The end of the press release?

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Have you ever worked for a company that issued press releases? Perhaps you’ve been on the side that generates them, or maybe you’re responsible for reading each of them to stay breast of what your company is doing across the board.   Or maybe, like most people, you don’t care about press releases, because you’d rather get a whole story, not just a few facts and quotes strung together in a brief few paragraphs.  Well,  regardless of your familiarity with these items, the tech powerhouse GE  is looking to move away from press releases and into more  narrative storytelling for its brand promotion and facts.

“The ultimate goal is to retire the press release,” said Tomas Kellner, Managing Editor of GE’s external blog GE Reports.  The press release is “a great holder for facts, but you’d never want to read one. We want to tell stories.”

Wow. Storytelling is front and center in today’s branding game, and with all the platforms for storytelling like Pinterest, Tumblr,  etc. out there,  it’s easier than ever for brands to tell their stories in more palatable ways than putting out a press release and hoping journalists will bite and do a story.  Yep, you see it coming:  The end of journalism as arbiter of what the public knows about a company, how it’s covered and when.  Kellner was speaking to Sam Slaughter at Contently,  another kind of media platform, and you can see the published interview HERE. While you’re there, check out their coverage of ‘the end of journalism.”

1-3-5: Planning for the future

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Do you have a five-year plan? How about a 3-year plan?  Any idea what you want to accomplish in the next year?  Well, if you don’t, maybe you should.  That’s not just my personal opinion,  that’s science.  Research shows that planning  things and thinking about what you’d like to achieve will actually help you acheive them.  Personal case in point:

When I learned about a progam that allowed students to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., during my freshman year of college, I  carefully laid out a plan to ensure my participation in that program. It meant I had to budget my time wisely, sign up for classes right away so I could get into the ones I needed as they were offered, and take the right kinds of classes to get the required number of credits necessary for the Washington Semester.  My advisor helped  with this (a good advisor is crucial to planning as a college student), and by the time my junior year ended, I only needed one more semester of college credit and I was able to go to DC to earn it.  This good bit of foresight helped me stay on track with graduation when, at the end of that D.C. semester I had a stroke and couldn’t do much of anything, let along think about college.  To this day I credit the experience as what really helped me see the value of planning.   I found a goal, did what I needed to obtain it,  and enjoyed the rewards of setting and accomplishing that goal. To be sure, as evidenced by this same story, life doesn’t always go according to plan.

As I recovered from my stroke I had to learn how to type (and drive, and do all kinds of things) again, and my dreams of journalism pretty much limped along as I did.  For a while I felt like goal-setting and planning were a waste of time, since life throws in unforseen diversions that can’t be planned for.  Despite all this, I still I agree with people who talk about their 1-year or 3-year or 5-year plans.  Working toward something and falling short or failing is better than not having anything to work toward, and just drifting aimlessly. 

However, while  I fully believe that goal setting is good, ambition is good, and positive thinking is good,  being too sure of things can lead to unfulfilled expectations.  

I used to date a guy who said  that whenever he got too excited about things they either a) never happened or b) didn’t happen the way he wanted them to, and he was let down.  At first this sounded sad to me, but eventually I came to see that his ability to temper his excitement with reality served a strong purpose: it helped him cope with life, even when things were good.  So yes,  planning and dreaming is good, but too much of a good thing can, well, become a bad one. And too much of a good thing, in a hyper-false way, can definitely become an annoying one.

   In 2012 journalist Oliver Burkeman wrote the book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, and  in  an NPR interview from that year, he had the following to say: 

saying positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror can make you feel worse and that visualizing the future can make you less likely to achieve it.

I appreciate Burkeman’s reminder that simply saying happy things to oneself isn’t  really creating a reality. Action is what creates a reality.   Action, and having a plan.

So how to balance this need for planning with the need for self-preservation in the face of an uncertain future (I don’t care how well you plan, your future is uncertain!) ? I’m obviously no expert, but if you look at basic steps toward becoming more healthy, I think you can modify them to fit whatever other goals you want to accomplish in the future.   For instance, there are medically documented stages of change, which can be seen in the “spiral model” here.  

Currently, I’ve set (in my mind) a 1, 3 and 5-year plan for myself, and I’m definitely in the first spiral, that of contemplation and preparation. What do I want my future to look like, one year from now. Three? Five?  I have very concrete ideas for myself (finish my book, year 1, secure a publisher by year 3, find property in Colombia near the water, spend part of each year in Colombia, at said property), but the how’s of these things are less clear, the further out they are. 

I think this spiral is helpful if only to remind me that things take time (and more than just  mantras said before the mirror).  If planning for the future isn’t planning for change, then I don’t know what kind of future  I’d be looking at.

Morning drive poem

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Charcoal car clamoring for street-side entrance
driver fueled by Caribou.
Two days this week
two days this week
two
days
this
week
you’ve cut me off
on our commute.
Your jangled nerves
your burning tongue–
may your morning jolt
of liquid speed
propel you.

Pineapple citrus vodka

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Fruit! It really is the perfect food. You can eat it raw, cook it, bake it, use it as a garnish,  make drinks out it and even add it to already brewed/distilled drinks.  When I read about fruit-infused vodka gifts in Real Simple, I decided to try this nifty trick myself. So yesterday I sliced up a pineapple and added some vodka to it. Then I got to thinking,” what can you mix with pineapple flavored vodka?” Doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of options if you want a fairly straight forward drink.  So although the recipe in Real Simple  calls for just one kind of fruit, I added some grapefruit to the jar too.  My hope is that this leads to a tasty variation on the drink.

This recipe calls for at least  three days of infusion time but I plan on sampling this “brew” in a three days just to have a baseline for flavor, and then again after its been sitting for a week. From preserving food and eating leftovers, I know that sometimes things taste better the longer they’ve stewed in their own juices. In a week I’ll also have the perfect opportunity to try different mixes to enhance its flavor or pair well with it.  I have some ideas already… stay tuned. IMG_0303

Cross-cultural exchanges on the farm and in the water

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It’s been a week of oceanic bounty for our table. We’ve had fish tacos, scallop and shrimp kabobs and crab salad snackers.  I really appreciate being able to get seafood here in the middle of the country, and yesterday I learned about a program pairing South Dakota farmers with Louisiana farmers– farmers-of-the-sea variety.  Six families from South Dakota traveled earlier this month to Louisiana, as part of the first ever Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) Barnyard to Boatyard Exchange. Our South Dakota farmers and ranchers will spend time  learning about the Gulf Bay and the ways in which these businessmen and women deal with their “crops’” challenges and rewards.  In August, the Louisiana participants will travel to South Dakota, learning about how our farmers do what they do here.
According to the TRCP website, this program will help individuals from these diverse and different regions “cross boundaries. “Tim Kizer, who works with the TRCP, says this is being done so that we can “gain a greater understanding of conservation in America, as well as the role that businesses at both ends of the Mississippi River play in the sustainability of our clean water, abundant wildlife habitat, productive farm fields and fruitful fisheries.”

It seems like a win-win situation to me. Although trolling for shrimp in a bay and cultivating a field are two different things, the benefits of cross-culturally exchange go way beyond comparing your sense of the familiar to another person’s.  As these individuals share experiences and ideas, their knowledge will pass from their own organizations to community members, thus ensuring that people outside of these industries will even have the opportunity to learn about another place and way of life.

When I was a kid, many of the farmers/ranchers in my area joined a cross-culturally program kind of like this one, except that my community members went to China to learn about farm practices there. I still remember being a little kid sitting in a church basement and watching the slide show presentations of people and places experienced by those who’d gone on the trip. It seemed like such a neat program, and a great opportunity for the participants, many of whom had never traveled outside of the US on our end, or had never interacted with many Americans on the Chinese end.

The Louisiana participants will visit the Sioux Empire Fair during their stay here, and I hope that they are as interested in and encouraged by what the see here as I’m sure the SD families will be during their time in LA.  This is how the best kind of education and experience sharing happens.

Q&A for the non-married

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I just found THE most interesting post for the place I’m at in life right now.  The blogger posted several questions adapted from a book for those considering marriage and explained that she’d been given a similar listing during her marriage class. I’m always interested in self-assesment, so the list caught my eye. Then, as I read through the questions, I felt really connected to them. Many deal with situations and things that my boyfriend and  I have already discussed, tiptoed around, full-on avoided or otherwise not even thought about.  They (in this case, “they” are my colleagues and friends) say that you’ll figure out if you really want to be with a person within the first couple of years you’re with that person, and if signs point toward yes or no you should stay in and commit or get out (respectively).

I’ve linked to the blog here, but am seriously thinking about getting this book. If I do, updates will follow!

First fruits

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Fresh lettuce

Fresh lettuce

Ahh…  the first handfuls of  May’s planting: lettuce pulled from my garden and tomatoes fresh off the vine.  As I was checking out the garden this morning I was reminded that this simple pleasure–having a garden–is one of the reasons to live in South Dakota. Now if only I had a greenhouse and could get through the winter with a garden. Wintering here might just be bearable.orbs of gold

The new cost of doing business in Colombia

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Colombia. While the name evokes fear, curiosity and maybe even something like excitement for many people, to me it conjures up images of mosquitos, fabulous fruit, warm weather, dancing in the streets and good times.  I take for granted the opportunities I’ve had to know this country, as a Colombian-American, but I also appreciate them very much.  I can remember times when, as a child, Bogotá’s streets were so clotted with people, vendors, carts and buses that getting from an aunt’s house to the airport, or downtown, or a money exchange, took hours. But the country has made vast improvements in the almost 30 years I’ve been going back and forth (that sounds super crazy to me), and one of the most interesting ones I’ve  eagerly watched is that of the tourism industry.

Colombia’s lush vegetation, food, nightlife, natural resources and history make it an intriguing and exciting (or peaceful, if that’s what you want) place to visit.  in that sense, it’s a lot like Thailand, which  has boomed as a tourist destination for  all of the above reasons and its friendly people, great beaches and very affordable cost of living and travel.  As Colombia’s violence decreases and more people visit the country, it too will undergo the stresses and rewards of being a tourist destination.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I want people to know this county and see it for the beautiful place it is, not just a drug and violence-riddled  news blurb.  As someone who loves to visit new places and understand them for myself, I want others to be able to delve into the complex and amazing offerings that Colombia has.  And yet I worry that the things that make Colombia such an amazing place–the flora and fauna, the people, the land–will be further corrupted (in a different way than currently) by visitors.  And that worries me.   It’s the dilemma of all developing nations, and as someone who has ties to the country but does live outside of it, I’m not sure that anything I have to say about this dilemma is legit, as it is an outsider’s perspective.  But I do know that recent stats from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor note that

The lessening violence and reduction in economic inequality are among many developments driving the positive economic trend in Colombia and giving its citizens hope for a better future. As a result, the country is seeing a great expansion in its entrepreneurial environment. According to the most recent survey by GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor), the world’s largest study of entrepreneurship, 20.6% of respondents in Colombia in 2011 reported they had started a company within the last three years…

 and this is great news for the country and the hospitality industry, and for all the people of Colombia who are “hoping for a better future.”

The one thing I can say as an outsider is that in building these new enterprises, those who do business in Colombia need to put in place now, as the tourism industry begins to bud, effective portals for communicating with outsiders.  For instance, Facebook pages, effective websites,  employees who can communicate with non-Spanish speakers– all of these things will help them reach the people who are interested in the country (for the right, and yes, unfortunately, the wrong reasons).   Also just as crucial for these businesses is hiring people who care about the country’s assets and can educate outsiders on them.  The government has instituted many initiatives on this front, but as is the case with any movement like this, the people must also be involved.  And when many in the tourism industry are outsiders (I find an inordinate amount of Dutch and Swedish hostel owners when I’m there), do the businesses care enough to do these things?  I’m not sure, but I hope so.

This is all on my mind today as I attempt to book a hostel in Cali at the end of the year.   The  fair will be going on at that time, so I’m trying to book now, to ensure my cousin and I  have a place to stay.  But I’m finding it difficult to book something at the hostels I’m interested in simply because they don’t offer credit card payment options.  You might laugh and say, “ah yes, first world problems,” and you’d be right.  Last time I was in Cartagena a German room-mate laughed at me when I used my credit card to pay for dinner at a nice restaurant–”you Americans use your cards for everything,” she said. It’s true.  But it’s also a necessary cost of doing business. If Colombia hopes to ensure continued success for its entrepreneurs and country, this “first world problem” will increasingly become one of their problems, as they too, move into first world status.  My hope is that as business owners move forward in whatever venture they’re in, they will be able to think about the ways to best meet their customers needs AS they continue to uphold the beauty and richness that is Colombia.

Date a Girl Who Writes

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Marcella:

I love the way amazing things make their way around the ‘net. Please share this if you have a writer in your life, whether that writer is a male or a female!

Originally posted on Street of Dreams:

A while ago, I posted Date a Girl Who Reads which  is a splendid piece of the values of reading. After being tipped off to this essay, and reading it, I had to share it with you as well.

Date A Girl Who Writes by Effie Sapuridis

Date a girl who writes. Date a girl who admires the calligraphy of Ancient China more than the latest fall line. She has ink smudges on her fingers, sometimes on her cheeks. Date a girl who comes with a list of unfinished poems, underdeveloped characters, incomplete plot lines, who has been writing since she could read.

Find a girl who writes. Look for the girl with frazzled hair and a pen behind her ear. She’s the one who spends hours deciding which new notebook to buy, only to cave and buy three, the one who rarely makes a grammatical error. If you were…

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