The Human Side of Zuck

Articles pop up all the time about the importance of social media for C-suite executives. It’s a great promotion tactic for thought leadership, helps humanize a brand, and at its core, it’s a great way to network.

Enter Mark Zuckerberg, the 32-year-old CEO and Co-Founder of Facebook. I have a combined fascination and appreciate for Zuckerberg; in many ways, he paved the way for my career in social media strategy with the launch of Facebook. What’s fascinating though is his personality; he’s a textbook developer whose success has thrust him into the limelight since Facebook’s launch in 2004.

I work with a lot of digital people — most of whom would join me in a collective eye roll at being labeled “creatives.” The faces of our web design and development team are pretty fabulous, and while they’re definitely social, their work is so screen-centric that I find myself chatting with them on gchat or via e-mail more than in person.

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t strike me as much different — as a developer, but also as a CEO. He regularly updates his personal Facebook feed with major brand milestones, all of them so perfectly on-brand and message — ie: clearly vetted by someone on his comms team.

But here’s what special, and where he breaks free from the mold: he embraces the innovations that he’s invested in. From Oculus to Instagram, Zuckerberg has started to add a deeper layer of personality to his updates. Since adding dad to his resume, he’s even offered subscribers of his feed a glimpse into the life of his beautiful daughter Maxima.

Alongside Facebook’s investment in virtual reality, its not-so-new Live feature is perhaps one of the most important for the channel, and one that Zuckerberg has really embraced. My favorite broadcast was one that he aired before Sunday’s debate. Zuckerberg streamed live from his Palo Alto backyard, where he was drinking sparkling water and smoking meats. Commenters, myself included, began to dub the broadcast #GrillTalk, and I sincerely hope it takes off.

While Zuckerberg isn’t the only Facebook exec that I follow (I recommend following along with Boz and Ruchi Sanghvi, too!), I think he’s a game changer for C-suite execs who are open to letting the public in a little.

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Fit Happens

I’m not sure that I’ve ever enjoyed a single element of physical fitness. My parents didn’t make a hard push for us to be involved in sports, and our pantry was a haven for fat-free, chemical-laden snacks. Snackwell’s Cookies and Diet Coke were household staples.

Through my oh-so-cruel teenage years I struggled with a trifecta of issues: acne, yo-yoing weight and glasses. Exit: self esteem.

In college, I learned how to cook and started caring about nutrition. I was on the cusp of making a change until friends were gossiping about how I was considering a formal weight-loss program like Weight Watchers.

So I boomeranged. I gained back weight that I worked so hard to lose. Mixed drinks that I passed on, weekend evenings spent at the campus gym; meaningless when matched with college cattiness.

When I moved to New York, I focused more on work and food became an autonomous after-thought. Bagels for breakfast, Thai for lunch, and leftovers for dinner. I tucked away concerns about my nutrition in favor of reminders of my professional success.

Any good publicist or communicator knows that deep down even the most convincing spin can’t stop a crisis from bubbling up.

I’m faced with an unsavory family medical history. My father had a heart attack, is a type-2 diabetic, and has Parkinson’s. My mother has been a fad dieter for as long as I can remember. Together, these characteristics and diagnoses are a recipe for disaster.

Confronting a need for change meant — and still means — that I need to accept and profess imperfection.

A harsh reality of “adulting” — a phrase which is standalone proof of my millennial status — is that as we age, healthy choices and changes are harder to make. More roadblocks pop up, and we have a Seinfeld-style rolodex of excuses to slap on nearly any situation.

As someone with self-professed control issues, it took an appointment with my beloved internist, complete with a well-meaning guilt-trip, for me to come to terms with the path I was haphazardly tiptoeing down and to stop myself from reasoning away my wavering health.

Accustomed to manicures and Ubers, I like the idea of little luxuries. Personal training always felt out of reach to me. I revolve around my personal and professional relationships — I do work in social media, after all — and I couldn’t imagine bonding with someone who was privy to my vulnerabilities.

And then I met a trainer I clicked with. He’s not a buff-bodied bozo. Well, he’s not a bozo, anyways. Time in between sessions is filled with text messages and snapchats. I have a newfound sense of accountability to myself, and to him. Better yet, we’re approaching 40 sessions together and I feel stronger, happier and more determined than I ever would have thought possible.

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There are things that I kvetch about — kettle bell swings are my kryptonite — but ultimately I enjoy each and every workout, because I’m challenging myself. My trainer is my sense of control — which for me equates to comfort. He motivates me through my curmudgeonly approach to exercise, and coaches me to embrace my physical and nutritional potential.

Making time to train twice a week has become second nature bordering on necessity. Every day is a challenge — to be active, to eat smart, to drink water and to stay positive. But the challenge is refreshing, and quite frankly, I like toning muscles that I never knew existed. Lots of road is left to cover, but I’m committed to the journey because I’m committed to myself.

 

Title Fatigue

I’m not a social media guru. I’m also not a ninja or Jedi. These not-so-creative liberties attached to my area of expertise are not cute. In fact, I find them patronizing and offensive.

My industry has been going through an identity crisis since its inception. There’s little consistency across agencies and clients on how to best describe the depth of each social channel, let alone how we title the people who manage them.

Social media will always be evolving — much like how the universe is expanding. My experience is rooted in the agency world, and in under a decade, my title has morphed from PR hierarchical nomenclature to newer, looser titles with overt ties to digital.

My current title reads something like, “Vice President, Social Strategy and Content Marketing,” and the clarification after the formal title was my attempt at claiming stake to the area of social media about which I’m most passionate. I see social strategy as level agnostic. Even as a Vice President, I wouldn’t scoff at being referred to more generally as a social media strategist to someone who doesn’t know or care about agency hierarchy (read: most people).

At my core, I identify as a writer, and over time, that identity has expanded. Aligning myself with the strategist moniker embraces and encompasses my passion for writing, while also compensating for my consumer curiosity, analytical drive, and overall thirst to communicate creatively.

I could easily whittle off a top-10 list of qualities that negate a person’s claims to social media czardom (a phrase that truly makes me wince whenever I see it), but I’d rather make the case that we shift how we think about job titles. Roles should be shaped by an agile vision of how a person or particular area can grow — no limits to inflate impact or truncate potential. Digital teams should be built to flourish in tandem with an always-changing industry.

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And So It Goes

New Years celebrations, much like birthdays, are inevitable, provided you’re alive. If my Bubby Cyrille were still living, she’d insist that I qualify that statement with “G-d willing.”

More major milestones were crammed into 2015 than I would have ever thought possible – including three weddings in my immediate family, two in my extended family, a dog adoption, and a promotion (my sister-in-law calls me Madame Vice President now…) – and so 2016 promises to be quieter, if nothing else.

If my introductory cynicism wasn’t clear enough, let me attempt to reposition myself as a realist instead of a skeptic. Instead of year-long resolutions that might fall through the cracks, I’m going to resolve to make my new year revolve around small wins — at work, the gym, home, etc. I’m optimistic that as we approach 2017, I’ll be a healthier and happier version of myself, but that won’t happen by setting unrealistic expectations. Small wins will allow me to focus on the more immediate and attainable, and will ultimately (hopefully) help me reach more sustainable, long-lasting results across the board.

 

We’re Not Best Friends

Relationships are weird. We’re fed so many different fairytale scenarios about courting and falling in love from movies and TV shows, that when our respective stars don’t quite align as such, we begin to question everything about our bond with our beloved.

I remember when I told Adam he wasn’t my best friend. He was devastated. He replied with some textbook line about how couples are supposed to be best friends. I think my retort was less based in rhetoric, and more in hysterical laughter.

My best friend’s name is Emily. I’ve known her since she was born, and she was the maid of honor in our wedding. She’s the only person on the planet who I can unconditionally confide in, and who I know will always tell me the truth, regardless of whether it will hurt.

Adam is my partner. I used to find it odd when friends or colleagues would refer to their significant other in this way, but I’ve since changed my mind. I’m all about the partnership. (Ironically, the concept of partnership in the vein of collaboration is a key mantra at the company I work for and love).

To be partners in life is to accept, together, anything that you encounter — to explore and to navigate the world together, and most importantly, to build a life together on equal footing.

When I think about my partnership with Adam, I reflect on the vows we wrote jointly, and exchanged on our wedding day:

  1. Do you promise to be a loving friend and partner in marriage?
  2. Do you promise to treat each other with kindness, respect and appreciation?
  3. Do you promise to make laughter an integral part of your family?
  4. Do you promise to listen and learn from each other, support each other, and accept each other’s support?
  5. Do you promise to bear together whatever trouble and sorrow life may lay upon you both, and share together whatever good and joyful things life may bring you?

Partnership and togetherness were at the heart of each question. Adam’s not my best friend. He’s my partner. He’s the person I never want to say goodbye to – only good morning and good night.

The 5 Worst Things About Getting Married

A lot has happened since the last time I published a post – most notably, I got married two weeks ago. I have no regrets about the amazing man I married, our beyond incredible and supportive families, and the future we will build together. That said – and you don’t have to be planning a wedding to know this as a truth – planning a wedding can be a painful process. Things will go wrong, feelings will be hurt, and you’ll be struggling to stay focused on the end result, the ultimate ROI: you’ll soon be marrying your soulmate.

While I compiled a list of 5 things that I found to be the antithesis of wedding-planning bliss, I’m sure there are many more that could qualify.

1. More Money, More Problems: Weddings are expensive. Even if your parents are paying for some, most or all of your wedding, hidden expenses will sneak through. We came to a very fair agreement with our parents about expectations for our contribution, but budgets quickly crept up when Adam picked out an invitation that I fell in love with. I loved everything about it; it was so elegant and modern, and elegance and modernity come at a steep price. At the end of the day, I reasoned that if I wanted something, and I felt strongly about it, I should be the one to pay for it. That to me, and to Adam, was the ultimate test for necessity.

2. We Are Family: When people say that weddings bring out the worst in people, they’re not always talking about the immediate family. I think it’s the residual family who can often be pinpointed as the culprit for bad behavior. My advice to brides on this is to omit any people who won’t be able to focus on supporting you and your partner. I’m especially close with my parents and siblings – my immediate family – and my mother’s family. That said, there are deep-rooted feuds in my father’s family that have turned into immature grudges across parties, and have since trickled down to my generation. If I could go back again, I would have made a stronger argument with my parents that the room should only be filled with people who genuinely want to be there, not out of perceived protocol, but out of love and support. Thankfully, we had so many relatives and friends (who are basically family at this point) make the trek to Michigan – all the way from England, to Florida, New York, California, Indiana, Washington, Illinois, DC and beyond.

3. We Make Plans, And G-d Laughs: During our ceremony, the ketubah fell off of its easel, the lights were switched on by accident, the photo booth was unbearably warm, and our “first dance” song (In My Life by The Beatles) wouldn’t play for the DJ (he rigged it so that it would play from my phone through a microphone). There are mistakes you just can’t plan for, and it’s important to accept it, with no expectations beforehand. The only thing you can really realistically plan for is that you are getting married. My rabbi was so sweet; he could sense my type-A personality from my initial e-mail to him about his availability. He made sure to caution me about keeping focused on the love that we’re celebrating, and not the to-do lists and planning. I think he may have underestimated how a career in PR prepares you for poise in the face of even the most ultimate screw-ups and disasters.

4. You Can’t Always Get Your Way: I know that I’m neurotic, and that it’s in my nature to be controlling. But, as much as one’s eventual marriage is a partnership, so, too, is the planning process. I wasn’t one of those women who had her entire wedding planned before meeting the groom. In fact, navigating this with someone by my side was exactly what I needed for each of the minuscule details to be digestible and actionable. I chose so many of the elements, that I really was thrilled when Adam showed remote interest in things like the food, music, and invitations. I decided to forfeit control (with 5 vetoes), so that he could feel like his personal touch was also part of our big day.

5. If You Have Nothing Nice to Say, Don’t Say It At All: From the moment you get engaged, outside opinions will start to percolate. I sometimes think that all brides and grooms should go through media training to learn how to weather the naysayers and over-opinionated. Even now, two weeks post-marriage, my mother comments on how she doesn’t like the way I’ve chosen to stack my bands with my engagement ring. And, as I tell her without polish, I don’t really care.

You will almost definitely experience some sort of struggle in the wedding planning process, and it may not even creep up until the big day. It’s important to remember that while you could certainly sit here and whittle away a list of hundreds of crappy things/opinions/people/all of the above that you encountered along the way, none of that negativity is going to help usher you down the aisle. Turn off the noise around you, and focus on the fact that at some point soon, you’ll be saying “I do.”

 

That Thing About Birthdays

As of last Friday, I’m another year older. In two days, I’ll be one year and a week older. I feel older, but I don’t know that I feel wiser. Birthdays are funny in that way. As a kid, I treated my birthday as a social event. Naturally, back then I couldn’t flex my type-A planning talent, and my parents took the reins on planning. When I hit high school, I placed equal – albeit more controlled – importance on my day. My grandparents also contributed to my annual one-day sense of entitlement. They treated us, each of their 10 grandchildren, to “special days” – daylong shopping trips with lunch. I remember one year (4th grade, if I remember correctly) I opted for a Barbie (the FAO Schwarz Barbie) instead of a more mature option: pearl earrings.

This year, I did the 26-year-old equivalent of a Barbie trade. Adam offered to throw me a happy hour. He lives to surprise me. He even made a Facebook event (in my world – a world that’s dictated by social media engagement and activity – that’s a big deal). And, in classic Kirsch form, I decided that because it was out of my control, I didn’t want it. Even with a wedding on the way, the idea of being the center of attention is far less appealing in my personal life versus my professional life. We’ve had so many milestones in the past year, that I’m kind of celebrated out. So, instead of a happy hour, we did something that removed us far from the center. We attended a Knicks game, along with hundreds (maybe thousands, I’m not good at guessing these sorts of things) of other New Yorkers and the like. Hank Azaria was there, too. So that was something.

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I spent my birthday exactly how I wanted. I feel like that’s how it should be. I should be able to control my day, after all. I took the day off of work (which is hard when you love your job as much as I love mine), ate a solo lunch at Il Bambino (their crostini are delectable – get the olive spread, and you’ll have no regrets), hopped over for a mani/pedi at Kiki’s (it turns out that a spa pedicure is totally worth the up-charge), and perused the newly opened Lockwood Style, sister shop to Lockwood on 33rd Street in Astoria.

Maybe I’ll feel different in 2015. I don’t know. Until then, I’m grateful for the well-wishes, the macarons from my colleagues, the perfume from a dear friend, the cards and all other tchotchkes. Would I be deemed ungrateful if I said I could have done without the cold?