Category Archives: work life

Travel schedule 2014

Conferences and meetings and trade shows… Oh, my!

I’m still nailing down a few dates, but I wanted to share my travel schedule (so far) for 2014. I’d love to meet in person. If you’ll be in any of these cities or at any of these events, please email me so we can get together!

Indianapolis and Bloomington: I just returned from a week in Indianapolis, but I’m going to be there again – and in Bloomington – in April, August, and October. I’m working to finalize dates, but if you’ll be in the area, let’s meet!

Global Pet Expo: March 12-14 in Orlando. I haven’t attended this particular trade show before, so I’m super excited to see what it’s all about. I’ll be attending this one as press, representing a mix of clients as well as my blog.

BlogPaws: May 8-10 in Lake Las Vegas. I’ll be attending this conference again. I was so disappointed to miss last year’s event, so I can’t wait for this one!

BarkWorld: October 30-November 1 in Atlanta. This is my second time attending this conference, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and meeting new brands.

Those are the definite events for which I’m already registered and have booked travel. There are a few more to come, so I’ll keep you posted. But, if you’ll be at any of those events, let’s meet. I love the online world, of course, but nothing beats meeting your online friends and colleagues face-to-face!

Around here lately: What I’m working on!

I’m lucky. I work with the best people around. My editors and clients are all incredible people who achieve amazing things, and I’m honored to play a small part in their work. Here are a few things I’ve been working on lately with these wonderful people:

Newsletters and web content: I’m challenged to work on an exciting communications strategy with a consulting company that links stateside businesses with overseas partners. It’s been a fun consulting gig, and I’m thrilled I get to work with women leaders on this one.

Pet retail trends: I adore Pet Age Magazine and my editor, Michelle. This is one of the most fun articles I get to write every month. If you’re not familiar with the magazine, go check it out! My latest article is live on the digital edition of the magazine.

Pet products: Oh, how I love finding new and exciting pet products. Every month, I dig up a few new products or roundup where to buy the best pet products in stores for Shoptopia. Such fun! Check it out here.

Book reviews: Whooo, boy. My “to-read” pile has grown enormous, which makes me so happy! I have a couple flights coming up, so I plan to power through my stack while traveling. I have reviews slated to appear here, on OhMyDog!, and on Goodreads.

I’m also waiting on the ink to dry on a couple new, exciting projects, which I’ll announce as soon as I can.

What are you working on these days? I hope your work plate is piled high with fun projects!

Does a work/life balance really exist?

Recently, I was combing through the January 2014 issue of Real Simple. I love this magazine. It feeds my obsession with cleanliness and organization.

Anyway, there was a piece about balance (I didn’t save the mag, so I’m sorry I can’t cite the author). Several contributors gave their definition of balance.

My overwhelming takeaway?

Balance means something different to everyone, and the important thing is to figure out your definition and aim for that. And – gasp! – it doesn’t necessarily mean putting in the exact same amount of effort with your kids as you do at work while maintaining a well-stocked, alphabetized pantry and a closet full of perfectly-tailored clothes.

I don’t know my definition yet – it has something to do with feeling professionally fulfilled while having plenty of time to walk and train with my dogs and hang out with friends and family – but I’m working on it.

So, does a work/life balance really exist?

Yep.

You just have to figure out what it is for you then work toward that.

On brand loyalty

My grocery store, which is a less-than-10-minute drive with almost no traffic, sells several types of kitty litter. Many are name brands. Some are low-cost store brands. There are at least two different sizes of bags.

Yet I will drive all the way across town, through a ton of traffic on a stoplight-riddled road, just to buy one specific brand of kitty litter. 

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Why?

Because I’m loyal to that brand. I believe in the company’s mission. I believe in the product. They also email me coupons and respond to my tweets. So I make an extra effort to purchase their product.

So, what makes a customer loyal to a particular brand? This is a question I’ve been discussing with a client who’s trying to increase brand loyalty. When a product is a commodity – there are tons of options at tons of price points – what separates those who get repeat sales from those who don’t?

I think the answer lies in our discussion from a couple weeks ago. It’s all about honesty and authenticity.

To me, the single most important question is this: How does your product/website/Facebook page make people feel?

I purchase this kitty litter because it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my cat and good for my planet.

I buy my favorite soap over and over again because the packaging makes me feel happy.

I spend more money on certified humane eggs because it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing.

As you work on your 2014 marketing and branding strategies, ask yourself that question. How does your product make your customers feel?

Ask your customers that question.  Ask yourself that question about your competitors.

Strategize accordingly.

Total Pet Expo Fall 2013 Recap

I’m finally home after a whirlwind trip to Chicago with pit stops in Indianapolis and Houston. There’s always so much to do to catch up after time away, but I wanted to recap a few trends I spotted at the Total Pet Expo. (Note: These are from the business/editorial side. If you’d like to read about trends in pet products, check out  my recap on OMD!)

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  1. The pet industry is huge. It’s growing. It’s long been touted as “recession proof,” which may not be true. Everyone I spoke with said orders were down at this show. One reason? Nerves over the possibility of a government shutdown, for one. Plus, there wasn’t much new at this show. (It’s smaller than other shows, which could be the reason for that.) Regardless, a conversation I had with a woman in line for coffee captured it. She said, “People sure are grumpy this time around.”
  2. Editorial is highly valued. Obviously this is reassuring to me as a writer. But it’s also interesting from a business perspective. Brands strongly desire editorial coverage, which means that managers are looking to publications to stay on top of trends. This drives home just how important it is for writers and editors to stay on top of what’s new and hot. A fun challenge! I accept! :)
  3. Pet industry professionals are nice. That may seem irrelevant at first glance, but we all want to work with people we like, right? From friendly and helpful PR reps to the knowledgeable sales reps to the product designers, everyone comes from a shared passion – pets – and it’s evident in their work.

If you’re in the pet industry, do you see these signs in your day-to-day? If you’re in another industry, what can you take from these trends?

Attending Total Pet Expo

Today and tomorrow I will be attending the Total Pet Expo Fall 2013 in Chicago.

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Tradeshows provide so much value for planning the year ahead, and y’all know how much I love planning. I’m hoping to:

  • reconnect with friends and colleagues,
  • learn about new companies, products, and innovations,
  • gather ideas for the year ahead.. I’ll be covering pets for Pet Age, Shoptopia, my own blog, and many more (exciting details to come!) so I need to constantly learn new things, and
  • put the finishing touches on the Oh My Dog! Holiday Gift Guide.

This will be my first time attending this particular tradeshow, but from my National Geographic days – when we attended Atlanta twice a year, High Point, Vegas, NY Textile, and many more – I’m an old pro at making the rounds. I’m confident that I can achieve all my goals!

Hope to see you there!

What are your core values?

In her book Make a Name for Yourself, Robin Fisher Roffer writes, “Successful brands are built on core values and during their lifetimes constantly build on and reinforce their core values.”

I like to think I operate my business from a value-minded position, but the reality is that I never took the time with a notebook to write out my values. So I started thinking, and here’s what I came up with as my brand’s core values:

  • compassion
  • service
  • passion
  • community
  • initiative
  • eco-consciousness

I posted these on my blog for all to see and to make sure I’m accountable! And, as I prepare for my 2014 planning session, it’ll be so helpful to have these on hand so that I can assess every new project against these core values. If they don’t align with one (or more), then I won’t take on the project!

What about you? Have you taken the time to define your core values? If not, I strongly encourage the exercise. You might find that it’s incredibly revealing!

Review: Stiletto Network by Pamela Ryckman

Disclaimer: The fabulous folks at FSB Associates sent me a review copy of this book, but don’t worry! I’d never review a book I didn’t actually like. This one really did strike a cord with me.

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I’ll admit: When I first cracked the spine of Stiletto Network I had pretty low expectations. I’ve read many business books targeted to women, and I’ve been woefully disappointed in many of them. Why? Because the advice usually centers on the idea that to “fit in” or to “excel” you need to present a specially-tailored version of you that doesn’t paint you as emotional/mom/wife/feminist/etc. Now, I’m not one for tears in the workplace, but I am a firm believe in authenticity. It’s more important to be you than to pretend to be someone you think your office might like better than the real you. How can you be effective at work if that much brain power is being channeled into creating a persona? Plus, many of those women-centric books focus on the importance of competition: out-competing your peers (men and women alike) to prove over and over that you are the best. I’m all for doing and being your best, but… at the expense of relationships? I don’t think so.

Anyway…

This book doesn’t do that. What it does, instead, is focus on the importance of friendship among women – and, in many cases, how those friendships lead to greater success in the workplace. How much more authentic can it get? 

Throughout the book, Ryckman shares interviews with successful women who belong to these networks. The interviews are the most valuable part of this book, in my opinion, because you get an in-the-trenches view combined with a heavy dose of I-can-do-that inspiration.

And this is important stuff across industries. As Ryckman reports, “According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, 8 million U.S. businesses are majority owned by women…. The number of women-owned businesses is growing twice as fast as the number of total businesses.”

It’s funny because at the same time that I received this book, I learned about a networking group specific to women in the pet industry. I filed it away in the back of my mind thinking that maybe I’d look into it… someday. But having read this book, I’m feeling more inspired to track down information about that organization or – gasp! – get together a small group of women to create a new Stiletto Network.

When women work together, we truly can accomplish anything. I love that this book isn’t a battle cry for women to soldier up, but rather to leverage one of our core strengths – relationships – to help each other succeed.

A “cobbler’s children have no shoes” situation

When you spend your work life performing a specific task – pouring coffee, cobbling shoes, writing – it’s tough to muster up the energy to perform that same task in your “free” time. Most of my day is spent wordsmithing, piecing together articles and blog posts and web copy for my clients. And I love it. I’m one of the lucky few who genuinely loves her job.

But, when I knock off for the day, it’s difficult to sit back down in front of the computer and work on this blog. I choose to play with my dogs instead. Or visit with friends. Or clean the house (one of my favorite activities… really!). Or watch “NCIS” reruns.

I know I’m a little behind, but I’m working on my 2013 goals this week. One of the goals? Update the blog once a week. It’s a small task, one that I can manage without too much trouble. It’s simply a matter of getting in the habit.

I hope your 2013 is off to a great start! Do you have any specific goals to chase or habits to change? 

New year, new you? Bah, humbug!

I’m not one for resolutions.

It seems counterproductive to create resolutions that are so easy to break. Instead, I focus on goals. With a busy year ahead, I spent the last week putting my goals down on paper and making my 2012 plan binder. In it, I list all my goals along with their deadlines, action steps, and any data required to complete the goal.

I have tabs for my freelance work, my dog blog, the two writing courses I teach face-to-face, the business writing e-course that will launch in the fall, training plans for all three of my dogs, and personal goals.

Excessive? Maybe.

But I know exactly what I want to accomplish this year – and, most importantly, how to accomplish it all.

With my plan binder next to my laptop, I’m excited and ready for a year filled with exciting writing projects, teaching, blogging, and so much more! How about you? Ready for 2012?

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