The Art of Delivering Bad News Sooner (Rather Than Later)

I had some water issues last week  – burst pipes within my building had meant there were issues with my water and for 2 days, water in our building did not work properly. I phoned to the property management company the day after the issue first start and was told that the situation was being worked on. In two days, the whole thing was resolved, and clear, clean water once again flowed normally through my faucets. 

I’m grateful for the return to normalcy, as it is difficult to live without water. 

This experience, though, is a good reminder in how important proactive communication is. In maintaining relationship within the world of business as well as at work, with friends or family, proactively bringing up issues before they become problems is vital to keeping trust and patience. Without this type of communication, feelings of frustration, anger, confusion arise from a place of fear and unknown – as what I had experienced in having no idea what was happening with my apartment’s water supply or how long the situation would last.

By contrast, a past experience that I had with American Express, reminded me the benefit of proactive communication – even in the face of bad news.

My credit card had been compromised – someone had stolen my credit card information and decided to go on a spending spree at a distant Home Depot, a destination that I don’t often frequent. Within 15 minutes of the purchase, I had received a phone call from a representative asking if the purchase was mine. When I confirmed that it wasn’t, the representative let me know my card had been compromised and I would receive a new one soon. 

How did this situation differ from my experience with the burst pipes at my apartment?:

  • I knew the bad news quickly
  • I knew that someone was working on a solution
  • I knew what that solution was and approximately when the issue would be resolved (i.e. I was told when I would receive my new credit card)

Proactive communication – even when delivering bad news – is so much more easily accepted than late communication. As a marketing and communications professional, this is an important professional and personal lesson to reinforce.


Jen Burstedt

Confidence: The Top 3 Things To Focus On

How do you appear confident on the outside even if you are not feelin’ it on the inside?

The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network in San Francisco recently held an event featuring Lisa Rowland, a consultant with SpeechSkills to give a 2 hour primer called, “The Credibility Code.” In these 2 hours, Lisa shared tips and tricks to appear confident through adjusting body language.

Lisa Rowland of SpeechSkills speaks to a crowd.

Lisa Rowland of SpeechSkills speaking to the audience.

Here are Lisa’s top 3 things to focus on for increasing how confident you appear:

  • Posture (Stand up straight, keep your head level and point your nose directly at your listener)
  • Voice (Articulate clearly, keep your pacing relaxed, speak with optimal volume – not too loud or too soft, though most of us could stand to speak a bit louder)
  • Eye contact (Hold eye contact for 3 – 5 seconds per person when speaking to a group of people and keep your attention forward)

The workshop was great; I came out of it being more aware of the way I hold myself and the way that I communicate others. I’ve realized as well that I may have habits that take away my credibility and make me appear less confident, even when I am feeling confident internally, and have been able to correct some of these.

Lisa Rowland

Lisa Rowland of SpeechSkills – thanks Lisa!

Part of being a working professional, in any industry, includes instilling a sense of trust and authority into the clients or stakeholders that you work with. Whether you’re an optometrist, sales person, sailor or line cook, confidence is key.

A huge thank you to YNPN and Lisa Rowland for making this happen.

What have you learned about confidence in your life? Are there any tricks you’ve learned to make you appear (and maybe even feel) more confident? 

Let me know if you notice any difference in the way people perceive you with any of the tips above. 



Jen Burstedt

Are Salespeople Sleazeballs? Breaking Misconceptions of Sales


Before I started my first job, I was biased against sales, and would have associated a word such as “sleazeball” to the stereotype of a salesperson. Sales, I thought, was not a very honest profession. How can do sleep at night when you push unwanted products or services onto poor, naive customers? Fast-talking, greasy, insincere were all traits I associated with sales roles.

My first corporate job was working in a media company in San Francisco, selling media space (print, online and event) advertising to tech companies. My next move after that was to become a proposal writer for a pharmaceutical services company — we sold software to pharmaceutical companies who run clinical trials.

Through these experiences, I learned how wrong I was.

Working firsthand doing sales support, a few sales calls myself, proposal writing and spending a ton of time with salespeople, I got to see a variety of successful salespeople who had a range of personality types from the typical used-car-salesman personality to thoughtful, caring, sincere colleagues. I’ve had the opportunity to watch success happen in various ways through observing the 20 plus sales and business development directors I’ve worked with over the course of 5 years.

Bracket marketing materials in Japanese.

Marketing materials from Bracket, a previous job, targeted to a segment of the Japanese speaking buyers.

What are the top takeaways about sales that I’ve learned in working in the B2B sales world for 5 years?

(1) Being successful in sales is based on relationships. Especially true with B2B marketing or sales for which a salesperson relies on repeat customers (i.e. the majority of selling), sales can be largely influenced towards the positive or negative based on the relationship the salesperson has with (potential) customers.

This is why it’s important for salespeople to break bread or otherwise spend time with clients outside of an office context. Imagine you’re a salesperson, at day 2 of a big out-of-town conference. It’s 10 pm. Your client invites you to come with him and his colleagues to go to a bar, but you have second thoughts because you have to get up early the next day.

Think twice before declining the invitation; nurturing a relationship with clients through informal social channels are a great way for salespeople to create trust and develop an authentic relationship with clients that is not just based on the fact that they want want you to buy something.

(2) Successful sales is about a true exchange of money and the goods. In a good sale, a buyer is giving money for a service or product that they actually want. Working with a good salesperson who wants to build a long term relationship and see repeat business, they can’t sell someone something to a buyer which doesn’t give the buyer the value they thought they were paying for. That will only ensure that the buyer doesn’t come back.

(3) Sales don’t happen overnight. Developing relationships, educating your customers about your products, showing the value of your product and getting through the various levels and managers within an organization takes time. Planning ahead in sales is known as the sales cycle – meaning you have to acknowledge that, especially with B2B sales, a decision will not happen immediately, given that various individuals may be involved in making the ultimate decision.

So, for all you non-salespeople out there, before being quick to judge the salespeople you see, try to assess — are they actually engaging in good sales, or perhaps the sales that makes you squirm in your seat is an example of poorly targeted, unskilled selling?

Keep an open mind – good salespeople come in all different types and personalities.

Have you had a similar experience? Have you ever had preconceived notions of individuals you’ve worked with based on their profession or function? How does this help or hurt you?


Jen Burstedt

100 Day Blogging Challenge


Blogging out of a cafe in San Francisco.

As you may have noticed, my frequency of blog posts have markedly increased. I am working on an 100 Day Challenge, to post on my blog for 100 days straight, which I started on March 3rd.

A few rules: (A) posting a blog during the waking hours which started on any given day still counts as that day (as you can see, there are 2 March 8th entries) and (B) a blog post can be drafted on a previous day, but must be finished or edited to be counted for a new day.

The biggest benefits I see of embarking on the challenge:

(1) Practice, practice, practice. How does anyone learn to master a skill? By practicing and putting in the time, as suggested in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. Same goes for blogging and figuring out how to manage the WordPress CMS.
(2) Finding my voice. Writing well means have a personality and an opinion, and I intend to find my voice and define it even more strongly through the process of writing each day. There is a service called 750words which prompts you to write 750 words each morning, rewarding you for doing so, with the concept that this unlocks your thoughts and writing for the rest of the day.

(3) Being pushed to focus and develop a system or schedule to get my posts written. Because I haven’t challenged myself to write regularly for this blog, past efforts have been sporadic and I haven’t appropriately scheduled time. By setting the goal of writing a post a day, I’m going to get the opportunity to experiment, find what works best and experiment with different systems in getting my posts published each day.

So, off we go – 100 days, 100 entries! Enjoy, and let me know if you have any comments or suggestions to make what you’re reading even better.

Have you ever tried an 100 day (or 30 day or other time frame) challenge? What benefits did you reap from it?
Jen Burstedt

5 Strategies I Used To Boost My Professional Development

Reflecting on where I am now in my career, there were some key elements which accelerated my professional development. These are strategies that I continue to use now as I advance in my career and deepen my functional and industry level skills.

As a health care marketer who came from 4 years of experience in pharmaceuticals, it’s been an awesome and humbling experience to again be new in to an industry (it’s my third industry). Figuring out the jargon, systems and complexities of the industry while also getting to learn about how to navigate the new organization I started at 6 months ago takes time, but the high-level advice of achieving success is relatively similar.

4 Hour Workweek Audiobook

The 4 Hour Workweek – which I listened to on audiobook via Audible. Interesting ideas – some but not all of which I’ve applied to my own life.

Here are 5 strategies that have boosted my professional development throughout my career:

(1) Actively listening, then asking questions. I don’t worry about looking ignorant when I listen intently and then ask questions. Even though I could still be considered “new” to the industry, being brave to ask questions at any point in your career is important. Daring to ask your colleague “can you briefly explain that?” can help you set you up in the right direction so you don’t make wrong assumptions about work-related discussions, and can have a firm foundation of knowledge on how things work rather than a myriad of guesses.

(2) Seeking out educational opportunities. Learning about marketing involves reading books, talking to others and then trying out new concepts in my life. I have been working through several business related books which have been enormously helpful in my lifelong self-education (The Start-up of You, The Education of Millionaires, The 4 Hour Workweek and The Personal MBA to start); putting principles into practice then helped to solidify and actually retain the lessons taught to me.

(3) Seeking good mentors in my life. Time and time again, people say you need to good mentor. For me, most of the most influential mentors in my life have been through my volunteer experiences when I donated time to use my professional skills (event management, budgeting and writing). Some of the professionals I volunteered alongside were extremely driven and ethical, and saw volunteering as a way to contribute. They had many years more experience than I did, were people that I admired, and were able to pass on their words of wisdom because we spent so much time together giving back.

(4) Career coaching. Even with mentors in my life, I found career coaching to be a great way to focus my energy and get an outside opinion into my thoughts. Career coaching for me came in the format of someone that I hired, but Mastermind Groups (often free and lead by a great person) can lend this same type of structure. Career coaching for me created structure, time sensitivity and accountability for the systems and goals I was working towards.

(5) Find work that you love and find ways to love the work that you do. Most of us don’t have the luck, self-awareness or foresight to know how to land the job we love when we launch our professional career. Look to be in a job that you enjoy, but in the meantime, if you’re not in the most desirable place, look for parts of the work that you do enjoy.

Listen to that voice that’s saying, “I hate spreadsheets” or “I hate spending hours and hours by myself writing code.” Start to pay attention to your preferred work activities, your strengths and your skills. Liking what you do makes work so much easier.

Have you used any of the above strategies to enhance your career? Have you read any good business books lately?

Setting New Year’s Goals, 2014

Happy New Year 2014.


The 2013 year was a year of enormous changes for me – I changed relationships status (read: now single), living situation (I moved in September and then prepared for my move in early January) and job (after 4 years at my old company, I moved on to a new workplace). I traveled for work and personal reasons, continued to examine how to grow in my own life, and learned to embrace change even better than I had before. I’m looking forward to making 2014 the best year yet.

Many people think as the beginning of January to embark on new year’s resolutions: a few flimsy, weakly defined goal statements that revolve around eating less, working out more, making more money, or advancing in one’s career.

I see the new year as a time to reassess goals for the year, and seriously lay out plans to achieve them. Though far from perfect, my goal setting has been strongly influenced by 2 main schools of thought: Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes a Day and Chris Brogan’s 3 words idea.


18 Minutes A Day, Cover

18 Minutes A Day by Peter Bregman, has been a book about goal setting that has influenced how I set my own goals.

  • Peter Bregman in 18 Minutes A Day focuses on the idea that you should prioritize what you want to accomplish out of your year by first narrowing your focus areas of what you want to achieve to 5 – 6 categories. You then make a daily schedule that consistently hits upon these themes. The 18 minutes aspect comes in with the check-ins during the course of a given day: 5 minutes at the beginning of the day, 1 minute for each hour of work (assuming you do this during once an hour in an 8 hour work day) and 5 minutes at night.


  • Chris Brogan, in his called “My Three Words for 2014” talks about reflecting deeply about what you want to accomplish and setting themes for the year that are embodied in 3 words which capture the themes in a positive manner. The words are meant to be personal to you and should have a story behind them. For example, one of my words for 2013 was “canoe”, coming from the metaphor that each person is paddling their own canoe (in their personal and professional lives) – and that in order to be content with myself, my achievements and my life journey, I needed to keep in mind that I was paddling my own canoe.


I’ve set my 2014 themes and goals, which I’ll share in a later post. Mostly, they target parts of my marketing career, relationships with family & friends and healthy lifestyle.

What are you focusing your 2014 goals on?


Jen Burstedt

Ready To Donate: Pret A Manger’s Food Donation Program

While in New York, I noticed a sign within the UK sandwich and coffee chain Pret A Manger donates its leftover food at the end of the day to those less fortunate at the end of the day. What a great idea!



A pie chart showing food waste by type of food from the article, “Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States.”


According to a recent study, up to 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted each year; a 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report cites the USDA’s statistic that 19% of the total US retail-level food supply was lost in 2008. Imagine what could be done with this 86 billion pounds of prepared food – quite a lot, when you think about it.


  • What kind of incentives could be offered to create a habit of social consciousness where other restaurants follow suit instead of having Pret A Manger as one outstanding example?
  • What – since there would be some – risks involved?
  • Who would sponsor or support such an effort to offer incentives to restaurants – or would this defeat in creating a infrastructure to sponsor these types of efforts?


Pret A Manger seems to have a different philosophy about how they treat their customers and how they motivate employees – as this 2011 New York Times article describes.  More than selling sandwiches, Pret A Manger seems to be disseminating a different message than most fast food or coffee chains: they have heart and, since they can put in the extra effort to give back to lessen waste while helping others, why not?


But is it in their corporate culture, or do they do it because of the positive reverberations back to their company? It seems that the positive press, highly motivating atmosphere and generous values has a way of paying back much more than the initial effort Pret A Manger invested. Whatever the motivation, their food donation benefits the company and the common good. Pret A Manger should be applauded in their efforts which show that charity and generosity do pay off.


Now, how could social marketing use this example to influence other for-profit restaurants to follow suit?

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