A letter to my son

 

 

meghan and tyTyson Meghan

Dear Tyson,

 

I don’t think you will ever understand exactly how much I love you until you have a child of your own. Since you’re only 11 years old, you won’t understand for quite a while (at least I hope not!).

You growing up and living a happy, successful life is my biggest wish and hope. And everything I do in my life at this point – every decision and choice, even if you don’t understand them – is my way of supporting that dream.

I admire you. I know that sounds crazy coming from your mother, but I really do. Your heart is so wide and open. You have friends of all races, genders and backgrounds. You still wish for the best and think the world is a wonderful place. I do not want to shade over your bright and colorful optimistic views with the black crayon that is reality. So, when I seem like I’m being negative or causing you to miss out on the joys of life – it’s really me protecting you.

When you use the slang words you heard on a TV show like some of your friends do, I tell you to stop speaking that way not to be a prude or because I actually think you don’t know how to construct a sentence correctly. When you want to wear your baseball cap to the side or backwards like your favorite singer and your friends, I tell you to only wear it forward not because I think you are some hoodlum. When I tell you to be careful whose home you visit when I’m not around, it’s not because I don’t trust you or your decisions. When I punish you for having a quick-wit response to questions or statements, it’s certainly not because I never had a smart mouth. When I ask you who your friends are and what you know about their family, it’s not because I’m just being nosy or that I don’t want you to spend time with anyone.

When I look at you, I only see the happy, bright-eyed intelligent boy who laughed for the first time when his father was bouncing him on his chest. When I glance over and look at you, I see an often shy child with dreams of becoming an engineer or “computer hacker” for the government. The problem is that the rest of the world won’t always see you that way.

There will come a time when you’re an adult. A lot of people (not all, but some) will look at you and see an angry and defiant Black man– despite the heart you have or what your GPA may be. The simple act of walking home from the corner store could result in your death; depending on your reaction to another citizen questioning you.  The people you choose to spend time with could cause you to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. The quick-wit you have could be construed as lack of respect for authority.

I don’t want to ever change your optimistic view on life. I don’t ever want to change the way you view yourself and the world around you – but at the same time, I’ve got to prepare you for that world. Is it fair? No. But, my sweet boy – unfortunately, that’s today’s reality.

So don’t ever change, Tyson. Always look to have friends of every race and culture. Keep standing up for the kid that’s being bullied. Keep believing that Jesus loves us all and continue praying everyday for the world around you.  We need that spirit right now more than you could ever know.

I love you.

His #blacklifematters

Facebook has become exhausting. From fights about Confederate flags to posts about how horrible and racist police officers are and how thuggish Black youth are – the claims of racism are rampant across my newsfeed.

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I’ve jumped into a few fruitless online “debates” attempting to play devil’s advocate for either side of the argument. It’s rarely turned out a happy conversation. It’s become very rare to see both sides agreeing on anything.

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Then today, I ran across something from more than two years ago that brought me to tears.

A Black Port Arthur teen lived near Nederland and so he went to Nederland High School. If you don’t know anything about this area, you don’t know that this is a lessening oddity, but still not very frequent. Port Arthur’s school district remains a predominantly Black district while Nederland has been recently more integrated itself.

Anyway, this teen, Anthony Maddox, played football and was pretty popular in Nederland. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school. A noble choice for him but it must have been very scary for his parents. As a mother, I can’t imagine.

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Maddox was in the military only three years when promoted to Sergeant. After an accident that left him with major burns over most of his body, Sgt. Anthony Maddox came home.

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His homecoming was quite the affair in Nederland and Port Arthur. Area residents of every color lined the streets as the vehicle carrying Sgt. Maddox slowly rode down Southeast Texas roads. Some residents saluted his vehicle while others waved small flags. Some residents, of every race, even wore t-shirts with images of his face.

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maddox street

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What could have brought all of these residents of every age, walk of life and races together?

Sgt. Anthony Maddox gave his life while serving his country. Only days after his family had been alerted to his burns, he passed away.

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There is a melancholy beauty in this story. At this day and age, a young man giving his life for his country is admirable and heroic, but so sad. At this day and age, when battles online and off are being fought on the brittle and unyielding boundaries of race – seeing these images carried a certain beauty. His Black life mattered and his death transcended any hashtag for justice or social media plea.

Thank you, Sgt. Anthony Maddox for serving this country. You gave the ultimate sacrifice. And for a moment, your homecoming led to photographic images of sad harmony and unity that despite the current world around us, shows there is a deeper love for each other beneath the resentment and pain.

anthony maddox photo

Photos courtesy of Beaumont Enterprise/Guiseppe Barranco

Storytelling and social media

Under the cover of an inky black, dark starless night; Heather ambled silently towards her destination. Like a mirage in the distance, the closer she got, the further the target appeared. Her future depended on this journey and in the pit of her stomach, the grumbling anxiety confirmed that she knew this fact.

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Finally, as the sounds of the night added an earthly soundtrack to her trek, Heather reached the mailbox at the end of her driveway, opened the small door and retrieved her college acceptance letter.

Wasn’t that better than “Tonight, Heather went and got her college acceptance letter out of her mailbox” (edited to add: my mother read my blog and wants you ALL to know that I did indeed write the improved story about Heather)?

Why? Because it’s story telling.

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Social media is now one of the top ways of connecting with an audience. But are you viewing that audience as actual people or just consumers?

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The best marketers and communicators understand that storytelling is the way to engage PEOPLE and inspire them to act.

Social media is all about building connections and storytelling is a huge part of that.

This means that you will do more than just tweet announcements to anyone following your brand. You’ve got to talk about that woman who visited your clinic last week and since has had improved health. Tell HER story.

You’ve got to share the story of that employee who went from working as an assistant to a director thanks in part to your education programs. Share that journey. These are the things that connect a brand to PEOPLE and not just consumers.

Before you begin your storytelling, its important to know who is your audience and how do they interact with your brand? What is my audience saying? What content would our audience be interested in? How can we offer something different from other brands? How do we get the audience to choose our brand over the next?

Once you can make that connection, watch your business grow and amaze you.

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My after college/but not entry level job search

This is new territory. And..it’s…scary.

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I first entered the workforce many, many moons ago. Armed with nothing but a year or so of college and an intense talent and passion for writing, I thought I was on top of the world. I was hitting those computer keys at The Port Arthur News with a FIERCE passion.

kermit typing

Five years later, I had my son and things changed. I noticed a glass ceiling and wanted to bypass it. The only way to do that was by getting a college degree. But has anyone told you how HARD it is to work to pay bills, take care of your child AND go to school?

wait its hard

Yes, it’s HARD. But nothing worth having comes easy. So, I stuck to it..for YEARS. And now, I’ve finally made it! I am weeks away from graduating with a degree in Communications (New Media)…and with a 3.97 GPA no less!

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But what comes next? It’s a whole new world out there, people. You don’t just send off your resume. Ohhhh, no. That resume better be eye-catching and it has to represent who YOU are. I’ve seen resumes with people’s pictures and graphs and even infographic resumes!

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Once you send off that resume, it isn’t the hiring manager that contacts you anymore. Nope. It’s a recruiter who is given the duty of weeding out the undesirables. And that just may…be…YOU.

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So you better be ready to impress. Recruiters know their stuff! And to be fair, it’s also a chance for you to learn about the job and the company. At this point, the job duties, salary and corporate culture may not be a match for YOU. This is a good time to decide that. Honestly, you should be checking out companies just as much as they are checking you out.

Then, if you make it past THAT stage, you can look forward to a phone or face to face interview with the actual hiring manager.

And the toughest part about this is knowing exactly what to expect and what to even apply for. While I’m a new college graduate (or will be…stop splitting hairs)..I’m not new to the working world. Heck, I’ve got about 5-10 years worth of experience under my belt.

I’ve decided to avoid any “tips of the trade” and just be me. I will research companies and find their strengths and weaknesses – not for strategic purposes, but isn’t that what you would want to know about a company you are interested in working for?

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I’m really just looking for a company where I can contribute my talents, passion, skills and education towards a shared goal. Even better if I can help people while doing so. I really believe our talents should be put towards serving others in some capacity.

So that’s my mission and I will keep trucking until I get there. Wish me luck!

force with you

Democrats SLAY social media campaigns

Just a few years ago, I remember perusing Facebook when something new and exciting caught my eye.

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A presidential candidate was campaigning via social media. Oh, snap!

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Future president Barack Obama was OWNING social media with his Twitter voting reminders and Facebook engagement. Poor John McCain’s campaign, in comparison, just sat back looking rather…well…elderly.

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How did it happen? Obama’s team knew how social media worked. It isn’t about just posting random marketing announcements. It’s about ENGAGEMENT. It was groundbreaking the way they engaged and treated the audience as if they mattered.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – social media is the new way to talk WITH your audience..not AT it. Obama GOT it. And so, I believe partially because of social media and the tie-in to his “time for a change” campaign – he won the election.

Soon after, presidential candidates started to grasp how important social media can be to campaigns. Now, it’s a matter of who is going to use it best. Hillary Clinton is off to a great start.

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She isn’t just using social media – she is ASKING for engagement. Better yet, she is asking for engagement using social media tools.

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Say what you will about Democrats, President Obama’s campaign or Hillary..but it’s clear that Democrats get social media. And what’s a better way of reaching constituents where they are than social media?!

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PR social media blunders

I just LOVE when companies make huge social media mistakes. It entertains me so!

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…as long as it wasn’t me. HA! As if!!

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Ahhh, Murphy’s Law – the idea that if something can go wrong – it WILL!

For example, I believe the National Rifle Association (NRA) probably had a tweet planned to encourage audience engagement – a major positive to businesses using social media. The organization probably thought the tweet asking about weekend plans would lead to lots of retweets, posters responding and tagging the national firearm organization. What they HADN’T anticipated, or noticed, was that just a few hours earlier the nation had learned of a mass shooting in an Aurora,CO movie theater that left 12 people dead. Now the innocent looking tweet takes on new, dark and melancholy meaning.

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McDonald’s is a major world-wide brand. The PR masterminds at the fast food mega-giant SURELY know how to run a PR campaign. So when McDonald’s asked Twitter fans to use the hashtag #McDStories to tell tales of their great experiences with McDonald’s, the last thing they expected were “tales from the crypt”. From laughable stories about horrible customer service to serious health claims of food poisoning, McDonald’s was rocked by the feedback they received.

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From timing to contingency plans in case the engagement and conversations you’d planned on don’t go your way – it’s important to keep in mind that things CAN and WILL go wrong.

Now had the NRA social media or PR associate gone over the scheduled tweets for the day and checked the news that morning – perhaps that misstep would have been alleviated. As for McDonald’s – well, when asking millions of social media users to use a hashtag to talk about your brand – you have to know that some smarty pants is going to take it to another level. They quickly pulled the hashtag but the damage was done.

I believe it would be smart to not only think of what could go wrong when creating plans, but also having other sets of eyes to perhaps look it over as well. Having a crisis plan together would also help when things DO go wrong. With an already set plan together, it won’t be so stressful when the carefully designed ship starts to sink.

Now rock on social media artisans…ROCK. ON.

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What do the best brands on social media have in common?

social media engagement

Engagement.

Social media permits more interactive dialogue with your clients. Instead of just paper, you have bilateral communication. The client can submit their own desires, comments and complaints. You hear from the client as opposed to the client only hearing from the company.

The smartest companies are taking FULL advantage of this.

In particular, Kimpton Hotels is truly knocking it out of the park. They don’t just Tweet about what’s going on within their trendy 30+ hotels. They reach out to customers and the public to create REAL relationships.

KIMPTON ENGAGEMENT

And  THAT, dear friends, is where the REAL business can start happening. Once you’ve shown that you care – your audience REALLY starts listening. And even better, they start doing something SPECTACULAR.

They start telling everyone all about how GREAT you are!

On the other side of the spectrum, you can completely RUIN it. An angry client recently posted a complaint on the GoGoSqueeze Facebook pages. Suddenly, the post disappeared. The company acted as if it was never there.

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GoGoSqueeze finally admitted to both the complaint and that the posting had been deleted. But fans weren’t having it and even now, months later, customers are still expressing their displeasure on the page.

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Deleting posts and complaints…JUST DON’T DO IT.