The Hired Hand – Not just another blah-blah-blog

May 31, 2014

Hire me – Part II

Filed under: Advertising,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 11:33 pm
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To new beginnings.

The day I was laid off from my job at the ad agency (along with 11 others, thanks to the loss
of two major accounts), we had tickets to a Phillies game that night.

My son (of legal drinking age for five whole days) and I did what any self-respecting Phillies fans would do… we started “tailgating” that afternoon at home. I promptly poured him a beer, poured myself a glass of champagne and toasted to new beginnings… and then I promptly posted my celebratory photo on Facebook. I’m not one to cry over my glass of wine; I’m one to raise it in toast.

As we got ready to head to the stadium, I kept thinking what a great PR idea it would be to
announce my job status at the game. After all, there would be thousands of prospective employers fans there (well,
only about 24,000 fans – but that’s another story).PR at the Phillies game

“So I got me a pen and a paper” and I made up my own not-so-little sign. Forgive the improper grammar; I couldn’t resist citing those familiar song lyrics. What did my sign say? It read: “Hire me! Darcy G at LinkedIn.” I promptly posted it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Since we were in the nosebleed section, I didn’t make it on camera or the jumbotron. I’m getting a little more mileage
out of my photo, however, by blogging about it.

To cap off my stellar day, my seat number was 13, and the Phillies lost 4-1 to the Mets.

There’s always tomorrow….

May 29, 2014

January 24, 2014

The downfall of data

Filed under: Advertising,Direct mail,Public Relations,Social Media — Darcy Grabenstein @ 3:44 am
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by Darcy Grabenstein

Office Max has taken targeted marketing a bit too far.

The company is making headlines after one of its customers received a direct-mail piece addressed to “Daughter Killed in Car Crash or Current Business.” Unfortunately, the data was spot-on.

The recipient, Mike Seay, had lost his daughter in a car accident a year earlier.

So how did Office Max acquire this information and, more importantly, how did it end up on an envelope addressed to Mr. Seay?

Office Max is pointing fingers at a third-party data provider.

No matter how the error occurred or who’s responsible, the incident raises questions about the data industry as a whole. Data sellers – and buyers – need to be held more accountable for the use of customer information, particularly sensitive information.

Privacy has long been a concern among consumers, especially in terms of online marketing. This, however, was a traditional direct-mail promotion.

The point is, it’s not the channel that’s the culprit. It’s the methods of capturing – and using – data that need to be revisited.

Can you imagine a mailer promoting a weight-loss product being addressed to “Overweight mother of three”? Or a rehab clinic sending an email with the subject line “Fallen off the wagon again?”

Office Max (after a manager initially doubted the error when Seay called to report it) followed up with an apology. It issued a formal statement, and a company executive called the Seay family to offer a personal apology.

But an apology is not enough. Office Max needs to take the lead and ensure that this type of incident won’t occur again.

What turned out to be a nightmare for the Seay family doesn’t have to be a PR nightmare for Office Max. It simply needs to revamp its data collection procedures, and encourage other marketers to do so as well.

September 22, 2013

Mourning the loss of more American troops – on a personal level

Filed under: Social Media,Writing — Darcy Grabenstein @ 4:01 pm
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Facebook is a social network that keeps us connected with family and friends. It’s a great way to keep others updated on our lives, no matter where we are. We share everything from the minutiae of our daily lives to major life events. We take joy in others’ happiness.

And we drown in sorrow at others’ losses.

Today, I am drowning.

Life has its highs and its lows. Yesterday, I wrote about a most glorious day in New Jersey. Today, although the sky is a silken, sun-filled, cloudless blue, it might as well be dark and dreary.

It is raining on my soul.

Liam Nevins

Liam Nevins

Today I found out, through Facebook, that the son of one of my best friends was killed – ON BASE – in Afghanistan. This is incomprehensible. This happens to other people’s sons and daughters, right?

Liam had recently been injured and was due to come home soon. He was about to begin a new chapter in his life with Julie. The fact that he was killed on base makes it especially hard to swallow.

He one of three American troops killed, all members of a special ops team. They were military’s elite.

He wasn’t much older than my own two sons. I can’t help but find it ironic that he celebrated his 32nd birthday on September 11th.

For those of us who think we are so far removed from the conflict in Afghanistan, this is a stark reminder that we are not. We should be grateful every day for the brave young men and women putting their lives on the line for our country. For democracy.

I ask everyone who reads this to take a good look at this handsome young man. We need to put a face on our forces serving overseas, especially those killed in the line of duty. They are not just statistics. They are someone’s son, fiancé, brother, uncle, nephew.

Forgive me if I’m rambling. This all hasn’t quite sunk in just yet. Writing is a form of therapy for me, so I’m pouring my heart out here. (It’s hard to type when you can’t see the keyboard through buckets of tears.)

To my good friend, I can only hope that my words – and the words of condolence sent by many on Facebook – will be in some way therapeutical as well. We are all so very proud of Liam.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

January 29, 2013

Digital marketing D – A – R – C, that’s me!

Hello My Name Is badgeMy first name, Darcy, is admittedly a bit out of the ordinary. Over the years, I’ve learned to answer to Marcy, Dorothy, Darby – you name it. One nickname that has stuck, however, is Darc (rhymes with parse).

That’s why, when I read a recent article, “How the HubSpot CMO Screens for Top Marketing Talent,” I couldn’t help but think “That’s ME!”

The article states (the comments in italics are my own):

“The perfect inbound marketing manager has a variety of different skills.
At HubSpot, we like to use the acronym ‘DARC,’ which stands for digital, analytical, reach, and content:

  • Digital means they live their lives online and are familiar and comfortable with blogging, social media, and the web in general.While we’re on the topic of names, Digital could be my middle name. For the past 12-plus years, I have lived/breathed e-commerce. My current focus is on email marketing. I remember early on being at conferences where they asked for a show of hands who uses email and IM… who texts… telecommutes… or has an online portfolio… and eventually a smartphone… a Facebook page… a Twitter account… a LinkedIn account… a blog… a Pinterest account. Invariably, I was one of the few who had my hand proudly held high. Truth is, my writing now flows directly from my brain, out my fingertips and onto my laptop screen. Don’t even think about asking me to write something longhand.
  • Analytical means they like to measure what they do, and they make decisions based on data.

    I’ll admit that I usually leave the actual number crunching to the analytical folks. But that doesn’t mean I don’t incorporate their findings into my work. This is particularly crucial when it comes to email marketing. With so many variables to test – from the “from” line to subject lines, copy, graphics, calls to action, landing pages, social sharing, time of deployment, list segmentation and more – “test, test, test” has become my mantra.
  • Reach means they have a knack for growing their network by creating a gravitational attraction to what they do – and people want to follow their work.You’re here reading my blog, aren’t you? My blog is one way I reach out to my peers and prospective clients. And, as they say, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. So I’ll post links to my blog on other networking sites. I don’t expect people to find my blog on their own – I make it easy for them to do so, by posting content where they live (and work) online.
  • Content means they are naturally a content creator, and they’re not afraid of it. (You’d be surprised how many people are scared of writing a blog article.)”If content is king, then I consider it my crowning glory. In the days of print publications, I was known as a writer or a copywriter. Now I’m called a content creator. It’s just semantics. What I do is develop messages targeted to a specific audience, with a specific goal in mind – such as generate brand awareness, educate, sell a product or service, increase membership or sway opinion. There’s a lot of buzz out there about SEO content, but the bottom line is you’ve got to write for real people, not the search engines, in order to establish a true connection.

So feel free to call me DARC. I’ll take it as a compliment.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

April 18, 2012

The quiet person’s guide to getting people talking online

My blog post originally was published by SmartBlog on Social Media.

Computer screenMuch to my chagrin, behavioral experts would consider me an introvert. For a PR professional, it’s almost a death knell. For a creative type, however, it can be a blessing. And for someone who dabbles in the digital space, it could be a perfect match.

Lucky for me, I’m all of the above.

Let’s get something straight: An introvert isn’t necessarily a shrinking violet. Technically, an introvert is someone who finds crowds draining and who is energized by solitude.

Research has revealed that introverts not only are highly creative, they also can be extremely effective leaders. What do Albert Einstein, Warren Buffet, Charles Darwin, Mahatma Gandhi, Al Gore, Sir Isaac Newton and Rosa Parks have in common? You guessed it. They’re all introverts.

So what’s all this got to do with social media? With a little creativity and a lot of savvy, introverts can use social media to their advantage as a public relations tool. (Don’t worry, we won’t get into the discussion about who should “own” a company’s social media outlets — PR? E-commerce? IT? That’s a topic for another day.)

Here’s how introverts can maximize their social media moxie in terms of PR:

  • Learn from being a lurker. If you observe more than participate on social networks, that’s OK … to a point. Take the time to understand the various players — customers, media, competitors — then use that knowledge to best position your product or service.
  • Make the most of online relationships. Introverts, as a rule, are more comfortable with one-on-one communications. That’s the beauty of social media. While you have access to many audiences at once, you can focus on one conversation at a time. There’s a reason it’s called public relations.
  • You’re a good listener. Prove it. Compared to their extrovert counterparts, introverts are said to be exceptional listeners. Listen to what your customers are saying about your company — both good and bad. Listen to what people are saying about your competitors — both good and bad. Go beyond just listening to your constituents. Let them know you truly hear them.
  • Devote some face time to Facebook. I’m not asking my fellow introverts to share your personal lives with thousands of your BFFs. Instead, make sure your business has a separate Facebook account/page, and use it to interact with current and prospective customers. You’ll be surprised at the honest feedback you’ll get.
  • You’re a person of few words? No problem. Twitter’s the social network for you. You’ve got 140 characters to state your case, so make them count. Twitter is ideal for customer relations and crisis communications. You can deal with crises in real time — and even avert crises with timely, up-front tweets about the situation at hand.
  • You’re a person of even fewer words? Pinterest is for you. Take a few pointers from Kotex Israel, which launched a successful PR campaign on Pinterest. Here’s a snapshot (pun intended) of the campaign: Kotex targeted 50 inspiring women on Pinterest, then created personalized gift boxes for each, based on their boards. To receive the gift boxes, the women had to repin the Kotex invitation. The key takeaway here is that Kotex, with help from the Smoyz agency, took the time to get to know its target audience. PR professionals can do the same, whether it’s the media or consumers.

So don’t use your introverted nature as an excuse to shy away from social media as a PR vehicle. In fact, social media is tailor-made for us introvert types. Gone are those awkward silences we so dread in face-to-face communication.

See you online.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 29, 2012

Pinterest and the perfect pitch

Filed under: Branding,Email marketing,Public Relations,Social Media — The Hired Hand @ 11:23 pm
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In the old days (before you could update your relationship status on Facebook), getting pinned was a precursor to becoming engaged. Today, it refers to a whole new kind of engagement. That is, if you’re talking about Pinterest.

It’s a visual way for people to engage with one another, and for brands to engage with their consumers.

Pinterest has taken scrapbooking to a whole new (digital) level. And one company – Kotex Israel – has taken the art of the pitch to a whole new level. Working with the Smoyz agency, Kotex created “Women’s Inspiration Day by KOTEX.”

Smoyz found 50 inspiring women on Pinterest, then created personalized, handmade gift boxes. The boxes were filled with items the women might want, based on their boards, and were decorated the boxes in styles that reflected each woman’s pins. Kotex is taking this “personal products” thing a bit seriously, don’t you think?

To receive their personalized gift boxes, the women only needed to re-pin Kotex’s invitation. According to Kotex, the project has had 2,284 interactions with total potential impressions of almost 700,000.

As the Israelis say, “Yofi!” (“Fantastic!”)

Engagement? Looks like Kotex is ready for a long-term relationship.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

March 27, 2012

The blog that wasn’t

My blog disappeared in cyberspace. One minute it was there, the next it wasn’t.

So I’ve found a new home for my blog, and I’ve been furiously re-creating it as best I could. Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.

Now that “Mad Men” is back on the air (hooray!), I’m sure I’ll have a few snarky comments from a copywriter’s perspective.

Stay tuned.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

App-lause, app-lause!

Filed under: Branding,Public Relations,Social Media,Technology — The Hired Hand @ 2:11 am
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plug'd logoOriginally posted March 9, 2012

Last night, I had a close-up view of a live concert. – even though our seats were toward the back of the venue – thanks to technology.

At the start of the concert, Idan Raichel (of the Idan Raichel Project) invited audience members with iPhones to download the free app Plug’d. He said it would give us a whole new way of experiencing a concert.

Just as viewers of the Super Bowl relied on their “second screen” to make the event more interactive and personal, I was more than a concert-goer. I was a participant.

With Plug’d, you can view a live feed, complete with information like singer/musician bios and song lyrics. The latter proved quite helpful, since most songs were in Hebrew. You also can upload photos that you take via the app, and post comments on the live feed. And you can view a list of others using the app.

Idan himself took photos of band members from his vantage point on stage and posted them. In the ultimate role reversal, he also took photos of the audience and posted them, too. He also posted comments, like “Nice pic, Darcy!” (Well, I doubt he’d say, “Lousy pic, Darcy!”)

The perfect ending to the virtual portion of the event was when my fiancé opened a lighter app on his smartphone. No fire hazards or security risks allowed in the concert hall? No problem. Simply wave your virtual lighter over your head.

And if you’re wondering whether the group will play just one more song for the crowd, just check the live feed. When I saw “Good night, Philadelphia” posted by the host, I knew the house lights would come on at the end of the number.

My thoughts on the whole Plug’d experience? While I’ll admit it was distracting at times, it definitely was something to text home about.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

Speed dating for brands?

Originally posted in November 2011


Some people talk the talk. And some walk the walk. And some, like entrepreneur Jeff Pulver, do both.

Pulver organized the recent BrandsConf – “Exploring the Humanization of Brands” – in New York. As emcee for the daylong event, Pulver certainly put a human face on the conference. He gave each presenter a big hug as he or she walked onstage, and another hug after the presentation. You could say he Pulver-ized the participants by embracing their ideas – and embracing them literally.

The BrandsConf was part of the #140Conf series, with individual presentations limited to 10 minutes and panels from 10 to 20 minutes. These events are based on the Twitter concept of brevity, where posts are limited to 140 characters. It was like speed dating on steroids for branding; the day featured more than 50 presenters.

Successful brands must know their audience, and Pulver’s format was perfect for this attention-deficit group. A glance around the darkened audience revealed the eerie glow of laptop, tablet and smart phone screens. But were these audience members really engaged?

I can think of several times during the day when the audience was riveted to the stage. As if reinforcing the day’s themes of community and storytelling, all eyes where on the big screen (not laptops, tablets or smart phones) when Tony Heffernan showed a video tribute to his young daughter, who died of Battens Disease. The father from Ireland, whose son also was diagnosed with disease, launched to provide support and information. His story made an emotional connection with others, compelling them to engage.

Greg Corbin also managed to grab the audience’s attention. Corbin, executive director of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, is passionate about what he does. It shows. And it’s contagious. He shared a poem with the audience, and they listened. There’s a lesson here as well. Sometimes, if we change the manner in which we present our message, it’s more likely to be heard. I’m not saying all our ads need to rhyme like Dr. Seuss, but we need to make our message stand out from all the clutter.

It’s no surprise that Mallika Chopra, CEO of and daughter of physician/spiritual healer Deepak Chopra, asked the audience members to close their eyes for a moment of meditation. It was a brilliant exercise, for it forced the digital addicts to turn their attention inward – away from their devices – if only for a short time.

Gideon Gidori and Leah Albert also managed to capture the attention of the audience. So who are they? The masterminds behind Fortune 500 companies? The next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg? They’re more likely to be the next Neil Armstrong or Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (she’s the president of Libya, BTW, and the only elected female head of state in Africa). You see, Leah and Gideon are 7th-grade students at the Shepherds Junior School in Tanzania. So what where they doing at a brands conference in New York, you ask? Their moving stories illustrated how personal experiences can be used to help garner support for a cause and help shed light on social justice issues. Their tiny yet confident voices resonated with the audience, proving that you don’t have to shout your message in order to be heard.

In a brands conference that focused mainly on social media and online communication, it’s not unusual to hear the term bytes or to discuss cookies and their impact on marketing. However, it was the edible kind of cookie that was mentioned on more than one occasion.

DoubleTree Hotels celebrated the 25th anniversary of its popular chocolate chip cookie last summer with a cross-country Cookie CAREavan. A hotel-sponsored food truck visited major cities, giving out free cookies at every stop. The event was considered a huge success, resulting in more than 2 million media impressions and 35,000 Facebook friends.

Jonathan Kay, ambassador of buzz for, used cookies to thank a blogger. Grasshopper provides virtual phone systems for small businesses. A blogger with a modest following wrote about the Grasshopper service, and Kay said Grasshopper sent him three homemade cookies as a thank-you. It’s another example of how a brand can connect one-on-one with its customers.

If you were to ask organizer Pulver, he’d probably say social media is one big group hug. It’s about reaching out to your audience, listening, and responding in a caring and informative matter.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a group hug.

Check out Darcy Grabenstein on Google+

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