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 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 ( 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

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

AMA Member Spotlight: Leah Gregory

Leah Gregory, Nebraska Children and Families Foundation

I am currently the Content Manager at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

I spent the first 22ish years of my life in the beautiful little city of Hastings, NE–including getting my degree in English Language & Linguistics at Hastings College. Randomly, I also have a studio art minor, which was partially to get some experience with digital art but also because I wanted to try glassblowing and ceramics. Totally worth it.

How long have you been an AMA member?
I’m actually an AMA newbie: I just joined this summer, right after I started working for NCFF. I’m currently on the Board of Directors, though, as co-chair of the Communications team. I’m in charge of the weekly newsletter and enjoy the weekly challenge of trying to best my own open/click through rates. You should read the newsletters, they’re awesome. 🙂

How has AMA helped you be more successful in your professional endeavors?
In my role at NCFF, I like to say I’m in charge of all the wordsing: creating content for our communities to use, maintaining our blog and social media, writing press releases, editing others’ writing, etc. My experience with AMA thus far has been super helpful in giving me a sounding board of smart, savvy marketers who can help me sort through challenging messaging strategies, find resources for event planning, and commiserate about stumbling blocks.

What have you enjoyed most about being an AMA member?
The networking aspect of AMA is *huge*. It seems like there’s always someone who knows someone who knows someone else who can help me if I’m stuck. The connectedness of AMA membership is incredible.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m actually kind of a video game nerd, so that’s a big hobby of mine. I also do a LOT of yoga, and I have three dogs who keep me pretty busy.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a pretty open book, so there aren’t a lot of surprises with me. I did recently start doing rope wall yoga and can hang upside down like a bat, so that’s kind of surprising.

What is your best career advice for your fellow marketers?
Nurture your network! If you leave a job, don’t leave any burned bridges. You never know when someone you used to work with will end up being the person who finds you your dream job–or when you can be that person for someone else.

Do you have any favorite marketing blogs, books or podcasts?
Fast Company is a big one for me. I also like to follow business accounts on Twitter that really seem to have fun with their marketing, like Denny’s. I’m not even a huge fan of Denny’s food, but their offbeat, quirky online persona is an inspiring reminder to find your unique voice and stand out.

What are your favorite local businesses?
My favorite local restaurant is definitely MoMo, though Amu Manu and bread&cup get honorable mentions. For local shopping, you can’t find anything cuter than Paper Kite, and I also love Home & Closet both for their awesome mid-mod furniture finds and their support of local makers (Earthen Joy, Lovewell, etc.). For fun, I love the Rock Island Social Club, the Tam O’Shanter, the Hot Mess, Cultiva, and other similar small, offbeat places. Lincoln has such a vibrant community of local shop owners and restaurants–everyone should go find something they love and shop local! 🙂