I am a busy creative. Some people ask if I sleep at all. I do, sometimes passed out on the couch watching reruns of Downtown Abbey with my laptop and lap cat warming my blanket…but I get my Z’s when I can. A creative must create..always. Whether it’s a little person, a painting, a written work, a garden, a craft, or community service project-if we aren’t making something, we’re not living.
I have been a member of a women-led, esteemed culinary organization in Chicago since 2013. It is women led for the advancement of women in the culinary arts and hospitality industry. My deep marketing experience in the food industry coupled with my food blog earned me a nomination to join this amazing group of women. Every time I am around them I have to pinch myself that I am even there, working with them on our initiatives and projects.
This group surprised me last year by nominating me to the board of directors (I am a more “behind the scenes” kind of gal). But after a persistent urging from a few colleagues and fellow members, I took it on. My big project (besides helping our communications chair with design and art direction) during my boardship was to get us on Google NonProfits, and use their free business tools to help organize the association and boost our awareness. The project has taken a lot longer that expected. Google GSuite is not as intuitive as personal tools, but we are making strides. With my fellow board members we have done a lot this year to get us into new technologies to manage our processes and events better. We have updated our site as well, and using all of our communication tools in concert better. It’s pretty exciting. We are setting the foundation for a very successful fundraiser come 2018.
In 2008, our president met a lead gen guy who professed the success of blogging content for inbound leads to our agency website. He then came into our office to do a day of immersion; teaching us the ins and outs of blogging, curating content, using social and digital and how to keep the content train humming. I left feeling overwhelmed and inspired. I saw a future where brands could engage one on one with their consumers in a more intimate way. I also realized that our small shop (10-12 people at the time) didn’t have anybody to really take this on for ourselves. So I dove in. I’v always believed the best way to learn something is to do it.
Thus began my journey as a food and lifestyle blogger. Over the years the site has evolved as I have. Luckily, my love of food, gardening and crafting never gets old, so it is easy to have new content to share with my readers. I also learned how the social landscape works, how other brands create influencer programs, how video has become a major revenue & engagement generator, how Pinterest is still a great way to drive site traffic, how google algorithms work, etc. I’ve also learned how to deal with creepy trollers, deflect criticism with aplomb and grace, how some followers can revive your trust in humanity, and how your voice can make a big difference.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a social/digital agency unto myself. It takes a village! But from being in the content trenches I understand how to take a big brand idea and guide it through the social and digital channels for engagement. It makes me a better agency leader, a better partner to our clients and a much better creative director.
As far as the blog itself, my journey has earned me a pretty decent Klout score, over 3,000 Pinterest followers, new monthly influencer requests, a Starbucks brand ambassadorship for two years in a row, a highly ranked Epicurious contributor and some extra spending money for a couple extra holiday presents. Not bad for an ‘Ad Broad’!
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A few years ago I became obsessed with using my garden herbs in sweet ways like desserts, fruits and cocktails. So I began researching, experimenting and developing recipes to pair up savory herbs with other flavor profiles. I decided to write a little ebook helping foodies figure out how to add herbs and florals into their own desserts for extra flair. It was a labor of love. And hey, I’m officially published. Cross that off the bucket list!
Here are links to it:
The most recent fundraiser we hosted had a theme all around food and its relationship with the 5 senses. This took on a carnival look and feel. After some tone boards I presented, the committee landed on a vintage design using carnival performers interacting with food. This was a very fun thematic to play with. This vintage carnival genre is rich in textures, graphics and typography – a lot of which I incorporated in the 34 page event booklet describing auction items, menu descriptions, sensory games and activities as well as sponsors. The thematic, name and graphics were so popular we are building on it for the next fundraiser in 2018!
I was asked 2 years ago to redesign the organization’s quarterly newsletter. One of the things I noticed from the previous newsletter was the lack of food and taste appeal. I also noticed we had no masthead or lead lines to entice a reader to even open up the piece. There was also a lack of a template with style sheets and master pages to allow for the designer to quickly update the piece quarterly, while keeping it fresh. After all, this is all volunteer work, so the quicker things can get done, the better!
To solve some of my issues (the big one being free food photography) I directed my own photoshoot in my kitchen per season to give the piece more food appeal tied to seasons. After all, it’s good enough for my food blog, why not this?
I allowed the seasonal photography to drive the color palette of the newsletters as well as be in the masthead. The editor loved having the lead story headlines on the front as well. We then create a digital version for our organization’s website to keep things consistent.
Here are a few newsletters:
I’ve been a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier Chicago since 2013, and I help a lot with branding and marketing materials for the organization. We sponsor a giant foodie fundraiser bi-annually, and the 2014 event was all about the ethos, food and subculture around the Wisconsin supperclub. Rather than just call it ‘Les Dames Supperclub’, I came up with the name Swankalicious! to give the event a tone and personality, and to bring food to the spotlight. It also helped with our hashtag strategy and our social activation. The look and feel took on a merging of textures and icons of the 40’s and 50’s supperclub mingled with food and the great Northwoods. Ironically the year prior for our family vacation, my angler husband took our family to Hayward, WI. The Northwoods and supperclubs were fresh in my mind. I had a lot of personal photography I donated to the marketing materials, used mostly in the event book. The event was a big hit, and we surpassed our financial goals.
Here are some spreads of the 34 page event booklet:
Last year I was asked to help create a brand look and feel for Les Dames D’Escoffier/Chicago Chapter’s big annual fundraiser! I donated a lot of my time to develop the materials for the event, as well as the chapter’s 30th anniversary logo. In return, I got to enjoy the events and some of the classes. This is an amazing group of ladies doing amazing things! I was honored to work with them on such a great cause. I even got to meet and enjoy a glass of wine with Joan Reardon (above)! It was awesome!
I was asked to be a brand ambassador for Litworld’s World Read Aloud Day in 2012. The day was to raise money and awareness for the organization that promotes global literacy for children. I not only hosted a reading night/bookdrive and bake sale with our scout troop but brokered a partnership with Open Books bookshop. I ran a bake sale and raised money for both organizations. I also used my lifestyle blogs and relationship with mamapedia.com to raise awareness of the program, too.
Early last year I worked on The Sketchbook Project. The Brooklyn Art Library hosts this project to inspire many, raise money and awareness and create a collaborative community online. One of my ACDs and I have our entries here if you would like to see them.