Sunday, August 30, 2009

We're All in This Together

**Image from Learning 2XL

I'm a dreamer, but I'm also a realist. As much as I would love to, I can never change all the blight that exists in our world. It all comes down to the theory of quantity versus quality (this comes up all the time with my clients). You can put a little bit of effort into a lot of different things and nudge the needle ever so slightly in many areas. Or, you can start by putting all your efforts into one area, find others who are doing the same, and come together to make a tremendous impact. I realize this is a debatable topic, but I believe I have many more years of learning ahead of me before I'm ready to "conquer the world".

I never imagined three years ago when I chose to start my career in Detroit that I would meet so many people who shared my same goals and ambitions. I'm sure I sound like a broken record by now, but many creative and talented people live, work and play in metro Detroit. I definitely have social media to thank for connecting me to people whose paths may have never crossed with mine if it weren't for our common interest in the digital world. Many of us have bonded together, but I know there are others who for whatever reason aren't letting their voices be heard.

To tie this back to my original point, I've been investing a lot of my free time to help bring together metro Detroiters with similar aspirations. Communications and social media are very broad fields, so why not reel in all those who fall into these industries and connect them with each other? The purpose is to encourage the exchange of ideas, advice and sometimes even business. Now don't get me wrong - finding potential business prospects isn't the intention of this collaboration, but sometimes it just works out that way. By rallying together, we create new relationships and form new initiatives that continue to propel this region forward.

So what am I involved in? Tweetea and Social Media Club Detroit are the two biggies (these are Facebook links, so you have to log in to view the pages). I wrote about Tweetea before, but SMCD is a newly-formed group that has massive potential. I'm also working on growing a group that met earlier this summer to discuss how social media has impacted the world of communications. This may seem contradictory to the idea of "quality versus quantity" because I'm investing my energies into three separate initiatives. However, the overarching goal is the same for all three: Bring people together to make an impact in metro Detroit. By starting at the core, hopefully our successes and achievements will echo nationally and we'll gain more respect and credit for being a thriving community.

Here are a few other examples of some creative initiatives that focus on connecting people and/or highlighting the positive stories:
I know there are many more examples, but these are the ones that initially popped in my head. If you're part of a group that's working to advance our community or know of one, please add a comment with the details. I'm also interested to know if other cities/regions are making these same efforts, or are we more driven because we're fed up with all the negative attention Detroit gets?

Hopefully I'll have the opportunity one day to make a big splash on a larger scale. But for now, I'm keeping it simple and local. Each individual person in our community has potential, but together we're much more powerful. So, who's with me?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hey You, Speedracer. Slow Down!

I was working with one of our local TV stations Friday night on the Detroit Riverfront when I captured these awesome photos of a double rainbow. The evening started off pretty nice, but a storm blew in out of nowhere. There was rain for only 15 minutes before the sun peeked back out from behind the dark clouds, which is when the rainbows appeared. It literally happened before our eyes. We were watching the storm blow past us when all of a sudden the double rainbows emerged from the Detroit River.
Why am I sharing this? This was one of those "life's simple pleasures" moments. Our group of four marveled about how brilliant the colors were and how it's very rare to actually witness two rainbows form out of nowhere. We took a few photos and watched the rainbows as they faded away. Life slowed down for a few minutes while we took a breather to soak in the beauty. Then it was back to work. 

There's something I've noticed lately. The busier I get and the more I fill my time away from work with other activities (whether they be for personal or professional benefits), the less time I take to appreciate the things happening around me. I've been making a concerted effort to not always zip through each day in order to avoid missing those precious moments. 

There's something very serene about taking a few minutes to turn your brain off and quietly pay attention to your surroundings. You can do this anywhere - the cafeteria at your work, the grocery store or a park. You'll pick up on a ton of detail that normally goes unnoticed. 

So here's the takeaway: Slow down every so often and take in your surroundings. I'm learning those sporadic moments of tranquility can do wonders for your mental health.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Employees are Key to a Positive Customer Experience

**Photo credit: Arkaynelnc

Companies can make a positive impact on consumers in a variety of ways, including giving back to the community and seeking feedback to create a more attractive/reliable product or service. Care to know what makes one of the biggest impacts on me? Happy, thoughtful and caring employees. 

Two recent experiences have made me realize that employees who show one or more of the above three attributes can seriously make or break the way I view a company, and for that matter, whether or not I will continue to give my hard-earned cash to said company. 

MAL and I recently decided to try out the Megabus service from Detroit to Chicago for the first time. I had received mostly good reviews from a quick poll I took on Twitter, but I still wasn't absolutely convinced that this was the best idea. To briefly summarize our experience, the bus was very tidy and it departed and arrived on time. But what I'll remember most from my first Megabus adventure is the driver, Jack. Jack made it a point to come on the intercom (his intercom commentary throughout the trip was nothing short of witty and entertaining!) and introduce himself before we took off. He also provided us with frequent updates on when we would stop and how far we were from Chicago.  He even made a special stop at a rest area for the ladies because he realized the bathrooms at our lunch destination weren't accommodating for a large group of women sharing one restroom. This may seem less than impressive to some, but us women know how frustrating it can be to stand in a long bathroom line! 

I watched Jack chat and take pictures with some of the riders during lunch, and I could immediately tell he was passionate about his job and went out of his way to provide more than a driving service. Jack significantly added to my all-around positive first experience with Megabus, and you can bet I'll use the service again. 

My second experience, with Potbelly Sandwich Works in the Renaissance Center, is more of a recurring than one-time experience. When I choose to buy my lunch at work, I tend to be a creature of habit and opt to dine with Potbelly. The food is good and the options are diverse, but the happy and upbeat employees are the main reason I keep coming back. From the very first person who takes my order in line to the very last person at the cash register, chipper (and not annoyingly chipper in the least!) and smiling employees greet me. I keep waiting for the time I encounter a crabby employee who'd rather be doing anything other than taking orders and making sandwiches, but that's yet to happen. Positive and upbeat people are infectious, so I always look forward to having that slice of happiness injected into my day. 

Now, I fully realize not all employees who work for these two companies are the same and may not hold the same standards as Jack and the Ren Cen workers. But regardless, their attitudes make me fonder of the companies they represent. When company leaders strategize on how to be successful, I hope they take a good look at the people they are choosing to represent them. I'm sure I'm not the only person in this world who values happy and considerate employees almost as much as the product/service itself. Check out Chris Brogan's "Warm the Mug" post about a thoughtful and considerate server at a Michigan PF Changs location. 

I'm interested to know what other companies (local or national) have employees that have made a resounding impact on their customers. Please share! 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pay Homage to Your Favorite Viral Video with YouTube-inspired Shirt

**Image obtained from Mashable

We all have our favorite "fall out of our chairs" laughing YouTube videos that we constantly watch and share with friends. Two stellar videos that stand out in my mind are "Charlie bit my finger - again!" and "Whistle Tips with Bub Rub"

So imagine my excitement when I learned these highly popular vids and others are the inspiration behind Shirts Taste Good, a company that designs and sells YouTube-inspired T-shirts. I first read about this startup from a post on Mashable, and I immediately shared the link on my Facebook page because I think it's an insanely creative idea that has massive potential for success. This is one of those "why the heck didn't I think of that?" ventures. I can think of about a dozen friends who would find it absolutely hysterical to get one of these shirts as a birthday or Christmas gift. 

The prices are pretty reasonable, with new shirts released each week starting at $14.95 and the more popular ones at $17.95 (plus shipping).

My only gripe is the color selection. Each shirt only comes in one color right now, and while I love me some Bub Rub and Lil Sis, I'm not big on black T-shirts. Hopefully color variation is a next step in a Shirt Taste Good's business plan. 

The company currently offers a pretty good selection of YouTube classics, but you can submit your favorite video for consideration if it didn't make the cut. Wonder what the "Leave Kwame Alone" shirt would look like? ;)