Tag Archives: injustice

Reputation Management and Appropriation, Lessons in Ethics from Edmond Dantès

My study of communications and public relations was taught by passionate adherents to Ivy Lee’s Declaration of Principles – that it is the ethical responsibility of a public relations practitioner to offer uncompromising truth to the public on behalf of one’s clients. Perhaps because of this, and despite working in high tech for 16 years, it should be un-surprising that I view the use of technology in the form of bots exponentially deployed during the United States 2016 presidential elections, let alone anywhere else, as abhorrent.

My various social media accounts address the complexities of my person; Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram serve as outlets for my professional existence while Pinterest and Facebook are more intimate expressions – at the intersection of these social platforms is my blog. While I have a blog I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself ‘a blogger’ (it is not a commercial venture). Yet my writing on this platform, having gone viral, has had impact – in part responsible for shifting public policy and the proposed exploitation of the pristine waters of the Adriatic in 2015/2016.  While building my own Instagram presence I admit to being thoroughly perplexed as to how (with the quality of photos and nominal content offered) fellow travel specific accounts could possibly have earned followers approaching 100,000 in less than a month. Thus, the clarity offered in reading Jess Gibson’s Dear PRs post referencing ‘bot-gate’ was genuinely appreciated, and it’s also why I take a particular delight at the failure of Instagress.

The truth has always found a way to be revealed, in our connected world discovery of appropriation, fraud or illicit behavior comes down to days, minutes or even seconds with a few keystrokes and keen intelligence. Throughout history there have been individuals whose jealousy, ruthlessness, greed and sloth have risked fortunes and reputations for (perceived) gain or retribution – Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo anyone? Just as Edmond Dantès took full advantage of his time falsely imprisoned to learn every skill imaginable in developing a faultless reputation and re-branding himself, every effort in thought leadership and in garnering a dedicated follower base, and fostering epic levels of engagement takes considerable patience, skill and acuity.

Beyond the Instagram bloggers’ ‘bot-gate’ other more widely known unveilings of deceit relate to appropriation of the resistance movement by Pepsi and State Street of New York City’s iconic bronze sculpture created by Arturo Di Modica.

The Tate Modern offers this essay on appropriation,

[…] to create a new situation, and therefore a new meaning or set of meanings, for a familiar image. Appropriation art raises questions of originality, authenticity and authorship…

All great art is subversive, a commentary manifest with physicality. Co-opting the passion found in resistance to injustice in its many forms, feminism, racism, environmental stewardship, and its related arts for commercial gain by the advertising industry has a vast history in the United States.

Fearless-girl-vs-arturo-di-modica

I don’t like what Fearless Girl ‘is’ specifically because she is contrived by Mad Men to gender-wash their clients’ bottom line. The $2.5 trillion (under management) State Street Global Advisors opted for a publicity stunt on International Women’s Day of instead of doing the long overdue ‘hard work’ of creating a work environment of equality and gender partity or proactively investing in education for girls on a global basis. For the unaware allow me to point out that advertising (in which both Pepsi and State Street engaged) is only related to public relations as it is a part of the greater communication functions in general. It seems to me if you are retained to represent the interests of a seven or eight figure client your responsibilities should include candid risk assessment to any proposal you present. Ultimately this all comes down to proactive reputation management versus putting your client in the rather costly position of damage control through crisis management.

With so much to lose why take a chance in the first place?

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About cows, milk, and the “all natural” lies told by Chobani to build brand loyalty

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog my writing about cows may seem off brand – it’s not, please stay with me

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The gentle lovely things we assume will always be such when we are children take on a different level of clarity (or denial) as adults.  If you (I, we) hold onto your childlike wonder – a good thing in many regards – there are some rude awakenings to be encountered.  I have a theory that any kind of awareness, real thoughtful and thought provoking awareness, sneaks up on you and then slaps you upside the head. And, then, YOU GET IT! (Thank you PETA advocates for all of your efforts for so many years!) 

“The only way I can pay back for what fate and society have handed me is to try, in minor totally useless ways, to make an angry sound against injustice.” ― Martha Gellhorn

containersWhen I was in 1st grade my beloved teacher Mrs Dwyer took us on a field trip to a dairy farm (well at least I only remember the cows, there might have been other animals). I distinctly recall the aqua blue and white insulated container that my mom put my favourite lunch in, leftover chicken croquettes, for the trip. And, I remember the smell of the cows, pfew-y! But what I also remember was the way that the farmer introduced us to them, each one, a name (like us) not a number on a yellow tag hanging on their ears. I had forgotten about this until recently but it’s important to our collective connection to other sentient beings and our food systems and global food security.  

milkWhilst many prefer soda pop (diet or otherwise) I am a milk drinker, never so satisfied as a tall glass with a couple of ice cubes to make it even colder to drink. I also recognise the benefit this beverage of choice has made on my bone density and my teeth (at 53 still not a single cavity or filling, nor root canals).

As a native of New York state the homegrown Chobani once had my unwavering patronage in purchasing its yogurts (particularly Blood Orange, Passion Fruit and Pomegranate flavors) – and then the dedicated and passionate folks at Whole Foods and the Sum of Us outed Chobani for using milk from cows fed GMO grain (consider signing the petition) and my heart sank, and then outrage kicked in. I used to think ‘watchdogs’ were unnecessary – naïve, I know. But greed does stupid things to some people and taking the long view of impact on our planet, our health and that of the welfare of the animals with whom we are so indebted seems irrelevant when faced with ‘untold and vast riches’.  So, a product developed to not only create jobs, positively impact local economies, promoted as being “all natural” and generally leveraging its brand in positive ways (Olympic chobanisponsorship, Shepherd’s Gift Foundation) turns out to be another big corporate lie designed to build brand loyalty!  When you reach a level of success such as Chobani there is a moral imperative to do the right thing, and in doing so legitimately earn even greater brand loyalty in the process: I don’t take Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability lightly – in for a penny, in for a pound. If Chobani were really serious about “nothing but good” and the impact on our health they would also be concerned about the sourcing of the milk used for their yogurt, and driving an industry shift back toward the healthful origins of yogurt – something founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya purports to have mirrored in the creation of Chobani (yet another lie?) This isn’t (entirely) about Chobani’s business decisions, it’s really about cows – and us.

cowI go back to my experience as a six year old, blue skies and sunlight, a split rail fence and a beautiful cow’s eyes meeting my own and snuffling my hand; how a cow should live – foraging on sweet green clover, alfalfa and hay, a salt lick nearby and a cool stream of water to drink.

On Facebook recently someone posted a video of a man in Spain and a cow – it was so beautiful it unhappy cowsmade me weep (it turns out that Santuario Gaia is an animal rescue not-for-profit).  The contrast to the cows (in the picture at right) and the cows of my childhood and the rescued cow at Santuario couldn’t be more extreme.  In Germany, Kuhrettung Rhein, a thoughtful group dedicated to rescuing cows who would be destroyed when their milk production vs the cost of maintaining life ‘forces’ a farmer to make economic decisions – if you haven’t seen their “cows out of the barn videos” you simply must!  

If we as consumers and those working in the food industry do not recognise our extreme power to foster change – why not? This is old “news” as Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle:

“Into this wild-beast tangle these men had been born without their consent, they had taken part in it because they could not help it; that they were in jail was no disgrace to them, for the game had never been fair, the dice were loaded. They were swindlers and thieves of pennies and dimes, and they had been trapped and put out of the way by the swindlers and thieves of millions of dollars.” 

We must be the change we want to see, each of us must “make an angry sound against injustice”.  If we desire sustainable practices then we must vote with our wallets and yes, make hard choices (at least for now) to purchase products that are more expensive yet GMO free, that can be documented as being free of cancer causing recombinant bovine growth hormone, aka (rBGH) whose words of “all natural” and “organic” means just that and aren’t simply slick taglines developed to foster brand loyalty. To which end Chobani will never again find its yummy flavours in my shopping cart, Stonyfield’s will be getting my yogurt business once more (Whole Milk French Vanilla) and my milk drinking business (yes, I am hemorrhaging at the price of a 1/2 gallon) is going back to whole, organic and based on the ethical treatment of the cows themselves with the hope that my (drop in the bucket) changes will be met with those of others whose awareness precedes my own, and those of you who might just join us as a result of reading this post.

 

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