woman sky scarf7:06 AM Metro North train to NYC from Milford, CT…. somewhere around Westport…

Most train rides to NYC are pretty non eventful… and the riders pretty much want to keep it that way. Very little eye contact, never mind a “good morning” — even though we are sharing our personal space for between 1-2 hours. Which brings us to this day.

Seated in front of me was a young woman, late 20s/early 30s… carrying her oversized handbag that was half as large as her in one hand… some kind of large iced coffee drink in the other… and her ears safely blocked from the outside world with those trademarked white Apple ear buds.

I didn’t even notice the middle aged gentleman that sat down next to her. He came in with the crowd from Fairfield where the hunt for a seat intensifies to a winner take all battle stance. In fact, I wouldn’t have noticed him if she didn’t turn around with a look of panic on her face about 20 minutes into the trip. I was one of the few that actually had his head buried in a newspaper as opposed to an iPad (which I think protects you from having to share a seat far more than an iPad does).

She caught my eye probably the second or third time as she turned around and was trying to mouth something to me… it was almost like she didn’t want to break some kind of Quiet Car Train Code. But then it registered… “he is having a seizure!”

The young lady with the iced coffee and the big bag and ear buds didn’t realize she was getting a call today.

And that call was from someone right next to her, a neighbor who was actually foreign to her… and needed her help in a big big way.

I got up and thought the gentleman had already passed on… he was very pale, his eyes were open but little sign of consciousness. A conductor was near by, I got his attention and told him about the seizure. He called for help and the train proceeded to Stamford where it stopped for Rescue to board and attend to the sick man. That distance seemed to be an eternity. During that time, the man regained consciousness and wanted to know what we wanted of him. He acted like he was just sleeping and I started wondering if that is really what had happened. “Thank you for your concern but I am fine.”

The Rescue personnel had the train stopped for about 10 minutes or so…

It was weird… some people in nearby seats were either sleeping or had their heads buried in their iPads… like this wasn’t even happening. At least no one complained about the train delay.

The man was polite, soft spoken but firm in not wanting any help. He said, “I just passed out for a couple of minutes, it’s nothing!” I really started thinking we made a big blunder and were totally embarrassing this poor soul until one of the Rescue workers asked, “has this happened before?” To that he said, “3 times in the past 2 months.” Rescue finally convinced him to get off the train and at least sign some paperwork. When he realized that he was holding things up and folks were starting to look up from their iPads, he agreed to get off.

I don’t know what happened next, whether he continued to refuse help but I do know this much. If he was sitting next to me I might not have noticed there was a problem. The young lady did tell me that he started shaking and is eyes were rolling into his head. Sitting behind him I could detect no such activity. I might have thought he was asleep… I might have left him there… He could have been having an embolism, or a stroke, or a heart attack. But the young lady next to him did notice…

And as soft spoken as she was, she spoke up.

If she wasn’t there, we might have walked by, figuring he’s still sleeping as lots of the long haul commuters do.

It doesn’t sound like much does it? Someone needs help and you get if for them? Thankfully, this young lady had the good sense to notice. To realize there was something wrong… and to act. When something is obviously catastrophic, your attention is riveted and your better instincts and adrenalin kicks in. But this was subtle, quiet, camouflaged. How easy it is to overlook the quiet cry for help. But she heard it…. right through her ear buds!

I spoke to her before she got off the train… and thanked her for paying attention. She was shaking and crying a little. I told her she might have saved his life. She said, “I don’t think it was that drastic!” I said, “who knows, maybe you stopped him from getting in a car later in the day, and hurting someone else.” I guess you never know when you’re going to get called for an opportunity to make a real difference.

I wondered what happened to that gentleman. The other day I was in NYC again and as I was getting off the train I noticed him walking on the platform… so I guess things turned out all-right.

But this young lady, whoever she was, knows what it is to #BeVital.

Ed Faruolo

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Blog: Disempowered.

By Cristi Hegranes, Founder & Executive Director

GPI HQ —Since the beginning, my goal has been the same: create a training-to-employment program that enables women in developing media markets to become the storytellers of record in some of the least-covered parts of the world.

That mission has long been communicated to funders, training recruits and staff in terms of “our three E’s.”

Educate, employ, empower.

GPI offers a training program that prepares local women to become ethical, investigative, feature journalists. In a 24-module curriculum they learn everything from ethics and interviewing techniques to photojournalism and safety and security protocols. (Educate.)

After completing the training, we offer 100 percent of our graduates employment, working as professional reporters for Global Press Journal, the award-winning publication of GPI. (Employ.)

Over the last 10 years we’ve opened 41 independent news bureaus and trained more than 150 women. We pay strong, living wages to all of our reporters to produce high-quality feature journalism from remote parts of the globe, offering greater access to information for local and global audiences.

It’s a system that has worked well.

A majority of our journalists also report extraordinary life changes – earning a living wage in a profession of literate leadership has propelled some of our reporters to win awards, earn greater respect in their homes and communities, improve basic life circumstances, even testify before their governments and attend international gatherings as experts. (One even ran for parliament.)

In our most recent annual report, 88 percent of our journalists reported being better able to care for themselves and their families thanks to their employment here. (More on the annual report next week.) What’s more, I am often the fortunate recipient of email messages from my team of global reporters that say things like, “We’ve moved to a safer part of town.”

“I got my son back.”

“My babies will have a wonderful Christmas this year.”

Or, “My husband and I are equals now.”

I used to think of these statements as evidence of GPI making good on its third E, empowerment.

But I’ve changed my mind.

And everything you just read was a long preamble to a simple decision to remove the word empower from Global Press Institute’s mission.

By definition empowerment is something given. And I used to believe that empowerment was something GPI offered, something that naturally followed successful training and long-term employment. But the truth is, the women of GPI have not been given empowerment. Those who have found it here, claimed it for themselves through hard work and tenacious commitment to a principled practice of journalism.

Of course, I do believe that journalism is an empowering profession. At GPI, it demands rigor and precision. Humanity. Dignity. Ethics.

Our particular brand of journalism is extra challenging, with its additional layers of local and global relevance, our lofty code of ethics and our commitment to accuracy at all costs (and time tables.)

So in fairness, I should add that there are reporters who don’t make it here. Just a month ago, for example, a promising trainee in India confessed that our standards of rigor were too much for her. The length of time it took to produce a story was oppressive, she said. She preferred to seek work in local media where her stories weren’t subject to scruitinous fact checks and quality-control processes. And she’s not the only one.

Then, we must consider the multitude of realities that our team of reporters, across 26 countries, exisit within.

Some reporters are proflific in publication, while others produce just four or six stories per year. Some really hustle and some just scrape by. Some have six children. Some have none. Some live in conflict zones. Some have family money. Some are victims of domestic violence. Some have higher education. And for many, local circumstances outweigh any positive gain that GPI brings.

So how can GPI promise empowerment?

It can’t.

So, last week, after 10 years, I deleted the word “empower” from our mission statement.

I announced the change in a year-end memo to my global team.

The three E’s of our mission are probably well known to you by now – Educate. Employ. Empower. The first two remain my commitment to you. But the third E, is up to you. I hope that you find empowerment here. I hope you feel empowered to tell exceptional stories. I hope you feel empowered to be leaders and to earn money. I hope you understand that this a truly limitless opportunity. But I no longer feel that that the third E is mine to give. Rather, it is yours to take.”

To my surprise, reporters and editors applauded the change.

“Empowerment is subjective,” Aliya Bashir, a long-time GPJ senior reporter from Indian-administered Kashmir wrote in an email.

Over the years, Aliya has produced some of our best stories. She’s also been outspoken when our editorial process has become inefficient or when we needed to staff up to keep up with editorial demand. I trust her opinion and I trust that she’ll tell me the truth. So when I asked her to expand on her opinion about GPI deleting the word “empower” from its mission she told me she was a big fan of the change.

“Empowerment is meaningful and special for us in so many different ways — economically, freedom of expression, growth, learning, decision-making power, being truthful, working on dream projects and much more,” she wrote. “In a nutshell, GPI is a powerful tool through which we liberate ourselves from being dependent on others to chase our dreams.”


“Reporters are given each and every skill and resource that they need to tell those exceptional stories,” she continued. “So I sincerely believe that we are active participants in our own empowerment.”

Responses from other team members were equally strong.

“It was not appropriate to consider education and employment at the same level as empowerment,” wrote Ivonne Jeannot Laens of GPJ Argentina. Ivonne started as a trainee in 2012, and fast became the country coordinator for GPJ Argentina before joining the GPI training staff for the Americas. “The empowerment is the goal. And to meet that goal one needs what is given from the outside and also what comes from inside. We can only offer the tools for the women of GPI to empower themselves.”

Congo Group Shot
The Global Press team in DRC with founder Cristi Hegranes.

And perhaps my favorite response came from Noella Nyirabihogo, a senior reporter and country coordinator from GPJ Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I know that with GPI my kids will go to a nice school. I know that they will eat well. I know that one day I will get my own house. And above all I know that one day I will be known as one of the most intelligent journalists in DRC, one who wrote life-changing articles,” she wrote. “But I am the only one who can achieve all of those goals. GPI gave me a field but I’m the one to cultivate it.”

So, just like that, I’m out of the empowerment business. But, I guess I was never really in it.

The act of offering an opportunity is not a promise of empowerment, I know that now.

In some ways, I regret t

he years when I assumed empowerment was part of the GPI package. But I am grateful to be surrounded by so many people who use the incredible opportunity that is GPI to tell brave stories, to speak truth to power, to invest in their own livelihoods and in their communities.

Most of all, I am proud to employ more than 100 women who don’t need an empowerment handout.





The post Blog: Disempowered. appeared first on Global Press Institute.

How Emotions Shape Brand Perceptions

A picture is worth a thousand words.’ Cliché, but true. In fact, it’s a cliché because it’s true. A battle between pictures and words is like one between Mike Tyson and Tiny Tim: the picture throws the bigger punch. Consider the following:

  • Two-thirds of all stimuli reaching the brain are visual (Zaltman, 1996).
  • Over 50 per cent of the brain is devoted to processing visual images (Bates and Cleese, 2001).
  • So 80 per cent of learning is visually based (American Optometric Association, 1991).

Marketers and brand owners, take note. Humans are extremely visual: we think largely in images, not words. What consumers and employees can’t actually see, or at the very least mentally envision, is most likely going to be lost on them. 
In ambiguous situations, most communication is non-verbal. Every day, we find ourselves in situations where the other party’s words and body language strike us as either opaque or conflicting. In those cases, what do we do? We rely more 
on non-verbal clues to evaluate the emotional state of the person speaking. Here are the exact statistics:

  • 55 per cent of communication comes through facial expressions.
  • 38 per cent of communication is through tone of voice.
  • Only 7 per cent of communication is through verbal exchange.

For anyone who wants to ‘get back to basics’, remember that nothing is more basic than non-verbal communication. Human beings have existed for over 500,000 years, but we’ve had the benefit of language for less than a quarter of that time. Moreover, because the rational and sensory parts of the brain aren’t adjacent neighbors, we’re not very good at verbally describing the details our senses detect. Ironically, that’s true despite the fact that our gut-level perceptions are largely shaped by sensory impressions.

Emotions Color Perceptions And Inhibit Change

We perceive matters in ways that emotionally protect our habits and biases.

The processing of ‘facts’ is, in essence, as much about the processing of one’s emotions as it is the processing of whatever external dynamics a person happens to be experiencing.

For instance, how do we ‘choose’ which brands to notice? Well, the first step in the perceptual process is that of screening, which often occurs subconsciously. We tend to screen out the unfamiliar (since paying attention to unfamiliar stimuli requires effort). Instead, we prefer to focus on what we already know and can relate to more easily.

Yes, at times people will analyze the ‘facts’ vigorously, but emotions are more basic and more dominant. Remember: we feel before we think, and those reactions are subconscious, immediate and inescapable. That’s why our reactions are often hard to verbalize. Our language skills reside in the rational brain, which may not even get invoked, because automatic reactions are primarily emotional in nature. As the psychologist Robert Zajonc notes, to say ‘I decided in favor of X’ often means nothing more nor less than ‘I liked X’ – and that’s good enough.

Why is instinctive preference good enough? The reason is that emotional judgements tend to be irrevocable. In terms of our basic emotional reactions, we’re never wrong about what we like or dislike. Zajonc notes, the factual reality of ‘The cat is black’ pales in contrast to the more intimate emotional reality of ‘I don’t like black cats.’

What’s the last stage in the sequence of perception? It’s retrieval, which is mediated by our emotions yet again. We tend to store and recall more readily those experiences that fit most comfortably into our existing mental frameworks. Therefore, memory is driven by preferences rooted in being at ease with our choice. Consumers and employees alike often defend their choices or actions based on details they previously deemed rationally irrelevant. Why? The explanation is that emotions are self-justifying and, therefore, emotional reactions can become totally separated from content.

Therefore, remember that what we’ve already seen will predispose us to what we can see the next time around because of our emotional investment in what’s familiar to us. While a company may believe it has a technically or functionally superior offer, consumers’ evaluations are in essence emotionally based. Objectivity doesn’t exist, because everything gets filtered and colored by emotional responses. The bottom line is that there’s almost always more commercial gain to be made by going with, rather than against, what people have already emotionally internalized and accepted.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Dan Hill, excerpted from his book, Emotionomics, with permission from Kogan Page publishing.

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