This past Thursday I returned from my first and one of the biggest trade shows: SEMA. SEMA, otherwise known as the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association, is held each year in Las Vegas. As the biggest show for the auto aftermarket industry, I have helped clients prepare but have never been able to attend.

Getting ready for the show was a bit stressful as I wasn’t sure how to pack or what to expect. I’m here to pass on my wisdom (little as it may be), so you can be a bit more prepared for your first trade show.

  1. Bring a backpack or some type of bag on wheels
    I thought I was covered by bringing a large purse that could hold my laptop. I was wrong. When you’re at a trade show you’ll likely need to carry your laptop, laptop charger, cell and cell charger, briefing binder, print outs, etc. No matter how big the purse, you’ll want to have something else with you, if for no other reason than to save your shoulders.

  2. Bring appropriate colored tennis shoes
    We were told to wear black shoes in our booth. I brought a pair of black flats that I survived in, but when you’re standing for eight or more hours a day tennis shoes are your safest bet. Don’t worry if they don’t go the best with your outfit. Everyone who’s been to a trade show knows the drill, and they won’t think you’re underdressed.

  3. Always carry water
    Perhaps part of it was Vegas, but those huge convention halls are really dry. Add that to the fact that you’ll be doing a lot more talking than you’re used to, and you’re bound to get a bit horse. You probably won’t be allowed to eat and drink in the booth, but having a bottle of water stashed in your backpack will allow you to sneak a drink every so often. Trust me, it helps.

  4. Keep your cell phone charger with you, you never know when you’ll get a chance to plug in
    There are a lot of logistics to keep track of while you’re on the floor. Chances are you’ll be using your phone. A lot. If you have an iPhone like me, you know how fast the battery drains. Always bring your charger. There will most likely be somewhere in the booth where you can plug-in for a couple minutes. If you can’t find an outlet, you can always use your laptop.

  5. When in doubt, fly in a day early
    Originally I was going to fly in the afternoon before the show started. I’m really glad we decided to fly in a night earlier. There are always last minute adjustments and fires to put out, and it’s better to have extra time as opposed to running around like crazy the first day of the show.

  6. Ship everything to the business center and keep your tracking numbers!
    Not only will this save you tons of money in bag fees at the airport, but it makes things so much easier! If you’re staying at a hotel that deals with conventions they will be well equipped to handle last minute requests and packages. Just remember to keep your tracking numbers in case something goes wrong. It will also help you check off your list, to make sure you’ve received everything.

  7. Do whatever you can to print out materials in advance
    This is something I could have done a better job of. There’s nothing worse than running to the business center at 8 a.m. to e-mail and print off 50 copies of your news release 30 minutes before your press conference. Save yourself the headache, and try to do as much of that as possible at the office. Remember, you can always ship it to the hotel.

  8. Bring transitional clothing
    One of the hardest parts was figuring out what to pack. My advice: pack clothing that you can mix and match. You need to be able to go from work to client dinner to drinks pretty seamlessly. When in doubt, a lot of black pieces are always a safe bet. And, of course, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

  9. Have fun, but not too much fun
    You’re in Vegas, baby, or some other fun city. You should try to go out and enjoy it. Chances are you’ll probably be taking clients out at least one night. Have fun, but keep it professional and don’t overdo it with drinks. Some people will tell you not to drink at all. I think that’s silly. By now you’re a grown up. You know your limits and when you’re feeling tipsy. Pace yourself and stop drinking if you think you’re getting to the breaking point. There’s no shame in ordering a diet Coke. It’s OK for a client to show up hung over the next day. It’s not OK for you.

  10. Sleep as much as possible
    From my experience, there’s one thing missing from trade shows. Sleep. You have to wake up early in the morning, stay on your feet all day and often don’t get to bed until late. So, if you have an opportunity to go to bed at a reasonable hour, take it. You’ll thank yourself as the week wears on.

That’s it. Good luck! And happy trade show going.

Why, hello there. It's been awhile. A lot has happened since we last spoke. In the last couple of months I have moved to Chicago, started a new job and sold my car. The change has been fantastic.

Don't get me wrong, I was leading a good life in Milwaukee, but I was beginning to feel stagnant. Now, I didn't exactly sell all my worldly possessions and move half way around the world, but I think we can all agree that I've had an exciting couple of months.

This brings me to the topic of this post. While all of these changes have been wonderful, it has left me with much less time to focus on other things like this blog and even, gasp!, Twitter.

You see, now that I've made these changes, I want to take some time to revel in them. I want to concentrate on my new position, explore the city and spend some time with friends I haven't seen much of the last couple of years.

I hope you'll forgive me while I'm away. My intent is to start blogging regularly again in the summer. However, that is not to say that I won't post throughout the year when the mood strikes.

Here's hoping you're able to tell me about your own big life changes the next time we chat.


I came across a very interesting piece of travel-related information via my Twitter feed this morning. While most airlines have been making drastic cuts and passing many costs to consumers, it appears Spirit Airlines is taking it to a whole new level.

According to Travel + Leisure, Spirit Airlines began charging $45 for carry-on bags Aug. 1. Yikes. How much do they charge to check? But wait, it gets worse. The airline is also considering charging customers to talk to a Spirit Airlines employee at the check-in counter.

I hope Spirit Airlines does not decide to move forward with this idea. While more and more people are becoming increasingly comfortable with technology and operating self-check kiosks at grocery stores and airports, there is still a need for face-to-face interaction.

What happens if your check-in kiosk breaks down or malfunctions? Will you still have to pay an outrageous fee to talk to someone behind the counter?

While technology can certainly be very helpful and speedy nothing can replace a quality employee. Strong, positive interactions between Spirit Airlines’ employees and customers will help strengthen the brand and keep it from becoming a faceless, low-budget airline.

What are your thoughts? Is Spirit Airlines simply adjusting to the new economic climate? Or are they damaging their brand and reputation by being ballsy enough to charge people for talking to them?

In an effort to keep this blog updated more regularly, I have decided to share insightful and relevant content from other sites from time to time. Let me know if you like it, love it or think I'm a cop-out for not writing all my own content.

Today Mashable posted one of the best case studies I've seen about the Old Spice campaign. (Hey, maybe this blog post will get me my own Old Spice video!)

So here it is: The Old Spice Social Media Campaign by the Numbers.


Facebook: Then and Now

Remember when Facebook was hip and cool? When only you and your 10 best college friends from that Fourth of July kegger had access? Yeah, me too...

Video is courtesy of AgencySpy.

A link to the article I wrote for the latest Boelter + Lincoln newsletter. Keep in mind that this piece was written for Milwaukee area businesses that have varying levels of social media knowledge. Enjoy.

It’s 2010. Ninety years ago American women won the right to vote. In 1973, women won the right to choose via Roe v. Wade. In 1984, the first woman, Geraldine Ferraro, received a vice presidential nomination from a major political party. In 2007, Nancy Pelosi was elected the first female Speaker of the House. And finally, in 2008 the U.S. received its first realistic female candidate for president, Hillary Clinton.

Yes, it’s 2010, and despite all these accomplishments, I’m here to say sexism is alive and well in America.

How do I know this?

I know this because despite the fact that 35 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 29 have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 27 percent of men the same age, women still make 78 cents to every dollar men make. I know this because despite women making up over half the U.S. population only 17 percent of the U.S. Senate is made up of women. And I know this because despite the rise of stay-at-home dads, women continue to do 70 percent of housework. But perhaps, more importantly, I know this because a few years ago a drunken relative “humorously” said to me, “Sarah, you can be senator, but you can’t be president.”

Despite all these statistics and accolades, I know there are many who disagree with me. There are many who say women don’t make as much as men because they choose to take time off from work. To those I offer the following recent news stories:

Google Tells Sites for ‘Cougars’ to Go Prowl Elsewhere
This New York Times article explains that Google has banned dating sites like (a site that caters to older women looking for younger men) from appearing as sponsored links or other types of Google advertising. However, Google continues to allow sites “like, which assures its clients they can meet sugar babies” to advertise.

K&L Gates: Closed to Associate Mothers?
This article discusses how the large New York law firm, K&L Gates, somehow finds a way to get rid of their female staffers once they have children.

Is This Woman Too Hot To Be a Banker?
A single mom was allegedly fired from her job at Citibank because “her bosses told her they couldn’t concentrate on their work because her appearance was too distracting.”

Do you think blatant sexism is a myth? Please feel free to share your thoughts and stories.

There is one argument as a PR professional that I am forever having with my tech-obsessed boyfriend. That is the idea of personal branding. The argument goes like this:

Me: Everything you do is branding. Even if it’s not your intent. When you post things on Twitter you are adding to your image, people’s idea of who you are. In other words, your brand.

Him: I am not a brand. I don’t care how other people see me. I’m going to do and say what I like. If people don’t like it, (expletive) them.

Me: And that’s your personal brand!

I will leave the rest of the argument to your imagination.

My point? Today the tech-obsessed boyfriend (who I love dearly) passed along a great post on personal branding by author Maureen Johnson. She has developed her own manifesto on the subject:

“The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people.”

If you haven’t guessed, she agrees with my boyfriend. But I have to say, I don’t really disagree with her statement. The Internet is made up of people, and when I talk to others about social media I try to make it a point to say it’s a two-way street. Yes, company XYZ, you will need to log-on several times a day and actually talk to people. After all, social media is about building relationships.

The term “personal branding” has gotten a bad rap among those who don’t work in marketing. It’s the same as the term “networking.” Ugh. Networking. Who wants to be forced to talk to a bunch of strangers and push business cards? Tweet-ups are much more attractive. At a tweet-up I get to have a few drinks, and meet new people!

It’s all a case of you say tomato, I say to-mah-to. In fact, I encourage people to post Lolcats photos, join causes and produce wacky videos. Just make sure the things you’re sharing, and the image you’re putting forth is one you’re OK with having. If that’s the image of someone who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, more power to you.

How do you communicate?

I’m in PR. I cater to people every day. I call or e-mail clients and journalists based on their personal preference, print out documents for those who like hard copies and use Twitter and Facebook to enhance my relationships. When I’m finally the client, the one to be catered to, is it too much to ask for people to communicate with me the way I prefer?

I recently e-mailed my personal banker with a question about one of my accounts. The response? A voicemail on my cell phone. I hate voicemail. I didn’t send my banker an e-mail because I wanted to talk on the phone. Weeks have gone by. I still haven’t called, and let’s just say his follow-up has been less than stellar. Meanwhile my questions are unanswered, and I am left with a less than perfect impression of my somewhat new bank.

There are a lot of different ways to communicate, and we all have our preferences. However, when you’re dealing with clients and other business professionals it’s important to take the time to cater your communication style to them.

A good rule of thumb: respond using the same communication method they used.

So if you’re wondering why I haven’t returned your voicemail, try sending an e-mail.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But for all the female Brewers fans out there, I have some bad news. Doris Hajewski (@dhajewski) of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that the Brewers did not make the cut for a new Victoria’s Secret line of Major League Baseball inspired clothing. Here’s a link to the official release.

Who was chosen?

For the most part the “beautiful” cities:

  • Chicago Cubs
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • New York Mets
  • New York Yankees
  • San Diego Padres

Sure, there were a few oddballs - like the Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies – but all the cities are in larger DMAs with a seemingly larger selection of “beautiful” women.

I’m not sure what Victoria’s Secret criteria was for picking MLB cities, but it seems to me that they should have included fan loyalty in their decision-making process. Sure, L.A. is a huge market, but how many females really care about the Angels or Dodgers?

On the other hand, the women of Milwaukee (and the entire state of Wisconsin for that matter) are pretty fanatical about the Brewers. I’d wager that Milwaukee women would at the very least match the sales of the two L.A. teams. Heck, we’d probably wear the apparel more too.

What do you think? Am I out of touch with the female baseball-lovin fans of L.A.? Maybe I’m just blinded by my Brewer pride?

As one JSOnline commenter said, “Like I want panties with the Cubs logo on them. Then again, a well placed Cubs logo could be a great expression of the disdain I feel for them or the Yanks.”

Better luck next time, Milwaukee.

Epiphany Moment

This post has been a bit delayed, but I wanted to tell you about a project I’m involved in that launched just last week. It all started when I saw a tweet about six months ago from one of my favorite Gen-Y bloggers, Matt Cheuvront (@mattchevy) asking for a few volunteers. A week later I was recording a video of myself describing my own “epiphany moment.”

For those who don’t know Matt, he is a highly motivated, Chicago-based, Gen-Y blogger and Web designer among other things. I encourage you to check him out at his blog, or his personal Web site,

With a little help from his friends, Matt has put together well over 20 videos of people describing their epiphany moments. The videos are meant to inspire and encourage you to upload your own epiphany moment.

A teaser trailer of the project is posted below. I hope you’ll check it out. What is my epiphany moment? Well, I guess there is only one way to find out…

While you won’t find any official rules at, I feel there are some unspoken rules the Foursquare community has embraced. While I haven’t followed all of these rules to the letter, this is my interpretation of how the game should be played.

  1. No checking in at a drive-thru
    If you’re going through a drive-thru you aren’t at a venue. You’re in your car. How long are you going to be there? Five minutes?

  2. No checking in after you leave a venue
    This rule is pretty self-explanatory. The one exception? Celebrities with stalkers and crowds to worry about.

  3. No checking in at home or work
    Checking in at places you go to everyday is cheating. Also, no one cares if you’re at work. We do care if you’re at a hip new bar.

  4. Do leave tips and to-dos
    Tips and to-dos are great, and very helpful when checking out a new restaurant.

  5. Do encourage all your friends to join
    The more friends you play with the more fun the game is!

  6. Do fight for your mayorship
    Mayorship is a source of Foursquare pride. It is perfectly acceptable to visit your local pub to reclaim your throne on a Tuesday night. Not to mention the deals you can get when you do!

  7. No checking in when you’re sitting on the couch watching Lost
    Again. Cheating.

  8. Do not friend request people multiple times
    I understand that everyone uses social media tools in different ways. Maybe you’re using Foursquare to increase your social network. However, I’m not, and requesting my friendship over and over is not going to change the fact that I don’t want unknown people stalking me.

  9. Do go on weekend badge crusades
    Laugh at me if you will, but weekend badge crusades are a fun, cheap way to spend the weekend.

  10. Do not share your check-ins on Facebook and Twitter
    Remember, we all use social media tools differently, and not everyone on Twitter and Facebook are into the whole Foursquare thing. Unless it’s a special occasion (Ex. You’re at an event, conference, traveling to a new place) my Twitter and Facebook feeds do not need to be clogged by your check-ins. Please keep that to your Foursquare friends.

So there you have it, the rules of Foursquare according to me. What are your Foursquare rules, policies, dos and don’ts?

Recently I've had discussions with a lot of different PR professionals about how they conduct media relations, and it has boiled down to one question.

Is it okay to pitch media without talking to your client first?

I'm curious to hear from PR professionals and journalists. Is it okay to put the cart before the horse?

Here are the pros and cons as I see them:


  • Opportunity to look like a hero
  • Better chance of being timely
  • No unreasonable client expectations going into the pitch
  • If the client can't come through your reputation is damaged
  • If the client can't come through their reputation is damaged
  • Client may not approve of the pitch topic
  • Unreasonable client expectations may result

2010 Super Bowl Ads

Many people will tell you this year’s Super Bowl (or as Twitter has deemed it #BrandBowl) was a disappointment. The Who sucked and so did a lot of the ads. In fact, many of the ads have been labeled sexist, misogynistic and emasculating.

While I tend to agree, I would also argue that some people need to lighten up. Here are a few of the ads I enjoyed. What were your favorites? Which ones rubbed you the wrong way?

Google: Search On

Intel: Lunchroom Boast

Snickers: You're Not You When You're Hungry

Chrysler: Dodge Charger

Kia: Big Game

Mullen and Radian6 teamed monitored the Twittersphere to uncover the public's vote for best ads. Doritos, Google and Focus on the Family have the top three spots. If you'd like to see where the other ads rank visit

Embrace Life

I'm a little behind on my Google Reader, so I just caught this post from AgencySpy.

If we're being honest, the majority of PSAs aren't that good. They're low budget and often times that leads to low creativity. The following PSA is the exception to this rule. I challenge you to watch it without a shred of feeling.

This one's for you, Dad. Please. Buckle up.

An article in today’s New York Times announced a new partnership between Foursquare (the growing, location-based online game) and Bravo TV. According to the article, the partnership, which begins tomorrow, will allow Foursquare players to receive Bravo badges after checking in at any of the 500 plus Bravo locations.

Potential pros and cons:


  • How cool would it be to get a Top Chef badge?
  • The partnership will raise awareness for Foursquare and increase users.
  • It could create more brand evangelists for Bravo as long as the badges are closely tied to specific shows.


  • What kind of badge could The Real Housewives offer?
  • For some reason the idea of a TV network partnering with Foursquare rubs me the wrong way. I'd rather see a company like TGI Friday's, Target, Chase or Southwest Airlines partner. I can visit a restaurant, retail outlet, bank or airline. A TV network? Not so much.

What do you think? Is this a good move for Bravo and Foursquare? Do you want a Bravo TV badge?

UPDATE: Mashable has posted an article on the partnership that outlines a few more specifics.

As some of you may know, the company I work for hosted Chris Brogan at a tweet-up yesterday, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with him.

Naturally he spoke about building relationships, but he also demonstrated the importance of making people feel comfortable and important. (Note: I do not mean important in an ego-boosting way. I mean important as in feeling like you matter, like you are someone worth getting to know.)

How many business opportunities are blown each day by people acting rude, dismissive and cold? How many times would a simple smile and “How are you?” be enough to have a lasting positive impact?

I was reminded of this while touring Bally Total Fitness on Milwaukee’s lower east side tonight. I walked in with my boyfriend for our 6 p.m. appointment and asked for Derrick (who I had spoken to Monday). Derrick did not seem to remember our conversation, but he was happy to show us around.

The tour ended and we went upstairs to talk about rates. Here’s where the relationship started to deteriorate. Derrick brings out his fancy, lamented pricing sheet and shows us the options. It’s going to cost over $70/person upfront and $23/month after that.

Now $23/month isn’t bad considering the place has a pool, sauna, racquet ball court and classes that are included with your membership. However, it’s a tad more than I wanted to spend, so I mention other gyms are offering lower rates and I have a few friends with better rates at Bally. Any chance he would be willing to work with us? Here’s where it turned ugly.

“We don’t negotiate rates. We’re a national chain. Anyone who told you they got a deal is lying.”

Whoa. Calm down Voldermort. I’m suddenly rethinking our friendship.

Instead of getting defensive Derrick should have said, “I’m sorry. We are a national chain, so I am not able to negotiate rates. However, we do run promotions from time to time. In fact, next month we are introducing “X” promotion."

If the conversation had gone that way I would not have walked away feeling cheap and unimportant. I would have felt valued, and there’s a real possibility I would have signed up for the full rate.

Long story short, I might join Bally, but I will look at other fitness centers too. Maybe I will have a more positive experience. I’ll see you Saturday, Snap Fitness.

What kinds of relationship building experiences have influenced your buying decisions? Have you chosen a product or service based on how the company made you feel?

Young Pros Need Love Too

If you're a recent college grad (read: out of school for five years or less) there's a good chance that you're broke, living with mom and dad or both. Unless you had the foresight to major in engineering, computer science, economics or finance you've probably been left to wonder, "Aren't I supposed to be making the big bucks now? I could make almost as much as I do now at my 9-to-5 bartending, and I wouldn't have to wake up till noon!".

Most of us understand that our measly salaries will not always be so meager, and our education will soon pay off once we are promoted and have paid our dues. After all, America can't afford millionaire CEOs if they are paying the grunts more than $30K a year, but I digress...

To help young professionals in their first few years I'm proposing brands acknowledge this economic hardship. I ask you, where is our Young Professional discount? Seniors get them. Students get them. Why not us?

It's no secret that many young pros are already taking advantage of some of these discounts by way of our old student IDs, but not all of us feel great about it.

Offering a young pro discount is a great way to encourage young pros to become brand advocates early on. While many 20-somethings are already brand loyal to Coke versus Pepsi and Apple versus PC, we don't hold many loyalties to banks, health care organizations or accountants. We are just starting to figure these things out, and a brand that talks directly to us will certainly become a winner. For instance, banks could offer young pros a slightly better rate on savings accounts, credit cards and/or loans. A bank that is willing to work with me, is a bank I'm going to stick with for a very long time.

This approach would also work well for the arts community. In college I had some money to burn. It was enough that I was able to see a couple shows at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts each year. Now that I'm a working gal I can't afford that luxury, but I get a call each year asking if I'd like to purchase a pack of tickets. If the Marcus Center offered a discounted package for young pros I would be much more likely to return, recruit friends, promote events and become a lifetime supporter. In short, the Marcus Center would become my performance venue of choice. Professional organizations are another group that could really benefit from this idea.

What do you think? Do you see the value in providing young pros with special discounts? Young pros, is this something you would be interested in?

Everyone has a different policy about "friending" people online. Some will accept any request, while others are a bit more selective. The duck in this video reminds us to take a second to think before we hit "accept."

What is your policy on following, fanning and friending online?

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