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A Minute of Research Can Save You an Hour of Headaches – and Maybe Even Your Company

A Minute of Research Can Save You an Hour of Headaches – and Maybe Even Your Company

Mary Mickel and Ali Slutsky are two Texas PR professionals who wanted to start an agency specializing in the hospitality and restaurant industry. They named their new venture Strange Fruit – a title that’s also shared by Billie Holiday’s iconic song about the lynching of African-Americans.

The outrage on Twitter was immediate and widespread. To say the criticism was scathing was an understatement. During a time of heightened racial tension throughout the country, many said, to name your agency after a song that talked about the very worst parts of our history was grossly insensitive.
For a short period of time, Mickel and Slutsky, who are both white, tried to defend their company’s name. It was chosen, they said, in an effort to celebrate the unique culinary professionals they represent. In fact, their initial responses said, the name was progressive, inclusive, and celebrating all types of people.

The problem with this position is that as individual organizations, we don’t get to dictate what words or phrases mean to a larger community. This is particularly true when those words are evocative of deeply painful historical incidents. The lynchings that Billie Holiday sang about were not abstract once-upon-a-time stories to the Black community. These are the real life murders of husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, brothers and sisters – beloved by their family, friends, and communities. The suggestion that this could all be glossed over to serve the commercial interest of a PR agency is deeply offensive – and it’s also not a secret.

We live in a Google-enabled world. Mickel and Slutsky admitted to checking out the Strange Fruit name online, to ensure no other company had claimed it already – but that, apparently, was where their research stopped. This was a big mistake. Devoting just a little more time to reading would have revealed, one hopes, the unsuitability of the Strange Fruit name.

Twitter users proved to be more than adept at articulating their point of view. Within a very short time, the company that was founded to create positive buzz found itself in the middle of a full blown PR crisis. Mickel and Slutsky have announced that they will change the name of their business.

All of this could have been avoided. Doing research before you act, rather than after, is always a good idea. Remembering that we live in a global world, where history is more than a dusty series of facts trapped in a textbook and is instead real stories that happened to real people, and where words have meanings that transcend their literal definitions. There’s a reason we don’t see businesses named Final Solution, after all – and we shouldn’t see any named Strange Fruit, either.

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Creative Director/Senior Designer

Tom DiGrazia

With over a decade and a half of professional design experience, Tom brings his knowledge of design principles and focus on user experience to every aspect of his contribution to TTG. Paying special attention to each client’s brand, personalized needs and individual interests, he strives to create compelling concepts utilizing intuitive and highly-refined design solutions. In addition to traditional and digital design work and oversight at TTG, Tom also boasts a wide portfolio of web development projects with the company, allowing him to stretch his CSS and HTML skills across multiple platforms and disciplines. He feels that being a designer in the digital landscape of websites, eCommerce solutions, email marketing platforms and social media, it is important to understand the code that goes into these areas as it assists his ability to tailor designs specifically targeted to achieve the best end result and further builds understanding and communication with backend development teams.

In his off hours, Tom is an avid pop culture enthusiast, staying up to date on the latest shows, films, comics and games. He can also typically be found taking part in a whole host of artistic activities that help him further stretch his creative legs. Regardless of the activity, Tom is always accompanied by his dog, Eli, and his cat, Tib.

Design, Photography, Illustration, Digital Imagery Manipulation, Wesbite Development

Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Lightroom, HTML/CSS, Wordpress


Courtney Dumont

As Senior Marketing Strategist & Analyst at Technology Therapy Group, Courtney is energized by the ability to flex both her left and right brain daily. Courtney discovered her passion for Marketing at Bryant University, where she spearheaded research on students’ perceptions of Social Media Marketing for her Honors Capstone Project. After graduating Bryant in 2012, she joined the Technology Therapy team, where she’s honed her skills in social media, search and social advertising, email marketing, SEO, and more.

Since joining the team, Courtney has created digital marketing strategies and managed campaigns for clients across the country, ranging from plastic surgery centers, to jewelry stores, to construction companies. With a cohesive, cross-channel approach and a focus on data-driven decision making, she has increased their leads by up to 217%. But Courtney doesn’t leave her zeal for social media at the office; she also runs a local foodie Instagram account with her husband to document their meals across Rhode Island and beyond. Check them out: @hoppilyfed.

Marketing Strategy, Data Analysis, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Social Media

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