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Boston Strong start line

April 13, 2014
by cooldeb
1 Comment

Boston Strong

After taking my traditional winter break, I started running again this week. I didn’t bother tracking distance or calculating pace, I just ran. It felt good and it hurt at the same time, yet I know it’s all part of getting back to it. Hello running legs and lungs – I welcome you both.

On April 21, the Boston Marathon will occur. For runners and supporters, this year’s run will hold deeper meaning and garner greater media, given the bombings of last year. No doubt it will be a packed race, with an abundance of new qualifiers and honored spots held open from last year.

Shortly after the race in 2013, Boston-based athletic apparel retailer City Sports, led a rather cool fundraising effort utilizing social and provided runners with an outlet to honor, remember, fulfill and represent.

I learned of the effort in my American Marketing Association issue of marketingnews. According to the article by Christine Birkner, the retailer wanted to sponsor a race to support the relief fund, One Fund Boston. However, their servers crashed due to the huge response. Since the details of the bombings were still forthcoming, they chose to pursue another route. 

City Sports empowered runners around the world to run on their own, wearing a bib that you could download with the hashtag #BOSTONSTRONG.

The virtual campaign garnered promotion from CNN and runners galore were posting pictures on Facebook and tweeting. Citing Birkner, the company’s Facebook page saw more than a 2% increase in “Likes” and brand mentions grew to 298%, per senior digital marketing specialist at City Sports, Ben Eld. “The donation that’s been made, we think that’s great and we want to message that, but we don’t want to say, ‘Look at what we did,’ because that would be overselling our part in it. What we’ve been communicating, instead, is our partnership with our customers and that this is why we’re proud to call Boston home, ” Eld stated.

From the perspective of a marketer, the outreach and quote epitomize meaningful social engagement with customers. Both demonstrate knowing not only where to engage – but how to interact – with consumers in an earnest, honest, genuine and relevant manner. From the perspective of a runner gurl, it’s just plain cool. 

I invite you to join me in support for the runners of the 2014 Boston Marathon via the Boston Virtual Charity Race. You choose the distance of 5k, 10k, half or full marathon. You choose the timing between now and April 21. You choose the terrain of trail, road, track or treadmill.

Virtual bib for runner Debbie Schallock, 2014 Boston Marathon

Join me in my run to support the Boston Marathon runners from 2013 and 2104!


 You can download your own virtual bib for your run. (Sweet, see mine to  the  left).

Let’s run (or walk!) but let’s go! In our own slice of this big world, let’s gather to  support #BOSTONSTRONG.






January 31, 2014
by cooldeb

Twitter tantrums


Yesterday, I was interviewed by a reporter from one of our local television stations. He was seeking a spokesperson on social media and communication, with an interest in tantrums on Twitter, particularly from young students.

While I spoke on behalf of communication in general, his segment also featured a spokesperson from the Guilford County School District, which has started tweeting and is experiencing a high volume of student response using foul language and lacking communication respect.

During the interview, I recall the reporter asking me why I thought this happening. More importantly, he asked:


This morning, as I flipped through the pages of my Self magazine, I came across an article entitled, “Reel in your Rant”  by Annie Daly. She was addressing the need for self restraint when it comes to blowing off steam and sharing aggravation on your social media platforms. (She actually offers three bits of advice for a “detox plan.”)

Citing data from Topsy Data Services, Daly shared that hashtags #Rant and #TwitterRant were tweeted 33 percent more in 2013 than in 2012.


Later in the afternoon, as I enjoyed working from home on a rare snow day, my ears perked up listening to the tv magazine show, The Insider. One of the reporters was sharing her own experiences of receiving racially insulting tweets on a fairly regular basis. She actually referred to the people who sent such tweets as “thumb thugs.”

I was left appalled.

Youth ranting, I get it. Work/life stress raving, I get that a little as well. Ranting and raving to someone based on their color? UNACCEPTABLE.

So this takes us back to the two questions raised earlier by the reporter:

Why is this happening?

Who is responsible for teaching social media etiquette?

In part, I believe this is happening because we do not value, and are therefore losing, interpersonal communication skills. There is no fear of accountability; respect isn’t even on the radar. It’s much easier to type words on a screen and hit send, tweet or post. It’s certainly much harder to look someone in the eye, especially someone you do not personally know, and spout off when you are standing face-to-face.

While I have been and remain an ardent advocate for social, it has expanded dialogue and conversations from across a table over a cup of coffee for 30 minutes to around the world with a laptop, phone or tablet in 30 seconds. We have ease; we have expanse. As a result, accountability and respect have been erased.

Who is responsible for etiquette? That ties back to accountability. Hold yourself accountable to what you are saying, as if you were speaking face-to-face. It also ties back to respect. Think the golden rule. It’s really just that simple.

I’d love to know your thoughts and welcome them via the comments section.




January 5, 2014
by cooldeb

My three words for 2014

These are my three words for entering into 2014. I got the idea from SuzeMuse, a blogger that I follow. She got the idea from Chris Brogan, who we all know and whose been doing this exercise for a while.

It’s a fairly simple concept. You choose three words that you want to focus on for the coming year. They can reflect actions, ideas, a way of being or a way of doing. They can reflect a stream of desired consciousness for your engagement in the day-to-day. Here are mine:


Meer Cat

Curiosity did NOT kill the cat.


I want to be intentional about asking more questions. That’s hard for me because, well, I’m a talker. It’s not that I don’t want to know more about the interesting comments that are made and invite those involved in the conversation to unpack those comments. It’s just that I get on a roll and I need to get everything out of my head before I forget what I want to say. (Do any of you experience this?!).

I am going to slow my roll. With that, I want to commit to being present in a new way when dialoguing with others. This will mean putting others in front of myself. This will mean caring more about the dialogic journey than the outcome. This will mean listening in a new way. And the coolest part of this is that along the way, I bet I’m going to hear (i.e. learn) something new. 



Railay Thailand

Carefree in Thailand!

I’m writing this post during my two-week vacation, a bonus of working in higher education. So naturally, I am in a carefree state right now. And I like it. I am relaxed, rested and happy. I have no agenda; I have no schedule. So my test of being free of care will come once I get back to work and my daily routine of deadlines, duties and getting things done. 

But I’ve been thinking – how can I approach life with a carefree attitude? How can I sustain these feelings? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure but by choosing this word, I am going to repeat it in my head when I get stressed, charged up or driven so intently that a pull back might actually be better. I think this will broaden my thinking to see, hear and consider new perspectives.

And once again, I bet I will learn something new. I am excited to see where this leads me.



Pescadero California

Seaside in Pescadero Cali, near Santa Cruz


I’m a water baby. Simply put, whenever I’m near water, my soul is happy. That includes swimming in those big, wide open spaces called ‘God’s swimming pools’ aka the ocean. And rambling and ambling in rivers. And lounging lakeside. And creeping along the side of a creek. And yes, even an hour of submersion in the beauty of a soaking tub.

For 2014, I want more water in my life. I have some ideas in mind and with God’s grace, I hope to see some of those ideas come to fruition.



So now, my question to you: What are your three words for 2014? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section. And hey, if you only have one word, that works too.

Cheers and here’s to an inquisitive, carefree year filled with water.

(Meer Cat Photo Credit): apdk via photopin cc




Kidlew art in New York

November 25, 2013
by cooldeb

Sidekicks and the City

I’m fresh back from NYC and while I can’t lay claim to Carrie Bradshaw adventures, I can certainly say…I enjoyed my Sidekicks and the City.

Arrival Night – Good Eats and Drinks

We arrive on Thursday evening and after catching up with our friends over wine and appetizers, we head out to dinner. Shout out to Chez Moi for the mussels, fries, beet salad and greens. Delish and we loved the 8 track tapes!  Our arrival night delivers local faire, which does not disappoint, including a night cap of adult beverages at the recently reopened Long Island restaurant. Turns out our waitress is from NC and we engage in a conversation about living life in the south and the north.

Three cheers to our Sidekicks and the City for a great opening night.

Day One – Another Foodie Day

Eataly in New York

Persimmons and Portabellos at Eataly










The highlight of the day was our venture to the wonderlust (uh, land) called Eately. Bravo Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich. Eately is a market filled with food stuffs from fresh fish to dessert, annually averaging 5 million visitors, which is more than the Empire State Building. Our bonus includes the star spottings of Toni Collette and Michael Stipe. The food? To die for.

Day Two – A Time to Reflect

One World Trade Center in New York

Still waiting to open – One World Trade Center












We make our way to One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. The last time I was on this hallowed ground was 2005 with my Mum, a friend and her mum. Then, it was filled with dirt, debris, destruction and was eerily quiet. Now, it is bustling with visitors from around the world waiting for hours to see the tallest building in the western hemisphere.

In this same complex, there are two memorial pools that run as deep and wide as the Twin Towers stood tall and proud. My video captures just a brief moment, but I think you can sense the peace and sanctity.

9/11 Memorial Pools

High Line Park in New York

Sidekicks ‘kick it’ at High Line Park

After this reflective time, we explore the historically transformed High Line, a park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

5Pointz in New York

The Graffiti Art Scene in 5Pointz

From the park, we begin our mission to buy vinyl and visit 5Pointz to see an outdoor art exhibit. In reality, it’s an outdoor art exhibit redefined. This area is considered to be the world’s premiere “graffiti Mecca;” artists from around the world have painted colorful pieces on the walls of a 200,000-square-foot factory building.

Art by Kidlew at 5Pointz in New York

Art by Kidlew at 5Pointz









The art has now been painted over in a wash of white. We had a privileged window. Thank you City Sidekicks. And thank you Kidlew, it was great meeting you.

Last Day – Brooklyn Style

On our last day, we stay local and take in the beauty of Brooklyn Heights, including walking the infamous Brooklyn Bridge.

Brooklyn Heights in New York

The beauty of Brooklyn Heights in fall

Brooklyn Bridge in New York

The walk












My cooldeb takeaway: Grab your sidekick(s) and get to the City. 


October 3, 2013
by cooldeb

Adrift in the Outer Banks

“Travel takes more than money. It takes the most precious commodity: time. Anyone can buy a car, hand-bag, or shoes, but travel requires energy, bravery, curiosity, and a degree of adventurousness.”

So says hotelier André Balazs.

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: The village of Ocracoke

As I set out for my vacation to the Outer Banks (OBX), I read this knowing my next post would focus on my coastal adventures into God’s land. Now, I had a provocative sentiment to ruminate upon…

At this time in my life, André’s reflection is particularly poignant due to recent changes in our workplace. These changes are requiring even more time in the day and more expendable mental energy. Arriving to my vacation destination in Avon, I found myself pulled between being “plugged in” and choosing to NOT be plugged in. Simply put, I was feeling adrift in the OBX.

The commodity of time. Admittedly, it took me four days into the seven day excursion to commit to the release of time. *Sigh 1.* (Thus why Balazs says time is a commodity). Why did it take that long to own the beauty and peace and let myself go? We need to learn how to be intentional to reset minutes of connectivity to minutes of distinct disconnectivity.  In some ways, I think we need to give ourselves permission to let go and embrace the moments of restoration. Really? Sigh 2.* When you do, here’s what a seized moment looks like:

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: The restorative beauty of a sound sunset in Avon










Energy. I also admit it took mental energy to allow this restoration to occur. I believe the essence of vacations can be distilled to letting go in order to go with the flow. Normally, I’m a pretty “fluid” traveler, yet on this vacation, I was feeling adrift.  My reminder came in the form of my lab; he reminded me of the beauty when you seize the moment:

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: Bo becomes a fish


Outer Banks

Outer Banks: Bo says the beach is sand-tastic






Bravery. See time as commodity.

Curiosity. I fed my curiosity through food. I explored every seafood source I could from the neighborhood monger to the restaurant where the locals were eating. Among the favorites? Steamed local clams and oysters served with seaweed salad, curiously (read surprise!) atop a mound of kosher salt:

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: Steamed oysters and clams in Ocracoke








Adventure. I had an epiphany after living in NC for twelve years. Time to explore the OBX. I began in 2011 with a solamente exploration with Bo to Ocracoke. For this year’s backyard adventure, I went to Avon and was blessed to have my parents join me for the first half of the week:

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: The ‘rents rock it in Ocracoke








Friends joined me for the latter part of the week, where we took in the glory and awesomeness of:

Outer Banks

Outer Banks: The infamous Hatteras Lighthouse








So remember this one cool thing.

View my OBX photo album at Cool Deb on Flickr.


Movie poster for Fruitvale Station

September 1, 2013
by cooldeb

Fruitvale Station and the intersections of life

Fruitvale Station is not a movie you should just try to see. It’s not a movie that you should simply put on your radar. And don’t cast it into the category of – I’ll just wait to see it on Netflix.

It’s earned well-deserved accolades from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. The directorial debut of Ryan Coogler is nothing but smashing. For me, I primarily went to see lead actor, Michael P. Jordan. I became a huge fan after watching him in the super amazing, super awesome television series Friday Night Lights.

However, these kudos should not be the fuel for your Go impetus. Rather, it’s the opportunity to witness a man’s story that is both beautiful and tragic. Some of you may be familiar with this narrative and some of you may not.

It is there, in that intersection of the differences of our lives that should fuel your Go impetus.

I went to see the film two weeks ago with my fellow book club members. In the small, dark theatre that beautiful Thursday evening, there were only eleven of us total in the theater. When the movie ended and the credits rolled, all eleven of us remained in our seats. We processed; we continued sniffling. We lingered; we were unable to move. In that shared moment, we were a diverse group of viewers across gender, age and ethnicity. Yet regardless of our lived experiences, we sat steeped in a collective reflection of emotion and thought. This movie humanizes.

Fruitvale is based on a true story. It’s a 24-hour glimpse into the intersections of Oscar Grant’s life. We are exposed to his unbridaled passion and his fight to survive and provide. We see the intersections of his envisioned future and his present, both being shaped by his previously lived experiences.

We are not privy to what leads Oscar to his early choices. He is surrounded by a loving family and a fiercely committed and wise mother. As I watched the movie, I was keenly aware that Oscar did not instigate negative situations, yet they were present. His responses were girded in a strong sense of self, protection and survival.

If you find yourself familiar with this life narrative, Oscar’s choices and decisions make sense. If you are not familiar, they do not. I have spoken with friends with varying levels of familiarity. One seems to have more answers than questions; the other seems to have more questions than answers. Either way, there is no right or wrong.

What is present and right is the opportunity to dialogue, learn and gain insight when we meet at that intersection of lived experiences…as wildly different as they may be.

Movie poster for Fruitvale Station

Movie: Fruitvale Station


August 1, 2013
by cooldeb

You can’t buy ‘Like’ but you can build it. And they will come.

I recently read Can’t Buy Me Like: How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy. If you want a better understanding of how social can enhance your organizational brand, it’s a must-read. Below are my top three takeaways:

Lesson #1: “We don’t own the brand. The people who use our product own the brand. Let them talk about the brand for us.” (Sidebar: This nugget of knowledge can be found on page 112. It’s my favorite and why it’s #1).

Simple brilliance. If more marketers and branders realized this, the industry would be changed and social media would be the key leveraging tool. As communication professionals, we can conduct all of the advertising we want. In the end, it’s about the user experience.  

If your brand and social are in-sync, you’ll have self-ascribed and resolute ambassadors. If they are out-of-sync, you’ll have the opportunity to dialogue with your social community and get them aligned.

Case in point: In the book, Joe Tripodi, the CMO for Coca-Cola, had an a-ha moment following the Mentos and Diet Coke “experiment” that went viral on YouTube:  ”I used to think that loyalty was the top of the pyramid:  awareness, consideration, preference, loyalty. Then I said, ‘Oh my God, advocacy is the bigger thing.’ If you can get people to be active advocates as opposed to passive loyalists, I think [that] is so much a part of our future.”

Yep, more simple brilliance and spot on. Thanks Joe, for the beautiful lead-in for lesson two.

Lesson #2: “An ad is someone passing you on the street, someone you may or may not even notice. A Like is an encounter. Maybe it’s a kiss and a hug and a catch-up, or maybe it’s just a mutual smile in passing, but it is an actual engagement involving at least a modicum of attention and emotion and presumption of ongoingness.” (Sidebar: This bit of social awesomeness can be found on page 123).

This is a sentiment from Garfield and Levy after they shared a case study about Oreo. I love this and here’s why:

It clearly articulates the value of social media in direct comparison to traditional media. Traditional can (largely) be defined as passive. It’s serving an impression; it’s sharing a thought or a picture yet it does not offer an opportunity for engagement. Think outdoor billboards, magazine ads or radio spots.

On the other hand, having a social media presence (and in this case, Facebook specifically) invites engagement. Someone who likes your page actively selects to visit your page, which means your newly engaged community member has bought into your brand with a desire to engage and maintain ongoing interactions with you. Carpe diem.

Lesson #3: “A purpose is not a commodity, and you cannot outsource soul searching…..a purpose statement must be derived, not contrived.” (Sidebar: Are you building your brand? Don’t miss page 128).

These little nuggets o’ wisdom also come from the authors and reflect how organizations should uncover their brand personality and carve a space and place within their competitive field. I love these nuggets because of the experience we went through at UNCG as we completed our own Integrated Marketing & Strategic Communication (IMSC) effort. We used Simon Sinek’s thoughts on cultivating a “Why-How-What” communication strategy to differentiate ourselves. It’s how we defined our own, authentic communication strategy and shared value of Do something bigger altogether. As we continue to roll out IMSC across our campus, we continually say it was built from the ground up. It was not conceived by the marketing folks, but rather, discovered and uncovered during our own research. A revelation of sorts.

So go on. Revel, reveal and get social.



June 30, 2013
by cooldeb

Cheerios is good for the (biracial) heart

Apparently, Cheerios “went biracial” and I missed it.

The company produced a tv commercial featuring a family with an African American male, a white female and a biracial child. Even though I had seen the commercial, the thought never crossed my mind, until I read about it in The Big Tent by Advertising Age, which features opinions on diversity and inclusion, as well as my weekly print issue of the magazine.

You can google the topic; there are plenty of people talking about it. I would like to add my voice and ask that you add your voice via this post as well.

I am a tremendous advocate for embracing life’s journey and using that to create, share, articulate and define your unique voice. We all deserve to have our voices heard, whether we are at work or at play, as long as respect for others undergirds the sharing of the narrative, as well as listening to the narrative.

They provide us with educational moments and to hear and see things from a different point of view with intention. 

Where I believe the line gets blurred is when the dialogue occurs without respect for the contextual. Contradictory? Perhaps, but here’s how I see it: Having a respectful dialogue in the workplace about your decision making on how to address an organizational problem or perhaps a project that might be informed by your gender, race, age and/or life experience is a good thing.

I work with a team of fifteen and we couldn’t be more different. I do believe we talk, share, engage and listen. With respect. The same goes for personal situations. Say you had a backyard barbecue and the topic of the Cheerios commercial came up. In the space and place of friends – and once again with respectful dialogue – all opinions and viewpoints should be engaged and entered into.

This is something I actually enjoy and seek out because it’s how I learn, grow and evolve.


June 4, 2013
by cooldeb

Hash tags aren’t just for Twitter

A friend of mine who manages social media for her company recently made a post on her Facebook page and asked, “What is up with the use of hashtags on Facebook? I don’t get it.”

It seems that not too many, if any, advocated for the use of hashtags unless you were on Twitter or Instagram. The majority of the comments on her Facebook page were in total agreement: hashtags + Facebook = blasphemy

Well then, consider me a blasphemous marketer. And I said so on her wall.

I began my own exploratory on how the ever-popular and often misused hashtag came to be, and wondered if Twitter owned that birthright. Per the wikki page, hashtags were first used within Internet Relay Chat networks to identify topics, groups or topics relevant to a particular group. Twitter does get credit for elevating its use and popularity and the first high-profile application occurred during the 2007 California wildfires (#sandiegofire).

From wikki, my online search led me to this site for best practices where I discovered the illustrious hashtag can – and is – being used in other places. These uses are affectionately known as “Hash tags in the wild” (see the bottom of the web page).

As the marketing director for a university, social media is part of our everyday. It’s where our audiences live and where they learn about us, ask questions and share opinions. I have used hashtags on Facebook. Often. And sometimes, I even “borrowed” them from our Twitter page.

Now let me be clear. We do not speak the same language across these two platforms but we do often share the same information. For us, it makes sense to leverage #uncggrad, #gospartans or #UNCGHomecoming across our different social channels. It simply continues the dialogue where are audiences are talking about us and with us.

Most popular and most often used, is #dsba. As an outcome from our integrated marketing initiative, #dsba equates to Do something bigger altogether, the university’s tagline and more importantly, our shared value. We use it when we post a story or compose a tweet, along with others from our campus community. Our students use the hashtag not only on Twitter and Facebook, but also on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. For them, it is a collective conversation thread and for us, a branding opportunity built by an association that we contribute to, as well as our #dsba community members.

Is it working? I know we are on track because we created a page on our social media hub, Connect, that reflects the many social conversations around #dsba. And if I can take an indulgent moment to brag on the work of our creative team, we have won awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the American Advertising Federation for our use of social media and #dsba to promote and share integrated marketing. We have given several presentations on this topic as well.

Beyond higher education, hashtags can be used for consumer products goods, services, programs – the list is endless. It may take a while to build that community, but it is doable if you are diligent, responsive and consistent.

And by building that dialogue, you engage with your audience and encourage members to participate and shape the conversation. I can’t think of a better way to build and enhance your brand reputation.


April 26, 2013
by cooldeb

Belly laughs, butterflies and beer

Declaration (1 of 2):

I am a big Dave Eggers fan.

I first began my ‘fan affair’ with Dave after reading What is the Whatan autobiographical story told through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng. It chronicles the journey of the young boys and men from the South Sudan who fled to Ethiopia and eventually, Kenya. It’s the most gut-wrenching and life-altering book I have ever had the humbled privilege to read. I encourage you to put it on your ‘must read’ list for when you have your heart and gut aligned. For those who know me personally, you also know these men hold a very special place and space in my life. They have grounded me and schooled me throughout our journey together, which began – ironically enough – on 9/11.

But I digress.

Artfully crafted, I have also read Zeitounwhich documents the before-and-after of Hurricane Katrina, as experienced through the eyes of a Syrian resident. I found it astonishing and sad, as well as enlightening. I was mystified by the cultural navigation that Mr. Zeitoun had to conduct during this disaster. 

Based on these great reads, I recently chose to lead a book club discussion on You Shall Know Our Velocity. *Sigh.* There was not much to discuss as many did not read it. For those who tried, they did not engage with the book.

I forged on with my ‘fan affair’ and I’m glad I did because I had the beautiful fortune to read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I simply cannot express how fantastic this book is and how easy the words roll and flow. They tell a story that gets inside of you and inside of your head. 

Declaration (2 of 2):

This is an excerpt from the book and yes, it’s true, Eggers was reflecting on his youth when he wrote it. But doesn’t it sound like some witty wisdom we can all live by? I think it will become my new life motto and my own personal cheer. So plan to come to my house next Saturday. We will giggle from the gut, talk about lovely and light things while tapping a keg. Who’s in?


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