What a surprise!
Derek Jeter is not only a hall-of-fame shortstop who makes the time to help the elderly cross Fifth Avenue, the guy also knows how to write.
When I say “knows how to write,” I don’t mean in the literary sense or with storytelling techniques. If my high school English teacher Mr. Harper, got his hands on the letter, I’m guessing a B- with plenty of red ink.
But what Jeter accomplished in the narrative is just as difficult as what comes from any best-selling author –
He wrote from the heart. This emotional truth comes out to anyone reading the letter.
Obviously, a team of advisers guides Jeter on all aspects of business, including image-building. While I’m sure they served as a sanity check for the letter, the energy emanating from the words is so pronounced, leaving no doubt in my mind that Jeter himself crafted the words.
There are few passages starting with the opener worth highlighting (entire letter at the end of the post):
I want to start by saying thank you.
There’s beauty in simplicity.
Last year was a tough one for me. As I suffered through a bunch of injuries, I realized that some of the things that always came easily to me and were fun had started to become a struggle.
In this graph, he cuts to the heart of the matter. Also keeps a conversational tone not allowing the “editor” to polish phrases like “a bunch of injuries.”
This can be a tough, invasive, critical and demanding environment. The people of this city have high expectations and are anxious to see them met. But it’s those same people who who have challenged me, cheered for me, beat me down and picked me back up all at the same time. NY made me stronger, kept me more focused and made me a better, more well-rounded person.
Feels like there’s a cathartic release in this passage, almost a preacher-like rhetoric.
He closes with his plan to:
Soak in every moment of every day this year.
So Jeter periodically talks/writes in cliches. Again, the bar isn’t Hemingway. The bar is realness.
I’d say his letter is as real as it gets (original letter on Jeter’s Facebook page with a copy below).
Note: One of the best open letters in recent memory came from the Groupon CEO Andrew Mason when the Board forced his resignation. As for the worse, hard to top Toyota’s open letter which hit a pothole.No comments
The Year of the Horse officially kicked off on January 31 with the 15-day celebration coming to an end today (known as the Lantern Festival)
Our Singapore team saw an opportunity to bring the Chinese New Year and the PR profession together as an infographic, part of our push to experiment with visual storytelling using ourselves as the laboratory. Adele Soh led the charge with help from Bridget Kow and our designer Samantha Lim.
Embed this Infographic on Your Site:
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/2014/02/12/ not-the-most-intuitive-mashup-public-relations-the-chinese-new-year" title="Not the Most Intuitive Mashup: Public Relations + the Chinese New Year"><img src="http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/wp-admin/Hoffman infographic - Chinese New Year 2014?utm_source=infographic&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=infographic" alt="Infographic - Chinese New Year - Year of the Horse" style="border:none;" /></a><br /> <small>The Hoffman Agency is a public relations firm that emphasizes storytelling in <a href="http://www.hoffman.com">business communication</a></small>.</div>
The post on our Facebook page included:
- Fret not my fellow PR professionals, we’ve got the perfect workout plan to get you back in shape in no time.
Connecting any type of fresh storytelling to a timely event increases the likelihood of sharing, a classic PR technique. In our case, we saw a spike of social shares as well as the publication Marketing Interactive picking up the story.
But what got my attention was the team’s courage to push for the fun quotient. As I’ve shared before, levity in the killer app in business communications.
BTW, I plan to stay away from those pineapple tarts.
I wrote about this issue last year, “Aliens Converge on Sioux Fall, South Dakota in Quest of Killer Headline.”
Given the ceaseless bombardment of information, anyone looking for an online audience increasingly thinks of headlines as a form of eye candy.
I experience the gravitational pull myself.
One quick example –
The headline for a post on The Sunday Times not full capitalizing on J.K. Rowling sharing a new perspective on the Harry Potter read as follows:
The initial tweet went out with the same words.
Yet, it wasn’t long before my tweets degraded to:
- “Big Whiff by The Sunday Times on the J.K. Rowling ‘Confession’” and “The Sunday Times Misses the Broomstick on J.K. Rowling ‘Confession’”
At least I didn’t go full National Enquirer a la “J.K. Rowling gains 50 pounds troubled by Harry Potter’s romance.” The science seems to support that the more provocative – and negative I might add – the headline, the more the likely a reader will stop and click.
I got to thinking about this topic last week when the Subway story on removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide – now there’s a good addition for your next spelling bee – from bread blew up online. Check out how LinkedIn packaged the headline as part of its Pulse (push) newsletter.
If you click on the LinkedIn headline, it takes you to the actual USA Today story below:
What a difference.
Yes, I recognize I’m a word geek, but there’s no denying that the headline pushed by LinkedIn, “Subway to Remove Chemical Used in Shoe Rubber From its Bread” is 10X more damning than the headline “Subway to Remove Chemical from Bread” that kicked off the actual story.
It smacks of sensationalism.
Because again, studies on people’s attention amid the crush of social media postings have concluded that that’s what it takes to grab a reader by the scruff of the virtual neck.
Ernest Hemingway’s micro fiction, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is generally recognized as literary genius. I don’t think those six words would earn even a single retweet or like in today’s social media extravaganza.
Now, something along the lines, “Walk away: Miley’s shoes, too far” and we’ve got a mashup of celebrity and intrigue. That plays.
If you’re like me, you picked up last Tuesday’s New York Times and thought WTH? (OK, maybe it wasn’t “what the heck,” but you get the drift.)
How did feel-good storytelling on the City of Chattanooga end up above the fold in The New York Times?
I’m sure officials from numerous cities who have invested zillions of dollars in Internet infrastructure read the headline, “A City Wired for Growth” and immediately wondered why the NYT didn’t choose them. It’s not every day that you see a city of roughly 172,000 people lauded by The New York Times for business practices.
I’m guessing that Chattanooga’s version of an economic development team pitched the story. It’s also possible that the journalist, Edward Wyatt, who’s based in Washington, D.C., and covers Internet policy, overhead some FCC suits lamenting the fact that other cities haven’t followed in Chattanooga’s boots and proactively pursued the angle.
Regardless, reverse-engineering the storytelling reveals all the assets you would expect in a NYT feature:
- Great nickname: “Gig City” is right up there with “Snoop Dog and “Dr. J”
- Contrarian dimension: Advanced technologies conjure images of Austin, Silicon Valley and Seattle, not a place with a view of the Appalachian Mountains
- Contrast Vignette A: 33 seconds to download a two-hour high-def movie in Gig City versus 25 minutes for the average city
- Contrast Vignette B: Named America’s most-polluted city in 1969 versus clean air, new waterfront and downright artsy
- Contrast Vignette C: When Internet service at 100 megs per second is available, on average only 0.12 percent subscribe versus 33 percent of Chattanooga households and businesses subscribe to such a service
- Quantifying the How: Federal grant of $111 million allowed the city to accelerate construction of a planned fiber-topic network
- Game-changing example: Quickcue moved here in 2011, snagged $3M in investment and sold for a bundle to OpenTable
- Requisite failure: Chattanooga dumped millions into a citywide Wi-Fi network that isn’t used
- Quote that rhymes: “This is a small city that I had never heard of. It beat Seattle, New York, San Francisco in building the Gig. People here are thinking big.” ~ Toni Gemayel who moved his startup from Tampa
That’s how the City of Chattanooga pushed the big boys aside for a day and landed a chunk of real estate in the New York Times.
The Sunday Times broke the “Rowling admits Harry Potter should have ended up with Ron Weasley’s chick” story last weekend.
Given the clout of the Harry Potter franchise – which continues to go ka-ching – the story constituted a bona fide scoop. “Congrats” from above surely rained down on the journalist Claudia Croft who interviewed Ms. Rowling and wrote the piece.
Yet, The Sunday Times did not truly reap the rewards of a story with emotional relevance to millions around the world.
I don’t know if the Sunday Times forgot to pay their Google dues this month or if the algorithm simply frowns on the paper’s paywall, but a search on the topic shows the paper nowhere to be found on page 1 (search done on Sunday when the story was hot).
As you can see from the SERP captured above, BuzzFeed – what a surprise? – leads the charge, with The Independent, The Verge and Yahoo News right behind. Given the media’s general dependence on search, this seems like one massive whiff.
Before going further, I want to make clear that I’m not from the radical fringe believing that journalism, government and Springstreen tickets should be free.
It’s just that an all-or-nothing digital strategy like the one from the Sunday Times can’t be the answer. Whether you leave a crack in the door like The Wall Street Journal or offer X number of free looks like The New York Times, there’s got to be a hybrid digital strategy that the Sunday Times could embrace that serves varied masters including the one called Google.
Stepping back for a moment, there’s an elegance to the decision-tree flow in subscribing to the Times online. Great. But how about recognizing the tenets of sales funnel 101 which starts with general awareness? The money part comes after people have tried and like the product.
We keep reading that the economic model for newspapers is broken. While I sympathize with plight of the dailies, there’s something intrinsically wrong when a paper produces great journalism – one-off storytelling with an emotional bent – and the vast majority of readers are forced to turn to other media properties for the story.
Personally, I think the suits should have anticipated a crush of new readers coming for the Potter story and taken down the paywall this one time for all to see.
But that’s just me.
Maybe I do have a radical streak.
Note: Adrienne LaFrance at the Nieman Journalism Lab wrote a terrific piece with relevance to this topic, “Coming in the side door: The value of homepages is shifting from traffic driver to brand.“3 comments