PR guru Edward Segal joins the PR & Law Podcast to talk COVID-19, Facebook, and how to prepare for speeches under intense media scrutiny

A chance to get some communications advice from one of the most experienced pros in the business.
Cam MacMurchy

I mentioned earlier that I’ve launched a podcast with a good friend of mine, Ewan Christie, an employment lawyer in Toronto, Canada. We had worked on The Nanfang together many years ago, and have kept in touch regularly since we shuttered the site at the end of 2016. Earlier this year, we decided to launch a podcast that features a lot of the material we discussed during regular weekend conversations.

The podcast is a work-in-progress, but as we record more shows they’re slowly improving. We had a blast this week because PR veteran Edward Segal joined to talk about a number of PR issues facing companies today. Segal just released a new book called Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies, and dispensed some pretty practical advice for communications people as they wrestle with a global pandemic, a tech backlash, Black Lives Matter, and economic calamity. Ewan, who addresses legal issues each week, also talked about how COVID-19 is already changing how employment contracts are written up and what people should look for before signing on the dotted line.

We’d love it if you’d give the podcast a shot. You can listen to Episode 17, which features Segal, below. We are also publishing a transcript of the conversation for the first time. Please excuse some of the errors in the script overall, but the key part with Edward Segal starts at 06:54 and is transcribed well.

Give it a listen (or a read!) and let us know what you think.

2020-08-03 – PR and Law Podcast Episode 17.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe

Welcome to number, Episode Number 17 of the PR and Law Podcast, I’m your host Cam MacMurchy, along with Ewan Christie.

Hello, Cameron.

Ewan is an employment lawyer and partner at Duntrune LLP in Toronto, Canada, and his firm is online at DuntruneLLP.law.

I’m a PR guy based in Hong Kong and publisher of the Digital Bits PR and Communications Newsletter at DigitalBitsPR.com. If you enjoy the podcast, please tell a friend. You can also follow us on social media on LinkedIn, Twitter Instagram and Facebook. And our account name is PRLawPodcast. All one word: PRLAWPodcast. You can also subscribe on YouTube as well. If you prefer to listen that way, and you can support us on Patreon. That would mean a lot to us. You can find that on our website at www.prlawpodcast.com and you can click support the show.

And we can also take your questions on legal and PR matters. Just tag us on social media with the hashtag #PRLawPod and we can answer that during the show. We have a packed show coming up today, including a very special guest. We will dive into some PR and crisis communications issues shortly. But before that, Ewan, what’s happening with you?

Oh, not too much, Cameron. It’s a nice, overcast, dreary day here, which is a bit of a reprieve from the hot, sticky summer weather, which is always nice. How are things your end?

Yeah, we’re getting into typhoon season.

We’ve had some pretty big storms recently. And in a way, it’s felt like we’ve had great weather for a while now. But I feel like with the way that COVID continues to spread and things seem to be getting worse everywhere, the weather finally sort of matches the feeling that’s out there. I don’t know what’s happening there, Ewan, but it just I mean, this was an awful week for Hong Kong in so many ways, obviously, we had a 12th day today of COVID infections in the triple digits and we’re now up to thirty four deaths.

And I mean, we had five deaths until, you know, June or early July. So most of those have come recently. And you know, another thing, we closed restaurants. Finally. You mentioned you asked in the last show, Ewan, like, why are they closing restaurants after six p.m. but open before 6:00 p.m.? Well, they did finally close them for all day. But you know what happened? I mean, you know Hong Kong, you and it’s a crowded, hot, humid place.

So the one day the restaurants were closed, people were getting takeout, but they had nowhere to eat. And I mean, there’s seven million people here. And so they were spread out in parking lots and on stairs all over the place in thirty four degree, you know, humidity, which is also not healthy. And so they backtracked on that policy within one day and decided to open restaurants again just because it was such a problem.

Oh, isn’t that funny? I saw some of the some of the images, these sort of really, really wonderful juxtapositions of just people with sitting with their food in kind of these densely densely populated urban zones, trying to find, you know, a moment of sanctuary to kind of enjoy their lunch before having to get back to the office out on the street corner, you know?

Yeah, it is strange. And then aside from I mean, COVID still getting worse here. You know, this week we have a legislative our legislative council election coming up in September. And this week, the Chinese government or the Hong Kong government decided to block 12 lawmakers from running for election. They were all pro-democracy sort of lawmakers, not extreme. A lot of them are very, very middle of the road. But that was a huge blow. And then just a day or two later, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, decided to postpone the election by one year.

And the reason, she says, is COVID-19. She said it’s very difficult decision. But when you consider what’s happened to this city over the last three, four months, it was just another huge blow. And I think people are feeling quite low these days.

Well, that must raise some interesting constitutional law questions, I would imagine. Does it does it not? I mean, does this Carrie Lam have the discretion to do that?

Yeah, she does. Apparently she does. But you know, what’s interesting is, you know, Donald Trump obviously put out that tweet saying in the U.S. that maybe he would consider, you know, delaying the election. And the next day, his press secretary talked about how Hong Kong delaying the election was was bad for democracy and a step backwards and all these things. There was just no no sense of hypocrisy there at all on the U.S. administration.

Anyway, so how’s it going there really quickly, Ewan, in terms of COVID. I mean, I think things are getting worse there, too. I heard. Or are we kind of turning it around?

I mean, we’re we’re you know, it’s it depends what day it is, Cam.

We’re we’re sort of moving we’ve moved into the next stage here in the province of Ontario and in the in the Toronto area. As of Friday, we’ve kind of opened up. So, you know, we’re now able to sort of step into restaurants and enclosed spaces once again, which is which is exciting.

I don’t know how quickly that’s going to take off. As you can imagine. You know, a lot of people are still very, very conscious about safety issues and and going inside establishments. I think businesses are going to continue to suffer in that regard. Despite the the reopening, we’ve seen some back to school plans introduced by the governments, which are raising all kinds of questions in terms of what’s going to happen in terms of the education system in September.

Are kids going to be returning full time to school or are they going to be, you know, introducing some hybrid schooling from home model? You know, it’s just there’s still so much stuff up in the air and it really seems to be changing almost on a day by day basis.

Yeah. And I know, you know, in the U.S., it’s still quite bad. It’s continuing to spread. I saw that the U.S. had one point nine million cases in July alone, which is amazing.

We’re not going to dwell on COVID too much, though, because we have a very special guest to get to on the other side, where we can dive into some real PR issues that are affecting some of the companies out there today and hopefully get some useful advice.

Continue the debate with us on social media, joining us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at PRLawPodcast, all one word, PRLawPodcast. Send us your questions now by email to [email protected] That’s all one word. [email protected] or on social media with the hashtag #PRLawPod. That’s hashtag #PRLawPod.

OK, we’d like to welcome Edward Siegel to the PR and Law podcast. Edward’s probably one of the most credentialed and experienced guests we’ve we’ve had on the podcast. He’s got 30 years of experience as a crisis management expert, CEO, public relations consultant, journalist, communications director and press secretary. And he’s also been a PR consultant to more than 500 clients. And he’s got three books out. And the newest one is called Crisis Ahead, 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back From Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies.

Welcome, Edward.

Hi. It’s great to be with you guys today.

Great. I mean, the big issue which we talked about off the top is, is COVID-19. Ewan and I have talked for several weeks now just about kind of the thornier issues that companies are having to deal with in terms of dealing with their customers and their their partners and their staff and their shareholders. And it’s been difficult because there isn’t a lot of solid information out there and a lot of these areas.

So, I mean, how should companies approach this? And who do you think has sort of done it right so far?

Well, in terms of approaching it, the first thing to do is to always pay attention to what’s happening. You don’t want to be surprised by the latest news or developments or current of events, whether it’s international public health emergency.

But as you’re paying attention, it should also pay attention to the right people. From my perspective, the last person or the last people you want to take health advice from are from public officials who don’t have any scientific or medical background. So always listen to the data, listen to the scientists, listen to the people who know the science and the research and the data. And there are always the best ones to follow. It’s fine when the politicians are repeating what the scientists and health officials say, but you’re never, never going to find it.

It was being incredibly rare to find a public a scientist who’s just going to hear what the politicians say. So consider the source and then act accordingly. And the other piece of advice is, don’t wait. When you know there’s a problem, when you know there’s an issue, when you know how the pandemic or any other crisis is going to affect your company or your organization, take steps to address it. Now, every second that you delay in responding to the crisis is just going to postpone it and will make it even more difficult for you to deal with it effectively.

Yeah, and you mentioned they’re taking advice from medical professionals and not politicians. And I think one of the difficult things, I think particularly in the United States, well, even the World Health Organization early on said, you know, that masks were questionable in terms of whether they were effective in preventing the spread of the disease or the virus. And even before that, there was some question whether it was even, you know, transmissible between humans in the very early days, so because it’s such a new thing, you know, we’ve seen even even the professionals kind of have to change the advice from time to time. And I guess, like, how do companies deal with that? Because there have been people quite critical of the government and of other leaders as a result of these sort of changing rules, as well as in this crisis, as with any other crisis, things can change moment to moment, new facts, new figures, new data comes to light that was not known.

And part of the strategy I recommend we recommend to my clients in dealing with the crisis is to be flexible. And what was true or false the other day might be true or false, might be the opposite today or next week or next month. So I’m really not surprised that we’ve learned new things about the coronavirus crisis because it’s the first time we ever had to deal with it and the research and the attention by the medical community and scientists, it was very intense.

And the more they did the research and found out and looked at the cases and the people who had been infected, the people who died, the more they were able to learn. But in the United States, we have a very special challenge in dealing with this continuing crisis because we still don’t know how many people in this country have the disease, unlike other countries around the world. They’ve done a much better job testing people, enforcing what is known to be true, to help combat the disease or prevent people from getting it in terms of social distancing and and masks and things like that in the United States is almost like a free for all.

It’s every person for themselves. There’s no guidance, there’s no national direction, and there’s no common agreed upon set of facts. So it’s really not the right the right way to address a crisis, to fight the crisis. And we really need to pay more attention to the successes of other countries around the world for how they’ve been dealing with this pandemic. Yeah, I think, you know, communications expert or not, I think people have, you know, clearly seen the U.S. has definitely had some some problems in managing this compared to to some of the other countries that have, you know, had a better handle on it.

You know, one of the other things that you had mentioned on your podcast, The Crisis Ahead podcast, we will put a link to it in the show notes, as you talked about some of the layoffs happening. So we know I think it’s 40 million Americans have been laid off as a result of COVID-19 and just the challenges, you know, in terms of companies actually delivering the layoff message to the employees when a lot of employees are not coming into work.

And so that might have to be done at a distance or over a phone call and maybe it’s not even, you know, one on one. And you mentioned Weight Watchers as one case study. I’m just wondering if you can shed some light on sort of how Weight Watchers managed it and what is the best way for companies to to do this?

Well, because so many people are now working remotely and not coming into the office or can’t come to the office or won’t come to the office, Zoom and other video platforms have become the go-to way to help communicate with employees about what’s happening, their company and also because of the economy. So many people, I think we’re up now to 50 million people in the U.S. have been laid off or furloughed and are seeking unemployment insurance. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and they found out about it because they were asked to sit in on an emergency room call.

And that’s understandable in terms of sharing information and of letting people know. But you really have to have some sensitivity when you’re using Zoom or any technology to deliver news, especially bad news to employees. You should couch the information in terms of the big picture. Why is this happening to the company? Why are we having to make this difficult decision, how it’s going to affect you? Is there any hope at all for hiring new back or taking you off a furlough?

It’s always important, if you can, to give people hope when you have to deliver the bad news. But don’t give them false hope only if it’s possible you don’t want to lead them on. You don’t want to deceive them. You don’t want to raise up their hopes and then have to do it later on. So it’s really important. And also for everyone who has to give people the bad news there for the grace of God might be going to the managers of today can be the unemployed managers tomorrow.

So treat people right today because you might be on the receiving end of bad news later on as this pandemic continues.

Yeah, you make a very good point about putting the the the issue in sort of a broader context of COVID-19 and then providing, you know, the information on your podcast, you mentioned even maybe having, you know, an FAQ or Q and A list of information to help answer some questions the staff might have. And I think it’s really just I think I think staff feel just more respected in that way because it looks like the company put some time into providing as much information as they could and talked about sort of the process they go through to get to this sort of sad result.

But at least it’s done sort of in a respectful way.

Yes, you should make it as easy as possible to share the information, whether it’s good or bad or just a status report accused on the website, text messaging, even the old fashioned conference, conference, phone calls, getting the word out, having a if you needed confidential information, posting it on the website and a password protected page on the site.

But the more you are public or the more you share with the bad news, the more likely it is that people that who you may not thought would ever care or learn about the news, they might learn about it as well. So when you’re delivering bad news or even status reports, remember, you may be talking to or writing to or being heard or seen by multiple audiences. And that’s what happened with Weight Watchers that gave the bad news. And people were really upset on how they got the news and what was said during the Zoom call.

And then they started posting messages on social media to complain about how in their reviews they were so inhumanely treated. So be careful with the message that you’re giving your employees. Be careful with the updates and be very careful how you are couching the news. Try to be human, trying to stay human. These are incredibly tough, challenging times for everybody in an organization. And when you’re giving the bad news through Zoom or any other way, be compassionate, be understanding, stay human and put things in perspective.

And if you can give them hope, not false hope, but legitimate hope, try to do that as well.

Yeah, I just wanted can I just want to echo what Edward is saying, because I think it’s fantastic, fantastic advice for for any lawyers, employment lawyers who might be listening to our show.

You know, as as everyone knows, our the reputation of our profession is such that we’re often not perceived as the most sympathetic of individuals. And I think it’s sorry.

Are you referring to law or PR people?

Well, I was referring to people, to the lawyers. OK, perhaps clarify it is among your people as well. Yeah.

You know, the tone is key. And I’ve had to draft a lot of termination letters over the last few weeks and months. And, you know, what Edward says is really, really, really wise, wise counsel.

You have to get the tone right. This is a very, very difficult time for a lot of employees and employers on both sides of the fence.

And if the language isn’t conveyed in a compassionate manner, particularly given that the vast majority of these layoffs really have nothing to do with the with the conduct of the employees of their ability to come to work each and every day and do a good job. It’s completely unrelated to that. And that that aspect of the message has to be key. It really has to be conveyed that this isn’t about you or any inadequacies on your part. This is an unprecedented challenge that we’re facing as a company.

And unfortunately, these are we’re having to make some very, very tough decisions. If the tone isn’t right, you’re going to run into all kinds of problems as an employer, reputational. It could have some some long term effects. If you have employees who are out there who’ve lost their jobs, who are speaking negatively about the company, you really have to focus on on getting that tone precise, which can be a very, very challenging thing to do with the best of times.

And one of the problems, you know, as you were talking there Ewan, is that, yeah, these these Zoom meetings can be recorded and they can be shared on social media. And so you’ve got you’ve got that that risk as well.

I think, you know, there’s a lot of topics actually I want to I want to get to I know we have a small amount of time. But Edward, one of the things I want to ask about, really, is some of the companies that are really in the spotlight right now who are kind of under the gun. And I think one of those is Facebook. And it’s had kind of a bad run of news ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal back following the 2016 election. And then on, it seemed to be one misstep after another.

And now there is an advertising boycott or at least some advertisers have decided to boycott Facebook. What is your assessment of sort of how Facebook has has handled their communications? And what how can companies manage things like boycotts threatened or actually implemented?

Well, when it comes to Facebook or any other company that has had a series of crises, I think it’s a good example of what I call the two law of holes for crisis management. The first law of holes is that if you ever find yourself in a hole, stop digging and get out of the hole. The second law of holes is don’t fall back into that hole and don’t don’t dig yourself another hole. And Facebook is a really great example of a company that’s violating those two law of holes.

They’ve had crisis after crisis after crisis. And I’m really surprised because of a company of that size, importance, influence and reach, I would have thought that they have figured this out. It I understand if a company has a crisis and it’s and it’s great if they learn from it, they should always learn from your crisis. But we keep making different mistakes. Then something’s wrong with the culture. Something’s wrong with your view of reality, and something’s wrong with your ability to forecast and come up with the worst case scenarios of what could possibly go wrong in our company and how do we prevent that from happening.

So I think it’s a continuing textbook case of what not to do in a crisis. They keep making mistakes. They keep getting out of holes and keep falling into new holes. In terms of the boycott, the boycott is a great way for any industry or any organization to force them to do the right thing if they’re not doing it on their own. And nothing speaks to a company that has loss of revenue or profits. If they’re going to lose money, that’s going to get their attention.

And if they haven’t done the right thing before, losing money every day, that’s going to help get their attention and hopefully do the right thing. So we haven’t seen any move yet on Facebook, but the more the more money they lose and the more companies and organizations that decide to boycott and not buy advertising from the company, the more attention it’s going to get and the more likely it is going to have a continuing effect here in Washington, D.C..

We had a great example of that when the National Football League team, formerly known as the Redskins, the owner, Dan Snyder, had refused for years to change the name because many people rightly considered it to be an offensive racist name. But he refused to change the name. Then, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in in Minneapolis, there was a new call to change the name. He said no. But then the major sponsors, FedEx and other major companies that sponsored the team said, if you don’t change, we’re taking our money and taking it elsewhere, we won’t sponsor you anymore.

Well, guess what? Dan Snyder changed his mind. They dropped the name with a matter of days and now they have a placeholder name called the Washington’s NFL team. So that’s a good example. On a local level, on an international level of the impact, the boycott or the threat of a boycott can have to help make a difference, help encourage a company to do the right thing if they’re not doing it on their own.

You know, I wonder if it’s an example of Facebook’s market strength to some degree that this is, you know, continued or the bad press has continued literally for four years now. I mean, we’re looking at four or five years of, like you say, scandal after scandal and the boycott. And when the boycott was first kind of floated as an idea, Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying, you know, they’ll come back and, you know, it is a cynic could look at this and go, yeah, I mean, Facebook is still the number one way, I mean, maybe debatable with Google, to target your advertising and your marketing spend and to access, you know, potential customers or clients.

And so do you think that these companies are getting to the point where even this sort of outside pressure and even sponsor pressure to a degree, do they have enough power to dislodge how Facebook does business?

Well, there’s always strength in numbers. And the more other companies and organizations join the boycott, the better. However, those companies have already said we’re not going to support you with advertising anymore. They’re in one way. They’re painting themselves into the corner. What happens if a Facebook refuses to change your policies and the companies say, OK, we’re going to advertise with you were going to give you our money?

Again, that has the the chance of the real opportunity of turning those companies that are boycotting. Now, if they go back before there have been changes, hypocrites, and they will have their own crisis to explain to the public, their employer, their employees, their customers, why they change their mind if Facebook hasn’t changed theirs. So be careful what you ask for. Be careful what you do. You have to think through the consequences of your decisions and your act.

What happens if it works, OK, that’s good, but what happens if it doesn’t work and what are you going to do if you don’t get your way and the changes you’re demanding don’t come to pass. So be very careful and need a strategy for doing the right thing. But you also need a strategy for if there’s problems in achieving our goals.

And we’re sort of picking up from that point something you’d said initially about following the science and the data.

And I was curious, how do you balance what the science and the data is saying with, you know, the public perception or general consensus? And, you know, more specifically, I think it was in in an earlier episode, episode 13, we had talked about United Airlines and their communications director who effectively came out and said that, you know, social distancing on an airplane is effectively a PR scam and that, you know, they were going to start loading their flights and filling them in, not leaving that middle seat empty.

And he cited a bunch of a bunch of the scientific data and evidence to sort of support that position. But publicly, there was some backlash and it didn’t seem to jive with what consumers thought was safe. So I’m just I’m curious, how do you I mean, how do you advise a company in terms of having to balance the science with the public perception when the two ends may not may not actually meet somewhere in the middle?

Well, the real issue is what’s more important, safety or profits? Are you going to do everything no matter what the law says, no matter what the sign says, to try to make as much money as you can and to stay in the business? Or are you going to be incredibly prudent and do everything you can to protect the public and and your customers? You can’t argue with your customers. You know, customers are always right.

The customers are paying attention to what the scientists are saying. The scientists are believing the the people are believing the scientists much more than the politician to his recent poll. Look at almost 75 percent of the public believe what Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying and a fraction of that believe what the United States is saying.

And people will have to consider the source of the information and why people are saying what they’re saying. I would say, well, of course, United is going to say it’s safe because they want to stay in business and they want to make money and, you know, they’ve got to bring customers back. But the public is reading the same science, the same data, the same research, the same warnings and the forecasts. So you can’t fool the public and you shouldn’t try to fool the public because that’s going to blow back.

And the problem with ignoring the science, as we’ve seen for those states and cities and companies that are ignoring the warnings, they are playing a role to some extent of resurgence of the pandemic. And by ignoring the data, by ignoring social distancing laws and regulations and guidance, by ignoring the mask requirements, we’re doing the best possible job of making this crisis go on and on and on. And whatever your whether you’re an airline or train or a bus company or any form of transportation, any business, to ignore the signs, to ignore what we know works, to help prevent the disease and help prevent the spread, to ignore that just for the sake of making a book a buck, then I think the customers are going to think less of you for doing that.

And if you’re because of your ignoring the science, you’re contributing to the extension of this pandemic. That’s not good PR for you and it’s wrong thing to do on a moral basis as well. So pay attention to the science and follow the science. Do what you can to stay in business. But I don’t think you should do everything you can to make a buck while putting your customers at risk. And that’s exactly what United and other companies are doing when they’re ignoring the science.

In a way, this is quite simple. It is just, you know, do the right thing, be a you know, a company that that does follow the science, that follows the rules, that tries to keep people safe. I think it’s the companies that are trying to sort of find shortcuts that that get into into some trouble. One of the other big issues this week was, was the tech CEOs were in Washington to testify about their accused monopoly status in the sectors in which they operate.

So so the four tech CEOs are Facebook, Alphabet, Apple…

And there was one other one…

Twitter, I think wasn’t it was Twitter?

Amazon CEO

Amazon. So, I mean, I don’t want to get in particularly to what they were saying. But last week on the podcast, we were talking about getting speeches ready for a CEO or for a politician or for some executive that you might be working for or maybe even yourself. And like, what is the best way in a situation like that where there’s going to be very tough questioning? Or it could be a. You know, a press conference, you know, or an earnings call somewhere where you might face difficult questions following your speech, how do you tackle that?

Like, what advice do you give or what approach do you think is best to take to deal with that kind of situation?

Practice, practice, practice. You should prepare yourself for not just the good questions that you’re likely to get from your supporters on a congressional committee, for example. But the worst case scenarios, the meanest, most negative, upsidedown questions you could you just don’t want to answer. But be prepared for them to be asked and you need to think it through and come up with an appropriate response for every possible negative question. In addition to the great softball questions that you might get from your friends and supporters on on a congressional committee, you know, in politics and the presidential debates, they have practice sessions with staff or others playing, playing the role of an opposition candidate, asking the hard mean questions.

You should do the same thing if you’re getting prepared for a congressional committee or appearance before any government, organization or entity. It’s also important to do your homework and do your research about the people who are likely going to be asking you those questions. What are their backgrounds? What are their politics? Do they have any axes to grind and do as much research as you can and then practice the questions, practice the answers, record yourself and be as objective as you can or have others give you sound advice about what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and strengthen your your your performance while you’re doing the best possible job.

But remember, you’re speaking to multiple audiences is just not the people in the room you’d have to talk to. It’s the people who are there watching it on social media or on television. It’s the reporters who are reporting it. How is what you say going to be reported or heard by the media and those who watch and hear you from a distance? So think through what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, what the impact is going to be and what the follow up questions are going to be.

You say A, B and C, but what’s the end? What what’s the follow up question? And many times people will get themselves into more trouble answering the questions than the original statement.

So whether it’s dealing with the press, dealing with a congressional committee or any government body, practice, practice, practice, you know, this is one of the things I actually like to do is put together those questions, you know, when we’re preparing executives for four for facing the media, you know, going through and finding the most difficult and pointed questions that could potentially be asked, because you’re right, airing those and going through that process helps a lot when it happens for real.

I mean, this is all great for for for content and preparation on that end in terms of like nerves and anxiety. And, you know, I know some people start sweating when they’re talking. Are there ways to I mean, we know that some CEOs are very, very charismatic and are very good at speaking off the cuff, you know, not looking at notes, that kind of thing.

While others really do need to look very carefully at the written word while they’re delivering a speech. Is there any advice you have for sort of keeping people feeling calm, feeling loose, feeling confident in that kind of thing? Yes.

One word, breathe. Yes. Many people forget to breathe when they’re in a crisis situation. Breathe in and out, in and out. Repeat as necessary, because the more you breathe, you take deep breaths. You don’t want to hyperventilate, but you should pace yourself.

There is a great exercise I found out about years ago to help calm yourself and steady your nerves. Count to ten. And for every count, you you take a breath in, you hold it for 10 seconds, and then you slowly release your breath over a period of 10 seconds. So over those 30 seconds, it’s and you keep repeating that for five or six times are longer than necessary. Your body reflex will start to slow down. You’ll start to calm.

You’ll start to be able to collect yourself. And it’s a great way to center yourself, to make sure you’re not getting overly excited and to try to be as calm as possible. Other people like to take long walks or do jogging or exercises or pushups or whatever makes sense for you, whatever will work for you. There’s a lot of good advice from doctors and health care professionals and psychologists as well on how to study yourself and how to calm your nerves.

So don’t wait until you’re in a crisis situation to find out what’s going to work for you in a crisis situation or a stressful situation. Take the steps as soon as you can to practice good health, to practice, you know, not getting overly excited and then practicing some of these different exercises to see what will work best for you before you enter or when you find yourself in a middle of a stressful or high pressure situation.

That is that is great advice. Yeah, that’s something I think I’ll I’ll try it myself. Probably what I’m in that situation.

I’ve been doing the breathing exercises. Well, while you’re chatting, I feel much calmer, actually. It’s nice.

Don’t forget to exhale.

Yes. That’s that’s the key part!

There’s one last thing I really wanted to ask you, Edward, because I know that you’ve had you know, you’ve had a great long career in this field. And, you know, so much has changed in the last 30 years since you’ve been doing this. I mean, we’re in the age now of of Twitter. And we talked about Zoom earlier and things going viral. And I mean, even this pandemic has just seemed to open up all kinds of new new new issues.

I mean, how have you kept up with all of this?

And what has it been like for you to adjust and adapt to all of these changes and still be able to, you know, really provide valuable counsel after all of these years? I’d love to know your secret.

Well, the secret is to pay attention. Never assume what’s in today is going to be in tomorrow or the technology that relied on last week is going to be the one that we turn to next month. The technology keeps changing. You know, consider the invention of the telegraph and what it was like to be a journalist in the Old West, and you had to get your stories out by telegraph. And then you had the telephone and then they had radio and tell it.

It’s every generation has new technology to contend with, to learn about and to understand. But the way technology has been working the last decade or so, it’s a new technology almost every year. I remember when MySpace used to be the way to communicate on the Internet and whatever happened to MySpace. And then there was FaceTime and now we have Facebook and never assume that the technology that we’re using now is going to be what we’ll be using in the future.

And part of my secret for for surviving and thriving in my various careers, my various iterations, is that I like to learn new things.

I’m always on the lookout for what’s going to be new tomorrow, what’s new today, and how I can adjust and learn that new technology so I can do the best possible job for myself and my careers. And in the public relations arena, in crisis management, the different form of communications and technology, it’s absolutely essential to know what works and what doesn’t, what’s going to do a good job for myself and my clients and to learn how to do it as quickly as possible.

You don’t want to be the last person in your company or in your industry to know how a particular technology is working because everyone’s been using it for for a long time. So you have to be current. You have to be up to date. And also by showing others at your current and up to date, that sends a good positive message to others that you know what you’re doing and helps ensure that you have your credibility and that you’re at the top of the game.

Always pay attention and keep up with what’s happening.

Just to just to touch on what you just said, Edward, because something that really resonated with me is keeping up with the technology. And, you know, this is something that a lot of employers really, really struggle with there. They’re not often as as nimble and quick as they certainly need to be in certain circumstances. And you often see that reflected in the agreements, in the employment agreements of a lot of employees.

You know, often I’m going through draft employment agreements that an employer has asked me to look at and and update. And I’m looking at things like return of, you know, company property or confidential information. And I’m still seeing two disks, like floppy disks, as if, you know, anyone has touched a floppy disk at any point in the last, I gosh, I don’t even I don’t even know how long that, you know, companies have to be conscious of the technology that their employees are using on a day to day basis.

They need to receive good counsel in that regard to make sure that their agreements are up to date and to make sure that their company culture is up to date in that regard. Because if they don’t, you know, I mean, I guess to use Edwards term, they’re going to they’re going to find themselves finding in falling into a hole that they probably will not be able to get out of.

Well, just on that last point, I believe, was Tesla that got really concerned and upset that so many of their employees were sharing a private and confidential information about the company with reporters and others through through e-mail. And so Tesla decided we’re going to send a warning to all the employees to stop using email and sharing company secrets. Well, guess what? Someone leaked that email as well.

So be very careful with the technology that you have, the technology your your clients are using, how your employees are using it. Do your best. You train your employees and everyone else about the importance of keeping confidential information private and confidential. The effect or the consequences of releasing it can be. And the bottom line is, if you’re if you’re afraid of information, it’s going to get out and hurt you by sharing it with others, don’t share it with others, find a way of providing it safe, secure, because bad information gets leaked.

It could damage your image, your reputation, your publicly traded. It could hurt your stock price. So there’s a lot of reasons to be careful about the technology you’re using. And you take every step you can to protect it and to make sure everyone who’s using technology is doing it safely as well.

Fantastic. Yes, Edward, I it’s been absolutely great having you on the show. Actually, I have so many subjects and things that I would like to to to ask you about. So I hope you can come back and join us on the show again sometime. It’s really been great having you.

I’ve enjoyed the conversation and I’d love the opportunity to continue it sometime in the future.

Absolutely. Great. Thank you so much to Edward Siegel. And you can listen to his podcast as well to pick up on some of the tips that he gave us today and some new ones as well. And his podcast is called Crisis Ahead, The Crisis Ahead podcast. And you can pick up his book that was just released. It is called Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare For and Bounce Back From Disasters, Scandals and Other Emergencies. We will have a link to the book in the show notes if you’re interested.

Thank you again, Edward.

Thank you.

Show your support to the PR and Law podcast by making a one time donation or setting up a subscription with the zombie on every little bit. Helps us keep the lights on and bring the show to you each week. If you’d like to chip in. Please visit www.prandlawpodcast.com. That’s Www.prandlawpodcast.com. Click on Support the show.

Thanks for helping us out. What a great discussion, what a what an absolute pleasure to have Edward on the show that was that was really, really fantastic and insightful. I wish I could have access to him almost on a day to day basis doing what I do for a living. I’m sure you feel the same way.

Yeah, I think we could have had the whole hour with Edward, actually. So that’s why we’re going have to get him on again sometime. Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I wanted to talk about not not the sexiest of subjects this week, Cameron, but but no less pertinent to to what’s going on. And that’s structuring employment agreements.

You know, we’ve talked about this before, how it’s critical that when employees are signing new employment agreements, that they have someone review them, have counsel, ideally, look at it and go through it with a fine tooth comb, but particularly in the age of covid. I think this is even more important. And the reason I say that is I think we’re going to see some fundamental shift in the way that employment agreements are being drafted.

And I just kind of wanted to go through a few of those those points very, very quickly.

So, you know, for example, Cyc policies, you know, sick time policies right now, they’re not sufficiently addressing a lot of the considerations related to to covid. So, you know, I think covid in quarantine periods will have to be expressly addressed in those agreements time off. This is going to be the big one.

Most agreements, as it stands now, they don’t have the ability to permit temporary layoffs.

Really, the temporary layoff is something that’s reserved for more seasonal workers or workers that that are in kind of large, large factory factories that have, you know, production lines that sort of ebb and flow. I think we’re going to see a fundamental shift there where employers and I you know, I’ve already drafted some agreements to this effect. They’re going to start to squeeze in some provisions. And language is language that permits them to temporarily lay off their employees without pay in case, you know, a pandemic like situation occurs again.

And as you can imagine, that’s going to have some pretty significant implications to the employee, particularly if they’re not even aware that a provision like that exists in the agreement.

OK, yeah, I have so many questions about this. So. So you’re saying that basically because of covid-19 and the impact that we’ve seen from covid-19, particularly on employers and employees, that actual employment agreements are being changed going forward to incorporate some sort of new language or new provisions to deal with something like covid-19 this disease specifically or in general in case of a pandemic, right?

Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s that’s exactly what I’m saying. Precisely. And I mean, I can tell you firsthand, I’ve already I’ve been drafting language, some language to this effect in agreements over the last last few weeks and frankly, last last month or two. So so, yeah, it’s happening.

I mean, you would think, again, I’m not Pollyannish here, but in a just world, you would think that actually there would be more provisions to actually protect, employ employees in light of the potential health hazards and other things as a result of a pandemic. But as you’re talking about, I sense that it’s actually the other way that we’re going. So I want to I want to ask about the sick policies. So you said, you know, like right now I don’t know what they are, but I assume, you know, you can take a certain number of days off with an illness.

What exactly is the change for covid? Is it does it impose some sort of limit or how is that working?

Well, I think we’re going to need we’re going to need some clarification and explicit language that speaks to quarantine periods being sort of expressly addressed in the agreement. Right.

So, you know, typically you’d have hey, if you’re not feeling well, you take time off. I mean, you’re sort of typical broad sick leave provision, but there’s nothing really at this point that sort of addresses a quarantine.

Right.

So you could require language, for example, if somebody becomes sick in as a result of of the pandemic or a subsequent pandemic, or if you need to impose sick days to keep people out of out of a workplace environment, something to that effect.

There’s going to need to be some expressed language that speaks to quarantine periods, because that’s just not something that, you know, employment counsel have turned their minds to, because we haven’t we haven’t had to deal with this before. So, yeah, there’s going to be some revisions there for sure.

And the quarantine thing like that literally affects me directly because, you know, I’m in Hong Kong. If you if you land in Hong Kong, you’re under a 14 day quarantine automatically.

Well, I mean. There’s a lot of places I could fly to here on the weekend, and there’s some countries where there is no quarantine rule now because they’ve got a hold of the they’ve dealt with the disease quite well, the virus. But if I come back to Hong Kong, a 14 day quarantine period means I can’t go to work for two full weeks. And obviously, my employer is not going to tolerate that because it would be my choice to leave and come back.

I know what the rules are, but I can see how this is. Yeah, it’s going to be a problem because there’s no there’s no language around this. Like, basically I’m stuck and they can sort of demand what they want just because of that. And then I guess you on on the time off one like right now, you said there’s no temporary layoffs in most employment agreements. So so that’s going to be added now that there’s going to be these clauses sort of in the template that says actually you can be let go or furloughed.

Yeah, I suspect there probably will be. You know, I mean, the the law as it stands in Ontario is, you know, you can’t temporarily lay off an employee unless you have sort of express language within the employment agreement that permits you to do so. And again, typically, this is not language you would see in most employment agreements outside of some of those contexts that we talked about, seasonal work and what have you.

But, yeah, I mean, I think employers are going to want to have some some guarantees and assurances that should something like this rear its ugly head again, they’re going to have the flexibility to be able to say, OK, sorry, guys, we’ve got to let you off temporarily now. And we have the ability to do so within, you know, whatever relevant employment legislation sort of governs in your jurisdiction, but that we have that flexibility to do it and we can do it without having to pay you.

So we’re not firing you, of course, but we’re going to temporarily lay you off in an unpaid context. And yeah, I think we are going to see a lot more employment agreements that that permit employers to do that.

I do think it’s easy to sort of cast the employer in a negative light as a result of this. I mean, but but in reality, the employer is also hurt badly by the pandemic. I mean, most of them are there certain businesses that are thriving as a result. But in general, you know, everyone is suffering from this.

But it would be good if there was.

I almost feel like this does also, in a way and I can’t believe I’m saying this requires some sort of maybe government policy or support or something, because, I mean, what we end up with and we’re seeing this sort of in the US now is the pandemic happens. It’s not someone’s fault in the US. You know, I mean, you could make an argument to some degree, but and the business gets hurt.

The employees have to get laid off. The business might go out of business. I mean, everyone loses. And so dealing with this at a higher level, I think is also something that’s going to have to be looked at in the future.

Yeah, you’re you’re absolutely right. I mean, we’ve already seen some government intervention in this regard. And again, I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty and technicalities of what governments have done. But we have seen we have seen some intervention to provide employers with a little more flexibility in terms of what they can do vis a vis their their employees in a pandemic situation. I think we’re going to see inevitably a lot more intervention and legislation to sort of expand those provisions.

And I think we’re also going to see an expansion of some employee protections as well in a pandemic situation, because, you know, you’re absolutely right. As much as on one hand, you have employers who have been in real dire straits financially and haven’t had a great deal of choice in terms of laying off a lot of these employees. At the same time, we have seen employers take advantage of these luxuries and sort of laying off employees that perhaps they, you know, they weren’t particularly fond of for for extended periods of time without having to pay them.

So undoubtedly, whatever whatever there is sort of some sort of intervention or legislative intervention, there’s going to be those that take advantage on both sides of the fence. And that’s always going to be a difficult thing to try and regulate and control.

So, I mean, what is your advice then for? I mean, I think for employers, I mean, this makes sense. You should have these provisions in just four for risk management, for your business, for employees, though, someone starting a new job later this year or next year. I mean, should they look for this? Is there anything that you would advise them to to to raise or to do?

Yeah. I mean, you know, the simple the simple solution is, again, sit down with council and go through it. So you have somebody who has turned their mind to these sorts of issues that can go through them step by step with you. And I mean, again, we haven’t even talked about, you know, other issues. Vacation time is sort of one that has always been present, even in a pre covid context that a lot of employees weren’t consciously aware of.

And that’s that the employer fundamentally gets to determine when you take your vacation time, they can impose upon you when you take that vacation time. And we’ve seen a lot of employers do that in the context as well, saying, look, we’re we’re we’re facing financial hardship right now.

We’re not really in a position to keep everybody on the payroll, so we’re imposing upon you to take your vacation, your three weeks or four weeks.

We want you to exhaust that vacation time and do it now. And they have the discretion to do that. And that’s been around for for some time. And a lot of employees hadn’t turned their mind to that either until their employers in the wake of covid started telling them, you have to take your vacation time.

Now, you know, in the other issue, Cam, that we’re going to have to look at in agreements or work from home policies.

Right. What’s the language of the work from home policy? And I think that this is really something employers have to turn their minds to when drafting employment agreements as well. How are you going to structure those policies? Because this isn’t really something employers have turned their minds to and a lot of contexts either where going to work Monday to Friday, nine to five has been the norm. Well, what happens when you can’t do that? When do your employees work?

How do they work? What equipment do they have to have available in their home offices?

Who’s providing that equipment? Who’s paying for that equipment?

You know, all of these sorts of issues all of a sudden become really, really pertinent when, you know, your workforce is going to have to just pick up and start working from home for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, it’s going to be a big change. And we talked about sort of the impact of technology just on the workplace in general. And I think that’s going to be a big influence on sort of how this how that shakes out. Anything else on this?

And you want to you want to you want to add.

No, I really I know we’re pressed for time. So, you know, let’s let’s move on. Perhaps we can touch on it again briefly next week. Yes, for sure.

OK, I’m so into into the recommended stuff this week. And, you know, I don’t have a huge one to mention here.

Just a couple of things that I we’re quite sad, I think this week.

Not that 20/20 needs anymore sadness, but Wilford Brimley and Regis Philbin both passed away this week.

I don’t know if our listeners are going to be very familiar with MISU. I assume they are at least Regis Philbin, I think in particular. And I did we read one right up about him. I do think he was, you know, a very groundbreaking person on television.

He does hold the Guinness Book of World Records for the most hours on television, which is a big deal. And his career spanned from the fifties up until just a few years ago, which is absolutely incredible. You know, I think even when we talk about communications, his way of communicating, the way he spoke, the way he sort of smiled and laughed and was able to do small talk and joke around, it was very, very endearing.

And I think he was one of the very few people in the United States who who was beloved by nearly everyone. He had that going for him. So there was a really good right up on on his life and his career that I will put in the show notes. I think it’s worth reading if you want to read about somebody who really, I think made it made a difference for a lot of people.

Yeah.

He just had that uncanny ability to sit down with anyone and make it appear as if they’d been kind of old friends, you know, had known each other for four years.

And that’s such a rare gift, even in television personalities, people who do that sort of thing for a living. It’s such a rare gift, but it’s definitely one he had in spades.

And the other one, there is an article called Real Karen’s Struggle with Name. And Karen has a lot of meaning now, especially in United States, but elsewhere as well. It’s almost a pejorative. And people who actually have the name Karen obviously are not appreciating this very much. And so there’s a dive into that in New York Times. It is. It’s kind of tongue in cheek, but at the same time, it looks like, you know, to some degree this can be kind of an annoyance and kind of a problem for for for women who do have the name Karen.

And what I didn’t notice is that it was the third most popular girl’s name, I believe, in 1964. And it’s nowhere now, even in the last several years, it’s been absolutely nowhere on the list. I mean, it’s completely gone away, which is quite interesting because I have known a lot of Kerans over the years, real parents, not the ones that we’re seeing in viral videos.

But that’s but that’s also something I think I must have seen something similar about this. But, yeah, that had dropped to like one hundred and sixty fifth on the list by I can’t remember what year it was, but that it’s effectively dropped right off. Yeah. I saw it down there.

It’s being born the 600 level range like it was way, way, way down anyway. Anything for four for you, you and you want to share.

Well we’ll just on the on that note, also, if this was the same piece that that you’re talking about, that it was Dane Cook who’s believed to initially have coined the term Dane Cook, being that that stand up comedian who I don’t know if Dane Cook still around and doing standup, I guess he probably is, but that it was like back in twenty fifteen or something that he he coined the term Karen in a in a bit. Really, we’re wondering where it came, yeah, part of me I was wondering where it came from because the name does suit the kind of stereotype a very perfectly, I think.

But yeah, I was wearing who coined that first and how that particular name ended up taking on that meaning.

Yeah, well, at least that was that was what it was attributed to in this this piece that I had read on the issue anyway.

Mm hmm. I wanted to talk about very, very briefly an article, a great article that I had read in The Atlantic. It was one of those things that just sort of resonated with me. I sent it to a few other people, a few other lawyers I know. I suspect it would resonate with them and may even resonate with you, Cam. And it was an article titled Success Addict.

I don’t know if you saw this. No, but I love The Atlantic’s, you know.

Yeah, well, success addicts choose being special over being happy, how the pursuit of achievement distracts from the deeply ordinary activities and relationships that make life meaningful. And, you know, to tie just a tie into this, it’s sort of it was kind of a one two punch. I came across a quote in on Twitter just before I read this article by Roopi Kowa. Rebeccah is a Canadian poet and author. She’s the writer of Milk and Honey. Perhaps if you’ve heard of it.

And the quote was, I measure my self-worth by how productive I’ve been. No matter how hard I work, I still feel inadequate. And so I read that and thought, yeah, I hear you, I know where you’re coming from. And then almost immediately afterwards, I read this this Atlantic piece talking about sex addicts.

And what’s really interesting about the articles, it sort of creates a correlation between addictive behavior and the need to be successful and that they sort of tap into the same parts of the brain and that for a lot of people that that idea of getting that fixed, that kit of being successful, it’s very, very akin to, you know, the addictive behavior of an alcoholic or a drug addict.

This subject makes it a little close to the bone for some people. I can’t wait to read it. I have not seen it yet. I mean, I mentioned I do like the Atlantic. I think they just do amazing journalism and write ups. And I it’s one of the publications I pay for every year.

But but yeah, I can see this. I think I know people who could be described this way. And I think like even to some degree and I wouldn’t say I’m successful, but I think at least in, you know, focusing on work or trying to be as productive as you can and trying to be as valuable as you can. You know, I was thinking recently, like in my own job, I mean, I’m waking up early morning on Saturday and Sunday to deal with sort of, you know, media issues or things going on.

And and there are times I think I look at, you know, photos of of people back in Vancouver, Victoria, and I can see, like, people are going on weekend trips still even despite covid, they’re going up to Whistler.

They’re taking time to go here. They’re up to Tofino or, you know, these kinds of things. And I think, why am I doing this? Like, I don’t I don’t need to do this, but it is giving away a lot of sort of time for family, time for friends, time for sort of a more more fully realized life in the name of productivity. And I think that is a problem for a lot of people.

Yeah. I mean, tell me if this resonates with you.

This is just one of the quotes I wanted to read from from the article talking about success and how success is Sisyphean quote, The goal can’t be satisfied.

Most people never feel successful enough. The high only lasts a day or two, something psychological or something psychologists call the hedonic treadmill in which satisfaction wears off almost immediately.

And we must run on to the next reward to avoid the feeling of falling behind. OK, that’s that’s my wife.

That’s who that was. I definitely don’t have that. Like I could.

I could walk away, I think, because I’m like, personally speaking, I am very content, you know, working on websites or dealing with tech gadgets or writing a blog like all of that kind of stuff I find enjoyable. And I can do it by myself. I don’t feel that kind of I’ll never amount to or that someone is chasing success. The way you’re describing is it’s like they’re never satiated, you know, no matter how much they do or how much they achieve.

And that’s a very sad place to be, I think. Well, yeah.

I mean, and that’s precisely the point, right? That it’s it is a Sisyphean endeavor. You’re never you’re never going to get there right.

At the second that bald that boulder reaches the top of the hill. It’s just going to roll. Right. Back down and you’re going to have to go through the exercise again and again. Or there is no top of the hill, you think there’s a top, but you just keep looking up. It’s never ending. I mean, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Or there is no top of the hill. You’re right.

But I mean that the sacrifices that that people make and one of the things that that again, sort of resonated with me about this was this idea that, well, you know, anybody can be happy, not everybody can be successful, whatever that that’s wrong means to you.

And that therefore, somehow, you know, there’s almost like a hierarchy that the people who are happier are somehow lower on, you know, this sort of ranking of of hierarchy than those who are actually successful, that it’s somehow it’s you know, you’re better than to be successful.

And I think that’s just incredibly, incredibly problematic, particularly because of how those individuals most likely are defining success. And again, everybody everybody defines success in their in their own particular way. But for that individual who is, quote unquote happy, I suspect they might also look at themselves and see themselves as successful, despite the fact that they may not tick off all of those other boxes that we typically associate with great success.

Yeah, this is something we could spend a long time talking about because it is a very interesting subject and I think a lot of people would would would resonate with it, I’m sure. Yeah. So send that over to me, you, and I’ll throw it in the show notes and and put it online.

Anything, anything else you want to mention before we sign off the first show of August. Twenty twenty.

I think that’s it. That’s all I got other actually you know what. Just quickly, very, very quickly. I saw there are a number of articles posted over the weekend. This was this made a lot of a lot of headlines in Canada about the two Mychal’s that are still being held captive. It’s now been 600 days.

Michael Carr-Gregg might you know, and for you know, for people who aren’t aware of this story to to to seek out some of the some of the media, some of the stories around it. It’s it’s a really it’s a it’s a tragic story. It’s it’s ongoing. And I hope we can get them home soon.

Yeah. And on the topic of China, actually finally threw up a very short blog post this week on Taiwan.

So if anyone’s interested in following what China is up to and or are concerned about some of the things China is up to, I’ll put a link in the show notes to that as well.

All right. Well, we’ve we’ve made it into our fifth month. This is August. It’s it’s been it’s been a fun, fun road so far. So thank you, everyone who was listening. It is it is a treat to have you listening to our show. And it was great having Edward Siegel on the show as well today. And I hope we can get him on sometime in the future as well. So if you enjoy the podcast, please tell a friend.

And you can also follow us on social media at PR and Law podcast, PR and Law podcast, all one word. And that’s on LinkedIn. Twitter Instagram and Facebook. That’s the account name across all those channels.

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So for Ewan Christie, this is Cam MacMurchy. Thank you so much for listening. And we’ll see you next week. This has been the PR and Law podcast with Cam MacMurchy and Ewan Christie. If you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend or leave a review. You can also join us on LinkedIn, Twitter Instagram and Facebook by following our account at PR and Law podcast. That’s all. One word PRL A.W. podcast. Thanks for your support.

Gamon unstrung guys.

Cam Macmurchy

Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology and productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.

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