All posts in By the way

  • Don’t Forget to Renew Your InterCom Membership!

    Every year, for many years we have tried to make the month of May the time when InterCom members renew their membership to InterCom.  Typically we have a small percent of members renew in May with most members renewing beginning in May through December, making it difficult to manage membership and our budget for programming.

    Online and web-based technology for managing payments has improved dramatically in the last couple of years and InterCom has just invested in STRIPE to manage our renewal and payment process.

    Here is what you need to know:

    • Our renewal system has launched June 1, 2017.
    • Because no InterCom members have joined or renewed through the new STRIPE system, the system this year will ask you to JOIN, even though as a member you are just renewing.
    • If you paid your membership last year (2016) before June 1st, you will be receiving an email at the end of May informing you that it is time to “Join” InterCom – and on June 1st you will be sent an email invoice for renewing.
    • The links in the email will take members to a payment site where you can pay with your credit card.
    • The system will send an email receipt documenting payment complete.
    • In agreement with all 3rd-pary payment applications, InterCom has no access to any financial or personal information, and STRIPE (similar to Paypal) is a certified and secure payment portal.
    • All members that paid their membership fee after June 1st of last year will receive an email seven days before their membership anniversary telling them that they will need to renew and will receive another email invoice the day their membership expires with a link to JOIN (which is a renewal)
    • The system is designed to do automatic renewals after a payment process has been entered into the system. Therefore, if you do not wish for it to auto renew, please uncheck the box.
    • All new members going forward will be processed through the automated STRIPE process.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Gretchen Johnson (gretchen@intercomkalamazoo.com) or Kristi Droppers (kristi.droppers@gmail.com).

  • 2017 New Board Members

    Welcome New InterCom Board Members: Ema, Kelly, Gerah, and Meredith

    InterCom is excited to welcome four professionals to serve on the InterCom Board: Ema Cuturic, Kelly Durlach, Gerah Dutkiewicz, and Meredith McLean. They have already been hard at work this summer planning and supporting membership, programming, sponsorship, marketing and social media.

    Here’s a little bit about each of our four new board members…

    Ema CuturicEma Cuturic

    Ema works as an Account Manager at Roguebotic. She has a passion for creative advertising, marketing strategy, and client relations. She received her Bachelor’s in Marketing and Advertising from Davenport University. In her free time, she enjoys giving back to Kalamazoo and helping the community grow.

    Kelly DurlachKelly Durlach

    Kelly works as a Director Of Marketing And Advertising at ProSource Wholesale.

     

     

    Gerah DutkiewiczGerah Dutkiewicz

    Gerah works as a Graphic Designer at LKF Marketing. She is a creative communicator and has spent the last 16 years working with a wide range of clients to meet their various design needs and marketing goals.

     

    Meredith McLean, InterCom Board MemberMeredith McLean

    Meredith works as a Communications Coordinator at Consumers Credit Union. She is a marketing professional currently specializing in digital marketing. She brings a wide array of professional experience from website design and social media management to writing and graphic design.

     

    We would encourage you to meet these hard working professionals at our next 2nd Friday Speakers’ Series.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

     

     

  • 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.

  • this sign will accomplish nothin

    What Is Communicated In A Protest?

    This article was written by Kristi Droppers, Managing Director, Collective Know-How, LLC.

    Protests have been an everyday occurrence over the last 10 days, beginning with the inauguration and followed by the Women’s March, March for Life and demonstrations at airports against President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration and refugees. Given the chaos within just the first days of our new president’s term, we can probably expect there to be more protests from all sides.

    If you’ve ever participated in a protest or march, you know that there are lots of chants, signs, speakers, music, drumming, flags, hats, etc., and they all serve as mediums for communicating individual or collective messages. Like many, I was mesmerized by the news reports showing the thousands of signs left behind after the Woman’s March, lining the fence a short distance from the Whitehouse. They showed both the diversity of messages and the common themes woven through a one-day protest in that city alone.

    womens-march-washington-499179324-rc1a8662da60-rtrmadp

    With so many differing messages, what gets communicated?

    With a world and culture dominated by social media and electronic communication, we’ve grown used to competing messages and information overload and often are not aware of its anesthetizing capabilities. The onslaught of so much noise at a protest, like signs, chants, banners, speeches, etc., make the clarity of the message difficult or, for some, impossible to find.  News pundits have argued that they don’t see a consistent, clear message from these protests and therefore don’t know what the protestors hope to accomplish, especially if there is no singular demand or a recognized leader. Some commentators suggest that protests lacking a clear message have little impact or can be dismissed.

    Today, we can sit in the comfort of our WIFI-enabled homes and email, post, tweet, text or digitally sign a petition as our act of protest. It may be easy, but in reality this is “invisible” protest. With so many channels for communicating online, no one can find the message in the clutter, and it never feels as if our elected officials pay much attention to our petitions or email rants, anyway.

     

     Im a little upset

     

    With dizzying myriads of messaging, why protest?

    The Indivisible Guide, created by Obama staffers as a tool for resisting Trump’s agenda, has received lots of attention and commitment across the country.  People are signing up to form Indivisible groups and learning how to contact their representatives to make their voices heard. These groups are doing more than calling and leaving messages. They’re showing up at their representative’s offices in person. And their calm requests and questions are SCREAMING in the ears of their representatives.  Face-to-face human engagement is more powerful than any voice recording on a congressional representative’s messaging system. By showing up, people force the recognition that there is a message to be shared, even if it’s ignored or debated.

    The mass protests seen this past week, with hundreds of thousands of people marching for various reasons, make clear that no matter how different the signs, chants or reasons for being there, human beings are bringing themselves as the message. That’s the message that can’t be ignored or misunderstood.

    The communication of being present as a human being with others in protest sends a stronger message than signs, chants, emails and signatures on a petition. It is powerful because of the physicality of human beings coming together – real, observable, vulnerable, strong, demanding and clearly bearing one message: “We are paying attention!”

    And, that might be the most valuable signage of our times, no matter where you stand politically.

  • Marketing Technology Landscape

    Deepen digital connections, navigate the noise in 2017

    By InterCom President Gretchen Johnson

    Peruse the forecasts for marketing and public relations in 2017, and you won’t find jaw-dropping predictions. You will see a refinement of trends from the past few years, however, that we think spells o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y for communication professionals.

    Everything new is old again

    Think back to the effect word-processing had on publishing when it was first introduced as a desktop solution in the 1980s (Xers and Boomers, of course.) For a while, everyone was a publisher and experimentation was the rule. But eventually the newness wore off, and we stopped producing just because we could. We remembered that our core objective was to deliver information relevant to our stakeholders, and tech was relegated to the tool status it deserved.

    With the focus back on strategy, new technology today makes it both easier and more affordable to develop outstanding creative and to interact in a more meaningful way with audiences. Yes, we have more capability than ever to throw information at our stakeholders, but it is the communication pro who can tell you why one channel is better than another, how to engage that audience, and how to then drive measurable outcomes.  Put another way, now that the clamoring over new capabilities has quieted, the voice of the communication professional can once again be heard.

    2017 in short

    The biggest prediction for the year ahead can be summarized simply as deepening relationships first made possible through apps and social media. Stakeholders have come to expect a nearly individualized buying experience, which crosses from the consumer world to the world of B2B and even into nonprofits.

    The American Marketing Association puts it this way: “The customer experience will take center stage.” And the digital marketing consultants at Convince & Convert make it clear that content is the means to that end, saying, “content marketing will outshine traditional advertising.”

    This means an increased opportunity for writers and content developers. Influencers will grow in importance too. Experts with opinions and advice can establish themselves — or their clients — as market leaders.

    So what?

    If these are the trends, the real question is how can communication professionals in Greater Kalamazoo make the most of them? How can we grow our businesses and help our clients and employers increase their profitability? (And increase revenues or increase their human service impact?)

    Through InterCom, we can learn more and faster by sharing best practices with one another through networking and industry discussions.

    We’ll continue to bake networking into every event and we’re ramping up our LinkedIn group — and opening it to nonmembers — to facilitate more dialogue.

    We’ll put it into practice

    We’re adding workshops and group discussions into our lunchtime programming. This starts January 13 with our “Presenting You” workshop, led by local expert Raquel Binder.

    Real-world local examples reign

    We still believe that we can learn best from the successes — and lessons learned — of local communication pros. Our programming for the remainder of 2016-2017 offers plenty of opportunities to meet local leaders and hear behind-the-scenes insights from their amazing careers.

    Want more? Have ideas to share? Would you like to get more involved? Talk to us. Connect with me, or anyone of our board members. We’re excited about the year ahead and optimistic about all we can do together!

    Want to start a conversation on Linkedin? Click here. (Feel free to invite friends, it’s an open group. Your welcome to post your individual or company news or share your latest projects, too.)

    Marketing Technology Landscape

    Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic from the 2016 MarTech USA conference.

  • Do More of What Makes You Happy Mug

    ‘Tis the Season: Apps that Bring Joy

    By Gretchen Johnson, President of InterCom and Owner of WordPlay Marketing Communications

    My daughter bought me a coffee mug last year that extolls a deeply treasured personal goal of mine: “Do more of what you love!” Whether it’s work, family time, travel or tennis, I strive to enjoy the experience and not stress about the minutia. Thanks to technology, I can! Following are my favorite apps for saving time, staying on top of projects and commitments, and maintaining my home and business records.

    1.  Evernote

    A workspace for everything.

    Cost: Free for Basic, $34.99/year for Plus and $69.99/year for Premium

    Save articles and web pages to Evernote with a single click. When referencing sources, the information is at your fingertips. You can also enter information by keying it in, dictating it or snapping photos. With a bit of organizing tags and titles, it is easy to retrieve anything you’ve stored with a simple search. Evernote digitizes photos and scans, and the information becomes searchable. It works across platforms and can serve as a shared workspace for groups. I file travel itineraries, tickets and confirmations on Evernote and breeze through airport and hotel check-ins. A few minutes of waiting almost anywhere can be used for billable projects.

    2.  One-Core Time Master 

    Digital time clock for tracking billable hours

    Cost: $9.99 one-time fee with upgrades available

    On-Core Time Master is a handy phone app that lets me start and stop a time clock for every client project. At the end of a billing cycle, it tells me who to bill and for what. Though I don’t use its extended capabilities, it also offers electronic invoicing. It reports in cvs or pdf formats. Manage the system from Time Master Central on your Mac or PC.

    3.  MileIQ 

    Effortlessly track business mileage.

    Cost: $5.99/month or $59.99/year

    Download MileIQ and it operates in the background of your smartphone. At the end of the day or week, tap the app and it displays your unfiled trips. Swipe left for personal and right for business. Added features allow you to automatically categorize repetitive outings, add notes, add receipts or organize by client or project. When you’re ready to report your trips — weekly, monthly, quarterly or only at tax time — a cvs or pdf file neatly summarizes your travel and lets you plug in additional detail. MileIQ saves enormous time and frustration when preparing tax files. I don’t drive a lot for business, and it easily pays for itself.

    4.  Grammarly

    Electronic proofreader

    Free basic version. Premium access is $29.95/month or $139.95/year

    Grammarly checks for some 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It catches redundancies and overused words and phrases. With its plugin for Safari, it also proofs my work online in apps like Gmail, Facebook, and Linkedin. It also boasts a plagiarism checker, just in case. The paid version is integrated into my operating system.

    5.  Neat

    Organize receipts and records

    Cost: $5.99 to $24.99/month

    I add Neat with some reservation. I began using this software when it was an out-of-box solution and didn’t require a subscription. I’m struggling a bit with the transition. But I have to admit; it’s a fabulous system for organizing records and receipts for easy access and simple reporting. I throw receipts into a pile and scan them periodically – not as frequently as I should. At the end of the year, it is easy to queue and save expense reports for my tax accountant. And paper clutter is virtually eliminated.

  • Jessy Wilson, Board Member

    Bringing a millennial’s perspective to the InterCom board

    InterCom recently welcomed Jessy Wilson of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo to our board of directors. Read on to find out more about her and what brought her to Kalamazoo!

    A Millennial’s Perspective

    By Jessy Wilson

    Having grown up in a small town in Southwest Michigan, I was well aware of the existence of Kalamazoo, but that’s about it. I had no idea how truly special this community is. It doesn’t take long to learn that Kalamazoo is rich in culture, diversity, philanthropy and so much more. Read more

  • A look back before moving forward

    A look back before moving forward

    InterCom spearheaded two important events this summer on the topic of local news, Breaking the News 1 and 2. It was an opportunity for us to reach outside our comfort zone a bit, and include the community in conversations we believe — and the public’s interest seemed to confirm — are essential to our long-term well-being. Read more