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offering tips, techniques, and thoughts from Maine's PR Maven, Nancy Marshall

 

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Melanie Randall: Inspiring Others to Live and Dance Strong

Founder of Live and Dance Strong, and Owner of Dancewear House, Melanie Randall.

Everyone has their own ways of dealing with a loss, and this week’s Monday Maine Maven, Melanie Randall, decided to take one of the most difficult times in her life, and turn it into something beautiful as a way to process her grief.

Five years ago, Melanie’s father, Richard J. Randall, passed away and she set out to start an event that would help in her healing process. The result was Live and Dance Strong, a fundraiser that serves as a wonderful opportunity for choreographers and dancers alike to come together and deliver a unique dance experience.

Randall says, “Each year the show is different, and we have begun to touch on other people’s pain and grieving process. Cancer has affected so many people. I never dreamed that by starting Live and Dance Strong I would bring hope and empowerment to so many other young women who have lost someone—it’s been very special.”

This year, the event brought their total donations to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care to more than $30,000 since its inception and for the first time, they paid a special tribute to cancer survivors.

Planning for Live and Dance Strong starts in early winter, and around March Melanie begins to send letters to local businesses, requesting sponsorships and donations for the show. In May, she sends out choreographer applications to studios in the area.

They recently added a concert element to the planning process, by hosting a concert at their home on the lake in an effort to raise awareness and funding within the community. Melanie adds that social media has also made the event easier to put together, saying, “Facebook has made it easy for us to have an online presence, enabling us to connect with choreographers and sponsors we may not have met any other way.”

Even after growing up dancing for Keltie Collins, Andrei Bossov and Genie O’Brien, she never imagined that she would have a career in dance. It wasn’t until she was getting ready to graduate with a degree in English that she considered buying Dancewear House in Hallowell, but after six and a half years, it was clearly the right choice. She says, “I wasn’t really sure that an English degree would prepare me for running a business, but my years in college certainly did.”

Melanie (center) with her Mom, Mary Elizabeth Randall (left), and her fiancé, Scott Lowery (right) following this year’s Live and Dance Strong event.

Most days, you will find Melanie helping young girls find their way on a similar career path. She says, “I spend most of my days with dancers’ feet in my face,” as the primary person that handles Pointe shoe fittings.

So what is her secret to happiness and success?

Randall says, “Follow your dreams—find something in life that you’re passionate about, and keep it close to you, especially when life gets hard. We all have the ability to take a negative situation and make it into a positive one, so don’t ever give up! One person has all of the potential in the world to touch someone’s life and change their own.”

To learn how you can get involved with Live and Dance Strong, please visit, liveanddancestrong.org, or like the Dancewear House on Facebook.

Great Success for Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls

Today marks the conclusion of the 2nd annual Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls. The 10-day camp ran June 17-21 and 24-28 on Maranacook Lake in Readfield, Maine. The camp is designed for girls 8-12 as a place to develop self confidence and a healthy lifestyle.

Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls’ campers (red) and staff (blue) on opening day.

Each year, the curriculum for the camp is designed by Olympian Julia Clukey and KV YMCA camp director, Johanna King. The camp features a wide range of activities including swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, nature walks, field sports, arts and crafts, theater and music.

As a part of the support for the camp, the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association, and organization that has partnered with Julia Clukey as their responsibility spokesperson, donates scholarships each year to provide the opportunity for underprivileged girls to attend summer. In total, the association has donated $7,000 in scholarships for the camp.

For more information, visit www.clukeyluge.com/camp.

 

Big Solutions for Every Business in Maine

President of CORE Solutions, Heather Veilleux.

What do New York, Maine and Ohio have in common? President of CORE Solutions and this week’s Maine Maven, Heather Veilleux, has called all of them home. While she has enjoyed each of them, Heather says, “The truth is, my plan was to move back to Maine all along.”

Veilleux adds that although it was hard to make the decision to move back to Augusta from New York City,  it was also a very exciting opportunity. She says, “Maine has more space to grow and more ways to be unique.”

Maine also has, by far, a much slower and steadier pace. While living in New York, Heather was working three jobs as a real estate agent at Bold New York by day, and a waitress at LongHorn Steakhouse in New Jersey and Marseille in New York City by night, and the occasional weekend gig through Total Entertainment! Not to mention that she was also juggling classes at Berkeley College and remotely creating her own start-up business. How did she do it? Veilleux says, “I realized that I simply didn’t have the time to go to class, so I began taking online classes. Ultimately, this allowed me to start and run a business that would eventually be located in Maine.”

Heather on a trip to Africa last year with the Flying Kites Global. Former Maine Maven, Ashley Underwood was also on this trip.

We hate to get political, but it’s hard to ignore that Heather’s life became consumed with politics shortly after she moved back to Maine last fall. Her fiancé (then boyfriend), Matthew Pouliot, announced that he would be running for office. “Little did I know what a great ride we were in for,” she says, and it would become a great inspiration for her re-evaluation of her business, Heels to Healing.

Through designing and planning advertisements and social media outreach during the campaign, Veilleux realized that there was an opportunity to help small businesses in the area using the same tactics. Heels to Healing was originally created to raise money through events for other nonprofits, but she realized that this model was making her business into a small United Way.

“I felt that rebranding and creating a for-profit business with a strong social mission was a better way to run a business and help my community,” says Veilleux about the change. With a new outlook and the creation of CORE Solutions, her goal is to help other businesses and organizations by offering services that they may not be able to have without hiring a full-time employee and/or hiring multiple companies. CORE Solutions offers high value for a low cost in assisting with event planning, fundraising, marketing and more.

CORE Solutions is an Augusta-based company offering quality business solutions that are designed to fit every budget.

CORE Solution’s signature event is the semi-annual Maine’s Fashion Night Out (MFNO). Originally created as a starting point for Heels to Healing, the event incorporates all of Heather’s favorite things: fashion, music, dance and central Maine! That’s right, it’s located right here in Augusta. Veilleux says, “I feel that central Maine is deprived when it comes to big events, especially in fashion. I live in Augusta and grew up in Hallowell, and I want to be a part of its growth.”

The mission of MFNO is to bring together the community, to promote local business and nonprofit organizations, and to network. They are currently looking for sponsors and volunteers—check out out www.MainesFNO.com for more information on how you can get involved and/or purchase your ticket for their upcoming event at the Armory.

To contact Heather, you may follow her on Twitter @coremaine, like her page on Facebook www.facebook.com/coremaine, or email her heather@coremaine.com.

The Continuing Evolution of Social Media

Hi, Erika here!

My little sister Tessa and me last Christmas

I would consider myself to be pretty hip. I keep up with the latest celebrity news. I know who the cutest guy from One Direction is (according to my little sisters it’s a pretty close tie between Louis and Zayn) and I follow the latest social media trends, but sometimes I have these moments when my little sisters are zipping through online chats and sharing videos from one source to another as easy as cutting a hot knife through butter, that I begin to feel really old.

My little sister Desiree and me last Christmas

 

I think about trying to explain to my Mom why she should ditch the landline for mobile and I find her giving me reasons that are comparable to my reasons for why kids shouldn’t be on Facebook. She’s stuck in her ways, I’m stuck in mine, but the reality is that social media is everywhere—neither one of us should be fighting it and neither should you. Social media is evolving, but how much has it changed and how will it continue to evolve in the years to come?

Social media has steadily increased from a blip on the radar to an essential part of business strategies. The increasing mobility and access to social media sources makes it pretty safe to say that social media is no longer just a trend—it is an integral part of business and popular culture. So let’s take a look at how it all began and where it’s going.

AOL: While yes, there had been BBS and CompuServe, America Online (AOL) brought the “Internet” into everyone’s homes in 1993 and made “networking” possible. It was the original site that allowed people to personalize their profiles, update their statuses in the form of “away messages,” personalize their account with color and font choices, and it included member searching capabilities. I remember sleepovers with friends looking for Justin Timberlake (we never found him) or seeing who had the coolest away message. You could even customize your online mood by choosing a smiley, grumpy, goofy, flirty, etc. icon.

Classmates.com: In 1995, the first true social network was created by Randy Conrads. He was looking for ways to let people reconnect with that high school prom date or that best friend you lost touch with over the years. It was the first time this sort of network had been put into motion although due to issues with fees, it has lost a lot (if not all) momentum in the social media scene.

Friendster: Basing much of its basic set-up on classmates.com, Friendster was a social networking site that focused on making new friends and meeting new people, unlike Classmates which focused mainly on people you already knew. It recently has re-launched as a social gaming site.

LinkedIn: In 2003, two very different sites would launch, but LinkedIn decided that with all of the online social networking going on, they would focus primarily on business “connections” rather than personal networking. To this day, the site’s primary goal is helping business professionals to network and endorse one another.

MySpace: The second 2003 launch and without a doubt, a precursor to Facebook, MySpace was mainly focused on music and video sharing. It felt more hip and gave the users more options than any other site available. The personalization factor helped people feel more comfortable and it became a resource to connect with artists, friends and more.

Facebook: The game changer. Founded in 2004 and originally available only for Harvard students, it went public in 2006 and has since brought in nearly one billion users. Its success has set precedents that no other social network has been able to surpass. They are constantly changing their site (maybe too much if you ask users) to better fit the evolving trends in social media and the requests of users when it comes to privacy policies and page layout. The trust built with users helps people feel free to be themselves by sharing their status, current location and even personal photos.

YouTube: The next phase in the evolution came from three former PayPal employees. They decided to share videos online and with the use of HTML5 and Adobe Flash Video they enabled their members to share their own personal videos. This revolutionized sharing and in a world where people are constantly being overloaded with information, the instant gratification factor that YouTube brings to consumers is refreshing.

Twitter: In 2006, the world rapidly became familiar with “Tweeting.” Celebrities quickly endorsed the idea of sharing photos and mini status updates in the form of a Tweet. In 140 characters or less you were able to constantly update your followers and keep up with the people you followed. This social media outlet became a great resource for news outlets, and contests, and sharing more frequently.

Pinterest: While it is still young, since 2010 Pinterest has set records in growth. Last year alone they grew by 145%, not to mention that they generate more referral traffic to website than YouTube, Google +, and LinkedIn combined. Not bad for a company less than three years old with a mere 16 employees.

So where is technology going?

  • Mobile access is becoming a requirement, not an option as social media continues to evolve.
  • The iPhone and Android systems have completely changed accessibility, which means everything, good or bad, can go viral in an instant—you want to make sure that you are not only prepared to act quickly, but that you have a way to respond to consumers in the way they understand it best.
  • Social television is taking off thanks largely to Twitter. Fans can now watch television with their favorite actors/celebrities by Tweeting using a hash-tag to carry on conversations as the show is playing via their mobile device.
  • Facebook and Twitter are looking into ways to present advertisements through their mobile sites. This requires a larger social media budget for most companies and makes proving results very important. The C-suite wants to see what they’re getting out of the money they’re spending.
  • Social customer service—if you have an e-commerce site, link it to your social networks and take the time to answer questions posted. Transparency is more important than ever. You are no longer selling a product—you are building relationship and trust with your consumers.

It’s a lot of information, but social media is a complicated business. It has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings into a full-on revolution in the way people communicate and do business. Hopefully, this week’s Witty Wisdom will help you navigate your way through the different social networks out there and find a way to join the conversation.

American Dream in Portland Maine

photo by: Matt Cosby

In an age where pop culture, boy bands and songs asking you to “call me, maybe?” are seemingly ruling the airwaves, it’s refreshing to hear indie rock bands like Imagine Dragons, Mumford and Sons, and Lana Del Ray. Another indie band to add to that list is The Pete Kilpatrick Band. Front man Pete Kilpatrick, this week’s Monday Maven, and the band have been slowly dominating not only the local Maine music scene, but steadily gaining ground across the country.

Pete had a keen eye for ways to market himself from the beginning. “I remember back when MySpace first took off and I used it to reach out to people in the Portland area to make them aware of our band and upcoming concerts. I got into that very early, which set us apart from other bands that would eventually begin using it in the same way.” Lately, it seems bands and groups are borderline overusing invites, group messaging and requests and Kilpatrick feels social media will only remain valuable to artists when used “to reach out to fans in an authentic way.”

Pete Kilpatrick (L) and band mate, Matt Cosby(R) with Dave Matthews(C) after a show.

A cause that means a lot to Pete is the PKB Donate-A-Dollar gift campaign. “For children in low socioeconomic status groups, having a few presents under the tree will make a huge difference.”  Kilpatrick uses social media to ask his friends and fans to donate one dollar or more. Then, the money collected is used to buy gifts for children across Maine. “The fans are very supportive because they know in this situation, the sum is greater than its parts; if everyone puts one, two or three dollars towards this goal, it adds up quickly.”

Thanks to fans and a partnership with a placement company in California, the band’s music has been featured on NBC’s “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” ABC’s “Happy Endings,” and MTV’s “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” and “Teen Mom.” Humble as always, Kilpatrick adds, “this fall we’ve had two really good placements on the CW show, “Hart of Dixie.” Our music was featured along with artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and The Head and The Heart.” For someone with so much experience and success, Pete Kilpatrick is not what you would expect. He exemplifies Maine’s casual coolness when he refers to his experience with local fans: “Occasionally, I’ll get stopped by a fan, or a friend of a fan, but I chalk it up to the fact that New England is pretty small and somehow it seems that everybody knows each other, no matter where we travel.”

Speaking of travel, last year, Kilpatrick and the band spent the end of March through May touring the East coast, Midwest and Colorado. Some of their gigs included opening for President Obama before his speech in Maine, opening for Guster and Barenaked Ladies, and collaborations with Stefan Lessard, bassist for Dave Matthews Band. He and his wife, Molly, added a son, Sawyer, to the mix last February. When asked about balancing his success with a growing family, Pete says, “being a husband and father while traveling as a musician has unique challenges, but I’ve developed a good sense for when I’m trying to cram too much stuff into a small amount of time.”  He credits his “cool wife” as the key to the equation of finding the “balance of everything in life that brings you joy.”

To check out Pete Kilpatrick and the full band live please visit:

http://www.petekilpatrickband.com/