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Lessons from Ali

November 20, 2014

Lessons from AliThree months ago, we got a dog. My 11 year old had been begging for one. We made him do research about dogs, attend an animal camp at the local Humane Society, and promise to take care of the dog.

I’m a cat person, so I was kind of “against” the dog. But the 11 year old did everything we asked, and has really stepped up to care for her. And she adores him.

I’ve come to learn some life lessons from our four legged family member.

She’s always happy to see you.

It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone for five minutes or five hours, she is excited to see us.

Companies and organizations should treat their customers like friends. Be genuinely glad to talk with your customers and listen to them. A little cheerfulness can go a long way.

There’s always something new to see (or smell).

Our dog takes walks daily and we usually take the same routes. It’s nothing she hasn’t seen before. Yet, she is always anxious to get outside to see if there is anything new. Sometimes she goes to the other side of the sidewalk, or even in the street. She checks everything out again, even though she has walked this sidewalk a hundred times.

We usually do the same routine in our work and home lives. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…but how about looking at a “same old” project with new eyes? You’ve done it before, but is there something different you can do?

Reward good behavior.

When our dog sits and stays, we reward her with a special treat. That makes her want to do it again, so she can get the reward, a big hug and our praise.

A little praise can go a long way. And I’m not talking about a treat. When was the last time you publicly praised your team for a job well done? A few kind words and a “job well done” is all it takes.

VoteThis is not a political post, so don’t make it one.

I don’t like politics.

I don’t like to talk about politics.

Half the time, I don’t even understand politics.

But what I do know is that it’s the day before Election Day and I’ve received six “robocalls” from political candidates asking for my vote. My neighbor said she received nine phone calls.

This election season has been one for the record books. I’ve never seen so many television ads,  received so many phone calls or seen so many direct mail pieces. Granted, we have several interesting races this election, but here’s the deal: A television ad or phone recording is not going to sway my vote. In fact, it’s irritating and exhausting. So much so it makes me NOT want to vote. Which is bad.

What if candidates were only allowed to say what THEY were going to do to better life in Kansas? What if they weren’t allowed to call households with their cheesy recordings?

I don’t want to hear what your opponent did or didn’t do…I want to hear what YOU are going to do.

And don’t spew out statistics and studies because we all know you choose the numbers that make you look good and your opponent look bad. Why wouldn’t you?

And do you really think sending your people to my doorstep is productive? You think I’m going to say “Oh wow…thanks for giving me this information. I will for sure vote for you now.” You know what? If I want to know something about you, I can find the information myself.

I jokingly posted on Facebook about starting a “Voters against Robocalls”…but it’s not a bad idea.

[END OF RANT] –> Now go vote!

The good news is…we are not here anymore:

The Trouble With Women in the Workplace.

And don’t have to have literature like this:

Women are cooperative
But even after more than 60 years, women are still treated unfairly, and paid less than their male counterparts in the workplace.

Typical statistics say women make 77 cents for every one dollar a man is paid. Those numbers include the fact that women tend to have lower paying jobs than men. But dig deeper and there is still a gender salary gap.

According to the New York Times post Pay Gap Is Because of Gender, Not Jobs: “ …in the majority of the pay gap between men and women actually comes from differences within occupations, not between them.”

So even if all things are equal, women still make seven percent less than men…doing the same job, with the same qualifications and the same years of experience. Why?

Women have to work harder and smarter to prove we are just as qualified as a man. But often, this type of behavior is seen in a negative light…being too aggressive…while a man is seen as a leader.

In a recent article in The Atlantic “The Confidence Gap,” researchers show that if two co-workers (one male and one female) are essentially acting at a high level of confidence, the man is usually rewarded for his assertiveness and great ideas, while a woman is seen as bossy or worse…bitchy.

And this Women in the Workplace Bias study by ABC News, showed us first hand our bias toward strong women. The study showed two job candidates (one male, one female) with identical resumes, who said exactly the same thing in their interviews. People (men and women) then rated the candidates. Even other women rated the female candidate as aggressive and unlikable, but the man seemed confident.

Why this double standard? Women entered the workforce almost 70 years ago now make up about half of it. Why are we still fighting this? How do we change it? What does this say to young girls now?

Blog Action Day 2014

Originally published on CUinsight.com

It’s no secret that images sell. A great photo can make your marketing piece and a vivid website image will draw in visitors. On the flip side, bad graphics can have a negative effect on your brand and corporate-y, generic, stock photos aren’t helping you either.

An iStock search for “household budget” photos brings up more than a thousand results. Photos of a calculator on top of a piece of paper with “Budget” written at the top. Photos of a couple in front of a laptop. Images of receipts, check book and credit cards. Photos that have been used again, and again, and again.

Be creative and use your own photos to spice your website, marketing materials, and social media posts.

“Financial” materials.
Need a stack of credit cards? A wad of bills? A calculator and a mortgage-type looking document? Coins in a jar marked “Retirement”? You have all those…just use your own items. The photo below is money I poured out from one of my boys’ piggy banks. It has an Instagram filter on it.

dollars and coins

Use kids’ items like toys.
For real. Writing a piece about a data breach? Take a close up photo of a Lego minifigure “criminal.” A post about saving could include the letters “SAVE” spelled out in alphabet blocks (I used GIVE). I have those items, plus puzzles, crayons, books, board game pieces and a whole slew of other items for a graphic I didn’t have to pay for.

blocks, give

Get outside.
Take photos in your own city. This is probably the easiest way to localize your images. Shoot local landmarks, streets in your neighborhood, parks, buildings, flags, landscapes, etc. This is a great way to build your very own photo gallery. Don’t forget about your holiday themed campaigns. Snap fall photos to use next year, or St. Patrick’s Day parade to use next time. This photo was taken at an old farm in Medicine Lodge, KS.

Kansas farm
Use your own members and staff.

Why buy a photo of a smiling unknown teller, with their white teeth and perfect hair when you can take a photo of your very own smiling teller with their white teeth and perfect hair? And for goodness sake…use your own members in your marketing materials! People love to see people they actually know promoting local products and services. It gives you more credibility and can increase your membership base. OK, this isn’t an employee, but you catch the drift, right? This was taken on my front porch.
DSC_0047-cropped

You don’t have to be a professional photographer.
If money is tight, chances are you have a great device for capturing photos right in your back pocket. I take many photos with my iPhone using natural light. If you are outside, it’s possible the light will be fine (unless it’s a super sunny day, then it may be a little harsh). If you are inside, try to take the photo by a big window with nice light. Taking photos of people can be tricky.

If you are not confident in your skills, maybe on one of your members is a photographer and would give you a good deal on some photos. I

f not, suck it up and hire a professional. You’ll be glad you did. I’m not saying eliminate stock photos entirely. There’s a time and a place for them. If you can, start using your own photos, which will help you stand out with creative and fun graphics, unique to your credit union.

First placeTis the season.

No, not that season.

Awards season.

This year, I’ve entered more projects than ever before. Not because I’ve done some super awesome things, but because it’s a validation of what you are doing is good, especially when it’s judged by your industry peers.

You work hard all year. You constantly research the latest in innovative marketing and communications. You stretch budget dollars to get the biggest bang. Some days, your workday doesn’t end at 5 o’clock. You want to help your organization grow, and be an important part of your community and make a difference in your industry.

Your hard work deserves to be recognized. But, I know what you are thinking:

I’m a one-person marketing/communications department…I don’t have the time.
Yes, it does take time to fill out the form, gather materials and write up your entry. But this exercise isn’t just useful for winning awards. It forces you to think about your program or project in relation to budget, challenges and results. Once you do it, you can use this information for other marketing objectives. If it’s a recurring project, it helps to see where you can improve.

Everyone else is doing way cooler things.
There may be some awesome programs created by others. But did they submit an entry? Maybe, maybe not. This is your chance to show yourself – and your company – that what you do matters. And even if you don’t win, many programs give you back the judging sheets, so you can learn from the constructive suggestions.

It’s not in the budget.
National awards can be pricey. Enter a couple of your local award programs. And make sure to include it in next year’s budget.

It doesn’t really do anything for me.
Once you win an award, don’t just clap and forget about it. Leverage the honor on your LinkedIn profile, include it on your resume and mention it on during your next review.

Originally published on CUinsight.com

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 8.14.45 PMSteve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When creative people are asked how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”

Marketing and communications departments are shrinking. Resources are limited. Budgets are cut. But marketers and communicators are expected to come up with creative, innovative and groundbreaking ideas to move your organization forward.

You don’t have to re-create the wheel to come up with something “new.” As Steve Jobs said above, ideas come from your experiences. Did you see something cool from another organization? Don’t copy it. Take the pieces you like, add a bit of something else, change it around a bit and make it your own.

That’s what we did for two fun projects at the Kansas Credit Union Association.

Last month, we wrapped up our consumer financial literacy campaign, Money Possible: Destroy Debt. We know other credit unions have done campaigns similar to this, tracking families as they work to pay down their debt. We took the basic idea, partnered with the Kansas Consumer Credit Counseling Service and selected three Kansas credit union members to participate.

The members told their stories through weekly television segments and on the Money Possible blog. We encouraged viewers and readers to visit a Wichita area credit union for resources or to get help.

All of our area credit unions were on board with the campaign, and had information at their branches, and on their websites. It’s not a new concept, but we took a cool idea and adjusted it to work for us.

Our Make a Difference events have become a favorite with our Kansas credit unions. The idea came from another state credit union league, and started out as a gas giveaway. At our next event we picked up the tab at local eating establishments. We were certainly not the first organization to do a gas giveaway or pay for someone’s purchase. But what we did do was make it a statewide event, involving multiple credit unions in multiple locations, and giving each location the flexibility to do fun and creative things at their event. We also ensure these events are a surprise to consumers, so there is no advance promotion.

Where do we find these ideas? Read. Write. Travel. Sit and watch, listen and experience. Use social media. Visit a new restaurant. Walk in the park. Attend a local festival. Research what other industries are doing. Ideas are everywhere…you never know where you’ll find that “wheel,” or how you’ll re-invent it. – See more at: #sthash.iGkjqvT0.dpuf

I’ve come across two brand Instagram accounts worth noting. IKEA (the furniture store) is using it in a new way, and the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) posts photos of what they have confiscated from airline traveler’s bags.

IKEA
Using Instagram as a website? Who knew? IKEA leveraged the tagging ability in Instagram to its benefit with the new ikea_ps_2014 account. For example, IKEA posts a picture of a table chair and lamp from their store. The table, chair and lamp also have their own Instagram accounts, so they will “tag” the table, chair and lamp. If you click on the “tag”, it will take you to that product’s Instagram account.

(Note: it doesn’t work on a laptop/desktop)

IKEA Instagram account
TSA
Everyone loves to hate the TSA. They get a bad rap sometimes, but their Instagram account is interesting.  They post what they find in traveler’s bags, and which airport the confiscated item was found. They will also include the rule for certain items including knives, martial art weapons, guns, lighters, fireworks, etc.

Like this…eeek!

photo1-2 copy

They use the hashtag #TSACatch (which I see also has some “bashtag” tendencies). Their Instagram account has other photos too, like pictures of their staff (including their explosive detection canines!) in training and in the community.

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