The Chaska Wheel

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The Chaska Wheel is a kind of living meme resulting from a proposal I shared with the City of Chaska and then never let go. Whenever I see the Mayor or City Councilors around town, they bring it up. My friends are always asking for updates. My kids talk about it as inevitable. My wife is sick of it entirely.

The Chaska Wheel has become a living vision of what’s possible when a local dork just doesn’t let a good idea die. And of today, it’s a satirical campaign to celebrate my 40th birthday.

Check out: ChaskaWheel.com

Here’s a fantastic video from our Mayor, who is very much in on the joke…


The Backstory:

I’ve been on a couple City Council task forces for city planning in the last decade. Our committees help write the downtown master plan that led to the hugely successful Chaska Curling Center. The latest task force is helping redevelop a full city square block in the downtown area (and a block from our house). Depending on the economy and developer interest, it will probably happen in the next 5-10 years.

As part of that process, I suggested a few concepts to be at the center of the development, including a year-round, city-owned Ferris wheel. It was a bold recommendation I believed would serve will serve as the focal point and repeatable destination for Historic Downtown Chaska.

And it became a meme around town. And now it’s going to be a meme for life.

To be clear: in a pandemic, in a recession, and in an election year, this is all quite silly and there are things that are way more important. Pragmatically, the city and our community has more important things to focus on than a silly attraction that wouldn’t make fiscal, logistical, or even cultural sense right now. So it’s important to put that context around this gift my friends put together. This is more about them showing me love for my birthday around something I was passionate about — good or bad idea.


The pitch:

The Chaska Wheel will help us capture the gorgeous views of City Square Park, the MN river valley and create a unique skyline to Historic Downtown Chaska. Adding a ferris wheel design to the Historic Downtown Chaska logo and style-guide will also increase the impact of our branding materials as a mnemonic that could literally put us on the map in a different way for decades to come. More importantly, it will get us in all of the top 10 must-do things in the greater metro area. It will help Chaska stand out from Stillwater and downtown Hopkins and Red Wing in its own unique way. 

And check out this photo from the Chaska Historical Society that shows a precedent — a ferris wheel in City Square Park in 1953.

The Chaska Wheel would serve as another destination for visitors like the Chaska Curling Center. Designed to be operated year-round, the wheel could be the feature in the complex that includes library, parking ramp and restaurants incorporated into it (e.g., Betty Dangers in NE Minneapolis). Just as The Old Mill at the Minnesota State Fair became a repeatable destination across the generations, the Chaska Wheel in Historic Downtown Chaska could serve as the anchor for our community for decades to come.


The 40TH BIRTHDAY Campaign

Thanks to my really good friends and wonderful wife, there is a massive sign in my front yard and campaign website featuring 50+ videos both advocating for the Chaska Wheel and celebrating my birthday.

I was SO SURPRISED. And couldn’t stop laughing. And feel so loved.

We’ve got the Mayor of Chaska, a city councilor, two local TV news journalists (Jason DeRusha and Chris DeLong), my parents and wife and kids, tons of beloved friends, coworkers, and so many “celebrities” – like Mark McGrath, Rebecca Black, Tay Zonday, Gilbert Gottfried, Rod Blagojevich, Tommy Chong, William Hung, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ed Begley Jr., Mark Russell, Danny Bonaduce, Thad Lewis, Kermit the Frog, Morgan Tuck, Barry Williams – who all recorded videos, wrote songs, produced the history of Ferris wheels, and more… Just amazing.

I can’t say enough about this. It’s humbling and wonderful. Thank you all so much.

And the giant sign in front of our house is massive. We have so much traffic past our house that have to be wondering what the heck is going on. Amazing.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

THANK YOU to everyone who helped pull this together. A wonderful 40th birthday surprise. Be sure to peruse all the videos. I just… am so blown away.

And who knows.. maybe we’ll get that ferris wheel built yet.


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In the News: Navigating the New World of Working at Home

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I was interviewed by the Chaska Herald about working from home…

Navigating the new world of working at home

As the weeks pass, those still employed are getting used to working from home.

For many, it was an abrupt switch. COVID-19 quickly caused businesses to close and remaining workers to be productive in their homes.

Luckily, some say technology is making the change easier.

Chaska resident Greg Swan is no stranger to wired work. He currently heads the digital team at the Minneapolis advertising agency Fallon, and works with social engagement and PR for Brainjolt, a media publishing company based in California. Each week Swan blogs about trenching technologies.

He’s written about Zoom video communications and advice for virtual meetings — priming him for technology tips for those less apt to working from home.

But before he offers guidance, he wants to get one thing straight: let go of perfection. Our homes aren’t offices, and that’s OK.

“We all have kids or dogs or doorbells ringing. We’re all working from home. We’re all here,” Swan said. “It’s OK and you can laugh and acknowledge them, or you can also ignore them at this point. It’s so just a given now.”

NEW TECH WORK WORLD

Lots of people aren’t used to new tech-savvy expectations, and he said many are being thrown into a world they’re not used to. But again, he said perfection isn’t the goal.

Swan reminds folks to “give grace” to those people, maybe setting up a one-on-one meeting to walk those having difficulty through certain tools.

It’s even a change for Swan.

He’s been a digital marketer his entire career, but says he’s never been on camera this much and this often.

“I tend to want to multitask and not look at the camera or not worry as much about what’s in the background, and with a few small tweaks, it really changes the experience for you and everyone that you’re involved with online,” Swan said.

For Swan, an effective desk looks something like this: A carved out section of his bedroom for an “office,” experimenting with a standing desk, and a borrowed LED ring light from his daughter (for better video resolution and quality). He said the latter is especially helpful for those nights when putting work away before midnight isn’t an option.

Overall, Swan said there’s a few things everyone can do on video calls to make life easier for everyone.

Stay on mute while not talking, he said, and look directly at the camera while speaking — not at the screen. Another tip?

“Give nonverbal feedback,” Swan said. “Now that you’re on mute you can’t just say, ‘Uh huh,’ or, ‘Got it,’ every time so you need to nod and give a thumbs up and laugh.”

In the end, he said being able to work during this time isn’t anything to take for granted. Though there may be stressful bumps along the road, he said it’s important to remember the context of the situation.

“Compared to a lot of folks, those of us who can work from home — and are only inconvenienced by WiFi signals, crying kids, or barking dogs — really have it pretty well off,” Swan said.

“Working from home is a gift. But I have to say I can’t wait to get back into the office.”

What you can’t tell from the picture is that this is a tiny corner of my bedroom. We shoved the bed over, and I’ve carved out a little nook that you can’t tell from the camera is just a child’s desk in a corner of a 135 year-old house. It’s all a facade!

It’s at the end, but I also tried to stress in the interview was how fortunate I am to get the chance to work from home right now. 

What a 2020 it’s been so far!


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Greg on Social Media in Civic Government

I was quoted in a two-page Chaska Herald feature on civic government communications discussing the opportunity of utilizing social media:

The highs and lows of social media

Social media is a powerful way for civic government to connect with its social-savvy citizenry,” wrote Greg Swan, a Chaska resident and vice president of digital strategy for Weber Shandwick. “The city of Minneapolis uses Facebook and Twitter to announce snow plowing. Stillwater residents promote community garage sales via Facebook. Shakopee posts video from their music in the park series on a city YouTube channel. The Chaska Police Department uses Nixle to send SMS text alerts about breaking news in town.

Jumping on the Bandwidthwagon

Greg Swan, a Chaska resident and vice president of Digital Strategy for Weber Shandwick, would agree for the most part, but he still has some constructive criticism for the city.

“Like many organizations and businesses, the city of Chaska jumped on the Facebook page bandwagon, but hasn’t had a strategic communication and community management strategy to ensure updates are timely, questions are answered and that the page adds value to its fans,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Podhradsky gets that, acknowledging, “We gotta be better at this.”

While critical, Swan also understands the challenges cities like Chaska face.

“To be sure, Chaska government officials have plenty on their plates, and in an era of limited resources, we taxpayers want them to prioritize their efforts,” he wrote. “Yet, in many cases, a dormant social media profile is worse than a non-existent one … It’s of-ten difficult to justify return on investment in moving resources into social media, but the opportunity cost of not participating in conversations about your community can be high.

I also put together a “5 Social Media Trends to Embrace/5 Social Media Trends to Ignore” sidebar that ran within the feature.

Five social media trends to embrace

* Online monitoring of what people are saying about your community

* Social community building and engagement with two-way conversations

* Real-time event coverage (photos/video/news) on social channels

* Social focus-grouping, letting your online advocates get involved

* Live streams of public meetings with real-time chats

Five social media trends to ignore

* Establishing social media channels without a content and community management policy

* Outsourcing social media management to vendors

* Editing Wikipedia, which is against site policy for affiliated organizations

* Focusing so much on ROI that you miss out on the conversation happening today

* Google+, which hasn’t yet set guidelines for non-humans

It was a fantastic round-up by the Chaska Herald with stories on the faces behind city social channels, the role of public safety in social and interviews with social channels from Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, School District 112, Carver and Carver County. They should enter it for an award. I’m serious.