Writing Sample: Stakeholder Letter

Hello everyone –

Last week, GSA announced new, performance-based facilities standards which will affect all new construction and major repair and alterations projects. The Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service (PBS), also known as the P-100, establishes PBS’ design standards and criteria for new buildings, major and minor alterations, and work in historic structures for PBS. The P100 contains policy and technical criteria to be used in the programming, design, documentation and construction of PBS buildings. This document impacts PBS’ annual building construction efforts which in certain years can be over $1 billion.

This version of the P100 is particularly significant because, for the first time, it contains performance-based standards versus prescriptive ones. We have a couple of informational pieces that we would appreciate you sharing with your organization, either through internal communications or external publication.

Former PBS Commissioner Dorothy Robyn wrote a post that you are welcome to share or reblog (with credit to GSA). If you’re looking for more details on P-100 and how it will work, engineer Martin Weiland wrote an article for the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) newsletter. Let us know if you’d like to reprint or reuse that, and we can get you a copy.

The P-100 is available, in electronic format only, at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/106319  and at the Whole Building Design Guide website at http://gsap100.wbdg.org/. For more information, contact xxxxx at xxxxxxx, or 202-xxx-xxxx.

Writing Sample: Press Release

This is a personal press release I put together to gather media interest around my making the U.S. Maccabi soccer team competing this December in Chile. It earned coverage in a number of local outlets.

Arlington, VA — For soccer fans, a trip to the World Cup or an English Premier League match may be the ultimate soccer experience, but for Ori Hoffer, being a spectator wasn’t enough. A lifetime recreational player who played only a few minutes of varsity soccer in high school, Hoffer now finds himself a member of the U.S. Masters Over-45 team that will be competing in the 13th Maccabi Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hoffer grew up playing the game, despite, as he says, “being one of the smallest guys on the field.” Through rec leagues, intramurals, coed squads, and men’s teams, Hoffer never left the game behind. “When the opportunity came to represent my country and compete on an international stage, I had to take a chance.”

Following an October training camp in New Jersey and a strong showing at January’s King Cup tournament in Las Vegas where he tallied a goal and two assists in four games, Maccabi USA Head Coach Alan Bodenstein selected Hoffer as one of the first 12 players for the team going to Santiago this December.

In Santiago, the U.S. will be sending over 600 athletes to compete in 22 different sports, in youth, junior, open and masters divisions. More than 3,000 competitors from nineteen countries will be participating in the Pan Am Games, including Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Great Britain, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Uruguay, United States, and Venezuela.

Later this summer, the European Maccabi Games in Berlin will be the largest gathering of Jews in Germany since World War II, and important show of unity and strength in a time of growing anti-Semitism around the world.

Each member of the Maccabi delegation is responsible for raising $6600, with the funds going to subsidize young American athletes to this competition and underwrite athletes from the needier countries so that they can also participate. In addition, support of Maccabi USA helps build and fund of sporting venues in our partner countries, providing athletic opportunities for Jews in communities across the U.S. and elsewhere. Maccabi USA is a 501 (c) 3 organization. To support Hoffer’s effort, visit his fundraising page at http://support.maccabiusa.com/goto/ori

Maccabi USA endeavors, through sports, to perpetuate and preserve the American Jewish community by encouraging Jewish pride, strengthening Jewish bonds and by creating a heightened awareness of Israel and Jewish identity. The volunteer organization seeks to enrich the lives of Jewish youth in the United States, Israel and the Diaspora through athletic, cultural and educational programs.

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Storyteller

Whether telling them as a journalist, or sharing them with reporters, I understand what makes a great story, and how different channels have different needs.

  • GSA had a DC-9 up for auction. With some digging, I discovered it had served as Air Force One. A few tweets and a couple phone calls later, the story was being featured on BuzzFeed, MSNBC, and more. Suddenly, the public had insight into one of the many things a relatively obscure agency was responsible for. 
  • ‘90s hitmakers Blessid Union of Souls were trying to make a comeback in the mid-2000’s. We followed the band on a couple of tour stops, getting to know their past, and their hopes for the future. Our documentary tracking that journey won an Emmy award for best documentary.

  • A reporter doing a piece on government innovation got a whole lot more as I helped her craft a rich, interactive experience with videos, photos and interviews with the interesting personalities of 18F.

Case Study: GSA Bridal Sale

When the U.S. Marshals seized an Alaska bridal shop that was a front for a meth dealer, they gave the contents to GSA to auction off. A great story on its own, but we went beyond, setting up a pop-up salon, and using federal employees as models.

CNN, CBS This Morning, NPR, and more all picked up the piece, again highlighting the innovative, cost-saving work done by the agency.

Innovator

At every career stop, I’ve found new ways to present content.

  • Helped develop NPR’s first website. Wrote book and music lists, worked with programming staff and audience services to provide additional info on stories that listeners were requesting. 
  • Designed Virtual Trading Cards for AOL’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
  • Created content partnership between PCTV and Salt Lake Magazine to find Utah’s Best Burger

Case Study: Federal Building Challenge

fbc14-featured

GSA wanted to build awareness about the many things the agency does. I created a bracket-style game where the public voted for their favorite green federal building.

Thanks to great employee and external engagement, over 20,000 votes were cast, the media picked up the story, and our social media channels saw a huge spike in traffic.

One media outlet said, “this is one of the coolest things the government has ever done.”

Older (yet still relevant) Jobs

KPCW Radio

Host / Producer / Reporter
Park City, UT, August 2003- March 2005

School board and city council beat reporter as well as general assignment staffer. Promoted to host & producer of “KPCW’s All Things Considered,” a three-hour block of live interviews, local news and NPR programming. Also produced and hosted a daily local business segment.

  • Trained staff in use of digital audio editing techniques to improve their storytelling.
  • Won Society for Professional Journalists & Utah Broadcasters Association awards.
  • Created fundraising campaigns, wrote promotions and worked with underwriting staff to find new sales opportunities.

America Online, Inc.

Senior Programming Manager, Sports (2000-2002)
Dulles, VA, November 1995 – October 2002

Developed creative programming plans for Sports and other network channels, integrating cross-channel, Time Warner and other partner content throughout programming features.  Trained staff in use of publishing and reporting tools, and was a consultant to other channels for “best programming practices,” as well as participating in non-sports programming brainstorming.

Directed a group of six programmers from various channels to conceptualize and develop new cross-channel programming features.  Developed creative advertorial packages with partners like Philips Electronics, integrating their brands into high-traffic features like Norelco’s Close Shaves (greatest Super Bowl finishes) and Sonicare Winning Smile (photo galleries of smiling fans/players).

While producing AOL’s coverage of the 2000 & 2002 Olympics, I oversaw the user interface and design teams developing the site’s look and feel, the technology group building the content management system, assisted the interactive marketing team in selling the package to a variety of advertisers, and led a team of contractors from training to final publishing.

  • AOL’s 2000 package had a larger audience than the official Olympics sites for 10 of the last 11 days of the Games. In 2002, Olympic-related polls recorded over 750,000 votes.
  • Expanded the reach of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue by developing unique online properties – virtual trading cards, favorite model polls and historical photo galleries.
  • Member of creative “SWAT” team responsible for managing major breaking news events including 9/11, the Columbine shootings and the 2000 Presidential Election..

News Editor/Programming Manager, News/Sports (1995-2000)

Edited daily news and sports stories, building feature packages with content and photos from wire services, partners (New York Times, CNN-SI, NFL.com, etc.). Managed major event coverage (Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament) by programming news, developing related polls, hosting live chats and more.  Created and designed member-friendly features like Sports Movie Madness – a contest to determine America’s favorite sports film.

  • Wrote weekly sports newsletter/column distributed to over 100,000 readers.
  • Co-developed and built AOL’s Men’s Channel into the No. 1 visited online men’s site.

National Public Radio

Transcripts Coordinator
Washington, DC, January 1993 – November 1995

Managed NPR’s online site on AOL. Member of company’s first Internet planning committee, assisting with development of npr.org by meeting with potential partners like RealNetworks.  Improved communications with national media, transcription company and internal offices.

  • Created listener-friendly features for the website like weekly book and music lists.
  • New Media Initiatives panel member at conference hosted by the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Maccabi Recap

It’s been a week since I returned from Santiago and the amazing experience that was the 13th Maccabi Pan American Games. I just wanted to get some thoughts down before they all went away.
Highlights (in no particular order):

  • Walking into the Estadio Universidad Catolica with all the competitors for the opening ceremonies. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. The President of Chile came and spoke at the ceremony (which caused a little angst among the 500,000 Arabs living in Santiago), Shimon Peres sent in a video message, there were beautiful singers, and a wonderful setting.

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  • The incredible energy at the Estadio Israelita Maccabi (EIM). Athletes and fans of all ages were splashing in the pool, watching soccer games at the stadium, filling the bleachers for tennis, futsal, volleyball, and gymnastics. Just seeing Jews from all over South America in one place was inspiring.
  • Sending the corner kick that beat Great Britain in our first game. Our coach had said before the game that anyone could take a corner, but if you hit a bad one, you were done, so I felt a little pressure when I stepped up to take one late in a tie game. My first kick went right to the penalty spot, but unfortunately the defense cleared it out. The second was a little close to the goal, but just high enough to get over the keeper’s hand and onto the head of my teammate Joel, who easily nodded it home. As Monty Python would say…

MPHGrejoicing

  • Huddling with the team as we watched the penalty kick shootout in the bronze medal match, then racing onto the field in ecstasy/relief when Victor buried the final shot.
  • The lifetime friendships that were built over the 14 month process, and sealed at that moment. All week long, we ate together, travelled together, laughed and cried together. I would trust any of these guys with anything, and know that if I am ever in need, they’ll be there to help in an instant.
  • Touring Chile. I could have explored the incredible murals of Valparaiso for days. The beautiful parks and public artwork throughout Santiago were also wonderful. I’ve never been a big group tour person, so this was a bit of a new way for me to travel, but it gave me more time to hang with my team, and our families.

I’ll put some more thoughts together later on each game, but this is a start.

Why I Love This Team

I’ve played on a lot of teams over the years, and I’ve become friends with many of my teammates – gone drinking with them, attended their weddings, that sort of thing.

But this group is different. There is a stronger connection, a true bond between the players, even though we only see each other a few times a year.

One reason I love this group is that there is such good humor among everyone, with plenty of good-natured ribbing and a What’s App conversation that will continue long after these games are over.

This exchange is a great example of that –

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Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 9.54.23 AM

This is going to be a fun adventure.

It’s More Than Just a Shirt

Being part of a team is many things – there’s the camaraderie, the support, that sense of being part of something bigger than you. For these games, I’m really on two teams – the +45 Masters soccer team that will be running around the field, and the larger Team USA that will walk together in the opening ceremonies.

There is something special about putting on a uniform with those three letters on it. It represents what we hope are the ideals and values of our nation, a showcase for others of what being an American is all about.

When the boxes arrived, it was better than just about any Hanukkah present I’ve gotten. Seeing all that red, white, and blue gear, and knowing that I had earned it, and wasn’t just wearing it as a fan still makes me a little bit giddy.

When I was in high school, I was always thisclose to making the varsity squad, each year, I was one of the last guys cut, one of the top performers on the JV team, but never quite good enough for the A-team. Every fall, it hurt as I watched my friends move up the ladder without me, but I just wasn’t ready.

So it was with great surprise when one November day as I was heading towards school from the parking lot, I saw Coach Bill Browning coming towards me. I don’t know if he knew where I normally parked, or how long he’d been waiting, but he had a big smile on his face as he came up and handed me one of the coveted varsity uniforms, and told me I’d be playing with the squad through the playoffs.

While I knew this was more for being a de facto varsity team manager for three years – putting up nets, shagging balls, carrying gear – it was recognition that I had earned a spot on the team through all the work I’d done for the team.

If this was one of my beloved sports movies, I’d have gotten on the field at the end of the game, and scored a wondergoal, like Ollie hitting his free throws in “Hoosiers.”

But the point wasn’t to have a moment of glory, it was to be part of that team, and everything that implies, if only for a short time. This Maccabi squad has been coming together for just over a year, and over these next few days, that sense of team will surely make this an experience I’ll never forget.

I’m so proud to be a part of this team, this organization, and this country and I can’t wait to show the world what we’re all about.

Under Pressure (updated)

With the clock ticking down to the start of the Maccabi Pan Am games, the reality is setting in – I’m going to be playing soccer in an international tournament, representing my country.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to make Team USA and compete on an international stage, and it’s why I’m starting to get nervous. You see, when I was living in Park City and dreaming of a spot on the U.S. Skeleton squad, it was those nerves that got in the way.

All season long, I was in the top 3-4 places, which would be enough to get me to National Team Trials, but as the final qualification race day arrived, I began to get in my head. I watched what the other racers were doing for their warmups and tried to copy them, despite never preparing that way before. One racer showed up late and I spent a lot of energy talking about getting him disqualified as opposed to thinking about what I needed to do.

By the time the green light flashed at the top of the track, I was so tense that I had the worst run of my season, and instead of looking at a future in Calgary and Lake Placid, I was back in the pack. When I realized I’d missed my shot, I was finally able to relax, and while it was too late, I had two of the fastest runs of the week.

As I get ready for Santiago, I’m confident that I’ve done all I can to get prepare. I played a lot this fall, I’ve trained hard, and I’m fully rested and healthy. Still, I really want to win a medal at the Games, and I wonder how to balance the pressure I’m putting on myself to succeed, with a need to relax and just enjoy the experience.

Thankfully, these intervening years, and the added maturity and life experiences they have brought (including an eye-opening clinic with Ski-to-Live that taught me some zen-like concepts) should provide the proper perspective, plus, unlike skeleton, I have a whole team working together towards the same goal, so I know I won’t be out there alone.

Whatever this tournament brings, I’m still proud to be part of Team USA and exited for the opportunity.

UPDATE: I’m lucky enough to be friends with a number of world class athletes, thanks to the time I spent in Utah. After I posted this, some of them were good enough to offer some words of wisdom.

You might as well accept failure as a possibility so you can focus on winning. That and realize that the learning phase is over. Now its time to let your body do what you’ve been training it to do. Your mind is only the mechanism to take orders (by what is going on) and the body executes (as it is trained to do)… Kind of like a smart phone 😉
— Bill Demong, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Nordic Combined

You already did the hard part in training. The final race or game is the fun and easy time. Just do what you know and don’t get in your own way.
— Tristan Gale Geisler, 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist, Skeleton

I just made sure to embrace the moment (and the pressure), be in the moment, relax and have fun. If I was able to do those things I knew the results would come. If I thought about the results and not the fore mentioned I usually wouldn’t perform well.
— Zach Lund, 2006 World Cup Champion, Skeleton