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  • Do More of What Makes You Happy Mug

    ‘Tis the Season: Apps that Bring Joy

    By Gretchen Johnson, President of InterCom and Owner of WordPlay Marketing Communications

    My daughter bought me a coffee mug last year that extolls a deeply treasured personal goal of mine: “Do more of what you love!” Whether it’s work, family time, travel or tennis, I strive to enjoy the experience and not stress about the minutia. Thanks to technology, I can! Following are my favorite apps for saving time, staying on top of projects and commitments, and maintaining my home and business records.

    1.  Evernote

    A workspace for everything.

    Cost: Free for Basic, $34.99/year for Plus and $69.99/year for Premium

    Save articles and web pages to Evernote with a single click. When referencing sources, the information is at your fingertips. You can also enter information by keying it in, dictating it or snapping photos. With a bit of organizing tags and titles, it is easy to retrieve anything you’ve stored with a simple search. Evernote digitizes photos and scans, and the information becomes searchable. It works across platforms and can serve as a shared workspace for groups. I file travel itineraries, tickets and confirmations on Evernote and breeze through airport and hotel check-ins. A few minutes of waiting almost anywhere can be used for billable projects.

    2.  One-Core Time Master 

    Digital time clock for tracking billable hours

    Cost: $9.99 one-time fee with upgrades available

    On-Core Time Master is a handy phone app that lets me start and stop a time clock for every client project. At the end of a billing cycle, it tells me who to bill and for what. Though I don’t use its extended capabilities, it also offers electronic invoicing. It reports in cvs or pdf formats. Manage the system from Time Master Central on your Mac or PC.

    3.  MileIQ 

    Effortlessly track business mileage.

    Cost: $5.99/month or $59.99/year

    Download MileIQ and it operates in the background of your smartphone. At the end of the day or week, tap the app and it displays your unfiled trips. Swipe left for personal and right for business. Added features allow you to automatically categorize repetitive outings, add notes, add receipts or organize by client or project. When you’re ready to report your trips — weekly, monthly, quarterly or only at tax time — a cvs or pdf file neatly summarizes your travel and lets you plug in additional detail. MileIQ saves enormous time and frustration when preparing tax files. I don’t drive a lot for business, and it easily pays for itself.

    4.  Grammarly

    Electronic proofreader

    Free basic version. Premium access is $29.95/month or $139.95/year

    Grammarly checks for some 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It catches redundancies and overused words and phrases. With its plugin for Safari, it also proofs my work online in apps like Gmail, Facebook, and Linkedin. It also boasts a plagiarism checker, just in case. The paid version is integrated into my operating system.

    5.  Neat

    Organize receipts and records

    Cost: $5.99 to $24.99/month

    I add Neat with some reservation. I began using this software when it was an out-of-box solution and didn’t require a subscription. I’m struggling a bit with the transition. But I have to admit; it’s a fabulous system for organizing records and receipts for easy access and simple reporting. I throw receipts into a pile and scan them periodically – not as frequently as I should. At the end of the year, it is easy to queue and save expense reports for my tax accountant. And paper clutter is virtually eliminated.

  • John Clark

    Take-aways from the 2016 Campaign

    By Janet Veach, Marketing Administrator, Advia Credit Union

    No one really expected Donald Trump to beat Hilary Clinton in what seemed like the longest, nastiest and most divisive presidential campaign in recent American history. Just three days after the election, InterCom welcomed WMU Professor and Chair of Political Science John Clark to our November Second Friday Speaker Series, where he helped members and guests make sense of an unsettling campaign season and the surprising election results.

    John agreed with our national news coverage that a nationwide desire for change drove Americans to elect a candidate who was a political outsider, politically incorrect and a former reality TV star who upended all of society’s norms and conventions.

    John’s takeaways from the election cycle:

    1. Suspend for a moment who won and who didn’t.

    Not much happened in this election cycle that wasn’t expected — including a tight race. Twice in the last five election cycles we have had a candidate win the popular vote but lose the electoral college vote. It’s also very difficult for a candidate from the same party as the incumbent to win the White House. Voters typically shy away from the party currently in power and with Obama in office for eight years, Hillary had an uphill climb in this campaign.

    We reward our politicians for self-interested behavior during an election and we don’t reward them on public policy decisions and for doing what’s right for the country between elections. The American public puts too much emphasis on the election itself, when it’s what happens between elections that matters.

    2. This election wasn’t about public policy but about identity.

    Both candidates were appealing to different identities and emotions. For professional women, it was a very big deal to vote for the very first female president. While Hillary appealed to women, minorities and young people, Donald dominated among white voters, especially non-college educated men who feel they have been left behind and out of the conversation.

    This population, due to social or economic dislocation, used to have a certain status in the world and they have lost that status. Despite being politically incorrect, Donald spoke to these men and connected on an emotional level. He is a New Yorker, yet he resonated better than any candidate who didn’t share their background.

    Republican candidates also do very well in rural areas where fewer people live. In rural counties, where there are fewer educational and job-related opportunities, people tend to vote more Republican. Many of the people who voted for Trump also weren’t interested in policy issues. Conversely, those who live in college towns have access to more opportunities and tend to be more Democratic. For example, Kalamazoo County – home to WMU, Kalamazoo College and KVCC – voted Democratic.

    In Michigan, when the final tally came in the morning after the election, Trump had edged out Clinton by about 15,000 votes. It’s the first time Michigan has gone red since the election of 1988.

    Apathy towards both candidates kept many people away from the polls.

    3. Both parties are in disarray.

    The Republicans have been in disarray since they took control in 2010. Now they have a president who is a marginal Republican and who is at odds with their party. Of note were the partisan results – it was the first time ever where in the states Hillary won, Democratic candidates also won; where Donald won, Republican candidates won in those states as well.

    John concluded by saying that the campaign has left the American people with a challenge: We need, as a society, to decide and define what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior on the national stage. We need to expect everyone to model the behavior we define.

    A challenge for communicators

    As a society, we are confronted with the challenges of getting real and accurate news in a fast-changing media landscape. Now that we get to choose the news that we prefer through social media channels and digital news sites, based on our individual philosophies and views, we can’t count on receiving the same message as our neighbors. We have lost the foundation that used to bind us together as a community on how we perceive the world. As professional communicators, this presents unique challenges. We were left with the question, “How does society get on the same page to understand the world?”

  • Jessy Wilson, Board Member

    Bringing a millennial’s perspective to the InterCom board

    InterCom recently welcomed Jessy Wilson of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo to our board of directors. Read on to find out more about her and what brought her to Kalamazoo!

    A Millennial’s Perspective

    By Jessy Wilson

    Having grown up in a small town in Southwest Michigan, I was well aware of the existence of Kalamazoo, but that’s about it. I had no idea how truly special this community is. It doesn’t take long to learn that Kalamazoo is rich in culture, diversity, philanthropy and so much more. Read more

  • Take-Aways from the 2016 Election

    Take-Aways from the 2016 Election, Nov. 11

    By nearly every measure, the 2016 presidential election is one for the record books.

    Just three days after voting takes place, InterCom will host a discussion of the results with John A. Clark, Professor and Chair of Political Science at Western Michigan University for their 2nd Friday Speakers’ Series on Nov. 11 at 11:30 a.m. at KVCC’s Anna Whitten Hall. Read more

  • Mark DeYoung

    Why graphic design works and how to harness the power of participatory design

    While most of the InterCom members and guests who attended the October lunchtime Speaker Series program had at least a rough idea of the value and communication potential of graphic design, our speaker, Mark DeYoung, was able to define and clarify some vital principles and bring us up to speed on current trends.

    He brought extensive credentials to this topic: DeYoung earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and MFA from Michigan State University. He has worked as a designer and educator in the U.S. and Europe, in industry and for service organizations, and is currently teaching graphic design at KVCC while also working with his own company, MJ DeYoung Design and with the experimental design collaborative he founded, Jumping Dog Design. Read more

  • Design as a Change Agent, Oct. 14

    Communicating simply and effectively has never been more important or harder to achieve as the amount of human knowledge doubles every 13 months. As a result, the role of visual communication has never been more vital.
    “Designers are being asked to do more than amplify an organization’s message,” says Mark DeYoung, a graphic arts instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Center for New Media. “They’re tasked with solving problems. Designers today must be more accurate, and their solutions are typically much more involved than in the past.”

    DeYoung will explore the changing world of design — and design as a driver of change —at InterCom’s 2nd Friday Speakers’ Series on Oct.. 14 at 11:30 a.m. He’ll introduce the concept of service design and discuss the service-learning course he has developed for KVCC, called Design Crew. Read more

  • How a 15-gallon soup kettle launched a revolution

    Bell’s Beer: How a 15-gallon soup kettle launched a revolution

    Before Internet 2.0, consumers were force-fed their marketing on a one-way street. Here it is, come and buy it. As we all know, that changed and now the consumer calls the shots. This was similar to the beer industry in the 1970s. After prohibition, only 300 breweries emerged to renew their brewing. More than 800 breweries died during that dreadful time. Between 1933 and 1982, about 700 breweries were reduced to close to 50. Your choice of brew was very limited. Read more

  • A look back before moving forward

    A look back before moving forward

    InterCom spearheaded two important events this summer on the topic of local news, Breaking the News 1 and 2. It was an opportunity for us to reach outside our comfort zone a bit, and include the community in conversations we believe — and the public’s interest seemed to confirm — are essential to our long-term well-being. Read more

  • Local media, lively roundtables animate Breaking the News: Part Two

    InterCom’s May 19 evening program, Breaking the News: Part One, sparked a lively conversation on the challenges of getting effective local news coverage in a fast-changing media landscape. Representatives of regional media outlets, including Michigan Radio, the Battle Creek Enquirer, WMUK, Issue Media Group and Bridge Magazine explained their missions, coverage and especially funding hurdles, and began trying to answer the many questions raised by highly engaged attendees. (If you missed it, here’s Public Media Network’s video of that night.)

    Even as the May program was being planned, we started getting calls for a follow-up program answering some of the questions raised, and exploring solutions. Breaking the News: Part Two on Aug. 25 brought about 50 people together, including representatives of a dozen local news outlets, for a lively World Café-style roundtable session to tackle the challenges raised in Part One.

    The number and variety of organizations handling local news was impressive and eye-opening. They included John McNeill, News Director of Midwest Communications (radio stations WVFM, WKZO, Z96.5, The Touch, and The Fan Sports); Stephen Williams, General Manager, and Andy Robins, News Director of WMUK; Steve Ellis, Publisher of Spark and South County News; Kathy Jennings, Managing Editor of Second Wave Southwest Michigan; Marie Lee, Editor and Vice President of Encore and FYI magazines; Steve Raceme, General Manager and Robin Griffin, Editor of Vineyard Press, Inc. (The Courier-Leader); Darlene Mohr, Publisher/Editor and Michelle Morgan, Events Manager of Women’s LifeStyle Magazine; Glen Dillon, WMU Assistant Director of Student Media, YBOT, Western Herald and WIDR; Shannon Long, Company Representative, Welcome Home Magazine; Ashley Berens, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator, Public Media Network; and Jackie Merriam, Publisher, Good News Paper.

    BTN2 REDO 2

    Two media entities were assigned to each of the six round tables, which were filled out by potential advertisers, professional communicators, and people “who value an informed community, as the invitation stated. The meeting was facilitated by Kristi Droppers of Collective Know-How LLC (also an InterCom board member), and began by having each table’s media representatives introduce themselves and with the help of the table, define their mission, which was then presented to the group at large.

    Then Ms. Droppers instructed each group to engage in a BMW: a brief (timed) Bitch, Moan and Whine session. Each table listed grievances and had a chance to present them to the group. It became clear that several issues were common to every medium: funding topped the list, to nobody’s surprise.

    Then, after a short break, all attendees were encouraged to swap tables and begin to explore solutions to the problems just identified. In this session, we noted the trend to expand across media to increase coverage, and to save money through online versus print publishing. It was agreed that funding for quality journalism was the toughest nut to crack in every case, and it has been difficult to replace the traditional advertising-supported funding model. Suggestions included philanthropic giving and the development of a cooperative with membership fees. All agreed that we had only begun to scratch the surface as the session ran past its scheduled end time.

    Thank you to all who participated! We look forward to presenting a compilation (Media Landscape Map) of all the information gleaned from this stimulating community discussion: Stay tuned!

    Jan Underhill is an InterCom board member and principal of J.R. Underhill Communications, offering marketing, graphic design and branding since 1980.




  • Celebrate & Commiserate: 10 Ways InterCom Makes Life Better

    InterCom has been there for me through three decades as I’ve worked in corporate, nonprofit and educational settings, and now as a freelancer. I’ve been a member since 2011 (and also for a few years in the late ˜90s).

    Professional communications is a demanding career choice: You work long hours, you may struggle with being both an introvert and a perfectionist, you find yourself correcting passive voice a lot, plus almost no one really gets what you do (and the pay often reflects that).

    That’s why InterCom is so beautiful. People who understand! People who get what you do, and sympathize with your struggles and joys as a communicator! That alone is worth the 45 bucks a year. But wait; there’s more! Here’s my Top 10 List of InterCom membership treasures:

    1) Friends and Mentors

    Fellow InterCom members tend to be smart, funny, amiable folks: Great friend material and excellent mentor material. I’ve been fortunate to connect with a true friend and mentor through InterCom (our board prez, Gretchen Johnson!) who has helped me stretch, develop and grow, both in my career and personally. My InterCom friends are wonderfully welcoming. They’re excellent conversationalists. They tend to have an outstanding sense of humor. And they make me smile. Bam.

    2) Shared Prosperity

    My InterCom cohorts have also been incredibly generous in referring me for contracting work “ jobs I never would have known about or pursued if I hadn’t been connected through InterCom. We’re a sharing group of people. We spread the abundance. That’s how we roll.

    3) Truly Valuable Volunteer Opportunities

    When I joined the InterCom Board of Directors in 2015, I knew it was a working board. But I had no idea how much I’d be challenged and pushed (in a good way!) to learn new skills on the fly, to produce great material quickly and to try new things. My board service pushed me right out of my comfort zone, for my own good (and my clients’ too!). I’ve received much more than I’ve contributed.

    4) Community Savvy

    Thanks to the diverse lineup of InterCom speakers we’ve hosted, and the many opportunities to network with colleagues, I’ve been utterly thrilled to learn WAY more about Greater Kalamazoo than I (even as a native and K-College grad) ever knew. InterCom has expanded and filled in my inner map of our community. This enriches my work and my life.


    5) Gabbing, Meeting, Getting the Inside Scoop — aka Networking

    So much of what’s happening in the local communications field is only gleaned through face-to-face interaction. I’m not talking about gossip, but information flow. If you want to know the scene, and know who to ask about x, y or z, you’ll want to join InterCom. Today.

    6) Skills! Skills! Skills!

    Every speaker we host inevitably shares real tools that are immediately applicable to a professional communicator’s work. From promoting a tourism-boosting beer trail, to harnessing the power of digital marketing, to a behind-the-scenes look at the renovation of a community institution’s brand, InterCom provides a platform for sharing best practices that matter in the real world.

    7) Idea-Sparking

    This is one of my faves. Being around creative people, hearing innovative speakers and working on the board expose us to new ideas and concepts that inspire us to think bigger. Deeper. And even to take risks. That’s how Breaking the News 1 & 2 happened. We had no idea how it’d go over ¦ and it was spectacular. (See a recap of Part 2 here.)

    8) That Push

    Speaking of risk: InterCom can give you just the right nudge to consider doing something new and different. To challenge your preconceived notions of what your job is or how your career should progress. How? By exposing you to people at all stages of professional growth, in all kinds of different job configurations, from business owner to freelancer to director or manager or specialist. You get to see all the work options out there, and connect with the people living them — and, perhaps be inspired to make the leap to something different.

    9) Fun

    This is crucial. We put the joy in joining. There’s no excuse for a professional association to be boring. We take our fun seriously. Come to one of our evening events, in particular, and you’ll see.

    10) Celebration & Commiseration

    Finally, InterCom is that friendly space everyone needs where it’s safe to be who you are, in all your professional-communicator glory. When things go great, we want to know about it and celebrate your successes. And when things are tough, we have your back. We’re here to listen, support and commiserate. Because we’ve all been there.

    I could go on. But I think you know exactly why joining InterCom (or renewing your membership) would be a perfect move. So I leave you with this link to do just that.

    Cathie Schau is a writer and communications consultant with a small outfit called GoodPoint! She’s also a proud InterCom board member, a kindly troublemaker and an advocate of all working people.