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stripedshirt KickSTOPPER

26 May

striped-shirt-logoWell Striped Supporters, the jig is up!

After 5 years of trying to get stripedshirt to take off, I’m giving up.  But in true Laura fashion, I wanted to do so with some flare and with a very public admission of defeat.

A few weeks ago, over dinner with friends, we hatched this idea of doing a stripedshirt KickSTOPPER.

And then, at lunch with another friend, we kept rolling with the idea and doing a video of my IndieNoGo.

I knew the vision of the video immediately: it is modeled after the brilliance I think is Mike and the launch of the Dollar Shave Club 3 years ago.  I’m no Mike (and knew I couldn’t swear since I wanted kids to watch the video!), but I thought we could do something in the same spirit.  Something cute, funny, short and sweet, and brutally honest.

And so, here today is the unveiling of the video for the stripedshirt KickSTOPPER.  It’s real, it’s true, you can really get 50% off your order at www.stripedshirt.com just by entering “kickstopper” at the coupon code at check out.  It is deliberately a very public – and hopefully funny – way for me to tell the world stripedshirt failed.

Why?

I think of it kind of like a relationship.  Until you tell all your friends your boyfriend broke up with you, they are going to keep asking about him every time they see you.  Everyone asks me “how are the stripes?”  Now I can just point them to YouTube!

I’m also doing this because I gave stripedshirt 5 years and I’m quite proud of that effort.  Being an entrepreneur is really hard, and there is no shame in the fact this business didn’t fly.  We are always talking about businesses launching, about start ups.  We rarely talk about shut downs!

Now I am, with the world’s first real Kickstopper campaign, and a rare public admission of a failed business.  Check out the video, and if you like it, pass it on!  (Cause it wouldn’t hurt if I sold a few more shirts!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP_KBl9sWmk

Thank you so much for all the support and encouragement along the way these past 5 years.  It is beyond appreciated!

(please no lawsuits, Kickstarter or Indiegogo, all I got to give for a settlement is a bunch of stripedshirts!)

20 PR “Secrets” from 20 Years Experience

17 May

On my 41st birthday just a few weeks ago, I marked 20 years doing public relations, a reflective moment for sure. Then, right after, I had the pleasure of spending the day with the Ketner Group in Austin, to brainstorm and refresh all of us in PR fundamentals. To prepare, I spent some time thinking about what things I’ve learned in 20 years, what “secrets” (that aren’t really secrets, but pretty common sense stuff) I put into practice that other PR people sometimes forget. The result – 20 PR Secrets from 20 Years Experience. When I spoke at Texchange last night, with some other great marketers, including Cybele Diamandopoulos from Folio Communications, she convinced me to share! And so, with apologies for the length, here are my 20 secrets from my 20 years!

1. USE THE PHONE – call someone, surprise them, care enough. How many voicemails do you get these days? (just don’t expect a call back, but they will remember you)
2. SAY THANK YOU – when an article hits, follow up, drop them a note, tweet a thank you. Appreciate
3. READ THEIR STUFF – read their articles, and comment on them, drop them notes, do a blog response
4. GET TO KNOW EM – figure out opportunities to meet press when you are NOT in hard pitch mode, invest in/attend conferences, just to meet em. THEN, after you’ve met, do a follow up. “Lobby conferences” are a great value. Make a goal to meet one new reporter a month, outside of pitching/needing something from them.
5. BE A RESOURCE – share leads, story ideas; make introductions and pass good content along to press. Even if it has nothing to do with any of your clients. If they feel you are a value, they’ll come back to you again and again.
6. BE HONEST – if you are sharing a piece of news with 3 outlets at the same time/first, tell them. Level with them, and what your intentions, goals are. If you don’t know something, say so, but get em the info.
7. FREELANCERS ARE HUGE – freelancers may write for many outlets, and be looking for story ideas/leads. Especially outlets like the Examiner, it’s a great way to get a few names of writers based in a particular city
8. CONNECT THE DOTS – make it super easy for a journo to get all the pieces to the story, anticipate what else they’ll need, and have that info at the ready, including the tough Qs, the competitors, etc.
9. DON’T WASTE ANYONE’S TIME – train your clients, and push back on what is news, what is not. Sometimes a release is just to be put on the wires. Build relationships with the press where they know, when you reach out, its worth listening.
10. INTERACT ON BLOGS – get your client to engage, respond, agree or disagree, share their own links. Power of back links.
11. MAKE A COMMITMENT – don’t hang out a blog shingle unless you are committed to be active on it, and be active on other blogs FIRST, read, respond, interact. Establish a voice and THEN put up your own blog
12. ENGAGE ON SOCIAL – make sure your social strategies aren’t a one way street, just pumping out content. Interact, ask questions that get others to reply back and engage too.
13. ANTICIPATE LANDMINES – prepare your client’s for the worst, make them practice how to answer tough questions so they can do so evenly.
14. HARO THREE TIMES A DAY – read em all, and pay attention. Results are infrequent, but it’s a great resource for breaking news and stories in play at any given time, outlets and writers to target in the future.
15. STAY FRESH – get to know other people’s clients, and have them think about yours once and awhile, that outside perspective is critical
16. ONE NEW IDEA A WEEK – share a new idea, a pitch angle, a program, and approach with your client once a week, or at least force it among the team, to bring new ideas, pitches, targets to each team meeting, etc.
17. USE A CHEAT SHEET – especially for phone interviews, have a cheat sheet in front of you with the key messages, and points, and highlight or check off as you/your client say em. The most important points should have several checks (importance of repetition)
18. BE IN THE ZONE – during a meeting, on a call, in a press interview (and teach your client the same), remove ALL distractions, don’t look at your phone or your email. Be focused and in the moment. People will remember that.
19. BRING A WING MAN – yes to “clumping,” work a room, a conference, a press event with a colleague. Two people can engage with another, bring em in a lot easier than the pressure of one on one, and you can rif off each other and show that you are smart, but also playful.
20. HAVE FREAKING FUN – PR is a hard job, a tiring job, sometimes a thankless job. Work hard, play harder. Let your client see you care and enjoy working with them, enjoy your job.

HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY FENWAY PARK!

20 Apr

Red and blue striped shirts for the Red Soxstriped-shirt-birthday-cake-image

Today is an amazing day for Red Sox fans, but frankly all fans of baseball, of America, of traditions, of history. Baseball is the ultimate American pastime, and while there are dozens of beautiful ball parks out there, major and minor league, Spring training, etc., there are but two historic parks left: Wrigley and Fenway.

Today, April 20, 2012, Fenway Park turns 100. Happy birthday old girl!

Anyone who has been to Fenway knows it’s a magical place. And no more magical than October 2004, when the Sox miraculously came back from being down 3 to the Evil Empire, to win 4 in a row and go on to win the World Series, first time in 86 years, breaking the Curse of the Bambino. If you are a Sox fan, or just a baseball fan (as long as you aren’t a Yankees fan), and haven’t yet watched the ESPN 30for30 on Four Days in October, DO IT. You will have chills, you will cry! http://30for30.espn.com/film/four-days-in-october.html

The Red Sox, that team, that park, means so much to my fam, our oldest daughter, born that same year, has the middle name of Fenway. My mother tried to discourage us, telling me Fenway means “swamp area.” No luck. Then and now, we think it’s a pretty cool name.

And, of course, my love for the Sox, and their park, was a big motivator to start stripedshirt. I wear my red and blue with pride, often, even during slow season starts, end of season implosions, or clubhouse beer and fried chicken scandals. So today, give a little cheer for Red Sox Nation and our amazing Fenway Park. 100 years is worth a hat tip, even from a Yankees fan!

I Love What I Do. FedEx Does Too!

31 Mar

Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to be chosen by FedEx to be part of its amazing FedEx + Me program for small businesses, being piloted in Austin. I had heard of this program at least a year prior, and was so anxious to be a part. But they were looking for very young, very first time business people, who were also starting their own businesses. At then 39, and starting a new chapter with stripedshirt after 18 years of PR agency life, I was hardly a new-kid-on-the-business-block. But they took pity on me or something :) and let me into the program end of 2011. It has been amazing! Such a great group of businesses, people I respect and admire, and who are such a great support network to me. And FedEx does so much for us, from inspiring speakers, to training sessions, to small groups brought together for information sharing. Perhaps the very best value – to date- from the FedEx + Me program, was me winning a professionally produced video!!! I was so excited to be one of five selected, and wow they were good! I went into a studio end of February, and the next day, a crew came to my house – I mean stripedshirt world headquarters – and filmed several of my friends and their kiddos. Less than a month later, and LOOK what I got!!!! So darn exciting! I love, and appreciate very much! Thank you FedEx!

Attention Tech Companies: DO NOT – I repeat – DO NOT Launch at SXSW

13 Mar

I’m not kidding this just happened to me: this morning, last day of SXSW Interactive 2012, I get an urgent plea from a friend helping a friend who’s “PR firm dropped the ball” b/c the client was ticked no one wrote about them yet, and they needed to call in some favors, get some coverage. This client launched at SXSW (and I’m not making this up): a Smartphone app that’s a free mobile guide for events, complete with location based mapping and social media integration. iPhone only now, but coming soon for iPad, Android.

SERIOUSLY? You and about 2,000 other companies.

This one, is irritated with their PR people for not getting them enough coverage, especially after they got 50 requests for beta day 1. 50??? SXSW attracts over 20,000 tech people. 50? You are but a speck of sand on the beach, in so many ways.

Now, I feel for this PR person or firm, but really, ultimately, it’s their own fault, and here’s where this public service announcement blog post come in handy. Read it, believe it, remember it, and PLEASE please preach it from now on, for all the rest of us PR folks, and the press and bloggers, and the betterment of the tech companies of today and tomorrow.

DO NOT Launch at SXSW

The odds of you “being the next Twitter” are slim to none. And remember, that big moment for Twitter at SXSW 2007 wasn’t its launch anyway. Jack sent the first tweet a full year earlier. SXSW 2007 is just when that “hockey stick moment” happened for Twitter and everyone has been trying to replicate that magic ever since. YOU CANNOT. It was MAGIC. This stuff sometimes happens at SX, often times does not.

Last year, you could argue Group.me and Uber were the buzz, but holy cow they put the money down to do so, whether hundreds of free grilled cheese sandwiches or branding every pedi cab in town. This year, this sweet delusional mobile apps company is competing against Amex launching Sync with freaking JAY Z. Seriously? How can anyone compete with that?

So, again, DO NOT LAUNCH AT SXSW. Or at least do not come expecting traditional PR, press and blogger meetings or coverage. Just do us a favor, and do not come here with those unrealistic expectations that kill us all.

But come! SXSW is an amazing 10 days, 5 (or more) of just us tech folks. There are 20,000 people here, and over 2,000 of em are press, bloggers, influencers. And they are here to meet, and talk, and network. BUT NOT TO BE PITCHED, not to commit to a sit down briefing or meeting.

They come once a year to Austin to put faces with names, meet the companies they covered last year, get their research in for companies to cover in the future, LEARN, and network. They want to spend time with the tech community, with each other.

They will not commit to time with you or make a packed schedule (or shouldn’t) because at SXSW, you don’t know what’s coming at you when. You need to be fluid and flexible, and go with what happens. Enjoy the ride.

So PR people, please counsel your clients. And companies listen and learn. COME to SXSW, use it as an opportunity to talk to anyone and everyone about what you are up to, what you care about, and LISTEN to what they care about too. Talk with the masses, and tell them about your company, your apps, your tools, your location based social discovery smart phone apps. Do take advantage of the feeding frenzy that is 20,000 people combing the streets of Austin as awareness building, branding, marketing, stunts.

Enjoy the ride and that it is so crazy. Do not torture your PR person asking where “so and so” is, and why “such and such” didn’t agree to a meeting. Do not come here thinking you are the next Twitter, or Amex Sync. Just come, and enjoy the experience, and respect the rest of us (including the press and analysts) doing the same. With the influencers, meet them, let them know you love their writing or read their story last week. Build relationships that will last you your tech life time. But don’t pitch them or ask them for anything. Not this week.

I have done SXSW now since 2004. I have seen the show grow like crazy. I still love it. But maybe that’s because I play it right. Along with friends, I created an event each night for a smaller group of people, including national – and local – press, bloggers, analysts, influencers, VIPs where you can go to just talk with people, hang out, catch up. A “no pitch zone.” I do the same at any other events I hit, I enjoy the moment, don’t party hop or try to catch Leo or Tobey. I don’t look over my shoulder the entire time I’m talking with someone to see if anyone better is there. And I decline any PR project that comes my way that involves “launching at SXSW.” I have a lot of press friends who I hope respect and like me, because I will NOT call in favors or abuse their time here at SXSW (or anytime).

Please keep this blog URL, PR peeps and tech entrepreneurs, because I promise, if you’ve gotten to the bottom and agree with me, you’ll forget by SXSW 2013. Or you’ll talk with someone who doesn’t know, hasn’t been here, and will need this advice. It’s easy to get caught in the glamour of imaging you doing the PR for the next Twitter, being the “Next Big Thing At SXSW.” But those odds are very slim, rare and Magic! DO NOT Launch at SXSW. Rather, just come and enjoy the experience. It’ll serve you way better in the future, and over the crazy 5 days we live every March.

Your Free – and Priceless – Gift to Give

15 Jan

A week ago, I was more proud of my oldest daugther than I’d been yet in her young life. Watching me – and my Mother – donate our hair to Locks of Love 3 times each prior, she wanted in on the action. That poor girl has always been a bit hair challenged, and what we had was nearly 7 years of growth, with but one hair cut in the middle. But she was determined, to give her hair to little girls who need it, and so, we both went in and gave up 8 inches to Pantene’s Beautiful Length Program (thankfully, that one only requires 8 inches, which is a lot for a little kid, and took her nearly 7 years go grow. Locks of Love, the better known program, requires 10 inches, and is what I’ve done in the past, and the only program my Mom can be part of, with her color treated hair). I was so proud of my little girl and sharing our before and after pictures here now! I encourage any women – and kids: the gift of your hair is completely free to you, and priceless to someone else. (and you all thought I’d be writing about the Patriots today, didn’t you?!?!)Girl in striped shirt pre Locks of Love hair cutMom with long hair pre Locks of LoveRoyal blue and white stripedshirt on the kiddo post Pantene beautiful lengths cutMom post Pantene hair cut

Striped Lice?

13 Nov

A post on Lice? In a blog about shirts and stripes? Yup. I felt it was about time for this PSA, since many of my customers, readers, friends are parents with school age kids. In other words, will likely encounter the joys of LICE sometime in their future.

This is a brutally honest run down of our experience and what we learned, consider it something to book mark. This level of info just isn’t easily shared – or accessed – in Facebook.

Mid last January, my oldest daughter was scratching, a lot. My Mom even warned, asked, and I was convinced it was a new nervous habit and/or dry winter air. So likely 3 weeks went by with this “new nervous tick” until a day in Michael’s under their powerful flourescent lights when I literally saw things moving in my kids head.

I freaked out, and was immediately disgusted, horrified, and very itchy myself. I went immediately to CVS and bought their high strength lice shampoo and then went home, and attacked both daughters heads, and my own, and did about 17 loads of laundry. Sure enough, we were a Lice House.

After that experience, here’s what I’ve learned and some pretty effective tips:

  • Do buy the drug store brand lice shampoo – you want to get that stuff on its way to dead asap.
  • But order Happyheads online. It was a great – albeit – expensive package of shampoo, conditioner/combing solution, and deterrent oil. Love the stuff, it works.  But it takes a few days to arrive, thus all the other stuff
  • Things like olive oil or mayo, didn’t seem to work for us.
  • You will think you kicked it after a few treatments – they will come back. We battled lice from mid Jan to early March – one return visit, but this time, only to the oldest’s head
  • They don’t love to hop around, move from their source, but if you hug your kids, cuddle close, sleep with them, YOU will have the crawlies in your head too. 
  • I did.  There, I said it out loud. I had lice last Winter. It was disgusting.  Horrifying.  But it happens, to more people than you think.
  • No need to wash every surface/blanket/pillow in your home. Tho I won’t blame you for doing so. Lice can’t live off a human source for more than 48 hours, so just move/remove the blankets, pillows, lovies, bag em to suffocate the little jerks faster, and you’ll be OK.
  • But I do recommend washing – in HOT – your kid’s sheets, yours, etc.
  • Tea tree oil seems to be a deterrent, get some. It is a pure oil, sold near vitamins and stuff in stores. Your kids will smell like they were just at a Grateful Dead concert – it reminds me of Patchuli oil – but do it. Behind the ears, nape of the neck, especially.
  • That’s where lice bite, so watch those areas. If your kids have little red bites, or itch til they bleed behind the ears, nape of their neck, it is NOT rare January mosquitos.
  • Denorex ROCKS. ROCKS! That’s our new go-to. It is adult dandruff shampoo, sold in any drug store, by Head and Shoulders. Gross teal bottle with red top, grosser brown shampoo. But it works. Love the stuff now.
  • Lice themselves look like little grains of rye, they are sort of gray, big/adult ones better not be any bigger than a sesame seed or you’ve really let things go too long.
  • The nits, the eggs, attached mostly to the scalp area, versus down the hair (so cutting the kids hair won’t help much, shaving, maybe). They look like dandruff flakes, or even more like a little tiny glob of hair gel that didn’t get worked into the hair.
    Sticky like glue, they are hard to get out.
  • That’s where most of your work will come in. For about 3 weeks, we did nightly washing (with Denorex or Organix shampoo with Tea Tree oil), put in a little conditioner, also with Tea Tree extracts, that we left in the hair, and sat both girls down in the middle of the kitchen floor where the most light is, and combed and combed.
  • I ended up buying PET COMBS. I’m serious. Really thin teeth. And I liked plastic better than metal. You comb this way, and that, against the hair, with it
  • And wipe down the comb regularly with a plain white papertowl to watch for offenders coming out in the combing.
  • Have a little plastic sandwich bag with a seal there to put in the little buggars, and the papertowel each night. I had a fear of them crawling out of my trash can and down the hall into my head
  • (you will scratch and itch like crazy this entire process, and anyone you tell the tale to will start itching as well)
  • After the combing, blow your kiddo’s hair dry with a blow dryer. They hate that too.
  • And product. Any sort of hair spray, gel, etc, can help protect your kid. And again, keep applying a bit of tea tree oil behind their ears, etc.

Lice have a 7 day or something like that cycle – from when they hatch to when they can lay eggs and keep the family going. That’s where/how you can break the cycle. That’s the importance of the high test treatment shampoo.  But after a while – and it will take awhile – you can just comb em out with conditioner helping, and you almost get comfortable with the process.

Til you kick it entirely, get complacent and months latger, hear about a friend’s kid with lice.

THEN fear creeps back into your mind, and you start to build up your fortress again. That’s why I’m writing this. I got comfortable, lazy, and wasn’t taking measures frankly you should keep going fairly regularly when you have school age kids.
As my oldest’s teacher said when I “admitted” what we were going through: It happens to EVERYONE. They like clean heads best. And young kids like to groom each other, touch each other, be close. It’s going to happen.

It likely WILL happen to you. If it doesn’t, you are a rare blessed parent. If it does, perhaps my tips will help.  And remember, little bits of prevention often may help:

  • Put Denorex into your kid’s (and your own) shampoo rotation
  • Add product to your kiddo’s hair, a little hair spray or gel
  • Use the blow dryer now and again
  • Have Tea Tree oil hand to tour with Phish or put on your kid
  • Keep a watchful eye on your kid’s scratching and part line
  • And perhaps, once and awhile, go to Michaels, and stare your kid down under the bright lights.

For friends, I hope this helps. For strangers, “Lice to meet you!”  If this was helpful, remember me, and that I’d prefer to be the Striped Lady versus the Lice Lady, so support stripedshirt sometime, but I won’t fault you for bookmarking this too.  I wish I had it last winter.