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Posts Tagged ‘Grand Rapids’

How Not to Handle Controversy You Invited Upon Yourself – ArtPrize at The BOB

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

ArtPrize Controversy at The BOB

As ArtPrize opens in Grand Rapids, an actual controversy has finally broken out.

It’s not the usual controversy (ie art snobs being upset that “commoners” are allowed to express opinions on what constitutes “good art).  It’s actually controversy over work considered to be obscene. Read more…

I Demand Better Graffiti

April 25, 2012 1 comment

Gerald R Ford Graffiti at the Ottawa Ave Exit

Recently someone in Grand Rapids, Michigan started adding Banksy-esque stenciled images of former president Gerald Ford on walls downtown.  The first image that appeared depicted a standing figure of Ford, which later had a word bubble added with the words “Motu Viget” (the city’s motto which is Latin for “Strength in Activity”).

Another figure appeared more recently of Ford with his arm raised and the infamous quote from Ford’s Oath of Office speech in 1974: “our long national nightmare is over.”

There are also other works I haven’t had the chance to see yet depicting Ford and his quote “I am indebted to no man,” and even other local celebrities like Floyd Mayweather, Jr with the quote “all work is easy work.”

I’ve been amused by these works and am now keeping one eye peeled near the I-196/US-131 interchange for more of these illustrations, wondering about the motivations of the individual(s) behind them, what they’re building toward and hoping that the Michigan Department of Transportation is slow to act on its threat to remove the graffiti.

This morning, however, I noticed that someone had scrawled the words “War Criminal” in red spray paint with poor handwriting next to the first Ford illustration.  It upset me.

I wasn’t upset with the characterization of Ford as a war criminal, there’s certainly a case to be made for that.  Rather I’m pissed at how utterly lazy and unimaginative the response is.  I’ve decided that I don’t hate graffiti – I hate CRAP graffiti.

  • Crap graffiti is some jerkweed tagger plastering the exact same sloppy, rounded uninventive image of their inane alias over every available surface out of view of a security camera.
  • Crap graffiti is some lazy, ignorant suburbanite teen adding a wobbly swastica to a school wall for shock value – completely unaware of the origin of the icon or the weight the symbol carries.
  • Crap graffiti is what adorns so many railroad cars – though there’s slightly more time invested, it still is the same unoriginal design: a crunched, barely-legible thickened font filled in with swirls of color.

T Rex "King" Graffiti on Division Ave in Grand Rapids

If you’re going to post something for hundreds of people to see each day as they walk past a transformer box, don’t you take enough pride in what you do to make a good show of it?  Ostensibly you’ve got the need to communicate (which you’ve demonstrated by risking misdemeanor charges) – if you’re going to go to all that trouble don’t you want to be effective and original when you do so?

So you want to critique President Ford – fine; add to the stencil illustration and give him an arm offering a thumbs-up to Suharto to massacre East Timorese civilians, or add a stencil of Henry Kissinger doing the same.

That goes for anyone that puts up a billboard (which I usually consider to be visual affronts more offensive than graffiti, distinguished only by the fact that they’re more expensive to produce and are officially-sanctioned).

Can’t we do better?  If you’re going to confront me with your message – at least provide me some value; a bit of humor, a spark of originality, an artistic flourish, a new font … ANYTHING.  Maybe social media has ruined me – but I now expect to extract something of value from attempts to get my attention and I refuse to believe I’m the only one.

So taggers and advertisers – give me better graffiti.  Make it art.

For Valentine’s Day – The Story of a Social Media Wedding Proposal

February 14, 2012 9 comments

Derek and Adrienne - "Mad Men" Style Courtesy of Autumn Luciano

As today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it fitting to finally get around to writing about how I romanced my wife into marrying me using social media.

The Backstory

In grad school, I met a bright and vivacious colleague who was always the first person to start up conversations with the room before class started.  Fortunately her extroversion overcame the introversion that plagued me throughout my time in school and we became friends.  In addition to being funny and kind, she was smart and hard-working which made her an ideal partner for group projects.  She also shared my fondness for snark and would sit in the back row with me, actively contributing to the running dialogue about the class (nowadays the kids call this “tweeting”).

After grad school, we kept in touch and remained friends.  She always had great insight when I was facing challenges at work, and I was more than happy to come speak to her colleagues about social media and lend a hand in the charitable efforts she was always investing herself in.

Everything always remained friendly and platonic because we were both in long term relationships.  At some point both of our relationships ended and created the opportunity for a romantic spark.

The Proposal – Ver. 1.0

I can never do anything the easy way.  Like most people who muster up the courage to make a marriage proposal, I wanted it to be as special as the person I was proposing to.  I quickly realized this would be impossible, so I tried to think of something 1/10th as special as my future wife. Read more…

A PR Pro’s Plea to TV Journos – Don’t go Geraldo Like WWMT

January 25, 2012 3 comments

WWMT Pulls a Rivera

A colleague of mine recently had an unfortunate experience with WWMT Channel 3 here in West Michigan.  One of their reporters burst into the offices of Patriot Solutions with cameras rolling and accusations flying.

It offers a “teachable moment” to point out two problems I see public relations professionals encounter with their counterparts in the news media:

Problem 1 – Not Doing One’s Homework

The basis of the investigation is that Patriot Solutions is classified as a “service-disabled, veteran-owned company.”  WWMT noted that the disability rating of the owners is “0 percent,” so they are alleging some sort of fraud.

The problem is, as the National Veteran-Owned Business Association could readily tell you, having a “0 percent” disability doesn’t mean that a veteran wasn’t disabled as a result of their service to their country.  What it means is that their disability is not at a “compensable level” – meaning it doesn’t “substantially [limit] one or more major life activities.”

So, for example, a veteran could have a “0 percent” disability rating if they suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but are able to make it to work every day and lead a relatively normal life despite suffering from mental health issues.

Problem 2 – Asking Questions One Knows Can’t be Answered

What WWMT did with their ambush interview was put Patriot Solutions in an impossible position: every journalist worth his/her salt knows that any employer has to decline to comment on private personnel matters.  It’s against the law – employees have privacy rights.  Same with patients; showing up at a hospital and demanding information on someone being treated is a HIPAA violation.  Further, the same is true of students; their privacy is protected by FERPA.

Veterans of the Marine Corps and the Army (which the owners of Patriot Services are) deserve respect and fair treatment as much as all other citizens (if not moreso).  What WWMT essentially did was attack these individuals during business hours and demand that they cough up sensitive, personal medical information because its reporter doesn’t know how to use the  Google Machine.

Dick move, WWMT.  Dick move.  Hopefully they do the right thing and nix the piece before they do more damage.

What we Learned From the Passing of a Best Friend Carried on the Fleet Feet of Social Media

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The Passing of a Best Friend Carried on the Wings of Twitter

A sad note that marred an otherwise unseasonably-warm and dry week in Grand Rapids was the death of a blogger’s dog after a careless right turn by a man driving a truck who then left the scene (even though he later admitted to being aware that the distraught owner was trying to flag him down; I also refuse to believe he didn’t know he’d hit something).

The dog’s owner wrote a moving essay about the experience that has touched all of us.  He also provided an example of forgiveness and compassion that I’ll think long and hard about for the rest of my life.

The Incident

There were witnesses to the tragic accident and the reaction of the driver of the truck.  As is increasingly the case, those witnesses had access to smartphones and tweeted what they had witnessed.  One witness, who I’m proud to call a friend, took action and captured information about the truck and its driver.  The truck was a work vehicle, so it was emblazoned with the name of the business – and the witness also managed to get (and tweet) the license plate. Read more…

The Future of the Post Office and the Digital Divide

September 14, 2011 1 comment

The Digital Divide

What does the future of the United States Post Office hold for the people affected by the Digital Divide?

I wish I knew.

What I do know is that the current state of Internet access in the US is completely inadequate for us to consider ourselves a functioning democracy.  As the New York Times and SavetheInternet.com just noted, we’re behind ROMANIA in terms of Internet speed (25th out of developed nations).

Here are just some of the reasons that Internet Access should be considered a basic right for all people:

Political Involvement:

  • Legislation moves quickly enough now that the standard “snail mail” (plus the added time it takes for legislators to screen their mail given the threat of terrorism) means it’s really too slow anyway and now the spectre of privatizing the mail service is in the future which will increase costs to send a letter (because it’s no longer subsidized by the government).
  • Want to send a fax to your legislator?  Unless you own a fax machine, most places charge a dollar or more per page.
  • Many required disclosures by public organizations have moved online, and virtually all historical documents and records are available online.
  • Citizen Journalism is a burgeoning phenomena that could potentially bring a great deal more transparency to the world we live in, but it also requires high-speed Internet access to work.

Career Advancement:

  • Moving onward and upward without Internet Access is extraordinarily difficult.  Consider the impact of the decline of the newspaper industry on access to classified ads for jobs.  Many organizations have moved to online job listings through web-based services like Monster.com, Indeed.com, Beyond.com, etc.
  • Networking still happens face-to-face, and it’s still valuable, but networking (and maintaining networks) online is rapidly becoming a new norm.
  • Social networking and other web-based platforms are now integral to most work that pays a decent wage – using those tools requires a considerable amount of time online to learn and practice skills.

Entrepreneurship:

  • The other day I saw a van for a local HVAC servicing company wrapped with branding imagery that included a Facebook button.  The “Flat Earth” has brought about a revolution in commerce and anyone can easily start up a business with far fewer resources because so many things can be accomplished inexpensively online (from payroll to managing finances to setting up an e-commerce platform).

Not enough attention is being paid to this issue.  Here’s a great example; even PBS has retired its Digital Divide site:

PBS Digital Divide Site Retired

Edutopia has a well-written piece on the state of the Digital Divide in the US which was recently updated and includes contextual information on the last decade of attempts to address it.

One of the ways to address the digital divide is to break the stranglehold the for-profit telecommunications industry has on Internet Access.  Attempts nationwide have been made to provide low-cost or free Internet access – like municipalities purchasing and providing wi-fi for their citizens (which have been fought tooth and nail by the telecoms).  That’s the main reason I was so excited about Google Fiber; the possibility that experiment holds for bridging the digital divide is promising.

GoogleFiber4GR

Even Grand Rapids has attempted to bring low-cost or free Internet access to its citizens (GR’s “The Rapidian” has a good write-up about the current efforts involving a company called Clear“) but progress has been slow.If the Post Office is dramatically cut or eliminated outright, that’s going to dramatically ramp up the need for a “digital” equivalent of those “analog” services.

Case Study: Kids’ Food Basket “Toyota 100 Cars for Good” Social Media Campaign Results

August 24, 2011 1 comment

Andrew Zimmern Retweets Adrienne Wallace's Appeal for KFB

As promised, here is the analysis of the social media campaign used to help win Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Kids’ Food Basket a much-needed delivery truck from Toyota’s “100 Cars for Good” campaign.

To show all the public relations majors out there that “Management by Objective” isn’t just an esoteric concept you memorize in a PR 200 class and subsequently forget, I’ve framed the analysis of the campaign in terms of the “RACE” acronym (Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation). Read more…