When Lisette Sand-Freedman, 42, took a four-day family trip to the Dominican Republic in February, she chose her out-of-office email message carefully.

"In case of emergency, please call 911" was what rolled into the inboxes of chief marketing officers, publicists and celebrities who were trying to reach Sand-Freedman, chief executive of Shadow, a marketing and communications agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Her goal had been to offer a moment of levity and remind her contacts to pause and rethink their definitions of urgency.

The short note triggered responses like, "You go girl!", "It's about time" and

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