Stacy Bettison

Stacy L. Bettison is a communications strategist and owner of Bettison Consulting LLC. Stacy focuses on crisis communications, reputation management and media relations. She is also a licensed attorney and has practiced law in both Chicago and Minneapolis.

Why Photoshop is Making Us All Messed Up

Posted by: Stacy Bettison under Health, Children, Mental health, Healthy eating, Health & nutrition, Society, Target Updated: March 13, 2014 - 12:04 PM

The increasing scrutiny and awareness about the use of Photoshop in depicting girls and women, particularly tween and teen girls, brings to the surface an undeniable dichotomy that is making a real mess of us:

Altered images of girls and women (and men, too) depicting bodies shapes that are unattainable and unhealthy used to sell everything from bikinis to lipgloss, juxtaposed against the historic trend that has shifted the American diet toward highly processed foods with high sugar, fat and salt content.

The result – pictures of skinny young women made even skinnier with Photoshop, presented to an increasingly overweight and under-exercised population.

A video showing the transforming effect airbrushing has on a picture of a young blonde woman illustrates how this process works. (Interestingly, when I saw the video today on YouTube, the commercial preceding the video was for Jergens BB Body Perfecting Body Cream that, among other things, firms and “corrects” imperfections.)

If you haven’t seen the video yet, watch it. It’s illuminating and instructive – images of teen girls and women in advertisements and magazines covers are simply not real. They are false depictions and can be rejected as the standard to which girls and women aspire.

Of course, this video and the recent Target Photoshop story will not change what is real—that images and messages of “perfection” coupled with unsustainable diets, lifestyles and stress levels are pulling people, especially our young, in two contradictory directions.

These two diverging realities, however, may be inching a little closer together, for the benefit of everyone.

In January, American Apparel elected not to use Photoshop on its recent Aerie lingerie campaign. This is a small step in the right direction, and it would be nice to see a growing trend of retailers presenting clothes on unaltered models. If the merchandise is any good, it should stand on it’s own and not require alterations to the models wearing it.

On February 27, the FDA proposed updates to nutrition labels on food packages that would highlight calories, serving sizes and added sugars. This will create better, faster access to information about food, helping families make better dietary choices.

The question remains, how to counteract the latent negative messaging in these images? Answer: Offer your own messages.

  • Message #1: Perfection is not the goal. Best effort and hard work is. Failure is okay – learn from it. Take responsibility.
  • Message #2: Food is fuel. Like a car, food fills up our tank and allows us do the things we love in life. Without this fuel, we go nowhere.
  • Message #3: Good food makes us strong and smart. Whole, unprocessed food is best for strong, capable muscles and brains.
  • Message #4: Sugar is fine. And it’s fun! Do it in small amounts.
  • Message #5: Fat is fine. And necessary. The right kinds are good for our brains, skin, hair and heart.
  • Message #6: Our bodies need to move. Food helps our bodies stay active, and activity helps our entire body stay healthy. Even the cold virus has a harder time taking over when we are active, outdoors and using our muscles and lungs.
  • Message #7: Our bodies are a gift. It’s easy to nit pick, isn’t it? Instead, focus on what can be done with the gift of a strong, healthy body. Whether it be personal goals or helping others, focused attention and energy on other matters diffuses the power and importance of less favored physical traits.

One thing we’ve learned from the Target Photoshop story is the pursuit of "perfection" comes at a cost. It certainly has cost Target (and Target has paid more because of proximity to the data breach).

But the cost is most grave for girls and women (and men, too) who struggle physically, mentally and emotionally with making sense of these opposing messages.  


Gritty and Great: Candid Business Advice from Great Clips CEO

Posted by: Stacy Bettison under Business, Business trends, Local business Updated: November 19, 2013 - 6:13 AM

For many years, Great Clips CEO Rhoda Olsen followed the business advice of her big sister, a successful, trail blazing, whip-smart lawyer in New York City: Don’t wear pants, don’t have coffee with secretaries, and don’t learn how to type.

But last week, at the National Association of Women Business Owners (MN Chapter) Annual Awards Luncheon in Minneapolis, Olsen acknowledged this advice was somewhat limiting. Despite this, Olsen claims she has become the fastest two-fingered typist she knows.

Olsen’s address was impactful because of both what she said and how she said it: she didn’t offer soft, feel-good, clichéd advice nor did she sugar coat. Honest, forthright and even swearing at times, Olsen opened up, and was authentic on all things personal and business. In doing so, she proved to a packed-to-the-gills ballroom at Graves 601 that unleashing the rough, hardened and gritty parts of ourselves can be immensely powerful, stirring and motivating.

Olsen shared personal glimpses into her life as a child with an alcoholic parent.  She called motherhood “humbling, horrifying and gratifying,” and delved into the challenge of raising her three boys (only “one was good”). She told of how she once winced at a colleague’s proclamation that he worked out 2 hours a day (Olsen: “TWO hours?! Imagine what you could get done in TWO hours – 4 loads of laundry” among a list of 15 other things). Yet today, Olsen acknowledges that taking care of our bodies is the ultimate confidence builder. A cancer survivor, her body is strong again – she does 200 pushups a day (and even beat a man in a pushup contest, topping him at 211).   

Weaving together personal anecdotes and candid observations on business, Olsen’s advice was applicable to not just women business owners, but to men, hopeful entrepreneurs, college students, and everyone in between.

Put aside notions of balance. Work/life “balance” is a hot topic these days, and Olsen boiled it down to this: “Things are going to be unbalanced.”

She shared the story of how she helped one of her sons with algebra from the office. She would receive a fax from her son with the algebra problem, write out the problem showing how to solve it, and fax it back home. Though she wasn’t home helping, she was helping.

Olsen’s advice is liberating. It lessens the pressure that things should be balanced (for women and men alike), and replaces it with permission to pursue a life that is often imbalanced.

Expect of range of feelings. Olsen admitted: “Some days I wake up and I say ‘Move over Obama, I’m ready to talk on the world.’ Other days, I feel like I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m doing.” 

The range of emotions adds drama to the workplace, especially in hair salons, says Olsen, where salon owners and stylists are dramatic and emotional by nature – they are dealing with the highly emotional topic of hair, after all. Olsen said with so many women in the workplace now, she believes the day has come where it’s really okay to talk about emotions.

The ups and downs of business are as real as the sky is blue. There are no constants, and so too with how people feel about their work and who they are as professionals.  Strong sales growth this quarter, not looking so good for next. Gave a great presentation this week, next month’s presentation has you paralyzed. Nailed the job interview, someone else got the job. The full spectrum is part of the territory. Woman or man, everyone has emotions, and those emotions change.

Don’t get defensive. For Olsen, her ability to get things done is determined by whether she gets defensive. She warns not to take things personally: “Stay calm and keep your mouth shut. Ask for and accept feedback. Learn and grow.”

Olsen admitted to the occasional inclination to get defensive. To manage this during a particular meeting in which she suspected she’d become defensive, she solicited the help of colleague who was to lift his hand discretely every time Olsen went on the defense. Sure enough, he waved at her twice. This kept her moving forward using non-defensive tactics in an otherwise challenging meeting. 

Defensiveness is instinctual and critical to self-preservation. In the professional world, however, it is usually counterproductive. It looks bad, sounds bad and limits the ability to overcome the challenge at hand. Not getting defensive, though, is easier said than done. In that case, follow Olsen’s lead -- find a way to accept the criticism (constructive or otherwise), learn from it, and keep moving forward to accomplish your objectives.

Olsen closed with this final piece of advice: “Learn to listen.  Listening is the most underrated skill in the world.”  

And isn't that the truth? Listening is something they begin teaching in preschool, and something most every successful business person must re-learn every day. 


Follow Stacy: @stacybettison

Cold, Wet, Dirty and Bored – Why “Roughing It” is So Good

Posted by: Stacy Bettison under Adventure travel, Family activities, Family, Travel, Sports, U.S. travel Updated: October 23, 2013 - 6:31 AM

As our MEA weekend drew nearer, I became less and less excited about our plans to get away: drive 5 hours with our three young children to the Michigan Porcupine Mountains, where we would hike one mile into the woods to camp in a “rustic” cabin, (i.e., no running water, no electricity) with a forecast predicting rain, snow and temperatures in the low 40s.

Spending the next few days cold, unshowered, and using an outhouse was losing its appeal -- fast.

Camping, something I’ve done a lot since childhood, felt more like been-there-done-that than what it used to feel like -- a fun opportunity to experience nature and “rough it” for a few days. Camping just felt less fun and, honestly, even, dare I say, not fun.

Our rustic cabin in the woods.

Our rustic cabin in the woods.

My kids think it’s great because they get to be like “Little House on the Prairie.” As for my husband, he goes fishing – enough said.

Throughout the long weekend, however, I began to see the benefits of camping in a new light:

Learning to be bored. Ask any mother how often she is bored and here’s betting most don’t even know what the word means. When my kids lament “I’m bored,” I bristle with envy – I haven’t felt bored in years.

Once we hiked the one mile to our cabin, got unpacked and settled in, I asked, “What’s next?!” I felt the urge to fix something, be productive, send some emails, start a cause. Sitting around the cabin, letting the afternoon pass seemed like such a waste.As it turned out, our boredom evolved into several relaxing activities, among them making a fire, a job my daughter and I shared and enjoyed together.

As it turned out, our boredom evolved into several relaxing activities, among them
making a fire, a job my daughter and I shared and enjoyed together.

So many of us go, go, go, work, work, work all the time. It’s how we get ahead, be successful. It’s our toil and can make us very happy. Being bored, as uncomfortable as it is initially, can eventually turn into relaxation. Research suggests that boredom is good for our bodies, our creativity and our psyche.

I seriously doubt my boredom was really ever true boredom – it was me winding down, letting go just a little and starting to relax.

Unconnected, but connecting. With no cellular service, we had little use for the devices to which we all, admittedly, are addicted (even our littlest has become quite adept at My oldest daughter made substantial progress on a book, and my younger children were left with little to do but play “worms” with their sleeping bags.

As for our family, we played the card games that are long forgotten in our daily lives. We sat close, and the kids learned strategy, math and vocabulary the old school way.

With no cellular service, our family connected instead over a variety of card and strategy games.

With no cellular service, our family connected instead over a variety of card and strategy games.

I know we aren’t the only family that struggles with how to manage screen time, find meaningful ways to connect, and genuinely enjoy each other. And after this weekend, it became clear to me that camping was the very reason we were able to disconnect, and thereby reconnect, so easily. 

Meeting the weather where it is. Apparently I had to learn this lesson again, and I did so this past weekend: the best way to cope with annoying weather (which we can all agree we have plenty of in the Midwest) is two-fold: get out in it and then come in from it.

Getting out has always helped me deal better with bad weather, because, let’s face it, resistance is futile. The fastest way to succumb to the weather is to go outside – so I hit the trail for a hike. Within 2 minutes, I was warm and the weather bothered me not at all.

Coming back to the dry cabin after a hike was a true pleasure. The cabin was no longer dank, dark and cold, but had magically transformed into welcome haven.

Coming back to the dry cabin after a hike was a true pleasure. The cabin was no longer dank, dark and cold, but had magically transformed into welcome haven.

While it’s not always easy or realistic to get outside and embrace our frigid, windy, dark days, putting on a warm jacket, good hat, gloves and boots and getting outside whenever possible can truly mitigate the deleterious effects of bad weather. For those that experience severe seasonal affective light disorder, there are several ways to cope with the 6 months ahead, and being outdoors is a recognized method.  

Let’s be honest – our weekend of camping wasn’t always perfect. It down poured every time my husband went fishing, and he eventually came down with not just a “man cold,” but a real cold.

At times, as will happen, the kids fought and didn’t listen. Then, they eventually bastardized an otherwise wholesome game of Mad Libs with words like “butt,” “buttcheek,” “armpit.”  That really cracked them up, and they turned silly and obnoxious beyond measure. In turn, I kicked them out of the cabin to have a “time out” in the dark, cold night (which they thought was great fun).

For my part, I’ve been thinking about the next time we will go camping, and have even suggested another cabin experience once the snow flies. I suppose you could even say I look forward to camping again. 

Racetrack Novice: A First Experience at Canterbury

Posted by: Stacy Bettison under Society, Sports Updated: May 20, 2013 - 6:46 PM
The movie Seabiscuit is the closest I’ve ever come to visiting a racetrack. I’ve watched the movie at least four times, yet I never tire of the great story of that horse and his people.
Since I’m not really a betting person and I don’t speak racehorse language, it never really occurred to me to visit Canterbury Park. My thinking was I’d rather spend my money on a new purse, pair of shoes, or, better yet, groceries.
Friday night that changed.
Overcast skies and a steady wind would take nothing from what turned out to be a beautiful, inspiring and stirring opening night.
I went to the racetrack early with photographer and friend, Brady Willette. We were lucky to get access to the “backside,” where the horses, trainers, owners, grooms and hotwalkers live similar stories that endeared me to Seabiscuit.
Backside at Canterbury Park

Backside at Canterbury Park

There we met horse owner Michael Ferraro, a U.S. bank executive, and his daughter Kayla. The energy in the stables was high. As one of Ferraro’s horses pinned back his ears, bucked, whinnied, and jumped around his stall, I was certain he would leap over the stall ropes and start his own race. Kayla was quick to calm him with quiet, reassuring words and a rub on his neck. 
Kayla calms an exited horse.

Kayla calms an exited horse.

Not all the horses were ready to spring from their stalls. One of Michael’s horses, Whiskey Decision was curious but calm.
Whiskey Decision. He’d race later that evening, coming in 4th place in the 6th race.

Whiskey Decision. He’d race later that evening, coming in 4th place in the 6th race.

At another set of stables, we met owner and trainer Virginia Peters. A retired public school teacher from Jordan, Minnesota, Virginia was readying her horse Manlee Spirit, who would run in the 1st race.
With a serene excitement, Virginia talked with us as if it wasn’t 45 minutes to first post. All her racehorses are “homebred” -- born from mares on her farm. She’s been there for each foal birth, and broke every one herself. When the thoroughbreds are done with their racing careers, she takes them out trail riding: “I’m still kind of wild for an old girl,” she says.
Owner and trainer, Virginia Peters.

Owner and trainer, Virginia Peters.

On to the track to watch the pre-race pageantry and see the paddock area where the jockeys mount their horses before each race.
Pre-race pageantry, Canterbury Park.

Pre-race pageantry, Canterbury Park.

Then came the races.
I’ve always marveled at the physique of horses, and at the racetrack, I was able to stand practically right next to them. I was awestruck with the sheer beauty, splendor and size of these magnificent animals.
Airborne horses.

Airborne horses.

The jockeys embody all the physical elements that are perfect match for unleashing the power of the horses. Slight in weight and height, but packed with muscle and endurance, seeing them up close next to the horses was nothing short of inspiring. I didn’t speak with any of them, but I’m guessing that to ride these horses, their strength and prowess are met equally with fortitude and dexterity of mind and heart.
Jockey Lori Keith on Marathon Moon (3rd race).

Jockey Lori Keith on Marathon Moon (3rd race).

For this non-handicapper, betting on a budget was great fun.  My instinct is always to root for the underdog, which probably isn’t the best formula for getting ahead. Understanding my inclinations, however, my husband (with whom we joined later), did some quick analysis and number crunching and by the third race, never wagering more than $5/bet, we were up $33. Not bad for novices.
How do others pick horses?  Some choose by names, color. Handicappers look at breeding, past performance, and watch the horses in the paddock. We sat with a friend who, in her younger years, did fox hunting in England. How did she pick the horses? As they trotted onto the track, she’d stand up, squint her eyes, look at the horses’ form and gait, and 5 seconds later announce her picks: “3, 6 and 8. That’s who I pick.” She didn’t know their names, breeding or race history, but she knew what she saw, and she had a good eye—at least one pick would always show (finish in the top three).  
The absolute best part, though? The last furlong of the race. The crowd starts cheering louder, yelling names, shouting numbers, jumping up and down.
And then seconds later, the finish line.

Every race finish felt like my heart stopped beating and the earth stopped spinning, for just that little moment. The moment the first nose crossed the line. 


All photos copyright EQUUS Lifestyle/Brady Willette.






What's missing in women having it "all"

Posted by: Stacy Bettison under Business, Society Updated: March 21, 2013 - 10:44 AM
I was slogging out some miles on the treadmill recently when I got to thinking again about the “Women-Can/Can’t-Have-It-All” debate. On the Lifetime Fitness (LTF) TV monitor appeared a promotional video for “CEO Challenges,” which claims to be a race for CEOs, C-suite executives, and entrepreneurs and promises opportunities for networking and deal-making. In the video, you’ll see only men though. Correction: I did see one woman, though she didn’t appear to be a participant—I think she was handing out hydration drinks.
But it got me wondering, did women participate in this event? (I couldn’t find the gym-version online, but here is a similar video. Same idea.)  Discussions about women in the workplace have recently taken on a ubiquitous presence: from The Atlantic Monthly to Time Magazine to MPR (last Friday’s Roundtable), from news about the decisions by Yahoo! to Best Buy to eliminate work from home options. As a professional with three 3 children, I’m inclined to think about this topic a lot anyway, and indeed have given it considerable thought ever since the birth of my first child nearly 10 years ago when I was practicing law at a Minneapolis firm.  
Three things come to mind: 1) how incomplete the definition of “all” is, 2) how these issues likewise impact men; and 3) and how lucky some of us are to be sitting around scratching our heads as to how to have it “all.”
“All” is incomplete. Let’s be honest, there is more to life than work and children. As we consider whether women can have it “all,” the current discussion is centered almost exclusively on work and kids. This framework assumes that we are two-dimensional—that we are either working or taking care of our families. While many days it may feel that is all we do, the additional challenge is unleashing the other parts of who we are and who we were before work and family became central.
Whether its exercise, sports, travel, art, practicing our faith, volunteering our time, we are, in fact, multi-dimensional creatures (or least we used to be pre-career and kids). Creating a life that supports the various aspects of our person is critical. Left to pursue primarily two parts to our lives, the other parts are woefully under-cultivated, resulting in imbalance that promises physical, mental and spiritual deficits. Just as the natural environment requires bio-diversity to be healthy and sustainable, so to do our lives.  Perhaps we call it “vita-diversity”—a diverse life.
I know many female executives, including myself, for whom exercise is a very important part of their lives. They, like their male counterparts, thrive on competition, endurance and pushing their own limits. (A nod to LTF here, who, in my experience, is supportive of women in their races and at their clubs. The CEO Challenge is a new offering for them, and I’m sure they’ll figure out how to fine tune its promotion.) Of course, finding the time to train, whether male or female, is probably a bigger challenge than the race itself.
Men grapple with similar issues. My husband, an attorney, made this comment after a series of 12-16- hour workdays: “I want to find more time to enjoy my life.”  The operative word: enjoy. A devout fisherman, his challenge this winter was to go ice-fishing more than he did last year (which was not at all). He’s risen to that challenge now twice, with our 4-year old in tow both times.
A recent study confirms men stress about the work/family balance too: 50% of men surveyed report that it is “very” or “somewhat” difficult to manage both work and family responsibilities. The discussion of women in the workplace can and should stand on its own, but a comprehensive debate must include the impact on men. After all, they are half the picture, and they are a significant part of our lives, whether husbands (or ex-husbands), son-in-laws, brothers, sons or grandsons.
How lucky we are. Finally, let’s recognize there are those women, men and families, whose challenge is surviving life, let alone enjoying it. Getting enough food on the table, keeping the heat on and having access to basic medical care are among their challenges.  
Let’s be keenly aware of how incredibly lucky those of us are who wrestle with these issues: “How am I going to find time to exercise today” is a very different question than “How am I going to feed my kids today?”
I’m delighted the work/family discussion is present right now. My hope is that it continues, contemplating a broader definition of “having it all,” how men likewise wrestle with these issues, though perhaps in different ways, and how fortunate we are to be having this discussion in the first place.  



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