My $1 Million Idea for Marriott (#74)

Upon embarking into 2013, I resolved to write at least one Blog post each week. So far, I’ve been fulfilling this in my own mind with my weekly Retail & Travel link love post over on the Adobe blogs. But I want to up the game, so here goes. At long last, a new post here at MichaelRHalbrook.com!

I’m a Marriott fanboy. I’m in my third year of Gold status with them, and consistently fall just short of Platinum status. I’ve been loyal to them as long as I can remember, even well before realizing that most of my Adobe coworkers based in Utah are also intensely loyal to them.

But, like anyone else, I’ve had my fair share of minor gripes and complaints about various and properties and experiences over the years. Nothing to raise my voice about too loudly or really alter my relationship with Marriott as a whole, but enough to remember.

This isn’t one of those times. This is just an observation and an idea for a minor improvement that would go miles toward building deeper relationships with those of us constantly on the road and relying on Marriott hotels (or others) to provide us a comfortable night of rest between days of hard work.

Amazing Grace

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a coincidence the other day, but was instead a Sign, when two things happened at the same time: A recording of the Oak Ridge Boys singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to President Bush Senior came on the radio… and just as it started, an electronic display board I was driving past flashed the words ‘Amazing Grace.’

Grace truly is an amazing thing, and it has worked amazing things in my own life in 2012. It helped me practice well on my three words of “Pray, Produce, & Conserve” that I had started the year wanting to try.

That said, I’m setting out into 2013 with a very high bar for myself. Here are my resolutions for 2013… My “BIG 10“…

  • Pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day.
  • Exercise every day. Run another 5k. Try to run a 10k.
  • Finish work earlier and spend more evening time with Suzanne & the boys.
  • Have more patience with the boys. Discipline them more effectively; raise my voice less.
  • Learn Japanese.
  • Help the team I manage have better lives and love their jobs even more.
  • Write a Blog post at least once a week.
  • Converse with people more; show more genuine affection & appreciation.
  • Work with our parish school to start a childrens’ Schola Cantorum.
  • Tell Suzanne that I love her every day.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive new year to you and yours… Here goes!

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

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Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

– Col 3:12-17

2012 – Pray, Produce, & Conserve

The other day, I shared three words that I had chosen as my focus for 2012 with my close friends & family on Facebook.

This morning, I thought that I might also share – and expand upon them – here.

My three words (verbs, or actions, if you will) for 2012 are: Pray, Produce, and Conserve. I hope to focus on doing each of these things well this year, and will measure my success for the year based upon these three actions.

PRAY:
This one is pretty self-explanatory, perhaps. I will add one bit of detail to those less familiar with me, though: One of the best gifts I received this Christmas was a full set of the Liturgy of the Hours from my beautiful wife Suzanne. This will allow me to more easily pray the full set of hours along with the Church, and retire my use of the more abbreviated Christian Prayer. The word means more to me than the mechanics of praying more diligently with the Church’s structured prayer, though. For me, it means a more conscious effort to pray every moment even more this year, and to sanctify as much of each day as I can muster through prayer and through love.

PRODUCE:
To me on January 3, “Produce” means to be more focused on projects when I’m working, whether that means in my day job as an analyst and Adobe consultant, or in my side products in the off-hours. For my professional clients, it means that I want to use my tools and my time to find ways to produce more for you while I’m focused on your work. It also means producing as a more focused dad & father when I’m with my family, producing more in my relationships by being more focused on them, producing more in my garden by learning more and working harder at it, producing more in my home by being more diligent with my to do lists and focusing on learning how to be more handy. Overall, it also means being focused on producing what I should in each part of my day, even including getting better sleep so that I can be more productive during my waking hours.

CONSERVE:
As we start the year, “Conserve” means to me that I can focus on wasting less. I can look to find new uses for extra things around the house, or give them to others who can use them more than I can (in turn, conserving my own space and attention.) I can look to be more thrifty in how we use the produce of our garden and of our grocery trips. I can cook more at home, drive out less for coffee, make each trip out for supplies more focused and productive (and thus conserve energy.)

There you have it – as we’re on the third day of the new calendar year, these aren’t resolutions (I made my sole new year’s resolution on the Church’s new year on the First Sunday of Advent, and I’m doing okay with it), but these are areas of action and focus for me as we flip through this calendar year, and I’m feeling pretty good about them so far.

Analytics Opportunities at Intuit

I received a note today from a client at Intuit that their (Intuit’s) Research and Analytics team has multiple openings.

Interested candidates may find links to the various job descriptions or apply directly online.

  • Group Manager, Research & Analytics: Minimum 10 years analytics/statistics experience with a focus on consumer research, must have prior people management experience
  • Analytics Insights Manager: Minimum 8 years analytics/statistics experience with a focus on consumer research, must have previously been responsible for communicating results to marketing and sales teams/executives
  • Sr. Program Manager, Web Analytics: Significant knowledge and experience with business analytics methods and practices, and how to use data to provide increased value to users.
  • Staff Technical Data Analyst: Experience with development, testing and monitoring of ETL processes and tools, experience with Java, JavaScript, PHP, and web technologies

Trying to Subscribe to Newspapers (aka Death of a Dinosaur)

Much has been written about the plight of the traditional newspaper in our time. I won’t add to that pile here. Only because this is a story about how I intend to subscribe to a newspaper, but can’t seem to find a way to do so.

I’m a happy newspaper reader by most counts. I’ve been a long-time subscriber to the Sunday edition of the Belleville News Democrat. I have had nothing but fantastic experiences with the BND.

I’ve been an on-and-off subscriber to the Wall Street Journal. When I was initiating my current subscription, I started receiving it in the mail. My mail is delivered between 3 and 5 each afternoon. What good is the WSJ, delivered as the markets close each day? It only took a tweet and a few emails, and the circulation team at the WSJ was able to work with the local distributor to ensure I was added to a morning delivery route and had a paper on my doorstep at 5:30 each morning when I came downstairs to read and eat breakfast.

Contrast that with my experience trying to subscribe to my long-suffering local paper, our local edition of Lee Enterprises’ Suburban Journals in the St. Louis market.

A few years ago, our local paper became “subscription only”. I’ll admit – since they did it, I thought it was a stupid idea. You’re having a hard time cutting it in the economy, so you tell us you’re not going to deliver your free carrier for tons of local ads with outdated local news unless I pay you? So we sat it out.

Until this year, when our son was selected to be featured in a series of articles about local students starting kindergarten. On August 13, we paid the $19.99 for a one year subscription. Granted, that’s $20 for just 52 weekly (Thursday) papers. It already feels like we’re being worked over for the news, but we were willing to take it in order to get copies of the articles about our son.

Weeks passed… no paper.

More weeks passed… no paper.

I tried on three occasions to call the circulation department, to no avail, because their hours are planned so that no reasonable, working person trying to raise a family could ever have a hope of calling and talking to a real person during business hours.

Finally, on September 26, I tweeted.

Which led to a direct message. Which led to an email.

On the same day, the person at the other end of the tweet connected me with Dave of the local distribution service, who called me and politely acknowledged our issue and assured me we would start to see our paper right away. He followed up with an email confirming the conversation:

Michael we spoke on the phone just a little while ago about you delivery issues and I wanted to send you my email address in case you have any further problems.

I replied, thanking him.

More weeks have passed… no paper.

So today, nearly a full month later again, I emailed Dave and the person on the other end of the original tweet.

I know it’s now been nearly a month since we spoke about our subscription which we initiated with a $19.99 charge on our [credit card] on AUGUST 13. And despite the assurance that we would start receiving the paper, we still have yet to receive a paper other than the last two Saturdays when we received not a paper but the free “here’s a sample of the coupons and ads” throwaway.

I think I’ve come to understand why the newspaper is a dying industry.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with a lot of the content side of the news industry – the journalists and the content creators – in recent years. I consider Nicole Hollway of the St. Louis Beacon a close friend and respected peer. I’ve developed a good relationship with Joy Mayer at Mizzou. I’ve long had a friendship, nurtured years ago in Scouting, with Dan McDonough at Elauwit Media.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I was pleased to be part of an industry forum on measuring engagement in the news at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at Mizzou last year. The content side of the business is full of fantastic people who work hard to deliver the news that matters, particularly in the local media.

But if the business side of the house can’t keep the wheels on the cart, it’s going to end up in the ditch before too long.

How hard is it to turn on a subscription to a newspaper in 2011? It was easy to bill my credit card the same day for the subscription. Have we come so far from the days of a neighbor kid pleased to ride his bike around the neighborhood in the morning to bring home a little extra cash, in order to ensure good, timely news on our doorsteps?

Or, like the rest of America, should I give up on the printed paper altogether and wait to see the local news when it hits the online world?

For now, I’ll stay a loyal subscriber where I am – the Wall Street Journal serves me well each morning, and the Belleville News Democrat on the weekends. I’d love to see what’s being delivered for our local news, but we’ll have to wait and see if they can ever actually deliver a paper. I have a lot of good friends in journalism, and a lot of good clients in the media business. They work hard and do a good job. But in this critical moment in the history of their news, the mis-steps add up, and they’ll need to work hard on minimizing them to survive into another generation.

Update, 10/26/2011:

A quick update: After tweeting this entry and a couple of emails yesterday, I received confirmation that I was set to go, and I DID receive our first paper this morning. Thanks to those who finally made this happen. Hopefully subscribing is faster and easier for others!

Retail Websites: The Place to Be

(Photo: Flickr: nateone)

The Hub Magazine’s “Alive and Clicking: Retailer websites are surprisingly strong as a shopper marketing tool” caught my eye in my RSS Reader the other day.

They do still very much matter, as my clients can explain. As the data in the article shows, for many audiences, a retailer’s core website and its promotional space are ripe opportunities for the retailer and for their consumer packaged goods partner vendors.

The retailer website still rocks as a channel: “28 percent of shoppers use retailer websites, compared to just 12 percent who visit a retailer’s social-media page, 10 percent who use coupons loaded onto a loyalty card, five percent who subscribe to text messages from retailers and three percent who use mobile apps while shopping in a store.”

For moms, the main value is introducing new stores, brands and products. For young men, it’s promoting electronics: “…when targeting Moms on retail websites, manufacturers will achieve a higher response by introducing them to a new store or a new brand. However, while Moms and Boomers are more likely to be influenced by discounts, they are not as likely to be motivated to stray from their pre-planned purchases. While Men, 18-24, are very responsive to marketing on retailer websites, marketing electronics products will have the highest impact.”

About that mom opportunity alone? “Almost 40 percent of Moms said they buy brands they never purchased before based on their visit to retailer websites.”

Of the “Social” in “Social Media”

I was the instigator in a pretty cool scenario last week in social media.

[As an aside, I must say: I’ve been a Facebook guy for several years now, and just recently started to dive into Twitter feet first, and this scenario would only have been possible on Twitter, as @jimmaiella noted today in “Thoughts on Twitter“.]

Here’s the story:

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to take part in “The Engagement Metric“, a fantastic one-day forum on Engagement in the Media with journalists & other interested parties from around the country and world. It was hosted by the University of Missouri Columbia (“Mizzou”) and the Reynolds Journalism Institute, by RJI Fellow Joy Mayer (Twitter @mayerjoy). I had been introduced to Joy by my friend and former coworker Nicole Hollway, GM of the St. Louis Beacon (Twitter @nicolehollway).

While “The Engagement Metric” was a fantastic event that’ll warrant its own post sometime soon (although already well-documented by James Janega (@JamesJanega) of the Chicago Tribune’s Trib Nation in his “Smart People on the Prairie: Musing on a Future for Journalism“, that’s not what I want to share here.

I’d like to share a story about last week, after #RJIengage was over.

I really like Seth Godin’s May 16 post “The Future of the Library“. Enough to share it on Twitter. Joy replied that she like the read, and linked to a write-up she had produced regarding a conference she had attended about the journalist+library crossover:

It immediately made me think of a blog that I have followed and been fascinated by for years – David Lee King’s space on the Social Web & Emerging Trends in Libraries. (@DavidLeeKing).

What happened next was something akin to planting a seed in the spring, watering it, and watching it spring to life before your eyes:

Having helped make that connection between two Big Thinkers in the realm of media, journalism, libraries, and our communities was pretty awesome and humbling.

That was last Monday.

But it gets crazier – and better. Really.

Last Wednesday, David Tweeted that he was in Columbia, MO checking out the Daniel Boone Regional Library. Joy noticed – and mentioned that she was heading there too. Check this out:

That, I think, truly puts the “Social” into the “Social Media”.

It also speaks volumes to what a Small World this really is. Monday = introduction of two great minds in a similar space of work and thought. Wednesday = chance in-person meeting, facilitated by this thing called Twitter.

What do you think about that?