Prince: The Man, The Music and The Media

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Everyone seems to have a favorite Prince song, a memorable concert or if you’re lucky, a piece of signed memorabilia.

My sister Sandra had an actual Prince moment. It was the 80s, around the time Purple Rain hit the airwaves and movie theaters.  Sandra was 20-something on vacation with some girlfriends. They headed to Hollywood and ended up at a hair salon on Rodeo Drive. While inside, they spotted Prince.

In her excitement, Sandra snapped a photo but not without his bodyguard noticing. He actually followed her out of the salon with who would become a multi-platinum-selling music legend who transcended genres and generations and demanded the camera. She, at first, resisted and then relinquished the camera. “Wait here,” said the body guard.

It was a camera that took film and needed to be developed. An hour later, he returned with her photos minus the ones she took of Prince.

I could only imagine how annoying it would be having people constantly take photos and videos of you every time you walk out of your house; but every celebrity at some point — regardless of the level of notoriety — needs to learn how to manage the media and engage the fans.

In 1985, the L.A. Times reported that two of Prince’s body guards were arrested after allegedly attacking two photographers who were trying to take pictures of the musician after his appearance at the American Music Awards.

His musical talent speaks for itself. The prolific artist put out roughly an album a year since 1978.

However, it is clear that back in 1980 when he was first starting out,  Prince needed some media training. He made his TV debut on American Bandstand and it took a talented host like Dick Clark to hold that conversation together.

Even though he went on to produce music that has made him a legend, he never really managed the fan attention or the media interest.

It was reported that days before he died a fan saw him riding his bike near her house. She captured it on video from her phone even though he made it clear he didn’t like it. This time, neither he nor a body guard demanded her footage.

Prince had a love/hate relationship with technology, media reported. He embraced some social media and was even tweeting days before he died but he never had a solid relationship with outlets that wanted to put out his music on the internet. It was reported that Prince steered clear of iTunes and, later, streaming music services for the better part of a decade. He eventually allowed some music on streaming services; as of today, you can only find one Prince album, Hit n Run Phase 2, on Apple Music.

Although he was a music trend setter, he was not trending in technology. Not much of his work can be found online. “It has been truly odd watching people try to figure out how to mourn Prince online, given the scarceness of his work in that arena,” wrote an editor of the Pitch.

A writer from the Slog penned, “It will be no secret to anyone that Prince guarded his copyrights very closely. He was not into YouTube, deplored file sharing, and was wary of the streaming services.”

It wasn’t just about the right to hold onto his product and make more money on it than internet companies, which I cannot say I disagree with at all, but it was really about a private man living a very public life.  A musician with a talent he obviously wanted to share but on his terms.  He shared the music and shielded his life.

He was a music legend but not exactly media accessible.

All celebrities have to figure out the balance between their public and private lives.  If I could narrow it down to one nugget, I would say this:  if you give them something, they won’t chase you for everything.

Although Prince left a music legacy, it is absent from the internet; it’s probably exactly how he preferred it.

However, he left fans to mourn without being able to easily find – in media outlets – the music and the memories of the man.


Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

The Incredibly Shrinking Newsroom

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

It is a decade-old saga that continues here in Metro Detroit — the incredibly shrinking newsroom. Three Detroit television reporters are just the latest causalities in the downsizing trend we have seen in news over the last decade. Soon to be off the air are Murray Feldman, Jason Carr and Lee Thomas; they are all leaving FOX 2 News, and it doesn’t appear to be a personal decision.

Contracts are up and they won’t be renewed, according to reports.

Feldman is FOX 2’s “money man.” He’s been reporting and anchoring at the station for 40 years. That’s longer than anyone currently on Detroit TV. Feldman anchors the 5:30pm news with Sherry Margolis. He also has his popular “Job Shop” and “Money Minute” segments.

The popular morning show “The Nine” will experience an overhaul once Carr and Thomas both feature and entertainment reporters —  vacate those anchor chairs.

This is not just about three known TV personalities being let go, it is reflective of what has happened with media today.  As content creators and communication strategists, we have helped clients build their own media platforms as a necessity to tell their stories.  As media changes, so does the entire communications industry including public relations professionals and media consultants.

The work of a media relations person has become more challenging as the newsroom shrinks in size and the resources for existing staff diminish.  You have to find your own voice in this noisy world and somehow be heard.

Websites, blogs, YouTube and social media sites have changed the landscape so that now businesses, thought leaders, organizations and institutes have a means to tell their stories and share their news. In this industry, it is about being strategic and purposeful.  Long gone are the days of writing a press release, sending it out on the wires and getting coverage.

It is not good enough to just have these platforms, you have to know how and when to use them — something journalist do well.  There is a reason people pursue degrees in this field and when you have 30 plus years of experience like Feldman, the knowledge is invaluable.

As the news industry continues to evolve into a smaller giant, we are challenged to get creative in the way we deliver our messages. We once spent most of our time building relationships with members of the media and now we have to spend our energy creating credibility in the media outlets our clients have established.  We cannot depend on the local and national news to share our news, we must share it ourselves – because as the newsrooms shrink, there is a growing challenge, for those who have a story to tell, in finding a way to tell it.

We are part of a long-time drama of the incredible shrinking newsroom, we are pressed to find the formula to fix the problem and grow in the industry once again.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Do You Have Netiquette?

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Email etiquette is vital in maintaining respect, decorum and relationships

A few years ago, I got into a very heated argument via email. After days of arguing with this particular person and more than two dozen emails later, I realized the dispute had escalated far beyond the original disagreement and all because we were communicating via email.

Everyone knows the 24 hour rule. If someone or something has really upset you, wait at least 24 hours to respond. Waiting to respond to an email that infuriates you is also good advice. You may not have to wait 24 hours but don’t be too quick to hit the send button, either.

One of the most critical skills of someone who communicates via email is to have proper netiquette (email etiquette). Many of us can recall incidences when we have been misunderstood or we have misunderstood an email that someone has sent to us. There are tips for effective email communication. I share with you my top ten Netiquette rules.

  1. Never respond to an email when you are upset. Wait at least an hour. Try going for a walk to relax.
  2. If you draft an email while still angry, save it first and then re-read it an hour or so later. You might change your mind.
  3. Flaming is foolish. Always be respectful. Do not swear or name call in an email. You will regret it later.
  4. Because we lack body language in an email, which is more than 75 percent of how we communicate, the use of symbols is appropriate as long as it is not overdone. You can express emotion using J or LOL.
  5. Avoid Sarcasm. It is lost via email. This could escalate into a much more serious disagreement if you do not explain your tone in an email.
  6. Use “chunking”. Do you not write in one long paragraph; instead, separate ideas into small paragraphs.
  7. Re-read the email that angered you a few times before you respond to make sure you are not misunderstanding what the person is saying to you.
  8. No matter how upset you are, still address the person by his name and not by a name you want to call him.
  9. Use proper English and grammar. Use spell check. This will help maintain a proper level of respect.
  10. Approach the email with the intent of bringing peace and solving the problem and not with the desire to fight.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Strategically Networking At The Mackinac Policy Conference

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

When I went to the Mackinac Policy Conference for the first time as a reporter for WJR in the 1990s, I learned an invaluable networking lesson that has stayed with me ever since.

Know how to network and develop relationships.

It was my second time at the Policy Conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The first time I went, I was as an editor of a Health Care Business Magazine.

The first night on the island — before the cocktail hour started on the porch of the Grand Hotel — my News Director – Dick Haefner – told me that the event was the best networking event I would ever attend calling it “the networking event of the year.”

Paraphrasing, he also said, pretty much every source I needed for the year was on Mackinac Island so don’t leave without collecting and handing out as many business cards as possible.

I have been doing just that ever since.

I have lost count with how many Policy Conferences I have attended in the professional positions I have held in the last 20 plus years but I think I have only missed two or three.

I have expanded on my news director’s suggestion, however.

Every night when I get back to my hotel room, I make note of who I met, what we talked about and I write personal notes to those people that I mail from home.

I also follow up via email and ask if they mind being on my newsletter list or if they would like information on communication strategies or public relations?

Most people are very receptive. I also tell them if they ever tire of the newsletter, feel free to unsubscribe, and my feelings would not be hurt.

Since 2010, I have attended as both publisher of The Chaldean News and as Founder of Denha Media Group. In both capacities, I still report about the conference. I am using both traditional media and social media to engage the audience. I have also produced news packages about the event for the student journalism program Youth Neighborhood News.

I always meet new people and see old acquaintance; I have picked up some clients as well.

Like my former boss said, it is still the best networking event of the year. As tough as it is for a small business owner to be away from the office for a few days following a holiday, it is still the most important networking event I attend every year.

I have learned over the years that if you go to the island with a strategy, you will get the most out of the event.

I share with you 10 important networking strategies.

  1. Make a List. The hundreds attendees are people who you might never get to meet otherwise. So it is essential that you are strategic. This event is a perfect opportunity to meet future clients or collaborators. At some point, the Chamber usually releases a list of attendees or you might have a copy of the previous year. So read it and highlight those people you want to meet most.
  2. Have an Agenda: You should know what you want to accomplish. What speakers you want to hear and what panel discussion most interests you? What are you hoping to learn and take home from the conference? Know that before you go.
  3. Create the Conversation Starter: In marketing you learn about the 30 second elevator pitch. In networking, it is not much different. And social media can help. The Chamber is social media savvy so take advantage of it; download the APP of the 2016 Conference and review it regularly. Follow the Chamber on Twitter @DetroitChamber and like the page on Facebook, Look at the hashtag conversations about the event. Read about the speakers and discussions going on and make note of who you want to meet and what you might want to discuss. Although people are more relaxed on the island than at work, they are still busy and have an agenda. So create a 30 second pitch or a conversation starter using content that has already been created.
  4. Follow Up: As I mentioned above, exchange business cards and have a plan to follow up with each person after the conference. Maybe schedule coffee or a lunch. In the past, I have invited people to other events or made sure to seek them out at another Chamber event.
  5. Communicate It: Use social media to share what you are experiencing and learning at the Conference. Use the hashtags created for the events and tag various people in your posts. Add photos and quick videos to the post as well.
  6. Research the Speaker: On my drive up north to the 2014 Policy Conference, I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s books on CD to learn more about him. He was one of the main attractions that year. I enjoyed learning more about him before I heard him speak. Read about the speakers before you attend. Perhaps you can seek them out and ask your own questions.
  7. Dress for Island Success: Most people are business casual and you can sport your personal style without being unprofessional. However, I have seen a fashion fiasco or two over the years. Always look professional even sans the tie for men or skirts and dresses for women— popular attire at the Grand Hotel.
  8. Smile: It may seem simple and silly but it is true — people are drawn to those who smile. Scientist and spiritual teachers agree that the simple act can transform you and the world around you. Current research shows that a smile is contagious and the act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.
  9. Let Your Body Talk: In additional to smiling, your entire body communicates even when you don’t utter a word. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7 percent of any message is conveyed through words, 38 percent through certain vocal elements, and 55 percent through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). Although research varies, it is safe to say that nonverbal communication ranges from 60 to 90 percent. Look in the mirror and ask yourself, do I look confident? Do I appear professional? Am I approachable?
  10. Relax and Enjoy: The greatest thing about the Policy Conference is relaxing in a gorgeous setting. Every year I stand on the porch of the Grand Hotel looking at Lake Huron while breathing in that up north fresh air and somehow the stresses of the day disappear. When you are relaxed, you are more engaging. If you need help, Lila Lazarus has brought Yoga to the Conference, which will enhance your relaxing experience. Check out the Mackinac Policy Conference APP for more details.

Make the most out of the Mackinac Policy Conference by creating that networking strategy.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Resolving To Communicate Ethically

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Why not resolve to communicate with ethics, integrity and honesty and surround yourself with people who do the same?

Many professions, including the two I have spent my career in — Journalism and Public Relations — have codes of ethics. There is value in reminding yourself of these codes on a yearly or somewhat regular basis. If you have never read the code of ethics in your profession, it may be a good time to do so.

In life, how we communicate is a reflection of who we are as professionals and human beings. I make a concerted effort to watch and analyze how people communicate in meetings, negotiations and in the media. Sometimes it’s not about what they say but how they say it.

On a regular basis, I make it a priority to maintain my integrity, ethics and trust of my friends, family and clients. I have read both the codes of ethics in the Public Relations and Journalism fields this past year and I will most likely read them again before the year is over.

There are signs to look out for and make note of when communicating with others. Here are a few:

  1. Does the person avoid answering a question? If so, beware. This is something I have experienced and learned as a reporter. I ask many questions and when the answers are vague, the subject changed or the answer has nothing to do with the question, make note. The person may be hiding something.
  2. Does the person avoid eye contact? If so, beware. If he cannot look you in the eye, he may have an underlying issue. Body language is more than 70 percent of our communication. We can assess a person minutes into meeting him or her. Good eye contact means that his or her eyes are steady and direct all throughout the conversation.
  3. Is the person consistent in his or her claims? If not, beware. It is difficult to maintain a lie without continuing with more lies. If this is someone you have an on-going relationship with — be it personal or professional — or have regular contact with, over time you can assess the consistency in his messaging.
  4. Does the person raise her voice? If so, beware. The loudest in the room doesn’t necessarily mean the winner in the room. Sometimes when someone loses her temper or raises her voice, it may be a sign of defense or that she is being evasive or trying to avoid the truth from coming out. She may know she did something wrong and is trying to get you to back off by getting out of control.
  5. Does the person use sarcasm or humor often? This is very tricky. Some people are sarcastic and/or very funny. If this person uses sarcasm and humor often in meetings or daily conversation, he may be trying to put on a show. He wants you to focus on his supposed wit or jovial personality and not the content of his speech. Focus on what he is really saying and not so much on how he is acting.
  6. Does the person make excuses or blame others? If so, beware. We all make excuses from time to time but someone who cannot take responsibility for his own actions when questioned about something may be hiding shortcomings, failures, inadequacies or vulnerability. A person with integrity owns up to his responsibilities.
  7. Does the person hog the spotlight? If so, beware. If someone is not giving credit where credit is due, this is a person you want to be very careful around. She is trying to downplay her own failures and shortcomings. In fact, when someone takes credit for the work of others, we need to make a point to acknowledge the person who deserves the credit and downplay the spotlight hog. This year, you may resolve to focus on always acting with integrity, ethics and honesty and at the same time, surround yourself with people who are making the same effort. If you notice that you are socializing with or doing business with people who show signs of lacking integrity, ethics and honesty, you may want to find ways to limit your contact or sever ties completely. No relationship is worth keeping if it is based on lies and distrust.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group.

Stop The Verbal Vomiting

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

After I premised the topic and introduced the guest, I started the interview on my public affairs show with, “Tell me about this event.” The guest on the other end of the line proceeded not only to tell me about the upcoming community event, but also about the history of the organization, the people they help, the money they have raised and all of their future events. Ten minutes into the interview, I began to think of the listeners flipping the station.

He was verbally vomiting all over my show.

I asked the first question and he answered about six in that 10-minute span. He barely took a breath and, in order for me to ask a second question and take back the show, I had to interrupt him. He was obviously knowledgeable about his topic, but he was ignorant when it came to being interviewed.

Most people need media training before they do any interviews, especially live broadcast shows — TV or radio.

The two equally frustrating guests for any host are the one who gives little information and the one who gives way too much. A bad interview will almost guarantee the producer or reporter will never schedule you as a guest or call you as an expert source.

You want to communicate with confidence, creatively and while being concise. Here are some simple tips to avoid spewing out your message:

  1. You should give around 60-second answers to each question. If you want to include a story to drive that message, keep it short.
  2. Practice answering every question you think the host or reporter might ask and record your answers so you can listen back.
  3. Have a friend or colleague interview you first using a recorder.
  4. Write out answers, but do NOT read answers. Only write to get your thoughts on paper. When you answer the questions during the interview, it should sound like a conversation, not a rehearsed show.
  5. Know everything about the company, program, event, etc. that you are promoting. Dead air is not an option. Come to the interview with more information than you think you will need.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Just Apologize and Avoid Running Into A Communication Crisis

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

I have come to the realization that we live in an extremely forgiving society, if you would just admit your mistakes and apologize.

So why do so many people struggle with the “I’m sorry?”

Public figures — especially — need to understand the basics of crisis communication. When you make a mistake, you need to apologize, fix it and move on.

Here we have two elected officials who have found themselves in the proverbial “hot water” because of bad judgments and bad behavior. One apologizes and the other does not.

Following President Obama’s State of the Union address, in a Capitol office, a New York reporter was interviewing Congressman Michael Grimm. Apparently, the New York Republican became very angry when asked about an investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising activities, so he threatened to throw the reporter, Michael Scotto, off a balcony.

Less than 48 hours later, Grimm apologized to Scotto. In a statement, he said he was wrong and let his emotions get the better of him. Grimm noted that Scotto accepted the apology and the two planned to have lunch in the near future.

This story goes away. In the world of journalism, it has no legs.

Then there is Detroit City Council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry, Jr., who appears to have gotten “special treatment” when police pulled him over in January.

Cushingberry said he’d been pulled over for “driving while black,” but, according to police reports, Cushingberry stopped his vehicle after being pulled over, but then attempted to start it again. At that point, an officer reached into the vehicle, grabbed the keys and noticed a strong smell of marijuana.

Officers also spotted a half cup of alcohol and an empty rum bottle in the backseat. He had just left the Penthouse Lounge in Detroit. However, police never determined if he was under the influence, as he was not given a sobriety test.

As for the weed in the car, Cushingberry said his passenger has a medical marijuana card. The liquor bottle, he said, was old.

Even though he did not face charges, the incident turned into an ongoing story and left a stain on an already soiled city.

Instead of apologizing like a professional should, he fought back. Days later, the story continued with Fox 2 reporter M.L. Elrick being pushed into a wall by Detroit police at the time Cushingberry arrived at a city council meeting.

A video clearly shows the officers clearing a path for Cushingberry, while pushing Elrick aside, and Cushingberry walks by without even glancing over.

If only Cushingberry had left his ego at the door, apologized for the initial incident, taken responsibility for his actions and moved on, the story would have ended. In fact, if he had done the right thing following the initial incident, Elrick most likely would not have showed up to city council.

The story would have had no legs.

Instead, his arrogance and ignorance turned a one-day story into an ongoing saga.

Yet again, we have an elected leader failing to say, “I’m sorry.” In the process, he gets no forgiveness, no sympathy and no respect.

Now, for a story that shouldn’t have any legs, the marathon continues.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Digging Up The Buried Content That Tells Your Story

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

When it comes to messaging and marketing, it’s all about the content. You have to know your story but sometimes that valuable information is hidden. So start looking in all your files for that data.

Here are some strategies for creating and reusing that content.

Repurpose it!

When is the last time you took inventory of your content and thought of ways to repurpose it? You may have articles, memos, notes and reports buried in files on your desktop or drawers that can be used to promote your business or service.

As an agency focused on strategic communications and content, we are always looking at information clients have that could be repackaged to help elevate their image and branding.

The content can be used in blogs, social media posts, newsletters and videos.

Blog It!

With steak, it is all about the sizzle. The same goes for content. Founder Vanessa Denha Garmo participated in a webinar with “Marketing Monsoon” Jayne Burch about creating content that sizzles. Our expertise is on being a content-driven communications company that helps our clients craft their stories and market their messages.

Survey It!

Sometimes you have to figure out where you are to know where you are going. This past month, we created surveys for three of our clients so they can better gauge their membership, supporters and clients. We assess the results and report back to our clients so they are aware of where they stand today. We also use the information as part of our communications strategy and content creation.

Record It!

Denha Media has produced a variety of videos for clients. Marketing videos are valuable tools with long shelf lives that can tell your story.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group.

Give Me A Social Media Minute, Please

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

That’s all it really takes to get involved in social media — just a few minutes to participate on social media sites. You do not have to be on Facebook for hours at a time for your messaging to be effective. Engaging on social media not only helps with branding, but it also enhances your marketability in the industry.

There are simple ways to start using social media to promote your company and brand your business. Tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest and blogging are promotional techniques anyone can use.

According to experts, Facebook remains the most popular social media site, with 83 percent of posts being shared, and Pinterest was the fastest growing in 2012.

■ Start with one social media site and use it for at least three months regularly before you start another site. Experts list Facebook as the number-one site today. It has millions of members and will help with your website traffic if you use it correctly.

■ You’ll want to start with a “friend page” for you as an individual, and then create a business page for your business. Keep them separate. What you post on one page may not work on the other. This will help brand your business.

■ Carve out the appropriate time every week to update your social media tools. You need only about 15 minutes a day to post on social media and engage others on the sites.

■ Write messages that will promote your business, services or products in an engaging way that offers people useful information. Perhaps you can give them tips or ideas.

■ Use social media tools to drive people to your website by writing blogs on your site and teasing the blogs by using a quick sound bite or quote like statement with a link to your site on Facebook or with Twitter.

■ Use visuals appropriately to tell your story. People love photos. If you are going to post something about a product or service, upload a picture to go with the message.

■ Build your network of friends that will positively affect your business by liking and commenting on other people’s posts. This will engage the friends of your friends and perhaps get them interested in your business.

■ When you are at an event, tweet about it and find out what the # (hash) tag is so you can participate in the conversation everyone is in.

■ Monitor what others are doing on social media sites and see what seems to work and what doesn’t.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

Quotable Quotes and Sound Soundbites

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

When I worked in radio, I spent a significant amount of time sifting through interviews searching for the sound bite. In print journalism, it’s the quote. When you are being interviewed, it is important to stay on message. Don’t let the reporter get you off track or don’t go on a tangent about something completely unrelated. A reporter’s time is valuable and in today’s immediate news demands, they have less time than ever to spend interviewing people.

However, giving a good quote or sound bite means you have to say something new, compelling — something that stands out and gets attention.

Decades later, politicians across the country still quote John F. Kennedy, “don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” And, Neil Armstrong, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Now, maybe your quote won’t stand the test of time but it could determine whether you are part of a story.

Many interviewees will know a head of time that a reporter will ask those questions and they often know the subject matter so, think of a metaphor or quick anecdote to illustrate your point. Sometimes case studies will help the reporter take a closer look at a problem you may have solved.

Often in political speeches, the elected official will point to a constituent in the audience to make reference to something positive that is happing in the Country, State, County or City. Their stories help tell your story.

When I worked on the annual State of the County address for the Wayne County Executive, I wrote various versions of the same point to create a sentence that was quotable. One that I remember is a version of something I wrote for him that I still use today in my verbiage, “The plans we make today will determine how we live tomorrow.”

Remember, you have a message to deliver to the public and your quote will emphasize that message. The message is the overall picture and the quote is a short and to the point statement that will drive that message forward.

What you don’t want to say during an interview no matter how challenging the question is “no comment” or worse yet, end an interview or walk away in the middle of the interview. Don’t tell the reporter a question is stupid. Off the record statements should be used sparingly and avoid making offensive comments.

When you are coming up with ideas, jot down quotable quotes, antidotes, memorable moments and a quick story. Make sure they enhance or add to the overall message. If you want to be remembered or at the very least, quoted in a story then think about what you want to say first.

In the early 1960s, a civil rights activist made a declaration in front of millions of people and every year on his birthday we are reminded of that statement: “I have a dream”

A good quote is worth repeating. So, work on the quotable quotes and sound soundbites before you do any interview.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is founder of Denha Media Group

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