Spring Break – day four // 03.07.2017

A Tuesday that would usually find us in class and around Harding found us instead at the Mall of America.

Lunch, shopping and arcade games — all on the agenda. My familiarity with the small malls of Arkansas didn’t prepare me for the behemoth of this Minnesota staple. For four of us, we only made it to the second floor to visit the food court, and that’s with about six hours spent in the mall.

Six hours. Only one floor. Yeah, it’s huge.

The other three made it up to the third and fourth floors where they spent some time in the arcade. We’re considering returning so that we get a glimpse of the what the rest of the mall looks like.

Today in seven photos:

Mall of America // I’m a sucker for a shot with good lighting so long as I’m not in it.
Mall of America // I’m a sucker for a shot with good lighting so long as I’m not in it.
Mall of America // I’m a sucker for a shot with good lighting so long as I’m not in it.
Mall of America // Some passersby, a mother and son, and a cool fountain.
Mall of America // Taking a break from the walking and shopping.
Mall of America // Showcasing our finds for the day that filled the back of the car. I’m not going to tell you how many of those bags are mine.
Heading home // The setting sun cast rays through the back window of the car as we headed home.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and night at home. For me at least, the Mall of America was a first, and it didn’t disappoint.

Tomorrow we head to Duluth where the high is 25 degrees with high winds. Wish us luck.


Spring Break – day three // 03.06.2017

Today was day three of our much-welcomed break from school. Unfortunately, some of us had to do some schoolwork today, but that didn’t stop us from having a great day.

We spent our day in the Twin Cities: St. Paul and Minneapolis. We ate brunch at Black Coffee and Waffle Bar. (I had the “One Bad Pig” waffle —  a golden waffle with a thick slice of ham and swiss cheese on top — and it was incredible.) After stuffing our faces, we headed into downtown Minneapolis to The Foshay observation deck. Incredible views with some incredible lighting for photos.

After exploring downtown Minneapolis, we headed back to the house for a couple hours, played a game and ate tacos for dinner. There’s nothing much better than tacos.

The night wrapped up with a trip back into St. Paul with some friends from Sam’s church.

Twin Cities wrap-up:

On the road // Heading into the Twin Cities.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar // Gourmet waffles and lattes — a perfect pair.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar // Gourmet waffles and lattes — a perfect pair.

Foshay // Atop the observation deck at Foshay Tower.

Foshay // Atop the observation deck at Foshay Tower.

Foshay // Atop the observation deck at Foshay Tower.

Foshay // Atop the observation deck at Foshay Tower.

In the city // City scenes in downtown Minneapolis.

In the city // Trying to figure out what piece of music was painted on a downtown wall.

Back home // Playing an exciting game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Don’t worry — we defeated the dragon.

In the city // Lightning lit up the St. Paul sky.

In the city // The Smith Avenue bridge creates a picture-perfect nighttime scene.
Tomorrow takes us to the Mall of America! Stay tuned.


Spring Break – day two // 03.05.2017

It was easy to fall asleep last night after an early wake-up time and a 14-hour drive. This morning was welcomed with monkey bread and fruit pastries for breakfast. Thanks, Patti!

The day was cool and cloudy with temperatures in the upper 40s and low 50s.

We headed off to church where we received a warm welcome. Lunchtime found us at the home of one of the families from the church. We had lunch and got to hang out with the other families there. It was a great lunch with even better company. Thanks to the Maynards for hosting us.

We spent the afternoon in Hastings and Red Wing along the Vermillion and Mississippi Rivers. The nighttime was filled with hanging out and watching Sam’s senior video.

Today’s highlights:

Vermillion River // Waterfalls of the river near a mill in Hastings, Minnesota.
Vermillion River // Waterfalls of the river near a mill in Hastings, Minnesota.
Vermillion River // Waterfalls of the river near a mill in Hastings, Minnesota.
Vermillion River // Kayakers float down the river on a cool, cloudy day.
Vermillion River // Kayakers float down the river on a cool, cloudy day.
Vermillion River // Spiderman Silas climbing a rundown mill.
Vermillion River // Model status. Thanks for posing, Ronnie.
Vermillion River // Downstream from the falls and mill.
Vermillion River // Thanks to Sam’s dad, Laine, for letting me borrow some boots.
Vermillion River // Downstream from the falls and mill.
Back home // We’re gathered around the TV watching Sam’s senior video. Sweet mems.

Tomorrow’s agenda is still undecided, but I’m sure it will be filled with laughter and memories.



Spring Break – day one // 03.04.2017

Today marked day one of Spring Break 2017. Kendall, Sam, Silas, Hannah, Chance, Ronnie and I packed our things into two cars and took off for Minnesota where we’re staying for the week.

It was a day filled with short naps, lots of laughs and an Iowan pit stop that smelled like manure. But hey — that’s all part of the fun.

The trip, totaling travel time and pit stops, took 14 hours and 10 minutes. It wasn’t too bad considering the high-quality friendship and memories. Podcasts, audiobooks and the “Hamilton” soundtrack made the road trip a little more bearable, too.

Here are some highlights from day one.

We’re off // Sam, Silas and Kendall pick me up to begin our 13-hour car ride together.
Fueling up // Stop number two in Ozark, Missouri.
On the road // Sam in the driver’s seat and Silas in the passenger’s. Somewhere in Missouri.
On the road // Kendall in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger’s. Somewhere in Iowa.
Nap time // Hannah sleepy because of a 5 a.m. wake-up time.
Fueling up // Getting off the highway for our final stop before reaching Sam’s home. Somewhere in Iowa.
Fueling up // Kendall moved to the back seat for the final leg of the trip. Somewhere in Iowa.
Home // We finally arrived at Sam’s home in Woodbury, Minnesota, around 8 p.m. Happy to not be in the car anymore.

Also, a huge shoutout to Sam’s parents for opening up their home to us this week. We already feel so welcomed!

Tomorrow is church and lunch. And seeing Minnesota in the daylight.


Fridays are for friends // 02.25.2017

Sometimes college is fun, and sometimes college is stressful. But regardless of the circumstances, the thing that makes college the most memorable is the people.

Today I got to be with some of my favorite people. Kendall, Coleman, Kassy, and I took off to the Rock Quarry in Judsonia after class today and just talked. Not distracted by school work, technology (minus my camera), or nagging professors, we just talked. It was a beautiful afternoon with beautiful friends.

We ended the afternoon with dinner at the Bulldog in Bald Knob where we ran into some of my other favorite people.

I’m thankful that these people are in my life, and it blows me away to think that I’ve not known them for my entire life. It sure feels like it. I pray I never take my friends for granted and that they always know they’re top priority in my life — regardless of the circumstances.

Kassy — always positive, uplifting, and kind to everyone she meets.
Kendall — an incredible girlfriend who understands me. (I’m weird and confusing sometimes.) How’d I get so lucky?
Coleman — a down-to-earth dude and super cool future roommate.
The setting sun over the quarry.
As Coleman and I made our way back to the car, Kassy and Kendall stopped atop a little mound of dirt. They were silhouetted perfectly against the setting sun. It was like a scene from a movie.

Keep your friends close. They’ll keep you sane and remind you why life is worth living.


Score some brownie points with Google using these six SEO tips

Haley Burkhead, digital media strategist at Think Idea Studio of Searcy, Arkansas, spoke to my public relations tactics class on Thursday afternoon about what SEO is and how to make it a successful aspect of your organization’s communication plan.

Haley offered six key components in scoring some brownie points with Google.

Site speed:

It’s the name of the game. Site speed is exactly what you think it is. It’s how fast your site loads based on content and layout. Site speed is important because no one wants to wait on a website that is going to take forever to load. They’ll just move on to the next search result. Check your site speed here and makes adjustments accordingly: www.testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com. (Thanks, Google, for the free tools!)

Keyword optimization:

What do you type in the search bar when you’re looking for a great place to eat on your vacation to the Big Apple? You might think those words in the search bar mean nothing, but you are wrong, my friend. They mean everything. Those words are what connect websites and audiences. For communications professionals, those little words are the world. Optimize your site so that the keywords are relevant and accurate.

Quality is the new SEO:

Of course, things are going to go better for you if you have a website that is well-versed in SEO, but the content you’re putting on that website is just as important. Bad quality and unprofessional photos are sure to drive away viewers, but easy-to-find stock photos might make the world of difference.

Take a couple of minutes to replace your low-quality content with some high-quality game changers. A glowing recommendation of free stock photos from Haley: www.pexels.com.


Permalinks are the URLs that you didn’t know existed. When you navigate away from the homepage, your URL will change to something like http://www.mywebsite.com/blog. Make sure it doesn’t say http://www.mywebsite.com/pagenumber2. Those permalinks matter when it comes to your website popping up in Google search results.

Image file name:

Make sure your file names for documents and photos are not just some made up number or name. Make them relevant to your site. Instead of naming your photo of free stock photos “001.jpg,” name it “free-stock-photos.jpg.” File names count as keywords, and you want all the keyword points you can get.

Mobile responsive:

This one is a no-brainer. Hello! It’s 2017! If your website isn’t mobile responsive, you’re doing it all wrong SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report found that 56 percent of consumer traffic to leading U.S. websites is now from mobile devices. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, Google doesn’t want it. And neither does Yahoo or all of those other search engines that everyone forgets about.

SEO is an important key to a successful communications strategy. Make sure your organization is on board. Thanks for the advice, Haley.

Press releases aren’t dead, Tom.

It’s 2006. Facebook is new to the market, and Twitter has just been founded. Social media is still a relatively new tactic in public relations, but Tom Foremski argues that press releases are dead.

Fast forward to today. It’s 2017. Facebook draws 79 percent of internet users. Instagram draws 32 percent and Twitter 24 percent. Social media is an integral part of all public relations strategy (if not, what are you even doing?), and I argue that press releases are not dead at all.

Tom said that, in 2006, press releases were dead because of their production value.

Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) 

He’s not wrong about that; however, how else did he expect organizations, corporations and agencies to disseminate their information? Social media surely was not a very trafficked possibility. Print journalism was still highly respected, and internet media was still developing.

Press releases in 2006 were certainly not dead.

And to an extent, they’re not dead today either. They have simply taken on a different facade.

Press releases have assumed the form of a punny Instagram caption. They’ve assumed the form of a stunning Facebook photo and a compelling story that goes with it. They’ve assumed the form of a well-thought-out, 140-character message.

Tom Foremski was way off the mark in 2006, and 2017 attests to that. Press releases might not be what they used to be, but they’ve been adapted by the best of the best to find the most suitable audiences and consumers.

Read Tom’s post and let me know your thoughts: www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2006/02/die_press_relea.php

Statistics on social media usage: www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/