At meetings, team members spend considerable time discussing the specific meanings of words and the tones, attitudes, and emotions they convey. “Today, so much of our communication is done electronically,” O’Connell notes. “People can’t see one another, so the words have to do the work.” O’Connell says he typically devotes the first part of his morning to thinking about major initiatives and issues facing the business. His writing tasks often focus on explaining his insights or selling concepts to internal audiences such as employees and executives.

When he reviews his team’s writing, O’Connell puts on his “customer hat,” and suggests edits to his staff’s promotional pieces, artwork, or news releases from the audience’s perspective. “If I didn’t actually write a piece, it’s often easier to see the audience’s perspective on the message,” he explains. “But if you can take this perspective with your own work, it definitely helps make the communication more compelling. You’ve got to physically put your mind in another place first. For example, if I am viewing promotional collateral in a restaurant, I’ll walk out of the place, and then walk back in as the customer.”


Even after nearly two decades with Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, O’Connell says he still gets a rush every time he uncovers a new consumer insight. “It’s really exciting when you have a hypothesis about what will motivate one of your audiences,” he said. “You test that through an offer or a new product or a specific communication, and they respond. When that works, it is so much fun!