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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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One of more than a dozen sock baskets that will be placed around town for #Socktober collections.

One of more than a dozen sock baskets that will be placed around town for #Socktober collections. (That’s Lucky supervising!)

 

For the second year in a row, October becomes “Socktober” in order to bring new socks in all sizes to the homeless in the local community. Last year I was inspired when I saw Kid President calling on folks in local communities around the country to help the homeless in this video.

MarketingMel is teaming up with several local businesses to collect new socks in all sizes that will be given to United Way of Washington County, TN for distribution to agencies that serve the homeless.

“Now that the weather is turning cooler, everyone can relate to needing a nice, warm pair of socks,” said Miller. “YouTube’s Kid President promotes a nationwide campaign to donate socks to the homeless in local communities. Thanks to the generous support of people and businesses in our community we surpassed our goal last year of 500 pairs of new socks and this year our goal is 750 pairs. That’s enough for every homeless child in the Johnson City schools plus some extras for their family members.”

Johnson City Schools Homeless coordinator Bonnie White said the sock donations are vital necessities. “With more than 700 homeless children in the Johnson City schools alone, socks of all sizes are very appreciated,” White said.

MarketingMel along with Summit Leadership Foundation, Spine & Sports Chiropractic and Appearances Hair Salon and the Johnson City Morning Rotary (at Johnson City Country Club) are Socktober sponsors. This year many great drop off locations are participating including: Appearances Hair Salon, Cumberland Marketing, Exalt Academy of Cosmetology, First Tennessee Bank, Johnson City Country Club, Spine & Sports Chiropractic, Summit Leadership Foundation, Tri-City Community Bank and Princeton Arts Center.

Even if you don’t live in our area you could help start a #Socktober drive in your local community! When you do, be sure to stay connected on social media by using the hashtag #Socktober. Thank you!

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Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 4.26.53 PMSometimes busy executives can feel overwhelmed with all of the social media channels out there and what’s important and not important to know about. This week I assisted a client who’s re-entering the traditional workforce after years as a self-employed international consultant. In a one-hour session, we navigated the current and ever-changing landscape of digital communications.  This client was given a highly customized one one one tutorial using GoToMeeting (since she’s in D.C. and I’m in Tennessee). Her pre-submitted questions were as follows:

  1. Hashtags – Quite simply a hashtag is a way to “focus in” on a particular topic. It’s a really quick research tool to see what’s trending. One fascinating question that she had for me was “Can you own a hashtag the way you own a domain name?” I told her not to my knowledge and if someone with the same hashtag wants to use it they are certainly free and welcome to do so.
  2. LinkedIn– The client mentioned that her new colleagues immediately invited her to “LinkIn” with them once they knew they were going to be co-workers. Using LinkedIn in today’s business world is as common as a shaking hands. It’s a great way to see a summary of the other person’s credentials. Unlike most other social media channels LinkedIn has slightly more men. She asked why. My thought: Because men are more interested in “the business” (portraying resumes online and building a network) than women who are known to spend more time in relationship building. That’s my theory anyways and I’d welcome your ideas! Of course I showed her LinkedIn groups and shared that there really IS something for every business niche there. In her case starting her own private LinkedIn group (or Facebook group) for some of her key constituents could be a valuable way to stay in touch on a regular basis. It’s also important to give and to ask for written recommendations on LinkedIn. Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 4.16.43 PM
  3. Twitter– We reviewed the importance of social media tools such as Tweetdeck, Twitter Lists and Hootsuite when keeping up with the ever-flowing river of tweets. I likened twitter to a live mic in a broadcast booth and urged her to view every tweet as a public address. She should use these tools to see what she wants to see when she wants to see it. We talked about the changing demographics of twitter which originally started out as a 35+ channel, until the celebrities jumped on board. Now it is skewing younger. I personally love twitter because it reminds me of the AP “wire machines” that churned out news when I first began my career in broadcast journalism. If you want to know what’s happening in the world today, jump on twitter!
  4. Instagram– Extremely popular with the “tween” set, it’s been great fun for me to watch how the generation who are my son’s age (11/12 year olds) are embracing this social media channel. And they are NOT just posting photos. They are only too eager to make and share a variety of videos and use a variety of video apps to do so . I think what makes Instagram so fun is the fact that there are so few words and it’s all about images (and hashtags of course!)

I suggested she download all of these apps to her mobile devices in order to be able to access these channels on the go. That was a lot to cover in an hour for a re-entering C-Suite Executive. What are some of the things you would discuss or emphasize if you were training an executive on key social media channels and trends?

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

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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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Recently elected Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice and Washington County Commissioner Katie Baker at an ETSU event.

Recently elected to Criminal Court Judge Part 1, Lisa Nidiffer Rice,  and Washington County Commissioner-elect Katie Baker at an ETSU event.

Our closely watched Tennessee Republican primary and in some cases, general election, is now past. The candidate I supported and worked for, Lisa Nidiffer Rice, won the winner-take-all Republican primary May 6 and was uncontested in the August election for Criminal Court Judge Part 1. Lisa had signed me to an exclusive agreement with her so I (gladly!) got to watch this August race from the sidelines. Here is my “outsider’s perspective” on the public relations that went into winning and losing our local races.

1. Y’all come! That’s NorthEast Tennessee to the core. When some people decided to exclude others, including their current state representatives, from a shindig featuring the governor, it didn’t sit well with the voters. Instead the voters made those “excluded” feel welcome where it counted: at the polls. My husband, a native of Erwin, Tennessee, is as down-home as they come. I recall him saying last week (in reference to a certain candidate) “Candidate ___ is a member of the cucumber-sandwich-and-white-wine-for-lunch-crowd.”  Ouch! A pollster couldn’t have hit it more squarely on the head.

2. Hard work and planning pays off: Congratulations Katie Baker, a newcomer to the field of Washington County commissioners who was truly omnipresent! Katie knocked on doors and went to every event she possibly could. I had coffee with Katie and my advisory board member Nancy Dishner when Katie first decided to run and was very impressed with her intellect and her genuine willingness to work for the people.

3. Communications skills are HUGE: I watched one of the winning candidates masterfully use his opponent’s campaign to his own advantage. He created a #noinvitationrequired hashtag when he was snubbed from the aforementioned party and regularly used his opponent’s own words to his advantage on Facebook.

4. Money doesn’t always win: Untold thousands of dollars from outside interests were poured into a campaign to unseat three Tennessee Supreme Court justices, alleging they weren’t’ “conservative” enough for the Volunteer State. In the end the judges, who were ethically restrained from advertising for themselves, prevailed. The big money lost.

Carter County electioneers during the May primary.

Carter County electioneers during the May primary.

5. Do not ever overlook Carter County! Carter County is pivotal in any local election. Carter County folks hold voting up with motherhood, apple pie and Friday night football. There just isn’t anything more important than going to the polls. The day I voted early in Carter County,  I drove my mother (a native of New York State) through the gauntlet of Carter County electioneers. She was stunned. Never had she seen anything like the encampments of eager, sign-waving campaign supporters. In examining poll results it appears at least one highly contested multi-county race was made/broken by Carter County voters.

6. Name recognition goes a long way: In two consecutive elections I have watched someone with tremendous name recognition (because they  or a relative had previously held office,) win. It’s simple: In politics and in life, you build a personal brand.

Do you have comments to add about what you’ve seen work effectively in campaigns, particularly at the local level?

 

 

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Johnson City Morning Rotary Club members present a check to the Salvation Army.

One of the best things I have done since going into business five years ago, was to join Rotary International. Specifically, I joined the Johnson City Morning Rotary in January at the invitation of my strategic planning consultant, Rebecca Henderson. While I have been a part of other civic clubs in the past, with its motto of “service above self” Rotary stands alone as a top-notch service organization. Just last week we presented our club’s quarterly donation to the Johnson City Salvation Army, one of many fine charities that benefit from the hard work and fundraising abilities of our members.

 

When my friend Vivian Crymble heard that I was now a Rotarian she and Dick Ray asked me to provide some Facebook communications tips for the club at the district level. Vivian is the district governor for Rotary 7570 (She’s over 85 Clubs from Roanoke, Virginia through Northeast Tennessee.) Both she and associate district governor Dick Ray have found these tips useful and I hope you will too!

  1. Each of the 61 admins of the unit pages needs to “like” the district 7570 page.
  1. The district page needs to “like” all the other unit pages and interact with the. Example: I posted a photo of Vivian on the Johnson City Morning Rotary page. It would be great if the district page could comment on that.
  1. Keep up to date cover shots; comment on other page’s cover shots.
  1. Be sure to tag people (the more people you tag, the more exposure the photo gets)
  1. Play off a theme. Example: This year’s Rotary conference theme at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia is “The Faces of Rotary.” Start X number of days before the annual conference and feature a “face” on a weekly basis.  Event-related posts gets people excited for the upcoming event and will get them “talking” online.
  1. Sharing posts from The District page as well as the District sharing posts from the unit pages will connect the two and should result in new “likes” for both parties.
  1. The more interaction the page has, the more exposure the page gets.  Get more interaction by posting photos, questions, event details, etc.)

 

I hope you find these tips helpful. Do you have others to add? What’s worked in terms of social media for your favorite club or organization, particularly when planning an event?

 

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MarketingMel's Mary Ellen Miller at a recent public speaking engagement along with Sarah Kinsler in the background.

MarketingMel’s Mary Ellen Miller at a recent public speaking engagement along with Sarah Kinsler in the background.

The Holston River Regional Library has invited me to train regional librarians from throughout the Northeast Tennessee region in the importance of “Public Relations in the 21st Century” during a half day workshop session in August. As a result I’ve reviewed several public relations plan templates and compiled this list of top PR Plan ideas. A shout out of thanks to Debbie Leven who offers a free downloadable template and to PR for Dummies. I’ve compiled some of those PR ideas along with my own thoughts from years of experience as a professional communicator, to come up with this list.

  1. Overview – What is your current Public Relations challenge?
  2. Goals/Objectives – What do you want to achieve? Why?
  3. Target Audience – Who do you want to reach? What do you know about them?
  4. Messages – What are your key messages? (No more than three at any one time! The human mind can’t keep up with more.)
  5. Strategies – What are the methods to achieve your goals and objectives?
  6. Tools – What methods will you use to support your PR? Example: email blast, Social Media Outreach, etc.
  7. Media – What publications/broadcast/blogs will you target? Do you have an up-to-date “media list”?
  8. Designated Spokesperson- Every company needs to speak with one or no more than two voices. Who is your designated company spokesperson? (This is particularly important should a crisis arise.)
  9. Evaluation – How will you measure and monitor your success?
  10. Action Steps – What are your next steps? Timeline? (In the case of the librarians they are expected to issue a minimum of quarterly news releases.)

I plan to have the librarians actually create a news release so that when they leave the workshop they will have something “ready to roll.”

Do you have other steps to add that you would add to this plan? What are some of your best PR practices for your company? I would love to hear from you!

 

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