“Keys of Hope” – Extended Stay America Donation Positively Impacts Cancer Patients

One of my favorite parts of working in pr is the opportunity to meet so many different people, learn about numerous subjects and help raise awareness about important programs.

A couple of years ago, our client, Extended Stay America wanted to connect and support a charity their 10,000+ employees across the country could feel proud to support. They surveyed their employee base and overwhelmingly American Cancer Society rose to the top. Not surprising as cancer affects and touches so many people’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find anyone these days who doesn’t know someone currently battling cancer. Whether it’s a family member, friend, colleague, acquaintance – this disease touches most people in some way, shape or form.

Rather than write a check, Extended Stay America wanted to find a way to make a more meaningful impact via its CSR initiative. One of the many reasons, I love them. They launched the Hotel Keys of Hope program, which donates free and reduced rooms to cancer patients who have to travel away from home for treatment. To date the program has donated 47,000+ room nights, impacting 6700+ cancer patients. The even better news is that the program has been renewed and ESA is donating even more rooms — 50,000!

What started as an idea, a “what if” during a brainstorm in November of 2014, blossomed into a full fledged event that came to life over a June weekend. Our team hosted 11 families who have stayed at ESA during their treatment for a Cancer Survivors weekend in NYC, taking over one of the properties in Secaucus, NJ. The weekend was an opportunity to celebrate these incredible people who immediately made a connection and lifelong friendship. From dinner and a movie to a special keynote from GMA’s Amy Robach to a Broadway show and celebration dinner, it was such an amazing honor to have been part of what I hope will become an annual event.

As a cherry on top, because we spent a few days really getting to know these families and their stories, we were able to pitch and land a significant news story on The TODAY Show as part of its “Hope to It” series. Love seeing an idea come to fruition, meeting amazing people and getting a national news story! Life and PR win.


#LillyForTarget PR Dream, IT Nightmare

If you’re a Florida girl like me and live in the South, then the Lilly for Target designer collaboration aka “Pink Sunday” was as exciting as Christmas morning. Thousands of women (me included) set their alarms at 3am to snag clothing, accessories, children’s items and home decor from this one-of-a-kind designer collection.

From a PR perspective, the buzz generated from the announcement, lookbook and commercial, celebrity event and night before/day of in store and online collection launch was amazing. Since its announcement in January 2015, I’ve continued to see a steady stream of news surrounding the collaboration. The timeline was executed flawlessly with just enough time between the initial announcement to the sneak peak lookbook and commercial to the actual collection launch on April 19 to ensure the media covered each phase, while building excitement among the socialverse with loyal Lilly lovers and newbies alike.

The lookbook and commercial were amazing and over the top, featuring Chris Noth (Mr. Big from SATC), Bella Thorne, a Giraffe and a slew of other celebs. The celebrity launch party was also a huge success with stars like Shameless’ Emmy Rossum and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper sharing photos and numerous posts via Instagram and major outlets like E News once again covering the partnership. #LillyForTarget has been the #1 trending hashtag on Twitter for nearly an entire day with more than 10,000 tweets and counting.

If there were ever a question that partnering with Target to create a designer line at an affordable price to reach middle America was not a great move for a brand, please Google #LillyForTarget and hit “news” — you’ll find tons of stories from CNN to Refinery 29 and everything in between. On Twitter, local TV stations were soliciting stories from local residents on their Lilly for Target experience. The media attention alone has brought new focus and potential customers to Lilly. If you didn’t know Lilly Pulitzer, you’re probably intimately familiar with the iconic resort brand with the amazingly colorful prints, post Lillypocalypse.

Even with the negative tweets and news stories covering the angry women who were not able to purchase Lilly for Target in stores or online, the sheer amount of conversation and news attention generated has elevated both brands once again. Unfortunately with a limited time collection, one can only expect website crashes, empty stores within minutes and crazy people in line starting at 4am. America wouldn’t have it any other way. I personally find it fascinating to participate and watch this unfold.

For those in IT at Target and the employees braving the store this morning, I’m sure they’re ready for a nap. I loved the fact that Target mobile President Jason Goldberger live tweeted in the middle of the night and answered consumers’ questions. The one pr fail is the fact that once the website and mobile sites crashed, Jason stopped communicating via Twitter. Target should have anticipated madness and therefore crafted messaging to address this and the angry customers. With a highly anticipated launch such as Lilly for Target one could imagine the madness that would ensure online and in stores. Although no amount of tweets or communication will change that, I have seen an enormous amount of tweets and also stories questioning Target for their “radio silence.” There could have been a better way to implement a communication strategy in the wake of site crashes and lack of inventory and own that story rather than be blamed without comment.

I’m interested to see if this designer collaboration is duplicated once again perhaps next summer. Until then, I’lll enjoy reading the stories and tweets generated from the “Lilly for Target Apocalypse” and waiting for my pieces to arrive in the mail.

Would love to hear from others regarding their thoughts on #LillyForTarget. If you’re in pr, what did you think about Target’s pre, during and post launch plan? Did you purchase any Lilly and what was your strategy? Do you think this cheapens the brand or do you find it exciting when designer brands create attainable collections?



Working Mama Debut

So excited to report that we made it through the first week of daycare + work with flying colors. Angel baby was happy as a clam and literally smiling and laughing with his teacher five minutes into his first day of daycare.

Leaving a happy baby with strangers is a much easier feat than leaving a crying baby who is scared and uncomfortable. Luckily W is so social and loves all people. ;-)

I was able to pick up where I left off at work and was welcomed with framed pictures of my little one, new business cards (promoted to VP in Dec. WOOT!) and an Orchid (hoping not to kill it with my less than green thumb). These little gestures meant so much to me. The great thing about my job is that 1. I LOVE it and 2. it’s so fast paced and exciting that I rarely have time to contemplate or dread anything. This makes 5:30pm arrive rather quickly.

The hubby sent pics of Mister Man every afternoon and I spent a few hours after work hanging out with W, which made every evening so special. I’ve also changed my schedule to wake up at 6am and work out, so I can spend my evenings with the family.

Overall the transition went surprisingly well. Just a new routine we’re now getting used to. And so the adventure continues.

Seize The Saturdays

Everyone tells you as a new parent, don’t blink, it’ll all go by so fast. He’ll be 18 before you know it. It’s a cliche, but there is some truth to it. The older you get, the faster time passes and nothing makes you appreciate that more than having a child.

My 12 weeks of maternity leave flew by (the shortest 12 weeks of my life) and my tiny little “small fry” is now a 3-month old who smiles, cackles, makes real eye contact and lifts his head, holding it up for a while. It may sound silly, but he has made so much progress and changed before our eyes in only a few months. If this is any indication of how time will go moving forward, it’s going to feel lightning fast. His growth and development is exciting and terrifying at the same time. I don’t want to miss anything and want to be present and enjoy every moment.

I came across an NYT parenting post that really spoke to me “between the day your child is born, and the time he or she turns 18, you get 940 Saturdays.” WOW. That doesn’t seem like a big number when you’re looking at close to two decades. Seeing the number makes it even more real — time is precious and it goes by so fast. With that number in mind, I’m making a commitment to seize the Saturdays and make each one count.

Even with a 3-month old who may not remember all these experiences, we’ve already started doing something fun as a family every weekend. From community festivals to cookouts with family to strolls in the park — the goal is not something fancy or expensive, it’s about being present and being together as a family to make memories. In the end, isn’t that all we have — memories that make a lifetime.

I’m excited to take on the Saturdays and the Sundays and the week days and whether I have a few hours or an entire day to spend with W, I’m going to make the most of every minute.

How will you seize your Saturdays?



What To Expect When You’re Delivering…

Expect the unexpected. As I embark on my last week of maternity leave and reWbirthflect on the last 12 amazing weeks, I started thinking about Westley’s debut and how incredibly different it was from what I imagined.

I didn’t necessarily have a formal birth plan (nothing in writing and I never will after this…), but I always imagined I would give birth naturally (by that I mean no C section, but definitely an epidural) and I would have time to “enjoy” labor and delivery. I had friends who told me about their experience walking around the hospital, spending time with their spouse and then having a pain free delivery. Boy was I in for a surprise. ;-)

First off, W was turned, which I found out during my 38 week OB visit. After weighing our options – schedule a C section or go in for a Version procedure where they physically turn the baby, we decided to try the Version. I really really wanted to experience the birth of my baby.

This procedure is scheduled at the hospital because if there is any stress to the baby or issues, you go straight into a C section for delivery. The chances of the Version working were about 15-20 percent, but I felt in my gut it would work (my mommy instincts already kicking in). We went in at 7am and they do an initial ultra sound just in case the baby turned on its own. Of course, W was still hanging out in the wrong position, so we moved forward. You get a medication that relaxes your uterus and allows the doctor to more easily turn the baby.

Then it was time for the procedure. Our doctor told me it likely would not work, but he would do his very best. It took three turns and it was painful, but we got the baby in the correct position. With every turn, the doctor got more excited because W was actually turning and making progress. I was in pain (NOTHING compared to labor, now I know…), but I was so encouraged it was worth it. When the baby was successfully turned, the doctor, my husband and me were literally high five-ing each other. Such an awesome feeling to know I would hopefully be able to deliver my son naturally.

So know comes the fun part. About a week or so later, we arrive at the hospital at 4 in the morning because my contractions were bad. Little did I know W would be born in 1 hour and 37 minutes. Crazy fast is an understatement. It was so fast there was no time to prep or even take it in. I went from Triage where my water broke (which is a crazy, gushing feeling) to the L&D room, which wasn’t even ready yet to pushing through 5 major contractions to baby’s arrival.

The worst part was realizing when the anesthesiologist finally made her way to me, that I was way too far (9.5 cm dilated) and unable to even sit up to get the epidural. That was scary. At that moment I knew this baby was coming and there going to be nothing to mask the pain. At that point, once you know, you basically succumb to the pain and let it go. I screamed through it — like I’ve never screamed before. It was all I could do to deal with the contractions, which were 1 minute apart. Unfortunately the “who who hee” breathing you hear about did not work for me. I was SCREAMING. It got me through it and made me feel as good as I could possibly feel under the circumstances.

Thank God for my sweet, sweet husband who although he was scared, since the doctor was nowhere to be found, the room wasn’t ready and there was only one nurse doing it all, he stayed calm and held my hand and my leg while I screamed like a mad woman and pushed as hard as was humanly possible. He pretty much helped deliver the baby and definitely was there for it all. There was no time to cover anything up or hide behind it — he had a front row seat to the delivery (crime scene) and saw it all.

It was the craziest, fastest most brutal and beautiful thing ever. But it is ALL worth it when you see and hear your baby for the first time. It truly is a miracle when it’s all said and done. Unfortunately, due to meconium, W had to be taken to the NICU immediately (I did get to hold him for a few minutes), but luckily he was good. After six hours, they brought him to our room and he has been with us every minute of every day ever since.

So for all you preggo ladies eagerly awaiting delivery, know that things will likely not happen as planned (but isn’t that life), but they will happen as they should. It may be super fast like me or take hours and hour or days like others…but what we all have in common at the end of it all is the immense love you have for that sweet little baby. And so the journey begins…

I would love to hear from other mamas about their own labor and delivery story and any advice for those preparing for the delivery of their lives!



Top 5 “Go To” Baby Gear for New Moms

Before I became a mom, I would roam the aisles at Target or Babies R Us to buy baby shower gifts for friends and to say I was overwhelmed and confused by all the “baby gear” is an understatement. Even when I was pregnant and put my own registry together, I was clueless. One of my good friends spent a few hours with me on a Saturday going through all the categories and helping me select all the items we would need for baby.

Although there are certain things we haven’t used, it is incredible, but true — babies require a ton of stuff, namely hundreds of diapers and wipes and so much clothing since they will pee, poo and puke all over them countless times a day. Do yourself a favor and buy a big bottle of Dreft baby detergent, you’ll be putting that to good use. ;-)

Now that I’ve been putting all the “baby stuff” to good use with my own son, I thought it beneficial to share my top 5 baby items. Some of these were on my registry and some we discovered post baby.

1. The Boppy – Weird name, yes. Indispensable baby product, absolutely. When I was first gifted the Boppy (the original and the newborn lounger), I was unsure what all the fuss was about. They may look like very simple pillows, but these things are LIFE CHANGING. The nursing pillow is everything – it props up the baby and makes it more comfy for you to nurse. Even as I’ve transitioned to bottle feeding, I still use the Boppy to hold W up. This also allows you to feed the baby more conveniently and still have one hand left for multi-tasking. The Boppy is also a great tool when visitors want to hold your baby. It makes it easy and comfy for them and the baby. Win win. You can also purchase additional slip covers for the Boppy, so inevitably when a spit up disaster occurs, you can wash one cover and always have a clean one handy.

The Boppy newborn lounger is also a must. This is a large, angled pillow where baby can lounge. This lounger is portable, comes in a nice neutral pattern and makes W super happy. He naps on it, lounges and even plays. We take it from the bed to the couch and everywhere around the house. The best part is it transitions and can be used as baby grows. If they sold this in adult size, my husband and I would purchase some. They are that comfy! If you haven’t been gifted the amazing Boppy pillow and newborn lounger, do yourself a favor and order them asap before your baby’s arrival. You will not be disappointed.

2. The Nose Frida – Leave it to the Swedes to invent an ingenious and simple tool that makes snot a non issue. The Nose Frida aka Snotsucker (by their own description) is a magical tool for parents. Trust me, never would I have imagined adding a snotsucker to my list of must haves (oy vey), but this tool is amazing. Those bulb syringes you’ll get at the hospital and in the baby grooming kits are a joke. They suck nothing out and leave your kid congested. The Nose Frida is amazing, but be prepared to put in the work. You must use the tube and physically suck the snot out. There is a filter and you’ll never ingest snot, but if you’re a germaphobe or not into your kid’s snot, hopefully your partner is braver. I for one do not mind using it, but my hubby not so much. If you’re apprehensive, just think your baby will likely be happier and sleep better if he can breath, so suck it up…literally!

3. Halo Sleep Sack – So I have to admit our swaddle skills were less than perfect using a regular swaddle blanket and it didn’t help that W absolutely HATED being swaddled with his arms secure. Then we discovered the Halo Sleep Sack (gifted to us by our hospital’s Sweet Pea baby club) and it made putting him to sleep exponentially easier. My favorite part about this sleep sack is that you can swaddle your baby with his hands in or out, depending on preference. Also it is brain dead — you don’t have to have “mad swaddle skills” to get it right. You simply place your baby in the sack, zip him up and wrap him. Done and done.

4. Fisher-Price Deluxe Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleeper – This newborn sleeper was literally a life saver. For a couple of weeks, W would not sleep on his back in the bassinet, so I came across this product via a mommy Facebook group. This newborn sleeper keeps babies secure and at an incline, so a lot of parents use it if their baby has acid reflux too. It is automated (pay the extra $15 for this feature, it is worth it!) and has two rocking settings – 30 minutes for a nap or 6 hours. It also plays music. Now that W has been sleeping in his bassinet, we use this rock n play during the day!

5. Sleep N Play Outfits – No doubt you will receive so many beautiful outfits for your baby, but as you will discover, especially the first few weeks, it isn’t necessarily about cute clothes, but rather practical ones. At night when your baby is waking up every few hours and you’re changing diapers and feeding and delirious…you want a sleep outfit that is easy to maneuver when you can’t see straight. The sleep n play outfits (these are Gerber, but there are a ton of different brands available) are a God send at 3AM. They zip up, instead of button and the zipper is on the foot, so you only have to unzip it enough to change a diaper and then you’re done. This keeps the baby asleep and you avoid the insanity that are the tiny little buttons on baby clothing. W lived in these outfits for the first 4 weeks and now as we start daycare they will continue to be a staple.

Obviously there are hundreds of different products, tastes and preferences, but these are five products that have made being new parents easier. I would love to hear from other mamas out there about their “go to” products.



It’s All Relative

I had a wonderful lunch with one of my favorite co-workers/friends who unfortunately works remotely, so we don’t spend as much time together as I’d like. I will say when we do get to hang out, it is always refreshing and inspiring. This was her first time meeting baby W, so we obviously talked about my favorite topic du jour – motherhood.

We covered all the basics: How was labor & delivery (straight out of CSI), how is being a mom (I’ve taken to it surprisingly well…you never know…), does he sleep (I am the luckiest mom ever – W sleeps like a dream), breastfeeding vs. formula (4 weeks au naturel and then we went the formula route – sleeping improved greatly), do you shower (yes every day, just roll him into the bathroom in his bassinet), yoga pants vs. real clothes (I’m still me, so I dress up, wear make up and do my hair).

And after all the basics we got down to the heart of it. Maybe I’m just incredibly lucky or maybe there is something to how you approach life. What you put out into the universe, is projected back. I’ve always tried to be relaxed about life, minimize the drama and anxiety. When I planned our wedding, my goal was to be the “Anti Bridezilla.” I ate at my wedding, drank, danced and made it to the photo booth more than once. During my pregnancy, I tried to keep it “business as usual.” I traveled and took my baby bump from NY Fashion Week to the NYC Wine and Food Fest to countless meetings and presentations and my brain and creativity still functioned. I may have moved a bit slower and weighed A LOT more, but at the end of the day, I was still me.

So now that I am responsible for a tiny human, I am trying to instill that same drama free and calm existence to my baby and his upbringing. I know we have no control over what kind of baby we get (colic, sleepless nights, fussiness), but I do believe that what we project and the attitude we take makes a difference. I have tried to stay calm, even when I’m not sure how to approach the situation. I talk to W like he understands me and have introduced him to our way of life. He naps and sleeps in a bustling house with the tv on and the dishwasher and washer going. We take him out to dinner with us and surround him with the people we love. He has joined our family, not taken us hostage. I want my son to grow up knowing that each of his parents is a whole person with a lot of layers. We are people and we’re also his parent.

Is it scary being a new mom and responsible for a life? YES! When you leave the hospital there is no manual. You spend two days surrounded by nurses and help and then you and your husband place this tiny baby in a carrier and drive home. The rest is up to you…and that is scary. But like everything else, you figure it out. Every day you get better and more confident — the diapers aren’t as daunting, you start interpreting each cry and their subtleties and then around 2 months you see a real, genuine smile and that is everything. I know this is only the beginning, but a great one it’s been so far.

This life-long parenthood journey is equally exciting as it is terrifying, but as in all things in life, I’m approaching it with a cool, calm and collected attitude, even if half the time I’m “faking it, til I make it.” ;-)