During our Board’s first planning session back in June 2019, I emphasized that we were part of an AMAzing organization and we were going to “Bring the ‘Zing” to the 2019-2020 season.

I am incredibly proud of how our Board came together and brought the ‘Zing, while having a few zings thrown our way. I want to send my sincere appreciation to this year’s Board, speakers, educators, mentors, volunteers, sponsors, and moderators for giving their time and talents to AMA Richmond.

AMAzing Individuals to Celebrate
Every year, AMA Richmond awards two students with a scholarship on behalf of the Robert R. Barber endowment fund. While we typically would award our scholarship winners at a Signature Speaker luncheon, we celebrated virtually on June 9th with members of our Board and past presidents.

Congratulations to our 2019-2020 scholarship winners:

  • First place – Claire Burke
  • Second place – Alessandra Castaneda

Check out the recording to meet these deserving women and learn more about the scholarship’s namesake Bob Barber, who passed away in September 2019. You can also learn more about winners on our Scholarship page.

Additionally, we present the Golden Candlestick Award annually which recognizes a chapter member for extraordinary volunteerism. This award has been presented since 1974, and we weren’t going to let a pandemic break the streak.

This year, we had two Board members who were both incredibly deserving of this award:

  • Connie Dye – Director of Finance – 7x board member, including AMA President ’09-10
  • Barbara Slatcher – VP of Sponsorship – 8x board member

Connie and Barbara’s work in Finances and Sponsorship, respectively, has strengthened our chapter and even allowed us to use our budget surplus to donate to RVA Makers’ PPE project in April.

We had many successes this year while overcoming some hurdles, and I’m humbled to have led the Board as president. The 2020-2021 season welcomes the leadership of Alex Mercer who will continue AMA’s mission. We’ve come together as a community to support each other, engage in conversation, and provide education and training in our industry. As we start our new season, we are working on improving our Diversity, Inclusion and Equity strategies to strengthen our chapter and continue to be the essential community for all marketers in the Richmond area to learn, connect, serve and grow.

Stay Strong. Stay Healthy. Stay Safe.
Be kind to yourself & others and always be AMAzing!

Dear AMA Richmond Community,

Across the country and right here in Richmond, we are witnessing tragic events affecting the Black community, as a result of the deep, unresolved racial inequalities that led to the senseless murders of George Floyd and so many others. It’s heartbreaking, and we’re all experiencing a mix of emotions. We acknowledge this and don’t presume any of us can fully understand how these events impact each of us individually.

As an organization, and as your fellow marketers, we oppose racism and discrimination in every form. Our mission is to be the essential community of marketers – a community that includes people from all different perspectives and backgrounds. We recognize these differences are what make us a stronger marketing community, and we know we can be better allies to our Black members, colleagues, and friends.

We, as the Board of Directors, are committed to doing better. We’re having these important conversations and planning how we can improve our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategies in the upcoming Board year—and beyond. We know this is not a one-time conversation or fix. We will continue to offer opportunities to learn, engage in conversation, and provide a safe platform to move us forward as a community. As leaders, we are here to serve you and help AMA Richmond evolve to be more diverse and inclusive.

If you have thoughts to share, we want to hear from you. What resources would help you foster productive work conversations, build diverse teams, and create inclusive campaigns? Let us know what programming, content, workshops, or forums could help you be the best marketers you can be. Email us at info@AMArichmond.org or reach out directly to our board members.

Together, we can make a difference.

Jennifer Barbin | President
Alex Mercer | President-Elect
and the AMA Richmond Board of Directors

Entrepreneurs won’t waste this plague opportunity.

Throughout history, great minds have used times of seclusion to create their best work. During the Bubonic Plague of 1665-66, Isaac Newton retreated from Cambridge to a countryside farm. While holed up, he invented calculus and formulated his laws of motion and gravity.

The same will be true of this plague. Entrepreneurs will use this quiet time to plan new business ventures. And when an entrepreneur creates a plan, the venture will need a name – a brand – in legal speak, a trademark.

Tip to entrepreneurs: Envision building a brand to be like building a strong fort. (Hat tip to trademarks blogger Eric Pelton for the idea of thinking of marks protection as a fort.)

A fort and a brand have similar purposes. A fort is where you can accumulate and store treasure, and protect that treasure from theft or destruction by others. A brand is where you build and store goodwill from consumers. Your brand should engender favorable recognition by consumers so they will be repeat customers and refer others.

Imagine a fort with four walls and a domain (a big yard) around it. Each wall serves purpose, as does the domain. The four walls represent trademark selection, clearance, registration, and proper usage. The domain is your buffer zone – the distance in trademark-wording similarity between your trademark and the trademarks used by those offering the same or similar products and services.

Here’s what each of the five elements of the fort does:

Wall 1 – Selection.

Don’t pick a name that’s a generic name for your product or service, like calling a car an AUTOMOBILE. You can’t have a trademark in a generic name.

Don’t pick a name that merely describes your goods, like calling a bank PEOPLE’S BANK. You won’t be able to protect that name.

It’s better to pick a name that only suggests something about your product (like CHAMPION for sporting goods) or that has nothing to do with your goods (like APPLE for computers) or that’s a made-up word (like EXXON for gas).

Wall 2 – Clearance.

In trademarks, as with horseshoes and hand grenades, too close will kill you. You can’t use a trademark that’s too close to another trademark being used for the same or similar goods or services.

Come up with a list of at least five dissimilar trademark candidates. Have a trademark attorney vet them before you commit to one. Pick the one that does best in clearance.

The more space in wording similarity between your trademark and the trademarks of similar businesses, the better your brand will stand out in the marketplace and avoid confusion with others. This space will be your trademark buffer zone – your domain.

Wall 3 – Registration.

You then will federally register your trademark. Doing so creates at least 23 advantages you won’t have if you merely use your trademark without registering it.

Wall 4 – Proper Usage.

Don’t kill your trademark by how you use it. Use appropriate symbols to identify it as your trademark property, such as using ® after it becomes federally registered. Don’t use your trademark as the generic or descriptive name of what you are branding, and don’t allow others to do so.

The Domain – the Buffer Zone.

To protect your domain, have your trademark attorney to perform regular trademark-infringement watching and policing, to keep that buffer zone clear. The biggest mistake brand owners typically make is not having this done.

Why Does this Matter?

Think about what happens if one of a real fort’s walls is missing or crumbles, or if you don’t keep the domain around the fort clear. Eventually, the fort will be conquered.

Similarly, if you don’t build and maintain a strong trademark fort, your brand will fall. If that happens, the consumer goodwill associated with your wonderful product or service will be lost and your business will decline.

© 2020 Leading-Edge Law Group, PLC. All rights reserved.

Like this blog? Visit the Brand Bodyguards blog for more!


Marketing is more poised than other industries to adapt to changing landscapes including COVID-19. Listen to Dominion Payroll’s webinars on Marketing in the COVID-19 Era here.

Key takeaways include:

  • Adapting to solve problems
  • Marketing insights on how to shift
  • Left foot, right foot, left foot, lift foot or wiggle your big toe

Guests include:

  • Kristen Cavallo, CEO of The Martin Agency
  • Natalie McNamara, Chief Strategist/Founder of CreativeMktGroup
  • Kevin Mullaney, Vice President at Brandito
  • Moderator, Kevin Wilson, Director of Community Engagement, Dominion Payroll

Like this webinar? Dominion Payroll has a catalog of COVID-19 resources including a daily webinar series.

About Dominion Payroll

Image of Dominion Payroll logo
Dominion Payroll offers payroll, HR, timekeeping, and pre-employment solutions to meet all of your business needs. We have offices in Richmond, VA, Dallas, TX, Charlotte, NC, Nashville, TN, and Tampa, FL, and provide services to clients in all 50 states. Our dedication to customer service has helped DP grow to thousands of clients ranging in size from 1 to 2,500 employees, and we have a wealth of experience helping clients of all shapes and sizes manage the business of employment. DP is quickly becoming the premier choice for customized payroll and HR solutions, and we’d love to serve you!

At Dominion Payroll, we make your tomorrow happen by empowering you today. We’re not only a workforce management company; we’re your partners, tailoring solutions custom-fitted to your business’ unique needs with industry-leading software and exemplary support. Empowering your business…that’s our business. That’s Dominion Payroll.

Our chapter provided a resource last week with the Teach Me How webinar “How to Lead in Crisis”, led by executive coach, Danessa Knaupp. The presentation included leadership advice applicable for today and tomorrow, not just in times of crisis. I’ve included some downloadable takeaways from her presentation and book, “Naked at Work, a Leaders Guide to Fearless Authenticity”. (Thank you to our sponsor, Dotted Line, for designing these backgrounds!) 
Many of the core themes Danessa touched on were echoed in this weekend’s AMA Leadership Summit. (Background, AMA Leadership Summit is the annual conference gathering together leaders of AMA chapters from all over North America. The goal is to learn about new tools and offerings from leading marketers and colleagues, share ideas between the chapters, and implement them in our home chapters.) 
Russ Klein, the CEO of the American Marketing Association, capped things off with the sentiment:

“Marketers will be needed, more than ever, at all levels to rekindle growth and recovery of the lost economic value and financial stability across every community on the planet.”

Russ, volunteer AMA leaders, and AMA’s Support Center championed this message throughout the weekend–almost as though they were rallying a team to storm the field and win the finals. I was energized by the community and passion I experienced throughout the weekend and want to share a few thoughts about our role as marketers:
We are all leaders. 
We are communicators. 
We are educators. 
We are helpers. 

We have the skills to spark inspiration, support, determination, and hope – many of the things necessary to overcome adversity and the crisis our world is facing.
With a weekend of learnings and ideas buzzing in our heads, and a renewed commitment to our local marketing community, we want to know: How can we support YOU – the local marketer? How can we embody our mission to be the vital community for Richmond Region marketers to connect, learn, serve, and grow? Drop us a line at info@amarichmond.org and let us know what’s most important or valuable to you.
NOTE: You can also learn more about accessing the “Teach Me How to Lead in Crisis” replay, or some of our other recorded events, by emailing us at info@amarichmond.org.

image of Andrew MillerI am happy to share a book I recently read that might be a great fit for AMA. Here’s my take on Obviously Awesome by April Dunford:

The greatest products in the world still need to be positioned properly if they ever hope to reach the right buyers with the right message. April lays out a 10-step positioning framework that connects products and consumers. I found a lot of content inspiration and marketing ideas just by observing how an expert builds brands around products.

Check out Obviously Awesome by April Dunford.

About Workshop Digital
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Workshop Digital offers ethical, accountable online marketing solutions to help businesses thrive. From Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to Pay Per Click (PPC) to Conversion Optimization Testing, we provide accountability so business owners can make intelligent decisions about their marketing budgets, better engage with their customers, and continue to grow year after year.

About the Author

Learn more about Workshop Digital

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The coronavirus is dramatically affecting people and organizations around the world and at home. In light of recent event cancelations across the U.S. and the remote policies being enacted by some Richmond area colleges, universities, and businesses, the AMA Richmond board has decided to postpone all remaining March events (which includes the 3/17 Teach Me How and the 3/18 Signature Speaker event) and provide 100% refunds to all registrants.

Thankfully, current infection numbers are low in Virginia, but we understand the situation can change quickly. We, like all of you, are actively monitoring the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and at this time, we’re evaluating the upcoming in-person events for April and May.

We are exploring alternatives and contingencies, such as the potential to offer virtual ticket options for live events or moving our scheduled events entirely to virtual events. We’re also examining our cancelation policies. Stay tuned to your email inbox for more details.

I know this is a time of uncertainty and many of our jobs have been affected by the COVID-19. While so many things are out of our control, here are some things we can do:

Stay calm, be flexible, and be kind. Everyone will respond to these stresses in different ways. Let’s be respectful and kind in allowing them to do so, and be flexible with the changes that may, or may not, come in the future. And don’t forget, wash your hands, cover your coughs, and stay home if you’re feeling ill.

If you have any questions or concerns about AMA Richmond events with regard to the coronavirus, please feel free to reach out at info@amarichmond.org. In the meantime, for more helpful information on the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, please visit the CDC or the Virginia Department of Health.

Stay healthy out there! And stay tuned to your inbox and/or the AMA Richmond website for ongoing updates.

The importance of a carefully crafted message cannot be underestimated in its power to deliver effective marketing.

When many people think about conversion optimization, the first thing that comes to mind are the functional elements like the call-to-action or placement and sizes of buttons, images and forms. However, no amount of a/b testing of the placement of these components will deliver the results if the overall message is not impactful and compelling.

How well you craft your message can be many times more important than anything else you put on the page.

Messaging in context – a powerful change agent
In early 2016, we were engaged by a client in the hospitality space to help them improve their marketing and grow their customer inquiries. We started the engagement with a thorough assessment and strategic planning project.

  • We interviewed key stakeholders
  • Combed through customer survey responses
  • Reviewed prior marketing materials
  • Analyzed website data; and
  • Monitored customer interactions

We were looking for the moment of truth of why some prospects said yes while others walked away. Our discovery led to a hypothesis that increasing the prospect trust in the company would enhance their engagement. We believed that if prospects trusted that the company was there to help them, they were more likely to move past their initial reluctance to engage.

With this hypothesis in hand, we worked with our copy team to craft a series of ads to test different variations of offer and trust messaging. Within each group, we tested further variations of these themes. In all other elements, the ads were similar.

The results of these focused messaging tests were telling with the trust oriented messages beating all other variations. Within a few months, we saw a 221 percent increase in website visits and a 321 percent increase in new prospect inquiries showing that the right message can have a significant impact.

Customizing the message based on audience
In another campaign, we were working with a global talent firm to reach key decision-makers in the North American, European, and Asia Pacific regions.

The campaign was based on a series of content offers utilizing some of the key learnings the client had gathered in their work helping companies find, train and manage great talent.

The campaign launched with good results across North American and Europe. However, downloads were trailing in the Asia Pacific region. After monitoring user behavior on the site, we discovered that the audience from the Asia Pacific region was spending a lot of time trying to learn more about the company.

Using this information, we circled with the copy team and crafted revised landing page messaging specifically for this region that demonstrated not only the value of the content offer but also provided more about the brand that was behind the offer. The results were almost immediate with conversion rates rising to those similar to what we were experiencing in North America and Europe.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of a marketing campaign, do not forget the importance and power of great messaging for delivering results.

Congratulations to Jackie Niblock on being named the AMA Richmond January Volunteer of the Month!

Jackie Niblock has volunteered to lead the Digital AMA SIG for more than four years. Small Interest Groups offer continuing education for AMA members and Jackie has provided education on the ever-changing landscape of Digital Advertising. She addresses the novice and the senior marketers facilitating discussion and connections.

We’re excited to host Nandini Jammi in our upcoming Signature Speaker event. Check out what she’s been up to in her latest blog post, below!

Earlier this summer, I began my plan to rebrand myself as “The Product Messaging Pro.” Catchy, right? I found a niche that I was good at, that I liked and that clients trusted me with. It was interesting and challenging work. I was looking forward to launching this and picking up more projects.

My talented designer hooked me up with these cool business cards.

Then a few weeks ago, I decided to abandon the plan.

What happened?

For the past year, I’ve been juggling two professional identities: freelance copywriter and co-founder of Sleeping Giants.

Despite the massive success of Sleeping Giants, I resisted the idea of ever leaving copywriting. Though we’ve been running for nearly 3 years, I have believed, somewhat delusionally, that this whole thing will be over soon. Like…any day now.

In the meantime, the line between my activism and my “work-work” began blurring.

When I was invited to speak at TuringFest – the biggest tech festival in Europe – it wasn’t to talk about go-to-market messaging. It was to talk about Sleeping Giants.

When I was asked to be on Mind the Product podcast, it wasn’t to talk about product messaging. It was to discuss tech ethics and acceptable use policies.

When I finally did my first AMA for Tech Ladies, it wasn’t to talk about the challenges of freelancing in tech. It was to talk about how we built the Sleeping Giants community.

Over the past year, I have interviewed for nearly a dozen books, documentaries, research studies and podcasts. I jumped at each of these amazing opportunities.

One day, I looked down at my schedule and realized that my next few months are booked solid with talks, meetings and appearances related to brand safety and adtech reform.

The reality is, I had become a leader in the brand safety movement without even realizing it. All the signs were pointing in one direction — and now I’ve decided to make it official.

New job: Brand Safety Advocate

The 2020 elections are around the corner. Massive misinformation and disinformation efforts are underway too — and nobody’s prepared.

Brand safety technology didn’t keep your brands safe during the last round of elections and it won’t help you this time either.

The truth is, not much has changed since November 2016, when Sleeping Giants first began alerting advertisers that they were on Breitbart. Likewise, brands have not yet come to terms with the devastating scope of negligence taking place under their noses.

Let’s talk.

My goal in 2020 is to help marketers & advertisers stay away from misinformation & hate — through speaking, publishing and workshops. Learn more about my speaking work on my new website and get in touch!

Like what you read? Come see Nandini in action at our next Signature Speaker Series event on January 23! Register here.