Kandi's Korner - Blog

Four Ways Facebook Could Improve Its Relationships

September 22nd, 2011

In the midst of people upset over Facebook’s sudden interface changes and others saying these people just can’t deal with change, I have come up with four methods Facebook could have used (and should use in the future) to improve its relationships with its audiences.

1. Announce changes in advance – if I remember correctly, Twitter announced changes to its interface in advance of rolling out the new interface. They also transitioned groups of users instead of all users at once. Facebook could have easily plugged in an overview of its coming changes a week ago to give people time to look it over and get used to the coming changes. Surprise isn’t always a good thing.

2. Provide users the option to use the native interface – again I must use Twitter as the example. While Twitter did eventually phase out the ability to use the native interface, they gave users about a year to get used to the new interface with the capability to switch back and forth.

3. Provide users the ability to turn off the scroll bar – maybe I’m just missing this feature, but I think if Facebook provided users the ability to turn off the scroll bar, people would appreciate the flexibility to customize their Facebook experience.

4. Be original – I think the biggest issue Facebook needs to address is that it is trying to provide users an experience just like using Google+. The problem with this is that we already have a Google+. Rather than trying to differentiate its brand from Google’s platform and sending a message that people should use both platforms, Facebook is positioning itself as competition to Google+. I think this is a mistake. I don’t think the two platforms are in competition at this point. There are many people not yet ready to add a new social media to the mix and they are sticking with Facebook because that’s where they are comfortable and that’s where their friends are. Also, did Facebook not read the messages that some find Google+ and its circles confusing? This alone leads me to not understand Facebook’s actions. I have been curious – do any of the social platforms use focus groups for research? Regardless, now would be the time for Facebook to show itself as different from Google+, not more of the same. And unfortunately, the changes have made many people uncomfortable with Facebook, giving them more of a reason to switch platforms.

While I’m at it, I must admit, Google+has its own problem – it has no identity yet. Twitter and Facebook have distinct characteristics, both in how they are used and why people use them. For me, I use Twitter for more of a professional profile and Facebook for more of an intimate profile. My problem with Google+ is though I love all its features, I don’t really identify with it yet. I’m not sure what to say on there. I think part of the problem is that I don’t know enough people on Google+ yet, and the people who are in my circles are not yet posting. Although I’m pretty good at talking to myself, I have to say it’s not much fun. I mean, who wants to go to the club and be the only one dancing?

While I’m at it, I have to say a little something about the folks on Google+ who seem to emote a sense of superiority over Facebook users who “don’t understand circles.” I’m pretty sure the point of social media is to be inclusive, not exclusive. Am I wrong – does Google+ have an identity, one that most people want to avoid?

What do you think about Facebook’s changes? What are your thoughts on Google+?

Kandi’s PR Winner of the Week: McDonald’s

August 9th, 2011

I haven’t celebrated a PR Winner of the Week in several, several weeks, but this story could not go unnoticed. In fact, if you had told me this brand would be one of my PR winners, well, I wouldn’t have predicted that. But, congratulations to McDonald’s in Oklahoma, owned by Tim Rich and his wife.

I heard the story on K-LOVE, a national Christian radio station. A McDonald’s owned by Tim Rich is closed for renovations. This happens often, and typically employees either find new jobs or go without pay while the business is closed. However, Rich and his wife came up with a better plan. The Riches set aside $120,000 and told employees they would continue to be paid if they gave back to their community. Read more from CNBC.

I’ve got to say it. I’m not a fan of McDonald’s. Not because I think the brand brainwashes me and my children and makes us overweight. Actually, I tend to think I’m in control of what I eat and I also teach my children to make healthy eating choices. In fact, I think my daughter has been to McDonald’s fewer than five times and she’s turning three this month. She has never asked me to take her to McDonald’s. That being said, I don’t typically choose McDonald’s because I think their food is mostly unhealthy and I don’t feel very good after I eat it. To be fair, we don’t eat much fast food at all. (So when we do, french fries and sweet tea are a must-have treat.)

While it’s hard to advertise McDonald’s to me (i.e. get me to purchase its food), it is still possible for McDonald’s to use PR techniques on me (i.e. get me to have a relationship with its brand.) You see, while I may not choose its food, I do choose its play areas. McDonald’s restaurants make excellent rest stops when traveling with children. So, the brand does win in getting me to think positively about it.

And to the Riches and their McDonald’s in Oklahoma, congratulations, you are my PR Winner of the Week. Since hearing your story, I’ve been thinking maybe I should use paid time off to volunteer each year. After saving my vacation and sick days for two maternity leaves, I feel like I have an abundance of time available to me, and now I am praying how I may put it to good use. Have you ever noticed you can’t spell Good without God? I just noticed that.

What volunteer opportunities would you pursue in your community using paid time off?

A Few Words on Wordiness

July 25th, 2011

As a news writer, I embrace the concept of stating your message as concisely as possible. As a creative writer, I also love to wrap myself in imagery. Maybe I am wrong, but I get the feeling most people familiar with news writing think creative writing by its nature is wordy.

If that’s what you think, then I disagree. Whether writing for news sources or recreational sources, your goal should be to get your message across without using redundant words, not necessarily to cut useful information for the sake of word count. Superfluity is where writing goes wrong, and it happens in all genres.

For example, I just read a sentence that says, “… 88 presenters from 20 different departments at …” Did you catch it?

I’ll give you a hint. I re-wrote the sentence to say, “… 88 presenters from 20 departments at …”

To be clear, yes, these were 20 departments within the same institution. Therefore, telling your audience the departments are different is unnecessary and verbose.

(I badly wanted to say “completely unnecessary,” but then I would be missing my point.)

My best tips for avoiding wordiness:

Read your draft multiple times.

Read it out loud. (Sure, you may feel silly talking to yourself, but reading aloud is a good skill to practice.)

Don’t just use a phrase because it’s common or comfortable.  Make each word serve a purpose.

What examples of wordiness have you come across?


There’s More than You and I: A Common Grammar Mistake

June 29th, 2011

When I was in eighth grade, I would often say to my algebra teacher, “Can me and Kim …” I don’t remember the various things I would ask for, but I do remember her response was always, “Who?” And I would repeat the question, except I would say, “May Kim and I …” I am still amused that one of my greatest grammar lessons came from my math teacher.

Apparently I am not the only one who was repeatedly taught to say “and I” as opposed to “and me.” It’s an important lesson in subject pronouns. However, I have also noticed that people misunderstand the concept and say “and I” in all uses when there actually are appropriate times to say “and me.” While I commend people for trying, this is certainly one of the most common grammar mistakes I read and hear, and I’m hoping I can help teach the concept.

The pronoun “I” should be used when you are referring to yourself as the subject of the sentence. The subject (or subjects) is the person doing something in the sentence (yes, I’m going remedial here.)

The pronoun “me” should be used when you are referring to yourself as the direct object in the predicate of the sentence. The predicate of the sentence is the verb and pretty much any other parts that are not the subject. The direct object is the thing or person the verb is acting upon. The subject is the one doing something. The direct object is the one to whom (another grammar lesson for another time) something is done. Although it really does boil down to who versus whom.

Now, maybe you’re still scratching your head and saying, “Huh? You lost me at predicate.” So, here’s a very simple way to help you know if you should use “I” versus “me” when referring to yourself and someone else. Pretend you are only talking about yourself and say the sentence only using “I” or “me.” I rarely hear those misused when being said alone. If you know the sentence should use “I” when you are talking about just you, the sentence would also use “I” when talking about you and someone else. And if you would say “me” in the sentence, then it’s not only ok but it is also correct to say “and me.”

Here are some examples:

Kim and I are going to the movies.

At the movies, Kim and I ate popcorn and candy.

On our way to the movies, at the redlight, Kim and I stopped.

The movie was scary to me and Kim.

On the way out, the door hit me and Kim in the rear.

People laughed at me and Kim.

Well, even if the concept is lost, hopefully you’re at least laughing.

End This EMail

June 16th, 2011

I was typing an email this morning to my husband’s cousin, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to end it. As one of my favorite people in the whole world and someone in my extended family, I do love her. But closing an email with “love” doesn’t seem to be something my husband’s family uses often (or ever?) So, while with my family I would normally say “Love” or something similar, I wasn’t exactly sure how to end it. But I knew it had to be something stellar. After all, she sent me some snail mail recently addressed to, “The Fabulous, Beautiful Kandi.”

So my question is, what are some good (energetic) ways to close an email? Google has some suggestions.

“Websearcher” definitely had some great suggestions, especially for the professional world. I find “Best Regards” (and my friend @VanaeShope agreed) to be a favorite for business emails, especially ones sent to international clients. It’s fairly neutral, and I always try to be wary of how things will be taken by other cultures. And most often, I use “Thank you” in business emails.

But back to my dilemma this morning. How did I solve it? I went with “YOU are the beautiful, fabulous one!” She truly is.

What unique phrases do you use to close your emails?

JoPhoto Can Shoot Me Anytime

June 14th, 2011

My big boy is only four months old! (Photo on JoPhoto blog.)

My husband, children and I met up with JoPhoto at the Worlds Fair Park in Knoxville for a family photo shoot. While I am about to give a rave review for JoPhoto, I also want to point out some tips that might help you on a photo shoot no matter who your photographer is – or even in just selecting a photographer. As someone who is interested in photography and whose aunt and cousin did family and wedding photography a short time ago, hopefully I have some useful insight.

JoPhoto is a husband and wife team, recently married, who we are close friends with. Kathleen and I go back as far as high school friends. But friendship is not the only reason why we wanted to do a photo shoot with Kathleen and Joe. I like their photography and their prices are really good.

Here’s a review I wrote on the JoPhoto Facebook page:

I could rave for hours about how much I love our family pictures by JoPhoto. I always think of getting pictures made as a stressful thing, but we had a blast on this photo shoot. Scheduling was super easy even though it’s wedding season, and Kathleen answered all my questions. At the shoot, I could tell Joe was completely at ease with his equipment and it shows through our beautiful pictures. And I can’t say enough about how great it was to have Kathleen there to help guide us. I think all of the photos captured our personalities perfectly. There was hardly any posing. It was more like having play time with a photographer there to capture a great family moment. Some of my favorite pictures are the ones Joe caught during those “in between” moments. With JoPhoto, you definitely get more than you pay for. I can’t wait to do it again!

Based on my experience with JoPhoto, here are my tips:

1. Find a photographer who’s easy to communicate with. I want to again point out that I contacted them to do a family shoot during wedding season – and not just any wedding season, they were also getting married. And scheduling (and then rescheduling due to weather) was no sweat. Also, Kathleen answered all of my questions, such as “Will mineral make-up cause my face to wash out?” (The answer: no!) She also gave me tips on what not to wear. And while this didn’t fully come into play for us because we already knew Joe and Kathleen, communication is also super important so the photographer can get to know you and have an idea of what you want to get out of the photo shoot.

2. Find a photographer whose photography style you like. At the end of the day, photography is still art and the beauty is still in the eye of the camera holder. If you choose a photographer solely based on price/package, you may walk away disappointed.

3. Find a photographer who has the right amount of experience. My dad was a magician when I was a little girl, and after seeing him do his tricks so often, I started to see the “tricks.” I would also suggest that since I’ve recently become a photography addict, I would have thought I would notice Joe do lens changes or something similar. But I didn’t notice any interruptions at all for Joe to “fiddle” with his camera equipment. He was completely at ease using his camera (as opposed to photographers I’ve seen who spend more time looking at their histograms and settings than they do taking photos.)

4. Have some ideas of what you want at the photo shoot. This partially relates to number 3. Photographers with a decent amount of experience will be able to guide you in their vision for photos. But I have seen photographers who are asking “well, how do you want to pose?” So, with that in mind, I went to the shoot with a few ideas and a few props – things that were “us” because that’s what I wanted out of the photos, pictures that really showed off our personalities.

5. I suggest a photographer who has an assistant. This relates to numbers 3 and 4. While I came to the shoot with some ideas, having Kathleen there was amazing because she also had some ideas and helped us keep moving. She was able to think ahead while Joe was snapping away. And she probably would have been great at holding the reflector … if my daughter hadn’t been dancing on it!

And my last comment – all of the things I mentioned above typically relate to paying higher prices, which for me is ok. I’d rather walk away with a few amazing photos with wow factor than a disc full of photos that are good. Which is why I’m going to say photography companies like JoPhoto are a crazy-amazing value. I now have a disc with many wow-factor photos (and printing rights) that I would definitely be willing to pay more for.

A Picture Is Only As Good As Your Printer

May 24th, 2011

Who knew printing photos could be so complicated? Not me, until Christmas 2009. I used Walgreens Web site to create a Christmas card using a photo I had taken of my sweet one-year-old daughter. I made a few adjustments to the photo in Photoshop and off the card went for printing. When I picked up my prints, I was appalled. My daughter’s beautiful golden red hair looked about like orange juice. Thankfully Walgreens Photo Center has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so I desaturated the red in my photo and they printed my improved card. But what was my lesson?

Calibrate. I learned computer monitors need to be calibrated to match printers to get reliable results. Um, ok, how do you do this? Well, I started by purchasing a Spyder 3 Pro from Datacolor to calibrate my computer monitor. This calibration tool is super easy to use and definitely improved the quality of my photo editing. But it wasn’t enough. I kept finding over and over that I was not 100% satisfied with Walgreens prints no matter how many times they reprinted for me. I could send the same photo file to two different Walgreens and get two different results. Every time I had a photo printed, I kept thinking, I need to find a new photo lab.  But I also knew I needed to somehow calibrate my monitor to the lab’s printer. But how?

In all of my research to find a new photo lab, I did discover part of my dissatisfaction with photo prints may be a result of Photoshop. Apparently most photo printers need your color settings to be sRGB, and my settings were embedding an Adobe 1998 color setting that tends to lead to gray and muted photos.

Shop around. So, my husband and I decided to do a little testing. First, with my camera set to save photos in sRGB, we sent a photo straight from the camera to Walgreens. We then sent the same photo opened in Photoshop and saved with the Adobe 1998 color profile to Walgreens for printing. And last, we sent the same photo opened in Photoshop and saved in sRGB with a small amount of editing to Walgreens for printing. While the last picture turned out the closest to what we expected (the first two were on the gray side), we still thought we could do better.

I then sent the same three photos to a local photo printer, Fleetwood Photo, for testing. While their prices are a bit higher than Walgreens, the results were also extremely good. For one, Fleetwood Photo does color correction. When I went in to pick up my photos, the very nice employee was able to tell me that the photos had each had a small amount of yellow taken out of them. They looked great. Of course, I was warned not to do heavy editing in Photoshop because my monitor is likely not calibrated to their printer. Hmm, where had I heard that before? So, the question remained, how can I calibrate my monitor to a photo lab’s printer?

Well, the third photo printing vendor in our test is MPix. While their prices are as good as or better than Walgreens, they are mail order only, so I also have to pay shipping costs. Which means I also can’t get my prints in about an hour. (I was able to get them in about an hour with Fleetwood.) Well, I sent MPix my same three images yesterday around noon and I got an email last night saying they had shipped. While I’m still waiting to receive those photos, here’s what I can tell you. One, MPix also does color correction on their photos. I will be curious to see how similar their prints are to the ones from Fleetwood Photo. Two, I found that MPix offers a calibration kit. Basically, they send you an image on a disc and a printout of the image. You open the image on your computer and then you calibrate your monitor to look like the printed image. Pretty cool. I ordered it today. I can also tell you that my aunt, an ex-professional photographer, used to use MPix’s “pro” site for ordering photos, and her prints were always beautiful, so I expect to be extremely happy with my MPix prints.

So, where does this leave me? Well, I have a feeling I will print through both MPix and Fleetwood Photo depending on my printing needs. I can definitely say I’ve learned a lot through this process. But … I’m wondering if Fleetwood Photo would let me come in and shadow one day. I would like to learn if their color correction process is automated by the printer or something they manually do with each photo. Surely it’s automated. Either way, I think a day shadowing could teach me even more about printing processes and hopefully improve my photography and photo editing processes, too.

UPDATE: The photos from Mpix were received and the prints are amazing. Their color correction created a slightly different print than Fleetwood Photo’s. In all instances I preferred the prints from Mpix, but my husband preferred Fleetwood Photo on one of the prints. Overall, if we can wait the shipping time, we plan to print through Mpix.

What tips do you have for photo calibration and/or printing?

Will Pay for Good Theme

May 10th, 2011

I am currently searching for a WordPress theme for my new blogazine, KandiKreatives Mag. Even though there are several free ones out there, through a little research, I’ve decided to buy one. Sure, I could take the time to customize my own theme, but face it, I’m a busy working mom trying to run two blogs. Who has time for extras right now? But why pay money for something I could get for free? Because programming takes time and I want to use one that is done well and will save me time in the long run. From what I’ve read, the freebies often are less user friendly and require more manual manipulation on the back end. So far I’ve seen themes as cheap as $10 and as much as $50, but I haven’t found anything that fits just right yet.

So, how will I make KandiKreatives Mag “Pieces of Me” me by using a pre-packaged theme? Easy … sort of. First, I’ll customize my design. I already have a “look” in mind, and hopefully I won’t complicate it too badly. Second, my blogazine will be uniquely me through my content. Afterall, that’s what “Pieces of Me” is really all about.

KandiKreatives Mag Is Here!

May 3rd, 2011

It’s official – KandiKreatives Mag “Pieces of Me” is now in print … if you consider a blogazine “in print.” In the very least, it is no longer a dream. I still have plenty of work to do to really get it going such as styling it, but I decided in this case it may be best to work backwards – just do it! Then worry about how it looks.

The point is number one on my list of ways to amp up my writing is now in the works. I’m hoping it will also help keep me in practice with another hobby of mine: photography. Afterall, what would a blogazine be without pictures?

And since I am a natural-born cheerleader and everyone needs a little encouragement (especially from themselves!), it’s time for one of my favorite cheers (learned while playing a slot machine at Harrah’s in Cherokee): Go Kandi, go! Go Kandi, go! Go Kandi, Go Kandi, Go Kandi, GO!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011: The day a dream becomes reality.

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

April 29th, 2011

Eight months have passed since my last blog post? What happened? Several things: lack of passion, lack of focus, and lack of time because I had a baby. Maybe it would be better to say my priorities temporarily changed. Thanks to my friend @VanaeShope, I was reminded that some people do enjoy my writing and maybe I should get back to it. So, what’s next?

For starters, I hope to launch a second blog – ironic I know since I’m having trouble committing to this one. But I actually think a second blog may be one of the answers to my lack of interest in blogging. My inspiration for a while has been to start KandiKreatives Mag – a magazine blog that will allow me to write about any topic I am inspired by. And the pieces of that blog that fit into public relations, writing, branding, presentation, etc, will fit nicely with this blog. I have always wanted my own magazine. Granted, I always imagined it would have pages you could hold in your hands, I am excited to get started on this next project. Besides, the more I write … well, the more I’ll write. Right? (Did I take that too far?)

Second, and this one’s tougher, when I am inspired to write a blog post, I need to make notes or put it in a voice recorder. It’s best to write during your creative time of the day. My challenge is that my creative time is in the morning when I’m in the shower and driving to work – not exactly opportune moments to whip out a blog post. So, maybe a voice recorder is my answer. Then my challenge will be moving my message from recorder to keyboard, but hey, it’s baby steps.

Third, when I am typing a blog post, I need to tune out the rest of the world. I keep getting distracted by a Twitter or Facebook post and my mind gets off track. Currently, I’m having a very tough time finishing this post with all the excitement over the Royal Wedding (sorry to the folks who are tired of hearing about it, but it’s a historic moment and I had to record it.)

So, this morning I was listening to “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield on Pandora, and the lyrics were exactly what I was thinking about my blog – today is where my book begins and the rest is still unwritten.