21 Days in the Dark

Phone in bed

The beginning of the year is a popular time to try your hand at something novel. We take on new habits, new resolutions, new gym memberships – the list goes on. But something that’s often overlooked this time of year is the value of cutting out the fat.

This is the task that Account Team Coordinators Kelsey Stamps and Elisabeth Broome resolved to take on. In conjunction with their church’s 21-day New Year’s food fast, the pair went against the Millennial grain and swore off social media for most of the month. It wasn’t easy, but what they gained from the experience far outweighs the temporary lack of likes.

Origins of the Fast

Each year, Church of the Highlands holds a 21-day fast starting the first Sunday in January. As members, Stamps and Broome decided to participate together.

The fasting can involve a form of food fasting or abstinence from a particular behavior. In its most extreme version, fasters drink only water, or a combination of juice and water. Broome opted for the Daniel Fast, a diet comprised only of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, juices, and water. Stamps decided to start with just social media this year.

“We do 21 days because that’s about how long it takes to create a habit,” Broome said. “The pastor encourages you to give up something in addition to food, especially something you do in excess. By creating a new habit, you’ll have better control over it once you bring it back into your life.”

Cutting the Cord

With fresh resolve, Broome and Stamps checked their feeds one last time, then deleted their social lives for the next three weeks – figuratively speaking, at least.

“To be honest, it was not something I enjoyed,” Stamps admitted. “It was very hard, and it’s supposed to be hard. Broome was my accountability partner, and without her I couldn’t have done it. Having someone to reaffirm that you’re staying true to the fast every day is a huge help. We’re both in the same boat, after all.”

The two social media stars left a noticeable void in the interwebs. Broome’s grandmother called to make sure she was still alive, and Stamps also had several friends text to check on her well-being.

“You don’t realize how much of your life you give to these apps until they’re gone,” Stamps said. “I had a ton of extra time in my day.  And out of everything, I mostly just missed seeing photos of my friends’ kids since social media is how I stay connected with their lives.”

Needless to say, the fast wasn’t all diamonds and rosé. Broome lamented the FOMO she felt whenever people asked if she had seen a piece of news on social media. Stamps also felt the draw, but pushed back by not letting herself anywhere near the forbidden networks.

“It sounds silly, but I got Lindsay to send me social media links for eCampaign UTM codes because I didn’t trust myself to get on Facebook,” Stamps said. “This is my third time attempting a social fast, so I was determined to see it though!”

Stamps recounted that her personal life had never felt as vibrant as when she was on the fast.

“I remember going to lunch with my mom, and she told me how nice it was to actually talk to me and not have me on my phone,” Stamps said. “We don’t realize it as much because it’s a way of life for our generation, but for people our parents’ age, it’s still somewhat new. They can see the obtrusiveness of it.”

Logging Back On

After a three-week hiatus, both Stamps and Broome rejoined to socialsphere and caught up on more than a few notifications. Yet, while the fast is done, the lessons they learned are far from forgotten.

“By cutting out food and social media, I learned how to fuel myself through God’s word instead of junk food and likes,” Broome said. “Some people say these fasts have changed their lives, marriages, or led to huge decisions. For me, it wasn’t so dramatic. This was just a positive way to start the year.”

Stamps and Broome admitted that they did both have a “crutch” during the fast. For Stamps, it was Pinterest. She likened it to a Google Image search rather than a true social network. Broome chose Snapchat, though she only used the send-and-receive feature, not the Stories.

Above all, these two Account Team friends chose to start 2018 by proving to themselves that, no matter how difficult, if they set their minds to a task, then they will prevail.

Okay Google: How is Strong Reaching New Clients?

strong google conference

In December, it’s common to see people traveling for one holiday excursion or another. This was the case for Nathan Phillips and Josh Bradish. The two traveled to New Orleans, Dallas, and Houston, but it wasn’t simply to spread Christmas cheer. Rather, it was part of a much larger plan that provides invaluable training to dealer groups and puts Strong Automotive Merchandising in front of a very large and captive audience.

Strong’s Top-Down Training Approach

If you’ve ever noticed the “Google Premier Partner” badge on the bottom of your email signature, you may have questioned the meaning behind the button. Phillips explained that the Google Premier Partner status affords Strong several advantages, such as early access to changes in advertising programs and beta testing of new products.

It’s exclusive, too. According to Phillips’ research, only 3 percent of agencies that work with Google achieve this status.

It was through this Premier partnership that Phillips and the Digital Department became masters of the new Google Playbook before it was released to the general public. When Bradish found this out, it lead to an idea.

“Josh has connections with a lot of Honda dealers and the Honda corporate office from his time as a dealer,” Phillips said. “That’s how the idea came about to offer Google Playbook training to groups of Honda dealers. The book is about 30 pages long, so we’re offering an easy-to-digest version that they can implement today.”

Quid Pro Quo

The idea is genius. Bradish and Phillips travel to Southeast Honda conferences, present in front of a room full of automotive dealers, and offer free training on the best online advertising strategies. Many of those in attendance manage multiple dealerships, so Strong is able to share knowledge and seize a marketing opportunity all at once.

The trip didn’t come without a few bumps in the road, however. When Bradish and Philips arrived at their first presentation, they were stunned to discover that Google employees were wrapping up an official Playbook presentation right before the Strong session was set to begin. After a moment’s panic over giving a redundant speech, the guys decided to gear their presentation toward tier-3 only. After all, that is Strong’s specialty.

This honing-in technique allowed Bradish and Phillips to present an extremely applicable version of the Playbook. Topics like eliminating display ad waste, using YouTube pre-roll, and creating landing pages made sense to dealers, and the bite-sized version made for an easy pill to swallow.

No Plans on Stopping

Bradish and Phillips’ training sessions were a hit. So much so, that the team plans to continue this sort of training throughout 2018. The goal is to expand to other brands and digital teams throughout the year.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Strong, the agency is able to maintain its Premier Partner status and keep using it to stay one step ahead.

Five Questions You’d Probably Never Ask

If you’ve been keeping up with the employee roster, you’ll notice it’s been expanding almost every week. With all of the fresh faces around the office, it’s nice to peel back the onion a bit and learn more about those who have just joined Team Strong.

The following are highlights from a January new employee survey. The questions may be outside of the box, but the answers are even better.

Michele Lee

  1. What was your childhood nickname? Macdaddyshell – I know it’s a weird childhood nickname, but a neighborhood boy started calling me that and now sometimes my family and friends still call me “Mac” for short.
  2. What are three things still left on your bucket list? 1. Travel combo to Italy, South Korea, and Greece. 2. Become fluent in another language – maybe Spanish or Mandarin. 3. Have one of my photographs published.
  3. What is the worst pet you’ve ever had? A naughty pup named Spottie Dottie. She would go around the neighborhood and steal people’s shoes.
  4. What job did you have in high school? Arby’s when I turned 15. My first paycheck was $50 and I thought I was so cool making my own money.
  5. What is your favorite family tradition? Attending the North Carolina Hmong New Year with my family and wearing our traditional Hmong clothes. It’s typically held during Thanksgiving.

Tim Jankowski

  1. Can you play an instrument? I can play the keyboard. I took organ lessons as a child and later transferred those skills to a more practical instrument.
  2. What job did you have in high school? Assistant to the Public Library Investigator keeping track of overdue library books
  3. Who is the coolest celebrity you’ve ever met, and how did it happen? I met Ronald Reagan at a campaign rally before he became president when I was nine. In my twenties, I encountered but did not “meet” Michael Jackson at a comic book store in Hollywood.
  4. What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now outside of work? I have recently started trying to write country songs (lyrics only). So far, I have written about a dozen of them.
  5. What are you looking forward to most in 2018? My tax refund.

Taylor Oates

  1. What is the last book you read, and what was your biggest takeaway from it? The Alchemist, it taught me how to balance things in life.
  2. What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now outside of work? I got an iPad and Apple pencil recently, so I’m drawing more and making cartoons, which is challenging but cool!
  3. What is your favorite family tradition? Every year on Thanksgiving, my family goes to the beach!
  4. Can you play an instrument? If so, which one, and how did you learn? I used to. I played the clarinet in elementary school and haven’t picked it up since.
  5. Who is the coolest celebrity you’ve ever met, and how did it happen? When I was in middle school, I met Chris Brown when he first started his career. My dad was friends with his manager at the time and let my friends and me meet him after the concert. He was nice and danced the whole time we were with him – which was funny.