Friday, February 3, 2017

The Right and Wrong Way to Distribute an RFP

I’m a member of several ListServs, where RFPs are sometimes exchanged. God bless Colleen Gratzer for writing up the following reply, which encapsulates everything that’s wrong with RFPs — and how to fix them!

Hi, [Redacted].

There have been a few RFPs sent to this list over the past year.

I would like to share some constructive feedback to help your organization in the future with RFPs and why sending them out to lists or posting on a website is not the best route. With all due respect, sending an RFP to a large list is unlikely to bring you good-quality candidates.

Your work sounds like it would be a good fit for me, as I mainly work with nonprofits, have almost 20 years of experience in the health care industry, and do this type of work. But it would not be a wise business decision for me to respond to this because there is no mention of budget and I have no idea how many people this has potentially been sent to or
been seen by. Preparing such a proposal would require days of prep time, and I have no idea of my chances (1 in 5 or 1 in 200) or if I’d even be able to provide something in your ballpark.

Your organization would be better served by vetting appropriate candidates,inviting a few (3 to 5) to bid, and sharing a budget range to work within.

It’s like when buying a car: you could spend $15,000 or you could spend $80,000. Whether or not you have a budget, you might have monetary expectations. Once you provide a range, then appropriate solutions can be offered in the proposal, or the designer would know up front it’s not doable or not.

I hope that helps.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Love-Hate Relationship With Gmail

I rely Gmail for both my business and my personal life, yet every day I’m reminded of its major limitations:

1. I can’t sort messages in any way other than by date.

2. The trash can is called “archive,” and operates according to peculiar rules.

3. Creating a rich-text signature is an exercise in frustration.

4. The “select-all” function is MIA.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Question a Man’s Judgment, Not His Motives

As a freshman senator, Joe Biden saw Jesse Helms, the archconservative North Carolina Republican, ripping into a piece of disabilities legislation.

Biden was furious, and began attacking Helms to Mike Mansfield, the Democratic Senate majority leader.

Mansfield asked Biden if he knew that Helms and his wife had adopted a disabled nine-year-old boy no one else would take.

Question a man’s judgment, not his motives,” Mansfield instructed.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Best Managers Have This Trait

“It wasn’t right at the start, but I remember the first time I flew with the President on Marine One. You still want to do your job, especially when you’re around him, so I was replying to emails. He just kind of put his hand on my arm and said, “Hey, put that down and look out the window. This is pretty special.” That’s something I’ve tried to do all along.”

Life at 1600 [Time]

Make the Central Proposition on Your Website Crystal-Clear

Here are two good examples:



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

18 Ways to Create Content

There are so many ways to “create content” these days, I’m dumbfounded when a client complains they don’t have time. Let’s review the buffet of options:

  1. A slide deck
  2. A webinar
  3. A bloggers’ roundtable
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Twitter
  6. Facebook
  7. Instagram
  8. Pinterest
  9. YouTube
  10. Case studies
  11. An e-newsletter
  12. A news release
  13. An event
  14. A blog post
  15. An op-ed
  16. A list of frequently asked questions
  17. An infographic
  18. A white paper

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why Typos Matter

In 2015, a team of Russian-affiliated hackers began to target prominent Democrats. One phishing email in particular went to John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign

“Someone just used your password to try to sign into your Google account,” the message said, adding that the sign-in attempt had occurred in Ukraine. “Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.”

Given how many emails Podesta received through this personal email account, several aides also had access to it. One of them sent the email to a computer technician to make sure it was legitimate before anyone clicked on the “change password” button.

“This is a legitimate email,” Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, replied. “John needs to change his password immediately.”

With the subsequent click, a decade of emails that Podesta maintained in his Gmail account were unlocked for the Russian hackers.

In an interview, Delavan said that his bad advice was a result of a typo: He said he had meant to type that it was an “illegitimate” email, an error that he said has plagued him ever since.

Addendum (1/2/2017): Now, Delavan claims he didn’t meant to type “illegitimate”; he meant to type “not a legitimate.”

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What Donald Trump Can Teach Us About Media Training

Roy Peter Clark explains:

A recent NPR report captured the enthusiasm of Trump supporters at a rally in Cincinnati, where the next president thanked the State of Ohio for his victory, patted himself on the back for getting Carrier to stay put and tossed red meat to the carnivores in the crowd on some of their favorite campaign themes.

In turn, the crowd chanted a series of slogans:

On Hillary: “Lock her up.”

On immigration: “Build that wall.”

On Washington: “Drain the swamp.”

I needed to hear them spoken in close proximity to notice that structurally the three slogans were identical. Each began with an imperative verb (lock, build, drain). Each was three words long. All nine words were one syllable in length. Each verb was transitive, that is, it carried an object. And in each case some unspecified subject was order to do something to something else ...

These three-beat slogans seem to be a special form of battle cry ...

“Lock her up.”

“Build that wall.”

“Drain the swamp.”

They are chant-able like many popular sports chants: “Let’s go Mets!”

Their expression in three words offers a kind of completeness: this is all you need to know. And their brevity rings like the gospel truth.

They show fidelity. They are confident, at times to the point of intolerance. Fact checking and wonkery bounce off of them. They seem silly when spoken by an individual. Coming from an excited crowd they express a collective energy, an army of followers ready to go to war for their king.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why Political Comedy Is So Effective

Before he died, George Carlin explained why people like John Oliver, Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher are so persuasive:

“You are never more yourself than when you have been surprised into laughing. That is a moment when your defenses are down, in a manner of speaking. Most of the time, when you talk to people about — let’s call them ‘issues,’ okay? — people have their defenses up. They are going to defend their point of view, the thing they’re used to, the ideas that they hold dear, and you have to take a long, logical route to get through to them ... But when you are doing comedy or humor, people are open, and when the moment of laughter comes, their guard is down, so new data can be introduced more easily at that moment.”

Monday, October 3, 2016

When Is a Video View Not a View?


The Online Video View: We Can Count It, but Can We Count on It?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Why You Should Always Read the Fine Print

Van Halen’s contracts for concerts stipulated that the band would be supplied with a backstage bowl of M&M’s, with the brown ones removed. David Lee Roth, Van Halen’s lead singer, said the request was not whimsical; it helped to show whether a contract had been carefully read and, therefore, whether the band’s complex, and potentially dangerous, technical requirements were likely to have been met.

Pete Wells Has His Knives Out

Sunday, September 4, 2016

This Is How You Roll Out a New CEO

In the days before Satya Nadella was named Microsoft’s CEO, leaks to selected tech bloggers changed the discussion around the succession from disappointment at the prospect of an in-house replacement to a sense that it was only natural for Microsoft to elevate a veteran who had been at Bill Gates’ side for 22 years. When the announcement came, it sweetly told us that this was as long as he had been with his wife.

But with the traditional press release came an “asset pack” that Microsoft PRs shot out to century-old newsrooms and influential one-man blogs alike. It contained high-definition images of the new CEO looking relaxed but in charge, wearing a hoodie or purposefully clenching one fist as he addressed staff. And it included a biography describing him as a poetry-loving cricketer who “brings a relentless drive for innovation” to the job — good fodder for the “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Satya Nadella” listicles that followed.

Then came the videos: testimonials from Gates and outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer about what an ideal successor he was, and an unchallenging interview by an in-house blogger, conducted as they strolled casually around a people-free section of Microsoft’s headquarters. “How did you feel when you were offered the role?” asked the smiling employee. “Honored, humbled, excited,” the newly minted boss replied. Nadella’s first interview as CEO ended with the blogger posing the softball question: “Why do you feel Microsoft is going to be successful?”

It was a masterclass in PR spoonfeeding and news organisations simply had to drag and drop. With no press conference or one-on-one interview in which to ask tougher questions about the challenges Microsoft faced, and no chance to send news photographers or videographers of their own, that’s what they did. The Financial Times was among those that embedded one of Microsoft’s videos in its reporting that week (noting that it had been produced by the company), linked to and analyzed Nadella’s blog and used the company-issued photographs.

The “asset pack” contained no mention of the thousands of planned job cuts that followed a few months later.

The Invasion of Corporate News

RelatedWhy CEOs Need Media Training

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Life Lessons: Be Persistent

“Keep sending out queries. If the agents and the publishers turn down the first thing, send them a second thing. Then send them a third thing. Then send them a fourth thing. Then send them the first thing again to see if they like it better the second time. Keep pitching. Keep asking. Just don’t quit.

“Keep a list of everything you send out, along with the date you sent it and the date you expect to hear back. Customize your pitches. Learn to write proposals. Pitch everybody. Tell people you’re looking for representation and a publisher, because you never know who may be able to help you. Add to your list every day. In six months if you’re not getting two or three rejections in the email or snail mail every week, you’re not doing your job. The idea is to find someone who either a) recognizes the quality in your work or b) figures your persistence will have some value in their marketing.

—Michael Long

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Do I Give Away My Presentation for Free? Warren Buffet Explains

“Buffett could easily have decided that the numbers speak for themselves — especially when they’re enunciating as loudly and clearly as his do. Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway in April 1965, when the shares cost $18. By the time of his 50th-anniversary letter to shareholders, in 2015, the shares were trading for $223,000, an annual gain of about 21%. No other investor matches that record over that period of time. In the world of hedge funds, secrecy about investment methods is de rigueur: if the sauce weren’t secret, you wouldn’t be having to pay two percent per year, and 20% of the profit on top, for your serving of it. Buffett, by contrast, doesn’t miss an opportunity to explain his ideas.”

How Should We Read Investor Letters

Monday, August 29, 2016

When Does the New York Times Decide to Use Hyperlinks in Stories?

Here’s an email I sent yesterday to the Public Editor of the New York Times:

Good evening Liz -

A few questions for you on the overlooked subject of hyperlinks:

1. How does the Times decide when to link to a person or subject’s internal “topics” page? Is it done automatically by the CMS?

For example, in, see “Andrew Breitbart” in the eighth paragraph and “Tea Party movement” in the 10th paragraph.

Also, the same article mentions “the ‘Saturday Night Live’ actor Leslie Jones.” Why the link to SNL but not to Jones?

2. Do reporters insert links when they file, or do editors usually add them?

3. What’s the official criteria for a link? Is there an informal policy?

For example, if you mention a YouTube video, surely it behooves you to link to it — if not embed it. But too often in straight news articles, links you’d expect are MIA.

For example: The same Brietbart article says, “The site refers to “migrant rape gangs” in Europe, and was among the first news outlets to disseminate unsubstantiated rumors that Mrs. Clinton was in ill health.”

If this were a blog post, I’d expect to see links on “migrant rape gangs” and “disseminate unsubstantiated rumors.”

Thanks, Liz.