If my blog took a shower, this is what it would sing…

October 11, 2011 2 comments

This website makes my blog rock – literally! CodeOrgan is a fascinating website that uses algorithms to translate the body copy of a website into music. You can “listen” to my blog here.

Here’s what the website’s creators have to say:

The codeorgan analyses the *body* content of any web page and translates that content into music. The codeorgan uses a complex algorithm to define the key, synth style and drum pattern most appropriate to the page content.

Firstly, the codeorgan scans the page contents and removes all characters not found in the musical scale (a to g), and then analyses the remaining characters to find the most commonly used ‘note’. If this is an even number the page is translated in to the major pentatonic scale of that particular note, it becomes minor if there is an uneven number.

Secondly, the codeorgan defines which synthesizer to use. This is  Based upon the total number characters used on the webpage – there are currently 10 synthesizer effects and the one chosen is picked based upon the percentage of content.

Lastly, the codeorgan selects a drum loop based upon the ratio of characters on the page versus the number of characters that are actually musical notes – there are currently 10 different drum loops to pick from.

All right, now give it a shot for your own website!

Categories: Uncategorized

A message from the me in another life

September 20, 2011 2 comments

If you’ve read my “About Me” page, you probably noticed that I worked as head wardrobe technician for a performance theater for several years. I’ve worked with a number of high-profile dance and theater companies, but none so renowned as the Royal Shakespeare Company, with whom I did two residencies in 2003 and 2005. I remember those days fondly, but to this day the smell of a theater is reminiscent of exhaustion and adrenaline.  Yep, the job is a piece of work, to use a misapplied idiom.

In my current quest to get my home organized, I came across this letter, which I had written to memorialize the thrill, achievement, and chronic sleep deprivation of my first round of working with the world’s best theater company, performing two shows in rep. I’m sharing it here for as much my own enjoyment as for yours.

 I have the dubious honor of being the only full-time student on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s core crew.  Every morning for several weeks, I arrived at the theater by 9:00am to start work.  Unfortunately, I still had to manage a full class schedule in addition to preparing for midterms.  This meant no breakfast, no lunch, and seldom dinner – I took off an hour for class in the morning, then an hour for class in the afternoon, but the rest of the time, I was stuck in the basement.  I usually finished the wardrobe work by four or five in the afternoon, giving me a few hours off before I had to return for show call at about six.With the show, then cleanup and prep for the next day, my workday usually lasted till about 11. Then, it was school work time! I rarely got to bed before four or five in the morning. Looking back at photos, I’m amazed I was still standing after the gig was over.

Wardrobe maintenance may not be a physically taxing job, but it was quite time-consuming.  My main tasks were laundering, steaming, pressing and repairing all of the costumes for each show.  It may not sound like much, but I knew I was in trouble during the load-in: half of the first semi that we unloaded was wardrobe, makeup and wigs.  The RSC has twenty actors, each of whom changes at least three times per show.  There were two different plays in rep. That adds up to a lot of laundry.  The costumes also undergo a great deal of wear during the quick changes and fight scenes; part of each day’s work was making sure each was in proper repair.

For laundry, I  did five loads every morning.  Not only was I responsible for all of the wardrobe for every show, I also had to ensure that about forty towels were clean, folded and ready for clean-up after the bloody murder scene in Julius Caesar.  The most arduous task, however, was the ironing.  For Two Gentlemen of Verona, I had to iron 18 dress shirts every morning besides the regular laundry.  My hours spent at the ironing board quickly became a joke backstage, and were well documented by digital camera.

Although I was badly in need of sleep by the time the RSC left, I dreaded the end of their stay.  I made wonderful friends with the wardrobe girls, makeup and wig staff, and props managers, who “liberated” and signed a pair of combat pants worn in Julius Caesar for a keepsake in my honor. Kay, Deb, Linda, and Denise were my partners in crime – we shared the work, the flu, and the celebration at the end of each workday.  I must admit a certain degree of separation anxiety after they departed; luckily, we have kept in touch via email and cell phone.  We even have a reunion planned in Europe this fall, as I will be studying in Paris.  Working for the Royal Shakespeare Company was a culturally, educationally and financially enriching experience (I logged an incredible number of overtime hours), and I would not hesitate to undertake this job again.

And I did, a couple of years later, take a second residency with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Working under time-sensitive, high pressure, high stress conditions has prepared me quite well for working in a fast-paced agency environment. Would I rejoin the ranks of theater technicians? That’s a question for another day.

Seven things I learned from giving my first seminar

Recently, I blogged about a presentation I gave to artists, teaching them the basics of D.I.Y. media relations. I’ve sat on panel discussions before and spoken in front of the Association for Women in Communications South Florida (as president and past president), but I’d never had the opportunity to stand at the front of a room under bright lights, and speak for 45 minutes about one of the topics I’m most passionate about. And I can’t wait to do it again. Here are five things I learned from this new experience:

  1. Organizing the presentation: Make it a thought process. Lead the audience step by step through this thought process, with as few detours as possible. Not only is it a very effective teaching technique, but it relieves a lot of pressure to memorize, memorize, memorize. Standing up in front of a room full of people, looking expectantly at you, can be a hair trigger to losing your words (and your mind, and your composure)  all of a sudden. If you work yourself through your own thought process, you’ll never forget what you need to cover.
  2. Wear something comfortable – physically and psychologically. I chose my go-to jeans, a comfy blouse, and a blazer that never fails me. If you’re up there tottering in heels too high, or uncomfortably shifting around a wedgie, or worrying if your bra is showing through, your level of effectiveness is going to be inversely proportional to the level of your uneasiness. Pick something you know looks good, feels good, and is going to hold up under hot lights and moving around on stage.
  3. Gauge your audience. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure how experienced my audience was with media relations, or even (what we might consider simple) tasks like setting up a Youtube channel. And I was surprised to learn what they needed to learn. Yes, the “raise your hand if…” opener is a bit cheesy and overused, but if I didn’t ask a few of those before I began, I might have ended up teaching people what they already knew, or failing to teach them what they really needed to know.
  4. Shut up early and let the audience take over. That “15 minute” Q&A session is never, ever going to be enough time for everyone to pose their questions. Next time I give a seminar, I’m going to hold it to 35 minutes and then let the discussion do the rest.
  5. Get there early and stay there late. Not only is this another great way to gauge your audience before you begin your seminar and find some familiar faces you can use as anchors in your view of the audience, but it also lets the “never long enough” Q&A session continue afterwards. Hand out a couple of business cards. Invite people to contact you later with more questions. The closer you get with your audience and the more information you have time to provide, the more you – and they – will get out of your seminar.

Any experienced speakers out there like to weigh in? Leave a comment!

Artists need media love too

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

On February 15, I gave a seminar, “How to Get The Media’s Attention,” teaching DIY media relations for artists. The event was sponsored for an amazing local organization, Life Is Art, which advances and promotes Miami’s own artists.

Many might think artists ≠ public relations. They do it for the joy of creation and ideation, right? – hoping to sell just enough of their work to finance the next round of paint, clay, or film.

But when I asked for a show of hands from those who want to make a living off their art, every hand in the room – right back to the standing-room-only peanut gallery – shot up.

“Essentially, then,” I said. “You are an entrepreneur. You are your own small business. Why shouldn’t you use the same marketing techniques and strategies so critical to the success of any other entrepreneur?”

About fifty light bulbs clicked on over the heads of the audience members.

“The fact is, public relations ain’t brain surgery,” I told them. “Anyone with some basic training and materials (and a lot of time and energy) can do it. And I aim to have each and every one of you walk away with the education and materials you need to get the media’s attention.”

I showed them how to create a “home base” where people can find their work, their events, and their contact information. I recommended either a simple website or, even better, a free WordPress blog where they can host their videos, audio, or images. Then, I explained why having a social media presence was so important – each profile, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or Flickr – is another “lily pad” leading audiences back to their home base, and which of those social media platforms might be most effective in promoting their work.

Eventually, I told them, their lily pads will be articles in the New Times, American Artist, the New York Times Arts Beat blog, and other media hits they garner – yet more signs guiding potential buyers to the artist’s home base.

From there, we moved to tactics. I showed them formats for basic media relations documents, including calendar announcements, media alerts, and press releases. I taught them how to use those documents, when to use those documents, and who to send them to. Finally, I showed them the most important tool of all: the personal note.

As any professional PRer knows, the power of the personal note cannot be underestimated. If I’m tracking a reporter who I think might be interested in my story, I research their recent stories and read each new one they publish. One of the top ways to open a dialogue and begin the process of building a relationship is to just drop them a line with a comment or insight on one of their articles. After a few of those notes, the foundation is set, and I can ask them to consider my story. Artists are communicators as well, and arts writers connect with them in a much different way than they do with a public relations professionals. My bet is, the artists who attended my seminar would be much more likely to get some deeper coverage if they opened a dialogue with a writer whose previous work shows a potential interest in the artist’s story and work. I explained the best ways to research a writer and the best ways to communicate with them.

In the Q&As, though, things got down and dirty. The conversation turned to social media, and I sat down at my laptop behind my projector to show them, in real time, how to use some of the platforms, and examples of other artists who were using them well. We talked about how to sell a story, how to stage a publicity stunt, like a live graffiti muraling or performance art piece. I gave each attendee a handout with the templates to use, and emailed each a media list of contacts in the local media, broadcast media, and national arts and consumer media.

Now, let’s see who makes the news….

For more information, check out this write-up we got from the Miami Herald. Or, view the full program description here.

ART AS BUSINESS

Seminar in Wynwood tonight: how artists can manage their own PR

By Jared Goyette

When artists decide to make a living from their talent, to make their passion their career, they become their own small business, and suddenly have to a manage a slew of new responsibilities of that are not typically mastered in art school or in studios. One of those tasks is managing their own PR, and that entails more than just opening up a Facebook page

How artists can manage their own public relations is the subject of a seminar being held tonight at 6:30 p.m. at GAB Studio, 105 NW 23rd in Wynwood. The event is sponsored by the Life is Art foundation, and there is a charge of $10 at the door. Julia K. Wakefield, a Senior Account Executive and Director of Social Media at Schwartz Media Strategies, will present, and plans to give the artists in attendance the rundown of what they need to know about the world of media relations.

“I want them to walk away with the ability to do some very basic public relations to get the media’s attention to their work,” she said in a phone interview.

The presentation will go through how artists should set up their own platform – a homepage, a blog, social media accounts — and how to build an audience. Wakefield will also go through the basics of traditional media relations, and will distribute a press list of local, national and international art writers and journalists.

She believes that developing artists are more than capable of managing their own PR, as it’s “not rocket science,” but that getting the basics right can be important for their success, especially if they want to make art their career.

“Most artists do it for the pleasure of it, but everybody needs to make some money,” she said.

Math, media, and mass marketing: Today, the little guy has the biggest voice

February 8, 2011 2 comments

Marketers have known for quite some time that marketing to smaller segments of the population can be more effective than marketing to the masses.  Now, the New York Times has reported on a surprising – but similar – new development in the study of the spread of social memes, like “retweets” on Twitter or spreading gossip, videos, information, or news through other social networks and blogs. Researchers have found new patterns in the way that information is spread in cyberspace and have found that it is dependent upon a multitude of factors including the polarizing nature of the information, the structure of the social network, and what we’re looking at in today’s post: how the sharers stack up statistically against the rest of the population. That is, where they lie on demographic spectra often used by marketers to focus their efforts.

As it turns out, the sharers on the “fringes of society” have the greatest influence on a broader scale.

As any marketer knows, mathematics and quantitative research have become increasingly important in marketing over the past decades, from conducting the most mundane focus groups to intensive market research involving measuring the sentiments, attitude changes, and behavioral changes of hundreds of thousands of people over years. And it has become more and more apparent that marketing to the masses isn’t always the most effective way to influence people. One well-known example of this idea is the classic “long tail theory.”

Long tail theory refers to the way demographics are distributed on a graph like the one at left. The larger the demographic group, the farther it lies to the left of the graph.  For instance, female adults between the ages of 18-55 might be represented at the extreme left of the graph; female adults between the ages of 25-35 who live in urban areas might be represented somewhere in the middle; and female adults ages 55-65 who play more than 4 hours of online video games per day might be represented at the far right -“the long tail” of the graph.

While it may seem intuitive to focus marketing to the left end of the spectrum, where there are the most subjects, marketers eventually figured out that the the long tail (basically, the total quantity of people from a large number of small groups) is actually larger than the tall end of the graph (the total quantity of people from a small number of large groups). Therefore, marketers of products (besides those applying to nearly everyone, like toilet paper or gasoline) get more bang for their buck by focusing on “the long tail.”

Now, with the idea that the “long tail” – smaller, more specialized groups of the population – has already long been recognized as a prime target for focused marketing efforts, let’s take a look at another popular marketing metric that evidences the same sea change in social media influence, as featured in the New York Times article we’re referencing – the bell curve.  Marketers can use the bell curve as a method to target the most average members of a population – those lying at the center of the curve. But according to the article, social media influence is more and more held by those at the extreme ends of the curve – for instance, the early adopters of a technology; the most prolific bloggers in a small niche; the tweeters who share the most news the fastest.

As a case study, let’s take an example of how this impacts the marketing of a product: say, Ugg boots. Some love their Uggs more than their own mother; some hate Uggs with a passion that burns deep; and most people kind of like them or kind of don’t like them or don’t really care one way or another. Marketers are increasingly seeing that the way to get the word out is to reach out to the extreme haters and the extreme lovers. The extremes of the bell curve are the populations which are most likely to share information about the marketer’s brand, says Sunil Gupta, a digital marketing professor at the Harvard Business School.

There you have it: the little guys have the biggest voices. It’s already abundantly clear that social media is rewriting the book on how people relate to one another, influence one another, and learn about the world. We as marketers and public relations professionals are seeing social media not only rewrite the book on the methods organizations and institutions use to relate to people, influence people, and teach them about the world – but recalibrate the algorithms as well.

What’s the takeaway from this? Leave no stone unturned in seeking the maximum effectiveness in penetrating key audiences with key messages. In this regard, you can take lessons learned from long tail theory and apply them to your media relations outreach: that is, focusing on the smaller, niche, trade publications on the “long tail” of the graph can be just as effective at raising awareness of your clients’ brands and stories, earning credibility among their peers and core client base, and driving referrals and business growth as focusing on the Wall Street Journals and Vanity Fairs of the press world. When it comes to reaching and influencing specialized groups of referral sources or customers, even “little” media has a big voice.

Healthcare reform in 2011: How will it affect you?

The fight continues – in courtrooms across the country and even at the federal level – over the constitutionality of “Obamacare,” or healthcare reform. Regardless, in 2011,  major components of the healthcare reform legislation passed last year will begin to take effect. Here’s a rundown of the most important ones and how they might affect you.

Enrolled in Medicare? Here’s information for you.

  • Medicare will now provide free preventive care to all seniors – no copay, no deductible. That means you can get your yearly checkup, diagnostics, and other preventive care methods for free so you can catch any potential problems earlier, and live a longer, healthier life.
  • Medicare will roll in discounts on name-brand medications, with more cuts to be phased in over the coming years. This is the first step towards closing the expensive “donut hole” that plagues many Medicare recipients.

Got private insurance? Here’s what you need to know.

  • Insurance companies must now spend 80% of premium revenue on medical services. That means there’s a limit to how much they can profit from your premiums – and a mandate for spending more money on medical services for their customers.
  • Insurance companies may no longer place a lifetime cap on benefits. So (heaven forbid)  you or a family member becomes catastrophically ill, you no longer have to worry about reaching that lifetime cap and being responsible for the massive medical bills to come.
  • Insurance companies’ yearly coverage limits have been raised significantly – from $750,000 to $1,250,000. This allows patients who need constant, significant care will have much more of it covered by insurance – and much less to be paid out of pocket.
Categories: Business Affairs, News

New Year resolutions; but first, some Old Year hindsight

December 29, 2010 2 comments

Yup, it’s that time of year.… the  last dull dredges of 2010, when we spin fantastical plans for the still-untouched 2011. I’ve got my own goals – some fantastic, some realistic, some dull and some energizing. But before I dive in headfirst, I’d like to apply some 20/20 hindsight to 2010 and share six things I learned this year.

  • How to make gravy. Real Thanksgiving-turkey-fat-gravy, under the tutelage of an endless source of wisdom. No, not Google. I mean Mom. She taught me that there is a lot of stirring and even more guesswork. Also, do not manhandle the flour.
  • Expensive sunglasses have both an independent streak and a short attention span. They will wander off at will towards greener pastures – usually eight to ten days after their purchase date. This year, I learned to buy two pairs of cheap-o sunglasses instead (two, just in case one breaks). They have both remained in mint condition for many months with no hint of a runaway in the makings. (Much like cheap ballpoint pens never run out of ink or get lost – even reproducing at times, somehow, as my smallish pen holder can attest to – while slightly-more-expensive gel pens disappear overnight.)
  • Pilates. I started taking classes and, once I had the hang of it, really enjoyed it. It was relaxing, fun, improved my flexibility, and enhanced my posture impressively. (Not to mention it forced me out of the office by 6:45 on Tuesdays.)
  • Pilates. It is not saving any money if you stop taking classes and buy all the equipment so you can do it at home… and then never ever do it at home. Lesson learned: pony up the moolah, make the time, and go to the darn class. (But if you do man up and do it at home, check out the Youtube videos from blogilates. They are great and ten minutes a pop, so you can mix and match yourself up a workout.)
  • Do not let him touch that car. The guy who stops on the side of the road to help you when your car dies does not know how to fix it, despite being handsome and charming. Do not let him touch it. He will make it worse and also lose a cap to an important valve of some kind so that gasoline sprays out if you so much as look at it. Your mechanic will be disappointed in you.
  • It is time to take the “Ron Paul for President 2008” bumper sticker off of your car. In 2008, it’s a statement, buys your guy some free publicity, and is conducive to getting honked at on the freeway. In 2009, it shows your dedication to the cause no matter how doomed. In 2010, it is no longer topical and your bumper space is better dedicated to a more current cause. In 2011, it is laziness and there’s no excuse for leaving it on there. (Unless you are planning on giving your car to your politically-opposite-minded little brother. In that case, belt out a HA!)

What did you learn this year?