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Promotional Stress Balls - Developing a Healthy Lifestyle

Promotional stress balls are not only used for promoting businesses. Very often they are used to promote special causes. This could be organisations seeking to promote further education, reducing stress or as I will discuss here in this article promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Promoting healthy lifestyles is easy with promotional stress balls. They come in so many shapes that increase the chance that the important message will be seen and read.

Take for example the cigarette and lungs shapes. Both of these stress shapes have plenty of print space for letting people know the dangers of smoking.

Other popular health shapes are the wine bottle, liver and diseased liver. Actually the wine bottle is just as often used for promoting festive parties but I'm sure you can see how they can be used to encourage people to drink less.

Food shapes are also used often. The fruit shapes are often used to promote cocktail bars and exotic holidays but they work equally as well promoting healthy living.

Vegetable stress relievers also work well with healthy living promotions. Order a selection of different shapes to decorate your trade show stand. The effect will be eye-catching to say the least.

You may also decide to look into the hamburger, fries and fizzy drink shapes. These look delicious but don't taste very good. If only the real things tasted that bad, healthy living campaigns may not be as necessary as they now are.

Over the past few years I have seen an increase in the amount of customers asking for body shapes to promote their message.

Two of the most popular are the butt shape and the fat tummy shape. Nothing gets people thinking about eating less at lunch time than a fat tummy stress ball sitting right in front of them on their desktop.

I know because I have personally had one on my desktop while on a diet when I was in training for a karate tournament. I can't say I didn't cheat from time to time but the stress ball did help.

Such promotional products are a light hearted and fun way to remind you to go for the fruit shake instead of the burger and fries.

Are you ready to check out all of the health themed stress relievers available to you?

You will be glad you did! Have fun... There are some really cool stress relievers just waiting for your important message.

Restaurant Marketing Help - Tips on Postcard Marketing Campaign

Making your customers feel that they are important to your restaurant is necessary to keep them coming back. With that, you need to be more personal with your marketing and postcard marketing campaign is just the solution. Using postcards, you can get in touch with your prospective clients and there is a great chance that your message will not end up in the trash bins. There are no envelopes to hinder your message and the can have eye-catching designs which make it more interesting to read.

You need to send your prospective restaurant patrons with compelling and enticing prints to get higher response. You also need to know when and how to send your postcard prints. Here are tips on postcard marketing campaign to help you promote your restaurant successfully:

Things to Consider for Successful Postcard Marketing

First up is to design your prints in a manner that will make them stand out. Remember that your prospects receive so many unsolicited emails every day. Any marketing material that is too generic has greater chance of being thrown than being read. You wouldn't want yours to be one of them. One of the tips on postcard marketing campaign that could help you is to collect postcards from your competitors (the restaurants in town), study their concepts and designs and create an even better one for your food outlet. Come out with a unique advertising message out of the data you have collected from your competitors. Know which works and which don't.

You need to make your prints easy to read and understand. Elaborate and intricate designs are cool but if your target audience can't relate to them, then these are useless. Likewise, the content should be easy to read and the message must be easy to understand.

Using your prints, you can establish rapport with your customers. Treat your postcards as not only a material to promote your restaurant. These should also bridge a good relationship between you and your customers. Your prints can serve as greeting cards that you can send your customers during holidays, birthdays or any special occasions. Instead of bluntly promoting your restaurant, your prints can serve as reminder for your prospects about eating healthy and reminding them of taking care of their health. As a subtle advertisement, you can state that the foods you serve are all healthy and made from fresh ingredients.

Another thing that you should consider for your marketing campaign is to regularly send your prints. Postcard marketing is not a one-time strategy. You need to follow up on your campaign and send a series of postcards to continuously remind people of your brand.

Postcard marketing is an essential strategy in promoting your restaurant but you have to know how to present them to your prospects. These should befriend your customers, stand out among other promotional materials out there and must be sent out regularly to get an even better response rate. The tips on postcard marketing campaign above can help you plan your next marketing campaign for your restaurant.

Election '08 - A Message to the "Undecideds"

As have many of you, I have been watching the progression of the upcoming Presidential election with stomach-churning, lip-biting, hand-wringing anticipation. After the 2004 election, when all sorts of election-day shenanigans led to George Bush's winning his second term, I became much more interested and really conscious of the political going-ons. I have since realized that it is important to pay attention to the fine print of things, otherwise we will get duped. That includes keeping a close watch on these "undecided" and "swing" voters.

With Senator Barack Obama--the first ever African American Presidential nominee-- at the forefront of the race, this is the most important election in my (and possibly every) generation's lifetime to date. The outcome of this event is critical and will directly impact our individual lives, our society, our nation and ultimately the world.

There is a lot at stake, and with so much mud-slinging less than twenty days until the November 4th election, there is still room for the pendulum to swing right, or in other words-- wrong. Each passing day is more critical than the one before it. Senator Obama's opponent, Republican nominee Senator John McCain, according to the latest polls, is losing the race. With his numbers down, the media scrutiny (for reasons such as: his choice of his --putting it nicely-- controversial running mate Governor Sarah Palin and his old age--he's 72 years old and has had several bouts with melanoma: a deadly form of skin cancer) his campaign's confidence is dwindling and things are getting ugly.

There are many dynamics at play as to why Senator Obama is ahead in the polls and this fact says so many good things about how much we have grown and who we are today as a country. But no matter, the current state of the Presidential race has caused the McCain-Palin campaign to take a sudden turn (or return) to spewing and inciting venomous negativity.

Within the past week, they have abandoned the issues (mind boggling with the crumbling economy at the forefront of the people's minds) and are aiming straight at the Obama campaign's jugular with personal character attacks, commercials which spew lies about his political intentions, and far-fetching accusations questioning his loyalties to America: "He pals around with domestic terrorists" and "His interests in America aren't the same as yours and mine". To this there were boo's from the crowd (sounding more like a lynch-mob) followed by screams of "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" and "Off with his head!" to which Palin only smiled and nodded her head as if in agreement.

These are just some examples of the hatred being incited by Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin (herself, a whole other story). It is clear that there are racially discriminating undertones to her remarks. And, unfortunately, there are people out there listening; people whose decisions are driven more by fear than by critical thinking; people who are blindly loyal to the GOP/Republican party; people who may feel they are not ready for a Black president; people who are simply undecided. Who are you Undecided's? To me, you are nameless, you are faceless but nonetheless very powerful-- even menacing-- because you can tilt the boat and toss us all into the ocean or --and hopefully-- help steer us into safe waters.

Life was good for the lot of us during President Clinton's reign. But things changed in 2000 when a young, ill-fitted Republican Governor George Bush was elected to office-- twice (!): We were attacked by terrorists, which led to us to a still active war in Iraq, lending reason (or excuse?) for constitutional amendments which now limit certain individual freedoms and rights to privacy; the mortgage industry went bankrupt and lead to an economic recession; and most recently Wall Street and the banking industry have plummeted causing an impending depression. As a result of these events there was government infighting about whether or not to rescue these corporate failures with a $700 billion dollar "bailout" Bill, which has since passed. And, let's not forget that upward of 750,000 jobs have been lost since January of this year. Things are bad in epic proportion and something has got to change. With John McCain's past of co-signing ninety five percent of Bush's policies, electing him would be equal to electing Bush for a third term.

I applaud Senator Obama's efforts during his long and drawn out campaign. He and his team have grown a grass-roots campaign to that of a global phenomenon-- and this feat speaks volumes about his leadership abilities. Again, he is ahead in the media polls and with many months of heavy-campaigning all over the nation; commercial ads, press interviews, town-hall speeches and large stadium-sized rallies, three- formal hour and a half televised debates-- things are still looking good for Senator Obama. But will he hold strong? It is clear that he and running-mate Senator Biden's supporters are steadfast, as it seems are McCain-Palin's. I mean, if their supporters are still committed to voting for them after all that has been said and done then they are obviously with them to the end no matter the consequence.

So, just as with the 2000 and 2004 elections, the win will depend on you "Undecideds". According to media polls there are eight percent of undecided and or swing-voters out there in society scratching your heads, non-committed to which nominee you want as the next Commander in Chief. I find it hard to believe or, better yet, understand how one doesn't see the facts, the evidence, that the past eight years of government has destroyed our economy; and still threatens our individual and societal livelihood and our nation's overall economic well-being. For all but one percent of the country, life as we have known it can change for the worse for years to come if the fundamentals of how our government is being run do not change. And, I have a feeling that you eight percenters are not a part of the one percent elite of whom our nation's economic downfall will not affect one way or another. And, since this is the case, how can you possibly consider voting for a nominee who will no doubt continue the trend of dis-acknowledging the poor, while attempting to eradicate the middle class, to keep the rich-- well, rich?

I am confused by the existence of undecided voters at this stage of the Presidential race. However, I cannot be so naïve as to believe that much of this indecisiveness is not a race issue. But, what else can it be? This is 2008, a time where racial and cultural lines are meshed more than they ever have been before. I mean, Senator Obama is proof of this with his half Kenyan half Anglo lineage. No doubt he is a Black man, and a great one at that. Well- educated; graduate of Columbia University, top in his Harvard Law class; magna cum laude, and the first Black President of the Harvard Law Review. Admiringly, he chose to work as a Community Organizer out of college instead of going directly into the corporate arena.

For eight years (1996-2004) he taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago where he was a Senior Lecturer and before that a Lecturer (1992-1996). He was elected to the Illinois State Senate and served from 1996-2004. Subsequently, in November 2004 he was elected to the U.S. State Senate and still holds his seat as he runs for U.S. President.

His other attributes are that he is socially adept, charismatic, in good physical shape, a skilled writer and speaker, a devoted husband and father, not to mention good looking. And as a matter-of-fact, he remains calm, cool and collected during the most pressured of times. Let's face it, the man has it all but this wasn't always so.

He was raised by his grandparents and his single mother who at a time had to rely on food stamps to put food on the table. He has lived the pains of the poor and is well-versed with the struggles and concerns of the working and middle class. He is a wonderful example not only to Black men but to all men . . . men and women, and especially our youth. He is proof that hard-work and dedication will get you far. He is the future of this country and has earned the necessary credentials and qualifications to effectively take on Washington as our next President of the United States.

And, his wife, Michelle, is a female version of him. Biographical reports say that she was born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. After completing her formal education, she returned to Chicago and went to work for the law firm Sidley Austin, on the staff of the Mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley, and for the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Hospitals. She has since defected from corporate law to work directly with the disenfranchised. And, of course, we all know her now as a devoted wife and mother of their two little girls. Now, how can you doubt their abilities to represent our country with the intelligence, poise, dignity and good judgment with which we and the rest of the world deserve?

In comparison, what are McCain's credits? He graduated from the United States Naval Academy at the bottom of his class (reportedly, he ranked 894th in his class of 899, mostly due to disciplinary reasons . . . the "maverick" in him, I'm guessing), which is probably why you never hear him championing the importance of education. He later applied to the National War College but was turned down as "under qualified" by military brass. But he went straight to the top with an appeal-- to Secretary of the Navy, John Warner; a friend of his father's who overruled his initial denied entry. Not surprising. Okay-- he is a U.S. Navy veteran, a prisoner of war (POW) no-less. But here are some facts: While a navy airman he crashed three separate times, which investigators credit to flying skills and erred judgment-lightly termed mishaps. Regarding the most serious of the three accidents he was reportedly "clowning" around in a Skyraider over southern Spain when he flew into electrical wires, causing a blackout. While a POW it is said he was shot down and captured, again because of his self-proclaimed "maverick" ways. He brags in his autobiography that while captured he was offered an early release but insisted on staying imprisoned. But according to fellow POWs, last names Dramesi and Butler, McCain was no special case as many of them were given the same offer (he was one of 600 captured men). Accepting the release offer would have forced them to speak out against their country and lie about their treatment to the press and to do so would have been an abomination.

McCain's nickname while in captivity was "the crown prince" because he gave his captors enough information so that they would leave him the hell alone. This information, according to his own autobiography, included things such as him being the son of an admiral, providing the name of his ship, the number of raids he had flown, his squadron number, and the target of his final raid. His "singing" was despite an uber-rigid Code of Conduct that governed POWs: to give only their name, rank, date of birth and service number-and to make no "statements disloyal to my country". The son and grandson of admirals, he had a privileged status in the Navy and it is obvious that he had no problem using his status to deviate from policy and procedure. Just like George W. Bush III, he is the third generation of a family dynasty but is more mediocre than heir-worthy. Not to take anything away from his service to the country, but war hero? I think his merit may be a bit inflated.

He was a member of the U.S. House Of Representatives from 1983-1987. Interestingly, he got a tip that a Senate Seat was opening in Arizona and the very day the retiree made his announcement his wife Cindy bought him a home in the district so that he could qualify to run in the election. He did run and successfully won the seat to the Arizona State Senate in 1987 and now currently holds a seat as a Senior Senate member. Yes, he has twenty six years of experience as a Washington politician but I will take quality over quantity each and every time when given the choice. How about you?

Whichever way you want to call it, this is not the entire picture of John McCain. While being held captive in North Korea, he had a wife named Carol who waited for him devotedly and with worry while caring for there children back in the States. But after he returned, the war celebrity that he had become, he discovered that she had been disfigured in a car accident three years before. And, how did he show his love, appreciation and concern for his beloved wife? I will tell you how: by cheating on her, then later divorcing her, for his now wife (18 years his junior, former drug abusing, Anheuser- Bush beer heiress) Cindy.

According to biographical reports, "In 1989, Cindy McCain became addicted to Percocet and Vicodin, opioid painkillers, which she initially took to alleviate pain following two spinal surgeries for ruptured discs, and to ease emotional stress during the Keating Five affair. The addiction progressed to where she was taking upwards of twenty pills a day, and she resorted to having an AVMT physician write illegal prescriptions in the names of three AVMT employees without their knowledge." Bad judgment, anyone?

And, regarding the Keating Five affair, within which McCain was a heavy player-he personally had a hand in holding back federal regulators who were closing in on Charlie Keating, among other dirty dealings-- he was never admonished from guilt as the media has reported. Though, shamefully, he did only receive a slap on the wrist by the Senate Ethics Committee (they concluded it was "bad judgment") despite thousands of investors having lost entire savings. As a result, the Savings and Loan industry collapsed costing us taxpayers $3.4 billion dollars. Hmm, sound familiar?

May I also throw in that he voted against honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a national holiday steadfastly from 1983- 1989? Yes, let us add this alarming piece of information to the list. I can go on and on about McCain's' blatant lies, flip flopping on issues, horrible judgment, involvement in corporate corruption and morally and spiritually bankrupt campaign because there is SO much more to say. But do I really need to say more?

We need a diplomatic leader with good judgment, a sound mind, who is physically healthy and who actually has a soul. I always look at situations with three eyes, a critical mind, a keen Spirit, and well-tuned intuition-- as should you. Wake up people and make your decision! And, in case you still don't get it-- Obama-Biden '08!

How to Use Twitter As Part of a Successful Political Lobbying Campaign

Earlier this year, I was called in to run the social media aspect of a political lobbying campaign.

The campaign was a success, in no small part due to my use of Twitter:

* I "branded" the client's tweets with a permanent link to their website * I used a trustworthy Twitter application to help maintain our follows and unfollows * I tied our campaign to an easy two-word keyword phrase we wanted to "own" for the next 30 days

First, let's look at the basics:

The client -- a mid-sized professional association -- undertook a 30-day campaign, pressuring politicians to take their side on a particular issue.

During the month, the campaign got articles and op-eds on the subject placed in major media, pushed TV and radio shows to talk about it, and wrangle meetings with politicians who could help them achieve their 5-point program.

My job was to run the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the association's campaign.

These accounts had to be organic, lively and (hopefully) popular, to provide that all important "social proof" that tells stakeholders and decision makers, "This is an issue people care about."

(Note: they were not the client's main, pre-existing Twitter and Facebook accounts. The ones I was managing were set up to focus on this public policy issue, as was the special website they created. None of these destinations was built to last, but they still had to look attractive and welcoming, and spur action on the part of visitors.)

The new Twitter account literally started with a couple of followers: the client and the lobbyist who'd hired me.

To acquire "social proof" it is vital to get that follower number as high as possible, as soon as possible.

BUT if you try to grow your followers too quickly, Twitter will ban you as a spammer. (Take my word for it: I've learned that the hard way!)

First, I used MarketMeTweet to "brand" the client's tweets. For reasons of confidentiality, I'll pretend for the purposes of this case study that the keyword phrase we wanted to "own" during that month was "artificial sweetener."

So, using MarketMeTweet's easy branding feature, I changed the "via" line in the clients Twitter updates to read "Artificial Sweetener" and to link back to their special lobbying campaign website.

(Note: while not exactly "long tail," it's a two word phrase rather than just one, so you can get specific without running out of room. That's a better choice than just plain "sweetener" because you're more likely to connect with your audience the more specific you can be.)

Now, every time I sent out a client tweet, it read "via Artificial Sweetener." Not only do these keyworded links provide a boost of "Google juice", they attract clicks, which means more traffic to the client's website.

What other tricks did I use to increase the client's visibility?

One of MarketMeTweet's marketing tools is their "Reply Campaigns" function. Since our client's keyword phrase was "artificial sweetener," I set up a search for that keyword phrase, and wrote up a reply template tweet that said: "If you're interested in artificial sweetener issues, check this out," along with a link to the client's specially designed campaign website.

They'd created a short but powerful public service announcement to promote their cause, and people like short videos, so I linked directly to the page with the embedded video.

(Important: That page also had calls to action like "Sign our petition," "Follow us on Twitter" and "Join us on Facebook.")

I hit the "Run Now" button and immediately got to see all recent tweets about "artificial sweetener." When I spotted a tweet from someone who'd be likely to welcome our message, I hit the "Reply and Follow" option. This sent my template reply tweet to that person. I did that about five times in a row, then stopped.

Why? While it's tempting (believe me!) to get carried away and start replying to and following all these people who are interested in your topic, it's a mistake in Twitter's eyes.

Twitter will shut down your account, without warning, if they suspect you of spamming or being a robot.

Do something else for a half hour or an hour. (In my case, I tweaked the client's Facebook page, and collected news stories about artificial sweetener from my Google Alerts.) Then start the "Reply and Follow" routine again.

You'll find that lots of these people will follow you because you followed them. You also might discover, as I did, that there are lots of professional organizations and non-profits on Twitter that also care about artificial sweeteners. Follow them, then go straight to their Twitter account and check out their followers. Use your discretion, but essentially, their followers might be interested in what you have to say on the subject too.

However: I don't recommend following too many people at once. (See what I said about Twitter and spambots, above.) I set up TweetAdder to follow only about a dozen names at a time, and set the maximum per day to 50.

That's not a lot, and it's frustrating, especially if you are working on a time-sensitive project like I was. But the days are gone when you could just follow thousands of people a day on Twitter.

Throughout the day, I sent out general updates with links to breaking news about artificial sweetener, occasionally including a relevant synonymous hashtag, like "#saccharine" to increase the chances we'd be found in a search.

The key was sending out on-topic, helpful tweets: "If you care about x, see y;" "News story about artificial sweetener;" etc.

Since every update included a built-in branded link to the client's campaign site, I didn't have to squeeze their url into every single message.

And every tweet was well under the 140 character limit. Because when others retweet your update, their personal "@" information gets added on to it, too. So leave plenty of room in your message so their added info won't cut off your message. Try not to send out any tweet longer than 120 characters if you're hoping people with retweet it.

Making the messages relevant to other people's interests,rather than a non-stop stream of blegs to "sign our petition" was a good decision (if I do say so myself.)

By doing this routine, by the end of the week I'd managed to get a healthy looking number of followers. Some, like politicians and the heads of relevant non-profits, were people I'd DM'd with a link to our video. Others were acquired through TweetAdder.

Between that and people RT'ing our updates, we experienced slow but safe growth and exposure.

At the end of the month, word came that the association had landed meetings with decision makers and ultimately, were promised most of what they'd campaigned to achieve.

The clients were particularly impressed by the presence I'd been able to establish for them on Twitter. The sense that people online were talking about their issue really did make a difference in the way they were received by politicians.

Using tools like MarketMeTweet and TweetAdder were the key for me. There is simply no way we could have accomplished what we did without those labor saving applications.


* Brand your "via" line so that each update contains a link to your site and your keywords * Search out people on Twitter who are interested in your cause, and send them helpful, informative messages that aren't all about you * Use synonymous hashtags to help spread your message * Don't go overboard by trying to follow hundreds of people at once * Send personalized DMs to influencers * Every message should be clear, polite, helpful, topical and re-tweetable (Keep it well under 140 characters.) * Send your followers to pages with clear calls to action that help your cause: sign this petition, contact your local representative, etc. * Be patient. Twitter hates spammers and bots. Grow your following steadily.

Twitter is a great tool for all kinds of social media campaigns -- as long as it is used with care.

Being Healthy is More Than Just Not Getting Sick - Focus on Being Healthy

Over the last 30 years we have seen the rise of preventative health. Some recent studies shine a spotlight on this and raise good questions. A US study questions the cost effectiveness of certain health programs. In Germany it has been suggested that many "preventative" health programs may do more for doctor's wallets than patients.

A UK study has shown that simple lifestyle changes would reduce rates of bowel cancer far more than screening programs (testing blood in the stool. Mass skin cancer screening in Australia has seen the ratio of spots removed per cancerous spot go from one in four in 1980 to one in thirty today.

The issue with most public health and preventative health campaigns is that are focused on trying to detect or prevent specific diseases. There is rarely an emphasis on keeping people healthy overall.

Now, lets be clear, it is better to find disease early than late. However this is not the same as not getting disease and certainly not the same as focusing on being healthy

There are unintended consequences of this "disease specific" approach For example; skin cancer campaigns that urge people to stay out of the sun may be partly responsible for a staggering increase in vitamin D deficiencies. This may be causing more cancers (bowel and breast for example) than it is preventing. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to diabetes.

Since the late 1970's, there has been a big push to reduce fat intake. This has come about because of concern that cholesterol in the blood stream leads to heart disease. Interestingly, the original Framingham study, which sparked this whole reduced fat movement, never actually concluded that circulating cholesterol levels were the problem. It was always to do with the build up of cholesterol plaque in certain artery walls and even more to the point, the rupture of this plaque. The reasons why this occurs in certain individuals and not others, has always remained a mystery.

Indeed, there are populations around the world who have very high levels of cholesterol and very low levels of heart disease and also the reverse.Up to 40% of people with heart disease have none of the "common risk factors". Nevertheless, the "fat is bad" mantra gained traction.

The proverbial baby has been thrown out with the bathwater, as many people may not get enough good fats. Omega 3 and omega 6 are called essential fatty acids because the body cannot make them and needs them. Also in a push to lower fat intake, consumers sought out low fat foods. What people did not think about was these foods were very high in carbohydrates (sugars) in general and refined carbohydrates in particular. Not only those, but also these foods do not provide much nourishment and often leave you with the munchies two hours later.

If the body gets excess calories it will store them. It cannot store them as sugars, it stores them as fat, so regardless of how many low fat foods a person eats, the excess calories are converted to fat. The gradual result of this over 25 years has been an increase in the rates of obesity. People have been eating less fat but guess what happened? They have been getting fatter.

The next knock-on effect has been an increase in the rate of diabetes. Obesity has skyrocketed since the mid 1980's - all this under the watchful eye of the public health and preventative disease authorities. By focusing on trying to prevent one illness, a whole range of other effects was overlooked. The messages are not bad or negatively intended in any way, but too narrow in trying to stop one particular disease.

The solution of course is to focus on being healthy rather than trying to prevent specific diseases, especially when trying to prevent one disease can lead to getting another. This is the essence of Do It Yourself Health

The best way not to get sick is to be healthy.