Saturday, November 12, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

I woke up Wednesday morning to find a Facebook post from an Indiana-bred friend, urging unity.


Even if Donald Trump had not presented himself as vile and boorish, as uninformed and unprepared, as devious and divisive, supporters of Hillary Clinton could hardly be expected to immediately unite behind him.

I was a Bernie Sanders supporter until late summer, when I finally did enough reading up on Hillary Clinton's character and beliefs to enthusiastically support her. I voted for Bernie in the primary, just as I voted for unsuccessful candidates in the past, including Paul Tsongas in 1992 and the Rev. Jesse Jackson in 1988.

But on Election Night, I was prepared for a Trump victory. I took Michael Moore seriously, and I agreed with my husband when he predicted Clinton would take the popular vote but lose the electoral college. I'm no political savant, but I was a political reporter for a few years and I've covered more elections than I can count.

Things can go very wrong. I know this. I just didn't feel it - a Clinton victory - would happen.

Still, I was not prepared to get behind Trump less than 12 hours after the polls closed. Are you kidding me? I'm not prepared to unite with Republicans ever. Yet I don't consider myself a Democrat.

After the sappy posts about uniting, came the bashing of protestors and those who failed to immediate ly declare unity with a president-elect who vows to gut Obamacare and everything else our first black president has accomplished.

In between were fearful comments from LGBT friends, concerned that Trump would abdicate, figuratively speaking, to Mike Pence and various and sundry GOP thugs like Paul Ryan and Rudy Guiliani.

So I began unfriending and blocking. I like that social media platforms allow this. I wish it were so easy in real life. I do not need negativity on top of what may well become a global tragedy.

Three people fell from grace yesterday, one more this morning. A few more are on shaky ground.

Those of us who feared a Donald Trump presidency need time to vent, time to process, time to heal. Then we need to consider how we will move forward to ensure that in two years the destructive forces of Trump, Ryan, Guiliani and others like Scott Walker and Christ Christie will not continue on their collective hate-filled path.

We also need time to watch what unfolds as Trump makes his plans to move forward as the ill-equipped leader of the free world. I do not think he can do it. I do not think he will.

During the campaign, Donald Trump gave us no reason to consider uniting with him. We - those of us who hoped for a different result on Election Night - need time to grieve and make our own plans for moving forward.

Please don't urge unity. Please don't criticize us for objecting.

Frankly, to do anything but watch now would be foolhardy. Let's see what happens next. And keep up the protests.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

How to Survive

I started this post about three weeks ago, and have been tinkering with it, changing the introduction, for some time now.

This morning, after a long sleepless night, I got up hoping I'd had a bad nightmare. No such luck.

I read think pieces online. I saw my friend's posts on Facebook. I watched Hillary Clinton's speech just a while ago.

Now, what I think is this. We need today to mourn and regroup, recover from last night's madness. And then we need to take charge.

Here's my personal prescription for dealing with the notion of a monster like Donald Trump in the White House:

Take baby steps. Volunteer for the local United Way, community foundation, or some other group that helps fight poverty and inequality. Become involved in a PTO or other group that helps schools and kids.

Get involved in politics on a local level. Go to local meetings; they are open to the public, with very rare exceptions. Start with the school board or the city council. Run for office, or help someone else run for office.  At the very least, let your mayor know you'd like to serve on a citizen committee. I've served on four such committees over the past few years, and its been a very rewarding and very interesting experience.

Join or start a League of Women Voters. Our community doesn't have one but for a time a branch of the local women's club took an active roll in promoting issues and politics.

Make your own world brighter. Join a church for spiritual sustenance and grounding. Invite friends over for pizza. Exercise. Make regular medical and dental visits. Embark on some DIY projects, or take up a new hobby. Pare down; hold a yard sale. Simplify your life, and your kids' lives. Take time to breath; don't rush from activity to activity. Seek balance.

Make someone else's world better. Our community has an organization that connects donors with needs. Many of the organization's projects are small ones, like collecting jars of peanut butter and jelly for kids' summer snacks, or holding a diaper-bag drive for new mothers. Do something small to help someone. Do lots of small things to help.

Build community. Go to community events and become part of your town or neighborhood. Meanwhile, build a sense of place at home. That may be as simple as rearranging the furniture, or as complex as building a new addition or landscaping your yard.

Broaden your horizons. If you can afford to, travel. Make day trips or long weekend jaunts, if nothing else. A change of scenery is always refreshing.

Read history. Learn about past responses to unfortunate turns of events. Learn from 1930s Germany. Learn from Reconstruction-era America. Read about real leaders, Winston Churchill and Franklyn Delano Roosevelt.

Find your tribe. Make friends with like-minded people. You are not alone.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Lands' End, come home to the Midwest

A few days ago I chimed in on Lands' End's Gloria Steinem controversy, which was badly mishandled by the catalog company.

But I didn't offer a solution, although I hinted at what I would do if I ran the Dodgeville, Wis., firm, whose reputation was damaged by its affiliation with the once-venerable Sears.

As a former public relations specialist and ad-agency creative type, I have a few ideas that involve truly taking the company back to its roots.

Lands' End was founded when Gary Comer, an avid sailor and Chicago native, left his ad agency job to explore Europe. When he returned, he started his own business selling sailing gear. He was joined by two Olympic Gold medalists, Robert Halperin, a sailor and football player, and also a Chicagoan, and Richard Stearns, a sailor.

Sailing and Chicago. Get it? That's why I suggested using a photo relating to the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac race on the catalog cover. I am sure the Chicago Yacht Club would love the tie-in.

The Midwest is full of sailors. I grew up in a city on Lake Michigan and summer here means sailing and racing. The shores of Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes are dotted with yacht clubs, marinas, beaches and lighthouses (the Lands' End icon). Here's a map of Lake Michigan lights. See what I mean?

But instead, Lands' End focuses on saving the Alcatraz Lighthouse. Is anyone at Lands' End paying attention?

Yes, I know: Alcatraz is a name everyone knows. But there are plenty of wealthy San Franciscans who will happily support its salvation as a local landmark.

Lands' End needs to take baby steps and build support in its own back yard. Make friends at home by supplying durable and classic sportswear we can wear sailing, bicycling, playing and watching football, raking leaves and doing all the things we do and that customers across the country do, too.

The Midwest offers scores of sports and outdoor opportunities, from Big Ten and NFL football to the Birkebeiner to local 5 and 10k walks and runs. We love baseball, softball and all manner of outdoor activities. We play tennis. We golf. We do it all.

Ever heard of Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers? Soldier Field and the Chicago Bears? Door County? Michigan Dunes? Boundary Waters?

Smart company marketing pros would have looked closer to home for assistance in bringing back the ailing company.

It's really pretty sad.

Lands' End not only erred in its approach to rebuilding its brand, it erred in hiring Federica Marchionni, who stipulated she'd take the job only if she could remain in New York City.

That was a warning sign, but no one was paying attention.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lands' End, you've made everyone unhappy

In the 1980s when I was drowning in a sea of student-loan debt, Lands' End was everywhere in Wisconsin, where I live. Well-made, classic American clothing, but beyond my budget until the company opened a seconds shop on State Street in Downtown Madison.

Since then, I've turned to Lands' End for everything from turtlenecks to LBDs. I was cautiously optimistic when Sears acquired the company a decade ago, remembering the quality and value the former behemoth catalog firm represented in my youth.

I continued to order parkas and pima-cotton tops from LL Bean, and was never disappointed in quality or service, given the reasonable cost and the fast delivery.

But Lands' End was losing other customers. The company began to plot a comeback in late 2014.

I was excited when a new CEO was hired a year ago. I didn't see her as an especially good fit for a company that got its start with canvas sails, but I thought the results of the transformation she would lead might be interesting.

The fake preppy family gatherings of rail-thin models on the cover of the new catalogs didn't do much for me, but then I'm part-Sconnie: Down to earth and suspicious of pretension.  I'd have used photos of sailors in the Chicago-Mac race or something similar. Lands' End needs to return to its core customers, and that wasn't happening.

A week ago, I tossed the spring catalog into the recycling after a brief glance. I've been following Gloria Steinem for decades. In college, some people thought I looked like her. I didn't bother to read the center-spread article because I simply don't see what Gloria has to do with sportswear.

The backlash from conservative, "pro-life" customers didn't really surprise me, but Lands' Ends' knee-jerk response was disappointing. Quickly apologize and scrub the company Web site? Really?

One of the cardinal rules of crisis management is to "tell it all and tell it fast." It's not "back down and do it fast." Someone, a group of someones, on the LE management team acted too quickly, fearing the company's parochial-school uniform sales would be damaged.

Seriously? They didn't consider this when they chose to feature a polarizing figure in their catalog and on their Web site? Does this company know what it wants to sell? I have my doubts.

That's what worries me. The company ended 2015 on a disappointing note. Now it's made a seemingly foolish public relations decision that's made everyone unhappy. Established customers who like and respect Steinem are unhappy with Lands' End capitulating to anti-abortion types.

Gloria Steinem stands for more than a woman's right to choose. But she doesn't have much to do with Lands' End. The decision to feature her was not well-considered.

Nor was the decision to yank her image off the company Web site. Read what PR specialists have to say here.

I won't threaten to boycott Lands' End because of the decision to throw Gloria Steinem under the bus. I have no plans to purchase anything this spring or summer, but who knows what the future will bring? Lands End made some management changes earlier this year, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if more were to follow.

Current management is confused about goals and core customers, I suspect, and has little clue as to how the company might regain some of its former luster.

It promises to be an interesting spectacle to observe.