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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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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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REMOVEEditor’s Note: The following is a guest blog post by the very talented and always amusing MarketingMel associate Sarah Kinsler.

1. It’s a status, not a soapbox.

When emotions are running high, step away from the keyboard. The last thing anyone wants to see in their news feed is a public rant. Hey, maybe you should create a blog? 😉  But seriously, social media is not the place to advertise your political views or other controversial topics.

2.TMI!

Oh you have had awful diarrhea for the past three days? Thanks, thanks for sharing. Some things are better left unsaid. Remember content posted on the internet is forever.  If you wouldn’t mention it on a first date, you shouldn’t mention it on Facebook.

3. Fishing for Compliments.

If you are sharing a photo on your social sites, you obviously approve of the image. Posting a “selfie” then hash-tagging it #SoUgly or #awfulPhoto is just silly. We all know you like the photo, or you would not have posted it.

4. Game Invites

It really doesn’t matter how many requests you send, NEVER have I, nor will I ever play Farmville.

5. Vague Updates

Nothing screams, “I want attention!” like a vague status that hints something awful. “I can’t believe that happened,” or, “I received really awful news today.” What’s worse than posting one of these? Posting, then automatically ignoring your Facebook while your friends comment/freak out over your “situation. ” If it was a big deal, you would have told us what happened. If it was something you need to keep private, you wouldn’t have posted it.

And there you have it folks. These are my top five Social Media Pet Peeves. What are some of yours?

MarketingMel Associate Sarah Kinsler

MarketingMel Associate Sarah Kinsler

Sarah Kinsler is a 2012 ETSU  Public Relations graduate and  an associate with MarketingMel. She helps MarketingMel’s clients build their social media and public relations strategies. She is a former champion cheerleader and still coaches cheerleading in her spare time. 

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Happy National Small Business Week from the  MarketingMel team!

Happy National Small Business Week from the MarketingMel team!

Editor’s note: It’s National Small Business Week! If you are a small business person, take time to celebrate your success as the backbone of our country. The following is a guest blog with tips on books for small businesses from Strategic Priorities’ Consulting President (and avid reader) Rebecca Henderson. 

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business, especially small business.  Without effective marketing, the business withers and dies, like an plant without water.  Networking and superior customer service are the linchpins of effective marketing.

The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence by Robert Spector and Patrick McCarthy pretty much sets the standard for customer service.   Years ago, I read Susan RoAne’s How To Work a Room.  It’s is essential for honing conversational skills for effective networking.

Another book I read years ago is What They Didn’t Teach You at Harvard Business School  by Mark McCormack;  the advice is timeless,  and teaches all sorts of things you didn’t realize you didn’t know.  Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership is a must-read for any small business; pay close attention to the chapter devoted to marketing.

Word of mouth marketing is the most effective marketing.  The Anatomy of Buzz :  How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing by Emanuel  Rosen is a great book that tells you how to do just that. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham is filled with examples that I love.

Harvey Mackay has many roles;  three of them are marketer,  networker,  and author.   One of Mackay’s books I particularly like is The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World;  it’s fabulous, as are all of his books.  Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden is filled with gems of great wisdom, which can be applied to your personal and professional life.

We don’t usually think of management and marketing as hand-in-hand, but they do .  Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic by Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman is very informative.  Pay close attention to the last half of the book.

What are some of your favorite marketing books? Please add to our list!

Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson

Rebecca Henderson has an M.S. in Community Leadership from Duquesne University.  Rebecca loves strategic planning, organizational development, and “geeky things” like bylaws and parliamentary procedure.  Her company, Strategic Priorities Consulting, specializes in helping clients grow from where they are to where they want to go.  She is currently working on a book about being an effective leadership level community influencer. On a personal level, Rebecca is an active member of her church and Rotary Club, Vice Chair of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians,  loves to read, and is “Mom” to her five Newfoundlands.

 

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Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post written by MarketingMel associate and recent ETSU public relations graduate Sarah Kinsler. 

College graduates: MarketingMel's 2012-2013 intern Kristen Pierce with MarketingMel associate Sarah Kinsler.

College graduates: MarketingMel’s 2012-2013 intern Kristen Pierce with MarketingMel associate Sarah Kinsler.

As a recent public relations graduate, I entered the workforce excited and eager to take on the PR world by storm. However I soon realized there is much more to Public Relations than what is taught in the classroom.  During one of my first official client meetings I found myself at a rush to write an on the spot release and pitch it to the local media. I remember thinking, “Wait, this isn’t how I learned PR.” I soon came to the realization that the “due dates” for a release and planned timelines, were no longer part of my PR ways.

While I do think I learned some valuable skills during my college career, I feel you cannot fully comprehend applied public relations without being thrown into the real deal. I have narrowed down my top three tips in adapting to the “real” world of PR.

1.   Sharpen your Writing:

Train yourself to write quickly, yet effectively and clearly.  Many times you will be caught in situations that forces you to write on the spot. Make sure you have the ability to provide sufficient details in a timely manner.

2.   Stay Calm in Stressful Circumstances

PR can be very stressful, don’t allow yourself to get frazzled. Use your youth as a positive and keep your cool.

 3.   Be Open to Learning New Things and Getting Advice

Lets face it, you are a newbie, but the good news is there are lots of people that want to help you succeed! Be open to their advice and ask questions. Some of your best resources are closer than you think!

4.   Network Network Network

Being in the PR world means meeting lots of people. Between events, meetings, and clients you will have a plethora of opportunities to establish new professional relationships. Take advantage of this and be sure to follow up with new contacts! You never know who can help you in the future.

5.   Always Present your Best Work

You will often find yourself working on unsupervised projects. Don’t freak, you can do this! Just remember that you should always present quality work because it’s a reflection on you and your company. If your boss assigns you to a solo project, they trust that you can do it. Make sure to put forth your best effort and meet deadline!

Sarah Kinsler is a member of the MarketingMel team and creates marketing, public relations and social media strategies for clients. She is a December 2012 graduate of ETSU where she studied public relations. Her dream job would be to work in Nashville in country music PR.

Sarah Kinsler

Sarah Kinsler

 

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MarketingMel's article is featured in PRNews Media Training Guidebook.

MarketingMel’s article is featured in PRNews Media Training Guidebook.

It was truly a privilege to be invited to write for the was 2013 PRNews Media Training Guidebook. Being selected as a featured author, along with other top media trainers to provide ideas, tactics and tips to guide those who deal with the media for their clients, was an honor. The guidebook covers topics ranging from social media to building relationships with journalists.

My  article, “10 Tips to Help Clients Feel Comfortable in Front of a Camera” focused on camera readiness. Everything from what to wear (skip the loud patterns), to how to act, (hint: consider all microphones live!) was covered in the featured article.

In the article I urge other P.R. and Marketing professionals to “Remind your clients that a personal brand is portable; it is what makes them unique and what differentiates them from everyone else.”

The media guidebook is available for purchase online at PRNewsonline.com and also by phone at (888)707-5814. (Note: I did not earn any income on this although I wish I had. I wrote it truly for the pleasure of writing and helping others.)

 

 

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MarketingMel joined Nancy Williams' Milligan College P.R. class for mock job interviews.

MarketingMel joined Nancy Williams’ Milligan College P.R. class for mock job interviews.

With graduation just around the corner (my present intern Kristen Pierce will graduate May 11 from ETSU) many recent college graduates will be looking for that first job.  I had the opportunity to “mock interview” Milligan College upperclassmen, including one graduating senior, this week. The setting was Nancy Williams’ Public Relations class. I commend Nancy for providing these students with some fantastic real world experience. The students are fortunate to have Nancy, a veteran of FedEx P.R., who even brought the small class home-made chicken salad on their last day!

Here are a few questions you can expect from any interviewer and some that I asked these students:

  1. Tell me about yourself. This one is generally the opener of most all interviews so be prepared to show the interviewer some of your personality and goals.
  2. Tell me about your strengths? Your weaknesses? (Your strengths should be easy. If not be sure to read Now Discover Your Strengths and take the Strengths Finder internet quiz by Buckingham and Clifton. As to your weaknesses, be sure to phrase them in such a way that they can be turned into strengths. Nancy gave a great example: “I am challenged by giving out grades (and then how she works to overcome that.)
  3. Why do you want this position? This gives you an opportunity to exhibit some knowledge about the company.
  4. Why should we hire you? This is a classic. I recall one of my first boss’s pointing to a stack of other videos (our TV resumes were on videotapes back then!) and saying “All these other people want this same job. Why should I hire you?” I must have been convincing because I got the job!
  5. What do you do for fun? This is a slight inroad into your personal life without being too nosy. Be sure you have some “fun” answers ready. (You’re national shot-put champion for example. One of these capable students really was!)
  6. Why  did you leave your last job? (This may not be as applicable to college students but it will come up from your first job on. Be sure you never burn any bridges and treat your last boss/job with respect.)
  7. Do you have any questions of me? Be prepared for this one to come at the end of your interview. This is an opportunity to ask intelligent questions of your potentially future employer and show your knowledge of the business. It’s also your chance to learn about company training opportunities, etc.

MarketingMel Bonus tips:

Writing is right: Be sure you have a cover letter, resume and list of references ready for the interviewer. Customize the cover letter to the person and to the specific job (skip the “to whom this may concern.”) One of the students provided an excellent online portfolio that gave me great insights into her blog writing, video and journalism work before I met her in person.

Say thanks! Be sure to thank your interviewer afterward. Even a simple thank you email is appreciated and a hand written note will absolutely make you stand out from the crowd.

Final thought: Like many of you reading this, I graduated college during a down economy. One of the best pieces of career advice I got was “Just take a job in your field, even if it’s part time. It will become full time.” Sage words for today’s graduates as well!

 

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Editor’s note: Copied below is the news release from last week’s Tri-Cities PRSA Awards. Once again MarketingMel was competing against large industries  and public relations firms throughout the Tri-Cities region of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. 

MarketingMel team at PRSA awards: Mary Ellen Miller, Kristen Pierce and Sarah Kinsler.

MarketingMel team at PRSA awards: Mary Ellen Miller, Kristen Pierce and Sarah Kinsler.

(Johnson City, Tenn.) MarketingMel, an innovative marketing, public relations, and social media strategies firm led by professional communicator Mary Ellen Miller, recently received top honors at the annual PRSA of TriCities TN/VA awards. The awards recognize excellence in media campaigns and products. Work is judged by a panel that evaluates winners based on impact, creativity and visibility. The MarketingMel team, including ETSU intern, Kristen Pierce was recognized for successful campaigns during the 2012 year.

Miller took home two Awards of Excellence in two different column writing categories Her award winning article “How to Get a Job in PR: 11 tips from a P.R. Pro” was first published in Out N’ About Magazine and recently featured in Ragan Communications’ PR Daily. Her other winning article was published in Out N’ About Magazine and featured her dog Lucky. It was called “Lucky Lends Us His Life Lessons.”  A similar article had also been published in Happy Tails.

Jenny Brock and Turkey

Jenny Brock and Turkey

Pierce, an ETSU Senior public relations major, was honored in the student category for her work on the Johnson City Turkey Trot campaign with an Award of Quality. Pierce, Jenny Brock and Mary Ellen Miller received the Community Relations Award for the Johnson City Turkey Trot and Pierce, Phil Scharfstein of One Stop Wines and Liquors, and Miller received the Award of Quality for Public Service for the “Spirits of the Season Gala” benefit for the American Cancer Society of Northeast Tennessee. In addition, former MarketingMel intern Sarah Rowan’s video about her experience working with MarketingMel captured an Award of Merit.

“I am really grateful to have such superb clients and business professionals to work with and for,” said Miller. “Being honored as a boutique Public Relations agency alongside some of the major institutions and P.R. agencies in our region is very exciting.”

Headquartered in Johnson City, Tenn., MarketingMel assists business professionals with their marketing, public relations, and social media needs. The firm works across the political, lifestyle, entertainment and manufacturing industries in launching their brands to the top.

Miller blogs regularly about social networking for business, public relations, leadership and marketing at http://marketingmel.com. Her thoughts on these topics can also be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/MarketingMel.

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