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: 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! 🙂

Achievement Spotlight: Swanson Russell

Swanson Russell Recognized at Downtown Lincoln Association Awards

The Downtown Lincoln Association recognized Swanson Russell with its Significant Private Development Award at the 2016 Downtown Impact Awards luncheon October 27 at the Embassy Suites.


The Downtown Impact Awards honors significant contributions to downtown Lincoln. Swanson Russell was cited for its new 12,000-square-foot addition and interior renovations to its existing building. The construction work was completed in October 2016.

“Swanson Russell needed a space that suited our culture and growing business while maintaining our presence in the revitalized downtown community,” said Dave Hansen, partner and CEO at Swanson Russell. “The new addition and renovation of existing space has allowed more collaboration, interaction and shared goals for meeting our employees’ and clients’ needs.”

The addition includes meeting rooms, employee lounges and a presentation room with an exterior patio. The agency’s existing building connects to the addition via a second-floor walkway. Major interior renovations in the existing building include expanded meeting rooms and contemporary designs. Both the new addition and existing remodel feature a spatially open concept to better accommodate the Lincoln office’s 110 employees.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star

Achievement Spotlight: Vision Exhibits

Vision Exhibits takes home top honors


A consistent winner of awards for their innovative designs and lead-generating trade show exhibit solutions, Vision Exhibits has added three more awards to their extensive list of professional achievements.

Two prestigious gold MarCom awards were awarded for their work on behalf of Xcellience, a company that offers scientific solutions to pharmaceutical and biotech companies world-wide and Bartlett & West, an engineering and technology firm. They also garnered an honorable mention for a two-level display that featured a Legos themed environment for Union College.

The Xcellience display featured an open environment, repurposed graphics including LED edge lights around the graphics, a six-seat conference room and work stations for maximum interaction. Bartlett & West, a Topeka-based firm that exhibits at more than 40 trade shows annually, needed interchangeable messaging and imaging as well as a scaleable design that could be modified for different shows.

To check out the all the award-winning work from Vision Exhibits, go to visionexhibits.com or Facebook.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star

New Marketing Book Club SIG

By Nia Nielsen, Past President & Book Club SIG Leader

I like big books…

Growing up I got in trouble for reading too much. True story. After a weekend of binge reading, my mom, exasperated, finally threatened to ground me if I did not go outside and get some fresh air. Well I did go outside, but I took my book with me and locked myself in my parent’s 1992 Buick Regal. Needless to say I lost some privileges that weekend, but my love of reading stuck with me.

Fast forward to 2015, when I was asked to lead a Special Interest Group (SIG) for the Lincoln AMA. Immediately my mind jumped to what I need most in my life the idea of leading a marketing book club. Can we talk about perfection?

books + marketing + wine = love

Did I mention wine? Yes, there could be wine.

So here is where you come in. Take this quick survey to tell us what marketing books you’ve been wanting to read, what time works best to meet, and if you like big books as well.

While I’m at it I just going to leave this here.


How to Endure the Long Haul of Content Marketing

JeffJulian-ProfileBy Jeff Julian, CMO at AJi Software and August Signature Speaker for the Lincoln AMA

To steal a phrase from one of the most influential marketers in the modern digital era Joe Pulizzi, I am “super excited” to make my way up to Lincoln in August and present on Agile Marketing.

First, I have never been to Lincoln. My Nebraska journeys have taken me straight up I-29 to head to North Dakota or landing in Omaha for a few days for various events.  I have only heard amazing things and I know I will not be disappointed.

Second, from your pictures and past events on your site, you are an active group and one that is prime to learn about new ideas that are changing the shape of marketing.

One of those ideas that we have been centered on for a few years now is the approach of Content Marketing. While some people in suits dismiss the idea or like to put quotes around when mentioning the term, I have heard it twice this week alone, and it is an effective strategy to deploy as part of your marketing efforts.  If our goal is building brand awareness or generate leads, it is best to do so around an established audience rather than interrupting. Skip Ad, no call lists, and direct-to-recycle mail are all standard practices we do as consumers and businesses. But if you solve a problem, entertain me, or provide education on a subject, I am open to learning more about you and your offering.

Another idea that has developed out of the need to change the way we produce content is the adoption of the agile development process software teams have used for years. They face the need to make changes to their team structures and review performance to avoid churn and burnout.  And like us, they have an every growing backlog of work that needs to be prioritized by consumer objectives.

So if we consider ourselves more than marketers and adopt the term Content Developers, you will continue to the similarities.  We are both focused on delivering value to our audience.  We both need the ability to work together to produce items rather than handing them off one-by-one in an assembly line.  Our teams both need the ability to isolate requests coming in and have some control of the flow of our work.

I hope you see Agile Marketing as more than just doing things faster.  In fact, faster is absolutely the worst word we could adopt in Content Marketing. Faster got us into the mess of producing content that is meaningless and lacks the depth our readers deserve. Being fast made it OK to leave an organization after a year because we worked beyond our abilities to produce more content. And since I like everything in threes, your customers are not looking for the company who produced the fastest content. Instead they are looking for the content that was valuable.

If we are looking for producing valuable assets rather than just word counts, we need a process that can help us determine what the audience wants and how we can deliver in the best experience possible.

ScrumCircles-TransparentThe Top 5 Benefits of Agile Marketing

I really hope you can make it out to the presentation in August. I will leave you with some bullet points you can think about if you are considering attending the session. These are the top 5 benefits teams I see when teams adopt an Agile Marketing approach in their marketing efforts:

  • Team Unity – The breaking down of internal walls for your department will help enrich your team’s experience and contribute to creating a group of highly adaptive Content Developers who can do more when you allow them to learn and give them the tools needed to succeed.
  • Measurable Deliverables – For teams to succeed on delivering content and repeat the process week after week, they need the ability to define the size of the work at hand. Managers and Content Owners also need the ability to hold the team accountable to their estimates so they can have confidence in the delivery timeframes when they communicate a status to the stakeholders.  The time boxes in agile are the vehicle for delivering the accountability and the group based estimates are the team’s voice with the scope.
  • Forward Thinking – Putting a high emphasis on prioritization of the Content Backlog and listening for the changes in the organization will allow the team to start preparing the way for larger organizational initiatives.
  • Sustainable Pace – Burnout can be caused by going too fast or not going fast enough. We need to allow Content Developers to produce at a pace that they can sustain over an extended period of  Agile practices allow this pace to be defined and will expose the team members who need to be encouraged and/or educated.  It will also show you who the next generation leaders are.
  • Audience-Centered – With our customers, influencers, fans, and other members of our audience at the center of every piece of content we develop, we have a higher probability of being successful in delivering content assets that have greater value.

I look forward to meeting you and please feel free to connect up with me on LinkedIn at any time.  If you’re the type of learner that wants to dig into the topic a little more before the event, check out our page dedicated to helping marketing teams become more agile.

See Jeff present to the Lincoln AMA on Thursday, August 14 at the Embassy Suites. Get your tickets now.