The official blog of Nancy Marshall Communications
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.

Your Website is the Centerpiece of Your Marketing Program

When you are setting a table for a formal dinner party, you place something beautiful in the center of the table like candles, flowers or a bowl of colorful fruit. This centerpiece ties everything on the table together.

This infographic comes from our good friends at the Caliber Group in Arizona. Both our agencies are members of the Alliance of Marketing Communications Agencies. Thanks to the Caliber Group for sharing! www.calibergroup.com

Your website is the centerpiece of your marketing program. It helps you connect with your targeted audiences and ties all of your marketing efforts together. It contains all the information about your product, service, place, organization or brand that people need in order to connect with you or do business with you. Visitors come to your site to get more information, to evaluate your products and services and to assess your brand. By looking at your site, they decide whether they want to connect with your brand….or not.

Your website is the focal point of your brand, and the foundation of your marketing program. Every aspect of your marketing should point back to your website, including press releases, ads, business cards, brochures, flyers, rack cards, banners, direct mail and social media.

Nancy Marshall, principal of Nancy Marshall Communications

When people go to your website, they will immediately get a sense of your brand. If your website looks amateurish, people will think your business is amateurish.  If it is beautiful and full of useful information that draws people in and keeps them there for a while, then your website will build your brand and convey an image of professionalism.

It’s important to be sure that the centerpiece on your table and the centerpiece of your marketing program are consistent with the image you want to convey to your guests, whether they are coming for dinner at your home or coming to learn more about your organization online.

Social Media and Kids

KVYMCA Program Coordinator and Camp Director, Johanna King

The never ending debate on how old is old enough to participate in social media can be tricky, especially since it is now readily available to people of all ages, children in particular. This week’s Monday Maine Maven, KVYMCA program coordinator and Camp KV director, Johanna King, is well aware of the pressure and bullying that can be found on social media sites, but she believes many concerns can be resolved with open communication, education on social media etiquette and programs that instill positive self-esteem.

King has been working with children for a very long time. She started coaching soccer camps in high school, volunteered at her church’s summer Bible school and did a lot of babysitting. Since graduating from the University of Maine at Orono, she has worked part-time at Indian Elementary School as a tutor and, after receiving her ACE certification as a group exercise instructor, she landed a job working for the KVYMCA as their program coordinator and camp director.

Johanna gives a high-five to a camper last summer.

This role has been a perfect fit. Johanna says, “I went to so many camps growing up and have wonderful memories of camp. It is great to be on the other side of the experience and be able to help create those same great memories for kids today.” A part of this experience is using social media to share these memories with the parents of summer campers.

Johanna King has a firm grasp on social media needs for organizations like the KVYMCA. King adds, “People don’t want to sit down and read a long brochure, they want their information to be more succinct using images and less text; they want information from sites they’re already using such as Facebook and Twitter.” Johanna says that is why social media awareness is so important for not only children, but for communities as well. The information received is the information that is given, and so much of that information is found through the daily use of social media.

That is why King says, “This year, my goal is to update the YMCA Facebook page with a picture and short description each day for the parents to check out while they are at work or at home to see what their children are up to throughout the day.” Facebook and other social media sites are increasing awareness of the KVYMCA and their programs, but one new program is particularly popular due the Olympian namesake that hosts the session.

Johanna with Learning Center Director, Ranae L’Italien and Olympian, Julia Clukey during a recent camp program planning session.

That Olympian would be Julia Clukey. Johanna says, “Social media definitely plays a part in the need for programs like Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls. It is incredibly important to teach kids that their self-worth isn’t correlated to how many Facebook friends they have or how many people have liked their status updates.”

During a recent planning meeting with Clukey and the KV Camp team, they were able to establish the curriculum of this summer’s program. The camp will feature themes such as “Be Healthy,” “Be Your Best,” and “Be Caring.” Kings says, “We received wonderful feedback from parents of Clukey campers and we know that we will be having a lot of repeat campers, so it is important that we present the information in a way that is new to the girls that attended last year.” Programs such as Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls help promote positive reflections of oneself, resulting in confident young women.

To learn more about the summer programs offered by the KVYMCA and to connect with Johanna, you may email her at johanna@kvymca.org.

Bright Lights, Big City, Bold Ambition

Assistant Designer for Ralph Lauren, Jordan Weymouth Richards

I’ve heard it said that if you can find something that you love to do, and find someone who is crazy enough to pay you to do it each and every day, then you will never work a day in your life. The implication is that work is a state of mind, and this week’s Monday Maine Maven Jordan Weymouth Richards lives in a New York state of mind.

Since leaving her hometown in Maine seven years ago, Richards has been pursuing her passion for fashion, and is currently working as an assistant designer for Ralph Lauren in New York City. Ironically, the path to Manhattan began when she was only seven years old and received a plastic Singer toy sewing machine. She says, “Of course, I was thrilled and went right to work with the intention of putting miles on that baby!” When it broke, her parents quickly realized that upgrading to a real machine was a necessity.

Jordan immediately put in hours creating dolls, clothes for all of her dolls, Halloween costumes and eventually reconstructing and redesigning her old clothes into custom creations. Without even realizing what was happening, she began crafting her future career. As she got older, she considered engineering because it would allow her to translate her childhood vision into a lasting career through the use of creativity and the logic of math and science.

Richards, with a handbag she designed for Lucky Brand.

However, her initial love for fashion and creation kept pulling her in a different direction. Jordan says, “I went to a Catholic elementary school, which meant uniforms and not much opportunity to express myself through my clothing. When I got to high school styling my daily outfits was exciting and fun! It was like playing with a fresh canvas each day and that truly appealed to my creative side.” The fusion of engineering a product with her passion and curiosity for fashion made fashion design the only option.

Four years of sleepless nights, one semester in London, an internship with Kevin Christiana, a bag design picked up by Lucky Brand Jeans, a feature on CBS New York, and an outstanding thesis presentation resulted in Jordan landing an interview and job offer from Ralph Lauren before she even graduated. She loves what she does and credits Ralph for refining her style saying, “My attention to details—the trim, buttons and the fabrication—has sharpened. I used to look at design in a broader sense of shapes and silhouettes, but the little things can truly make a garment special.”

A wedding dress Jordan designed for her cousin Kasie.

When she isn’t working at Ralph Lauren, Jordan can be found in her Brooklyn apartment booking work of her own. Her work has been featured in two fashion shows, one in New York at Webster Hall in 2010 and one in Maine for Maine’s Fashion Night Out in 2010. Richards has always worn her own couture apparel since she was in high school, but recently, she has been building a clientele that keeps her busy. She designed her cousin’s wedding gown in 2011 and is currently working on a 3-in-1 wedding dress for a New York City client.

Where does this designer find her inspiration? Richards says that she definitely looks at social media sites such as Pinterest, Etsy, and a number of blogs and Tumblr accounts to see what’s out there. She says, “I want to be original and that means I have to know what’s out there. You never know where you will find inspiration. You might see a sleeve on a Tumblr post that sparks the idea for an entire dress.” She adds that access to so many images helps designers understand construction and inspires creativity beyond what can be learned from a textbook.

Jordan credits her Maine roots to the other sources in which she finds inspiration—architecture and nature—saying, “I grew up surrounded by acres of woods and there is so much beauty in the striation of a broken rock, or in the texture of bark on a tree. These little details help me come up with color stories, silhouettes, seaming, fabrication and more.”

Jordan and her brother, Griffin, on a recent family visit in NYC.

While Richards loves New York City, she also loves to get away from the faster-paced life and relax with her family and enjoy the peace that is Maine. She finds it funny that even after almost a decade in the city, she still occasionally gets asked “you’re not from around here are you?” because she takes pride in the fact there will always be a bit of Maine left in the now-New York girl.

The vibe and energy that the city feeds Jordan is the same energy that she hopes to translate into her work. Richards says, “I am dedicated to becoming a designer of not just clothing, but of lifestyles. The impact fashion has on our society and the world we live in is fascinating, and I want to be a part of that.”

Richards will be launching an Etsy shop in the summer of 2013, where she will be selling couture accessories and pieces. For more information or to reach out to Jordan, you can add her on Facebook, check out her website www.jrichstyle.com/, or follow her on Pinterest pinterest.com/JRichStyle/.

How to Make the Most of your Blog

NMC Account Assistant, Erika Bush

Erika here, and I have a question for you. How many times have you visited a company’s website and thought: I want to know more? I know I feel this way a lot. Press and News pages are great, but if you are claiming to be an expert or giving advice as if you’re the best out there, then I want to know why. Why should I buy from you versus a competitor?

An easy answer: you have a killer blog. The entire team at NMC believes that the key to success is being someone your consumers “know, like and trust.” A blog lets people get to know you and like you, and as a result they trust you.

For me, writing about social media sites is fun and easy. I grew up in a generation that experienced the evolution of social media platforms firsthand. AOL, yeah, I had that and I had an AIM profile page complete with hearts and smiley faces that would later evolve into a customized MySpace page. Then, as soon as I was old enough to get a college email address, I was on Facebook and witnessed it become more public, to the point that the nine-year-old kid next door could have an account if he wanted.

Blogs are one thing that has stayed constant in this frenzy of change. They have existed in some way since the internet began, and while their role is changing, they aren’t going anywhere.

So how can you make the most of your blog? Let me share five best practices when it comes to influential blogging.

  • Create weekly features. If you want regular readers, then you must provide regular content.
  • Keep advertising to a minimum. Most people don’t mind ads down the sides of the content, in fact, we might not even notice it, but we do mind when we can’t scroll until we’ve watched a 30-second ad about something we don’t care about.
  • Engage your readers. Create contests, or link your posts to your social media pages or your business website. Your readers should feel like they are getting something out of reading your blog.
  • Link to previous posts. Not many readers are going to scroll back or search to find a previous post mentioned in a current article, so link to it for them. Keep your readership growing by making it easy for readers to find more relevant information.
  • Acknowledge other bloggers. Blogging is networking, and it isn’t necessarily a competition. Comment on other blogger’s posts and join the conversation. You will be surprised by who may reciprocate.

The key to a great blog is to develop a rapport with your readers and to offer them information that is relevant to what you can do for them. Now, I’m not saying that you should make it entirely about sales and the services you offer, but it should be about establishing yourself as a reputable source of information when it comes to the services you offer.

Finally, always remember that no matter what your topics include, blogging can be utilized as a fun way to enhance your brand.

 

F-Commerce and the Power of Social Media

Anna

by Anna McDermott, NMC Account Executive

Thanks to Anna for contributing this article to the Maine PR Maven Blog as well as “The NMC Report,” the bi-weekly e-newsletter published by Nancy Marshall Communications. To sign up for a free subscription to this e-news, filled with information on the intersection of  social media and public relations, click here.

In case you thought Facebook was losing its staying power, think again. In a recent Brian Solis webinar called “Social Media in Small Business is Anything But Small,”  he made it abundantly clear that social media platforms like Facebook are getting more and more influential, especially for small businesses. Continue reading “F-Commerce and the Power of Social Media” »

Is Facebook dying?

A client recently said she thinks Facebook is dying. As a result, she didn’t think we should use it in any of our marketing and brand-building efforts.

I asked my 18 year old son Craig (who has a new blog that he launched just today), and who is attuned to the Facebook habits of his peers across the country and around the world and he said, “no way is Facebook dying.” Continue reading “Is Facebook dying?” »

Branding is as much internal as it is external

Today I spoke at the beautiful Omni Mt. Washington Hotel  to a group from the Independent Schools Association of Northern New England about branding. Afterwards, one of the women in the audience approached me about the possibility of  visiting her school and educating the people on her staff to help them realize that everyone who has contact with students and their families  is part of a school’s brand.  Continue reading “Branding is as much internal as it is external” »

Social Media and Email Marketing Seminar this Thursday September 30 at Black Bear Inn

If you receive my bi-weekly e-newsletter, The NMC Report, then you know that my agency is co-hosting a seminar this Thursday with Constant Contact at the Black Bear Inn in Orono, Maine, from  8:30 to 12:30 a.m. about social media and e-mail marketing.  Corissa St. Laurent from Constant Contact will be the presenter. Best part about it?  The whole thing is free, and I’m even buying coffee for everyone who comes!  Other snacks will be available for a small fee.

 

My PR and Marketing Services Firm, NMC, is in the business of developing web sites, starting with a web strategy plan and then developing the content, design and functionality. We feel that one of the most important parts of the process is how you promote your website once you have launched it. That’s where this seminar will help you out. You will learn techniques to develop stronger relationships with your customers and to drive more traffic to your website. Continue reading “Social Media and Email Marketing Seminar this Thursday September 30 at Black Bear Inn” »

Do you try to “manage” the conversation on social media?

At my workshop on marketing and communications at the Snow Sports Conference today at Sunday River, the conversation turned to social media. No  surprise. Ski areas are communicating with their guests through a wide variety of social media networks.

After the session, Pam Fletcher of Nashoba Valley in Massachusetts approached me and said that she had an experience recently where she decided to let an online conversation  about her resort ‘play out’ on its own without interjecting.  There had been a somewhat negative news report in the local media about a new development at the resort, and when it was published online, her customers came to the rescue. Rather than injecting her own voice into the connversation, she let her loyal customers defend her brand. She believes that the result was much better than if she had gotten defensive.

What do you think?  If someone says something negative about your brand in a social network or a newspaper website, do you let the conversation play out on its own or do you get involved? What’s the best approach? I am interested in hearing your thoughts.