Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Warnings against making personal information public via social media platforms abound. Recruiters tell college students not to put their spring break photos up online because it may cost them a future job. Employers hand out mandates about not letting their staff use social media platforms at work. The problem is, they are not telling the whole story. It’s actually all about whether you use your powers for good or evil.

A vice president from an advertising agency visited their client, FedEx, at its headquarters in Memphis, TN. Assuming that the agency rep was from New York or Chicago, as most advertising reps are, what would be his first impression upon arriving in the town that is home to Graceland? Imagine the culture shock when going from the chilly hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the sultry, slow, and spread out lands of the swampy south. Thanks to a web site where anyone can read anything that you want to write (, we don’t have to imagine. Mr. VP put his inner most thoughts right up there for the world to see. “Wondering if I would die if I had to live here.”

To those of us who appreciate a cynical sense of humor, this was extremely entertaining. Stereotypes a-plenty fill the scenes of this situation, which was summarized well in 140 characters or less. Fedex was not so pleased, as they were paying this person to improve their image and such a comment would do the opposite. While I can understand why Fedex would be upset, I don’t think they should overreact. Mr. VP, however, should rethink his job description and separate his business from his pleasure.

Some companies, large and small, old and new, are still terrified of social media. They don’t understand it and are more afraid of the damage it can do than the good it can bring. Mr. VP should have known Fedex’s true feelings about this medium. That’s his job. What he should also have known is that people should leave the bad news to the journalists. Major news networks get paid to deliver the negative, sad, and unprecedented downswing headlines.

If everyone used social media to only report good news, comment on positive things, confess how much they “loooove Memphis,” American corporations would warm up to it much faster, like an accelerated glacier instead of a regular paced one. Posting anything about yourself where the general public (and clients and employers) can view it, remains a gamble. It’s so easy to be a communicator for a specific audience in your personal life. Your friends have your sense of humor, or at least appreciate it. Your clients or your boss? …not so much. The next time Mr. VP thinks about Twittering a comment from his handy iPhone, I hope he remembers that posting personal comments online is like the dirty joke the boyfriend told his girlfriend, which was really funny – right up until her dad walked in and didn’t laugh.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today on the National Mall (despite my fear of cold weather)

I'm from Florida and moved to DC (from LA) about two years ago. I have no involvement in politics, and honestly, until now, very little interest in it. I actually work for a PR company. I'm Caucasian and wasn't even in the country on Nov. 4th to vote (my absentee ballot didn't arrive before I left). But today, in ridiculously cold weather, I walked down Connecticut Ave, got on the metro, and walked up the mall to the Capitol Building.

On the metro I overheard a woman from Houston complaining about what a rough weekend she'd had. After people found out where she was from, they did nothing but give her a hard time about outgoing President Bush.

Exiting up through the Smithsonian metro station onto the mall proved more chaotic than we anticipated. As we reached the top of the escalators, the crowd in front of us was not moving forward. Smashing up against wall of bodies in front of me, I dared not push back for fear of falling back down the stairs. I pulled out my camera as the police officer to my right called down to a metro operator below to halt the traffic. And this wasn't even the day of Inauguration!

As I scurried down the mall, trying to absorb the few remaining minutes of daylight, I heard children asking their parents questions like do other countries have black presidents? And a group of African American girls reciting every American President they could remember -- not necessarily in chronological order.

And, on the way home, somewhere around the Dupont metro stop, a group of men with expensive video and Nikon cameras were interviewing two young women in front of me. They donned formal gowns, bravely sporting cute black heels -- many local articles have warned against such endeavors. The man said he was interviewing them as part of the Emancipation Project. At least, that's what it sounded like from the back of a crowded train. The girls were on their way to a ball, as I will be tomorrow. What I remembered most about them was how they gave a "holla" out to someone else from LA standing next to them and how they commented about the number of people smiling as they entered the trains. I didn't have the heart to tell them those people were from out of town. Locals usually don't smile here weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm.

I've been down to the National Mall many times since I moved here -- visiting museums, running for exercise, and I was proposed to at the very spot where CNN now televises from. But today's memory of being on the mall made me a part of something bigger than myself. Is that why we all were there? Drawn in by curiosity, will we all stick around for optimism? If I base my answer on the short two years of living here and contrast it against what I saw today, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hunkering Down for the Obama-cane

I thought when I moved out of Florida in 2006 I would never have to use the phrase "hunkering down" again. But as more than two million people infuse the nation's capitol and temperatures hit numbers I haven't seen since I poked my head into the refrigerator, I find myself using those words again. As much as I want to be a part of the Inauguration Events, I've never been so happy to stay warm inside and watch the events on TV.

As I crossed over the Key Bridge tonight, trying not to hit the pedestrians walking home from the Inaugural Concert, I noticed a group of demonstrators in the triangular island. Their signs read "close Guantanamo"-- which is interesting since I think Obama said he had planned to do that. There were two men in orange jailsuits kneeling on the ground, hands behind their backs with black sacks over their heads near another sign about how torture was America's shame. I'm "used to" seeing such things in front of the White House, but Arlington? Really? Did the Secret Service relocate them? It just makes my couch look all the more enticing.

After Hurricane Charlie, people driving around Orlando saw things filling up spaces that they were not used to seeing. There were billboards laying in the middle of the freeway and trees wrapped in telephone wires like they were Christmas lights. Today, driving down Connecticut Ave, a main road through downtown DC, charter buses like giant dinosaurs lined the roads and bleachers on the mall sit like mysterious stones on a grassy landscape. Such anomalies are like telltale signs that a storm is coming. Stock up on water and batteries. You won't need duct tape, but this storm is likely to leave a lot of garbage in the streets and change a lot of people's lives.

For those who are wondering what it's like to live in Washington right now, it's similar to preparing for a storm: get all your errands run before Tuesday. Don't plan on driving around. More to come tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Survey Says: America’s Headed Down the Tubes

January 13, 2009

In an article published on Nov. 10, 2008 (I know this is not breaking news, folks), CNN/Opinion Research Corporation found that 16 percent of those surveyed said that “things are going well in the country today.” In case you doubt and require more proof, here: There are about a dozen legitimate polls from independent and network news organizations confirming the majority of people surveyed are either mostly pessimistic about life and just happened to take this survey, or there really is a wide-spread disapproval for what is happening with America right now.

To say that this country is not headed in the right direction conjures up images of a group of hikers lost in the woods – each with their own opinion of which way is the “right” direction. They all agree that they are lost. They may not all agree on how they got lost and they certainly cannot agree on how to become un-lost. Such is the same with the “general direction” of our country.

First of all, money has much to do with the negative emotions. When most Americans had a job, a credit line and possibly more house than they could really afford, then the country was the country headed in the wrong direction? Some of these surveys started back in 2004, before the housing industry and credit lines were shuttered. But it can’t be all about cash flow.

Are the people answering this question based on America’s foreign diplomacy? Europe’s distaste for Bush began around 2002, and these emotions were probably more based on the War in Iraq than our economy. Domestic organizations started calling for a return of our troops in 2006, at least two years prior to the CNN poll.

What are the factors contributing to this 83* percent of people giving “America The Movie” two thumbs down? Did it start with Enron? Iraq? Home mortgages that came out of candy dispensers? None of the polls seem to want to answer this question. If we can’t figure out why we all feel America sucks, how can we come to a common agreement that the country has rounded the corner and is headed in the right direction? Simply put, we can’t.

Saying that our country is not headed in the right direction is a lot like pointing out a bad movie. When a film stinks, it’s easy for lots of people to say so. People who do not share the same values or preferences can all agree when a story should never have been produced. But try getting the masses to agree on what makes a good movie. Good luck. Personal taste, however base or elite, tends to be extremely diverse. The same goes for approval of America’s path. Even when the Academy Award winning path is taken, because people’s priorities are so diverse, you’ll be hard pressed to find a poll reflecting such unanimous approval in a positive direction.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Unemployment: Not Such A Bad Thing?

January 4, 2009

This article in New York magazine ( put seven faces to America’s unemployment statistic in their Jan. 5, 2009 issue. Two of these stories came from men who are now at home with their children all day, I’m guessing for the first time ever. Their egos and dreams were dashed upon the rocks and yet they were surprised at how their kids didn’t look at them any differently.

Of course they don’t. Kids typically don’t understand/care/remember that time when dad was out of work. They only remember when Dad (or Mom) picks them up from school and has dinner with them at the table. If spending more time together as a family is a by-product of getting laid off, then maybe unemployment isn’t such a bad thing. Little kids can be great reminders of what is important in life.

Unemployment presents us with an opportunity. Over the coming months, we have a chance to reevaluate our priorities and rethink our needs vs. our wants. It’s inevitable, as human beings, that we take things for granted during times of surplus. It also makes us bigger people if, during our times of need, we find ways to give. If the 7.10% of Americans who are out of work switch their mindset from being entitled to a job to being blessed with one, how would the rest of us be affected? (For one thing, we might not be the nation with the highest enrollment in Anger Management classes.)

Soon we’ll be headed back to the metro for our morning shifts. Employment will pick up again, albeit in new realms of unfamiliar industries. But before that happens it would be great if we could be transformed by what we hear. When the news broadcasts repeatedly how many jobs are being lost it’s up to us to interpret that as 4.5 million opportunities