Telling your story

My name is Kecia Bal. I am delighted to be able to introduce myself as part of the MASSolutions team because the firm takes an integrated, holistic approach to marketing that incorporates my passion: Storytelling.

As a newspaper and magazine reporter, I have spent the past 10 years learning the art of storytelling ─ finding the authentic spark or specialness we all have and uncovering that and sharing it so others can appreciate it. It’s not always easy or obvious, but the work is rewarding and uplifting. Sometimes, it is easier for us to see and express that shimmery part of the story in others than it is for us to tell our own story. Being able to share your own uniqueness and strengths is a critical part of success, personally and professionally.


I recently interviewed Breitling Energy’s President and CEO Chris Faulkner, an unconventional drilling industry leader who is so outspoken and active he has been dubbed the “frack master.” Faulkner has made the rounds on national media networks and knows how to tell his company’s story by positioning himself as an advocate for energy independence. In his interview for Energy Executive Magazine, he summed it up:

“We need to do a much better job telling our story and getting community buy-in at every step.”

For ideas on how you can get community ─ and customer ─ buy-in, MASSolutions President Dave Mastovich offers a new book: Light Reading Top 10 with tips to make your story more engaging and compelling. This is a quick, easy-to-absorb read so you can start improving your storytelling and messaging today. Right now, he’s offering this guide as a free download at  Thanks for your time! I look forward to learning your stories and hearing how storytelling has helped you connect with your clients.

How Do We Read Today?

We don’t.

Even though you might have found the question interesting, a third of you are already moving on to something else.

Whether reading (or should I say skimming?) online or print, we rarely finish a story or article.  And we don’t move smoothly from left to right as we follow the words across the page.

Eye tracking research from web guru Jakob Nielsen shows that we sweep our eyes across the page in a pattern that is shaped like an F, starting in the upper left corner. We tend to take two horizontal swipes across the page, then swipe vertically down the left.


Uh oh. We are now past the point (around 100 words) where more than half the original readers are gone. Wish you were here.

When it comes to scrolling, most people don’t even bother.  Of those that do, 80% of their time is spent looking “above the fold” (the part of the web page visible when users first land there or the part above the fold of a newspaper) and only 20% below the fold or after the scroll.

If you’ve stuck with me, it’s time to help improve your messaging:

  • Put the most important content first. Review some of your recent emails. Were the first two sentences powerful or did you fumble your opening?
  • Avoid claims and exaggerations. If it sounds like an ad, skimmers ignore it.
  • Feature bulleted lists like this one.
  • Focus on one idea per paragraph and tie each paragraph to the main theme.
  • Use memorable images to help tell your story. Photos of products or real people work better than stock photos.

Since only friends and relatives are still reading, I can get away with a shout out to my Grandma, the most voracious reader I know.

How You Can Learn from Richard Sherman Acting Like A Jerk


The story you’ve probably heard goes like this.

Richard Sherman, defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks, tips a pass from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a teammate’s hands to clinch the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl. Sherman then makes the choke signal towards Kaepernick and taunts 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Following the game, Sherman was interviewed by Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Rather than blurt the standard cliches during his interview, Sherman lashed out at Crabtree.

The interview turned into a story all its own when sports reporters, news media, social media sites and even psychologists weighed in on Sherman’s rant.

It’s fair to say Sherman behaved badly and even he admits his rant was “immature” and that he “shouldn’t have attacked another person.”

The old cliche “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is actually often not the case. Ask New Jersey Governor Chris Christie if he thinks his recent media publicity is good or bad. However, the cliche probably does ring true for Sherman in this instance.

Sherman gained significantly more national exposure from his rant than his defensive play. People are talking about him in and outside of sports. He might have been, as he claimed in the interview, “the best cornerback in the world” but not many people knew him a week ago. His behavior isn’t going to cost him endorsements and actually might lead to some.

How can we learn from Richard Sherman and apply it to our messaging?

  • Build your message around what you believe in. Passionate speakers are more interesting to their target audience.
  • Keep it simple and succinct. Think in terms of what others want to know.
  • Be prepared. You might stumble upon a messaging opportunity in front of a group, the media or in an elevator.
  • Make it timely. Leverage social media’s speed and ease of use.
  • Whether you think it worked out for Richard Sherman or not, don’t act like a jerk.


Trite Trophy Winner Also Makes List of Most Annoying Workplace Phrases of 2013

Gene Collier’s Annual Trite Trophy has been recognizing the most ridiculous sports cliche of the year for thirty years. I’ve enjoyed them all. In fact, this morning I remembered reading the “Smashmouth Football” winner with Darlene, my wife. I thought “Wonder what year that was? 2000? 1998?”

Not sure what to make of the fact that “Smashmouth Football” won the Trite Trophy in 1990 way before Darlene and I were married. When I told her, she mumbled something about it being a lot of years we’ve been together. But not in a nostalgic, reminiscing kind of way.

This year’s winner also picked up the #5 slot in my Most Annoying Workplace Phrases of 2013.

Enjoy Collier’s Column here.



MASSolutions President asks MASH East ‘What Are You Selling?’

“What Are You Selling?” That’s the question MASSolutions President David M. Mastovich will ask during the MASH East Networking meeting at Longwood at Oakmont on Oct. 17.

Mastovich will address the group at 10 a.m. Registration begins at 9:30 at Longwood at Oakmont, 500 Route 909, Verona, Pa. 15147.

Marketing Admissions Supporting Healthcare (MASH) co-chairs/founders Sandra Harcarik of Gallagher Home Health Services and Kerry Beck of Senior Living Advisors formed the progressive organization nearly a decade ago with the mission to exist as a community resource for seniors, families and professionals through education, special events and networking.

Mastovich’s interactive program focuses on “real-world” solutions that lead to better planning, more meaningful calls, stronger relationships and more closes. He encourages the audience to embrace the fact that marketers indeed are “selling.”

Mastovich’s book Get Where You Want to Go, How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling will be available during the presentation and audience members will have an opportunity to subscribe to his column/blog Light Reading, which has been featured in more than 50 media outlets with readership of more than 1 million.

RSVP’s are required for the MASH East Networking event. For more information, contact Amy Rabo at 412.826.6104 or

MASSolutions President David Mastovich Named to MSPA Board

The Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America (MSPA-NA) has named MASSolutions President David M. Mastovich to its Board of Directors.

Mastovich will be installed on the board during the 15th annual MSPA North America conference and exhibition. The Sept. 24-26 conference will be held at the Marriott Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

Mastovich officially will commence as a voting board member on Jan. 1, 2014.

“MSPA North America is widely recognized as the leader in customer experience measurement and management, and I truly appreciate and embrace this opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors,” said Mastovich, who more than a decade ago founded MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm with offices in Pittsburgh and Johnstown.

MSPA North America is the trade association representing the customer experience metrics (mystery shopping) industry throughout North America. MSPA has additional regions located in Europe, Asia/Pacific and Latin America.

MSPA’s goal is to improve and stimulate the acceptance, performance, reputation and use of mystery shopping services worldwide as a critical component of any customer experience metrics program.

A member of MSPA North America since 2010, MASSolutions helps clients build brands, tell stories, increase sales and enhance customer satisfaction.

Prior to founding his company, Mastovich held senior management positions with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Duquesne University and Dame Media, and has a track record of improving the bottom line for organizations in various industries.

He is the author of the book Get Where You Want to Go, How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling. His column/blog Light Reading has been featured in more than 50 media outlets with readership of more than 1 million.

For more information contact MASSolutions’ Christina Grantz at

MASSolutions’ President Addresses Westmoreland Marketing Network

GREENSBURG, Pa. — MASSolutions President David M. Mastovich recently spoke to the Westmoreland Marketing Networking Group at IntegraCare Corporation’s Newhaven Court at Lindwood.

Mastovich’s presentation “What Are You Selling?” was well-received by a gathering of more than 50 professionals in Westmoreland County.

“David did a great job and his presentation was interesting and engaging,” said Katie Slezak, Director of Sales at Newhaven Court at Lindwood. “He addressed topics that resonated with the audience.”

Mastovich’s interactive program focused on “real-world” solutions that lead to better planning, more meaningful calls, stronger relationships and more closes. He encouraged the audience to embrace the fact that marketers indeed are “selling.”

Mastovich’s book Get Where You Want to Go, How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling was available during the presentation and audience members had an opportunity to subscribe to his column/blog Light Reading, which has been featured in more than 50 media outlets with readership of more than 1 million.

His next scheduled speaking engagement will be at 10 a.m. on Oct. 17 at Presbyterian Senior Care in Oakmont, Pa.

For more information, contact MASSolutions’ Christina Grantz at


5 NFL Strategies to Make You an Integrated Marketing & PR Champion

The NFL Kickoff Game officially opens the new season Thursday. This annual event is typically hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. This year, due to a scheduling conflict with baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, the reigning champ Ravens travel to Denver.

The NFL has done its usual “in your face” marketing approach with signs of Joe Flacco around the stadium and city of Denver. Broncos fans aren’t happy to see the face of the quarterback who’s team ended their season last year.Milano photo

The Flacco Face controversy is just one of many surrounding the NFL as the 2013 campaign begins:

  • The NFL has agreed to a $765 million settlement deal with thousands of former players who sued the league, accusing it of hiding the dangers of brain injury while profiting from the sport’s violence.
  • PBS will make a major promotional push for its documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.” ESPN, a major broadcast partner of the NFL, is distancing itself from the documentary after initially partnering with PBS to make the film. ESPN recently paid $1.1 billion to air Monday Night Football and wants to stay on the good side of the league.
  • The NFL announced that purses and bags larger than a hand would not be permitted at games. Clear plastic bags can be purchased for $8.

Yet the NFL remains the most popular sports league partly because it is the rare product that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. But also because the NFL’s 5 Key Strategies have made it sports Integrated Marketing & PR Champion:

  1. Market Research Drives Decisions–In recent years, the league has seen women grow to become over 44 percent of its fan base, with 60 percent of females over the age of 12 saying they are NFL fans. The NFL moved to reach women by overhauling its women’s apparel strategy from the cliched “pink it and shrink it” approach to featuring Victoria’s Secret and Nike items in team colors made to fit women’s bodies. The collection also includes boots, watches and other accessories. The NFL’s research and subsequent approach have proven to be successful.
  2. Aggressive Market Expansion–In addition to increasing the women fan base, the NFL has expanded into other countries with preseason games held across Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, where the largest crowd in NFL history (112,376) attended a 1994 game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers. Every game played in London’s Wembley Stadium has been a sellout. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he hopes to eventually put an NFL franchise in London.
  3. Year Long Content Calendar Creates a Buzz–Promotion of the NFL combine, draft, training camp, preseason, playoffs and the Super Bowl makes for a never ending marketing season.
  4. Message Discipline–The NFL is committed to a united messaging front. From the United Way partnership, the NFL Network, ESPN, current and former players, owners and coaches, message discipline is consistently strong. When the league makes a decision, they announce it, live with it and move on to the next one.
  5. The Art & Science of Marketing-The NFL understands marketing is both an art and science. Contrast in advertising: Big image of Flacco, small logo in lower right corner. Quick video shots and unique background music. Use of multiple marketing vehicles like Social Media, broadcast and cable TV, web, radio and print. The NFL combines strategy and creativity to make it memorable.

You and your company might not have the resources the NFL does. But you can still become an Integrated Marketing & PR Champion by following the league’s key strategies.


5 Ways Reality TV Can Improve Your Messaging

I watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey. There. I said it.

I stumbled on the show when I zapped to Teresa Guidice overturning a table during an argument at a restaurant.


Thinking this might be interesting, I pulled Darlene, my wife, in on it. Years later, I’m no longer embarrassed to admit watching the show. Apparently the 2.8 million other viewers of the most watched show in its time slot aren’t either.

Some consider reality TV a guilty pleasure. Others criticize it as the lowest form of culture. Andy Denhart, journalist and TV critic, says Reality TV is important because it forces us to think of how we’d respond to what we’re watching.

Whatever your view, you can benefit from applying Reality TV story telling techniques.

When you watch any of the Real Housewives series, you quickly realize the cast members, houses, clothes, cars and toys are actually far from the “reality” most of us know. Much of what the “real people” featured in these shows do isn’t all that real.

Yet people still tune in. Why?  Reality TV leverages these five fundamentals of story telling:

1. Focus on The Big Idea. Succinct messaging conveys the essence of the show. For example, Survivor: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

2. Engage Your Audience. American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and other shows encourage the audience to vote. Viewers become attached to contestants in the way we used to connect with sitcom stars.

3. Touch Emotions. Teresa Guidice and other villains like Vienna Girardi from the Bachelor, The Apprentice’s Omarosa and Scott Disick of Keeping Up With the Kardashians generate controversy to keep us interested and create a buzz.

4. Concentrate on Key Target Markets. Ever notice the shows feature a cross section of characters from multiple market segments that can buy stuff from sponsors? We relate to one or more of the characters and compare others to people we know. It leads to emotional buy-in among loyal viewers and allows sponsors to pitch us on their products and services.

5. Make it Memorable. The introductions, music, quick video cuts and editing combine to make a lasting impact. We remember the meltdowns and the dumb things people say or do. We feel bad for the jilted and those sent home. Even when someone loses, they often win from their “almost” celebrity status.

Enjoy your favorite show and improve your messaging by using the story telling techniques of Reality TV.

Vote Now: Who’s your favorite Reality TV Villain?