A pause on the path


When things stick out of their surroundings, I like to photograph them. I cannot explain the surface of this tree–if it is healthy, sick, stripped or simply a softwood in the midst of a forest of hardwoods–but it caught my eye. The addition of the vine traveling up the surface made it even more interesting to me.

A solid foundation


Years ago, at an office Christmas party held at a local dinner theatre, I found myself and a member of our board of directors seated at a table with two women we did not know. During intermission we went beyond the basic introductions. Our dinner companions wanted to know more about our organization.

I gave a boilerplate answer, possibly because I started writing boilerplates way back in 1996, but evidently the delivery was anything but rote because one of the women smiled and commented that I obviously enjoyed my job and believed in the work of the organization.

Knowing, and being able to explain, why you do what you do is at least as important as being able to explain what you do. Equally important is being able to articulate in a concise way, and without slandering your competition, why or how you do a better job than others in your field.

There are so many great presentations on LinkedIn SlideShare; it’s a great resource. I ran across one recently and didn’t have to go beyond the third or fourth slide before finding a nifty exercise that could get you started on a more-focused marketing effort.

The presentation is on Small Business Promotion*, and the exercise is on the topic of Value Proposition. The producer, McGraw-Hill, defines the latter as “small business owners’ unique selling points that will be used to differentiate their products and services.”

I think the exercise would also help non-profits as they develop a mission statement, but there are so many resources out there for mission statements, that may be a topic for another post. Still, if you manage, direct, or are on the board of, a non-profit, I suggest you give it a go.

Complete the following, filling in key details about your business or organization in parentheses:

For (target customer), who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (your business name) is a (product or service category) that (statement of key benefit) unlike (primary competitive alternative). Our business (statement of primary differentiation) is available (where).

Here’s an example:

For the pet lover and frequent traveler who wants the very best for his animal friends, P.T. Friendly’s Pet Sitting Service provides flexible, professional in-home pet care for residents of the tri-county area. Our well trained and bonded staff care for all kinds of pets, including reptiles, arachnids and other animals that our competitors sometimes refuse. Our services include feeding, bathing/cleaning, meds, exercise/engagement, and transport to your veterinarian in case of emergency. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and on the web at yourwebaddress. Phone XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Note the phrase “other animals that our competitors sometimes refuse.” No names are given, and the use of the word “sometimes” means you don’t have to worry about someone calling you with a challenge.

Need other ideas …

  • Is your business in a small town? Emphasize if yours is the only product/service available locally.
  • Training, certification and recommendations from respected people in the community are other ways you can separate your business from the rest of the pack.

A bonus to this little exercise is that, when you have the statement above perfected, you have the start of a blog, brochure, the “about” section for a Facebook page or Twitter feed, and a boilerplate for press releases. And you will always be ready to answer the question, “what do you do,” concisely with detail and enthusiasm.

If you find yourself struggling to complete this exercise, drop me a line. I’d love to help.

*Small Business Promotion: Capturing the Eyes of Your Market, 2009, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.







Winter in Magnolia


This fence separating the yard from the garden and orchard at my maternal grandparents’ home was temporarily bejeweled by an ice and snow storm several years ago. Yesterday’s snowstorm reminded me of the many snowy days and nights spent at my grandparents’ home, and our nearby farm, in Magnolia, Ky., especially during the winters of 1976-78. Weeks without school, days of winter fun that slowly became icy boredom, long underwear, wet socks and thawing the dog’s water dish every morning.

Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (snow fun)


Hello all. Chip here.

I hate snow. I hate cold. I hate rain. The photo above is representative of my attitude regarding outdoor activities in these conditions: “I’m waiting! Open the door … now!”

I’m not being difficult. I’m being honest to my (mostly) Mexican breeding. For a peek at some of the terrain which bears my breed’s name*


Average temperature, 75 delicious degrees according to an article on a certain free online encyclopedia.

Nothing so clearly reveals the inequality of the stations designated for canines, felines and homo sapiens than the current weather in the ‘Ville. Cats and people evidently are members of a rarified class that “do their business,” indoors. Someone please show me the rule book that states I, as a canine, must go outside to relieve myself.

It doesn’t take much snow to render a parking lot or lawn impassable for me. One wrong step and I’m in over my head, literally. Additionally is the indignity of being dressed like an argyle-encased kielbasa. I must point out that, even with the sweater, my feet and backside are as bare as the day I was born. Brrrr.

In fairness I should point out that Prue** seems cognizant (as much as any biped with opposable thumbs can be) of my challenges. This morning, she donned her winter ensemble, left me indoors and headed out into the elements to scout a location before stuffing me into the sweater. She also carried me through the deeper parts. Her reconnoiter is necessary because we live in a condo; the “grounds” are copious, not our own, and it’s not possible to just scoot me out the back door.

We ran across a simple but clever idea on Pinterest the other day. If you have a small dog and a yard, I cannot recommend it enough. Before the snow comes, scout out a place near the door and lay down a tarp. Post-snowfall, lift a corner of the tarp and voila, a snow-free spot on which your canine may take care of business.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has these tips on taking good care of your pets in cold weather. Give it a look.

We are hoping to get back to park-hopping soon, so keep watching this space for the latest installment.

Here’s hoping for an early spring!


*Photo of Chihuahua Desert near Sierra Blanca, Texas, by Ricraider, September 2013.

**Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything


Good advice, warts and all


It pains me to recommend an article that contains grammatical errors, however, the content is pretty good. Shame on the author and Forbes.com, though, for poor proofreading and using a negative headline.

Finger wagging is finished, for the moment.

Daniel Newman makes some great observations about how businesses often miss the benefit of using social media because they treat it as advertising instead of a venue for dialogue and authentic information sharing.

Yes, social media advertising exists, and there is a place for it, but putting “ad speak” (One Day Only! Prices Slashed! Too Much Inventory!) in Tweets and status updates essentially just creates background noise on those platforms that users will be in a hurry to tune out.

“Most people aren’t on social media to make a purchase,” Newman writes. “They’re there to interact with friends, and learn about the world around them.”

As I’ve noted myself in this space, think like a user, not as a business owner. Why do you use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? Words such as “community,” “news,” and “ideas,” come to my mind. “Purchasing” happens on websites, through catalogs and at stores.

Depending on how comfortable you are with social media, this distinction may seem fuzzy. All the more reason to do some thinking, planning, and maybe consulting, before setting up that social media asset.

Here are some reminders on how to “engage naturally” as Newman puts it.

  • Share something of yourself. Post about things that matter to you and ask followers to respond in kind.
  • Share some of your expertise. Demonstrate knowledge of your business, the community, trends in your industry, etc.

Remember this post from last year that highlighted the transformation of River Pools? If you have yet to check out the video, I encourage you to watch it now. I guarantee you’ll be inspired and I bet you will get some ideas on how to create and sustain engaging content for social media.

If you think I’m harping on social media, well, you’re right. Check out this infographic from Marketing Profs and Morrison Foerster released Jan. 4 and you will see why.


Chip endorses Grossberg for Mrs. Kentucky


Hello all. Chip, here.

It’s too bad that pets are deprived the vote. There’s no telling how much better the world would be were we given the opportunity to run it. Prue* tells me that, I may be denied the vote, but I can always endorse, no matter the race.

In that case, let me endorse, with enthusiasm, Erica Grossberg as Mrs. Kentucky 2016!

The pageant is Jan. 23 at the Oldham County Arts Center. Currently Mrs. Louisville, the former Erica Thornbury is a native of Oldham County, a graduate of the University of Louisville and teaches Spanish for Jefferson County Public Schools. As a mostly-Chihuahua, the latter really made me sit up and take notice, but it was her platform that sealed the deal for me.

And of course, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, too! I don’t kiss just anyone’s photo.


Erica’s platform is pet adoption. She’s a big supporter of the Kentucky Humane Society, an organization close to my heart, too. It was the KHS that brought Prue and I together.

You’ll notice in the photo above, Erica is posing with her canine companion, Betsy, a lovely golden retriever Erica rescued several years ago. En route to Florida on vacation last month, Erica and her husband, Daniel, got word that Betsy was very sick. They returned home immediately and the diagnosis was very sad. Betsy has cancer and is in her last days. She’s hanging in there, though, responding to palliative care and getting all the love and hugs she can possibly bear.

There’s a nifty twist to the Mrs. Kentucky competition. Supporters have the option of raising money for delegates’ causes, and in the process, can ensure their favorite “Mrs.” gets in the top six if she garners enough donations! Just click on the menu below her photo on this page: http://www.mrskentucky.net/contestants.htm to cast your vote and make your contribution.

I hope you will join Prue and I in supporting a lovely person, inside and out, in her quest for the Mrs. Kentucky title. Rest assured that your contribution goes to a very worthy cause, and that if Erica wins the title, she will represent Kentucky brilliantly at the national competition.

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

Check out this photo of Erica speaking to the Ballard Animal Relief Club of Ballard High School about pet adoption.


Claim your square in 2016


Whether they are digital or paper, calendars usually involve squares. Fifty-two weeks and 365-days’ worth of them. Does your non-profit have claim on at least one of those squares? If not, make that a promotional goal for 2016.

I’ve always been a tad cynical and skeptical of “awareness” campaigns. October has been a sea of pink for years, and like other writers, I’ve wondered if it makes a lick of difference.

If your non-profit already is a force for positive change, the answer is, absolutely.

Cultures, nations and religions have their biggest days/weeks of the year. Your mission should as well. It is a time to share facts about the important cause of your work and to tell stories of real lives that have been changed because you were there doing that work.

Find your time on the calendar, or make it yourself, and plan a solid campaign of education, celebration and appeal for support. Start with a goal and a call to action for current and potential supporters. Next, collect facts about your cause, the work itself and the impact you are having in your community. Brainstorm volunteer-driven activities, visuals (for example, autism awareness uses the symbol of puzzle pieces), how to involve clients, etc.

Psychology Today has a great awareness calendar that may be helpful. Here are just a few “causes” that could apply to different organizations:

  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Mentoring
  • World Health
  • Stress Awareness
  • Family Support
  • World Kindness
  • Scholarship
  • Self-Awareness
  • Children

If you can’t find a fit, brainstorm with staff, volunteers, clients and board members to create one. It could be the date your organization was founded or when ground was broken on a facility. Maybe there was a specific date that your organization reached a milestone in the number of clients served, bags of groceries given, children adopted, animals rescued.

Research the date to make sure it’s not already crowded with other causes, then approach community leaders and request an “official” declaration day for your organization or cause. Contact the mayor, county executive, board of education, hospital, college, etc. Plan a ceremony around the announcement to kick off your campaign.

With even a modest budget and some dedicated volunteers, you can stake claim to a space on the calendar that can raise awareness of the good work you are doing. If you need ideas or assistance, please contact me.



Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (Brown Park)


Hi, I’m Chip and I live in Louisville, Ky. My person’s name is on this blog but I think of her not as Dannah or Dannie but as Prue (Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything). Full disclosure: She’s keying this in for me and I’m quite susceptible to suggestion so the name could be all her idea.

She’s experiencing keyboard malaise (whatever THAT is) so she asked me to take over the blog every now and again. I’m happy to oblige. I’m full of keen insights in which too few individuals are interested. Very sad.

First things first: I’m male, although to be frank, I feel that there’s something missing from that part of my life these days. (Actually, maybe a couple of things are missing.) I’m a chihuahua, of course, but I’ve been specially blended with some sort of lucky terrier. And yes, my right eye isn’t like the left. Vets (and others) say I’m blind, either from birth, or from an accident or cataract after my debut, but they are wrong. My Magic Eye supplies various and sundry super powers, including amazing sensitivity, intelligence, and I can see colors. (The latter may be mostly because Prue finds it extremely difficult to write without mentioning color.)

I’m three (or 21 depending on which calendar you go by). I like women, of course, but (again), I have to admit I’m not sure why anymore. I am kind of suspicious of men and people who insist on running in my presence. There’s no excuse for moving that quickly. I’m also downright rude to most of my fellow critters and varmints. With very, very few exceptions, I’m the smallest of the crowd. My Magic Eye enables me to see thought bubbles above larger dogs’ heads with words such as “Snack,” “Appetizer,” and “Hors d’oeuvres.” I’ve tried repeatedly to explain this to Prue but she insists on apologizing to others for my vigilance and perception.

The exception to my varmints and critters aversion is squirrels. Those guys rock. I wish I could climb a tree like that.

As a person, Prue is about a seven on a scale of 10. She tries pretty hard but is overly fond of giving me baths. She’s an odd duck. One second she seems fascinated by my poo, going so far as to put it in a cute little green bag, then she turns around and tosses it into a dumpster.

She forgets my name constantly. I’m learning to answer to Little Bit, Good Boy, Bad Boy, Chipper Dipper (eye roll), Chipster, Chipley, Chiperrino, Brat, Stinky, Nimrod, Stubborn, and since visiting family at Christmas, Landing Gear and Tailhook. (I feel the latter two have negative connotations, but she won’t clarify.)

I get too many brushings and too little cheese and actual meat, and she’s constantly worried about my halitosis. The latter actually suits me fine because it’s how I score Greenies and dog biscuits.

I have concerns in a couple of areas. In addition to my hyper-vigilance regarding other canines, she’s entirely unconcerned by strange or loud noises or the parade of suspicious characters walking past the windows every day. She says she appreciates my efforts at keeping her apprised, but sometimes I doubt her sincerity. Additionally, I strain against my leash with every fiber of my roughly-seven-pound being, but still she refuses to follow my lead. I know training is pricy, but I think we’re going to have to make the sacrifice. She’s just too headstrong.

Despite my rudeness to other canines, and some homo sapiens, Prue really likes to take me on walks. I like walks and enjoy embarrassing my person, so it’s a win-win for me. She has this “darling” little basket bungeed around the passenger seat of the car, too, so the drives to and from the parks are pretty dope.

My goal is to grace as many parks in the Metro with my presence (or presents?) as possible, so we’re starting a kind of travel log.

Today we went to Brown Park of St. Matthews, located at the intersection of Browns, Kresge and Hubbards lanes. The park is spitting distance from the I-64 & 264 junction and right next door to Baptist Health. Make no mistake, it’s noisy, but it’s a 28-acre gem snuggled up against the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek, offering an oasis of trees, water, grass, many sizes and shapes of water fowl, and an atmosphere as American as apple pie.

Prue really likes to take photos, but this time of year, nothing that grows outside really looks good, so check out the Brown Park webpage on St. Matthews’ municipal site.

There are several paths that meander across one another, and the topmost takes you to the old Brown family cemetery. If you are wondering if the Browns were big doings in the ‘Ville back in the day, yes. The property for the park was donated by heirs of James Graham Brown. Nuff said.

The “bottom land” can get mushy, and when the city gets too much rain, it will flood, but the homo sapiens have cleverly positioned benches around the paths that look as though they came from a Bedford quarry, so as soon as the sun comes out and the creek goes down, we’re back in business.

In the center of the bottom land are big white-bark trees, which I think are birch, but as I’m not an arborist, it’s best not to quote me on that. They are quite impressive, as are the manmade stone formations that Prue says remind her of old stone bridges or some such. Landscape Architecture Magazine gave the park a big thumbs up in 1997.

You’ll see the traditional park benches up next to the gazebo and playground where it’s less likely to flood. (Prue said I should mention that there are port-a-johns, whatever those are, on site.) Even more than the playground, little humans love those ducks and geese hanging out by the bridge and causing a ruckus jonesing for bread crumbs. And the park gets some cool holiday lights a few times a year, which the kiddos also love.

Metro Louisville has a great park system and there are also gems like Brown that were established and are maintained by other municipalities, historical societies, community groups, special donors and the like.

While I cannot say in complete honesty that I’d “love to meet you and your pet” at a local park, Prue does, so if you get behind a trussed-up canine that looks like this


next time you are in the park, feel free to try to say hello. I make a lot of noise but I’ve never bitten anyone … that I can recall anyway.

Check out my backstory and don’t forget to support the Kentucky Humane Society this year. After all, pet adoption is for the cool people.

Later, Chip












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