Tag: Storytelling

New book reviews coming soon…

On a Saturday, July 16, 2016, I attended the Soulful Chicago Book fair on Chicago’s south side.  In 2015; Founder, Asadah Kirkland brought over 20 years of experience to create The Soulful Chicago Book Fair . On this beautiful summer afternoon, I had the great pleasure to meet several authors with phenomenal, warm and intense stories to share. We talked about life journeys, family, relationships, being proud to be black, and what it means to grow up in urban communities.

From block to block, authors stood in their booths proudly holding books with confident smiles on their faces. Each block represented a genre of literary work. On the children’s story block, I got a sense of proud parents teaching, learning and sharing powerful stories that will be told for generations. Often times, young adults and children were the authors of the books. It was a proud and humbling experience to witness strong African-American relationships surrounded by books.

Here are a few authors I had the pleasure of meeting and discussing their work:

I Love My Hair by Author, Candace Edwards shares an amazing book that’s fun with phenomenal illustrations by Edward C. Kidd.

Growing up, I didn’t embrace and love my hair as much as Madison. I started to appreciate the beauty and unique qualities of my hair as I got older. I’m thankful Ms. Candace Edwards is sharing this story of confidence.

Candace Edwards








Just Because by Author, Chiquita Camille Payne shares a heart-warming story about accepting one another and the importance of family love.

Chiquita Camille Payne








Sneaky Little K by Author, Sheenita Robinson and Illustrations by Jason Holmes shares an incredible book on discovering phonetics and sounds with the Sneaky Little K.

Sheenita Robinson








The Love of Debbie La’treck” by Author, Habeeba B. Pasha and Illustrations by Pavel Melecky shares an amazing story about a girl name Vivian that has a creative spirit.  She’s an avid reader and loves to live through literary characters. The story and illustrations perfectly flow.

Habeeba B. Pasha








Legally Branded, A Memoir by Author Shanna Red is a memoir about Shashanna Wilson. She is a woman who survived a heroin-addicted mother, physical and mental abuse at foster homes that ultimately caused self-identity issues, unhealthy relationships, and education problems. “Legally Branded, A Memoir” takes you on a journey in the shoes of Shashanna as she fights to overcome the darkness of foster care.

Shanna Red








Women’s Voices by Author Rebekah S. Cole is an intense story about Jonetta Miller. A young, pregnant and unwanted young lady sent away by her mother to live in Chicago to live with her Aunts. She is faced with tough choices as family tensions rise.

Rebekah S. Cole








Call Her by Her Name, Poems by Author Bianca Lynne Spriggs is a book of poetic genius. She tells stories that are rarely told. The book is a celebration of women. It breathes life into the complexity of women.

Bianca Lynne Spriggs









Let’s read together and start conversations about  amazing authors and important topics!

If you’re an inspiring author, check out the following services:

Books Ink Literary Services has over 40 years of experience helping authors get books from manuscript to the literary marketplace.

Check out the website here:  Books Ink

 Follow Crystal on Twitter @ TousanaC

Interpreting Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman…


She’s Unbelievable

by Crystal Tousana

It’s easy to believe

When I rise, I breathe

Men want to know me

Not because my body is perfect

Because it’s not

I have no perfect curves

My moves are delicate

My legs stand tall

They see confidence in my eyes

When I speak, I tell the truth

My honesty is through the roof

My heart is on my sleeve

I’m unbelievable

You can read the entire poem here:  Phenomenal Woman

Share your version of Phenomenal Woman in the comments.



Follow crystal on Twitter @ TousanaC

Don’t let your HUE control your image: 5 great examples of mixing up color with great content.

Living in a world filled with color, it’s important to make your brand stand out.  Color has a way of changing our energy. The brighter the hue, the more energy we have.  The darker the hue, the more somber we become.

Associating color schemes with a product has a way of helping us determine our perception of the brand image. Marketers are tasked with figuring out what makes consumers get excited over a shade of lipstick, time spent in a freshly painted room, a new clothing line that’s runway ready, and many other competing brands looking to stand out.

Imagine breaking through a long journey of product development, go to production, land a deal with a major retailer, and ultimately your first sales hit your books. Days later a similar product line has a launch almost identical but the colors are all the rage. What’s next? Viciously fight for rack space? Or just improve on the next round?

In an Entrepreneur article titled,  The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding by Gregory Ciotti, he gives a comprehensive look at the role color plays in marketing. The ultimate goal is to determine the impact color has on customer engagement. The overall premise is that color is a feeling. Focusing on color should be more about what the product represents.

Mr. Ciotti says, It’s the feeling, mood, and image that your brand creates that play a role in persuasion. Be sure to recognize that colors only come into play when they can be used to match a brand’s desired personality (i.e., the use of white to communicate Apple’s love of clean, simple design).

The article speaks extensively to color perceptions. Great article but I personally believe we can get a bit too excited over color schemes and forget to mix it up with better content. 

Here are 5 great examples to consider when working your color scheme:

Check these out:

  1. Headspace Consumers recognize this health and meditation brand by the ORANGE dot but their following is based on awesome content.
  2. Blue Apron Consumers associate the BLUE apron with this super awesome recipe and ingredient service. According to Greg Fitzgerald, Blue Apron’s Director of Acquisition Marketing, the company spent its first few years explaining how the service worked. Now that it has more brand recognition, it’s turned to more in-depth storytelling.
  3. Sun Life Financial uses the brightness of the sun in their name and colors on the website. When talking about money it’s a great idea to connect to a bright future. This insurance giant knows how to turn content into a loyal following and find new followers.
  4. Red Bull You can’t deny RED Bull has the color red locked down for brand image. They successfully connected great content with a brand image that attracts athletes, busy professionals, college students, people taking long journeys, and anyone else ready to fly. Content is king in Red Bull’s story: The Story

My favorite:

  1. “Be Your Beautiful Self.”  Dove has an image of pure and clean. My heart melts whenever I see Dove’s advertisements and commercials . If brand was a human, I’d want to be Dove’s products merely because it represents clean and authentic storytelling told by women we see walking sidewalks every day. These women carry the rainbow in their heart.

I hold this quote from Dove’s website close to my heart:

Beauty is not defined by shape, size or color – it’s feeling like the best version of yourself. Authentic. Unique. Real. Which is why we’ve made sure our site reflects that. Every image you see here features women cast from real life. A real life version of beauty.

Go improve your content, color will follow!

Go to Caramel Lattes and Stilettos to read the pairing to this article!


Trending- Making memories with Snapchat and Facebook

Snapchat introduces memories. Users can show off their super cool memories with fun graphics.

Check out the following video on how it works:

Snapchat memories


Tip:  Snapchat memories is an opportunity for marketers to share memories and cross promote brand stories.


Facebook users are going live. When I sign into my Facebook account my friends and family are posting their adventures on vacation, at weddings and all things entertaining as it go down. These live videos are super fun and in real-time. When your watching a live video, you have the option to click or tap subscribe to get notified when that person starts another live broadcast.

Check out how this super cool way to take your friends, family and followers on your journey works:

Facebook live


Tip:  Facebook live is an opportunity for marketers to increase social mentions by connecting live with fans, followers, and friends in real-time to show what’s going on with products and services.


Follow me on Twitter @TousanaC and http://www.caramellattesandstilettos.com








Lights, Camera, Action- 3 tips to bring out the magic in your next film campaign

Going to the movies is fun. Escaping to the movie theater has always been one of my favorite things to do. In my opinion, life would be boring without witnessing the work of producers, directors, writers, actors, and actresses.

In a March 2007 Ted Talk, J.J. Abrams; a well-known producer and writer, spoke about what inspires him when writing and producing. He says, “There’s an amazing sense of opportunity out there. And when I think of the filmmakers who exist out there now who would have been silenced, you know—who have been silenced in the past—it’s very exciting thing.”

In his talk, J.J. Abrams premise is based on a mystery magic box. He bought the box from a magic store decades ago and never opened it.  The box cost $15 with $50 worth of magic in it.

The magic box represents Mr. Abram beloved grandfather, infinite possibility, hope, and potential. Mystery, as it relates to fiction, is a genre involving something mysterious such as death or a crime to be solved. Each character plays a credible role in making the story move along and keeps the audience engaged. J.J. Abrams says that mystery is more important than knowledge and that it’s a catalyst for imagination. He goes on to say that, “I realize that [that] blank page is a magic box, you know? It needs to be filled with something fantastic.” Overall, he’s suggesting that stories are mystery boxes.

J.J. Abrams is the best at mastering excitement around his work. He has an excellent way of reinforcing brand loyalty by giving followers teasers by revealing the names of characters and presenting teaser trailers. Mr. Abrams is revealing some of the mystery to get a reaction and get people engaging. The trailer for Star Wars broke a record number of 88 million views within 24 hours.

I wholeheartedly believe there’s magic in every story regardless of the genre. As quoted above, there’s always a sense of opportunity. Having the talent to tell a story on a grander scale is attainable provided that there’s some magic in characters and words. Character building is an art form in writers, rather on a larger or smaller scale. What makes the difference is having the ability to carry the story forward in a way that makes the audience excited and want more.

Watch the J.J. Abrams’ Ted Talk here: 

J.J. Abrams Ted Talk

Drawing inspiration from J.J. Abrams, I’d like to offer the following 3 marketing tips:

  1. Create an immersive experience by combining social media with storytelling.
  2. Create audience participation by giving them a say in storyline outcomes.
  3. Give selective releases of information about the characters and story.


[Source: The Art of Immersion:  How the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories, Chapter 7, The Hive and the Mystery Box, Frank Rose]


Making Nonprofits Shine: Infusing great stories in your next social media campaign

Having a persistent and strong desire to bring awareness to your favorite charity is a great feeling. Telling friends to show up for events to support clothing and food drives, collecting donations for a run/walk to provide much-needed funds for research, and volunteering hours to fight for what matters most in communities brings positive outcomes to nonprofit organizations. After events, what’s next?

I recently started studying what makes some charities shine and others fail to perform. In today’s super chatty social media space, it seems impossible to not reach goals when creating campaigns for charitable causes. Challenging the next best charity event to perform at optimum speed has become more of a “wait” and “see” game.

If the right people with that “it” factor spread the word, your campaign will last a little longer. But don’t get too excited.  Even the super cool and popular people can lose traction getting the word out about important events to raise awareness. The answer to what’s next is to tell impactful stories about your charity. Building strong brand stories around your charity purpose will not only build trust but also gain access to a diverse audience of supporters.

Leaning solely on “shouting out” and sharing announcements about events on social media doesn’t work when campaign strategies are not designed to reach the right audience. What works effectively is creating and tailoring brand stories and moving images dedicated to stirring emotions and tailoring authentic messages. Most importantly, reaching out for support should connect what matters to potential donors and others willing to get involved.

I found a phenomenal story in a McKinsey Quarterly article titled, The Power of Storytelling: What nonprofits can teach the private sector about social media

The article references a case study from the Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith: The Dragonfly

The excerpt discusses the great work of Scott Harrison. Mr. Harrison was a successful fashion promoter that excelled at bringing models and hedge-funds kings together, and selling $500 bottles of Vodka. Mr. Harrison sported nice jewelry, clothes, cars; everything young men dream of. After years of having everything, Mr. Harrison’s passion for the rich life fizzled. He wanted to make a difference. He walked away from everything to start a nonprofit to bring awareness to diseases and medical problems related to inadequate access to clean water.

Watch and listen to Scott Harrison’s amazing story here: Charity Water

Harrison’s organization gained incredible success because of the following design principles of engagement:

“Tell a story”

  • Viewers fell in love with his cause because he evoked themes of “redemption,” “change,” and “hope” by discussing why and how he started his charity in media interviews and YouTube videos.

“Empathize with your audience”

  •  Harrison promoted compelling stories.

 “Emphasize Authenticity”

  •  Commitment to transparency by sharing results of donor’s generosity.

 “Match the media with the message”

  • Create distinctive messages for Twitter, Facebook, and other social media websites.

Here’s the Dragonfly Effect model:


Because Harrison’s story and the Dragonfly’s Effect are super awesome examples of making nonprofits shine, I will end with one of my favorite quotes:

“It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.” Dalai Lama

Donate to Charity Water


What’s in a nickname? A Story and an emotional bond!

ScoutNicknames. Why do we need them? Nicknames give us a greater source of recognition. Life revolves around our names. Names grow on us. I grew up believing nicknames are mandatory and necessary.

To Kill a Mockingbird

In the 70’s, the Tousana Family moved to Markham, the far south suburbs of Chicago. Realizing they need space and landscape, my parents moved Mugsy, Round Table, Scout, and Cricket to a neighborhood that sort of reminded my mom of home. Fast moving city life was too much for them to handle.

Our small town felt a lot like southern Mississippi but with paved roads. Backyards had gardens with a minimum of 5 rows across the back gates connected to the alleys that were eventually closed off to traffic. We grew everything. Corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and other greens, onions, all kinds of peppers, okra and there were even attempts to grow watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fruit that wasn’t so keen of the soil.

The gates surrounding the houses were where we introduced ourselves to the closest neighbors. We can tell which families were from the south by their names. Introductions were emphasized with preferred names. Usually their nicknames had an entertaining story to go with. Our driveways were parallel to wire and flimsy gates.

My siblings and I needed permission to play pass the length of the gates. Hanging out in the driveway was my favorite spot anyway. Jumping rope, playing street dodge ball, and hop scotch was not my thing. I rather sit by my father’s side and help fix cars. Or as the old schoolers used to say, “Shoot the shit.” As we sat and discussed everything under the sun, the background noise would be filled with kids yelling and running across the width of our driveway.

My sister and her best friend would be at the end of the driveway jumping rope, clapping and singing over and over again. Their screechy voices repeated the lyrics, “Step in the water, boom bop, water was cold, boom bop, chill my body, boom bop.”

Sometimes my father would say, “Cricket go get me a beer.” My sister would stop jumping and run in the house, get a beer, I would pop the top, pass it over to my father’s shaky hands. All the while my sister is in full motion back to jumping rope without missing a beat. That was the routine. If I went into the house to get the beer, my sister would freak out.

The time seemed to fly when my father and I sat together. Even if we didn’t talk much and the basis of conversation was commands such as “Start the car Scout, I’m done.”

Asking questions was what young Scout enjoyed the most. Fixing cars, memorizing the names of tools needed to repair the green monster was Scout’s passion. Scout named it that because it roared loud, choked and growled as it rolled down our street.

My father gave me the nickname Scout. A keen sense of awareness, undeniable persistence is what Scout represents. Embracing my nickname was not a challenge. Playing with dolls and having tea parties is what our society say girls should do. Fixing cars is what I wanted to do. Being a girl wasn’t enough. I was defiant of the girl code.

My father was my secret weapon. While my sisters and neighborhood kids busied themselves with girly things, I sat beside my father’s toolbox. When he needed a tool, he would say, “Scout pass me the wrench.” I would passionately lift the wrench with both hands and proudly hand it over.

While sitting for hours, rearranging and handing off the screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape and hammers, I would say, “Dad, why people so mean.” Before he can answer, I would bombard him with more questions. Hyperventilating, talking fast and stumbling over my words didn’t excite him at all.

No doubt, I was daddy’s little girl. Mugsy, Round Table, and Cricket had special relationships with our father too. The difference is that they weren’t as needy. Mugsy, my brother took the role of the protector of his little sisters. Round Table, my older sister took the girl power leader role. She had a way of making dinnertime fun. Eating was not her thing. So my younger sister and I had a good time watching her cheeks grow before she runs to the bathroom. Cricket, my younger sister had a spunky and quick-witted personality that kept us all on our toes.

Growing up, I never thought nicknames had meaning. I really didn’t care. All I knew was that my father chose to not call my siblings and me by our birth names.

By my late teens, we were all in our own way about life. While my siblings busied themselves staying true to character, I was still lingering around my father. My mom did her best to get me to move on independently.

Riding shotgun to my father’s job to avoid public transportation to college in Downtown Chicago was the last straw for my mom. She would say, “Chris, you’re going to regret letting her jump in the car with you.” “Let her be.” He would smile a big pearly white smile with a cigarette stuck to the corner of his lip and say, “Let’s go Scout.”

The one time we didn’t pick up his coworkers slowly walking the last stretch to the train yard, my father seemed distant. To break his concentration, I finally asked the question my father thought would never happen. I blurted out, where the name Scout comes from? He paused, smiled and asked had I heard of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird? I wasn’t sure if it was trick question, so I said nothing. My father suggested that I read the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird represents two Scouts. The little girl is experiencing the story but the adult Scout tells it. Drawing comparisons to a story that is not supposed to be comparable is what makes my nickname dynamic. My father, the electrician and Atticus, the lawyer careers are starkly different. Scout in both relationships has a special father/daughter bond.

Losing my father early in life forced me to grow up fast. I wasn’t bitter about his death because I felt our short time was more than some people get from dads with more years. Often times, I would look to the sky and say, I’m going to make you proud. And use his favorite phrase “Watch out.”

Violence – balancing awareness and engaging targeted audiences

Chicago is a phenomenal city that is well-known for arts, entertainment, and great shopping. Celebrating milestones in sports, visiting museums from far north to far south and enjoying music and dance in some of the best and well-known venues in the country doesn’t scratch the surface to what Chicago has to offer. Unfortunately, violence concentrated in neighborhood clusters has overshadowed the vibrancy of Chicago’s nightlife.

Tackling violence in Chicago has become national news. In political campaigns and community events, the focus is on education, poverty, drugs, and gang activity. Having the spotlight on Chicago most impoverished and economically despaired neighborhoods has opened the opportunity for important dialogue.

In a 2012 documentary, The Interrupters, by Director, Steve James and best-selling author, Alex Kotlowitz (Cure Violence), the film exposes the harsh reality of surviving in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. The film shows all the complexities and challenges to reach and engage the perpetrators and victims of violence.

The interrupters primary goal is to reduce and prevent future spread of violence by mediation. Gary Slutkin, Founder of  Cure Violence, compares violence to disease epidemics. In a Ted Med video titled, “Can violence be cured?” Dr. Slutkin says that the geographical maps in areas where violence is more prevalent remind him of the clusters of disease.

Mr. Slutkin’s logic is to interrupt the spread of violence by hiring workers to shift the norms in these communities. The workers are violence interrupters and outreach workers with credibility and trust access. By engaging in community activity, remodeling and public education, they are uniquely positioned to change the way community members resolve conflict and control their emotions in hostile situations.

Interrupters are poised and prepared to handle the dangers of going into neighborhoods and talking to the people. They show empathy because they grew up on the same streets and in some cases committed the same crimes. They ultimately build trust and find ways to neutralize hostile situations. The youth in these neighborhoods is a part of the epidemic. Spreading violence and retaliation is all they know. It’s all about survival. In the documentary, there is a clear sense of hopelessness. There is a kill or be killed mentality.

Prior to viewing the great work of the interrupters and Dr. Slutkin’s Ted Med talk, I naively thought the solution is to simply go to the community and talk to these people. Let them know the wider population cares. Get to the bottom of the issues. Find out why violence is the answer to every conflict. Then share information with anyone that has enough power and influence to take action and make changes to help the communities recover. What’s missing in my thought process are factoring in poor schools, broken homes, drugs, absent fathers, racism and built up anger.

Finding the right balance between awareness and having productive conversations is critical to get to the bottom of why the problem continues to perpetuate in certain communities. Having access to media and social networks, leaders create opportunities to discuss issues and try to resolve the problem of violence. The primary issue is that conversations slow down and sometimes end when there’s a drop in crime rate.

Having statistics on crime rates in Chicago is a great start to determine the concentration of incidents and the effectiveness of programs that are designed to combat violence. In addition to having this data, a deeper understanding of microcultures in urban neighborhoods is needed. On the south side of Chicago, there’s a distinct behavior; community members believe they are alienated from the wider population. In the Interrupters, those interviewed feel they have no power when it comes to law enforcement and other public officials.

From a marketing and communication point of view, finding the right balance in awareness and engagement is critical to start moving to more positive and long-term results. Because we are in a high-tech and fast paced environment, communication-based in storytelling will create more authentic dialogue.

I will suggest the following steps:

  • Integrate as much as possible. Hit as many touch points as possible when advocating for change.
  • Create content from different perspectives. Give community members the opportunity to tell their own stories through organized campaigns using social media. Encourage authors to share and continue discussions across multiple platforms.
  • Use Analytic tools such as Google Analytics and Social Mention to build future conversations and content.

Storytelling – 3 tips to keep your brand story’s heart beating

It’s a brand new day. No pun intended. Having a compelling story in today’s social media is critical to survive in a highly competitive environment. Having an emotional connect with your targeted audience will not only create engagement but will increase sales.

Stirring up emotions, getting attention, and triggering engagement is great provided that your targeted audience trusts that the story will resonate over time. Often times, great stories become irrelevant as customer needs change. As marketers, we should focus on keeping the story fresh and conversations vibrant and ongoing.

When was the last time you got excited about a product launch and couldn’t wait to get your hands on it? Many times, we see people in line waiting to be the first to purchase. In that line, consumers are sharing stories, their brand experiences or why he or she is a first-time buyer.

I found this incredibly insightful article, “Science of storytelling.” This article gives the following six fantastic tips to help incorporate sophisticated storytelling into digital marketing efforts:

“Develop a true understanding of your target audience.”

“Through your conversations, identify emotional drivers your buyers experience.”

“Prioritise authenticity as much as possible.”

“Whether you are using Facebook, a blog, Twitter, direct mail or even a billboard, use the strengths of your channel to tell your story appropriately.”

“Give your stories credibility.”

 “Encourage user-generated content to share different perspectives of your overarching story.”

Storytelling is at the heart of every great brand story and we know how to get to those stories. The challenge is to ask the right questions, find out what matters to consumers, and to simultaneously share meaningful stories across multiple channels.

I’d like to offer three additional tips I believe will be valuable in your next story campaign:

  1. Purchase intent– Find out why your customers/clients bought or plan to buy your product or services.
  2. Listen/observe– Use social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, read comments on company blogs and websites, and evaluate behavior triggers.
  3. Timing– Reach your audience at the right time and place to get the best results from great content.