Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IZEAFest 2009

Last year, I heard about the wonders of IZEAFest via my dear friend, Lucretia Pruitt (aka @Geekmommy) She is one of the WalMart 11 Moms and an amazing blogger advocate. When she says a conference is a "must attend" then my ears perk up! Lucretia suggested I connect with Ted Murphy, IZEA's founder. I did a little digging on IZEA and their take on sponsored conversations. IZEA is a governing member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and they require mandatory disclosures for bloggers associated with IZEA. Blogger outreach is a topic I wanted to learn more about for my own blog and for my corporate brand marketing role at EMBARQ. Then I dug into IZEAFest via bloggers' comments, the post that really whet my appetite is from Ben Spark, 10 Best Reasons to Go to IZEAFest. This looked like a must attend for me.

I made it a goal to meet Ted at SXSW and pitch my case on why I should be on an IZEAFest panel. With Lucretia's introduction, Ted, Ashley Edwards and I not only met, but we hung out for an evening with Lu and Rick Murray discussing social media trends and blog talk. Ted asked me to speak on an IZEAFest panel before I had the opportunity to plead my case. I'm thrilled!

Check out the amazing line up of speakers and the schedule is jam packed with relevant social media topics. And if that isn't enough to get you going, IZEAFest is listed in the Inventor's Spot Top 10 Meet & Tweet Gatherings.

IZEAFest is at SeaWorld Orlando on October 1-4, 2009. All the details are at the IZEAFest website. You can also follow the lastest IZEAFest news on Twitter via @IZEAFest.

Planning on Going?
Ben Spark has a great post to prepare you: 10 Essential Items for IZEAFest 2009. And let me know you're in so we can connect!

Photo credit: @eMom

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ford Flex Weekend

When Rachel Young from The Social Media Group asked if my family would like to test ride and me test drive the Ford Flex a few weekends ago, we jumped at the chance. My family loves the look of the Ford Flex and I am a Ford girl at heart as my very first car was a 1978 Ford Thunderbird. As a mom, my first van was a 1999 Windstar.

The Whats and The Weists
What we noticed immediately is, this cross-over is truly a head turner. The unique boxy design with the grooved door panels, 3-bar chrome grill with fun two-tone, vista roof makes ya look twice. Everywhere we went, we were getting double takes. What surprised us the most was how roomy the Flex is. Our family of six, with car seats and all, traveled down and back to my parents' home (almost a four hour round trip) very comfortably. In our Flex, we had bucket seats in all three rows. The Weists could get used to this roominess.

And as you see in the following videos, there's plenty of room in the cargo space for our weekly grocery store run (and also how easy it is for a younger child to get into the third row.)

The retro look of the dashboard appealed to me and my husband as well as the luxury interior including the tech-savvy, SYNC voice-activated system. The reverse camera option thrilled my kids and came in handy for Mom.

What we were extremely impressed with was how well the Flex handles the road. This cross-over drove like a luxury sedan and it was such a quiet ride (well, the road noise was nil the kids kept the chatter going inside.) The responsiveness was a night and day difference from my van. I actually enjoyed driving! I mean the experience of being behind the wheel. I was so glad we decided to visit my parents so I could drive on the highway for awhile. I never thought I'd say that about a cross-over!

Oh, and what was the kids' favorite feature? This was a toughy between the one button "pop and fold" second row, the "hidden" refrigerated console, and the absence of step bars (the little ones didn't need to step up on a running board or step bars, they could just slide right in.) After much debate, the frig in the second seat console won out!

The Ford Flex is a blend of comfort, safety and sleekness. For a girl that grew up on Ford Thunderbirds and has moved into the utility of vans with our young family, the Flex cross-over provided me a silver lining SUV. It was fun to get back behind the wheel and enjoy the drive again...all with plenty of room for my family of six.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yanni Voices in Kansas City

More about the Music, Less about the Man

I have to say my husband and I are Yanni neophytes. We certainly know of Yanni and his new age instrumental compositions but can't recognize a Yanni song. Lucky for us, One2One Networks provided us with the opportunity to see the Yanni Voices concert at the Sprint Center in Kansas City last night.

We walked into the Sprint Center with an open mind...not really knowing what to expect. It was obvious to us from the first note, that this concert was a hand-crafted Yanni experience composed of talented artists. The best musicians, vocalists, composers, and producers were on stage in front of us. And like a fine art piece, the composition speaks more about the creator than anything else.

The orchestra was beyond phenomenal. The instrumental, virtuoso solos, including a unique Paraguayan harp by Victor Espinola pictured above and dueling violinists Anne Marie Calhoun and Samvel Yervinyan seen below) brought the house to a roar.

Yanni has assembled an amazing group of young vocal soloist. These artists are multi-talented and passionate performers. All are in their early twenties! Youth and Yanni, I know, you wouldn't put the two together but the well-known composer naturally melds with the young artists accentuating their strengths. Each artist has taken at least one of Yanni's instrumental compositions and created their own lyrics highlighted below.

Leslie Mills (@Leslie_Mills) has confident, gentle rain voice that is a sweet Colbie Caillat and Carly Simons blend. Leslie performed her amazing Before The Night Ends with Yanni's composition.

Nathan Pacheco is a powerful, operadic tenor whose voice aligns with the legendary Pavarotti in Viv il Tuo Sogno. This was a "Susan Boyle moment" for me in that I was blown away by this "unknown" young man's range and power. We'll be hearing a lot more of Nathan's rock solid vocals, hopefully in the operatic pop vein. And the dude hails from DC, ya got to love that!

Chloe Lowery, has a presence that took over the stage and amazingly an even stronger voice. She powerhoused Change (her poetic lyrics) with Yanni. She is truly a seasoned artist performing on stage since she was three.

Ender Thomas has a passion for entertaining with his voice as you can see with Ritual de Amor. He commands the salsa-style lyrics with rigor...and his eyes hold you in the palm of his hands. I've heard him likened to Fabio but this boy has one heck of a set of pipes so ya know, Fabio doesn't hold a candle to Ender in my book.

The orchestra and the singers have an incredible energy that kept the audience going. You could tell each performer was enjoying living in the moment. It was definitely a magical moment that we were thrilled to be a part of.

We left the Sprint Center blown away by the Yanni Voices experience. And we're craving more orchestra-style music because of it.

Photo credits: Anirudh Koul, taildragger46 and Yanni's Gallery.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The EMBARQ Social Story

As some of you know, I work for EMBARQ , a regional telecommunications provider, in the corporate brand team. A few of you have asked that I share our social story on my blog. I typically don't talk shop so this is new territory for me...

Over the last two plus years, a cross-functional EMBARQ team has developed and begun implementing a corporate-wide social media roadmap which we recently shared at the NewComm conference, sponsored by the Society of New Communications Research (SNCR).

Amber Nashlund, Radian6's Director of Community, interviewed our social media outreach team and created a comprehensive case study in handy PDF format of our social conversation endeavor.

We have several partners and internal teams that have helped us accomplish our key objectives. We wouldn't be where we are - helping our customers online daily as we do - without their efforts.

First and foremost, Dan Alcazar, EMBARQ Brand Vice President and Consumer Marketing Officer. Without Dan's executive support and advice, we wouldn't have passed go. Jerry Green, Brand Group Manager, helped lead the charge on our key online marketing initiative, the EMBARQ YouTube Brand Channel, with our customer-focused, Kevin Cobb masterminded "how-to" series. Our community manager Linda O'Neill championed the online customer outreach process under the direction of Mark Akason that Joey Harper (aka EMBARQ_Joey) leads fantastically everyday.

Also, much appreciation to Harry Campbell, EMBARQ Consumer President, who championed our roadmap through the enterprise and made it sync with his entire organization's vision. Our internal video team under the direction of Jerry Bova, y'all kicked serious bootie and continue to on the production of our "how-to" series! Our external communication team in partnership with their online communication agency, Metzger Associates, led an amazing online PR outreach campaign for our YouTube channel launch.

Our partners helped bring our social conversation vision to life. Google and YouTube provided us strategic guidance, best-in-channel direction, and key research findings while taking our feedback back to the engineers and getting vital changes made for our success. iCrossing developed our YouTube contest concept/creative and continue to lead the brand team's online creative, media, channel outreach strategy and search engine marketing. Metzger Associates continues to work in conjunction with Radian6 helping us keep on top of the social conversation.

I feel very fortunate to work with such passionate, knowledgeable individuals on evolving our social media story. Ok, that wasn't so tough of a post to write.

If you have written about your company's social story, please share the link in this post's comments.