New Year Resolutions

Making New Year resolutions are easy. It’s owning up to them that’s hard. In fact, ExpertClick.com claims 97 percent of New Year resolutions are broken. So, it is with a little courage, and yes, a pinch of fear, that I share mine.

My New Year Resolutions for 2010


Travel
Traveling is something I always wish I could do more of, and this year I want to make it happen. A trip to NYC to visit my BFF and at least one trip to Chicago is a must. I’d also like to take some kind of mini-adventure once a quarter, even if it’s only to visit a small town 30 miles away.

Money
Like most 20-somethings, I need to take better care of my finances. This year I want to make significant progress in paying off some debt.

Movies
I LOVE movies. I love them so much I worked at a movie theater throughout high school and some of college. However, there are a lot of things I haven’t seen. This year I want to cross The Godfather movies and An American Werewolf in London off my list.

Lifestyle
I’m turning a quarter of a century year old this year, and while I appreciate the hand-me-downs that kept me afloat during college, it would be nice to start transitioning into a more grown-up style of living. This year I want to find a nicer apartment and purchase my own bedding. Maybe I’ll even throw a dinner party or two.

Image
While this is the most cliché resolution, it’s one I’m hoping to stick to. It’s been over two years since I graduated college, and I still haven’t managed to lose that Freshman 15. A lot of my friends have been able to lead healthier lives in 2009, there’s no reason I can’t jump on that bandwagon. I’ve also decided to go red this year. I’ve been a blond for almost my entire life. It’s time for a change. This spring I’m jumping in head first. Both of my brothers are red heads. How bad can it be?

Professional
I want to grow my network this year. Once you’ve been somewhere for awhile you develop a comfort zone, and pretty soon you’re talking to the same three people at every luncheon. This year I want to make some new long-lasting relationships. I also hope to complete (or should I say start and finish) my Web site, sarahsoczka.com.

That’s it. The goals I hope to achieve by the time we ring in 2011. Aggressive? Yes. Impossible? No. What do you want to accomplish?

I really hope the Rocky Mountain News, Baltimore Examiner and New York Sun have all gone to a better place; a place where there are millions of smart, informed readers, exciting, breaking news, world class journalists, and of course, many high-paying advertisers. At least that’s the kind of newspaper heaven I envision. (Feel free to leave your own versions of newspaper heaven below.)

Today I read about another newspaper that is shutting down and will switch to a semi-annual magazine format. Which newspaper? Why it’s none other than my hometown’s award-winning Warrior’s Word high school newspaper.

I understand the problems that caused Warrior’s Word to “adjust” are a bit different than those of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, but if the economy and budgets are so bad that a high school newspaper is closing, we have to ask ourselves: What’s the solution?

It’s no secret that blogs and online news videos are entertaining, informative and can provide a surprisingly high level of journalism. Hell, sometimes I’d rather read Gawker, The Huffington Post or watch Philly D. than read an article in the New York Times, but that doesn’t change how important newspapers are to our society.

We need professional journalists and news organizations that have the resources to uncover scheming politicians, and the column inches to educate people about tough issues like health care. We need journalists who report the news accurately and fairly, despite their personal views and opinions. In short, we need the type of in depth, professional reporting our newspapers currently provide.

So, what’s the solution?

While there are a lot of people who love ink stained fingers, the “paper” in “newspaper” may have to go. If newspapers cut the cost of a printed product they will have more money to invest in their online product. The Capitol Times in Madison, Wis. switched to a twice weekly tabloid and online-only product in April 2008, and so far it seems to be working.

Moving the focus entirely online gives newspapers the opportunity to bring their content to another level. Here are a few things newspapers could do to enhance their online content:

  • Show full video interviews to supplement stories
  • Award a local blogger the chance to write a story every month
  • Increase investigative reporting
  • Create hyper-localized text message offerings. Is the power out in your neighborhood? Wouldn’t it be great if you could sign-up for text message alerts (which include a link to a story) that tell you this type of news?
  • Hire news staff to be on the clock 24/7. The harsh reality is newspapers are competing with all media outlets. When news breaks on Twitter you want readers to go to JSOnline.com, not WISN-TV or WISN.com.

Better and more diverse online content will continue to increase online visitors, not to mention the increase in web traffic from people who used to read the “paper” version (let’s be honest, 99 percent of them are online anyway).This all increases ad revenue and eventually profit.

I know these few ideas are probably not going to save our newspaper industry, but it’s a start. After all, if Perez Hilton can sustain over 2 million unique visitors a month, our newspapers should be able to do the same, if not better.

What are your thoughts? Where do you see the newspaper industry going?

I first saw this video on Todd Defren's blog, PR Squared.* I'm sure a lot of you have seen it, but I think it deserves another view. It's a satirical take on the agency-client relationship. 'Nuff said.



*PR Squared is one of my favorite industry blogs. Defren provides valuable insights on social media, public relations and what working in an agency is really all about. I highly recommend you check it out.

Yesterday was the big day. The PR + Social Media Summit at UW-Whitewater. Apologies to all my Twitter followers who were annoyed by my frequent #PRSMS updates.

Overall, I thought the summit was very informative and provided some great networking opportunities. My one recommendation for next year is to supply extension cords and power strips throughout the conference rooms. Those of us using laptops were forced to either drain our batteries, or sit on the edges of the room in search of an outlet.

My favorite presentation of the day was from Paula Berg of Southwest Airlines. Paula told the story of Southwest’s journey into social media and provided some very valuable case studies. Here are a few takeaways from Paula’s presentation:

  • Where social media is concerned your first job is to listen, second is to engage and third is to address criticism.
  • Southwest started the “Nuts About Southwest” blog by handpicking 30+ employees from all different departments. Southwest let their employees blog as often as they wanted and encouraged them to blog about things they were passionate about.
  • Once Southwest added more valuable content to their blog (photos, news, podcasts) page views rose.
  • Southwest's blog proved to be a great resource for conducting focus groups. A blog post about their open seating policy resulted in hundreds of comments. Most praised the company for its policy and gave them the courage to stick it.
  • Rapping flight attendant video resulted in coverage on Oprah, CNN, Tonight Show, etc.



A little while later it was my turn to speak. I must admit, I was a bit nervous because it was my first opportunity to speak to a group that large, but thankfully it went well. (Thanks to Al Krueger and Ann Knabe for inviting me to speak.)

*Photo courtesy of Abigail Lynn (@justabs06)

During my presentation I discussed ways to create a successful online brand by merging your professional and personal identities. And yes, I also discussed my brief moment of so-called "fame" from February.


Other great presentations from yesterday include:

  • Bringing it all together for PR + Social Media Success, Al Krueger and Sara Meaney of Comet Branding
  • How Social Media is Impacting Job Search, Jeff Carrigan of Big Shoes Network, Abby Gutowski of VisualCV.com, Joyce O’Brien of Laughlin Constable and Briana Rygg
  • How Harley is Revving up Engagement with Social Media, Randy Sprenger of Harley-Davidson


I am told all the presentations will be posted online within the next couple weeks. (I will link to them once they’re up.) If you are interested in learning more about the PR + Social Media Summit, Abby Gutowski has also posted an overview here.

What were your thoughts on the summit?


EDIT: To view photos of #PRSMS visit http://bit.ly/c3DQs. To download videos and audio of Southwest Airlines and Harley-Davidson's presentations visit http://itunes.uww.edu.

Hillshire Farm: GO MEAT!

I've been spending a lot of time preparing for the PR + Social Media Summit at UW-Whitewater this coming Wednesday. I have been invited to speak about personal and professional online brands. I hope you'll come to my breakout session.

Until then, I wanted to share this adorable TV spot from Hillshire Farm. It's part of their "GO MEAT!" campaign. Enjoy!

"Help me, help you."

“I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like, to be me out here for you! It’s an up at dawn, pride swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about. Ok? Help me. Help me, help you. Help me, help you!” – Jerry Maguire

Sound familiar? Admit it all you agency folks, at one time or another you have felt like Mr. Maguire. Sometimes, despite our best efforts we simply can’t deliver for our clients because they fail to give us the necessary information, access or help that we need.

Most of the time our clients are great, but we’ve all had to go back to a reporter to cancel an interview or miss a deadline.

To those who work client side, here’s a quick plea from your agency friends (and I do mean friends).

Please:

  • Return our calls
  • Answer our e-mails
  • Take the early morning interview
  • Send us the information you promised
  • Show up to the meeting
  • Seriously consider our expert advice (That is what you’re paying us for, isn’t it?)

Because honestly, we’re doing it for you.

Four Success Stories

In this economy it’s hard to find reasons for hope, or a reason to believe in success. However, there are four women who’ve shown me it’s out there if you’re willing to take the necessary risks.

I present you with four success stories. These women have all shown a great deal of courage and determination in my eyes. They have also all found happiness as a result. I hope you find some nugget of inspiration in their stories. I know I do.

Shauna Skalitzky – 24, New York City
I have been friends with Shauna since I first stepped into my college dorm room freshman year. Little did I know this shy girl had a "thing" for travel. Junior year of college Shauna took out a loan and flew to the UK to study in London for a semester. After graduation she moved to New York City to live with a girl she didn’t know, and began work on her masters in art history. I frequently ask Shauna if she is glad she moved to an uber competitive city where she doesn’t know a soul. Her answer is always a simple, “Yes”.






Kristine Schumann – 24, Chicago
I met Kristine in PRSSA my sophomore year of college, and instantly fell in love with her kind spirit. Although she could have easily snagged a job in Milwaukee, this determined PR professional moved to Chicago after graduation. At the time, all she had to look forward to was a small studio apartment and an internship to keep her afloat. Two years later Kristine is working for Garmin and just returned from a 10 day trip to Italy. She frequently tells me the beginning struggles were well worth the pay off.













Erica Zerbe – 24, Denver
Erica is my fitness rock star. While she has always enjoyed physical activity the last few years she has kicked it up a notch. Erica has completed numerous marathons and half marathons all over the country. After graduation she moved to Denver to take a job in the hospitality industry. Today she says it’s the best thing she’s ever done. In addition, a few months ago Erica joined the Colorado Air National Guard.






Andrea Platten – 24, Burbank
Andrea and I also met in PRSSA where she quickly became UW-Milwaukee’s PRSSA Chapter President. After graduation Andrea earned a position as a Page for NBC Universal in Burbank. Today she is working as a Production Coordinator for Bravo. Whenever I speak with Andrea she talks about how much she loves the west coast and is grateful that she was brave enough to move.





Do you have a success story to share?

Socialnomics

Do you think social media is fad? Do you fail to see the value in engaging in one-to-one conversations with consumers?

The following video by Erik Qualman, author of socialnomics, paints a very clear picture. Social media is not a passing fad, and if you and your company don't take the next step, you probably won't be around in the next 10 years. At the very least, you won't be relevant. I'm just sayin'.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about Kanye West's outburst at the Video Music Awards. If not, the video is below.



Afterwards, West appeared on The Jay Leno Show. During the interview Leno mentioned that he had met West’s mother before she passed two years ago. He proceeded to ask West, “What do you think your mother would say about this?”



While the question made for some entertaining television I think it was kind of a low blow. Kanye West was wrong to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, but to bring his deceased mother into play seems a bit cheap. The singer had already apologized more than once for his actions.

Am I being too much of a softy? Do you think Leno crossed the line?

A colleague and I had a discussion today about social media and media relations. My colleague's concern is that we are spending too much time on media relations when we could be talking directly to consumers (a la social media). So the question is...

How much time should we spend on social media activities? What's the ratio between time spent on social media versus media relations? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts.

I have also posed this question on Twitter. If you work in the PR, marketing or advertising field, please take a moment to answer the question below. I'll post the results next week.



Nostalgic for Facebook

I remember walking around campus my freshman year of college, and hearing everyone talk about this new thing called “Facebook.” Eventually I jumped on board and found that Facebook was everything MySpace wasn’t. At that time only college students could sign-up for Facebook, so there were no annoying bands trying to get you to buy their CD’s and no creepy 40-year-old men wanting to be your friend. There weren’t any corporate fan pages or groups. It was simply a place where you could hang out online with your friends. Everything was authentic.

Today, Facebook has evolved to include many things I once praised it for not having, but I have evolved too. I like that I can keep my account even though I’m not in college, and I like that my friends and family can join the hip social networking site with me. The corporate fan pages and groups are so-so. On a personal level I sometimes wish they didn’t exist, but given my profession I can’t hate them entirely. After all, if used correctly they can bring a lot of value to their “fans” or “groupies.”

However, with all this evolution I do have one complaint. You see, when I was in college the only people who “friended” me were those I had actually met. Even if I hadn’t talked to someone since high school there was still a connection. We shared an AP European History class or we were both in Concert Choir. You did not “friend” someone you never met, and you certainly did not friend someone just because you ran in the same circles. Facebook was a place to talk with your current friends, not a place to make new ones.

Somehow, there has been a shift, and these unspoken rules of my past have not translated to the Facebook of today. Lately, it seems like every week I get a friend request from someone I’ve never heard of. Sometimes I let them hang there and others I ignore right away. I am always puzzled when after ignoring a friend request someone decides to try again. I wish I knew what they were thinking. Do they think the request did not work? That I happened to not notice? That I was having a bad day, and I’m sure to accept them this time? Or, do they think that by badgering me I will eventually accept them into my circle?

Let me clear something up for these people right now. I ignored your request for a reason. Over time I’ve given in to some of my Facebook rules. I will accept friend requests from co-workers even if we aren’t really “friends” outside of work. I’ve started to monitor what I say and do on Facebook for professional and personal reasons. But the one thing I am not willing to do, is invite someone into my inner circle who I’ve never met!

Now, I realize that everyone uses social networking tools in different ways. That’s fine, but I believe the majority of Facebook users still use Facebook as a personal online playground. It’s a place to talk to friends, play games, create events and post photos. If you are using Facebook for business purposes, that’s great. Create a fan page or a group. If you are using Facebook to network with new people, cancel your account and join LinkedIn, Twitter or another social networking site where it’s appropriate to talk to strangers.

Maybe I’m trying to hold onto the past. Maybe I’m just upset that things can never be the way they were, but you know where I stand. If we haven’t met and you want to connect with me online, seek out my LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. It’s not that I don’t like or trust you. You just haven’t made it to my inner circle yet.

After watching a news segment on Ted Kennedy tonight, it is clear how many lives he has touched. One lesson the Senator has taught me is the value of relationships. If Ted Kennedy had the time to read to a child each week, surely I have the time to return a friend’s phone call or e-mail. The connections we make in life are important, and we shouldn’t neglect them because we are too busy or uneager to help.

How has Ted Kennedy changed your life? What have you learned from him?

In social media there is a lot of talk about building good relationships to turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors. As Peter Shankman says, our job as PR professionals in social media is to get other people to do our PR. However, there’s another audience of brand ambassadors that every company needs to be aware of, and they are right under your nose.

Who are they?
Your employees. These are the people who know your brand inside and out. Every day they go home and talk to friends and family about their experiences with your brand. In my opinion, employees are one of the most important untapped resources every company has. After all, if your employees won’t say good things about your brand, who will?

Puma’s “Employees Only” Campaign
A great example of a company who lets their employees do all the talking is Puma. Puma has started an “Employees Only” campaign that uses 14 handpicked employees to serve as the company’s official brand ambassadors. In addition to plugging Puma products, the employees also share their random thoughts via the company’s Facebook page and YouTube site. Puma is also planning to host in-store events where anyone can grab poster board, write their thoughts and be photographed for their own Facebook profile. In this way, Puma is not only letting employees promote the brand, but takes the idea of brand ambassadors to the next level by turning them into pseudo-celebrities. You can find out more about Puma’s campaign by reading this post at AgencySpy.com.

What can you do?
Right now you may be thinking, “That’s great, but I don’t have a budget like Puma.” Do not fear. Even without a Puma sized budget your employees can still add value to your brand. In fact, the first step you should take is to look at your employees and find out if they are already acting as brand ambassadors.

A girl I went to college with (Amanda) is a great brand ambassador for her employer. She currently works for a new Milwaukee burger bar called Stack’d. How do I know this? It isn’t because of my great cyber-stalking abilities. I know this because Amanda is always encouraging people to stop by for special events and drink specials through messages she posts on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, I’ve found out a lot of information about Stack’d simply by reading her comments in my social media feeds.

So, how do you get more employees like Amanda?
Hire passionate people. – People who are passionate about your business and industry are much more likely to promote your products or services because it’s what they love.

Be good to your employees. – We all have that one person in our life who complains about their boss or company. I like to call these people “brand embarrassers.” Everyone has bad days at the office, but the one way to make sure your employees aren’t bad-mouthing the company is to treat them with respect and give them a fun working environment. Hello casual Fridays, the occasional working-from-home and company happy hours.

Share your goals. – As much as your employees might love their work, they can’t help if they don’t know what your goals are. Be specific about your goals and ask your employees for help. Encourage them to share these messages and promote them on their own social networks. It will make them feel like a bigger part of the company.

Side note: If you do encourage employees to use social media on the company’s behalf, you may want to consider creating a set of social media guidelines. Todd Defren shares a great example of social media guidelines on his blog.

Have you come across other companies that are using employees as brand ambassadors? How do you encourage employees to support your brand? Please leave your ideas in the comments section.

Your Twitter links from last week include the top 50 Tweeples from 2009, Facebook Lite and information on Milwaukee's Flip Cup tournament.

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sarahsoczka.

I came home tonight with the intention of clearing out my Google Reader and hopefully writing a blog post that was worthy of a RT. That was, until I got to Peter Shankman’s blog.

In a world where every marketer is trying to call themselves a social media expert, Peter Shankman is one of the few people who is worthy of the title. For those who don’t know, Peter Shankman is the founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and the CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc.

Earlier today Peter made a keynote address at the Affiliate Summit East. Since I work and play in Milwaukee I was not able to make the summit, but luckily Peter was able to bring the summit to me. So, instead of giving you my take on the latest industry trend or campaign, I give you Peter's keynote address.

I’ll warn you now. It’s long. Like, 60 minutes long, but well worth the time. I recommend starting the video at the 07:15:00 mark (after Peter’s introduction is finished). After the 1:06:00 mark Peter answers questions (one from Chris Brogan).



For those of you who do not have time to watch the video here are a few gems from the speech.

Peter’s 4 Social Media Rules
Transparency

  • “Social media is all about trust. A social media trust lends itself to viral behavior."
  • “Social media is not broadcast. Social media is two-way communication."
  • “Make people feel like they matter.” – Listen to what people are saying to you and respond!
  • “The second you are transparent a consumer’s level of trust will go up, and they will be ready to recommend you.”

Relevance

  • “Relevance is about giving people what they want when they want it.”

Brevity

  • “The average attention span in the 1980’s was three minutes. The average attention span today is 2.7 seconds.”
  • “You need to get to your audience in one paragraph.”
  • “How do you get brevity? Learn to write.”
  • “Learn how to write and you’ll increase your sales.”

Top of mind presence

  • “We only talk to three percent of our network on a regular basis.” - Learn to communicate with more of your network, and you’ll be top of mind the next time someone has a question, business lead, etc.
  • “Information used to flow from outside the network in. Now information is flowing from inside the network out.” – People use to get recommendations from traditional media, now they are getting recommendations from inside their networks.
  • “We are a society that loves to share.” – People want to share their experiences. If you don’t share it, it didn’t happen.
  • “Your job is no longer to do your own PR. Your job is to use social media to get other people to do your PR for you.”

Twitter Links: Aug. 2 - 8

Lots of news, interesting tidbits and resources this week. Take a look.

Follow me on Twitter @sarahsoczka.

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media and online identities lately. Some are extremely cautious about what they put online while others let it all hang out. As long as an individual is comfortable with their level of sharing both strategies are fine, but what happens when the individual is sharing more than their life or even their friend’s lives?

Today’s 20-somethings have been participating in social networks since they were pre-teens. But now they are growing up, getting married, divorced, having children… My question is what type of effect will all this sharing have on Gen-Y’s children?

People in my parent’s generation never had the opportunity to share hospital pictures of newborns online or post videos of baby’s first steps. In fact, many are still cautious of social networks, afraid of stalkers and sharing too much with the online world. In contrast, Gen-Y anxiously posts their new relationship status and shares their children’s lives with the world.

One girl I went to high school with actually changed her Facebook status to reflect how far along she was in the birthing process. First, I don’t even know how you can think about updating your Facebook status when you’re in labor. Second, no one needs or wants to know that you’re five centimeters dilated. But I digress…

How will our children feel about all the funny photos and videos we post when they are infants, toddlers, teenagers? For some, it could be like sharing their entire diary with the world. Others might not care at all.

If I had to guess, I imagine most children will be fine with our sharing habits. After all, they are growing up in a world where it’s normal to share your life online. Still, I wonder how many will be embarrassed by photos, or upset by seeing their parent’s friends comment on their divorce. Are there any rules? Any social guidelines?

If anyone has expertise on this issue please leave a comment. I haven’t found any articles written on the subject and would love to learn more. What’s your take?

Unplugged

As much as I love being plugged into what’s happening online and around the world, sometimes you just need to get away. Tomorrow I leave for a weeklong vacation in northern Wisconsin. I will be spending a week in a cabin where this is no internet and limited cell phone service. A little scary? Yes. Incredibly peaceful? Yes.

The next time you go on vacation (and you should) try to stay unplugged.

So, I bid adieu to my blog, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Reader for eight days. I’ll miss you, but I won’t be gone long.

This is Sarah Soczka signing off.


Last night I had dinner with my Mom and Aunt who were in town for a choral conference. Since they live in Wausau, Wis. we chose to go to PF Chang’s at Mayfair Mall so they could shop afterwards. In an effort to save money I have been trying to avoid malls, so I was shocked when I walked into Bath and Body Works and found a selection of Victoria’s Secret products.

Let me clarify, they were not selling lingerie in Bath and Body. Instead, they had an entire table dedicated to Victoria’s Secret PINK beauty products.

I understand that Limited Brands (who owns both companies) has been having a hard time in this economy. Who hasn’t? But is it really necessary to start combining brands?

I have to wonder if there’s a better way to promote Victoria’s Secret’s beauty line. Bath and Body has always been a kid friendly store. Often times they carry products for young girls. Victoria’s Secret on the other hand is not. I wonder how Mom’s feel about introducing young girls to a brand that is clearly more naughty than nice. Is it ok because the Victoria’s Secret PINK line is more cute than sexy?

Instead of merging brands, I would rather Victoria’s Secret expand their beauty line. The beauty line has grown in recent years from a few perfumes and lotions to include candles, lip gloss, body wash and a range of cosmetics. Why not create a Victoria’s Secret Beauty store similar to the ALDO Accessories stores? If Victoria’s Secret wants to promote their beauty line they should work to become a true competitor in the beauty market.

Selling some of their products in Bath and Body just feels cheap. While their price points are similar, it still feels a bit like Vera Wang* trying to sell clothing at Kohl’s. It just doesn’t fit. Perhaps I’m a brand purist, but if I’m buying a Vera Wang dress I want to get it from Vera Wang. If I want to buy sexy beauty products, I want to buy them from Victoria’s Secret not her cute 12-year-old sister. It’s a fine line to walk. Too much merging and brands will start to lose their unique selling proposition. It’s hard to have a Victoria’s Secret experience in a Bath and Body Works store.

What do you think? Is Limited Brands making a smart move by cross-selling brands and products? Or are they confusing consumers with different brand promises?

Connect with me on Twitter @sarahsoczka.

*Note: The cheaper Vera Wang line at Kohl’s has been doing well.

This week there are more social media stats and I also learned about Pet Airways.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahsoczka.

Twitter Links: July 5-11

I hope everyone had a good weekend. This past week I changed my Twitter name from @ladyhero to @sarahsoczka. If you're following me, please remember the change!

Below are links to new social network stats, a video about United Airlines and tips on how to pick up women. Enjoy and have a good week.

Follow me on Twitter via my new username. http://twitter.com/sarahsoczka

A few Saturdays ago I woke up early to take Megabus* from Milwaukee to Chicago to visit my family. I had taken Megabus before and knew to plan for delays. (A one-way ticket for $5 is worth a few traffic delays and late buses.) What I wasn’t prepared for was a complete lack of customer service.

On this particular route the bus makes two stops, one in downtown Milwaukee (where I board) and another by the Milwaukee airport. When the bus reached the airport it was clear we were going to have problems.

After speaking with Megabus, the bus driver said that Megabus had screwed up and overbooked. People with ticket numbers 1- 12 were to get off the bus. Reaction? Nobody moved. The bus driver made a half-hearted attempt to check everyone’s ticket and looked around dumbfounded.

Then he began asking for volunteers saying, “I’m sorry. Megabus really screwed up. I need four volunteers to wait for the next bus. It’s not going to be here for a long time. I wouldn’t do it.” That’s right. He actually said, “I wouldn’t do it.” At this point I started cracking jokes about the absurdity of the situation.

Another 10-15 minutes passed, and two Megabus employees gave up their seats and stood the entire trip. Meanwhile, some people were SOL. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and delayed our trip by half an hour.

It’s incredible that a company of this size does not have better policies in place. Instead of trying to kick people off the bus, Megabus should have instructed the driver to apologize and immediately ask for volunteers.

To give people an incentive, those who gave up their seats should have received a free roundtrip ticket in addition to being reimbursed for that day’s trip. It would have also been nice to let the volunteers know when the next bus would arrive. If the next bus was at capacity, Megabus could have offered to pay for a ticket on the nearby Amtrak.

At the end of the day, I’m still going to use Megabus for short trips when I don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time. Normally they offer a great service for an extremely low price, but if they don’t fix their customer service issues soon they are going to start losing customers. Fast.


*Megabus is a non-stop intercity express bus company that offers fares to travelers as low as $1 via the Internet.

A lot of people have asked if I’m planning to go to grad school lately. While I applaud those who have chosen that path (and there seems to be a lot of people my age who have) there are several reasons why I feel it’s just not right for me.

                    1. It's all about the money.
                      Many people I talk to say grad school is their back-up plan in case they lose their job. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I don’t see how this is realistic. Most 20-somethings already have a hard time managing student loans, car payments, cell phone bills and let’s not forget, credit cards. Grad school is expensive. The economy is bad, and let’s face it we’re getting paid crap. Grad school doesn’t seem like a smart financial decision.

                    2. Who’s going to hire me?
                      Before you start lecturing me on all the professions that require a Master’s degree please, read further. I understand some professions require a higher degree of learning. Doctors for instance, but I’m working in the ad and PR agency world. In my world, a Master’s degree means my employer has to pay me more than someone else at the same experience level. Employers are trying to keep costs low. If it comes down to two people with the same level of experience and similar backgrounds… Sorry, but I think the bachelor’s degree gets the job.

                    3. What’s the value?
                      Again, while I applaud those with Master’s degrees, I simply fail to see the overall value. For PR professionals in the corporate or not-for-profit world a Master’s degree might be useful. For PR professionals on the agency side, I think an APR accreditation is more valuable. By now you may think I’m just lazy. That’s not true. I simply would rather work towards my APR, and be recognized by people in my industry than an educational institution. And yeah, it doesn’t hurt that an APR is much less expensive.

                    I’m sure there are many arguments that can be made on behalf of grad schools everywhere, but for me, getting a few more years experience and becoming APR accredited is of greater importance.

                    As a side note, if you really want to feel awful about the money you’ve “wasted” on college read this article from Gawker, “College: Waste of Time.”


                    Do you agree? Disagree? I’d be interested in hearing what others think on this topic, especially if you work in upper management. Which do you value more? A Master’s degree or APR? Who are you more likely to hire?

                    Twitter Links: June 21-27

                    I hope everyone had a good weekend and is ready for the start of another work week. In this week of links you'll find numerous Twitter stories, sweet Milwaukee airline deals, new studies and much more.

                    Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/ladyhero.

                    This has been a question I’ve been thinking about ever since my blog post in February caused a bit of an uproar. (You can read more about it in the latest issue of PR Tactics.) This question has come to light again in wake of the New York Time’s article about a blogger being invited to a White House news conference.

                    I am of the opinion that the majority of blogs, including this one, should not be taken as a serious source for news. Most bloggers do not take the time to follow-up with sources, double check the facts and conduct interviews. Many times you’re lucky if they cite the source. I personally try my best not to spew false information, but I am in no way as credible as a professional news organization.

                    However, the distinction is a littler trickier with other blogs. What about The Huffington Post, Drudge Report or even Gawker? Many of the people at these blogs are paid for their contributions, and The Huffington Post certainly does their fair share of research before posting a story.

                    Isn’t it about time for everyone to sit down and come to a consensus?

                    Maybe some blogs do deserve the same rights and privileges as traditional news outlets. But if so, who chooses those blogs and how do we identify them? Perhaps this is a job for an industry organization like the Society of Professional Journalists .

                    For blogs that are chosen as news outlets, how about posting an icon on their home page to identify them? Or, maybe no blog deserves this title. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

                    Apologies for missing my weekly post again. A busy work week and the second wedding in two weeks kept me busy.

                    This week in links... A few quirky news stories, a letter of inspiration from Peter Shankman and the newest trends in marketing. Enjoy!

                    Follow me on Twitter @ladyhero.

                    Twitter Links: June 7-13

                    Being the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding this weekend didn't leave me much time to Twitter. I'll be back this week in full force. Until I leave for my cousin's wedding on Friday...

                    Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ladyhero.

                    A few weeks ago I wrote thank-you cards to everyone who helped me throw a bridal shower. After the cards were sent, the bride-to-be told me her mother really appreciated the card and was more or less impressed with my efforts. That got me thinking…

                    Because I am a millennial, you may be surprised that I didn’t send an e-card or mass e-mail. Or sadly, that I sent a note at all. Well, call me old-fashioned, but this millennial still believes in the power of the written word.

                    Over the years we’ve developed many different communication tools. We’ve gone from fax to e-mail to instant messaging, and now hundreds of social networks. But in all this excitement, many of us have forgotten the value of ink. You remember, it’s the stuff that comes out of your pen.

                    With all the talk about growing our social networks and staying connected, how many of us take the time to show our inner circle how much they are valued? I’m not saying we should go back to writing long letters, and of course it’s important to be “green,” but sometimes a handwritten note says a lot more than an e-mail.

                    The Impact
                    Because we live in a world where online rules, sending a card has become quite meaningful. In business, receiving a handwritten note shows the person is serious about continuing the relationship, and will keep you a priority. In our personal lives, receiving a handwritten note shows how much that person cares. It means a lot to know they spent time picking out a card, and putting pen to paper. In both cases that person is showing they value the relationship.

                    I make it a point to write a thank-you card for every formal birthday or special occasion present I receive. (The exception that proves the rule being Christmas presents.) I also send holiday cards with a different message to each person. I send birthday cards, anniversary cards, valentine’s cards, it-was-nice-to-meet-you cards. I even send thanks-for-the-interview cards. And you would not believe all the thank-you's I get for doing so.

                    I realize this may seem like a daunting task, and I’m not suggesting you send holiday cards to everyone in your Rolodex (does anyone use those anymore?). But in an effort to be better communicators, it’s important to remember the joy and value you can bring to a relationship by taking the time to write a few sentences with ink. I promise one card is worth more than 10 expertly crafted e-mails.

                    There are some great studies and surveys out this week on social media users. Also, look below to find out about the new Harry Potter LEGO video game and more.

                    For real time updates follow me on Twitter. http://www.twitter.com/ladyhero

                    Rebranding GM

                    This week General Motors became the second-largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history. According to the Wall Street Journal, GM plans to close 17 factories and parts centers on top of cutting 20,000 more jobs before 2012. After hearing this news, it is no surprise that many Americans are worried about GM’s future. A huge rebranding effort will be required to help lift GM out of the red. Enter the video below.



                    While I personally have not been a fan of American cars, much less GM in recent years, I am a fan of GM’s new effort to rebrand themselves and communicate with the online community. The message in their video is authentic, and it’s clear that GM realizes doing business as usual will simply not work anymore.

                    Here’s hoping their message resonates with the rest of the American public. After all, we all have a stake in GM now. If that doesn’t convince Americans to buy American-made cars, I don’t know what will.

                    There was a lot of Milwaukee business news this week. Also check out the link below from @tdefren. The video he posted on his blog titled "Welcome to the Agency World" is hilarious.

                    Follow me on Twitter for live updates @ladyhero.

                    Hello, and happy Memorial Day weekend. I hope you are able to get outside enjoy some nice weather before the weekend ends.

                    PF Chang's lovers check out the last link for a free coupon. Also, be sure to read a great article about tips for making conversations with strangers with graduation parties and weddings upon us they are bound to come in handy.

                    Follow me on Twitter @ladyhero.

                    Within the past year I have become a huge fan of watching TV online. It’s a great way to save money (no need for DVR) and for the small price of four to six commercials you can watch most shows without resorting to illegal downloads. Thank you Hulu and ABC.com.

                    As I’ve been watching copious amounts of TV online I have noticed many different styles of online ads. Some can be very entertaining and informative while others are just plain boring. Most web sites give you 30 seconds to capture an audience that can easily go to the bathroom, grab a snack, or even (dare I say) surf the web during that time. That said, running your standard 30 second spot is not going to cut it.

                    Here are a few of my personal guidelines for creating online ads for TV shows.

                    1. Do not go over 30 seconds.
                      It sounds pretty basic, but you would be amazed how many people violate this rule. As soon as that little timer hits zero I am finding out if Chuck Bass will finally tell Blair "I love you." It’s okay to give your audience the option to engage with your ad a bit longer, but by 30 seconds you have to be done talking.

                    2. Provide me with valuable content.
                      The keyword here is valuable. I am not a robot sitting in front of the TV. I’m online baby, I have options. And if I don’t like what you’re doing I can easily look through my Google Reader while you’re yapping away.

                      One of my favorite sponsors has been Florida Orange Juice. Their spots included educational games and quizzes that taught me why orange juice is good for me. Short and quick online games are always an easy win.

                    3. Use multiple techniques.
                      There are several ways to do this. One online ad for a car company showed their traditional spot in the upper left hand corner while allowing me to learn more about their car on the right hand side of the screen. I actually remember probing around while listening to the ad. Remember, people can be surprisingly good at multi-tasking and chances are they’ll be engaged by at least one of the options you present.

                    4. Develop multiple ads.
                      If you are the sole advertiser/sponsor for a show, seeing the same thing five or six times in a row gets really annoying. I will never forget the commercial for digital cameras with the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald and how I came to despise it.

                      Nesquik does a decent job of mixing it up. While their ads don’t always entertain me for the full 30 seconds I appreciate how they switch it up. One time I get to play around and make the rabbit dance while another time they show a more formal commercial.

                    What did I miss? What do you like and dislike about online TV ads? Do you have any guidelines you wish advertisers would follow?

                    Twitter Links: May 10-16

                    There were a lot of good stories out last week. Read below for articles about social media, travel, some of the best cookies ever and WolframAlpha (It's like AskJeeves, but better).

                    Follow me on Twitter @ladyhero.

                    Last Friday I attended Ragan’s Social Media Unconference in Chicago. For those unfamiliar with an unconference it’s kind of like a big brainstorm session with a couple moderators to keep everyone on topic.

                    One comment that has stuck with me is, “It is better to engage in one social network and do it really well than to engage in many and do them poorly.” This statement really resonated with me. How often do we join social networks only to forget about them a few months later? How does this help our personal brands and our clients’ brands? Perhaps, more importantly, how does it hurt them?

                    The one social networking account I have fallen behind on is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great professional networking site, but it seems that I (like many people) only use it when I’m looking for a job. I hate to admit that I often only log-in to accept friend requests. Who has time when they are busy Twittering, Facebooking and blogging? Okay, poor excuse.

                    The truth is a social networking profile is only as good as you make it. Profiles aren’t like a pot roast you can set-up and leave on while you’re away at work. It’s important to keep all of your social networks up-to-date and stay engaged. After all, in the event that you have to look for another job you want your LinkedIn connections to be ready and waiting. You shouldn’t be working on growing your LinkedIn presence after you’ve been laid off. By the time that happens you want your connections to be working for you.

                    To that end I have decided to take a renewed interest in my LinkedIn profile and become an active member in the community. You know, just in case. I hear it can be good for building your brand too. Which social networking sites have you left on the back burner, and how are you planning to resurrect them?

                    While you're at it, connect with me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsoczka.

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