March 17, 2016

Traditions of Easter...Origins, Traditions and a Recipe to boot...

I'm sure by now you've seen every Easter recipe imaginable, from hams to lambs. While I'm going to give you a great recipe here today, (see below) I thought I would expound a bit on what Easter means around the world and its origins. The first thing that may surprise most is, much like Christmas was co-opted by the Christian church, Easter did not start out as a Christian holiday either. Nope, not christian at all. Here's something that will really blow your mind. It's a description of the Easter holiday:

"Spring is in the air! Flowers and bunnies decorate the home. Father helps the children paint beautiful designs on eggs dyed in various colors. These eggs, which will later be hidden and searched for, are placed into lovely, seasonal baskets. The wonderful aroma of the hot cross buns mother is baking in the oven waft through the house. Forty days of abstaining (lent) from special foods will finally end the next day. The whole family picks out their Sunday best to wear to the next morning’s sunrise worship service to celebrate the savior’s resurrection and the renewal of life. Everyone looks forward to a succulent ham with all the trimmings. It will be a thrilling day. After all, it is one of the most important religious holidays of the year." Sounds just like a perfect Easter, right? Wrong!

This is a description of an ancient Babylonian family, 2,000 years before Christ, honoring the resurrection of their god, Tammuz, (who's birth was celebrated Dec. 25th, with a yule log and a decorated pine tree) who was brought back from the underworld (resurrected) by his mother/wife, Ishtar (after whom the festival was named). As Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter” in most Semitic dialects, it could be said that the event portrayed here is, in fact, Easter. “In Babylonia…the goddess of spring was called Ishtar. She was identified with the planet Venus, which, because, it rises before the Sun, or sets after it, appears to love the light (this means Venus loves the sun-god.) In Phoenecia, she became Astarte; in Greece, Eostre (related to the Greek word Eos: “dawn”), and in Germany, Ostara, (this comes from the German word Ost: “east,” which is the direction of dawn”)
The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north and their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. But, did so, in a clandestine manner. You see, it would have been dangerous for the early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. In order to save lives and make the transition to Christianity more palatable to the pagans they were trying to convert, the missionaries decided to spread their dogma slowly throughout the populations, by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, while incrementally incorporating Christian themes.

Now I did not start this article to burst your bubble, or in this case, break your colored egg. I did however, in keeping with the whole purpose of this blog, want you to learn, be informed and factual. That said, let's look at how Easter is celebrated now around the world.

“In Germany and Austria little nests containing eggs, pastry and candy are placed in hidden spots, and the children believe that the Easter bunny, so popular in this country, too, had laid the eggs and brought the candy” and “The Easter bunny had its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore, The Easter bunny has never had religious symbolism bestowed on its festive usage…However, the bunny has acquired a cherished role in the celebration of Easter as the legendary producer of Easter eggs for children in many countries” (Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 235)

From (Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought, James Bonwick, pp. 211-212:) “Eggs were hung up in the Egyptian temples. Bunsen calls attention to the mundane egg, the emblem of generative life, proceeding from the mouth of the great god of Egypt. The mystic egg of Babylon, hatching the Venus Ishtar, fell from heaven to the Euphrates. Dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt, as they are still in China and Europe. Easter, or spring, was the season of birth, terrestrial and celestial.”

In Croatia and Slovenia, a basket of food is prepared and covered with a handmade cloth, and brought to the church to be blessed. A typical Easter basket includes bread, colored eggs, ham, horseradish, and a type of nut cake called "potica".

The most elaborate Easter egg traditions appear to have emerged in Eastern Europe. In Poland and Ukraine, eggs were often painted silver and gold. Pysanky (to design or write) eggs were created by carefully applying wax in patterns to an egg. The egg was then dyed, wax would be reapplied in spots to preserve that color, and the egg was boiled again in other shades. The result was a multi-color striped or patterned egg.

Easter cards arrived in Victorian England, when a stationer added a greeting to a drawing of a rabbit. According to American Greetings, Easter is now the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, behind Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day.

In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after Easter Mass, led by a crucifix or the Easter candle. Today these walks endure as Easter Parades. People show off their spring finery, including lovely bonnets decorated for spring.

In Florence, Italy, the unique custom of the Scoppio del carro is observed in which a holy fire lit from stone shards from the Holy Sepulchre are used to light a fire during the singing of the Gloria of the Easter Sunday mass, which is used to ignite a rocket in the form of a dove, representing peace and the holy spirit, which following a wire in turn lights a cart containing pyrotechnics in the small square before the Cathedral

Easter Traditions Today
In America, and throughout the English-speaking world, many Easter traditions are similar with only minor differences. For example, Saturday is traditionally spent decorating Easter eggs. Then Sunday morning, usually before Mass and the children are dressed in their Easter finery, they hunt for the eggs and other treats such as chocolate eggs or rabbits and marshmallow chicks (Peeps), that, according to Mom and Dad, have been delivered by the Easter Bunny. Many families observe the religious aspects of Easter by attending Sunday Mass or services in the morning and then participating in a feast or party in the afternoon. Some families have a traditional Sunday roast of either lamb or ham. Easter breads such as Simnel cake, a fruit cake with eleven marzipan balls representing the eleven faithful apostles, or nut breads such as potica are traditionally served. Hot cross buns, spiced buns with a cross on top, are traditionally associated with Good Friday, but today are eaten well before and after.
Where ever you live and whatever your tradition, my hope is that you enjoy this Easter Sunday surrounded by those you love and who love you and that you reflect on what life is really all about, staying true to your beliefs, whatever they may be. As you have all figured out by now, I am an apostle of food, in all its wondrous forms, taste and presentations. To that end, I will leave you with an awesome recipe for your holiday:

This recipe and pic comes courtesy of  my friends at Ronco.com and Mr. Ron Popeil. Thanks! Now of course this was created with the use of one of Ron's Rotisserie ovens in mind, but you can easily cook this in a roasting pan as well. Or you can click on the link and buy one. *-)

Dijon~Garlic~Rosemary Rubbed Lamb Roast
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
1 clove garlic, cut into slivers
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leg of lamb (4 1/2 - 5 pounds), boned and tied

Method
Combine the garlic, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, rosemary, ginger and olive oil in a small bowl. Add lamb and turn to coat with marinade. Cover and chill at least 6 hours or up to 1 day turning meat over several times.

*Note: If you do not have a rotisserie, preheat your oven to 375f.

Rotisserie: Rotate the lamb on the spit rods (rotisserie) for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 135 to 140 degrees for medium on the thermometer, basting several times during the last 10 minutes. Oven: Place in a roasting pan, uncovered, and cook on 375f until the thermometer internal temperature reads 130 degrees for medium rare, 135 degrees, medium. Baste often (About 35-40 minutes, but remember; all ovens are unique so rather than time, use temperature as a guide to determine when the roast is done to your preference.)

I wish you all a very Happy Easter,

As always, Bon Appetit!

Lou

Image: africa graur razvan ionut, luigi diamanti Danilo Rizzutiscottchan  ultimateitaly.com  Jeroen van Oostrom 

en.wikipedia.org Clare Bloomfield 
art.com

January 31, 2016

Social Media Basics for Companies, Timing your posts and the importance of #hashtags.

In this series, I am not covering so much the specific minute details, data, facts and figures of social media as much as the common sense mindset you need to use the specifics tools and resources available to you now that you have decided to embrace social media as an extension of the marketing and customer service aspects of your company. This series is just a basic guideline for you to get started.

Timing

The average twitter user (public) checks their time line about once or twice every hour, but most may not have access at work, or are busy running businesses, households, lives. Most scroll through to see what they've missed, going back through dozens and dozens of tweets, till something grabs there attention. The right tweet or post actually takes a good bit of behind the scenes time and effort to be effective. Your 140 character tweet, for instance, has to catch my eye as I scroll down the page looking at 100 's of tweets at break neck speed, tell me a story and make me click your link. If you have done some of the due diligence I suggested in the last post, 'Know Your Audience', then you have some idea of the trends for when your customer, your fan or your audience is most likely to be online and surfing social media sites.

Example:
Stay at home moms, with busy households are never going to see a tweet from you at 5pm at night. It's dinner time, their husband is coming home, the household is in full swing. If your target market is Mom, and you tweet at 5pm, no matter how good the tweet or info offered, chances are high she will not see it.

Office workers: If you tweeted at 9am and Jenny logged on and checked her timeline at 10:45, her break, chances are she is not going to see your tweet. So, if she's your target, it is equally important as to what time you tweet or post, as it is to the content of that actual tweet or post. Maybe even more so, because regardless of how great your tweet content is, if no one sees it, technically, for them, it does not exist. A savvy social media manager spends hours watching and researching these trends. They know when to tweet and where. Have an international audience? 9am in London is 4am here EST, as an example. If your going to take on the role of social media manager yourself, you'll need this important info about your target audience.

If you do not have the hours each day it takes to monitor trends, research the schedules and habits of your target market to make sure your organization is getting the most from your social media, a social media manager can make a huge positive impact to your organization. Yes they cost money, but with the right manager, your exposure is maximized and the benefits far outweigh the cost.

To do it yourself, realize it's lots of calculating, research and time consuming analysis; the things that are essential in making a good social media manager effective. If you are unable to hire a social media manager, deciding to 'do it yourself,' applications like Hootsuite, for instance, are key. Hootsuite, and programs like it, allow you to schedule tweets and posts ahead of time, making sure your message is getting out there when you need it to be. It allows you to maintain a social media presence while not neglecting the necessities and responsibilities that are essential to running your business. Now this does not mean that once you've set up your tweets and posts for the day, you can forget about them. You must constantly monitor your re-tweets, mentions, shares etc., so you can respond in a timely fashion. And rest assured, managers like me are using these tools. These apps also offer great insights and interactive 'classes' to teach you the 'tricks of the trade.'

Hashtags

A hashtag is the cornerstone of a business’s conversation with the public on Twitter. Hashtags allow more than just your followers the ability to see your posts, as each hashtag becomes a timeline of it's own shared by thousands. With all platforms and networks now adopting the hashtag approach, it has become all the more important. The conversation can be consistent and meaningful only if the hashtags used by your business are consistent. Just creating any phrase with a hash tag does not get the job done. Monitoring what 'tags' are trending, what's popular and more importantly, what your readers, clients, customers and fans are interested in, keeps your company or brand's name in the eye of your targeted audience.

Every word, hashtag, mention and its placement, is important. That takes years of practice and years of marketing expertise and that is where the Social Media Manager becomes invaluable to your team. Remember, just because Suzy, the receptionist , or Mary the web designer spend the most time on twitter or facebook, it does not mean they are the right person for the job. The tried and true marketing dogmas and procedures still apply, so you or your social media manager needs to be well versed in marketing, customer service and the 'Psychology Of The Sale." But, once you've mastered the basics that we have covered in this series, you'll be well on your way to achieving social media success.

I hope these articles have helped, that you have enjoyed the series, and most importantly, that the concepts, mindsets and ideas here help you grow your social media presence and impact. Good Luck!

Till next time,

Lou

January 04, 2016

"Is the Technology of Social Media actually taking the 'social' out of Social Media Marketing?"

When I started my twitter account, for the now defunct, gourmetgirlmagazine.com, back in 2005, social media marketing was in its infancy. Truth is, it hasn't really grown up yet. While it has emerged to influence the way companies get their message across to their customers and other businesses worldwide, it now does so by expressing an "I know what I'm doing attitude, leave me alone" mentality, much like an adolescent teen.

As a 'veteran' of marketing, or the 'parent' in this case, in some instances, I have been looked at like a dinosaur by today's twenty something, newly graduated, much more 'knowledgeable' social media marketing managers. Why? Because I believe that just because the delivery platform has changed, the process of connecting, one on one with your customer, prospect or audience has not.
The new breed points to algorithms, analytics platforms and trends, insisting that, without these, you just don't know who your audience is, or what they want, therefore you can't possibly get the right message out. They have convinced CEOs, marketing managers and small business owners that without all the latest technological gimmicks and analysis programs, they can't possibly mount a successful and effective social media strategy. This is simply a fallacy!

When I started tweeting, most of today's 'guru's and experts were teens, worried about their homework. I learned as I went along, applying age old marketing and 'people skill' maxims and dogmas, learned from a 20+ year career in sales and marketing, and it gained me a following of some of the most influential and 'important' influencers, media organizations, celebrities and social media experts online. One tweet, post, or interaction at a time. Some ask, why do these folks follow you? My answer: I took the time to reach out and interact with quality content, consistent attention to detail and making a personal connection, with either brand or individual, one at a time, which is actually what 'social media' is all about.

The problem is most companies are looking for instant gratification, immediate big numbers and immediate impact from their campaigns, so social media marketers have changed the way they apply social media to meet that demand. It is also why many companies are looking for new social media people and revamping their approach. Is your company going somewhere that you need to see result, NOW, or all will be lost, or are you dedicated to your business for the long haul, hoping to be around and successful for years to come? Social media is the same. It's a marathon, not a sprint race.

You must have someone in place to be the voice of your company that has a background rooted in marketing and some version of customer service. A twenty something recent grad may have the technology down, but do you really want to trust your company's voice and online image to someone with little or no people skills and a few computer programs? I'll put up tried and true people knowledge, years of  'closing deals and relationships with people and businesses' against the newly graduated 'degreed' expert with absolutely no 'customer service or actual face to face people time' mentality any day. The best marketers are those that study human nature and what motivates people to act. What good is all the data, if once collected, you don't know what to do with it. Nothing will ever replace the experience of face to face interaction and the experience of years of actually doing the job.

Young social media managers, will point to the technology, numbers of followers, number of  'click throughs,' and all the platforms and analytic tools your company must have, etc.. Why? With little or no actual marketing, sales or customer service background, they need these programs to point out flaws, trends, problems or opportunities within a given campaign. A seasoned marketing pro has the instincts and experience and the analytics, which are used simply to confirm what they believe is the problem or opportunity. I'll point to quality of followers and people who don't merely 'click through,' but place the order, make the connection, or recommend the product, person or service to their friends. If I get 30 people to 'click through' by my personal, SOCIAL interaction with them, and 10 buy or act, vs, 100 'click throughs' for the same 10 to buy or act, I have saved the company resources, time and effort. In today's tight economic climate, companies need a razor sharp pinpointed, economical approach rather that a blunt, time and money consuming campaign. (see my article on Know Your Audience)

When I look across the board at some recent campaigns, yes even for the major brands we all know and love, I see more failure than success and I believe the reason why is simple: People don't want to be algorithimed, beta tested, or analyzed. The want to be talked to. They want to be treated like an individual, even if they are part of a group. Yes, that is counter intuitive, but it is the truth nonetheless. The general public, while wanting to be included 'in the group' wants to be recognized for their individual contribution to that group. They are looking for individual service and attention and when they don't get it, getting canned responses or, automated response tweets (re; the Dominoes debacle) it goes viral. When a crisis hits, your social media platform can actually be the management tool to handle and fix customer inquiries or turn that crisis around. No platform, app or analytic program can address these issues directly. And, a twenty something recent grad, with only classroom theory, can never replace a marketing veteran with years of experience who also has the technological tools of the trade.

The definition of 'social' is: a. marked by or passed in pleasant companionship with friends or associates b. or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.

Now all that said, your Social Media Manager MUST be well versed in, owned and earned content, new algorithms for brands, Google's new SEO parameter's, and all the other tools available and needed to track paid ad campaigns, customer engagement, etc.. But, just knowing the how, without knowing the why, or without having the business or customer service acumen to react properly and tailor your brand's message for maximum effect to each segment of your target audience, could waste years of your company's time,resources and reputation.

Till next time,

Lou