#IceBucketChallenge: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The #icebucketchallenge. That wonderful game I stumbled across on my Facebook feed where we dump ice water all over ourselves to evade charity and subsequently loosely associate ourselves with charitable human beings. It’s a weird kind of catch-22.

Amazing that, given a choice between donating $100 and being dumped with ice water, the people who choose the latter and upload the videos instead of donating consider themselves activists for the charity. Slacktivists, really. Or even clicktivists.

Credit: The Daily Mail

Credit: The Daily Mail

But before I get all cynical (I suppose it’s too late?) it looks like the campaign has raised nearly $30 million, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. They jumped out of nowhere, activated Twitter and a funny concept, took it to the next level and onboarded several million dollars to boot. Not bad for a few days’ work. Naturally, the fun won’t last, and this is the ALSA’s lucky 15 minutes of fame, just like its ancestors the Harlem Shake and KONY 2012 before it.

What I Like

I can’t tell you why the program went viral. There’s no science to predict campaign or Internet virality, despite significant research to nail down some indicators. I’m surprised the ALSA made it this far, but they had one thing going for them: celebrity endorsement. Now, I’m not always a fan of celebrity endorsement, but if you have famous people pulling stupid shtick all for a good cause, it’s bound to get some media attention. And where there is media attention, there is buzz and money. Hence the millions in donations.

What I Don’t Like

There is no connection in my mind between ice and ALS. Now, I’ve been trying to use my imagination, but either its powers are limited or the campaign simply assumes an improbable and random connection between two elements of a vastly disjointed universe.

Photo Credit: Forbes

Photo Credit: Forbes

The best campaigns are the ones that let the audience forge the connection in their brain without having to Google what the campaign is trying to achieve. That’s where ALSA failed a little bit. Case in point: we were sitting in a bar last week and my friend saw some celebrity dumping ice over someone else on TV, and she wondered out loud why she had seen a lot of that recently. I’d never heard of it.

Yeah, ALSA. #confusion…

Case in point #2: I’d seen a lot of random ice dumping videos in my Facebook feed. Being the impatient person I am, I didn’t feel like watching the videos until someone explicitly mentioned them to me, at which point the concept rose from the murky depths of my brain to somewhere just below my consciousness and I put 2 and 2 together and wondered what that ice water was all about, anyway.

You’ve gotta make it easy for people. And this sure as hell wasn’t easy.

ALSA wasn’t the first organization to activate this ice dumping concept, and only rumor knows where the idea originated, but it didn’t begin with ALSA. It wasn’t even coined by ALSA for its purposes – the movement began organically and swept the organization by storm. And that’s okay – you don’t have to be the first in a category; you have to own it first. Think Facebook vs. MySpace. And the examples are endless.

Now for the Shocker…

The tables will turn and my seemingly endless cynical diatribe will climax with a staggering announcement: I think ALSA did the best it could, where it was, with what it had. The program wasn’t the result of endless corporate brainstorming sessions, tweaked PR plans and agendas. From the coverage, it seems like they capitalized on an opportunity. A good opportunity. A really good one. And they did a phenomenal job with it.

Ironically, the organization is getting whole lot of coverage. Some of it neutral, a bit of it positive, but largely negative. Which is unfortunate for them, because, sure they have problems, but ultimately the intention is good. That doesn’t indicate the ends justify the means, but still, it’s not like they’re doing something really, immensely, terribly BAD.

If you work in PR, you better believe we know how to roll with the punches, newsjack and squeeze the juice out of every opportunity. While ALSA could have adjusted elements of its approach in hindsight, the campaign did one thing, and it did it really well: it elevated the organization and brought it to the forefront. Sure, they got got a decent bang for their buck, and that’s important. But all over my Facebook feed, and all over Google news, and all over the hybrid news sites, I’m seeing the ice bucket challenge. And I may not know what it is, but even my friends are talking about it. So I’m going to look it up, because I want to stay in the loop. And that’s pretty much exactly what happened.


As Mashable points out, the giving won’t last. Totally true. But better to light one candle than curse the darkness. Plus, the ALSA is now $30 million richer. Not bad for a week’s work. The question is whether they can hold on to the momentum – entirely unlikely – and what they can do differently than all the social marketing campaigns of the days of yore.



Review: Coca Cola’s marketing campaign

So there I was, walking into Duane Reade, when I saw the Coke bottles.

That’s how all good stories begin, right?

I wasn’t sure why there were names on them – and then I put 2 and 2 together. There were rows and rows of Coke bottles in the store, and each bottle had a different name on it.

photo (1)

The initiative is a marketing campaign to elevate Coke’s brand and position it as a global leader in happiness. Go to Twitter and search #ShareACoke.

The campaign is f—ing BRILLIANT. Because when I saw the names on those bottles, and then realized MY name could be on one, I started pawing through all the bottles trying to find my name. I couldn’t find it, but think about it. If people can find their own names on Coke bottles, that means the bottles were custom made for them.

With love,

from Coke.

And if something is custom made especially for you, and it’s sitting on a shelf in a grocery store, you don’t just leave it sitting there. You walk it up to the cash register and you buy it. Because it was made for you. And maybe you even continue returning to your local grocery store to buy those drinks that were made especially for you. It makes you feel loved; like a huge conglomerate brand is looking out for you. Yes, you.

Sharing is caring

Plus, Coke wants you to share. We learned how to do that in kindergarten, right? And because Coke shares itself with everyone, including underprivileged folks in far flung countries, they’re doing a good thing. And we like to support good things. This campaign perfectly aligns itself with Coke’s mission to spread happiness everywhere. (Watch this video on the happiness machine.) Each personalized bottle instructs me to share. I’m not supposed to buy the bottle for myself; I’m ideally supposed to buy it for a friend. Not only am I doing a nice thing by buying my friend a personalized Coke, but I’m helping the world by doing good things and spreading the love. This is beyond Coke. It’s about me. It’s about my friends. It’s about the world.

Not only do these bottles call your name and beckon to you in Duane Reade, they promote a positive social movement amongst the bloody headlines and weary citizens of the globe.

Props, Coke. Absolutely genius.

Newspapers won’t disappear, at least not yet

I entered my freshman year at Maryland with the intent to declare a journalism major. I interned at newspaper during high school, and while it was a great experience, it didn’t leave enough of an impression to drive me to enter the field.

During the orientation before school started, I went with the potential journalism students, and we were all asked to introduce ourselves and our intended majors. Most of them wanted to be broadcast journalists, and I stood up and said I was considering both journalism and PR. Dead silence fell over the room. The professor told me that I better choose—the two are not compatible. (Because journalism students are taught that PR people suck but we’re a necessary evil. We actually love journalists. It’s a mutual relationship.)

And being in PR I’m familiar with more trade, national and local publications than most people are. And I recognize the names of the journalists who work at these outlets.



I eventually chose the PR major, because I wanted to have a job 20 years down the road, and I wanted to make more than 20K a year. Don’t get me wrong. Journalists are great, and I believe that honest and accurate reporting is truly a cornerstone of democracy. If you can make it out there, props. We really need you guys.

This post is a response to the post I reblogged below from @iamavig, which focuses on the non-utility of newspapers in today’s digital era. So go ahead and read it, then continue reading my post.






Oh come on. Seriously go read it.


















Did you read it?








You can only continue reading here if you read his post. That’s the rules.




I’m not really sure what the post is trying to say, exactly, but he does say that most people don’t read newspapers. That’s true. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a hard copy newspaper. Here are a few things I think they are useful for:

  • Shabbat reading, like he says,
  • Sitting in Starbucks and chilling, and
  • Local news.

My family gets the Gazette, which is a local newspaper distributed to the residents of our county. Much of the content doesn’t really get posted online, because it’s hyper local.

Also, I’m sitting in Starbucks as I write this, and there is a guy the table over reading some print publication. I see this a lot in Starbucks, so print isn’t defunct just yet.

I think what he’s really trying to get at in the post (and I could be wrong) is the future of newspapers. No one can deny the trend toward digital news, and the closing of newspapers all around the country every year only emphasize this trend.

My prediction is that newspapers will still be around for a while, because older people like hard copies. My grandmother moved to New Jersey from Portland about five years ago and she loves reading the New York Times every day.

But as millennials age and replace these people, I think hard copy papers will increasingly become a relic of the past. I did some research for my journalism classes last year on the effects of youth being raised with digital devices, and have come to a couple conclusions:

  • Their attention spans shorten, and the brain’s circuits for close reading literally disintegrate, making reading texts more difficult. (This may apply to digital texts too; it’s unclear.)
  • Screen time is addicting, because it forms synapses in the brain that need those connections in the future. Put simply, no screen time = withdrawal.

Once these kids become contributors to society, they will be conditioned so that reading print texts will be really difficult for them. This could spell doom for the print industry, but we could also see a counter cultural dystopic backlash toward digital. With the pace things happen today, it really is anyone’s guess.



It’s hard to say whether newspapers will totally disappear, but we all know the industry is shrinking with the trend toward digital. This study, whether credible or not, notes that in North America and Europe, print viewership dropped 5.3 percent in 2013 and 10.3 percent over the last five years. TV news viewership has radically decreased in recent years, and is, interestingly, mostly watched by older people now.

I think this was a heavier response than he probably bargained for, but hey. Something to think about. I welcome all comments.





Most people these days don’t read a newspaper…ever.

I’m one of the few that still gets home delivery, of the New York Daily News, which my delivery guy delivers promptly two hours late every day; and I don’t really read (aside for Saturdays), but others at home do.

My paper of choice is USA Today. Sure, most of the stuff in there, and the problem with all papers really, is that the news is all old, in this day and age of Twitter and 24-hour news stations and websites.

Some of the things I look forward to are their circles at the top of every section, which are timely and generally related to the cover story. When they first unveiled these, Stephen Colbert picked on them, and the paper promptly responded to his task.

While I mostly ignore their Money and Sports sections (being that I work…

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How my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day actually turned out fantabulous

My blog is generally reserved for media, PR and tech topics, but I’m going to make an exception today, because sometimes humanity is really freaking amazing.


This picture has nothing to do with my post. But I took it one time and I’m supposed to add graphics to blog posts to get more reads. So here you are.


Yup, another one.


Friday was yet another rainy day last week, and it started out fine, but quickly went from ok –> bad –> worse –> freaking awful. I got on the A train as usual, took it to 59th Street and went to transfer to the B, where I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

For 20 minutes. On the DC metro, waiting for 20 minutes during rush hour should not be unexpected. (see @unsuckdcmetro.) But in NYC, that’s not okay. I asked a guy if he knew what was going on. He told me he was waiting for the B at a different location for a long time and decided to take another train. Apparently the D also goes to 34th Street, so, already really late, I jumped on that. When I exited onto Herald Square, it was downright POURING. And, silly me, I don’t own an umbrella or raincoat in this city. I was immediately soaked. It’s a .04 mile walk to the office, and I’m still learning the way, so I was squinting at my phone in the rain trying to figure it out. After a minute of miserableness I decided to get a cab and I walked into it soaking wet.  Continue reading

Why #YesAllPeople misses the boat


In light of the Santa Barbara shootings and #YesAllWomen hashtag that’s been trending for days on Twitter, I wanted to write something short on the recent hubbub. I know I’m not the only one out here writing about this, and if you don’t want to read it, that’s fine too. I’m not really going to talk about the shootings and the whole social issues surrounding them, because everyone else can do that. I want to talk about my own views which resulted from my upbringing and personal experiences.

And a *disclaimer* — if you read the whole post beginning to end and disagree, that’s great. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

We live in a conflicted society; women have more opportunity than ever, and I don’t really want to complain. I don’t think complainers have ever changed history, and Twitter itself and my blog are not going to reverse the course of any social issues on its own. But I think it’s important for people to understand that despite women’s power and status in Western culture today, we still have an intense fear every time we walk down a dark street at night, because women are still taken advantage of.

Many people within the orthodox Jewish circles think our culture is immune to this. Yeah, bad stuff comes out every now and then, but the percentage of crime is lower in our circles.


It’s just not discussed.

I have a friend who dated someone within the orthodox circles who was physically abusive. Don’t assume the worst, but what he did wasn’t okay, and she asked him repeatedly to stop. Which he didn’t.

I have friends who were harassed by a sick man who followed them off a bus and down the street, making moves that made them scared for their lives.

I had a personal experience with an older man on an empty bus in Israel, which I know was no accident on his part. The bus was empty besides the two of us and the driver. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to talk about it. I’m talking now.

Further, in the orthodox circles, many girls are taught they should dress modestly to conceal what’s inside, much like precious jewelry is kept in a nice box. And there are more legitimate reasons, but that’s not the point. Some have also been taught that we should dress so men don’t lose all human decency and suddenly start lusting after us. Obviously the onus is on us to be respectful of their base urges, because naturally that would be the first thing to spark if we weren’t dressed appropriately.

I HATE that concept.

Firstly, it’s degrading to men. It objectifies them as much as it objectifies women, and reduces them to animalistic beings that can’t control instincts. Secondly, it’s a stupid idea. If, in fact, that is the case, seriously? Tendencies and instincts are controllable. And you DON’T impose rules on other groups of people to simply convenience yourselves. Because for those women who are stupid enough and sheep enough to subscribe to that ideology, who are you doing it for anyway? Who told you to do it in the first place? Yeah, men.

I was taught to think feminism is a dirty word. I used to say, “yeah, I think women should have equal rights and stuff, but I’m not a feminist.” Well, now I am.

My point in all this is that for those who responded with the #YesAllPeople backlash, I agree. Everyone deserves the right to equality and certainly to not be abused. And I get it, men are sometimes abused too. I understand. But the vast majority of those people who are marginalized and mistreated are women. And therein lies the problem.

Social causes are not based on small, noncohesive elements of marginalized societies; they stem from fairly large cohesive units who share common denominators and who desperately seek change. And that’s what this hashtag is about. Because if you’re a guy reading this and you can tell me you and all your guy friends have been harassed or abused, then you can intervene. You can criticize me and the women posting with #YesAllWomen. But if the answer is no, then just settle down, and for once, just listen.