Superwoman Warning: Will You Be Ready For THE CALL When It Comes?

Notebook 2

Here’s the deal:
You can never be ready for The Call.
A snapshot of me at any point of any day of my life will show me bolting from one Very Important Meeting to another, my phone crushed between my ear and my shoulder, balancing a cup of coffee in one hand, my mind already churning out a to-do list for tomorrow.  Does this sound like you?
If so, you will probably find yourself just as bewildered as me listening to an unexpectedly strange but calm voice asking you,
“Hello, is this Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer and have you received a call from your husband’s office?”
My husband’s office? A call?  Who wants to know?
And before I have time to resume my mental Warrior Two position in my mind’s eye, she continues,
“Your husband is Seth Krakauer, with the chronic chest pains?”
I literally jump down this woman’s throat. ” Oh, you must have the wrong Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer.  My chest pains don’t have Seth,  I mean, the wrong Seth Krakauer – “
This woman was a pro, if that can be the right word to describe how well she does her job informing total strangers that their loved ones have been taken by ambulance to the hospital.  She spoke softly but firmly.
“Mrs. Krakauer, your husband suffered a heart attack at 8:10 am this morning and is in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Bellevue Hospital.”
I heard the rain falling on my windshield.  Of course it was raining.  I was in my car.  In traffic.  Low on gas. In a high pitched whisper, I asked,
“Will he be OK?”
And I held my breath.  It was a moment in eternity.
We are taught to create value through accomplishments.  We are what we do.  So, the more we do, the more we are.  In the rush and tumble of our days we are secretly satisfied knowing we are becoming more valuable with every meeting, event, report, check box scratched off of our to-do lists.
In that suspended moment, all of that vanished.  The entire measure of my life hung in the unspoken silence between me and a total stranger.
My mother is always quick to remind me that no matter how much people may think of me, “You are still a speck in the universe.”
How true!  And how quickly the universe can focus your distracted attention to the precious few things that are truly important in your life.  The immensity and the force of these events take my breath, my ego, my sense of being so important into a sorry little clump and hurtle it through the Goalposts of the Insignificant.
I was reduced to tears. Choking, sniffling, coughing, my head pressed against the steering wheel.
“He is stable.”
Three little words.  They can change your life.
In a blur of concerned calls and messages, I made my way to the hospital barely able to keep track of what was going on.  Oh damn, I just had my phone now where is it?  Did she say the 10th or the 11th floor?  ICU or CCU?
Superwoman was nowhere to be found.
My daughter and her boyfriend and several good friends stood around Seth’s bed with me as a parade of doctors drifted in and out of the room.  We listened to their carefully phrased answers.  I wondered why Seth’s toes were blue.  And why didn’t anything make sense to me.
A very nice woman, soft spoken with a confident and caring demeanor, wrote her cell phone number on the back of a business card and pressed it into my hand.  “Let me know if there is anything I can help you with.”  I thought to myself, I should really get a folder.  Eventually, every report, every doctor’s note and business card that came my way I stuffed into my folder.  It gave me a small but very much needed sense of control.
Days later, I pulled my car into a No Standing Zone outside of the hospital and waited for my son to bring Seth downstairs.  On this day as on almost every day since Seth’s heart attack, I found myself able to take care of only one thing at a time, getting through what I could before letting my head drop on my pillow exhausted.  Driving the car to bring Seth home would be my big job of the day.  Someone else had to order takeout for dinner.
All it takes is a Big Event, this is how the cardiac team describes Seth’s heart attack, to pull the curtain back to reveal the myth about the Wizard of Oz and his sidekick, Superwoman.
Bottom Line Reminder
You can never be ready for The Call.
You can only be who you are, sans superpowers, and somehow that is the best thing you can be.

 

 

P.S.  Seth is doing fine.

 

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What My Jewish Mother-in-Law Can Teach You About Writing Headlines

Mildred

Mildred

The Truth About Being A Great Writer

While standing on line at the local butcher, Mildred, my mother-in-law, leaned over the counter and said softly, “So Bernie, how does Mrs. Fisch do her pot roast?”

His answer changed my life.

 

Bernie bellied up to the counter, his heavy lidded eyes rolling sideways before pushing over a scribbled piece of butcher paper with his grubby finger.  “What do you think of that, Mrs. K?”  Mildred adjusted her glasses and peered keenly at the note before her.  With a dismissive sniff, she slid the paper into her purse and smiled innocently.

“The best cooks are thieves,” he winked at me.  “Julia Child stole her sauce recipes from the French, Martha Stewart practically copied her Christmas cookie book from Good Housekeeping and Mrs. Krakauer here, let’s just say she borrows from everyone.  And so should you.”

 

Me?

I was stunned.  From the very first time I sat down to dinner cooked by my mother-in-law, I believed she was making everything from time honored, secretly guarded recipes handed down from generation to generation.  Someone else with a better recipe for brisket?  Are you meshugah or what?

Yet, here before my eyes was Bernie, the butcher, telling Mildred  that the key to great cooking is grand larceny.  And from what it sounds like, she has some pretty fancy partners in crime.

 

Who benefits from all this stealing?

I certainly do, as well as the rest of the Krakauer family.  Our dinners are exquisite culinary experiences.  I suppose dinners are just as fabulous at Mrs. Fisch’s, at Mrs. Murray’s, at Mrs. Cohen’s as well as every house in Rockaway that participates in this ecosystem of theft.  Or borrowing, as Mildred would quickly say.  Like a Robin Hood and his Merry Men, there goes Mildred, borrowing from the rich to give to the poor, only in her case, all of Bernie’s loyal customers are swooping down from the trees in Belle Harbor to fatten their recipe files and to share the wealth with their hungry families.
No easy task to keep knocking out great dinners night after night for these ladies.  No wonder they flock to Bernie for a tip or two, an unexpected ingredient, a twist to make their husbands turn their heads and say, “Wow, honey!  I love your kashe varnishes!”

If you have to turn out momentous meals every day, coming up with your own unique original ideas is gehackte tsuris – who needs it!

And its not because Mildred is lazy, she’s busy.

The only way to survive, look fabulous and stay in control is to steal a secret from Julia Child, Martha Stewart and Mildred P. Krakauer.

 

Copy from others knowing that true genius stands on the shoulder pads of others

What About Writing?

I couldn’t help but wonder, “Could it be possible I am needlessly killing myself trying to be original all the time?”  Of course  I am.  And so are you.  We are stressing, worrying and inwardly freaking out each time we come face to face with the blank page because we want so badly to write something fabulous, something that will transform a reader by the simple experience of reading our words.

OK, here is what I think, after being in the trenches for twelve years as a professional author & illustrator, grantwriter and blogger:

You can mistakenly believe you are the most original, prolific and constantly amazing writer in the world and sputter into a fit of depression when it becomes impossible to maintain these high standards for yourself.

Or,

You can steal.

Why am I telling you to do this?

Because I know that if you are serious about your writing, you will see very quickly that there are better ways to write better and more efficiently.  Many successful writers like, Shakespeare, Jefferson and Wilde have perfected the art of copying, or as Bernie would say, “borrowing”, from others because they quickly understood that true creativity is seizing the genius in the ideas of others and making it your own.

 

Let’s Look At Headlines

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”

A great quote from Simone Weil.

How do you attract and earn someone’s attention?

Let me borrow a great word from Mark Ragan, the force at Ragan Communications: Cosmotize.

I just adore that!

When you are standing on line at the supermarket, you know your eyes go right to those riveting covers of Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vogue and GQ.

Did you know those headlines are over half a century old?  The ideas behind them are basically the same, the wording or the language changed over time, and yours to steal for your next piece.  The raison d’etre for a headline is to get you, the reader, to read the first sentence.  And then the next sentence, and so on.  If you can’t get someone to read your headline, you can forget about them reading your article.

Everything starts with the headline.

Look at any great headline carefully and you can see its bones, its architecture, its template that will work for any topic.  Just like the recipes in Mildred’s trusty collection, I am building a swipe file with hundreds of headline templates on my computer where I can scan them whenever I need to craft a killer headline of my own.

 

A Shortcut To List Headlines – Snack Size Content that Readers Will Eat Up

Everywhere you look,  there’s a headline like this, “43 Ways To Drive Your Man Crazy In Bed.  Be Sure to Check Out #7”, or “101 Killer Resources To Make Money As A Mommyblogger”.  You see them on magazine covers, on the blogs you follow and on morning and evening news shows.

Why are they so popular?

They work.

 

After attending the Boot Camp for Nonprofits!  Power of Giving Forum an exclusive event for Con Edison partners presented by Ragan Communications as well as the Corporate Writers and Editors Conference  (hashtag #raganCWE) the following day, I have a new respect for the power of headlines.

To help you write something that has the power to be a transformative experience, like Mildred’s pot roast, let me square my shoulders and become one with Bernie, the butcher.  I will share what I learned in a roomful of PR and marketing professionals from experts in their industry that earns its right to exist by how well their communications can create profit from attention.

Mark opened the session by inviting us to ask ourselves, “would I pick this up at the newsstand?”,  or “will people want to read this and do I love producing this?”.  At the top of his list of tips was this: List story.

List story: organized thought with a teaser title.  This is hands down the most popular and most powerful headline and story one two punch combo in the history of writing.

 

Here’s What I Have For You:

 

I did a little research project in the magazine section of my local bookstore and analyzed the most frequently used list headlines into a short list of templates.  These templates are shortcuts that you can use to fill in the blanks and jumpstart your writing with a great headline.

1. 5 Ways to (do something)

Give people a little selection, not too much, and some meat on the bones for each way so that they feel they can make an informed choice.

Example:  7 Ways to Write a Better Grant

 

 

2. 52 Killer Resources for (audience)

This is a great way to dominate a narrow subject with a long list of bullet points.  Readers will shake their heads in amazement, “Wow!  There’s so much I didn’t know!”

Example:  101 Dumpling Ideas For Your Next Party

 

 

3. The Top 10 (techniques, resources, tips, you name it)

People love this.  They want their options reduced, reviewed, rated and presented to them in a tidy list.

Example:  The Top 10 Holiday Offers Your Customers Will Love

 

4. 11 (topic) Secrets Every (audience) Should Know

Curious about what secrets you are missing?  Your readers will be too.  This is one of the most effective and irresistible Cosmo headlines.

6 Sexy Secrets Every Cosmo Girl Should Know About Her Man

 

 

5.  7 Surprising Reasons (topic)

Instead of creating curiosity, tap into the curiosity that is already in your reader with this provoking headline.

Example:  15 Surprising Reasons Why You You Need Memory Boosters

 

 

6.  The 9 Laws for (topic)

Some people love being told the rules of the game.  Others want to study the law, figure out how to get around it and rebel against it.  For both, they will still want to read  what those rules are.

Example:  The 5 No Nonsense Laws of Nonprofit Fundraising

 

 

7. 5  Things your (audience) Needs to Hear You Say

If you are like me, you wonder a lot about if you said the right thing or if you just put your foot in your mouth.  Pick someone important to your audience to make the headline even more compelling.

Example:  Want a Raise?  7 Things Your Boss Needs to Hear You Say

 

 

Why kill yourself?

Mildred pulled a stubby pencil out of her purse, scribbled something on the butcher paper and pushed it back over the counter to Bernie.   She smiled.  He winked.  Then he looked up at me and said, “And what can I help you with today?”

I thought for a moment.

“I’ll have what Mrs. Krakauer is having,”  I held his gaze and said, “Theft and pot roast.”

 

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How a Blog Transformed Air Travel

photoHow a Blog

 

You had me with the full can of soda.

“Yes,”  Allison Steinberg smiled and dotted the i and crossed the t of the seven word mantra of JetBlue.  “We bring humanity back to air travel.”

And that means we get the full can of soda.

How many people, how many times a flight, have wondered about that moment when the air hosts and hostesses see saw their drink cart through the aisles.  How very smart of JetBlue to recognize the big picture of that little moment.

Allison Steinberg is the Senior Media Analyst at JetBlue Airways and the author and editor of JetBlue’s BlueTales blog.  Her presentation entitled, “Leverage a Company’s Blog to Increase Your Brand Awareness” was one of the morning sessions at the 4th Annual PR and Media Relations Best Practices Summit presented by Lawrence Ragan Communications, Inc. at the Con Edison Headquarters Union Square in New York on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 where she shared insights for getting and tailoring content unique and valuable to audiences and how to use your blog to make your messages credible and consistent.

 

Why blog?

Of course a blog will do all those bloggy markety things like “create brand awareness”, “increase customer loyalty”, “step up SEO”, etc.  By publishing relevant, timely information that gives readers the “why” behind the “what, many marketing mitzvahs will tumble your way.   Some are:

  1. you will educate you customers on your product and services
  2. you can entice reporters to go to your blog as a source
  3. you can grow niche audiences of customers, business partners, reporters, employees and industry geeks

 

How does Allison do this?

“The blog is the center of gravity,”  Allison stated, almost maternal in pride and tone.   She spoke about the different kinds of stories you could find on the blog.  Stories about what’s new ( a new airport), behind the scenes (just how in the world does that carousel luggage thing work?), a human interest angle ( a customer story), updates for the media (facts & figures, info rich stream of information about an event or crisis).  The one that piqued my interest was the “Day in the Life” story she does that follows a JetBlue employee.  Don’t you wonder about what happens during the working hours of a pilot, ticket agent or mechanic?  Personally, I am intensely curious about the people who figure out how to make those cookies.

Allison also does a series called, “Unpacked” where you can discover delightful bits of airplane arcania like “How do you choose new cities?’ or “What is turbulence?” which is something that takes on enormous significance especially when you are in it.  She says it creates informed customers.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from her presentation:

  • Set a cadence.  The informal voice engages more than a press release.
  • Encourage everyone on your team to mine for information and visuals.  “Wing Woman”, a column created by a jetBlue employee has become a very popular blog.
  • To be an ongoing media hook, insert yourself as a credible source into a media story.  I am not sure which story she was referring to but I believe this is a good way to manage crisis communications.

 

What about you?

“Adapt, reuse content.  Mix original reporting with some behind the scenes stories, how to’s, announcement of new products.”

For example, JetBlue did a pre-press release story on the blog about the American Airline merger.  It was released on Valentine’s Day and featured an image of a heart candy with a message that read, “SINGLE & LOVING IT”.  An instantly recognizable candy with a twist to its traditional messaging of “BE MINE” and “I LOVE YOU” to mirror the tongue in cheek, sly wink of a story that reasserts the pride JetBlue has in being independent and all that it does to set itself apart from the pack.

A sweet ending with the full can of soda.

 

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How A Single Blog Post Can Double Your Audience

Crowd (Colour)

photo by Wayne Large

So you’ve written your monthly post, clicked the Publish button, yawned, muttered, “Thank God that’s out of the way.” and now you’re thinking about lunch.

Chances are, the lack of comments and interest to your post are not disturbing you as you scan the take out menus.

If you are a creative person working in a creative organization such as Queens Council on the Arts, high-quality content on our blog is our most potent form of marketing.

You may be writing about how to get a grant to attract more artists to the Queens Arts Fund. You may be putting out a call for artists for an upcoming show. You may be promoting a workshop series for emerging writers.

Did you know that at the same time, your post can serve as an incredibly persuasive point for people to do something further?  Blog posts can do double duty as landing pages for Google Ads.  They can be places where people can sign up for a newsletter, RSVP for a workshop, donate, answer a survey, join a discussion….

And become active and engaged members of our community.

Valuable!

When you publish content, you want your reader to do something.

You want the work you put into your content to get your reader to take a specific action.

There’s a “secret” to making this work better … a secret that great copywriters have been using for more than a century.

Let’s talk about highly effective and compelling content

To create great content — the kind that gets shared, that attracts more readers, and gets people to take action — you need to do three things.

1. You need to write something incredibly useful.
2. You need to write something that’s easy to understand and easy to digest.
3. You need to make specific calls to actions for your readers.

Now, a couple of copywriting hints:

1. How are your headlines?
Are you uncovering the pain points of your potential customers?

Challenges of Working in the Arts vs. Tired of Being a Starving Artist?

2. Are you zoning in on the benefits of what you have to offer or are you still blithering on about features?

QCA Offers Professional Development Workshops vs. Eight Surefire Ways to Sell Your Artwork

3. Do you use the language of your audience?
No jargon.  Say things in a simple, clear and direct voice.

Instead of “building capacity”,  say “grow a business”.

4. Make your call to actions easy to follow.

Sign up here for immediate access to the coolest events in Queens.

 

In a nutshell, here’s the “secret” for content that works for readers and furthers audience building goals:

Create great, useful content that is enjoyable to consume, and that lets the reader know exactly what to do next.

Here’s a quick punch list for QCA power posts:

  • Write a dynamic headline
  • Always include an image or photo
  • Write about things that are useful to the reader
  • Include a link or two back to an older post on the QCA website or to featured artist or student
  • End with a clear call to action

Got your own power blogging secrets? Link them up for us in the comments!

 

What A String Quartet Can Teach Us About Crowd Control

Mason

Mason Bates

What do you think of when you hear the word – symphony?

I am sure these are a few that may come to mind:

Classical
Full
Concert
Beethoven

Crowd management

What?

Try hiding your surprise without choking on an artichoke heart in a ballroom filled with hundreds of Grantmakers with arched eyebrows.

Yet, crowd management shared space with other words such as

acoustic
perfect
string quartet

– and of course, it took the American composer of symphonic music, Mason Bates, to make musical sense of it all.  And it took the San Francisco based Del Sol String Quartet to bring everything to life.

We lucky Grantmakers were serenaded by Del Sol who performed Mason’s  “Bagatelles”, a piece for strings and electronica.

“The string quartet,” Mason stepped up to the podium wearing a black leather jacket and a boyish smile.  “is a perfect acoustic creation.”

I love that.

Mason spoke about the challenge of putting a string quartet in new spaces.  The difficulties in acoustics, outreach, managing audience engagement and expectations. And at the same time, there is the intriguing possibilities in creating a “hybrid musical event” such as his Mercury Sol.

Picture this, or rather, listen to this:

Consider a traditional musical group, such as the Chicago Symphony or the San Francisco Symphony,  who work on artistic programs and invest in large marketing campaigns to prepare audiences for what they are going to hear and shape their expectations.

Now consider a newer musical group such as Mercury Sol, who work with stagecraft, lighting and technology to create immersive experiences for audiences and project program notes and somehow make the artist part of the audience.  The sounds of a string quartet playing slowly drifts into a new space,  gradually there is a change in perception, a light projection draws everyone to a point of focus.

There you have it.  Crowd Management in the key of C.

 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

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