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Mary Ellen Miller, Elyse Batista and Dr. Stephen Marshall present Elyse with the 2015 MarketingMel Mass Communications scholarship.
Mary Ellen Miller, Elyse Batista and Dr. Stephen Marshall present Elyse with the 2015 MarketingMel Mass Communications scholarship.

This fall the ETSU Mass Communication department awarded the MarketingMel Mass Communication scholarship to ETSU senior, Elyse Batista.

As a transfer from North Carolina, Batista, a senior, maintains a 3.77 grade point average, leads the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) as president, and has been awarded the Dean’s List certificate since her arrival at ETSU in 2012. She will be interning with MarketingMel for the 2015-2016 academic year.

MarketingMel, founded by Mary Ellen Miller, is a creative firms that offers marketing, public relations and social media strategies. “The MarketingMel internship has propelled me into the communications industry,” says Batista. “From networking, researching and attending events to one-on-one mentoring with Mary Ellen (Mel), I’m able to put classroom lessons into action.” Batista says that the scholarship is a great bonus to a great program.

Originally, the scholarship fund was established by Miller in honor of the fifth anniversary of MarketingMel. She began the internship program as a mentoring opportunity for young women aspiring to work as communications professionals and the scholarship was a natural outcome. Over the years, the internship has come to be known as a great opportunity for students.

Since the start of the mentorship program six years ago, MarketingMel interns have experienced a 100 percent employment rate upon graduation. These interns have moved forward in the communications industry and have found their niches within a variety of specializations including public relations, marketing, sales, and advertising.

Miller enjoys mentoring young professionals. “I feel it is my duty to give back to the community that has been so good to me,” says Miller, “What better way than to mentor the next generation of PR professionals?”

When have you mentored or been mentored by another? Please share your experiences with us. 

 

 

 

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Editor’s note: The following article was published in the June 2015 issue of Out N’ About magazine. June 26 is National Take Your Dog to Work Day. We set out to find local dog owners who take their dogs to work on a regular basis. Here’s the “tale” of one such pup.

Jake as a puppy

Jake as a puppy

Is taking a pet to work more likely found in Hollywood Hills than the Blue Ridge Mountains? Actually, we found plenty of four legged friends making their way into the hearts and offices of workers right here in Northeast Tennessee.

One such pet is Jake, a 6 ½ year old, 80 pound Golden Retriever with a soft, well-groomed coat. Jake is the self-appointed doorman and greeter for Stowaway Storage on Browns Mill Road in North Johnson City. As this writer entered, Jake approached carrying a soft, red child’s toy in his mouth and wagging his tail. By all appearances he is both welcoming committee and chief public relations officer.

“From the very beginning when my youngest son pushed me to get another puppy (after the family’s previous Golden passed away), I said, ‘OK he has to learn to ride in the car, he has to learn to jump in and out of the car, and he has to go to work with me every day,’” said Jake’s owner and person, Barbara Allen. “I picked him up on a Monday and he was just about 10-12 pounds. Tuesday morning at 8 AM he was in the office and Friday of that week he shot a TV commercial for the Dogwood and Cattails Ball.” Jake has been the mascot for Stowaway ever since.

“There are a lot of people who want to do business with somebody that is a dog lover,” says Allen. “Some people bring their kids and time their visit to be sure that Jake’s here.”

Barbara and Jake the puppy

Barbara and Jake the puppy

Allen says Jake considers his co-workers an extension of his family and when the tenant, who lives in an on-promise apartment, stops home for lunch, Jake believes it’s his lunch break too. “Jake rushes over to greet him and keep him company through lunch and then the tenant leaves and Jake comes back to work,” says Allen. Jake knows the UPS and FedEx truck drivers and is excited to see them because they are regular visitors at Stowaway. (Note: The well-mannered Jake does not bark at these uniformed guests.)

Allen says that taking a canine to work involves a lot of prior planning. “You always have to be thinking ahead. You can’t run errands after work and you have to adjust your timing,” she says. Thankfully, Jake feels so at home at Stowaway that he is completely at ease when Allen says “I’ll be back,” during work hours.

“He is featured in all our advertising and believe it or not, he is responsible for lots of rentals,” adds Charles Allen. “Although Barbara didn’t take him to work for that reason, it (taking a dog to work) is probably one of the better marketing moves we have made.”

Now age 6 1/2, Jake guards the front door before taking his daily nap.

Now age 6 1/2, Jake guards the front door before taking his daily nap.

Just like a small child, Jake’s regular nap time rolls around each afternoon between 3 and 5 pm. That’s when people know to step over the sleeping pooch who’s generally sprawled out in front of the door. His rest routine; look outside for a few minutes and then nod off to doggie dreamland.

“Dogs have to be at the right place at the right time and Jake’s perfect for here because he gets to interact with lots of different people,” says Barbara Allen.

Mary Ellen Miller writes, walks and works with her dog Lucky, a nearly five year old Jack Russell Terrier mix. Do you have any working dog stories to share with us?

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“People don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill they want a quarter inch hole.”  Professor Theodore Levitt

SnickersTake a healthy dose of sociology, psychology and marketing, mix them liberally and serve up a marketing presentation to the Northeast Tennessee ADFED.  That’s exactly what Bite Interactive’s Chief Technology Officer, Brant DeBow, did recently in talking about his company’s “Jobs to be Done Theory.” He used the professor’s quote above to introduce the concept of discovering what consumers really want. Focus groups are not always the answer. Neither is blanket targeting of demographics. Instead his team uses a system of in-depth interviews to determine the functional, social and emotional reasons for purchasing a product. “When you purchase a product you change your behavior,” he says.

“People are bad at knowing the future,” he said. “But they are good at telling you what’s going on now and about the past,” he said. “Correlation is not causation.” His example was the Motorola 2007 Razor phone. SMS was barely on the scene and that slim, little phone did its job as a telephone extremely well. Who would want something bulky with a large screen back then? (Little could they imagine the iPhone!)

Netflix vs. Blockbuster was another example. Blockbuster mowed down the Mom and Pop video stores offering a better in-store experience. Netflix however offered a completely different model; what the customer really wanted — entertainment in his/her own home.

DeBow said four forces are involved in purchase decision making: push, pull, anxiety and habit.  The first two move us toward the new product and the second two keep us maintaining the status quo.

4Forces

DeBow’s team launched a clever campaign for Snickers after determining that Snickers, unlike Milky Way, was used to curb hunger. They deliberately mis-spelled words related to Snickers in their online ad campaign and then purchased associated mis-spelled keywords, attempting to gain the hungry and tired 3 PM-need-a-candy-bar crowd. “Snickers is now the most successful candy bar as a result of the Jobs to be Done reorganization of the brand,” said DeBow. “Who do you compete with? For Snickers it was hunger, so it was actually other snack foods. It was not Milky Way, as they originally thought, because Milky Way was perceived as a guilty pleasure, a reward and something people didn’t want to share.”

What examples have you experienced where a company has completely met your needs as a consumer? When did someone serve you the “quarter inch hole?” instead of making you buy the “quarter inch drill”? Please comment below.

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The following is a guest blog post from MarketingMel Public Relations Intern Alex Quillin.

DogThanksI’m a 20 year old Advertising and Public Relations major at ETSU, so naturally, I frequent social media sites. I like Instagram and Facebook, and I have Twitter and LinkedIn, though I don’t use those as often. Classes taught me to use these sites to develop my professional profile, and my family expects me to keep them updated about various aspects of my life. But I did not realize how useful they can be until…

It was about 4 PM on a Friday, and I was unloading groceries. I faintly heard a “ma’m? ma’m?” in the distance and turned to look. At the top of my driveway sat a middle-aged lady in a golf cart with a precious puppy in a blue collar beside her.

“Is he yours?” she asked. “There’s no name on his collar.”

“Oh, no. I’ve never seen him before. He’s cute…”

“Well you can have him. I’ve been completely around the neighborhood and no one claimed him. I don’t know what to do with him.”

I looked at her. I looked at the puppy. I knew I could help her, I just didn’t want to fool with it.

“Will you take him and try to find the owner?” she asked.

“Oh, okay. Did you post it on Facebook?” I asked.

“No, I don’t know anyone around here so I didn’t think it would help.”

“Okay, I’ll post it… Come on little fella.” I said, instantly questioning my decision.

I took him inside and he started whining. Loudly.

I couldn’t believe I had gotten myself into this. I took three pictures of him and tried to put him in my bathroom, fearing he would run away if I left him outside. In the few seconds I took to upload the pictures onto the Facebook Local Yard Sales, the puppy had knocked over his water, managed to get soaking wet, and had escalated his whining level to an ear-piercing howl. “I found this puppy. Do you know who he belongs to?” I asked anyone scrolling through the couches and coffee pots.

Then I shut the gate to my porch, and let him outside. He sat on our chair there. I kept checking the comments on the posts. One lady wanted him if no one claimed him. Another wished me luck. Then I saw the comment that made me smile. Just two hours after I uploaded the pictures.

FacebookThread

It was him! The owner turned out to be a young boy. He was about 7, and he was so worried about his new puppy. His mom showed up at my door just a few minutes after we messaged each other. The next day, there was a knock at my door.

“Hi,” said a four-foot handsome fella. “Thanks for finding my dog.”

He handed me a card.

LandonThankYou

Suddenly, I was so thankful I took that whiny little dog. And I realized just how useful social media can be.

AlexQuillin

 

Alex Quillin is MarketingMel’s 2014-2015 Intern. A senior at East Tennessee State University with a 3.8 GPA,  she is the first recipient of the recently created MarketingMel Public Relations Scholarship at ETSU. Alex plans to work in the field of advertising and public relations.

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The following is a guest blog post from Peter LaMotte at Levick. 

shutterstock_134128511

CEOs typically understand that cultivating an active social media presence is good for business. Social media can expand a company’s influence, connect with a target audience, and boost brand awareness. What may be less commonly understood is how a few critical social media faux pas can alienate prospective customers and damage the reputation of a business.

Here are some of the most egregious mistakes business leaders and executives make through their approach to social media:

Too much “about me”

The onslaught of celebrity activity on social media conveys the impression that Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc., are all about self-promotion. Though this might be true for rock stars and movie actors, the same principle does not apply to CEOs and other executives. In fact, an abundance of posts and tweets exclusively about yourself or your business will likely drive potential followers away.

Social media focuses on engagement, creating conversations and connections across the blogosphere and elsewhere. It is not the venue for a hard sell.

“Social media is all about making connections and, just like in the real (rather than virtual) world, people will be more drawn to you if you actually listen to what they’re saying than if you try to force your message upon them,” says Jessica Routier, head of social media at IAC-EZ.

Not paying attention to content

An indiscriminate approach to content is another social media faux pas. Deluging your followers with posts and tweets of little value won’t achieve your business objectives. Quality content that addresses customer concerns or offers valuable “how-to” information (either about your product, service, or your industry in general) will generate followers and encourage people to come back for more.

“[Businesses] need to ask questions, share some humor, provide motivational quotes and ask for their opinions about products or services in your industry,” says Michelle Hummer, CEO of WebMediaExpert.com. “I do a random, ‘fun question of the day’ to get [people] involved.”

The most effective strategy is consistently posting valuable content and interacting with others online.

Failure to engage

 Whether you know it or not, people are talking about your business online. Failing to monitor and promptly respond to those questions, complaints, and comments is another critical social media faux pas.

“All too many companies still fail to realize that most customers, especially Millennials, look at social media channels as valid a form of interaction as a physical trip into a brick and mortar store,” notes social media columnist John Boitnott. “If you fail to engage, you’re missing a valuable chance to shape your image. Don’t let other people shape your reputation when you could be shaping it yourself.”

Businesses sometimes err by “venting” a grievance with a competitor or an unhappy customer on social media. They forget that once something is posted, it’s there forever – and their negative comments can resurface at any time and come back to haunt them.

Maintaining incomplete or poorly written social media profiles

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your online CEO or business profiles go unread. Not only are these often the first thing people new to your business check out, but a properly constructed profile (complete with industry-rich keywords) can help with your company’s SEO rankings — another way to elevate your social media presence.

At the very least, each profile you maintain on different social networks should include your physical address, a link to your business website, and some concise but user-friendly information about who you are and what you have to offer.shutterstock_162075236

Lack of comprehensive social media strategy

 As should be clear by now, a hit-or-miss approach to social media is typically a waste of time and does not benefit your business. Avoid these common mistakes when developing a strategy:

No coordination with other departments. Your C-suite social media efforts are most effective when they’re aligned with what other departments are doing (i.e. marketing, public relations, branding team, etc.). Leads generated by your compelling content can be converted to sales when they drive traffic to your business’ website. Don’t let these valuable opportunities slip away.

Failure to identify social media influencers. In every industry, certain groups or individuals wield significant influence over their followers and can significantly help or harm a business. Know who these influencers are and focus on becoming part of their community.

Neglecting to measure ROI. With tools such as Facebook analytics and Google Analytics, it’s a big mistake not to explore and understand what customers and followers enjoy (and don’t enjoy) about the content you provide. How can you hope to extend the scope of your social media activity and generate more likes and clicks without a sense of what’s working and a strategy to build on those insights and get more bang for your buck?

The real magic happens when you have a strategy,” says Brooke Howell of Reputation Capital. “If you’re running a social media program but you don’t know what you’re going to accomplish next month, you’re doing it wrong.”

Taking steps to avoid these faux pas will sharpen your social media marketing efforts and pave the way toward making more connections with prospective customers.

 

Peter LaMotte, Sr. VP, Levick

Peter LaMotte, Sr. VP, Levick

 

Peter LaMotte is a Senior Vice President at LEVICK and Chair of the firm’s Digital Communications Practice. He is also a contributing author to LEVICK Daily, where he routinely writes about social media marketing and online reputation management.

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MarketingMel’s advisory board members Jenny Brock, Nancy Dishner, Dave McAuley and Jennifer Dixon join with intern Emma Brock and associate Sarah Kinsler to celebrate the PR firm’s five year anniversary. Watch as they talk about Mary Ellen Miller as a person, a professional communicator, and a mentor to the next generation.


[…]

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Kellye Crane role playing a difficult conversation with a client.

Kellye Crane role playing a difficult conversation with a client.

I was fortunate to once again be able to attend the SoloPR Summit in Atlanta last week. This was the second year in a row that Kellye Crane and Karen Swim brought together Solo Public Relations professionals from across the country (including Alaska and Canada.)

While all of the sessions were very good, one of my favorites was “Managing Difficult Conversations” with Cloudspark’s Jenny Schmitt and SoloPR Founder Kellye Crane.

Whether it’s a financial issue, scope creep or tactical disagreements over strategy, all of us who are Solo Pro’s ends up occasionally being challenged with a prospective client or partner.

Here were their 7 top tips:

1. Plan – Have a script. Actually have in writing what you plan to say on the phone or in person and then practice. Kelly and Jenny had each of us turn to a partner and “play act” our parts.  Don’t just “wing it.”

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Silence – At lunch later we laughed about this favorite old journalist’s technique. Remain silent and the interviewee will look to fill the void (and often trip over both themselves and their words, much to a reporter’s delight!) Of course in any negotiations, silence is golden.

3. Stay Firm – This was really encouraging. If you stay firm our instructors said, you will ultimately win more respect.

4. Use Active Listening – This fantastic listening style was actually taught to my husband and me before we were married (and it’s worked well for nearly 19 years!) When you’re striving to understand the other person, reflect back to them what you heard. “So I hear you to say…” (Hint: If this is your spouse I’ve found it helps to hold hands as you play this out. It’s extremely hard to argue with someone when you’re holding his/her hand.)

5. Back up Your Position in Writing – Wow! There is only one time since I started my business five years ago that I did not get an agreement with a client in writing and what a huge mistake that was! A written agreement brings clarity and provides an easy reference document.

6. Make Recommendations – Here Jenny and Kellye suggested coming up with alternatives if one scenario does not work. Use “I wish” statements instead of “You’re wrong.”

7. People have their own pressures – We all are under unique stresses including our clients in their jobs. We really don’t know what they are going through so remember, be kind. You never want to burn a bridge.

 

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“An entrepreneur would rather work 80 hours a week for themselves than 40 hours a week for someone else.”

Dr. Andy Czuchry, ETSU

 

These pink carnations are a lovely way to celebrate 5 years in business!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day and birthday month at MarketingMel.

Those words were spoken by my beloved Entrepreneurship Professor Dr. Andy Czuchry when I was in the ETSU MBA program back in 2000.  This month, February,2014 marks my fifth year in business and now I really know how true Dr. Czuchry’s words are!

I recently presented my story “Smart Moves and Pitfalls: The MarketingMel Story” to the ETSU Entrepreneur’s Club and to our Johnson City Morning Rotary Club.

I thought you might enjoy hearing some of those tips that I’ve learned along the way.

1. Turn Lemons Into Lemonade– My father always taught me this. When life deals you what you think is a bad blow at the time, pick yourself up and keep on keeping on.

 

2. Take Advantage of New Communication Channels: Because I had been so active on twitter since 2008 the name of my company was almost a given when starting it in February 2009. The phrase “MarketingMel” shot up ahead of Mel Gibson on Google search strictly because that was my twitter handle.

 

3. Think About Your Brand. Consider carefully your name, logo and choice of colors as you get started.  I chose blue and green because I wanted to attract business professionals who use those colors and as I write this I’m working for a lawyer and a banker.

 

4. You Can’t Do It All! I have teamed with some great young interns out of ETSU and I’ve formed virtual friends through my SoloPR group. As I’ve grown I’ve taken on a sharp young ETSU graduate, Sarah Kinsler, to assist me.

 

5. Seek Counsel: I treasure my board of advisors: six highly intelligent people from our community to be a wealth of resources for me. Thank you to: Jenny Brock, Nancy Dishner, Jennifer Dixon, Stephen Marshall, Don Raines and Dave McAuley for the assistance and counsel you’ve given me along the way!

 

6. Give Back: I believe it’s important to give back to the community. Each year our team provides pro bono services to the highly successful Up and At ‘Em Turkey Trot and recently we helped United Way of Washington County with their Publicity.

 

7. Have a Daily Quiet Time: Since I started in business I have a daily quiet time with God first thing each morning. Prayer and bible reading helps me to focus on what is really important in the day and in life.

 

These are just a few of the tips I’ve learned along the path of entrepreneurship. Which one resonates with you?

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