Women as allies is a powerful tool to help prevent sexual assault

A few years ago, I found myself in a mostly deserted pub in Northern Houston, killing time with a few friends before an event. A young couple walked in and sat at the bar and, after a while, the young woman got up and went to the restroom.

And that’s when I saw it happen; the man that she was at the bar with called the bartender over while she was gone and he had the bartender pour another shot of alcohol into the woman’s drink.

I causally got up and walked to the restroom, where I found the young woman. After telling her what I saw, I finished by saying, “I think you need to come with us.”  And she responded with something like “Oh no, he’s just a friend, I’m fine.” “Did you ask him to put another shot in your drink?” I asked. “No, but I’m sure it’s fine,” she responded.

My friend Amanda had been listening to the conversation, and finally lost patience. “I don’t think you understand what my friend is trying to tell you. You are in a potential date rape situation. He’s trying to get you drunk without you knowing it. My friend here is trying to protect you,” she said to the woman. Still the woman persisted that all was fine.  Finally, we gave up and let her go. She and the male she came in with left the bar shortly after that.

Was letting the woman go the right thing to do? To this day, I’m not sure. I personally do a lot of contact sports and have been often pulled aside from someone being concerned for my welfare, so I hope that this situation was something similar, but I’m not fully convinced either. And, a former bartender friend pointed out later, I could have also turned the bartender for an ethics violation, a good lesson in what else to do in the future.

As I listen to #MeToo stories today from the restaurant industry as well as the stories of women warning other women about “creepy men,” I was reminded of the story above. And I realized there is a power we women have in this battle against sexual assault, we can share information, look out for one another, support one another, and pursue action against men who harm us, if not for ourselves, to protect other women.

I’m not insinuating that women in general are to blame nor is changing our actions going to solve the issue, I think in-group pressure (men fighting against and stopping the behavior of the abusive men) is the long-term solution, but until then, the more we can view each other as allies vs. competition, stand-up for one another, and share information with one another, the better our chances of staying safe.

Safe drinking tips:

  • Never, ever accept a drink you didn’t personally see opened or made.
  • Go to the restroom between drinks or take your drink to the restroom with you. Never leave it alone.
  • Always keep an eye on your drink, and even a hand if you can. If you get distracted, don’t drink the drink.
  • If you think it’ll “look odd” not to be drinking, ask the bartender quietly for a “mocktail” or simply ask for a club soda with lime.
  • If someone is pressuring you to drink something you don’t want to, and you feel a “no” is a poor option, get clumsy and accidentally knock it over. Then don’t be around that person anymore.
  • Only drink a little bit while out, drink slowly and rotate between water and alcohol.
  • Eat before and during drinking alcohol.
  • More great tips from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

Breast Cancer Sponsorship, is it really a good thing?

“Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe in the search for a cure for breast cancer and all harmful diseases and I support any woman, family, friend, affected by breast cancer. This post is merely to discuss whether or not marketers should be involved in the process.

For my Masters in Advertising, I had to take a course titled, “Advertising and Society.” The textbook we used was “Advertising and Society. Controversies and Consequences” edited by Carol J. Pardun. The book was set-up with a point and counterpoint for every argument. At first, it struck me as odd that there would even be a counterpoint to cause marketing. “Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Why is breast cancer such a popular sponsorship choice?

One of the most popular causes to sponsor is breast cancer. Everywhere you look, particularly in October because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink products, etc. Kershel points out that there are three main reasons breast cancer is the end-all, be-all of organization sponsorship:

  1. Breast cancer is a safe bet when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who really is going to be against curing breast cancer? Pretty much no one. But, another cause, such as AIDS, is not such a safe bet. There are a lot of sexual connotations about AIDS and what lifestyles contract AIDS. So, by supporting AIDS research, corporations risk offending some of their consumer base who have negative views about AIDS and those that contract AIDS.
  2. Breast cancer has an easily recognized symbol and color. Everyone knows it and knows what it means to attach a corporation’s name to it.
  3. Women have significant buying power when it comes to their families and their home. Breast cancer sponsorship is an easy way for a corporation to show middle-aged women that they are their friends.
breast cancer pink ribbon pin and reflection
“Breast cancer reflection” by Williami5, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s controversial about corporations sponsoring breast cancer?

Two of Kreshel’s answers are the following:

  • “…decisions regarding resource allocation in some of the most vital arenas of public welfare – health, environment, education – are made by marketing professionals and corporate executives focus on corporate needs and objectives, rather than by professionals in the relevant areas…Do corporate decision-makers have the knowledge base and experience to weigh the efficacy of these approaches to solving the social problem?” (198). Basically, what we have now, through corporate sponsorship, is millions of dollars going to causes based on what will be best for the corporation vs. what is best for society. And, it’s encouraging us to only focus on causes that have marketing and sponsorship opportunities rather than those causes that need the funding the most.
  • “The fact that the disease [breast cancer] is increasing in industrialized nations suggests the possibility of environmental factors” (198). But, “[feminist] emphasis on ecological factors…is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate American if it’s complexion changed from pink to green” (Ehrenrich as cited in Kreshel, pg. 198). This is a tough pill to swallow, but it brings up a good point. Causes that are sponsored by corporations want to stay on their good side and stay neutral so the corporations see no risks and all benefits when sponsoring them. So what if, as suggested, breast cancer was linked to environmental factors? The environment is a hot political issue right now and, if Komen and the American Cancer Society were to give those environmental factors their proper emphasis, they risk loss of sponsorships because they will be seen as swinging to one side politically. In this way, corporations are shaping the path to the cause. If true, it also creates an ethical issue for researchers of breast cancer. Will they tell the truth and risk their corporate funding or will they remain silent?

Overall, I’m glad that corporations give money to causes and I do support corporations and businesses who give money to charity. However, reading Kreschel’s full argument really has made me less-likely to jump on any cause-marketing bandwagon. Perhaps we need to find another solution that allows corporations to give money in a way that shows social charity/responsibility, but still allows the money to be distributed to where it truly needs to go while also allowing causes the freedom to do what is best for their cause.

What you don’t know (but should) about public opinion polls

We really need to stop promoting and emphasizing these polls. They can do more harm than good but creating assumptions that shouldn’t be created on such small amounts of information.

A fake pie chart form a poll

“Poll” by Sean MacEntee, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0Y 2.0

You see them in the news quite often, opinion polls on politics, the environment, etc. And people place great emphasis on these results. The problem is, we shouldn’t.

Sample size issues

What you don’t know is, the majority of these polls sample a very small amount of people.  For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2012 population statistics, there are over 42 million people in the United States between the ages of 20 and 29.  And yet, if you look at polls published regularly by the news media, their sample size is typically less than 300 people within a similar age range.

  • On December 15, 2013, USA Today (in cooperation with Pew Research) published the results of a poll: Obama struggles with Millenials. The poll only surveyed 229 millenials.
  • The article above cited a December 2013 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll as supporting evidence. That poll surveyed only 100 millenials.

So, less than 300 people are supposed to accurately represent the opinion of 42 million individuals.

The examples above do openly say their sample size and their margins of error, but my point is, we shouldn’t be placing such huge emphasis on polls with such a small sample size.

Collection methods

The other thing that always makes me very nervous about opinion polls is their collection methods. No collection method is perfect, all of them have flaws:

  • Phone polls: Typically people polling only call home phones. There is a huge population of cell-phone only homes that are left out.
  • Story-linked web polls: If someone clicks on a story and then takes a poll related to the story, they would be considered to have “high interest” in the story, which means the poll leaves out others who are “low interest.”
  • Web polls: You have to be on the web to take them. I know that’s considered very common, but there are still populations within the U.S. who are not regularly online.
  • Interception polls (such as stopping people at a mall): These polls typically end up targeting a segment of the population that has an interest in similar activities (otherwise they wouldn’t be in the same place). Some examples of this gone wrong are asking people only at a rock concert how they feel about rock music or asking consumers when they are shopping how the consumer confidence is.

Interest level

A third key factor about polls is that someone is not typically going to take the time to take them if they aren’t interested in the topic. This immediately skews your results to those in the “high interest” or “strong opinion” categories.

Think about your own habits. What if you were in the middle of something and you got a call asking you to take a poll on a subject you could care less about. Would you take it? Probably not. But if it’s something you are very passionate about, you probably will.

In sum, we really need to stop promoting and emphasizing these polls. They can do more harm than good but creating assumptions that shouldn’t be created on such small amounts of information.

For more on this, visit:

The Polarization of America, a Communication Perspective, Part 2: We No Longer Believe Evidence and Facts

 

 

Don’t allow photography in your store? It might be costing you sales

“I’m sorry ma’am, we don’t allow photos,” called a clerk to me while I was visiting a local artist shop in Chicago. I smiled and put my camera phone away. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been stopped from taking photographs in stores and it won’t be the last. It happens most often to me with shops with unique, local artisan items, and I can understand why. They don’t want people taking photos so they can copy their ideas. But what they don’t realize is, they might be saving themselves from copycats, but they are also losing sales.

What the clerk above didn’t realize in the above example is that I was trying to make a sale for him; I was taking a photo because the sculpture would have fit perfectly in my friend’s home and I was sending him a photograph to see if he would like me to pick it up for him. In fact, most of the time I take a photograph in a store, it’s to ask someone else if they’d like me to purchase the item for them.

Two reasons people take photos in stores:

Taking photos allows them to buy things for others

It used to be that people would call friends or family when they saw something that the other might like and then the friend or family member would make the trip to see it. The younger generations found a way to skip the trip (unless it’s necessary), by taking photographs and offering to purchase and transport items for them.

Taking photos helps them to share your products

The other way the younger generations are using photographs is to show their friends and family cool new projects and/or let their friends know about cool promotions. Check out this Facebook post by one of my friends below. Do you think Starbucks is upset that she took and posted this photo?

Starbucks sandwich sign free drink

So, if you have a “no photos” policy, I’m not saying you have to get rid of it. But weigh that decision carefully. Is it worth missed sales to protect your items? What is the likelihood of copycats?

Stop putting your building in ads! Features vs. benefits in marketing

A while ago, I watched a local business give a presentation to the local chamber of commerce about their law firm. And they talked about…their building.  Apparently they had just finished a remodel of their offices and wanted to show them off. Slide after slide after slide was photos of the inside and outside of their building. It was beautiful, but a complete waste of the audience’s time and a complete missed marketing opportunity for the business.

Features vs. benefits

Because businesses are empowered by computer programs that allow them to design their own fliers, brochures, and webpages (although I recommend against this), it’s important to remember features vs. benefits.

Features describe something. Usually they describe something about your business or your product.

Benefits are how those features benefit the customer.  Basically, they describe why the customer cares.

An easy way to tell the difference between your company or product’s features vs. benefits can be done with a simple sentence:

  1. Start by naming something about your business or product.
  2. Now, pretend that you are talking to your potential customer and finish the sentence by saying “so you can…” and adding an ending.

Examples (remember you are talking directly to your customer):

  • Our coffee is only made with the freshest beans (feature), so you can be sure that every cup of coffee will be a great sensory experience (benefit).
  • The homes we build are made to withstand hurricane winds (feature) so you can be free of worry because your family will be protected when the next storm comes (benefit).
  • Our lawn tractors last twice as long as any of our competitor’s lawn tractors (feature) so you can save money in the long-term by purchasing one of our lawn tractors even though it is more expensive (benefit).
  • Every plumber that works for us is certified and has a minimum of 10 years of experience (feature) so you can be sure that the problem will be fixed the first time and you won’t have to worry about it again or take another day off work to fix it (benefits).
A photo of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous waterfall house, Fallingwater
“Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright)” by brian donovan, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Features vs. Benefits in Marketing

Your final marketing message doesn’t have to be in that format. It can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, which is where the beauty of good advertising comes in. But, the point that is absolutely critical is that your marketing should focus on them (benefits) and not focus on you (features).

With the constantly increasing number of advertising messages that your potential customers are exposed to every day, in order to stand out, you must speak directly to your customers in a way that resonates with them. You must explain or show them that your product or service benefits them in some way that will motivate them to act.

It’s Not About Your Building!

Going back to our law firm example, this is the biggest features vs. benefits mistake I see a lot of businesses make is to focus on their building (although poor facilities can affect your marketing effectiveness).

If I were advising the law firm, considering that their audience was primarily small business owners at that meeting, I would have recommended that they focused their talk on how their services benefit small business owners by saving them money, protecting their business, etc.  By doing so, they would be focusing on how they can benefit the people in the room and they would have had a much better chance of walking out with some new leads.

Take a Fresh Look

So I challenge you to take a fresh look at your marketing materials and review tapes of your past presentations, and ask yourself if you are talking about features or benefits.  Are you talking about yourself or are you talking about them? Are you focused on what comes after “so you can…” in your marketing? If not, it’s time to start rewriting.

Crisis communications: Think about your competition

A group of bikers riding in a bike race
Just as athletes have to plan for their own or a competitor’s mistake, we also need to consider our competition in crisis communications

In crisis communications, we’re trained to think about all of our stakeholders including customers, employees, partners, etc. But we need to also think about and react to how our competitors will respond our crisis. How will they respond? How will they try to gain market share or serve their purposes during and after a crisis?

And how will we respond if our competitors have a crisis? Should we react (public comment, changing production amounts, etc.)? Will we need to change our messaging during that time? Could their crisis spread to us?

We need to consider our competition before, during, and after a crisis.

Suggested reading:

Crisis Communications: A tale of marijuana and two U.S. Presidents

The one thing companies are still doing wrong in crisis communications

One thing missing from crisis communications advice: Resume community relations as fast as you can

Prevent a PR crisis: Explain why upfront

Dear company representatives, stop commenting on controversial issues!

Photo: “Philadelphia Bike Race – flying off Lemon Hill” by joiseyshowaa, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Out of office messages are a marketing opportunity

A walkway to an airplane has an ad for ING that says
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons. “Out of office, here I come” by ING Group is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It started as a whim, one of my quirky moments when I get bored doing something mundane and decide to veer from the norm. I was writing the traditional “I am out of the office….” text in my auto response email and decided that it needed some “flavor” to it, especially since our organization isn’t the “mundane” type.

So I wrote:

Thank you for your email. I’ll be out of the office (dates). I will not have access to email during this time.

If you need something immediately please email (my organization’s customer service email). 

In the meantime, how about a fun video of faculty talking about how free textbooks have impacted their students? https://youtu.be/uV1dd0CJEvc

Nicole

I honestly didn’t think anyone would read it. But, when I came back and opened my email, I was shocked to find several responses to my out of the office message. Not only did people read the message, but they watched the video and wanted more!

Since then, I’ve made a point of incorporating key messages of my organization in my away messages in fun ways. And the trend of folks responding hasn’t slowed. Let’s be honest, no one expects to go to events and have colleagues say “I LOVE your away messages! I learn so much!” but I’ve had that happen more than once.

And, importantly, this attention is driving awareness of my organization’s mission and work.

So the next time you’ll be out of the office, I challenge you to think differently about your out of office messages. Is there a way that you can use them to further your organization’s message?

Photo: “Out of office, here I come” by ING Group is licensed under CC BY 2.0