Grammar Game

By: Gina Mason

Word traps…there are a lot of them out there and you would be surprised how often people fall victim to common grammar mistakes. (We are all guilty of it!) Whether it’s something as simple as the misuse of a homophone such as “their, they’re or there” or mixing up the definition of a word such as irreverent or irrelevant, it is important to make sure your grammar game is strong (especially, when writing a big email or working on a presentation). For some grammar snobs, the misuse of a pronoun or verb can send them through the grammatical glass roof and may cost you that big deal.

I recently read a great article in Forbes that had a useful breakdown of some of the most common grammar missteps in business. Here are some common words and some easy-to-remember tricks to ensure (see example 1) we stay on the right grammar track:

“Ensure vs. Insure

You insure a car or a house. Think: insurance.

You ensure the company will be a fit for you by doing your research.

Capitol vs. Capital

The Capitol is a building in Washington, DC. Do note its proper noun status.

Capital is money, as in a venture capital firm. It’s also what you’re referring to when you ask someone to stop emailing in ALL CAPS—and the spelling you’d want to use if asked to list all of the state capitals.

Perspective vs. Prospective

You have a unique perspective, or take, on events.

Prospective means potential, as in, the prospective candidates are impressive.

Gauge vs. Gouge

You’ll gauge your client’s reaction to the new slogan (i.e. take his or her temperature).

You’ll gouge out your eyes if you have to stare at your presentation slides much longer.

Moot vs. Mute vs. Moo

The point is moot—or, in other words, it doesn’t matter.

The TV is on mute.

And if you think the point is moo, you’ve watched too much Friends.

Prosperity vs. Posterity

Prosperity means wealth, so if you’re toasting to prosperity, you’re celebrating your fortune.

Posterity means future generations. You could toast to posterity as well, so long as you know you’re raising a glass to your descendants.

Principal vs. Principle

You went to the principal’s office when you misbehaved in school.

Principal can also mean main, as in principal investor.

And a principle is a tenet you believe in.

Tenet vs. Tenant

While we’re on the subject, a tenet is a rule.

A tenant is a renter.

Rein vs. Reign vs. Rain

You rein in your tendency to overreact, much like you use the reins to control a horse.

Meanwhile a monarch reigns over his or her empire, while rain falls from the sky.

Solidarity vs. Solitary

You show solidarity by joining or supporting a cause or social movement.

If you’re the solitary member on a project, you’re the only person working on it. (Note: Solitary often includes a connotation that means lonely or isolated.)

Weary vs. Wary vs. Leery vs. Leer

Weary means tired. It can also mean jaded, which is why some people confuse it with…

Wary, which means suspicious. You’d be wary of a candidate with terrible references.

Leery also means suspicious. You would be rightfully leery of a hiring manager who never showed up for your interview.

Finally, to leer is to stare in an inappropriate way.

Accept vs. Except

You accept an offer from your dream company.

You would go to the upcoming event, except you already have plans.

Broach vs. Brooch vs. Breach

You’ll broach the subject tomorrow, while wearing your grandmother’s lucky brooch.

Neither of which has anything to do with a breach of contract.

Fleshing vs. Flushing

You flesh out the findings by going into more detail.

You flush something down in the restroom.

Banal vs. Blasé

The topic is banal, a.k.a., boring.

He’s known for his blasé attitude—meaning he’s never flustered and seems generally unconcerned.

Skim vs. Scan

When you skim a document, you’re glancing at pretty quickly.

Scan can be used as a synonym for skim, but it also can mean reading something in detail (much like the oft-misused peruse). Scan can also be used in a medical context, e.g., a full-body scan.

Underserved vs. Undeserved

Underserved communities suffer from a lack of resources.

Undeserved means something was not merited, like an unwarranted dismissal.

Proceed vs. Precede

If someone says, “let’s proceed,” he means “let’s get started” or “let’s continue.”

Something that precedes something else, comes first (e.g., winter precedes spring, spring precedes summer).

Intents vs. Intense

Your intents are noble.

But your intense gaze is creeping the interviewer out.

Squash vs. Quash

You might eat squash after a game of squash in which you squashed your opponent like a bug. (What an eventful lunch break!)

On the other hand, you’d quash a merger that you’ve reconsidered and decided is a bad move.

Irreverent vs. Irrelevant

You might think irreverent just means colorful, but it often connotes something that is disrespectful, rude, even blasphemous.

While something that’s irrelevant doesn’t relate to the matter at hand.

Amused vs. Bemused

If you’re amused, you’re enjoying yourself, whereas…

If you’re bemused, you’re confused.

Farther vs. Further

Farther and further both measure distance. But farther is more often used for a distance you can actually measure. So, my favorite lunch spot is farther from the office than the sandwich spot up the block.

If you don’t want to go there, we don’t need to take this conversation any further.

Elicit vs. Illicit

If you’ve read this far, you deserve to know that elicit means provoke, as in elicit a response.

Illicit means illegal or forbidden—illicit activities have no place in the office (or, really, anywhere).”

I’m sure most of us have all fallen into these grammar traps and the best advice that I have for those who are unsure of the proper use of the word is USE GOOGLE! Google can pretty much tell us everything these days and if not, use two of my favorite grammar websites are Grammar Girl and Grammarly for quick and dirty grammar tips. I hope you found this post to be helpful and this will help us all step up our grammar game.

As always, if you like what you read be social and share.

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GIVING BACK IS ALWAYS GOOD BUSINESS!

 #SOCIALGOOD

By Michael Scher

“Great brands don’t just support existing causes or charities—they pioneer positive social change,” according to Denise Lee Yohn, writer for Forbes.

Great brands create value for themselves when their efforts are selfless because they know their role has a direct impact and contribution on society. Their goal is to make the world a better place because it’s the right thing to do, nor expecting a financial gain or reward from their actions. A business is only as strong as its environment and the role it plays in protecting its own community. Similarly, it’s a great way to humanize your brand and differentiate yourselves in the eyes of the consumer and organization.

Over the years, social responsibility has played a greater role in the business environment as everyone’s focus has transitioned to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Specifically, here are some key findings on how consumers view the importance of this paramount and vital initiative:

  • “81% of consumers around the world want companies to address key social and environmental issues; 93% say companies should go beyond just legal compliance to operate responsibly; and 94% expect companies to analyze and evolve their businesses to make their impact as positive as possible.”
  • “94% of consumers surveyed say they are likely to switch brands to support a cause if both brands are similar in price and quality.”
  • “94% say they would buy a product that has an environmental benefit; 76% have already done so in the past year.”
  • “93% would buy a product associated with a cause; 65% have already done so in the past year.”

Source: http://nonprofit.about.com/od/causerelatedmarketing/a/Three-Cause-Marketing-Trends-That-Affect-Nonprofits-And-Their-Business-Partners.htm

In addition, Cause Marketing is an effective way for a company to play their part, while generating positive media coverage in giving back. Not to mention, Cause Marketing can increase shareholder value, generate awareness and broaden your constituency.

However, before launching these efforts, please follow these essential steps:

1) Pick your non-profit wisely: It’s imperative to partner with an organization that represents the same values you embody and represent. It shouldn’t be just a check in the box selection process. Make sure you do your homework and research to ensure the values align synergistically. Ask yourself, does my company values align with their greater cause at hand? If I was a consumer, would I receive this partnership genuinely or are their underlying interests not being addressed upfront in the public eye? And is the spotlight being shined on the organization or the non-profit?

2) Integrate the cause into your company culture: The cause and backstory of the charitable organization you’re involved with should be engrained in the workplace culture and should inspire all to play their part in lending a hand from day one. From a leadership perspective, you’ll receive stronger buy in because employees will attach weight to something meaningful, especially with Senior Leadership. It’s bigger than who you are.

3) Don’t just give money, GET INVOLVED! To truly lead by example, your business should take on a greater role than just fundraising. Ask yourself, what ancillary services and/ or assets can my company provide to support their mission? Are there volunteering efforts where my employees can participate for an all-day event? How can we raise more awareness and increase support? Another great option is to incorporate corporate giving programs, where consumers view purchasing your products or services as a means of giving back, while obtaining value for something they would have paid for anyway.

4) Be transparent, demonstrate impact: Keep your consumers abreast of how your donations and services have helped, and impacted the organization in some way. Consumers are quite smart and aware, and want to be kept up to date on the progress and value you added. Rather than tell them, show them directly! They want to be part of the journey and see how you impacted them positively. Above all, make sure your strategic communications focuses more on the cause you’re supporting rather than your company. If your efforts are genuine, people will take notice, and more importantly, so will the media with free earned exposure.

5) Harness the power of social media: As we’re all aware, social media can help increase the scale for promoting any Cause Marketing initiatives because it allows you to connect with likeminded individuals that are passionate about what you’re doing. Utilize content to engage with others and tell your story through blogging, photography, and even short/ long form video. Build a call to action that empowers others to get involved and play their part. Cause Marketing should be a collective action and take on the focal point as “WE,” rather than a singular point of view.

In the end, the goal is to create a shared value across your company and the non-profit organization. Imagine the role marketing can play in building value for others. The possibilities are endless and it’s time for everyone to play their part in giving back.

What is your organization doing to make your community a better place to live? And how have these initiatives transformed the way your business is being perceived in the public eye and in the workplace?

As always, I welcome any and all comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.

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Tips & Tricks for Your Next Instagram Post

By: Gina Mason

Instagram may be one of the hottest social media platforms out there right now. As of January 2015, there are more than 300 million active users, over 30 billion photos that have been shared and the average users spends at least 21 minutes a day browsing and liking photos.

As the app continues to grow and expand so does its capabilities and features. With its constant updates, it’s hard to keep track of all of the new useful features. I recently read an article on SocialMediaWeek.org and wanted to share some great tips for the photo-sharing app.

Here are a few of my favorite tips from the article:

Send Selective People Photos

Want to share a photo with friends without it going into the Newsfeed? Use the Instagram Direct feature. “This feature lets you share the photo with up to 15 people, and they can comment on the photo like normal. Items shared this way will not turn up in a search and can be deleted. To use Instagram Direct, choose Direct when you’re at the “Share To’” page. Then select your recipients by tapping the circle next to their names or by typing their names in the ‘To’ space. Finish off by hitting Send.”

Hide Annoying Accounts

Finally! There is a secret “hide” button for those friends who still don’t understand the concept of Instagram. You know, those friends who overshare or upload 10 photos of their cats/children within five minutes and blow up your Newsfeed, but you can’t officially unfollow them. “To ignore Direct posts from a person, go to the tray icon at the top right of your home page. Tap the horizontal three-dots button (iPhone) or vertical three-dots button (Android). Select “Ignore all posts from this user.”

Hide Photos

Ever have a friend tag you in an embarrassing or unflattering photo? You can hide it now! “To hide a tagged photo, tap the offending photo and your Instagram handle will appear. Tap your handle. When a menu pops up, select “Hide from My Profile.” If you don’t want to be tagged at all in the photo, go to the More Options button and choose “Remove Me from Photo.” If you don’t want to remove your tagged photos one by one, you can adjust your settings to review them first. Just go to “Photos of You”, tap on your settings at the top right corner and select the “Add Manually” option.”

Hashtag After

Ever post a photo and forgot to use hashtags? “You can still do so by adding them in the comments. People will still be able to find your photo when searching the hashtag you used. This method also has the added bonus of eliminating the dreaded hashtag paragraph when you share the same photo onto your other social media accounts.”

Forget to share to your other sites?

If you have posted a photo on Instagram and forgot to share it on your other social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, you can now. “Tap the button with three dots at the bottom of the photo. Select Share from the menu and choose which site you want to share it to. If you choose Twitter, your photo URL will appear as you compose your tweet, so you’ll know if you’ve hit the 140 character limit.”

I hope you found these tips to be helpful. To read the rest of the tips, here is the link to the full article:

http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2015/05/10-useful-instagram-tips-tricks-you-should-know/

Happy Instagram-ing!

As always, if you like what you read be social and share.

I Wrote This Blog and You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next…

By: Dallas J. Short

Working in public relations, I’m a bit of word nerd and am constantly writing. There is a new version of Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary and 1,700 words have been included, along with 3,200 new examples to add context. After this, all I can do is SMH at WTF and NSFW being added. The one that bothers me the most though is clickbait, not because I disagree with it being a word, but I disagree with even having clickbait (as what it is) exist.

Clickbait (noun): something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.

There are two mains reasons.

The first, it’s lazy journalism, which is very unprofessional and should not even be labelled as journalism. If you can’t judge a book by its cover, you should definitely still be able to know what a story is about by its headline. Integrity is extremely important to me and has seemed to fall by the way side, as people are more focused on getting clicks so they can pad their traffic stats and get more money for advertisements. It’s lying and disrespectful. It might sound crazy, but when you actually create quality content for your audience, they will not only trust and respect you more, but your positive engagement will increase. While some people will always be bored and out to troll, the majority of comments on a “news” story should not be outrage because of the author’s misrepresentation of facts and details.

The second, the internet and the world in general are fast-moving and unfortunately there are some people who just read headlines and form their own stories, without taking the time out to read the whole thing, put it in context or do research. Ah yes, ignorance is bliss and we should be a more educated society, but putting nonsense out into the world is part of the problem, not the solution. These misleading titles can also cause people to be upset and spread hate, as well as misinformation. Writers understand that words are weapons and a quick Spiderman refresher “with great power comes great responsibility.” Readers deserve better.

Clickbait has become a bad game of follow the leader, it works/worked to increase the number of page clicks and so more and more people keep doing it. Online publications do rely on advertising money, so they do want more clicks and that is understandable. There are other ways to go about it and it comes down to knowing your audience and writing in ways that appeal to them. It could be through intelligence, wit, sarcasm, actual satire or other styles.

In PR, your reputation is everything. I like my news delivered to me clever and honest, how about you? As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you read, please be social and share.

Spotify & Starbucks Team Up for an Interactive Coffee House

By: Lara Greenberg

Three months after announcing that they would no longer be selling CDs, longtime iTunes partner Starbucks announced a brand new music partnership with music streaming service Spotify. Aiming to create what is called a “music ecosystem,” Starbucks and Spotify are working together to make music more interactive and discoverable.

Starbucks, has an impressive history of introducing new artists as well as reviving old ones. Starbucks believes that by pairing with Spotify they can expand their musical footprint. Starting this fall, all Starbucks employees will be given a free Spotify Premium subscription ($10 a month), which they’ll use to select the music that will be played in stores. Customers will also be involved. You will be able to link your Spotify and My Starbucks rewards accounts so while enjoying your Pumpkin Spice Latte, you’ll be able to suggest songs for the playlist as well as give feedback on whether or not you like a certain song.

Starbucks already has over 10 million customers signed up for their loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards, which allows customers to earn ‘Stars’ that they can redeem in the form of a free drink or free food. As a part of the deal (and as a motivation to attract new subscribers,) Spotify is paying Starbucks for the right to give Starbucks Stars to its members which can be redeemed in stores. By allowing Spotify to give out Stars, Starbucks hopes to gain more subscribers from Spotify’s base of 60 million users.

With Starbucks need for a technological upgrade and Spotify’s need for a big partner with a musical influence, it is a perfect match between the two corporations. Spotify, facing tough competition now that artists such as Taylor Swift have removed their music from the streaming platform, is in desperate need for premium subscribers. Through giveaways such as free app and free song of the week as well as the sale of CDs, Starbucks does a pretty good job of getting people to buy other things besides coffee and as part of the deal, Starbucks will promote and endorse Spotify Premium.

This is the first time Starbucks has opened up its loyalty program to a third party. Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said, “Our long-term plan has been to create an external ecosystem with like-minded brands that will buy Starbucks stars from us and use them as a catalyst in their own business.” If it proves to be successful, i.e. attracting new, recurring, loyal customers, it will be an influential model for third party integrations.

Starbucks, which has always put music at the center of its stores, can use Spotify to fuel growth and Spotify can use Starbucks to do the same.

As a Spotify Premium and a My Starbucks Rewards subscriber, I couldn’t be happier about this new partnership. This gives people like myself an opportunity to get more out the two things they love most: coffee and music. What song will you suggest at your local Starbucks? Do you think this will be a successful partnership? As always, I welcome or comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.

Red Nose Day – May 21, 2015

By: Dallas J. Short

Are you, your friends or your office participating in Red Nose Day?

Red Nose Day is a campaign dedicated to raising money for children and young people living in poverty by simply having fun and making people laugh. The inaugural Red Nose Day will be held in the U.S. on May 21, 2015. People across the country will come together to have fun and raise funds and awareness. The day’s events will culminate in a three-hour entertainment TV special on NBC featuring the country’s favorite comedians, musicians and Hollywood stars (you can check their website or social media for the long list or just tune in and be surprised.) The TV special will showcase top comedy and entertainment live and in pre-recorded segments, hosted by David Duchovny, Seth Meyers and Jane Krakowski. It will also highlight the issues for which Red Nose Day is fundraising. Viewers will be encouraged to make donations by phone and online. The monies received will be going to 12 charities working with children and young adults in the U.S. (where half of the money is going), Africa, Asia and Latin America.

This year’s Red Nose Day in the U.K. (March 13) raised over 121 million dollars so far and the number constantly increases with donations still pouring in. I’m guessing the U.S. donations will be a lot more.

#RedNoseDay is aimed at being a fun day. Yes, you will look like a clown, but it is for a great cause. This continues the trend of raising funds and awareness through doing ridiculous things. The Ice Bucket Challenge (ALS), dancing in adult underwear (Depend’s #Underawareness), and Color Runs (multiple organizations.) It might have already been coined, but it is what I refer to as #FUNdraisers.

Red noses have been available for purchase at Walgreens & Duane Reade stores across the country. You can locate a store near you here: http://www.walgreens.com/storelocator/find.jsp. A lot of locations are sold out, but keep looking or make one of your own. M&M’s has also partnered for the campaign.

About Red Nose Day: Red Nose Day was founded by Jane Tewson and Richard Curtis (writer and director of TV and films including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually). Comic Relief UK launched on Christmas Day in 1985 with a live broadcast from a refugee camp in Sudan. It was created out of the firm belief that the power of mass media and high-profile celebrities can raise awareness of issues of poverty to change and save millions of lives. For more information or to make a donation online: http://www.rednoseday.org

If this event somehow snuck below your radar, hopefully now that you are aware, you will participate. It is never a bad day when you can have fun and help others.

Here are some ideas for this year and to help you plan better for next year’s: https://www.rednoseday.org/get-ideas

Have you held or been involved with a philanthropic event based around having fun? What are your thoughts on #FUNdraisers?

Let’s laugh and do good.

As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you read, be social and share. I look forward to seeing lots of pictures of people with red noses.

Riding the TIDAL Wave

By: Dallas J. Short

It has been about eight weeks, since the mega star press conference that launched TIDAL and #TIDAL4ALL. “TIDAL is the first music service with high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and curated editorial, expertly crafted by music journalists.”

Since then, people have been already saying it’s a flop, it’s dying and hurling insults. My question, have these people actually used TIDAL or is it just fun to hate on Jay Z and wish that he finally fails at something? Seems a bit too early to be writing its tombstone. I signed up for the 30-day free trial after the launch and have recently started my paid subscription. There are a few things I would like to address about the TIDAL service.

Jay Z and TIDAL never declared war on Spotify or other subscription services. He previously stated “They don’t have to lose for me to win.” TIDAL, Spotify and others might seem similar, but there are differences.

The sound quality of TIDAL is better. For people complaining about TIDAL costing more, you can pay the same price as other subscriptions and receive the same quality. You are paying extra for the higher quality, which is extremely noticeable through good speakers. I grew up spending my allowance, lunch money and whatever money I could get on music, so paying $20 a month for the high quality version still seems like I won.

The curated playlists are more intriguing. From what inspired your favorite musician, to what your favorite athlete trains to, to what a veteran journalist has created in an audio time capsule. These are not songs randomly thrown together. I’m had playlists from Angie Martinez, Elliot Wilson and the Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder playlist on repeat. “Simply the Best” is the only thing I play at the gym.

The exclusive content, songs and videos. Taylor Swift, who has her music removed from other streaming services, is on TIDAL. Jack White streamed an intimate concert through TIDAL X. Prince, who is usually anti-industry, steamed his live concert in Baltimore. Rihanna, Beyonce and others have released music exclusively on TIDAL. There is behind the scenes of videos and tours. You can win passes to exclusive TIDAL subscriber only contests. (While working on this blog, I won tickets to a private Jay Z concert this weekend, where he will only be doing his B-Sides/less mainstream songs. That alone would cost more than my annual subscription. I created a Jay Z playlist titled “Not a Businessman.”)

TIDAL gives more royalties to the artists. Support the musicians you like, let them be able to continue to create the soundtrack for your life. Yes, I have mentioned the big names and that is what will bring most people in, but TIDAL is about the music and connecting you to the artist. There are independent and underground talent who deserve to make more money from streams.

“TIDAL Discovery is the place for the up and comer. The new kid on the block. The unsigned. The undiscovered. In partnership with PHONOFILE and Record Union, TIDAL Discovery is bringing you the new place to come together. Supported and encouraged by the biggest names in music. With TIDAL Discovery, unsigned artists can upload their original music using PHONOFILE or Record Union and be heard for the first time. The possibilities are endless.”

TIDAL Rising is a featured category below “What’s New” that emphasizes growing musicians. Users can browse by album or by track, check out Q&A’s and learn more about some of music’s more concealed talent. The roster changes and it is not locked in on one genre. TIDAL lists it as “A program dedicated to artists from around the globe who have passionate fan bases and are ready to broaden that base to a wider audience. TIDAL Rising was designed to help accelerate the exposure and give voice to tomorrow’s biggest names.”

TIDAL is not based on making the rich richer, so far, it has kept the fan and the music at the forefront. It is new, it will grow and it will make errors, just as other streaming services have. You have nothing to lose, but trying out a free subscription. I have yet to meet anyone who does not like it. I have heard people just not want to recreate their playlists from other services. TIDAL also have a way import your playlists.

I’m not a complete fanboy here. I am just a supporter of great music, hearing it as best I can, discovering new talent and artists being better compensated. Are you? Make your own decision about it.

Have you tried TIDAL yet? http://www.tidal.com

As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you read, be social and share.