November 10, 2015

#MYFAVORITETHINGS, by Kelly Marderosian

By Kelly Marderosian, Communications Associate

Everyone loves the time of year when Oprah reveals her list of Favorite Things! It’s something that resonates with women and men alike. I know I love seeing the list!

It got me thinking about my own favorite things, especially those that can’t be measured, like the love of family and friends, finding inspiration in day-to-day life, taking vacations and exploring new places and that gut feeling when everything feels right in the world.

But I also got to thinking about my favorite things about working in marketing, public relations and social media storytelling and the very things that I hope make me a better colleague…a better writer….a better person…a better advocate for our clients.

In no particular order, I present to you my favorite Consociate things!

Coffee

Starbucks venti iced coffee. Four splenda. With cream. Yep, that’s how I like it! And it’s the same way every time. Anyone that knows me knows I love my Starbucks…some might even call it an addition. I call it fuel. Fuel for the day. When I grab my coffee in the morning after getting my sweet babies off to school, I get comfy and am ready to take on the day! The best part? It lasts me until lunch time! I mean…it is 20 ounces of caffeine goodness.

Inspiration

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Steph (founder of Consociate Media), it’s to look for inspiration in different, unexpected places. Or at least be open to finding it when you least expect it. I love picking up a random magazine and looking through it. How do they layout their graphics? What buzz words are they using? What speaks to me? It’s a great way to keep things fresh! Seeing one sentence can spark an idea for something great!

Corporate Fitness

You know what they say…the team that sweats together creates together! Okay, maybe we made that up…but it’s true! Every Monday evening and Wednesday morning a few of us come together at Body By D to spend some time strength training. Focusing on my body and my mind makes me a better colleague, friend, mother and wife. Health and wellness go hand in hand and by taking a mental break to work out, I come back to work refreshed, recharged and ready to knock out the next project! Plus, all those endorphins are fuel for the brain!

Team Gantt

Nerd alert. I am that person that gets excited over a label maker. Seriously. I love to get and stay organized. Team Gantt is a project management tool we use to keep our clients and projects organized. We can store notes, conversations, progress on tasks and communicate with each other on status updates. This is one tool that allows us to be better as a team and for our clients, ensuring nothing is overlooked. The best part? When you are organized, you can allow yourself to think more freely and openly – something that’s great when you need to create something new and fresh for an upcoming campaign.

Pandora

Yes, music! Some people like it quiet to focus. Me? I like music, particularly the Maroon 5 station. Music makes me feel happy and when I’m happy, I feel motivated and pumped! And yes, there might be singing involved.

Collaboration

Seven minds are better than one! Every single time our team comes together to share project updates, brainstorm on a new campaign or just laugh, I think how blessed we are to work together. I’m lucky. These amazing people I work with…they aren’t just colleagues….they are friends and family. They are people I can confide in. They are people that make me strive to be better. They are among #myfavoritethings.

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#MYFAVORITETHINGS, by Stephanie Heinatz

Stephanie Heinatz writing at night MacBook Lab

By Stephanie Heinatz, Founder

I love a good list. To do list. Shopping list. Any list.

When it came time to sit and think about a list of my favorite things that I use in my day to day work life in helping companies of varying sizes with their public relations and marketing, I found myself in hog heaven. So here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite things that help me stay inspired, organized and productive for our clients.

Evernote

If you know my husband, you know he’s always got jokes. If he’s joking on you, it means he has lots of love for you. One of the things he used to tease me about, when I was still a daily newspaper reporter, was that you could always tell which desk was mine in a newsroom. Where most writers would have stacks of papers and notes all over their desks, mine was most often clean. Structured. Organized. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the notes. It was more that, even as a newspaper lover, I hated the idea of papers in sight.

All of my research and notes, I would transcribe and save into Word doc or PDF files on my computer.

Fast forward to today and my desk is still just as clean, but I’ve found a far more efficient way to store my notes. Enter Evernote.

It’s a life workspace. A work workspace. The most glorious workspace.

In Evernote, I can collect, save and catalog the pages of magazine articles or ad design concepts. I can take notes, transcribe audio interviews, make to do list. Oh, my! The list goes on.

The best part? Being on the go all the time, I can access Evernote from the app on my iPhone or my Mac desktop.

Evernote. Definitely one of my favorite things.

Garden & Gun

Growing up, there are a few songs and country music artists that my Mom would play on repeat. Alabama and Song of the South was among the top (and Elvis…my Mom loves Elvis).

Perhaps it was that early introduction to the south, to country, to the southern way of life (even though I spent most of my early childhood in Germany) that attracted me so strongly to Garden & Gun magazine.

From the well designed advertisements, to the recipes, stories of triumph, quintessential southern life, literature (hello…William Styron, Virginia native), you can almost always find me with the most recent copy of Garden & Gun magazine…and photos of pages I want to save and ads that inspire me for future creative projects cataloged in Evernote.

Inc. Magazine

At the time of this writing, Consociate Media is nearing its fifth year in operation, and it’s third year of my family taking the giant leap into a 100 percent entrepreneurial lifestyle (Rudy, my husband, left his well-paying corporate job because he believed in this company and what we are doing and wanted to help it grow).

But none of it has come without its challenges.

There have been months when our team members have received their paychecks, but Rudy and I have not because cash flow or accounts receivable fell. We have lost some contracts due to clients suffering from budget cuts. We’ve been hit with hard deadlines that have taken all nighters to complete, huddled around the dining room table. There have been missteps in learning to communicate with an entire team your vision for a project or establishing a culture of a company, and finding the right project management tool to unite us all.

I could go on about all the lessons learned. Why? Because we are a small start up.

I could also go on about all the great things we have accomplished – working with the top rated cybersecurity firm in Virginia (also listed as the 16th best in the world), getting referrals from clients (the biggest compliment we can receive), seeing a client’s name in the Wall Street Journal after eight months of working that media angle, seeing sales soar for a new apparel company thanks to a social media strategy. The list goes on.

What does that have to do with Inc. Magazine? There are a lot of business magazines out there, but Inc. has found a voice that’s both approachable, inspiring and educational.

Every day, I find an article to read online and every month that magazine finds its way onto my coffee table and in my purse.

The Local Scoop Magazine, Williamsburg Edition

I once read an email from Tim Ferris that highlighted a time in his life when he started focusing on the things that make him go “hell YEAH!” If it doesn’t make you say “hell YEAH!” then think about if it’s the right thing to be doing in your life, in your business.

I thought long and hard about the message he sent in that email letter.

Then I sat down and wrote a list about all of the things in life that make me go “hell YEAH”!

My son and husband – #familyfirst – topped that list. But when it came to the professional endeavors I’m a part of, The Local Scoop Magazine and its Williamsburg edition was the first project that came to mind.

Why? For full disclosure, I was asked to serve as the magazine’s first editor this year. The inaugural issue comes out this month, November 2015

But more than that, I love the brand and values The Local Scoop was founded on. Stories are always local, always fresh and always focused on the things in life that motivate and inspire us.

As a former newspaper reporter, I grew up and cut my teeth writing sad news stories. It’s a vital piece of the fourth estate and one that while difficult for reporters to do today I greatly respect.

But there is a place in this world for feel good. Feel good stories help put people in a positive place. It helps them feel good about this world. And when you feel good, you do good.

TICKETLEAP

Ticketleap’s key message is clear – the great experience anyone has at an event starts when people buy their ticket. It’s true and it’s why we continue to use this platform for any and all the events we’ve helped promote and plan, from annual Oktoberfest parties to wine festivals and oyster crawls.

Ticketleap makes it easy, allowing organizations to set up their own accounts and then brand their online ticket event page with images, logos, colors and details.

The best part? They make payment easy. You can have a check mailed straight to you when the event is over or have funds deposited right into your account.

Shopify

Selling online could not be easier with Shopify, which streamlines the entire process for online retailers or brick and mortar organizations looking to expand online. Just ask MarkerNine.com, ShopUpSouth.com, Lowe-Tide.com. These are all small companies who sell with Shopify.

This platform makes it possible and approachable for small companies and start ups to grow and scale their business. Best part? The platform offers retail and wholesale account solutions, an ability to track traffic to the site, export reports on sales, input invoices, connect to social media, blog and more.

MailChimp

MailChimp. When done right, email marketing remains one of the most important and powerful ways to drive sales, conversions and brand awareness. Send better emails with MailChimp. When you join MailChimp, you join the more than 9 million people who use MailChimp to design and send 600 million emails every day.

Reasons we love MailChimp? For one, not every small business has the luxury of having a graphic designer on staff. MailChimp makes drag and drop easy and provides options to make every email look customized. For another, we’re addicted to the statistics. Use MailChimp and find out who’s opening your emails, clicking through to your web site and more.

We use it ourselves and for our large clients. I love it that much.

Reporter’s Notebook

I’m a prolific note taker. Prolific I tell ya!

In meetings, at conferences, while watching the news, you can always find a handy notebook near by.

I used to only use the long skinny reporter notebooks that fit well in the palm of your hand. I still love those, but I am definitely a sucker for a Moleskin, a legal pad, a tiny spiral notebook. Anything I can take a note on.

Sharpie Fine Tip Pens

Speaking of notebooks, is there anything sweeter than a new pen, especially a Sharpie Fine Tip to jot down those notes? Moments after typing this, I opened a new package of Sharpie Fine Tips and wrote a note down. Not because I really had anything to remind myself about, but because I wanted to use my new pen WRITE away.

The Quiet of the Night

It’s true. I send emails late at night. Sometimes it’s because of deadlines. But sometimes it’s because the house is quiet. I’m snuggled up on my couch, usually with a dog beside me, and covered up with a sweatshirt blanket my husband bought me in the OBX of North Carolina years ago.

The lights are often low. And in the quiet of the night, I write. I read. I work…alone. And often these are some of my favorite times, which makes the quiet of the night one of my favorite things.

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Better Than The Weather & Other Lessons On Life and Business From Turks & Caicos

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By Stephanie Heinatz, Founder

Looking out over Grace Bay, feeling the sunshine and 90 degrees of Turks and Caicos air beating down on my neck, I strained to see the point where the deep blue hues of the sky ended and the bright turquoise waters of the sea began. The crisp, white sandy beach beamed in the light. People all around were sprawled out on lounge chairs. Some floated in the salty water, bobbing along the shore. Others kept their heads nestled inside the pages of books and magazines.

Admittedly, I kept glancing at my phone. It was the first hour of a vacation a long time in the making and the thought of being away from the office petrified me. What if someone needed something? What if I couldn’t respond quickly enough? What if…

I kept wondering, and checking, to see how strong the Wi-Fi connection would be. Would it reach only the pool at the resort? Or would it stretch down to the beach, where I suspected we would spend most of the week.

It was in that moment that I met Shawn.

“Welcome to Turks and Caicos,” he said, sporting a royal blue polo shirt branded for Ocean Club Resorts, flashing a bright white smile that’s warmness competed only with the sparkle in his eyes.

“Thank you,” I’m sure I replied. “How are you?”

“I’m doing better than the weather.”

That stopped me. How could that be? It was late October. The weather here in the British West Indies was a far cry from the dreary, wet and chilly Virginia I’d just left.

“Even when it rains, it’s still beautiful,” Shawn would tell me on a different day.

That’s when it hit me. It’s all about perspective and attitude.

And over the course of the next five days – and on each day Shawn told me he was better than the weather – Turks and Caicos gave me much more than the vacation I craved. It left me with peace and deep lessons on life and business.

Better Than The Weather

Turks and Caicos Grace BayIt’s true. It’s all about perspective and attitude. As a small business owner – and fellow small business owners and entrepreneurs can relate to this – the day to day grind of the hustle and meeting deadlines can quickly catch up to you. Instead of seeing the beauty of the work, the gift of people trusting you to support them in their life and business, you see the deadlines. The boxes to check.

My guess is that if it was storming and raining outside, Shawn would have the same reply when asked how he’s doing. That is the point.

Look around you. See the blessings you have. Focus on them. And have the vision to see that no matter what storms may come, you are always doing better than the weather.

Be Comfortable In Your Own Skin

IMG_5177It’s true. Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos has been named the best beach in the world. THE WORLD! The white sand. The turquoise sea so salty you can float in water over your head for hours without treading water. The shoreline that doesn’t suffer from rough seas (generally) or strong underwater currents.

I spent many mornings walking along this shoreline, from Ocean Club Resorts (west) to a nearby conch shell mecca of a beach just over a mile or so away.

The first day, along my walks, I saw many men and women in bathing suits that I myself would never wear, showing far more skin than I would ever be comfortable revealing given my constant (and typical female) feeling that I’m never thin enough or fit enough or good enough. Nobody wants to see that.

By the middle of the trip, though, I had learned something vital. These people – 60-70-80-year-olds in thongs and men in Speedos – had something I craved. They were comfortable in their own skin. They were happy with who they were and didn’t care.

By the last full day on the beach, I took my cover up off for longer stretches of time. I sat in the sand and built sand castles with my son. And I stopped worrying about sucking it in and what people thought.

I came back to the States, ready to dig into work, with more confidence. You see, this lesson is vital in business, too. Be confident in what you do, your ideas. Be open to constructive feedback, but always be willing to show the best of yourself.

Take Care of Your Health

IMG_5224It’s not uncommon to get an email from me at 2 in the morning. Work. Work. Work. Every hour of the day is an opportunity to get more done.

WRONG!

All that leaves you is tired and foggy, unable to think clearly and creatively. And in my business – the intersection of public relations and marketing – that is a dangerous place to be.

Every night in Turks and Caicos, I fell asleep well before 10 p.m. and didn’t wake until 7 or later. And every morning, on my beach walks and runs, I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking up new ideas – ideas I had to jot down immediately and am acting on now (like this blog post).

Run Along the Shore

Before leaving for Turks and Caicos, I treated myself to a new pair of running shoes. There’s nothing like the feel of a fresh pair of shoes. The tightness that confines your feet as you run. The plump cushions.

My goal was to run or walk each day along the water’s edge.

On the first day, I ran in the loose sand, far from the point where the waves lapped the land. I didn’t want to get those new shoes wet. It was the safe route. But by the next day, my ankles ached from having to adjust to every step.

Eventually I got a little braver. I ran close to the water. Sure, the waves threatened to wash over my new shoes, but the sand was more compact. I ran faster, harder, better.

So run along the shore. What’s that mean in business? Take the risk. You may get wet, you may have to dry out your new shoes if it doesn’t work out quite right, but the reward will be that much sweeter.

Jump From the Top

Will Heinatz, my sweet, blond haired, blue eyed, curious and cuddle loving five-year-old boy, stood on what had to be 12 or 15 feet above the surface of the water, on top of a snorkeling excursion boat. We’d pulled into a small cove after an hour of exploring a nearby island and snorkeling on a coral reef for some good ole fashioned water fun – and Will wanted to jump off the top of the boat.

And jump is just what he did. He had no fear, just a smile and excitement.

Have an idea in business? Not sure what will happen? Jump right in. The worst thing that can happen is you get a little wet and don’t want to do it again. The best thing? It could be a ton of fun and you might just climb right back up to do it all over again.

That’s definitely what Will did on the top of that boat.

Shuffle Your Playlist

Just because it’s the way you’ve always done things, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.

I have the same running playlist that I switch on every time I hit the streets to break a sweat. It’s a mix of classic hip-hop, today’s R&B and some hard, pumping rock. I particularly love 80s rock! Sometimes I’ll get a little crazy and turn on Pandora’s LL Cool J station, but in reality, it’s no different than my playlist, just a different station.

Somehow on one run along Grace Bay Beach, I neglected to turn on my playlist and instead hit shuffle on my entire music library.

And then I was hit with it – Otis Redding and The Dock of the Bay rolls on.

The softer music, the lighter lyrics, caused me to run faster. Harder. I didn’t want to stop, even when I reached my targeted end point.

Shuffle your playlist every now and then. Try different things. Life evolves, business evolves, and forcing yourself to change will give you a new perspective, renewed energy and new goals.

Dive Right In

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In the very last hour of the visit to Turks and Caicos, that same precious Will wanted to spend in the pool. I went for a run. He splashed around. On my walk back up to the resort, he was laughing, smiling, swimming – and all I wanted to do was be in that moment with him. Looking at my watch, I knew there was no time left to get to the condo, change into my bathing suit and still have time to swim and make our flight.

I untied my sneakers and….dove right in. Running clothes, baseball cap and all.

Will just looked at me and smiled.

“You are a crazy Mommy,” he said laughing.

That’s all I needed to realize that sometimes you just have to dive right in. Even if you aren’t ready, you’ll never know the joy or success you’ll find unless you try.

Don’t let perfect conditions get in the way. A client once told me – and he’s a West Point and Harvard Business School graduate – that you should never let perfection get in the way of good. Make sure you leap.

If I had made that moment perfect – taken the time to get on my bathing suit – I would have missed the look of glee and surprise on that sweet boy on seeing his far too often busy Momma taking a moment to be crazy and diving right in.

Unplug

The Wi-Fi, as I found out, worked wonderfully well at the Ocean Club Resorts. But despite my day one anxiety about not being able to check email and respond to work requests, I didn’t log in nearly as much as I thought I would.

Why? I realized the power of unplugging.

I did check email. I did respond to a few things – as small business owners I’m not sure you can ever really be completely away. Your business, in many ways, is like your baby.

But I did spend entire days without looking. I sat on the beach, looking out on the waters, just thinking. I took notes on pad and paper. I read magazines and articles that had been piling up for months in my “when I have time I’d like to read this” stack.

The result? I’ve come back more energized than ever, filled with more ideas than ever. I’m seeing work we’ve done before the trip and looking at fresh ways to enhance it.

All because I took the time to unplug.

And today, I’m doing better than the weather.

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