World's Second Best PR Blog

So Did Cycle Oregon Happen In 2017?

Events Can Be Cancelled, Cycle Oregon Cannot

It’s fall of 2017 and much of Oregon is on fire. The Cascades are being hit particularly hard and on any given day, the air quality in the center of the state can best Beijing as being some of the most hazardous on the planet.

Right now I should be attending Cycle Oregon’s week-long ride. I should be sitting by Diamond Lake surrounded by bikes and cyclists and people’s damp and stinky riding clothes. Unfortunately that ride got cancelled because of the fires. So now I’m sitting by Wallowa Lake surrounded by bikes and cyclists and people’s damp and stinky riding clothes. And as far as we’re concerned, we’re still “doing Cycle Oregon.”

Cycle Oregon Is Really About The People

That’s because Cycle Oregon is much more than a really awesome, fully-supported cycling adventure that takes place the first full week in September after Labor Day in some of the beautiful parts of the world.

So What Is Cycle Oregon?

If you ask the people who run it, they will tell you it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming individuals and communities through bicycling because that’s the official mission statement and what’s the point of having an official mission statement if it doesn’t get used? After that, they will elaborate in more detail, which is required to provide the true essence of it all.

One Order of Hell, Hold The High Water

If you ask me Cycle Oregon is about a bunch of people with a common passion for bikes and fitness and food and booze and fun and an interest in helping people in the rural parts of this pretty great state. It’s about a family and it’s about community. It’s something that exists in the hearts and minds of everyone who has ever participated — much in the same way a pirated movie exists in little packets on computers all over the globe.

It begins the moment you commit. It’s every training ride you take, every pedal stroke you make, every healthy meal you eat (and every unhealthy one), every conversation, every Facebook visit and every moment spent in anticipation. It’s preparing your gear and your mind and then road tripping your way to the start. After it’s done, it’s about the enduring friendships and the photos and reliving the memories.

Elite Cyclists

Is the part where you spend a week of riding and cavorting with 2,200 of your closest friends in some of the state’s most bucolic areas an important part of the Cycle Oregon equation? Why yes, as a matter of fact it is. Many would argue it’s the central part. Does the cancellation of the event mean Cycle Oregon 2017 didn’t happen? Not even a little.

Together Even When We’re Apart

Our group is far from being the only group of displaced Cycle Oregonians here right now. According to a waitress at one of the popular watering holes in Joseph, there are about 100 other Cycle Oregonians in town. That comes as no surprise. Not only is this one of the few parts of the state that isn’t on fire, it’s a very special place to ride. Some of us rode here from Halfway (then in 2008. Others tried on 2015 when fire blocked our path.

The Strongest (And Probably Most Adorable) Rider In Wallowa County

It was great to see other CO folks in town. We met one lovely local named Sarah who, as a lifelong resident of eastern Oregon, she became interested when the circus came through town in the early 2000s. Last year was her first ride and now she’s hooked. Her training regimen includes distance trail running, gravel riding and mountain biking. As one of the only road riders in town she has to do a lot of solo training, but after seeing her waft uphill on a mountain bike, my guess is riding partners might only slow her down.

One has to wonder how many of members of the tribe rolled their own adventures this week and where they went.

    Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save

Understanding Social Media — Stuff on YouTube That Makes People Feel Happy

Can this woman make YOU happy? Yep.

Can this woman make you feel happy? I'll bet she can.

I like social media. It lets us do some amazing things. One of my favorites is that it provides a simple conduit for people to be able to quickly and easily share little snippets of happiness with others.

Lots of these snippets can be found on YouTube. Two of my favorites come from a show called Britain’s Got Talent. The first one is of a former cellphone salesman named Paul. Paul is just a regular guy who isn’t someone likely to be described as classically handsome. He certainly doesn’t look like a kick-ass opera singer, but he turned out to be just that.  And, if Paul is a one-in-a-million kind of find, then this show must have auditioned at least two million people, because they also found Susan Boyle, an unemployed 48-year-old who has never been kissed. Like Paul, she absolutely killed.

This one seems too simple — its just some hippie passing out free hugs. It is still pretty awesome.

This one is about a young man with Autism who performed some amazing feats on the basketball court. The achievement on its own is enough to make you smile, but it is even cooler to see a group of high school students actually being supportive of a kid with a disability.

And speaking of disabled, my dad, a former airline pilot himself, really liked the interview with “Captain Sully” about the successful landing of his disabled airplane in the Hudson River. Apparently, landing on the water without tragic results is no easy feat. My dad flat out thinks it isn’t something he could have done even after 30 years of flying. It is rare to hear an airline pilot admit that there is anything they can’t do, so this makes me even more impressed by what Captain Sullenberger was able to accomplish.

BTW, from a communications standpoint, this interview shows that there is simply no substitute for competence. “Sully” is not a trained spokesperson, but he comes off better than a lot of corporate CEOs in this interview. He has earned the ability to be confident based on a lifetime of hard work and it shows. Confidence combined with competence is easy to recognize when you see it. I particularly like the part 6 minutes and 44 seconds in, where Katie Couric asks him if he was praying during the ordeal. He responded by saying that he was so intensely focused on the landing that he thought of nothing else. I admire people who look first to themselves for solutions to their problems. Those people make me happy.

I’m adding this video because just thinking about doing this makes me happy. It also makes me pucker.
wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

What stuff on YouTube makes you happy?

Rockin' Lobbies on the Grill

Almost too pretty to eat -- almost

Almost too pretty to eat -- almost

This year, one of our clients, StalkMarket, teamed up with Grill Master Rick Browne to promote the concept of green barbecue. Last night was New Years Eve and we ended up cooking lobsters for 7. Being a New Englander, the only method I’ve ever used was steaming, which is pretty fail safe. Just for fun, I decided to try grilling this time. I consulted Rick for some sage advice and was very glad I did. Not surprisingly, he was able to provide me with a recipe and methodology that was every bit as effective as the way of the Yankees. It also makes it slightly easier for guests to get at the meat and makes for a much more managable mess at the table. I’m a convert.
I'm going to halve you for dinner

I'm going to halve you for dinner

Rockport Grilled Lobster 4 two lb. Maine lobsters, live 1 lb. salted butter 4 cloves garlic, mashed 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped 2 shallots, minced 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice Juice of 1/2 medium orange 2 Tbs. fresh tarragon Salt & pepper to taste Fresh lemon wedges.
The best kind of bugs to have at a BBQ

The best kind of bugs to have at a BBQ

Sauté shallots and garlic in saucepan for five minutes or until soft.  Add rest of ingredients except lobster and lemon wedges, and heat until butter is melted.  Set aside and keep warm, stirring occasionally. Line grill with aluminum foil, prepare a medium hot fire. Split lobsters by placing on its back, sever the spinal cord by inserting a sharp knife between tail and body, then split lobster in half lengthwise.  Remove guts and nasty bits. Crack claws and sprinkle meat with salt & pepper.  Paint lobster with melted butter mixture and place on grill flesh side down, cooking until there is a light char on the meat.  Turn, baste with butter and grill until meat is firm. Remove lobster from grill and paint with melted butter, keep wrapped in foil, remove claws from lobster and place claws back on grill for 5-6 minutes more.  Remove and serve with the split lobsters.

A Sleep Apnea Treatment I Can Live With

This post is long and has absolutely nothing to do with PR or marketing. Regardless, it is something that is extremely important to me and millions of other people. If you or someone you know suffers from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you might find it worthwhile.

Sleep apnea sucks for you and your partnerObstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a very bad thing. In fact, it is lethal. Since being diagnosed with sleep apnea a few years ago, I’ve tried a couple of different treatments. I’m pleased to say I’ve finally found one that I can live with (literally). Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t one the medical community seems to have embraced. Nor is it something that is regularly recommended or even frequently discussed by the sleep medicine community. Frankly, I think this is criminal. For those who would prefer to get straight to the punch line, the treatment is an oral appliance that I got from the good folks at the Sleep Medicine Network in Portland, Oregon. The device has changed – and most likely extended – my life.  Suffice it to say that the folks at SMN have quickly become my new BFFs. Sleep ApneaObstructive sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep due to a blockage of the airway usually caused when the soft tissue in the back of the neck collapses as the muscles relax during sleep. People with sleep apnea actually stop breathing, often for a minute or longer and as many as hundreds of times during a single night. When the airway closes and breathing stops, the body eventually recognizes a significant decrease in blood oxygen and the sleeper awakens to begin breathing again. The arousal from sleep only lasts a few seconds and the person is never really conscious of being awake, but awake they are. This makes it very difficult for them to get REM sleep, which means what little sleep they actually do get isn’t terribly rejuvenating. All of this is extremely hard on the body and the mind. The frequent drops in oxygen levels trigger the release of stress hormones. These hormones raise the heart rate and increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, irregular heartbeat and heart failure. In fact, the overwhelming majority of those who suffer from these conditions have OSA. Sleeplessness can also be a major cause of depression. People who have any of these conditions or are overweight or snore profusely are taking an unnecessary risk with their health if they don’t get checked for OSA. Severe sleep apnea ruins  your whole dayThere are a lot of reasons people with OSA are never treated. First, many people who suffer from OSA don’t even know it. They aren’t conscious of waking up over and over again all night; they only know they are always tired.  The National Sleep Foundation estimates 25% of adults in the US suffer from OSA, yet 85-90% of them go undiagnosed. Second, it isn’t something primary care physicians routinely discuss with patients that aren’t reporting symptoms. The Medical Community – How Do They Sleep at Night? Much betterThe most commonly prescribed solutions to OSA are surgery or the use of a CPAP machine. Surgery is extremely painful and often fails to solve the problem. This leaves the CPAP, which provides positive air pressure to prevent the soft tissue from collapsing as the go-to treatment used by the sleep medicine community. My experience with the CPAP was extremely unpleasant. It sucks wearing a mask strapped to your head all night. And because I require a lot of air pressure to keep my airway open, the mask would leak and blow a high volume of air all over my face and eyes that would wake me up repeatedly throughout the night. The mask required daily cleaning.  It gave me zits.  It dried out my mouth. It was cumbersome to travel with. The rare nights when it wasn’t leaking, it filled my stomach and bowels with air. This is extremely uncomfortable, though I did take some juvenile pleasure in the fact that I was able to produce belches and flatulence with a volume, tone and resonance that one cannot achieve naturally (my wife was not amused). Most nights, I ended up taking it off after about 3 hours.
More pressure usually means less sleep

CPAP set on full blast really blows

My CPAP difficulties were far from uncommon. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 20% of people who try CPAP reject it outright and fewer than 50% stick with it for more than 4 years. Unfortunately, most sleep medicine clinics don’t have much incentive to recommend other alternatives. In fact, I actually asked my sleep medicine doctor about the oral appliance and he said that, best case scenario, it would only allow someone built like me to use a lower CPAP pressure. In some cases this is true. In others it isn’t. With the benefit of hindsight, going to a lower pressure would have still made the device worthwhile. I ultimately discovered that much of the common wisdom regarding who will and who won’t be helped by the oral appliance is flat out wrong. The truth is, most sleep medicine professionals don’t have enough experience with the device to know what they are talking about. What makes me upset is the underlying reason that so few sleep medicine doctors don’t know much about the devices and aren’t really motivated to experiment with them – profit. The fact is that sleep medicine clinics make a tidy profit off of the ridiculously overpriced CPAP equipment. While a patient can buy the same equipment online for a fraction of what it costs at a sleep clinic, most of the time insurance won’t cover it unless you buy it from the healthcare provider. Furthermore, you need to frequently replace CPAP parts, so there is a lot of recurring revenue. It would be nice if this sort of nonsense wasn’t so prevalent in healthcare, but it is. Getting Oral and Loving it. Tap in to a better night's sleepThe first time I heard about the oral appliance was from a friend with mild sleep apnea. It allowed her to get rid of the CPAP entirely. Since I was under the impression that it wouldn’t allow me to do the same, it wasn’t something I decided to pursue. Fortunately, it turns out I also grind my teeth when I sleep, and my dentist insisted I begin wearing a mouth guard. I decided that if I was going to have to have to sleep with something in my mouth anyhow, it might as well be something that helps with OSA. That’s when I was referred to the Sleep Medicine Network. The oral appliance works by moving and holding the lower jaw in a forward position, which opens the airway. There is a reason why the first step in rescue breathing/CPR is to perform a jaw thrust and this is it. If you look at the video below, you’ll see the guy’s jaw move back before he starts choking.  Keeping the jaw forward makes intuitive sense and it works. You can even try it for yourself. Simply bring your lower jaw as far toward the back of your throat as you can and make a snoring sound. It is easy to do. Now jut your lower jaw out as far as you can – it is a lot harder to make the same noise. That’s all there is to it.
Only sexy to a perverse few

Only sexy to a perverse few

My thinking is that this device should be the FIRST – not the last – treatment someone tries for sleep apnea. It might just solve the problem outright. Even if it doesn’t, it makes the CPAP experience a lot more tolerable. It also gives you a much better option for traveling.  And, let’s face it, few chicks dig the way a CPAP looks. Where to Go for Treatment Another important decision is where to get the oral appliance. Since the device itself involves the teeth and jaw, it falls under the domain of the dentist. However, since OSA is a very serious medical condition, sleep apnea treatment and management is something a medical professional should oversee. The key is to find a provider who offers both. Insurance companies look at it the same way. Devices are not covered unless medical supervision is part of the solution. It goes without saying that the do-it-yourself devices advertised on TV are completely unacceptable. I understand they also don’t work. In summary, OSA, if left untreated WILL contribute to medical issues and an untimely death. Finding the right treatment is important and, for my money, there is nothing better than the oral appliance.

1+1+1 = Seven — Building a Relationship Between Customers and Your Brand

Custom Seven

A functional work of art

I finally did it. I, a confirmed “hobby slut” decided to make a lifetime commitment to a single activity – cycling. That’s like asking Hugh Hefner to agree to make a lifetime commitment to one woman (as in it is hard to do and probably won’t actually happen). Regardless, I decided to mark the occasion by springing for a bicycle frame made just for me. Living in Portland, Oregon, the bicycle capitol of the United States, I knew it wouldn’t be too tough to find someone who could help provide an introduction to my two-wheeled soul mate. Like a flash, I was off to River City Bicycles. Even in a town littered with bike shops, River City stands out. The staff doesn’t just sell bikes – they share their lifestyle with their customers. For example, Brian, the salesman whom I just happened to ask about custom bikes turns out to be a well-regarded local frame builder himself. And, while River city actually represents three custom bike brands, once Brian had an idea of what I wanted, he only recommended one – Seven. Not only that, he explained why the a carbon frame – which I was what I thought I wanted – wouldn’t be as good as titanium for my specific needs. Phase II of the project was research. The first thing I did was call Seven directly to get an understanding of the process and to get their opinion on frame design, materials, etc. Not surprisingly, they matched Brian’s recommendations. I then scoured the Internet for press coverage and any customer feedback. There was plenty of both and the overwhelming majority of it was really good. Seven and a few of its competitors had even been written up in the New York Times. I quickly learned a few important things. First, that Seven has a somewhat unique business model – the founder of the company has developed a system that enabled them to calculate the perfect frame geometry based on a specific set of measurements and an understanding of how the bike was to be used. He has been able to convert something that is considered an art to more of a science that can be applied repeatedly with great precision. This allows them to automate the process to some degree and gives them the ability to produce a large number of 100% custom products quickly and efficiently. I also learned that this fit system had been tested by one bike expert who purposely sent a few bogus measurements to try and throw them off and found that he was unable to fool them. Finally, I learned how far the company is willing to go to make sure the customer is happy in the event that they didn’t get something exactly right. I was sold.

One of the greatest bike shops in Portland

A week later, I reported to River City, where Danni from the fit department got the process started. The perfect fit on a bicycle meant to be ridden for several hours and, perhaps, more than 100 miles in a day is really important. It is one of the primary reasons to get a custom bike in the first place. She took a bunch of measurements of me and my bike and asked me a series of questions and sent all the information off to Seven. She also arranged a time when someone from Seven could call me for a follow up interview to ask more questions. Technically, I’m not sure this step is necessary to get the bike built correctly. The questions were pretty much the same as the ones Danni had asked. However, it gave me a sense that the company is obsessively detail-oriented and they wanted to make sure everything was right. It also showed that the company values a direct relationship with the customer. While branding might not have been the primary objective of that conversation, it certainly was an awesome by-product. It made me feel as if I was a vital part of a whole team whose sole purpose was to design me the perfect bike. And in some way, I actually was. Afterwards, I was given a Web address and password that let me track my frame through every state of the building process – very cool.
This is my Seven. There is none other like it and this one is mine!

This is my Seven. There is none other like it and this one is mine!

Ten days after we signed off on the design for the bike, the frame arrived at the shop. Not surprisingly, the bike was perfect and I was one happy customer. Thinking back, every step of the process did something to help to enhance my perception of the company. To start, Seven chose to partner with a top-notch bike shop. This is vital. Because I already had an established and personal relationship with the shop, I was much more willing to listen to the advice of the staff – many of whom ride Sevens of their own. In addition, bikes need regular maintenance, so the shop will really be an ambassador of the brand for years after the sale is complete – and River City’s service department has an unparalleled reputation. Next, without ever cutting the bike shop out of the process, they established a direct and personal connection with the customer, and provided a mechanism for staying connected until the frame was ready. Many bicycle manufacturers actively avoid customer contact and rely on the bike shop to be the interface. The contrast in approach couldn’t be clearer. The end result? My affinity toward the Seven brand is probably close to Sonny Barger’s affinity with Harley. The fact that Seven custom builds frames one-off for a specific customer means the chances are high that every customer will be highly satisfied with the product. This gives them a huge advantage over most typical consumer products. It is also not practical for many companies to have a telephone conversation with each and every customer. However, social media, online forums, blogs provide a whole array of tools that can be used to establish a meaningful and personal relationship with a large number of customers while continuously monitoring opinion. Businesses that take advantage of these technologies will have a significant leg up on their competitors.