PR tip: Don’t use a celebrity’s death to pitch your company

This must be a bad week for PR. In the payments industry, Square put out a stupid blog post listing all the reasons why someone might want to worry about the company.

That was topped by the pitch below. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t use a celebrity’s death to pitch a book. But apparently not.

Robin Williams’ tragic death leaves consumers at high risk of identity theft. The 1.2 billion people already endangered from the massive Russian hacking just got more vulnerable as identity thieves lure curious citizens with links promising details about Robin Williams.

Cyber security expert Steve Weisman, founder of www.scamicide.com, author ofIdentity Theft Alert & seasoned media interview can talk about:

  • Celebrity tragedies and how they endanger consumers – Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and now Robin Williams
  • How to spot tainted emails, texts and Facebook links to ‘unreleased police photos’
  • The urgency of cyber security in light of the recent Russian breach 
  • Likelihood of spear phishing and increased cybercrime following the Russian breach
  • Tips for consumers to protect themselves

Would you like to set up an interview with Steve Weisman?

Contact Sarah Gadway at sarah@wilkspr.com, [redacted] for interview requests or for a review copy of Identity Theft Alert.

Thanks for your time,
Sarah

About Steve Weisman
Steve Weisman, BA, JD, is one of the country’s leading experts on scams and identity theft and has been featured on CBS News, ABC, Fox, NPR, PBS, CNN, CNBC, and the Dr. Phil Show and quoted in numerous publications including The Boston Globe, Barron’s, The New York Times, Money Magazine, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He founded the blog www.scamicide.com, where he provides the latest information about scams and identity theft. Weisman is a weekly commentator on scams and identity theft on WGGB-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts and the nationally syndicated radio and television Big Biz Show, is a frequent contributor to New England Cable News (NECN) and hosts the Boston area radio show A Touch of Grey, syndicated to 50+ stations nationwide. Aside from his scam and identity theft work, Weisman is a lawyer and member of the Massachusetts Bar and Federal Bar. He has been a faculty member at Bentley University since 1998, and currently serves as a senior lecturer of law, taxation and financial planning. Weisman has authored eight books, including The Truth About Avoiding Scams (2008) and 50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit(2005).

 

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You have a friend who is depressed? Here’s what to do

A friend posted this on Facebook:

My suggestion for how to honor Robin William’s passing: Skip watching his movie clips and reach out to a friend or family member who may be in a bad place/suffering from depression.

As someone who has had a lot of friends with depression, here are some tips I’ve come up with:

  1. Don’t confront someone about their depression unless it’s obvious or they are in imminent danger of hurting themselves.
  2. Don’t tell them “things will get better,” “just buck up,” etc. These are just platitudes. They imply that it’s the person’s fault.
  3. Pick up the damn phone. Calling will tell you a lot more than exchanging SMSes or Facebook wall posts. This is probably a good idea regardless, just to keep up with friends. I’d rather have three close friends call me on my birthday than 150 Facebook wall posts.
  4. Make time for them. Depression sometimes has to do with loneliness. Ask them for drinks, go see a movie, a hike. Whatever. This is also a good opportunity to get a better feel of where they’re at.
  5. Don’t make empty promises. If you say you want to help, actually mean it. Offering help when you don’t actually mean it will make the person more depressed. It sound like just being a good human, but too many people want the credit for “being good” without actually following through.
  6. Don’t lawyer conversations.
  7. Recognize when you’re out of your depth. Depression is a disease. It’s likely going to be too big a burden on you to try to help your friend on an ongoing basis. Help them find the appropriate resources.

Over on LinkedIn, I wrote a post on what Google, Twitter and Facebook should do to help address depression and suicide.

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The smartest question I was asked by an entrepreneur and team member

I’ve been quite active behind the scenes with some angel investments and building up the team for redesignmobile.

A big part of that has been having deep conversations where I ask questions about what they want to do and they ask me questions. I evaluate people as much as by what they ask me as how they respond to the questions I ask.

The smartest question I was asked recently was “What happens if you lose all of your investment doing this?”

It shows me that the person I’m working with is not immoral or amoral. They care about a partnership, not maximizing their personal gain.

My answer: Although I will take big risks, they are always calculated risks. And I don’t take risks that I can’t afford to take.

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Why I retweet racist assholes

You’ll often see me retweet the racism that is directed my way.

Why do I bother? Because I think it’s important to be reminded that racism still exists, even though SCOTUS and Fox News like to pretend that we’re in a post-race world.

The racists comments roll off my back because I just don’t care. Most racists I’ve encountered are just looking to blame others for their own lack of success. (People like Sterling being an exception, of course.)

I’ve dealt with racism my whole life. In elementary school, I had people call me “Gandhi”. Well, if you consider that an insult, you are the ignorant one. I’d be thrilled to be compared with Gandhi. (Though I in no way consider myself worthy of that comparison.)

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A response I sent to a friend just now

I’ve been receiving messages of concern from my friends. Here’s a response I sent to one of them.

Thanks for the concern. Farhan’s post is way off base and I’ve told him that many times. I’ve told him more than half a dozen times now that I wasn’t fired or forced to resign. He refuses to believe it. He won’t change his blog post. I think he’s being utterly irresponsible.
i have been depressed a few times in my life; that’s not the case now. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been. All the things I’ve wanted to do over the last 20 years — but were blocked by management — somehow seem possible. I had a Eureka moment and got really really excited.
I feel great. I’m building an important company w/o the usual challenges:
  • I don’t need to write a pitch deck.
  • I don’t need to raise money. The company I designed is so capital efficient that I can fund it with my own bankroll. I’m accepting money from a few select friends and family as well as people who I think are brilliant. (And that’s a very small list — I had to cross off one name earlier this week.)
  • I don’t need to screen and woo people — I’ve already got my initial team and they are amazing.
My biggest challenge right now is Farhan and Marcus’ idiotic blog posts about mental illness. Mental illness is definitely a problem in our society. And it’s stigmatized as much of the media coverage seems to be pointing out. I have told Farhan he is wrong. We haven’t had a real conversation. Marcus — wow, I mean just wow. The president of a huge public company questioning the mental state of someone who resigned voluntarily from his company? That’s incredible. The lawyers have been filling up my Inbox.
Because of Marcus, I now have to fly around the country convincing people I’m not mentally ill. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that — mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatized. It’s another disease, like cancer.) That’s a huge waste of my resources. Talk about kneecapping your opponent at the starting line. He is today’s Jeff Gillooly.
By the end of the week, this will be obvious. But in the meantime, please hang tight.
I will see a psychologist. But that’s to placate those who are concerned; like I said, I feel great and I’m super excited.
I will be in SoCal Wednesday through Friday. If you know any good psychologists out there, please refer me.
Thanks,
Rocky
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Social media and the new world of work — my take

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007. According to the stats, I have 39.8k tweets in that time.

In those seven years, the feed has changed a lot. It’s gone from a largely personal feed with friends and a few colleagues to a feed that is followed by CEOs, journalists, industry experts and venture capitalists, among others. The content has changed from random events — my first ever tweet was “Breathing” (thanks, Jason Del Rey for looking it up) — to a period where it was mostly about Groupon. Now it’s a mix of things that I’m passionate about.

I’ve always been a call-it-like-it-is person. I try to be thoughtful, critical and (at times) funny.

People have the usual disclaimers on their feeds: these aren’t my company’s views; retweets aren’t endorsements; etc. When I was independent, running my own company, the “these aren’t my company’s views” disclaimer was unnecessary. Although I’ve never explicitly said it, retweets haven’t been endorsements. I try to retweet things that are interesting and thought provoking. Sometimes I agree with them; sometimes I don’t. I tweet out things that are in direct conflict to my views, if I think the author has made a cogent argument.

Now that I work for a large public company, I try to be cognizant of how people might misattribute any given tweet. Here’s my thinking so far; it will likely change as I tweet and get feedback on it.

PayPal-related tweets

I joined PayPal because I believe in the company and what we’re trying to do. I will tweet about things that I find interesting. No one at PayPal gives me a list of things to tweet about. It’s stuff that I’m genuinely interested in. In many cases, I find the stories through reading my Twitter feed or because a journalist sent it to me or a friend sent it. Sometimes, it was on an internal distribution list and I thought it was something I think my audience might find interesting.

PayPal has a culture of being honest and direct. (Great fit for me!) I’m a big believer that the best products come from very smart people passionately debating products, rather than people blindly sucking up to a “visionary”. But those debates belong inside the company, among colleagues. You do a big disservice to the process if you air those differences in public.

You’ll see more PayPal tweets than you did before. This feed has always been about what interests and excited me — and my job really excites me! But this isn’t a PayPal PR feed. If you want that, follow @paypal. For the record, PayPal PR does not edit the content of this feed. They have no pre-approval of what I tweet. (Given how much I tweet, that would be a big job!)

Payments industry-related tweets

Because a lot of people have followed me for how closely I track the payments industry, I plan to continue to tweet about the industry. But a lot of these tweets will just be links to interesting content about the payments industry, without comments. (Especially in the case of direct competitors.)

All other tweets

As you might have noticed, I have strong opinions on things like net neutrality, equality, finance, venture capital and the state of journalism. These are all outside the scope of my job. I don’t even know the company’s position on this stuff (or if there even is a position). I’ve got a big role as it is without tracking down all of this stuff.

But I think have important ideas and commentary to contribute to those debates. I plan to continue those tweets as long as there is engagement and interest.

I recognize that it can be confusing because in some cases, I will actually be speaking on behalf of PayPal. But that’ll be in media outlets, on the official PayPal blogs or when I’m speaking at conferences for PayPal.

If you’re a journalist and are ever wondering whether I’m speaking on behalf of the company, please email me at rocky@paypal.

We’re all living in a grand experiment where the lines between work and personal; public and private are blurring. Fun times.

 

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Batkid, San Francisco and my brother’s experience with the Make-A-Wish foundation

Neptune pool at Hearst Castle

Neptune pool at Hearst Castle

It is so heartwarming to see all the pictures and video from Batkid saving Gotham City (er, San Francisco). For those who missed it, a California kindergartner with leukemia wanted to be Batkid and the Make-A-Wish foundation made it happen. San Franciscans lined up to cheer him on. San Francisco’s police chief and even President Obama got involved to show their support. http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2013/11/15/police-chief-greg-suhr-on-how-batkid-saved-san-francisco/

I missed the event in person because I was at the ostentatious Hearst Castle in San Simeon. As part of the castle, they have two oversized swimming pools, including an indoor one. The castle is now a California State Park. I asked one of the docents if anyone is allowed to swim in the pools. She said that occasionally the Hearst family uses it and they never say no to the Make-A-Wish foundation. (They also auction off four pool parties a year to help pay for restorations.)

My family had our own experience with the Make-A-Wish foundation. My brother had been sick pretty much since birth. Early on, he had a kidney transplant. In his high school years, that one went bad and he had a simultaneous heart and kidney transplant. The Make-A-Wish foundation sent our family on a trip to Washington, D.C.

That was more than 20 years ago and my brother is now doing fine.

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