Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What to do when someone gets laid off

Every business will regularly go through reorgs. Some are as predictable as the changing of the calendar, others will be completely random, lurching from a sense of blissful security to a sudden slap in the face.

In some ways, you can't fault the business. It is a cold, calculating machine. As we all should be doing in our personal and professional lives, a well-run business will, on a regular cadence, self-assess. Are we on the right track? Are we still aimed at our goal? Are we spending in the right areas? Are our investments and bets paying off? Or do we need to trim our sails and adjust our course? This isn't a place for heart, this isn't a place for warmth and herein lies the rub - in the end, these human "resources" are people and when dealing with people, it can get messy. But this is no place for heart, this is no place for "family" and no one should ever allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security, that the machine cares about you. Because it doesn't. It cares about itself and its self-preservation.

A well-run organization will have clear goals, clear objectives and everyone from the top to the bottom will understand the goals and vision and understand how they play a part in that. And it will be clear if they are core, or if they're at risk because they aren't aligned to the core or aren't pulling in the same direction as everyone else. You need to be able to understand the strategy and whether or not you are helping that strategy, and be able to clearly and regularly articulate that to anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, reorgs do occur. In a strategic, well-run organization, these are regular, tiny, like two tectonic plates gracefully sliding past one another. When things don't run so smoothly, it's more like an earthquake. The regular, tiny adjustments keep an organization aligned, and often means being able to redeploy high quality, high performing resources (people) to other strategic areas. Those kind of reorgs (more like "evolutionary adjustments") go unnoticed, rarely involving layoffs. There's less need to move (or remove) people because everyone understands their place and they've already made the move (or removed themselves). It doesn't mean no one ever finds themselves without a job, but it does mean it's never a shock to the person let go or the people left behind. (And it often means the work the person was doing was eliminated at the same time.)

For those who are "materially impacted" by such reorgs - surprise or expected - whether it's small or large from the point of those left behind - it's a big deal. For them, life has come to a screeching halt. All around them, life goes on but for a moment, they find themselves on the edge of a very large precipice, failing their arms, unsure if they're going to regain their balance or go flying over the cliff.

Most regain their balance.

But most who aren't impacted don't know what to do. They feel guilty, they worry they might be next, they worry about any added work they might have dumped on them. They might be relieved because it's not them or sad because they are going to miss seeing the person.

Often, a combination of all those feelings plus the fact that their full, messy lives are still proceeding (possibly with a little more uncertainty), they don't act. "The person who got laid off will reach out," they think. The person who got laid off will let us know when they're ready to talk. They've got all this free time now. They're in mourning. I'm in shock. For a million reasons, we don't do much, if anything, to reach out to those who are no longer with us in our daily march.

But it's exactly the wrong thing to do. If someone you know gets laid off, they need you to reach out to them. People, especially men, identify heavily with "what they do." So when they're told they're no longer needed, that cuts to the core. Friends who reach out let them know they are still needed, they do still have value, to offer hope and commiseration. When someone's asked to hand in their keys, they no longer feel "welcome" so very few are going to feel comfortable reaching out to colleagues at their old job - those people need to be the ones doing the reaching out.

I haven't always done a great job of this in the past, I've been on the side of "well, they'll reach out when they need something." Or, I've sent a short note on Facebook and then when they agreed to lunch or coffee, I left it to them to schedule, they have all the free time, right? That was a mistake. Now having been on the other side, I know it's the person still employed who has to push the other person to commit to the meeting - otherwise they might sit around at home in their pajamas thinking about looking for work.

---

Until recently, my experience was from the other side, seeing friends leave unexpectedly and doing less than I, in retrospect, should have to encourage them. They'd propose a meal, I'd agree and wait for them to set it up. Now, from the other side, I've seen how painful and how alone people can feel at times. When I was laid off, I had to buy a phone and a laptop, but I went to my home office every day from 8-5, worked on my consulting business, worked on the job search, but it still felt lonely. Some people suggested lunch and I agreed and waited for them to follow-up, and others suggested lunch or coffee and made sure it happened. Others looked me up on LinkedIn (I got the "so and so visited your profile") but otherwise didn't reach out. I haven't known what to make of that.

But I'm committed - I will be a better friend to any friends of mine who find themselves cast aside in the future. I had no idea how much it's needed.

Lastly, if you don't know them too well, but you know their spouse, reach out to them - they'll need comfort, hope and a distraction as well - even if it's just coffee or lunch - but make that personal connection beyond Facebook.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Quote: Prayer


Prayer isn't preparation for the greater work, it is the greater work.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

@Saddleback Airlines

Family illnesses have kept us home a few times recently from church.  The first time, we intended to gather in the kitchen and watch our church's live stream, only it turned out that they weren't broadcasting that morning.  So we thought we'd try Overlake, dragged the laptop into the living room, connected it to the TV but it kept buffering and stuttering.  So had the idea to look to see if Saddleback was on Roku.  It was, and it streamed great with no interruptions.

I've had a fascination with Saddleback but never attended a service there.  I was there once for a conference that featured Rick Warren (but he was oddly enough, simulcast from Texas for his part) and another time my boss and I were supposed to meet with the IT team from Saddleback but we drove separately and when I got there I couldn't find my boss and he wasn't picking up his cell or wasn't getting coverage or something so after an hour and a half of wandering around and driving around the campus, I went home.  At that job, some of us felt like Saddleback was something to aspire to, something we could learn from, so we regularly visited their website and observed how they were approaching different online elements.  So, never had attended a service there, but have always wanted to learn more.

So now we've "attended Saddleback" twice recently via Roku, sitting on the couch in our living room.  This morning as it started, there was a welcome video.  Two personable people appeared in front of a white background in a well-planned, rehearsed, scripted short video.  It welcomed people to the church, explained a few things and then spent a few minutes introducing one of the ministries: Counseling.  It first explained how it worked and how you could take advantage of it if you needed counseling or someone to talk to.  And then it shifted gears and talked about how it was only possible with lots of volunteers and the training they'd receive and stuff.  And then the two were back on screen to wrap up the welcome and it struck me: I was watching a pre-flight video. It wasn't about how to operate a seatbelt or oxygen mask or tray table, but it was the same effect - a quick way to put people at ease and orient them to what was going on if they'd never been there before, while at the same time, being brief enough and interesting enough so as to keep people who attended regularly from tuning out or thinking it wasn't for them.  They didn't actually end with "Now, on with the show!" but they might as well have - their energy levels matched so well with the music that started as the video ended.  It was all real well done.

Does your first interaction convey who you are?

You may not handle operations or service planning for a church, but the way you introduce yourselves to new visitors (to your store or website or your call center) and how you welcome your repeat visitors and regulars can't be overlooked, left to chance, or put in the hands of someone who's not trained - they must be the living embodiment of your esprit de corps - they get it, they're empowered, they're passionate, they're celebrated.  If we're talking about people, don't make them the factory you churn through with low pay and harsh regulations (timed bathroom breaks? average call times?) and if it's your website, don't assume you can always identify the new visitor from the regular.

This made me think of the quote from Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos "Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes." There's a lot packed into that statement, more than I can go into here.  I will once again point to Simon Sinek's awesome TED Talk (18 minutes) or his book Start with Why.

If it's been more than 3 months since you took a critical look at what your initial customer/prospect experience looks like, it's time to schedule some time to (a) get reacquainted and (b) form a new team to make sure it's never again more than a few minutes since you've taken a critical look at the totality of your experience - online, offline, social, incoming, outgoing - marketing, public relations, earned media, etc., etc., etc.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bad user experience, @foxnews

I noticed a trending article on Facebook about a soldier that wasn't being allowed to stay with his wife.  Turns out that some landlord in South Carolina has decided he wants to win some Grinch of the Year award.  The soldier is home on leave - two weeks ago his daughter (his first child) was born.  The landlord says that because his name isn't on the lease, he's a "visitor" and visitors can't stay for more than 7 days.  He's threatening to charge the soldier with trespassing and double the woman's rent for violation of her lease if the soldier remains.  (Is the baby's name on the lease?)

Anyhow, what struck me right away was that FoxNews said it was a solder who was being evicted. If he's an electrical engineer, perhaps he's a solderer but they probably meant soldier and how has no one caught this yet?  (Even in Chrome when I typed solder in the sentence above Google give is a gray wiggly underline as probably wrong.)

I saw that no one else had yet suggested the landlord evict the baby I mean, she must cry a lot, right?  I bet the other tenants are probably saying "Let the dad stay. It'll help mom and it's another person who can help comfort the wee one so there's less crying. (They say "wee one" in South Carolina, right?)  Anyhow, I thought I had a clever and amusing thought to add to the general discourse, so I tried to do so.  But I was foiled.


There is a required field where you are forced to enter your political view.  It's an open-ended field, but there's no suggestions about what's appropriate. But I can tell you that the following aren't just from my trying to get past this screen:

  • this is stupid
  • no
  • independent
  • libertarian
  • agnostic
  • hostile
  • gop
  • republicane
  • moderate
  • demecrat
  • green
  • dnc
  • unsure
  • undecided
  • I miss Ronald Reagan
  • Obama when he delivers
  • fiscal conservative
  • compassionate conservative
  • socialist
  • Donner (OK, I guess that's more party than view)
  • Blitzen
  • marxist
  • marxism
  • communist

I tried to examine the page's source to see if there was an acceptable list of choices, but I couldn't find one.  It is FoxNews, though, so I assume the choices are probably Republican or (something insulting).

In all seriousness, it is a really bad idea to offer an open text-entry field and then limit the available choices without telling someone what they are.

There are several better ways to get this information:

If it's absolutely necessary at the time of sign-up...

However, I would argue that this is not necessary.  Every item you demand (they also demand date of birth) will cost you in attrition - people who will not complete what they consider to be overly invasive or onerous.  It's important to weight the value of some information against no information.  Best practice: ask the minimum necessary to identify the person.

(1) Offer a selection of options or a list of choices to select from.

(2) Accept any option and create rules in the backend to attempt to interpret responses.  New responses can be flagged for human review and classification. Once classified, if someone else enters the same response in the future they'll be classified the same way.  (We did this on a project where we tried to reconcile search terms on a website into meta-categories without any AI behind-the-scenes.  Slightly manual but people tended to repeat the same things others did with little variation and soon we had critical mass.)

If it's not absolutely necessary at the time of sign-up...

(3) Require the field at a later date.  They've already invested enough to sign-up, answering one more question later (on their third visit, after a month, etc.) will be better received.

(4) Place it in the Profile Center and explain why providing the information will improve the experience (recommend specific articles or authors or viewpoints).

(5) Use Behavioral Analysis to guess (where do they go on the site? If we present story A and story B, which one do they click on or spend more time on? What kinds of articles do they click "like" or share? When they post comments, are the responses positive and negative? And what is the political viewpoint of the people they are interacting with in the discussion?)

(6) Use Progressive Profiling - through instant (one-question) surveys, ask innocent questions that help you refine your understanding or assumptions about who a visitor is.

(7) Use Data Augmentation/Append - there are companies out there that have data on people.  You can buy that data to fill in the gaps in your own data about people's political views, shopping habits, credit history, browsing habits, etc.  (Most of my readers will think this is creepy and get mad at me for even mentioning it, but it is an option.)

Bottom line, reduce friction.  If the goal is to build a community who contribute to the discourse (increase page views, ad views and time spent on the site), make sure you're not preventing them from participating.  You want to make sure you're reasonably protected from trolls (and your community can help self-police) but you don't want to shut-out legitimate people who want to participate.  (Ok, so my funny comment... legitimate? Maybe not a great contribution the discourse but you almost had all kinds of information on me and the license to email me in the future.)


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Quote: Intent


If you want people to think - give them intent, not instructions.
-- David Marquet

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

New Now

It has been awhile since I've just sat down and posted. Surprisingly, it hasn't even really been on my mind.  But, it's long overdue. If I'm not careful, my end of the year summary of events isn't going to really have anything for December.

So... hi.  It's been awhile.  And this is going to be brief.  So, it's December.  I've in the past been concerned about "missing Christmas" - lamenting that I didn't feel Christmasy, that I didn't slow down, that I didn't cast aside enough stuff to make things more about Christmas.  In some ways, this is more true than ever this year.

So, new job, into the fifth week of it.  Week one I worked from home three days and from Seattle two. Ever since then, I've been in Bellevue every day.  That means an 65 to 75 minutes to get there and 70 to I-am-never-going-to-get-home-and-might-as-well-just-die-now minutes to get home.  I've found the best results by getting up at 5:30 and getting on the road as close to 6 as possible, and leaving work by 4:30 each night.  When I'm lucky, that gets me home before it's time for one or both of the children to get started on their bedtime routine.  (Ben because that means he'll be going to bed, Rachel because it means she'll be reading quietly in her room by herself.)  I've had to set a number of things aside, had to be a lot more picky about what I can do.  It does go back to what I was saying earlier this year about "not all time being created equal."  There's a number of things I can do *while* watching Netflix (like clean up after dinner, make the children's medicine, fold laundry, clean catboxes, etc.) but a lot I can't.  Also, I've found myself playing video games in my down time instead of reading. Fortunately, I've been getting some "reading" done with audiobooks during the drive.

Means trying to get to bed earlier, praying for a good night's sleep and then making sure I have enough caffeine to make it through the next day.  I wouldn't call it a grind - quite the contrary - but it sure is packed.  I'd love to have a shorter commute, but I can't retroactively go back eight years and choose to live somewhere else (plus, right now we're comparing 20 long commutes against 8 years of really, really short commutes) and I can't convince this city's only major employer not to leave just because of what it will do to the value of this house.

So I'm sitting here longer than I'd intended, but it feels good.  It doesn't feel like I'm writing anything all that interesting, but I'm writing, and I guess I'm glad for that.  It's also interesting that I haven't had any work-related things to write about.  I may be marveling at this new environment, I may be too engrossed in all that I'm pleased with, not sure.  I've captured a few things to write about, but haven't really felt all that compelled.

Still working on my consultancy as well.  Just have the one client.  I've had to adjust some of the ways and timing of the work I've been doing for them and they've been gracious and really encouraging, sticking with me during the transition and had some nice words for me when I made my news public about the abrupt ending of the last job.   I intend to eventually write about what happened but I'm still under a gag order.  There was no specifically identified term to what I signed but I'm pretty sure they can't indefinitely quell my freedom of speech.  Don't worry, I'm not sitting on anything incendiary, there's just some things I want to process through at the keyboard in a couple of months' time.

So, we're doing well, it's not exactly a "new normal" yet, but it's kind of like when you're coming out of an earthquake.  You know it's over and you've dusted yourself and you're taking inventory.  Life is resuming, but we're not sure yet, what all is different.

Yep, way too long.  Felt good.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Review: Power - Why Some People Have it and Others Don't @JeffreyPfeffer

Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don't by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Once again, I find myself at a book that I ended up reading just at the right time in my life when I needed it. I wish I had read it a decade ago, but I might not have been as receptive. I just recently left an organization that highly prized, nay, demanded collaboration. "For the good of the organization" was drilled into you. Do good and you will be rewarded, probably now and certainly in the life to come. Yes, we were a Christian organization believing we were doing the work of God. Probably were. But certain unhealthy ways of thinking had crept in over the decades and, well, I'm still under contract not to say much about that until at least next February.

The premise of this book is that no one else is looking out for you - you need to create environment within which you can be successful in both the large and small things. This ties in nicely with The 10x Rule (My Review) - relentlessly push forward. It may, at times, feel selfish, but no one else is going to do it for you. And as much as people say they may have hierarchy and politics, they are a part of the modern office and if you want to get ahead, you must learn to play them. This is the ultimate "bring me solutions, not problems" - only in this case, you're both the sender and receiver - you make your success or you do not have success. No time for what's blocking you, all your effort needs to be going where you're unblocked, even if that's at some other job. More than ever, we are Human Resources, not people.

Harsh, but true.

I don't see a need to belabor the point. I would recommend this book to people at any point in their careers. I would especially recommend it to people who have felt left behind or people who are by nature introverts. Some people are happy to be left alone to put their heads down and work. But if you're feeling any discontent or frustration or watching anyone else get ahead because they "play the game" - guess what, you need to play it, too.

In the end, the author shows a scientific, statistically-controlled correlation because those with people and those who felt powerless and mortality rates - that without power, you will also die sooner.


Power: Why Some People Have It-and Others Don't (Amazon)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Staying Home


Save a bunch of money today? Perhaps you might want to donate some of it to a charity to help others.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Quote: Plan


We plan for today, imagine vacations next month and never consider eternity.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quote: Rules


If we sign-up for the Marines, we expect to follow their rules. They own you. 
If we sign-up for heaven, why do we still think we can make the rules?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Great email from @RokuPlayer

Ordered another Roku last night. Got a chuckle from the emailed receipt.


However since we were purchasing our second Roku, they already knew everything about us (name, address, credit card info, email address)... why did I have to enter it all over again?

For less than the cost of one month of cable (plus Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Prime), these little boxes are a great way to get most of what you can get from cable.  (I am in no way financially incentivized to promote Roku, I just really like them. I'd put an Amazon link for credit but they cost almost twice as much on Amazon.)

Since we cut the cable over a year ago now, there's very little we haven't been able to find via Roku or online. (If you have a newer TV, all you need is an HDMI and know where to look. If you have older TVs like ours (or an older laptop without HDMI out), you need an VGA to RCA adapter instead of an HDMI cable.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Feed Sift (Nov. 7, 2014)

Hello, Friday! Here's the latest collection of things I wanted to share.

-1-

ENGADGET -- A look at how 'Jurassic Park' and its CGI dinosaurs changed cinema

-2-

BIRGIT WHELAN -- I Miss God

-3-

KEN LEVINE -- My Latest Rant

-4-

WEB URBANIST -- Dancing Traffic Signal Makes Crossing the Street More Fun (and safer)

-5-

LIFEHACKER -- Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by Knowing What to Tweak

-6-

SETH GODIN -- Learning from the State Department

-7-

XKCD -- Lightsaber

-8-

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW -- 5 Tips for New Team Leaders

-9-

WBEZ -- Why Buses Arrive in Bunches

-10-

YOUTUBE -- First-Person Hyperlapse Videos - it's a little bit technical, but it's interesting how they're using software to create reality that never existed. Not just sped-up footage, but what would appear to be photos that were never actually taken.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Help! My Portfolio Sucks! Or does it...?

I recently read an article on A List Apart called Help! My Portfolio Sucks! I thought it was a great piece, but I didn't think it went far enough.

The submitter wrote to say that they were unhappy with some of the work in their portfolio - that what the client wanted wasn't as awesome as what they would have done if they had full control. Or, that as the web got cooler, some of the older pieces started to look stale or outdated (they'd no longer impress).  The response noted that you don't have to include every piece in your portfolio and that if necessary, you could also do some side projects to show off your skills, even if they weren't for a client.

They touched on it briefly, but I think that they didn't speak enough about context. One would presume that no matter how you personally felt about the work, that you were pleasing your clients. If not, that's a bigger issue.

But if the clients were happy, then you were successful, even if you were unhappy with the final outcome yourself.

And this is where context comes into play. The work itself should not stand alone. You aren't marketing the client and you aren't hoping that you can make the sale by simply pointing to your past work and asking your clients to figure it out.

No, you're asking the prospective client to embark on a journey with you, hopefully one that will last over multiple engagements.  You're only successful when they're successful, it's easier to retain a client than acquire a new one, etc., etc., etc.

So you take these pieces of your portfolio and you give your new prospective clients perspective. Here's what the client asked for, here's how I delivered and here's how I went above and beyond.  If we were to do a future phase to this work, here's what I would encourage the customer to consider.

Show that you can deliver. Or to put it another way, even if the customer wants a pizza with anchovies and only cheese on half, even if that disgusts you and all the other customers, you can still make a great pizza and tell the story of how happy the customer was when you delivered exactly what they ordered, even taking the time to make sure the crust was evenly golden all the way around.

This isn't about them and it isn't even about the work. It's about your ability to deliver.

I like how this company, Rational Interaction (portfolio) sets each page up with a common structure: here's the challenge, here's how we applied our approach, here's the results.  It's easy for a new prospective client to imagine how RI would go about solving their problem.  (I have no connection to RI.)

So get out there and sell yourself.

Quote: Different Life


Today, how would your life look different if you weren't a Christian?

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Book Review: Outcasts (Safe Lands #2)

Outcasts (Safe Lands #2) by

Review by ()

I usually review books much quicker after I've read them, but some stuff kind of derailed me temporarily. So even though I read Outcasts a little while ago now, I'm just getting to the review. But the time since the read has given me time to think. I've decided not to continue this series.

In the first book, Captives (my review) we have these two groups of people: people inside a large, walled community partying like it's 2049 and people outside the walls partying like it's 1849. Inside - monorails, skyscrapers, virtual tattoos. Outside, the farm life: butter churning, town meetin's and, well, for some reason, ATVs. Bad guys, good guys. Modern progressive free-wheeling, rustic rural living-off-the-land Christians. Most of the world is dead from a plague and, in fact, the people inside the walled community are dying as well. So they kidnap the people outside the walls who aren't sick, hoping that they will help produce new humans to save the good lifers from a slow extinction.

Of course, the outsiders don't want to be inside. They had plenty of opportunities to come in on their own, but it wasn't the life for them. But now, they're here by force and they don't aim to stay. So book two follows their efforts to escape, including connecting with rebels within the walled community.

Where the first book really played on the Christian theme, the second book starts with it almost noticeably absenst - as if someone said "hey, lay off the Bible verses already." Eventually they pick it back up, but it's secondary to the tale of this group and their desire to flee the city. As I've had more time to think about it, it just doesn't feel legitimate - that after multiple generations of barn raisings, that they fit in far too easily into the new world. My grandmother is nearly 100 years old. In the last 100 years, she's been witness to a lot of technological advances but there are some portions of modern technology and culture that she doesn't have an interest in learning about, they are not approachable, perhaps even foreign. Even if she understands the concepts, she wouldn't see the value in becoming proficient with some aspects of modernity. Now these people have been living in this manner for multiple generations - only one man in the community knew what life was like before the plague and he died in the first book. It just feels implausible that these 15-20somethings who have lost their parents (and the one formerly-surviving elder) can really assimilate this quickly into the modern world, but somehow they do. Oh, and at one point one wears a suit made of screens so that he can move around, seemingly invisible. Like this, only apparently much better:



Yeah, it was too much. I'm leaving the series here, I won't continue on to book three.


Captives (My Review, Amazon.com)


Outcasts (Amazon.com)

Saturday, November 01, 2014

HeckNoNaNoWriMoFoSho

Why on earth is NaNoWriMo in November? I'd love to try it, but life is too hard anyhow. But then to do it right as we're ramping up to Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Crazy.  And then some.

That's what I liked about Lindsey and Katrina's Blog-a-Day a few years ago - it was January.  It was tough, but the timing was great - by writing every day in January, it put me on a path to write every day that year.

But write a novel now? Nope. I'd probably write about a guy on a desert island who does nothing day after day but lay in the underbrush hiding from passing boats and planes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Feed Sift (Oct. 31, 2014)

Happy Halloween! Here's some stuff I thought was worth sharing.

-1-

ENGADGET -- Korean protester spreads democracy's message by balloon and flashdrive

-2-

MEDIUM -- The Internet of Things Will Ruin Birthdays

-3-

FAST COMPANY -- 5 Strategies for Big-Picture Thinking

-4-

INTUIT -- 5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your One-On-Ones With Your Manager

-5-

MORNING DEVOTION -- When You're Smiling

-6-

CINEMA BLEND -- How Guardians Of The Galaxy Taught A Kid With Autism To Be A Superhero

-7-

EXCELJET -- Can pivot tables save your job? Maybe!

-8-

BENCHMARK EMAIL -- Brand YOU

-9-

LIFEHACKER -- All the Awesome Stuff You Can Do with Google+ Photos

-10-

TWISTED SIFTER -- 11 Story Building Completely Demolished in 60 Seconds - pretty sure it took far less than 60 seconds, that most of that time was just showing off with pyrotechnics

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Quote: Enemy


Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. - Napoleon

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On the subject of gifts....

I started to write an email and decided it worked better as a blog post. (What's below is not the email, I deleted that and then the first draft post as well.)

So why write about giving me gifts at all? Is that presumptuous of me? Greedy? Self-serving?

I hope not.

I don't want to be prescriptive about what people should or shouldn't give me, but I want to be helpful.  If I simply said "Don't get me anything." I know I would be sad (I like gifts/surprises) and some people would be sad (they like giving presents) or they would be offended (either because they weren't planning on it or because who am I to tell them what to do? They'll show me. Now they're going to get me twice as many gifts. OK, I don't see that happening.)

Here's a few of the things in my mind that might give you some ideas hopefully without being prescriptive. Lori can also probably decode these if you're curious to learn more but don't want to ask me.

Seattle - I love Seattle and love celebrating it, I love spending time in it.  

Food - I've dropped 42 pounds but really struggling with the last 8. Still, there are some special treats I enjoy, like items from Pike Place Market or Made in Washington that wouldn't normally appear on Lori's menu. Lori and I have also had fun recently buying small samples of various cheeses from Trader Joes as a way of trying new things.

Clothes - I'm in the early stages of coming up with a "style" - a much smaller wardrobe of quality pieces that all fit together for consistency with a singular look, color palette. 

Time with our family and friends - We (either all four of us, or just Lori and I or just the children without Lori and I) don't get to spend as much time with family and friends as we'd like.  Invite yourself over or invite us over.  A lame excuse but it's a step above survival - we're not thinking at that level. Please reach out to us. We're not intentionally being hermits.

Time with a child - Lori and I don't get enough chances for focused time together with a single child. If you'd like to borrow the other for an afternoon, evening or sleepover, they come with instructions. (Or just hang out at our house while we're out with the other child. Ben has been a bigger recipient of mom and dad time to date.)

Time with just Lori - while Lori and I do enjoy far more date nights than your typical parent of special needs children, we welcome ideas on how to spend that time (if you want to send us to a unique restaurant, a performance or a worship concert, those are all great ways to gift us)  

Stuff - I'm fighting a battle with clutter, we have limited surfaces and Ben's started pulling things off the walls. Would I grab it in a fire?  Alternatively, is it a non-food item I will use (but wouldn't necessarily buy for myself), some kind of little luxury? Otherwise, the "stuff" that I'd put on a list are not the stuff of gifts: a new furnace, permanent wiring for generator, hot water heater, windows in basement, new retaining wall, redoing the kid's bathroom, etc.

Future - Our future is uncertain, but there's the potential that Ben could be with us the rest of our life and then need care after we're gone. Anything with a thought towards that is a heartwarming blessing of a future we're cautioned not to dwell upon but still does linger as something to be considered.

Beyond me - there are people in situations I can't even really comprehend - around the world or here in our community, many of whom would probably even do a better job of being truly grateful for a gift. If I'm difficult to shop for or I've just put forth a bunch of annoying rules that suck the joy out of it, there's always shoeboxes and angel trees and food banks and charities.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rethink Your Business

In late 2010, I had an opportunity to do something really fun. I hand-picked about 10 of my co-workers and announced that we were going on a field trip - to do research project. These were peers, it wasn't compulsory but there would be homework.

Starbucks had just launched the Starbucks Digital Network (in cooperation with Yahoo!) - a portal of content exclusively available in its cafés. At the same time, our new group was really hitting its groove and thinking hard about what the next version of the internet looked like for us.  We were a newly formed unit focused on the internet inside a major non-profit that had successfully lived in a postal world for decades - several different groups had been brought together to function like a startup. Those were exciting times.

I told them to bring their phones, laptops, I think we even had a brand new shiny iPad First Edition with us.

I put together a packet with a couple of pages of questions. We piled into cars and headed to Starbucks. Unfortunately, the WiFi wasn't working. The barista said it had been out for some time and that it had been reported.  We tweeted about the non-working WiFi and one person tweeted about the Starbucks Digital Network.  We got in the car and drove to a second Starbucks. By the time we got there, we had heard back from Stephen Gillett, the then-Executive Vice President of Digital Ventures at Starbucks who apparently had a watch on Twitter for people mentioning the SDN.  (By that afternoon he and I exchanged a few emails and the WiFi in the first store was fixed. That was kind of cool.)

So we rolled into the second store, some already carrying Starbucks cups, the others heading to the counter to place their orders.  We gathered at the bar and a few nearby tables and began playing. They also had their homework packets that I had prepared and provided in print and electronically to them. Some filled it out by hand, others began to type responses and others didn't fill them out later, but I led them through an examination of the experience... what did you notice about the marketing? how was the new offering promoted? how easy was it to use? what did you like? what didn't you like?

I got them thinking about how the experience might be perceived - how it might complement someone's other activities, such as sitting and drinking a coffee. Or would it have negative side-effects? Would people stay too long? Was that a problem? Would they play on their computers instead of talking or reading a newspaper? Would they be disappointed if they called up the page later after leaving and they could no longer get to the content?

Lastly, I made it applicable to us. What if the same people that did the Starbucks Digital Network did our website? What if they were trying to do what we did?

There were some fascinating answers, some great thought-provoking discussion and I think we all came out of it asking new questions and approaching our work in a new way. (My photo is intentionally obtuse, I think the responses were best left for internal use.)

I never had a chance to do anything like this again, but I always thought it would have been fun to go some place like The Home Depot and use their breakroom for a brainstorming session.  Or go to Best Buy or Verizon or Macys or Wal*Mart and ask "What is unique about this experience? What would it look like if the gatekeepers for this experience were tasked with meeting our business objectives? What would they do? What wouldn't they do that we're now doing?"

What are you doing to get out of the box and see your business in a new light?

(cross-posted to LinkedIn)

Facebook Email: That's All, Folks

At the end of 2010, Facebook unveiled its inbox: your chosen nickname would become an email address. My coverage (here) has remained one of my most read blog posts over the years. Well, based on the email this morning, looks like Facebook's changing course. All emails sent to my @facebook.com email address will now be forwarded to one of the email addresses I have on file.


Facebook's Inbox was never well-publicized, new messages hidden in an "Other" inbox that was hidden unless you knew (and remembered to actually check it). New emails didn't result in notifications and were missing from the mobile apps.

The last message I see in that inbox (from a Facebook group/page I am a fan of) was from 2011.

This may have been a missed opportunity for Facebook (probably would be considered a "distraction") but also speaks to the strength of email as a stand-alone platform.  Attempts to redefine or integrate email into something else is not an easy proposition.

http://www.geekculture.com/joyoftech/joyarchives/1612.html


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by

Review by ()

I spent the entire time I read this being slightly confused. A boy named Thomas wakes up on a moving platform without most of his memories. When it finally stops, he realizes that it's been an elevator. He's greeted by a bunch of boys who speak English, but with a few made-up words. Even though he can't remember anything, he feels like he understands or has repressed memories of the place. The elevator is in the center and it's a big, flat place with a farm in one corner, a forest in another. The place also has a cemetery, a crudely constructed multi-story building, and a few cinderblock buildings, one he learns is a jail, another a room where maps are kept. The entire area is like a box with no lid - vertical walls extend up on all sides over a hundred feet tall.

On each of the four walls, a vertical slit leads into a maze. The boys have determined that the maze is 8 times the size of the space they live in (think of a tic-tac-toe board). Every night, the slits close and the maze is reconfigured.

Their life is one of routine and rules. Everyone has assigned duties. Supplies arrive in the lift on a regular basis. Try to escape via the lift and something slices you in half. But you can ask for stuff (like running shoes) and it's delivered with the supplies.

Every day, "runners" go into the maze. Their job is to explore the maze and document what's changed. The belief is that somehow, somewhere, there's a way out. For over two years they've been at it. No contact with the outside world, no knowledge except for that which they discover themselves. Oh, and there's monsters in the maze - creatures that are part slug, part mechanical beings. If encountered during the day, you can usually get away and get out of the maze, but you do not want to remain in the maze overnight, you will not survive and the next day the runners will be cleaning you up off the maze floor and bringing you back to bury you in the cemetery with all the other boys who have died. If the monsters prick you with one of their spikes, you will have all sorts of scary hallucinations and be mentally unstable for a few days. Boys who have gone through that say they'd rather die.

The new guy Thomas isn't content to slowly learn, he's anxious to get started. He wants to be a runner. He riles everyone up because he's not interested in the rules and order. He gets things done and by ignoring the rules he discovers things about where they live that no one else has. Not too soon after he arrives, an unconscious girl arrives in the lift. A note in her hand says that the end is coming. Between Thomas' failure to follow the rules, the arrival of the girl and the happenings that begin to, well, happen, the other boys are for the most part angry and distrustful of Thomas and don't believe he knows as little as he claims.

I couldn't quite picture the monsters, I couldn't quite fathom the scale of their prison and the weird language the boys spoke threw me. The ending was also a bit frustrating. This won't be a series I continue to read. However, I am curious about the movie because maybe it will help fill in the gaps for me that evaded my imagination. If it's good, maybe I'll pick up the second book (which is also currently being turned into a movie).

The Maze Runner (Amazon.com)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Feed Sift (Oct. 24, 2014)

Some recent stuff I wanted to share.

-1-

ENGADGET -- What you need to know about self-driving cars

-2-

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC -- Empire of Rock - China's Supercaves

-3-

PEOPLE DISCOVERY -- Mind-Set: The Winning Factor

-4-

EXCELJET -- 23 Things You Should Know about Pivot Tables


-5-

BIRGIT WHELAN -- Staying at our Post

-6-

MEDIUM -- Technical Debt 101

-7-


CRACKED -- 6 Ways Movies Get Space Wrong (by Astronaut Chris Hadfield)

-8-

NOT ALWAYS RIGHT -- Political Correctness Takes a Holiday

-9-

OK CUPID -- We Experiment on Human Beings!

-10-

YOUTUBE -- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Uncut - Totally recreated scene for scene by other people in a variety of styles. Wow... people are cool. I wish I had time to watch this whole thing.

Happy Friday!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review: The Everything Store by Brad Stone @bradstone

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by

Review by ()

I love Seattle. I thought I loved L.A. and possibly there's still a part of me that does, but I love Seattle. I love the beauty of the city in its rich history and architecture to the tall lines of its modern buildings. And then there's the trees, the water and the mountains. And the weather complements it as well, whether it's a beautiful 72 degree spring day or a gray, rainy, blustery day. So I've always been a fan of its local industries and the degree to which Seattle businesses become global juggernauts.

So of course I had to read the Amazon book. I couldn't help compare to "By My Guest" by Hilton which my dad loaned me and got me interested in these types of books (and one that I apparently never reviewed on my blog) and "Onward" by Howard Schultz (which remains a popular read on my blog).

The book is a quick read and you get to learn some unique things, like about some of the building or conference room names (one after the first customer, another after a dog that would accompany an early employee into the office). Another is the small, independent team mentality which sounds fascinating and scary but may also be why this reviewer continues to get emails from Kindle Brazil despite the nice letter from the Director of Amazon Brazil pledging to get me off the list (probably as a result of me writing to jeff@amazon.com and that director getting one of Jeff's famous "?" emails.) But in the same way that it's a quick read, it also feels rushed.

Jeff Bezos says that Amazon is still on "Day One" - that most of Amazon's story is yet to be written. This book suffers for that - while a great look at what's happened so far, the pace at which things are changing means that far more quickly than, say, Hilton, the book becomes past its good-through date: you get to the end and you think "what about... and... and...?" This may not necessarily be the book's fault, attempting to capture a snapshot in time of a company that's moving so quickly. I think what makes "I'm Feeling Lucky" (my review) is that the author was an employee but then left, which gives the book more natural closure. While Stone had access to a number of employees, including Bezos for while, it's more analysis and recounting events but you lose some of the narrative or some of the inherent underlying vision of someone who lived it as an employee or the visionary themselves.

I think it's telling about Amazon that even this book was embroiled in controversy - there was questions about whether it would be sold on Amazon and the store and publisher have tangled over pricing.

The Everything Store is told from more of an outsider's perspective. It tries not to be critical, but it's probably a little more "warts and all" than the Hilton or Starbucks or Google book. I was applying for jobs while I read this book and I came close to withdrawing as I read. The book shows a relentless pursuit of customer service, but I wonder if it's at the expense of anything else and everything else.

I'd do recommend this book, it's full of great stories and gives you some glimpses of the birth and growing pains of this modern juggernaut. And I'd definitely recommend it for Amazon employees - these are the stories that are being told. If they're wrong or incomplete then Amazon needs to do a better job of telling its story, its way.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Amazon.com)

Links to Amazon are tagged with my affiliate code, of course. You'd be surprised how many thermistors I've sold for Amazon.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feed Sift (Tuesday, Oct. 14)

More stuff I've captured because I wanted to share but then never made it into a post.

-1-

LIFEHACKER -- Change Your Beliefs About Yourself to Form Better Habits

-2-

ENGADGET -- See more of Android Wear, Google's wrist-borne OS

-3-
CROSSCUT -- The truth about Tacoma: 5 things you might not know

-4-

THE ATLANTIC -- World War I in Photos: A Century Later

-5-

LIKE A TEAM -- Preparing for Worship

-6-

SETH GODIN -- When in doubt, re-read rule one

-7-

WEB URBANIST -- Dubai to Build New 50 Million Sq Ft Climate-Controlled City

-8-

HOUZZ -- Light Your Patio, Extend Your Evening

-9-

BUSINESS WEEK -- Twilight of the Pizza Barons - As a former Little Caesar's employee (and current regular customer), I found this really interesting

-10-

VIMEO -- Futurama 3D Test Shot - wow. Go watch the larger version and his "making of" videos.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Worth Repeating: Jennifer Golbeck @jengolbeck



The Curly Fry Conundrum: Why social media "likes" say more than you might think: Do you like curly fries? Have you Liked them on Facebook? Watch this talk to find out the surprising things Facebook (and others) can guess about you from your random Likes and Shares. More on TED.com...

Why I Posted This: Data is fascinating. Simple behavioral data (you visited this page, you put this item in your cart, therefore we'll recommend these items and send you this abandoned cart reminder) is just the tip of the iceberg. Even Target knowing you're pregnant before you've told anyone is just the start. All of the sudden through aggregation and patterns, information exists from data clues you provided. And in some cases, it can be wrong and in other cases, it's right on. What we say and do online (or don't do and don't say) starts to define who we are. Not who we really are, but who the interconnected world of computers that determine what you can buy, what your credit or insurance risk, etc., is. Fascinating and scary.

(Why haven't I posted these in awhile? I've been busy and distracted. I'm way behind on the list of TED Talks I want to watch.)

Feed Sift (Saturday, Oct. 11)

It's been way too long since I've posted one of these. I've been collecting interesting links but not getting blog posts written. So here's a list of 10 things off that list that are still interesting (to me).

-1-

ENGADGET -- FDA approves a life-like prosthetic arm from the man who invented the Segway

-2-

LIFEHACKER -- Stop Trying to Be Happy and Start Working Towards Your Ideal Self

-3-

TWISTED SIFTER -- Remember Faces but Forget Names? You Might Be a Visual Thinker

-4-

MICROSOFT -- Create a custom number format in Excel

-5-

NETFLIX -- The Case Against ISP Tolls

-6-

ENGADGET -- Autonomous camera drone lets you shoot your own action scenes

-7-

THE GUARDIAN -- D-day landings scenes in 1944 and now – interactive

-8-

DARING FIREBALL -- Only Apple

-9-

GOOGLE OPERATING SYSTEM -- Startup Tips From a Former Googler

-10-

YOUTUBE -- Danny MacAskill's Imaginate


Monday, October 06, 2014

None-Too-Small: Email Marketing for the Local Dry Cleaner

Anyone who relies on repeat business (especially the closer it gets to a commodity product or service) must regularly remind their customers that they still exist and are still the ones to do business with.

Like the old joke about the guy who says "Honey, I said I loved you on the day I married you and I said I'd let you know if that ever changes." -- it's not good enough. You have to keep telling them you love them.

The real problem with Email Marketing (or any real marketing), then, is that you have to be interesting. There are shortcuts to grab attention - you can be funny or loud (broadcast), you can appear intellectual, cultured or informed (especially in print), but if you're not interesting, it won't work in the long run. You can also relentlessly hammer home discounts, coupons or low prices, but it's a race to the bottom and today's low price isn't as impressive tomorrow.

So how can a commodity like dry cleaning use an email newsletter?

Dry Cleaners actually have some significant up-front costs - the machinery. Ongoing, there's rent, cleaning supplies, electricity, marketing. And staffing - either paying people to work there or collecting enough margin to put food on the table and send the young ones to college (if I may borrow from the stereotype of a bootstrapper seeking to make a better life for his family)

The Dry Cleaner needs regular, consistent repeat business and yet there's often not a lot to differentiate one from another at first glance, especially to someone who hasn't visited your shop before.

You are reliant on signs in your windows or signboards on the street, coupons in the mail. That might bring someone in once, but how do you keep them coming back? Also, is there a better way to get them in the door in the first place? Absolutely - the recommendation of an existing customer who's already excited about your service.

What might you promote?


  • Convenience - you drop it off, we clean it, you pick it up
  • Additional Offerings - other services they might not be aware (or have forgotten) we offer such as pick-up, delivery, late hours, rush service, loyalty programs, credit-card-on-file, etc.
  • Competency - tips and tricks on how readers can deal with simple spills and stains themselves with reminders about how we are with the big jobs
  • Competency - describe tough jobs and how you handle, like a leather jacket or wedding dress
  • Savings - the best customers get the best discounts - tie to customer loyalty to avoid giving away margin to bargain hunters that go wherever the cheap deals are
  • Benefits to the environment - the dry cleaning process vs regular cleaning, or better yet, if eco-friendly products are used, how they interact with the environment (but work just as well to clean)
  • Customer Testimonials - other people just like them who think you're awesome 
  • Lost and found hall of fame - interesting items that have been abandoned (always leave them with something fun - then with each newsletter, they know it's worth skimming to the end)
  • Reminder feature - a way for the customer to schedule a reminder email/sms reminding them to stick the dry cleaning in the car

When should you send?

Once a month is probably a good place to start. From all of the categories above you can probably find 2-3 items to write blog posts about and that's probably all you need in a mobile-friendly quick hit reminder to your customers that you're still out there doing an amazing job providing a service they need. A couple of options, depending on how fancy you want to get.

  • Sunday afternoon - reach people who have had events over the weekend that included formal wear that now needs some care and attention
  • The night before your slow day - drive business when you have the most free time to provide excellent customer service, when you're not feeling rushed
  • Timed with their pickup - if you're about to send but the subscriber has clothes being cleaned, hold the send until the clothes are ready for pickup - then your email serves double-duty as a transactional "your clothes are ready" and as informational - it'll be opened at a higher rate and give you another chance to reinforce that you are the Dry Cleaner with a difference.

Additional idea for Dry Cleaners:

If I were opening a Dry Cleaning shop, I'd start calling the HR Departments of local businesses, asking to speak to whoever was in charge of Employee Perks.  You might get people stammering and saying they didn't do much of that. Which is perfect because you have an offer for them - office pick-up and delivery of dry cleaning - you'll provide bags and order envelopes. Once a week you'll pick up all dry cleaning (the envelopes have a hole that fits over the hangers and a place to write instructions and they put their check for payment inside) from the office and the day after next you'll drop off the cleaned clothes.  There might be the minimal expense of providing a small clothes rack but you've now created a built-in steady supply of customers.

About Me:

I am a digital marketing and technology professional with 20-years experience. I started a small consultancy (BoostCE) as a hobby to help smaller businesses with their marketing needs because I just love this stuff. I'm also currently looking for a new full-time job in the Seattle/Tacoma area. If you're looking for some creative help with your marketing, whether you're looking to add someone like me to your team or if you'd just like some consulting help, please feel free to contact me. Please also check out my LinkedIn profile and pass it along if you know of someone who I could help.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

To the future!

This is the last Calvin and Hobbes ever published (12/31/1995). I had this framed not long after it was published (the shop didn't get to many requests from college students for professional framing of comics but I think they did a great job).

I thought it a most excellent send-off and a really great illustration of hope and potential. It never made it to my last office but it hung or sat on my desk at previous jobs.

I saw it this morning in the family room and thought it really appropriate and inspiring. I've always enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes (and felt i could relate to Calvin) and delighted to see my daughter engrossed in the comics now.

Monday, September 22, 2014

None-Too-Small: Email Marketing for Nursing Homes

Welcome to my second in a series on places that should do email marketing but in most cases probably don't.

Today, nursing homes.  Let's start with the objections:

My customers are already here. And they're really not the email type.

The audience for email marketing for nursing homes aren't its residents. They are:

Audience #1: Children and Grandchildren of Residents

The decision to move a loved one into a nursing or assisted-living home often comes with guilt. But there are many reasons, some that need rationalizing and some that are obvious and legitimate, but the guilt will still persist. Email marketing for a facility will serve to build confidence that their loved ones are well-cared for and that they made the right decision selecting this particular facility.  It will also serve to give families additional things to talk about when they do come to visit or talk by phone or Skype.  Emails might cover fun events, guests or enrichment activities that residents participated in, birthdays, profiles of notable residents and profiles in excellence lifting up staff who have gone above and beyond. It also serves to educate readers about the different levels of care available and answer frequently asked questions that the staff otherwise spends a lot of time answering over and over again.

Each email gives the recipient a glimpse into "campus life" for their loved ones. And I suspect that will also result in more frequent visits and phone calls to the residents from their families.

Audience #2: The Facility Staff

As the newsletter communicates professionalism, care and dedication to its residents, making it required reading for staff means that they see what you're telling the patients' families and it serves to reinforce the mission, expectation and level of excellence expected from staff by the facility management and the families.

For some staff, it might need to be printed out and placed into their mailboxes if they aren't typically or regularly interacting with computers, but I would presume that most facilities these days do have a few computers available to its residents and staff could use those same computers to engage with the online version of the email if so inclined.

The more that's done to celebrate staff in the newsletter, the more they will want to engage with it as well.

My customers are all but locked-in already. Why expend the effort?

The email newsletter also serves as a marketing tool. An impressed reader will share the email with their friends and say "Look at the kind of stuff they're doing with dad!" That will cause others to consider that facility if they have need of residential care for a loved one and raise the bar on facilities in general.

Your customers have choices. 

Moving to a new facility isn't easy, but it's possible. Also, they, too, may someday be in the market themselves. An email marketing newsletter will serve to build confidence that this the right place for a family member's care or for their own care and evoke positive emotions about an industry that suffers from the very true and sad fact that some people will pass away while in their care.

By focusing on the positive aspects, you will create an atmosphere that celebrates life, brings families closer together and replaces pointless guilt with confidence and peace of mind.


I started BoostCE to help businesses use the power of Email Marketing and other Social Media channels to improve their engagement with their customers. If I can help you, please call, tweet or email me today.If you think you can stump me with an industry that you can't possibly see how Email Marketing would help, please leave it in the comments.

Friday, September 19, 2014

So I got an email from The White House...

I don't know if it's just me, but it would appear that The White House fired up their email marketing machine on Monday, Sept. 8.  I'll take a look at the stream I've gotten so far and make some observations.

In some ways, The White House is a unique brand. While it's well known in its own right, it's actually the temporal brand extension of a movement - our elected President, his leadership of our country, his global influence and his particular (political) objectives. Any media, whether it's a blog, press release, Facebook post, radio address, Tweet, etc., must be cognizant that its audience may be anyone in the world, even those who are opposed to the brand and its messsaging for any number of reasons.

Still, there are still plenty of take-aways here that can apply to any email marketing campaign.

Since Sept. 8, I've received at least seven emails from five different senders. Between the sender's name, the preheader or the odd predilection with the colon (what is that?), I can tell that these are all from the same organization when they arrive. (Is the colon on purpose? A quirk to signify that the subject is the start of the message? Or something else? Feel free to theorize in the comments. It feels unfinished but maybe that's just me.)

click to enlarge
It is rare that all of your emails will be lined up like this without other emails interspersed, but it's still a good exercise in examining your program for consistency.

Look at your campaigns and ask:

  • From: Is it clear to readers who the email is from? 
  • Subject Line: Does it pique the subscriber's interest. If there is no pre-header/preview text, is it enough on its own to give them a reason to open the email?
  • Pre-header/Preview Text: This is a great way to (a) expand on the subject, (b) give them additional information or (c) identify the ultimate call-to-action.

So here's one of the emails:

click to enlarge
This is clearly an informational email. The subject line clearly notes "Five things you need to know about ISIL:" (I liked that it acknowledged the other names ISIS and the Islamic State, the first ISIL mail from the White House that I received didn't and it stuck out to me as odd that they were choosing a term different from what I heard more often in the media.) 

It has a video for those who want to watch a video and text for those who want to read - all nicely punctuated by headers for those who want to skim. The White House is rendered stylistically as a graphic at the top, but without the logo you typically see.

The links near the top take you to a blog post which contains the same information as well as some additional information. Even though the goal here is informational, it was a miss not to have any links near the bottom. You never want to deliver someone to a dead-end.  It get to the bottom and my choices are "unsubscribe" or "privacy policy" or to send an email or call The White House. In most cases, this would be an appropriate place for a "recapture bar" - a few selected navigational items from your website to drive traffic to your website. At minimum, I think they should have had one more link to the website here.

No social media elements in this particular email and but that's understandable considering the topic.

Rendered well and was quite readable on my mobile device, but required 14 thumb-scrolls to get through all the content.

And then lastly, an argument for the use of Google+:


This appeared in the right nav of Gmail next to the email gives them additional branding (including the logo) and another opportunity to promote something else to readers.  The promotion here is a video which means it's going to go to YouTube and therefore also be highly accessible. (Many have skipped Google+, but it may be worth testing response rates to Google+ content at the time of an email send.)