Saturday, October 31, 2009

Take the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge

Photo credit

Thanksgiving is traditionally known as the holiday for giving thanks and expressing gratitude for our fortunes. We should ideally act this way all year long, but unfortunately acts of thankfulness aren't always top-of-mind. So instead of waiting for Thanksgiving, why not express gratitude throughout the entire month of November?

I got an e-mail from a friend the other day encouraging me to take part in the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge. According to the project's Web site, scientific research shows that practicing gratitude on a daily basis can increase your happiness and life satisfaction. The goal of this project is to bring people together to practice gratefulness during the month of November.

Sounds cool, right? To get started, register on the site and choose if you want to share what you're grateful for once a day or weekly (you'll receive an e-mail reminder to submit your gratitude daily or weekly, depending on which you choose). You can submit a gratitude of your choosing or one that goes along with the theme of the day. There are different ways to participate (as an individual, family, with someone who doesn't have access to a computer, etc.), so check out the Web site for the details.

The Hagopian family (I ALWAYS see commercials for the family's rug cleaning business) is the brains behind this creative project. According to the friend who sent me the e-mail, Edgar Hagopian is one of the most generous benefactors in the Michigan Armenian community. The family grew tired of all the gloom and doom in Michigan, so they decided to do something to bring people together to celebrate the positives rather than focusing on the negatives. They've reached out to people beyond Michigan, and now 29 states and 10 countries are participating in this project.

I know what you're thinking, because it was my initial reaction, too: I don't have time to do this. Seriously though, when you really think about it, it will take all of five minutes to do this daily. I'm confident I can think of 30 different reasons why I'm grateful. If practicing daily gratitude really helps elevate happiness, then imagine what 30 straight days of showing gratitude can do for your overall outlook on life.

I'm really looking forward to getting started on this tomorrow, and I'm interested to read what others submit. Leave a comment or ping me to let me know if you're sucking it up and doing the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Coca-Cola's "Expedition 206" Will Share Stories of Happiness From All Across the World

Photo credit

Coca-Cola and crayon are working on a super creative campaign next year called "Expedition 206". In a nutshell, Coca-Cola is enlisting three happiness ambassadors to visit all 206 countries where the company sells its products. The expedition will last throughout 2010. The ambassadors' goal will be to "seek out what makes people happy and share their happiness and enthusiasm with the rest of the world."

Naturally, social media will play a huge role in sharing these happy stories. The happiness ambassadors will document their travels by using social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. Fans will be encouraged to get involved by acting as "virtual travel agents" and giving the brand ambassadors suggestions on cool places to go and fun things to do in each country.

It seems as if the Coke folks may have taken a few notes from Ford's Fiesta Movement. However, I don't see anything wrong with taking a few ideas from an already successful campaign and adding in new elements to make it unique.

Check out this MediaPost article for more details: "Coke Ambassadors Taking Social Media Old School With Around The World Trip".

I'll admit that I'm more of a Pepsi aficionado (simply based on taste), but this campaign is intriguing and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out next year. What I like about this campaign is that real fans will be sharing stories of optimism and happiness...all related to this one brand. It's a much better idea than Coke doing the storytelling. If I had to make a choice right now, I'd say this campaign will be wildly successful.

What are your thoughts? Do you see this campaign failing or succeeding?

Monday, October 19, 2009

How Your Love Language Can Help You Be a Better Communicator

**Photo attribution

During my college days, a good friend introduced me to the book "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman. Dr. Chapman uses real life examples from more than 30 years of marriage counseling to explain the five languages people use to express love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.

Now, I obviously wasn't married when I read this (I say obviously because I'm still not married), but it opened my eyes to not only the way I prefer to express and receive love, but also who I am as a communicator. I learned that my love language goes beyond communication with my significant other. It also applies to the way I communicate with everyone in my life.

I could relate to a few of the love languages throughout the course of the book, but the one I really identified with is Words of Affirmation. This means that aside from liking verbal compliments (c'mon, who doesn't like verbal compliments now and then!), I prefer to give and receive encouragement, call attention to progress, acknowledge successes and varying perspectives on any given topic and talk through problems to find a solution.

If we take the time to figure out how people prefer to communicate, we can build more substantial relationships. These five languages can also be applied to friends, family and clients. Physical touch could mean a friend/family member needs a hug to feel better when they are upset. A client may need quality time in person with you every week to feel like you truly value them as a partner and appreciate their business. A coworker may need you to vocalize how well he/she did on a project you worked on together in order to truly feel satisfied with the work.

Since I'm the type of person who prefers to receive words of affirmation, I also make a conscious effort to give this type of encouragement to others. Here are a few suggestions on how to impact this type of communicator:
  • Express gratitude and appreciation.
  • Be generous with compliments...but only if you mean them!
  • Talk through problems in person.
  • Highlight accomplishments and successes. However, be sensitive to personalities. If the person is easily embarrassed, shining the spotlight on that person in front of a large group is not the best idea.
  • Express how you feel about someone (in the appropriate setting of course). If you really admire someone, or think they are an awesome person who you love being around, tell them!
We'll all face communication challenges at various points in our life. Making an effort to accommodate to different communication preferences is an important part of the relationship-building process. A small effort can go a long way!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Personal Branding + Social Media = Brand Camp University

**Photo courtesy of Hajj Flemings

Did you know you're a brand? Each and every one of us has a personal brand, and that brand is amplified by the conversations and content we share online.

The concept of social media's affect on personal branding is the foundation of Brand Camp University, an event I attended over the weekend at Lawrence Tech University. Attendees ranged from entrepreneurs and communications professionals to business owners and students. The rockstar speaker lineup included the following:

Hajj Flemings - author of "The Brand YU Life" and found of Brand Camp U (Brandon Chesnutt was this year's co-organizer); Scott Monty, global and digital communications manager for Ford Motor Company; April L. Holmes, world's fastest amputee and 2008 paralympic gold medalist; Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image; Kenneth Brown, best selling author of "A Leap of Faith" and McDonald's franchisee; Rohit Bhargava, senior VP strategy and marketing at Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence; Valeria Maltoni, co-author of "The Age of Conversation" and blogger for Fast Company Magazine and Bob Fish, CEO and co-founder of Biggby Coffee.

The knowledge I gained from these speakers is invaluable. I can honestly say that each presentation was outstanding and very on-par with the type of info I was hoping to take away from this conference. I filled about five pages of notes, but here are details from each presentation related to the themes I focus on in this blog:

Hajj Flemings
  • Hustle is your passion, what you would love to do full time. Your passion needs to be a mesh of what you do on a daily basis and what you do on the side.
  • Genius equals intersections of passion, problem and process.
  • Read the book "Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity".
  • Passion can’t be taught, but everyone is passionate about something.
  • One of the great ways to meet your own needs is to help someone else.
  • Use social media tools to amplify who you are and what you do. Identify your own signature voice and separate yourself in the space you are in.
Mitch Joel – How You Connect in a Connected World
  • A brand is an emotional connection. Universally, we all connect to this same thing.
  • Establish your values, goals and beliefs – find the real you (internal conversation).
  • Really listen to learn problems others have, then relate to them and form a relationship (one-to-one conversation). The more you give the more you’ll receive.
  • The Free Hugs Campaign video on YouTube is an example of how one person can have a positive impact on many (one-to-many conversation). In a day and age when people are trying to separate everyone, Juan Mann brought people together.

  • Social media is not about technology. It's about being authentic and understanding your internal convo (personal brand).
  • Make friends, play nice, tell the truth, take a bath, do your homework (way to create a personal brand).

Rohit Bhargava – How Your Personal Brand Can Save the World

  • If you don’t have to spend 15 minutes explaining who you are, you have more time to build a relationship.
  • The idea that drawing, writing, acting, etc. is only for certain people is always out there. You define who you want to be and become. It’s all about creativity and innovation.
  • Keys to building a powerful personal brand: don’t limit yourself, stand for something, find your twist, rethink your packaging, take the right risks (life is like Jenga – pull the right blocks out at the right time), think visually (like how Target creatively changed the design of its prescription bottles) and create/do what you love.

Valeria Maltoni – Personal Brand in a Wired World

  • How do you come across in real life vs. online? If you’re nice in person, you come across as nice online. Online tools let you amplify who you are.
  • Take a step back and look at the way you portray yourself online – is it authentic?
  • Organizations can be more powerful online if you help build a team.
  • Do: participate, share, listen actively, give value, appreciate.
  • Valeria came to the U.S. barely able to speak English and knowing no one. But she came with the determination to connect and to be helpful (her story was very inspiring).
  • Fit your own personality into everything you do and accept who you are “because that rocks”.

Ken Brown

  • LIFE = live in freedom every day.
  • Your life is not about what happens to you, you can’t control it. But you can control your ability to respond.
  • Passion is when you set yourself on fire and people will pay to see you burn.
  • Powerful words can change someone’s life. Ken's parents told him - “God promised you as far as your eyes can see”.
  • To be truly great, you must first serve others.
  • Vision is the art of seeing the invisible. When you see the invisible you can do the impossible.
  • FAMILY = forget about me I love you.
  • Don’t get caught on the money because you are money – that’s personal branding.

Scott Monty – The Rise of the Brandividual

  • Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh describes his company as a customer service company. Everyone he hires has to go through CS training. He wraps the individual right into the company.
  • With great power there must also come great responsibility, especially when you’re also responsible for a company's brand.
  • It's our job to help others understand about brand responsibility and power.
  • Opening up your corporation/work with a corporation makes you more human.
  • Competing companies need to collaborate and learn from each other to help customers.

April Holmes – Creating Victory Through Branding

  • A gold medal is within your reach (April passed her gold medal around the room and told everyone to take a picture with it). Check out my gold medal moment.
  • Appreciate the journey, and don’t be so focused on the end result. Appreciate the people you meet along the way.
  • Are you fulfilling your dream or someone else’s? You will fall down and get bloody, but visualize your goal.
  • A goal in April’s life is to touch other people’s lives, especially those with disabilities.
  • You may need to take a step to the left or the right, but you’re the only one who knows if you’re traveling in the right direction.
  • April Holmes Foundation – April's passion, heart and soul.
  • Learn how to celebrate yourself and know what you want to get a gold medal.

Bob Fish

  • When Biggby Coffee first started (back then it was Beaners), there were 35 other coffee shops in the East Lansing area. Bob made his company unique/stand out to succeed.
  • Success depends on knowing who you are and communicating it.
  • Bob's goal is for every customer to leave the store in a better mood than when they arrived. He hits this goal 72 percent of the time (uses secret shoppers and asks this question).
  • Core values: you need energy, excitement and enthusiasm – no matter what business you’re in; always have faith, confidence and courage – the real definition of courage is doing something you’re afraid of anyway; dedication and dependability – steadfast tenacious responsibility
  • Biggby's culture: have fun, be happy, make friends, love people, make great coffee.
  • There have been three weddings at a Biggby and there are countless stories of people meeting others and forming a relationship at Biggby.
  • You have to show your personality/persona through social media if you're representing a brand.
A HUGE thank you to Hajj and Brandon for putting on such a kick a** conference! I'm sure the sweat and tears you poured into this conference was worth it.

If this wasn't enough Brand Camp U goodness for you, check out the Twitter stream and photos on Flickr for more.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Detroit Takes Off its “Motor City” Title and Tries on “Fashion City” During First Ever Fashion in Detroit Event

I love fashion, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend Fashion in Detroit last week as a guest contributor for Positive Detroit. You can read about my experience below. This post also appears on the Positive Detroit blog.

Milan, Paris, Los Angeles and New York City have one major thing in common: They’re fashion hubs. Detroit isn’t one of the first cities that come to mind when we think of fashion, and that’s exactly what the executive committee of Fashion in Detroit (FID) is trying to change. The very first FID event took place October 1 – 2 at the Detroit Zoo. According to its Web site, FID is a bi-annual two-day fashion event created by Project Runway’s Joe Faris to put a fashion spotlight on Detroit and create a venue that fills the needs of many locally based designers and the Detroit fashion community.

The executive committee’s goal of bringing this event to Detroit is to rival other Fashion Weeks across the country.

I had the opportunity to attend the October 2 runway shows as a
Positive Detroit contributor (it was weird to be on the other end of the spectrum wearing a press badge!). Now, I won’t claim that I live and breathe fashion, or that I’m a devout fashionista like Angela from Angela’s Eye, but I do invest a lot of thought into creating a wardrobe that reflects the fashion trends of the season. I was beyond excited to experience this first-ever fashion event and share my thoughts on the spring 2010 collections from various designers.

After trudging through the rain and doing my best to avoid splashing mud on my suede booties, I ended up missing Joe Faris’ show. Here’s a breakdown of the remainder of day two’s runway shows:

Kevin Christiana – contestant on Project Runway season 4, head designer and partner of the labels CHRISTIANA ZINN and MYNT 1792. Kevin’s show featured some of his MYNT 1792 collection.

MYNT 1792 is a lifestyle brand created by New Yorkers and inspired by Gotham City’s culture. It includes a combination of unique fashion and well-tailored designs for men and women. This collection featured a lot of skinny pants and 1980s inspiration, like leather, spandex, Michael Jackson inspired cropped jackets and studded vests and jackets.

Thanks to the lovely Stephanie Casola, I got to go backstage and chat with Kevin about being at FID. Kevin and Joe Faris hit it off immediately when they first met, and Joe told Kevin he should be a part of the first ever FID. Kevin said while Detroit is best known for its contribution to the music industry, music and fashion go hand-in-hand, so it makes sense for Detroit to rise up the ranks of the fashion industry. Shorts are Kevin’s favorite item to design and sell because they’re always adorable and easy to shop for online. While in Detroit, Kevin checked out Mon Jin Lau in Troy and Chen Chow in Birmingham.

Carhartt – 120 years in business, located in Dearborn, MI, designer of workwear and outerwear pieces that are known for durability, comfort and quality of construction.

Carhartt showed off some of its items that weren’t the traditional workwear and outerwear pieces. The new line featured a lot of plaid, leather jackets, studded belts, dark denim and cargo paints (spiced up with gladiator style shoes), cropped and tall boots and vests. The pieces were relatively plain without a lot of intricate detail or design. These outfits gave off a comfy chic, semi-grunge vibe.

Femilia Couture – established by designers Fotoula Lambros and Emily Thornhill in January 2007, leans toward using natural based fibers and sustainable materials, locations in Detroit, Ferndale and Milford, MI.

This was the first time I’ve seen Femilia Couture clothing, and I fell madly in love with this label! Sheer and flowing materials, floral designs and layering dominated this line. The designs were very feminine and romantic. Ruffles, bunched dresses, angled cuts, fringe, jumpsuits and off-the-shoulder tops were also prominent. Femilia Couture is perfect for those who love beautifully crafted pieces that make you feel pretty.

Betsey Johnson – world-renowned New York designer with a long-standing fashion career. If you’ve never heard the name Betsey Johnson, then don’t even try to claim you’re into fashion. Betsey is known for injecting creativity into her pieces and making up her own fashion rules. This line was neck-in-neck with Femilia Couture’s as my favorite of day two at FID. The essence of the style featured in this line was funky and flirty.

The models even strutted with more sass and pizzazz when they showed off Betsey’s pieces. This line included bright colors, mixed patterns (floral with cheetah print or stripes), sequins, plaid, cropped jackets, layered
necklaces and dresses and bold prints. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to sport most of the featured pieces, but if you want to make a statement at a party or event, then Betsey Johnson is your go-to designer.

Made in Detroit – the most recognized logo in Detroit fashion history, owned by Detroit’s favorite bad boy Kid Rock.

Made in Detroit wrapped up FID with a bang. Being that
Kid Rock owns the label, the show kicked off with his famous head banger, “Bawitdaba”. The colors black, white and red dominated this line. There was a NASCAR theme going on with a lot of stripes, checkers and patches.

Both the men and women’s clothing were tight fitting. Accessories like suspenders, hats and belts were prominent with the outfits. I started getting bored by the same three dark colors, but things perked up at the end with a few hues of blue and cute denim dresses with black cinch belts.

Combined with the high-end fashion shows were a $5,000 donation to Danialle Karmanos’
Work it Out program and a FID Lifetime Achievement Award presented to designer Linda Dresner.

I briefly spoke with Karen Buscemi,
StyleLine editor and FID executive committee member, who said that while they didn’t fill the 500 available seats, everyone viewed FID as a success. Regardless of the number of people who showed up, creating an event like this in Detroit is a success in itself.

Mark your calendars for March 2010 when FID returns to the D. It seems like FID is here to stay, and I couldn’t be happier.