On escape rooms and AMA Lincoln: Solving problems that matter

By Mary Kate Gulick, AMA Lincoln PresidentMary Kate Gulick, AMA Lincoln President

Summer is in full swing in Lincoln. That means lounging and grilling and any other heat-related, water-adjacent pursuit you can think of. And what are we doing on the AMA Lincoln board? Every July, we get to work.

On June 30th this year, the 2017-2018 AMA Lincoln board headed to the Lincoln Escape Room to set the tone for the year. The major takeaway as I saw it? You win some, you lose some. One of our two groups was able to master the complex web of riddles and problem solve their way out of the Missing Musician room. The other group couldn’t quite break out of LiCastro’s Lair.

But win or lose, we had ridiculous amounts of fun and discovered who the control freaks and panickers on the board are. So that’s helpful.

Wait a minute. “You win some, you lose some” is the least inspirational message I could have possibly come up with. I might as well choose “Meh.” as the rallying cry for the new AMA Lincoln year. I can do better.

There are problems to solve everywhere. Most of them don’t matter. So focus on the ones that do.

There we go. That’s a theme I can get behind. It’s an approach that will get you out of an escape room (because there are all kinds of decoys and random puzzles in those rooms that can suck all of your time away and distract you from the goal if you’re not careful) and it can also help us give AMA Lincoln members a better experience.

As AMA Lincoln has grown over the last 5 years, we’ve come up with more ways to provide marketing education, more ways to communicate with you and get feedback, and more big brands to bring to Lincoln. While these are all good (great!) things, we were intentional about using last year to find out about you and what you really want to get out of this membership.

Enter the the Great AMA Lincoln Census of 2016-2017. You may remember me contacting (read: harassing) you to complete our member survey last fall. Well, 86% of professional members responded and provided input about themselves, their professional aspirations, and what they’re getting — and not getting — out of their AMA Lincoln involvement. Here’s what we learned are the problems that matter:

1. What you most want from AMA Lincoln and are not getting is NETWORKING.

Got it. Every one of our Signature Speaker Events this year will have intentional networking built into it. And we’re adding an amazing networking event for this fall called Cropped. It’s a design competition based on the Food Network’s Chopped. Mark your calendars for October 26. If all goes well, we’ll think about adding a networking-only event this Spring.

2. The most common career goal among AMA Lincoln members is a promotion into management, and management training was the most common type of training requested.

Done. AMA Lincoln is working with SimpleStrat to develop Marketing Manager Prep School. This quarterly series is free to members, and will take up to 12 participants who are serious about earning a promotion into marketing management. It will be an in-depth, inspirational journey from rockstar individual contributor to marketing leader. More details to come on this.

3. Most of you are doing sales, in one way or another, whether you expected to or not.

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Would you believe that most marketing jobs are sales based? And even the ones that aren’t, have a sales component just below the surface. The problem is that most marketers don’t learn the sales skills that can amp up their performance in school. Then there’s the perception problem that sales is a smarmy, less-than-honorable discipline (which is totally untrue). So this spring, we’ll be holding a full-day Sales Boot Camp that approaches the topic with a marketing lens.

4. You want to hear more about emerging trends, B2B marketing, and digital marketing.

Check, check and check. This year’s Signature Speaker Series is built around these topics (with a little more career advancement thrown in for those who are looking to get promoted). This fall, IBM Watson Marketing will talk to us about how AI and machine learning will completely change the industry in the next few years. SAS will talk about harnessing predictive analytics for marketing. InfoGroup will fill us in on their tips and tricks for Google marketing. And we’re even bringing in one of the country’s foremost trade show production companies to help us get the most on one of the most prevalent, impactful and most misunderstood B2B marketing channels. And we know you still like the big brands, so in 2018 we’re bringing in Sprint, the Kansas City Royals.

So that’s our plan this year to solve the problems that matter. We want to give you the marketing education you want to reach your goals, and help you build the connections you need to keep growing and advancing.

I hope you’ll join us through this year’s journey. AMA Lincoln needs your help to make this happen. Show up at events — if the lunches don’t work for you, come to our free SkillSchool series and Round Tables. You’ll meet people. You’ll learn things. You’ll help someone else become a better marketer. That’s why we’re all here. And those are the important things to focus on for AMA Lincoln this year.

AMA Member Spotlight: Deidra Riggs

Deidra Riggs, Ameritas

I grew up all over. I was born in Germany and moved to the U.S. when I was two. I’ve moved 23 times, but spent most of my growing-up years in Michigan. I graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts and Sciences.

How long have you been an AMA member?
I just joined AMA in October, 2016. I’m looking forward to learning more about the organization and lending my time to help grow the organization.

What are your job responsibilities?
I support the sales team in the Group Division at Ameritas. My current projects include helping to develop marketing strategies and tool kits, and working to grow our business with specific industries, including municipalities, healthcare, and education.

What have you enjoyed most/found to be the most beneficial aspects about being an AMA member?
I’ve enjoyed the workshops and online learning opportunities. I also participated in the book club which was a fun event for meeting a few people with similar interests.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time, I am an author and national speaker. My first book released in October, 2015, and my next book will release this April. I travel to different events across the country to talk about building collaborative efforts that cross cultural, socio-economic, racial, and religious lines with the goal of fostering unity in a divided world.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
In 2016, I was chosen by the Lincoln Journal-Star as one of the thirty most influential women in Lincoln. I also try to do at least one cartwheel a day.

What is your best career advice for your fellow marketers?
Be yourself. A lot of the time, we wish ourselves away, because we’re trying to emulate someone else. When that happens, the space we’ve been given to occupy is empty because we’re not there, and neither is the person we’re hoping to be like. There is only ever going to be one you and the world needs exactly what you have to offer. Be you.

Do you have any favorite marketing blogs, books or podcasts?

Most of what I read and listen to is related to writing. My favorite podcasts include: Hope*Writers and Ann Kroeker: Writing Coach. Among my favorite blogs I’d recommend amylynnandrews.com. The local AMA book club just read “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg, and I’d also recommend “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living,” edited by Manjula Martin, and “Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown.

What is your favorite local restaurant, local clothing/gift shop, and local place to go for fun (e.g., a brewery, art studio, theater, etc.)?

Restaurants: Bread & Cup, The Hub, Cultiva, The Oven, Blue Orchid, Blessings Thai Restaurant Clothing/Gift Shop: Loft and Craft, Home and Closet, Indigo Bridge, Francie and Fitch Fun: I’m a sucker for disco, so I loved Skate Zone. I’m sad that it’s closing. My husband and I hosted our 25th anniversary party there. But, mainly I’m an outdoors person, and I love to ride my bike along the trails; Lincoln has a great trail system!

AMA Member Spotlight: Laurie Fraser

Laurie Fraser, Doorstep Diner Catering

I am the owner of Doorstep Diner Catering.

I grew up in between San Francisco and Chicago…sent to Chicago for a 2 year job, my family ended up spending 14 years there. We spend most of our time out west with family so if you ask me what highways run through Chicago or how to get to Joliet I’m at a complete loss. Ask me how to navigate San Francisco or the East Bay and I’ve got you covered!

I moved to Nebraska to attend the University where I studied Marketing. While in undergrad I picked up 4 teaching endorsements at the suggestion of my counselor who felt teaching was a great career for women! My masters focuses on special education in the area of learning disabilities. I avoided student loans and put myself through school by managing a upscale women’s store working solely on commission…hence starting my career in marketing and sales!

How long have you been an AMA member?
I’ve been in AMA for over 10 years and have served as the VP Cause Camp Co-Chair, Membership Co-Chair and Sponsorship Co-Chair. I’ve loved each role because it allows me to interact with incredible people while stretching my skill base.

How has AMA helped you be more successful in your professional endeavors?            
As an entrepreneur I wear many hats. Marketer, sales, HR, bookkeeper…you name it…you can even find me in our kitchen washing dishes from time to time! AMA keeps me up to date with current trends and provides me the education I need to stay on top of social media, content marketing, SEO and digital marketing.

What have you enjoyed most/found to be the most beneficial aspects about being an AMA member?
I feel connected to a larger community through AMA. Marketers “get” each other and it’s always a treat to be able to geek out on marketing topics with others who enjoy talking ROI and strategy.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to fill it with travel and music. I play in a two piece acoustic band named Black Eyed Susan. We rock the coffee shop circuit with folk, country, originals and covers. I also enjoy travel and volunteer teaching English to business executives in Spain in the summers. I also rent out my house on Airbnb and have hosted people from all over the world. Last month I had two young ladies from Singapore, this month I am hosting a nursing student from South Korea.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
hmmmm that I don’t have a tattoo? Just kidding. I actually have two high school diplomas from two different schools in two different states. Given that I should be twice as smart but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

What is your best career advice for your fellow marketers?
Read, network, attend AMA events, and stay on top of this ever changing field, and when you don’t know the answer, reach out to an AMA’er and ask- you’ll get a coffee date and answers to all your questions!

Do you have any favorite marketing blogs, books or podcasts?
Hubspot is my go-to. Other than that I’m not loyal and usually just surf until I find what I need. Oh wait…Seth Godin…yeah, he’s amazing.

What are your favorite local businesses?
Mo Mo’s for a nice evening, Grateful Bread for amazing soup and atmosphere, Yia Yia’s for beer and people watching…and coffee shops.. I live in coffee shops. Want to meet me for coffee? Give me your addy and I’ll know the nearest coffee shop.

AMA Member Spotlight: Tyler Thomas

Tyler Thomas, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

I am currently the Social Media & Content Manager for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I grew up in a military family and spent most of my life in different parts of the world. I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for undergrad earning a Bachelor of Journalism. I am currently back at UNL pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration.

How long have you been an AMA member?
I’ve been an AMA member for three years and for two of the years served on the board managing communication for the chapter.

How has AMA helped you be more successful in your professional endeavors?
AMA has helped me become more successful through all of the connections and experiences I have been involved in. From planning and executing events to listening to speakers at signature programs and board meetings. Just being around the marketers of Lincoln, you have a chance to absorb a lot of information.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m an avid eater and self-proclaimed foodie. When I’m not at work or dealing with school, I like to try different restaurants and breweries. I manage a food blog (NebraskaFoodie.com) and recently published a book on Nebraska’s Beer history.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I published my first book at 27.

What is your best career advice for your fellow marketers?
Hang out with other marketers. Get to know people not like you in industries unlike your own. You will be surprised how much you can learn from just listening and asking questions.

Do you have any favorite marketing blogs, books or podcasts?
I read a lot online. I follow industry related hash tags on Twitter and connect with other industry folks. Learning from others in the industry and reading what they share has been very helpful. It’s helped me find my voice, learn more about an evolving industry and it’s given me a position to a thought leader.

What are your favorite local businesses?
I don’t have a favorite. I know that sounds cliche, but really it depends on my mood and who I am with. Lincoln has so many great local places that I am really happy in all of them.

Past Presidents: Where Are They Now? Featuring Ali Schwanke

Where do you currently work and in what position?

Ali Schwanke, Simple Strat

I’m a marketing strategist at Simple Strat. Simple Strat is a marketing agency with a focus on strategy first. We’re fairly new to the Lincoln market, but have been growing over the last 12 months.

How do you think your involvement with AMA led you to that position?

The benefits you get from the AMA are amazing – but you have to be willing to put the time and energy into it. It’s that way with any professional organization. That being said, I’ve met some of my best friends in the AMA!

2It’s weird to say this, but as a result of the AMA, I now have a “phone-a-marketer” type of relationship with many marketing professionals both local and across the nation who can provide feedback and insight into any challenges I might have. I’ve been introduced to new and progressive concepts from speakers and fellow AMA members; plus the AMA has given me an opportunity to serve in a leadership position that led to increased visibility, authority, and experience for my personal brand, as well as the companies that I’ve worked for.

What is your best memory or takeaway from being involved in AMA?


There are so many! The annual chapter leadership summits in Chicago hold a special place in my heart. These annual summits allowed a small group of board members to really connect and drink the AMA Kool-Aid to align our goals for the chapter, as well as marketing in general.

Plus you got to have a good dose of fun exploring the city on the second to last day of the summit. We all looked forward to the “night on the town” each year.

A few others that come to mind include:4

Baby Board Member: When I stepped into the role as board president, I was 9 months pregnant with my 2nd child. He was born on a Friday, and I had to finalize the board budget and chapter plan by Sunday evening (it was sent in at 11:50pm that night!). My son was a week old when he joined us for the August board meeting! We’re introducing him to marketing at an early age. It’s funny because he does LOVE commercials now that he’s 4 years old – telling me that he “wants that for Christmas” after almost every kids commercial on Nick Jr. Maybe that’s a junior marketer – or just a classic 4-year-old kid captivated by TV. We’re not sure.


Board Recruitment: I was a member of the AMA early on, but it didn’t dawn on me right away that I could get involved at a higher level. It just so happened that Katherine Brockman invited me to lead a SIG (one time) which then grew into a regular SIG (BrandMe) and then a board position (Prisms), and then another (Membership), and then viola! – President! It was just a natural progression of leadership that all started with a personal ask.

Pixar Inspiration: One of my favorite luncheons we’ve had in the last couple of years was Pixar. Seeing the movie “Up” in its drawn form, and learning how everything comes together in a creative environment like Pixar was very rewarding and even challenging for my own creative process. I took voracious notes and still refer to them periodically for inspiration.

What has been your biggest marketing or career accomplishment?

6Your “biggest accomplishment” has a way of changing over the years. Early in my career, winning my first prism award as a young marketer was a big deal. Then came the marketer of the year award, plus other local recognition, and ultimately the launching of my own company. My family had to take a photo when I got my first office as I’m the first female in my family to own a business!

Along the way, the accomplishments within the AMA in each role from Prisms to President was very satisfying knowing that I was part of a team who was making such a significant impact.

What advice do you have for entry- and mid- level marketers?

7Hustle and be willing to try new things. The rate in which our world is changing means that we have to be proactive in developing our skills. Yes, the AMA is here to help, but if you don’t apply the tips provided in the SIGs, or dig into the AMA’s marketing toolkit, or seek out the speakers for additional insight, you may be missing the biggest benefits of your membership. I also can’t stress enough the power of networking within the marketing community. Connecting to other experienced marketers is like having your own super powerful “google search” of knowledge.

What hobbies do you have outside of your love for marketing?

8I have a ton of interests as I can’t sit still (my family is just like me too, which makes for a chaotic household!). I love running, playing the piano, gardening, reading, tinkering with new technology and spending time with my husband and two boys.

We recently bought kayaks and we love to fish the local lakes – at a sporting event or enjoying the outdoors is most likely where you’ll find us!

What is your favorite marketing campaign?

9I don’t have a favorite of all time necessarily, but I do have a special love for the Oreo tweet that catapulted real-time social media into the spotlight during the super bowl in 2014 (when the lights when out in the stadium). While millions of dollars were spent by other advertisers, Oreo was able to cleverly steal the spotlight (in the dark!) and divert the attention to a clever post at the right time.

Achievement Spotlight: Swanson Russell

Swanson Russell received three Paper Anvil Awards and a Best of Show Award at the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Nebraska Chapter’s 2016 Gala on December 8.

Swanson Russell accepted three Awards of Excellence on behalf of clients Bad Boy Off Road, Barrett-Jackson Auto Care and SiteOne Landscape Supply. The award-winning work was recognized in the categories of consumer social media campaigns and digital/email for newsletters/magazines. Swanson Russell also received the Best of Show Award in the tactic category for Bad Boy Off Road’s Drive Wire e-Newsletter.swansonrussell_logo

“While this was a public relations competition, the award-winning work was the result of the talent and contributions from various departments within the agency,” said Jeff Patterson, APR, senior vice president/director of public relations at Swanson Russell. “It was a team effort, and we appreciate PRSA Nebraska for the opportunity to have our work evaluated and recognized by our peers.”

PRSA Nebraska’s Paper Anvil Awards honor organizations that have successfully addressed a public relations issue with skill, creativity and resourcefulness.

Founded in 1962, Swanson Russell is a Nebraska-based marketing communications firm, with offices in Lincoln and Omaha. In addition to working with local and regional clients, the full-service agency is nationally recognized for expertise in agriculture, healthcare, outdoor recreation, construction and the green industry.

For more information about Swanson Russell’s Real Connection approach to advertising, public relations, interactive and branding services, visit www.swansonrussell.com.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star

AMA Member Spotlight: Randy Hawthorne receives Lincoln Luminary Award

Randy Hawthorne, executive director of the Nonprofit Hub and Volunteer Partners, received the first Lincoln Luminary Award at the Winter Lights event Sunday (Dec. 18). Mayor Chris Beutler presented the award.57699760e39d0-image

Hawthorne has been involved with the Lincoln Community Playhouse, Rotary Club #14, Leadership Lincoln, TEDx Lincoln, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Gathering Place, the American Marketing Association and other local nonprofits. He also mentors young professionals to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and for 20 years, he has worked with the Launch Leadership Program for middle school and high school students.

Leadership Lincoln facilitated the selection process for the award, which honors an individual who “has displayed consistent and intentional actions that demonstrate Lincoln’s values and has gone above and beyond in making an impact on Lincoln and its citizens.”

Source: Lincoln Journal Star