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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Introduces Legislation Calling for Warning Labels on Sugary Drinks

In the wake of a growing movement to rein in sugary drink consumption and unprecedented evidence tying these beverages to California’s skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates, Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning (D-Carmel) today introduced landmark legislation requiring safety warning labels on sugary drinks.
“Given the rock solid scientific evidence showing the dangers of sugary beverages, the state of California has a responsibility to inform consumers about products proven to be harmful to the public’s health,” stated Senator Monning. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians the at-a-glance information they need to make healthier choices every day.”
SB 203 would require a simple warning on the front of beverage containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. These beverages include sodas, sweet teas, sports drinks and energy drinks. The label, developed by a national panel of public health experts, would read: STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.
First introduced by Senator Monning as SB 1000 in last year’s legislative cycle, SB 203 is a response to voters’ growing concerns about the health impact of these beverages, especially among children. An estimated 14 percent of Californians have diabetes today, the highest rate in history. In just the past decade, pre-diabetes in US teens more than doubled from 9 to 23 percent, leading researchers to forecast that one in three children will develop type II diabetes as adults. In addition, over 60 percent of California’s adults and 40 percent of California’s children are overweight, making them more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.
“When you have medical professionals, public health officials and an overwhelming body of science all pointing to sugary drinks as the leading contributor to the skyrocketing diabetes epidemic, California must take action,” stated Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which is sponsoring the legislation.
Complete information on the legislation, including fact sheets on the science linking sugary beverages to diabetes, obesity and tooth decay, is available at:


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How Is Plagiarism Spelled?

I got into a conversation with a client this week about why a press release that I had just sent out and was just published on a website, wasn’t credited to me or the client. I told him that happens a lot.

I’ve lost track of all the articles/news releases that I’ve sent out over the years that didn’t credit the source. (Same with photos)
We joke about it here in the office. Another good reason to make very sure there are no typos in a news release otherwise they will surely appear in print someplace.
When I started in PR, a colleague showed me a binder full of his news releases that had been printed in newspapers. Each summer he would write a series of boating safety articles and send them out to a long list of newspaper columnists who covered boating, fishing and other water activities. He had kept a clip book with his news releases and then clips of the articles that were printed.

Many of those columns had a columnist’s name attached to them. Some had rewritten his lead a bit but many didn’t even go that far. But he didn’t mind. The important fact was that the information was getting out there and he didn’t really care how it got there or whose name was attached to it.

So I probably got that same attitude from him. But, it does get to me once in a while when I send out a news release and someone else slaps their name on it. And yes, it does happen.

However, the PR guy in me loves it when my news releases get published verbatim. I don’t have to worry about someone doing a rewrite and getting the facts wrong or screwing up my intended message.

But most of all I find it funny that from time to time I’ll come across someone in the press complaining about PR people and all the ‘junk’ they generate. And I can’t help but think to myself, “If it wasn’t for all that ‘junk,’ the press might actually have to do some work once in a while.”

Now with that said, I take my hat off to those in the media who will take a press release, use it as a starting point and do additional research to write an in-depth news article or feature.  Fortunately, they are still out there, but they have become a rare breed today.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Measles: The Viral Effect

Where do you stand on the vaccination debate?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, California – Disneyland really – has been a hotspot of the widely publicized measles outbreak.  So much so that this public health concern bumped off the coverage of the Ebola crisis that scared the entire nation. How can measles, a preventable disease through vaccinations that was nearly eradicated in the U.S., turn into this media debate of whether or not to vaccinate a child?

As a parent with some health background, I didn’t think twice about getting my kids vaccinated. I was vaccinated as a child and didn’t see any ill effects. It was a no-brainer for me. With that said, I still felt judged by other moms when we discussed whether or not to vaccinate our children, as if I was na├»ve to believe a traditional way of thinking. For me, I saw it as protection for my children and something that I can do as a responsible adult to protect my own and others.  I also saw it as a privilege to have access to such protection, since vaccines are not readily available in the Philippines.

As a communications professional, it’s hard not to notice the anti-vaccination movement in the media. They have such passion for their beliefs – such as, vaccinations cause autism – that it overshadowed the steady stream of cautionary warnings of possible public epidemic coming from the state’s health department.  It’s hard not to listen to their passionate plea that spoke to every parent’s fear. From that standpoint, many felt they had an effective message.

Regardless of where you stand, let’s look at some numbers as of today:
·         84 people in 14 states reported having measles
·         Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000
·         In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control reported 644 cases of measles infection since 2000
·         450 people per year were killed by measles in the 1960s
·         For those who opt out of vaccinations:
o   One in every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia
o   About one in 1,000 will develop encephalitis, which can leave a child deaf or mentally impaired
o   One or two of every 1,000 will die

Hey, let’s look at the bright side. Measles can be contained and eradicated again. Interestingly enough, here’s an infographic that showed up in my inbox today.

So will you or won’t you vaccinate your child?

Share your thoughts and let us know where you stand.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Resolve to Make Your Community a City of Bikes or a City of Hikes

Happy New Year! We’re at that time of the year for resolutions – some we’re
actively working on, and some that have already been broken. One popular resolution for many people is to become more physically active. This brings to mind a recent trip my husband and I took to the Netherlands, where we learned that Amsterdam is known as the City of Bikes. The driver who shuffled us between Schiphol Airport and our downtown hotel told us that Amsterdam, a city of 800,000 inhabitants, has over 1 million bicycles. There are bikes everywhere! Evidently they’re even in the canals. Locals joke that the canals are three meters deep and composed of 1 meter of water, one meters of mud and one meter of bicycles.

During a walking tour of the city, our tour guide admonished us a multitude of times to watch out for bikes because they have the right of way. Our heads were constantly swiveling back and forth to make sure we weren’t in the path of an oncoming bicyclist. We saw people of all ages on bicycles, and tourists are encouraged to rent bikes to get around the city to see the sights more quickly and easily. However, since Amsterdam is easy to navigate by foot, my husband and I were content walking along the streets of this interesting and scenic city.
But whether biking or walking, maybe we could look to Amsterdam as an example of how to fit in some outdoor physical activity while we still may be in the mood for making some New Year’s resolutions. Maybe we could turn our local community into a City of Bikes or a City of Hikes! What do you think?


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Not the Holiday We Want, But the Holiday We Need

2014 has been a year of discussion about politics, war, technology, immigration, race and gender. Yet what has actually been accomplished?

As a society, it feels like we’re constantly spinning our wheels. We know that there are problems, but we all can’t seem to come together, agree, focus and make change happen.

This problem is bigger than our political differences, economic circumstances and diverse cultural histories. It’s a structural problem. Our society is not designed for social action or concerted goal setting.

Humans are by nature a self-centered species. We’re also creatures of habit who avoid long-term planning at all costs. On an average day, most of us do not even check the news to see what’s happening in the world. If you are one of the ever-rarer avid followers of current events, you probably react every day to what has happened on the news that day.

A black teenager was shot by the police? Protest today! But pass legislation to strengthen police accountability, improve schools, break down the prison-industrial complex and increase budgets for officer training? Never! That would take more than a day.

We already have an excessive number of holidays focused on remembrance. We have Veterans Day and Memorial Day for our troops, Martin Luther King Day for civil rights, Presidents Day for our nation’s leadership, Independence Day for our country’s founding, Thanksgiving to be thankful what we have, Christmas to commemorate Christ’s birth and many more. But what days do we have for expectance?

New Year’s Day is meant to be a day of planning and introspection; a day to set goals for our life over the next three-hundred and sixty-five days. This is great for improving oneself but not so great for influencing big social problems. Who do you know who sets a New Year’s resolution to end poverty in the rural South or reform the tax code to encourage job growth?

What we really need is a national day of planning and contemplation. In marketing and management terms, we must develop an annual strategic plan. Congress obviously won’t plan for the next year – let alone the next day – so that leaves the responsibility up to us.

That’s why I’m calling for a federal holiday on January 2nd called Planner’s Day (maybe Congress can think up a better name since they have clearly demonstrated their proficiency in the naming of post offices). This would be the one day a year that the average Joe would be encouraged to read a book, write a letter to their elected officials, talk to their neighbors or write up a plan on how they can impact others throughout the year.

It would also be a day for organizations to discuss their “big” plans for the year. It even could be the one time in which elections are kept out of the national discussion. Policymakers could be required to debate each other on live television and aim to agree on at least one point of improvement to be executed throughout the year.

Members of the academic community would also be able to participate. They could write analytical treatises and send them to the press in an effort to spur discussion, instead of letting their ideas languish in an obscure journal.

Maybe after a few years of taking an annual breather, we’ll be able to step it up and develop a solid national master plan – and stick to it. Maybe in a decade or two we could solve all of our social problems.

Or, at least we’d get an extra day off work.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Can you imagine a city or a country without garbage?

I visited Sweden last summer and was impressed with how clean and comfortable it is. Unlike Oakland, where I live, and other American cities, you don’t see garbage littering the streets of Stockholm. The landfills are practically empty. 
Sweden has perfected the concept of recycling and repurposing. They set the example for sustainable living. Instead of dumping waste and garbage in landfills, they burn it to produce heat and energy. According to a recent segment on Public Radio International, burning the garbage in waste-to-energy power plants generates 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating and provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes.

Ironically, the system works so well that Sweden has run out of garbage. They recently began to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe to fuel their power plants.

There is a lot to be said about living green. We could all take a lesson to help ourselves, help the economy and help the environment. 

~ Paula

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

You don’t have to look far for design ideas

So you’re tasked with designing a magazine ad or a billboard or an issue brief, but you have no idea where to start. It never fails that there are tons of ideas floating around in my head, but then the well dries up when I actually have to put ink to paper. To help get my creative juices flowing when I’m handed a project, I refer to my design inspiration file where I collect ideas as I come across them.

Here are some of the places I look to for inspiration:
  • Pinterest: Not only is Pinterest a great place to look for design ideas, it’s also a great place to virtually collect ones you like. To get started, try out a few different search terms such as “logos,” “brochure,” “print design” and “flier.” You can also start following pinners who have a similar style to you.
  • Google Images: Another good place to search for sample designs is Google. As with Pinterest, try out a few different search terms to get started. I get much more attractive search results when I use Pinterest, but Google Images is also a good way to see examples of what not to do.
  • Magazines: I always keep an eye out for design elements that attract my attention when looking through magazines. Magazines often do really interesting things with headlines, sub headlines, pull quotes and incorporating pictures into a story layout. It’s also a good place to look for ad ideas that are successful at setting themselves apart from the competition – other ads and text on the page. 
  • Billboards and other outdoor advertising: Just as seeing print ads in their “native habitat,” it’s also really helpful to keep an eye out for advertising while you’re out and about. Which billboards catch your eye and why? What about others don’t work? What you think looks good on your computer screen may not work for drivers speeding by a freeway billboard. 
~ Nicole