Publicist and Mom takes on cupcakes at school but her message is lost in the delivery

I wrote this post yesterday for Green Life Smart Life but thought the topic of a message being lost because of the delivery was a valid one for our PR blog as well.

The headline of the lead story linked on wordpress at one point yesterday about a NYC mother who was waging war against junkfood at school caught my attention. The storywas from the NY Times and started with “MeMe Roth, a publicist and an Upper West Side mother of two is getting really, really mad — and I do not mean angry,” she clarified. “I mean mad, like crazy.” Ms. Roth is being driven mad by Public School 9, where her children are in second and fourth grades, and it seems that P.S. 9, in turn, is being driven mad by Ms. Roth.

Ok, so my editorial take on this paragraph pits me against Ms. Roth (as it did nearly all commenters to the story) of her being on her own agenda. I’d love to know what the take would have been if she had been wearing shorts and a t-shirt and her name was Jen and she was from Ohio and she said just said she was “mad”. But she wasn’t and she’s not and she says she’s “mad, like crazy” so the article continues: 

Ms. Roth, who runs a group called National Action Against Obesity, has no problem with the school lunches provided at the highly regarded elementary school on Columbus Avenue and 84th Street. What sets her off is the junk food served on special occasions: the cupcakes that come out for every birthday, the doughnuts her children were once given in gym, the sugary “Fun-Dip” packets that some parent provided the whole class on Valentine’s Day.

Okay Ms. Roth, you have my attention; your kids were given donuts in gym? They were handed “Fun-Dip” at school? Our school’s policy is no homemade treats no sugar filled snacks, so there are no cupcakes on birthdays. I admit I get miffed when my daughter asks me for something like “Fruit-by-the-Foot” because someone else brought it in and this apparently passes as “nutritious”. But it doesn’t get handed to her to make the decision of should she eat it or not. It is not necessarily condoned by her teachers.

The next few paragraphs take a turn in scolding Ms. Roth’s approach, which I agree is doing more harm than good…I mean the woman “absconded with the sprinkles and syrups on a table where members were being served ice cream at an event at a local YMCA in 2007” and she’s against Girl Scout Cookies.

This woman in in PR, has she never learned anything in her career? Her delivery and approach are destroying the validity of her message. Nearly all of the commenters on the story are against her, and thus do not hear what she is saying.

I did some research on Ms. Roth and found some other stories about her, including one where she admits to a journalist that she does not allow herself to eat until she has worked out, she never ever misses her daily run, and will not be interviewed someplace where food is present. She admits to going without food all day.

As a “publicist” she should know how to build and embrace her community. Ms. Roth’s  mission is valid and one you would want to get behind: we have an obesity epidemic in this country, diabetes for children is growing at alarming rates.

Ms. Roth is seemingly an intelligent woman, with a polished style and point to make. But her message is getting lost because “she” is getting in the way. People are taking sides for or against her and not for or against junk food. Her children were given “Fun Dip” and donuts in school! I’d be angry too. But in order to hear the message, you have to like the messenger.

This is PR 101. Ms. Roth might do well to take a step back, as anyone waging a PR campaign would, and assess her media coverage. Rate it as negative/neutral/positive and then adjust. If she were the spoke person for a company she would have been replaced. If that company were watching its community they would be doing damage control and outreaching to mommy bloggers and the teachers union and focusing onthe message: “We wouldn’t serve peanuts to a child with a tree nut allergy, why is it ok to serve donuts to overweight children?”

This is a good message and its worth a good fight.  I mean, I love cupcakes and am willing to indulge, but I also know what happens to my six year old when she has one, which is why it has its time and place.  Ms. Roth needs to get her actions in control so she can help people hear her message.

posted by KDL |  follow me on Twitter: newscaster

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