Being Alone: A Totally New Concept

As many, or most, or all of you know, I have a twin sister. In many ways, this has been such a blessing in my life as I have always had a companion. We played all the same sports in high school, participated in all the same clubs, we went on to the same college, we were roommates, we both majored in public relations, and oddly enough we’re now both admissions representatives at two different private colleges. My whole life I’ve had a partner, and when I married my best friend, Justin, in 2008 I thought things would be no different. But, for the first time in my life I’m dealing with something that I’ve never faced before: being alone.

Always having my twin sister by my side, I’ve never done a single thing alone. All of the things that help strengthen a person growing up, I’ve never done. Scary first day of high school: alone. Making friends: alone. Starting college: alone. Facing the real world: alone. No, no, no, and no. You can imagine the situation I find myself in now, as my husband travels the majority of his time with his job. I find myself on a whole new battle ground.

Is it weird that at the age of 24, I feel like maybe I don’t know myself as well as I should? Being on my own, I’ve discovered that I can do some extraordinary things (what seems extraordinary to me, most likely will not to you–dog vomit all over the carpet, disgusting!), but I’ve also discovered that the smallest things can make me crack (a picture that falls off the shelf and shatters–what am I supposed to do?!).

Right after college, my twin sister jumped out on her own. Hot, single, and ready to mingle, she got her own apartment, started her career, and has dated a few decent guys. She seems to have it all together and while living on her own, nothing seems to phase her. So why am I such a weeney?! I left college with a plan–graduation in May, first real job in June, wedding in July, puppy in August, masters degree program in September–yet, when I find myself alone, in the most quiet depths of my being, I completely freak out! With a bachelor’s degree down and a master’s degree soon to be completed, I find myself at a complete loss on how to function while I’m alone (what do I do if the porch light burns out?!).

All of this being said, I’ve decided that I need to try to turn over a new leaf in my alone time. While I can safely say that I’ll never feel totally comfortable being alone, why can’t I learn to savor some time for myself? Who says I can’t take a hot bath and drink a mug of tea in the middle of the afternoon? And who decided that it was only kosher to drink a glass of wine on the weekend? All in all, and what I’m trying to get at, is that no matter our circumstance, or what we were born into, or where we’re going, we can all come to a place where it doesn’t have to feel scary to be alone. Drink it in… although it’s different, at times it can be refreshing.

It’s a New Year, and a New Me!

So, in 2010 I decided to follow the mantra, “New Year, New You!” I have to say though, I really dislike that phrase. Why did someone come up with this idea that just because it’s a new year, you have to renew yourself? Why can’t you find a new you in March or August? Anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is: it’s a new year and a new me!

Most of the time, we see this phrase in conjunction with getting physically fit. Or eliminating snacking. Or quitting smoking. Or finding a new job. Or any of those mindless New Year’s resolutions that rarely make it past the first week of January. I decided to go for three things in my new year makeover: become physically fit, eat better, and become a more positive person. I know, it’s super cliche, but it’s something that I wanted to do for myself, and I needed to find the motivation somewhere!

In becoming physically fit and eating better, I must say that I’m on a fantastic roll (if I do say so myself). I haven’t necessarily lost the weight that I want to, or toned myself to perfection, but by getting out more often and eating foods that don’t make me feel horrible, I’m finding that the positivity is just flowing freely! My husband actually described me this morning as a typically “aggressive” person. That’s not to say that I have severe road rage or I lash out at people irrationally (although this can happen from time to time), but I just have a very strong personality that is quick to get emotional and never easy to rest. That being said, in my quest to stay positive this year, I have found that it’s not easy, but I feel so much better about myself on a daily basis.

In terms of working out and eating better, that actually came naturally. Having been an athlete through much of my high school and college life, I found that I just got lazy after getting married and starting a career (scary, I know). It takes a while to get back into the habit, but once you develop a routine, it can actually feel easy! I started small with just a couple workouts a week. I do Pilates with a co-worker every Wednesday, and I work out at my office fitness center every Thursday. Since then, I’ve added some home DVD workouts, and I’ve picked up a couple classes at the local gym down the street from my house. All in all, I have high hopes for bikini season this year!

Although it hasn’t been easy, there have been several motivators that have kept me focused. I find that if you focus on a prize, you will find yourself dragging your body to the gym even if you don’t want to! I am in a wedding this summer that has motivated me to get in shape, but I have also found motivation in workout partners. This can be key to getting in the gym because not only do you not want to let yourself down, but you can’t disappoint others! And besides, once it’s all said and done, and you’ve reached your goals, you’ll look back and be glad you did it!

How much time is too much time?

So, it’s been two weeks since we last chatted, and in that time I’ve conducted a major event in my admissions office at work, written four papers for my two master’s classes, conducted countless class discussions, admitted a ridiculously high number of students to the university I work for, and so on! Also since we last spoke, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on Facebook and Twitter.

When I first embarked on Facebook, it was nothing more than a social outlet: period. I was a sophomore in college and it was the “IT” thing to be doing. I can’t tell you how many times the rumor in the cafeteria was someone’s relationship status or the embarassing pictures posted from the night before. Since this time, Facebook has developed into something so much more credible than I could have ever imagined. I use Facebook not only to keep up with friends, but to share things around the Internet that I find to be worthy of sharing, events at work, and so forth. It’s really become a way for me to express myself personally and professionally, not just a gossip mill!

The same thing can be said about Twitter. To be honest, when I first heard about Twitter, I was not on the bandwagon. In fact, it took me about a year after I saw all of my friends joining before I got on board. First of all, I’m not one for change. I was content with Facebook, and that was all I needed! I never joined MySpace and I had no intentions of joining Twitter until my sister (@LindsayElkins1) dragged me into it. Now that I’m starting to get the swing of things, I love it! I can’t get enough of the “Breaking News”, celebrity information and gossip, professional development tools, and so much more. All of this makes me think though, when have I spent enough time on Facebook and Twitter?

Sometimes when you’re stuck at your desk all day, Facebook and Twitter can become your “smoke break”. I have often found myself getting “angry” with Facebook when I check it five times in a day and run out of fresh information! To this end, about a week ago I decided I needed to set limits on my social networking time. Low and behold, Sarah Evans of Sevans Strategy developed a guide for her clients on how often you should socially network and what you should do to maximize your time. I thought this was really helpful in starting my journey to limit my social “outings”, and I hope you will too!

Check out her blog here: What’s Your Social Network Routine?

Welcome Back!

Welcome back, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve written because my original intention was to end this blog once my emerging media class ended. Since leaving the emerging media class, I’ve really jumped head-first into the world of Twitter, and I have to say that I’m thoroughly enjoying the give and take of information that social media allows! My Twitter experience has motivated me to start blogging again from time to time as I encounter experiences and information that strike my fancy.

Without the classroom guidelines of at least 200 words per blog post, at least one link per post, and so forth, I feel that I can freely express to you some of the things that have been going on in my life, will be going on in my life, and a little bit about public relations and integrated marketing in between! I hope that you will check back often, and feel free to subscribe to the blog at any time to get updates about when I post. With some exciting things on the horizon, I look forward to another level of communication give and take!

I’ll leave you with this latest viral video from American Idol… enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SY8uzqNi4sA

Sayonara–Until Next Time!

As much fun as exploring the world of blogging has been, it is time for my Emerging Media class to come to an end. This course has been a nine week journey of discovering the world of emerging media and also discovering how emerging media has crept into nearly every aspect of my life. My cell phones, my computer, even my television, have all fallen prey to the world of emerging media. Just yesterday, I followed the results of a football game that I was interested in on Twitter. Because the game wasn’t on television or the radio, I don’t know how else I would have kept up with it. It’s truly amazing to see how much our lives have been affected by emerging media and how much we rely on new technology today. While I’m grateful for it in some ways, I’m skeptical of it in other ways. This Emerging Media course has helped me to accept the concept for what it is, and embrace its nuances as waves of the future.

How have you been touched by emerging media? Was there a moment in your life when you asked yourself, “How did I ever live before a cell phone?” Do you think that we’ll look back in several years and ask ourselves this same question about Facebook and Twitter? Time can only tell what the future holds for emerging media and how much farther we can emerge from here. Of course, we haven’t seen the last of paid advertising, Facebook, Twitter, paid placement, mobile advertising, social networking for campaigns, or any of the other topics that we’ve covered during this term.

Once again, I would like to thank each of you who have taken the time to comment, lament, or argue about any of the topics that I presented this semester. We all have differing views when it comes to media, how we use it, and how it uses us. I have appreciated each of your comments and I welcome any additional comments that you may have in the future. While I most likely will not continue this blog, I am not opposed to starting my own blog on topics that I’m passionate about, and I welcome each of you to find me there in the future. Until next time…

Caution: Internet Ahead!

This week’s topic in emerging media surrounds ethical codes and laws that govern the Internet and other uses of emerging media. This gets one to think… what does govern the Internet? It has traditionally been said that the Internet has no gatekeepers. You can say whatever you want and do whatever you want on the Internet. Let’s face it, you have to approach the Internet with caution. For instance, I could say that the United States government hands out lollipops to all citizens once a year and maybe someone from another country who doesn’t know any better could believe it. The same goes for other countries that I am unfamiliar with. Because there is no one that monitors our Internet, we can say things (whether we mean to be untruthful or not) and they can be viewed as truth. As I said, approach the Internet with caution because you never know what you’re going to get!

I did a search on Google for information concerning gatekeepers on the Internet, and I found an interesting blog that claims that Google and Wikipedia are the new gatekeepers of the Internet. This blog claims that Google is the starting point of the Internet. How many of us jump on the Internet and go straight to Google? Some of us even have Google set as our homepage! When looking for information on gatekeepers, the first thing I did was go straight to Google. To say that Google holds the Internet in their hands would be an understatement. Previously, we talked about paid placement and paid advertisement on Google. If Google is the theoretical “starting point” of the Internet, and they control what items pop up first in a search, then they basically control what we do and do not see while we’re on the Internet. While this is a loose interpretation because not everyone uses Google as their primary search engine, it does seem to fit together. The blog went on to say that Wikipedia is the largest paid placement site on Google; therefore, if Google is the starting point of the Internet, and it always points us to Wikipedia, then that’s the primary source of information on the Internet. This is just a little scary, to me anyway, because Wikipedia pages can be edited by anyone who has access to do so. So when it all boils down, according to this blog that I ran across, the Internet primarily leads us to loosely factual information.

I’ve said it twice, and I’ll say it again, approach the Internet with CAUTION!

Ready or Not, Here it Comes!

How far can emerging marketing take over our lives? Sure, Twitter and Facebook are all the rage today, but we can easily avoid those vices. While we can access those outlets through our cell phones and choose to have messages sent to our cell phones, we don’t receive unwanted messages from those outlets. In the event that we do, we simply log on, and block them. But what about the messages we receive on our cell phones that we don’t want? And especially the ones that we can’t get rid of?! How many of us have received messages from our cell phone carriers about new towers in the area, special offers on products for our phone, and reminders about upgrades? We can’t avoid these messages because, obviously, they have our number! In addition to our cell phone carriers having our phone numbers, many other companies and organizations around the world have our cell phone numbers as well. Anytime we have given out our phone numbers for a catalog subscription, sign up for more information on an organization, or simply give out our cell phone number to a cashier who asks for it during a  check out, we are allowing those companies to utilize mobile marketing through our cell phones.

When searching online, you can find many case studies concerning the benefits of mobile marketing. Many campaigns, including the Presidential campaign, have turned to mobile marketing in order to appease consumers and reach them in ways that they couldn’t have otherwise. With the invention of DVR, many companies can no longer turn to commercials as a main outlet, and with satellite radio on the rise, they can’t use radio anymore either! Nearly everyone has a mobile phone and uses it these days—brilliant idea to reach them in that way! While there are consumer privacy laws when utilizing mobile marketing, many companies and organizations choose to use cell phone numbers to reach consumers in ways that they may not have otherwise. If you aren’t familiar with mobile marketing, I would definitely recommend checking out the Mobile Marketing Association website. There are several outstanding case studies and articles considering the medium, as well as the laws that govern this type of marketing.

Are You There Prospective Student? It’s Me, Mergie!

I recently began a new job as an admissions counselor for a university near my hometown. In this role as an admission counselor, it is my job to travel to various parts of the country (I have seen areas of Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan to be exact!) and recruit students to attend my university. This recruiting is done through college fairs and programs as well as private high school visits. In addition to recruiting students through these events, it is also my job to nurture the relationship between myself and the student in order to encourage the student to apply to the university and hopefully attend.

During my time on the road, I have been reaching out to students through personal interaction (at the fairs and high school visits), through telephone conversations, and through postcards. During the telephone conversations, I am letting students know that we have received their application and I am encouraging them to send additional information to make their applications complete. With the postcard correspondence, I am encouraging students to go online and use our electronic application, as well as register for one of our fall visitation days.

As I have been on the road, I have been trying to think of additional ways to reach students. Face to face contact, personal phone calls, and personalized postcards are all nice gestures, but how can one truly reach a high school student in order to gain their attention, encourage them to come for a visit, urge them to apply, and then reassure them in attending? I decided to try my hand at one of the classic emerging media tactics—Facebook. Just two days ago, I created a Facebook account specifically for my admissions “persona”. This Facebook account is separate from my personal account, and I initially began the postings with reminders about our online application, our fall visit days, and an article about our nationally ranked football team. Once I had started some activity, I began selecting friends. I started slow by asking other admissions counselors and representatives to be my friends, and then I began asking students. In two days, I have already received correspondence from some of my potential students, and I have reminded them to take the necessary steps for admittance. In just TWO days, this already seems to be the best way to reach students on their own level.

As I seek more ways to interact with high school students, I have to ask—what makes a high school student tick? If I could find a way to get into their text messages that would obviously be the best possible route, but what other mediums are high school students using? As I continue to cultivate relationships through the Facebook page, I would love to hear suggestions from each of you on how you think I might best reach today’s high school students. Would it be through Twitter? Are kids today still on MySpace? I invite your thoughts and opinions…

Engagement… Not What it Used to Be!

I was recently drawn to an article concerning the world’s top 100 engaging brands. Interestingly enough, I was drawn to this article through the Twitter account of my master’s program (IMC). The article has a  lot of great things to say about how the top 100 companies are engaging their consumers today, particularly with emerging media methods. The companies were ranked based on the number of channels they use to engage their consumers, as well as their effectiveness with these channels. Furthermore, the researchers investigated how receptive consumers were to the various channels.  After all, what good does it do a company like Starbucks to engage themselves in hundreds of channels if consumers aren’t responsive?

The point of this interesting article is simple. In order to be the best today, you have to be engaging. What does engaging mean? At one point in time, engaging meant that you could hold an interesting conversation, or maybe that you had done something fascinating that warranted a response. Today’s definition of engaging is emerging. Shocking that I would be in a course about emerging media and learn that engagement tactics are ever emerging! Where would companies like Starbucks be if they weren’t engaging consumers through iTunes? Where would Barack Obama be if he hadn’t engaged constituents through Facebook? Where would I be if I hadn’t discovered the engagement article through the IMC Twitter account?

We live in a cyclical world today. Almost everything we see, touch, and do is viral, and thus engaging. Remember the wedding dance video that we discussed earlier in the term? Did anyone happen to see last week’s episode of The Office? The wedding dance video was so far-reaching that it was reenacted on one of today’s most popular television shows. Obviously, one of the show’s writers must have found this viral video engaging.

What engages you? Is it a newspaper online? A feed on Facebook? A series of tweets on Twitter? What companies do you find to be the most engaging as far as emerging media is concerned? There is a great deal to learn from companies and individuals today as we attempt to steal fleeting moments of attention from our most prized audience members.

How Much Further Can We Emerge?

Over the course of my time in the Emerging Media class, I have come to discover just how many ways emerging media has affected my life. It has crept into nearly every crevice, every nook, and every cranny that I can think of in my life. I am addicted to my Blackberry. I can’t go anywhere without it, and through my Blackberry I’m constantly connected to Facebook and now Twitter.  Through these mediums, I keep up with friends near and far, and I even follow celebrities and companies that I am a fan of. This allows me to not only get information, but stay entertained when I find myself in a situation where I need to kill some time! In addition to my Blackberry, my laptop is my sidekick. Because I travel so frequently for work (particularly in the Fall), I don’t even own a desktop computer in my home or at my office.  Through my laptop, I work on my class work, I work on these blog posts, and I do all of my office work while I’m on the road. If it weren’t for the invention of the laptop, where would we be? It seems almost impossible for the working professional to function without one, and for those of us in the Integrated Marketing Communications program, it would be very difficult to travel and take courses at the same time.

Through my use of portable emerging mediums, I have had the ability to do work everywhere! I do my class work and blog posts from hotel rooms, airports, in waiting rooms, in restaurants, and so many more places. The ability to be and stay connected to the world around me, even the fact that I’m doing my master’s degree online, proves the fact that the wave of the future is portability. Our current emerging mediums will only be “emerging” for so long. It seems as though the current emerging outlets are interactive and portable, but what will tomorrow’s emerging outlets offer? Can we get more interactive? Can we be more portable? Only time will tell, but I invite your thoughts and ideas on this topic.

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