Help Raider Relief and Participate in Project ASAP

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Members of Raider Relief, a philanthropic student organization at the University of Mount Union (UMU), have announced their newest project—ASAP (Abandoned Stuffed Animal Project). And Mark McConnell, McConnell Marketing owner and assistant professor of marketing at UMU, wants you to get involved!

According to Raider Relief, ASAP is the biggest stuffed animal drive ever. Members will collect gently used stuffed animals from Mount Union’s campus and the Alliance community, have them professionally cleaned by the project’s sponsor, Cintas and donate them to the children of the Alliance families in need.

“The basic idea for ASAP started when a group of young college kids wondered how we could help the sad kids in our community,” ASAP’s student leader and UMU junior marketing major, Dan Goswick, explained. “We thought it would be awesome if we could make these kids happy by donating some of the abandoned toys from when we were young.”

Raider Relief will officially begin collecting donations on Sunday, March 31st and will continue until Friday, April 5th—a perfect opportunity for students to collect old stuffed animals when they go home for the Easter holiday.

All those wishing to support Raider Relief in this effort may drop off any gently used—and lovable—stuffed animals at the University of Mount Union Library (KHIC) or Family Video (1937 W. State St. in Alliance). All collected stuffed animals will be donated to various locations, including children’s hospitals or domestic violence shelters in the Alliance area.

“If it’s been too long since the two of you hung out together, stop stuffed animals neglect! Get ‘em out of your basement or attic, and bring them back to campus!” -Mark McConnell


Whole Foods…Hotels?

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 10.08.38 AMWhole Foods. We all know and love the brand—we do at the McConnell office, at least. When the first store opened in 1980 in Austin, Texas, “it took the grocery world by storm, cultivating a culture of health-conscious eating,” writer David Eisen said. And now, according to reports, the brand is looking to bring that same feeling to hotels!

Eisen reported that Whole Foods is planning to open what it calls a health resort in or near downtown Austin, right near the company’s headquarters.

John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods, told USA Today that the company has the “perfect vehicle” for their new getaway. “Think of it as a center where people would go for a day, a weekend or a week for healthy lifestyle education.”

USA Today says that the health resort idea came from an in-house program to improve the eating and lifestyle habits of Whole Foods’ employees—focused on weight loss and reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol. Mackey said, “I’ve seen it improve the lives of our team members.”

Brand expert Robert Passikoff says that the health resort could possibly pay off in their favor in a major way. He told USA Today, “…to move from natural foods to natural spa works. Whole Foods is really a category unto itself.”

Whole Foods is currently negotiating on real estate and is seeking a hotel brand to operate their resort. They hope to have it open within the next three years.

Personally, we would love to stay at a Whole Foods-related resort. Would you? Comment and let us know.

Reputation Management – Social Media Gets Visual

Most recently, social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram have been growing as top-runners in the social media scene. And according to Adam Leposa of, these visual-dominated apps give hoteliers an opportunity to develop their online reputations by showing off their products in pictures.

One big (and important) aspect of a guest’s hotel experience is the look of the hotel, which gives hotel operators a big opportunity to delve into visual marketing. “A lot of consumers are very visually driven,” said Kristen Poillon, director of marketing at HotelMe, an online review business affiliated with USA Today. “It’s becoming more prevalent; even on sites like Facebook, you’ve started to see a whole shift in the types of content that people are sharing—less text and more photos is the direction that a lot of these sites are headed toward.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-14 at 12.37.59 PMHowever, Leposa says that hoteliers looking to take advantage of these visual marketing opportunities should be aware that marketing on Instagram and Pinterest poses very difficult challenges than more traditional channels. “The main thing is that it’s really to tell a visual story, and not do a blatant promotion,” Julie Squires, CEO of Softscribe said. “It should be about your guests, not so much what you want to tell your guests. It should be about what your guests want to hear.”

“They might never come to your property but they’ll share that and share [this], and that helps from a reputation-management perspective, but not in a monitoring way, but creating a positive experience,” Tim Peter, managing director of Tim Peter and Associates, a web-marketing consultancy.

Fortunately, hoteliers aren’t the only ones to deliver the best content—one of the best ways to build a hotel’s visual reputation is to make sure guests can get involved as well. Building a sense of community can help hoteliers move away from damage control and work toward more positive aspects of marketing—giving them an opportunity to really engage customers.

“Look for people who are talking about you, your competitors, what they have to say, …what they’re pinning. Then, start to think about engaging with folks either by repinning their materials or sharing materials with them,” said Peter.

When it comes to tracking a hotel’s online reputation on these visual marketing platforms, it can prove a bit challenging. Some monitoring tools for these image-heavy sites are available to monitor image quality and others to monitor text and hashtags, but Leposa writes that the processes aren’t very sophisticated yet. “You have to rely more on the links going out than the text,” Poillon said.

When it all comes down to it, marketers do advise one technique for hoteliers to track their online reputation on photo-sharing sites: “Let the good overpower the not-so-good.”

To read Leposa’s entire article, visit

A New Hotel is in the Works for SeaWorld Orlando

Homewood Suites by Hilton plans on adding a 134-room hotel near SeaWorld Orlando. According to reporter Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal, the hotel will sit on a 3.5-acre of land at the intersection of Central Florida Parkway and Westwood Boulevard. The land was purchased for $2.11 million by an undisclosed buyer.

This is a developing story, so we don’t know much else. Check back later for further details.

And don’t forget—our friends Clean the World’s corporate headquarters is also based in Orlando. Maybe another partnership will be in the works! Want to know if your hotel is partnered with Clean the World? Check out their list here.

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