Expanding Into New Lines of Communication

close stitching of quilt by Chris Kirsch

Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether to be enthusiastic or envious. Like now…I pass along social media marketing advise to my client Chris Kirsch and she successfully runs away with it in ways that far surpass my own marketing.

I’m just kidding, of course. I’m so proud of Chris’ business savvy and I’m itching to pass it along. And because Marketing Mentor’s Ilise Benun extols the benefits of podcasting, I’ve decided an interview with Chris will spread her success and introduce a new communication tool for myself.

There’s just one problem: I sound like a dork.

In Marketing Mentor’s podcasts, Ilise always comes across as intriguingly poised. In our podcast together, Chris sounds delightful and I, well, let’s just say I’ve left myself room for lots of improvement. But that’s okay. This was so fun to do and there are so many interesting people out there to interview, I’m anxious to try it again.

So, here it is. The first of my audio podcast series, rough as it is. And let me introduce to you—Chris Kirsch!

Chris, to me, is foremost my friend and neighbor. We enjoy walking together several mornings a week, where we discuss business, faith in God and lots of other things. Hey, we’re talented, multi-tasking women—we can both walk and talk pretty doggone fast!

Chris is also one of my clients. A couple years ago I suggested she try blogging as a means of reaching out to her target audience. The tricky thing is, her audience generally is not considered to be users of social media.

No problem!

Here’s how Chris gets around that and uses blogging to bring further success to her business.

PS. The photo above is a closeup of one of Chris’ quilts. Okay, yes, I admit; I am envious.

PPS: I know so little about this podcasting. I’m looking for suggestions; so please, do share!

Better Roads To Faster Internet

good roads movement in Wisconsin

“Decades ago, our state’s leaders literally paved the way for the Wisconsin dairy industry’s success by paving nearly every road that led to a dairy farm. This was a tremendous government investment and it paid off not only for dairy farmers, but also for their communities and our state as a whole.”

Lori Compas said this in a recent opinion article. As executive director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, she was referencing Wisconsin’s Good Roads Movement, a state-funded program in the early 1900s that reassigned the responsibility of roads from the local level of government to the state level. Improved rural roads connected farmers to the rest of the world and allowed them to transport their product to market. These same improved roads went on to benefit the lives of every other Wisconsinite by way of better education, medicine, tourism and manufacturing, particularly that of the automobile.

Lori wisely used the Good Roads Movement to parallel our beloved Badger State’s need for improved rural Internet. Interestingly, small town and rural businesses are at the same crossroads dairy farmers were a hundred years ago. Non-urbanites lack affordable, high speed Internet. They’re stranded in muddied lines of slow DSL and deprived of important education, employment and business opportunities. Hey, Wisconsin isn’t the only state isolated from the information highway. This is a rural dilemma nationwide.

So what’s being done?

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), $7.2 billion was appropriated to ensure that “all people of the United States have access to broadband capability.” Part of this became subsidies to companies like Echostar (Hughes Network), Spacenet and Viasat (Wildblue Communications/Exede), who in turn offered free setup and discounted rates to new satellite broadband users.

Another portion was awarded as grant money to specified states for technological development. Originally, Wisconsin was one of these states. But whenever change, money and politics (of course) are involved, nothing is easy.

Or free.

In Wisconsin’s case, a clash surfaced when the federal grant regulations got in the way of big corporate contracts. To the dismay of many, the state’s government chose to return the funding.

All politics aside, poor Internet is frustrating at least, debilitating at most. Today, self-employment and small businesses are the fastest growing sectors of our economy. They’re an obvious answer to the unemployment in many rural areas. Yet, reliable Internet is an absolute must for a majority of these jobs.

Here’s the thing—most people living in cities aren’t aware of this not-so-remote problem. To help with that, I made this little (and highly unprofessional) video of a typical workday with my Internet.

(I actually do have broadband. It’s a fixed wireless broadband, but it’s…well, check out the video below and you’ll see what I mean.)


Superstorm Sandy and the Importance of Giving

Philadelphia, night before the Hurricane Sandy

My husband and I were in Philadelphia over the weekend just before the surge of Hurricane Sandy. To say it was interesting is an understatement. In mayhem-filled grocery stores, people stood in checkout lines that ran the length of every aisle. In coffee shops, they contemplated the water resiliency of their apartments and whether their subway stops would stay open.

Meanwhile, my husband and I hunkered down at the historic Conwell Inn, located at Temple University (I just love that inn). At midnight of the night before the storm, we walked around campus and there was a fascinating calm/eerie/excitement in the air (the students were ecstatic because classes had already been cancelled:-). We debated whether to stay our full reservation, but in the end left the next day before things became too chaotic.

That’s the extent of our hurricane adventure—obviously nothing too dramatic. It did give us cause for reflection though.

Whenever my husband and I visit large urban areas, we’re reminded how naive we are of life outside our rural Midwestern simplicity. Most big city folks don’t drive (many, like our son, don’t even own a car). They live in smaller spaces that don’t allow for much food storage. And there are people everywhere. When something catastrophic like a superstorm hits, the problems they face are much different than our own.

Hurricane Sandy reminds us of the importance of giving. Isn’t it awesome how Americans come together and help each other?

With that in mind, I want to put out word to those needing help with their visual communications. Each year Adunate does two pro-bono projects—one large and one small. If your organization needs creative assistance in 2013, click here for an application. And then, click here to guarantee your project’s success!


Schools Using the Harley-Davidson Effect

St. Peter's Lutheran School, Helenville, WI, 1906

There’s a really long article by management guru H. Donald Hopkins (Temple University) entitled “Using History for Strategic Problem-Solving: The Harley-Davidson Effect.” In it he tells of corporate CEOs solving problems such as employee moral or product direction simply by examining their own history. And because Hopkins champions Harley-Davidson, his thinking has become known as the Harley-Davidson Effect (although if you google this you’ll likely find more on the Harley-Davidson sound affects:-).

Anyway, my latest project has been an online program for the Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference. I know, I know, associating church with business gives a lot of people the heebie jeebies. After all, it’s the Holy Spirit that works in us, not some business theory, right?

I agree.

But I also go by the conviction that much of our God-given earthly knowledge works really well for his heavenly purposes. The Harley-Davidson Effect is a perfect example.

The Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod (WELS) schools have a strong history in Wisconsin and throughout the U.S. There are 337 schools nationwide, some of them dating back to the mid-1800s. They’re parochial in nature, yet they face the same problems of budget, integration and student-teacher ratio as does every other school. Nowadays congregations do a lot of strategizing and praying just to keep their school doors open.

This year the WLSTC chose “Your Statutes Are Our Heritage” as its conference theme, based on Psalm 119:111. For the program (click here to check it out), we used historical photos to help convey this message. We asked congregations to dig into their archives and, wow, did they do some digging! Not only did people send photos, they also included anecdotes of how their schools were started, what their classrooms were like a hundred years ago, and so many more fascinating stories.

Strategically or historically, however you want to look at them, these photos and stories are poignant reminders that schools have overcome many challenges. They’re proof of so many blessings throughout the generations. And they evoke a sense of pride in the educational work God has allowed them to do.

“Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart,” Psalm 119:111.

Hunkering Down for Winter

homemade spaghetti sauce

This is my favorite time of year. Once I accept the inevitable shortening of days, I love how the season slowly downshifts from the intensity of summer to a gentle ripening of autumn. I love that cozy sense of tucking in and preparing for the long winter ahead.

So, yes, I’m in the midst of canning tomatoes (there are tomatoes ev-er-y-where in our house). I’m also thinking about business. I’ve been planning next year’s goals and wondering if there’s anything I should do now so they’re ready to implement come January.

Here’s one thing I’m contemplating: an e-Newsletter. Ilise Benun, of Marketing Mentor, swears by them. Since I’m overflowing with helpful marketing and communication morsels—things like “6 ways to get your newsletter read” or “10 reasons a blog will increase your business”—maybe I should share them.

So, what do you think? Would you be interested in receiving a monthly email with helpful, newsy tidbits? Add your email to my list and come January when it’s cold and windy, I’ll send a nice, summery surprise (kind of like opening one of these jars of fresh, savory spaghetti sauce).

And what about you? What marketing plans do you have for your business next year? Is there anything you need to do now so you’re ready to go in January? Like, what about an updated logo? Or a customized blog? Or a header for that e-Newsletter you’ve now decided to start?

Give it some thought and drop me a line. But don’t wait too long—those cold winds will blow soon enough!