Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Amplify Your Brand

The last speaker of the day was fitness guru Andrea Metcalf who has made herself into a brand.  From personal training to writing a book to now producing television shows, Andrea doesn't let anything stop her.  She had a ton of advice - and energy - for all of us.  What can you gain from it?

Amplify your brand. Gain strength in distribution.

There are a few things that will probably sound crazy and out of the box. People ask me where I get my confidence. You just go do it. They'll ask, "Aren't you worried that people will say no?" People say no a lot, and that's ok.

I am a fitness instructor and wrote a book called Naked Fitness last year about feeling good in your skin. I'm a media personality. In the 6am news, we will be doing stand up paddle. I'm also a social media addict. I don't think I'm that bad until people ask me if I can put my phone now because it's not a breathing apparatus.

I decided I wanted to do my own tv show and got $98,000 in funding for a quarter. I didn't have a pilot. I got $48,000 to buy airtime. My sponsors were not the sponsors I thought I was going to ask. When it came down to it, it was McDonalds, an orthopedic hospital, and Meijer. If you own your stuff, you really have to own your stuff. CLTV wanted to change the name and have me host with someone else for a second go around, but that's not who I am. I made a lot of mistakes, but it was my first time around.

I owned a fitness studio and was writing for little local magazines, and I didn't realize I was a brand. How many of you own your brand and accept it and know what it is? A brand needs these pieces to go to the next step. The first thing is mission. You have to know where it's going. What is your mission? Target audience. If you don't have a type or niche, your marketing is never going to work. We have moms who just want to be pretty. We have people who are just normal, and normal is ok. My demographics is 35-55. How many of you need to have money to buy food? How many need money to pay rent to drive here? The further you can get this marketing off the ground, the easier it is to make money at this.

I was a fitness director for a club, and my goal was to get more people in the door. I partnered, and that same thing works today. I went to my local Dominick's and said, "I'll tell my members to go buy their turkeys at Dominick's, and I said I needed two 6 pound turkey breasts. I'm going to bring them into the fitness class and use them as medicine balls on Thanksgiving morning and then play hot potato. Whoever has the turkey takes it home."  It was hugely successful. Now we have social media, and you can still partner. Guest blog. Tweet other people's stuff.

I wanted to make it really fun at my fitness studio. On Fridays, they knew that anytime I blew the whistle, it was going to be a contest. They would get 5 sessions of personal training - singing or whistling or pushups or other competitions. What can you do that is free and costs you just your time?

If you have enough desire and persistence and you have a good mentor, you'll move forward. I emailed the Today Show every day for 3 months before I got a spot. I wanted to do it, and I was as good as those who were on there. I looked in the credits for the executive producers. I asked a client which one to contact. I've now done the Today Show over 17 times. There is no one who is out of your range of asking. How often are you told that you have to talk to a certain person, even if you know they aren't the ones who make the decisions?

My mentors are key. I wanted to a do a tv show, and the chamber of commerce where I live had lessons for four Saturdays from 8-12. That's where I learned how to do a tv show. If you have enough content, you can get them to distribute it, then you can get someone to pay for it, and you make money from the middle. I cold called the president of NBC. You can't be afraid; what's the worst thing that can happen?

My life changed getting on tv and being a credible fitness expert. The woman who introduced me - Beth Rosen - changed my life where I roomed with her at a spa in Mexico. I had just gotten hired as a blogger for Oprah.com. They told me about social media like I'd never known about it before. Through more mentors and connections, I meant the person who helped me launch my book. Those are my people.

The only person not on that list who is my mentor is Madonna. When I was 18, she had a brand. And she's continued to reinvent herself every 3-5 years. I am so impressed by what she does. I'm not just a health and fitness expert. I've moved into tv and production and other places. You have to have more than just this. Try remember what these little sparkles are that you love.

Cold calling - that's what I'm talking about. If you love a brand and now you have some distribution, you can't just have 100 people who listen to you unless those 100 people want to buy the same product you're talking about. It's not always about the numbers but how you influence these people. What do they love about your blog? I look at Lori Moreno and her 245,000 followers, and I only have a percentage of that, and I'm still using social media as my main way to get paid. I've worked with a lot of brands. Cold calling and knowing who I want to work with is how I get there.

Knowing who to call is important. You don't have to call the social media person at the company necessarily. Take the product name and press release and google it. See who is at the bottom. Tweet them, then email, but tweet first. I can call and email and have no response, and in 15 minutes get a response on Twitter. If it's from your heart and someone you really want to work with, and you talk the right way, you'll find that they want to work with you, too. It's a win win situation.

Distribution used to be just tv and magazines and newspapers. It's expanded now. The web and social media are new levels of marketing that you need to use. If I have content with video and a blog and I create a partnership to share content on their pages, I have an exponential reach of eyeballs seeing my content. I'm now distributing my tv show on Facebook TV. There are 400 channels that I'm sharing on.

Don't think of others are your competition. They're peers. you all have different likes and appeal to different people because you are different under here (your heart). When you can start to see that and start to figure it out that partnerships are the biggest win wins, that's how you make money.

You need to have strategic alliances that make lists. That's what allows you to gather followers. Then you need to figure out what they want, and that's how you make money. You have to know what they have and talk about them. You need to know what they want. When you go through your Twitter followers, how many look at what the person does and then put them into a list? I do that so strategically on LinkedIn. Those are things you have to own because those are relationships.

You have to love what you're doing in order for it to work. If you hate it, it's going to suck in the car driving, and you're not going to want to keep doing it. When you have passion about something, people really understand it. You have to tell people why it's good. When my kids didn't want to eat asparagus or broccoli, I told them that's what dinosaurs ate.

You have to know how to sell and overdeliver. I will oversell things because I get so excited, and then I realize there is only one of me. Be very clear as to what you can really get done, and then don't tell them everything you're actually going to do. How cool is it that you have a sundae waiting for your kids when they finish their dinners and you didn't tell them?

How many don't have an agent selling for you? I said that I'm going to launch my book and bring in 10 bloggers to help sell the book based on their experience. Beth Rosen told me to value myself, we can sell 1,000 books, more than that. There are times when we knew what everything was worth. Now, it's hard to figure out what everything is worth. Start believing it. And most importantly, build the relationship and figure out why it matters to them.

Here are the secrets to success:
1) If you are going to get anything done, you need a schedule. I do this for me as a PR brand, a marketing brand, and a fitness brand. I need a schedule for when I'm talking about each of these things. If we don't know when these conversations are happening, then I can't play the game. We can't Tivo them.

2) You need a marketing plan that is seasonal. It isn't just the same all 12 months of the year. It isn't California. How many of you have a product outside your blog? I learned this in personal training. There are only 67 hours I can personal train, plus 26 hour to teach class. I still did corporate fitness, had 3 kids, did payroll, etc. I was done by 9pm. You can't function at that, but I needed to make money. 

We all know that we have certain things that we want in our lives. You have to have things that make money while you're sleeping. You're probably all experts at something, so figure out how to package it and where it can be a freebie, what can be the buy-in, and what's the subscription model. Brands will start using you for your blog, but you all have something good you can share. I used to draw stick figures so people could do exercises on their own. I then made flip cards, then DVDs, and more. We need to use our blogs not to just worry about the blogs, because when we build it, they will come. Is it the story of your life? Is it how you can inspire someone else? Is it the little tips?

3) You need timelines and goals. These are the same things I do for clients to help people lose weight. I have timelines a lot in my life now. I have 30 minutes to do Twitter, and then I'm done. I used to do this with my kids to clean the house, and it was a great incentive. I have 30 days to complete the next project... I have the worst running week of my life for running because of the marathon training. I know I have to do the marathon so I have to do the running. That could be that I have a Plan B in mind in case what you need to do doesn't work out.

4) You go for results. Please keep in mind that Twitter only keeps their data for about 5 days. I'll put together a great hashtag and forget to monitor it. Understand how to count it before you do it. Have your Google Analytics set up for your blog. Get somebody else's opinion - ask them what you think of this post. Create those alliances. Get your brutal answers from your family and friends.

5) Review. In January, I launched a reality weight loss show. We taped almost every single weekend that went into an hour long show due on Wednesday for 12 weeks. I will never do this again. I thought I was going to kill myself, and I finally started to feel ok by week 5 because I knew I only had 7 more weeks. Figure out if something is worth doing again. Will we ever do 6am to 10pm with bloggers again? No. Keep coming up with new ideas. After that didn't work for me, I thought why produce one show when you can produce 12? So we did it. Come up with a new strategic plan, and move forward.

I sometimes think it's funny where I'm standing and where I've been. I've failed at a lot of things, but it still feels great to be able to stand in front of you and know I did a few things right.

Zucchini Bread - Tasty Tuesday!

So a friend of mine gave me a zucchini bigger than my arm.  I'm not joking.  I now understand why people joke about leaving zucchini on neighbors' doorsteps and then running.  Holy cats.  There was nothing to do but make zucchini bread, right?

Ginormous zucchini

So... 15 eggs later, I have 7 loaves of zucchini bread, and 96 mini muffins.  Or I did.  One loaf has been completely demolished.  Two loaves went home with a friend.  And another loaf has been started, plus several of the mini muffins have disappeared mysteriously.  It still is as good and as loved as it was when my mom used to make this for me as a kid.

The good news?  The wee ones love it.  And I don't think I need to make zucchini bread again for awhile.  Oh, and I'll be bringing some of those muffins with me to BlogHer, so hit me up if you see me!

Zucchini Bread

2 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c oil
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t salt
3 1/2 c flour
3 c shredded zucchini

Peel your zucchini (or if you're my mom, don't, but I find the skin a little tough).  Cut it in half, and then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and the spongy middle.  Use a food processor to shred the zucchini, or go old school and use a grater - just watch your knuckles!

Extremely large bowl of grated zucchini

My huge zucchini made this extremely large bowl of shredded zucchini.  You don't need nearly this much.  I like to shred my zucchini first so that some of the liquid in the zucchini can start to drain, as you don't need any extra moisture in the bread.  If you want to get fancy, put it in a colander, but I forgot, and this works just fine.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Add the eggs to your bowl, and beat until the yolks and whites are mixed thoroughly.  Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy.  While the mixer is still going (but not too high), slowly add the oil.  You want it to incorporate as you're pouring and not have a big glop of oil you have to incorporate later.

Add the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.  Mix thoroughly to combine, then add the flour in two batches, stirring gently between each addition.  Add the zucchini, stirring just until it's incorporated.

Grease two loaf pans, and pour half the batter into each pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Cool for ten minutes in the pans, then turn out onto cooling racks.  Cool thoroughly, then slice.  The bread freezes beautifully (I remember how much I used to love eating the bread straight from the freezer), and it will keep for several days tightly wrapped.  If it lasts that long.

Slices of zucchini bread

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Bridging The Gap Between Traditional And Social Media

The third session at the 2012 BB Summit was interesting to me in that it discussed how bloggers and traditional media really aren't so different after all.  There were a few areas that I disagreed with - notably, spending 33% of your tweets promoting your blog - but the information was interesting, especially seeing how social media has started to become so embedded in the world of traditional journalism.

The panel included:
@wiredPRworks - Barbara Rozgonyi
@BornJustRight - Jen Lee Reeves

Nancy - I am a traditional journalist since I work on WGN in Chicago. I have been a journalist for about 30 years now. I became a journalist because I love words. Since many of you are former journalists, well, I'd like to point out that there are both good and horrible in both worlds. There are some great bloggers and some terrible bloggers. There are some great journalists and some rotten journalists. I really enjoy blogging (at Big Tiny) because there are parts of the stories that never make it into the story on air. It lets me share things that are part of the story or part of my day that I couldn't put into the story. I'm in amazing places and there are so many things about my job that are fascinating and sometimes tragic and sad, and the blog gives me a place for that spillover material. It's therapeutic to me. I enjoy social media very much. It gives extra mileage to the work I do.

Scott - My job title is social media specialist at the Chicago Tribune I don't actually blog. Blogging as a traditional journalist is diffrent from a real blogger. I'm watching a lot of blogs, and especially what they're saying on social media and then filtering that voice. If I see a blogger who has something a reporter doesn't, I may mention it to a reporter. Every job I've ever had in my life has had some sort of journalism tie. I was a paperboy at 11; I asked to be a reporter at 16; I went to school to be a journalist. I was a copyrighter and an editor. I moved to social media when I was at Red Eye who wasn't there (doing anything in social media). I said there's this thing called Twitter and we're not there. I pitched my editor, and he said no thanks. Being someone who really does appreciate authority but doesn't take no for an answer, I signed up for a Red Eye Twitter account and told the editor when we reached 1,000 followers after 2 weeks. And my editor hired me full time to do this. Then I moved to the Chicago Tribune.

Jen - I have @jenleereeves and @bornjustright. I am a traditional journalist at the base of my career. I started out as a tv producer focusing on how to deliver broadcasts to my audience. Relevancy has always been importnt to me. In 2004, I learned how to blog, and it was a side thing that evolved so organically into my job. By 2005, I had created a new job at the U of Missouri and the NBC affiliate where I worked, and then I made up a job called interactive director. I went from teaching old school producing a newscast to being an innovator geek at the journalism school. Blogging is why I am the journalist I am today. I'm good at both jobs because I am a parent. I learned to experiment and be risk taking as a parent and then transitioned it online and to my more traditional gig at the station and j-school. I'm learning to blend those two worlds together.

Barb - I made the decision to leave the corporate world on Mother's Day when my daughter was 10 months old. I have had my own business for 22 years now. Next Tuesday night there is a party at Old Town Social - $10 for a head shot, apps and drinks. It's socialmediachicago.com. I founded it in 2008, and I'm having a great time in this wild, fun time. We do public relations to help get the stories out for the reporters.

Barb - What is the news? We didn't know that we'd wake up yesterday to the tragedy in Colorado.

Nancy - It is something that touches your life. Who isn't touched by what happened in Colorado? It's horrible and tragic. If we don't learn about these things, how can we evolve as a society? In general, I personally as a consumer, I appreciate news I can see - the weather that impacts what I'm going to wear today or if there is severe weather. If it's something that is a health scare or something that is a food issue. I am always open to ideas and appreciate people who tweet me and send me ideas. We're going to discuss how to reach us and what things aren't necessarily news. Earlier I was chatting with someone about flash mobs. To invite a news crew to a flash mob makes it not really a flash mob. Is that news? Does that impact your life?

Barb - How can they know they're watching the right news?

Nancy - This is a very savvy crowd. You are savvy news consumers. Did any of you hear the police chief in Colorado talking about social media? Someone had created a fake police chief account on Twitter. We should all be aware of where we're getting our news and the sources of what we're seeing. I wonder about the rest of the population though.

Jen - I believe that as a traditional journalist, it's our jobs to help our readers and communities learn and make better choices about what is right and correct and what is a good source.

Barb - Scott, you had some discussion about a photo you posted.

Scott - When the mug shot of the guy who was arrested was posted, people started posting it everywhere. I post on my Twitter and everywhere who I am and that I am a journalist, etc. I posted this picture with his smile and smug look. I got a lot of comments asking why I was giving him more time and why I was celebrating him. I explained that as a journalist, I have to share this information because it's a part of the story. Not everyone understood. You have to decide what you do and don't share.

Jen - I was thinking about how could the blogger journalist relationship have been enhanced yesterday? Time shared some great tips on how to share this news with your children. There are many of us who have talked to children about tough topics. If you have a relationship with a newsroom, it's appropriate to let them know that you have written about this and that they have permission to share it. It's something a newsroom wouldn't have the time or ability to create it quickly. This is something you can do to enhance your relationship with local journalists. Time did a nice thoughtful job of this, and my community could have done something similar. You may have those ties, but the journalists won't always know it if you don't tell them. 

Barb - Always have a crisis communication plan. As a blogger, think about what you would have done next. Did anyone see the commercial (YouTube video) where the FedEx man threw the tv over the fence? In 2 hours, FedEx had a video from a senior guy explaining more. You can really comment on what's happening. In the online space, how would you describe the gap between traditional and online publishers?

Nancy - In some cases, there is no gap. I am a journalist who blogs. Many of you were journalists and are now bloggers. We're two circles crossing - some are covering both and some are way at the edges. It's back to getting in touch with news organizations; you have to develop relationships before news breaks. Liz Strauss tweeted me 5 years ago, and we developed a relationship, and it has grown with her and so many others. There are so many people on Twitter. Every news station and paper has a website. There are reporters from the Tribune on Twitter. People love feedback on their stories. Ask more about particular things. Then when news breaks, it will come to you and it will come to me, too, of "Oh - I know who would fit this perfectly."

Scott - What Nancy said about the gap and the circles, there is this perception that journalists are accurate and bloggers are first, and that seem to be where the separation comes in. When I am looking at what happens with a story, there is so much that reporters otherwise wouldn't know about without insight from bloggers. There are some reporters who love social media and some who are in denial and pretend that it doesn't exist. There is so much conversation happening. If you go to chicagotribune.com/twitter, you will find a list of all the reporters, and you can talk to them. My response to reporters who don't know why anyone would want to talk to them: What if there is someone who has another angle or wants to ask a question about something.... A reporter is not going to be able to take your pitch and say thanks, I'm going to write about this tomorrow. There are all sorts of things going on, and editors that need certain stories to happen. That doesn't mean that a journalist isn't looking for a seed of ideas.

Jen - I have an interesting experience because I'm teaching people to blog at Mizzou. I'm teaching journalism students how to blog because I believe that without understanding the process of blogging, you can't be as good a journalist because it's a skill that journalists should understand. It is hard to learn how to properly blog. A good blog has good attribution, but there are journalists that wouldn't put hyperlinks inside what they're writing, but they should. I teach them to blog with their passion so when they need to do it for their work, they can. You have to understand passion in a written form. I think that the gaps are more a literacy situation. Not all bloggers are good bloggers. Not good bloggers will have a harder time communicating with journalists. And it's hard for poor journalists to communicate with bloggers, too. I believe everyone should try very hard to do both. I challenge you to report on something that is important to you. Do it in something that is not just an opinion, but report it as an event. When you bring it together, it's awesome. I take my family to a camp for limb different kids, and I blog about it journalistically, and it ends up being a wonderful review for anyone who attends the camp. I try to do that with my life story and my work.

Barb - We talk a lot about journalists and bloggers. Do they have the same rules? Why or why not? Nancy - Essentially we're operating on the same rules. I couldn't accept a free car or fridge and just disclose it. A lot of journalists don't make as much money as many bloggers. I work under a professional services contract, and there are things that I can't accept. My blog discloses what I do receive. I do a lot of photo blogs, and I love sharing things. As a journalist, I'm going places often where people generally can't go. Will Ferrell was in our studio the other day. And I'm seeing and experiencing things that people generally can't. I do operate under same rules as bloggers because I'm in the same pool.

Jen - I as a blogger have been much more rigid about how I interact with brands because because I blog about advocacy. It's hard to find a sponsor unless I can convince a prosthetic company to sponsor my daughter's next arm. What I do think is interesting is that other people blog about limb differences. I love reading you because you report your life like a journalist. The brand relationships are something journalists should know about more. My students are learning to become bloggers, and they need to have the guts and knowledge of how to interact with brands. You guys are brave.

Barb - How are you changing the curriculum of journalism?

Jen - We are changing it as fast as possible. I'm doing a lot under the radar, and we're trying to raise awareness of what bloggers are doing. We're trying to get students to do things that five years ago they wouldn't do. All students have to have a Twitter account. All anchors soon will also have to have a Facebook page. If you've ever wanted to talk to someone on the media side, G+ is a place to get them. Broadcast has always felt like we're just talking to you. With social, we can now listen, even live. G+ has a live reaction. Our anchor may have two earbuds, one with an earbud to the producer and one to a hangout where we're discussing the broadcast. We're trying to encourage more people to see that it's so cool.

Scott - My jaw has dropped trying to watch some of what Mizzou is doing, especially on Google+.

Jen - We're trying to take broadcast to a social interactive media. 

Barb - Look at Loyola for blogger tips. @InteractiveAmy is the G+ interactive manager for Chicago, and she will be at the Chicago Social meetup. What can bloggers and journalists learn from each other?

Nancy - Follow right. Everyone knows right from wrong. Follow that. Higher education is struggling to catch up with social media. News stations are just the same. I've been asking for two years to have Twitter handles or hashtags on the news tags below our name identifications on the broadcasts.

Jen - Integrity is built on respect and trust. The only way we can trust is by doing our best. The more traditional journalists understand how social media works, the more they will get it. Reaching out to those who are socially engaged is worth your time. I'm listening though.

Scott - Jen's right. There are so many things coming at you at once. I will promise you that if you send me an idea or pitch, I will take the time to write back. If there is something I can read and understand, I will tell you if I can help you with it, if someone else in the building can help, or if it really isn't a good fit.

Barb - What is a good pitch?

Nancy - It doesn't even have to be a pitch. Just send me a link to your post. It's a fascinating story about how Shawna Coronado had planted a strip of flowers beyond the fence in land that belongs to the town. As a journalist, I tell her side of the story and the village's side of the story. Don't just tweet a link because I'm so afraid of spam, but let's develop a relationship. Tell me, "This is going on in my town," and then I can click on that link.

Jen - I follow a lot of people in my community. Some people I know, and some I know only through the interwebs. There is one instance where I saw people posting pictures of an organization that stood to protect the church from a known group that protests military funerals. The photos are incredible from one woman in particular. I asked if we could post her pictures and if she wanted to write something for this. She had her 10 year old write something incredible.

Scott - I do all the social media. I'm not the one who does the actual reporting. I'll say this about pitching. I get so many emails that I cannot keep up with it. I would prefer it in a tweet because I can learn more about you in 140 characters than in an email. It makes you be more careful. Most times you look at it and change it or make it look ok. If you're pitching and you have one opportunity to get to someone, the pitch over Twitter is the way to go.

Barb - How can bloggers become better storytellers?

Nancy - A lot of them don't need to. A lot of them are already great story tellers. I appreciate good writing, and I'm not perfect though I try hard not to make a grammatical or spelling mistake. The things is, a well written post is so appreciated, no matter who writes it.

Barb - Will you share frequently committed sins you see?

Nancy - Someone went through my Facebook page, like like like share share share. Then they came back o me and said, "I just liked five things and shared two things, here's the link to my page." I asked if they did that because they wanted to or because they expected reciprocation? I don't even know this person.

Jen - Spam is a problem.

Scott - When someone has a pitch that sounds normal, your name is in the tweet and comes to you. The first thing I see if what else they're talking about. If you see 250 tweets and they're identical, I ignore it. All you're doing is copying and pasting with a new name? I don't think people get that this is spam. I have social media tips column. I give advice even when it's not wanted. I said "Hey, I don't know if you know this or not but this is considered spam." My basic thought and what I come back with is, social media is nothing if it is not social. There are so many people out there who are typing things just for the sake of typing them. You have to have a reason for doing it.

Jen - Another sin would be creating an account for an event. Follow everyone without an avatar or explaining who you are. If you are going to create an account, do not start following people until you are established with a profile, etc.

Scott - Don't be a Twitter egg. I won't go back an follow you if we aren't having a relationship - and I don't typically interact with an egg.

Barb - Your rule of thirds, Scott?

Scott - That's a rule that social media rule. You want to think of what you're saying. 1/3 of the time you talk about your blog. 1/3 talk about things that are related to your blog - if you garden, talk about gardening but not your blog. 1/3 of the time, be yourself. Talk about what you like, the food you enjoy, the weather, what you like. You need to be real. You need to be a person, and we need a frame of reference of who that person is. If you follow my account, you'll see a lot of stuff from work, but you'll also see a lot of photos of me going out for cocktails. That's probably a true 33% of my Twitter feed. The rule of thirds shows people that you are real. Any journalist who sees that you have interests outside the story, that's interesting.

Jen - If you are a news social media acount, I tell them the same thing. Don't be a news monkey. I don't want to just see the news unless I'm in the newsroom. Be a person.

Questions from the audience:
Me Myself & Jen - For Nancy, you work under your professional services contract. What counts first, your blogger profile or your professional services contract?
Nancy - When I'm working on air, I'm fulfilling my professional services contract. My blog is under the Tribune network. I actually joined the Tribune Company when I was with the other station and have always been aware of the FTC guidelines. I'm using social media all the time, and the line between right and wrong... I know that if I do that, that's just not right. There are grey areas - entertainment reporters who go on junkets. Countless reporters go on trips to Rio de Janeiro when the movie Rio came out. They're the ones reviewing movies. Is it generally known? They don't have to disclose that they got a free trip. This is something that will have to keep evolving, but I just follow my conscience.

My Myself & Jen - I tend to do reality show recaps that I send links to the cast members, other affiliates, etc. How do I avoid this looking like spam?
Jen - Can you do this via email? Can you create a hashtag that they might follow?
Scott- If you have to do this, at the very least, I would not do it all one right after the other if you can help it. Even reword it a little so you don't come across as that person who looks like a spammer.

The Rusted Chain - Scott, you mentioned the rule of thirds. I've always set my own rule of 90/10. 90% of the time it's everything under the sun and 10% about my blog.
Scott - You could up it a little, but you don't want to flip it the other way. You can still accomplish it a little more when you tweet about things related to your blog.

The Rusted Chain - Do these same rules apply to magazines?
Jen - At this point, everyone produces things at a fast pace now if they are legitimately in social media.

Make Dinner Easy - I err on the opposite side. I don't reveal that much about myself. People are following me because they want decent dinner ideas. How do you create a balance to not bore people?
Scott - I'm one of those people who signs up for a service that tells you when people unfollow you. I have a reason for that. I like to find out why people unfollow me. Am I saying something wrong, did I do something? I usually reach out, especially if I had a relationship with them before. Usually the reason was you tweeted a little too much about the Colorado shooting or the business story on page 1. There are a lot of people who follow me because of what I do, too. They are then surprised when they see a photo of a cocktail. It's going to happen, and some people have separate accounts for that reason.
Nancy- Don't be formulaic and go third third third. I just try to follow my gut and just interact as much as possible. There are so many people who are on Twitter who are just tweeting things about themselves, and it's a stream of me.
Barb - Scott Stratten wrote the book, and 90% of his tweets are replies, and that's how he has grown to where he is.
Jen - I have been on Twitter for a long time. My voice has changed over time. I ask my people if what I'm doing is ok.

Connected Chicago Mom - Can you elaborate on how you turn it off in your personal life?
Jen - I run.
Nancy - I time it down to the minute of when I shut down. I am almost always with one. Here I am with three devices. I usually have at least two devices with me. I cannot sleep with my smart phone. The station knows to call my landline if there is a major news overnight. I need the notifications when I'm working. I want to be the one people turn to to give their story, and I get that by interacting.
Jen - I'll admit to tweeting while I run. And I Instagram when I run. I put my kids to bed, and the phone does not come with me. My employees and students and online world knows that they will not get a reaction between 7and 9, but I'm on otherwise.
Scott - I have this thing called the news spidey sense. You kind of just know that something is going on. My alarm is set for 6:15. I woke up an hour and a half early yesterday, and it was all bulletins from the shooting on my phone. I then worked on it the entire day.
Jen - I was on the phone the majority of the time with the newsroom after I got to my hotel room.
Barb - I read about that most people are on between 11am and 3pm EST, and that's when to post on Twitter and Facebook. You want to go see when your people are online. On the weekends, I pretty much unplug. I use that as catchup time. I think you can be offline, but for bloggers, figure out when your people will be online. If there is a time that you're online, your community will start to look for you then.

Question - How do you encourage journalists to interact? If you tweet out a link to a story and I have a question and you don't respond, it turns me off to the entire station. Why not encourage just people who use it right to be on social media?
Jen - I watch all my on air employees, and I will call them out if they don't react. I'm mean. I go to newsrooms and explain how I became so social. You have to have fun to get social. If you are just told to do it, you won't enjoy it.
Scott - I wish I could do that kind of thing, but my Tweet Deck has about 94 columns. I watch all that stuff. There are reporters who should use it more, because they're missing out on this great conversation. I will sometimes email them and say that you are missing a great conversation. I try to sit down with these people every once in awhile and explain why and also share the missed opportunities. I think it depends on where you are and who you're writing to. I'm trying to make it so that you don't feel that way.
Nancy - Many journalists will turn to me and ask me. I tell them that it's an investment in yourself. When I left Fox Chicago, my contract was not renewed and I was unemployed for awhile. I got my job at WGN partly because of my social media. My Facebook subscription is up to 490,000. Any station that hires me knows they're getting a social media army. I always describe it as an investment in yourself. You're getting extra mileage from your work. They're the journalists who are on the beach (unemployed). Had they jumped on the bandwagon and really understood it, they might not be there. It's work and it takes cultivating and developing.

Hyacynth from Undercover Mother - I find that I'm not primarily a blogger but also a freelance writer. I am constantly walking a fine line between journalist and blogger. People ask if I can write about a blog topic for CBS. I often say that I don't accept payment or product to go on a journalist site.
Jen - Do you have that on your about page? I would say I am also a freelance writer who follows the journalistic guidelines. I accept reviews for this site but not for any freelance opportunities. It's clear and open.

Hy - Should I have a separate page for a freelance writer?
Jen - If you are getting your gigs from your blog, I would keep it on the blog and add a page about your freelance work and some of your best examples.

Hy - How do I handle it when I really love a product and want to pitch it to a freelance gig?
Jen - Pitch it to them, but don't write it yourself. It's a bummer, but that's the right thing to do. 

McMaryes.com - As journalists and bloggers, how do you handle being so connected?
Jen - I have a vacation rule that I don't go on my phone unless I'm taking pictures or on my computer until they're in bed and it's dark. If you are too on it and always there, you will get burned out. You have to tell people that you're fried and step away or you will end up in the looney bin because social is nonstop.
Scott - My wife made me promise I wouldn't take my phone out when I was on our honeymoon. My hands were almost shaking wanting to get out the phone and taking pictures.

Love Encore - I have a relationship show that I do, and I'm trying to get in touch with Patti Stanger.
Jen - Check Google+. I'm not kidding.
Barb - If you have a show, people like to be on them. You can contact the producer to see if she would want on. Or go old school with mail since no one sends mail anymore.

Love Encore - How do you follow up without being a pest?
Barb - Someone wanted to be on the Oprah show and contacted them every day. After 400 days, they finally got on. Persistence can pay off.

Love Encore - How do you draw the line between who goes into your Facebook page and fan page?
Nancy - The Facebook subscribe is great. I got rid of the fan page so that when you post, you can tailor it to everyone or to just family. I found it really cumbersome to post everything twice. There were people who were on both personal and fan pages. It's just a far more convenient way to operate.

Barb - Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Nancy - I'm always on the lookout for the next thing. I love Instagram. I love keeping tabs on social media apps and outlets. You never know what's going to be the next Twitter. I'm developing networks that are in embryonic places. I like Tout and Vimeo and Social Cam. We just don't have the patience for posting and watching videos. I still want to dabble in it though. My advice is to look for the next thing.

Scott - I do a lot on Instagram, and I'm big on Pinterest and some video things, too. Be on it (a social media platform) not because it exists but because it's where your people are talking about things. There are all these different platforms. Pick one. If you follow me on the platforms where I'm at, I'm happy to help where I can.

Jen - I'm passionate about many things - special needs advocacy, storytelling no matter the format. Gatherings like these are great because we learn so much from each other. I'd encourage all of you to take that challenge I mentioned earlier. Our readers and interactions deserve the same level we have. I blogged about how to start blogging becuse a lot of my readers have been asking how to be a blogger. I shared some of my know how. I do that on my geeky Jen Lee Reeves site all the time, and you might be surprised that your readers might benefit from lessons that you might think are simple but aren't that simple.

Barb - Think about yourselves as media empresses. You all have a wonderful gift to share with the world. Imagine what could be. Blog on!

Monday, July 30, 2012

BB Summit: Social Media Law

Apparently Monday is my "post about BBSummit12" day.  I posted the opening roundtable last week, a discussion of how to take brand and blogger relations to the next level.  Today, I have Liza Berry-Kessler's session on social media law.  It was fascinating.  We could have spent the whole day on this one topic.  In fact, I want to attend a conference one day that has sessions all day long on different facets of this because it's a huge topic with so many different areas.

Below is my summary of the session, noting that we ran over in time, and not all the material Liza wished to cover was discussed.  I learned some new things - yay.  Although much of it was a refresher, it was a well-appreciated one.  We got stuck only on one topic, that of bloggers doing group giveaways for a price.  Liza wasn't familiar with those and the description wasn't super clear.  

Social Media Law

We could spend two hours on any one of these topics, so interrupt, ask questions, raise your hand.  Some parts are going to have to go really fast.  This is mostly meant to be an informational overview of things you need to be thinking about.

Federal Trade Commission Guides
Intellectual Property Issues
Bloggers: Are You A Business?
Resources for  Bloggers and Small Businesses

I will try hard not to get too technical, but someteimes I have to because they are technical issues.

Disclaimer: This presentation is informational.  I am not your lawyer.  This is not legal advice.  We do not have an attorney/client relationship.  Your state may have additional applicable laws.  I am not licensed to practice in all 16 of the states represented (at the conference).  A lot of things I say will sound scary, but don't panic.  Just be careful.  There are lots of resources out there to help you stay doing things the way you need to be doing them.

We're going to start with the FTC.  It is responsible for regulating what are considered unfair or deceptive trade practices, which specially includes advertisements.  Three years ago they added major revisions to ad guidelines, but they specially also drew out the inclusion of bloggers and social media.  How do they deal with media?  What is fair or unfair?  What are their endorsements?  Many states have other agencies that have other restrictions.  Laws apply both to bloggers and brands.  The FTC has said that they're most concerned about brands following the rules becuse they have internal counsel, but the law doesn't say this only applies to brands.  They still apply to you.  It's just that the things that enforcement people have said indicate that they are not planning to target bloggers in their enforcement actions.

The actual guides themselves are several dozen pages long.  The most important thing to know is that if there is a material relationship between a blogger and brand, you have to disclose it.  That means affiliate links, product for review, etc.  The affiliate links one of the biggest questions because people say it's so small and only $0.04, etc.  But you still have a material relationship.  If you participate in an ad network, you're ok, but if you have your own direct ads, you need to make sure that you disclose that anything you write about discloses this.  Sponsorships are also included - those longer term relationships.  Your readers deserve to know that because they should know that you love the brand AND are in a relationship with them.

The disclosure should be clear and conspicuous.  When the regulations first came out, the FTC was saying that people should put the disclosure at the top of the blog post because people may not read all the way to the bottom.  There's no specific language required.  While there is not a huge likelihood that they'll go after you for having the disclosure at the bottom, the statement of where it should be has not changed.

Clear means no legalese or confusing wording.  It's not that hard. " Brand A sent me this thing and here's what I thought."  "Brand B who advertises on the blog makes the best product."  Or "Brand C spnosored me, and ..."  You can do this in your own voice.

Placing the disclosure on a separate page is not conspicuous.  It does not meet the FTC's definition of conspicuous.  A blog policies page or about me page is great and good for brands to see what you do, but it is not sufficient.  For afffiliate links, you can easily do a hover over text for those links.  You can put that disclosure there.  It can still be funny and you, but it needs to be there.

The FTC disclosure requirements are satisfied with the saying "I am being compensated by Hallmark for this post, but the content an opinions are my own."  This was at the bottom of the post (in the example shown), but it is very clear and uses great language without feeling like you're compromising the authenticity of your story or your post.  More disclosure is never a bad thing.

If you're a brand ambassador, you might be safer with the slightly more disclosure at the top of the post than less.  For example, "This is part of Huffy Moms on Bikes."  Saying something like "This is a sponsored post.  See the bottom for more details" is less clear.  

There is no requriement to disclosure when you pay for something yourself.  The FTC thinks that people think that you pay for something unless you state that you didn't.  We may think differently and more along the lines that people assume we got it for free, so we may want to put it in there if we paid for something we rave about.  The FTC simply wants us to state that we have received something, and we can't do anything to change their assumptions now.

It's hard to do this in 140 characters.  It's not very many, and if you do a Twitter search for #ad or #spon, you can see a ton of examples of people who are paid to post stuff.  Some celebrity endorsers have gotten into trouble with the FTC for not disclosing their sponsorships after the FTC has gotten complaints.  The FTC has made it clear that althought they reference blogs, they are not referrring only to blogs.  Any media that has come after blogs are still part of this - Twitter and FB are still a part of this.  Facebook has terms of service that may go counter to what the FTC requires.  I'm not going to go in and figure out what they say you can and cannot do on your page.  If Facebook has decided that they don't like what you did, they can erase your page.  If your page is important to you, you want to make sure you don't cross them.  

If you have a material relationship with the brand, you should still disclose that even if you're just amplifying your content.  The FTC hasn't been clear on this.  If you are a part of an ongoing brand ambassadorship with a brand and you're talking about your role and amplifying it through your tweets and Facebook, that's what you're being compensated for.  That's a place where the clear and conspicuous role needs to play a part.  Simply having it on your post may not be sufficient.

So how do you do these disclsoures if it's not a text based medium?  What if its a vlog or YouTube?  Do it upfront.  Don't wait for the end of the video.  Even more than reading your blog post, people are even less likely to watch your whole video.  Say it upfront, or use text over video.  I wouldn't technically be able to do that, but most of you who are vlogging would have the skillset to do that.  It is again not specific magic language but simoly needs to be clear and conspicuous.  Use your own voice for it.

Resource suggestion form the audience: comp.ly

What about giveaways?  The law calls them contests, lotteries, and sweepstakes.  You have to be careful about when and how you do it.

Lotteries are heavily regulated.  Whatever giveaway you are doing, you need to ensure it doesn't land you in the world of lotteries.  If so, your state law comes into play.  This is when you charge for the chance to win.  If you do it, contact a local lawyer to figure out what is required.  Money is the obvious trigger.  But what is a retweet worth?  What is a "go make a really cool video about a car" worth?  This hasn't been litigated.  It doesn't say that you can make a 1 minute video but not a 3 minute video.  We have no way to regulate it except by common sense.  If there's something substantial people have to do to participate, you're edging in the direction of a lottery, and you want to stay away from this.

Contest: This is a prize for a nonrandom achievement. It is a cutest baby or funniest quote.  You are only likely to get into trouble with this where you set up something that you don't follow 100% (taking entries late) and someone compalins that you are engaging deceptive practices.  Or worse that they complain that you're doing unfair practices.

If you say that "This is how it's set up but the rules can change at any time" the likelihood that you will run into issues partly depends on the scale and scope of what you're doing.  Someone might complain if it's a computer, but a pack of McDonalds coupons, maybe not.  It's a better CYA than nothing, but if you're setting up your own rules, why not follow them?

The FTC mostly responds only to complaints.  If a brand is not being fair or treating your appropriately, you can file a complaint with the FTC or your state consumer protection agency.  Or any of your readers could do so.  This may not be the first step you want to take, but it is something you can do.  You may want to work it out amicably first.  There is a form online on the ftc.gov website where anyone can file a complaint.  I've mostly filed them about annoying faxes that come to my house at 3am.  Anybody can do it; you don't need a lawyer to do it.  Those people really want to look out for consumers and individuals. Particularly at the state level, they are likely to launch an investigation.  The BBB is another layer to look at that's maybe a little lower than the FTC or state agencies.

A new trend in blogging is the group giveaways: for $5 everyone has to follow you on Twitter, $10 you have to follow everyone on Twitter and FB. Then that money goes to one person. That sounds like a lottery.

Question:  Or we'll pool our money and get a better response than spending AdSense money.  For $5, they will add your blog link to be an entry into the giveaway.  It feels to me that it's more like it's advertising than a lottery.

Liza: I would go to New Media Advertising and ask them if this is something that is a safe choice, a risky choice, or a bad choice.  They could give you a better idea of how it would look since they can go through the computer and look at it with you.

Most blog entries are random entry.  Leave a comment, and you could win a bag of goodies.  It's uncomplicated by multiple bloggers and entities participating.  This is a sweepstakes.  If you're doing it in a difficult way, there are lots of agencies that can complain about you if they feel like you aren't doing it fairly or aren't giving away your prizes.  Set up your rules clearly, and follow them.  Once you set them up, go with it.

You may want to limit your participation.  If you allow international participation, you invite following the jurisdiction of other countries that you allow to participate.  It sounds like it would get complicated and risky.  If you are going to do that, you should look at what countries are likely to have participants and ensure that this is not something that they might consider it to be gambling or illegal in those countries.  Just know these things and be careful.  If you allow minors, there are some states that have rules for those who are 13-18 to participate.  If you allow under 13, the COPPA regulations state how you can interact with them.  It isn't impossible to do,but you have to have a different level of attentiveness to what you can do.  Either don't do it, or do it with your eyes open.

Intellectual Property
What is copyright?  It's a form of protection through the laws of the US provided to authors of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works.  Recipes are specifically excluded, as are clothing designs and knitting patterns.  This is my new life's work to figure out how this happened.  It doesn't seem fair, but these are areas of ecommerce and the blogosphere that are thriving, so when you look at other industries like movies and books that are protected but struggling even through they have huge copyright laws, then maybe we shouldn't try to pull ourselves under copyright laws even though it looks like we aren't treated fairly.  

Specifically for recipes, what you can't copyright is the list of ingredients and the list of instructions.  What is copyrightable is the voice - plunking potatoes into the bowl.  It's totally weird and makes no sense at all in the world of food writing.  The food blogging people have gotten quite good at infusing prose and their own narrative to make them more copyrightable.  Pictures are copyrightable, so if you have pictures and then a sentence, that's infusing more copyrightable material into your post.  If you are a food blogger, put as much of your voice into the post as possible.

Copyright takes effect automatically as soon as it is in a permanent form - once your write it down - for all other posting formats.

What is trademark?  A trademark is a word phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the goods from one party from that of another.  This is not likely to be as much of an issue for bloggers.  It's more of a problem for brands. If you are reviewing something and you want to use a trademark image or logo, this is part of the relationship with the brand. You can use them if you have permission.  If the brand doesn't like it, they can have your web hosting company shut down your page or blog.  You have to go through a process to show that you aren't using copyrighted and trademarked material, please put my blog back up.  Before you use trademarked material, please be careful that you have permission.

Back to copyright.  When you write a blog post, it is automatically covered, as are pictures, music you write, videos, and podcasts.  If you find your material elsewhere, you can send those same takedown notices to their web hosts.  You can protect your own work and no, you don't need your own lawyer.  It's kind of a pain, but it's something you probably should do.

Ideas are uncopyrightable.  Layouts and such is a bit of a murkier area.  You probably couldn't get a takedown notice to stick with just a layout issue.  Think of breastfeeding versus bottle feeding.  How many articles are out there, and how many ways can you say the same thing?

Plagiarism is a bad thing and can get you kicked out of school.  But it's not a legal issue.  You don't want people hating you, but it's not exactly the same as copyright.  (Interjection: The DMC has taken down content for Liz Strauss through GoDaddy and Google, so therefore it's a standard process.)  While it might or might not get you into litigation, it's a bad idea and not going to bring you blogging success.

If someone complains, defend yourslf.  There are ways to make it more or less difficult for yourself. You have to go after every use more for trademarks than for copyright.  Trademark defense requires that you be vigilant.  Copyright is still copyright even if you don't go after every case.

If you have product that is on a group site, there needs to be an agreement on who owns the content, what will happen if you don't want to write anymore, who will get money from advertising, etc.  There isn't a right or a wrong answer, but you have to think about it.

If you don't get a result from a DMC, you have to then register a copyright on that material so you can prove it's yours.  The foodblogalliance.com has a great example and has tons of resources.  This is a blogger who has had a lot of issues with this and is publicizing how to deal with it.

Fair use.  Copyright is not completely sacrosanct.  It's not that you can never write a review of a movie or a book or comment on it.  And you can sample music, although the music industry gets really touchy.  The print industry has some practices around what percentage of an exact phrasing can be used, but this is not the law. Really what you need to note is - have you transformed the worrk.  It's not ok to reprint Harry Potter on your blog, but you can write a review and quote a passage to explain what you loved or hated about Harry Potter and that work wouldn't be confused with Harry Potter.  You can also write a parody about it so that it is not confusable with or at the same market share as the original, even though it's been influenced by the original.  You don't have to have permission to use other people's work in this way.

Ther are four factors courts consider for fair use.  The purpose and character of the use - are you trying to rip off Harry Potter and just changed the name to Larry Snotter.  The nature of the copyrighted work - if it's very short and you copied 3/4 of it, it's harder to justify than a paragraph of Harry Potter.  It goes got to the amount and substantiality of the portion taken.  If you put a bunch of spoilers into the review of Harry Potter, are they going to read the original?  Maybe they got all they wanted from your short version, so you diminished the potential market for it.  Use the least material you need to make your point.  And when in doubt, ask for permission.  You may or may not get permission or need permission, but if you want to use a picture or video clips, etc. you're on a lot safer ground if you get permission.

Is your Social Media Activity A Business or a Hobby?
How many of you have incorporated? You are a business if there is a reasonable expectatioon to earn a profit.  The IRS says it is a profit if a business made a profit in 3 of the last 5 years, including the current year.  In kind and other noncash income counts.  The value of being sent to a conference counts.  The value of the trip to Disney counts.  The IRS has said that if you get a swag bag that everybody gets, maybe not quite so much, but be careful what you accept.  There is still a tax enforcement unit in the Department of Justice.  They have proven that people have gotten a car and driver for a job or a house that it's imputed income even if it doesn't show up in your W-4.  Report all your income.

Things to think about: Blog policies, incorporating as a business, independent contractor or freelancer, hiring others....

Blog policies. What should people who read your blog know about you?  Do you accept reviews?  Do you take individual advertisers?  Are there specific limits on brands or type of businesses that you would not accept?  You may collect data of some of your users.  When you dig into traffic and look at IP addresses and say I have 17 readers in Canada, you're collecting data and may use it to know who is reading.  Even if all you do is dig around in IP addresses to see where people are from, that requires a privacy policy.  If you do anything else with it to engage in surverying or you have a way for people to sign up to comment on the blog - then you have IP and email, what do you do with it?  You should disclose that you have it and should say what you do with it.

Comment policy.  Many people have a policy about not permitting nasty, racist, inappropriate, etc comments.  If you have a policy about deleting comments, you should be upfront about it.

If you are going to incorporate yourself, look at your Secretary of State website.  It's pretty strightforwrd and not very expensive.  If you are an individual or small partnership, it shouldn't be too difficult.  You can be a sole propretiership, an LLC, an LCC or  a corporation.  What you really need to know is that if you are working with other people, everyone needs to be on the same page: who is investing what, who is responsible for what.  If you are alone, incorporating as something other than a sole proprietorship may protect your personal assets.  If you put up a ton of pirated movies on your site, you may have a ton of liability, and they could go after your house and assets.  If you have substantial assets and your partner has a more stable job or inherited property, incorporating helps with anything you want to protect from a worst case scenario. If you accept independent contractor assigments, you have to file taxes on a quarterly basis and ther are lots of rules about how to do this and you need to figure out the details before you get in trouble.

I blog with a mission - am I a nonprofit?
It is complicated.  A 501(c)3 must be religious, charitable, scientiic, testing for public safety, etc. If your blog does not fall in one of those categories, you can't be one.  If you want to be a 501(c)4, those are just for social welfare organizations.  I would not recommend that you do this unless you are truly a social welfare.  This is tricky and  complicated; you should get legal advice.

Hiring people
You need to think about who owns the rights to the work.  If you need written contracts, the people at new media rights might be able to help out.

You may wind up in a position where you have employees, and you should know that bloggers are considered to be involved in interstate commerce, so minimum wage laws apply, overtime and other state laws like discrimination may apply, too.

Small business and blogger legal help: http://newmediarights.org - They are free, and you will likely be assigned a law student who works under a licensed attorney.
Internal Revenue Service: http://irs.gov

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BlogHer Book Review: The Care And Handling Of Roses With Thorns

In the majority of cases, I aspire to be the protagonist of the books I read.  The protagonist inevitably has some flaws, but the flaws make them human.  In the case of The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway, the main character Galilee Garner is deeply flawed, and I should have wanted nothing to do with her.  She had health issues and lacked social graces.  She was on the outs with her principal, holding onto her teaching job at a private school by a thread, because she refused to kow tow to parents who believed she was too tough.  There wasn't much to love or to root for.

All Gal wanted from life was to breed a prize winning rose that would be developed commercially.  She, a mere hobbyist in her backyard, had to goal to create a rose perfect enough to garner attention at rose shows that it would become something sold in garden centers across the world.  Of course it wasn't so simple as a fairy tale, not when her sister dumped a very unhappy niece on her while the sister worked a new job in Asia.

Finally, Gal has to climb out of her non-living life and figure out how to parent and start giving of herself, beyond even just her niece.  The book was an enjoyable read, and I've been waiting to write about this one for almost a month now.  I have to admit I enjoyed it far better than I did Margaret Dilloway's previous book, How to Be an American Housewife.

Have you read it?  Whether you have or not, join in the conversation at BlogHer, where this week's question asks how you feel about roses - do you like receiving them?  Do you grow them?

Book cover by Margaret Dilloway

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of the book "The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns" for review purposes.  I was also compensated as part of this campaign, but all opinions remain my own.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mom, Are You Friends With Smokers?

The other day, the wee ones and I were out shopping.  As Mister Man returned the cart to the row of carts, Little Miss and I waited for him in the vestibule between the store and the outdoors.  She turned to me, her nose wrinkling, and said, "It stinks in here, Mommy. I can tell lots of people have been smoking by here.  Are you friends with people who smoke?"

Are you friends with smokers?

I stopped for a minute.  She was right; it did stink.  I personally am not a smoker.  The smell nauseates me, to be perfectly frank.  My dad smoked heavily for years and years, and I used to dream about the day when I owned my own car and house and could tell him he wasn't allowed to smoke there.  Fortunately for all of us, he quit smoking before I graduated college (for good this time), so I never had to have those confrontations.

My goal - for a whole lot of reasons - is for the wee ones to dislike smoking as much as I do and to never have any interest in even trying it.  So far so good, right?  Little Miss hates the smell of smoke.  But this question isn't as straightforward as it seems.

I have this thing about lying to the wee ones.  I just flat out don't like to do it.  It makes me feel wrong, and I don't want them to look at our conversations in three or five years and say "whatever, my mom just tells us what she wants us to think.  She's a hypocrite, and I'm not going to listen."

So I took a deep breath.

Well, Little Miss, I said, not sure how this was going to turn out, I'm going to tell you that I'd give you a very different answer now or when you're in high school or college than I would if you were an adult. When you're in high school and college, the people who smoke there tend to define themselves by the fact that they smoke.  They hang around with other people who smoke, and they want their friends to be like them - helping them justify their own choices and feel good about them - by smoking, too.

When you're an adult, smoking may be something you do, but it typically isn't what defines you.  You have so many more interests and hobbies and facets of your personality. (Why yes, I do use unusual words when talking to the wee ones. It helps build their vocabularies.)  You care less whether the people you're friends with do the same things and think the exact same way you do.  If you're a smoker when you're an adult, it's more something you do rather than something that defines you.

I'll be honest with you that I do have a few friends who smoke.  But I don't hang around them when they're smoking.  They don't ask me if I want to smoke.  I don't like the fact that they smoke, but I'm friends with them because they're good people who care about me, and I care about them.

When you're in high school, if you're friends with smokers... it's far more likely that they're going to try to get you to start smoking, too.  And we both know you don't want to smoke because it's gross.  And it's expensive.  And it makes you sick.  If you have friends in high school or college who smoke, the only times they have to smoke are likely to also be the only times you have to hang out with them, so you're going to be around all that smoke, and you'll smell like you smoke, too.

So no, if I were in high school or college, I wouldn't be friends with someone who smokes.  As an adult, I do have some friends who smoke.  Does that make sense, Peanut?

And with big eyes, she looked up at me and nodded.  Smoking is gross.  I hope none of my friends ever do it.  Because then I wouldn't want to be friends with them anymore.

And internally, I heaved a sigh of relief.  At least for now, Little Miss gets it.  And I'll keep reinforcing this message.  I hate having to give her shades of grey answers, but life is like that way too often.  I just hope by the time she has to figure out where in the land of grey she stands, she's mature enough to get it.

How would you have answered this question had it been your child asking it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Roasted Garlic Aoli Salad Dressing - Tasty Tuesday

I'm not one to buy a lot of salad dressing at the store.  I love salad but don't eat enough of it.  And most dressing just don't taste as good to me as the homemade ones.  Plus, the homemade ones are just a teensy bit cheaper, and you can really make them your own.

My current summer favorite is a roasted garlic aoli.  This would actually make a perfect dressing for a potato salad, too, but I've been using it on a mixed green salad and sighing happily each time I take a bit.  I'll add whatever else is in my fridge at the time - tomatoes, cucumber, hard boiled egg, carrots, cheese, and more - and it's a perfect meal.

Did I mention this takes me ohhhh about 3 minutes to make (roasted garlic not included)?  Probably less, actually.

A homemade salad dressing is easy and delicious

Roasted Garlic Aoli Salad Dressing

4 cloves garlic, roasted*
1 egg yolk
1 T dijon mustard (orrrr a little more - I never quite measure)
2 T sherry vinegar (balsamic will do in a pinch)
1/4 c grapeseed oil (or all olive)
3/4 c olive oil
1 T fresh dill
1 T fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

First, you need to roast your garlic.  You can do this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a few days - if it lasts that long!  Preheat your oven to 325.  Cut the top of the head of garlic just a bit. You want it cut so that you can see most of the cloves exposed, but you don't want to be cutting off much garlic itself.  Put it on some foil (seriously people, buying a garlic roaster is a waste of money) and drizzle it with a little olive oil and salt.

Make a sealed pouch with the garlic bulb, and place it in the oven, open clove side up.  Roast it for 45 minutes to an hour and allow it to cool.  Try not to drool as you smell the yumminess coming from your oven.  To remove the garlic, simply squeeze the bottom of the head and watch the cloves pop out.

For the aoli, add the egg yolk to a bowl and whisk it lightly.  Add the 4 garlic cloves, mustard, and vinegar, then whisk well.  While whisking, slowly add the oils.  If you start to see any drops of oil, stop adding it and whisk until it's fully emulsified.  You may not use all the oil, and that's fine.  Personally, I like mine just a little bit lighter.
Whisk together ingredients before adding the oil

Note how thin the stream of oil is and how fast it's being whisked

The herbs really give it life and flavor

Add the chopped dill and parsley, and salt and pepper the aoli to taste.  Serve it over your salad.  This will keep in your fridge for several days.  I don't know how many because I've always used it up first!  See, totally easy.

*Note that you are not under any circumstances to waste any of this delicious roasted garlic.  You can add it to so many things to make them extra yummy or simply go with my personal favorite (Little Miss loves it, too) and smear the garlic on some good fresh bread.  That includes rubbing the bulb on the bread after you've removed the garlic to get every last yummy bit out.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

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