Lucky 7: My Favorite Tools of 2014

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert of any sort, nor is this a sponsored post. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move forward with the point of this post. With a contractor/marketing intern-ish position that started off the year and an epic tech PR internship to end the year, 2014 led me to discover new tools and apps that I figured might be useful to others too.

While some of these tools are newbies, some are oldies, but goodies. This is in no particular order.

1. Slack

It comes as no surprise that Slack has made the cut. Listed as no. 1 by Mashable in its 10 Startups to Watch in 2015 list, I definitely agree that it is one of the most useful communication tools. As someone who has used a variety of internal communication platforms including Lotus Notes messenger and Outlook messenger, Slack brings a bright and entertaining method to communicate. From its Giphy extension that allows me to pull up puppy gifs to share with the rest of the office to its breakdown of channels for each account to communicate internally x2 (communication inception), this is a tool that every SMB should consider. Did I also mention it has a really sleek-looking iOS app?

2. Cision

Cision is a PR classic that reigns over the indusry. When I’m building a media list, Cision is the tool I venture to first before hunting down a reporter’s information directly. For the most part, the contact information and beat of each reporter/analyst is up-to-date. While there is still a lot of room for growth, I believe that Cision’s recent acquision of UK-based Gorkana and Visible Technologies and merger with Vocus, the PR software world can only get better.

3. Box

I was a Dropbox girl –  was. The first sharing platform I ever used was Dropbox – both for my freelance PR projects and internships. However, this year, I’m convinced that Box is my new love. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m on a business account or if I just like the overall design better, but I just prefer Box now. Whenever there’s a project that requires a deck or a plansbook, I save a copy to my personal Box account for easy access anywhere. And of course, my professors also love holding office hours during times when I should be interning, which causes me to send the immediate Slack message of “WFH today.” Thanks to Box, I can access all necessary files from my personal computer and not be labeled as the flakey intern – whew!

4. Sprout Social

I’ve always been a HootSuite girl by default because it’s the only platform that’s been used at previous internships. However, Sprout Social is on par, if not better at times. Like HootSuite, it allows you to schedule Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and recently, LinkedIn posts for all clients. One of the best features, in my opinion, is the queue option, which chooses the best time to post for that account, based on previous post engagements/impressions. I’m also a huge fan of the analytics portion.

5. Feedly 

I’m constantly looking for new platforms to read news. The best part about Feedly is the ability to break up news into categories. I currently have a personal Feedly with groups for tech, PR/marketing, business and top tier publications for general news.

6. theSkimm

I started using theSkimm during spring of my sophomore year and I’m so glad they’re finally taking advantage of college campuses. My entire newsfeed has at least a handful of student ambassadors who are promoting the easy-to-read email newsletter that breaks down the latest news in jargon-free language. When I’m riding the West Campus bus from my apartment to a class, I’ll open up my email and skim through the newsletter.

7. Canva

Have you ever wanted to make a quick graphic, but you don’t have time to sit there and layer images on Photoshop or mess with the vectors on Illustrator? Canva is here to save the day! I sound like an informercial because it’s that easy. For those of us who only know the basics of the Creative Suite or don’t know it at all, Canva is a quick and easy tool to develop graphics for simple flyers, Facebook banners, Twitter cover photos, and much more. The best part? They have already sized the image for you and most of the graphics to drag and drop are free. The ones that aren’t free are generally only $1. Woo!

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Just Hanging on a #Vine

vine_logo

Over the weekend I sat down with my good friend Bobby, who is an avid connoisseur of all things social media and a successful journalist in the making. We caught up on our lives, our academic stresses, and of course, our favorite topic: digital media and its influences on our industries. Naturally, the topic of Vine came up in the conversation and we started dissecting the benefits and flaws of the mobile application.

In Jan. 2013, Twitter introduced the Vine, which is a mobile application that features a six-second video clip. Being (currently) an Android user, my experiences with Vine have been limited to brief experiments via a friend’s iPhone. But what does the app mean for those who want to use it for personal branding or even branding in general?

During this year’s SXSW, Vine’s potential was unleashed via Taco Bell’s “rockumentary.” Participants in Taco Bell’s contest were given the task of creating their own Vine video, posting it on Twitter and using #feedthebeat. Whether you’re a fan of Taco Bell’s food or not, one must admit that this was a pretty damn good idea. But what does this mean from a PR/communication/marketing standpoint? Like any other new digital media platform, it all depends on the brand that’s using it. Could I see a suits-only big four company using the app for its stakeholders? No. Could I see a start-up tech company with a fun personality using it? Heck yes.

Overall, I think Vine has potential, but only time will tell whether this app will last only as long as its videos or if it’ll last for several years to come. Either way, it’s an app worth exploring regardless of whether you’re a digital media guru, a college student who thinks it’s cool, or a marketing executive trying to plan a new campaign.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of her closet, asking, “what to wear?”

In a caffeine-driven society, the average collegiate princess who is vying for her way to the top has a fairly consistent daily routine that revolves around casually throwing on the most comfortable attire for classes, and a properly tailored suit tucked into the corner of her closet for events that actually require business casual. The need for inspiration and more importantly, motivation, to dress in a nice blouse or fancy dress is limited when the majority of the day is spent jetting from one corner of campus to the other. Anyone who has a valid internet connection and a fascination with fashion will one day find themselves scrolling through a list of fashion bloggers who have graced the cyber world with photographic documentation of elegant and eccentric daily outfits. I have developed an increase in respect for these women and men who are committed enough to firstly wear stylish outfits on a daily basis, and secondly, to document them for the entire online community to view without fear of negative judgement.

The online fashion blog world has seen a growth in its community within recent years. Symposiums and conferences are continuing to expand to display the talents of the online blog community. In our very own back yard is the Texas Style Council Conference, which “fosters genuine connections” and encourages participants to be the “best versions of themselves. No matter how big or how small.” This past March, the council hosted a conference which featured Kendi Skeen of Kendi Everyday, the woman behind the 30 for 30 wardrobe remix, winner of the 2011 Austin American-Statesman Texas Social Media Award, and inspiration for my own 30 piece wardrobe challenge.

“She really inspires the everyday woman. Her blog isn’t called ‘Kendi Everyday’ because she takes her picture every day, it’s because the everyday woman can relate to her,” says Indiana Adams, creator and conference organizer of the Texas Style Council conference.

Photo: Kendi Everyday, Kendi Skeen

Skeen’s daily documentations provide not only every day style that has allowed her to be recognized through awards, but is also daily inspiration for me to shut up, look in my closet, and actually choose appropriate daily wear. It was because of her that I conjured up the courage to pursue the wardrobe remix challenge and even start a blog in the first place. The power of social media has increased within the recent years, and the manner that Skeen has used it to brand herself shows the potential success that can be achieved.

“Social media is the only way that I am able to reach my readers each day . . . I can instantly connect to readers at any time,” Skeen says.

In the same manner as those before me, I began this blog as an outlet to find my style, document my struggles in a major only few currently understand, and ultimately, make a brand for myself. I don’t blog in order to feed my ego, nor do I have any desire for it to be fed. It is simply another outlet of expression – an online public journal if you will. Although photographic evidence for my 30 for 3 adventure has been limited, I can guarantee you that I have learned a lot about the flexibility of my closet.

In the wise words of Skeen, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of her closet, asking ‘what to wear?'” And I did just that every morning during this 30 for 3 project, and every morning prior to it. The question of “what should I wear today?” is a common one faced by the general female (and some male) population on campus. On most days, I’ll take a deep breath and choose appropriate attire, while on other days, I’ll grab the nearest pair of running shorts and call it a day.

Banana Republic top, J.Crew belt and shorts, Ann Taylor Loft flats, Fossil watch. (Photo: Vi Tran)

Thankfully, I did manage to document one example of a “good” outfit day. In the back of my head, I’m telling myself this is a fashionable outfit that can save me from the overly air-conditioned lecture halls, while still be bearable to wear while racing from one end of campus to the other. I could be on to something in the manner of the fashion blogger greats, or I could be completely wrong; I’d rather avoid the idea that it is the latter.

Contrary to popular belief, remixing does not have to revolve around expensive pieces of clothing. Although the brands I mention in the captions of my photos boast the usual “high-classs for a college student” name, I never paid full price for any of the pieces I wear. I am a strong believer in budgeting and the power of digging through the endless sea of sale racks in order to meet my budget.

So, how does one go about blogging about fashion or “fashion” or anything along the lines of outfit documentation? For one, don’t clump several outfits into one post like I initially planned. I have learned that a daily post keeps one much more motivated to remember to document the outfit and write a short paragraph about it. Secondly, there are about a million reasons to give up on the challenge, such as “I’m having a bad day and I just want to be comfortable” or “It’s midterm season and I could honestly care less about what I wear.” These are excuses that constantly crawled into my head in the past month, while attempting to balance school, interning at an engineering company, and this wardrobe remix project.

There were more times when I wanted to give up than I can’t count on my two hands, but it has been worth it. A simple “nice” outfit can make a day just a little better. Besides, you never know who you’re going to run into, even on campus, and who you could potentially impress with a not-so-typical outfit.

“If I have learned nothing else in college, I have learned that if you want to impress someone – be it a client, an employer, or just a friend – you have to first get the opportunity to impress them,” says Rustin Low, junior radio-television-film major and owner of RCLow.

Appearances can leave an impression on a person and knowing what’s in your closet to impress them can become a difficult task if there is not full knowledge about what is actually in one’s closet. The 30 for 3 wardrobe remix is a method to discover the potential of one’s closet and arrange outfits accordingly.

Social media, I adore you.

Maybe it’s because I’m a public relations major; maybe it’s because I just spend way too much of my spare time online, but I adore social media and everything it has to offer. More importantly, I am passionate about raising awareness about the benefits of using social media to reach a wider audience for businesses. As I have mentioned before, I currently intern for an engineering research company filled with, you guessed it, lots of engineers. My colleagues are beyond intelligent and hold Ph.Ds in various sectors of engineering, but there is one main part of our minds where we butt heads – the entire right brain. Give them numbers and they can solve any difficult problem, but give them a blank sheet of paper and tell them to design a communications plan, and they will give you a stare like you’re crazy.

This week I found myself compiling a presentation for the executive board about the importance of social media marketing. When I presented my ideas to the new marketing and communications director, she was excited to help and saw the potential. However, when I casually pitched it to a higher up exec, I was informed I needed to be more reasonable and be able to compile a presentation that will appeal to the board of engineers that represent fortune 500 oil, gas, technology, and construction companies. No pressure, right? Twenty-seven PowerPoint slides, hours of research, and a very frustrated PR major later, I believe I have managed to compile something worth presenting. The sad part? I will be taking my first Principles of Public Relations exam during the time of the meeting; which means the marketing director will be presenting my work.

So now we have two potential problems: the board won’t care one bit about the social media campaign and the possibility of the presentation not being given in the manner than I intended when I compiled the information.

How does one make social media appear to be a tool to a room full of executives who have been taught that only data and analytics from technical research can lead to success?

  • Lots of charts, graphs, and statistics
  • Facts from well-known industry publications
  • Literally go in and highlight the important facts, so they stand out among the black text
  • Bullet points, don’t type out long paragraphs: time is money
  • Screenshots of social media pages from major players within the industry; “they’re using it, why shouldn’t we?” concept

Let’s pray that everything works out when the presentation is made this Friday. May the odds be ever in my favor.

Shameless Plug.

Lookwib – The site is not yet in full access and one can only sign up for pre-access, but I think this start-up has great potential. Imagine if Amazon and Facebook had a baby, it would be Lookwib. I may be a bit biased because I’m one of their newest Social Media Marketing interns, but hey, shameless plug right? If you do sign up, please contact me, so I can put you down as a pre-access member that found out via yours truly. But seriously, it has great potential; I only apply effort towards projects I believe will have success.

Karlstad Cover Sofa Bed – I’m moving off campus into an apartment this fall, so lately I’ve been browsing furniture and home decor. Ikea is definitely my go-to destination for chic and affordable furniture. I found this bed for approximately $150 + tax and am highly considering purchasing it before I move into my apartment in August.

Kate Spade Wickford Collection – More home decor items that I am highly considering purchasing for the apartment. Of course I would include a Kate Spade item. I adore the company so much because of how simple and fun it is; plus, the founder is a strong business woman and I admire her and hope to embody similar principles one day.

Call Your Girlfriend Cover – These girls are beyond adorable and have phenomenal voices that seem to harmonize perfectly. At only 12 and 8, Lennon and Maisy probably have more talent than the majority of artists out there. Someone, please discover and sign them. We need more good, clean, fun artists in the industry.

Thunderbird Coffee, Austin – This is by far my most favorite coffee shop near campus. Thunderbird Coffee has great food, coffee, and atmosphere. I’ve been to two different locations and the baristas in both have been welcoming and can always help you decide on what brew to have for your current mood.

Above design made by CS 6 Adobe Illustrator.

A Carrie Bradshaw Moment.

I woke up this morning with the initial intention of posting about my new haircut until I logged into my Facebook account and this showed up on my news feed via the Post Secret fan page:

At first I laughed to myself and then I started to conjure up questions. When is it appropriate to ask the status of one’s relationship? When do two people go from dating to in a relationship? And when is it even appropriate to even publicly announce it to Facebook? Or should one even announce it to the social media world at all?

I remember back in junior high, my peers had “boyfriends” and “girlfriends.” But the process of acquiring a relationship was pretty simple back in the day. All a guy had to do was “ask a girl out.” In other words, a guy went up to a girl and said “will you go out with me?” and that transformed into a new “relationship.” Of course those “relationships” were usually short lived, but I must admit it was a lot simpler back then. Now, however, the task consists of dating for extensive period of time and then slowly and somewhat awkwardly asking to have a label. Of course the majority will defensively say there doesn’t have to be a label place on two people in order for it to be a “real” relationship. But sometimes, it’s just nice to know.

As far as the social media aspect of this generation goes, there is still a definite debate over whether one should even announce it to the viral world. I’ve seen successful relationships that never put in a relationship with ____ on Facebook at all. And let’s face it, the post break-up act of changing from in a relationship to single is always an awkward one. An action that consists of constant notifications and texts from friends asking “what happened?!” or declarations from friends who had the intentions of being supportive and shouting “finally!” Which brings me to the question: when did a relationship, a personal and private aspect between two people become a public display involving two people and everyone else in their social media bubble?