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Four Ways Oprah Uses Email September 21, 2011

Oprah uses email marketing to engage with her fans even now that she’s not on TV.


What other media mogul do you know that gave out their personal email address on national TV? She gave it out during the very last show. The one where it was just her on stage for an hour saying goodbye after 25 years. Go ask your girlfriends, I bet they heard it, to.  I emailed her, that put me on her email list. Since then I’ve gotten a few emails from her. They read like Oprah talking, not like Oprah advertising.


O uses my email address judiciously. I have the sense she feels privileged to have it. She’s careful not to abuse the relationship.

There are 4 things Oprah does with email.

  1. Takes interest in my world – she asks how things are going.
  2. Updates on her – She tells me what she’s been up to
  3. Asks about 1 thing – She’ll ask my opinion on 1 topic
  4. No sell – She’s never asked me for money.


And BTW – she never uses a belittling Subject Line. There’s no “10 things you don’t know about X.” Her typical Subject line is “Happy 4th of July,” or “The next right decision.”  It’s respectful.


The opposite is true of another self-made millionaire who has an entrepreneur’s conference coming up in Dallas. I’m registered to go, but honestly I tuned out her emails 6 months ago. So much so, I can’t even tell you who the keynote speaker. Every email she sends is her trying to reach into my pocketbook to pad her own.  “Upgrade your registration for exclusive access” or “advertise my stuff to your friends.” It got old after email #2. She’s clearly only interested in how much money she can get out of me and my network.


Oprah has a lot to sell. Can you imagine trying to start a network? That’s a B-I-G job. In her email in August she said flat out it’s 10x harder than she thought it would be. And yet she’s never begged me to watch or asked me to buy an ad. She’s asked me what I think of a show. I mean, I know she’d like me to watch, sure. But she’s using my email the same way a girlfriend would – by asking my opinion and telling me a bit about her life.


I don’t have any friends who ask for money every time we talk.


Who else do you know who uses email really well?



Memorial Day May 27, 2011

Filed under: Leadership,Life in General — Carla Bobka @ 9:53 pm
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This isn't my cemetary. It's in Franklin Township, Iowa. Writing this post I discovered I don't have a picture of Allen's Grove.


I just love Memorial Day Weekend.

It signals summer and a shift in schedules and cooking outside. Can’t you just smell the lighter fluid?

Most importantly it’s a collective moment to honor those who have given a piece of themselves, or all of themselves to fight for America.

Growing up we went to Allen’s Grove Cemetery for Memorial Day services. It was a family requirement, no excuses. And it was always beautiful and stirring. Our tiny, country cemetery was no more than an acre or so. In the middle of farm land, the plot of headstones surrounded by towering pine and oak trees. Generations of my family lie there along with those from other families in Scott County Iowa.

On Memorial Day the 2 drives going around the perimeter and through the center are lined with 300 full-size American flags. If you’ve ever wondered what the local Legion Post does, they put flags out on Memorial Day. And they plan the service.  We’d park along the highway with everyone else and walk in, through the quiet entrance marked with brick pillars and a wrought iron arch.

First thing we’d greet who ever else was there, neighbors, aunts and uncles. Gramma always rode with us. Then a walk over to our section. Headstones for Grampa, Dennis, the great Aunties and Uncles. My parents spot. (still empty, thank God.) The littlest cousins would ask who each stone was for and how they were related to them.  It’s how they know where they come from and where they belong in the world.

Then the service would start and we’d all look for a patch of shade. I don’t remember any of service in particular. All of them included a speaker, a story of bravery and heartbreak, Taps, 21 gun salute, and the silent folding of one flag by gray-haired, white gloved vets. By then the kids were fidgety, the sun was high and gnats were swarming. Then it was picnic time at Gramma’s. It was as though the folding of that flag signaled the beginning of summer and all that it brings.

God Bless every person who fought for our freedom. And the families they left behind. You are who has made us who we are. Thank you.

P.S. – In writing this I realized I don’t have a picture of Allen’s Grove in it’s Memorial Day splendor. Neither does my Mom. The image above was the closest I could find to what it looks like. Mom’s taking the camera along on Monday.



7 Things I learned from the CEO March 18, 2011

Filed under: Leadership — Carla Bobka @ 12:12 pm
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Gale Goodman is CEO of Constant Contact. This week she gave an update on her vision of the evolving world of social media marketing. 291 of us listened in on the call.

Constant Contact is an email marketing platform devoted to helping small businesses grow. In addition to their tool, they’ve built a place for other partners (like me) to offer value to small businesses. They are working hard to lead by example for their customers. To that end, they have built tools to help their customers better understand and use social platforms.

Here’s a recap of what Gale shared:

  • Social usage by small business is growing fast
    • Between Spring and Fall of 2010, Facebook usage by small business increased 12%.
  • Social media has become the next marketing frontier because it works.
  • Advertising raises awareness.
    • Only 14% of consumers trust ads.
  • When people are ready to act, they look for experience.
    • 78% of consumers trust recommendations.
  • Social Integration – when content goes from one channel to another, like if you share this email with your friends on Facebook.
    • Drive social integration by using a social call to action. Example: “If you found this interesting, share it on Facebook”
  • Content is important, but THE most important thing is engagement. Use content to spur engagement.
  • Use insights from engagement to discover where to grow your business next.

If you’ve found this info interesting, why not hit the Facebook button up top and share it with people you know on Facebook.

If you haven’t “liked” SocialPie on Facebook, click here and join the conversation. If you’re reading this on Facebook, great!


Making History March 14, 2011

Filed under: Leadership,Life in General,Successes — Carla Bobka @ 3:21 am
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This weekend my kids school, Sanford School in Hockessin Delaware, made history. Again.

Our boys AND girls basketball teams both won State Basketball championships. For the 2nd year in a row.

The girls won Friday night in a nail-biter.

And Saturday the boys won in cliff hanger.  Both teams fought incredibly hard. The lead had changed hands 4 times in the 4th period. We were down by 1 point with 4.4 seconds left.   Then one of our seniors, Deon Jones, nailed a 3 pointer from 25 feet. It was just stunning. The crowd went crazy, singing “Dou-ble, re-peat!” It was an amazing moment. And it followed an amazing moment the night before. I couldn’t be more proud.

A couple more amazing things happened that speak to the community of our school and the leadership instilled in our kids. After shaking hands with the opposing team, our guys went over to the head of school, Chip MacKelcan.  Everyone of those kids looked him in the eye and shook his hand.

Then they went to the student section and the crowd poured out of the stands into their arms.

Once the trophies were handed out, it was net cutting time. We’d watched it the night before with the girls’ team, it’s a great moment. Trever Cooney, another senior (he scored 18 points that night and has a scholarship to Syracuse) he went back over to Chip, and insisted he come to the floor and take his turn on the ladder. You might not think that’s unusual. Except six months ago Chip announced his retirement, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is stepping down after 13 years. So a climbing a 12 foot is a risky deal. The team insisted, they spotted Chip on the ladder, ensuring he was safe. The team wanted Chip to have more than a memory of this moment. They wanted to share the experience with him, culminating his 13 years at Sanford. Every parent I could see was teary eyed.

Sanford is a small independent school. Between Junior Kindergarten and 12th grade we have 575 students. Our average class size is 15. Graduating classes are about 60 kids. So the dual state championships are a huge feat. And do to it back to back is stunning. But it isn’t the only extra curricular area where we shine.

Here’s the thing, the championships came a week after the spring musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” If you’ve ever seen it, it’s a big show.  A cast of 30, and everyone sings and dances in classic Broadway production numbers. The performance I went to on Friday night was phenomenal. After the 3rd song I knew there would be a standing ovation.

The cast was ready. They had been rehearsing since November. Can you imagine teaching 30 teenagers to tap dance? And get them to dance 6 or 8 production numbers?

Even though our school is small we have a normal school. There are drama kids and the athletes. There’s not a lot of cross over. But there are great moments that speak to the values instilled in our kids by parents and polished by the culture of the school.

Turns out the Friday performance I went to  was attended by Deon Jones, the guy who nailed the winning basket. He loved the show, thought it was amazing. The final performance was on Sunday, at the same time as the quarter finals boys game. Deon was so impressed with the play, that he posted to Facebook everyone should go to the play instead of the game on Sunday. He assured them the team would win, so people shouldn’t come to the game. They should go to Sunday’s play, or they’d miss out. The semi-final game was later in the week, people could come to that.

That made the cast feel great.

Our school motto is “No talent lies latent.” Our kids really proved that these last 10 days. The play, 2 championship titles. Oh, and end of trimester exams in the middle of it all. Talk about a load.

Great kids achieve great things when they have great leaders. You just don’t get these types of results without talent in the classroom. Students make up the team, but coaches form teams. Snaps to the coaches and the Fine Arts department leadership for the teams they put together. My family is still glowing from the entire thing. I’m thrilled my kids are growing up here.

**I don’t have any pics of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

**Deon Jones has not yet announced where he’ll be going to college. I bet his phone is ringing this weekend.


Oops, she’s not dead (thank God) January 10, 2011

Filed under: Leadership — Carla Bobka @ 5:18 pm
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My condolences to the families of everyone involved. For those who died, those who are injured and those with the memory of that moment. May you all find strength and peace.

On Saturday several news outlets mistakenly reported Arizona Congresswoman Giffords had died during the horrific shooting in Tuscon. Within hours chaotic details were sorted out, and follow up reports corrected the mistake. I can’t imagine what the congresswoman’s family members must have been thinking if they had their phones set to alert them to urgent news and they saw the alert like I did. Awful.

Information moves at the speed of light these days and everyone is in a hurry to break news.  I don’t want to belabor the point of who got what wrong or the exact timing or anything like that. I do want to point out an apology from NPR for them getting the information wrong. With their apology they did many things right.  These are moments when the mantle of leadership is heavy. Executive editor Dick Meyer was the right guy in this moment.

  1. Own the mistake. There’s only a few words that really do this: “sorry” and “apologize” are two of them.
  2. Reaffirm correct info – do that ahead of asserting the details about your timing.
  3. Express regret – in this case for the emotions the wrong info caused people related to those involved in the situation.
  4. State the standards of your profession – and recommit yourself to the process of you maintaining them going forward.
  5. State what you did to fix the problem – precisely where was the incorrect information posted and what did you do to fix it.
  6. Be sincere. The PR dept shouldn’t write this note, neither should legal.

The order of these 6 things matters.  If this correction had started out talking about what NPR had done to fix the problem before they reaffirmed that the congresswoman was alive, the tone of the article would be much different.

As you read Dick Meyer’s correction it sure sounds like it came from his gut. He didn’t lay blame, no quibbling, he just took ownership.


Small Business Saturday – Extended by AmEx November 29, 2010

Filed under: Leadership,Successes — Carla Bobka @ 1:11 pm
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Did you shop small on Saturday. Boy, I did. My local garden center has gorgeous holiday wreaths and I took advantage of the $25 credit from AmEx to get a big beauty for the front door.

AmEx originally designed the campaign to be a movement. Any small business who takes AmEx was automatically enrolled. AmEx created a way for the public to register their AmEx card, and when you used your AmEx at a small business on Saturday, AmEx credited your account $25. It was designed to drive traffic to small business, promote use of AmEx’s card, let merchant’s sell at the price they set, and offer a $25 discount to customers and AmEx’s deep pockets funded the discount. It seemed like a really well thought out program with win-win-win for customer-retailer-credit card company.

Saturday night a post went up on Small Business Saturday’s Facebook Page that the event has been extended through December. So if your a customer register your card and take advantage of the $25 credit. If you’re a retailer the offer is still on, start promoting it to drive traffic into your store.


Viva Chile! October 13, 2010

Filed under: Leadership,Successes — Carla Bobka @ 12:43 pm
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Never before has a picture told such a story. Images of each miner coming to the surface are just amazing. Knowing how much joy is cascading around the world today is a rush of emotions like nothing else. To have the jubilation repeated over and over throughout the next 36 hours is fantastic. The world has needed a celebration after all the angst of the global economic downturn. There’s such a long way to go. But, this rescue has proved anything is possible. Thank God.

Today I celebrate the human spirit, resilience, miracles and the ingenuity of mankind. Their rescue proves we can tackle anything. Is there any problem bigger than the one we’ve just solved?

“Chi, Chi, Chi. Le, Le,Le!!”

P.S. A big thank you to the Chilean government for letting us watch every detail. The transparency has been unparalleled. They have set a new standard.