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.

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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.

Finding the Light from a Dark Day in History

Sept10_Rainbow

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)