarantee worse results. Move on, it’s not personal.”

Monday, December 22, 2014

What's in a Name?

By Rose Strong

It’s been a tough year for companies and organizations that use the name ISIS.

When I was a youngster, Isis was the name of a deity in Egyptian mythology, the goddess of health and wisdom. As I grew up, the name also referred to Isis, the female superhero in the TV show, Secrets of Isis.

Today, according to CNN, ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The splinter group of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda is also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and just as Islamic State, and gained notoriety after videos were posted online depicting the group’s barbaric and gruesome killings of western hostages.

Given this political backdrop, executives at companies that share a name or otherwise use the acronym ISIS have scrambled to find ways to distance themselves from the newest appropriation of the name. It is a difficult predicament for any business to be in, considering this name / acronym usage isn’t something easily controlled by the business itself.

A condo development in West Palm Beach, FL changed its name from ISIS Downtown to 3 Thirty Three Downtown.

A Belgian chocolate company changed its name from ISIS Chocolates to Libeert after their international customers were unable to carry the chocolates because of the negative connotation associated with the name.

Even the animated television series Archer had to rename an organization within the show as the producers didn't want to associate with the violence and horror of the terrorist group.

A few companies using the acronym of ISIS are making a conscious decision not to change their name. A feminist group affiliated with Fordham University has decided to keep the name ISIS which stands for In Strength I Stand. "People know who we are. Nobody thinks we are in any way an Islamic terror nationalist group. So I really don't see a need to change it because of that," Wallis Monday, the group's president told New York Magazine.

Rebranding is a huge undertaking. Oftentimes, a new mission statement must be developed to coincide with the core values, which may change from time to time as the business changes with the times and its demographics. When you consider having to redesign stationery, packaging, logos, websites, advertising and any other collateral a company uses for its brand identification, a rebranding project can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as a potential loss of customers.

Of course, there are times when rebranding is needed. As a company grows over time, it may evolve to offer new products or services, or may be making a push towards gaining a new client demographic, or may want to keep up with a change in trends and fashions. Other businesses rebrand because the business name doesn't fit or it is easily confused with something else or is unpronounceable or in the case of ISIS, to change the negative connotations consumers may have.

Have you ever rebranded your business? Would you change the name of your company if it had unwelcome negative associations with forces you couldn't control? Let us know in the comments below, what you think about this predicament and how you’d handle it.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best – and Worst – of 2014

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Not a day goes by without one of our team mentioning something seen online; part of our business is to keep up with trends in the industry. As the year comes to a close, the Furia Rubel team decided to share The Best and The Worst of 2014 for advertising, social media and technology. So many to choose from, but here is our sampling…

Entertainers Shared on Social Media: Anything with “stars” seems to happen at awards show, perhaps because they are “live” (so what does that say about our actors?). Our blooper/failure awards are a tie between John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her at the Oscars and Brendan Fraser and his very strange clap. Our top award, though, goes to Ellen Degeneres for use of both social media and technology in her star-studded group selfie at the Oscars, which she then shared on Twitter, where it became the most-retweeted tweet ever.

Worst Print Advertising Campaign: This is one that our entire team agrees on…Urban Outfitters outrageous ads get our attention with the shock factor, but we find them tasteless.

Best Print Advertising Campaign: We love the Harley Davidson campaign from the Czech Republic, which many of you may not have seen (unless you’re secretly a world traveler). The photography is striking, as is the historical story about WWII riders hiding their bikes from the Nazis.

The Old Spice Mom commercial is strange, yet we need to keep watching to see how it ends, so we give it the Most Creepy, Yet Somehow Funny Commercial award.

Most Memorable Hack: We started the year with the announcement that the Neiman Marcus network had been breached undetected for three months in 2013 and we finished with the incredible Sony Pictures email hack from Thanksgiving week, the fallout from which appears as though it will continue into 2015.

Social media can raise awareness of a cause or need. The Best Social Media Campaign this year stands out in my mind, not for the negligible controversy, but for the positive impact the ice bucket challenge made on the ALS Association, raising more than $100 million in a few months.

Finding a Best LinkedIn post is tough since the website feeds you articles geared toward your interests or areas, but a recent corporate post is generating interest as they try to increase viewers with a contest to have Liam Neeson make a video on your profile page.

It’s tough to choose one Best Viral Video, as so many seem to pop up each day in our news and social media feeds, so we chose a few favorites. We can find many funny animal videos, but the Best Animal Video is the cat saving his boy from a dog attack. The young man who finds out he is getting a sister and is not too happy about it is Best Kids Video. And the Best Viral Song that spawned more viral videos and parodies goes to Pharrell and Happy.

Favorite New Buzzword: There are always new buzzwords, especially when it comes to business and marketing, so we chose a video that pokes a little fun at how we use buzzwords from the eccentric Weird Al.

So there is our list. Of course there are more, which I’m sure we will share at our annual holiday office party along with our family traditions and hopes for the New Year. For me, I know one buzzword from 2014 that I could do without – Polar Vortex.

From the team at Furia Rubel, here’s hoping your 2015 is happy, healthy and warm.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Is Kim Kardashian a PR Genius?

By Megan Quinn

Her latest publicity stunt has been one of the most buzzed-about subjects lately. I think you know who I’m talking about. Kim Kardashian shocked the Internet with a nude Paper Magazine cover and the photo has been plastered all over the web ever since - memes included.

But (ha), let me ask you something; do you know what Paper Magazine is now? Chances are, when you think of Kim K, you probably think of the magazine that showcased her risqué photographs. Her tactic did not succeed in “breaking the Internet,” but it did generate enough buzz to keep her pictures and Paper Magazine’s name floating around.

Just to be clear, as part of a marketing agency staffed by six women, I am aware of the ramifications of using lewd PR and sexploitation for promotional materials. While this approach may work for a certain kind of audience, for our professional services clients, we highly recommend NOT baring it all to pull off a successful PR campaign. This kind of publicity stunt is more likely to turn off a sophisticated, professional target audience rather than attract them.

How did Kim pull off a major PR move?

Still, the stunt seemed to accomplish its goal of raising awareness of both Kim and the magazine. How did she do it? It’s really quite simple. She shocked us and we just had to share the news – just like I’m doing right now – and celebrities did the same by tweeting their reactions.

Then, millions of Twitter followers of those celebrities shared the information with their followers, causing a ripple effect of epic proportions. Other celebrities, such as Alyssa Milano and Chelsea Handler, essentially endorsed Paper Magazine without, perhaps, even intending to by referencing Kim’s cover photos. Handler posted a picture of her own derrière next to Kim’s and challenged her Twitter followers to guess which one is real. Meanwhile, Milano publically questioned why her breastfeeding snapshot received backlash months ago, while Kim’s photo received a fair amount of praise. This, in turn, prompted discussion on attitudes toward breastfeeding once again.

The Numbers

Not only did Kim Kardashian promote her own brand, she helped a small magazine gain a larger profile in just days. Overall, Paper Magazine received 32,000 new Twitter followers (and counting) and surely Kim gained plenty more by marketing toward 18- to 35-year-olds. And believe it or not – Kim actually did those cover photos for free.

Adweek reported that Kim’s cover story generated close to 16 million page views and 11.4 million unique visitors to PaperMag.com, as of Nov. 14. To meet the increasing newsstand demand, Paper Magazine is printing an additional 35,000 copies of the clothed Kim Kardashian issue, but only 10,000 of the nude cover (which will not be sold on newsstands). Paper Magazine normally has a circulation of about 155,000.

PaperMag.com is slated to undergo a complete website redesign soon to accompany their recent print magazine revamping.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 Easy Steps to Build Your First Media Outreach Plan

By Sarah Larson

At the core of every marketing and public relations effort is the story you want to tell. We recently shared several possible story ideas for new or small business owners.

Once you have identified your story, you then have to decide what to do with it. Who will care about it? How can it benefit your business? To answer those questions effectively, you need some strategy - and if you don't have a strategy, it's time to devise one. Everything takes time and time costs money. Make sure the time you're putting into your promotional efforts doesn't go to waste. Here are some questions we ask clients to help focus their efforts:

Does this story have a personal connection to one of your team members? If so, know or find out where they grew up, where they live now, where they went to school, whether they are members of clubs or organizations, etc. Then look up:
  • Local newspaper / local online site where the person grew up
  • Local newspaper / local online site where the person lives now
  • Alumni publications at schools the person attended
  • Publications that the member groups produce - chambers of commerce and professional organizations often put out newsletters or magazines aimed at members.
  • Religious or social publications
Where do most of your customers / clients come from? If the majority of your customers or clients hail from a specific audience - people who practice a particular trade, for example - find out if any specialized magazines or newsletters cater to that audience and get in touch with them. Likewise for any important new hires. If that person is a well regarded specialist in a particular field, their change of employment could be a news item for any publications that cater to that profession.

Does your business benefit from B2B relationships? If other business owners are your best referral source, you want to be in the publications they read. Look for a regional business journal operating in your area and make a habit of dropping the reporter who covers your industry a line to let them know what's going on in your shop. They appreciate being kept in the loop, even if they don't respond to every piece of information you send them.

Does your area have any independent news websites or blogs covering local business? Don't underestimate the reach of these relatively new information channels. People read them, and their editors want to hear from you.

Do you have your own website? Of course you do. But do you have a “news” section on that website? You should. And you should post your news story there. Then you should share the link to that page in your email signature (updated regularly), on your company’s social media channels, and in your company’s electronic newsletter. If you don’t have a formal newsletter, send the link to clients you think might be interested in reading about your news.

Media coverage is just one ingredient in a well-rounded public relations plan, but it is a significant one. Journalists want to tell good stories, especially about people. But they can't tell the stories they don't know about. Make it easier for them to tell your story.

Monday, November 17, 2014

6 PR Stories for Your New or Small Company

By Sarah Larson

In today’s economy, everyone is an entrepreneur - or at least, should be.

The full-time elementary school music teacher has a side gig playing piano at a local wine bar. The customer service rep at the bank makes elaborate custom birthday cakes on the weekends. And the accountant by day has launched an antiques refurbishment business.

The success of each of these endeavors will depend, in large part, on how much effort these enthusiastic entrepreneurs put into promoting their businesses. And that, in turn, depends on how effectively they employ an often overlooked, but potent, weapon in the business owner’s arsenal - public relations.

Many new and small business owners make the mistake of imagining "public relations" to be irrelevant to their business. Others think PR is something that only big companies do.

Neither is true.

Yes, big companies usually have in-house public relations teams or contract with support agencies, but small companies still engage in public relations. Maybe they don't call it that, and maybe they don't realize they're doing it -- which likely means they're doing it ineffectively -- but they're doing it.

Your company is going to do it, too - so do it well. The first place to start is by having a story to tell.

In my nearly 20 years as a journalist, I would regularly meet business owners who had great stories to tell, but they had never thought to pitch that story to a reporter. Too many people don’t see the story value in what they are doing day in and day out. If you are one of them, here are some ideas:
  • Has your business celebrated an anniversary? Five, 10, 15 years in business - these are all great milestones that give a reporter a good reason to do a feature story on your business.
  • Have you hired anyone new? If you’ve hired a new team member who has established credentials in your industry or community, that’s good news and worth sharing.
  • Have you acquired a significant new client? With the client’s permission, and if it fits within your strategic plan, announcing a new client can be a good idea, particularly if that client comes from an industry sector in which you want to grow your business.
  • Are you scheduled to speak at a conference or workshop? Sharing the news about the presentation can both help boost registration for the program - something the organizers likely would welcome - and help establish you as a thought leader on that topic.
  • Have you won an award? Whether your business was voted tops in an annual survey or an individual team member was honored by a business group, awards are great to publicize.
  • Are you participating in a program that has wider appeal? If your accounting firm, for example, donates time to a social services agency to help low-income clients file their tax returns, getting the word out about the program helps the agency, the firm, and the clients.
Chances are, your business has news that fits into one of these categories, and if you don’t now, you likely will sometime soon. In our next post, we look at how to get these stories in front of the people who care about them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It’s Almost Flu Season. Are You Ready?

By Rose Strong

Every time the news comes on, there’s a report of an outbreak of a new virus, making influenza season seem like a walk through a field of daisies compared to what we’ve been finding out about the new Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) and Ebola.

Influenza, however, hospitalizes more than 200,000 Americans every year, and kills an estimated 36,000. Ebola, meanwhile, has infected only nine people in the United States, eight of whom recovered after treatment.

In short, you and your workplace are much more likely to be affected by the flu this winter than Ebola. There is no way to predict the severity of the upcoming flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but preparing to deal with it is well worth the time. Review preventative measures, as well as things you can do to help yourself stand back up and smell the flowers again, should you fall face first into the field.

Get Vaccinated

If you’re in a high-risk group, or, say, you take public transportation every day, or work in a hospital or school or your job is in an office with dozens of others sitting nearby in cubicles, medical experts recommend getting a flu shot.

If you have health insurance, you should be covered for free preventative care through your doctor. You also could get vaccinated at a pharmacy for a small fee or through your local health bureau. Check with your doctor, or your city or county’s department of health or community hospital for information.

Wash. Your. Hands.

Nothing controls the spread of germs the viruses that cause colds and influenza like intentional, careful hand washing. By intentional, I mean taking time out of a busy day and just washing thoroughly, particularly if you’ve been traveling the hallways of a building, using elevators, escalators, public transportation or handrails and door knobs, grocery shopping, or handling money. Of course, you also should wash after sneezing, coughing, before and after eating and after using the restroom. Remember – everything you touch has been touched by someone else before you. Yes, everything.

Knowing the right way to wash your hands is extremely helpful. It’s somewhere between the way a surgeon scrubs in for a procedure and the way a typical seven-year-old washes up for dinner! Here are a few steps from the National Health Service, in conjunction with the World Health Organization, that will help you know your hand washing is up to par at keeping the germs down and out.


There are scores of over-the-counter medications and home treatments to ease the symptoms of colds and influenza. Do they work? It seems a subjective question. What may work for one person may not work for another. This article from WebMD.com lists many tips that may provide some relief. More than a few theories have been proposed regarding the cure-all properties of chicken soup. Until recently, little evidence has been available to back up the theory, but this article from the New York Times Well Blog outlines new evidence.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Like the Clash, when we get sick, we ask ourselves this question over and over. Should I stay home or go to work? Trying to tough it out and go in to work is detrimental to everyone, you, your coworkers and lost production in the workplace.

From a health perspective, if you can stay home, rest and drink lots of fluids and not infect anyone else at your workplace, that is the ideal solution. If you can work remotely, even if it’s part time, that would be even better.

Is There an App for The Flu?

So glad you asked! Yes, there are a few apps and Internet programs that will help you deal with the flu. FluVue is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s official app and will help you see the severity of flu outbreaks in your state as well as videos, tips and hints on preventing or dealing with the illness. It is free and available on both Android and iTunes platforms.

Flu Defender is an overall app for everything you need to stay healthy during flu season, including where to get a flu shot, how to determine if you have flu-like symptoms and real-time Tweets from the CDC. It is available for free from iTunes.

If you don’t have a smartphone, Flu Near You is an online program administered by Healthmap of Boston Children's Hospital, in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the Skoll Global Threats Fund. It helps track the spread of the flu across the U.S. and offers information on where to get a vaccine, as well as links and resources to learn more than you ever thought possible about this annual illness.

Hopefully these tips, tricks, ideas and warnings will help keep you and yours healthy this coming season.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yes, We Felt Dirty – And Oh So Good

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Wearing neon yellow reflective pinnies, rubber gloves, and boots and carrying large green trash bags. Not a normal day in the office for us – or out of the office, for that matter. What were we doing? Roadside cleanup of course! Furia Rubel took a few hours to beautify our world by walking the road that runs along our office, picking up trash.

Yes, we do have one of those signs that reads “Adopt A Road – Litter Control” with our company name on it, but that’s not for advertising; Furia Rubel originally developed the local adopt-a-road program to celebrate our tenth year in business and we won’t be one of those companies that keeps the sign up without doing the work. Most of us travel the busy road next to the office each day, and we want to keep our area looking good.

With the Doylestown Township police department escort providing flashing lights for safety, our team set out to fill our bags. We quickly grabbed sticks to try and gather hard to reach items, entangled in the brush. As I donned my red rubber boots, and climbed over guardrails, I realized just how much trash lurked below the visible surface of the road. I grew up in Bucks County, and lived in New York City after college, and it still amazes me why anyone would chose to litter in either place.
In the city, there is always a trash can within arm’s reach and, in the suburbs, if you’re driving in your car and have trash, either keep a trash bag in the car or take it home to throw away properly.

In true competitive Furia Rubel fashion, we decided to make it interesting and see who could find the strangest trash. There was plenty of the usual – beer cans, fast food containers, and more cigarette butts than we could possibly count in an afternoon. But the other items we found were peculiar at best. Among the items in contention for winning were a sign for a painting company, feminine hygiene unmentionables, and a car key remote, but the winner was…a pair of dirty long underwear.

We try to be “green” at Furia Rubel; we recycle, of course, and turn off the lights and equipment when they’re not in use. We don’t print documents unless we have to, and when we do, we often reuse scrap paper in the printers. Those “Save the Earth” campaigns don’t seem to be as popular anymore. Many of us remember the 1970’s commercial with the crying Native American, but when is the last time you remember seeing a similar commercial reminding you not to litter? After picking up other people’s trash, I think our team would agree that the public could use another reminder like that commercial.

When we were done with our roadside walk, we had bags full of garbage, including the long underwear. The area looked great and we felt accomplished, but now, more than a week later, I see a few new pieces of trash as I drive to work in the morning. Here’s hoping that the visual of us on the road, cleaning up the mess, makes people think before they litter.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking Aim at Pinkwashing

By Rose Strong
It’s mid-October and those awful pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness are splattered everywhere. Everyone is wearing pink, from the high school football players to the check-out person at your local grocery store. Oh, and don’t get me started on the retail industry!

Perhaps I need to give a disclosure here. My partner of 28 years was diagnosed in 1997 with stage-three ductal carcinoma, in the left breast. She had a mastectomy with the removal of lymph nodes, chemotherapy, became bald for several months and was declared cancer free, but took Tamoxifen as a preventative against recurrence for five years.

After five years of no cancer, you’re in what they call “the safe zone,” a sort of milestone. It’s rare for the breast cancer to return after that time. In 2010, her cancer returned. We have lived with metastatic breast cancer as a chronic illness every day for the past four years, but thanks to the pharmaceutical gods, she’s on Arimidex to keep her cancer at bay.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for charitable giving. I’ve worn my share of pink ribbons, walked the charity walks and drove the BMWs for the Drive for the Cure several years in a row since we were given the diagnosis 17 years ago. I donate whenever I can, both locally and globally to those charities which make an impact, little by little as my pocketbook will allow.

However, businesses that put a pink ribbon marketing program into effect for the cure of breast cancer simply for the purpose of gaining a new demographic and more dollars make me seethe with rage. It’s been termed “pinkwashing” by Breast Cancer Action, a group that considers itself the watchdog of breast cancer charities.

The latest pinkwashing to make news is the recent “partnership” the Susan G. Komen Foundation has formed with Baker Hughes, the international hydraulic fracturing, or fracking company. The corporation is going to distribute 1,000 drill bits to be used for fracking as part of the project, “Doing Our Bit for the Cure.”

As you can imagine, it’s not gone over well. Fracking waste is known to carry carcinogens and has been shown to contaminate public water supplies and the air.

The Komen Foundation is not the only one in the industry to resort to pinkwashing. So, while you’re shopping for groceries, new bath towels, or running shoes, how do you know that your purchase of their product emblazoned with a pink ribbon is really donating money to a worthy cause? It’s hard to say exactly, but after reading this article by Amy McCarthy for Bustle.com, it would be hard not to be cynical.

Who’s Doing the Watching?

How do you find out about the charities accepting donations for breast cancer research and advocacy? Well, since breast cancer is only one drop in a bucketful of charities that need our financial support, here are a few sites that help sort out the good, the bad and the ugly:

  • Check out Guidestar.com, a comprehensive website that allows you to research any charity or other nonprofit before you donate. The site gives information on how to choose a charity, give to one that uses your money judiciously and offers direct reviews from those who have donated or been involved with the charity.
  • BCAction.org is the watchdog of all breast cancer charities. It is blunt and intelligent and questions everything about the breast cancer industry and gets the answers we all need. ThinkBeforeYouPink.org is a project of Breast Cancer Action started in response to the onslaught of pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness.
  • CharityNavigator.org has a page dedicated to giving to charities and the listing of 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors is excellent.
  • The Better Business Bureau offers a comprehensive 20-point rating system for charities throughout the United States that answer their requests for information.
  • GreatNonProfits.org is another excellent source for finding charities you wish to donate to with positive records for making an impact on the populations they serve. 

Who Meets the Standards?

Since it’s October and awareness is key, I’ve  included only breast cancer organizations here, but several groups above provide information on any charity you’d be interested in within the U.S.

  • National Breast Cancer Foundation works at saving women’s lives by providing mammograms, early detection and education. Since 2005, the organization has provided 340,000 mammograms via its hospital network, especially for women who are uninsured or underinsured who otherwise would go without preventative care.
  • Young Survival Coalition, Inc. is an organization for those under age 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and the special struggles they face.
  • The Breast Cancer Fund strives to educate about and eliminate our risks within our everyday lives by becoming aware of the toxic chemicals surrounding us in our environment.   

If you can get past the sea of pink and the shocking statistics used to pull on your heartstrings, you can be sure your money goes where it’s going to make the best impact, regardless of what charity you’re inclined to support.

I’d enjoy hearing your stories of charitable giving. Do you give at work? Ever drop change in a bucket or do you research the charity of your choice? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand, That is the Question

By Megan Quinn

It’s funny how a new look can change the entire feel of a company. Sometimes a business wants a change – whether it is a flashy or subtle one. Starbucks made a slight change to their logo in 2011, but it’s barely noticeable (in my opinion). They opted to keep their signature mermaid symbol, while making some updates to it, and removing the words “Starbucks Coffee” from their logo. In short – their company name in the logo was unnecessary because their brand is internationally recognizable.

Sometimes logo changes are not enough. That was the case with Hotmail. Launched in 1996, this email service has been around for almost 20 years and was one of the first web-based email services. However, Microsoft decided to reinvent Hotmail during the summer of 2013 to become Outlook.com. Hotmail users still got to keep the “@hotmail.com” address, plus their contacts and passwords, but significant external changes took place.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve completed upgrading all Hotmail customers to Outlook.com. Coupled with the growing organic excitement for Outlook.com, this has pushed us to over 400 million active Outlook.com accounts, including 125 million that are accessing email, calendar and contacts on a mobile device using Exchange ActiveSync,” Microsoft said in a blog post on the day it finished the upgrade. The Outlook.com integration process took only six weeks and was completed on May 2, 2013.

Not only did Microsoft’s Hotmail rebrand, but they also backed up their decision with plenty of ways to keep their customers happy and loyal while gaining new ones. Sounds like rebranding and updating was their key to success.

Not every company needs to rebrand. Sometimes it only requires a surface change. In this case, Microsoft’s Hotmail was due for a huge upgrade – and the company delivered.

Another lesser known success story is that of Burberry, the clothing, scarf and handbag brand. Their infamous checkered pattern actually was digging them into a deep hole. The pattern had become associated with hooligans in the UK who acted violently at soccer matches. A pattern that was once seen as a status symbol was now outlawed, so to speak.

Burberry was in serious need of a rebranding effort to keep their customers. They decided to hire young celebrities to endorse their products and also revamped their trench coats. By staying in the loop and realizing their brand was being connected with the wrong crowd, they kept their successful name.

Sometimes rebranding doesn’t fit in with the company's ultimate needs and goals, or maybe it’s just not necessary, if customers are so accustomed to the old logo. Business won’t exactly improve or could stay the same. There are currently some new brand logos out there that I’m not too fond of, but I still give those brands business because I like their products or services.

Are there any new rebranding efforts you feel made a critical difference for companies? Are there any branding schemes you wish had never changed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Finding the Recipe for Business Success at Breakfast

By Sarah Larson

French toast casserole with apples, walnuts and maple syrup. Quiche. Bacon. Fresh berries. Scones. Sparkling apple cider.

That is how we kicked off a recent workday at Furia Rubel. It was the third breakfast celebration we’ve had in recent months to mark the birthdays of our team members, and each one has been more fun than the last.

But these breaks from the workday aren’t just a luxury, which many companies believe they can ill afford. For the rest of the day after our breakfasts, I noticed our team members smiling more, coordinating efforts better, and just generally being more productive.

That’s no accident.

Fun time at work is an investment in the people and the culture of your company, and that investment pays more dividends in the long run than can easily be quantified.

People are pretty smart – or, at least, pretty attuned to self-preservation. Employees who are treated like interchangeable cogs on a wheel know that they are easily replaced – and they function accordingly.

On the other hand, creating a true team atmosphere, with people who actually like and respect each other, is more likely to foster happy employees who believe in the company’s mission and see themselves as important ingredients to its success.

You don't have to be Google, with free meals, a Lego play station and Broadway-themed conference rooms, to make your workplace into a place your employees want to be. A few creative ideas, some genuine interest in your employees' lives, and, yes, some food, can go a long way to creating an enjoyable workplace.

Plus, any excuse to start a work day with bacon is just a good day, all around.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Return to Sender 10 Months Later?

By Rose Strong

Have you ever wished you could follow a letter from the time you sent it to the time it arrives in the mailbox of your intended recipient? It might be an interesting journey.

As a communications firm, Furia Rubel is ready quite early with our holiday cards and video greetings. We plan for them to go out in the mail about three weeks before the actual holiday.

Last year, our greetings were sent out on or about Dec. 9 from the Philadelphia postal hub. As happens with any mass mailing, some addressees are no longer at the address we have on file. We typically receive these cards back, investigate for the updated address, and resend. This process usually takes 10 to 14 days.

However, we recently received one of our 2013 holiday cards back, marked Return to Sender / Unable to Forward / Not Deliverable As Addressed - more than 250 days after it had been mailed.

Please indulge me as I give a quick and brief history lesson about the United States Postal Service. The organization began as the United States Post Office, a governmental agency first suggested by publisher William Goddard in 1774 as a way to get information out to citizens without the prying eyes of the British postal inspectors. The USPS began moving the mail on July 26, 1775, as approved by the Second Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin was appointed its first postmaster general.

Upon the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the U.S. Postal Service functioned as a regular, tax-supported, agency of the federal government. Still an agency of the federal government today, in 1982 U.S. postage stamps became “postal products,” and the USPS now is funded solely by sales of stamps, shipping and other services.

As of this writing, there are more than 30,000 post offices, stations and branches throughout the United States to handle domestic mail. If you take a gander at the USPS website’s ‘About’ page, you can see the numbers regarding mail volume, the people involved, fleet of vehicles and the department’s yearly budget.  Here are just a few of the numbers, based on 2013 data, that I found interesting:
  • 152.9 million — total number of delivery points nationwide
  • 158.4 billion — number of mail pieces processed
  • 211,654 — number of vehicles — one of the largest civilian fleets in the world
  • 1.2 billion — number of miles driven each year by mail carriers and truck drivers
  • 38.8 million — number of address changes processed
  • If it were a private sector company, the U.S. Postal Service would rank 45th in the 2013 Fortune 500.
  • In the 2013 Global Fortune 500 list, the U.S. Postal Service ranked 140th.
From those fine facts, it can be concluded that the United States Postal Service is a colossal organization. So, one long lost letter in that sphere of people and mechanical processes shouldn’t be surprising.

I took our returned card to my local post office and asked the postmistress why it could have taken so long to come back to our office. She made a copy and said she’d pass it along to her regional office and see if they had an answer.

Checking in a few days later, the postmistress told me that there was no conclusive answer.

“It could have fallen off the belt in the sorting facility and gotten stuck, and someone found it when the machine jammed or they cleaned and just sent it along on its way,” she said.

Sometimes one doesn’t get answers to the mysteries they question. I guess that’s all there really is to Return to Sender - unless you’re an Elvis fan.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Inbox is Exploding

By Kim Tarasiewicz

My email is bursting at the seams, and chances are you feel the same way. Whether to their business or personal email address, most people get advertising emails that may no longer be pertinent. At some point, I opted into many of these emails, but as work, clients and life changes, so do your interests and promotional needs.

For example, when my sons were young, they loved to play with K'NEX so I was on the email list for alerts when sales came along. My boys are grown now, so I no longer need toy alerts. But I have to admit, it took me a while to opt out of the emails; it was easier to delete them each month than spend time opting out.

If K'NEX was paying per person on the list, I was wasting their money by remaining on their mailing list. However, as a marketer, I would have suggested that they clean their list of customers like me who had not placed an order for years. Sure, my presence was keeping their mailing list numbers high, but that wasn’t providing them with an accurate snapshot of their target audience.

As a consumer, I suggest:
  • Check the privacy policy before you submit your email address to any website. Most websites do not sell your email to others, but some will share your information with affiliates. You might decide not to submit your email address to websites that won't protect it.
  • When submitting your email address, look for pre-checked boxes that sign you up for email updates from the company and its partners. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving these mass emails or at least let you chose which ones you prefer to hear from. There is also a division of the Direct Marketing Association where you can direct what type of mail you would like to receive called DMAChoice.org
  • Set your email software to automatically filter your emails into folders. Google’s Gmail does this for you and other systems have options in their settings that allow you to sort your emails automatically. This allows you to read them at your leisure, view how many you get from certain companies, and then determine if you’d like to opt out.
As a marketer, I would suggest to clients:
  • According to the CAN-SPAM Act, you must provide an opt-out mechanism and it must be available for 30 days after your email is sent. If someone on your mailing list sends a message asking to opt out, you must comply within 10 days. This means every time you send a mailing, you should be running your lists against opt-outs.
  • Keep your lists clean. This may mean keeping up with bounces and unsubscribers or proofing the names as you enter them into your master list. Also, you may want to send an email once during the year asking if your customers still wish to be included. Many companies that you can use to send your emails will charge per name on your mailing list; keeping clean lists saves money.
  • The Direct Mail Association is a great resource for anyone sending email or snail mail correspondence and they advocate for improving consumer confidence in email. They hold a list called “Do Not Mail” for anyone that may want to opt out of all commercial emails. While it is not a rule, it is a good idea to run your mailing lists against these to prevent potentially offending future clients.
Companies would like to believe that every person on their mailing list reads everything sent out to them, but is that really feasible? Why not focus on your true clients and customers, keep your costs down, and bring in the quality business leads you are really looking for?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Diary of a Bull$hit Explainer

By Gina F. Rubel

How often do you have to explain something to a client, family member, colleague or friend that you know is bullshit? Please forgive the language, but there really is no other term for it. It is what it is, as they say!

Today, I actually thought to add “bullshit explainer” to my bio. It disgusts me that there are so many marketing scams and schemes out there, run by people and companies who are just trolling for victims. In fact, Snopes.com has dedicated a whole section of its website to Marketing 101 urban legends.

As a result, I’ve decided to keep a diary this week of bullshit that we come across regularly, that otherwise would victimize the unsuspecting.

Those “fake” Yellow Page listings: Every few months, we receive a letter in the mail that says it’s time to renew our Yellow Page listings. If you get one of these, be suspicious.

The big dogs in Yellow Page advertising, both print and online, have thousands of well-trained sales representatives who call on their clients annually for renewal. Sales reps often are compensated based on new or increased sales and renewals, so they don’t simply rely on snail mail. If you get one of those letters, question it. Don’t just put it in your bookkeeper’s “to pay” file. That is exactly what bullshit companies are hoping you’ll do.

Google’s latest unsolicited analytics, “Your personalized Analytics report”: This week, we received an unsolicited email from “Google” which provided us with analytics for our blog, ThePRLawyer.com. The analytics were so nebulous that we couldn’t help but deduct that they are being distributed simply to increase ad word sales.

There is no time frame for the analytics. They use terms like “bounce rate” in bold as a scare tactic. In fact, when you read the fine print, “bounce rate” means “how many people leave your site without visiting any other pages on your site.” For a blog, that’s not necessarily bad. If you are driving traffic to a particular story that interests the reader and they read it and move on, you have accomplished your goal.

Here, bounce rate is not synonymous with the “bounce rate” of electronic newsletters. Couldn’t they come up with a better descriptive phrase? They came up with the name “Google,” didn’t they?

Bogus online listing about to expire: Almost weekly, our clients get emails stating that their “listing is about to expire.” When you investigate further, there was never any listing to begin with.

The most recent notice received by one of our clients was from a low-quality website where our client had not been listed in the first place. Scamming companies such as these hope that people, such as our clients, will click on those listings which will, in turn, boost the flow of internet traffic to their website. If the visitor then creates an actual listing for her company on that website, the scammer has benefitted in two ways.

Feel free to add your bullshit marketing stories here, too. I’m sure there’s more where these came from.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Facebook is Changing Everything AGAIN - And You’ll Never Believe How

By Sarah Larson

See what I did there? I crafted a clicky headline that (hopefully) piqued your interest enough to get you to click on the link and open this post.

It’s called “click-bait” and it has spammed all corners of the online universe, but Facebook – arguably the birthplace of click-bait – is taking a stand.

The behemoth social network announced recently that it is changing the way its News Feed works. “We’re making two updates, the first to reduce click-baiting headlines, and the second to help people see links shared on Facebook in the best format,” Facebook said in its announcement.

Even if you don’t know what the term click-bait means, if you’ve spent any time online in the past two years, you instinctively know what it is. Click-bait is a post carefully designed to appeal to human curiosity in order to get you to click on the link. Think Buzzfeed, Business Insider, or pretty much anything posted from Upworthy.

Link-clicking is oxygen for online companies. It helps them build their audience, an audience against which they can sell advertising. It is how they survive.

After spending three years in the ultra-competitive, lightning-paced world of online news, I can tell you two things. No. 1, click-bait is annoying. Everyone claims that they hate it. But, much like negative political advertising, it continues to flourish because (point No. 2):

It works.

It works because we really want to know what that kitten did, and how many Basset Hounds fit into the “clown car” of the doggie house.

And when the content itself reinforces our own world view – “Take a look at these kids and parents and then tell me why the hell we’re sending them back ‘home’”; “People say this world is going to hell in a handbasket, but they’re wrong. Here’s why.” – well, then, that is Internet gold.

Racking up huge numbers of eyeballs on digital content does not just happen. The algorithms that control the content delivered to a Facebook news feed or a Google search results page have enormous power to shape who sees what and when. Changes to those algorithms can blow up a site’s traffic or slash it to zero overnight. This piece from The Atlantic offers an interesting look at the history of the rise of click-bait headlines and how it was driven by the ongoing battle for supremacy between Facebook and Twitter.

Crafting headlines is not easy. There is a reason why, in most traditional news organizations, reporters did not write headlines. Copy editors did, and it takes an extremely under-appreciated talent to write good ones.

Crafting great online headlines is even harder (and many of the best practices for newspaper headlines do not work online). It is a fine line to walk, this idea of giving a reader enough information to decide whether to click, without giving it all away and negating the need to click at all.

As to the specific changes Facebook is implementing, you can take steps to ensure that your content still has good chances of being seen on the world’s most important social network.

First, make sure that if your headline promises glory, the post itself can back it up. Facebook's new algorithm will take into account how long people stay on a post after they've clicked on it. A quick return back to the Facebook feed will be seen as an indication of shallow content.

Second, Facebook makes it pretty clear that the actual way people share links matters. Follow Facebook’s advice and post a link as a link, not in the caption of a photo:
“We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen.”
Both those best practices go back to the core truth of content marketing: poor content won’t market anything effectively, no matter how you got the reader to look at it. Focus your efforts on capturing the full attention of your future customer, not on tricking them into clicking.

Bait, after all, is for traps.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Hackers Abound – 6 Tips to Protect Your Business

By Rose Strong

Computer hacking, data breaches, information leaks, security breaches, hacktivism, cyber espionage. Whatever you may call them, cyber attack attempts are targeting businesses and entities around the globe, with cyber crimes the No. 1 kind of attack, as these statistics by Paolo Passeri for Hackmageddon.com show.

In one of the latest incidents, hackers broke into the network of Community Health Systems and stole more than 4.5 million records. The attack, which originated in China, affected 206 hospitals in 29 states, giving hackers access to patients’ names, birth dates and social security numbers, the exact information they would need to commit identity fraud and wreak havoc on people’s lives.

You’d hope your local hospital would consult with a cyber-security company long before something were to happen to its highly sensitive data. However, the local UPS Store where you ship packages and make copies seems to be in just as much danger of a security break that would allow customers names, addresses, email addresses and payment card information to fall into the wrong hands.

Several years ago, I had a small online antiques and collectibles business. I was using PayPal for customers to pay me safely. PayPal sent an email asking me to update information about my account. There was a link to their website in the email. I logged in, followed the steps by filling in some info and that was it. I went about my business, never thinking twice about it. Then, just days before Christmas, my debit/credit card, which was tied to my personal checking account, was hacked. 

I’m fortunate to have a small-town bank with big-city technology and protection. Visa noticed unusual activity on the card, stopped the transactions, and notified my bank, which reimbursed my account. This past January, the bank again noticed unusual activity on my account, stopped the transactions, and reimbursed my account. Would you be so lucky in a cyber attack on your business?

Here are some tips to keep hackers out of your business:

•    Assess your company’s risk – Identifying the risk of potential attack and knowing who should have access to certain information is the start of a best practices program for your organization’s IT security. StaySafeOnline.org, part of the National Cyber Security Alliance, shares suggestions to conduct a cyber risk assessment.

•    Reconsider your passwords – Using your dog’s name or 123LookAtMe? Cute and “clever” passwords are easy to break through, so making them longer and more randomized can help keep hackers at bay. This article by Caroline McMillan Portillo for BizJournals.com is spot on for protecting your information systems.

•    Think encryption – For a small business, the impact from a cyber crime can shut the doors. Large companies like Target or other big box stores may be able to survive, but when data is breached at a small company, customers lose trust and go elsewhere. This article by John Patrick Pullen for Entrepreneur.com discusses how encrypting your data will help keep it safe.

•    Don’t carry out business on a public network – Don’t use the local library’s Wi-Fi or coffeeshop hotspot when dealing with sensitive information such as bank accounts. Regardless of whether you’re using a public computer, your own laptop or even a smartphone, it’s still risky. This Huffington Post article by Jason Alderman, vice president of Visa, gives some clever tips on how to protect yourself out in the open if you must do business there.

•    Know where to find answers – Take some time and do research. We are all busy, but this is time well-spent for a small business without access to an IT specialist. If you can afford an IT company on a retainer basis, they should be up-to-date on the latest security issues and hoaxes and have the ability to fix something for you. If they don’t or can’t, find someone who can. If you are unable to afford that type of service, take time to do some reading on reputable websites. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team has information for all size companies as well as individuals. It’s a good place to start.

•    Be aware – The ways of cyber criminals are numerous and varied and becoming even more intricate. That PayPal site I mentioned earlier was an exact replica of the real thing. Nothing would have tipped me off that it wasn’t the real PayPal site. Today, the company sends out emails warning of fraud and scams to its users. And so does my bank, for that matter. Does yours?

Have you or your company ever been involved in a security breach? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it? We’d like to hear your experiences.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Easy Steps to Increase Your Corporate Social Media Presence

By Kim Tarasiewicz

Many companies these days are eager to launch a social media program, but once you have your system set up and your employees trained, how do you keep your people engaged with corporate social media? To be successful, any social media endeavor must be sustained over time. It isn’t enough to post a few things to Facebook and call it a day.

A monthly reminder email is a perfect way to keep social media top of mind for your employees. Send them a note asking them to connect with your company’s social media sites. This will boost your social media presence and expand your opportunities for potential clients to learn about your company.

Explain to your employees the importance of supporting your marketing and public relations efforts. Show how sharing corporate social media pages will increase business and benefit everyone. Prompt employees with the following in a monthly email or perhaps an internal newsletter:

Ask your employees to keep in mind these questions and provide material to your social media manager when available:
  1. Have you seen any significant industry trends or news about which you would like to write an article, blog post, etc.?
  2. Do you have any industry-related experience that we could use to promote you as a resource for the company?
  3. Is anyone in the company scheduled to speak at a business function within the next 60 days? Or have you spoken anywhere in the last 60 days?
  4. Have you hired any new staff members that should be highlighted?
  5. Has anyone in your department been nominated for an award or received any awards or recognitions?
  6. Has anyone in your department been nominated or elected to any boards, committees or other positions? Even if it does not pertain to your industry, it can still help increase your SEO.
Remind employees to make corporate social media part of their weekly routine. Ask them:
  1. Have you shared the company’s most recent blog post through your own social media sites? If not, please do (And provide them the link).
  2. Have you reviewed the company website and, most importantly, your own bio lately? If not, please take a look and let IT know if anything needs to be updated.
  3. Have you updated your LinkedIn profile with company contact information? Have you endorsed anyone for business skills? Invite at least two people to connect each month. This is a great way to create business leads and get the corporate name out there.
  4. Have you visited a competitor’s social media pages? It’s always good to compare notes and make sure nothing negative is out there about your company, too.
Everyone needs a reminder once in a while. Whether a senior manager or an intern, when employees understand the importance of corporate social media and how it fits into your marketing plan, they are more likely to be engaged in it, thus helping your business reach its full potential.

How engaged are your employees with your company's social media presence? We would love to hear from you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Quick Coding Basics for Other Non-Techy Folks

By Megan Quinn

If you are one of the more than 6 million people who blog, you have likely encountered the following scenario. Let’s say you have just managed to successfully add content to your blog. Now it’s time to check the preview to see how it looks. Ouch. The spacing is terrible and the photo is somehow on the left instead of centered. And how did those words end up in bold?!

If this has ever happened…you are not alone my friend.

While most bloggers likely use the “compose” interface on their chosen blog platform, knowing a little bit of HTML can help in times of trouble – such as wacky photos and weird font effects. So let’s take some time to go over the basics.

Spacing and photo adjustments can be two of the most frustrating coding problems when blogging. If you switch to the HTML code and see the symbols (outlined in red), that could be the cause of your spacing problems. These little annoying snippets of code can cause unnecessary spacing; however, if properly harnessed, sometimes they also can help in your formatting. They are referred to as “non breaking spaces.”

Photo alignment can be a real struggle. In the HTML, look for the alignment code to make sure the photo is exactly where you want it. If it isn’t, you can try manually entering the direction in which you would like it to go in the code where it will say ‘align.’ If this does not solve the problem, try using Google to search for an alignment code that will shift the photo.

Bold and italic codes are pretty simple when the placement is correct. Some browsers often use the code <b> for bold instead of <strong> and <i> for italic instead of <em>. Make sure to always close the codes at the end by inserting the /. Otherwise, the code won’t produce the desired look.

The best way to flex your coding muscles is by practice, practice and more practice. If you don’t code often, using a practice site could be worthwhile. A great site to start with is called Codecademy. You can learn how to code for free and the people there are also pretty encouraging. Check out their success stories – and if you have a success story of your own to share, we would love to hear it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Words: A Love Affair Still Going Strong

By Rose Strong

My grandmother instilled in me a love for books when I was growing up, which in turn spurred  my love of words. I enjoy words as individuals, set apart as singular combinations of letters. They don’t have to tell a story, as some words are simply beautiful or fun to let roll off your tongue. For example, say the word frittata…I’ll wait. Go ahead. Say it a few times, rolling those first two Ts across your tongue with a Latin-type accent. Fun, isn’t it?

I’m always interested in learning about the new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary each year and as a self-proclaimed klutzy bookworm, I follow few sports but I look forward to the Scripps National Spelling Bee when it’s on ESPN every May. And as an ardent listener of National Public Radio, I’m a fan of the Weekend Edition Sunday puzzler hosted by crossword puzzle master Will Shortz, who also is editor of the New York Times crossword.

The power of words is amazing. They can influence our emotions, change our thinking or call us to action. As a child, when I came home crying about kids calling me names because of my visible birthmark, my mother would sing-song the old cliché, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Although trying to make me feel better and give me a tough skin, it wasn’t long before I knew how powerful words could be. Lucky for me, it was before social media, as this article by Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. for Psychology Today’s blog sadly points out how words can be a potent poison when used to cause pain.

Subliminal messages, those words and images of which we are not consciously aware, typically are sent through broadcast media such as commercials, movie theater ads and computer pop-ups, where they flash across a screen so quickly, we don’t know we’re even seeing them. However, their influence to make us purchase a product is strong and proven to work, as this article by Ian Zimmerman, Ph.D., for Psychology Today notes.

When we share words in a public forum such as social media, we want to use words that can create the greatest impact and be shared with the greatest number of people. Each social media platform has its own set of key words that will get you noticed. This infographic in Kevin J. Allen’s post on Ragan.com explains which words work best on which platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN.

I have a soft spot for a few words I truly enjoy. Although words such as palindrome, homophone and onomatopoeia aren’t often used in sentences on a regular basis, it just gave me joy to put them all here. This interesting list of words describing word play is a handy resource.

After reading this post by Kristen Wright on Ragan.com with some fantastic words not seen in everyday writing, I thought to share my own words that have made it on my ‘use more often’ list. Perhaps you’ll find one to add to your vocabulary in the coming days.

  • Plethora: a very large amount or number; an amount that is much greater than what is necessary
  • Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
  • Lollygag: to spend time doing things that are not useful or serious; to fool around and waste time
  • Flummoxed: confused
  • Gloaming: twilight or dusk
  • Haberdasher: a person who owns or works in a shop that sells men's clothing
  • Throes: a hard or painful struggle
  • Swoon: to become enraptured
  • Zaftig: referencing a woman: having a full rounded figure; pleasingly plump
  • Couscous: a North African food made from wheat in the form of very small, round pieces
  • Impetuous: marked by impulsive vehemence or passion

Are there any words you find fun, enjoy pronouncing or find ways to use in your writing? If so, send them through in the comments. I’d enjoy seeing what words you like.