Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Easiest Marketing Tip Ever

For marketing purposes, the end of one month equals the next month. Today is September 30, and in the past three days I've received five marketing e-newsletters dated "September." "Yikes," I think to myself, "these folks do run late and are desperately playing catch-up." But if they'd changed the date on the masthead to October, I'd think, "Congrats, these folks are on top of things by issuing their newsletter a few days early." 

So what if changing the date means skipping a month? Get out in front of your marketing instead of falling far behind it.

This advice applies in spades to corporate history. History doesn't happen overnight and it can't be reconstructed overnight. Business anniversary books, websites, timelines, and campaigns take time to develop. When your organization has a milestone coming up in a year or two or three, allow plenty of lead time. Your project will go more smoothly and it will cost less.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Graphic Design USA Award for's BAYADA Book

BAYADA history book at company's annual Awards Weekend. Clients extraordinaire!
Left to right: BAYADA manager Janice Lovequist, author Chris McLaughlin,
editor/publisher Marian Calabro, and BAYADA senior associate Stephanie Smith.

Thrilled to report that BAYADA: 40 Years of Compassion, Excellence, and Reliability, created and published by, is a winner in the Graphic Design USA Health + Wellness Awards competition. Honors went to just 125 of the 1,000+ entries. Kudos to art director and production manager Chris Reynolds, who embodied excellence and reliability through many long nights and right up to the press run; the pros at Penmor Litho and Riverside Bindery, who fussed over every detail down to the curves of the debossed dove’s wings under the book jacket; author Chris McLaughlin, a model of dedication; and our phenomenal clients, including the awesome Baiada family and ace in-house project runners Janice Lovequist and Stephanie Smith. Thank you for letting us tell your story!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writing Well for Business Success Q&A

Published Sept. 2015 by St. Martin's Press
Writing Well for Business Success by Sandra E. Lamb fills a big gap in how-to books for the workplace. Sandra is an award-winning author, journalist, lecturer, and business consultant. She and I are members of the Authors Guild and American Society of Journalists and Authors.

I can vouch for this book’s value because I’ve taught Basic Business Writing and Email Etiquette to
Columbia University staff for years. Finding smart, up-to-date resources for those classes is always a challenge. When I read praise for this book by the straight-talking Patricia T. O’Conner, author of Woe Is I, I was sold: "Lamb can tell you how to deliver that bad-news memo, how to write email like a grown-up, how to take blame without groveling, and how to be grammatically correct without being stiff. She knows!"

Marian Calabro: Why was it time for a new business writing book?

Sandra E. Lamb: The #1 problem employers have today is that their employees are challenged when it comes to effectively communicating. Recent figures suggest that employers spend well over $3 billion a year on efforts to improve their employees' communication skills. And now that business is conducted by email, the problems have been exacerbated. 

MC: What’s your #1, “if you only remember one thing” piece of advice for workplace writers (meaning people whose primary job is not as a writer)?

SL: You mean besides buy my book, read it, keep it on your desktop, and use it? The top  complaint I get from senior executives is that employees don't determine before starting to communicate by email that it is the proper vehicle for their message. If your message needs negotiation, for example, email is the wrong vehicle.

MC: How about emails – what are your key do’s and don’ts there?

SL: All the rules of good writing apply to email, plus. Using email requires special understanding of what it is and what it is not good for in communicating electronically. Here are a few examples: Don't email if your message contains personal or personnel information; if you need to negotiate; or if your message has elevated emotional content.

One senior vice president, who has teams of employees around the world, complained that too often his employees email as a way of not making a decision, but instead just passing a problem on. He said this defers or prolongs the decision-making process. In his business, he added, it's a huge cost factor because it wastes a lot of employees' time, and impedes progress.

Do email when you want to pass on information. But more importantly, email only after you've employed the best principles of effective communication. That includes starting by thinking your message through and making a few notes, organizing, writing, and editing, editing, editing. 

Many executives I interviewed complained about email content--too long, unedited, and disorganized.  

MC: What’s your personal pet peeve about business writing?

SL: Verbosity. 

MC: Mine is snark, which has crept in via the supposed anonymity of the Internet. I was delighted to read your cautionary advice about that: “Before you fire off a flip response or join in the ‘innocent’ sport of ‘poking fun,’ take a few minutes to reflect.”

SL: Absolutely. What you write or post in private can easily come back to bite you in a very public way, like during a job interview, a performance review, or a disciplinary-action meeting.

MC: My readers are often involved in business history or company anniversary campaigns. They may be on a committee or team preparing for, say, the business’s 30-year anniversary. Any special advice for them?

SL: Having a very-well-thought-out-and-written plan before starting is essential in getting the task done most optimally.  It can make all the difference in achieving the best execution.

MC: Thanks, Sandra, for taking the time for this Q&A over Labor Day weekend.

Writing Well for Business Success by Sandra E. Lamb
St. Martin's Press, paperback, US $16.99, Canada $19.50
ISBN-10: 1250065511
ISBN-13: 978-1250064516

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fred Harvey: Rise & Fall of a Pioneering Brand

What does a corporate historian do for summer reading? Mine included Stephen Fried's fascinating business history Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West--One Meal at a Time. (The subtitle is a bit overstated. There were native civilizations in the west for millennia; they just weren't WASPs like British immigrant Fred.) It was named one of the 10 best books of 2010 by both The Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer, yet it might well be difficult for such a book even to find a mainstream publisher today. The level of detail is exhaustive.

The hospitality company that bore Fred Harvey's name really did pioneer "the chaining of America" well before Howard Johnson, McDonald's Ray Kroc, and all the other chains that now proliferate. The company is best remembered for its female employees, fictionalized in a novel and an MGM musical with Judy Garland. I enjoyed learning about them via Leslie Poling-Kempes's The Harvey Girls: The Women Who Opened the West (1989), a narrative built around oral histories done in the 1980s. I'm looking forward to downloading a one-hour Harvey Girls video by Assertion Films (2014), cover shown above.

How sad that the Fred Harvey Company never produced a corporate history. Nor did the execs or heirs invest in proper archiving. Chunks and bits of Harvey history are scattered across histories of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, physical locations, and numerous websites. Too many of the latter yield "Page Not Found" error messages -- including, inexcusably, that of Xanterra, the conglomerate that now owns the Harvey name and the historic Grand Canyon South Rim holdings. There's a nod to Harvey on Xanterra's one-paragraph About Us page, but that's all. What a wasted opportunity! Commandment 3 of's 10 Commandments of About Us Pages: Reveal Thy Personality.