Category Archives: Musings

Sold by the box.

I honestly lost count. Fifteen? Maybe twenty. But cut me a break — I mean there was fit, color, style, function, price, and retailer. Let’s not even get into brand. Hunting a new pair of dress oxfords was hardly my idea of fun.

But one pair got me. Upon trial, they certainly seemed closer to right than any of the others. That helped. The thing is, it wasn’t the only reason I swiped my card.

At the bottom of the shoebox laid a manifesto. My feet were busy thinking, so I took a moment to read it.

In those few seconds, I forgot my feet, and I forgot shoes. My imagination flipped on, and my head went to another place, to another thought, to another feeling. No other pair had encouraged such departure. With each previous, my focus remained fastened to the shoe from lace-up to “no thanks”.

Without that little head-trip, would I have purchased on product alone? Maybe so. But the imaginative journey undoubtedly facilitated a simpler, quicker, and more confident decision to buy.

Is your marketing escorting imaginations or blocking them? Here’s what I know. The product I bought shared similar features to a lot of products I denied. Only the product I bought sparked a vision.

Meet the Interrobang

One of the greatest aspects of being a writer is the creative latitude you magically attain when you receive your writing license in the mail (<- see?). In all seriousness, what’s appealing about writing is the fluidity of the English language.

Each year more words are added to dictionaries and it’s often a big news occasion. So while some unfortunate words are emblazoned on the vernacular until eternity (I cannot bear to link to twerk), we get useful new ones like hackable, food coma and protoplanet.

Punctuation even gets a little jolt every now and again, too. Ever heard of an interrobang? You mean you haven’t?! An interrobang is just perfect for those applications that call for a question mark but also demand the emphasis of an exclamation point. Thus, interrobang.

In the olden days of typesetting, some type families contained a unique glyph: the two different marks superimposed upon each other. Today, we just type them out side by side and I kinda dig it in the proper application.

What do you mean there’s no bacon left?!

Why haven’t you sponsored our bowling team yet?!

When is use of the font Papyrus ever okay?!

One of the most enjoyable things about writing is the vastness of your available canvas. It’s an endlessness that permeates the profession from finished product to tools to medium.

Language is in a constant state of evolution. How cool is that?!

Simply Brilliant: theSkimm

With so much information flying around, it pays to communicate clearly and simply—whatever your forum. For my money, nobody does it better than theSkimm.

Founded by NBC staffers Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, theSkimm is a daily e-digest of the world’s most important news stories, offered in bite-size, easy-to-digest chunks. The subscription base is largely “busy women who want to keep up on current events and cocktail party conversation but who are short on time,” although I suspect a broad male readership exists.

Here is how theSkimm covered the situation in Ukraine today:

Sign up for theSkimm here. Or at a minimum, let theSkimm’s straightforward writing style inspire your next piece of communication.

Your customers will thank you.

Five Things We Learned While Watching the Oscars

On Sunday night, a few of us WECO folk (and 43 million other viewers) gathered around the television for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. In the midst of our appreciation of the cinematic arts, Jared Leto’s age-defying appearance (he’s 42, just by the way), and the frivolity of awards seasons, I’d like to think we learned a few things.

1. At the Oscars, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Or, at least, a free ad.  

Halfway through the rather lengthy ceremony, host Ellen Degeneres joked that attendees must be starving. She then brought out three pizzas from LA-based pizzeria Big Mama’s & Papa’s. While Brad Pitt passed out paper plates and stars rummaged through their pockets to rustle up tip money for the bewildered-looking delivery boy, Coke enjoyed a bit of free advertising. Although Pepsi replaced Coca-Cola as this year’s exclusive non-alcoholic beverage sponsor of the Oscars, all three pizza boxes prominently bore the Coca-Cola logo. Ad Age reports that PepsiCo has “brought the situation to ABC’s attention” and the network is “investigating the incident.” I’d like to think that, somewhere, there’s a caffeine-fueled Pepsi exec throwing a Wolf of Wall Street-sized temper tantrum.

2. When Ellen talks, people tweet.

Ellen DeGeneres broke Twitter. Well, not really. But, after she asked Oscars viewers to retweet a photo of her surrounded by a dozen Hollywood A-listers, over 3 million people did just that. The increased

photo-sharing traffic even caused a “brief service issue” for Twitter. In a later portion of the televised event, Ellen gleefully announced that the website had temporarily crashed because of her request. She then added, “We really just made history. We’re all winners tonight.” Even Twitter. According to Bloomberg News, the temporary disruption brought the microblogging site “tons of publicity.”

3. Straw Poll: Our entire office has a crush on Lupita Nyong’o. You should too.

Resplendent in a custom pale blue Prada gown, Lupita Nyong’o took the stage after winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave. In an acceptance speech both humble and triumphant, Nyong’o captured our hearts and earned our respect as an actress and artist. Watch her speech here, then click over for The Atlantic’s assessment of her perfection.

4. John Travolta is bad at names. Just ask Idina Menzel.

After John Travolta butchered the pronunciation of singer Idina Menzel’s first and last name, he “created a new standard for superstardom: You’re no one until you’ve had your name mangled by a confused, squinting John Travolta.” So says Slate magazine, whose name garbling widget has gained major traction on Facebook and other social media outlets. Try it here.

5. And, in fifteen years, Jennifer Lawrence will be a dead ringer for Hillary Clinton. Biopic in the making: 



Making PR Magic

While much of the nation was under snow last week, I had the fortune of spending the week in beautiful and sunny Orlando, Florida attending the PRConsultants Group conference, our annual gathering of senior-level PR professionals from around the country.

When we originally booked our conference hotel within the Walt Disney World Resort Area last year, we were told that they would be in the process of converting from the Royal Plaza Hotel to a new property, the B Resort. Renovations were expected to be completed by the time our group arrived, but as anyone who has ever built or renovated their home knows, construction doesn’t always happen on our personal timelines. As our conference approached, it became evident that they were a bit behind schedule. (The hotel is now slated for a grand opening in the summer of 2014.)

Since it would have been terribly difficult to find another location to suit the needs of our group on such short notice, the hotel agreed to accommodate us, with the understanding that they were in “soft opening” mode. You had to feel for them. They had potentially the worst set of critics around – a group full of outspoken PR people with extensive experience in event management and logistics, and national media contacts to boot.

What began as tempered expectations were quickly turned around and sustained throughout our stay by a staff that was committed to exceptional customer service and hospitality. From the moment each guest arrived to the moment we left, the staff went above and beyond to make us feel extra special. They were friendly, welcoming and accommodating. Their willingness to solve problems and to find quick resolutions to minor inconveniences demonstrated not only a customer-focused culture, but also a leadership team that empowered their employees to pursue any idea or remedy that would make our stay better.

Here are just a few examples of how they ensured that we had an experience that we would be proud to share:

  • Their culinary staff served a cooked-to-order breakfast and provided complimentary snacks, including custom-designed cookies.
  • They ordered and assembled stylish furniture for the lobby so that we would have somewhere to congregate in the evenings.
  • They arranged with nearby hotels for the use of pools and fitness rooms.
  • When winter weather along the east coast threatened some guests’ travel plans, they offered to accommodate anyone impacted by canceled flights.
  • When a staff member overheard one of our members lamenting a sore throat, he prepared a special, soothing “homemade recipe” with cucumbers and tonic water.
  • Minor maintenance issues were resolved within minutes, including one repairman who provided a guest with his name and personal extension in the case of further concerns.
  • Most notably, the general manager asked us to serve as a “test guest group” and report to him directly any suggestions that would be helpful for future travelers. It made us feel that our opinions mattered, and gave us the satisfaction of knowing that our input would help future hotel guests have an even better experience than we did.

In the end, this property created 40 ambassadors who came away feeling impressed, relaxed, pampered and appreciated. The PR value was immeasurable. The cost of making it right was priceless.

In a culture that is so resigned to bad customer service, shouldn’t we all shine the spotlight on those who go above and beyond? Share your stories of great customer service in the comments section below!