Opinion Series: Science for Social Good, Part I – Climate Crisis: How Science and Marketing Can Avert a Cataclysmic Global Crisis

How Science and Marketing Can Avert a Cataclysmic Global Crisis


Attacking the Problem of Climate Change Through Science, Data and Knowledge

Dwayne Flinchum, President, ScientificBrandsTM

As the global temperatures rise, extreme precipitation events will drop more water, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. Extreme flooding has become the new normal in many parts of the world. As reported by The New York Times, on October 6, nine to 10 inches of rain fell in Hoover, Alabama over 24 hours, flooding basements and low-lying areas. “It parked itself right over Hoover, and for five hours, it was unrelenting,” said Mayor Frank B. Brocato, a former firefighter of 42 years. 

In a separate story on CNN.com, on October 4, a series of storms hit northwestern Italy, unleashing a rate of rainfall never before seen in all of Europe. Over 29 inches of rain fell in just 12 hours. For context, 36 inches is roughly equivalent to the average rainfall one would expect in Seattle in a year. In the nearby town of Cairo Montenotte, weather records continued to fall by the wayside. A 6-hour deluge unlike any ever observed in Italy brought nearly 20 inches of rainfall, besting the national 6-hour record for all of Italy. 

Our Defining Moment as a Nation

The two bills currently pending in Congress include important components to address the growing climate crisis through sweeping change. According to The New York Times, “the climate provisions are designed to quickly transform energy and transportation, the country’s two largest sources of greenhouse gases, from systems that now mostly burn gas, oil and coal to sectors that run increasingly on clean energy from the sun, wind and nuclear power.”

“The impact will touch a broad cross-section of American life, from the kinds of cars that Americans drive, to the types of crops grown by farmers, to the way homes are heated and buildings are constructed. One measure could shutter virtually all of the nation’s remaining coal plants, forcing sweeping change in communities dependent on mining but also, one study estimated, preventing as many as 50,000 premature deaths from pollution by 2030. And other measures would provide billions to replant in national forests, repair trails for hikers and clear brush to reduce the risk of wildfire.”

That sounds like progress, doesn’t it? To the contrary, the new legislation has been fraught with conflict. Our great reckoning as a country boils down to our ability to pass policies that have not achieved a consensus. Even within their own party, Democrats have encountered dissent through Senator Manchin’s opposition to plans that would affect his state’s coal industry. Since Democrats could lose control of Congress in 2022 and Republicans have demonstrated little interest in climate legislation, the U.S. could face a period of many years before another opportunity arrives. This is a delay that scientists agree the world cannot afford.

Besides flooding, The Economist reports that the area burned yearly by wildfire in the U.S. has quadrupled in the last 40 years. While a majority of Americans — 61% polled in 2021 — believe that climate change is real and caused by humans, 36% of the country believe that extreme weather just happens occasionally. There is, in fact, still a large portion of the U.S. population that denies the need for change. 

An open mind and the willingness to change are imperative to meet the emerging risks and dangers that are presented to us. We must reduce emissions to avert the plus 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We are already close to realizing a sustained 1.5 degrees above those levels and will continue to see the calamitous impact of that increase in the coming years. We are in this progression now. The denial of this crisis is unthinkably regressive. It is an affront to the idea that science is truth and that it can guide us toward positive, sensible change.

Horse First, Then the Cart

The problem with our current approach is that we are beginning with policy before building public support. The need to act is clear, but these measures never earned widespread adoption. We did not achieve a common understanding of the science among government leaders. This neglect becomes more understandable when we consider that the research organizations working to define the challenges are not the ones best suited to tell their stories and communicate this urgency to the public or to Congress. Responsible media outlets report climate data and news, but we live in a confusing labyrinth of opinion-news with controversy stirred through media personalities broadcasting opinions that actually conflict with the science. 

Media, marketing and communications can help the scientists who are helping save the world. We can build a foundation first. These research missions are the most critical initiatives of our lives, but there is much work to be done to inform and educate a vast swath of the population. True change requires buy-in at a broad level, emotionally and intellectually. We must raise awareness and work toward large-scale behavioral change, driving whole populations into action. We must encourage support for the scientists and organizations that are leading new research and advancing knowledge. Most importantly, we need to persuade political leaders that substantial legislation and new public policies are the first steps to avert this irrevocable global emergency.

The right agencies and communications firms can help create a compelling national discussion and shape this narrative through science fact and truth. Organizations like the Ad Council can be funded on levels appropriate to the challenge in order to manage the media and creative for a multi-year initiative. Private enterprise and philanthropy will need to engage further. 

Science needs media, marketing and communications support at a significant scale. This is the greatest threat to humanity that modern civilization has ever confronted and there is no time to waste. It is past time we began telling the story. 







About the Author: Dwayne Flinchum is the President of ScientificBrands™With 30+ years of experience, he has worked in the strategic planning and development of brand identity, media, marketing and communications initiatives, leading image-defining engagements for global companies and nonprofit organizations. Flinchum founded IridiumGroup and led the firm to success as a brand consultancy for global clients by managing strategic and creative consulting for preeminent private foundations, professional associations, and national cause-based member organizations. For 18 years, he played a significant role in differentiating and building the Accenture brand worldwide. In 2016, Flinchum became a member of the Leadership Team and the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Child Mind Institute and in just three years, achieved accelerated growth of 300-400% across KPIs to dramatically grow audience, build brand awareness, and extend the reach of the public education program and its online resources.

A Few Proven But Simple Marketing Tips for Not-Safe-for-Dinner-Table Brands Who Need Help Creating Exposure

Frances Tang, CEO of Awkward Essentials

Marketing a brand that’s “not safe for work” can be a little tricky. When you have to be mindful of the audiences your products are exposed to, you may not get the attention or respect that other brands command. 

Fortunately, you can market your products effectively if you get a little creative. 

Get an In-Depth Understanding of Your Target Audience

The first step of marketing is knowing who you’re marketing to – no matter what your product is. Customer personas are an important part of this and offer a profile of the people that define the segments within your target audience. 

Think of customer personas as semi-fictional archetypes that represent the key components of a big segment of your audience, based on the data you’ve collected from research and analytics. Once you know who you’re talking to, you can create content that resonates with them.

Create a BIG Personality – and Stick with It

Every brand has a unique personality – just like people – that offers something for customers to relate to. Think of these traits as adjectives like innovative, family-oriented, edgy, humorous, or controversial. 

When you have a firm handle on your brand personality, you can make sure your messaging is tailored to that personality and reflects your brand accurately. 

Here are some pointers to creating a brand personality:

  • Know your brand, inside and out. Create a clear set of brand traits and values. 
  • Determine what you want your target audience to feel when they learn about your company and use your messaging to engage those emotions.
  • Think big and bold. Your brand is controversial, so you have an opportunity to use some boldness, playfulness, humor, and edge to get the point across.

Consumers also appreciate openness and authenticity, which comes naturally to NSFW brands. If audience is looking for wit and sass, let it shine.

Embrace Humor

Humor is a great way to break the ice and release the tension with awkward topics. It also makes a brand more relatable, especially if your brand or products are related to topics that most people are uncomfortable talking about.

You’ve already seen this in action with commercials for adult toys or hemorrhoid creams. Most likely, those brands did something to make you laugh and relax a bit.

Humor matters, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Comedy is suggestive. What’s hilarious to some can be offensive or hurtful to someone else. This is why it’s vital to understand your target audience. 
  • If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can use humor to make customer visits more fun. Humor can break down awkward barriers and bring people into your store, even if they find it embarrassing. For example, someone may visit the adult bookstore as a “joke,” but if they feel comfortable, they’ll stick around and maybe make return visits.

Get creative with humor in your marketing. Here’s some inspiration:

  • Use self-deprecating humor about yourself or your brand
  • Create shareable content, like memes or infographics, that have humorous content. People like to share funny things, so you’ll get plenty of exposure for your brand. 
  • Create a marketing video that showcases your brand’s comedy.
  • Surprise your customers with unexpected products, like small branded items, when they subscribe or attend events.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ruffle Feathers (You Will!)

NSFW brands are controversial because they don’t, and can’t, appeal to everyone. If you attempt to please everyone, you’re bound to fail. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to embrace the lovers and the haters. This is true of every brand, but controversial brands are more likely to encounter some friction.

With the right marketing, you can attract your ideal customers, even if you make everyone else mad. But no matter what, remember that you can’t make everyone happy and plan for criticism. 

Keep these points in mind:

  • Show sensitivity to the feelings of others, but don’t be a doormat.
  • Use discretion when deciding what content is good for your brand.
  • Include a warning before showing content that may be offensive to some, such as “Parental Advisory” or “NSFW.” Even someone who loves your brand in private may not want it on blast while they’re at work.

You can gauge your audience’s reaction by testing out different content and messaging. 

Test Everything, Again and Again

With any brand, it’s vital to test marketing efforts and use data to refine messaging. Traditional marketing channels may not work for NSFW brands, but you may find plenty of new channels with an audience. For example, OnlyFans is a great place for a controversial brand, but Facebook and Twitter can be restrictive with content.

When testing, think about:

  • How are customers reacting to content? Focus on the successes instead of the failures.
  • How are your competitors reacting? Have they changed their messaging?
  • Are you gaining new customers? Losing customers?
  • Does the marketing cover each stage of the buyer’s journey, from early awareness to customers ready to make a decision?

Testing is a lot of work, but it pays off with your marketing efforts.

Market Your NSFW Brand

Marketing a controversial brand can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You just have to be a little more creative than the average brand and find new and innovative ways to promote your products. Show your bold, daring, and humorous brand personality and you’re sure to increase your exposure.

About the Author: Frances Tang is the founder/Captain Awkward/CEO of Awkward Essentials, a company that makes products that address the unspoken parts of hygiene. She is also the inventor of the dripstick — an after sex cleanup sponge. Frances Tang never intended to build a company around a post-sex cleanup tool, but the Awkward Essentials founder saw a need — and an opportunity — for an entrepreneur willing to go there. Now, Frances is leading a revolution for female founders, showing that fearlessness is a founder’s most important value.


The Perks of Phone Repairs (INFOGRAPHIC)

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Smartphones are a cornerstone of modern technology.  Now over a decade since their introduction, Americans are keeping their phones longer than ever.  In 2016, US citizens would replace their phones after 23 months.  By 2019, they waited 33 months instead.  Phones are sticking around longer for 3 reasons.  One, new features are losing their appeal.  Only a third of Americans are interested in upgrading to take advantage of new innovations and “wow features” on phones.  Two, high prices are delaying consumers’ choice to upgrade.  It is no longer unusual for phones to cost over $1,000, making the purchase of one a serious consideration indeed.  Finally, revamped carrier contracts aren’t following the 2-year upgrade cycle as often.  Neither carriers nor consumers are as wedded to the old model as they used to be.

When people keep the same phone for longer, it’s more likely their phone will break.  2 smartphone screens crack every second in the US.  72% of people have broken a smartphone before; being in their company is nothing to be ashamed of.  Before you rush to replace a broken piece of tech, consider the alternatives.

Right now, repairing one’s smartphone isn’t the popular choice.  59% of people would rather upgrade their device than fix an old one.  Despite not possessing mainstream appeal, the benefits of repairing a broken device are myriad.  To start, the environment is spared e-waste from the old phone and conserves the resources otherwise required to produce a new one when consumers repair their old devices.  Eco-friendly consumers should appreciate the impact their choice has on the planet.  For consumers motivated by budget, repairs typically cost less than purchasing a replacement.  Repairs even come with the convenience factor of not needing to save files or grow accustomed to new settings.

While phone repairs have the potential to benefit every consumer, the best investment is damage prevention.  Right now, many people aren’t taking the necessary steps to safeguard their smartphones.  44% of people weren’t using a case when their phone broke.  A shock-absorbent case can guard against drops and other damage at relatively low cost.  Additionally, a screen protector is a cheap, easy way to guard against scratches or cracks on the screen.  A cracked screen is the most common damage seen on smartphones, making up 29% of cases.

The new generation of smartphones are made to last. Cost-conscious consumers should enjoy the full cycle.


A Look at the Phone Repair Economy

Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

The Growing Role of Native Americans in Public Relations

Free Virtual Event

Presented by The Museum of Public Relations

Thursday, November 11, 6 PM ET


Native Americans in PR


Native Americans public relations professionals—spread across some 570 tribes across the US—have had to overcome communications challenges few of us have had to face. Many serve as social activists campaigning against environmental infringements and advocating for better healthcare on the reservation. Others serve to rectify long-standing misperceptions about Native Americans, working to eliminate demeaning portrayals in our popular culture in movies, sports, commercials, and textbooks. And many serve to represent tribal interests before big business and government, while preserving their unique tribal identities and passing the culture along to the next generations.

During our Native American Month celebration on November 11, meet the public relations leaders of tribes from across the country, as they share inspiring stories about the role of communications in promoting economic opportunity and preserving well-being throughout all of the tribes.


Catherine Hernandez Blades, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, SAIC

Panelists (to-date)

Randy’L Teton, Public Affairs Manager, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Fort Hall, Idaho

Brandon Scott, Director, Communications, Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Candace Hamana, Communications and PR Professional, Indian Health Service, Phoenix, Arizona


Thanks to our Sponsors

“Native American Public Relations” is sponsored in part by: Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication Department of Advertising and Public Relations at University of Georgia, CommPRO, and Muck Rack.

Sponsorship Opportunities

All sponsors will be thanked at the start of the program, listed in the program, recognized on social media, and featured on the home page of the Museum’s website.
BRONZE: $1,000 — recognition at the opening and close of the show; your logo or name on all event materials up to and including day of show
SILVER: $2,500 — all the above, plus access to our registration list
GOLD: $5,000 — all the above, plus opportunity to have a 15-second “commercial” at the start of the show
PLATINUM $10,000 — all the above, plus opportunity to have two 15-second “commercials” at the start of the show.

Your contribution enables free admission to students and professionals around the world, and make the program available to all after the event.

$5  |   $10  |   $20  |   OTHER 

From Madden Mischief To Madden Musings

Lemonade Serenade

Lemonade Serenade by Don Madden

Tom Madden,  Founder & CEO, TransMedia Group

Often when I meet people, I’m asked if I’m related to Steve Madden, the shoe guy, or the football guru and game creator John Madden.

No, but I did meet big John once at the then Bing Crosby Golf Tournament in Pebble Beach, CA .  At the time I was representing Bing’s wife, Kathryn Crosby, who wrote a book “My Life With Bing” I was promoting.  When big John and I shook hands, his was so large he made me feel like a Lilliputian.

And I’m no relation to Owney Madden either who was a leading underworld figure in Manhattan nicknamed “The Killer” involved in organized crime during Prohibition who ran the Cotton Club and was a boxing promoter in the 1930s.

No, my dad was Bill Madden. He was a lady killer with his violin, playing nightly at the Traymore Hotel and conducting his Atlantic City Festival Orchestra on Garden Pier in that city where saltwater air brought out ladies’ charms in that enchanting romantic birthplace of Miss America and cotton candy where I grew up not far from the high-rent blue properties in Monopoly, Boardwalk and Park Place.

I remember well those concerts when dad would conduct his orchestra playing Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” at the end of which I’d toss a handful of particles in the air that looked like snow showering the orchestra on a warm summer night.

So why don’t people ever ask me if I’m related to Bill Madden, the magician and concert violinist who started out in the violin section of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and wound up at Carnegie Hall.  Or to Don Madden, my brother the artist whose full-page cartoons graced every issue of Playboy Magazine for 50 straight years like the ones at the beginning and conclusion of this nostalgic piece.

Yes, art flowed in our family. Our dad was once called the world’s greatest gypsy violinist by non-other than the King of Romania one night in Sam Maceo’s nightclub in Galveston, TX.   I was way below the drinking age back then living on the gulf coast with my mom and dad at the swanky Buccaneer Hotel.

Way back in post-World War II Texas, Maceo’s was the one nightclub that stood above the rest offering the finest musicians like my dad, the hottest entertainers, and the ritziest crowds enjoying the state’s ultimate illegal gambling.

The Balinese Room on Galveston Island, where my dad played, was the swankiest spot on the Gulf Coast, the jewel in the crown of Sam and Rosario Maceo‘s Galveston-based empire.

The Maceo brothers were Italian-immigrant barbers turned bootleggers, who ended up as a gambling-club owners.  Their immense holdings on Galveston Island and their influence helped Galveston weather the depression far better than most cities across America.

If my dad isn’t impressive enough, how about my brother Don, probably the greatest living cartoonist.  Don is a master at drawing the most colorful and the funniest cartoons you ever saw.  They’re classic.

And me?

I’m a PR guy, a promoter and right now I’m promoting a stellar crop of Maddens whose talent deserves wider recognition and even greater acclaim.

So next time someone meets me hopefully they’ll ask “Are you by any chance related to Bill and Don Madden?

And I’ll say proudly YES!  You bet I am!

Thomas MaddenAbout the Author: Besides an inveterate blogger, Tom Madden is an author of countless published articles and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available in December on Amazon.   He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm serving clients worldwide since 1981 and has conducted remarkably successful media campaigns and crisis management for America’s largest companies and organizations.



“I thought I told you to stay off that subject!”




What’s Next in Advocacy and Government Communications?

Free Webcast

November 9, 2021, 5 PM ET

Hosted by: The George Washington University

Master’s in Strategic Public Relations


What's Next in Advocacy and Government Communications?


When senior executives turn to communications staff for guidance and counsel, are Millennial and Gen Z professionals answering the call differently? Issues including environmental stewardship, data privacy, and social impact and corporate social responsibility are increasingly taking center stage as public policy challenges. Join us for a candid conversation about the challenges and opportunities ahead for young people seeking careers in advocacy and government communications. 

Hear from a talented panel who are shaping how internal and external stakeholder communication responds.  The panel will share how they have built their careers as advocates for change and as public servants and get their advice on how you can follow a similar path. 

The GWU Strategic PR program and CommPRO are pleased to offer this opportunity for you to learn from these young professionals and ask them questions about work, grad school and career planning.

Register now to hold your place.


Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A., Associate Professor and director of the George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program


Troy Blackwell, Jr., Founder & CEO, Ready for Change



Scott Thomsen, President of the National Association of Government Communicators


Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A. (HOST)

Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A. is an award winning Public Relations professional and academic who is an Associate Professor and director of the George Washington University Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program. He has served in this role for 12 years and has built the GW Master’s program into one of the best known and admired programs in the US. Professor Parnell also serves as an Adjunct Professor of Strategic Communications at the GW School of Business.

He also operates Parnell Communications, a strategic communications and leadership training advisory firm. In this role he advises government, corporate and non-profit organizations on executive development and strategic communications.  

Prior to coming to GW, he had a successful 32-year career in the private and public sector. He has worked in government, corporate and agency settings and in national, state and local political campaigns. He was recognized as PR Professional of the Year (2003) byPR Weekand was named to thePR NewsHall of Fame in 2009. The GW Master’s program was named the “Best PR Education Program” for 2015 by PR Week

He is a frequent author and speaker on communications strategy, crisis and issues management, leadership skills and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at industry conferences and universities around the world. He is quoted often on communications management and crisis communications by the national, business and trade media. 

He is the co-author of a leading public relations textbook – “Introduction to Strategic Public Relations – Communicating Effectively in a Socially Responsible World” from Sage Publishing. In its first year, (2018) the text was adopted by over 30 leading undergrad PR programs across the country. The second edition of the text, titled: “Introduction to Public Relations” was published in October 2020 by Sage Publishing.  He also contributed as a co-author of a chapter on CSR in the book “Nation Branding and Public Diplomacy” (Peter Lang Publishing) published in 2017.  He is active on Twitter at @gwprmasters and on Face Book and Linked-In under his name. 

Troy Blackwell, Jr. (MODERATOR)

Troy Blackwell is the Founder of Ready for Change, a political action committee dedicated to get-out-the-vote activities and increasing voter participation among youth. He founded the organization after mounting a progressive campaign for New York City Council. Troy advocated establishing a citywide office of ethnic media to better serve New York City’s diverse 8.5 million residents. A seasoned communications strategist, Troy previously worked for now Vice-President Kamala Harris and traveled to 10 states in a press operations capacity. He has counseled nationally recognized organizations including Color of Change, SEIU, and Communications Workers of America. He has been a board director for PRSA-NY, the Museum of PR, and the Black PR Society. Troy’s communications work has been recognized via CRAIN’S NY Notable LGBTQ Executive, PR Week most purposeful person under 30, and PRSA-NY 15 under 35.


Benjamin Backer

Benji Backer is a lifelong conservative activist and the President and Founder of the American Conservation Coalition, the largest American conservative environmental organization. Benji has been awarded the Grist 50, Forbes 30 Under 30, Fortune 40 Under 40, Britannica 40 Under 40, RedAlert 30 Under 30, and GreenBiz 30 Under 30. Benji grew up in Wisconsin, recently graduated from the University of Washington, and is an avid Wisconsin sports fan. He spends his free time hiking, skiing, and drinking unsweetened iced tea.


Crystal Carson

Crystal Carson serves as communications director to Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Previously she was a managing director at Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote Initiative, and worked as a media consultant for President Obama’s personal office. Prior to this – she worked for the Obama Foundation, on rapid response for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and as chief of staff for the communications director in the Obama White House. Crystal is a graduate of Central Piedmont Community College.


Jordan Lacy Johnson

Jordan Lacy Johnson most recently served as a National Press Advance Lead for the Biden-Harris campaign, specializing in press advance and event activation in Georgia. Prior to the Biden-Harris campaign, Jordan was a member of the executive communications staff for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, where she oversaw strategic communications and engagement for the Mayor. Jordan previously served as the Communications Director for the Mayor’s Office of Resilience, 100 Resilient Cities program pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation where she led efforts on a wide range of environmental and educational issues. Previous experience includes work with Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland and the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College, a historically Black college and university.

Scott Thomsen – President of National Association of Government Communicators (SPECIAL GUEST)

Scott Thomsen is the director of communications and public affairs for the Ventura County Fire Department. He has more than a decade in government communications after working for news organizations around the country, including The Orange County Register and The Associated Press. He currently serves as president of the National Association of Government Communicators, which is dedicated to recognizing, developing and advocating for excellence in government communications.

PR Masters Series Podcast, Episode #54 – Michelle Olson, APR

PR Masters Series PodcastAbout the Podcast

The Stevens Group has been presenting the PR Masters Series Podcast for almost two years now.  This series is part of the ongoing partnership between The Stevens Group and CommPRO to bring to PR, digital/interactive and marketing communications agencies the wisdom of those who have reached the top of the PR profession.  Today’s special guest is Michelle Olson, APR, Managing Director/Partner for Lambert.



Michelle Olson, APRAbout Our Guest

Michelle Olson, APR, is the managing director and head of the Phoenix office for Lambert, a Michigan-based public relations firm with offices in three states. The nationally-recognized firm works with clients ranging from global brands to emerging leaders in a variety of industries including automotive and mobility, consumer, education, financial and business, food and beverage and healthcare and biotech. With more than 30 years in public relations and integrated marketing, Michelle has served clients across the U.S. and internationally, and has significant experience in corporate communications and issues management across industries. She is a notable business leader and entrepreneur, having founded and led her own company prior to its acquisition in 2014.

Michelle’s work for clients involved in the U.S. opioid crisis has drawn attention from top tier media across the country and has received recognition from industry trade associations. She routinely integrates content marketing, social media, brand journalism and other online initiatives into public relations strategies, reaching audiences efficiently and quickly to impact change. She currently leads non-traditional communications strategy for two distinct projects for Bell – its bid to win a Future Vertical Lift contract from the U.S. Army and its entry into the future of mobility through a VTOL air taxi and an Autonomous Pod Transport (APT).

In 2018 Michelle was named one of Arizona’s Most Influential Women in Business by BizAZ Magazine and her firm ranked #3 largest PR firm in Arizona by the Phoenix Business Journal. She is a past chair of Arizona Forward, a 50-year old statewide advocacy organization convening dialogue on sustainability and quality of life issues. Michelle is a member of the Urban Land Institute (and a founding board member of its Women in Leadership subset), Experience Scottsdale, the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. She has served as a judge for the prestigious Environmental Excellence Awards, the ATHENA Awards (recognizing outstanding women leaders) and the IMPACT Awards (recognizing Arizona’s most impactful companies).

Nationally, Michelle was recently elected to be chair-elect of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), a 21,000-member trade organization for which she has served as a leader at the chapter and regional levels as well. She was honored with the PERCY Award for her career achievements in Arizona in 2003 and previously chaired Counselors Academy, PRSA’s national section for agency owners and leaders. She currently serves as an advisor to the organization’s 10,000-member student body, PRSSA, mentoring its national committee and assisting at its governing assembly and leadership rally.

Michelle launched her career in Minneapolis but has made her mark in Arizona for 27 years, building relationships with business leaders, government staff and officials, influencers and media throughout the state. She is an avid mentor to students and young people interested in public relations as a career choice and a frequent guest lecturer at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Häagen-Dazs’ New Social Media Campaign

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

The ice cream giant Häagen-Dazs has started a brand new social media contest in Germany that aims to encourage consumers to turn their side gigs into full-fledged careers. The company’s campaign is targeting the younger generation of consumers, titled Generation Z, with the latest addition to its campaign being run by a creative agency named Space. This is an agency that helps artists, performers, as well as business owners  reach their true potential. Meanwhile, the new platform from Häagen-Dazs was created by Forsman & Bodenfors, while it was released back in June 2020. 

The contestants in the Häagen-Dazs competition are looking to win business mentoring, billboard ads, as well as a bursary of $3,500. Additionally, this contest is being promoted through both paid social and influencer efforts, which drives users to a microsite where they’re asked to describe their passion projects in about 100 words, and to upload a video. 

The winners of the contests will enter the judging phase, which is organized by the marketing agency PromoVeritas. Each one of the contestants will get to work on their business plan with a mentor while also being paired with one of Häagen-Dazs’ own flavors such as Vanilla Caramel Brownie, Salted Caramel, and many others. 

According to the brand manager for Häagen-Dazs, Henriette Pagels, the main goal of the campaign is to help business leaders and creatives achieve their dreams. She said that the company is looking to turn people’s passions into real opportunities that will help them do what they really love and turn those opportunities into long-term and sustainable careers. 

The campaign first started back when the brand started celebrating its 60th anniversary and created another campaign to thank consumers for their support over the last six decades. For the anniversary, Häagen-Dazs created another campaign , which asked consumers to share their most creative ideas for ice cream flavors, which are inspired by their love of the brand’s own ice cream. 

The company is well known for the passion that it puts into creating the perfect flavors with the best ingredients, and all participants had to do  was comment on the brand’s Instagram post with their flavor idea. The winners with the most creative flavors received a grand prize of 15 handmade cartons of the fantasy flavor as well as a year’s worth of the company’s ice cream and branded merchandise. 

Each of these campaigns proved to be  a great way for consumers to connect with brands while enjoying their creativity or passion projects.

Ronn TorossianAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.

Silence is Not an Option: Allyship, Advocacy, and Anti-Racism

Free Virtual Event

Presented by The Museum of Public Relations

Wednesday, October 27, 6 – 7:30 PM ET



Join cross-generational communications and DEI leaders as they discuss the current state of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace and emphasize a call to action for individual accountability and commitment to DEI across all levels of an organization.  Some of the topics that we will explore:

  • Strategies and approaches allies can action to lean into discomfort, engage in difficult conversations, and move towards advocacy.

  • Types of inclusive behaviors and actions employees should take to cultivate an environment of psychological safety and belonging.

  • An approach to collectively address inequities in the workplace and speak up when disparities are observed.

  • Factors to consider when well-intentioned DEI programs miss the mark and negatively impact employee engagement and mental health.

  • How organizations can gain a competitive stance for recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of systemically excluded communities.

  • Success factors that should be considered by organizations for cross-mentoring, internships, and bringing on new hires – in alignment with Gen Z’s expectations.


With appreciation to our sponsors…

To register for this FREE event, please click here.

Peppercomm Introduces Laughing Matters Council to Help Businesses Harness the Power of Humor

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Peppercomm, a leading strategic communications and marketing agency, today announced the launch of its new strategic advisory council of trusted experts in humor. The Laughing Matters Council brings together distinguished industry leaders with an eye for workplace culture and breakthrough thinking to guide Peppercomm and its clients in using the principles of humor to drive long-term business success.  

The Stakes Have Never Been Higher  

More than 45% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression following the pandemic, according to the CDC. This fact has prompted organizations to shine a new spotlight on mental health and employee well-being, given their direct impact on business performance and growth. The launch of the Laughing Matters Council comes on the heels of World Mental Health Day, which is designated to raise awareness of mental health issues and mobilize efforts in support.   

With the imminent “return to work,” employees are expressing more stress and fear over adapting to the new normal. According to research conducted via Peppercomm’s proprietary Mindset.AI dashboard, 54% of U.S. employees feel negatively about returning to the office.   

Meet Laughter, the Change Agent  

The past 20 months have created new challenges, sources of anxiety and friction in the workplace. The result is that traditional ways of trying to engage and motivate employees simply no longer apply. This new normal requires a new playbook, with humor as the foundational element for unlocking new ways of connecting.   

“Laughter and humor in the workplace have never been more important,” said Peppercomm founder and CEO Steve Cody. “Our mission is to raise awareness of humor as an incredible change agent with the help of the Council. Through humor-based training, employees can shift their perspective to one that thinks on a different wavelength, embraces change, adapts quickly, and deepens relationships by emphasizing common ground and drives growth. Plus, we could all use a good laugh these days.”   

Science shows that laughter creates a chemical reaction in the brain that can elevate one’s mood, leading to increased productivity, reduced stress and anxiety, and so much more. The New York Times recently reported that managers with a sense of humor are more motivating and admired, their employees are more engaged and their teams are more likely to solve a creativity challenge. In fact, Stanford Business School now offers a course called “Humor: Serious Business,” which teaches  executive leaders and entrepreneurs how to leverage laughter for better relationships and business results. Organizations in which humor is part of the culture see increased shareholder returns of 19%.  

For the past decade, Peppercomm has been using the tenets of humor to engage its own workforce and has won many culture awards along the way, most recently being named one of Crain’s New York Business’ Top 100 Places to Work in 2021. Peppercomm has deployed its Comedy Experience offering with dozens of organizations to help sales teams, marketing communications departments, human resources, executives and managers use humor to motivate people and encourage innovative thinking.  

Working & Laughing Together 

Peppercomm, in partnership with its new Laughing Matters Council, now offers three primary humor-led service offerings: Stand Up and Connect, a how-to on the tenets of comedy to bring joy and imagination back into work; Stand Up and Lead, focused on managerial leadership and growth; and Stand up and Change, a three-pronged approach to connect and catalyze stakeholders across the change journey utilizing humor, experiential learning, and branding and communications expertise to playfully challenge and authentically inspire audiences to embrace change.  

Laughing Matters Council members include:   

  • THE ADVISOR: Clayton Fletcher  
  • THE NEUROHUMORIST: Karyn Buxman  
  • THE CULTURE GUY: David Horning  
  • THE PUBLICIST: Jennefer Witter  
  • THE IMPROVISOR: Liz Joynt Sandberg  

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Get a Promotion in HR

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Get a Promotion in HR


Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Human resources is one of the most crucial departments of any company. After all, it’s the people that make a business work. It’s only natural that those in charge of finding these people and keeping them happy play such a vital role in the success of a company. 

However, while most see it as important, human resources personnel aren’t always the first ones thought of when it comes time for a promotion, which is just plain old wrong. 

There are two ways to approach this: get mad about the unfairness of it all OR take steps to get yourself noticed and earn that promotion you so deserve. Of course, there is a lot that goes into promotion politics. But you’re more in control than you think. So, to help you get to that point, here are five things you can do: 

Quantify Your Work

The business world is all about numbers and data. If you want to do something new and different, that’s fine, just so long as you have the data to back it up. This same logic applies for promotions. If you want more money and/or more responsibility, then you need to show to your managers why this is the case. 

The first way you can do this is by simply keeping track of and documenting your work. Keep a record of what you’ve done and what you’ve done well so that you can show why you’re so valuable and why you deserve the promotion. 

Another thing to do is to put extra effort into quantifying the results of your work. If you put the effort into designing a new recruiting campaign, then make sure you have some data afterwards to show why it was better. This will not only help you get recognition, but it’s a great bargaining chip when it comes time to ask for a promotion. 


5 Things You Should Be Doing to Get a Promotion in HR


People are hired to do a job. When they do that job well, no one notices too much, and everything proceeds according to the status quo. This is fine, but only if you don’t want a promotion. If you’re after bigger and better things, then you’re going to want to start thinking out of the box. 

People don’t get promoted because they are simply good at their job. Instead, they get promoted because they excel at what they do and have shown a capacity to innovate. 

Of course, there is some degree of risk involved in this, so don’t go crazy. But also don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas and take different angles to solve problems. It’s likely to get noticed and could result in a promotion.

Try New Things

Along similar lines, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Just because a project doesn’t fit directly into your job description doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try. In fact, having this experience might reveal new skills to you and your supervisors, which would open up new doors for you. 

Of course, don’t stretch your job description so much that you are stressing out and don’t have time to fulfill your normal tasks. But as new projects come up, be prepared to volunteer to take them on. This initiative, plus the experience you will have, will make you that much more qualified for a promotion the next time one comes along.

If you find that these new opportunities are not emerging, speak with your boss. And if they still aren’t there, it might be time to look for a new job, one that will allow you the freedom to prove yourself. If this is the case, check out job boards such as Higher Hire for new opportunities near you. 

This can be the “newest” thing of all, but it’s often necessary to get that promotion you feel you truly deserve.

Education and Training

Although additional education does not guarantee you a new position, it certainly can’t hurt. Consider going back for an M.B.A. (perhaps at the company’s expense?) or some other graduate degree you think might help. For example, HR professionals can often further their career by getting a law degree. 

However, you don’t have to go back to a university to further your education and get promoted. Conferences and seminars can be great ways to stay in tune with the latest developments in your field, and they also show initiative on your part. 

There are also a handful of professional HR certifications you can get to bolster your resume, which may require you to take some PHR practice tests. But a little study can go a long way, especially if it leads to a promotion.

Ask for It!

Lastly, if you feel you are up for a promotion, just ask for it! Perhaps your boss has been thinking the same thing but just hasn’t had the chance to bring it up. Or, perhaps they haven’t realized all that you’ve been doing. 

No matter the situation, don’t be afraid to ask for something you want. If your manager doesn’t think you’re qualified, this can lead to a really fruitful discussion that will set you up much better for securing that position down the line. 

Your Promotion is Right Around the Corner

As an HR professional, you probably deal with promotions all the time. But now it’s time for you to get yours. Of course, there are other factors at play, such as current budget needs and other personnel concerns. But, in general, the promotion you’ve been wanting is there for the taking. You’ve just got to reach out and grab it!

The Five Pillars of an Amazing Workplace

The Five Pillars of an Amazing Workplace


Whether you’re a professional working in a company, or an executive in charge of a group of employees, the quality of your workplace matters. The conditions you enjoy, or endure, contribute in a very meaningful way toward the success or struggle of the enterprise. 

Let’s examine some of the primary areas that contribute to an amazing workplace.

1) Community

Whereas culture is a more general articulation of a company’s approach and internal philosophies on conducting business and how working conditions are affected as a result, community is how the group of professionals working there feel toward one another. 

Community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you all need to become best friends or spend every waking minute together at social gatherings outside of the office, but it certainly speaks to the level of camaraderie within the workplace. 

Some workplaces have a feeling of family among the professionals working there — that’s the community we’re talking about. Of course, the company’s culture contributes to this from the top down, including hiring practices and deciding who would be a good fit, but from there on, it’s firmly on the shoulders of the team to maintain and nurture that community. 

What contributes to a healthy community in a workplace? 

Communication is one area that holds up a strong community. If the professionals in an office mostly keep to themselves and the culture of the office is to keep your head down and get your work done, there won’t be much of a feeling of community there. On the other hand, if colleagues are encouraged to work together and communicate openly with one another, help one another in times of challenge and share in each other’s successes — you’re well on your way to developing a lively community. Communication is the tie that binds. 

2) Culture

There is a distinct and yet subtle difference between culture and community. While community is about the interaction between employees, culture is the values and vision of the company as a whole. 

Culture determines the conditions that collectively influence the workplace atmosphere. These can include policies, norms, and unwritten standards for behavior, values and company philosophy, structure, and communication standards — as set by executives.

To a large degree culture is the yardstick of the behavior set by those in charge. The attitude towards fellow colleagues and employees by managers and executives will trickle down into the attitudes of their juniors. 

Culture impacts how employees interact with their work, their colleagues, and the team in general. It impacts job satisfaction and happiness, longevity, and loyalty. Organizations with stronger cultures outperform their competitors financially and are generally more successful over the long term. 

Take a recent popular TV show that has announced its end. Reports of an alleged toxic work environment surfaced from employees, guests, and witnesses of poor behavior on the show.  This was a far cry from what we saw on the TV each day. Within a year, the show’s host announced that they would be ending their run after next season. 

3) Communication

Communication is one of our most fundamental skills that make working together in any group, no matter the size, either a pleasant and productive endeavor, or a complete disaster. Whether it’s the customer service representative communicating with your consumers, or it’s an executive directing those professionals who work under him or her, communication is essential — and good, effective communication even more so. 

Unclear directions, wishy-washy orders, barking aggressive answers or requests — these all add up to a pretty unpleasant and unproductive environment. Whereas clear and kind communication, taking care to listen and understand what’s needed to get things done — that’s starting to sound more like a fun and productive place to work, isn’t it?

That’s not to say that things don’t ever get tense or stressful in a company. Of course, they do. Sometimes it requires a great deal of urgency to get something done. Time can be of the essence and getting things done right the first time is absolutely a necessary skill in some positions. In some cases, lives depend on it. 

But effective communication is still needed, whether you have a week to complete a task or a minute. You can still have a sense of urgency, without being unkind. In the words of Steve Wozniak from the film “Steve Jobs” — “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”

Communication has a hand in every aspect of a workplace. From the transparency of management, to clearly stated job descriptions, acknowledging when good work is done, helping a colleague when they’re having trouble, chatting around the water cooler, or even making it safe for employees to talk with their higher-ups or HR. The whole machine falls apart without good and effective communication. 

4) Career

Some folks might clock in to work and head home when the whistle blows and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That’s a job, as opposed to a career. The distinction is important. 

A career should include room for growth, development, mentorship, a relationship with management, good direction, and structure. And of course — good compensation for the work you do. 

The word career means “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life with opportunities for progress.” An amazing workplace provides these opportunities and prepares the workforce for improvement and progress.

5) Comfort

Whereas with career, we distinguished between a job and a career, it is equally important to distinguish pay vs perks. Pay, or compensation, falls under the category of career. Perks, or comfort, is a category all of its own. 

These are things like flexibility of one’s job, benefits like medical, dental, 401(k) and those sorts of things. Does your work offer you enough balance between work and life? Do you have the necessary tools to do your job? Is the physical appearance of the office itself up to standard? 

Paying attention to and improving these five C’s can transform your company into an amazing workplace.


6 Ways for Your Business to Reach More Customers

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Most businesses thrive off of having a lot of customers. After all, more customers generally mean that your business will be earning more money. Bringing in a lot of customers also means that your business has a bigger likelihood of gaining loyal customers, which could provide a steady income stream.

However, all of this can only take place once you have those customers. But that, unfortunately, can often be the hard part. Reaching a lot of customers can be hard to do if your business is still quite new, or if you have a small business. Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ll be sharing six ways that your business can reach more customers. If that sounds good to you, then keep reading. 

Use data

Businesses nowadays have a much bigger advantage than businesses a few years back had, because businesses have access to a lot of data, and they can use that to their benefit. 

Your business probably already uses data to monitor employees and manage finances, so why not use it to help you reach more customers? Software such as a territory map maker can help you understand more about your customers, which could, in turn, help you come up with better strategies to get more customers. For example, if you can see that your business doesn’t get a lot of customers from a certain area, you may need to market twice as hard in that area to make up the difference. 

Get on social media

Most people use at least one kind of social media, so by not using it to reach customers, you’re missing out. There are loads of social media platforms out there, each with its own audience. By utilizing these platforms, you can reach a large number of potential customers at once. 

While you can opt for paid advertisements on social media, you can also use it as an entirely free platform to promote your product and interact with clients. Instagram is currently one of the most popular social media platforms, so if you’re looking for tips on how to grow your Instagram audience, you can find some here.

BusinessUse the online sphere

We’ve already spoken about how successful social media can be when it comes to reaching customers, but social media isn’t the only online aspect that your business can use to reach people. For example, having a website can help people learn more about your business in one convenient space. You can also make use of email marketing or pay to have your business advertised on people’s blogs. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Go to markets or fairs

Many businesses are run entirely online. This has many benefits, especially when it comes to finances. However, it doesn’t give you the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with customers, and some people don’t like buying products online. Luckily, there is a way for you to sell your products directly to your customers without having the monthly expenses of a physical store.

By having a stall at markets or fairs, you get to reach more customers, especially those who might not use the internet very often. Since these are usually once a week, you won’t be paying as much as you would if you had to rent a shop or something similar. Just be sure to have an attractive market stall.

Collaborate with other businesses

Look, no matter how many of these methods you follow, it’s likely going to take you some time to reach as many customers as you’d like, especially if you’re a small business. However, there is a way for you to reach a lot of customers at once, and that is to collaborate with a bigger business than you.

Business collaborations are beneficial for both parties because they each get to reach an audience that they might not ordinarily have access to. If you can effectively form a business collaboration, you’re sure to gain more customers. 

Make use of a variety of marketing techniques

We know we’ve been talking about how much the internet can help you reach customers, and that is absolutely true. However, you shouldn’t solely rely on the internet when it comes to your business marketing.

Instead, use a combination of digital and old-school marketing techniques. Advertising on billboards, televisions, and the radio can help your business gain the publicity it needs, while at the same time reaching more customers. When it comes to reaching as many customers as possible, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one method; the more you do, the more customers you will reach. 

Why You Should Consider Cyber Insurance for Your Company (INFOGRAPHIC)

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Is your business ready to face a successful ransomware attack and come out alive on the other end? Most small to midsize businesses are not. In fact, 45% of SMBS report that their cyber security is ineffective. They could easily be overtaken by ransomware. 

In the past year, 66% of SMBS have fallen prey to at least one cyber attack, with ransomware being the most common method of attack. Just one successful ransomware attack can mean the loss of copious amounts of money in ransom, extortion, and recovery efforts. It can mean the loss of privacy as personal information may be publicized. It can mean the loss of productivity as systems shut down, and it could mean the loss of reputation as the majority of customers stop doing business with a company that has experienced a data breach. All of this combined means the loss of the entire business within 6 months of attack for 60% of companies who fall victim to ransomware

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, ransomware attacks have risen by 50%. That means that, every 10 seconds, a person, device, or business is hit by a ransomware attack. The rise in these attacks comes largely from the 70% of the American workforce that began working from home last year. With the sudden surge in use of personal devices and personal networks, rather than company devices and networks, cyber security has taken a huge hit. As IT departments are left blind to the dangers and threats against personal devices and networks, cyber criminals have had a field day with the flimsy security suddenly facing most companies. 

The cost of these attacks is also taking a sharp upturn. Just a few years ago, in 2019, damages due to cyber attacks amounted to 4 billion dollars, but by 2028, it’s expected to reach 28 billion dollars. In 2015, damages due to ransomware cost 24 million dollars, but just 5 years later, in 2020, that amount was at 170 billion. 

Most SMBS are not prepared to survive these attacks. Security measures don’t meet the demand. “Strong” passwords, password authentication apps, and two factor authentication methods can all be easily hacked, leaving SMBS vulnerable to attack and failure. 

Cyber insurance is one way that SMBS can help protect themselves. It doesn’t keep the attack from happening, but it’s a cushion that could help these businesses pull through to live another day.


What is Cyber Insurance?

Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

Peppercomm Brings You the Laughing Matters Podcast: Episode 7 – Disagree While Remaining Civil? Two Top CNN Commentators Say it’s Possible!

Laughing Matters PodcastWhile Washington does its best to scoff at bipartisanship, two extraordinary women from opposite sides of the political spectrum have made it work – discussing serious matters while keeping it upbeat. Join us as we speak with CNN commentators and political/communications consultants Maria Cardona and Alice Stewart about how they are able to accomplish this. On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • Maria sharing a very likable story about Hillary Clinton, whose alleged “unlikability” many pundits say cost her the 2016 election (30 min)
  • Alice explaining how presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used self-deprecating humor to address the elephant in the room (28 min)
  • Their embarrassing moments they laugh at now – from accessorizing while on-air to travelling with a presidential candidate while hauling some pretty cumbersome luggage (34 min/38 min)

Listen to the full episode for more!

Resignation Letters: 6 Steps To Writing One

Resignation Letter


Marie Raperto, The Hiring Hub

Writing a resignation letter is a very important step. You want to leave in a professional manner so your resignation letter must be cordial and thoughtful without burning bridges on your way out. Here are some steps to make sure you letter is perfect.

  1.  Your letter should be short and concise.  A resignation letter is not the place to list your grievances. Aim for two paragraphs with the last sentence stating your willingness to assist with the transition process.  End with a salutation and a thank you.
  2. Start your letter with the intention to resign and mention the title of the position you are resigning from.
  3. Then detail your plans.  Include the date you want to leave, list any items which need to be returned to the company and include any questions you have about this process.
  4. Next, say that you appreciated this opportunity and add anything about the company, leadership etc., if you wish.
  5. It’s up to you if you mention where you are going.  It’s not necessary.
  6. Now deliver the letter.  You can do this in-person or via email, if necessary.

Most companies will schedule a meeting with HR to go over the details etc.  If you had issues which you want to discuss, you can do in here or schedule a meeting with your boss.

Happy Moving On!

We Are All Elizabeth Holmes

We Are All Elizabeth Holmes

Photo c/o Tali Mackay at English Wikipedia

“All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance” 

– John Lennon 

Growing up, watching David Carradine star in the television show Kung Fu in 1972 – a contradiction in and of itself as television networks were then unjustly afraid to have Asians star in Asian roles – was my first introduction to Buddhism. It would expand over the years with reading and 365 daily meditations, though it would never evolve into a full conversion. I am just an endless student. I still find it remarkable that I can read the same meditation year after year and discover something different in it each time I read it. Nothing changes like perspective.   

If I become fully devoted to Buddhism, will I never again walk on the grass for fear of the insects I would kill? This realization is made worse by the fact that we can now record the music that plants make as they synthesize, converting light into chemical energyOur very being is damaging to something. 

Is it enough to remove the insects from my home to the outside and to have learned from this repeated act of gentleness that we are all victim and victimizer? All of us. We are crushed by the patriarchy and, simultaneously, part of it, crushing others.  

How much privilege we believe we have is dependent on how broad a view of the world we take. Our worst days are often better than most peoples’ best.  

Do we listen to the cries of others with the same level of sympathy and empathy that we have for ourselves and those that look and sound like us? Is our commitment to diversity about justice or power? Is the conversation in our heads about self-justification or empathy?  

When John Lennon – who would have turned 81 over the weekend – was writing “Give Peace a Chance” in 1968, he was in the middle of a contentious divorce with Cynthia Lennon and offered her a paltry and stifling settlement. John Lennon, it would seem, wasn’t all that different from the rest of us. “Do as I say, not as I do.” 

Globally, we are going through a challenging period, trying with great intent to make amends for past sins, yet simultaneously ranking our victimhood in the hopes of showing that we are victims only – because of our age, race, sex, sexual preference, economic status, environmental footprint, geography, etc. – and never, simultaneously, victimizers.  

Life isn’t that simple. Being a good human being is an endless journey, like walking across the grass and doing no harm.  

Eventually, I think, we will make it to Ten Forward – the intergalactic crew lounge aboard the USS Enterprise, on Star Trek – where we all largely love and accept each other for who we are, not the categories we put ourselves in or the labels we proudly wear. But it is, unfortunately, going to take a long time.    

About 20 years ago, I met journalist Vivia Chen in San Francisco, in the early days of the legal journalism boom. I always liked her and respected her work, so I make sure to read her weekly Unfiltered column in Bloomberg Legal. Her recent column – “Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes Plays the Privileged White Female Card” – is equal parts brilliant and courageous. I was terrifically pleased when she agreed to appear on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal to delve deeper.  

The column (and her role on the podcast) is a tour de force and well worth the brief time investment. In a nutshell, she discusses Ms. Holmes chameleon-like ability to go from Silicon Valley can-do wunderkind to victim of the patriarchy, just in time for trial; from villain to victim at the speed of a tear.  

How did she entice Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, James Mattis, David Boise, Rupert Murdoch and other powerful white men to empower her and her fantastic yet unproven technology? In a flash, she plays her privileged white female card, employing the “Svengali defense” – my ex-boyfriend of color (and former Theranos president and COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani) made me do it.   

I am no fan of Ms. Holmes and have witnessed and been victim to enough empty suits and worse over the years to see the personality pattern of charlatans. It is, of course, nothing that is limited to only one sex, race or nationality, and that is exactly the point. One of the things that impostors prey on is that for most of us – including smart, busy people – “due diligence” consists only of the “tribal test.” If someone went to similar schools, has advanced degrees, knows the same bankers and lawyers, speaks our coded language, and, of course, has family connections (Ms. Holmes is the daughter of a former Enron executive), we accept them and their claims as legitimate. It is not unusual for people to put more effort into uncovering the background of a blind date than they do a potential business partner. As the old saying goes, “The charming are easily charmed.” 

When I was in graduate school and a community organizer, I had a housemate who was a public defender. As he often said, “If you were the defendant, wouldn’t you want the most sympathetic version of yourself to come out at trial?” He was right, of course, and at one level I understand exactly what Ms. Holmes is doing, going from the female Steve Jobs – down to the black turtleneck – to someone who makes sure her new infant’s diaper bag is always visible to the jurors.  

She is a contradiction inside of an enigma. You’ll get no defense here. What I wonder about is if we will look at her and wag our fingers “tsk, tsk, tsk,” or if we will reflect and look at our own privilege and paradoxes. We are all playing roles. At the end of the day, when we are truly alone, what are our unguarded thoughts? As my late law professors Burt Wechsler would say, “We are all faking it, doing the best we can with what we know at the time.”   

There are some, like Ms. Holmes, who apparently try to monetize our triumph of hope over experience. Hopefully, none of us are Elizabeth Holmes. And equally, with the speed with which she has adorned the victim card, each of us knows that she isn’t all that different from us.    

There is a contradiction in the Old Testament – if God is everywhere, then She is in the good and the bad. Judaism addresses this in part in Liturgy, the daily prayer before sleeping. “I hereby forgive everyone who offended me or sinned against me.” In the act of forgiving others, we free ourselves and we free their souls to make full atonement. Sound advice.  

I keep trying to imagine the courage and other-worldly wisdom of Ruby Bridges, one of four AfricanAmerican children to integrate schools in New Orleans in 1960 after Brown v. Board of Education. Once, when she was six and surrounded by an angry white mob, she knelt to pray for the mob. At six, how was she so wise? After so many millennia, how are we not? 

“Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.” 

– Bob Dylan 

Enjoy the show. 

Richard Levick

Listen to Vampirette – A Journalist’s View of Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes 

Now’s the Time to Make Lemonade

Now’s the Time to Make Lemonade


Cary Broussard, Author, Speaker, Coach, DE&I Advocate

We surveyed 200 leaders nationwide at Cinderella to CEO, asking women and men how the global pandemic affected their professional and personal stamina. There are many “aha” findings in their responses, but we had one big takeaway – They told us that never before have mindfulness, truthful communications and supportive relationships been more important to them.  Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. 

After reviewing the Cinderella to CEO (C2CEO) survey data, conducted by Broussard Global, Fred Kleisner, Hospitality Industry Director and previously Wyndham International CEO said, “Now is the time to engage, to innovate, and exercise your own creativity. We have a chance to really think where our contributions are going to be as we look forward.”

Mia Mends, global leader of DE&I at Sodexo and SodexoMagic had this to say when she reviewed the research, “This moment in time demonstrates for all of us is that we are not in control…if we’ve learned nothing (during this pandemic), we are all going to have to learn how we pivot. This is not going to be the last crisis we’re going to face…we’re are all going to have to learn how to manage in a crisis,” she added. See full video clip here.

Mindfulness expert Holly Duckworth also on the C2CEO curriculum team says “it’s always been tough to be a leader…We’re probably going to offend someone by something we say or do. So how can we mindfully make decisions that move your business forward but may upset your employees or customers? ” 

Our C2CEO Diversity & Inclusion curriculum leader and Tuskegee University professor Dr. Faye Hall Jackson reminded me during a recent podcast interview on Cinderella CEO On Air – that “as supporters of our workforce, a wonderful way to acknowledge individuals in our workplace is to avail ourselves to listening.”

“Be Kind to Yourself” is etched on a charm given to me by my friend Dr. Doane Motsinger, which sparked my mindfulness practice during the pandemic. I realized if I’m too hard on myself, I will be too hard on others. 

I find comfort in the people who have made it through tough times. I crave their stories, advice and camaraderie. Finding inspiration in people who have made it through tough times is the theme of the Cinderella to CEO Awards.  Women are nominated for displaying exceptional bravery by overcoming an extraordinary hurdle or barrier to achieve a challenging goal. They have struggled with uncertainty, experienced trauma, moved through pain to a brighter, more beautiful, successful future. These are the leaders I want to be around and to teach us, our colleagues, our community and our children how to be great people. When life hands them lemons, they make lemonade. 

I authored a book called From Cinderella to CEO, highlighting career hurdles and barriers that I and others had to overcome.  I am forever changed for the better by the oftentimes difficult lessons that lead to transformation and possibilities and so are the companies that listen to those who innovate and collaborate through the tough times. 

Along with most, I pivoted my business practice and my life during this pandemic. Creating a new learning platform in coaching, curriculum and teaching with the help of many, many people, including my husband and creative director Logan Broussard, I am typical of so many working women, who turned lemons into lemonade by pushing forward through financial hurdles, self-preservation and self-examination, continuing to work hard in the prime of their careers. 

The pandemic has opened up a whole new world to everyone – scary and good at the same time.  How will you capture or share what you’ve learned? Will you write about it, talk about it, record it, paint it, plant it, grow it, act on it. Are you motivated to reignite your relationships and develop new ones? Will authentic communication be the gift that keeps on giving to you. Never before have mindfulness, truthful communications and supportive relationships been more important. And to that I say – let’s not let this time and opportunities pass. We are destined to grow through what we go through and we will all be better for it. 

  • Cary’s website CinderellaCEO.com features C2CEO Learning Labs with business courses, professional mastermind groups, executive coaching and corporate training. She is currently offering courses in mindfulness, diversity, equity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility and mastermind groups for professionals.
  • The Cinderella to CEO survey results can be found on CinderellaCEO.com or Businesslearninglabs.com
  • Cary Broussard currently lives in Dallas.  Her company’s leadership research and her tenure as an NYU adjunct professor has become the foundation for her company’s work in executive coaching, workplace education and professional community. CinderellaCEO On Air can be found on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and Spreaker.  

About the Author:

  • Cary has taught thousands to believe in themselves through the power of transformation and to get ahead in today’s competitive workplace. Cary’s book From Cinderella to CEO is published in 10 languages. Both her book and podcast are filled with inspirational stories of breaking through personal and professional barriers and overcoming obstacles to achieve happy, productive lives. CinderellaCEO On Air can be found on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and Spreaker. Her website CinderellaCEO.com features the C2CEO Learning Lab business courses, professional mastermind groups, executive coaching and corporate training opportunities. 
  • Cary is the producer of the Cinderella to CEO Awards, held in New York City.  Her C2CEO leadership research conducted with a grant from Texas Woman’s University and her tenure as an NYU adjunct professor has become the foundation for her company’s work in executive coaching, workplace education and professional community. 
  • Cary is also well-known for her work in public relations, career development and advisory board management.   Dow Jones described her work as the “gold standard” of women’s marketing programs for Wall Street. As head of public relations at Wyndham International for 14 years, she created the company’s Women On Their Way® program, a travel program targeted to women business travelers.
  • Cary’s nonprofit and government experience includes head of brand marketing for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), director of public information and special events for the American Cancer Society and chief of staff for the Alliance for Women in Media. Cary also spent time in Washington where she served as deputy press secretary to Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker from Tennessee.  
  • She has held board positions with Women Impacting Public Policy, Conscious Capitalism and the Press Club of Dallas.  Cary has eventful life with creative director and artist Logan Rene’ Broussard and their lovely black Labrador T.Boone.

A Conversation with Luke Epplin, Author, ‘Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball’

Luke Epplin


Join Michael Zeldin in his conversation with Luke Epplin as they discuss his new book, Our Team, The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball. This is a compelling story of the integration of the American League eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson integrated the National League and the improbable union of four baseball pioneers on the Cleveland Indians climaxing in the World Series of 1948.


Luke Epplin

Luke Epplin‘s writing has appeared either online or in print in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, GQ, Slate, and The Paris Review Daily. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, earned his master’s degree from New York University, and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Chile. Born and raised in rural Illinois, Epplin now lives in Queens.




Michael Zeldin

Michael Zeldin is a well-known and highly-regarded TV and radio analyst/commentator.

He has covered many high-profile matters, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the Gore v. Bush court challenges, Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation of interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the Trump impeachment proceedings.

In 2019, Michael was a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he taught a study group on Independent Investigations of Presidents.

Previously, Michael was a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also served as Deputy Independent/ Independent Counsel, investigating allegations of tampering with presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s passport files, and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee, October Surprise Task Force, investigating the handling of the American hostage situation in Iran.

Michael is a prolific writer and has published Op-ed pieces for CNN.com, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Hill, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post.

The Fragrance Foundation Launches #FragranceForwardTFF to Advance Industry Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Free Webinar

October 20, 12:00 PM EST

The Fragrance Foundation Launches #FragranceForwardTFF to Advance Industry Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

New Initiative Officially Launches on Wednesday, October 20 with free Webinar featuring Perspectives from Industry Voices including LVMH, World of Chris Collins, Givaudan and The Phluid Project

CommPRO Editorial Staff

The Fragrance Foundation (TFF) today announced #FragranceForwardTFF, a sweeping new initiative to advance, increase and sustain measurable levels of diversity, equity and inclusion in the multi-billion-dollar fragrance industry. The initiative will harness the collective power of TFF’s membership base to share and allocate dedicated resources towards education and scholarship programs, recruitment and outreach, as well as mentoring and networking opportunities. 

In support of #FragranceForwardTFF, The Fragrance Foundation will present Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a free webinar on Wednesday, October 20 at 12:00 PM EST: register here. The virtual event will bring to the fore the dynamism, excitement and challenges of building a career in the fragrance industry with real-time insights from pioneering professionals who are making a difference every day. Panelists include Chris Collins, Founder, World of Chris Collins; Corey Smith; Head of Diversity and Inclusion for North America, LVMH; Rob Smith, CEO and Founder, The Phluid Project; and Linda Song, Senior Perfumer, Givaudan. Helen Shelton, Global Chief Diversity Officer and luxury brand marketing communications expert, Finn Partners, will moderate the discussion.

Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion will be forward-focused by making it known that that there is a career path for people of all backgrounds within the industry. Panelists will address questions such as what inspired them to build a career in the fragrance industry; what some of the challenges are they face; and, how the industry can be more accountable in driving DEI across all levels – from fragrance development to marketing, creative, retail and more. 

“The Fragrance Foundation is committed to working with our members and the entire industry to make representation a priority, says Linda G. Levy, President, The Fragrance Foundation. “This can only be achieved through a dedicated, sustainable effort, and through #FragranceForwardTFF we’re bringing together the entire community to align on actionable steps to ensure access to opportunities for all people, everywhere. Together, we are creating pathways for success – with the ultimate goal of shaping an industry that is a true reflection of the total population we all serve.”

A major element of #FragranceForwardTFF is the creation of an industry-wide, Fragrance Foundation DEI Signatory Pledge. TFF’s 100+ members – that include both independent and corporate entities – will commit not only to furthering their respective DEI goals, but also pledging to assist TFF in building and shaping #FragranceForwardTFF in the months and years ahead. This will be achieved by sharing resources and creating opportunities for mentorship, educational advancement and more aggressive recruiting. 

The Fragrance Foundation is also embarking on a series of virtual listening sessions and tours of institutions of higher learning to engage with students and to discuss ways in which they might enter the field. A TFF Career Paths series will premiere this week with students, faculty and alumni during Homecoming at Spelman College, an Historically Black institution in Atlanta. The session will be led by Ms. Levy along with Spelman alumna Sharné Jackson, TFF’s Senior Director of Events, Education & Give Back.

“I am absolutely honored to lend my name, voice and brand to #FragranceForwardTFF and to this important event,” says Chris Collins. “I hope to see a day where there are more brand owners of color in the market, and am grateful to Linda and TFF for making this happen.”

Adds Linda Song, “Historically a Eurocentric industry, perfumery is increasingly global and it’s imperative we increase representation to reflect the market. I’m hopeful we can normalize diversity within our industry and will do all I can to help TFF drive #FragranceForwardTFF.”

“As a global arbiter of luxury and style, LVMH is 100% dedicated to advancing DEI across all of our houses and brands – including fragrance,” says Corey Smith. “We are proud and honored to stand with TFF to make the vision behind #FragranceForwardTFF a reality for years to come.”

“I’m proud to lend my name, voice, experience and brand to this initiative,” concludes Rob Smith. “Gender expansive inclusion and representation is something that’s moving beyond a trending topic and taking its place in our vernacular as a culture and as a society, breaking down outdated gender constructs – and The Fragrance Foundation should be commended for taking an active position in making this possible.”

Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be recorded and can be replayed on The Fragrance Foundation’s website www.fragrance.org.