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Digital Media & Communications

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Apps Every Small Business Should Know About

Wikimedia Commons, Apps

Apps have become an integral aspect of small business innovation. With a new app released at every turn, it’s important to stay updated on the latest technology. Many apps are free or cost-effective for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Every business owner wants the best for their business – smoother operations, more effective processes, flexibility, and tools that allow businesses to grow. Apps directly impact and improve business operations, and with the demands of operating a small business, you’ll feel relief using these technological life-savers. Here are a few top apps every small business should know about, and incorporate into their daily business practices.

  • Evernote is a brilliant app that helps you organize your ideas, documents, photos, recordings, and more across digital devices. It’s common to forget, misplace, or overlook things while running a small business. This nifty app keeps everything organized and accessible so you never have to worry about forgetting. To better track your great ideas, projects, and plans, Evernote serves as a management system and memory bank. You can put your collection of post-it notes and highlighters away with this app.
  • Box is by far one of the best cloud-based file hosting services out there. It’s different from Dropbox which is more useful for consumer tasks like storing music and photos. With Box, you can store, share, and collaborate on business documents and files. You can edit photos and videos from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. It’s easy to access and it allows you to connect with colleagues. Box is recognized as one of the most secure systems, and provides more tools that are applicable to business users.
  • Square helps entrepreneurs and small business owners accept payments via mobile, tablet, or iPad. According to Square’s website, 180 million Americans carry credit cards and Square makes it simple to get started. Fill out a short online request form, expect free shipping, and everything arrives in a few days ready to be activated. There is just a 2.75% fee per swipe for all major credit cards or a flat monthly $275. Whether you’re a distributor, massage therapist, retail shop, or any other small business, this app will make transactions effortless.
  • MailChimp – an easy to use, intuitive email marketing system will change the way you run your marketing campaigns. Whether your business sends out regular newsletters or runs weekly email marketing campaigns, this tool will enhance and improve the way you send emails. If you aren’t currently sending emails, I highly recommend you do. Start an email list and offer perks for customers who sign up. MailChimp provides users with reports and analysis to understand their subscribers – an important measuring tool as you begin assessing the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy.

There are many other apps at your disposal so go forth and explore the exciting world of apps for your small business. Many are easy to use; designed to advance businesses in nearly every stage of growth.

Which app do you find most beneficial for your business? Share your comments below!

We Remembered Your Birthday, Now Buy From Us!

My June birthday was an exciting one highlighted by good company, deliciously prepared food, fantastic presents, and glorious Pacific Northwest weather. To my surprise, I also received many birthday greetings via email and post. Not from friends or family, but from businesses I’ve either registered with or visited in the last 2 years. I can recall receiving 1-2 birthday notices from businesses in the past, but this year, I had 9 businesses wish me a very happy birthday. A post card with a 10% birthday discount at my local naturopathic clinic was my favorite.

In a data driven world, this emergent marketing strategy helps businesses connect with their consumers and/or customers. Remembering a client’s birthday (even if it is technologically automated), produces feelings of gratitude and shifts the business to a position of prominence. This realization resulted in contemplating how a business can strategically increase their customer satisfaction through organic marketing efforts. Often times, mass emails, obvious automated messages, and over-the-top communicative expressions don’t connect with the customer in an effective way.

Most people are fully capable in detecting whether or not a person is, what I coined, authentically certified. It’s unfortunate that some businesses/institutions I’ve walked into have viewed me as a breathing, monetary additive. Don’t get me wrong, I understand every business operates by some sort of revenue/monetary model – that’s expected. However, the customer doesn’t need to blatantly be treated as a contributory asset to the businesses’ financial model. So how does a business proceed in this matter?

As a business owner, ask yourself one question when developing a marketing strategy, campaign, or tool: Would YOU want to be communicated to in this way?

Our external perceptions are often reflective of our own expectations. When a business owner consistently asks this question in regards to the company’s marketing approach, the probability of successfully connecting with your client and/or customer increases. Humanity is more analogous in these social matters than we come to believe.

How has your business managed customer loyalty, satisfaction, and connectivity? Knowledge is power – share below!

Are We Playing for the Same Team? Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship

Earlier this week, I met with another business owner who simultaneously works at a large corporation. He mentioned the term: intrapreneurship. With my interest piqued, I inquired on its meaning. “An individual who works at a large company, but has an entrepreneurial mind,” he said. My initial thought was: How cool is that! As I further contemplated on the concept, I began to consider an opposing thought. Couldn’t this be perceived as a backlash to entrepreneurship? According to Forbes, “…the reality remains that for every successful entrepreneur who builds even a modestly successful business, there are thousands who struggle and toil endlessly and may never see the fruits of their labor come anywhere close to commercial success.” Most entrepreneurs struggle with achieving economic success in a monetary system that doesn’t seemingly reward their efforts. On top of this sordid reality, here come the intrapreneurs, a perfect blend of entrepreneurship and comfy corporate support. Whether entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are allies or foes, this new concept requires further speculation.

During my time working in corporatism, I didn’t feel as though I could utilize my entrepreneurial skills and talents. Rather, I was more encouraged to adhere to a corporate environment comprised of sheep-like individuals. At times, I even felt as though I was under the dominion of quasi-parental units. In saying this, not all corporate environments are the same. Technology corporations with an economic advantage like Yahoo!, Google, or Microsoft express a cultural value for entrepreneurship. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even large companies like Google have their stipulations when it comes to investing in an independent business as it clearly takes time from your contributions to the company. Google is also the company that rewards innovation and fresh thinking, in essence driving intraprenuership. This is the reason why the CEO of Yahoo! had to put her foot down on ‘work from home’ arrangements. She found an increase of entrepreneurial efforts which takes time away from the efforts of being an employee at the company. In this case, intrapreneurship can be achieved in the work environment, while entreprenuership took hold as the gap between employee and employer increased.

Entrepreneurs experience a difficult time finding the economic and social support required in launching a successful commercial business, whilst intrapreneurs gain accessibility to these support systems through their steady salary and employee relations. Genuine entrepreneurship rarely exists within companies, rather what is encouraged at some companies is intrapreneurship as it complements the internalized efforts of the company. Entrepreneurship is a separate entity that continues to strive within an economic system that upholds corporate values, sometimes making the goals of the entrepreneur seem futile.

Do you consider yourself an intrapreneur? What are the differences you have found between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship?

Share your thoughts below & Share this post via Social Media!

How to Keep the Intelligent Interested

Intelligence is a broad, overarching concept in today’s society, so what does it truly entail in relation to holding the clever individual’s attention? Intelligence can be defined in various ways based on interpretative analysis, societal values, economic status, and/or communication techniques. How people view and interpret intelligence consists of an expansive, comprehensive list to say the least.

intelligent content

As a freelance marketer, I often have to conduct content analysis on content creation and content curation. Generating content requires an extensive process that can be time-consuming whether you’re a copywriter, author, publisher, social media specialist, communications strategist, and so on.


It requires you:

  • To know your target audience
  • To understand your field/discipline/subject area
  • To further investigate what competitors, potential partnerships, etc. are doing
  • To be plugged into your market through networking

There is a lot of content out there and as a result, it’s difficult to always find what you’re looking for without being bombarded with irrelevant content. On one hand, this is an organizational technology issue, and a few new emerging tools appear promising. Traditional search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo don’t cut it.

The main questions my clients who are new to social media always ask are:

1. How will people find YOUR content?
2. How do you find precisely what you’re looking for?

The issues of time and organization arises here which can put anybody off. Now, let’s delve into what type of content is being created out there and for who. Depending on your profession and/or interests, you’ve already narrowed your content search and target area/s. I’m sure everyone at some point or another have noticed how content in a specific area appears very similar. I term this the content homogeneous effect. Essentially, content utilizes key buzz words, generic statements, and similar puns. Of course, this is natural as it is not the easiest task to consistently produce original content; however it can induce boredom to experts/intelligent individuals in the field/area. Just look at the proliferation of twitter #hashtags.

How do we overcome these issues when it comes to content creation and content curation in relation to keeping people interested?

  • Producing valuable, creative content in your field/industry/interest area. Lateral thinkers preferred!
  • Utilizing SEO: “SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, which is the ongoing process of improving the visibility and ranking of a website or web page in the organic search engine results presented in Google and the other major search engines.” (Cool article to check out on SEO).
  • Learning, identifying, and creating provocative, stimulating content in your subject area is key.

Share how you produce phenomenal content in your industry and keep your audience captivated!

Connect with via my social media networks on my blog homepage.

Life of Freedom: A Freelancer’s Story

As some of you may already know, I started my corporate career in the heart of London, England. A cosmopolitan city known for its international competitive nature and rigid organizational structure. I didn’t consider becoming a freelancer because I had no idea how to embark on such a career or if I was even capable of making a decent living as one. As I continued down the stagnate path of corporatism, I longed for flexibility, free thinking, working into the late night rather than early mornings, and the ability to skip unnecessary meetings. After attempting to find the right corporate culture for myself, I finally threw in the towel shortly after moving back to the states. I met a brilliant small business owner who gave me great guidance, a small push, and tips on how I can become a freelancer and have the elements of a career I’ve been yearning for at my fingertips. Within a month I had my first client and within a handful of months, I had acquired 3 clients and felt exhilarated.

Keep in mind, although the professional life of a freelancer was everything I expected and more, I also realized there were challenges that I hadn’t considered. Given I didn’t have a direct boss, I realized I had to more stringently manage my time. I’ve always been quite organized, but psychologically speaking, not interacting with a manager/boss daily initially affected my organizational skills. Of course, I learned from this and began implementing more strategic ways of managing my time. For example, I maintained a schedule, daily correspondence, and weekly phone/Skype calls with every client. Furthermore, I kept a desktop time tracker to make sure I wasn’t spending more/less time than I should be on a designated task.

As with all things in life, there are pros and cons to every environment/situation. Here is my personal assessment of working as a freelancer in comparison to working in a corporate environment.

Pros

  • Flexibility: I set my schedule. This is so valuable to me given I don’t mind working into the late hours of the night, but I had such a difficult time waking up at 6am everyday! Psychologically, I feel so much healthier taking control of my schedule and still producing great results for my clients.
  • Valued: I wholeheartedly feel much more valued as an employee than I ever did working in a corporate environment. My clients provide me with ongoing, genuine feedback and I strive to maintain and exceed their expectations. I actually feel needed and that’s a pretty awesome feeling in a career.
  • Time: Every moment I spend on a task/project given to me by a client is worthwhile and productive. I don’t experience idle time or obligation to attend meetings that were not conducive to my professional development.
  • Independence: I enjoy social interaction and collaborating with team members, but not as much as I value my independence. I noticed I am much more of a lucrative asset when I work independently and have the space to explore creativity and strategic thinking.

Cons

  • Social: Yes, I am more of an independent worker, but I still need the collaboration and integration of community support. I’ve had to consistently reach out to business social groups, conferences/seminars, and lectures.
  • Benefits: No more weekly free cocktails with the colleagues. More importantly, I’ve had to find alternatives to health insurance, pension plans, etc. which I did take for granted in the corporate environment.
  • Compensation: Starting out as a freelancer didn’t provide me with quite the same compensation package as my previous corporate employers did. As anyone starting out in a career, you prove your abilities, skills, and talents in order to be rewarded with higher pay. However, know what you’re worth and never be afraid to ask for it.

In conclusion, I am absolutely ecstatic. I have found a career direction that complements me and encourages me to utilize my skills, cognitive abilities, and talents. Furthermore, a career that values my independence, creativity, and quirky nature. If you’re interested in becoming a freelancer but not really sure where to start, please contact me on my blog platform or connect with me via my social media links. I would love to help your career aspirations finally come true!

The Discrepancy of Professionalism

Aloha Readers! Apologies for the extended break in writing, I just relocated to a brand new city! The preceding blog post is written with the hope that when you become successful (if you aren’t already) in business, you will avoid the pitfalls of the professionalism paradigm discussed below.

Conditioning Starts Early On

Before embarking on my professional career, I held an idealistic view of the corporate world and business professionals in general. I naively believed professionals acted professional ALL the time, as if it were ingrained in them. As I grew up and launched my career within the constructs of corporatism, I realized professionalism was primarily an act and some were simply better actors than others. I’ve always considered myself a naturally professional individual beginning with my humble familial roots conditioned to be well-spoken, well-mannered, upright demeanor, and so forth. Having researched employee case studies, reflecting on my own professional ventures, and conversing with acquaintances about their experiences with the idea of professionalism in the workplace, I realized that much of it is a stage for actors. Allow me to explain.

A script is written, often by Hollywood. The westernized arena of the professional world is marred by the recruitment videos of the early 60’s; movies depicting ruthless but clean business dealings and an under-arching belief that professionals are completely capable of doing the jobs they are tasked to complete. The real world often contains characters unfit to handle the tasks they attempt to perform; yet they lead organizations and divisions nation-wide. This script can also be referred to as social conducts, social conformity, and organizational socialization processes.

Organizational socialization is crucial to the formation and production of actors (potential employees). For example, it’s not always enough if you have the credentials for the job, but it’s a question of do you fit within the corporate culture or do you know someone within the company to make an introduction? A free-enterprise economy, also known as capitalism, sets a professional standard defined by an organizational structure and culture, and keeps its minions shackled to the expectations of advancement through capital gain.

Examples of professionalism gone awry in a business setting are as follows:

  • Double standards of professionalism. Employer can get away with not demonstrating a high level of professionalism whilst the employee must continue to maintain theirs.
  • Experience is everything, even if the individuals are nothing (of substantial value that is).
  • Do what you’re told, not what you see. (Because the current idea and standing of professionalism is an illusion).
  • If you don’t fit the business self-image, you’re out. Not everyone fits into a designated molding of the illusory concept of the business wo/man; yet their talents, skills, and contributions are disregarded if they do not fit the mold.

Whether you’re a freelancer, working for a corporation, a start-up, or self-employed, professionalism is crucial in all areas of business and personal life; however this standard and idea of professionalism must not be restricted to a limited arena as corporate culture, mainstream cinema, or any other form of unrealistic expectation. This causes an imbalance in our economic infrastructure and rejects people not based on their talents and skills, but on not conforming to an absurd standard of a business image imposed upon us through irrational, unequal means.

A Gift Worth Paying For: An Alternate Economic System

In our modernized system, it’s not as simple as identifying as a Karl Marx fan or a capitalist devotee. The economic infrastructure is an intricate design involving a multi-faceted platform with many entities. Economics is at the center of everything. Every choice we make, be it within the constructs of relationships, business, education, consumerism, politics, religion, health, communications, economics is taken into consideration. For some, that may be an unsettling thought, but it doesn’t have to be. Economics in itself, as a discipline, practice, or theory is not negative. It can become negative through how we define it, attribute value to it, and interact with it. A concept called Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein led me to carefully consider a few things about our current economic system. The video is definitely worth watching.

“Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution” (http://bit.ly/VxHigR). The term Sacred Economics actually refers to an anthropological and social science of a Gift Economy. Wikipedia defines it as:

In anthropology and the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a mode of exchange where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists). Ideally, voluntary and recurring gift exchange circulates and redistributes wealth throughout a community, and serves to build societal ties and obligations. In contrast to a barter economy or a market economy, social norms and custom governs gift exchange, rather than an explicit exchange of goods or services for money or some other commodity.

You may wonder how this type of economic construct could apply to a modern system. Essentially, in science and technology, a gift economy prevails.

Engineers, scientists and software developers create open-source software projects. The Linux kernel and the GNU operating system are prototypical examples for the gift economy’s prominence in the technology sector and its active role in instating the use of permissive free software and copyleft licenses, which allow free reuse of software and knowledge. Other examples include: file-sharing, the commons, open access (Wiki).

Market economies were established when city states became more prevalent, and a more complex money system was necessary. Take into consideration the eruption of social media tools and management systems. Social media operates on a gift economic infrastructure in that it differentiates itself from a market economy on three accounts – context (relationship rather than transaction), earned rather than bought status, and the creation of social currencies.

In the Pacific Northwest, native tribes developed the ritual of the potlatch. Status was given not to those who accumulated the most wealth, but instead to those who gave the most to the community (http://bit.ly/MvjAuC)

Perhaps this type of economic philosophy sounds like fluff and infeasible to execute, but consider why you would think that. Our modern system no longer entirely operates on a gift economy so it’s difficult for society to comprehend an alternative economic operative process. Given our complex and expansive global economic system, an integration of a market and gift economy would be an optimal model to consider. How would we incorporate this? Would we refer to the mechanical and social operations of media, technology, and networking? Which entities would be involved? This would require a complex, collaborative process, but it’s completely plausible to execute. More on this in my next post.

-Share and spread the economic gift-

Anti-Muslim Video: A Sentiment Towards Differences

The barriers of cultural communications. The power of a message. The global accessibility of technology. Should there be a regard for ethics and cultural sensitivity when it comes to conveying a message? In the United States, citizens utilize their freedom of speech brazenly in comparison to other cultures; yet should this human right allow us to publicize content on a global level, specifically targeting cultures which indubitably do not exercise the freedom of speech to the extent westernized culture does? The key to artfully communicating is catering your message to your audience. The internet is a global technological platform for communication which places a great deal of responsibility on content creators.

Hillary Clinton’s response to Anti-Islam Video

This article is a response to the Anti-Muslim Video which has caused riots, hate crimes, and wide-spread violence world-wide. I believe that it is the responsibility of webmasters to empower users before viewing content. This can be done by providing a synopsis of the content, i.e. tagging videos as satire or inappropriate. These warnings could also be added post video upload by YouTube users based on votes. The issue at hand is not one of religious difference or the intent of the film maker. It’s an issue of communication in terms of technological accessibility, cultural awareness, and the power of a message. A simple resolution to this problem would be respecting a social group by not creating a film which blatantly depicts a parody of sorts about the Islamic culture. However, it’s obviously not that simple. Due to language and cultural barriers, what appears to be a parody to one group of people is simply an insult to others. One should have the freedom to express a message in any form in order to make a statement be it religious, political, sexual, etc. So perhaps we can develop the technology to communicate the true intent of our online content, while working to prevent and stem the outrage of unsuspecting users.

They must first provide a description and rate its content based on level of controversy. In that case, those who still wish to view it after they have read the warning (description of the content) will take responsibility. This may not seem like a significant step in improving such a matter, but psychologically speaking, if one is given the choice to view content that may stir controversy, one will feel like s/he made an independent choice and that will increase the probability of the person taking responsibility for that choice.

If anyone else has an idea on how to improve a situation as this in relation to technology, power of a message, and cultural communications, I’d love to hear your comments!

Say You’re Wrong So You Can Be Right

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, talks about resolving conflicts in any situation through self-empathy. In order for you to empathize with someone, you must first connect with yourself. The idea of putting yourself in someone elses’ shoes seems like quite an elementary idea, but it’s evident that this concept is very difficult to execute depending on the situation. In his audio book, Dale Carnegie provides many examples of when you admit your fault before being reprimanded by the person you faulted, it significantly increases your chances in establishing a peaceful alliance. Most people want to feel important and significant, as well as, being told they’re correct in their thinking or behavior. Carnegie gives an example of arguing with a police officer. Does this ever resolve the problem? However, if you admit your fault before the officer even has a chance to reprimand you, you demonstrate self-empathy and the ability to be objective about the situation you’re involved in.

In my previous post, The paradoxical entanglement of the self and the otherI discuss the complexity of self-empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s standpoint and act accordingly. In other words, being able to admit your folly and resolve the issue through an effort in understanding your similarities and differences. Referring to Carnegie’s 4th Principle, Begin in a Friendly Way, he quotes Woodrow Wilson.

‘If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ, just what the points at issue are,’ we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.’

Often we think most disagreements are because of our differences, but in actuality, the way we communicate those our disagreements are the primary problem. Rather than trying to resolve the conflict by focusing on the differing views, try to focus on what you have in common in relation to the issue/s at hand. This will create a mutual alliance through shared interests and views and leverage the differences at hand. Leveraging a difference produces strength. The strength produced will manifest in the relationship and benefit both parties. Diversity, differences, and conflict should not intimidate you and/or instigate negative reactions. Through self-empathy (understanding yourself in connection to the other) and a genuine willingness to solve the problem/s at hand will establish a peaceful alliance. The main reason people resort to violent forms of communication is because they don’t want to invest the time and energy required to solve the problem by executing the steps mentioned. However, if you do invest the necessary time through non-violent communication, you will realize that not only does it get easier every time, but that you would have spent more time and energy in violence and warfare. Be smarter, not harder.

The Pedagogy of the Ivory Tower

Whether you’re an academic, graduate student, or simply an entity within an educational institution, you’ve probably heard the term Ivory Tower referring to academic elitism. As within any social group, there is an acquired language and behavior associated with the group. As a participant of that group, you learn the language, mannerisms, behavior of what the group requires in order to discover your place within that group. This is typically known as a socialization process. There are cultural, social, political, economic standards a member must adhere to in order to find her/his place in the group more adequately. Education as an institution is not any different from other institutions and/or groups such as business, the arts, fashion, technology, or religion. Even within these main groups, there are subgroups with differing standards leading to a lack of cross communication. Given this is a communications blog, this post will cover strategies to improving society through the ability to interact with different institutions.

What makes academia different? Why is it often referred to as an Ivory Tower? Knowledge and language are two of the most elemental driving forces in creating operative processes. It creates power structures and a hierarchical order, sometimes without any form of accountability. A conundrum: what use is knowledge if most people cannot comprehend the language in which the knowledge is communicated in? This is problematic on an institutional level within the educational system, especially in higher education. On the other hand, should an academic (someone who has diligently worked to reach a level of intelligence) translate her/his production to a more ‘common’ form of language so that the public can understand? Or perhaps a communicative, technological tool should be used in order to solve such a problem.

We shouldn’t expect academics and scientists to translate their work into a more common language shared by most people, but we can advocate for a communication platform in which it is translated for the general public. Most pedagogical research focuses on developing equity centric frameworks for those already within the educational system. A recent development are ivy league institutions offering free classes online to the public. This is a great leap in the right direction, allowing a greater majority of people to increase their knowledge, but this avoids the problem with the pedagogical processes and academia itself, the general public is still unaware. To solve the original problem, translating existing scholarly work into a common language, would require a large workforce or an advanced program.

This would require an intricate, complex design involving technology and communication devices. How would this advance humanity?

  • It would allow access into other social groups’ language, trends, organizational processes for growth and development.
  • It would create a better understanding and mutual alliance amongst diverse groups.
  • It would help people reach their potential and develop a sense of accomplishment.
  • An established interconnectedness amongst humankind through the comprehension of universal knowledge.
  • A cessation of social, economic, political, educational hierarchical barriers between groups.

These are just a few reasons as to why an alternative platform needs to be developed. I can understand why an accomplished academic or scientist may have a problem with such a platform given their process in achieving such credentials, but isn’t the purpose of achieving such impressive credentials to share your knowledge, discoveries, insights in order to cultivate a greater understanding and interrelatedness with others? Beneath our accomplishments which were achieved through a hierarchical process, don’t we all share a common trait – being human?

La Mode Des Consommateurs

Source: fashionindustryconfessions.tumblr.com via Edith on Pinterest

For those of you who studied Spanish, not French, this post is called The Fashion of Consumers. I attended a fashion show this week held in downtown Portland, Oregon called Fashion’s Night Out. I’m not a devoted fan of the fashion industry, but initially I couldn’t resist the free cocktails, goodies, and food. This particular fashion show deviated from others I’ve attended given the show was open air and featured free pedicabs; although I opted for walking and being whisked between participating stores. An instigation of conflicting feelings and ideas began to consume me that were of much surprise. I had always committed myself to the belief that the fashion industry is a cultural, social, and economic space for the mass production of consumerism, a capitalistic playground, and a regression of female identity. Discussions and debates on the fashion industry rarely changed my mind even after attending fashion shows in Europe with friends in complimentary industries like film who invited me. Sure, I considered their ideas that the fashion industry aided individuals to discover a solidified sense of identity through the embodiment of fashion or that the industry offered consumers choices in identifying with these style of choice. However, as someone with a strong background in marketing and advertising, I could not be convinced.

However, there is something positive I realized while attending this particular fashion show. I always associated fashion in its entirety to be negative, but the expression and communication of fashion can actually have a positive influential impact on the economy, the consumer, and the construction of identity. There are 3 immediate issues which need to be addressed in order for this transformation to take place.

  • The redistribution of production, including restructuring the labour market
  • The re-conceptualization of the identity, through the re-branding and marketing of the fashion industry.
  • Change the way the consumer interprets and relates to fashion, so that it induces feelings of psychological and physical well-being. Not a market for competition of bodies and an emphasis on the capitalization of the economic being.

Is it valid that the marketization of fashion offers consumers choices in style? Of course. However, those choices are economically structured. Certain brands and designs are ranked of higher quality which means a higher price. How is that assessed and/or qualified? It’s simply qualified through what the consumer desires. If there are people willing to pay a certain amount for this ‘art’ if you will, then the demand increases as does the economic value. It’s really a game of numbers. The socially elite, the focal group of fashion patrons are the ones who construct and define the fashion industry. Similarly, it’s the idea of the artist discovered – an artist is made through the recognition of the elite patron.

Fashion in itself is not oppressive or destructive, but the systematic prSource: pitiskises.tumblr.com via Vanessa on Pinterestocesses behind it is. The belief that the fashion industry is ranked through a legitimate assessment of ‘high quality’ production is false. The industry primarily “relies on low-paid female, and often child labour, not only on a national but also a global level” (Joanne Hollows). The social and economic process is clearly more complex than what I have described, but I wanted to provide a general systematic idea. Not only are icons in the fashion industry representatives of eating disorders and invalid reproductions of gendered identities, but it advocates a hierarchy of styles through economic branding. Identity in this sense is an illusory concept. Our identities are not simply based on our style of choice, but the style of our earnings. That style of choice is essentialized and processed through an economical hierarchy, and the psychological alteration of the mass consumer through marketing, branding, and the misuse of identity.

Fashion can be enjoyable, stimulating, and part of a larger social phenomenon, but it needs to be re-configured to truly endorse a humanistic approach. Join me in producing this change by sharing this post on your social networking space!

The Rhetoric of Persuasion and Everything in Between

Here it is folks – The Republican National Convention. What we’ve all been anxiously waiting for. Even for those of us who do not identify as a Republican or perhaps don’t care much about politics, it’s difficult to not take a peek at what’s taking place at this convention. I was too tempted to not take the opportunity to analyze Paul Ryan’s speech, ‘College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms’ found on Yahoo News. Topics such as unemployment amongst college graduates, Obama’s healthcare plan, the housing and financial crisis were covered in this approximately 30 minute video. I paused it periodically and solely observed his facial expressions, bodily movements, and affective mannerisms. Most of us know there is a social psychological component to public speeches. In other words, have you ever asked yourself why so many political speeches sound similar (sort of like company mission statements)? Why is it that they seem to say so much, yet so little simultaneously? And what is the common leadership trait of a successful politician? That’s right, transactional and charismatic leadership.

In comparison to many charismatic religious and cult leaders, politicians utilize a persuasion-emotion based communications approach. They are taught to place a great emphasis on their non-verbal communication and inflection of their voice.

  • Using bodily movements. This makes an impact on what you verbally express by demonstrating your body (being) is connected with your mind.
  • Emphasizing facial expressions. Your face is important given it’s what people pay most attention to as you speak. It reflects how credible and genuine you are in accordance to your words.
  • Inflection of voice. If your voice gets louder when matched with a motivational statement requiring a response such as, ‘We can do this together America’! That provokes a reaction from the audience.

These forms of persuasive strategies are essentially the utilization and execution of physical stimuli. If you deconstruct any human interaction in any context, you are left with the basis of physical stimuli. From an evolutionary psychological perspective, physical stimuli is the basis of all communication and existence. In critical discourse analysis (CDA), “an interdisciplinary approach to the study of discourse that views language as a form of social practice and focuses on the ways social and political domination are reproduced in text and talk” (Fairclough, 1989), essentially analyzes powers structures in relation to language construction. In saying this, although the premise of charismatic leadership lies at the core of physical stimuli, what you say matters as well. However, how much of what a leader verbally communicates actually matters?

In Paul Ryan’s speech, he initially establishes his authority stating:

I accept the duty to help lead our nation out of a jobs crisis and back to prosperity — and I know we can do this.

I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old — and I know that we are ready.

The importance of these statements center on: I accept the duty to help lead; I know we can do this; I accept the calling; I know we are ready. A few sentences later he proposes we need change and that Mitt Romney is the man for the job. The audience responds by clapping and loudly expresses their praise. Why? Because of the strategic steps Paul Ryan took in establishing his authority, communicating his purpose, and providing a benefit/solution.

The Effective Introduction:

  • Authority
  • Purpose
  • Benefit

The audience is already excited about being at the convention so all the politician has to do is prove himself even further by executing the 3 simple steps in his introduction. Did Mr. Ryan really say anything substantial in his introductory paragraph? Anything that really made him unique or different from any other politician? Of course not. Political speeches are scripts with differing concepts depending on the political view/s. The same is true for charismatic religious speakers. The approximately 30 minute video of Paul Ryan’s speech at the RNC left me feeling disappointed that political speeches still contain sweeping broad statements, and have not evolved past the basics of physical stimuli tactics, leading to unsubstantiated communication.

Outstanding Followers and the Leaders Behind Them

The dynamic between leaders and their followers is one inclusive of many intricacies and analyses. According to many studies within psychology, sociology, business, or communications, there are 2 primary types of leadership – transactional and transformational. Transformational leadership “includes charisma, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, and inspirational motivation” (Barbuto, 2005). Transactional leadership, on the other hand, is described “as a simple process of creating strong expectations with employees, along with clear indications of what they will get in return for meeting these expectations” (Blanchard & Johnson, 1985). Within a transactional dynamic, leaders and followers decide upon a performance management system where both parties work towards mutual goals.

In recent studies, charismatic leadership has been a form of leadership style that has maintained a great appeal. “Weber (1947) first described the concept of charismatic leadership as stemming from subordinates’ (or followers’) perceptions that the leader is endowed with exceptional skills or talents” (Barbuto, 2005). “Research of charismatic leadership has consistently found significant relationships with follower trust, effort, and commitment” (Howell & Frost, 1989; Lowe et al.,1996). Both transformational and charismatic leadership have a direct, emotive impact on the follower through emotion – persuasion based communications. Examples of charismatic leaders include, Jim Jones (leader of the Peoples Temple), Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many more.

Transformational and charismatic leaders are known to attract many followers given their persuasion – emotion communications approach. In order to evoke emotion from an audience, the leader must keep a few things in mind.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they need/desire?
  • How will the leader benefit the audience?
  • What are the intentions of the leader?

The leader must persuade the audience of the change, revelation, experience, etc. cognitively, emotionally, and physically. Transactional leadership, on the other hand, is more about establishing a common set of guidelines, mutual agreements, goals with the followers and monitoring the progression. Transformational and charismatic leadership focuses on persuasion through tapping into emotive triggers. Both are beneficial forms of leadership that manage expectations. What a leader must keep in mind is who their followers are and what they need. In my next post, I will give examples of transactional, transformational, and charismatic leaders and the relationship they have with their followers.

Follow the Leader or the Followers?

What makes an exceptional leader? I was watching the widespread, viral video on Todd Akin, Senate candidate in Missouri, Republican Party give his two cents on rape from a ‘doctor’s perspective’ saying that women’s bodies can reject a ‘legitimate rape.’

While most upstanding citizens are baffled by this absurd comment, I began contemplating the traits of his followers. A leader cannot solely exist without its followers. Leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Vlad Tepes, Idi Amin Dada, or Joseph Stalin could not generate their ideas and execute their plans unless they had people willing to follow in their ventures.

Weber’s great contemporary Georg Simmel was even more explicit, suggesting that followers have about as much influence on their leaders as leaders have on their followers. Leaders cannot maintain authority, he wrote, unless followers are prepared to believe in that authority (John Gardner).

For most, it’s difficult to understand how someone like Todd Akin could have any followers especially after making such an invalid and offensive comment. On the other hand, because of his identity as pro-life and affiliation with the Republican Party, it may be easier for those with similar views to overlook and excuse his comment in order to focus on the bigger picture. Presumably, leaders designate the structural relationship with its follower; however, to what degree do followers also direct the relational pathway?

The communication style is a critical distinguishing factor in whether the leader’s message will be remembered and endorsed. Flauto (1994) determined that every leadership dimension (charisma, individual consideration, intellectual stimulation) was positively correlated with the communication competence construct.  Implicit in this assumption is the belief that leader’s communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership (Barge, 1994) (Matveev & Lvina).

This two-way, interpersonal communications model whereby the leader communicates the message to its audience, and through the leader’s ability to communicate effectively, the audience chooses whether or not to follow and develop a relationship with the leader. The leader must appeal to the needs of its audience through a multitude of communicative strategies and channels dependent on the context whether it be religious, social, political, or economical. The communication strategies in relation to leadership management vary in usage and execution. I will provide a more detailed overview of this in my next post.

As always – stay tuned. In the meantime, be both a leader and follower.

Parent-Child Relationships – Who’s the adult?

The relational dynamic children have with their parents consists of varying levels of growth and development. There is not a perfect parent nor child. There are, however, strategic ways you can negotiate with your child. It starts with respecting the child as a small grown-up through listening and responding accordingly. Simple enough right? Well, obviously there are hurdles to overcome given all children are different. The most common problem when it comes to parent-child relationships is one of dependency and trust. Children have no choice but to depend on their parental units for economical, mental, emotional, physical, and in some cases, spiritual support.

This dependency is the foundation of the dynamic and can either be a healthy or detrimental platform depending on the leadership of the parental figure. For example, the parent can equip the child with the adequate tools to be effectual, independent individuals in society. On the other hand, parental figures could restrain and prevent their children from becoming an upstanding citizen of society and finding their sense of self-identity. Dependency is a frail concept that needs to be constantly monitored, evaluated, and reconfigured in order to ensure the child is receiving the utmost preparation for the ‘real world.’ In saying this, it is crucial for parents to treat their children as respectable, independent beings by listening and responding to them in an appropriate manner.

Because children are still developing, parents often feel as though commanding or forbidding them to do/not to do something is the most effective strategy in the negotiation process. This is a very unhealthy tactic that lead children into possessing low self-esteem, lack of self-reliance, and poor negotiation skills with others. Scott Brown, author of How to Negotiate With Kids Even When You Think You Shouldn’t states, “the negotiation between parents and kids can actually be a great learning experience for your kids. If you don’t negotiate, your children may not learn how to deal with conflicts constructively. If you don’t teach them how to work with you, they may never learn how to work with others.” Kids need a venerable role model to learn from and demonstrate how to live as an independent entity in society. Rather than reprimanding your child, teach them what they did wrong by explaining it to them.

Referring to an example given by Stuart Diamond in his chapter on negotiating with children:

A boy wants to play with his new toy cars on the newly refurbished rug instead of the  wooden floors. Rather than his mother reprimanding him or commanding the boy to use the wooden floors because the rug had just been clean, the mother told the boy that the wooden floors would be better for playing with his cars because the cars will go faster on the wooden floors.

The child doesn’t care that the rug had just been refurbished. By providing him with the benefit of playing with his toy cars on the wooden floors, he is more likely to choose that option. This may sound like a simple solution but children often have simple requests. Because of common stresses and pressures of life, parental figures think (either subconsciously or consciously) that being militant or perhaps too authoritative will solve the problem. However, instilling fear and/or ignoring the child will only lead to unhealthy development. On the other hand, tending to your child’s needs without a concern for your own needs is just as harmful. When negotiating, in any situation, you choose the best option for all parties involved.

Share your examples on how you negotiate with children on this post!

Listen with your eyes. Respond in the body.

Often we focus so much energy on what people are saying through discourse that we overlook their body language. Many psychologists state that non-verbal communication makes up for 60-70% of human interaction; therefore, in any negotiation or conflict situation, it is vital to understand non-verbal communication. Embodiment can be defined as how the cognitive mind determines the form of the body (Merleau-Ponty). “Merleau-Ponty bases his entire phenomenological project on an account of bodily intentionality and the challenge it poses to any adequate concept of mind” (Carman, Columbia University). Referring to the idea that the mind and body is interconnected through an ontological or phenomenological framework, is one that many can agree upon given the simple neurological occurrence of our brain sending signals to our body in order for movement to occur.

Despite neurological support of this interconnection, we still have a choice in how we communicate with our bodies to align to what we verbally express. Recently, I watched a documentary called Examined Life by Astra Taylor who interviewed some of the most influential thinkers in our society such as Judith Butler, Peter Singer, and Slavoj Zizek. In the segment on Judith Butler conversing with a woman with a disability on issues regarding gender and disability. I observed Butler’s hands alternate from awkward limps to clenched fists from time to time throughout the conversation which can imply nervousness. The problem is that we don’t know if the nervousness derives from being filmed or because of the sensitivity of the topics discussed or both. This is why it can be challenging to understand the origin and intent of what you’re communicating through embodiment and affect.

What are some useful strategies in interpreting and understanding body language and cognitive communication? If you are involved in a negotiation matter, intently observe how the other body maneuvers in the situation and how it aligns to what the other is communicating. Take on an inductive approach in considering all influences and tactics in the matter, e.g. the environment, other parties involved, personal backgrounds.

  • Identify – Is there an incongruence in mind and body? If so, what is it? Why does it exist?
  • Group Signals – Observe and analyze all signals collectively. As mentioned, we don’t always know the intent of what the other communicate so a collective analysis is necessary at times.
  • Environment – Consider your surroundings. Perhaps you’re negotiating a matter on a hot day and that’s why the other seems irritable and uncomfortable.
  • Patience – Don’t be in a hurry in making any rash decisions about the others’ motives and intent. After your meeting, gather your thoughts and consider all inputs and outputs.
  • Second Opinion – There is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. Just as we are encouraged to get a second opinion for a medical matter, a negotiation may require an outsider’s opinion as well.

These are some strategic indicators and tools of conducting a successful negotiation in relation to mind and body interaction. In my last several posts, I have provided an overview of negotiation, communicative barriers, and strategic ways to overcome these barriers. I will begin to focus on more specific situations and matters in relation to persuasion, negotiation and communication.

The paradoxical entanglement of the self and the other

Whether it’s within an interpersonal, business, or cultural relational dynamic, the heightened understanding of the others’ cognition, emotions, and sensations seems out of subjective reach. Why do we find it so difficult to ‘place ourselves in the others’ shoes’? The process of identifying with the object (the other) requires disciplinary action given the existence of self-perception. Self-perception is accentuated through what one perceives in their internal state along with present and past external influences. So if self-perception involves external influences, the others, then why does one continue to struggle with understanding? The simple reason is communicative barriers.

One cannot fully transpose into objective realization through self-immersion because one is restricted through communication. First, “perceptions only indirectly reflect reality; they are colored and shaped by influences ranging from the imperfections of vision to the distorting pressures of hopes and desires” (Pronin). An individual has the ability to understand the others’ cognition, emotions, and sensations but is prevented by his/her own thoughts and experiences creating static interference when communicating. How do we overcome this perplexing obstacle? First, we need to address some of the problems associated with these communication barriers.

  • Social conformity – Least coercive form of obedience. When people are presented with social norms, they feel pressurized to conform leading to a distortion in perception and a dissonance between individualization and society.
  • Illusion of self– People often possess a high regard for themselves either through blatant self-exaltation, avoiding blame, self-absorptive behavior, etc.
  • Cultural differences – everyone has a different story to tell but we all live in the same space – our planet – so we have a basic understanding of ‘background.’ However, we are not globally integrated enough to always fully understand others’ cultural values and belief systems on a subjective level.
  • Objective realism – The belief and idea that others interact and observe their surroundings in similar ways. The core of naive realism is the conviction that one perceives objects and events “as they are”—in other words, that there is an objective reality to which one’s perceptions correspond in a more or less one-to-one manner (Ross & Ward, 1995, 1996).

In order to surpass the barriers mentioned, one must take on an inductive approach. Stuart Diamond defines the inductive process as, “starting from each situation and then figuring out the exact strategies and tools that are likely to be most effective.” Another concept to take into consideration is inter-subjectivity, the understanding and relatedness of a concept or idea through psychological means. “If intentions develop inside words, they also appear between them. If discourse is meaningful, so too is silence: the gaps between words also have their eloquence. To understand the other, it’s not enough understanding what [s/he] says; it is also understanding what [s/he] does not say but what [her/his] presence expresses all the same” (Serge Carfantan). Within the concept of inter-subjectivity, there is understanding and relatedness given the state of social being. If that relatedness and understanding can be achieved through psychological conceptualization and social integration, perhaps we can overcome the restrictive communicative barriers of understanding self and other.

So next time you’re negotiating with someone, keep an eye on their body language – do their shoulders tense, their eyebrows raise or their fists clench? In my next post, I will further discuss the connection of inter-subjectivity, embodiment, and negotiation in terms of avoiding conflict and establishing a peace-based solution. Stay plugged and share your opinions!

Strategies in avoiding warfare – A progressive approach

In my last post, What to do with Raw Power – The Basis of Negotiation, I addressed how peace-based negotiation strategies need to be implemented in order to avoid physical warfare. How do we achieve this? Stuart Diamond in Getting More talks about useful and effective forms of negotiation strategies to ‘get more’ and benefit all parties involved in a negotiation process.

He addresses three questions in any negotiation:

  • What are my goals?
  • Who are “they?”
  • What will it take to persuade them?

In a conflict, what is your goal? What is it that you wish to achieve or obtain? Who are you dealing with? Who are the key players in the process? How will you convince them to change their mind? How will you persuade them to take on a different course of action?

Goals – you need to possess a clear focus on your goal/s. Communicate clearly and precisely what your goals are and what you hope to achieve from a negotiation. That means PREPARATION is key.

Listen – Be genuine in your approach in what the other party wants from the negotiation. Make a conscious effort to understand in order to formulate an agreeable arrangement.

Perception – The only way to true understanding of the other is through perceiving their feelings and thoughts as your own. (In my opinion, this is the most challenging. I will address this in greater detail).

Differences – Often cultural, racial, ethnic differences are barriers to establishing a peace-based negotiation through communication strategies. The best way to overcome these barriers is through accepting the differences through the understanding of the origin of that difference.

Don’t be frightened of emotions. Emotive triggers are integral to who we are as humans. I cannot stress this enough – Emotions are HEALTHY. However, keep in mind, everything is a balance. Understand why, where, and how your emotions are executed and expressed. Understand why the other party you’re negotiating with is expressing their emotions in a particular manner through perceptive channeling. The challenge of perceptive channeling is the ability to undergo a simultaneous occurrence – the equilibrium of removing oneself in order to experience objective immersion. This leads me into my next topic on how one can potentially achieve a symmetrical form of consciousness in oneself along with an understanding of the other within a multi-dimensional communicative sphere.

What to do with Raw Power – The Basis of Negotiation

The ethical and strategic approach to war has become a topic of much debate amongst political and governing bodies, scholars, and philosophers. I attended a lecture at the World Affairs Council given by Dr. Jovan Babic from Belgrade University in Serbia on Ethics of War and Ethics in War. Dr. Babic stated some comments which most people would agree upon in regards to war such as:

  • War is an undesirable situation (in accordance to the German philosopher, Kant)
  • Self defense presupposes the idea of a threat
  • War is a sign of weakness, lack of strength/peace
  • War is unnecessary and expensive
  • War cannot be morally justified

So we can agree that physical warfare is not beneficial for a society economically, politically, or socially, but what is the alternative plan? Stuart Diamond in Getting More talks about raw power vs. negotiation strategies as an alternative way to solve problems and avoid war. Raw power is a carnal, physically based power that we all possess, usually attributed to male strength. It’s something that is easily at our disposal so in some ways, quite tempting to execute. He speaks of interest-based negotiation which would need a level of rationale from parties involved. As much as humankind likes to admit we’re rational beings, the empirical findings show we are creatures of both emotion and rationale. There is absolutely nothing immoral about possessing both an emotional and rational mindset, but the key is to find balance through what Stuart Diamond calls an inductive process – starting from each situation and then figuring out the exact strategies and tools that are likely to be most effective.

Strategic planning and implementation through the establishment of appropriate policies is the key to resolving a conflict through peaceful means. That may sound like quite a generalized solution to a globally complex, occurring problem such as warfare but it’s a simple concept really. The realization is that we don’t have to resort to physical warfare whether on a micro or macro level. We can resolve the issue/s at hand through negotiation based strategies that political and governmental bodies are already knowledgeable about. The only reason we decide to resort to physical warfare is because it’s easier and perceived as more efficient in ‘getting the job done’ at the time. Resolving issues through peace-based negotiation practices is time-consuming and requires participants to be actively involved through communication processes. It requires one to perceive what the other is feeling and thinking to reach a better agreement, and turn conceptual knowledge into operational knowledge (Stuart Diamond).

If war cannot be morally justified and its operative demands causes human strife through suffering and humiliation, why not work harder in establishing a peace-based negotiation strategy to establish a more humane existence? Communication is the principal guiding force in negotiation-based strategy planning and implementation. It’s the key to avoiding war through carnal forces. I will expand on the communicative strategies and restrictions to negotiation-based policies in relation to avoiding war in my next post. Stay plugged.

Welcome Communication Citizens and Ambassadors!

Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only
exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing
exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals
that can go it alone.
—MARGARET WHEATLEY

I realized communications is the most fundamental and significant form of human interaction and self discovery. It’s how we experience our surroundings and people, so why not be the most distinguished communicator in order to live life as a global communications citizen and ambassador! Let’s begin.

The basic definition of communications “is the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior” (wiki). Humankind spends much of its time and energy communicating, be it within an interpersonal, business, identity and mediation, or cultural capacity. There are many communicative barriers such as language differences, cultural restrictions, inflammatory media/statements, subjective/objective misinterpretations, and so forth. This blog will provide useful strategies in overcoming the communication obstacles we face in every facet of life. It will also offer examples of effective forms of communication to enhance your life, allowing you to get more whether that be from a romantic partner, familial situation, friendship, business relationship, intellectual understanding, a crisis, or simply a personal desire to improve your communicative abilities.

There will be an array of communication theories, models, scholars, critics I will be referring to in each post/session from Getting More, Stuart Diamond; Anthropology of Cyberculture, Escobar, A.; Corporate Communications, Christensen, L.T.; to How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. Furthermore, I will offer practical and effectual tools in delivering presentations, public speaking, social/business networking, problem solving, job interviews, and much more. Consider this blog and discussion forum a ‘how to’ guide to become a better communicator in every area of your life. I have learned, at times with difficulty, to be a more influential and effective communicator through my professional, educational, and experiential trainings. Join me in discussing the progressive field of communication through the sharing of ideas. This will catalyze a new outlook for the advancement of communications and establish an interconnection amongst humankind.

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