A couple of new places to find my byline

A couple of new places to find my byline

Alice in Chains feature on Shutter 16

No, I haven’t updated this blog in a while. But unlike my past couple-few (that’s a word where I come from) blogs, I’m not going to make apologies about that kind of thing. In fact, I’ve got something in the works that addresses just that — blogs, blogging, whether it’s still relevant, and whether the old/conventional blogging wisdom still rings true. But that’s in the hopper, to come whenever I finish it and feel like posting it. 

This is a post to make a couple of announcements. Most of the writing I do is without a byline because it’s content for companies or other people to use. But I’m writing with a byline in a couple of places again, so I thought I’d let you know where to look for me. (There will be more in the future.)

‘Zines are back, baby!

First, I’m honored to say that I was approached by the fabulous Kiki L’Italien and asked to be a contributing columnist to the new Association Chat ‘zine, which will be making its debut in the next month. It will be in good old-fashioned print and also have an online component to it. My background is more in chambers of commerce than associations, per se, but that apparently doesn’t matter. Still member organizations. But even if I didn’t have that background, it’s not a prerequisite for being a writer for the ‘zine. Kiki seems to think I have some words worth contributing, so I’m more than happy to be a part of such an exciting new project.

Dusting off the old music journalist hat

Screenshot of Cowboy Junkies show feature

What seems like a million years ago, I was a music journalist. I wrote a lot about music before the internet really took off, then when the internet as we know it was still rather nascent, and then off and on since then. I never had Rolling Stone aspirations or anything, it was just something I enjoyed doing. 

Writing about music is something I have always loved, and I missed it terribly. Recently I had the opportunity to join the staff of Shutter 16 Magazine, which is (as they state on their site) a “. . . collaboration of many enthusiastic and dedicated music journalists with a passion for the lens or written word.”  My first two stories have already been featured — the most recent being a review of the recent Alice in Chains concert at the Eagles Ballroom here in Milwaukee, and my first being a review of the Cowboy Junkies show at Turner Hall, complete with an on-the-fly video interview of vocalist Margo Timmins.  

I am a writer, not a photographer, but thankfully I have two other members of the Milwaukee team who are photographers and their amazing work is featured along with my writing in these articles. Brooke Billick was my photographer for Cowboy Junkies, and Lee Ann Flynn took the shots for Alice in Chains. I look forward to covering more shows with them in the future. 

That said, I know there’s no way I can find all of the music-related things I wrote from way back in the day, but I was able to find a few things I had saved in .xml files from old blogs and elsewhere I contributed, so I threw them up on a music archives subdomain, just for posterity’s sake. Peruse at your leisure, but know that there are a ton of broken/outdated links, missing photos, etc. that I’m not even going to bother fixing because that takes more time and effort than I care to put in. 

More updates to come in the near future. Life happens, death happens, you reel it in, you take a breath, and you keep on keepin’ on. 

Thinking about using emojis in your marketing? Ask yourself these questions first.

Thinking about using emojis in your marketing? Ask yourself these questions first.

Emojis. You know, those little pictures that have taken over the internet, and are prevalent in communication between millennials. There’s practically one for everything, and the official emojipedia (yes, that’s a thing) continues to grow. There’s even an official Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, which is responsible for compiling and approving the standardized code for these little doodads across all platforms.

There are positions on both ends of the spectrum on whether emojis are actually improving language or are actually a sign of the decline of written language. (I personally lean toward agreement with this rather scathing editorial in The Guardian that they’re dragging us back to the dark ages. In fact, research has shown that using emojis makes people think you are incompetent. But I digress.)

Whether you love them, loathe them, or are somewhere in between depending on context, reality is that emoji is literally the fastest growing language.

Naturally, when something starts to catch on among the masses, brands start to take notice, embracing popular trends and inserting themselves into the pop culture zeitgeist. They start incorporating the latest trends into their marketing, whether anybody actually wanted them to or not.

Some major brands have had success with using emoji, such as World Wildlife Fund, who made a set of their own emojis of endangered animals and donated money each time one of them was retweeted. Taco Bell claims to have had a hand in creating a demand for a taco emoji and continues to successfully incorporate it into their marketing. (Frankly, as fast as emojis were being created at the time, a taco was likely inevitable, anyway. If I were in charge of Taco Bell’s marketing, I’d be putting heavy emphasis on a chihuahua emoji for nostalgic reasons.)

I only put this picture here because I’ve always loved the chihuahua.

Some big brands have totally missed the mark, like Chevrolet and Juicy Fruit.

The world is still trying to figure this one out.

Of course, since there seem to be more successes than fails from the big name brands, now there’s no shortage of agencies online offering guides on how to use emojis in your brand’s marketing. Just do a simple search and you’ll find plenty (that I won’t be linking to here).

But before you jump on the emoji train 🚂, there are some important things you need to consider.

Questions to ask yourself before hopping on the emoji bandwagon 🎸🚃 in your marketing 

(I couldn’t resist.)

Who is my audience, and will they “get it”?

I mentioned above that millennials, by far, use emoji the most. While that’s true, the age range of the “millennial” generation is murky in and of itself, and even going by the most widely-accepted numbers, the term is a very wide swath that does not take into consideration other demographic information such as gender, socioeconomic status, cultural identity, and so on.

This billboard is a widely-cited example of brilliant marketing using emojis:

It’s advertising the movie Deadpool.

When I first saw it, I thought to myself, “Skull crapple? What does that even mean?” Many people who were the target audience for the movie “got it,” but many didn’t. I certainly didn’t. (But am I the target demo for the movie? Though my age and other factors might point to yes, I had no interest in seeing it. Yet it was forced on me like broccoli on a little kid and I hated it. But that’s another story for another time.)

Will my audience understand what I’m trying to convey?

Along similar lines as the above, if you don’t know which emojis mean what or how to say what you’re trying to say, chances are your audience will be confused too. Don’t try to use them if you’re not 100% sure what they actually construe. While emoji is generally regarded as a language without borders, certain pictures are interpreted differently to different cultures, and many are easily misunderstood. For example, this 💫 allegedly means “dizzy” and not “shooting star;” this 👹 is apparently a Japanese ogre and not intended to indicate anger. (I once heard that the ever-popular 💩 was supposed to mean chocolate ice cream, but who are we kidding?)

What is my brand’s voice really like?

A common argument that is used to encourage businesses to use emoji in their marketing is that it will “loosen up” the brand voice and make them seem more fun and personable. But depending on who you are and what you do, that might not be the best idea. A funeral director would hardly want to come across as fun and jovial when marketing their services, even if there is a coffin emoji ⚰️. Nor would a law firm who specializes in criminal defense, even though there are emojis like this: ☠️🦹🏻‍♂️🚔🚓⚖️

Do I want to use them because other brands are, or because it actually reflects my brand?

Not only can they make your brand seem unprofessional, they can also imply that you’re simply trying too hard. Personally, I think any company using them actively in their marketing looks unprofessional and it’s a real turnoff for me.

Can this possibly backfire?

Practically anything can. Just ask Hillary Clinton’s social media team:

The bottom line

While some companies are successfully using emojis in their marketing, it may not be the right thing for you. Emoji may be the “fastest growing language” and a hot trend in digital marketing right now, but you know what else was a popular trend? Popup ads. Sure, they still exist, but nobody likes them and you probably have a browser option to block them altogether.  

To be clear, I’m not anti-emoji—they’re cute and fun in small doses. But so are puppies and children. If you don’t watch them carefully, they’ll make a mess.  And you should never rely on them to speak for you. 

Substituting a cartoon picture for a word or implied sentiment is no excuse for not being able to convey your brand’s message accurately. Never underestimate the power of the written word. That’s why you hire a professional writer.

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele, Principal of Text on Fire Communications™

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele is the multi-disciplined writer behind Text on Fire Communications™. Formerly known online as “that damned redhead,” this seasoned digital strategist and analyst has been setting fire to the interwebs for over 20 years in one capacity or another. She takes the English language much more seriously than she takes herself, but must warn you that the stereotypes about redheads are true. She is passionate about helping brands find their voice and delivering the right messages to the right people. If you’re a cool company looking for some hot copy, you’re in the right place. Drop her a line via the contact form

Nothing is too boring to create engaging content.

Nothing is too boring to create engaging content.

Many companies will concede to the fact that their product or service is, well . . . it’s just not that exciting. They can’t imagine how on earth they’d be able to make their product interesting enough that people would want to engage with their business. That’s a fallacy. Literally, anything can be exciting.

On Wednesday, January 30th, in the middle of the Great Polar Vortex of 2019, the temperature here in Milwaukee was a “high” of -13 F, with wind chills between -50 and -40 F.  These were record low temperatures and practically everybody was staying home because it was simply too cold to go outside. Not only were schools canceled for days all over the midwest, the post office literally suspended mail.

You could say it was a slow news day.

So, since everybody was cooped up at home, naturally they were messing around on Facebook. (Even those of us who work from home and really should not have had any excuse for being distracted.)  The skeleton team at my favorite local news station, TMJ4 was completely bored. They say no news is good news, but the news team had to do something. So they decided to put a can of Diet Coke and a can of Mountain Dew outside, just to see how long it would take before they exploded, and which one would go first. They pointed a camera at it, and broadcast it on Facebook Live. 

Seriously. The video was just two cans of soda sitting next to a thermometer to show how cold it was outside. 

Here’s a screenshot:

I don’t think they were expecting it to get as popular as it did. Next thing you know, the homebound folks in Milwaukee area were sharing it to their timelines, and people from all over the world were watching something that was akin to watching paint dry. At one point “Soda Cam” had over 2,000 viewers. 

We were having a blast in the comments, making jokes like, “this is still more interesting than anything Kardashian-related” and “Thoughts and prayers go out to these cans” . . . I honestly didn’t expect myself to be having so much fun chatting with a group of strangers about something so boring and absurd, but that’s exactly what happened. 

Seeing how popular this was getting, the staff decided to send a guy out there to do some silly dancing, and he was getting cheers from the commenters. 

So then TMJ4 decided to kick it up a notch. They put an NBC peacock out there and a Bob Uecker bobblehead, which were nice conversation pieces.

Then came a T-Rex. 

The Diet Coke can blew about an hour and a half in. But the can of Mountain Dew took much, much longer. WTMJ, their radio counterpart, posted an article with clips of the excitement. (If you’d like to see the Coke Can explode, it’s about 1:42 into the video on the bottom.)

This was the most fun I’ve had on Facebook in a long time, and it all started with boredom on a boring day and a “let’s see what would happen if . . . ” experiment. When it picked up, they started getting more and more creative. In fact, TMJ4 Soda Cam was so popular, they even did it the next day during the Super Bowl, with team-themed cans.

Nothing is too boring to create engaging content. Nothing is too dumb to get people excited about what you sell or what you do. I’m actually a much bigger fan of TMJ4 after this experiment. I thought it was great to watch them engage with us on such a slow news day and have some poor schmuck in a t-rex costume dance around in temperatures that were colder than Antarctica. It brought the community together, and we had fun commiserating together in what were the coldest temperatures of our lifetimes.

If bored newsroom folks can make some great engaging, entertaining content out of a live video of two soda cans on a cold day, you can make your product or service interesting, too. All it takes is a “stupid” idea, putting it into action, and watching that idea pick up steam. Once it catches on, the creativity will follow.

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele, Principal of Text on Fire Communications™

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele is the multi-disciplined writer behind Text on Fire Communications™. Formerly known online as “that damned redhead,” this seasoned digital strategist and analyst has been setting fire to the interwebs for over 20 years in one capacity or another. She takes the English language much more seriously than she takes herself, but must warn you that the stereotypes about redheads are true. She is passionate about helping brands find their voice and delivering the right messages to the right people. If you’re a cool company looking for some hot copy, you’re in the right place. Drop her a line via the contact form

Why Text on Fire doesn’t do social media.

Why Text on Fire doesn’t do social media.

Text on Fire does not "do" social media

As I mentioned in my first blog post on this new domain, I’ve been away for a while. And by “away” I mean “the digital marketing corner of the internet,” and by “a while” I mean SEVEN YEARS. Once I came out of that Space Mountain-like roller coaster of an accidental life chapter, to say that I was reluctant to return to the world of digital would be an understatement. By its very nature, technology and the way we communicate is changing so quickly now it’s overwhelming, if not impossible, to keep up. 

So, I thought I should start poking around some of my “old haunts” — blogs and communities of others in the field of whom I highly respected, to see what they’ve been up to. What the “latest” was. I admit that in my seven-year absence, I had not paid much attention at all. I knew there were a lot of new tools/platforms that I wasn’t familiar with (Snapchat, anyone?) that had come to the forefront, some other tools of which I was an “early adopter” and had abandoned a few years ago (Twitter) had become mainstream, and others had disappeared. 

As I found myself perusing these former digital “stomping grounds” and revisiting old colleagues on the web, one thing stood out — I didn’t miss a damned thing.

The same people were spouting out the same ideas they were not just seven years ago, but a decade ago. The same ideas, being rehashed/recycled over and over again, but in different packaging.

Of course they were. Why? Because while technology and tools may change, the basic underlying principles of marketing and public relations do not. 

I was recently catching up with an old “digital colleague,” Kiki L’Italien, after an Association Chat about this. She agreed with me, but pointed out:

“The underlying lessons are the same, but the channels and algorithms have changed a lot. . . [there is] too much stuff to keep up with! I used to teach . . . online courses for Facebook marketing and had to redo units twice before the last course launched because FB made significant changes overnight.”

Kiki L’Italien

I concede that much; there is too much stuff to keep up with. Especially when you have clients who turn to you to keep up with the latest platforms and how they can use them.

But overall, tools don’t matter. They’re a means to an end.

Seven years ago (earlier, if we’re being honest), when I was ears deep in this kind of thing, it was all about figuring out your “Twitter strategy” or your “Facebook strategy.” Now it’s all about your “Instagram strategy.” While it’s true that there is more than one way to skin a cat, the social media/digital marketing bubble online, after all this time, is still focused much more on each new cat. 

Let’s think about this in terms of sports.

The Detroit Lions (bless their hearts), despite being a professional team, are one of the worst teams in football (if not the worst). Say you give them all new equipment — jerseys, cleats, pads, and oh yeah, a new stadium (this all happened) — guess what? They’re still the Detroit Lions, and they’ll never win the Super Bowl, let alone get there. But then there’s the New England Patriots. The Patriots don’t need all new duds — even if they played in ratty old jerseys and 10-year-old cleats — they’d still be a winning team. You can make all the jokes about deflated footballs you want, but the Pats have now won six Super Bowls since 2002.

Football depends on skills of the players, yes, but it’s mostly about game strategy as a whole. Depending on how the game goes, plays and tactics may change, but the overall game is the same. A football team’s equipment only matters to a point. 

If a person or a company marketed themselves solely on “social media strategy,” they’re basically marketing themselves as the equivalent of the equipment manager for the Detroit Lions.

Don’t get me wrong — social media can be an important part of a healthy communication strategy. But it can not, and should not, be solely relied upon. It is important to know that “social media” is not a verb, but rather an ever-changing collection of tools. Tools are not strategy. Tools aren’t even tactics, they’re a means to deliver them. A true strategist knows the difference. If a person or a company marketed themselves solely on “social media strategy,” they’re basically marketing themselves as the equivalent of the equipment manager for the Detroit Lions.

That is why Text on Fire™ doesn’t “do social media.” Been there, done that — got plenty of redundant conference lanyards. What we do do is help small businesses, agencies, associations, and even large corporations develop and deliver the right messages to the right people, the right way. Those ways may include “social media,” but not exclusively. Everything is contingent on a company and its overall goals. Our goal is to assist those businesses by strategic consulting, and creating enticing content that engages the customer, converts to sales, and leaves a lasting impression. 


Stacy Lukasavitz Steele, Principal of Text on Fire Communications™

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele is the multi-disciplined writer behind Text on Fire Communications™. Formerly known online as “that damned redhead,” this seasoned digital strategist and analyst has been setting fire to the interwebs for over 20 years in one capacity or another. She takes the English language much more seriously than she takes herself, but must warn you that the stereotypes about redheads are true. She is passionate about helping brands find their voice and delivering the right messages to the right people. If you’re a cool company looking for some hot copy, you’re in the right place. Drop her a line via the contact form

Nothing is “very unique.”

Nothing is “very unique.”

I love language. As a writer, it’s basically a prerequisite. Therefore, it should surprise no one that it bothers me to no end when people use words incorrectly. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people abuse the word unique. 

Abuse of the word unique is rampant on television singing competitions like The Voice. You’ll often hear a judge say something to a singer like, “Your voice is very unique.” 

Here’s the thing: The very definition of the word “unique” is that something is original. Unlike anything else. Here’s what Dictionary.com says:

The word “unique” never needs, nor should ever have, a modifier or an adjective. It’s unnecessary. Something is either unique, or it’s not. There’s no in between. 

If you’re struggling for a word that’s kind of like unique, there’s always thesaurus.com, which lists other options that aren’t quite, well . . . unique. 

Different. Exclusive. Particular. Rare. Uncommon. Incomparable. Take your pick.

Please don’t abuse unique. Abuse of the word unique nulls and voids its very definition, and makes you sound like an idiot. A common idiot, not a unique one.


Stacy Lukasavitz Steele, Principal of Text on Fire Communications™

Stacy Lukasavitz Steele is the multi-disciplined writer behind Text on Fire Communications™. Formerly known online as “that damned redhead,” this seasoned digital strategist and analyst has been setting fire to the interwebs for over 20 years in one capacity or another. She takes the English language much more seriously than she takes herself, but must warn you that the stereotypes about redheads are true. She is passionate about helping brands find their voice and delivering the right messages to the right people. If you’re a cool company looking for some hot copy, you’re in the right place. Drop her a line via the contact form