Queen of the Herb Garden

Author: Debra  //  Category: Gardening

The inside is nearly as green as outdoors today. I have some lovely basil, tarragon, and flat leaf parsley ready to be transplanted from their seedling trays. The rosemary I started from seed looks fabulous, but can stay in their tiny greenhouse a while longer.

I didn’t start a lot of plants yet, because I thought just a few would feed my urge to cultivate. I was wrong, so I placed a $24 seedman.com order yesterday. There were about 10 different types of plants that called to me. I love adding new things to my big herb garden.

Here’s a quick list of the new ones: Allheal, Belladona, Wolfbane, Ephedra, Witch Hazel, Horehound, and Motherwort for healing purposes. Culinary was simply wild ramp seeds. Then, for fun, some Japanese Maple, Witch Hazel, and real tea plants.

I went for a walk through my garden and saw both varieties of Wormwood came back. These are also in the list of my perennials: Lavender, Monskhood, Thyme, culinary Sage, White Sage, Yarrow, Savory, Foxglove, Mints, Lemon Balm, Oregano, Marjoram, Lungwort, Alfalfa, Meadowsweet, Creeping Charlie, New England Aster, Tansy, Germander, Chives, Echinacea, Angelica, Marsh Mallow, Pennyroyal, Valerian, Wintergreen, and Comfrey.

Also on the property, growing wild: Chickweed, Cleavers, Burdock, Mullein, Rue, Mayapple, Trillium, Cinquefoil, St. John’s Wort, Plantain, and of course, Dandelion.

I don’t know that I will have time to mulch before vacation, but if I can work it in, I certainly will. Mulching is one of the few gardening maintenance chores that I actually, truly enjoy.

Of course, there’s nothing I enjoy quite as much as my husband. But that’s not about herbs.

I am looking forward to stopping in Walker Farms to pick up some more herb plants from them. They have the best unusual herbs each year. This is where I got the hot oregano I loved. If I ever find it again, I will let it spread and not lose it again by forgetting (spelled: lazy) to winter it properly.

I love spring. Love, love, love.

Sacred Geometry

Author: Debra  //  Category: Art Department

This topic fascinates me. This first video is so pretty to watch and gives the basics of how geometry is part of life’s patterns.

But there is so much more to it. I hated math thanks to a bad teacher in gradeschool who didn’t understand how to teach me. One size does not fit all. I didn’t get the beauty of mathematical patterns until my late twenties and can only imagine how knowing it from a younger age might have influenced every aspect of my life. Since discovering mathematical patterns I can honestly say that it provoked a response in my akin to spirituality. When I finally started reading books on sacred geometry, I was, figuratively, in heaven.

I’m intrigued by the way this author has connected a mythos of sacred geometry to the book of Genesis. He does admit to some mistakes in part 2 (a mispronunciation, and 2 additional Archemidian solids that he left out) that don’t detract from the overview.

Even as a child, one of my favorite doodles was connecting circles and points. I think I’ve always known that patterns are a bit of the divine.

Sundays always seem like a good day for contemplation.

Weekend Plans – My Think Tank

Author: Debra  //  Category: General

I use OmniFocus on my Mac religiously. I love having a place to put down all the ideas I have and then organize them.

That way, when I have a weekend like this weekend where I don’t have many pressing pre-planned things, I can look through the list and decide what I’d like to do with my time.

I am not a fan of To Do lists. They feel oppressive and nagging and they kill my creativity. With OmniFocus I can put the time I think a project will take (if I want) and for items that need to be done by a specific date I can add that. I tend to do that for work stuff, but not for creative ideas.

The coolest thing is to look through all the ideas I’ve had and realize that boredom is a fallacy.

Truly, the only downside is choosing which of the multitude of really fun, creative things I should do next! I admit that sometimes I’ll choose one, but another keeps calling to me and I will stop one to go on to the other. Some projects take longer to accomplish that way, but boy do I sleep well after a day like that.

No wasted moments. Taking responsibility for my slack as well as my productivity.

Today? Breakfast, Farmer’s Market, working on the astronomy website. When I finish my coffee and updating OmniFocus.

Little Creatures

Author: Debra  //  Category: Wildlife

It was about 6:30 this morning and I was watching the news and the sunrise when I heard a big thump on the window. I saw a few feathers clinging to the outline of a bird, so went outside to see if the creature was ok.

On the deck, just in front of the bench quietly lay a hermit thrush. So I picked her up and held her to see if she was stunned or hurt worse. Her heart never raced, she never flinched. I stroked her back gently as she looked up at me and then all around. Brian found me sitting out there talking softtly to her and he snapped a few photos.

I gently pulled out each wing to make sure they were ok, then prodded her belly a bit. She finally stood up in my hand and just looked around. Brian’s cough made her turn her head sharply, but other than that, she was so calm. I convinced her to hop down next to me on the bench and she didn’t go far. After a little while she hopped about 2 feet away and was just looking around. When Brian stepped closer, she hop/fluttered onto the back of the bench. We encouraged her to give her wings a try and she flew onto an inner branch of the closest pine.

She’s still in the tree, occasionally hopping around. I keep listening for her song, which sounds a little like a flute.

I’ve never held a wild bird that was so at ease. I wish her well.

Projects

Author: Debra  //  Category: General

There are three web design projects on the top of my Current Projects list. (for the record; Main website at work, Astronomy site redesign, Burton Kids Sight & Smiles) This makes me very happy. I had no idea this is where I would be in my career. It’s very satisfying for me to combine my tech and design skills.

Some days I look around and I really am amazed how I have all the things I ever wanted. Wasn’t an easy road, but they say that if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not making progress.

Life doesn’t quite look like I had thought it would during the first quarter of my life. It really picked up speed during the second quarter. I really got a lot accomplished, personally and professionally.

Now that I’m getting closer to finishing up the second quarter (what, doesn’t everyone plan on living to 100?), I’m wondering what the third quarter will look like.

Since my crystal ball is dusty and full of occlusions anyway, perhaps I’ll just spend some time thinking about what I might like to be in the next 28 years.

Are we really listening?

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing

We submitted one piece of marketing material for awards from last year.  I would have liked to see more, but I’m waiting until next year to submit our web site (which I think is very innovative and fresh) as well as the In Your Words program.   I am already bracing for a brisk discussion on whether our web page or just the Gen Y Blog will get submitted.  But that debate is for another day.

I found a blog for The Nexus Connection from CUES who do the Golden Mirror Awards.  This was one of the two organizations where we submitted our product brochure for judging.   The blog is written by one of the judges and he listed a lot of items that I think we really need to pay attention to; both for improving our efficacy, and for creating award winning materials.

Sadly, I found several areas where we were not the shining examples of innovation.

The hottest items on the docket dealt with the Green initiative.  These quotes came out of their observations:

“Small to mid-sized credit unions (assets under $700 million) are consistently doing better creative work than bigger shops.”
- Brent Dixon is the Founder and Principal of The Haberdashery

“The bigger you get the safer you get. Too many cooks have to put their seal of approval on everything which ultimately
waters it down”
- Tim McAlpine, Creative Director, Currency Marketing
“Who knows your business best? Your or an outsider? Others can give you a view from a broader perspective and give you a
shot of reality when you are delusional, but the lens you view your business from is a key component. Sometimes outsiders
discount that component and you end up with the cold porridge look.”
- Gene Blishen, General Manager, Mt. Lehman Credit Union

Brent went on to talk about an observation he made that I wish I could utilize for our efforts:

There was some really impressive brand design work and brand standards books. Again, a lot of this was by mid-sized CUs.
And two of my absolute favorites were done entirely in-house.

We really should encourage our in-house talent.  As Gene said, who knows our business better?

Another blog written by a Golden Mirror Awards judge, Denise Wymore, has a ton of excellent advice.  The first was about how we determine ROI and how sloppy many of the submissions were this year.

CUES gave us a guideline (or definition) of the point values. How ROI was calculated on the entries was all over the board. I like to call this marketing math – and I blame the CFO for making us do it. We are, after all, creative people, and man oh man did I see some creative math. I almost felt like some marketers were viciously complying with ROI.

I’ve always had a problem with the ROI marketing math. Unless you have a coupon or some way to really validate that your newspaper ad, direct mail piece, radio spot directly contributed to the increase in business, can we really say that effort is responsible for the increase? Or, is it because you convinced your CFO to give the best rate humanly possible on that IRA during peak IRA season?

This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but I think in these tough times we need to be more responsible with our members’ money.  We are, after all, a financial cooperative.

We need to submit pieces where we can actually get an excellent feel for the impact of the piece.  Are we really spending our member’s money wisely in the pieces we create for them?    Do we really know if the pieces are having an impact?  I can now create landing pages for our marketing pieces to help and try tracking that information.  We need to put more effort into making sure what we’re publishing is having the desired impact.  Have we become too reliant on what someone else tells us is “the right look, the right vehicle”?

Below are more of Denise’s observations of the submissions this year:

I was surprised at the number of entries that still used the “spray and pray” approach to marketing. With all the tools available to segment members, even with creative marketing math, I don’t see that this is a good idea these days. Some credit unions have confused their “territory” with their “target audience.”

Marketers love paper, don’t we? I think I rubbed off my fingerprints touching the gorgeous papers used in some of these pieces.

We don’t take advantage of this option at all.  When I first started, it was stressed that we use the better paper for certain things.  Now that I don’t do any of the printing myself, no one seems to care.  Saving money has become the rallying cry.  As it should with many things, but when we really need to get attention, then we need to do things that make our members  stop, look, feel, and read our material.

Photography–I was pleasantly surprised to see a distinct decline in the “shiny happy people” usage. Nicely done.

That one hurt the most because we’ve been using Shiny Happy People motif in nearly everything we’ve created for the last year.  We’re behind the times again and that frustrates me.  We need fresh ideas if we’re going to let our pieces compete with what everyone else is doing locally.  We aren’t producing innovative pieces.

The one category that gave me flashbacks to 1983, however, was the radio production. I know it’s fun to go into a recording studio and even more fun when you can hear your work as you drive to the office, BUT…..if your goal is to “young-it-up,” your radio ad is not going to do it. Period.

First–even though your media buyer will tell you that Z100 Morning Zoo is the spot to attract 18- to 24-year-olds, most of these folks are ignoring you with their iPods.

So what can we do, Denise? Well…….think business development. And not in the usual way of sign up a SEG, drop off brochures and pray. Think of it literally as creating buzz in the Gen Y world. I saw one entry that, in my opinion, did not have a category. It was a blog and it rocked. It had nothing to do with credit union products or services, and that confused many judges. It had everything to do with the counter culture that was growing in the credit union’s marketplace. You can’t measure ROI on it, you can’t control when people read it (with a media buy), direct mail won’t drive people to it and members contribute to it! WOW!

This could, should, and HAS to be us next year.   They are already considering adding social media to the award process next year.

It’s time we stop finding ourself lagging a year behind the innovators.

Cultivating the relationship…after Gen Y

Author: Debra  //  Category: General, Marketing

Resources have been allocated to throw at getting our Gen Y members more interested and involved.  This is a very good thing.

However, I am curious about those that have been born in the 21st century.  I want to put together a place on our web that will make them want to come visit the site.  I am going to start looking for things to add to the web.  Our current ELGAsaurus page is as much of a dinasaur as it’s namesake and it’s not a section I’m particularly proud to show off.  I’m entertaining notions at this point.

I just recently found out about National Credit Union Youth Week with the 2009 slogan of  The Magic of Savings that runs April 19 – 25.  I would love to have some fun with this theme!  Getting a magician in the main branch for a day with some cool little give-aways and a nice piece on a savings account or CD would be so fun.

Also, just found out that instead of participating in Youth Week, we do something called Smart Money Week instead.  I just think that with our current push to focus on strengthening our relationships with our younger members that Youth Week should be an occasion we celebrate.

I will make sure to put something about it on the web if  I can’t get any further buy in to celebrate it in the branches.

Just because I see it doesn’t mean I can change it.

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing, Technology

It’s frustrating to see walls that have been built between people and departments. I know how they get built. It takes time and strong personalities and a need to be ‘right’ or ‘best.’ When those things are strong in the mid to high levels of any company, it becomes increasing difficult to succeed at lower levels. Banging your head against those walls repeatedly gives you a headache, and the walls feel nothing at all. The eventual outcome is that you stop even trying to make things better.

I’m not there yet. I have a remarkably strong head and the stamina of experience.

The wall I’m currently trying to chisel a pathway through is called Gen Y. Now, despite being told that I am not Gen Y (which is an ageist statement that infuriates me by implying that one can only communicate with Gen Y when one is a Gen Y) I have a very strong social sphere that is well populated with Gen Y. And amazingly, I can relate and understand their views and many of their needs and wants. Being that I am not typical for my generation, I find that a real benefit.

I also have my finger on the pulse of social networking as strongly, and often more technically deeper than, most of the Gen Y people I work with. My biggest frustration is that I cannot get management to recognize this and tap into it. I am not trying to take over anything. I just want to be a vital part of where we will be going with our efforts to tap into this market. I do not want to just be told what I am doing. I want to be a part of the decision making process.

If the people working on the Gen Y project were to write a description of the person they would most want as a resource, I qualify on so many levels…and yet, even though I have repeatedly asked to be on the task forces, no one is including me in on anything other than telling me what has already been decided and giving me tasks. I’m stumped. I don’t know what to do any more.

  • When I heard that the rock was established, I immediately went to the party responsible and asked to be included in the planning.
  • I have repeatedly told my management that I want to be included in these decisions.   I even had to insist that I not be -excluded- when told that I was too busy with other things.  This is important and I can and will adjust my schedule to fit it.
  • I’ve said often that I would make an excellent moderator (not the -only- moderator, but one of the team!) I keep several blogs and have a lot of experience in managing people.  I would be an asset, and yet whenever I say that, the response is tepid at best.  I keep being told that the blog project will be managed by Gen Y.
  • I am certain that not every person on successful Gen Y projects are actually in that generation.
  • I have asserted that the blog project needs to have Marketing involved even if the project isn’t one of our rocks.  I have met with strong resistance to have this happen.  There needs to be some tie into our current web page to be successful.  The blog IS a part of ELGA.  We need to coordinate how that happens and start some dialogue on a game plan.  Keeping me out of these talks would be a misuse of talent and makes no sense at all.

If it turns out that I am not an integral part of this project, it will come as a big blow to my morale.  My entire reason for what I do is to be valuable, not just a tool.

On the importance of knowing

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing

There are a lot of different ways of running a department and a lot of different leadership styles.   Not all work, and not all fail.  What’s really important is evaluating and re-evaluating to make sure that what we have is actually working.

The biggest frustration I have as a relatively new team member is that I don’t always know what to expect.  I know that the marketing manager juggles a wealth of knowledge in our department, and I want to tap into that.

I have an agenda.  I admit it freely.  I want to see our department run smoother, with less panic moments.  I believe with all my decades of business experience that in an industry like ours, if it’s a recurring event on an annual basis, we should know about it.

On Wednesday, I’m going to try once again to pitch the idea of creating a Marketing Calendar that has ONLY the annually recurring events and the dates they occur.  This will allow me to plan my tasks far more effectively and I also believe that it will benefit the entire department to have a year view in mind when we are asked about what we’re doing.

Personally, I would love to look at the Calendar in March when I have some time to think and see that Credit Union Appreciation Day is in October and start to brainstorm ideas on how we can make that a really memorable event.  I need to know that I can’t slate time in August for Back to School planning during the Member Appreciation/Sweepstakes event since all resources will be put toward that event.  I need to start thinking about promotions for Graduates in January, not in May when it’s too late.

This should be an easy sell, but it’s not my first attempt.  If necessary, I will push this individually until I can build the calendar on my own.  It’s just that important.

My head is full of ideas!

Author: Debra  //  Category: General, Marketing

On website improvements:
I am currently writing a web survey that will allow me to ask the people who visit our site what they like, dislike, need, and use.   When I started writing it I thought “Grand!  Input is a wonderful tool!” and then I started realizing what an incredible can of worms I was opening up.  Asking for hundreds of people to tell me what they want, what they like, what they dislike.  It nearly took my breath away.  But I’m ready for it.  I’m thickening my skin and I’m going to listen to all the comments I get through August and see if I can’t make something from the input that is even better than what I think I can do right now.

On assuring our members
I have been reading about the ways other credit unions have addressed the topic of the recent bank failures.  Yesterday I had an idea and created a poster for the branches to let our members know that they don’t need to take to stuffing their mattresses with their savings to feel secure.  I have buy-in from our CEO to write something I can put up on the web to help our members realize their in good shape.  It shocked me to discover that everythingCU is reporting that 66% of CU members don’t realize their money is insured, and insured with a fund that’s as strong or stronger than FDIC.

On marketing ideas
I’ve been out looking at other websites for inspiration.  I saw a program that used a drawing for a really cool prize to get people to refer friends and family.  We’ve offered money in a tiered program before with decent results, but nothing that would have inspired me.  I think that I’m a pretty decent representation of a member.  I’m not saying I’m ‘every member’ by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m in my mid 40′s with some disposable income, a retirement date in mind, a regular income, female, middle class and interested things that I might not actually purchase, but would enjoy.  The prize was a Fruit of the Month club subscription.  I would love that!  And I bet others would as well.  I am not that motivated by $5 or $10 or even $25 for a referral.  I can’t say why for certain, but I know I wouldn’t go out of my way to nudge friends and family to open an account with us for money.   But hands down I would for the chance to get a Harry & David fruit box for a few months!

I am also going to really push that we have something in place for graduating members in the spring of 2009.  I didn’t do an adequate job of selling this idea to management so that it was acted upon this year, but the more I think about it and the more I talk to people in other departments who would offer it, the more I am convinced that we have a need in our membership for this.  Right now I’m thinking of packaging a Visa and a First Car Loan along with a e.Rewards checking account.  I need to put together a sample package to take to management.

Lots of stuff rattling around up here!  Time to put it to use.