Waste not, want not

A few years ago I made a goal to “waste less food.” Like most life goals it’s been a few steps forward and a few steps back, but three years later I can honestly say I’ve made progress and I waste far less food than I did previously. Ancillary to the bigger goal of wasting less was two sub-goals to eat better and be more organized. I’ve made real progress on these sub-goals too. We eat a home-cooked meal almost every night (not usually cooked by me, more on that in a minute) and our meals our planned out a week, sometimes two weeks ahead. It’s working.

Here’s some tricks that have worked for me in wasting less food:

1. Ask the crucial question: would I eat this if I were starving to death? When I’m contemplating whether or not to toss something I ask myself if I’d eat it under starvation conditions. Now, the truth is there is probably almost nothing I wouldn’t eat if I were truly starving. But it’s amazing how this simple question made me stop and consider if I really needed to toss this or not. This question has also pushed me to do things I would have been too lazy to do before — cut off the yucky bit and eat the rest, paw through the entire pound of greens beans to salvage the good ones and only toss the ones that are truly rotted.

2. Obsessively date everything: I keep a role of masking tape in the drawer next to the fridge with a selection of Sharpie markers and I put a date on EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how much food this has saved. Where before I might think “well, better safe than sorry” now I know these leftovers have only been there a day or two. And putting something into the freezer without a label on it is just silly — you might was well just toss it now.

3. Plan, plan, plan. Since both kids went back to school in September our nanny now makes dinner most nights. But she needs to know what to cook. She also orders the groceries for the week and she needs to know what to order. So I need to plan. I can’t say enough about meal planning. It just doesn’t take that much time to do and saves so much time later. The weeks when I don’t plan are stressful and slightly chaotic. The weeks I plan are smooth and happy. But planning also helps me use leftovers more efficiently and ensures that we only order what we will eat and eat what we order.

Top 10 Tips for Media Interviews

You’ve been asked to do a media interview. Congratulations! It means you are deemed an expert on a certain subject and that your PR representative thinks you can be trusted to do a good job and represent the company well. All great. But still, you are a bit nervous. That’s normal, of course. But these 10 tips should help you a bit.

  1. Relax. I know, I know. Nothing is more annoying than someone telling you to relax. But it’s still good advice. Mostly because there’s no reason to be nervous. A good PR rep isn’t going to put you in a situation where you can’t be successful. So take a deep breath. Be yourself. Remember that this isn’t the Spanish Inquisition.
  2. Don’t spout talking points. Any messaging ideas that you get from your PR person are meant to give you some themes that you want to convey. Use your own words. Always be genuine. Your PR rep should be willing (eager, even!) to help you tailor the talking points to your own words.
  3. That said, it’s important to remember that the reporter is not your friend. Don’t tell them anything you wouldn’t want to see in print. Don’t say anything “off the record.” (As a general rule, anything that would seem like a piece of dialogue in a cheesy movie or TV show shouldn’t be uttered in a real life media interview.)
  4. Never, never, never, never lie to a reporter. Ever.
  5. Do not use industry jargon. Use the “how would I explain this to my grandmother?” rule. Don’t patronize the reporter, but use plain, clear language.
  6. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t answer the question. It’s perfectly okay to say that you need to find out the answer and will get back to him or her. Never say “no comment.” This is a red flag that there is an issue the reporter should pursue. Instead say something like “That’s a good question, but I don’t know the answer. I can find out for you or point you to someone who can answer it.”
  7. Make the reporter ask the question. Reporters will sometimes try to lead you down a certain road by saying something that is aimed at getting you to fill in his thoughts. It’s okay to politely ask, “What is the question you want me to answer?” That said, don’t come off as evasive. If appropriate you can offer the question you think is being asked and then answer that.
  8. Leverage your PR person for help. Practice with her answering questions. Hearing your answers out loud with help both you and her refine your answers.
  9. After the interview is over, let your PR person know how it went and if there is any follow up needed.
  10. It’s worth saying again: RELAX. In fact, try to have fun. Reporters can be smart, funny and usually ask great questions. If you relax you might find you are even learning something and having a good time while helping to spread the message of your company.

The Future Will Be Won By Marketers With Balls

{With apologies to my many sister marketers. I also mean ovum.}

This past Sunday the New York Times ran a Sunday Review piece titled Can Social Media Sell Soap? I don’t know if it can sell soap, but it can sell pants.

So, this is an anecdote. And I’m aware that the plural of anecdote is not data. But that is sort of my point.

I’m friends with Ann Taylor on Facebook. Truthfully I’m not even a 100% sure why. I do like Ann and have a lot of their clothes, but I don’t usually friend brands. Anyway, the Ann feed is what it is — pictures of stuff. They don’t post so often that it’s annoying and since I am generally a fan I don’t mind having the posts in my feed. (Ironically the posts where they try to be “social” are the ones that usually annoy me. We aren’t *actually* friends Ann. Knock it off.)

One day I’m scrolling through my feed and I see a post from Ann Taylor with a fabulous pair of black and white print, cropped pants. My immediate thought was “Oh my god, I must have those pants.” So what did I do? I didn’t post, I didn’t comment, I didn’t “like” it. I went that weekend to my local Ann Taylor, tried on the pants and bought the pants. And no, I’m sorry, but I did not post a note to all my friends saying “Hey, I just bought these pants.”

I bought the pants because of Facebook. It’s unlikely I would have gone to the store that weekend unprompted, although I sometimes do. Even if I had, the pants were way more compelling styled on the model than they were hanging on the rack. Not 100% sure I would have noticed them in the store. Facebook sold me pants.

Here’s the problem: No one at Facebook or at Ann Taylor knows that Facebook sold me pants. Maybe, maybe, maybe if the folks at Ann Taylor are super-sophisticated they can see that sales of those particular pants went up in the days following the post. Even then there is some skeptical C-person saying “Yes, but how do you *know* the post caused the spike in pants sales?” They can’t prove it.

The reason I think the future will be won by marketers with balls (and ovum) is because some things can’t be measured and they never, ever, ever will be measurable. But in a world drowning in data, the pressure to prove your theories will be intense. Don’t get me wrong — I love data. I love using data to make smarter decisions. But it doesn’t answer every question. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. Sometimes you need to just believe that putting your message in front of some significant number of people on a regular basis induces those people to take some action. That some number of those Facebook friends bought the pants. (And a cute top to go with them. Did I mention that?)

The real problem, I fear, is that in a world of “data-driven” marketing, marketing starts to become really restricted. Marketers focus on only implementing strategies and tactics that can be measured. The might win some, they might lose some, but they can show a quantity. “I did this, we got this. I will do this more. I will do that less.” The strategies that can’t be measured get abandoned or at least so poorly funded as to be meaningless.

So the future will be won by the ones who can take a risk. Who can take that leap of faith and do the thing that they know is making a difference even when they can’t definitively, beyond-a-shadow-of-doubt prove that it made the difference. They will be using data. Tons of it. They just won’t be so chained to it that they can’t see the opportunities that lie just beyond the reach of the spreadsheet.

Better Than Resolutions

My friend Charlie has a blog and a newsletter that are must-reads for anyone working in tech in New York City.

Before the holidays he blogged a list of things to do in 2013. I like this way better than resolutions.

Here’s some of Charlie’s list:

  • Three people I’m actually friends with that I would like to be better friends with.
  • Ten people I should know, but don’t.
  • Five people I’d like to help be successful.
  • Three things I’d like to learn.

Check out the rest of Charlie’s list here. And sign up for Charlie’s newsletter here. It’s full of all kinds of great events in New York for people working in tech. Which might inspire you to add “Go to more tech events” to your list of to-dos in 2013.

Inventing Abstraction

I spent my visit at MoMA exploring the exhibition Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925. It was really interesting. While it was about the invention of abstraction, hence the title, it was really about the power of networks. In fact, the wall leading into the exhibit has this illustration that shows the connections between the various artists involved in abstraction. As you move through the exhibit you see, both in the text and through the work, how these connections played out and how the artists influenced each other, both directly and indirectly.

A fascinating reminder that the internet didn’t invent the idea of networks, it has just created new ways for us to connect. I was amused to see a notation that one artist sailed off to a new land with a “letter of introduction” from another artist to present to yet another artist upon his arrival in the new land. Today you would do this through LinkedIN. Same result, of course. Just a new technology.