Friday, December 6, 2013

1,824 Days of Mommyhood.

I wrote a special post the evening before my daughter turned one, and another special post when she turned three. Tomorrow, she will turn five, and as I reread my previous posts, I felt compelled to continue the tradition. Not surprisingly, there have been lots of changes over the last two years: C is in a Montessori Pre-K class, and she's now officially one of the "big kids" at preschool. She's still taking ballet classes, but is now working with a more traditional (read: serious) instructor — and she LOVES the structure of the class, where only a year ago, she was swinging around on the barre in her own little daydream every Saturday morning. She is starting to read, can tie her own shoes, is a budding artist, and is infinitely curious, asking questions that regularly cause me to rethink how I look at the world:

- Why are there fairy tales? 
- Where did the universe come from?
- How does Santa get in our house when we don't have a chimney?

She is headed to kindergarten next fall, a fact that makes me both proud and sad at the same time — and also makes my head spin, since the happy routine that has worked for us for so long is going to need to be revisited and likely rebuilt from scratch: we are talking school buses, afterschool activities...the list goes on. Anyway, in thinking about the last few years, since my last "special birthday" post, I realized I'd learned some surprising additional truths about parenting.

1. I don't know all the answers, and that's okay. C asks questions about things that I truly just don't know, have forgotten, or require some serious creativity on the fly (see list, above). She also occasionally asks me things that break my heart, like questions about friends being mean, or why people don't have enough food or warm clothes to wear. I am a self-confessed Type A control freak, and not knowing the answers usually stresses me out. But, I have gotten to the point where I can say, "Let's look that up and find out." Or, "I don't know all the answers to what you're asking me, but here's what I can tell you  — and maybe Daddy/Miss Lisa/some other helpful person, God willing — can tell us some more." And as for the really tough questions...well, I know this is just the beginning of a loooong road, where there will be many things that are just inexplicable. And so while I am not a particularly religious person, I pray (to anyone that might be listening) to help me be a good parent and provide the best advice and guidance possible.

2. Setting a good example is hard work. When C was younger, she didn't pick up on sarcasm, or eye rolls, or my exasperated sigh when some jerk cut me off in traffic. But now she picks up on all of that, and more, which keeps me and my husband on our toes. We try to remember to be positive, but of course, we slip — and we try to use those times as teachable moments. How do we react when we're frustrated, or angry, or sad, or hurt? It all takes on a different meaning when we see our reactions mirrored by a little person.

3. Setting good habits early pays off. When C was just learning to talk, we reminded her to always say please and thank you. We often talk about sharing, and being kind to others. We eat healthfully the majority of the time,  try to stay active, limit "screen time," and have hammered home the importance of getting a good night's sleep. And at five years old, these things are paying off: C is a healthy, generally well-mannered little kid, who likes fruits and veggies, and usually conks right out at bedtime. Are we lucky? Yes, I'd say so. But setting good habits early has definitely worked for us as parents so far, and is something that we'll work to continue as C gets older and we get to stickier issues...like curfews (eek).

4. I (still) love being a mom more than I thought possible (a carry-over from 2009...and 2011...yes, there is a theme here, my friends). It's easier now to explain than it was a few years ago: if I have had a tough day, when I pick up C from school, she will pat my face and say, "Mommy, I love you. Would you like another hug?" And just like that, my view on the world gets so much brighter. Being a mom is more work than I ever dreamed, and though some parts are getting easier (i.e., potty training seems like it was a zillion years ago), each new milestone presents its own challenges. And, if I'm perfectly honest, I wouldn't want it any other way.

So: happy birthday, my girl. I can't wait to see what our next adventure brings. And while I can't promise that I'll be totally prepared, I can promise that we'll figure it out...together.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Think offline, when responding online.


I've been neglecting this blog the last few months, thanks to some extensive travel, but am very excited to announce that we are officially implementing our Online Reputation Management (ORM) program — which includes setting up Manager Center on ApartmentRatings.com. I look at this program launch as the next logical step in "embracing the conversation," and as with our social assets, our on-site teams will be responsible for crafting responses to any comments that are posted online, with our corporate team stepping in to help when needed. We have used this strategy across all 50+ of our community Facebook pages, and it's worked incredibly well for us.

Though review sites have been dubbed the Wild West of the digital world, we encourage our teams to simply think "offline" when responding online: in other words, think about what you'd say in an offline conversation, and then apply that to the online space. The below is taken verbatim from our ORM guidelines, and is at the core of our social/ORM philosophy:

Address each issue individually, and respond in a courteous, authentic, and professional way.

There's nothing fancy about that statement, but since tone can be tough to distinguish online, we have found that employing the "KISS" approach often works best: be professional, be authentic, and be helpful, and you've effectively addressed 99% of the negative comments that are posted online.

If you (or your company) are trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge into managing your online reviews, I'd encourage you to mull something over: if people are talking about your company (and chances are very good that they are), wouldn't you rather know, and be part of the conversation? Yes, it can be scary — but as the old adage goes, the devil you know is worse than the one you don't. Keep an open mind, remind yourself (and/or your team) of the basics of customer service, and jump on in. You'll be fine, I promise.

Though we are arriving a bit late to this particular party, I am immensely proud that our team is taking responsibility and "owning" what people say on the various review sites...and am very excited to see how our on-site team members handle this new challenge.

In the meantime, I am gearing up for one of my favorite conferences, NMHC's OpTech — if you are in Dallas next week, look me up!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Make some lemonade.

This week has been a strange one: my husband and daughter are both on vacation, and my sisters are headed off to Mexico and Taiwan. Meanwhile, my day-to-day has consisted of work, barre class, and catching up on reality TV. It's been a nice change for a few days, but it's only Wednesday, and I'm starting to feel a little lonely and left out.

So tonight, when a certain song came on the radio, I was reminded of Stephen Colbert's recent ability to make the best of a less than ideal situation. When Daft Punk canceled on him last minute, he got some friends together, and hosted a dance party. Brilliant, and a great reminder that when life hands you lemons, you'd best get out a pitcher and make some lemonade.



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Playing with Instagram

I know I am WAY late to the party, but I've just started playing around with Instagram, and I found this fun infographic from Marketo that showcases some of the different filters.

Since I'm such a newbie, I'd love to hear how you use Instagram: any and all tips you have to share would be much appreciated, as well as any suggestions on people/brands to follow.


What-Your-Instagram-Filter-Says-About-You

Friday, June 7, 2013

3, 2, 1...and we're live!

This has been a very exciting, and very busy week for my team: we just launched our new corporate website (and our new corporate Facebook page!). We have been working on the site for months, and while we still have more work ahead of us, including mobile site development, re-skinning all property websites, and getting trained on the CMS, I am so happy with the progress we've made so far.

If you've never overhauled a website before, trust me when I say that it is a massive undertaking: this is the third website re-do I've been through during my career, and I must say that the process is essentially the same today as it was when I helped rework my first website ten years ago: work with an agency and an internal committee to go through rounds of creative, write/approve copy, then populate the site, then review and trouble shoot...and trouble shoot some more. However, the reward (going live) is so worth it!


Here is a screen capture of our old site...back in the day (5-6 years ago), this was considered pretty sophisticated. But, we only had access to update certain sections of the site, and had to rely on an agency to make changes for us. Plus, there was very little content about our team, no "news" section, limited space for photos, a tricky Flash-based search, and no social integration.



Our new site, on the other hand, offers us lots of flexibility. We have the ability to showcase photos, our team, awards, and much more - plus the site has a much-improved search function, is easily able to accommodate a growing portfolio, and links right out to our social assets.


While the process itself took longer than we expected (thanks to a multitude of other projects), our team is really happy with the results.

Please go check out Dolben.com and let me know what you think!




Sunday, April 28, 2013

AIM bound!

It's time for one of my favorite industry events, the Apartment Internet Marketing Conference. This year's theme is The Art of Creativity, and the agenda looks fabulous: check out #AIMConf to keep up with all of the sessions. This year's conference also includes a video contest - you can see all of the video entries below.



See you in Cali!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trust Fall Fail

We just wrapped up our annual Leasing Training — a whirlwind four sessions, in two cities, in two days, covering The Phone & First Impressions, followed by Social Media 2.0 & Online Reputation Management. During a break at today's training, our marketing agency shared this clip with me:



After we stopped laughing, Stephanie said something along the lines of, "You know, this is totally relevant to us as managers. How in tune are we with our employees? Are we being specific enough in what we ask them to do? No one is a mind reader, but somehow we all assume that we're all on the same wavelength, until someone just suddenly falls forward."

Fascinating how thought-provoking a :13 video can be, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Viva la vacation.

My husband and I just got back from an amazing six days in Mexico — a landmark event, since this was a (somewhat belated) celebration of our 10th anniversary, AND marked the first time we'd been away by ourselves, for more than a weekend, since C joined our family. (Actually, the last time we went on vacation  somewhere sunny and warm by ourselves, I was eight weeks pregnant, and so spent most of that vacation lying around feeling queasy and eating oyster crackers. But I digress.)

Anyway, C went to my parents' house for a week of fun (yes, I know how lucky I am, and yes, I will be eternally grateful to my parents for agreeing to watch our four year old for a week), and we headed south., to the lovely Rosewood Mayakoba. Margaritas, guacamole, gorgeous weather, and almost a whole week of relaxing in the sun with my husband made for a perfect break. And even though my return to the office brought on an immediate and enormous return to reality, just having a few days away really made me look at things with a fresh perspective.

I hate to admit it, since we just returned home, but I'm already thinking of excuses to go away again. Viva la vacation!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A fresh start.

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you had everything lined up, and then suddenly, the rug is pulled out from underneath you? That recently happened to me, and while my first instinct was to tear my hair out in frustration, I'm trying to see the silver lining:

Maybe...what I thought was a good thing just wasn't meant to be.
Maybe...going back to the drawing board will provide a better perspective.
Maybe...the right solution is waiting around the corner.

Over the years, I've learned that when presented with a challenge — personal or professional — sometimes the best thing to do is to simply take a break, rather than keeping my head down and charging through the storm. Whether I'm trying to be a more patient parent, struggling with developing a marketing plan for a client, or juggling an overwhelming workload, there IS always a solution, or sometimes a compromise, that will work.

In an effort to gain some perspective on my most recent challenge, I went to yoga the other night. As I unrolled my mat, I noticed that all around the room, little cards of affirmation had been propped up on the baseboards. I will confess, at first, I rolled my eyes. I go to yoga to clear my head (and yes, to get a good workout) — depending on what I have going on in a day, the "all is light and bright" vibe in the studio sometimes just doesn't sit well with me. But smack in front of me was a card that read, "I am always at the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, and being offered the right opportunities."

Given my recent proverbial fall off the rug, that little affirmation just somehow seemed...right. I took that  card at face value, stood a little bit taller on my mat, and post-practice, walked out of the studio having regained my confidence in finding a new and better solution.

When the going gets tough, how do you refocus?