Market Basket is My Trigger 

I now belong to a club I never wanted to join, and didn’t apply for membership. A child who has lost a parent. Granted, I’m not a child anymore, but to her- I was her baby.

In the month since our mother died, I see my grief come in waves. Some days, it’s low tide. The day will pass with some focus, a little effort, and I can get to the end of it with a dull sense of awareness. Then comes the storm, grief crashing over the wall, and I struggle to even stand on two feet. I have the sense to let it all wash over me, I realize in doing so- I am grieving in a healthy way. I’m letting it happen as I think it’s supposed to.

Market Basket is my trigger. You see, we connected on our love for Market Basket, as silly as it sounds. Mom would save me the fliers that would come in her paper each week, and I would look through them, seeing her notes for her own grocery list. She loved hearing my strategy for shopping early in the morning to avoid the crazy. It was like a shared battle, she always wanted to know when I was going, and how I fared.

She, like me, loved the Greek drama of the DeMoulas’ in 2014– she was firmly Team Artie T. and we lamented on the struggles we had finding alternatives when they couldn’t keep their shelves stocked. Every celebration– Mothers’ Day, birthday, Christmas— brought her another Market Basket gift card.

My first visit to Market Basket since her death was routine enough at 6 a.m. The same dozen or so early birds, morning quiet in the parking lot, and the sun just starting to glow on those sparkly Christmas trees they have put up on the lampposts for the last 40+ years. They remind me of Mom too. I truly believe she would have put one in her driveway if she could have gotten her hands on one.

I felt her when I walked through the store- all the years my sister and I were in tow with her at the store in Haverhill, times I would take her to the one in Nashua, all with me on that one trip since her passing. It was heavy and empty all at the same time. When I finally reached the register, I was stunned at how emotional I was. In front of me in line was a woman, she had the twinkle in her eyes like Mom, smiled at me, and pulled out her gift card to pay for her groceries. I made it to the car before the wave crashed over me. I explained this to the only other person I believe can truly understand my loss, my sister. She’s the one who told me that Market Basket is my trigger- she is right.

So many people have told me that the “firsts” would be hard since the passing of a loved one. I never expected a trip to Market Basket to be a first, but it was. I’m coming to realize it’s not just the holidays and milestones, it is the routine too. It’s what made us mother and daughter- she was my greatest cheerleader through the most normal, everyday things. She wanted us to have victories in life, no matter how small it might seem. Getting through a trip to Market Basket will be a victory to me at some point. It seems ridiculous, but I know she will celebrate it too.

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Should we really be putting children on live TV during a mass shooting?

I know this isn’t going to be a popular blog with my news friends. The mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida happened around 2:40p on Valentine’s Day. In the time I turned on the news in the car to listen, then watch at home, I heard no less than 10 interviews with students, live on the air, before dinnertime.

As someone who has been in a newsroom when major news breaks; I’ve lived it. I get the rush for information, the competition, and the chaos that surrounds these moments. I know how hard all of this is when a newsroom is in the weeds. Stepping back, I wonder if it’s wise to keep putting children on live television for a few reasons.

This is not a video game, and they are in shock. Listening to one freshman describe the incident on a national cable outlet, his speech was almost flat. When asked by the anchor how he was doing, the 15 year old’s response was “perfect”. It struck me cold. He spoke for about five minutes and it was clear he began truly absorbing what he saw, including dead bodies, under a tarp. When asked by the anchor whether he knew if they were children or adults, he said one of each, a male adult because he was more “formally dressed”, and a female student, because she wasn’t “formally dressed”. Which leads me to my next point…

These aren’t confirmed facts. And we’re letting these children give a narrative of what they think they saw happen. What they say can easily be construed as confirmed information in the course of breaking news coverage, yet it isn’t. Period. They are CHILDREN who have just experienced a day that will change the trajectory of their lives forever, and media outlets letting them fill airtime with information that isn’t confirmed is irresponsible.

Does this help fuel the next mass shooting? We really should consider who is watching the coverage. Is the next person who plans something like this watching for the raw emotions of these children to gauge the impact?

I had a boss once who told me to never come to him with a problem, unless I came with a solution too. Good advice, but hard to do in this situation. I’m not sure there is ever going to really be a solution, but I’ll offer some suggestions.

Screen the cell phone video before putting on-air. I do think it’s important for us to see the video that news crews just can’t get themselves and the students take on their cell phones. I agree with the CBS spokesperson who tells the Washington Post, “We think it is important to not conceal the horror of tragic events as we report on them, although we have been careful to add a warning about the graphic nature of the video so that viewers can watch it at their own discretion.”

It is video of true carnage and horror, and may be one of the only ways to show those that can impact change how devastating these events are in the moment they are happening.

Put the interview on tape. If it’s valuable to the story, if it’s true after a few hours, then it can air.

Decide now as a newsroom how this plays out next time. Because we know this will happen again, now is a good time to speak with your team and discuss the parameters of what happens next time. When reporters would call in to news managers and ask if they could use interviews from a student, our first question was always, “How old are they?” Too young, and/ or without their parents, we’d always say no for a few reasons-  the liability of not having their parents permission, whether or not they could be considered credible, and most importantly, whether we would be exploiting the child.

If you have a plan in place, and the entire newsroom understands it, then once that scanner buzzes the next time, you’re committed to your plan and can focus your coverage.

Side note: The crisis professional in me suggests that all organizations, schools, business, etc. determine a media staging area for their buildings in advance, and it shouldn’t be in front of the building.

 

Who thought this was a good idea?

Dove’s “Real Beauty” was always an example of how integrated Marketing/ PR and Branding could be successful for a company, if the company really listened to the feedback of their consumers. That campaign is about 13 years old and its success lies in “walking the walk”. Dove’s thoughtfulness with their responsibility of being one of the first companies to tap into the issue of the definition of women’s beauty made it a positive teachable moment I’ve used repeatedly when speaking with students.

Sure, Dove has had some misfires with this campaign over the years, and has jeopardized its success. Which leads me to wonder what were thinking with the most recent Facebook ad, and who on earth thought this was a good idea? How many levels of approval and reviews did this ad have internally, and how is it possible that not one person in that review process missed the potential for backlash from consumers?

Sadly, this latest ad compromises all the good work Dove has done over the years, and will tarnish its legacy, making this another teachable moment for students for years to come.

Why do you care what I think?

I’ve been watching the “Take a Knee” saga over the last few days and wondering if anyone really cares what I think about whether the NFL or the players did the right thing, the unpatriotic thing, whether the NFL should stay out of it, or whether Trump should.

Everyone has an opinion on this, I’m not sure I’ve found anyone who doesn’t. I’ve seen ‘F*ck Trump’ or ‘F*ck the NFL’, memes, GIFs and the videos of people burning Patriots’ shirts. Yes, I do have an opinion, but honestly, why would I rush to share this with the world, or at least my world?

It’s a serious question, where is the benefit to knowing how I feel about this? I think of this subject on different levels. And I can assure you, I will never be able to understand all levels of this controversy.

Someone asked me this week how would I like to do crisis management for the NFL. It’s easy, they took care of it. This will blow over in their favor. Trust me, if the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, I get the sense my social media feeds will show Brady and Gronk shirts, parties, parades and celebrations. People love football, sports and competition. The game takes us away from our own life for a few hours a week, and provides a shared unity.

Along the same lines, posting my intent on social media leaves the possibility for professional consequences. When speaking with students about their future, I always remind them that there is no delete on the internet, and as a hiring manager- I’m going to look at your social media. I’d rather have prospective clients or future employers look at my skills on a resume than a political rant they might not agree with.

Personally, those who know me can probably figure out my opinion. Honestly, I hope my relationships are defined by who I am as a person and how I’ve treated people. I go back to wonder how the internet has completely changed things, and why we feel compelled to rush to this platform to declare our opinions. Why do you care what I think?

Soft Skills Aren’t So Hard to Master

I recently interviewed a college sophomore for a summer internship. She had already been seated in the room where I planned to interview her, and as I walked in- she stood up to greet me, look me in the eye and shake my hand. After meeting with another colleague, the sophomore sought me out to thank me for the opportunity. We hired her.

She has little experience with communications, but what college student does? It’s what internships are for, to gain knowledge and skill. What I was most impressed with was her soft skills; her ability to engage with confidence and offer content for an intelligent conversation.

While Wikipedia defines soft skills as a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communications skills – my parents would have referred to these skills as manners.  It was such a pleasure to meet with someone from a younger generation who practiced manners.

I’m not saying that soft skills are a lost art, but they have gone, well, soft. I have spent years interviewing candidates who are nervous, fidget, look at their phone, provide one word responses as if they are in a lightening round of speed dating.

So, what exactly are soft skills? What do employers look for in a prospective employee?

Following is a list of soft skills compiled by Eastern Kentucky University:

  1. Communication – oral, speaking capability, written, presenting, listening.
  2. Courtesy – manners, etiquette, business etiquette, gracious, says please and thank you, respectful.
  3. Flexibility – adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner, accepts new things, adjusts, teachable.
  4. Integrity – honest, ethical, high morals, has personal values, does what’s right.
  5. Interpersonal skills – nice, personable, sense of humor, friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
  6. Positive attitude – optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
  7. Professionalism – businesslike, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
  8. Responsibility – accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, conscientious, common sense.
  9. Teamwork – cooperative, gets along with others, agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative.
  10. Work ethic – hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.

The list is long, and at times, redundant. If you are starting your post-college career, bringing these skills to an interview will go a long way to impress prospective employers, and alleviate the pressure of not having the hard skills that might be needed to secure your first job.

If your career is well underway, have the pressures of work and technology moved you away from your work ethic, professionalism, or chipped away at your positive attitude? At any stage of your career, it is a good idea to check the list and evaluate whether some of these need fine tuning. Most times, it is as simple as taking a deep breath, a moment for perspective to redefine your priorities, and minding your manners.

5661661-quotes-about-respect-and-manners

 

Take Shelter and Ride out the Storm; New Balance doesn’t make a running shoe fast enough for this mess.

Hopefully, if I’m doing my job correctly- I offer solutions and strategies, positive messages, reputation and crisis management. Which is why it can be tough to look any client in the face and tell them we’ve done everything we can- time to just take cover and wait for the storm to pass. It feels a bit like a personal failure, but sometimes is the best, and most honest, advice. (Note: I don’t work with NB)

Since the day after the election- New Balance has made headlines, and not good ones. The company’s VP of Communications commented on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which President Elect Trump has already voiced his opposition. In his comments to the Wall Street Journal, the New Balance VP may or may not have voiced implicit support for Trump.

And the social media sh*tstorm began shortly thereafter, and has been relentless for over a week at this point. People took to Facebook, Twitter, etc- burning their 100% American-made shoes in fury (anyone else see the irony?), vowing to boycott the company based on its “political endorsement”.

New Balance issued a statement.

1st-statment

The icing on the cake came over the past weekend. A self proclaimed ‘white supremacist” blogger declared New Balance the “Official Shoe of White People”. The blogger continues, “This will be fantastic. We will be able to recognize one another by our sportswear.”

New Balance issued a 2nd statement.

2nd-statement

New Balance is a Boston based company, committed to footwear made in the USA, with many fine people who work there. It’s clear to me- any further statements just breathes more life into an already emotional situation. Let’s all just take off our running shoes, and take shelter until the storm safely passes. There isn’t much more to do at this point. 

 


 

Speechless, and that’s saying something.

As a personal goal, I am trying to write more. For many years, I’ve written, but usually- it’s for others, with their voice, their messaging and their objectives in mind. It would be good practice for me to measure my own ideas about current events, and share them in a thoughtful format. I’m actually finding that to be really difficult lately. For those that know me, an opinion isn’t something I usually shy away from. I’ve had enough life experiences to offer something to the conversation.

I recently sat with my niece and discussed politics. It was interesting in a few ways. First, we don’t usually talk about current events, unless it’s pop culture. We have a good relationship, solid enough to enjoy each other’s company throughout a dinner with plenty to talk about. Second, this is her first year eligible to vote in a presidential election, and I was curious to hear her take on this.

She asked me who was running when I was able to vote for the first time. I actually had to Google this- George H.W. Bush and Mike Dukakis. Being a Greek girl from Massachusetts- it wasn’t hard to recall how my vote was cast. For the record, I am an unenrolled voter.

We never got to how she planned to vote. But the tone in her voice and the look on her face was perfectly clear, this election season left her less than excited. The first presidential debate was that night, and when I asked her if she planned to watch it, she rolled her eyes a bit- as if to say, ‘why’? It was sad to me, as voting for the first time is a rite of passage- like getting your driver’s license, or legally (!) having your first drink. I come from a politically vocal family, and while I might not have remembered the act of casting a ballot, I can recall the pride I felt finally able to make a contribution to society.

I watch debates for sport, and I love a good campaign- part of my job is about performance and messaging. I watch to see who is most transparent and authentic- and I tend to gravitate toward those candidates that can offer me these qualities. Honestly, I’m struggling this election season. I thought if I could turn off the pundits, the polls, the accusations, the locker room, and Twitter for a while- I might be able to find some clarity.

And I think I have, but in my moment of clarity, I also recognize that I am compromised. Completely compromised. I like to consider myself a mature adult most days; I respect this is part of the process and I will never find a candidate completely in line with my ideals for a perfect world. I can’t say that I blame my niece for feeling underwhelmed. For her generation, this election season offers a harsh perspective and a bitter taste.