Retiring this blog

Well, it’s been a fun ride.

I started this blog in 2010 as part of a course in new media for my Master of Arts in Advertising degree and have kept it up ever since. However, this month I’ll be transitioning to a new marketing role in a new industry and decided that doing so was a great opportunity to assess what things I wanted to keep doing and which I wanted to stop doing. And so I’ve decided to retire this blog to allow for more time to focus on my new role and other areas of my life.

10 years is a great run. Thanks for being loyal readers.

Fear marketing, is it the right approach?

In light of all of the news I’m seeing about South Dakota’s new “meth” campaign, I’m resharing this post I wrote that mentions Montana’s meth campaign.

Fear is an incredibly powerful tool. I don’t think any marketer would debate that. Where we do differ is in our opinions of the use of fear marketing and the ethics associated with it.  So what is fear marketing and is it the right approach?

Fear Marketing Definition

Depending on who you ask and what their background is, you will get various opinions on what exactly fear marketing is.  My general definition is that fear marketing is any marketing that elicits severe emotional fearful duress and drives people to act in a way to reduce that duress. In this definition, I am not including warnings, such as the black and white plain text labels on cigarette packs that say, “Surgeon General’s Warning, Smoking Causes Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.”  Instead, when I talk about fear marketing, I’m talking about ads such as those found in the Montana Meth Project campaign. Below is one of their tamer ads. In fact, some of these ads are so disturbing that I must caution you to be prepared before you go to their site and see the rest of the ads. I know personally some of them bother me so much I will never, ever, forget them.

Is it the right approach?

When I think about whether or not fear marketing is the right approach, I usually think about three questions:

  1. Is it true? Taking a page from Rotary’s Four Way Test, fear marketing should only be used if it is the truth. This should not be used to promote a VERSION of the truth, but only actual truths. This rules out using qualifiers such as “may” or “could” or statements that you cannot prove to be true. For example, “[name the political party you don’t like here] is going to take everything from you” or “Eating chocolate may be bad for you” are not regarded as universally true and thus should not be used to justify a campaign. However, “If you try meth once, you will be hooked” is pretty much accepted as a universal truth.
  2. Is there another way that is just as effective or more effective? Fear may not always be the only tool or the most effective tool for a campaign. In fact, research has shown that sometimes presenting opportunities can cause more action than presenting threats (e.g. “Threat as a Motivator for Political Activism“). Also, fear campaigns may cause a reaction that the marketer does not want. For example, some people “freeze” or are unable to act when their fear reaches a certain point and others may just become desensitized to so many fear messages.
  3. Is it a matter of severe public health or safety? In my opinion, these are the two main reasons that a fear campaign might be the right approach. For example, if the mainland United States is going to be bombed (as in another country has the missile prepared, aimed at us, and their finger is on the launch button), then, by all means, go ahead and scare the whole country. Or, if the Food and Drug Administration finds that a new black market drug is causing people to go insane and harm other people and themselves, I’m ok with them scaring a few people. However, I intentionally put this third on my list because it absolutely has to meet the first two criteria before I think this criteria can be used as justification for a fear marketing campaign.

Clearly, a lot of the campaigns today do not follow the above rules and I think we as a marketing community and as the general public need to take a hard look at the marketing that uses fear and ask ourselves if it is the right approach. If it’s not, we need to start letting our voices be heard that the abuse of such a powerful tool is in no one’s best interest.

Creative Commons Licenses 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

Creative Commons Licenses 101 (openly-licensed)

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Creative Commons Licenses, including the three layers of the licenses, the four license elements, the six Creative Commons licenses, how the licenses interact with exceptions and limitations of copyright, the licenses and public domain, and more.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included more wording than I normally would.

Copyright law 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

Copyright law 101 openly-licensed PowerPoint slides

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Copyright law, including how to obtain copyright, copyright holder rights, fair use, public domain, and more.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included more wording than I normally would.

History of Creative Commons Powerpoint slides (openly-licensed, of course)

History of Creative Commons Powerpoint slides (openly-licensed)

As part of the Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, I developed the above set of PowerPoint slides covering the basics of Creative Commons’ history.

Please note that the simplicity of this design is intentional; I subscribe to the Presentation Zen philosophy of presentations, which includes not putting a lot of words or clutter on slides. However, since I won’t be presenting this slide deck in person and to make it as useful to others as possible, I included basic wording.

 

 

What knee surgery taught me about access to education

Unplanned additional costs and complicated, unexpected additional steps are issues in both healthcare and education. Instead of finding ways for people to navigate these challenges, true change will come when we find ways to eliminate them. And, when we can’t, finding ways to ensure they aren’t unplanned or unexpected.

About six months  ago, I had knee surgery to correct the damage done by years of athletics.  I anticipated the issues that come with any surgery, but what I didn’t realize was how closely the process would mirror the experiences of so many in the United States attempting to access education and afford educational necessities like textbooks.

The “hidden” costs of surgery, college

Luckily, I have good insurance, so the surgery itself only cost $200. A good deal, right? It is, but what you don’t think about is all of the additional costs that no one tells you to plan for, such as:

  • Special soaps and bandages
  • Special food/drink
  • Ice for an ice machine
  • Prescriptions for after the surgery
  • Over the counter medicines for after the surgery
  • Physical therapy and follow-up visit co-pays

These “unplanned costs” totaled over $2,000.

Often in the Open Educational Resource realm (OER) we hear the argument, “Tuition is the huge cost, so why not work on that instead?” Indeed, tuition is a huge cost and does need to be addressed. Thankfully there are groups that are addressing this very thing.

But the students that get past the tuition hurdle find themselves facing unexpected costs that can make or break their success. The College Board does a great job of estimating some of these, but so many people just look at the bill from the college or university and think “this is the cost” when in reality, it isn’t the cost. They’ve planned for that big cost, some saving for years to afford it, so while a $100 extra may not seem like a lot, when you find yourself in a position where “I have no money left” and someone says “here’s another $100 you need to spend,” all of a sudden $100 is the straw that broke the camel’s back and causes someone to give up.

When I was working at a community college, I saw how quickly an unplanned, hidden cost of college could impact student enrollment. The state I worked in passed a law requiring each community college student to get a meningitis vaccine before coming to college.  But here’s the kicker, the shot was $125. And that was the last straw for these students. They’d given all they had to give, paid all of the other fees, there simply wasn’t $125 left. And so, students started dropping out in record numbers.

Hey look! More hoops to jump through

If there’s one complaint I have against doctors in general, it’s that they can be notoriously bad about communicating all of the steps and expectations of something like a major surgery. Or, as some have posited, this may be intentional to keep you from backing-out, but I digress.

Major things my doctor missed telling me:

  • There’s a pre-op appointment you must attend, during working hours. In total, this’ll cost you an hour of driving (and gasoline) and 2 hours at the appointment, for a grand total of 3 hours.
  • You can’t drive for at least 10 days after the surgery. To really get the context of this shock, we found this out about 20 minutes after I came out of surgery. Imagine someone walking up to you right now and saying “Starting right now, you can’t drive for the next 10 days.” But wait Nicole, you say, shouldn’t that have been obvious since there’s crutches involved? Not really. I’ve been able to drive with a right foot injury and crutches before.
  • You’ll be averaging 2-3 follow-up appointments per week for 4 weeks. All must be done within normal working hours.
  • You’ll be averaging 2 physical therapy appointments per week for 12 weeks. Each appointment will take 1.5 hours plus 60 minutes of driving, for a total of 5 hours per week.

I’d like to take a moment to especially focus on bullet points two and three above, I couldn’t drive and I had to go to four appointments per week during working hours. This meant that my now-husband would have to take off from his work to drive me, or I would need to incur ride-sharing costs. On one hand, this really made me grateful for the flexibility in both my and my husband’s work, that we were able to do so many things within normal working hours with no issue. But it also left me wondering, how do people manage that don’t have someone who can do this for them and don’t have the money to pay for ride sharing?

This reminds me the processes that a student has to go through during higher education.  When I was the marketing director at a community college, I asked a friend of mine, who was enrolling in college, to let me shadow her during the whole process.  The first appointment to get her enrolled took 4.5 hours, the second one took more than 2. Orientation was a third night (did I mention she has 3 small children?) and was another 2 hours, which culminated in us both staring at a computer screen, trying to figure out to build her class schedule, at a total loss. I can see why so many give up.

tl;dr (in summary)

Unplanned additional costs and complicated, unexpected additional steps are issues in both healthcare and education. Instead of finding ways for people to navigate these challenges, true change will come when we find ways to eliminate them. And, when we can’t, finding ways to ensure they aren’t unplanned or unexpected.

 

One of my #MeToo stories, the time a man caught me off-guard

Hopefully that helps you understand what I mean when I say, I’m terrified at this moment.

A brown bear walking toward the camera
“karhu_kyrmyniska” by Antti Peltonen, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I worked as an advertising sales representative, selling radio and billboard advertisements.

One of my clients during this time was a male who owned several businesses in the area. He was known for not paying his bills, which meant I had to hound him a lot to get the money.

The business owner had a reputation for liking young women; his girlfriend, who ran one of his businesses, was easily 15 years younger than him, and very beautiful. There were the usual jokes about him, as people tried to explain why she was with him. “Well he does have big hands,” being the most common.

But while I knew he liked younger women, I didn’t think he was a threat to me. I was around 30 years his junior. And, as someone who regularly worked with small businesses that were ran out of back rooms or houses, I took precautions to ensure that I was never alone with anyone for my safety.

One day, he’d gotten behind on his bills, so I showed up to his office to get a payment. There were other people around, as his office was within one of this businesses, so when he said “Come into my office and I’ll write you a check” I thought nothing of it. Looking back on it, I think I was also really focused on getting that check, since it meant getting my commission and he’d lied before about sending in payments.

We went into his office and he sat down and wrote out the check and gave it to me. And then, everything changed in an instant; he stood up very quickly, faced me, and put one hand one each of my shoulders.  This happened so fast, it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds from sitting down to grabbing me.

At this point in the story, I have to pause to emphasize something that I think it’s difficult to understand about these types of stories. And that’s the fear I felt in that moment.

Most people would describe me as small or tiny. I’m a decent height at 5ft 5in, but I’m so thin that most clothing stores don’t carry sizes small enough for me to wear. The man who had his hands on my shoulders in this moment was large, over 6 feet tall, and a trim, but large build.  His hands were indeed large, which meant they wrapped around my shoulders and most of my collar bone. He easily outweighed me by 100 pounds and was much stronger.

Analogies are dicey, but I’d like to try one to help explain the fear I felt at that moment, due to the size and strength difference: Imagine you are hiking in the woods and you round a corner and see a large bear. The bear sees you, and all of a sudden starts walking toward you. You have no idea if it’s just curious or if it means you harm, but you are very aware that that bear could tear you to shreds or kill you. That’s the level of fear I felt at this moment.

Now layer on the potential of rape, which a lot of women describe as having your soul ripped out of you.

Hopefully that helps you understand what I mean when I say, I’m terrified at this moment.

So I gasp, and manage to squeak out “What are you doing?” and put my hands up.  He leans in and I freeze.

Here I have to pause the story again to talk about freezing in fear. At this point in my life, I’d had one year of wrestling training and a few years of martial arts training, so I had some skills beyond the average woman to fight back. And, I have a strong personality, I don’t think anyone would describe me as meek. But yet I froze and was taken completely by surprise. We hear about “fight or flight” but in reality, it’s “fight, flight, or freeze.” This wasn’t a reaction I chose, it just happened. I think part of it was I was so shocked at the sudden change in behavior and personality.

He leaned in and I managed to turn my head just enough so he could only kiss me on the cheek. He said something to the effect of “That’s all I wanted to do,” which I don’t believe for a second. The next part of the story is a blur for me. I just remember leaving his office as quickly as I could.

I immediately drove back to my office and went into one of my managers’ office to tell him about it.

And here I have to put some of the ownership on me; what happened was not ok and I’m not blaming myself, rather I’m also not blaming my manager for his reaction and give him some grace because of how I reported it to him. Any of my close friends would tell you that I have a terrible habit of downplaying my own feelings, especially when I need help or am hurt. I also have a weird reaction of laughing when I’m scared or uncomfortable.

So I walked into this manager’s office, laughing, and said “[name] just tried to kiss me!” and told him the story, but without telling him how scared I was and downplaying the whole thing.  I did manage to tell him I didn’t want to go back.

The manager reassigned the account on the spot….to another woman. I tried to protest and say it should be given to a man, but again, I’m not really conveying what happened well.

I did manage to say to the other woman not to be alone with him but her response was something like “Don’t worry about me, I can handle myself” which shamed me into silence because I felt like she was implying that I should have been able to handle the situation better (for the record, I don’t think she meant that).  I remember watching her walk out of the office after that, feeling like she was heading into danger and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

Later that night, I told my boyfriend the story, but again downplaying it. His reaction was something like “Well, you are very pretty,'” and that’s all he said about it. I felt helpless at this moment. I didn’t know how to convey nor could I admit the level of fear that I felt. I wanted a hug, I wanted to hear affirmation, “I’m so sorry that happened to you, it shouldn’t have. It’s not your fault.”

I wish I could go back and express to my boyfriend and my manager the fear I felt in that moment and ask for more. I can’t, but I can convey it in this post, which hopefully will help others in similar situations do the same and shed some light on the fear element for those who hear these types of stories.

The last thing I’d like to convey about this story is the title, this is one of my #MeToo stories. Not the only one.