danniewriter

Foto Phriday (Rending Required)

rendfence3a

PeeWee Park is smack dab in the middle of a lovely neighborhood that is fast becoming one of my favorites here in our neck of Louisville. It has been almost swampy this summer, which I assume explains why this small greenspace with picnic tables, a paddle ball court, and playground even exists. Were the drainage better, I’m confident there would be houses filling the space, and Chip and I would never have had reason to visit the neighborhood.

A visual interruption to the idyllic setting is the chain link fence separating the park from the back/side yards of a dozen or more homes. The barrier, of course, is necessary for several reasons, not the least of which are the number of dogs who live on the perimeter.

Although I don’t know for a certainty exactly what happened, it’s obvious that at some point in the life of the park, the fencerow was forgotten. Perhaps there was some miscommunication or disputation regarding who exactly was responsible for its maintenance; was it homeowners or the park service? Things happen (or in this case, don’t happen). Tasks fall through the cracks. To-do lists are lost and never re-prioritized. We are imperfect creatures running around on the big blue marble.

Here are some examples of the resulting neglect: gnarled and dismembered remnants of trees, and pseudo trees, eventually sacrificed to save the fence, and more than a few dollars in labor and material.

bwrend1 rendfence4a cawfence

Nearly every time we make our circuit around the tiny walking path before setting out onto the sidewalks of the neighborhood, I’m drawn to these “left behind.” They so firmly attached themselves to, and even in, the fence, that separation was impossible. There’s a weird violence to the whole thing, but, I think there’s also beauty.

The one at the top of this grouping reminds me of a decorative iron work on the front stoop of a fancy house. The one on the right, a pair of king crab claws, or maybe the critters from Tremors.

oldman

And finally, my “favorite.” Here’s the Old Man. Like many of his kind in Kentucky, he had aspirations to one day become a walking stick. Unfortunately, he waited too long. It’s OK fella. Someone out there thinks you’re beautiful.

 

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Embrace role of ‘own worst enemy,’ then learn

hidinghair1

The saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

You may think peace, love, and a chicken in every pot when you hear the phrase. It’s likely that was the original intent of the author, however, for someone who frequently shares advice on writing, marketing, public relations, and other topics, the mandate resonates for the more mundane, too. Examples:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Links
  • Contact information
  • Call to action

In other words, the blogger/consultant’s equivalent to making sure the proverbial fly is zipped.

A couple of resources I happened on since last week have driven this point home. Now, both of these authors offer products and services, and if that is off putting to you as a shoestring marketer (such as myself), I encourage you not to tune out. There’s excellent insight here even if you don’t purchase a thing.

First up is Courtney Johnston’s post about email marketing from her company, The Rule Breaker’s Club. I found myself nodding as I read. A bonus is her assurance that email marketing has not gone the way of the Dodo, MySpace, or the Blackberry. Email is free, free, free. If you aren’t using it consistently and strategically (and yes, somewhat sparingly) for marketing and fundraising, you are making life tougher on yourself.

Johnston points out several things I need to be doing, and I also like the fact that she cops to having her own struggles in some of these areas.

A much more comprehensive “best practices” piece comes from Social Media Examiner. It didn’t take long for me to get a bit overwhelmed, and even slightly discouraged, at seeing the number of loops I have yet to close in my own work. And that’s what it’s about, closing loops.

It won’t help your business to introduce a great new product or service if the link to your online catalog is broken, or if the street address ends with the word “Lane” instead of “Boulevard.” (Try doing the latter in Atlanta with the word “Peachtree” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

Are you a non-profit communicator? What good is a heartfelt challenge or appeal without giving your prospective donors and volunteers a starting point to meet that challenge? When is your office open to receive volunteers? How secure is your online giving tool? Where’s the list of donations? Is it posted online and in a print-friendly format?

That’s loop closing.

Are there times when I am my worst enemy? You bet. But rather than be overwhelmed by Ben Sailer’s excellent post on Social Media Examiner, I’m going to print it out and use it as a checklist with the goal of addressing a few of these each week until I knock them all out.

Need some help closing your own loops? Give me a call.

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Foto Phriday (So long, summer)

Johnson Creek front

This post is as much a wish as a salute. Until the past month, the summer of 2016, in the most positive way, could be described as “lush.” In Ohio Valley terms, that translates into: humid, muggy, “close,” saturated, and “chewy-aired.” The air has become drier but temperatures have remained in the upper 80s and into the 90s which is uncharacteristic for this time of year. We are in dire need of rain and cooler temps. In short: we need fall.

But, like my photos from the Kentucky State Fair, I will need these images of summer when fall is over and I find myself in the dark, gray, cold days of winter. I took these photos in 2010 during a Labor Day getaway to northeastern Kentucky, a region of the commonwealth new to my travels. My home away from home was Blue Licks Battlefield State Park, a resort built on the site of a conflict considered by many historians as the final battle of the Revolutionary War. This park has several interesting aspects and I recommend that any/all of my gentle readers make a visit.

In the Blue Licks neighborhood is this lovingly restored covered bridge spanning Johnson Creek. According to John Hultgren Photography’s Bridges to the Past series, the structure was nearly lost to time and vandalism but visitors today would never know that. If these timbers could talk, they’d have quite a tale to tell.

built to last letting in the light

I ran across this updated list of Kentucky’s covered bridges. (Thank you, Dale Travis!) I’m overdue for a visit to another of these treasures. For now, here’s my “bookend to summer.” Bring on the rain and the fall!

Johnson Creek Bridge (rear)

 

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Marketing: To thine own self be true

shakespeare_oval-cropped-copy

This week’s Marketing Monday post won’t be for everyone, especially if you have a weak stomach, so that’s why I decided to post today. For this week, let’s designate today, Wretched/Retching Wednesday.

In Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, Polonius offers this pearl of wisdom to his son, Laertes: “To thine own self be true.”

I’m sure the Bard would get a migraine at the thought of someone such as myself applying his words to a discipline as “dubious” to some as marketing, but as you read on, you’ll see that, at least I’m “keeping it in the family.”

Kentucky Shakespeare has quite the track record. The company was formed in 1949 as the Carriage House Players, and in 2013 welcomed Matt Wallace as only the seventh artistic director in its history. There are many impressive aspects to Kentucky Shakes, and the marketing geek writing here considers one of them the promotional campaign for their upcoming production of Titus Andronicus.

Don’t know much about this play? Get in line. It’s one of the Bard’s lesser-known (yet quite commercially successful) works. I daresay the former is, in part, because of the subject matter.

Scholastically speaking, it’s a gore fest.

How bad is it? Likely one of the reasons it isn’t performed very often is that the budgets can’t handle the cost of all the fake blood necessary to pull it off.

That said, despite my usual lack of enthusiasm for artistic works that involve dismemberment, rape, cannibalism, and mass death, I am actually considering going to this production because the marketing campaign, I think, is inspired.

Kentucky Shakes has embraced the gore and added more than a dash or two of dark humor in the process. For your consideration …

It scheduled the production in October, when the public’s tolerance for the macabre is higher than say, Christmas or Easter.

Equally important with timing is location. As it happens, Louisville has the perfect spot for a tale of bloodletting and dismemberment: Butchertown. With such a name, I’m sure you’ll be shocked not a bit to learn that this part of the city is the former location of the Louisville Stockyards and adjoining meat packing plants. The production will occur in one of those long-empty-of-livestock warehouses.

Still not enough atmosphere? Consider this amazing poster that relegates any/all iterations of the Saw movie franchise to the “cute” category.

titus-andronicus-poster-lg-1

And, the piece de resistance, this yes-its-gross-but-I-can’t-look-away video.

A little uncomfortable with the visuals? Keep in mind that Kentucky Shakes hasn’t used its marketing to try to convince a prospective audience of an importance to Titus Andronicus beyond the value of the work itself. Would it make sense to treat the romance as an “aside” in marketing Romeo and Juliet, and instead try to sell it as social commentary on the enormous problem throughout the centuries of rich, powerful families bickering at one another in public?

Know yourself. Be true to yourself.

Key to that is a concise mission statement. (Kentucky Shakespeare’s is 25 words. Not bad for an organization centered around the works of arguably the most prolific and important writer in the history of the world.) How ever complex your work may be, you must be able to articulate your mission quickly and clearly.

Be aware of your surroundings, the calendar, and the news of the day as it relates to special events and promotions. Look for ways to capitalize, (such as the Halloween season and Butchertown for Titus,) and be sensitive to potential problems. (Example: after 9/11, Hollywood scurried to back burner the release of films about terrorism, airline disasters, and other subjects that could distress audience members.) Don’t try to create an edgy campaign in a vacuum. Get professional assistance, and make your pitch to a small, trusted group before spending big bucks and/or going public.

Critics will say that promotions similar to Kentucky Shakes’ Titus are lowest-common-denominator marketing. Certainly that type of promotion exists, but I don’t think it applies in this case. This disgusting-yet-compelling campaign is wedded, faithfully, to the roots of the play itself. As an outsider to theatre marketing, I would speculate that promoting without pandering is the brass ring of selling the works of William Shakespeare in the 21st century. I think our local company here has grasped it perfectly.

While I cannot offer blood, guts, and dismemberment for you and your cause (nor do I really want to!), I am here to help you develop a plan to market or promote your business or organization. Just give me a call.

About the images: “Chandos portrait” of Shakespeare, named for one of the work’s owners, James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos. (Public Domain)

The poster for Kentucky Shakespeare’s upcoming production of “Titus Andronicus” was created by Rosie Felfle, a board member and professional marketer/communicator with Kindred Healthcare in Louisville.

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Foto Phriday (A Fairly clear choice)

honey

Last month I joined a couple of high school friends for a trip to the Kentucky State Fair. I’m a fair geek from way back. And, as our primary purpose was conversation and companionship, my friends were fine with me maneuvering us through the hallowed halls of the West Wing of the Kentucky State Fair & Expo Center where my favorite fair destinations reside.

One of them, clearly, is the honey display.

I’m not sure why, except those jars of golden loveliness remind me of: the amazing construction and mission of honeybees; my Papaw, who kept bees; and biscuits.

For the uninitiated, the color of the honey is determined by the flora upon which the bees visit. Some clover honeys are so light they resemble corn syrup. By comparison, my family discovered, honey derived from cucumber blossoms is darker than maple syrup and burns like hot sauce.

In the dark, gloomy winter days to come, I hope I’ll remind myself to return to my state fair photos. I’m sure they will lift my spirits.

honey1

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Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville (Happy Birthday to Me!)

ultimatecute

Hello all. Chip here.

Despite my Magic Eye of Discernment & Sensitivity, there are some things I just don’t get.

Yesterday, Prue* took me to the doc’s. Never a good time for me, yet Prue insists on it, and even thanks the bipeds who poke, prod, and stab my fragile, adorable, and diminutive body.

(Am I setting a tone appropriate for the generation of maximum guilt? Good.)

Upon our return home, Prue unpacked a box of medicine, then compared it to a similar medication she’s been giving me each month for the past year.

And then, everything went really weird. Prue starts talking, rapidly, to herself, then grabs the phone and start jabbing, muttering, re-jabbing, etc., until she finds someone else to talk to. Before I turn around twice (which I often do before I settle in for a nap), she’s off the phone, sitting on the floor in the hall and looking like a doctor just jabbed her three times in the keister.

I’ve never seen her so unstrung. She looked awful and was making weird noises and her face was all wet. Assuming some sort of fit, I felt I needed to keep an eye on her … so to speak, so I joined her in the hall, gave her a cuddle and a coupla licks on the nose.

chippaw

The next hour or so was slightly more normal, although she still sounded very odd and her face and nose were really red. I take a nice long nap followed by our usual mid-to-late-afternoon walk … my personal favorite ’cause it’s when I get to wallow in the warm grass … and before I know it, we’re back at the doc’s office.

Aww, hell no!

Another stick, more weird noises and a wet face from Prue … and we’re back home. It’s time for kibble, a Greenie, and all is right with the world.

And today … we had meatloaf!

Like I said, some things I just don’t get.

Later, Chip!

*Person Responsible for Ultimately Everything

(Editor’s note: Hi all. Prue here. Yesterday, I realized that since I adopted Chip almost exactly one year ago, the topical I’ve been giving him monthly did not include a heartworm preventative. Convinced that my stupidity had infected my dear friend with deadly parasites, I had a brief emotional breakdown. Some quick research, heartfelt virtual handholding from several Facebook friends and family, followed by an emergency on-site test by the amazing professionals at Johnson Animal Clinic, and I am relieved to announce that the Chipster is parasite free … and of course is now on the correct medication. Today, we celebrated his good health, and our first-year anniversary as a couple, with meatloaf. Also, because the humane society didn’t have a DOB on record when I adopted Chip, I’ve designated Sept. 14 as his birthday. The docs at the clinic estimate his age at 6. We thank each of you for following the Adventures of Chip de ‘Ville.)

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The power of words

dictionary

Writing is a pretty basic skill, yet not everyone has retained spelling, grammar, and punctuation skills from their school days. If you are a small-business owner, or direct a community non-profit organization, chances are you are the primary writer, whether it’s a website, letters to donors, advertising copy, or a few lines of text on social media.

Poorly constructed writing can devastate your brand. It’s money in the bank for you to

  • Take your time.
  • Read your copy aloud.
  • Ask someone to proof your work before you post or print.

Here are a couple of resources to bookmark to provide you with guidance, tips, and inspiration when it comes to wordsmithing.

A Writer’s Relief infographic of commonly misused and confused words is an excellent “cheat sheet” to print out and keep handy, or to bookmark and return to as often as you need the reminder.

In the Mad Men era of advertising, it took big bucks to research the effectiveness of messaging. Today, it’s a matter of a Google search and taking the time to give more than a cursory glance at the reputation of the source you’re considering. One that I’ve found, in addition to Writer’s Relief, is Ellipsis. Ivy Sprague, manager of operations, penned this very helpful piece on words that work. Try to incorporate these in your promotions.

If you still lack confidence in your skills, give me a call. A wordsmith of your own may be more affordable than you think.

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Foto Phriday (Tugalo Park, Ga.)

tugalopark

The view from a footbridge in Tugalo Park, Ga., a cool, leafy primitive camp and picnic area surrounding Yonah Dam in the North Georgia mountains. This neck of the woods winds across the border into South Carolina and back again, and from here it’s just a short drive to two Georgia waterfalls, Tallulah and Toccoa.

tugaloparkbridge2

 

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