Category Archives: Building A Better Business

It’s never too early to start reading your crowd

By DJ Rachel Lynch

Dinner music is an excellent opportunity to gauge what type of crowd you have and help set the tone for the night. Think of dinner and cocktail music like paint primer. The better job you do to prep the wall, the better the finished outcome will be.

DJs who have a great dinner or cocktail crate may do a decent job with a “set it and forget it” playlist as they have built the list with years of experience.  Since they feel that they already put in the work ahead of time they may decide to use dinner/cocktail downtime to time to eat, relax a bit before the party, use the phone, smoke, etc.  Sadly, this mindless and relaxed approach is a missed opportunity for DJs to connect with the guests in a subtle but powerful way.

Adding to this passive approach is the assumption that nobody is actively listening to the DJ because they are engaged in conversation or enjoying food and drink. I disagree completely. Dinner time is when a DJ should work the hardest to understand who is in front of them and what music directions they can approach later on. Dinner/cocktail time is a smart way to take risks and try different stuff to see how it feels. Dinner/cocktail music can be a fun part of the evening if a Dj is really focused on the task.

Things I ask myself during dinner/cocktail music:

How engaged are they? Who are my dancers? Who is there for the free food only? Who is taking advantage of the open bar? Who’s sitting with who? Who are my “party people”? What are the age groups here? Are there any cultural considerations?  Who’s signing lyrics while sipping their wine? Are there foot taps from anyone? Is anyone bobbing their head? Are people smiling? Etc.

Nonverbal cues during dinner will absolutely help a DJ smash the night. Don’t miss the chance to own your audience!

About:
Fun, creative, and ambitious, DJ Rachel is making her mark as one of the top mobile DJs in the tri-state area. Her diversity as a DJ allows her to play at events that include MetLife Stadium (for the New York Jets) and serve as opening act for George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic and Gloria Gaynor. For more info visit: facebook.com/DJRachelRLynch

Treat yourself well and you’ll perform at your best level

By Mike Walter:

I made a very mature decision the other day.  It was a Thursday night and a friend of mine called me to see if I wanted to hang out. I like going out with this guy because we have a ton in common and usually wind up chatting into the wee hours of the morning.  Plus we’re both beer lovers so we often wind up at a table piled with empty pint glasses and taking Ubers home.  But I had a busy weekend staring me in the face, with weddings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then an industry event on Monday.

So I passed on his invitation.

It’s something I hated doing but for the sake of those events, and the clients who put their faith in me to perform at my best at their weddings, it was the right thing to do.

I make plenty of decisions like that throughout the year that help me be the best possible MC and DJ I can be.  Most of my health and fitness decisions are based solely on the fact that I know I perform better when I’m in better shape.  I look better in my suit, I don’t get winded when I move around and dance (which I do all gig long) and my knees and back aren’t aching by dinner time.  Deep down, I’m a fat kid at heart.  I literally have to play mind games with myself to keep from skipping workouts and not having that whole pizza pie that I’d like to devour in one sitting.  My motivation is my career and my desire to be my best.

And like I said in the introduction to this blog, I will often make decisions about going out (or not going out) based on my upcoming event schedule.  It’s mature (and some would argue dorky) but I know that I’m not my sharpest after a late night out, especially if that night included a generous amount of alcohol. We don’t have one of those jobs where you can drag yourself in bleary-eyed and perform half-assed and call it a day.  Our clients rely on us and I think we owe it to them to show up at their events in the best possible condition we can.  That includes staying fit and getting a good night’s sleep.  I’ve heard Howard Stern interview plenty of lead singers and front men who make the same point.  The bass player of a band can probably get through a show hung over and cranky, but if the lead singer isn’t sharp and his voice is strained from feeling ill and he’s exhausted from partying too hard on the road, the concert will be sub-standard. I’ve always considered what I do to be very similar to the lead singer and front man of a band so I take that advice to heart.  Treat yourself well and you’ll perform at your best level!

By the way, that buddy of mine and I went out the following Tuesday.  We met at a local micro-brew and did indeed stay out late and imbibe a bit too much.  But that Wednesday I had nothing but some office stuff to do so I could get away with it. I honor my clients but I also want to live and enjoy life!

Mike Walter is the proud owner of Elite Entertainment, a Multi-System DJ Company in New Jersey that was recently selected by TheKnot.com and WeddingWire.com as a top Entertainment company in the country.

3 Tips for Wedding Show Success!

By Eric Wenning

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a novice in this business, at one time or another you’ve probably advertised at a Wedding/Bridal Show (or thought about doing so). What a lot of people don’t understand is there is a lot of psychology required in advertising at these shows: reading people’s reactions, knowing what to say when breaking the ice, your appearance and the appearance of your booth, and so on. All equally important if you’re going to successfully generate leads or even a sale or two. Screw up one and it could turn into a snowball effect and, soon enough, you could be left with a lot of money out of your pocket and no sales to account for it.

Let’s dive into some tips that can help you turn that around…

  • Stop Sounding Like Everyone Else!
    Your opening line to an already anxious bride needs to be something other than, “Do you have a DJ picked out yet?” The majority of brides are going to say “yes” because even though they came to the show, they really just want to grab your brochure and deal with you later. So, the trick is to ask them a question they will say yes to without knowing they are doing it. Here is a question that has made my company tens of thousands of dollars… ready?

“Wanna Play a Game?”

Now I have you scratching your head while you are reading this, don’t I? I have actually hidden a photo of ‘Where’s Waldo’ in my brochures. So I tell them, “Find Waldo in 30 seconds or less and I’ll give you an extra discount off your wedding.” What happens next is amazing. The bride grabs a brochure, the mother grabs a brochure, the maid of honor grabs a brochure, heck even the dad grabs a brochure. Smiling. Laughing. Pointing. Now visualize this, another prospective bride is walking down the aisle and sees a herd of people intently looking at my brochure and seems genuinely interested in what we are offering. We made them curious! You are now creating a buzz around your booth and people want to get in on whatever you have to offer!

  • Give Out a “Yes Bag!”
    Have you ever noticed a bride carrying a bag and the mother or fiancé carrying another bag? Did you know most bride’s have a “Yes Bag” and a “No Bag?” Did I just blow your mind? They don’t want to be rude to your face, so they will politely say, “We’ll look it over and give you a call.” Now, if you give out a bag with your logo on it (you’ve just built rapport with that prospect!) you can then say, “Make this your Yes Bag moving forward (with a wink, of course) and you will get a smile and a giggle, and hopefully a new client too!
  • Brand Your Sweets n’ Treats
    Everyone always hands out candy and treats at their booth. What you need to do is, once again, be different! Brand your sweets n’ treats. Put your brand all over suckers, candy, mints. Anything that will stick out from the rest. Because when those brides get home they will dump their bag all over their table and start to narrow down the yes, maybe and no literature. The more they see your brand/logo everywhere, the better your chances are that they will remember you!

For more information about how to get more leads and sales at your next show, check out our Online Courses at www.wenningmethod.com.

Now go make a Great First Impression!

In addition to his highly successful multi-op business in Pittsburgh, PA, Eric has degrees in Graphic Design and Marketing and also owns a full ad agency that specializes in Social Media Advertising for many different types of companies. For more info or to contact Eric visit www.wenningmethod.com

Stay off your phone!

By Tony Fernandez

The Internet is a glorious thing.  It truly is.  I marvel at the unlimited power and capabilities one has access to with a mere click or keystroke.  Once you get past the click bait, porn, and Russian political meddling, you can actually find some really useful things out there on the world wide web.

What I DON’T understand is why DJs seem to be using the Internet to fill gaps in their repertoire.  I’m not talking about the Spotify/YouTube jocks that can’t even get on the service that doesn’t have ads (I’m sure there is a special ring in Dante’s Inferno for you). . .

And I’m not talking about the yahoos that can’t use Google after people take the time to help, explain, educate, and pass on knowledge… you STILL want a link to click. . .

I’m talking about the DJs that are AT gigs… right in the middle of an event and they are on Facebook and the plethora of DJ pages asking questions like: Where do I place my speakers? The bride just moved the time line, what should I do? And my favorite: What song should I play next?

I’ll tell you what you need to do:  you need to get off your smart phone, put your nose to the grindstone, put on your big boy or big girl pants and FIGURE IT OUT! Yeah l I know you can make the point that the offending DJ is doing that by getting on their device, BUT…   do you see other professionals working and getting on Facebook to ask for suggestions?  I’m sure a lawyer in the middle of a courtroom is going to whip out their iPad and Google a case.  I’m sure a doctor in the middle of a procedure is going to check on a Facebook page to ask how to continue what they are doing. Yeah, right.

Look, I get it, we ALL need help at some point. My self included.  No single human being knows everything – well, maybe one: I saw a piece on a student (from MIT, I believe) that was able to isolate the nerve/electrical impulse that our brain uses to communicate with the mouth.  This student was then able to tap into that connection and convert that electrical impulse into text, which he sent to Google.  So you can ask this student ANYTHING and they would have the answer.

I digress…

There are some really great people on these pages that genuinely and selflessly offer up invaluable information for the sake of being a decent person. They authentically want to help.  What I take umbrage with are DJs doing the asking WHILE at a gig in REAL TIME.  Especially on things they should know.  Specifically: what music to play.  You got ONE job, handle the music.  Handle it before the gig.  And if something comes up during the gig, HANDLE IT.  That’s your job.

How do you even find time at a gig to get on a device to get an answer for something you need immediately?   I would think your time is better served by paying attention to the situation at hand instead of wasting precious time tapping a screen and waiting for a response. And at the risk of sounding like the proverbial old “hey you kids get of my lawn” guy, people were able to use the power of problem solving, cognitive skills and intestinal fortitude BEFORE the Note or iPhone was invented.

I have to go get ready to play to a bunch of college students.  I’m doing my homework NOW.

Keep ‘em spinning.

Based out of Richmond, VA, DJ Tony Fernandez has been a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Musical Soothsayer and Audio Gear Oracle since 1980. Find him on Facebook. Email djtonytf@gmail.com

3 Tips for Wedding Show Success!

By Eric Wenning

Whether you’re a seasoned vet or a novice in this business, at one time or another you’ve probably advertised at a Wedding/Bridal Show (or thought about doing so). What a lot of people don’t understand is there is a lot of psychology required in advertising at these shows: reading people’s reactions, knowing what to say when breaking the ice, your appearance and the appearance of your booth, and so on. All equally important if you’re going to successfully generate leads or even a sale or two. Screw up one and it could turn into a snowball effect and, soon enough, you could be left with a lot of money out of your pocket and no sales to account for it.

Let’s dive into some tips that can help you turn that around…

  • Stop Sounding Like Everyone Else!
    Your opening line to an already anxious bride needs to be something other than, “Do you have a DJ picked out yet?” The majority of brides are going to say “yes” because even though they came to the show, they really just want to grab your brochure and deal with you later. So, the trick is to ask them a question they will say yes to without knowing they are doing it. Here is a question that has made my company tens of thousands of dollars… ready?

“Wanna Play a Game?”

Now I have you scratching your head while you are reading this, don’t I? I have actually hidden a photo of ‘Where’s Waldo’ in my brochures. So I tell them, “Find Waldo in 30 seconds or less and I’ll give you an extra discount off your wedding.” What happens next is amazing. The bride grabs a brochure, the mother grabs a brochure, the maid of honor grabs a brochure, heck even the dad grabs a brochure. Smiling. Laughing. Pointing. Now visualize this, another prospective bride is walking down the aisle and sees a herd of people intently looking at my brochure and seems genuinely interested in what we are offering. We made them curious! You are now creating a buzz around your booth and people want to get in on whatever you have to offer!

  • Give Out a “Yes Bag!”
    Have you ever noticed a bride carrying a bag and the mother or fiancé carrying another bag? Did you know most bride’s have a “Yes Bag” and a “No Bag?” Did I just blow your mind? They don’t want to be rude to your face, so they will politely say, “We’ll look it over and give you a call.” Now, if you give out a bag with your logo on it (you’ve just built rapport with that prospect!) you can then say, “Make this your Yes Bag moving forward (with a wink, of course) and you will get a smile and a giggle, and hopefully a new client too!
  • Brand Your Sweets n’ Treats
    Everyone always hands out candy and treats at their booth. What you need to do is, once again, be different! Brand your sweets n’ treats. Put your brand all over suckers, candy, mints. Anything that will stick out from the rest. Because when those brides get home they will dump their bag all over their table and start to narrow down the yes, maybe and no literature. The more they see your brand/logo everywhere, the better your chances are that they will remember you!

Now go make a Great First Impression!

In addition to his highly successful multi-op business in Pittsburgh, PA, Eric has degrees in Graphic Design and Marketing and also owns a full ad agency that specializes in Social Media Advertising for many different types of companies. For more info or to contact Eric visit www.wenningmethod.com

The Art of The Follow Up (Bridal Show Edition)

By Mitch Taylor

Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that all bridal shows are not created equal.  It’s up to you to decide if that show is worthy of your investment or not.  How?  Ask around, starting with your fellow DJs and vendors.  What shows have been helpful to them?  What kind of business do they run from a size and service standpoint?  Find a like-minded business in your market.  Take the owner to lunch and ask why they choose the vehicles they choose to advertise in.  Their answers may surprise you.  Oh — and bring a referral or an idea they can use to help their business with you.  Givers gain.

Next, look at the size of the show. How many potential brides attend? This number will be significantly different from the total attendees so be sure you understand the difference before signing on the dotted line. If you are going for volume and willing to price your service accordingly, than a show with a killer marketing piece and several hundred brides may be for you.  If, however, you’re focused on high-end gigs and wanting to build quality relationships, then a smaller venue that allows more interaction with brides would be the best way to go.

OK… so you’ve picked a show.  How do you follow up?  Clue:  Ask them at the show.  Have brides sign up by typing their info into DJ Event Planner at your booth.  This eliminates misreading someone’s handwriting and ensures your message gets where it needs to go. Ask them when they got engaged and what other vendors they’ll be using and take good notes.  This can help you know where they are in the sales process and when it would be best to follow up with them. Brides with dates two or more years out best separated from brides who are looking for things within a year.

Now, based upon how the brides want you to follow up, set up schedule that works for them, not you.  Once a bride is ready to hear from you, put her in your cycle with unique touches designed to help her in the wedding planning process (apply different touches with your email, phone calls, snail mail and Facebook).  Use an email subject line that will make her want to read more.  Above all, your communication with her must be respectful of her time and conversational.

If you’d like a real life example of a follow ups I send my clients, send an email to mitch@tayloredweddings.com with the subject line “dj news bridal show FU” and I’ll get it out to you right away.

Lastly, be real. I often joke with the brides that stop by my booth that half of the information in their bags will end up being thrown out or forgotten in a corner somewhere.  People relate to real.  This is why if you are advertising at a high-volume show with dozens of vendors and hundreds of brides, you need a phenomenal marketing piece that really stands out from the crowd.  By striking up a conversation and genuinely seeking to help, you can cut through the hustle and bustle and get down to what really matters: helping a bride get the wedding she wants.

After all, that’s all sales truly is.  Find a need and fill it.

Mitch Taylor has worked in the Mobile Disc Jockey industry for over two decades, first cutting his teeth as an on-board club DJ for Carnival Cruise Lines. In addition to owning and operating Taylored Weddings in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, he is a sought-after speaker and Gitomer Certified Advisor whose sales training, books, coaching and workshops are in high demand all over the country. For more info about his Creating Connections books and workshops visit creatingconnections.biz

Stop Boosting and Start Funneling (Part One of a series)

By Eric Wenning

 I know many of you out there are struggling to advertise on social media with little to no success. Let me guess what you are doing. You have a picture of a packed dance floor in your ad that states something like “Book us because we are AWESOME and PROFESSIONAL” and are clicking on ‘Boost Post,’ thinking that will help bring more traffic to your site and you’ll get more sales…

Am I getting close?

As a successful multi-op who also owns a company that specializes in social media solutions for other companies, I’m here to help you with some of the marketing troubles you face on a day-to-day basis.

First, you have to understand there are many components in a successful ad.

  • Targeted Ad Copy
  • Targeted Audience
  • A Clear and Precise Irresistible Offer (to lure them in)
  • A Video to Grab Their Attention
  • A Clear Call to Action
  • Send your Leads through a Proper Sales Funnel
  • Installing a Facebook Pixel so you can track everyone

I know this might seem overwhelming, but you have to first know the ingredients to understand how something’s made, right? Almost all of you running ads are running them to COLD Traffic. Say what, Eric? WARM and HOT Traffic are leads from a friend, family or vendor referral. Cold Traffic are people that have NO IDEA who you are.

You have to target Cold Traffic differently than you would Warm and Hot Traffic.

What makes you stand out from your competition when it comes to Cold Traffic? Almost nothing until you get them on the phone, right? All they see are the same flashing lights and people having fun that appear in any DJ ad. But what can make your company look different in their eyes…

You have to understand that people price shop tangible products all the time. You and I both do it. We do it at the grocery store, Amazon, anywhere we can save a buck. Now put yourself in the bride and Groom’s shoes as they look at your company and your competition. The prices are almost the same, but what is going to give that Cold Traffic a push in your direction?

An offer they can’t refuse.

Without getting into the dreaded price conversation, you have to understand once that couple becomes a client they are more likely to spend more money because you have a trust factor with them. Prospects that are still on the fence are a harder sell to because you have not gotten them emotionally involved. The method to sell to Cold Traffic is to get them in at a cheaper price with an Irresistible Offer and then UP-SELL them once they are a client.

To accomplish this, make sure you have an Irresistible Offer. Make sure that offer is clear and precise. Make sure to have a clean landing page that CLEARLY states the offer you are making or your ad may get denied from Facebook.

Start with a broad audience, then narrow it down and retarget the people that saw your ad and did not convert. Create a video that has Stopping Power, meaning your video makes them stop and watch so you can explain your offer. Stop just using photos.

To recap, start CREATING COMPELLING ads instead of just boosting a post, and start to Funnel Your Clients!

In addition to his highly successful multi-op business in Pittsburgh, PA, Eric has degrees in Graphic Design and Marketing and also owns a full ad agency that specializes in Social Media Advertising for many different types of companies. For more info or to contact Eric visit www.wenningmethod.com

Digging for Diamonds

By Tony Fernandez

Through my travels on the web and through the various DJ pages, I keep seeing a recurring thought: The state of music, specifically current music, is at an all-time low. If that isn’t enough, that state of mind puts DJs into the frame of mind of: what are the good songs that should be played? The stuff out now is crap… blah, blah, blah….

I gotta tell ya, I really have no sympathy for the DJ who can’t figure out where to get “good” music. Let me explain my position before you flame me…

A long time ago in a galaxy not far away, there were these things called record stores. These record stores would have music on physical formats that people would purchase. DJs, at least the proactive DJs, wouldn’t go to a “regular” retail stores where troglodytes would buy their music. Nope. DJs would go WAY off the beaten path to find outlets that catered to them.

In these establishments is where bonds were formed, deals were made, fortunes found.

Now I’m not really going to wax on about record stores. That’s not the point. The point I’m trying to elucidate is: if you are lacking “good” music, go find it. It’s out there. Nothing worthwhile is just going to drop in your lap.

With the dawn of the digital age, record stores met their demise. As such, music is currently traded around, downloaded, and acquired in the digital scheme. That scenario, I think, has made a lot of DJs lackadaisical, complacent, passive and downright lazy to a fundamental aspect of being a DJ…

You have to dig to find that diamond in the rough. You have to put a bit of effort in your musical acquisitions. There is absolutely no reason to be obsequious in this aspect of your job. Make the time. It’s part of your job.

Just because you keep up with charts, subscribe to record pools and/or remix services doesn’t absolve you of keeping up. You really can’t just sit back and expect format radio to break the next “hot” song.

If you haven’t figured this out… format radio isn’t in the business of breaking music. Format radio is in the business of selling advertising time, to make money. They use music to do that.

You can’t just wait for your inbox to give you a notification that your downloads from the pools/remix services are ready and you’re good to go.   It’s not the job of record pools to pad your hard drive. Pools are at the mercy of the record labels and their release schedules.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of tracks that radio, the charts, the pools, the remix services are NEVER going to pick up on, play, or release. It’s incumbent on you to seek those out. To at least listen and see if something new and different is worth playing it or your crowd.

I also realize that people are creatures of habit. They like familiarity. They like things they know. They like things they’ve heard. I get that. I’m in no way saying that DJs need to play unreleased, white label, bootleg versions of songs to be cool or relevant. The vast majority of DJs play to the general public. As such, we need to keep our music programming recognizable. I do get that.

Since music now is in a digital medium, we ALL have access to the SAME tracks. (Pretty much…) We all are drinking form the same fountain, as it were. Because that’s the case, we need to set ourselves apart. Finding new music and/or remixes to current / popular music is an aspect that DJs need to take advantage of. There is good music and good remixes out there. Just don’t expect it to fall into your hard drive.

Keep ‘em spinnin’ and dig around a bit. You’ll never know what you might find.

Based out of Richmond, VA, DJ Tony Fernandez has been a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Musical Soothsayer and Audio Gear Oracle since 1980. Find him on facebook. Email djtonytf@gmail.com

The Big F. U. (How do you “Follow Up” with your potential clients?)  

By Mitch Taylor

Just because you book the client doesn’t mean you don’t speak to them again until it’s 2-4 weeks before their event. After all, the sales process doesn’t stop after you make a sale.  It’s a continuous cycle that is ever evolving and yet the steps have remained the same since the beginning.

The only thing that has truly changed is HOW we communicate to our clientele with our delivery methods.

For many of us, that’s the frustrating part. We have to manage SO MANY different platforms today. Instagram, Facebook Page, Facebook, email, internet, text…it’s overwhelming. You can’t force a client into having the communication only where YOU want to have it; today’s client isn’t like that. They want to communicate in the manner in which is most convenient to them. What to do? Save scripts.

If you travel a lot like me, this is an invaluable way to be sure you’re getting back to people in the voice you want to get back to them in and in the medium they wish to communicate. You can’t be trying to figure out what you want to say to a client when you’re traversing gates at an airport or at your kid’s evening game. Speed is the name of the game in communicating with today’s client so you need to setup some ways to stack the deck in your favor to quicken your response time.

My method of choice for this is Google Drive in folders in my business.

I have a parent folder in my Google Drive for my business called Taylored Weddings (simple, right?). From there, I have folders for the six facets of our business: 1. Marketing. 2. Sales. 3. Operations 4. Planning 5. Production and 6. Performance. In my sales folders I have the scripts I created that allow me to have a faster response to a client so I can just go into my sales folder (which also has subset folders for each step of where a client is in the process (Booked, Pending, Active Lead, Followed Up, etc), copy and paste the appropriate response with a quick personalization to that client to freshen it up, and then send.

The end result is happier clients (you got back to them fast!), and a more productive you (GO YOU!)

Thoughts? Share them!

C’mon, Man!

By Glen Ervin:

 Assumptions: We all make them all the time. It’s how our brains function, the result of millions of years of evolution (one would assume) during which pretty much everything was trying to kill you. Good times. Problems arise, however, when we confuse our assumptions with reality despite clear evidence to the contrary.

The pipe and tweed crowd refers to the habit of hoarding preconceived notions as cognitive bias, and have come up with some pretty catchy titles to describe its symptoms.

Some you may recognize: the Bandwagon Effect, Confirmation Bias, Cheerleader Effect, the Dunning-Kruger Effect, aka all the other kids are doing it, I’m just here for opinions that agree with mine, five girls in skimpy skirts are better than one girl in a skimpy skirt, and way too many idiots have an inflated opinion of themselves, respectively.

Others less well known have no doubt spread your way.

Maybe you’ve caught an earful of the Sharing Music Doesn’t Hurt Anyone Bias. That’s the shell game some DJs play where they convince themselves that taking caviar off the table of rich recording artists is no big deal while conveniently ignoring the fact that everyone from secretaries to songwriters to how much DJs can charge for their events is negatively impacted by music piracy.

Or maybe it’s the Music Is Free Effect, Real DJs Don’t Use Sync Bias, Real DJs Beatmatch Effect and, my personal favorite, the I Have More Songs On My Hard Drive Than You Do Bias that make you back away from the keyboard and voice the only reasonable response available…

C’mon man!

If you’re in a place where you think you’re entitled to earn a living by ripping off artists and driving down prices for other DJs. Or need to build yourself up by tearing other DJs down, that’s… a choice.

Just know those of us who strive every day to make our best better and value the music that makes doing what we love for a living possible are rolling their eyes.

And while we may not always say it out loud, we’re thinking it…

C’mon man!

After being turned out to pasture following a 16-year club residency, Glen Ervin finds himself gainfully employed as Promo Only sales manager, media consultant and staff writer.