<![CDATA[Dixon Schwabl | Blog]]> http://dixonschwabl.com/ Dixon Schwabl Blog en Copyright 2017 2017-05-25T01:08:24-04:00 <![CDATA[An Event Producer’s Guide to Putting Out Fires (Literally)]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/an-event-producers-guide-to-putting-out-fires-literally-1 https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/an-event-producers-guide-to-putting-out-fires-literally-1
Shannon


Last October, I was working at an event where the main entertainment went up in flames minutes before it was scheduled to venture out into the crowd. I’m talking full-on, “turn the sprinkler system off quick before the exhibitor booths, activity stations and high-end sponsors get soaked” flames.

Did I mention the entertainment was a 9-foot robot and the event was an international conference?

After we extinguished the flames and lugged the large piece of metal outside through the dock doors (and pulled out all the industrial-sized fans we could find), I apologized to our client and assured her she would not be charged, thanked the venue profusely for not kicking me out, canceled our payment to the vendor and prepared for the onslaught of incoming conference attendees that would be none the wiser, all with an external smile.

Our team has also experienced floral centerpieces dying minutes after they were placed on tables the afternoon of an event, WiFi crashing while registering 800 guests, and not gaining access to the ballroom until two hours prior to doors opening. And if we, as event producers, are doing our jobs correctly, our guests (and often our clients) will never know the difference. Event planners are notorious for their attention to detail, perfected timelines, relationships with vendors, venues and clients, and overall not-messing-around standards of excellence. They’re also known for their ability to adapt and flawlessly execute their Plan B, C or even D as naturally as if it were Plan A.

Here are the DS Events team’s top five ways to keep your cool when things beyond your control are taking an unanticipated turn:

1) Stop, breathe, grab a Diet Coke (or water or coffee, whatever your beverage of choice happens to be) and embrace your new event reality with enthusiasm. If you’re confident about your new direction, your clients, coworkers, volunteers and guests will be, too. —Shannon

2) Remember you’re the pro. This is what you live for. You solve problems like it’s your job—because it is your job. Course correct, come up with a plan, and ask for help from anyone and everyone who can make your new plan come to fruition (and fast). If all else fails, lather on the Peace & Calming and Stress Away essential oils! —Kathy Phelps

3) Surround yourself with fantastic people who know you and your business well. Not every event planner has the luxury of a full team, but you can develop a solid support system by initiating and nurturing relationships with key vendors in AV, rentals, food and beverage, and décor. Take them out to lunch to learn more about what they do and what their specialties are. Compare event industry trends and upcoming event ideas and challenges. And always send thank-you notes when they show up at your event with 40 additional chairs and extra linens or two wireless mics you had to add an hour prior to doors opening. (Cookies work well, too.) —Jenna Van Thof

4) Assess the situation objectively and respond with flexibility—especially when it comes to the small stuff. You may have had your heart set on crisp white linens and be crushed when they arrive in ivory. However, the success of the event does not hinge on the slight change in color. So don’t give up your sanity for the change, either. And in the mood-lit ballroom, chances are none will be the wiser. —Erin O’Donnell

5) Always look for the lesson. You can always learn something from challenging situations. —Collective Advice

Relax. You got this.


Associate Vice President of Special Events Shannon E. Struzik has 20 years of experience putting out fires. I mean, putting on events. Have a question for her? Send an email to shannon_struzik@dixonschwabl.com.

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2017-05-12T15:34:00-04:00
<![CDATA[The Language Gardener]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/the-language-gardener https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/the-language-gardener
Jen M


I’ve been called a lot of things in my 15 years as an editor: gatekeeper, defender, style guru, person you should avoid if you want to use a serial comma, nerd, expert, has-to-be-right-all-the-timer …

I mean, they aren’t all wrong. But earlier this year, I had the chance to spend a few days with 600 other editors at The Society for Editing’s annual conference. And there, I was called something new: a gardener.

James Harbeck, “a professional word taster and sentence sommelier”—things I will never be called, but wow, I want to be—had a lot to say about editors’ roles. Not just how they study the language of today, but how they help shape it going forward. And that’s key: forward motion. Editors as gardeners, not defenders.

It’s true that part of our job will always be pulling language into existing rules, but much more so, our job is to help English—and copy—get where it’s going. To watch as it evolves, decide what to let through the gate, and help build a body of work that lexicographers will use when choosing what to record to reflect usage. It’s how things like face-palm and side-eye made their way into Merriam-Webster. Over time, editors saw value in those words and phrases, leaving them in edited copy and marking their place in English’s history. So when it came time for the dictionary to roll out a new batch of definitions, those words made the cut—editors had given them the OK to make their mark on the language.

It was inspiring to see how many hands shot up when Harbeck asked a room full of editors whether they’d allow some unconventional uses into copy. Things like singular they, impact, nauseous, hopefully and other old-school editing taboos overwhelmingly passed the 2017 editing test. (But sorry, irregardless, “my head literally exploded” and “very unique” are still right out.)

Does that mean editors can’t have their rules and pet-peeves? Of course not. I hold rigidly tight to the differences between last and past, which and that, awhile and a while, because all editing leans on a degree of personal style. Those preferences are how I’m choosing to tend to my little plot of the English language. They’re how I’m influencing and tending to an ever-growing body of work.

English evolves, it changes, it expands, and someone has to help it get where it’s going. For me to dig in my heels, stick to a set of rules that were set decades ago and neglect my role as a gardener would be a disservice to my gatekeeper, defender, style guru, person you should avoid if you want to use a serial comma, nerd, expert, has-to-be-right-all-the-timer reputation—and to this mess of a language I love so much.

Plus, it’s always fun to go along for a good ride. As Harbeck so rightly said, “The entire English language is a slippery slope. We are all tumbling down it faster than we realize.”


Senior Copy Editor Jen Moritz pulls the weeds out of our writing on an e’ry day basis, and somehow does it without making you feel like dirt. 

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2017-04-25T11:49:00-04:00
<![CDATA[When In Doubt, Take The Slide]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/when-in-doubt-take-the-slide https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/when-in-doubt-take-the-slide


We’ve all heard it. Some of us have even said it before coming to work here. Because when someone mentions Dixon Schwabl to someone who doesn’t know anything about it, they somehow know at least one thing:

“Oh, yeah … that place with the slide!”

If our reputation at Dixon Schwabl precedes us, The Slide precedes our reputation. It’s a symbol that says infinitely more about who we are than what we do, and that is so us. It’s our crest, our flag, our Bat Signal and our jersey all at once. It tells someone a LOT, yet entices them to learn more. And once that person digs deeper and sees the three decades of innovation, success and growth, they realize that not only does Dixon Schwabl have a slide—we do some stellar work.

The Slide is the ultimate conversation piece. Legend has it that the architects didn’t take the fiercely fun-loving Lauren Dixon seriously when she said to put a slide in the lobby. After three versions of blueprints that featured no slide, she had to call the builder and insist it was no joke. She didn’t see it as a gimmick or a lame attempt to look cool. This was pre-Google. Dixon Schwabl did it before it was cool.

Recently, it was decided that our blog needed a name (something more creative than Blog), and we spent days throwing ideas around. Pages were devoted to brainstorm sessions, resulting in the recurring question of “How does this place have a slide but not a single giant whiteboard?”

Maybe something with the initials D-S: Do Stuff? Doing Stuff? Don’t Stop? No, just stop.

Something with Brand: Raisin’ Brand? Brand [New], Wry & Brandy? To be honest, all three of those were Top 10 material, but a bit too punny.

What if we repurpose an industry term: Reach? Impressions? The High Level? Not bad, but these can come from anyone. How would anyone know it’s us?

Something ridiculous: The DS BS? Dixon Bloggl? Really let it get away from us for a bit there.

We stressed over it, held extremely unscientific polls and returned to the metaphorical drawing board frustrated, asking, yet again, “How does this place have a slide but not a single giant whiteboard?!”

And that’s when we realized we didn’t need the whiteboard, because we already had The Slide.

Now, The Slide is how we tell our story. As a blog, it’s how we let people in to see not just who we are, but what we do. It can be traditional and innovative, consistent and spontaneous, strategic and creative, buttoned up and untucked all at the same time. Most of all, it’s a reminder to ourselves and to anyone who reads it: If you’re not having fun, all you’re doing is work. 


Paul Gangarossa and Pete Wayner are curators of and regular contributors to The Slide. That said, the bright, talented members of the DS team across all departments are the stars of this space.

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2017-04-25T10:51:00-04:00
<![CDATA[@realDonaldTrump or @POTUS?]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/realdonaldtrump-or-potus https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/realdonaldtrump-or-potus


Below is an intra-office conversation via Slack between Andrew Knoblauch, social and digital supervisor; Adam Sisson, social media account executive; Jake Ziegler, social media manager; and Paul Gangarossa, PR Executive. 


andrew [9:05 AM]
Alright guys, it’s Inauguration Day and President-elect Donald Trump will become America’s 45th Commander-in-Chief. Fox News is reporting that Trump will not change his Twitter handle to @POTUS opting instead to keep @realDonaldTrump. What do you all think of the move?

adam_sisson [9:07 AM] 
As far as personal branding is concerned, I think it's a smart move. Part of the "Donald" brand is just what his Twitter handle says - being real. He prides himself on not being like other presidents before him, and a big part of his campaign was to knock the "shady" decisions of classic politicians. But at what point does he have to put his personal brand aside and change it to being the leader of our country?

paulgangarossa [9:08 AM] 
Sounds about right. Any chance he can make something his own, he's going to take it. It's been his MO so far and it's not about to change. Agreed, it's another slap in the face of presidential precedents, one that's specific to Obama.

[9:09]  
And it's hard to argue with it in this case. His following dwarfs the @potus account, and he's not one to use a smaller megaphone.

andrew [9:11 AM] 
Just to illustrate your point, Paul, here are some numbers. Trump’s following: 20.5 million; POTUS: 13.7 million. Roughly 7 million more people follow our future president.  I think one thing to think about is “who” those people are. We can assume many are American citizens, but to your point, is most of Trump’s following just his base?

Trump Twitter 2

paulgangarossa [9:13 AM]  I'm sure most is his base, but not by a ton. He's probably got a "Howard Stern Effect" where people who oppose him are some of his most engaged followers.

jake [9:16 AM]  I think the question real question is: does it actually matter? Twitter has been stagnant in growth. With just over 300 million users, it has almost 1 BILLION less active users than Facebook. Why should Donald Trump surrender millions of followers for a handle? It doesn’t make sense.

[9:17]   To build up such a large following on a channel that’s stagnant in growth is impressive. Surrendering those followers means that you lose a major amount of your voice.

adam_sisson [9:20 AM]  Trump's current followers may be mostly made up of his base, but as his presidency continues it should grow to include those on both sides. @BarackObama has 80.8M followers, which probably wasn't the case before he took over the office. No matter what the handle says, it's just a source for people to get the information they need about our country. And Jake I think you're right - it doesn't seem to make much sense to abandon such a strong account with a massive following.

paulgangarossa [9:21 AM]  He could just go and change his handle to something like @POTUSTrump or @realPOTUSTrump or @PresidentTrump or something like that. That would set a new precedent and keep his followers at the same time.

andrew [9:22 AM]  Caleb Gardner joined our podcast, he was part of Obama For America and helped orchestrate the president’s various social accounts during his tenure. My guess is he sent out more tweets than President Obama ever did. If I’m Trump, I’m letting my staff handle the @POTUS account.

adam_sisson [9:24 AM]  I think that's the big worry with Trump's personal account - no one is going to be monitoring what he's blasting off to the entire world. It's a little scary to think about.

andrew [9:25 AM]  And no one ever has … or will … *insert scary music*

adam_sisson [9:26 AM]  Let's prepare for 4 years of many cringe-worthy tweets

paulgangarossa [9:27 AM]  The bonus is that whenever his term is up, the next POTUS won't be saddled with his account. 

andrew [9:28 AM]  But, to play devil’s advocate, Trump effectively used social to help him win the election. He’d say whatever was on his mind to gain free media coverage and spent way less on traditional advertising than Hillary Clinton. There’s a NYT piece from October that outlines this pretty well. So, maybe he just wants to stick with that game plan?

paulgangarossa [9:31 AM]  As only he can, because there are plenty of politicians who have Twitter accounts that can't do what he did. This was a situation where his message outweighed the medium, causing it to spill over into traditional news. The tactic doesn't work without a message worth retweeting, liking or hating.

andrew [9:31 AM]  As Skip Bayless would say, “That’s deep and that’s true."

paulgangarossa [9:32 AM]  Bayless/Sharpe in 2020??

andrew [9:35 AM]  If presidential campaigns were decided by hot takes, they would definitely win. Alright, let’s wrap this up … fill in the blank: “If I was Donald Trump, in regards to the @POTUS handle I would ___________."

jake [9:36 AM]  “tweet until my fingers fall off"

andrew [9:37 AM]  Yeah, that’s how we should end it. Nice work, Jake.

adam_sisson [9:39 AM]  *slow claps while eating hot dog with American Flag waving in the background*

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2017-01-20T10:47:21-05:00
<![CDATA[Top 5 Social Media Trends in 2017]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/top-5-social-media-trends-in-2017 https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/top-5-social-media-trends-in-2017
Jon A


Social media is always changing. And, 2017 will be no different.  Certain trends—like Facebook’s continued algorithm changes, the rise of virtual reality, live video and the continued rapid growth of Snapchat—are expected for 2017. However, what are five social media trends you might not be expecting in the new year?

1) Twitter Nears Death: It’s almost time for Twitter to say bye bye. Stock is down 29% year to date. Top executives, like CTO Adam Messinger, are leaving. And users of the platform are not growing. Pew Research Center reports 24% of online adults use Twitter, up a whopping 1% from one year ago. When you combine these factors with the fact that Facebook ad buys perform substantially better than Twitter ad buys in terms of ROI, you can see why Twitter might not be around much longer. Twitter—at its best—is a real-time conversation platform. When tied to trending events, it’s an engaging platform. However, it simply doesn’t work well for what a lot of brands do—planned content.

2) The Rise of Messaging Apps: Facebook Messenger now allows brands to advertise within it. More than 50% of new Snapchat users are over the age of 25. 29% of smartphone owners use general-purpose messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Kik. More and more, customers will want to engage with companies in one-to-one ways—not publicly on their Facebook wall—but within messaging platforms. More companies will utilize bots to automatically respond to customers. And, more apps like Venmo will up the social commerce game, allowing friends to exchange money through social messaging. The content on your Facebook page will be as important as the responses you’re providing in platforms like Messenger.

3) Measuring Offline Sales: Thanks to advancements in Facebook's software, you can now link sales in your store to your Facebook ads. Through partnerships with point-of-sale systems like Square and Marketo, Facebook will be able to provide analytics of how views of Facebook content and ads lead to purchases and store visits. Basically, Facebook gets right into cash registers to pull real-time, in-person results. This ties nicely into the SoLoMo—Social, Local, Mobile—trend. Hyperlocal is a perfect match for social media success.

4) The Continued Rise of Paid Social: I’m still shocked more companies are not taking advantage of the power of paid social. For every $1 you spend on creating content, no one will see that content unless you spend $2 promoting it. You can target customers and new business leads in your customer relationship management (CRM) tool, people who have visited specific pages on your website, and even a lookalike audience of your current email database. The targeting is precise and makes it easy to reach the right people with the right message at the right time. Why not utilize it more? According to Advertising Age, social media spending grew 55% in 2016 to $10.9 billion, up from the previous year's $7 billion. That number could hit $15 billion in 2017.

Pew Research 2016

5) One Channel May Be Enough: When social media burst on to the marketing scene, brands were like “we gotta have a Facebook page!” Pinterest came out— “we gotta be on Pinterest!” Instagram was unveiled— “we absolutely, positively must be on Instagram!” Snapchat— “we’re afraid of Snapchat but…well…should we be on there?” 2017 will be the year more brands finally incorporate social media into their overall business plans and marketing plans, which will lead them to ask the question, “which social media platforms will actually help us generate ROI?” They will be selective in the channels they are delivering content and advertising from, maximizing impact on those channels instead of having average to poor content spread across six different social media platforms. Please…please, get rid of your Google+ page. It doesn’t help with search engine optimization as much as you think it does.

One thing we can all agree on? Social media will continue to grow in 2017. It isn’t going anywhere—it’s just maturing a bit.


Jon Alhart is Vice President of Social and Digital Media and a recovering Buffalo Bills fan. He has the best laugh in the agency, capable of making everyone who hears it think they missed out on the funniest joke of the year.

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2016-12-28T09:09:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Tokens of Appreciation]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/tokens-of-appreciation https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/tokens-of-appreciation


In any given desk at Dixon Schwabl, you’ll find thumb drives, forgotten Tim Horton’s Roll-Up-the-Rim pieces ... maybe the occasional Rolodex. There’s something in common in most of them, too—a stack of white and red poker chips, with various initials Sharpied on their faces. We know what you’re thinking. And no, once the lights go out, DS employees don’t perform their own mashup of Fight Club and Rounders. (Oh, Ed Norton, take me away.) The impetus behind the chips is actually way cooler than the various cash denominations they represent.

We talk about collaboration a lot, about breaking down silos and bringing more people to the table. We practice it, and each time we do, we learn how much more room there is to improve. Whether it’s collaborating more with teammates in the same department, distant DS cousins who live on different floors, clients or even community partners, it’s a conversation. It’s an initiative. It’s a buzzword and it’s not altogether unique to Dixon Schwabl. Everybody’s talking about it. Some are doing it. Others are doing it well.

Whenever one DSer goes out of their way to help out another, a chip is typically given as a physical representation of gratitude. Sure, a simple “thank you” would suffice for anyone under this roof, but the idea (cooked up by the Workplace Wow Committee) is for everyone to have a cache of gratitude at their desk, in the form of these chips. The simple fact that they’re there reminds us to use them—to go a little out of our way to appreciate someone who went way out of theirs.

Chips are periodically turned in in exchange for beautifully designed DS swag, like growlers, scarves, patches and messenger bags. And that’s cool. But really, the value of the chips is in that tangible representation of something we often internally express, but sometimes struggle to put out there where it’s actually useful—gratitude.

And yes, of course it took roughly 20 seconds for plans of a chip black market to be laid out—I’ll give you all my chips for all of yours, then we can corner the market on fashionable accessories, eventually taking over the Greater Rochester scarf racket. But after that died down and chips actually started to be shared sincerely, an overwhelming spirit of appreciation took over.

What we’ve found is that chip giving isn’t limited to an obvious above-and-beyond scenario from an unexpected source. Random acts of collaboration or the simple acknowledgement of a job well done are now chip worthy. And while this may seem to devalue the chip, it hasn’t. Because the chip isn’t what’s valued—it’s the gesture.It’s nice to be thanked. It’s nice to thank others. When you have a reason to do so sitting in your drawer, it can make someone’s day (because they made yours). Then you both end up feeling like all that ... and a bag of chips.


Pete Wayner is the Content Manager, Paul Gangarossa is a PR Executive/Brand Journalist and both agree that drawing on walls is the key to creative thinking. 

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2016-09-23T10:30:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Quasimodo and Copywriting]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/quasimodo-and-copywriting https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/quasimodo-and-copywriting
James Hs Final


I know—huh?

Stick with me. I recently attended a copywriting conference. I’m a relative newbie in the biz and the extra professional development was invaluable. It was fantastic. Many stories, anecdotes, pieces of advice and stale batches of convention center cookies were shared. Out of all the incredible insight I gained from writers who’d been at their craft far longer than I have, there was one powerful message that had a lasting impression. Let’s meet the main character.

Quasimodo, our friendly hunchback of Notre Dame, wanted to retire from bell-ringing. He put up a help-wanted ad in town and the next day was approached by an armless man. “I’m the guy for the job!” he said. “And don’t worry, I don’t need arms. When my head hits the bell, it’ll make the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear!” Quasimodo decided to give the man a chance.

When the two of them reached the top of the bell tower, the man with no arms wasted no time. He rammed his head straight into the bell. He was right, Quasimodo thought, it was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. The man turned around and said, “See! I told you I was perfect for the—” but before he could finish, the bell swung back and knocked him out of the tower. Two policemen quickly ran over to the body. Yeah. Things happen fast in this story.

“Do you know this man?” asked the first cop.

“Not his name,” replied the second cop. “But his face rings a bell.”

Huzzah! You’ve made it this far. Let’s keep going.

The next day, Quasimodo was approached by another armless man who promised he’d be a perfect fit for the job. He told Quasimodo that it was his brother who failed because he didn’t have a plan and forgot to dodge the bell on its backswing. He assured Quasimodo he knew the trick. Quasimodo told the man he’d give him a chance the next day.

To celebrate, the armless man went out and partied with friends, staying out very late. One of his friends suggested he go home and rest. “Nonsense!” said the armless man. “I could ring that bell in my sleep!”

The next morning, Quasimodo met the armless man at the top of the bell tower. The man with no arms was very tired, but he wasted no time. He rammed his head straight into the bell. It was the most beautiful sound Quasimodo ever heard. “Piece of cake!” yelled the armless man. “Now watch me move out of the—” but before he could finish, he tripped over his own tired legs. When the bell swung back, it knocked him out of the tower. Two policemen quickly ran over to the body.

“Do you know this man?” the first cop asked.

“Not his name,” said the second cop. “But he’s a dead ringer for his brother.”

Huzzah again!

OK. You’re asking yourself, How is this related to copywriting? The first man went in for the bell-ringing job eager and ready to go. As eager as he was, he didn’t have a plan and wasn’t ready for the backswing. No bueno. The second man said he had a plan for the backswing, but hubris got the best of him. No plan and too much pride aren’t the best strategies. Just ask Oedipus Rex.

Jobs can quickly pile up as a copywriter. If you take each job without taking the time to review the brief, ask questions or put thought into what you’re writing, it’s not going to impress anyone. Sure, you might get away with running head-first into a project sometimes, and you might feel so confident about a project that you put your head down and take it on alone. But chances are, the job will coming swinging back and knock you out of the tower.

What I learned from this story and all of the presenters at the conference is that success isn’t given. It’s earned. With careful planning, lots of collaboration with exceptionally talented people and a humble student-of-the-business attitude, you could be on your way to being a big can full of awesomeness. Follow these steps, knock the socks off a client, earn someone’s business, wow a creative director and totally be ready for the bell’s backswing.

I know I said this was about copywriting, but I should’ve said this is about life, business, sports, Black Friday Christmas shopping, you name it. And if you know any good bell-ringers, Quasimodo’s still looking.


James is a rising member of our copywriting team. Cash in on more of his musings on Twitter @JamesAshbery.

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2016-08-22T11:45:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Behind the Scenes at the Riesling Fest]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/behind-the-scenes-at-the-riesling-fest https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/behind-the-scenes-at-the-riesling-fest
Img 6382

My first day at Dixon Schwabl was August 10, 2015—just about a year ago now. It was the Monday after the seventh annual Riesling & Craft Beer Festival, and I had no idea at the time how significant that was. Amid the haze of first-day nerves and paperwork, new faces and forgetting names, I remember the tone of the events team members.

Exhausted, but proud in their exhaustion, they told story after story of the past three days and the frantic pace they kept from start to finish. Above-average-sized coffees and Diet Cokes in their hands, sneakers on their weary feet, they had earned a casual Monday. Really, they’d earned the day off, but they were there. Back at it.

Over the past year, the reasons for their exhaustion have been on display. This event doesn’t just happen. It’s not a copy/paste or a rinse-and-repeat. It’s brand new every time, because that’s how they treat it. Even after the most successful year in the event’s history, it’s all about making it better. 

Kathy

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the festival each year, whether it be adding more kids’ activities, more breweries or more wineries,” Dixon Schwabl Vice President of Events Kathy Phelps says. “The first priority is to make sure we’re going to make enough for a donation, because that’s why this event exists. That’s Priority No. 1.”

And “Priority No. 1” started months ago, prompting the first spreadsheet needed to keep it all organized as this team of Type-A’s began calling, emailing and following up with businesses and other organizations to sponsor the event. Proceeds from the Riesling Fest go to the YMCA of Canandaigua, as well as the host venue, the New York Wine & Culinary Center.

Even more unique is that Dixon Schwabl is its own client as the presenter of the festival.

“We never wanna fail our clients, but in this case especially, everybody’s looking at us—internally, externally, our vendors and the community,” Special Events Supervisor Jenna Van Thof says. “We wanna make it as smooth as we can.”

That includes a ridiculous attention to detail when it comes to vendors. More spreadsheets, color-coded, updated and shared among the team over the months leading up to now, and constant contact to make sure they know where to go at what time to stay on track. 

Jenna

“It’s so important for us to go down the list and say, ‘OK, we need you there at 9, we need you there at 9:15, when he gets out of there, you come at 10,’ ” Jenna says. “They know what to do when they get there, but if one person is off the timeline then it screws up the next person. They rely on us for that level of organization and coordination.” And it that’s only half of it. “We have numerous community partners: we have electric, garbage, entertainment, sound, water—there are so many moving parts to the festival and you have to make sure it’s all on time.”

The more than 100 volunteers for the two-day event present another logistical challenge. Even more spreadsheets. Spreadsheets for days. Volunteers from the YMCA, Dixon Schwabl and Rochester Young Professionals help pour beer, check IDs, run ice and water, and other event-day activities. They’re signed up, assigned a time and a task, trained and given T-shirts.

“Securing volunteers can be a struggle,” Jenna says. “It’s summertime, they have something going on, but when you work that weekend and you see the number of people who have rallied from Dixon Schwabl, it’s energizing. It’s such an adrenaline rush.”

Kathy says she also gets a boost from watching attendees enjoy everything without a care, without even a thought of the symphony of activity going on around them.

“The community really appreciates it,” Kathy says. “If you look on social media and see the engagement going on, they’re tagging their friends and sharing their stories. Even after it’s over, they’re asking about dates for next year, so it’s nice to know the community looks forward to it.”

Although Kathy and Jenna run point this year, the team is much bigger, with integral support from Erin O’Donnell and Shannon Struzik. Bob Charboneau is the team’s Swiss army knife, doer of all things that need doing. The PR team developed media strategy. The social media team developed ways to leverage Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Some guy wrote a blog. It all adds up to a ridiculous level of meticulous.

This will be the eighth year of the Finger Lakes Riesling & Craft Beer Festival and, without fail, something unexpected will happen that will threaten to derail the whole thing. Lack of sleep, midnight emails and troubleshooting are part of the job. The struggle is real, but so are the results. To date, more than $230,000 has been donated to benefit the Canandaigua region, and the festival also puts a well-deserved spotlight on the region’s booming home-grown wine, beer and food industries.

“It’s a nerve-wracking experience from start to finish, but through some level of insanity, we thrive on it,” Kathy says. “There’s not much better than that moment when you realize you actually have a moment—just that moment to appreciate what you and your team built. It’s going to be hectic again this year, and next year, and every year. Sign us up.”

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2016-08-04T13:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Shhh … Consumers Demand Quiet in a Noisy World]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/shhh-consumers-demand-quiet-in-a-noisy-world https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/shhh-consumers-demand-quiet-in-a-noisy-world
Shhhh


Is the world getting noisier?

The journal Environmental Health Perspectives writes that noise is defined by some experts as simply “unwanted sound.” Others describe the effects of noise pollution as a “civil rights issue,” as many modern sounds—car alarms, mobile phones—are totally unregulated.

Karen

Even perennial party boy and country music superstar Kenny Chesney notes on his song “Noise” that the constant strain of ordinary sounds interrupting everyday life, lamenting that “we can’t turn it off” and it is “drowning out all the dreams of this Tennessee boy.”

People are seeking out ways to quiet the din of beeps, rings, alarms and ads. There is the Calm app with simple, guided meditations, tranquil imagery and a selection of relaxing sounds, including “passing clouds” and “suspended droplets,” all to help consumers find peaceful moments in busy lives.

With increasingly intrusive personal technology in public spaces, examples abound of consumer pushback on noisy environments. On the job less than a year, AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron sat down with Varietymagazine for a seemingly innocuous interview at CinemaCon in April. When asked if he would allow texting in AMC theaters in the future, he said he might “take specific auditoriums and make them more texting friendly.” Thanks to social media awareness of the interview, public outcry was swift—within 48 hours, AMC sent an email with the subject line “AMC listens to our audience: yes to theatre enhancements, no to texting.”

Noting that they “heard loud and clear” from audiences, “when the lights dim, we’ll remember your advice that your fellow moviegoers should turn off their phones.” There is even a new “quiet snacks menu” introduced by the Toronto International Film Festival to be sold at concessions at its TIFF Bell Lightbox headquarters, featuring “more variety and less noisy packaging.”

From everyday moviegoers to Kenny Chesney … consumers have spoken. Shhh!

Karen Sims, Vice President of People and Development, holds the record for most laughs received during Power Point presentations. She’s also a huge fan of the band KISS. 

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2016-07-25T11:58:00-04:00
<![CDATA[6 Ways Microsoft Can Make LinkedIn Better]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/6-ways-microsoft-can-make-linkedin-better https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/6-ways-microsoft-can-make-linkedin-better


If you had $26.2 billion lying around this weekend, you could’ve purchased LinkedIn. Too late. The deal is done and Microsoft made its largest acquisition in company history.

In a memo to Microsoft employees, CEO Satya Nadella said, “The deal brings together the world’s leading professional cloud with the world’s leading professional network. It’s clear to me that the LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business and an impressive network of more than 433 million professionals.”

And while Nadella hasn’t reached out to us personally, we’ve got a few ideas for how LinkedIn can take the next steps toward the Iron Throne. Sure, that reference was a bit dramatic, but the ideas below are all pragmatic.

“Filtered updates. Instead of one general feed with job postings, industry news, blog posts, promotions/job updates, miscellaneous non-professional updates, etc., make it more user-friendly and give an option at the top of the feed to filter by either all content or different types of posts. That way, people can easily find what they are looking for instead sorting through a jumbled mess of content. Plus, this would rid the platform of memes and inspirational quotes that too often clutter the feed.”
—Jess DiLuglio, social and digital account executive

I’d redesign it entirely. When I’m on LinkedIn, it feels clunky, out of date and not user-friendly. I think Microsoft needs to redesign LinkedIn, reinventing the entire user experience. The newsfeed appears to be old technology. Videos can’t autoplay, links appear in an odd format and overall, it doesn’t look very attractive. LinkedIn is behind the times and could use a new, creative touch. There’s a lot of opportunity for improvement.”
—Jake Ziegler, social and digital media manager

Building on ‘sister’ apps might be a logical next step. We’ve seen Instagram create sister apps in Boomerang, Hyperlapse and Layout—all ways to take your Instagram presence to another level. For LinkedIn, they have a job-search sister app already, but it could be an area to expand for publishing, groups and more.”
—Alex Camp, social media intern

A library to house all of these articles would be a great addition to turn LinkedIn into a hub for educational content. Being a platform for professionals, LinkedIn has thought leadership content published by industry experts every day. Each article could then be categorized by industry, title or skill, allowing you to find the information you need for the job you have or the one you’re looking for.”
—Adam Sisson, social and digital media account executive

A better mobile experience. While announcing 2015 Q1 results, LinkedIn touted to investors that it achieved its ’mobile moment’ when 50% of unique members accessed the site on a mobile device. A year has gone by and that number will have increased by now—but LinkedIn hasn’t changed its mobile experience for a while. If LinkedIn wants to compete for professionals, especially younger ones, to grow the base of its network, it needs to make mobile a priority.”
—Andrew Knoblauch, social and digital media supervisor

“For me, it’s not so much the platform but the way people act on the platform. That’s right, ‘Chris,’ you didn’t hear back from me about scheduling a briefing to discuss current trends in digital media because I have no idea who you are. I’m sure you do have ‘some fresh ideas and insights,’ but I’ll pass on booking a time with you to ‘discuss’ those ideas so you can really just sell to me when I have no idea who you are. LinkedIn has many strengths—my favorite is it’s now our online resume. However, my least favorite part is people seem to forget you need to build a relationship with someone in a more traditional way before you jump to a hard sell on LinkedIn.” —Jon Alhart, vice president of social and digital

Read more about the entire Nadella memo here—and for even more Dixon Schwabl jargon, return to Incite here.

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2016-06-14T12:07:00-04:00
<![CDATA[What We Can Learn From ‘The Greatest’]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/what-we-can-learn-from-the-greatest https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/what-we-can-learn-from-the-greatest
Andrew


He was The Greatest, The People’s Champion and so much more. I never saw Muhammad Ali in his prime, only the man silenced by a ruthless disease. Since his passing, I’ve taken a deep dive into the life of Muhammad Ali to find the traits that made him the man he was. After all, he was The Greatest, and I think that’s something we should all strive to be.

Convictions

You have to believe in something and stand by it. You may be wrong, but if it’s something you believe, it’s worth fighting for—literally and figuratively, in Ali’s case. He didn’t believe in the Vietnam War, so he ignored his Army draft notice. He believed African-Americans were treated as inferiors, so he fought back. Right or wrong, he held on to his beliefs and spoke his mind.

Charisma

Whether it was banter with Howard Cosell or trash talk in the ring, Ali’s personality always shined through. He once said, “I know I look good.” He often described upcoming bouts in long soliloquies, rhyming at every turn. Do yourself a favor, watch old Ali interviews and soak it all in. We’ll never see another personality quite like him.

Vengeance

A $60 bike was stolen from Ali—then Cassius Clay—when he was 12 years old. The bike was never found, but Ali promised that if he ever found the kid who stole his bike, he’d “whup him.” I’ll just say, that kid really got away with something—because he would have been in a world of hurt had Ali ever made good on his promise. Ali used that tiny chip on his shoulder to become the world’s greatest boxer. Through rigorous training, he became a monster in the ring. It was that, among many other things, that served as motivation every day.

Heart 

Perhaps the No. 1 thing you need to be The Greatest is a large, strong heart. Ali’s heart fit the bill, beating for half an hour after all other organs had shut down. More impressive was his approach to those around him. When asked how he’d like to be remembered, he said: 

We’ll all remember, Champ. 


Andrew Knoblauch is a Social and Digital Media Supervisor at DS. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow on Twitter, or listen on the 'One More Thing' podcast.

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2016-06-07T16:19:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Know your limits. Then leverage them.]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/know-your-limits-then-leverage-them https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/know-your-limits-then-leverage-them
Dana


So you have this project that has potential for being something really great. The only problem is [fill in the blank]. A miniscule budget? Impossibly rigid guidelines? Little or no resources? How about all of the above (and more), you say? Perfect.

Mark Barden is a partner at strategic brand consultant eatbigfish. He spoke at Planning-ness 2016, and before I listened to him talk about his approach to the pretty darn common challenge of working with constraints, I admittedly would question the realistic ability to do more with less. He of the glass-mostly-full camp asserted that limitations invite teams to think differently, offer the chance for inventiveness and are “the impetus for a better outcome.” Right on.

It’s all in the way you frame it—setting a bold ambition, getting into a transformer mindset and looking for novel solutions by asking propelling questions that force us off the tried-and-true path. Barden spins it this way, encouraging implementation of any one or a combination of multiple “We can if we ...” ideas:

Think of it as ___

Remove X to allow for Y

Access the knowledge of ___

INtroduce a ___

Substitute X with Y

Fund it by ___

Use Other people to ___

Resource it by ___

Mix it together

In other words, if you don’t have the resources, you have to be resourceful to create abundance. Like Virgin Airlines. They had little money to promote their launch, but that didn’t keep them grounded. They looked at the assets they did have to build relevance and value: Planes = captivated audience, San Francisco area = large Twitterati/sharers, Sir Richard Branson = glamour/celebrity. Then they arranged a trade with Victoria’s Secret for the first fashion show in the sky—a legitimately lofty way to gain visibility.

Now back to your project. Even if it doesn’t have the same scope as a large-sized company, you can define the right level of ambition for your brand. Just remind yourself that when you’re crafting the story, the possibilities are boundless. Truth.

For more inspiration, don’t hold back. Check out A Beautiful Constraint and see where strategic questions can propel you.   

Dana Denberg is an associate Creative Director at Dixon Schwabl and planning advocate.

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2016-05-26T15:29:18-04:00
<![CDATA[Before & After: Recognizing the Need to Change]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/the-difference-between-needing-to-change-and-changing https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/the-difference-between-needing-to-change-and-changing
Sheri Hs Final


Sheri Mitchell, a media traffic manager here at DS, was awarded the Lifestyle Change Award at this year’s Rochester Heart Walk & Run. Each year, the award recognizes one male and one female who have made positive changes impacting their quality of life and improving their health. Below, she shares her story.


Winning the American Heart Association Lifestyle Changes Award was not something I set out to do when I decided that I wanted to start feeling good about myself. My weight was the only thing that always made me feel like a failure. Being overweight wasn’t anything new for me. It was something I’ve been dealing with my whole life.

One event in July 2014 made me mentally ready to finally do something about it. I lost a friend and former co-worker to ALS. Old pictures of us were being posted on social media and that’s when I realized how much more weight I had put on over the years. So, on August 6, 2014, I signed up with a popular national program and followed the steps they set up for me to get started on this journey.

The gym membership that I was paying for and not using, I started using. I asked for a Fitbit for Christmas so that I could track all of my activities. I kept a record of my meals and allowed myself an indulgence or two. I didn’t do anything magical. I practiced portion control, I added healthier foods to my diet, and I became more active. I had no idea that the changes I was making to my health would inspire others to make changes to their health. I just wanted to conquer the one obstacle in my life that always made me feel bad about myself.

We all have our demons to deal with, and I’m taking this one on full force. My weight goal is very close to being reached. Now that I have a much more positive outlook on myself, I know I will not only reach that goal, but I will make sure I never let my weight make me feel like a failure again. 

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2016-05-05T12:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/how-many-copywriters-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/how-many-copywriters-does-it-take-to-change-a-light-bulb
Charles Interest


How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but it takes 10 drafts.


1st draft: Change the light bulb.

2nd draft: Now you can change light bulbs at home!

3rd draft: In the dark about changing light bulbs?

4th draft: Save time and money with this simple DIY project.

5th draft: Lighten up!

6th draft: You’re moments away from a brighter future.

7th draft: Get (un)screwed.

8th draft: Let there be light.

9th draft: Provide your family with the peace of mind they deserve.

10th draft: Change the light bulb.


Whether I’m writing copy or plotting a diamond heist, I always assume that my first idea is not my best idea. If it came to me right away, it’s probably come to everyone else a million times before, and while it may have worked for them, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work for me. In fact, the odds are worse it’ll work for me since people would have seen it and will either ignore it or have their defenses up and ready. I see my first idea as a sacrifice to the gods of creativity, trusting that the more ideas I come up with, the more likely I’ll hit on the best one for the job.

And sometimes that best idea is the first one I came up with.

There’s no way to know if my first idea is my best idea until I march it onstage with 20 other ideas to see which one gets the part. Sometimes it’s 10 other ideas, sometimes 50, but an idea never jumps from that mental stage to the finished page without first facing a lot of competition.

So whether you’re planning your business’ next corporate coup or where to spend the weekend, be sure you audition a lot ideas before you pick the best one. And I’m betting it won’t be the first.

Unless it is.  


In addition to being part of Dixon Schwabl’s creative team, Charles Benoit is a celebrated author of young adult novels. Learn more about his work by clicking here. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenoitTheWriter and also on Facebook.


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2016-04-28T12:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Making Your Brand Great Again]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/making-your-brand-great-again https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/making-your-brand-great-again
Cassandra


If you want to build or re-build your brand, the fastest and cheapest place to start is with word association. So let’s play our own little word association game. Ready?

Volvo.

(Did you say safety?)

Google.

(Did you say search/find?)

Trump.

(I’m not sure I want to know what you said.)

It shouldn’t surprise you that, when asked this same question, people said things like “even as a very young kid, the name Trump meant rich” and “it meant success.” To see the responses for yourself, watch this clip from John Oliver’s Trump monologue on “Last Week Tonight” (note that some language is NSFW).

Hate him or love him, Trump’s brand is real. Forty years of telling people he’s successful, showing people he’s successful and living his success has sunk in. People believe Trump equals success without too much thought. Wouldn’t it be great if your customers associated something that easily and that consistently with your brand?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to build a brand like Volvo, Google or even Trump. It requires constant effort, re-evaluation and focus. After the word association game is over, companies work with us to develop their brands through our brandincite workshop. We discuss what makes their brand different, how customers benefit from their brand, and what one promise they can make to customers about their brand.

The results drive naming, messaging and creative development to ensure the customer hears, sees and experiences that brand promise at every touchpoint. But two years later or 10 years later, who is there to ensure the brand promise still rings true? In the case of Donald Trump, he was there. For 40 years (read: nearly two generations), he has beat that drum of “Trump means success” every day. And people believe it.

What’s the one thing you want your customers to believe about your brand? Who is beating that drum inside (or outside) your company? I don’t know how the election will turn out or if it will change the nation as everyone says. But I do believe knowing your brand promise and delivering it consistently in every touchpoint is a lesson that can change your company if you let it. Then it will be your brand people will be talking about 40 years from now.

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2016-04-22T16:30:00-04:00
<![CDATA[At Best of the Web, it's Twitter, for the Win!]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/how-to-tell-your-brands-story https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/how-to-tell-your-brands-story
Matt Stoffel Twitter

And the winner is ...

The Best of the Web Awards were held this morning in Rochester. And while there were several deserving winners, we thought there should be one more. So, we gave away an Apple Watch at random from those in attendance using the hashtag #RBJBOW. 

And the winner is ...

@StoffelMatt


Congratulations, Matt! 

Follow @DixonSchwabl for more from the Best of the Web event, and come back here for a full recap with insights about brand storytelling. 

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2016-04-13T13:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Spring Cleaning for Words and Grammars]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/spring-cleaning-for-words-and-grammars https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/spring-cleaning-for-words-and-grammars
Jen M

This was originally sent as an all-staff email from copyediting guru, Jen Moritz, who feels ways about words and grammar.

Happy spring! We've been seeing a few writing quirks lately, so I wanted to send out some reminders that will help us look awesome(r) to our clients. Many of these were sent to me by people who noticed them as a job crossed their desk, so please give this a quick read! (There's even a present for you at the end.)

Big words aren't always better words.

Simple words are good, clear and convey your message in a way that's easier to understand—and actually make you sound smarter!

A few I see a lot, and their counterparts:

amongst = among

usage = use

due to = because

as well as = and

new hire = hire (all hires are new)

utilize = use

Of course there are exceptions, but think of your audience and pare down when you can.

________________________

stationery is paper

stationary is action (or technically, no action)

________________________

pique (not peek) your interest

________________________

tenet

as in "basic tenets" (not tenants—those rent apartments)

________________________

myself ... is almost always the wrong word; the correct word is "me" (reply to me, let me know, etc.)

An easy trick: If you can't say "himself," you can't say "myself."

________________________

&

I love my ampersands, but they don't belong in most copy. Always "and" except for headlines, titles and the occasional exception when it looks pretty.

________________________

DS style doesn't use serial commas

Most of our clients don't, either (sorry ...)

________________________

you home in on an idea

you hone your skills

________________________

you guyses

... isn't a phrase, in writing or out loud. It's a big mistake, especially to make in front of clients, so please keep this one in mind.

________________________

That's it! You sound smarter already. :) Also, if you made it this far, come up to the nook because I made you cookies as a reward for reading! (Seriously. Come get a cookie.)

Our copy editor also bakes, which is awesome. You can follow Jen Moritz on LinkedIn, Twitter (@jenmfinj) and Instagram (@jenmfinj).

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2016-04-08T13:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[​Social Media Proves MLB is Losing with Millennials]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/social-media-proves-mlb-is-losing-with-millennials https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/social-media-proves-mlb-is-losing-with-millennials


I was on Twitter recently and noticed that LeBron James has 29 million followers. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s impressive.” And honestly, that’s because it is. LeBron has five times as many followers as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and New York Knicks combined. He also has one million more followers than One Direction. Do you know how many Twitter followers the Major League Baseball NL MVP has? His name is Bryce Harper, and he has 600,000.

Social media is run by millennials. Literally. The owners of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are millennials. It should be concerning to the MLB that Bryce Harper, a 23-year-old baseball superstar and one of the faces of their league, has fewer followers than Tyson Chandler, an aging NBA journeyman. Yes, Tyson Chandler, the same guy averaging 6 points a game for the Phoenix Suns (current record: 20-51), has more followers on Twitter than the MLB MVP.

And this isn’t just exclusive to Twitter. It’s on Instagram and Facebook, too. In terms of followers, MLB players fall way behind NBA and NFL players on all of the social networks. Even PGA superstar Jordan Spieth has roughly 140,000 more followers on Instagram than Bryce Harper. Yup, golf.

Followers on social media: The equation seems too simple to draw a conclusion like this, right? Well, it makes a lot of sense. Followers or “likes” measure interest, and millennials are the most active generation on social media. On Twitter, 29 million people are interested in LeBron James and his content. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of interest in Bryce Harper or Major League Baseball. As a fan, I hope that changes.

For more of Jake’s perspective, follow him on LinkedIn.

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2016-04-01T11:45:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Brands Have a Choice: Do We Want to Tell the Story First?]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/brands-have-a-choice-do-we-want-to-tell-the-story-first https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/brands-have-a-choice-do-we-want-to-tell-the-story-first


The NCAA Tournament bracket leak ruined CBS' ridiculously long two-hour selection show, and it also shined the spotlight on how much media has changed over the past five years. I had the opportunity to talk about it on ESPN Radio in Rochester with Dan Borrello and Scott Pitoniak. Check it out here.

Now, when brands have a story, they have a choice: Do we share it "old school" style with a release to the media first and let them break it? Or do WE tell the story first through our own owned and shared channels?

In my mind, the power of the media—and mass media, in general—is still no doubt very strong. However, with anyone now able to broadcast their story (I mean, any of us can broadcast live on our Facebook page), the media needs to adapt. CBS, an idea of a two-hour show in an era where anything can get leaked and go viral within minutes just isn't that bright. I get it; you want to have the exclusivity (somewhat rare in today's day and age) of revealing the brackets. However, do it quickly, because it can get out there before you reveal the entire field, like it did this year.

Now, to the fun of March Madness! #GoCuse!

(For more of Jon’s perspective, follow him on LinkedIn)

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2016-03-21T16:47:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Live From #RaganDisney with Andrew Knoblauch]]> https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/ragan-disney https://dixonschwabl.com/blog/ragan-disney


[March 11, 7:12 a.m.]

It’s the final countdown! For the sake of time, I’ll skip the Europe lyrics, but it’s been one hell of a conference thus far. Last night’s cocktail hour featured shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, and a nice mixed drink called Tropical Punch. Oh, and I turned that slight shade of pink and had to break out the aloe vera!

But a little sunburn is worth it because this conference has lived up to the hype once again. This is my third Ragan conference, and my second one in Disney. I thought it’d be fun in this live journal to talk about what’s been the same and what’s been different.

What’s been the same?

•       Ragan conferences are run like a Swiss watch, as each session starts and finishes on time. It seems like a small thing, but talking with some other attendees last night, you’d think it was a huge reason many of them came. Being on time means attendees get breaks, breaks mean your mind can relax and absorb the next session just as well as you did the first. That’s important.

•       The quality of the speakers and their ability to create compelling presentations remains unchanged. High-quality information is why we all come to these. We know that #RaganDisney was trending nationally yesterday, but you could probably have seen the term “information overload” trend, as well!

•       Location, location, location. Ragan always seems to find the best places to hold this conference.

•       Great stories are told by people to people. That hasn't changed and never will.

What’s changed? The field we’re all working in.

•       Attention spans are shorter and it’s been an overlying theme in every presentation. Your phone, your desktop and any other device are simply distractions. The question is, will it be a good distraction or a bad one? Communicators should strive to be the best distraction possible for their audience.

•       I thought it wasn’t possible, but there’s been an even larger emphasis on video. One thing that’s changed is the fact that marketers need to create videos that do well without sound, because most consumers don’t have time for it.

•       The lines of internal communications and external communications continue to blur. What happens internally won’t stay that way and what happens externally, especially if it’s poor, will live on forever in the hallowed chambers of YouTube.


[March 9, 4:50 p.m.]

That’s a wrap on Day One, folks! Thomas Smith, social media director for Disney Parks, concluded the ceremonies showing a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney Parks creates a culture of content. It revolves around one thing: people.

For Disney Parks, the formula is quite simple actually: Curiosity + People = Engaging Content. It’s a formula that must be working since the Disney Parks Blog gets more traffic in a day than some small newspapers. A few other thoughts from Thomas that struck a chord with me:

•       Every great story that Disney Parks tells starts with curiosity; think of it like a cat playing with water

•       Disney Parks has hundreds of authors and they aren’t all college interns; VPs, directors and more contribute to the success of it all

•       Attention to detail matters everywhere in Disney, so it’s no surprise that all of the details matter when it comes to how Disney Parks operates

Check back tomorrow for more thoughts from #RaganDisney, and as they say: Have a magical day!


[March 12:38 p.m.]

Disney is a vision, it’s an idea. But above all else, it's a story. When I sat down for Tim Cigelske’s presentation on 14 proven strategies for getting leadership buy-in, I thought I knew the story. Here we go, another presentation of listing tips on topics that probably won’t work anyway.

I was wrong. After watching a quick clip from The Lion King, Tim’s presentation was one story that made me the hero with the quest of solving a communications struggle in my workplace. As my live tweets showed, it was hard to explain but truly intriguing to follow. I enjoyed being the hero and creating a real-life road map for solving an issue within the office.

A few key lessons that I took away from it:

•       Success leads to success and challenges; be prepared to deal with both

•       If you don’t get what you want, always thank those who helped you try to get it

•       Empower employees to do what they’re passionate about and the rest will take care of itself


[March 10, 11 a.m.]

The first session is over and I found Jen Lee Reeves and her talk interesting. Here were her tips for having a small but mighty social team:

•       Set expectations

•       Quality over quantity

•       Have mindful metrics

•       Spend money wisely

It was a great discussion that set the baseline for the rest of the day. A common trend that’s emerging in the talks is the focus of quality over quantity. I didn’t agree with everything Jen said; for example, I love using the native social platforms as opposed to things like HootSuite. But I agreed that the best social media posts only have one call to action.

Next up is a presentation about strategies to get buy-in from the organization.


[March 10, 9:55 a.m.]

Hurricane Crescenzo hit #RaganDisney this morning. Never heard of it? Steve Crescenzo opened the first official day of the conference with a stirring keynote! It started with him calling out fitness junkies online, and those who post feet photos. He showed crappy internal rap videos and outlined all of the winners and sinners of social media.

A poignant moment happened with this video from Kleenex, which Steve showed about 45 minutes into the presentation. Is it about Kleenex? No. It doesn’t have to be, though; it’s beautiful.

And that was Steve’s point: Communications can be much more than a press release graveyard. If it’s concise, conversational, compelling and creative, it can be so much more.

A final note to wrap up this live journal entry. I loved this quote from Steve: “Do less and do it better.”

Amen, Steve.



One of the many perks of being at #RaganDisney. (Photo by Justin Allen)


[March 9, 11:20 p.m.]

What a day! If I could describe it in an emoji, I’d pick that fantastic little red 100. I’m not the only one either, as 50% of the people who participated in my last poll of the night agreed with me. Sure, only 10 people voted, but what do you think this is, FiveThirtyEight? I thrive on small sample-sized polls.

Anyway, tomorrow is the first official day of the conference as attendees from all over the world flock to Lake Buena Vista! Topics for tomorrow will touch on, well, almost everything. From productivity in small teams (a topic I’ve blogged on before) to 14 proven strategies to get leaders’ buy-in for social media and a special appearance from a great friend of Dixon Schwabl’s, PGA of America’s Joni Lockridge. What’s not to love?

#RaganDisney starts at 7:30, which I just realized is about eight hours away! Time for some sleep emoji.


[March 9, 3:13 p.m.]

My fiancé has always said that I have a big head. She’s talking about the size of it, and quite frankly she’s right, I happen to have a larger head than the average person. Well, bad news, sweetsies. After a full day of sessions, my head is now much bigger.

This is my third year at a Ragan conference, and already I’ve seen some of the best sessions I’ve ever been to. One of them just wrapped up and it was Justin Allen’s presentation on video and social media. Spoiler alert: All you need is an iPhone and some cost-affordable equipment to make something truly beautiful. 

Justin’s presentation was littered with solid tidbits about shooting video, but here are a few things I learned or got a refresher on:

•       Three-point lighting: Basically, by using three different positions for light, you can not only capture your subject in the best way possible, but also add in depth while eliminating shadows

•       Rule of thirds: Part of the beauty behind the rule of thirds is that you’re forcing the audience to pay attention to what you’d like; if you don’t tell them, they’ll focus on whatever they want

•       Don’t ever pinch and pull to zoom on your iPhone, instead, zoom with your feet

•       Finally, don’t ever shoot a vertical video if you don’t have to: Say No to Vertical Videos

Boy, there was a lot in this presentation. See more great content by checking out my Twitter feed during the presentation. Time to finish up some work, watch Chelsea Football Club and prepare for the first official day tomorrow.

p.s. Look for a periscope later tonight recapping the conference so far on the beach! 


[March 9, 12 p.m.]

Love the outdoors? How about social media measurement? If you answered yes to both of those questions, then you had a lot in common with Danielle Brigida, lead social for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Besides loving animals and nature, Danielle’s passion lives within the data she uses to create a content strategy that works for the USFWS.

“People love photos of wild animals on social,” Danielle said. That eight-word statement is loaded with statistical data that Danielle uses every single day to create engaging content for her audience.

What I loved most about Danielle’s presentation was that it was focused on finding the right solution for whatever situation you find yourself in. Like Buffalo Bills fandom, the best analytics approach isn’t spread thin, but rather focused, passionate and deeply meaningful. Don’t just collect data, but instead use data to make informed decisions that will change the way people act in your organization.

Also, I ran another poll and found a much tighter race than the first session. The most surprising stat? Only 8% of respondents said they were creating on social media. Another great statistic to show that it’s not that important to post every single day, but rather when the content is truly valuable.

Check out my live stream of tweets in two parts (first and second)!


[March 9, 9:58 a.m.]

Brain is on overload this morning, but in the best way possible. The first sessions are always interesting at Ragan conferences because communicators from all industries are placed into a room filled with bagels and coffee, then it’s off and running!

Seriously, I’ve never talked to so many financial professionals and lawyers in one day … I think I may be buying a house! But nonetheless, a ton of communicators face the same issues when it comes to creating the content strategy that best fits their business.

That was the focus of Jenn Eldin’s session this morning, and you can see my thread of tweets here. A key learning from Jenn’s talk was the importance of leading strategy with data, whether selling social upward or outward.

With that in mind, I ran a poll asking my fellow attendees what the most important metric for them is when it comes to social media. The returns weren’t entirely surprising, with 55% saying engagement was most important. I would trumpet conversions, coming in at 24%, as a big victory. Two years ago, tying social to the bottom line was much more difficult—now it’s something we can do with nearly every campaign.

Another big takeaway from Jenn’s presentation was the importance of data in realms outside of strategy. If the over/under was set at 199.5 mentions about using data to your advantage, hopefully you took the over. A telling quote: “Data and analysis is a weapon, use it wisely.” When thinking about social, what’s working and what isn’t, data should be at the forefront.


[March 9, 6:07 a.m.]

Maybe it was a late-night binge on House of Cards. It also could have been waiting for exit polls from the Michigan primaries. I think most of it was I couldn't turn my brain off thinking about the #RaganDisney pre-conference workshops that are happening today.

When you've got topics like convincing the C-Suite, small budget for social videos and building a playbook (Is Rex Ryan coming to that one?), how can you not be excited?

To burn off some of that excess excitement, time for a morning run on the boardwalk. Two miles today leads to a half marathon in May!

Fruit and pastries: Keeping conference-goers full-ish since always.

[March 8, 2:09 p.m.]

Break out the sunblock! I’m in Disney this week for the Ragan Social Media Conference for PR, Marketing and Corporate Communications. We’ve got a loaded speaker list from all walks of marketing. This was a great conference last year, so I’m thrilled to be back.

Throughout the week, follow me at @AndrewKnoblauch to see all of my #RaganDisney tweets! With 140 characters, I’ll do my best to give you a front-row seat to speakers from Disney, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, PGA Championship, SAS, BlackRock, U.S. Department of Commerce, AARP and more.

Plus, you can check back here as I update this daily journal a few times throughout the conference! That’s all for now—time to lather up the SPF 40 and take a stroll along the boardwalk (where I was able to take the photo below this morning).



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