AMPED location logo

We are people people.

We’re excited about what we do
and have passion for our profession


I attended a baby shower this weekend at which guests were asked to pre-address their own thank you note envelopes. What? I may as well have been asked to write the thank you note, itself. In my book, this is tacky and a major etiquette no-no. If a guest has made an effort to show up at the shower and bring a present, the least the recipient can do is send a personalized thank you card.

Am I a correspondence snob? Probably. When it comes to business correspondence, there are a lot of us. Dozens of business etiquette resources and websites point to the same bothersome trend: that writers have gotten lazy. The days of hand-written letters, even printed business letters, are fading, replaced by email and further degraded by phone texts.

To set you, the sender apart, I suggest the following email tips culled from my own experience and some pretty awesome etiquette websites.

  1. Include a courteous greeting and closing. It’s just a nice thing to do.
  2. “Please” and “thank you” are common courtesies that will take you far.
  3. Initially, address your recipient formally: Dear Mr. Pitt, Hello Ms. Jolie. Use first names after a few interactions.
  4. Know your fields: The “to” field is for those from whom you would like a response. The “cc” field is for those who you are just FYI'ing.
  5. When replying to an email with multiple recipients noted in the “to” or “cc” fields, remove the addresses of those who your reply does not apply to.
  6. Refrain from using the “Reply to All” feature to give your opinion to those who may not be interested.
  7. To be safe, don’t complete the “to” field until you’ve completely written and reviewed your message and are ready to send. How many times have you accidentally hit the “send” button prematurely? “Doh!”
  8. Take the time to review each email to ensure the message is clear and cannot be misconstrued. Check your tone.
  9. Refrain from using too many exclamation points. It’s annoying. This is a good rule for any writing – electronic or otherwise.
  10. If your email is emotionally charged, take a break before you send it. Nine times out of ten, you’ll feel differently in the morning. It’s for the best.
  11. Just because someone doesn't ask for a response doesn't mean you ignore them. Always acknowledge emails from those you know in a timely manner. And if you cannot respond to an email promptly, at the very least email back confirming your receipt and when the sender can expect your response.
  12. Keep emails brief and to the point. Don’t lose your message in a sea of filler.
  13. In a string of emails, feel free to modify the “Subject” field to more accurately reflect a conversation's direction.
  14. When in doubt, go formal. No abbreviations — use full words and sentences (you, not “u”).
  15. And for goodness sake, no crazy fonts or fancy backgrounds.

Lastly, if you need to clarify your message, don’t forget the telephone. I know it’s a scary thing to actually talk to people. Maybe my next blog will focus on the lost art of conversation . . .



Continue reading
Tagged in: email etiquette
in Marketing and Communications 2016 0
Rate this blog entry:


Webinars are great for connecting with existing members or prospects. It can be a simple PowerPoint or a multifaceted Prezi with videos and live webcam feeds. I’ve co-paneled and hosted several webinars in conjunction with our client associations and put together some pointers that I believe will help make your next webinar a success.

1) Determine a topic that would be worth taking time away from work to watch.
Just because you can host a webinar on any issue or topic doesn’t mean you should. If you simply put together a few slides and read from a script to promote yourself, you won’t find many attendees. A great webinar will cover an important issue that many deal with. It should be educational, builds off the introductory slides, and benefits those attending. Don’t sell hammers – sell hanging pictures.

2) Practice.
A dry run is always recommended, especially if you’re co-paneling with someone else. Get name pronunciations down, pacing, who controls the slides, etc. It makes the webinar run far smoother.

3) Sign-on 20-30 minutes early.
Even with practice, there’s always the chance that technical difficulties or issues will arise. (As they usually do.) Plan on being signed on and ready to go at least 20 minutes in advance so you can work out the bugs and be ready for go-time.

mute-button4) Typed questions only.
A chat window allows attendees to ask questions throughout the webinar that you can return to at the end. If you have another person with you, they can answer questions while you continue with the presentation

That said, restrict it to typed questions only. An open mic results in attendees who aren’t familiar with the mute button, and I have listened to someone eat during a webinar. It’s not pleasant.

5) Always have a follow-up plan.
After the webinar, debrief on how it went and what the next steps are. You have a list of those who registered and attended — make sure you follow up. It can be a quick thank you email, or link to references made during the presentation, or even a recording of the webinar for future playback.


Continue reading
in Marketing and Communications 1701 0
Rate this blog entry:


There are no Search Engine Optimization (SEO) guarantees, only good practice. There is no silver bullet or shady tricks that will shoot your site to the top of the search engine rankings. It's as simple as that. I would advise caution if any company or freelancer guarantees SEO success, unless of course they come with a 6 or 12 month plan.

SEO used to mean putting a few bits of text, key-words or phrases in place on your site, getting a few links to your site and the rest would fall into place, with no further effort and no further thought.

But since search engines continually update and refined their ranking algorithms, that all changed. Search engines now rank sites a lot differently, and add weight to the type of links you have to your site, and the quality and relevancy of the content on your site. So called "black hat" techniques will kill your site and rightly so. Why should a site without decent content go to the top of the rankings ahead of a site that has?

Remember, search engine sites are companies like any other. Even massive companies need satisfied customers. Search engines need the best, most relevant sites at the top of their search results, otherwise their users will look elsewhere. So those terrible, irrelevant, content-light sites get punished. It just makes sense!

So what is the new “formula” for SEO success? Substance + Relevance + Shares = Success!

Today your website, blogs, and social media presence have an actual chance of out-ranking your competition under multiple searches, and this is where the new SEO practices will have their day.

Substance: Substance means a complete base of a few things: Content, content and, oh, more content. Part of the new formula is content creation, and yes, this means content that is relevant to your business and your potential customers.

Relevance: Without relevance, your SEO efforts are dead in the water. We cannot manipulate rankings no matter how hard we try, our business is not that of ranking, but of being relevant to those who search for the answers they want or need.

Shares: Today’s link building is not as serious a struggle as some SEO “experts” would have you believe. Forever it was link to this persons high traffic page and if they linked back even better, not so today. Social sharing and citations are the cause for serious linking success.

Sharing content not only promotes successful linking, but also creates a couple things that are far better, trust and credibility.

Sharing content that others will in turn share themselves, creates trust. When people do click a link and follow you through to your website, blog, or your social media page, it is all about the trust and credibility you are building with them and the search engines.

Continue reading
in Marketing and Communications 3191 0
Rate this blog entry:

publisher rfp

If you’ve worked successfully with a publisher over a period of time and you’re happy, is it necessary to go through the proposal process when your contract is up for renewal? My answer is “Yes, definitely.” Why? Because the board and staff have a duty to their association to ensure the best deal possible. Technology changes, new players come into the market. Without exploring and revisiting the agreement, you may miss out on additional savings.

Having just gone through the publishing RFP process with one of our clients, I have a few quick tips to share.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Associations send out RFPs for publishing all the time. Do a little digging and find an RFP to use as a template. Trouble finding a sample? Pose a question to your peers on ASAE Collaborate or your state society of association executives’ online community – someone is sure to step up and share their RFP. An online search will yield samples as well.

Know what you have. My client has a lot of “extras” with their current publisher that are offered to members and would be hard to replace. Value-added items might include a digital version of your publication, a mobile app, complimentary member access to related journals and magazines in your publisher’s catalog or member discounts on any related books they publish. Although these items don’t have a particular dollar value attached to them, they provide solid member benefits.

Respect confidentiality. Whether it’s a confidentiality clause in your contract that prohibits the sharing of specific information or a “confidential” statement on provided information, respect the agreement with your current publisher. If you have a question about whether or not the release of certain information is in violation of your agreement, err on the side of caution or consult your attorney. In the case of my client, we couldn’t provide revenue figures, but one publisher was resourceful and found the information on our IRS 990. Another publisher declined to submit a proposal because they didn’t have the information or know where to get it.

Be available and responsive. Potential publishers are sure to have questions. Respond to their questions in a timely manner, just as you expect them to respond to you quickly. Don’t be surprised if the publisher wants to have a conference call instead of emailing back and forth. Ask a committee member to participate on the call with you; you may not be a subject matter expert, especially if you publish a scientific or medical journal. Including someone knowledgeable in the subject on the call will help ensure that all the publisher’s questions are answered.

How is our process ending? It looks like we’ll be staying with our current publisher, but everyone agrees we spent our time wisely. We can say with certainty that we have the best publishing fit for our organization.

Continue reading
in Marketing and Communications 2273 1
Rate this blog entry:

red pen

Proofreading is a skill that can be learned. Believe me when I say that I learned it the hard way. Your writing may be eloquent, insightful, even witty, but if you get someone’s name wrong -- (McFarlane? I thought it was McFarland.) or incorrectly calculate a United Way deduction in a graphic (What? It’s twice a month?) or simply don’t know your facts (Oh, it’s Canada – not Canadian – geese.) – they will never forget it. Neither will you.

Besides years of making mistakes (see preceding paragraph), three things have helped me improve the accuracy of communications for which I’m responsible: Training, a checklist and a two-sets-of-eyes rule. 

In one of my first writing and editing jobs, it was suggested (OK, mandated) I attend a Proofamatics class. I am pleased to see that the company still exists and its techniques are the same. Proofamatics teaches you to look at a document multiple times, each time looking in different places for different types of errors. If you simply start at the first word in the upper left corner and read to the end, you will read for comprehension and overlook errors.

For example, if you’re proofreading a newsletter, you might first read the headlines, bylines, subheads, photo captions and authors’ biography paragraphs. Then, verify names, titles, numbers, times and dates. Finally, read the body text. This divide-and-conquer technique works best when you print out the pages, so you can see multiple pages at once and easily mark corrections. 

My proofreading proficiency took a second leap forward when I created a checklist, at the suggestion of my husband, who was once described as an “engineer’s engineer.” Engineers love checklists, and for good reason; they present a systematic way to make sure every step in a process is completed. And, because I don’t read from top to bottom, front to back, a checklist helps me get back on track if I’m interrupted or take a break, which I highly recommend during marathon proofreading sessions.

Over the years, I’ve modified my proofreading checklist many times to reflect different types of publications and new technology. For example, my first checklist referred to bluelines; my current one lists hyperlinks. You are welcome to a copy of my checklist, however, please know that every situation calls for different “checks.” For example, I check “TOC with actual.” That is, do the headlines and page numbers in the table of contents (TOC) match the actual magazine or newsletter content? Your documents or web pages may not have a table of contents, but they might have footnotes, address blocks or some other element not on my checklist. The point is to create a checklist that meets your individual needs.

Finally, implement a two-sets-of-eyes rule. This is particularly important when you are proofreading your own writing. Ask someone else to proofread your work before publishing it in print or online. Suggest your backup proofreader use your divide-and-conquer technique and checklist.

The techniques I’ve shared here will add time to the process, but I firmly believe that it’s time well spent. Few people will notice if your newsletter or magazine is published a day behind schedule, but leave their name off a list (Randy, I know it’s been almost 30 years, but I still feel terrible.) and they will remember forever. So will you.

If you are interested in a copy of my proofreading checklist, please email me.

Continue reading
Tagged in: proof reading writing
in Marketing and Communications 1724 0
Rate this blog entry: