Life Imitating Art Imitating Life


Every year I watch the Academy Awards, and try to see the movies nominated for Best Picture before the show. This year I saw Selma, The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, and Birdman beforehand.  I watch the post-Oscars E! Fashion Police episode too because, let’s face it, the Oscars are as much about fashion, hair and make-up as they are about movies.

After Joan Rivers unexpectedly passed last summer, I wondered what would happen to her show. The new E! Fashion Police launched in January and seemed like a success until the fateful Oscars show. Giuliana Rancic made an inappropriate joke about Zendaya’s dreadlocks (watched it twice and it gave me pause both times), which started a Twitter war. Zendaya was offended and Instagrammed it. Kelly Osbourne tweeted “Don’t put me in the middle. These are my friends. I said not to do the joke.” 


For those who don’t follow entertainment or Twitter, the Oscars were Sunday, February 22; Fashion Police aired February 23; said Twitter war was February 24 – 25; and by Friday, February 27th, E! announced Kelly Osbourne was departing Fashion Police “to pursue other opportunities.”  That’s generally code for got canned, but reports went back ‘n forth: some said she quit, others reported she was asked to leave. Given the intensity of the week, it kind of made sense either way.

The following week I saw some online comments from Kathy Griffin, but it was her March 12th announcement she’s also quitting the show that really got my inner P.I. / psychologist going. Her “I Will Survive” manifesto made me sit up and take notice. To put Kathy’s statement into my own few words, it goes something like: “Hey E! I was successful before I joined your little show and I’ll be successful after I leave it.”  All of this begs the question:  Is something seriously wrong at E!?  With half of the shows’ staff departing two weeks post Oscars, most notably after these women expressed their opinions online, one wonders. Or are these women truly just standing up for what they believe in?

They say “Art Imitates Life.” So what are these movies about and how does it relate to the E! drama? Here’s my take:


The planning and filming of Selma, a movie about the historic civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, began before Michael Brown got shot in Ferguson, MO, last August. This tribute was in the works long before the protests and riots in Ferguson; before #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter became lexicons of our culture. An amazing movie, it was nominated for Best Picture and Original Song. If you haven’t heard Glory, here’s a video of John Legend and Common performing at the Oscars; it’s as awesome as the movie and a tear-jerker in itself.  (The fact there are more black men in Corrections today than were slaves absolutely flabbergasts me.) Two weeks after the Oscars, President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma march on that very bridge with his own speech. POTUS speaks very eloquently; to summarize his half hour speech in my own few words, it goes something like: “People, of course we’ve made progress. If we hadn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here! Do we have a way to go? Yes, absolutely. But we’re still better off than we were 50 years ago. Keep fighting.” His speech is worth listening to; it’s full of faith and hope and love.


The Theory of Everything is a beautiful movie based on Jane Hawking’s memoir: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen. It depicts Stephen and Jane falling in love in college at the same time his ALS was diagnosed; how she married him despite his illness, bore his children, and took care of him, the kids and the house so that he could do the amazing work he has done. It’s a movie that accurately shows the trials and tribulations of life as a handicapped person and caring for one, particularly with a chronic disease that worsens over time. The movie was nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Original Score and Screenplay.  Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for Best Actor.


Boyhood is a phenomenon since it was filmed in intervals between 2002 and 2014. It’s the story of a boy growing up with divorced parents, told from the child’s perspective.  It’s a gritty, too-true-to-life story of a father too young to be a father, and a struggling, single mother who remarries a man who ends up being an abusive alcoholic. After she has the courage to leave him, she gets involved with another man who also turns out to be controlling. The boy tries to successfully navigate growing up among these quite imperfect adults. Boyhood received six Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Supporting Actress/Actor, Directing, Original Screenplay and Editing. Patricia Arquette won for Best Supporting Actress.  Her inspiring acceptance speech is a rallying cry for equal pay.

Her speech was not only in response to her character, but in response to the Sony email leak last November that outlined the disparity in pay among male and female actors. Many cheered Patricia on afterwards, but some complained that actresses make millions and have nothing to complain about.  News flash: That’s why it’s called “Equal Pay for Equal Work” –> it applies regardless of the type of work.


Birdman is a wonderful movie about a middle-aged actor who was once a huge success, who is trying to return to his former glory. In his journey back, he realizes he still loves his wife and builds a real relationship with his daughter, with whom he’s never been close. Birdman is a movie about never giving up, coming back after adversity, and remembering what is truly important in life after your ego gets out of the way.  It received nine Oscar nominations and won four: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, and Original Screenplay.

Each in their own way, these tremendous movies boil down to two things: Love and Sacrifice. But if I were to hashtag them, they’d be: #BlackLivesMatter, #HandicappedPeopleMatter, #WomenAndChildrenMatter, #MiddleAgedPeopleMatter.

Courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dyer

Courtesy of Dr. Wayne Dyer

Anyone who works in marketing, market research, politics, TV ratings and other big data analysis, knows that the world is often sliced and diced into: age, gender, race, education, income, religion, geography, sexual preference and anything else folks think may be important to a buying, voting or watching decision. It might make ‘business sense’ but it’s a soulless way to interact with people.

It’s these categorizations and stereotypes that permeate society to create underlying and unconscious biases. Soccer mom, anyone? One could suggest Birdman won Best Picture because the majority of Academy voting members are over 40. Or Patricia Arquette won because America loves its long-suffering single mother who will do anything to raise her kids. All you have to do is watch football, American Idol, The Voice, or any other sport or reality show to hear the praises of single mothers being sung often and loudly. Did Selma win Best Original Song because, well, you know, black people grow up singing in church?

Which brings me back to E! Fashion Police. I loved Joan Rivers; grew up watching her on Carson and watched her nip and tuck herself to stay relevant. Some could call her a crusty old broad or tough old bird. Perhaps Joan had a free pass on making inappropriate jokes because of it. Kelly, you’re right, the joke shouldn’t have been told. Kathy, you’re right, you will continue to be successful. Go forth and prosper.  E! Fashion Police, here’s an idea:  Stick to fashion and let the snark go. People will still watch. Just like people kept reading Perez Hilton after he decided to be nice.


Some who study cycles say we’re experiencing the same cycle of change we did in the 1960’s; 20th century’s decade of the civil rights, women’s lib, sexual revolution, and anti-war movements. In addition to my hashtags above, gay marriage, LGBT rights, mental health awareness, body acceptance and many other rights are currently in the news. Demonstrations on college campuses protesting how rape cases are handled (and dismissed) and the twenty women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual harassment (or worse, rape) are more examples.

If we refocus the lens and zoom outside of the United States, we see the same trends. Democratic uprisings. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani woman who demanded an education, and who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of women, children and education. In the Middle East, where we’ve been handing out guns like candy for over a decade and training people how to fight; now some of those same people are banding together to make their voices known worldwide to ask us not so politely to cease and desist.

It’s almost like all of those held down are lifting their heads up out of the mud (to quote Teri Garr), raising their faces to the sun like flowers, and saying, “Hey, people! I matter.”


Social Fresh East 2013: Back to Basics Baby

Recently I was lucky enough to attend the Social Fresh East conference for the third year in a row.  I love Social Fresh because it’s an intimate conference (300-400), always features some of the best social business thought leaders, and it’s local. Win. Win. Win.  It was a jammed packed two days! Here are photos and highlights of each speaker (click on their name for deck or contact info):

Courtesy of Stacey Acevero Twitter @sacevero

Courtesy of Stacey Acevero Twitter @sacevero

Tom Webster Social Fresh 2013

Tom Webster of Edison Research spoke first; a bit daunting since the WiFi was down.  His presentation was on data storytelling and the 2012 political elections.  “We don’t need data analysts; we need data storytellers.  There’s too much data repukery.”  (Nice word Tom:) “We are becoming less skilled at being social with people we don’t agree with.”  God’s honest truth and Tom’s clarity was a gut check.  Katie Richman tweeted Tom is where “psychology meets statistics.”

Spike Jones Social Fresh 2013

Spike Jones of WCG World presented Word of Mouth.  “It is not – nor will it ever be – about your product.”  Some brands forget it’s about their *community* as they blather on about their products or themselves.  “Influence can be created; passion can not.” “Everybody wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”  Check out slide 44:)

Morgan Johnston Social Fresh 2013

The WiFi came to life during Morgan Johnston‘s Jet Blue presentation.  “Inspire Humanity.” Here’s how JetBlue does social:  Monitor -> Engage -> Inform -> Humanize.  So simple.  He spoke about how they handled Hurricane Sandy, no small feat.  The audience really engaged; not sure if it was because the WiFi came back to life or because a lot of people fly Jet Blue!

Ian Schafer Social Fresh 2013

Ian Schafer from Deep Focus spoke on Mobile First. “60% of active users access Twitter via mobile …”  And then we had our Beyonce Super Bowl moment, when we zapped the power – apparently crashing the entire block.  350 people with phones, laptops and iPads all charging just might trip a hotel’s circuit breaker!  Amazingly, it was back on in about 5 minutes.  Ian’s main message:  “The best mobile ad is a brand’s most engaging content.”

Chris Tuff Social Fresh 2013

Chris Tuff of 22Squared tackled how to achieve ROI via content, analytics and paid:  “Art & Science:  Right content & right people & right time = success.”  Hyper target sub tribes. Value of Impressions: Twitter – 15 mins, Facebook – 1 hr, Instagram – 2 days. Tumblr sticky for 9 days. ROI = Return on Impressions as well as Return on Investments.

Christopher Penn Social Fresh 2013

Last speaker on Day 1 was Christopher Penn, from Shift Communications, who addressed Earned Media.  “Earned media is anywhere people talk about how awesome you are (or aren’t)!” Love Chris’ Marketing Circle of Life (slide 8).  The difference between Owned, Paid and Earned is clearly defined on slide 12:)  The goal: Do social business well, achieve earned media.

Jim Tobin Social Fresh 2013

Jim Tobin from Ignite Social Media kicked off Day 2 by talking about the Power of Organic on Facebook.  “Earn it.  Don’t buy it.”  “Tobin’s Law:  The size of a brand’s network is always smaller than the size of its network’s network.”  Say what?  Simply:  You want the people who are friends with your network to engage with you.  The T-shirt photo below left visually depicts Jim’s concept.  Real success is when you have more shares/interaction from your network’s network than your network itself.

Your friends' friends, babyAdam Kmiec Social Fresh 2013

Adam Kmiec from Campbell’s presented an Insights Driven Organization.  “We’re data rich and insight poor.”  “Strategy, Community Management, Content, and Insights are all required to do social business well.”  Slide 40 is his prescription for success.  Many of the SMB attendees drooled over the idea of having the resources to employ some of the tools Adam uses!

Ted Rubin Social Fresh 2013

Ted Rubin of Collective Bias talked about the Return on Relationships: “Social is just a facilitator of relationships.” “Listen.  Make it be about THEM.  Ask “How can I serve you?”  Aim for ongoing engagement.”  “Relationships are the new currency.”  Based on the number of tweets generated, the crowd really liked Ted.

Ryan Cohn Social Fresh 2013

Ryan Cohn from Sachs Media Group spoke about CEOs and social business. “16% of CEOs are on social — expected to rise to 57% within 5 years!” “LinkedIn is the only platform with more CEOs than general population.”

Chris Brogan Social Fresh 2013

It was my first time hearing Chris Brogan of Human Business Works speak, so I was enjoying Friday afternoon at Social Fresh.  Chris’ basic prescription for success:  1.  How do I add value?  2.  How do I make my buyer the Hero?  3.  How do I equip my buyer for success?  4. How do I attract more audience?  And then build them into my Community?

Jay Baer Social Fresh 2013

Jay Baer from Convince & Convert presented Youtility, the subject of his new book. “If you help someone, you create a customer for life.” “Answer every question via your various forms of content and engagement media.” “Youtility is a process, not a project. The ‘We’re awesome, click here’ is short-term, not long-term.”

Katie Richman Social Fresh 2013

Katie Richman from ESPN talked about creating “reskinnable content.”  “Consumption is less about reflecting who we are … more about who we want to be.” – Paul Mullins.  Loved Katie’s description of Pinterest:  It’s magazine collages 30 years later!

Kevin Vine Social Fresh 2013

Kevin Vine from Dunkin’ Donuts finished the conference on a high note when he spoke about Encouraging User-Generated Content.  “We don’t own our social media channels – our fans do.”  “Listen -> Learn -> Engage -> Celebrate”  “A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is.  It’s what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook, Co-Founder of Intuit  “Make your fans and followers Stars.”

Why did I include “Back to Basics Baby” in my post title?  While I recapped 14 speakers in < 900 words (a miracle:), I could have done it in much fewer:  Tell Stories.  Make it About Them.  Humanize.  Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.  Return on Impressions.  Earn It.  It’s about your Network’s network.  Use insights to inform business decisions.  It’s still just all about the relationship.  Make your customer the Hero.  Help someone and create a customer for life.  Don’t reinvent the wheel every time.  Encourage participation; make them Stars.

Here’s how I know Social Media has grown-up into Social Business:  It’s no longer about how to use Facebook or Twitter for business, what the latest and greatest platform is, if you need a Pinterest or Google+ profile.  It’s back to being about your customers and how you can help them move forward.  It’s back to the heart of your business – those humans you call customers.

Speaking of Humanizing, Jason Keath, CEO of Social Fresh, celebrated his birthday around Social Fresh, so here’s a photo of his surprise cupcake.  Happy Birthday Jason and many, many more!

Jason Keath Social Fresh 2013

Another human touch?  The Tweets So Fresh mug I won for being one of two people who’ve attended four Social Fresh conferences.  I love my mug:)  It makes me feel like a Star!

Tweets So Fresh Mug

All photos courtesy of Social Fresh and Spherical Communications

FlameStone Grill Chile Olive Oil Dinner

My friend Isabel, aka @familyfoodie, called recently to say the Chile Olive Oil Council contacted her about hosting a dinner party at a restaurant of her choice featuring their olive oils where she could invite some foodies.  I was quite honored to be invited to this awesome dinner party for twenty at the FlameStone Grill on August 30.  FlameStone Corporate Chef Eric Lackey designed a special menu to showcase the Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oils in each dish!  Here are Chef Eric and Isabel before the dinner, along with the #ChileFresh menu.

Eric kicked off the evening describing the differences in the Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO) and how the courses would be presented with different Chilean wines provided to accompany his meal.  There was a tasting table set up with little bottles (also at our place settings that we got to take home with us:), bread, and apples to cleanse the palate.  Many have been to a wine tasting, but few have been to an olive oil tasting!  They’re remarkably similar!  The lighter EVOO has a very fresh, vibrant taste with a hint of apple that I detected before reading the literature.  The Chile EVOOs are truly lovely!

The first starter was Black Pepper Tomato Pretzel Bread with White Anchovies Aioli.  Quite frankly, I would have eaten the aioli by itself with a spoon if it’d been served alone!  Or as Kerry, the Yum and Yummer food blogger sitting next to me said, “He needs to bottle this and sell it!”  Kerry has since tweeted me he’s made it his mission to crack the code on this very delicious aioli; I’m looking forward to it!

Next were the remaining Starters:  Olive Tapenade (made in a traditional molcajete) with Chilean EVOO rubbed Crostinis, a Fresh Tomato Tart and an Heirloom Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad.  My first introduction to tapenade was when I lived in Bellingham, WA, in a brewery/restaurant inside an old warehouse where they would serve their homemade tapenade along with homemade microbrews at the bar.  I wanted to go there just for the amazing tapenade!  I’d never found one as good until Eric’s; it was delightful!  The Fresh Tomato Tart was light, almost sweet and went perfectly with the Riesling presented.  The Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad was yummy too (I may have taken some of the fresh rosemary from the tart and put it on the tomato salad too … foodies, we love to improvise!).  The tomato salad was impressive because Eric made the cheese himself! All of the starters were luscious, but my favorites from this grouping were the aioli and the tapenade.  Kerry, who was in business before traveling to Europe to take cooking classes in Spain and Italy, said, “He seriously needs to bottle that aioli and tapenade.”  You know when a foodie says that it’s something amazing!

The first entrée served was Agave Soaked Chicken with Red Wine Bermuda Onions and Pan Seared Purple Potatoes with a Burnt Sugar Olive Oil Dust.  This tasty dish was a savory combination of sweet onion, moist chicken and olive oil potatoes.  It was paired with a smoky, dusky, Pinot Noir (or so I thought), which was perfect.  I later found out it was a basic Chilean Red Table wine, but it was really excellent with this dish!

Next up was what I’d been waiting all day for:  Polenta Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Toasted Pepita and EVOO drizzle.  This dish was as heavenly as I’d imagined!  It was light, sweet, moist and served on a bed of arugula, which balanced the fish beautifully.  I absolutely loved the sea bass!

By the time the next dish came, I was getting full (tried not to eat everything; only half, but was only half successful at that;).  The last two entrees were served together: a Goat Cheese & Arugula Stuffed Piadina and Portabella and Goat Cheese with a Porcini & White Truffle Cappallacci.  What I fell in love with here was the Goat Cheese on top of the Cappallacci … it was to die for!  I ate all of that just because of the goat cheese, which I later found out from Chef Eric was whipped with spices including cayenne and garlic.  It was YUM-O!

When desserts came, I was full ~ but that didn’t deter me!  The desserts were:  EVOO Cake with Candied Tangerines & Pecans, EVOO & Sea Salt Brownies with Peanut Butter Dust and Caramelized Marshmallow, and an EVOO Almond Cookie with Whipped Cream & Raspberry.  The cake was very light; almost like Angel Food and the tangerine and pecans complemented it quite nicely.  After two bites I moved on to the brownie, which I’d also been waiting for all day.  It did not disappoint!  The ‘Peanut Butter dust’ was amazing, the brownie rich and moist and the marshmallow a surprisingly good addition.  I didn’t eat it all so I could try the cookie, which was way better than I’d thought it’d be!  After eating all of this outstanding food, an almond cookie is an almond cookie, right?  Not in this case; it was really delicious and the whipped cream with it was perfection.

Complementing all of this awesome food, were interesting foodies including Jeff Houck, CarlosEats, a lot of great food, wine bloggers (apologies for not listing everyone) and social media peeps.  @SaucyQueen, who makes spicy sauces brought us each a bottle of her Garlic Goodness!  Thanks Michelle:)  Here’s a great Storify post from @_KimRandall with tweets from the event!  Sincere thanks to the Chile Olive Oil Council for putting on this fabulous dinner and sending us home with samples of their liquid gold, Isabel for inviting me, and FlameStone for their outrageous creations!  FlameStone, please add the aioli, tapenade and whipped goat cheese to your menu … maybe as an appetizer that comes with bread and crudités?  Also, the polenta crusted sea bass, brownie and almond cookie could all become menu favorites!

This incredible dining experience reminded me that while I love to cook, a chef I’m not.  But a good food lover I’ll forever be! 😉

Dine Tampa Bay Food Spotting at AQUA

Dine Tampa Bay at AQUA

My friend Isabel, aka @FamilyFoodie, called me the other day, “Ron and the boys will be at football practice and I was invited to AQUA for an event Wednesday night.  Would you like to come with me?”  I immediately accepted, no questions asked, because I know Isabel has become a local foodie blogging celebrity with her @FamilyFoodie 14K Twitter followers and her worldwide #SundaySuppers!  Yesterday The Tampa Bay Times did a beautiful article on her.  Her mission is to bring families back around the dinner table with home cooking.  So I was very happy to attend Dine Tampa Bay‘s Food Spotting Eat Up (#FSEatUp for you Twitter fans:) at AQUA at The Westin with her last night!

I’ve been to The Westin and AQUA before; for a Luxury Marketing Council event last year and WITI Central FL‘s Job Shop 4 Geek Girls in May.  I already knew how beautiful the facility is, how attentive the staff are and how yummy the food is, but last night confirmed it again!


We started our evening off with the AQUApolitan martini, which is berry infused vodka and other yummy things.  I liked it!


First up was their delicious Wagyu Beef Carpaccio.  This version included blue cheese and it was rich, flavorful and I ate more than one:)

Next was the outstanding Salmon Avocado Roll with basil emulsion on top.  This sushi was one of @CarlosEats favorites! I may have tried more than one myself;-) The basil emulsion was amazing.

Then we sampled the Jumbo Gulf Coast Shrimp, which were firm, succulent and flavorful.  Again, I may have had two of these!

The awesome crab bites were next, which were based on their Jumbo Blue Crab Cakes.  As you can see from the photo, they were another big hit!!  I lost count on these; food circled the room several times!

It was hard for me to pick a favorite because I really liked all the hors d’oeuvre, but the Spicy Tuna Roll was truly a morsel of yummy goodness!

Besides the beautiful venue and awesome food, I met Jeff Houck, food writer for Tampa Tribune, and Carlos Hernandez, a USF student studying business, who blogs and tweets about food in Tampa Bay as CarlosEats.  It was really a great time! (Jeff is in the background talking in the photo below and Carlos is in the foreground, with a Flirtini in his hand.  I may have had one of those too:)

Dine Tampa Bay runs from August 3rd through August 17th with over 130 restaurants offering prix fixe menus.  AQUA’s looks yummy and I’ve gotten hungry again just writing this!

If you’re looking for a location with beautiful views and great food for a special event or wedding, consider The Westin.  Here are some of the amazing views from the roof!

Thanks to Ron and the boys for coaching and playing football, so I could attend Dine Tampa Bay’s #FSEatUp at AQUA with my wonderful friend Isabel!

Karen The Bus Monitor

I was home last week to help one of my sisters post-surgery.  My family lives in Greece, a suburb of Rochester, NY.  I graduated from Greece Arcadia and have nieces and nephews who attend Arcadia and Athena.  My last night home (6/29) we were all together and I asked everyone what they thought about the bullying incident with the bus monitor from Greece Athena.  Our conversation really surprised me!

The first surprising thing is how personal it got.  One sister’s BFF since childhood (basically another sister) worked at Arcadia in the main office this year and actually fielded calls from people (peeps in ROC know the difference between the schools, but people calling from around the country didn’t know and didn’t care).  She said people were very rude and nasty.  Apparently the group Anonymous sent death threats.  (Dude, threatening to kill someone over bullying is bullying to the 100th degree, isn’t it?)  My other sister was involved with the Greece Athena Middle School PTA this past year.  She has a disabled grandson attending Athena, so she joined the PTA to smooth the way for him (and others in wheelchairs) to receive the best mainstream education possible.  She was in the hospital when the story broke and received 1300 emails in one day.  And some people knew the kids or parents.  So it wasn’t an ideological discussion; it got very personal, very quickly.  My perspective was global; bullying is a major problem now and the amount of money donated to that vacation fund tells just how much the video struck a chord.

The second surprise was the amount of anger around the event, the large sum of money donated, and the role social media played, which was accompanied by an underlying embarrassment.  After listening I said, “The core issue has nothing to do with Karen Klein.  She didn’t do it, video it, post it, or create the vacation account.  The money doesn’t matter.  The issue is that the kids didn’t have a sense that it was wrong; someone actually videoed it and posted it online!  Don’t they have a conscience telling them what’s right and wrong?”

Which lead to the third surprise:  “Oh, come on, Kar, don’t you remember bullying in middle school?”  Actually, I don’t.  Walked to school K – 6 and took the bus 7 – 12.  Sat in the first half of the bus and if I wasn’t talking to someone, I had my nose in a book.  (Pretty much had my nose in a book whenever possible from eight to seventeen.)  And I was always one of the tallest kids in class until high school.  I probably got teased more at home!  So no, I don’t remember bullying at school.  Thank God!  But the “I don’t condone it, but middle schoolers will be middle schoolers” attitude riled me.

When my 20 yr. old nephew came home with two friends, I asked, “Dudes, what do you think about the bus monitor situation?”  His 19 yr. old friend replied, “Really? Still?”  I was surprised he was as ‘over it’ as the adults were!  “Seriously, I want to know what you think:  Is this typical ‘middle school bullying?'”  The 21 yr. old friend replied, “I was a real turd in middle school, but I never would have done that.”  The consensus from the teens/newly twenties was it was unacceptable and not what they experienced in middle school.

Clearly bullying is not just a Greece Athena problem!  Ever watch Glee?  My BFF in Denver has a very talented son who didn’t act in any plays one year because of bullying.  Someone from Rochester tweeted this Bob Lonsberry blog post from a parent; also with the comment he couldn’t believe this was still in the news.  (Clearly everyone in the ROC just wants it to go away!)  Here’s a teacher’s response; easy to spot the divide in perspectives.

Regarding Karen Klein, I read she complained as a bus driver to the district about bullies and nothing changed.  It was very close to the last day of school.  Who knows if she heard everything the kids said; the article linked to her name above indicates she has hearing problems.  Or she could have acted as a decoy.  I don’t know why she just sat there.  It would be very appropriate for her to donate some of the ~$700K she’ll receive to Greece Athena Middle School for an anti-bullying program ($100K?) and to speak once a year.  That would be giving back after receiving so generously while doing something positive for the school and kids.

Why is bullying such a big issue now?  Who’s responsible?  How can we fix it?  Potential solutions:

Parents:  Have to set expectations with their kids they will show respect to everyone, teach behavioral boundaries and teach tolerance.  Kids don’t have to like or trust everyone, but they have to show everyone respect regardless of differences.

Schools / Principals:  Have to issue a Code of Conduct (rules of behavior) that get reviewed with all students at the beginning of each school year, to which they sign and are held accountable.  Need to consider hiring security guards for buildings and buses.

Teachers, Counselors, Bus Drivers (adults who work for the school district and interact with students):  Have to report any students who do not follow the established code of conduct.  Simply put, the adults have to protect all students, plain and simple.

Students:  Have to stand up for themselves and others and tell people if they are being bullied or witness it.

No matter when you went to school, bullying is different now and has increased teen suicide rates.  Everyone must fight it … because it could be your child.  This story out of Japan (who’s been portrayed as infinitely more respectful and disciplined than U.S.) should shake you out of any remaining lethargy.

What do you think?  Have you talked to your kids about bullying?

P.S. Learn to Write

“Bad writing is killing America. Learn to write well.” ~ @petershankman

Recently on Twitter, I ran across a Livestream link to Peter Shankman speaking at a conference; heard him speak at Social Fresh last year and loved him.  Peter is funny, gets social, wrote a book called Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World, and just makes you feel good.  So I listened to him while doing other things, but when he got to his rule: Learn to Write, I clicked over to watch the Livestream.  He had written down some of the classics:  Your vs. You’re and Their, They’re and There, etc.  Decided then I’d write a blog post titled P.S. Learn to Write. (Get the double entendre? Ooh, I’m funny, n’est-ce pas?)  It actually took a few more things to make it happen, but first, my English teacher impersonation:

Your:  Indicates ownership or possession, e.g. “Put your shoes where they belong.”  Meaning:  Those shoes belong to you, but they sure as hell don’t belong there!  (See English can be fun!)

You’re:  Contraction for you are, e.g. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met.”  Meaning:  Flattery will get you everywhere.  (See English can be fun!)

Their:  Indicates ownership or possession, e.g. “Their yard is amazing, isn’t it?”  Meaning:  “Why doesn’t our yard look that good?” (wife) or “Jeez, I wish our yard looked like that!” (husband)  (See English … OK, you get my drift!)

They’re:  Contraction for they are, e.g. “They’re spending the summer in the south of France.”  Meaning:  Um, they’re very lucky!

There:  Usually a place, e.g. “I’ll see you there.”  “Put them over there.”  “I would love to go there!”

The one that’s bugging me enough to write this post (before the mishaps below) is how people caption their photos on Facebook and Twitter.  A basic rule of thumb for when to use I or Me:  Say it without the other person and you’ll instinctively know the right grammar!  For example, “I’m going shopping.”  “T and I are going shopping.” “T invited me to go to the south of France with him.”  (Yes, please!)

So for pictures:  Let’s say we’re at the beach, the caption would read, “T and me at the beach” or simply, “T and me.”  It’s never “T & I at the beach.”  If T weren’t in the photo, I wouldn’t write, “I at the beach.”  If it’s a picture of me alone, I can write, “Here I am at the beach,” or “Me at the beach,” or simply, “At the beach.”  Most photos I see have captions that read, “Dick, Jane, Spot and I.”  Correction:  “Dick, Jane, Spot and me,” because if you remove Dick, Jane and Spot … it’s just me (not I)!  Unless you write something like, “Dick, Jane, Spot and I went to the park and had a blast!” because removing them would still result in proper English, “I went to the park and had a blast!”

OK, so while that has made me want to go all Grammar Police, the following things happened in May:

1.  A friend posted this headline from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper to his Facebook profile.  I immediately spotted the mistake and commented, “Where have all the editors gone?”  The headline was published with the word ‘Politically’ spelled wrong.

2.  An agency advertised a freelance social media position, so I checked out the website where I found the word ‘Article’ spelled ‘Artcile’ and the hyperlink didn’t link to the intended article.  It immediately made me question the agency’s quality of work.  When I recently rechecked it, the entire segment was gone.  Not linking here though because my copywriting skills could help them!

3.  Someecards posted this picture to Facebook yesterday and while I liked the sentiment, I couldn’t help but correct the grammar before reading the other comments.  Turns out half of the comments related to the grammar!  Affect = influence, effect = result; sign should read, ” …. affect me … affect you.”

4.  The coup d’état of grammatical/editing errors occurred on Mitt Romney’s mobile app where America was spelled ‘Amercia.’  Either Mitt was giving a big shout out to the role the CIA will play in his government, or somebody working on his mobile app clearly wasn’t paying attention!

So, does any of this concern you?  Is it just the overzealous English major in me?  Or journalist in Peter?  Is it simply that everyone is moving so fast to meet a deadline that no one reads their final version?  Or is it indicative of a larger shift within our culture?  Sure, people’s Facebook pages and Twitter profiles are their own, but these other examples are from major brands:  a newspaper, an agency and the Republican presidential candidate.  What’s really weird is the analyst in me identified that the three examples above all involve the letters I and C … so should we change “mind your Ps & Qs” to “mind your Is and Cs?”

I wonder if in ten years we’ll officially use ‘your’ interchangeably like people already do?  Will it become acceptable for brand documents, websites, apps, etc. to contain grammatical errors/typos?  Am I just being a priss ass?  Or is my brother Jeff right; I should have been an English teacher?  The truth is, I agree with Peter:  We all need to learn to write well!

Please comment below:  Is our country in dire straights when it comes to writing or are we just communicating at such a pace there are bound to be errors?

The Beauty of Facebook Groups

In February 2011 I joined Social Fresh Tampa’s Facebook group, which became the Social Fresh East group this spring.  This experience has shown me the beauty of FB groups up close and personal.  Facebook groups are a very versatile way for people to communicate, where the members don’t have to be FB friends.  Groups go a step beyond ‘Liking’ a brand page, which posts status updates to your news feed, because you receive FB notifications when anyone posts to the group.  While Facebook’s original intent for groups may have been for families or close friends, there are some excellent organizational uses for groups that everyone, not just marketers, can use.  Here are some ideas:

Conferences & Events

After registering for Social Fresh Tampa,  I received a confirmation email with all details, along with a link to their open FB group requesting I join.  Prior to the event, there was a lot of activity in the group, which generated pre-conference excitement.  I was getting to know people ahead of time; names, faces, positions and could follow them on Twitter, etc.  During the event, the FB group was an excellent method for communicating logistics.  Have you been to a conference recently?  Many people aren’t on their email constantly, but they are on FB and Twitter.  The group provides an easy method for all logistical info:  “Please use the Twitter hashtag #socialfresh if you’ll be live tweeting; We’re having boxed lunches delivered at 12:30; More water is on its way ~ you all are a thirsty bunch!; Is it too hot/cold in here?; We need more Power strips! and last, but not least, Reminder: cocktail hour begins at 4:30 sponsored by Chevy.”  But it was what happened after the conf ended that amazed me; the year between SF Tampa and SF East the group remained very active.  People would ask app questions:  What app do find easiest to run FB contests?  Peeps also post jobs, make comments on changes within the industry, give shout outs and props to peers, make career/book announcements, etc. The FB group made Social Fresh Tampa much more than a 2 day learning event.  Before this year’s conference many speakers, whose topics were already announced, posted, “Scheduled to speak on xyz; but what do you really want to know about this topic?”  Yes, the group was used to gather customer requirements before presentation preparation.  I flat-out loved this;)  It’s so special to go to an event where you know people will give you information you really want!  Any conference or event that’s not using an open or closed FB group is really missing out on an amazing tool for creating synergy.

User Groups

Many software companies have user groups set up by region, etc. for their products.  These groups often meet every quarter or year.  Using a closed FB group for your user group doesn’t replace forum software per se, but it would combine all the advantages listed above for events as well as provide a prompt communication vehicle for bugs, a way for users to help each other, etc.


I don’t advocate teachers being FB friends with students under 18, but I can’t in good conscience overlook the amazing power of groups for education.  As long as parents review their kids’ security settings on FB and know they’re tight, each member shows what you have set as your public profile.  So whether it’s English, Chemistry or Physics, there could be a closed group for each class, grade level, etc.  Again, they are such an easy way to communicate logistics:  ‘Don’t forget we have a quiz tomorrow;’ ‘Snow Day today!’ or any other information that needs to be communicated immediately.  Of course there are all the extracurricular school activities; clubs, sports, etc. that can use closed groups for the same purpose:  ‘Practice is cancelled; we’ve rescheduled to tomorrow after the rain stops, same time, etc.’  Facebook must agree because they launched Groups for Schools last month.


Whether it’s middle school, high school, college, recreational or professional, any sports team can benefit by using a closed FB group.  It’s particularly helpful when you’re in transit or at events; not everyone travels or stays together, people aren’t hooked up to email, but they have their smart phones and can communicate with everyone at once:  ‘Accident on 5 near Exit xx, standstill, get off before …’; ‘Let’s meet at 6 a.m. for a quick pep talk before the meet.’  Besides logistics, these groups are a great way to foster team spirit and pre-game energy.

Member Organizations

Zoos, botanical gardens, philharmonic orchestras, museums, parks or any organization who offers memberships, but who are also open to the public, can use a closed group as the perfect way to offer members extra perks and deals, such as reduced food prices, advanced notice of upcoming acts or events, etc.  Use the group to give extra perks or benefits to your full-time members.  Facebook marketing maven Mari Smith explores this concept in her article “The Secret Power of Groups” in the February 2012 issue of FB & Business magazine.

Facebook announced file-sharing for groups this month, which incorporates a ‘Dropbox’ like feature.  So now you can communicate and share docs too!  Clearly Facebook’s group functionality goes way beyond families sharing photos; the potential uses are as limitless as our creativity.

Do you participate in Facebook groups?  Do you like them?  Are you using one for another purpose?  Please share your ideas!