social media

Hi My Name's Bob, Please Give me $700 - Netiquette Rules of the Road - and Chickens in Sweaters

These were the very words I wrote not five minutes ago:

"I'm sorry. We may be Facebook friends but I really feel it's a breach of etiquette to ask me for money when I don't believe you've interacted with me at all online. Have you shared my posts? Conversed with me? Supported me in any way? Would you walk up to a stranger at a cocktail party and utter a request for money before even introducing yourself?"

I wrote this in response to a private, direct request that I support this Facebook friend in his project. This is a person who has not once commented on anything I've posted, not shared a link from me or by me, not interacted at all with me. And yet, he feels it's okay to privately and directly ask me for money.

You might be surprised to learn that I got pushback. "Well I'm not actually asking for money.." In fact the initial communication WAS a request for money, lots of it. Because he really believes in his pet project and offers me the opportunity to support him. And $700 was only one of the suggested donation levels. And it was not a program for the greater social good.

Excuse me, but, WTF?

I'm used to donor-fatigue as a concept. When I've worked with non profit agencies that are supporting programs that fill in the gap between community needs and public programs, these conversations come up. I'm talking about things like Big Sister Association. But these days it seems everyone with a keyboard or mobile device believes they are entitled to have their dreams funded by the public.

Just because there now exist ways to "kickstart" your projects by asking the world for money, does not give you license to act like an ill-mannered boor. A final note about crowd-funding. Please be professional. Some of us have been around the block a few times and we've worked very hard to develop business plans. Some of those have succeeded or failed but when we've done the work, you can understand how it irks us that you have not and yet you still feel entitled to have our financial support for your dream? If you think guinea pigs need socks, show me some data. Show me you've done your homework. Tell me who your competition is and how you're different. Demonstrate your skills and experience that will make your booties rock harder than others'. Then, and only then, should you ask the public for money.


Rules of the Road

As is often the case, there are real world parallels (not that the Internet is not real world) that I think are instructive. I don't think these are new rules, really, just old rules applied to new forums.

1. Make friends first.

Don't ask for money before you have taken the time to introduce yourself. Just because YOU believe in your dream to knit booties for guinea pigs*, does not entitle you to asking for financial support from the world. And they are not obligated to share your dream, to supply you with funds for yarn, or to spread the word on your behalf to support your quest of clothing cold rodent feet.

Sweaters for Chickens * full disclosure, this is not a guinea pig in socks. To my astonishment, I could not find an image of one. This is a chicken in a sweater. This I could not make up.

2. Make a connection between new friends and old.

If you've started following me because you like something I have to say about knitting, introduce me to another knitter you like. That's an easy "give" that costs you nothing.

3. If you see me posting about my latest knitwear creation, share it with your community.

Sharing is caring. We all want to grow our online communities. It's a nice way to show me you care - before you hit me up for a favor or a donation.

4. Check in before you check in.

If we're meeting over coffee to discuss our new yarn discoveries, don't tag or update with my name until you ask me. Perhaps I begged off another meeting without saying I was going for coffee, or maybe I'm taking a midday break but a client might think I'm goofing off (even if I worked through the night) - just ask first.

5. Hello? Introduce yourself properly on the phone.

Now with Siri it's possible to begin a conversation with Janet thinking you're talking to Janice. It happens. Better be sure that you are speaking to the person you thought you were speaking to, and also, not insignificantly, that they can hear you. I don't know how many times someone's launched into a long explanation of why they're calling and all the while I'm politely waiting for the right moment to tell them I can only hear every third syllable due to a poor connection. (remember the poor news anchor who went to the loo forgetting she was still mic'd and wound up saying something unflattering about her sister in law? yikes.)

To paraphrase the wonderful Lily Tomlin, be sure it is the party to whom you are speaking before you speak.

6. Connect in public, schedule in private.

While it's fine and good to connect online, when it comes to actually nailing down the time and place to meet, you should revert to email or direct, private messaging. I wouldn't schedule drinks with friend A right in front of friend B without inviting B. It's rude. Same applies online, no need to make anyone else aware that super fantastic fun plans are being made and they are not invited. Also not necessary to alert the world when you will be not at home.

7. When you meet someone IRL (in real life) or face to face, introduce yourself in a way that let's them know who you are.

Maybe your online name is "RedSoxFanatic" and you have a picture of Fenway for your icon. Those will not help me remember that you are a 6' tall Norwegian named Hank. I'm @LDGourmet and although I have a photo of myself, I try to remember to say, "Hi, my name's Jackie or @LDGourmet" if it's a tweetup so people don't have to feel awkward that they don't know or can't recall who I am. Then, they don't have to call me "LDGourmet" either. (BTW if you're still using an egg for your Twitter icon - get with the program. Pick a photo of you - clothed please - or something that connects to your brand if you must.) (what's with all the bikini and shirtless pics, anyway?)

8. When we meet in person, be there.

Don't spend the time I've carved out to spend with you, on your phone. If you'd rather be tweeting, it's no big thing, I've got lots to do, too. But if we made time to be together, let's really be together. I will often say "I'm just going to update my status because this is a place people have been asking me about, is it okay if I check in with you then I'll put the phone down?" 

9. Tag - you're it! It - being the insensitive clod.

Don't be that guy. Ask before you post a photo and tag someone in it. Also, if you don't like a photo someone posted of you, just ask them privately to take it down. They should do so w/o protest.

10. DON'T SHOUT, don't spam, don't cc.

These seem to be so old and common sense that I almost didn't include them here but you might be surprised that others still don't know this. ALL CAPS is the same as SHOUTING in person. Why are you SHOUTING at me? Spam includes endless chain letter appeals on Facebook (Most are scams by unsavory mills that boost their page views and sell their numbers to advertisers. You're only helping them.) As well as the email types.

And why do some PR professionals still send out emails w/o using bcc? You get only one of those mistakes then you're toast.

What are your top Internet Pet Peeves? What have I missed? How do you feel about asking for RT? I don't think it's as offensive as asking for money or liking your own picture on Instagram, but it should be used sparingly, like when you're promoting an event.


chicken jumpers

Hurrah for rescued chickens and for the ladies who knit to keep them warm!


Transparency, Ethics and Lasagna: How Ketchum's Fake Dinner Backfired

This was the tweet that caught my eye:

"Food bloggers invited to "exclusive supper club" hosted by Food Network chef, actually frozen meal focus group. "

By Andrew Hwang (@andhwang) who was linking to the (self proclaimed) "Chubby Chinese" Girl's post.

I thought I could let this one go. A few tweets to express my outrage, then be done with it.

But you know what, I can't just look the other way. You know I hate it when I see PR gone bad (I even wrote my own PR Customer's Bill of Rights.) This PR fiasco shows the willingness of a big firm like Ketchum, to push ethical boundaries. (Here's their Contact Us page should you care to voice your outrage.)

In my past life, I used to design and run research and focus groups were a part of that. As a consultant and as a recovering attorney, it gets my blood boiling when people ignore things like, oh, say, ETHICS. Or PROFESSIONALISM.


Bloggers and Freebies

As a writer with a blog, I get offers all the time. I turn down more than I accept. When I accept, I disclose. And, I usually only accept from a few in the business that I respect and for whom I think I can write a good piece, honestly. There are food blogging ethics, too. And there's also some common sense which several of the duped, later realized they may have overlooked. My first thought was "Sangria is not Italian", but hey, that's just me.

This fiasco shows the danger when bloggers are lured by a "Food Network Celebrity" and the promise of a free dinner. Bad food can happen to good people. Say yes simply because it's a private dinner with a celebrity chef? Think about that. I'm sure they will next time something like this pops up in their inbox.

Every subsequent post I read about these duped bloggers, makes me a deeper shade of red, like the artificial red dye that was added to the frozen lasagna. Even when an invited guest disclosed an allergy to the dye, it's not clear this was handled well.

Lured under false pretenses to a private dinner "Sotto Terra" (under ground or soft ground in Italian, I think) with a "Food Network Celebrity" that turned out to be, in fact, a frozen food focus group for ConAgra's Marie Callendar frozen dinners. People are rightfully incensed.

The conversation before dinner was decidedly vague, several posters/guests asked direct questions that were not answered. They were manipulated at dinner to disclose their food memories, preferences, stories. They were encouraged to talk about CSAs and such (really?) and then they were fed frozen ConAgra dinners.

Here is what Mom Confessionals says:

[Bloggers were encouraged to hold contests and invite guests:]

I want to deeply apologize to my winner and her husband, my children’s beloved pediatrician.  They were expecting an amazing meal and a true experience at the hands of famous Food Network chef they were fans of and were left with a really foul taste in their mouths.  I too was completely surprised and I promise you, had I known, I would not have encouraged you to sacrifice your valuable time and money only to be tricked.  I am profoundly embarrassed and hope that you will accept my sincerest apologies.

FoodMayhem writes an Open Letter to George Duran:

I told you first hand of our focus on wholesome food, particularly with our baby in tow.  We both said to you, with 20+ witnesses and apparently hidden cameras, how much we despise over-processed foods and artificial ingredients.  We discussed with the group the sad state of chemical-filled foods and discussed various chains.  And yet, you still fed me the exact thing I said I did not want to eat.

Chubby's New York Food Diary writes:

"The words "intimate Italian restaurant", "delicious four course meal" and "sangria" tickled my appetite. I accepted immediately. To hype it even more, I was told that this "exclusive" underground restaurant was only open for 5 days. Not only was I allowed to bring a guest, but they offered my readers a dinner for two though a giveaway."


Brand Noise calls the PR debacle:

"[an] exercise broke every basic social media and research rule."

Let the Spin Begin

Now, it seems the last dinner was canceled and Ketchum is back-pedaling - somewhat - in the New York Times. Bloggers Don't Follow the Script, to ConAgra's Chagrin. [note for the record, the photo in the NYT piece seems to indicate a bit of snark on the part of the hosts, like they're laughing all the way to the bank, and acting like your big brother who just played a practical joke on you, then chides you for not having a sense of humour about it.]

As noted writer Rebekah Denn points out, Ketchum's non-apology adds insult to injury: "We apologize that they felt this way." That's like saying "we're sorry they were wrong to have an opinion other than the one we were looking for." How about, "It was wrong and arguably unethical. We are sorry." You'll never hear that from the likes of Ketchum.

The story is blowing up in Tweets and RTs and the ire it incites from the people who try to do this work of Public Relations and of food writing or blogging with honesty and integrity every day.


  • Shame on ConAgra for being so out of touch with the food and social media zeitgeist. It's all about Transparency. Authenticity. Integrity.
  • Shame on the sellout celebs. (I have no idea who these putz's are, proud of that.)
  • Shame on everyone at Ketchum who had a clue and failed to speak up.
  • Shame on the Marie Callendar's team for putting 860 milligrams of sodium, 36 percent of the recommended daily allowance, in a single 8 oz serving of lasagna.


But not for me

As Chet Baker croons, "they're writing songs of love, but not for me." About once every other month or so, someone asks me if I'd ever consider "coming over to the dark side." This stunt is a reminder of why I always say "No, Thank You." Or maybe it's an opportunity to say yes and do it better, more ethically. Who knows what the future holds but I can tell you for certain, I'd never last a day at a place like Ketchum. I'd never waste my client's money on an ill-conceived stunt like this one. I'd never waste the currency in the social media circles whose good will my clients covet.

In just five hours since I saw Andy's tweet, this has been tweeted to my 4,000+ another 8,000+ if you just count my quick circle of followers who picked up on this in the last couple hours.

Don't you think ConAgra cares that it has alienated thousands of food bloggers, their readers, Twitter followers, journalists, "Mommy bloggers" and more? Personally, I think ConAgra and Ketchum deserve each other. Maybe they all believe that any PR is good PR. Who knows but I will be interested to see if ConAgra issues any statement.

To my fellow food bloggers out there, remember no one can disrespect you without your consent. Or, put another way, if you lie with dogs you wake with fleas. Maybe that's a little harsh, but who is that guy that you are being lured by? Ask about the strings attached before you say yes. Your readers will rely on your judgment and your integrity and that is currency that is worth more than a free dinner. They deserve your good faith and judgment.

I applaud each of the bloggers who posted immediate responses to the duplicitous dinner.


More on ethics, PR, food blogging



TECHmunch Panel: Understanding Trends to Enrich your Content

  I was delighted to be asked by Babette Pepaj of to participate in this conference. Thanks to Jackie Gordon (the Diva that Ate NY) for the referral. After nearly five years of food writing, I'm happy to share what I've learned. Our panel's topic included Rachel Blumenthal (Boston Food Bloggers) and Ashley Stanley (Loving Spoonfuls Food Rescue). Hillary Davis (MarcheDimanche) was our moderator.

From left to right: Ashley Stanley, Lovin' Spoonfuls; me, Rachel Blumenthal, Boston Food Bloggers.

What's New in Food: Understanding Trends to Enrich Your Content

Our panel was asked to address food trends and I chose to focus on how to use food trends to become a valued resource for your readers. I shared tips by example (QR code stickers on my business cards and name tag holder) and my Constant Contact All Star Award newsletter signup sheet which I waved around every chance I got. I made a sort of joke about hawking the newsletter signup sheet, and teasing the audience with one copy of my handout, referring to the tips contained on it and giving people a taste of what they might learn by getting their hands on a copy.

This was a subtle or not so subtle way of demonstrating...

some key advice:


  • Be an early adopter of new technology - like Twitter - which really isn't that new now. I tweeted as often as I could and if you search on the #TECHmunch hashtag, you'll get a sense of the day.
  • Try QR codes - interestingly not one person scanned the QR codes on my card or my name tag holder. I explained what these codes were and the advantage for any food blogger in using them. Why miss an opportunity to get into someone's contact log? To drive someone to your website?

    Go download the free app i-nigma works well. Scan that code with your smartphone camera and bingo! I'm in your contacts, you have my Twitter handle and you know my URL. Obviously this is silly here, but it makes sense on a business conference name tag, on business cards, on products or papers you hand out.


  • Use a newsletter like Constant Contact - to reach more people. Constant Contact named my Leather District Gourmet Newsletter with an All Star Award. This comes from metrics like click-through rates. Read about my All Star Award criteria here. This gives you a way to demonstrate valuable reach to potential sponsors, it gives you a one-on-one tool for helping your readers follow your work, and it gives people the opportunity to spread the word about your content, effectively creating a new set of evangelists with each newsletter.
  • Use every appropriate opportunity to share what you've learned with others.
  • Don't be that schmuck at the cocktail party who only talks about himself. Don't be that guy that keeps asking everyone to help him.
  • DO be the person at the party, on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, who says: "Let me introduce you to my friend Lyn of Boston Food Swap, she likes canning and creates fun networking events just like your Canvolution events." OR "Lovin' Spoonfuls is so passionate about stopping food waste I have to introduce Ashley to Jenni so she can learn about Jenni's food waste challenge: Four Pounds of Cheese."

what I learned:

  • People, from newbies to veterans like Rachel Blumenthal (whose Boston Food Bloggers network is 400 strong) in the Boston food blogging network are eager to share, to learn.
  • All of us can brush up on our SEO skills.
  • Some of us need to brush up on our "elevator pitch" (when you meet someone in an elevator can you tell them - in a compelling way - what your business or blog is about before they reach their floor?)
  • Finding your voice in writing is equally important as finding your "voice" in photography.
  • Newbies want the silver bullet, the secret to food gawker photography, to more hits, to sponsorship, to getting a column. Veterans know the answers lie (mostly) within.
  • Even though we're in a digital age, and need digital skills, it's all really still about telling a story.
So here is my "handout" from the conference:

What’s New in Food: Understanding Trends to Enrich Your Content

Five Food Trends to Love; Five to Shove; Five Ways to be a Trusted Resource and... Five Resources for You


  • Sensual, Sensible Sustainability - food has to first, taste good, make sense, not come with a side of guilt.
  • Using creativity and connectivity to help followers dive into, understand issues.
  • Using technology to connect those asking questions and those providing answers; buyers and sellers; anyone with shared interests.
  • Understanding your values, to become more valuable to your readers, and create value for sponsors.


Five Food Trends to Love

  1. Sustainable - seafood - Greenberg, Kurlansky, etc. to FishChoice, SFW, ILoveBlueSea; sustainable food issues: e.g. Loving Rescue/ Bamco / etc.
  2. Heritage breeds & Heirloom seeds - interest in biodiversity and food that tastes good w/o poor enviro impacts
  3. Farm-to-table, CSA/CSF - strengthening our local food systems
  4. Meatless Meals/Flexitarian eating - for health, for the planet and for taste
  5. DIY + Canvolution - wisdom of the grannies, Put ‘Em Up, Meatless Meals

Five to Shove

  1. Paleo or Raw - two examples of mindless faddishness at its worst
  2. Dogma - “species-ist” (see flexitarian above);
  3. Superfood du jour - whole diet/lifestyle not one food (or fad) that will cure all ills
  4. Flat belly - sketchy science and who wants to see those ads on a food blog, anyway?
  5. Bacon makes everything better - really?

Five Ways to Become a Valuable Resource

Improve your content by knowing trends but do more than reporting. By analyzing trends and giving your unique spin on what the data means you become a trusted resource.

  • Focus on the why -- not just the what -- to provide better value and insight to your readers.

An Example:

... if someone you follow says “street food is the top new trend!”

What do you do with that info? How do you demonstrate the value of your work through addressing that trend?

Some Options:

  1. Simply announce it and hope someone finds your post or tweet when they dive into the subject. (meh, and good luck)
  2. Interview someone who wrote a book on the topic and see what they think, write the interview up for your readers and offer a copy of the book to a commenter.
  3. Investigate why street food is surging in popularity here (other countries have a LONG standing tradition of street food, it’s not a “new!” trend in Asia or South America)
  4. Street food in other countries could be interesting posts in and of themselves.
  5. Make a recipe of street food and share it.
  6. Make a recipe of street food and give it your special twist. Are you a writer from South America? Make a recipe of empanadas and share it along with a story of your abuela’s empanadas.
  7. Is your brand about sustainability? Make and share a street food item adding a sustainable twist.

Five Resources for You

  1. Eat Your Books - great new site that allows you to search all your books, your friends’ books for recipes. Invaluable for food writers with stacks and stacks of cookbooks!
  2. Powell’s bookshelf; Publishers’ & agents’ author lists, blogs. See who is writing on your favorite topics.
  3. Hartman Salt, SmartBrief - find the aggregators that are most interesting to you, relevant to your topics, and learn how to shape your content to your values. Find the news in the topics your readers care about.
  4. Chefs Collaborative, BAMCo, Slow Food, IACP, WCR - connect with the top chefs and learn about local food issues via reports, blogs, conferences.
  5. Canvolution - loads of resources, support, events in the trending upward food preservation movement - a true trend.
  6. Food Stylists' Handbook - Denise Vivaldo's excellent guide offer so much more than food styling advice!

TECHmunch Friends & Presenters to Follow

Photographers: Brian Samuels (@MyFoodThoughts); David Dadekian (@Dadekian); Jennifer Leal @Savorthethyme; Adam Salomone (@HCPDishes); Brian Knowles (@TheGringoChapin); Loring Barnes (@LoringBarnes); and of course our moderator, Hillary Davis (@MarcheDimanche) and our host: Babette Pepaj (@Bakespace.)


Our post munch, munch. Island Creek Oyster bar was our last stop of the day. More to love.





Goaterie Gone Viral - Tweet Chat on all things Goat

Meat, milk, cheese - funky, fun, delicious, suspicious. All things goat were discussed. Questions asked, resources and recipes shared.

This goat-loving trip or tribe started on Twitter with a couple of fun, overlapping chat threads and when we found each other it was goaty-kismet.


Now, there's a recipe roundup happening, and spontaneous small convos on Twitter, and tonight, our first organized chat.

➜ For those still doubting the power of Social Media, guess how many people we reached tonight in this chat?
If you count the Twitter followers of each of the 40+ participants, the #goaterie hashtag and our expertise was in front of over 63,000 Twitter followers for a full hour tonight.


So, many thanks to Barbara (@CreativCulinary) and Rachael (@LaFujiMama) who pulled a panel together to field questions and chime in on all things goat. Barbara and Rachael have things I covet dearly: technical skills and a management team, respectively. We're lucky to have caught their attention!

Tonight's panel: Included me, and the dynamic duo, Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, as well as @Fromagette (a cheesemonger in the Northwest) and @CreativeCowgirl (a real-life homesteader!)

For my part, I shared these resources:

Places to find goat meat:

  • local Halal markets
  • Local Harvest - with site search by zip code

I also shared these additional goat-related resources:



My BBQ Bonanza '11 Kickoff also began with a goat recipe from the authors Mark and Bruce who literally, wrote the book. It includes their recipe for Goat Skewers with Vinegary Herb Sauce - that's the recipe that got Bon Appetit's tongues a-waggin. Since I do have the dreaded dairy allergy there will be no milk or cheese recipes from me during the Goaterie challenge. However, I will be making a goat meat dish before this goaterie prize period is over. So stay tuned and try some sustainable, delicious goat!

Even if goat's not your thing, fire up your grill and drop a comment on a BBQ Bonanza post. We've got prizes there, too.


Measuring Influence in Social Media - A Case Study Women Winemakers Dinner

Metrics for Social Media is slippery business. This is the holy grail for so many trying to leverage their expertise as "Social Media Gurus". (Some people are so quick to hype themselves as "gurus", I am tempted to say SMG stands not for Social Media Guru but So Much Garbage. But that's a rant for another day.)

I don't really care about the total number of followers someone has. In fact, I think a huge number of followers is often a detriment. It all depends on your goals. I want to have connections and conversations. I want to introduce folks who might not otherwise meet. I want to invite folks to think about topics I find interesting or important. How do you converse with 2 million people? You don't.

I claim no particular higher ground in any of this, but let me offer some thoughts from a timely example. I use Twitter as a truly social tool. I try to have conversations with my followers, I don't just broadcast to them. I don't worry about the number of followers, assuming it will shake out to a reasonable number organically. I think and write and speak on a diverse number of things and love the way that Twitter has introduced me to many people with diverse interests or from a variety of walks of life. I can at any time of day or night have a conversation with someone in Australia about Japan relief efforts, or talk to a chef in California about the Mangalitza I had at Chelsea Market during D'Artganan's Duckathlon. I talk to artists about the way that Margrit Mondavi pioneered "filling those empty walls of the winery with art." I can chat up feminist friends with insights from the women winemakers I met last night and discuss the variety of career paths we have taken.

A Lovely Dinner with a Side of Missed Opportunity

Just last night I was invited to attend a Women Winemakers dinner at Rialto. At our table there were 6 guests plus one winemaker. The other tables had about 5:2 writers or industry folk to winemaker hosts. In attendance were, Margrit Mondavi from Mondavi; Susan Lueker, Senior Winemaker, Simi; Janet Myers, Dir of Winemaking, Franciscan Estate; Maureen Martin, Winemaker, Clos du Bois.

Chef Jody Adams' kitchen served up three courses and dessert paired with the wines. Passed hors d'oeuvres included focaccia with salmon and goat cheese, baccala, and fennel-scented spicy grilled shrimp. These were paired with the Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc.

First Course of Ricotta Ravioli spring peas, poppy seeds, speck.

Clos du Bois Russian River valley Calcaire Chardonnay; Franciscan Estate Cuvee Sauvage Carneros Chardonnay

Second Course: Slow roasted char farro, leeks, roasted radish.

Simi Sonoma Country Pinot Noir

Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Entree: Tuscan style tenderloin portabella, endive, arugula salad Parmigiano Reggiano, truffle oil.

Simi Landslide Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Clos du Bois Alexander Valley Marlstone Meritage

Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Magnificat Meritage

Robert Mondavi Winery Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Dessert three cheeses and almond stuffed date.


The Side:

I asked immediately at the start of the program, if there were a Twitter hashtag for this event. Apparently, this had not been conveyed to the hosts or there wasn't one.

I could not stop wondering how we missed an opportunity to capitalize on this event. At our table, at least three of us were "Tweeting" instantly and throughout the dinner. Looking at the number of followers in that group alone:

Red, White, Boston (1,200); Bob Dwyer (2,600); Jonathon Alsop of Boston Wine School (400), Rich Auffrey the Passionate Foodie (3,200) and me (3,600). All told this adds up to over 10,000+ followers. Obviously there is some duplication in who we reach, but there are also unique followers to each of us. We also have unique voices and a different mix of followers giving potential in-roads and exposure to a very diverse and relevant audiences. Rialto Restaurant our host, has another 2,200 followers, one of my followers "re-tweeted" right away one of my tweets gaining exposure to another 2,100 of her followers. Another of my followers with 2,000 of her own asked if Paula from Oakville Ranch was there...

Furthermore, a hashtag (Twitter's way of marking a topic for searchability) has life beyond the duration of the event. Today, we might be Tweeting using the hashtag about last night's event. Followers who didn't see our tweets last night could find an intriguing tweet then search on that hashtagged term to see what else was being discussed, discovered, enjoyed during that meal, who was in attendance, what was served, how the pairings worked, etc.

Here's what happened, three of us Tweeted from our table. No hashtag. I got a couple of retweets, I'm sure the others did, too. Now, it's done. Over. Gone. Except for posts like this.

How it Could have Worked

Let's look at an alternative scenario.

Invitations to the evening go out. Once confirmed, the hashtag for the evening is sent in the confirmation email. Let's say we chose #WomenWine. I would immediately Tweet "So excited to attend #WomenWine event at Rialto on May 2. Who else is going?"

Others would start tweeting using that hashtag #WomenWine. A follower of mine might ask "what winemakers will be attending #WomenWine?" We would start tweeting about the wineries coming. Someone not even in this town might see it and jump into the conversation. "Oh! Had that #Simi Landslide just yesterday and LOVED it! So jealous. Tell me how you like the wine at #womenwine."

And so you see that opportunity to start a conversation that would have picked up eyeballs would have gotten rolling even before the dinner! It could leverage the money spent flying the winemakers to Boston, Chicago and where ever else they are going to capitalize on that investment and extend the reach and impact WELL beyond the few dozen diners in each city.

There are numerous ways others could have stumbled on the hashtag and topic and joined in. Maybe they are a wine blogger that none of us yet know and they posted on one of the featured wines. They might jump in and share their post.

Maybe someone is standing in their local wineshop and looking at a bottle of say, Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc so they search Twitter to see what someone might have tweeted about it. Someone in the #WomenWine conversation could well have tweeted all the wineries that might be coming, adding a hashtag for each. "excited to meet #Francisican #Simi #Mondavi #ClosduBois wine makers at #WomenWine" and then someone else could start a thread on #Franciscan.

Maybe someone else is interested in the food at Rialto, the pairings. Maybe one of my followers who knows about my newly discovered food allergies could be interested in what food was served. We could have a discussion about how well Rialto handled that issue; about the pairing of artichokes with the wine (some say it's a problematic pairing, none of us thought it was).

Some of my followers are interested in what I say about women and might've asked about THAT aspect. In fact, there was a tremendously wide-ranging discussion at our table from the demographics of wine lovers, wine buyers, wine sellers to the potential to make good wines in Massachusetts, to womens' career paths, and more. Any of those topics might've picked up additional tweets, and followers who may they have heard about the great wines we enjoyed and their histories.

A Wonderful Wine-soaked Evening

I don't wish to denigrate the fine folks who put this dinner together. I loved it! We were all very grateful for the winemakers to have made the journey East. It was a gift to enjoy these wines, in this company, to meet these winemakers and to hear their inspiring words. I was delighted to meet and chat briefly with Margrit Biever Mondavi who was SO charming and had tremendous insights and historical context for the growth of women in the business. She was enchanting.

Just this morning I was ruminating on these thoughts when I saw another conversation on Twitter bemoaning the lack of proper tools to measure influence and reach on Twitter. In fact, I think this conversation will continue and we'll bring more voices into it, more perspectives. Maybe the folks hosting this dinner didn't have broad reach and influence in mind.

From where I sit, I would want to optimize every such event. I would not invite people to such a dinner without an awareness of their Twitter reach, without a hashtag in the confirmation. I encourage a discussion about my thoughts here. Perhaps over a glass of wine. Maybe buttery but not over-oaked Chardonnay like the Calcaire Chardonnay of Clos du Bois. Or a light and lovely Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc. Or have a chat over dinner with that Simi Landslide or Sonoma Pinot Noir, or the robust and cab-like Mondavi Carneros Pinot Noir.

What do you think of Twitter as a tool? Are PR firms using it to fullest advantage? What are some creative ways you have seen it used?

If you are a PR firm hosting these types of events, I would be happy to consult with you about a social media strategy. Not saying I'm a guru, just one of the folks on Twitter trying to jump in and figure it out. Let's not miss opportunities to extend our reach. Maybe we can take the next steps together.


Ed. Note: To see further exploration of how Twitter and Hashtags can round out your exposure, reach more people, see Red, White, Boston's post on a related event. Tweeting with a hashtag started just after the dinner I write about here, and before the Tuesday event which sounds wonderful, too. Lessons in Social Media and Leadership.

Sucky Customer Service: the Rule and Not the Exception


Customer service seems to be a truly endangered species.


These days it seems a "response" passes for a "solution" and people think it's okay to tell you they're "too busy" to deal with you professionally. When did that become okay to say?


I just had a customer service rep ignore what I said in my introduction,

Me: "Hello, I have model number x, I've left a message via your website and also on this 800 # and no one has responded. Can you help me with a replacement part for the product? It's still under warranty."

Her: "What is the model number?" (not "I'm sorry no one has responded, please allow me to help you." Or "Sorry, could you give that to me again?")

Me: "I just gave you the model number" then I gave it to her again, noting that she ignored that I left it in the voicemail and in the email.

Her: "That's what I just axed you!" (Oh, I'm so sorry to inconvenience you with this request to replace a part for the SECOND time on your very expensive product, still under warranty.)

Then she transfers me to a voicemail box with no name attached to it and I left a message which may or may not have been received.


And why don't I know if the message cut off before I finished? Because my AT&T service failed to complete the call AGAIN. After several failed call attempts on the 3G network, I switched to Edge network and the call failed again.

I was delighted to read this 9 Worst Ways to Use Twitter for Business especially after being chased by AT&T social media customer rep yesterday. After a request to send info via DM, about a dozen tweets of 140 characters each, his response? Call the 800#. Well, THAT's certainly a value-add! How lucky I am that AT&T has a social media dedicated rep.

Since the AT&T /Apple iPhone issue has been ongoing for over a year now, I asked if they could have someone who actually would read my case notes, call me. Oh. No. They don't make outbound calls. I have to call a call center and take my luck with any old rep and start my story from SQUARE ONE.


Lest we revert to nostalgic feelings of good old days before the Internet and call center days, let me share another recent example, perhaps the most egregious in some ways, as it involves face-to-face interactions with a new, small business in our neighborhood which we wanted to support. I was introduced to this shop through a blogger event. I was impressed and told my husband about it. He visited on his own and was impressed enough to make a large purchase and to give his name and address personally to the store owner for email and snailmail updates.

What happened next is a classic case of "adding insult to injury."

First, we got a bulk mail postcard with the incorrect name at our address. Second, when I called it to the attention of an employee in the store, I gave our correct info. When I offered the feedback to the store owner via the website, I got no response at all. Assuming that it's a new small business and he might actually want the proper info for his database, the info to feedback to the person he bought the list from, and to offer us an apology, maybe, I got instead: "Oh, I didn't think you needed a response."

Then, "we're too busy to input our customer data correctly or to check it against the mailing list that we bought."

Know what I heard? "We're too busy to care about you and your business. We don't care if the mailing list we got insults our potential customers by bungling their names. We don't care if you took the time to give us your proper info TWICE and took the time to give us feedback on the site contact form as well as in person. In short, we don't care about you and your business."


Just to pull it all together, I shared some info with a "guru" on Twitter who was asking about customer service experiences and got nothing in response. Not even a thanks. Guess what I'll do with his next request to RT his info?


So many ways to mess up customer retention. Here are a few ways to correct the problem:

1. Make a product that works.

2. If it doesn't, then make sure your customer knows you care.

3. If you have a call center answering these calls, make sure that they are handling your customers with respect.

4. If you buy a mailing list get assurances that the names are vetted.

5. If a customer tells you about a bad experience, don't make them feel worse about the time they wasted bringing you this valuable feedback.


Rant over.

A PR Customer’s Bill of Rights

A friend said to me today, “You know it’s interesting how many stories you have about really bad PR practices. I know it irks you because you deliver good service to your clients. And, I don’t doubt you, but isn’t it stunning how many people are paying big bucks for such awful service?”

Stunning is one word. Yes. Criminal might be another.

Who is your face to the public?

Thoughts from an ex Account Manager, ex Bus Dev Director, and current survivor of bad PR

As a writer, I probably receive upwards of a dozen press releases per day. If you include “newsletters” that are gussied up press releases, you’d be over three dozen, easy.

I have finally decided that it’s time to start cataloging these bad practices in the hopes that my friends in various industries will know that they have a right to expect more. I know it will not make me popular with the PR professionals but you know what, I could stand to get fewer releases in my in-box. And besides, the true professionals will have nothing to complain about.

Who am I to have an opinion? Well, I’ve been in client services nearly all my professional life and I do take the time to discuss goals and to provide measurable results. I take the time to be thorough and expect others to be, as well. I try always to be accurate. If I make a mistake I try to own it, and prevent it from happening again. It’s called integrity. It’s called being a professional. It’s called serving my clients well.

My friend could not believe one or two of my most recent anecdotes until I pulled them up on email and read them aloud. She suggested I draft a PR Clients’ Bill of Rights. As she says, “Even airline passengers have a bill of rights now.”

So here goes, if you have hired, or are about to hire, a PR professional, you have a right to expect the following:

  1. You have the right to measurable results or at least deliverables that can be met. You may be told that it’s impossible to measure the results of an ad campaign or a press release. Ask careful questions to ensure that it’s really the case. Too often “not possible to measure” is code for “I don’t want to bother to measure.” Or, “I don’t want to be held accountable for results.”
  2. You have the right to be represented professionally. You may be persuaded that “edgy” is cool, even if you’re not comfortable with it. Be sure to hire someone who will represent you appropriately. I got one newsletter that touted a cooking class and made a cocaine joke. Actually, two cocaine jokes. Is that professional? If I were that client, I’d be horrified to be represented that way by my hired PR “professional.
  3. You have the right to be represented by someone that actually knows your food, your book, your product. If you’re standing behind a table with your client’s book on it, you should have taken the time to open the damn book up and actually see what it’s about. If it’s a seafood book and you are asked if it highlights sustainable seafood, your answer should not be “I don’t really know. I’m just with the PR firm."
  4. You have the right to expect your PR professional to understand social media. Today’s publicity is not driven by column inches in print media. At least, not exclusively. If your agent is sending out tons of email blasts and very few bloggers are using the info, ask them why. Have they checked with the bloggers to understand how the info could be presented to be more useful? Do they know how to elicit “Tweets”???I receive many, many email blasts along the lines “Come to my client’s restaurant for this dinner... blah blah blah and be sure to tell your readers about it!” Now, if I were only publishing a blog that functions as a bulletin board, that might be okay. But if my content is more valuable, people will come to my blog for that content and see a concise bullet point and contact info with a link in my “Events” box/sidebar?? If you send me a PDF which I cannot cut and paste from, I have to open it, read it, summarize it and then develop a concise bullet to drop in my events box on my website, guess what, it ain’t happening unless I really, really like you. That is the job of your PR professional. I want a link to the website and the contact info as well as a concise description of the event. I should not have to call or email someone for more info in order to post info on my blog about your event.??Why not send me a release with a bullet and a Twitter-ready “tweet”? I guarantee your event notice would get wider distribution, better public relations, if the communications were made easier for the audience whose help you are trying to enlist?
  5. You have the right to expect your PR person to tailor their communications to the audience. It makes me crazy when someone doesn’t take the time to look at my website/blog before sending a request. Which products of mine did you think you want to sell in your store, exactly? (I don’t have products.) Even worse is the email blast that claims to have ‘read and enjoyed’ my blog then makes the inappropriate request. If you actually read and enjoyed my blog and I ask you which was your favorite post, you better have an answer, Ms. PR Professional. If the blog is called “Mayberry Gourmet” and you are opening a restaurant in Mayberry but your PR person fails to reach out to that blogger, what does that say about the care they put into their work? Their knowledge of your customer base? Your market?
  6. You have the right to a PR person that will not inconvenience the people with whom you are trying to build good relationships. If you’re asking me for mailing info to mail me stuff, and you’ve already mailed me stuff before, you look lazy. An extra email to and from me means you’d rather inconvenience me than find that spreadsheet on your computer that already contains my info. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked for my phone number in a follow up email, I could buy everyone reading this post a drink. (Hint: it’s in my email signature.) Oh, and my last name is not “blogger”. Nor is my first name “Leather."
  7. You have the right to a PR professional who will be smart about working for you. They should make it a regular practice to put themselves in the shoes of the recipient and ask: “Am I representing my client appropriately and professionally?”  “Am I giving the recipient of this communication, the information they need in a format they can use, to enable them to communicate the message for my client?”  “Am I asking my go-to bloggers who else I’m missing, who’s up-and-coming?”
  8. You have the right to a PR professional that accurately and completely represents what s/he claims to represent. If your PR person is claiming to be an expert with data, they should get it right. It is not sufficient to say that the data they received was “incomplete.” If they failed to get complete data from their source, then they shouldn’t represent it as complete. This goes to integrity. If they purport to offer expertise and report half the data - they I’d say they got it half right. If they blame someone else for shoddy data they chose to use, then shame on you for settling for that quality of service.

If your PR person cannot give you a clear sense of deliverables, cannot honestly represent you professionally, accurately, and with integrity; then they are creating as much ill will, as they are doing good, on your behalf. I then have to ask: what the heck are you paying them for?

I’ve been invited to consider a career in PR on a number of occasions. I know a few true professionals in town that do a great job. They are, unfortunately, in the minority. I hope this helps everyone re-evaluate their face to the public and who they have paid to represent them in that manner. May the good ones continue to rise to the top - you know who you are and I thank you.

Like What you See? Hire Me!

What I can talk about (I give good sound bytes!):

  • Sustainable seafood/sushi
  • Heritage breed pigs
  • Farm-to-table
  • Wine and Cocktails
  • Heirloom produce, artisanal foods
  • Food, chef, restaurant trends
  • S/O/L/E Food issues (Sustainable/Organic/Local/Ethical)
  • Social media


Where I've written (& where some photos have appeared):

  • GoNomad
  • John Mariani's Virtual Gourmet
  • Culture: the Word on Cheese
  • The Glass Hammer
  • IACP Food Writers, Editors Section Newsletter
  • (Navarra Report)

In addition, I'm a contributing writer at Nourish Network, I write the gourmet food column for, and am working on my first book: Pig Tales: a Love Story - about our love for heritage breed pigs, the farmers, chefs and artisans bringing them from farm-to-table.

See me speak (recent and upcoming appearances):

  • Tufts University Alumni Food & Wine Event
  • International Boston Seafood Show 2010
  • Slow Food Boston: The End of the Line Screening and Panel 2010
  • Teach a Chef to Fish workshops 2009
  • How2Heroes Video - introducing Chef Gabriel Bremer at Salts Farm 2009

Past media experience:

  • WGBH Greater Boston Guest 1998
  • Clemson University Conference Women, Challenge & Change 1994
  • WCVB Guest 1994
  • Audre Lorde Conference I am Your Sister Presenter 1993
  • WHDH Asian Focus Guest 1993
  • Documentary Subject Japanese American Women: A sense of Place 1992
  • Presented at GE Executive Leadership Development Center;
  • GE Capital Services Conference, USPS EAP Coordinator Training;
  • Fidelity Spring Leadership Conference.

I can write that for you (or edit it):

  • Press release, media kits, bios
  • Blog posts
  • Need a spokesperson let's talk about your product?

Let me use my decade of consulting experience to help you:

  • Think through a strategy or business plan
  • Connect with partners that can aid your start up
  • Plan a social media strategy
  • Find opportunity in career challenges


Professional headshots available.