Is a "brat ban" good for business?

Prefer to watch a movie in the theater without the chatter of restless kids? How about being able to walk down the grocery aisle without a herd of rugrats cutting you off? Rather enjoy a nice meal at a nice restaurant without the bellowing of an infant? What about flying cross-country without an antsy five-year-old kicking the back of your seat?

This week, Piper Weiss wrote an interesting story on the no-kids movement. In her piece, she listed an airline, restaurant, grocery store, and travel site that offer kid-free experiences. Some banning kids altogether, others offering customers kid-free hours where they can shop amongst adults. Adweek writer Robert Klara says "brat bans" could change the landscape when it comes to leisure marketing. It's no surprise that childless couples usually have more disposable income than families, and businesses are discovering a way to get that dough.

If my local movie theater offered an adults-only showing of Shrek 4 (c'mon, you know there's gonna be one!), there's no doubt in my mind that I'd choose that over the one open to kids. If my supermarket offered kid-free shopping hours, I probably wouldn't care. However, if Walmart announced a child-free shopping option, I'd be all over that. The way parents let their children scream at the top of their lungs in that place blows my mind. Granted, the parents are to blame just as much as the kids. But, that doesn't make the bellowing any more bearable.

These days, there are lots of niche businesses. Plenty that cater to animal lovers, singles, Christians, gays and lesbians, or other such groups. So, it makes sense that childless couples and individuals could be a profit center, as well. But, are parents going to tolerate being banned? Will they leave their kids in the car while they shop or eat? I think that's a double no.

Back in the 70s, adult-only apartment complexes were all the rage. Mix and mingle at the pool. Get hot and heavy in the jacuzzi. Adult fun. However, after lawsuits from disgruntled families started to hit the courts, those kind of apartment houses went the way of the disco ball. People don't like to be restricted from places. However, would a family have a more enjoyable experience if the childless people who didn't delight in the antics of wee ones had all shopped earlier during the kid-free hours? No reprimands or dirty looks from anyone if their kid did something disruptive?

What do YOU think? Would you enjoy having a child-free option for entertainment, dining, or travel? As a parent, would you be happy to get those people out of your hair or would you feel discriminated against? Is a "brat ban" the next big thing?

Google+ is destroying 1-on-1 communication

Some of the most important people in my life today are folks who were strangers to me before Twitter. I've nurtured and developed countless personal friendships and valuable business contacts thanks to the one-on-one interaction that Twitter provides. I use the site to establish real relationships.

Send me a tweet? I answer. I send someone a tweet? They respond. Conversation. How beautiful is that?

Enter Google+.

Although I think this new platform has promise, it's to communication what mold is to bread. Just like Facebook, Google+ utilizes threads. Someone asks a question and lots of people can respond. On Google+, up to 500 comments can be logged. I've seen several posts meet this cap, and others come close. When you comment, you're nothing special. You're one in a long thread of folks. I don't want to be one in a sea of comments. I want to be heard. Don't you?

On Twitter, if you send someone a tweet and he doesn't respond, it's the equivalent of him sticking his fingers in his ears while you're talking to him in person. Rude, right? On Google+, however, a great number of users are getting intimate with their ear wax. "Engage with me, but I'm going to be selective about who I respond to!"

Unfortunately, based on the behaviors I'm seeing on Google+, many people are enjoying collecting comments, but mostly just responding to their "real friends". It's this kind of lopsided interaction that prevents people from creating meaningful relationships and having satisfying one-on-one dialogue. (Of course, this practice may vary based on the number of people who chime in and that person's style when it comes to social networking.) The beauty of Twitter is that it knocked down walls, giving us greater access to people--even important ones. Google+ is building back up those walls, denying many people the courtesy of a direct response. Shutting down meaningful communication and, in some cases, making people groupies instead of equals.

If you have the desire to know me, connect with me on Twitter. Send me a tweet and I'll answer you. Strike up a conversation with me and I'll happily engage with you. If I want to know you, I'll do the same. However, I refuse to be one comment in a long thread on Google+. After all, if I take the time to engage with you, shouldn't you engage back?  Threads destroy one-on-one communication, plain and simple.

I'm a person. Talk with me; I talk back. It's called conversation. I'm not in high school anymore and I'm not going to compete in a popularity contest. I won't be one in a crowd, fighting to be heard or acknowledged. I'm worth more than that. Aren't you?

Are you branding or are you blowing it?

Whether you're talking about a company or a person, building a brand takes work--and consistency. Who are you? What does your company represent? What words do you want to spring to mind when people think of you or your business?

Martin Lindstrom wrote a great piece in Fast Company called, "Your Business Card is a Billboard for Your Brand". Not only does he show some neat examples of great cards, but he uses Ikea as an example of consistent branding. Its do-it-yourself image is conveyed in everything it does. It's business cards have "name", "email", "phone" printed on them with a blank line for staffers to fill in their own info. New employees are shown to their empty offices, which are later filled with boxes of Ikea furniture. Ikea lives its brand.

Do you?

Branding isn't just about your logo. It's about your public image. Kind of like the keywords you use in SEO, but only this is real life. What do you want people to think when your name or company is mentioned?

Personally, I've found Klout's +K feature to be very insightful when it comes to my own personal branding. If you're not familiar with the tool, it allows people to endorse others on the topics that Klout has determined they tweet about the most. This is good for two reasons:

1) You can see if your given topics are things that you want to be known for (and, if not, you should fix that!).
2) Based on the number of +Ks you're given by other Twitter users, you can get some insight as to how others perceive you.

Above are the top five topics Klout has said I'm influential about (based on my tweets, retweets, conversations, etc.). Are these things I want to be known for? You betcha!

Your branding is cemented with every action you take and every word you speak. Are you putting in the thought that's required to shape your brand? Think about the following weapons in your promotional arsenal and whether they're solidifying the image you want to create and the brand you're striving to build:

  • Business card
  • Twitter bio (including background and avatar)
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Email signature
  • Collateral materials
  • Recruitment tools (if you're a business, your brand should promote a culture to prospective employees)
  • Google profile (more important than ever since the launch of Google+!)
  • YouTube channel
  • Blog
  • Search results

Unlike the old days when the media was the only one able to tell your story, today's web and social networking tools have empowered us all to be our own PR firms. If you do it in public, you're saying something about your brand. Will that message be positive or negative? It's up to you.

Restaurant dupes happy hour patrons

Know what I love more than nachos? Cheap nachos! Know what I hate? A restaurant who abuses my trust and tries to overcharge me.

This week, I went to happy hour at Acapulco Mexican Restaurant. Like lots of establishments, they offer discounted drinks and appetizers in the early evening hours. Well, after enjoying my end of day respite, the server hands me the bill. I plop down my credit card and look at the bill quickly before setting it on the table. However, once it's down, I realize something isn't right. I pick it back and notice I've been charged full price for everything. Full price nachos! Can you believe it?

The server comes to collect my moola and I point out to her that I've been charged full price for everything. She asks if I'm here for happy hour, to which I respond, "I'm sitting in the bar (which is where you have to be to get happy hour deals) and I'm here during happy hour hours. Yes, I came here for happy hour." She explains that customers are charged full price if they don't say they've come for happy hour. What the heck?

I've gone to many happy hours over the years and countless ones at Acapulco. Never have I had to state the obvious and say I came during happy hour for happy hour.

Frankly, I think this is one of the most unethical practices I've seen from a restaurant. How frequently do people just trustingly toss down their credit cards without analyzing the bill? I'd say a lot. Ever go to happy hour with a large group of friends or coworkers? Usually, one guy grabs the bill and says how much everyone owes, right? Does he usually double check the prices against the menu? Nope.

This having to say, "I'm here for happy hour and want the happy hour pricing" thing is ridiculous. I think Acapulco is taking advantage of people's trust and scamming those who are not paying full attention. Sure, as consumers we should always know what we're paying for, but let's be real. Are most people putting on their accountant hats after throwing back margaritas for two hours? Me thinks not.

This practice stinks! And I think the folks at Acapulco should be ashamed of themselves. Want to know how to build a business and prosper? Offer a good product at a fair price, create loyalty amongst your customers, and inspire positive word of mouth. Well, this mouth says those nachos will be her last at Acapulco. I have no desire to do business with anyone who tries to dupe me. Adiós señors!

Does your writing make people want to poo on your lawn?

"Dog walkers. If you would keep your pooch on the curb side of the   side walk, I would not have to replant the fence. Thanks."

Does this sign inspire people to be responsible dog owners? Do you care about this man and his fence? If you had a dog, would you secretly hope he or she had to poo when you reached this guy's house---just so you could leave it behind?   

Signs are frequently made in the heat of the moment. Think about the workplace. Ever seen an angry note in your office kitchen? I know I have. Some people just go all wacko when they see old food in the fridge or smell burnt popcorn in the microwave. It almost always inspires a sign. And, frankly, most every sign I've ever seen in the office kitchen has created animosity amongst the staff. Ever notice those signs go up anonymously?

Now, let's ignore the fact that the "fence" this guy has to replant is actually a cheap piece of flimsy, bent plastic. And, let's forget that there are only scattered rocks and dirt on the ground and not lush grass. This is someone else's property and I get that. No reason he should be subjected to poo.

However, as with most everything in life, how you respond can make all the difference. Is this man's sign the worst one ever posted? Not really. I've seen worse. But, does it motivate people to do what he wants? I don't think so. I can come up with at least a dozen other things this guy could have written that would yield a better result.

One dog poop sign that I used to see regularly said, Please pick up after your dog. Your dog will be proud of you. The homeowners engraved white letters on a red, plastic sign that was staked in his planter. Does this message make dog walkers more inspired to comply? I think it does. While the fence sign was all about the homeowner's inconvenience, this sign makes it about the dog walker's relationship with his or her pooch. Heck, yeah, I want my dog to be proud of me! (I went to take a picture of the sign for this blog post, but it was gone. I think someone stole it because they liked it just as much as I did.)

The next time you want someone to stop what you consider an undesirable behavior, think about what would make you respond favorably. Be objective. Also, weigh whether or not you'd get better results by talking with the person or by writing a note. Let's be honest, notes and signs are almost always someone's way of avoiding conflict.

If you do choose to go the way of the written word, write something down and then walk away. Look at it again in a few hours or the next day. Have a trusted friend look at it, too. Could the note use humor to make your point? Is your wording demanding or is it reasonable? Remember, words are powerful. And, very literal. Without the inflection or tone of a voice, things can be taken the wrong way.

The next time someone sets you off and you scribble that note, ask yourself, "would this make someone want to poo on my lawn?" It's a question that more people should ask themselves in my opinion. How about yours?

Is your work style a Tigger or an Eeyore?

This week, I rented "The Tigger Movie" because I refuse to grow up and that's just how I roll. Yep, I'm cuttin' edge, baby! Imagine my surprise when I saw similarities between the Winnie-the-Pooh gang and many people who I've worked with over the years! How Tiggerific!

Just because you're all grown up, doesn't mean there's not a little Piglet or Rabbit in you. Recognize yourself or anyone you know in these Hundred Acre Wood characters?

Winnies are easy going and everybody's pal. They don't get wrapped up in office politics or gossip. They frequently have a one track mind. It's hard for a Winnie-the-Pooh to multitask. 

Piglets frequently make a good second in command. They always have their leader's back and are loyal beyond reproach. Piglets are meek, but can be counted on to suggest a better way to do something if you're in danger of going down the wrong road.

Rabbits prefer working independently. They only work in groups if forced to do so. Rabbits are excellent planners and easily annoyed by those they perceive as slackers.

Kangas believe you learn by making your own mistakes. They will keep a watchful eye on you, but never crowd you. Kangas can be counted on to dispense encouraging words when you need them most.

Eeyores never rock the boat or challenge the status quo. For better or worse, Eeyores plow through the work day doing what's asked of them. Eeyores are not independent thinkers and never seek out the spotlight.

Owls think they know everything. They'll talk at you for 15 minutes and never realize you're not paying attention. Owls are impressed with themselves and their accomplishments.

Tiggers are enthusiastic and their exuberance energizes people. Although Tiggers have great people skills, they frequently jump into projects without thinking things through. Chaos frequently ensues when a Tigger is in charge.

Roos are eager to learn. They do best when they have a mentor to emulate and admire. Roos are good natured, like to make friends, and need encouragement. 

Who said there's nothing to be learned from cartoons! See anyone you know or recognize yourself? Last one to comment has to sit in the corner with Christopher Robin!

Radio show recruits social media expert

Lots of radio stations have been slow to embrace the social media craze. Many, in an effort to say they're doing it, assign social networking to an intern or muddle through it themselves--frequently using it as the microphone that they're used to talking into. The effort usually has disappointing results and the excitement wears off quickly.

Enter the nationally-syndicated "Tony and Kris Show" and social media master Jessica Northey.

Beginning today, the morning drive team of Tony Randall and Kris Rochester are upping their commitment to social media and setting themselves apart from the competition. With the addition of Jessica to their country music show, not only will they be getting a beautiful, on-air sidekick, they're bringing in one of social media's heavy hitters to enhance the show's web presence.

As owner of social media consulting firm Finger Candy Media, Jessica works with companies, celebrities, and musicians to help them harness the opportunities of new media. With a Twitter following of nearly 150,000 on Twitter and another 3,000 fans on Facebook, Jessica is a widely-known commodity in social media circles. She writes the daily column "Socialmediology 101" for (the web's largest music and radio industry community) and contributes weekly to She is also a regular contributor to Nashville Music Guide magazine. Jessica speaks at technology, broadcasting, and music conferences and is the founder of Country Music Chat (#CMchat) on Twitter. She has more than 15 years of media experience, including on-air and sales positions, and is currently ranked number one on the Most Powerful Women on Twitter list, as determined by

As traditional media tries to remain competitive, bringing in a hot shot like Jessica Northey is a step in the right direction. "They say radio is the original social media," Jessica says. "However, ratings indicate that people want less talk and more music these days, so we're going to take the conversation to the web." In addition to bringing social media-themed features to the on-air show, Jessica is going to be writing tips and tutorials for the Tony and Kris website, engaging people through the show's Twitter page, and chatting with them on Facebook. “Most of the markets don’t go all day long. They don’t have a brand ambassador that’s constantly engaging with their audience,” Jessica says. "We're going to give listeners a place to hang out after the show ends each morning."

Radio, much like print, is struggling to stay relevant in a world now dominated by high tech platforms. The addition of Jessica Northey to the Tony and Kris team might just be the cherry on top that radio has been missing for quite some time. 
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