danniewriter

Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (So many parks, so little time)

clover

Hi all. Chip here.

As you can see, I’ve been all in clover lately.

What a late, but great, Spring it has been. I’ve been so busy collecting photos and ideas for my column, I haven’t had time to dictate.

As a recap, this is a place for Prue* and me to share insights on a few of the dozens of top-flight parks in our area. Additionally, we wanted to find pet-friendly/pet-focused businesses in Metro Louisville. As a bonus, readers gain insight on my profound and inspiring thoughts about life.

My first greenspace columns were about Brown Park in St. Matthews and Seneca Park. It was at the latter where we saw the first glimpses of Spring 2016.

hyacinth

And where Prue was inspired to make me into a meme.

poopmeme

Very funny, indeed. This was the moment where we discovered that my walking limit for one, semi-continuous session is two miles. That’s it. Zero, zip, nada more. This discovery has enabled me often to enjoy the view of Seneca Park at Prue’s shoulder rather than her ankles. It’s simply lovely up there!

We enjoyed a trip to the Metro Park Services headquarters, Joe Creason Park, on Trevilian Way. This is a hub of recreation with all the conceivable amenities in the 41-acre Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve. The 3.1-mile hiking path is managed by the Louisville Nature Center, which is also on site and is deserving of a column all on its own.

creasonpark

The terrain is hilly but, according to Prue, isn’t so bad that she loses her will to live before reaching the top. The Louisville Tennis Center a nine clay-court facility is also on site. Across the road is the Louisville Zoo. Creason Park is named for an excellent Kentucky journalist whose columns were collected in the book, Crossroads and Coffee Trees.

Another piece of lovely rolling land in the heart of Louisville is George Rogers Clark Park. It’s located off Poplar Level Road across from the main campus of St. Xavier High School. One of the highlights, for me, is the seemingly never-ending collection of wooden posts just begging to be sprinkled.

grc pylons

There’s also a lovely old stone house that now can be rented for parties, receptions or other events. The park is named for Gen. George Rogers Clark, a hero of the American Revolution. (He sometimes is confused for his youngest brother, William, who accompanied Merriwether Lewis on the Lewis and Clark Expeditions.) In his later life, George Rogers Clark lived with his sister’s family at Locust Grove in Louisville, a beautiful estate with an 18th century Georgian house at the center. Clark died in Louisville and is buried at historic Cave Hill Cemetery.

Our last park on today’s tour has become one of our favorites. PeeWee Park is located off Klondike Lane quite near our home. Perhaps it was named for Louisville’s favorite baseball son, Pee Wee Reese, or maybe it’s because the park is very tiny. The park is the terminus for a dozen or more residential back yards, and we’ve had waves and conversations as we have meandered around the short path and taken a rest on the benches. I’ve met several cute kids, too, who always seem to want to pet me, which is cool so long as they don’t pull my tail. The other day, we had the playground to ourselves, which, I have to admit, was kind of boring.

chipplay

(Gotta give Prue a break though. Pretty much impossible to take photos and make the thing-y go at the same time.)

We love PeeWee’s neighborhood park feel with its badminton court, multiple grills (one of them extra big) and porch-type swings. The neighborhood next door is a perfect place to get in more steps on the abundant sidewalks.

There are three more parks (and counting) to give you info on, and other places to explore. I hope you will stay tuned.

Later, Chip.

(*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything)

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Krakauer case could help break college wall of silence

krakauer

There’s an important case being heard at the Montana Supreme Court today. Journalist/author Jon Krakauer’s efforts could help break a wall of silence at those college campuses where rape often is treated as a public relations issue instead of a criminal issue. The author of Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, and other excellent investigative non-fiction books, explored the issue in his 2015 offering, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.

(Photo licensed through Creative Commons by Devon Christopher Adams, 2009, Dobson High School, Mesa, Arizona)

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More on press releases, newsjacking

escbutton

Last week, Marketing Monday focused on press releases. I ran across a great article with links to several other resources on the topic that I think are helpful in a couple of ways. First, these should give you additional clarity and insight on what news is worthy of the “blanket” press release. Second, and more importantly, these resources give you ideas on how better to package and share your business/non-profit news through a variety of methods.

Robin Samora’s headline about the current state of the press release tells us this is a question with which movers and shakers in the public relations and marketing industries are still wrestling. To me, a definitive answer is less important than the helpful ideas created by exploring the question.

In last Monday’s post, I pointed out that some readers might find my opening thoughts cynical. Check out Mike Butcher’s comments and you might think I was incredibly restrained. A couple of things about his piece: First, he’s very frank and his language is PG-13. Secondly, although his comments are solid and important, keep in mind his “beat” is the worldwide high-tech market. (Butcher is editor-at-large of TechCrunch, and according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, is one of the 50 most influential Britons in tech today.)

My point? The author is a big deal, but he’s not the editor of your local paper or the business/non-profit reporter. Don’t let his no-nonsense style intimidate you from trying to build a good working relationship with the appropriate media reps in your area.

Last month, I shared a cautionary article from Spokal about newsjacking, which they define as “the process of leveraging trending news to elevate your brand’s message.” The death of musician Prince last week paved the way for hits and misses for a few big brands, and presents a good opportunity to review Sarah Burke’s post.

On the “hit” side was Chevrolet, maker of the legendary Corvette. Overwhelmingly, Prince fans approved of the tribute. Why? “Little Red Corvette” arguably was the song that vaulted Prince into the stratosphere of a music superstar. That direct connection, and the respectful tone of the ad, led fans to give Chevy “permission” to do a little gentle plug for the brand. The ad gave the impression that Chevy was grieving right along with fans.

Thumbs down went to Cheerios, and Hamburger Helper, among others, according to a rundown from Adweek. Obviously, The Purple One never wrote songs about either of these products. Adding insult to injury, in my opinion, is that both products are ordinary, even thrifty (dare I say “cheap”?) fare. “Ordinary” is about the last adjective to describe Prince. Both posts are naked attempts to capitalize financially from the death of a celebrity. Even though the companies removed the posts fairly quickly, damage was already done.

The Adweek piece includes several tributes from Minnesota-based companies/concerns. Like Chevy, there’s ownership here because Prince was a lifelong resident of the city and great promoter of the local music scene.

The lesson here is to look, hard, before you leap on a bandwagon pulled by breaking news. Like Chevy, it could work in your favor, but discuss the pros and cons with people you respect before you post. With social media in particular, it’s nearly impossible to un-ring the bell. An Escape key won’t do you much good. If you need some advice, give me a call, I’d love to help.

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Soundtrack of a lifetime

elvis

“Oh no.”

I said it to the dog, the ether, the universe yesterday, like many people, when checking my Twitter feed.

Prince had died.

I said the same sad, pointless words when I heard about Robin Williams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Rickman … and others.

But music is different.

For the most part, when you watch a movie, that’s what you’re doing, watching a movie. Certainly music is, and should be, experienced in the same concentrated and uninterrupted way … but it’s not always like that.

It’s in the foreground, then moves to the background only to switch seats again. When I need to let a thousand racing thoughts go, music insists, persists and demands my full attention. It’s also the ice breaker and the mood setter for conversations, and the most comfortable of silences, among friends. (Regarding the latter, my sophomore college roommate and I frequently went to sleep listening to Barbra Streisand’s compilation album, Memories, released in 1981.)

Music has helped me write leads for news stories, and on long trips, entire scripts and chapters. (It never judges my stuff, either.) It has never cared if I was speeding, crying, cussing, arguing or plotting as I drove. It never got its feelings hurt when I lowered the volume or changed the station. It’s seen me at my absolute worst, and has never given a crap if I had on make-up or was just wearing my pajamas.

And there are those moments, those unforgettable, eye-popping, gut-clenching and oh-so-meaningful moments, when the song I hadn’t heard “since that time when …” was waiting for me on the station, the long-forgotten mix tape, and these days, Pandora.

I pity anyone who has never been so bombarded with memories contained within a song that they had to pull the car over.

All of those moments, from the “surprise attacks” to the deliberate act of putting a disc on the turntable, have created the soundtrack of a lifetime … my lifetime. It’s an intimate collection of music and musicians unique to my story.

It began with something that looked a little like this*

stereocab

upon which I heard Cher, Rare Earth, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, and many others. On road trips to see the grandparents, we switched to these

Many old 8-track audio tapes of different colors

and Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, and Charley Pride. Then came the cardboard record player and one of these

45rpminsert

so my sister and I could start the magnificent journey of defining our own musical tastes. We began with Disney tunes, The Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, and Elvis Presley. Eventually we graduated to 33s and Ronco compilation albums, Abba, Simon and Garfunkel, and Neil Diamond. There were The Eagles, Foreigner, Queen, and REO Speedwagon on the juke box at the Pizza Hut in Hodgenville, and every roller rink in three counties. Then came college. The family sedan only had AM radio, so there was this:

boombox

and these

cassette

along with some treasured purchases on cassette such as Hall and Oates, Billy Joel, Springsteen, and the Purple One’s 1999.

Finally came a car with this:

car stereo copy

and WQMF where I cranked Fleetwood Mac, U2, Zeppelin, and (specifically) Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly so loud it scared livestock on the county roads I traveled as a greener-than-green reporter.

Richard Strauss, Mozart, Mahler, Copland, and Bach have helped me settle into each new home, and taken me back to the days when I played this

FRENCH HORN

and my life changed. There’s Rich Mullins, Susan Ashton, Natalie Grant, and Geoff Moore, who helped me find hope again.

There’s Basie, Ellington, and Billie Holiday who got me through a nasty three-week upper respiratory infection, and Debussy, Barber, and Mussorgsky who helped me finish the best 350 pages of my life.

Yes, music is different.

It’s the framework of the sometimes-lovely-sometimes-messy-but-never-boring mural of our lives. It belongs to everyone, but it’s also so naked, so intimate that sometimes it makes me want to hide.

It’s that intimacy and ubiquity, I think, that makes those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s grieve so hard at the passing of musicians such as Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Merle Haggard, and now, Prince.

They’ve been in our passenger seats, back seats, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and offices–right there with us–through the bullying, the break-ups, the deaths, the loves, the successes, and even some triumphs.

Background music? No way. That sounds so insignificant. They’ve been mastering the soundtrack of a lifetime … ours.

*Copyright through Creative Commons, Dan Johansson, Musik & Teatermuseet, 2008

 

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Spring Scenes

pinkdogwood

It took some time, and a few false starts and late freezes, but Spring finally made it to Kentucky, and what a Spring it is. The dogwoods, pink and white, have never looked more lovely. Pollen counts are off the charts and I’m popping the Excedrin daily, but a walk in one of Louisville’s many gorgeous parks, and even the familiar terrain around my home, and the pain subsides.

hyacinth

pinkbud

azaleas

chippark

Chip’s limit for one session of walking is a little under two miles. He hangs in there like a trooper with those little legs. Thankfully he’s pretty light to carry. Yesterday at Seneca Park, we had to take a breather.

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News to you, news to us

newspapers

Deep commitment to a business or cause often creates single-mindedness in a person. As a public relations professional, one of my most frustrating tasks is attempting to convince such people that the vast majority of the globe is unaware of the focus of their efforts, and most are perfectly content to remain so.

I’m sure that sounds cynical, but a firm grasp on reality is needed to develop a marketing/public relations plan that doesn’t waste time, energy and money on efforts doomed to fall flat. One such effort repeatedly misused by businesses and non-profits is the “blanket” press release sent to local media.

Unless a large number of people are affected, a change important to you, your staff, customers, clients and donors most likely is not news for the local newspaper. Reporters and editors receive announcements regularly that are destined for the email trash bin because the interested audience is so extremely narrow, the information is essentially irrelevant.

This is why it is so important to develop a database of your stakeholders to communicate with them directly and purposefully about your goings on. Making announcements in a press release format is fine so long as your recipient list is targeted for your niche audience. Facebook ads and boost posts can be targeted to users by location, age, gender, and many other criteria. If you are a business and want to reach a specific geographic area, consider using ZIP codes and the postal service’s Every Door Direct Mail service. Distill the message down to a few seconds and record it as a video for YouTube and other social media forums. If it’s a new product you are offering, take an attractive photo and post to Instagram, Snapchat and/or Facebook.

Deciding what information to send to the local paper requires some thought, and most of all, getting to know the publication: what do they cover? how frequently? who are the reporters/editors? Consider:

Your board of directors has a new chairperson and/or members. The entire list of new personnel would be something of interest to your stakeholders, so use it on your website, in your newsletter, etc. Unless your non-profit has a big footprint in your community, chances are the local newspaper will only be interested in the story if local residents are involved. Share only the information of local interest. Make it brief, and be sure to send it to the business reporter directly. (Don’t forget the boilerplate.)

When does your information merit a release to the news desk? When it has the potential to affect a large number of people in your community. For example:

  • As a way to attract new customers, you’ve decided your hardware store will be a collection point to recycle paint and batteries. Unless you charge for the drop off, this is a public service. Depending on the size of your community and newspaper, this could be released, as a very brief item, to the news or business desks.
  • There’s a boil-water advisory in your county that has been in effect for several days. All the stores have run out of bottled water but you are assured a shipment is arriving at your store tomorrow. This is news. Email or call the news desk/editor.
  • A well-known musician has agreed to headline a concert for your non-profit. Email or call the news desk/editor.

Large metro area newspapers usually have sections in their print and/or online editions for neighborhoods and small communities. Find out what the deadlines are for your special section and who the reporter is so your news has the best chance of getting seen by someone who cares. Online submissions of news and news tips are very common today. Most will give you a word/character count limit to help you be concise. Be sure to devote some of those characters to your web address or phone number.

If your restaurant is expanding to another location or a larger more diverse menu, sure, send a press release to the business reporter, but for something that big, invest in advertising. Outside of your own assets, that’s about the only way to guarantee your news will be shared in its entirety.

If you are having problems figuring out which media is best for your message, give me a call. I’d love to help.

 

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Avoid the Boil Over

bubbles

There are those in leadership positions who embrace the philosophy, “If you aren’t making someone unhappy, you’re not doing your job right.” In some cases, this may be true. I maintain that good law enforcement and military, for example, should make criminals and terrorists unhappy.

How many of us, though, are in fields that produce, or even require, clear adversaries? Overwhelmingly, we need more friends than enemies, and more supporters than detractors.

Leaders who adopt the adversarial posture likely do so because they are too lazy to communicate the “whys” of their decisions to stakeholders such as employees, customers, donors, volunteers, and the like. An additional, and more troubling, explanation is that they believe their decisions are draped in gold and free of error and therefore should never be questioned.

Recently I had this lesson brought home, literally. Late Friday afternoon I saw this message taped to the lobby door of my condo community, (sans handwritten comments):

condo

Making preparations for the problem was a little difficult because, at this point, the hot water already had been turned off.

The management company and condo board had a few hundred people with many questions and no answers. The quote: “Some people in the world don’t even have water,” apparently came from a member of the condo board no doubt approached by a concerned resident.

Leadership Tip #1:  It is poor salesmanship to deflect your responsibility by attempting to make a stakeholder’s concern seem petty. In our community, hot water is a reasonable expectation. It is the responsibility of the management company and condo board to ensure this service.

An additional comment was penned: “Plumbers work weekends.” Excellent point.

Leadership Tip #2:  Anticipate questions; provide answers before asked. The absence of explanation on why repairs couldn’t be done Friday and Saturday creates an environment of speculation. Residents are invited to assume the worst. In this case:

  • The problem was so complex and/or discovered so late in the business day that the management company and/or plumber chose not to address it immediately because it posed a personal inconvenience.
  • Rather than taking the time to price a weekend project with the usual plumber, or locate another company for an estimate, the management company informed the condo board, or select members, that the cost was prohibitive or that finding an alternative company was “impossible.”
  • The condo board, or select members, were more concerned with maintaining a positive relationship with the management company than pressing the issue as advocates for their neighbors.

The lack of anything more than a brief note tacked up a few places in the building (residents were not given printed notices individually) communicates an absence of concern, even basic respect, for stakeholders.

Leadership Tip #3:  Always attempt face-to-face/voice-to-voice communications first. The condo board exists as liaison between residents and the management company. As the most basic of responsibilities, board members should be expected to contact residents on matters such as a sudden loss of utilities. In this case, a meeting in the common area of each building should have been scheduled immediately for anyone who happened to be home at the time. The meeting should have been communicated via door-to-door visits/notices.

Leadership Tip #4:  Make a compelling case for your actions and in the process you recruit your stakeholders to assist you in communicating the news. The absence of information and personal communication sends the message to stakeholders that the actions (or inaction) of leadership cannot stand up to scrutiny. Again, in this case, speculation of the specter of personal inconvenience raises its ugly head: The plumber didn’t want to work on the weekend; the management company didn’t want to find an alternate company; the board didn’t want to authorize the expense, inform residents, or jeopardize a positive relationship with the management company.

In this case, the management company and condo board hold nearly all the cards. Residents pay a monthly fee to cover shared services and cede a portion of their responsibilities as homeowners regarding said services. The condo board is a volunteer, and mostly thankless, position. Any resident, myself included, has an opportunity to run for election.

Residents do hold a few cards, though. The company and board loses credibility, respect, trust, and possibly, the cooperation of their primary stakeholder. In the long run, mishandling this incident makes it more difficult for them to do their jobs, and creates an adversary where one was not required.

Does your small business or non-profit need some help communicating with stakeholders? If so, please give me a call. I’d love to help.

 

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