All Hallows’ Eve

Depending on how you look at it, Halloween is all about dressing up, trick-or-treating, celebrating, spooky stories or superstition – and if you’re like the office dog MacBeth, you take part in all of the above.

According to History.com, Halloween is thought to have originated at an ancient Celtic festival, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.

Jumping ahead some 2,000 years, we thought it would be fun to take a look at Halloween as we know it today. Because if you’ve always thought, “Hey, it seems like everyone dresses their pup up as a pumpkin,” now you know there’s something to that….

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Celebrating the Season

Fall is my favorite time of year – I love the cooler weather, the wide range of pumpkin-flavored stuff, and of course – chili!

Not long after joining the Banyan family last fall, I took a trip to St. Louis to meet the rest of the team. It just so happened my visit coincided with an annual chili cook-off. I mean, seriously Banyan – you had me at “Do you like chili?”

Where do I sign up?!?!

This year, the Atlanta office hosted our own chili cook-off, in tandem with the annual St. Louis festivities. After the feast in our respective offices, we connected over Skype for a trivia challenge about all things fall: Halloween, scary movies, autumn, potpourri – and since we’re on a roll at Banyan – baby stuff too.

ChiliSkype

It’s a fun way to spend a lunch hour – and a great way to bridge the physical distance between STL and ATL.

After all, we love our pups, our chili and – of course – a little friendly competition.

2013ChiliCookoffCollage

So that’s how we roll – how do you celebrate the season?

 

Social Media Storytelling

Facebook was born the same year I moved to Boston. While earning my master’s degree at Boston University, Mark Zuckerberg was across the river in Cambridge working on the idea that would fundamentally change how we connect and interact with one another culturally, virtually, and around the world.

Since then, I’ve gone on to manage social media accounts while working within and on behalf of the federal government, for a small business, and on behalf of my alma mater’s alumni association. Some of the platforms may overlap, but the audiences – and what they’re shopping for – vary widely.

So I was really interested in an opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by the Georgia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) focused on storytelling through social media.

PRSA-GA Chapter seminar - October 10, 2013

PRSA-GA Chapter seminar – October 10, 2013

Presentations made by the Atlanta Community Food BankChildren’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Aquarium illuminated their successes and their trial-and-errors working in social media.

PRSA Event Collage

Each of them provide a service valued in Atlanta – feeding the hungry, helping children get better, entertaining the public. And each of them have cultivated and grown dedicated networks on their various platforms.

What do they all have in common?

  • Visual, highly shareable content.
  • A dedicated team to manage social media, maintaining one unique voice.
  • One organized, overarching strategy and posting scheduled.
  • Dedication to responding in real time to their fans’ comments and questions.
  • A desire to make a difference in the lives of their customers, patients, and volunteers.

Doing all of these things well is how they tell their story in social media. And, it’s what we try to do here at Banyan too.

How about you? What’s your social media story?

Challenge 105 Spotlight

Erica Wenick hit the ground running with our second challenge. So we decided to put her in the spotlight, in order to learn more about how she’s creating healthy change for good!

A few words about me:

A little change for good on the golf course

A little change for good on the golf course

I am a graphic designer at Banyan Communications.

Why are you participating in Banyan’s Challenge 105?

Mainly because of the hugely positive effects that I have noticed both mentally and physically.

We heard you blew away the competition in week one. What’s your secret?

Finding something I actually enjoy doing. I look forward to working out when it feels like less of a chore.

Are you planning to do anything differently this time around – as compared to our initial Healthy Change For Good challenge?

My goal is to do something active for at least an hour a day whether that be golfing, going to a kickboxing class, or just taking a stroll with my pup. Sitting at a desk all day long makes this easier; when I get home I find that I can never sit still.

Any words of wisdom to offer others who are thinking of adapting a healthier lifestyle?

Try to set goals you can manage. If you take one small step each day, soon you will be at the top of a mountain you first thought impossible to climb!

Wristbands + Wearable Whatnots

Some of you may know about our Challenge 105 – which is our second round of helping to create healthy Change for Good among the Banyan ranks (if not, check out our blog from 9/16 and you’ll be totally up-to-speed).

During our initial wellness challenge, we discovered great advantages to being able to visually track our fitness data. It’s incredibly motivating to see a chart of your progress over time. It also makes it easier to identify where to make improvements, so you can focus on what’s most effective for you.

So you can imagine how excited we are about the current gadget trends involving fitness tracking phone apps, wristbands, shoe dongles, and wearable whatnots.

An example of one of the tracking gadgets used by staff

An example of one of the tracking gadgets used by staff

Most of these require a smartphone to help generate and catalog all the data. All the constant communication can be really processor-intensive and drain your phone’s battery. This realization may have been what led Apple to design and implement the M7 coprocessor into their recently released iPhone 5S. It is a dedicated chip with a sole purpose of measuring data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. This helps alleviate the pressure on the main phone processor. The M7 is suppose to be so powerful it can tell the difference between when you are running, walking, or even driving.

A new chip like this opens the proverbial floodgates for new ideas and concepts for tracking fitness. We are all really interested to see how others take advantage of it and even more excited to discover how this might transform our own apps. The future of health and fitness is looking bright, but there is no time like the present to get out there and get motivated.

Power of Story

When I talk to folks about the importance of ‘story’ in trying to engage an audience, one of the most common reactions I always get is, “I’d love to – but I don’t have a story to tell. I only have data/statistics/research to work with – there’s no story in there.”  Well, believe it or not, stories are easy to tell.  In fact, you already know how to do it.  That’s because all stories are similar. There is a main character with a want or need who faces unexpected complications with untested personal resources – and ultimately wins or loses in the pursuit of their goal.  If you’ve ever read a children’s book , told a joke or watched a beer commercial, you’ve experienced a story within a three-act structure.

The question is how can you apply this three-act paradigm in an institutional or organizational setting? How can you find a ‘hero’ in a spreadsheet full of data, much less the ‘villain’ bent on his or her destruction? You need to keep in mind two things:  not all stories need to be ‘epic,’ and not all conflicts need to be mortal.  Take the story of the tortoise and the hare for example. In this example the complication [Act I] is the race. The conflict [Act II] is over who wins. The hero is the tortoise, the antagonist is the hare, and the climax is at the finish line [Act III]. The resolution is the moral (or teaching point) of the story: slow and steady wins the race.  A story about a really slow race doesn’t sound that it would be engaging, right?  But we all know it – and that’s because it’s simple story well told!

Tortoise+Hare

Or the shortest example I know of is the old joke: “Take my wife.… Please!” It has a protagonist: the person telling the joke. The first two acts are implied: he married poorly, and it’s been a life of marital strife ever since. The third act, where the conflict is resolved, is a proposition: if I can convince you take my wife off my hands, my problems are over.

I’ve always found that successful communicators are those people who can find a ‘story’ in the numbers or data – not necessarily epic or earth-shattering, but a story that people will be interested in – and then share that story in an accessible manner that creates engagement, builds interest, and builds an emotional link between the storyteller and the audience.

Healthy Change for Good

“Put your money where your mouth is.”Wellness Wednesday_5

“Walk the talk.”

“Actions speak louder than words.”

We’ve all heard these, right? It’s one thing to say you’re going to do something. But actually doing it? Entirely different.

This week marks the start of our second Banyan Wellness Challenge. Our first round – which took place over 12 weeks this summer – was a huge success.

Everyone committed to an activity goal that was realistic and achievable. Healthy potluck lunches brought the STL and ATL offices together each week. And we learned a little friendly competition benefited everyone.

All of this helped us create change for good within.

PicMonkey-Collage-2-300x300It’s one thing to do it for others. It’s something entirely different to do home remedies for herpes it for ourselves. Easy to overlook but so critically important.

A happier, healthier, stronger team doesn’t just mean we can do a better job of keeping up with Banyan mascot MacBeth.

It means we bring the best versions of ourselves to work, for our clients, in making a positive difference – all the way around.

Here’s to Challenge 105! Track our progress and cheer us on!