Tuesday, 12 August 2014

For teeth's sake!

Let me start off by saying this is not a sponsored post. I was not paid in cash or fillings for the mentions. In fact it cost me money, but was so worth it.

I have awful teeth. I think I've said that before. At one stage (pre smoking) they looked ok, but they have never been strong, calcium rich gnashers. In fact, in my teens my dentist told me my teeth wouldn't survive a pregnancy. They would either all fall out or would crumble and disintegrate and have to be pulled out.

Thank G-d that never happened!

Emma and Ben are lucky. They have gorgeous healthy little pearlers that actually go 'ting' when they grin. And I intend to keep it that way with regular visits to the dentist.

Emma has been to Candice Schwartz four times already. On Monday it was Ben's first visit and he was a little superstar. I thought she would let him sit in the chair, play with all the different gadgets and get used to the strange environment. But he wanted his teeth polished and cleaned and he was ever so happy opening his mouth as wide as it would go.

She picked up that Emma has four wobbly teeth and that her back teeth (molars) would probably be out by her next visit. She would then put a protective sealant on them. She also picked up (by looking at her teeth) that Emma loves sweets, which is already affecting the condition and strength of her teeth. To help put calcium back in she gave us 'tooth mousse', a fairly expensive treatment which should last six months and, in the long run, save a small fortune. 

Candice also commented on Emma's breath, which we've put down to not brushing properly, when in fact it's thrush. She gave us a chewable probiotic that Emma needs to have three times a day and as well as a lozenge.

She showed Emma and Ben how to floss and recommended that we, the parents, brush at night (the most important one) and in the morning they do it themselves with a little bit of assistance from us. 

This isn't a particularly well written post, nor is it funny or poignant or deep but it's useful. Dentistry has come a long way since pliers and pulling and the sooner you get your kiddies to love their teeth, the better.

Candice can be found at Big Red Tooth on William Nicol, opposite Design Quarter. She is great with kiddies. And adults too. 

The contact number, should you want to make an appointment, is 087 351 8333

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

PR 101 for dummies. And for PR people

I've decided to do this for some PR people. For free. Today, yes, today alone I had three very close encounters of the annoying kind with PR people. 

And in case you think I don't like PR people or respect your profession, you'd be very much mistaken. Some of my dearest friends are PR practitioners, that I've known forever.

And I did it for more than 20 years. 
Occasionally I think about going back into the real world and getting a real job but the idea of doing PR scares me. 
There's a good chance I'm out of touch with the decision makers in the media industry as well as the relevant writers, producers, editors, journalists etc and to be honest, I think I've lost 'the knack' needed to be a good PR person. 

So this isn't a dig. It's more of a public service and to make sure it doesn't reek of my grumpiness I've decided I'm going to ask a few of my friends in the industry for a tip or two. However in the meantime, here are a few of my do's and don'ts when it comes to PR and media, or in my case, bloggers. 

1. Do know your blogger - 
please don't send me releases on breast feeding pumps, newborn nappies, baby formula or anything else to do with babies. If you read my blog or my tweets you'd realise both of my children aren't breast feeding, nor are they in newborn nappies. 
Today a few of my friends received a press release on weight loss. None of them have mentioned wanting to or needing to lose a few inches. But dear PR company, you've just lost yourself a blogger or two 

2. Don't let me be a number -
Send me a personalized mail, starting with 'Hi Melinda'. Mention my children, ask how I am. If you really want to impress me add how much you loved reading my most recent blog post. Even if it's bullsh@t I'll like you a whole lot more

3. Do make me feel special -
You want me to review a product? Send me the product to try out for a week or two. Let me decide if I like it or not. Let me know that I'm one of a selected few. Again even if it's crap, it'll make me like you more. If it's something for my kids mention them by name. Say something like:
"Hi Melinda 
We think Ben and Emma are going to love this little gadget. It's great for girls for xxxx reasons and little boys will love xxxx features"
Let me know you 'know' me. Even just a little. 
I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I'd offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I'd offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it's the little things that count ****

4. Don't harass me -
Your email often ends with 'please contact us should you need more information or images'. It doesn't read 'please note I'll continue to phone and mail you until you write something about this product that has absolutely nothing to do with you'. If I want to write about it I will. It really is a case of don't call me, I'll call you

5. Don't give me FOMO - 
The parallel universe of social media is small. Don't have an event with a hashtag and tweets by the dozen and three days later send me a press release with images to write about an event/product/launch I wasn't invited to. Why would I?

6. Don't only contact me when you need something - 
A while back an influential tweeter mentioned that his pet was ill. An astute and on the ball PR company saw this and immediately sent him and his pet a 'get well soon' gift. He tweeted and blogged about it because he appreciated it. I'm not saying you need to 'buy me but send me a mail every now and then to say 'hi'. If I tweet or write a blog post about my kid's upcoming birthday, send them a card.
*** I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I'd offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I'd offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it's the little things that count ****

7. Do get to know me - 
Oops. Might have mentioned that before but PR is all about relationships. Build and manage them. Maintain and nurture them. That way you won't need to 'suggest' I use your press release. And if you're sending me information on something that's relevant to me and my readers, because you know me, you won't need to bug me

8. Don't spray and pray - 
Even when I did PR a million years ago we snubbed those PR peeps who sprayed and prayed. Sending out a generic mail to 100 journalists and hoping that five write about it didn't work then and definitely doesn't work now

9. Do let me keep my credibility while keeping yours - 
Credibility for a PR person is non negotiable. So is credibility for a blogger, as far as I'm concerned. 
In my entire career as a publicist I never worked on an account or with a product I didn't believe in. I once left an interview half way through when I found out it was for a casino. Not rudely let me add, because another key rule in PR is to not burn your bridges. I can't, with conviction, 'sell' something I don't believe in. I also won't write about something I can't personally recommend. 
'Crying wolf' in PR, where every event is brilliant and every product a must-have, slowly erodes your credibility and there'll come a time no one will believe a word you say. I once wrote a mail to a journalist saying something along the lines of "I'd love for you to review xxx show but I know you'll hate it. Would you mind extending the invite to xxx because I know he/she enjoys xxx".
Possibly a huge no no to some but because I knew both journalists and had spent years building a relationship with them I could send such a mail, keeping my credibility and getting the coverage I needed 

10. Don't underestimate my value -
Like any media platform, my blog has value. It must have if you're targeting me with umpteen releases a day. You wouldn't send a print ad to a magazine and 'suggest' they run it for free. Nor would you ask a radio station to run a commercial without paying for it. Surely you don't work for free? You bill for your time, by the hour. We know time is money. It takes time to write a review, at least a decent one, so why do you expect me to do it for free? 

You'll pay an influencer a (ludicrous) fee to tweet about your product in 140 characters but I must write a 500 word review...because you asked me to in a generic email. I don't think so.

I've probably left out a few tips that'll make your life a little easier but I'm hoping these basic principles will help. And yes, I did it for free.

The one about the email that really f@cked me off

Granted I'm grumpy. We're in the process of seeing which anti depressant is causing awful nightmares and skin irritations so it's a bit of trial, some error, and a lot of meltdowns.

Granted that when I'm feeling this way I should avoid people. Which I do. Quite well. But I make the mistake of forgetting there are people inside my PC that send email after stupid email. And today one arrived at the wrong time.

The email started off with 'hi there' which means I'm one of a hundred bloggers who received it. It then continued with 'please find a press release for our new gadget...it'd be great if you could write about it for us....it's something loads of moms would like to know about'

I've pointed out my first issue with this mail. It's generic. I've been in PR for 20 years and I never sent a 'hi there' mail. Never. 

Secondly you want me to review a product, an expensive product, based on your release? I don't think so. Give me the product to try out. Let my kids play with it for a week or a month. Let me see if it does what your release claims it does. I want to see if after two weeks they're bored of it, like the majority of their other gadgets or if a game of hide 'n seek or 'monster monster' will achieve the same results. 

Let me write a review based on my and my children's experience, on what I think. Not what you'd like me to think. 
Surely I retain my credibility this way, not cutting and pasting a release sent to your 'hi there / mommy bloggers' database. 

A storm in a teacup? Possibly. But I'm not going to recommend a product that I wouldn't buy myself. Especially not an expensive one. And if you really want to feel the wrath of a possibly menopausalnotmedicatedenoughpsychomomfromhell you will send two to three follow up mails asking for the link to the post I was told to write. And then some more asking me when I'll be writing the post. 

Like the breast feeding PR person. Who constantly sends me information on the how to's and why I should breast feed. Have you ever read my blog? Have you noticed my kiddies are adopted? Have you ever read a post about me trying to breast feed them? 

Or the company that sent me food stuff for Emma. On receiving the items I mentioned to the PR person that Emma's particularly fussy with food and I can't guarantee she'll like xxx. "Don't worry" aforementioned PR says, "be honest!"

Well I was. Emma hated it, as I knew she would, and I said so. But I sent a whole lot of the goodies to the school and asked the teachers to get other childrens' responses. Which I thought was fair. Some loved it. Some like it. And a few really didn't enjoy it. Which I wrote in my review. Only to get a mail back from the "be honest" PR person saying that they would like me to remove the post and if, in future I was lucky enough to receive other products from them, they'd like to see my review before it's published. They went on to say that they had me on a short list to be their brand ambassador but following this review I was no longer in the running. 

I don't know, a different day, a different time, a different AD would have gotten a different response.  Maybe even a review. 

Nah. I doubt it.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

My R600 Bic lighter OR Fleeced by a Kid OR the world's next Donald Trump

Extreme irritation and a grimace slowly became a smile and a high five in my head to the kid I bumped into at Northgate Mall yesterday. Given half the chance he could be one of the most successful business people this country's ever seen. Or the world.

I popped into a sweet shop to get a lighter. The lighter was R9.99. I gave the lady a R50 note. She gave me R40 back (hold on, now that I think about she fleeced me too). As I turned around there was this boy, almost 17 years old he was to tell me later. He asked if I had some money for him so he could buy some food for his mom at home. So I gave him the R40. He then suggested I take the R40 back and rather go with him to Checkers to buy a few small items.

I realise at this point I couldashoulda said no. But I didn't. I was in a position to help and so I did. So off we went. "Hang on, hang on!" he says. "Let's rather go to Pick 'n Pay. Pick 'n Pay has clothes. Maybe you can buy me a new pair of shoes or pants?" "Okay" I say, "I'm not promising clothes but let's go to Pick 'n Pay".

Walking past the various shops he chatted away, telling me his age, where he stays, how many brothers he has, where he goes to school, etc. And I chatted back. I think being poor is one thing. You find a way to make it through each day. Being ignored, being invisible, that, to me, kills you slowly, untill there's nothing left of you. So we talked. We bounced between English and Afrikaans. At times he spoke Afrikaans and I spoke English, or we both spoke Afrikaans (me badly) and English.

Before I knew it he was helping me push the trolley through the aisles, as he chose maize meal, oil, flour, cremora (? yes Cremora for his mom), washing powder, lots of chicken and some toiletries. At one point I asked him if he didn't want to get any canned foods. "No", says this teenpreneur, "I'll keep some money for shoes and pants". WTAF! He'll keep some money for shoes and pants? Who's money is he keeping for shoes and pants?

"I can't promise shoes and pants right now" I say. "I think we've got the important stuff here, ok?" A little look of disappointment but a "ja, ok" from him.

There we stood, in the queue, waiting to pay. If people looked at me strangely with my two black children, you should have seen the looks I was getting with my scruffy looking teenager. He helped me unpack the items from the trolley, threw in a HUGE slab of Aero (he did try two and I said no) and assisted the lady pack his purchase into bags and back into the trolley.

"So which way we gonna walk? If we go this way (pointing north easterly) there's a shoe shop, but that way (pointing straight ahead) there's Edgars, Ackermans and Mr Price."

As awful as I felt saying no, I had to. Monies are a little tight for me at the moment and I had just made a R600 purchase of groceries that weren't for me. If I did work according to a budget, I had just messed it up. Badly.

"Listen, next time I see you I'll buy you a new outfit, okay? But right now I just don't have the money. I'm really sorry!"

"No problem", says little Donald. "Give me your number and we can stay in touch!"

I wasn't falling for that one. Again, I did that once with a young girl on the side of the road and that's cost me over R2 000 to date...but that's a different story altogether.

Driving home, I looked at my R600 lighter. And smiled at just how big an ass I am. And probably always will be.