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Well Done, Pork

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Let two things never be discounted again.

1.) The power of social media (and lactating women).
2.) The fact that there ARE big businesses out there that can and will do the right thing.

(Just getting here? Learn about the National Pork Board lawsuit.)

It's over. I received two letters over the weekend. The first was from National Pork Board CEO Steve Murphy apologizing for the offensive comments leveled at The Lactivist in the original C&D letter. (Read the full text of Mr. Murphy's letter) The second was a letter to Brian Moore, the attorney representing me, from Faegre & Benson's Christopher Beall. (Download the full letter as a PDF.)

It stated, in part:

Because of federal limitations on the expenditure of "Pork Checkoff" funds, National Pork Board is unable to make charitable contributions to any organization, including a non-profit organization such as Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio.

Despite this restriction . . . National Pork Board intends to conduct a voluntary fundraising campaign among its staff and executives to gather donations for Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. . . . based on the support we have already seen among employees at National Pork Board - that this campaign will result in a generous contribution to Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio.


Having just spoken to the Georgia Morrow, Director of the Mother's Milk Bank, I can share that the funds raised by the members of the National Pork Board (along with the $1000 raised during the Lactivist fundraiser) will go toward the purchase of desperately needed refrigeration units that the milk bank had been struggling to purchase.

I want to make it clear to my readers that based off of our contact with the staff at the National Pork Board it is quite clear to me that they were extremely upset that anyone would feel they were not supportive of nursing mothers. The fact that the staff has dug into their own pockets in order to make a contribution strikes me as extremely generous and I think that they should be applauded for their response to this issue.

Now, this is where YOU come in once again.

It's quite clear that bad news travels fast. The question is, will good news travel as well?

We all know how rare it is these days for a big corporation to admit that they're wrong. Rarer yet, is the group of executives that are willing to dig into their own pockets to make a donation to right a wrong. (So much easier to dip into the corporate coffers and to write it off as a business expense.) If we're going to lambaste the companies that behave poorly, we must celebrate the companies that do the right thing.

So my request is this... Help me spread the word about a company that not only admitted their mistake, but that quickly worked to come together in an act of good will that will benefit the countless babies and families that benefit from the work of the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. Take a moment and write a letter of thanks to the same email addresses that you fired off your letter of fury to. Take a simple moment to say "thanks."

When big business sees the support that flows their way when they do the right thing, more businesses will realize the value of doing the right thing.

Now anyone that knows me (or reads this blog) can likely imagine how hard it was for me to keep from commenting on this whole debacle as word was flying around the Internet. Heck, the post titles alone were enough to make me want to speak up. (My personal favorite was SE Roundtable's "Search Engine Industry Blogger, Jennifer Laycock, Ordered to Remove Her Shirt."

Add in the fact that social media and the blog world act much like that old fashioned game of telephone (you know, where you whisper in someone's ear and hear how the story changes?) and it's been hard to hold my tongue. So if you'll now humor me, I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own.

First, while I truly appreciate the passion with which readers have responded and the myriad bloggers and forum members that spread the word about this story, I'd specifically like to thank the posters that kept level heads while offering up sage words of advice and insight. Bloggers like Ian McAnerin and the woman behind Kerflop did an excellent job of looking beyond the concept of "evil pork" to examine the issue in a level-headed manner.

There's nothing wrong with protecting your trademark folks. Many of the posts that I read stated that the Pork Board had no business bugging me because I'm just a poor, innocent, breastfeeding promoting mom. (Some went so far in deifying me that I half expected Emmitt to walk on water in the bath tub.) I'll say it again...there is NOTHING wrong with a big business protecting their trademark. My argument was that they should do it by hiring a lawyer that won't make asinine assumptions about the site in question and that they could do it a little more politely.

Next, I want to clear up a few items that seem to have been "lost in translation" (please don't sue me Universal Studios...).

1.) Yes I am a work at home mom, and yes this is a hobby site. That said, I also work at home doing a "real" job, which just happens to be teaching small business owners how to market themselves online. In fact, I actually wrote a pretty popular free e-book about the very process of building this business.

2.) Yes, I donate funds from this site to the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio, but not ALL of them. I have held two fund raisers in the last year. I also donate 10% of all profits when I'm not holding fund raisers. All said and done, this site has raised $2000 for the milk bank and about $4000 for my children's college fund.

3.) Yes, I made just $8 profit off the shirt, but it was from two shirt sales, not one.

4.) I never had any issue with the fact that I received a C&D for alleged trademark infringement. I disagreed with them, but I understand why they sent it. My issue was with both the tone of the letter and the implication that I seemed to be peddling fetish products.

5.) No, you may not now buy a shirt from me that reads "The Other White Milk." I don't have them stockpiled somewhere, I'm not holding out on you and I DID agree not to sell them anymore. That said, you can now buy a National Pork Board approved "breast. the original white milk" shirt from me.

I'd like to again thank Amy Hooker of Maven Communications, Brian Moore of Brian J Moore and Associates for their assistance. I'd also like to thank my hosting company, Mor Designs who have generously (read: for free) increased my bandwidth several times over to keep the site from crashing under the traffic load. I'd also like to thank the many lawyers and law firms that contacted me to offer pro bono services. As of yesterday, the number had grown too numerous to list, though I will make special mention of the team at the Electronic Freedom Foundation since they exist for exactly this type of issue.

It's been quite a few days folks. I must say that I've walked away from this feeling a little better about the world. Friends and strangers alike rallied to my cause. Big business did the right thing. Word about breast milk banking was spread hither and yon. (Of course you'll probably never go to either hither or yon, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

So let's wrap it up with this...

That'll do pig, that'll do.

Labels: ,

  1. Anonymous Claudia Bruemmer | 8:18 AM |  

    Fantastic ending, Jen. The force be with you in redeeming pork!

  2. Blogger Sue Richards | 8:32 AM |  

    Nice to find you via Salon.com. I blogged you this morning on The Breast Views Blog.

  3. Anonymous Leila | 9:10 AM |  

    *Horays* Well Done to them =)

  4. Blogger Lindsey | 9:39 AM |  

    Wonderful news, Jenn!

  5. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 9:45 AM |  

    that's really remarkable. hooray for the pork board!
    and hooray for you - you have proved that one person really can make a difference. :)
    just shared the positive outcome on a msg board where i first learned about the whole thing and will write about it on my blog in the near future.

  6. Blogger Angela | 9:47 AM |  

    I am thrilled to hear it! I will update my article and personal blogs as well.

    Thank you for staying cool and level headed through it all. :-)

  7. Blogger Judy | 10:06 AM |  

    How appropriate to end with a quote from the best movie ever, Babe. That movie is severely underrated, simply because it stars a talking pig.

  8. Blogger doulamom | 10:19 AM |  

    :) mmmmm, back to the schezuan pork

  9. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:21 AM |  

    Good news! I happen to like "original white milk" better as a slogan anyway!

  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:04 AM |  

    I am so happy for you, The Milk Bank of Ohio, and yes, the Pork Board. You, Jennifer Laycock, are my hero.

  11. Blogger Rachael | 12:07 PM |  

    "The original white milk" is a much better slogan, IMO.

    I'm glad this is resolved.

  12. Blogger tanya@motherwearblog | 12:12 PM |  

    Hooray! Here's my post:

    http://breastfeeding.blog.motherwear.com/2007/02/dont_mess_with_.html

  13. Blogger MamaBean | 12:13 PM |  

    Word up to the mother (sorry, couldn't resist).

    The last line of your post cracked me up.

    Will try to blog about this tonight.

  14. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:21 PM |  

    What a happy ending, laurels on your grace under fire, humility, spirit of cooperation and professionalism.

    And big kudos to the Pork Board's human and humane gestures that send a message of goodwill. It's hard to even admit 'maybe we made a mistake.' It takes professionalism and courage to actively and publicly correct it.

    Yep, pay it forward.

    At first I thought to send three missiles lauding the board for every comment or message I fired. Instead, I'll put the money where my mouth is (was), and fire off a check to the MMB cause, on behalf of my esteem for NPB's courage and act of goodwill.

    Paying it forward, my contribution is:

    3 Missiles x 3(@$10 ea.) = $90.

    Thanks for standards that epitomize 'the milk of human kindness.'

  15. Anonymous sinead@breastfeedingmums | 12:27 PM |  

    Well done Jennifer and well done The National Pork Board... what you both have done for breastfeeding is amazing!
    Anyway I'm really pleased for you and lovin' the new shirt!!

  16. Anonymous kerflop | 2:25 PM |  

    Bravo Jennifer and Bravo Pork Board!

  17. Blogger V | 3:28 PM |  

    I am so glad that this was resolved and in such a wonderful fashion. Good for them for making the donation. It's a worthy cause!

  18. Blogger karen | 5:27 PM |  

    To celebrate your equitable resolution and the kindness of the Pork Board, we had pork chops for dinner!

  19. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:23 PM |  

    I'm glad the pork company responded so quickly. ;-) Bravos all around.

    Ange

  20. Blogger BlizzGirl | 9:21 PM |  

    Congrats Jen!
    Great outcome - I posted a "recant" on my SEOMom Blog (seomom.wordpress.com)

    ~Carrie

  21. Blogger MamaBean | 9:42 PM |  

    Posted on my humble little blog
    here

    Congrats again!

  22. Anonymous saint | 8:07 AM |  

    Posting the happy conclusion on my site - glad to see it worked out!

  23. Blogger Oivey Ivey! | 12:23 PM |  

    Great results, Lactivist! The milk banking world thanks you a million times over.

  24. Anonymous Mama Gina | 1:06 PM |  

    YaY!

    Sending off a thank-you letter to the place I sent a letter last week...

    I love happy endings.

  25. Blogger cornmaiden8 | 1:29 PM |  

    Yea! Jenn! Tamales for Everybody!

  26. Anonymous Dadventure | 1:39 PM |  

    Bring on the National Dairy Council!

  27. Blogger monado | 4:18 PM |  

    I was careful to use their trademark phrase when I mentioned pork in a book review.

  28. Blogger Luna | 4:52 PM |  

    I dropped a note to the Pork people when I first heard about this, and I got a letter back that looks basically like the one you got from them.

    I think they need to speak to their legal representatives about how they would have wished to approach you initially--sometimes it's the lawyers that jump in with two left feet. I wonder if those attorneys will be contributing to the donation to the Ohio Milk Bank?

  29. Blogger TulipGrrl | 5:48 PM |  

    Well done. Both to you and to the pork people.

  30. Anonymous Chris Bingham | 6:04 PM |  

    Leave it to me to not see it as the great happy ending - they still get to control the slogan which clearly has no connection to pork.

    I applaude your efforts, but I still see them as a bully.

    Couldn't they have jus licensed the slogan for $1 and maintained control that way? It's one of those trivial issues that opens up larger questions about the control of ideas and the rapid privatization of the creative commons.

    I'm glad you're happy, but the pork board doesn't get kudos from me.

  31. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:50 PM |  

    Sweet! Perhaps you should apply:

    Strategic Marketing Director

    The National Pork Board in Clive, IA, has an immediate opening for a Strategic Marketing Director. This person will provide specific expertise in all functions that relate to research and analysis, issues management, pricing and placement strategies, competitive intelligence and product management. This person will be a key member of our Demand Enhancement team and work cross-functionally within the Pork Board as well as collaboratively with others in the industry and allied industries. This position is responsible for:

    * Research and Analysis – development, evaluation and deployment of various qualitative and quantitative marketing research projects to enable informed decision-making in the pork production channel. Communication of market information to the various industry channels.
    * Issues Management – analyzing and interpreting data to identify solutions that will positively impact customer’s and consumer’s purchases of pork.
    * Pricing & Placement Strategies – generating insight and recommendations to assist the industry in the development and implementation of effective pricing and placement strategies.
    * Competitive Intelligence – determining the economic position of the industry and how it is affected by new products, new processes and competition.
    * Product Management – leading the product management process that seeks to align pork products with end-customer needs and expectations. Advance pork’s competitive position by strengthening its value proposition and strategically positioning that value with the domestic customer.
    Excellent collaborator and proven ability to lead diverse groups to consensus for the purpose of industry benefit.

    Ultimately this person will take the initiative to seek input from industry leaders to understand key research needs that will facilitate a stronger alignment of the product with end-customer needs. This position will also manage expectations and maximize pork’s competitive position by strengthening its value proposition and strategically positioning that value with the domestic consumer. Seven to ten years experience with a packer or processor or related industry in sales, marketing and/or new product development is required. Must be familiar with statistical software to manage and organize information and have strong people and project management skills. Travel of approximately 50% is required.

    The National Pork Board offers a number of exceptional benefits [betcha workplace nursing is a new bennie] and was voted one of Central Iowa’s Best Places to Work in 2005 and 2006.

    Please send cover letter, resume and salary requirements in confidence to: jcriss@pork.org

    http://www.pork.org/NewsAndInformation/employmentOpportunities.aspx#1

    (Is the last name o' the contact crisis?)

  32. Anonymous Gina | 3:23 PM |  

    The shirt slogan was changed (and isn't as fun as the other) because of their bullying AND they get to look like heroes for donating money.

    They're all sitting around their pork greasy desks having a big guffaw at all those milking moms.

    But at least the money will be donated and that's all that matters in the grand scheme of things.

    As far as I am concerned though, the Pork Board gets none of my respect, nor will I pass them along as some great hero.

  33. Blogger Miguel | 4:55 PM |  

    Congradulations Jennifer on resolving things with the other white meat. When I first herd about this I emailed the NPB that I would be boycotting Pork until this was resolved. So now that it is I can eat the other white meat again. I just emailed the NPB thanking them for resolving this matter quickly and that I will be eating Pork again.
    By the way thanks for the informative articles over at Search Engine Guide. I am a regular reader. Best Wishes
    Miguel Goforth

  34. Blogger sasha | 10:42 PM |  

    Thank god I can eat bacon again.

  35. Blogger Myka | 3:46 PM |  

    You should make a shirt that says:
    Breast: It's What's For Dinner.
    Then the Beef Board could sue also! You could compare the two different kinds of meat boards!

  36. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:38 PM |  

    Jennifer - I'm glad to hear it's "over" for you as I am sure it was a stressful situation. As a lactating mother of an 11-month old, and working from home, I know it takes much effort on it's own, without an unexpected pending lawsuit. I am glad you got the support you needed to get it resolved and in addition, promotion of breastfeeding and milk banks. I would still like to know if they have a right to squash anyone using "The other white..."
    Fellow Breastfeeding Mother

  37. Blogger JP | 11:28 AM |  

    Through Kerflop's link, I was able to find my way over here. I do like a good ending...but more than that, I just wanted to mention that I greatly admire your positive outlook and your efforts to spread the good will to the Pork People. Not because I'm a huge fan of the Pork People (I'm very Switerland about pork, I guess)...but because they really did try to make things right...or better. And you me them halfway.

    You let the Bygones be Bygones...and I, for one, really appreciate that.

    Kudos to them...
    Kudos to you...

  38. Blogger Jennifer | 12:10 PM |  

    Thanks JP.

    I think it boils down to that whole "with great power comes great responsibility" thing. The blog world really is amazingly powerful...this story shows that. I firmly believe that if we're going to use it to bring people down, we've also got to use it to acknowledge the folks that do the right thing.

    While I still disagree that my shirt breaks their trademark (I'm quite confident that I would have won had we gone to court) I fully support their need to police anything that comes close.

    Ultimately, it wasn't worth the time away from my family to fight a battle for a shirt that has netted me $8. But it was worth it to take the battle public to spread the word about milk banking and to help teach companies that you've got to "play the game" in a whole different way online.

  39. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:42 PM |  

    Until I read the letter I thought they'd come to their senses over the foolishness of this.

    But no.

    I will still eat bacon but I won't like it.

  40. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:44 PM |  

    So basically, the Board retains control of the slogan (as it should be, it's legally theirs), you had to change your design, and your kids get a healthy donation to their college fund thanks to your "selfless" efforts in the name of breastfeeding mothers.

    I'm not convinced that any of this went down the way it should have.

    The Board is sending you donations, not because it was wrong, but because the C&D was "worded wrong". Lovely. You were still legally in the wrong, but because they (actually, the law firm they hired), screwed up the letter, you get to make a few thousand dollars.

    That's America, folks.

  41. Blogger Jennifer | 6:41 PM |  

    How did I make a few thousand dollars?

    I'm not the milk bank. Their donation will go there. I'll never see it.

    I've made a whopping $200 in shirt sales since this happened. That might cover the extra bandwidth to keep the site from crashing but it won't come near making up for the extra hours I spent on the subject.

    As for them legally being right? Think what you wish, but ultimately that would have been for a court to decide. Based on the pro bono legal offers I had, I'm fairly confident I would have won. That said it sure as heck wasn't worth time from my family to defend a shirt that has earned me $8.

  42. Anonymous howesew | 8:08 AM |  

    I am so glad this had a positive ending. I intended to comment to the pork board but got tied up with other breastfeeding issues and just returned to your site today. We have a snow closing at work so I am catching up. I haven't eaten pork since I first saw this issue, but we'll have it for dinner tonight. As alumni of Iowa State University, my husband and I enjoy lean pork frequently. I am so glad the pork people donated to our Mothers Milk Bank. I am going to thank the pork board for resolving your issues.

  43. Blogger kim | 5:21 PM |  

    Great ending ... I'm off to fry up some chops :)

  44. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:43 AM |  

    I'm glad they donated to your cause, but the letter from Murphy was a classic non-apology.

    "We sincerely apologize if that is how the letter was interpreted." That immediately shifts the focus to you and your interpretation of what was said, which was obviously mistaken in their eyes, and makes the apology conditional on that misinterpretation.

    "We apologize if the tone of the letter was impersonal or harsh ..." They're not admitting for one second that the tone of the letter actually was impersonal or harsh, and again making the apology conditional on interpretation.

    Nice gesture, but very weaselesque wording.

  45. Anonymous Ann | 4:22 AM |  

    Wooo!!!! Well done!!!! Found out about this story from a friend in Texas - made my day! You should be really proud of yourself. Will pop into this site, and pass it on, forevermore!!!

    Ann in the UK.

  46. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:39 AM |  

    So, how does this compare with the take-offs of the popular "got milk?" campaign? I've seen the original slogan on baby & mom shirts (both at dept. stores and breastfeeding stores). I've seen "got breastmilk?", "got stress?", "got chocolate?", etc. Where does copyright infringement stop and parody begin? Also, there are others selling the "other white milk" shirt on Cafepress - have they been ordered to C&D?

  47. Blogger Robin Lionheart | 2:08 AM |  

    The National Pork Board is not "a big corporation", it's a division of the US Department of Agriculture that acts like it's a private advocacy organization rather than government ... pork.

    See PrawfsBlawg's post on this subject for more.

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