Monday, September 30, 2013

How to Host a Seamless Business Meeting

Running a successful company takes a lot of meetings. And there are only so many you can fit into an eight hour workday.

To make the most of each meeting, we abide by a few golden rules.

1. This should go without saying, but arriving on time is of the upmost importance. Arriving late not only makes you look bad, but your company as well. Obviously things come up and if you have to cancel, call, text or email whoever you are meeting with ASAP to apologize and reschedule if possible.

2. Take a quick glance in the mirror before you walk out the door. Do you look presentable? And please don't forget to pop a breath mint if you just finished your morning coffee. Consider where you will be meeting too. Ripped jeans will not fly in a 5 star restaurant and business attire is recommended if you're going to be in a board room.

3. You don't have all day and your clients don't either. A good time to shoot for is an hour or less. Go longer than that and the human brain simple can't stay engaged and exhaustion spreads like wildfire. Having a clear goal in mind of what you want accomplished helps keep meetings on track and from lasting too long.

4. If you're going to be taking notes on a laptop or iPad make sure you announce that so people don't think you're doing something else. Don't check your email or social media pages either because people will notice. If you're easily distracted by your phone, go with good old pen and paper.
Doc B's Fresh Kitchen
5. Set a location ahead of time that way you don't waste precious minutes deciding where to go. If it's a quick, casual meeting a coffee shop will suffice. Balsan at the Waldorf Astoria is quiet and intimate. Consider meeting over lunch for longer meetings. We love RL and the newly opened Doc B's Fresh Kitchen. Fresh and healthy food always seems to please everyone. No one wants to leave a meeting smelly like a greasy french fry.

Have you mastered the art of the business meeting? We would love to hear your tips. Send us a tweet at @MonikaDixonPR or comment on this post!

By Monika Dixon

Friday, September 27, 2013


As a Social Media Week (known to those savvy as #SMWChicago) newbie, I attended this weeklong production with no expectations or previously acquired feedback. I went in blind. I left with renewed, even enhanced, vision. Vision for social media strategy, that is.

While I'm constantly immersed in the world of social networking, I never rule out an opportunity to learn more, research more and expand my skills. That's the nature of this industry. It's constantly changing, so the learning and application process simply never ends. And thus, my desire to strengthen my knowledge follows suit.

If you were not able to attend #SMWChicago - a weeklong production of events, lectures, promotions and seminars hosted by Zocalo Group and Tribune Company, I've compiled a list of helpful tips and facts I took away from the eight seminars I attended. As there were many, many lectures I could not attend, I also scoured Twitter and pulled useful information that was live-tweeted by eager attendees during the events. In no specific order or correlation, here are some quick tips via #SMWChicago. Remember, these are just general tips and might not be the best practices for your specific social media purposes.

Random Facts:
  • When it comes to social content, CADENCE is key. If you don't know what it means, click here. In other words, you should always have a 'steady drumbeat of content.'
  • Sweepstakes or contents often help gain short term rather than long term fans. 
  • Brands should not feel obligated to speak out socially during or following a tragedy. If it doesn't somehow directly relate to your brand, it doesn't make sense and might look like you are simply trying to piggyback off of someone else's misfortune for your own benefit. 
  • Consumers see 2,904 marketing messages per day. Of those, they only pay attention to 52 and will only remember four. Be strategic and smart with your messaging.
  • When determining social strategy, three crucial questions to ask are: 
    1. Who are we and what is our voice? 
    2. Who is the audience? 
    3. What are our key objectives? (i.e. More foot traffic in store, Increased sales, More likes)
  • Social content should be only 10% about your brand, products and promotions. The remaining 90% should be content related to your consumer's overall lifestyle.
  • Always carry out the over-arching brand message in all content, even if the post is not directly about the product or brand. 
  • An effective way to interact with consumers and followers is to crowd source. Ask your consumer to share moments of them using the product or service. 
  • When writing copy, to avoid sounding inhuman, ask yourself: "Is this how you would say this to a friend?"
  • Why 140 characters on Twitter? It forces creativity and self-editing.
  • Terms to know:
    • Viral Coefficient: The number of people that a new user shares content with.
    • Cycle Time: The length of time it takes that user to share the content.
  • Four criteria to consider when creating social content:
    • Nostalgia
    • Humor
    • Identity - Will sharing content make the user look good?
    • What's Hot - What's trending/popular?
  • Use lists with odd numbers. We gravitate towards odd numbers and 80% of users only read headlines. 
  • No more than two sentences per paragraph.
  • Always try to use a photo or graphic when posting on Facebook. 

Ways to increase SEO with social:
  • The first 40-42 characters of your Twitter bio are extremely visible to search engines. The first 27 are like 'rocket fuel.' Choose these words wisely, using crucial keywords. 
  • 'Write for human beings first but understand the rules of the robot.' - Amy Guth 
  • Use Twitter lists to your advantage:
    • When you create a Twitter list, an additional URL is created to be picked up in searches.
    • Choose title effectively, using keywords you want to be picked up in search engines. (ex: Social Media Editors)
    • Each time a member of your list tweets, it sends that to search engines. 
    • Inactive members bring your SEO for Twitter lists down, so remove members that don't tweet regularly. 
    • Make your list public so that search engines can see it. 
  • Regularity of content rather than volume is more favorable on Twitter.
  • Twitter Rule of Thirds
    • 1/3 of the time, share your own content.
    • 1/3 of the time, share information related to your experise that you did not create.
    • 1/3 of the time, interact with users. (RT, thanks for RT-ing, engage in conversation, etc.)
  • When uploading images/videos to Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest, rename the file to the name of the person (people) in the photo or the name of the event. (ex: Monika_Dixon.jpg) File names are very visible to search engines.
  • On LinkedIn, it is very important to fill out all information on your profile. The 'Summary' section is most visible in searches, so use keywords, and make sure they are at the beginning of the text. Write the 'Summary' and job descriptions section in third person. It may feel awkward, but this is helpful with SEO.
  • Things you must know about Google+
    • The 'Story' section is very visible in search. Make sure this is complete with keywords, written in the third person and is made public. 
    • Build a profile, even if you are not ready to use it socially. Simply having the profile will help with SEO.
  • Twitter and Google+ are the most important social media platforms to keep current. Inactivity on these hurts SEO the most. 

Live Tweet Tips:

As a parting gift, I wanted to share this video, which includes some really fascinating statistics about social media. Prepare to be amazed!

To get the full effect of #SMWChicago, visit their website, or search the #smwchicago hashtag to see the bits of wisdom that attendees felt was important enough to share with the Twitterverse. 

And as always, if you have any questions, please ask by commenting below or tweeting to @emilycleary10!

By Emily Cleary, MDPR Social Media Director

The Man in Blue

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with a local fashion icon, Laurie Davis, the owner of LuLu's Vintage. As we chatted about New York Fashion Week, she brought up another fashion icon, Bill Cunningham.

Bill Cunningham is a renowned fashion photographer for The New York Times and has become a fashion great in his own right. You can always find him riding around the streets of New York City on his bike wearing his signature blue jacket. What's even more remarkable is that he is 84 years old.  

bill cunningham new york
Image via The Sartorialist
Bill is unlike any other street style photographer in that he doesn't look for subjects of a particular age, gender or body type. All he cares about is clothes and how regular people on the street wear them to express their unique personal style. 

Laurie suggested I watch the 2010 documentary on Bill called "Bill Cunningham New York." One thing that struck me is how dedicated Bill is to his craft. So dedicated in fact that his one room apartment in the Carnegie Hall Building has no private kitchen, bathroom, closet or even furniture. Bill sleeps amongst metal filing cabinets filled with every photograph he's ever taken.
bill cunningham documentary
It's ironic how this man who lives in a single room is the only person Anna Wintour will stop to be photographed by. If that doesn't give him enough credibility, he's also won prestigious awards for his work. In 2008 he received the Order of Letters and Arts, an Order of France that recognizes people who've made a significant contributions to the arts. 

Bill's work can be found in The New York Times' Fashion & Style section as well as the The Times' fashion app called The Collection. The Collection is quickly becoming my favorite fashion app because of it's visually appealing and easy to navigate layout. The app is updated with photos and videos from runway shows, street style looks and backstage beauty reports.

the collection app, collection app, new york times fashion app

In one video summarizing New York Fashion Week, Bill talked about the biggest street style trends this season. I was expecting him to name a certain color or shoe, but instead he said cameras. Everyone outside the shows is taking photos with either a camera or their phones. 

PR pros are notorious for being glued to their phones. Just ask our social media director Emily. Now we can use the excuse that it's the hottest accessory at fashion week! Thanks Bill.

By Monika Dixon

Monday, September 23, 2013

Family Fun at County Line Orchard

family trip to county line orchard
The start of fall is always an exciting time of year for my family. Every year to welcome in the new season, we make the one hour drive from Chicago to County Line Orchard in Hobard, Indiana for a day of apple picking and family fun.
apple picking at county line orchard
Our first stop when we arrived was to jump on the tractor that takes visitors around the apple orchards. The tractor stops at each orchard, letting people get off to go pick their favorite variety of apples. Once our bags were overflowing we hopped back on the tractor to conquer the corn maze.

After running through a maze you need to refuel and their gift shop was the perfect place to eat an autumnal feast. Between the corn, caramel apples, cider and fresh baked goods, the place smelled like a fall paradise.
There is so much more to do at County Line than just pick apples. You can tell they designed the orchard to be family friendly just by the amount of activities there are for kids. A must-do is a ride on Moo Choo, a tractor that pulls barrel cars around the farm.
county line orchard hobard indiana
Peter the Dinosaur is also a hit with the younger crowd. Peter is a friendly dinosaur that entertains kids with his pumpkin eating antics. The kids also loved the mini farm. They got to play with kid-sized tools and pretend like they were working on an actual farm. After played pretend, we took the kids through the mini farm petting zoo then called it a day.
county line orchard activities
Driving through the Indiana country back to the city was peaceful and relaxing, especially with the kids passed out in the back seat! If you're looking for an easy day trip with the family or a great fall date spot you must visit County Line Orchard. The kids are already begging to go back!

By Monika Dixon

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dîner en Blanc

If you happened to walk by the plaza outside of the NBC building last night you were probably stunned when you witnessed 1200 people dressed in white dining outside.

What you witnessed was one of the most sought after "secret" events in the city - Dîner en Blanc.

Dîner en Blanc is a chic and fashionable pop-up-picnic that started 25 years ago in Paris. The event now takes place in 40 cities across the world. It was my first time attending and they only word I can think of to describe it was magical.

To add to the secrecy of the event, we had no idea where the dinner would take place until we got there. All we knew was that it was at 6:30pm. Our group had to meet up with our team leader at a designated location beforehand because only they knew where the dinner would be. We met ours at the park outside of the historical water tower.

At  6:20pm we walked to the location, still not knowing where we were going. When we arrived at the plaza we found our assigned group leader, location and set up our table.

There are a few rules we had to abide by. Guests are required to dress elegantly in all white, bring a white table and chairs, white table linens, table decor, a picnic dinner and wine and champagne. There was food available for purchase, but my husband and I had a fun time cooking it together before the event. We even got fancy and made our own bon bons with the help of a friend who happens to be chef! Thank you Giacomo!

We enjoyed hours of good company and conversation. French music serenaded us as we dined, danced and celebrated friendship. Whenever a tourist buse drove by everyone waved their white napkins in the air. The night ended on a magical note when everyone was given sparklers for one final toast.

Dinner ended around 10:00pm and everyone packed up their white supplies as quickly as they had set up. Not a trace was left behind. If it weren't for the amazing memories, I would probably think it was all a dream.

 By Monika Dixon

Thursday, September 19, 2013

iOS 7 Update

Well, by now you've probably heard all the buzz about Apple's most recent mobile software update - iOS 7. Sure, you've heard the 'buzz', but chances are you aren't quite sure what all the fuss is about. Lucky for all of us, Mashable pulled together a list of features boasted by the update. This should help you decide if you're ready to download or if you'd rather just stick to what you know. 

This is just the shorthand version, so if you want all the juicy details, you can read the whole Mashable article here

1. The Look - Brighter, more colorful, cleaner, sleeker with a top-to-bottom renovation.

2. Control Center - A new location and totally reorganized. The control center is not only the place to do everything from switching to Airplane mode to adjusting brightness, it is now also home to the calculator, alarm clock and more.

3. Lock Screen - Colorful with a new design and updated buttons.

4. Gestures - Now, swiping allows you to do so much more, including swiping away Safari browsers to close.

5. Animations - Subtle animations make everything so much more fun.

6. Font - Helvetica Neue is easy on the eyes.

7. Wallpapers - Beautiful new images offer more variety when it comes to assigning a background photo.

8. Spotlight - Now accessible from any screen by swiping your finger from the top of the screen downward.

9. Zooming - A feature with mixed reviews, tapping an app now opens the content by zooming out from the icon.

10. Photos - Pictures are now organized based on time and place, so locating images is much simpler. And the mosaic display is nice to look at. One of our favorite new features - pick and select effects and filters before a picture is taken.

11. Weather - Hour-by-hour predictions scroll in a row, a lighter background and more functionality. Moving graphics across the top also show current weather in a subtle, but visually appealing way.

12. Folders - Now there is no limit to the number of apps you can fit into a folder, which makes for a much more organized home screen.

13. Ringtones - New tones are actually bearable.

14. Email - Noticeably and remarkably faster.

15. Preview of Open Apps - Double-click the home button and view all applications, webpages and programs that have been recently opened. Simply swipe an app off the screen to close it.

16. Calendar - Simplified and more useful, including convenient scrolling from month to month. 

Sounds enticing, right? Let us know what you think of the new software or share some iOS 7 tricks with us by tweeting to @monikadixonpr or commenting below!

By Emily Cleary, MDPR Social Media Director

Work Out With Public!

With #EXPOSURE2013 coming to an end on Saturday, some of you may be looking for ways to keep up your workout routine this fall.

We're excited to announce that our go-to trainer Alex Vasileski is now offering personal training at Public Hotel! (1301 N. State Parkway in the Gold Coast)

This is a great option for those of you who don't like working out in crowded gyms. Alex's 60 minute sessions get you one-on-one attention to help you reach your fitness goals all in the privacy of the hotel's gym. It's one of our favorites in the city and it has an awesome view. We couldn't think of a better place to workout!

To schedule a training session with Alex, contact Public's front desk or concierge.

By Allison Sickert, MDPR Writer

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not Your Average Resume Tips

When was the last time you gave your resume a thorough evaluation? This doesn't mean updating your current job title, but actually going through line-by-line and analyzing every sentence so it packs a punch.

Word choice, spacing and placement are all crucial when you have one page to work with. We've reviewed hundreds of resumes as a team and have compiled a list of things that immediately catch our eye or make us lose interest.

  • Put your education underneath your experience: If you're applying for a full-time position, we're going to assume you have a college degree. Your experience is much more relevant, so that's the first thing we want to see.
  • Use numbers: You've probably read tips that say you should use descripitive words on your resume. Don't forget to combine those with numbers. Use numbers strategically to give a potential employer a better idea of your responsibilities. Instead of saying you led a team, say you managed X amount of people. If you created email newsletters, how many people was it sent to? If you managed social media accounts, how many followers did they have?
  • Go beyond your daily tasks: Listing your daily tasks is a no brainer, but don't forget about big projects too. For example, one resume we looked at included that the person had created their company's first internship program. Not only does it take a lot of work to put that together, but it shows they took initiative and went beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Microsoft Office is not a skill: If you have a computer, we hope you know how to use Word and Powerpoint. We're far more interested in skills you have that no one else does, whether it be coding websites, logo design or flash animation. If you're skills section is lacking, don't lose hope. Search the web for classes or visit your local library and find something that interests you.
  • Supplement your resume online: Once you update your paper version, don't forget to update your LinkedIn as well. You can even get creative and make a website or Pinterest board. We love when candidates make boards linking to articles they've written or other work on the web. It's a visually appealing way to show your work versus a binder with clips in it. It also shows you know a thing or two about social media!

Speaking of social media, if you're going to be referring potential employers to your accounts, make sure they are work appropriate. A lot of people include links to their social media accounts in their email signatures and forget they are there. If you don't want someone looking through your profiles take them out of your signature and make them private.

Have a resume tip we didn't include? Comment on this post or tweet us @MonikaDixonPR.

By Monika Dixon

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's the Little Things

What do diamonds and luxurious bites have in common? They both require inspiration and a creative vision to be brought to life.

Dana Gordon, the founder of Dana Rebecca Designs and chef Elaina Vazquez, the founder of Boutique Bites, work in totally different fields, but both share an artistic vision that has made their companies so successful.

We wanted to find out just how creative Elaina could get. Could she blow us away with bites inspired by something as small as a piece of jewelry? We asked her to pick her favorite Dana Rebecca pieces and craft an edible creation to go with it.

Elaina Vazquez. Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

The result was a stunning display of sparkle, gold and caviar. Proof that it's the small things that inspire inventive design. To learn a little more about Elaina, we asked her about the design process, sources of inspiration and what she loves about her job. Now dig in and enjoy this visual feast.

MDPR: When did you found Boutique Bites? How did you start experimenting with bite sized food?

I started Boutique five years ago when I was 26 with the vision of bringing fine dining to catered events. I started experimenting with miniaturizing everyday foods like cheeseburgers and hotdogs and quickly became known for my stylish mini bites. 

I developed the concept for Boutique Bites while I was living in Las Vegas working for Joel Robuchon. I wanted to bring beautiful, stylish, upscale food to catered parties.

Heart-shaped croque monsieur sandwich.
Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

MDPR: Tell us about the process of designing an event. Where does your inspiration come from and how does it all come together?

The inspiration always starts with the client and what they are envisioning. For wedding clients, I ask them what their favorite restaurants are, what the feel of the event should be, etc. Once I have a good idea of the type of food my client is looking for, I design a custom menu and proposal for their event. From there we put together the design concept for the event. How should the food station look? Would lucite chairs work best in the space? Should we use textured linens? All of these details start taking shape and we work with the client all along the way to execute their vision. 

I source inspiration from fashion and lifestyle magazines, Pinterest, jewelry, plateware in stores, flowers and many other places. 

Risotto filled mushroom cups with edible gold. 
Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

MDPR: What have been some of your favorite creations?

My mini lobster tacos and mini cheeseburgers are our best sellers for hors d'oeuvres and I still love them. The day we figured out how to make mini Chicago-style hot dogs that taste like the real thing was very exciting. We make the buns in my kitchen. I also love my truffle mac n cheese bites. 

Purple potato chips with osetra caviar and gold dust.
Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

MDPR: What do you love about your job?

I love how different every event is which really gives us the opportunity to come up with new ideas consistently. I also love working with so many talented people in this field. 

Lobster tacos.
Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

MDPR: Your bites not only look amazing, but taste great as well. Tell us about the ingredients you use.

Thanks! Taste is the most important part of any dish, so we work on the flavors first and presentation second. I love to use ingredients that are slightly unexpected, like saffron in the polenta, edible gold on the risotto and caviar on potato chips. I go to Green City Market when I can to buy local produce. The rest is sourced from farms and purveyors.

Beet crostini with gold dust.
Photo by Marcin Cymmer.

If you have a favorite dish you would like to see bite-sized tweet your idea to us at @MonikaDixonPR and @BoutiqueBites.

By Allison Sickert, MDPR Writer

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summer's Slipping Away...

In nine short days (we say this with a heavy heart), summer will be officially over. Therefore, we advise that you fit in as much activity as possible before Chicago fall swoops in and makes us want to curl up inside with a good book or some NCAA and NFL football. From Oktoberfest (yes, in September) to yet another music festival (punk this time), Chicago pulls through once more with a weekend packed full of memorable events. Enjoy!


Berghoff Oktoberfest (230 South Dearborn Street) from 11:00am-9:00pm

Icona Pop (Metro) 7:00pm


Riot Fest (Humboldt Park) at 3:00 pm

Berghoff Oktoberfest (230 South Dearborn Street) from 11:00am-9:00pm

Disney on Ice (United Center) at 7:00pm

Blue Man Group (Briar Street Theater) at 8:00pm

Jim Belushi and Kyle Lane present a Stand-Up Comedy Show (The Comedy Bar) at 8:00pm


#EXPOSURE2013 with A Mind and Body Total Fitness featuring the Chicago Children's Choir (Ohio Street Beach) at 9:30am

Lincoln Park's Cutest Pooch (Hotel Lincoln) at 10:00am

Oktoberfest (Hofbrauhaus Chicago) at 11:00am

Crush in Old Town (Wells between North & Schiller) Noon-9:00pm

Bacon Takedown (Lincoln Hall) at 2:00pm

Riot Fest (Humboldt Park) at 3:00 pm

Who do you think we are? (Second City) at 8:00pm and 11:00pm


Wicker Park/Bucktown Farmers Market (1425 N. Damen Ave.) at 8:00am

Oktoberfest (Hofbrauhaus Chicago) at 11:00am

Crush in Old Town (Wells between North & Schiller) Noon-9:00pm

Riot Fest (Humboldt Park) at 3:00 pm

Cher Lloyd (VIC Theatre) at 7:30pm

Have any extra special weekend plans we need to know about? Tweet us at @monikadixonpr or comment below!

By Emily Cleary, MDPR Social Media Director

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Trust us, if anybody understands how hard it is to find time to workout, it's us. Between work, evening events, meetings, never-ending emails and family time, fitness easily falls to the wayside. It seems like mornings are the best time to try to squeeze in a quick sweat sesh, but then there's the whole waking up at the crack of dawn thing...

This was how we felt until we first tried A Mind and Body Total Fitness' free Tai Chi workout class in partnership with the Langham Chicago's Chuan Spa. Whereas trying to fit in a morning workout previously caused us stress, Tai Chi offered a calming solution to our problem. Not only did we leave feeling that we had gotten an effective workout, but we felt centered, relaxed and ready to tackle another crazy day.

Judging by the overwhelming turnout to this week's #TaiChiTuesday class, we're guessing that we're not the only one's with this sentiment. Over 50 people filled the Langham plaza (many of them first-timers) to try out a new type of workout. It's safe to say that they were not disappointed. 

Debi Lilly was one of those Tai Chi first-timers, and her comments on social media following the workout were an accurate representation of the response that many had to Alex's class.

"Was beyond fab. Feeling it in my legs big time..."

Viktoria Ivanchyk said, "Great way to start Tuesday morning. Thanks Alex for great workout!" 

We only hope that Alex continues to spread the knowledge about and appreciation for Tai Chi each week through #TaiChiTuesdays. To experience it for yourself, join in next week at 8:00am at the Langham Plaza. 

Want more info about Tai Chi? Tweet Alex at @mindbodychi to learn more!

By Emily Cleary, MDPR Social Media Director 

Monday, September 9, 2013

PR Problems

Stress. It's every 9-5er's worst enemy. Too many emails, to-do lists and phone calls make us all want to hide under our desks at some point.

Instead of giving our Gmail the death stare, we've found that laughter is the best medicine. A little PR humor, courtesy of 99 Problems But a Pitch Aint One, reminds us that we're not the only ones freaking out over retweets and press releases.

Fellow PR pros, we'd like to make your day a little brighter by sharing some of our favorite GIFs with you.

1. When your client's press mention is even better than expected.

Inline image 1

2. Your emails during the day...and at night...and during the weekend.

Inline image 2

3. When you see the same grammatical error over...and over...and over. 

Inline image 3

4. Just kidding. 

Inline image 4

5. When you follow-up with an editor about a pitch.

Inline image 5

6. When your client gets a RT or reply from a well-known blogger or celebrity. 

Inline image 6

7. When you see your client's product at the store. 

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8. When you click send on an email only to realize you sent it to a writer from publication 'x' when the email mentions publication 'y'. 

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9. When a client emails about an additional change to a press release seconds after you send it to your entire media list. 

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10. When you explain 'tagging' to a non-social media savvy client.

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11. When you get a google alert that your client was mentioned in press and are waiting for the page to load. 

Inline image 11

Don't you feel better already? You can know calmly return to your email.

What's your favorite place for PR humor? Tweet us a laugh at @monikadixonpr.

By Allison Sickert (MDPR Writer) & Emily Cleary (MDPR Social Media Director)