Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shopping Online & Getting the Best Deal

I do a lot of shopping online. My family would probably say I have a bit of a problem because a package seems to arrive for me everyday from somewhere. I really need to get a P.O. box to avoid an intervention.

Anyway, when I shop online I do a lot of research to find just what I want at the best price.  So I wanted to pull together a few thoughts that might come in handy for your online shopping escapades.

Searching for the best price - When I first begin my search, I visit Bizrate to get a baseline for what the price landscape might look like for a particular item. This site scrapes the web for all the places the product is being sold and gives you a price range.  I then visit the brand's website directly, do a quick drive-by on Amazon and then do a quick search on Ebay.  You'd be surprised at the price range that exists for some products. Getting the lowest price isn't hard if you do your research.

Getting Ideas - If  I have something in mind that I want but don't have a brand or design in mind, I will visit  Pinterest for ideas.  Just enter what you are looking for in the search bar and ideas will be presented to you immediately. It is also a great way to see the latest looks.

Finding Something Unique - I love to have cool things that no one else has.  I really get a kick out of someone asking where I got something.  And more often than not, when this happens it is something that I bought on Etsy, a online marketplace for handmade and vintage items.  If you are looking for unique household items, one-of-a-kind jewelry or other accessories, you have found your home.  The site is quite addictive, but can also be inspiring.  If you don't find exactly what you want, there is likely a seller on Etsy who will make it custom for you.  

Enough blogging for now, back to some online shopping.  Let the games begin!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Return of Susan E - I'm back!

I started this blog nearly a year ago and only did a handful of posts before letting it fall of my list of priorities. But I'm on my way back from Blogher and feeling a bit inspired so I am going to try and give it another go. 

Speaking of being on my way back from Blogher, there is a woman sitting next to me playing a video game with no headphones and it is loud. No one will say anything to her, so I am just sitting here taking it. From my days in the airline business, I know that people can pretty much lose their mind on a plane, not to mention their sensibilities. Common courtesy often goes out the window and damn those people that recline their seats! Sometimes I wish the flight attendants could just hand out big pink slips that read "violation"at the top to publicly embarrass some of these fools. I'll have to do that if i ever own my own carrier:) 

So my first Blogher was a pretty cool experience. Lots of fascinating women from all over the world and with an endless array of interests. Granted some of them were really wacky, but most were people you'd want to get to know better. I was probably most fascinated by the dedication many of them have to their blogs. Some even said they are "addicted" to posting. I wish I could develop that habit. I always thought having a blog seemed like a good outlet, but the bug never quite bit me. 

As look at starting up again, I still am a little stumped at what I will write about. I have a bag full of products from companies that attended blogher with the hope of getting some conversation going surrounding their wares, but I'm not certain that is the way I want to go. If I do, it will certainly be products that I am truly interested in. Probably not the latest teeth-whitening options and I don't think I'll be writing about the vibrators they gave out. Seriously! I couldn't stop laughing, but I happily accepted it. Some of my more "adventurous" friends will be proud. 

Anyway, I will keep thinking and posting. It will come together somehow, someway.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What Improv Class Taught me About Life & Work

As a former Midwesterner, living in the south has always been a challenge. Grasping the mild-mannered, southern way of doing things had always eluded me. It wasn’t as simple as being sure that you said the requisite “yes ma’am” or added a “Ms.” or “Mr.” in front of a person’s first name. There was so much more to it and the best way I can describe what makes you successful is using the art of “polite disagreement.”

In the Midwest, practicing “polite disagreement” would probably not allow you to achieve your intended result and people might even consider you a pushover. In fact, it wouldn’t matter whether you were negotiating who’s turn it was for the swing on the playground or determining what approach to take for launching a public relations campaign for a Fortune 500 company, the end result would probably leave you high and dry (and in the case of the playground scenario, maybe even beat up).

Bottom line, you always had to stand-up for yourself, tell them what you want and make it happen on your timeline. This approach worked well for years. People around me had always been impressed with my “get it done attitude,” but in the south I became known as a “bull in a china shop.” It was a label that I hated. No matter how hard I tried to change my approach in my interactions with friends, coworkers, etc. it always came up short. Regardless of this, I had a successful career, but I started to hit my own “glass ceiling” of sorts, until I came across Village Theatre, a small local improv theatre. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but bare with me.

I have always been a fan of improv and was thrilled to find a theatre with such a talented cast, not to mention one with a BYOB policy*. In my mind, there are few things better in life then cheap theatre, cheap drinks and cheap laughs.

It was during a performance that I had attended with some friends that one of the cast members mentioned an upcoming intro to improv class they were offering. After a few drinks and a couple of good laughs, I announced to my friends that I was going to do it. Adding this to my list of “well it seemed like a good idea at the time, “ when I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t help but chuckle. But since I rarely, well pretty much never, say I am going to do something and not go through with it, I pressed on and signed-up.

It was a long 12 + weeks of classes and even though the class only met weekly for 2 hours, I dragged myself to those classes after a long day of work. But once I got there, it seemed as though magic would happen. I realized along with learning the basics of improv, I was also learning a key nugget of wisdom.

Over the course of the classes, I began to understand and learn how to practice “polite disagreement.” Probably one of the most basic concepts of improv is the “yes and” approach. The idea being that when you are doing a scene with another person, you never negate what they are saying. Instead you embrace their idea and build on it. In doing this, it doesn’t mean that you can’t refocus the skit in a direction you would like it to move, but it shows the person and those watching that you are working together. So in the end you might not get what you want right away, but with some patience you could get there and leave the person you were dealing with in a good place too. Eureka!

As I worked to hone this concept, after class each week I would try to use it at work and at home. The results were immediate and amazing. All of a sudden, projects that I was having a difficulty with because of a lack of consensus were moving forward and I think my family even noticed a change.

Last night, my Level 1 improv class came to an end with a graduation show (my class did a pretty awesome job I might add). As we wrapped up that show and I stepped out on the stage for the last time, I was so proud of what I had done and so happy to be on a new path with so many possibilities. I can’t wait to see what happens in Level 2!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Influencer Management on the "Interweb"

It's like the Wild Wild West out there when it comes to identifying and maintaining relationships with influencers to support your brands reputation management efforts. Just staying on top of the latest topic du jour, written by an ever-shifting landscape of influencers can be a challenge. Sure there are mainstay blogs and websites that have emerged and contributors to these are a bit easier to follow, but some are still unsure what they want to be when they grow up and lack accountability.

Probably one of my biggest frustrations are blogs that censor the comments of organizations that attempt to offer legitimate observations about a post in which they are referenced. You can imagine that this becomes even more critical on those occasions when dealing with a blogger who consistently opts to not call for comment. You would probably be shocked at some of the well-established blogs that are offenders. Some of which are funded by organizations that traditionally have had impeccable reputations.

I haven't been able to understand the rationale they must follow where they think that it is acceptable in this day and age of the "interweb" to not allow participation in the conversation they are starting. Journalistic standards notwithstanding, seems to me that this approach runs counter to exactly what social media is all about.

Before I start to make this seem like a rant against any one blog, I'd like to offer one reminder. Regardless of what you might think about a particular organization, keep in mind that in many cases there are communications practitioners serving as representatives who believe their reputation is on the line everyday.

In fact, there is no place in this new world for traditional "spin doctors." Social media has made us all more accountable and forced an evolution in which the survivors will be those that believe their reputation is more important then trying to offer the latest company spin. We are out there. My word is my bond.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ethical Practices in Social Media: Can Someone Tell Me Where to Find Them?

I have just sat through another presentation laying out the rules of the road for ethical guidelines within social media. The description of the talk along with its presenter had given me such high hopes. I actually thought that maybe I would glean some nugget of wisdom. But it was not to be and instead of actually learning something useful, I sat through yet another speech on common sense. Although interestingly, based on some of the case studies of those that have gone astray, I seem to be way ahead of the game:) Along with this, it is always entertaining to listen to the case study of the company that thought it was okay to pay an "independent" blogger for a positive post. Laughable even.

Regardless of how strict one might think the guidelines should be, there is a need. If you think about it, speed limits were probably put in place for people who aren't skilled drivers, might push it just a bit to far and cause an accident or get themselves killed. I think the same holds true for bloggers, although the consequences are likely to be less severe. At the end of the day, we can't have one person or group destroying the credibility of an entire community.

The guidelines must speak to a broad range of topics and not be limited to addressing "pay for play" issues. To start with, we need a standardized system by which bloggers can be both rated and ranked. The system must be based on an algorithm that people who didn't major in Mathematics can understand and one that can't be gamed. There should also be some way to measure credibility on which a critical mass can agree and we need to get past the "if you don't do this for me, I am going to write a nasty post about you." Those social media extortionists are the worst. I sometimes daydream of making a sport out of exposing these people. How do they sleep? Anyway, bless their hearts (great phrase I picked up here in the South that comes in handy when you have nothing nice to say).

Who will take this on? How can we develop guidelines that aren't unnecessarily strict, but that can help us all be more productive in the quality of information we are sharing, and speak to best practices around where and how it is being shared? I feel like the concept that "social media makes everyone a reporter" will plateau and innovation will slow without some framework.

Any volunteers?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Request of Justin Bieber: "Please Don't Turn Into a Mess"

As it turns out my 6-year-old has become a Justin Bieber fan. I can't tell you how many times I have heard my son's version of "Baby." I'm a little embarrassed to say that I actually like the song, but let's be clear I have no intention of becoming one of those thirty-something moms that fawn over him at his concert.

In any case, as any dutiful fan would my son asked to see Bieber's "Never Say Never" movie. I didn't see any downside and we went. Now the movie was pretty cute and almost touching in a way. Bieber has a good rags to riches story and his dedication to becoming an accomplished performer is impressive. The intensity with which he watched the movie was so endearing. But it was then I also realized that he looked up to this pop star as a role model.

Honestly, it made me a little fearful for what was to come for Bieber in both his career and life. It actually matters to me now because my son will now see the accomplishments and the failures along the way of his role model. The trend is pretty clear with these types of stars and they almost always have some sexual escapade, drug overdose or other controversy that surfaces.

I have seen this happen to other pop stars in the past and found the whole situation almost entertaining to read and hear about. Not ever really having been at an age where their escapades would impact my life decisions one way or another.

But today, I am a mom and one that so badly doesn't want her son to grow up too fast. So, I have but one request of Justin Bieber: "Please don't become a mess, Spencer is watching."