My TV ignorance and what I’m going to do.

Before I graduated college, moved back to the lower 48 from the great white north, married, and had a child, I didn’t watch much television. Many conversations at work, school, and later in church, would go over my head since they would be discussing the latest show developments.

My personality type radiates toward more biographies, historical, and sometimes, if I really wanted to live on the edge, historical fiction. As a result, I did often miss out on bonding moments when television was discussed. However, thanks to Hulu, Netflix, and other online streaming services, I am able to see why Grey’s, Pacey, and Olivia Pope are so important to people.

First came the stream, then came the binge.

When I was on maternity leave with my son 3.5 years ago, and was nursing every two hours, I started getting stir crazy. Did I say I was in Minnesota at the time? Yes, nothing like a Minnesota winter while on maternity to  feel cabin fever. When late night feedings happen, sometimes you have to stop sitting in the dark at 1:30am. You wonder how the world is going on around you, however, reading the newspaper becomes frightening, at least it was for me. I had a small life in the world that I was suddenly incredibly responsible for. I couldn’t handle thinking about another recession, the Middle East, and famines while only getting 2 hours of sleep at a time and eating only ‘quiet’ food that could be consumed while nursing (nothing hot, crunchy, drippy, snoozy, doopey… I digress)

After my reading options were exhausted, I would reach for the computer, specifcally Netflix. At the time Grey’s Anatomy was featured, so I pressed play. Previously, a colleague had called me April Kepner. Now, I get the joke.

My sorority sisters would talk about McDreamy and something recalled ‘er’ from years prior. Whenever I was invited to an ‘Oscars Night’, I was pretty ignorant as to what was happening. It’s really confusing to a former TV outsider why people would get so invested in fictitious characters.  Now? I get it.

It’s not just about the story, but the shared stories.

  • About how you see yourself in others.
  • About how stories ripped from the headlines are presented for an audience (sometimes for better or for worse).
  • About how special it is when you see how dreams can come true.
  • About hope.
  • About sadness.

People are all about stories, and sharing them is critical to our social and societal survival. That maternity leave left me thinking about not only my story, but the stories I would tell my son about the things he would never see. Like how his great-great-grandmother would keep Cokes and chocolate chip cookies in her kitchen for our visits while we played with her antique Lincoln Logs. Or how while living in Alaska, I was able to go snowshoeing all winter just by walking a few blocks out of Nome. Or How I couldn’t really read until I was 8, and at three he can read 3 words already. Or where I was when 9/11 happened.

Thanks to the Internet, I can now catch up on stories, for better or worse, for laughs or tears, for fun or torture.

Since in recent years I have realized and accepted television ignorance, I am making a resolution.

My TV resolution: watch all of an infamous NBC show called Parks and Recreation.

With who: husband (big fan) and a work colleague (big fan)
When: at least an episode a week
Why: because I love Amy Poehler, and have already read her biography (proof from the statement in paragraph two)
How: Netflix!

I recognize that I could enhance my mind by learning a new language, reading a new book, or doing something for the home during that time versus watching television, but really, this is for me. I now know that I need some ridiculous entertainment to loosen up and recognize when I am just plain overly stressed. I need to take a break.

I couldn’t do this completely without the internet.

Retailer Price Management: Leaving Customers Behind?

Recently, there was an article from the AP in the Ashville Citizen-Times that stopped me in my tracks. It was a retail focused piece that described how e-commerce sites have been working on and implementing price monitoring systems for the past few years. This isn’t anything new, considering that retail has secret shoppers (humans) that search out competitors, visit stores, and report on prices, displays, selection, and more. Now, they are going into hyper-speed online. How? By using systems that will change prices online based on a competitors online price, current inventory, and the company’s bottom line.

Some people have said ‘What’s the big deal, Kristina? Isn’t that what businesses have been doing for as long as retail can remember?’ To that, I say ‘Of course’. However, last time I checked my Aunt didn’t search and purchase at stock exchange speed. Ok, maybe the sites aren’t that fast, but they are getting closer.

The pricing systems, according to this article, for many large corporations, like Amazon and Wal-Mart, now have the pricing structure so they are able to change prices in minutes. For customers, that means that you can check a price, comeback an hour later, and it’s changed. From a business perspective, to change prices based on the market, bottom line, and several other factors, that can seem like a dream come true. But I have to ask, what about customers? I believe that some companies do factor in the customer’s need for consistent, yet competitve pricing. But from a customer’s perspective, competitive means lowering prices, not yo-yo-ing them up and down.

The airline industry has been doing this for ages. We are used to price fluctuation now for airlines and think we have it figured it all out. However, we all know that it’s still a gamble with those airline tickets to go see Grandma for her birthday or mom and dad for Christmas break from college.

When it comes to retail, customers like to do their homework, but will that even be possible to do that with a minute-by-minute price changes?

Perhaps, with tools that compare online retail pricing. They aren’t as well known as their airfare counterparts like Kayak and Expedia for example, but they are out there.

Enter Pricegrabber.

Pricegrabber.com compares prices for retail products from toys to TVs. This is wonderful when you consider all of the purchase options that are out there and how exhausting it can be to surf  all the major retailers for the Christmas toys, for example— not that I have a 2 year-old to shop for.

One thing I noticed while being on Pricegrabber, was that there is definitely a time delay on price changes. I looked for a big ticket toy (a play kitchen) and Pricegrabber said it was $129.99 at Target, but when I searched on Target.com, I saw it was $125.99.

Now, that’s not a huge difference, and in about 1.5 hours, Pricegrabber was updated, but I’m not sure how often these competitors websites are crawled and updated.

I am hoping that retail doesn’t 100% go the way of airfare online. It’s one thing to be competitive, but it is another to constantly change prices so often that by the time you get your credit card out of your wallet to make a purchase, the price has gone up.

Finally, me purchasing a $50 is NOT the same as making a$1,230 investment in a first-class plane ticket. If we don’t have consistency in pricing, I think we could easily see more skeptical customers that already doubt pricing anywhere they go. Big box stores say there is room for no negotiation on prices, but with these online systems changing by the hour (or minute), customers will be calling BS very soon.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on how this could RUIN brand loyalty.

 

Turning 30

I have been thinking about the future lately. I suppose it has to do with the new year that arrived and the fact that I’m turning 30(!) this year. The big 3-0 is something that I’m welcoming with open arms. My twenties were crazy. From college graduation to Alaska to getting married and moving (again and again)…Oh, yeah, and having this adorable kiddo!WNC Nature Center 011

I welcome the thoughts of settling down and making some tough choices. Choices about money, where we live, work, play… the list goes on. The choices I make now, are not only for me, but for my family.

Things I think about as I turn 30:

  • My choices are my own, only I can make them, and they impact people around me.
  • My choices are exactly that. Choices. I may make the wrong one, but I’ll learn.
  • It’s  alright to try new things… and it’s alright not to like them, no matter how ‘cool’ they are.

When I was in my early 20s, I would read countless articles from women that said that they were more comfortable in their own skin in their 30s than they were in their 20s. I never understood that. In my 20s, I could do anything, be anything, and move anywhere. And, for the most part, I did.

What is more comfortable than all that freedom? Man I was naive.

Today, I’m still shocked that seasoned professionals grabbed me and kept me focused. From awesome managers to tremendous mentors that still check on me from time to time.

Now I am more confident and sure of my choices than I have been in my entire life. Yes, all 29 years. I enjoy the work I do and the people I work with. I make choices on who I work with and for. That is liberating. 

Another thing I never new would bring so much freedom is security.

Yes, I said it, security.

20s are not as glamorous as everyone makes them out to be. Seriously, my idea of a fun weekend was taking the bus to Borders (yes, it’s now closed), getting a magazine, and going home to cook dinner. Glamorous? Glam cost dinero. I had none.

Knowing I have a job, a family to come home to, a car that works, or money to try some new recipes is the best I’ve felt since… ever. They are simple things. But I love simple.

Sure, the days I didn’t have a car and rode the bus all over the Twin Cities was… humbling. But now? I’d rather have a car to run errands with a toddler.

Today, I know what I need, what I like, and what I can do to keep me and my family happy and healthy. I know and trust God to guide us, and if I truly desire to be successful in my life’s relationships, work, and health, I need the help of others. I need community. People better than I am. Friends and family that love me. In my 30s, I want to nurture that.

Bring on my 30s!

20s- I know you’ll always be there because Facebook will always remind me.

Skip Facebook?

I used to tell small business owners that Facebook was a cost effective way to connect with their customers. I have to say, that it has never been free. Your time is precious and costs money.

Now, after so many businesses logged on, bought in, took the time to integrate Facebook into their businesses and marketing plans, what does Facebook do? Hold their fans hostage.

How is this one social network doing this? Well when you insert a status update on a brand (business) page, you have to pay to reach your whole audience. It has been this way for a while, I know. So what is a small business to do?

Ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. Who are my customers and how do they interact/purchase with my business?
  2. Where are my customers? Are they online only? Or are they coming into your brick-and-mortar location(s)?
  3. What messages resonate with your customers and are those messages best delivered on Facebook, or would another medium be better?
  4. How are you able to measure you marketing initiatives now?
  5. Are your marketing goals aligned with business goals?

#5 is probably a better place to start if you really want to see if it is worth the investment to put money toward Facebook posts. In my mind, funding for marketing is always worth the investment if… IF you are measuring the return and if your initiatives are based on business goals.

I have read blog posts about companies leaving Facebook. If you have built an audience by putting in the time and money already, that can be a painful business decision. There are also people that might be married to Facebook, which makes the decision a much harder one.

What are your thoughts? Are you leaving Facebook?

Is email killing you? (It’s crushing me)

I have been wondering lately where my productivity has gone. I started a brand new (awesome) job that I am loving that’s really pushing me to greater heights (it helps that my coworkers and bosses are fan freakin’ tastic). However, sometimes I look down and it’s been 2 hours since I started a project. I need and want to be productive, so I decided that this has to stop.

Last week, I took an inventory of my time, and I realized that I spent WAY too much time just ‘cleaning’ and organizing my inbox.

Everyone has been there with email. You’ve been working on ‘cleaning’ and ‘organizing’ your email to ‘put out fires’ and someone calls to see if you received their novel of an email. Regardless who it’s from, your boss, co-worker, or vendor looking to up-sell  it seems that email has become a life preserver as if to say ‘I held up my end, the ball is your court’.. and I’m done.

Conversations go something like this:

Them: I emailed you that proposal 203 hours and 23 minutes ago with 7 attachments and my edits to your proposal. Have you not read it yet?

Me: Not yet. I’m overloaded from the holidays.

Them: Ha! I know what you mean. I check mine all the time and still can’t seem to keep up.

Wait. WHAT?

So not only are we ‘using’ email as a file cabinet (are those even made anymore?) to make sure that we have a record of the conversation, but we’re never leaving work because we have to constantly keep our ‘desk’ clean by checking and cleaning our email. Don’t even get me started on voice-mail.

So all this begs me to ask: Why am I doing this to myself?

Answers (justifications?):

Because I manage several vendors and it’d be a nightmare otherwise? Vendor management. Oy vey.

Because workplace culture dictates? Maybe.

Because that is the only option right now? Not good enough and not hardly.

There are SEVERAL options out there for project correspondence and collaboration. Think 37signals. But what about day-to-day communication?

My background is in communications and email, in my opinion, IS NOT great tool for proper conversation. Honestly, it’s one-way. Forget about collaboration, it’s not good with that. Maybe if you are having correspondence with one person over time, but then, let’s call that what it is, a freakin’ letter.

Companies like Hootsuite are making a day-to-day conversation tool for communications within organizations, but I can see the comments so clearly…

‘I can’t follow the thread all the time!’

‘Ugh. Not another network to maintain.’

‘I’m not on Facebook,’

You see where I am going with this. While email is crushing me (and everyone’s productivity) I’m also weary on a taking the social network approach. However, I think we MUST re-imagine what communication looks like, and like everything, communication, like culture, is unique to a company.

What does communication look like for me and my company? 

Will I stop using email? Not right now, but I will improve my time management with it so I am able to really be productive.

How are you communicating in your office? Do you use a social type network? Do you love or loathe email?