Timing is Everything

I just received an e-blast from a major New York steakhouse with the subject line, “Need a drink?” Um, it’s 10:00 a.m., so the answer to that questions is “no.” hurricane

Obviously the steakhouse is advertising a new cocktail promotion but at this hour of the morning, people are still on their first or second cup of coffee. An email like that should not be distributed until late afternoon when most people’s work days are winding down. Messages need to be timed accordingly so audiences will read them at just the right moment. For my clients, I generally try to opt for 10 or 11 a.m. (when many are caught up and settled in at their desks), or after lunch.

I actually deleted the email from the steakhouse but decided to retrieve it to take a peek at the content….which brings me to my second point:

If you’re going to send an e-blast to customers, make it worth opening. Why not include a striking visual of the martini you’re promoting, or better yet, a happy couple sipping the martinis? When I opened this particular restaurant’s e-blast, it was simply a yellow banner with links to the restaurant’s social media pages. No imagery, no copy. Just lots of white space. That tells me that the steakhouse just threw the email out there; to send it just to send it. If you’re not going to make an effort to jazz up your content, how can customers be sure that you’re going to make an effort in the kitchen or at the bar? It’s just plain sloppy marketing.

My third and final point has to do with frequency. It drives me crazy when I receive too many e-blasts from one particular business or organization. In the case of the steakhouse, I get one a week, which in my opinion, is way too often for a restaurant. Eating and drinking establishments should save mass email distribution for special occasions, like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day menus, or Open Mike nights and poetry readings. In the case of nonprofits, you can get away with greater frequency (especially during end-of-year appeals, but even those emails should be spaced out accordingly). In each instance, messaging should target a different angle or program to vary the content and keep people reading.

Bonus point: Don’t forget about social media. Before drafting your e-blast, think about it: is this the right communication channel for this particular message? If you’re running a campaign, perhaps the information needs to go viral. In that case, social media is definitely the way to go. Using hashtags and tagging the appropriate contacts are surefire ways to drum up traffic and place you in the spotlight.

It’s Time for March Madness

Came across this Bloomberg article today about March Madness fueling employees’ productivity:


I tend to agree. If employees bond over office pools and brackets’ success, why should companies cry “foul” if their staff take a timeout to enjoy the madness? Camaraderie is a known morale and productivity-booster, so if participating in the annual pool or watching a few minutes of a game makes coming to work more fun, I say go for it. It’s a win-win!



Being in the Moment

John-Luther-3-luther-bbc-30683033-1024-768Yesterday I was leaving a client meeting in Dumbo, Brooklyn, when all of a sudden I stumbled onto the set of The Dark Tower, the movie adaptation of the popular Stephen King novels. As I watched the impressive set come together (the movie is scheduled to film in Dumbo all weekend), I decided to turn down a nearby street to keep investigating. Well, who do I see standing there but none other than Idris Elba in the flesh! Elba is starring in The Dark Tower along with Matthew McConaughey. He’s also known for playing the London copper John Luther on BBC’s Luther, one of my all-time favorite shows. Of course, I didn’t hesitate to tell him that!

In fact, I refused to curb any of my enthusiasm. I had run into a big TV/movie star completely unexpectedly in one of those great New York moments that you just don’t get in Iowa. The 92 degree day had gotten even hotter!

The way I approached Elba made his entourage chuckle. I lowered my sunglasses and said, “I am completely blown away to run into you Idris Elba. I am such a fan!” Mind you, I began my career in television so I’ve come across my fair share of celebrities over the years, but Elba has a star quality that you simply don’t see every day. He exudes charm and charisma, and of course, that sexy accent doesn’t hurt either! Hearing him say, “Thank you, sweetheart,” made my day. As for our handshake, let’s just say I didn’t wash my hand for several hours! I even blew him a kiss as I walked away, and I’m happy to say he blew one right back. It was a memorable encounter and a fabulous way to start the weekend.

Afterward, it dawned on me that perhaps I should go back and take a selfie with him.  However, seeing him with a bunch of people ready to go back on set, I decided I didn’t want to be too disruptive. I opted to soak up the moment, to enjoy the interaction and savor the memory that was created. I went the old school route. No iPhones, no Instagram, no hassling him to get the perfect two-shot. Just him and me havin’ a laugh and a handshake on a summer afternoon. That image doesn’t have to live on a phone; instead it’ll live in my mind and create a smile for years to come.




Getting Motivated on a Soggy Monday

cloudsToday I am blah-gging. Not blogging. Blah-gging. I, along with many it seems, have the Monday blahs. It’s been chilly and rainy all day, after a weekend that saw 60 mph wind gusts, thunderstorms, even snow in some places. Opening Day at Yankee Stadium? Ain’t happening today. Happy Spring…

Okay. Enough venting. So what to do when you’re a professional writer and you’re just not feeling it? Here are my top tips for staying motivated and lifting the clouds:

1. Martini in the Morning – No, I don’t mean drink a martini before Noon. I’m referring to the Internet radio station that cranks out lively tunes from classic crooners like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Listening to these playlists is sure to put some pep in your pen and brighten up your day. http://martiniinthemorning.com/

2.  #Connect – Before getting lost in Microsoft Word, try traveling the Twitterverse for awhile. Not only will you catch up on the latest news, chuckles and trending topics, it’ll give you a chance to shout-out your tweeps and see what they’ve been up to. And who knows? You may even find your next topic to write about.

3. Fuel your Productivity – If you’re aiming to complete your next great story, get into the groove with outside projects that will help build momentum and boost your productivity. Blogging is quite useful (hey, that’s what I’m doing right now!), since it organizes your thoughts and gets your creative juices flowing. Catching up on emails is another favorite of mine. Whether you’re reaching out to story contacts or cleaning out your inbox, the sense of accomplishment you feel can help trigger more motivation, inspiring you to gets those magical words out to make your story shine.

Leadership Lessons from NLDS Champions New York Mets


It takes more than great pitching to make a successful team, and the New York Mets are proof of that. Manager Terry Collins and Team Captain David Wright provide exemplary leadership while different heroes emerge every week (case in point, second baseman Daniel Murphy who’s homered in four consecutive playoff games). Murphy’s fist pumping and enthusiasm continue to inspire.

Off the field, different stories of teamwork emerge; stories that demonstrate a classy display of winning attitudes and flexibility essential for success. Veteran ballplayer Michael Cuddyer, who won the National League batting title in 2013, didn’t complain when rookie Michael Conforto began to see more playing time. “You still need to be ready to get that big hit at any time,” Cuddyer recently told the media. Last Saturday, the outfielder replaced Lucas Duda at first base, stepping up for the team in a different position – a move which Collins made with tact. Rather than blatantly stating the obvious (Duda hasn’t been producing runs), he explained that Cuddyer simply had more experience hitting against Cubs’ pitcher Jon Lester. Smooth.

Keeping players’ morale up seems to be a specialty of Collins. After Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday, he asked the slumping Wright how he was doing. Wright replied, “Now I suck, but I’m fine,” his inefficacy at the plate obviously getting to him. To motivate his third baseman, Collins keeps telling him, “Keep putting those good at-bats on because it’s going to happen.” Wanting the best for his team, Wright even volunteered to sit out Game 2. But Collins wasn’t having it.  He’s keeping Wright as the number two hitter in the Mets’ lineup.

Collins, like any successful leader, also knows that people make up the heart of your brand. In the Mets’ case, it’s the loyal fans who have stuck by their team through thick and thin. When the Mets’ clinched the NLDS last Thursday to advance to the NLCS to face the Chicago Cubs, Collins celebrated with Mets fans, including one elated fan who planted a kiss on Collins’ cheek.

To win, you have to spread the love with your staff and those who are committed to your brand. Judging by the Mets’ performance and the exuberance of long-suffering fans, that formula is working, with a trip to the World Series becoming one step closer with every win.

Let’s Go Mets.

(Photo credit: New York Mets Facebook Page) 

Finding the Light from a Dark Day in History


I remember it like it was yesterday. The confusion. The fear. The disbelief. The deep sadness.

Fourteen years later, those emotions still sneak to the surface while reading and watching the tributes that are pouring in. Sure, we try to go about our business like any other work day but the reality is – this is a very dark day in U.S., and especially New York’s, history.

Over the summer, I came across a couple from Pennsylvania who had never been to New York City but wanted to talk all about 9/11. “It’s a heavy topic for us New Yorkers,” I explained. “It was a terrible day for everyone.” That said, I think they caught my drift.

This past year, I worked on-site with a communications client of mine downtown. Given the office’s proximity to the 9/11 memorial, I often encountered tourists asking directions to get to it. While it’s important to remember the people we lost, tourists’ fascination with 9/11 and Ground Zero has always irked me. It’s as if the site simply got lumped together with all the other tourist attractions in NYC. Maybe it’s still too raw.

One thing I’ll never forget about that dark day is the deep ability to feel. Most of us (especially New Yorkers) get so caught up in the daily grind that we sometimes forget to absorb our feelings. 9/11 and the months that followed was truly an emotional time. Families on Good Day, New York holding up photos of lost loved ones; walking down the street and smelling burnt steel, depending on which way the wind blew. All of us were affected whether awake or asleep: recovery workers I knew had nightmares when they came home after working a shift on the bucket brigade.

On a positive note, I’ll always remember how New Yorkers banded together after the tragedy. We made eye contact on the street, we spoke to each other on the subway, we wore flag pins and yellow ribbons to remember the victims. Friends and family took on more meaning as we discovered how quickly you can lose the ones you love.

As we pause to reflect on this moving day, let us vow not to take things for granted. Be kind to one another, go the extra mile for someone if you can. Cherish the connections you have and make new ones. Appreciate the little things because as we all saw on that terrible day – life is just too short.

(Photos by Ben Sturner)

Know Your Selfie Etiquette

An image of women taking a selfie in front of the tragic East Village explosion has sparked outrage – and rightfully so. It’s just wrong and in the poorest taste possible.Selfie_NoNo

Unfortunately, instant clicks of a smartphone photo and vanity often lead to poor judgement. People become enthralled with being part of the action and need to share the moment with their friends and followers. But an accident scene? Really?

I witnessed the same lack of selfie etiquette a few weeks ago after a young man was hit by an R train at Union Street. As we evacuated the train, dozens of commuters were happily snapping photos of the incident. Luckily, a police officer on the scene began discouraging riders from taking pictures but not before the troubling images hit people’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

People need to think before they click. It’s as simple as that. Why would a particular image be worth sharing? What would people have to gain by seeing your selfie? Are you dining at a hot new restaurant? Celebrating your engagement? Did you just meet Brad Pitt? Okay, those kinds of selfies are acceptable.

People need to remember that selfies are meant to be social. It’s the “social” in social media. Just as singer Mat Kearney took a selfie with the audience at the New York concert I attended last week, or Ellen DeGeneres’ infamous Oscars’ selfie – selfies are meant to make people feel like part of an event; to promote bonding; a common experience (and of course, it doesn’t hurt marketing, either).

But when it comes to an accident site, there’s definitely nothing worth smiling over. Village Idiots, indeed.

Why Writing is Good for Your Health

When it comes to writing, you either have it or you don’t. Sometimes words and ideas flow better for some more than others. Whatever the level of your ability, you should never give up on the craft. Why? Put simply, writing is good for your health.

1. It’s a form of self-expression: You may try venting to friends and loved ones all you want, but with the short attention spans people seem to have these days, is your “audience” really listening? Perhaps there’s no better platform then a blank page – your very own space to express your innermost thoughts; to vent; to release the fears and toxins that eat away at you when others are too busy to notice. Whatever you write, you own it. With your thoughts now visible in black and white, people will listen (if you want them to). And if you don’t, your words can be a personal, therapeutic outlet for only you to see. keyboard

2. Writing leads to clarity: Whenever I’m completing multiple writing assignments, I tend to be sharper. I’m much more detail-oriented. Putting sentences and paragraphs together inspires organization and flow, allowing for greater focus. The more writing you do, the more your mind will always be working to come up with your next great accomplishment. Let writing be the fuel that your life runs on.

3. Writing keeps you connected: In the dead of winter (like now!), I often like to write to friends – whether it’s an email, tweet, or a Facebook message. And of course, with less people speaking on the phone these days, text messaging has more meaning than ever. We’re all guilty of longing to hear that wonderful ping alerting us to our replies. Thanks to smartphones, we have engagement at our fingertips, participating in conversations without physically uttering a word.

4. Finally, writing leads to action: By communicating your wants, your needs, your ideas, you’re giving yourself a voice; you’re making yourself heard, sharing information that leads to results. Writing is empowering and shouldn’t be dreaded. After all, that’s why spell-check was invented.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Yes, I do love Christmas and all the sparkly lights and Hallmark movies that come with it. But Thanksgiving is different. It’s an opportunity to turn yourself off and solely focus on what matters: friends and loved ones and great food! No rushing out to buy last minute Christmas presents; no balancing your gift budgets. It’s about rediscovering the art of conversation, catching up with siblings, watching football teams that play better than the embarrassing Jets and Giants! And a chance to use my oven and fill my fridge with food! (We single busy freelancers don’t get to do that too often!).

Thanksgiving is also a chance to reflect. As I writer, I know I’m thankful for a few things, including excellent spelling skills and a working Internet connection. But I’m also thankful for the lives I touch. When I write an employee recognition piece, there isn’t anything more satisfying than receiving a follow-up call or email from someone thanking me for acknowledging him/her. “I took the article home to show my family,” wrote one employee. “We read it at the dinner table.” That’s when you know your work really hits home – literally!

Recognizing that people like a pat on the back, let’s hope workers everywhere get thanks – and give thanks – this season. Here’s to slowing down and appreciating the little things in life during Thanksgiving, Christmas and beyond!cornucopia

When smartphones aren’t so smart

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about digital distractions in social settings. While texting dinner partners is still a common sight, I can’t help but notice the same behaviors taking place in business settings.

Enter a clothing store, the sales help are on Facebook. I’m at the gym, and the trainer is perusing Twitter while not one, but three clients are running on treadmills. Suppose one of the women had fallen or had become short of breath while the trainer’s head was down? Not only is that bad business etiquette, it’s just not safe.

I was dining in a restaurant recently and my friend failed to get the waiter’s attention because he was staring at his phone, no doubt on Facebook, or checking his texts. The restaurant wasn’t even busy – all he had to do was remain attentive to our table. But he was more interested in the contents on his screen – a smart phone, but a dumb move on his part. He is working for tips after all. And we haven’t been back since.

This brings me to my point – if you’re running a business establishment – a clothing store, a gym, a restaurant – you’d better make darn sure your employees are doing their jobs. If patrons feels ignored, it will impact your business. They will not be rushing back to give you any business.

If you’re a business owner or manager, it is important to establish digital guidelines for your staff from the get-go. You don’t necessarily have to ban electronic devices during work hours, but it is good practice to limit smartphone use. If you work in retail, check your phone during your break. If you’re a personal trainer, wait till after your sessions to check your messages.

While staff may be annoyed by the restrictions initially, they have to understand the bigger picture. If customers see they’re engaged, then they will be engaged. It’s as simple as that. Satisfied customers come back; unhappy ones take their business elsewhere.