Are black cats in brand crisis?

If primary school history taught us anything it was that the Egyptians adored cats. Their adoration was so much in fact that cats were considered gods. They were the little, four-legged, furry rock stars of the age.

Whilst one could argue this still remains the case – with half of the internet seemingly dedicated to videos of funny felines (we won’t mention what the other half of videos are) when we think of the general consensus around cats, they’re not quite as worshipped as they once were.

Selfish, fickle, disloyal. These are all words that have come to be associated with the once pedestalled pets.

But the ones that have it worst of all are the black cats. Sneaky, dangerous, bringers of bad luck. There are endless myths surrounding the black cat that have caused them to become the least loved of all the moggies.

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Image source

Research by Cats Protection suggests that black cats spend, on average, 13% longer waiting to be adopted than any other coloured cat. Furthermore, they’re more likely to be let go too it seems, with an RSPCA report detailing that of the more than 1000 cats taken in, 70% are black or black and white in colour.

But, the really scary fact is, black cats are also more likely to be neglected, abused and even killed. And why? Nothing more than silly superstition.

Now, I’m not saying all superstitions should be dropped. We all have our quirks – for instance, I refuse to walk over three consecutive drains as my cousin once told me it was bad luck – but this brings no harm to anyone. I have a Russian friend who believes that before drinking you must make a toast. Again, not harmful and actually, quite enjoyable for all.

But some superstitions should have been forgotten centuries ago.

So where did this superstition come from?

The ‘crazy cat lady’ isn’t a new phenomenon. Lonely women have been caring for cats for centuries (proof, I think, that they are wonderful pets) but, during the mass hysteria that was the witch trials, women weren’t the only ones set for a terrible time.

Legend has it that when two men tried to scare away a black cat by throwing rocks it became injured, fleeing into a near-by house. This house, however, just so happened to be the home of an old woman accused of witchcraft. Later that day the old lady was seen limping around town and thus the myth was born that witches could transform into black cats. From here the rumours spread and distorted and eventually black cats were considered an omen of ill fate, the familiars of witches and friends of the devil. They were often killed along with the ‘witches’ that cared for them.

But hold on, we now know that there’s no such thing as ‘witches’ and the persecution of them has long been over, so why do black cats still have this reputation?

It took a long time for the hysteria to die down and slowly the PR for women recovered (well, in regards to witchcraft anyway). But no one exercised crisis management for black cats. They still have superstition and myth attached to them and this has long been causing them misery, abuse and serious harm.

So, I’m here to ask, do black cats need some long required crisis management? I believe so. And, if any black cat happens to be reading this blog post, I’m here to help.

Making a storyteller

I recall vividly my first lecture at university, the beginning of a 3 year long course where nothing would be drilled into me further than the importance of storytelling, where we were told that,

“Storytelling is intrinsically human, there is nothing we are more driven to do than tell stories.”

“Think about it. Each time someone asks about your day and you tell them? That is storytelling. Or when you explain how you met your best friend or significant other? You guessed it, storytelling. Or when you read the news, you bet that’s storytelling!”

But the story that’s really hooked me this week is the current Netflix phenomenon, ‘Making a Murderer’. Now that is sparking storytelling. Many have told the story of missing evidence not presented, many have told the story of their own emotions while watching the series, many a news reporter has told their accounts and told and retold the story of the trial and of ‘what happened that day’.

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Photo credit to elitedaily.com

Another thing that is intrinsically human is our curiosity and nothing sparks that more than a crime. As humans, as morbid as it may be, we love a crime. And to make a story from a crime is simple. Who, what, why, when, where? These are all questions we ask when a crime has been committed and they’re also the same questions we ask when telling or hearing a story. So, combine the two and that’s how Netflix have struck gold with the series. We also love an underdog, I’m not sure why that is but a lot of us like to root for the little guy.

Every part of the story told plays on the things that engage us as humans, it appeals to our sense of morbid curiosity, our joy for being ‘sofa detectives’ and our ability to be completely taken in by a good story. And that is exactly why, I believe, the show has taken off and why Steven Avery’s January request for an appeal has been more successful.

But what’s interesting, and what has been criticised, is the way they’re telling that story. It’s, seemingly, one sided. ‘Portraying’ Steven Avery as an innocent man. Now say what you will but is that not the point of being a defence attorney? To tell the story from their side, to portray the evidence that could inspire ‘reasonable doubt’, which is all that is needed for a jury to (in theory) conclude not guilty. The show is clearly in a position of defence, they are clearly appealing for people to see the ‘reasonable doubt’ because their story isn’t every single fact with no bias, that would be boring, long-winded and, honestly, nowhere near as compelling a story.

Whether you think that is right or wrong what you cannot deny is that they absolutely know the story they want to tell, they know how to sweep the audience up and they know how to get their point across. They are successful storytellers. And this could be the very reason that, perhaps, Avery could see a retrial soon, despite previous failed attempts. And, perhaps, could result in his freedom. It’s maybe too early and too presumptuous to argue that but I think the power of the series has made many people interested in the case and root for his freedom, which is a powerful thing indeed.

And let’s not forget that it was the story told by the prosecution that got him in prison to begin with because a conviction is based on the trial, the story told by Kratz was clearly incredibly powerful too for the jury to convict despite, my belief, that reasonable doubt was present.

So, when told well, a story can change lives.

 

One charity is breaking hearts with this simple campaign

David Sheldrick Wildlife trust
All photo and video credits to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Hugo Guinness

Friday morning is usually a happy, cheerful event. The weekend is coming and I’m super chipper as a result. However, today I have found myself in tears, cursing some of the people in this world.

Why, you may ask? Because I watched ‘I will always remember you’, a devastating animation created for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust by Hugo Guinness.

See what I mean? I’m not even a big crier. In fact, I’ve spent my life getting quizzical looks when people realise I haven’t cried at any Disney movie, or Titanic, or Marley and Me, and no, the Notebook did not make me ‘well up’ either. However, just a few lines and a soft symphonic piece was enough to leave me completely heartbroken on a Friday morning and I cannot congratulate them enough for this astonishing piece of work.

Sometimes the most impactful things are the simplest and ‘I will always remember you’ truly exemplifies that. It’s not very long, the music is lovely but nothing you’d write home about (especially in these days of texting), and the animation is wonderfully minimalist. Each thing alone would be nice, it would do its job well I’m sure, however well is not what a not-for-profit strives for.

Let’s be honest, we as a race can be fairly self-centred. The biggest charity support often comes from those with first-hand experience of the charities cause, so, not being elephants ourselves and the fact they’re not very practical pets, it’s difficult.

Therefore, when a charity is trying to inspire change and make people care about something that doesn’t affect them, they need superb, they need haunting and shattering, they need something that really works, and this story of an elephant’s journey through life is just a great example of that. Using each element so perfectly they have created something that really makes people think, and feel.

Major kudos to the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Hugo Guinness!

Now, how do I adopt one of these poor little babies?

If you want to see more inspiring and brilliant not-for-profit campaigns the ‘Hope Locker’ from Water Aid, which caught my eye last week, is a great place to start.

Millennial speak legit helps convey tone of voice

My colleague, Cara, shared an article the other day about how ‘millenial speak’ is actually rather creative and abides by the rules of English. But it made one particular point that got me thinking.

“on the Internet, it’s very hard to intuit someone’s tone”

How many of us have had arguments over text, email, social media, simply because someone misunderstood us?

As human beings we were born to communicate with each other. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that as the years have gone on we’ve figured out more and more ways we can communicate and keep up with our expanding worlds. For example, many of us now know someone that lives in a different country. Previously communication would be done either via telephone (an expensive solution) or via letter (not exactly famous for its speed and it’s a gamble whether it will even arrive).

But to send a text abroad costs barely anything, or nothing depending on your provider, and a quick message on social media is totally free. And here’s the other great thing, not only are they both instant but, unlike the across seas phone call, you don’t need to wait up all night just to talk (with family members living in Australia I’m well aware of this fun).

But these are still very new inventions that we haven’t fully adapted to yet. Written communication has never been done on the same scale as we do nowadays. Texting, social media, email, all these things have become a huge part of our day-to-day lives. But because we’re not used to them and yet use them all the time, instances for misunderstanding are plentiful.

But hold on, what’s the point then if we’re constantly having to explain ourselves? It’s totes not the one! (bit of millennial speak for you there). Ah, but as I said, communicating is innate to humans, one of the first things we learn is how to communicate.

Older generations are known for obnoxiously declaring, ‘they’re born with a phone in their hands these days’. But that’s why they know how to use them. Millenials are the first generation to grow up with these new communication technologies as standard in their lives. They were almost born knowing the pros and cons and because of this they’re learning how to fix those cons.

‘Oh-em-gee’ is a less blasphemous ‘oh my god’ and almost parodies the dramatic element creating a more comedic tone. ‘Ah-may-zing’ can really exaggerate what you’re saying. In these days of meaningless hyperbole millennials have learnt how to regain importance. I’m guilty of phrases such as ‘that’s like totes cray!’ as a way to have fun, lighten a situation or just have a moan without sounding too serious. Combine these things with emojis and meaning can be inferred perfectly.

For instance, a friend forgets to text back for days “oh-em-gee Alice that’s like totes ridic, it’s been forevs!” add in the OTT crying face (you know the one, with the tears streaming down its cheeks?) and I’m fairly certain she would understand whilst I’m in shock about her blatant disregard for my super important messages, I don’t really care. Because a simple ‘it’s fine, don’t worry’ can always leave a niggling worry. In fact, many millennials have become so proficient in using new communication channels many can speak using emojis alone and still have meaning and tone of voice understood. Blatant skillz!

So, before we all go out and start the millennial speak bashing, let’s think about how they’ve developed language to ensure tone of voice, all while abiding by the rules of the English language. And maybe next time you pop that smiley face at the end of an email to seem less formal you’ll remind yourself how far we’ve come.

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Tattoos in the workplace: the debate continues (still)

Today I saw an interesting article asking whether or not it’s ethical or right to disregard a candidate if they have a tattoo.

And it got me thinking, workplaces have progressed a lot over the last few decades, slowly accepting individuality, and, in some companies, even rewarding it.

For instance, American eatery, Zombie Burger, recently stuck up for their waitress, who was criticised by a customer for not looking ‘normal’ and didn’t leave a tip as a result. The waitress in question had visible piercings and bright pink hair, two things that previously she would have been scorned for. But, in fact, not only are the general public in support of her individuality but the company too (read more here). A sure sign we are getting somewhere with this debate on individuality and self-expression in the workplace, but clearly not far enough.

For many, tattoos are an expression of individuality, to celebrate a person or overcoming a difficult situation. For instance, the semi-colon tattoo people with depression sport, proud of overcoming a difficult point in their life and spurring them to continue their journey. To me, not only is that very creative but it’s deeply personal and emotive and, kind of beautiful.

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Yet rather than being seen as such, tattoos are marked down as a reflection of professional worth and regarded as a sign of bad character. But this doesn’t seem to be based on fact – did you know Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo on her hand? And many celebrities nowadays proudly show their tats.

In fact, tattoos have been on the rise in recent years, with 1 in 3 young people now having at least one being ‘inked’ is becoming quite normal. So slowly it seems, whether companies want to or not, they will have to start accepting tattoos in the workplace. With a skills shortage already on the rise we cannot afford to dismiss suitable candidates based on aesthetic values.

Moreover, this whole blog has been based, largely, on my personal opinion, and this is where the point really lies. It is my opinion, just as anyone that disagrees, that’s their opinion. But that is all this argument is, subjective opinions. Because, to date, there seems to be no study to claim otherwise. So, maybe, when it comes to the question “Is it ethical or right to disregard a candidate for having a tattoo” the answer is no, it isn’t. Personal opinions should be left outside of the interview room and candidates should be judged on their skills, not their skin.

What do you do when a friendship breaks down

Break-ups suck. Plunging yourself into an ice-cream soaked misery, wearing the same pjs you’ve been wearing for weeks, watching chick-flicks and listening to the most intense break-up songs.

That’s the typical break-up routine we all know when you break up with a lover, but what happens when you break-up with a friend?

I’ve never been the type of girl to mope over a guy for long. I’ve grown up with movies like Legally Blonde to teach me if it’s ended then great things can happen when you get up and get on. So that’s what I’ve always done – minus the fabulous outfits and great legal mind, of course.

But I’ve never had much experience of a friendship break-up. In films they fight and things get nasty but eventually they realise their friendship is more important than whatever it is that broke them up. But what if it isn’t anymore? Then what do we do?

As I said, I’ve never had much experience of friendship break-ups, so experiencing one recently and not knowing what on earth to do has been hard but I am learning how to say goodbye and carry on without her.

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Photo credit to James Benet

The myriad of films showing friendship breakdowns and encouraging forgiveness can blur the lines in real-life, and that’s where my problem started. We’re taught there’s nothing a friendship can’t overcome but if a guy treats us like crap then ‘ditch the bitch’. Whilst I agree with the latter I think the former has its limits and we should start empowering ourselves to identify those limits. In other words, as Elle would say ‘I object!’ We are just as deserving of a good friend as we are of a good partner.

We had been friends for 10 years and she changed, I guess I must have changed too, and what used to work perfectly just didn’t anymore. We argued a lot and little things she did started to bug me, she started doing drugs and smoking, which just wasn’t her. I was beginning to really struggle maintaining the relationship. That same year she ghosted me for months when I needed her more than ever, she stopped caring about me, I don’t think I’ll ever stop caring about her. The cloud of those few months hung over me, whenever I tried to ask her about it she’d change the subject or make excuses and eventually I didn’t have the strength to ask anymore, but I also never had the strength to forgive her either. I started to put up a wall from her, struggling to know what to say or how to act. Then she did something that showed me the friendship didn’t mean anything to her anymore and from then on I decided that really was the end. I couldn’t do it anymore.

I haven’t heard from her since that day. It’s been nearly a year now and I still find myself thinking about how we used to be, the things we went through together no other human-being will ever understand and I miss that, but I know we aren’t those people anymore. It’s hard because I didn’t know how to grieve, I couldn’t talk to friends because most of them we shared and I didn’t want to be seen to be bitchy or make people think they had to take sides. We never had a massive blow-up so no closure there either.

Slowly, I’m realising that some break-ups are like that, they aren’t dramatic bust-ups like in the movies, they’re slow and gradual until one day you wake up and realise it’s over. And the same thing is almost true of getting over it. One day you wake up and it doesn’t hurt as much, you don’t think of them as often and you realise it was for the best. Because we all have our limits and damaging friendships can be just as bad, if not worse, than damaging relationships.

So, get your Elle on, have a cry, eat some chocolates and then get up and get on because life sucks but you don’t.

P.S. some friends will be there for you, so trust them and talk unbiasedly about what happened. Support is super crucial during a friendship break-up.

The Unforeseen Risk of Changing Jobs

We all know changing jobs is hard. The sadness of leaving your old place of work, the fear of stepping into something new and the excitement of the next step in your career.

But, what happens if it wasn’t what you were expecting?

You finally get into the role and slowly the realisation hits you that this isn’t the job they told you it was. You can’t go back to before but you don’t want to stay where you are either. So what do you do?

I truly believe that above everything you should enjoy your job, considering we work more than 90,000 hours in our lifetime it’s important those hours are spent happily.

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Christina Reichl Photography/Getty Image

So what, am I saying you just quit your job?

No, I’m definitely not saying that. There are many steps you can take to help you shape your role into the one you wanted without having to go through the gruelling process of finding something new.

  1. Talk to your manager. Ask them if there’s a way you can take on more roles relating to what you want to be doing
  2. Get training. There are so many opportunities to develop yourself outside of the business. Ask what your training budget is and start looking into ways you can develop your skills and prove you have the know-how to do the job you want
  3. Talk to HR. Human Resources are there to help you be happy in your job, so if someone isn’t fulfilling their role and helping you develop as they should be then speak to HR. It’s really important you learn to talk about problems in the workplace.
  4. Take it higher. If your manager isn’t responding then go to their manager. There is always someone higher and they can help put things in place to ensure your time is being well spent. After all, recruitment costs businesses £30k per employee so they don’t want to lose you.
  5. Prove yourself. If you’re constantly late, forgetting to do the jobs you have got, or aren’t giving your all then people will be less likely to help you on your way to bigger things. And even if you are fulfilling your job you can always do more. Show them you’re keen and able so they have no reason to say no.
  6. Take a deep breath and know that you can do this. It can be hard feeling bottom of the rung but the journey is half the fun (eventually). You will get there.

As I said, happiness in your work is so important, so if you can stick it out then think how great it would look to say to your future employer ‘Yeah, that job was difficult, but I worked my way up and this is where I am today’. You will always face adversity in your career, things won’t always be plain sailing, learn how to beat it now and you’re set to climb the ladder while others are still finding their shoes.