Miranda Leslau PR

PR in Black and White

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Miranda Leslau PR - PR in Black and White

Under My Skin… AHAVA (Love)

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I just re-counted out 58 Israeli Shekels, the amount of cash I have left after my trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at the end of April. This is my incentive to go back to Israel and pay for a tuna salad at LalaLand on Gordon Beach in Tel Aviv. A salad is 58 IS (about £14.50!). But why the enthusiasm, you might ask? It is just a war zone? Or really dangerous? These comments couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, I feel safer in Israel than anywhere else in the world. Go figure.

My first trip to Israel was to Eilat when I was a wee nipper. The Eilat sun got the better of me and I looked like a Puffa Fish within 24 hours. I had burnt three layers of skin and spent the next two days covered in Israeli yogurt. It took years for the skin on my face to tan properly again. Israel had literally “got under my skin”. Being obsessed with the sea and fish in general, I was mesmerised by the colour of the Red Sea; the reflection of the copper-laden red desert rock; the jewel-like fish and the ethereal beauty of the Negev Desert. And the yogurt was great – all flavours, from memory.

I can’t remember if I visited Israel during my early teens but I certainly do remember when I rocked up to Kibbutz Kalia, aged 19, full of heartbreak (my own doing, in the main), wearing my uniform of cut off jean shorts and a severe case of ‘North London attitude’. Kalia is situated by The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and right next to The Qumran Caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. I loved Kalia. So much so, I told my late mother I wanted to make Aliyah (move to Israel) and go into the Israeli Army. She blatantly said “no”. That was June… bless her. But I really wanted to do the Army and not just because the men were beautiful (LOL). I was genuinely drawn… maybe I was a Mossad agent in the making.

Kalia made sense to me. Living within a sensibly organised community where you ate well and lived extremely well worked for me. Work hard, play hard – amidst the backdrop of some of the healthiest air on the planet, due to the mineral-rich environment. I had learnt to speak and write Hebrew when I learnt English as a child so blending into an Israeli Kibbutz environment was an extension of my childhood. There was a lot of AHAVA (love) going on back in 1989, by the shores of the Dead Sea…

I went back to Israel numerous times after I left University in 1993: I did a sponsored ‘Walk for Water’ around the Judean Hills in 50 degrees of heat, for charity – breath taking but tough for a non-morning person to get up at 5am; I went back to Kalia on the bus from Jerusalem and travelled the length and breadth of the country (and also Egypt), replenishing my pot of ‘AHAVA’, both literally and metaphorically (AHAVA is a very good natural, internationally known beauty house). And each time I visit(ed), Israel has dug deeper into my layers of skin (no yogurt required, of late) and into my ‘Nefesh’ (Soul).

Tel Aviv, where I have spent most of my last four trips, is a powerhouse for technology (Google, Facebook and Apple have HQ’s there). As well as Tel Aviv being the new vegan capital of the world, it is a vibrant and surprising 24-hour fitness destination and the home of inclusive egalitarianism. Tel Aviv is also the new home of Gay Pride and the men and women are ridiculously beautiful, without the need for artificial enhancement or extensions of any kind. You might even see a Lady Boy or two if you are lucky!

Israeli’s take nothing for granted – they live life to the full. They value every breath as they are fully aware of some of the horrors of life through war and hatred. And whilst many people I know criticize Israel in relation to Gaza, I would urge you all to err on the side of caution. The situation is far more ‘opaque’ than you might imagine and not as easily simplified as oppression or genocide. Unless you have lived in Israel or been to Israel, be open to more than media images. But back to AHAVA.

This most recent trip was a right of passage for me. I discovered family I never knew existed; I honoured a relative who perished in The Holocaust; I connected with friends from both Junior and Senior School as well as from my time on Kibbutz Kalia; I couldn’t eat meat – my body rejected it and I ate cashew nut cream cheese that literally blew my ankle socks off. I cried. I laughed. I felt. I exhaled. I went to a vegan restaurant that is one of the best dining experiences of my life, I ate at my beloved LalaLand on Gordon Beach and I let the icing-sugar-like Tel Aviv sand fall through my toes. I felt like I was home. I wore my Star of David with pride – something I never normally do in London as I was attacked wearing it many years ago. I was bursting with ‘AHAVA’ and my ‘Nefesh’ was full.

Tel Aviv is a force to be reckoned with, for everyone. The City’s energy cannot be ignored – this is not about race, creed or religion, simply about energy. It rocks 24 hours a day: from the top of Tel Aviv Marina to the bottom of Jaffa Port, it is a small City with an enormous personality that will not be ignored. Wherever you go, people talk to you within nano seconds. Now aged 47, I believe that Israel, and particularly Tel Aviv, has penetrated all seven layers of my skin. Right to the bone. I cried when I left… people must have thought I was leaving behind a long-lost lover. I felt like I was. As I posted on Facebook, “… if Tel Aviv was a man, I would marry him tomorrow”. Tel Aviv replenishes my Soul (Nefesh) with overflowing AHAVA (Love). Never goodbye, always ‘Lehitraot’. 58 Shekels are ready and waiting for that salad at LalaLand…      

Fast Love

 

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I have been thinking about the content of this post for a week now. The theme is derived from Adele’s recent live tribute version of ‘Fast Love’ by our beloved George (Michael). Adele was pretty bold to take on a slow version of this iconic track at last week’s Grammy’s and was criticized for doing so. Power of the people, right?

I think elements of this brave testament were haunting and powerful, particularly within the strings’ section. Other parts were slightly ‘off’. Nay bother. The message for me was the fact that I could actually hear the words of the song, when it was slowed down. And powerful words they are too. And this got me thinking about ‘Fast Vs Slow Life & Love’.

George is well-known for having been as self-deprecating as he was shocking about his lifestyle. He lived life to the full but he also respected where he came from and gave back, without seeking publicity or comment. He was “brought up well”, as our grandparents would have said (or “like a nice Greek boy”, as the father would have said in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ (the JOY of those two films).

Modern day life is fast – call it ‘The Tinder Effect’, if you like. George’s life was fast. We seek the fastest route to our destination; the quickest download speed; the most time-efficient workout or weight-loss plan; the path of least resistance when it comes to love and sex and seem to be obsessed with our lack of time, without appreciating the moment of time in which we exist. When we slow down the backing track of our life, the lyrics can be heard…

We have no control over time. It passes, regardless. The sun rises and sets as a ritual. And we tend to rush about trying to cram as much into our day without stopping to appreciate the view. None of us know when our time is up. And with the best technology and all of the money in the world, if it is your time, it is just that. As George can now tell us, from up on high.

I know myself that some of my best friendships and relationships have evolved over time. Not because I am getting to know someone else but due to the fact that we each find ourselves as much on our own as through the eyes of others: our colleagues, our friends, our lovers and our family. We are each mirrors and levellers. Quality over quantity (except in the case of roast potatoes or chocolate, I might add).

Generation ‘Tinder’ makes us impatient. It makes us look around the next corner, the next timeline or ‘Swipe Left’ and the next ‘Google’ search. George knew the difference between ‘Slow’ and ’Fast’ Love. You just have to listen to some of his other lyrics to appreciate the magnitude of this parallel.

I suppose we each fear ‘fear’, feelings and rejection. So speeding up our lives reduces the need to feel anything at all. We NEED fear in our lives to survive; to succeed in business and to grow. For anyone who has experienced heartbreak or loss in one form or another, it is a fate worse than death (particularly for teenagers, LOL). Because you have to deal with it and carry on (or sink)! George knew this and it inspired some of his greatest lyrics (‘Cowboys and Angels’). So ‘Fast Love’ becomes the quick fix and short-term Elastoplast. I too have been there.

The irony is that most people who live their lives in the ‘Fast Lane’, usually opt out at one point or another – burnt out high rollers and City wonder boys and girls. We all know at least one person like this. I could say that I too CHOSE to slow down my life by moving to Spain. Spain is like a spiritual, emotional and physical ‘tonic’ for me. I know far too many people who have crashed and burned through life, work, drugs or alcohol. And then they HAVE to slow down, rather than choose to do so.

If you can’t slow down or stay still long enough to ‘look up’, once you reach a certain point in life, what is the point? For the oligarchs and internationally acclaimed business leaders, if they can’t enjoy their hard work, why bother? Richard Branson regularly posts simplistic posts on his Instagram feed about life on Necker Island and the joy of being a grandfather. None of his great joys happened overnight – babies take nine months (or so) and his business success was borne out of a lot of hard graft, selling great and trusted products and understanding the power of PR.

It is timely that I post this blog on a Sunday - Spain’s day of rest, when the shops are closed, families take four hours over lunch and chatter abounds through the Paseos and Plazas within every Community and Pueblo. And I suspect quite a lot of Slow (and Fast) Love is going on too. ‘Fast Love’ is fun but ‘Slow Love’ is amazing. In George’s words, at the end of ‘Fast Love’… “I miss my baby…”. Hurting from some ‘Slow Love’, no doubt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emotional Botox

I recently read the following line on an Instagram meme post “The hardest thing you will ever do is be yourself”. I thought about this for quite some time as these words jumped off the screen. I am often criticized for being myself – which says more about others than it does about me, IMHO. But it made me think. I am a sensitive thinker to my very core. And will always consider a different view of life. It keeps my mind buoyant and perspective fresh.

Yes, I am sufficiently content with my own being to bare part of my soul – the good, the bad, the ugly and the completely hilarious (always modest when it comes to humour). I speak from the heart and believe that every day has 24 hours that require our most present commitment to ourselves and those we connect with during that time.

Ironically though, there are many onion layers to this PR lady. Very few fellow ingredients get to see the very sweetest part of my onion core. Partly because I don’t let many people in. Partly because most people don’t like to cry (LOL) and partly because most of us are programmed to solely view life as a mirror image of ourselves. Quite narcissistic really. And ever more so with the advent of social media. We see the world as we are rather than how it really is.

I read somewhere that Kim Kardashian is not allowed to be photographed ‘really’ smiling or laughing because of her Botox. Imagine living a life with such restrictions. Not only is her ass squeezed into a flesh-coloured sausage skin on a daily basis but her face is told what it can and can’t do. I wonder if she ever ‘kicks back’ with Kanye, puts on his slouchy pants (without ass pads) and laughs. Really laughs… and enjoys the gifts that life has bestowed upon her and her family.

Laughing is probably my greatest joy after my dogs and the thought of my breakfast omelette. I was in Thailand over Christmas and spent time with people who make me feel safe. Safe enough to get drunk with and safe enough to laugh like a hyena with… to the point that I thought I might pop (not poop) or self-combust. When you really laugh, it is hard to fake it. That moment when you and a friend, lover, family member or colleague just KNOW. And the endorphins just keep a’ flowing.

No price tag can be put on the importance of laughter with friends when considering our emotional and spiritual health. When our dear friend George Michael passed away on Christmas Day, the first thing I thought about George was that he must have felt so alone. He showed the world who he was without fear or remorse yet who was there for George Michael, without wanting something in return?

He made mistakes and paid the price. He challenged the status quo, as well as viewing his own sexuality and political views in somewhat of a blatant yet self-deprecating and often ironic way. He wrote songs with such conviction, even James Corden said that George’s music/song-writing “Made him realise he wasn’t alone” – George was the original Adele who delved deep into those onion layers and made us all cry.

Yet the travesty for George, Amy, Michael, Prince and so many other prodigal talents, is that in their most desperate times, did they consider they had the gift that we see and/or saw? Or did they have friends they felt safe with? Or could they really laugh? Or did they always feel engulfed by their emotional botox?

In a letter I wrote to a friend tonight, I told her how much I laughed over Christmas and how I have felt less than myself for so many years since my cancer diagnosis. My ‘Thai laughter’ has brought me back to life… I feel more like ‘me’ and ready for emotional fulfilment, for the first time in years. And whilst some of the laughter may have been tinged with tears after a few too many drinks, it is cleansing and sometimes necessary to face our internal demons. Whilst George Michael may have shared some of these demons with his ‘awe’-diences around the world, I wonder if they continued to rage the GM internal machine rather than disappear into the ether.

I only hope that George is up there with his ‘Cowboys & Angels’, ‘Outside’, in the best ‘Club Tropicana’, being told that he is ‘AMAZING’. And George you truly were. I will go to The Flask pub this week, take flowers to your home and raise a glass to you and your legacy.  And as for Thailand… what happens in Thailand stays in Thailand. And I truly love you (Thailand) – very, very long time. As George would say “I think you’re amazing”… and when someone you care about says that to you, you just have to smile from ear to ear (Botox-permitting). Happy New Year, everyone!

Bridget & Her ‘Modern Family’

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I have a confession to make… one that any self-respecting 46 year old PR probably shouldn’t be making. I never really liked Bridget Jones on-screen… I found Zellweger just a touch too nauseating in films one and two – something about her mouth. I didn’t LIKE Bridget. Maybe it was timing. I had just lost my beloved mum and didn’t really like anything. But all that has changed.

I laughed at Bridget singing in a Thai jail; I empathised with her attempts to conquer life and love. And I was always more of a Daniel Cleaver kind of girl. But… I have never been a girl to ask “does my bum look big in this?”, count calories or sit and down a bottle of wine at home in my PJ’s. I never REALLY related. But I was still the only ‘unmarried’ at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Christmas parties. AND I only wore a bunny girl outfit at the right party, a Playboy party!

From the opening scene of ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’, I just knew this film was for me. Bridget singing ‘House of Pain’ word-for-word is more my thing, minus the wine – my dogs normally dance along with me. I liked watching Bridget on screen this time around. I can’t begrudge her former ‘baby fat’ look as Renee actually fattened up on some of London’s finest Italian food at Da Mario Kensington, owned by one of my closest friends, Marco Molino.

The script, from beginning to end, was tight and relevant – I am sure helped along by Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson’s input. I think most people I know can relate to Bridget in this film – I wept and I howled with laughter. The actors are genuinely enjoying themselves and ‘McDreamy’ clearly ups the ante as far as I am concerned (particularly bare-chested, in a yurt, at a music festival). Perhaps this is the true reason that Hugh Grant refused the role.

You can just feel through the cellulose that every character is rooting for Bridget. Many of the cast have played alongside her since back in 2001. Zellweger is also clearly more comfortable in Bridget’s (tighter) skin (ironic after her own plastic surgery) and perhaps is more in touch with her own femininity, particularly when she finds out she is “up the duff”.

On that note, Emma Thompson is a delight, as always, as is Bridget’s new side-kick, the free-spirited ‘Miranda’ (who would have thought). The director and production unit have captured London at its best. The soundtrack is fantastic and relevant – I particularly loved Annie Lennox’s ‘The Hurting Time’. Every inflection in Annie’s voice reflects what is going on chez Bridget. And I am sure ‘Bridget Jones Tours’ are being launched by ‘Team Brexit’ as we speak, just as SATC Tours exist in NYC.

What is so ironic about Bridget Jones is that if it wasn’t for her middle class roots, her clipped RP accent (and what a brilliant English accent it is) and decent teeth, I am sure Jeremy Kyle would have loved to make mincemeat of her on his morning TV show. The ‘Jack’ and ‘Mark’ equivalents would have looked like they had just come off the set of ‘The Walking Dead’, once again, with rotten teeth and they would be shouting at one another with obligatory sub-titles on our screens.

I cried when Bridget saw her baby on the ultrasound monitor. It is a long time since 2004. So much has changed for me: I lost my dad; almost lost my mind; moved to Spain; got two rescue dogs; built up my business; survived cancer; fell in love with boxing; ran three half marathons for Make-A-Wish; travelled the world; experienced difficult break-ups and numerous illnesses but most relevant of all, I lost my womb to a full (and medically required) hysterectomy. So no ‘Miranda Leslau’s Baby’ movie.

I rarely consider the fact I won’t be a natural mum. But I felt a pang of loss as I watched Bridget ‘bloom’. And so many women watching this film will relate to Bridget’s journey, regardless of whether they are married, single, co-habiting or otherwise. You can just ‘feel’ Bridget more in 2016 and it will be personal to you and your situation. She has grown up with her fans and we want her to be happy because we all want to be happy in our own skin.

I was really rooting for Jack throughout. Mr Darcy never worked for me but I appreciate his relevance in the movie script and character progression. In an interview, Dempsey actually said he didn’t know why they couldn’t both have Bridget. Now that is a ‘Modern Family’ indeed. Seems reasonable to me, LOL.

You know there is movie number four in the making too. I won’t give everything away but the final scene prompts two specific storylines that you just KNOW are going to put a spanner in the works and that ‘The Diary’ will be smoking with confusion in the next few years. And I can’t wait.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is a delight. I want to see it again. I love that Bridget has grown up. I have grown up and changed no end since Bridget came to life in 2001. I love her now. I love myself now. And, the most important mission for me is that if Bridget can get married, so can I. And this I will do. Thank you, Bridget. You inspired me and focused me. I know what I want. And I am so happy that you got what you want too (well for now!!).

POSITIVE Relations: Reputation’s what you need…

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Over the last few weeks I must have been asked about the value of PR at least 10 times. To many, Public Relations is a world of fluff and spin. But reality could not be farther from the truth…

Lazy PR is what most people associate with Public Relations activity: Churning out vacuous press releases simply to tick a box and count the beans for your boss or client. Without forward-thinking, creativity or looking at a client’s bottom line.

Great PR is an altogether different animal. Not only does intelligent PR create and drive a brand; it also protects a brand. And how do you quantify the worth of your brand?

When I lectured in PR for Boston University (USA) and The University of Buckingham, I used to recommend that my students throw out every book they have ever read on PR – many are full of bar charts and graphs that mean zilch in the real world.

If a plane falls out the sky, you don’t have time to start searching for ‘Crisis Management’ in a textbook. For most companies or individuals, they only truly value the tenacity of PR when shit hits the corporate fan and share prices or sales sheets are faltering.

In most basic terms, if there is a public-facing issue with your product, business or service, the guestimated loss associated with this is two years’ worth of marketing budget. Go figure. And prevention is better than cure although many companies don’t believe in investing in PR until they have to play catch-up.

Long gone are the days when PR accounts should solely be quantified by rigid KPI’s and complicated algebraic formulae. Marketing departments need to look beyond the text book and consider real ROI for their individual business, rather than have their head stuck in a corporate box.

Solid PR is as much about happy staff and how an MD or CEO presents him or herself to the world as it is about achieving sales targets and column inches. When things go wrong you always look for the weakest link in the business. And 99% of the time this comes down to people.

Bottom line, PR is about Positive Reputation, at every level of the business model. What takes years to build up can be destroyed in minutes. Once you lose trust in a product, brand or individual, it takes much longer to re-build that trust – just imagine your partner has been unfaithful to you… how long does it take to build trust again? Sometimes months, sometimes never.

As a PR professional who is often called upon when others fail or after companies or individuals have been burnt, I am 100% committed to building and protecting my clients’ brands. Discerning consumers today are flooded with the gift of choice and Google to search ‘Good’ or ‘Bad’ reviews. Whilst online posts can be removed, human sentiment cannot be so easily erased.

One of my most fundamental roles comes into the fore when companies are in trouble or people are causing problems. People are much more difficult to manage than a faulty toy when there is fixed protocol to follow.

I urge my fellow PR colleagues to teach their clients well and educate them in the why’s and wherefore’s of ‘positive relations’. And this is how I think PR should be re-named: POSITIVE RELATIONS. Let’s put more positivity into public relations. It’s about time…