nth degree media and designs logo

nth degree media & designs: Now open for business!

Graphic: Photo of Kansas City skyline in background with text on a black banner in front: NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS nth degree media & designs | nthdegreedesigns.info

On February 27, 2018, I handed in my letter of resignation, ending my eight year career at my employer. I wanted to focus on my precious responsibility of taking care of my grandma and my friend Calvin, so I started my own graphic, web and media design & consulting business.

Yes, you heard me right. After 8 years of stable employment, I moved on to launch my own business.

If you landed here, I’m so glad you came! Please visit my new business online at https://nthdegreedesigns.info!

Graphic: takingcareofgrandma.com Coming May 1, 2017

TakingCareofGrandma.com launching 5/1/2017

Photo: Rachel, left, with her grandmother, rightFor those of you who don’t know me, you may be surprised to know that I have been supporting my grandma to age in place as her primary caregiver for about two years now. It has been quite the journey. Since that time, I’ve learned more than I ever want to know about what it’s like to grow old in today’s world.

I have to share what I’ve learned with everyone. I just can’t keep it to myself.

I am happy and excited to announce that I will be launching takingcareofgrandma, my personal journey in caregiving and practical advice for caregivers, on May 1, 2017 to kick off Older Americans Month.

I will be sharing my own personal experiences, including what I wish I’d known and lessons I’ve learned about getting older, dealing with people, and life in general, as well as practical advice and tips for making caregiving easier.

Visit takingcareofgrandma.com to sign up for updates about the launch and receive notifications when new content is added and opportunities to connect with fellow family caregivers are announced!

Graphic: Phone icon

Robocalling Roundup

Does your organization or business make a large volume of calls or texts over a given period of time? Think voter registrations, fundraising campaigns, healthcare enrollment, weather cancellations, or appointment reminders..

Are you looking to automate or enhance an referral process so people immediately receive a call or text from you when you receive their information?

You might be looking into robocalls (or texts). Robocalling services allow you to import a large number of phone numbers and leave automated message or send texts to your contacts.

I recently looked at a few major robocall providers and rated them based on their ease of use and customer service. Check them out and see what might work for your project or program.


One Call Now



Pricing: You can buy a block of calls (recommended). The message units can be used for calls or text messages and they never expire. You can also sign up for a subscription (only use this if you plan on using it a lot). Pricing information is publicly available on their website for blocks and subscriptions. No free trial available. They offer non-profit discounts.


How it Works: Everything is managed in your dashboard in your web browser. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp3) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard.


Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★★★

RoboTalker’s dashboard is streamlined and very simple. They have a demo video right on their website for anyone to view.


Customer Service: ★★★★★

They responded immediately via email offering to set up a time to talk after I submitted their contact form and after I provided more information about our project needs, they provided suggestions about which plan/amount of credits would work best for us.

Pricing: You can purchase prepaid credits for calls or texts, but you have to contact them for pricing. Free trial available.


How it Works:
Everything is managed in your dashboard in your browser. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp3) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard. Their dashboard provides a little more detailed information about the results of the calls/texts.
Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★

They do have a mobile app you can install on your smart device, but the browser dashboard just looks clunky compared to the other I looked at.
Customer Service: ★★★★

They followed up with me by email after I submitted a demo request form on their website with specific information about our project needs. They were honest and transparent and provided suggestions about which plan/amount of credits would work best for us.

Pricing: Their voice calling option goes by minutes. You’d have to do math to figure out how many messages you could get for your needs. Free trial available


How it works: The voice calling feature is part of a larger suite of communications applications offered by SimplyCast. Voice and texts are separate. Everything is managed in your SimplyCast dashboard. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp4) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard.


Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★★


Customer Service: N/A – they didn’t ever call or email me personally. I received an automatically generated feedback form, but no personal outreach.

Pricing: MSRP ranges from $1,800 to $2,700, and the first year of support is included at no-charge (I was quoted at $1,300 as a nonprofit). No free trial available.


How it works: With the PhoneTree Hardware and Software Kits, you purchase the equipment/hardware and install their software to manage your contacts and messages. Having equipment and extra software means having to keep it up. Even though the first year of support is free, you have to decide if it’s within your capacity to keep everything up to date.

They do have a cloud-based option, but I was not offered a chance to look at it and the rep didn’t think it met our needs.


Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: N/A – the representative I spoke with told me about their hardware solution, but there was no demo to try.


Customer Service: ★★

Somebody followed up with me within a couple hours of me filling out their demo request form. He pitched the hardware option to me. I requested a demo or something I could watch to see how it works but it was not available. According to their website, with the hardware/software option, you can record messages and send them, but he didn’t seem to think it was possible.


Overall winner: I chose Robotalker based on the appearance/functionality of their dashboard and their customer service. They ended up being cheaper than OneCallNow by a few bucks.

Since we weren’t necessarily looking at a long-term solution, I didn’t choose the hardware/software option offered by Phone Tree, although it may be a wise solution for those looking to make an investment in this for the future. I also preferred having a place to log-in to where I could view the results of my calls and manage everything in one place.


If you are currently using robo-calling software or choose a service above or not listed here, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

Icon: Camera

Rachel’s Roundup: Top 10 FREE Stock Photo Sources

Do you have a website or create brochures, flyers and newsletters? If you answered “yes,” chances are you’ve racked your brain once or twice trying to find high quality photos to complement your content.

Ideally, you would want to feature your own clients, products, and local scenery, but we know this isn’t always possible. Sometimes privacy policies and ethics sometimes prevent us from using them. For those of us with limited resources, we can’t all afford to run out and take photos all over town or sign up for overpriced subscriptions to paid stock photo websites.

I have rounded up my top 10 go-to sources for stock photos I’ve saved over time. These sites have photos that are either public domain or licensed through Creative Commons, so you can use them for free in your products. Make sure you bookmark these sites so you can come back to them any time you start a new project!

Tips for finding stock photos:

  • Search for photos using a couple of similar terms (i.e.: baby, children, family).
  • Save each photo with the name of the site you found it on (i.e.: unsplashed-photo name.jpg)


1. unsplash: My top choice for good pictures of people, things, and nature.


2. lifeofpix.com: good for pictures of things-nature, buildings, objects, animals


3. kaboompics.com: good for pictures of people, things, and nature


4. albumarium.com: good for pictures of people, things, and nature


5. picjumbo.com: stock site chock full of original photos of all kinds of nouns – people, places, and things.


6. gratisography.com: for quirky, artistic, creative stock photos


7. deathtostockphoto.com: receive high quality, themed packs of photos via email at least monthly.


8. startupstockphotos.com: ideal images for business, meetings/collaboration, technology and overall productive looking photos


9. New Old Stock: free vintage photos


10. WikiMedia Commons: For very specific photos of things (e.g.: one time I was looking for photos of tenements in the late 19th century New York and Levittown Suburb photos for a video project on housing)

Screenshot: WikiMedia Commons

Graphic: Icon of a megaphone

Changing your default Instagram (or any app) posting privacy settings on Facebook in 5 Easy Steps

When Instagram posts to your profile, depending on your default privacy level, it may be posting to your friends only. That’s okay- but if you want to change it to expand your reach and who sees your Instagram activity, you need to make it public!

View the steps below or by opening up my handy PDF guide!




Using your COMPUTER,  here’s what you do!


Navigate to facebook.com. Go to settings using the menu to the right of your name in the top navigation.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels


Click on Apps on the left side of the screen.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels


The first thing you will see is a list of Apps that you’ve logged into using Facebook. If you don’t see Instagram at first, click “Show All.”

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels


Click the Edit/pencil icon next to Instragram (or any app you wish to modify) when you hover over it.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels


Change the ‘App visibility and post audience’ option to Public and click Save. And voilah! You’re done!

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels



I can help you with even more social media strategizing and communications game. See Work with Me to check out all the ways we can work together to make your project look good and expand the reach of your messages.

Graphic: The MIP Bailout

I need you to BAIL ME OUT

As the Hiles least likely to go to jail, I’m sorry to announce that I have been detained as part of the Midwest Innocence Project’s 2016 Bailout event. All throughout March all of us “detainees” are raising “bond” to support the MIP’s work to free the innocent behind bars. I know I can count on you!

You can do help in two ways:

  1. Donate to my “bond” and help get me out of the clink. My detainee page is here: https://portal11.bidpal.net/Portal/bpe298681/catalog/item.html?id=8. Any amount is appreciated. Please consider giving even as little $3 or $5!
  2. Buy a ticket to the Happy Hour on March 31st . Check it out http://bit.ly/1PGvR2h
Why Should You Care?

The MIP Bailout event is quickly becoming one of the great parties of the year. 2015’s event raised over $47,000 and contributed to successes like Floyd Bledsoe, who was released on December 8th after 15 years in prison for a crime he did not committee. See the KC Star’s Article – HERE.

In the MIP’s five-state area, between 1,500 and 5,000 people are currently locked behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
What is the MIP?
The MIP is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the investigation, litigation and exoneration of wrongfully convicted men and women in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska. Did you know the average cost to exonerate a prisoner is $325,000? That cost includes DNA tests and hours of time invested by investigators and lawyers to free the innocent. The entire process can take seven to 10 years to complete and is expensive.
The money we raise at the Bailout will help MIP continue their important work of freeing the wrongfully accused.

How Does the Bailout Work?
Participants – or “Detainees” – raise funds in a friendly competition to support the work of the Midwest Innocence Project. Detainees are asked to post “bond” of at least $1500 by collecting donations through the month of March in a friendly fundraising competition. All this culminates at the the party on March 31st where detainees bring friends, coworkers, and supporters to solicit last minute donations from the crowd. The detainee who raises the most bond is the winner!

I hope to see you there!

Graphic: Ghetto Sara Lee with a pink Santa hat on

The giving season is here

The holiday season has arrived! Our favorite carols are already playing on the radio. Christmas trees and Santas and snowmen line the aisles of the all of the stores.

Do something different this year. Don’t throw your money away on presents.  Put your money to good.

I am asking that in lieu of gifts, you will consider making a donation, either on my behalf or for those you were going to buy gifts, to these amazing organizations that work to make lives better for people and creatures here in Kansas City.  Most of the stuff we buy ends up in landfills anyway.


Logo: Fuller Center for Housing of Greater Kansas City

The Fuller Center for Housing builds and renovates houses in partnership with families in need. Homeowners work hand-in-hand with volunteers to build or renovate their homes, which they then pay for on terms they can afford, with no interest charged or profit made.

Logo: Midwest Innocence Project

MIP advocates for and obtain the exoneration and release of wrongfully convicted people within our five-state region.

Logo: GYRL (Giving Yourself Real Love) 

GYRL’s mission is to provide a place where women, girls from all over the Greater Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas area come together to build a better place socially, educationally, economically, politically with spirituality.

Logo: Harvesters

Harvesters is Kansas City’s food bank. In the 26 counties Harvesters serves, they feed more than 141,000 people every month. In addition to feeding the hungry, they are also working to find long-term solutions to hunger by providing education, awareness and advocacy throughout northeastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri.
Logo: Missouri Health Care for All

Missouri Health Care for All believes every Missourian deserves access to quality, affordable health care, no matter where they live or how much money they make. They are working to close the Coverage Gap which is leaving 300,000 uninsured Missourians out in the cold.  Expanding Medicaid would close this coverage gap, cover 300,000 uninsured Missourians, most of whom are working or in school.

Logo: Missouri Budget Project

The Missouri Budget Project is a nonprofit, objective, public policy analysis organization that provides independent research on complex state policy issues and how they impact all Missourians. The Missouri Budget Project works to enhance the ability of all Missourians to participate in the public debate and ensure that advocates, policy makers and the public have the information needed to create sound fiscal policies.

Logo: Connecting for Good

Connecting for Good been bridging the Digital Divide since 2011 with wireless mesh networks, community technology centers, low cost refurbished PCs and free digital life skills classes. They just opened a new center in my neighborhood!

Logo: ArtsTech KC

ArtsTech’s operates a center for youth development that uses art and technology to offer alternative education, hands-on training in fine arts and digital literacy as well as building and managing public/private collaborative partnerships.

Logo: Urban Ranger Corps

Urban Ranger Corps helps the young men of Kansas City’s urban core graduate from high school, develop their personal career paths and thrive as students, employees and citizens.  And they do electronics recycling and paper shredding!

Logo: Chain of Hope

Chain of Hope rescues, rehabilitates, re-homes or transfers homeless or unwanted pets and provide public education on the proper care and treatment of animals and give shelter animals much needed love and attention. I am especially attached to them because they helped me spay and neuter my pit bulls.

Logo: Spay & Neuter Kansas City

Spay and Neuter Kansas City (SNKC) works to provide affordable spay and neuter services and owner education to help decrease pet overpopulation in the Kansas City area. I am especially attached to them because they helped me spay and neuter my kitties!

 Logo: KC Pet Project

Kansas City Pet Project is the largest no kill animal shelter in Kansas City, MO. They care for nearly 10,000 pets a year and find homes or other placement for over 90% of the pets who come to our shelter.

Graphic: Icon of a megaphone

Getting on the News: Writing a Press Release

I recently made a statement that if I was in charge of anything, I’d issue a press release for everything.  I am a firm believer (and I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that backs me up) that getting the media’s attention or paying for advertising is the key to success when it comes to getting clients, customers, donors, and supporters.

Yes, even in today’s modern world where the local news are reporting on stories that happened in Tallahassee and airing stupid cat videos off of YouTube that have no value whatsoever to us, you should still write a press release.

Here are my suggestions for creating press releases:

  1. Keep it concise – Don’t write a novel.  It should be just a few paragraphs.  The most important information should be first.
  2. Catch their attention – Use action verbs and descriptive language.  If you have a lot of “is”es and “was”es and that means you are using linking verbs. Make it interesting to read and think about.  One of my friends said, “Write it like a news story to get a news story.”
  3. Make it mean something – Why should the person who picks up the press release care? Don’t think about the end user.. the person who will see/hear/read the story. Yes, they are important, but if you convince the writers/assignment editors/tv folks on why it’s worth doing a story, you have one.
  4. Follow the format – If you use the template, you can’t fail.

It’s not as daunting as you think.  Reporters are always looking for stories to report on.

If you can build personal relationships with reporters, that’s even better.  Nurture those relationships.  I had started one with a very prominent local reporter and let it go because I got too busy with my job.

Also, I feel it is important to add that an invitation to attend is not a press release.  If you want people to come to an event, make it sound like a news story.  (Rookie mistake)

I don’t believe in giving advice/information without tools so with that, here are the emails of the local newsdesks to which you will submit your press releases.  (A side note: attach it to the email but also paste it in the body of the email.  You should do this for lots of things.  But that’s for another day)  I also included an example press release we submitted for a fundraiser we hosted for one of my friends.


PDF (Strictly for informational purposes) acrobat


Word (The actual template) word



Local media outlets

Fox4KC WDAF: news@wdaftv4.com
KCTV5: newsdesk@kctv5.com
KMBC 9: news@KMBC.com
KSHB 41 Action News: Try filling out their web form at http://www.kshb.com/contact-us

KPRS Hot 103 Jamz: community@kprs.com
(I don’t listen to any other stations so sorry… Google it)

KC Star: The Star is tricky.  You have to sign up for an account on Press Release Central and then copy and paste the text of your release.  But you can add a photo!

The Pitch Weekly: Good luck. Try filling out their web form at http://posting.pitch.com/kansascity/ContactUs/Page

Need a website?

There are many factors that go into building a good-looking, functional website:

  • Structure/Function – How is it built and what purpose will it serve? People won’t look at it if they can’t figure it out.
  • Design – What branding and colors will you use? People won’t look at it if it’s ugly.
  • Content – What will you be putting on your site? Strictly information?  Media?  News?  Whatever you decide, people won’t look at it if you don’t update it regularly (if that is what site set up requires).
  • Capacity – Do you have the time, money, energy, and staff to update the website or are you doing it all yourself?  If it’s too much to handle, you won’t update it and guess what: people won’t look at it.
  • Audience – Who will be using your website?  Does it need to have different tones, designs, or content for specific users?  If people don’t’ find any value or use in your website, they won’t look at it.

The hidden/underlying costs of building a website

Building a website includes more than just purchasing your www.  In addition to the domain name (the address people type in to get to your website), you may also need to purchase hosting (the space where your website is located), a template or theme (the design/physical layout of your website, add-on apps or plugins, and so on.  It is important to keep your budget in mind when you are planning your website.  The good news is you don’t need hundreds of dollars to build a website.

All hosts and services are not created equal

Platforms like Wix and Weebly, commonly referred to as “drag-n-drop” builders, may work for some and not for others.  In my humble opinion, I think you can instantly tell the quite obviously difference when you go to a professionally-built site and one that was put together using one of these sites unless some serious thought is put into it.


What type of website will I need?

Infographic: What type of website do I need?

So, do you need a website?  Holla at me!