Tag Archives: Shanny Morgenstern

← Older posts

Building a Better Tomorrow

Posted in Community Leadership, Shanny's Posts

Eric and I walk our dog around our neighborhood on a regular basis. Last summer we noticed that someone had built a Little Free Library on our route. Every time we walked by the little house it made me smile.

Little Library

A few weeks ago we saw that someone had thrown a pumpkin at the house and destroyed it. It made me so sad to think that someone could be that malicious. And then I received this email from our homes association:

Please share the following with your teenagers: My dad, Bill Park, was 71 when he died 2 weeks ago on September 3rd, 2014. He was a loving father, grandfather, husband, friend. He had worked as a dentist until December 14th, 2013 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He then underwent chemo for a month, then a bone marrow transplant. He was improving up until July of this year when he developed graft vs host disease from the transplant. He battled that until September 3rd -- the day after his birthday. He died at my house surrounded by his family.

Bill was a guy who always had to have a project. He always wanted to fix something or build something or make something better for someone. I had mentioned to him back in July that we wanted to put a Little Free Library out in front of our house so kids could come by and get a new book or leave a book for someone else. So, in typical Bill fashion, he set to building us a Little Free Library. It took him over 3 weeks to do because he was so weak he would work on it for 15 minutes then go back inside to rest, then go back out and saw and nail some more before his next rest break for the day. After he had it finished I helped him hang it on a tree in front of our house. He was too weak to finish it so he instructed me how to put the final screws in to secure it, and he went back inside to lay down. He was so proud of that library. He said to me after we got it hung up, "I'm so glad we got that finished finally. I know the girls will like it." It was haunting because it seemed like he felt like he had completed the last project of his life.

Last night, Friday, September 19th, someone destroyed our Little Free Library by smashing it with pumpkins. I'm not saying it was definitely a teenager that did it. And even if it was a teenager, they may not live in our neighborhood. But, chances are good it was a teenager from our neighborhood. I just thought if the person that did it got to read a little about the structure and the man who built it they would be less likely to destroy it again, after we repair it and put it back up in it's spot on the tree [in front of our house].

Christine White

I asked Christine if I could use her story in my blog post and she said yes.

At Morningstar Communications we don’t build with our hands like Bill Park did – we build with words and images. Please pass this on to your friends and family. If Christine’s words prevent teenagers around the world from destroying something beautiful – we truly will build a better world together.

Tagged , , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Fùtbol and Sponsorships

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Shanny's Posts

Fùtbol is what the rest of world calls soccer and it appears as if its popularity is starting to climb in the USA. Fueled by a combination of Brazilian-style celebrations, the success of the USA Men's team, and the power of social media, millions of people in the USA became soccer fans during the 2014 World Cup.

In his New York Times article, "Germany 1. World Cup Fever 1,000," Stuart Elliott shared some of the statistics and engagement numbers for the World Cup sponsors. Literally millions of people tweeted, posted on Facebook and watched special World Cup videos, as well as many of the games.

Visa World cup Sponsorship

Ricardo Fort, senior vice president for global sponsorship marketing for VISA said,

“We were not expecting to have the interest and engagement in the United States that we did. It was unbelievable.”According to Adweek, there were more than 55,000 twitter mentions per minute about Tim Howard during his record-breaking performance against Belgium. He added nearly half a million followers during the World Cup tournament. 

Sports marketing is particularly suited to today's digitally sophisticated and mobile audiences. By definition, fans are zealous. Fans want to share their passions with other fans and they are willing to engage in real-time.

And the best part, sports marketing is scalable - Visa, Kia and Coca Cola have the resources to sponsor big international events like the World Cup, but smaller companies can be successful as well. The Roasterie has created a coffee flavor in honor of Sporting KC. Grundfos Pumps sponsors the fountains at Royals stadium.

When you are planning sponsorships we recommend the following: 

  • Budget two to three times the cost of the sponsorship to activate it. Promote your sponsorship in all of your other communication pieces. Have company events and entertain clients at the venue. Use tie-ins with the sponsorship to make the world a better place.
  • Be selective in which teams or players you sponsor. Your sponsorships should strengthen your relationships with the people who matter most to your company's success. If your biggest client is a huge Mizzou fan, then it might make sense for you to sponsor them, even if you are a Jayhawk in your heart.
  • Be selective in how many sponsorships you have. You will get more return on your investment with fewer, deeper sponsorships.
  • Zusi and Besler sm
    Make sure the team or player you sponsor represents the values that your company holds. If your company emphasizes loyalty and long-term relationships, then sponsoring players like Matt Besler and Graham Zusi makes sense - both Besler and Zusi recently turned down more lucrative contracts to stay in Kansas City.

Soccer is poised to take off in a big way in the USA. Smart marketers will figure out a way to take advantage of its growing popularity.


Tagged , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

The World is Ours

Posted in Best Practices, Shanny's Posts

The World Cup is among the world's largest sporting events. More than 600 million people watched the final game in 2010. Schools all over the world cancel their traditional classes so that their students can watch key games.

In a recent story on NPR, Jason Beaubian, NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent, said "[Soccer] is a simple sport that transcends language, that spans the world in a way that very few other human activities have." 

The World Cup is a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach their target audiences. Here is an homage to some of the best World Cup themed videos.

Children dream of becoming Lionel Messi, or Christiano Ronaldo, or even Clint Dempsey and in this short video Nike has done an exemplary job of capitalizing on this universal fantasy.

In this video sponsored by Beats, I literally feel the pre-game tension as some of the world's greatest soccer players prepare to compete.

My favorite video is Coca Cola's The World is Ours, and according to AdAge I'm not alone. 60% of all respondents selected Coca Cola as the runaway favorite World Cup anthem. What I like so much about this video, besides the fact that it's fun music and great visuals, is that it is so true to the Coca Cola brand. The world really is filled with 7 billion stars. There are many versions of this video, but this is my favorite because it shows a little bit of each one.

Tagged , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

What’s in a Name?

Posted in Creativity and Design, Shanny's Posts

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet said “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Perhaps, but I suspect if a rose were called a skunk flower, some of us might hesitate to smell it.

I read a lot of books and Amazon does a terrific job recommending the next book for me to read.  Recently Amazon recommended a book called Rescue Me by Rachel Gibson. Gibson is a terrific author, but I’m concerned that her creativity might be drying up, simply because she couldn’t come up with a better name. (I checked – there are more than 35,000 books entitled Rescue Me on Amazon!)

Names are important. They have the power to create a critical first impression with the people who matter most. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal MC Hammer said “A name is like music, it’s like melody. You know it when you hear it.…If you can remember it, that’s good. If the ideas and images that the name provoked in your thoughts are consistent, that’s good.”

Jay Samit shares terrific advise for startups and anyone naming a new organization in this video. Here are some of his key points:

A good name should be easy to pronounce, distinctive and allow for brand extension. Logos should be simple, legible and captivating to your customers.

I recently had the opportunity to be involved in naming a year-long celebration for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Next January our Jewish Community Center will be 100 years old.


We thought about calling our celebration a Centennial, but we realized that our community center is a place where people come together for fun and meaning, and Centennial seemed a little stuffy. We decided to call our celebration 100 MORE. It’s fun and bold and resonates well with our target audience.
Most importantly, 100 MORE honors the past while looking to the future.

Another name that I really like is a song called “Angel With a Shotgun” by The Cab. I love the imagery of an angel carrying a shotgun – it’s shocking without being crude or crass.

We often make quick impressions, simply based on a name. Imagine how much harder it would be to recruit new businesses to Kansas City if we had been named Possum Trot instead.

Think hard, before selecting a name. Names matter. Everytime.

Tagged ,
1 Comment Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Universal Translators

Posted in Best Practices, Integrated Marketing (IMC), Shanny's Posts, Tips and Tricks

In the Star Trek episode called Darmok Captain Picard is stranded on a planet with an alien called Captain Dathon. In spite of the fact that they both had Universal Translators they had considerable difficulties understanding each other. Dathon kept on saying “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” but since Picard didn’t know what Darmok, Jalad or Tanagra is, he couldn’t understand the meaning behind Dathon’s words.

They were missing the cultural context.

Dathon-and-PicardAs night fell, Dathon lit a fire for warmth, but Picard was unable to. Dathon handed Picard a branch from his fire and said to Picard, “Temba, his arms wide.” Finally, Picard realized that Dathon was trying to help him and that Dathon’s language used metaphors for communication.

In this song by Melanie Amaro she says that she wants her boyfriend to be more than just a picture on her screen.

Just ten years ago, people would have thought that she was talking about a television instead of her smartphone.

One hundred years ago Ms. Amaro would have been talking about a movie.

Two hundred years ago her words would have been as incomprehensible as, “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.”

We all use metaphors in our everyday conversation, but communication problems happen when we don’t know the context behind the metaphors. As Laura Jung, one of our interns, pointed out in her blog earlier this week, communication problems can wreak havoc on international relationships. In his blog Brian Henderson shares ten “lost in translation” gaffes that cost millions of dollars in lost opportunities, including one of my favorites. When the Chinese translated the Pepsi slogan “We bring you back to life,” a little bit too literally. To the Chinese it meant “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”

As communicators we must be watchdogs for our clients. We need to understand their key audiences well enough to judge how they will react and know the hidden context.

Effective communication requires more than a universal translator; understanding the context behind the words is key. Imagine how much more compelling the conversation between Picard and Dathon would have been if Picard knew that Darmok and Jalad worked together, to fight a common enemy, in an epic battle at Tanagra.

PS. As I was researching this article I discovered that Microsoft is developing a real Universal Translator.  I wonder if their translator will be able to handle Klingon and Vulcan.

Tagged , , , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Tribute to an Exceptional Leader

Posted in Community Leadership, Shanny's Posts

I volunteer on a leadership development committee for the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.  As part of our committee responsibilities the secretary, Sarah Beren, who happens to be an English teacher, assigned the book “Inspired Jewish Leadership:  Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities by Dr. Erica Brown.” While I was reading my assignment, I was struck by how much of what Dr. Brown advocates is relevant to leading a business. Dr. Brown uses Maimonides teachings to suggest that effective leaders need these seven attributes:

  • Wisdom
  • Humility
  • Fear of God
  • Disdain of Financial Gain
  • Love of Truth
  • Love of People
  • Good Reputation

From a business perspective, I would modify these slightly. Replace Fear of God with Integrity, and Disdain of Financial Gain to Disdain for Ill-Gotten Financial Gains, then I believe that you have a blueprint for a successful business leader.

Adele-Hall-w-captionIronically, the next day I read “Lincoln’s School of Management” in the New York Times. As Nancy Koehn said, “Lincoln’s presidency, at a moment of great moral passion in the country’s history, is a study in high-caliber leadership.” For years CEOs have used Lincoln’s experiences to inspire them to greatness.

Today the lessons of Lincoln are as relevant as ever. “They demonstrate the importance of resilience, forbearance, emotional intelligence, thoughtful listening and the consideration of all sides of an argument. They also show the value of staying true to a larger mission.”

The overlap between the two philosophies is uncanny.

And then on Monday, I learned that the “first lady of Kansas City,” Adele Hall, had passed. She took the best from both of these philosophies. She epitomized high caliber leadership. She was a gracious and gentle soul, who could move mountains. She dedicated her life to making the world a better place, and because of the quality of her leadership, her legacy will continue for many years to come.

May her memory be for a blessing. And an inspiration for us all.

Tagged , , , , , ,
6 Comments Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

All You Need is Love

Posted in Best Practices, Creativity and Design, Shanny's Posts

As I was thinking about what should be the topic of my next blog post, I saw this bumper sticker and it truly resonated with me.


First of all, I think it’s terrific design; it tells a story in a very simple and yet effective way. The shapes and the primary colors remind me of childhood, learning new things, trying different combinations to see what works best and the joy of creating something new.

The word that the blocks spell out is the ultimate message – LOVE. This is especially important after the tragedy of Shady Hook.

So often we get caught up in the everyday stress of working and running our businesses that we lose site of what is truly important. Take some time over the holidays to be with those you love. Everything else pales in comparison – all you need is love.

I wish you a 2013 filled with love.

Tagged , , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Kobayashi Maru: Beating the Can’t Win Scenario

Posted in Executive Insights, Shanny's Posts

I don’t believe in “can’t win” situations.

As a life-long Star Trek fan I often couch my philosophies in terms of lessons I have learned from Star Trek. One of those lessons is the Kobayashi Maru. It refers to a no-win situation that can only be won by changing the rules, in effect cheating. The Kobayashi Maru is a small ship featured in a Star Fleet Academy training simulation. The Kobayashi Maru sends out a distress signal and the student plays the role of a starship captain who comes to the rescue. However, the scenario is rigged so that no matter what the captain does, the starship gets destroyed by enemy forces. The purpose of the test is to see how the student faces defeat, however James T. Kirk refused to accept defeat and he reprogrammed the simulation so that he would be successful.

Chris Pine plays James Kirk in Star Trek: The Future Begins

I don’t advocate cheating, but in business, there’s almost always “another way” to find success.

You win some and you lose some in business. But often, people accept defeat gracefully when they could have been successful by changing the parameters. We find ourselves in a situation where we feel compelled to choose between Bad Choice A and Bad Choice B.

I say, never settle, pull a “Kobayashi Maru,” change the parameters, look at the situation differently and then come up with a Good Choice C.

Gregory Conti and James Caroland are military security experts and they recently published an article entitled Embracing the Kobayashi Maru:  Why You Should Teach Your Students to Cheat. They advocated how important it is to learn to think creatively when considering adversary behavior.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet Julia Dandolova, the Director of the Jewish Distribution Committee in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian people are masters at the Kobayashi Maru – although I doubt they would use that term. When the Nazis occupied Bulgaria in World War II they forbid anyone to harbor any Jews in their homes. Their work around was to move into neighbor’s homes, leaving their own homes vacant so that Jewish families could move in.

They say life is a battlefield
I say bring it on
If you wanna know how I feel
Live it till it’s gone
I’m just saying that what don’t kill
Only makes you strong.


Never give up.  Never surrender.  Always look for a Kobayashi Maru.  It’s there, you just have to look a little harder.

Live long and prosper.

Tagged , , , ,
Comments Off Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

The Best Thank You Note

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Shanny's Posts

We are fortunate to be able to make donations to several different charitable organizations. Once a year Eric and I sit down and make a giving plan about which organizations we will support and how much our gift should be. Then I go through and make all of our contributions in one fell swoop. Within a week, I receive a stream of acknowledgments from the organizations. The contrast from one organization to the next is truly enlightening.

Not-so-good – Because of some volunteer work Eric did, a benefactor offered to make a special one-time contribution to a charitable organization on his behalf. This contribution was ten times more than the one we usually make. The organization simply sent us a standard, form letter acknowledgment. I can assure you that when make our giving plan next year we will leave not include this charity.

Better – Many organizations sent us a form letter with a personalized note on the bottom. Following are two great examples, one from CASA and the other from Jewish Family Services, that I particularly liked because I could tell that the author did not write the same thing on every note they signed.

Best – The best note was from Laura L. Rose Clawson with the Nature Conservancy. Her note was handwritten, however, I am including the entire text below so that I can point out some items that I think were particularly effective.

Mr. & Mrs. Morgenstern-

Fifteen yeas of support, membership and dedication to the Nature Conservancy is an inspiring commitment. Thank you for your contribution to support our work here in Kansas, and thank you for what I can only guess is a staunch belief in our mission to protect nature for all species. Please know that you can call on me as a local contact any time you would like to learn more about our work. Have you ever been to a Kansas or Missouri Conservancy preserve?

With sincere thanks again-

Laura L. Rose Clawson

  1. The note is very specific about we did. To say fifteen years instead of just saying continuing support reiterates that Ms. Clawson wrote this note just for us.
  2. She reenforced the Conservancy’s mission in a natural and impactful way.
  3. I have never met Ms. Clawson, but I believe that her offer to help us learn more about the Conservancy’s work is honest, and even if I don’t contact her, I appreciate the personal connection.
  4. I have not been to a preserve, but I suspect that if I ever went, they could count on increased support for years to come. What a great way to show a donor how their gift is making a difference.
  5. Overall I am struck by how authentic and caring the note is. It won’t work if your recipients think that you are trying to pull one over on them.

If you would like additional information about the impact of a handwritten note see Eric’s blog post.

In a world where we are constantly bombarded by messages, the most effective communications are often those that are simple and said quietly, from the heart.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
2 Comments Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Posted in Best Practices, Executive Insights, Shanny's Posts

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss is the ultimate graduation story. It encapsulates both the joy and the terror regarding graduation, from the parent’s point of view.

One of my best friends has two children who are graduating this year. What is ironic is how different the two celebrations are. Her youngest son is graduating from high school, and they are celebrating in a big way. His grandparents are coming in town for the ceremony. My friend and her husband are hosting a party and inviting all of her son’s friends and many of their own friends to come celebrate with them. They ordered special decorations and a custom cake to commemorate the occasion.

Her daughter is getting her Master’s degree. To celebrate, my friend invited a few family members for dinner. Her daughter didn’t even attend the graduation ceremony.

What is particularly ironic is that virtually all of the kids in our community graduate high school, but it is truly an exceptional accomplishment to earn a Master’s degree. And then it hit me; graduation celebrations are not about celebrating accomplishments, as much as they are about motivating children for the future. The hope is that we, as parents, can still motivate our high school graduates to do well in the future. The graduation celebration reinforces the idea that if the young man steers himself in the right direction, he will be rewarded for his efforts. A parent may (or may not) be able to influence an 18-year-old to behave according to certain standards, but by the time someone has earned a Master’s degree, it’s clear that he or she is internally motivated to succeed.

In Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests that unsuccessful parents and bosses have one thing in common—demotivation. I recently attended a conference for senior Public Relations Counselors and David Baker reinforced this concept when he said, “Quit trying to motivate employees–it cannot be done. Motivation is an internal force. You can, however, demotivate them. If you’re doing that, stop.”

According to Collins there are three main ways for managers to demotivate employees:

  1. Hype – failing to acknowledge the real difficulties the organization faces.
  2. Futurism – being obsessed with distant goals or visions without keeping an eye on the present.
  3. False Democracy – inviting employees’ input when the leader has already made a decision.

One of the best articles I saw about how to demotivate your staff is by Wayne Mates. He suggests five factors:

  1. Set unrealistic expectations
  2. Waste their time
  3. Create constant fire drills
  4. Treat them as expendable resources
  5. Don’t share the wealth


On the other hand, celebrating our employee’s successes may not be a true motivator, but it certainly makes for a better work environment.

And in honor of my friend’s daughter, Mazel Tov! You should be proud of your accomplishments.
I know I am.

Tagged , , , , ,
4 Comments Posted on by Shanny Morgenstern
← Older posts
Morningstar Communications Proudly powered by WordPress