My friend and fellow Birmingham blogger Rachel Callahan launched a new project last week called Picture Birmingham. She has put her collection of local sunset photos online to raise money for the WellHouse, a Birmingham nonprofit group helping women escape sex trafficking.
In learning about the project, I discovered that Rachel had been ill but also looking for a therapeutic outlet in her photography.
In an email interview, she discussed her start in photoblogging, the immediate gratification of social media and her connection to an important cause.
Of the various causes in Birmingham, what led you to pick the WellHouse as the charity partner?
It wasn’t as much that I was looking for a charity to partner with as that the entire photo journey seemed to be set up so that I could partner with the WellHouse. I had no intention of selling my photos until I felt a clear and undeniable direction from God to sell them for the WellHouse.
I had seen many Twitter mentions about its ministry, and then I read this article in Weld for Birmingham. It was a tough read, but a game changer for me. All of a sudden, I understood what human trafficking looked like in the United States, how prevalent it was, and how hopeless it could be.
It just took about 5 months to realize that I had the resources with which I could help them.
What’s special about the time of day for sunsets?
Other times of the day are great, but they lack the curiosity that sunset holds. Each sunset usually goes through at least four distinct phases every night. I documented that phenomenon [on my personal blog].
“The dramatic contortions that the sky goes through is exhilarating in a way that’s hard to explain without seeing the whole process. So, here are 20 shots in 65 minutes, all from my iPhone, using ProHDR as my camera, and with very few post-shot edits.”
Because you never know exactly which phase will be the most stunning, it’s a bit of a mysterious adventure to see if you can:
- catch the exact moment of sunset perfection
- from the right angle
- with the right foreground
- and with the right lighting.
Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you win.
It seems sunset photos have become more popular, at least with ABC 33/40 meteorologist James Spann’s large social media audience. What do people find appealing about sunset photos?
I think they’re becoming popular because of the rise of technology with which you can actually capture their beauty. In the past, with regular cameras with normal options, it was hard to catch the full array of the colors, shadows, city, etc. Photos have almost always paled in comparison to the real thing. But thanks to HDR [high-dynamic-range imaging] and powerful editing software, you can take a picture of the sunset and actually catch its glory.
Also, the real-time factor of social media gives immediate affirmation and the ability to share the moment with the world. It can produce quite a high.
And finally, Birmingham is a most unique city, since we have many beautiful overlooks from which we can capture the entire skyline plus the sunset.
How much time per week do you spend on shooting pics? Updating the site? Marketing, etc.?
I usually shoot sunset pictures three or four times a week, often on the way to dinner or an errand, 2 to 3 hours of my week. The site and marketing are all new to me, so they’re quite consuming right now. I’m not sure what the new normal will be.
What’s been the most surprising thing for you about photoblogging?
I’ve been most surprised that I’ve reverted back to iPhone photography. [Rachel's tips for shooting on iPhone]
I’m on my second fancy DSLR [digital single-lens reflex] camera and, though I’m no expert, had become a bit of a DSLR snob until last summer. Although I can still take better pictures of my kids with my DSLR, the array of apps I have on my phone make sunset photography so much more accurate with my iPhone 5S. So I do trade off some quality, but the vastly improved ability to actually capture the sunset makes it worth it.
All profits from sales of photos and other products on Picture Birmingham go to the WellHouse. To browse images and order prints, visit picturebirmingham.com.
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We are not a branding agency.
But we can help you solve a branding question: What does your brand mean?
You may know, but your colleagues might have different conceptions. Your customers may see it another way entirely. How do you get everyone focused on your brand properly?
Several clients have mastered their brand in 4 short, painless hours. Working with us, they have a clear definition of their values and, equally as important, their boundaries.
Knowing your brand values makes the road ahead easier. It defines your potential markets, your potential partners, your potential services. And it pushes aside those ideas that aren’t a good fit for where your company is heading.
At our branding session, we sit down with you, get to know you and your company. We discuss your corporate personality and values. We learn what separates you from your competitors.
And we put together a customized brand values map that will guide you in hiring, marketing, goal setting and more.
Let us help you get a handle on your brand.
It’s the first impression you make, so make it spectacular.
• • •
Interested in finding out more about how our branding sessions work?
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
Atlanta friends, come see me at WordCamp.
I’m heading to Atlanta in March to talk about digital promotion.
Come see me at WordCamp Atlanta on March 14-15 at the Loudermilk Center.
I’ll have a specific date and time soon, along with ticket prices. My presentation will be at 4 p.m. EDT March 14 in the ballroom. Tickets, $40, can be purchased online.
My talk is titled “How to run promotional campaigns and build your list using WordPress,” based on my 2013 book launch for “The Social Media Stars of Birmingham.” (Download a copy of the book for free.)
I’ll explain how I grew site traffic by a factor of eight for Y’all Connect and grew a new mailing list so fast that I saved years in the process.
I spoke at Atlanta’s conference in 2010 and 2013 to packed rooms and look forward to seeing you next month.
If you plan to stay overnight, special group rates are available through Thursday at the Sheraton Atlanta.
Let’s hang out at WordCamp Atlanta.
• • •
Need a speaker for your conference?
I can give interactive presentations on a number of topics.
Scrolling through the commercials of Super Bowls past, you will not find many memorable spots. You’ll see mixed messages, poor branding and expensive mistakes.
Ten seconds, 30 seconds (only $4 million!), even 60 seconds can go by way too quickly, or for a clunker of a commercial, all too slowly.
One way I’d like to help you with your communication is with clear consistent messaging. It doesn’t need to be flashy or controversial. But most companies fail in reaching people because they start with no deliberate messaging.
The result is frustration for the audience and for the business itself. And a lot of wasted money.
How I can help you, explained in my imaginary 30-second Super Bowl spot …
[Drones march in single file to drab holding area. Projected face of DICTATOR on large wall screen addresses the gathering crowd.]
DICTATOR: Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives.
[Wade, wearing a tank top, runs in pursued by troops.]
DICTATOR: We have created for the first time in all history a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests of any contradictory true thoughts.
DICTATOR: Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth.
DICTATOR: We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause.
DICTATOR: Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion.”
[Wade spins, then hurls a series of memos at the screen.]
[Memos stick to screen in a shower of sparks. DICTATOR studies them carefully.]
DICTATOR: We shall prevail!
CRAWL: On Jan. 27, Wade will help another company with its messaging. And you’ll see why George Orwell will be laughing AND crying.
Or maybe just get James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell to riff on being “Star Wars”/”Star Trek” villains for 30 seconds. Because, awesome!
Start with a good tight message before you spend your first dime, whether on a Super Bowl ad, a Twitter campaign or my services. Or let me help.
See Super Bowl commercials from 2013 and 2012 on my Pinterest boards …
Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.
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In reviewing my 2013 talks, I realized something.
I spoke a lot last year. And each time with a new presentation.
Planning ahead for 2014, I want to help out your organization. I never charge for classroom talks, and almost never charge for nonprofit groups.
If you’re within 250 miles of Birmingham, and you need a speaker for your next event, contact me. I can speak for up to an hour — with or without slides — on any number of topics related to communication:
- digital marketing;
- better leadership;
- social media;
- content strategy;
- lead prospecting;
- effective email newsletters;
- market research;
- and more!
I’ll always want to know about your audience (size, experience level), your room setup including AV equipment and wifi, your topic preferences and so on.
Book me today — my schedule always fills up quickly. I’d love to see you soon.
Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.
• • •
My talks bring in crowds,
so contact me now to make arrangements …
Video: Lee Ann Petty wins Regions Bank
Better Life Award for January 2014.
It’s OK to toot your own horn occasionally. It’s even better to show off your best feature, your people.
I recently saw that Birmingham’s Lee Ann Petty won an award from her employer, Regions Bank. The monthly Better Life Award recognizes an associate who contributes to others in the workplace and in the community.
(A few years ago, she and I served on the YP Roundtable, a loose affiliation of nonprofit representatives.)
Often, such recognition is limited to internal gestures: a certificate, an email announcement, a plaque. Regions went a step further by producing videos that interview the honorees and their colleagues. The bank also donates $1,000 to the winner’s designated cause, such as Lee Ann’s favorite, the Red Mountain Theatre Company.
This award puts a high value on customer service, as well as community service. While Lee Ann, a paralegal team lead, doesn’t work with customers at branches, she does assist associates on legal matters that affect them and the corporation.
I learned while working at a publication to treat everyone like customers: associates, supervisors, vendors and so on. Work hard at providing the best customer service to everyone. That means being polite, listening to concerns and solving problems.
(It can also mean setting boundaries. Sometimes, customers can overstep their bounds, but that doesn’t mean each one deserves the royal treatment.)
What Regions has done by sharing these awards through short videos is enhance its story. Many banks recognize employees. But Regions shows its values in action through its people and its rewarding of those standouts.
It becomes less about the bank proper and more about Lee Ann’s excellent works.
Make sure your company both rewards outstanding people and praises them as loudly as possible. It enhances your brand and shows who really is behind it.
- Regions Bank devotes part of its YouTube channel to Better Life Award winners.
Part of the 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge.
See more helpful videos.
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You have a blog on your company site, but you don’t know how to fill it. You don’t have the time to brainstorm, but you want to put your brand out there in Internet land.
The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge can help you. [Download as a PDF.]
Look to this list of ideas for a new blog post every Monday. Some are short and easy to write. Others will take planning and production.
Creating a new blog post a week will help you …
- Understand your brand better;
- Stretch as a blogger;
- And have fun!
No matter what type of company or products or services or target audience, this list of ideas can help you think more deeply about your customers’ needs and your brand’s hidden identity.
Happy blogging in 2014!
The 2014 BBA yearlong blogging challenge
- Jan. 6: What to expect from your company in 2014; include offers to subscribe to newsletter or follow on social media.
- Jan. 13: Profile a team member who works directly with customers.
- Jan. 20: Today is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service; how have your company and your colleagues participated in community service?
- Jan. 27: Super Bowl ads cost $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime (not counting production costs). What would you tell a billion people about your company in 30 seconds?
- Feb. 3: Take your most popular product or service, and illustrate how it has evolved over the years (or why it has remained unchanged).
- Feb. 10: In honor of Valentine’s Day, send a love letter to your customers and fans.
- Feb. 17: Profile an intern or the newest employee.
- Feb. 24: Show how your company has solved a problem recently for a customer.
- March 3: In like a lion … How has your company outpaced your competitors?
- March 10: Profile a longtime customer.
- March 17: Spring means a new start. Offer a free trial to new customers.
- March 24: What events — trade shows, grand openings, focus groups, community events — will your company take part in?
- March 31: Out like a lamb … What is the biggest challenge your company is working to solve?
- April 7: What is the top mistake your customers make, and how can they avoid it?
- April 14: Set out some Easter eggs: What are the aspects people find most surprising about your company?
- April 21: Profile a team member in sales or marketing.
- April 28: Post five YouTube videos that will help customers understand your industry better.
- May 5: Q&A with 10 colleagues asking the same question focused on customer issues.
- May 12: How did your company get started? What are its roots in the community?
- May 19: Profile the team member who has served the longest at the company.
- May 26: PowerPoint theater: Post an insider slideshow that reveals interesting info about your company; backup plan: search SlideShare for decks that help your particular customers.
- June 2: Share a story of how a colleague has gone the extra mile for someone.
- June 9: Put together a list of linked resources for fans and customers. Bonus points if you link to competitors.
- June 16: Summer reading: five must-read books that will make your readers smarter about your industry.
- June 23: Blue sky thinking: Where will your company be in 10 years?
- June 30: Today is Social Media Day: Show off your biggest fans in each channel.
- July 7: It’s too hot outside. What are the coolest things about your company?
- July 14: Share a white paper in PDF form that offers short-term and long-term solutions for your target audiences.
- July 21: Profile your human resources director.
- July 28: Write a “help wanted” ad for your ideal customer.
- Aug. 4: Use photos or a video to give a tour of your company.
- Aug. 11: Back-to-school time: Educate your fans on your services and your prices.
- Aug. 18: Profile a management team member.
- Aug. 25: Share testimonials, questions and complaints from customers’ emails. (Get their permission first.)
- Sept. 1: Offer a prize to the reader who answers the most questions correctly about company trivia.
- Sept. 8: Profile a new customer.
- Sept. 15: What is your company culture? Its mission?
- Sept. 22: Autumn means change. Ask readers what one thing they would change about your company.
- Sept. 29: Create a screencast that guides visitors through your company website and blog.
- Oct. 6: Then and now: Use photos to show your company at the beginning and in 2014. Bonus points if you use a list to show more figures from then and now (number of employees, revenue, etc.).
- Oct. 13: List job openings at your company.
- Oct. 20: Profile your CEO.
- Oct. 27: Tricks and treats: Show off your best tricks for helping customers solve problems; offer treats for their best tips.
- Nov. 3: Give a sneak peek at new products in development.
- Nov. 10: Embed tweets of questions related to your company, products or industry. Then, answer them.
- Nov. 17: Profile a colleague in accounting or finances.
- Nov. 24: Show thanks for your customers, your team members, your vendors and others who have helped build your business.
- Dec. 1: Create an infographic with your keenest industry insights.
- Dec. 8: Profile your toughest critic.
- Dec. 15: Give a “how to” for your product or service.
- Dec. 22: Share your company Christmas card.
- Dec. 29: Offer resolutions to help your customers grow in 2015.
• • •
• • •
Never get stuck blogging again.
Call me in to help your company’s blog prosper in the new year …
Most of us don’t have big comment communities, and likely never will. That’s OK: They can be troublesome to manage and rife with infighting, spam and nastiness.
But, oh, how fun they are when they work.
I look at content for info or entertainment. But I study the comments for genuine laughs and opinions. My favorite comment communities allow users to display their wit and have deeper discussions, while self-policing for trolls and spambots.
And fortunately, they can respond with text, GIFs and videos in threaded comments. They can give points to their favorite comments.
I like to think I’m a comedy snob, but really, a clever screen name is enough for me. The responses on this post, “Oklahoma Legislature Opens Door to Satanic Monument on Capitol Grounds,” are fairly typical.
The A.V. Club recently switched to the Disqus commenting system, which apparently has caused some dissension among the ranks. The current settings don’t allow any embedded media, just up votes and down votes. Disqus allows readers to sort comments by date or by up votes, but I rarely switch it up.
The site not only keeps track of active TV shows, but also classics. I enjoy popping in for the occasional retro-review of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” but what I really love are the capsules from Rappin’ Jake Sisko. Take in the poetry from this recent analysis of DS9 episode, “Inquisition.”
My final example is an old standby, What’s Alan Watching? on HitFix, another TV blog. Critic Alan Sepinwall posts news items and reviews almost daily. I’ve long admired his simple comment policy which keeps life easier for blog writer and blog readers.
I enjoy reading viewers’ reactions to the latest episodes of my favorite shows, so I’ll stop by daily to see what comments pop up. They always see things I miss, or, at the very least, run through my favorite quotes. HitFix recently added the Like button to comments, but no sorting or no embedding allowed.
Check out the discussion below Sepinwall’s latest review of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Vibrant online communities make good blogs great. Even if the posts are mediocre, the comments keep me coming back. I’m content to read and laugh along, rarely putting in my own 2 cents.
Make it easy for readers to leave comments and interact not only with you but also each other. Give them room to play, and watch how they help your site flourish.
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Video: Vine compilation 2013
I could tell much better stories. I need to work on that skill as much as possible.
I worked on my focus this year, and will continue to do so in the years to come. In 2014, I want to also work on my storytelling. That might mean in writing and in my daily haiku. That might mean in video. That might mean onstage.
I believe in stories. I love watching them and reading them and hearing them. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell sells so many books, by hooking readers with compelling narratives. It’s why even a 6-second Vine video can have a beginning, middle and end before you can blink. (See a slew of examples in the video above.)
It’s why even a creative nonfiction tweet (#cnftweet) can pack more story into 140 characters than in some novels.
Improving my storytelling skills will help me teach others more effectively. I weave stories into my presentations and training sessions, but usually in addition to my outline. I need to think more narratively from the start.
Being better at storytelling will also help me assist clients in developing campaigns and messaging for their goals. I already help plan editorial calendars, but having the story defined from the start will guide us in our work.
I shall dig deep into story construction and presentation. I know where I need to work hardest, and I look forward to practicing these skills.
Come see me in 2014, and let me tell you a story …
• • •
I share stories and links to stories in the free
weekly Birmingham Blogging Academy newsletter …
I must confess: I don’t do coffee.
I mean, I do coffees, as in coffee meetups. But I’ll likely have a Diet Coke.
Despite this shortcoming, I’d still like to do coffee with you. Meeting face to face gives me a better sense as to where you may need help with communication.
It will also give you a better sense as to what I do for a living. Because this is what I do, assessing corporate communications and making suggestions on how to improve, based on your goals.
Brainstorming is one of my strengths. I’ll pitch idea after idea after idea. And it won’t cost you a penny — I’ll even spring for the coffee.
(For those of you outside the Birmingham area, we can chat by phone, Skype or other video service. BYOC.)
Let’s do coffee soon. You’ll walk away with some killer ideas.
Photo: Martin Fisch (CC)
• • •
Let me know when you’d like
to brainstorm strategies and tactics …
Slides: “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses”
I’m giving this presentation on “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses” today to a class at Samford University. I’ve spent years honing my skills for effective interaction up, down and sideways.
What can you do to understand your colleagues better and help others work in harmony? I have nine strategies for improving communications with an emphasis on service.
1. You can download these slides or embed them on your site. To download a PDF, click the button marked “slideshare,” then “Save.”
2. If you want to stay in touch …
- You can contact me through this simple form. Please feel free to ask questions, make suggestions or request help.
- You can follow me on Twitter at @WadeOnTweets.
- You can subscribe to the free e-mail newsletter with tips, info, specials and more.
- And you can subscribe to my Birmingham Blogging Academy posts by RSS feed or by e-mail by looking for the box in the right sidebar.
Thanks for checking out “Focused communication: Working with subordinates, peers and bosses.”
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