Reich Communications, Inc.

  • Reich Communications, Inc. is a boutique public relations agency offering full service in a variety of areas, with specializations in transportation safety, business-to-business; advertising, marketing and media firms; non-profits, and select consumer products and services. . . . For more info, call us at (914) 325-9997, email to david@reichcommunications.com. .... We are located about 12 miles north of NY City's Times Square ... at 112 Ridgeway Street, Mount Vernon, New York 10552. . .. For some examples of our work, scroll down to "Categories" below and click on "What We Do..."

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    « Smell of success | Main | A better definition of PR »

    March 13, 2012

    Comments

    Jeanne Byington

    David,

    Had I been on the team that pulled this off I would have insisted that the homeless be paid far more than $20. The project screams exploitation. How are the homeless people going to get out of their current situations on $20/day and some write-ups?

    As to the write-ups, what good? What percentage of the attendees work in Austin? How many of the homeless have the skills to work in this field?

    And who would think of tipping them? I consider myself generous but it wouldn't occur to me to give a tip to someone I felt was paid to do such a job. Do I tip policemen directing traffic?

    Years ago I was looking for someone to sew 30 giant round tablecloths and 300 napkins in a short period of time. One estimate came in at $4,000+ and the other at $200. I told the second person that we’d pay her $500 because it was essential that we meet the deadline. I was getting the bargain of all time, [it was beautifully executed], was well within my client’s budget and could look myself in the eye.

    I see a big difference between minimum wage hotel workers and these men. For one thing, they are inside in heated or air conditioned facilities. For another, they are paid for every hour of their time. For a third, if they are great, they might be promoted. And their job lasts more than a few days. I wouldn't be surprised if they have health insurance as well if there are unions involved in what they do.

    David Reich

    The people at the homeless program that worked with BBH on the project in Austin, Front Steps, is happy with the program, despite negative comments from some people. Front Steps' spokesperson Mitchell Gibbs had this to say about what thye project has done for the men, and it goes a lot beyond the $20/day they earned. This is from BuzzFeed, as linked from O'Dwyer's PR Blog.
    ...
    "Clients in case management were referred by their case managers directly to the advertising agency which selected 10 of the 18 referrals.

    This pilot is based on the street newspaper model and may provide an insight into the public's willingness to digitally interact with the homeless.

    Thursday was our training day and there was so much energy in the room! Especially when each person received their t-shirts with their names on them and viewed their hotspot profiles for the first time. Friday and Saturday were pretty bleak... the downpour of rain had kept SXSW participants indoors or dashing from dry spot to dry spot, and thus not much business for our clients. They were a little down, but several were anxious to get back out there and try anyway. Great spirit. When the rain stopped... there was again that rush of energy as they dashed into the sunny afternoon. "

    Clearly, this gave the men some feeling of hope and purpose, even if for a short time.

    David Reich

    @Jeanne... You missed a point, or perhaps I didn't explain it well enough.

    The homeless men participating in the program were paid $20/day, but they were given special shirts that had their first name and also suggested a small donation per 15 minutes of WiFi connection -- I think it was $2, or maybe $5. So although the men weren't asking for donations themselves, the T-shirts made it clear that donations would be gladly accepted.

    And the purpose of this wasn't to get publicity for the men in hopes of someone offering them jobs. It was to call attention to the homeless situation and to try to humanize these people.

    For a good look at how the people who run the homeless program in Austin viewed this program, see my comment above, which is from one of the directors at the shelter.

    Jeanne Byington

    David,

    While your clarification addressed the tip issue, it didn't comfort me. The agency shortchanged the homeless men. Had they paid the Federal minimum wage--$7.25/hour--I wouldn't have an argument.

    So they trained them and gave them a $5 tee shirt: Were the homeless men paid for training time?

    I see homeless people in this and other cities and don't need anyone to call my attention to them or their potential. I know educated, talented, hardworking people who at one or another time have been a nanosecond away from joining them.

    I visited one foreclosed-on home and was heartbroken envisioning the pain this family endured having to leave behind toys and furniture and their beloved dream. For these reasons I can't condone paying anybody an inappropriately miniscule amount of money—far less than the cost of the tip and tax the agency staff pays at a business lunch.

    I have been a discount shopper my entire life and nobody gets more excited about a fabulous buy than me. However, I don't price the clothing that's on sale. The argument I've heard that the homeless men had $20 more than they had before or that it would take hours for them to beg for this amount or that nobody forced them to take it or, as you note, the homeless agency is pleased with the initiative, doesn't address the fact that the agency took advantage of people with low self-esteem and no bargaining power, to draw attention to their clever selves.

    I may be overreacting because this approach is increasingly acceptable here. It’s symbolic of the hysteria over asking the 1 percent to pay its fair share of taxes, of giant corporations with money in the bank paying hardworking interns $0/hour for which they should be thankful, of people negotiating credit card bills stuffed with frivolous purchases rather than paying the full amount or grinding vendors to the bone and the like.

    Rocco Sacci

    It is a very good idea. What is the difference between these individuals being paid a set wage plus encouraging tips than the waiter/waitress/room maid receiving below minimum wages because we all know they work for tips?

    David Reich

    Yes, I agree Rocco. And Jeanne, it's not as much about the actual money (because even $50/hour for 2 or 3 days won't get them out of their plight) but about helping give a feeling of worth, teamwork and a bit of optimism to get them through another day.

    Martha Takayama

    I am appalled at the notion that indentured servitude or serfdom must be the next step in remedying our economy in the second decade of the 20th century. Homelessness on a widespread scale, as it is now in the U.S., had always been something we thought of as characteristic of other, far away, inferior places. Now that it is becoming more and more menacing to American society we are evidently taking pride in developing new twists to engage in pre-Industrial revolution and/or early 20th century labor practices,coating these operations with absurd notions of successful training, munificent donations, morale-building and other ludicrous nonsense. I am hard put to believe that any thinking person could accept any positive slant on this con. Perhaps there will be a forthcoming national prize for Creative Hypocritical Exploitation to be awarded!

    David Reich

    Thanks for the comment, Martha, which I know is from the heart. I don't however, see this as an exploitive stunt. Would you feel the same if some college kids were hired to mingle in the crowd, which is what these men were asked to do? I do agree they should have been paid more, but the actual pay seems not to be the issue here for many.

    Sherry Goldman (twitter @sherrygoldmanpr)

    I think it was not a well thought out PR plan. Another example of how PR people sometimes don't look at the longer-term and the ramifications and only go for the quick gimmick. For one thing, they should have been paid, at least, minimum wage - not $20 a day. That's insulting and probably illegal. Then, they should have done something to make these men "no longer homeless" - Giving them $20 a day and a t=shirt saying they accept donations (tips) will not help them beyond maybe getting a few hot meals. A real cause marketing program, that did involve these human hot spots, would have been a much better program for everyone involved, including the client.

    David Reich

    Sherry, it may not have been the PR people who did this, but the marketing people. True, PR -- if they were involved at the start -- might have cautioned them about the too-low pay. And yes, this could have been the start of an ongoing effort to help.

    Thanks.

    Sherry Goldman (twitter @sherrygoldmanpr)

    David, I agree with you. And, I do think it was a marketing agency, but they clearly did not think this through beyond the 'immediate marketing ploy." Guess this again proves that people need PR people like us!

    The comments to this entry are closed.