My personal brand – COM0014 – Blog post #5

Freakonomics had a great little bit in the movie adaptation of their book about personal branding and how lately, it seems that from the moment a child is born just naming it is like creating a brand. I’m pretty sure that when I was born, my parents weren’t thinking about that – my name rhymed and I frequently wound up hearing Duran Duran instead of my name Joanne Haran. In fact, I was so eager to change it, I didn’t wait until I was officially married before switching some of my cards – as my Costco membership card from six years ago can attest. I’ve now been married five years and am so happy to have a new brand name. With a last name that starts with the letter Z, I relish going by Jay Z. I’m world famous. Boom. Just like that.

But in all seriousness, I have a difficult time discussing my “brand.” I suppose some of my personal qualities would be that I’m kind of dorky (in the adorkable sense, I hope) and have a really dry sense of humour. True story: in French, my first language, a dry sense of humour is not a good thing. It’s dry, as in stale and crumby. A friend once remarked on my dry sense of humour and I was incredibly hurt. It took me a week before telling her how her comment had made me feel only to then find out that in English, it’s not a bad thing!

But I digress, where was I? Yes, my qualities. So, I like to think I’m a bit of a dork, I’ve got a dry sense of humour, I’m a tad goofy and I get really excited about things, which often means I get distracted and will go off on tangents that are only a little bit related to what I was doing in the first place. Like this one time when I … just kidding.

I also like to think that I can be really picky in a perfectionist sort of way. I’m a bit of a grammar nerd. I mean this in the sense that if I read something with the wrong your/you’re or there/their/they’re, I cringe. It’s a visceral reaction that physically hurts. I try not to be a jerk about it and correct strangers on the internet because that’s just silly.

I also consulted with friends and colleagues because I thought it would be kind of fun. On Facebook, I got warm, energetic, positive, adventurous, dynamic and open-minded. I’ll take it! Then I got this list from a colleague who I’ve worked closely with and who has mentored me in one of my past positions. The list is long (I only asked for a couple of words) but I think it suits me:

Bibliophile? / Language drill-sergeant (I protest the term grammar nazi)

Now I just need to figure out the difference between dork and geek…

Yo quiero good B2C social media practices

Yo Quiero Que?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Taco Bell wins when it comes to B2C social media. When your company’s social media presence gets its own compilation on sites like Buzzfeed, you know you’re doing something well. Here is why:

They’re not lazy
Taco Bell wins the social media marketing medal because not only does it have a huge impact on twitter (Taco Bell’s tweets get an average of 6000RTs per day), they also customize their presence across different social media platforms to increase not only their visibility, but also their impact. Taco Bell creates videos, memes, simple tweets, etc. This blog post details how they laid out a multi-channel campaign for their 25th anniversary. By tailoring their message and approach for each platform, they are making sure their messages gets across.

They invest in social media (and reap the benefits)
They have incorporated social media as an integral part of their marketing. “Since the (Doritos-flavoured shell) taco’s success, we’ve knocked down three conference rooms and created a new social-mobile listening room, where we’ve got the largest TV screens I’ve ever seen keeping track of what people are saying about our brand every day and everywhere.” (source)

Because they’ve plugged in with their audience and actively engage with it, they benefit as a result. Taco Bell replies to nearly every tweet it receives, so its audience is more likely to tweet them directly to illicit a response. In fact, their profits were lifted by 23% when they launched the new Doritos-flavoured shell and its associated marketing campaign in 2012 in which they launched social media contests for best tweets. (source)

Now, please, don’t assume I’m one of those crazed fans and have the Taco Bell Chihuahua tattooed on my ankle, I can’t even remember the last time I ate there. I just really admire their online presence and any business looking for a how-to in B2C should really take a look. Granted, their approach, their product and their audience isn’t the target of every business, but knowing how to be plugged in, actively engaging and investing in the social media tools available are universal.

Here’s another short article on their social marketing: Four Social Marketing Lessons to Learn from Taco Bell

Target Audience – Blog Post #3 – COMM0014

Since having a child, last year, I have developed an interest in triathlons. I’m not talking the Iron Man triathlons or even the Olympic triathlon distances, I’m just talking about those little ones called Try a Tri or Super Sprint Triathlons. I did some online research when the thought of completing one first occurred to me but was intimidated by what I found: most blogs, posts and articles I found were adorned with pictures of really fit (mostly male) triathletes. Where were the flabby moms like me? I found training plans but they were often dry and dull.

I almost decided to forget about the whole thing but instead I called an experienced triathlete friend of mine to meet me for coffee and talk about it. I had to ask her the questions I couldn’t find the answers to online such as “what do I wear?” and “what do I do with my hair?” Those sound silly, but when you’re swimming, cycling and running, all against the clock and without a locker room, I honestly couldn’t understand if I should wear a bathing suit or not because I certainly couldn’t run without a sports bra, but couldn’t swim without a bathing suit, so what was a girl to do?

In preparing for this blog post, I started looking again, checking twitter and blogs for posts about beginners and moms. I found a couple of new blogs I hadn’t seen before such as Swim Bike Run Like a Mother and Triathlon Mom but neither particularly spoke to me; the first seems more geared around health and wellness with recipes that look less than appetizing to this bacon and ice cream-loving gal, and the second was intimidating with photos of a clearly very fit woman competing in triathlons I could only dream of… or rather, have nightmares about.

The website Beginner Triathlete is very interesting and has a lot of great material, but looks a little dry and doesn’t seem to have much geared at women, much less mothers. Many triathletes are very serious about competing, but the triathlons I’m competing in are typically geared at hobbyists, with fun, laid back and supportive participants.

If I were to start blogging about this new hobby of mine, I would try to be cognizant of how intimidating it is to take on something like a triathlon. I would also try to have a sense of humour about it. My demographic would have to be more specifically aimed at moms who aren’t typically athletic or competitive. I would have to come up with specific topics such as how to train with kids in tow, perhaps comparing jogging strollers, or baby bike seats/chariots. Equipment recommendations could be made with those demographics in mind; most new moms aren’t swimming in cash, so budget-friendly ideas for training would also be interesting. Stories about engaging the mom’s family in the experience such as craft ideas for signs or noise makers the children could make to cheer her on from the sideline would be fun, too.

When I think back to what made me decide to go for it, though, it was sitting down for coffee with my girlfriend who had done it before and asking her all my silly questions. In essence, my blog should have that kind of feel: I’m just a girlfriend who has been there and here’s what I learned.

Ask and you shall receive – Storytelling and Communication Styles COMM-0014 Blog Post #2

Ask and you shall receive – Storytelling and Communication Styles

I consider the term “storytelling” to be a misnomer. When a story is good, it’s not told, it’s shared. When I hear a good story, I ask questions, I laugh or cry, I am engaged and the story is a vehicle for a dialogue. The story depends on the listener or its audience to exist, which is why making sure it is communicated effectively and in a manner that encourages the listener to engage is so important. Personally, I’ve found that the simplest way to engage is to simply ask.

One of my favourite shows on CBC radio is This is That. It’s a comedy show that often satirizes current events so well that every once in a while some of the stories, presented like typical news segments, get shared on social media accompanied by outrage. But if you ask me, the best part is when they air the voice mails on their talk back line. There are a few segments that stick out in my mind. One was a segment in which they discussed a new bylaw in Montreal which meant dogs in public parks would have to be able to understand bilingual commands. This piece aired shortly after what was coined as “Pasta-gate” and capitalized on the already heated debate over language laws in the province. At the end of each episode, the hosts of This is That encourage their audience to call their talk back line and leave comments. Callers obliged, leaving messages of bewilderment, disbelief, anger and even support. On the show’s website, a poll asked visitors to vote if dogs should be required to understand both French and English commands (3,351 people voted yes while a whopping 16,270 voted against). The show isn’t simply relying on telling a story, they are asking their audience to contribute, to have input. They are sharing a story.

Asking the audience for comments is a perfect way of making sure the audience is engaged and ensuring the story will be shared and continues to live on.

Do you ever call a radio show’s call back line to leave a comment? Let me know below!

Assignment One – What I did on my vacation (JZ)

I’ve been back to work for about a month after a whole year off from work while I was on maternity leave. After returning to work I was asked what I did while on vacation. After laughing a little too loudly, I was able to compose myself and answer his question. “Let me tell you this: maternity leave is no vacation.”

The first three months are kind of a blur. I don’t quite remember what we did because my world had just been turned on its head. We welcomed a beautiful, healthy and happy little boy into our lives and for three months, we just tried to stay afloat as we adjusted to this new life. It’s a blur of sleeplessness, a constant state of being frazzled, and a haze of lactation consultants, poopy diapers, and two-minute showers while seeing a pudgy, haggard woman in the mirror who just happened to be me. There were also the crippling fears: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, strapping him into his car seat correctly, the is he eating enough worries, and a little voice inside my head constantly asking if I’m doing things right because my son’s life could literally depend on it. No pressure.

After those few months, though, we (sort of) found our footing: baby and I starting going out to socialize with other babies and moms. I made a whole new set of friends: the kind that don’t look back at me blankly when I talk about my baby and the kind who could sympathize when I expressed my first-time mom fears because they’d been there. But it wasn’t easy. It was like being back in high school – and I hated high school. Back then, I was the nerdy kid who was awkward and unsure of herself. I had a dry sense of humour but failed miserably with delivery, which resulted in my being cast out into the jungle of rag tag cliques consisting of the remnants of the other, more popular ones. There was the one jock, the one Dungeons and Dragons player, the one drama nerd, the rebel smoker and the debate team/band geek (me). Seriously, making mom friends is just weird, with its own set of rules, politics and rituals.

I also started getting used to this new post-baby body. And by “getting used to” I mean, stoically accepted the wibbly-wobbly hips, the wider frame and all of the other fun bits. I picked up playing on my work’s ultimate Frisbee team, despite the awkward sideline feedings and occasional blood-curdling fear as a wayward Frisbee flew in my son’s general direction. I signed up for a (short) triathlon out of nowhere because it meant I’d be able to get out of the house and swim laps where I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone and just try to make my body feel like my own again, even if only for an hour here and there every week.

And of course, I took care of my new family. I brought the little guy to play groups where uncomfortable social interactions abound. I started going to the Mommy and Me movies. I got to go for walks while wearing my baby. I joined a baby yoga class where I paid an unreasonable amount of money to contort myself and my son into weird positions for five minutes and feed him or watch him sleep the rest of the time. I took him to the pool. I organized play dates. I changed diapers, then more diapers, and then even more diapers. I did all this while dressed in slimy, ill-fitting t-shirts and perpetually food-stained yoga pants.

My schedule revolved around keeping this little person happy, entertained and healthy. I started cooking more – a special kind of torture I inflicted on my talented cook of a husband who gracefully ate every morsel of burnt and/or bland food I placed in front of him.

He and I explored this new world together, silently renegotiating our relationship as we made room in our hearts for this chubby baby that pooped more than I ever thought was humanly possible.

I learned that in the end, my identity had changed. As much as I’d sworn up and down that I would still be the old me after having a baby, I came to terms with the realization that I was, just like many other moms out there, a new person after giving life. I was a mom. A MOM, a MOM. It’s still a little weird, but I’m coming around to the title.

Maternity leave was no vacation, trust me. But you know what? I’d be willing to bet any mom would be happy to do it all over again. I know I would.

Let me know what you think. Do you have children? What did maternity leave look like for you? No children? Do you think maternity leave is just one long extended vacay? Comment below!

Did I mention how many diapers we had to change?