Give me a break

I am going to borrow from John Stossel’s news reports called “Give Me a Break” today.

As a writer, my goal is to reach and engage as many people as possible.  It also means constantly having to come up with something new and exciting to write about.  It also means that I’ve seen my original content “borrowed” many times whether I want it to or not.

Whether it was articles I’ve written, marketing programs I created, and/or even proposal ideas that another company took as their own; anything and everything is up for grabs in an Internet based world.  The way I see it, you can either take the reprinting of content as a compliment or copyright.  I choose compliment.  In part because I have no idea where to draw the line and prefer not to waste my time fighting with people when I could be winning them over instead.  It seems I might be in the minority.

Where’s the line?

Why do news websites get to report and print pictures and it is ok but if blogger sites do the same thing, they are considered thieves?

What is considered a “legitimate” news site?  Is it the number of articles on the site, the writers, or something else?

Do articles or content have a shelf life?

Can writers forget or rescind their permission?

So, how does this relate to my “Give Me A Break” theme?  Well, today I got a call from a magazine that said we had re-printed an article from one of their writer’s without permission.  First, we always get permission from writers.  Second, we always give attribution.  Third, this particular article was over 10 years old and buried on our website in a “dead articles” area. (i.e. no one except the writer even knew it existed there anymore).

What may have inadvertently brought this article back to life is our new website software.  The software is very in-tuned to search engines and we are now getting higher than ever page rankings.  So, much so, that I think we might have started to get higher rankings from this article than the author.  That’s what I believe got them to call us.  Funny thing, after re-reading the article (it’s been so long since we have seen it) we realized it did not belong on our website.  It was out of date, a bit “dark” in theme, and in the time on our website had garnered a whopping 33 readers.

So, we removed it.  Is this justice served or much ado about nothing?


The Secret Rufo Wedding Soup Recipe

Although this is a business oriented blog, I did get a request for our family’s Wedding Soup recipe.  This recently came up as the best way I could think of to get rid of a cold or flu.  Which of course, the faster you can get better, the better it will be for your business!


Dear Reader,

As far as we know this is also the first time the “official” Rufo Wedding Soup recipe has been put to paper.  This recipe was acquired through watching the Rufo women cook the recipe.  It was handed down by word-of-mouth and never committed to paper until now.  We encourage you to read through steps, whether you ever decide to make the soup or not.  We of course included our own commentary…

We hope you enjoy the soup.  Traditionally, it was made for special occasions or people.

The Jim & Samantha Rufo Wedding Soup, Secret Recipe

Soup Ingredients
1 weekend

6-8 chicken breasts, with bones and skin

2 cups celery, chopped

2 cups carrots, peeled & chopped

7-8 good sized bunches of escarole

1 large yellow onion, whole

1 cup uncooked Acine di Pepe pasta (very tiny)

Meatball ingredients

1 pound of ground chuck

1 pound of ground pork

1 pound of ground veal

9 unpeeled garlic cloves

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Please no green cans!  Only fresh stuff for this recipe)

27 saltine crackers, crushed fine

1 ½ Heaping tsp of salt

¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper

¾ tsp dried oregano (Preferably from your garden)

1 ½ tsp dried basil

3 Tbl chopped fresh parsley or ¾ tsp dried

¾ cup water

3 eggs

3 tsp tomato paste

Lots of Love*



2 Large Soup pots

2 baking sheets

3 large mixing bowls

2 small mixing bowls

1 slotted spoon

Large colander

Measuring cup & spoons

Storage containers

Tip: Make the meatballs prior to the soup.  This is one of the more time consuming steps.

Step 1.

A) Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the unpeeled garlic and toast for approximately 5 minutes or until the skins have brown spots.

In the meanwhile start the next step.

B) Measure out all the meatball ingredients for easier assemblage.  After you get the crackers together, and measure out the spices, the garlic should be ready to remove from the stove.  Take the garlic off the heat, peel, mince, and set aside.

At this point, some people might question the use of crackers in the meatballs.  All must realize that this recipe has evolved from several years of serious study and reflection both at home and abroad.  Jim has even roughed up a few Italian grandmothers for their secrets.  Our goal of the foolproof meatball, that was tender but wonderful, only came about through this recipe.  Why do you ask?

  • Why three different ground meats? No single meat can do it alone. All beef meatballs will be dark, coarse & chewy. Pork or veal alone will lack flavor. With the mix, beef provides the meatiness and chew, pork the flavor and texture, veal for tenderness.
  • Why crackers instead of bread? The higher the ration of bread, the blander and mushier the meatball. But, no bread, equals a course meatball. We’ve tried all kinds of breads. We’ve added milk to make the bread softer. We’ve dried bread for bread crumbs. But nothing seams to work to bring out the full flavor as Saltine crackers.
  • Why water? No other liquid- milk, beef or chicken broth, wine, etc. lets the true taste come through.
  • Why roast the garlic? Unless you are having a vampire problem or want to taste garlic for days, you do not want to use raw garlic.
  • Do I need to follow the recipe and the steps exactly? Yes, trust us. There is no other way. If you change it, then we are not responsible for the resulting flavor. And may result in the meatball police at your doorstep.

C) Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, cheese, garlic, and spices.  Mix gently with your fingers.  Make sure there are no clumps of garlic. Set aside.

D) In another large bowl, combine the three meats.  Using your hands works the best.  At this stage two people work well together.  One to get their hands dirty and the other to add the ingredients.

E) Now add the crumb mixture to the meat mixture.  It will be a bit dry, but keep mixing until the ingredients are combined.

F) In a small bowl, whisk the eggs.  Add the water a little bit at a time, while you are whisking the eggs.  After they are combined, add the tomato paste and whisk until smooth.  Add to the meat mixture.  It will seem like too much liquid.  Don’t worry, it’s not!  Continue mixing until the liquid is absorbed and voila, you have meatball mix.

G) Take 2 cookie sheets and spray them with a non-stick cooking spray.  Place the meatball mixture on the sheets and spread until smooth.  The height should be approximately ¼ – ½ inch.  Place in the oven for approximately 10-12 minutes.  They will be done cooking when they are no longer pink.  Pour off any grease.  Grab a spatula and start cutting narrow even lines up and across the sheets.  You are cutting the small “square” meatballs.  They should cut without crumbling.  We recommend doing this while they are still hot and easy to maneuver.  After you are done, move the meatballs to another dish and refrigerate.  They are now ready to be added to the soup, somewhere down the line.

Step 2.

A) Find a large, 4-5 gallon pot.  Prepare the carrots and celery.  Peel the onion.

B) Wash & pat dry the chicken.  Place in the pot and pour water over to cover.  Now, head back to the sink and rinse out one final time.  Fill the pot ¾ full with water and place on the stove over high heat, bring to a boil.  For flavor, the chicken breasts must have their bones and skin.  As the chicken boils, skim the froth that rises to the top.  This will take 15-20 minutes to remove all this froth.  Be patient and wear comfy shoes.

C) After all the froth has been removed; add the celery, carrots, and onion.  As the soup is cooking you will add salt & pepper numerous times.  This is the first.  Add about a ¼ cup of salt and generous grindings of pepper.  Cover and place on low heat for 1 ½ hours.

No you are not done yet.  If you need to take a break, no more than 10 minutes.  If you have not already started, grab a bottle of wine and start drinking, it helps you to forget how long this process takes.  Just remember, the finished product will be worth it.

Step 3.

A) Escarole, it’s your friend.  You and your friend are now ready for the next adventure.  Place the escarole in the sink.  Cover with water and soak to remove any grit.  Drain and break pieces into smaller sections.

B) Grab your other large soup pot and fill ¾ full with water.  Place on high heat and bring to a boil.  Fill pot with escarole.  You may still notice quite a bit left over on your counter.  As we mentioned, this might take awhile.  You will not be able to put all the escarole in at once.  Instead, it will take numerous pots.  Please note, use the same water. Hey, at least there’s one step you can cheat on!  Parboil escarole until it turns darker in color.  Drain and set aside.  Toss the water, not the escarole.

Now take some time to be confused as to how 8 bunches of escarole can shrivel to the size of a tennis ball.

Step 4.  The Final Phase, (Hopefully you are still with us)

A) Remove the meatballs from the refrigerator.  Let them come to room temperature.  Time to remove the chicken from its bath.  The broth is the foundation for the soup, do not discard or remove from the stove.

B) Remove the bones and skin from the chicken.  Set the bones aside, do not discard.  Break apart the breast meat with your hands into small, bite sized pieces.  Return meat to pot.  Place the bones in a section of cheesecloth.  Tie the cheesecloth tightly and place in the pot.  This is added for flavor, but must be removed after cooking.

C) Add the cooked escarole and the meatballs to the soup pot.  Cover and place on medium-low heat, for 2 ½ hours.  Add ¼ cup salt & several groundings of pepper.  The soup should simmer but not boil.  Stir occasionally.

D) 30 minutes before the soup is done cooking, add the uncooked pasta. Salt & pepper again to taste.

E) After the soup cools down, ladle into storage containers.

Tip: The longer the soup sits, the better the flavor.  So, yes, after all this work, you can’t even eat it right away.


Return on Engagement

So, maybe I have been hiding under a rock, but today was the first time I’ve heard the expression that “ROE” or “Return on Engagement” has replaced “ROI” or “Return on Investment” (in the marketing universe).

Active vs. passive

So what is ROE?  It’s about focusing on engagement, and relationships, and attracting and rewarding the right kind of brand advocates to help spread your message.  It is getting people involved in what you do and how you do it.  Or at least that’s what I believe it means.  The term is so new, it doesn’t even have a place in Wikipedia yet.

With social media and the new social networks it has changed how we build a marketing plan.  Although social media does not have an upfront price tag like radio or TV, it is labor intensive and has a reputation (just for kids, not business worthy, etc)  it still needs to get past.  Using social networks for business practices is still new.  There are stumbling blocks.  But, for those that figure it out, the return can be big (as the early adopter that everyone else will try to mirror).

Should ROI ever have been used when it applied to marketing?  Probably not.  How do you really determine the ROI of a radio spot?  Isn’t it more about the response?  That’s why I think ROE is brilliant.  It allows us as marketers to clarify a business who our best customers are and what we can do to continue to excite and engage them.  No matter what the means or marketing channel.


Here’s the start of my check list for ROE.  Should these be here?  What others should be added & why?

* Value for advocacy: what is the cost per action as applied to advocacy or outreach (branding, education, etc) campaigns. Including being able to access as many people as possible when your version of a Katrina hits or you have a window of opportunity where the issue you’re working on hits the headlines.

* Recruitment: how many friends per week have been acquired?  How many lost?

* Opportunity cost: how many hours per week have my staff or volunteers devoted to spending time in social networks?

* Viral benefit of social networks: if you have a network in place, you might increase your chances of reaching a lot of people to spread your news. Most social networks are set up to enable communications with a lot of people quickly.

* Demographics: is the audience you’re recruiting from the social network appropriate for your organization?

* Message control: your message is likely to get picked up by others, and to be successful, some amount of message control will likely need to be sacrificed.

* Investing in the future: Maybe the younger demographic of the social networks will be interested in your organization in the future, so start building awareness now.