The Economy

I will admit that when I first started to hear about the housing crisis and possible recession I was a bit naive. Okay, very naive. The financial crisis was going to have a big impact, but it couldn't possibly affect me. After all I don't own a house, I rent! I couldn't even lose much money in my 401K because I had only been contributing for 9 months.

Then things started getting worse. Gas prices spiked and getting loans got trickier. Despite all this I still thought I'd be okay. Until student loans hit...

You see, it has come to my attention that I am not as good as managing my money as I thought. I pay my bills on time and try to make more than the minimum payment, but it isn't always enough. Ever since college I've had a tendency to live above my pay grade. If I could "afford" to go to Spring Break and pay off my credit card in a few months what was the harm? I hadn't gone shopping in months. I work hard, I deserve a shopping spree. I graduated college, I not only deserve, I need a new car!

Sidebar - To be fair I did try to find a used Mazda3, but there weren't any available with all the features I wanted and in the right color... Okay, I had no excuse.

The thing is once you add up all the vacations, shopping excursions, new car and students loans I am left with a sizable amount of debt.

The solution? After the grace period lapsed on my school loans I requested a forbearance for a year. At that point I already had a second job and adding another bill was not an option. Ten months later student loans were coming and it was time to stop procrastinating and start consolidating. As you can imagine, this is where the credit crisis started to bite me in the ass. No one would consolidate my loans, so I am left with three monthly payments.

Today I am struggling, like the majority of Americans, to keep my head above water. (It's a good thing my parents are thrilled with home made CD's for Christmas.) I know a lot of people want to blame the financial institutions and auto companies for their failings, and I agree, but I think the American people need to take some of the blame too. After all, it's my fault I owe $5,000 to my credit card company. It's my fault I bought a new car without considering how much it would really cost each month once you factor in insurance and maintenance.

While I feel for families whose homes are in foreclosure they had a hand in putting themselves there. The financial institutions should have made better decisions and the auto makers need to be wise enough to run stronger business models.

I guess what I'm saying is that we need to stop pointing fingers and admit that we as a nation have collectively fucked up. We have all been living above our pay grades. Whether it's the CEO who tried to make the stock or home more valuable, the family who bought a house they couldn't afford or a college student who went on spring break, we've all been financially irresponsible and it's time to face the music. The government, businesses and individual people need to help one another get back on track.

Personally, I don't like the term "bail out." It sounds too much like a hand out, and Americans don't take hand outs. At least that's what Denny Crane would say. Instead, we all need a helping hand. The financial institutions, auto companies, families who no longer have a place to stay, recent graduates and current students who can barely afford an education and the millions of people who have lost their jobs. Our government needs to provide that helping hand, and in doing so they need to do more than hand us a blank check.

In return I'm going to do my part to be more fiscally responsible. Are you?

MotrinMoms Observations

Attending a PRSA luncheon today it was painfully obvious which PR professionals were tuned into social media and which were not. As I sat at a table with five other PR practitioners the MotrinMoms incident was brought up. Only two of us had heard of MotrinMoms. Coincidentally, we were the only two who had Twitter accounts.

The Motrin Campaign
So what is the MotrinMoms incident? Motrin developed an ad campaign aimed at Moms who carry children in baby slings. The ad claimed that Mom's do this to look like "an official Mom." Adding that baby slings are a great cause of neck and back pain. The solution? Motrin, of course!

The ads were placed online and in magazines. Once Mom's saw the ads they were deeply offended and began posting furious messages on Twitter. They organized and used a #MotrinMoms tag to make their tweets easy to find. To their credit, Motrin was able to respond to the outcry over the weekend and has since removed the ads. To view the ad and Moms responses view the videos below.

The Industry's Awareness
My question is after all this, how did only a select group of PR professionals have any knowledge of the event? The simple (and scary) answer is that many PR professionals are still not tuned into social media. I find this astonishing when social media is talked about at luncheons, at the PRSA National Conference, in news articles, trade publications... Social media appears to be so prevalent in our industry that popular PR vendors (Cision, Vocus and PRNewswire to name a few) are holding Webinars.

If Motrin has taught us anything it's that it is very important to listen to what people are saying about your company online. If PR professionals are not listening their clients will not be able to respond to negative attacks or benefit from this new medium.

The Solution
The only way to get comfortable with these new tools is by using them. My advice? If you don't have a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account get one now. Never heard of Digg? Google it and start learning. The only way PR professionals will be educated about social media is if they invest the time to learn about it, and that means playing with these tools.

If you aren't convinced that Twitter is a valuable tool go to and put in your companies keywords. It will generate a list of tweets of what people are saying about your company. I urge all communication professionals, old and young, to start learning more about social media. I am confident that failing to immerse yourself in this new medium will cause you to find yourself unemployable.

Where were you?

Where were you the night Barack Obama was elected? This question is bound to be asked time and time again. There are certain events in each country's history that define a generation. For my grandparents it was Pearl Harbor and the stock market crash of 1929. My parents generation was defined by the JFK assassination, Martin Luther King assassination and Woodstock. Generation X has partly been shaped by the challenger explosion.

This of course leads to Generation Y -- the millenials. When I was little I'd hear stories of the 1960's and it sounded like the most exciting time. The U.S. was full of young revolutionairies, mind altering drugs, bell bottom pants, duck and cover drills and an endless parade of events that would never be forgotten. To be clear, I am not advocating mind altering drugs or bell bottoms, but there was something special about the 60's that made my middle school mind yearn for that same kind of excitement.

As it turns out I got exactly what I wanted. The questions that will define my generation will be, "Where were you when the Twin Towers fell?" and "Where were you the night Barack Obama was elected?" Maybe if I'm lucky... "Where were you when the first woman was elected president?" or "Where were you when we dropped our dependence on foreign oil?"

I am very excited and honored to be a part of this generation. My generation will launch the world into a new technological era, we will work to find solutions to the world's energy crisis and hopefully make life just a little bit better for the next generation. In the spirit of hope here are a few of my wishes for the next twenty years in no particular order.

  • U.S. and all other nations become energy independent, reducing our global carbon footprint
  • Legalization of gay marriage and gay adoption
  • Full sex education for all children
  • An end to the abortion debate - give women the right to choose
  • Better regulation of reproductive facilities (sperm banks)
  • Higher educational standards with the government support to make this a reality
  • Affordable healthcare for everyone
  • An end to war in Iraq

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

Brilliant VW Campaign

I've just witnessed a new campaign from VW and it's brilliant.

Within 10 minutes of receiving an e-mail from a friend 10 20-somethings had logged onto the VW web site and started learning more about the new Routan. The Routan is the latest minivan from Volkswagon. This incredibly intelligent campaign is aimed at young and soon-to-be parents.

When you look onto the VW Routan site you are greeted by a video starring Brook Shields. Shields explains that "10 thousand babies are born in the U.S. each day for German Engineering." Because you can't buy a mini-van unless you have kids, right?

When the video ends (I actually made it through the whole video) there is a link to the RoutanBabymaker 3000. This fun online widget allows users to make a baby without actually making a baby. By simply uploading your picture and your boyfriend, girlfriend's, husband or wife's picture the RoutanBabymaker 3000 will show you what your baby could look like. It's an ingenious campaign that easily allows the user to share their results with others.

This viral campaign perfectly targets Gen X and Y who do the majority of online comparison car shopping and are the most likely to share online content with friends.

So, what are you waiting for? Go make your own Routan Baby.

Being a Grown Up

Sometimes I long for the days when I came home from school to the smell of fresh baked cookies, a home cooked meal and clean laundry. Those days have been over for awhile now, but it hasn't been until recently that I've had to deal with securing my own medical care.

I've found that this is something they definately don't teach you in school. If you've moved to a new city how do you find a new doctor? Do you have to find one right away, or should you wait until you need to go? How do you know if it's a good doctor, and how do you navigate the health insurance that you hopefully have?

I went online to search for an OB-GYN that was in the area, and happened upon mine by mistake. Thankfully, I like her and visiting is more or less painless. Finding a dentist was another story. After procrastinating for over a year I finally got around to asking my co-workers for dentist recommendations. Because I'd never had a cavity (not one!) I wasn't too concerned.

Below are my observations from these visits.
When you go to a doctor for the first time there are way too many forms to fill out, and they all ask the same questions. Most of them are simple enough, but then you get to the, uh.. hard ones. Are you current on your latest shots? When did you have your Hepatitis shots? When were you vaccinated for Small Pox? Who is your doctor? These are questions I did not know, and why would I? When I was in the land of fresh baked cookies and clean laundry I never had to worry about booster shots! My doctor's name? It was some nice lady at the Kronenwetter clinic. Luckily, doctor's seem to be fine with this response, "I don't know, but I will get back to you." I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

The thing with doctor's and being a 20-something is they expect that you already know how everything works. As I said, I'd never had a cavity. So when I was told I had "some detoriation and needed to get two fillings," I needed more information. It took about two minutes before I figured out that she meant I had cavities. Then I was asked, "Would you like white or silver?" White or Silver? I don't know, white? There was no explanation of the benefits versus downfalls. All she said was white were a bit more expensive. I guess I'll wait for my quote...

Also, if you are aware that your patient has never had a cavity before wouldn't you explain what the procedure entails? Apparently not. I realize that for most people having a cavity is not a big deal, but for me there were many questions.

Will my insurance pay for it? How do I find out? How long will the procedure take? Will it hurt? Should I plan it in the morning, over the lunch hour or after work? What exactly happens when you have a filling? Most of the answers I had to drag out of her.

The Take Away
My advice for everyone who is new to this thing called "adulthood" is to ask a lot of questions. Doctors, cable companies and crediters aren't as forthcoming with information as you might think. Sadly, it is your job to ask the questions and get the information you need to make an informed decision.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that those in the PR profession often forget that there's more to public relations then media relations. True a large part of our job is to reach out to media to get our message heard, but sometimes we forget who the audience is. Ultimately it's the consumer, not the reporter.

I realize what I just said completely disregards the fact that a story has to be interesting to a reporter before a consumer can hear it, but bear with me.

For PR people the big pay off is the article in the New York Times or the segment on Good Morning America. Big national media will have big flashy ad values to show clients, but what our industry somtimes fails to remember is it's what that article or segment will do for the business that's truly important. What is the media coverage trying to achieve?

The simple answer is to increase business. What story are you telling the consumer that will make them buy your product or visit your destination? And, if media relations is a way to talk to your consumer might there not be other ways?

Obviously, media relations is a key component of any PR plan but other ways to speak to consumers need to be considered. In many cases social media should be another key component.

Right now I only see large established companies like Dell and Urban Outfitters catching the social media bug. Perhaps it's because they have more resources, but smaller companies need to realize that even with a smaller audience and budget social media can still be valuable.

If you are a local women's clothing store in Milwaukee there has to be some Facebook group of Milwaukee fashionistas you could target. If you're in the tourism industry surely you'd want to target people who list traveling as one of their hobbies.

The bottom line is the more you engage your customers the better chance you'll have of increasing business, but you have to be strategic. Facebook and Twitter are not right for everyone. We need to remember, today's world is all about communication and building conversations and you don't have to be on a major network to do it.

A Woman's Role...

As I sat on my bed going through my Google Reader I stumbled upon an article by Lisa Belkin, a contributing columnist for New York Times Magazine. The article titled, "Palin Talk" raises issues that are on every mothers mind. In a world where women and men are supposedly "equal," is it ok for a woman to go back to work after having a child? What if that woman is in a high powered position? Or one that forces her to spend a lot of time away from home? What if the child has special needs?

As much as I loathe Sarah Palin I am thankful that her new celebrity status has brought attention to this issue.

As a highly ambitious 23-year old woman I have always assumed I would rejoin the workforce when my maternity leave ran out. However, after being bombarded by pregnant co-workers, Pro-life protests, talking heads, a visit to my OB-GYN and sitting across from a very cute baby at breakfast I have been forced to revisit the issue.

Parental Opinions

My parents have a lot of strong opinions about how to raise children. Having been raised in very traditional households with five brothers and sisters they believe the mother should stay home -at least until the children are in school. Can't afford to be a stay-at-home Mom? Only want one child? Then you shouldn't have children at all.

It probably comes as no surprise that my Mom hates Sarah Palin. I have heard her say on more then one occasion, "I don't think she's a very good mother." In fact, my Mom seems to take strong offense to Palin's supporters. I might even go so far as to say the the idea of Gov. Palin as a mother is insulting to her. This is also the woman who won't watch Family Guy because she hates Stewie.

The Government

Some may think this is an odd category to include, but the government greatly affects the choices of mother's everywhere. One of the women I work with has taken three months off to be with her newborn. This includes the maternity leave my company grants along with some of her own vacation time.

A quick search on Wikipedia finds this very generous by federal standards. In the U.S. companies are only required to give women six weeks of unpaid leave. Six weeks! They aren't even required to give mother's partial pay. Oh gee, you mean you can't fire me for keeping the human race alive? Thanks... In fact, it seems the only perks mother's enjoy in the workforce are lower pay raises and waiting considerably longer to receive promotions.

Canada gives their mothers up to 50 weeks with partial pay to share with the father. Now there's a country that cares about family values. Even Iraq has a better maternity policy than the U.S. Eight weeks off with full pay!

France allows parental leave for Mom and Dad. Mom receives a minimum of 16 weeks with full pay and has an additional two years of leave without pay if she chooses.

  • Germany - 14 weeks with full pay
  • Italy - 22 months with 80% pay
  • United Kingdom - 39 weeks with partial pay
  • And you should check out Norway!

At the end of all this, I think of what kind of Mom I want to be. I'd like to be there for my child during their most formative years, or at least until they can walk. While I don't think I want to become a full-time stay-at-home Mom it would be nice to have some options. Three months (if my company allows three months) is not a lot of time to stay at home with a newborn.

I hope I'll be able to afford to spend six months to a year with my child before going back to work full-time. It would be even better, if my employer would partially compensate me for the first six.

In this digital age it shouldn't be too much to ask for a flexible schedule once I decide to have children either. It would be tremendously freeing and relieve a lot of stress to work from home a few days a week. As long as I'm putting in the required time and getting my work done why should flex scheduling be a problem?

Now many of you will think I'm living in a dream world and maybe I am. But if you can't envision a better future, how can you possibly create one? The Secret and "vision boards" work for a reason. Just ask Oprah, and with every staunch conservative screaming about family values, it would be nice if our government started to reflect them.

I'm not sure which side of the debate I will land on when it becomes my turn to step into the baby arena, but I hope that the choices will be easier for me then it has been for so many others.

The Fonzie Debate

Is he the "King of Cool" or an unwelcomed blast from the past?

A few weeks ago I participated in Milwaukee's Bronz Fonze event. As a member of the committee that helped run and organize the event I was fortunate enough to meet the cast and their families and experience the day.

The Bronz Fonze is exactly what it sounds like. A bronz statue of Arthur Fonzarelli from the hit show "Happy Days" that resides on Milwaukee's riverwalk. Ever since the statue was announced by Visit Milwaukee's Dave Fantle there has been a lot of controversy.

Many people, especially those in the art community, would have you believe that this statue is a detriment to the city of Milwaukee. That this statue emulates a city that has not evolved since Happy Days aired and is still home to Laverne & Shirley.

I have to say I respectfully disagree. First, what's wrong with Laverne & Shirley? The statue was never meant to be a "work of art," but rather a fun tourist attraction and a way for the city to garner some media coverage. In short, a way to create a buzz around Milwaukee and increase tourism.

I believe Dave Fantle and the rest of the committee did a great job of this. The statue generated a tremendous about of media coverage locally, nationally and internationally! As the statue sits right outside our office windows I can see a fairly steady stream of visitors coming to get a picture with "the Fonze."

The statue does not represent Milwaukee as a whole, but merely one piece of Milwaukee. The city has a fantastic arts seen with numerous theaters, concert venues and galleries. It is also home to fabulous restaurants, universities and shops. However, the city also has three area breweries and a number of micro-breweries. It it important that Milwaukeeans not forget their roots. It is part of what makes us genuine and original...

This thing called the internet has turned our world upside down. In the course of a few years people have changed the way the work, shop and communicate. In this same amount of time businesses and PR professionals have been very slow to using this new technology and understand it.

Some people are still trying to convince companies to blog! As far as social media is concerned blogging is dinosaur. This is not to say that blogging isn't a useful tool. I'm doing it right now, but it is sad that our industry has been so slow to jump on this bandwagon. It is equally as sad that clients have been less than enthusiastic about these new tools.

Maybe it's the generation gap? Old people run the businesses and old people don't "get" new technology. How are PR professionals supposed to recommend new online tactics if they don't even know what they are? If they don't use them?

If this is the case why not appoint a millenial as your new Director of Social Media or Social Media Manager? Make it their job to investigate all these new tools and explain to you and your clients how they can be used and to what benefit.

If the generation gap is not the problem I urge you to find out what is. Everyone knows that social media is important. We owe it to ourselves, our profession and our clients to learn about it and use it correctly. Creating a Facebook group will not be right for everyone and it's our job to know that.

As the younger generation continues to enter the workforce they will want to be engaged on this level. I predict that PR agencies that do not use social media will not only fall behind and recieve less business but will also lose talent. I am happy that my agency is starting to embrace social media. In all honesty, if they didn't I probably wouldn't stick around long.

Those who work in public relations are constantly trying to form relationships and better relationships with journalists. As anyone who has worked in PR can tell you, there's nothing worse than cold calling a reporter.

That's why editorial calendars and services like Profnet are so valuable. I want to announce a NEW service that works like Profnet for FREE! HARO is run by Peter Shankman and has a membership of over 20,000 PR professionals and a growing number of journalists.

I have been part of the HARO "family" for a little over a month and can't say enough good things. Because the service is free more freelance journalists and boutique agencies are able to join. I am a Profnet member too and can safely say I get twice as many leads from HARO.

Peter has a policy about PR pitches that Profnet does not. If you provide a bad pitch to a source you are kicked off the list. This keeps HARO a credible source for media and a place they'll continue to go to for information.

The media on HARO include national morning shows, major newspapers as well as smaller media outlets.

If you are in the PR or media field I highly recommend signing up at You can also follow Peter on twitter @skydiver.

The Rift

Traditionalist, Baby Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y... Which category fits you?

I am a member of Gen Y also known as the "Millennials" or "twenty-somethings," and I'm damn proud of it. I'm sick of hearing the boomer generation complain about how we're so hard to work with. If memory serves me right, they weren't exactly easy to get along with. Remember the 60's? The baby boomers caused so much rucus that it spawned a revolution.

Granted, not everyone in Gen Y is as much fun as a "Pic-a-nic basket." Some of us do need too much coaching, are completely self-absorbed and unable to do anything without our parents. However, the vast majority in my generation are very motivated. Our notion that the sky is the limit is extremely helpful. We are "Yes" people.

We are driven and extremely efficient. We can whip up that report in half the time while IMing and listening to our ipods. Because we are tech savvy we are able to be more environmentally-friendly. When is the last time a twenty-something asked you to "Print it out and put it on my desk?"

That's crazy talk to us. Why do you need to print when you can use track changes, keep track of things in an excel sheet, or simply save it electronically? These are things that frustrate my generation.

We work hard and want to be rewarded.

I've found that many businesses are too slow moving for Gen Y. If we've been at a job for six months and done outstanding work we feel we should be rewarded. How about a raise or promotion? Hell, I'd take some extra vacation days! Instead we are told to wait a year or two before we have a chance to move up.

A Happy Workplace

Many employers are initiating wellness programs and making their work environments more friendly to maintain and attract quality staff (read Gen Y). This shift can only help businesses. I understand there may be some sticker shock when CEO's are told how much it will cost to update the office, but I guarantee they will be rewarded.

Employees who feel comfortable, well taken care of and appreciated will be more productive and eager to work. They might even come up with an idea or two.

The Bottom Line

Please stop bashing Generation Y. We're really not that bad. We put up with your eccentricities. Please put with ours.

The Olympics

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the Olympics being held in China and subsequently Tibet. Tibetan protestors have gone so far as to disturb the passing of the torch, and several world leaders are refusing to attend the games (so far President Bush will be attending).

This week we learn that China has agreed to speak with the Dalai Lama's envoy. This is a great step towards Chinese peace with Tibet, but I'm afraid that China is reaching out only in a public relations capacity.

As someone who works in the world of public relations this is a very good move by China. However, if China does not honestly make an effort to move forward with Tibet the world will see through them. The Olympic games will become a platform for discussing the Tibetan conflict and China's world image will not be helped.

Great Lakes Wind Power

In the search to become more environmentally friendly Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle along with many others are discussing the option of Wind Power in the Great Lakes.

I think this is a great idea. The UK and Denmark are already taking advantage of this new technology. There are some valid issues being raised such as the effect on migratory birds.

However, another concern is how this renewable resource might block the lake views of the wealthy who contribute much needed campaign dollars. This should be the least of our concern. While I understand that windmills may not be pretty, they would serve as a wonderful renewable resource for the state of Wisconsin and potentially other states. If a few people have an impaired view of the lake so thousands more can enjoy clean energy... Well, that's a price I'm willing to pay.

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Welcome to my first posting. My original intention for this blog is to give my opinions on politics, entertainment and media from the perspective of a 23-year-old female from Wisconsin.

Please leave comments and e-mail me if you have any ideas/suggestions as this is my first real endeavor into blogging.

I'll see you soon!

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