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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One Year Later

I originally wrote this at the end of March. I delayed posting it because I wanted to extend the joy of celebrating Fish’s birthday. I am eternally grateful that my mother did not die on her granddaughter’s birthday. Time passes, the pain eases, but I still want to remember.

A close up of my grandparents grave maker with my mother's information addedA week and one year ago today at 8pm. My phone rang with a call from Massachusetts General Hospital that would forever change my life.

Your mother is dying, how do you want to proceed.

It was the start of 3 of the worst weeks of my life. A year later, I’m still here to tell the tale maybe stronger for it. I miss the mother who raised me, I don’t miss worrying about the medically fragile woman who would refuse to answer her phone for days on end.

It still hits me out of the blue that she’s gone usually during the good times. Which is good, because she really was a good mother when it mattered most. She gave me a strong foundation upon which to build strong relationships that continue to nurture and support me.

She had a will, but no assets, in general that made the process of disposing of her estate relatively easy, but it wasn’t without it’s bumps. Have you had the talk? Do you have a healthcare proxy? What about a Living Will? Durable Power of Attorney? A will? If you answered no to any of these questions get thee to an attorney PROMPTLY.

Hell even one of those online websites is better than nothing. It’s not for you, you’ll be gone, having your end of life matters in order is a gift for the people who love you. Do it. Do it NOW!!

It’s unfortunate that Fish’s birthday and the anniversary of my mother’s death are only one day apart but it is better than the alternative. I would rather focus on the joy and potential that is my daughter, but I never want to forget woman who played a huge role in the mother I am today.

My mother and I and my college graduation.

14

Dear Fish,

Wow, it’s hard to believe another year has passed and I am once again writing your birthday post. Yet, when I stop and look back, it’s been quite a year hasn’t it?

Pictures of Fish, making waffles, floating on a lazy river with her Dad & being FISH

The day after you turned 13, my mom, your grandmother, Muzzie died. This was your first experience with the death of someone close to you. Although that night will go down as one of the worst of my life, I knew as it was unfolding, you would be ok. I asked you to try and find your grandparents while I talked with the hospital on the phone about Muzzie’s end of life wishes. You made the calls I asked and then asked if I needed anything else. When I said No, you said “Good, I need my friends right now.” Dealing with death is hard, but it is a challenge that happens to all of us many times over. Seeking and receiving support from those close to us is the key to making it through any life challenge. When you were able to articulate that need and take the necessary steps to get the support you needed, I felt a feeling of pride amongst the chaos.

We already had a lot going on that month, but Muzzie’s death and the Marathon bombing threw a wrench in the works. It was bumpy, but we made it through. One of the bright spots for me came not too long after she died. It was the day we spent in New York City. We happened by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and you seemed to understand why I needed to go in an light a candle. Thanks for holding my hand. Your maturity regularly amazes me.

Fish throughout 2013

Your food sensitivities have definitely presented some challenges (how many days in a row can a girl really be expected to eat fruit, bacon and home fries for breakfast?). But you took a trip to Washington with school for a week and with advanced planning managed beautifully. You are owning it and making the best of it.

Sadly, you have inherited your mother’s lack of grace, and you’ve had two concussions in the last year. The first one took 30 days to clear. We thought that was a long time, until this time. We’re going on two months and your patience is definitely being tested.

You are THIS close to your first degree brown belt in karate and will test for it as soon as you are cleared to return to activities.

You made your first self-funded major purchase this year. You saved your money from gifts and babysitting and bought an iPad Mini, a case, and Applecare. It has now become one of your tools for success in school (when you DON’T have a concussion).

Fish being fish

Speaking of school you are doing well. This is the first year where you’ve encountered some resistance to your efforts. You’ve risen to the challenge and learned valuable lessons about working with people, both peers and leaders. Next year you are headed to a science and technology charter school. It’s a new path, not without risks, but we’re all excited about the opportunity for you. There will be challenges, but Dad & I will be here to support you as you take steps towards defining what it is you want from life.

Regardless of what the future holds for you, I have no doubt you will go far. Not too long ago, you announced you might want to be a Supreme Court Justice. You worked the path from law school back to high school. I can say with certainty that neither your father nor I thought that far ahead when we were your age. You go girl!

You have a style that is all your own. Nothing matches and everyone knows you for it. You have developed a wonderful sense of humor. By way of example. Two weeks after you got the second concussion it was hat day at school. You wore a ski-helmet. The teachers and the nurse wanted to credit me with the choice, but that was all you baby.

By far one of my favorite memories of you from the past year was when you found out we were going on a Disney Cruise. That is an expression I will cherish for ever.

When you are a parent, a small part of you wants to protect your child from the pain and challenges of life. You want them to live a charmed life where they always succeed and never worry. That’s not possible and it’s not healthy. Facing challenges an necessary part of succeeding in life. You are already demonstrating your strength and persistence and that makes Dad and I very proud.

I can’t wait to see what 14 has in store for you.

Happy Birthday.

Love,

Mom

Dear CBS, Renew Intelligence

TO: The Powers That Be at CBS
From: A 40 something woman with some disposable income
RE: Intelligence (Monday Night’s 10pm EDT)

'Meghan Ory, Josh Holloway & Marg Helgenberger' photo (c) 2013, Gage Skidmore - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Dear CBS:

It’s March, and already talk is swarming about what TV shows will be renewed for next season. It’s a little early, but ok, I’ll to add my two cents.

I have to be honest, I’m not a reality TV person. In my opinion Reality TV brings out the shallow and petty side of humanity. I’m not much for horror or cat fights either. I like intelligent sitcoms (Good call on locking in the Big Bang Theory for 3 more years). Mostly, I tend to stick with dramas. I know they are fiction, products of someone’s imagination and usually, they wrestle with topics larger than what designer someone is wearing. I like action. I live what is more or less a quiet life, but like the mother in the comic strip Rose is Rose, deep inside is an inner warrior just dying to get out and save the world.

I love characters like NCIS’s Ziva David, Criminal Minds’ Jennifer Jareau and NCIS: LA’s Kensi Bly. Intelligence’s Riley Neal and Lillian Strand, are also women who can hold their own in a man’s world without sacrificing the emotional intelligence that women bring to a situation. Although occasionally I am left to wonder about Lillian’s “softer” side.

As soon as I started seeing the promos for Intelligence, I set a note in my calendar to set the DVR. Marg Helgenburger’s voice, powerful and commanding, bade me tune in. I love my Tivo® and typically I record a show and watch it at my leisure. With Intelligence, I’m impatient and find myself watching it live. I can assure you this is a rare occurrence.

The casting on Intelligence is awesome. Josh Holloway is certainly easy on the eyes, as is Michael Rady. Megan Orly and Marg Helgenberger are a treat to watch as they come at keeping Gabriel safe from two similar by different perspectives. P.J.Byrne’s character Nelson makes me giggle (I’m a fellow Eagle) and I love John Billingsly.

'P. J. Byrne' photo (c) 2012, Gage Skidmore - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Nelson: “You built a stun bomb?”

Cassidy: Long technical explanation

Nelson: “You built a stun bomb.”

Cassidy: “Hee, you bet your ass I did.”

The ideas are interesting, but I’ll be honest, I’d like a little more intellect and a little less boom (only a little).  I loved the Athens episode. It was wild to watch Josh Holloway play a completely different character. The idea of Man vs. Machine is one for the ages. Our recent society has made such huge technological gains. We accept this as status quo and only a small minority stops to question “Hey, is this really where we want to go?” and usually long after we’ve “gone” there.

The writing is off to a strong start, but the team clearly needs time to gel. It’s like when you make a soup, you pull together the best ingredients, fresh vegetables, quality meat, homemade stock and fresh spices. You chop and dice, mix everything together in the pot, and heat it up. But, by far the most important step is giving the flavor’s time to blend.

The cast is great, the story ideas are great, but the execution has the occasional bump. The’ve got the technology nailed, but they need time to smoothly work the characterizations into the drama. Right now, it sometimes feels forced and at times unwatchable. For example, Nelson’s plea “Please don’t let them die too” in Patient Zero made me cringe. But, earlier in the same episode I loved his hissed line “She’s a Disney villain!”. The exchange between Riley and Gabriel when she tackles him at LuAnne’s house was brilliant.

I really enjoy the live Tweet sessions with the cast, writers and EP, Michael Seitzman. It’s fun to really feel connected to the show and the behind the scenes info is interesting. They are great about fielding questions and that adds to the feeling of connectedness. I imagine as the show gets bigger (and it will), some of that will drop off, but that’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Intelligence is off to a great start and it is clear that the cast and crew are all invested in the show’s success. We as an audience need time to gain some depth on these characters and the writer’s need time to smooth over the bumps.

PLEASE, there is so much to explore here, give it a chance to mature and come into it’s own. Bring Intelligence back for the 2014-2-15 Season.

Haven’t seen Intelligence? Check it out online at www.cbs.com/shows/intelligence. Part 1 of the two-part season finale will air Monday March 24th. Come on CBS, don’t make it the series finale.

Anna Nalick – At the Tupelo Music Hall

The music business is such a strange beast. If an artist doesn’t fit into a specific niche, it can be a struggle for them to succeed. It seems so often when talented artists aren’t willing to stay between the lines, they are passed over in favor of someone willing to adhere to the prescribed path.

Anna Nalick, New Voice, Old Soul

Anna Nalick and I after her March 9th performance at the Tupelo Music HallAnna Nalick was a huge commercial hit with her debut album Wreck of the Day. The song Breathe (2am) had a lengthy run on the charts in 2004-2005. I was definitely a late comer to the album, but I have listened to it front to back, back to front and shuffled seven ways to Sunday. I just love her voice it’s very rich and her lyrics, unlike much of today’s music, are open to interpretation. She’s publicly stated she prefers her listeners draw their own conclusions about the meaning of her songs.

Anna Nalick was in her early 20’s when Wreck of The Day hit big, but her music appealed to a more mature audience. Breathe(2am) hit #45 on the pop charts and #4 on the Adult Contemporary charts. After Wreck, Nalick put out an EP entitled Shine with Sony records, but then it was announced she’d split with the label over “creative differences”. Independently she put out one more collection of songs called Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. A group of unpublished songs she’d written while with Sony. Good songs, but not necessarily commercially viable in the genre ruled world of commercial radio . We’ll never know what happened, but my guess is the record label tried to shoe horn Nalick into their preconceived ideas of what a successful pop singer should be and she refused to be categorized.

I thought she was gone. Poof! Everybody has to make their own choices about the work that they do and how much they are willing to compromise themselves to meet someone else’s expectations. It was my guess the price of fame and commercial success was just too high. I checked her web site occasionally, but nothing new seemed to be forthcoming.

Anna Nalick’s Facebook Page To the Rescue

Thank goodness for social media! Last week, a concert announcement appeared in my Facebook feed. Anna Nalick was touring again! Yay! Not only was she touring, but she was kicking off the tour in my backyard, well almost. WOOT! WOOT! I had dinner plans but I bailed on my friends (they’re good friends who understand my obsession with music) and immediately started searching for someone to go with me. Alone or with a friend, I was going to see Anna Nalick! Thankfully, my friend Jill rescued me from going solo.

I didn’t know what to expect, it has been quite a while since she’d put out any new material and her voice is so rich on the recordings I wondered if she’d be able to match that live. I was not disappointed. This was the first stop on the tour and as a self-proclaimed talker, she was clearly a little nervous, but the audience was encouraging and she settled into a wonderful performance. It was just her and a keyboard player. Together they performed songs from both of her full albums and mixed in a few new songs that were well received.

During the show, she talked of taking some time off after leaving Sony to clear her system and get back to being a more “honest songwriter”. She’d also started taking classes in creative writing and acting. She’s performed in one play and excitedly talked about a second play she would be performing in upon completion of this tour. I kept hoping she’d say “I’ll have a new CD for sale at the end of the show”, but instead she said “I just have to write lyrics for two or three more songs and then there will be a new record.” Sigh, I guess knowing there is something coming is better than thinking I’d never hear her voice again. After the show, she chatted, signed autographs and posed with fans for pictures.

I really enjoyed seeing Anna Nalick perform and I am looking forward to hearing new music from her. She’s a gifted songwriter and a talented songwriter. I really hope that she can rise above the monolithic recording industry and well shine.

Do you like Anna Nalick? What’s a new artist you just found? I’m always looking for new music.

http://www.annanalick.com/

I’d never been to the Tupelo Music Hall before, but I’m really looking forward to going back! The parking is a little wonky, but the venue itself is intimate and enjoyable. 

“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.