These are a few of my favourite social enterprises and nonprofits:

This season consider doing something a little different when it comes to your corporate gifting or personal holiday shopping – give a gift that will continue giving, long after the season’s finished.

If you’re thanking clients and colleagues for a great year of business and working together, consider funding something in their name?  Kickstarter, Razoo, and IndieGoGo are just a few of the platforms offering a plethora of innovative and interesting socially conscious projects requiring financial assistance to get started.  If you’re donating on behalf of a valued client consider a project that has similar brand values and is keeping with their mission statement.  For a colleague, ensure the project falls in line with their world view and social values.

For folks who actually like to receive a physical thing (myself included) consider the option of supporting social enterprises with unique, fair trade, and often hand-made products that support critical ventures in developing countries.

Here are a few suggestions for your seasonal holiday gift list this year:

Embrace

Embrace is the ingenious creation of four Stanford students who, after countless interviews of mothers in Nepal, developed an efficient and inexpensive way to save premature babies – a tiny sleeping bag unit that swaddles the baby, and a sealed pouch of wax that is heated via an electrical heater (which is included in the unit).  The heated pouch of wax is placed in an adjacent compartment in the sleeping bag.

Embrace has created the gift collection and all purchases will benefit Embrace and their mission to save babies around the world.

Justlink

Justlink exists to provide professional health care, support, advocacy and education services to people of all different walks of life in the greater Mumbai area and India.  It was formed in order to link people to others in their immediate community and beyond, connecting them to a network of people who can support them in living healthy lives.

Their store features a variety of baby related products from slings to diaper bags; to order click the contact link for their email address.

Newsmotion

Newsmotionis a communication platform featuring stories produced by professional journalists and trained citizen reporters around topical issues.  This diverse network of journalists, artists, technologists, educators and scientists is harnessing the power of independent voices, technology, and collaborative storytelling to ensure critical stories–locally and globally–are making your radar and engaging new audiences.  Striving to diversify and enrich the media landscape, Newsmotion offers a new model for civic media, public art and documentary reportage.

Newsmotion, a non-profit, is currently conducting a Kickstarter campaign to raise the first (of many) rounds of funding necessary to complete this framework for transparent and inclusive news reporting, distribution, and consumption.  Their goal is to raise $35,000.

Click here to learn more about what you will receive in return for donating to their project (beyond good karma and shifting the media industry).

Fonderie 47

Fonderie 47 is a new social enterprise that buys AK-47s in conflict zones and, with the help of master craftsmen turns them into exquisite high-end jewelry. A set of cufflinks destroys 100 assault rifles in Africa; a set of earrings, 500.

MAG

MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is an international organization that saves lives and builds futures through the destruction of weapons in conflict-affected countries. Since 1989, MAG has worked in over 35 countries and in 1997 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. MAG works closely with at-risk communities to make their lives safer, responding to their most urgent needs by providing safe access to water, shelter, food, and emergency aid, as well as through the delivery of life-saving information to those at risk. Their work boosts economies in affected areas by opening up land for agriculture, trade, and infrastructure development and by training and employing local staff from affected communities.

Their shop features great t-shirts and hoodies all sporting the MAG logo.

Ellie Fun Day

Ellie Fun Day designs baby blankets that change the lives of marginalized women in India.  They are designing beautiful, luxurious baby blankets made with natural and/or organic materials while providing a fair wage and a dignified living by employing marginalized and under-resourced women. Their goal:  to change the world one blankie at a time.  You can donate to their cause here or purchase a blanket and change a life.

So which one am I supporting?

I’m definitely supporting Newsmotion, Embrace I’m considering for a friend that just had a baby, and I think I’ll be sending a pointer to Fonderie 47 to my other half.  See if he takes a hint.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ready? Shoot! Aim.

“I’m just going to start it; I’ll figure the details out later.”

Ninety percent of the time we know exactly what we need to do, to accomplish our objectives.

But it’s the doing part that trips us up.

It’s much more exciting to focus on the creative aspect of things whether that’s designing, product development, brainstorming, research, etc.

But what about aiming?  This is the part between having a great idea and launching.  Aim encompasses outlining the problem that you’re solving, who has that problem, how you’re going to reach your target market, what the best way is to communicate with them, what differentiates your product from others, making the pitch, etc.

Most times we have an idea and figure the best way to kickstart it, is Nike style…“Just do it!”

The Aim (also known as the details) is placed on the back burner to “figure out later.”

Here’s how I tackle Aim:

  • Accept the fact that however cool/innovative/insert adjective of choice here your idea is, chances are someone else has thought of it, or something very similar.
  • Accept the fact that there is a high possibility that someone is already doing what you’re contemplating.
  • Understand that just because something is already being done, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
  • Make a list of how you arrived at your cool idea – what were you trying to do or wishing you had something that could do that.  “Wouldn’t it be great if someone made…” or “I wish there was a service that did…”  What did you encounter that was similar to what you wanted but not quite what you were looking for?  The end result will be your competitive analysis and your unique value proposition.
  • If you’re thinking about this then other people, similar to you, are thinking about this too.  Outline everything you know about yourself, what you like, what you read, where you spend time, who you’re spending time with, what you do, etc. Be as detailed as possible.  This exercise will result in understanding your target market and the best ways to reach them.

Now that you’ve established your Aim, you’re ready to Shoot.

Motivational business story of the day:  Bootights!

Managing your Social Media Presence: Outsource or In-house?

I’ve spent the last little while immersed in advising, developing, and executing various elements of social media strategy, all the while breaking the majority of my recommendations as they apply to me (note last date of blog post).

Most recently I’ve had several conversations around the management of social media presence – in particular, to outsource or not.  I make the case for outsourcing, partially because I offer that service, and also because, unless your organization has a dedicated resource, or even half a resource, to maintain your social media presence, it can be quite challenging when it’s added to an already overflowing job description.

Social media has the appearance of being very casual – a status update here, a tweet there – but it requires all the precision and due diligence of any other communication platform and perhaps ever more because a. it’s all real time and b. it (ideally) will result in multiple conversation streams rather than the monologue of old.

Keeping it in-house

Organizations maintain that this has to be kept in-house to eliminate the learning curve (about the organization, it’s audience, it’s brand etc.), cut out the middle-man aspect of things where you (the consultant) isn’t coordinating with a point person about what’s going on, and ultimately their folks are on the ground, immersed in the day-to day goings-on and therefore much more connected to what needs to be addressed.

These are all really good points, and extremely valid.

The challenge arises when managing social media presence doesn’t comprise at least 33% of your workload.  Social media is all about building and maintaining relationships which takes time and effort; when you’re pressed for deadlines, multiple meetings to attend, reports to deliver etc. social media inevitably falls off the radar placing you in the unenviable position of either posting something for the sake of posting or doing nothing at all.

Is it the end of the world to be quiet?

No.

In fact being quiet can be a good thing.  But when you’re quiet for too long, or you forget to check in, people start to wonder.  After a while they stop participating and worst case scenario, stop caring all together.

Social media is also about conversation.  Are you generating comments? @replies? Likes? Being shared? Retweeted?  In short, are people talking about you?

If you’re not, are you modifying what you’re saying or how you’re saying it?

Good or bad, you want to be talked about.  Good for obvious reasons and bad – well at least you’ve the opportunity to address sources of dissatisfaction.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing management of your social media presence can be very tricky – you have to feel like the person/agency you’re working with gets your brand – what it’s all about, what it stands for, and most importantly, what it sounds like.  If it doesn’t sound like or feel like your brand, it’s not going to resonate with your customers.

This all begs the question, if it’s so darned tricky, why would you even consider outsourcing?

Because outsourcing places management of your social media presence as an integral part of someone’s job description (hopefully mine), rather than an addition to an existing job description.  It moves from a “to do” to a “have to” and falls into the “I live, breathe, and sleep this stuff” rather than the “Great, another thing that I have to deal with” category.

If you do decide against outsourcing then here are a few of my recommendations for developing your social media strategy:

  1. Know your audience – Who are you speaking with or who would you like to speak with?
  2. Develop a plan – What are you saying? Why? What do you want your supporters to do with the information? Is there a call to action you’re expecting?
  3. Be authentic – Don’t try to be someone or something you’re not.  And don’t do something just because your competitors are doing it.
  4. Be flexible – Know when you’ve to deviate from the plan and know that it’s totally ok to do that.  While you don’t want to spend your time reacting to things, the reality is there will be some percentage of time where you do have to react.
  5. Remember it’s a dialogue – Reply to questions and comments; I’m still waiting for a reply from Nabisco Cookies to a question I posted on Facebook many, many months ago asking why their packaging wasn’t recyclable.

Who’s hungry?

A couple of food stories have caught my attention recently – the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt from Friendly’s which features a Black Angus Beef Burger between two whole grilled cheese sandwiches, along with lettuce, tomato and mayo.  This following the launch of KFC’s Double Down which is two pieces of fried chicken fillets sandwiching two slices of Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack cheese, two slices of bacon and a special sauce.

Here’s what the calorie count looks like:

Sandwich Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Grilled Cheese Burger Melt 1500 97 2090
Original Recipe Double Down 540 32 1380
Grilled Double Down 460 23 1430

Amidst these high-calorie, high sodium, fast food offerings AdAge posted a story about the upcoming launch of a fast-food restaurant with a twist – healthy fare with an environmentally friendly feel.  Thus far the menu includes items such as apple-cinnamon steel-cut oats and pita pockets for breakfast; smoked-chicken sweet-pea soup and pork-and-sweet-potato kabobs for lunch and dinner.  The price point is reasonable enough at $8 – $12.  Stephanie’s (working name), the brainchild of two former McDonald’s executives, is set to open in early 2011 and hopes to grow to 250 locations within 5 years.

But is this what Americans really want?

This 2010 infographic detailing the percentage of the obese adult population across the United States would seem to suggest otherwise.

Yet in 2005 a young Canadian entrepreneur turned the fast food, food court demographic on its head when he launched The Lettuce Eatery in Toronto’s TD Centre.  With over 70 choices of ingredients and 20 flavours of salad dressings, consumers have queued up out the door, waiting sometimes as much as 10-15 minutes to hand over $8 for salad.

Coming from someone who’s eaten many times at his first three locations, “It’s definitely not rabbit food.”

Fast forward 5 years and Corrin’s Lettuce Eatery has rebranded to Freshii with over 200 units in varying stages of development in the US and Europe; most recently a multi-franchise deal was struck to open 5 units in Dubai.

So maybe there is room for Stephanie’s.

At the end of the day we all want choices, including the choice to have a high-calorie, high-sodium, high-fat, grilled cheese burger melts or Double Downs.  But television still hasn’t killed the radio, the internet still hasn’t killed the newspaper (although it has made a dent), and Corrin’s Lettuce Eatery, now Freshii, is proof that there’s room for Stephanie’s in the $142 billion (and growing) U.S. fast-food market sector.

What do you think?  Would you eat at Stephanie’s?  And just out of curiosity, have you tried the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt?  I personally can’t (thanks to a gluten and lactose allergy), although I’m not sure I would, even if I could…it just seems a bit much.

Yachting anyone?

News and social media continue to buzz over BP’s CEO Tony Hayward taking a day off to see how his yacht “Bob” fared in the recent race off England’s shore; over the weekend the hashtag meme #HaywardsYachtName cropped up as Twitter users aired their frustration and anger at what was seen as another poor choice on BP’s part, as the Gulf continues to deal with the oil spill tragedy.

The race was Saturday.

It’s now Tuesday and we’re still talking about it.

For every tweet, status update, post, blog, etc., we spend on commenting about what the CEO of BP chooses to do on his weekend, is time and attention that’s being diverted from the real crisis which is the spill. Do we really need to concern ourselves with the actions and choices of an individual? Especially when we (as collective individuals) can’t do anything to control him? Yet it gives us something to do, it makes us feel good that we’ve the ability to criticize and condemn him for choosing to be at a yacht race, the height of frivolity, when the oil from his company continues to saturate the Gulf of Mexico. Then we get in our cars and drive to where we’ve to go. And whether or not your gas came from BP, the fact is, this could’ve happened to any one of the Big Oil producers.

The images that are infiltrating our media, despite BP’s best efforts to curtail them, are chilling. But every moment we spend focusing on being angry at BP’s CEO and his little yacht excursion, we lose track of the spill.

And maybe it’s the word spill that’s part of the problem. When we hear the word spill we think of small things – milk, juice, an armload of books, etc. All things that are easily contained and very manageable.

There’s nothing easily containable or manageable about 78,967,806 (and counting) gallons of oil entering the Gulf of Mexico.

Hemorrhage is probably a more apt description.

And even more disturbing is the fact that we really don’t know what this massive influx of oil will do over the long term. It’s been over two decades since the Exxon Valdez spill and experts estimate we’re still feeling those effects. The ramifications of the Gulf tragedy is going to be felt for decades to come, potentially impacting as far as Europe and the Arctic.

If this doesn’t motivate us to decrease our dependence on oil and actively participate in seeking or lobbying our politicians and representatives for alternative energy options, I’m not sure what will.

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