Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Simple Public Relations Advice You Can Easily Implement in Crisis Situations

In the past three months we have witnessed two massive, highly visible and uncomfortably humiliating public relations blunders: The first one, most obvious and exhaustingly covered by the media, involves Championship-Golfer-Professional-Philanderer Tiger Woods; the second, less obvious but significantly more alarming, involves the flip-flopping by Janet Napolitano on the effectiveness of our nation's airline security measures. While the former is entertaining in a lascivious manner, the latter is life threatening.

Both issues underscore the importance of having a clear and universally understood (at least within the organization) PR plan in place to deal with any crisis. Such a plan is based, simply, on telling the truth early and often.

As these two events have ruthlessly revealed, it's absolutely essential for highly visible public personalities to employ smart, experienced, and professional public relations experts and to let them work. The results of not doing so are embarrassingly public.

Let's address Tiger's situation first. We all know how this tragi-comedy has evolved. But let's go back to the uncertainty surrounding the confusing moments when this story broke. If Tiger himself had simply released a statement to the media (NOT via his website, but through a publicist) that he and Elin had had a domestic dispute and, in his haste to leave the house for "some air", he accidentally backed his Escalade into a tree, the entire story would most likely have had a sympathetic angle for Tiger. We all know how stressful the holidays can be; after all, hasn't each of us fought with family before, during or after Thanksgiving?

A strong, honest and direct statement immediately after the event would have placed Tiger and his team ahead of the story. Once the 24-7-365 media got the smell of blood in the water, the sharks began to tear apart the story and we all know the carnage that ensued. Still, one wonders what the outcome might have been had Tiger and his team told a simple, honest story with which the American public can identify. That would have at least established some sympathy for Tiger.

Before we examine in some depth Janet Napolitano's "the-system-worked-the-system-failed" flip-flopping, let's look at one of the consequences of her confusing media statements. Initially, President Obama (as is his modus operandi) allowed Napolitano to be the administration's lead spokesperson on the terrorist incident aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. That is, until Napolitano's statements revealed a inexcusable lack of clarity and reflected poorly on the administration's anti-terror stance--especially at a time of year when airline passenger traffic is especially high. Napolitano's confusing public statements (she obviously was not well coached on the appropriate messaging for this situation) forced President Obama to intercede.

Janet Napolitano made her boss look bad. As a PR pro, my job is to make my boss look good. I get him fully briefed and properly coached. I make sure he knows the facts and delivers them calmly. If "mistakes are made", I own them. Not my boss.

While President Obama didn't publicly rebuke Napolitano (as Chris Good clearly explains in his blog at The Atlantic, privately you can bet that he strongly encouraged her to henceforth leave the public statements to him. Need proof? What have you heard from her since the President's very strong and compelling statement a few days ago?

In contrast to Janet Napolitano's confusing statements about which aspect of the system did or did not work, the Obama White House has been aggressive in its press outreach regarding the Northwest Airlines terrorist incident.

The American public doesn't understand that one part of TSA's security measures worked and one didn't. You needn't be a PR pro to understand that the American public doesn't tolerate that kind of wordsmithing. As a PR pro, though, I know the news media doesn't have the time or patience to explain it. All the flying public knows is that a terrorist almost blew up a plane; it was only because the device failed that the plane and its passengers landed safely. A savvy PR professional would have understood that and coached Janet Napolitano on the appropriate media messaging to reassure our flying public.

Skilled Public Relations professionals understand that the best stance to take with the media and our news-saturated citizenry is to tell the truth, tell it early, and tell it often.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Card Glitterati

As marketers, we know that multiple touches on potential and current customers can both build and strengthen the relationships we have with our customers. Around this time of year, one of those touches is the ubiquitous holiday card.

While many organizations are in light of the current economic downturn opting to send e-cards, my feeling is that these are too fleetingly read and too easily deleted. Far more lasting, durable, and meaningful are the traditional holiday cards-which should in all cases be personalized with a short, appropriate message inside.

In our digital age, a personalized, hand-signed card really resonates. Which is why this year I find myself covered in glitter.

This year, the administrative assistant for the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program bought about 100 glitter-covered cards: From glitterized snowman cards to glitter-encrusted sleighs to glitter-adorned menorahs (glitter is, apparently, appropriate for all religions), I have personalized them all. (In truth, I think she bought the sparkly cards to spite me, but I can't prove it.)

At one point in this morning's marathon glitterfest, I had to scratch an itch on my nose. Then I had to rub my eye. Then I sneezed, scattering the glitter across my desk and body. I am, in a word, awash in glitter. I am as glittery as a schoolgirl, as sparkly as a showman. If it were pitch-black outside, I could serve as a reflecting badge, I'm so glittery. I mean, I could audition for the Rockettes with as much glitter I am currently wearing. I suspect I will be finding glitter on my desk for the next six months, thus providing me with holiday spirit well into 2010.

But enough of the hilarity. Although my friends the MIT engineers don't generally acknowledge it, marketers make sacrifices to maintain and sustain the relationships we work so hard to build. Without marketers, the clever engineers would have a much harder time making potential customers aware of their innovative product.

Sending personalized holiday cards is just one way I've worked throughout my tenure in this program to increase awareness of the importance of our endeavor. I know our program supporters, friends and prospects will appreciate receiving a thoughtfully written holiday card.

If my cost is to be glittery, at least I know I'll glow.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Developing MIT Undergraduate Engineers into Leaders: Watch the Video!

As Director of Communications and Outreach for the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, I've learned over the past 16 months that engineers--like most other professionals--take very seriously the future robustness of their profession. This is particularly germane as the older generation of engineers retires, revealing gaping holes in the knowledge, proficiency and leadership skills of those engineers who would replace them.

I've been told by lifelong engineers that the Gordon-MIT ELP is a truly new approach to teaching leadership to a new generation of engineers, and this video demonstrates how we're doing it.

I love the program because it really looks at how people lead and--similar to my participation many years ago in ROTC and experiences as a young Army officer--the program devises unique ways to help young engineers learn those skills. It's open to all undergraduates in MIT's School of Engineering - that's almost 1000 new students each year.

One part of the program is an "Industry Advisory Board" (IAB). Among the IAB members are Bill Warner of Avid (an Oscar winner who produced this video, and whose energy, creativity and expertise has helped advance the program in many ways), Vanu Bose, of Vanu, Inc, Dan Riccio of Apple Computer, Inc., Sorin Marcovici of Analogic, Victor Tang of IBM, Peter Zeeb of GeoSyntec, Javier de Luis of Aurora Flight Systems, Jean-Marc Soucy of BP, and of course Bernie Gordon, Founder of Analogic.

In my experience, outside boards like the IAB are often lightly involved: Brief'em, feed'em, get'em out the door. Not in the Gordon-MIT ELP: The IAB played an instrumental role in designing the goals, the methods, and even the philosophy of the program. Bernie Gordon actively participates in IAB meetings. The result is productive collaboration of engineering leaders from industry and from MIT. The IAB is heavily involved, and the program benefits at all levels from their active participation.

For students in the program, It's not the usual classroom routine: MIT sophomores enter the Gordon-MIT ELP through MIT's popular UPOP (Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program); after successfully completing UPOP they are eligible to participate in ELPOP (Engineering Leadership Practice Opportunities Program), which offers certain aspects of the Gordon program, but is less intensive.

The program's most intense level of participation is the highly selective GEL (Gordon Engineering Leader) track, which includes weekly Engineering Leadership Labs (ELL--see below); "Internship Plus" opportunities where students get jobs in industry over the summer and obtain meaningful leadership exposure; short courses in "Engineering Innovation and Design," "Engineering Leadership," and others; close mentorship relationships with industry leaders; one-on-one leadership counseling and development, and much more. Both ELPOP and GEL immerse students in leadership training for two years.

A core component of the GEL program are the weekly ELLs. Each lab teaches some element of leadership. Labs are designed by seniors in the program, and are delivered to juniors. It's a great way to delve into leadership - through high-pressure exercises, and later by designing and teaching those exercises. You'll see one example of a recent ELL in the video.

From a personal standpoint, being so closely involved with the design and evolution of the program has really given me a feel for what the program makes possible. I've seen our students evolve as leaders from week to week. I've seen them open their eyes to new ways to getting things done -- sometimes by taking the fastest path, not the hardest or most complex (as MIT students are reputed for doing). I've seen them learn from the staff and from each other. I've seen them understand why basic communications and interpersonal skills are essential, and put their new-found skills to use leading others.

Leadership isn't taught; it's learned. And what better place than MIT for our nation's future engineering leaders to learn the leadership skills that will help to advance engineering innovation and invention.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ten Leadership Tips for Students Considering Studying a STEM Field

As many of you know, not only do I write for myself, but I also write for others--both as part of my job as Director of Communications for the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program and as a freelancing marketing/communications professional (www.the-hired-pen.com).

The Gordon-MIT ELP's Director, MIT Professor Edward Crawley, was recently approached by the authors of the "Professor's Guide" blog for U.S. News and World Report. They contacted him on the basis of an article on the program by Tracy Jan that appeared in the Boston Globe on October 25.

They were interested in sharing with their readers Ed's perspective on the "leadership essentials" for any student considering a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field. Naturally, Ed delegated the task to me, and I had the great good fortune to collaborate with Visiting Lecturer (general design guru and all-around good guy) Blade Kotelly to craft a piece entitled "Ten Tips for Success for Engineering Students."

It was extremely interesting to write an article on leadership tips that to me--having served as an officer in the U.S. Army and spent a considerable amount of time in the law enforcement field--are deeply ingrained and intuitive. If I can help emerging STEM leaders grow more proficient in these so-called "soft skill" areas, then my writing skills will truly have been put to good use.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ten Ways to Add More (and Spend Less) Green this Holiday Season

With all the talk about "being green" and "saving green" during the continuing economic downturn (the recession may be over, but no one's told that to my savings account!), I thought it would be useful to compile and provide the following "Top Ten" list of How to Add More (and Spend Less) Green this Holiday Season.

1) Rethink sending holiday cards. Send an e-card or a poscard. If you insist on sending a traditional holiday card, buy a bulk package of cards made of recycled paper with earth friendly dyes.

2) Green your lights. For those of you who have a Christmas tree in your house, switch from standard tree lights to LED tree lights. Program a light timer to minimize energy usage.

3) Bring nature indoors. Choose and display ornaments and decorations made from natural objects or recycled materials, like reclaimed metal, natural wool, recycled wood, hemp or other materials.

4) Balance your carbon footprint. While I certainly don't suggest these as a stocking stuffer, you can easily buy carbon offsets for your holiday travel. Check out www.carbonfund.org, the largest seller of carbon offsets.

5) Wrap with care and conservation in mind. Buy holiday paper made from recycled paper and earth friendly dyes. Don't overwrap. Here's a suggestion: Use those old newspapers for wrapping and then recycle them.

6) Think "slow food": Eat local!. Find a farmer or local market. Anything produced and bought locally comes to your home with reduced emissions from unnecessary travel time.

7) Recycle your Christmas tree. Have Christmas year-round! As soon as the holidays end, take your tree to a chipper and turn it into pine mulch that you can use in your garden next year.

8) Trade-in your old electronics. Don't buy anything new unless you can recycle the old.

9) Give a gift, get a gift. Very important for the kids: Have your children recycle their gently worn toys. Remember those in need: "With all they getting, get compassion."

10) Carry a holiday shopping bag. Pass on those glossy shopping bags and, in the spirit of the season, use something plain, understated and reusable.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Hired Pen: Official Blogger of All Hail, Washington Redskins!

If you're among the hundreds (ok, dozens) of people who read my infrequent blog posts, Tweets, or Facebook postings, you'll be pleased to discover that after a rigorous competition, I have been selected as the Official Blogger of All Hail, Washington Redskins!

I encourage you to visit AHWR to read my latest blog entries, as well as other entertaining features of the site. Of course, please continue to check back at The Hired Pen for non-Redskins related blogs.

In the meantime, I wish all my fellow Tribe members a healthy, happy, and spiritually fulfilling New Year.

Friday, August 7, 2009

What Happens When Twitter and Facebook Go Down

As anyone (and that's almost everyone) who uses Facebook or Twitter knows, yesterday both services went temporarily offline due to a hacker attack. Not coincidentally, I was unusually productive during the eclipse of service, causing me to remember those halcyon days in the pre-timesuck era, when Facebook and Twitter were known as "personal business" not to be conducted at work.

Anyway, my non-Facebook (and taciturn Twitterer) friend Steve the New Guy (writer and editor for the award-winning publication Heath Plan Week) responded to my productivity with the following (not so tongue-in-cheek) press release:

* * *

BOSTON — Aug. 7, 2009: Work productivity spiked dramatically yesterday within the Communications and Outreach division of the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program office, according to an internal departmental review conducted by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. Also on August 6, social networking sites Twitter and Facebook were offline most of the day.

Bruce Mendelsohn, Director of the Communications and Outreach office, denied there was a link between the increased output within his department and the downed Internet sites. The productivity increase was not seen in any other MIT departments, according to the study.

* * *

It's true: The most amusing jokes contain a grain of truth.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Real Reason We Can't Post the Ten Commandments in Court- or State-houses

The real reason we can't post the Ten Commandments in a courthouse or statehouse is because we simply can't regulate 'Thou Shalt Not Steal,' 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in buildings full of lawyers, judges and politicians.

This would, of course, create a hostile work environment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Incongruous Sight Inspires Worse Doggerel

Last night upon returning home from yet another unpleasant commute (in addition to dampening the spirits of one and all, the rain seems to have slowed down commute times to a snail's pace) I confronted a jarring sight in my front yard.

As most jarring sights do, it inspired me. So I wrote about it.

To imagine, I think, it is hard,
a toilet
In my front yard.

How it got there I know not
This ugly porcelain pot.

It torments me
This toilet
That once was filled with pee.

On a tree stump
It sits
Awaiting another dump.

I pray it soon disappears
This toilet
That once hosted so many rears.

When I get home today
It better be gone
Or sit on it I may.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thoughts on Father's Day

Seven years ago tomorrow I became a father. My daughter was born on Father's Day in 2002. On that auspicious day I wasn't ready to become a father. At the time, I didn't understand how becoming a father would transform my life. As the years have passed I have grown to understand and appreciate the challenges and rewards of fatherhood.

Being the father of a daughter is particularly challenging: Although divorced from my daughter's mother, I nevertheless treat her respectfully. Now remarried, I treat my current wife with love and respect. In all my relationships with the women in my life and those in my daughter's life, I seek to model behavior which my daughter will learn to recognize as the way she should expect to be treated by the men in her life.

Although my daughter may never realize it, her presence in my life has made me a better man, a better husband, and a better son. That's the best Father's Day gift of all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Singapore Street Not Encouraged for Americans

One Whirlwind Day in Singapore

Here's a recap of my first day of touring in Singapore--a very easy city to navigate, with excellent, safe and reliable public transportation.

Mounting the Singapore Airlines "hop-on, hop-off" bus at Stop #10 (and lamenting yet again that I did not take SIA, as a boarding pass gives you a significantly discounted rate), I took advantage of the air-conditioned bus that conveys tourists all around downtown and allows infinite on and off privileges for the one-day ticket. It has a convenient schedule and hits all the major tourist (and shopping) spots.

My first stop (#14) was the lush and verdant Singapore Botanic Gardens. I toured the Ginger Garden, took in the National Orchid Museum, and walked around the beautifully manicured paths. After an hour or so, I got back on the bus (thankful for the A/C) and took it to Little India (Stop #21). If shopping is your thing, you'll prefer Stop #20, Orchard Street, where Singapore's lavish wealth is prominently on display.

Walking on Little india's crowded, exotically scented streets, I visited several temples, all of which were packed with worshippers who didn't mind the presence of a tourist. I remembered to give token donations at all the temples I visited. All that religion got me hungry, so I adjourned to a local establishment (randomly selected) to eat a authentic and simply delicious Indian meal. I lamented to the owner (whom I thought understood me) that I cannot get Indian food as good as his in the U.S.)

Although by this point the sun was at its apex, beating down mercilessly, I walked down Syed Alawi Street towards the Sultan Mosque. It was a little hard to find, but I asked a local who answered me in "Singlish"--the unique patois of Singaporean and English that I somehow understood.

I walked down and around Arab Street, a pedestrian mall that's a slice of the MIddle East in the Far East. I haggled somewhat lethargically with a few vendors selling beautiful fabrics, scarves and pashminas. By that time I needed a snack, so I (again) randomly selected a cafe and ordered a authentic plate of hummus and pita. After that I picked up the bus at the Golden Landmark hotel and thought about calling it a day.

On a whim, instead I alighted at Stop #2, the Singapore Flyer. It's so new that my guidebook didn't mention it. While the ride is expensive and touristy, it's definitely worth it, and especially on my first day in Singapore--if only to get a sense of the sheer size of the city. It's a half hour--I skipped, of course, the gift shop and the overpriced mall at the base of the Flyer--and got back on the bus to Stop #10, and took it back to my hotel for a well-earned rest.

That's a eight-hour day of touring in Singapore, and I barely scratched the surface, missing Chinatown, the Merlion, the Museum of Asian Civilizations, etc. Well, there's always tomorrow.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yes, It's the Other Side of the World But People are the Same Everywhere

Geographically, Singapore is the other side of the planet. In terms of humanity, however, my travels have taught me that at our cores, people are the same.

By way of a story...

This evening after checking into my hotel--the Furama Riverside--I wanted to go for a walk to find a restaurant but also to get my bearings. In my travels I've always found it helpful to recognize the neighborhood in which I'm temporarily residing.

You don't see many people walking around in Singapore and I understand why. It is brutally hot and humid, even at 7 in the evening. I walked around the block, bypassing the sidewalk restaurants offering various frog-related delicacies (solving the mystery of why the world's supply of frogs is diminishing) and ended up where I started, near my hotel.

Rather than give up and eat at the hotel restaurant, I saw in the distance one of those touristy-type restaurants that are common in Asia--you know, the ones with the buses in front and the goofy shrines to Buddha at the entranceways--so I walked up the stairs and straight into a scene from out of a Chinese version of a Western flick: The movies when the bad guy walks into a bar, the music stops and everyone turns to look at him like he's totally out of place...

The place was full of Chinese tourists (no matter where I go I cannot get away from Chinese tourists but that's because there are so DAMN MANY OF THEM) and they looked at me like, uh-oh, if a gaijin is here it must not be good food. Anyway, I nodded to them all and sat myself down at a table and proceeded to eat the best Chinese food I have had since, well, since I left China. In fact, it was probably better than the food I ate in China.

I recall eating a spicy and sour (not hot and sour) chicken soup with some sort of tofu and vegetables, followed by a fish dish cooked in ginger and onions. I know I saw some squid in there. I was particularly proud when the server handed me a fork and a spoon and I said, "no, I prefer to use chopsticks." I enjoyed my meal while the Chinese tourists snatched curious stares at me.

The whole experience of traveling is great because it really reinforces my belief that at heart, we're all alike. We have to eat; we have errands to run and chores to do; we smile at happy things and scowl at unhappy things; we ride bikes; we drive cars; we're curious. We want to live in peace. We want good Chinese food. We look different but we're all the same at heart.

In light of President Obama's speech the other day--of which I caught snippets--I think that sentiment is particularly apt. Perhaps I'll mull that over in my dreams tonight, as I try to catch up on the sleep I did not get during my 20-hour journey to the other side of the world.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Thank you, British Airways

Consumers have from the beginning of consumerism chosen every day where to invest our dollars, ducats, or denarii. We ought not overlook the power of that choice.

With that truism in mind, here's the story of how and why I chose British Airways for my imminent trip to Singapore. The story illustrates both the power of an educated consumer as well as the psychological impact of attentive and personalized customer service.

Several airlines fly the Boston-Europe-Singapore route, including U.S. and non-U.S. flag carriers. I chose British Airways because of the following reasons:

1) Convenience: The fight I chose leaves Boston in the morning and arrives at Heathrow shortly after 7 p.m local time. It departs shortly after 9 p.m. and arrives in Singapore Friday evening at 5 p.m local time. This minimizes layover time and the disruption of my normal biorhythms. The schedules of other carriers were simply not as convenient.

2) Price: On such a long trip, it's preferable to fly B-class. But if you can't afford it, BA offers "World Traveler Plus": Premium economy class that gives passengers more leg room, a deeper seat recline, and the privacy of a different section. The price for premium economy isn't that much more than "World Traveler" (economy) class, and on long flights like theses, the extra room and privacy are well worth the investment. No U.S. flag carrier offers premium economy on this particular route, so this was a no-brainer.

3) Customer service: We've come to accept that the customer service of U.S. flag carriers is, well, substandard. When I called BA to select a seat in advance of the flight, they explained that seating assignment opened 24 hours before the flight. Because I am traveling alone, I offered to sit in one of the single seats in premium economy class. It was a ploy, and I'm sure the representative with whom I was speaking (who did NOT have an Indian accent, but rather a crisp British one) recognized it as such. Nevertheless, she graciously accepted my "offer" and assigned me to that seat. What's more, she assigned me preferable seats for each leg of my trip, to and from Singapore. I very much doubt a CSR for a U.S. flag carrier would offer to go that extra mile.

4) Online check-in: While this is standard for all airlines, British Airways adds a few touches that make it seem special. For example: They have a checklist for international travelers (I've traveled internationally a lot but it helps to have a checklist of items you need to ease border crossings); they acknowledged my special meal and asked me if I wanted email confirmation of that special order; they offered "Skymall" products they felt might make the trip a little easier. All unnecessary touches that made me feel valued.

Being a "marketing guy" I generally recognize when I'm being sold or up-sold. I know the language, I know the tactics, I know the tools. Even though British Airways used the language, the tactics and the tools, I didn't feel pressured.

On the contrary, having educated myself and following a positive customer service experience, I felt grateful that they were offering me products/services I might find valuable or useful on my long journey. I was happy to be exposed to those purchasing opportunities...

Who knows? I may buy those customized airline slippers after all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Welcome to Taxachusetts: Give Us Your Money

According to a report released, appropriately, the day before Tax Day by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, Massachusett's state tax system is one of the worst in the U.S. for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Now I finally understand why so many small businesses fail so miserably in our fine Commonwealth. Governor Patrick, are you paying attention?!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Four Questions... Now, in Latin!

Among the benefits of being married to a Latin scholar are that you have immediate access to translation services: Both from Latin into English, and from other languages into Latin.

So this year, in preparation for Passover, I asked my favorite Latin scholar to translate the Four Questions into Latin.

I've heard the Four Questions asked in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Russian and Italian, but never until now (and at tonight's seder) in Latin. My only complaint is that there doesn't appear to be a word in Latin for 'matzoh'. That said, here they are:

1) Cur est haec nox dissimilis quam omnes noctes aliae? (Why is this night different from all other nights?)

2) Cur in omnibus aliis noctibus inter annum nos edimus aut panem aut matzoh, sed in hac nocte nos edimus solum matzoh? (Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matzoh, but on this night we eat only matzoh?)

3) Cur in omnibus aliis noctibus nos edimus varias herbas, sed in hac nocte nos edimus solum amaras herbas? (Why is it that on all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs?)

4) Cur in omnibus aliis noctibus nos non tingimus nostras herbas etiam semel, sed in hac nocte nos tingimus eas bis? (Why is it that on all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once, but on this night we dip them twice?)

5) Cur in omnibus aliis noctibus nos edimus aut sedentes aut recumbentes, sed in hac nocte nos edimus recumbentes? (Why is it that on all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night we eat in a reclining position?)

Happy Passover to all!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Fool's Day... Who's Fooling Whom?

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day but I must confess that although I am normally a "merry prankster," this year I am not in a foolish mood. My mood is somber bordering on serious.

I'm therefore boycotting April Fool's Day, which for me is a sacrifice since it's one of those rare days on which my particular kind of mischevious humor is encouraged and even accepted.

Why my April Fool's merrymaking moratorium?

While some may argue that a little levity lightens the long faces (hence I'm being a killjoy), I agree with other, more circumspect individuals who argue that there's a time for mirth and a time for sobriety.

Recent natural disasters, ongoing economic hardships, and various other causes for sobriety place me firmly in the category of advocating for seriousness. That doesn't mean I'll mope all day; it means only that I'll be more serious than usual, hoping to influence others that this year, at least for me, there's no foolin' on April Fool's.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Like Father, Like Daughter: Preparation is the Key to Successful Media Outreach

I've experienced many media appearances in my professional career: Whether it's Wolf Blitzer's CNN Presents, a interview with a radio personality like Laura Ingraham, or even creating a Public Service Announcement, intense preparation is the key to success.

Being prepared with a few solid and compelling talking points is the key to a successful media appearance--for the interviewer, the interviewee and of course the audience. This is especially critical in non-profit ads.

That's why--even overlooking the fact that my daughter has the opening line in the ad--I am very impressed with this fundraising ad from the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.

Listen to the ad (intended for Cable TV and radio) and you'll hear and see an excellent example of strong, compelling and emotional advertising. Precisely the kind of ads that in these tumultuous times resonate with potential donors.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Define Dull, Please...

Reported in today's Worcester Business Journal: The Worcester area's job market is expected to be "dull" in the second quarter, according to Wisconsin-based employment services firm Manpower Inc.

I have to ask: Does the word "dull" describe the dynamics of the job market or the quality of the employees?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Hired Pen Profiled in Worcesterscene.com!

Luke Vaillancourt, whose efforts on behalf of Worcesterscene.com I mentioned in a previous blog entry, was kind enough to profile The Hired Pen on his website. Here's what he posted.

Businesses Helping Businesses

Posted on March 4th, 2009

WorcesterScene.com has been able to find a lot of businesses in the city that may not ordinarily be found—one reason for this is that we active seek them. Often, it is difficult to be heard in a sea of noise, which is why having someone who knows what they are doing can really benefit your business or your organization.

Bruce Mendelsohn has been in the business for more than 15 years and started The Hired Pen (http://www.the-hired-pen.com) as a affordable and quick asset to bolster your marketing, communications and public relations efforts. In this tough economy, Bruce’s expertise is a must for local businesses and organizations operating on tight budgets.

With media contacts and expertise that put him in the national spotlight with sources such as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Presents and The New York Times, Bruce is Worcester-centric and potentially a great asset to ensuring your vital messages get heard and your marketing materials are compelling.

Who knew the pen could speak so loudly?

Monday, March 2, 2009

After Worcester Bashing... Comes Worcester Promoting!

As I have been kindly reminded by several people who've responded to my most recent blog post, it's not fair to bash Worcester without mentioning some of the exciting things going on in town.

With that goal in mind, the event that merits immediate promotion is Worcesterscene.com's "Fling into Spring" promotion.

According to Luke M. Vaillancourt, Principal of WorcesterScene.com, "Fling Into Spring" is a a contest in which one lucky randomly chosen winner (to be notified on April 1) gets a night out (April 30th) for two in Worcester.

This is no ordinary night out, Worcesterites. Right now it includes:

- Transportation for two for the evening
- Dinner for two at Grille 57
- Desserts for two at Allgos
- A hair cut/style at Rinse Hair Lounge
- A $100 gift card to Tush
- Two tickets to an event/show in the city
- A room for the night at the Crowne Plaza

Luke assures me that he's lining up more sponsors and the evening out will certainly include even more goodies. Luke asked me to help him promote "Fling into Spring" and I happily agreed.

After all, bashing Worcester really gets tiresome.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Choose Worcester... Destination Worcester... "Discovering the Worcester Way"... And More Delusions of Grandeur

We now return to one of my most visited blog topics: Worcester bashing.

People not from heah really heap scorn on my adopted hometown (though for purposes of full disclosure I live in Auburn, NOT Worcester). The derisive remarks range from "the city is ugly" to "why did the city reject a Mass. Pike exit?" to "the city had its heyday more than 100 years ago." Yes, I've heard them all and often repeated them.

Sadly, to a great extent the derisiveness is earned and deserved. There are numerous examples of why bashing Worcester is so easy; today let's focus on three: Choose Worcester, Destination Worcester, and "Discover the Worcester Way."

1) Choose Worcester: A privately funded, public-private partnership formed to assist businesses to locate, grow and prosper in the city, Choose Worcester Inc. was amidst great fanfare established in late 2007 to market Worcester on a local, regional and international level.

With a budget of $1.2 million the staff of three embarked hopefully and optimistically on yet another economic development initiative in Worcester, whose recent history is marked by a series of marketing drives that went nowhere.

The verdict thus far? Let's hear from the venerable Worcester Telegram & Gazette. In a article on November 14, 2008 titled "Running in Place", the T&G reported: "Now in its second year of operation, Choose Worcester has shifted its focus, devoting its entire effort to courting new businesses... with developments such as improved commuter rail service between Worcester and Boston, Worcester is better placed than ever to persuade new companies to fill the vacant space."

Less than two years old and already a change in focus.

The reality is that CWI has placed its bet on the city's much-hyped (and unbuilt) CitySquare project, a $563 million initiative to revamp downtown Worcester. CitySquare is stalled four years after its conception, as project developer Berkeley Investments struggles to secure tenants. A daunting prospect in today's economy.

In fact, as we sink deeper into this recession, CWI's last news bulletin on November 19, 2008 was that the organization’s website has seen an average of over 7000 hits per month since September 1st. That's "a dramatic increase over the 2000 hits per month during the website’s first nine months in existence." That's it? That's all the news they have to report in three months?!

The silence from CWI rings loudly. Businesses aren't choosing Worcester.

CWI's grade thus far: D. (They're still operating and they have a website).

2) Destination Worcester: Started in June 2007, Destination Worcester is according to its website "a strategic investment in the hospitality industry, a focused endeavor to showcase and sell the destination to meeting & convention planners, and event & sports organizers. Acting as a single point of contact for the destination, Destination Worcester provides enhanced communications and a streamlined process for booking events in Worcester."

Worcester's FY09 budget (which allocates $500,000 to Destination Worcester) describes the organization as "first and foremost a sales organization whose goal is to increase definite room nights in the city by 22,500 by executing a targeted and proactive sales strategy."

What's the strategy? From the research I've conducted on DW, it's hire a Executive Director and two managers, produce a video using old footage (see the Daily Worcesteria blog for a great summary of this ill-conceived video), and get zero news coverage. As to the goal of increasing definite room nights in the city by 22,500? No results to be found.

DW's grade thus far: D+ (They're still operating, they have a robust website and a Facebook group.)

Before we get to the last of our three examples of why Worcester bashing is so damn easy, it shouldn't strike anyone as a coincidence that many of the same people serve on the Board of Directors of both CWI and DW.

Same old people = same old ideas = same old results.

3) "Discovering the Worcester Way": The Massachusetts Cultural Council's Adams Arts Program recently approved three Central Massachusetts organizations for funding in 2009, the largest of which was a $40,000 grant for the Worcester Cultural Coalition for a project called "Discovering the Worcester Way," a marketing campaign focused on the city's cultural opportunities.

It's true, there's a lot going in on Worcester culturally. The Worcester Cultural Coalition does a good job of promoting cultural opportunities on its website, and Executive Director Erin Williams is highly visible at Worcester events, be they cultural, political and/or business.

But as CWI and DW continue to fail to draw bodies to Worcester, the Worcester Cultural Coalition's strong promotional efforts will not be as successful as they deserve to be.

WCC's grade thus far: B- (Erin is a tireless advocate for a city whose aging veneer hides top-tier cultural offerings; the WCC's website is excellent; and they received a grant in a year when grants are scarce).

In summary, I've seen absolutely no indication of CWI, DW and the WCC working together, orchestrated by the Worcester Chamber of Commerce (which under Dick Kennedy should coordinate any and all outreach efforts).

The delusion of grandeur is that each organization will, on its own, hit upon some magical formula that will all of sudden convince hordes of people to choose Worcester or make Worcester a destination--rather than a city they simply miss (or drive by) as they derisively say, "what a pit."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Get a Reporter Interested in Your Organization... Then Do This.

Papers are closing at an alarming rate and reporters are being worked harder than ever. Now's your chance to pitch a story about your organization. A well-timed call (NOT when a reporter's on deadline) with a compelling story could spark some interest from a reporter in your organization. Once you pique their interest, here are some basic rules to follow.

Recognize that while some reporters are transparent (if it's a human interest story even likely sympathetic) there's no way to know in advance the angle the reporter will take--even when you try to "seed" the story. Know this going in.

Before you make any calls, do your due diligence. Research his/her previous stories. Find out what they cover, what their style is, and their specific areas of interest. Be prepared to commend (but not too lavishly) the reporter on his/her reporting. That may not be necessary but even a little due diligence will help you prepare your messaging and put the reporter "on notice" that you're aware of his/her beat and coverage.

Having done that, set up a very informal conversation (either by phone or in person) during which you can seed your story. Answer honestly any questions the reporter may have; offer answers under the guise of your desire "to make sure his/her visit is as productive as possible." During that conversation, mention certain organizational success stories--testimonials of people who have benefited from their participation in/association with your organization. Do this to positively predispose the reporter. Offer an exclusive: Reporters are always interested in exclusives; this is a influential concession on your part.

If and when the reporter comes to your organization or your event, plan in advance with whom you're going to connect the reporter. Connect the reporter with the people whose success stories you related during the previous conversation I recommended (above).

Be sure you've advised those people in advance that the reporter may speak with them. Make sure you're briefed those people with the key organizational messages you want to communicate. This is to ensure that everyone's speaking from the same sheet and that you're managing the messages. This is hugely important: Reporters are trained to look for inconsistencies and then build their stories on those inconsistencies.

Don't be too eager for coverage but also don't be too suspicious. Both extremes can be interpreted as warning signs for an underlying story. Be transparent, be welcoming, be genuine. Play out the best stories in conversation and say, "you'll really want to meet these people for yourself" or "to really understand how works, come see for
yourself." That's a little tease which validates the reporter's initial interest.

Follow these simple steps and soon you too will be a media maven.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

LinkedIn Tip: Follow Through on the Questions You Ask!

There's no doubt that LinkedIn is an effective social networking tool to complement traditional networking. As LinkedIn has grown, so have the LinkedIn "experts" who help people use the tool most effectively.

Tips from experts include asking and answering questions to create visibility for your profile and your expertise, updating your profile frequently, and focusing on building quality (rather than quantity) connections.

If you're asking questions on LinkedIn, you really should research and provide the answer to the question you ask. After all, if you're using LinkedIn to underscore your professionalism, you should include answers to indicate your commitment to follow through.

Consider the following example.

A few weeks ago, after ordering some Girl Scout Cookies, I posed the following question in the "Guerilla Marketing" category: "Girl Scout Cookies. You're limited to buying only ONE BOX this year. What flavor do you order (and why)?"

About 35 people responded to the question. As their responses rolled in, I got curious about the Girl Scout cookie "industrial complex". I reached out to a PR contact in the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council (Alex Gornik) and asked her about sales. Being responsive and eager to evagelize about these sweet treats, she sent me information relevant to my question.

I've featured the information below, but the point of this post is to convey that after receiving this information, I sent a personalized email to every individual who responded to the initial question. I thanked them for responding and repackaged the information I received from my Girl Scout contact.

That's following through. A valuable bit of advice for LinkedIn users.

Here's the information I received from my Girl Scout contact:
Some stats from Little Brownie Bakers (one of the two national bakers that provide Girl Scout Cookies) are: Nationally Thin Mints and Samoas make up 50% of all cookies sold; Do Si Dos, Tagalongs and Trefoils = 30%; and all the others = 20%.
The Girl Scouts of Gateway Council (covering 16 counties in North Florida including Jacksonville) have similar stats (2008 sale):
* 31 Mints
* 25 Samoas
* 14 DoSiDos
* 8 Lemon
* 7 All Abouts
* 5 Trefoil
* 5 Choc. Chip
* 5 Tags

Girl Scout cookies both support local Girl Scout Troops and programs and camp to keep costs low so every girl can have the opportunity to participate regardless of her family’s ability to pay.

So two actions-to-take from this posting:
1) Follow through on the questions you ask on LinkedIn
2) Enjoy your Girl Scout cookies (especially Thin Mints)!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saw Cats. Walked Out at Intermission. Discover Why.

Today the wife and I saw a traveling company production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats, at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester. The Hanover is a lovely reclaimed theatre with great acoustics and it's ten minutes from our house. We're theatre subscribers so we attend at least five productions there every season.

Cats truly disappointed.

According to Wikipedia, Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. It introduced the song standard, 'Memory'.

The musical first opened in London in 1981 and then on Broadway in 1982, in each case directed by Trevor Nunn. It won numerous awards, including both the Laurence Olivier Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical. The London production ran for 21 years and the Broadway production for eighteen years, in both cases setting historical long-run records.

I don't understand Andrew Lloyd Webber's popularity. I found the music in Cats cacophonous, the dialogue stultifying, the lighting overbearing, and the costumes annoyingly 80s. The plot was shaky at best--a story loosely wrapped around synthesized music--and the music seemed forced and formulaic. In fact, the whole production seemed tired, lacking energy.

That could well be attributable to the company's thespians rather than the musical itself, which I saw several years on Broadway and didn't enjoy then, either.

I'm certainly not professionally qualified to critique the musical. And far be it from me to doubt Andrew Lloyd Webber's popularity. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in London's West End and on Broadway. He's composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of variations, two film scores, and a Latin Requiem Mass.

His honors include a knighthood in 1992 (followed by a peerage), seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, seven Olivier Awards, a Golden Globe, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2006.

More than likely, my own artistic preferences prevent me from appreciating Lloyd Webber's "music for the masses." When people go to the theatre, they're paying to be entertained. They wants flashing lights, fanciful costumes, lighthearted music and simple plots they can easily understand. That's why Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals like Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar (which I also did not like) and Phantom of the Opera are so successful.

As for me, I prefer my theatre more thought-provoking.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Best Way to Make Sure I DON'T Buy Your Product

Internet marketers, please heed the following screed.

The best way to make sure I don't buy your product is to trick me into visiting your site. Despite all the surveys and studies that show consumers absolutely abhor this tactic, some of you are still conducting these insidious and underhanded campaigns.

Even more detestable: Connecting the unsubscribe option (and other hotlinks) to your website.

Case in point: Today I received an email from myself, titled "From admin". I'm not 'admin' and I certainly didn't send myself the email in question--in fact, it was purportedly from Microsoft. Nothing was attached to the email I didn't send myself, so I opened it.

Always seeking to decrease the amount of spam I receive, I unsuspectingly clicked on the unsubscribe button.

Whereupon I was directed to...

A website for "Canadian Pharmacy" where I could buy discounted drugs.

I clicked on the "More Newsletters" option in the same email, with the same result--Canadian Pharmacy. I clicked on the "Privacy" option in the same email; same result--Canadian Pharmacy.

Canadian Pharmacy, you're not getting my business. You're getting my wrath. And it's substantial.

You've earned my solemn vow to report you to every single spam authority I know of. I'm also contacting Microsoft to advise them that you are illegally using their logo and their address. I'm pushing this blog entry as aggressively as possible to ensure others avoid your scheme.

Internet marketers, do not employ these shameless techniques to drive traffic to your site. I guarantee you won't be happy with the results.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Can You Believe Organizations Still Push Direct Email Campaigns Like This One?!

I recently received a email blast from the Worcester Chamber of Commerce.

As you can see, the banner is virtually unreadable, crammed full of messages from sponsors. The email below it isn't much better. It's a scroll through poorly designed announcements, conflicting logos, clashing fonts and dueling events. It's amateurish. It's a weapon of mass distraction.

Sadly, I've come to expect stuff like this from the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, as they try to squeeze every penny out of their increasingly disgruntled (and diminishing) membership base.

Setting aside the Balkans-like morass of the struggles between Central Massachusetts Chambers of Commerce, suffice it to say that the Worcester Chamber of Commerce has enjoyed more prosperous times.

But in terms of marketing and communications, this direct email campaign (if you can call it that) represents a new low in the Worcester Chamber of Commerce's outreach efforts. From this utterly abysmal piece I can only conclude that the head of the Chamber just isn't familiar with "new" direct email techniques.

So here's some free direct email marketing advice for the "powers that be" at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce (and for those of you in the profession who haven't yet grasped these fundamental lessons):

* Keep it simple: One message. One call to action.

* Keep the most important information above the fold: Surveys show that scroll down rates diminish precipitously, even as open rates decline. Keep your most important information (see "keep it simple") above the fold and immediately readable.

* Make it easy for people to act: One call to action (see "keep it simple") makes it easy for people to act. Give them a plethora of options and they'll generally choose to do nothing. Don't overwhelm your target audience. It's the quickest way to alienate them and turn them into "unsubs."

* Herd your target audience to your website: Use direct email to leverage your target audience. Entice them to click through to your website (although in the case of the Chamber's website this isn't a good idea) where you can capture their contact information and truly influence them.

This direct email campaign from the Worcester Chamber of Commerce fails on so many levels it's shameful. The Chamber's website is a shambles; a hodgepodge of information with no semblance of order.

On the whole, the email and the website reflect dismally on what purports to be the largest Chamber in New England.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Latest Signs of the Apocalypse... Or, News that Will Make You Even MORE Depressed

... "Joe the Plumber" is becoming a war correspondent.

... The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama is an attractive target for international and domestic terrorists, but U.S. intelligence officials have no information about specific threats to the Jan. 20 event.

... Testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday, leading economists warned that, unless comprehensive action is taken, the economy will shed another 3 million jobs in 2009, real Gross Domestic Product could drop by $750 billion, and the unemployment rate will top 10 percent.

... On "Fox News Sunday," former President George H. W. Bush said he's ready for another Bush in the White House. He hopes his son Jeb runs for Senate in Florida and one day for president.

... The Bank of England slashed interest rates by half a percentage point (to 1.5%), bringing its benchmark rate to the lowest level since the central bank was founded more than three centuries ago.

... According to a poll conducted by Deloitte ("Financial Fraud: Does an Economic Downturn Mean an Uptick?"), nearly two-thirds (63.3 percent) of executives polled expect accounting fraud to increase during the next two years.

...Same-store sales slumped in December, and even Wal-Mart Stores wasn't immune, cutting expectations for the current quarter. Neiman Marcus reported a 28% decline, as luxury retailers continued to suffer. Target's same-store sales fell 4.1% and it said profitability was pressured by deep markdowns.

... Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) reported that they will wait longer before their next vehicle purchase, according to the results of Consumer Reports' 2009 Auto Brand Perception Survey.

... Real estate Web site Zillow.com calculated a value for the White House were it actually a home that could be bought and sold. That estimated value - $308,058,000 - would make it by far the most expensive residence in the U.S., however still more than $23 million less than its value one year ago.

... Chicago public school bureaucrats skirted competitive bidding rules to buy 30 cappuccino/espresso machines for $67,000, with most of the machines going unused because the schools they were ordered for had not asked for them, according to a report by the CPS Office of Inspector General.

... ... A dogsled race near Frazee, Minnesota, was canceled because there’s too much snow.

And last but certainly not least...

... Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis and HUSTLER magazine publisher Larry Flynt are petitioning the newly convened 111th Congress to provide a $5 billion financial bailout for the adult entertainment industry. "People are too depressed to be sexually active," Flynt says, "This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex."

For once, I agree with Mr. Flynt.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Unless You're a Online Market Researcher, Get Your Resume in Order

Once upon a time, I overlooked the importance and value of market research. That was before my brief tenure at the Marketing Research Association, where I spent an intensive six months trying to increase the organization's exposure in the hyper-competitive and hyper-segmented market research field.

During my time at MRA, I grew to embrace the value of market research, which most marketing communications professionals either eschew or simply don't understand. I've since closely followed the market research industry, staying current with emerging trends in the field and keeping in touch with some of the professionals I met.

When it comes to the future of market research, every sign--be it from authoritative trade publications, long-term industry professionals, or from a general marketing perspective--indicates that the future of market research is online.

The fact is that consumer behavior changes far faster than lead times for new products and services, and the gap is widening. Traditional market research (focus groups, paper surveys, etc.) will therefore be increasingly irrelevant, rendering obsolete data.

Regardless of what the focus group facility owners say, regardless of how much the mall interceptors protest, effective and affordable futurecasting can only come from online market research (despite its inherent flaws upon which the traditionalists have planted their flag).

In the age of immediate information, traditional market research has blown a lot of calls. Take banking. In 1996 most CEOs of large banks dismissed the Internet as irrelevant, a toy of enthusiasts with no real impact on future profitability. Traditional market research strongly confirmed their skepticism: Their results indicated that the overwhelming majority of customers said they weren't interested in using the Internet to run their bank accounts.


That's just one example of why the future of market research is online. For more reasons, check out this article by Martin Day of SurveyBounty. His piece really hits the nail on the head; coincidentally sounding the death knell for most traditional market research firms. Sadly, for the most part their heads are stuck so deeply in the sand they won't hear this alarm, as they have missed numerous others.

Market research traditionalists are in for a rude awakening. The companies that survive the inevitable shakeout will be the future-thinkers: Those who see six months to two years further than their competitors. This kind of foresight requires almost instantaneous, actionable data--even if that data isn't 100% "pure." The companies that survive will need to become adept at parallel planning and able to prepare for quick response to various potential outcomes.

As for the others, well, their employees would be wise to get their resumes in order.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Return of the Resolutionistas: Gym Regulars, Welcome Them!

While I am by no means a "fitness elitist", I am a regular throughout the year at a few gyms. As a spinning instructor and a regular, I've integrated myself in the subtle patterns of those people with whom I share the gym at the various gyms I visit.

There's 'cardio-man' who does only cardio and a helluva lot of it; the very thin (and quiet) schoolteacher who runs a 10K every day on the same treadmill; the neanderthal weightlifters who throw around weights while struggling (with bad form) to do squats; the loud guys in the locker room who dissect every set of their interminable Master's (swimming) workouts. These have been my gym companions throughout the year.

Although we are not friends outside of the gym, we generally acknowledge each other inside with a nod and a courteous "how's it going?"

That is, until the inevitable arrival in January of the "resolutionistas." Every gym regular can recognize a resolutionista: The overweight and out of shape person who, having resolved to "get in shape", comes to the gym beginning in January (generally with the newest fashions and footwear) and wreaks havoc with the intricate choreography the regulars have worked out over the past ten months.

Most regulars eschew the resolutionistas, looking down on them as dilletantes who won't last long. Resolutionistas are like replacement troops: The troops who have been with a combat unit for a while generally never bothered getting to know or befriend replacement troops, figuring they'd soon be gone (dead or transferred).

In the experience of regulars, it takes about a month for the resolutionistas to abandon their get-in-shape vow whereupon we regulars resume our workout patterns. Most regulars just avoid the resolutionistas--in fact, some of the regulars I know don't even go to the gym in January because it's overcrowded with neophytes.

In the past, I've steered clear of the resolutionistas, ignoring them and their efforts to get in shape. I've come to realize that this laissez-faire attitude may be part of the reason the resolutionistas give up.

This year, I'm adopting a different attitude.

This year, I resolve to say hello to every person I don't recognize as a regular. I'll introduce myself as a spinning instructor. When I see someone new at the gym whose form might be off or who is doing something that could endanger their physical health, I'll offer a kind hint or suggestion. I'll be encouraging, warm and welcoming.

I hope my positive attitude enhances a newbies' commitment to follow through on their resolution to get in shape.

If you're a gym regular, I encourage you to welcome a resolutionista to your gym. After all, there's room in the gym for all of us.