I got this tip from Harry Hoover of My Creative Team in Charlotte: "PitchEngine.com shakes up the PR industry making it possible for PR pros,
brands, and agencies to build and share digital, social media releases
with their contacts for free."
At the NC Main Street Conference, I had a chance to talk with Greta Lint of Asheboro, who provides tourism writing and consulting services. She demonstrated a very interesting site she created for the small towns of Oakboro ("Oakboro Cruise-in & Burn-Out: NC's Largest Downtown Cruise-In"). " ' Build it and they will come,' but only if you promote it" is Greta's motto.
Every small town probably has something unique about it that tourists would like to see. Many small towns just need to discover their own unique assets.
One of the fascinating people I had a chance to speak briefly with at the NC Main Street Conference was John Delconte of Hillsborough, NC, a consultant with www.smallwander.com, a website that helps small towns with historic, cultural and artistic charm market their assets and attract tourists. Here's the scoop on the concept from his blog.
Having grown up in a very small town myself (Wagram, NC, population 500 when I lived there, though I hear it has grown by 50%), I know quite well how small towns can be diminished in the public's eyes. "Blink your eyes and you'll miss it," was a common joke about my town. And yet Wagram had a unique history, fascinating and eccentric characters, and a far stronger sense of community than the cities I've lived in. I depicted some of the unique character of Wagram and Scotland County in my book, Teacher of Our Town.
In this country, I suspect the trends toward chain stores, malling and Walmarting of America are playing themselves out. It is no longer an economic advantage for every town to look just like every other town in the country.
I'm eager to know more about how Smallwander.com helps to spread "pride of place" and turn it into an economic engine.
I wonder if there might be some synergy between this movement and some of the online neighborhood projects I've worked on:
I presented at the NC Main Street Conference in Statesville on "Positioning Downtown for Success in the New Economy." State and local governments, small businesses and non-profits should utilize new social media tools such as Facebook, Linkedin.com and YouTube as well as many others, I contend. They are integral in the increasingly networked economy.
I'm very impressed with the beauty of Statesville and the number of people in attendance at the conference -- about 500 -- and the interesting exhibits by vendors.
Money quote: "Wars are won in the winter," said Hilary Greenberg, who was hired in 1982 to head up Statesville's fledgling Main Street program, a job
that essentially entailed turning the tide on a trend that was seeing
the city's downtown turn into a ghost town. "The winter — the hard economic
times — will end, but those who make it through it will come out
stronger, and that is going to be the ones who have been prepared and
ready." -- "Mainstream Event Sees Return of Downtown Guru," from Stateville.com
Here's my handout on new social media tools.
Communicating in the New Economy 2009 Main Street Conference, January 29, 2009 Presenter: Jim Buie, President, Jim Buie and Associates. www.jimbuie.com
I'm giving a presentation to small businesses on how to use new media tools to increase their visibility, strengthen relationships with customers, get clients, recommendations for potential employees. Off the top of my head I know of two local businesses that use Twitter.com. As of this date:
Weaver Street Market of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough has 289 followers so far. They announce specials, new soups, new products, new coffees, bands scheduled to perform, gift ideas, etc.
Smbusiness on Twitter, with 936 followers, recommends that Twitter users develop "authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community." Show that you're a real person before you simply post products and deals.
I got a Blackberry Storm for Christmas -- it's the Verizon Wireless and Blackberry answer to the I-Phone -- sleek and cool. I'm still learning it, but I must say the camera is outstanding. A FLICKR application is included to easily upload photos from the phone wirelessly to the Internet.
Another cool feature of the Storm is the ability to watch an ENTIRE movie in crisp, clear digital color on my phone -- great when you're waylaid in the car or in an airport. (Update: six months later, I confess I've only watched one movie on the phone -- screen too small...much prefer to watch movies on the laptop.)
You can watch Youtube.com videos on it, if you have a high-speed data plan, though sometimes they hiccup. It's easy to integrate Facebook and Twitter, to keep up with your social networks, to share ideas, news and status updates.
To fully utilize the Storm's features, such as web surfing, you need an Internet data plan from Verizon wireless, which is $60 a month for unlimited access (kinda pricey). This version of the Storm has bluetooth but no ability to connect to a home or public wifi connection. (Update: The Storm 2, released in fall 2009, reportedly has wifi.)
The touch-screen Blackberry Storm is certainly an advance to no longer need a a stylus as I did for my PC PHONE. I tended to lose or misplace a stylus about once a month. But there are some frustrations with the Storm so far.
The touch-screen keyboards (the Storm has two) were initially time-consuming, especially
before they "learn" what you are likely to type. Perhaps they were not
properly calibrated on my Storm, but it took about twice as long as it
should to simply type my name or a single message. One of the
touch-screen keyboards I find completely unusable.
Update: I conclude that PDA phones are still not as solidly built, nor is the software as reliable and convenient as it should be. Two months after I started using the Blackberry Storm, the software crashed and I lost all of my data. Fortunately, I didn't lose a lot, and Verizon Wireless sent me a new one with no questions asked. The new one has an updated operating system and far more reliable keyboard.
But consider this: since I joined the PDA world in October, 2007, (1) My first Pocket PC, built in 2005-6 and purchased for $200, froze up repeatedly due to the unstable Windows Mobile operating system. I returned it. (2) The screen of my second Pocket PC cracked when I dropped it. I returned it and got my $200 back. (3) I purchased a third PocketPC second hand from a friend for $100 who said it had barely been used. It worked fine for a year, then the screen cracked when, in my pants pocket, it made contact with the steering wheel of my car as I was sliding into the driver's seat.
Barack Obama's economic advisors are predicting that the economy could lose 3.5 million jobs in 2009. Unemployment may climb to 10%, up from 6.7 percent in December, 2008. That's indeed painful, and economists on both the left and the right agree that a massive stimulus package is necessary. In 2009, we can expect more personal and business loan defaults and bankruptcies, especially in retail. We can also expect continued declines in investment portfolios, with the Dow possibly plunging to 7,000. Senior citizens' dividends are plunging, and baby boomers have greater long-term worries about retirement security.
This is all terrible news. But the beauty of our economic system is that what's bad news for some is opportunity for others.
On the Upside: Plunging stock prices mean there will be bargains to be found. Interest rates are at historic lows, near zero. Interest rates on 30-year loans averaged 5.14 percent in December 2008, the
lowest point since Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey began in
(Source) They could go lower, to 4.5 percent based on FED action.
prices, the lowest since 2004, aren't likely to rise rapidly again
until 2011, increasing consumers' purchasing power and disposable
income, and giving society time to adjust voluntarily to the need for
longterm energy conservation (IF we do it). While consumer spending,
fueled by credit card debt, is declining, that's a good sign. Personal
saving NEEDS to increase.
Personal savings as a percentage of disposable income rose to 2.8 percent (in November 2008), up from 2.4 percent in October. (Source)
Housing is a buyers market. House prices -- once out of range for
first-time buyers and upgraders -- may now be accessible, if purchasers
can qualify as credit has tightened. Consumer prices have been slashed
in many industries, meaning many bargains are available. The travel
industry, for example, just trying to survive, is slashing prices for
hotel rooms and tours, in hopes of just filling rooms, boats, tours.
in long-term growth should be able to find bargains among
basement-priced stocks, even if long-term growth potential isn't as
rapid as it was for last three decades.
Entrepreneurs with products or services that promote economic efficiency or that reduce long-term organizational costs should be able to grow in this economy.
Despite the recession, increased retail closures and business bankrupticies, retail square footage is still likely to grow in 2009, according to an analysis by Barclays Capital, by a solid five percent.
We should by no means ignore the human suffering that is occurring now, and strong government action is necessary. But it's easy to lose perspective. Adopting a gloom-and-doom outlook will only make our economy fall further. Let's hope that a changing of the guard at the top -- the unpopular and ineffectual George W. Bush, replaced by the far more popular Barack Obama, can help restore the nation's optimism and self-confidence.
"I do believe in holding responsible those high elected officials who
broke the law and violated the Constitution in authorizing war crimes.
It should take as much time as needed for a thorough accounting; it
should be meticulously fair; it should be geared solely to ensure that
the rule of law is no longer in question; and that only those truly
responsible at the top of the chain of command are held liable. But if
we do not hold these men to account, the precedent they set is
They have, after all, argued that the executive branch can do
anything to anyone to defend the nation's security as defined and
measured by that executive branch itself. They have argued that that
power is permanent and not restricted to a discrete length of time.
They have declared the Constitution to be entirely subject to the
executive's will, checked only by a four year "moment of
accountability". And they are unrepentant - even boastful of their
actions. We cannot leave that precedent in place." -- Andrew Sullivan
Anonymous Liberal responds with caveats, calling not for prosecutions but for a truth commission: "The goal here should not be maximal punishment, but maximal deterrence."
Barack Obama may already be influencing the self-esteem, self-confidence, persistence, and test-taking results of young black students, according to this study. It would be amazing if this study is replicated broadly, and reflects more than a transitory trend. Worth watching.