Cookin’ For College, What Launched My PR Career

First, watch this:

Now, in 2010, my husband and I started a journey that we called Cookin’ For College, an online cooking show that featured easy and budget-friendly recipes. Arthur was the host. I was the camera/editing crew, website developer, content creator, director and PR manager. College newspapers across the country featured articles on Cookin’ For College. The Athens Banner Herald featured their article on the front page. He did phone interviews, a skype interview with WTOC, an on-set filmed feature in New York on Fox News’ Fox and Friends morning show and was a guest on Food Network’s Paula’s Best Dishes. We were just messing around honestly. We filmed him making dinner, put it on YouTube, contacted a few college newspapers and boom. It took off like wildfire, took-of like 2010 took-off not like 2018 took-off. I think the YouTube channel still only has 1,000 hits, but back then, we were a “YouTube sensation.”

Phone interviews, television interviews, Fox News flying us to New York City… It was crazy and surreal. We never made any money off of Cookin’ For College, but we made a lot of memories and priceless experiences. Cookin’ For College made me change my major junior year of college from Art History to Public Relations. I didn’t even have the GPA to get into the pr program, but luckily they take into account real life experiences. At 20 years old, my experiences were a little ahead of my peers. It got my husband his career in food. His boss saw the videos, thought he had gumption and gave him a shot. Thankfully, that shot has turned into 5 years of selling food, and he couldn’t be happier.

It’s crazy how life turns out. We could have never imagined Cookin’ For College’s success let alone how it shaped the rest of our lives.

How PR Can Take On The Negative Views Of Horse Carriages

Recently there have been several incidents that brought horse-drawn carriages into the media. Most recently in Charleston, a woman dressed up in an inflatable t-rex costume and deliberately tried to “spook” the horses, hoping to draw attention to the negative outcome she expected would occur. It would seem that she stuck around and growled at the horses a moment too long because by-standers saw her and witnessed the antagonizing. Why am I talking about horse-drawn carriages on my pr/social media marketing site? Well, because this industry is currently under attack by a number of people who are quite literally ignorant when it comes to horses and the care they require. A good PR strategy can be the carriage industry’s savior.

“My Two Cents” that I shared on my personal Facebook page: 

“I generally stay pretty quiet on this matter. Horse people, let alone people who have no education of horses, all have their own opinions on what the best practices are for horses. But, as I read the comments on this story about the lady dressed up as a T-rex antagonizing and growling at carriage horses in Charleston (not this particular post), I realized that if my voicing my opinion about this, even if just once, helps educate one person about the needs of a horse and the humane treatment of carriage horses, then I should probably speak up. My husband and I own 3 horses. They get fed before us each morning and each night. They are on the top of our priority list. We will own each of them and will continue to take the best possible care of them until the day they die. (Hopefully not any time soon.)

Would you believe me if I said that carriage company owners, especially the one we consider a friend, love their horses just as much as we do? They love their horses so much that they want to share the pleasure of being with them and experiencing them with visitors to our city. “Animal advocates” say it’s wrong to make the horses work, to have them in a city area, to “enslave” them. The likely alternative for these carriage horses if these “animal advocates” force the carriage companies to close is SLAUGHTER.

Are any of those so-called advocates willing to adopt/purchase the horses? To take on the care- the time required, the money that must be spent on feed, hay, farrier, vet bills and boarding? Just to feed our three horses grain and hay twice a day, it costs roughly $300 a month per horse. The farrier is upwards of $40 every six weeks per horse, and that’s cheap because they just get their hooves trimmed, not shod. Our vet comes out multiple times a year for bi-annual shots, coggins, teeth floating, plus anything else that comes up. (For example in our case for Rowdy, a hematoma in the sinus cavity & cancer on his nose/mouth & penis.) If you don’t have your own property, boarding costs vary, but I can assure you, they’re not “cheap.” The owners of these carriage companies aren’t in it “for the money” because most of the money is spent on the care of the horses. Horses are legally considered “livestock” animals. Livestock is defined as “animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially: farm animals kept for use and profit.” So, these horses aren’t on the “farm.” In a lot of ways, they get better treatment working in the city than they would on the farm. (An Amish horse’s life is not an easy one.) And in the life of a carriage horse, they provide a service and a pleasure pulling a carriage that even I can move when it has no passengers. (They’re actually very light.)

These carriage horses are extremely well taken care of. Their bodies are in optimal shape and body condition. Their hair/coats are shiny and healthy. They get the exercise and attention they need. A horse is similar to a dog in that they yearn for exercise and purpose. If they don’t get the exercise they need, they will create “jobs” for themselves which more than often is considered misbehavior to us, similarly to a bored dog chewing things they’re not supposed to. Before you attack the diligent, loving owners of these horses, who have chosen a life caring for equines, think about the well-being of these horses. Would you rather them dead? Those calling for the carriage horses being “saved” and let “free” onto farms obviously know nothing of horses. I’d think that true animal advocates would appreciate the impeccable care these carriage horses receive.

In terms of treatment, I would equate it to parents and their children. Some parents go above and beyond to care for their children. Others not so much. There are the rare bad eggs in anything, but overall, carriage horses are pretty pampered and very well provided for. Draft horses are so large because they were bred to slowly pull heavy workloads. They’re amazing really. Horses were bred for purposes just like dogs were. They enjoy doing what their purposes are. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. They’re big enough to be noticeably defiant if they didn’t like their treatment. In regards to hot temperatures, they’ve adapted just like we have. We drink extra water/Gatorade, hose off or go swimming, take breaks, etc. So do they. [ See Weather Channel’s helping-horses-when-temps-get-hot ]

Draft horses are our favorite, and I would hate to see them cast aside or lose their worth because they’ve become targeted.

We will continue to support horse drawn carriages because we know how much she loves her horses and how well taken care of they are, just as much as ours are. If you want to get behind a movement, look up equestrian cross country/eventing deaths, where riders and horses alike frequently die or are severely injured. Or look up what happens to off the track thoroughbreds that didn’t make a name for themselves. (Side Note Here: Not every horse in these industries experience mistreatment.)

There are lots of things to get upset about. Hating the carriage companies because they love their horses shouldn’t be one of them.”

I shared the above with a video of the exceptional press conference that Palmetto Carriage Works held after the targeted attack on their horses, their driver and their guests. I definitely recommend you watch it. Live with Tom Doyle at Palmetto Carriage Works

So from a Public Relations standpoint, what should the carriage companies do? Inform. Inform. Inform.

Many of the people who are “against” horse drawn carriages simply do not know the physical and mental stimulation needs of a horse. They simply just don’t know horses. It’s not an easy fix to the mob mentality that surrounds and is against this industry right now, but this is a straight forward plan. Inform them.

Readily Provide Information About:

There are various ways to reach the target market, but a few ideas are:

  • Discussing the information within the carriage tour itself
  • Visually appealing and organized pamphlets on the carriages
  • Hosting a meet and greet with the horses
  • Signage near the horses’ main post
  • Q&A session with an equine vet

This isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s just a start. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone will listen. You’ll have those individuals that would rather hold onto their ignorance than allow themselves to be educated on the matter.

Even if you help just one person learn and understand more about horses and the carriage industry, it is all worth it in the end.

Social Media & SEO

I recently read an article on Social Media Today titled How Does Social Media Impact Your SEO Efforts? 

In the online marketing realm, it feels like the answer to this question is constantly changing. Google continuously updates their algorithm. I’m not sure they even know how they rank sites now (just kidding, Google!). When I first started my business, I remember telling clients that social media was a huge contender for getting their brand’s recognition up on the Google search list. That was over three years ago, and a lot has changed.

The author of this article, Andrew Hutchinson, says, “And while social media, as part of the wider online eco-system, does now play a part in the overall process, Google still doesn’t factor in associated social media performance directly.” 

Hmm. So, does this mean that Business ABC (<- fake business) who has a Facebook, Twitter & Instagram but never post to them gets the same amount of influence in the search rankings as Business DEF who has and updates daily all of their social media accounts? And the answer to this question is…. it’s complicated. “As noted, Google looks for backlinks and page content, and individual social posts and profiles are considered the same as any other webpage which Google can index. That means that if you have a lot of people visiting your social profiles and content, they can individually rank in search – in fact, for a lot of entities, you’ll find a Twitter profile, in particular, will show up high in search results (this has been helped by the fact that Twitter and Google have an agreement to index tweets).”

“So in itself, sharing content and generating engagement on social won’t help your content rank in Google, but more traffic and backlinks definitely will, which social can facilitate. As you can see, while the connection between social and search is not direct, the two processes are aligned, and being active on social will most definitely help your SEO efforts – though not necessarily in the way you might expect.” 

I really like that last sentence. The answer is yes, social media can help your Search Engine Optimization, indirectly. I definitely recommend following the link to Andrew’s article to read on. It’s fascinating how complex yet simple SEO really is.


Welcome to MY Instagram

Let me first start this post by asking you to follow me on Instagram! >>>

When you’re a social media marketer, you’re constantly and obsessively on your clients’ accounts. You’re the voice behind their brand. My favorite part of this is that I get to give the brand their signature attitude. I get to help how others perceive the brand. It’s really quite fun especially when I get to be a little snarky and clever. The downside to this is…. my own social media accounts tend to suffer. The other con is that there is a fine line between allowing others to know that I am the voice behind the company and just letting them think the brand has some awesome marketing skills. I’ll be honest… I’ve failed myself on the marketing part.

That’s why I found myself in a position where my Instagram and Twitter were pretty outdated. I’ve been working on that. I mean who’s going to hire a PR person who doesn’t market themselves?