How to hijack the news

sheilaby Sheila Carmody

When I finally started working on the other side of the news aisle for a small struggling private college, I already understood what public relations professionals typically do not understand — when news breaks that’s your chance to hijack the story to make your own organization shine. (See every news item devoted to Donald Trump.)

My first opportunity to make that happen came with the death of an international cosmetics entrepreneur in 2007. I’m not sure how I made the connection between Dame Anita Roddick and the small struggling private college where I had just been hired as Media Relations Director, but I discovered Roddick had been a Woodrow Willson Visiting Fellow at the school for a month four years earlier.

When I read of her passing I also read about her history as a socially responsible entrepreneur. It turned out Roddick, who founded the skin care company The Body Shop that eventually sold to L’Oreal for $1.14 Billion, was one of the first businesses to focus on the so-called triple bottom line, paying attention to social and environmental issues as well as profits. She sold the company when she knew she was dying from hepatitis C she contracted in a blood transfusion 30-plus years earlier.

I knew from reading the news regularly that socially responsible business practices were becoming more mainstream and I knew I had a story that would at least promote the college’s business program.

Once I had the background and the angle for the story (the triple bottom line), and the name of a professor from the business department I knew was willing to be interviewed, I sent a two sentence email to the local Business Editor, knowing full well she could use it for a business story. And use it she did.

“They worked to create a bachelor’s degree program in business and organizational management centered on social responsibility,” the news editor wrote of the college in the next day’s news story on the front page of the business section. “Roddick endorsed the program and later became a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow at the school, presenting talks on- and off-campus in 2003. She delivered the commencement address in 2004 and received an honorary degree.

“In May, she hosted 20 students and those two faculty members at Amnesty International’s center in London as part of the school’s international study series. The site had benefited from a donation she gave with Elton John toward educating people about human rights, said an associate professor at the college and coordinator of the school’s business and organizational management program. Like any larger-than-life figure, Roddick was an amalgam of contradictions.”

Today, what I did is called hijacking the news. I call it proactive public relations. At the time it just came naturally to me. It wouldn’t occur to me to write something or share something that wasn’t a good story.

I continued to use the same approach and the struggling private college’s enrollment applications experienced a 60 percent increase within 18 months.

Click hereClick here for How to get the media to pitch to you

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Behind the Counter at Macy’s


It seemed like a good idea at the time: working at Macy’s during the holiday season. As a New Yorker (and a lover of fine merchandise) I’ve always liked Macy’s and while I’m in South Florida working on the solutions-based book “Why We Failed: 40 Years of Education Reform” by Lonnie Palmer, I thought a temporary job would be a good way to assimilate and make a little Christmas money.

Did I say I love fine merchandise? I love to look at it, touch it, admire it. I can spot a $3,000 suit 200 yards away.

I worked for Macy’s in upstate New York 20-plus years ago so I’m not a retail virgin. And I’ve always admired Palm Beach County’s Gardens Mall. How could you not. It’s sparkles, especially at holiday time. So I applied online for a holiday position at the Macy’s in Gardens Mall three miles from where I was staying.

It was the second week of November. I chose an interview time and arrived at the prescribed time. I was interviewed by a manager. He asked if I ever had a situation where someone did something unethical or illegal in the workplace that I was aware of and what did I do.

I shared a situation I faced at work that was reported to me and as the Senior person in my position I had to report it. It never went anywhere but I was protecting myself more than anything.

Apparently that was enough to get me a spot in Fine Jewelry. After a battery of training on a variety of subjects: security, the difference between a precious and semi precious stone, and what to do with toxic waste — I never used that one — I was on the floor opening in the dark, counting necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets. Every morning and every night hundreds of pieces of jewelry had to be counted before opening and after close of business. Auditors would be strict in February.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I suspected everyone was shopping online and traffic at Macy’s in Gardens Mall in Palm Beach would be light. I discovered some other things. For one thing, selling fine jewelry is like selling narcotics. (I have friends who are nurses.) Everything is locked. And when you’re holiday help, you get the worst keys. But you learn to live with them. (It is not a job for the faint of heart.)

I learned that people don’t like working in Fine Jewelry because there are so many procedures, but most of the people who work there have been there a long time.

And I learned that cash is a rare commodity. I can count on one hand how many times customers paid in cash between Black Friday and Boxing Day.

I discovered something else: online shopping can’t hold a candle to the relationship you form with customers in the store at the mall. Even when you’re only spending 15 minutes with someone. There was:

  • The man (middle aged if we’re honest) who didn’t want to move in with his girlfriend because she has a cat.
  • The woman (definitely middle aged) whose adult son was lovely but clearly on the autism spectrum. He was looking at a St. Christopher medal. She told him 10 times this was the only day she would buy it because it was on sale. She would not be coming back tomorrow. He wondered if one was shinier than another. She managed a mobile home park in New Jersey and was trying to get out of the northeast for a few months.
  • The woman who came running up after Christmas to say: “Do you remember me?” She held out her hand; it was a very pretty diamond ring. “I had a daughter I was trying to get her opinion?” I remembered the daughter.
    The woman and her millennial daughter and son buying a watch to replace her husband’s (their stepfather’s) watch which she broke in anger. The same watch that made her take notice of him 15 years ago. Oops!
  • The man who was proposing (middle aged man) for a third time.
    The man whose wife just had a baby a week ago. His “adult” daughter was helping him buy the gift, earrings and a necklace. I was thinking: this woman doesn’t need a necklace.
  • And the mothers who were buying gifts for their sons to give to their girlfriends.

Ultimately, they all added up to sales. We sold a lot of jewelry between Black Friday and Christmas. I sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. And I was — am — a rookie. The people I worked with — Martha, Mani, Latasha, Patricia, Ann Marie, Cookie, Marie, Ruth, Michael, Vanessa, Kim, Anastasia, Debra, Lorraine, Deema, Katie and Lydia — were pros. They only tolerated me. After all, there was a commission and this was the time of year to make it.

Would I do it again next year?

Definitely. Turns out it was a good idea.

And I’m happy to report it was a good year for retailers, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which studies transaction and survey data on purchases made with credit cards, cash and checks. Retail sales were up 7.9 percent compared to the same period last year. (click here for the Washington Post story.)

Now we just have to work on the stock market.

Happy New Year!

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Raise Awareness for Cats Trapped in a Folk Music Environment


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Flipped Classrooms Promote STEM Learning

How do you get middle school students engaged in English Language Arts and STEM?

Two ways: Moodle and flipped classrooms.

Our Savior’s Lutheran School, a Christian school in the Albany area for 60 years (click here for their website), is using both to engage middle school students and prepare them for the transition to high school and beyond.

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Flipped classrooms promote STEM learning.

At the pre-K to 8 school, Moodle is being used for middle school English Language Arts and the flipped classroom model for science.

No. 1: What’s a flipped classroom?

A flipped classroom is a class where the typical lecture by the teacher and homework elements of a course are reversed. Schoolwork traditionally viewed as homework is done during the day in the classroom and students listen to lectures on the day’s topic at night for homework. (You’re welcome, Mom and Dad!)

Science at Our Savior’s Lutheran School has morphed into STEM, which is curriculum based on the idea of educating students in an interdisciplinary and applied approach using a combination of science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM. Flipped classrooms are a perfect complement to an applied approach to learning – where students are actively engaged in learning during class while lectures are reserved for home, according to Our Savior Lutheran School’s middle school science teacher, Becky Sommer.

Julia, a middle school student at Our Savior’s Lutheran likes it because she gets “tons of help from your teacher one on one,” she said. “And I can watch the lecture for homework at my own pace. I can pause and rewind if I need to listen to something a second or third time.”

The lectures come from various sources – the teacher, science departments of various universities, and YouTube – and are curated by Our Savior’s Lutheran middle school science teacher Sommer.

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Flipped classrooms promote STEM learning.

Flipped learning caters to multiple types of learners and allows lessons to be differentiated so they can learn the way they need to. Learners who understand material best when they hear it can view lectures that emphasize listening to the material. Visual learners can view lectures that emphasize graphics and videos and other visual information that help them understand the lecture content.

“During the day, I make sure that their understanding is more scientifically sound. For students who require a little more explanation, the flipped classroom model gives me the opportunity to do that,” Sommer said. “It allows me to spend more one-on-one time with each student and give them the attention and the assistance that they need.”

Moodle for Middle School

Students access the videos through Moodle. Moodle, which is a self- contained web platform that’s been primarily used at the college level to facilitate online learning. It’s an acronym for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.

Lorrie March, Our Savior’s Lutheran School English Language Arts middle school teacher, first used Moodle when she was teaching at the higher ed level in Ontario, Canada. She thought it might work in her middle school English Language Arts classroom at Our Savior’s Lutheran School so she implemented Moodle this year, and the students’ enthusiasm has “peaked,” she said.

“Obviously, you always want your content to be something they’re interested in but when you add this to the classroom they are SO excited about it,” she said.

That’s pretty obvious when she tells students to grab a Samsung Galaxy from bins in the classroom and they immediately gravitate toward the power outlet in the room – just to make sure they don’t run low on battery power. They quickly sign in with a username and password and click on the course to get in.

“We create the curriculum and curate the activities, and manage classroom accounts,” Lorrie March said, “but it lives on Moodle’s database, Moodle Cloud, and is managed by Moodle.”

Sydney, a middle school student at Our Savior’s Lutheran School, likes it because “you can do all your work with help from friends and especially your teacher. You can share your opinions, thoughts and ideas with your classmates on the forum and see other people’s perspectives. You are able to give and receive feedback about writing and assignments, and you can access Moodle almost anywhere as long as you have Internet.”

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Moodle is used in Our Savior’s Lutheran Middle School in Albany, NY.

Colleges and universities like University at Albany, Union College and Clarkson University in New York State have been using Moodle as their core learning platform for several years so Our Savior’s Lutheran middle school students will be familiar with it when they transition to high school and college.

Moodle has a variety of functionalities. For example, Our Savior’s Lutheran middle school students recently created a wiki (digital encyclopedia entry) about Anne Frank. Each student contributes to the wiki so it’s a true cooperative effort.

Moodle also allows for multiple ways of producing homework, including the creation of videos.

Getting middle school students engaged is a priority for Our Savior’s Lutheran School, and Moodle and flipped classrooms are two of the latest learning techniques being used in class.

Of course innovative learning techniques are not the only priorities at Our Savior’s Lutheran School. The pre-k to 8 school in Colonie is “designed to provide guidance and direction for children’s academic development along with mental, physical and spiritual growth,” said School Principal John March.

Middle school students are taught how to use their faith to improve the lives of others through service projects: working at a food center established by Albany’s Victory Church in downtown Albany.

They volunteer through the Jaycees, a leadership training and civic organization. Students also clean the facility and wash and fold clothes. During the holidays they pack boxes that are sent all over the world through Operation Christmas Child.

“Putting your faith into action is a very important part of learning at Our Savior’s Lutheran School,” said Principal March “It’s not just the words and the thoughts but how you show your faith that we want to relay to our students.”

In addition to the innovations in the classroom parents are drawn to Our Savior’s Lutheran School because it provides a place for students to deal with life’s issues within the context of their Christian faith.

Our Savior’s Lutheran School was established in 1956 as an effort by Our Savior’s Lutheran Church to provide a program of quality Christian education for children in the church and from surrounding communities.


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Tennessee Williams Show Opens on Black Friday in Albany

"The Glass Menagerie" opens on Black Friday at Steamer 10 Theatre in Albany.

“The Glass Menagerie” opens on Black Friday at Steamer 10 Theatre in Albany.

A new Albany-based theater company called NorthEast Theatre Ensemble premieres “The Glass Menagerie” on Black Friday at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre, 500 Western Ave., Albany, NY.

Tennessee Williams’s first major play to appear on Broadway, “The Glass Menagerie” is an autobiographical work. It deals with personal and societal problems: the isolation of those who are outsiders for one reason or another, the hardships faced by single mothers, the difficulties a disability may create for a family, and the struggle of a young artist to begin his career.

It’s been produced for the stage and screen starring such luminaries as Katherine Hepburn, Kirk Douglas and John Malkovich.

The Albany production runs for two weekends: November 27, 28 at 8 p.m., Nov. 29 at 3 p.m., Dec. 4, 5 at 8 p.m and Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. and stars Janet Hurley Kimlicko, Joe Plock, Jacqueline Donnaruma and Sean T. Baldwin. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. To reserve your seat call 518-483-5503.

The following is a Q&A with actor/director/educator Janet Hurley Kimlicko who founded the new NorthEast Theatre Company in Albany. The company is based at the Steamer No. 10 Theatre at 500 Western Ave, Albany, NY,  Janet is an actress known for Sticks & Stones (2006), Legend of the Angel of Love, Wedding Peach (1995) and Eve’s Necklace (2010). click here

Janet Hurley Kimlicko, founder of NorthEast Theatre Ensemble

Janet Hurley Kimlicko, founder of NorthEast Theatre Ensemble

Why are you starting a new theater company in the Capital Region?

To create work for myself and others. Being Equity up here makes finding work a challenge. There is not a lot going on and all I hear is: “You have to create your own stuff.” So that’s what I did. There is only one union theater in Albany so it would be great if the NorthEast Theatre Ensemble could get to the place of employing union and non union actors alike.

Any other reason?

I also want to create truth on stage. There is something so special and memorable about an audience and a cast sharing a moment of absolute truth onstage, taking that journey of the evening together. It truly is magic when it happens. Movies are one thing, we all enjoy them, but the shared experience of something good on a live stage is precious. I want to help create that for our actors and our audiences.

What will be different about the NorthEast Theatre Ensemble (NETE)?

NETE is an ensemble group. We all have a hand in directing a show, choosing props, costumes, set pieces. We work together to make it happen.

How do you start a theater?

Find good people with similar views and go from there, and ask EVERYONE you know who has a theater how they did it.

Why did you choose this classic as the first for the company?

We love Tennessee Williams. We love the musicality of his words; he knows how to write women. This is the second show and our first was “Hedda Gabler.” The Glass Menagerie is so beautifully layered and the characters are so intriguing. They are timeless. The struggles of each are just as valid today as they were back in 1937 when the play is set.

Will Steamer No. 10 Theatre be the home of the NorthEast Theatre Ensemble?

Yes, it’s a non-profit, theater that produces and presents shows for children and families, and touring to schools and theaters throughout the Northeast so it’s a perfect fit.

Located in Albany, NY, Steamer No. 10 Theatre presents a variety of live stage and music productions, including children’s theater, Eclectic Performance Series, Vacation Daze, Theater Voices, and Too Deep Entertainment.

The End


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Day Three of 50 with Rosie O’Donnell

by Sheila Carmody
Guaranteed Press


Just before Rosie’s show at Gotham Comedy Club, we stopped by an art exhibit in Chelsea and this was my favorite: Richard Haines: A Room of One’s Own Daniel Cooney|Fine Art

A perfect storm doesn’t usually lend itself to stand-up comedy — during the storm – but certainly by the time Rosie O’Donnell reaches the 50th time on stage performing her newest stand-up act she’ll have what’s she’s looking for: a new, fully formed HBO special.

Rosie performed the first four shows of what she said will take 50 times on stage before she has a polished act ready for prime time this weekend at Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea, NYC. I attended performance No. 3, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17th.

And, having seen her twice before, both times at Levity Live in Nyack, NY, (the first time with her return to stand up after 10 years and the second for the recording of her last special “A Heartfelt Stand up”), I think I can say: her personal, triple threat slump — estranged wife, dead father and rebellious teenagers — will only make her a better comedian. And perhaps more beloved (which she is) by her fans, who were certainly out in full force this weekend.

Rosie looked a bit more unsure of herself than usual as she gingerly approached the stage Saturday night. She signed on for the weekend’s four shows five months ago when her life looked quite a bit different. But once she took the stage – aside from a few overeager, high octane audience members who interrupted the performance to “share” with her – the early act seems to have the promise of becoming the full-fledged HBO show she’s working toward.

Consider the material: it sounds very much like a George Carlin act. Death, pissed off rebellion, drugs, mental illness, sex, child abuse and some other stuff too.

Rosie of course knows on some level, as painful as recent months have been, the best stories come from pain. Some of her best Saturday night, included:

  • The cat named Pussy.
  • Her imitation of Tatum O’Neal.
  • Feeding her son pizza to keep him from going into the military.

Rosie was definitely feeling unsure of getting on stage, judging by the fact that she said she’d been in therapy every day for the week leading up to Saturday night. Unfortunately she no longer has the British sounding therapist who once told her that the pain she was feeling in her arms (which was actually a heart attack!) was probably (cue the posh British accent) “some psychosomatic trauma transferred. You saw the fat woman. And you thought, ‘That could be me.'” (Click here for the video of Rosie imitating her therapist.)

O’Donnell of course addressed some of the way her life has changed as of late. My own theory of why she’s hounded by the media is because she doesn’t write her own story. She lets others do it for her and then just trusts her PR person to go on the defense. A good offense is the best defense, Rosie!

Whatever the result of her latest project, it will likely be cathartic for her. And we were privileged to get in on the early stages of its development.

Of course, we’ve all experienced the kinds of heartache and — let’s face it — life’s lessons Rosie has learned as of late, but then luckily not in the New York Post. But she’ll get past it. We’ll get past it. And hopefully, eventually, I can get tickets to it!

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Six potential impacts of having your kids “opt out” of state tests

No. 1 – Lower home values. Schools with lower than 95 percent participation rate on the NYS state tests will be labeled in need of improvement and families looking for homes will avoid buying (or even looking) in your district. ( The 95 participation requirement was put in place some time ago because non-participation is an old trick used to make schools look like they’re doing a good job. If you find a way around the weakest kids taking the test you don’t look as bad. Whether you know it or not, when you were in school, some kids were not even given the opportunity to take Regents tests cause more failing kids made the school look bad.)

No. 2 – The majority of kids being opted out are higher performers so the test results will be artificially low which means the teacher evaluations will suffer. So it will hurt the chances of good teachers receiving good evaluations.

No. 3 – A lower than 95 percent participation rate makes for an administrative nightmare. More time will be spent next year on administrative/reporting tasks taking away time spent helping students. Efforts will be directed away from kids toward appeasing State Ed.

No. 4 – Title 1 funds may be at risk.

No. 5 – You will be teaching your children that it’s okay to use kids as political pawns.

No. 6 – Parents will have no idea what their kids learned this year and where they need more support. Educators have worked hard to teach the higher standards this year and parents who “opt out” won’t know how well their children are performing this year.

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Amy Poehler & Tina Fey’s Golden Globe Drinking Game

Oh yes it’s ladies night and it’s feelin’ right.

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Increase Your Customer Base Without New Technology

Sheila Carmody is a Content Specialist for Guaranteed Press. If you're ready to create content that moves your organization forward, contact her by phone (518) 366-6148 or email

Sheila Carmody is a Content Specialist for Guaranteed Press. If you’re ready to create content that moves your organization forward, contact her by phone (518) 366-614.

Content is where I expect much of the real money to be made on the Internet.” — Bill Gates, Microsoft

Today’s Top 10 list of things Guaranteed Press can do to bring visibility — and customers — to your business.

No. 10 – We can create a message with a story for your organization that resonates with the media and the public.

No. 9 – We can improve employee morale by communicating what’s happening in your business and industry with the people who are working for you.

No. 8 – We can translate what you’re doing into a language that reaches and touches the masses.

No. 7 – We can improve the value of the dollars you’ve spent on IT by using it to disseminate your message.

No. 6 – We can make your organization a local and national media source for your industry.

No. 5 – We can tell you what the media will ask you and the best way to answer them.

No. 4 – We can make you sound as smart as you are.

No. 3 – We can put an end to the constant search for a marketing, PR and media professional who will take you beyond the constant search for a marketing, PR and media professional (so that you can golf more, if you wish.)

No. 2 – We can create content with real value, breath life into existing content and use other people’s content to your best advantage .

And the No. 1 thing Guaranteed Press Can Do for Your Business — we can make the website that you already have — and paid a lot for! — work for your business.

Stop paying for empty containers and modules and start investing in engaging content. We know what it is.

Call Sheila Carmody at (518) 366-6148 or email

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What keeps us going back to “Seinfeld” again and again?

Sheila Carmody is in Internet Marketing

Sheila Carmody is in Internet Marketing

I worked as a journalist and an advocacy journalist for many years and never once wrote a news story based on a press release. They had no news value, no story value. Then I thought: what would happen if the public relations people actually sent me something I could use, a good story?

Twice I had the opportunity to find out. The first time was as the media relations director for a local college. My storytelling resulted in a 60 percent increase in student applications.

The second time was about three years ago.  I was working with consultants to establish public relations and marketing for a national STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education organization.

The public relations consultant wrote traditional press release after traditional press release with no results. That’s when I began to develop the idea for a business called Guaranteed Press.

Eighteen months and $180,000 later the public relations consultant’s contract ended. The COO gave me the chance to lead the public relations charge. I took a storytelling approach.

Within three months I generated major stories in The Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

When that business moved to Indiana, I started Guaranteed Press.

Whether it’s the media, your customers, potential clients, your employees – everybody loves a good story.

We’ve all watched “Seinfeld.” It’s famous for being about nothing. But the reason people return week after week, year after year, decade after decade is they tell good stories. I can do the same for your business – guaranteed.

Call me (518) 366-6148 or email me at scarmody2009@gmail.

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