Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Philadelphia Bloggers Facing Tax

By Mitchell Schmale

The City of Brotherly Love has been in the headlines recently for not showing a lot of love to bloggers located in Philadelphia.

The uproar began when Philadelphia’s city revenue officials sent letters to local residents who had reported income with the IRS, but had not paid for a business privilege license in the city. The license fee of $50 per year or $300 for a lifetime, with additional taxes on profits, allows business owners to operate a business in the city. The list of local residents included bloggers in the city who made income from their blogs (no matter how small) by charging for content, ads, etc.

Philadelphia bloggers were outraged by the attempt to collect taxes and claimed that the fee, as well as additional taxes on their limited earnings, would infringe on their capability to run their small blogs. Many bloggers claim that their use of the Internet is a free speech issue and that the earnings on their blogs is often not enough to buy a couple of cheese steak subs. In fact, one Philadelphia blogger claimed he had made only $11 on his blog in a year.

City officials, however, have made it clear that the tax only affects bloggers charging for a service or advertising and not blogs that are strictly a hobby or personal that share content and opinions for free. City officials also contend that the privilege fee is in place for businesses of all sizes and industries, not just bloggers.

The debate will continue on whether Philadelphia tax officials are being too aggressive in pursuing tax dollars from all possible sources, or if their efforts are hindering free speech and the ability of local residents to blog and share their opinions on the Internet.

In the meantime, city officials in Philadelphia are looking at the issue more closely for bloggers in proposing legislation that would keep the fee for the business license, but would limit when the additional taxes on profits kicks in. Until then, the war of words will rage on in the Philadelphia’s blogosphere while the bloggers keep blogging and the tax officials keep collecting.

Mitchell Schmale is the Vice President of Business for Maroon PR. Contact him at

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Bon Appetit Baltimore

By Tim Richardson

Food brings people together. Whether it’s a first date, a special occasion or just catching up with friends, going out to dinner is always a popular idea.

Baltimore and roughly a dozen other cities around the country capitalize on that notion as twice a year (winter and summer) they offer a weeklong celebration of cuisine called “Restaurant Week.” During this time in Baltimore, more than 100 restaurants throughout the city offer customers the opportunity to enjoy a three-course dinner (not including alcohol) from special prix-fixed menus for a reduced set rate. Some restaurants also offer a lunch menu.

Baltimore’s summer edition of Restaurant Week took place August 13-22 and featured a set price of $35.10 for dinner. The primary objective of the promotion is to entice diners who have been watching their budgets to venture out to a local restaurant for an enjoyable gourmet meal at an affordable price…and it usually occurs in a restaurant that they have not visited previously.

But from a marketing standpoint, it’s also a great vehicle for restaurateurs to promote their restaurants to the community in an effort to attract new business. People are more selective these days on how they spend their discretionary income. So competing against dining at a local restaurant are activities such as taking in a play, going to a concert, or attending a sporting event. That said, showcasing the area’s restaurants and helping diners discover new establishments not only highlights the many offerings available in Baltimore, but it brings an economic surge to the area. By offering a diverse selection at an affordable price, restaurants can sell around 1,000 Restaurant Week menus during the promotion. In an economy where people have elected to eat at home more instead of dine out, that traffic and revenue are clearly significant to the restaurant industry. Some restaurants have even chosen to extend their Restaurant Week specials, varying in length by the restaurant.

Restaurant Week is also a resourceful PR initiative for Visit Baltimore and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore in how they market the city. Visit Baltimore is the official sales and marketing organization for Baltimore, while the Downtown Partnership is a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to make downtown Baltimore a great place for businesses, employees, residents and visitors. During Baltimore’s Restaurant Week this summer, over 4,200 people “liked” the promotion on Facebook and it was “re-tweeted” by more than 200 users on Twitter. Stories also appeared in the mainstream media on TV and in print/online outlets about the restaurants featured in Restaurant Week, the popularity of the promotion, etc.

And word is spreading to other cities about Baltimore’s Restaurant Week. According to an article in the August 3 issue of The Baltimore Sun, the culinary offerings of the city were a main topic when Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke earlier this summer at a meeting in Oklahoma City. The Mayor was addressing the U.S. Conference of Mayors about what will be taking place when the group visits Baltimore next summer, and a number of the questions from her fellow city leaders concerned the food in Baltimore.

I’m a fan of Restaurant Week. My wife and I participate in both of the seasons in which it takes place and enjoy the opportunity to try new places that peak our interest from the list of participating restaurants. In fact, one of the restaurants we visited last summer is now the place where we dine throughout the year to celebrate all of our special occasions. That would not be the case if my wife had not said, “I’ve always wanted to try that place…let’s check it out during Restaurant Week.”

So the concept of a special, low-cost menu that allows people the opportunity to enjoy a night out while also generating interest about the city’s local restaurants and boosting the economy seems like a pretty good deal for everyone.

Tim Richardson is the Executive Vice President of Maroon PR. Contact him at

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook’s Latest ... Innovation?

By Pete Deluca

Last night, in front of a packed crowd at Facebook Headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., the popular social networking site revealed their latest innovation – “Places.”

The goal, as President and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, is to take the virtual relationships created through Facebook and bring them into the physical world. The application will allow Facebook users to "check in" to various locations to show their online friends where they are in real time.

For example, when you visit a Dunkin Donuts, you could "check in" using an iPhone, which will in return post a message on your friends’ news feeds telling them where you're stopping to get your morning cup of coffee. Another feature of the application lets you see other Facebook users that are currently at that Dunkin Donuts, and which of your friends were there in the past.

If the service sounds familiar it is because the concept is eerily similar to Foursquare – the location-based application that attracted over a million users since March of 2009. But Foursquare, unlike “Places,” allows visitors to earn virtual badges and titles for frequenting an establishment – a feature that Foursquare believes distinguishes the two products enough and still gives them a competitive advantage.

The news of Facebook’s latest “innovation” received criticism as another blatant rip off by the company. To some, “Places” is seen as Facebook’s latest bullet on a long list of “copy-cat” features taken from other websites; wall messages (MySpace), photo albums (Flickr), video uploads (YouTube), status updates (Twitter).

As of this morning criticisms of “Places” is limited to personal blogs – which is a good sign for Zuckerberg, whose lack of business ethics have long been rumored. He is currently being sued by New York web designer and former employer Paul Ceglia for allegedly stealing his social network concept and a movie about the birth of Facebook is due out this fall with the tag line “You Don’t Make 500 Million Friends Without Making a Few Enemies.”

The saying is that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” But I cannot imagine how I would feel if my idea was tweaked and distributed to 500 million people as a company’s new “innovation.”

I am sure that Foursquare creator Dennis Crowley doesn’t feel very flattered.

Pete Deluca is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Importance of Giving Back

By Carolyn Maroon

It’s that time of year again; “Back to School” and I can’t help but think of the classic and very true statement “Children are our Future.” If the children fail, than we as a society fail. There are many problems in our communities but we can all help. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “What can be done today to demonstrate our faith, our hope, and our commitment for a better future?” We can all make a difference by donating our time, resources, and of course… our money.

There are so many worthwhile organizations in place that are making positive changes in children’s lives and we can all take part in their successes. All we have to do is choose one and get involved. Together we can make a better tomorrow starting with the children.

There are great sites out there that can point you in the right direction. Children’s Charities of America has plenty of organizations dedicated to helping children and can give you an idea of where to start. At Maroon PR, we also have plenty of nonprofit clients which focus on children. There are so many great people out there that are dedicated and proud to have the opportunity to help these organizations succeed in reaching their goals. We’re extremely grateful that we can help as well.

During these challenging times, we can all lend a hand and give children in distress hope for their future.

Carolyn Maroon is Maroon PR's Office Manager. Contact her at

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Showalter Making Baseball in Baltimore Relevant Again

By Stefen Lovelace

No one could have predicted that a simple managerial change could have this effect.

Since taking over the Orioles two weeks ago, Buck Showalter has led the Orioles to an 8-1 record in his first nine games. The Orioles – who were just 32-73 before Showalter’s arrival – are the hottest team in baseball right now, and it’s clear that Showalter was the right fit in making the Orioles relevant again.

Showalter is a baseball lifer, having played the game as a young man and becoming a manager right after. He’s left every team in better shape than when he got there and it appears he’s doing the same with the Orioles. The players have responded, and the unthinkable has happened… right now teams don’t want to face the O’s.

What’s even more important than the wins and losses though is the effect this turnaround has had on fans and Baltimore residents. There’s a sudden excitement that just wasn’t there before. Obviously the Orioles aren’t making the playoffs, but Showalter has helped make a city care about a team that’s more than 30 games out of first place in the AL East.

Baltimore used to be a major baseball city. But the Orioles haven’t fielded a playoff team since 1997, causing most fans to fall out of love with a team they once filled ballparks for. This little resurgence, even if it is brief, might be the start to getting those fans to come back.

It’s impossible to predict whether we’ll look back at this start under Showalter as just random, fluky, good luck that couldn’t be sustained, or truly the beginning of when the Orioles became a great baseball franchise again. Next season will start to answer that question.

But for now, I’m just happy to be living in a city that cares about baseball again.

Stefen Lovelace is an Associate Account Executive. Contact him at

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who do we Believe? Media Veteran or Tweeting Athlete?

By Chris Daley

If you follow sports, you’ve heard the Tiger Woods story today regarding Corey Pavin’s tweet. In the story, Pavin denies he made comments to the Golf Channel that Woods is a lock to be on the 2010 Ryder Cup team.

Listening to “Mike and Mike in the Morning” on ESPN Radio this morning, I was intrigued with the story because it’s so common these days to hear about errors in reporting, and the classic misquote and correction statement to follow.

The latest “error” comes from media veteran Jim Gray who was reporting for the Golf Channel, stating that Corey Pavin - this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team Captain – said of the possibility of selecting Woods to the team… "Of course I'm going to (pick him). He's the best player in the world."

Pavin later made an official statement via his Twitter account, "For the record, @golfchannel and Jim Gray has misquoted me re: picking Tiger. I never said such a thing and will not say a thing until 09/07.”

Although Pavin only has a little over 6,200 followers on Twitter, his tweet immediately was reported on the most popular sports radio show in America to millions of listeners on ESPN Radio and viewers on ESPN2. Show host Mike Greenberg repeatedly said he couldn't believe the power of Twitter.

Although ashamed to admit it, I listen to sports radio quite a bit, since many of our clients are related to professional sports. It has become common to hear show hosts repeating statements that athletes and celebrities posted on their Twitter accounts, and taking those comments very seriously.

With this story, I’m not quite sure who to believe. Jim Gray, to me, seems very credible, but Pavin's statement made via Twitter might be right.

It’s these types of news stories that confuse me. Where is this all heading? And are we to think that just because an athlete or celebrity has a Twitter account we should believe everything that they post? One thing is for certain, be ready for many more stories like this in the future.

Chris Daley is a Senior Account Executive. Contact him at


And this story continues… The Washington Post blog “The Early Lead” is reporting of a possible dust-up between Gray and Pavin.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Michelle Obama’s Recent Vacation – Too Lavish?

By Andrea Kunicky

First lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha just returned back from a vacation in Spain that drew some backlash in the United States. Michelle is under fire for a trip to Spain that included expensive hotel rooms and trips. There was also supposedely a bill that came out of US taxpayers dollars for the Secret Service, which was reportedly close to $250,000.

Mrs. Obama's trip is getting a less than a warm reception in the United States because we are experiencing some tough economic times. The five-day trip took Michelle and Sasha to the southern part of the country, where they visited beautiful coastal towns, did some shopping and even had lunch with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. They stayed at the five-star Hotel Villa Padierna, where rooms range anywhere from $400 to nearly $7,000 per night, a high price for extravagance that many are saying is insensitive with the country is in such a terrible recession.

The White House defended the first lady's vacation, noting that the Obama’s paid their own way for the trip. White House adviser David Axelrod said the criticism was overblown, telling The New York Times, "Folks in the public eye are also human beings."

In my opinion, this trip during an economic recession was probably not the smartest move on the Obama’s part, but I feel that we have much more to worry about. Everyone is entitled to a vacation, whether we are a working class citizen or the first lady of the United States. She wanted to spend some quality time with her daughter so we can’t deny her that.

This should die down soon enough, to where we can focus on subjects that are far more important than a mini vacation for a mother and daughter.

Andrea Kunicky is an Account Executive. Contact her at

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Enjoying the Positive News of Professional Athletes

By Matt Saler

Enough is enough.

Too many times these days we are discussing the same old issues in sports: a player holding out for more money… a league turning a blind eye to its retired players, who can barely walk despite that league generating billion dollar profits… criminal allegations against athletes… steroids… whatever the case may be, negative news will always jump to the forefront of the headlines.

And I hate it. Bring the topic of religion into the picture, and in most cases, things get crazier and go in a thousand different directions in the court of public opinion. The other day, however, I came across a very interesting piece on NBA basketball player Amar’e Stoudemire in the The New York Times. It discussed Amar’e’s recent visit to Israel to learn more about his Jewish heritage and the history and culture of the Jewish religion. Some fans have mocked this in online forums, and others have questioned why Amar’e was converting. Religion is a very personal issue and some of these “fans” need to get a grip on their own reality before questioning someone elses.

What most probably do not know about Amar’e is that he is a very articulate guy who gives back through his Amar’e Stoudemire Each One Teach One Foundation. He has demonstrated in other ways that he is a class act off the court through his actions: After leaving the Phoenix Suns for the New York Knicks this past summer, he took out an ad in his local paper, The Arizona Republic, thanking his fans for their support while with the Suns.

Being a resident of New York, the epicenter of culture in the United States, has clearly helped Amar’e look within himself to learn more about his history, and I commend him for that.
I enjoyed the NY Times piece and also Amar’e’s take on his Jewish heritage, as shown in a recent interview with Israeli TV (video below). Hopefully our society can get to a point where we stop caring so much about the scandalous details of an athlete’s life and look at a lot of the good that they are doing in society. Many have a very cultured life outside of their sport that fans do not know about.

It’s time to stop always dwelling on the negative and start stressing the positive.

Mazel Tov, Amar’e.

Matt Saler is a Senior Account Executive. Contact him at

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Personality is Key

By Abby Draper

Recently, a colleague and I attend a social media workshop in DC where we were fortunate to be around some wonderful social media pros. While there were several topics covered, we noticed a theme through the morning. Whether it be advice given from a professional working for a TV or radio outlet, a manager of social media and online accounts, or even a journalist, each representative was adamant about being certain your online face has a personality.

After speaking with the professionals working in television and radio, all stressed the transition to receiving daily news through twitter and facebook. Because both sites are monitored by every news station, it’s imperative that when they report this news, they report it with a personality that varies from other outlets.

The message was the same for those who manage online accounts for their brand and clients. Most of these managers are maintaining several accounts at one time and stressed the importance of making these messages personal, while still selling the update to an appropriate audience. Maintaining a personality for a professional athlete is much different than that of a government official.

Journalists have started to rely on social media platforms as well in helping with what could be timely to cover. The journalists in attendance talked about how they pay more attention to brands with “a personality,” as those brands oftentimes will produce interesting tidbits or twists to stories they’ve already heard.

Adding a personal component to a brand allows for your audience to relate to the information you’re giving them. Whether it be about a product, a placement or an event, if you’re solely going through the motions and mechanically promoting yourself or a brand, your audience will lose interest.

Abby Draper is the Manager of Social Media. Contact her at

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