Elves and Pied Pipers

Each year at Christmastime here in America, thousands of parents participate in the Elf on the Shelf Tradition with their children.

In recent years and with the advent of social media, I’ve enjoyed seeing my friends’ photos of their adopted Elves in surprise locations within their homes.

After the unspeakable school tragedy in Newtown, CT on Friday, a Facebook Friend shared this photo of one elf, Alfred, originally taken by Pumpkin Pie Photography:

Pumpkin Pie Photography image of Alfred the Elf

Pumpkin Pie Photography image of Alfred the Elf

I also want to include a poem that references the Pied Piper legend drafted yesterday, December 15, by my twin sister, Caroline Dobson Chavez:

Thoughts on Newton, CT

Yesterday I spied the Pied Piper,
Playing a deluding dirge.
I watched in horror as fear and grief began to quickly merge,
Into an olden memory lost
Of a time gone by
When I was in the first grade
Without a care of why
Oh Piper, yesterday you may have briefly won
A crowd of small ones lost
But there is One whose love out-conquers you,
Who never counts the cost
He holds them now within His arms
And His mercy does outshine,
Any tune that you could create
to cause your pipe to whine
So I awoke today and thought anew,
Of your uninspired trance
I thought of Who is in control
And my heart began to dance
They’ll sing and laugh and play again
Someday with their parents too
They just will have to wait awhile ,
All because of you.
So for the future I hope you’ll stop
And march a separate way
And let all God’s children live and grow
To enjoy all their days.
But if you play and play you must
another mortal tune
Keep in mind they’re not yours to keep,
Because of my Savior’s boon.

At a time like this one in U.S. history when words are difficult to come by, to me, the photo of Alfred the Elf and the poem that my sister wrote really say it all.

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A Day for Film and Doughboys

Wikipedia image of a typical wartime American doughboy

Wikipedia image of a typical wartime American doughboy

Have you ever lived by a coastal shore?

I could answer that question in the affirmative, having lived for a short time in one of North Carolina’s premier port cities, Wilmington.

My Wilmington abode was located a mere mile or so from Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and I can attest to the fact that there’s something different about living by the sea.

The coastal lifestyle is different, the local cuisine is different, local fashions worn by the local inhabitants are different.  Even the air itself is different.

Speaking of the air in Wilmington, over the years, the sea winds of Wrightsville Beach and the gentle Cape Fear River breezes downtown seem to have stirred up creative spirits and welcomed those with artistic souls.

Wilmington is the home of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC-W), and, if you’re a native of North Carolina, you’ve probably heard about the UNC-W Film Studies program and Wilmington’s ties to the Hollywood film industry.  Just this year, for example, big Hollywood names like Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow were in town working on location on a soon-to-be-released Hollywood film.

One of the largest examples of Wilmington’s role as a host to homegrown creativity is its annual Cucalorus Film Festival, which celebrates independent film and independent filmmakers.  More than 100 independent and international films will be showcased at this year’s event, which concludes today.

No longer living at the N.C. coast, I won’t be making any Cucalorus viewings this year, but I’m excited to share that I will be attending a 2012 Veteran’s Day release of Doughboy the Movie, an independent film that celebrates our U.S. Veterans and was produced by some creative souls in the hills of Wheeling, West Virginia.  Check out the Doughboy the Movie trailer to learn more about the movie and the Wikipedia doughboy definition to learn more about the significance of doughboys in U.S. military history.

What do you think?  Do you think living in a certain landscape can spark one’s creativity?   If so, which type of landscape do you think can engender the most creativity out of one’s soul?

Taking Stock of Your Personal Shares

Share word image by HubSpo

Share word image by HubSpot

As a digital marketer, when I hear the word, “share,” my mind often goes first to the concept of “social sharing,” i.e., the idea of sharing marketing messages via social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

However, I also enjoy following business and financial news, so my thoughts often head in a financial direction, specifically towards the U.S. stock market, upon hearing the word, “share.”

For example, my ears perked up on Friday (10/26/12) after hearing the latest news about shares of Apple stock.  Apple shares were down 1.9% and fell below $600 for the first time in three months, after Apple’s warning that its costs for making new products will likely cut into its profits in fourth quarter 2012.

What about you?  Do you pay attention to financial news and reports about U.S. or international shares of stock?  If so, which financial news channels do you visit to learn the latest news on the financial front?

If you visit Google, you can easily find consolidated lists of financial news sites, such as this list of
10 Financial Websites That Help You Stay On Top of the Market.”

I’d like to mention a fairly new online community that’s dedicated to educating women on financial issues and helping women better manage and build their personal net worth.  In 2009, young entrepreneur Amanda Steinberg, founded the DailyWorth community, and the community’s DailyWorth e-newsletter now has more than 20,000 subscribers.

I enjoy reading the easy-to-understand, valuable financial tips that are shared in each DailyWorth
e-newsletter issue that I receive, and I’ve even had the pleasure to speak with Amanda directly, after she invited subscribers like me to call her and share feedback and ideas for inclusion in future e-newsletter issues.  As a woman in business, I admire and appreciate Amanda’s open leadership style.

Back to sharing, the Wikipedia definition of the word, “sharing,” includes this statement: “Sharing is a basic component of human interaction, and is responsible for strengthening social ties and ensuring a person’s well-being.”

How often do you share in your life? What do you share and through which channels?

What Are You Searching For?

Google search image

Google search image

When was the last time you searched for information online using Google’s search engine?  Yesterday?  One hour ago?  Thirty minutes ago?

Considering recent Statisticbrain.com stats on the average number of Google user searches that occur daily and annually, no doubt, it’s likely that you’ve used Google’s search engine recently.

Marketers today who are focused on search engine optimization (SEO) want to know your search behavior.  The more SEO-savvy are using free and paid online tools to discover the actual keywords that you’re choosing to type into the Google search box when you’re trying to locate the information that you’re seeking online.

For example, the Keyword Tool inside Google Adwords can be used by marketers to reveal that North Carolinians who are searching for information about the upcoming North Carolina State Fair event are actually typing in keywords such as, “NC state fair,” or, “state fair,” when conducting their online searches.

Have you ever noticed the auto population feature of the Google search engine?  When you begin to type specific search terms into the Google search box, you will automatically see several suggested search terms that represent the most commonly used search terms of other users in your surrounding geographic area.

Even if you’re not a marketer by trade, you can use Google’s auto population feature to discover the most common types of information that those around you are seeking.  How?

Try conducting a simple A-to-Z letter search approach.  Simply go to the Google search box and type the letter, “a,” and look at the automated suggested search terms.  Then, do the same for the letter, “b,” and the following letters in the alphabet. It’s a fun exercise.

I must confess, the other day, I used the A-to-Z letter search approach and found the results to be fascinating. For example, when I typed the single letter, “c,” into the Google search engine box, I saw the below auto populated search term suggestions:

  • confessions of a CF husband;
  • confessions of a homeschooler;
  • confessions of a dangerous mind;
  • confessions of a shopaholic;
  • confessions of a glamaholic; and
  • confessions of a cookbook queen.

Typing the letter, “d,” yielded these associated search suggestions:

  • dictionary;
  • delta;
  • durham bulls; and
  • dominoes.

As a blogger, I appreciate how this A-to-Z letter search approach can be a great tool to find content ideas that are current, relevant and popular for inclusion in future posts.

If you’re not a marketer or blogger, then learning the search habits of others may not be one of your primary concerns.

At the least, I hope the subject of this post reminds you of one of life’s truths:  sometimes when you search, you can find more than you’ve ever dreamed.

Now Appearing on Bank Notes

The Daily Beast image of Elena Roger as Evita

The Daily Beast image of Elena Roger as Evita

Ava.  Considering my hometown is the same as the famous former Hollywood actress Ava Gardner, I might be expected to write about Ava.  Today, however, I want to mention another former actress with a similar sounding and spelled name, “Eva.”

I’m referring to Eva Duarte de Perón.  How much do you know about the former first lady of Argentina?

I recall first studying Eva and Juan Perón during a Latin American history class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  My professor was from Chile — Castillo was his last name.  There, in Chapel Hill, in the spring of ’93, I learned about the complicated history of Juan and Eva Perón, who was known affectionately as “Evita” by thousands of Argentines.  I learned that while the working-class “descamisados” viewed Eva as a saintly woman, countless others, such as members of the military and bourgeoisie, were not Eva fans.

While working at IBM in the ’96 timeframe, I became friends with a beautiful, kind coworker and Argentine woman named Nieves.  I recall asking Nieves about her view of Eva Perón and was fascinated to hear her tell a story of a poor family with whom she was acquainted who had been gifted a house by Eva Perón, after Eva met that family when one of their children was in the hospital.   I remember Nieves telling me that the family still owned the house and that the house was located in a section of Buenos Aires known as “Evita Village.”

Whether fan or not, one can recognize that Eva Perón impacted the lives of many in Argentina and throughout the world.   Just last month, Eva’s continued impact in Argentina evidenced itself as the current President of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced that the image of Eva would appear on the new 100-peso note, making Eva Perón the first woman to appear on Argentine currency.

Learning about Eva’s upcoming appearance on Argentina’s currency made me wonder about how many women have been represented to date on U.S. currency.  For example, did you know that Martha Washington was solely featured on the $1 bill in 1886 and that the only other woman to appear on U.S. paper currency was Pocahontas in 1865?  Are you aware that no U.S. women appeared our paper currency during the 20th century?   Last, do you have a suggestion for which woman in recent U.S. history deserves to be recognized with representation on U.S. currency?

Getting back to actresses and Eva Perón, earlier this year, Elena Roger became the first Argentine actress to portray Eva on Broadway in the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical titled, “Evita.”  I hope to catch Elena’s performance in the role.  Until then, here’s a “cry-out” to history-making, inspirational women like Elena and Eva.

Is Your Marketing Content Cooking?

Crock-Pot manual slow cooker image

Marketers today are challenged to create valuable content that can be distributed through traditional print and Web mediums as well as newer social media channels.

For example, the authors of the book, Content Rules, advise: “But why not steer your marketing to another level?  Why not create value?  Why not provide your customers with a steady flow of high-value content that, as marketer Len Stein describes, is ‘paced with utility, seeded with inspiration, and that is honestly empathetic‘?”

Are you aware of organizations who are successfully leveraging today’s marketing channels to provide their customers with useful and valuable information?

One success story that I’d like to mention when it comes to content creation and distribution is a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons: 1-The founders of the organization are two women; and 2-Both of the women founders live in small towns.  Like singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, I’ve “got nothing against a big town,” but, since I was born in a small town, small towns for me will always have a certain lure and small town successes will always have an appeal.

Have you heard of “The Crockin’ Girls“?  In 2011, small-town Texas dwellers Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz started an American revival of slow cooking by distributing timesaving, helpful Crock-pot recipes online to busy mothers across America.  Within two weeks of debuting their initial Facebook presence, their Facebook site went viral and received over 500,000 “Likes.”  Listen to this video to hear Nicole and Jenna describe the phenomenon that took place back in August 2011.

Why has The Crockin’ Girls’ online success been so incredible?  Did Nicole and Jenna hire an excellent digital marketing agency to support their marketing communications needs?  Possibly.  However, it’s more likely that, regardless of any professional marketing support attained, Nicole and Jenna have achieved online marketing success by, as Jenna stated in the video, “meeting a need for many, many people.”

The slow-cooking-related information that Jenna and Nicole regularly maintain and share online helps simplify the lives of their website visitors, Facebook fans, and Twitter and Pinterest followers.  In a nutshell, or maybe I should say, “in a Crock-pot,” Nicole and Jenna have figured out the way to successfully match specific, valuable content with an audience in real need of that content.

Again, are you aware of other organizations who have figured out the content creation, management and distribution puzzle?  If so, please share those examples with me.  Or, if you’re unaware of such an organization, feel free to simply pass along your favorite recipe for the slow cooker!

Firelight and You

Majorettes with flaming batons

Majorettes with flaming batons

Today, the Olympic torch relay began its final leg before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games officially begin in London on July 27.

The torch will be used to light the Olympic Flame, an inspirational symbol of the Games, which will burn until the Olympics conclude on August 12.

Fire and fiery flames are often associated with danger and negativity (ex. the recent, devastating Colorado wildfires), so it’s interesting to consider all of the positive spirit associated with the Olympic torch and flame.

Beyond the Olympic torch or a romantic fireplace with flames providing warmth on a cold winter’s day, are you aware of other instances when fire is viewed or used in positive ways?  I can think of a couple of examples.

As a young girl, I remember watching majorettes in the local high school band twirling their flaming batons.  I can recall how excited and amazed I was to watch each majorette throw her flaming baton in the air, twirl around, and then successfully catch the baton.

And, who could forget all the lighters aflame at the end of rock concerts, when the attendees light portable flames to signal their appreciation and want of more to the performing artists?

Some people propose that an individual can have “a fire within.”  Would you agree?

Do you think that people can be lights to inspire others?  Has anyone ever lit a fire within you and inspired you to be and achieve more?

Which individuals or what things have been the firelight in your life so far?

Finding Unexpected Pairs

My husband’s ancestral origins link to Galicia, Spain.  Galicia, known as “the Green Spain, ” is a place where you can sometimes find the unexpected.  Below are three images from the town of Gondomar in Galicia that seem to reveal a somewhat unexpected pairing of things.

What do you think?  Do you think these pairings are unusual?  For example, when you think of a church, do you also think of wine? And, when you think of crosses and religion, do you also think of cannons and war?  Last, when you think of wine receptacles, do you think about small, white porcelain cups?

I’d love to know whether you think these three pairs of images convey any element of surprise, and, I’d also enjoy seeing any unexpected pairings that you’ve captured.

Church and Vines in Gondomar, Spain

Church and Vines in Gondomar, Spain.

Cannon and Cross in Congomar, Spain

Cannon and Cross in Gondomar, Spain. May 2012.

"Glasses" of vino in Gondomar, Spain

“Glasses” and Vino in Gondomar, Spain. May 2012.

Paradors and B&B’s

Parador de Baiona, Spain

View from the Parador de Baiona, Spain

Are you familiar with the meaning of the word Parador?

According to Wikipedia, “a parador, in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, is a kind of luxury hotel, usually located in a historic building such as a monastery or castle.”

In May 2012, I had the pleasure of visiting a Parador.  The Parador I visited was located in Baiona, Spain, near Gondomar, the hometown of my husband’s father.

The Parador de Baiona was gorgeous to behold and is a unique Parador, being a former fortress that overlooks the sea.

The historic Parador buildings in Spain now converted into hotels made me recall our historic homes in the U.S. that have been converted into bed-and-breakfast establishments.

Have you ever stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in the U.S.?

If so, what advantages do you think bed-and-breakfast establishments have to offer?  And, do you have a favorite bed-and-breakfast to recommend?

I could recommend The Front Street Inn, a historic B&B located in one of my favorite places, downtown Wilmington, N.C.

But, can a B&B in the good ‘ole USA compare to a Spanish Parador?  I’d rather not compare but prefer to appreciate both.  I think I could make a better comparison if I had the chance to spend a night or two in a Parador.  I guess I need to add one more item to my bucket list.

Rebranding and You

Branding and Rebranding image by Laine TanMany product marketers agree that the task of introducing new products and solutions into the competitive landscape is challenging yet exhilarating.

How many times have you heard a product marketer make a post-product launch comment along the line of, “…it took tremendous effort and collaboration across multiple internal division teams, but, in the end, we delivered a new, cutting-edge solution to market, and that’s extremely gratifying.”

What about the task of marketing already-established “older” products?  Is rebranding similarly challenging and enjoyable?

Actors are often posed with the question, “Is it easier to play a villain or a good guy?”  Many actors respond by saying that it’s much easier to play the villain, the character who is more unpredictable and who delves into new behaviors, and that it’s harder to play a character who exhibits consistent good behavior to an audience.

Likewise, marketing older products, even those products that have been consistent, “good” bestsellers, may be more challenging and less exciting than promoting a product or solution that is brand-new.

What do you think?  If you’re a marketer, can you recall specific campaigns that successfully re-branded older products?  If you need help recalling, check out Judith Aquino’s article, “The 10 Most Successful Rebranding Campaigns Ever.”

And, beyond marketing, have you ever been asked to “put a new face” on a situation or to examine a set of familiar circumstances in a new way?  If so, did you enjoy that process and was it easy?

One of the biggest challenges that we face as we age is to see our lives and ourselves in a new versus old light.  Some have said that each day we live offers each of us a new opportunity to become more.

How are you doing with that task?  How are you living differently today than you did yesterday, and how will you become new as an individual tomorrow?

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