FYI Blog

Avalon Dispatch 04.23.2024

Client recognition, a direct mail revival, marketing lessons from a classic condiment, how to reduce public speaking anxiety, our favorite SNL skit, and more—all in this week’s @AvalonFYI dispatch. Read it here!

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Dear friends,

Greetings from my home in Annapolis, where I’m preparing to host the entire Avalon team for a dinner party! The event is part of Avalon Week, our annual all-staff gathering that will take place April 30 – May 2. Your teams have been preparing in advance and all work will stay on schedule. I’m thrilled to host the team in Annapolis this year and can’t wait to see everyone in person.

Last week, I visited my high school alma mater for board meetings. Every time we meet, I am reminded how meaningful board service has been for me personally, and for my growth as a leader. While there, I also spoke on a career panel for students. One of their questions was about what I took away from my high school years, and I talked about how the women in my life play a powerful role in centering me in so many ways. My friends from college, my book club, my tennis group, and my CEO group all provide essential support and lots of laughter, and those friendships are a huge priority in my life. I am grateful and hope every person reading can relate.

On a client note, VP Dara Igersheim and senior account director Kristin Dlesk shared a Time Magazine essay about the importance of accurate and inclusive representation of Indigenous peoples in museums. The National Museum of the American Indian is mentioned as a leader in the important effort to honor the diversity of Native peoples. Congratulations to our friends at NMAI for this well-deserved recognition:

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, D.C., founded as part of implementing [the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act], was a way to responsibly deal with the large collection of Native American skeletal remains and sacred burial objects held by the Smithsonian. But the NMAI has become far more than that. Its Indigenous designers, curators, and administrators, in part with funding from Native nations, have built a public space with locations in D.C. and Manhattan where everyone can learn about Native peoples—in all their diversity—as continuing nations with living cultures, as real human beings in the past, present, and future.

In marketing this week, I saw an article in Forbes on the latest “direct mail revival.” These headlines always make me laugh because nonprofit fundraisers never gave up on direct mail in the first place. Mail has always been an essential channel for keeping programs, strategies, and budgets on track while exploring digital opportunities. As a result, our sector is well positioned to make the most of digital and leverage multi-channel strategies. Still, it’s nice to hear commercial marketers acknowledge that direct mail isn’t dead:

But consider today’s consumer, who likely only gets a few pieces of mail in their mailbox each week, but receives thousands of emails a month. The balance has shifted for these consumers, who are not overly saturated with direct mail, but are highly overwhelmed by emails and social media ads. The stats show a growing interest in direct mail among consumers: In 2022 alone, direct mail showed an ROI of 43%.

Also from the commercial sector, marketing VP Barb Perell shared a few marketing lessons from ketchup magnate H.J. Heinz. Not only was he known for constantly experimenting and testing new ideas, but he wasn’t afraid to think big. In 1900, Heinz changed New York City forever with the first large-scale electric billboard, which lit up 23rd and Broadway where the Flatiron Building now stands. Barb drew our attention to three important insights:

  • Offer something that saves people time and energy.
  • Show confidence in the quality of your work.
  • Draw people in with something intriguing and unique.


For your next presentation, senior VP Jackie Libby shared advice on public speaking anxiety. Author Stephanie Vozza covers both reducing the sources of anxiety and relieving symptoms like shallow breathing, blushing, and perspiration. I particularly like the advice to stay “present-focused,” which does more than just calm your nerves. Staying in the moment also improves a talk by keeping you engaged with and responsive to your audience.

At Avalon, our virtual gatherings committee hosted Earth Day trivia. As senior director of HR Melissa Ferrell put it, “eco-themed dad jokes were in abundance and the competition was hotter than a compost pile on a sunny day.” Congratulations to the winning team, “Bonnie Tyler,” who totally eclipsed their opponents!

Finally, Jackie made our day by forwarding Saturday Night Live’s “Papyrus 2,” the sequel to their famous skit, “Papyrus.” Both skits feature Ryan Gosling as a distraught graphic designer who is triggered by the font of the Avatar logo. “Papyrus” is a running joke at Avalon, where we know that font design can surface big opinions. Enjoy the laugh!

Take care,
Allison signature gray

Allison Porter headshot

Allison Porter, President
Avalon Consulting Group