How Do Bloggers Know When a Publicist is a Liar?

08.3.12

This morning I noticed an interesting piece at the Edelman Blog about Ryan Holiday’s Book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. I’ve not read the book. I know that he pulled a stunt with one of the journo sites earlier this month so I was curious as to what the content might be and when Edelman wrote this:

 Holiday begins by describing “a scam called trading up the chain. I can turn nothing into something by placing a story with a small blog that has very low standards, which then becomes a story for a larger blog and that in turn for a story by larger media outlets.” Holiday’s media landscape begins with small hyper-local websites that are understaffed and traffic-starved. He then moves the story on to the online versions of legacy media, sister sites such as Mainstreet.com, which update often but have less editorial oversight. Finally one gets to the national media. Holiday contends, “This takes less direct pushing and a lot more massaging…the smaller sites will submit your articles to news aggregator sites like Digg…mass media monitors the aggregators for story ideas and cover what is trending there.” He suggests reverse-engineering a story path; knowing that mediabistro and Gawker are heavily read by the “New York Media” set, you “craft your story for those sites.”

A lightbulb went on over my head. In fact it was accompanied by dinging sounds and colored lights. I realized (not for the first time) that Mom Bloggers in particular are targeted by trust me liars every day.

Most often it’s fairly benign with folks being duped into thinking that a product performs differently than it does. Recently the Corn Refiners had a group of Mom Bloggers believing that “Corn Sugar” (the new name for High Fructose Corn Syrup) is somehow good for you… or at least not bad. America’s waistline suggests otherwise but we don’t need to have that debate today. The Corn Refiners succeeded in making a small group of smart women look gullible and untrustworthy. When the two groups of people (bloggers and publicists) walked into that room one of them had a plan.

Yesterday quite a few parenting bloggers got the following email from the kids at O’Malley Hansen Communications:

Hi, [redacted]:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).

I’d love to discuss an initiative/project we’d be thrilled to have you be a part of. Given your expertise and platform, we’re really confident you would be a perfect fit for an educational (yet entertaining) video project regarding modern farming practices and consumer concerns. I am happy to share more information/discuss your potential involvement further at your convenience.

Essentially, we’re seeking a “consumer representative” to ask experts questions about modern farming and GM crops/food. The video will not be scripted and we hope to simply create a discussion between you and a specific expert.

Please feel free to give me a call or let me know when a good time is to chat. This should be a really interesting project that has a significant impact. You will have an opportunity to represent thousands of consumers/moms with families to feed and ask important questions about farming, food supply, etc.

Specifically, we want you to ask questions regarding the nutrtional implications.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

314.xxx.xxxx

Modern farming! Why yes, who doesn’t have questions about that? It’s not like you drive past a red barn and see pigs rolling around in muck anymore. Farming has become industrial and our food looks different now than it did just a few years ago. Why? Well because folks like Monsanto make products like roundup to kill weeds. The problem with killing weeds is that it also kills plants you want to grow. The solution? Well, you can create new plants in a laboratory (which should NOT be confused with creating a hybrid) with altered RNA that will not be affected when toxins like RoundUp are sprayed over the fields.

Another cool things that scientists can do with crops is to sterilize them. These alterations in plants create Genetically Modified Organisms. Much has been written about GMOs. On the softer side of the news they tend to bankrupt farmers. You see the soy and corn they buy can’t produce seeds so the farmers are beholden to the scientists that create the seeds each year. This is not sustainable.

The Atlantic has a nice article about some of the dangers of genetically modified foods. If you don’t feel like reading it I’ll give you part of the punchline: cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and infertility.

So what does this have to do with  O’Malley Hansen Communications, The Center for Food Integrity and  Trust Me, I’m Lying?

Well, if I connect the dots appropriately I see that O’Malley Hansen Communications is inviting mom bloggers to be on camera asking scientists questions about farming on behalf of the Center for Food Integrity (CFI). Why wouldn’t they ask a FARMER about farming? Well, because farmers can’t answer questions about RNA and food safety and farmers are probably terrified of CFI because the members of CFI include giants like Monsanto that can make a farm disappear. Having a blogger ask the questions may look like an endorsement to the casual viewer. Mommy endorses GMOs! PR wins… health loses.

This is all very curious timing. Here in California we’ve put Prop 37 on the Ballot. Prop 37 would require packaged foods that contain GMOs to be labeled as such. KPCC has a list of folks who have donated money for and against Prop 37. There’s a bit of overlap between the two lists with Bimbo bakeries being the one with the largest overlap donation at $17,783.28. The CFI can’t help the con side without some level of disclosure so I’m sure that one has nothing to do with the other. I’m CERTAIN getting a news story placed about how GMOs are safe has nothing to do with the fact that Prop 37 has huge support here in California and no one is saying you can’t have GMOs, all they want is for consumers to know where they are.

Moms, what I’m telling you is that this isn’t a coincidence. Do NOT go on camera with a scientist to talk about food. Ask a farmer that doesn’t have a publicist. Promise them anonymity and get a real story. If you love your children (and I know you do) you won’t ignore the fact that $1,186,000 has been spent by The Council for Biotechnology Information, The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Dupont, and BASF Plant Science to prevent YOU THE CONSUMER from knowing when a Genetically Modified Organism is in your food.

If it didn’t matter would they spend the money?

Everyone knows that the moms matter. It’s an election year ladies, let’s stay smart and learn from Ryan Holiday about the publicists who are liars.

If you’d like to join the grass roots campaign to Label GMOs please go to CaRightToKnow.org and pledge your support. We need you. 

A Little More About Obesity

02.16.12

When I watched this video one of the many striking moments was the bowl full of candy in the classroom.

I love that we’re finally acknowledging the link from fatty and sugary foods to obesity and morbidity. Our bodies were built to survive famine, but it’s clear that we don’t survive the feast nearly as well.

Obese Kids Need their Parents to Change

01.5.12

Childhood obesity gets me riled up. Since parents bring groceries into the home, are in charge of media consumption and after school activities I see childhood obesity as being an issue that lands squarely on the parents’ lap.

Clearly there are a few children in the world who have medical issues and for whom weight gain is unavoidable. For the rest of our children they are obese because of parental neglect. It’s horrible when you’ve failed your child. I have failed mine in quite a few ways, recently medically, and I’ll talk about that another day.

Go to your facebook page, someone has posted a class picture. This is mine from 1979. I was in the fourth grade. I’d don’t see one fat kid. It’s not about looking good or being cute, you’re looking at a couple dozen healthy kids. Does this look like a fourth grade classroom today?

Kudos to Georgia for finally taking care of it’s children. Let’s hope that the state provides them with healthful school lunches and joyful physical education.

Fat acceptance and pandering to self esteem is killing your children. Just watch these videos made by five brave kids. If you want to help a child worry less about their feelings short term and worry more about their health in the short and long term. Kids aren’t stupid, they know they’re fat and they need help. They need a whole community to change around them.

Be the change.

Jaden has withdrawn
Maritza has hypertension
Tina doesn’t want to be picked on
Tamika has type two diabetes
Bobby’s parents have ignored his obesity

A Very Real Question For Publicists And For Nestle

02.7.10

It’s not a secret, I have an uneasy relationship with publicists. Oh, except one. Stephanie. I have a terrible relationship with food manufacturers, I really wish y’all would too. Food growers, particularly organic ones, they’re kinda hawt, and we have a good relationship… rumor has it we might kiss one day.

On the 5th I briefly noted that Nestle is in search of a public relations firm who can help them with the most recent backlash regarding their ill fated Mommy Hawking event.  Stephanie addressed my disdain with a really thoughtful comment.

Hiring a PR firm is exactly what they should do–assuming their intent is not to dissemble and spin but to get some counsel on how to repair their reputation through honest bridge-building with their consumers, critics and any other stakeholders important to them.

Oh really? I never really thought of it that way. My take was, and we will see if it still is, that Nestle needs a business plan and not a public relations plan. To be fair, I’m a Mommy Blogger so my exposure to the world of Public Relations comes in the form of emails that start with, “Dear Mommy Blogger.” and ends with “I’d like to send you a sample to review.” Oh, I’m also invited out a lot. You don’t’ see a lot of reviews here, and you don’t see a lot of sponsored events. I’m not as PR friendly as some, so perhaps that’s why I’m left not understand why anyone would go to Nestle Headquarters.

Here’s the event. I know it looked like fun, candy is fun, but hard questions were certainly not asked.

More check-ins at Nestle Headquarters
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Nestle isn’t good in my community. It’s substandard food, made with cheap ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated gloop. Were it not for their foray into social media I’d never mention them, they’d be off my radar as just one more junk food brand that doesn’t belong in my house. I don’t consider myself part of their formal boycott, because even if Nestle complied with the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes they still don’t have a product that appeals to me. If predictions are based on history, it’s unlikely that Nestle will comply any time soon.

With all that being said Nestle jumped into the virtual community of Mommy Hawking, and, well, here we are.

I have a few questions I’d like answered. I’d love to hear from publicists about this. I’m trying to understand how all of this matters. I know as a Mom I chose my brands with great care. I try to not bring things into my home that will harm my children. I don’t understand Public Relations, and I think this is a great moment for us all to learn something. Most of us bloggers only know Public Relations through press releases, spin and parties. What else is there?

If you’re a publicist would you mind answering any or all of these questions for us?

1. Do publicists help businesses shape a businesses marketing practices or simply react to what is out there?
2. When there is a thirty year boycott how does a PR firm address it?
3. Should a thirty year boycott even be addressed? Obviously Nestle makes plenty of money.
4. Is there ever a client you simply do not want?

I’m going to offer something unusual here. If you are a publicist, you may answer these questions in the comments and remain anonymous. Make up an email address, make up a name, or just write “publicist trying to keep my job” I don’t care. I moderate the first few comments anyone leaves here, and I’ll send through anonymous comments on just this one post.

I really do want to hear from you.

Drive Through Fast Food: What to Eat in Los Angeles on a Hot Day

09.26.08

Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles was hot. Not sort of kind of hot, but 100 degrees plus hot. I picked the kids up from school at three and they were ravenous.

So, I did what mothers all over the United States do every afternoon.

I took advantage of the drive through for fast food.

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