In Loving Memory

Today I received a text message from my mom. She said she wanted to call me, that she had something to tell me. Seems weird right? Why wouldn’t she just call? The second I read the message I knew what was coming, I knew what she wanted to tell me. She was going to tell me that my cousin had finally passed away. It was a call I had been expecting for several years now because, like so many others, my cousin was a heroin addict, so in my mind it stood to reason that eventually, one of these overdoses would be his last.

I was right, my cousin had passed away, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. After a long battle with addiction, having suffered numerous medical afflictions, his body finally gave in to years of harsh treatment at the hands of dugs abuse. My cousin, Nicholas Blackwell, was sober when passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early morning hours of Thursday August,5, 2021. He was 41 years old, 19 days shy of his 42nd birthday.

When I learned of this news, I wrestled with how I felt. Like most people do when they lose someone close to them, I cried. Then I struggled with whether I had a right to be crying. Nick and I hadn’t been close in a very long time. Like most people do when their loved ones succumb to addiction, I’d pretty much cut ties with him. After watching him lie, cheat, and steal from family and friends I wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to do that to me. When he sent me a friend request on Facebook, I didn’t accept it because I didn’t want to give him the chance to take advantage of me the way he had done so many others. I’m ashamed to say that now, but that is the reality.

For a short time in our youth, he lived with us, and I’m told that my mom was working toward getting custody of him. His mother lured him home with false promises and moved him to Tennessee which made getting him back almost impossible for my mom. I feel like she still blames herself a little for how his life turned out, but I think she did the best she could, given the circumstances. Being ripped from our family meant he was torn away from the only people close to him who could help improve his quality of life.

Looking back, I realize that Nick was a product of his condition. A son, born to two drug users, who could barely take care of themselves let alone someone else. In situations like these the argument of nurture versus nature is irrelevant because for people like Nick, nature and nurture were one and the same.  His predilection to drug abuse was inherent since birth. It was genetic. And the environment in which he developed amplified that predisposition.  

On Wednesday, August 24, 2021, a few hours before his death, my cousin took to Facebook to share his thoughts with the world. It was originally written in text shorthand, and I’ve cleaned it up a bit for the purpose of this post. Basically, the post said:

“Well, I don’t care to share with everyone that I know. Friends, fam, or acquaintances. That yes, I’m in a nursing home because I’m a 2-time loser by my own Hand. I can say that cause it’s the truth as I see it through my eyes. Free will is a gift from God. It can open many pathways in a person’s life for good things and not so good things. Different outcomes in one’s life depending on the path u take. I chose the not so good life because it’s shaved about 20 years of my end game, but I did it. No one else. Did I think it would be this way? No, I thought I would have died by NOW … I USED TO WANNA LEAVE cause growing up I always felt that no one was there for me, because everyone’s lives are and unfair that’s what I used to tell myself up into my late 20’s… But the sad thing is that the one I hated the most my mom changed the most between not being able to see the change in her until after she passed. I did what I’ve been doing most of my life but way harder, I went dark inside and autopilot on the outside, my failure to one thing in these word that I help make was my beautiful boy Dalton Blackwell Hobbs. I should’ve tried harder. I wish I would have been stronger in smarter and way less emotional, life might have been different. Freewill right? love u Son, if u ever read this, I did and do love u and wish I made you my pathway, my choice, u deserved better and I hope your mom married a good man and he’s good to u and I loves u as his own … God forgive me for the poor choices I have made and the people I’ve hurt stolen from, used … I ask for your forgives owe lord for this man stripped of everything let all my sins lay bare before u FORGIVE ME oh Lord the alpha and Omega I cannot pass on thro u and the truth in the end will set me free Jesus name I pray AMEN. SORRY I GOT OFF POINT TO THOSE WHO MAY READ IT.”

I used to be one of those people who questioned why Narcan was available free of charge to save an addict’s life and necessities like Insulin and EpiPens were not. It just seemed reasonable that people who choose not to protect their own lives and make choices that are guaranteed to destroy not only their own lives, but the lives of others, shouldn’t be afforded that convenience when there are people all over the world struggling to afford medications that can save their lives. Lives they want.

Today I see it differently.

This week a recovering addict and friend of mine shared a post on social media that explained the rationale behind it, that made me see the argument in a new light and the post explained it better than I ever could, it explained that EMT’s have an obligation to revive a person in an emergency, not treat them. It went on to explain that Narcan is not a treatment for addiction, it is a tool used to save lives. Today I’m grateful for that tool, because it provided my cousin with a chance to come to terms with the choices he made in his life and to try, if only momentarily, to make amends for them.

Going forward I choose to remember Nick as he was before drug addiction took control of him. I’m going to remember the times we spent at our grandma’s in the summer, fishing, riding four wheelers, and driving our uncles crazy. I’m going to remember how Grandma use to baby him, except of course when she made him sit on the front porch and watch the Tennessee vs. Kentucky games through the front window because he had the audacity to root against the Wildcats in her home. I’m going to remember the person who, along with my older sister, carried me upside down for three blocks when I cracked my head open on a patch of ice because he didn’t want to get blood on his clothes. Looking back now its one of my favorite memories from our childhood.

You may not have realized it, but you were loved. Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace.

Rest in Peace.

Nicholas Andrew Blackwell

August 24, 1979- August 5, 2021


Thank You Mom

For some reason, when I think back on my childhood the memories that are the easiest to remember are the bad ones. I’m not sure why bad memories tend to be more prominent in my mind, but It is my opinion that they serve a purpose. Those memories are the ones where although there was struggle, lessons were learned.  

One of the oldest memories I have is from one Christmas shortly after my parents divorced. My Dad was remarried to a woman with two daughters, and we spent the morning opening gifts as a family. I recall opening a gift that contained clothing of some kind with a small Minnie Mouse necklace that I was overly excited about. Upon revealing the gift to my family my Dad and Stepmother realized the error that was made when wrapping the gifts. The gift I had just opened was a gift for my stepsister. It was a bummer relinquishing the gift, but I sucked it up and we went about our day.

Later that morning My Dad dropped us off to our Mom so we could celebrate with her.  I cannot recall every detail of that day, but I can summarize by saying we greeted our Mother and told her all about our morning while showing her the gifts we received at our Dad’s before opening presents with her.

I remember opening one of my gifts, a Fisher-Price Rock-a-Stack and upon seeing the gift, I admit, I acted horribly. I declared that it was a baby’s toy, and I didn’t want it. I’m not sure if the events that took place earlier that day had an effect on how I reacted but to this day I can still remember the look on my mother’s face. Sadness, hurt and disappointment, and I’m still incredibly ashamed of how I acted in that moment.

I remember my Mom taking the toy and making a statement about how if I didn’t want the toy, we’d put it up for someone who would appreciate it. She then put it on a shelf above our basement stairs and it stayed there for quite some time and every time I’d go up or down the stairs I’d see it there on the shelf.

One day I remember asking her if I could have it, I had changed my mind and wanted to play with it, and she refused to let me have it.  Looking back, I know that her refusal wasn’t to be cruel due to my reaction, it was to teach me a lesson. It was to teach me to appreciate the things I have, the gifts I receive and the people who provide them.

It took me a long time to understand that, that Christmas after a very trying few years in which my mother was divorced and her support system (my Grandma) moved out of state, my Mom needed help to provide her children with Christmas gifts and she didn’t necessarily choose those gifts for us, but she did her best to make sure that when the day came, we had something under the tree.

Each Christmas after that I can say she never failed. She worked herself to death every day to make sure we had what we needed, even if it wasn’t the trendiest item and come Christmastime, we always had gifts under the tree, even if it meant she did without. Perhaps that is why I still go all out for Christmas, and sometimes my husband says I go a bit overboard, I’m just carrying on a tradition she started.

Because of that memory I make it a point to instill those same lessons in my own children. While I am lucky enough to provide them with more than I ever had, I do my best to ensure that they appreciate what they have and that they know how lucky they are. Especially around Christmas time when my husband and I remind them as we take them to shop for gifts for less fortunate children after we’ve chosen an “Angel” or two off the tree.

Teaching my children the same lessons you taught me isn’t always easy, but it is necessary.

For making me a better person, for making me a better Mother, Thank you Mom!

I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day!


The Voice: Effectively Impacting the Consumer Through Digital Media

In today’s world almost everything can be done in an online environment and because of that there is often a subconscious expectation for instant gratification in everything we do. Social media has changed the way the world operates and has forced businesses all over the world to adapt to the online way of life or die off.

New online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have pushed the Blockbusters of the world out of the limelight and into oblivion. With new media available everyday even mainstream television has had to learn to adapt and the creators of The Voice have done just that by creating an online experience that focuses on content, collaboration, and connections with their viewers.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels.com

The show actively engages with their viewers throughout their various social media platform by providing behind the scenes storytelling on Facebook, Fan Art on Broadcast through their Tumblr page and allowing viewers to impact the outcome of an on-air show by tweeting their votes during the show. Prior to the implementation of social media marketing viewers would sit at home, watching their shows and hoping that their favorite performers would make it to the next round of competition, often feeling deflated when their choice was eliminated but The Voice has given viewers a chance to change that.

By engaging their fans in this manner, The Voice has been able to provide that sense of instant gratification that viewers have become accustomed to and have made fans feel like they are part of the process, like their voices are being heard and that is not something televisions shows of the past have been able to do before now.

It would be difficult to criticize the show for how their online following has been handled because the ways in which they’ve utilized social media to create an experience for fans was truly groundbreaking for its time. The show continues to create unique fan experiences through its various social media platforms by providing sneak peaks at upcoming seasons through it’s Facebook page, Outtake peeks on its Twitter feed and utilizing hashtag campaigns across its various platforms to engage with it’s viewers during between seasons which keep the fans wanting more and eagerly anticipating the next season.

The Voice has won a multitude of awards since the shows’ conception and you can find an extensive list on the show’s wiki. Notably, In 2015 The Voice was named the Winner in Integration with Live Television category of the 8th Annual Shorty Awards and were finalists in Instagram and Twitter with a Gold Distinction in Television. You can read more about it at Shoryawards.com.

This blog post is a course assignment for my Social Media & Marketing Communications class at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Steps to Success: Creating a Writing Portfolio

by Chantae Eaton, Alyssa Griffin, Miranda Guerra, Kellen Marler, and Joanna Rangarajan

So, you want to be a writer? Grab a pen to mark-up a notebook or type away on your laptop: congratulations, you’re a writer! But if you want to become a professional writer, that’s a different story. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you’re not alone. The wide world of writing can seem daunting, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of landing that new writing gig. In the writing world, portfolios trump resumes; potential clients prefer to see a sample in action to build trust. How do you build that trust? By assembling a writing portfolio of your very own!

Language of the Beast

If you’re asking yourself, “what is a portfolio?” don’t fret. A writing portfolio is a collection of writing samples that showcase your writing style. There are a few terms that may throw you for a loop on your portfolio-building journey, but familiarizing yourself with them will help you flourish. Some terms that might pop up are:

  • Platform – the chosen media forum used to build your portfolio and connect with an audience. 
  • Freelance – a temporary, per-job assignment for clients rather than a permanent role. 
  • Niche – a concentrated area of the market focused on a specific audience, service or topic. 
  • Voice – unique writing style expressed through tone, point-of-view, phrases and more. 

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. And today your goal is to do just that—to start.

Tools of The Trade

We live in a digital age, where the days of carrying around a paper portfolio have long passed, and information is available to us at the click of a button. It stands to reason an editor will want to access your work easily. Although building a website where you can showcase your work is ideal, creation and maintenance often come at a price. For novice writers this can be a deal-breaker, but have no fear! Various websites (such as Upwork) offer writers an online portfolio template where they can showcase a compilation of their work, use mentors and apply for writing jobs on their site. Most sites offer a trial or version of their site at no cost to the user, and additional content is available for a nominal fee.

When asked about any tools she found especially helpful in building her portfolio, Nikky Raney, a Freelance Writer and Interview Media Journalist for Moms.com states, “…100% you can use Contena Academy and you even have a coach that will work with you to help you get hired… I have submitted multiple portfolios through Contena and my coach has provided incredible feedback.” Another great resource is Smartblogger.com, which has compiled a comprehensive list of portfolio sites that detail the pros, cons and costs of sites like Contently, Journo and Quiet.ly

Constant Evolution

As an aspiring professional writer, one of the fundamental questions you need to ask yourself is “what is my niche?” Do you write fiction? Do you write for scholarly journals? Are you hoping to write for a news publication? Whatever niche you land on, be sure it engages your interests and find compelling topics within that niche to write about. Writings centered around your niche will make up the bulk of your portfolio. Until your prominence as a writer is established, there may be times when you need to step outside your comfort zone and create content that falls outside your niche. Adaptability in these situations is key and devising quality content is imperative in meeting your career goals. 

Developing Your Voice

When writing, it’s important to develop your voice. Ask yourself, “could anyone else have written this?” Of course, they could use the same words in the same sequence so technically yes, someone else could have. But is your piece infused with your spirit, uniquely yours and not just echoes of other people? Those are the pieces that will make your writing stand out.


You’ve found your niche and your voice. Now it’s time to get to work. Write often and when you think you’re done, keep writing! As with anything else, the quality of your work will improve the more you practice. You’ll amass a pile of work that you can choose from when composing your portfolio. Never stop writing, creating and updating your portfolio with your latest work because it’ll aid you in putting your best foot forward.

 Hitting Pay Dirt for Writing

When starting a new career or venture, the desired result is to make ends meet, if not to become wildly successful. To do that in the writing world requires experience, but to get experience a writer must have published work. How can you conquer this without having published pieces?

We interviewed Sara Barton, a Senior Freelance Copywriter based in Columbus, Ohio, who shared her thoughts on how to get started without being published. Barton states, “I would come up with writing assignments to put in my book [portfolio] to show what I could do. When you’re starting, you don’t have actual, legitimate, produced pieces, so you just kind of have to wing it.”

In other words, coming up with pieces like scripts, or posts that showcase a writer’s prowess is vital in building the foundation of a writer’s portfolio. In time, these speculative pieces can be replaced with published works. Barton also expressed that while she has a website, and a viewer can find her entire portfolio there; it’s not categorized. She feels that a client may see potential in work unrelated to the industry in which they’re hiring.

While writing for free may not be ideal, sometimes it’s necessary. Consider various varieties of payment terms you may come across when signing contracts. These could be terms like Net15 or Net30, which usually cover business days, not calendar days in reference to expected payments. “Net” payment with a number following it is a full payment by 15 or 30 business days after project completion. Placing a monetary value on your time and effort can present a challenge. Be sure to read your contract thoroughly so you understand the guidelines and agree that the terms set forth are equitable.

Being a creative individual means constantly evolving to keep up with the times and staying abreast of the latest technology. When assembling your portfolio, the sky’s the limit and creating bold pieces could just land you your next job! Having a diversified portfolio, even if it’s speculative work, could be what leads a client to hire you over someone else. 

What Next?

Creating a writing portfolio is only the first step in your writing journey. You can continue to grow and find work in various ways and have a thriving career. Not that there won’t be rejection; there will, but how you handle it will make the difference.

To get your work published quickly, you can self-publish. Though this route may not be best suited for everyone, it may be the best avenue to take with certain books. This is especially true if the content is “specific to a niche,” according to Moira Allen. Allen states that with self-publishing, “the author becomes the publisher.” It grants authors the freedom to select the cover design and allows them to get their books onto the market in a few weeks versus the years it might take with a commercial publisher. It also gives the writer control over the entire publishing process.

Companies like Amazon offer publishing options that range from e-books, print, and audiobooks; all done through their platform, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). It allows you to set your price but be aware that you’re signing a contract with terms and conditions. While Kindle has its own audiobook platform, ACX, you won’t be able to publish it on Audible unless you remove it from ACX prior to publishing it elsewhere.

Continuing Your Journey

Now that you’ve added a few extra tools to your writer’s toolbox, it’s time to make some decisions and set forth a plan-of-action. Did you decide that self-publishing is for you? Head over to the self-publishing venue and look at what’s needed to start the process. Ready to build your blog or website? Research the “tools of the trade” like Contena. Think about its content and how you want to appeal to your audience. Will you showcase the many types of work that you do like Barton, or do you prefer offering select pieces that fall within your niche? Find the platform you connect with, so you can broadcast your voice to the world. Let your passion for writing lead you on a journey and you may just find yourself doing the thing you love the most: writing!


Local Business Spotlight: Sound Body Productions

In a time where COVID 19 is making waves for small business owners, one local entrepreneur credits the pandemic for helping him launch his new business. When asked about the impact the corona virus had on his ability to start Sound Body Productions, sole proprietor, and local disc jockey Michael Randolph, said “I know it’s kind of weird to say it, but Covid helped me more than anything. If the world wouldn’t have stopped, I would not have had the time to dedicate to my passion.” He says it was his love for music that inspired him to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional DJ.

Hamilton Native and proprietor of Sound Body Productions, Michael Randolph

Sound Body Productions is a DJ for hire enterprise that specializes in helping its customers create a lively atmosphere for any event. Randolph is a disc jockey with two and a half years of experience, but he got his start at an early age when he began to emcee for his brother-in-law during DJ performances throughout the Tri-state area. His witty and theatrical personality combined with his lengthy experience make him an ideal candidate when hiring a disc jockey for any occasion.

Randolph, a Hamilton native, attributes his personal brand of “Funk House” (a subgenre of house music combined with funk samples) to the music he grew up listening to as a child. “Growing up my dad always had Motown and funk and country playing in our house,” he said. Although Funk House is his preferred genre, he reports that his music collection is essentially unlimited, and he can easily cater to the musical preferences of his clientele.

If you are the type of person who likes to try before you buy you can catch live performances by Randolph, as well as local DJs Matt Marcum and Scott Hubbard, Thursday evenings from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at The Fringe coffee house. The trio are also slated to perform at the SHIFT Music & Art Festival, May 15th at RiversEdge.

Randolph referred to DJs Marcum and Hubbard when asked how he came to perform at The Fringe. The pair posted about their upcoming performance at the coffee house on Facebook, Randolph commented about his interest in the event. They then invited him to participate, and the rest is history.

The camaraderie and willingness to help other local performers shown by these artists is consistent with the cultivation of fellowship and inclusivity that has become prevalent in Hamilton over the past few years and the city can look forward to seeing much more from these artists in the future.

For more Information on Sound Body Productions or to get a quote for your next event call: (513) 208-8961 or visit Sound Body Productions on Facebook.

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I Didn’t Choose the Soccer Mom Life, The Soccer Mom Life Chose Me

When I was younger, I loved to play baseball. I started tee-ball at the age of five and played up until my sophomore year of high school. It was the thing I loved to do the most and I can still recall some of the best plays I made during my 13 years on the field. When I became a parent hoped that my children would find something they loved as much as I loved playing baseball and if I were lucky, I knew there was a small possibility that they would share the same love for baseball that I did. So, when my daughter turned five, I did what any self-respecting former athlete would do. I signed her up for tee-ball!

Much to my chagrin we made it through two seasons before she decided that tee-ball was boring, and she wanted to quit. I spoke to her about what it means to make a commitment and told her that once the season was over, if she no longer wanted to play then we could find something else. And that is exactly what we did. She tried taekwondo, she tried gymnastics, she also served a short stint as a cheerleader but none of those things seemed to stick. Right around the time she began losing interest in cheerleading my son was turning five, so we decided once again to try our hand at tee-ball and once again our child was not happy so after he fulfilled his commitment, we allowed him to quit and both kids took a short break from sports.

Just as I was beginning to accept that neither of my children were interested in athletics it happened, the day I had always dreaded!

I picked them up from their afterschool program where they were planning a small talent show and both kids announced that they’d be doing soccer for the talent show. Soccer? Neither of my them knew anything about soccer outside of what may or may not have been taught in gym class, so this came as a surprise to me. They then announced that they wanted me to sign them up to play on a soccer team. My heart sank! I tried to avoid the request and I am embarrassed now to say that it took multiple requests from each child before I bit the bullet and did some research on local soccer programs.

I had always been of the mind set that I’d never be a soccer mom. The middle-class suburban housewife who drove a minivan and donned her yoga pants at every opportunity while sipping her six-dollar latte was never something I aspired to be, and I often criticized that type of parent for being so predictable.

So, while desperately clinging to the idea that even if my children played the game, I would still be me and wouldn’t allow myself to be pushed into the stereotypical mold that is a soccer mom, I put my kid’s happiness before my own and I signed them up for their first season of soccer. One season quickly spiraled into multiple and eventually turned into my husband and sister-in-law coaching teams for one or both of my children at any given time due to a lack of volunteers.

I had to admit, soccer was a harder sport than I realized, it was a fast-paced game that required both skill and stamina It was also more fun to watch than I had previously imagined. I began to enjoy going to practices and games and sure, my kids played soccer, but I still didn’t drive the minivan and I didn’t live at the field, so I didn’t fit the stereo type. My kids played casually they didn’t play club soccer. That soccer mom stereotype must’ve been molded to fit club moms because It didn’t fit the mom of a casual player.

And then it happened again!

The day came when my husband and I realized that our children really loved the game and if they wanted to be able to keep playing then they needed more than what our local city program could offer them. So, I swallowed my pride and did research on the local club soccer programs and signed them up for tryouts. Both kids made their respective teams.

A new journey was about to begin, and we had no idea what we were in for.

What came next was a whirlwind of games, practices, camps, and private training sessions.  My daughter being older needed a helping hand in bridging the skill gap between herself and her teammates and the other parents were kind enough to offer suggestions for private trainers or extra classes she could take to catch up and while it was helpful, I felt like there were ulterior motives behind their willingness to share their knowledge. You know what they say, the team is only as good as its weakest link, or something like that.

A few practices in to their first season of club soccer we were invited to go to dinner with a few of my daughter’s teammate’s families after training. They were an especially social group, and this was something we’d need to start getting used to, but I didn’t have a problem with that, in fact I welcomed it. It reminded me of the comradery I experienced when I played youth sports and I was happy that my daughter had found her place.

Whenever these group outings would occur the girls would get excited and would often negotiate with their parents on who they could ride with to games or other events. The first time that it was decided that they wanted to ride with us was the moment I realized why all the families owned SUV’s or minivans. My daughter was ecstatic as she and several of her teammates approached me asking if they could ride with us to dinner. At that point, my husband and I both drove small four door vehicles and there was no way I was going to be able to fit multiple10-year-olds in my tiny Volkswagen. The disappointment on my daughter’s face was deafening. I looked at my husband and we both knew what was coming. Several weeks later (while wearing my jet-black yoga pants) we traded in my husband’s Silver Saturn Ion for our first minivan, a grey Honda Odyssey with third row seating and plenty of storage space.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

 I was officially a middle-class, yoga pant wearing, minivan driving, mother of two club soccer players. And I didn’t feel any different! I still felt like me. The only thing that had changed was the way I viewed the stereotype that was the proverbial soccer mom. I was now one and I had an inside look at what a soccer mom really is.  

When I look at my fellow soccer moms, I see truth, I see strength, and I see sacrifice.

 I see the single mom who works days and goes to school at night so she can provide her daughter with all the opportunities she never had.

 I see the working mom who spends a full eight-hour day in the office and then spends her evening rushing her children to their games and practices, with no time to change her clothes or grab a snack. She is usually seen on the sidelines in full business attire with her heels sinking into the grass.

I see the mom with multiple kids whose husband travels for work and even though it can be difficult to ask others for help, she does, for the benefit of her children.

I see the teacher working on her lesson plans from the sideline of her child’s practice because as important as it is for her to be there for her kids, she wants to show up for yours too!

I see the team mom, who struggles as much as the rest of us but pushes herself even harder to make sure that we are all organized and where we need to be when we need to be there because she knows life is hard and we need to support each other.  

These mothers are pigeonholed based on observations made by those outside the sports world and although some of the descriptions may be accurate, they don’t provide you with a full picture. Soccer moms are a support system, they are a team! A team I’m proud to be a part of.  

We don the yoga pants because they are comfortable and easy to throw on at a moment’s notice.

We drink the latte’s because we are tired and in desperate need of caffeine.  

We buy the minivans so our kids can stay connected on and off the field and so that we can help each other with the kids when one of us has a little too much on her plate and needs a helping hand.

Soccer isn’t just a sport, it is a community, one I’m glad my children chose for us.

Oh, and to lacrosse mom on the other side of the aisle trying to keep her son from hitting passersby with his stick as he unpacks his gear for another practice: I’ve been there! Your next latte is on me!

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Marketing Perspective: Influencers & Big Business

Over the past several years the use of social media outlets by people across the globe has skyrocketed and because of that businesses all over the globe have been forced to adapt their marketing strategies to keep up with the technological tidal wave that has rendered the methods of the past as ineffective.  

While powerhouses like Budweiser and Coca-Cola will be ever present in television ads for as long as television is relevant, companies like these are evolving their marketing approaches and the celebrity endorsement ads of the past are being replaced by a new type of advertising by a new kind of face.

The creation of social media sites like YouTube has spurned a recreation of the American Dream. The white picket fence has been replaced with aspirations of self-made internet fame where making more than a living wage can be done from the comfort of your home if you know how to appeal to a specific online demographic.

Influencers like King Bach, Mr. Beast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) and even the once relevant Logan Paul are sought after by companies searching for online personalities with large followings within their target demographic to help promote their products.

For a fee, brands like Honey can integrate advertisements of their products and services via product placements within a specific influencer’s content, short ads fused with their YouTube videos and even product shout outs by the Influencers themselves during a video or post.

These influencers have insight into what today’s generation is looking for in terms of entertainment and they deliver that content free of charge to the user while getting paid a fee to promote a brand’s product in the process. It is a mutually advantageous arrangement by both parties, one wishing to sell their products to a specific consumer and the other assists them in reaching that goal by introducing and endorsing those products to a fan base that respects them and their judgement.

This tactic, however, is just a twist on an old method that previously utilized celebrity endorsements from people like Michael Jordan or Eva Longoria who endorsed products via television commercial or in a series of magazine ads. Companies have a long-standing tradition of utilizing the fame of another to gain support for their own products and self-made influencers are capitalizing on that strategy.

Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt” and there is no question that there is brilliance behind this new evolved form of marketing, the only question lies in who the genius really is, the company or the influencer?

This blog post is a course assignment for my Social Media & Marketing Communications class at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Throwback: My Very First Byline

I was given my first byline at the age of 17 after shadowing a local reporter with my hometown’s local newspaper. I was then given the opportunity to write about my experience and that article was published in the Journal News.  See the photo to read my very first published article.

Originally published by https://www.journal-news.com/ via print.

Digital Media: A Day In the Life

SNHU -Social Media & Marketing Communications Class Assignment

Digital media is defined as information that is broadcast to an audience through a screen and in a world where things are digitized more than ever before we find ourselves using various types of digital media throughout the course of our day.

We use digital media when we watch videos on YouTube, we use it when we binge watch a show on Netflix, do some online shopping or read a blog on WordPress and while we may be unaware, the social media sites that we utilize on a daily basis are also considered digital media.

As an older millennial I grew up in a time before cell phones and social media existed. I had the luxury of making my mistakes in private instead of having them broadcasted on a mega social platform where the decisions made in my youth could affect my future even before I was able to understand the ramifications of those choices.

However,  I also benefited from growing up with technology and as it evolved, I evolved. My first cell phone was an old Nokia 5165 with the changeable face and the card you preloaded onto your phone so you could call your friends. You know, the phone you could run over with your car and it would still work just as good as the day you purchased it. But the phone I use today is considerably different.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

While my first cell phone didn’t have a camera or voice recording capabilities, that technology is overwhelmingly accessible to us now. At the click of a button, we can download barrage of applications right on our mobile devices that allow us to capture and edit video and voice recordings and post them directly to our social media pages. These capabilities allow us to market ourselves easily and effectively to the world outside, both personally and professionally.

I use a multitude of media applications daily in addition to using top social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Dolby for instance, is a free application downloadable on your phone or PC that allows you to record songs, voice memos and other sounds at the click of a button. The application utilizes noise reduction software so that your recordings come out clear and crisp and it also has features that allow you to share your audio clips directly to your social media outlets. I use this application when recording interviews with local business owners for my blog. It is an excellent way for me to capture the conversation and refer to it for missed details or quotes I may need when writing a feature.

Although I do prefer my Nikon when taking photos, I also utilize my phone’s built-in camera application  and even Instagram to take photos and videos and also use Samsung notes for jotting down my story ideas that way no matter where I am I can refer back to them later when it is time to begin writing. I also find that being able to access my email at a moment’s notice is especially valuable for conducting business so I have all three of my email addresses set up under Microsoft Outlook so that I can receive notifications instantly and reply to others in a timely fashion.

I find using the various types of media to be a somewhat pleasant experience. The convenience that the different media types provide me make my everyday life easy to navigate, especially when trying to conduct business on my lunch break or from the sidelines of one of my child’s soccer games. But I do also suffer some of the negative affects that can come with utilizing social media, especially around election time or when sorting my emails to eliminate unwanted solicitors and spam.

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on Pexels.com

After starting this blog, I have been met with a deluge of online advertising geared toward helping me promote my business. At first, I’d wonder how Facebook knew to target small business ads on my timeline and then I remembered how interconnected media these days is. Everything we do online is seen and kept track of in some manner and I think this is a huge benefit for digital media marketing. Although having your online movements tracked can seem like an invasion of privacy, I do think there are benefits for the everyday user as well. Those seeking to market their brands and products and have their ads pushed under the nose of their target demographic based on a little algorithm created by the social site they are using to publicize their brand; this is just as helpful for small businesses as it is for big dogs like Apple or Android. For users it can be beneficial in helping them locate the right website developer for launching their new business or even finding the right gift for that special someone.

Six Interesting Facts About Women’s Suffrage That You Probably Didn’t Know

In society today women play an intrinsic role in the cultivation of their communities, but this has not always been the case. Not long-ago women lived their lives beholden to the will of men. They lived by the idea that their primary function in society was to play a submissive and domestic role. They were unequal to men, had very few rights and for the most part, were poorly educated.  It took hundreds of years before women began to fight for the same rights and freedoms that were already guaranteed to their male counterparts.

The Women’s Rights Movement began in the 1820’s but didn’t gain steam until 1848 when women’s rights supporters gathered to discuss the issue of women’s rights in the United States. This gathering is known as the Seneca Falls Convention. From that convention sprang a consensus on the issues to be tackled, as well as a wealth of support for the movement. In the wake of this convention several women’s rights organizations were formed. Once such organization, formed in 1913 and lead by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, two well-known women’s rights activists, was the National Woman’s Party (formerly the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage), which played an integral part in the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

 The women of the National Woman’s party employed a myriad of tactics when fighting to win the right to vote. While they used many common methods of protest such as letter writing campaigns and forming protest groups it was their unconventional protest methods, creative thinking and feminine instinct that led to the eventual ratification of the 19th Amendment.

  • Women were the first political activists in the United States to hold protest demonstrations outside the White House.
“Silent sentinel” Alison Turnbull Hopkins at the White House on New Jersey Day . 1917 Courtesy of Women of Protest: Photographs from the records of the National Women’s Party, Manuscript Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Women were meant to be seen and not heard. This was an overwhelmingly held belief throughout society during the early years of the Women’s Rights Movement and women were expected to adhere to it without question. That concept was the inspiration for one of the main methods of protest used during the fight to gain woman suffrage. On January 10, 1917, the women of the National Woman’s Party waged silent protests outside the white house gates for the first time. This form of protest would continue for the next two and a half years. Six days a week protestor from the National Woman’s Party would silently protest at the gates of the White House.

  • Female protestors who were arrested and imprisoned during suffrage protests are the organizers of the first group action ever made that established the status of political prisoners in America.

Lucy Burns was responsible for initiating the activist movement inside the prisons and upon her removal to solitary confinement a piece of paper listing the demands of the prisoners was passed from cell to cell until the document was completed with the demands of signatures of each of the inmates. The document summarized that the group was entitled to their rights of peaceful protests which are guaranteed to them by the Constitution and that by arresting them for exercising their right to protest they violated laws the government had already recognized as legitimate when they pardoned other activists for the same reason. Essentially pointing out the flaws within the justice system.

  • Women imprisoned because of their protests continued their protests from inside their prison cells by waging war on the deplorable living conditions that they were forced to suffer. They broke prison windows to gain access to fresh air and even participated in a hunger strike.

The prisoners banded together to protest their living conditions first by trying to maintain their health by demanding the right to fresh air. They launched an attack on the windows near their cells, utilizing anything they could find (tin cups, books, light bulbs, etc.) and hurling them at the nearby windows. Hunger strikes held by the activists resulted in a campaign of intimidation by the authorities. The women were met with threats, they were bullied and often forced fed through tubes because of their resistance to consume the food served to them while imprisoned.

  • Soiled robes were given to protestors who were imprisoned as a method of humiliation against the suffragettes, but the women responded by using fashion as a form of rebellion and donning the garments during their protests.
Abby Scott Baker in prison dress, 1917. Courtesy of Women of Protest Photographs from the records o f the National Woman’s Party, Manuscript  Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Despite being forced to wear garments that were deliberately soiled and used to humiliate the suffragists, the women’s creative thinking took the garment and transformed it into a badge of honor for those who donned it. They harnessed the suppressive meaning behind the garb and revolutionized it, turning it into a symbol for the women’s suffrage movement.

  • Suffragists used Valentines as a method of protest.

On Valentine’s Day in 1916 Suffragists put an ironic twist on a rather feminine holiday by sending a thousand valentines to politicians urging them to support the suffrage movement. You can view actual valentines sent to the politicians and read more about it at Genealogy Bank.

  • A mother’s handwritten letter to her son urging him to throw his support behind the movement, was the final nail in the coffin for those who opposed the women’s suffrage.
Letter to Harry Burn from Mother, August 1920 [Photograph found in Harry T. Burn Papers, C.M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library]

Harry T. Burn, the youngest member of the Tennessee State Legislature had voted twice against ratification but upon this third vote he took pause, recalling a letter he had received from his mother Febb Burn, urging him to vote in favor of the amendment. She wrote, “”Dear Son…Hurray and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt…. Don’t forget to be a good boy, help…Catt with her ‘Rats.” Her mention of Catt’s Rats was a reference to a political cartoon that had appeared in a local newspaper depicting Carrie Chapman Catt of the National Woman American Suffrage Association, driving the letters “RAT” with a broom, essentially sweeping them up in front of the letters “IFICATION”.  It was this letter from his mother that influenced Burn and compelled him to change his vote from a nay to an aye, officially ratifying the 19th Amendment and sending the Tennessee house into chaos.

The ratification of the 19th Amendment was a victory for women everywhere. The persistence and bravery of the suffragists who fought for equal rights are admirable and one of the main reasons why women today have the freedoms that they do. While the ratification of the 19th Amendment was a huge win for the Women’s Rights Movement and because of its passage women are afforded more rights than ever before, but there is still work to be done!