November 28, 2014

Consociate Names Mark Harris Web Director

Consociate is pleased-honored-excited-stoked to announce that Mark Harris has officially joined its team as the Web Development Director.

From basic coding to fully custom sites, Mark, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, has an extensive background in web design and infrastructure.

Throughout his last decade of design work, Mark has also worked with businesses on their visual branding, developing logos and collateral.

Since joining the Consociate team, he has successfully launched full custom and responsive WordPress sites for the Jazzy Giraffe ladies boutique in Williamsburg and Richmond, Va. and Dr. Thomas Conner and Associates in Richmond. He continues to work with Tidewater Physical Therapy in enhancing their legacy site to ensure it remains up on the latest developments in web and also worked closely with Split Enz Salon in Gloucester, Va. to customize a WordPress theme to keep with that business owners budget and desire to have a web presence that accurately reflected her high end brand.

Today, he’s working with two bricks-and-mortar store to build their e-commerce web sites and continues to learn and grow, always looking for the next project that will not only challenge his creative mind, but also his skill set as a developer.

Learn more about Consociate’s MARKETING and WEB DESIGN services and contact us today!


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An Interview With Rudy Heinatz, Operations Guru

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d like to be able to play a musical instrument. Probably the piano.

What’s the song most played on your iPod these days?

I am a recent convert to the Old Crow Medicine Show so probable Wagon Wheel. I’ve also been on a 70s kick lately so Lady by the Commodores is probably up there also.

Describe yourself in 3 words.




If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

The Grateful Heinatz Family

Rudy, Will and Stephanie Heinatz – Grateful

Huckleberry Finn. I’d love a week of intentionally looking for the adventure in everyday life.

If you had only six months left to live, what would you do with the time?

Cash everything in and travel with my family. These days my greatest experiences are watching my son learn and explore the world around him. I don’t think there is any better way to do that than travel. I’d like to visit every continent.

I’d also eat lots of fried chicken.

At a movie theater which arm rest is yours?

Both…a man has to draw a line in the sand sometimes.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Fatherhood…Will may have a different opinion. I can remember leaving the hospital wondering how I was going to handle this…at least without a nurse right down the hall! I soon learned that these amazing little people have an incredible way of letting you know when they need something and the rest is about soaking in every minute.

What do you consider the most underrated virtue?

Empathy. There always seems to be some societal need to show strength when the act of showing understanding can be what showcases true strength of character.

Name something you hate doing!

Painting. Until recently, I have always done house painting myself despite hating it. I just always had an issue paying someone to do something I was perfectly capable of completing. Luckily I’m over that.

What is your motto for life?

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. Hopefully Lincoln doesn’t mind me borrowing this.

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The Pulse of a Website, The Personality of Your Blog

I once heard someone refer to a blog as what gives a website a pulse. Stop and think about that. Powerful, eh?

Then think about the things that have a pulse. You. Men. Living beings. And that’s what a blog should be. A living piece of your web site. Something that is new and fresh. Something that’s first post is vastly different from its most recent because it’s grown and changes and morphed. And most important, something that has a personality.TellStoryREV2IMG_6203

Blogging is not only extremely important for your business but it helps your audience connect to your brand. Your brand, especially for small businesses, is you. It’s the culture of your company.

Adding a personal touch to everything you write will allow people to connect to YOU more on a personal level. Besides, we all crave that personal touch in any aspect of our lives. We have an innate desire to relate to one another. We want to connect to other people through life, experiences and knowledge. We want to feel like someone is speaking directly to us.

Being a writer with Consociate, we tackle a wide range of diverse clientele and write on a variety of subjects. We help bring the voice of many blogs alive. Here are some lessons we’ve learned in doing that and hope you can use in your blogging…in bringing your website alive.

Tell a personal story.

Sure, you can research and find information on almost any topic. But our goal is to produce original, meaningful content. Personal stories are powerful and engaging to the reader and can trigger an emotional response from the reader. Use a personal story and then relate it to your brand, your product. Then watch people connect.

Speak in first person.

Speaking in the first person is another way add personalization. That doesn’t mean you have to use “I” this and “I” that. Sprinkle that in where it feels right, of course. But on a larger level, it means you can write with authority. This is your story. Your business. Speak with confidence and people will feel like you are talking to them.

Be emotional.

Have you ever read a blog and literally laughed out loud? Bring the reader along on the joke! Allowing the reader to feel an emotional connection with your story will keep them coming back to read more. The end result? A reader connecting to your brand through your voice.

Be conversational.

You know the way you tell a story to your mom or your best friend? Write like that. In a blog, as compared to a press release or news report, you can use more casual language. Being conversational may also lead to engagement – comments and shares across social media – and present additional opportunities to discuss your topic.

Find your voice.

The most important thing when writing a blog is to find your voice. Sometimes this may take time to develop, but readers will soon to learn your writing style and hopefully will love it. Not to worry if your voice is evolving and growing. That’s normal. That’s living. That’s the pulse part.

Interested in learning more about how blogging can help your business and bring a pulse to your web site? Contact us today!

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The Power of Imagery in Social Media

Let’s face it. We are visual creatures. Even as a writer, when people say “a picture is worth a thousand words” I tend to agree…and totally get it. Especially when it comes to social media marketing.


Just look at the stats.

90% of information the brain receives is visual.
Visual content is processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than plain text.
72% of all Internet users are now active on social media.
40% of people respond better to visual content rather than text.
Facebook posts with photos get 39% more likes than other posts.
What proof do we have here at Consociate? Of all the stories we tell across social media for a wide variety of companies in various industries, photos, memes and videos are bar none the most popular pieces of content.

The Office Dog -Severn, a frequent subject in Consociate social media images. She's always LIKED and LOVED.

Severn The Office Dog- a frequent subject in Consociate social media images. She’s always LIKED and LOVED.

So how can you incorporate more imagery into your social marketing? Here are a few tips you can use.

Not all photos are created equally. Use strong imagery.

Photos of poor quality can do more harm than good. Consider the composition, clarity and context of any photos you share.

Post relevant photos.

Photos shared on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and more should be relevant to the brand they are intended for. PETA won’t be posting pictures of a happy couple eating steak so be sure you stick to similar lines important to your brand. This includes “sharing” photos from other users. Post photos your target audience would want to see.

Include your link.

While photos are visually appealing, be sure to include a link back to your webpage. ALWAYS! Your goal is to gain more followers and ultimately bring them to your page where you can convert them to an actual lead.

Take real time photos.

Your audience wants to know what’s going on now! Don’t hesitate to take impromptu photos and post them right away. Being social is about being in the moment…even online.

Keep your images fresh.

While not all of your fans will even see what you post on social media (that’s just reality), for those that do follow you regularly, they likely don’t want to see the same images constantly recirculating. You’re more likely to get bored and click away, right? Take new photos when you can. Make it easy. Use your phone. Try using different filters and test out different angles (not too many angles…think get low and get high) to keep your photos fresh and visually appealing.

Have a right to post.

One important item to note, always be sure any photos you are posting are your own images or images, such as stock images, that you have a right to post. Posting photos that you do not have privileges to may result in a fine and have negative impact on your business. Photos are art and owned by the photographer. Be sure to respect their rights.


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The Story of Veterans

The power of story. That’s what my Dad, a retired Army Sergeant Major, was looking for earlier this year when he asked if I would be the keynote speaker at the annual Veterans Day brunch at the church where I grew up. I gave that speech today and wanted to share it here, too. What it became was more than a presentation to 50 veterans and their families. It became a thank you to the U.S. Military for all that it’s done to shape me, an ode to my own military family and a nod to the path the military took me on as a Brat, a military reporter and now a small business owner. If you care to read more about the military and how it has been a main character in my story, and in the story of Consociate, read on. More chapters to come.


Good morning. Thank you, Dad. Sergeant Major. Thank you all for having me here today.

There is TRULY no other place TO spend Veterans Day weekend than surrounded by the very men and women who just this week paved the way to give me the right to vote, who have helped make a safer world for my husband and I to raise our son and whose very blanket of security has helped shaped this great nation, one that allows me the freedom to have dreamed as a little girl of being a war correspondent and one day starting my own company where I get to spend each day telling stories.

This morning, I’d like to start out with just that – a story…and an introduction.

1890384_10203826194549610_3907299356569772974_oPlease meet Retired Army Staff Sgt. Brendan Ferreira. In 2010, while serving in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber ran up to Brendan and detonated a homemade explosive.

“That was game over for my left arm,” Brendan said.

In fact, it was almost game over for Brendan. Doctors told him that he would never be able to do what he once could. He believed them because, as he said, they are doctors.

Complications from the attack and his recovery nearly led him to lose both of his legs. He started drinking. Abusing pain meds. Smoking. Eating terrible foods.

He, in his words, “blew up to 260 pounds” and nearly missed the first steps of his daughter because he was feeling sorry for himself and his new life.

At that time, people kept telling him what an inspiration he was. For a while he wanted nothing more than for them to stop saying that. He wasn’t, he said.

Then one day something clicked. Instead of shying away from his new life, he embraced it.

If people were going to call him an inspiration, he was going to earn it.

So despite a serious loss of vision, nearly deaf, one arm and legs still recovering from nearly needing to be amputated, Brendan started working out.

And last weekend, he earned that inspiration. It’s where I first met Brendan – at the Working Wounded Games near DC – a fitness competition for adaptive athletes. And not just any fitness competition. Sand bag throwing, rowing, deadlifting, weighted sled pulling kind of competition.

I saw Brendan with sweat rolling down his face, seconds after throwing up after sprints (one handed sprints) on a rowing machine and accepting the champion trophy for winning the entire competition.

He overcame. He adapted. He became the inspiration.966248_646027165480200_4345592119827132591_o

I was able to meet Brendan and am able to tell that story today because of the U.S. Military.

I was once asked why I never served in the military. If I felt bad because my mom, my dad and my brother had all worn the uniform and the flag.

I thought hard about that question. Admittedly a little taken aback. And then I answered.

It’s true. I never served in the military. But the military served me. In fact, it shaped me. Just as I’ve seen in my life it shape so many. So…today…because I believe in the power of story…here’s a few more stories – stories about the service of veterans, the families that support them and the community that loves them.


If I close my eyes and think back to my childhood in Germany, I swear I can smell helicopters. The sweet, with a twinge of sweat, smell of an Army hangar. The oil. The fuel.

2014-11-08 15.49.58It was how my Dad’s uniform always smelled when he got home from work. And he often got home late. Why? I learned watching him that there is code in life, there are things bigger than ourselves that are worth sacrificing for. He worked long hours because it mattered. Because, while I know he puts God and family first in his life, he lived by the code – HONOR. CODE. COUNTRY.

When I was a young girl, I dreamed about becoming the first woman President – perhaps I could have run against Hillary, eh, Dad. In my mind, I could help bring world peace in that role. Then, just maybe, Dad wouldn’t have to work so hard.

But then that dream morphed into wanting to be a war correspondent, telling the stories of the men and women who go to war, and the families that stay back to support them.

That’s where the story of FAMILIES come in.

I graduated from college in 2002 and by early 2003 was working full time at a daily newspaper. I was covering really basic stories – donations made to local charities, crime reports, traffic jams.

But in early 2003, as the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq and the entire community prepared to send the military men and women from our towns here into harms way, my editor looked around the newsroom, looking for extra reporters to help cover the ramp up and what was looking then like impending operations.

There was absolutely no reason for him to ask me to help. I was green. Fresh out of college. But I UNDERSTOOD the military. I could read rank. I knew what the impact to the community would be as we headed toward war.

And even more so, I knew what the impact would be to the families. If you recall, when the U.S. started its shock and awe phase of the war in Iraq, President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to turn himself in or face the consequences.

I spent that 48 hour countdown with a young military family from Langley. Dad was deployed. Mom was pregnant and had two young boys.

I remember watching the mom, thinking, HOW IN THE WORLD CAN SHE DO IT ALL? Stay strong for her family while worrying for her loved one. Get the kids to bed while knowing the U.S. was getting ready to invade and her husband was somewhere in the mix.2014-11-08 15.45.59

It’s funny, because that was the first time – sorry, Mom – that I truly appreciated all Mom had done for us while Dad was in the hangars, while he was in the field, when he himself was at war. As a kid, you think Moms just get it done. And Dads, too. But the reality is, their strength is what helps pull everyone through.

That night the U.S. invaded, I couldn’t help but look at those two little boys and remember myself and Adam – now Capt Shabbott – saying goodbye to Dad in the middle of the night as he left for the Middle East for the first Gulf War. Or somehow understanding that the envelope he left in Mom’s Bible – the one he said was only to be opened if he didn’t make it home – meant something.

In 2004, I tried, but failed, to write a similar letter. I couldn’t do it. And I can’t imagine how my father did.

That was the year that I deployed to Iraq myself…as the war correspondent I had dreamed of becoming.

The day I left, the last thing my Dad told me before I left, was tighten your chin strap. I wondered why he said that. Why? Details matter in war. Details and attention to details keep you alive.

The night before the convoy I was traveling in crossed into Iraq for the first time, I remember getting up from my cot to make sure my Kevlar vest was good to go and my helmet’s straps were ready. And I thought about my Dad, my Mom and my husband. I called my editor that night from my sat phone and through some nervous tears just made sure that if anything were to happen to me, or the convoy we were in, that he would be the one to personally notify my family. Then I thought about all the other families back home…the families of the soldiers I was traveling in the convoy with and thought about my Mom and her last piece of advice before I left.

Remember that whatever you write – whatever makes it into the paper – will get read by the families. They need to stay strong. You are going to be the voice over there and be sure you understand that responsibility and the weight the families carry.

I never TRULY understood that weight until years later when my brother was in Afghanistan and he called to tell me he’d been involved in a firefight. That he’d earned his Combat Infantry Badge. I knew what that meant…and that I couldn’t tell my mom because of the weight she would carry.

I spent nearly two months in theater during my deployment. The unit that deployed spent a year. In the years after my deployment, I listened to TAPS play from across nearly a dozen cemeteries as I told the stories of the men and women who didn’t make it home. The stories of their families.


I left newspapers nearly five years ago now. I went on to work for the military, helping train large combatant command staffs in how to work with the media during contingency operations. And three years ago, I started my own company. The goal? Continue telling stories that help make our community and our world a great place.

The reason I got to meet Staff Sgt. Brendan Ferreira was through that work and a contract we have with a defense firm in DC.

I like to think that in many ways, the military has served me and now I am serving our community by giving back in the only way I know how even out of uniform.


I voted this week. Proudly.

I don’t have a yellow ribbon on any tree in my yard, but I have one in my heart. Always.

And while my son is not growing up in a military family, as I did, I am teaching him the patriotism that I learned at his age. This weekend, while in DC, my husband and I took him to the Newseum. He loved playing weatherman…and had lots of questions about the Sept. 11 exhibit. At 4, he asked us why bad men would fly a plane into a building. He couldn’t understand. I told him he wouldn’t understand, but that there were brave men and women who were protecting us all from that ever happening again. Men and women like are here today. Men like Brendan Ferreira.

Brendan showed me just last weekend what it looks like to adapt and overcome. In closing, I’d like to let you hear what hope and the future sounds like.

He didn’t get all the words, but I did capture my son’s very first GOD BLESS AMERICA performance.

Listen here.

God Bless America and the Veterans who keep her free.

Thank you all for having me today. As my Dad, the Sergeant Major would say – HOOAH!

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Hannah Gatens – Communications & Writing

HannaheIMG_3186Hannah Gatens, Communications Associate: A recent graduate of Christopher Newport University, Hannah excels in reporting and writing for media, from social channels to mass media outlets. Her passion for capturing a story comes through in her writing and ability to report the details of an event or cause deeply.

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Kelly Marderosian – Social Media & Photography

Kelly Marderosian

Kelly Marderosian, Social Media Director: Kelly earned her undergraduate degree in Communications from Old Dominion University. Kelly, with Consociate since 2013, leads social media efforts for clients across industries.

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Michele Harrison – Creative Director

Michele Harrison, Creative Director: A design graduate of Old Dominion University, Michele has been a professional graphic designer for 15 years for advertising and marketing agencies, helping organizations stand out in a busy media landscape with refined logos, marketing collateral, advertisements and more. She is also a small business owner as the founder of Funny Little Dog – a casual apparel company based in Gloucester, Virginia.

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Mark Harris – Web Development Director

Mark Harris, Web Development Director: From basic coding to fully custom sites, Mark, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, has an extensive background in web design and infrastructure. Throughout his last decade of design work, Mark has also worked with businesses on their visual branding, developing logos and collateral.


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Rudy Heinatz – Director of Operations

Rudy Heinatz, MBA, Director of Operations: Rudy joined Consociate as a partner in 2013 after spending 10 years as a healthcare executive where he researched gaps in the market to develop new service lines, led a team of 100, a seven figure construction project and multi-million dollar operating budget. He earned his undergraduate degree in business and marketing from Christopher Newport University and his Masters in Business Administration from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary.

Partner at Consociate Media


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