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Expect More Arizona

When I was preparing to launch Blabbermouth more than 4 years ago, several people asked me the same question: What types of clients would you like to have? At the time, it was very difficult for me to answer that question – with the uncertainty of whether I could make a living doing this hanging over me. So, I answered the question out of fear, only half joking, saying that I would like the types of clients that would pay me.

Looking in the rearview mirror, I now know that – if I had been able to answer that question honestly – I would have described the very types of clients I ended up with. I have been so fortunate to be able to support the work of organizations that are working every day to make Arizona a better place for all of us to live. I’ve loved working with foundations like Helios Education Foundation and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, organizations I admire deeply and all of us in Arizona owe a debt of gratitude to for the investments (and not simply financial ones) they make.

Expect More ArizonaBut, there is one client I have had since day one that has always held a special place in my heart. I have been a part of Expect More Arizona since before its official launch in April of 2009. Expect More Arizona is a movement dedicated to world-class education in Arizona. Improving education in our state is not only a moral issue, but one that determines the financial outlook and quality of life in our state. It matters to each and every one of us. It has been a humbling issue to work on, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some ridiculously talented people while doing it.

In fact, Expect More Arizona is so important, that it is making an honest man of me. Beginning tomorrow, I take on a full-time role as their Director of Marketing & Digital Engagement. I’m so proud of the work we have done together, and I am excited to build on it to help make world-class education a reality for every Arizona student. And, I’m particularly excited about some things we have planned for this year (stay tuned)!

The last four years have been incredible and very rewarding. Thanks to all of you who helped make it great (I want to single out Nicole Magnuson, Rebecca Lindgren, Paul Luna, and Marilee Dal Pra for your support, guidance, partnership, and friendship. Also, I would be nowhere without my beautiful wife, Erin, who is my biggest champion always. There are so many more of you who have supported me. I hope you know who you are). It sounds cliché, but I seriously could not have done it without your support. And thanks, of course, to Expect More Arizona – Pearl Chang Esau & Erin Hart – for this amazing opportunity to continue our great work together and to build on what we have begun!

Please learn more about Expect More Arizona and sign up to join the movement at ExpectMoreArizona.org!

P.S. I will be converting the Blabbermouth website into a blog only site, where I will occasionally post about word of mouth marketing, Expect More Arizona, and whatever I else feel like Blabbing about. I can’t promise to post regularly (I never have anyway), but I will do my best to stay in touch here

Excellence Tour for Web

I’m very proud to have helped launch The Expect More Excellence Tour for my longtime client, Expect More Arizona. The Excellence Tour is a portal to see and share excellence in education across Arizona. Although we know there is still a long way to go before we see the type of world-class education Arizona’s students deserve, it is important to recognize and celebrate the models of excellence in our state. This reminds us that not only is excellence possible here, it is already happening across our state right now. Now, we must demand that excellence for all of Arizona’s students.

There are just a few highlights about the site I want to point out, and then I encourage you to visit, vote, and share.

  • A Google map is embedded where you can visit different areas in Arizona to see local submissions.
  • A “Thumbs Up” ticker on the map measures engagement with each example of excellence submission. It’s fun to watch those numbers climb throughout the day.
  • Each submission has its own unique URL, with buttons to share that page via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and e-mail.
  • Visitors can vote for their favorite videos, encouraging submitters to utilize their networks (and their networks’ networks, and so on) to share their submission. You can only vote for a video one time per day, to encourage repeat visitors.
  • The user-generated content gives participants ownership of the site, and the friendly competition gives them a vested interest in driving traffic.

But, mostly, in an environment that often focuses on the negative, this is a nice way to stop and acknowledge great work that is happening in an increasingly challenging arena. It’s a way to say thank you to those who are expecting more of themselves and raising the bar for education in Arizona. And, personally, I don’t think we can say thank you enough.

Please visit The Expect More Excellence Tour to see the submissions and nominate your own!

 

Expect More Arizona, which I’m not ashamed to call my favorite client, launched a new campaign today, designed to help Arizonans make and keep a New Years resolution to expect more and do more for education. Below is the e-mail sent from Expect More Arizona.

Check out the site, and please use the easy links to share on Facebook and Twitter to help encourage all of your friends and family to resolve to expect more and do more for education in 2011.

It’s probably a golden rule for marketers to not choose favorites, but, if you know me, it’s no secret that Expect More Arizona is easily my favorite client. It’s not just the amazing people I get to work with (from the Board on down to my colleagues I drive all over the state with) or the really cool work I get the freedom to do, but to believe so firmly in the organization’s mission and to get to contribute to its success continues to be rewarding on a daily basis.

This year, we’re taking our message up several notches with a non-partisan campaign designed to make education the top priority in this year’s elections. With that in mind, last week we launched the “Vote 4 Education” campaign. You should start to see the signs and other materials pop up in communities across Arizona any day now. And, definitely, visit the Expect More Arizona web site to read the 4 questions and 4 actions to help you Vote 4 Education.

But, one part of the campaign that I’m really excited about is the Voter Resource Center. Here, we’re trying to make it really easy for people to share the campaign materials, both online and off. We’ve included all the campaign materials that you can download and print, and we’ve supplied widgets and images so anyone can embed campaign images on their web site or blog (as seen in this post). We also provide images that we’re encouraging friends to use as their social media profile pictures

Expect More Arizona and the “Vote 4 Education” have the potential to make a significant change in a struggling Arizona. Education must be a priority now. We can’t wait to fix education until after we fix our economy. Education – building a stronger workforce, creating an education system that will attract new businesses and top talent, instead of deterring them – is the key to restoring our economy. So, join me in voting 4 education, beginning by voting Yes on 100 on May 18.

Sign up at ExpectMoreArizona.org and connect with the organization on Facebook and Twitter.

The jury is still out, but I think I’m going to give Facebook a thumbs up for changing from the Fan Page to allowing users to  “Like” a page. Here’s why… In the past, I’ve had clients who were uncomfortable asking people to become a “fan” of their organization or their work. The semantic change might help these clients and others feel a little more comfortable with building relationships through Facebook without sounding too self-serving or cocky.

That’s my initial impression. What do you think?

Jewish Olympics

Here’s a crazy story from my experience today at LA Fitness. I won’t even go into the convoluted reason they had me cancel my membership and sign up again (annoying), but this led to meeting Sales Manager and Sales Guy (we’ll call them that the purpose of this post).

When I met Sales Manager a couple of days ago with my girlfriend, he informed me that I have a Jewish last name and then proceeded to bid me “Shalom.”

They couldn’t sign me up that day (again, annoying), so I returned today to meet with Sales Guy. As we’re sitting there, Sales Manager sits down next to me, and begins to unload more crazy.

Sales Manager: Hey, Sales Guy, did you know that Jeff is Jewish?
Sales Guy
: (Blank stare)
Jeff
: Um…. Okay.
Sales Manager
: That means we need to pick his brain on how to make money.
Sales Guy
: (Panic stare)
Jeff
: Ummmm… that’s a little offensive.
Sales Manager
: No, it’s okay. I’m Dominican. People call me Mexican all the time.
Jeff & Sales Guy
: (Confused and awkward silence).
Sales Manager
: I’m Christian. But, at my church we believe in Israel. (Pause) Are you militant?
Jeff
: Ummmmmm…. No, not really.

This small snippet of a larger exchange begs a couple of questions. First, are there Christians who don’t believe in Israel? Great! First Santa, then the Jewish OlympicsEaster Bunny, now this? Where do they believe Natalie Portman is really from?

But, the bigger question is: How does a business combat stories like this that will lead to negative word of mouth? (The obvious answer is prevention, but, hey, things happen).

Do I think Sales Manager meant to be offensive? No. (As Sales Guy explained when he took me aside and apologized, “That’s just how he is.”)

Will this prevent me from remaining a member? No. (But only because I play racquetball with friends there).

But, here’s the big thing: Will I tell this story EVERY TIME someone mentions LA Fitness in my presence? Absolutely! Will many of the people who hear it retell it to their friends? You bet.

So, here’s what LA Fitness should do to try to fix it.

First, publicly make it right.
This is 2010, when most of us have a story to tell, we tell it online where countless of our friends and their friends can read it (or watch it or listen to it). Hopefully, a large brand like LA Fitness monitors online mentions of their brand (via Google, Twitter search, or pay for a social media listening service like Radian6). Once aware of this blog post or Tweets about it, they should use those venues to comment, apologize (if that’s what they feel this merits), and find a way to make it right. (LA Fitness, please don’t do anything drastic like fire Sales Manager. The guy means well. You just haven’t trained him on how to behave in the workplace).

Next, give me a better story to tell.
This is huge. Like I said, I will tell this story every time I hear of LA Fitness.  Why not give me a better story to tell? Give me something else positive to say whenever I hear the name… or, at the very least, give me an ending for this story that will put a positive spin on it.

I guess I am militant after all. Not about Israel (whatever that means), but about word of mouth. Your employees are your brand. Like it or not, Sales Manager defined what LA Fitness means today. So, LA Fitness, it’s your move.

Below is a video I made with my golf instructor, Robbie Camacho:

By the way, the Federal Trade Commision requires I tell you that Robbie is also a client. I am, however, under no obligation to tell you that Robbie is a great golf instructor, a pretty darn good golfer, and a really nice guy. If you are looking for some golf lessons in the Phoenix area, definitely give him a call (or, you can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).

Lucky readers of my blog, Childsplay is offering you free tickets to its season premier, Honus and Me. The show opened last weekend to rave reviews and runs until October 11.

From the Arizona Republic:

Childsplay pitches a near-perfect game with this production, the first of its 2009-10 season, with winning performances from company regulars… Beautifully staged by director Dwayne Hartford and a talented design team, it’s easy to find the right sports metaphor for this show: home run.

Here’s what you have to do: The first 5 readers to e-mail me requesting tickets will receive up to 4 tickets to the performance of your choice. (Click here for show times.)

Israel Jiménez and Joe Kremer in Honus and Me

Here’s what I ask in return: Tell your friends! Tweet that you’re going (feel free to use the names @ChildsplayAZ and @BlabbermouthAZ in your tweets), post a link to the review on Facebook, blog about it, blab about it, tell other parents, baseball fans, theatre fans. Post a comment on this blog below that you are a recipient of the free tickets, and then post again after the show to let us know how much you enjoyed it.

This is a great show from a world-class theatre company, and you can bring your family for free. All I’m asking is… (PSST, PASS IT ON)!

I’ll admit to having a major bias toward Childsplay. I was an actor there for 7 years, some of my closest friends work there, and I maintain a great relationship with the company; they are like family to me. But, there are plenty more reasons for having a Childsplay bias. Arizona residents don’t really know this like they should, but Childsplay is acclaimed for being one of the best theatres for young audiences in the world.

You have two more weekends to see Childsplay in action this season; The Never Ending Story is running at the Tempe Center for the Arts through May 17.  I saw the show earlier this week. I should let you know off the bat that my actor friends don’t always like me to come to their shows; they always tell me: “You don’t like anything.” I really liked The Never Ending Story, and my eight-year-old niece, Carly, LOVED it. So, I recommend you see it with or without some little ones… and I can help make it a little more affordable for you.

Childsplay is offering $12 tickets to the readers of the BlabberBlog. Seriously, for just a little more than the price of a movie ticket, you can see an internationally acclaimed theatre company. To reserve discounted tickets, click here to send an e-mail to Rosemary. Put BlabberBlog in the subject line and let her know which performance you’d like to see and how many tickets you’d like, and she’ll hook you up with $12 tickets.

I hope you go see this show. Let us know in the comments below what you think of it.

One of the best parts of starting Blabbermouth and working for myself has been the opportunity to decide which clients to work with. There is no better example of this than the opportunity to work with Expect More Arizona, which officially launches today. This client is truly a pleasure to work with, and allows me to play a small part in tackling a very important issue.

Expect More Arizona is a non-partisan public-private partnership with the uphill mission of working toward strengthening education in Arizona. As you may know, Arizona ranks toward the bottom of most education categories, including 49th in per student investment in K-12 education. We’re letting our students down. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue; we simply must do better for all Arizonans.

So, I urge you to become involved with Expect More Arizona today. Visit their Web site to learn how you can become active in the cause. And, of course, Word of Mouth will help too. Tell your friends, and share with your social networks.

Find and follow Expect More Arizona on these social networks:
Facebook
MySpace
Twitter
LinkedIn
YouTube

Join me in telling our state that we expect more. Let’s hold ourselves, our state, and our students to the highest standards.