All posts in Blog

  • Coffee & Coffee Beans

    The Power of InterCom: A Member’s Testimonial

    This is a testimonial shared by InterCom Member, Mari Wielopolski, President and Owner at Crowne Marketing, LLC and Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics and Business at Kalamazoo College. 

    My personal story of the power (and importance) of InterCom starts with a significant change in June 2014. After 35+ years in the professional work world, my marketing leadership position was eliminated. Once /I worked through my devastation, I realized I had not made any professional contacts within the city where I lived – Kalamazoo. I had been working I Grand Rapids for the past 10 years and Detroit for 17 years before that! I better get crackin’!

    Through LinkedIn, I made contact with professional women in the greater Kalamazoo area, ultimately leading to coffee with Gretchen Johnson (InterCom President) late that summer. During our coffee conversation, Gretchen invited me to InterCom. My first few “2nd Fridays” were spent introducing myself to a very accepting, inspiring group of like-minded marketers. The guest speakers expanded my thinking and broadened my understanding of several topics while wakening me to all that Kalamazoo has to offer.

    Then, one Friday, Jeff  Palmer, an InterCom member introduced his Kalamazoo College associate as our speaker, there to familiarize us with K College’s Arcus Center. I knew very little about K College and nothing about the Arcus Center but learned a lot that day.

    As a Hope College grad, I was intrigued by K’s mission so asked Jeff if he’d be open to a cup of coffee. During that exchange, Jeff offered to introduce me to the Econ/Bus Department Chair. He and I then grabbed coffee (by now, I knew a lot about the unique coffee shops all around Kzoo).  The Department Chair introduced me to the Professor teaching the majority of the Marketing courses. In the spring of 2015, she invited me to guest lecture and then assist in judging students for their term long project.

    That fall, the Marketing Professor asked if I’d fill in while she was on sabbatical sprig 2016. Of course, I jumped on it! The Department Chair asked if I’d please create an entirely new course so that if it was successful, I could teach it again after the Marketing Professor returned. Oh boy…what had I signed up to do!?!

    Well, create a class I did. And, teaching that course was one of my top 3 professional experiences. Bright, engaging students, challenging yet fun material. I loved it! And, in the fall of 2016, the Department Chair reached out and asked me to teach that course again this spring!

    ALL OF THIS IS DUE TO INTERCOM!!

    That IS the POWER and IMPORTANCE of InterCom.

    InterCom encourages members to submit short articles about trends, testimonials, or things that are happening in their communication field of business. Submissions may be sent to Gretchen Johnson at kzoogretchen@gmail.com. We encourage our members to consider leveraging our By The Way section as a way to gain both recognition for the subject and professional recognition for the member. Submissions are subject to review and approval by the InterCom Board. 

  • Final NP Survey Results Presentation

    The Results from Our Nonprofit Communications Survey

    April marked our last regular 2nd Friday lunchtime event for the 2016-2017 season. And it was a packed event! We discussed results from the InterCom and ONEplace nonprofit communications survey.

    We are currently working with ONEPlace leadership to coordinate qualitative focus groups that should help us all better understand the “why” behind the data.  We will, of course, share the results of those findings too, once we have that report.

    Look for programming in the coming year — from both organizations— to speak to some of the needs expressed by this vital social sector for our region.

    We’re excited to share the presentation from the event that can be viewed below or through this link

    Final NP Survey Results Presentation

     

  • InterCom Buy Local Event

    InterCom & Buy Local Joint Mixer @ Feed the World Cafe

    InterCom Kalamazoo is hosting the Buy Local After 5 at Feed the World Cafe on Tuesday, May 16 from 5-7 PM.

    We’re so excited to be bringing these amazing organizations together for a great night of networking, food, drinks and fun. Festivities will be held on the patio, so come and enjoy spring at a local eatery we know you’ll love!

    Buy Local After 5 hosted by InterCom Kalamazoo
    Tuesday, May 16
    5:00 – 7:00 PM

    at Feed the World Cafe
    7000 Stadium Dr #201
    Kalamazoo, MI 49009

    Appetizers supplied by Feed the World Cafe along with a cash bar.

    This event is free to members and non-members. RSVP through Eventbrite (on the link or the form below.) This event is in lieu of InterCom’s 2nd Friday Speaker’s Series.

    Buy Local Greater Kalamazoo aims to be the voice for independent businesses in the greater Kalamazoo area and to educate consumers to buy locally. It grew out of an interest on the part of local business owners and consumers to distinguish businesses that support the local economy. Since 2008, their unique community of local & independent businesses and non-profits enhance the character and integrity of the greater Kalamazoo area.

    Not a member of Buy Local? We would love for you to be our guest to network and learn about Buy Local and InterCom organizations. We can’t wait to meet you!

    Feed the World Cafe is a social impact restaurant offering fresh unique food using locally sourced ingredients. For every meal purchased at the restaurant and through catering one or more meals are provided in our community.”

  • 6-Nonprofit-Budget-Stretching

    6 Nonprofit Budget-Stretching Ideas

    By Gretchen Johnson

    InterCom will be sharing results of our recent nonprofit communication survey for the Kalamazoo region at a special 2nd Friday event April 14. As you might expect, one of the biggest challenges facing these philanthropic efforts is the need to do more good with fewer dollars.

    There are lots of arguments for nonprofits to spend more on advertising and marketing. David Pallotta made this point with his famous TED talk. But let’s face it: Few nonprofits have the resources to communicate and promote their work to the extent they’d like. There’s still a perception that “overhead” is anathema in any social venture, and, unfortunately, marketing and public awareness efforts are still viewed as “fluff” by many philanthropists. But we all know that marketing and communication actually improve an organization’s reach and impact. So what’s to be done?

    The right answer is that every organization is unique and should take a strategic look at goals and objectives to determine how best to spend communication dollars. But there are also some broad solutions for making tight dollars work harder. During my time on the client side of the desk, I once had a supplier describe me thus: Gretchen’s the only person I’ve every worked with who gets more out of her budget without making me feel like I’ve been used. (I’m paraphrasing — and cleaning that up a bit.) I’m not sure it was meant as a compliment, but it’s a badge I still wear with honor. So here are a few suggestions for making your marketing communication dollars work harder for your nonprofit (or small business, or any marcomm effort)…

    1.  Plan ahead

    One of the most effective ways to get more done with less is to plan as far ahead as is practical. If you know what print, radio, social media, etc., you need to complete in the next six months — or better yet for the year — you can save money by attacking multiple projects at once.

    Let’s look at printed materials, for example. (In the order of importance, local nonprofits rank printed materials as a fourth priority, following websites, social media and event planning.)

    Will you be doing an annual report? Newsletters? Point of service flyers or other service line handouts? An annual appeal brochure? Special mailings to donors? When you have at least a general list of what’s coming, you can plan both your content and your artwork ahead of time. You may even be able to print them on the same press.

    2.  Invest in good photography and good art

    Maybe you’re lucky, and you have creative folks on staff. If they’re not trained in design or photography, it’s worth hiring a professional to help you at least establish a framework from which to grow. Take photography, for example. Cameras today — even smartphones — make it possible to take high-resolution images. But the purpose of a photo is to communicate. If your image is soft and it’s poorly framed, a bad photo can actually detract from your purpose.

    On the other hand, you can get a lot of mileage out of professional photography. When you reuse artwork, photography, videography or even content multiple times, it reinforces your message and your brand. (Just make sure you’re clear with your supplier about usage rights.)

    We see our materials every day, but stakeholders don’t. As a rule, organizations tire of their materials seven times faster than their audience. When you can, take lots of alternative photos and video (b-roll) to use later.

    3.  Tap your vendors’ expertise and ideas

    I realized early on that the folks providing printing, photography, design and other support services knew a whole lot more than me about what they did. Printers could help me squeeze every inch from a press. Videographers often had stock content to supplement my budget — and they always knew how to organize the day to maximize the shooting schedule. I just had to ask.

    4.  Team up with your supply chain or community partners

    If you’re a human service organization, there are likely many providers who have contact with the people you serve. Look for creative ways to promote your work together. Consider a shared ad campaign or special event. It not only stretches the budget, but it can also spread the burden, enabling you to get more done with less effort.

    5.  Learn from your peers

    It may seem impossible to take time from an already hectic schedule to ask your colleagues from other organizations what’s worked for them, but this is an incredibly effective approach.

    6.  Follow nonprofit marketing blogs and sites.

    They’ll help you keep up with trends in everything from fundraising to social media to reporting results. Many of them offer free tip sheets, e-books and other resources. Here are a few to check out:

    Both ONEplace and InterCom offer regular gatherings for networking and casual discussion. They’re usually free or charge a nominal fee only, and you can learn from the best practices of others. Like a campaign they’re running? Asking them what worked and what didn’t. Who’d they use? How long did it take? What might they do differently next time? Not only will you learn, you’ll help them think through the experience and be better prepared for their next project.

    Gretchen Johnson is President of InterCom and President/CEO of WordPlay Marketing Communications. WordPlay specializes in helping individuals and organizations develop messages and tell powerful stories. A common thread among clients is their desire to reach higher — and connect with and engage their stakeholders — for the purpose of creating lasting and positive change.

     

     

  • Linda Depta at KVCC

    Seeds of Change: Bronson’s Healthy Living Campus

    Linda Depta, Director of College Relations at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, treated InterCom to a sneak peek of their Bronson Healthy Living Campus on March 10: both figuratively and literally.  The lunch program, held at their new Culinary/Allied Health Building, allowed attendees an insider’s view of the creation and corresponding marketing campaign of this unique venture.

    Her presentation focused on these key areas:KVCC Materials

    • KVCC rebranding campaign. Linda discussed how a skeleton crew and an outside agency rebuilt their brand six years ago, from the ground up. Next challenge: We want to build a new campus.
    • The issue: Kalamazoo, and more importantly, the world is in a health crisis. Lack of healthy foods and poor dietary choices lead to multiple health issues and a decreased quality of life. In Kalamazoo County, 63% of adults are overweight or obese.
    • The response: KVCC partnered with Bronson Healthcare and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in 2013. Together, they created the Bronson Healthy Campus to boost urban revitalization, community health and workforce development through sustainable food education, training, production, distribution and preparation. In other words, they took to heart the notion that food is medicine. Their purpose video can be viewed here.
    • The campaign. Linda walked us through the capital campaign and the marketing support needed to convince our community that this issue needed to be addressed – keeping in mind that nobody had ever created a mission like this before.  The BHLC is the first in the nation to offer these kind of solutions, with these resources and programs, in this type of academic setting.
    • InterCom CrowdThe results. The three-building campus is up and running with most of its needed money raised and in place. Classed are full, the indoor farm is growing and the student-run restaurant is open for business. The marketing efforts paid off, on time and on budget.

    Dessert: After the presentation in the culinary theatre, Linda took interested attendees on a guided tour of the Culinary/Allied Health Building. In-house brewing, state-of-the-art industrial kitchens, a medical simulation room, and a working stationary ambulance were all part of the journey. We left with heads full of knowledge and hearts full of passion, and with bellies rumbling in anticipation of partaking in delicious healthy-living cuisine when the campus café’s and restaurants open again in the fall.

    By Curtis Cunningham, Vice President, Lawrence Productions. Decades-long InterCom member.

  • Local Nonprofit Communications Trends

    What marketing and communication issues are keeping local nonprofit leaders up at night? What are their top marketing goals? How do these organizations compare to nonprofits nationally?

    These are a few of the questions InterCom and ONEplace sought to answer with a Kalamazoo Area Nonprofit Marketing/Communications Survey completed in February. The results of that survey and possible implications for both the nonprofit and communication industry sectors will be discussed at InterCom’s 2nd Friday Speakers’ Series on April 14. This special event is FREE and open to the public.

    “Kalamazoo is widely recognized as a generous, philanthropically minded county,” says Gretchen Johnson, InterCom president. “Private giving drives our quality of life, meeting crucial human service needs, providing financial and educational support for students of all ages, and even making the arts possible — from theatre to dance, music and so much more. The success of the nonprofit organizations that carry out this important work depends on effective marketing and communication. We believe it is imperative for our members to understand as much as possible about these organizations. We also believe we have experience, insight and expertise to share.”

    Nonprofits are also an important economic driver for the region. According to a 2016 survey by the Michigan Nonprofit Association, this industry sector includes more than 1,200 nonprofits in Kalamazoo County. Nearly 22,500 people work in nonprofits here, and these organizations generate a combined annual revenue of $2.7 million (as of 2014).

    “A community’s success is reflected in the capacity of its nonprofit sectors,” says Thom Andrews, director of ONEplace, a capacity building organization offering resources and services to nonprofits in Kalamazoo County. Andrews said the survey results are already playing an important role in helping his team develop programming for the many area nonprofits that have come to rely on ONEplace as the education arm of the funding community.

    At the April 14 event, InterCom members will lead participants through small-group dialogue. Communication professionals will have the opportunity to hear from nonprofit leaders about vital needs for their organizations — while nonprofit professionals learn marketing tips and best practices from area communications experts. The event is free and open to the public.

    Event Details

    The brown-bag lunchtime event starts at noon (following 30 minutes of networking) at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Anna Whitten Hall, 202 N Rose St, Kalamazoo, 49007. This session only is open as a free event to the public. Guests, however, are asked to register online at Eventbrite. Learn more at InterComKalamazoo.com: Events.

  • George Franklin Presentation

    Lessons from a Veteran Lobbyist

    George Franklin, attorney and former vice president of worldwide government relations for Kellogg Company, shared war stories about his 30 years as a corporate lobbyist at our February 2nd Friday Speakers Series event. As George pointed out, most communication people don’t know much about government relations and many of us have a negative opinion of their work as lobbyists.  By the end, George made sure we all understood that lobbyists are not the enemy but instead play an important role in our democracy.

    George is on a mission to educate communications professionals and business people alike about the critical ways lobbying and government relations can help enterprises of all sizes be successful.

    His presentation focused on four key points:

    1. Government relations is foundational for business success, because, like it or not, every enterprise must deal with local, state and federal governments for permits, licenses, taxes, regulations, etc. Understanding how to work with or influence smart legislation can make or break an organization.
    1. Lobbying and lobbyists are misunderstood. “Special interests” is a meaningless term; every organization is a special interest, and lobbyists work to make sure their clients’ views are represented. Positive governmental relations can improve the quality of business outcomes and strengthen communities.
    1. Our democracy can’t function smoothly without lobbyists. They provide busy legislative representatives with the data, research, impact studies, etc. needed for smart legislation. They’re the backbone of our political process.
    1. To be successful as a government affairs professional, there is only one rule, and that is to build relationships of trust. Those relationships die quickly if lobbyists fail to provide accurate and truthful information to local, state or federal governmental representatives. The image of the unethical, crony, untrustworthy lobbyist isn’t accurate. If you operate that way, you won’t make it.

    We were lucky to get George to share his practical advice, given his schedule.  He’s very busy these days assisting producers who’d like to turn his book, Raisin Bran and Other Cereal Wars: 30 Years of Lobbying for the Most Famous Tiger in the World, into a mini-series. The concept is similar to “Mad Men,” but it centers on the lives of lobbyists in 1970s-era Washington D.C. rather than Manhattan advertising honchos.

    Maybe in the near future we’ll be further strengthening our communication proficiency by watching a hit show based on the expertise of one of the country’s best governmental affairs professionals, who just happens to hail from our own corner of Michigan.

    Thanks, George!

    Written by Kristi Droppers, Managing Director, Collective Know-How, LLC.

     

  • KVCC Bronson Healthy Living Campus

    Growing a Healthy Living Campus

    On March 10, get a behind-the-scenes look at the promotional strategy for Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s new Healthy Living Campus from Linda Depta, director of College Relations. After the talk, enjoy a tour of the Culinary/Allied Health Building!

    In this best-practice presentation, Linda will discuss marketing, branding and fundraising efforts for this one-of-a-kind, new, “healthy campus” in the heart of town, complete with a student-run restaurant and indoor farming.

    Discussion highlights include:

    • College Branding vs. Campus Branding vs. Program Branding
    • Community Collaboration
    • Fundraising
    • Implementing Campus Launches for Students and the Public
    • Promoting the Restaurant(s), Food Hub and Curriculum

    For those who don’t know Linda, you’ve probably seen her work — at KVCC or during her many years of communication leadership through in the region. Since 2010, Linda has served as Director of College Relations for Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Her tenure there includes oversight of a rebranding effort for the College and its many campuses, marketing throughout the development and launch of its latest Bronson Healthy Living Campus, and marketing and promotion surrounding the College’s 50th anniversary in 2016.

    Prior to joining KVCC, her storied career includes work in a variety of advertising and communication positions throughout the region, including Program Manager roles with WOTV and WWMT, Senior Account Executive roles at Fairfield Broadcasting and LKF Marketing, and Advertising Director of the Kalamazoo Gazette. She is a Trustee for Albion College and President-elect of The Stulberg International String Competition, and boasts a long history of volunteerism for many local boards and service organizations.

    Event Details

    The brown-bag lunchtime event starts at noon (following 30 minutes of networking). Note for this event only, the location is at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Bronson Healthy Living Campus, in the Culinary Theatre of the Culinary/Allied Health Building, 418 East Walnut Street, Kalamazoo, 49007. It is free to InterCom members. Non-member guests are asked to pay $10. Please register and pay online at Eventbrite. Learn more at www.InterComKalamazoo.com: Events.

     

  • Supercharge Your Professional Development? Join the InterCom Board

    A few years ago, I read a post by Dan Blackmore about how quickly and significantly joining the board of a nonprofit organization can boost your career. Dan worked for International House in the Greater New York Region and was writing for Career Idealist.

    I remember thinking how good Dan’s advice was. InterCom is currently seeking new talent for our board of directors, so I dug out Dan’s article, and I am sharing his four main take-aways with you. I’ve added a local perspective.

    If you’re a communication professional in the greater Kalamazoo region and you’re looking to make your mark — on our shared profession, our community, or your own career — please consider taking a closer look at InterCom’s board.

    Dan’s Reason #1: Expand your network

    As an association that’s committed to the professional development of our members, networking is baked into everything we do. But the board’s professional outreach goes much deeper. Last year, for example, we organized two community-wide media discussions that brought news leaders to Kalamazoo from around the state. This year, we’re planning events designed to advance communication best practices for both nonprofits and the local small business community. If you want to broaden your network with community leaders, joining the InterCom board will do so quickly.

    Dan’s Reason #2: Raise your profile in your organization and profession

    I would add, “within the region.” We’re especially eager to have young professionals step into leadership positions with InterCom because they are our community’s future. We’re hopeful that — like the community leaders before them — they’ll put forth bold ideas that transform this “place” where we live and work in a way that leaves a positive legacy for generations to come.

    Dan’s Reason #3: Strengthen project and team management skills 

    As a working board, InterCom offers lots of opportunities to build specific skills such as financial management, event planning, scheduling and organizing, and other skies-the-limit special projects. You’ll also find yourself working with people from many organizations — of different sizes and with varied areas of focus — and the people who work there. Some of these folks will have complementary strengths, and some will have conflicting ones. You’re guaranteed to grow and learn.

    Dan’s Reason #4: Become a better coach

    I’ve always heard that the best way to remember what you’ve learned is to teach it. And the best way to grow is to do work that benefits others. Joining the InterCom board helps you learn and grow, and it will feel great. You’ll form career-long relationships with peers who actually “get” what you do. But there’s more to these relationships than congeniality. These are folks you’re likely to encounter in tangible ways through your work in the region. You may work for them – or they you! Almost certainly you’ll find yourself working alongside one or more of these colleagues as you leave your creative mark on our shared field and community.

    Sound like the opportunity for you? Please contact me at gretchen@kalamazoointercom.com, or call me at (269) 377-8069.

    Gretchen Johnson is President/CEO of WordPlay Marketing Communications, which specializes in helping individuals and organizations develop messages and tell powerful stories. A common thread among clients is their desire to reach higher — and connect with and engage their stakeholders — for the purpose of creating lasting and positive change.

  • Raisin Bran and Other Cereal Wars: 30 Years of Lobbying for the Most Famous Tiger in the World

    Cereal Wars with George Franklin

    Join us February 10 at 11:30am for a conversation with best-selling author and former Kellogg lobbyist George Franklin, who will talk business, law, lobbying and politics as our 2nd Friday Speakers’ Series guest lecturer. Franklin’s insights will touch on a broad range of relevant and timely topics from lobbyists, to fundraisers, Congress, the White House, China, South Africa, Mexico, and even Ground Zero just days after 9/11.

    George FranklinFranklin’s book, Raisin Bran and Other Cereal Wars: 30 Years of Lobbying for the Most Famous Tiger in the World, tells his first-hand perspective from inside Kellogg and Washington. He served as Vice President of Worldwide Government Relations for Kellogg Company. POLITICO says his book Cereal Wars “offers an unusually candid — and entertaining — portrayal of the central role lobbyists play in policymaking.”

    Register at https://cerealwars.eventbrite.com.

    We’ll gather to network around 11:30 and start at noon with the presentation “Lobbying – what they forgot to mention in business school.” Don’t miss this conversation with George Franklin.

    Event Details

    The brown-bag lunchtime event starts at noon (following 30 minutes of networking) at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Anna Whitten Hall, 202 N Rose St, Kalamazoo, 49007. It is free to InterCom members. Non-member guests are asked to pay $10. Please register and pay online at Eventbrite. Learn more at www.InterComKalamazoo.com/events