How to creatively answer any kid question

When I was younger, my mom always says, I asked her how the moon stayed up in the sky.

“Elmer’s glue,” she said.

Driving to our kids’ daycare provider this morning to drop them off, my three-year-old son asked me what the hazy cloud blanketing the field was.

“Fog,” I said. “It’s what is left behind when the sky comes down and kisses the ground.”

He seemed to like that answer.

When a child asks “Why?” sometimes it is easier to just say anything to make him stop asking that question repeatedly.

With a little patience and some creativity, however, the answer you give can be one that creates a lasting memory because as the child grows, you can always tell the story of the day he asked what fog was and how you answered him.

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Abuse of ADHD drugs on the rise

Flipping through the newspaper this morning, I was struck by a story about a study that indicates a staggering rise in the reported abuse of ADHD drugs

My first reaction was that this news wasn’t at all out of the ordinary. I give the editors of the paper credit for putting it in the paper. Drug abuse is an important issue, especially when there is an increase in the abuse of  safe (read: FDA-approved) drugs. However, the story was buried on the inside of the front section and squeezed in next to an ad for replacement windows. Such a placement tells me that the editors at the paper didn’t think too many people would buy a paper because of this story.

With the reduction in staff at most local papers, and more and more people moving online for their news, I know that the following suggestion might not carry much weight with news editors, but I’m going to put it out there any way.

This is the type of story that could make an impact in a community. It could really raise the consciousness level to a point where the issues causing the abuse and the infrastructure supporting it are brought to light. It would be perfect way for nonprofit service providers that help with all of the issues regarding drug abuse to enter the public sphere. Working with a reporter to create a follow-up story that localizes the issue and highlights how organizations in the community are helping to alleviate the issue and related issues is a fantastic way to build community awareness and support, both for the newspaper and any nonprofit service providers. The reason being is that readers like to know about what is happening in their community. They also like to read about success stories–people who hit rock bottom, sought out and got help, and are now recovering and finding success.

It is a redemption story.

I’m putting editors and reporters on notice: I’ll be on the lookout for this type of story for sure. I’ll buy more papers with this type of story in them.

Read the story that inspired this post here.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What does it mean to you?

What does respect mean to you?

The other day, I was having a conversation with my organization’s webmaster about respect as it pertains to people out on the roadways. The conversation made me think about our culture and how respect manifests itself therein.

Over the past several years I believe there has been a severe erosion of respect in our culture. It has gotten to such a low point recently that I’m afraid we may never be able to build it back up.

Just a few examples that come to mind:

  • The lack of respect for the purity of sport as evidenced by the numerous athletes found guilty of crimes and also of taking steroids to enhance performance
  • The lack of respect for differing opinions in the health care debate
  • The lack of respect for other drivers, safety, and the rules of the road as evidenced by the ever increasing number of people talking on their cell phone or texting while driving.

As a parent of two young children, I believe I’m tasked with showing them the importance of using your manners and of living a respectful life. But with all of the bad examples out there (myself included sometimes) I think I’m fighting an uphill battle.

Additionally, for anyone that works in the communications industry, whether in PR, Marketing, Advertising, etc., the importance of respect is reflected in the success of the efforts made on behalf of your clients, your organization, or yourself.

For instance, if you are tasked with pitching a story to the assignment editor at a local TV station, you will tend to have better results if that person respects you as a professional and as a source of valuable information. Additionally, in communicating with the assignment editor, using language that is respectful and also being mindful of his or her time will go a long way toward the success of your pitch.

It used to be that the golden rule–treating others as you yourself would liked to be treated–was the standard. It’s common sense, really.

However, I think as more and more people continually treat others with less and less respect, thereby getting less and less respect in return, the golden rule is really just gold plating covering up an otherwise crass culture.

5 ways to remove the stink from fund raising copy

Have you ever gotten one of those four or five-page fund raising letters in the mail? Have you ever read the thing the entire way through?

According to Frank Dickerson, who wrote a dissertation on how effectively fund raisers communicated with their audience, those four or five-page letters are even less interesting than government documents.

So, what can fund raisers do to capture our interest when sending out these appeal letters?

Here are 5 things that can instantly improve fund raising letters (or any similar communication, for that matter):

1. Focus on telling compelling, real stories.

Dickerson says: “For a fundraiser, the weight of raising money rest squarely on the power of words. Yes, there are those occasions when a person visits a charity, or sees a video about its work. But most potential donors decide to give based on what they read. And unfortunately, what they read is usually not that good.”

2. Choose your words wisely.

Dickerson says: “Fund-raising texts sounded cold and detached like doctoral dissertations rather than warm and friendly like personal conversations.”

3. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

No one wants to read four or five pages of incomprehensible gibberish just to get to the end and be asked to give money. This is especially true if it’s for a cause that they haven’t made an emotional connection to.

Instead, write a story that hits home for the reader right away with an “ask” at the end. And do it all on one page. And use pictures to tell the story, too.

 4. Make it memorable and remarkable.

Seth Godin said in his book Purple Cow that to be remarkable you have to be remarked about. Simply put, you’d remember a purple cow if you saw one in a pasture as you drove by. You remember certain ads and certain messages, like the 1984 Apple ad or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. There’s a reason. They have that special quality that makes them memorable and remarkable. And they were created out of passion for something, not because they had to be done. Purple Cows are about passion.

5. When it comes right down to it, the goal for fundraisers is to raise funds. To do that, the best tip I can give is to infuse fund raising writing with the passion for the cause.