Social Media in the Time of Cholera

Last year saw the resurgence of an old foe of humankind – the deadly disease, Cholera. In December 2010, the AFP reported that the cholera toll in Haiti reached over 2500 affected individuals.  The United Nations continues to seek the cause of the deadly epidemic while angry riots broke out in the streets of Port-au-Prince.Cholera? The first thing that comes to mind is Oprah’s Book Club choice, Love in the Time of Cholera. Great read. But, cholera? Really?

I cannot help but feel isolated and out of touch with reality when news of this magnitude reaches me. It feels trite to say that I hope this catastrophe will be eradicated in the very near future. The news has prompted me to take a fresh look at myself and my connection with the world around me.

Using Social Media Channels like Twitter

As we all start fresh this year, with resolve to make positive changes in our lives and the world, I ask myself what behaviors I should adopt. I feel trite, considering the unrest around the world and question my relevance.  Specifically, in writing an article about Social Media while real and significant challenges are being presented globally.  But, today I relish the thought that I am connected by virtual superhighways to every corner of the globe. I  have the perfect conduit to develop a personal and business brand and publish my thoughts to the ENTIRE WORLD! {Okay, at least to those who will listen}. Talk about a soapbox.

So, what is the most effective way to use social media? And how can I stay relevant in an arena that is constantly changing, especially when there is real and significant stuff going on in the world around me? I’m going to pull a Scarlett O’Hara and tackle each of these questions later this week. Honestly, it needs more thought. Today, I want to focus on the establishment of trust and genuine authority.

1. Being “real”

Any of us who have a real following on any social media channel know that transparency and being “real” are the most important aspects of developing digital relationships. If we to continue to make real and lasting relationships through the phenomenon of social media, we ultimately, increase our sphere of influence. If “being real” means dropping WTFs or posting racy pictures, don’t be real. Be someone else.

However, I do believe that a genuine interest in both your topics and your online audience translate into a clear picture of who you are and why you are interesting. I am not as intrigued by 25-ways-to-do-this or 7-ways-to-do that as I am to a quirky, attention-grabbing tweet that shows a personality.

Do I blog these types of articles? Yes. *Sigh* But, only because copy writing and article writing is an important part of my business. And even if it feels contrived, numbered articles are a proven way of catching attention to get my message out. Blogging is the reason you are here now, n’est ce pas?

2. Replying directly on Twitter

Plenty of well-respected “Tweeters” advise to send scheduled thank you messages after you are followed for the first time by a new user. I wholeheartedly agree that a response is vital. But, to schedule or not to schedule? That is the question. I am most likely to follow an online personality who a) responds to me and b) responds quickly. This shows genuine expressed interest in ME and is a good indicator that this person/brand may have something worthwhile to say. Scheduling feels very impersonal to me. But, I see the benefit in ensuring that each new follower gets a quick message. I fall back to the “quality, not quantity” meme. It takes more time, true, but if I’m spending significant time direct messaging folks in Twitter, it’s pretty obvious that I have developed a genuine online relationship with that individual. This may mean that I don’t have thousands of followers, but that’s okay if I have developed quality relationships with those that do follow me. Sometimes we forget that our ultimate goal is to drive consumer engagement. You can’t do a better job of engaging a potential client than engaging a client.

3.  Investing in your “online” relationships

There is vast difference between “Tweeters” and “Facebookers”. At times, I almost feel a welcome relief, like I’m coming back home when I log into my Facebook account. I can ask about birthdays, follow up on important events, see pictures and “like” what my “friends” are up to. This builds an incredible loyalty all of it’s own. Not that these things can’t be done on Twitter. Some people do it very well. But let’s face it…that 140-word count can take some getting used to.  Either way it’s important to mastering {or at least attempt mastery, in my case} of several digital streams and always continue to seek out better ways to build strong online relationships. Joining online twitter chats like #blogchat is a great way to meet other bloggers whether you are new to the game or a veteran player. Just remember that paying it forward is the best way to foster goodwill and getting some of the feedback that you are seeking.

Effectively leveraging social media can be a daunting task. There are volumes of information with tutorials, and they can be overwhelming. If you are like me, by the time you have found an article you would like to read, you have stumbled upon seven more.

So, while the world keeps on spinning and new technology makes our favorite social media channels bigger and better, my fingers keep on typing. Sometimes with abbreviated number-words and #hashtag and sometimes with a complete sentence and good ole’ fashioned punctuation. Building relationships is one of the greatest joys of this job and keeps me coming back for me. Join me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest and let’s invest in each other.

Finally, if you haven’t already forgotten about my opening paragraph, very cliche, blog title and the awkward transition between the two, then I invite you to donate to the victims of the cholera outbreak in Haiti. Dozens of charities have activated plans to provide supplies and medical attention to the devastated population. You can retweet this or share it on Facebook.

You are reading , Social Media in the Time of Cholera posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, join us and check out PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

 Originally Posted: 03 Jan 2011 12:26 AM PST by Polly Sentrick for Pandora Project Marketing, LLC.

 

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What the What? 4 Super Obvious Tips to Battling Writer’s Block

Battling Writer's Block

The web has made writers out of all of us. Whether I’m posting a birthday haiku on a friend’s Facebook page,  commenting on the newest app via Twitter or habitually article writing for my business, I am more aware each day that my words are my craft. Honestly, there is nothing that makes me happier. Until “The Dreadful” happens…that is.

You know what I’m talking about. DUM, DUM, DUM! Writer’s Block. {Enter scream of mock horror}.

Last week, it happened to me. There is nothing worse that wanting so badly to be productive and not being able to do so.  Experts agree that this hellish phenomenon is simply the anxious mind shutting down.

The omniscient and always reliable {sarcasm} Wiki says,

“Writer’s block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.”

Um, YEARS?!? Okay, so before I fall off the cliffs of insanity and “abandon my career”, let’s take a practical approach here. Sheesh!

As I was struggling with a particularly bad case of writer’s block last week, I noticed that I followed a few super simple key principles to drag myself out of it. These writing tips are very obvious {as my snarky title implies} because they are nothing new. Sometimes, we just need to keep it simple.

Battling Writer's Block

1. Get out of your head & deny the anxiety.

Many times, I’ve fallen back on warm-up exercises from my college writing class. Back then, I was grabbing my favorite pen and homemade journal and letting anything that came into my mind pour out onto the paper.  These days as a copywriter, the quiet clicking on a keyboard brings similar relief as I let my fingers do the talking. In fact, during my uncomfortable moment last week, I even jotted down the title of this article…”Battling Writers Block.”  While this technique is especially liberating for creative writing, this exercise is also a surefire tool in prepping for research and analytic writing. Your brain is a muscle after all. So, warm it up! Try not to think “What can I write about…?”, but instead follow the lead of your inner dialogue. Let go of the reins and step out of your comfy little zone. The fancy name for this is a “free associative exercise“.

2. Write ahead and schedule your posts.

All the preparation in the world doesn’t matter if you find yourself stuck in the writer’s block quagmire. I try to recognize when I’m in a particularly productive mode and make the most out it. By maximizing my “peak’ hours, I work smarter, not harder. Sometimes, this means writing four half-articles with huge gaping holes that need polishing later. But, even if I don’t finish my article, a good start will be a heaven-sent blessing at a more sluggish time later. Using a good interactive calendar and post scheduler like Hootsuite can also been very helpful in your article writing endeavors. I recently discovered the “Auto Schedule” function in Hootsuite and it has taken some of the guesswork out of strategic scheduling.

3. Keep a list of brainstorming ideas.

The topic list is a writer’s most sacred text. Hold it close. Value and treasure it. Add to it with the fervor and reverence of a patriotic revolutionary. This is your craft, your livelihood, your handiwork. Don’t be afraid of fragmented ideas and definitely don’t forget that there are no stupid ideas, only underdeveloped ideas. A good time to add to this list for me is during those “peak hours”  I mentioned in point #2.  Try a mobile app like ColorNote for Android or Apple’s Note Plus for iPhone and iPad users. If you need more space, use a whiteboard and some colorful markers to get your creative juices flowing. The key is to a) keep this list and b) refer to it.

4. Get a Fresh Perspective

Writing is an expression of your thoughts, perspectives and opinions – a culmination of YOU, with a particular message to share. If you find yourself  in a writer’s block funk, try to break up the routine by doing something good for the soul like chatting with a fellow blogger, listening to good music or getting outside. Chances are, once you encounter a new thought or idea, your mind will be dying to digest the information and add your own spin through your copywriting. Reading and researching is also a never-fail solution for me. My Google Reader has been a life-preserver during particularly agonizing periods of  writer’s block.

Do you have have a recommendation on how to beat the writing blues? What is the longest period of writer’s block that you have battled?

This article was orginally posted: 31 Dec 2010 12:21 AM PST by PollySentrick for Pandora Project Marketing, LLC.

You are reading , What the What? 4 Super Obvious Tips to Battling Writer’s Block originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Miami Salsa Getting Facelift by Local Band, Conexion Latina

Miami’s hottest, new salsa sound might sound a little familiar to you. That’s because it’s coming from Conexion Latina, who describes their sound as “blending old school salsa brava with the new school hits”.

Created by Hector “Tito” Colon, the band is a dream that has been long in the making since he was a child growing up in both Puerto Rico and New York.  Now collaborating with talented musicians from all over the globe and calling Miami “home”, the group makes musical  magic at their shows, under Colon’s direction.

Conexion Latina 305 live performance

Wallflowers beware! Playing hits that you love from the salsa greats and original mash-ups of their own, you won’t be able to sit still when Conexion Latina plays live. This Miami-based salsa band is a twelve-piece phenomenon on the stage, sure to capture the affections of even the most avid salsa aficionado.

One of the projects that I’ve been working this month is a blog for Conexion Latina.  Take a look at their promotional video and follow the Conexion Latina 305 blog to see our progress each week.  You will be the first to know when you can hear them play live! We will also be featuring one-on-one sit down interviews with the musicians, highlights from recent shows and a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to make great salsa. You can also check out Conexion Latina on their facebook page for more videos and news.

Like what you see and want to book the band for your next event? Conexion Latina is now accepting bookings across the continential United States and internationally. Call 786.380.6992 for more information or get booking information online.

You are reading , Miami Salsa Getting Facelift by Local Band, Conexion Latina originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

Lovely and Low-Key: Design Elements For a DIY Bridal Shower

This past weekend, I was honored to have the opportunity to co-host a bridal shower for my best friend, Stephanie. Showering the future Mrs. Agosto with love was almost as fun as planning it. {Am I the only weirdo that likes planning events more than attending them?}

Anyway, I received some really sweet compliments on some of the planning aspects of the celebration and so I decided to share a few snippets here.

The Invitation

Stationary is one my true passions in life. Not just because you can write words on it or because good paper feels rich and luxe, but because personalized stationary has always made me feel special, ever since I was a little girl. I know that others don’t share my love of pen & paper, but I have an aversion to purchasing invitations of any kind. These DIY pink bridal shower invitations incorporated an elegant monogram and delicate, lace doily that matched the feminine, pretty-in-pink theme.

Elegant DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitation

Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake

When I first discovered fondant, I fell in love with decorating cakes. I have recently begun a similar love affair with fresh buttercream icing.  I made a three-layer dark chocolate, Devil’s Food cake with milk chocolate buttercream icing in between the layers and European Buttercream frosting on the outside. I also used one of the cookies as a cake topper.

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Tip – Add the cake topper after arriving at the venue. The moisture from the frosting broke my cookie in half and I had to replace with a back-up while setting up. {Note-To-Self & Others:  Always bring extra icing in a decorating bag. No matter how many times I say this, I always forget.}Bridal Shower Cake with Cookie Topper

Girly Cookies

You may have read my previous post outlining most beautiful cookies in the world and what inspired me to incorporate cookies into my normal cake lady existence.  Personally, the cookies were my favorite part of the bridal shower and they were a big hit with guests. You can get the recipes and ingredients that I used as well as some tips and tricks I learned in my first cookie decorating escapade.

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Brunch Munchies

Last month, I stared making the South Beach “egg muffins” and freezing them for easy use in the morning. I thought it would be nice to balance all of the sweets with something a little more savory.  So, I tweaked the low-carb recipe by adding some herbs. In addition to the savory egg cupcakes, I made bacon bowties that I scored from my super amazing writer, artist, Southern-turned-Midwest friend, Ebonee.  {We also had a great gourmet bagel spread, delicious muffins and a fresh fruit salad from Tia Gisella}.

Tip– Be sure to use a warming plate for the egg cupcakes. Not to be dampened by clammy, cold eggs, we were microwaving ours individually as we served them.

Herb Planter Gift

What do you give the girl who qualifies as the most thoughtful person alive? Especially when a part of your ongoing personal action plan is to reach the levels of thoughtfulness that she shows almost effortlessly??  While the bride is known to have a less-than-green thumb and reports indicate that she may have even killed a cactus, I know how much Stephanie loves trying new recipes and using fresh ingredients. {This is the lady who makes her own roasted vegetable puree and can make spaghetti squash taste like a fine Italian pasta.} So, I knew that fresh herbs would be a great gift if we could find a way to keep them alive. Hopefully, this small token of affection will complement the delicious healthy dishes she creates as a wife!

You are reading , Lovely & Low-Key: Design Elements For a DIY Bridal Shower originally posted on PollySentrick. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please be sure to follow PollySentrick on FacebookTwitterGoogle+ and Pinterest.

DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitations

When hosting any event, the key is always quality, not quantity. This is something that I still struggle to master. Because I’m really great at gathering inspiration and having another new “great idea”, but it never seems to be executed exactly as I planned. Usually because my energies are focused on too many things at once. But…that is a separate post all together. {What’s that saying about aiming for the moon and ending up amidst the stars? I count the stars as my constant company, but I have never chatted up the moon.}

An elegant invitation is the first impression guests will have of their host or hostess and will set the tone for a thoughtful and well-organized event. A DIY invitation can be just as beautiful as a professionally printed invitation, especially for an intimate, champagne brunch bridal shower like the one we hosted for my best friend, Stephanie.  I spent a lot of hours looking for the perfect invitation template and then customized it myself, to get the exact look I wanted.

For this elegant, pink, bridal shower invitation, I downloaded a gorgeous free font called Freebooter. I also printed out the template sheet for the font so that I could use it as a calligraphy guide for addressing the homemade envelopes later.wpid-20130131_135537.jpg

I used watercolor paper as card stock for the invitation by cutting it down to 8×10 size and then loading it into my photo printer. My laser printer would not accept the watercolor paper so I used my photo printer. Make sure you have fresh {or at least backup} ink on hand.

The invite design was based on a template from the always lovely Wedding Chicks website and printed four to a sheet, which I cut apart very carefully. Its best to use a paper cutter if you don”t have a steady hand, otherwise use sharp scissors.

Because I wanted a border and varying text lines, I used this template as a base and customized it in Powerpoint to get the exact look I wanted. But I want to be sure that I give full credit for the emblem and original design to the ladies at Wedding Chicks. The monogram could easily be replaced by a handcrafted rubber stamp to capture more of the couple’s  personal style.

I got the inspiration for a doily envelope liner from Memento Designs on Pinterest and tweaked it so that I created an elegant sleeve for the invitation card that would stand alone. Use a gluestick to secure the bottom two corners and create a pocket. Let it dry for about 10 minutes before working on it further. Use your finger to gently pry apart any parts that stuck together incorrectly. Also, the doily is very delicate so be careful when you insert the card, as the corners can snag and rip the paper lace and force you to start over.Custom Doily Liner

Elegant DIY Pink Bridal Shower Invitation Next, I added a recipe card {also from Wedding Chicks} for guests to bring with them on the morning of this love-themed, February bridal shower. I loved this idea and see a future project in the works…Personalized Recipe Cards?!?! Heck, yeah!

A small card describing the recipe tradition was layered on top.  Its basically just a border with elegant font and I pulled the emblem from the invitation design to keep things consistent. You could also use a poem or phrase to remind guests how meaningful a recipe can be when shared between loved ones.  To save time, you can download the card template here – Recipe Insert Message. It prints eight cards to a page and will require that you cut it apart. Recipe Card Insert Request

Finish the bundle by securing it with a thin, pink ribbon. If you don’t have an extra hand, try this tip for holding the bundled cards secure while you tie the ribbon in a small bow. You only need two large paperclips.wpid-20130131_135824.jpg

20130210_172231 Insert the finished bundle into a beautiful, homemade envelope brandishing handwritten guest names and using the printed font sheet as a calligraphy guide.  Be sure to send the invitations as early as possible. A good time frame is four to six weeks before the event. If you are a planning a more impromptu event and can’t give guests the preferred planning time, be sure to call them and provide a verbal invitation and explain that you will be following up with a formal invitation.

Online event invites {like the one I love to use on Facebook} are really reliable and fun, but should really be used to coordinate your RSVPs and never as a substitute for a formal invitation. I have learned these lessons the hard way. Thanks to our guests for being so gracious!

Thanks to my Pinterest peeps who led me to the templates I used. You can see the inspiration I got for this invitation and other shower design elements on my Bridal Shower Board. Hopefully these little tips will help you organize a fun celebration and let you spend more time enjoying the special day with your loved ones!