It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

If, on my wedding day, you had asked me whether or not I thought I’d still be married in 20 years, I’m pretty sure I would have looked you straight in the eye and replied: “How did you get in here? This is a private party.”

But later, after you had been escorted from the building, my answer would have been something along the lines of, “I have no idea.” Knowing what I know now about how little I knew then, I can see that it really was a roll of the dice.

And yet, this past October, my wife Linda and I celebrated 20 years of marriage. (Technically, Linda celebrated 24.5 years, since by virtue of having to put up with me, she accrues time at a faster rate.)

And so last weekend, in celebration of said event, the two of us boarded a plane for a five-day trip to beautiful, sunny, Northern Florida (St. Augustine and Jacksonville).

We had a great time and you’ll be happy to know that I spent much of that time (shhhhh, don’t tell Linda) thinking about how our anniversary trip would lead to a future newsletter story.

There was a lot to choose from…

…would it be the fun but tacky tourist trolley ride we took in St. Augustine?
…would it be the 50th birthday party for Linda’s college friend Alice that we attended?
…would it be the 2010, bright blue, midlife crisis of a Ford Mustang that she let me rent?

Whatever it turned out to be, I knew from the moment we departed that the clock would be ticking as soon as we got back – if I wanted to write about our trip, I had one, maybe two newsletters to do so, before it all just felt like old news.

And that’s what today’s newsletter is about – story selection. More specifically, thinking about the stories you tell in terms of “freshness,” and doing your best to use the most recent – and time sensitive – first.

Two reasons:

  1. Some stories are more time sensitive than others.

    If I write about how my dog Abbie likes to carry an old tetherball in her mouth as she does laps around the house, I can tell that story any time.

    If I write about recovering from knee surgery, I’ve got two or three months before the story feels old.

    If I write about a specific event – like our trip to Florida – I’ve got just a few weeks.

    So point number one is that when you reach into your bag of possible future stories (you do collect these don’t you?), you want to keep in mind that some are more perishable than others.

  1. The fresher the story, the more personal it feels.

    Here’s what I’ve noticed: The more frequently I talk with you, the tighter the time frame around the topics we cover.

    So if I run into a college friend that I haven’t seen in 25 years, anything goes. But when I get together for a beer with the guys after Tuesday night basketball, we rarely cover anything more than a week old.

    For people you live with – the people you see the most frequently and have the closest relationship with – the time frame is even more compressed… it’s daily. I mean imagine if I came home one night and said, “Hey honey, you’ll never guess what happened to me last month at the office.” It would never happen.

    That’s why in writing a newsletter, I try to find and mention things that happened to me yesterday, or the day before, or last weekend – even if the newsletter only comes out once a month.

    The shorter the time frame (and, it’s worth noting, the more specific the story details), the more it feels to you like I’m talking one-on-one with a real friend.

Bottom Line. Most of the e-mails in our lives (other than spam) are one-to-one, and sent from people with whom we have an existing and ongoing relationship. They also tend to be very current – an appointment confirmation, a quick question, a request, a thank you.

When your newsletter is similarly written, with a “current voice” and regarding a very recent event, it feels more real and more personal, and as a result, more trustworthy to readers. And in my experience as a professional service provider, “real,” “personal” and “trustworthy” are three things prospective clients need to feel about you before they’ll ever pick up the phone and call.

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