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Braving Tornado Season for Warmer Waffles

4 Nov

Faces and personalities are my favorite part of traveling.  The take-off makes my stomach drop and sitting in a middle seat while a stranger tries to land a 14-ton machine that’s barreling toward a concrete runway at an obscene speed hasn’t really done much for my nerves over the years.  Airports are usually the same: you check in, you take off your shoes, you put your shoes back on, you sometimes get patted down for looking at a security guard the wrong way (I try to avoid eye contact), and then you’re off to board and start that whole 14-ton machine/obscene speeds thing.

But don’t get me wrong when I say I love people while traveling – I would not classify myself as a “chatty” seatmate.  While I’m open to a mid-flight convo, I’ve learned there’s a big difference between plane-mates when taking a vacation flight to Jamaica versus riding a 6:00 a.m. mid-week business class flight into San Francisco.  One features passengers pulling 4 oz. flasks of coconut rum from their carry-on bag (and offering you a swig) while the other has a sea of laptops and Wall Street Journals blocking your view of the nearest exit.  One is chatty and one is not.  I’ll let you guess which is which.

In most cases, the best personalities while traveling tend to unfold after landing – when you’ve stepped off the crowded plane and out the sliding airport doors.A co-worker and I boarded a plane to Tennessee last week for two events that I was excited and proud to be a part of.  Our client, Avery Dennison, pledged $10,000 of school supplies to fifteen publically chosen schools-in-need across the nation.  Two of the schools receiving donations are located in small communities in Tennessee, each boasting less than 15,000 people.  My co-worker and I were warmly welcomed into each elementary school gymnasium for the heart felt presentations.Gloria and I had never experienced southern hospitality until we arrived in these little towns.  After flying and driving through tornado weather to our first destination in Manchester (14 tornados were spotted that day), we stopped at a local Waffle House for a late dinner.  It was the waitress’ last night working at the Waffle House and she introduced us to her son and husband, then spent our entire meal chatting with us about her life and home in Tennessee while we ate waffles and drank chocolate milk at the counter of the well-worn diner.  Leaving the restaurant was like saying goodbye and good luck to an old friend.  We realized after that first night that the friendly persona of Tennessee was just warming up for us.

We stayed in three cities over three nights and fell in love with the open honesty we received from people we’d never met.  The school principals were tremendously accommodating , students filled an entire gift bag with letters and crayon-drawn pictures of appreciation for the donation, and hugs or high-fives from students, parents and staff were literally around every corner.  Hotel workers told stories about their families to enrich their restaurant recommendations and we had a fabulous time with the locals from Nashville on our last night there.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, yes, even the drivers on our multiple mini-road trips made hours of driving a cakewalk.

The cultural flavor that defines neighborhoods, cities, and even states is what I believe makes traveling such an international passion.  With its incredible rolling hills and stunning hilltop estates, Tennessee is a beautiful state, especially this time of  year, but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the memorable citizens we met along the way.  And, like most travel-bug infected souls, it’s always the personality of a place that makes me actually want to brave the skies for another round local hospitality, wherever I may land.

– Anna Gamel

Things We Love: What is it about TARGET?

22 Jul

For me, shopping is a get-in and get-out kind of experience.  Grocery shopping is a mad dash through the isles, rarely venturing down any isle aisle that is not necessary and total aggravation when someone is taking too long choosing what flavor of yogurt to buy (patience is not my strong suit).  I avoid Costco at hours when samples are out, causing otherwise rational people to completely lose their minds scrambling to taste “new and improved organic bacon bits” as though it is the last bit of food they will ever consume.

Discount stores are, for savvy shoppers like my mother and five-year old daughter, absolute heaven.  One step through the door causes me to completely panic.  Yes, I’ve actually abandoned my cart (full of “great deals”) and run from the store gasping for air.  Total chaos and I do not get along.  For clothes shopping, I avoid large department stores as well, not because they are not organized, but because the vastness of space and options thoroughly overwhelms me.Despite my severe aversion to shopping, there is one store that I find myself fighting the urge to spend hours perusing – TARGET.  There is something very therapeutic about walking into TARGET (without my children to incessantly ask for something new), grabbing a red cart, and aimlessly wandering through the aisles – just waiting for the perfect item to speak to me.  After all, you don’t know what you really need until you see it on a shelf at TARGET, right?    So, what is it about TARGET?!

I’ve narrowed it down to the top five things that TARGET hits the bulls-eye:

  1. Just the right size. TARGET is just big enough to hold everything my heart may desire, but not so large that I become lost while venturing from shoes to home decor.
  2. Fun merchandise. Whether it is clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, or patio furniture, there is always an element of fun.  Fun colors.  Fun shapes.  Fun sizes.  Fun textures.  All making every-day items like plastic spatulas a must-have.  Just think how much more FUN it will be to flip pancakes with a lime green spatula rather than a plain-old black one…
  3. Variety, presentation, and organization. As I mentioned before, I have an extreme aversion to chaos in the aisles.  While TARGET carries a wide variety of products, I know that when I venture into men’s clothes, that is what I am going to find there.  I will not find random things like toothpaste and baby rattles stacked amongst the t-shirts.  Even the clearance racks, while a bit chaotic, are at least for the most part, organized by size.  And, no matter what TARGET I choose to visit, I pretty much know where to find the items I’m looking for, even if I’ve never been into that particular store.
  4. Not too many crazies. Never have I wandered through TARGET and wondered if I’ve accidentally entered some alternate universe where everyone dresses in pajamas, rarely bathes, and finds it acceptable to dress their screaming, foul-mouthed four-year old in nothing but a diaper. Really.  Where do these people come from?  TARGET must have some kind of anti-crazy aura about it that keeps these folks at bay – thank you, TARGET!
  5. Price. I’m listing price last, because, while it important for me, I would rather buy something full price than get into a fistfight over a must-have toy with some women at a pre-Christmas sale.  I’ve found that TARGET offers items at a reasonable price, whether on sale or not.   And, for the price, quality is at or above what I would expect.

So, there you have it. The five things that makes shopping at TARGET an enjoyable experience rather than a horrifying one!

– Jenn Connor

National Campaigns: Big Risk Can Equal Even Bigger Gain

19 Jul

One of the most rewarding moments in public relations is when the hours of account work, numerous calls and emails behind the scenes, and countless early mornings spent with a triple shot Americano payoff. When everything finally goes public and your client’s campaign is a success, there truly is no better feeling in the world of PR…

(Warning: What follows is not an advertisement, but may blur the editorial guidelines a bit. What can I say, I’m biased.)

Avery Dennison started in the middle of the Great Depression when young entrepreneur Stan Avery manufactured the world’s first self-adhesive labels in a tiny loft in Los Angeles. Seventy-five years later, the international brand is celebrating a milestone anniversary with the Give Back to Schools charity initiative. Giving back to those communities that made its success possible, Avery Dennison launched a program in the beginning of July with an online contest offering ten deserving U.S. schools the opportunity to win approximately $10,000 of premium Avery-brand school supplies.

Now, less than a month later they have created public buzz by generating stellar media hits and successfully pushing out the program through state education departments, industry outlets and social media forums. Going from a trade-only PR approach to a national consumer campaign is no easy feat and with a little help from a team of experienced publicists, their contest has gone wide with over 90,000 votes, and 268,000 page views just since the site launch (and these numbers have been tripling each week)!

The contest, scheduled to run through August 31 involves everyone from teachers and school representatives to parents and students, allowing you to vote online at Avery Dennison’s Give Back to Schools site . (You’ll have to excuse the blatant plug for my client, but after weeks of eating, sleeping and breathing Avery you can’t blame me for a little partiality). So pick your favorite school and vote to win them some valuable loot!

– Samantha O’Lea