Jenny Brock, one of MarketingMel's advisors and Turkey

Jenny Brock, one of MarketingMel’s advisors and Turkey

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22
Last week I celebrated five years of being in business and having my own public relations firm that provides brand-building services for business professionals. It was time for my quarterly board of advisors meeting. Each of the advisors who attended the meeting, along with associate Sarah Kinsler and intern Emma Brock, took time out to commemorate the occasion. As you can see I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by such bright, talented and capable advisors. Thanks so much board members for your guidance along the way. Let’s plan for the next five years now!

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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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Editor’s note: The following blog post was written by MarketingMel Associate Sarah Kinsler. (Sarah and Mel tried out the Vine app in the lobby of  WJCW Radio last month before going on the air to talk about social media trends.)

Mary Ellen Miller and Sarah Kinsler at the Tri-Cities PRSA awards.

Mary Ellen Miller and Sarah Kinsler at the Tri-Cities TN/VA PRSA awards.

You can break a bull riding record, cross three state lines or experience an amazing “he’s the one” kiss. You can also post your adorable toddler’s toe-tapping hoe-down to international acclaim.

Now Twitter founders have introduced a way to capture these six second memories and share them! Vine, an app that allows users to shoot, combine and loop video is now the #1 app on iTunes. This app is quickly becoming the preferred outlet of social interaction amongst young adults and teens. However, large corporations and brands are jumping on the bandwagon as well.

But here’s the real question: Can brands tell their full story in six seconds? Maybe not the full narrative, but it is a  definite way to get a person intrigued. Including Vine in your marketing plan can increase brand awareness and add some personality to your updates and news. While a Vine video is only one-fifth of a typical commercial, it can generate buzz to a specific audience that would otherwise ignore alternative media outlets.

Which brings me to my next question: With apps such as Vine, Snapchat and Twitter, delivering information in a such a quick and effortless way is becoming the norm. What does that mean for the future of print media? Are our short attention spans going to change the process of how we get our news? What do you  think?

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We gave out socks, a precious commodity, to the homeless people we visited.

We gave out socks, a precious commodity, to the homeless people we visited.

Last week I served on a mission trip to New Orleans. I had been to “NOLA” once previously on a business trip more than 10 years ago.  Today the Crescent City delineates time quite simply: “before” and “after” Katrina.

The hurricane that hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005 left a vivid mark on the city’s inhabitants. Like a permanent battle scar, New Orleans residents point to water marks high on school and restaurant walls and recall the day that the levees broke. Our group was mesmerized as Alf Nelson, a native New Orleanian and pastor at Crescent City Community Church, toured us through his world.

Our mission team from Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, painted playgrounds and built fences during long days that began at 6 AM and ended with lights out in a bunk room at 10 PM.  Sometimes we were still cleaning showers at 11 PM. Then we’d fall into bed exhausted and start over the next morning. We enjoyed the gestures of appreciation we received from the students, coaches, principals and teachers at the elementary schools where women and children on the team worked. The men built a seven foot high wooden fence and gate to keep tools and other precious items safe. We learned that thievery is a way of life for some in NOLA and keeping thieves out is a way of life for others.

The most memorable part of our week was our morning spent with Pastor Troy Gause, an African-American bi-vocational preacher (he is also a school bus driver) from Crescent City Community Church. Troy took us out on “street ministry.” There we confronted the problems of homelessness and addiction that Troy and Alf had described to us. We learned that New Orleans ranks second in the country for homelessness. Its warm weather and constant “vibe” draw people to the rapidly growing city.

Both pastors are highly trained and skilled at reading people and knowing when someone is ready to enter rehab and when someone is simply looking for a place to spend the night. The ministers look for people who are sincere about entering rehab so as to avoid a set-up for failure.

Ministering with bags of burgers and socks along the river in NOLA.

Ministering with bags of burgers and socks along the river in NOLA.

After our training with Troy Friday morning, we picked up 50 McDonald’s cheeseburgers “to go” and headed downtown to the riverfront. Seeking the warm March sunshine all along the banks of the Mississippi on that sunny day were people, tired and dirty, without homes. I met a couple, Scotty, Kim and their yellow lab mix, Ginger, who told me  that they were living in their car. Scotty was looking for work. They enjoyed the burgers and socks we gave them and they eagerly gulped our bottles of water. My ten year old son presented them with silly bandz. His nine year old friend gave them hand-made scarves.  We learned that socks are the gold standard for a homeless person who walks miles in a day.

We were able to connect several people with Pastor Troy who ministers to them right there on the riverfront. His “church without walls” meets each Saturday morning at 9 AM in the gazebo and he encouraged people all along our route to come and join him there. If you’ve  been to New Orleans you’ve no doubt walked right past it or heard musicians playing there.

I’m back home in Tennessee now as I write this. It’s raining hard outside and I hear the drops splattering on the roof. My Jack Russell Terrier is dozing in a chair nearby. I can smell our pot roast dinner cooking in the crock pot. Soon my husband will call or text and I’ll pick up our son from school.

And I wonder, where are Scotty, Kim and their dog Ginger now?


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The flag in front our Tennessee elementary school says it all.

I first learned of the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut from my iPad last Friday. I was lying on the couch nursing a bad case of bronchitis, reading an e-book when the NY Times alert jumped out at me. I checked out various sources online,  flipped on the TV and called my neighbor. Both she and I are parents of elementary school aged sons. We too have children at a K-4 elementary school. We too have a buzz-in security system. We too have children anticipating the excitement of Christmas. Together, we cried and we prayed.  Then I had to think about how to tell my 10 year old son.

I arrived at school a few minutes early Friday, got my visitor’s badge and sat quietly in the back of his classroom. His teacher gave her final Friday announcements to the group of 4th graders surrounding her on the floor as she sat in her special rocking chair. I couldn’t wait to hug my son and head out of school with him safe in my arms and then inside the car. Since both of us were recovering from “bugs” we decided to get a pizza and some Christmas movies and just “hang out” all evening by the Christmas tree. After we got the pizza, as we were driving home, I said very calmly, “I want you to hear this from me and not from the news or anybody else.  A bad guy shot and killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school and then he shot himself.” My son, who is a very high-empathy child, responded: “Oh, that is terrible!” Then he and I immediately prayed for the families who had lost loved ones.

And from that point on our normally news-addicted household has been on a news fast. My husband was in complete agreement on this and we catch each other flipping channels and turning over newspapers when my son is nearby.

Here are some tips to help you as you tell your children what happened:

  1. Talk with your spouse– Make sure he/she is on board with your joint communications about this very important issue.
  2. Be calm– Your child will pick up on your anxiety or your calmness. As in any emergency, level heads prevail.
  3. Remember you are their number one news source – Every child is different. You know yours better than anyone and how and what they can handle.
  4. Be honest but brief– Do not go into any gory details. That would be far too much for a child’s young mind to absorb.
  5. Take a news fast– When your child is around keep the TV off or tuned to something else.
  6. Use this time to watch Christmas videos– We’ve watched “The Grinch” several times together as a family already.
  7. Do not feel guilty about celebrating the holidays– (I got this tip from a mental health professional and think it is a good one.) We still must go on with our lives and our children, like all children, are excited about the coming holidays. Let them be kids!
  8. Pray– With your child, let’s all keep praying for those families in Connecticut. And, while we’re at it, let’s pray for our country too.

Do you have other items to add to this list? Then please share them in the comments box below. Thank you and may God bless you and yours this holiday season.

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It’s the time of year for strategic planning and for me that means settling down with some good business books to get the creative juices flowing. At the recommendation of my friend and personal branding collaborator, Maria Peagler of SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com, I just read the book Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. Having already read Good to Great and Built to Last by Collins, I knew that I would be in for some very informative and well-researched business advice.


The  book has the subhead “Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck: Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.” Collins studies “10x” companies that have “sustained spectacular results for 15+years.” Criteria included a turbulent environment and and a company that started out young or small.

The good:

The one tip that I found most useful in the book that I plan to put into practice immediately is the “SMaC” principle. It stands for: Specific, Methodical and Consistent. In uncertain times Collins writes, we need to have the discipline to adhere to the “SMaC” recipe by “facilitating dramatic change while maintaining extraordinary consistency.” Throughout the book Collins weaves true tales of  life-threatening mountaineer expeditions that succeeded or failed on whether their leaders used the principles he outlines in the book. Discipline, paranoia, ambition and creativity are woven into the tales that bring Collins’ well-annotated statistics to life. The author says if we’re on a sunny, Sunday stroll with a veteran mountaineer we never see him kicking into the emergency gear for which he has been highly trained. I think the same is true of airline flight attendants. They are prepared to save our lives but most of us (thankfully) only see them in their role of pouring soft drinks and greeting us as we board the plane.

The bad:

The only thing I could find fault with is the slight repetition for those familiar with Collins’ other books. The 10x companies are similar to the “Great” companies we were introduced to in his other books however Collins tries to draw a distinction. The 10x companies are younger and leaner at the start then those profiled in his other books.


I recommend Great by Choice as a good read for other business people who are in the strategic planning mode and who want to learn some proven business methods that work. To me the most fascinating part is Collins conclusion that “the new normal” is actually not that at all. He says that we live in a world of constant uncertainty and the relative calmness of the end of the 20th century was strictly an abberation. As my own late father, an entrepreneur himself, used to say, “the only constant in life is change.” Here’s to a good read and to your company’s positive changes in the new year!

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Maria Peagler and Mary Ellen Miller at the Southeastern P.R.S.A. conference

“Show don’t tell,” was the primary message that I took away from last week’s Southeastern Public Relations Society of America conference in Chattanooga. The conference, appropriately named “Creating Authentic Relationships in the Age of Me,” featured several speakers who talked about the short attention spans we now have and our states of “constant distraction.” A fascinating presentation by Amanda Mauck and Nellann Mettee of LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis reinforced the message of our ever shortening attention spans. In fact they called their presentation, “Nobody’s Going to Read That: Telling your story in a world short on time and attention span.” The two communications professionals apparently hit home with that title as it was the most crowded of all of the sessions I attended!  They shared how their hospital physicians told them there is “no time to read” anymore.  Here are some of the changes the communicators implemented as a result of their research:

1- Tripled their professional photography budget.

2- Targeted physicians by creating 5 x 8 postcards instead of traditional newsletters. The postcards feature four, quick briefs and multi-color photos.

3- Created short (1:30-2:00) video interviews with physicians and posted them on YouTube.  The two said that people love to see their physician on video, particularly when he or she has helped to save their child’s life.

4- Increased their use of  digital cameras and iPhone cameras and they posted daily albums to Facebook.

Realizing the power of images, Mauck and Mettee, along with their on-staff videographer and a fabulous nursing crew, created an award winning music video to tell the LeBonheur story. If you have any interest in positive employee communications, take less than 5 minutes and watch this exceptionally creative video. They managed to get all of their key messages across and showcase every group of hospital employees all in one rappin’ video! The “stars” are real nurses who tried out for the parts! How have you seen the use of images change over the past few years? Do you have examples of great images that you’ve used with success?

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Flickr Image by Haags Uitburo

Taking the time to put a social media policy in place now will lead to freedom later. This is a case study. I guess you could call it the modern day version of crisis communications. It’s the story of one client and why they were really glad we had a company social media policy in place for them when MarketingMel helped guide them in the launch of their social media presence.

Now, the story….Sadly, not all people play nice. Not all people think before they write or post. As we prepared to launch this client’s social media presence  we put a social media policy (with its own visible tab). The idea would be rather like locks on car and house doors. Let’s keep the honest people honest and if some crazy person tries to break in we can point to our policy. Several months went by (about five from the time of launch) and there was still no need for the policy. Then one day, in response to a job posting (of all things), someone decided to post a truly insane, slanderous tirade aimed at another human being (who was not employed by our client) and chose the client’s Facebook page as the medium. We quickly caught it. Thankfully we had the policy in place and suggested the client message the slanderer and point it out. It’s the first time we’ve ever had to advise to take something down and, in retrospect, I supposed there could have been a public notation made as to why the post was being deleted. Since that time I’ve advised other clients to be sure to have a social media policy in place and I help them write them. Ironically the person who posted the tirade actually came back to post some positive comments later. Do you have a social media policy? What are your experiences? Please share your success stories with us so we can all learn here.  By the way, I really like the motto on Best Buy’s social media policy statement: “Be Smart. Be Respectful. Be Human.”

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