Monday, October 5, 2015

Why You Should Always Follow-Up

When to follow-up with someone is a decidedly thorny issue. Do you wait one day, one week, one month?

There’s no right answer—as always, context is king, and patience is a virtue—but here’s a good story that illustrates the importance of doing so:

“It was so Washington, the way they met. She was on the dais at a panel discussion on media and politics, holding forth knowledgeably; he was in the audience, smitten. At the steakhouse dinner that “followed, Jake Brewer got the courage to walk up to Mary Katharine Ham and give her the hopeful, ambiguous let’s get a drink sometime line.

“Then he emailed her an invitation to a tech policy luncheon. She never replied.

“Soon after, he was sitting at El Tamarindo in Adams Morgan with a friend, and she was beelining for their table. She greeted the mutual friend at his table—and only then turned to him with a friendly stare of nonrecognition.

“’Hi,’ she told Jake. ‘I’m Mary Katharine Ham.’

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. 17 Tricks to Master Email Etiquette
  2. 17 Ways to Send Smarter Emails
  3. To Master Email, Learn These 17 Tricks
  4. 17 Habits of the Best Emailers
  5. 17 Ways to Make Emily Post Praise Your Emails
  6. 17 Ways to Make Emily Post Praise Your Email Etiquette
  7. 17 Points of Email Etiquette You Thought You Know
  8. 17 Points of Email Etiquette You Were Never Taught
  9. For the Sake of My Sanity, Please Learn These 17 Rules of Email Etiquette

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Typical Day on Business Insider

Tom Scocca:

The home page of Business Insider today is full of headlines that use the “curiosity gap” technique:

  • CARL ICAHN WARNS: It would be disastrous
  • The man who delivered one of the great economic speeches in history just made a bold move to bolster India’s economy
  • This health-conscious fast food chain is challenging McDonald’s to be healthier
  • Your Mac is going to change this week
  • NASA’s “major” Mars water news is a distraction from something much more exciting

What? Who? Which? What?

Carly Fiorina Is a Master Manipulator of the Media

“Clinton and Fiorina appeared back to back on Meet the Press recently. Clinton was challenged on the email issue and tried affably to defend her conduct. Fiorina was challenged on the existence of a Planned Parenthood video she claims to have seen.

“In contrast to Clinton, Fiorina simply refused to adopt a defensive posture. She ignored the challenges and just hit Planned Parenthood harder. The factual issue sort of got lost in her torrent. She was stylistically indomitable even if she didn’t address the substance of the critique.

David Brooks

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Can’t Believe the Hasn’t Fixed This Elementary Error

Here’s what happens when I view the table of contents for the current issue of the New Yorker. Look closely—do you see the problem?

Sadly, I pointed this out, nine months ago, to the editor of, but he never responded:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. How to Nail a Media Interview Without Really Trying
  2. How to Master a Media Interview Without Really Trying
  3. How to Master a Media Interview
  4. The 11 Fastest Ways to Rock a Media Interview
  5. 11 Things You Must Know Before Your Next Interview
  6. 11 Things You Need to Know Before Going on TV
  7. Media Training in 11 Easy Steps
  8. The 11 Fastest, Easiest Ways to Dominate a Media Interview
  9. Don’t Be Yourself. Be a Better Version of Yourself
  10. The Top 10 Principles of Media Training
  11. Talking With a Reporter Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder
  12. The 11 Most Impactful Maxims of Media Training
  13. The Fastest Way to Bomb an Interview
  14. How to Bomb a Media Interview
  15. The 11 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Media Training
  16. The 11 Most Important Things You Need to Know Before Your Next Interview
  17. Everything You Know to Know Before Talking to the Media
  18. How Not to Bomb a Media Interview
  19. Everything I Know About Media Training, I Learned in This 1 Minute From Gone Girl

Addendum: And the winner is...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rewriting Bad Twitter Bios

Editor-in-chief, The Marshall Project, a non-profit newsroom covering crime and punishment in America @marshallproj

Editor-in-chief of @MarshallProj, a non-profit newsroom covering crime and punishment in America

Co-Founder CHIEF @mybigchief / Advancing Brands

Co-founder of @MyBigChief. We advance brands

Jill Abramson teaches creative writing @Harvard and is writing a book about the news

I teach creative writing @Harvard and am writing a book about the news

NY Times columnist, co-author of Half the Sky & A Path Appears, Newsletter:

@NYTimes columnist ● Co-author of Half the Sky and A Path Appears ● Facebook: ● Newsletter:

Writer-at-Large, NEW YORK / Executive Producer, VEEP (HBO)

Writer-at-Large, @NYMag. Executive Producer, @VeepHBO

Conservative Review Contributing Editor and CNN Contributor. Former Cruz comms director and DeMint speechwriter. Mommy. Wifey. Instagram

@CR Contributing Editor and @CNN Contributor. Former @TedCruz comms director and @JimDeMint speechwriter. Mommy. Wifey.

Daniel Roth is LinkedIn's executive editor. Former editor of, writer: Wired/Fortune/Portfolio. Brooklynianer. Bio:

@LinkedIn’s executive editor. Former editor of @FortuneMagazine. Writer: Wired/Fortune/Portfolio. Brooklynianer. Bio:

Friday, September 18, 2015

Let the Words Carry the Authority

You know, I feel terrible making you do this when I’m not even in the debate.

You’re not in the Olympics either, doesn’t mean you don’t do some sit-ups now and then.

Well, you know you’ve coached about 50 women congressional candidates to debate wins—so there must be some secret.

There is. Always keep an extra pair of pantyhose in your purse.

After bombing the way I did in Iowa, I’m not gonna rule that out.

Congressman, I looked at the tapes. You’re great. You’re quotable cute enough to be a presidential pinup.

Wait until you see my runway work.

You don’t have the presidential voice.

The presidential voice?

You don’t have it. And it’s a time of global peril and you’re sharing the stage with two vice presidents.

Or not.

Congressman, what do you think of the ultranationalist gains in the Russian parliamentary elections?

It ain’t the Litchfield City Council, but Russia makes its own choices. And in a democracy—

Whoa, whoa, whoa—you just wrote the lamer half of Jay Leno’s monologue. You’re not a House backbencher trying to get a quote on CNN. Sobriety, understatement, let the words carry the authority.

A presidential voice...

Think filling out a suit, instead of wearing bright orange


I was gonna say neckties, but what the hell.

There are whole generations of Russians who were trained by the KGB. Now, when the wall fell, they didn’t all go open pizzerias. Now that’s not to say that

No, no, no. Bad, bad, bad. If I could pull a lever and drop you through the floor, I’d do it right now.

What, my analysis isn’t right?

Your analysis is fine. I don’t know how to explain this any better. It’s not a pop quiz and it’s not a late-night talk show. The leader of the free world has to speak in broad concepts, in value statements. “I love America. I will lead the world towards liberty.”

Oh, I don’t sound pompous enough?

You sound like you’re commenting on events, not shaping them.

I don’t shape them, and it’s not the way I think.

Congressman, the prospect of first-strike capability’s gotta change the way you think.


I’m trying to explain the presidential voice. The difference between leading the marketplace and catering to it. The difference between, I don’t know, John Lennon and John Davidson. Sergeant Pepper and the fifth Herman’s Hermits album.

—The West Wing

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

“The most explicit image ... is one of the rare news photographs with the potential to grab the public’s attention in ways that reporting never could, and perhaps inspire readers to think about what is happening in Syria and why. You might not know much about Syria, and viewing this photograph ... isn’t going to make you understand what’s happening there. But it might force you to confront the fact that you haven’t been paying attention—make you justify your indifference, and in doing so raise your awareness by at least a little bit ... The image is resonant and journalistically relevant because it illustrates the human toll of an ongoing humanitarian crisis that persists, in part, because the world pays it very little attention.” —Justin Peters

“It’s horrific, graphic, and gruesome—and it’s important that everyone looks at it. Reading about gun violence isn’t enough. A shooting is a visual tragedy. There’s a muzzle flash, bullets, a wound, blood, and bodies. When we see an upsetting image, our brain draws on tens of thousands of years of evolutionary training for a proper response.” —Sam Biddle

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Looking Good on Paper Is Not the Same Thing As Being Good

When hiring a professor, nearly every college uses traditional criteria. Perhaps the most important is whether the applicant has a graduate degree.

On one hand, credentials are an important part of a school’s brand. Given that students are coughing up an arm and a leg for today’s tuition, it’s helpful when a school can boast that “every single one of our faculty holds an advanced degree.” Indeed, this percentage contributes to a school’s ranking.

This makes sense, especially from a marketing perspective. And yet, this description pertains primarily to tenure-track professors, whose full-time job is in academe.

By contrast, consider adjunct professors—people who teach as a side gig. These folk typically have another job that pays the bills; they don’t teach for the money, but because they love doing it.

In other words, adjuncts are the JV team.

Here, then, is the question: should the JV team be held to the same standard as varsity? (For the sake of essentialization, let’s put aside the pay disparity.) For most colleges, the answer is clear: every professor, regardless of rank, must have a Masters degree or more. But this blanket rule seems myopic. Isn’t it preferable to judge each person on his own merits, rather than deploying a one-diploma-fits-all catchall? Isn’t a scalpel a better judge of ability than a sledgehammer?

Fair enough. But shouldn’t educators be well-educated? Shouldn’t they master the theories of pedagogy before they practice on live minds? Just as we require everyone from a manicurist to a lawyer to get licensed, so we should demand certain credentials of a professor.

That sounds reasonable, right? It does… until you talk with longtime instructors. They’ll tell you that teaching is more of an art than a science. Just because you earned a PhD from Princeton in 17th-century French literature doesn’t mean you know how to make Molière come alive for two hours at the front of a classroom of easily distracted students.

So where does this leave us? Ultimately, what you think boils down to which you care more about: rules, or outcomes? Put another way: is your primary goal to perpetuate the perception of excellence, or to make that perception an everyday reality?

Let’s not rule out an entire class of people based solely on their resume. As any user of Ashley Madison now well-knows, who you are on paper (or pixels) is often decidedly different from who you are in person.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Problem With PowerPoint Is Worse Than You Thought

“Think about what happens when you open PowerPoint. A blank format slide appears that contains space for words—a title and subtitle. This presents a problem. There are very few words in a Steve Jobs presentation. Now think about the first thing you see in the drop-down menu under Format: Bullets & Numbering. This leads to the second problem. There are no bullet points in a Steve Jobs presentation. The software itself forces you to create a template that represents the exact opposite of what you need to speak like Steve!”

—Carmine Gallo, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Most Inspiring Communicators All Share This One Quality

It’s the “ability to create something meaningful out of esoteric or everyday products,” as Carmine Gallo writes in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. He offers up the following examples:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz does not sell coffee. He sells a “third place” between work and home.

Financial guru Suze Orman does not sell trusts and mutual funds. She sells the dream of financial freedom.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not sell computers. He sold tools to unleash human potential.

Cisco CEO John Chambers does not sell routers and switches that make up the backbone of the Internet. He sells human connections that change the way we live, work, play, and learn.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Problem With PDFs (Continued)

The Urban Institute joins the bandwagon:

“Although PDFs comprise the bulk of our content—and certainly our most valuable content—they account for less than 4% of our total pageviews. None of the PDFs we’ve published since March 1 of last year has received over 5,000 pageviews, and only nine have received more than 1,000 pageviews ...

“In an increasingly digital and mobile world, continuing to rely on the PDF greatly increases our risk of becoming irrelevant.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

How Gawker makes its sausage:

  1. Real-Life Kramer Breaks Door Instead of Delivering Unhinged Racist Rant
  2. Hulu’s Seinfeld Apartment Exhibit Broke on the First Day
  3. Dumbass Impersonating Kramer Breaks Replica Seinfeld Apartment Door
  4. No Soup For Man Who Broke Seinfeld Door
  5. Like Seinfeld, Man Who Broke Seinfeld Door Is Not Funny or Interesting
  6. Man Who Broke Door Definitely Not Master of the Domain of Jerry Seinfeld’s Fake Apartment
  7. “Real-Life Kramer” Breaks Door Instead of Delivering Unhinged Racist Rant
  8. Man Pretending to Be Fake Neighbor of TV Character Breaks Door
  9. “Real-Life Kramer” Breaks Door Instead of Delivering Unhinged Racist Rant
  10. Streaming Video Service Airs Sitcom, Yadda Yadda Yadda, Fake Door Is Now Broken

Winner here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Gmail Handles Preview Text

An email reply, dated April 22, 2015, from Brayden H., a technical specialist with Google Apps for Work.

I have spent some time this afternoon digging around in our code base and testing the behavior for myself in my test accounts.

What I have found is some variability in the number of characters that are selected to be in the snippet. Gmail is doing some amount of interpretation when deciding how much text to display. If there are additional spaces, or if a periods (.) are used you can get the snippet size to vary slightly, but within a narrow range.

Gmail takes the initial text of the body and uses it as the snippet shown in the thread list view. It will ignore spaces and line breaks and go straight to the actual text. If there is a line break it will convert it to a space in the snippet. I have gotten the front end to display different length snippets depending on the content, but they are consistently between 90 and 101 characters (based on testing done so far).

The simple answer is that you cannot prevent these from showing. Gmail will grab the first set of characters and display them if the recipient selected preference to show the snippets.

Smart Publishers Are Medium-Agnostic

“Push represents a distinctive way of thinking about style and distribution, one that other organizations might benefit from. Rather than force a unified ESPN style onto every social-media platform, the team takes care to learn the local language of every territory of the Internet—experimenting with live feeds on its homepage, studying which stories fly furthest on Facebook, and practicing the goofball patois of Snapchat.

“ESPN’s internal motto—‘to serve sports fans anytime, anywhere’—is repeated so often at the company that, on a walk through its Bristol campus, the phrase passes through stages, from meaning to cliche, and then, perhaps, back to meaning. ESPN is impressively agnostic about where to put it best stuff, sharing ad-free video clips on Snapchat; tweeting its long feature pieces days before the magazine slips into mail boxes; and making an infinity of videos, podcasts, articles, and other forms of content free on its website and in other forms.

ESPN’s Plan to Dominate the Post-TV World

Related: This Is Why Quartz and BuzzFeed Are Today’s Smartest Publishers

Best Radio Ad Ever


The Award for the Best Twitter Bio Goes to @LATimesOpinion

Related: What Your Twitter Bio Says About You

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Greatest Threat to Companies Isn’t External Competition. It’s Internal Stagnation

“After COO Woodside noted that Dropbox’s rivals were innovating at a faster pace, Ferdowsi took the criticism to heart and ‘completely changed the product-release approach,’ Woodside says. The result: Dropbox rolled out 75 new features and product improvements in the final quarter of last year, up from 49 in the third quarter.”

Dropbox Is Under Siege—but It’s Not Slowing Down