Amazed: How Pasta Sauce Turned a Nice Guy Into the Luckiest Guy in the World

On an overcast Saturday 10 years ago today, the culmination of the biggest decision I’ve made in my life took place when I said two words. However, saying “I do” wouldn’t have ever happened, and I would not have become the luckiest guy that day, had a conversation not taken place four years earlier.

I was working a grocery shift, stocking shelves at our local supermarket. My wife was working a cashier/grocery shift that allowed her to help out the grocery guys when she wasn’t busy at the cash register. When she came over to help, in aisle 3, my task at the time was to stock the pasta and sauce on the shelves. We talked as she helped me open boxes and put the sauce jars and pasta on the shelves. It was very pleasant, but I could tell she was a bit nervous. Throughout the course of the conversation, she told me she thought I was a “nice guy” six times. Yes, I counted. I often joke about this, but in all honesty, it was one of the most touching things I had experienced in my life to that point. That someone thought that highly of me and wanted to get to know me better because of it was truly amazing.

The other day, we went grocery shopping in that little supermarket. Aisle 3 is something different now, but the memory is still there, along with more than a decade’s worth of others.

I am honored that she chose me, giving me the option to change my life in the positive way that it has been changed. She is a wonderful wife and mother to our children. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about how lucky I am to have her in my life and that we had that conversation 14 years ago.

We’ve been married for 10 years now. I am looking forward to the days, weeks, months, and years to come to see how amazing it will all be. I love you!

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NFL Draft Hops Out of April

2013-nfl-draftTwo to three more weeks.

That is what NFL owners agreed to give teams to prepare for the next NFL Draft. Or, at least that is what the juggernaut that is the NFL wants us to believe. Well, that isn’t exactly it. The reason they are giving for moving the Draft out of April and into May is because the venue – Radio City Music Hall in NYC – will be in use at the time of the next draft. The reason there’s a conflict is that the Easter Bunny will be in town.

If the NFL moves the Draft three weeks, it will conflict with something much bigger than the Easter Bunny – Mother’s Day. There’s a saying the NFL should be wary of: “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It makes me think the NFL is drowning in its own hubris. The owners and the commissioner may be thinking that they are too big to fail, but even the most powerful empires crumble. And often, it is self-induced destruction. There is a very strong possibility that this is what the NFL is doing.

From a communications standpoint, the fact that the story of this move is being turned into a cartoon pitting the NFL vs. the Easter Bunny signals to me that the NFL’s communications staff really doesn’t buy into this decision.

So, why do it? The simple answer is ratings. The NFL, which relentlessly works to protect its position as the #1 sport in America, has a TV network in desperate need of content during the crucial May sweeps. Strategically moving the Draft, which MMQB columnist Peter King calls “the most ridiculously overhyped event on the NFL calendar,” will give the NFL Network the content it needs. The assumption by the NFL is that people will watch because they are addicted to the NFL. The NFL doesn’t care what I, the GMs, or any one thinks the decision, because the league will still be on top. At least, that is what the NFL assumes. And we all know what happens when you assume.

The move is a shrewd one, for sure. However, I can’t help but think that the NFL is on its water skis getting ready to jump over the water the shark is swimming in.

Hyped Up On Headlines

Article after article scrolls by on the screen. Then, in a flash of brilliant copywriting, a headline catches your eye. You’re hooked. You must read on.

If you are a storyteller or a person who just likes a good story, you are well aware of the power that a well-written headline has. It is the power to entice, to persuade. It is a call to action. It is a reason to believe. Once you start down the path the headline opens up for you, either you’ll truly enjoy the story or feel like you’ve been robbed – of your time and your sensibility.

That’s what headline hype is all about. It is an inflation of the facts of the story to get your attention. Stories “grab headlines” because the details are such that the media editor can manipulate them into something that interests a wide audience. Headline hype has been the way the media has worked for so long that doing anything different simply does not work.

Now, with the advent of a fractured information feed, headlines become even more important. There is an abundance of media to choose from and the only way to delineate between those things that interest you and those things that you could not care any less about is the headline.

Is this putting too much pressure on the headline writer? I don’t think so, because good writers and good editors make their hay in the headline – we buy the story because of the headline.

So, the next time you scroll through your news feed, think about why you chose the story you’re reading and how you feel about the story. It may just be a bunch of hype.

Signs

Have you ever been sitting in traffic when a song comes on the radio that somehow just clicks with the events that are happening in your life right at that very moment? Or, you’re in a rush to get some where and you are stopped dead by an unexpected traffic delay?

Have you ever wondered if either of these scenarios that routinely happen to people are, in fact signs or communications that there we, as individuals, need to be doing something differently? Or take a different perspective on life or something that has happened to us?

This is a stream of questions that came to me, surprisingly, while sitting in traffic. Signs? Or just random thoughts to distract from the tedious nature of the daily commute. You be the judge.

The secret to “Going Viral”

In a brillant post on the topic of writing copy that will go viral, Seth Godin captures lightning in a bottle. And it will change the world as a result.

There are so many people out there right at this very moment making a living by selling a service to an organization or a nonprofit to create content that will go viral for them. They claim to be “experts” in knowing what will be hot, trendy, and will catch on with the masses. But what they are selling is akin to snake oil. If these sales people, marketers, PR guys and gals, and advertisers where truthful with themselves, they would know that the secret to getting something to “go viral” is that there is no secret.

To paraphrase Godin: Don’t set out with the intention to create viral content. Instead create content that makes a real impact – an impact that must be shared.

Godin is talking about creating content that connects with a person’s passion and experiences. Designing and drafting content with these two things in mind is fundamental to the success of any communication. It is imperative to know the audience you are trying to connect with, but other than that, the framework for content creation should be as free as possible. Otherwise, you will fall into the trap of creating content that is expected to catch on, but instead sinks to the bottom of the interest pile like a lead balloon.

Always be mindful of your audience, and as Godin rightly points out, the rest will take care of itself.

9 Ways to Dust Off Your Social Media & Web Strategies Today

Ad Council Workshop on Social Media and Technology

Talented #roc #nonprofit pros in the house for May 7 Ad Council workshop about IT/Tech and Social Media for your nonprofit and how to integrate them successfully.

After a recent presentation I gave as part of the Ad Council of Rochester’s Nonprofit Workshops series on the topic of Marketing with Technology, the CEO of the Ad Council provided the group with his take aways from the presentation. I was enlightened to know that the presentation my colleague and I created had made such an impact. (My colleague was not able to be at the presentation due to a medical issue)

The presentation revolved around the social media activities of the organization that I work for. The information the CEO gleaned from the presentation summed up the main points well. They make up a how-to checklist for preparing and launching a social media campaign. Here’s what the CEO came away with:

  • Strategy drove the investment in social media, not peer pressure, and the decision was made to focus on the segment with the broadest appeal
  • The website serves as the mothership for content – social media interactions drive people to the website
  • One effective social media tactic has been localizing relevant national news
  • Partner relationships are a good way to leverage other org’s social networks
  • The Million Pound Challenge is a best-in-class example of a social media success: crystal clear, simple idea, integrated with traditional media, engagement focused
  • Look at social media tools on a program by program basis, not just at the org level.
  • Recommendation: have multiple content creators but only one administrator
  • Good reminder: Low production values can be OK for online video

Overall, he said that it is good to remember that social media needs to be integrated with rest of the marketing effort. I couldn’t agree more.

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Branding free choice

In his post about brands and the abundant choices Americans have, Thomson Dawson raises an interesting point about how freedom and individuality correlate to brand existence. He argues that Americans today might have more choice than is really good for us. At a minimum, he says, we have “more choice than what is truly useful to us.” At the crux of his post is the question – How useful is abundant free choice?

When it comes to brands creating connections with consumers, abundant free choice is not inherently useful. Brands want to exist in a vacuum. They want to be the only choice. Unfortunately for them, that is not the case. It is true that there are a multitude of choices, quite possibly too many. The result is chaos.

As individuals, we have to be able to sort through the barrage of messages that are constantly thrown our way and use our one, powerful tool – free choice – to make the selections that shape how we will interact with the world. The selections are based on our values, beliefs, and experiences.

Here’s the kicker, though. Brands want to be the only choice, yet they are in the same situation as individuals. Each brand has the freedom to choose what it wants to be. It may be one person’s opinion or a board of directors, marketing department, or other group of influencers. Regardless of who makes the decision, a decision is made that sets in motion the development of the brand. So, brands also have a powerful tool in free choice. It is the power to become a vibrant part of the lives of so many just by being what it is.

On the individual or brand level, free choice is what makes us what we are. And what we will become.