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A nickel for your thoughts

September 24, 2008 | PR

So … umm … why are you sending it to me?

Posted by Becky @ 6:24 pm | 1 Comment  

Working Mother’s Best of Congress awards

September 10, 2008 | Ethics,Journalism,PR,Working Mother

Remember back in November 2007 when Working Mother announced that it would be accepting applications for its Best of Congress awards to be given this fall? Well, that time is here. They were announced in the August/September issue, and they were celebrated at a this morning in Washington, D.C.

P.S. Carolyn B. Maloney is on the list.

If you missed how this worked with the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, here’s some of the PR buzz about the “Best of Congress” awards.

From a press release:

Fifty members of Congress submitted applications for this inaugural award. Applicants were judged on their voting record, sponsored/co-sponsored legislation, and efforts to promote legislation that supports working families. In addition, applicants were asked to submit policies and practices within their own offices that support working families and flexible workplace options.

From FAQs about the awards:

Q: What will they get when they win?
A: Winning Members of Congress will be:
• Profiled in the September 2008 issue of Working Mother magazine;
• Honored at a gala dinner in September 2008.
• Highlighted in an advertisement to run on the day of the gala in the Washington Post or Roll Call and their hometown newspaper.
• Profiled in Corporate Voices’ blog on the Working Mother website;
• Profiled in a press release announcing the winners;
• Highlighted on the websites of Corporate Voices’ 65 strategic partner organizations including the Society for Human Resource Management and the Conference Board.
In addition, CVWF staff will work with the Members office to highlight the award in local state media.
Q: How will this award impact a Members career or campaign?
A: Members of Congress awarded the “Best of Congress” Award will be highlighted when they win, and then again every two years as a past-winner.
Members can highlight their achievements that in Congressional updates to constituents, earned, and paid media.

Also in the FAQs: “Members will also be judged on employment practices or policies in their office that are designed to help working families.”

Listen to CEO Carol Evans speak on NPR about employees “in the trenches” of Congress working “extreme jobs” so of course things aren’t terribly flexible with those jobs. (Also on NPR with Evans were Jolene Ivey and Asra Nomani of Mocha Moms.) But, hey, not every job is made for everyone (working mothers in Congress, perhaps?), but members of Congress offer some “fun flexibility” to help their employees. Even so, they all agreed that “we need more women in Congress.” Hmm. How will that work? When Nomani criticized the lack of “family friendly” efforts in this country, Evans said, but women are excited about their jobs! Umm. OK.

The original press release

Everyone else’s press releases
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (“hometown coverage“)
Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-Pa
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis. (Here’s his “hometown coverage,” written — with a byline — from a press release generated from his office.)
Sen. Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore.
Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine
Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo.
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn.
Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. (“hometown coverage“)
Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.
Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Md.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa.
Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. (announced on his Facebook page)
Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Calif.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

Posted by Becky @ 1:45 pm | Comments  

Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney

August 7, 2008 | Advertising,Books,Breast cancer,Colbert Report,Colin Powell,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Media,Movies,MSM,Music,Parenting,Pink,Politics,PR,Race,Research,SLBTM,Statistics,Television,U.S. government,Verizon,Work,Working Mother

I just finished reading Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. I received a review copy from the publisher, Modern Times, an imprint of Rodale, Inc.

As I was getting ready to write something about the book, I ran across Maloney’s July 29, 2008, appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. At first, I thought I would just include it with other links, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District – New York’s 14th – Carolyn Maloney
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Is it really funny that women get fired for lactating?

Here’s a quote from Maloney’s book.

I also heard numerous stories about difficulties in the workplace, including one woman whose male colleagues mooed outside the door as she expressed milk to take home and another woman being banished to do so in her car across the street from her office.

I didn’t laugh once while reading her book, but maybe I missed something. Exactly which issue that she wrote about was funny? Rape? Domestic violence? Burkas? Breast cancer? Or maybe prostitution? That link goes to a 2007 feature in Prism magazine, which Maloney reprinted on page 246 of her book and said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.

Depictions of prostitution in the media and popular culture (including the movie Pretty Woman) can be grossly misleading, even glamorous. In fact, street prostitutes are typically trafficked, exploited, battered, and often force-fed drugs by slavemaster pimps. This series of mugshots of street prostitutes, which documents their first arrest to their eighth, illustrates the reality of life on the street, which more closely resembles a descent into hell than a Hollywood movie.

Is that funny? If not, I’m confused about why one of the first places she went to discuss her book was Comedy Central.

The blurbs on the back of her book are written by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, Ellie Smeal and Arianna Huffington. (Geraldine Ferraro was also included in the online “praise” section for the book.) Were they slapping their knees and giggling at the sight of Colbert using a breast pump while Maloney smiled and kept her cool? If not, does that mean they just can’t take a joke?

I’ve written about the blurred lines between celebrity and politics. It’s as if something has shifted. Instead of looking back as former government officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the joke. Hey, they’re even in on the joke because so many things that happen in Washington are, well, a joke. Is that it?

Maybe I just don’t get the whole Inside the Beltway atmosphere. Is it really just a non-stop college kegger where everyone has to hit the beer bong and slam shots until they puke their guts out to prove they can keep up?


Maloney’s book is a fairly comprehensive list of women’s issues — what’s been done, what’s been undone and what still needs to be done. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, not much of the information is new, but it’s interesting to read about the issues from Maloney’s perspective as a policymaker.

She put a “take-action guide” at the end of each chapter, providing contact information for some of the groups and organizations working on specific issues. Her goal is to convince readers to do something, anything: “I hope to persuade you that any action in support of your beliefs matters, whether it is large or small, brief or time-consuming, successful or unsuccessful.”

She included women’s personal stories as well as her own story and a wealth of information from other sources.

She draws upon the work of Martha Burk (Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It), Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued), Jody Heymann (The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?), MomsRising (The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want – and What To Do About It), Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff (Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men–And What to Do About It), Joan Williams (Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It), Marie Wilson (Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything), among many others.

She also included some of her own research and highlighted inconsistencies between cultural myth and everyday reality.

Maloney mentioned Morgan Stanley, which settled a class-action sex-discrimination case for $54 million and then another one for $46 million, yet it consistently appears on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list, a topic I have written about many times.

You might think that Morgan Stanley would work especially hard to eradicate sex discrimination after so costly [$54 million] an episode. But the firm settled another class action sex discrimination suit in 2007 for $46 million — bringing its overall sex discrimination price tag to an even $100 million. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to a few good days of trading.

Despite these incidents, Morgan Stanley has been cited numerous times by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. That makes me wonder how bad things are at other companies.

While she pointed out the inconsistency of the companies that appear in Working Mother with their employment track record, she listed in the take-action guide the National Association for Female Executives, which might be a perfectly fine organization. But it falls under the umbrella of Working Mother Media, which publishes Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of the whole thing.

She also gave this example.

If you drive your Mitsubishi to the airport after filling its tank at Sunoco, board a Boeing-built plane for a United Airlines flight, use your Verizon cell phone service to call your spouse before you take off, and then bite into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ve just enriched six household-name companies that have settled or lost sex discrimination cases and lawsuits in recent years.

Right. At least one of those companies — Verizon — makes Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list year after year.

In the take-action guide at the end of the “Health Care That’s Always There” chapter, she recommended (among others) Dove’s Campain for Real Beauty as a way to “start health education early by teaching our young and teenaged girls about issues that affect them.” If you scratch the surface of Dove, you’ll find a wee bit of image manipulation of its own.

Unilever is the maker of Dove products (and major “research” funder), which are the basis for the Campaign for Real Beauty and its self-esteem education for young girls. Unilever also makes and markets Axe products, which exist in a parallel universe where the V.I.X.E.N.S. (Very Interactive Xtremely Entertaining Naughty Supermodels) and Bom Chicka Wah Wahs don’t have “real beauty” or self-esteem issues.

In “The Pretty Woman Myth” chapter, Maloney wrote about misleading portrayals of prostitution in popular culture and mentioned that the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006 went to ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,'” whose lyrics include:

Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah

I remember when that happened, thinking, what?!? There was George Clooney, smugly patting himself on the back for Hollywood being “out of touch” for “giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” That was in 1939. Just how long was it, dear George, until the next black person was so honored? That would be 1948, then 1964, then 1982, then 2002. And just how far has Hollywood come, George, by glorifying “the black man” … as a pimp, not to mention portraying women of all colors as simply a venue for making money? Hollywood’s out of touch, George. Ya think?

Which brings me back around to the Comedy Central appearance.

If it’s a matter of reaching a younger audience? C’mon, they deserve more credit than that. It’s not only “the kids” watching Comedy Central, and “the younger audience” is watching much more than just Comedy Central. And there are tons of young, vibrant, intelligent voices on the Internet. Dust off the mouse and start clicking.

Besides, there’s not a damn thing that’s funny about this book. Just like the issues Maloney discusses in the book — the media and popular-culture myths that harm the efforts to improve the lives of real people — Maloney’s Comedy Central appearance did nothing but belittle and mock some very serious societal issues. The people behind the stories about sex discrimination, prostitution and unacceptably high infant-mortality rates (to name just a few) deserve much more than to become the butt of a comedian’s joke.

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Posted by Becky @ 4:10 pm | 18 Comments  

Why ‘American Idol Gives Back’ is creepy

April 10, 2008 | American Idol,Economics,Fundraising,Health,Heart,Matt Damon,Music,PR,Television

1) Why can’t viewers just call in and vote to end the war?

2) Oh, wait. Major Sponsor Exxon Mobil wouldn’t be thrilled. It also wouldn’t be able to “give back” so generously if not for the googillions it’s made on the war. Maybe that’s where Ben Stiller got the term — from checking EM’s financials.

3) By sponsoring images of African and American babies, it can say, “War? What war? I don’t know nothin’ about no war.”

4) So can Major Sponsor News Corp.

5) And Ford Motor Co.

6) Don’t forget Coca-Cola. “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” And a bunch of peace and stuff.

Right. (Got $45?)

7) And AT&T.

8) Robin Williams. What … is it 1985?

9) Toothless grandmothers and dilapidated shacks juxtaposed with painted, airbrushed celebs, who packed their camera crews and left. Because they could.

10) Those painful fake smiles on the Appalachian children’s faces.

11) The politician who appeared on American Idol? British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

12) Paula Abdul, who’s had an eating disorder, stood next to Randy Jackson, who’s had stomach-stapling surgery, and talked about obesity in American children.

13) How many others — besides Miley Cyrus — had stuff to plug?

14) Did anyone else who saw Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman keep thinking, “Where is Matt Damon?”

Just me, then?

Updated: Deus Ex Malcontent posted random comments from watching the show.

Posted by Becky @ 3:12 pm | 9 Comments  

But the emporer has nothing on at all!

January 23, 2008 | Advertising,Airlines,Customer service,Economics,Ethics,No clothes!,Norway,PR


I was discussing the Gates of Hell chapter of the Nightmare in Norway with someone the other night.

“I would have said, ‘I want to speak to your boss, and your boss’s boss and your boss’s boss’s boss, NOW’ … you know … go up the chain of command,” he said.

Chain of command. Yeah, the military does that to a person, I guess. Maybe that works in that world.

But, really, how much latitude does a customer-bot (we’re not human beings anymore) have in an airport before going from concerned about service to a security threat? I mean, how many times could I have told Haris, “I want to speak to your boss,” before he felt “threatened” by me and sent me spiraling into the Circles of Hell to, you know … stun guns, shackles, detention, jail … that sorta thing? I mean … really?

Besides, who’s to say Haris the employee-bot (they’re not human beings anymore either) wouldn’t have just said, “No.”

Then what?

It’s happened before. I called a “customer service” line to ask for, well, customer service. (Oh, silly me.) When I got nowhere with the employee-bot, I asked to speak to his supervisor. He put me on hold. He came back and told me his supervisor refused to speak to me.

Refused to speak to me.

I asked for the name of the president of the company. He said he didn’t know. “Well, could you check?” I asked. He put me on hold again. He came back and said, “It’s against company policy to give you that information.”

It was against company policy to tell me who runs the company.

He was right. I couldn’t find the president’s name anywhere on the company Web site. In fact, three companies were involved, and none of their contact information was available through any of the companies. I had to look them up by other means. But, hey, I found them. (I need to write a love letter to the Internet.) I sent an e-mail to all of them and the customer-service department. To their credit, they actually resolved my problem. Very satisfactorily, even.

Apparently, though, it’s become standard operating procedure that employee-bots (and their CEOs) do not work for customer-bots — even if they are in the service industry. Hell, employee-bots don’t even work for their CEOs anymore. They work for the computer screens in front of them. They can only do what their computers tell them to do, which — when it comes to customer-bots — usually isn’t much.

I suppose PR bullshit goes way back, and none of this is new. Am I the only one who can remember things like “the customer is always right” … or was that just PR bullshit too? I couldn’t help thinking about The Emporer’s New Clothes, which I recently grabbed off the shelf for my son. (I got the Virginia Lee Burton pictures from a 1968 version of the book by Scholastic Book Services.)

You call your employees co-workers and expect them (and us) to believe it?

No clothes!


You say you “work hard to earn my business every time I fly”?

No clothes!


You say, “They’ll hold the plane for you”?

No clothes!


You say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do”?

No clothes!


It’s not like I’ve never gotten good customer service. I got incredible service yesterday, in fact. More than once. (I’ll write about it one of these days.) But when I get excellent or good or, heck, even fair-to-middling customer service, isn’t it a shame that it makes me want to weep with joy? Why should it be the exception and not the rule?

I ran across a few examples of suckass non-service just skimming through my feeder this morning. Matthew at Childs Play x2 warns his readers not to shop at Home Decorators. Planet Nomad writes about inexplicable weirdness at Starbucks. CrankMama has a few choice words to say about Verizon. Updated: I just found this priceless exchange on Hotfessional. Updated2: Wow. They just keep coming. Karen at A Deaf Mom Shares Her World was denied service at Steak ‘n Shake.

What’s your suckiest non-service experience? Who deserves the “No clothes!” seal of disapproval?

Posted by Becky @ 7:54 pm | 3 Comments  

Icelandair might want to watch the news

December 13, 2007 | Advertising,Airlines,Iceland,PR


A 33-year-old woman from Iceland, Erla Ósk Arnardóttir, blogged about being detained by U.S. security when arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York recently. Alda at The Iceland Weather Report tells the story. The gist is that the woman overstayed her welcome in the United States in 1995. Even though she had traveled to the United States since then with no problems, this time, she was detained, shackled and driven to a prison cell in New Jersey, interrogated and finally — after 14 23 hours — put on a flight back home.

Update: Thanks to a link from Iceland Review in my comments, here is an article in English. Iceland Review also has an update to the story, saying that Iceland’s Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir met with U.S. Ambassador to Iceland Carol van Voorst and demanded an apology from U.S. authorities.

Other coverage

About the only thing about Iceland in the news here is the story of a teen-ager who posed as Iceland’s president and almost got put through to a telephone meeting with President George W. Bush. Police in Iceland intervened, though, and took him in for questioning. It makes me wonder if the two stories are related. Was U.S. security on “high alert” for anything out of Iceland because of the teen-ager’s prank? That doesn’t explain or justify anything … I just wonder.

Anyway. Morgunblaðið has a video with interviews from a government official and the woman who was detained. Go watch it. Maybe you won’t understand the news report, but keep an eye on the advertisements before and after the clip.

Memo to Icelandair PR department: Dude. Drop everything and check your online ads. Travel to New York? Really?

Update: The Wall Street Journal published an article, Land of the Spree, Dec. 15, 2007.

How do you say ‘Victoria’s Secret’ in Icelandic? With the dollar having hit new lows against currencies around the globe, America is becoming the world’s discount store.

The reporter spoke with two women from Iceland.

Josefina and Carolina Hallström flew to New York for a few days of shopping on Icelandair from Stockholm. The pair, ages 21 and 25, were on the lookout for a Victoria’s Secret store. “We go for the lotions and perfumes,” said Carolina, as she lugged a shopping bag with eight pairs of shoes in it (she’d already pitched the boxes). The underwear retailer’s annual fashion show airs in Sweden, even though there aren’t any stores there, she says. Plus, “shampoo is also much cheaper here.”

The article even mentioned Iceland again with shoppers arriving at the Mall of America in Minnesota on direct flights from Iceland.

But not a word about anyone from Iceland getting detained in New York. Hmm.

Posted by Becky @ 3:11 pm | 2 Comments  

And the winner is …

December 5, 2007 | Audience participation,Blogland games,Books,Family,Motherhood,PR,Tracy Thompson,Work,Working Mother


Rhonda Van Diest!

One signed copy of The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression by Tracy Thompson is on the way. Thanks, Rhonda, and thanks to everyone who played along. Big thanks to Tracy, too.

Posted by Becky @ 9:51 pm | Comments  

Miss Landmine Angola 2008

December 4, 2007 | Ethics,Norway,PR


“Everybody has the right to be beautiful.”

And how do we prove that? Why, you silly goose. With a beauty pageant! (Isn’t that the answer to everything? Well, yeah. Up next? Afghanistan! I kid you not. Look it up.)

Norwegian Morten Traavik’s latest “art project” (photos are on display at museums in Norway) is Miss Landmine Angola (in its second year). He received 500,000 Norwegian kroner (about $80,000) from the Norwegian government’s Arts Council Norway for the project. The “winner” gets a prosthetic leg from a Norwegian company.

Traavik insists that “Angolans love beauty pageants” and that his intentions are purely humanitarian.

… one shouldn’t allow oneself to be paralysed by fear of appearing imperialistic. I can’t free myself from the fact that I’m white and Western, and I’ll just have to live with the risk of being interpreted in that light. I think it’s time to rid ourselves of collective Western guilt. To the extent that I’m going to play a role, I’d most fancy being cast as the naive Norwegian with his rucksack going out to make peace in the world. I don’t mind being him.

The women participated “of their own free will.” They were paid $200 each for the photography sessions, and they “got to keep the clothes, shoes and accessories from the sessions. For most of the women, it was the first paid work they had had in a very long time.”

I don’t know. Why not use the $80,000 to buy each woman a prosthetic leg?

Here’s what others had to say.

Hey, I know. Before Traavik gets his “art” displayed anywhere, why not make him enter a beauty contest for White Western Males with Rucksacks to determine who wins a spot in the gallery? We’ll let him keep the G-string and accessories he gets to sport in publicity photos. Ooh. And I bet the Norwegian government would pay for it.

Posted by Becky @ 9:44 pm | 3 Comments  

Working Mother sells diet to captive audience

November 27, 2007 | Advertising,Ethics,Health,PR,Work,Working Mother


Remember how Working Mother “teamed up with” Medela to sell more breast pumps make sure companies support breastfeeding employees? Well, Working Mother also is “in partnership with” Kraft Foods Inc. to sell diet food offer employees “nutritious food.”

Kraft (a “100 best” company and major advertiser) and Working Mother held the “first-ever Office Kitchen Takeover” at SC Johnson‘s corporate and manufacturing facilities in Racine, Wis. (SC Johnson is a “100 best” company and major advertiser.) They stocked the company’s kitchen for a day with Kraft’s South Beach Diet prepackaged foods on Sept. 18, 2007, for a captive audience of some 2,500 employees.

“SC Johnson is on our ‘100 Best Companies’ due to its family-oriented culture and its commitment to helping employees strike a good work/life balance,” says Tammy Palazzo, Vice President of Research and Women’s Initiative, Working Mother Magazine. “The South Beach Diet(R) Office Kitchen Takeover awards the company even further by providing healthier food options for busy employees — from the convenience of their own office cafeteria.”

Touted as healthy, convenient, nutritious and delicious, the South Beach Diet is a weight-loss plan, according to Kraft’s own press release, with three phases that couldn’t possibly have been implemented in one day. What’s next? Weekly weigh-ins?

If they were really interested in providing employees with healthy snacks, why not “take over” the kitchen with baskets of fruits, vegetables and nuts? But where’s the selling point in that?

Not only does Working Mother offer its 2.2 million readers as a target audience for advertisers, it now uses employees of “100 best” companies/advertisers as a captive target audience.

Posted by Becky @ 2:53 pm | 4 Comments  

Canon ethics

November 26, 2007 | Advertising,Ethics,Journalism,Photography,PR


I wrote a few days ago about Canon and the yuck factor of E&P’s magazine cover. It seems some professional photographers think Canon stepped over the ethical line in other cases.

Posted by Becky @ 6:53 pm | Comments  


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