Writing Samples

Feature Article: Series on People that Work With Their Hands

October 2008

Styling Hands

PEMBROKE PINES – Gina Qure’s hands delicately fold small pieces of foil over sections of hair on her client’s head. Her hands immediately start a new section, placing the foil, laying the section of hair on it simultaneously brushing hair dye then folding it all closed.  In this world of service-oriented jobs, it is becoming a rarity to see someone create something beautiful with their hands unless you give your own hair salon a second look.

Gina is a hairdresser at Ahead of Our Time Salon.   She glances at the long list of appointments on a paper clipped to the mirror.  Gina asks her next client to sit at her station.  Qure begins to snip and comb the wet hair.  She takes out her blow dryer and the wet strands quickly take shape as Gina twirls the round brush in a fluid dance with the nozzle of the blow dryer.  A smooth and polished hairstyle emerges.  The client smiles wide as she looks at herself in the mirror.  Then Gina smiles.   It is obvious from her face that Gina’s biggest reward is seeing her client transform.

Gina Qure, like many Florida residents, is actually a former New Yorker who moved to Florida about five years ago.  She works with her hands everyday and has for the last twenty years.  Her adventure as a hairdresser is not so typical.  Gina’s career started in Queens, New York ready for college to study graphic design.  She worked in a salon as a manicurist while she attended school. 

Gina explains how she got hooked on hairstyling, “I would sit and watch and I asked her if she would let me do a haircut one day on a man or something.  I did it once or twice and then I kept doing it and finally she told me to go to school for it.”  So she did.

Immediately after graduation, Gina worked full time at the salon.  “It was a time for me to learn from my own mistakes.”   She remembers her first mistake, “One time a man came in for a haircut and you know that piece of hair that some men wear across the top to cover their baldness? Well, I cut it off.  He was not happy and I felt so bad.  I didn’t know.”  But that didn’t stop her from dreams of working in the “City”:  Manhattan.

Working at Peter Coppola Salon in Manhattan taught her many things about hair design.  She said, “I learned that you need somebody to work with.”  As one of Sharon Dorram’s five assistants, she learned hard lessons.  Sharon’s reputation as a Master Colorist stood on its own merit with celebrities.  Gina remembers how competitive it was:  “I always was paying attention and observing everything.”

Gina took her talented hands to other salons, such as John Barrett at Bergdorf Goodman, fine tuning her craft.  She extended the abilities of her hands by taking seminars on sales learning business side of hairstyling. 

Eventually she began working with clients in the television business associated with CNN and NBC.  The studio staff encouraged Gina to expand her interest in professional makeup to round out her skills.  Gina began working for NBC doing hair and was an instant favorite with the on-air talent.

Gina got a job at the NBC affiliate here in Florida, but early morning schedules beginning at 3 am took their toll.  She recently decided to retire from television and work full time at Ahead of Our Time.   

Working full time does not keep Gina from growing her craft and leaving her own mark on the beauty industry.  She talks about developing an innovative product for hair care and has a few inventive ideas in the works. “When you work in this business 20 or 30 years, you need to come up with something that you can put your name on.”  Gina’s hands are the proud source of her rewarding craft and a promising future.

Book Review/Summary

The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR by Al Ries & Laura Ries examines the shift in marketing from the advertising to public relations.  The book shows how public relations fills in the gaps advertising created when it lost credibility.  Therein lays the rise of PR and the transformation of advertising into a new role of ‘defending’ the established brand.

 The introduction sets the tone comparing advertising to candles.  Candles no longer function as a source of light.  People pay a lot for beautiful candles, but not for light they provide is not functional.  They serve to provide ambiance and decoration.  Likewise advertising has become art.  It is no longer a tool for building brand loyalty as it might have been in the 50’s.

Part One tracks advertising’s early days of advertising to the dotcom boom.  One outstanding example is the Pets.com scenario.  The web site spent three times its revenues on marketing only to go under.  Emphasis was on creative advertising and a sock puppet, “The Sock Puppet is not the brand… Pets.com is the brand.”  The authors balance the point with the success of Amazon.com. Amazon.com sold hardcover books for 30 percent off.  That brand was established by using publicity not advertising.

Part Two tracks the rise of PR as a brand builder.  A major sticking point is line extensions which happen when a company releases a new product as an extension of an existing line.  The authors believe this is a mistake because line extensions do not qualify as a new brand.  Building a new brand is more effective since you are giving the consumer something new; not the same old thing.

Part Three of the book delves into the idea that advertising be the defender of a brand.  Examples from commercials and print ads are used to demonstrate how ineffective advertising is at brand building. The concept of Broadening vs. Deepening is introduced.  Advertising can deepen a brand by taking the existing perception and grow its market share.  Broadening would replace the existing brand’s position and move it.  “Advertising cannot change minds.”

Part Four presents juxtapositions of advertising and PR.  The section entitled, “Advertising Uses the Big Bang. PR Uses the Slow Buildup” is a good explanation of why PR is so effective.  It explains takes time to build a brand because of the coordination of varied media coverage.  The example of bottled Coke taking 42 years to surpass fountain sales reinforces the idea.

My personal observation is that advertising does not have credibility and I agree with the book’s thesis. PR is better suited to brand building.  The clear structure of the book and abundant examples make a good reference for any PR professional.

The last point in Part four sums it all nicely: “Advertising is brand maintenance, PR is Brand Building.”

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