Congratulations to Linsey Holmes on being named the AMA Richmond February “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!


Linsey is an account manager at Circle S Studios where she helps clients achieve their marketing goals through quality design and creative services.

What She Does for AMA Richmond:

“Linsey has been a tremendous asset over the past few months.  While she has primarily worked to help improve and manage email communications, she has also volunteered to assist with a variety of other initiatives during a very busy time of the year. Her marketing knowledge and willingness to contribute have quickly made her a valuable member of the AMA volunteer team.”

Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Congratulations to Margaret Roller on being named the AMA Richmond January “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

Margaret provides quality research through a thorough understanding of research design & analysis, as well as working one-on-one with each client.


 What She Does for AMA Richmond:

“Margaret Roller has assisted the chapter since the summer with a revamp of the annual member survey. Our survey hadn’t been updated in several years, and the response rate was dismal. Since this is an important element in an effort to better receive and respond to member feedback, we needed to ensure a more user friendly and effective survey. Margaret gave us a lot of time and lent her expertise into redesigning our survey, and was instrumental in its success. Our response rate increased by 15% with her help and the insight we gained has been invaluable.” Kourtney Ennis

Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Congratulations to Brooke Thaxton on being named the AMA Richmond November “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

Brooke generates great ideas, fosters client happiness and basically keeps the chaos under control. Her love for people and all things social media runs deep.

Day Job:

Account Manager at the King Agency

 What She Does for AMA Richmond:

Officially, Brooke is a volunteer on our membership team where she is helping out with various projects from greeting new members to stepping up to help us manager our new name badges.

Jennifer Barbin: “Brooke has been awesome!”

She has also volunteered her time and help to our programming committee:

Paul Schmidt: “Brooke is a newer volunteer, and has jumped in with both feet. We are transitioning a lot pf processes currently and Brooke has injected energy and a positive, “get it done” attitude despite the fact that she’s new. Her attitude is stellar and we happy to have her as a new member and volunteer.”

Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Congratulations to Nicole Hansen on being named the AMA Richmond October Volunteer of the Month!

Nicole is passionate about new media platforms and finding fun, creative ways to present information. Her favorite part of her job is writing stories for University of Richmond’s website about everything happening on campus.

Day Job:

Communications Director, Robins School of Business, University of Richmond

What She Does for AMA Richmond:

Social Media Volunteer:  “Nicole has been amazing. We fell short a volunteer and she has really stepped up her commitment. She really hit the ground running and fulfills all our requests with a smile on her face.”


Based on valuable feedback, we’re testing a new layout of our Signature Speaker Series, in order to provide a better environment for networking and to help with congestion in the large corridor at the beginning of the event.

New tables for mingling in the large corridor

Upon entrance to the event, high top tables and snacks will be set up in the large corridor, where the buffet used to be located. This space will be open starting at 11:15am and until the doors open to the main ballroom for the buffet. We welcome all attendees to use this space for networking and connecting!

Buffet tables now located in the ballroom

Buffet lines will be now formed inside the ballroom, one to the left and one to the right as you enter the room.

The general timeline for the event will remain the same. Registration begins at 11:15. When you arrive to the luncheon, enter the main door and pick up a name tag at the registration tables as usual. Then proceed to the left to the main corridor to enjoy snacks and mingle with fellow AMA attendees. Once the main ballroom opens, proceed to either buffet line and find a seat. Opening remarks will commence at 12:00pm, and the event will close at 1:00pm.


The AMA Richmond Board would love to hear your feedback on this new layout. Please email your feedback to or tell a Board member at the event!

Congratulations to Dionne Kumpe on being named the AMA Richmond September “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

Dionne’s experience spans two decades of brand-building experience, including directing planning and execution of integrated media, marketing and public relations campaigns for both B2B and direct to consumer.

Day Job:

Senior Account Manager at Elevation Advertising.

 What She Does for AMA Richmond:

Dionne has been instrumental in planning the 2017/2018 Teach Me How line up, facilitated one of the summer book clubs, and has generally been an energizing joy to work with!

Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Sometimes businesses and organizations know exactly which strategies, tools, and tactics will help move the needle, but more often, it’s not so clear. So how do marketers determine what’s right for their clients, business, or organization? That’s where a marketing audit comes in.

A marketing audit is a comprehensive review of an organization’s materials, messaging, audiences, and competitors using internal, external, and third-party research.

The result: a deep understanding of key buyer personas and recommendations for a strategic path toward achieving clear marketing and communications goals.

5 Signs it’s Time for a Marketing Audit

An audit is typically the first step in working with new clients. However, we strongly recommend clients regularly perform an audit, especially when these common red flags indicate it’s time.

  1. Expansion – Before you expand into a new market area, launch a new product or service, or target a new customer demographic, start with an audit. You may know why you moved to a new area or created a new product, but until you develop buyer personas, you won’t know what messages or channels will be most successful in marketing to your ideal customer.
  2. Your goals and objectives aren’t clear. The marketing team is often tasked with everything from generating awareness and website traffic to securing leads to help the sales team generate revenue. Without concrete goals and objectives in place, it’s impossible to move the needle for your organization. An audit will help clarify your customer buying journey and establish clear, measurable objectives to help achieve marketing and business goals.
  3. What’s working and what’s not? – You’ve invested in everything from paid ads to social media and blogging. You have a fancy CRM, sponsor community events, or attend industry trade shows. Sales are up, so something must be working, you’re just not sure what it is. An audit will assess performance across a variety of channels and investments to determine what’s effective. That way, instead of spreading your budget too thin, your team can focus more on what’s working and change what’s not.
  4. You’re not reaching your marketing/sales goals. Even the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition. You may have clear and concrete SMART marketing goals, but somehow your execution (strategies and tactics) is missing the mark. A marketing audit will help assess why you’re not reaching your goals – which could be anything from unclear messaging to the wrong marketing tactics. We’ve even uncovered some clients who were targeting the wrong audience altogether based on their specific products and services.
  5. Determining and reporting ROI – It’s budget season, and the CEO is asking what you spent the budget on and what the return is. Or maybe you just need a better reporting structure to justify budget increases. A marketing audit will help not only determine which tactics are working, but also help put systems in place to measure and report tangible returns.

You wouldn’t make a presentation to your boss without doing your homework first. Before you invest in a different approach, pursue a new target audience, or try to justify budget increases, rely on research by considering a marketing audit.

Laura Elizabeth Saunders is a PR and content marketing strategist at The Hodges Partnership. An original version of this article was recently published on the Gong Blog.

Webinars are a powerful and effective tool for content marketing. In a recent study from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, B2B marketers ranked webinars as the second-most effective content marketing tactic, following closely behind in-person events.

The very nature of webinars makes them an ideal tactic for content marketing.  Taking the seminar format to the web (thus the name webinar), webinars are conducive to presenting educational content to a targeted audience.  If your firm is not currently incorporating webinars in your content marketing program, you probably should be. Here are six reasons to contemplate.

1. Reach a broader audience

In-person events are incredibly effective; in fact, B2B marketers consistently rate them as their most effective content marketing tactic. However, in-person events and seminars are naturally limiting when it comes to audience reach. Webinars, however, have no geographic boundaries and can be promoted via social media, email and the Internet to reach an extremely broad audience. Leveraging webinars will allow your firm to reach an audience that would probably be unable to attend a local event. So if your firm desires to expand its geographic footprint, webinars can be a great way to get in front of a much broader audience.

2. Generate new leads and prospects

Webinars are extremely helpful for generating new leads when they are focused on a particular topic that interests your target audience. As part of the registration process, attendees are required to give basic personal information in exchange for the registration.  Obviously, this is useful for building lists that can be further nurtured with automated campaigns and future offers. Registering for and attending a webinar requires minimal effort, so webinars can be a solid source of new leads for firms that consistently host them.

3. Nurture existing relationships

Webinars aren’t just for generating new leads either; they’re also useful for nurturing existing relationships as well. It’s very likely that a topic that appeals to a new audience will also appeal to existing leads and even clients. Webinars can also be used for ongoing client development by selecting a topic that appeals to clients and extending the invitation to existing clients only. Whether prospects, leads or clients, webinars are useful for contributing to content marketing goals at all stages of the client lifecycle.

4. Demonstrate your firm’s subject-matter expertise

It’s one thing to say you’re an expert, it’s another thing to prove it. Just like speaking at conferences and seminars provides a platform for your firm’s subject-matter experts to showcase their knowledge and expertise—webinars do the same. As mentioned earlier, the very nature of webinars provides an environment that is conducive to presenting educational and informative content that attendees will find helpful and beneficial—all the while demonstrating the subject–matter expertise of your people and firm.

5. Value that extends beyond the live webinar

One of the bonus benefits of webinars is that they can be easily recorded and used for ongoing lead generation and nurturing. Other than the inability to ask questions during Q&A, on-demand webinars offer virtually the same value to viewers as the live webinar. Landing pages and offers for previously recorded “on-demand” webinars can be used on your website, blog, social media and lead nurturing campaigns to continuously engage your target audience.

To get even more mileage from your efforts, webinar slides can be uploaded to SlideShare or repurposed as an eBook, guide or series of blog posts. The point is—webinars offer a tremendous amount of ongoing value that extends well beyond the actual live webinar.

6. Relatively easy and affordable to produce

In-person events can be challenging to host, requiring a great deal of planning, time and perhaps most importantly—budget. So another appealing benefit of webinars is they involve relatively little upfront investment (headset microphones, cables, etc.), marginal ongoing cost (monthly fees for webinar software) and typically involve very few staff and resources (presenter(s) prep time, moderator, graphic designer, etc).

Webinar platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx and Adobe Connect are affordable and easy to use. Initially, it will take (and should take!) a fair amount of time planning for and setting up your webinar program, but once the first couple are behind you, producing webinars on an ongoing basis is manageable—regardless of the size of your marketing team.

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The purpose of webinars aligns seamlessly with the goals of content marketing, making them an ideal tactic for reaching your target audience and achieving your firm’s marketing goals. If you’re not currently leveraging webinars as part of your content marketing mix, these are some of the key reasons to considering incorporating them into your program.

Mobile research – specifically, research by way of smartphone technology – has become a widely used and accepted design option for conducting qualitative and survey research.  The advantages of the mobile mode are many, not the least of which are: the high incidence of smartphone ownership in the U.S. (more than 60% in 2015), the ubiquitous influence smartphones have on our lives, the dependence people have on their smartphones as their go-to channel for communicating and socializing, and the features of the smartphone that offer a variety of response formats (e.g., text, video, image) and location-specific (e.g., geo-targeting, geo-fencing) capabilities.

From a research design perspective, there are also several limitations to the mobile mode, including: the small screen of the smartphone (making the design of standard scale and matrix questionnaire items – as well as the user experience overall – problematic), the relatively short attention span of the respondent or participant precipitated by frequent interruptions, the potential for errors due to the touch screen technology, and connectivity issues.

Another important yet often overlooked concern with mobile research is the potential for bias associated with the smartphone response format and location features mentioned earlier.  Researchers have been quick to embrace the ability to capture video and photographs as well as location information yet they have not universally exercised caution when integrating these features into their research designs.  For example, a recent webinar in which a qualitative researcher presented the virtues of mobile qualitative research – esp., for documenting in-the-moment experiences – espoused the advantages of utilizing systems that allow the researcher to identify a participant’s location.  Among these advantages, according to the presenter, is the ability to gain the exact location of someone’s home address during an in-home use test (IHUT) which then, with the help of Google Earth, enables the researcher to actually see the property and surrounding neighborhood.  The presenter went on to state that these location images can and should be used with the intent of evaluating some aspect of this person’s life such as their socio-economic status.

The blatant bias this introduces into the research should be obvious.  Where someone chooses to livemay say something about their household income, educational achievement, and even their “social circles”; however, it is certainly not true in all cases and, indeed, such appearances can be grossly deceiving.  And, even if the researcher could ascertain some idea of the individual’s demographic or social group, what would be the point or use of this information?  Only to deepen the bias by creating a story of someone’s lived experience based on unsubstantiated claims built on preconceived stereotypical assumptions?

A similar bias creeps into mobile qualitative research when participants are asked to submit their responses in the form of videos and/or photographs without also being asked for accompanying commentary or follow-up questions by the researcher.  By simply submitting these images without explanation, the researcher comes to his/her own conclusions which then lead to bias and error in the data which ultimately downgrades the value of the final outcomes.  If the researcher conducting an IHUT study on eating habits, for example, learns from the participant that she and her family eat a “healthy” diet but sees from a submitted photograph a refrigerator containing fruits and vegetables but also donuts, Coke, and processed cheese – what is the researcher to make of that?  Are the participant’s eating habits really not that “healthy”?  Are there additional healthier foods hidden from view in the refrigerator’s compartments or drawers?  Does the participant’s definition of “healthy eating” include donuts, Coke, and processed cheese?   Without examining the whys and whereforeswith the participant, the researcher is left to form a subjective understanding of the fridge contents and may create a false yet seemingly plausible story about the participant from the image.

Mobile research gives the researcher new and convenient ways to learn about the lives of the people who matter most in our research designs.  And yet, researchers are cautioned to tread carefully or risk infecting their data with an insidious and potentially destructive bias that comes from conjecturing stories of people’s lives by relying on what researchers see rather than from what they know to be true.

“Content is King” is the mantra in marketing theses days. Firms today are creating content to improve website traffic and establish themselves as experts in a field. However, content is not a new tool for marketing. It’s been around for centuries.

An example is right here in Virginia. The first known reporter in the New World was Capt. John Smith. He wrote Newes from Virginia. He gathered information about the Jamestown Colony in Virginia and wrote about his observations. He published a newsletter, and it was used to promote resettling in the New World for British citizens.

A few years later, newspapers helped spark the American Revolution. Articles that are often attributed to Sam Adams appeared in the New York Journal from 1768 to 1769. They chronicled the British occupation of Boston. They were highly exaggerated and written with the goal of sparking interest for independence from Britain. Some have claimed that Adams was the country’s first blogger.

And of course, famed newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst used his influential media company to promote war with Cuba in 1898. He is famously quoted for, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!” Hurst wanted to expand American influence, and his papers were used as a way to push that agenda. He wanted to create mass-market appeal for his brand of journalism and the term “yellow journalism” was born.

Here are a few of the early attempts at content marketing:

John Deere

In the late 19th century, John Deere was becoming a dominant name in the agriculture industry. The company wanted to reach the agriculture community and educate them about current research and trends in the industry. Deere died in 1886, but his son, Charles, took the company’s reigns. He settled upon the idea of starting a company magazine — the Furrow. The magazine was first published in 1895 and circulation peaked in 1912 at four million. The magazine is still published today and has a current circulation of 1.5 million. An online version is also published. It’s mainly distributed at John Deere dealerships around the country and across the world.

The magazine has kept with a similar philosophy throughout its history. It wanted to establish the John Deere brand as an expert in agriculture and farming. Many of the stories have a human element, allowing readers to connect to the magazine. Over time, the publication has succumbed to the realities of online readers, and the stories have become shorter and more visual. The goal, however, has always been to establish John Deere as a dominant voice in the agriculture community.

“People who know the Furrow, know that they can trust the information that we present,” Furrow Editor David Jones said at a recent conference. “They trust that it is presented without an agenda. One thing that sets us apart from perhaps other sponsor publications is a fiercely defended editorial independence.”

The magazine is a perfect example of the style and direction that any content writer aims toward. The articles are well researched and experts are interviewed. The writers aim to educate rather than give people the hard sell.

Michelin Guide

In the 1900s, Europe had very few cars on the road. It was the early days of the automobile. Michelin, the tire company, wanted to increase people’s interest in driving, especially for travel. The company decided upon a travel guide. They thought if they could increase the demand for traveling, then it would in turn increase the demand for tires.

And they knew their audience. It was wealthy people who could afford travel and could afford an automobile. So, the guide placed a rating system with stars, something that has become common vernacular in the travel industry. A four-star rating meant the place was luxurious and suitable for the wealthy travelers.

It also contained basic information, such as where to get gas and points of interest to visit. For the first guide, 35,000 copies were printed. Eventually, the company produced guides for Algeria, Tunisia, the mountainous regions of Europe around Northern Italy as well as Portugal and the U.K.

The guides rated places like hotels and restaurants and were an impartial look at travel in those regions. Over time, they became a relied upon resource when people traveled. Travelers could expect that a trusted person visited the establishment and gave an impartial review.

Originally, Michelin gave the guides away. Over time, they become so popular that the company charged a price. They are currently published in 24 countries and have become a mainstay in the travel and leisure industry.

Today, a Michelin star can make or break a restaurant. Chefs will break down crying if a restaurant is not rated well. However, if the Michelin guide gives a restaurant a positive rating, people will flock from miles around to eat at the establishment. Books and movies have been written about the grueling agony that a restaurant will undertake before the reviewers visit. They never identify themselves, so the restaurant staff is on edge at all times.

The guide is updated every year and has become a part of the corporate culture of Michelin. Some of the secretive rating inspectors have started to use Twitter, adding a little but more understanding to the process and increasing the guide’s exposure.

“We don’t do it to make a lot of money,” said Tony Fouladpour, director of corporate public relations. “We do it because it’s tradition and it helps the brand and its image. It’s a tool we use for the brand.”

River Pools and Spas

The last example is modern, because it shows the power that quality content writing can play in revitalizing a company. Marcus Sheridan owned a pool installation company. It had retail outlets in Virginia and Maryland. Business was good, and River Pools and Spas looked at expanding. Then, the 2008 financial crisis hit, and people who planned to have a pool installed cancelled their orders. Sheridan went from having a highly successful company into one that was fighting to survive. Within weeks, Sheridan was pulling money out of savings, so he could pay the company’s bills.

Traditionally, River Pools and Spas’ marketing efforts focused on radio, television and other forms of old media. With no money, Sheridan pulled back his advertising, but he still wanted to communicate with potential customers. Sheridan thought about the problem and decided he could still communicate with his customers on the web. He began posting blogs and videos on the company’s website. Rather than posting marketing content, Sheridan focused on educating customers about pools and the challenges that many pool owners face. Soon, his website became a must-read for anybody in the pool industry and anybody who was thinking about buying a pool.

“I just started thinking more about the way I use the Internet,” Sheridan said. “Most of the time when I type in a search, I’m looking for an answer to a specific question. The problem in my industry, and a lot of industries, is you don’t get a lot of great search results because most businesses don’t want to give answers; they want to talk about their company. So I realized that if I was willing to answer all these questions that people have about fiberglass pools, we might have a chance to pull this out.”

Soon, the company’s sales soured and it’s now one of the leading designers of fiberglass pools in the country. Sheridan said he could trace $1.7 million worth of sales directly to one particular blog post that focused on the overall cost of building and installing a concrete pool.

People didn’t search for his company’s name. They went to Google or Bing and wanted a question answered. Lots of people read the post, because it was informative and helped people move toward purchasing a fiberglass pool.

Sheridan continued: “So, our whole marketing campaign revolves around getting people to stick around and read our stuff, because the longer they stay on our site, the greater the chance they’re going to fall in love with our company.”