Mary Janes Longing, the Happy Ending

We interrupt this important social media and public relations commentary with breaking shoe news.

Some of you may remember my longing for a certain pair of Mary Janes last summer. No? Let me refresh your memory.

Caught up? Okay. So, even before the economy crashed and my position was eliminated, no way was I paying $189-$229 for that pair of Mary Jane espadrilles. I kept my eye on them, looked for sales at the end of the season. Nothing.

But look what I found today! At Payless!

Don’t you just love a style inspiration? And don’t you especially love that these cost $14.99 instead of $229? Yeah, I thought so. Just save me a pair in 8 1/2, okay?

And some big linky love for Bargainist, which told me about Payless’ big summer sale, which led me to the espadrille section and the objects of my affection.

Measuring Social Media

When I worked for a public relations firm, measuring the ROI of social media was critical, but difficult. These communications tools were new, measurement guidelines seemed to contradict each other and new advice popped up daily. But we still had to explain to our clients why we thought creating a Facebook group, a blog, a Twitter profile or a YouTube channel would help reach their business objectives. So we measured what we could.

We measured how many followers signed up for their Twitter feed, how many comments posted to a blog entry or how web traffic ebbed or flowed when we had blog posts, tweets and status updates linking to a particular page. Good numbers, right? But while the numbers can represent one kind of success, the real measure of social media is engagement and relationships.

As I explain to executives, university students, nonprofits (whoever asks me to talk about one of my favorite subjects), social media is about sharing, connecting, conversation, a dialogue. So does measuring the number of Twitter followers show engagement? How about when you take the auto-follow bots out? Of course not. It’s time for real social media measurement.

That’s why I’m so exciting a social media measurement guru is coming to the PRSA Tar Heel chapter’s monthly meeting next Tuesday. KD Paine has been measuring PR and communications for two decades. I started following her on Twitter a little while ago, reading her blog and catching some of her presentations from other communications conventions. Here are the explanations I’ve been looking for. Let me link you to two:

On Tuesday, Paine’s talk at the Greensboro-High Point Airport Marriott is called “Yes You CAN Measure Social Media”. For a nominal fee, which also buys your lunch and allows you to network with other communications professionals, you can soak up all the smart measurement advice Paine can dish out. Register here.

There’s a Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times.” It can be both a blessing and a curse. But as public relations professionals we are living through VERY interesting times. Not only is the economy doing its rollercoaster ride, but we are watching print and broadcast journalism change before our eyes, bad pitches held up to public ridicule, and the whirlwind 24/7 news cycle spin even faster through social media’s instantaneous updates and live feeds.

Social media is a new communications tool with a big impact on our profession. Know how and when to use it, and how to measure it when we do, can help us. And we CAN measure it. Look for me at the Marriott on Tuesday!

It’s such an honor to be nominated …

You hear celebrities say that all the time in the mad rush up to the Gold Globes/SAG/BAFTA/Academy Awards ceremonies, and you wonder if they really mean it. Well, I may never walk the red carpet outside the Kodak Theatre, but I can tell you it’s an honor for your work to be nominated for an award.

Two weeks ago, my agency downsized and I held one of the positions that was eliminated. The week after that, I learned the campaign I led was a finalist for the PRSA Silver Anvil awards. Even though I won’t be going to the ceremony and may never get to actually touch the award, I can tell you the honor feels like an Oscar already on my mantle.

And just this morning, the same campaign was named one of five finalists for the Silver SABRE award. I’m really overwhelmed. There are judges in New York who are impressed with my work.

I won’t turn this post into a Sally Field moment:

but I’m awfully pleased and excited. It’ll be hard to wait for May 12 and June 4 to find out what happens at the awards ceremonies. But I don’t think it will be as hard as finding a new job in one of the four states with the highest unemployment due to the economy.

But they say those big movie awards usually open doors for those who win and sometimes for those who are just nominated. I wonder what this will do for me in these uncertain times?

How to get great customer service

As a rule, I generally get good customer service. It’s not perfect all the time, but more often than not, I get the help I need. My friends have always asked how I do it, so I thought I’d share the information that has helped me. Here are my top 5 ways to get great customer service.

1. Be polite. Along the lines of “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, being polite to the person taking your order, helping you with a return or explaining that it will take six tries to fix your home PC (this really happened to me!) will get you further. You may be caught in a frustrating situation, but raising your voice or cursing will only alienate the person who has the power to help you.

2. Ask for what you want. Do you want store credit or cash for that return? Do you think your PC should replaced under your extended warranty? Did your favorite restaurant change the menu, removing your favorite lunch dish? Ask them to help you out. Try these magic words “It would really help me if you could …” or “What I’d really like to see is …”.

3. Know the rules. Sometimes you may think you’re getting a bad deal because you don’t know the terms of service. Even though the sign on the shelf says the razor blades are on sale, the circular actually says you need to buy two packages to get that deal. So berating the cashier won’t help you here. Knowing the rules also will help you when you do have the right information, and the cashier or representative does not. Asking for a manager here can also help you out.

4. Take good notes. Especially if you are dealing with something over the phone. Write down the name of the person you are talking with, the date you talked (even the time!), and summarize the situation in a note. Write down any case numbers or incident numbers. If you have to call again, you can reference that call and the representative may be able to find that conversation in their computer system. Be prepared to recount your understanding of the call, and be sure to politely but firmly correct any misunderstandings on the other end. Their notes might be different than yours. If you reach an impasse, ask for a supervisor.

5. Turn your adversary into an ally. If you start a confrontation, you’ll just reach the stone wall of “I can not help you with that at this time.” (Which may have you wondering — then at WHAT time can you help me???!! — but don’t say that out loud.) Take the position that you’re both in this together and you both have the same goal: reaching an amicable solution to the problem, especially one that’s in your favor. Use some humor. Listen when they explain the situation. Repeat back to them:

So you’re saying that my extended warranty allows you to try to fix my PC three times? But I have had six visits from a technician.

Oh, I see — you count the number of parts shipped to me and not tech visits. So if this last one doesn’t work?

Oh, so what you’re saying is that if this last part does not fix my problem, you will send me a replacement PC at no cost to me? I understand your system now.

Good luck. Do you have any tried and true customer service tips? Let’s share them in the comments.

Personalizing your news

Through RSS feeds and good aggregators like Google Reader, you’ve long been able to send a variety of blogs, news sites and other web content to one place to read at your leisure. If you haven’t done it yet, you’re in for a treat. Unless you’re not a news junkie like me.

But a favorite aggregator source of mine just took it one better. If you’ve never heard of Alltop, it’s a place that aggregates blogs and RSS feeds under topics. I bookmarked Alltop PR, for example and even had a great shortcut on my desktop where I could scan dozens of blogs and other news about my industry.

Now there’s My Alltop. You can see mine at And that’s just one of the things that makes this service so timely. You can share your link with others. Alltop started the ball rolling by asking some of the well-known social media folks out there to create their My Alltop and share it. You can find your favorite guru and check out blogs and sources you might never have encountered otherwise.

As a former journalist, I find myself haunting news sites on the web the way I used to stand over the UPI and AP machines. (Oops, just dated myself!) We used to get the news by teletype, printed at certain times of the day. And if you missed a feed, you’d have to call the local AP office and ask for a refeed or just fill in your newscast with some other roundup. We called it “the wire” — as in “Did you check the wire for the state roundup?” Later, we got the wires via computer in the newsroom. And when I left the newsroom, I called the Internet, the wires, for quite some time. Fully recovered now though.

So, how do you like to get your news? In a paper, delivered in the morning? On TV scattered throughout the day? Or on the internet — where you search it out?

Drinks First?

So my computer needs a tattoo. Actually, my motherboard needs a tattoo. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried, right? My home machine has been out of commission for almost a month now, and thanks to my extended warranty, I have faith that it will be up and running again soon.

But a tattoo? What’s the protocol for getting your motherboard a tattoo? Does it need a wild night out with the hard drives, the CPUs and the memory to sustain enough libations and pressure to encourage it? Will the external hard drive keep the photos of this inky moment in time forever as blackmail? Will the RAM even remember telling the motherboard “Aww, come on, it doesn’t hurt!”

I mean, we’re talking a motherboard. What will the kids think of mom getting a tattoo?

And what about me? I’m a “to each his own” kind of girl but have never seen the allure of getting a tattoo personally. I grew up around a military base, where lots of leathernecks sported tats, but in a generation where “Miami ink” meant buying a cool pen at the beach. Now I’ll have a tattooed wonder inside my home office. I’ll have to hide this from the tween.

I picture this tattoo as a red heart, or maybe a rose with “Mother” inscribed upon it. The kind of tattoo that Popeye the Sailor Man would have picked to show his love for Olive Oyl.

When my new tattooed motherboard arrives in the next few days, I hope it lasts inside my computer the way an actual tattoo lasts upon your skin. Permanently.

Image from protectorr’s photostream on Flickr.

Coveting Chic Technology

How I’ll be HP’s Cupid for an HP Vivienne Tam Special Edition Notebook

So Cupid only has a bow and arrows to make people fall in love, but I have a love of writing and the World Wide Web at my fingertips. My husband and I have long been HP users – we started with printers back in the 1990s, and then I bought the coolest HP scanjet (the vertical one that’s see through? Love it! I’ve seen it on CSI too.) and now we have an HP media center PC. I love it, but rarely get to use it.

Did I mention my husband was born on Valentine’s Day? And that he is a PC gamer? With a lot of games? Each year for his birthday, I get him the game he’s dying to play and he goes off to bond with the computer and his military strategy game. While Valentine’s Day is important to us, I like to celebrate it more as his birthday. It seems more fair that way. I don’t have to buy him a present on my birthday (which is the anniversary of an event that ended World War II, but that’s beside the point), but he feels obligated to buy me one on his.

So if I won the HP Mini Vivienne Tam Special Edition Digital Clutch, he would be so off the hook. He would be free to hog the PC downstairs, while I could take my beautiful peony-strewn digital clutch anywhere. I could surf the web from my daughter’s homework spot at the kitchen table to help her with her studies. I could take the HP Vivienne Tam Digital Clutch up to the baby’s room to download lullabies for my MP3 player to soothe her to sleep, or play soothing videos when she wakes up in the middle of the night. Both girls would learn that technology is beautiful as they admire the sleek lines and bold floral print.

I could take my darling digital clutch to my room and indulge in a little me time as I catch up with friends and family with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’d tell all my fellow Twittermoms about my cool HP digital clutch, and maybe, finally, I’d be able to use the computer at night and attend tweetups and chats that are right now out of my reach because my darling husband’s left flank is sneaking up on a squadron of enemy fighters and that strategy he’d been putting together for days would fall apart if he stopped, or my tween has to attend to her Webkinz before they all become sick from unhappiness or whatever happens to those digital pets.

I could take it on business trips and impress my clients and strangers in the airport – especially those folks who are huddled around the one outlet at the gate, trying to get enough juice to keep their dwindling laptop batteries charged while I surf the web with plenty of battery power in this fashion-forward and technologically chic digital clutch. And since it fits right in my handbag, I would never have to pay those extra bag fees or juggle a laptop bag and purse again. If I were in New York very early in the morning, I would go stand behind the fence at the Today show and just hold my HP Mini Vivienne Tam Special Edition Digital Clutch up in the air instead of one of those signs about it being my birthday. You know all the camera operators would zoom right in on me for that.

I would tell EVERYONE that I am online and HOW I am online and finally my New Year’s resolution to stay in better touch would come true because I would be able to finally get the digital pictures off my camera and uploaded to the web via my HP Mini Vivienne Tam special edition notebook so my girlfriends and I could talk about everything that’s going on with our lives since we all scattered to the four winds. I would infect them with desire to have their own darling HP Vivienne Tam Digital Clutches, and their husbands would see the light – how adding one tiny little piece of technology could make a home run happier and healthier because let’s face it, the saying is true: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy.

In closing, a brief limerick:

There once was a girl from Carolina

Who thought that there’d be nothing finer,

Than an HP Vivi Tam Digi Clutch

She would use it so much,

As a Facebook Fashionista, Diva web surfer divine-er.

Happy Last Year of the Aughts, or Double O’s or Zeroes!

I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the New Year. I know all the media and the economic news shouldn’t make me feel this way, but I’m thinking a positive outlook is the way to go right now.

And there’s something to celebrate. This is the last year of the first decade of the new millennium. So we’re nine years in and we haven’t figured out what to call this decade. We called this decade the “early 1900s” the last time it happened. Should we dust it off with a smidgen of an update and refer to this long trek through terror, war and economic uncertainty as the “early 2000’s”?

It doesn’t have the same ring as the “nineteen hundreds” does it? The “two-thousands” just doesn’t have the same historical weight to the term to me.

Then there’s the Aughts, which is what people in the “early 1900’s” called zeros. Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man” is supposedly a member of the Indiana Music conservatory’s gold-medal class of aught-five. (05) But he was lying about that. So should we trust the aughts?

I’ve heard some people propose the “double-o’s”. Like 007. Bond. James Bond. So last year would be double-o-eight? This year is double-o-nine. Licensed to chill.

And then there’s the Zeros. Which brings me to this:

There’s nothing like Schoolhouse Rock to put things in perspective. Where would we be without zero? My hero. How wonderful you are.