.... my 2 cents ....
musings on marketing, media, public relations....and life,
by David Reich
Reich Communications, Inc.
Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency in New York City offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; transportation safety; non-profits, and select consumer products and services.
For more info, call us at (212) 573-6000, email to david@reichcommunications or text to 914-325-9997.
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Here's something I posted a year ago, but I feel it's worth repeating at this time of year. I hope you enjoy it.
My daughter Jennifer was taking her older son Jack, 10, to school recently and, as he got out of the car, he asked a question that worries many parents at this time of year. His question -- "Is Santa real?"
Jen didn't have a simple answer, so she said it was complicated and she'd tell him when he got home from school. She thought about it and wrote down her thoughts in a beautiful letter that I'm sharing below, with Jen's permission.
An interesting side note... Jen is Jewish and her husband Jon is Christian. The boys, Jack and his brother Gabriel, 6, are being raised with traditions from both faiths. Not necessarily the religious dogma, but traditions like lighting the menorah on Chanukah, having matzoh for Passover and, of course, at this time of year decorating the Christmas tree and waiting for Santa.
I am so proud of my daughter for expressing her thoughts so beautifully and helping keep alive a beautiful tradition that makes this time of year magical for so many people -- especially children. Wouldn't it be nice if in this way we could all retain our inner child?
Here's Jen's note to my grandson Jack...
You asked a really good question earlier and I didn’t have time to answer it then. It is a question I knew was coming sooner than later, and I had a feeling it might come around this Christmas. It is a question that parents all over the word have to face at some time, and it is bittersweet. So I came home and gave it some serious thought and here is my answer to your question, “Is Santa real?”
Yes and no. Your image of Santa, as a big, fat, jolly man in a red suit and a beard, flying all over the world in s sleigh, is not real. You are a smart kid and you probably have questioned for some time how that could be possible. The presents under the tree that are from Santa are in fact from Daddy and I, and we fill the stockings too. After you and your brother go to sleep on Christmas Eve, Daddy and I are hard at work, sneaking quietly to make Christmas magical- just like Grammy and Poppy did for Daddy, and their parents did for them.
And that is where the other part of the answer comes in- Santa may not be real in the way you thought, but the spirit of him is a real part of Christmas. The story of Santa has been around for hundreds of years and the magic his story creates for children is a beautiful thing. And for adults too! I know that Santa is not real in an actual sense, but I still believe in his spirit as a grown up. I still feel the beauty and magic and love on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, even though I know the truth. And I hope you will too.
Santa teaches love and magic, and hope and happiness. He creates the ability to believe that anything is possible, that there are miracles in the world, and that giving to others freely is the surest way to fill your heart- and theirs- with joy.
So while now you may know that Santa himself isn’t sneaking down our chimney at night, I sincerely hope that you can still believe in the magic and beauty of his story. I hope that Christmas still feels special for you and that one day, you will make the Santa story come alive for your own children.
Learning about Santa is a big step in growing up. I have to admit, I shed a tear or two writing this as there is a certain part of childhood you are leaving behind. But here is the neat thing: you now get to be a creator of this magic, a helper, and elf, if you will. It is important to let each child realize the Santa story on their own, or the magic can be ruined. You are now a guardian of Santa- like Daddy and I have been for you. You must keep his story alive for those that still believe, like your brother and your friends. It is a really big responsibility but one that you must take seriously. You can now help spread the love and the belief in miracles and the magic of Santa- you are now on his team, as Daddy and I have been for all the Christmas mornings you can remember. Welcome.
You may have more questions, and I am happy to answer them. Or you may just need to let this sit for a while. Just know that while the Santa you see at the mall surely is not real, the love and generosity and spirit of kindness and giving that he instills in people is very real and very important. Be sure to carry the Santa story with you in your heart forever.
Here's the latest newsletter we wrote for client The National Road Safety Foundation.
The newsletter describes some of the programs and activities we create and help manage for this client -- contests to engage teens in talking about safe driving; tie-ins with media like Scholastic, the top publisher of in-school magazines, Teen Kids News, the nationally-syndicated news show that airs on 220 TV stations; and lots more.
It's hard to believe that email has been widely used for only about 20 years. It is now the dominant form of business communication, far outstripping snail mail and faxes.
We got rid of our fax machine about a year ago, after the only things we got via fax were paper-and-ink-consuming promos selling everything from discount travel to health plans to discount fax toner. And there are many days that go by where the only thing the mailman delivers to the office are ad flyers, unwanted and very fat office and cleaning products catalogues and the occasional bill. Some days, there is actually nothing in the regular mail.
What's happened? It's all in email these days -- virtually instantaneous and free. On a typical business day, I get upwards of 200 emails.
A survey just out, reported in Research Brief (via email), shows most of us check our email at least once a day. Forty-four percent of us check email at least a few times a day. Most of us (67%) check our email mostly via our smartphones, with the rest about evenly split between laptops, desktops and tablets.
Before writing this, I did some checking to learn when email began. For me, I was reluctantly pushed into using email by a client back in the early 1990s. The client, out in Palo Alto, Calif. would have me draft a news release and then send it to them by fax. They would fax back their edits and have me fax back the final for them to review and give a final go-ahead. Back then, I still didn't have a regular computer. I was using a word processor. I'd make the changes and then do a mass mailing to targeted media, making hundreds of copies, labeling envelopes and running them all through a postage meter. The postage alone often cost $90 - $100 or more.
At one point, the client said either get a computer, use email or we'll have to take the business elsewhere. So I bought a Compaq Presario all-in-one unit, only because the guy next door had the same unit and I felt if I needed help, I could just run to him.
Now, I can't imagine working without email. (Thanks for the push, Rocco.)
Email officially began in 1978, my research shows, when an Indian immigrant working a summer job at a New Jersey medical school created a way for the office staff to share their memos electronically. Siva Ayyadurai, then 14, gets the credit for the first email, despite some claims by others including a Ray Tomlinson, that they created email as early as 1971. Those claims, it seems, have not been substantiated.
Even as late as 1982, there were only about 1,000 email accounts worldwide. The explosion began in 1983, when it grew tenfold to 100,000, growing again by 2-1/2 times by 1985 and then doubling every two years till it reached a million in 1989.
The growth continued to skyrocket, hitting 5 million in 1992, 10 million in 1995, 25 million in 1996 and 400 million by 1999. It crossed the billion mark in 2007 and 4 billion in 2013.
It looks like the media are in for a tough challenge when it comes to covering the White House after Jan. 20th.
Unless we see some major changes, which are always possible when it comes to the president-to-be, information will come from the White House primarily by Twitter and possibly other forms of social media like YouTube.
It's good to get information out to the public directly, which the White House currently does via Twitter and Facebook. But if very few (or none at all) news conferences are given, then how will the media do their jobs -- which is not to simply parrot what's being handed out, but to ask questions and follow-ups?
That's the normal procedure ... the give and take of a news conference. The president or his press secretary may choose to avoid answering some questions, but at least they get raised and hopefully some actually get answered. It's not a game of gotcha or political partisanship -- it's merely the media trying to keep the public accurately informed.
But as we've been seeing, normal is no longer normal.
A story on Politico the other day advised journalists to keep asking questions and if news is generated via tweets, to incorporate unanswered questions into their news coverage. If wrong information is given in a presidential tweet, such as the recent assertion that much of the 2 million vote lead for Hillary came from illegal votes, the media will have to, even as they report on the tweet, include in their news stories that the initial statement or allegation is incorrect.
It will make for some challenging reporting and writing, but we must rely on the media to fact-check for us even as they report. And they may have to stand up to calls of media bias from some. But remember, it's not bias if it's truth.
We may be entering a new era of reality, and more than ever we will need the free press to keep that reality truthful.
Before the internet, it was pretty easy to know what news was real and what might be fake, exaggerated or inaccurate.
For real and accurate news, we could rely on major newspapers, radio and TV. We knew -- or most of us did -- that certain newspapers like The National Inquirer and News of the World, often found at supermarket checkouts, were sensationalist at best and totally fictional at worst. They featured stories about 2-headed cats, 1,000-pound women and celebrity exposes. Most of us knew not to believe them, even if they did make for entertaining reading.
The internet and social media have made fake news a major problem on many fronts.
During this past election, fake news often played a major role in driving the national discussion. At least one candidate, now our president-to-be, often cited wrong information gleaned, whether knowingly or not, from fake news stories online.
And throughout the election furor, many of us saw fake news stories online and believed them, often sharing them with others on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. We're learning now that some of this fake news had been spread by sources connected with Russia,possibly in an effort to impact the election. Many other bogus news stories, spread via "shares" on Facebook, came from independent entrepreneurial hackers in eastern Europe, with no political agenda but instead the desire to make thousands of dollars when advertisers paid per click for viewers to their sites. They quickly learned, through trial and error, that stories about Trump drew the most views.
Although I know some might disagree, stories taken from news outlets like the major daily papers, networks and cable channels, as well as online sites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and ProPublica can generally be trusted as legitimate and accurate.
But with so much news online, how can we trust that it's real?
That looks like it will be a major question for some time to come. Sites like Facebook are trying to monitor fake news sites and take them down, but they seem to pop up as quickly as FB can knock them off.
I think the answer, for now, is to rely only on what we know are reliable sources. Conservatives will say the major dailies, especially The N.Y. Times and The Washington Post are not reliable, but I strongly disagree. When they publish something that exposes something questionable about a candidate or about the president whether it's Obama or the incoming guy, they are fulfilling their role in our democracy -- a free press that can publish fact, whether or not flattering to the people in power. That's how the Founding Fathers planned it, and any attempt to minimize or hinder that role, whether by political parties or by the president himself, must be fought at every turn.
The free press may have a tough road ahead, with an incoming president who has expressed outright disdain for them even as he has used them to his advantage. We will have to rely on the courts to back the media as they try to keep our government and our leaders transparent. And each of us can help by subscribing to newspapers and supporting non-profit journalism like ProPublica and NPR.
The early leaders of this country recognized the critical importance having a free and unfettered press, which is why they added Freedom of the Press as the very first of Ten Amendments to our Constitution. It says, in part... "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
A free press serves as one of the checks on our elected officials, including the president. It is their job -- their role in our free society -- to keep us informed accurately and to seek the truth - the story behind the official media releases and sound bites. I'm not talking about digging for dirt, but digging for the truth behind the headlines.
The major media like The New York Times and The Washington Post have certainly taken political sides in their editorials and op-ed pieces, but that's what those sections of the paper are supposed to be about. But the news stories -- the straight reporting -- from those outlets is generally unbiased and accurate, despite what the president-to-be may say, when he doesn't like what they've reported about him.
Like many others, I am concerned with the attitude of our president-to-be towards the media. For years, he has courted them to get as much attention as he possibly could. It worked very well for him during the primaries, where his often outrageous statements and tweets got full attention, often to the detriment of his opponents.
When he didn't like what a media outlet said about him, he would ban them from his events, threaten to sue and/or make snarky comments about them on Twitter. And, more troubling, he continues to rant against the media in his tweets, even as he is preparing to take on his new job.
That attitude and behavior toward the media will be inappropriate, to say the least, and potentially harmful to us, the citizens who will be paying his salary.
Admittedly, President Obama didn't hold lots of open news conferences. But the media got a daily briefing from the press secretary, who was then open to questions and further digging by reporters. I would hope and expect that the new administration will have daily press briefings and that all pronouncements from the White House won't be limited to 140-character tweets.
I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like the free press will be in for a tough time with the new White House. Unless there's a major shift in attitude, reporters will be kept at bay, subject to expulsion from future news conferences if they report something the new president dislikes, and feel under constant threat of being hit by a lawsuit or some government action if their reporting isn't to his liking.
I do hope I am wrong on this, but I can only base my concerns on past action we've seen. Hopefully, he will grow into the job.
Meanwhile, however, there is something each of us can do to help keep a free press alive. It is quite simple... buy a newspaper or, better yet, buy a subscription. Support the big dailies like The Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, or buy your local paper. Listen to and donate to PBS and NPR, known for their independent and in-depth reporting and analysis.
Another thing to do is read and donate to ProPublica. Here's what ProPublica is about, taken from their homepage...
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
The Mission: To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.
In the best traditions of American journalism in the public service, we seek to stimulate positive change. We uncover unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform. We do this in an entirely non-partisan and non-ideological manner, adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality. We won’t lobby. We won’t ally with politicians or advocacy groups. We look hard at the critical functions of business and of government, the two biggest centers of power, in areas ranging from product safety to securities fraud, from flaws in our system of criminal justice to practices that undermine fair elections. But we also focus on such institutions as unions, universities, hospitals, foundations and on the media when they constitute the strong exploiting or oppressing the weak, or when they are abusing the public trust.
Does this sound like something we need now more than ever? Go to their site, read them and, if you can, support them with your donations. https://www.propublica.org/
There have been some news reports including a front-page story in USA Today about a rise in hate crimes happening around the nation these past few days.
This is very different from political protests and marches that we've seen in several cities following the election. Those are people exercising their right to express fears, frustration and anger, but they are not tinged with any signs of racism or anti-Semitism.
The hate crimes, which USA Today attributes partly to people emboldened by the racist undertone of Trump campaign rallies, have taken the form of swastikas and "Make America White Again" painted in public parks and playgrounds, and signs in or near schools and universities proclaiming "Go back to Africa" and "Whites Only." Totally unacceptable and totally un-American.
Now is the time for the president-elect to step up and roundly condemn actions like these. He said he wants to be the president for all Americans. Then he should not wait until newspapers begin printing editorials urging him to speak out against this. He must act now and do it in a statement to the people through the media -- like a news conference -- rather than via Twitter. It's much too important to be relegated to 140 characters.
I know he must be very busy now, but speaking out against such hate should be a top priority that cannot wait.