“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Where’s your go-to place? That place you head to when you need to think, come up with brilliant ideas or just clear your mind. Maybe it’s physical or it could just be a place you’ve carved out in your head. (Belize, anyone?)

Regardless, we all need a place. My place is nature. I grew up in a rural area and will always be a nature lover. Pictured is the Mingo Trail at Sand Run Metro Park in West Akron, OH, a favorite place of mine — especially in the winter. Some people tend to hibernate when the temps turn frosty, so it’s a great time to find a little solace out on the trails.

In fact, I just went for a rejuvenating 2-hour hike before I wrote this blog post and updated the CCC Facebook page.

If you’ve connected with me via social media, you’ll see my love of nature. Whether it’s hiking trails, sunsets, water or wildflowers, I love to post pics of nature as I experience it.

I’d love to hear about and see your places you go! Leave a comment below or engage with me via social media. Let me see some pics!

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“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.”  –Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Today is your day!
Jaime

Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make New Year’s resolutions for 2013? Apparently 50% of Americans do, yet 88% of those resolutions fail. I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not because I don’t want to improve myself; I just don’t see the point of waiting until New Year’s to do it.

incoming!
The most peace I’ve ever felt in my life —
               jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet.

For example, I jumped off the proverbial cliff last April and started my own business. Sure, I had been planning it, but at some point, I had to make the leap. Others may operate differently, but if I hadn’t jumped, I would still be sitting here talking about it today. That’s just who I am.

How about you? Is there something that you’ve been eyeing? Something that would make you happier, reduce your stress, put a smile on your face? Then go for it. Sit down right now and start figuring out how to accomplish it.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment, because it might never come.

I’m not a motivational speaker. I was born with a healthy dose of sarcasm and realism, so my feet are tethered firmly to the ground (unless I’m skydiving). I’m just speaking from personal experience.

I can honestly say that my life has done a 180 in 9 short months. The day I left corporate America is the day I started to feel like myself again. I’m happier now than I have been in a long time. That’s not a knock on the company I worked for, corporate America itself or the industry I worked in. It just wasn’t for me. I’m a free spirit who loves a more flexible schedule, being my own boss and enjoying nature more (which I couldn’t do working 70+ hours per week).

So don’t worry if you don’t have a long list of New Year’s resolutions. Find that one thing that will make you happier and go for it. Don’t put it off or think that you can’t do it. Your time is truly now.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous — and truly life-changing — 2013! Oh, and if you’re looking for marketing, writingevent planning or personal branding help, give me a call. Or tweet me.

Cheers,
Jaime

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What Making Leg Lamp Cookies Taught Me About My Business

Leg Lamp!
Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian!

Yes, those leg lamp cookies. If you’re not familiar with the famous (or some would say infamous) leg lamp, then go see
A Christmas Story. And don’t shoot your eye out, kid! 

So back to the cookies. I made the dough on Sunday night and planned to cut, bake and ice the cookies on Monday
morning (along with several other items on my to-do list). Nothing like waiting until Christmas Eve!

Except something happened when I cut the first leg lamp cookie. I was taken aback by the detail. The beautiful high
heel shoe, the fine line of the fishnet stockings (Let’s be honest; that’s what makes the lamp!) … It was a thing of beauty, if I may say so myself.

Our opinions on beauty may diverge from here, but the important thing is what happened next. I decided not to ice the cookies. How could I cover up that detail?! That’s what made the cookies stand out and would be sure to give everyone at our Christmas Eve and Christmas celebrations a good laugh.

No matter how much we plan (and we should!), sometimes life throws you a better idea. Don’t rigidly stick to your plan (business, marketing or otherwise) and miss an opportunity to shine. Take a chance and follow the divergent path to see where it leads. It could lead to a brilliant new idea, unique product concept or branching off your business or marketing plans in a completely new direction.

Because I know you were wondering, the leg lamp cookies were a hit (even without the icing)! I may have started a new family Christmas tradition and reminded myself of an important point to remember at the same time.

leg lamp cookies!
Beautiful & delicious!

What seemingly unrelated task has reminded you of an important business, marketing or life lesson?
What’s your favorite holiday movie?
Favorite holiday tradition?

Image credits: Leg Lamp courtesy of A Christmas Story House & Museum; Leg Lamp Cookies – by author

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!
Jaime

Let’s connect (on business tips, marketing ideas or otherwise):

Where Has All of the Good Journalism Gone?

Along with the rest of the nation, I watched in horror at the events that unfolded in Newtown, CT last Friday. I was out running errands for my business in the morning, so I didn’t see the initial breaking news coverage. I quickly checked my social media networks upon arriving home and noticed a few mentions of thoughts and prayers for Stony Hook Elementary School. Naturally, I Googled the school’s name to see what had happened.

My first search result returned a close-up picture of terrified, crying children being led across the parking lot to safety. I was shocked. First, as I learned of the morning’s events, and second, at the photograph of young children that had been posted online and was spreading like wildfire. That image has been immortalized, capturing those children in a moment of sheer terror forever. Why? What news value does it add?

Of course that was only the beginning as the rush to break the story led to quoting ‘anonymous law enforcement officials’ and publishing the wrong individual as the shooter. To further the misinformation, a Facebook profile and Twitter page were published that supposedly belonged to the (wrong) shooter. Wait, the Twitter page didn’t even belong to the misidentified shooter, throwing yet another innocent person into the spotlight.

excellent journalism quote

Where has all of the good journalism gone?

As a journalism major, I remember learning some of the sound principles of quality journalism. Accuracy. Accountability. Ethics. Legitimate, vetted sources. An accurate story was just as important as speed, and journalists were held accountable to a code of ethics (unless you ended up at the Enquirer, but I digress).

In today’s world, we have instant access to social media and the Internet, which connects us all at breakneck speed. This always connected feeling and easy access to the masses has brought positive and negative effects. But has it killed quality journalism?

Today, I came across an article written by Roger Ebert, a well-known film critic. It’s entitled News coverage, not movies, helps trigger Newtown-type tragedies. You can gather its point from the title, but it’s worth a read anyway. As always, Ebert makes a case for his opinion and gets straight to the point. As I read his article, it made a lot of sense.

If this is true, then the current state of journalism and news coverage is more than sub-par; it’s helping to stoke the fire of violence in this country. As a journalism major, this just breaks my heart.

What are your thoughts on the state of journalism today?

  • Have the Internet and social media contributed to its demise?
  • Would you rather wait for quality, accurate information or receive news immediately (regardless of errors or misinformation?)
  • Are journalism and news coverage helping to contribute to the rash of violent acts in this country?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this timely subject. Please leave a comment below or connect with me on social media to let me know your thoughts. Feel free to invite your friends to chime in with their opinions as well.

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Image credit: planeta via flickr

Stay safe,
Jaime

p.s. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with everyone in Newtown, CT. affected by this horrible tragedy.

Distinctly Downtown: First Night Akron

If you’re in the Canton / Akron / Cleveland area, come on out to First Night Akron. A fun time to be had by all, this New Year’s celebration in downtown Akron provides a variety of entertainment for all ages and includes two impressive fireworks celebrations.

If you’re planning on ringing in 2013 at First Night Akron, we’d love to hear from you!

Distinctly Downtown

It’s that time of year! The holidays are here and the best way to celebrate the New Year is right in Downtown Akron.  First Night® Akron is a family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration to entertain all ages as we welcome 2013. Admission button are Image$10 and children under 10 years of age are free.

There will be a variety of entertainment, from music, arts and crafts, face painting, comedy, showcased art, a mass wedding, fortune telling, dancing, a wide variety of food, and fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight.

Some of the coolest entertainment will be provided by JoyUNSPEAKABLE, a statue mime that moves randomly to surprise and interact with the audience. He looks like a painted statue but if you look closely he is a real person and will entertain you with his talents.

Do you wish you were snorkeling in the Bahamas for New Years, but cannot…

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Special Offers: Are You Engaging Customers or Just Irritating Them?

It’s that time of year! During the Holiday shopping season, companies love to entice deal-hungry consumers with special offers to grab their share of the pie.

Facebook page offers. Mobile discount codes. Coupons, special discounts or gift cards with purchases.

These promotions can be a great way to interact with fans and create ambassadors for your brand. Or you can turn off regular customers, who will instead share their negative experiences. It all depends on implementation.

Implementation? Unfortunately, this extremely important part of the marketing process often doesn’t come up in the marketing department while great ideas are being kicked around. How will your customers redeem your special offer? Will you make it easy or painful? Implementation can be the difference between your customers returning or moving on to your competitors.

Facebook Offers
Has your company experimented with Facebook offers? Have you claimed any?

Case Study 1     (Created Friction)

For example, a major retailer offered a $10 gift card if you spent $50 in the store during a 3-day span via its Facebook page. What a fun idea! Engage your customers on social media and encourage them to purchase now. Upon redeeming the offer on Facebook, I received an email to show the cashier in the store. When I checked out, I noticed that the offer didn’t automatically ring up once I eclipsed the amount needed as it has with past promotions. While showing the cashier the offer email (which she was not aware of at all), we noted that no bar code or special code was included.

The cashier had no idea how to ring up the gift card in the system and actually mentioned the email might be spam. Once I assured her that it was a valid offer from the company’s Facebook page, she directed me to the customer service desk. The two ladies there were actually aware of the offer but neither knew how to ring it up either. Finally, they offered to refund me $10 from my purchase, which I appreciated.


Case Study 2     (Created Friction)

Another leading retailer came up with the novel concept of distributing small Holiday-themed pins in its stores. Customers could pick up these pins at checkout or even stop in to pick some up without a purchase. They had fun designs, and some people really enjoy collecting little keepsakes  (or giving them to others). Each pin had a code on the back, which you had to enter at a website to see what you had won. Prizes ranged, but many were small gift certificates in the $5 – 10 range. After unveiling what you had won, your prizes (i.e. gift certificates) were emailed to you. There was fine print, of course, including that the certificates could not be combined on one order.

Of course, some people ended up collecting several pins and amassing a number of small gift certificates. When they came to the store to shop, they wanted to use all of their certificates, of course. In order to do that, many people had to pay for most of their items as separate orders. Picture this: a retail establishment already busy with the Holiday shopping crowd further slowed with customers checking out 5, 10 or even 20 times a piece.

While I love the pin idea, did anyone think through implementation? Maybe they did and didn’t think the long lines and slow checkout process would deter customers. But of course there were several impatient (and unhappy) customers around, some who would undoubtedly share their experience with friends, family and social networks. Add to this scenario a mobile code discount that the associates weren’t aware of how to ring up, and I’m sure you can picture the scene.


Case Study 3
     (Nice & Easy)

This fall, Starbucks offered a LivingSocial deal to purchase a $10 e-card for only $5. Being an avid espresso fan, I bought. Not only did I receive a deal, I was also introduced to Starbucks’ e-gift cards (yes, I’m a little behind on these things). How convenient to just scan my phone when paying and having the amount automatically updated. After registering the card, I receive rewards on my purchases using it and can easily reload with two clicks (or set up automatic reloading).

This offer was easy to redeem, saves Starbucks money (no physical gift cards to print) and saves me the hassle of remembering where I put the gift card. I’ve now downloaded the Starbucks app and regularly reload my card in order to earn rewards. All from a harmless little LivingSocial deal…

Takeaway

I highlighted these three situations because they are fresh and relevant. The first two companies eventually made good on their offers, so I’m not looking to badmouth either of them (hence no company names). The point is that implementation is a key part of any marketing offer, special promotion or customer engagement strategy and can be the difference in success or failure.

The more friction that you create at customer touch points, the more you encourage them to take their business elsewhere.

What’s your take? 

Is a specific experience redeeming a special offer memorable to you (either good or bad)?

Do you take advantage of these types of offers? Why or why not?

Are there any specific types of offers that are more enticing to you?

Finally, what successful promotions have your company run? What are some tips that you’ve learned along the way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, so we can further discuss the role that implementation plays in special offers. Thanks for stopping by!

Image credit: Entrepreneur
Stay warm! (If you live in a warm weather year ’round locale, then bah humbug. Ha!)

Jaime

Online Marketing & Your Privacy: Can They Coexist?

As a marketing professional, I find myself in a conundrum. I completely understand companies wanting to gather information about me in order to present a more personalized experience. Targeted ads, relevant special offers, personalized product suggestions.

Online information tracking creates security concerns

But it’s scary. We live in a digital world, and identity theft and fraud are on the rise. If we don’t have our identity, what do we have? I’ve heard horror stories of people having their identities stolen and fighting for years to get it back, clean up their credit report, etc..

Recently, I read an informative article from Lifehacker about protecting your information online. It really made me think, and I proceeded to install some security plug-ins for my browser and strengthen my security settings. However, I soon ran into issues.

Sites that I commonly use (and trust), such as clients, vendors and mainstream services, were rendered ineffective. I’ve already run into multiple instances where I couldn’t even log in to these sites without enabling cookies. Also, these plug-ins seem to be really slowing down my browsing experience. So what to do? What do you do?

I did check out Lifehacker’s “The Best Replacements for Privacy-Invading Services,” along with other suggestions for bypassing some of these companies and services. But do I really want to forego Gmail and Facebook entirely? I can’t imagine removing my Facebook company page in lieu of a presence on Glassboard. Would you? Have you?

As noted, I can definitely see both points of view as a marketer and consumer. I enjoy the personalized experience and convenience that information tracking allows. However, I’m at a crossroads right now. Security or convenience & personalization? Can these two sides ever coexist?

I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences on how you live in our digital world while maintaining your privacy. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Stay safe,
Jaime

Image credit: cedro via Flickr

4 Reasons #GivingTuesday Is Succeeding (And You Can Too!)

#GivingTuesday

November 27, 2012 was the inaugural #GivingTuesday. It makes sense. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday dominate headlines, America has long been committed to giving, especially during the Holiday season. Finally, some generous minds came together and dedicated a day specifically to giving back, kicking off the giving season.

Here are four reasons why this powerful movement is succeeding that your business or brand can use to succeed too.

  • Find support The minds behind #GivingTuesday knew this idea would be much more successful with others dedicated to its success too, so they reached out to a slew of like-minded organizations, groups and companies. Over 2,000 companies responded to officially become #GivingTuesday™ partners! Plus, even more companies and donors have stepped forward to match donations to specific charities and causes, making even more of a difference. When so many people, organizations and companies are committed to an idea’s success, it’s more likely to happen.
  • Be genuine #GivingTuesday is all about helping others. You can donate money, volunteer your time or skills or share the news about this effort with your social networks. The folks who got together to put this idea into motion want to help people all over the world give back, no matter what they have to give. This movement is about working together for the common cause of helping those in need. Be transparent in your motives: today’s digital world and social media landscape make it difficult to hide alternative agendas, which helps those who are real.
  • Spread the word While jumping on Twitter this morning, one of the first things I saw was a tweet from Bill Gates about #GivingTuesday. That certainly got my attention, and with 8,908,437 followers, a few others noticed it too. A few others, as in 6,812 retweets and 729 favorites. You don’t have to be Bill Gates though. #GivingTuesday makes it easy to become a social media ambassador, share its news and get involved. Remember, a great idea isn’t much good if nobody knows about it.
  • Make it easy to participate Point #3 delves directly into this… it doesn’t do much good to spread the word if you don’t make it easy for people to participate. At givingtuesday.org, you can easily locate a cause to support, utilize your social networks for good or take some course of action. Those on Twitter can search the #GivingTuesday hash tag to locate opportunities, and participating companies are encouraging employees to get involved. While you’re busy drumming up support, don’t lose momentum by making it difficult for people to participate. Remember, make it easy and people (businesses and customers) are more likely to jump in!

Learn from this wonderful and successful movement by noting the four keys above and applying them to your brand or business. Also, get involved and support a cause close to your heart! We can all make a difference no matter who you are or what you have.

Image credits: #GivingTuesday website

Happy #GivingTuesday!
Jaime

I’m grateful for… “I have an app for that.”

I recently read a blog post by Lifehacker asking readers what free apps they are most thankful for this year. That’s when I realized how much I utilize apps to make my life, both personal and professional, run smoothly. What are your favorite apps (paid or free)?

Here are 7 apps that have become a part of my regular routine (in alphabetical order):

  •  Dropbox — this awesome app allows me to access my files anywhere from any of my devices. Also, it’s an easy way to collaborate on projects due to its sharing capabilities. Dropbox was a life saver when I was working on a printing project with a customer in China earlier this year and working with large art files that needed several revisions.
  • Evernote — my favorite note-taking app! I use Evernote daily for work and play. From keeping a running shopping list to making note of possible gift ideas, this app is easy to use and share with others. In fact, it’s my app of choice for gathering quotes, successful case studies and ideas from events that I work for clients.

  • ING Direct — I love banking with ING, who was recently bought by Capital One and is becoming Capital One 360. I’m crossing my fingers that they, and their app, won’t change for the worse (which I’m sure it won’t). I love being able to check my account balances, pay bills, transfer money, find an ATM, cash checks and more from the convenience of my phone — anywhere at any time.
  • Mint.com — my financial snapshot at my fingertips. Plug in your accounts so you can easily keep an eye on your finances — loans, investments, checking and savings, mortgage, etc. If it affects your finances, it’s there. Budget, see where you spend your money and save for those goals, like that vacation on a tropical island.

mint.com app

  • MyFitnessPal — this app allows me to track calories, fat, sugar, sodium, etc. and view a snapshot for the day, week or month. Enter your exercise as well, so you can see your net calorie intake and stay on track fitness-wise. The database has thousands of foods already entered, or you can enter your own, like my legendary peanut butter cream pie. Remember, a sound body means a sound mind too.
  • Pocket — I’m always coming across interesting headlines or intriguing websites right as it’s my turn to check out, a lunch appointment shows up or the light turns green. No problem, I just save it to my Pocket. This handy app lets you save favorites for viewing later on any device and share easily to social networks or non-social friends as well (i.e. text messaging, email).

Save anywhere with Pocket

  • Pulse — It’s 2012 and my newspaper is now on the Web, customized to me. Stay up-to-date on the latest news anywhere via any one of your devices, and easily share what interests you to your social networks or save for reading later when you’re stuck in line. Create pages so you can flip through content similar to the sections in a physical newspaper; only now, you create the sections, specify the content and don’t have to recycle the paper later.

So if you run into me in the real world while I’m on my phone, I’m probably using one of these apps. They’re game changers, and they have improved my life for the better.

What apps have found a permanent place in your life? I’d love to hear your favorites! While you’re at it, remember to be thankful for some other things in your life too.

You might also like: 50 Things I’m Grateful For…

Image credits: Evernote, Mint.com, Pocket

Be Thankful,
Jaime

Social Media Savvy: It’s All About the Brand

UPDATED: It’s Still All About the Brand

Whether you’re a social media superstar or a company touting your social savvy, it’s all about the brand. The social media platforms’ brands, that is. Are you brand compliant?

Facebook logo          Google+ branding          Twitter bird icon          Pinterest logo          LinkedIn logo

In July, Twitter switched its iconic identity from its well-known “t” logo to the bird. I still see “t’s” dotting the digital landscape everywhere I go.

Facebook prefers the “f” logo and generally does not allow use of the full Facebook logo.

Google+ offers a configuration tool for use of its logo online, but does not approve of the use of its +1 icon in online ads.

Pinterest offers use of both its full name and “p” logos and gives examples of successful brands utilizing its platform.

The LinkedIn name (not logo) should always be accompanied by the ® or ™ symbol, and its logo should always be used in color for online use (and offline, if practical).

For your convenience, I’ve included links below to current branding guidelines for these networks:

Remember, you can still get social while being brand compliant!

Are you using outdated branding guidelines to promote your social media usage? Have you never even given social media branding a second thought? I’d love to hear your take on this topic along with any other suggestions you have to shine on the social media stage.

While you’re at it, connect with me! Below are links to my presences on these social networks. I’d love to hear from you via these networks or in the comments below.

Enjoy the day,
Jaime

Facebook logo  Google+ branding  Twitter bird icon  Pinterest logo  LinkedIn logo

Image credits:
Facebook Brand Permissions Center *** Google+ Brand Guidelines *** Twitter Trademark and Content Display Policy *** Pinterest Goodies *** LinkedIn Branding Guidelines

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