Posts Archived From: 'November 2010'

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The Skinny on Social Media and Branding

Earlier today I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about social media, branding, and advertising at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. It’s something I’ve developed an interest in and love to discuss with groups both large and small. Doing so with friends makes the experience even more enjoyable, as was the case this afternoon.

Below is a quick write-up used on the UNO campus that previewed the event; my notes from today’s panel are below.

“Advertising, Branding, and Social Media – Oh My!” is the focus of a Wednesday, Nov. 3, panel presentation for Adam Tyma’s Introduction to Mass Communication class.

The presentation, which begins at 1 p.m. in 101 College of Public Affairs and Community Service Building, will feature the following panelists:

Dusty Davidson, BrightMix

Megan Hunt, Princess Lasertron

Jerilyn Kamm, UNO School of Communication

Wendy Townley, UNO University Relations

“The worlds of marketing, advertising and public relations have been acutely changed by one thing: social media,” Tyma said. “Join our panelists and classmates to learn about, ask questions on and discuss this changing world with those who are seeing it, teaching it and living it first hand.”

The event will also be updated on Twitter, using the hashtag #JOUR1500Pnl3. Contact Tyma at (@adamwtyma on Twitter) for more information.

Discussion Notes from Today’s Panel
Social media simply cannot be ignored
Branding is storytelling
Social media makes storytelling easier, reaches more people (locally, regionally, nationally, globally)
Allow others to say you are cool; it’s more effective than you saying you are cool (encourage others to tell your story)
Storytelling must be honest, “truth in advertising”
Know your audience
Be responsive to comments online, the good and the bad
Always maintain your own online identity separate from the product/service/organization you are promoting
By discussing a trend/idea/topic online or by engaging in the conversation on a regular basis, you can become a “thought leader” (example: Design Crush by Birdhouse Interior Design)
It’s OK to pimp others in your industry

I’d love to know your thoughts on social media and branding. A few questions to consider:

• What’s the future of traditional advertising, marketing, and public relations?
• How has social media impacted the way we spend our dollars?
• What does branding mean to you?
• Is it smart to brand yourself?

Meet Yamerra

I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that all women love skincare products. From the high-end lines displayed in glass-enclosed cases, to the tried-and-true brands at Walgreens, and everything in between, women want the good stuff that smells lovely and makes their skin feel wonderful.

I enthusiastically support these women and proudly consider myself among them. I’ll easily go ga-ga over most brands at Sephora, but often find a similar bliss at the Walmart beauty aisle. Which is why I was so intrigued when Jessica McKay of Birdhouse Interior Design told me she would soon carry Yamerra skincare products at her retail shop, Birdhouse Collectible, located at the Mastercraft building on North 13th Street.

Jessica and I met for our routine coffee chat a few weeks ago, at which time she presented me with a lovely little package: four adorable pots of Yamerra’s hair and body butter. The minute the tiny tubs landed on the table, I immediately ignored everything Jessica was saying. I removed my rings, dug my fingers deep into the Home Sweet Home Honey Vanilla body butter, and slathered it on my dry and cracking hands. Within minutes my skin felt smooth and smelled just wonderful. I followed up that application with two other scents: Sensual Bliss Jasmine Sage and Be Bodacious Tangerine Grape.

Since receiving the Yamerra products, they have never been far from my side. One has found a permanent home in my handbag, while two others live on my dresser and on my desk. The continual application of the body butter has helped keep my skin moist and glowing as we enter the winter months.

And after using Yamerra, I just had to know more about the woman behind the butter. Below is a Q&A I recently conducted with Yamerra’s founder, Manhattan-based, Nigerian native Maryam Moma.

Visit her online store and the Yamerra blog to learn more.

For the curious: the gorgeous photo you see is Maryam, shot for Yamerra’s advertising campaign. (Isn’t she just an angel?)

Let’s start with your story. I understand you’re not originally from the United States.

I am a 25-year-old Tanzanian/Nigerian from a family of seven: mother and father, three older sisters, and a twin brother. I grew up mostly in Nigeria and made several stops along the way (Ethiopia, Narobi, Tanzania, Paris, Philadelphia) to where I am now: New York City. I am very well traveled, and started traveling alone at the age of 14. I have always wanted to be a self-employed entrepreneur, coming from a family of smart, business savvy, self-employed entrepreneurs. My father is a gynecologist; my mother, an architect; and my two sisters – Arafa and Seluwa, owners of Selara Faces Make Up Studio and Spa in Nigeria. Living in New York has been an incredible experience so far.

Of all the industries to pursue, why skin care?

I founded Yamerra a few years after I graduated from Temple University with a degree in architecture. (Far off, huh?!) Although I enjoyed what I studied, it was not my passion. I have always been immersed in the world of beauty, skincare and haircare, and fashion, being a fashion model in the industry since I was 16.

I first got into mixing my own skincare and hair care products out of the need to improve my own skin and hair with affordable and natural raw materials. I discovered, after much research and testing other emollients, that shea butter is extremely restorative and healing for the hair and skin. Shea butter has many useful properties, among which are protective (incredible sunscreen properties) and emollient properties that are valued for skin and hair care. Shea butter has been a mainstay of African pharmacology for centuries. I decided to mix pure shea with essential oils and herbs to even enhance it more. I made it available for sale after four years of using it personally, and after it was used by friends and family.

As rich and nutrient packed as shea is, one of the reasons for including scent is that I did not enjoy the pure scent of shea, and started reading about and blending essential oils with the shea. I wanted to rejuvenate my skin and hair and also be left smelling delectable!

After a few years of solely using my own products, I was lucky enough to meet an incredible woman, a chemist who I have been working with ever since. She advised me to make sure herbs and essential oils did not clash to irritate the skin and hair; rather, to aid and restore it.

My steadfast project is to blend eco- and earth-friendly skincare and haircare with beauty and fashion. My primary goal is to promote earth-friendly ways to love and cherish the soul’s temple – our bodies. Yamerra achieves this by promoting the daily use of eco- and earth-friendly skincare and haircare products.

What makes your skin care line unique?

Yamerra is a self-created word that means “glorious.” It was essentially derived from client feedback that the product made them smell delicious and feel glorious. And it is a direct re-structure of my name, Maryam.

Yamerra is a one-hundred-percent organic skincare and hair care product line designed for the earth conscious and fashionable trendsetters. Yamerra is built on organic shea butter, which is infused with restorative herbs and essential oils to give the shea certain healing and rejuvenatory powers.

We offer an assortment of handmade organic products that fill the skin and hair care needs of a growing group of males and females, as well as children, and for all skin types. We have three product lines, a two-in-one hair and body butter, luxurious body soap, and a whipped body soufflé. They come in six, very unique varying scents: Lemon Fire Bliss Lemongrass, Sultry Mango, Home Sweet Home Honey Vanilla, Be Bodacious Tangerine Grape, Sensual Bliss Jasmine Sage, and In Spring Lusciousness Peach Peppermint.

Yamerra also carries a line for mothers-to-be, nursing mothers, and newborn babies (6-12 months), plus unique seasonal creations. Our ingredients, the herbal blends, the feel of the product, its scent-staying power, and its power to heal (each product restoring and providing a different function and serving a different purpose) is what makes Yamerra so unique and essential.

Where do you draw inspiration when creating a new product or scent?

My friends and family, great food and especially, my clientele. Yamerra is primarily designed with them in mind. I try to provide organic skincare that will nourish their hair and skin naturally, without any chemicals added to the products. It is also very important to me to also create and provide a product that is eco-friendly. The making of a new scent or product within the line is stimulated from new and better skincare and haircare herbal remedies, specific client requests and needs sometimes, and fresh, stimulating, nutrient-rich food. My food palette is extremely wide and sometimes I get inspired from the various types of food I have tried within different cultures.

What advice can you give other women who may have a small business idea?

I advise that women starting a small business to follow their hearts and stay true to their most original concepts. I must add that innovation, persistence, and determination to succeed in business must factor in. As long as these woman know what they want and go after it, stay punctual, organized, and run their company with integrity and an incredible smile (always), all will turn out well. Homer said, “And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.” This should be their marching theme as long as they want to succeed.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s no coincidence that I spend more time “in the kitchen” during the fall and winter months than I do in spring and summer. Something about the disappearing daylight not long after I arrive home from work makes for an ideal setting to roll up my sleeves, put on my PJs, and cook.

On Monday night, a simple homemade chicken noodle soup recipe was on the menu – due in large part to the chilly weather headed our way. It’s a recipe (no surprise) from my sister that I have learned to perfect over the years. While my attempts at artistic photography last night may have struck out, the soup most certainly did not. Grab your ingredients, warm up the stove, and get cozy. This soup is sublime.

You will need eight cups of chicken broth; two to three cups of uncooked broad egg noodles; one cup each, chopped, of carrots and celery; one cup of sliced mushrooms; one to two cups of boneless chicken breast, cubed; 1/4 cup vegetable oil; salt and pepper. (The Honeycrisp Apples are just a late-night snack.)

In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil on medium, and gently add the cubed chicken breast. Be careful, as the oil may splatter a bit. Keep the chicken moving until the outside turns white, making sure the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Toss in a little salt and pepper.

When the chicken has turned white, add the chicken broth, carrots, mushrooms, and celery. Bring to a slight boil, and add a few more dashes of salt and pepper.

Add the uncooked noodles and reduce the heat to medium for five to ten minutes; reduce the heat again to low and allow the soup to simmer.

When you absolutely cannot wait any longer, serve yourself (and those you love) a bowl of soup. (That lone orange carrot just beckoned me last night.) Trust me, the soup will immediately warm your soul, but it will taste even better the next day.

Store leftovers in smaller, separate containers in the fridge. Have a few extra cans of chicken broth on hand, as the noodles and veggies tend to soak up the broth overnight.

Soup’s on!

Perfect for Fall: Pizza Breads

Living in Nebraska, we are wonderfully blessed with the changing of seasons. Summer’s bright, hot skies and lush green trees are replaced with cooler days (and evenings), and the prettiest colors Mother Nature can create. There’s something very special about living in the Midwest and experiencing fall first-hand.

My sister moved from Nebraska to California nearly eight years ago and, sadly, doesn’t experience fall’s natural beauty and bounty. However, Katie does a fantastic job recreating fall in her tiny Anaheim kitchen with our mom’s signature Pizza Bread recipe.

I was inspired to make Pizza Breads this week after a recent Facebook posting by Katie, citing her preparations for a fall feast of her very own. The Pizza Breads are hearty and simple, warm and gooey, substantial and just plain delicious. Because of this, I just had to share the recipe and a few photos with you.

You’ll need two cans of tomato soup, onion powder (or one onion, diced), one pound of ground beef, a loaf of Italian or sourdough bread, and eight ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes. (A few additions you may toss in for extra goodness include one can of black olives, drained and chopped; and one can of sliced mushrooms, drained.)

Brown the ground beef along with the onion powder or diced onion until cooked completely. Drain the excess fat, and set aside in a large mixing bowl to cool.

Once the meat/onion mix is cool, carefully add the two cans of tomato soup, followed by the cheese cubes, and the optional black olives and/or mushrooms.

Before scooping the mixture on bread, I suggest broiling one side of the bread for a few minutes, allowing the bread to toast lightly – but be careful not to burn the bread. This will allow for a more solid base for the Pizza Bread mixture.

Scoop small spoonfuls of the delicious concoction onto the lightly toasted bread. Broil the Pizza Breads in your oven, keeping the oven door ajar to watch them closely. It only takes a few minutes for the cheese cubes to melt, the ground beef to warm, and the bread to toast just a tad more.

Browse Facebook while you wait.

Serve! This batch had a few burned edges, but still tasted scrumptious. (Perhaps I should put down the iPad while making dinner.)

A clean plate (and a full, satisfied belly) are all that remain. Happy eating, and happy fall!

Why I Bought an iPad

During the same week Nerdy Thirty is made available for the iPad, Kindle, and other e-readers, it seems only appropriate that I also share my love of all things Apple. This essay also marks the 1,500th blog post on Do I dare/Disturb the universe?, which launched September 7, 2003.  – W.T.

My passionate love affair with Apple Computer, company CEO Steve Jobs, and all things Apple began my freshman year of college. While working toward a journalism degree at UNO, I also spent a considerable number of hours each week at The Gateway, our bi-weekly student newspaper. The newspaper hit campus newsstands on Tuesdays and Fridays each week, meaning Sunday and Wednesday afternoons and evenings were spent writing, editing, and laying out the newspaper until the wee hours of the morning.

All of this work was accomplished on the Macintosh computers sprinkled about our large office in the Milo Bail Student Center. We had older Macs and somewhat-newer Macs in our managers’ offices, in the newsroom where us lowly reporters hammered out story after story, and in the darkroom, which truly was the coolest place in The Gateway office. The advent of digital photography means darkrooms are no longer needed; and sadly, this piece of newspaper life has become history not only at UNO, but in newsrooms across the country. The oversized stereos lived in the darkroom, which meant our photographers decided what music we (they) would listen to on production nights twice a week. Classic rock was the rule – not the exception. And I truly believe my love of classic rock was born during those late nights at The Gateway.

But back to the Macintosh.

It was on those oversized Macintosh desktop machines running now-dated operating systems that I not only discovered my love of all things Apple, but my love of writing. Those computers gave me continuous opportunities to put my thoughts to “paper,” turning my interviews, observations, and experiences into articles that people read. It was an amazing and exhilarating experience I consider myself blessed to have had. So long as I kept my college classes somewhat of a priority, I could pour all of my heart and soul and energy into the one thing I discovered that I loved most: writing.

Which explains why, many years later, I lifted my shirt and lowered my skirt and paid $50 for the Apple logo to be tattooed on my lower abdomen. Many friends who learned of the tattoo chalked my gesture up to nothing short of fanaticism or even (humorous) insanity. True, I loved Apple and the Macintosh; but I also loved what the company and platform gave me: my voice as a writer.

Since my Gateway days at UNO I have exclusively owned only Macintosh laptop computers, and later added a sundry of iPods and an iPhone to my Apple family. I even waited five hours in line when Omaha’s Apple Store opened at Village Pointe in 2006. That, too, was a magical experience.

When Apple announced its first-generation iPhone in 2007, I was immediately smitten. I also was one of the many million poor saps who plunked down $500 for an iPhone. (I say poor saps because Apple announced, months later, that it was considerably slashing the price of its iPhone.) Unfair, for sure, but I paid the price us early-adopters pay: we shell out the money to touch and hold and own and experience this new piece of hardware.

Which brings me to the iPad.

Rumors have been circulating on the Internet for many years that Apple was working on a tablet-like device. With a MacBook and iPhone, I followed the conversation threads, but didn’t fancy myself someone who would actually buy this new device.

Then I saw it. Cradled in Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ well-manicured and bony hands was a thing of true technological prowess and beauty. It was called the iPad and it essentially looked like an oversized version of the iPhone I had carried for three years. The display was gorgeous, the functionality was intuitive, and the price was EXACTLY what I paid for my first iPhone.

Did I need an iPad? Of course not.

Did I want an iPad? Absolutely.

But I held out. I clenched my fists and fought every damn urge to wait in line at Omaha’s Apple Store the day this past summer they went on sale. I watched the local and national media coverage of folks who looked a lot like me, emerging from Apple Stores in cities large and small proudly suspending their new iPads in the air – akin to the manner in which Rafiki presented a newborn baby Simba in “The Lion King.” I fielded a flurry of text messages, tweets, and Facebook wall postings from folks wondering if I, too, picked up my iPad.

No, I decided to wait. I was still slightly stewing over Apple’s decision to drop the price of the iPhone and told myself the same thing could very well happen with the iPad.

iPad with on display keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

While the price remained the same, I lusted after and longed for my own iPad from afar. I never went to see one in person, knowing all too well that I would walk out of the store with one, even though I couldn’t afford it. I got peppered with questions from family and friends about the iPad and, in most cases, couldn’t provide any answers to their inquiries.

“Have you seen one?” “What do you think of the display?” “What’s your favorite iPad app?” “What’s the battery life like?”

Summer passed and I encountered more iPads than I care to mention. That’s when I started saving my pennies. When a November trip to visit my sister in California fell through last week, I knew the extra money I set aside for a plane ticket would fund my new iPad.

My sister’s phone call about postponing my trip arrived around 7 p.m. on a Tuesday night. By 6 p.m. the next night – less than twenty-four hours since Katie’s call – I was walking out of the Apple Store with an iPad in hand, grinning like an idiot.

“I take back everything I said about you being normal and stable!” my sister said jokingly (I think) via text message when I told her about the iPad. “Enjoy your new toy, you crack addict.”

I meant to text her back with, “That’s Mac addict,” but I was distracted for the next seven hours playing with my new iPad. It was like Christmas Eve, carefully opening the packaging and installing app after app on my iPad. I awoke the next morning at 5 a.m., still buzzing from the Apple-induced adrenaline, and played with the iPad for another two hours.

It has now been six days since I bought my iPad, and I don’t regret the decision one bit. I still use my MacBook, iPhone and iPods (yes, I own three); but the iPad has quickly found its niche in my weird little world that revolves not around the sun, but an Apple.

[Originally written for the All Around Townley blog for Q98-Five.]

Thought for Today

First FM, Now AM

Let me begin by saying the past several months have been nothing short of a whirlwind with regard to the buzz surrounding Nerdy Thirty. As the book became reality, I knew I wanted friends and family to read it and enjoy it. If a few business associates and contacts on Facebook and Twitter picked up the book, all the better. But what has happened since the book’s publication back in May has been nothing short of surprising, overwhelming, and tremendously humbling. The release of Nerdy Thirty opened many doors for me, including speaking engagements, regular writing gigs, and a bi-weekly appearance on The Pat and JT Show every other Friday morning on Q98-Five. (Talk about fun!)

My boyfriend, Matt, has worked in radio for as long as we have been together, and I’ve admired his work from afar. What peeks I’ve received on the periphery have been intriguing, and I count myself lucky to be with someone so creative and entertaining. Matt has given me many pointers – whether he has known it or not – about how to be engaging while on the air. I think I’m a better on-air personality on Q98-Five due in large part to Matt, which leads me to this very exciting announcement.

Saturday, October 9 will mark my debut as a co-host on The Weekly Grind, a weekly radio program for Omaha’s young professionals. The Weekly Grind airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KOIL (1180 AM) in Omaha, and is streamed online. The hour-long program has been on the air for more than year now, and is the brainchild of hosts Mike Shearer and Bryan Mohr. The Weekly Grind was my very first radio interview in early May when Nerdy Thirty rolled off the presses.

Recent staff changes created an opening on The Weekly Grind, and I’m delighted to be the show’s first female co-host. The Weekly Grind will continue to discuss topics impacting Omaha’s thriving young professional community. I’m excited to interview a variety of guests in the coming weeks and weigh-in on local issues that matter to the city’s young professionals, of which, at 31, I’m proud to be a member.

I hope you’ll tune in every now and again, and even call the show when you have something to say. The Weekly Grind will continue the conversation on Twitter and Facebook, too. And I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to suggest topics or guests for the show. Send me a email ( with your ideas. The show is only as good as the content we produce and the audience we reach.

I can’t thank Mike and Bryan enough for this exciting opportunity. Since starting my gig on Q98-Five, I have found a home on the air that feels quite comfortable and natural. Having another creative outlet on the radio will only help refine my skills, and may even provide fodder for more essays. Rest assured, I will never stop writing, regardless of how many new opportunities come my way.

To everyone who has been so supportive during the past few months, I thank you. The encouragement and well wishes have been greatly appreciated and have made the experience of publishing my first book all the more gratifying and worthwhile.

And now, on with the show!

They Brought A Couch

Des Moines, Iowa, is an uneventful and rather peaceful two-hour, eastward drive from Omaha, Nebraska. I found myself making the commute last month following an invitation to speak to members of Social Media Club Des Moines – also known lovingly as SMCDSM. (Quite clever, if you ask me.) Buzz from Nerdy Thirty arrived in Des Moines by way of Josh Fleming of Ad Mavericks fame, and a flurry of emails followed, making our discussions reality.

Buzz began on Twitter a few weeks before my scheduled speaking gig at The Machine Shed, a kitschy and sprawling “down home” restaurant and gift shop that serves lunch portions the size of most families’ Sunday dinners. As the online chatter continued, a particular tweet caught my attention. Folks from Strategic America, a Des Moines-based marketing agency, would load up their thirty-year-old leather couch and bring it to the SMCDSM event.

I’m not joking.

You can imagine my delight when I arrived at The Machine Shed to see the couch I only saw in tiny Twitter pictures, alive and well and ready for some company. I mean, the couch – aptly named The Chesterfield – is not only on Twitter, but it has its own blog, for goodness sake. This couch has some personality, and several SMCDSM guests got cozy on the couch (and snapped a few photos) before my presentation.

My talk focused on social media marketing and traditional media relations for the promotion of Nerdy Thirty. The group of fifty-plus people laughed at my jokes (bless their hearts) and asked some intriguing questions. The SMCDSM board and those who attended the event were nothing short of friendly and welcoming, and I thank them for their hospitality and good will. Everyone felt like fast friends, many of whom offered the most sincere compliments after my presentation.

Just one question remains, however: When can I come back?

Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes

Footloose (1984 film)

Image via Wikipedia

It seems only appropriate that I mention “Sunday shoes” in a blog post I’m actually writing on a Sunday afternoon. It hails from the theme song of “Footloose,” the 1984 film featuring a baby-faced Kevin Bacon with music, fashion, and dialogue from that time and place in rural America.

The recognizable song by Kenny Loggins also welcomes audiences as the curtain rises on “Footloose, The Musical,” on stage now through Sunday, October 17 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. My toes tapped while watching the production Thursday night, and the songs remained in my head long after the final round of applause echoed through the midtown Omaha theatre at 69th and Cass Streets.

I will be the first to admit that most musicals are lost on me. I find great connection and even greater entertainment in more “real life” stories and scenarios, where the only music plays lightly in the background. However, the opening minutes of “Footloose, The Musical” changed my mind completely. The passion and talent by this year’s cast was breathtaking and energetic. The dance moves and songs put forth on stage were engrossing and highly entertaining.

The actors – young and old alike – were unquestionably dedicated to their craft, and paid an homage to the original film that audiences will most certainly recognize and enjoy. Some scenes from the film were eliminated or slightly edited, but the core theme remains and is presented in a way that audiences can’t help but fall in love with those on stage.

That “breathless” feeling culminates at the end of the night, as the actors greeted attendees just minutes after performing the night’s final number. They were still in costume, still all smiles, and completely out of breath. Their eyes and faces and smiles offer sublime appreciation for those who watched their two-hour journey, and offer even further evidence of the beauty and importance of community theatre.

Nebraska’s Stormy Summer Skies

These untouched, unedited photos were taken a few hours ago from my front porch in Omaha. My camera was thankfully within reach as the storm clouds rolled west to east at a very brisk pace. It truly was the calm before the storm.

Higher-res storm images have been uploaded to my Flickr account.

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