Sell Yourself, Not the Deal: Marlene Waldock

The Great Stem Cell Debate Comes to Mercer: Nancy Duff

Passionate Workers Boost Productivity: Thomas Damman

PR Advice from a Self-Made Pro: Richard Laermer

Corrections or additions?

Thewe articles by Bart Jackson and Kathleen McGinn Spring were

prepared for the October 8, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

reserved.

Asia on the Bias: Don’t Ignore Civil Rights

We Americans are a nation of protesters. Try to overtax

our tea and we’ll dump it in the harbor. Don’t tread on us. Deny us

rightful employment, a justifiable bank loan, or a seat in the front

of the bus and we will rise up. That’s the stereotype, but does it

hold true for every group? What happens to those who do not complain?

Seven percent of all Garden State residents are of Asian or Pacific

Island descent. Yet interestingly, they account for only one percent

of the discrimination complaints lodged with New Jersey’ Civil Rights

Division. And this despite the fact that the seven percent includes

a number of sometimes misunderstood and politically unpopular people.

"The Civil Rights of Asian and Pacific Island Americans,"

a free seminar, takes place on Thursday, October 9, at 8 a.m. at

Raritan

Valley Community College to help all Asians and Pacific Islanders

take advantage of their new nation’s protective laws. Call

908-526-1200,

ext. 8312, to reserve a place.

Tulsi Maharjan, president of the Somerset County Cultural

Diversity

Coalition and director of Raritan Valley College’s Government

Relations

Institute, has united both these organizations, along with several

Asian community leaders, in sponsoring the event. J. Frank

Vespa-Papaleo,

director of New Jersey’s Division on Civil Rights, provides legal

expertise at the meeting.

"We see this as an important first step in making Asian

communities

aware of the process of protection under the state’s Law Against

Discrimination

(LAD)," says Vespa-Papaleo.

Maharjan believes that far too many Asian Americans fail to report

discrimination, yet he also insists that much of the trouble can be

warded off preemptively. "All Asians, and indeed all immigrants,

have to learn to mainstream into America," he says. These words

have been Maharjan’s battle cry since he left Katmandu, Nepal, 30

years ago.

Arriving in the United States to pursue undergraduate studies at

Skidmore

College, Maharjan found a home in academic circles, later gaining

a Ph.D. in educational administration from American University.

Throughout

his years with several of New Jersey’s community colleges, he has

labored to enhance trade and to establish not globalism, but

internationalism.

He hosts a series of seminars to help state businesses connect abroad,

and has formed the Friends of Nepal.

In addition to the age old embers of ignorance, two recent elements

have fueled the fires of anti-Asian discrimination. First, we still

feel the specter of 9/11 with its elusive, vague, yet supposedly

lurking

enemy. Too many Americans cannot distinguish a Sikh from a Buddhist

monk, but they are sure our nation’s greatest enemy wears robes and

cloth head gear. Better watch out. Maharjan reports that several

Pakistani

women in Somerset have been harassed to the point where they now just

stay in their homes.

On top of these suspicions comes the fear of economic hard times.

Ever since the building of the transcontinental railroad, established

American residents have resented the flood of more recent Asian labor

taking "our jobs." Be it well-paid Chinese physicists or

Korean

shop owners, "when bad economic times come," says Maharjan,

"everyone is naturally looking for a scapegoat. And the last ones

in are the most likely to be discriminated against."

In the face of all this, why are Asians, in our nation of protesters,

so singularly silent? There are many reasons, explains Maharjan, but

each one has a solution.

Distrust of government. Asian immigrants by-and-large

have left lands where any level of government is less than excited

about defending individual rights. Previous personal experiences have

proved that government is wholly to be feared and life is best lived

inconspicuously. Just try dumping overtaxed tea in Beijing harbor.

"It takes a lot of education and outreach to break the wall of

fear," says Vespa-Papaleo. "We are trying to reach into the

various Asian communities through their leaders," he says,

"but

they must spread the word that we want to protect their civil

rights."

Vespa-Papaleo, originally from Venezuela, has spent the last two

decades

defending discrimination as an attorney in several New Jersey law

firms, and for the past 15 months has headed up the Civil Rights

Division.

Ghetto blasting. Resettling in a foreign country is

traumatic.

Finding and clinging to a little enclave of folks from your homeland

is natural and helpful. But like birds in the nest, there comes a

time to venture out beyond. "People can dwell in an Indian or

Korean community, and never know the rest of America," says

Maharjan.

"They fail to learn of the government, the language, and worst

of all, to meet the people beyond their own ghetto. This invites

suspicion

and ignorance on both sides."

At least twice a year, the Islamic Society in South Brunswick runs

an open house in its mosque. The newspaper "India Abroad"

actively supports several English as a Second Language groups.

Blending

traditions does not mean loss. Cultures, like fine wine, are best

when shared.

Business bigotry. Unfortunately, a host of undeserved

stereotypes follow Japanese importers, Indian doctors, Chinese

traders,

and others well beyond the first impression. Emancipation from these

stereotypes must, of course, be individual, but Maharjan adamantly

states that ethnic communities can reach out much further to help.

A great many shops and firms actively solicit business from their

own ethnic group, while ignoring and even shunning inquiries from

non-ethnic companies. "If your business is known as a Thai company

or Korean company," states Maharjan, "you are not reaching

far enough."

For Vespa-Papaleo, the solutions to discrimination are more swift,

legal, and direct. His department, under the New Jersey Attorney

General’s

office, exists to determine discrimination and enforce the 58-year-old

Law Against Discrimination and the 1993 State Family Leave Act. Over

20,000 inquiries are made to his department annually, of which 2,000

develop into actual discrimination complaints. These include bias

in employment, housing, or access to public places on the basis of

race, religion, gender, age, or other stereotyping.

Discrimination complaints may be made in this area by calling the

Regional Civil Rights Office at 609-292-4605. After a complaint is

received, the complainant meets with an investigator who will work

to determine if a case really exists. "Throughout the entire

process,"

says Vespa-Papaleo, "our office does not take anyone’s side. We

work merely to enforce the law."

The complaint then undergoes a set process:

A claim. Investigators go far beyond listening to

he-said-she-said

arguments. In the case of employment, for example, they examine

records

for disparate impact. That is, if your firm has 85 percent Pakistani

workers and not one has ever received a promotion, the next bypassed

Pakistani who complains has a strong case.

Mediation. Mediation is the next and typically final step

in most negotiations. Here, under the eye of a Civil Rights Division

mediator, anything goes. One time, recalls Vespa-Papaleo, a man lodged

a complaint about being passed up for a job in advertising whereby

he would dress up as a pickle and tout the company’s product. The

final settlement, which left both management and the unhired

individual

smiling? A year’s supply of pickles.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Most employers,

landlords, and store owners are happy to settle quickly, but when

mediation fails, the case is given one final try with the ADR unit.

This legally-required last ditch effort seeks final conciliation.

By this time, Vespa-Papaleo’s office is actively seeking a finding

of probable cause of discrimination. If it is found, the case becomes

one of only five percent that land in court.

Before the bench. Discrimination hearings are non-jury

trials where the judge makes the decision. The defendant in this

situation

frequently faces a two- pronged attack — from the complaining

individual seeking damages, and from the state seeking to enforce

the LAD codes.

Not all Asians bear discrimination lightly. In l990 Miye Sano, a named

plaintiff with relatives in the Princeton area, received a check for

$20,000. Along with 70,000 other claimants, she was paid this

reparation

as part of a $1.65 billion settlement for America’s shameful interning

of the Japanese people during World War II. It was a small price for

the confiscation of all the property she and her now-dead husband

owned, along with the destruction of their livelihood. Sano, and the

other Japanese-Americans, won their settlement the old American way

— they protested. Loud and long. And their government heard their

cries.

Those most likely to reap the benefits of their adopted nation are

those who most actively join it.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Sell Yourself, Not the Deal: Marlene Waldock

All buyers are liars. They’ll swear on a stack of

accounting

ledgers that the bottom line is all that matters; that they’ll deal

with the devil herself if she’ll sell it to them for five cents a

unit cheaper. Ah, but follow the purchase orders. Almost invariably,

the money lands in the hands of the individual the buyer knows and

trusts.

Earning that enviable position as a trusted business compatriot

entails

a logical yet delicate process is the topic of a talk, "Personal

Relationship Marketing," on Thursday, October 9, at 6 p.m. at

the Merrill Lynch Conference Center. Cost: $35. Call 609-924-7975.

Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners’

(NJAWBO), this meeting features Marlene Waldock, NJAWBO’s new

president and the host of New Jersey Business, a weekly television

program on News 12 New Jersey.

Those unable to attend on October 9 can catch Waldock’s talk at

NJAWBO’s

Middlesex Chapter dinner meeting on Monday, October 20, at 6 p.m.

at the Sheraton Raritan Center Hotel in Edison. Cost: $43. Call

732-287-4111.

"You don’t sell the deal, you sell yourself" is a credo

Waldock

has employed in conquering some of business’ stiffest self-marketing

challenges. Shortly after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh

with a degree in psychology, Waldock found herself working for

Clairol.

As director of Southwest sales and training, she recalls, "I was

running around giving training sessions that lasted four-and-a-half

hours. I had to develop a program that would make audiences more

inspired

to sell than lynch the speaker."

In l987, Waldock founded her own marketing and communication training

firm, 1st Impression Communication Services, in Morristown.

So what are the magic words? What’s that secret approach that

transforms

strangers into friends and trusted clients upon first meeting? For

Waldock, if such a verbal elixir exists, it would be "Establish

a Self Marketing Plan."

First: Reach in. Before you reach out to potential

clients,

Waldock suggests that you ask yourself some questions. What have I

personally got to offer — beyond my product? What are my values?

What is my vision? What am I really seeking from the individuals I

meet: Advice? sales? contacts?

"Rather than just blindly networking," says Waldock,

"define

what you are and what you seek." Then, with bold pen and paper,

just as you plan the marketing of your product, write a program for

marketing yourself. Research and determine what sort of organizations,

clubs, and institutions are good places to meet people who might meet

the needs you have listed. Strategize, and then prepare to mingle.

Use a low-key approach. Want to sell some stranger in

the worst way? Cross a crowded room, make a beeline for some potential

client; grasp his hand, introduce yourself and your product, and then

start pitching.

What happens? Shields up! That unsuspecting client will stiffen like

a wall. His every ounce of sales resistance will be focused on you

and your display of desperation. Such a negative response is obvious

and understandable. Yet this worst-way approach, notes Waldock,

remains

overwhelmingly the most popular. "Make it a marketing rule,"

she says, "never, never try to sell during your introductory

meeting."

Hone an introductory conversation. Introductions are the

birth of a relationship, not a sale. So why not shake hands and begin

a conversation? Waldock terms this first meeting, however brief, an

"an opportunity to align like minds." Perhaps commenting or

inquiring cogently about the other person’s field may produce common

ground. But by whatever means, take this chance to examine this

individual

with an eye toward possible future dealings.

In the late 1980s when China’s trade door squeaked open, American

businesses poured in and found themselves stymied by the number of

months it took to close the simplest of deals. The reason was less

bureaucracy than the age-old Chinese custom of determining the content

of a business partner’s character before signing. Developing such

trust saves legal fees and ulcers, and in the long run builds profit.

If mutual interests spark, follow up with a phone call and an

appointment.

Even at this phone call stage, ask for a chance to chat or "to

continue our conversation." If you truly are meeting to develop

a business relationship, it will take time. "It is a long-term

investment," states Waldock, "and you’ve got to have

patience."

Be a Giver. Several months back, Waldock met with a the

president of a real estate firm, who she saw would ideally suit the

needs of another business associate. She called them both together

and introduced them over lunch. They sparked. "Now I am seen as

the creator — the giving connector," she states. Thus, quite

naturally, when one of these friends saw that Waldock was stranded

for a guest on her New Jersey Business show, he quickly hustled around

and supplied a candidate.

If you are invariably the one seeking advice or pushing the product,

you will be viewed as a leech. The shields will again go up and people

will wince when you call them on the phone. Focus on needs beyond

your own.

But, acknowledging that you do have needs, Waldock points out that

every person you help is likely to have a network of family and

friends

who just might be able to help you.

Be open, honest, and clear. In business, as in every

venue, people favor those who communicate clearly. Speak openly and

honestly. Realistically assess your capabilities and offer them. If

you are going to become that trusted business compatriot, you must

promise only what you can deliver, and deliver at least what you

promise.

The old rules apply: trust is forged not by rank, but by those who

continually prove themselves dependable.

Finally, Waldock advises that each of us first market ourselves

to ourselves. "Too often we don’t recognize and acknowledge our

own achievements," she points out. Some time very soon, take a

moment, write down all your accomplishments and then write

"Congratulations

— good job!"

When you believe in your product, after all, it is easier to sell

it.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
The Great Stem Cell Debate Comes to Mercer: Nancy Duff

"My task is to make sure people with

different points of view get heard," says Nancy Duff. A

professor of Christian ethics at the Princeton Theological Seminary,

she is speaking of her role as moderator of an upcoming conference.

The event is entitled "Should We Place Limits on Medical

Research?:

A Look at the Stem Cell Debate." Sponsored by the Conference

Center

at Mercer, it takes place on Friday, October 10, at 8:30 a.m. at

MCCC’s

West Windsor campus. Cost: $35. Call 609-586-4800, ext. 3856, for

more information. Among the speakers:

Dr. Wise Young, founding director of the W.M. Keck Center

for Collaborative Neuroscience and a professor at Rutgers. A leader

in spinal cord injury research, he serves on, or has served on,

advisory

committees for the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy

of Sciences, NICHD, and on the boards of many spinal cord injury

organization.

Barbara Johnson, who wrote for Princeton’s Town Topics

newspaper for 22 years and who is the mother of actor Christopher

Reeve.

Harold Shapiro, former president of Princeton University,

chair of the board of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and chair of

the National Academies of Sciences Committee on the Organizational

Structure of the National Institute of Health. He has served as chair

of the National Bioethics Advisory Committee.

Marie Tasy, director of public and legislative affairs

and primary spokesperson for New Jersey Right to Life, who works

extensively

with federal and state legislatures on pro-life legislative

initiatives,

including the NJ Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, the NJ Parental

Notification

Law, and the NJ Safe Haven Infant Protection Act.

Father Michael Manning, a physician who became a Catholic

priest and who has written a book on physician-assisted suicide.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, a New Jersey

Assemblyman

who sits on the Consumer Affairs Committee and the Law and Public

Safety Committee.

Duff praises Mercer County Community College for taking on this

charged topic, about which there is little middle ground. Stem cell

research is controversial in large part because it intersects with

the Right to Life debate.

The stems cells that are thought by most scientists to be most helpful

in medical research are those from embryos. Should embryos be created

solely to aid medical research? Should stem cells be harvested from

aborted embryos for the purpose of medical research? Few people answer

"maybe." Positions on each side tend to be passionate.

Duff lays out the two sides of the argument. "Some people believe

nascent human life has the same status as human life," she says.

"It’s a dilemma because of what stem cell therapy could address

— MS, spinal cord injury, Alzheimers, Parkinsons. Devastating

diseases, absolutely devastating."

The stem cells found in embryos, because they have not yet developed

into specific organs, could potentially be grown to replace damaged

cells in any part of the body.

"It’s so exciting," is how Duff characterizes the promise.

At the same time, troubling issues are raised. Human life, at any

stage, should not be treated callously, she says, declaring, "it’s

a dilemma."

Duff’s life revolves around the examination of moral quandaries. A

Texas native, she grew up in Tyler, a little town in the eastern part

of the state. She attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and

graduated

in 1977 with an English degree. She then attended Union Seminary in

Richmond, Virginia, where she was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

After two years as a campus minister back at Austin College, she moved

to New York City to earn her Ph.D. from the Union Theological

Seminary.

There she met her husband, David Mertz, a Methodist minister, now

serving in Princeton and in Rossmoor.

Duff, meanwhile, had been called to teach ethics at the Princeton

Theological Seminary. "I absolutely love teaching ethics,"

she exclaims. "I’m in the wonderful position of never having to

convince students that what I teach is important."

In her ethics classes, Duff strives to create understanding. Few

issues

make this more difficult than those surrounding stem cell research.

Her students are "all over the place" on the issue. She is

not out to change anyone’s mind, but rather to open minds enough to

see the merit in at least some of the points the other side is making.

"We don’t have to scream at each other," she says. "It’s

frustrating when people can not listen to one another." At the

upcoming conference she is going to ask panelists to identify the

opposing argument they disagree with the most, and then to identify

an argument that really has some merit.

"There’s room to acknowledge that one’s opponent has a valuable

perspective," she says. The all-too-common tendency to reduce

the other side to a caricature is not helpful. "When we do that,

we’re arguing with the weakest argument," she says.

Duff cannot recall a case where a passionately Pro Life or Pro Choice

person ever went over to the other side, but she has seen positive

movement. "I had a student who wrote a paper on abortion,"

she recalls. "It was so mean-spirited, so unfair." When she

gave the student a low grade, he asked for an opportunity to re-write

the paper. The new attempt retained the same arguments, but presented

them without the meanness. Duff raised the grade, and the student

agreed that the change was for the better. "I had no idea I

sounded

like this!" he told her.

His paper, stripped of vitriol, was not only more acceptable, it was

also more persuasive.

Duff doesn’t want to give away her own position on stem cell research,

but she does say that her experience of motherhood has given her

insight

into the issue.

Marrying relatively late in life, in her mid-30s, Duff was not

especially

eager to have children. "We were ambivalent about children,"

she says. While discussing the issue in a desultory — "What

do you think?" — manner, she was surprised to find herself

pregnant. "It came out of the blue!" she says.

At age 38, she gave birth to McKinley, now 14. "It was the best

thing that ever happened to us," she says. "I just shudder

to think we might have missed this." McKinley gained a sibling

two years later when Adam was born.

"My biggest regret is that I would have liked to have a third

child," says Duff. "We did go through the adoption process,

but it fell through." She and her husband had hoped to adopt a

child from China to round out their family, but could not afford the

$20,000 that they were required to put down upfront. "It shouldn’t

be so hard," says Duff.

Bearing and raising children has convinced her that there is a place

for "bringing the language of experience into the moral

debate."

The gradations of feeling a mother has for her unborn child, and then

for her children, belong in the debate, in her opinion. As the

pregnant

mother of a small child, she realized which way she would go on stem

cell research if it could save "the child I rocked to sleep."

Now, as a mother of two growing children, she says there could never

be any choice.

Says Duff, "We’d all walk into the sea together."

Top Of Page
Passionate Workers Boost Productivity: Thomas Damman

In a company of 100 people, it is a good bet that 80

percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the employees. This

breakdown

comes from Thomas Damman, founder of the Cornerstone Group of

consultants. "These are the people whose work is most aligned

with who they are," he says of the 20 percent.

He talks about how to get employees more productive when he speaks

on "How to Connect People with Their Passions" at the Human

Resources Management Association on Monday, October 13, at 5 p.m.

at the Yardley Inn. Cost: $40. Call 973-208-9083.

Damman has zigged and zagged a bit on his way to his ideal work. He

grew up in Michigan, the oldest of 10 children in a family that owns

a chain of hardware stores in the Detroit area. His grandfather, one

of six children, founded the chain. This wealth of potential business

heirs took the pressure off him. Although he, along with his siblings

and cousins, spent some time working in the stores, the family was

not at a loss for the next generation of management. So, when he

announced

that he wanted to be a priest, he found nothing but support.

After attending seminary for high school and for the first two years

of college, Damman decided that the priesthood was not for him after

all. He completed his degree at the University of Michigan, where

he studied psychology. He then joined the Navy, served in Vietnam,

obtained an MBA and a CPA, and signed on as a systems consultant with

Price Waterhouse. After seven years with Price Waterhouse, he worked

for a number of companies, helping them to structure internal audit

groups.

Damman’s overall view of corporate America after serving a 25-year

stint? "There are a lot of unhappy people and ineffective

corporations."

The reason, he says, is twofold. On the one hand, society on many

levels pressures individuals to fit in. This process starts with the

family, where there tends to be an expectation that children will

choose a path similar to that of their parents. Damman’s family, he

says, had a business orientation. That was the life they knew, and

that was the direction in which they pointed their young.

Another family might have an artistic bent. Growing up surrounded

by actors and musicians, a youngster with a yen to tote up numbers

might receive scant support.

The molding process continues in school, where self-fulfillment tends

to take a backseat to achieving high test scores, participating in

sports and activities deemed likely to appeal to admissions officers,

and winning a place in a prestigious college.

By the time most people hit the workforce, says Damman, they don’t

even know what they want to do. What they do discover all too often

is that they are deeply unhappy, and are just marking time in their

jobs. Part of his practice involves uncovering innate abilities and

helping individuals to identify the work they were meant to do. Just

as some insist that there is a soulmate for every person, Damman is

convinced that there is a perfect work match for every person.

"It isn’t what you think you want to do," he says. The match

is not cerebral. It goes deeper than that. "It’s

experiential,"

he continues. "It’s a deep sense of satisfaction. Not mind or

image, but how does it feel." When you are doing work that feels

good, work that you would do without pay if money were not an issue,

you know that you have found the work that is perfect for you. The

criterion of feeling goes against the grain, however. "We’re

taught,"

says Damman, "that if it feels good, it’s not good for you."

In addition to helping individuals peel back the layers of

socialization

that led to poor work matches, Oak Ridge-based Cornerstone Group

(973-208-9083)

advises corporations on forming productive teams. Here are some ways:

Becoming democratic. Even its critics tend to concede

that the United States has been a successful economic experiment.

While repressive governments, in the U.S.S.R. and in Cuba, for

example,

have crashed and burned, the United States, even in recession, enjoys

tremendous wealth. As industries slow down or export many of their

functions, new industries spring up in a vibrant marketplace.

While the economy as a whole operates in a democracy, companies have

not followed a democratic model. "It’s top-down management,"

says Damman. "It’s very hierarchical." The result often is

the kind of disincentive to contribute that one sees in repressive

countries. "People do only the minimum," he says.

Letting go of some power. The main reason that companies

continue to tap only a fraction of their workers’ abilities, says

Damman, is that managers fear giving up control.

"People are afraid of letting the process work," he says.

He has seen that only unusually enlightened managers are able to set

their team members free to attack a project by using their innate

skills in a way that suits their work style.

Encouraging employees to be who they are. "Find unique

abilities in the team, and let them go," urges Damman.

"Understand

individual passions," he says. "Shape team roles to capitalize

on them."

When the creative people are free to come up with new

approaches,

and the organizational people are respected for their ability to keep

the project on track, there is far more likely to be the kind of

buy-in

that boosts productivity. "On a 10-person team," Damman points

out, "just getting two more people onboard ups productivity 20

percent."

Top Of Page
PR Advice from a Self-Made Pro: Richard Laermer

<D>Richard Laermer’s advice for PR professionals

seeking ties to journalists comes straight from the playground:

"If

you want to make friends," he counsels, "make sure you’re

the one they want to be around."

Laermer, founder of RLM PR (www.rlmpr.com) and author of a number

of books, including Full Frontal PR, expands on this topic — and

on other ways of getting the client’s word out — when he speaks

on "Power Tools for Building Buzz" on Tuesday, October 14,

at 11 a.m. at a meeting of NJ CAMA at the Doral Forrestal. Cost: $45.

Call 609-397-3737 for more information.

Laermer built his own buzz early. As a student at Pace University

(Class of 1980), he looked around and saw that no one was writing

about New York City below 13th Street. He filled the gap with a column

he describes as "very funny, no b.s., a lightweight thing about

downtown." The column was picked up by a number of publications,

including SoHo News, New York Arts Weekly, and the Washington Market

Review.

He had learned a valuable lesson very early in his career: Editors,

like businesspeople of all stripes, are inundated with requests, and

tend to go with a known quantity. "I got a reputation," he

says. "It started me on a freelance career. Editors knew me."

Assignments from the likes of Rolling Stone and Editor & Publisher

followed. Steady work for the Daily News, mostly writing "funny

arts pieces," followed.

Laermer, who has written a book called trendSpotting, says his next

experience in journalism was especially important to his career. He

was in on the start-up of USA Today. Running around New York, covering

everything from Broadway openings to radon scares, he learned to

identify

trends.

Using his knowledge of New York, Laermer wrote Native’s Guide to New

York: Advice with Attitude for People Who Live Here and Visitors We

Like. The book, in turn, gave him an education. "On the first

book tour," he recounts, "I learned about good PR."

People,

of course, are divided into two species, those who love New York,

and those who hate New York. Tapping into the passion, he was able

to get both types to comment on his book, building up its buzz.

Laermer added to his knowledge of how business works when he accepted

a job as public affairs director of the Columbia Business School.

"I became super-informed," he says. "I could meet every

journalist, every PR person, any entrepreneur; I could call up the

president of Harvard. I used the position to become better informed

as a businessperson."

He ticks off the two lessons he learned as an employee of one of the

country’s premier business schools: "Number one, nobody works

very hard in academia, and number two, entrepreneurs all over the

country need help with their images."

Sharpening his antennae at every turn, Laermer was ready to start

his own business. RLM PR burst from the gate in 1991, just as the

world’s first Internet companies were starting to toddle around. The

new company, with a specialty in identifying emerging trends, quickly

pulled in business from dot-com trend setters, including Kozmo.com,

HBO.com, SonicNet, Rare Medium, the FeedRoom, Bolt, and LowerMyBills.

Of course, many of these venture capital rich ventures are no longer

around. Laermer dismisses this happenstance as inconsequential to

his agency’s prospects. For one thing, any number of media companies

went down in the crash, reducing competition. "Most of the PR

firms are out of business, thank God," he says. And before the

bubble burst, he had already begun to focus on healthcare as an

image-challenged

industry. "In the late-’90s and early 2000s, we saw that a lot

of healthcare PR agencies weren’t handling healthcare as though it

is interesting," he says. RLM PR moved into the breach.

As an example, it took on Allergan’s Alocril, a prescription medicine

for the relief of eye allergy symptoms, and turned a potentially

boring

product into a boon for golfers. After attracting coverage in Golf,

Golf Digest, Fairways, T & L Golf, and Golf for Women, RLM PR is

working

on other lifestyle niches for the product.

In a breathtaking trend-spotting feat, Laermer, a lifetime New Yorker

who got his start singing the city’s praises, has opened a California

office to supplement his New York and Washington, D.C., offices. Not

only that, but, speaking from the Left Coast, he sounds totally

besotted

by the Cali lifestyle. His new orientation comes as critics are

remarking

that New York’s number one cinema poet, Woody Allen, has begun to

turn toward the sun, advising the hero in his new movie to seek his

fortune in Los Angeles.

"People have been making fun of me all year," says Laermer.

"They’ve been making fun of L.A., but now Woody Allen’s telling

his character to go to L.A." Los Angles, trend-spotter Laermer

declares, is "a lot happier than New York." And no, he says,

it wasn’t 9/11/2001 that plunged Gotham into gloom. "The year

before was tough," he says. "It was the burning off of

greed."

The stock market plunge, in his opinion, "made 2001 an evil

year."

People, he says, "were in a really bad mood."

"I started coming here more," he says during a phone interview

from his 310 area code. "If you’re in a bad mood, the weather

makes it go away. Some cliches are true." Moving a few steps ahead

of Woody Allen, Laermer is in the process of building a house in the

desert outside of Los Angeles where, he says, sounding absolutely

blissful, "it’s always warm and beautiful."

Savvy PR strategies have gotten Laermer to a position where multiple

residences are an option. He shares them in his new book Full Frontal

PR (Bloomberg Press). Here is a sample from the "Thou Shalt Not

Lie — And 27 Other Media Relations Do or Die Commandments"

section:

Don’t bribe journalists. If your story isn’t good enough

for the media, or if your pitch isn’t hitting home, regroup, fix the

problem, and patch all the holes. Bribing a journalist is buying your

way into the publication, and if that’s what you want, make life

easier

for both of you and buy an advertisement. The best way to get a

journalist

to take your story is to prepare and hone the pitch so it delivers

your message and addresses the media’s real needs.

If you’re happy with the way a story turns out, don’t send

a gift thanking the reporter. Your intentions may be perfectly

honorable, but once again, a gift is problematic for a journalist.

All you’re doing is putting her ethics up for debate, because if she

ever chooses to cover you in the future, a case can be made that you

endeared your way in.

Send a handwritten note expressing what a pleasure it was to work

with her.

Don’t let your boss or colleagues tell you they’ll handle

getting media coverage if you’re the one with the connections.

What your higher-up thinks is a friend usually is someone he talked

to at a cocktail party.

Time and time again, a client has beseeched us not to talk to a

reporter

because she, thinking she had an "in" with the reporter, was

going to handle it herself. And every single time, either we’ve had

to step in to clean up the mess, or the reporter, with whom we’ve

had a longstanding relationship, has called us to say `Why is this

person bugging me?’

Don’t believe that whatever you’re doing is too important

to disclose. Entrepreneurs, inventors, and generic know-it-alls

always seem to be in a very unhealthy form of `stealth mode,’

tediously

toiling away on their next big idea in a locked lab guarded by

nondisclosure

agreements. But, of course, they want to be famous, too.

The first thing to remember is that no matter what you’re doing,

provided

it isn’t curing cancer or AIDS, someone else is doing something more

important.

If the media wants to know about it (because you called them,

remember?),

then give them the full story. Never solicit coverage and then give

only half the news. It’s pretentious and off-putting.

Don’t miss a deadline. Don’t miss a deadline. Oh, and

one more thing: Don’t miss a deadline. The media live and die by the

clock. If you’re working with a reporter on your story, always make

her schedule yours.

Never lie. Don’t even exaggerate. Lying about a product

or service makes a journalist who reports it look like a dolt.

Don’t ever believe you can say anything off the record.

If you don’t want to read it the next morning in the paper, don’t

say it. Many people like to exchange off-the-record quips with

journalists

to buddy up to them. You’re only creating problems for the writer

when you spill dirty little secrets. Here’s why: Journalists don’t

have to honor off-the-record statements. Their job is to report the

news, and if your off-the-record scoop is news, they need to tell

it.

Never say that you don’t know or that you can’t answer that

question. Just don’t. No comment is a product of Hollywood. It’s

an incriminating answer. By not commenting, you’re saying a whole

lot.

If she asks you a question on a subject you can’t talk about, such

as a legal or Securities and Exchange Commission issue, tell her so.

Acting coy is not a good idea here.

Don’t play hard-to-get with your answers. Journalists

are looking for straight facts, and great PR people are only too happy

to supply the answers. The idea isn’t to be a spinmeister, weaving

a web of confusion, but to be there to answer questions and get a

story in print. All of the facts discussed may not be beneficial to

you, but they’re probably quite necessary for the whole of the story.

Simply do not let the media walk all over you. You are

not a doormat. Journalists are just like anyone else, and if you let

them walk all over you, they will. Set guidelines and let them know

you aren’t a pushover. You’re there to contribute your share of a

mutually beneficial relationship. If it doesn’t seem like a two-way

street, get off at the next exit.

Don’t miss an opportunity to participate in the larger

story.

Always read and watch the news if you’re trying to be a part of it.

There’s always a bigger trend to keep an eye on, and maybe your small

business or big idea is relevant to the conversation. That’s your

`in’! Jump on it, make the calls, and become part of the news.

Don’t think a news outlet is too small for your great

idea.

Remember what Gloria Swanson said in Sunset Boulevard: `It’s the

pictures

that got small!" Day in and day out, our clients say they don’t want

to waste their time speaking with Wireless Review, Call Center

magazine,

or atNewYork.com because they’re too small or no one reads them.

Press begets press, darn it, and if you turn coverage down, you’ve

set yourself up to fail. The big secret is that most journalists read

the small news outlets like atNewYork.com to find great stories

before they hit the mainstream. Do you think they dream up all those

great stories on their very own?

If you’re on national TV, and you feel like making an

off-color

joke, don’t. Even if you think that somehow it will ingratiate

you with the host or hostess, don’t. Particularly if it’s about

another

guest, no matter how light-hearted it is, just don’t. You’ll never

get asked back. Other producers who are watching will scratch you

off their lists, too.

You’ve been so perfectly behaved throughout this chapter that

we decided to add one more commandment, the one that truly counts:

Don’t say no to all these ixnays. They are time-tested and worth

paying

attention to. Use and obey!


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