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A problem with Hillsborough’s mail-in ballot? Actually, the problem is with the envelope

Because I may be out of town on election day, I requested and received a mail-in ballot from Hillsborough County.  About 150,000 other residents in the county received the same.

When I went to return my completed ballot, I discovered that I had accidentally sliced open both the envelope the ballot arrived in and the return envelope that was enclosed.  I felt stupid for doing it, but I opened the initial letter with my letter opener as I do with all my mail and I didn’t even think about it until I went to send the ballot in.

So I’ve gotta ask myself, is there a potential problem with Hillsborough County’s mail-in ballot.

Return envelope sliced open while opening original mailing

Return envelope sliced open while opening original mailing

I called the Supervisor of Elections office when I discovered the problem and when the clerk answered, I said I had an issue with the return envelope in my mail-in ballot (envelope on left in photo above).  The operator immediately asked if I had cut open the bottom of my return envelope.

Hey, this woman knew exactly why I was calling so I assumed it must have happened before.  I said yes and asked if I could just tape it closed.  She said no, the office would have to send me a new return envelope to use, otherwise my vote would not be counted!  Say What!!!

About four days later the new return envelope arrived and I used it to send in my ballot.

So I’m asking myself about all those people who may be waiting until the last minute to send in their mail-in ballots.  If they too have sliced open their return envelope there may not be enough time for them to receive a new return envelope and get their ballot mailed in before the election deadline.  That means they loose their opportunity to vote in what may be one of the most important elections in the history of Florida.

There are 766,092 registered voters in Hillsborough County and 150,000 of them have requested mail-in ballots.  That’s almost one in five registered voters or 19.58% of the electorate.

Now ask yourself, how close was the last governor’s race and how close is this election going to be.   Right now it’s a dead heat.  So yeah, it’s gonna be close.

If just 10% of those receiving mail-in ballots discover a problem with their return envelope (like I did) that’s 15,000 votes.  And if just 10% of that group are unable to vote because they do not discover the problem with the return envelope in time, that’s 1,500 votes.  A small number, but enough to affect an election.

Now if more than 10% have a problem with the return envelope, the issue gets even bigger. Then again, there may only be a handful who sliced open both envelopes . . . like I did.

If you or anyone you know plans to vote early using the mail-in ballot, make sure you are careful when you open the envelope.  You don’t want to accidentally slice open the mail-in envelope that is inside along with the ballot. If you do, you’re vote may not count.  Hey, you may not be able to vote at all.

And that’s a problem.

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Mai-in ballot problem


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I’m confused by this UF “rebranding” talk

The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation.  That is the University of Florida’s brand.  In my opinion, it always will be. Probably always has been.

All this talk about rebranding is just promotion by the local advertising agency hired to create a new tag line for the year.  And as all good marketing and PR students know, a brand is not a tag line or theme.  It’s much, much bigger than that.

The press releases states, The University of Florida rebranded itself … focusing on the school’s research, global outreach and commitment to take on big issues facing the world.  The new slogan: “For the Gator Good.”

The change the university says,  is meant to emphasize the way the school makes a difference through its research.  “The idea is to inspire others to come together and solve some of the world‘s most pressing problems.”

So when we created The Gator Nation campaign back in 2005, our first television commercials challenged people to:  “Go Start a Fortune 500 company.  Go write the great American novel.  Go cure cancer. Go to Mars.”  Wasn’t the idea then to inspire others to come together and solve some of the world’s most pressing problems?

Chances are . . . UF Ad

Our print ads and web marketing did the same in how we talked about the contributions made possible by UF:   “As Gators, a unique experience defines us.  We lead and know how to follow.  We speak and know when to listen.  We run Fortune 500 companies and cure diseases.  We influence every field of business and science with unique perspectives and inspired collaborations.  We come together to form an unbreakable bond that produces some exceedingly memorable Gators.  We are The Gator Nation!”

I probably am overly protective of the UF Brand, but even after nine years, The Gator Nation campaign still feels like my baby and I’m going to look after it.

Rebranding, not on your life.  A new tag line for sure and “For the Gator Good” is a good one, but it is not a rebranding effort and the university and its new agency should stop talking like that.  It makes them look dumb, and I know they are not.

It also confuses those who embrace The Gator Nation.  If The Gator Nation is not our brand, then what is it?

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The Gator Nation is EverywhereUF Brain Surgeon


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Sometimes it seems true, Only The Good Die Young

So sad to learn that Karen Bricklemyer has died. Seems so unfair. You did good Karen!

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 10.01.14 AM

Rest in peace knowing the world is a better place because of you.


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Florida Tuition Increase – the right thing to do

In 2007, in-state tuition and fees at public universities around the country ranged from a high of $12,164 a year at Penn State to a low of $3,206 at the University of Florida. You read that correctly; Florida had the lowest in-state tuition in the country.  The national average for tuition and fees was $5,838.

That’s why the Florida Legislature gave schools like UF, FSU, USF and UCF the ability to increase tuition up to 15% a year until they reached the national average.

The Governor signed the legislation after research at each of the four universities showed even students overwhelmingly supported the increases.  The students went so far as to caravan to Tallahassee to lobby for the higher tuition.

Why would students encourage higher tuition? Good question, but Florida students aren’t stupid. They recognized that a Wal-Mart-quality Education (aka … Cheap) would not help them get jobs following graduation. And at $3,206 a year, that is where higher ed in Florida was heading.

Today that average tuition and fees in Florida is $6,336. The national average is $8,893. So tuition in Florida is still $2,557 — or 28% — below the national average.  And Florida still only has one public university in the Top 50.

Apparently the current Florida Governor believes a Wal-Mart-quality education is what students in Florida deserve. He fails to look at the past and he certainly fails to look to the future.

And misleading the public — which his campaign is doing with the current tuition ads on television — is certainly not the kind of leadership we need in Florida.  We need an open and honest discussion of the issues.

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10.02 GPA — Can you say Grade Inflation!!!

Throughout higher ed circles, the topic of grade inflation is a popular one.  How can a student at one school graduate with a perfect 4.0 GPA while a student at another graduate with an imperfect 10.02.  That’s right, 10.02 and she got a “B” somewhere along the line.

While I’m sure the students worked very hard to achieve the unachievable, but really folks.


I know, I know, it’s because of all the extra credit awarded to honors courses, but come on.  Is the 4.0 student from my day (we had only a handful in a graduating class of almost 1,000) less than half as smart as the 10.02 graduate today?

When I saw the score, curiosity overcame me and I found the highest GPA’ s for most of our local high schools. Would you believe there’s not a 4.0 in the lot.  Here’s a sampling:

  • Alonso High School — 7.02
  • Bloomingdale High — 7.56
  • Brandon High — 6.82
  • Chamberlain High — 7.19
  • Gaither High School — 6.97
  • Jefferson High School — 6.5384
  • King High School — 6.12
  • Leto High School — 7.24
  • Plant High School — 7.0
  • Plant City High — 10.02
  • Robinson High — 6.3261
  • Steinbrenner High — 7.04

It’s important that kids work hard in high school.  It prepares them for college.  Prepares them for the world.  Teaches them to think for themselves.  But does a 10.02 . . . or even a lowly 6.82 really do these kids any favors?

I think not.  We are demonstrating that its possible to be better than perfect. Better than 4.0.  We’re setting false expectations for the real world.

I know many will disagree, but I’ve got to ask if in today’s world, would my 3.4 high school average equate to 8.517 making me the second smartest kid in Hillsborough County.  Yeah, that must be true.

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Jack Bauer and Media Relations . . . or maybe it’s just Publicity

“Maybe you didn’t understand me. This man is our only connection to a stolen nuclear warhead. If you don’t save him, millions of people could die! Do you understand that? Millions of people.”
–Jack Bauer from the TV series, “24″

With the return of Jack Bauer and “24″ tonight,  I thought it was appropriate to revive a publicity campaign we introduced at NC State in 2010 that capitalized on the then-popularity of the series to promote nuclear safety.  I blogged about it then, so why not now.

The question was simple, “So, is this what we’ve come to with media relations today?”  I ask, almost tongue in cheek, because the headline is an approach I suggested to promote NC State’s involvement in the Raleigh Grand Challenge Summit back in March 2010.


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Branding is an investment in the future

With the recent introduction of the University of Florida’s “UF Rising” campaign — a sub-campaign, if you will, running along side The Gator Nation banner — and some other things going on around me, I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of branding in Higher Education and the work we did while I was at UF, NC State, Harley-Davidson and elsewhere.

UF Rising logoI don’t think there is any doubt that Branding is an investment in the future of any organization.

In the competitive world of higher education, the reality is, the most recognizable university “brands” consistently attract the best students, faculty and staff; secure the most funding; gain the greatest accolades, and receive the most recognition in the press.  All of which are critical factors in the health, growth and long-term success of an institution.

As I’ve said many times, universities do not operate in a vacuum.  Today, most universities market themselves aggressively and many have already begun their own branding campaigns.

The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation.  NC State is Locally Responsive, Globally Engaged.  Makers All at Purdue University.  Know Wonk at American University in Washington, and The University of British Columbia is A Place of Mind.  I could go on.

The objective of the branding effort should be to build the kind of reputation and public image that instills confidence across a wide base of constituents.

Confidence on the part of the best students to choose the university over other universities.  Confidence on the part of faculty and staff to want to be a part of a prestigious institution, one they can be proud of.  Confidence on the part of alumni that their investment in time, money and passion is well placed.  And confidence on the part of the legislative bodies and other funding organizations to invest more aggressively in an institution that is producing great returns for the state and the nation.

Corporations know that leading brands enjoy a tremendous advantage over their competitors, and so it is with universities.  The investment made in branding comes back many fold…for years and years to come.

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The Gator Nation is Everywhere



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OVER = More Than

Recently the Associated Press Stylebook announced it would  recognize “over” as a synonym for “more than.”  As a former editor, my heart stopped when I read that.  It started right back up — my heart, that is —  but I was shocked.

It’s probably hard to understand if you haven’t worked in journalism, but the AP Stylebook has been the tome of editors forever.  Along with Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, the AP Stylebook established the rules for proper usage.

I keep 40-year-old versions of each in my office and while I use the computer when I have most style and spelling questions, it’s reassuring to know the original tablets are right there beside me.

For years I’ve taught kids and colleagues that you went over or under a bridge and you had more than or less than in dollars, cents . . . numbers.

But that has all changed and I’ve got to accept it.  I’d say get over it, but that might confuse us even more.

I am tempted to say that the change will be accepted “More than my dead body,” but I’ve always maintained that change is inevitable and you’ve got to go with it.  So here we go.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2014/03/20/Associated-Press-removes-distinction-between-over-and-more-than/8731395353344/#ixzz2xjPaOfso

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The University of Florida is The Foundation FOR The Gator Nation, not of …

Since we introduced The Gator Nation concept to the University of Florida’s branding efforts back in the summer of 2005 (yes, it is that recent), the UF Alumni Association and others have often confused the themeline (tag Line);  The University of Florida, The Foundation for The Gator Nation.

The most recent issue of the UF alumni magazine uses “of” instead of “for” as a sub-head in one of its stories. Shame on you.

Whether to use “of” or “for” was discussed at length when we were creating the campaign, but in the end  it was an easy call.  The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation.  Here’s why:

Of and for are prepositions that are commonly interchanged.  The words of and for are also two of the most commonly used prepositions in the English language. Of and for are used to signify a relationship between objects or subjects.


Of is a preposition that may mean relating to or pertaining to.  It simply signifies a relationship between two objects. An example would be:

• Florida basketball is an important part of  The Gator Nation.

* Tim Tebow is a member of The Gator Nation.


For, on the other hand, signifies a relationship that has developed over a period of time such as days, months, years, decades, centuries. Get it, The Gator Nation is always growing, always changing, always improving.

Thus,  The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation because The Gator Nation is not a static thing.  It will always be growing, changing, evolving.

Because consistency is critical in order to create a successful brand, it’s important that everyone at UF be consistent in their use of the phrase, “The University of Florida is The Foundation for The Gator Nation.”

Yeah, I know people ignore the rules of grammar all the time and only brand geeks like myself will care about this one, but the brand statement is For.  If you don’t want to be accused of diminishing the brand and looking stupid . . .  well, you know what I was going to say . . .

Here’s a link to the UF brand guidelines.


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Fighting Cancer; got it all wrong?

More than two years in the making (media tours, calls, cancelled appointments, stories in Florida Trend, etc.) but Newsweek Magazine features the work of Moffitt Cancer Center’s mathematical oncology department as the COVER STORY in this week’s issue.

It’s a fabulous story on the challenges and chaos that go along with the Research and Discovery that must happen every day if we’re to truly win the war against cancer.

Give it a read. You’ll be amazed, and blown away by the work being done right here in Tampa. And if you can still buy a copy on the newsstand, get me one, will ya!


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