So This Happened: Life Gets Wet Sometimes


From the So This Happened Stories

That sudden summer storm always hits at the worst possible time. I drove into work last week because I had an appointment that afternoon. I have to park in a lot about eight blocks away because it costs the bargain price of $7 (compared to $25!).

The sky was looking dark, but I had an umbrella. Only a block in, the sky opened up, angry with rain, wind and hail. I was able to take shelter. I think storms are worse downtown because the wind gets trapped between the buildings. Things started whipping around. The top of a trash can flew off and came down about a foot from where I was standing. So I’m trying to hide, thinking it will pass. But it’s going to cause me to be late. I send a quick email to advise I’m running late to be courteous. After about five minutes, it’s not getting any better. So I just go for it. The water is about two inches deep. It’s hailing on my head; I can feel it through the umbrella. But I’m determined. I press on. Finally, I get to the lot. I’m on the sidewalk about to turn into it when a car speeds by and splashes me. When something like that happens, you think really? Am I in a freakin bad sitcom? But it happened. This is real life. At this point, I can either laugh or cry. I chose to laugh.

I get to the car. I’m wringing out my dress. Luckily, I have other shoes. I also happen to have lots of supplies in my handbag, which has been categorized as being very “MacGyver” like because of my many supplies. I turn the air on to dry out. I suppose I could have just given up at that point and not gone to the appointment. I was wet, tired and defeated. But a lot of life is about showing up. So I did, apologizing for my appearance. We laughed about it.

So it was embarrassing and funny, and I wanted to share it. Little things like this are just part of my believable life. And there’s a story and lesson to be shared.

How I Redefined Family


Family doesn’t have to be conventional. Blood and DNA need not apply. Because if that was the only way to define family, I’d be all alone. I have no parents, children, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles or first cousins. By the time I was 20, my immediate family was gone, all deceased.

My ideas of family have always been outside of traditional or nuclear definitions. I didn’t grow up with a large family. It was just my mom, brother and grandparents. I did experience somewhat of an extended family. Although my mom was an only child, she had many aunts, uncles and first cousins, many of whom she had grown up with. Although none of them lived in our town, many weren’t far away. We visited my great aunt and uncle (my Pop’s brother) often in Greenville. I considered them my aunt and uncle and loved to visit them. Their children, my mom’s first cousins, were around a lot too growing up. They visited us; we visited them. I think she considered them more like brothers. They teased each other a lot because she went to the University of South Carolina, and they were all Clemson grads. I am thankful for these memories and how lovely they were to me growing up.

My paternal grandmother came from a large family. She had I think eight siblings, most of whom I didn’t know or passed before I was born. I did spend a lot of time with her two closest sisters: one taught me piano and always had fun stories to tell me. The other was a painter and traveler, who always shared pictures and stories of her adventures. I’m glad to say I still have several of her paintings hanging in my house.

As the only grandchildren on either side, I’m sure my brother and I were spoiled. If not with stuff then with attention. I was so lucky to have so much one-on-one time with my grandparents. And even though they’ve been gone a long time, I still think of them often and what they taught me: to play cards, sew, bake cakes, be curious, be brave and much more.

Because my frame of reference of family was small, I never gave much consideration to if I wanted to have a big family. As a girl growing up my aspirations were not centered on getting married and having kids. My dreams were about a career.

When my family started to disappear is when I started to rethink the idea of family. Thinking about humans on the most primal level, family is about ensuring a bloodline. Early on in human history, it was about survival, not just of one’s own genes but the species. Now we’re overpopulated so I think we’re good on species preservation for now.

In thinking about the beginnings of what family was and what society paints it to be, how would I reconstruct what family means? And since I have no way to pass along my genes or traits, what does that mean? Should I believe that the gene pool didn’t need my bloodline to continue? I’ve wrestled with many questions about family for years; here’s what I’ve concluded.

Family is my choice now. It’s way beyond genetics. Having the same genetic makeup really has nothing to do with love. Family is people who are there when it matters, unconditional love and feeling like you can just be you. It’s people that love you in spite of yourself and will fight for you and with you. 

I wouldn’t want anyone to ever be sad for me because I know what real family is. Most people probably won’t ever know this. Justin and I have made our own little family with Honey, Fawn and Ellie. And I’m very thankful to have his kids in my life, too. I shouldn’t call them kids because they are adults, and really fine ones at that.

And the heart of my reimagined family has been my besties, wonderful women who I couldn’t have made it without: Heather, Jenn, Caron, Kelda, Cortney and Jennifer. You are so much more than friends, you’re family! Thank you for believing in me and loving me.

Everybody’s family looks different. No matter what anyone else says, if it’s built on love and trust then nothing else should matter. There were times I felt incredibly alone because my first family was gone. Now, I know it just helped me know what love is so I could build my own.

Marketing Chat: Insights & Best Practices


I’ve had the pleasure of being part of many great conversations about marketing, both with those in the discipline and outside of it. I’m always happy to share my experiences, what I’ve learned, my opinions and what I think are the most critical strategies. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions or discussions I’ve been a part of recently.

1. What are the best ways to build an email list?

First, you have to do it legally. Anyone you email has to agree that you can email them, and they have the ability to unsubscribe at any time. Email is a currency. You get people to “pay” with their email address so you have to create value. Hubspot recently posted a blog on this that was spot on. This is what I think are the best strategies:

  • Landing pages with relevant offers – typically this would be high value content that is targeted to specific segments and is centered on education and information rather than a product
  • Social Media: connecting with followers in almost any platform provides you the opportunity to allow them to opt in
  • Website forms: include forms throughout your website for a variety of offers based on what pages they are landing on – subscribe to blog, download an asset, schedule a demo or any other CTA (call to action)
  • Webinars: these are low cost events that are virtual in nature and should again be educationally focused. If you have a great topic that can genuinely help someone with their challenges, they will sign up for webinars, and spend an hour with you.

But do not buy lists! These people don’t know you. Your unsubscribes and bounces will go up. Don’t spend your marketing dollars here. 

2. What should I post on social media?

I typically advise that the rule should be 50/30/20: 50% should be your content that is general, educational and informational; 30% should be content not authored by you but is relevant to your industry or audience (leading experts, SMEs) and 20% promotional, wherein you have a specific social media promotion, like a giveaway or offer, to generate leads.

3. Should we do direct mail campaigns?

In most circumstances, I’d say no. They are costly and have little response. It’s hard to track ROI on this unless there’s a promotional code. For B2B, I would advise it only if it’s clever and relevant. Do you have an actual product versus a service? When I worked in the large format printing industry, we had a laser cutter that was a really innovative piece of machinery. I often toted around small samples of what the machine could do. People could see the quality and intricacy of the finished product. To add relevance, I often brought them samples of their logo to keep. This would have been a neat direct mail campaign that could have generated interest from current and prospective customers. For any direct mail campaign to work, it’s got to be targeted and executed well.

4. Do I need a content strategy?

YES! Content strategy at its most fundamental is creating the right content for the right audience and posting it in the right place. It’s not something that’s best done off the cuff. It takes research and planning to learn how to cultivate and repurpose content and to ensure it has a clear voice while also changing tone where appropriate. Content strategy is a huge part of your overall marketing plan and shouldn’t be ignored.

5. Why inbound marketing?

I’m an inbound marketing enthusiast. I absolutely believe in its ability to connect with audiences and generate quality leads. It has the power to convert unlike outbound marketing or cold calling. It relies heavily on well-written, authentic content. It takes into consideration who your buyer is and where they are on the buyer’s journey. It integrates content, SEO, email and social media. I could write for days on the marvels of inbound marketing. If you are not currently embracing it, do your research. Understand its importance in elevating your brand to the next level. I recommend as a starting point.

6. How can I increase my open rate on emails?

When considering open rate, think about these metrics:

  • How many people actually received the email (hard and soft bounces)
  • Is it optimized for mobile? We as a society now tend to open most email on phones.
  • Am I clearing spam filters?
  • Is my subject line intriguing? Is it short enough? Does it present the idea of value?

7. How do I determine what content I should require an email to view versus what do I give away?

This is subjective. But I’ve considered this when building websites and took on a scoring approach. The shorter the content the more likely I was to tag it as free. The content I felt was really for those at the beginning of the buyer’s journey I typically didn’t require an email. Whitepapers, which are longer and require more research, most likely required an email. The more work I had to put into producing it; the more valuable I believed it to be so I wanted an email for all my hard work! You can also look at trends to see how well content fared from a landing page or email campaign. It if it was popular that may mean people are willing to pay with their email address. Also more targeted content usually required an email address because it was for such a select industry or group.

8. What are the biggest obstacles to marketing success?

Speaking personally, the challenges I have faced in being successful were:

  • Lack of Tools: not having the right software or platforms to manage, measure and automate. If you have do most of this manually, it takes a long time, and you don’t have time to focus on more important things. Tools provide amazing insights and help you see trends so that you are aware of when a lead is sales ready.
  • Inability to Execute: Fear from the powers that be kept me from executing many planned out strategies. I developed websites, product launches and social media strategies that never went anywhere because the company didn’t really understand the value of marketing. They were so afraid to make any little mistake that fear kept them from doing anything. I’m not a status quo kind of person so it was pretty impossible to succeed in this type of environment. When you hire people that are experts in their industry, trust them! They really know what they’re talking about, and if it doesn’t work, then keep trying and learning.

These are a few highlights from recent conversations. I’d love to hear from you! Tweet me, or reply below. I’m glad to answer them or have a discussion. I’m always up for a marketing chat!




Voice, Tone & Sounding Human


For the past few years, many established brands have been eager to reshape the way they speak to their audiences. They finally figured out that their professional, elevated voice was actually condescending. They’ve decided they want to sound human and authentic. Simplification isn’t a bad word anymore. That’s great that these brands, now so concerned with being customer-centric, have embraced a voice that truly can engage its audience. Yet, big brands still lack consistency. And what’s worse is that the internal dialogue hasn’t changed. It’s still weighed down by jargon, corporate speak and acronyms.

I have been accustomed to and sometimes guilty of using those terms and phrases. However, I’m so aware of it now that I won’t allow myself to just accept it. If we want to be better communicators then we should all embrace these novel ideas on voice and tone.

I’ve shaped the voice and tone of several brands. This is what I learned while working in the technology/ software sector. I’ll preface this by stating the company did not have an identified brand or voice. What they did have was an absolute text book content for how not to write.

1. They gave their audience way too much credit. You cannot read or write content from the perspective of an SME (Subject Matter Expert). You are; your audience most likely is not. And you may have multiple segments of your audience with various knowledge levels. Start with the assumption that your audience knows nothing. Write and target for different areas of knowledge but do so in blogs, ebooks or white papers. These are areas where users can choose content. Dumbing it down isn’t dumb. It’s simplification. If you can’t describe something simply then you have bigger problems!

2. Jargon is a barrier to good communication unless it’s really how your audience speaks. Most industry jargon is how ideas or practices are described internally. They may mean nothing to your audience. So how will you know how your audience speaks? Do your research. Listen to them at events and conferences. This was huge for me. I also asked our sales team questions about what they heard during conversations. Read other industry publications, not necessarily from your competition, but content directed at the group you are targeting. Compile your results, and create a toolkit of words to use and not use. These words are of course useful for SEO and PPC as well.

3. Remember than tone can change. Although, voice is stable, tone can shift depending on channel. The least formal tone is typically used in social media. Yet there’s still distinction between Twitter and LinkedIn. With Twitter, more abbreviations and brevity are the norm; LinkedIn tends to be slightly more professional. The tone of a blog post is informal yet may be presenting data or big ideas. Blogs also often prompt the reader to comment, respond or take action. All these things impact tone. It’s important to flesh out your voice then make slight adjustments to master tone.

4. Be readable! Being interesting and relevant are part of this, but what I really mean here is look at your syntax. Are your sentences too long? Are there too many compound sentences? Are the sentences hard to read because of this? I’ve seen sentences with multiple clauses that run for days it seems. And maybe they have a lot of great points. But nobody’s going to read them. It’s too overwhelming. Mix up the sentence lengths, and aim for brevity.

5. Stop trying to impress everyone with your vocabulary! I love words. I’m a word nerd that as a child read the dictionary. My vocabulary is impressive. However, I know that for something to be clearly understood by the masses, it should be on a sixth grade reading level. For example, write use not utilize. It’s that simple.

6. Avoid passive voice if possible. Showing action helps keep a reader’s attention so the subject of the sentence should be acting out the verb. It’s not completely unavoidable. Just be aware!

Brands must change to continue to be relevant. Voice is a big part of that. Communication continues to change. Think about how texting has affected writing. I do text, but I rarely abbreviate. You may get a chapter from me. I made be old school. That’s fine with me. I think it’s important to temper cultural communication shifts with principles of good writing. And of course much of it goes back to audience and reflecting on how they speak.

My last thoughts on this subject are back on internal communication. Brands have worked so hard to create a human voice. But everybody’s still talking to each other like there was no evolution. Jargon and clichéd phrases still punctuate every meeting and email. There’s eye rolling (maybe that’s just me), but it seems harder to change how we speak to each other than how we speak externally. I think we all deserve to read and hear words that sound human.

What’s your take on voice, tone and jargon? I’d love to hear the words you hope to never hear or read again!

Go Find Your Best


Depression is part of my life. Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t admit this. Depression is still one of those whispered words. However, I’m not ashamed. It’s something I want to talk about. It’s something we should all be able to talk about. I don’t believe suffering from depression makes me deficient or that there’s something wrong with me. Depression for me isn’t just an episode or something that comes and goes. It’s always there, but with a great therapist and medication (also something I’m not ashamed of), I’m doing okay. Some days are better than others, but I would dare to say I’m pretty emotionally healthy.

It’s been a long road though. I went to see a therapist for the first time at 15. My mom had enough insight to know that whatever was going on with me wasn’t just typical teenage angst. At that age, I had already been through a lot, but this deep sadness I had didn’t seem linked to one specific thing, and it wasn’t something I could really articulate yet. I couldn’t just have a good cry and be back to normal. I couldn’t get happy. I didn’t really understand how therapy worked then. I was scared and had no intention of being open with someone I didn’t know. She was a very nice lady and didn’t pressure me to talk about my feelings. It was a good first step.

As my teen years progressed, life got even more complicated. I was thrust fully into adulthood after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Gone were worries about boys or popularity. I was watching my mom die. I had to be strong. I had to quell feelings of fear. I had to survive.

At 17, I started going to a new counselor who was a really wonderful woman. Eventually, I began to trust her. I also began to understand how therapy works. It’s not simply about going in and talking. Part of it is, but it’s about what you do with the words and feelings that start pouring out. It’s about redirecting internal dialogue, learning coping mechanisms and being open to change. Although cognitive therapy helped, there was still a lot of crippling darkness. By 18, I would begin taking an anti-depressant to help. Medication didn’t solve everything or make me feel “better.” It just kind of got me to a point where I could function better.

When I went away to college, I stopped therapy. I thought I was capable of facing the world and had learned some tools to manage the depression. And honestly, I felt like it was a stigma to be depressed or go to therapy. Very few people knew that I had been in therapy or was on medication. It wasn’t something I wanted to broadcast. At that time, I was ashamed and embarrassed. Even though I knew therapy was a good thing. Why couldn’t I just get through life on my own? After all, I was beginning to understand that the only person who would always be there was me.

So there I was on my own, coping. Just not in a healthy way. I tried to push darkness and worry away. Then my mom died, and the world kind of stopped. I had just turned 19, halfway through my freshman year of college, and I just kind of froze up. I have never been the same. But I did a good job of seeming fine. I was the person that wouldn’t fall apart.  I was the person that didn’t need help. I was the person that would survive. But those people that really knew me, knew that I was not okay. They knew that I was pushing them away and fading away. So one of my friends made me find a new therapist. I agreed to go back to therapy.

My next therapist got me back on meds and met with me sometimes twice a week. She was a very smart lady. I wasn’t going to lie my way out of this or hide things. We talked a lot but also did a lot of role play, where I could have conversations with people in a safe environment. But in a way I told her what I thought she wanted to hear. I still wasn’t convinced I needed therapy. I had a right to be sad. It would pass. This was a whole lot of denial. But we believe what we want to believe about our lives. We build our own house of lies. And feelings were just too much. I didn’t want to feel them or talk about them. My preferred feeling was numb.

So I quit therapy again. I was fine. I was making my way through life, graduating college, surrounded by lots of friends. Feeling like a pretty normal early 20-something. Except my life was nothing like my friends’ lives. I bought my first house in college and that was my home. There was no other home to go to. But I had my life together. I got a job, met a great guy, made plans for the future. And then I was married and working in the industry I wanted to be in. I had a nice house, a closet full of beautiful clothes and plenty of money in the bank. Why would I be sad?

Then I turned 30 and realized everything was a charade. My preferred feeling was still numb, and the truth was I had dealt with nothing. A friend recommended a therapist, and for the first time, I think I was really ready for therapy. I connected with my therapist like none of the others. It was here I began to learn how to save my life. And she helped me feel feelings, which was something I had avoided for over a decade. It was overwhelming, even paralyzing. I started to understand that feelings aren’t permanent. It’s okay to feel them. It’s good to feel them. They don’t last.

It took me years of focused therapy and trying lots of meds before I fully became aware of everything that had happened to me; to look back over all the pain and loss. I’ve dealt with some things better than others, learned a lot about forgiveness and acceptance. But I’m not “cured” or no longer depressed. It doesn’t work that way. Even after you become aware, depression doesn’t disappear. It’s been 8 years since I first walked into my therapist’s office. I still see her every other week. It’s a good gut check. It’s a time I can be brutally honest about my choices, my past, my fears and most importantly my hopes.

I’m not perfect! I consider myself to be beautifully damaged. And I know that “damaged” may seem like a negative word. But we’re all damaged. Life changes us. It beats us up a lot, throws us down dark holes, surprises us with grace and shapes who we are. I don’t let depression define me, but I accept it as part of me. There’s nothing “wrong” with me or anybody else who suffers from mental illness. So it’s okay to say it out loud. To say, “I’m depressed.” If I can say it, you can say it. If you’re depressed, get help. If you are getting help, keep at it. After all, you’ve already made it through the worst. Now go find your best.

An Honest Conversation about Migraines


On the outside, I don’t look like I have a chronic disease. But I am fighting a disease – one that doesn’t leave me with scars or a tremor or limp. I walk around probably 90 percent of the time in pain. I try very hard for it not to impact my life, but that’s simply impossible. I’ve learned how to manage it and deal with it. After 13 years, it kind of becomes part of your life. That’s what migraines do to you. They become this uninvited guest, much worse than your rowdy neighbor or weird uncle. They infiltrate your life and make it all about them. They don’t want you to be able to work or go for a walk or even sit in a room with light.

Before my first migraine, I never even got headaches. I was someone who was well and active. Pain wasn’t something I thought about, at least not my own. But my mom did have bad headaches, and I believe they would now be categorized as migraines. I’m not sure if anyone knew what they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Migraines are often hereditary and that could be one reason I have them. Another thing I’ve always found interesting (although my physicians have never seemed to think there was a connection) was that the migraines started around the same time I was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Often, migraines are tied to hormonal changes, and this was definitely the beginning of major hormonal changes in my body.

So I can’t really answer the questions of why. Most doctors cannot. Migraines have been studied, and there are lots of drugs on the market. But I don’t think it’s something that most neurologists or pharmaceutical companies are really researching. I have some theories on this: migraines are more often a woman’s disease, there are more serious neurological diseases like MS or Parkinson’s or simply there’s no money in it. I’m not an expert on any of this; it’s simply an opinion.

I am an expert on living with chronic pain. Not because I want to be. I’ve had to adapt. It’s the only way I’ve been able to survive. I could probably be in bed most every day from a migraine. But what kind of life would that be? I could also be strung out on opioids. There’s a lot of talk about opioid addiction in the U.S. right now, reignited again in the media by the death of Prince. The number of overdoses has skyrocketed. It’s become an epidemic. Everyone wants someone to blame. For over 10 years, I had a prescription for an opioid to combat my pain. I never tried to acquire meds in any illegal manner either on the black market or by doctor shopping. I did not take the meds every day, but I took them several times a week, depending on my pain levels. They helped, but I became tolerant to them and needed to take more just to get some relief.

But I knew these meds were not helping me. They were making things worse and giving me many other side effects. So I took myself off the meds. For the first three or four months, I felt horrible. I went through withdrawals, which included sleeplessness, night sweats and lots of nausea. After about a year of being off the meds, I began to feel “normal.”

I still take medicines for my headaches but no opioids. And I won’t ever take them again unless it’s for a very short term due to a procedure or surgery.

I’ve been through a lot with my migraines. I never know what the day will bring. One of my biggest triggers is cold fronts or rain, which of course I have no control over! I’m thankful to have a great physician who is adamant about helping me find relief. I’m going to keep writing about migraines and all the different things I’ve tried. It’s a topic that needs to be addressed. It shouldn’t be something people try to hide. If you’ve never had a migraine, and that’s the majority, you wouldn’t understand that it’s much more than a headache. Migraines have become part of my life whether I like it or not. And since I have the ability to express myself with words, I wanted to write about the toil they have taken on my life. It’s not just the pain; it’s all the things I’ve missed. It’s forced me at times to be a bystander to my own life. That’s not okay with me.

I wanted to start a conversation. I want to say that I have migraines, but they don’t define me. If migraines have affected you or someone you love, please share this message and how you’ve learned how to live with pain.

The World is Different for Women


Being a woman is different than being a man. Even in such a civilized and progressive country as ours. I had to pause for a moment after typing those words because these days I’m not sure how civilized or progressive we are. But this world is different for a woman; I don’t have every option that a man does. Everyone women knows this to be true. This is a reminder for all men.

Women, in this country and most others, are too often defined by their relationship to men. Women have prominence or celebrity because they are someone’s wife. After all, a billion dollar franchise was created on this notion yet many of the stars of this show aren’t even housewives.

If we are not defined as a wife then we are praised or shamed based on our ability to be a mother. The president of Turkey recently said women are deficient if they don’t have children. Great to know so much progress has been made. When you really consider where we are, at least in the U.S., remember it’s not been that long since we couldn’t vote, own property, get jobs outside of female professions or have an opinion.

I was lucky in that being raised by a fierce, independent single mom, she never mentioned that my gender would somehow hold me back. Maybe this gave me a false sense that anything was possible. Maybe I should have been prepared a bit more. Ultimately, I think she was aware of the still present barriers for women; she just didn’t want me to see them.

I never noticed the differences while pursing my education. I never saw favoritism toward males, and I had many female professors. Things got more noticeable when I entered the working world. I have not had many female managers. Unfortunately, the one female boss I had until now was no role model. She was the stereotypical female; almost a caricature of the role, something you’d see in a bad rom-com. She was arrogant, petty and jealous. She had no desire to develop the talented women that worked for her. She only wanted to keep us in our place and take any opportunity she had to humiliate us. Years later, I had the opportunity to manage several women. I can certainly say I had a different approach. I worked hard to coach them up and let them know they could trust me. I’m still not impressed by the number of female leaders in business. I’m in an industry (marketing) that seems to skew somewhat female, but there still aren’t that many female CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers).

And while we are on the topic of career opportunities, the pay gap is still a real thing. Men are considered the breadwinners who need to support their families. So does that mean women just work for fun? And we don’t need the money? I’ve seen men get raises because they had a child on the way. I’m not saying that those men weren’t deserving of a raise, but the reasoning isn’t fair. Your salary should be based on your skills, education, experience and what you produce. The mentality has to change. Women should have the opportunity to earn the same salary and seek the highest position. I have worked with a lot of great women who were great leaders. They just weren’t given the opportunity.

This cycle of inequality is not just because of our patriarchal society. Women are the problem, too, as I’ve described above. Women believe they are second class citizens. They don’t want to be seen as emotional or too aggressive. Women are constantly reining it in so as to not seem too intense. I want to see women working together to lead, not tearing each other down or feeling threatened. I have no idea how to solve the disparity. I can only say that I support other women and celebrate their successes. I’m also not afraid to call any man out who is being misogynistic.

What I hold on to is the example set by my mother and grandmother. I grew up believing I could be anything with no thoughts of a glass ceiling. The ceiling for now has been raised but not shattered. It’s there every time a female leader is criticized for being a woman or when a women is asked about her appearance rather than her ideas. That ceiling is still visible every time a woman is identified as the wife of even when she has her own identity or every time a woman is paid less than her male counterpart.

I’m glad to be a woman. I have no desire to walk in the shoes or the shadow of a man. I know in this country I’m, at least for appearances sake, on the same level as men. There are many women in the world who have to deal with all kinds of atrocities simply because of their gender. My great hope is that eventually there is no hesitation when a woman assumes leadership or speaks her mind; that we are simply considered based on our abilities and that gender isn’t part of the conversation.

What I Learned from Riding Transit


From the What I Learned Series

My commute changed dramatically recently. I’m now an official public transportation commuter. After years of spending up to 90 minutes in the car in a day, I simply take the light rail to work now. I feel liberated. First, I hate to drive so just being a passenger works fine for me. I also don’t miss the regular routine of dodging bad drivers on the interstate. I didn’t mind the commute as much in the mornings. It gave me time to reflect and listen to the Two Guys Named Chris Show on Rock 92.3. Love that show; it is spit out your drink funny!

I do still have to drive about five minutes to park. I don’t live close enough to walk to the light rail. I suppose I could, but I’d be a literal hot mess. So it’s been an interesting change of pace to take the train to work. I would say I’m an observant person. I’m not trying to be nosey. I just enjoy seeing how people interact with one another or react to situations. I actually think it makes me a better writer, especially in fiction. I wrote recently about the bad behavior I’ve seen at the airport, but thus far on the train, I haven’t witnessed anything that made me gasp. People are actually pretty courteous and observe other’s personal space. And the train is very clean. 

Here’s what I’ve observed. As you would expect, most passengers are on their phones. What else would they be doing? We aren’t a society that knows how to disconnect, but this is not a judgment, just a statement. Many have earphones in, and some are actually reading books. I don’t use my phone or read – my propensity for motion sickness keeps me from being entertained by my devices.

Until last week, my commute had been mundane. The most shocking thing I had seen was some questionable skirt lengths (I’m thinking are you really wearing that to work?) and interesting outfit choices. I had heard snippets of conversation (it’s hard to believe people can talk on the phone – how can they hear?) but nothing juicy.

Then last week, I arrive at my stop to see a man being arrested. He was handcuffed sitting on the bench. I have no idea what his offense was. Maybe I’m naïve or just have little reference, but it was bit shocking. I’ve seen people be arrested before, but it made me wonder about the circumstances of the arrest and how that person got to be where he is. And how I was standing on the other side of the tracks, dressed nicely ready to go to my job in a skyscraper. Could that have been me? I don’t attempt to understand what that man’s life may be like or if he deserved the arrest. There have been so many choices and roads taken that have brought us to here to who we are right now. Just taking one detour from that path could’ve meant a different outcome. As I was standing there not thrilled to be going to work, it made me think: be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.

Then I boarded the train, and within a minute there was a woman screaming on the phone. We all heard it. I have no idea who she was talking to, but the gist of the conversation was that she was upset that a man wasn’t taking care of his kids. She seemed embarrassed and even said so while on the phone. This woman’s plight isn’t unusual. There are plenty of fathers and mothers who don’t take care of their kids. I have no idea how that woman must feel or what her struggles may be. But again, it made me think: be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.

When I began to write this, I thought it would be one of my lighter posts; that I would share some funny anecdotes about people acting foolish. But perspective often shifts based on experience. We shouldn’t necessarily compare ourselves or our lives to others. I can’t look at the young girls in their 20s and compare myself to them. I’m not in my 20s anymore. I’m not ancient, but I’ll never have that youthful glow again. However, when you witness real life unfolding for others that’s so different than yours, you can be glad for what you have even if you think it’s not enough.

Summer, It’s You Not Me


I’d like to break up with summer. Summer might say it wasn’t aware we were in a relationship. Yet here it is breathing down my neck.

As a child, summer was worth counting down to; it was the ultimate break. It meant playing outside all day (yes, kids actually did this unattended at one time), swimming, beach trips, visits with relatives, camp and all the good stuff!

In the adult world, summer is just a hotter time to go to work. My teacher friends still look forward to the freedom, and they’ve earned it. But for me, there’s no break. We don’t vacation during the summer: too crowded and expensive. Since we don’t have to worry about kids, we travel in the fall and winter.

I try hard not to be negative, but here are my summer struggles:

1. Humidity is the worst. Just horrendous. You do not get used to it. Ever walk outside and feel your shirt get wet in like 2 minutes; that’s humidity at its finest. Having naturally curly hair is real fun, too. On the bright side, it may actually add a few inches to my height.

2. I’m fair skinned, bordering on translucent. I do not tan. I burn. I stay out of the sun. Hats and umbrellas are my friends. I religiously use sunscreen and always have it with me. I can burn in about 10 minutes without it. I use spray tan. Yet still look Scandinavian. For those of you who do love to tan, please be careful. Skin cancer is a serious thing; so are wrinkles.

3. The Thigh Stick. If your thighs don’t touch, I’m happy for you. For the rest of us, it’s super annoying and causes a rash. I wear Spanx under dresses and skirts to avoid the walk rash.

4. I could literally get burned by my steering wheel. I should probably put oven mitts in my car for the afternoon drive home.

5. Swimsuit. No explanation needed.

6. Mosquitoes.  I try not to harm any creatures. Mosquitoes are the exception. I’m happy to see spider webs on my back porch with hope they’ll do all the dirty work.

7. Pop Up Storms: I don’t mind them. They are just unpredictable. They’re also scary for my poor Honey.

To be fair, I should also say a few nice things about summer since we can’t break up indefinitely.

1. It’s lighter longer.
2. Football technically starts in summer.
3. Flowers blooming.
4. Lots of birds and creatures around to watch.
5. Sandals.

That’s all I’ve got! Do you love summer, or are you already wishing for fall?

Are Big Brands Failing at Social Media?


Big brands know how to execute on social media, right? They’ve got the top talent and lots of dollars. Yet, when really investigating how big brands use social media, they seem to have forgotten some of the basics of engagement.

I’ve read about rules of promotion versus information sharing and keeping the ratio balanced. For instance, promote three pieces of content, events or specific articles about your organization then share five pieces of content that are specific to your industry. Because it doesn’t have to always be about you.

I am a big believer in the inbound marketing methodology, which focuses on using relevant, useful content to engage your audience and therefore turn them into qualified leads. And I’ve written a lot of content that aspired to do just that – except most of what I wrote was educational in nature and not self-promoting. Yes, you have to promote your services and products and how they bring value. But to me, it becomes a bit condescending and off putting to only share content on social media that masquerades as informational. I’m not saying the content doesn’t have value. Does it really need to always end with a pitch?

Here’s what I found looking at three major financial institutions and their social media accounts.

Institution One

LinkedIn – 486,000 followers

Content Shared:

  • Infographics and blogs of original content that leaned more toward education
  • Third party stories relating to industry
  • Promotional posts

Comments, shares and likes were steady. And the institution actually replied back to comments creating a conversation!

Twitter – 230,000 followers (main account; many additional sub accounts for targeted groups)

Twitter content is a bit more fun. They retweet many of their followers, look back at history and show tweets from employees. There is high engagement with likes and retweets as well as conversation. There are links to relevant content as well as links to third party content. This is really a great Twitter feed and evidence of a well executed social media plan.

FaceBook – 900,000 Likes

FaceBook content is pretty similar to other two platforms. If anything, it is even more consumer friendly and fun. Content includes videos, fun facts, flashbacks, promotions with incentives and updates on events. Employees and customers were featured. The videos were really nice and sharp and had large shares.

Institution Two

LinkedIn – 690,000 followers

Content Shared:

  • Blogs and resources with more of an educational slant
  • Third party stories relating to industry
  • Promotional posts

Comments, shares and likes were slightly higher than Institution One. No interaction from actual brand in comments.

Twitter – 440,000 followers (main account; man additional sub accounts for targeted groups)

Again, the Twitter posts are more fun and a combination of content: employees, customers, promotional and informational. The brand retweets when appropriate and responds. Engagement in retweets and likes is steady but not earth shattering.

Facebook – 2.3 M likes

This institution has the largest amount of users engaged with its brand on FaceBook. I found the content to be similar to LinkedIn and Twitter. The content was really relevant to what was going on both in the financial world and the corporation itself. There were a lot of likes and shares around the fun content. There were no content posts from third parties.

Institution Three

LinkedIn – 54,000 followers

Content Shared:

  • Promotional content (awards, executives honored or interviewed)
  • Links back to website or articles that are specific to the brand and its services

Comments, shares and likes are minimal. There were few interactions from brand in comments. This institution has sporadic posting and does not provide relevant, informational content or third party stories.

Twitter – 24,000 followers

Twitter content is more personal, highlighting specific stories from customers. However, this isn’t translating to more engagement. Likes and retweets tend to be in the single digits. There is interaction between brand and other tweeters.  They are trying to engage the audience by asking questions, but it isn’t catching. No third party content observed.

FaceBook – 56,000 likes

The content was really unchanged from what was on LinkedIn and Twitter. There were a few posts that attempted interaction by asking questions about the company’s history. In these posts, I did see interaction from users and the company. Many content shares were relevant to specific industries they serve. No third party content was posted.


There’s no real winner here. Each of these brands is doing some things right. I would just urge every brand to take more of an inbound approach to social media. It shouldn’t always be about your content or your promotions. There are lots of great third party content providers that have relevant things to say about your industry. Sharing other people’s content can make your social media pages seem more authentic rather than one long advertisement. I do love that most of these brands used stories from real customers and real employees, showing a very human side to corporate America.

Regardless of how big or small your brand is, social media is a great tool to increase awareness and convert. My biggest tips would always be:

  • What is the value of someone following you or liking you?
  • How can I use social media to create connections and relationships with current customers and prospects?

If you can answer these two questions, then you can build a strategy and determine your goals. If you can’t answer these questions then you probably won’t be able to legitimately use social media as a channel. It’s not impossible to answer these questions, and the answers can change. Social media isn’t something you set up one day and then never touch again. It’s a daily reexamination and measurement of what is effective.

My last word of advice is don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is a beautiful thing that teaches an important lesson. So go out there, and try something new. It’s better than just posting stuff that isn’t relevant or engaging!