Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tiger Woods: Par for the PR Course?

OK, let’s think about it for a minute. This morning — like many these days — I headed to the wellness center (formerly called gym) at about 5 a.m., first backing my Jeep out of the garage and driveway in the dark. Suppose I rammed the fire hydrant that stands almost directly across the street? Would my wife immediately come charging out of the house wielding a golf club with the intent of extricating me from the tangled steel and plastic?

Doubtful.

And that’s one of the problems Tiger Woods has with the story — and news coverage — of his late-night car accident and his wife’s seemingly heroic rescue. Even a novice conspiracy theorist can find some questions lurking in this account. So what?

Is Tiger Woods obligated to bare his soul and everything else at this point as though he were about to go through security at the Orlando airport?

No. From what I’ve read he is not required to talk to the police about the incident. Yet just about everyone else is clamoring for him to do so — especially the public relations crisis communication/management experts. Here — thanks to my friend Bill Sledzik via Twitter — is one of what I am sure are many similar articles: “Local PR pros advise Tiger Woods to open up.”

Many times full and timely disclosure is the best, most effective — and possibly only — response. But not always — despite what the PR gurus and agency folks who command big bucks to give this advice say. What if you say nothing — opine as Woods has that this is a private matter — and then just let the story go away, as it will eventually?

Here’s why this may be the best strategy for Woods to follow at this point.

First, no matter what, Woods doesn’t want this to evolve into a story about domestic violence. There are no facts to support that now. And here’s a situation where it is possible that legal counsel and PR advice don’t mesh — with the legal folks getting the better of the argument.

Second, Woods is a public figure — but at the same time he has a valid claim to personal privacy. He’s not an elected public official — and I don’t see any public right to know here about his marriage, family, or even as the National Enquirer reports, a relationship with another woman. This isn’t a Mark Sanford situation — even if Woods has been hiking the Appalachian Trail, which he denies. If Woods opens the door to his private life, he is letting everyone in. Why? Or at least, why now?

Third, if there is such a thing as a Tiger Woods brand, it’s based on his position as the world’s best golfer. It’s not like he is manufacturing a car that has been subject to a recall here. Good grief. Is this a hit to his reputation and how some may view him personally? Yes. Does it knock him, his career or his endorsements out of bounds? No.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. And it gives our collective national minds and attention spans some time off from considering other issues: health care, jobs, the economy, Afghanistan and so on.

And get this. While I was finishing my stint on the elliptical trainer this morning, the TV Talking Heads on Fox News described the woman involved in the story, Rachel Uchitel, as being in PR — since she is (as they reported) a hostess at a NYC nightclub.

Go figure.

 

 

Holiday Travel and Airport Security: Fruitcake Anyone?

Well, I’m back in NE Ohio after spending an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend in Dataw, S.C. And no complaints: two peaceful and nearly pain-free runs around the three-mile gated community of an island, temps in the mid-60s with ample sunshine, and no incidents coming or going via U.S. Air.

Saying that, we were fortunate. I didn’t try to board the airplane with a loaf of cranberry bread stuffed in my computer bag as originally planned. My wife, Mary, placed it gingerly in our suitcase — we paid $20 for the privilege of having our bag, clothes and assorted food items accompany us on the journey — and hoped for the best. And my hat’s off to the Department of Homeland Security, the cranberry bread (and everything else for that matter) made it safe and sound. Woot.

I’ll admit it. I’m accustomed now to walking through the airport in my bare feet. And hey, at my age, the strip search at security is kind of invigorating. But it seems kind of silly that you can’t carry a loaf of bread — or a fruitcake — on an airplane.  Maybe X-rays and other scanning methods won’t penetrate a fruitcake. Is a fruitcake more indestructible — and impenetrable — than Superman’s cape? Beats me. Has Congress ever investigated that?

And this isn’t just one of those academic musings that I am becoming more inclined to engage in these days. My friend Walter had to relinquish a jar of organic peanut butter at either the Orlando or Austin airport a few months ago. Go figure.

So for those of you who are traveling today — or during the remainder of the holiday season — here are the guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration concerning food and gifts:

From the TSA: Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home.

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cologne
  • Creamy dips and spreads
    (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gift baskets with food items
    (salsa, jams and salad dressings)
  • Gravy
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Lotions
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Perfume
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Snowglobes
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer

 

Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening. (My comment: Any clue as to what that “additional screening” could be? Sigh.)
Remember! – do not wrap gifts you’re taking on the plane. Security officers may have to unwrap gifts if they need to take a closer look. Please ship wrapped gifts ahead of time or wait until your destination to wrap them.
* Items purchased after the security checkpoint have been pre-screened and can be taken on the plane.
Note to Walter: If you’re thinking about returning to the Buckeye State with a bottle of the 12-year-old Scotch whiskey, might as well down it before the security strip search. If the peanut butter didn’t make the journey, no hope with that. Just sayin’.


Holidays and Homecomings

Well, that was more like it: damp, chilly, foggy and totally silent during my five-mile run this early a.m. The last several weeks here in NE Ohio have been unseasonably mild and, dare I say it, pleasant. Doesn’t seem much like late November — let alone two days before Thanksgiving. Hey, maybe this Al Gore fellow is on to something. Note to self: bookmark that last sentence for review in mid-January.

I’m certainly OK with warm temperatures and sunshine this time of the year. But I also like the changing of the seasons. It’s one of the joys of living in Ohio — the transition of going from fall to winter, winter to spring and so on.

Thanksgiving signals the start of winter for me. It’s one of the many traditions that I like about the holiday.

And it extends back to those days now almost 45 years ago when I was fresh out of high school — and experiencing the first of what turned out to be too few homecomings with friends who went off to college, the military, to marriage or to jobs in or around Pittsburgh at a time when you could still work in the steel industry or in other manufacturing jobs that paid a decent wage and provided a middle-class living.

We didn’t gather at the Mayfield Lounge to celebrate a holiday. It was a homecoming — and the recognition and realization of the transitions that people make throughout life. Most of us have those stories — and share those memories. And they are more tasty than leftover turkey and more valuable than a discounted big-screen TV.

Maybe homecoming is a better way to describe Thanksgiving than holiday. After all, not everyone (those who work in public protection, the military, transportation, health care, retail, food service and so on) gets the day off — and that’s if this year you are fortunate enough to have a job at all.

So I’m planning to celebrate an extended homecoming — with my family now scattered in different states and countries. Hey, another great tradition.

Enjoy your homecoming — and holiday.

 

 

Black Friday Sales: Worth Dying For?

As I was grinding away on the elliptical trainer, one of the local TV Talking Heads opined that there wasn’t much going on this morning trafficwise. Not much going on newswise either. The big story: the Senate voted Saturday night to begin the debate over health-care reform. Ah, what have they been doing for the past nine months? Sheesh. At this rate someone will have to wheel me in for my death panel review.

But it’s the beginning of the holiday week. And for many this is the best holiday of the year. Unless you’re cooking (and admittedly, that’s a big unless), all you have to do is eat and try not to get too shitfaced and say something during dinner that will get you in life’s penalty box for the rest of the year or beyond. Woot.

It’s also a holiday with a practical purpose. Thanksgiving allows you to carbo load to prepare for the great American sporting event of shopping early and often on Black Friday. I wish I had the guts and stamina to participate in this mayhem, but as with the offering of sweet potatoes, I’ll pass again this year.

Many won’t. And that’s a good thing for our economy. But Black Friday really has become the equivalent of a blood sport. It’s the American version of the Running of the Bulls. And I’ll admit it, if I’m going to get trampled, it’s going to be for more than a wide-screen TV.

OK, c’mon. This really is serious — and to a certain extent dangerous.

Last year a Wal-Mart employee was killed and 11 customers were injured at a story in New York during the shopping crunch. And like most of these incidents, it called attention to the problem and has led to some modifications in security and procedures at stores everywhere to try to reduce the danger. Here’s from a post by Eve Tahmincloghu on MSNBC.com, “Cloud from trampling hangs over Black Friday“:

Ogera Charles, the father of the 34-year old temporary Wal-Mart worker who died last year, said he hoped the company and shoppers will do whatever is needed to prevent a repeat of last year’s disaster.

“No one wants to die so young,” he said of his son, Jdimytai Damour.

Concerns about crowd control do not seem to have dampened enthusiasm among shoppers.

A holiday shopping survey from Accenture found that 52 percent of consumers polled said they planned to shop on Black Friday this year, up from 42 percent last year, when the financial crisis and resulting economic jitters were at their height.

“I actually think what happened last year may give more of mystique and cache to Black Friday this year,” said Richard Divine, expert in buyer behavior and chairman of the marketing department at Central Michigan University. People may think, he said, “If there’s that good a deal that people are getting killed over it, then maybe I have to check it out.”

“If there’s that good a deal that people are getting killed over it, then maybe I have to check it out.” Oh mama. Don’t let your babies grow up to be shoppers — on Black Friday.

I guess I could argue for civility here as a way to solve this problem — and ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to return home and enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers after the merchandise has been picked apart. But I’m becoming a realist in my dotage. Shoppers intent on getting a bargain will elbow Mother Teresa to the ground. Just sayin’.

So enjoy the Thanksgiving food and festivities. And enjoy the shopping if you must.

But as Sgt. Phil Esterhaus so aptly opined on Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”

Running and Falling: Why Worry?

Kind of an interesting morning to be making the self-propelled foot tour of the neighborhood in the dark at 5 a.m. And no. I didn’t fall. But I’m thinking — and worrying — about that more and more these days. I know. I should be worrying about health-care reform or whether there will be enough Great Lakes Christmas Ale to get me through the holidays — but sheesh.

Now that I have moved into my Social Security years, the potential for falling and getting injured — or worse — suddenly takes on some real meaning and consequences. Go figure.

Here’s the back story.

It was foggy here in NE Ohio this morning, the temp dipping to the high 30s during the night from about the mid-50s yesterday. So not only couldn’t I see ahead — but at times I couldn’t see the concrete. Oh boy. And over the past 30 years or so my stride has shortened — and ability to lift my legs while running has decreased — to the point where any modest unevenness on the concrete becomes the equivalent of trying to clear the hurdles in the Olympics with, for me at least, predictable results.

I was thinking about that this morning because of a NYT article by Steve Lohr  I read two weeks ago, “Watch The Walk And Prevent A Fall.” Lohr wrote about researchers who are looking at devices — such as sensors in carpets — that would monitor how seniors walk and possibly prevent falls. Why?

Well, falls — and the resulting injuries — are potentially life-ending, particularly for those of us who munch our popcorn these days after getting the Golden Buckeye discount at the movie theaters. Here’s from the article:

Falls are so harmful to the elderly and so costly to society that if falling were a disease, it would be deemed an epidemic.

More than one-third of people ages 65 or older fall each year. About one fall in 10 results in a serious injury, like a hip fracture. Roughly 20 percent of older people who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.

The estimated economic cost of falls ranges widely, up to $75 billion a year in the United States, if fall-related home care and assisted-living costs are added to medical expenses.

I’ve tripped and fallen two or three times in the past year or so while running outside in the dark. That never happened before. So I guess the sensible thing to do would be to wait until Mr. Daylight gets up to stretch — or spend more time chasing the treadmill belt.

Nah. I’ll take my chances. I’ll gladly flash my Golden Buckeye card, but I’m not ready yet to make concessions to age.

And besides. I enjoy running in the early morning, in the dark, surrounded by stars and silence. (By the way, I’m not the only one. Here’s an interesting NYT blog post, “The Roving Runner: Running in the Dark.”

Now, if I could just lift those damn legs a little higher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anxious: Why Exercise Helps

I circled my little world on the elliptical trainer this morning. Admittedly, I don’t get much of an endorphin rush from moving my legs up and down and around and around for an hour or so. But hey. It’s exercise. And now I’m cool, calm and relaxed.

At least I should be.

The NYT in a “Well” blog post earlier this week had an interesting perspective about the link between exercise and anxiety, “Phys Ed: Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious.” Here’s from the post by Gretchen Reynolds:

Other researchers have looked at how exercise alters the activity of dopamine, another neurotransmitter in the brain, while still others have concentrated on the antioxidant powers of moderate exercise. Anxiety in rodents and people has been linked with excessive oxidative stress, which can lead to cell death, including in the brain. Moderate exercise, though, appears to dampen the effects of oxidative stress. In an experiment led by researchers at the University of Houston and reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, rats whose oxidative-stress levels had been artificially increased with injections of certain chemicals were extremely anxious when faced with unfamiliar terrain during laboratory testing. But rats that had exercised, even if they had received the oxidizing chemical, were relatively nonchalant under stress. When placed in the unfamiliar space, they didn’t run for dark corners and hide, like the unexercised rats. They insouciantly explored.

Ah, can’t argue with that. Whatever it says. I’m a big believer in the benefits of exercise: mental and physical. And if it makes us less anxious — so much the better.

But unlike laboratory rats, people exercising in health clubs (remember when we used the descriptor gym?) watch the giant TVs plastered on the walls. And doesn’t the news these days lend itself to increasing anxiety — possibly diminishing the benefits of exercise? Wonder if there is any chance I could get a federal jobs creation stimulus research grant to investigate this issue? I digress.

Anyway, I don’t know about you, but these stories that keep rotating on the TV screens this a.m. raised my level of angst.

  • The debacle over the new guidelines for breast cancer screening do nothing but cause confusion — and anxiety — for women, their husbands/significant others and their families. This is a serious — in many cases life-or-death — matter. It also puts the spotlight on an issue that concerns many as we continue to debate health-care reform: the rationing of medical services and tests. Ah, death panels, anyone?
  • Does the Obama administration really know how many jobs have been “saved or created” with the billions of taxpayer bucks contained in the second stimulus package? Nah. Here’s a WSJ online article “Stimulus-Jobs Tally in Doubt.” OK. We needed to do something to take the economy off life-support — but the results in terms of jobs have been meager at best. Just sayin’. And my level of anxiety starts to increase when I hear there is going to be a White House jobs summit Dec. 3 with possibly talk of a third stimulus package. Sigh.
  • And I’m not much for conspiracy theories. But what’s up with this? The House rams through its version of health-care reform late on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. Now the Senate is planning the same approach for this Saturday. Everyone knows that I’ll be asleep and not able to follow in real time who voted on what, or if at all. Should I/we be concerned about this Saturday night voting-in-essentially-secret strategy?

Oh well. We’re heading to the weekend and I’m old enough to remember when the OSU vs. Michigan game mattered. Guess I don’t have to worry about that any more.

 

A Jobs Summit: Wishing and Hoping?

Kind of a slow news day. There’s more on the net about the Sarah Palin Newsweek cover photo kerfuffle –  a bold and descriptive illustration (used previously in Runner’s World) depicting the contrasts that Palin represents or a shameful exploitation and sexist to boot. Gee, guess it depends on your world view. And ho-hum. I opined on that Monday.

And everyone seems more interested in Bill Belichick’s play-calling than in the long-awaited decision by Prez O about whether to send more American troops into the rat hole that is Afghanistan. Oops. I digress.

Anyway,  as I was making my five-mile pre-dawn running tour of the neighborhood this morning it struck me that maybe we have lost sight of what should be the biggest issue in this country now: jobs.

Folks, the Great Recession might be easing somewhat — if measured by recent stock market gains and modest improvements in housing and in consumer confidence. But there are still millions unemployed — millions who are working at jobs for which they are overqualified and most likely underpaid — millions — especially seniors and young people — who have dropped out of the job market altogether.

A solution? Well, how about a national jobs summit. That’s going to take place at the White House Dec. 3.

Will calling together business pooh-bahs, policy wonks and other miscreants get people back to work? Well, here’s wishing and hoping.

Here’s from Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, writing on The Huffington Post, “A Wake Up Call on Jobs“:

President Obama has announced a White House Jobs Summit for next month. At least that’s the beginning of recognition that the unemployment rate is unacceptable. The measured rate is now 10.2 percent, but if you count people who have given up or who are involuntarily working part time, the real rate is over 17 percent.

And the point:

If past Obama White House Summits are any guide, this one will invite a broad cross section of people: trade unionists and deficit hawks, investment bankers and labor economists, industrialists and Republicans; and everyone will speak of the importance of their pet project for job creation. That’s not good enough. This is not a moment for another White House gab fest. It’s a time for progressive leadership.

Hmm — progressive leadership.

Here’s wishing.

And hoping.

Snail Mail and GM: A Billion Here, A Billion There?

We live in exciting times. Sarah Palin is going rogue. You don’t dare go to a Cleveland Browns game without wearing a bag over your head.  And as the economy starts to wean itself off life support, the U.S. Postal Service and GM are still losing billions of dollars. Ah, health care reform anyone?

Actually, the story about GM offers some glimmer of hope. Despite losing $1.2 billion in the third quarter, many point to this as a sign of progress for GM, a company that became a ward of Ma and Pa Taxpayer earlier this year. And honestly — I’m rooting for GM. There are still thousands and thousands of jobs at stake, and I continue to believe that we need manufacturing in this country to be competitive internationally and to provide good-paying jobs here at home. To paraphrase the remarks of former Firestone CEO John Nevin from decades ago — we don’t survive as a nation of burger flippers.

But what about the Postal Service? The snail mail guys and gals lost some $3.8 billion last year — even when lopping off some 40,000 jobs, according to an article in USA Today. Clearly, this is an organization with a bankrupt business model. It doesn’t appear able to compete with FedEx and UPS and so on. And outside of magazines, catalogs, bills, marketing material and political ads, there isn’t much else that works its way into the home or business mailbox these days. Sigh.

I know that I am fighting the last war here, but I still recall working in an environment where we read letters and magazines, took time to craft thoughtful memos and proposals, and spent some time in quiet reflection without the constant ping of e-mail or the chirping of Twitter. And I believe that contributed to a more civil workplace — and society.

For instance, here’s an e-mail conversation exchange from yesterday.

Me: Sorry I can’t attend the meeting next week. I was looking forward to visiting with you. Hope you and XXX are getting ready for a most enjoyable holiday season. Best wishes.

Reply: Okay.

Hmm. Was it something I said?

Oh well.

I like snail mail — and it sure helped keep a lot of people employed sorting and delivering the dead-tree messages. Gee, almost like the newspaper industry. I digress.

Anyway, I’m mad enough and concerned enough about jobs that I’m going to do something about it.

I’m going to write a letter. Put a stamp on it. And mail it.

I’m going rogue.

News Media and Sarah Palin: Going Rogue?

Hey. Sarah Palin’s a runner. I like that. And I was thinking as I made my five-mile trek around the neighborhood this morning that we are in for a Palin marathon this week — with pundits opining from every electronic and dead-tree stump about her book that goes public tomorrow, Going Rogue.

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. By now, if you are at all interested and still on the right side of the grass, you know pretty much what is in the book: critical of the McCain campaign, mad at the news media, too much emphasis on her family and so on. Ho-hum. Most already have a strong opinion about Palin — qualified for office or not, hero or villain, defender of American conservative principles or opportunist of the first order.

I can’t imagine that the content of the book will change many, if any, views.

But the commentary surrounding the book — and the way it has been promoted by Palin and the publisher — says a lot about the relationship these days about the celebrity treatment of politicians by the news media — and about civility and how the news media contributes to an environment where it is tough to talk about important issues.

For instance, here’s an interesting article from the WSJ online about how Palin is using new media — and avoiding for the most part traditional media and interviews — to promote the book.  (See — “Palin’s Book Tour Builds on Effective Web Strategy.”)

The Huffington Post pretty much grants her rock star status with an entire page of stories, photos, videos and commentary. Sheesh.

And many of the talking head TV pundits call Palin a polarizing figure. True enough. Most politicians are these days — because the nation is so polarized. Yet doesn’t the news media — particularly the cable TV shouting matches — contribute to this? Just saying’.

Maybe this just bothers me because Sarah Palin’s a runner.

091113_COVER-coverhomepageNewsweek picked up on it — with its cover photo. Gee. I guess next up will be men political leaders in swimsuits. Woot. I digress.

And you wonder why Palin holds some grudges and has some scores to settle.

The news media and Sarah Palin: going rogue?

 

Pay Teachers or Coaches: What Would You Do?

OK. Admit it. You’re trying to ease into the weekend. Me too. And I almost never watch pro sports on TV — until the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl. But I’ll climb out on a limb and predict that the Cleveland Browns won’t lose on Sunday. Not so sure about Ohio State on Saturday as it makes it run for the roses. We’ll see.

But what got me thinking about college football was the insightful series in USA Today this week about college football coaches — and how much they earn. Woot — doesn’t even begin to describe it. Here’s from the story, “College football coaches see salaries rise in down economy“:

The average pay for a head coach in the NCAA’s top-level, 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision is up 28% in that time and up 46% in three years, to $1.36 million.

Furthermore, USA TODAY’s first comprehensive look at the salaries of assistant coaches finds many approaching and even exceeding presidents’ compensation and most eclipsing that of full professors. At the top: The $1.2 million Tennessee is paying defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, an NFL veteran who returned to college football to work for his son, head coach Lane Kiffin.

And the article points out that 56 coaches make a million bucks or more a year — and that most likely doesn’t include all the side deals. Wonder how many professors at Kent State or elsewhere make that much? Just askin’.

Anyway, this isn’t a rant about college football — at any level. I know that big-time sports contribute big time to a school’s reputation, fund raising, alumni involvement and so on. And in all the years I taught at Kent State there was never a tailgate lollapalooza outside my classroom. So it goes.

But it is interesting to me how we wink at the salaries of college coaches — at a time when teachers at all levels are losing their jobs. And many students who are preparing for teaching careers are racking up big debt obligations from loans — at a time when teaching jobs are increasingly hard to find.

For instance, here’s from an Associated Press story by Heather Hollingsworth that made it into the Akron Beacon Journal this morning, “Teacher shortage turns into surplus of educators“:

Since last fall, school systems, state education agencies, technical schools and colleges have shed about 125,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, many teachers who had planned to retire or switch jobs are staying on because of the recession, and many people who have been laid off in other fields are trying to carve out second careers as teachers or applying to work as substitutes to make ends meet.

In Texas, the Round Rock school district had more than 5,000 applications for 322 teacher openings this year and saw its pool of subs almost double to 1,200, about 21/2 times as many as it needs, even on a particularly bad day during flu season, said spokeswoman Joylynn Occhiuzzi.

”It is a tougher job market, and you get applicants that you might not normally have because of the economy,” she said.

Just a few years ago, before the recession hit, several reports had projected a big shortage of teachers across a wide range of subjects over the next several years as baby boomers retired from the classroom and the strong economy lured college graduates into fields other than education.

And folks, this doesn’t even address the thousands of teaching jobs that were “saved” because of the federal stimulus money. Any idea what happens when that goes away?

I know. As Jimmy Carter opined, “Life isn’t fair.” Still, it troubles me that apparently we don’t have enough money to hire teachers — and pay them for the important and demanding work that they do — while there appears to be no limit on the money for coaches, athletic staffs and so on.

Oh well.

I’m still rooting for Ohio State.

And for teachers.