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posted by Apprentices Jul 29,2011 @ 05:00AM

On pizza.

 

Tell us about the best pizza you ever had.


Ryon Edwards
Venus Pie Pizzaria, Spartanburg, SC. Ate there while on a photo shoot a few years ago. Hand tossed, New York style. Not too much sauce, thin crust, large slices. Service not great, restaurant not the cleanest. But the best pizza ever.

Kevin Smith
Taking visiting friends and family to Lombardi's on Spring Street in New York City, the first pizzeria in the US. The best ever, especially when it's snowy.

Pete Anderson
My choice is Moon River Pizza in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL. I liked going there with my sisters when my parents were out of town.

Julie Turner
I have eaten so much pizza it's impossible to say.

Kathryn White
Margherita pizza, eaten at a bar in downtown Charlotte, while wearing stage make-up and tights. After a full day of dancing, I had just finished the last performance at a museum's grand opening. I was 15, and ravenous. The balance of fresh basil and tomato, of rich mozzarella and slightly-chewy crust tasted like the best thing I'd ever eaten. I'll always wonder if the pizza was truly that magical, or if the dancing just sharpened my hunger.

Cathy Monetti
Homemade Margherita Pizza, made by my sister-in-law Colette Rodbell. Fresh pesto, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (from Arthur Avenue) and fresh basil from Colette’s herb garden, spread on the most perfect fresh pizza dough. Grilled right there on the Rodbell’s patio, where it was served on a perfect summer night in Larchmont, NY. I have never been able to recreate Colette’s pizza (and believe me, I have tried) but I do believe it is proof that pizza can change your life.

Teresa Coles
Brick oven pizza in Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany, on a late summer evening in 2002. Cathy, Tim, Jay and I. It was so good I smoked a cigarette afterward.

Maria Fabrizio
I have always been a cheese and pepperoni kind of person. Simple. Easy. Classic. But when I moved to Richmond, VA for grad school I discovered the most heavenly of pies. A dear friend and now relative of mine bought one for us to share with a few glasses of wine at her house. I was so skeptical, it was from a chain called "Extreme Pizza" and it was covered in vegetables. Politely, I took a slice as not to seem rude and I absolutely fell in love. The pizza is "Drag it through the Garden" and I've found nothing near as good. My heart and stomach now live for fresh mushrooms, green peppers, red onions, artichoke hearts, broccoli, vine ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, tomato sauce, mozzarella and cheddar

posted by Cathy Monetti Jul 28,2011 @ 12:43PM

New Work: Goodwill Industries

 

Nobody gets more out of it than Goodwill. After spending several months in Discovery and Brand Development for this new RP client, of that we are sure.

A donation of I no longer need it toys, clothing, household goods, furniture, computers, books and more ultimately funds job training and placement services for thousands and thousands of people. In fact, Goodwill of the Upstate/Midlands spends 92¢ of every dollar they make on this mission.

It's both an honor and a pleasure to work with our friends at Goodwill, sharing their brand story and reminding people around the state that a donation to Goodwill is a donation well made.

More to come as this cross-channel branding campaign makes its way to the marketplace!

posted by Julie Turner Jul 27,2011 @ 11:09AM

What's Your Style Guide?

If you write anything (and don’t we all these days?), you should have a credible, go-to style guide.

A style guide is simply a reliable authority on proper management of grammar, punctuation and all that stuff you’d really rather not think about. Having a style guide eliminates questions, extra commas and, in general, can make you look and sound as smart as you really are.

For the most part, I’ve defaulted to Associated Press (AP) Stylebook (tweets at @APStylebook). I’m not really sure why. I probably picked it up in the J-School sometime between rush and graduation. Now that writing buys the groceries, I am lot more interested in what style guide I trust, and, oftentimes, pointedly violate.

When I asked fellow tweeting freelance writers to name their grammar anvil of choice, I got two interesting responses neither of which was the AP Stylebook or Wikipedia.

First up is the Chicago Manual of Style, recommended by Kathy Cheng who tweets at @campcopy. There’s a nice online version you can test-drive for free. Or, get little nuggets of proper use in your Twitter feed by following @ChicagoManual.

The other recommendation was from Kim Stone Byer, tweets @thepaperapron, who defaults to Strunk & White’s Illustrated edition. This version includes offbeat illustrations to make learning proper grammar a little more colorful and a lot more interesting.

There are plenty of other easy-to-use guides, too, like the one I found on The Economist’s website.

Any of these guides can help you solve lingual quandaries; however, if you need a grammar-related giggle or two, head to Twitter and follow @FakeAPStylebook. There you’ll find a wealth of useful information such as: Only insert ", mon" after the second mention of Jamaica in a story.

There’s no law that says good grammar has to be boring. It just needs to be right.

 

posted by Apprentices Jul 26,2011 @ 07:53AM

Toolboxes: A Narrative of Process

Whether you’re a writer, designer, illustrator or a grandmother turned pastry chef, you have a toolbox. If you’re a writer, you probably have an arsenal of pens and paper. If you’re a designer, you’ve certainly got a mighty mouse and some x-acto blades, and the illustrator could have anything from paint tubes to charcoal.

In the past three months, I’ve discovered Design*Sponge, a fantastic blog for anyone looking to be inspired to create or recreate your space. Design*Sponge has a recurring post called “ What’s In Your Toolbox?” and it’s a brilliant idea. Not only are these little features wonderful because they show beautiful work, but in a quick snap shot, they reveal process. You can see which artist is completely square and thinks through things all the way, and which ones work intuitively —grabbing the first piece of material at hand and working with what emerges.

These little toolbox portraits are beautiful, friendly and inspiring.

I’ve started throwing in random things into my own office drawer to see what I can reach in and find.

Enjoy these little vignettes. Photos from SCOUT'S HONOR Co. and Design*Sponge.

posted by Kevin Smith Jul 25,2011 @ 10:53AM

Expectations

Last week, one of my clients, speaking to a room full of managers, defined good customer service as exceeding expectations. This prompted me to think about how rare good service actually is.

With contractors, I’m genuinely thrilled if the person shows up when they said they would, and the bill is in the same ballpark as the estimate. Our standards are equally low at most restaurants. Clean, courteous and reasonably quick isn’t the expectation, it’s exceptional.

I contend that organizations actually have to do fairly little to exceed expectations.

In today’s economy, people expect more for their money, and service has the opportunity to fill the gap between value and values. Perhaps nowhere is this more the case than with nonprofits.

Most nonprofits are focused on fundraising, so their messaging is all about the “ask.” Beg for money, then say thank you, only to beg again the same time next year. If your organization’s communications stop here, you need to reassess.

Return on investment (ROI) is the expectation in business. Nonprofits that adopt this standard can easily exceed expectation. Those organizations that deliver outstanding service will be those that persevere through the lingering economic malaise.

Here are some ideas to consider:
• E-mail series focused on outcomes relative to your nonprofit’s mission
• Mid-year letter about how your organization is achieving operational efficiency
• Post card showcasing a specific need having been met
• Link on your website comparing your nonprofit to similar national or neighboring-state organizations

The competition for funding is tighter than ever. Stand apart by communicating ROI to donors and build long-term loyalty along the way.

posted by Apprentices Jul 22,2011 @ 06:00AM

So Much Depends Upon...

We thought we'd pay a little homage to William Carlos Williams, and ask everyone to finish the sentence: So much depends upon...

Teresa Coles
The objective you're going for with that outfit.

Julie Turner
...my ability to turn words into sentences.

Cathy Monetti
What you are accustomed to.

Rebecca Jacobson
the mental perspective you choose.

Pete Anderson
a red wheel
barrow

Kathryn White
the color of the sky.

Kevin Smith
timing.

Maria Fabrizio
What I have for breakfast!

 

posted by Teresa Coles Jul 21,2011 @ 11:01AM

Know your supporter, not your cause

Why do people give to a cause? We’d like to think it’s because our nonprofit is tied to a worthy and noble mission, and that alone, is sufficient. But it’s just not the case. Much of it depends on how people think the cause looks on them, much in the same way they consider how the choice of a consumer brand reflects their personal style, taste and values.

Nonprofit marketers have to get savvy with this. It’s not enough to know your cause and build an intellectual case for support. You have to dig down deep and form an emotional connection with your supporters.

How do you build that connection? It starts with taking the time to really understand your audience. I’m not talking about glossing over demographics, but spending some real time in their shoes. Listening to them. Identifying their habits. Knowing what motivates them in their everyday lives, outside of your cause. That’s when you can really start to understand how they currently frame your issue in their minds. That’s when you can start developing a story that gets inside your supporters’ hearts, minds and lives.

 

Case in point: the Ad Council's Unplug spot from their Discover the Forest campaign. It openly shows the all-too-common reality of a family that is connected to everything but the outdoors, then “kidnapped” by a group of animals and brought to the forest to rediscover it. The outrageousness of the vigilante wildlife recognizes that fact that enjoying nature is just not top of mind with most families, and in calling out that truth, we can see ourselves there. All told, this spot does something that is not seen enough in the nonprofit world: the cause shows demonstrates what it can do for you as opposed to what you can do for it.

 

posted by Cathy Monetti Jul 20,2011 @ 01:39PM

Four very funny rules, for work, for life

May I start by saying I have never seen a single episode of 30 Rock? I'm not sure why that's so, or even that it's relevant here. (And I'm certain it makes me look stupid rather than discerning—even more reason to simply not mention it.)

And still I couldn't wait to read Tina Fey's book, Bossypants. I love the name.

It is a fantastic read, start to finish. Funny as all get-out. And smart, as in "I-need-to-remember-this" smart. For instance, I was struck by her rules for improvisational comedy and immediately vowed to remember them anytime I am involved in a creative meeting. (And aren't they all?)

Tina Fey's “Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat

Improv Rule 1: Always agree.

The magic of improv is making do with what you are handed, no matter how ridiculous it might be; opening yourself to accepting what comes your way without judgment or editing. I think of it as truly looking at things through someone else's lens. Tina's example:

Actor: “Freeze, I have a gun!”

Bad improv response: “No you don’t. You're pointing your finger at me!"

Good improv response: “The gun I gave you for Christmas? You b@#**#@!”

 

Rule 2: Say "Yes, and. . ."

Think of the new places you'll go if you not only accept what you are handed, but you add to it. Take the outrageous and make it outrageous-er; push it someplace farther.

Tina's example:

Actor: “I can't believe it's so hot in here."

Bad improv response: “Yes, it is."

Good improv response: “Yes, and this can't be good for the wax figures."

(As Tina says, now we're getting somewhere.)

 

Rule 3: Make statements instead of asking apologetic questions.

It's difficult to get any traction when every idea is preceded with a disclaimer. Instead, go boldly. Then everyone is clear about where the idea stands.

Tina's example:

Bad improve: “Where are we?"

Good improve: “I told you we shouldn't have crawled into this dog's mouth."

 

Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

Go with it. Whatever happens in the scene—props that misfire, lines that get misinterpreted—great improv actors just work with what comes along, and the scene gets richer and funnier.

 

When reading Bossypants, I spent a lot of time thinking about improv and the many similarities it has to creative brainstorming (or creative conversations of any kind, really.) We highly efficient humans are quick to apply "yes, but" to ideas that are simply in their infancy. I made a vow then to remember this lesson from the very funny, and very courageous Tina Fey, who reminded me that by giving an idea an unfettered moment to grow and change, greatness might just emerge.

posted by Apprentices Jul 19,2011 @ 12:24PM

Out with the Old

When an agency proposes a new brand messaging campaign to a company with an established tagline or slogan, a level of tension is expected, and even healthy. Brand messaging is not to be taken lightly. A tagline can accrue priceless brand equity, which shapes corporate identity, adds market share, and even creates financial value. However, the goal of every company is to expand, and expansion requires new messaging to match new capabilities.

Think of slogans for products with serious brand equity — “make.believe,” “You know when it’s real,” “Is it in you?” These are current taglines for the companies Sony, Wendy’s and Gatorade, yet each replaced an equally powerful brand message: “Like.no.other,” “It’s better here,” “That’s G.”

If these global juggernauts believe refreshing their messaging with the times can improve their market position, shouldn’t we all agree?

When it comes time to retire an old, accomplished slogan in favor of something new, it does not mean the loss of all the effort it took to build brand equity. Rather, it’s a new opportunity to re-introduce your brand to a world that never stops changing.

-- Pete Anderson

posted by Apprentices Jul 15,2011 @ 05:30AM

Delightful Weekend

What was delightful about last weekend?

Julie Turner
Last weekend I picked fresh cherries at an orchard in upstate New York.

Rebecca Jacobson
Staying in pajamas till 3:00 in the afternoon!! And had a friend over
visiting while our kids played. Pure delight!

Pete Anderson
Enjoying sunshine beyond 8:00.

Kathryn White
Rocking on a back porch on a late summer night, listening to my friend read Lorrie Moore's latest book aloud to me.

Ryon Edwards
Spending time with my daughter, who turned 13 on Sunday. Yikes.

Cathy Monetti
I made pesto from the July bounty of basil in my garden. I hope heaven smells like fresh basil.

Kevin Smith
Fresh cut grass and grilling.

posted by Kevin Smith Jul 13,2011 @ 12:30PM

Empathize

I read Mike Carlson’s whitepaper, “The Curse of Sterile Advertising,” last week before a client meeting, and its simple premise has stuck with me since. Great marketing is based on keen empathy with the target audience.

In my last blog post, I speculated that The Great Recession’s lackluster recovery has spawned the Great Insecurity. During insecure times, nothing feels better to your customer than empathy.

The campaign I presented yesterday offers hardworking parents a much-needed break. It features an enticing promotion, and that’s great, but not always necessary. What we know is that even the smallest gesture is appreciated. Monday, the fellow who cuts my hair knocked $5 off my bill because he was late and I waited on him. Instead of being put out, I’m now more loyal than before.

My local Chick-fil-A sends a cashier outside to take orders when the drive through lane is long. Whether or not this speeds things up is beside the point. Chick-fil-A understands that people drive through because they are in a hurry, so they provide attention quickly, and look both responsive and caring in the bargain.

People have less time and money now than ever before. Take a moment to think how your brand can help. And remember, it doesn’t take much.

 

posted by Apprentices Jul 12,2011 @ 10:46AM

Listen and Learn.

My mother handed me many valuable life lessons, as mamas should. Now that I’m all grown up, I’m confident that one of the most important things she taught me was simply how to be a good listener. She modeled listening as an action rather than a passive state of being. When you talk to my mother, she leans forward, nodding earnestly in time with your words. She asks you questions. She really wants to know what you think.

In this business (and the rest of our world), we get too busy to do the work of true listening. Caught up in to-do lists and horizon lines, we forget to slow down and take stock of our surroundings. Lately, I’m reminded to listen everywhere I look. Last week, as we worked steadily away on a soon-to-be-launched campaign, we decided to stop and ask the client for some specific feedback. And we listened. What we learned shifted our creative direction, ultimately leading us to even stronger work. All because someone took time to listen.

Marketing professionals aren’t the only ones who should be listening to their clients. Talk to your customers. Ask them questions. Pay attention to what they say. I’m looking at you, Netflix. I logged into my Netflix account recently to discover a redesigned interface. I’m not a fan. It feels unintuitive and slow. That’s beside the point. What matters is that I’m not the only one. There are thousands of Netflix lovers who are unhappy with the new design and being pretty vocal about it—and Netflix seems to have closed its ears. Keep the new interface or return to the old design, there’s one thing the brand should absolutely be doing:listening. And responding, of course, because the goal of listening is always to go further or to improve.

The people in your world—clients, customers, friends, family—have things to say. Pay attention. As Cathy Monetti says, you learn so much when you listen.

 

posted by Julie Turner Jul 11,2011 @ 11:14AM

Create goods for the greater good.

What some now call The Great Recession has tested everything we have as people and as a nation. But there are silver linings to the cloud lingering over our country’s head. There’s an uptick in compassion. There’s a willingness to stick your neck out a bit more than before. A lot less dollars, perhaps, but far more common sense.

An environment like this is where ideas ripen and grow. That’s just what we want for our annual pro-bono all-nighter blitz, CreateAthon. There’s so much good all around us that could do so much more with a little help from a handful of creative folks who can write, design and build communications in their sleep.

What can you do in 24 hours? Give a fresh identity to a group that can’t afford one but deserved it years ago. Create a fundraising presentation that inspires giving or volunteering, or both. Give your creative soul an inspirational charge no 9-5 job can deliver.

CreateAthon has the potential to do incredible things. With you on board, it’s a sure thing. To learn more about becoming a CreateAthon partner agency, visit www.createathon.org today.

Invest 24 hours of your life into something that’ll deliver both personally and professionally. Join the CreateAthon movement.

 

posted by Apprentices Jul 08,2011 @ 04:52AM

Favorite teacher

Who was your favorite teacher, and why?

Maria Fabrizio
I can't choose one. The collective group of teachers as parents at Governor's school get the gold medal. They were all hard, they all made me cry, and they all made me better at my craft. They saw potential where I did not. I doubt that each of them know how much they changed my life: Joe Thompson, Ben Gilliam, Axel Forrester, Carly Tucker, Alice Munn, Dana Howard, Michal Brodeur, and Katya Cohen.

Teresa Coles
Carol Gunn, my English teacher of all four years of high school. That level of consistency yielded my permanent mastery of its versus it's.

Ryon Edwards
Two favorites: Dangerfield Ashton, my middle school art teacher. He was eccentric, outspoken, and wild. He painted some crazy stuff. Chris Davis, my high school art teacher. She was softspoken, sensible, and honest. She led me to study design in college, which I am grateful for.

Cathy Monetti
Dr. Robert W. Hill, English professor at Clemson University. He made me believe I had potential as a poet.

Kevin Smith
Dr. Jim Sims. He made history relevant by drawing parallels with present day. We have much to learn from the French and Russian Revolutions.

Kathryn White
Dr. Teresa Jones, professor of English. She taught me to be a better reader, critic, and writer--but most importantly, she taught me to get to the heart of it.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jul 07,2011 @ 05:15AM

When Endings Are Beginnings

Swarthmore is a fine liberal arts college located just on the outskirts of Philadelphia. There is much to say about the Swarthmore experience, not the least of which is the way a visitor can be moved simply by the school's idyllic campus: an arboretum dotted with old stone buildings, antique rose gardens and long, long lazy lawns perfect for philosophic conversations and college courting. (I'm quite sure these lawns have seen a bit of both.)

I visited there recently to celebrate the graduation of my eldest stepson, Carson Monetti (highest honors in Philosophy, thank you very much). He walked us oh-so-casually around the campus while I snapped photo after photo. And then we came upon The Tree.

"What's the story there?" asked my husband.

Turns out the tree is a 30-foot oak that began a descent into death some time ago. Rather than remove it, Swarthmore and the arboretum agreed to paint it red, demonstrating the tree's ability to transcend the natural limitations of regular existence (a dead tree) and be transformed into something new (a work of art).

I find this story of transformation profoundly important. But I have to say I love my own story, too. I was mesmerized by that red tree from the moment I saw it, imagining a band of idealistic college co-eds descending upon it under the cover of darkness, paintbrushes in hand, transforming it into their own powerful statement. Day dawned, in my story, and the red tree lived on in spite of Administration, simply because it was so. . . Swarthmore.

I love that campus. I love that red tree.

posted by Teresa Coles Jul 05,2011 @ 10:05AM

Donor beware: research your nonprofit

Donating to a nonprofit and its cause can be a humbling and uplifting experience at best. At worst, it can be a nightmare should you discover your nonprofit of choice to be less than reputable.

Last Wednesday we learned the Coalition Against Breast Cancer, a charity that has raised more than $9 million dollars, is in fact a scam. In the past five years the CABC used less than 4% of their funding to fight the diseases that affects 1 out of 8 women. A scam at this level would have been almost impossible to detect without governmental assistance, but you can make sure your money goes to the right place by heeding a few tips:

  • Don’t give cash: Cash can easily be lost or stolen and never make it to your charity. When you donate with a credit card the money can at least be traced. If you do give online, make sure the URL starts with “https:” this means it’s a secured site.
  • Ask questions: They want your hard-earned money, so don’t be afraid to ask what it’s going toward and how it will be used. If they can’t give you the answers you need, think about finding another charity.
  • Check the spelling: Scammers will sometimes use a name similar to widely known nonprofits. They hope that you don’t realize that you are donating to a fake site.
  • Trust your gut: Scammers are sneaky; it’s their job to lie, cheat and steal. Chances are something is going to feel “off” about their pitch. Trust this feeling.

It’s sickening to think that some people would take advantage of the less fortunate in this way. Don’t let them deter you from supporting your cause. With a little research you can feel safe knowing your money is going to a good place. To find more tips on how to avoid charity scams, visit ftc.gov.

 

posted by Apprentices Jul 01,2011 @ 05:30AM

Quality of Life

What item that costs less than $100 greatly improves your quality of life?

Kevin Smith
iTunes

Cathy Monetti
Clairol root touch-up

Kathryn White
High thread count sheets

Julie Turner
Hugs and kisses from my family

Maria Fabrizio
http://www.fitbit.com/

Rebecca Jacobson
Having someone other than me clean my house.

 

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