So much of the news we consume on a daily basis is negative.  Scandal sells and dating back to ancient times, humans possess perhaps an intrinsic craving for drama.  Instead of rehashing yet another depressing current event (although I reserve the right to do just that at a later time…duh!), let’s get the weekend started on a positive note.  

This uplifting tale comes to us care of a childhood friend of mine who has asked to remain anonymous.  

She has been a server at the popular up-all-night diner in the Los Angeles area for several years.  She uploaded the photo and written post below to her Facebook page.  It is re-posted here with her permission.  Enjoy.

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A story I’d like to share with everyone in honor of a customer who touched my heart…..
Last night I worked the late late shift, meaning I don’t get out until past 3am. At around 1am I always start to lose my patience. Everyone is demanding. Many are drunk. It can be hard to keep our spirits up. Last night right around that same time, an average looking woman sporting a baseball cap and jeans comes in and sits at the counter. She’s chatting up the staff, looking around the restaurant a lot. I make a mental note that she seems a bit weird, like a lot of lonely people who come in to chat with wait staff are. But I keep going about my business. Toward the end of her meal I notice her counting every single person in the restaurant. She silently mouths “One, two, three” while keeping track with her pointer finger. Just another odd ball I think. I wish I could go home already. This night is never going to end. Mid-way through taking an order, my co-worker stands in the middle of the restaurant and says “Excuse me everybody. Can I have your attention for a moment?” She points to the woman at the counter and has a warm smile on her face. “This amazing woman has purchased a cupcake for everyone in this restaurant. She is fucking awesome and I wanted everyone to know that.” My co-worker begins to clap, and the restaurant erupts in applause. I’m applauding too. The woman’s kindness melts away my annoyance, my fatigue, my frustration at working these awful hours. It is such a bright spot in a night that has otherwise been a disaster. I begin putting cupcakes on plates, 30 total, asking each customer to come up and pick one. They look like little kids at a birthday party trying to scope out the best slice of cake. I look for the woman who purchased all these cupcakes for complete strangers, only to discover she has already left. My co-worker comes up to me as I’m looking for extra plates. There are tears in her eyes. “That woman wanted to buy everyone cupcakes because she is dying of cancer.” I stop for a moment, take a breath. The problem with waitressing is that I never quite know who I’m waiting on, even when I think I’ve got the person pegged. The teenagers who I think are going to leave me a nickel end up tipping ten dollars. The man who looks untrustworthy gives me a smile at the end of the night that lets me know he is okay. The woman who won’t stop talking at the counter, making a careful tally of every customer in the restaurant. She wants to buy everyone a cupcake before she goes. So here is to this woman, to her life, to her small act of kindness in the form of 30 cupcakes. She gave me a night at work I will never forget.

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Public Relations, perception. 
Crisis Management, image repair.
Gatekeepers, buffer zone. 

The role of a Public Relations team is incredibly important in a time of crisis, and boy, can the job be daunting.  It truly does take a village.

Even the staunchest of  Lance Armstrong supporters can no longer deny the the fact that the world’s famous cyclist cheated, as the man who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles finally admitted to doping throughout his professional career in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey. 

After losing everything from medals, to sponsors to his position as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation, one might think the unsympathetic and abrasive Armstrong would have little to gain by speaking out. 

"From a PR perspective, it was mission accomplished," according to Lila Brown, the founder of Ella Bee PR, a firm specializing in public relations and social media.

Seriously?? I didn’t exactly come away with that sense of optimism after watching Armstrong’s interview, but perhaps it’s time to frame things differently. 

"Lance accomplished what he set out to do and was controlled throughout most of the interview," says Brown.  "He told us what he wanted the public to know and didn’t go any deeper …He answered the questions that he knew were on everyone’s mind and he didn’t try to offer any excuses… He told us just enough to change the narrative on any further media investigation stemming from a large line of witnesses."

Brown, who represents several athletes, including Olympians Tyler Clary (swimming) and LaShawn Merritt (track & field), is one of many in the PR field tasked with helping shape the public image of their clients. 

When someone like Armstrong has an “image crisis,” a team of creative thinkers has to consider all options, playing the role of lawyer to protect the client.

"I will say that I am more at ease when I know my client is telling the truth and we have fully prepared," Brown says of choosing how much one in her position needs to know. 

A PR pro also must wear the hat of psychiatrist in an attempt to understand how the public will feel after digesting the client’s next move.

"That’s why it is important for a client to be honest from the start. It is my job to make sure the story is accurately communicated."

Just like in an athlete’s day job, practice makes perfect, as repeating situational role play helps ensure the story is communicated in a way deemed “successful” by PR standards.

"I would be concerned with my client speaking off topic and straying off message, but that is why we prepare for tough interviews by anticipating a variety of questions and how to respond," Brown says of the damage control process Armstrong and other celebrities in his situation are put through.  "We tend to understand how the public will accept certain answers. We try everything in our power to be less surprised by anything and know what to expect."

Brown drew the same conclusion as many of us when Lance opted to speak out.  After losing all of his sponsorships, the man needs to find a way to earn a living.  But more importantly in Brown’s eyes, Armstrong wants a lesser punishment than a lifetime ban so he can resume competition, a sentiment Armstrong expressed to Winfrey in the two-part interview. 

After all of the strategy meetings, focus groups, and carefully crafted blueprints aimed at precisely positioning a client, perhaps the most effective move is indeed the one that is least contrived. 

Armstrong needs to, “get back to what made so many people fall in love with him in the first place which is raising awareness for cancer,” says Brown.  Speaking about his personal battle with the disease may be the only credible, authentic chip Armstrong has left to play in the eyes of the public.

"His life’s story outside of cycling has touched so many people so he will need to find a new, sincere and unique way to connect with those affected by cancer."

(To learn more about Lila Brown, and Ella Bee PR, visit http://ellabeepr.com )