dinner, drinks and conversation

11.26.2019 - THANKFUL FOR DELICIOUS FRIENDSHIPS

THE ORIGINAL 'FRIENDSGIVING' AND WEEKNIGHT RESOURCEFULNESS (by Meghan Snyder)

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I think it’s a combination of the food (oh, the food) and the focus on family togetherness. There are no extra distractions, and it’s a nice break from the world. It’s literally a big meal with the people I love most.

In fact, one of my favorite college memories was the Thanksgiving celebrations we did together with our group of friends – this was before “Friendsgiving” was officially a thing. It was also my introduction to cooking a turkey. I’ll never forget that day. With another brave girlfriend, beers in hand at 9 a.m., a ton of butter and salt, and her southern grandma on the phone, we prepped not one, but six turkeys. Once the prep work was done, we delivered each turkey to a different oven location. We then spent the next few hours checking on our turkeys until they were done. Almost all six came out beautifully, and all were edible. To this day, when it’s my turn to make the turkey, I still use the exact same recipe and enjoy all the memories that come flooding back.

The way our Friendsgiving worked, each person attending either brought a side item (category assigned) or paid a set amount of money. The event grew each year with more and more people joining in. Little did we know (much like a “Selfie”) this type of event would someday have an actual name – “Friendsgiving.”

Today, nearly 20 years after that first college Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful to have landed in a neighborhood full of great friends. Pulling a meal together through collaboration on a weeknight amidst the kids’ many activities and crazy life schedule has become a regular occurrence with one neighbor. Every time it happens, I’m reminded of those college thanksgivings. These dinners are not planned like those were. They are very haphazard. Sometimes it’s just my family and hers. Other nights, additional neighbor families join in.

It’s always unexpected. It’s always fun. It’s always a little chaotic and a bit of puzzle. Most importantly, it’s always delicious. Oh, and there’s always wine. The typical method of meal creation is a quick discussion about what each of us was planning for dinner (or what we didn’t plan), what’s already in a slow cooker and what odds and ends might be in our refrigerator/pantry already, including left-overs. Once we’ve pulled something together, I’m always impressed with our resourcefulness and the meal we’ve created. Some evenings, it looks like a pot-luck party with Chile, enchiladas, shrimp, chicken, etc. Other nights, it looks like a beautiful spread worthy of a restaurant menu.

That was the case just last week. We created a beautiful plate of salmon topped with avocado, crab cakes and roasted brussels sprouts. Would you ever believe this came together in a matter of minutes, with no prior planning, simply pulling from ingredients we each had? Yes, we also ate it off paper plates.

At a time of year when we are giving Thanks. I’m thankful for these dinners and the friendship that is shared while creating and enjoying them (both for the adults and the kids). It takes a village to raise a family, and my village totally rocks.


11.22.2019 - REMEMBER, LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING.

TASTING A COUPLE WINES FROM PARADISE SPRINGS WINERY (by Meghan Snyder)

Working in the wine industry comes with long hours and late nights, but it certainly comes with a few perks too. I get to enjoy fantastic food and fun drinks while technically on the clock. Pretty sweet if I do say so myself. Even better, sometimes, I get to share the wealth with friends and family.

That was the case this week. I was tasked by The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce to taste the wines planned for their upcoming Annual Dinner. Truth be told, I volunteered for this assignment, as I was a bit concerned the selected white, Paradise Springs Sommet Blanc 2017 might be a bit sweeter than what the crowd would want.

This was a classic case of "judging the book by its cover." The wine is packaged beautifully in a Riesling shaped bottle. The tasting notes online are for the 2018 vintage, mention some of the classic components of a Riesling. Let me be the first to say, I love a good Riesling (but that's for another post), and I fully understand that Rieslings can be dry - bone dry in fact. Still, I wanted to be sure.

I enjoy visiting all our local wineries here in Virginia. Much of my career has focused on import brands and wines from California, so seeing what Virginia has to offer is a fun adventure right in my own backyard. I had never visited Paradise Springs, nor had I ever tried their wines. The owner of the property was recently recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine as one of "40 under 40 tastemakers," which further peeked my interest.

It was a busy week and challenging to get to the property, so I simply purchased the white and the chosen red as well (I mean, why not), and planned to taste through the wines at home one evening after work. My parents, my husband and a neighbor made the "sacrifice" and joined me as well. We made things very official and carefully tasted both wines. Then we had a very thorough and thoughtful discussion about each. My friends and family role their eyes sometimes at my wine geekiness, but I know they secretly love it, and enjoy the knowledge and experience they get when I'm in that mode.

Long story short, these wines will be poured at the Annual Dinner in early December. The Sommet Blanc offered just the perfect amount of sweetness on the palate and should pair nicely with the shrimp component of the planned meal. I would have liked a bit more acidity, but that's me. It was dry and crisp overall with classic petrol on the nose like a Riesling and nice citrus and tropical fruit flavors coating the mouth. The finish lingers but is not drying. I think this wine will be a crowd-pleaser as it hits right in that mid-point between sweet and dry. This bottling (2017) is listed on the label as 100% Vidal Blanc.

The red we tasted was the Melange (sorry, didn't snap a pic or note the vintage), a Bordeaux blend. It should pair nicely with the steak on the plate, and is smooth and gentle enough not to make the shrimp taste metallic. This red has a lot of nice red berry fruit and tart cherry along with hints of spice. Nice mouthfeel and a lighter bodied wine than I'd imagined. The tannins are smooth, with absolutely no red wine burn - again making it a crowd-pleaser, even for the white wine drinkers. This could easily be enjoyed with or without food.

I look forward to a visit to Paradise Springs in the future, both to see the property and taste through more of their wines. When I started in the wine industry, Virginia had around 75 accredited wineries. Don't hold me to this, but I think that number is up past 280 now. The industry has come a long way in 20 years. It's worth mentioning too that Paradise Springs has a property in California as well, so they're taking the best of both coasts perhaps.

9.30.2019 - TRY SOMETHING NEW. I DARE YOU.

TRYING SOMETHING NEW IS WORTH THE ADVENTURE (by Meghan Snyder)

If you have kids, you know how hard it is to get them to try a new food. You've worked hard to cook a healthy dinner, and little Susie takes one look at an unfamiliar plate and declares, "Ewww, I'm not eating that!" You set off on your normal routine of negotiating and coaxing her to just take one bite.

"Just try it," you say. "You might like it."

Some nights you likely emerge victorious, and other nights, not so much. Win or lose, it's a good representation of the fear of trying something new. As someone with a love of all things food, wine and adventure, I'm always willing to take the first bite. Bring it on. As a PR professional, however, I'm more cautious. How will what I say impact my client? How will what I say portray my client? These are just a few of the many questions that surface. Experience guides me in these situations so I make the best decision I can.

It's oftentimes necessary to try something new in your PR approach. Maybe this means being more transparent with staff. Maybe it means reorganizing your website. Maybe it's taking a more creative approach with a news story, or the media to whom that story is pitched. These are the places slight tweaks may make all the difference. For example, 10 years ago in the wine industry, it was considered "risky" for a wine company to have a social media presence. Now, it's the norm.

It was a novel idea to pitch wine and food articles to non-wine or non-food publications/journalists. There was really no risk associated with this, it was just a new and different idea. We did it anyway, and it paid off. The benefits of possible publication far outweighed the fear of it being something new and out of the ordinary.

I'm not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and serve your kids liver and onions for dinner. I am, however, urging you to think outside the box. Consider suggestions that seem more creative and a little scary. At least give them a little mind share before 86ing them completely. Not every new idea is a good idea - that's for sure. But, who knows you might find a whole new audience or the next big ambassador for your brand. Go ahead, I dare you, take just one little bite!

10.19.2012 - BLEND THE OLD AND THE MODERN

TRADITIONAL PR IS NOT DEAD (by Meghan Snyder)

At the onset of our contracts, the majority of my clients have very little interest in traditional PR. In fact, most of them aren’t even quite sure what traditional PR is. When I say, “the media” for example, they usually respond with, “You mean social media.” No, I didn’t mean social media. I meant the good old fashioned press, and no, it’s not obsolete. It’s still very important to a well-rounded communications plan.

Sure, the vehicle may have changed some, with people getting news from electronic devices such as smart phones and tablets, but they’re still reading articles written by someone. Therefore reporters, in the traditional sense still exist, and PR in the traditional sense exists too. Whether in print, online or in someone’s inbox, scoring a mention in an article with a news outlet carries a lot of weight with the target audience. And, please don’t underestimate the power of the blogger. Popular bloggers have taken on the role of talented reporters. Their names often appear on media lists and their influence is undeniable. Many of these self-made journalists are watched by thousands, even millions, and carry a lot of weight with their audience.

PR is an ever-changing vehicle, and therefore, many of the traditional methods have taken on a more modern spin. For example, the way PR practitioners engage their media contacts has changed – making use of social media platforms and email. Despite that, the phone call or in-person meeting is still very effective.

Newsletters have taken on two lives – the print version and the digital replica. The practice of writing a newsletter is about as traditional as it gets. Many clients still choose to produce a print version, but many more are utilizing email blast technology, websites and blogs to share their stories. Writing this important piece of marketing communication with consistency and authority is necessary to be seen as a resource and an expert. The good news is it’s a viable source of information across many platforms.

The list of traditional functions goes on: Fact Sheets, Brochures, News Advisories, News Releases, Media Relationships, Public Service Announcements, etc.

While this post is about traditional PR and the importance of it, please don’t misunderstand. The modern world has many new avenues through which to build and maintain relationships with the desired publics. These same tools are there to spread company news and interact directly. No PR plan would be complete without including things such as social media, blogs, and other electronic media.

DOOR CLOSED - WINDOW OPENED

4.12.2012 - GETTING THE MESSAGE AND PASSING IT ON (by Meghan Snyder)

I recently received some unexpected news, news that would be, in some ways, life changing. At the time it was delivered I would've considered it to be bad news, and I'm sure the deliverer saw it that way as well. Immediately upon receiving the phone call, I knew I was not going to like what I was about to hear. Still I listened intently for the message. The conversation was rather brief, but informative.

Upon hanging up the phone, I felt somewhat shocked about what I had just heard (door closed). It had all come out of left field. However, upon allowing the information to settle, I realized this bad news is possibly a blessing, an opportunity, a kick in the rear to make some changes (window opened). Now, I'm feeling optimistic and energized. Because of the somewhat sensitive nature of the message, a portion of my conversation dealt with what could and could not be discussed and what timelines needed to be considered.

Now, I have to be sure to carefully get the message out to others for my own benefit. While respecting the guidelines I was given, I must spread the word. This could be a tricky game in communication, but it's important. With honest words and careful sentiment, I have begun passing the word along and reaching out to those best suited. I will be thoroughly honest, carefully critical, completely respectful, totally tactful and fully invested. It's the way it has to be. I'm waiting to see where this next chapter will take me, but one thing is for sure... through carefully crafted, thoughtful and considerate communication I'm heading for that open window full-throttle and do not plan on looking back at the closed door.

IT SOUNDS YUMMY... I THINK.

3.22.2012 - THE IMPORTANCE OF A PROOFREADER (by Meghan Snyder)

I knew when I started the blog for this site, that keeping up with it would be a difficult task. That has proven to be true. In any case, I'm striving to do a better job this year and block out some time to keep it current.

That fact, is really not important when it comes to the topic at hand - proofreading. So often I'm visiting a favorite establishment or reading some kind of document, whether professional or otherwise, when I'm briefly distracted by a typo, a grammatical error or just a simple mistake - likely resulting from the author's misunderstanding.

When this happens it typically causes a chuckle or a pause. Unfortunately, it also causes me to question why it happened. Did it happen because the piece was rushed out the door without an extra set of eyes? Did it happen because the author didn't want to pay a proofreader? Did it happen because the author's first language is not English? I mean let's face it, English is not the easiest of languages. and many of the rules and words seem plain silly - think silent "g" for example, and how many forms of "there" and "to" do we really need? It's no wonder people make mistakes.

With such an unclear path to navigate, every author can benefit from a proofreader - even if the text is short and sweet. Outsourcing this function can bring truly fresh eyes to a piece. Having a completely impartial person do the proofing may offer insight beyond the written word - perhaps something is unclear to the general population. Catching such things in addition to finding any English language issues make this person an invaluable resource.

For those who prefer not to pay someone for this service, find someone inside the organization to look over the piece. it doesn't have to be someone who's particularly advancing in English (although it wouldn't hurt), it just has to be someone who is looking at the document without having read it multiple times previously.

There is, of course, no guarantee that every mistake will be found, but running a piece by a proofreader first will only help. Companies work hard on their messaging, and to have a reader distracted from that messaging because of English language missteps is a disappointing reality. Oftentimes, a reader only has a few seconds to read something, understand and retain it. It's important their progress is not roadblocked by too many or too few commas, incorrect word usage or confusing sentence structure. Go ahead - get a proofreader. Everyone's doing it, or at least they should be.

USE YOUR EYES, NOT JUST YOUR EARS

1.12.2011 - CUSTOMER SERVICE: STRONG COMMUNICATION REQUIRES MORE THAN JUST YOUR MOUTH (by Meghan Snyder)

I am constantly surprised by people lack of attention to detail when it comes to communication. This especially holds true in situations of customer service - something about which I feel very strongly. The other day I was with my family dining at a local sports bar. There were several football games going on and many fans in the establishment watching the game. The service at this particular location is always friendly and fast. The food is good too. This particular time however, we witnessed something that made us go huh?!

Many patrons were arriving at the restaurant dressed in the fan ware of their favorite teams. They would request a table from the server and the server would take them to a table right away. This happened time and time again. Each time, we watched and laughed as the hostess directed the patrons to a table WITHOUT a view of their preferred team's game. The patrons of course reseated themselves each and every time. Not only was this a comical situation analysis for me, but it was also a fantastic example of poor communication as a result of non-verbal communication.

The hostesses working at a sports bar on a game day should know instinctively (or because they've been trained) that patrons arriving wearing certain colors need to be seated in front of certain games. These sames hostesses should also know to ask patrons (who are not dressed in favor of a team) if there is a specific game they would like to watch. I mean it isn't rocket science and it truly would improve the initial experience of the restaurant guests.

These observation skills play a key roll in successful communication and the power of such skills cannot be underestimated. Next time your communicating with someone about anything, look for the non-verbal signals. It's amazing the amount of information that can be gained this way and the positive effect that information can have on the outcome of the communication at hand.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES

12.31.2010 – AN INTRODUCTION (by Meghan Snyder)

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Before I begin, I want to thank all of the wonderful clients I had the pleasure of working with in 2010. The year brought many wonderful opportunities, fantastic relationships, and stories of success, welcome challenge and a wealth of valuable experiences. I look forward to continuing each of these relationships and further building business with each unique story and message. Please join me in looking ahead with enthusiasm to a fabulous 2011. Cheers!

The launch of this blog is a new outlet, a new creative source, a new tool of communication, a way to express myself and to hear the expression of others, a way to share, chat and examine. I am encountered every day by experiences of communication – we all are. Some are wildly successful, some – not so much. Occasionally the message is subtle or even hidden. Perhaps, it’s not even intentional. Sometimes it’s blunt, rude or unfounded. Then, there are times, when it’s perfect, beautiful, clean and clear. Through the daily adventures of life, my passion and commitment for not only the art of communication, but things such as food and wine, family, friends and customer service, I look forward to telling these tales while always being careful to read between the lines.