June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

My Love Letter to Marty Edelston (1929-2014)

For most folks in America, Valentine’s Day is a time to express romantic love to their spouse or significant other. For me, I will always remember this day as the birthday of my longtime boss and mentor, Marty Edelston, the founder of Boardroom, Inc., and one of the great creative geniuses in the direct-marketing industry.

There are so many reasons as to why I feel indebted to Marty—the wisdom he shared with me … the best and the brightest direct-marketing professionals he introduced to me and with whom I was privileged to meet … and the opportunity to work in an environment where creativity was encouraged and success was measured by results.

However, I’d like to focus on one practice in which Marty engaged—and which continues to influence me in my day-to-day dealings with both business associates and friends.

Marty was a voracious reader, and loved to learn about new things on virtually any subject by reading more about these topics from the experts. But more important, once he read about something he found interesting, he would make sure to share that information with the appropriate people whom he felt would most benefit from the content.

This was usually accomplished by ripping out an article from a magazine, or photocopying a few pages from a book—and then sending it to the person he believed would appreciate it most. More often than not, there was a short note from Marty written at the top of the page or a comment scribbled on a yellow Post-It sticker.

When the office mail was delivered every day to Boardroom employees, invariably there was something for me from Marty, which was always the very first thing I looked at.

It could be a business article from a magazine, with wisdom to be learned … or a direct-mail package that he liked, with two letters written on it, L/D (which was Marty’s shorthand for let’s discuss … and which meant that Marty had an idea on how we could adapt that package to our own business).

But sometimes it was something more personal. For example, Marty knew that my brother was the treasurer of General Motors—and he took great delight in finding quotes or references from my brother in the general press, and sharing them with me. He also knew that I was very involved in my local Jewish community and the larger Jewish world—and he liked to share articles and opinion pieces on Judaism he thought would be of interest. And while he personally disliked sports, he also knew that I was a passionate Mets fan, and he always seemed to find and share quirky items about the Mets that never made it to the local sports pages (usually about the pain and suffering Mets fans have had to endure).

I really appreciated all of those items from Marty—and that was his real genius, the ability to personalize the material he shared and always make sure to send it to the right people.

Recently, I began thinking about Marty’s passion, because I have adopted a similar practice. But for me, it’s a lot easier than it was for Marty.

You see, much of the reading that I do nowadays is online, and I often think of who might benefit from reading an article I liked or visiting a website that I frequent. And fortunately, when I want to share something on social media or email, hyperlinks make the job very simple.

Truth be told, what I’m doing is actually what Marty had been doing years ago … except now I have the help of technology at my fingertips. At the same time, I know that a handwritten note or a physical package delivered with the right personalized gift is even better than an email with a link to an article—so I engage in that as well when the opportunity is right.

I feel bad that Marty never really mastered email or took advantage of all the great things the web has to offer; no doubt he would be doing some of the same things that I’m doing now if he was still alive and possessed the technical knowledge of the online medium.

But don’t kid yourself … Marty may never have had a LinkedIn or Facebook page, or an active email address that he used, but the stuff he was doing before the online explosion occurred was definitely a precursor to sharing stories on Facebook and copying a hyperlink and emailing it to a friend.

And, of course, Marty did it with a much more personal touch that simply can’t be duplicated online. Instead of sharing the material he found with 1,000 of his Facebook “friends,” he would personalize his finds—and send just the right item to just the right person.

With that said, I think Marty would have enjoyed seeing how his habit has been transformed by today’s technology. And I’m deeply grateful to Marty for teaching me its value—and the importance of putting this into practice.

As to his Judaism, Marty underwent an interesting transformation. When I first joined Boardroom in 1995, Marty took great delight in demonstrating how unattached to the Jewish religion he was. Shortly after that, one of his daughters became more observant—and as he did with any new subject he wanted to learn about, he began reading as much as he could about Orthodox Judaism. He became firmly convinced that Orthodoxy was the denomination that would keep the American Jewish community strong, and with his wife, Rita, started donating money to Chabad and other Orthodox Jewish causes.

Happy birthday, Marty … I miss you!

Michael Feldstein is a contributing editor for The Jewish Link. He owns his own marketing consulting firm, MGF Marketing, and can be reached at [email protected]

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