Category: Things I think you should know

Audience participation in the social media age

Social Media is a big part of my life. I rely on my Facebook friends to give me the important details about a school event when the monster that lives in my son’s backpack gets hungry and eats the important papers (aside: why can’t they ever lose the unimportant papers???). Twitter is an excellent source of breaking news and where I find most of my book recommendations. Effective use of social media comes down to finding trusted sources and forging relationships. When it’s done right, it’s wonderful way to build a community. Some of whom you’ll never meet in real life, some of whom live right down the street.

Intelligence cast l-r Marg Helgenburger, Meghan Ory, John Billingsly, Josh Holloway, P.J. Byrne
Photo Courtesy of @MargHelgen

Social media is also a wonderful way to connect with others who share your interests. In January, CBS premiered the show Intelligence, a procedural featuring Josh Holloway (of Lost fame) as Gabriel Vaughn, a U.S. Intelligence agent with a microchip in his brain. The chip allows him to access any information that is in the cloud. With a mere thought he could access DMV databases, satellite feeds, and well, social media. The show was timely, and in my opinion, well written and produced.

The show had it’s own Twitter account (@IntelligenceCBS) which I followed and from there, I was able to connect with other fans, the executive producer, the writers and three actors who starred on the show. They shared behind the scenes photos and interesting trivia about the production of the show.

Several episodes were live tweeted. Michael Seitzman the Executive Producer, at least one of the writers and a couple of the actors. They would add commentary as the show aired on the East Coast. Normally, I record shows on our DVR and watch them as I can. I took to watching Intelligence live to take advantage of the live Tweet stream. One comical event happened when Seitzman was sabotaged by his three year old.  He was watching a DVD copy from his home outside L.A., when his 3 year old son advanced the DVD. He had to tweet to find out where in the show those of us watching in real time were.

I felt more connected to a TV show than I ever had in the past and not because of some marketing campaign. Because the people behind the show, genuinely interacted with the fans. The cast and crew were great about answering fan questions. The day Seitzman responded to one of my tweets I felt like a total rock star. That community made watching the show more fun.

Slated as a mid-season replacement, they only shot thirteen episodes, so the first season ended mid-March. Those of us who were hooked were left on pins and needles waiting for CBS to announce that the show had been renewed.

I enjoyed the show so much that I purchased all 13 episodes on iTunes, a first for me. As we waited for a renewal announcement, I made sure to share my passion for this show with my social media circles at least a couple times a week. I wanted to show the powers-that-be at CBS that I REALLY wanted a second season to get to know these characters better. We would know for sure one way or the other no later than May 14th.

Last Saturday, Michael Seitzman tweeted.

Cancelled

Seriously? I am so disappointed! Yes, I realize that it’s just a TV show, but there’s so much crap on TV and they ignore this gem? My fellow fans on Twitter were quick to respond with our displeasure (the producers and the cast kept it classy and stuck to expressing gratitude to the fans).

After twelve hours of brooding and stewing, I decided to take the bull by the horns. Intelligence was a joint production between CBS Television Studios and ABC Television Studios. I figured if CBS doesn’t want it, it’s time for ABC and their parent company Disney to get THEIR return on investment. So I did what any social media savvy fan would do. I started a new conversation and launched a new hash tag. Instead of #IntelligenceCBS, I started #IntelligenceABC. I reached out to a few of my fellow fans and encouraged them to spread the word.

Seitzman was quiet for a few days after the announcement. When he did return he had good news and bad news. The bad news: he said it was unlikely that the show would be picked up by another network. The good news: he’s working on a new show.

I’ll tune in for sure.  Now, if we can just find new roles for the show’s actors. Hmmmm

#CastJoshHolloway

#CastMeghanOry

#CastMargHelgen

#CastMichaelRady

#CastPJByrne

#CastJohnBillingsly

 

 

 

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“It’s a Business Decision” – A Primer On Managing Change for Small Businesses

'Open Sign' photo (c) 2010, Brian Hawkins - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ “It’s a business decision”.

I’ve heard that blasted statement twice lately. Once in a personal situation and once in situation that was less personal, but impacted me none-the-less. One business handled things well. The other? Well, let’s just say there was room for improvement.

We say “it’s a business decision” as though that statement wipes away all the pain of the change. It doesn’t. It’s an attempt to depersonalize the situation. It’s not about you, it’s about growing “The Business”, making it successful, making more money, serving a different audience. None of these things are wrong per se.

The problem, especially in consumer focused businesses is that it IS personal. Businesses spend a lot of time building relationships, engaging their audience and growing a community. It’s that kind of warm fuzzy feeling that encourages customer loyalty and the best, least expensive form of advertising, word of mouth endorsements. Then the business makes a decision to change their offerings, change course or change personnel. POOF! The warm fuzzy feeling is gone.

So what am I saying, that businesses should never change? Never grow? Psssh of course not. It’s all in how you as a business owner handle the change.

Communicate Communicate Communicate

It’s important to communicate honestly and sincerely about the change. In some circumstances it’s best to provide advanced warning. Give people a chance to warm up to the idea of a new service offering or a new teacher. If possible ask for input from those who will be affected.

Some circumstance require you to share the news quickly, like ripping off a Band Aid®. Sometimes it’s just not possible to consult those who will be impacted. The key is knowing your audience, viewing the change from their perspective and communicating. Remember you might be over the moon about the change, but  your patrons might not share your excitement.

Respect Customers’ Feelings

Change is hard for most people, especially if they are heavily invested in the community you’ve built. Those impacted by the change may have strong feelings. Respect them. Remind people that the change isn’t personal and encourage them to try the new program, or service.

Honor the past

Ceremony (even a small one) allows us to mark the time and provides a sense of closure. The temptation is to ignore the sadness, and anger that comes with change, but acknowledging it and facing it head on leaves everyone with a better feeling in the end.

Is a well loved staffer moving on to bigger and better things? Invite customers to sign a card or have a small going away party. No longer offering a specific service? Send customers a quick list of highlights, thank them for their patronage and invite them to transition to the new offering.

Move on

It’s important to be respectful, but don’t dwell. Assuming you’ve made the decision with the best interests of the business in mind. It’s important not to waiver. Don’t give the impression that if people complain enough things will go back to the old way. Hear people out, but gently remind them that this is your business. You’ve enjoyed their patronage but if the new scenario isn’t going to work for them, it’s ok if they find another provider.

Rebuild

It is inevitable with change that some customers will leave. You can’t please everyone and for your business to succeed and thrive, you have focus on meeting the needs of your target audience. It’s hard to see them go, but wish them well and focus on those who’s needs you can serve best.

Change is hard, but with a little effort, it possible to execute it with minimal hard feelings and maximum growth.

 

Choffy – Delicious Brewing Chocolate

Choffy 100% Ground Cacao Beans When you open a bag of Choffy the delicious aroma of chocolate tickles your nose. It’s not a super sweet smell, but rich and decadent like the best chocolate you’ve ever tasted. Choffy is 100% premium cacao beans that are roasted and ground. It brews like coffee, but it tastes like a grown up hot chocolate. It’s not sweet (unless you add sweetener), but it sure scratches that chocolate itch.

I first read about Choffy on blog, that was doing a giveaway of Choffy. I was so intrigued, I didn’t even enter the contest, I went straight to the distributor’s site and ordered a bag. Yummmm. I’ve been drinking it both hot and cold for a few years and I decided it was a product I could really get behind, so late last year, I signed up to become an Independent Choffy Distributor (you may have seen references to Choffy on my DreamBoard and my 2014 Goals).

Choffy doesn’t have any of the negative side effects (that hard crash or the jitters), of caffeine and there are only 40 calories in a 12oz cup! You can fulfill that craving for chocolate without going over board on calories. Choffy is naturally high in anti-oxidants and can even improve your mood. Don’t take my word for it, visit the Choffy website for more information on the science behind the health benefits of cacao and Choffy.

There are several blends of choffy including Ivory Coast, IC Dark, and VoltaThere are several different brews of Choffy. My favorite is the IC Dark made from cacao beans grown on Africa’s Ivory Coast and the new Volta made from beans grown in Ghana. Choffy can be brewed in a drip coffee maker with a gold filter, but for the best experience I recommend using a French Press (you can pick one up from Amazon for around $10 or why not pick up a thermal french press?). Choffy retails for $15.00 per bag (Volta is $16.50, but oh is it worth it). If you are local to me, I keep stock on hand so shipping fees are less because I order in bulk, if not, shipping is just $5.75 for up to 3 bags. Just visit http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order and with a few clicks of the mouse, your Choffy will show up at your door in just a few days.

Here’s my recipe for the perfect cup of Choffy.

Ingredients:

4 Heaping tablespoons of Choffy in a Choffy Tumbler Press

16 oz. boiling water

A healthy splash of vanilla (about a teaspoon)

A pinch of salt

A 1 teaspoon of raw sugar

A splash of milk

Directions

Add the Choffy to the Tumbler Press and set the water to boil.

Add the boiling water to the Choffy and let it brew for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla, sugar and salt to your favorite mug.

When the Choffy is ready, add it to the mug and stir.

Add the milk to taste.

Enjoy!

Have questions? Please contact me at lee.laughlin@gmail.com or visit my distributor page http://www.drinkchoffy.com/leelaughlin to place an order.

Plan to Eat – Making my life easier every day

I am a planner. Some might say to the extreme, and now that I have a son who appears to have inherited the same tendency, I can see where this is sometimes frustrating for those close to me. *ahem* However, there are times when this trait comes in handy. The kids are heavily involved in karate (including weapons training), Cub Scouts, Student Council, Chorus and numerous volunteer activities. I take a kick boxing class 2-3 times a week and my husband is rarely in the door before 6:30pm. Fish’s food sensitivities make it hard to eat out, so if we are going to eat anything other than breakfast for dinner, I have to plan ahead.

Meal planning is not new to me, I’ve done it in various forms for years. Through Tsh at The Art of Simple (formerly SimpleMom.com) I found PlanToEat.com and that has radically changed my meal planning and grocery shopping for the better.

With PlanToEat, I can keep all of my recipes in one location. I can input recipes manually to capture those handed down on recipe cards and, there is even a handy clipping tool for my web browser so I can snag all the mouthwatering recipes on the Internet. I can also easily share them when people ask for recipes.

Yes, there are lots of recipe sharing platforms out there, but Plan To Eat is so much more! It makes my shopping list for me! Once I select the meals I’m going to make, I can click to the shopping tab and see everything I need to create those meals. I check off the items I already have in my pantry (olive oil, salt pepper etc.) and add the items not tied to a recipe (e.g. Gluten Free Chocolate Chex or toilet paper) and voila! I have shopping list. It’s web based, so I can access it from my iPhone. I bring it up in the parking lot just in case the store has bad cell service. If PTE can’t access the Internet, it will check off items as you put them in your cart and delete them from the list when signal is regained.

The cost is $4.95 a month or $39 for a year. (see below for a special offer), but my sanity says it’s money well spent. I also like the fact that I’m supporting a small business. Really small. Plan to Eat is run by husband and wife team Clint and Lisa, they live with their four children in the Rocky Mountains. You can learn more about them and their business philosophy at the web site http://www.plantoeat.com

I wish the shopping list would include bargin shopping features (i.e. pricing tracking by store), but I’ve been impressed with their response to questions and requests for new features, so I’m happy to stick with it.

There is a 30 day free trial (they don’t even ask for a credit card *gasp*), so you an try an out to see if it is fit for you.

Do it! Do it now! Take a look at PTE now, because starting November 29th, they’ll be offering 50% off annual subscriptions. That means 12 months of Plan To Eat is just $19.50! The special rate will be available until December 2nd.

I believe in this program enough to sign up as an affiliate so if you click that link above and sign up for PTE I’ll get a little thank you from them too :).  Check it out and happy meal planning!

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

You know you live in the country when . . .

The other day I was out walking with a friend. We’re up to 4 miles with a 16 minute per mile pace. YAY US!! But, I digress, we were out walking and passed a house where a crew of men was taking down some trees.

My friend said “Oooh, that’s a nice one.”

I turned to look thinking she was referencing something like this.

'Construction Worker' photo (c) 2010, Phillip - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

No, actually it was a smaller version of this.

'P5100013' photo (c) 2008, Kid Cowboy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

For my city slicker friends, she was ogling a wood chipper.  God, I love living in New Hampshire!

The Cross-Body Bag from SeamsFineKS

I admit it, I’m a bag lady. I just love bags. A bag for everything and everything in a bag is my motto. I’m always searching for the perfect purse. It has to be large enough to carry 4 pairs of glasses, a wallet (slim), a phone, some pens, a small note book a hand held telescope and it absolutely MUST have a place for me to hook my keys. I’m definitely a function over form kind of girl but show me a bag that can meet my functional needs AND look good and I’m all over it. For a long time, I was a huge Baggalini fan.  Then I found this Dakine mini backpack while traveling last year and I was in heaven. Cute but wicked functional. It didn’t get much better than that. Well that is until I found The Cross Body Bag by Dawn Shew of SeamsFineKS.

I found Dawn via an online auction organized to raise funds for Jessica from Balancing Everything. I was thrilled when I won the auction for the custom made cross body bag. As soon as then auction closed Dawn promptly got in touch with me to discuss my needs. Here’s a clip of the email I sent her.

“On a regular basis, I carry my Kindle or a notebook and 4 pairs of glasses, three of which are in an over size cases. Those three can more or less roam free in the bag. The things I perpetually chase are my iPhone, my reading glasses (typical glasses case) and my wallet (a slim item that just holds cash & credit cards). The wallet and the glasses could share a pocket.

I am not a gentle flower 🙂 I am ruff and tumble and go through life with gusto. My favorite color is purple. Blues and greens come in second and third. Red is great for contrast, but I tend to shy away from yellow and oranges. White is a color I admire from afar because inevitably I will spill my tea or accidentally smear some chocolate on it :).”

SeamsFineKS Cross Body Bag in Lilac & Chocolate

She showed me some fabric swatches and I narrowed it down to a lilac & brown combination or a dark blue. Once she told me the Lilac was outdoor weight fabric I was sold.

I love it! It holds all my necessities and is cute to boot! It’s very well made and very sturdy. The wide strap is very comfortable and since it’s adjustable, it works both cross-body and just over the shoulder.

On the left the bag full of my stuff.  On the right all of my stuff that the bag holds.
My phone was charging and my small notebook was open on the desk while I was drafting this, but they fit too!

 You can find more of Dawn’s work at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SeamsFineKS.

Note: I received no compensation for this review. Dawn donated her time and materials to help Jessica. I wanted to highlight her good deed and talk about an awesome bag.

Life, The Universe and The Election Process

Hey! How ya doin’?

We survived hurricane Sandy with minimal damage. The power flickered, but never went out. We are without cell service, but AT&T Wireless has been notified and life goes on.

'Vote!' photo (c) 2005, Ho John Lee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’m writing. I’m writing many words, just not here. I had some deadlines, for our town paper and for Albinism Insight, and I’ve been plowing away at the fiction piece I’m working on.

I ran into a reader last weekend who commented on my more informational posts of late. I have opinions (heaven only knows) but the recent focus has been the election and I don’t want to discuss my politics here. I will say I’m am disgusted by the commercials from both sides and the major news outlets really aren’t any better (ANY of them). I am taken back to my college days where as a communications major, I perfected my analytical skills for dissecting for what I hear and read. The idea was that if you could analyze commercials, or press releases you could better understand what would work for your perspective clients.

The skill set actually has broad application in everyday life.  It doesn’t matter if it is a commercial, or “news”. My mantra these days seems to be “what’s your source?” I am overwhelmed by it all, I don’t want to just follow party lines. I really want to understand the views of the people who are running for office at every level. This is very hard to do, especially, when the candidates spend their time pointing fingers at their opponents rather than talking about their own plans and beliefs.

A note to all political candidates. STOP telling me what you think I want to hear. START telling me what YOU stand for. I’m not undecided, but I like to be sure of my choices. I want to understand the other side’s position so I know what I’m voting against as well as I know what I am voting for. Not an easily attainable goal these days that’s for sure.

There is only one week left and I doubt the campaigns will change their tactics now. I’ll vote. I believe it is a privilege not to be taken lightly. But, I’m not sure I’ll be happy regardless of the outcome of any of the races that impact me.

I welcome comments on the election process, but please, keep it civil.