Everyday PR

Lessons from a 50-year-old Southerner

It’s that time of year when many of us start to size up whether or not 2010 was a good or bad year for us.  Because I turned 50 this year, I haven’t yet made up my mind.  I used to think 50 was so old as in practically dead. Considering I’ve never felt better, I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams, and I’m surrounded by all kinds of amazing people and canines, I’ve changed my mind.  Fifty doesn’t make you old; it makes you wiser.  To help others come to this state of zen at any age, here are 50 lessons, in no particular order, from a born-and-reared Southern girl that can surely make the aging process easier for others.  Learn from me. 

Laugh at yourself and then tell somebody about it.

1)  Live life to its fullest.

2)  Make up is optional.  If it takes more than five minutes, change your routine or get surgery as there’s no time to waste.

3)  You can’t take it with you.

4)  Regularity cannot be overrated.

5)  Life is all about choices, some good and some not-so-good; hence, life is all about consequences based upon the choices we make.

6)   Pay attention to people older than you.  They’re usually wiser for a reason.

7)   Humility cannot be overrated.

8)   Don’t let your temper get the best of you.

9)   Refrain from making too many emotional-based decisions, especially regarding business, investments and some relationships.

10) Associate with successful professionals of good moral character.

11)  Get as much education as you possibly can.

12)  Take care of your body.

13)  When, not if, your significant other leaves his underwear or other-type items on the floor, DO NOT pick them up.  I don’t care if you have to remodel around them, do not clean up after another adult’s mess.

14)  There’s no gene or specific DNA for unloading dishwasher, doing laundry or grocery shopping. Of course, if you want it done right…

15)  Men are lousy patients.

16)  A man’s relationship with his hair is sacred. Although receding hairlines, balding spots and combovers are lip-biting visuals, save your laughter for his next lukewarm joke.  A man’s relationship with his perceived sense of humor also is sacred.  Two birds – one stone.

17)  Read. Read anything and everything.  I don’t care if it’s just a beer label.  Work your way up to regularly reading all kinds of things to expand your mind.  Bonus tip:  Get a library card, and take advantage of one of the government’s best kept secrets.

18)  Don’t buy new cars; buy used cars of good quality and keep them.

19)  Don’t buy whole life insurance.

20)  Understand that it doesn’t matter what people think of you as long as you know that you’re doing the right thing.

21)   Don’t lock yourself out of a vacation rental late at night.

22)  Vote.

23)   Laugh at yourself.  Then tell someone why you laughed at yourself.

24)   A good set of cookware should last a lifetime.  Invest the money.

25)   If you have trouble with commitments, try baby steps, like commiting to the same brand of shampoo and conditioner. 

26)   Do something unexpected (not stupid) to keep life exciting and challenging.  Learn a new language, take up kickboxing, try Ethiopian food…

27)  Pray, and not just when you’re desperate or on the Sabbath.  Pray and praise every day.

28)   Be true to yourself. DO NOT do anything for another person if you don’t want to because you’re trying to impress him or her.  I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to do that and almost died.  The parachute malfunctioned as did the relationship.

29)  If you want to start making your own clothes, do not use plaid fabric on the first try.

30)  Get a pet.  In fact, get several pets.  And get them from the Humane Society or a rescue organization.

31)   Do not try to walk in downtown Manhattan or Chicago in really high heels.

32)  Unless you’re blessed with such skills, do not attempt to fix your own plumbing or electrical wiring.  It’s just not pretty.

33)  Save as much money as you possibly can.

34)  Give as much money as you possibly can.

35)  Volunteer.  Not having enough time isn’t an acceptable excuse.

36)  The single best purchase for your hair is a fine-toothed comb for less than $1.00.

37)  Don’t cry at work; unless it’s from laughter, don’t be known as the office hormone.

38)  Study up on gravity; understand the physics of what makes a young, smiley face a mature, pissed off face.  That way, when it happens, you’ll be ready.

39) “What are you thinking?” fell by the wayside YEARS ago.  I don’t care what you’re thinking.

40)  Life is too short to waste time with toxic people. 

41)   Consider your environment as you can become a product of it, good or bad.

42)  Know your audience.

43)  Just because someone said something doesn’t mean it’s true.  Think for yourself, and form your own opinions.

44)  Just because you want it doesn’t mean God wants you to have it.

45)  I don’t care how old my carpet is – why should you?

46)  Learn to balance your life – call me if you need advice.

47)   Accommodate – it’s not all about you.

48)   Forgive – easier said than done.

49)   If you insist on watching television, try the History Channel or I Love Lucy.

50)  Master the art of listening; embrace the prospect of change; and anticipate new lessons learned.

What would you add to this list of lessons that you have experienced?

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  We want to say a special “thank you” to our readers, all of whom we consider to be one of our many blessings.  Enjoy your holiday!

To Be a Fly on the TSA Wall

Considering the controversy, threats and headlines regarding the newly announced TSA screening procedures, I imagine the feds wish they could have a do over.  Maybe not, but in any case, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of the meeting room where plans were made.  There were plans, right?

I’d like to know if the following issues were discussed:

1)   Public Announcement – I’m not saying this didn’t occur or doesn’t exist, but I can’t find anything from TSA that announces the new procedures and timeframe to implement.

2)   Timing – This week starts the busiest travel time of the year.  How was the implemention of the new procedures factored into the security process?

3)  Anticipation of Issues – All good plans anticipate issues.  In this case, I’m wondering how many issues like consumer reaction, training uniformity, advocacy group backlash and political posturing were anticipated and plans made accordingly.

4)  Collateral Tools – I’ve not been in an airport in recent weeks, so I may be speaking out of turn.  But I do know this:  you have to drill down through the TSA website to find any information or tools to demonstrate what travelers should expect with the new screenings.  The website’s statement from Administrator John Pistole is relatively lame.  I’m pretty sure the person who wrote it also worked for Tiger Woods.

5)  Testing – Were the new procedures tested at a few airports or other equitable setting to help gauge consumer reaction?  Were media invited to a “screening of the screening” to provide insight on rationale and benefits of new procedures?  I’m not saying that efforts like this weren’t taken; I simply don’t know.

The point here is that when you’re dealing with change, especially when it impacts a lot of people, you can’t plan enough.  While I personally support efforts to maintain our national security and don’t foresee me objecting to being poked and prodded, this isn’t a battle I want to fight.  I’ve traveled enough to experience search procedures in other countries; in fact, I almost took up smoking after an extra special up-close-and-personal probing in Germany.  As a professional who does a lot of strategic planning for clients, I would just like to know what really went on in those planning meetings.  What do you think about the roll out of the new procedures?

Caring Doesn’t Have to Be OTJ Training

Many of us belong to the sandwich generation where we’re directly or indirectly providing care for our older loved ones, as well as supporting our own families. Some are even more challenged as our senior family members are afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, often combined with other medical concerns.  To complicate matters, many people must continue to work and don’t have the financial resources or knowledge to provide proper care for our elderly loved one(s).  To say that some of the sandwich generation are in a pickle is an understatement.

I recently learned that caregiving doesn’t have to the on-the-job training.  I met Dr. Kathryn Huddleston, a self-taught caregiver who closed her national training business to take care of her father with Alzheimer’s.  She documented her five-year journey in a newly released book called There’s a Storm Coming: The Journey to Rescue and Save my Father.  I was so impressed with her accomplishments that I agreed to work on a few special events for her this month, National Family Caregivers’ Month.   The secret sauce, if you will, of what she discovered while caring for her father is a simple formula of:

* Allowing the person to maintain his dignity and purpose

* Entering that person’s world – it’s not “does her know you?”; it’s “do you know him?”

*  Understanding the significance of tone and spirit

*  Realizing the importance of being needed, active and productive

If you want to know specific and pragmatic ways to care for senior patients at home, get her book (all proceeds go to Alzheimer’s initiatives).  In the meantime, three virtual Cups of Joe to Dr. Kathryn Huddleston who so willingly and unselfishly shares the lessons she learned during her on-the-job training as a caregiver and to all family caregivers this month.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Some of the smartest people I know can be so stupid.  Like the academic professors who couldn’t navigate their way out of a paper bag. Or the surgeons who cut on people all day and then pig out on fat-laden red meat every night.  Or the corporate ladder women/new moms who smoke to lose the baby weight they gained in recent months.  As today is the 35th annual Great American Smokeout, do yourself and the rest of us a favor by quitting the habit.    

Smoking caused this apartment fire. Try quitting today.

Consider this:

*   A “light” smoker of just 1/2 pack daily spends about $1,000 a year on the habit.  Do you know how much you can do with that amount of money? What if you’re one of those pack-a-dayer people?

*   Children living in apartment buildings who have smoking neighbors but no smokers in their unit have double the level of cotinine, a remnant of metabolized nicotine.  I’m no scientist, but that can’t be good. 

*   Several statewide studies show that as many as 78% of apartment tenants, including smokers, would choose to live in a smoke-free complex.  Geez, if a smoker would rather live in a cleaner, greener environment, what does that say?  

*   Smoking is a leading cause of house fires and the number one cause of fire deaths in this country.  You might think that a  no-smoking clause in the lease would be a no-brainer for landlords, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I recently heard about an apartment manager who evicted longtime tenants because they asked that steps be taken to eliminate, or at least minimize, the air ventilation system that allowed secondhand cigarette smoke to encroach their unit from that of a human chimney living below them.  To add insult to that injury, the evicted tenant was a recent cancer survivor.

*   The EPA has identified secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, the most toxic class of chemicals known to cause cancer in humans. 

We could talk about the rights, the merits and the manners of smoking all day long.  But just for today, be smart about smoking, and try not to light up for your sake and those around you.

Facebook Do’s and Don’ts

Huffington’s recent blog on what NOT to post on Facebook offers some logical and sound advice, particularly regarding personal and professional security.  While such tips are certainly merited, I’d like to add to the list of what NOT to post on Facebook. 

Does this world record holder for body piercings look familiar?

In the “this just annoys the heck out of me” category, don’t: 

*   No Profile Photo:  Not having a photo could communicate anything from “I’m so out of shape that I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records” to “I’m afraid you might recognize me from America’s Most Wanted.”  For good or bad, people with no profile photo often sends a less-than-flattering message about themselves.

*   Ridiculous Photos:  Please refrain from using a photo of you sprawled out on the couch, holding up something you killed and/or wearing something stupid on your head. 

 *   Too literal:  Women are probably to blame for the perception that much of social media is useless because we answered the ”What’s on your mind?” question too literally.  Trust me, there’s really no need to keep everyone posted on your whereabouts, dinner decisions or state of exhaustion. 

*   Too offensive: For some, Facebook is just another platform to share politically incorrect jokes, videos of bodily noises and photos of scantily clad people.  It’s really not for that purpose. 

*  Too emotional:  To all men, since when did you become such sensitive cry babies when I remember you as a classmate or businessman who’d stab me in the back just for grins and giggles?  Or as colleague Robert Reed of Element-R Partners in Chicago put it, stop going all “Alan Alda” for the world to see.   

*  Too obvious: I do it. You do it.  All God’s children do it. We’re all guilty of shameless self promotion. We hock our latest products, services, fundraisers, special events, you name it.  On the other hand, if you can’t shake down your friends, who can you shake down?  Just try to be less obvious next time.

What other Facebook Don’ts do you recommend?

Dick’s Finally Adds Vick

So now that Michael Vick has been named starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Dick’s Sporting Goods finally has added Vick’s #7 jersey to its product line.  The fact that it took the retailer over a year to see the light is good for certain consumers, but problematic for company shareholders.  As stated in previous posts, the retailer apparently didn’t think Vick jerseys would sell because of his felonious behavior off the field, as if Donte Stallworth, Travis Henry, Ray Lewis, et al, are stellar role models.  While I personally abhor Vick’s participation in dog-fighting, I professionally would have advised Dick’s to carry the jersey (at least in small quantities) for collectible purposes if nothing else.  As a publicly traded company, Dick’s is in the business of making money for its shareholders, not making personal –  and inconsistent –  judgment calls.  Two virtual Cups of Joe go to Dick’s Sporting Goods this week for coming around to the appropriate decision for shareholders.  Better late than never.


The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Is the social media fad fading?

Marketing agency president, author and BusinessWeek.com columnist Steve McKee shares his recent experience regarding a “been there,done that” attitude regarding social media. Read the article.

The More Choices, the Better for Biz

Quick: Which cola was Michael Jackson shooting a commercial for when his hair caught on fire? Who has the cola contract for most  of the major league baseball stadiums?  Who distributes Dr. Pepper?  

Coca-Cola began in 1886 in a fountain shop with people commonly describing the hand-made syrup concoction as a “magical” experience.  More than a century later, the company boasts 800+ Coca-Cola brands in the world with 600+ in this country. Coke is now one of the top two leading beverage brands in the world (take a guess at the other one).

In a recent talk by Chandra Stephens-Albright, Sr. Director of Marketing & Innovation for Coca-Cola, I learned about a new product being launched called “Coca-Cola Freestyle: The Ultimate Fountain Experience“. The product is a redesign of the classic soda fountain but updated with technology to give consumers 106 brands from which to choose to personalize their beverage.  The whole idea is to give the consumer more choices, and just as importantly, to give the individual a positive experience. I find it ironic that the company is trying to recapture its beginnings, along with that lost “magic”.  But I do find it encouraging that they’re investing in market research – as in years of staff time and thousands of consumer interviews – throughout their entire product development and launch process. 

The two consumer behavior lessons Coca-Cola has learned over time and that have led up to their newest venture are: 

1)  Sales volume grows as product variety grows. 

2)  The more choices a consumer has, the better for the consumer and the business. 

As an old fart, I find this behavior disturbing.  Seriously, how many different kinds of cola do we need?  Diet Coke, with or without caffeine, with or without carbs, with or without flavoring, with or without taste, it goes on and on.  The limitless cola formulas are juxtaposed with the good ‘ole days of a unified country, Americana, and a “less is more” attitude (as in the 1950s) when a child was lucky to get one toy a year, as opposed to the plethora of playthings consumers feel compelled to buy their children today.  No wonder so many other countries despise us, but I digress. 

The point?  Contrary to a marketing mindset, brand dilution doesn’t apply to some goods and services; rather, countless derivatives of an original brand can be successfully marketed. Or put another way,  it’s all about supply and demand; give consumers what they want; persuade consumers about what they want; make choices easy and experiential; design a product, find a market; continue pressure to keep up with the Jones, more is more, and above all, make money for the shareholders.  

How do you feel about so many brand choices or consumer behavior in today’s marketplace?  By the way, the answers to the three questions above are Pepsi, Coca-Cola and the Dr. Pepper/Snapple company. 

What was Olbermann Really Thinking?

UPDATE- Nov.9:  Keith Olbermann apolozies, returns to network.  See update.

Too bad for MSNBC star Keith Olbermann, who was suspended today by the powers-that-be at NBC for violating ethics policies by contributing to several political campaigns.  You can’t help but wonder if Olbermann’s case is an isolated one. Would the situation be different if Olbermann had made donations to candidates from all parties, not just Democrats?  Maybe he was operating under the “it’s better to get forgiveness than permission” strategy. Or was this a case where you’re given an Employee Handbook in the beginning of your tenure and you skim through for the most important things to you like holidays and pay raises?  You see no reason to refer to the information again because you don’t think you’re doing anything wrong.  And in this case, you’re the star, for goodness sakes.  Or maybe NBC was looking for a scapegoat knowing that others on their payroll and that of their competitors have done the same thing.  But you’d think that for someone as experienced as Keith Olbermann, surely the topic of political activism, silent or otherwise, has been mentioned a time or two.  For having ethics rules and standards, NBC gets three Virtual Cups of Joe (give one to Keith for owning up) this week for quickly managing what could easily turn into a lot of news legs for others.

The virtual Cup of Joe Award from EveryDayPR spotlights our pick of the week for a public relations performance –  good, bad or ugly.  If you’d like to make a nomination, contact shart@hartpr.com or www.Twitter.com/susanhartpr.

Susan Hart

Susan Hart, APR, is an independent public relations consultant with 25+ years of experience. Beginning as a journalist, she represents clients in health care, financial, technology and real estate. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, she serves as Co-Chair of the Ethics Committee for her local PRSA Chapter.

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