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  • Top Trends Driving Change in Communication

    Our career-building workshop in January tackled Top Trends Driving Change in Communication and provided a forum for discussion on how best to meet these changes. We started with an introduction to 5 of the most sweeping changes that are certain to affect communication professionals everywhere. We then asked a few simple questions to get the conversation started. Try answering our questions yourself to assess how well you’re ready to meet change — or develop a personalized career development plan. The top trends are below. Here are the questions to keep in mind:

    • What changes are you seeing in your world?
    • How do these or other changes affect what you need to know/learn to be successful now and on your career path?
    • What one thing can you do to position yourself to meet these trends proactively as you plan your career building strategy?

    1. Personalization of Brand Messaging

    This refers to both ends of the messaging spectrum. How information is gathered and how we approach our consumers and other stakeholders.

    What began decades ago as the ability to individualize direct mail with a person’s name, has become an expectation that — if your company wants my business — you’ll know my buying history and preferences, and my friends. And you’ll tailor your interactions with me to how and when I want to hear from you.

    Amazon developed the initial blueprint for how to do this exceedingly well. And now brick-and-mortar stores – like Target – are using GPS to track in-store buying habits, too.

    When it comes to outreach, personalized branding can be as sophisticated as recognizing a customer by name when they click on a company’s website, or as simple as Coke’s “share-a-coke-with” campaign. (Which was one of the most successful in Coke’s history.)

    2. Changing Visual Trends

    Massive changes within the visual arts are occurring across the spectrum of communication — photography, gifs to gifys, video, podcasts… In short, as the amount of information we communicate continues to explode — and as technology advances — our messages must be immediate, simple, succinct, meaningful and clear.

    To meet the changing demands, a new role has emerged: visual designers. Rather than just bringing brands to life, visual designers play a key role in defining what goes into a brand’s unique style and voice. These folks have to explain the design concepts and the decisions behind their work.

    Fast Company says: Brands will have to become more nimble and executed both more quickly and simultaneously across all channels.

    3. New and Emerging Platforms

    Do a Google search for collaboration tools and Go-To-Meeting, an early standard, doesn’t show up in the top 10 search results. Slack, Google Docs, Confluence, Skype for Business, IBM Notes, Microsoft Teams, iMeet, Open Meetings, Trello, RealtimeBoard… These are a few of the collaborative platforms transforming how work gets done.

    And collaboration tools is just one category of new software that’s transforming how we communicate with one another. If you’re not versed in these — along with the plethora of emerging virtual reality, augmented reality and mobile apps being used to communicate with customers, team members and clients — you may be out of step with your peers.

    4. Gamification

    In terms of data collection, gamification is all around us. Facebook uses fun quizzes and surveys to collect information about its users. From this information they can create a stunningly accurate snapshot of an individual’s political views, furniture and fashion style preferences and much more. You can now access that information from Facebook for a fee.

    Gamification can also be used to increase engagement and build relationships with customers. M&M’s created a Where’s Waldo-like game to introduce a product extension in the form of Pretzel Guy. A small part of a massive marketing campaign, it was fun, charming, engaging and enormously effective. It resulted in more than 26,000 likes, 6200 shares and 11,000 comments in its initial launch.

    5. Media Fragmentation and Loss of Trust

    It’s probably no surprise to anyone to say that the public has lost trust in what they read and see as “news,” which dramatically affects the PR side of communication. Companies must be open and transparent in how they do business or they’ll lose stakeholder trust. The same is true from a marketing perspective. Customers want to feel good about the brands they use. And for consumers to feel good, brands must do good. Subaru’s share-the-love campaign for example. A full 90% of Americans say they are more likely to trust and feel loyal to brands that give back to social causes in some way.


  • Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

    February 9, join business coach and start-up expert Melissa Angel, owner of BizCoach, for a workshop on the finer points of thinking and acting like an entrepreneur.

    Whether you’re building your career as a top employee, or you’ve ventured out on your own to build a business, an entrepreneurial mindset is essential for success in today’s market. This workshop will help participants understand the principles of entrepreneurship — innovation, continuous improvement, collaborating for success and doing work you love. They’ll consider their own career goals and objectives, identify opportunities for growth, and learn to eliminate obstacles that may be keeping them from achieving their full potential.

    Over the course of nearly two decades as a top business advisor, Melissa Angel has helped hundreds of individuals and small businesses start or expand successful companies. She’ll walk participants through the same process she uses with her clients to make changes quickly and create a strategy for growth and success.

  • Curtis Cunningham

    Career Tail End Spin

    “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” –Mark Twain

    As professional communicators, we all strive for excellence. We also strive to be masters in our fields and mentors to the next generation.  Eventually, through hard work and determination, we reach that magical plateau.  This goal may be to own of your own business.  It may be to reach a certain title or place within a company.  It could also be financial; hitting a certain income level.

    Once we become the masters of our professional domain, then what? For me, that was when an unsettling complacency set in.  After 30 years, I became comfortable. The problem with comfort is that it can lead to self-absorption, boredom, and discontent.

    Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Psychologist and author of “Better Than Perfect,” says people who regularly seek out fresh experiences tend to be more creative and emotionally resilient than those who remain stuck in routine. “Breaking your own mold can only make you stronger and more confident to reach higher levels in your professional and personal life,” she says. To grow as a human being, I needed to become uncomfortable.

    Bam. This past spring, I decided to shake things up. I went looking for a new opportunity.

    I wanted to finish out my second half doing something meaningful.  Don’t get me wrong, my previous endeavors accomplished a lot of great things and I worked with wonderful people. But I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I wanted to be a part of a greater community good. And I wanted to be part of the arts.  Enter the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.

    I had known about The Gilmore for many years.  I was a fan and a vendor. I had often thought of how great it would be to work there.  In the Spring of 2017, their Director of Marketing and Public Relations position opened up. I applied and interviewed. Three months went by.  I continued to check in and was notified that a decision had not been made.  I continued to follow up.  They finally started calling all of my references.  I knew they were going to make a decision “tomorrow.”  As judgement day lingered on, it got to the point where I could not stand it anymore. I contacted them and said “what else do I have to do to get this job?”  I was told that I must have ESP and to stay tuned. Three hours later, I got an offer and accepted.

    I could not be happier. I am working long hours, constantly challenged, discovering new things and loving it.  I truly feel that I am on the path to making a difference.

    Is it time to step out of your comfort zone?  My advice: leap.

    “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” –Mark Twain

    The only thing worse than letting your career path be determined by random chance is having it determined by regrets.  Be alert for opportunities that may arise, but also go out and make them happen.

    Curtis Cunningham is the Director of Marketing and PR at of the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo.  He is one smiling in the car next to you.

  • InterCom Holiday Party at the Union

    InterCom members, friends and guests filled the front area of the The Union Cabaret and Grille with warmth and good cheer on a cold Thursday night, to toast the holiday season. Kalamazoo Mall lights twinkled through the windows, and festive headgear helped keep spirits light, or at least provoked some giggles. A drawing produced some happy winners of New Years Eve tickets, a gift basket from the Gilmore Keyboard Festival, a Union gift card, and more!

    Thank you to all who attended this event.

    Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more photos!

  • Career Planning Strategy Workshop–January 12

    Our January 2nd-Friday event — January 12 —is a special career planning strategy workshop. Sign up here! We’ll explore “Top Trends Driving Change in Communication” that you need to know about as you plot your professional path. Whether you’re building a consulting business or climbing the corporate ladder, we’ll discuss what changes are occurring, what skills and abilities those changes demand, and what you’ll need to think about to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Do you know where that is?

    Accord to Stephen Covey, the first habit of successful people is the habit of choice. In other words, set your intention and plan your path. Virginia Tech emeritus professor Dave Kohl says it is not enough to know where you are going, you must write it down. According to Kohl’s research, people who write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don’t. That’s a pretty significant difference.

    If you’re not sure how to start Right Management — in its career transitions workshop — suggests seven steps for successful career planning:

    1. Take a personal inventory that includes identifying past successes, current strengths, work style and what you like/don’t like about various work opportunities (like working in a group or alone.) In other words, where are you, where do you want to be, what current skills to you have and what skills will you need to acquire?
    2. Refine your career objectives with focused goals. Want to be the next Jeff Bezos? Exactly how are you going to do that? Bezos knew Amazon would initially lose money. And he had a clear and realistic plan for how long that might take and what he would do next.
    3. Package yourself. That means a resume for career climbing and a branded business plan for start-ups. And don’t forget to tailor brand “you” to fit your success goals. The way you look, talk and generally present yourself matters.
    4. Create a marketing strategy for getting from here to there. Who are the audiences you need to influence? How will you promote yourself?
    5. Build a business network. InterCom is one clear choice. There are others, too.
    6. Polish your interviewing or pitching skills.
    7. Be thorough and persistent. (And we would add determined and disciplined.)

    If you’re serious about changing your career destiny in 2018, these seven steps are a great starting point. We’d like to suggest that you at least consider them before joining us for our Top Trends workshop.  Once you know where you’re going, InterCom would love to join you on your journey. We strive to tailor our speaker and workshop content to meet members’ professional development needs. And we can also connect you with the best local resources as you manage your career or grow your business. Our goal is to be a part of your professional development and success. We’re excited at the prospect and we hope you are too!

  • Gretchen Johnsom

    A Message from our President, Gretchen Johnson

    As we enter 2018, I begin my last six months as InterCom’s president. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve. But I also know that the younger board members who have joined our team in the last two years bring an incredible energy and excitement to our professional association. That means great opportunities are ahead for all of us and it is time to let them lead.

    If you were able to join us for our annual Holiday Gathering at The Union in December, you may have felt the same excitement and momentum that I experience every time we come together. I was impressed by the many ideas shared in informal discussions — new ways of connecting, new ideas for programming and new technologies that can extend our reach and deepen our professional development. These ideas came from a cadre of new members and prospective members.

    The success of this event was in large part due to the work of our young board leaders. I can only imagine what the future may hold under their guidance. But they cannot do it alone.

    If you are seeking to grow professionally, I’d like to suggest you consider contributing to InterCom in a more formal capacity. Join the board or volunteer to serve on a committee and help shape our association’s future. As Ambraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And you can create your own future while also contributing to the betterment of our shared profession — and the greater Kalamazoo community —by serving InterCom.

    The rewards I’ve earned from my InterCom board service far outweigh any work it required. It has enriched my life personally as well as professionally. Beyond the vast professional network it assured, I have gained many friends. I look forward to continuing to support and contribute to this important group in a new capacity. And I look forward to many exciting changes ahead.

    This piece was written by Gretchen Johnson, InterCom President and 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.

  • The Customer’s Journey- Eric Hultgren, Mlive Media Group

    Eric Hultgren, who has background in Radio, now works at Mlive Media Group. He spoke to us at our last
    Friday about igniting a passion for social media and talked about how “it’s never been easier to be average”. Instead of selling or banging people over the head with ads–start with a story. The power of storytelling is the best form of digital marketing.

    Before 1990, all we had was traditional marketing–then time went on and marketing channels keep exploding. Now our marketing channels are so vast. People are distracted continually–every 60 seconds. We have to figure out how to get their attention in our Amazon “1-click” culture.

    The retail market is being disrupted. Netflix & Amazon is investing billions in advertising. Marketers should stop trying to do everything all at once, instead, pick a single channel and OWN IT. And please don’t put the same content on Twitter and Facebook, otherwise, what’s the point in consumers following both pages?

    Be real. Show live events. Show people how it happens. Show them the process. Facebook organic reach is near zero for business pages. If you want to reach real people, you need to pay for it. There are some exceptions to this including Facebook live, but don’t expect that to be the case for much longer.

    Don’t bang people over the head with ads. Instead, tell stories by using content marketing. For example, if you are a clothing store, write an article about how to tie a tie (or other clothing topic) and be a resource when people are searching on Google. Be a good source for information. Be the answer to a question. And they will remember your business.

    Thank you to our November event sponsors: 



  • Professional Development – We Can Help!

    We’re less than a month away from 2018. Are you where you want to be in your career? Do you have a plan for moving forward? As communication professionals, we know that strategy is essential to success. But like the shoemaker’s barefoot children, we also tend to put our own needs last. Not to worry, we have a few suggestions that won’t take much time.

    1. Mark your calendar now so you don’t miss any of our 2nd Friday meetings. In January, we’ll kick the year off with a special career planning strategy workshop. There, we’ll explore “Top Trends Driving Change in Communication” that you need to know about as you plot your professional path. Whether you’re building a consulting business or climbing the corporate ladder, we’ll discuss what changes are occurring, what skills and abilities those changes demand, and what you’ll need to think about to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

    We’ll continue our career-building theme in February with “Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset.” You’ll learn to apply the principles of entrepreneurial success — innovation, continuous improvement, collaboration and doing work you love — to your professional development.

    And that’s just the start of our season!

    2. Talk to us. Especially the board, but other members too. I’ve personally made connections for lots of members that I know led to work. Some introductions led to employment opportunities, other to client work. If we know what you’re looking for, we’re happy to help.

    3. Make a point of meeting new people at all of our InterCom events. Whether it is our 2nd-Friday series or our three annual evening gatherings, networking is baked into everything we do. Why? As Carl Jung said, “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see it.” In other words, that person you don’t know may be looking for someone with your exact skillset. Or they may know someone who is. But only if you’re open to meeting them and having the conversation.

    4. Get involved with InterCom in a deeper way. Whether you’re looking for stronger career ties or you want to build skills, InterCom is a great way to give back while helping your own career along. We’re always looking for talented volunteers to help with events, event planning, and even board service.

  • InterCom Gathering for Holiday Cheer

    Come bid the year adieu while noshing and toasting with InterCom for our annual Holiday Gathering.

    Thursday, December 14, from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
    at The Union Cabaret and Grille
    125 S Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

    Current members, past members and anyone interested in learning about the group are invited to enjoy: networking, free hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, and a preview of InterCom’s spring lineup for its 2nd Friday Speaker’s Series kicking off January 12, 2018.


  • How to Have Hard Conversations

    The ability to put tough issues on the table and deal with them directly is one factor that differentiates good companies from great companies, according to author Jim Collins. Virgin CEO Richard Branson says the ability to say what you mean and mean what you say is essential to success in business. Yet somehow, many of us struggle with direct, honest, difficult conversations. It’s often called Midwest nice, and it’s not a compliment.

    Facing tough issues head-on is more than a communication issue, it’s a hearts and minds issue. So to help us better understand the problem and work through solutions, professional counselor, professor, and author Larry Pfaff led us through a discussion of “How to have Hard Conversations” at our 2nd-Friday event in Oct.

    Since 1980, Larry has worked extensively in the area of career development, employee development and selection. To speak out, Larry told us we first must look inside ourselves. He challenged us to ask, “What’s holding me back?” And address that fear first. Once we understand the fear — and it’s associated risk — we can be more thoughtful and deliberate when we choose our words.

    The situations may differ. We may find ourselves leading up and guiding managers and boards to face problems. Or we may be managing an employee — someone who reports to us — to change behavior. We may even be sharing unpopular news with colleagues. But if the issue is important, we owe it to ourselves to face it head-on. And our careers and reputations will be better when we do.

    Check out Larry’s presentation in the PDF of his slides.