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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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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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Students in MarketingMel's "Gettting Professional With LinkedIn" workshop at Milligan College.

Students in MarketingMel’s “Gettting Professional With LinkedIn” workshop at Milligan College.

LinkedIn is one social media platform woefully underused by college students. Recently I was invited to present a LinkedIn workshop to a group of Milligan College Juniors and Seniors. The students who attended came on their own time so the classroom was full of soon-to-be graduates who were eager to learn.  It was a two-part session with the first hour sharing information and questions about LinkedIn and the second being hands-on creation of individual student profiles. Students brought their laptops.  Each student brought their resume to class in order to have it handy for the LinkedIn profile creation. First we extensively reviewed the demographics of LinkedIn which leans heavily male 25-54. Income levels skew $100,000+ and the typical LinkedIn user checks in around 8 AM and 5pm, before and after work. Clearly, these are the business professionals who will be making the hiring decisions for these students in the future. Here are a few of the tips I shared with the college students.

  1. Professional Photo: Probably one of the most critical elements of LinkedIn is the good, professional head shot. The school provided a professional photographer. Then each student had a professional head shot made to upload for their profile creation during the hands-on portion.
  2. Professional attire: All students were advised to look professional for the photo. In other words wear clothes appropriate for a job interview.
  3. Use LinkedIn to find potential job leads: LinkedIn has an excellent internal search engine specifically for jobs. We used this as an example in class to look for “marketing jobs in Johnson City, TN” as an example.
  4. Join Groups and ask pertinent questions: I showed the students how I used an actual LinkedIn group, the Public Relations and Communications Job Community, to crowdsource in helping me prepare for the talk with them. We received 25 very helpful comments on using LinkedIn to find a job that I shared with the class.
  5. Updates: Post regular updates on LinkedIn that will be of use to your business audience.
  6. Get references: When we went to the hands-on portion of the workshop I invited students to connect with ten people, then seek out a written reference and  give someone they know a written reference. (In LinkedIn as in life, what goes around comes around.)

What tips would you share from your LinkedIn experiences? What recommendations would you make to help seniors in college as they prepare to enter the workforce? Do you have a need for a similar workshop at your college, university or place of business? If so, please contact me via this web site.

View the prezi created by MarketingMel intern Alex Quillin for the workshop:

 

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The buzz over socks just keeps on building! Nationally, #Socktober founder Kid President has teamed with Grover on his campaign to bring socks to the homeless (and who wouldn’t want the power of Sesame Street backing their cause?)

Kid President and Grover

#Socktober founder Kid President with Grover

Locally, our efforts garnered the attention of two TV stations: WCYB-TV 5:30 News (story transcript here) and WJHL-TV’s DayTime Tri-Cities.  Many thanks to Ron Scalf of Out ‘N About Magazine for helping us spread the word in print! More and more people and businesses are jumping in to help us bring socks to the homeless. Once we gather all of the socks we will donate them to United Way of Washington County, TN so that they can give them to their agencies who work directly with the homeless in our community.

WCYB-TV videographer Tim Culbertson and Mary Ellen MIller of MarketingMel show off some of the #Socktober sock donations.

WCYB-TV videographer Tim Culbertson and Mary Ellen MIller of MarketingMel show off some of the #Socktober sock donations.

Bonnie White, Johnson City Schools Homeless coordinator told us that,”These socks are so appreciated. Many of these students go to school with blisters on their feet because their shoes are too large or too small and they are wearing them with no socks.  We really appreciate and will use these new socks.”

And who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Chick-Fil-A Crossings is now on board with this great offer: Mondays in October drop off three new pair of socks and get a coupon for a free Grilled Chick-fil-A Sandwich. 

In addition to MarketingMel, the following businesses are sponsors for the second year in a row: Appearances Hair Salon, Spine & Sports Chiropractic and Summit Leadership Foundation. This year the Johnson City Morning Rotary also joined as a lead sponsor.

Here are the drop off locations with links to each. We’ve expanded with drop off sites adding locations in both Kingsport and Bristol this year. Let’s hope we get LOTS of socks! Last year we got over 500 pair and this year our goal is more than 750 new pair of socks. Remember, we have over 700 homeless students in the Johnson City school system alone and they’ve got family members, so we need all sizes, all colors, all kinds of new socks. Thank you!

Appearances Hair Salon

Cumberland Marketing

Exalt Academy of Cosmetology

First Tennessee Bank– Crossings, Peoples and North Roan Street locations

Johnson City Morning Rotary at Johnson City Country Club

Spine & Sports Chiropractic

Summit Leadership Foundation

Tri-City Community Bank

Princeton Arts Center

Robinson Animal Hospital

Chick-fil-A, Crossings 

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The following is a guest blog post by Curt Henry, an executive coach and friend who’s supported me in my business since I started MarketingMel over five years ago.

As business owners, we often fall into the trap of doing tasks ourselves rather than delegating to our team. What I hear most often from my clients is “I can do it faster myself” or “no one can do it as well as I can.” Though perhaps both may be true, you are missing an opportunity to grow your business and empower your team members.

CurtHenryReview the pie chart above which shows an average work week for a sample business owner or manager. Now fill in your own information. Most owners for example would be working much more than the 54 hour work week shown. If this is your life today what would it look like if you had a 20% increase in sales? What would that do to your pie chart of activities? You may not have to increase all items in proportion to the increase in sales but let’s say you go from 54 to 60 hours.(less than a 20% increase)

Add hours to our pie chart. (OK, but how long can you keep this up?)We really have three choices when faced with the enviable increase in our business:

  1. Don’t add hours but continue to “do it” ourselves. This means we will short change our customers, employees or others. (Also not a good idea.)
  2. Take a section of your pie chart and give it to someone else. (Put it into their pie chart of responsibilities.)

This really gets back to the question from Mr. Stanley’s wife but which I will rephrase;

As you increase your business what will you NOT do?

The business will have to do more; more invoicing, more shipping/delivering, more lots of things. But, what will you now delegate to others? At what point in the growth of the business will you recognize the need to get help from the folks you hired to provide services?

Consider the impact of rebalancing your role in the business. Planning or working “on” vs. “in” the business will multiply how quickly the business expands and improves. Sean Covey in his book The Four Disciplines of Execution talks about the conflict between the “whirlwind” and the “Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)”. He defines the whirlwind as those many urgent activities that demand our immediate attention. All things being equal, the whirlwind will win against the goals every time. As the business owner, we need to maintain our focus on the goals which move the business to new and higher levels or we stagnate. Even worse, if we are so focused on the immediate we may be passed by our competition and end up losing market share or profit potential. (More on goal setting and execution in a future BSF Update.)

I was the Vice President and General Manager for a manufacturing firm. While understanding the need to delegate, I always tried to make myself available for the workers on the production floor. My willingness to “get my hands dirty” by getting in and helping them made them feel more important. It was not that I was doing their job, but rather that I was willing to do what was needed to help them.

You may be able to do whatever “it” is faster and better than team members now. However, with a little training, the team may be able to do it just as well and allow you to focus on expanding the business or even getting to take a day off with the family every now and then. Do you remember back when you were able to take a vacation and really enjoy it?

Curt Henry Curt Henry is a seasoned business executive with seven years general management       experience and over 20 years in domestic and international marketing and sales. In 2000, Curt was chosen to lead the turnaround of a local manufacturing company with struggling product lines. Over the next six years, Curt and his team increased revenues from $9.3 to $16.2 million, improved both profit margins and cashflow significantly, and increased both productivity and product quality. Curt’s leadership resulted in improved employee morale and a significant reduction in personnel turnover.

 

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Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel, and Dr. Stephen Marshall of ETSU award the new scholarship to Alex Quillin.

Mary Ellen Miller and Dr. Stephen Marshall of ETSU award the new MarketingMel PR scholarship to Alex Quillin.

As any of you who reads this blog regularly knows I am a HUGE believer in supporting the next generation of Public Relations professionals. Last week I had the opportunity to take that support to the next level by teaming with the newly created Mass Communications department at ETSU to establish and award its first scholarship: The MarketingMel Public Relations Scholarship. I am delighted to announce that my new intern, Alex Quillin, is the first recipient of this award! Alex is one of the most level headed 19 year olds I have ever met with a strong entrepreneurial bent and a bright future ahead of her. She is as smart as she is beautiful, carrying a 3.8 GPA and already a junior in semester hours. Dr. Stephen Marshall, one of MarketingMel’s advisory board members, is the newly named department chair. He joined me on campus for the ceremony announcing Alex’s scholarship. To read the full story on the ETSU web site and to see what great jobs the previous four interns have moved on to, please click here.

 

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(Editor’s note: This post was originally written for the 10th anniversary of the day that changed our country forever. Here is a reprise.)

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001

Anyone who was an adult twelve years ago vividly remembers where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. Here’s my story.

It was a beautiful, clear and sunny morning in Johnson City, Tennessee, the place I had called home since moving south 16 years prior. I was the marketing director for Hunter, Smith & Davis law firm. We were hosting our large, annual employment law seminar at Millennium Centre in Johnson City. We had a good crowd that morning and things were moving along smoothly. I was standing in the back of the room watching one of our attorneys’ presentations when a Firm partner, Mike Forrester, slipped in the door and whispered, “Did you hear that a plane hit the World Trade Center?” Immediately my mind began processing this odd bit of information. My husband enjoys flying small planes for a hobby and I tried to envision some crazy pilot in a single engine aircraft hitting such a massive structure. “Is the weather bad in New York?” I whispered back. “No,” was his answer.

Moments later Mike and I and several others were piled out in the hallway watching the televisions that hung from the Centre’s ceilings. It was, in fact, a beautiful day in New York just as it was in Tennessee. And this was no small plane crash. As we watched the story unfold on CNN, reality slowly began to sink in. These were major aircraft and this was no accident. A secondary story unfolding before my eyes was the reaction of the people at the seminar. The attorneys kept their cool. One of our senior partners said, “If we stop now we give them exactly what they want.” And so the seminar went on. One person who worked at the Centre however was not so calm. I had to repeatedly reassure him that the world was not coming to an end. We did not all carry mobile phones with us ten years ago as we do today. I had to borrow a phone from a friend in order to attempt to reach my husband who was employed at a nuclear defense plant. His work voicemail said  that the plant had been evacuated and he would be in a safe area. And so I returned to the TV set and watched with horror as people ran from the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings. I recall feeling eerily that it was like watching a bad “grade B” movie. I also recall the calm steadiness of Scott Powers, an Annapolis grad and attorney for the firm as our eyes were cast upward. Our attorneys assured people who needed to go to check on their employees or loved ones to please do so but you would be surprised how many people stayed for the luncheon that concluded the session. There was comfort and assurance in being in a large group in a safe, secure building far from New York City or the Pentagon.

I recall that a close friend was very upset that her four year old kept watching the scene re-played as he stayed with his grandmother. “He keeps thinking it’s happening over and over,” she bemoaned. It was a very upsetting day for all of us who lived through it and a turning point for our country. Never again would we experience the freedoms that we had back then. If the United States were a dog we were probably a big, lovable Labrador until that time. After September 11th we became a snarling Pit Bull much more wary and cautious.

There were some good things to come from the tragedy. One first-hand example was our son. He was born in the baby boomlet that followed 9-11. He will never know the America I knew prior to that day. To him, removing his shoes at airport security is second nature, just as it is to have liquids over three ounces confiscated.

Each year when the video re-plays of the burning twin towers begin airing, I generally cast my eyes in the other direction or change the channel. “I was there. I lived through it,” I mutter, much as a veteran chooses not to watch a war film. This year avoiding the images will be nearly impossible as most every channel is already running features on the historic tragedy. Perhaps I will watch. Perhaps I’ll go for a walk with my son instead.
photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

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Amanda Boone from Summit Leadership Foundation joined me for the Communications seminar.

Amanda Boone from Summit Leadership Foundation joined me for the Communications seminar.

Last week I attended a day-long workshop titled “Communications Skills for Women.” Put on by Fred Pryor it was a great brush-up on tips we all know but need to be reminded of from time to time. Although the workshop was billed “for women” these tips will also resonate with my male blog readers. Some of these tips I actually gleaned from my classmates over lunch that day (the great part of workshops and seminars is often the people you meet there!) Which do you agree with and what would you add to this list?

  1. Phone Interview Tip: When on the phone with an employee ask them to repeat back what you have said. Do not just ask “Do you have any questions” because of course their answer will be know. Asking them to repeat bak what you have said engages them.
  2. Ask for what you want/Be specific: Assertiveness is about gaining a sense of self control.  It is a choice that you and you alone can make. We need to ask for what we want and to be specific in our requests.
  3. Put a time limit on interrupters: In my case this would be social media. If I don’t limit myself when I’m working on social media the next thing I know a half hour has gone by. What are your interrupters? Are they people in the office or habits that you have?
  4. Let go: Wow! I had my own personal nirvana with this just recently. I found out that a person whom I had given business to had said some negative things about me. I stewed about that for far too long. Finally at the suggestion of a friend I “let it go.” Boy, did I feel better! I will know not to do business with that person again but I can certainly be cordial to him.
  5. We need to respect ourselves and others: We teach people how to treat us. Do you allow people to interrupt you? We actually practiced this as a class exercise. Best to challenge interruptions by setting boundaries. “I know you have so much to contrite. When I’m through in five minutes I will give you the floor.”   And finally:
  6. Saying “no” is saying yes to myself! How many of us have gritted our teeth and said “yes” to something only to regret it later. I really like the concept of all of us having to make some “me” time. “No” can be a difficult word  to use but it can be learned!
  7. Bonus tip – Check your “BRA” : Whenever you get angry, check your “BRA.” B – Breathing; breathe through your diaphragm and count to three. R- Relax, and A – Attitude. Just thinking about checking my bra is bound to diffuse the tension!

Which of these tips resonates with you and why?

 

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