Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Bridesmaid Toast

Teaching my writing class has really changed the way I think about different writing projects. After being a professional writer for more than a decade, it's been so refreshing to gain this new perspective.

So I was actually kind of excited to put some of my own advice to work as wrote my toast for my sister's wedding. One thing I stress to my students is (regardless if you are writing for yourself or someone else) know your speaker's strengths and weaknesses and write for them.

Working to my advantage: I'm fairly comfortable talking in front of people, I'm freakin' hilarious, and as Sarah's sister, I know my topic (the couple) pretty darn well. The main weakness I had to contend with (and luckily I was acutely aware of it) was getting through the toast without crying.

I decided to manage my own expectations. I wasn't going to get through it without any crying, but hopefully I could manage a few ladylike sniffles and not a big snotty ugly cry. Big pat on the back to me, I did it! I can't say the same for the rest of the room, because I totally rocked that speech and had everyone crying along with me.

Here it is. Get a tissue.

According to the I’m supposed to introduce myself because you all may not know me and then express how honored I am to be here. But I think you all know I’m Bonnie, Sarah’s older sister, and with a gathering so intimate and so remote, I know we all feel very honored to be a part of this special day. It is certainly a long time in the making.

 When I first met Josh, he and Sarah were just teenagers. And I openly admit I was not so sure about this scruffy teenage boy with jewelry in his face hanging around my little sister. I told Sarah, the only reason she was getting away with this was because I had long since desensitized mom and dad to scruffy teenagers with facial jewelry. You’re both still welcome for that by the way.

 Now, I am happy to say Josh has grown on me considerably. He’s changed a lot since I met him years ago, and one thing that has become increasingly evident over the years is how much he loves my sister. As far as I’m concerned that is the most important thing we have in common.

 And now Sarah and I have one more thing in common too. With an 11 year age difference it can seem like you don’t have much in common when you’re young. But as we’ve both grown up it’s exciting to see our lives grow more and more parallel. And if I’m overwhelmed with joy for you today it’s because I know how happy marrying your best friend will make you both. And I am so happy this is a new thing we have in common.

 To your happily ever after. Cheers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dance Dares! A Finals Week Gift

Finals week on a college campus can be a stressful time for everyone. So each semester, we try to come up with something fun we can offer the students. Something that says, "Here, take a quick break and laugh at us being stupid. And, maybe if you feel like it, take a moment to be stupid with us."

This fall we decided to use our new video initiative and give the gift of dance dares. I think the funniest part is the fact that many of the employees who are getting dance dared are talking about this project as it happens to them.

This is what I do for a living. While shooting, a student from another department stopped me and asked, "Um, what's your job here?" It's awesome that's what it is.

View on Youtube

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Does this mean we're rich now? Yes, I think it does.

Every once in a while John and I do something so pretentious and extravagant that we find ourselves asking "Does this mean we're rich now?" It happens each year when we book our "big trip." It happens on our anniversary when we see the triple digits on our dinner bill. And it happened today, when our cleaning service started.

For the next year, someone will come to our house every two weeks and put back what we've spent a fortnight mucking up. I wasn't originally planning to have someone come so often. Really I was just thinking, quarterly would be nice, sort of a spring (winter, fall, summer) deep cleaning. Turns out biweekly cost the same amount, so I figured what the heck.

In theory "having a maid" is something that sounds totally awesome. What could possibly be the down side? But it feels weird to have someone doing something you were raised thinking of as "your job." It feels a little like we're cheating.

I'm not sure why. I pay someone to cut my grass, to fix my car, to paint my nails, to do any number of chores that I just don't want to do myself. So why is cleaning the house any different? Maybe because it feel so extravagant, maybe because it is so intimate having someone in your home, maybe just because it's new.

Regardless, I'm sure I'll get used to it. I mean, how else will we manage the jet setting  the fundraisers, political life and the constant entertaining? Now, where's my butler, I need a martini. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Samantha with a Southern Accent

I've been cast in the upcoming Town and Gown production of "The Dixie Swim Club." Between my two jobs and half a dozen volunteer boards, I decided "Hey, why not add another 10 hours a week of rehearsals?"

Really, it's because I could not resist at least auditioning for this hilarious script. I only went out for one role, my favorite. I picked the character because in reading the script, I thought she was the funniest. Now, that we are rehearsing with a team of very funny ladies, I see each part has big laugh potential.

I'll be Lexie Richards, a vain, husband-collecting, flirtatious, plastic surgery addict. The director referred to her as Samantha from "Sex & the City," with a Southern accent. There will be wigs, four costumes and what I am calling "prosthetics."

We open Oct. 4 and run for two weeks. Come see me, maybe?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Tomorrow, I lecture on blogging. As I prep, I find myself popping back and forth to my blog for examples, and boy, am I a shoddy role model.

I find myself wishing I could rewind the blog to one of those months when I was really cranking out the content. Students, maybe you should go look at April 2011. That was a productive month. Or, maybe check out my entries tagged PR, those should be, you know, relevant... and stuff.

But seriously, who am I even kidding? Only my dad and my employees read my blog. So, if any of my students take the initiative to find my blog, leave a comment on this entry. I'll give you some extra credit for being a go-getter (or a creepy creeper, depending on how you look at it).

Bonus: if you look through enough entries, you'll find some "fat kid" pictures of me in my blast from the past entries. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 11: Last Stop Mumbai

A pre-dawn flight lands us in Mumbai, the last city of our Indian adventure. After a short nap we’re back on tour bus for a whirlwind of Mumbai highlights. I’d thought Mumbai would be like Delhi, a big, dirty, brown dump full storage building-style store fronts. I was so wrong.

Mumbai is colorful, with beaches and islands, skyscrapers and slums, museums and gardens. Mumbai is what you picture when you picture India, and with good reason. Mumbai is home to Bollywood, which churns out more movies each year than the rest of the world combined. Its largest slum was also the site for “Slumdog Millionaire.”

One of the most striking things about Mumbai was the contrast. We drove down one street where to the left was the richest area in the city, high-end shops, luxury apartments and five star hotels. On the right was the largest slum in Asia.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Day 9 & 10: Udaipur

I got behind with the from-the-road blog posts. So I cut my loses and decided to jump ahead. I didn't want to slight Udaipur, though. So here are some highlight photos.
We decided to roam the grounds at the Royal Retreat where we were staying. We found actual stables! With horses! 

This carving was right outside our door. How sweet, that lion wants to play him. 

At the gates of the city palace. 

We took a boat ride across Lake Pichola. The views were beautiful and we saw so many people swimming, bathing, and doing laundry along the shore. 

We took a break from the boat to stretch our legs at this floating building called Jagmandir Ghat. 

She looked so pretty, set up with her little water stand. We snapped a picture, but decided to stick with our bottled water. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 8: A Night in a Palace? Don’t Mind if I Do

We had a single night in Kota. It’s a pretty little riverfront town, but the highlight of this stop was actually our hotel, the Umed Bhawan Palace. Throughout India, they have what are called “heritage hotels.” Each state still has a Maharaja, although they are merely figureheads now. The Maharajas still own the family palaces and properties. Many properties have been converted into museums, and some are now hotels and restaurants.

Our suite at the Palace was definitely the largest of any we’ve stayed at, ever. It was bigger than the first apartment John and I shared, nearly as big as our house. It was easy to imagine decades of Maharaja guests having the identical experience we were.
As we arrived, we were greeted with marigold garlands. 

At this point in the trip we were so exhausted and these beds were so comfy I slept for  about 10 hours straight. It was the best night's sleep I got the whole time. 

The flatscreen and AC unit were a little out of place, but everything else was quite authentic. 

View from our interior porch. 

The upper floor was closed because the royal family still lived there, but we were free to roam the first floor, courtyard and grounds. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 7: Tiger Spotting in Ranthambhore

There are 41 tigers living in the Ranthambhore National Park and Tiger Preserve (according to our park ranger), and we spotted two on our safaris through the park. We went out twice, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. We were lucky enough to spot a tiger each time.
The ranger told us Ranthambhore staff had recently given this tiger a lifetime achievement award. She's had seven cubs so far and each has lived. That's a remarkable mothering record, even for a tiger in the preserve. 
We toured the park in an open-top cantor vehicle. Both times the tigers strolled along less than 20 yards from us. You’d think they would shy away from the big jeeps full of people, but they could care less about us. They didn't even give us a glance. I guess a 550 lb predator isn’t scared of much.

The tigers are certainly the big draw for Ranthambhore safaris, but the park is full of other wildlife as well. Dozens of bird species, monkeys, sambars, mongoose, barking deer and crocodiles all made the safari a worthwhile excursion even if you didn’t see a tiger like we did.

Sanbar eat water plants in the drier months when there is less foliage. The building in background is now referred to as the Tiger Palace because the cats like to hang out there. Our ranger said you can often see them in the windows. 

Baby crocodile sunning himself on the large flat rock at the water's edge. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 6: The Real India

Today we hit the road for Ranthambhore. Raj told us Delhi, Agra and Jaipur make up the “Golden Triangle of India” (the must-see sightseeing spots), but now we head to the real India. Finally, we’re seeing the kind of India I imagined, and finally, it is beautiful.
Each city seemed to have a specialty. In Ranthambhore, it was handmade textiles. 

Our hotel is the Pugmark and it is definitely my favorite so far. Five stars it is not, but what it lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in beauty, charm and authenticity. The grounds are covered in flowering bushes and mango trees. Monkeys are everywhere, and lizards slip in the door with you at night.
I loved the Pugmark Hotel. The grounds were beautiful; staff were working in the gardens constantly. 

The staff is sweet and helpful; I think they are as interested in us as we are in the tigers (Ranthambhore’s main attraction). Waiters will stop and have entire conversations, patiently answering our questions about their life and families. They even threw us an India barbecue.

Our room is small, but comfy. There’s a single wall unit air conditioner, but it does the trick. The power shuts off periodically and in the three to five minutes it takes for someone to flip on the generator the temp in the room shoots up almost immediately.

Fortunately, we were only menaced from a distance by the small, but naughty, black-faced monkeys. One man in our group was surrounded by a gang of four-foot tall monkeys who, evidently, were interested in mangos.
Cheeky monkey. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 5: Elephants and Amber in the Pink City

We started our day with an elephant ride to the mountaintop Amber Fort. Our elephant was one of the biggest; the boarding platform almost wasn’t tall enough for us the scramble onto the saddle.

The first few minutes were terrifying. But, after I accepted that we probably, most likely, well maybe weren’t going to fall to our death, it was so fun. We hung on for dear life and took in the amazing views of the city wall snaking up and down the mountainside.

We saw so many amazing things in Jaipur—the pink city gates, the Amber Fort’s maze of steps and hallways, a working observatory built in the 1600s, the world’s largest sun dial, and the current Maharaja’s palace residence—but the elephant ride was definitely a highlight for this stop.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 4: On the road again

Our fourth full day in India was another long travel day. Six hours in the bus again, at least this time we’ve put in enough distance in to really start to see a chance in scenery. There were patches of Easter egg-colored neighborhood amid the sea of brown dust, larger homes and apartment buildings, and mountains (well Oklahoma-style mountains) as we entered Jaipur.

Today we broke up the trip with a stop at the deserted city, Fatehpur Sikri and a delicious lunch at an air conditioned café in the middle of nowhere. It made the trip much more bearable to stop and have a little fun in the middle.

Raj, our guide, added a driving tour of Jaipur to the evening’s itinerary. I think he wanted to show off his home town a little. He even had our bus driver take us to the market for a quick shopping trip. Jaipur’s market was the first we’d seen. I expected more marketplaces.

We only had 30 minutes to wander the streets and shops, but it was fun. The sidewalks were crowded with merchandise and shoppers. The store owners called out as you passed, “Free to look, cheap to buy!”After the violently pushy vendors in Egypt, Jaipur’s market was like a stroll through the mall. We left with an arm full of bangles and dozens of photos.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 3: Taking in Agra

Agra is best known as the home of the Taj Mahal. And that was our first stop of the day. It was “not crowded” by Indian standards, and we were all thrilled to discover that the “high priced tickets” foreigner are forced to buy (it’s nearly free for Indians to enter) basically equaled a Taj fast pass.

The line for Indians to enter the grounds was hundreds of people deep, but we walked straight through the “high price ticket entrance.” Our tickets also included a bottle of water and shoe covers, so we didn’t have to go barefoot on the blistering hot marble.

The Taj Mahal was much smaller than I imagined and just as impressive as the structure itself are the grounds surrounding it. The gardens are original, not recreations. So the flower beds, tree placements and fountains are all just as the original designers intended.

Next door to the Taj, we toured the Red Fort. It was every bit as remarkable as its famous showy neighbor. The fort covers more than a square mile and has never once been completely taken. It featured gates large enough for elephants to enter, corridors where acid would be poured onto invaders, chambers for the emperor, his wives and his concubines, meeting areas for the parliament, and a prison where the emperor who built the Taj was ultimately imprisoned by his son.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day2: Travel at the Speed of India

According to the tour itinerary on our second full day in India we travel by private coach to Agra and spend the balance of the day at leisure. What the itinerary did not hint at was that while it’s a mere 235 kilometers to Agra (that’s about 145 miles, I did the math) it takes six to seven hours “depending on traffic.”

Back home that might take you two and a half hours, but here road conditions and traffic—automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians and livestock—make what we assumed to be a quick trip into a day-long affair.

Typically traveling across a new country, whether it be by bus, train or boat, is fascinating. You get to watch the landscape change, see the people living their daily lives, and take in the diversity of the urban and rural areas. Maybe we haven’t seen much because we really didn’t travel that far, but so far India all look pretty much the same, gray, dirty and covered in heaping piles of trash.

The neighborhoods of million dollar flats look identical (at least from the outside) to crime-ridden poor neighborhoods. Maybe the dreary backdrop makes the beautiful things we’ve seen seem all that more spectacular. Just when I start to think the entire place is one massive landfill, it surprises me with something so pretty I gasp.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In India White People Get Their Own Paparazzi

Have you ever had the feeling someone was watching you but you didn’t know why? That happened to us today in Delhi. Only it wasn’t just one person, it was mobs of people, and it wasn’t just watching.

Early in the day, I noticed as our tour group stopped, Indians slowly congregated around us. At first I thought they were eavesdropping on Raj’s, our guide, commentary. But at points, he’d mention an interesting cultural tidbit about the people around us and say “don’t worry, they don’t understand English.” Really? Then what are staring at?

Then it escalated. I noticed people snapping pictures of us. One guy came and casually stood a foot or two from me and had a friend take a photo. Video cameras began trailing us as went down a sidewalk. Then one particular large and brave group gathered around us and began asking to take photo with us, although it seemed they primarily wanted photos with the women.

It was so bizarre. It was kind of making me feel like a freak, but most of our group was really eating up. We quickly discovered if you let one person pose with you it becomes a mob scene. John and I ended up a bit ahead of the group as we headed to the bus. I stopped to let a young couple take a picture with me. So many others already had, and they asked really nicely. What I didn’t realize was that we’d gone from a relatively secluded portion of the park to the busy entrance area. Suddenly I was surrounded.

Dozens of people crowded around me, jostling for a photo op. They were grabbing and beginning to shout as cameramen lined up nearby. About this time, another crowd seemed to decide a photo with John was worth the effort as well and he started to drift away in his own developing photo-frenzy.

And that’s when I kind of lost it for a moment. I started yelling for John, “John! Johnjohnjohnjohn!” Together we managed to disentangle from the scrum. Luckily, no one seemed insulted by my melt down, in fact they seemed to think it was pretty funny.

On board the bus, Raj told us most of the people at the monument were tourists as well, from small villages around India. They’d never seen a white person in real life before. They’ll take the photos back to their village and show all their friends how the met a white person in Delhi.

Day 1-New Delhi, Old Delhi, South Delhi, Who knew there were so many Delhis

Our first real day in India, we were off to explore the capital, Delhi. Between visiting Gandhi’s ashes, a mosque and a Jain temple, we saw a lot of crazy things. Crazy things I saw in Delhi:
  • An elephant, just wondering around
  • A snake charmer
  • Amazing Technicolor parades of saris
  • Monkeys climbing phone lines
  • A bird hospital
  • Ice blocks toted via bicycle
  • Ice blocks on the sidewalk after a bicycle crash
  • The thieves market where they sell chopped car parts from tiny street storefronts
The highlight of the day was definitely the rickshaw ride through Old Delhi. Our guide told us that we were in the highest crime area of Delhi. So we held our bags close and boarded the tiny cart pulled by an even tinier man on a bike.

He wove us in and out of Old Delhi alleyways pack with stores, street vendors, people and vehicles. I mentioned the crazy Delhi traffic earlier. Today we saw it up close. I couldn’t believe how nonchalant people were as our rickshaw tires rolled inches from their toes, or how our driver managed to weave us into oncoming taxis and buses when we hit the busier streets.

I got off our rickshaw 40 minutes later knowing we never could have navigated the back alleys alone, thinking I saw some “real” India today, and feeling just the slightest bit like I just survived a harrowing experience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 0-Touch Down in Delhi

After the longest plane ride of my life (14 hours 20 minutes) we finally touched down in Delhi. After the airport misadventures, we were just so thrilled to have actually made it.

We breezed through customs, claimed every piece of luggage (always feels like a little victory), found our guide without a hitch, and even hit the ATM so we are now shopping-ready.

I read so many places that India “smells.” You’re told the stench accosts you the moment you exit the airport. Granted we haven’t hit the hustle bustle of the streets yet, but India (so far) smells lovely. It definitely has a smell, a distinct smell that followed us from the airport through the 45 minute drive in Delhi traffic all the way to the hotel. It’s an earthy, smoky slightly incense-like smell. It reminds me of wood briquettes on a grill.
It was dark as our van zipped us through the highways and roundabouts. But, we had front row seats for the spectacle that is Delhi driving. These folks are brave, or crazy, or both. Like many third world nations, lines on the street, stops signs, etc. are a suggestion. A suggestion often ignored. The rules seem to be, if you car fits, you can put it there. If it doesn’t fit, just honk until someone moves.

The if-you-fit driving mentality must be why there are so many motorbikes and scooters. They zip in between the cars, squeezing through unlikely gaps in traffic. Most had at least two people on them. I saw one with three ladies, and a number of bikers had a sidesaddled sari-wearing companion.

Now I’m suffering from reverse jetlag and I woke at 4 am on day one. Time to go meet India. Well, almost time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Trip that Almost Wasn’t a.k.a F-you

Adventures in the airport are never good. I like to save my adventure time for when we are actually in-country. Despite the best efforts (or really I should say despite the despicable lackluster efforts) of Orbitz we still managed to make it.

Our airport misadventure began when we checked in at OKC and were told that while Orbitz made a reservation for us on the flight, they never issued a ticket. So even though we’d paid Orbitz nearly $1,000 for this flight, Delta couldn’t give us a boarding pass because on their end we hadn’t paid. To pay at the gate would be an extra $2,000 since the flight was leaving in a matter of hours.

But it’s a simple fix. Just call Orbitz, tell them about the mistake, and they can issue the ticket and it’ll all be cleared up. Only getting Orbitz to fix their colossal screw up was anything but easy. Turns out it was impossible.

John and I used both cell phones to make multiple calls to Orbitz as the clock on our boarding time ticked down. Between the two of us we talked to at least a dozen reps. Most claimed they could find our record because Orbitz had changed systems since then (I was using the confirmation number Orbitz sent me three days prior). The ones who bothered to try, found the reservation, but no one seemed to know how to issue the ticket. I’m sorry, isn’t that what you do?!

Everyone we spoke to either put us on hold for 20 plus minutes, transferred us back to the department we originally called, or simply hung up on us. Yep, hung up! Question too hard? Oopsie, we must have been “disconnected.” Four times.

Then at literally the last minute, Mother Nature, flight delays and a miracle worker at the Delta counter saved us. The flight we booked was delayed by storms and would miss the connection. Somehow being forced to rebook opened the itinerary and Delta was able to put us on another flight at no charge. So instead of paying $2,000 to savage our trip, we got off with paying a $25 cab ride from La Guardia to JFK where we originally were supposed to land.

Then as if Delta hadn’t done enough already, our flight attendant gave us free wine because our flight was delayed. So, now I double plus mega heart Delta forever. I took down the miracle worker’s name so I can call Delta when we get home and tell them how awesome she was. I also plan to contact the Better Business Bureau and have a little chat about Orbitz.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Show & Smell Marketing: Part 2

5 pm, Friday, March 9, 2012

Somehow this session was only an hour, but it's going to take me days to recap it. Up today: marketing to your sense of hearing.

Spectra: language translation tool
Spectra is an app that allows you translate written or typed passages into a number of other languages. As of now I could only find it in the iTunes store. No android version just yet.

The session was moving pretty quickly, so I honestly don't remember and didn't note the marketing value of a handheld translator, but you have to admit, it's pretty cool.

Responsive Digital Signage
If you've left the house in the last year, you probably come across some version of digital signage. I've seen them in malls, convention centers, doctors' offices, restaurants and even our very own OSU Student Union. Companies are now working to make the signs interactive. You can ask the interactive digital signs questions and they'll answer you.

It gets even cooler than that. In development they found the signs "got confused" about who was talking to it and when someone was still listening. So developers added a face recognition component. The digital sign scans for faces looking at it, only listens to questions from the person addressing it, and only answers if that person continues to look at it.

Audio Spotlight
We totally need this for our new audio visual displays going in at the library. In fact, libraries and museums were the example the presenter mentioned as ideal locations. This gadget works just like it sounds it might. Imagine a spotlight, one discrete target of light. But instead of being bathed in light, it's sound. When you are in the audio spotlight, it sounds like standing in front of a normal speaker. But two feet away, those not standing in the spotlight can't hear a thing.

Here's the audio spotlight marketing at work:

Turn Any Flat Surface into a Speaker
Huh? I'm not even sure where to start with this one. Our presenter had a tiny sticky pad, when he placed it on a large foam core poster, the poster became a speaker. The tiny stick-able speaker uses the flat surface to amplify the sound vibrations. Um, yeah. You kind of had to be there.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Show & Smell Marketing

5 pm, Friday, March 9, 2012

This was an awesome SxSW session where our presenters demoed products that targeted each of the five senses. In marketing we tend to focus on sight and hearing, but our presenters managed to find a few new way to appeal to these senses.


1 Tweet=1 Gumball
They put this device under sight, but it definitely had a sound component to it as well. At the front of the room was a gumball machine. Every time someone tweeted the session hashtag, a gumball dispensed. It was instant feedback for the presenters. Any time they brought out something really cool, the gumball machine went crazy.

One presenter said he had one at home. When he's away on business, he tweets candy to his daughter, so she knows dad is thinking about her. Awww, so sweet.

Color Change Straw
Color change anything for that matter. Why contain yourself to static images when you can incorporate items that change visually when your audience interacts with them. And, we can't forget, everyone loves fun straws.

Makerbot: 3D Printing
3D Printing, you ask, how could it be? It is, and it's being used for everything from children's make-your-own-jewelery parties to snap-together housing. The presenters proposed letting your audience upload plans for their own personally give-away trinket and printing them out for trade shows or events.
Lytro Camera
This funky-looking little handheld camera takes pictures that allow you to change the focus after the fact. Who's that blurry guy 10 feet behind the person you meant to photo? Just refocus the picture and you can see. Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space. Don't ask me any more than that. As far as I'm concerned it's magic.

Tomorrow, I tell you about the sound toys, until then if you could have one of these gadgets for yourself which one would be?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Effective SM Presence in Higher Ed

3:30 pm, Friday, March 9, 2012

SxSW has several styles of presentations. This session was the first "Core Conversation" I attended. A core conversation is just what it sounds like. The moderators pick a topic, give some set up and lead a discussion with whomever shows up.

This session was a little short on set up and the questions were a bit basic for a really exciting discussion. The one question I thought had real potential, no one tackled. I was really cool to get in the same room with so many higher ed folks, though. I actually sat down and had some great talks with several of them afterward.

Questions posed:
  • What are the unique challenges of creating an integrated social media presence in a higher education institution?
    The biggest challenge (in my opinion) for OSU seemed echoed by others there. Higher Ed is set up to work in silos. It's very departmentalized and it's easy to get tunnel vision.
  • How do you get senior leadership as well as members of your department on board?
    I've had no problem getting my leadership on board. Maybe I'm lucky in that way. I think it helps that OSU puts such a focus on creativity and innovation. If I want to try a new way of doing things, it's pretty easy to get approval as long as I can justify why I want to try it. Being at a university, "It's an experiment and I want to learn X..." is often a valid justification.
  • How do you get colleges and divisions and departments working together?
    It's funny, but those who answered this question (and it's true for OSU, too) said the best SM collaboration happens off line. Getting people in a room and talking out strategy, tactics and timelines is the best way to get it together.
  • What are the best social media tactics to reach prospective students?
    No one touched this, and I think it is unanswerable on the scale we were discussing. I think the answer is, "It depends." It depends on who your prospective students are, where they are, how old they are (are they prospective at age 10? 15? 17?), and when it is (next year's answer will be different than last year's answer. It's a moving target.)
  • What are the innovative things universities are doing with social media?
    This is where things could have gotten really interesting, but no one touched this question. In a way I feel like I'm too close to the issue to answer it. What I'm doing myself never seems all that innovative until someone points out I'm doing something no one else is doing yet. What do you think? What have you seen that innovative in higher ed social media?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Brand Fights Back through Social Media

Part 2: Example

2 pm, Friday, March 09, 2012

The focus of Branding without Bullshit was how to social media proof your brand. How do you maintain your brand reputation and identity when anyone can launch a social media attack on you. Well, sometimes the tables turn and brands fight back using those same social media tools.

When the Alamo Drafthouse kicked out a movie theater texter, the outraged patron called to rip into them. Instead of apologizing or explaining or getting defensive, the Drafthouse took her voicemail rant and turned it into a PSA that runs prior to their screenings. The video went viral and garnered significant traditional media attention, as well.

This video is uncensored and NSFW. You've been warned.

What do you think of this move? Brave? Stupid? Awesome? All of the above?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Branding without Bullshit: Building Social Media Proof Brands

Part 1: Take Aways

SxSW: 2 pm, Friday, March 9, 2012

From the start I was skeptical. The moderator opened by claiming “Austin is the home of authentic.” I actually laughed out loud. Austin is certainly the home of bullshit, but it is without a doubt the most un-authentic place I’ve ever visited.

Then she proceeded to open the panel with the question: how do you define authentic? Not surprisingly the answers were pretty straightforward. I have a dictionary thanks.

Moderator aside, the session was actually really great. We heard from four panelists who represented Yeti Coolers, the Alamo Drafthouse, Shiner and more. The panelists discussed the brands they represented and how they work to both listen and respond to social feedback while remaining true to their brands and the brands’ stories.

Panelist Bobby Johns, made the excellent point: “Don’t talk about how cool you are. Just be cool. Once you talk about it, you’re not cool anymore.” (Take note, Austin.) That’s not to say of course, that you don’t want other people talking about how cool you are. That’s awesome, but leave that work to your fans.

But what about when they aren’t fans? Johns also advised, “Weed out the bullshit that comes at you through social media. Don’t pander to the customer if it is not true to your brand.” The group talked about acknowledging negative comments and off-brand suggestions, but knowing your brand and resisting a public push to be something you’re not. That’s one way brands lose their authenticity.

The session focused on maintaining your authenticity. It can be easy to lose it, especially in today’s social media world. The panel ended on this question: “Can you bring it back once a brand has lost authenticity?” What brands do you think are “unauthentic” and have you ever seen a brand come back from it?

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Newbie at SxSW

My first South by Southwest Interactive conference is quickly coming to a close. Right now, you’re probably really jealous or you’re scratching your head asking, “What’s South by Southwest.”

I easily have a month’s worth of blog posts on all the awesome sessions I’ve attended, but I thought I kick off the SxSW content with my reflections as a SxSW newbie.

  • The sessions I thought would be most relevant to work often weren’t. The sessions I thought would just be fun almost all turned out to be incredibly relevant to work. The sessions I thought would be both were. Fun learning is the best learning, and I got lots of it here.
  • I expected SxSW to be full of pompous self-promoting posers selling their G+ (social media gadgety that no one cares about). Maybe it was the sessions I picked, but jerky jerks were few and far between. I almost exclusively met really awesome, genuine, friendly people who were just as excited to be here to learn as I was.
  • Launches are awesome, and I feel so lucky to have stumbled into one. More on that later.
  • SxSW is like a mini nation that takes over downtown Austin. I feel like I should have brought my passport. I expected a bit of local resentment, but Austin seems happy and welcoming. As it should be, SxSW pours $6M+ into the Austin economy.

Lessons Learned

  • Evidently, we call it “South By.” Once here, you are officially too cool to finish the names of things.
  • Don’t bother chasing the free food and drinks; it’s not worth it. When it happens, it’s a nice surprise. Maybe the seasoned participants are better at working this into the schedule than I was, but I just wanted to take it all in, not wait in a two-block line for a taco.
  • Everything you know about other conferences goes double: plan, but go with flow; take time to meet people; and wear comfy shoes. Who are these crazies in stilettos? They are more woman than me evidently, and being Austin, they probably weren’t all women.

So which category did you fall into, jealous or “South by wha…?”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Biggest User 8-Week Challenge Begins

I've blogged about OSU's Healthy Campus Initiative before. Well, they are back with another fun PR stunt. This time the goal seems to be to increase use of the various campus recreation services. The project is called Biggest User and registrants have 8 weeks to sample a number of services (most typically have a cost) for free.

Here's what we get:
  • 2 Fitness assessments ($30 value)
  • Goal-Planning Session ($20 value)
  • 3 Personal Training Sessions ($115 value)
  • Nutritional Counseling ($30 value)
  • Monthly Seminars
  • Outdoor Adventure Challenge Course ($23 value)
  • T-shirt
  • 10% discount on follow up personal training or massage therapy appointments
  • Support from fellow participants
  • Encouragement from the staff
The catch? You must participate in both fitness assessments, a minimum of 2 fitness classes per week and at least 12 more activities during the 8-week period or you will be charge $50. I'm fine with that. I'm most interested in the goal-planning, personal training, nutritionist and fitness assessments. If I only do those activities and nothing else, $50 is a deal! (Of course, my competitive streak will force me to do my best to "win")

You might have noticed, I called this a "stunt." You know I love a good (i.e. strategic) PR stunt, and I think this qualifies. Why? Because I'm pretty sure there are a few goals at play here:
  • Educate the campus about the variety of services offered (I didn't know we had all this and I've been on campus 17 years)
  • Increase use of services (increased use=job security & funding security)
  • Gather data on the impact of services (remember those required fitness assessments? they are going to have a nice little study on our beginning fitness levels, the level of participation for 8 weeks, and the results)
The best part: all three of these directly tie in to our goal of being the Healthiest Campus in America. Good on you Campus Recreation.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year, New Food: Parsnips

With one rare exception (I'm giving the hairy eyeball to you, cauliflower) I have yet to meet a vegetable I didn't like. As a picky child, turned adventurous adult diner, I was beginning to wonder if I'd tried all the vegetables out there. Surely not.

Along came Whole Foods, OKC, and now a have a new source for some "exotic" produce you don't find in a small town Walmart. Enter the parsnip. I'd never tried this root veggie, but when it was highlighted in "Vegetarian Times" and "Runners World" in the same month, I decided to track one down and eat it.

Now, what the heck to do with a parsnip? I decided to toss it into a crockpot of root veggies (just like pot roast vegetables, sans roast). Here's the cast for our dinner: mushrooms, carrots, sweet potato, pearl onions, butternut squash, and one big ole parsnip (front and center).
In the store, it looks like a mutant, albino, zombie carrot. Here it is all cleaned up.

You clean up nice, little parsnip. I chopped it up and dumped into my crock pot with the other veggies.
The verdict: The parsnip fit right in with the other root veggies and friends. It tasted like a cross between a carrot and a white potato. It softened up much more than the carrots, though, so evidently parsnips don't need to cook for hours like most of the veggies in this dish.

What's the most "exotic" veggie you've tried? Was it a winner?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Year, New Food: Tofurky

I've decided to try to liven up our menus and audition a few new foods. Today John and I tried Peppered Tofurky Deli Slices. Since we've gone 99% vegetarian, I haven't had a turkey sandwich in ages. I was eager to see how this meat substitute stacked up to my memory of the real thing.

Our lunch sandwiches had 5 slices of Tofurky, a slice of colby jack, half a packet of spicy Wholy Guacamole on whole grain sandwich rounds. John and I both gave the Tofurky a thumbs up.

It's certainly not a life-changing taste sensation, but regular ole deli meat isn't either. The texture was pretty good. If you didn't know you were eating faux meat, the texture wouldn't give it away. The color was a little odd, kind of a yellowish brown, not a pinkish white you'd expect of the real thing, but once it's in the sandwich it isn't noticeable. Taste was good. The peppery flavor was really strong which I liked. They also have oven roasted and hickory flavor, I'd liked to see how those stack up.

If you're experimenting with meat substitutes, I'd recommend it. I'm certain this will become a regular item on our Whole Foods shopping list.

What do you think? Would you dare to try Tofurky? If you're a vegetarian or semi-vegetarian, what is your favorite meat substitute?