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Matt Overby, Executive Director of Summit Leadership Foundation

Matt Overby, Executive Director of Summit Leadership Foundation

Recently I’ve noticed a trend among my 30-something friends with young children. When it comes to social media, you can’t find them (or their babies.) One of those friends, Matt Overby, the 37 year old Executive Director of the Summit Leadership Foundation, decided, along with his wife, to “cut the social media cord” when their infant son was born last year. I was interested in why a very tech savvy, marketing-oriented leader would choose to do this. So I sat down to interview Matt and ask him about it. Matt has extensive training in the hospitality industry both at Starbucks and at Chick-fil-A, and he is a student of Leadership Guru John Maxwell. Our seven minute conversation is well worth the listen to see the insights into a young father’s mind as to why he did not want his baby on Facebook, twitter, instagram or any other public platform.

Although I had seen this trend with Matt and others, in researching this pos,t I found only one article about it called “No Baby on Board: Many Parents Keeping Info About Their Babies Off Social Media.” Ironically, after I left the interview with Matt I bumped into another young father and shared our discussion with him. This very tech-savvy dad told me he also quit social media when his first child was born. “Not with facial recognition,” was his comment as he shook his head “no” when asked if he posted his kids’ photos on social media platforms.

What’s been your experience with other parents of newborns? Are they staying on social media or quitting? I would love to hear from you.

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Beautiful Christmas decorations adorned the Martha Washington Inn weekend when we were there in early January.

Beautiful Christmas decorations adorned the Martha Washington Inn.

The first month of the new year is a fresh start for everyone. We all begin at the January starting line together. Many of us work on our company’s strategic plans over the holidays and prepare for what lies ahead. But how many take the time to create a strategic plan  with their spouses and families?

Four years ago my husband and I sat down for the first time in our then 16-year old marriage and wrote down a plan for the future. We have literally checked off the “action items” we created in that meeting one by one over the ensuing years.

This year over the first weekend of 2015  we took an overnight trip  to the Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, Virginia (one of our favorite getaway locations and location of our honeymoon night!) The Inn’s General Manager Chris Lowe gave us a wonderful meeting room space, complete with a roaring fire, to work on our family’s plan. The idea of being in a neutral, quiet location with the chance to talk is one I highly recommend. Also, by spending the night at “The Martha” we had an opportunity for some fun together time (like swimming in the indoor salt water pool) and it wasn’t “all work.”

Here are our tips for your family’s planning:

1- “Begin with the End in Mind.” That famous Stephen Covey statement is a great place to start. Decide on a family mission statement and work backward from there OR work until you come up with your family mission statement as we did during our first meeting several years ago. That gave us a starting point for this meeting.

2- Get away! Go to a neutral and preferably “get away” location where you and your spouse can have some fun too. Do not try this at home or at either person’s office. (We know we’ve tried!)

3- Ditch the Devices: Take calendars, notepads (the kind with paper) and pens or pencils. We turned off our mobile devices during our meeting and just focused on one another. We manually wrote down the tasks and goals for 2015 and beyond. We wanted to focus on each other and not on our screens.

4- Follow up: Be sure to turn the notes into an easy to reference “action item” list to refer to throughout the year. Post that list in a prominent place in the kitchen where you’re bound to see it. Then check-off items as you complete them.

5- Share with your children: Include your children in some portion of the planning process if they are old enough. Our “tween” has great insights and unique points of view (particularly about family vacation planning). When we returned from our “getaway” we shared some of our discussions with our son to get both his input and his ideas to make the 2015 Miller family plan even better.

Have you created a strategic plan for your family? If so what tips would you add?

 

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ToDoListIt’s time to roll out another new year and with it all of the hopes and changes that a new season brings. Old man 2014 withers and fades and the bouncing new baby of January 2015 is upon us. So many times we think “big” when we think of the changes we’re going to make in the new year. Perhaps that’s why gym memberships balloon like December waistlines each January, only to fall off once the sore muscles and routine of discipline sets in.

Instead of declaring broad, sweeping changes like to “lose 20 pounds in two weeks” or “win the lottery” what if we take time to examine our lives and make one, small change? That’s right. Just one, small change that we can implement daily.

In 2014 I did something so simple that not only worked, it streamlined my life. I’m delighted to share this tip with you. (I learned it from Success Magazine publisher Darren Hardy.)

Each night before you go to sleep, write down and PLAN the following day! Simple right? But it works. If you actually wait until the new day is upon you (as I did for years!) you will feel overwhelmed.  Write down the night before what the next day will look like. Quite simply, plan ahead. You will be amazed how much more smoothly the day will flow and how accomplished you will feel when you chart your course the night before.

What are some simple and small tips that you will be using to meet your goals in the new year?

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The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015 class

The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015 class

Today I had a fascinating round table discussion with members of our Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Leadership 2015  class. Since I only had a brief time to meet with them before they headed out on their “Technology Day” I shared the latest Equalman Socialnomics video. These videos are always professionally done and the fast-paced, statistic-packed video served as a great conversation starter for my question:

How has your business (or you personally) been positively or negatively impacted by social media?  

Here is a quick sample of the leaders’  answers:

1- Smart Phone Stress: Are we ever “off?”- One leader said, “I now feel like I have to work from the deer stand.” With smart phones he asked, “when can we manage to turn it off? When do you stop and decompress?”  The same man said that he deliberately left his phone behind when he went to Ireland for nine days and when he returned he had 1,600 emails to return. “I paid for it,” he said of his time “unplugged.” Others commented that if they are up at 3 AM texting they expect others to do the same. Our work cycle has moved toward 24-7.

2- Power-full: Representatives (and customers) of the power board mentioned how handy it is now to gain real time information about power outages. One class member and customer said how very appreciative she was of the regular updates from our power board versus other places she had lived.

3- Increasing student enrollment: A representative from the Gatton College of Pharmacy mentioned how she deliberately engaged students before they attend the school on Facebook. She welcomed them as “members of the class of 2018″and gave them a sense of belonging and engagement. After this type of outreach, enrollment numbers went up.

4- Everyone’s a publisher: Conversation was lively concerning the “double edged sword”; the ability to publish but also the ability to move quickly and not take time to check the facts as in certain well publicized recent news stories.

5- Checking out future workers and colleagues: The leaders cited the ability to go onto LinkedIn and quickly assess people to see their resume, their connections and more.

6- Not EVERYone is online: Two leaders who work in the highly regulated financial services industry two  said they are extremely limited as to what they can and can not do digitally. “Everything must be recorded” said one leader. “Even our instant messages have to be recorded.”

7- Go Paperless (Really): One Human Resources director said she really enjoys the elimination of paper work in both the job application process and recruiting thanks to the digital workplace. “An applicant now never touches a piece of paper until they come to work for us,” she said.

How have you as a leader been impacted by social media and our digital society for good or for bad? I would love to hear your story.

 

 

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Winner, Faith in the Future, woman-owned business category.

Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel, Winner, Faith in the Future, woman-owned business category.

MarketingMel won the woman-owned business category of the recent 2014 CenturyLink Faith in the Future Awards. While it’s always nice to win awards, I am much more delighted about the REASON I was selected, namely, my faith in the future of the next generation of Public Relations professionals. My intern, Alex Quillin, nominated me for this award. While Alex had class and could not attend the actual ceremony that day (my husband was kind enough to join me), here is an excerpt from her winning nomination. Thank you Alex and thank you to the four “alumni” that have gone on before you and moved into successful communications careers at Visit Knoxville, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Nestle Purina and Cumberland Marketing. Alex, you’re in great company and I know you’re going to do great things too!

I am so excited to be able to work with MarketingMel. She has provided me with hands ­on opportunities to work on events, create press releases and meet real­world public relations practitioners. Mel has introduced me to many women who own their own communications businesses or who work as PR professionals for businesses in the region. This internship is preparing me for my future career, and it is laying a foundation crucial to my success. I feel more confident than ever with my PR abilities, thanks to MarketingMel.

2012­-2013 MarketingMel Intern Kristen Pierce, now in public relations for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, said this about Mary Ellen Miller: “You have sparked and inspired a passion for the public relations profession in not just me but several other “newbies,” as well. I think it takes a special person to be able to teach and cultivate young talent. For me, your patience and understanding combined with your genuine want to help us navigate ‘real world’ PR ignited my passion for PR!”

Because Mel has been blessed with wonderful mentors in her life, she wants to give back to her community in every way possible. Since founding her business in 2009, her #1 method of giving back to the community is mentoring bright, young women who are rising public relations majors at East Tennessee State University.

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Preparing for the start of the 2014 UP & At 'Em Turkey Trot.

Preparing for the start of the 2014 UP & At ‘Em Turkey Trot.

The 9th annual Johnson City Up & At ‘Em Turkey Trot 5K Road Race and Family Fun Run has come and gone like last week’s turkey leftovers. With over 4,000 participants including runners, walkers, strollers, wheelchair racers and dogs, it was deemed a huge success by everyone involved. Universally participants and all committee members have told us that the publicity for this Family 5K was the best ever. The value gained from press, media, and promotions was worth many thousands of dollars.

Here are four tips that helped the Public Relations plan work:

  1. Set a goal: Know your goals, in this case the numbers of participants you are going for at the start.
  2. Have a Team of Professionals: This year we had a total of 5 marketing/public relations professionals working together. We met weekly and followed up on our action items including lots of interface with the media. We were a subcommittee to the main race committee and operated independently concentrating only on the publicity aspect of the event. The race director was a member of both our committee and the main race committee.
  3. Press Conferences can still work – if done right: We opted to hold a press conference to launch this year’s event. We held it in an elementary school (that consistently has the most student participants). We gave it a pep rally feel, complete with hundreds of students screaming in the gym. The beloved local anchorman was emcee and covered the event live on the popular morning TV show. We brought in mascots from a variety of local businesses and held a race with the turkey (guess who won?) This was also a good opportunity to recognize our sponsors.
  4. Get a celebrity/celebrities involved: One of our team members knew last season’s Biggest Loser top five finalist Jennifer Messer. Jennifer lives nearby. She was more than eager to help us as parade grand marshal, with the press conference, with media interviews and with social media. Having the power of celebrity behind a cause can really boost an event!

When the actual day arrived, despite snow, cold and wind, the people turned out! For many it’s become a family tradition to burn off a few calories before sitting down to feast. I walked it with my dog, Lucky, and a friend. (This is one of the few races that allows dogs and this year hundreds of well-behaved canines on short leashes strolled or jogged with their handlers.)

These are just a few of the PR tips that went  into this event’s success. Do you have additional thoughts or ideas as we look to implement an even bigger and better race next year?

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Learning to be thankful leads to a joyful life.

Learning to be thankful leads to a joy.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a day-log session at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina with Author Stormie Omartian. Hearing Stormie and her testimony was truly spellbinding. As a gift to all attendees The Cove gave everyone the book, “Choosing Gratitude, Your Journey to Joy” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

To summarize, the book emphasizes the importance of keeping an attitude of thankfulness in our hearts no matter what we are facing. DeMoss, a Christian author, asks the question: “Are you more prone to focus on what you wish you had (or didn’t have) or on the blessings you do have that are far greater than you deserve?”

For several months at the beginning of 2014  I wrote down something each day that I was thankful for about my husband, Danny. Then I shared it with him each morning. You would be amazed how that one act of kindness and gratitude lifts the spirits of your spouse. I highly recommend it to all married persons.

At this season of Thanksgiving I would challenge you to write down 10 things you are grateful for TODAY and share them with your loved ones as you’re passing the pumpkin pie! As for me, I’m grateful to you for faithfully reading this blog and commenting throughout the year. Furthermore, I’m extremely grateful to my clients and referral sources for providing me with work for over five years.

What’s something you are grateful for this Thanksgiving?

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MythbustersRecently I had the opportunity to speak with a class of incoming freshmen at Milligan College about careers in public relations. My presentation was called PR Mythbusters.

Myth #1– PR presents many glamorous job opportunities (a la Samantha Jones in Sex and the City.)

Reality:  PR is all about your client and making THEM look good!

Myth #2- PR is about press conferences and press releases.

Reality: While it is true that we create these kinds of events for clients there is a tremendous amount of behind the scenes planning work that goes into what you see on the visible, front end. To be good in PR students must excel at written and verbal communications.

Myth #3- Publicity is only needed when bad things happen.

Reality: Publicity is a two edged sword. Sometimes it can be used to address crises as in a well-thought out crisis communications plan. Other times it can be used for much good as in our recent Socktober campaign with Kid President that brought in over a thousand pairs of new socks for the homeless in our community.

Myth #4– Any publicity is good publicity

Reality: Although Hollywood stars may ascribe to this,  there are times when some of the greatest accomplishments of a public relations professional include keeping a client out of the limelight.

Myth #5– Anyone can do it

Reality: It takes a well trained, well thought out team to execute a top PR plan including strategy and tactics. Our current Up & At ‘Em Turkey Trot PR committee incorporated last season’s Biggest Loser top five finalist Jennifer Messer as grand marshal. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher (and Science Hill High School grad) Daniel Norris is also helping spread the word of the popular Thanksgiving Day Family Fun Run/walk.

Myth #6– Social Media is just for fun

Reality: Social Media, particularly LinkedIn, can be a great connecting tool that will build professional bridges now and in the future. Futhermore using social media well can help build clients personal and professional brands.

What are some PR Myths or reality questions that you may have?

Here is the SlideShare Presentation

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