Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas

Ohhh the holidays! Christmas has come and gone and now it's time to look forward to champagne popping and hugs and kisses to ring in 2009. I hope everyone has had an amazing Christmas/Hanukkah. I look forward to Christmas every year and the feelings of happiness and nostalgia that come attached with the holiday. However, this year was a bit different. For a variety of reasons, I wasn't as excited as I normally am for the holiday season. It didn't seem right to splurge on holiday gifts when so many people in Michigan are suffering. So, I drastically cut down on the amount I spent on gifts this year. After talking with friends and family, I realized I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

I do want to share a story that reignited my Christmas spark and reminded me that happiness during the holidays equates to so much more then spending gobs of money on gifts for people who already have so much. Each year, my PR agency adopts a family for the holidays. For the second consecutive year, we enlisted the help of our client, The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit, to find a local family in need. TSA found us a family from Roseville and those of us who could afford to do so went shopping for the mom and her four children. I decided that I wanted to take part in the gift delivery this year, so me and four of my other colleagues played the role of Santa's Elves and delivered the wrapped gifts to the family's home. I can't explain how happy it made me feel to see the kiddies (who were beyond adorable with their curly, white blonde hair) beaming as we walked through the door with armloads of gifts. Isabelle showed us how she dances like a ballerina, Zach told us how he wants to be an architect when he grows up and the youngest ones, Chloe and Logan, watched us with shy but intriguing eyes as we chatted with their other family members. The kids' mom, Beth, and grandma thanked us up and down for giving their family a very merry Christmas. Beth also gave us a card from the whole family that again thanked us and told us before we decided to help their family, they didn't think the kids would have a Christmas this year. Beth promised to send us photos of the kids opening their presents on Christmas morning.

So even though I took it down a notch this holiday season and didn't go all out with present purchasing or decorating, I can honestly say I had a merry Christmas. I can't wait to see the photos of the kids from Christmas morning. I have read so many stories in the past few weeks about selfless individuals, families and organizations going out of their way to help those less fortunate this holiday season. Maybe Michigan and its residents greatly suffered in 2008, but there are angels among us who offered a helping hand and brought happiness and smiles to many. So here's to 2009 and hoping that more people continue to brighten the lives of others.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Every Woman Should Have and Know Before Turning 30

**Image from Glamour Magazine's Web site

I usually tend to ignore forward e-mails because I refuse to partake in the "pass this along to six people in the next hour and you'll marry the person of your dreams." However, thanks to Beckels, I actually paid attention to one that included a list detailing what every woman should have and know. The e-mail attributes the compilation to the great Maya Angelou. But thanks to Google, I found that the true author is Pamela Redmond Satran. And let me tell you, she is a bit peeved that Ms. Angelou tends to more often than not get the credit for this creative list. Rightfully so!

Anyway, Satran's advice touches on relationships, love, physical objects, work issues and life in general. She created the list for a 1997 Glamour article in light of recently turning 30. Satran wanted to share her words of wisdom with younger women, thus creating the "30 things every woman should have and should know by the time she's 30" list. The wrongly-attributed Maya Angelou forward is a bit different from the list on Glamour's Web site, so I'm including the list from the magazine instead. See if you agree with Satran's advice.

By 30, you should have:

  1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.
  2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
  3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
  4. A purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
  5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
  6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
  7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.
  8. An e-mail address, a voice mailbox and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.
  9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
  10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
  11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra.
  12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
  13. The belief that you deserve it.
  14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
  15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship and all those other facets of life that do get better.

By 30, you should know:

  1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.
  2. How you feel about having kids.
  3. How to quit a job, break up with a man and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.
  4. When to try harder and when to walk away.
  5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
  6. The names of: the secretary of state, your great-grandmother and the best tailor in town.
  7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
  8. How to take control of your own birthday.
  9. That you can’t change the length of your calves, the width of your hips or the nature of your parents.
  10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
  11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
  12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs or not flossing for very long.
  13. Who you can trust, who you can’t and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
  14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
  15. Why they say life begins at 30.
I find Satran's list to be very clever and comical. I can't honestly say I'll have a set of screwdrivers and a cordless drill by the time I'm 30, but I'd like to put a checkmark next to most of the items on this list when I reach that milestone.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Technology Rules the World

Everyone knows technology has taken over the world and has forever changed the way we communicate, connect, share information, make purchases....the list goes on and on. Technology has helped professionals, students and every-day people develop and foster a whole new level of creativity. It's even drastically changing entire industries...some for the better, others for the worse.

I have to give a shout out and thanks to Lauren W. for finding and sharing the video Did You Know 3.0. The video (credited to Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Jeff Brenman) is brimming with stats about how technology has revolutionized the world. The video also forecasts some future cause and effects of technology. It repeatedly asks the question "did you know?" followed by stats and facts related to technology from countries like the United States, India and China. WARNING: The music may cause waves of nausea and force you to believe you are at a rave with 100 strobe lights beaming around you. Check it out, perhaps on mute!

Here's the YouTube link.

I was amazed by this video, but what I found to be the most mind-blowing is:

  • The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met online.
  • The number of texts sent and received each day exceeds the total population of the planet.
The video concludes with a thought-provoking question: "So what does it all mean?" It simply means that technology is changing the way we live our lives so rapidly that once we get accustomed to one thing, it's outdated and we're moving on to the next phase. So is true for professionals working in creative industries such as PR, marketing, journalism and anything Web-based. The way I started doing my job nearly two years ago is definitely NOT the way I do my job today. And...I'll probably say the same thing six months from now.

So how we do handle all this? My two cents: Embrace (don't fear) new knowledge and learn as much as possible about how to utilize these technology-evoked changes to advance your personal and professional life. Simple, right ;)

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Scene from The Notebook in the City of Milan

Looking back at recent posts, I realized that I've been neglecting the second-in-line theme of my blog - love. I've focused my writing efforts quite a bit on creativity, so now I've found the perfect story to bring me back to el amor. I've actually had the link to this article saved in my e-mail inbox for a few weeks, so I've finally found some time to share this tear-jerking story.

I'm a huge fan of The Notebook (I know, typical girl). So if you're familiar with the flick, you know that Noah and Allie move on to the afterlife together wrapped in each others arms in bed. Ideally, that's the way to go...simultaneous with your soul mate so neither person has to bear the pain of living alone. This near exact phenomenon occurred in a teensy town called Milan, Mich. Jo Mathis from The Ann Arbor News wrote this touching article about Emil and Genevieve Schultz, who passed away within hours of each other two months after celebrating their 73rd anniversary.

To sum the story up, the couple met and fell in love at the tender ages of 12 and 14. Emil and Genevieve were extremely close with their family members and placed a high importance on setting a good example for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Fast forward 70 some years, and Emil is lying in a hospital bed with no hope of recovery. On the other hand, Genevieve is perfectly healthy at the age of 92. So it was a shock when the couple's son found Genevieve dead of a heart attack. Their children believe she simply couldn't cope with the thought of losing her husband, who peacefully died the next night at the hospital at the age of 94. Emil and Genevieve's caskets were separated by two heart-shaped wreaths and they are buried right next to each other at a Milan cemetery.

Now, maybe it's grim that I'm writing about death, but this story is a beautiful testament to the unexplainable powers of love. I wish every person on the face of this earth could find a love as real and rare as Emil and Genevieve's. This story really affected me because it's not like I was reading about it in a typical Nicholas Spark book. It's a true tale from a city not far from my own. And while fictional stories about love make readers sigh and think "I want this in my life," stories like the one about Emil and Genevieve prove that blissful love truly is attainable.

And with that, I've just secured my place on the "Biggest Sap" list. :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

How the Circus Explains PR

I was tweeting earlier today about how the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents Bellobration train was rolling into town and how busy the show is keeping me this week. The circus tweet reminded Ari B. Adler (a fellow Tweeter, blogger, PR/social media pro...and client!) about a creative definition of public relations that he shares with his students. I remember hearing this way back when in IPR 101 at CMU and I'm sure the majority of PR pros have come across this analogy at some point. I think it's fantastic and helps break down the distinction between various aspects of communications.

If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying 'Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday', that's advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that's promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor's flower bed, that's publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it on the evening news, that's public relations."

I wrote a similar post awhile back about a creative and humorous way to explain the differences between advertising, PR, marketing, etc. No matter which way you look at it, there's no denying that differences DO exist within these related fields!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Make an Impact - Volunteer!

As citizens of the state of Michigan, we are inundated by sorrowful and negative news on a daily basis. From the Big 3 woes, home foreclosures and homelessness, many families and individuals in the mitten state feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

There are so many amazing organizations throughout southeast Michigan that work diligently to help those in need. With the holidays sneaking up on us at lightning speed, many people will be seeking assistance. So what can you, as one single person, do to make a difference? Volunteer.

I, along with my gal pals Lauren (@metrogal84), Sarah (@sarshie) and Kendall participated in Panera Bread and United Way for Southeastern Michigan's Impact Your Neighborhood program on Saturday at Gleaners Food Bank in Warren, Mich.

DISCLAIMER: If you read my blog or know me well, you know that Panera is my client. I am not writing this to promote or publicize Panera. I am writing about this because volunteering and giving back to my community makes me happy :)

Impact Your Neighborhood is a regional initiative aiming to build stronger communities in metro Detroit. The program offered one-time volunteer projects on select Saturdays in September, October and November. The Gleaners volunteer day was the last project this year, but due to overwhelming interest in the program, we're hoping to expand it next be on the lookout for more details in the future!

So what did we do to make an impact? We helped sort a variety of goods into boxes, then packaged individual boxes for families to take back home with them. Simple, right? All it took was a few short hours and what we did will give happiness to people who are suffering. It was so great to see how many volunteers got up early on a Saturday and took time out of their precious weekend to make a difference.

As I previously mentioned, there are a TON of organizations throughout metro Detroit aiming to help struggling families and individuals that I'm sure are in need of volunteers now and throughout the holidays. Here are a few:
That's just a snippet, so feel free to comment about different organizations that you feel passionate about or ones that need volunteers.

Next up on the volunteer schedule -- ringing bells for The Salvation Army. More to come on that...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spreading the Social Media Wealth

In the past week, I've attended two great events that centered on social media and how its changing the public relations profession. I learned some great tips about social media in general and how to utilize it to advance my career and benefit my clients. So, I'm taking this opportunity to spread the wealth and share my newly-acquired knowledge. Chris Brogan preaches the importance of sharing what you learn...because why keep it all inside when you can teach it to someone else? I concur :)

The first event I attended was hosted by the Detroit chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators at Automation Alley in Troy and was titled "Social Media: Can You Digg It?" Love the creative title! The panel consisted of Lisa Platt, director of interactive media at Skidmore Studio, Tonja Deegan, social media specialist at Airfoil Public Relations and Chasen Cunitz, a recent communications grad of Hillsdale College and current employee at Toyota.

The three panelists were very knowledgeable on the topic of social media and how to integrate it into any communications outreach. I felt like I knew and understood the majority of what they were discussing and was hoping to get a bit more out of the session, but unfortunately many people in the audience didn't even know what Twitter was. Therefore, a lot of time was spent explaining the different sites that are creating such a social media firestorm nowadays. I did of course find the discussion to be valuable, so here's what I feel is most important to share:
  • People are always watching what you're saying online and online content lives forever, so be careful!
  • Three-fourths of U.S. consumes are online.
  • A company can't just make a Facebook page and expect results. It's imperative to pay attention to your audience, participate and encourage conversations and watch the behavior of your target audience.
  • Don't immediately pitch a product via social media sites like Twitter. Start with general conversation, build trust and open the line of dialogue with journalists or your intended audience.
  • I asked the panelists if the recent article on Wired's Web site by a Silicon Valley correspondent was true and if blogs truly are "so 2004." Answer: Absolutely not. Blogs are more niche and concise now, but they definitely aren't dead. Valuable content is core, so blogging for the sake of blogging may be dead, but blogs themselves still drive search engine optimization.
  • Responding to comments (both positive and negative) about your company or brand on social media networks is the best word of mouth and something you can't buy in advertisements.
  • Social media can be overwhelming (ya, you think?!?), so invest as much time as you can, but target what you're doing and be strategic about what social media networks you dabble in. Don't just join 30 forums for bragging rights.
Social media session numero dos was part of the PRSA International Conference that Detroit so proudly hosted for the past few days at the Ren Cen Marriott. This session was titled "The Changed PR Landscape - What Works and What Doesn't." Panelists included Rob Key, founder and CEO of Converseon, David Bradfield, senior vice president and partner at FH Digital and Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing. The moderator was Peter Himler (ironically, he writes a blog called The Flack), president of Flatiron Communications, LLC. This session rocked and I was furiously trying to write down everything these social media gurus were discussing, so here's what I managed to capture:
  • Brands don't communicate, people do.
  • 91 percent of journalists use search engines to find experts for stories and to research people they are including in stories.
  • PR people need to become publishers in order for content to be found by journalists.
  • PR people also need to optimize content and make it visible to their clients' audiences.
  • The dynamic of pitching journalists is changing because more are finding story ideas and experts via social media networks.
  • Become a native in social media communities and figure out what these communities are all about (what's the language, cultural need, etc).
  • Listening is a marketing discipline - communications centers on the ability to listen.
  • If you find positive sentiment about your client, energize it. Also engage with people who talk negatively about your client or client's brand.
  • The once hailed social media release isn't as broadly used as when it was first introduced.
  • Turn your releases into something more engaging and speak the language of your customers.
  • Communication tools will constantly change, so don't lose sight of the bare bones of communicating.
  • You can engage bloggers first to reach mainstream media versus going the opposite route and trying to reach bloggers via mainstream media coverage.
  • We're still in the early days of social media ROI -- no one has it all figured out yet.
  • The heart of communicating and making your voice heard is simple: Say something interesting and people will listen, care and respond.
WHEW! So I know people have itty-bitty attention spans and this post is uber long, but I learned so much this past week and truly felt compelled to share it all. These social media sessions were fantastic and I thank those who participated because they planted quite a few creative seeds in my head!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Got Tagged By the Six Random Things Post!

Thanks to my darling dearest friend Lauren (aka @metrogal84 for those in the Twitterverse) for tagging me in her recent post on six unspectacular things about herself. So I guess now it's my turn to reveal six random and unspectacular things about myself! This is stumping me a bit because some random things about me are quite the opposite of unspectacular (or so I like to think!), but I'll give it a whirl.

1. I am most likely one of the most empathetic people you will ever encounter in your life. There are positives and negatives to this because it means I care deeply for people, but it also means I cry EVERY TIME I watch Grey's Anatomy or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition...or if I see a stray dog on the street because I worry it will get hurt or not be able to find its owner. Yes I know, a bit over the top.

2. I'm creative with my thoughts and words, but have zero artistic talent. I am cringing because every year we do a pumpkin decorating contest at work and the deadline is right around the corner!

3. I don't live on the wild side. I am scared of things that move fast or could cause potential injury, such as sledding. Related to this, I've only ever broken one bone in my body (the radius in my left wrist after falling off the monkey bars in kindergarten). I have however, sprained both ankles multiple times due to volleyball and tennis in high school and college.

4. I love anything banana flavored....yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, pie, pudding, cake...the list goes on.

5. I like to sing and can actually carry a tune, but I'm too shy to sing in front of most people. I attribute this to the fact that I'm scarred for life from another kindergarten incident. My music teacher chose me and another girl from the whole class to sing the lead in our Christmas play. I wound up with a 103.0 fever and could not perform. If only I didn't get sick, maybe I would have started performing at a young age. Now I'm too chicken!

6. I get anxiety on numerous occasions from numerous sources. No further explanation is required.

OK, so maybe I elaborated a bit on my 6 unspectacular items, but some needed additional explanations! :) Now, I'm tagging some bloggers who may have to sway a bit from their typical topics to make this work, but hey it's fun and random...nuff said!

A Step Ahead, Beckels and Life is a Journey -- tag you're it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

True Love in the Form of Toast

**Photo credit to skipsphotos from flickr

Writing a blog that is 1/3 about things I love is great because the ideas for posts are endless...I love so many things! On that note, I can't believe it's taken me this long to write about a restaurant in metro Detroit that I absolutely LOVE going to on the weekends for breakfast. If you have yet to experience Toast in Ferndale, then I suggest you find a dining buddy pronto and pick an upcoming Saturday or Sunday morning to make a visit.

WARNING -- you must come hungry and be prepared to wait. Actually, come on the verge of starvation and try your best to be patient during the wait because it is SOOO worth it!

Toast is located just north of Cambridge on Woodward. It's a quaint little joint with bright, Detroit-inspired art on one side of the restaurant and breakfast-related decor on the other side. During the summer months, an outside patio is available for soaking in the sun while you indulge in a hearty meal. Why do I love Toast so much? The atmosphere is warm and inviting, the staff is cheery and always provides excellent service and the food is downright amazing. I have yet to find a complaint about this restaurant...aside from the fact that if you go there any time between 10 and noon on Saturday or Sunday, you can count on twiddling your thumbs for a few. is available in the back of the restaurant while you wait!

Here's a peek at the breakfast and lunch menus. However, these don't include the daily specials, which never cease to dissatisfy. I suggest the pumpkin pancakes, only in season for a short time. From the daily menu, my fav orders include granola banana pancakes, low fat granola served with fruit and vanilla soy milk and challah french toast served with granola, vanilla yogurt and a touch of honey. Yes, there is granola theme! Also, be sure to order a side of homefries, and if you can take the heat, douse them with some Frank's Red Hot. Scrumptious!!! Now I must admit, I've only ordered lunch one time at Toast, but the turkey avocado sandwich was a winner.

Because the Ferndale location is wickedly popular, Toast is opening a second location in Birmingham that will serve dinner and...wait for it...alcohol!! It's scheduled to open this month on Pierce St. in downtown B-ham. Check out this Oakland Business Review article for more about the new digs and how the owners conjured up the concept for this "cozy little eatery."

I really should be a walking advertisement for Toast because I seriously sing its praises to just about anyone who will listen! It's just another reason why I look forward to weekends spent at home in metro Detroit. And now that my hectic summer/fall consumed by traveling and weddings has come to a close, you can bet I'll be supporting the local economy at Toast with my partner-in-crime MAL as often as physically possible. :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fast Company Gives Grand Rapids Some Eco Love

Fast Company, a magazine that chronicles the evolution of business through a focus on creative individuals and companies that make an impact in the marketplace, recently gave some MAD green lovin' to Grand Rapids! In the article "America's Greenest City," Fast Company gives props to Grand Rapids for leading the nation in the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell pledged that more than 20 percent of the city's power would derive from renewable sources by 2008. Lo and behold, the city hit that target a year early and is aiming for 100 percent by 2020. Move over Ann Arbor, you've got some competition in the "most eco-conscious city in Michigan" category!

According to an article from The Oakland Business Review, 239 businesses in the state of Michigan are registered for LEED certification and 76 have been certified.

Gotta love it when the national media writes something POSITIVE about the mitten state :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bloggers Have a *Real* Voice With BlogTalkRadio

I was checking out Twitter the other night to catch up on all that I had missed in the Twitterverse after a busy day at work, and I came across an interesting link from Chris Brogan (follow him on Twitter - @chrisbrogan). For those of you who don't read Chris' blog or follow him on Twitter, he is a 10 year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations and individuals. Check out more about him here.

The link Chris posted on Twitter was for a show called Immediate Influence hosted by Ron Hudson on BlogTalkRadio. In a nutshell, BlogTalkRadio is the leading social radio network that lets you create your own live talk show that can be heard worldwide without the need for snazzy equipment or downloads. It gives bloggers the opportunity to interact with their audiences in a live, real-time manner. Chris chatted on the show about social media in general and various topics that he addresses on his blog. With BlogTalkRadio, there is a real-time chat component (just like Instant Messenger), so I was able to message back and forth with Chris, Ron and other people listening to the show as it was happening. This was great because it gave participants the opportunity to ask Chris questions directly and create conversations surrounding the topics Chris was discussing. My first question to Chris was, "How the heck do you juggle your job, speaking engagements, blogging, posting on Twitter, having a normal social/family life, etc.?" Answer: He doesn't sleep!

Now I will admit, I am blown away by social media and engage in it every day. BUT, I am nowhere near calling myself an expert and have a laundry list of about 3847572 questions and things that I still want/need to learn about social media. But participating in shows such as this one on BlogTalkRadio helps advance my knowledge and understanding of this changing-on-a-daily-basis medium!

It was hard to juggle listening to the show, contributing to the convos going on in the chatroom, tweeting about the show and jotting down soundbites from Chris, but here are a few extractions from what Chris discussed that I found interesting:

  • Use social media to build relationships (whether business-related or friendships), but always remember to be strategic and human at the same time.

  • Once you establish those relationships, listen to what people have to say, offer advice/tips, be helpful, connect to as many people as you can and share opportunities that may not be useful to you but definitely would be for someone else.

  • Chris feels it's important to educate more "seasoned" executives so they begin to understand just what social media is all about.

  • As CEOs and other top-tiered executives begin to grasp the concept of social media, PR/marketing folks need to be aware that these execs may think that PR/marketing can be done in-house versus outsourced.

There's a ton more I learned during the 30-minute show than those above snippets. Most importantly, I established new relationships and participated in creative conversation with interesting people. As a young PR pro, I believe it's my job to act as a sponge and soak in all that can be learned to advance my profession and industry in the future. If only there were 24 more hours in each day...:)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

PRSA International Conference Makes its Mark in Detroit

I love talking about Detroit and all the things that make this a great city to work and play in. Despite all the recent controversy surrounding Detroit, I am still proud to say I work there and always jump at the opportunity to show my pride for this city.

Recently, I had the chance to get on my soapbox (literally on a soapbox, watch the video) and tell everyone who will be attending the Public Relations Society of America 2008 International Conference in Detroit why I am passionate about the city. I can't even begin to explain what a coo it is for Detroit that this conference is coming here. Through stories from my agency's previous and current interns from the PR department at Wayne State University, I know how much effort was put into the bid that successfully landed the conference in Detroit. Their hard work paid off, and the conference will take place at the Ren Cen October 25-28.

I've previously attended two International Conferences -- one in New York and one in Miami. The knowledge a PR pro/student can take away from sessions is invaluable...not to mention the bazillion networking opportunities that are available at these types of conferences. This will be a great way to meet and connect with tons of other creative, energetic and vibrant practitioners or soon-to-be graduated students from all across the country. I am so psyched that this conference is taking place in the same building that I work! I'm still determining which sessions I will attend, but you can bet at least one or two of them will revolve around social media :)

Detroit's own Mitch Albom (sports writer for the Detroit Free Press and best-selling author of make-you-bawl books like Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) is hosting one of the keynote sessions at the conference. I am quite fond of Mitch's writing, but I more excited about Monday's keynote session with Penelope Trunk. Trunk touts the importance of finding a healthy balance between the workplace and your personal life, which is something that many people in the PR profession (and probably a variety of other professions as well!) struggle with on a daily basis.

I'm definitely looking forward to what this year's conference holds in store. I hope conference attendees take the time to get out and see Detroit a bit so they can understand firsthand why those who live/work/play here truly do have bragging rights.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spirit of Detroit Gets a Makeover

The city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and unfortunately the entire nation (thanks to AP stories!) knows the nitty gritty details of the shame and turmoil our great city has faced over the past year. But, a new leaf has turned. The dark clouds have parted and the city of Detroit is slowly peeling back the bandage that has covered one of its deepest wounds in history to begin the healing process.

This renaissance period, or rebirth of the city, that we are all so looking forward to really resonated yesterday at the Spirit of Detroit 50th anniversary celebration. I was lucky enough to sneak away from work for an hour to participate in the festivities. The mean, green machine has been a symbolic gem in our city for the past 50 years and has even donned many jerseys (yes, even a Lions jersey) to support our champion sports teams. But, he was in dire need of some revitalization. Age and weather had caused great damage to the statue's green patina exterior and marble base. Venus Bronze Works, Inc. in Detroit worked on the statue's restoration, while CASO-IMPEX in Birmingham handled the restoration of the Vermont marble backdrop and base. And I must say, he looks sharp :)

Here are some fun facts about the larger-than-life man:
  • The original sculptor was Marshall Fredericks.
  • He's made of bronze and weighs nine tons!
  • The Spirit was originally cast in Oslo, Norway and is the largest cast bronze statue since the Renaissance period.
  • He holds 24-karat gold leaf figures in each hand. One depicts a cradled family and the other is a spire representing a higher power.

According to Marshall Fredericks, "The statue represents the spirit of man. In his left hand, he holds a symbol of God, and in the right hand, a family group. It expresses the concept that God, through the spirit of man, is manifested in the family, the noblest relationship."

If only Marshall would have known way back when that the statue's revitalization marks the beginning of Detroit's revitalization. For some time now, many creative folks in the state of Michigan have been working strenuously to revitalize our city to bring and retain creative talent. We got pushed back a few steps by all the D-town drama that we've faced this year, but I truly believe we are back on the right path.

I looked around at the faces in the crowd yesterday at the Spirit of Detroit celebration, and everyone there looked truly happy - happy to take part in the Spirit's b-day bash, happy to hear remarks from the city's new leadership and just plain happy to be happy about Detroit again! It reminded me that against all odds, I'm proud to say that I work and play in Detroit.

So happy 50th birthday Mr. Spirit of Detroit. Thanks for reigniting the flame in our Detroit spirit!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A New Resource to Find Out if Your Pitch Sucks

To succeed in PR, one must possess creative characteristics. PR pros must write, think, pitch and communicate creatively. It's difficult to rank those in order of importance, but I definitely think pitching creativity takes the gold.

I recently came across this Web site, It reviews your pitches and tells you straight up whether or not your pitch sucks. The idea came to Jim Kukral after many failed attempts of gaining publicity from his pitches and news releases. He later figured out that it was as simple as this: His pitches sucked! So Jim wants to help perfect your pitch before you send it out to journalists, especially when you're responding to queries via ProfNet or Help a Reporter Out.

So all you have to do is sign up (it's free!) and submit your pitch for review. Now I will admit, I have signed up, but I haven't gotten as far as submitting a pitch yet. I definitely plan to in the near future to see what kind of feedback I receive. If anyone has previously submitted a pitch, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you feel about this service and if the feedback was valuable. Feel free to respond to this post, shoot me an e-mail or DM me on Twitter.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Feeling Uncreative and Uninspired? Turn to Quotes!

I work at a creative public relations agency with creative people who encourage creative thinking on a daily basis. But some days, I get sucked into a non-creative vortex. Sometimes, I simply don't feel inspired and I don't have the mental or physical energy to get inspired or be creative. Yeah I know, not exactly a mental state conducive to my job. I am sure many other professionals across various creative industries feel my same pain on occasion. So, what's the common cure for the uncreative, uninspiring doldrums?

Some may listen to music to get inspired, while others may scrounge up enough creative juices to pump out a blog post (or journal entry for those who haven't entered the blogosphere yet!) Some may hit the gym to give their creativity a jolt, while others may read.

SIDE NOTE: if you're looking for inspiration in the form of a book, I'd suggest reading Eat, Pray, Love. I'm about halfway through and I think it's phenomenal!

I, on the other hand, and being the sap that I am, turn to words in the form of quotes. I have collected many quotes through the years, and while cleaning out drawers this weekend, I came across one of my favorite quote books that I had tucked away and forgotten that it even existed. The title is simple: be. There are hundreds of ways to "be" in life, but I thought I would share a few quotes from the book that have helped refuel my creativity and inspiration.

Be First To achieve the impossible, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought - Tim Robbins

Be Proactive Whatever you are meant to do, move toward it and it will come to you - Gloria Dunn
Be Excited The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it's really a different kind of life - Buckminster Fuller

Be Amazing
It is up to you to illuminate the world - Phillippe Venier

Be Strong
We define ourselves by the best that is in us, not the worst that has been done to us - Edward Lewis

Be Different
Don't go with the flow, you are the flow - Sugi Tanaka

Be Positive
What you find in your mind is what you put there. Put good things in there - Mary Ford

Be Hopeful
I haven't a clue as to how my story will end. But that's all right. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, that's when you discover the stars - Nancy Willard

Be Confident
Look the world straight in the eye - Helen Keller

Be Spontaneous
Live nutty. Just occasionally. Just once in awhile. And see what happens. It brightens up the day - Leo Buscaglia

Be Yourself
Simply the thing that I am shall make me live - William Shakespeare

And the quote to sum it all up...

Grandma Moses said it best, "Life is what we make it, always has been and always will be."

Got any other quotes that help pull you through the blah times? Do share :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mix a Little Creativity With Politics and You've Got My Attention

Never once have I been interested in politics or the presidential, state or local government elections (yes that's bad, I know). However, my interest in politics has done a complete 180 thanks to the most recent election coverage that has absorbed our nation. I've read articles and watched news reports here and there to obtain an understanding of what Barack Obama and John McCain plan to do if one or the other is elected president in November. thing that roped me in and caused me to actually take the time to watch and care about the Democratic National Convention is a creative initiative launched at the DNC: the American Voices Program. The program exactly reflects its title, wherein REAL Americans facing REAL problems take the stage to share their stories of struggle, heartache and desperation to millions of people watching worldwide. I give these people profound credit for standing in front of a crowd of more than 75,000 and eloquently sharing their life experiences, many without faltering or shedding a tear. These people have been to hell and back and are brave enough to tell their story to show America that (in Obama's words), we need change.

A few people participating in the American Voices Program are from Michigan (rightfully so since many tales of struggle can be found throughout our beloved state). Here's a speech from Roy Gross from Michigan, who fortunately hasn't lost his job, but has had to cope with watching many friends and co-workers faced with unemployment.

My name is Roy Gross. I’m a proud member of Teamsters Local 299 in Detroit, Michigan. When I was a young man and wanted to start a family, I went to Detroit and landed a job as an automobile transporter. I delivered new cars from the assembly plants to dealerships around the country.It was a great job, a Teamsters union job. You worked hard and it paid good wages, plus health care and pension. I worked there for 18 years. Working class families were doing well in Detroit until the Bush Administration took office, then everything changed. Manufacturing jobs were exported by the hundreds of thousands and replaced with minimum-wage jobs in the so-called “New Economy.” I’m one of the lucky ones; I still have a job. But many of my friends and co-workers have lost their jobs and their homes.If you ask me, this so-called “New Economy” is not working. We need a renewed economy. That’s why I’m seeing so many of my friends in Michigan - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - putting aside their differences to join this campaign.Barack Obama will enact fair trade policies and work just as hard for us as we work for America. I will do everything I can, from now until Election Day, to put Michigan in the Obama column.

My favorite American Voices speech from Thursday night was delivered by Pamela Cash-Roper, a North Carolina resident who is without health care. Check out her powerful and moving speech here. Obama may want to think about adding this kick a** woman to his campaign!

Another speech that really touched me (OK I'll admit, I choked up) was from Barney Smith, a life-long Republican from Indiana who was let go from a job that he worked at for 31 years with only 90 days severance pay. Barney's speech is touching and 100 percent genuine..check it out.

OK, so why am I posting on all this political stuff? I commend whoever had the brilliant idea of integrating this American Voices Program with the DNC. I think it's insanely creative and definitely caught my attention. Sure I believe Obama when he says our nation is in crisis, millions are without health care and the worse is yet to come if we don't make a change. But it means SO MUCH more to hear the daunting truth straight from people whose lives are intertwined with our nation's crisis on a daily basis.

So for now, the creativity star goes to Obama. We'll see what McCain has up his sleeves at the Republican National Convention next week. And no, I DON'T give McCain creativity points for choosing a woman as his vice president!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Bit 'o Creative Humor to Explain the Different Communications Industries

Many professionals in communications industries can attest to the fact that the general public thinks of advertising, marketing and public relations as one in the same. True, these three industries directly correlate with each other, but at the same time they are distinctly different. This article actually gives a pretty good comparison between PR and advertising. Check it out if you're having trouble grasping the differences.

Friends/relatives always seem to ask me the same question: "So, what exactly do you do in public relations?" While sifting through some very old and random e-mails I saved (I knew they would come in handy one day!), I found this hilarious and very creative e-mail from my PR gal-pal and fellow CMU grad, Raychel. Maybe us PR pros should start rattling off these analogies the next time someone asks us to explain the differences between the below industries! If this serves for nothing more than a good laugh, then it serves a purpose after all :)

The buzzword in today's business world is MARKETING.
However, people often ask for a simple explanation of "Marketing."

Well, here it is:

You're a woman and you see a handsome guy at a
party. You go up to him and
say, "I'm fantastic in bed."

That's Direct Marketing.
You're at a party with a bunch of friends and see a
handsome guy. One of
your friends goes up to him and pointing at you
says, "She's fantastic in bed."

That's Advertising.
You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him
and get his telephone
number. The next day you call and say, "Hi, I'm
fantastic in bed."

That's Telemarketing.
You see a guy at a party, you straighten your
dress. You walk up to him and
pour him a drink. You say, "May I?" and reach up to
straighten his tie,
brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and
then say, "By the way, I'm fantastic in bed."

That's Public Relations.
You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks
up to you and says, "I
hear you're fantastic in bed."

That's Brand Recognition.
You're at a party and see a handsome guy. He
fancies you, but you talk him
into going home with your friend.

That's a Sales Rep.
Your friend can't satisfy him so he calls you.

That's Tech Support.
You're on your way to a party when you realize that
there could be handsome
men in all these houses you're passing. So you
climb onto the roof of one
situated towards the center and shout at the top of
your lungs, "I'm fantastic in bed!"

That's Junk Mail.
You are at a party, this well-built man walks up to
you and grabs your ass.

That's the Governor of California.
You like it, but 20 years later your attorney
decides you were offended.

That's America.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Selfless Love Knows No Limits

Most girls/women dream the same dream about what marriage holds in store for them and how their future love story will unfold. Normally, that dream includes finding a soul mate to experience life's treasures and pitfalls with, creating a family, growing old together and eventually leaving this earth together (ya know, taking your last breath next to the one you love like in the movie The Notebook).

OK -- so maybe that's my idea of timeless love and the picture I've painted for my future since way back when. But unfortunately, life is unpredictable and will surely throw many curve balls at each and every one of us. Such is the case for Deric Jacques, an 85-year-old man from Novi, Mich. who has selflessly been caring for the love of his life, Barbara, for the past few years. 

Susan Ager (who by the way has one final piece this week before she leaves the Detroit Free Press) wrote this amazingly heartfelt and gut-wrenching article that tells the story of Deric's love for Barbara. I wonder what it must have taken to listen to this man's story and hear firsthand what it's like to love someone as much as Deric loves Barbara. If she toughed it out without shedding a tear, I'd be impressed. 

Barbara is blind in one eye, has a low-level lymphoma that sucks the energy right out of her, is mobile only with the help of a walker and has vascular dementia. The sum of these conditions basically equates to Barbara not recognizing Deric or her surroundings on most days. Yet Barbara's conditions have no negative effect on the love and care Deric provides her on a daily basis. This couple has experienced many things throughout their lives together -- conquering love amidst a war, 22 homes throughout the world, five healthy children, 65 years of marriage and now Barbara's debilitating diseases. Deric's explanation for why he puts up with the struggle of caring for Barbara rather than taking the easy route and placing her in assisted living is as simple as this: "I know she would do this for me."

You must read the story to fully grasp what it's like to live in an 85-year-old man's shoes who has allowed his entire life to turn upside down and has given up his own wants and needs in order to care for the woman he loves. Yes it's a tear-jerker and yes it's sad to think this poor man will never have the woman he married back again. But I always love reading stories that exemplify what it means to care more about others than you do about yourself...and what it means to love. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thank You For Being a Friend

A couple side notes before I dive into this post:

1). I'm writing from a client's office in Pasadena, and Pasadena is gorgeous (if you ignore the hazy layer of smog that covers all of LA and surrounding cities!) It's my first trip to Cali, so yes I'm excited.

2). A big hip-hip-hooray to everyone who voted yes to pass the slight tax increase and keep the zoo (see post below).

OK -- on to the post. Back when I was a college student and had about 374842 less worries in my life, I had an amazing job as an advertising rep at CM Life, Central Michigan University's student-run, on-campus newspaper. I cannot express how much I loved this job and the creative people I collaborated with on a daily basis. Working with 40+ clients, learning how to thrive in a team environment and managing client's day-to-day expectations prepared me more for my job in public relations than I could have ever imagined when I initially accepted the ad sales position.

My experience at CM Life would not have been nearly as memorable if it weren't for the amazingly talented people that I worked with. Many of us keep in touch to this day and get together every so often to catch up on all the twists and turns we've experienced since departing our beloved campus. We just had a CM Life reunion last week at Kona Grill in Troy (uber cool after work atmosphere...I highly recommend it!). I will admit it now: I hate change and I hate losing contact with friends. That's why I find our get-togethers to be such a testament to how important it is to remain in contact with people and set aside time in your busy life to catch up with old friends. Seeing all those familiar faces from CM Life (as well as few new ones) and hearing what's new in everyone's world helped fizzle the tension we all felt in our respective lives and at our respective jobs.

I learned that many of my CM Life pals were blogging like myself and using social media to advance their own knowledge, as well as their clients'/employers' knowledge, of the rapidly changing world of Web 2.0. Check out some of their blogs:

I am so grateful to have amazing people in my world like my fellow CM Lifers to share experiences, ideas and life lessons. I love that we are all committed to remaining in contact with one another, and even if we only gather face-to-face once a year, at least we know there's always a reunion in our future.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Inner Child Made Me Vote

** Photo credited to the Detroit Free Press.

Today is a very significant day in my "I'm all grown up" world. Today, I voted at my local precinct for the very first time. Yes, I know it's sad that I'm nearly 24 and have just voted for the first time. But I wasn't persuaded to vote by the political signs and fliers splattered across my neighborhood, or the campaign ads running on TV. I was swayed by a billboard of a little girl standing on her tippy-toes trying to reach the voting booth. I was motivated by this billboard that simply read "Kids would keep the zoo if they could. Vote yes August 5th." And that's it -- that's all it took for me to figure out that I indeed registered to vote when I was back in college and to mosey on over to my local precinct. I proudly filled in that little oval next to the word "yes" to approve the passing of a property tax increase (about $10 per year on a house worth $200,000) to establish long-term, sustainable funding for the Detroit Zoo.

I have to give mad props to Doner Advertising, the company behind the zoo's creative and eye-catching advertisements that called out our inner child. Not to mention the fact that Doner has been doing pro bono work for the zoo for 26 years!! Now that's a true display of dedication and commitment. Check out this Free Press article about Doner's work on this most recent and previous zoo campaigns.

Maybe the catchy ads didn't phase everyone, but they sure reminded me about the significance of the zoo and what it means for metro Detroit -- and all the little kiddies who visit the zoo each year. I went to the zoo twice in the past year, once on a hot summer afternoon last year with MAL (it's always fun to go on dates to the zoo!) and once this summer for the Sunset at the Zoo event. Both times I was reminded of how I love the fact that Detroit has its own zoo that is pretty well renowned across the country. MAL and I have talked on several occasions about taking his niece on her first trip to the zoo. I can't imagine what it would be like if the zoo were no longer a part of metro Detroit. Not only would it be devastating to lose this historical gem, but considering that the zoo draws about 1.1 million visitors a year,
the loss of it would be another low blow that Detroit simply can't take.

I sincerely hope that voters took note of those clever billboards and TV ads that gave a voice to the ones who can't vote -- the ones who will truly miss out if the zoo can't afford to sustain operations in the future. I think Tom Walsh's closing words in the Free Press article I referenced above sums it all up: Here's hoping they pull it off, for the kid in all of us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One Magazine, Many Things Learned

I love having something to look forward to. It always seems to make the dragging days/months (although since I've started working I can't recall many days that have dragged!) breeze on by. People look forward to a variety of things - weddings, concerts, vacations, movie premiers, etc. I look forward to all of those fun things too, but sometimes I just look forward to reading a good book or one of my favorite magazines at the end of a brain-numbing day.

As the end of each month approaches, either or LDub or I make a point to stop by one of our local Panera Bread bakery-cafes and pick up a copy of Strut Magazine. Now of course I would be a fool to not monitor this woman-empowering pub every month for client purposes. But on a more selfish and self-indulging note, I read it for my own personal pleasure...AND because I always seem to learn something new and inspiring after I read it. The writing and article topics are just so darn creative and witty! So I thought I'd share the wealth and write about some of my favorite parts of August's "Moving On" issue.

First off, I'm a quote fanatic. Back in the day, I had time to log my teenage thoughts in a journal and search hours on end for quotes and poems that moved me. I may not do that now, but I always make sure to take note of quotes that catch my eye. Here are a few favs from Strut's August issue:

"Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience."
Victoria Holt

"Pick the day, enjoy it - to the hilt. The day as it comes. People as they come. The past, I think, has helped me appreciate the present - and I don't want to spoil any of it by fretting about the future."
Audrey Hepburn

"If you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesterdays are buried deep - leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back, and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead."
Beryl Markham

While I basically read Strut cover to cover, I'd have to say that the article I most align myself with is six surefire secrets to stand out from the crowd from a local PR pro (duh, it's advice from a female PR pro - of course it's my favorite!) When people ask me what my advice is about landing a job in PR straight out of college, I always say the same exact thing: Stand out from the crowd. Looks like I'm not the only one! Here are Sharlan Douglas' ways for job hunters to make themselves shine among the fierce competition:
  • It's not about you. Research the company you're applying at online, the name of the person who would hire you and be able to explain why and how you would make this person's life easier.
  • Know your competition. Vocalize your unique selling proposition and articulate those differences in a way that positions you against the competition.
  • Think strategically. Consider trade-offs to reach your long-term goals, i.e. does the employer offer generous education benefits, or will you have time to participate in a professional association?
  • Network. Tell people you know that you're job hunting. People with experience in our field love to share their knowledge.
  • Make cold calls. You'll probably have to do this at some point during the job search, just like you'll DEFINITELY have to do this at some point if you work in the PR industry.
  • Motivate yourself. Job hunting is a job, so if you don't put your all into it, who will?
FINAL THOUGHT (OK sorry that's very Jerry Springer-ish): Sometimes I wish I could get paid for reading books/magazines/blogs and sharing words of wisdom with anyone who cares about my opinion. Another notch added to the "Things I'd Like to Accomplish One Day" post :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

My First Jewish Wedding

This past weekend was wedding number three out of five that MAL and I have committed ourselves to in 2008. I'm a sucker for weddings and all, but five is a bit much in a short span of four months! However, I have to say that our wedding experience this weekend was rather enlightening. Not only did it take place on beautiful Torch Lake, but it was the first time either one of us had attended a Jewish wedding. I wasn't skeptical by any means because a union of two people in love carries the same meaning across a variety of religions. But being the born-and-raised Catholic that I am, I was interested to experience the differences in wedding rituals.

Let me just say, I was moved...almost to the point of converting! OK, so maybe that's a bit extreme, but I was deeply touched by the intimacy of the ceremony and how much emphasis was placed on the two individuals committing their lives to one another. I am Catholic (and God knows I put in my time at Mass while I was attending Catholic grade school!), therefore I feel I can harp a bit on the Catholic religion. Most Catholics will admit -- it's a bit formal and ritualistic. We stand, we sit, we recite prayers in unison, we kneel, we stand again, we come forward to take the Body and Blood of Christ, etc. The Jewish ceremony was nothing like that. Sure there were rituals, like the couple sharing a cup of wine with each other then each other's parents, standing under the chuppa (canopy) and the reading of the ketubah (marriage contract). Maybe it was the way the rabbi spoke so sincerely about the couple, or maybe it was the fact that although there were rituals, they didn't seem particularly rigid. All I know is that my attention was focused the entire time at the ceremony and I have a newly-discovered appreciation for weddings that aren't strictly Catholic.

My two favorite parts were when the rabbi read letters that the couple had written to each other. They, along with those in attendance, were hearing the confessions of a "forever commitment to one another" for the very first time. Yes, I choked up. I also really liked the Seven Blessings, where different members of the wedding party stood up and read seven separate blessings that were bestowed upon the newly married couple.

All in all, the Jewish ceremony could be summed up in three words: short, sweet, sincere. It really opened my eyes to the way different religions celebrate the matrimony of two people in love.

Mazal Tov!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What's the Rush and Where's the Fire?

I have a full time job and maintain a relatively active social schedule, but sometimes I feel like I could make a full time job out of keeping in touch with friends and family. It shouldn't be a chore to call your best friend or your cousin who lives out of state, but I tend to feel that way on occasion. Maybe it's because I hate losing touch with people. Maybe it's because so many of my friends and family either live out of state or in a different part of the state. But keeping in touch with those nearest and dearest to my heart makes me happy. I just had dinner with four amazing and incredible women, who like myself, work (or have worked) in the communications industry. They are inspiring, effervescent and so totally unique that I find my thoughts lingering on our evening together days after it takes place. It makes me so happy that even in our crazy, hectic and chaotic lives, we find time to come together every other month or so and share life stories and lessons. OK, so maybe we just talk about men and our social lives for a good portion of the night, but whatever -- we are women after all :)

I am sure there are many people out there, old and young, who feel my same woes -- that nothing in this world makes them happier than to spend time with friends and family. Yet, they don't find enough time to arrange for those reunions on a regular basis. My lovely married gal L-Dub (she no longer can be referred to as L-Pan, how sad!) found this great blog post through a Google alert for Panera Bread. The author sat in Panera and took some time to observe and reflect on his surroundings. And what did he notice but none other than people from all walks of life rushing around, except for a few "older folk" who actually seemed to grasp the concept of relishing in relaxation.

I ask myself this question frequently -- what is the point in rushing through life? Does it really matter if I leave work for the gym at 6 or 6:15? Does it really matter if I finish three projects today or only two? Does it really matter if I rush to call five friends after work, or should I call two and have longer conversations?

I am learning that I am a much happier person (and I have much less anxiety and spare my sanity!) when I savor moments rather than blow right through them in hopes of accomplishing another task for the day. So I'll keep reminding myself that there's no need to hurry so much -- maybe one day I'll finally learn for good :)