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Reflections on slavery this Passover

Image source here.

I hate most museums. They make the past seem old and dead.

Reality is that history is alive. It is true that we do the same things over and over again.

Till we learn. Till we grow.

Passover is the holiday that commemorates G-ds liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.

It's not ancient history and it's not dead at all.

All around the world, people of every faith are still enslaved.

  • Physically - by oppressive regimes. By organized criminals. By dictators. By human traffickers. By the need to earn a living in difficult, even despotic conditions.
  • Emotionally - by the mental models they've constructed based on past mistreatment, even abuse.
  • Spiritually - by the false beliefs they have, or the inability to believe in anything, because they haven't felt connected to the Eternal.

Think about how you are a slave this Passover. What are you doing for no other reason than that somebody else is forcing you? How can you break free of that?

This year let's free the slaves. All the slaves. Including ourselves.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, and peaceful holiday.

Toward a 10-Step Project Management Framework for the Crisis-Addicted

Crises are so fun, aren’t they? They give us that little “high,” after all…but they are no way to live. Especially when you have to track numerous projects of varying kinds.

I know there is a huge literature out there on project management, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to reach creative professionals all that often. Maybe because we’d rather spend our time being creative than thinking about this stuff.

Therefore I offer a really really simple approach. I am hoping that others build on this so that we can ultimately “open-source” what should be a side process that enables us to focus on the work we’re getting paid for.

Maybe the most important result that I am hoping for is that project management becomes a part of our vocabulary. Just like we get that outreach should ideally be subsumed under a larger brand

I did the best I could to make this visually interesting, but if it looks childish – at least you’re reading it right?

P.S. This framework is my own and not endorsed by anyone. At least not yet.

Step 1: Recognize (That A Project Is Knocking At The Door - Before You Accept It)

1. Confidential
2. Crisis
3. Event
4. Campaign
5. Standalone (can be part of a series, like a publication)


Don’t make a move. No working! Nothing happens till the project is justified and tracked.

Step 2: Justify

• Is this necessary?
• What priority level does it have?
• Do we have staff and resources to carry it out?
• If not, who will provide?

Step 3: Document

• Determine the project scope. What will “completed work” look like? Keep it very specific.
• Assign a tracking number (see coding system per project type)


How Coded


Blanket code – e.g. “001”


Blanket code + topic – e.g. “002-Flooding”


Blanket code + category tag + topic – e.g. “003-Speech-Shoelaces”


Blanket code + topic (e.g. “004-Benefits Open Season”)


Blanket code + category tag + topic, if applicable – e.g. “005-Regular Newsletter-Benefits”

• Decide who will lead and staff the project
• Determine milestones and deadlines
• Write all this down and have the customer sign off on it.

OK, now you can really go.

Step 4: Do the Work

• Tracking number provided to customer
• Project lead name provided to customer
• Status checks
• Scope/schedule readjustments

Step 5: Delivery #1 – Review & Adjust Internally

Step 6: Delivery #2 - Review & Adjust With Customer

Step 7: Delivery #3 – Review & Adjust "All Together Now"

Step 8: Delivery – Final

• Internal and External stakeholders present
• Final feedback solicited from all
• Final adjustments made/plans finalized

Step 9: Action - Rollout, Launch, Kickoff, Distribution, Event Held, etc.

Step 10: After-Action Review

• Obtain feedback from customer
• Note in job tracking system that project is closed

Project management is a tough discipline. But in the end it is worth it.

Break the rules and you'll find short-term reward. Sure you may please the customer by letting them make the rules. But long-term this is problematic, because improvised commitments tend to multiply and get easily broken.

Consider being boring. Underpromise and overdeliver.

You may not be the most dazzling communication shop out there. But then again, "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM."

* All opinions, as always, are my own and my posts do not represent anyone else's point of view.

Thank you to the U.S. and Global Readers of ThinkBrandFirst

This is pretty cool: Blogger stats tell me that there is an audience outside DC that reads my stuff.

Interesting: "127 Hours of Product Placement" is the most popular post so far. 

The point being: It's good to check in with metrics sometimes. Don't get obsessed, but it helps you to learn.

Here's a list of the "Top 10" countries my audience is logging in from:

  1. United States
  2. Germany
  3. UK
  4. Canada
  5. France
  6. South Korea
  7. Russia
  8. Australia
  9. China
  10. Singapore

Thank you all so much.

What The Heck a QR Code Is & How To Use It Right

Check this out. I am just completely freaking amazed at this technology.

The image above is from a post on an ad agency blog (Mobile Behavior, Tribal DDB) that has tons of posts on how to use QR (Quick Response Code) technology for advertising.

In this case the occasion was Arbor Day. How neat and fun is this idea?

<<On Arbor Day Weekend, QR codes were seeded across NYC's Central Park, transforming it into a mobile interactive experience. With web-enabled smartphones and QR code readers, users could explore "The World Park" in a new way. Upon scanning a code, users were presented with educational trivia about the park. Friends could compete for the most correct answers across categories like Science, Pop Culture, Art, and History.">>

Ogilvy PR (disclaimer: not an endorsement and I work with some Ogilvy-ites on volunteer projects for Washington Women in PR) posted a blog on QR codes for government offering key best practices.

It's a good primer: have a strategy; make them visible; optimize website for mobile devices (you shouldn't link to the regular format of your webpage if possible); consider accessibility issues; etc.

I know that QR codes aren't exactly common vocabulary for everyone - yet. I have been seeing them in the Metro stations and going, "What the heck is this? How do you use it? I don't get it!" for about a month now.

I even held up my phone to one and took a picture of it. I had no idea what to do.

However once I figured it out, it was unbelievable.

The basic idea is that you are creating a short link to a certain page that you want to promote traffic to. 

For example if you want to promote your shoe brand, you create the QR code and put it on your billboard ads and magazine ads. You say, "Scan the code for access to special discounts." Then people use their smartphones to download an app (often free) that combines with their camera phone to get them to the page in question.

Once they scan the code (I have a Droid and use QR Droid) here is what they can do:

1) Visit the webpage

2) Email the webpage to themselves or someone else

3) Share the webpage via Twitter, Facebook, etc.

...and probably quite a bit more. I just haven't figured it all out yet.

This is obviously a lot easier than trying to write down or remember a web page. And not everyone takes advantage of promotional and outreach offers through texting.

For government communicators it is an unbelievable technology. How many ways can you spell F-R-E-E???

To create your QR code all you have to do is have the URL ready and use a free code creator. 

There are many of them online. I used this one successfully:

Once you have the code you simply insert it into your marketing materials.

I haven't figured everything out yet. Like how do you get the code to blow up to a huge size for a bus stop? And how does the smart phone scan it if it's very big?

But what I do know so far is enough to make me dangerous.

Have fun and good luck!

(P.S. Next up: The Google Chart Wizard which helps you create QR codes and lots of other cool visuals:

(Updated 4/14) Branding Lessons from the Lubavitcher Rebbe (may he rest in peace)

It occurred to me that not everybody knows who the Lubavitcher Rebbe is, so I'm updating this post with a bit more information.

First, here is a picture of the Rebbe. Even if you aren't Jewish you may have seen this picture somewhere in a major city.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Chabad Chassidus (Hasidism), the philosophy of Judaism underpinning the Rebbe's work.

I am not an expert on Chabad by any means, but I can describe briefly my understanding of this philosophy, how I came to learn about it, and why it matters to communicators.

What it is

First - Chabad Chassidim practice Orthodox Judaism. They keep the law.

What's unique about Chassidim

Generally speaking, Chassidim (as versus non-Chassidim) incorporate aspects of Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) into their spiritual practices. Kabbalah, until the advent of this phase of Jewish spirituality, was considered a bit dangerous in that it could easily be distorted and used the wrong way.

The traditional emphasis among religious Jews is to simply do what you're supposed to do (the mitzvot, or positive observances), and develop the moral qualities that support leading a good life.

My personal background is Satmar Chassidus. Like most Chassidic communities, Satmar Chassidim keep to themselves to avoid negative spiritual influences from outside.

Chabad Chassidim

This group differs a lot from traditional Chassidism. "Chabadniks" go anywhere and everywhere to "liberate the sparks" of holiness that are trapped inside people who are currently acting in a negative way.

This, to them, is the essence of spirituality. They don't see evil as irredeemable, but rather as good trapped inside of evil.

The Rebbe
The most recent leader of Chabad Chassidus, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (may he rest in peace), believed strongly in using every and any avenue to reach the most people possible. He was avid about technology and communication, using every medium to spread the word.

My experience with Chabad

A lot of stories here, but my most vivid recollection is that I once lined up among thousands of people in Brooklyn, NY, many years ago to meet the Rebbe in person. It was his custom to give you a dollar (interestingly they never asked for money, but rather gave you money).
The Rebbe looked straight at me. At the time I was a young person and I was going through a tough time.

He said three words in Hebrew: "Besever Panim Yafos."

Which basically means to receive everyone with joy - to smile, goshdarn it.

So below are the 10 practices I alluded to yesterday. Together they have built Chabad into THE LARGEST JEWISH ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD.

I am not going to say they are like a "10 Commandments of Communication" because that would just be cutesy.

1. Get out there. Don't wait for your customer to find you.

2. Never, ever allow yourself to think negative. Just act positively and constructively.

3. Welcome everybody with genuine warmth.

4. Embrace a unique look that is meaningful to you.

5. Feelings are unstable and inconsistent. Focus on behavior - the mother of brand consistency. Behavior creates reality by changing your thinking and others' perceptions of you.

6. Communicating clearly is good practice - not "dumbing it down."

7. People respond to physical brand symbols - e.g. the "Mitzvah Tank."

8. Get people of all ages involved in an experience related to the brand - lighting Sabbath candles for example.

9. Be everywhere.

10. Invest heavily in your brand ambassadors.

To learn more:

The Tracking Number - Please Comment

Following up on the project tracking issue for communications:

Should we have one tracking number per task?

Or one tracking number per project?

If the latter - how best to capture individual tasks.

Working this through...think Excel right now, not special software.

All thoughts welcome.


Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.

Report Human Trafficking: 1-866-347-2423

Rethinking Project Management for Public Affairs


When the tech support team upgrades my copy of Adobe, I get a case number.

If I call tech support and say my computer is freezing on the same call as I ask for the upgrade of Adobe, I get a different case number.

This is not the way a government public affairs office works. Project management is different for us.

Work that comes in can be sorted into one of 5 categories:

1. Confidential - information about the project is restricted, usually to senior leadership

2. Crisis-oriented, short term - there is barely enough time to put a tracking number together, much less create a project plan

3. Non-crisis-oriented, timeframe varying - this is a single- or multipart project that is not necessarily part of a campaign - e.g. an article, a magazine, a podcast, a video

4. Campaign-oriented, medium term - this is a multipart project requiring coordination between various parties

5. Event-driven, timeframe varying - this is a multipart project requiring logistical coordination around a particular event

Any project management system for public affairs has to successfully manage all of these categories. More thoughts to follow on how we can address this effectively so that we know where the money is going and are making the most of it.

What do you suggest?

Let's build a better system together!

Photo source here