Jay Acunzo My Hot MessIn a series called My Hot Mess, inspired by the Wall Street Journal, we’ll speak to communicators around the globe about the things they’re doing right now to get through this hot mess we call life.

Today we talk to Jay Acunzo about how he’s coping during a pandemic. Check back every Friday to learn about a new victim communicator and how they’re coping during this crazy time.

Tuesday, Marchuary 32nd, 20Tuesday: that was the last day I felt like time was a real thing and not a construct of the human mind alone. 

(Wraps bandana around head.)

It’s been a battle; not gonna lie.

We have a one-year-old, and she has opinions. S

he’s wonderful, she’s my world, and I’ll be eternally grateful for the time I get to spend with her—literal days of my life I wouldn’t be able to have with her.

I’ll be thankful from now until the Big Podcast in the Sky decides I’m to be an eternal correspondent for it.

But for now, it’s a battle.

(Tightens kneepads and elbow pads.)

I haven’t had a full day of work since Marchuary 32nd.

But she’s finally napping, and I swear to God and every deity ever named: I will reach my home office in time to get some actual work done.

(Drops to floor. Commando-crawls furiously down the hallway.)

Life’s a hot mess.

Here’s how I’m coping, or pretending to…

This Is Your Brain on Daycare

I’ve worked from home for three years, so the place I work doesn’t feel new.

The situation within the place? That’s another story.

My wife is a psychology researcher at Harvard, and she and I now split our days evenly between daycare for our daughter and work.

I watch my daughter every morning, then we switch at lunch.

In between, we basically only have time to take our dog outside.

(We live in an apartment building. No yard.) 

It’s nice to get out, but we have to be careful.

Lots of people live in our building and in our crowded home city of Cambridge, Mass., and so every dog walk feels vaguely like we’re entering a new level of a video game where the goal is to avoid zombies—except these are our neighbors, or at least I think they are.

It’s hard to tell, what with their masks and decaying flesh and sunken eyes and lurching and groaning along the sidewalk.

(Yanno, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I just described every parent of young kids right now.)

Where was I?

Eh, I don’t know.

That’s just how my mind has been these days.

I’m not distracted.

My brain just occasionally decides, “NOPE!”

Like the other day, I couldn’t remember the word “pasta.”

I’m Italian! Now pass me the stuff with the sauce.

You know—hat beigey, tubey stuff!

Let’s just move on.

What else is a hot mess?

The Mess

Say you had literally one hour of time in your day when you weren’t oppressively tired or wholly engaged keeping a toddler alive or building your business as a solo entrepreneur.

With that precious time, would you:

(A) do more work to catch up on the fact that you only work 50% of your time now, at a job that always required more or less 150% of your time?

(B) squeeze in a workout

(C) bake a delicious loaf of bread, somewhat for you, mostly for Instagram

(D) clean your home

(E) participate in a lively virtual happy hour.

(F) nothing. Just … do nothing. For an hour. For one blissful, unbelievable hour.

What I’m trying to say is, have you ever stared a wall?

For like an hour?

Literally just … stared at it?

For 60 full minutes?




Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

In unrelated news, our apartment is a mess.

A Sweet Escape

I’ve always liked fantasy shows and movies.

Right now?

They feel like a vacation.

When my wife and I finish our parental and professional duties, if we choose NOT to stare at a wall for an hour, we plop down on the couch with some tea and cookies and binge a show that takes us to another world.

Right now, that’s Outlander.

It’s like a romance novel meets Forrest Gump meets some pretty bad screenwriting.

My wife likes the first part.

I like finding holes in the story, thanks to the third part.

We both appreciate the second part, the ability to escape into a story of a family which participates in a bizarre number of historic events all in a row.

Plus, the show offers some vague mythology about time travel existing in their world, and the male lead is basically Scottish Fabio.

(Sometimes I get lost in a fictional world. Sometimes his deep blue eyes. Don’t judge me.)

Webinars Killed the Speaking Star

It’s not all bad. I think this pandemic has a way of giving me as an entrepreneur a sense of urgency—to focus, and to move forward on harder initiatives with bigger upside that were stuck in planning stages for too long anyway.

For context, about 40% of my livelihood is from public speaking, with book sales, some podcast hosting/production services for brands, and sponsorships to the Marketing Showrunners site rounding it out.

My plan all along was to condense into fewer but bigger revenue streams, so I can focus more, and hire a bigger team than our current (awesome but scrappy) bunch.

The pandemic just hastened these moves. 

First, the speaking industry crashed and slowly began going virtual.

Turns out my entire system for developing and producing podcasts and documentary series for brands can be used by virtual events and keynote speakers to create something more elevated than the internet’s most boring type of content: the webinar.

Seriously, this is how it sounds every time someone launches Yet Another Freaking Webinar:

“Do YOU like to pass the time by sitting on a metal folding chair watching CSPAN while eating old Saltines? Do you like it so much you’d pay MONEY to do it?! Well boy, do I have an exciting offer for you. Introducing… our virtual event!” 

Make it stop. Make it better.

I now have clients who believe the same, and I’m helping them save the webinar from itself.

Secondly, I sped up the rate at which I launched a podcasting workshop, launching an Alpha Class using zero dollars worth of technology, focusing all my time on the student interaction and exercises.

The ability to test, update the product, and test some more has been profound.

I would have told you in January that this workshop would begin in August or September.

This first cohort started in mid-May.

This will be the best choice I’ve made, and I made it because of this situation.

All that said…

Look, Ma! I Have a “Very Professional Studio”

Our bedroom is now also our shared office.

The first thing I did was set up a table, my podcast equipment, the lights I use on camera, and then I basically constructed a background to make it look like I have a professional setup and office.

Here’s an example:

In reality, it’s a bunch of books on top of our safe on top of my nightstand, with one canvas print I took from another room over the other shoulder.

If you zoom out, you’d see these things floating alone against a giant white wall in my bedroom with nothing else on it.

I’ll use this setup until we’re past this whole, um … that… thing… yanno, that thing we’re in now?

With all the sickness and death and misinformed general public? 

The P-word?

I wanna say pasta?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich