Our Blog

Our Blog

elannert's picture

Discovering DISQUS

Can you share some insight about what you’ve learned about Disqus?

I’m going to be blogging about Disqus a lot. I think it’s the long sought-after missing piece of what we used to call “web 2.0”. We’ve had commenting capabilities on blogs for years. We’ve had discussion forums for even longer. Let’s be honest we have never had meaningful b2b conversations on either of them.

skastrul's picture

A conversation with Marge Hayes: Lesson 2 Tribune Company

One way you can encourage the use of metrics is to have a president or CEO like Mr. Heinemann. It’s better when it comes from the top-down. It sort of forces people in the ranks to do it, too. When you see that top management is happy with something, you know that’s the right way to go.

At Northwest, Mr. Heinemann created his own set of reports with the data he wanted to see. On certain days, you got certain reports. We made sure that the reports were accurate and timely.

This was a different way of doing things. Everyone held some responsibility for being informed.

elannert's picture

What are the simple steps to write great content for a website?

What are the simple steps to write great content for a website. From your experience what are some of the best practices to follow to write great content for a new website or an existing website?

csmith's picture

A Fresh Perspective on Education

Since receiving my undergraduate degree, I have been adamant that I would never go back to school. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy my time at Columbia. I did very much.

Nonetheless, even now, in my 30’s, I still have nightmares where I forget to study for a final or forget my locker combination.

While at Columbia, my education was focused on learning from professors who worked in the industry. Project based learning and internships were really big for me. I always look back on my time at Columbia as an opportunity-maker.

elannert's picture

Anchoring into Viral Content - TED

Last week we were in our Kissmetrics reporting system, and we noticed that someone came to the blog by Googling, “The First Follower is What Turns a Lone Nut…” That line is from a video on TED that I had blogged about a couple of months back. I wondered, “How in the world did that query end up in my blog?”

skastrul's picture

A conversation with Marge Hayes: Lesson 1 Northwest Industries

One of my favorite things is spending time with my dear friend Marge. She is an amazing storyteller. I love Marge’s stories because they span across politics, gender, technology and leadership.

csmith's picture

13 Nerds Walk Into a Bar

13 nerds walk into a bar.

No, this is not the beginning of an epic joke. It’s the story of how one event was able to bring like-minded people together.

elannert's picture

Eric's Answers: Are infographics a fad or are important to link building and brand promotion?

I recently submitted my answer to a question on “LinkedIn Answers” posted by a user named Claire. The question is asking if infographics are a fad or are they really important to link building and brand promotion?. Please view the thread here

elannert's picture

Eric's Answers: Are we at a point where video is replacing written content on websites?

I recently submitted my answer to a question on “LinkedIn Answers” posted by a user named Jim. The question is asking if we are at a point where video is replacing written content on websites. Please view the thread here

elannert's picture

Eric's Answers: Should you outsource your Social Media function at all?

I recently submitted my answer to a question on “LinkedIn Answers” posted by a user named Ravi. The question is asking for some advice on whether or not social media should be outsourced or kept in-house. Please view the thread here

elannert's picture

itDuzzit: A Simple Way to Keep Track of the Things that Matter

One of the biggest problems we’ve tried to solve for a long time is how to keep track of things that are unstructured in nature.

Things like:

  • remembering to record how many times someone lands a new job
  • keeping track of how many resumés have been sent out
  • keeping track of the thank-yous that go out to our volunteers every day
  • keeping track of things that we find on the internet that we’d like to blog about or we want to comment on
skastrul's picture

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

It is the most wonderful time of the year. It is a time when we wonder what the next year has in store for us, and we share in the wonder of receiving and giving gifts.

At i.c.stars, we believe that leadership is making opportunities for others. In our program, one of the measures of leadership is how many opportunities we make in business, community, and on our team.

elannert's picture

Eric's Answers: Should a Company’s Social Media Presence be Directly Connected to a Personality?

I recently submitted my answer to a question on “LinkedIn Answers” posted by a user named Iris. The question is asking for some advice on how to handle a company’s social media presence. Please view the thread here

csmith's picture

Culture Shock: How to Help Your New Hires

Starting a new job can be nerve-wracking. Will I fit in? Will I have things to talk about with my co-workers? Will my work be appreciated? We all face these questions no matter what our role.

elannert's picture

A Helping Hand for Your Referral Partners

We have gone live with a new benefit calculator for one of our clients, Concord Group.

It’s an important tool, not only because it can be promoted directly to the audience and to the accountants who are potentially going to use it, but because we’ve recently discovered a new way to use it.

We got a call last week from one of Concord’s agents who helps in sales.

skastrul's picture

The Power in Entrepreneurship

Often, when people think about i.c.stars, they think about the technology training and the leadership component of developing a thousand community leaders. Entrepreneurship is what you get when you focus on both technology and leadership.

elannert's picture

Kill your website

We’ve spent lots of time with clients over the years in CMS tools / information maps / ia strategy, etc. etc. We are trying a radical departure from this approach and moving toward marketing mini-sites - also known as landing pages.

csmith's picture

Road Trip to Professional Development

I’m a traveler by nature. I like to explore and be in charge of my trip. I prefer driving whenever possible. There is an old saying: “A road trip will test your relationship, whether it’s with a spouse, friend or family member.” Road trips will show you what you are made of.

csmith's picture

The Untapped Power of Individual Giving

I love being able to brainstorm. Especially with a small group of other Directors of Development. I am part of a group that meets every quarter to talk about different ideas and things that have been successful within our organizations. We can learn from each other, innovate, and have a better understanding of the organizations we work for.

skastrul's picture

The Art of Opening Doors for Others

This past September we were really fortunate to meet Hans Renman. He’s the CEO of Stockholm’s Tänk Om, a highly successful leadership program for school administrators and principals in Sweden. He’s planning to bring the program to London and thinking about scaling into the States. Before that, he founded Young Business Creatives, the most innovative high school in Sweden. He delivered a fantastic high tea on Tuesday that really inspired a lot of folks at the table. He’s got some really revolutionary ideas about education and change.

skastrul's picture

Starfish Are Scary: The Lasting Value of Making Things

A few months ago we had some folks over at our house. Tiffany brought her son, Cameron (one of my favorite little guys in the world). Cameron was the only kid in the house, which is not a problem because I have a lot of learning toys designed to spark the imagination and creativity. But I don’t have any computer games.

csmith's picture

Welcome to Demo Island

I must admit, reality television is a guilty pleasure of mine. Now in it’s 25th season, Survivor stands strong. This got me thinking, how can we take a similar concept to highlight the innovation in Chicago? Without the voting off of course!

elannert's picture

B2B Start-up Tip on Online Presence Building

For businesses looking to enter the online world, how would you rate the importance of: A) a website, B) a blog, C) email marketing, and D) social stream interaction?

csmith's picture

Poll Everywhere: Using Technology to Engage Your Audience

The bottom line is that public speaking is intimidating. I remember hearing from one of my mentors that the day my stomach isn’t all tied up in knots is the day I need to quit what I’m doing, because I have lost my passion.

That’s why it’s funny that a “speak-a-phobe” like me decided to step public speaking up a notch by adding audience participation at our last innovation conference. I’ve always thought it would be cool to poll the audience and figure out the makeup of the room before you start speaking. You know, tailor your talk to the interests of the room. This makes the speaker over prepare as they never know what turn the talk will take once the audience has a say.

skastrul's picture

Commencement at i.c.stars: Witnessing Transformation

Cycle 26 is the first cycle to commence at our new location. If you’ve never been to an i.c.stars commencement, then you definitely want to get yourself on the invitation list, because it is a profound, moving and humbling event. Commencement means the beginning of something new, and in every new beginning we reflect on where we’ve come from.

csmith's picture

Three Books to Add to Your List!

I’d like to share three very important books for professional development today. I’m recommending these books because I believe all three will help you make the most of your time, your talent and your professional relationships.

skastrul's picture

Civic Responsibility and Innovation

I read an article in The New York Times entitled, “Why Our Elite Stink,” by David Brooks, about the old-boy, WASP elites. These people were behind the times on equality, but they had a real sense of responsibility for the larger institutions, and for people, and they owned their “stewardship mentality.” As Brooks says, “They were the temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations.” The rules were such that if you didn’t live up to those things and didn’t adhere to the stewardship, you were kicked out.

elannert's picture

The Next Level in Digital Marketing: Building Engagement

When clients start working with us, they really want to know how to become consistent about publishing content. We’ve implemented a lot of great tools, techniques and processes and we’ve found a way to help our clients find their voice. And once you’ve got the beginnings of an audience, you enter the next phase, where the challenge is: how do you engage them, or provide interactive content for that audience?

elannert's picture

The E-mail Marketing Hype Cycle

We have been doing e-mail newsletters for clients since 2005. In the last few years, we’ve had 25 different clients across a variety of industries focused on B2B marketing. Recently, we started to build a highly interactive calculator that would allow clients to project their traffic and the results they’re likely to get from investing in content-driven marketing - e.g. blogs and newsletters. In the process of building that model, we went back and looked at our real data to figure out how long it takes to build different audiences and a following of subscribers and blog visitors.

DebsCane's picture

The Wrong Skills Gap

Much has been made during this latest Presidential election cycle about whether America’s work force has the skills needed for 21st century job opportunities. More so, national, state and local candidates on both sides of the aisle all seem to want strategies for retraining workers, whether it comes from big government or private enterprise.

A Measurable Impact

Initial placement rate:
Industry retention rate:
College attendance rate:
Alumni actively engaged in their communities:
Average 12-month earnings before program:
Average 12-month earnings after program: