Hair today, Gone Tomorrow…was it worth it Rhonda Lee?

There’s a ton of buzz surrounding Rhonda Lee, the KTBS Meteorologist “fired over defending her hair”…but IS that the real reason she was fired?  If you haven’t read the story,  you can read it her on Yahoo.

Personally, I think she looks fantastic with her hair and find it becoming on her.  Apparently, the station didn’t have a problem with her hair either.  The station had a problem with her responding to the viewer -or viewers repeatedly.  As a certified HR Professional (and a black woman)….I understand the position of the station. Rhonda knows her public persona is subject to all kinds of comments. She had a choice to engage or not engage with the viewer who posted about her hair. Really, who cares that a viewer doesn’t like her short hair?

According to the story on Yahoo, even though Rhonda states she was not at the meeting where the social media policy was discussed, I’m sure she was aware of the “unofficial social media policy” as the story states she was “warned about this repeatedly”.  Which indicates there was previous conversations (plural) about Rhonda’s “social media practices”.

According to the story on Yahoo, “Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued,” KTBS-TV executives said in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday, after Lee appeared on CNN. “Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.” 

If that is true, then I stand with the station on the termination.  Okay so this is probably NOT the response that many of you were expecting from me,…BUT…as a 20 year human resources professional (and an black woman)…let me say this.   Rhonda is a high compensated employee HIRED TO BE A PUBLIC PERSONA for the station.  Every time she opens her mouth publicly,  it is essentially a “response from the employer”  With that being said…she did not have to respond.  Again, I say, WHO CARES THAT A VIEWER DOESN’T LIKE HER HAIR?  It’s not a secret that there are double standards in every class of people…black/white, men/women, young/old, rich/poor…as in this case, I totally believe that Rhonda Lee has a right to be who she chooses to be. But I also know the station was paying her boo-coos of money to be who they needed her to be.

Sometimes we forget that social media and our expressions on social media are not a “free” as we’d like them to be.  There have been so many cases in the media about employees being terminated over Facebook and other social media outlets.  Sometimes we have to learn to hold our peace.  I believe this was one of those times.

The issue I have with this whole story is “the station” didn’t have a problem with Rhonda Lee’s hair and she could have (and should have) IGNORED the Facebook post and this whole nightmare would have been avoided.   Personally and professionally, I didn’t find anything “wrong” with her response,

“Hello Emmitt—I am the “black lady” to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you,” she wrote on October 6, in the comments. “I am sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer.” 

“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair,” Lee, 37, continued. “For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that . Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.” 

“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that,” she concluded. “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

However, I am not her employer and since another employee of KTBS (Rhonda’s Employer) was also fired for defending himself online (see Chris Redford’s Story here), this appears to just be the policy of the station and not racial motivated -but a practice of KTBS.   Sometimes we have to dig a little to find the truth. Many times those of us in the HR Profession are accused of siding with the employer (we don’t we are just tasked with enforcing the policies and procedures set by the organization), as I’m sure I will be due to my stance on this but this termination appears to be justified.  Again…her employer CLAIMS Rhonda was terminated for “repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued!”  If Rhonda was terminated on this for her first offense, I would be outraged but repeatedly and multiple stands out to me.  Let’s remove the profession for a moment and look at this from another point of view, how many times will you tell your child repeatedly not to do something before you punish them for it?  Rhonda is not a child, but I think you get my point!

One thing we have to learn in this world, is we don’t HAVE to defend a lie, ALWAYS prove to be right, or ALWAYS make a point. That is where Rhonda Lee made her error.  Yes she has a right to defend her appearance, but why?  She choose to embrace who she was on the inside as she claimed in her response, of being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave her contribution to society and that should have been enough.  Personally, I think Rhonda could have made a stronger statement by not even giving thought to the Facebook post.  After all, it was just his opinion, it wasn’t worth her job!

She’s an employee of the company and she didn’t have to be “in the meeting” to hear the unofficial social media policy” I’m sure she heard about it and I’m sure that she knew about about Chris Redford being terminated for defending himself online as well.  As an employee who is a public figure, (the news for Pete’s sake) Rhonda should have known it wasn’t worth it. She went to battle but lost the war!

Rhonda Lee is an intelligent, educated black woman who knows that her VERY public position means everyone wont like her…her hair…her smile…her voice…her skin color… and to that..she should have said.. SO WHAT and kept it moving. In this day and age, people have to remember….the employer is paying you to be who they need to you be during the hours of “9-5″.

Setting Prices As A New Entrepreneur

I spent the weekend in the Los Angeles area (a place I once called home), and had a fantastic time At The Helm, a unique event for women in business where entrepreneurs, small business owners and community leaders join together for a powerful day learning and business growth. It was refreshing to see such a diverse group of women, learning, leaning and gleaning from one another. I met the organizer of the event Alaia Williams, CEO, One Organized Business, a few months back while doing some online networking in the Ambitious Diva Facebook group and we have just began our journey (she will be contributing to CAREER Magazine soon, so stay tuned).

During one of the break out sessions, Haneef Jordan, Owner, Touch My Closet (another member of the Ambitious Diva group) asked a question about setting prices as a new entrepreneur and I shared with the group the formula I used to set prices when I first began my business, well over 10 years ago.   Almost immediately, I realized that I had a similar conversation with Colletta Abernathy  just last week as she was sharing with me some new services that she will be adding to her virtual assistant business, Tru Level Concepts.

As a new entrepreneur, one of  most challenging areas will be defining your worth and communicating your value to potential prospects.  It’s easy to “throw out” a price based on what you  feel you should be paid, but to be effective, you will have to understand your target market, how they do business, what the competition is charging for the same/similar services, and most importantly how to sell your business to a new customer base.

Setting prices as a new entrepreneur seems to be an on-going conversation, so I’m re-sharing this video with a formula for “setting prices as a new entrepreneur”.

If you are an aspiring business owner or setting up your side hustle, take a peek at this video and it will give you some starting points on how to set prices. While understanding your time/value are important, here are also a few things to consider:

1. You have experience/skill as an employee, but you still have to learn how to become an entrepreneur
2. Set competitive pricing because people will search competitors sites and compare pricing/services.
3. Don’t sell yourself short, but be realistic about your prices. You can’t pull prices out of a hat.

If you are in need of business development consulting, feel free to visit the website and drop me a  note and the best times to reach you via the “Let’s Connect” form!

What’s printed is what’s preferred!

Recently, I had the pleasure to be a featured “diva” panelist for the Exceptional Women of Color Networking Conference, an annual event held in the Sacramento, California area.   The Conference was fantastic and while this was about “Exceptional Women”, the Distinguished Men’s panel certainly stole the show – but that’s another blog.

Because I’m not a regular blogger, when I do, I’m always looking for things to discuss that you wont see on most blogs.  While this topic has been something that I’ve addressed privately with various organizations who have requested my presence, today I’d like to blog about “getting it right” publicly.   What is it?  My name and the names of others.

As customary, the beautiful and funny host introduced those of us selected to be part of  the “diva” panel to the audience.  Even though the program had my name printed as “Stephanie C. Harper”, the host introduced me as Stephanie Harper.   In true form, I pushed the little button to engage my mic and corrected her, stating “it’s Stephanie C. Harper”.   She laughed, called me a Diva and responded with “okay,  Stephanie C. Harper!”   Since the was the “Diva Panel”, I too laughed and didn’t take any offense to her remark.   While we laughed about it, this is a very serious issue for me.  See, what’s printed is what’s preferred!  Why?….it’s my brand!

For any business or business owner, branding is crucial.  Having a public career, “Stephanie C. Harper” is my name BUT ALSO A BRAND!  The “C” is one of the many things that set my brand apart from others.  The bigger issue is anyone in the audience who may have wanted to  connect with me and decided to do a Google search may not have found me.  If you Google “Stephanie Harper” here are several things you find.

So I think you get my point!  Stephanie Harper is NOT JUST ME!   I’ve been around a while so I was fortunate to purchase the domains and {and they both point to my personal website} and I typically come up first in the Google Search, but if you want to find me…and a ton of info about me, please search for “Stephanie C. Harper”.

The overall point of this blog post, especially for those of us with blogs, radio shows, TV shows and such,  how a person submits their name in print, is how they prefer to be addressed.  People take the time build their brands the way they wish to be represented.   In many cases, they may have paid someone to write their bios, content for webpages, media kits and the likes.  When people are asked to submit a bio or profile, others should be mindful of the details which may not seem like a huge big deal, but as I have shared above, you see how minor details can make a major difference!  If you Google “Stephanie C. Harper” well, here’s what you get!


I have worked VERY hard on creating the Stephanie C. Harper brand, so much so that I have a presence on the first 40 pages of Google.  I’ve worked hard on inserting that “C” into the mix PURPOSELY to stand out and be set apart! So ya see, it’s not about being a “diva” at all, just proper representation of the brand!

*********just thought this was a good teachable moment!********

Olivier Blanchard – Social Media ROI

We’re excited about our next issue of CAREER Magazine, we caught up with Olivier Blanchard, Author of Social Media ROI this morning and he gave us a few nuggets on Social Media.

You can read more about his take on “Social Media Matters” as well as find out what he thinks about the future of social media, blogging, and how to get a return on your investment from social media. His feature drops Oct 15, 2012.  Here’s a quick video, …but just wait until you read the interview!

Having a “presence” in social media is worthless unless you do something with it.  It isn’t enough to merely have a blog, a YouTube channel, and accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and a half dozen other platforms.  Olivier Blanchard

bump industry standards, pay me my damn money!

Well *sigh*, I’ve told you all before that I am an emotional blogger (but I am a believer that there is always a lesson to be learned)…so here we go!

I was invited to attend a TweetChat for Speakers, which I thought was pretty cool!  There was a ton of information shared, some that I agree with and some that I didn’t.  But that’s what you expect in a public forum.

Being a human resources professional, I completely understand that there are “industry standards” in every industry!  Speaking being one of my streams of income, I also understand that when you effectively build your brand, you have the freedom to create your own set of rules for your playground!

During this tweetchat, we began to talk about fee’s.  The featured guest said, “industry standard is getting 50%.  Then you invoice for the remaining 50% and expenses after you speak!”  Well, I guess she wasn’t stranded in West Virginia with no way back to Atlanta.  But I was!   Very early in my speaking career, I agreed to do a five-day career camp for an organization in West Virginia.  My fee,  $5000 + expenses (airfare and hotel ONLY).

  • Mistake #1:  I did not secure my date!

Yes, I had a physical date that the camp was to take place.  But I failed to be compensated for removing myself from the office or missing out on other opportunities if for any reason the camp was cancelled.

Lesson #1:  I now require 25% of my fee (which varies by event and organization) to be paid before I “save the date” on my calendar!  This is a non-refundable fee that covers me in the event the organizer cancels and I have turned down other opportunities.

  • Mistake #2: I did not count the cost!

Yes, we had a contract, but I didn’t have any money to prepare for a 5 -day career camp, there was a good 10+ day preparation period.  I wrote the curriculum, developed a teacher key, created a student workbook, and researched activities, which included taking the participants of the camp to neighboring businesses.   No one paid me for the 10+ days of prep or to design and print all the workbooks.   I guess that was my contribution.

Lesson #2:  Contracts should include any expenses incurred PRIOR to the event.   Once you arrive at the event, you are have already completed 90% of the work.  The other 10% is just your delivery.

  • Mistake #3:  I got on the airplane without all of my money!

Because of the relationship I had developed with the organizer of the event, I was willing to work with the organizer on the $5,000 fee.   I looked at this as an opportunity for us both.  She could have her camp and I could create a product (and yes, my 5 day camp is now a product #winning).

Lesson #3:   Get your money upfront!  Not only did the organizer not have all the money for my hotel, they also did not have the money to fly me back to Atlanta…OR PAY ME!  We ended up driving from West Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina (6 hours) only to spend the night at the home of the organizer so I could get a flight from Charlotte to Atlanta the next day.

So back to the tweetchat!  When I shared that I get 25% of my fee before I save the date, the featured guest (who was obviously interested in selling her services) felt that I was arguing with her, but also felt it was appropriate to tweet about it!  (Can you say unprofessional?)

See there was no argument, on my behalf.  That’s how I run my business. Simply sharing with other aspiring speakers IN A PUBLIC FORUM that they too can shape their speaking careers, and not just conform to “industry standards”.  That’s being helpful, right?  NEWSFLASH:  You do not have to be boxed in by industry standards, that may not work for your bottom-line.  See I wasn’t there to sell my “hell.. I mean help speakers service”,  I was simply on the chat to share some of my journey.

Not only did I take issue with her unprofessionalism by tweeting something negative about me outside of the forum, but she also called me nutty and said the moderator ignored me!  (now she’s unprofessional, disrespectful, and a liar…more tweets coming).

Lesson#4:  Don’t let your electronic footprints kick you in the butt and the mouth! ( a huge thanks to my Ambitious Diva Friend, Tami Briggs who reminded me all Tweets are also stored in the Library of Congress!)

While the fee was really the biggest thing that we didn’t see eye to eye on, apparently the guest decided to have another side line conversation about me which also showed up in my Twitter feeds and Google alerts.   When I called her out about it, she blatantly lied and said that she was not talking about me, but politics.  Well, call me Ms. Politic Harper!

Lesson#5:  Tweets are public and show up in feeds and Google alerts!

Yes, I will be the first to admit.  I was boiling hot!  So I fired a few tweets back…but none as nearly disrespectful, nor unprofessional and well…I’m not a liar, sometimes…brutally honest to a fault, but not a liar!  I just politely let her know, I had the screen shot of the conversation!  So basically, she could tell her story walking because you can’t dress a lie. Once I sent her a copy of her screen shot, her conversation ceased…at least publicly!

Lesson #6:  When people show you they are! Believe them! (did you see the tweets too?)

No, my goal with this post was not to slam anyone (she and her buddy successfully accomplished that all by themselves).  Those of you who know me and my brand, you know I am all education, empowerment and excellence, I love to help others reach their career aspirations, which it why I take an interest in “addressing misguided information”.   My goal with this post is educate on the importance of monitoring our electronic footprints.  Time and again, we have been warned that things we put in writing can become public documents – - and they can be very damaging!

So for all of you looking to break into the world of speaking, YES there are rules in EVERY industry, but you still have room to create your own path and blaze your own trail!  You do not have to be confined to a box and shipped wherever people decide to send you (speaking bureaus…well some).   And yes, set your own rules which include telling people, “bump industry standards, and pay me my damn money!”

I learned from the trip to West Virginia that I am responsible for getting my money on my terms, but if I don’t establish what they are, I’m likely to never get them (or get them over a period of 6 months, as that’s how long it look for me to get all of the $5,000 owed to me).  I learned from last night’s tweetchat, that when people are slinging poop, just sit there and observe, but don’t tell them the poop stinks and or you might get hit!

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