Stop Saying These Words!

In every office, across every industry, in every city, there inevitably lies the distinct language of the land, AKA the “office jargon” that goes along with it.  Even those of us who once had to sheepishly ask what exactly “ping me” meant (do I call? email?? Is ping the latest app I don’t know about yet??), given long enough exposure to these office clichés, will eventually find themselves ending emails with “please advise” or worse yet, calling a client to “follow-up” and/or “circle back” and/or touch-base (the touch-base is my personal fave for the record).

But I ask you? Does anyone really even know what these overused and often misused terms actually mean? Ever find yourself on the phone with someone and you literally have no idea what they’re actually saying but dog-on it they sound fancy! In my experience, it seems the more of these buzz words one can fit into a conversation, the less they actually know what they’re talking about…

Ever since my first office job, I’ve kept a running list of phrases that I didn’t quite understand but often heard, and at every job this list grew hilariously longer. I’ll spare you the list in its entirety and present you with some of my favorites and also most outlandish, must-be-an-inside-joke-I-don’t-get, overused office clichés.

Circle back/Follow Up/Touch-base – These all mean the same damn thing and that thing is “get back to you.” Ironically, one can never actually say “I’ll get back to you” though, they MUST use one of the aforementioned phrases.  If anyone knows why this is please get back to me about it… 🙂

Hard Stop – Ahhh the old hard stop.  AKA, I’m so important that I have another pressing engagement directly following this one.  Ex: “I can talk for the next few minutes, but I have a hard stop at 2pm.” Related: Is there such thing as a soft stop?

Low-Hanging Fruit – Raise your hand if you’ve heard this gem meaning (I think) the “obvious wins” or “easy accomplishments.”

Chinese Fire drill – I honestly had to look this one up on Wikipedia after months of a certain client telling me that they had these going on. Frequently. I assumed it was a metaphor but for what, I was still unclear. In a nutshell, this is actually a borderline offensive reference that dates back to the early 1900’s and refers to a chaotic situation.  So now you know…(see also Drinking From a Fire Hose which I think means basically the same thing.)

Run it up the Flagpole – I can’t hear this one without thinking of the old Nickelodeon show “Salute Your Shorts.” Is it just me?

Going Forward – This one brings me nostalgically back to my very first job as a PR assistant. A simpler time when I had never used a fax machine, never CC’ed anyone and certainly never “gone forward.” Little did I know that I would never again hear the familiar phrase “from now on” or even the whimsical “henceforth.”  Nope from that moment on, it would always be “Going forward we will do things like this <insert thing to do forever more>.”

These are just a few of the many words/phrases that I believe are generally overused in traditional workplaces. I’m honestly curious as to why so many people use these terms? Do they make you sound smarter? More professional? More polished? Do they just seep into our vocabulary after hearing them so often?  I’m dying to know!

So, now I’ll ask you, faithful readers, what’s your favorite – or LEAST favorite – office cliché?  List ’em now in the comments. Or you know, ping me later about it!

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Just a Left-Handed Girl, Living in a Righties World…

(Editor’s note: Title will ideally be sung to the tune of Don’t Stop Believing…)

After reading this glorious article on Buzzfeed entitled The 18 Worst Things for Left-Handed People, I felt compelled to share my own harrowing tales of life as a southpaw and also add a few more items to Buzzfeed’s very thorough list.

While Buzzfeed definitely hit on the major ones including the ink-stained hand, the spiral notebook/three-ring binder debacle (which is why I  am a big fan of top bound notebooks) and even the lesser appreciated coffee cup holder and can opener dilemmas, they missed a few of my personal tribulations that I thought were worth noting. Here’s what I’d add to the list!

1) Crank-style wall pencil sharpeners – anyone remember these/do they still use these? I standby the fact that these were made for righties because I had to awkwardly reach my left hand around to crank it because my poor underdeveloped right arm muscles were not strong enough to operate this device!

The wall crank pencil sharpener AKA the bane of my elementary school existence...

The wall crank pencil sharpener AKA the bane of my elementary school existence…

2) Sweeping – I’m actually curious to know if this is just me or if any other lefties are borderline handicapped when it comes to sweeping with a traditional broom? I am convinced that the slant of the broom is righty-favored and thus this is a chore for my right-handed boyfriend in my house.

broom

Note the presumably right-hand optimized slant.

3) Renting golf clubs at the range – Maybe this is just a by-product of being a left-handed woman in the smallest state in the union (all odds against me!) but when I recently tried to borrow clubs at a local driving range the guy looked at me as if I had asked for a baseball bat rather than a golf club and laughed as he said, yeah we don’t have any of those…

My mom likes to say that I’m a lefty because I’ve been “difficult” (see also: not the norm, oppositional and anti-authority) since I came out of the womb. If I’m being honest she’s probably on to something. Being a lefty, whether genetic or a conscious choice seems to be a common trait for creative types who also happen to be just a *tad* rebellious. This is not necessarily a bad thing though! They say that most lefties are right-brained, which means they are inclined to make decisions based on emotion, intuition and nonverbal communication rather than logic.  Oh yeah and Dr. Oz even says we are smarter than righties!

Any lefties out there have anything else to add to the list of our oppression? Comment away!

5 Reasons Why I Should Be The Next Content Crafter at Buffer…

Screen shot 2013-04-12 at 2.33.15 PM

1)   I still remember exactly when I first discovered Buffer (from a co-worker at Likeable Media) and how much I loved it! I even sent this tweet in excitement. From then on it has made managing both my personal social presence and countless clients infinitely better.

2)    I’ve been writing since I was 6 years old, and my dad (a journalist in NY for more than 40 years) taught me how to type on our Atari computer. I wrote my first “novel” shortly after – a mystery called The Adventures of Jillian Rhonda, loosely based on the Nancy Drew series…  Since then my writing experience has grown considerably. I studied journalism at the University of Rhode Island and wrote for the campus newspaper, I interned at Scholastic magazines, I wrote my own column for a local newspaper, I started a blog in 2006 and then stumbled gracefully into the world of social media sometime thereafter, expanding my writing outlets to blogs, websites, Facebook posts, tweets, etc.

3)   More specifically, I’ve written a number of blog posts on the topic of social media, I’ve been chosen based on my writing to be part of brand campaigns such as IBM’s #MySmarterCommerce and Pepsico’s Social Communicator project covering Internet Week in NYC, and even earned an appearance on CNN as a social media expert not because of my job at a top social media agency but rather because a producer was a fan of my personal blog.

4)   I left the fast-paced agency world of NYC to live a more relaxing life by the beach in the beautiful seaside town of Newport, RI. Although I’m no longer living in the hustle and bustle of the big city, I’m still a hustler when it comes to working hard and pursuing my passions.  I’m inspired by the notion of working where I feel my most creative, which for me, is sitting in a coffee shop with a chai latte, my laptop and some great music in the background. Bonus points for being able to see, smell or taste the salty air of a nearby ocean.  I find inspiration comes from the most unlikely places and being able to work at a dream job while living where I chose would be the ultimate work-life zen.

5)   I’m planning on buffering this blog post 🙂

Think I’d make a great writer for Buffer?  Please share this post and let @bufferapp know you want to read more from me!

Five Cool Things Technology Has Done For Me

Being part of the #MySmarterCommerce campaign with IBM, I’ve been thinking more and more lately about all the ways the internet, technology, and probably more specifically, social media, has changed my life.  Sure, everyone’s life has changed with the invention of new technologies.  If we don’t know something, we just “Google it”, we use our smartphones for everything and connectivity is always at our fingertips. But for me, the coolest thing about social media is the random connections I’ve been able to make and the advancements for myself and my career.  Here’s my top five favorite things technology has done for me (so far!).

1) Saved my LDR (that’s long distance relationship for those not in the know). Living in NYC while my sig other was in Buffalo for nearly two years wasn’t easy. But thanks to Skype, Facebook, email, texting and even Seamless Web, we were able to connect in more ways than ever possible.  In the olden days, LDR’s didn’t stand a chance, with the lack of cell phones, painfully slow process of letter writing and non-existent internet even couples parting ways for the summer pretty much had a “see you in September” mentality.  Modern day LDR’s stand a lot better chance.  Don’t believe me?  Just watch Going The Distance.

2) Got me on CNN! About a year ago I was up late one night perusing Twitter when I received a tweet from a CNN producer asking if she could DM me.  Unsure whether it was spam I quickly checked her out and she seemed legit.  After a brief direct message exchange on Twitter and a few emails, I was confirmed as a guest the next morning on CNN as a social media expert.  I credit this to a winning combo of my Twitter presence and my personal blog presence.  I later found out that one of the writers was a big fan of The Allie Zog Blog, which surely helped my cause! 🙂

3) Got me most of jobs to date. When I first finished college, I distinctly remember spending several days stuffing envelopes to mail out to job prospects.  Yes I literally stuffed envelopes, sending my resume, best clips from the college newspaper and a lengthy cover letter to every magazine, newspaper and random publication I could think of.  I think I heard back from like 2.  Do journalism majors still do this?  I HOPE not!  That was the first and last time I ever MAILED anything to apply for a job.  The last few jobs I’ve had have been obtained by a combination of personal introduction, Twitter connections, online job boards and again, this blog.  To this I say, good riddance envelope stuffing!

4) Connected (and reconnected) me with friends old and new. As cliché as it sounds, I still love social media for the simple fact that it’s allowed me to stay connected to people from my past, often re-connecting me to them after years of silence.  If you’re like me and left your hometown at 18 with not many returns, you may not have been the best at keeping each touch with high school pals.  I doubt I even had any of their phone numbers or even email addresses after college ended but thanks to social media I’m able to find out  where they are and what they’re doing and in most cases we’ve been able to “catch up” without actually having to see each other or even speak on the phone.  In addition to re-connecting with old friends, I’ve had a lot easier time staying connected to new people I’ve met along the way.  In the past, if you met someone casually at an event or even through a friend, you probably wouldn’t stay in touch, but these days, after I meet someone new, I usually find a friend request or new follower in them a few days later.

5) Given me important information such as “where should I eat tonight” “how can I get Lumineers tickets” and “where can I buy a hot yoga towel.” You know – the burning questions that before Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc were just so much harder to answer!

These are just a sampling of the many ways in which I use one part iPhone, one part Twitter and two parts my imagination to make my life easier everyday.  I’d love to know what technology and social media has done for your life.  Share with me in the comments or on Twitter using #MySmarterCommerce.

#spon: I have been invited by IBM to share my honest thoughts and experiences around Smarter Commerce, and as part of this collaboration, IBM may provide me with product, access, content or other forms of remuneration. All opinions are expressly my own.

The Blizzard of 2013: A Recap…

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Turns out, I’m a wuss.  Also?  I’m not one of those people who could go on a digital detox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  I have now confirmed that the internet (particularly social media) is my lifeline to the outside world and the way in which I get 99% of my news and information.  What confirmed it? 39 LONG HOURS WITHOUT POWER!

Snowstorm Nemo hit little Rhody hard and left the entire Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth) without power starting Friday evening with some people going as long as four or more days without.  Hat’s off to those people, truly.

I’ll break it down for you with a rough timeline:

Approximately 10pm Fri night: Power goes out for 5 minutes, I freak out, power goes back on, I tweet about it.

Approximately 10:20 pm Fri night: Power goes back off…and stays off.  I tweet about it…and cry a little.

10:27pm: I text my mom frantically.  I check Twitter frantically.  I tweet to National Grid.

Sometime between 10:27 and 1am: – I fall asleep dreaming of waking up to the harsh light of my bedside lamp the TV blasting.

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Saturday 5am-ish: I wake up…COLD.  My boyfriend rolls over and mumbles…”did the power go out?” (he’d slept through the whole thing, bless his soul)

Saturday – timeline hazy due to lack of heat, light, TV, hot coffee, etc: I find out through Facebook that one bar in town is open and serving food and possibly one hotel is serving free coffee.  We proceed to bundle up as there is no way in heck we are staying in our apartment where the thermostat has already reached 46 degrees.  We head out and head to the Hotel Viking, where they’re serving coffee and a “cold lunch”, there’s no heat.  We leave for greener pastures because at this point we are still hopeful there’s some magical oasis of heat, TV, coffee and bacon and eggs.  We head to Benjamins which, as per Facebook, IS in fact the only bar open in town at this point.  They’re PACKED and getting a table to be served food seems unlikely.  We decide to trek on, now hopeful there’s other places around.  We arrive at the Newport Marriott with high hopes.  Turns out they DID have a generator but it broke.  They’ve got bigger problems too because they’re hosting Reebok for some big wig type conference.  There’s no heat although it feels warmer than our apartment.  We spot some staff cleaning up and ask if their restaurant is open.  They say no and we must look pretty defeated because they sneak us behind some curtain and offer us what’s left from their morning buffet.  They tell us “everyone’s gotta eat today” and I understand in a miniscule way what it must feel like to be homeless or hungry and have to depend on people’s good will. I appreciate the gesture immensely and accept the coffee while my boyfriend, not one to turn down food, enjoys a sandwich, leftover salad and some sort of soup.  I again have an epiphany about myself realizing that I declined the food because I wasn’t  really in the mood for questionable looking deli meat, wilted salad greens and mystery soup but realize after the fact what the expression “beggars can’t be choosers” truly means.  If this was my reality every day (no warm home, limited food source) I’d have to be grateful for whatever I could get and not chose what I eat on my own freewill.

From here, the day seems like five and we go on to return home to warm up in our car, charge our cell phones, head to the local Stop & Shop (which is open, sorta, and resembles the zombie apocalypse) and add my friend and her pup to our tribe.  Eventually we found out that a friend’s parents on the other side of the island has power and another friend has gas heat and some food.  We are lucky, and we enjoy a warm meal and a toasty home then head to our friend’s parents for a warm bed.  By the time we return to our apartment early Sunday afternoon our power is back and I’ve learned about a hundred life lessons.  Here’s the highlights:

1) As the boy scouts said, always be prepared!  We were not, at all.  We thought that wine, ingredients for chili and homemade pizza, and a flashlight would get us through but we didn’t truly prepare for the reality of no heat, no cooking source or refrigeration, etc.

2) Cell phones (particularly iPhones) really are the greatest invention of our time and were literally my lifeline.  If I hadn’t been able to text friends and family, make quick calls and check social media sites for information on what was opened, when and where power would be restored, etc, I really don’t know where we’d have ended up. (I’m sure we would have made it through ONE night sleeping under a ton of blankets but damn, at the time, I really didn’t think I would.  It was COLD and we didn’t even have many extra blankets….which brings me back to lesson 1, always be prepared!)

3) Having people you can rely on is important.  I had a minor breakdown in which I realized that my closest family member was in Boston, which is pretty close but wasn’t nearly close enough at the time.  While I have some friends in town I was really very lucky to have somewhere to go and realized that although I’ve always been the type to move places and make new friends, there’s something to be said for having lots of family and friends and a close-knit support system nearby.

And now to bring it full circle…

When I was first asked to be part of IBM’s Social Influencer Think Tank and told that I’d be sharing my idea of smarter commerce, I had a million things in mind.  There are so many times that social media and technology tools have enriched my life, got me jobs, got me on TV, connected me with family and long distance loves, and so much more, but after experiencing the smallest taste of a crisis situation, my belief in the power of social media was reinforced 1000%.

Over the next month I’ll be sharing plenty more stories of how social media and the latest technology has bettered my life, from the big to the small. And now I ask you friends, how has it bettered YOUR life?  Please share your stories with me here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE

PS, Special thanks to Frank, Joanie, Jedi, Heather, Steve, Allie, Kathleen, and the Hunt Family; the Newport Marriott for their hospitality; and What’s Up Newport and The Newport Patch for their great coverage and information for getting me through my first New England Blizzard.

Exciting Announcement!

photo-1Hi friends! I’m excited to announce that I have been recruited by IBM to be a part of their #MySmarterCommerce Campaign and join their Social Influencer Think Tank. What the heck does this mean, you ask? Well basically they think I’m cool and interesting (who doesn’t?) and they’ve called me an “influencer” (shudders…) and a “connected consumer” (what the…what?). I think this means that I wouldn’t dare buy something, eat something or go anywhere without consulting Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest…errr yeah, it sounds like I am this connected consumer thing. FOR SURE.

In layman’s terms, they want me to help define what Smarter Commerce means to me, and they want YOU, my loyal readers, family and friends to join in the conversation too! For the next 30 days I’ll be blogging, tweeting, etc. about what Smarter Commerce means to me, and how technology and social media plays a part in my everyday life. I encourage you all to leave comments, tweet me, Facebook me, etc. and tell me what you think and what it means to you. You might even win an Amazon gift card (woo!).

The sky’s the limit with this campaign and there’s a lot of exciting stuff to come. I’ll be featured on IBM’s site and some of my content may be used in presentations at South by Southwest, IBM’s Global Conference in Nashville and beyond. If I’m really ridiculously interesting, I might even get to speak at SxSW (those who don’t know, it’s like Geek Spring Break, see here) and be IBM’s VIP guest and/or be followed around by film crews for part of their Nashville Conference (it all sounds very E-True Hollywood Story). I’m pyched to be part of it all and can’t wait to see what takes shape. Help me get there you guys!

Stay tuned for my first post in which I force myself to relive this weekend’s blizzard and my 39 hours without power (AKA the longest 39 hours of MY LIFE). It will be riveting folks, and if it doesn’t convince you how much I (and all of us really) DEPEND on technology, I don’t know what will.

Check out the #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE hashtag on Twitter to see more of what this campaign’s all about and check back here often to get involved!

A Blogging Identity Crisis…

The more blogs I read, the more I have conflicting views on where I want my blog to go and what I want my niche to be, or perhaps more accurately, do I want/need to have a niche at all??

I started this blog back in 2006 and I’d like to think I was a relatively early adopter at the time.  Since my blog was born, its had three different “looks,” the first one being a very cheesy beach scene that was a popular blogspot template at the time.  I’d stumble across the same background on blog after blog and feel sheepish about the fact that I was so common place, but to most of my readers (friends and family that barely knew what a blog was) it was still pretty cool.

As an avid journal keeper most of my life, I began my blog as just that, a slightly more edited version of the diaries I’d kept for years. A place where I documented my life just starting out in the world of PR and all the crazy/funny/wonderful/odd/terrifying experiences along the way.  I met my current boyfriend shortly after starting the blog (ironically he appears in one of my first ever posts where I mention a kind neighbor who I rode the train home with…) but if blogging had been a thing back when I was single…well I can’t even imagine the direction my blog may have gone.  One quick look at my old MySpace profile and the “blog” I kept there is enough to remind myself just how wacky my life was back as a single waitress. Anyway…

Over the years my blog took on different identities and I started experimenting with different kinds of posts.  I’ve blogged about social media, I’ve made a lot of public lists and goals for myself and then I’ve gone for months without writing at all.

After I finally moved into NYC, I decided I needed a cityscape design so I spent hours teaching myself basic HTML in order to successfully update my background to a flourescent pink skyscraper scene.  It was glorious…and then it wasn’t.

This brings me to my current blog, complete with my own photo and “classic clean look.” I’ve though several times about changing the name of my blog to something more subject-matter related.  Is calling it “The Allie Zog Blog” self-serving?  Am I important/interesting enough to have a self-titled blog? Is this the equivalent to a self-titled album by an artist??

But what would my new name be?  Like a reporter without a beat, I’ve never felt like I had a clear niche, a subject I would want to stick to exclusively or an area of expertise.  I prefer to think of myself as a columnist of the new age because after all, isn’t the reason being a columnist was/maybe still is such a coveted job, the flexibility to write about whatever you want?

The options are endless these days. I could write a social media marketing blog coming up with new ways to repurpose the same “breaking” tech stories that hundreds of other bloggers are writing about (I call these the “Facebook releases a new feature – film at 11!” posts) or I could be a “fashion blogger” taking gratuitous pictures of my “outfits” for the day and writing about why I think mint green is this season’s IT color (my most compelling reason for considering this route is when I discovered all the free clothes  even the most novice fashion bloggers can receive by simply posting pictures and links to the products) or maybe I should become a food blogger?  This one I’ve most seriously considered as I’ve previously written about restaurants and bars, have worked in the restaurant business for a good part of my life and recently discovered a penchant towards cooking and baking.  Yup, I thought, I should totally rename my blog “Allie Eats” or something equally catchy and go that route. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for better or worse, The Allie Zog Blog must remain.  It’s who I am and it’s a place for me to write about whatever I want, which, all jokes aside includes a lot of what I mentioned above. It also allows me to evolve, change locations, change jobs and gain new hobbies without needing to start a new blog or change the name.  I still find myself blogging about NYC (or at least referring to it) because as they say, you can take the girl out of NYC but you can’t take the NYC out of the girl, but now my “where I went, what I did” posts are almost exclusively New England based, with Newport having the obvious hometown advantage.

The bottom line for me is this, I love to write and I love to do so about a variety of topics. One day, I may blog about how awesome I think yoga is and the next day I may rant about the weather. But like most egotistical writers, my favorite topic is me! To put it less pompously: things that I’m passionate about, experiences I’ve had, and life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

So, a question to my readers: Do you think my blog, or any blog really, needs to have a niche or can it be all-encompassing?  And if one day I do decide that I want to blog about one thing (travel, New England, FOOD, not sure just yet…) should I start a separate blog for that, or just keep it all right here on the blog I so eloquently named after myself?

Comment away folks!