When It Comes To School Reopening, “There’s An App For That”

When It Comes To School Reopening, “There’s An App For That”

With the incidence of new COVID-19 cases growing by the day, healthcare stakeholders are continuing to search for tools and medications to help stem the tide. We have seen the digital health community release a slew of new tools aiming to monitor the spread of the disease and facilitate better treatment. And it sounds as if there’s still more to come, as tech giants Facebook, Amazon and Google sat down with the World Health Organization (WHO) to talk about their role in combating the spread of disease, as well as misinformation. 

As of this morning there were over 4.8 million laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. The medical community has rushed to search for solutions to the spread of the disease with a big push for vaccine and medicine research. 

In lieu of a vaccine or therapy for COVID-19, the idea is to provide evidence-based guidance to businesses and schools that otherwise don’t know how to go about developing a return-to-work plan. In the absence of clear leadership here or clear guidance from the government, a lot of employers and educators feel like they’re having to play armchair epidemiologist — and very few employers or teachers are really positioned to do that.

Technology has a history of helping the medical industry track and treat viruses. Among more recent examples is flu tracking. In 2018 the US experienced a particularly severe flu season. During this time aggregated user data collected through Kinsa’s smart connected thermometers indicated illness spikes across the country.

Even more recently, a Scripps Research Translational Institute study published in The Lancet Digital Health found that resting-heart-rate and sleep-duration data collected from Fitbit devices could help inform timely and accurate models of population-level influenza trends.

And now, as schools grapple with how to safely reopen this fall, DrOwl is offering their groundbreaking new platform to schools for free. Neither students nor teachers are likely to return to school if they fear infection, so there needs to be some way to separate the sick from the. DrOwl’s technology is helping schools make their activities safer for staff, students, and guests, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health screening and contact tracing are a large part of reducing the potential spread of COVID-19 in schools. DrOwl does both of these things.

As a technology company, we are thrilled to use our skills and expertise to help during this crisis.  We understand the importance of a solid screening process and that it is one of the things that is helping get us get back to school in a safe, well-thought manner,” said Arvind Raichur, CEO, and Co-Founder of DrOwl. “Our screening tool is a game-changer for schools, businesses, and so many other organizations throughout the world.”

The digital tools go far beyond the infrared thermometers and temperature checks that have dominated the conversation around safely reopening. The new wave of software products allows employers and schools to direct their workers and students to get a Covid-19 test, clear them to return to work or school, track their symptoms, and trace the contacts of anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus.

The rollouts are forcing digital health vendors and their customers to navigate a range of unprecedented legal, cultural, and financial questions. Among them: What kinds of surveillance can employers require their workers to submit to — and will employees actually use these tools? Just as 9/11 led to more invasive security in airports and other vulnerable spaces, most indications are the pandemic will lead to more pervasive health surveillance abetted by new digital tools.

Civil liberties experts say it is important for any virus-tracking of employees or students to be voluntary. Otherwise, by linking identification technologies like facial recognition to employees’ or students’ health status, businesses and schools could usher in an authoritarian, China-like system of surveillance and social control at workplaces and schools.

We are accepting encroachments on privacy here that we would not normally accept,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “We need to be vigilant to make sure that they don’t outlast this crisis.” Four Republican senators said in May they would introduce a Covid-19 privacy bill to hold businesses accountable when they use people’s health information to fight the pandemic. Some of the reopening tools may raise questions about whether employers or schools are invading their workers’ or students’ privacy — and so digital health vendors pitching pandemic-related services are taking steps to try to steer clear of such concerns. As least for now, increased tracking and screening seem poised to become a fact of daily life for workers, students, and consumers.

We are Falling in Love with David Ruggerio

We are Falling in Love with David Ruggerio

Author and professional chef David Ruggerio is a man of many talents. He can cook and tell a love story like none other. What a dreamboat! We had to learn more about his newest novel Say Goodbye and Goodnight.

What makes your book a must-read? 

With COVID, protest, and quarantine, God knows we need a little loving. This book, Say Goodbye and Goodnight, will transport you back to the 1977-disco baby! -and experience a romance that will make your summer. 

If you could give your book to one celebrity, who would it be and why? 

That’s easy, John Travolta. Saturday Night Fever came out the same year, 1977, and he would appreciate the music, the scenes, and the great dialogue! 

If you could give your book to one singer/musician, who would it be and why? 

Another easy one! I have to offer up two singers. First, Frankie Vali. His theme song for Grease came out in 1978, and I can tell you, Brooklyn, partied to that music late into the night! Second would be Barry Gibb. The lone Gibb brother left; his music created instant romance in the air. During those hot nights on the beaches of Coney Island, the Bee Gees music echoed over to the shores of New Jersey. His lyrics told us all how to love a woman; his music is timeless. 

If your book was turned into a film/TV show, who would you tap to play the lead(s)? Why? 

Thomas Barbusca, he’s an Italian-American actor who has the look! He’s born in New Jersey (we’ll forgive him), he fits the part perfectly. 

Tell us something about you that no one else knows. 

As a youth, I had been arrested six times by the time I was ten. My uncle, Eddie Gavin, a great fighter in his own right, grabbed me by the collar. “Do you think you’re a tough guy?” He dragged me down to the gym, and a marriage made in heaven was created. I became a fighter. The gym I depict in the book is taken from my memories of Izzy Zerling’s Youth Center on Church Avenue in Brooklyn. In fact, the inspiration for the trainer in the book was also based on my trainer/manager- Izzy Zerling. Between amateur and pro, I fought 116 fights in the ring. I loved every moment of it! What three books are on your To Be Read list this summer? 

Full Count by David Cone (Huge Yankee fan) 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (love horror!) 

SPQR by Mary Beard (Huge history buff!) 

Recommend a book from another author. Why should people read this book? 

Sea Stories by Admiral William H McRaven. If you think life is tough and it presents obstacles, his memoir will put everything in perspective.   

Recommend a book that is similar to yours. If people like X, then they’ll love your book because…  

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. It is also a romance based in the County of Kings. There is something about growing up in the streets of Brooklyn. Both my book and Tóibín’s has one thing in common. If you’re not from there, you will experience the fun, the excitement, and the tragedies of the kids and their families who lived there during the most tumultuous period of the twentieth century. When you have to fight each and every day, you come to appreciate what life offers, and when romance presents itself, it is epic! 

What advice do you have for other writers? 

Your memories are a treasure trove just waiting to be put onto paper. Write from the heart. 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?  

I’m not going to give away the book, but there were tragic occurrences in my life that I base part of the book on,=. Those parts were tough for me to write; it was like reliving the event all over again. 

What is the core message you want to deliver to the world through your writing/books/stories? 

Never give up; no matter what life throws at you, keep moving forward. The presentence will overcome evil. 

Meat or Veggies?

 Meat 

The beach or the mountains?

 Ha! Love them both! 

Horseback riding or ATV? 

Horseback 

Cats or dogs? 

Dogs! 

Ninjas or pirates? 

Pirates 

Zombies or aliens? 

Neither 

Alice in Wonderland or Lord of the Flies? 

Lord of the Flies 

Coachella or Broadway? 

Broadway 

Selfie or group photo? 

Group photo 

Hardcover book or Kindle?

 Hardcover book! 

Chess or Candy Crush? 

Chess 

Paris or New York? 

Wow! Paris! 

Stephen King or Shakespeare? 

Stephen King, sacrilegious? 

Alfredo or Bolognese?

 Bolognese 

Order your copy of Goodbye and Goodnight on Amazon now!

5 Must-Have Online Gifts From HalyCard

5 Must-Have Online Gifts From HalyCard

With the world immersed in a pandemic, it’s never been more fitting to give your special someone an online gift card. More people are spending time online shopping or gaming than ever before, so nothing says I care better than a present they can use at any time. HalyCard is the perfect place to buy online gifts for your special someone, and they have items almost anyone would enjoy, gamers and grandmothers included.  Yet, since there’s so much to choose from, here are five must-have online gift ideas that will leave a lasting impression. 

1. iTunes 

One place media lovers go for content is iTunes. With media available to over 119 countries, iTunes is now the number one retailer of music in the world, topping Walmart back in 2015. This is why purchasing an iTunes card is the top pick for many HalyCard users. People can use their card for music, videos, or games, making it easy to please just about anyone.   

2. Netflix

You may not know this, but according to BroadbandSearch, Netflix has been around for a while. In fact, the company was founded in 1997, and netflix.com was launched just a year later. Now, with more than 100 million subscribers, Netflix has become the go-to spot for entertainment. In 2018 Netflix spent $12 billion in original content, making up about 80% of US views. Binge-watching TV series and movies have a whole new definition, and it makes sense that buying an online gift card from HalyCard for your sister, who is addicted to watching re-runs of Friends, is the perfect gift idea. 

3. PlayStation Network

PlayStation enchants gamers worldwide and has spent over 20 years building and shaping the gaming world you know today. The first PlayStation game to make this gaming system a world contender was Ridge Racer, which was released in 1994. The 3D graphics captivated users and made it an instant hit. In 2005 PlayStation 2 sold 100 million units making it the fastest-growing gaming console at that time. Now, millions of users are enthralled by PlayStation’s extraordinary technology and content. This makes buying a PlayStation Network card from HalyCard a great gift to keep in your back pocket and one your gaming friends will go nuts for. 

4. Google Play 

Google Play has more than 1 billion users and includes more than 1.5 million Android apps. According to Android Authority, in 2017, 70% of worldwide downloads came from Google Play. Worldwide, users spent over 17$ billion in Google Play apps, and since so many people choose this marketplace for content, buying an online gift card from HalyCard just makes sense. 

5. Amazon

Many of you may know that Amazon originally started in 1995 by selling books, but you may not know that they didn’t open their first storefront until 2015. Now, Amazon makes nearly $7 billion in revenue each year, selling practically anything. Amazon even launched their delivery service in 2016, and customers love their one to two-day shipping options. Amazon gift cards are the perfect addition to any present, which anyone can use at any time.  

Giving an online gift card is not only memorable but practical and functional. With a pandemic affecting people everywhere, online shopping and gaming are growing at unprecedented rates. At HalyCard, you can buy online cards that will suit most anyone. Some of their five must-have cards make sense and fit the new normal many people are learning to adjust to. It doesn’t matter if you’re more interested in media content or shipping products to your home, HalyCard is an excellent one-stop-shop for something that is bound to fit your needs.   

Author Ryan Southwick tells us ALL about his Fantasy Book

Author Ryan Southwick tells us ALL about his Fantasy Book

Angels in the Mist by author Ryan Southwick is unlike any Sci-Fi book you’ve read before. Southwick created a world of androids, cyborgs and ancient evil hellbent on distruction. We were captivated by this pageturner and wanted to learn more. Southwick gave us some insight into his personal thoughts:  

Q What makes your book series a must-read?

It provides a unique spin on several fantasy / science fiction concepts, and blends them in a seamless, realistic manner, with unforgettable characters, lots of action, and a protagonist worth rooting for. 

Q What is something interesting/cool/unbelievable you discovered while researching your book? 

When researching the PTSD portion, the thing that surprised me the most was how many people stepped forward and told me they’d had similar experiences to the protagonist—some frighteningly so. It’s forged bonds I wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

Q If you could give your book to one singer/musician, who would it be and why? 

Weezer. Love his music, and he seems quirky enough to dig it (assuming he likes reading…) 

Q Tell us something about you that no one else knows. 

I love quiche. (There, I said it. I’m a quiche eater!) 

Q Recommend a book that is similar to yours. If people like X, then they’ll love your book because… 

That’s tough; I wrote this book because I couldn’t find one like it. =] I just asked my wife the same question, who’s a voracious reader. She just shrugged and told me, “That’s what you get for writing something unique.” 

Q What advice do you have for other writers? 

Don’t be afraid of small publishers. They can fill in a lot of the blanks that may otherwise take a long time to do yourself, especially if you’re not technical. But definitely do your research before signing the contract (mine is great). 

Q Your genre of book is popular right now, why do you think that is? 

Urban fantasy is easy to absorb and identify with because it happens in today’s world. It takes concepts and settings familiar to everyone, which makes it accessible, then adds a splash of something extraordinary to spice it up. 

Q What book made you cry and why? 

Ryan Southwick

Leah Braun’s Sex on Fire. She tells her tale without pulling many punches. Not only did I feel terrible for her, imagining my daughters in that same situation was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Wonderful book, can’t recommend it enough. 

Q What is something you’ve always wanted to try but are afraid to. 

Hang gliding. Some of the best hang gliding in the entire country is in Pacifica—like 2 miles from my house—but jumping off a cliff with just a flimsy piece of cloth and at the mercy of the wind… *shudder* 

Rapid Fire Questions and Answers

Guardians of the Galaxy or XMen? 

Guardians of the Galaxy 

The beach or the mountains? 

Mountains 

Formal attire or yoga pants and a hoodie? 

Formal attire 

Kanye West or Taylor Swift? 

Taylor Swift 

Ninja or pirates? 

Ninja 

Marvel or DC?

 Marvel 

Zombies or aliens? 

Aliens 

Bugs Bunny or Micky Mouse? 

Bugs! 

The 1920s or the 2020s? 

1920s 

Chess or Candy Crush? 

Chess 

Invisibility or flying? 

Flying 

Hawaii or the Alps? 

Hawaii 

New York or Tokyo? 

Tokyo 

Hippies or hipsters? 

Hippies 

Thor or Hulk? 

Thor 

Stephen King or Shakespeare? 

Stephen King 

E.L. James or J.K. Rowling? 

J.K. Rowling 

Sparkling vampires or non-sparkling vampires? 

Non-sparkling. 

Saving the world or watching it burn? 

Saving the world 

Creative Stay-at-Home Date Ideas from the Relish App

Creative Stay-at-Home Date Ideas from the Relish App

Ideas for great dates can be hard to come by. Once you settle into a routine, though, your relationship can suffer. That’s so much more true when it’s hard to get out. Relish, a leading relationship guidance app, works with you and your partner to identify your challenges and growth opportunities and help you thrive as a couple. After discussing how you both felt about your week, Relish might suggest room-by-room activities like these:

Dating in the Backyard

Head outside for a Star Date. Bring light refreshments if you like, binoculars or telescope if you have them, and a star chart or app if you want to get specific. The stars are still out there, and when you see them with someone you care about, somehow this little ol’ world seems a whole lot bigger.

New Ideas for the Bedroom

Sensory deprivation date. Turn out the lights, close the curtains, and maybe put a small light in the corner. Spend time getting to know each other with the other four senses, relaxing and letting yourself be surprised at a new way of seeing your partner.

Bathroom Date Ideas

Bubbles or battleships, tub time together can be both peaceful and ridiculously fun. You choose, but either way you’ll come out squeaky clean with prune-y fingers. Not a bad outcome for a date.

Dining Room Date Encounters

Casino night! You can just use a deck of cards or get one of those cheap casino games from the toy store, but either way, do it informally like Vegas or dress up for Monte Carlo. Bet with kisses, and may the winner take all!

Kitchen Intimacy

The joy and trouble with cooking together is that you’re intimate, but you’ve got a project to do and you don’t eat if you don’t finish it. That can help you have fun, get silly, or get intensely creative and produce a masterpiece. Will one of you be a Gordon Ramsay?

Living Room Togetherness

Haiku writing spree. Write to each other, with a bit of leeway in the 5-7-5 structure of this concise Japanese style. It can be a time of romance, picturing cherry blossoms and romance in the spring, or it might expand to creative fun and joy, each trying to outdo the other in crazy images and ideas. Add sushi if you like!

Relish is a relationship coaching app that takes an active role in couples’ lives. It asks for weekly updates and discusses your relationship with you, then offers ideas about next steps and new perspectives. It personalizes mindful advice to help people turn their investment in their relationship into a source of growth, joy, understanding, and rich experience. Engaging via an annual subscription, users of the app gain from the experience and insight of a team of diverse relationship counseling professionals who contribute a broad base of ideas and insights. The results are practical, personal, and often a lot of fun to implement!

The Latest Renaissance in Design Education – VR and AR at The Academy of Art University

The Latest Renaissance in Design Education – VR and AR at The Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University has been on the cutting edge of creative instruction since its inception in 1929. From then until now, a defining feature of the Academy’s ethos has been to employ active creatives as classroom and laboratory instructors. These working artists and creators bring up-to-date and even forward-thinking trends and developments directly from industry to the classroom. This affords Academy students unprecedented and unparalleled access to knowledge that is shaping various creative fields right now and for tomorrow.

It is no surprise, then, that Academy of Art University has been on the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) front lines from its earliest days. Beginning in 2016 with a VR Summit hosted by the Schools of Communications & Media Technologies and Motion Pictures & Television, the Academy has since sought to incorporate these emerging technologies into various curriculum and facilities to reflect how creative industries are using them in the real world.

What is AR and VR?

Both AR and VR are advanced technologies that seek to expand the experience of the human senses in a given environment. With AR and/or VR technology, users can find themselves interacting with faraway or imaginary scenes or objects as if they actually existed in the user’s present location. Instead of projecting images before a user, AR and VR project the user into the realm of the images or scenes.

Augmented Reality (AR) adds digital elements to a live view that the user sees through a camera. A simple example is using Snapchat lenses on your smartphone or playing Pokémon Go and chasing images on the screen that are not really present.  

Conversely, Virtual Reality (VR) is a complete immersion experience that transports the user to another environment through the use of a VR viewing device. Wearing the device over the eyes effectively blanks out the user’s surrounding environment so that the new digital environment can be experienced to the fullest. For example, a user wearing a VR device can participate in a virtual village elders meeting by sitting between participants in a dirt-floored hut in Central Africa.

While early proponents of these technologies saw them as enhancements for the gaming world, others saw potential for other uses. Antonio Borja, Director of the School of Industrial Design at Academy of Art University, visualized how artists and other creative professionals could actually employ VR sketching as a pivotal tool for design in many industries.

In an early VR workshop for students, Borja shared, “I know at first this thing seems like a gimmick but it’s not. Because it allows you [to] think and experience your design in 3-D, true 3-D. It’s not like sketching on paper where you see a two-dimensional representation of your 3-D object. Here, you actually get to walk around it.”

AR & VR Education and Innovation at Academy of Art University

In an Industrial Design class early in the Academy’s venture into exploring AR and VR, Borja guided students in using a VR sketching software product called Gravity Sketch, pairing it with a commercial Oculus headset and handheld instruments. Students learned the basics of creating textures, surfaces, shapes, and more, including tools for ensuring exacting accuracy and symmetry in designs.

Design students quickly grasped the very real benefits of this incredible new tool as they created and manipulated various product designs in real time. In more traditional methods, product concepts are modeled with clay or other media to allow designers to see, feel, and analyze their designs from different perspectives. Using the VR tools, even the student designers could discover design problems and other ideas much faster than by creating a physical model.

Antonio Borja now conducts a more comprehensive class in VR sketching as part of the Digital Imaging 2 course (IND 363). He explains, “It’s a very valuable tool that will allow you to experience your designs in a way you haven’t been able to do until you design a prototype. It’s better to find these issues early on in the workflow and make it so that we have time to make these adjustments so that our final project is that much better.”

Normal Rockwell Museum VR Project

One stellar example of how Academy students are learning how to use AR and VR technology to produce valued projects is the Normal Rockwell Museum VR Project. This enormous undertaking took Normal Rockwell art pieces that were originally produced for and featured in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943 underscoring the four enduring ideals from President Franklin Roosevelt’s Annual Message to Congress in 1941.

Numerous pieces depicting Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms – Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want – were combined into a VR experience for a traveling museum exhibition. Users would wear an Oculus VR headset to interact with the exhibit, which opened in May 2018 at the New York Historical Society before touring the United States and France, and then returning to the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in Fall 2020.

A diverse team of 24 developers from the Academy School of Game DevelopmentSchools of Animation & Visual EffectsSchool of IllustrationMusic Production & Sound Design for Visual Media, and Web Design & New Media worked a full four semesters to complete the project. It included various testing phases that involved students as well as senior citizens from the Institute of Aging. The project was to be designed so that users from age 7 to 70 could enjoy the experience.

Phil Kauffold, technical lead for the Academy’s School of Game Development (GAM) and project lead for the Rockwell exhibit, said, “We have to design for the young kid who knows the language of video games and understand this stuff. But also, we have to design for somebody [who] is older [and] doesn’t have that intuitive understanding of what we think of as the normal visual language.”

As a result, “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms” has been a resounding success, even being presented at the US Capital building to members of Congress during 2019.

Academy VR Featured on “California by Design” TV Show

Recently, advanced uses of VR technology in industrial design at the Academy was showcased on the TV series “California by Design.” In each of the six shows, a judging panel, which includes Tom Matano, Executive Director for the Academy School of Industrial Design, chooses finalist creations that will compete to be named the top innovation of the year.

Episode three, which aired on July 11, 2020, featured AURA, a student project led by IND student Santiago Bastidas. The featurette (watch 7:20 – 10:07) highlights how the Academy is incorporating VR technologies into the design process to reflect current industry uses in the real world. AURA is an automobile design project created for PSA Peugeot Citroën Group as part of a corporate sponsorship with the Academy.

Bastidas shared that he and his team used VR technology to design a new automobile that “extends users’ experience beyond a physical journey.” He went on to say, “With AURA, we wanted to create not only this spatial journey but to target a much deeper journey. We broaden the interactions for a much more humanistic final journey.”

In episode three of California by Design, the host, Dan Hardin, is guided through how Bastidas and his team used a VR headset and software to actually design their creation in 3-D. He is also able to experience the 3-D model of the futuristic auto itself and even create his own, rather rough, design on camera, obviously delighting in the experience.

Hardin exclaims at once point, “This is really fun, isn’t it? Just try to get this off my head now!” The Academy students in the Industrial Design program use Gravity Sketch for Virtual Reality Sketching and Autodesk VRED Pro for Virtual Visualization.

Antonio Borja, Director for School of Industrial Design explains “Incorporating virtual reality technology in the design process enables designers to execute evaluations in a shorter timeframe and find potential flaws or issues with their designs earlier in the process. This helps streamline entire projects and allows more time for making any necessary adjustments before completion, resulting in higher quality designs overall.”

Academy of Art University – Revolutionizing Arts Education

Art and creativity are often viewed as abstract concepts that are expressed on a canvas or through music. While these means of expression are valid and valued, creativity extends into many industries that produce helpful devices and objects that improve our quality of life. Safer, more fulfilling means of transportation, better medical devices, and other important discoveries all incorporate creative technologies in their development.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are finding traction in more industries as time goes on, leading to better products with streamlined processes for development and testing. Academy of Art University is a top arts education institution that offers students the chance to experience these cutting-edge technologies as they are currently being used in today’s vital industries.

Interested prospective students can obtain more information by following the links in this article or by calling the Academy Admissions Department at 415-274-2222.

Read more about other Academy of Art University workshops

Effective Marketing In A Remote, COVID-19 World

Effective Marketing In A Remote, COVID-19 World

The start of 2020 not only brought a new decade, but it also brought a new mysterious pneumonia-like virus outbreak known as the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). With the number of cases continuously increasing daily, the World Health Organization declared the novel COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic. Millions of people worldwide have been affected in one way or another by this outbreak. With over 4.2 million+ confirmed cases around the globe, it’s apparent that the outbreak is moving quickly and spreading rapidly. 

Some countries are currently experiencing a rapid rise in new cases. Meanwhile, in others, the rate of growth has slowed after leaders have instituted nationwide lockdowns, leading to a battered world economy. As a result, many businesses around the world were forced to change their working conditions and some even had to shut down. However, that doesn’t mean things will be like this forever and it doesn’t mean your marketing and creative engine has to grind to a hault.  By engaging a company to help with your work on an outsourced basis, you save financially while consistently moving your marketing engine forward.  Flocksy is the premier outsource creative, content and marketing platform, that engages only professional creatives. With this service, you can not only create a game plan, and utilize various marketing strategies, but also support your business while it is in a transition of any kind.  Re-opening takes planning, time, effort, and the proper deployment of both inbound and outbound marketing.  By utilizing a custom service on a retainer-basis, you can engineer your growth, remain consistent with your customers, and reap the rewards from your hard work. 

The main goals of a successful re-opening digital marketing strategy should be to build consumer confidence through clear communications that set and manage expectations related to your business operations. Best customer communications practices include:

  • Use multiple communication channels to ensure your message is widely received and reinforced.
  • Create and share a FAQ document to address the most common questions regarding your health and safety practices and other important changes to your daily operations.
  • Be prepared to listen and respond to customer comments and inquiries quickly.

Develop a reopening digital marketing strategy that addresses each of your online channels such as your website, your social media, online advertising, and your Google My Business profile(s).

Step 1: Optimize Your Google My Business Profile

Over 5 billion search queries are performed daily on Google search. Google specifically built its Google My Business platform to help local businesses attract customers. A properly optimized Google My Business profile is proven to help achieve a top Google search rankings and directly attract customers. Therefore, optimizing and maintaining your Google My Business profile should be pivotal part of your re-opening strategy.

Step 2: Update Your Website in Key Places

After seeing your Google My Business page and your recent Google Posts, your customers should have the confidence that your website has the same information to match. On your website, you can offer expanded content pinpointing specific operational shifts your customers may expect.

For critical operational updates or promotional offers, consider adding copy where it’s most likely to be seen. Review heatmap or clickmap data to determine what sections of your website maximize exposure of your message. Consider adding a pop-up message to capture attention and eliminate confusion. It may mean the difference between more revenue or less.

Finally, if you have specific and developing information about your business, whether this is health and safety-related or new reopening guidelines, an important digital marketing strategy tip is to create a separate page or section on your website and direct visitors to it.

This can be accomplished through a pop-up, a link on your main navigation, or a link or banner from critical pages. This grabs customers’ interest and makes sure they know all the details when it comes to your reopening. If the information is health and safety-related, this gives you the chance to make your customers feel comfortable about returning to your business as you reopen.

Step 3: Update Your Social Profiles

Today, customers expect a business’ social media to be the most accurate and up-to-date resource for operational changes. Your social media profiles may very well be the “front door” for customers online because each channel serves content in a chronological timeline. The date of your most recent update shows your level of activity to keep customers informed through your reopening.

To implement a strong digital marketing strategy, first, audit your social profiles – make sure you know what profiles represent your business online. Consider:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Yelp

Not only is it important to be prepared, but it’s also important to learn how to adapt and make changes where necessary. As a business owner, you need to be able to respond and adjust your strategy accordingly. Flocksy can help you update your digital marketing materials quickly and affordably. They offer web development, graphic design, copywriting and video production.

Normalcy is not going to happen overnight. In fact, “normal” for you moving forward may look very different from what it looked like before the coronavirus pandemic. Your journey back to the volume of customers you had before may take time, but all your business can do is keep learning, growing, and evolving as new information becomes available. It’s important to continuously research, learn, and adapt so that your business can be the best it can be.

Ryan Seacrest Stays in Public Eye Throughout Quarantine

Ryan Seacrest Stays in Public Eye Throughout Quarantine

Many high-profile Hollywood personalities have had a hard time remaining connected to fans while engaging in the stay at home lifestyle that has become the norm due to Covid-19. As is so often the case, however, Ryan Seacrest has bucked that trend and shown that his star power can shine even while spending his days around the house. From interviews with some of today’s most relevant celebrities, to helpful articles on his website, to the actions of his non-profit foundation, the radio host has presented a great example of how to thrive during this difficult time. Read on for a look at how he’s keeping busy.

Stars share

One of the ways Ryan Seacrest has been staying focused on work is to touch base with other Hollywood personalities to see how their daily life has shifted during the pandemic. This focus has not only helped many of us stay connected to the stars we like to follow, it has also helped share their outlook on weathering this challenging time. Topics covered in these interviews include a look at the family life of celebrities, their ability to keep working, and the adjustments that have been needed to exist within the new norms imposed by the emergence of the global health threat.

One example of this is the radio host’s recent chat with country singer Kelsea Ballerini, who joined his show via video call to discuss a variety of topics. One point of interest was the difficulty she encountered in releasing her new album just as the pandemic was hitting the world. Rather than be discouraged by this unfortunate timing, the singer sought out a creative solution that could help connect her with fans and bring her album into the world — drones. By delivering copies of her album to select fans via the drones, the singer was helping to show just one example of how creative solutions can be a boon while navigating the trials and tribulations of the pandemic.

The singer also discussed another pandemic-specific happening while on the show — her participation in a performance to pay tribute to the first responders who are risking their lives to help fight the pandemic. She spoke to the power of using music in this way while on the air with the radio host. “I feel like there’s no better time for music,” she shared. “I think it’s just like the biggest connector and I know for me as a fan it brings me so much peace to listen to music.” During the show, the singer performed a selection of her hits as well as a Fleetwood Mac cover to help show her appreciation of healthcare workers.

Family life

Another check-in with some well-known names came from an interview the radio host conducted with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. This time the topic centered around family life and the ways the couple was helping to fill their own time in quarantine. One whimsical story came from their recounting of the marriage they recently set up with their daughter Luna for two of her stuffed animals. Teigen live-streamed the event on Instagram to help others share in the fun they were working to create for their daughter. The model “officiated” the wedding as her daughter and a small group of co-quarantiners looked on.

The fun-filled ceremony helped to showcase how the famous couple was dealing with some of the same struggles as much of the rest of the country — how to keep their family life engaging in the face of the pandemic. “[We’re] just trying to find creative ways to entertain the kids,” said Legend when discussing the subject. He added that they’ve also recently purchased camping gear so they could do some backyard camping as another activity. The discussion touches on the need for work/life balance that many people are butting up against as they confront the current circumstances of life with which we are all faced.

Streaming with friends

As many groups of friends have been forced to remain distant from each other during the days of the widespread stay-at-home orders, the need to be creative in maintaining a sense of community has become heightened. Many people have stepped up to that challenge by setting up virtual hangouts with others to talk and participate in group activities. Some popular virtual activities that have emerged during this time have been group game nights, online happy hours, and weekly chats to exchange details of ongoing life in quarantine.

Ryan Seacrest, like many people, has also worked hard to maintain his personal connections as much as possible. The radio personality recently spoke about an opportunity for this when detailing his plans for the July 4th holiday. The host’s plan accompanied the announcement from Disney that it is streaming the musical Hamilton on its Disney+ subscription service. The announcement gave Seacrest an idea for a way to watch the hit musical and spend virtual time with his friends over the long weekend by streaming the musical together.

“I’m already talking to my friends like how are we going to do it?” the host shared. “I have to BBQ. I have to have brats, dogs, burgers, chicken — I have to have all of it.” Initially stumped as to how to enjoy the traditional American celebration while staying safely socially distanced, the streaming service announcement gave him the inspiration for an activity that everyone could enjoy together. Now he’s planning to combine his cookout with the musical in one single day of fun. “You can BBQ and then [stream the musical] in the evening or at night,” said the radio host. “Do your BBQ, digest, and then Hamilton!”

Virtual performances

While examining the topic of virtual streaming activities, we can also take a look at the ways in which Ryan Seacrest has managed to continue to bring music to his listeners even while navigating present world events. Known by many for his role as a radio host, the Hollywood personality is also the host of American Idol, the popular American talent show centered around singing performances. He has helped continue to bring that show to the television public while performing his hosting duties from his own home — replete with the show’s famous title font serving as his backdrop.

In addition to his work to bring singing performances to viewers through his work on American Idol, the host has also worked to continue bringing concerts and other performances to listeners via his radio show. One example of this is his recent discussion with Ben Platt, singer and star of Netflix’s “The Politician.” During the talk, Platt shared details of the show while also diving more deeply into his experience in quarantine. Part of that experience has been to collaborate on a new song about the present moment, called “So Will I.”

“I wrote this song … while I was here in quarantine, in isolation,” said Platt about the song. “I wanted to write a song that spoke to the moment and kind of the overwhelming heaviness that’s going on and hopefully provide some comfort.” The singer went on to perform a heartfelt rendition of the new track, providing listeners with a chance to experience a touching moment along with the artist and to hear a live performance of a song — a difficult thing to find at present.

The singer’s recent performance harkens back to the radio show’s rich history of hosting on-air talent. As the show awaits a time when it will be safe to bring artists back into the studio for live concerts once more, it is taking a look back at past performances to continue to bring music into the lives of listeners. Recent throwback concerts that have been featured by the show include Ed Sheehan and Charlie Puth. Listeners are encouraged to weigh in with their favorite past performances to be considered for future throwback concerts.

Digging into history

As a radio host and someone deeply involved in the music industry, Ryan Seacrest is tied to the Grammys in many ways. That’s one of the reasons it became a topic of hot discussion on his show when the long-standing award show publicly released its rule book for the first time in history. The set of rules, which detail the guidelines for the show, including the set of criteria judges should consider when voting in different categories, has long been held close to the chest. Now that the 66-page document is publicly available, revelations are coming forth that are shining light on some interesting parts of music lore.

One example of this, highlighted recently by the radio host, is the infamous story of 1990’s Best New Artist award. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, that was the year that the award was given to Milli Vanilli. The award, however, was later rescinded when it was discovered that the group didn’t sing any of its own music, and were lip-syncing instead. The controversy following that revelation only deepened when the award show did not present the award to any of the other nominees after the truth came out.

All these years later, the release of the Grammys rule book has helped to shed light on the circumstances surrounding that decision. As recounted by the radio host on his show, the rules state that “The Grammy process does not produce a ranked result with a winner and ordered runners-up. In any situation where a Grammy Award is withdrawn following the presentation, no award is given in that category for that year.” From this phrasing, it becomes clear that, although the original recipients of the 1990 award were disqualified, there is no process in place for a new recipient to be considered. This peek behind the award show’s process helps to provide answers related to a major point of contention in music history.

More on the category

Digging into the rule book further, the radio host also took time better understand other guidelines surrounding the Best New Artist category. This category is of particular interest to many music lovers as it has sometimes been the topic of additional controversy over the years. These controversies most often happen when a particular artist is presented with the award while members of the public feel another artist should have won. While these awards can be subjective, some people have called for further explanation of the process to explain some of these discrepancies.

Now, it seems, we have more of that explanation, stemming again from the release of the rulebook. Over the airwaves, the radio host helped break down the guidelines to help determine how they might have affected past awards. In this realm, the rule book states that “The primary element to consider is the artist’s performance. If the artist wrote most or all of the songs, this may be a secondary consideration. Production elements of the recording should not be considered.” 

The host noted that, while this excerpt doesn’t explain away the controversy surrounding why certain artists with multiple years of experience have won the award in the past, it does provide context for selection criteria. It remains to be seen whether or not the release of this rulebook will help clear up some of these controversies or make the process more transparent to the average viewer. As the award show is still the result of a subjective voting process, it seems plausible that some differences of opinion may exist in the future on certain selections.

Foundation work

Another story that has been emerging from the radio host’s recent online communication is the ongoing efforts of his non-profit organization known as the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. The organization works to provide access to multimedia experiences to children undergoing treatment at pediatric hospitals. This is accomplished through the creation of broadcast media centers, known as Seacrest Studios, that provide children with the opportunity to participate in the broadcast experience.

The broadcast centers help to stimulate the minds and imaginations of patients which can be an empowering experience, especially in the face of difficult treatments. The work of the foundation aims to encourage optimistic thought and cultivate hope during such hard times. The organization often partners with local journalism schools and other similar institutions by providing an opportunity to gain experience in broadcasting, programming, and operating a multimedia center.

Ongoing work

While some aspects of the organization’s mission have been difficult to keep running in their previous form during the pandemic, the foundation has been diligent in working to overcome hurdles in this process. One of the ways this has manifested is through virtual interviews between patients and celebrity guests. A recent example of this is an interview hosted by Dallas patients Caleb and Nneka as they chatted with country music singer Kelsea Ballerini.

The interview provided a great look into the inventiveness and ingenuity of kids and their ability to adjust in the face of change. To keep the interview engaging, the hosts played virtual games and quizzed the singer on some of their favorite topics. Interview questions included an exploration of favorite foods and some imaginatively posed “would you rather” topics. The singer also worked with the kids to help solve the mystery of the identity of a hidden object in a box, based only on a series of limited clues.

Celebrity visits

The foundation also often works to connect children in treatment programs with some of their favorite celebrities in order to help brighten their spirits. Though the global Covid-19 pandemic has complicated this part of the organization’s work, it is still actively engaging in visits via virtual connections. These virtual visits have been shown to have a strong effect on patient spirits and have helped kids stay in touch with the outside world, even while experiencing hardship in their own lives.

The radio host recently shared some stories of these types of visits via his social media presence. This included videos of kids connecting with Idina Menzel, known widely for her role as Elsa in the Disney animated film “Frozen.” Kids got to connect with the star over video chat and pose a variety of questions that she was more than happy to answer. One topic that featured heavily in conversation was a comparison between the first installation in the “Frozen” series, versus its sequel. The interactions, videos of which can be seen on the foundation’s twitter page, again show the resilient nature of children to adapt when it is needed.

While many high-level personalities have spent much of their quarantine hunkered down out of the limelight, Ryan Seacrest has found a myriad of ways to stay connected with fans all over the world. From brightening the experience of children undergoing medical treatments, to highlighting musical talent, to sharing the quarantine experiences of others in Hollywood, he has certainly kept busy. For those who are familiar with the radio host’s work, this probably comes as no surprise. As we all look forward to a return to normalcy in the future, the work by the host serves as a nice way to continue to connect to the world of entertainment and the arts.

5 Tips to Travel Safely

5 Tips to Travel Safely

Traveling is one of the most enjoyable things you can do by yourself, with friends, or with your family. You create memories, see new places, and experience activities that you can’t at home. However, it can be dangerous at times. 

For tourists, the most common crimes experienced are theft by pickpocketing, scams or being overcharged, credit card fraud, and physical assault. To avoid these issues, use our tips on ways to travel safely. 

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Be Mindful What You Post 

Going on vacation is a once a year event for most of us. It’s natural to want to post all your amazing photos on your social media, but you could be putting yourself at risk. 

One online blog article explains that you’re vulnerable to getting your home broken into and robbed when you do this. It might be a better idea to save your pictures and post them when you return. 

Whether or not you post before you leave for vacation, make sure your house is secure. Leaving one light on while you’re away is an excellent way to make potential burglars think there’s someone home. 

Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself 

We’re all guilty of buying new clothes before we travel. You pack your bags with your favorite pieces and things you might not normally wear. 

However, when you go out dressed to impress, it makes you a target for theft. If you have children and they bring their most up to date devices with them, this can also draw attention. 

It’s better to dress more casually and leave anything you’d be seriously upset about losing at home. 

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Don’t Trust Public Wifi

Restaurants or stores use free wifi signs to get you to come in. Although this is convenient when traveling, it can be a hotspot for an identity thief to attack.  

When you log in on public wifi, hackers can access your phone and can see your banking app, including your account information and your social security number. Any other important work or personal information that’s on the device can be stolen too. 

Trust Your Feelings 

Intuition can save you from bad situations when traveling. Whenever you go somewhere, and you don’t like the vibe, you need to leave immediately. There’s a reason why you feel this way, and you should trust it. 

Try to stay in places that are well lit, and with other people around. Never go somewhere alone with someone you just met because you never know their intentions. Be mindful of how much alcohol you’re drinking because it can impair your judgment. 

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Invest in Travel Insurance 

Even if you’re only going away for a week, travel insurance can come to save the day when something terrible happens. Depending on the plan you buy, you’ll be covered if something happens with your flights, you’re robbed, you have to go to the hospital, or your bags are lost at the airport. 

It’s normal to go on a trip and never have to use your travel insurance. However, it’s better to be protected than have something go wrong and have to sort it all out on your own. 

The Bottom Line 

Traveling is one of the best things in life, but you need to remember to stay safe. You want to come home with memorable stories that you can continue telling for the years, not nightmares that will haunt you. 

Use our tips to travel safely, and you’ll be all set for your next big trip. 

Yanni Hufnagel Wants You to Ditch Sports Drinks for Lemon Perfect

Yanni Hufnagel Wants You to Ditch Sports Drinks for Lemon Perfect

As an athlete and former university men’s basketball coach, Yanni Hufnagel, founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect, has a longstanding interest in beverages that can hydrate and replenish lost nutrients to keep athletes in top performance mode. Like any athlete or coach, he’s aware that the role of “thirst quencher” for casual to professional athletes has long been sports drinks. Those unnaturally neon blue, lime green, and bright red drinks from Gatorade and Powerade have become so commonplace on benches and sidelines that they almost seem inevitable.

But Hufnagel wondered if these artificially sweetened and colored sports drinks were really the best choice for people looking to enhance their health. On closer inspection, he realized that these sports drinks being marketed as healthy options for anyone from kids to college athletes were actually loaded with sugar, calories, and artificial dyes. In other words, they were full of unhealthy ingredients that actually contributed to outcomes like weight gain and poor health. With their bright colors and associations with athletes and sports, sports drinks are particularly problematic for kids. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics noted that: “frequent or excessive intake of caloric sports drinks can substantially increase the risk for overweight or obesity in children and adolescents.”

Hufnagel decided that there had to be a better option. He’d read about the benefits of lemon water for hydrating while boosting electrolytes and Vitamin C, and he started making his own at home. In 2017, Hufnagel left his basketball coaching career to follow a new path as the founder and CEO of Lemon Perfect, maker of lemon water drinks in four refreshing flavors — Just Lemon, Blueberry Acai, Dragon Fruit Mango, and Peach Raspberry — all with zero sugar and just 5 calories. Compare this to a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade which contains 34 grams of sugar (over 6 teaspoons), and 140 calories. Or a 20-ounce bottle of Powerade which contains 34 grams of sugar and 130 calories.  

Instead of sugar, Lemon Perfect drinks are sweetened with erythritol—an all-natural, low-calorie sweetener found in fruits like grapefruits, peas, and watermelons, as well as with stevia leaf extract—a zero-calorie sweetener extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. These alternative sweeteners are used in thousands of foods and drinks on the market and, unlike high fructose corn syrup and the like, they don’t cause blood sugar levels to spike or add to someone’s calorie load.

Athletes of all kinds who are involved in tough training sessions do need to rehydrate. In fact, people can lose as much as one to two quarts of water during an hour of even low-intensity exercise like walking or jogging. This, in turn, can lead to fatigue, injury, and cramping. The more strenuous the training, the more water is lost, and the more serious the consequences. During intense workouts (like running, cycling, or high school or collegiate sports training sessions), athletes can lose three quarts of water in an hour and are at serious risk for dehydration and heat exhaustion. One trainer, Amanda Carlson, who studied college football players, found that 98% were dehydrated as they went into evaluations with NFL scouts. “Just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%,” Carlson said.

It’s crucial, says health professionals, that athletes of all levels drink enough water before and during workouts, using the scale to determine how much water weight has been lost and needs to be replenished (every pound lost should be replaced with 16 to 20 ounces of fluid).

And while sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade like to tout their performance-enhancing electrolytes, achieved with liberal amounts of added salt, Lemon Perfect drinks also replenish electrolytes through the nutritional power of lemons.

Following an intense training session, athletes lose not only water but also electrolytes — the minerals that balance the amount of water in the body and maintain the body’s acid-to-base or pH level. Other important functions of electrolytes are to help move nutrients into and waste out of cells, and to keep organs and nerves functioning properly.

For athletes working at top performance levels, maintaining electrolyte levels is important. One recent study found that athletes can stave off fatigue 37% longer if they drink sports drinks containing electrolytes and carbohydrates. The same study found that these drinks contribute to the athlete’s performance, boosting speed, motor skills, and mental sharpness.

Lemon Perfect’s electrolytes come from a truly healthy and natural source—their hand-picked, cold-pressed, USDA-certified organic, Southern California-grown lemons. 

In addition to boosting electrolytes, Lemon Perfect drinks also provide an essential dose of Vitamin C — an antioxidant that helps protect the body against disease, aids in the absorption of nutrients (particularly iron), and supports collagen production and healthy skin. Each 12-ounce bottle of Lemon Perfect contains 100% of the Food & Drug Administration’s recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. A 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains just 5% of the FDA’s recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. Powerade contains none.

And traditional sports drinks are packed with unnatural and unhealthy ingredients — high fructose corn syrup (in the case of Powerade) or dextrose (in the case of Gatorade), both of which have negative impacts on blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain. They also contain artificial dyes like Red 40, Blue No. 1, and Yellow No. 5, derived from petroleum and tied to hyperactivity in children and even cancer. And both Gatorade and Powerade contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). 

Meanwhile, Yanni Hufnagel has made environmental commitments a core part of the Lemon Perfect brand — recognizing that personal health and planetary health go hand in hand. There are zero artificial ingredients in Lemon Perfect beverages. The drinks are produced from an eco-friendly pasteurization process, the bottles are made from BPA-free recyclable plastic, and the company contributes at least 1% of annual sales to environmental causes.

About Lemon Perfect
Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with antioxidants and electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting, and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.

About Yanni Hufnagel

Yanni Hufnagel

Yanni Hufnagel is the Founder & CEO of Lemon Perfect, a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with essential antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect – named “Best New Product” at BevNET’s Best of 2019 Awards – is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.

Founded in 2017 and backed by an extraordinary team of investors, the company’s mission is to democratize drinkable wellness by making Lemon Perfect accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Before starting Lemon Perfect, Yanni Hufnagel served as an assistant men’s college basketball coach, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard, and Oklahoma. Yanni Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the most dogged recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In Yanni Hufnagel’s 10 years coaching college basketball, his teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.