Kitchens and Communicators: Same Knives

A food critic friend of mine posted this piece from the site Fine Dining Lovers and I thought it was excellent. I also thought that it’s not necessarily only germane to commercial kitchens. I think it’s also quite relevant to practitioners of both the culinary and the communication arts.

Here’s a short version with my take. Read the entire piece at the link above.

There is no excuse for this. It does happen and the finger should be pointed at both the individual line cook and the chef. Well-designed prep sheets based on sound projections, a sense of urgency on the part of the line cook, and chef oversight throughout the prep window will all help to rectify this problem.
MRB: Yep. If you don’t have all of your planning done; if you don’t have all the tools you need, the likelihood of  project failure increases exponentially.
MRB: Fairly self-evident, this. Always train your staff. And, if you can, always hire smarter than yourself. You’ll be glad you did.
Cooks depend on their tools working well. Ovens must be calibrated, burners must work well, fryer temperatures must be true, pans must be seasoned …
MRB: I learned this wisdom a long time ago from a boss who always insisted that the communications staff have the latest equipment possible and put the office on a strict replacement schedule. We also all had machines that were the same so that we could all talk to one another whenever we needed to. This is smart stuff — and hard to get past the bean-counters in lean years — but it’s absolutely essential. I swear by it.
Even the best prep and mental preparedness will fail if the front of the house fails to manage and pace the door and door reservations for smooth service.
MRB: Your jobs are not “one-offs.” You have to be cognizant of what else you have on your plate when you assign deadlines and due dates. If you don’t factor in “the other,” you’re always going to be scrambling, always going to be behind and you’ll end up with a poor reputation — and that’s something much harder to fix than learning how to calendarize projects.
Cooks need to be in the right mental state to function at peak efficiency. Chefs need to help to manage this.
MRB: Yes, a thousand times, yes! Make sure your staff is operating as best as they can. You can help them by providing them with an invigorating, well-run workplace or simply a shoulder to cry on. Give staff a chance to stretch in their roles and turn mistakes into learning experiences, not opportunities to always rebuke and belittle. Helping them focus will increase creativity across the board.
It is never sufficient to be satisfied that you are ready for the rush if the rest of the team is not. Every cook’s readiness is every cook’s responsibility. Observation and communication will help teams survive and thrive.
MRB: Nothing to add here. Build a team that helps one another thrive.
Constant communication between cooks, between the chef and cooks, between the dining room manager and the chef, and effective dialogue between service staff and cooks will keep everyone on track and will help to minimise the surprises that bring a restaurant down.
MRB: Ditto the above. Always keep talking. Let managers know of potential impending crises and let management assist in easing pressure in certain areas in order to get things done. Sometimes it’s as simple as someone feeling that they can say to their supervisor, “I’m swamped. I have three projects due today and I can’t get them all done,” and having the supervisor answer, “That’s okay. I’ll give one to Mary. Thanks for letting me know.”
The menu is the key control device in a kitchen. Planning a menu is certainly an art, but it is also a science.
MRB: And ultimately, this is the foundation upon which all of the above is built. If you promise to be all things to all people, you’re not going to make it. Tighten your offerings, limit your services to those that you know your staff are capable of and make sure you can deliver the goods on time and on budget.
It’s not rocket science, but it is good management — and no matter what your industry, good management is good management. 

Have PR and Marketing Become The Same?

Stumbled upon this article by Wendy Lindars today. Worth a read.

Lindars admits that she initially scoffed at the advice a PR professional gave to a friend: that to get ahead in PR today you have to know Google Analytics and SEO.

That’s marketing, she immediately thought, not PR.

Most of us would probably think the same. But, give it some thought. This guy is correct. Marketing has shifting significantly on its axis in the last 10-15 years. Why would you assume that PR is practiced the same way it was when a “fast Internet connection” was a dial-up modem and you mailed press releases?

Seth’s Blog: Trapped by tl;dr

Seth’s Blog: Trapped by tl;dr.

Judging by length is foolish. TL;DR shows self-contempt, because you’re ignoring the useful in exchange for the short or the amusing. The media has responded to our demand by giving us a rising tide of ever shorter, ever more amusing wastes of time. Short lowers the bar, but it also makes it hard to deliver much.

Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)

Perhaps a new acronym: NW;DR (not worthwhile; didn’t read) makes more sense. We’ve got plenty to choose from, but what we need is content that’s worth the effort.

What I love about reading Seth Godin is that it’s like listening to the voices in my head. Simply going short is not going to get your product sold, your awareness built or your mischief managed. It’s just going to be short. It’s just going to be something else to skip over.

Parenthetically, Godin says make it worth my time. That’s the crux of it all. Make me want to read. After all, we are supposedly in the business of communicating. Surely, we understand how to make people read what we write. Right?

Paula Deen’s Outrageously Insane PR Apocalypse Explodes like the Death Star and Alderaan Combined – PRNewser

There is simply no other place to begin this post except in outer space, but the truth is Paula Deen’s decisions wouldn’t make any sense in any galaxy anywhere. This is interstellar bat crap crazy.

via Paula Deen’s Outrageously Insane PR Apocalypse Explodes like the Death Star and Alderaan Combined – PRNewser.

I can’t add a damn thing to this except to shake my head. The tweets it pulls in the jump just go to show that the art of PR and crisis management was completely and utterly lost on Team Butter Queen.


How To Prove You’re Not A Racist

How To Prove You’re Not A Racist : Code Switch : NPR

“I work with the wrongly accused,” he [Dan Hill, president of the D.C. communications firm Ervin/Hill Strategy] says, as well as “people who know they made a mistake and want to fix it, and others that see a mistake on the horizon that might become public and want to make sure they handle it the right way.”

But Hill says most clients who first come for his aid fall into one big category: the drowning victim, panicked and flailing for help. Often his first advice to them is to breathe, literally.

“We’ve all experienced the anxiety of making a mistake,” he says. “Few of us have felt having that mistake broadcast to hundreds of millions of people and how that makes you feel.”

Deen seemed to be drowning in her own tears by the end of her appearance on NBC’s Today show, her first public interview after controversy erupted over her using the N-word.

Hill says there’s no silver bullet to fix Deen’s situation.

“I think I’m one of the best in my field. I can’t help her get out of this in a week,” he says. “This is the kind of thing that will maybe take years — decades — for her to overcome.”

The timing for recovery from a race-related controversy is especially tricky, Hill says, because “it has to do with your character, your values, and your belief systems.”

Yes, but.

Paula Deen’s situation is a “yes, but” because it’s all taken completely out of context. You must read the deposition that all of this is coming from — the whole thing. Google it.

There’s no question that she did not handle this well. At all. But it’s low-hanging fruit for the 24/7/365 media machine, so why not? Why not talk about Paula Deen and butter and grits and saying the N-word instead of talking about substantive news? You know, like climate change or Syria or DOMA or how many Congressional representatives Monsanto has on its payroll.

Here’s my initial take on it, y’all.

And here’s the HILARIOUS Bill Burr on Conan. A great take on the whole business.

Revenge of the Sources

I understand why a professional journalist like Nate Thayer would be frustrated at being asked to work for “exposure” rather than work for pay, though I think it’s unprofessional to vent that frustration by publishing the e-mails and the name of the junior editor who made the request.

But behind this debate lurks an uncomfortable fact: The salaries of professional journalists are built upon our success in convincing experts of all kinds working for exposure rather than pay. Now those experts have found a way to work for exposure without going through professional journalists, creating a vast expansion in the quantity and quality of content editors can get for free.

via Revenge of the sources.

This is a really interesting piece on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog by Ezra Klein.

There is a journalistic side to this issue, but there is also a fundamental management issue at hand. If you are a professional media manager, you “feed” information to news organs. That’s just how it works. I cannot tell you how many times something I have written has appeared in the newspaper — especially small market, understaffed newspapers, but not always — verbatim. Am I ticked because I did not get bylined? No. That’s my job. And I recognize that.

People on both sides of this particular equation need to be continually educated about where the elusive line in the sand is and what expectations are from the other side.

This is an important piece. Read it and think on it.

H/T to my good friend Bill Tyson, one of our finer media managers, who tweeted this link out. Follow him @BTysonPitchPerf. Follow we @markrblackmon.


No, the Press Release Is Not Dead

We’ve recently noticed a good deal of dialogue about the future of the press release. Some seem to feel that the press release–with its self-lauding and company-specific spin–is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant in a media world that runs on in-the-minute social media. Others, however, feel that PR professionals may simply need to tweak the way they approach both the releases themselves and the journalists they pitch. We tend to find ourselves in the second camp.

via No, the Press Release Is Not Dead – PRNewser.

This is a very interesting article for those of us who dwell in this world. See my comments below the article itself.

My takeaway — short version — is that you MUST CHANGE, you MUST KEEP UP, and you MUST HAVE THE COURAGE to say “no” to those who insist on doing it the olde way. Those naysayers tend to occupy the suites in the ivory tower.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ever-Brilliant Seth Godin

An original and helpful voice on this landscape of digital connection for which there are no maps. Seth Godin is a singular thought leader and innovator in what he describes as our post-industrial, post-geography “connection economy.” Rather than merely tolerate change, he says, we are all called now to rise to it. We are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists — to create in ways that matter to other people.

via Seth Godin on the Art of Noticing, and Then Creating | On Being.

lead_sethgodin-altThe greatest, most empowering hour I’ve spent listening to the “radio” in a good long time. I can’t tell you how passionately I believe in Godin and how eloquently he shares his message.

When he defines “marketing,” I just wanted to stand up and cheer. It’s so simple, it’s so powerful, it’s so RIGHT!

Pretty much on a daily basis, when I tell people just about the same things that he’s speaking of, I get looked at like I’m from another planet. I am gratified today to have spent this time in the company of someone who well and truly gets in.

If marketing, if cultural shifts, if development of new things holds any interest to you, take a few minutes and listen to this.

(“Radio” is in quotation marks above because I actually listened to this via podcast after the program was broadcast. Just so ya know!)

Backgrounds and Beliefs of College Freshmen – Important Info

Backgrounds and Beliefs of College Freshmen – Students – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This is a very interesting piece from The Chronicle. I’m not sure, but you may not be able to access the cool chart because of their paywall. If you can, make sure to hit NEXT to advance the chart. People in the office have been confused by this today. NEXT is located to the right!

The reason that I think this information is so important is that it tells you something about the next generation of consumers. What’s striking is that they are just not that different from their parents. They are, on aggregate, slightly more socially aware, socially concerned and socially liberal, but not by leaps and bounds. However, their overall benchmarks for any of those categories may be different than their parents.

The other thing I believe we need to point out is that if you are dealing with a population of young adults who are graduating from college in 2013, they were born, by and large, in 1990, 1991 or 1992. If you are using marketing conduits that were forged in the 80s or 90s — fuggetaboutit! You need to be riding the “youthquake!”* And remember, this is a generation that thinks e-mail is only for “old people.”

*Anyone get this reference? The only hint you’ll get is FrogHammer! LMAO



If you can’t get to the Chronicle story, here’s a link to Justin Pope’s AP story. Same info, just not as pretty!

How to be Insanely Service Centric – Lessons From Zappos

How to be Insanely Service Centric – Lessons From Zappos | Business 2 Community.

This is good stuff. It’s kinda sad that we have to single out someone who is doing it right because they are rare, but, well, there ya go.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to provide exceptional experiences for your customers.

When I was in college, I worked at a busy convenience store. I was always bitching about the customers and my dad, who was a barber and ran his own business for many years, said to me, “I know it sounds trite but the customer is always right.” I, of course, replied that sometimes I was right. I knew this because, well, I was 20 and when you are 20 you think you are always right.

Dad said, “No, it just doesn’t matter. The best lesson you can learn is to make the customer feel important. Don’t screw around with him. And learn to say you’re sorry. And give him a little something for nothing every now and then just for the hell of it. What does it really matter?”

It took me a while to grasp all of that information. Around the time I was putting together what we now call UX — user experiences — for customers did it finally click. Dad was right all along.

Make it easy on the customer. I’m telling ya, it will set you free.