Month: February 2014

How To Make A Killer Infographic

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Between the internet, television and our friends, we are constantly bombarded with an enormous amount of information and no way to effectively manage it. With information coming at us from all directions, how do you communicate an important message to a specific audience? Better yet, how do you communicate that message in a way that will stick? My suggestion is this: create an infographic! If you haven’t jumped on the data visualization bandwagon yet, your brand is truly missing out.

Infographics are a great tool to visually present a lot of boring data in a not-so-boring way. Not only can they clearly and concisely convey data, they can tell a story that will make a lasting impression on your audience. If you have never seen an infographic, they are a visual depiction of data that uses a combination of graphics and text, and they are the perfect way to make morsel of information digestible to your busy audience.

After designing an infographic for a PR class at the University of Oregon, I discovered just how challenging it can be to arrange a set of data in a way that would visually appeal to my target audience. I knew that I wanted my infographic to be about body image, but I didn’t know what direction to go in or how to make my audience actually care. But, after conducting a TON of research and talking with my professor, I took a leap of faith and started sketching. The moral of the story is that creating an infographic isn’t always easy, but the end result is worth the hard work and time. Whether you are creating an infographic for a client, your personal brand or for fun, here are ten tips to help ease the process.

1. Choose a theme. You can make an infographic on just about anything. However, if you can only find three statistics for your chosen topic, they better be dang good statistics. If not, you should probably move on to something with more data.

2. Identify your target audience. This was one of the first things my professor had my class do, and now I understand why. While it can be difficult to narrow down your audience before beginning the design process, it will help you identify what information to include on your infographic.

3. Do your research. Poke around the internet and make a list of all the great facts you find. After you’ve found 10 to 15 solid statistics or pieces of information, put the facts in order of importance and decide what to leave out.

4. Use a color scheme that makes sense for your topic. If your infographic is about USA’s Winter Olympic Team, you probably want to have some red, white and blue in there. If your theme is recycling, use different shades of green, brown and other earth tones. You get the picture.

5. Stick to three fonts. More than that can make your infographic look amateur and sloppy. Nobody wants that.

6. Make the most important information the focal point. Remember that awesome list of facts you made in step three? Pick out the key points, and make them stand out on the page. Create a hierarchy by using big fonts and bold colors for the crucial information and smaller fonts for the less-important stuff.

7. Use a mix of images, graphs and scales. Your audience will get bored if you have a bunch of words with no visuals. Grab your audience’s attention with an unexpected image or a compelling graph.

8. Make it flow. Guide the viewer through your infographic with lines or arrows. Infographics contain a lot of information- don’t let the viewer get confused or annoyed because he/she doesn’t know what to look for.

9. Cite your sources. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but let your audience know where you got your information from. It’s common courtesy.

10. Share your infographic. Congrats! You finished your very first infographic. Now show the world how artistic and smart you are by sharing it with your friends. Post it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your blog or anywhere else your heart desires.

 Alas, The Curvy Truth (#10) Infographic

The K-Cup Craze

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coffee-66850_640We’ve all see them. Those little coffee pods otherwise known as K-cups. In hotel rooms, in the break room at work, at your friends cute apartment, you just can’t get away from those single-serve coffee pods, can you?

According to seattletimes.com, “sales of coffee made in single-serve brewing systems account for more than a quarter of every dollar Americans spend on coffee to drink at home.”

What spurred the Keurig revolution? Well, convenience. It’s no surprise that this trendy kitchen gadget caught on so fast. We are constantly looking for  new ways to make our days more efficient and productive, so what better way to start out a busy day than with a steaming cup of coffee that was made in under a minute?

As an avid coffee drinker, this sounds like a dream. I would love to crawl out of bed, drop a capsule of french roast into the Keurig and  have a cup of goodness 30 seconds later. So why don’t I invest in one of these bad boys? There simply is not enough room in this college-girl’s budget for a coffee maker right now, especially since my Mr.Coffee works just fine. Also, I’m not the only one who drinks coffee in my house, so it makes sense to brew a big pot every morning to share. For me, that’s just as convenient. However, Keurigs make perfect sense for anyone who just wants to brew one cup per day, or for someone trying to ween themselves off a daily three-dollar Starbucks run. By all means, it’s better to spend 65 cents per day on a K-cup than it is to spend three to four dollars on your beloved Starbucks.

What are the environmental impacts of the K-cup? As you may have guessed, the coffee pods are darn near impossible to recycle. I’m not an environmental activist by any means, but I like to be somewhat aware of my carbon footprint, and K-cups are just one more thing that humans have created to throw into a landfill. Okay, rant over. I would be lying if I said that I will never buy a Keurig. It is quite possible that I’ll buy one within the next year  (because I’ll be moving out, and, most likely living alone.)

Even Starbucks has jumped on board. Claiming about 15 percent of the K-cup market, Chief Operating Officer Troy Alstead said the segment “will be an important driver of our long-term growth.”

What’s next for the K-cup? Even brands like Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola are taking advantage of the single-serve brewing rage. That’s right, you will soon be able to have your favorite soup or sugary soda freshly pressed in under a minute. It seems like there is nothing this spendy machine can’t do!

Do you think the Keurig will become the next kitchen staple? Or is this just another gadget that will go out of style? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

10 Tips On How To Be An Irreplaceable Intern

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If you’re an aspiring PR professional, you have probably heard your professor say “If you want to land a job right out of college, you should have at least two internships on your resume.” Talk about pressure! As students, we have enough on our plates, and now we have to worry about an internship too? Well, the answer is yes, but I promise it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. Being an intern can even be, dare I say it, fun! Getting that first internship can be tough, but once your foot is in the door it will feel like you have the world at your fingertips.

Given that competition is stiff and employers want the best-of-the-best, it makes perfect sense that the top PR agencies want their candidates to have tangible experience. While a college education is a must, internships give you the opportunity to apply the skills you learned in the classroom to the real world. The question is, once you land that internship, how do you make the most of it? Here are ten bits of advice that will help you nail your first internship:

1. Be enthusiastic. Have a great attitude and be pro-active. Finished an assignment early? Go ask your boss for the next assignment.

2. Dress for success. During your interview, make an effort to get a sense of the company’s culture and the dress code. Look around the office and take note on what other people are wearing and how they interact. Is it a smaller, laid back company where business-casual is almost too “dressy?” Or is it a Fortune 500 where suits and ties are a must? If you still aren’t sure of how to dress, go by the mantra: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

3. Learn to say yes. Don’t turn down the opportunity to work on a fabulous project just because you don’t know how to do it. This internship is supposed to be a learning experience, right? Say yes without hesitation and learn as you go! And don’t forget, it’s okay to make mistakes.

4. Work hard.This should be a no brainer. Whether you are writing something as simple as a Facebook post or as detailed as a shareholder letter, give your best effort and your boss will take notice.

5. Stay on task. There are going to be days where you have so much on your mind that you want to explode, but it’s crucial that you give your full attention to the task at hand. You are on the company’s time, not your own; stay off personal social media accounts and stop texting your friends, it can wait a few hours.

6. Get to know people in other departments. Just because you are interning for the communications department doesn’t mean you are locked in to the field for life. Talk to people from marketing, sales, finance or anyone else that strikes your fancy! You are testing out the company just like the company is testing you out, so don’t be afraid to put your networking skills to use.

7. Take notes when given instructions. Not only will this show your boss that you have an attention for detail, but it will prevent you from forgetting any main points when executing the project.

8. Be open to criticism. Again, the point of an internship is to learn! Ask your boss for feedback and take the advice to heart. Know that your boss is there to help, so don’t feel threatened or offended when they offer constructive criticism.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re struggling with a project or the instructions don’t make sense, ask for help! It is better to ask questions at the beginning of a project than to spend hours doing the wrong thing.

10. Send a thank-you note. Once your internship is over, send your boss a hand-written thank-you letter. Your boss spent a lot of time  showing you the ropes, so let them know how much you appreciated the opportunity. You will probably get an awesome letter of recommendation out of it, too!

My last piece of advice is to relax and have fun! Be proud of yourself for making it this far in your young career and keep up the good work.

CVS Announces Tobacco Ban. What’s Next?

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If you haven’t heard, CVS/Pharmacy will be the first national pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, come October 1. Being the largest pharmacy chain in America, this is a bold move by CVS. According to cnn.com, CVS estimates it will take a $2 billion annual loss, $1.5 being directly from tobacco sales and the rest from products that tobacco shoppers buy while in store. Why is CVS taking this money-making killer off the shelves? Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

While I commend CVS for being mindful of public health, I can’t help but wonder how its loyal customers will react. Will they respect the ban or will they boycott CVS forever? As you can imagine, this is getting A TON of attention from the media. Many people support the tobacco ban while others stick to the argument that “it’s a free country and I have the right to harm my own body.” Despite your feelings toward the decision, it raises the question: “First Tobacco, then what?”

Derrick Jackson from the Boston Globe says if CVS is going to stop selling cigarettes due to tobacco’s link to cancer, it should stop selling soda or other sugary products that contribute to obesity. Yes, sugar is linked to a plethora of scary health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, but does that mean CVS should get rid of its entire snack isle? It’s hard to say.

Jackson says “Besides soda behind the counter, candy, chips, and other trash food should be removed from the front of the store to prevent impulse buys. Products with added sugars surpassing 10 percent of calorie intake should have big warning signs that they can contribute to heart disease.”

Jackson’s proposal sounds good in theory, but I can’t help but picture a store where EVERYTHING is behind the counter, and you have to ask the store clerk to get your Snickers bar out from lock and key. Can you imagine how annoying that would be? When it comes to food, I’m a firm believer in moderation, and if I want to indulge once in a while I shouldn’t have to ask for the store clerk’s permission.

I see both sides of the argument, and I think CVS is entering  dangerous territory. It will be interesting to see if they fall down the slippery slope and put soda and other sugary products behind the counter, or if they will stop after the tobacco ban.

Do you think banning cigarettes is enough? Should CVS take it a step further and keep high-sugar items out of reach for kids? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

The Most Devine Cupcakes You Will Ever Make

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Lately, I have been craving cake LIKE NO OTHER. I have an unreasonably large sweet tooth, and once I get a craving, there is no looking back.

On days like these, I usually turn to Pinterest for some much needed winter baking inspiration. Pinterest has a fabulous selection of recipes, from healthy dinner options and unique cocktails to mouthwatering cakes and rustic pies.Usually, my Pinterest adventure leads me to some sort of innovative food blog that makes me feel bad about my own blog because it’s way cooler than mine. In this case, it was yourcupofcake.com, by fellow Oregonian Lizzy Mae Early! I love reading blogs from other Oregonians. Anyways, I’ll get to the point. You’re dying to see this recipe, right?

I want to share one of my favorite cupcake recipes that I stumbled upon last year when looking to satisfy my unrelenting sweet tooth. It was fairly easy to follow and didn’t take a terribly long time to make, so I would recommend this to anyone who wants to step outside of their boring cupcake box.

Alas, banana cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Need I say more?

For the banana cupcakes you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • i stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk

For the peanut butter cream cheese frosting you will need:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 fun size butterfingers (I used a crushed Hershey bar)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Sift together flower, baking powder and salt. Set Aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add one egg at a time then add mashed banana.
  • Alternate adding flour and buttermilk until everything is combined. Don’t over mix.

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Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out.

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For the frosting:

  • Beat cream cheese and butter until light
  • Add peanut butter and let mix for two minutes
  • Alternate adding powdered sugar and heavy cream (Only add as much powdered sugar as you like because some like it sweeter than others.)

Just a heads up, the recipe gave me WAY more frosting than I needed, so unless you plan on piping heaps of frosting on each cake, cut the recipe back by a 1/3.

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There they are! Okay, they aren’t exactly pretty, but my stomach didn’t know the difference. They were the most moist, dense cupcakes that I have ever made. I was honestly impressed with myself.

I will say that next time I make these I am going to experiment with a peanut butter buttercream frosting. Don’t get me wrong, normally I am a sucker for cream cheese frosting, but the cream cheese added a tangy element that didn’t mesh as well with the banana cake as I would have liked. But they were scrumptious nonetheless!

Be on the lookout for more recipes coming soon!

11 Tips for Better Writing

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If you have ever sat down with the intention of writing an essay, a news article or even something as simple as a blog post, you know how overwhelming it can be to open up a blank word document and type up that first sentence.

I felt it myself when I flipped up my lap top to write this blog post. We tend to put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves because our writing is a reflection of our personality. We want the content to be relevant and witty, the sentences to be grammatically correct, and most of all, we  want to be interesting. It’s scary putting yourself out there for the world to see. But, the more you write, the less vulnerable you feel.

Which brings me to my next point: when it comes to writing, practice makes perfect- hence why my J452 professor has us write two blog posts a week. I’ll admit, it’s actually pretty fun, and kind of freeing. For once, I get to write in my most conversational tone and I won’t be graded down for being “unprofessional.”

Anyways, I digress. I know how it is, you have all of these great ideas swimming around in your head, but you don’t know how to get them organized and condensed into something worth reading. Well, hopefully, some of these tips will get you headed in the right direction. Inspired by David Ogilvy’s 10 Tips for Clear, Concise Writing, I came up with my own list of tips that I tend to follow.

1. Free yourself from distractions: Leave your cell phone in the other room, turn off the TV and get down to business.

2. Write in the morning, if you can: You will be more productive after a great night’s sleep and a delicious cup of coffee.

3.Choose a topic that you are passionate about: For obvious reasons. However, if you must write on a topic that you are less than thrilled about for a class assignment or something silly like that, do some research and find an interesting angle! If you aren’t invested in the topic in any way, your audience will be able to sense it.

4. Identify your audience: Are you writing for twenty-something travelers or a group of middle-aged business men? Make your audience feel important by personalizing each sentence and using jargon that they are familiar with. Plus, identifying your audience will help shape your content.

5. Create an Outline: Taking an extra 30 minutes to organize your thoughts will make the writing process so much smoother.

6. Avoid the fluff: The only benefit from using words like “extremely” or” very” is a higher word count.

7. Make it readable: Short paragraphs and headings will make it easy for your audience to pick out the key points.

8. Put the most important stuff at the top: People tend to have short attention spans, so make sure you get the main point across within the first couple of paragraphs. If your reader comes away with ONE key point, what do you want that key point to be?

9. Be conversational: Nobody talks like a robot, so don’t write like one! People like reading things they can relate to, so throw some personality into it.

10. Edit the next day: You will find the most mistakes when you read with a fresh set of eyes. Also, don’t be afraid to read your work aloud to yourself. This is a great way to identify wonky sentences and punctuation errors.

11. When all else fails: Cuddle with your cat.

5 Life Lessons I learned from Working in a Restaurant

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Whether you are interacting with a client or serving pizzas, you will have to deal with customers to some degree in your career. Throughout college I have been working part-time at a restaurant to ease the financial burden of attending a University, and I’ve been surprised to see how many of the skills I will be able to take with me when I embark on the real world. Here are five things I learned from working in a restaurant that can apply to (almost) any career.

1. How to hustle under pressure. This is something that you are forced to learn very early on in your customer service career whether you work in retail, food or hospitality. Imagine that it’s a busy Friday night, food and drink orders start rolling in, and a keg blows while you’re pouring a beer for an impatient customer. Ugh! Now you have to hold up the line to run to the back, move a heavy keg and pray that it doesn’t spray all over you while you tap it. Then, you have to run the beer to the table and run back to the counter and continue to take orders while constantly keeping your eye on the expo window to see if there is any food to take out. *sigh.* Yep, nights like these are stressful, but more often than not a customer will notice your hard work and praise you for it or give you a tip. And believe me, those little things are what make the stressful nights bearable.

2. Patience is key. This rule applies to customers and coworkers. Don’t rush the kitchen when they are  working hard to make food and ESPECIALLY don’t rush a customer when they are deciding what to order. Take the time to help out first-timers with the menu and offer advice about what’s good. Hungry customers take food very seriously, so if they seem unsure, ask them questions about what they are in the mood for and give them recommendations; after all, you know the menu better than anyone. If they are being rude, remember that they are hungry and cranky, and being inpatient will end badly for both of you.

3. Kill ’em with kindness. You aren’t only representing yourself, you are representing the company that you work for. People will talk down to you and they will treat you like you’re stupid- unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the job. Remember to stay calm and be polite- this mantra will get you far in any industry.

4. Teamwork. Think of your coworkers as a team fighting to reach a common goal; whether it’s to get as many people to sign up for a rewards program or to simply run a smooth dinner service. When it starts to get busy and mistakes are being made, don’t lose sight of the goal. Your team is there to help you succeed, and without them you would be running an establishment by yourself. Not a good time.

5. Build relationships with your customers. After working somewhere for a while, you will get to know the clientele and what they like. Pretty soon you will start talking to them about their grand kids and what they got them for Christmas while typing in an order that you have memorized because they get the same thing every time. Going that extra mile to remember an order will impress your customers and make them feel important. Even if you don’t have time for a long chat, it’s really rewarding when a repeat customer refuses to be helped by anyone else other than you because you made such a lasting impression during his or her previous visit.

So, those are some of the things I have learned from working in a restaurant. While I sometimes dread going to work because of the long hours and the odd people, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. If nothing else, I have gained so much more respect for other people who work in customer service and I will forever be a great tipper. *wink.*