How to Choose a Martial Arts School – 10 Steps Guaranteed to Save You Time and Money

October 7, 2016

What are the most important things to look for when comparing martial arts schools?
What are the tell tale signs of a quality school that you can spot immediately?
What are the best questions to ask, and how do you know if they can really deliver?
What part of a contract can you negotiate?These are just some of the important questions you need to know how to answer before shopping around for a martial arts school.A commitment to martial arts is an investment in time and money, so knowing exactly what to look for in a school, and knowing what questions to ask, will give you the clarity and confidence to make a smart choice.A bad choice in a martial arts school can be an expensive lesson, so use this guide to educate yourself.There is a huge variety of martial arts schools out there. Facilities range from expensive health-club-like facilities to open space warehouses. Martial arts schools aren’t regulated to insure quality of instruction or business practice. There is no official governing body and no universal grading standard in martial arts. Almost anyone can open a school and appear to be an expert.What do you look for beyond price, amenities and convenient schedules? While most people first consider price and the facility, there are more important factors that you need to consider first!These 10 steps show you how to make the best decision in choosing a martial arts school:Objective
Instructors
Class Dynamic
Student Results
Curriculum
Style
Facility
Service
Price/Fees
Instinct1. OBJECTIVE:Before you start looking into martial arts schools, determine your true goals for martial arts practice. To get the most out of your training, clearly identify your real goals and the specific benefits you want to have.Ultimately, you just want to feel good about yourself and feel super confident, right?However, this is usually not enough of a specific emotional motivator for consistent practice.The majority of people who start martial arts rarely make it past a few months of consistent practice. It’s not just a lack of motivation. Not having clear goals is usually why people don’t follow through in practice.To determine what you really want from training, start by narrowing down what you wish to focus on.The focus of your practice can be broken down into several areas. There’s no right or wrong – it comes down to personal preference.For starters, you can number these in order of importance.Physical Fitness as the main goal, with martial arts aptitude as a secondary benefit.
Purely Combative Focus, with fitness and personal growth as added benefits
Creative and Artistic Expression, aesthetics, beauty and WOW Factor
Competitive Focus, sports aspects such as one on one competition
Mental and Emotional Growth, catalyst for self-discovery and spiritual growth, cultural and philosophical interestsAsk yourself clarifying “Why” questions, so you can identify what you’re really going for.This is the first step in filtering the selection of schools to choose from. Once you’ve identified your goals for martial arts practice and understand why they are your goals, you’re ready to search for a school.2. INSTRUCTORS:An instructor plays the key role in how you will achieve your goals.Finding a good instructor is more important than choosing a style, and is probably the biggest factor in your decision to join a school. It’s nice to have impressive amenities and expensive equipment, but ultimately a martial arts school is only as good as it’s instructors.Being a black belt doesn’t qualify someone to teach!A competent instructor is knowledgeable, experienced, and has the ability to effectively pass on his craft.
A good instructor possesses leadership and communication skills.
A great instructor will also display sincere empathy, showing a genuine interest in helping you achieve your goals, bringing out your individual strengths.Look for other attributes that increase an instructor’s ability to add value to your training:Proven competitive track record, such as World Champion Titles
A degree in an area such as psychology, sports medicine, kinesiology or related fields
Military, law enforcement, or security experience
Involvement in a credible martial arts organization
Extensive knowledge of a culture or philosophy that you’re interested inAlthough an instructor’s experience and background provides some credibility, don’t be overly impressed with awards and certificates.Their mindset and level of experience will be apparent through subtleties in character and by their actions.Quality instructors are sincerely interested in helping You and won’t feel the need to boast about their own credentials or prove themselves. Instead of boosting their own egos, high-level instructors are very attentive on coaching you to achieve your goals.You can often measure an instructor more accurately by their students’ results and satisfaction than by credentials alone. The students themselves may be the greatest indication of the quality of instruction.Just like a good business is constantly researching and developing, high-level instructors research and develop methodologies in order to continually improve. A lifetime training in martial arts isn’t enough to reach human potential!A high level instructor portrays noble characteristics of a role model and leader.Confident instructors welcome feedback and respond to your questions with patience and insight. They are usually very humble, and rarely speak negatively about any other school or style.Also, find out if the school’s head instructor is actively teaching. Some schools have classes primarily taught by an assistant or senior students, while the head instructor only makes an occasional appearance.While assistant instructors may be totally capable of teaching, watch out for schools that “sell” you on the instructor but have someone else teaching.3. CLASS DYNAMIC:Make sure you know how to evaluate a school in two parts, the content and the context.The context of a martial arts school is made up of the training methods and environment. What kind of setting is the school providing?A supportive learning environment is crucial to maximize the assimilation and retention of material. The context of training can be more important than the content, (or material), intended to be learned.Look for context such as:The collective mood or energy of the instructors and students
The class dynamic – structure and flow
How the amenities and equipment are used
The training methodologies
How the ranking system is structured
The quality of serviceOne of the best ways to evaluate a school is to watch or participate in a class.You can watch videos, visit a website and read all about the credentials and features of a school. However, you can only get a true feel by “test driving” the actual group classes. Many schools offer free consultations or introductory private lessons.If a school allows you to watch, or better yet, participate in a class without obligation it speaks highly of their confidence and transparency.

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The class dynamic is the best demonstration of the instructor’s martial arts aptitude and ability to teach. It reveals how the students interact with each other and the instructor. It’s also the perfect opportunity to see how their curriculum is implemented into training.Consider the size of the classes and how that may effect your training. The make up and flow of the classes will either help your learning experience or hurt it.Look for the following:Is there a significant age difference among students that may restrict your practice?
Is there a significant difference in the students’ experiences or physical abilities?
How formal or informal are the classes? And, how does that effect your practice?
How much supportive individual attention do the students receive?
Is there anything about the facility that’ll hinder your practice? such as cleanliness, stale air, too cold or hot, distracting noises, etc.Many beginners prefer large classes. It can be easier to follow along with the examples of many other students. There’s also less intimidation as the collective group dynamic can conceal individual insecurities and lessons the pressure to keep up.On the flip side, there is a key benefit to smaller classes that’s important to consider. There is more opportunity to receive personal attention from instructors that can greatly accelerate your learning curve.Again, instructors are the backbone of a martial arts school. The instructor consciously, or unconsciously, dictates the energy of the entire class.Here are some other things to look for:Does the instructor facilitate class with control and safety? (Notice if the students are enjoying themselves or seem uncomfortable and hesitant).
Is the instructor passionate and actively teaching or seemingly going through the motions and mechanically calling out commands?
Do the students seem inspired?A martial arts school provides the setting of a controlled environment where you’ll train to overcome future or potential challenges. In order to maximize results, good schools teach in a context that anticipates and matches the actual environment of those future and potential challenges.The classes must simulate the intended environment and must provide the necessary emotional stress in order to engrain instinctual trained responses.For example:If you’re seeking a combative style for self-defense, look for schools that safely facilitate reality based, high-stress scenario exercises.
If you’re training to fight in a ring or cage, look for a school that teaches you how to maneuver in the confines of a ring/cage under the same guidelines of the competition.
If you’re goal is to perform in tournaments, look for a school that can facilitate your training in a loud, distracting environment with large mirrors and an audience.
If your goal is to have fun getting in shape, look for classes that use good training equipment, have high energy, exciting exercises and a social atmospherePay attention to the flow of the class and notice how much of the class time is instructional. Some schools implement a lot of conditioning drills while others teach with a lot of verbal explanations. Notice if they have a lot of unnecessary “filler time”.It’s also a good idea to inquire about the school’s ranking system. Most traditional schools use some modification of a belt system, but what’s required to earn each belt can vary drastically from school to school.Is there a clear standard for aptitude and execution of techniques at each level? Or are the requirements based on time and the amount of classes taken?Many schools test for promotions after a set number of classes. This gives the perception of building capable intermediate and advanced students, which can be an important aspect of a school’s perceived value. Not to mention, belt promotions are a crucial source of income for some schools.Remember that there’s no official governing body in martial arts, so belt levels may not be valid outside of that school or organization.4. STUDENT RESULTS:The students provide tremendous insight as to the quality of instruction. You can often tell more about a school by the students’ results than anything else.The students are the products of the school’s training system and methodologies. If the advanced students don’t model your martial arts goals go find another school!When observing the students, pay attention to the ratio of beginner to advanced students. It’s a good sign if there are a lot of intermediate and advanced students. That means the school is able to retain their students, and usually equates to student satisfaction.Just as you probably don’t want to eat at a restaurant that’s always empty, be cautious of a school with a few students. What’s considered a small student base? Depending on the size of the facility and how long they’ve been in business, classes that have less than 10 students is a pretty strong sign that there’s something lacking in the school.Consider the characteristics and personalities of the students as well. It’s important that you are comfortable with your classmates cause you may be spending a lot of time with them.Are they the types of people you’d like to be around and train with?
Would you feel comfortable and safe training with them?
Are the students supportive of one another or are they highly competitive and trying to outdo each other?The student dynamic may also reveal how the instructor instills leadership and other life skills that you may wish to develop. Watch how the advanced students handle both challenges and successes.Take the initiative to speak to some of the students. Getting insight from existing students can make all the difference in your decision to join.5. CURRICULUM:Remember that a martial arts school can be evaluated in two parts, content and context. The curriculum and style of a school make up the content.Whether they call themselves a martial arts school, studio, academy, gym, or dojo, they are still businesses. They will promote themselves in creative ways to gain an edge over the competition. You can expect them to entice you with price incentives, boast their credentials, amenities and equipment, or make claims to get you results in the shortest amount of time possible.Don’t allow marketing tactics to distract you from determining if the school can actually support your training goals.Whatever a school claims to provide in your martial arts training, their students, classes and curriculum will give you a good indication of the school’s quality and true emphasis.The martial arts curriculum, (content), is made up of the techniques and material you will be learning at a school.The focus of your training must be supported by the curriculum and training methods.There are key points to look for in determining the quality of a curriculum. Begin by identifying the school’s emphasis. Take into consideration that when there is more focus on one aspect of martial arts, other areas are compromised to some degree.Forms and jump spinning kicks in the curriculum? You’ve most likely found a school with an artistic or traditional focus that may participate in tournaments. If this is what you’re after, the curriculum should consist of aesthetic techniques that have dynamic kicks and beautiful forms with and without weapons.
Are the techniques based on kickboxing and wrestling? A lot of sparring and no weapons in the curriculum? This is probably a school that focuses on one-on-one sport competition. Schools that build towards competition usually emphasize physical conditioning to reach peak performance.Although physical fitness may not be the primary goal in many styles, fitness is generally a by-product of training. You get in shape by default in martial arts practice.The majority of schools have a curriculum designed to provide a general overall perspective on fitness, sport competition and self-defense. For most people who are just beginning martial arts, a school’s curriculum and interpretation of martial concepts should be comprehensive enough to support you through many years of practice. If this is the case, start to look into other components of the school like their class dynamic.For those who have martial arts experience, or seeking a specific area of focus, determine if the school’s curriculum actually supports the emphasis you’re looking for.It’s not uncommon for a school’s true emphasis to be different from how they market themselves. Take note of the techniques in their curriculum and their applications.For example, let’s say your primary reason for martial arts training is purely for self-defense on the streets. You visit a school that claims to be proficient in teaching self-defense. Yet, they teach fixed stances and forms and only implement weapons training in advanced levels.This is a big red flag! This doesn’t mean it’s not a good school. It only reveals that their true emphasis is not truly combative.70% of assaults on the street involve some sort of weapon and over 90% of attacks go to the ground. Any school that claims to teach true self-defense while neglecting weapons training and ground fighting is just plain negligent.You should seek elsewhere if this is your focus. Modern combative styles will implement training in weapons and ground fighting right from the beginning.Training methods also implement high stress scenario drills with multiple attackers. You won’t find fancy acrobatics in the curriculum.Remember the old adage, “A jack of all trades is master of none.” Be cautious of a school that claims to deliver health and fitness AND teach you culture and philosophy AND turn you into a professional fighter AND prepare you for the streets AND promise personal or spiritual growth.6. STYLE:Martial arts can be compared to a huge tree with many branches or styles. All “styles” are based on the mechanics of the human body. Every style has strengths and weaknesses as they each focus on different aspects of the arts.The true measure of a martial art lies in the practitioner, not the style.Having a general understanding of the different types of styles and their focus will help you in achieving your goals. In martial arts there are hard styles and soft styles.Hard Styles focus on striking techniques where the body is used as a weapon for attacking and defending – force against force. Much of the training is external, based on physical conditioning for strength and agility.
Soft Styles focus on redirection and physical manipulation through leverage and positioning – using an opponent’s force against him. There is often more focus on internal training, training of the mind as well as developing the body’s sensitivity to energy.
Blended Styles incorporate concepts from both hard and soft styles in a complimentary method, flowing and transitioning from hard to soft and vice versa.Depending on the area of focus, each style differs in philosophy and training methods. Applications obviously differ as well.Among styles the emphasis of training will primarily focus on one of the following areas:Artistic Expression – Schools with an artistic focus emphasize creative physical expression – the “art” aspect of “martial arts”. Artistic styles implement forms or choreographed techniques in training. They typically have more aesthetic beauty, as movements are fluid and graceful like a gymnast or dancer.Tradition – Traditional styles are rooted with Eastern culture and philosophy. Traditional schools implement both external and internal training for the development of the mind-body-spirit relationship. With this emphasis, martial arts practice serves as lessons for life skills. Practice may also encompass elements of spiritualism.Competition – Competitive styles generally focus on the sports aspect of martial arts. Competitions can range by category including weight class, level of experience, geographic region and specific style. The emphasis is on winning recognition such as rankings, awards, and trophies that is based on a fixed set of rules.Combat – Combative styles focus on street defense or military application, including law enforcement. It’s the “martial” part of “martial arts”. The emphasis is on practical application over aesthetic form or physical conditioning. Training includes weapons and reality based scenario exercises.Fitness – Schools that focus on fitness use martial arts as a catalyst for holistic health. Classes usually consist of fun, energetic physical exercises based on martial arts techniques. Classes will typically implement a broad and general combination of styles and areas of focus.There are also Modern Styles, which are evolved blended styles that are the result of further researched and developed methodologies. Their focus can be artistic, competitive, combative, or emphasize physical fitness.While it may be a good idea to blend styles, it can be counter productive to combine your area of focus. Be clear on which area you wish to predominantly focus on.Again, there’s no right or wrong style. It’s a matter of personal goals and preference.7. FACILITY:The first thing to consider is the school’s location in relation to your home or workplace.Creating a new habit can be challenging, so convenience plays a big role in supporting consistency. You may be commuting several times a week for training, so make sure the facility is close enough so it doesn’t become an excuse for you not to go.Martial arts schools come in many forms. They can be part of a franchise, belong to an organization, or be a one man show run by a single instructor. They may resemble a fitness gym, yoga studio, gymnasium or warehouse.Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and don’t judge a martial arts school by it’s facility.Although you can’t measure the quality of a school by the facility alone, it does reveal a lot about the owners mindset, aptitude, emphasis of the style and curriculum, as well as the school’s level of professionalism.The degree of cleanliness may reflect the standard of service. You can get a good idea of the school’s style and emphasis by the school’s design.A school should have the amenities and equipment that support the context of it’s curriculum, such as a cage or ring for MMA or kickboxing, proper mats for Jiu Jitsu, etc.Consider what the school puts money into and determine if it actually adds value to your training.Also notice the subtle details of the facility that may effect on your training. Does the air stink? Does the lighting or colors of the facility effect your energy and mood? How’s the parking? Is it noisy?Remember, expensive equipment, and other luxuries equals higher tuition fees. Be aware of the costs of extra rooms and large offices that don’t directly add value to your training.With a good instructor and some basic equipment you can practice anywhere!8.SERVICE:Some schools have great sales and marketing techniques to get you to join. But, it’s the quality of ongoing customer service that really counts.

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Choosing a school that’s skilled in customer service will potentially save you from a lot of unnecessary headache. Poor customer service can ruin your martial arts experience at any level.Make sure that there are open lines of communication and that staff members are readily accessible to answer questions to your satisfaction.You may be with a school for many months or even years. Choose a school that cares enough to build a relationship with you.Know how to distinguish sales techniques from service.As mentioned, some schools are great at getting you in the door with attractive features and promotions. The question is, once you have signed up are you just another enrollment?A good comparison is the large franchised fitness gyms. Their amenities, equipment and low monthly fees are hard to pass up. However, once you join there’s virtually no service whatsoever. There are too many people who have gym memberships and don’t use them. They already have your financial commitment – a contract. Rest assured their service will pick up when it’s time for renewal. But is that service or just another sales technique?The level of transparency is the greatest measure of a school’s integrity. It’s a reflection of their standards of service.Does the school fully disclose all the costs involved in your training? Some schools have additional fees, like mandatory programs or association fees, that they don’t mention until you reach a certain point in your training.
When you have questions, do you get a clear answer right away or do you get an evasive response? The response you get is a good sign of what kind of service you can expect.
Many schools require you to sign a contract in order to take classes. Some schools offer a trial period where you can pay for a number of classes before you agree to a contract. A contract is simply a written agreement between you and the school, and it can always be negotiated. They should be willing to explain the details of the contract to your full understanding and agree to make any changes you feel are important, as long as it’s mutually beneficial.9. Price and Fees:How important is price to you? For many people, it’s the only real limiting factor.Since most people don’t know how to compare value to price, martial arts schools generally don’t advertise their prices – unless they’re promotional.Be honest. Before you read this guide, what’s one of the first thing you wanted to know about a martial arts school?Fees are usually priced by:Term period – specified time period with flexibility of the amount of classes taken, usually monthly or yearly
Number of classes – specified amount of classes taken
Combination of term and number of classes – usually a monthly fee based on the number of classes taken per week
Specific Programs – packaged programs such as Black Belt Clubs, Instructor Programs, Certification Programs, Seminars, etc.Tuition can range anywhere from $50 per month to $500 per month, depending on the school. Nowadays, the average tuition is about $150 per month for 2-3 classes per week.Tuition isn’t the only cost to consider. You will eventually be investing in training equipment, to some extent. Keep in mind that some styles require more equipment.While price is important, a common mistake is to compare price without comparing value.Consider the previous steps and the benefits before you focus on price. This way you can place some sort of dollar value on each component of a school and then shop around.Think of the convenience of schedule and location, the suitability of teaching style, class dynamic and level of instruction in relation to your personality and goals – can you put a price on that?With the knowledge you gained by reading this guide, you can make an educated choice in “how to invest” in your training instead of “being sold” a membership.Most schools require annual contracts. The contract should clearly explain the details of your membership. Generally, schools don’t offer any refunds on tuition.In most cases, a school will agree to make reasonable changes to the contract if you ask them.If you’re committed to your practice and have found a school following this guide, signing a contract is usually not an issue. However, knowing potential costs and understanding school policies will help you negotiate any changes, if necessary. What you’re really after is “peace of mind”, isn’t it?A contract should be mutually beneficial, so you want to insure that the contract also benefits you. This can mean discounted rates, as an example. A contract is also an incentive for you to get your money’s worth by coming to class regularly.Ask about:Price incentives for paying in full
Discounts for family members
Training equipment – and if they have to be purchased directly from the school
Belt testing fees
Any federation or association member fees
Cost for programs such as Black Belt Clubs and any other mandatory programs
Membership freezes in case of travel, injury, or maternity
Policy for relocation or moving
Fees for early cancellationIt’s also a good idea to ask whether the billing is managed directly by the school or if they use a billing company. Many schools use a billing company to help manage your tuition payments.If the school out-sources their billing, you will be dealing with the billing company for the payment of your tuition fees. The billing company will generally only contact you if you are late on your payment. If you ever have to deal with the billing company you can expect the type of service you get from a collection agency. They can also make negative reports on your credit.A high-quality school has the confidence to earn your business without requiring a contract. But they are rare. These schools are clear about their role. They focus on their core responsibility of providing quality instruction and guidance in your martial arts practice. Schools of this caliber don’t need to use creative sales and marketing techniques. Their business is built by their reputation, word-of-mouth.10. INSTINCT:Pay attention to your intuition when visiting a school. While going through the 10 steps outlined in this guide, you’ll instinctively know when you’ve found the right school.How long the school has been in business? Are they stable?
Are you confident in the instructor?
Do you like the instructor’s teaching style and personality?
Are the students friendly?
Did you have fun? Did you feel inspired?Ultimately, we make decisions based on our emotions and we justify them with logic. Your decision should be instant and definite. If you find yourself thinking too much or having to convince yourself, something is out of whack. Go back to step 1 or keep looking.

Outdoor Activities For the Family

August 23, 2016

Spending time outdoors enjoying family activities with your children is one of the best ways to pass a day. There are fun family outdoor activities that you can take part in year round. Doing things with your children in this way offers unique opportunities to communicate and reconnect while also having fun.Planning fun family outdoor activities takes a little preparation. It’s best to talk with your family and find out which activities they would enjoy, then plan outings accordingly. Medical conditions have to be a consideration also. A child with allergies probably won’t enjoy a walk in the woods as much as the rest of the family. You have to take everything into account so the whole family enjoys the activity.

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There are quite a few outdoor activities to choose from. Here are some you might want to consider:o Boating: If you do have a family member with allergies, you might consider boating as an outdoor family activity. With boating you don’t have tree and flower allergens to deal with.o Hiking: Going for a hike is a great outdoor activity for the whole family. You can take traditional hikes in the woods of your local state parks, go to military parks and use the hike as an educational tool, or even go to botanical gardens and caves for day hikes. Hiking is an activity that you can partake in most any time of the year if your state doesn’t have bad winters. Just make sure you and your children have the appropriate clothing and gear.o Swimming: A day spent swimming at the lake is probably the ultimate fun family outdoor activity. Children love splashing around in the water, and going to the lake is usually a fairly inexpensive activity which is good for your wallet.o Fishing: Get the kids and the fishing gear together and head out to catch the big one. Fishing is a sport that everyone can enjoy. They even have pink fishing poles for little girls these days to make them more interested in the activity. Fishing offers great opportunities for reconnecting for the whole family. Sitting on the creek bank, or in the boat, waiting for the fish to bite, is the perfect time to ask about each other’s day.

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o Skiing: During the winter months the family can go skiing together. Everyone can start out on the bunny slopes together while they learn the ropes. Being on top of the mountain and looking out at the vast horizon and beauty surrounding you is one of the best feelings in the world.Those are just a few ideas to get you started. There are numerous outdoor activities that families can enjoy. Being together is the most important thing. Spending time doing fun family outdoor activities will improve relationships, develop bonds that last a lifetime, and keep everyone active. Make outdoor family activities a part of your life.

How to Choose the Right Accounting Audit Software for Your Business

September 29, 2016

Audit professional should take his time and review available software solutions solutions on the market. Comparison, research helps, but I what I would suggest is checking testimonial section of each software provider homepages. Check if there are big companies listed among clients, what sort of services they provide. That helps to understand if solution you are willing to buy is worth it.Another great strategy is before you decide what tools to buy, or should you purchase new version of your current software, go to LinkedIn. Yes it is professional social community, where business representatives communicate with each other, share their thoughts, opinions and ideas. But, have you heard how powerful are GROUPS there. Probably not, people are not usually sharing that. In Linked in groups you can find excellent professionals that may really help you with advice or feedback regarding software you are interested in or searching for. Simply find a group for accountants, auditors or network administrators and Post a question about what tools people are using or ask to give you a feedback on any specific audit software product. I bet, in the next 3 hours, you will receive the most professional recommendations that will help you to save your budget and decide the most functional software tools.

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Another great way to get professional advice and recommendation is CPA forums. You probably heard about these communities, simply Google it and you ll find a lot of them in the first 10 search results. Usually they all have threads regarding audit software. Post a new thread asking for advice or follow the discussion. Usually these communities are small, but you will not find beginners there, it’s highly professional audience that is ready to help.

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By following these simple rules you will not waste money and time on useless audit software that don’t have enough functionality to keep your work efficient.

The Difference Between SEO and SEM

October 4, 2016

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. This is how a website purposefully designs it content, including their titles, content and meta tags, for the sole purpose of getting the attention of search engines like Google, Yahoo and the lesser known Bing. What SEO wants to achieve is an organic or natural flow of traffic to their websites that is not bought or paid for like we do when we pay for advertising. A search engine result is free.SEM is an acronym for Search Engine Marketing. It is a concept often associated with SEO, sometimes even confused with SEO. They have some goals in purpose but are very different in technique. SEM has come about because large search engine websites like Google have offered fees to show case ads on the top of their page listing. These are pay per click or PPC ad campaigns. SEM is closer to traditional advertising in that you pay for the direct exposure you are receiving. SEM has made it possible to be a website with high visitor content just because they pay more to be advertised and promoted by Google. Both SEM and SEO are sets of strategies to bring in visitors. Except you pay up front for SEM, it is a direct advertising strategy. While with SEO, you look for indirect ways to get noticed.Optimizing a website for search engines, will mean evaluating particular keywords and keyword phrases the internet users may type into search engines to look for service and products that an ecommerce based business may offer. The grit of SEO is editing website content with keywords. Including keywords and keyword phrases in tags and meta tags. Even links and HTML is edited to suit SEO. HTML and links are worked out in a way to get the website user to move a certain way within your website. Ideally, the website visitor is presented with links around the website, going from page to page to read information they are interested in. This design makes it so the website user does not leave the website immediately.

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SEO works best when the SEO professional does not try to find underhanded ways to cheat the search engine system. Such tricks will get a website flagged by the search engines, since they use practices that are discouraged. Even if the website does rise to prominence for a moment on the Google rankings, reading content over peppered with keywords will get the website pulled down even faster. SEO tricks like link farming, keyword abuse and page cloaking get picked up by the search engine algorithms and they push the website to the top of search results. You can trick the machine. But after people start reading your content, it becomes apparent that the website is a fraud.The best way to climb to the top is by following ethical SEO guidelines. Write good content with proper technical guidelines. You can learn to do this yourself. You can also hire a writing service who will do this for your. But if you want to really get out there the fast way, consider SEM. A Pay Per Click ad campaign means that you only get charged for clicks on the link to your website. You know exactly what you are getting for your money.Search Engine Marketing is guaranteed promotion for any business. Pay per click is one for few guaranteed strategies for success in attract the coveted targeted consumer. But you can and you should use both SEO and SEM at the same time. Both are invaluable resources. Here is a list of benefits that will be available to your website with the help of SEM:1. When somebody types in a query into a search engine, the search engine will present them only ads and banners in the same industry or interest of the query.
2. Pay Per Click is great for corporate awareness, aside from online sales. It increases the value of the brand name.
3. Pay per clicks and sponsored links are transparent. You know what your money is paying for, as presented by the numbers.
4. Keeping well written and informative landing pages will lead readers to explore your website and see what else is available.
5. You only pay for the traffic volume that the pay per click ad has brought in. And this traffic is select, meaning they have interest in your service or product.

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In a way SEO and SEM are the same concepts wrapped in different presentations. SEO will last longer because it is content based. You do not pay for it every time it shows up in search engine results. If the competition is low, your website will be highly ranked for a very long time. SEM operates with the same traffic volume objective buy in a different way using paid Ads, banners, sponsors and Pay per click services. It brings in traffic too over a shorter period of time, unless you can keep payments indefinite. But the websites that gain the most use both SEO and SEM aggressively.1. They get more traffic that increases exponentially if they keep up content.
2. They keep up with rankings over a long period of time.
3. They keep it innovative and fresh, so loyal visitors have something new to see and come back to visit again.
4. Content keeps up with relevance to search engine guidelines.
5. They cultivate repeat visitors who also become repeat customers.Being SEO ready means your website is easy to access, user friendly, and easy to navigate for the average user. There are gimmicks, games, polls, promos to entertain the internet user and keep them coming back. This attracts visitors and other websites to link to your own website.

Politics And Politicians

August 20, 2016

I hate politics and politicians! What have they done for you lately?We need balance – not extremes. Our government is supposed to represent its citizens and “provide for the common good” – not focus on special interest groups that try to influence legislation and regulations that support their unique agenda. Libertarians have a lot of good points – such as smaller government – but not their extreme view of gun and drug “freedoms”. Progressives also have some good points – such as social “protections” – but not the extreme views on abortion and gay “rights.” Politicians often pay attention to irrelevant issues. Like when we are at war (2 or 3!) and have debt that our kids and grandkids will never be able to pay off, and 10% unemployment, etc., etc. What do they focus on? Trivial stuff – like when Congress considered banning shopping bags that are purchased to save plastic and paper bags – that were found to have some lead in them. Did anyone ever ask Congress to do something about the lead in the solder in your copper water pipes?But we have a kind of system of government that, in the long term, seems to work. Some things are bad and some are good – about the “greatest democracy in the world.” Winston Churchill once said “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The U.S. is considered by many to have an ideal model of democracy, but it is imperfect and democracy itself has its own inherent problems and limitations. Some things are necessary – like Defense, Environment, Health and Safety, Civil Rights, etc. – which we need to do right at the national level because they can’t be done effectively at the individual or state level. The U.S. federal government’s organization and processes are archaic and inefficient – but sometimes it seems to work – for example, the “Stimulus Package/Bill” in 2009 actually did help the country recover from a serious recession (despite some its shortcomings and problems). Others don’t seem to work well or belong at the national level – like the unbelievably complex, convoluted and inequitable tax code (more on that separately).There are lots of examples of stupid, unproductive, and irrelevant political actions. Here are just a few of my favorites:• Earmarks – those projects for specific congressional districts or states that are funded by tacking them onto unrelated congressional bills in exchange for votes – so called “pork barrel.” So, if you look at a major funding bill – that may be essential, such as the Defense Department budget – you will find hundreds of earmarks attached to it to fund a lot of strange, arcane, and sometimes useless projects (like the famous “bridge to nowhere” or local airports with almost no passengers, etc.). These projects may bring some federal money back to their districts, but they are in many, if not most cases, funding pet projects of political contributors. The individual requests in many cases are relatively small (at least by Washington standards) – perhaps a few $ million – but there are thousands of them every year. Collectively they can amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. And without a line item veto by Congress or the President, these projects get funded automatically when the major bill passes. How’s that for representative government spending your money?

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• Political Priorities – The Congress and the President are often involved in the absurdities and travesties of what they view as political priorities – at our expense. For example, pursuing a constitutional amendment against gay marriage while passing a law exempting gun manufacturers and dealers from all potential liabilities – including illegal sales to criminals! That’s just screwed up!! Who thinks up this stuff – and who do they think they are representing?• Gerrymandering – Our elected Congress works very hard to get re-elected – on our dime. From Wikipedia: “Gerrymandering is a practice of political corruption that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected, and neutral districts.” With the manipulation of election districts, it is possible for minority parties to win a majority of districts in an election – or neutralize a strong district of a majority party. This is a process that is facilitated by the mandated re-assessment of congressional representation after every 10 year census – and it can neutralize your vote! There are no uniform electoral districts. Your representatives design the election districts to protect incumbents. For example:o “In 2004, not one of California’s 173 state legislative and federal congressional seats changed party-hands.”
o “No House member from Tennessee ever lost a bid for re-election during 1980-2005.”Other developed countries have established processes for “defining constituency boundaries” by objective third-party organizations. But politics in the U.S. is not that progressive – so much for “one person, one vote.”• Subsidies – Our government, which we pay for, thanks to our politicians, provides substantial subsidies to some very profitable industries – at our expense. Here are a couple of examples:Agriculture – Agriculture is obviously very important to an economy, so what is wrong with federal programs to support it? First, a few facts (from The Cato Institute): “The U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes between $10 billion and $30 billion in cash subsidies to farmers and owners of farmland each year… More than 800,000 farmers and landowners receive subsidies, but the payments are heavily tilted toward the largest producers… Although policymakers love to discuss the plight of the small farmer, the bulk of federal farm subsidies goes to the largest farms. For example, the largest 10 percent of recipients have received 72 percent of all subsidy payments in recent years. Numerous large corporations and even some wealthy celebrities receive farm subsidies because they are the owners of farmland… In 2008, Congress overrode a presidential veto to enact farm legislation that extended existing supports and created new subsidy programs… The 2008 farm bill added a new sugar-to-ethanol program under which the government buys excess imported sugar that might put downward pressure on inflated domestic sugar prices. The program defends domestic sugar growers’ 85 percent of the U.S. sugar market, and it provides for the government to sell excess sugar, at a loss if need be, to ethanol producers… Since 2000 the USDA has paid $1.3 billion in farm subsidies to people who own land that is no longer used for farming.” Agricultural subsidies in the U.S. comprise 11% of farm production.So, why are subsidies to farmers bad? Simply, because they don’t achieve the intended results. Most of the money goes to large, profitable farms and corporations. They can upset the natural balance between supply and demand – by facilitating over-production – which can unrealistically affect the prices of food commodities and farm land. “Perhaps the biggest scandal with regard to farm subsidies is that congressional agriculture committees are loaded with members who are active farmers and farmland owners. Those members have a direct financial stake whenever Congress votes to increase subsidies, which is an obvious conflict of interest.”Other countries have experimented with eliminating agricultural subsidies – with some success. New Zealand is one example. “New Zealand’s farmers have cut costs, diversified their land use, sought nonfarm income, and developed niche markets such as kiwifruit… New Zealand farm productivity, profitability, and output have soared since the reforms.”Oil – The largest, most profitable industry in the U.S. – and worldwide – receives federal subsidies! Why?? Technically they are tax breaks, but only because of the way our Congress writes the rules and defines the terms. The subsidies/tax breaks to the U.S. oil industry amounts to about $4 billion each year. This includes a “depletion allowance” that treats oil reserves as capital equipment – in addition to very favorable terms for writing off exploration costs. But the major oil companies have been making more than 10 times that in profits each year. Do they really need incentives to explore for oil – when the world market price for oil has been in the neighborhood of 3-5 times the cost of production for decades? And what is the attitude of our politicians? – “we’re only talking about four billion dollars.”!!• Social Security – One of my pet peeves has been the most sacred of all federal government programs. For over 70 years, Social Security has been “an insurance program for everyone”. But up until 1984, government employees, including Members of Congress, did not pay into the Social Security program – when all of us “citizens” were required to by law. The Social Security program, which has been going broke for decades, was good enough for “the people”, but not for the government employees and politicians who are supposed to be serving them. So now it is an example of how a political abuse can be fixed. However, the benefits for federal employees are still very attractive – and not typical of industry jobs. In addition to now participating in Social Security, federal employees have a defined benefit pension plan (which no longer exists in most of industry today) as well as a “Thrift Savings Plan” – the equivalent of a 401K plan – with up to a 5% match. Members of Congress are eligible for full pension at age 62 after only five years of service – and they are eligible at age 50 if they’ve served 20 years. So our “public servants” have more rewarding benefits than most taxpayers receive.

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And there is more – much more!!So, how can the “greatest country in the world” be so screwed up (at least at times)? I blame it on the politicians and the uninformed/uninterested electorate. Other countries must just be worse. Part of the problem is that the public is often not well informed – or just doesn’t care. How do you communicate important political issues so that the general public really understands – the complete facts and truth? Most news and views are at too high a level (e.g., small “sound bites” – or talk show opinions) so that they leave either a limited or wrong impression. For example, issues like abortion and stem cell research are highly controversial and emotional and don’t really get covered objectively.Is there a solution? It would be nice if we could focus on real/important issues and attract intelligent, sincere people into politics. What kinds of people want to run for political office? – ego-centrics, power hungry, self promotional – are these the type of people we want to represent us?? Why would you trust a politician with your life and welfare? But that is what we have – at least in many cases. And what are the financial implications? How can really good political leaders afford to be politicians? Even with the elevated salaries and benefits for politicians (at least at the Congressional level), the cost of the life style in Washington, DC is far too expensive to be covered by federal payments. So, they must either be independently wealthy – or seek an opportunity to capitalize on their political position – either during or after their term in office. What would make a constituent think that their representative is working in their best interest?
I don’t have a solution. That’s why I hate politics and politicians.All Rights Reserved © 2011 Henry P. Mitchell

Mobile Computing

September 24, 2016

Mobile computing refers to the use of any kind of computer in a moving environment. The motion may be of the device itself, as in laptops, palmtops, wearable computers, and mobile phones; or it may refer to the dynamics of the computing process, as in digital cameras, podcasters and MP3 players. Mobile computing devices generally use wireless technologies such as LAN, Wi-Fi, GPRS and the more recently introduced MAN.Mobile computing can be broadly classified into two categories – portable computing and mobility computing. Portable computing actually refers to wired communication. Portable devices themselves are movable, but in order to access them one needs to connect them to a network port. That means, portable computing devices can be carried to wherever there is a network port available. Mobility computing is also called simply mobile computing nowadays. This is true wireless communication. Not only are the devices movable, but they can also be accessed from almost anywhere. Today, portable computing is almost on the verge of extinction; mobile computing has made its foray into almost every aspect of human life.

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The first usage of mobile computing devices was perhaps in vehicles. Speedometers were among the first devices to get computerized. Almost every modern vehicle has several mobile computing devices under its dashboard. Cell phones are another rampant proliferation of mobile computing today. Every single cell phone is a computer in its own right. With the advent of wireless technologies, it is also possible to access the Internet through cell phones. Blue tooth has brought cell phone users closer than ever before and has facilitated data transfer within a stipulated area. Another brilliant advancement in the field of wireless technologies is the Metropolitan Area Network, or MAN, which will allow vehicles and cell phones to remain in communication with each other forming a network probably much vaster than the internet.Today, mobile computing is a boon to people on the move. It can be used for checking mails while in transit and even carry out transactions and businesses. Services like SMS (Short Messaging Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) are targeted towards the younger generation to remain in contact with their colleagues and friends. During sports events, mobile networks keep users informed of the goings-on.

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However, critics are concerned with the intrusion of privacy that mobile computing creates. Several members of the younger generation are turning into ‘gizmo freaks’ and becoming almost addicted to their mobile computing devices like watches and cell phones. Some of these devices which work on infrared technologies can also pose potential health risks.Yet, mobile computing has become an indispensable extension of technology today. It is definitely here to stay.

Flavor Pairings: Why Grow Herbs For Cooking, Cocktails, And Culinary Crafts

September 10, 2016

I remember my first herb class on growing herbs for culinary and creative crafts. I left that annual herb sale with young fragrant plants, with just enough knowledge to be dangerous wielding a trowel, and a perpetual enthusiasm that all contributed to help me form my first edible garden oasis.After a trip to Home Depot, I was armed with shiny silver tools, bags of potting soil to house my foliage friends, fertilizer to make them grow, and the inner drive to begin digging my way to becoming a green thumb farmer girl!Now, 20 years later, it’s hard to imagine my kitchen without a bunch of basil on the counter, herbs drying on racks, and jars of dried oregano and chocolate mint within easy reach at each meal. From summer’s juicy ripe berries, peaches, and tomatoes to fall’s vibrant harvest of squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, onto holiday turkey and ham feasts, and into hearty winter stews and casseroles, herbs enhance every season’s fare!

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I’m still thrilled to witness the miracle of propagation each time with every plant. I shelter them in stormy weather, talk to them while watering, trim their leaves, and weed their beds. In return, I’m rewarded with savory, spicy, and fruity aromas, a relaxing hobby, a healthy method of adding flavor to food and cocktails that lasts all year long, and great natural photography backgrounds!Do you have herbs and are looking for ideas on how to use them? Do you see those little plastic packets of greenery hanging in the grocery store but have no clue what to do with them? Maybe you want to expand your culinary horizons and explore your green thumb capabilities? Many people are lured into using fresh herbs through the culinary route.This is the first in a series of articles on growing herbs for cooking, cocktails, and culinary crafts. Plus tips on pairing all kinds of flavors, from custom infused oils and balsamic vinegars to herbs, spirits, sweet and savory dishes. When you marry the right foods together into a succulent harmonious balance, the results are amazing and herbs contribute such character to your cuisine.This isn’t about becoming a food snob or being tethered to rules, except for this one; seasoning is vital in cooking and herbs go hand in hand with that philosophy. I’ll offer general guidelines along with novel combinations I’ve discovered but there’s no one taste fits all. It’s thrilling to develop original recipes and tweak the traditional dishes we savor. Play with new ingredients. It’s great fun to use homegrown edibles but if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, buy a few freshly packaged herbs from the store and practice cooking with them.Be daring with oil and vinegar selections. There’s a wonderful store called Savor The Olive in Virginia Beach that is a tasting room full of unique fused and infused oils and light and dark balsamic vinegars. If you have one of those in your area as well as wine tastings, take advantage of going for a visit. Experiment, so that your sense of taste gets stronger and more acute and it will tell you how much to use.

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Herbs add to the enjoyment of cooking and help you personalize what you’ve prepared. Being a chef is an art. Each person has a unique touch and flavor palate. The kitchen is your studio, the plate your blank canvas. Let instinct and imagination guide you. Herbs are one of the tools in your aromatic arsenal that enable you to present a mouthwatering masterpiece.Hope you’ll join me on a tasting tour of my fertile little deck farm as we pinch and smell the herbs, swirl and taste the wine, envision what main course will be the star of the plate, and tempt your taste buds with food that’s appealing to the eye and tongue.

Bioware is an Example to Other Game Companies

September 27, 2016

Bioware is a rare breed in the gaming industry today. Even being owned by EA has not taken away their ability to craft grand tales and immerse the player in a universe so vast it takes 40+ hours and multiple play through’s to uncover all the content.I believe that Bioware serves as an example to other gaming companies about how to develop great games. If you look at Bioware’s line-up throughout the years they have a number of outstanding gaming properties. Some like KOTR (Knights of the Old Republic) and Mass Effect are considered two of the best RPG’s of all time.

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Even though there are complaints about DragonAge because of the graphics and or game play, it still has gotten fan approval and strong reviews. It’s because Bioware tells a story like no one else on the gaming industry today. They make you care about the characters, and they let you play out the story as good or bad, or anywhere in between. Their games always give you a reason for multiple play through’s, and there is always new stuff to uncover.Bioware does not spend time on bad games or producing mediocre entertainment. They listen to the gaming community, and they take the time to produce quality. Their PC games come with a tool kit so the community can change or enhance the game, which means their PC games a lot of re-playability.

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Other companies need to play games like Mass Effect 1 & 2 so they can understand what a quality game is about. As gamers we want to play games that are most importantly fun. Bioware understands this and that is why their games rate so highly over the years.Thanks Bioware, you set a strong example to follow.

The 7 Pillars of Branding

September 13, 2016

Although the question of branding has always been essential part of marketing and has been approached with multi-dimension models, sometimes these studies have been made without systematic approach or with full of redundancy or ad-hoc views. Unlike marketing which has the widely-known and usable, practical 7P-model, branding still misses such a sort of basic structure which makes the skeleton of all branding story.Here I am making an outline of such a simplified model to help people in successfully designing brands and also to better understanding the already existing ones. I collected 7 layers of the branding with 7 different tasks to be completed in everyday actions. I hope this can be useful for the readers, too.Right before entering this syllabus, we need to define what brand and branding is: in our view brand is a vision that is related to a specific company, product or any specific entity which lives in people and materializes to them. Branding is the art of deliberate control over the whole process.First pillar: Publicly knownA brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.Task 1: design and make your publicityHowever, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories aroundThe discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

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Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.Task 2: define and drive brand storiesNotwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative formIn real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand powerMost times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.Fourth pillar: Unique propositionThe history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiationsThe unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.Fifth pillar: ValueWhen we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.Task 5: define and carry brand valuesThe value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

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Sixth pillar: personal relationAll the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.Task 6: turn personal relation to actionAs a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.Seventh pillar: Exposure to timeWe have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over timeBrands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

Benefitting Health With a PhD in Health Education

October 19, 2016

Imagine this real case scenario: In Africa, many people die daily due to malaria. This can be avoided by the use of mosquito netting, which protects the malaria-carrying mosquitoes from biting them. However, people are still ignorant and uneducated about how these nets can save their lives, and go on living without them.Now, picture this: If the people in Africa were educated from young about the dangers of these deadly insects, they would take precautions to save themselves. If, with that knowledge, they also knew that mosquito netting can reduce the number of incidences, many would be alive today.

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As the examples given, the education of living healthily is extremely important. Even without such an extreme case, health education helps us maintain a healthy life. Health education refers to learning about how health can be promoted, restored, and maintained. ‘Health’ does not only refer to the physiological aspect; it also includes the psychological and spiritual aspects.A profession in this field is where one educates others about health and wellness. Being in this profession demands a big heart and dedication towards helping others live a good life. While many might come in as volunteers, having a PhD equips you with the proper knowledge and credentials to educate others on health and wellness. You will also be able to conduct researches, formulate, implement, and evaluate health interventions, one like the mosquito netting example. Of course, this would mean that you would continuously be monitoring and correcting interventions so that society will be more aware of their health, which on the long-term is beneficial to our future grandchildren as they would have known how to live healthily.

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Lastly, with a PhD in Health Education, you are also able to advance your career in the field of health education. This field is never outdated as our society is constantly seeking methods to improve their lives and well being. At the same time, you are also able to discover ways to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health.