Those of you who’ve been following my posts know that  I was inspired by Kid President Robby Novak’s YouTube video calling on local communities to collect new socks for the homeless during “Socktober.” The results are in and it was a resounding success!  With some fantastic team work we soared past our goal of 750 pairs of new socks, actually getting 1053 pairs!

With the help of a number of  local businesses and the Johnson City Morning Rotary Club, we collected new socks in all sizes and for both genders. This week we gave the warm, new and often colorful socks, to United Way of Washington County, TN for distribution to the United Way agencies that serve the homeless.

Socktober sponsors turn in socks to United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany.

Socktober sponsors turn in socks to Washington County TN United Way President and CEO Lester Lattany.

“We would like to thank all of the coordinators and participants of this year’s Socktober campaign. The socks will be given to our agencies that provide direct services to children and homeless families in our community. This campaign is another expression of the very caring spirit that is in this great community” said United Way of Washington County’s President and CEO Lester Lattany.

Johnson City Schools Homeless coordinator Bonnie White said the sock donations are vital necessities. “These new socks are very much needed,” White said. “Many children come to school with shoes that are too small or too large and they get blisters on their feet from not having any socks at all.”

United Way of Washington County TN and Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel with  over 1,000 pairs of new socks for the homeless.

United Way of Washington County TN and Mary Ellen Miller of MarketingMel with over 1,000 pairs of new socks for the homeless.

MarketingMel along with Summit Leadership Foundation, Spine & Sports Chiropractic and Appearances Hair Salon and the Johnson City Morning Rotary (at Johnson City Country Club) were Socktober sponsors. This year many great drop off locations participated 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. Additional businesses that heard about the campaign and asked to be a part were Chick-Fil-A Crossings and Robinson’s Animal Hospital.

A great big THANK YOU to all who took part. If you’re reading this blog, did your community take part in #Socktober?



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Some time ago I wrote a blog post on finding a job in public relations that was by far MarketingMel’s most re-tweeted blog post. Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion called “Communications Expectations: Real World Perspectives from Professional Communicators” sponsored by ETSU PRSSA. The students compiled the following list of the questions for self and four other P.R. pro’s (Amanda Allman and Samara Litvack of Eastman, Ginny Crispin from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Wozniak of Wellmont Health System.) I hope if you are a student interested in the field of public relations that you will find these answers useful. If you’re a practicing PR pro please jump in and add your own experiences!

MarketingMel with other panelists and PRSSA students.

MarketingMel with other panelists and ETSU PRSSA students.


  1.  How did you all get your start in this field? For me it was an internship at a TV news station (WKBW Channel 7) in Buffalo, NY. I highly recommend internships to any college student studying P.R.
  2. With a large pool of talented students to choose from, what makes a student stand out to employers? Showcase your personality and your skill set of writing and communicating. Show them that you have a willingness to learn new things and to adapt. Public Relations is all about adapting and thinking on your feet.
  3. What is the most valuable skill a student can possess? To me it’s a positive attitude. Being both an excellent communicator with both the written word and the spoken word would be a close second. 
  4. What is the best way to get the most out of an internship? A few ideas that I discussed with my young associate Sarah Kinsler are: Get involved, Be willing to learn, Listen and Soak up as much as you can. Showing a willingness to learn foreign languages and visit other countries is important too. It shows you have a spirit of adventure and that goes hand in hand with our profession. 
  5. What information on a resume is most important? One of my co-panelists answered this and mentioned that even experience that you think might not be important like waiting tables really means a lot to a future employer. It shows you know how to deal with the public and widely changing moods. The subject of crisis communications came up here and the fact that waiting tables teaches you to remain cool under pressure.
  6. What is the best advice for branding yourself in this competitive world? Personal branding is imperative because it is all about how others perceive you both online and in the real world. Remember your brand travels with you long after you’ve left a job. For more information watch the free personal branding webinar I created with Maria Peagler at www.personalbrandinghowto.com.
  7. What advice do you have for students who wish to find jobs in communication in larger areas, where they may not have established connections? My co-panelists who’ve lived and worked in larger markets mentioned the importance of networking.
  8. What can you tell us about successfully handling interviews? Be yourself. Be authentic but think about the person interviewing you. Recently I heard of a young man taking his girlfriend along with him to a job interview and allowing her to do all the talking for him. Really? Also, depending on the position you may want to leave out the eyebrow and nose rings and gages and cover the tattoos. I’m still hearing from baby boomer employers who have a hard time seeing past the gadgets and boomers are often the executives/owners. 
  9. When an employer says, ‘tell me about yourself’, what are they looking for? This is your chance to shine. Show self-confidence. Show not only that you know about the company but show how you will bring value to the employer. Remember, ultimately it is always WIIFM (what’s in it for me, the employer in this case.) 
  10. What advice can you offer to students who are anxious about finding jobs after graduation? Stick with it! My first job was a part time position. Even part time experience in your chosen profession is far better than none at all. 
  11. What is the best part about your job? I’ve reached a stage in my career where I can use my skill set to give back to others. Right now I am enjoying spreading the word to help homeless people get socks in our region. I was influenced by Kid President’s YouTube video pronouncing #Socktober as a time for local communities to gather socks and so far we’ve already gathered over 100 pairs of socks (goal of 500 pairs) and our campaign goes until Thanksgiving! 

What experiences do you have to add?

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The MarketingMel team supports #Socktober: the drive for new socks for the homeless.

The MarketingMel team supports #Socktober: Kid President’s drive for new socks for the homeless.

MarketingMel, is teaming up with YouTube sensation “Kid President” in a nationwide campaign to donate socks to the homeless. “Socktober”, stamped by Kid President himself, is a movement to motivate one-million people to donate socks to the homeless in their communities. The campaign was launched by a YouTube video declaring the month of October, “Socktober.” Our goal is to to get 500 pairs of socks donated to United Way of Washington County, TN for distribution by Thanksgiving! It’s ambitious but we live in a generous community with many wonderful small businesses and non-profits who have already jumped in to help.

“In Johnson City alone we have 718 homeless students,” said Bonnie White who coordinates work with the homeless for the Johnson City school system. “We need socks in all sizes from Kindergarten through adults sizes for boys and girls.”

Donations are being accepted now through Thanksgiving. Drop-off stations are located at Summit Leadership Foundation, Spine & Sports Chiropractic and Appearances Hair Salon. As an extra incentive to donate new socks, Spine & Sports is offering one half off kinesio taping for anyone donating new socks to their office at 215 East Watauga, Suite 100. That is a $10 savings from the normal price of $20 for tapings.

If you don’t live in the Tri-Cities region I hope you’ll be inspired to purchase new socks for the homeless in your area. Please drop us a note and let us know how you are doing in the comments section. By the way do you like the socks Sarah and Emma and i are modeling? Nothing says #Socktober like orange!





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Casey Knox, Area 203

Casey Knox knows the power of personal branding. One of the featured speakers during last month’s Southeastern Public Relations Society 12 conference in Chattanooga, Casey led her presentation by talking about the power of personal branding. (If you want to see some phenomenal tips check out her SlideShare presentation: Digital PR, Toolkits, Reputation, and Search Matter More than Ever Before.) After her talk, two college students desiring careers in public relations, gathered around Casey, asking her for advice. The communications director of Area 203, a Chattanooga agency, gave this advice to the soon-to-be graduates: build your personal brand. I had the opportunity to interview Casey during SEPRSA#12. This week I’ll share the first part of that interview with you.

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This week I will be honored to take part in a “P.R. of Politics” panel discussion that includes ETSU Public Relations Professor Dr. John King, Johnson City Press Opinion Page Editor Robert Houk, Ron Scalf, Publisher of Out N’About Magazine and myself. (Scalf previously worked on Tennessee Senator Bob Corker’s senatorial campaign.) My portion of the discussion deals with the social media strategies of the two candidates who are running for president of the United States. Here are some of the fascinating things I uncovered in my research with credit to USA Today, Al Jazeera, Economic Times, Huffington Post and The Today Show.

In addition to shaking hands, giving speeches and kissing babies, Economic Times says politicians must now have a “complimentary online strategy.” This is invaluable for the one third of American adults under 30 who get their news from social networks. As an example of how social networking is revolutionizing the way we communicate in politics, there were 10 million tweets during the first presidential debate which has been called called “the most tweeted about event in U.S. Politics.”

According to USA Today those who embrace changes in the media and communications technologies generally end up victorious. Examples cited by Al Jazeera include FDR embracing the medium of radio, JFK understanding TV and Reagan, the former professional actor,  was the first to embrace the “look and feel” of a campaign. In 2008 Obama capitalized on “the new media.”  And how does that look in 2012? If an election were held on social media “likes” and “tweets” alone Obama would be the easy winner. The President’s Facebook likes (30.8 million to Romney’s 9.3 million) or twitter followers (20.8 million to 1.4 million). However, given the weight that the “old fashioned” televised first debate had for the Romney campaign (70 percent of those polled said Romney won) we have to ask ourselves: Will “likes” and “tweets” convert to votes on November 6?

Al Jazeera points out that neither candidate is using social media in its truly social form. with candidates responding directly to citizens and citizens able to post content etc. The new media is still being used to raise money for the old media of TV advertising. Will this be the last time around for the power of traditional TV ads that already are losing their hold on the next generation?

Even the candidate’s wives are jumping in with Michelle Obama and Ann Romney’s Pinterest pages showcasing their favorite recipes. The candidates’ have YouTube videos and quirky Tumbler graphics with their moving gif heads.  The Obama team created share-able graphics following the “big bird” comment from the first debate and the “empty chair” Clint Eastwood monologue while the Romneys tend to showcase behind-the-scenes family photos.

The Today Show reported that data mining experts break down Obama and Romney followers into two distinct camps and they even know whether their supporters like smooth jazz or Samuel Adams beer! Who would have thought that four years ago?

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

photo credit: sandcastlematt via photopin cc

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Personal Branding on Facebook: Are your friends driving you crazy?

Recently I conducted a poll on my MarketingMel Facebook business page called “What do your friends do that drives you Crazy on Facebook?” It was a fun exercise with many of the questions provided by WFHG Radio Talk Show Host Steve Hawkins and others provided by myself and the MarketingMel Facebook business page users (thanks everyone!) including those who follow my social media for business column in Out N’ About Magazine. I then shared the results on air in a lively three-way conversation with Steve and Jennifer Hayes (you can listen to the podcast here.)

Please note, we are not saying that people shouldn’t do any of these things, all we’re pointing out is that too much of any one thing can drive your friends crazy! Just as we wouldn’t want to eat too much rich food; just remember to post in moderation.

The results of the poll were as follows (in order of items that received the most votes for driving other people crazy on Facebook.)

1. “Fishing for a compliment: sexy photo, lost weight, etc.: You know the kind! That friend who’s always posting the super sexy photos of themselves or giving us the play by play (or pound by pound and photo by photo) on their recent weight loss!

2. Complainers that whine about everything:(Let’s remember the power of personal branding here. If you’re always complaining, it shines through on your digital footprint. If you need help with your personal brand be sure to check out the free webinar I co-created with Maria Peagler of SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com. You can view it at www.personalbrandinghowto.com

3. Political commentaries: (This one is really hard to avoid this time of year but I have friends on both sides of the political fence and want to keep them after the election is over!) My advice: Be kind.

4. Intolerance toward opinions: This was added by a user and I’d love to hear more about what they were thinking with this one!

Other categories that  received NO negative votes; Cute cat and cute baby photos. Awww….guess my friends are like me on this one and enjoy the babies and kittens. There must be a reason Keyboard cat’s been around all this time!

What about you? What do your Facebook friends do to drive you crazy? Feel free to vote in the poll and add your own categories, or comment on this blog post!
photo credit: pepe50 via photopin cc

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I’ve been an avid fan of social media and inbound marketing for the past four years and a news hound all of my life. But that all changed when my favorite Olympic sport of competitive swimming was being played out on the international stage all last week. Suddenly I found myself turning away from any twitter or Facebook updates after mid-day (prime time in the U.K.). Some swift radio channel changing for me throughout the day was coupled with no evening news. Why? One of my favorite parts about the once-every-four year event is piling on the couch with my family (including the dog) covering us with an enormous, plush blanket, and “swimming” every race, stroke by stroke, with these great athletes. I’m probably more fanatical than most, having swam competitively all through high school and college. I wanted to cheer and fist pump for Missy Franklin without the knowledge that she actually sealed the gold five hours before.(Granted, I did watch her fun-filled “Call Me Maybe” YouTube Video before the Olympics got underway.) I was rooting for Michael Phelps to capture gold in the 200 I.M. and 100 meter butterfly without any spoilers letting me know the final results. Clearly I was not alone. When I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal last week I felt a camaraderie of spirit. There were others of all ages out there who gently held their fingers to their ears when the conversation turned Olympian. They too wanted a shared experience in the living room rather than a solitary one at the computer.

“Don’t tell me any results if you know them,” I would gently warn anyone who started speaking to me about the the doings in London. “I want to watch swimming tonight with my family.” Now that it’s over I’ve gone to Michael Phelps’ twitter feed and seen his gorgeous girlfriend. I’ve added Missy’s photo to my Pinterest page.

Four years from now who knows how the Olympics will be broadcast to us from Rio?  TV as we know it will likely go the way of the typewriter. But for the 2012 Olympics, I still enjoyed watching Phelps and cheering on TeamUSA surrounded by my family, and perhaps being one of the few in America who didn’t already know the ending.

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Jane Maas autographed her book Mad Women for me!

Recently I had the honor of meeting and interviewing Jane Maas, the original “Mad Woman.” Jane, a copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather in New York City back in the 1960s, is the author of the book Mad Women; The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the 60’s and Beyond. The Peggy Olson character on Mad Men is modeled after Jane.

In a video interview I conducted with Jane immediately after her engaging and lively talk with our local advertising and public relations clubs, Jane, now 80, said today’s advertising and P.R. job seekers need to “get their foot in the door.”

“Advertising at its best mirrors society,” said Jane who calls herself the “mother” of the “I Love New York” campaign. She said she has watched the relationships between ad agencies and their clients change over the years. Where once they were long term, now clients will take their business elsewhere on a whim. She said that is not unlike today’s personal relationships.

As to the creative process, she said that research and knowing the consumer is key. “The best advertising is done by people with the brand DNA in their veins,” she said. Her mentor, David Ogilvy,  taught her to “immerse yourself in research, then in a bottle of wine.”

When asked what her favorite current advertising campaigns are Maas mentioned the MasterCard campaign that has endured through the years. “They did what all of those other credit card companies could have done; they put themselves in the place of the consumer with those ‘priceless’ experiences.”

Jane gets a gleam in her eye when asked about the racy combination of working women, booze and sex. Yes, she says, the Mad Men TV show is in fact, very real!

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