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.

Posts about Society

Why Photoshop is Making Us All Messed Up

Posted by: Stacy Bettison 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.  


Racetrack Novice: A First Experience at Canterbury

Posted by: Stacy Bettison 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 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.  


There, but for grace, go we

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: December 16, 2012 - 7:09 AM
I lay awake at 3 a.m. this morning, wondering if the parents whose children had been killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut were also awake, too shocked, too grief-stricken, too afraid to close their eyes, lest they wake up and find this was not a horrible nightmare.
“There, but for the Grace of God, go I" routinely comes to my mind at times like these. Yesterday’s events are a stark reminder that no one is immune from random violence  -- not at our movie theaters (Aurora), not at our places of worship (Oak Creek, Milwaukee), not at our public rallies (Tucson), and not, sadly, at our schools (Columbine, Ricori High School).
While the most impacted and traumatized are, of course, those families and friends who lost loved ones in yesterday’s shootings, this is a crisis for all families, for all schools, for all communities – a national tragedy.
What can we do, amidst the acknowledgement of our precarious nature, that there but for the Grace of God goes each of us?  That any one of us could be a Newtown family, grieving the loss of a little child or a loved one who worked at the school?
For schools, Monday morning will come fast. Parents will say good-bye to their children, releasing them into our uncertain world, trusting that schools are taking care of them. Kids will return to class, many aware of Friday’s calamity. There are numerous things schools can do, including:  
  • If schools haven’t already, acknowledge what’s happened.
  • Remind kids and families that you have procedures that are designed to protect kids, faculty and staff. They might be well-aware of your lock-down drills and the like, but reminders reassure.
  • If there is some aspect of your crisis response plan that needs works, nail it down now. The importance of crisis planning has never been more obvious than now. Back in September I wrote an article here entitled “Dusting off school crisis plans . . .” where I encourage schools to pull the crisis planning binder off the shelf and give it a good, careful look, find the gaps, and fill them in.
There are many great resources for schools such as this resource at the National Association for School Psychologists website
For parents and families, it’s okay to talk to your kids about this, and many experts encourage you to do so. The age of your child or children will dictate how much you say and what you talk about, but giving this issue some oxygen is important.
Parents can access articles at the links I provide below to help guide you through this weekend and into the coming days. Remember, fears linger, and the wounds of trauma do not heal the same for everyone. Check in with your kids and give them the space to talk and ask questions, even well down the road.
Thoughts and prayers abound for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary and the community of Newtown.


From the shadows of doping: How Livestrong and Lance are moving on

Posted by: Stacy Bettison Updated: December 4, 2012 - 6:03 AM
The shadows of the cycling scandal continue to loom. Three days ago, the International Cycling Union (UCI) appointed a three-member panel to investigate and report by June what role the UCI, the sport’s governing body, itself played in the scandal. 
Today, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the International Olympic Committee will consider, among other scandal-related questions, whether to strip Lance Armstrong of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Saving Livestrong. Shortly after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s 1000-page report on Armstrong became public in October, the Livestrong organization stepped out quickly to save itself while its iconic namesake disastrously fell from grace. In the days and weeks since, the organization has walked a very challenging line of affirming the incredible contribution and inspiration of Lance Armstrong as a cancer survivor and advocate, while creating distance from Lance and his now stained cycling career. The organization has done a good job in a very messy situation.
Here’s some of what they’ve done, externally, to protect the Livestrong brand and keep the organization moving forward:
·         After Lance resigned as chairman of the board on October 17, CEO Doug Ulman did an interview on NPR, affirming its desire to have Armstrong continue to be involved in the work of the organization. Said the CEO, "He's our founder. He's been the inspiration for our work for so many years.” Mr. Ulman handled tough questions exceedingly well, focusing on the organization’s key message of continuing the mission to support and serve people living with cancer.
·         The organization changed its name from The Lance Armstrong Foundation and to the Livestrong Foundation.
·         When Lance fully resigned from the board in mid-November, the foundation’s new board chairman, Jeff Garvey, said this:
Lance Armstrong has chosen to voluntarily resign from the Board of Directors of the Livestrong Foundation to spare the organization any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding his cycling career. . . .  We are deeply grateful to Lance for creating a cause that has served millions of cancer survivors and their families.
·         Livestrong spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Armstrong remains as the charity’s “founder and inspiration and our biggest donor.”
·         The Livestrong Foundation website underwent changes. Among them, the “Our Founder” page features Lance’s cancer diagnosis and his many contributions to the cause. Gone is any mention of his cycling career.
Ironmans and Defiance. For Lance, according to his personal website, he appears to knocking off an Ironman here and there (five in 2012, so far, to be exact), and participating in other triathlon events. His website still has photos from the Tour de France¸ with a good number of shots of his long-held race number (#1). He describes himself on Twitter as “Raising my 5 kids. Fighting Cancer. Swim, bike, run and golf whenever I can.” A couple of weeks ago, Lance posted a picture of himself on Twitter lounging on his couch, surrounded by his seven yellow jerseys. Comments abounded: Lance is in denial; he’s defiant; he’s arrogant.
Yes, that all may be true: perhaps he is in denial, defiant and arrogant.
Here’s another truth—Lance is an incredible athlete. Ultimately, it was his athletic ability, drive and commitment to winning that fueled his fight against cancer, and inspired him to help others. His legacy, even with the doping scandal, will always include the fact that he has inspired and helped millions of people diagnosed with cancer. Critics notwithstanding, there is little denying that he has done vast amounts of good, and his athleticism contributed to that.
I don’t know Lance personally, but I’m guessing this is also true: While he may be in denial, defiant and arrogant, there is a deep reservoir of good in Lance Armstrong. To go through a cancer diagnosis like he did, and turn it into a positive, sweeping movement like he has, comes from a place of good. Though critics may say that Armstrong’s good deeds were just a devious way to deflect attention from his misdeeds, I question whether deceitful ulterior motives would have sustained the powerful momentum of what Livestrong has become. No doubt, Lance Armstrong earned goodwill because of Livestrong, but that’s what happens when you do good—you are in the good graces of many, because you have done right for so many. 
Lots of people are waiting to see the innate good and undeniably human side of Lance, wondering when the 60 Minutes exclusive mea culpa will air. I’m not sure what he’s waiting for, but I’m guessing there is some calculating, strategic reason—the passage of time, to see if the arbitration of team director Johan Bruyneel goes forward (in which Armstrong may be subpoenaed), or the UCI’s report in June (assuming the UCI is blameworthy).
Forgiveness will be fast. The general public will be quick to forgive. And while the internet, tell-all memoirs and future Tours de France make it impossible to forget, forgiveness will come fast. There may be those that were so affected by Lance’s actions that they can never forgive, and that’s understandable. But most people want to see the good in others, and most people would rather forgive than forever hold a grudge.
To be human is to be full of contradictions. We all possess both good and bad, and we have all erred—some more than others. If all or even some of the allegations are true, Lance erred a lot. These errors, these shadows, will always lurk. But when Lance admits his wrongs, apologizes and asks for forgiveness, that’s the moment when Lance can begin to move forward, out from the shadows and into the light.



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