OP: Conflict Interest

By Sam Schwartz – Contributer

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(Omaha, NE)  —  It’s an ethical dilemma. One obstacle an Omaha marketing firm faces is considering to take on clients that directly compete with another. “Recently, I have made the tough decision to turn down a potential business client because the company directly competed with an ongoing customer of mine,” states Susan Stern of Stern PR™ Omaha. While Stern PR™, a marketing firm in Omaha, NE, does not sign non-compete agreements, in terms of ethics, Omaha Marketing Consultant Susan Stern feels a sense of loyalty to the clients she serves and prefers to keep them happy and not create waves.

“I have never faced this ethical issue before. Two clients who compete – simultaneously seek my Omaha marketing expertise. So, I gave the conundrum some thought. I weighed the pros and cons. Technically, if I were to take on both clients in the same business for website design & SEO work, the one who pays more for my search engine optimization services, for instance, would end up in a better spot on Google, Bing & Yahoo. In other words, the more financial investment a client commits increases the time I spend on the company’s SEO, the better their results. That doesn’t seem right,” notes Susan Stern,  an up-and-coming marketing consultant in Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha marketing consultant Susan Stern espouses strong business ethics. “I am a straight shooter. I am not going to sell you something your company does not need. As marketing consultant to your business, I will not pressure you either. I will always look out for your best interest,” says Susan.

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Stern PR™ Ethics Tips

Sam Schwartz – New Contributor

(Omaha, NE)  —  In the voluminous business world, Omaha Consultant Susan Stern, owner of an up-and-coming full-service Omaha website design & marketing company known as Stern PR™, a.k.a. sternwebdesign.com and sternprmarketing.com – offers sound advice for marketing firms when considering taking a new customer. In actuality, these wise suggestions – apply to all businesses.

“Be careful of the clients you represent,”emphasizes Susan. “If they have a poor BBB rating or questionable online reviews – as Marketer, you gotta first find out WHY and HOW – from that would-be client and elsewhere. Was it legitimate, OR was it someone who had an Ax to Grind? Did they resolve the issue? What prompted the complaint? Was it their product/service? Customer Service? Something fixable in their company? OR, was it simply slander from a competitor or a disgruntled individual – for other reasons.”

Stern PR™ understands the importance of ONLY taking on companies with strong ethics & professionalism – for these are the values Susan Stern, Stern PR™ espouses. “I was raised by fabulous parents, one in the legal profession, the other in real estate, both involved in philanthropy – mom and dad taught me that honesty, standards and ethics are essential both personally and professionally. Work hard. Help others, i.e. altruism, etc. Ditto in journalism school, I was taught that a reporter must check and double-check the facts, research, always seek the truth and be objective (no matter personal bias, if any). Of course, don’t let the media outlet sales department or big Ad buyer influence a news story angle.”

Ethics matter. “In my growing marketing business, I have also learned from – experience – to only take above-board companies, who embrace strong professional ethics. If they do not have upstanding business practices, that I can prove in my research, it is the position of Stern PR™, that I would decline assisting them.”

That said, Stern PR™  will take-on clients who have been slandered, defamed, libeled or had a crisis – to repair their honorable reputations – using a variety of ethical principles to manage the backlash. Or, if a company has problems internally, Susan Stern will help resolve the issue. Crisis Management is one service Stern PR™ provides business. “Be aware, if your company is in a public crisis, don’t do-it-yourself. Emotion gets the best of all of us! You need a third-party to handle it.” Stern PR™ may also offer a name or two of top-notch Omaha Corporate attorneys who may further assist you, if need be. 

“Admittedly & unfortunately, there has been – one instance – where I, myself took a client – unbeknownst to me at the time – with less-than-stellar practices. I had naively believed that I would be compensated for my labor-intensive on & offline marketing work. In the end, the questionable client was an individual who took my work – and ran, without payment – breach of contract. An estimated loss of $4,000. Then there was online libel/defamation by same, when I tried to collect payment. The lesson? You live, and you learn – they say. Plus, don’t just take any client.”

So, in this vast business world with companies of all kinds of morals & principles, Omaha Marketing Consultant Susan Stern recommends that her industry colleagues do their best – to do their homework – before accepting just any client. More clients will come knocking on the door that are a right fit.

courtesy of vergemagazine.com

“It’s ok to tell a company that – you can not take them on – as a client. This is where you gotta soften the blow a bit, to be candid, but kind. I think it’s fine to be diplomatic and tell them either “I am too busy to take on new clients right now. OR, I just don’t think I am the marketer that best suits your needs,” emphasizes Susan Stern, Stern PR™.

It’s never easy building a vibrant business like Susan Stern, owner of Stern PR™ in Omaha Nebraska. You go through ups-and-downs. Challenges galore. Sometimes you face Type A personalities who can be tough, etc. You constantly have to revise your contract to cover all instances. You need to protect your copyright work, too. Don’t let anyone push you around. As a woman marketing firm owner like Susan Stern, expect to sometimes go out of your comfort zone – generally, women are givers and nurturers – but you gotta be firm and fair, and not be bullied – to survive with the sharks. “Trust me, you’ll gain respect,” says Susan.

The lesson here. Don’t take just any client. Only take the clients with strong ethics. Do your research. If you make an oops, and take-on a client who turns out to not pay the bill, etc. Learn from it.  If your work is excellent, that you constantly strive to do ‘what’s in the client’s best interest’ like Susan Stern of Stern PR™ does, then – no worries – your marketing firm will thrive!

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Ban Court Cameras

By Susan L. Stern Omaha NE — Lights, camera, action! The gavel to gavel live TV/Internet coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial and the circus surrounding it exemplifies the need to ban live courtroom cameras. While elements of the case warranted extensive print/media news coverage on its own, live coverage triggered an international media frenzy with news content TV shows like CNN’s Nancy Grace & the like publicly convicting Anthony – potentially jeopardizing the Defendant’s right to a fair trial, while degrading the justice system and the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

As a former journalist, I strongly favor an open justice system for citizen access. Yes, the public has a fundamental right to view a trial, have access and attend trials held in a public place, a right backed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Advocates claim courtroom cameras function as a checks and balances system, ensuring professionalism by attorneys and the judge. The same principle of keeping a critical eye on attorneys and the Court remains available to the public and reporters, by simply physically attending the proceedings and reporting on them. Live TV cameras are not necessary.

Additionally, the televised Anthony trail, clearly took away the judicial system’s dignity and decorum, evidenced in part by a courtroom gallery observer giving the bird to a Prosecutor, a mentally unstable observer shouting crazy talk, and fist fights from citizens fighting to get a courtroom seat. Fortunately, the jury only witnessed some of the inappropriate goings-on, was sequestered and was able to not be swayed by the media circus and their pundits’ across-the-board public conviction of Casey Anthony.

On a side note, I do believe the Anthony verdict was rendered fairly based on circumstantial “evidence,” the lack of “scientific evidence” and reasonable doubt that the Defense attorneys were able to show. The prosecution’s use of unaccepted “evidence,” such as the unproven validity of vehicle air samples showing human decomposition is one factor for their case’s demise – as was the state’s inability to determine Caylee’s cause of death –  not enough to convict. The only thing the prosecution did effectively prove is that Casey Anthony was a pathological liar.

Still, outside the courthouse, there’s another bad after effect of the televised trial and media circus reaction to the verdict. Combined, it has triggered a potentially dangerous situation for all parties. It’s being reported that after Casey Anthony’s murder acquittal, their family, the jurors, attorneys and perhaps the judge are suffering a backlash in the form of death threats. The grandparents, George, Cindy and Lee have reportedly gone in hiding. When the dust settles, will they be able to return to work and lead normal lives? Despite her acquittal, Casey, soon to be free, may never escape being recognized, likely preventing her too from finding gainful employment, and moving on with her life in a healthy way – safe from mentally unstable vigilantes who vehemently oppose the verdict thanks in part to the media ‘s sensational and biased opinions – triggered by live trial coverage.

Additionally, on Orlando Florida streets, there is a boiling pot of public emotions in the form of protests from citizens who don’t feel justice was served – ignited by a biased media and extensive live Trial coverage. Would some crazy person take it upon him or herself to murder Casey or her family? Certaintly, media bias triggered by Live TV cameras, are primarily to blame for the troubles all parties involved now face.

There is also the issue of catapulting attorneys and the Judge to celebrity status, a self-interested motive to increase their political and financial gain – an after effect of live courtroom cameras and combined media circus. Did each party play to the camera and forget their duty?

So many questions. But one answer is clear. Cameras in the courtroom, especially in sensational trials like this one, have a potential to create public chaos, ignite a life-threatening backlash to all parties, and could fail to give a defendant a fair trial. Live TV courtroom cameras must go for the good of all citizens.

Nebraska Law Lax for Cyber Stalking

Nebraska Cyber Stalking Law Behind the Times

June 12, 2009 —  It’s truly amazing at the number of computer-related gadgets that people use to stalk, intimidate and steal personal communications such as emails – with vengeance in mind.   A dear friend, in a terrible divorce in Nebraska, experienced a non-traditional way of being stalked – via computer – keylogging. She discovered the snooping device on her laptop after her computer experienced an unusual slow down. Suspicious, she got to work!  Based on her ex’s lack of ethics, combined with a narcissistic/resentful personality, intuitively she knew who was responsible. So, her assumptions triggered research. She went to the computer industry’s top source,  PCMagazine.com. An article about keyloggers & anti-spyware encouraged her to obtain a free spydoctor.com scan. That’s when she discovered the evil culprit. And no, her Norton Anti-Virus did not catch the keylogger.

Turns out, her ex wanted a leg-up during divorce litigation. Further, he sought to “get even,” i.e. to punish my friend for some wrong he perceived she caused him. So, this sneaky and conniving “man” began cyberstalking her, using PC Acme Keylogger at pcacme.com.  How? He sent my pal an email with a seemingly legitimate attachment. Boom. It infected her computer. For three months, she estimates, that every password she typed, every email communication with her lawyer, etc., went straight to her disgruntled ex for his malicious eyes to read. All her letters, emails, passwords, everything…got sent to a cyberspace server, where her ex logged in – to retrieve her private data. So, his personal/office IP address could not be traced as the keylogger instigator.

Sure, she had the police issue him a ticket for unauthorized use of a computer based on the evidence. But, the stalker got off without a conviction. Why? Prosecutors most likely dropped charges because the crime, which is not specifically addressed in Nebraska law, occured during a divorce case. And, the “crime” did not involve theft of finances. Turns out, that unless prosecutors subpoena credit card records (proof he paid for the software) or to seize his computers, it would difficult for my pal to pinpoint the perpetrator herself, even though she knew – with 100% certainty – who was reasonsible. However, my pal hired a computer expert, who was able to determine the culprit, based on the other security breaches.

The attempts to read my friend’s personal communications – did not stop with keylogging. Her ex also tried to obtain her email passwords, by requesting that her passwords be reset. Fortunately, her email account sent her notice of the attempted security breach, and the email & IP address where it originated. Sure enough, in black and white, the requests for her email passwords –  came directly – from her ex. Additionally, on a day when her ex entered their marital residence post-divorce filing, as his Outlook Express email account showed, he had emailed himself several of her pal’s lawyer letters from her computer to his work email account.

A computer expert who examined her computer was able to determine that her ex did all of the following: installed a keylogger on her computer, attempted to reset her email account password and emailed himself her lawyer letters.

The psychological torment to my pal was very real and traumatic. “It was a difficult time for me. The anguish he caused was frightening. His actions disrupted my life. I had nightmares, felt unsafe and scared,” notes my friend. Cyberstalking is just as frightening and potentially dangerous as a stalker at the victim’s front door. Unfortunately, her ex did not stop his antics.

Post-divorce, she reports new violation of privacy issues – via computer too. This time he sent her a series of self-destructing emails. He set a specific date/time to disentegrate the inappropriate communications using a third party service. It didn’t take long for my intelligent friend to figure out what happened to dozens of emails in her yahoo account. The headers remained, but there was empty content inside. Obviously, her ex-husband obsessively worried about the content of emails – he had sent her. So, he intentionally erased emails that would have haunted the con man if exposed. Here too, unless you have Outlook Express or another POP account, you won’t recover your missing emails. Fortunately, my pal printed most of them. She did a screenshot of the emails when they came in*. Whew!

Hard to believe that anyone can buy these programs. But in this internet driven-age, computer-related spy gizmos – are all the rage – especially since it’s nearly impossible to trace the culprit. So, be aware if you are a heavy computer user, and have a computer-saavy enemy with an agenda.  Best advice? Print out copies of emails that matter. When your computer freezes up unexpectedly, do some checking. Read. Run free scans for keyloggers and other malware on a periodic basis.

Says my friend, “on all levels, the public needs to be more aware.” Omaha Police and Douglas County prosecutors should enforce the existing law, ‘unauthorized access of a computer’ by subpoening the credit card records and seize computers of suspected stealth stalkers. Nebraska Legislators should jump on board, and pass a specific law that addresses these crimes. Nebraska State Senators should make it a felony to spy on someone or destroy their property via computer. Finally,  Omaha media & print reporters should cover this sign-of-the-times issue – which contains all the elements of – a great news story.

For my pal, it’s no surprise that her ex resorted to these malicious antics to cause distress to my friend. She left him, and he wanted to punish her for the rejection. Further, research shows that this is typical behavior from someone with deviant social behavior. Yes, that man my friend divorced should have been arrested, charged and forced to go to Trial. If Douglas County prosecutors got wise, they’d pursue these computer stalking cases, which not only violate a right to privacy, but cause emotional distress, causing fear & anxiety to the victim. Stalking is stalking. It’s a crime and the victim should be able to pursue criminally, as well as seek civil damages. By doing so, prosecutors would get a lot of mileage for themselves, educate the public, while putting these criminal stalkers behind bars.

Editor’s Note: To capture a screen shot of your emails, press the “print screen button” on your keyboard. Then, open up a “new” Microsoft word document. Right click on mouse. Then paste the file. Save/label document in appropriate file.

Editor’s Note No. 2: Keylogger programs like PC Acme Keylogger do have legitimate purposes, such as to keep track of your minor child’s web activities or to monitor employees and the like. But as the article above demonstrates, there are privacy concerns when someone uses it with malicious intent.

Types of Technology-driven stalking:

 Report the cyberstalking crime here

Shock PR 4 Octo Mom

Editor, Susan Stern, Update: April 2, 2009 PR Practitioner Victor Munoz conducts crisis management – for himself. Tonight he went on HLN (CNN’s formerly named – Headline News) to repair the poor public image he created after publicly blasting Octo mom Nadya Suleman last month. He spoke as if he cared about the client he once represented. When asked if Munoz hopes Nadya’s a good mom he replied yes, provided “she settles down, and stops doing all these blogs, and interviews.” P.R. Practitioners, like myself, refer to this as Crisis Management.  Ironically, Munoz, who’s hired to maintain, repair images, is forced to repair his own. You know what? It may have worked. Convincing. Although, he does seem like a sleazeball “PR Practitioner” – my 1st and last impression.

(Sun., March 8, 2009)  —  If Saturday’s USmagazine.com exclusive rings true. Shame, shame shame on you Mr. so-called Public Relation’s Practitioner, Victor Munoz. As the story goes. Munoz quit ’cause he couldn’t take Nadya Suleman anymore. Munoz is quoted as describing his former client as “nuts.”

Talk about unethical. Munoz crossed the line.

Excerpt – March 7th – USmagazine.com – EXCLUSIVE: Octo Mom’s New Publicist Quits: “This Woman Is Nuts”

Victor Munoz tells Usmagazine.com that he quit as Suleman’s rep Friday night. “It just got to be too much,” he says. “It’s pretty much a free-for- all over there right now. They are freaking out right now. “Not to sound arrogant, but those people depended on me for everything,” he continues. “You have no idea what I’ve had to do for these people.

“Nadya got real greedy. This woman is nuts,” he adds. “This I can say: what ultimately destroyed the business arrangement was personal reasons.” Munoz — who plans to meet with his lawyers Monday to go over the terms of his contract and confidentiality clause — did not go into further detail. –end–

No detail? Munoz spilled the beans – all over the place – and he went overboard, regarding his “feelings” toward Nadya, when in fact, he should be protecting her image, not bashing it further, even – after – he walked out the door.

Not the kind of PR Practitioner I would refer clients to…

Editor’s Note: My neighbor. Sheila E. quipped, “she must be nuts,” referring to the publicist’s comments about the Octo mom. That made me laugh. While perhaps true, so-called P.R. Practitioner Victor Munoz behaved unethically. Is it possible that maybe the “crazed” Octo mom suffers from Post Pardum Depression to the 8th degree?

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Bribe Kids to Read

The itch of learning and loving to read is not an easy task for any parent to teach their kindergarter. But the solution may be simply – bribery. Webster’s defined: (2) something to induce or influence.

Talk about results.

It’s easy to implement. Say your child sees a gigantic stuffed tiger while shopping at the supermarket. She pleads for you to buy it. You turn to her and say, ‘if you read 5 stories, then I will get it for you.’ 

Guess what? She’ll do it! She’ll actually read 5 stories and do so enthusiastically.  My daughter did. Wow, was she proud. 

I use this trick for a lot of the extras my sweet pea asks for. Result? Not only does she play along with my bribery game, but she is improving her reading skills, gaining confidence, and learning the value of hard work.  

My kindergartener’s favorite toy now is – the tiger. She took it proudly to school for show-and-tell, and retold the story to her peers and adults, about how she read 5 books and earned the tiger.

Bribery works. Maybe she’ll also learn that money does not grow on trees, a figure of speech, as well.

Nancy Disgrace?

(November 5, 2008)  —  Ever since CNN’s Nancy Grace hit the airwaves about a missing Florida toddler, Caylee Anthony, my eyes remain glued to the show – nightly. I enjoy when Grace “unleashes the lawyers.” I appreciate the delivery of her prosecutorial mantras including the rants of psychological experts, bounty hunters, blah blah.

Sometimes Grace, a former prosecutor, who always leans toward the State, pisses me off & perplexes me. Recently, she linked a size 5 or size 6 dress found by searchers to the missing Anthony toddler.

Hello! Any mother, except her, knows that a child Caylee’s age (then 18 months reportedly) does not wear Size 5 or Size 6 clothes.

Grace is so out of touch as a mom. Her comments regarding the dress seem surprising. Her lack of education on mommyhood comes from a TV personality who repeatedly exploit’s her twins via her program. Maybe a nanny works for her full-time, thus the reason she didn’t have an “element of doubt” about the dress size fiasco.

During the Nov. 5, 2008 show, the grandparents’ lawyer, whose name doesn’t matter to me, rightfully spoke out against Grace’s pro-State bias and unfairness.

Grace, usually effectively, rips the theories of Defense lawyers whom she invites on her show. Despite his guest status, the defense lawyer for Anthony grandparents, let Grace have it – deservedly! Verbal assault – she deserved. I want 2 throw up sometimes when Grace forgets about the civil rights of defendants. Grace seems like a poster child, per se  – 4 the prosecutorial movement.

If I were a lawyer, I’d work in the private sector, not for the state.