Exploiting tragedy to boost your PR

Yesterday, Microsoft was largely — and rightly IMO — condemned for a now-apologized-for tweet they made in which they said that they’d donate $1 for every retweet (up to a maximum of $100,000) to Japanese earthquake relief efforts. It definitely got them a lot of publicity, most of it not so good. It took attention away from any legitimate (and non-PR-based) help Microsoft had actually offered in the face of the disaster.

Today, my Facebook news feed is full of people reposting a message from Explore.org, which urges people to like one of their Facebook pages and saying that they will donate $1 for every fan they get (up to a maximum of $100,000) to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

They’re doing the same thing to capitalize on the unrest in Egypt by urging people to like another one of their Facebook pages, saying that they’ll donate $1 for every fan they get, up to $25,000, to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals.

On the surface, that seems like a noble effort, raising awareness and encouraging people to help. However, for me the problem arises in how they’re doing it. In the comments on a post about the Dog Bless You page on Mashable, someone from Explore.org remarked, when people questioned using a disaster as a marketing device, “We want to encourage and inspire online communities to work together and take immediate action. We work with many non-profits and the more recognition we can bring to them the better!

That would be marvelous if they were actually bringing significant recognition to the non-profits they’re supporting. Rather than providing links to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation site (or its Facebook page) or to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals site (or its Facebook page), they hinge these donations on people liking their own Facebook pages.  On each of Explore.org’s Cat/Dog Bless You Facebook pages, they only mention the sites of the actual organizations in unclickable, uncopyable text on the poster graphics, making it harder for you to visit those sites (and thus less likely that people will make the effort).

You know that Explore.org is going to make those donations to the organizations in question regardless, just like Microsoft did (and had always intended to) when it made that unfortunate tweet. You Liking their Facebook pages isn’t actually accomplishing anything that not Liking them would. If Explore.org was really all about raising awareness for those organizations, they’d have made it about increasing the number of fans for the organizations’ own Facebook pages instead of their own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that Explore.org plans to donate to both of those organizations and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but by tying it into increasing their own fan base, they proving themselves to be not a lot different from Microsoft.

If you really want to help National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, you’ll go Like their Facebook pages (instead of or in addition to the Explore.org ones) and donate directly to them.

(Note: The lack of links to Explore.org or their Facebook pages in this post is deliberate.)

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Indecisiveness

Today I received an invitation to attend a day-long big corporation design meeting at the end of March in Washington, DC, for a volunteer project that I’m passionate about. Flight, hotel, transportation, and most food paid for by the big corporation.

I know. That should be an easy decision, and that decision should be “Hell, yeah!”

But attending means taking one, perhaps even two, days off work (and no work means no pay for a contractor). That would be about 1/7 of my monthly pay I’d be giving up, which is a particularly big deal because of lingering financial issues related to my lengthy underemployment over the last year.

I don’t have a passport. I’ve never had a passport. I’d have to get photos taken, find a guarantor to vouch for me, and then apply for (and more importantly pay for) express passport processing. The fees are an issue right at this very moment, but more of an issue is the time — I’m in the middle of two fairly intensive freelance jobs at the moment (not to mention my “day” job) and just trying to figure out where to squeeze getting a passport in there stresses me even more than I’m already stressed out.

And there is the issue of leaving my cat alone. He’s old. He’s still unwell. Leaving him alone for a day wouldn’t be too bad (he’s already alone for half a day on days I’m working), but if I end up trying to mitigate the payment losses by going directly from the airport to work, then he’d be alone for almost two days.

I have to decide by end of day on Friday and I just don’t know. I’m truly torn, though I admit I’m leaning towards declining the invitation as that’s the option that eases my stress the most. But it would be a huge shame to miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — the company isn’t likely to extend the offer again in the future, especially since it looks like almost no one who has been invited to attend in person will actually be able to go.

So…I just don’t know.

And I have less than two days to change that.

Word!

The NaBloPoMo theme for daily blogging this month is “In a Word”, wherein you’re supposed to choose a word and build a blog post around that word, whether it’s just a word that strikes your fancy at the time or one that describes your overall day. It’s up to each blogger to decide what exactly it means. (And you’re by no means required to stay within that theme — the point of NaBloPoMo is really to just blog every day, and the theme is a tool you can use to inspire you to do that.)

I’ve been AWOL from this blog for months now, posting only occasionally. So I thought I might try (once again — I haven’t succeeded yet, though that doesn’t stop me attempting it) taking part in NaBloPoMo this month. I like the idea of picking a word a day to blog about. It’s likely to mostly be a word describing my day or state of mind that day, but who knows.