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What Once Was Lost, Is Now Found

Over the weekend my fiancée, Katie, and I lost our dog, Bear. To be more specific, we lost him at 2 p.m. on Christmas Day at my Grandpa’s farm. The farm is in southern Indiana where you can see for miles and miles over flat farmland, with the occasional small woods. You have to squint to see your nearest neighbor. God’s country. I guess “lost” might be the wrong term. We looked outside and saw Bear about an acre away, running into a freshly plowed and muddy field, dragging behind him the 10-foot chain we had him tied up with in the yard. Oh boy.

The Power of Social Media

My family is close, but out there you’ll find someone doesn’t even have to be part of the family to want to help out someone in need. So when Bear took off, it was all hands on deck. After about an hour, we had four cars driving around looking for him, people waiting back at the house in case he came back and making phone calls, people walking up to houses telling everyone what Bear looked like and who to call if they saw him, people walking the railroad tracks and fence lines and a four-wheeler scanning the woods and fence lines in case the chain was hung up. It went completely dark out at 6 p.m. (seriously?) and out there, when the sun goes down, it is pitch black. Everyone kept at it for another hour and with no sign of Bear for a couple hours, went to eat dinner and take a shower. We had all been through woods, muddy fields and barns and were exhausted and smelly. After a quick bite, I checked my phone before heading back out with my uncle and brother to drive around looking for a few more hours. There were already Facebook posts from family and friends on their own profiles asking everyone in the area to look for this dog. Some already had well-wishes and promises to keep an eye out for him. One even had a Bear sighting, letting us know when and where they saw him. The power of social media.

The Power of Good People

The next morning (yes, the damn dog was out all night, hamming it up with coyotes, cattle, deer and probably the occasional fox) we received a phone call – a land-line-to-land-line phone call (pretty cool, right?). It was from my cousin who received a call from his brother (who knew about Bear missing because he lent me his four-wheeler and gloves to use for as long as I needed) the night before telling him to keep an eye out. He heard a dog messing with his dog that morning so he looked outside and saw a medium-sized dog running into the fog just down the road from my Grandpa’s. So, the posse loaded up in two separate cars and sped out of the driveway hot on the trail (unbeknownst to us at the time, our cousin and uncle were both heading over with their four-wheelers already loaded up and had four more calls with people wanting to come over to help). As I pulled up, Katie and my Dad were stopped, with Bear in Katie’s arms, stinky and dirty as ever, without a scratch on him and yes, still pulling the 10-foot chain. The power of good people.

So, What Once Was Lost, Is Now Found…

For me, what was found was not just Bear, but the importance of keeping and maintaining relationships. I’m talking about using our old school communications, in tandem with the computers and smart phones we wake up to and close minutes before we go to bed. I don’t think it was Facebook that found Bear. I don’t think it was a chance sighting followed by a phone call at 7 a.m. on December 26th that found him either. I think it was the combination of a hell of a good group of people doing everything they could to help out a family member, friend or stranger in need. A group of people, young, old, tech-savvy, not so tech-savvy, who have stayed in touch many different ways, but who have kept up relationships in a way that made them stay important to them. I am convinced that damn near everyone within a four-mile radius knew we were looking for Bear and what he looked like and how to get in touch if they saw him. Something that couldn’t have been done with just the use of email, or Facebook or calling neighbors. It was the combination of all of them.

Communication is a wonderful thing, but in today’s world, you have to be careful not to limit yourself to one type. Friends, allies, business colleagues, significant others, etc. will all require different types of communication. I’ll tell you this much, my Grandpa has never even seen Facebook and rarely have I seen him pick up a cell phone, but his relationships and communication with the people in our family and town helped us find that dog. All of the Facebook posts, phone calls, texts and people who stopped by all played a part in finding Bear. Whether it was keeping hope that we would find him, informing us they spotted him in a certain area at a certain time or just letting us know they would keep any eye out, it all helped us find Bear.

So, my personal challenge is to make time for a phone call to a friend instead of the much easier Facebook message. Or, to drive out to see that family member instead of sending an email. Or, make the time to set up that family member on Facebook that I have been selfishly putting off.
Or just tie up the dog better. Just kidding, but that would have helped.

The Power of Fear

Yes, my family is awesome and would do anything for me, but I’m pretty sure a small portion of the reason so many people were looking so hard was that they didn’t want me to screw this engagement up. They were all so happy a wonderful girl like Katie would say yes, they wanted to prevent any reason for her to be upset. The power of fear.

Bear update: He had to have a foot bandaged and a cone put on so he didn’t mess with it. You party hard, you pay the consequences.

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Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

Accumulating snow expected for the Tri-State. That’s the forecast for today, folks.

Read the fine print and you’ll see that a quarter of an inch is expected. A QUARTER of an inch. I mean, an inch is pretty small, so a quarter of an inch is even smaller than that. I don’t expect it to impact my life much except for the fact that I can’t wear the new fur boots I got for Christmas – don’t want to get them wet.

But this is Cincinnati and weather makes news. Big news. Especially snow. The white death, as some call it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Cincinnati snow forecast will yield long lines at the pump, the grocery stores (bread and milk shelves emptied), school superintendents dismissing students early and internet speeds slowing to a crawl as office workers continually “refresh” their forecast of choice.

Let’s see, there’s…

Precision Doppler 12

Ultimate Doppler Forecast 9 

The Power of 5 Radar Alert

And Storm Tracker Radar on Channel 19

That’s to name a few.

But it’s not just in Cincinnati. Check out this meteorologist freakout from Baltimore, where I suspect, they are used to dealing with snow.

Why the major focus on weather? It’s big money. TV and print media can sell major advertising. Weather sells – it always has and it always will. For marketers, a weather sponsorship can really cause a blizzard of sales for you. For PR people, weather-based promotions have been a staple for years. Car care, healthy ways to shovel snow, interesting gadgets and more make for great story ideas and great play with the media.

Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere. That’s kind of groovy and “out there” (literally) when you think about it, but it’s also a fantastic major. Meteorologists are in high demand and there is great potential for career advancement. I’ve made that note to my science-minded stepson as he looks at colleges and majors…weather is awesome!

There’s also a market for the more adventurous (and somewhat crazy) Storm Chasers. They even have their own show on the Discovery Channel.

Note the Bosch windshield wiper promotion. Again – a connection to marketing.

So tell me, are you a weather junkie? Do you need to know the forecast before you leave the house every day? Are you one of those weirdos who actually LIKE snow? Did you stock up on bread and milk today for the quarter-inch blizzard?

Your 2012 Social Media Training Guide

Cincinnati, Ohio – Looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution? Why not start with sculpting that weak business social media figure of yours? Just like any new workout plan, it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into and how to do it properly before you go flexing a muscle in front of a judgmental audience. Follow these simple steps and you’ll soon find yourself achieving better performance, more engaging feedback and a larger return on your overall social media effort.

1. Warm Up

The most common mistake many people make when getting into a new workout plan is trying to do too much, too early. The same applies to the business of social media. Start out by first figuring out what you want to work on, whom you want to engage with and the best way to get the most out of your effort. In most cases, you should focus on the big two: Facebook and Twitter, the most recognized and well-utilized platforms.
Facebook – Start by adding a profile picture. Nobody wants to add a user who lacks the confidence to show their face in the digital space. Second, fill in your general information, including your website, location of business and a phone number. This information is a crucial component because it allows the user to get a quick synopsis of what your business is all about before making a definitive commitment such as liking your page.
Twitter – Just like Facebook, setting up a profile picture and filling in your information is always a good place to start. If you have the time, design a unique background for your page showcasing your place of business.

2. Exercise

So, you’ve set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now what? In a perfect world, that would be it. Unfortunately, just like any other workout, one rep won’t get you the results you’re looking for. The recently created pages need content for end users to engage with and start conversations. There are many ways of going about this, but doing it all manually can be exhausting and a poor use of time and resources. A few simple tools can help you manage and maintain a positive social conversation. My recommendations are Hootsuite or Jive. Cat got your tongue? Start out by simply posting or tweeting your company’s website to show the validity of your new account or an ongoing sale or promotion. Ask questions that are relevant to your business and that itch users to be interested in giving their opinion on. When a user comments, shares, tweets or retweets something relevant to your business, be prompt with a reply to let them know you are just as active in the conversation as they are.

3. Rest

Pushing yourself to the limit with multiple postings and shares can turn away potential fans and tarnish the image of your business. This small detail especially applies to Twitter; users are more likely to engage with you and your business with a few timely, well-articulated and witty tweets then endless tweets about your lunch, the passing cars or your cat jumping on the blinds. Shoot for one Facebook post per week and one tweet per day on Twitter.

4. Stretch

After you’ve set up your accounts, your management tools and published your postings and tweets, stretch and relax. Look back at your efforts and see what received quality feedback and what was ignored. Continually pushing out postings and tweets that aren’t being well-received by the social community will never prove to be beneficial to your business.

5. Repeat

As I said before, in the perfect world, one rep would suffice, but this is reality. Once you have a decent understanding of what is and isn’t working for you, formulate a weekly sheet to fill out with consistent topics of conversation. Finally, just like in the beginning, take time to understand the equipment your business can use to be engaged in the social media conversation. Areas to expand into include YouTube, FourSqure, Klout and many more.

So, are you ready? Do you think you have what it takes to turn your business’ social media flab into fab? Make 2012 a great year for your social media program.

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Around Cincinnati 12.9.11-12.11.11

There are so many exciting things going on around town this weekend. Here’s your lineup, have a great weekend!

Friday 12.09.11

It’s a Wonderful Life Live Radio Drama - “For the fourth year in a row,we bring back our popular holiday show. By using the magic of classical radio, this production brings the story of Bedford Falls alive in a way that only the unique,imaginative medium of radio can. Fans of the film will recognize all their favorite scenes and characters in vivid detail while newcomers will have the opportunity to experience Frank Capra’s holiday favorite in their own way. This is a holiday tradition that has delighted our audiences year after year.”

Saturday 12.10.11

Santa Skates - “The perfect event for parents with kids. Santa arrives early to visit with families on the U.S. Bank Ice Rink at Fountain Square. Santa laces up his skates and joins visitors for an hour of fun for all ages. Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker will also make an appearance.”

Sunday 12.11.11

Scuba Santa’s Water Wonderland - “Holiday decorations throughout Aquarium, Scuba Santa’s Post Office and Reindeer Roundup game. Scuba-diving Santa Claus performs in dive shows with sharks daily.”

Let us know your weekend goes, especially if you try any of these!

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Around Cincinnati… 12.2.11-12.4.11

[caption id=”attachment_1493” align=”alignright” width=”300” caption=”Image from Urban Cincy”][/caption]Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Check out these events… If you decide to try them out, let us know how it goes.

Friday 12.02.11

U.S. Bank Ice Rink on Fountain Square - “The Fountain Square ice rink is located in the center of the redesigned Square, in view of the fountain. At 7,000 square feet, it is about the size of the rink at New York’s Rockefeller Center. Amenities include skate rental, lockers, benches, and a heated tent with vending machines for snacks and drinks. Hot drinks and sweets are available at Graeter’s on the Square and at Ingredients across the street. More substantial fare is available at Potbelly Sandwich Works, Rock Bottom Brewery, Palomino, Via Vite, and other restaurants within a block or two of the Square.”

Saturday 12.03.11

Cincinnati Symphony Winterscape - “Things heat up at Music Hall with favorite winter-inspired music from the opera and ballet worlds, led by the rising American conductor Andrew Grams. Ray Chen, a Taiwanese-Australian violinist who’s taking the concert world by storm, performs Dvořák’s electrifying Violin Concerto, a spontaneous, folk-inspired masterpiece.”

Sunday 12.04.11

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) - “Back for a sixth straight year at Arnold’s Bar and Grill and now on CSC’s stage, Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!!), featuring Billy Chace, Justin McCombs, Miranda McGee and Sara Clark. This show condenses all of your Beloved Holiday Classics into one hilarious evening of theater. Whether you’re a Grinch or a true believer, you’ll howl with laughter as Sara, Billy and Justin send up every thing from fruitcake to nutcrackers. Perfect for adults looking for a little extra holiday cheer!”

Have a great weekend Cincinnati!

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The Two-Way Street of User Feedback

Engagement with your target audience is an absolute necessity in our industry. Using PR and social media efforts to provide information and start conversations among constituents is a valuable way to gain credibility and feedback. That feedback allows you to gauge the feeling of your audience and helps shape strategies going forward.

However, it’s a two-way street. You and your clients have to be prepared to deal with the occasional negative or inappropriate comment, especially when it is posted in a place where others can read it (i.e. a website, blog, Twitter or Facebook page). We all know people can say some crazy things, sometimes having absolutely no relevance to the content they are commenting on.

Deleting negative comments from your Facebook page, website or wherever they may be is strongly discouraged. If you attempt to filter the negative comments toward your organization while only leaving the positive for public display, you lose all credibility and the engagement is worthless. However, inappropriate comments differ from negative comments. It helps to have a clear policy in place outlining how your organization (or your client’s organization) plans to deal with comments containing inappropriate language – i.e. profanity, racism, etc.

If you display this policy in a place where everyone can access it, and it clearly states that inappropriate comments will be removed, it preserves your credibility and encourages your audience to reply within the policy guidelines (Keep in mind negative and inappropriate are not the same thing!).

Carolyn Washburn, editor and vice president of the Cincinnati Enquirer, recently outlined how Cincinnati.com, the newspaper’s website, is trying to combat unacceptable comments. In an attempt to decrease the “ugly behavior” that some anonymous commenters are engaging in, the website is attempting to strip the cover of anonymity by making readers login through a Facebook page to leave comments. Prior to enacting this policy, which will begin December 5, Washburn said the website even had to disallow commenting on some stories.

Read Washburn’s post: “Sounding off – without the ugliness.

This new policy could deter some people from making ugly comments, but could potentially have some undesired effects. First, some people may be turned off by having to login on a different website prior to commenting on Cincinnati.com. Even the slightest extra step can potentially discourage people from commenting.

Also, having readers login through Facebook may not achieve the stated goal. When people do actually login using their real names, they’ll be less likely to say something to justify a removal, and their profiles will provide a wealth of demographic information for Cincinnati.com to access and use to its advantage. However, people can always login through Facebook without providing their real names. Students use aliases, and there aren’t many obstacles to creating a phony Facebook account for someone who still wants to leave nasty comments under the cover of anonymity.

Cincinnati.com does take the extra step of informing readers how to report a fake Facebook account on this Q&A page in an attempt to prevent fraudulent account comments.

The moral of the story is the user engagement world can be tough to navigate. You can’t just eliminate comments you don’t like, but you can’t let impropriety run rampant either. It will be interesting to see what impact Cincinnati.com’s new policy has on the rate of engagement from users and the overall content of comments on the site.

Tell us what you think:

Have you ever had to deal with, or help a client deal with, inappropriate comments on your digital assets? How did you handle it?

Love the new Cincinnati.com policy? Hate it? Think it will be effective? Let us know.

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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Grandaddy of Them All, and Marketing Genius

Eighty-five years ago, some Macy’s employees got together on Thanksgiving Day and had themselves a little ol’ parade. They used animals from the Central Park Zoo, and heralded it as “Welcoming Santa Claus to the Christmas season.” It was such a success that executives declared it to be an annual event.

Except for a year or two during World War II (during which time helium was in short supply and Macy’s deflated the balloons to donate 650 pounds of scrap rubber to war efforts), the parade has become an annual expectation, extravaganza and marketing juggernaut.

When the parade was still relatively young, Hollywood brought us the now-classic Miracle on 34th Street, a lovely little movie about a woman in charge of the Macy’s parade, her young daughter and a Santa Claus they hire for the parade who turns out to be the real deal. Now when, I ask you, has a corporate parade ever spun off a MOVIE that still airs 70 years later (and even got a re-make in the 1990s)?

You can watch the original trailer for the film here, and it has to be one the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. Truly, it’s bad. A couple of very quick clips of the film (no dialogue) ends with a roomful of studio execs laughing and crying. One of them declares he knows how the movie trailer should run, “We need to show the public that this picture has everything. It’s hilarious. It’s romantic. It’s tender. It’s charming. It’s delightful. It’s exciting. And it’s groovy!”

Nowadays, the parade occupies three hours of television broadcast time, with some of the broadcasts winning an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement (which pretty much solidifies my theory that there is an award in entertainment for pretty much everything).

It’s watched by three million spectators along the 2.5 mile parade route, and another 50 million on television. Let’s put that in perspective: that’s double the number of people who watched Game Seven of the World Series this year. And it’s the same number of people who watched the series finale of MASH.

The parade now takes 10,000 people to put on, 4,000 of them Macy’s employees. There’s a Macy’s Parade Studio that works on logistics and coordination year round (and has coined the term “falloon” to describe a float with a balloon on it).

Landing a coveted spot as a performer or a marching band requires an application process and grueling competition. And corporations clamor to get representation in one of the ten or so slots for giant balloons. What better way to remind you to put the crescent rolls in the oven than to put a Pillsbury Dough Boy balloon in the parade?

All in all, the parade goes off seamlessly to us viewers at home, though orchestrating it must be akin to herding the world’s biggest flock of cats. It’s had its fair share of bumpy moments though, like in 1957 when balloon Popeye’s cap filled with water during a downpour and proceeded to tip over and soak spectators below. Or when a woman was critically injured in freak accident involving a balloon and a lamp post in 1997.

Macy’s has packaged it all brilliantly, positioning themselves as THE place to do your holiday shopping as the season begins (and for those wanting to carry the parade spirit into their homes, you can buy parade Christmas ornaments for your tree on Macy’s website).

Did you watch the parade this year? Does it encourage you to shop at Macy’s?

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Around Cincinnati… 11.25.11-11.27.11

"…when you come on something good, first thing to do is share it with whoever you can find: that way, the good spreads out where no telling it will go. Which is right." – The Education of Little Tree


Cincinnati has been a great city to Saybrook; always providing something fun and productive to do. As a marketing and public relations agency, we have a unique pulse on the happenings around the Queen City. Today is the first of weekly updates giving you the details on fun events going on each weekend. We hope you enjoy this series. If you happen to partake in one of the events, let us know how it went.

Friday 11/25/11

PNC Festival of Lights - PNC Festival of Lights will be more colorful than ever before with nearly two million LED lights! Celebrate the season as you stroll through our themed areas. From FAIRYLAND to CANDY CANE FOREST to TWINKLE TRAIL and MORE! Be sure to watch out for those Rappin’ Elves and other costume characters too!

Saturday 11/26/11

Spirit of Christmas Tour - Tour features access to some of the most beautiful churches in the tri-state and a stroll through the Gateway Quarter to visit churches of local and national significance. Tour will end in the fully decorated St. Francis Seraph Church and Friary, where patrons can view numerous nativity scenes from around the world and a highly detailed Charles Dickens Village. St. Francis will also host a full stable of live animals in the courtyard to help everyone remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Sunday 11/27/11

Duke Energy Holiday Trains - Visitors will experience a collection of model trains, including the timeless Duke Trains, zipping around a winter wonderland.
The Duke Energy Holiday Trains have been on display since 1946 and are one of the largest portable models in the world, measuring 36.5 by 47.5 feet long. The trains are authentic “O” gauge, meaning that a quarter inch on the model is equivalent to one foot on a real train. The rail cars, tracks and buildings are 1/48 actual size. During the holiday season, the trains will travel more than 100,000 scale miles.

We hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

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Even in the digital age, old-fashioned posters and indiscreet conversation still say a lot

My father recently spent a few days as an inpatient at a hospital. As I was walking down the hall, a particular poster caught my attention. It proudly stated that there had been “zero” days since a patient had fallen down.

Now I don’t know about you, but I like to think that the hospital staff is for the most part continuously taking precautions so that patients aren’t falling down like maple leaves on a windy, autumn day. I’ll even go as far as to say that I’d like to think a day without a patient fall is the rule, rather than the exception.

The next day when I came to visit my dad – who himself is quite unsteady at times – I saw two hospital employees standing in front of the sign talking. “Great,” I thought to myself. “They’re agreeing that it’s not a good idea for patients and families to see that Unit Z can’t go a day without a fall.” Or better yet, maybe a day had actually gone by without a patient falling. Unfortunately, as I got closer to the sign, I heard one employee say to the other, “I hate to put a number up there because whenever I do, another patient falls!”

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that the hospital is focused on improving patient safety. My issue is that the creator of the poster didn’t stop to think how its message might unsettle anxious patients and families. My issue is that those hospital employees felt comfortable enough to say something completely inappropriate in front of me, one of their customers.

So whether your message is digital, print, broadcast, chiseled into a stone or spoken to co-worker, please take the time to consider the impact it will have not only on your immediate audience, but all the others who may come into contact with it.

Here are some examples of signs that got attention for all the right reasons. Have you recently seen a sign that missed the mark? If so, I’d love to see/hear about it!

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Bringing a little guerrilla marketing to the Thanksgiving table

Last week, we had a discussion in our office on guerrilla marketing. Described as those unexpected, unconventional campaigns that show up where you least expect them, guerrilla marketing can be a great way to get attention in an ever-cluttered world. Some great examples include a snake bus wrap, the wonderful “left-handed Whopper” ad and, of course, flash mobs. Here’s one of my faves from Belgium around The Sound of Music:



Which, of course, brings me to… Thanksgiving? For the past four or five years, I have held the Thanksgiving feast at my home for my sisters and their families. And each year, we all look for that extraordinary dish that will become a mainstay at the table. That special, unexpected something in taste, color, presentation or style that will become the thing talked (and/or bragged) about for years.

I am all about Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. Growing up it was the one time of year my extended family came to town and enjoyed a meal together. And, let’s face it, when you only see family members once a year, everyone has a good time. The whole house smelled delicious. Turkey, rolls, pies and potatoes. But oh, how far we’ve come from just getting out the good china, boiling some potatoes and whipping up a green bean casserole.

You need only pick up one of the many magazines at the checkout touting the best Thanksgiving recipes to know what I’m talking about. Today in the era of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, we have an abundance of recipes and crafts that make the holiday even MORE memorable than the last. We roast hazelnuts and ground them up into our pie dough. We boil cranberries until they burst and simmer them in a simple syrup for that sophisticated, yet simple side that says I have too much time on my hands. And the turkey – don’t even get me started. Let’s just say if you didn’t order it fresh and pick it up two days before Thanksgiving to begin the prepping and brining and basting, well, you’re behind the times. And if your family hasn’t deep-fried the bird at least once in the last three years, well come on out from under that rock and let’s talk about what you’ve been missing.

In fact, this blog, The Bitten Word, has a great post on trends this holiday. They do all the work for you of scanning the food magazines, trying recipes and giving you their take. So if you’re interested in the best of the best for Thanksgiving, according to authors Zach and Clay, “Bon Appetit BROUGHT IT this Thanksgiving. Buh-ROUGHT. IT.” Love this word cloud that also gives you what’s in and out this year at a glance.

But I digress. Maybe everyone doesn’t consider the all-out recipes a “guerrilla” technique, but that’s all I can think about when Martha Stewart taunts me from thenewsstand, just daring me to bake a soufflé in a pumpkin or hollow out a cabbage to serve crudités. And you just know before you start, it is NOT going to look like the picture. Sadly, that hasn’t stopped me. I have made caramel apple pie (nothing like the picture, yet delicious), sweet potato pumpkin pie (interesting, but never repeated), poached shrimp in red wine and herbs (delicious), a carved pumpkin face in an orange bell pepper to serve dip and brie in puff pastry with holly and berries on top (again, not like the picture, but what isn’t good in puff pastry?). Though, I have to say, none of us has ever topped the year my sister carved a turkey out of a watermelon.

But though appetizers and sides may come and go, here’s one thing that is now a mainstay at our Thanksgiving table: Alton Brown’s brined roast turkey and gravy. I tried this for the first time four years ago and now won’t make the turkey any other way. I brine it the night before and roast it in my mother’s 30-year-old roaster. Hilarious, but it gets so hot and the bird is perfect – faster and better than in the oven – so we keep using it, just crossing our fingers it lasts. And the gravy is to die for.

So however you celebrate this year, I hope your Thanksgiving is about friends, family and fabulous food (with a little flair, of course).