Twitter, Taunting, Teams, and Touting

August 26th, 2014   •   no comments   

shutterstock_130048844 Lisa Busby, Social Media Manager, Howell Marketing Strategies, LLC

Today’s letter of the day is “T.” Remember those days in preschool? It seems not so long ago that my oldest was learning his letters; now, he’s using those letters and more (Are they teaching emoji as a second language, yet?) to talk on Twitter. His presence on Twitter and reading his feed reminded me recently of a good basic Twitter rule for teens and all of us for that fact. Don’t taunt!

Good-natured ribbing and taunting happen on and off Twitter all of the time, especially when it comes to sports teams. Sometimes though, ribbing and taunting turn negative, and sportsmanship flies out the window. What is it about us that drives us to get so wrapped up with a particular team that we spend a good amount of energy talking about and defending that team? Part of it is to identify with a like-minded community.  I mean, most of the time we’re tweeting about a team, there’s not a single thing that we can do to change the outcome of the game. As much as we love our sports teams, we are not the players.  I’m all for rooting for a team, on Twitter or wherever, but be positive. Cheering for your team does not mean tearing down other teams. Competition is a great thing when it drives us positively.

Taunting, more often than not, turns up the heat and backfires since it can provide another incentive for the opposing team. When it comes to teams, remember that they are made up of real people. Don’t tweet something that you would never say face-to-face.

Teams can apply to business teams, as well. These are the types of teams that give you a much higher chance in changing the outcome of the game. Your business might have players from the sales team, the marketing team, or the customer service team who tweet. No matter what position you play, you can help these teammates. You probably have clients who have a presence on Twitter. That’s a whole different team with whom you can be positive with re-tweets, favorites, and replies. I suggest putting members of these different “teams” into Twitter lists in order to keep an eye out for opportunities to support your teams.

On a much broader field, you could consider all of your Twitter followers players on your team. While you should be looking for opportunities to support your teams, sometimes you need to call in certain players for some aid. Your followers possess different talents and abilities, play different positions, and vary in their influential strength.

That brings me to my final “T” word of the day – tout. Touting your team simply means praising, publicizing, and promoting them. (Sounds like a “P” day is coming soon.) Touting your team is much better than taunting another team.

Be positive with your tweets, and be an influential voice for your teams. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul…” I throw that in not to be preachy, but The Good Book is much wiser than I! So, build up your team players on Twitter. If members of your sales team tweet, re-tweet them. When your communications or marketing team links to a blog post on Twitter, tweet about your favorite part of the piece. Don’t forget to pass along the link in your tweet. In essence, be positive and spread tweet love!

Whoever your team is today, be intentional. Plan and look for ways to tout your team members. Touting tops taunting!

Follow Lisa on Twitter at @ooburr

Hands Across Memphis: A Church Coalition’s Direct Impact on Poverty in Our Community

August 14th, 2014   •   2 comments   

gpcI’m going to make this brief and what sounds complicated, is really simple. I have an idea that was sparked after hearing Pastor Will Gray Jones preach a great sermon Sunday at Germantown Presbyterian Church. I cannot get it out of my mind. It has me thinking. Ideas are one thing. Action is another. Pastor Will asked during his sermon this question: “When is the last time you took the time to feed someone hungry? Help someone less fortunate? When have you visited a prison?” It has me thinking. I won’t go into the sermon points but the key theme was this: through service to others we will grow spiritually. My issue is this: how do we find those hungry and poor who actually have drive and want a better life? Sure, we could go downtown to the soup kitchen and volunteer, which is great. But we need to do more. How do we locate the single mom working 2 jobs to feed her children and get them educated who is not getting handouts? Where are those in our community who genuinely want a better life, but need that help out of the vicious cycle? There are many non-profits and plenty of resources in Memphis. The problem we have is that all of these non-profits are doing much of the same and there seems to be no “central command” to coordinate it. I’m not critical of the great work being done. I’m thinking about how we can leverage it more effectively. The Greater Memphis Chamber wants to help Memphis get on the road to getting out of poverty. Poverty is the core problem that affects education, healthcare and ultimately, economic development. Are you with me?

So here is my idea: Get pastors from all churches, all faiths, and all geographic locations around Memphis and form a “round table” type of coalition for addressing this. We could start with 20, we could start with 40. I don’t care but the KEY way this has to work: there is no political or financial agenda and no ONE pastor owns this. It’s the “Knights of the Round Table” type of problem solving group and no ONE person–no one church, synagogue, etc–owns this. No money needed. This group comes together–from all parts of town–to DISCUSS, IDENTIFY AND TAKE ON poverty-stricken families who want better. Is it initially 350 households? 5,000 households? I know from sitting in a meeting in City Hall that we know who these people are. We have demographic detail on where these families live. I will not say what prominent city official made this comment but he said, “Be careful, poverty is big business in Memphis.” If that is what a top city official thinks, the government will never be the answer and that is a terrible way to look at it, by the way. So how do we actually do something?

First, we form this church coalition. No money needed, just pastors from all religions around the table. Identify the need—specifically, who is out there that we can most likely help? These would ideally be the ones who are working and trying not to live on handouts. We can develop a “list” from city information and other non-profits doing great work. Identify the top non-profits in Memphis working on poverty and related issues. The resources are there. Each church then “adopts” as many households as it can. So when the church says, “OK, here is one home who needs food, clothes, help with mentoring, tutoring and after school activities,” that church then taps our non-profits to get a needs list. It’s coordinated and tracked. Progress is reported at this council. Enter the business community: They support the non-profits. We use the business community–and the Chamber–to identify Memphis poor who can achieve better. We employ mentoring programs. We hook these people into volunteers who will career train. We use the private sector connections to help people get better jobs. For example, if one single parent we met could gain better skills, perhaps someone in the business community could help that person find a better paying job. No money needed, just connecting the dots to help make a life-changing move for one family. This is a very targeted, specific way to help people but I think it could work.

If the churches could communicate with the business community AND the non-profits out there that all work so hard to help the poor, maybe we could get more people working more effectively. An additional benefit would be that if all the faith leaders were joined together in a worthwhile project, it could be a fantastic platform for helping with other community issues like crime.

This has been done in other cities. Mobile, Alabama for one. The key is to initially identify the top 25% of the poor population who truly want and need the help. Match congregations up with them, use resources already in place and involve the corporate community. So when my preacher asks what I’m doing to help, he can point to a specific list of needs for households in Memphis. When a church decides to take on a mission for the poor, why not make Memphis our mission? While it is fantastic to send youth groups overseas to help developing countries, we have grave needs right here in our own backyard. I think this could work!

If Memphis is “getting tired of” social media?…maybe Memphis isn’t doing it right!

August 7th, 2014   •   18 comments   

MBJThis week the Memphis Business Journal posted a story about why Memphis is getting tired of Social Media. The annual survey (conducted by a Memphis-based PR firm and a Memphis- based research firm) results will be released soon according to a recent tweet.

 

I don’t need to do research or conduct a study to know when to allocate resources to hire a social media manager to meet client demand. Our firm has seen tremendous growth this past year in the digital space and we don’t think it’s going away. Statistics show upward trends in Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn in users and usage in the last quarterly earnings announcement. Twitter was up dramatically, in fact. New platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are growing dramatically. There is not a shred of evidence anywhere that the use of social media is in decline. If “Memphis is getting tired of social media…” then we are moving backwards!

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to be a keynote speaker at the DFW Rocks Social Media Day conference in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas on June 30th, or social media day as declared by Mashable in 2010. The entire conference was focused on how businesses are using social media–and the growth of social media in the B2B (business to business) space. Memphis, if we are getting lazy in the digital space, we’d better wake up and smell the coffee or the world is going to kick our proverbial business butt.

 

Here are some compelling facts that I think are important when considering how social media is being used and measured. Some of these topics I took away from the experts at the DFW Rocks conference and many of the SEO points were made by @ShellyKramer.

 

1. Businesses across the board have increased their budgets for social media integration across business platforms. In fact, according to a recent guest post on the Mark Schaefer Grow Blog, “digital is the only media channel predicted to grow in the next 3 years, CEO’s are more involved in digital efforts than ever before and their enterprises are now investing enough to meet their overall digital goals.” Click here to read the full guest blog post by Rob Petersen

 

2. Brands know that content is to be built to show and grow in a very public way. “2014 will be the year of short form sound, sight and motion…gifs, vine and Instagram videos will deliver greater viewership and higher engagement than long-form. Agencies will compete over who can tell the shortest stories with the biggest impact. Consumers will be charmed as their attention spans continue to deteriorate.”–Julie Fleischer, Director, Media & Consumer Engagement, Kraft Foods (slide from the Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX conference)

 

3. SEO truth and changes by Google: There is no “page 1″ of Google anymore. Google’s changes daily mean you cannot have good SEO results without good content–original, good content. See a recent article in Forbes on The Top 7 SEO Trends Dominating 2014 and a blog post on the Necessity of an Active Blog for a Successful SEO Initiatives, both articles supporting the importance of fresh content and other trends for improving SEO results.

 

4. Top most effective, measurable things of “high growth companies:” Focus on data (measure), email marketing, creating more content, blogging and integration across social media channels. This supports my belief (and what I tell clients) that social media doesn’t replace traditional marketing but it is a massive enhancer.

 

5. Data comes largely from online and social media. Questions brands are now asking about what their data shows:
-How many web visits per day/week/month?
-What % of traffic is unique vs. return?
-What keywords actually bring them to your site?
-What content brings them to your site?
-What are they doing there?
-What sites refer them to your site? (Much traffic comes from the social sites)
-What do they talk about online and in social about your product, service, niche, etc?

 

6. How businesses are tracking success:
-Measure most popular Twitter content
-Measure most popular blog content
-LinkedIn adopters (groups, opportunities, RFQ’s, sales)
-Opt-ins, downloads, contact form submissions
-Results of landing page campaigns, email campaigns
-Blog, email and newsletter content can lead to opportunities, but you must track this activity

 

7. Companies are using social media and are now asking questions based on tracking results. The results are driving better (shorter) content, more pictures and use of video, measurement tactics and tracking, training, and allocation of resources for hiring outside strategists.

 

8. Facts and data should drive the strategy. I work with clients on developing strategies based on data- what works, what doesn’t. Without factual information, you cannot expect to develop a compelling social media or digital plan. Social media is not a tool that you use without knowing what you expect to achieve (for more on this, visit my previous blog posts).

 

9. You cannot watch TV anymore and not hear “tweet to me” or “hit us up on Facebook” as the mainstream media is integrating all shows with social media tools.

 

So if Memphis is tired of social media, here’s what I say: get on board because it is not going away and Google is driving the ship. If you are a business owner and you don’t know how to do social media the strategic way, find someone who can help you. Because guess what, it’s a shark world we live in and the fittest survive. That means those who successfully integrate social media across the board are the ones with all the buzz, and the opportunities. And if you don’t believe me, travel outside of the 901 and visit a conference in Texas or NYC. You will learn a lot! Thanks for reading this and I’d love to hear your comments.

The art of texting: 10 practical tips everyone should know

July 15th, 2014   •   no comments   

shutterstock_125578025Texting–sending messages on your phone to individuals and groups–has become a prime form of daily communication. We text our kids, our neighbors, our co-workers and even our clients. It has become one of the fastest ways to communicate and recent survey information shows that text messages are frequently answered faster than emails. In essence, texting is the modern day primary form of quick communication. With a background in the traditional PR and marketing environment, my “old school” experience still yearns for more face-to-face communication where you can see body language, clarify points and ensure better outcomes in communication. Nothing trumps face-to-face communication, but that’s another post. Without further trips down memory lane….here are some practical tips for texting to ensure better responses and outcomes:

 

1. State your name when you are texting someone who may or may not have your phone number. How many times have you replied: “Who is this?” Instead, reply: “I’m sorry. I don’t seem to have you in my phone. Kindly tell me who you are.” This sets a tone for a more positive outcome because you are apologizing for not having that person in your phone thus eliminating the risk for that person taking offense.

2. Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling. In this day of what I call “auto-texting”, we are losing the art of proper communication. I use texting for communicating with clients and how would it look for a PR pro to use anything less than proper form? Additionally, remember that the recipient can screen shot your text and post it anywhere or forward it to someone else.

3. Do not use texting to solve a problem, communicate a problem or send shocking news. Recently, I received a text about a person who had died tragically. Think about this for a minute. Do you really want to be the bearer of bad news in a text? Instead, you should text something like this: “Hi, It’s me Amy Howell. I have some sad news that I need to tell you about so call me when you can.” Receiving a text that says, “Did you hear about John Doe who died last weekend?” is not the best way to communicate this kind of news. In our rush to be the first to tell it all, we have lost the art of sensitivity and more civil, proper ways to communicate.

4. Assume your text messages will be read by other people. Teenagers screen shot texts and share them which I would discourage. Our youth need to learn the art of communication and sharing messages intended to be private should stay that way. Texting is a two-way street!

5. Do not use profanity in text messages. My Dad once told me that only less intelligent people use profanity because they aren’t creative enough to find better words. He also said that he believed people who used profanity weren’t equipped with a very large vocabulary. Pretty great advice that I try and follow.

6. Don’t send partial text messages. Fully explain something so the recipient doesn’t think you sent it to the wrong person. For example, often people will text me about something going on in city hall that they assume I know about. A text can read like this: “can you believe the council discussion on (whatever matter)?” This cryptic question calls for my response: “I’m sorry but I’ve been in meetings and don’t know what you are talking about.” A better way to text would be to text: “When you get a chance, you should read the news on recent issues that were discussed in today’s city hall meeting.”

7. Avoid texts that may excite or worry someone such as “Where are you?” I get these from my teenagers and each time I get this–as a mom–my heart races a bit. Why not text instead: “Hey Mom. I’m hungry and wondering what is for dinner. Where are you and what is your ETA?” Of course I don’t expect a teenager to actually be that practical but as adults, we should!

8. When texting busy people, don’t expect immediate reply and in fact, qualify your text as “not urgent” when you need something. For example, when I text a CEO, CFO, business owner or anyone else who is under daily time constraints, I will say something like this: “Hi Frank. It’s me, Amy Howell. When you have time, I need to discuss project XYZ but it’s not urgent.” And, when you do have an urgent need, then you need to state it. This would be a familiar text I would send in this case: “Hi Frank. It’s me Amy Howell. A reporter on deadline has inquired about project XYZ and I need to get you on the phone ASAP.” If you will be considerate of people’s time and use this type of texting style, you will get a prompt response when needed.

9. Do not share or forward screen shots of other people’s texts unless it is a police matter. Some people use texts to harass and stalk and when this happens, it would be important to save and archive such texts. Additionally, if an adult or unknown person is texting a minor, parents should be informed and the police should be contacted.

10. Text messages can be used in a court of law and are deemed a written form of communication. Remember this and apply the same principals to texting as you would any other form of written communication.

 

I’m sure you can add to this list so please feel free to chime in here and keep the information going! I am also sure if you have teenagers, you could add some humorous examples to this list. Thank you for reading!

50 & Fabulous: A Birthday Blog for @HowellMarketing

June 12th, 2014   •   8 comments   

Hopefully she won’t kill me for revealing her age, but I know she is proud of it, or at least proud of all she has accomplished so far. Among many things, Amy is a preacher’s daughter, a sister, a wife, a mom of 2, a successful business owner, a speaker, a social media guru, a co-author of Women in High Gear  and she is also my boss. I have worked for Amy a little over 4 years now and during my time with her, I have not only learned these things about her, but a few other things from her as well. I’ve learned that pearls on a leather strap go with any outfit. I’ve learned that cowboy boots are the most comfortable shoes (ever!)… and they also go with any outfit. I’ve learned that golf carts can drive on two wheels and they can also flip over. I’ve learned that expensive wine tastes much better than cheap wine. I’ve learned that September is the best time to visit the beach. I’ve learned that a gallon size plastic bag tucked inside the driver door of your car is the best place to keep extra change and spare bullets, in case you need to feed the meter or your gun. I’ve also learned that the best way to take a “selfie” is to hold the camera up high so you can only see one chin at a time. The silly list and fun things I’ve learned from Amy could go on forever!

In all seriousness, I’ve learned that Amy is a hard worker and 100% dedicated to the success of her clients and their businesses.  She is not afraid to speak up and voice her opinions, of which she has many, and she tells it like it is.  She is a giver, not a taker, and one of the most generous people I know. She has taught me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. You can achieve any goal you set, whether by yourself or with a little help from your friends. I know she has had more than a little help along the way so I have enlisted a few of those folks to help me share with you just a few more reasons why Amy Howell is great!

Sorry for the long post, but there are a lot of people who love Amy! This should give her a little reading material for the beach (where she is celebrating this week!)

50 reasons Amy is GREAT on her 50th birthday, from 50 people who know and love her: 

(Some silly, some serious but all true!)

1. Amy is a force to be reckoned with! – Dotty Summerfield Giusti

2. Amy is filled with creativity and energy and has promised to help me with Go Red for Women. Love you Girl!- Anita Vaughn

3. Amy is great because she has a kind heart, always a “can do” attitude, and she loves to go to the lake like I do!- Diana Kelly

4. Amy is great because she embraces with enthusiasm all of life’s opportunities, whether at work, at home or, hopefully, on the beach. Happy 50th Amy. Thanks for all you do! Donna Abney

5. Amy is a living, breathing case study on how to super-connect on the web. Armed with nothing more than a Twitter handle and her winning personality she has weaved a tapestry of meaningful relationships that will last forever. I love her like a sister. Who wouldn’t? – Mark Schaefer

6. Amy is great because she is a true friend and will wear her cowboy boots anywhere -literally!!! Black tie, Blue jean on a horse, on beach …. Love that about her! Kim MacQueen

7. I love my mom because she supports my interests and encourages me to stay true to my passions- Bryan Howell

8. Amy is great because she is true to her work, her word, her family and friends- Fadi Kiameh

9. Amy leads a great team, & Howell Marketing helps make our ASI team better!- Jack Dewald

10 .”Amy Lou” as I call her, has an abundance of energy, talent, kindness and compassion and a heart full of laughter!!- Leslie Schutt

11. I think she is super cool because she is a connector and an advocate for women. She looks for ways to support the growth of the women around her. Not to mention I am grateful to call her my friend.- Dana Burkett

12. Amy is just plain great! Her energy, commitment, beliefs and willingness to jump in and help in business, friendship or charity is the reason I consider her a friend first!!! Scott Fuelling

13. Amy is great because she is the ultimate “influencer/connector”, having the unique gift to connect the right two people at the right time, impacting their business or personal lives forever.- Steve Weaver

14. Happy 50th Birthday, I hope you have a great day with sand between your toes…..- Michael Hatcher

15. Amy is a pleasure to work with – she is plugged into all things Memphis and all things social media! A great colleague and resource, and an even better person.-Chad Gilbert

16. Amy is awesome because she loves putting people together that otherwise may not cross paths- Rusty Linkous

17. Amy doesn’t need a social network to be a first-rate social networker. Amy is my kind of southern lady. She’s as comfortable eating a five-star meal on white linen tablecloth as she is eating grilled deer loin on a wooden picnic table. I’ve never known Amy to back down from a challenge or an opportunity (or a reporter who can’t seem to get the story right)- Eric Epperson

18. I met my dear friend Amy on Twitter and was thrilled to be a part of the history-making gathering she coordinated, #BroganMemphis. Perhaps my favorite adjective to describe Amy is generous; she is superbly smart, loyal, professional, a southern charmer and dedicated to her faith and family. Here’s to one of THE Women in High Gear #WiHG; long may she reign, wearing those big Texas boots!!- Kathy Snavely

19. Happy Birthday to my BOLD friend who is never afraid of taking action and supporting others. She believes in her friends and makes us feel special. Hope your 50th keeps a smile on your face all year!! Much love- Mary Singer

20. Amy is the best, she is selfless and is always thinking about how she can help and connect others. She lives out the creed of God is first, others second, I am third. And she always puts her family first. Amy is a great example for us all.- Kemp Conrad

21. You are the sister I never had and a real treasure in my life. All the best on this fantastic day- Paul Chandler

22. I think mom is great because she has leadership and perseverance and she always has everyone’s best interest in mind.- Abby Howell

23. Amy is great because she imports Horny Goat Weed from Decatur County and shares it with her friends.- Scott & Nada Fountain

24. Amy is great because she takes no nonsense and isn’t afraid to be heard (or give others a voice). She stands up for herself, those around her and, above all, what is right. She’s also pretty great a choosing wines!- Kiersten Bagley

25. I love Amy because she is who she is.- Heather Donaho

26. I love Amy because: She’s not a blonde| She’s a Texan | She wears cowboy boots | She can stop a barge | She can spit through her teeth…far! Just ask Fred Smith! | She can shoot a gun | She’s a straight shooter! | She can drive a boat! | She buys ‘horny goat weed’ | She loves Cross-eyed Cricket! | She’ll have a cocktail even though it’s not close to cocktail hour! |She can be kidnapped easily! | She drives a golf cart with cowhide seats! | She can make great prank phone calls! | She loves sombreros…| gasoline… | and bottle rockets. Usually, all together! | She doesn’t bitch about my driving | She doesn’t get to upset when I put firecrackers under her bed in the middle of the night | She makes a mean spaghetti! |She would be the first to get me out of jail…if she wasn’t with me! | She can out drink me. | She’ll go fishing with me | Cowboys are her favorite football team | She loves TCU | She’s always ready for a road trip |She loves TEXAS! | She is a preacher’s daughter! | She is a river rat! | She can drive as fast as an ambulance driver! | She can stay calm in a crisis! | She throws the best parties! | She’s always ready for a party! | She’ll spend all day on the river with me | She laughs at my jokes | She has the Downtown Police under her control! | She has the TWRA under her control! | She doesn’t snore. Hmm…maybe she does | She loved the Queen EFFN Mary! | She loves our kids! | Our kids love her! | She loyal! | She generous! | She’s brilliant!! | She’s a hard worker! | She’s a fabulous mother! | She’s a devoted friend to all! | She’s the sister I never had! | She’s the best friend one could ever have! | I LOVE HER!- Bridget Trenary

27. There are way MORE than 50 Reasons to Love Amy Howell, but mine is for inviting and welcoming me to Memphis, from Toronto, to meet up with the reigning rulers of the social world at #BroganMemphis, in real life. It was a life-changing, friend-making opportunity for which I will always be grateful, and never forget. HB Amy #yourock! -Deborah Weinstein

28. Amy is great for a number of reasons but let’s focus on a simple but meaningful few: optimistic, kind, generous, and smart! I adore her and am so happy to call her my friend.  Happy 50th!- Patti Clauss

29. As both a client and friend Amy Howell has the unique ability to combine cutting edge technology for business and the personal touch of social media for friendships and networking. -Mike McManus

30. My dear Amy, is my most generous and enthusiastic friend when celebrating or planning. She even came to my rescue in the darkness to “save me” from the panther in Costa Rica! haha! I “heart” her funny pranks and good spirit to all that know her. Happy Birthday to my dear and darling friend, Amy! Love you! XOXO...Mona Sappenfield

31. Happy 50th birthday, Amy! One of the best ROIs of social media for me has been the opportunity to connect with amazing friends like you. From Twitter to meetups to co-authors to WiHG business partners—you have been a blessing! Turning 50 brings a host of high gear opportunities, and I expect you’ll take your business into overdrive now! Cheers to one of my dearest friends and the consummate Woman in High Gear! XXOO Anne Gallaher

32. Amy is great because she gets stuff done! And because she looks so cool rollin’ Downtown in her Howell Cart.- Paul Morris

33. Amy is great because she’s a doer. I can’t have anything but the highest respect for someone who gets some much done for her business, family, and volunteer efforts- James Hutto

34. I think she is great because she wears cowboy boots with everything!- Matt Patrick

35. HBD ENERGIZER BUNNY AMY!- Robert Burns

36. Amy motivates other women to take chances. That’s one of the many reasons I admire her. It’s much easier to go through life sitting back and waiting for opportunities, but Amy is an example how women can put ideas into action with amazing results. Happy 50th, Amy, and I believe the best is yet to come!-Claire Hick

37. I am so fortunate to be able to work with such a smart and savvy businesswoman as yourself. You found your passion and you never looked back! Thank you for trailblazing and inspiring a future generation of women leaders. Happy 50th Birthday #BA!- Melissa Alexander

38. Amy Howell, you are the rockin’ PR Queen of the South and an amazing Woman in High Gear! Happy Birthday!- Marisa Corser

39. Why is Amy the BEST?! Let me count the ways! Smart, talented, funny, fun, loyal, caring, thoughtful, generous, beautiful inside and out, and the list goes on & on!!! I feel blessed to call her my friend! –Jennifer Chandler

40. A Texan in Memphis, Amy is a bit larger than life. It goes far beyond the boots she wears or her Southern twang. It has everything to do with her devotion to her family, her faith, her city, her friends – and, always, to her clients. She can be counted on to give her all in everything she does for everyone she meets. I’m honored that for several years now, I have been part of the Howell Marketing family, the City of Memphis, and, most importantly, the Howell family (honorary). Happy Birthday, Amy! xoxo Glen Gilmore

41. I appreciate your ability to connect people to each other for the benefit of those you are connecting and not yourself. Happy 50th, the best it yet to come!!!- Jim Walker

42. Amy cares about people! She puts her personality and perspective to work on their behalf. Happy Fiftieth!!- Norman Hill

43. Happy Big ‘Five-0h’! So glad that our paths have crossed. You totally ROCK! Eat some oysters for me!!- Ernie Mellor

44. Why is Amy Howell great? Hmmmm. . .  Well, let me give it a shot. Amy is loyal and honest to a fault. Amy’s work ethic is unmatched, yet she manages to find time to play. Amy has built a company from scratch while managing to be a present, active, and awesome mom. Amy loves Memphis, and she is a tireless promoter of a city that is sometimes difficult to promote. Amy is a great friend that seems truly selfless in her willingness to help others. Happy 50th Amy!! You are the best. –Bryan Smith

45. Amy is great because she’s just as awesome IRL as she is on Twitter! She brings amazing women together and inspires SO many- we southern girls have to stick together! Happy Happy Happy Birthday!!- Melissa Stewart

46. Amy is better than sliced bread and sweeter than a dozen Twinkies. Happy Birthday- Lisa Busby

47. Amy couldn’t help but be GREAT because of her amazing parents!  Not only is she beautiful, talented, super-intelligent, energetic, logical and FUN, she brings out the best in all of us!- Mickie Nabers

48. What can I say about my friend Amy? She is truly a woman in High Gear, even before she and Anne wrote the book. She is… Hard working,  Impressive,  Generous and Hip. Gutsy, Energetic, Artsy and Resourceful. Happiest of birthdays! Much love- Alys Drake

49. I love Amy because she makes each and every day an adventure causing me to relish life.- Jim Howell

50. Amy is a precious person with the biggest heart.- Mom & Dad

51. One to grow on: Amy is Great because she realizes if she helps enough people get where they want to go, she’ll get where she wants to go faster and with a lot more fun & satisfaction along the way. Plus she’s keeping herself and others in High Gear to get there!- Mickey & Judy McLellan

 

Wishing you a VERY HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY!

With love- Lacey &  Friends

 

Share your birthday wish with Amy in the comments section and let’s keep the list going!

Hilton Worldwide Celebrates Women!

March 25th, 2014   •   3 comments   

photo2Today I had the honor of serving on a panel with incredible women from Hilton Worldwide as well as a few women in “high gear.” The lovely and talented Mearl Purvis from Fox 13 Memphis was on hand to facilitate and entertain and as usual–she did a fabulous job and I promise you Mearl gets more gorgeous every time I see her! As the room filled with women from Hilton’s Women’s Team Member Resource Group, we took our seats and introductions were made. In honor of “Women in History” Hilton’s theme today was “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”  Program leaders, Denise Carpenter and Sherry Smith made introductions and soon we were underway talking about key issues women face in business. Tweets were flying as well with a hashtag for the discussion: #HWWCelebratingWomen (you can see some of the tweets there).

 

photoKey messages for the panel included the importance of finding mentors as well as avoiding the “chip on the shoulder” attitude. One of my favorite messages of the day came from Roquita Coleman, Solutions Manager, CN Railroad who said that “instead of trying to be smarter than everyone and trying to prove it…often it is better to try and get along with other co-workers in order to get things done.” She described a tough lesson she had to learn the hard way and that added so much value to the discussion. Without the problems and challenges, we cannot learn and grow.

 

photoI had the honor and pleasure of meeting Kathy Beiser, EVP, Hilton Worldwide Corporate Communications who is definitely in “high gear” and told the group that sometimes in a career you have to make hard, deliberate choices and sometimes that means really having to “gut it out and work hard” to get ahead. I loved her remark about never wanting to be the mom that baked cookies for her kids’ school. I totally relate to this and appreciate her tough-minded, high gear will and iron clad belief in herself. Another favorite comment she made was that women shouldn’t tell men things like “I have to go run the carpool but I’ll be back…we give them too much information sometimes that isn’t necessary.” Very good advice from someone in the executive suite!

 

Another Hilton Worldwide executive on the panel is a fellow Texan named Judy Christa-Cathey, VP Hampton & Hilton Garden Inn Brand Marketing. Judy is an inspiration and example of a woman in high gear who has been given a real red cape for her superpowers in the corporate world. Today she gave that red cape to a woman in the audience who commented on the difficulty and pressure on working women to be all to everyone and do it all. A very awesome moment and I need someone from Hilton to email me that photo so I can add it to this blog! Judy is someone I will be following up with and hope to get to know better. Plus, she’s from Texas and likes cowboy boots!

 

photo3Finally, it was awesome to see my friend Felicia Suzanne Willett, chef and owner of Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant who trained with Emeril Lagasse–a fact I had once known but forgotten! Felicia told us she knew she wanted to be a chef by the time she was 7 years old and would read food magazines and cookbooks as a teenager. Her passion for cooking and her depth of experience is reflected in her wonderful food and what I find even more exciting is her ability to continuously re-invent herself and her restaurant. She told me she has just re-vamped the patio to include farm tables in front of the fountain to accommodate family style dining or groups of 10 and 12. Not only has Felicia become a famous chef, but a savvy restaurateur. Congrats on your high gear journey Felicia!

 

photoThank you Hilton Worldwide for supporting women, celebrating success and commitment and for hosting such an important panel discussion. I also appreciate the purchase of our book, “Women in High Gear” for those who attended and hope I have the opportunity to celebrate with you all again soon! Cheers to your high gear journey!

#BanBossy Campaign is Not High Gear

March 17th, 2014   •   4 comments   

 

WiHG_Front_HighResAs women business owners and co-authors of Women in High Gear, we invest a lot of time and attention in writing, speaking, and encouraging women to “Find Their Voice” and “Tell Their Story.” Our own stories represent a tapestry of experiences, and that makes us each unique. We have benefited from the examples of strong men and women in business, and we challenge women to discover and reach their own high gear.

 

Last week the Girls Scouts teamed with LeanIn.org to launch a #BanBossy PSA campaign. Using celebrities like Beyoncé and Victoria Beckham they make the case that “bossy” is a pejorative, a disparaging term, and as such should be banned (yes, you read that correctly) in reference to girls. Their assumption: if young girls are called bossy, perhaps they will be disinclined to pursue leadership roles. We haven’t seen data or Pew Research stats to quantify this claim, and Googling the term “bossy” to see what images appear based on gender is not scientific evidence.

 

Women will never advance by telling others—men or women—how not to perceive them and what language to use to describe them. As children, we were both called bossy—by our siblings and classmates. Our parents probably called us bossy too. Why? Because we were. We had ideas and weren’t afraid to share them. Amy D. Howell

 

The idea that we women will get ahead and reach new career heights, or see new doors open, because a word is banned is disingenuous to our gender and our individual leadership capabilities. Are we that sensitive? Is our emotional resilience that tenuous and delicate?

 

Just because someone is considered powerful, influential, politically connected, successful, or entertaining doesn’t mean we jump on a bandwagon to sign a petition to ban a word in the English language. The idea of banning a word like “bossy” is silly and a waste of our greatest resource–time. While many have asserted that this campaign has been positive for raising awareness, we believe it further isolates women from achieving the skills and experiences necessary to reach the C-suite. We all want opportunities for women to advance at work. We need women to open doors, to mentor, to advocate, to introduce young women to CEOs, to help connect the dots for success. This campaign belies the strength of women.

 

In fact, it’s condescending for an influential and elite group of women to create a video telling us what to do. Words are words. Actions speak louder.

 

Anne 2012 FINALAt @WomenInHighGear, we want to make sure young girls and women celebrate what we can become. We need strong women who can boss (Margaret Thatcher), women who can nurture (Ruth Bell Graham), women who can lead with courage (Marie Curie), women who can explore (Amelia Earhart), and women who can negotiate (Condoleezza Rice). We need every type of woman who can recognize her high gear potential and take action. That won’t happen by telling others what words to use.

 

In an interview on Fox news last week, Penny Young Nance, President and CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA) said, “True strength is being bossy in a way that empowers others to greatness, not to degradation.” Well stated.

 

In our experiences as mothers and women in business, High Gear means working hard and smart at the same time and not being afraid to tell your story, to rise to a business challenge, to recognize opportunities for professional development, and to seek support to reach goals. We believe that leadership, success, and profitability know no gender. The #BanBossy campaign diverts our attention from the more productive conversations of women in #STEM, Wall Street Journal Women in The Economy Task Force, and many other national women’s initiatives.

 

Being bossy can be a positive character trait. Bossy need not hold a negative connotation. We have known many men and women who are great at being bossy while leading others to success and high performance. Women in High Gear understand that our gender differences are also our strengths as we work together on teams. There are times to be assertive and there are times to be attentive. High gear means knowing the difference.

 

Finally, High Gear means selecting role models that possess the character, integrity, wisdom, and intelligence that young girls and women are seeking to learn from. It’s ironic that we would listen to an entertainer –who sells lyrics using profanity and intense sexuality –tell us what not to say to young girls. We do need real examples of everyday men and women leaders who work to help others, provide for their families, and care for aging parents while raising children and working.

 

We don’t need censorship of silly terms; we do need more high gear women and men to demonstrate confidence, courage, hard work, and emotional resilience–even to #EmbraceBossy if need be. The fortitude and productivity of future generations depends on it.

 

Co-written by Amy D. Howell and Anne D. Gallaher

 

 

#LukeBryan Concert Tickets for WINGS

March 10th, 2014   •   no comments   

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Recently, my firm started working for The Wings Cancer Foundation in Memphis–a non profit that provides services to help with physical, emotional and psychological needs of cancer survivors and families–and we decided to beef up their Twitter following with a fun contest to give away 2 Luke Bryan tickets to a lucky tweeter!

We announced the campaign early Friday morning and using Twitter only, and not only did we gain a great new group of followers, but we we were also able to give away tickets to a very creative tweeter, a student at St. Agnes. Congrats Jessica!

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We loved Jessica’s creative tweets!

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4 Social Media Lessons from 2013

January 8th, 2014   •   1 comment   

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere

Guest post by Stacey Waxman

Social media and online marketing have become increasingly intertwined to the point where most brands are using social media marketing as a primary method for gaining exposure. Throughout 2013, there have been several emerging trends and lessons that marketers can apply for 2014 and beyond. Here are four of the most important ones.

1. Visual Content is In
People responding positively to visual stimuli is nothing new. However, it’s become more and more important to take this into account when running a social media campaign. By looking at the success of visual based networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, it’s clear that most marketers can benefit by using eye appealing images. This is further evidenced by the fact that the owners of Twitter launched Vine, which allows users to upload video clips that are up to six seconds in length. Also, the majority of blog posts and Facebook posts contain at least one image to capture the attention of an audience and drive a point home. Understanding this phenomenon and placing an emphasis on visuals in 2014 should help marketers win over a larger percentage of their demographic.

 2.  Cyber and Content Security is Crucial
The threat of having one’s social media account hacked or sensitive information leaked to the wrong party has become an unfortunate byproduct of the technology revolution. An example would be an industry competitor intentionally hacking a rival’s Facebook account to create posts that damage the rival’s reputation. Another case would be hackers breaking into a company’s cloud-based infrastructure to attain information about their social media marketing campaign. Accordingly, it’s becoming critical to implement adequate cyber and content security measures. This can include training employees on information safety, choosing strong passwords and using a content security app.

3. Reputation Management Should Be Taken Seriously
While social media can definitely improve a business’s brand equity and portray it in a positive light, it also has the potential to do harm. Therefore many companies are using reputation management to ensure that consumers aren’t hearing the wrong things. Companies are now using software that tracks social mentions across major networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

If something negative or slanderous appears, a company representative could immediately address it and take the necessary steps to deescalate the situation before it becomes more serious. Another example would be having an individual or team assigned to handling customer complaints via social media. Say a disgruntled customer left a nasty comment on a company’s Facebook page. A representative might apologize and find an effective resolution so the problem doesn’t persist.

4. Google+ is Here to Stay
At the end of 2012, many marketers failed to take Google’s social network, Google+ seriously. Although there were several million users, not many accounts stayed active. Things have changed considerably over the course of 2013 and Google+ has become a major contender in the social media realm. According to Marketing Land, this network reached 540 million active users in October of 2013.

One interesting feature this site offers is the Authorship Program, which allows users to sync their website or blog with their Google+ account and claim authorship for content they contribute. This is also thought to have a significant impact on SEO and overall exposure because an author’s head shot appears next to links in Google search results.

 

Stacey Waxman is a freelance writer with a focus on marketing. She can be found typing away on her laptop in cold Cleveland, OH. Stacey welcomes your feedback at staceywaxmanwrites@gmail.com.

 

Positivity, Planning & Production: 3 P’s of Success

December 10th, 2013   •   4 comments   

I love the holidays for many reasons including the fact that it is a time for me to reflect on my business–look at the numbers and review new and existing client accounts. It’s a time for evaluating what is working and for thinking about next year’s goals for my business. Fortunately I have a great accountant in Patrick Accounting and they help me make good decisions based on my financials and how healthy I am. My banker, Dana Burkett of First State Bank is also my trusted advisor who helps me think through successful financial strategies for my business. Along with wise counsel, you must also possess what I call the three P’s: positivity, planning and production. One might also add “profit” to this but I believe if you are practicing the three, then profits come as the result. How do you stay positive when negative forces abound? How do you plan for a successful next year? How can you produce better and more work in the next year? If these are questions you have, I hope my tips below are inspirational.

Positivity: Wouldn’t it be great if every news segment began with the top positive stories of the day? Don’t you prefer to be around people who have positive things to communicate? Sure, most of us migrate toward positives. We reward positive outcomes and promotions often come to those who are positive. I am convinced that being successful in business is directly tied to being positive and optimistic. Sometimes we all have negative experiences but those should be used to create lessons learned or “teaching moments” (as a friend of mine often says) to promote positive outcomes in business. Here are some things I have learned and observed in business about positivity:

1. People who are positive are more likely to influence others: Positive people are optimistic and think they can do whatever job is at hand. This “can do” attitude is contagious and often adopted by others around them.
2. Being positive creates a successful image. Have you ever heard the phrase, “everybody loves a winner?” This is so true in business. The C-suite wants positive, winning employees.
3. Positivity allows you to look at problems and negatives in ways that create solutions. Negatives aren’t necessarily a bad thing in business and they certainly exist daily. The positive person will view a negative in a constructively critical way to find a solution.
4. Clients and customers want positive. You cannot own and run a business and stay critical and negative. When faced with difficult client challenges or problems, my team must always solve the issues in positive, professional ways. Sometimes it is not easy to stay positive but you must. My co-author Anne D. Gallaher and I share stories about “emotional resilience” on this topic in our new book, “Women in High Gear.”
5. Positive breeds more positive. I don’t know about karma, but I do believe that if you surround yourself with positive people in business, you get more of the same at every turn.

Planning: I know this word is overused and under appreciated but it is so important. I love the phrase “plan your work and work your plan.” If we do that, we succeed. So many businesses don’t have a plan. They have an idea or a concept or a product but no plan. Strategic planning is the lifeblood to any successful organization. It is the roadmap to where you need to go. Without it you will waste time and resources trying to find it. So here are my points on planning:

1. A plan doesn’t have to be a complicated, lengthy process or document. It just needs to ensure that the organization’s time and resources are going to yield results. This could be as simple as this: Our company needs to generate $100,000 in sales of service X and here is who will buy that and here is how we are going to get them to. Pretty simple but very critical.
2. Planning forces you to stop and review and analyze facts and figures. If you have to do a plan for your business, you cannot do it without asking these questions. The questions help you develop strategy for the planned outcomes.
3. A plan is something you can cross check throughout the year and see if you are on track. It helps you measure your progress.
4. Plans can be (and should be) altered and changed based on events and things that impact a business.
5. A plan becomes the organization’s ongoing report card, updated yearly and can be valuable during a potential merger or disposition of a business. There’s not an investment banker I know that doesn’t value business plans.

Production: I love this word. Productive people create production in businesses. There is another phrase I have heard and like “if you need someone to get it done, ask the busiest person.” Busy and productive people get a lot done because they can and they know how. Production also requires that the right tasks/jobs be done first. Here are my five points on the value of production:

1. Productive people can be hard to keep up with and irritating or intimidating to others so their challenge is to help others become more like them. Good producers will know how to leverage other’s skills.
2. Producers get better compensation and more promotions because they identify and secure more revenue/work for their organizations. “He (or she) who has the gold makes the rules.” Most effective executives have had to earn their places by rolling up the sleeves and producing at whatever level tasked.
3. Clients and customers like people who can produce. Results matter and I think organizations are looking for people who want to make positive impacts to the bottom-line everyday.
4. Producers are usually those that can handle many things at one time. I used to work with an attorney who was a top producer for the law firm and he would pace in his office, talk on his land line and answer his cell all at the same time and never miss anything. They have this ability to listen to more than a few conversations at an event and can network across a room faster than most.
5. Not everyone is a producer and that is fine. It takes all types of people to make an organization run–if you are not a producer you might consider helping one. I saw a sign I liked that said “if you aren’t serving a customer, find somebody who is and serve them.”

What would you add to this list of tips and observations?

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