Friday, March 29, 2013

ExecLink St. Louis, Fearless Brand

“Be a fearless brand,” says Bill Ellis in his address to 30 members and guests of ExecLink at Washington University Knight Center on Thursday night (March 28, 2013). His message seems especially relevant as the organization itself is repositioning its brand, upgrading its website and fine-tuning its operations. ExecLink aspires to be a premiere membership networking organization offering executives an opportunity to meet and share with peers – executives helping executives. Bill’s message resonates and the buzz is optimistic and enthusiastic. All things considered this is a great turn out. A myriad of conflicts: Spring break, the NCAA March Madness, the stubborn winter weather and construction obstacles on campus could not keep this group of engaged participants from this gathering.

ExecLink President, Casey Scheibal, kicked off the proceedings and Wes Morgan introduced the speaker. "It is my honor to present Bill Ellis of Branding for Results. Bill is speaker, coach and expert on branding having invested 25 years of his career with that brewery in town. so without further ado, I give you Bill Ellis." A smattering of applause from then audience follows. The audience includes ExecLink board members Kathy Kinkeade, Terry McHugh, Farrell Browne, Vicky Wors and Kathryn Ruth. The classroom setting is ideal for Bill’s powerful graphics which are projected on the surface behind him stage right and stage left. His message resonates. Mark Brackin has take-aways he can use right away as he follows up on a great job opportunity. Chuck Lee is launching a new venture in specialty contracting. Mike Hoffey looks to leverage his two decades of experience as a sales and marketing leader.  John Spitznagel is an energetic and strategic IT leader looking for his next opportunity. Cynthia (Cyndi) Bowman is ready to apply her business acumen and education (she’s got a Rolla degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Webster). Perry Drake, a digital marketing professor from UMSL is excited to be making connections. Mike Fisher is happy to pitch the sales and marketing ExecLink sub group he leads in regular meetings as he himself is enjoying professional success in his franchise around business performance training and executive development.  

Clearly everyone in the room has a story to tell. Mark Palermo L'Boe coaches real estate professionals how to start their own businesses. In the EMBA bar upstairs after the presentation he shares his own branding evolution. “I sometimes say my program is chasing Gordon. By that I simply mean I am inspired by the real estate success of Gundaker Realty.”  Tara, Bill’s significant other is in town from Dubai (halfway around the world). She’s stunning and you don’t have to talk to her very long to uncover the fact that she is a talented public relations executive. Becka Clark is familiar to some as she was former presenter on organizational change. Joe Fernandez manged to join the group late (after a class he’s taking at Wash U). A show of hands indicates maybe a third of those assembled are experiencing ExecLink for the first time. Connections were made and brands will be managed. Time marches on.    

In retrospect Bill was an ideal speaker for this event. Having “Clarity” and recognizing what we can and cannot “Control” about our personal and professional brands and finding ways to be “Consistant” about how we “Communicate” those authentic attributes is something that resonates with these seasoned executives. Another stellar performance Bill!

To learn more about Bill Ellis of Branding for Results visit


Friday, March 22, 2013

Unfinished Business AMA 2013-2014

With apologies to Robert Frost, it doesn’t look like I will be able to deliver on the “Promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” In spite of a successful year as VP Programming and President Elect I am not going to be President for a third term for the St. Louis Chapter. The politics of the top job and a contrived nominating “governance” committee resulted in me being voted “off the island.”  I’m disappointed – mostly because I made a lot of plans involving a lot of other people. Here are a few highlights.

Web Site – My friend Annie Mertzluft McBride of Annie M Creative agreed to serve on the board and take leadership and responsibility for the website. Stealth Creative agreed to upgrade and redesign the website. (This agreement was somewhat informal but it was with Mindy J the agency owner. Bob Mogley has been instrumental in allowing the dialogue to happen.) Bob was willing to work as VP sponsorship (especially when it was to work with not to replace Jeff Snell of iDream Solutions). A digital strategist at Stealth was identified to be point person on the AMA site. (Naturally they understand the project to be pro-bono).

Viral Video – Walt Jaschek, Dave Cox, Wes Morgan, Larry Eberle, Annie McBride, Bob Mogley collaborated on a viral video that invites a social media conversation. The :60 video Think Like a Marketer will be ready for use in April. Note that Dave, Wes, Annie and Bob are members of AMA (pretty much because of me).

AMAZING  St. Louis – a theme for the coming chapter year was developed. Leveraging the success of Remarkable, a mnemonic device shows that the chapter in St. Louis is AMAzing. It is cool but it won’t get the play is should without someone promoting the rally theme to be amazing. 

Programs - Programming for the coming year was designed to come out of the gate with content and substance. Following the program strategy of always being 90 days ahead (allowing for people to plan, promote and build on momentum) the first quarter programs have been established. July golf outing at CCGC, August meeting with Biz Library’s Chris Osborn, September meeting with Gabe Lozano of LockerDome (a compelling start up and powerful marketing success story).  Note: LockerDome was engaged during discussions about conference and agency crawl. LockerDome is looking forward to more involvement with AMA beginning with the July golf event.

Collegiate Outreach – at the Conference and subsequent “agency crawl” Wes engaged in dialogues with Jim Marchbank and Perry Drake about promoting AMA on college campuses. Sadly, there are only six active AMA collegiate chapters in Missouri. Jim is an adjunct at Fontbonne University. (Christine Chamberlin and Wes Morgan have been guest speakers in his MBA classes). Perry is a new professor at UMSL charged with bringing digital marketing to the curriculum.  Perry believes the marketing club at UMSL could be a way to establish an official chapter there. Wes put Perry in touch with the AMA collegiate representative at IH. AMA asks for at least 10 students and an advisor to establish a chapter.  If successful, for our chapter that means 11 new members at a minimum. Wes has been a guest/speaker at St. Louis University, Washington University, Fontbonne University and UMSL. Wes has been invited by AIGA annual portfolio review multiple years (including this year at Maryville University). 

Lumivid – a video production facility in Chesterfield Valley was impressed by the agency crawl and hopes to become more involved in the chapter. Kim has already submitted an application. Wes was invited to tour their facility and did so.

Membership – Looking forward to a big year, Wes Morgan actively recruited Doug Walters of Stoltz Printing, Dave Cox of Sandbox Creative, Annie McBride of Annie M Creative, Melanie Kechevas of 2e Creative, Bob Mogley of Stealth Creative and others. The chapter goal for 2013-14 should be to hit 400. This is not a pure numbers game. It is about engagement. Get people involved and they will join. Sandbox Creative is willing to update the membership directory - a member benefit . Remember the leaky bucket. For the sake of argument we have 250 professional members and 100 students. Retention is 50% (or less). That means we need 125 new members to stay in one place plus 50 to get to 400. That means we need 175 new members or 14-15 a month. (If we can improve retention it is be more like 12 a month. If we can establish 3-4 student chapters we get a bump of 50+ It is do-able. And worth doing.)

Holiday Event – Kelly Hoskins at Wehrenberg Theaters was happy to be host for our holiday viewing of SKYFALL 007 and would be happy to do it again in the coming year. The 2014 Marketing Conference – The St. Louis Art Museum is reserved for 2/21/2014 as they will have a brand new wing and completely renovated facility that seats 400. The venue rental is only $500. The conference theme is tentatively “Creativity” and could feature the popular AICP show of award winning commercials recognized by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. The contact has been made with Chicago leader of AICP. Planned well, this will be a great event as it would likely coincide with AAF AdClub ADDY activity. The creativity conference in a new venue, with director’s cuts of great TV spots and potential speakers on the topic of leveraging creativity for Marketing could be a blockbuster hit. (But AMA needs to be thinking in advance, creating a look/feel, engaging AdClub and others.) Note: This event has been well attended in the past (at least twice) when hosted by AdClub. The Museum venue works well for them. In NYC they have an enduring partnership with the Museum of Modern Art. Note: The CEO of AICP (Matt Miller) was on the Today Show just after the super bowl last year as an expert  on the TV spots. Wes Morgan was the first one to bring Matt to St. Louis. (Wes first saw their annual AICP show in Miami before moving to St. Louis.)

New Board Members – Wes has had conversations with several of the individuals who have surfaced in the process of nominations. Bob Mastis (Bob knows of Wes from his experience at Commercial Letter and Rogers Townsend), Pier Alsup (Pier knows Wes and Ken from Conference meetings), Bud Menzel (Bud has played in AMA golf event is looking forward to further involvement in that event this coming year).

Preparation – Wes felt compelled (at his own expense) to represent the AMA at the Midwest Retreat in Chicago in January. 12 chapters participated. Wes also spent time with AMA CEO Dennis Dunlap at that event. Wes participated in CEO conference call with chapter leaders to discuss the need to attract Millenials to the association. Membership retention and acquisition is top-of-mind at IH. St. Louis has done some notable things (for a chapter of our size). 

Engagement – Some examples of the reach Wes has had. Last Spring  he brought back the Ad panel with Tom Townsend of Rogers Townsend, Tim Leon of Geile Leon, Angie Lawing of Mercury Labs, Joe Leahy of Hughes Leahy Karlovic (HLK), Dan Curran of 4orce (Now Manifest Digital) and Stacy Goldman of Cannonball and John Nickle of Switch (Mark Denk engaged this one of seven  – all others were scheduled and rescheduled by Wes). The board decided to move program around and Wes has to scramble to contact all and ask them again for a new date, with moderator Charlie Claggett.  Pat McGauley, Anheuser Busch VP of Innovation (starting with an ambitious effort to get the departing AB President Dave Peacock.  Proof of the value of aiming high when the fall back is still pretty darn good;  Jim Woodcock, Sports Business Practice leader from Fleishman-Hillard (a huge get…even though Jim didn’t get high marks for his casual and off the cuff presentation style); Panelists for April AMA/PRSA joint meeting at UMSL at Grand Center - Denise Bentele of Common Ground PR, Jim Steward of DICOM media planning and placement, Jill Gainer of HLK (who recruited all the panelists? Yep, Wes.) Brand Against the Machine Conference – Mark Quinn, VP of Marketing Leggett & Platt; Brian Hall (Mark Denk, I think recruited this local speaker from  CVC); John Morgan - author/keynoter (suggested by our MC of who Wes engaged – Bill Ellis); panelists: Emily Eldridge, Denise Bentele, Jim Stone (the only panelist Wes did not recruit), Donna Heckler. Remarkable Leadership Conference – author/keynoter Kevin Eikenberry (Wes suggested the conference theme and keynoter and contacted Kevin as well); Elliot Robia of Pixel Farm (Chapter leader contacted Christine but Wes followed up and engaged this enthusiastic speaker); Company tours (crawl)-LockerDome (introduced to us at lunch with my contact at Group 360), Manifest Digital, Stealth Creative, Drive (Connie engaged Drive, Wes identified and contacted the other three).

Wes Morgan – 16 years as a member (12+ as a board member), 33 newsletters, two conferences, 12 golf outings, An incremental Creativity Conference in 2003 that earned $2000 for the chapter, 2 terms as president (board members who worked with Wes during those terms include - John Lewington, Susan Davis, Steve Condor, Dan Dively and Lauren Kolbe – all of whom became president of the chapter).  This year, after a successful year as VP Programming and President Elect the rug is pulled out from under him. Wes is widely known as a chapter leader in St. Louis and at IH. He has been a speaker/break out leader/round table leader at Leadership Summit. He was a speaker at national attitude and usage research conference in 2000. His “leaky bucket” analogy is still used in discussions about membership. The concept was adapted from agency new business development philosophy of which Dennis Dunlap is familiar - (Dennis is a former CEO of Leo Burnett Advertising). Of course, in retrospect he has had a long and respectable run of which “no-body can deny.”   

Wes is a member of Business Marketing Association (BMA) since 1990, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) since 1995, AAF AdClub (having recruited over 70 ADDY award judges over the past 15 years in St. Louis alone). Wes is principal of Morgan Studio/East and has served in chief marketing officer roles and contributed to a long list of well known (and some lesser known) brands.
Just for the Record: Jeff Snell went from hero to “sponsorship is broken” only because he was unable to defend himself. (He’s not a guy who likes meetings. Can you blame him?) Joel Post was easy to work with – he was glad to pass the baton on the website…but our chapter (through two presidencies) just couldn’t quite orchestrate that move – so Joel looks like the bad guy. Where’s the justice? He did a lot of work for nothin’! 

Chapter Excellence Award – In spite of best intentions to complete the Chapter Excellence Award entry last year the chapter leadership gave up on it. It does take team effort to complete info on finances, membership, programs and reflect on goals. (The President-Elect was poised to complete this task.  It is due in August and is an important record – not to mention a way to share our success with other chapters and maybe even get some recognition nationally.) Wes completed two CEA entries as past president. It isn’t that hard. One year we were even recognized for our collegiate efforts.

Annual Conference – the conference used to be huge (200+ at a minimum) and attract students from 8 states. Even though we always try to reinforce the professional audience, it makes sense to engage students. Positioning the conference as “for professionals and students” is a reminder not to lecture this audience. (It is the last thing they want/need. More lectures.) This year we had students from just a handful schools: Illinois Wesleyan, UMSL, Maryville, Fontbonne, SLU, Webster (And it isn’t just about the weather – we should have Mizzou, Lindenwood, SIUE, SIUC, McKendree, WashU, SEMO, MO State, Truman, Wm Jewell, MO Southern, Quincy etc. etc. It’s about targeting and timing our mail and early communications so student leaders and faculty can plan for the trip. By the way a little effort would surely uncover a reasonable venue on one of our local campuses. We need to focus on the details early. It takes planning, leadership and teamwork. (It should not fall on a singular heroic/yet flawed efforts of a few.) 

Roundtables – Wes was part of the early planning of this program. Dan Diveley and Lon Zimmerman have taken this program and run with it. (But the current board has forgotten that the idea was to use the white papers as proof of thought leadership. And a great way to mine marketing leaders without subjecting them to a feeding frenzy at more public luncheon programs. ) Our white papers are now posted on IH MarketingPower web site – a win for our chapter.

Corporate Outreach – A lot of board Bravado but little real action on reaching out to leading companies. It isn’t hard to identify prospects and find opportunities to get them involved. Dan McGrath’s best program was a company spotlight at Brown Shoe (actually Famous Footwear retail case study/presentation) which  was largely due to Melissa Keim’s efforts/connection with HR department). Group memberships are a good deal for companies wanting to show support and offer professional development for employees. It takes some doing and a lot of follow up: Rawlings, Enterprise Rent a Car, LockerDome, Group 360, BJC, Mercy, SSM, CitiMortgage, Express Scripts, Boeing, Emerson, Panera, Graybar, InBevAB, Edward Jones. (Fifteen companies with group memberships of 4-6 or more = 60+ new members). This group effort along with the student chapter effort can get us more than halfway to our goal of 400 members. 

Doesn’t it make sense to learn from our experiences? Doesn’t it make sense to create routines and selectively reach for bigger/better?  I would hope our shared vision would look something like this: 400 members, 1000+ program attendees, 300+ at a blockbuster conference, meaningful new member welcoming and networking opportunities. Be the best professional association in St. Louis by offering things no-one else can or will.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Bill on Branding

It is a Wednesday morning at the City Place III lobby level café. John, Mary Jo, Tom, Will, Ken Debora, Charlie, Jane and I are joined by our guest speaker Bill Ellis. Bill is a friend of mine. He agreed to present to this informal but regular networking group. He is a pro. As a speaker and coach Bill works with individuals and companies to help them discover and deliver their Fearless Brand. His perspective has been gained, in part, from twenty-five years of corporate marketing experience at Anheuser-Busch. He has fine tuned his own personal brand as a presenter at venues, large and small and has become somewhat of a polished public speaker.

Bill speaks to our group without notes and without audio visual support. “I want you to think about becoming a fearless brand. When you think of a brand like NIKE it isn’t the swoosh logo as much as it is what that mark represents. Each of you may have a slightly different impression of that brand. You might think of athletes, or celebrities or running or golf but the point is, on some level, that brand stands for something.” Bill connects with the cross-section of people here with the assurance that branding is not just for big budget consumer products. “Your business and even your personal brand must be authentic,” he says. “It has to be relevant. If you sell automobile insurance and I don’t drive, well that isn’t going to be of interest to me...” Skillfully, Bill moves to what he calls his five C’s of branding. It’s easy to see that Bill has delivered this presentation many times. He is able to condense and present Clarity, Control, Connections, Communication, Conversion, Conviction, Consistency…each with Clarity.”  Clarity he suggests is his favorite C, “Don’t tell the other Cs” he jokes.  
Bill knew he didn’t have a lot of time but without being rushed he delivered. He even managed to plug three books by Bob Burg and John David Mann: The Go-Giver, Go-Givers Sell More and It’s Not About You. “I’m a certified Go-Giver coach,” he remarks “and each of these books offer something of value. In particular the first in this series gives you keys to stratospheric success.”
Finally with a flourish Bill transitions to a graceful conclusion of our meeting. Bill is meeting with a college professor and presenting at a small business expo in the afternoon. If the rest of his day goes as it started, I’m betting it will be a productive and authentic day for Bill.     

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shopping Cart Billboards

Selling advertising is a career choice I considered while trolling the internet job boards. In transition longer than I care to admit, my confidence is wavering. I should be good at selling advertising. I have been an account supervisor, global communications director and a chief marketing officer. I should be more than qualified. Maybe. Maybe not. I considered was selling ads on shopping carts in the local grocery store. “How hard could that be?” I thought. So in earnest I met with the national sales director.
“I am Arlo Honeycutt. Cartvertising is a program in place in several states. We are in Kroger stores and in this market the Schnuck’s stores. Our company has cart billboards program. How are you at handling rejection?” he asks. “It doesn’t bother me,” I said with an air of confidence. After that Arlo quickly covered a lot of ground. “With our program you are probably wondering how you can make money. Around here we are really about two things: 1) have fun and 2) make money. It’s really that simple. 30% of qualified leads will buy this program. We will pay a full 17% commission on the full year contract. And you will get paid the full amount up-front as soon as the advertiser makes the first payment. You will work one store at a time. That’s how we structure this. Say there is a real estate sign in a neighborhood and it is marked SOLD. That’s a good lead. The agent who sold that house has some money and will want to reinvest in getting her name out in front of the 15,000 shoppers who shop daily at a typical neighborhood grocery. We aren’t trying to convince people to advertise. We’re looking for people who already advertise. Real Estate. Beauty Salons. Heating and Cooling Repair. Plumbers. Auto Body Shops. Anyone who would benefit from being in front of a potential customer. ”
We parted after a business-like meeting in the shared office space adjacent to the mall. It seems legit and pure enough a sales proposition. We shook hands and he suggested that riding with one of his sales guys in the field might be a good next step. I agreed.
Josh Hickey called me a couple of days later. “Arlo suggested we get together. How about 11:30 in front of the store in Festus just off Route 55. I drive a Lincoln Towne Car, it’s a gas hog but it is my mobile office.”  I found the store and Josh in his big car (about 35 miles from my house).  He was candid about the reality of this challenge. “Prospecting is the most important part of this job. I’m not very well prepared today but I will make a few calls to show you kind of how it goes.” Josh selected prospects from a local yellow-pages phone directory  display ads. I remember now how painful smiling and dialin can be. Josh was skipping randomly around the directory and demonstrated variations in his pitch. Of course, the challenge is to identify the person who can say yes. We spent a couple of hours together and focused on the 3-5 mile radius of the store. Encouraged by the call with Manns Auto Body, he entered the address into his smart phone and headed over to make a live call. It was there I saw Josh in presentation mode.”   
The next step was a conference call with Arlo about the fine art of prospecting for Cartvertising. “Prospecting is the most important part of this job. You will need 1,000 to 1,500 prospects to work a single store. Why? Because with our program you make an exclusive category sale and you will need to move into another category. Where do you find prospects? Start in the store…ask for a register tape, it has advertisers on the back, check the bulletin boards, get a local newspaper, check the bulletin at the Catholic church, drop in on the Chamber of Commerce office…” 50 minutes of this call was very specific steps and a checklist on prospecting.

That evening Josh assigned me a store and I was expected to generate a list for the follow-up classroom training on Wednesday afternoon. I don’t want to be a quitter but my wife really put it in perspective for me. “Why don’t you do something you can be passionate about?”
I e-mailed Arlo and Josh at 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday. I’m afraid I am out. Thanks for your time Arlo and Josh but I just don’t see myself doing this.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

AIGA Portfolio Review

Every year the St. Louis chapter of the AIGA invites area students to an annual event that includes a portfolio review. Reviewers include business owners, design directors, and creative leaders.    

Founded in 1914 as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design with a mission to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. AIGA represents a variety of professions under the umbrella of communication design and supports design professionals, educators and students throughout their careers. The annual student conference and portfolio event is a great example of AIGA at its best. I am happy to be involved with the review again this year.     

I started my own career as a graphic artist and as such I have an affinity for helping young talented designers. The format of the review is a sort of “speed networking” format where sessions of 20 minutes with reviewers make it possible to get a lot of feedback for a Winter Saturday afternoon. It is exciting to see so many students with so much passion for design. I met with six individuals all with unique stories and circumstances. At the risk of being pompous and in light of an increasingly competitive marketplace I offered each of the students two pieces of advice.

1.      Be ready with a well crafted answer to the question: So what do you want to do? The clearer you communicate the answer to this question the greater likelihood that you will have productive and satisfying interviews. You will need to have multiple conversations with people in your quest to find the perfect job situation. Your portfolio will, of course, speak volumes about your skills, but potential employers will also factor in a sense of your ambition and focus. That short declaration of your mission will let them know you have given considerable thought to how you hope to manage your career.

2.      Get a board of Directors: Your personal board of directors should be people you admire. You should seek their guidance and advice. Building this group of 3-5 people with whom you can be honest will be invaluable. By forging these relationships you will be able to revisit these individuals as your career progresses. (And don’t make the mistake of only approaching your directors when you have setbacks. Celebrate your successes and share progress when things are going well and your board members will be ready and willing to help you when you need guidance through those rough patches you will very likely experience.)       

Thanks for sharing and I hope I you take my input as a sincere expression of interest in your success. Anna Clark (UMSL), Shelby Wade (Webster), Anna Leroy (Stephens College), Chris Myers (SIU), Kristin White (University of Missouri), Kate Crawford (UMSL) and Alana Downie (Washington University, St. Louis) – I really enjoyed meeting you.

Update 3/22/2014 Another year. I was equally impressed and thrilled by the individuals I had a chance to meet with this year: Matt LaRose (UMSL), Samantha Engel (Mizzou), Garrette Daugherty (UMSL), Christa Pfile (Missouri State), Craig Morris (UMSL), Jeremy Zirkelbach (Maryville).