Samples of the newsletters I produce

Currently, all these newsletters are monthly and free. 

Streams & Loops

Creative Houston Sparks

  • People, places and projects which show the relentless inventive spirit of Houston
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Health Guide USA Tips & Trusted Links

  • Links and recommendations for reliable sources of health information
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How maintaining "weak ties" improves mental health

Lately, my social interactions have been restricted to immediate family and a few people who are nearly strangers, such as the people who hand me my take-out food. I really miss my friends, and I'm starting to realize I need to cultivate more interaction with the few people I do see. This article explains how interactions that fall short of 'making new friends' are still valuable.

BBC Worklife: Why your ‘weak-tie’ friendships may mean more than you think, 2020-Jul-2 by Ian Leslie

Gillian Sandstrom, now a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Essex, [decided] to investigate the extent to which people derive happiness from weak-tie relationships. She asked a group of respondents to keep a record of all their social interactions over the course of several different days. She found that participants with larger networks of weak ties tended to be happier overall, and that on days when a participant had a greater number of casual interactions with weak ties – a local barista, a neighbor, a member of yoga class – they experienced more happiness and a greater sense of belonging.... 

“Sometimes it’s harder to talk to people we know well because those conversations come with an emotional burden,” says Sandstrom. “Weak-tie conversations are lighter and less demanding.”...

A 2016 study, for which psychologists recruited respondents from Italy and Scotland, showed that regardless of nationality or age, people who were members of groups such as sports teams or church communities enjoyed an increased sense of meaning and security. And the more groups of which they were members, the better. 



How to make our companies more inclusive

I debated whether to leave the word "inclusive" dangling in the headline of this post. Inclusive of what? Everybody that's different, although really that's an impractical approach. We're all different but some of us have suffered more discrimination.

I remember in business school being told that people with red hair are "not a protected minority." A past history of discriminatory abuse has identified people to whom we owe reparations. However, a legal approach of tit-for-tat doesn't change people's behavior.

Valecia "Dr. V" Dunbar has some interesting suggestions on how to reset the corporate acceptance of diversity.

Inc.: Defund Corporate Diversity Departments, 2020-July-13 by Valecia Dunbar

Here are five ways diversity leaders can start the shift:

  1. Drop the Word Minority from Your Vocabulary. Diversity departments can no longer afford to dump every non-white employee into one big bucket called "minority." Different demographics require different programming, which leads to the next step, segmenting.
  2. Segment Diverse Programming. For example, race and gender inequities are completely different and should be acknowledged as such when creating programming. 
  3. Conduct Personality Assessments. Each employee should know the challenges and bias behind their individual personality and behavioral preferences, as well as how this affects their ability to effectively interact with others.
  4. Execute an Anonymous Audit. Obtaining unfiltered feedback from employees is the only true way to gain a look into the company's culture. 
  5. Identify the Champions. Identify your "true" diversity champions and empower them to suggest meaningful changes towards creating an environment that appreciates diversity. 


The best way to connect with your audience

According to Adam Ferrier, founder of Thinkerbell, our communications strategies should not be driven by the customers' wants and needs. They just want to be left alone until a need crops up in a specific category. Then they want efficient communication: Where? How little can I pay? 

To establish a brand image in people's minds, we have to assert the brand value before potential customers are ready to purchase. The needs and perspectives of the brand have to be front and center. As brands, what do we have to contribute? How can we best connect with people we can help? 


Building empathy as a skill

I have always thought about empathy as a trait people have in varying degrees, but now I see that it really is a skill you can build by being curious, then connecting with people who are different from yourself. 

Adweek: Advertising Has a Crisis of Apathy and Otherness, 2020-Jun-8 by Yusuf Chuku

The answer to the problem of otherness is not sameness; it’s connectedness. Immersive, deliberate and compassionate connectedness. A connectedness between people that’s embodied in a willingness to embrace empathy. A connectedness to our cultural history, and by that I mean a relearning of American history. And a desire to see new faces connected to leadership in the C-suite.

So how do we embrace empathy? We need to understand that empathy is a skill and, like any skill, it takes practice to get better. We need to forget what we think we know about people and be genuinely curious about them. We need to recognize and set aside our own biases and judgment in order to see the world from another perspective.


How to Identify an Audience You Can Profitably Reach

I know all about selecting the correct target market for a product or service, but I've never seen a methodology for deploying for an audience that I can AFFORD. I wonder how much money I've wasted? I better not think about it too much. 

Bar & Line: How to Identify Your Audience, 2020-Mar-19 by Duncan Geere

You have limited resources to reach people, and you need to deploy them carefully to maximize your impact.

By identifying the goals of your project, you can immediately narrow down your audience further. Think about who's most likely to be do the things that you want them to do - who'll have the time, inclination, and ability to act on the information you're sharing. These people are much more valuable to you than those who don't.

For example, following on from the last step, you're looking for people among the aforementioned groups who regularly donate to charity, and who actively use social media platforms. These are your core targets. They're interested in your subject, and they have the ability to do something about it. Sure, maybe people outside of those groups can do something with your information, but they're less of a priority because the likelihood they'll act is lower.

How can you reach them?

Finally, consider how you can reach these core targets. What tools and resources do you have at your disposal to get your work in front of their eyes?

This is the beginning of a full marketing and PR strategy, of course, but it's important to consider here because if there's no realistic way of getting your work in front of a particular group of people then it's not worth wasting any time targeting them. Concentrate instead on what you can do.