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Sep 19

SHOOTING THE MESSENGER

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SHOOTING (OR DE-FLATING!) THE MESSENGER  by Mark Zettler

5 Tips & A Talk Toward Keeping Balloon Releases Alive 
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Welcome to   Making It With Balloons Network (MIWB.net).
“Making Things, Making Success  & Making A Difference With Balloons”™.
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PHoto of Mark Zettler
SHOOTING (OR DE-FLATING!) THE MESSENGER

5 Tips & A Talk Toward Keeping Balloon Releases Alive

By Mark Zettler, Publisher
BALLOONS & Parties Magazine
http://www.balloonsandparties.com

About 8 years ago I was asked to help defend against a bill being brought up at the Suffolk County, New York environmental committee’s Legislature meeting. The bill, if passed, would ban the release of five or more balloons into the atmosphere by anyone in this New York County. The Legislature was terming the five balloons a Major Balloon Release! The fine for releasing five or more balloons could be as high as $500! The fine could be levied on the person who releases the balloons and/or the person or company who sold the balloons, installed the balloons and even the organization that provided the helium (even if the seller(s) did not do the releasing!).

This problem addressed nearly a decade ago is still an issue today. The answers all those years ago are the same today as well.

Spearheaded by Marty Greenstein of Enchanted Parties in Ronkonkoma, New York, the day of the legislature meeting brought less than ten balloon professionals together, Jessica Ganz, a representative from The Balloon Council (TBC) also came to our aid loaded with facts and figures to help educate the meeting on the misinformation being spread by local politicians and by a representative of Greenpeace.

TIPS:
I learned a number of interesting things that afternoon on Long Island:

(1)   Come prepared to a meeting like this. Others will ask questions of you and you better be ready with a quick and balanced answer.

(2)   Speak clearly and calmly when in front of a meeting like this as it adds to your presence and authority on the subject matter. Don’t lose your cool. Don’t whine about the opposition it only makes you look unprofessional and unreasonable.

(3)   Always find a way to put the opposition in YOUR shoes, as I did in my speech, by including politicians as our customers. Probably everyone sitting on that council has used balloons at events to forward their own political careers. It was then awfully hard to disagree with me or be against something you have used or enjoyed before.

(4)   “Facts” can be nothing more than well-dressed fiction.

(5)   We all agreed foil balloons should NEVER be released. Latex balloons released in the hundreds (not the thousands) seemed fair and reasonable to launch. You have to give a little to get what you want. Be prepared to negotiate fairly.

I also was reminded I am not a big fan of balloon launches because they DO pollute the atmosphere. However, and more importantly for our industry, releases PROMOTE balloons. Making people happy by releasing our product can only help endorse our product. After all, anything that can be done to help sell balloons is good for our business.

MY BIGGEST CONCERN:
My biggest concern with regards to banning balloons is the connotation a “ban” puts on anything. A ban is a prohibition, exclusion, or an outlawing of something. To ban balloons is to forbid or disallow them. In the wonderful book Fahrenheit 451, books were banned, rounded up by “firemen” and burned. The status quo went along with that because the government said books were bad. If the government “bans” balloons, isn’t the implication that the product being banned is bad? Why would anyone want to sell a product that needs to be outlawed in some circles? Doesn’t that sound like a bad business to be in?

BEST CUSTOMERS:
Some of our best customers will never spend a dime on a balloon. Speaking demographically, they are the most impressionable customer group we have. They want what we have and will often beg for or implore others to get them. They have occasions and affairs quite often where our balloons are needed. These “customers” of ours are a never-ending resource that helps feed this industry. Who is this highly motivated group? They are our children.

TELL A CHILD:
But most children are vulnerable to what may or may not be truly right and wrong. Tell a child something is bad and they will usually believe it. Tell children they should not do something and, even if they do it anyway, they will know it is wrong. Tell a child balloons should not be released or mommy or daddy will get “arrested” and what does that child learn? Tell children balloons pollute the atmosphere and what do they proclaim? Enlighten a child with the supposed “facts” about balloons killing scores of animals and wildlife and what will that child think?

A BAN OF ANY KIND:
And therein lies my conviction to keep laws like this off the books. A ban of any kind is a great big negative in the minds of the buying public. Ban five balloons as a release and what’s next? No more tent or pool décor? No more street vending? No more arches over street fairs? No balloons at indoor events because five balloons might accidentally get away and get someone a big fat fine? It could happen.

So next time someone wants to ban anything, take a good long look at the “facts” of the matter before you pass your own brand of judgment. What is fact and what is fiction can be easily transposed. Sound convincing enough and your own opinion could easily become the whole truth and nothing but the truth in an instant.

TABLE THE BILL:
This speech was given June 4th, 2002. After this speech and several others, there was a motion to table this ban to re-work the wording of the bill. Since then the amount of balloons has been raised to the release of not more than 25 balloons before a fine is imposed. The bill has been tabled again for further discussion. It has never been put into law.

Here is what I had to say:

THE SPEECH:
My name is Mark Zettler. I am the publisher of BALLOONS & Parties Magazine, a 16-year-old trade publication for the balloon industry. Our mission to our 8000 readers around the world in nearly 50 countries is to promote balloons through education. I also own two other companies whose primary product sold is balloons.

LIFE:
If broken down, life, at its simplest, could be described as birth, then moments of joy and wonder, personal challenges, opportunities in careers, plateaus reached and finally death. Balloons are there for all of it. Though today, some of you might not want to hear that or even think that, it’s absolutely true.

I won’t embarrass any of you here by asking how many times you have been to an event or just been at hand where balloons have been present. But they HAVE been there.

BALLOONS ARE THERE:

As sure as there is a band or DJ or food at a party – balloons have been there.

In your workplace to help launch a new product, celebrate an achievement or just to be received at your desk when you are feeling low – balloons have been there.

A politician’s best friend is a balloon. Imprinted with one’s name and more, it has become a calling card for nearly everyone in or hoping to get into politics today.

Balloons are a marvelous, wonderful and colorful part of our everyday lives. There is no denying it.

WHY WE ARE HERE:
This brings me to why we are here. You have or will be hearing the matters of “facts” relating to balloons and who or what they may have harmed.

Balloons are not the enemy. Setting a precedent of banning balloons or fining someone for releasing them makes the balloons themselves seem like an illegal substance in our society. There are tens of thousands of LEGITIMATE businesses that depend on balloons for their livelihood and hundreds of millions of people around the world who derive great joy from our balloons.

Grapes kill more children each year than balloons ever will, but we do not ban the use of grapes in our society. We do not fine shoppers who buy them or grocers that sell them – but they do kill. Prevention of a tragedy is not to ban grapes, but to educate parents how to cut them properly, at what age to feed them to a youngster, etc.

The National Safety Council knows wheeled toys are the leading killer of children in this country, but we do not ban the use of these items in our society. We make them safer, we handle them more carefully, we educate the owners how to operate them with caution.

Balloons are messengers of only positive energy. DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER. True balloon professionals are taught to work with all their pertinent materials carefully and safely. That is our job.

GROUND ZERO:
I have talked about all the wonders of balloons and the happy times they help emote from and for our customers. As I stated previously, balloons are part of all aspects of life from birth till death. In just a few days one of my company’s will be providing balloons for a balloon launch. This special balloon release will be to honor the loss of 366 police and firefighters on September 11th at Ground Zero – one balloon for each of these fallen heroes. Balloons were chosen to honor the dead; to help bring some closure to loved ones suffering. Is it really the duty of this proceeding here today to keep these people from honoring loved ones lost in this special way? Are the people running this event criminals? Am I?

SELLING HAPPINESS: 
My colleagues and I are not criminals. We are law-abiding citizens who are trying to make a living by selling happiness through the use of balloons. I beg you not to take the first step in misinforming the general public by suggesting that we’re not selling happiness, but rather death disguised as something fun. We are not disguising anything we sell; we are celebrating what we do to make people happy.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

TO BE CONTINUED…!

Mark Zettler, Publisher
BALLOONS & Parties Magazine
201-441-4224
www.balloonsandparties.com
www.twitter.com/balloonexpert

The BALLOONstitute, Producer
http://www.balloonstitute.com/

MORE FROM MARK
Read more from Mark Zettler on Making It With Balloons Network:
— What is In A Name?   http://miwb.net/blog/?p=2065

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Copyright 2010 – Mark Zettler  & Rouse Technologies for “Making It With Balloons Network”

4 comments

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  1. Sean O'Kelly

    Mark’s passion and seriousness for his profession never fails to ring through. With well thoughtout usefull comments like that is no wonder that he is such a highly respected exponent of our craft.

    Good job Mark.

  2. Jacquie Sopko

    Mark, if I EVER have to come against a panel to defend balloon releases, can I quote you? WOW, you hit all the hot buttons on this one! Thanks for the great sample text!

  3. Mark Zettler

    Thanks to Jacquie and to Sean. Your comments were very kind. And Jacquie you (and anyone) can by all means use my information any time you wish.

  4. admin

    When I read Mark’s article, I did not really expect to encounter a challenge to balloon releases on my home turf, at least not so soon. But, there it is, a letter to the editor of the largest newspaper in our area, recommending that the pregame balloon release at our university foot ball games be dropped and replaced.

    The threat is not so severe as a government vote to ban balloon releases, but it is a challenge worth a response. My response is in this post: http://miwb.net/blog/?p=1558 . What would yours be?

    Read the post and add your reply.

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