Monthly Archives: April 2017

Ramblings: Politics and PR

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I noticed something interesting over the past couple of days regarding the titles of press releases and other notices sent out by the Oregon Legislature. I’m on a mailing list for “Oregon State Legislature – Press Release Update” and noticed that the press releases from the Oregon Democrats over the last month have all had very fact-based titles (such as the “Bill addressing independent living programs goes to Governor” from today’s email), while the ones from the Oregon Republicans have mostly had emotion-driven titles/subjects emphasizing how the GOP is reacting/feeling about a potential law. This title, for example, shows outrage: “Defunding veterans is a moral outrage, bait-and-switch politics at its finest” (from the Senate Republicans on 4/26).
If all you know about our state government is garnered from a list of press release titles you are probably going to come away with a definite feeling that the Dem party is cold and fact-driven, while the GOP cares. Isn’t that one of the issues that was discussed *heavily* right after the election, that one of the Dem missteps was too heavy a focus on facts and not enough emphasis on the emotions around those facts?
I don’t know who writes the PR subject lines for the Dems but I’m sure they’re just following standard journalism guidelines (who what when where how) — unfortunately this is now the era of propaganda where our government is concerned and the Dems may need to change their PR writing style in order to be seen as caring. In other words, the PR subject lines/titles need to become lines that a clickbait site would be happy to post. (Which is a sad change for folks like me who majored in journalism, but that’s the world right now, like it or not.)
I know this may seem like such a little thing compared to some of the things going on in my state and country, but if it caught my attention I’m sure it’s getting through to a lot of people on a subconscious level. I’m definitely not suggesting that the Oregon Democratic party encourage fake news or become clickbait title experts, just that we bring a little more of the passion and drive that pushes us all to march into the way we announce legislation and other news.

What I’m Reading April 17th Edition

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What I’m Reading April 17th Edition

Just started reading “The Little Book of Hygge” this weekend. So far it’s all about candles (which I can’t stand) and lamps/lighting (which I love). So, a mixed bag for me. It’s a cute book though, with cute illustrations and beautiful print quality. Borrowed from the Salem Public Library, West Salem branch (which can be very hygge when a rain storm is pounding on the skylight and you’re surrounded by all those lovely books).

It’s supposedly pronounced “hoo ga” but I’m going to go on calling it “high gee” because I’m stubbornly phonetic like that.

My Contest Entry: James Patterson Masterclass

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I was given the James Patterson writing Masterclass for Christmas, and enjoyed the class. Part of the class involved a contest to become a co-writer on a James Patterson book, and a lot of people took a stab at it — including me!

Since the 10 semi-finalists have been announced and I’m not one of them (insert sad violin song here) I get to share what I wrote for the contest! It was really fun coming up with something that might fit the James Patterson style. I didn’t quite succeed (I’m a little too snarky) but I like my concept and definitely had fun writing the chapter. Keeping it short was the hardest part for me since I tend to write long, but both the blurb and the sample chapter had very tight word count limits.

The title (which inspired the whole idea): Dead Date In Hipster Paradise

Here’s the blurb I wrote for the book:

“Hipster in Paradise” was a killer idea for a reality dating show — only it came with a real killer! The murder of a contestant right after she won the first challenge (maple-bacon donut tossing and espresso chugging) is initially assumed to be unconnected to the show. But then contestant Jolie Sanders has her own near-death experience, and she begins to wonder if someone in the cast (or crew) is hunting for the perfect mate, or for the perfect victim.

And here’s my sample chapter:

Chapter 3.

The explosion threw us backwards, directly into the balloon wall. I don’t know which sound drew the rest of the show contestants and the crew — the booby trap on the pretty blue box when we opened it, or the sound of two bodies popping hundreds of balloons.  (I was too deafened by the explosion to hear the balloons at the time, but I later convinced one of the crew to play it back for me from the day’s raw footage, and it was quite impressive.)

The first people bubbled out of the extremely narrow stairs leading to the 2nd floor passenger area of the train car and came to a stop until pushed by someone behind them, who then repeated the stop and get pushed routine. I sat there blinking and listening to the ringing in my ears as two crew members pushed through, camera and boom mic in hand, then rushed toward us. All I could think of was that this probably wasn’t a good look for me. I reached one hand up to check, and yep, I definitely had balloon hair. I turned slightly and saw Jayson doing the same.

“That really sucked!” I bellowed. At least I think I yelled it. I could feel myself yelling, but still only mostly heard ringing. The train jerked around a corner and everyone swayed, grabbing at the wall for balance.

“Wh-ap-ed?” I almost heard from the crew member with the boom mic. I pointed at the remains of the box. Jayson was yelling something at the camera man, and pointing at me.

“The box said “open me if you dare” so we did,” I said, in a more normal tone. “It’s part of the show, right?”

Twenty minutes later Jayson and I had been checked out by the medical staff from the crew car and then abandoned along with the other contestants. Every single crew member was in an emergency meeting, and we’d all been moved to yet another train car.

The small office area with a single desk and two chairs was too small for all 23 of us so some were stuck standing in the hallway between the crew sleeping cabins. Barbie and I managed to elbow our way in together. Scott (the librarian, not the lawyer) and Pruett were trying to quiet us down by vigorous hand waving and polite “Oh hey now” lines when Sam whistled loud enough to wake people three towns away. Most of us quieted and waited politely for someone to play leader. Patricia, Scott and Alison began to rock-paper-scissors as Pruett asked if anyone had any straws.

Meanwhile DesiLynn was trying to look everyone in the eye without actually moving her ‘good side’ too far away from the single visible camera high up on the far wall. “The train…is a deathtrap. We must be…on our guard. And never…alone.”

Barbie mumbled “Asthma?” my direction. I shook my head and whispered back “Shatner school of acting.” A snort from behind me let me know I was still a little too loud.

“Shouldn’t we, you know, try to leave? I mean, explosions. And like death. That’s really not cool.” I couldn’t see who spoke but I could see frowns on other faces.

“Leave now? Before the elimination round? No way. I’m not going to give up that easily.” I couldn’t remember the redhead’s name but she was an accountant-slash-singer from Portland who wanted to find someone who enjoyed the same things she loved in life, like coffee, protest marches, and bicycle riding in heavy traffic.

“I’m still alive, so I’m staying,” I found myself volunteering. People twirled to see me, and some eyes moved over my shoulder. Without turning I knew the snort I’d heard was from Jayson. I put on my brave-yet-soulful expression (version 1.0) and lifted my chin a notch. “The crew might be panicking, but I don’t actually know that someone was trying to kill Jayson and I. It might have just been a dirty trick and unrelated to Karalee’s death. The police seemed to think her ex was involved in that, and there’s no reason for him to be on the train coming after the rest of us.”

“I heard rumors that the whole show has received threats from people who weren’t picked during the auditions!”

“All reality shows get threats,” suggested another voice, and a few heads nodded. We all looked at Kristen and Bradley. He smoothed his fluffy mustache and nodded while she looked wise and world-weary as she flipped her long brown hair back over the shoulder of her fur-trimmed denim vest. I’d seen each of them yesterday evening when I was sneaking around, and they’d definitely been practicing those same Wise Elder looks and poses so I didn’t buy it — but a lot of the other contestants looked like they’d just been blessed by the pope of Reality TV.

I made a mental note to try to separate the two of them the first chance I got, before they gained super-couple status, since that would ruin my chances of winning this. A quick glance at Barbie made me suspect that she was having similar thoughts — she had that dangerous half-smile going and had tilted her head just like I’d seen her doing during the first competition event. She caught me looking and her mouth twitched. It was too darned bad we were competitors on this show — I was really starting to like her.

Pruett cleared his throat and tugged on the bottom of his grey vest. “Folks, I hate to point this out, but we need to discuss the elephant in the room. Karalee’s murderer could be one of us.”

Yeah, like we hadn’t all already wondered that. It put quite a nasty crimp in the dating part of the contest. Instead of the cut-throat competition we’d been promised we all now had to worry about, well, throat cutting. Definitely not cool.

Be a Maker, not a Marketer

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I have to rant a bit here.
You know what all those gurus don’t mention when telling people how to market themselves as artists, photographers, writers, programmers, etc.? That no matter how wonderful you are at creating/doing, you have to create or do something that the other person wants before money will flow your way. That’s why the guys and gals who pick up trash or clean houses don’t get told to spend 40+ hours a week on InstaGram — the desire/demand for what they do is already there, and the maker/creator/workerbee doesn’t have to try to create a demand out of nothing.
Most of those “here’s how to market” articles, videos, courses, Facebook groups, and so on, have two premises: first, that you need to *manufacture* desire and demand by “branding” yourself (a pretty name for spending money on things that don’t have an obvious ROI) and then naming your version of the product/service (which is exactly the same as everyone else in your market’s product/service except it has you) something fancy. And second, that there’s a massive demand for whatever it is you do (even though there are zero statistics to back it up) but the reason you aren’t seeing it is you’re not using the special blend of herbs and spices needed to reach those people on social media. The gurus always have stories about someone who went from 1 follower to 5,000 followers they use as an example of why you need to do this, but I have yet to see a single one of those “social media famous” peeps who followed the guru’s teachings driving a mercedes they bought with the profit from selling their actual skills. The guru, however, probably has one, and it was purchased with the profit from selling you classes and stuff…you wanted the fantasy they were selling, and you paid them.
If you don’t have something people want to buy — a novel they want to read, a service they’re willing to pay for, a piece of art they actually want to put on their wall — then all the branding, fancy product names, cool book covers, fancy websites/logos, and IG posting in the world won’t get you paying clients.
Create a kick-ass product or service first, people, then sell it. Stop following the gurus who say you need to build a following for your novel before you write it, or who insist your actual paying clients will care how many followers you have. Unless you’re selling yourself as a marketing guru or selling your ability to post on IG (like some bloggers do with sponsored posts) then your focus should be on making something that’s so awesome it sells itself. Spend that stereotypical 1000-10,000 hours on improving your photos or sketching skills so you have something people want to spend money on, instead of spending your time creating a market for a product/service that won’t be any different or any better than what the guy next door is selling.
And at the end of the day, if there are already 50 people in your market offering the same thing you plan to offer *and* your product or service isn’t 100 times better (not just marketed better) then why are you throwing all that money and time away? Sure, it’s more fun and better for your ego to say you’re a professional whatever than to say it’s your hobby. But you’ll never get all those hours back that you spent trying to create the perfect Instagram following for a product/service that is identical to all the ones that went out of business in your area last year. But those same hours spent on that hobby or interest will not only bring you the joy of time spent practicing and creating, it might just propel you into the rarefied category of an expert.
Keep in mind that if the making/creating is truly your passion, you’ll find a way to write your novel on your lunch hour while working a boring job that pays your bills. If you live for photography or creating art, then you’ll find a way to spend your weekends doing what you love while still managing to survive a soul-sucking job. But be honest with yourself — if the whole reason you *love* photography or desire to be a writer is you hate your job (as opposed to an overwhelming need to write, draw, bake, make, photograph, etc.) then the problem really REALLY isn’t that you don’t have enough IG followers or the right logo.
Be a maker first. Create. Get better at what you do. Spend hours slaving over your ability to make the product or perform the service, rather than over your branding colors. Give it away for YEARS if  you need to. Create and do for the purpose of creating and doing, and not just because you can post about it on social media.
Rant over. Back to our regularly unscheduled program.