Shutting Down the Whinery


It’s a fact of life that (1) we don’t always get what we want and (2) it’s only natural to want to kvetch about it. Consider, for instance:

  • The book publisher who rants that all of her authors are back-stabbing her.
  • The graphic designer who laments that the cute guy from Starbucks with whom she had a perfect first date hasn’t called her back for a second one.
  • The small business owner who trashes his competition for holding a sale two days ahead of his.

These individuals are entitled to be paranoid, weepy, angry, disappointed, or even confused about the hand they have been dealt. Catharsis, as they say, is good for the soul. Unfortunately, it can be detrimental to your brand and to your reputation if you take your venting to the cyber-highway without considering potential consequences. This is especially critical for the self-employed (many of whom operate without any formal media policies) wherein the zeal for instant and widespread visibility oftentimes overrides good judgment. Even if you’re sensitive to such issues yourself, is discretion the watchword of everyone on your team? As an example, a colleague is currently dealing with the fall-out of an intern whose FB post – “I hope I get a cool job out of the merger” – precipitated the corporate news being made public.

As of this writing, the United States Census Bureau estimates that Planet Earth is now inhabited by over 7 billion people. Research further supports that over 25 percent of these people have access to the Internet. Staggering numbers, yes, but really not that hard to absorb. On any given day, I’m pretty sure that at least half the content wafting into my personal and business email accounts is generated by entrepreneurial spammers promising to share their inheritance, get me in on a ground-floor investment, or turbo-charge my sex life. While our mailboxes – both the traditional and the electronic versions – have always been subject to unsolicited intrusions, the accessibility of today’s social media networks has created a ‘global scattergun’ approach to sharing information, not all of which is necessarily welcome, useful or even appropriate.

The inability to separate personal content from business content is illustrative of a growing belief that there’s no such thing as TMI. And it’s not just today’s youth who are guilty of being immature; the trio of individuals referenced at the beginning of this blog are all over 40 and, frankly, should know better. The fact that social media sites are figuring so prominently in employee background checks, online shopping and story research by reporters should be a prevalent red flag if you’re ever tempted to uncork all of your woes and those bottled up emotions and splash them all over a public forum.

At the end of the day, would you really trust someone to handle your company’s needs/secrets/finances – or, for that matter, to even show up for a live interview – if s/he has such an open-book history of recurring meltdowns, vitriolic ramblings or anxieties about self-esteem? Your public persona – the one that relies on sales, favorable PR and customer goodwill in order for you to make a living – calls for an artfully scripted approach that doesn’t deviate from the bottom-line message and skill sets for which you want to be admired, trusted and respected.


Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

Communicating with Color – by Jeanette Chasworth

Five Strategies to Succeed as a Green Business – by Shel Horowitz

Warning: Old Fashioned Fundraising Methods Can Kill Your Non-Profit – by Amandah Blackwell

Finding the One – by Nicole Reaney



Coming Clean With Clarity


As a media person, one of my favorite scenes in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) is when the amnesiac Kermit accidentally wanders into Mad Avenue Advertising, a frog-centric firm that has been trying to come up with a glam campaign and a catchy slogan to sell a product called Ocean Breeze Soap.

Introducing himself as “Phil,” Kermit listens to the lame ideas pitched by Bill, Gil and Jill but candidly rejects each of them before offering one of his own. “Why don’t you just say ‘Ocean Breeze Soap will get you clean’?” he suggests. By the reactions of awe and amazement from his fellow amphibians, it’s clear that the concept of just stating the obvious has never occurred to them. Now hopping with the excitement that their jobs in the ad game are no longer on the line, they welcome this visionary newcomer to the agency and all go off to a power lunch to celebrate.

I’m reminded of this scene every time I do feature interviews with people who are trying to promote their latest books, pitch their new products or encourage more customer traffic to their businesses. What I’ve often observed is a collective mindset that media opportunities are an excuse to engage in ambiguity, euphemisms, manipulative tactics to deflect criticism, and sometimes even a distortion of facts to put oneself in a more favorable light. Whether these approaches are intentional or just reflect a lack of understanding that “clever” isn’t synonymous with “clarity,” the result is the same: a thinning of trust that subsequently makes every claim seem suspect.

Consider your reaction, for instance, if every time you asked a salesperson about how an appliance worked, you received the answer, “Oh, that’s all covered in the owner’s manual.”  Yes, I’m sure it is, but why is this person in such a hustling hurry to make the sale that s/he can’t take the time to give me a straightforward answer about whether the appliance is easy to operate? The same goes for people who mysteriously shroud their replies in such heavy cloaks of industry jargon and doublespeak that customers feel too intimidated to confess they really don’t have a clue what was just said.

Authors, perhaps, are the worst offenders in this arena. I recently had occasion to do a feature interview with a writer about her book on Hollywood deal-making. As impressive as her credentials and experiences were, she answered almost every question with the curt reply, “It’s all in my book.” Instead of using this media moment as a chance to entice prospective readers – and potentially win trust – with selected tidbits and anecdotes to showcase her personality, she focused exclusively on pushing for the sale without providing any substance which might have justified that purchase.

Takeaway lesson: At the end of the day, simply tell us what we want to know in a way that allows us to make an informed choice.

Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

The Evolution of Crowd Funding – by Dr. Letitia Wright

How to Bring Your Brand To Life Through Video – by Tristan Pelligrino

The Myth About Being “Liked” (on Facebook) – by Penny C. Sansevieri

 Happy Holidays from everyone at Media Magnetism!

(And may 2013 bring lots of opportunities to shine in the spotlight)

Santa Watch

The Things That Come Back to Haunt You

If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the following conversation, a scene that takes place at the breakfast table on a weekday morning

CHILD: My class is having a Halloween party.

MOM: That sounds like fun.

CHILD: We all have to wear costumes. Can you make me one?

MOM: Sure, honey. What do you want to be?

CHILD: (with a shrug) I dunno. Maybe a dinosaur. Or Spiderman. Or a pirate.

MOM: Okay. So when do you need this?

CHILD: Today.

On the one hand, maybe your child thinks you have super-powers to just whip these creations up in a nanosecond. On the other hand, forgetfulness on his part doesn’t constitute emergency on your part and maybe this is an opportunity to impart a lesson. In either case, you’re still the one who comes off looking badly to your child, his peers, and his teachers if your first reaction after panic is to mumble an apology and then do absolutely nothing.

It’s the resourceful mom who takes a pair of scissors to an old shirt and pants, pats flour on his face and arms, rims his eyes with dark eye shadow, musses his hair and sends him off as a zombie. Crisis averted. And maybe he even comes home with a prize, no one the wiser that the whole ensemble was improvised in 20 minutes with items already on hand.

So what does this have to do with the media biz?

If you’re the owner of any type of business – including those in which you promote your talents as a writer, artist, musician – it’s only a matter of time that you’ll get a last-minute call from a journalist asking if you’re available for an interview. This usually occurs when a scheduled story falls through the cracks and there’s suddenly an opening that has to be filled. Under these circumstances, the worst thing you can say is, “Uh, can you call me the end of next week so I can throw something together?”

Trust me, you will not get called back. Why? Because there are enough other people with the wits to have anticipated this moment and assembled whatever a journalist needs to move the story forward – a press kit, plucky quotes, photos, a professional website. Not only does such preparation save them the stress of a zero-hour scramble but also averts the scary tragedy of a flaky reputation in the very circles they can’t afford to ignore.


Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

How to Make Your Advertising Appetizing – by Brandy Wheeler

Your Business Elevator Pitch – by Noelle Sterne

Your Brand as an Adjective: How to Define Your Brand with Design – by Pete Kelly

Choosing a Professional Photographer – by Devin Ford


Try to Remember

According to the calendar, it will be Autumn in just a few weeks. The view of blue skies and palm trees outside my office window, however, is evidence that Summer clearly has no intention of leaving gracefully. Still, my longstanding fondness for September goes back to the early 1970’s. I had just started out in theater and was hopelessly crushing on J.H., one of my fellow actors (“hopelessly,” I should point out, having much to do with his own crush on a dancer named Charles).

Of all the productions he directed, the one I most poignantly recall – The Fantasticks – embodies themes that I realized only recently have a correlation to modern media practices.


  •  “Try to Remember,” the show’s most popular melody, speaks to the nostalgia of what our memories often label as a blissfully uncluttered past. Yes, we’ve adopted all manner of complicated technology to make our lives – and our communications – spin at the speed of light but when did you last write an old-fashioned letter or make time for a face-to-face conversation?
  • “Never Say No” is a whimsical truism that it’s not just children who are drawn like moths to whatever flame they’ve been warned is bad for them. In order to create a call to action, an effective sales pitch often translates to the customer thinking it was actually his or her own idea.
  • Lastly, take away the golden moonbeam and the tinsel sky – the glitzy trappings of a campaign that promises more than it can deliver – and “This Plum Is Too Ripe” becomes the signature song of buyer’s remorse. Anything can look enticing when it’s masked in shadow but can it stand up to the scrutiny of bright lights?

If you want to attract a following as enviable as what currently reigns as the world’s longest-running musical, you don’t need a lot of song and dance, just a message that is simple…and unapologetically authentic.


Here’s the lineup of this month’s blogs by my guest contributors:

How to Tweet With a Purpose – by Jeremiah Sullivan

The New KISS is Keeping It Real, Pure – by John and Katie Stellar

Twenty-Four Things To Do in the Dark – by Shannon Mouton

Being an Author Goes Far Beyond Just Selling Books – by Anthony Kirlew

I’ve also added a new page this month called “Meet the Experts” in which you can acquaint yourself with the men and women who contributed such fabulous chapter content to the book.

As always, we look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions on media topics you’d like to know more about.

The Summer Game Plan

“Summer” is often synonymous with “vacation” but when you’re the one solely responsible for promoting your company’s image, products and services, there’s usually no such thing as “time off.” This month’s guest blogs are here to ignite your imagination and reframe your strategies for success:

Catching Flies With Honey – Lori Bumgarner

An Out-of-Date Bio & URL Can Lead to Disaster – Amandah Tayler Blackwell

Always Be Authentic In Your Marketing: Forget the Bait & Switch of Years Gone By – Leanne Hoagland-Smith

The Urban Legends of Social Marketing – Shannon Mouton

We look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions on media topics you’d like to know more about.