Showing posts from October, 2016

Branding & The Office Of Enterprise Risk

Branding and reputation are integrally related. The one is built on the other. And when your organization operates in an "at risk" way for an extended period of time, you can be sure that both will falter.

How can you prevent such a crisis from occurring? Thinking from a branding point of view, you want to make sure that your organization has someone in charge of constantly keeping watch over its reputation.

UPS teaches us this principle neatly in its new television commercial. It states:
"Everything your customer sees tells a story."

As a private individual, you've lived this a thousand times. When you argue, you close the door and make sure nobody else is around. For your story is told not by you, but by the people who witness you, in your orbit.

We all know this and yet somehow, incomprehensibly, it appears that many businesses do not operate by this principle. Their actions speak louder than their words, and as a result the customer experience is miserable. For …

Communication Is Love

I was in a meeting this morning and it seemed to go well. I think this is because we were all getting along today. Seems to me that most meetings go well or badly because of this.

Communication is love. I think about that as a parent. Sometimes I yell at my kids and they say, I can't hear you when you're yelling at me. In the past I would respond, Don't worry if I'm yelling, just do as I say. Now I know that was the wrong answer. I should have said, I'm sorry, I'll take a few minutes to calm down.

Communication is love. When you're in the Starbucks and that barista who is always rude, is rude again, you don't want to go back there. Conversely there is a Starbucks I go to, which I prefer, where the barista says hello and asks me how my low-carb diet is going. I do like to hang out there.

Communication is love. Do you know why I like to shop in Trader Joe's? Because they play music from my teenage years, the '80s. And when I hear I Ran by A Flock…

How To Tell A Leader From A Fraud

This guy was talking nonstop.

I was sitting there trying to read but he would just not shut up. It got so bad I had to take a photo as if in protest.

(Yes, that's my photo and I've covered the faces in it so as not to imply anything about a random individual who just happened to be sitting near me in a coffee shop.)

The exchange between this man and his companions had something to do with a business deal.
"I know some people." "Sure, we can make that happen." "Let me put a few numbers together and get back to you."  Not knowing anything at all, I could tell that this pitch was one gigantic snow job. When someone is really good at what they do, and can deliver, they don't have to say much of anything.

Last night I saw the movie The Accountant, with Ben Affleck. This movie is not to everybody's taste, but I liked it a lot because of how Affleck portrays an autistic man--Christian Wolff--a genius--whose father taught him to function in real li…

It's OK to enjoy marketing.

Working in Washington DC you can easily develop a sort of dour attitude about the seemingly "superficial" delights of shopping.

Let's be honest: We pride ourselves on being "policy" people, wonks. There are a lot of PhDs, JDs, MBAs, MDs, and pretty much every other acronym you can think of around here. We live to work hard, study up, and maybe go hiking on the weekend.

As a result, again let's just face it, the folks around here are not the best-dressed people in the country. Maybe the clothes themselves are expensive, but they tend to be highly utilitarian, very serious, and we don't like frivolous people. To illustrate I snapped the pic below (cropped the faces out so as not to embarrass anyone).

Contrast this image with...well pretty much any random person in New York.

In New York, looking seriously good is nothing less than a requirement. (Photo by Helen Alfvegren via Flickr/Creative Commons) And I think you could say the same about places like Miami o…

When You're Afraid To Do What Is Right

There has never been a time in my life when I've not been afraid. Like most people I am fond of having relationships and a livelihood and when you stand up for your principles it is easy to jeopardize those.

Theoretically of course you can tell yourself that doing the right thing is just the right thing to do and not to be afraid. Or that G-d is in charge, so serve Him and don't fear others.

But when you're in the situation itself, and everyone else seems to be "going along with the program," things get a little bit tougher. You stack up the pain of being a bystander to bad behavior, or a victim of it, with the fear of being punished for acting.

And the things you see can get pretty bad. Like the other day, on social media, a video was circulating strictly of men punching women right in the face. A short rat-a-tat-tat of clips punctuated by the guys saying things like, "you want to be treated like a man? HERE."

I had a friend at work who used to say--…

That Time I Found The “Romance” Novel

In my family we did not talk about sex. Sex was dirty. Dirty people did dirty things. And we were religious, therefore not dirty.

But the grownups all had ways of talking about sex, without — you know — really talking about it.

For example, once I found a very explicit novel inside our bathroom, on the closed-up storage shelf on the right side of the toilet seat, next to the extra roll of t.p.

Now you probably know that porn itself is X-rated. And so the concept of a highly “descriptive” novel — even with all the hot and heavy writing involved — well it doesn’t seem to add up.

I totally get that. I do. But you have to remember that I grew up in a half-Chasidish, half-Litvak, fully Orthodox-yeshivish home where even the sight of a National Geographic cover was considered wildly sexual.

So how did I find the “romance” novel?

Usually in the bathroom, in that place next to the spare roll of t.p., there was a Newsweek. I sometimes would open up the magazine to read a particularly promisi…

Movie Review: "Mendy"

I had low hopes for this movie but was instantly shocked at just how good it was. "Mendy" isn't a movie for everyone, but if you are familiar with the Chasidish community and Williamsburg in particular, you will instantly recognize what is going on here and why it matters. I've been out of New York for about fifteen years now, and what's happening in this movie post-dates me; I've only read about it from a distance. What we are looking at is the "Off The Derech" situation, where a young person in a very religious community has somehow fallen from grace. In this case the problem is that Mendy is heterosexual (!) which may not seem like a trespass to ordinary people but in the ultra-insular sphere of Williamsburg, any display of sexuality is considered gross, taboo and strictly forbidden.

What's so great about this movie, and what earns it five stars in my b…

i4i (Bible Rapper)

I have a sixth sense for up and coming talent: was one of the first bloggers at GovLoop, acquired by GovDelivery, just acquired for $153m. Spotted Chloe Valdary whose career is only just taking off. Lipa Schmeltzer landed Pepsi commercial. Get ready for i4i (Bible Rapper).
(All opinions my own.)

Government Communication Will Not Regulate Itself

I'm sure by now you've seen a headline attacking the amount of money the government spends each year on "public relations." These are coming from a report published by the Government Accountability Office just this week which noted that "public relations" experts employed by the government make about $500 million in total a year.

The study is misleading for a few reasons, which I've noted on my blog, but its central point is well-taken. We spend a lot of money reaching out to the public. Is that money well-spent?

Let's leave aside for the moment the issue of political communication, meaning words intended to convince you that everything is hunky-dory when it comes to the Administration's policies, staff, and goals.

Let's not talk about foreign propaganda right now.

Forget the methodological vagueness of a report that on the one hand outlines numerous legitimate informational uses of government communication, but somehow only counts the dollars…

About "Parnassah"

It's weird how ideas get embedded in your subconscious. The younger you are the more I think this is likely to happen, because your brain is not developed enough to think critically.
Such was the case, I think, with the Jewish term "parnassah," meaning "to earn a living," as it was used in my orbit.
Keep in mind as you read this that I grew up in an unusual world, with parents who were "intermarried." Both are Orthodox Jewish, but my mom is Ashkenazic and my dad Chasidish.
If you don't know what that means, to simplify and overgeneralize:
Ashkenazim, being Talmudically oriented, are "by the book" -- a rule is a rule, regardless of the bigger picture. Chasidim, being Rebbe-oriented, are "by the heart" -- the ends justify the means, even if you have to break a rule to get there. Obviously culture is not something you can argue about, even though everybody (not just Ashkenaz or Chasidic but Sephardic, Israeli, Reform, Conservativ…

Recruiting A Marketer? 5 Mistakes To Avoid

1. Showing Contempt for the Consumer: The best marketers are the ones who are in touch with your audience. So look for people who genuinely like the kind of people who buy your product - or who you're trying to reach. You can have the "best," "most qualified" candidate in the world, but if they think they're better than your customer, don't bother.

2. Screening for Industry Experience: You are trying to break the mold. Why are you looking for people who were born and raised on that mold? Who think the same way as everybody else does? Who don’t dare to question the conventional wisdom? Your subject matter experts are not marketers; the creatives can consult them when such expertise is needed. So stop looking for the same people everybody knows from the trade shows. Start looking where nobody dares to go, for people who can connect with your customer in ways nobody from your industry has ever dared to before.

3. Looking for a Drinking Buddy:
People tend to …

GAO's Confusing Conclusions About Federal Communications

This report just came out ( Here is some information provided that concerns me, because it is confusing at best and misleading at worst.
The GAO refers to “public affairs” series staff (GS-1035) as “public relations” staff. Employees who are employed as communicators, but not within this series, are not counted in the report. So by default all federal communicators are now PR folks. Which is not “bad” but is not what the public is expecting taxpayer money to be spent on either, because this sounds very close to “spin,” or propaganda.The authors admit that they haven’t defined their terms. They use: “advertising” defined as either “community relations,” “image,” “messages intended to persuade”; public relations as “an effort to develop and disseminate information to explain the activities of and the issues facing an organization”; and “public communications” as “agency communications that are directed to the public.” (p. 4). There is no distinct…

The Truth About Religion At Work

We live in a time of terrible strife. This is not the fault of religion. It is the fault of religious fundamentalists and in particular those who use religion to gain power and money. I want to talk about my own personal experiences with religion at work. This is not to argue in favor of religion, against religion, to subtly proselytize etc. etc. If anything I would like to show that it's complicated. Oddly for a Jew I find my most influential religious teachers have been Muslims at work. How about that? I started covering my hair for awhile when I saw a devout Muslim woman on her way to work, praying. I confronted my workaholism when a Muslim employee inquired about the logic of sending emails at 3 a.m. I learned about what really matters at work when a Muslim colleague offered money to help another colleague who was struck with terrible personal luck. (Nobody else lifted a finger.) How about that? A long time ago another colleague of mine, a Christian, started a weekly prayer s…

You Can Choose It Or You Can Run Away

"Do you mind if I ask you a question?"


"Tell me how you learned to be a leader."

"It isn't something I chose."

"But how did you learn what to do?"

"Like everything else, it's trial and error."

"Did you take some kind of training class?"


"No really, tell me."

"I am telling you. You learn by screwing up."

"Yeah, but everybody says that."

"Look, they say that because it's true."

"Well did you ever feel like giving up, then?"

"All the time. Constantly."

"You mean right now?"

"Are you kidding? If I could retire and paint watercolors all day, of course I would."

"I don't understand. So it's a money thing?"

"Well of course."

"So you've gotten this good as a survival skill."


"I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know."

"I mean, Dannielle, t…

The Future of News: Social Media on a Mobile Device

By and large Americans in 2016 do not often read carefully researched investigative stories in print newspapers to find out what is going on: That's only about 1 in 5 (20%) of us, says the Pew Research Institute. The rest put on the TV (57%) or go online (38%), to websites and/or social media. About a quarter (25%) mainly hear about stuff from the radio.

When you break down the numbers by age, an even clearer picture emerges: Young people, more than any other age group, often head to the Internet first (50%), while those age 65 and over by default switch on the TV (85%).

Television and online news sites are both controlled by content producers - although anyone with an Internet connection can stand up the latter. But what about social media as a source of news? Turns out that 18% of adults often tune in to the latter in order to find out what is going on - 62% say they do so generally.

Finally, when people turn to a screen to get their news, they are increasingly likely to do so …