Relationships Matter – An Open Thank You Letter

I’m not alone in calling Jessika Phillips a soul sister, but my (core) reason might be a bit different Photo of Megan Powers and Jessika Phillips at SMMW19 from others. It’s a little unorthodox to write a thank you letter openly as a blog post, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought there are some killer lessons to be learned from this gratitude.

So, here we go!

Jessika, I’m pretty sure I saw you speak before (I knew) we had mutual friends. Your talk was about relationship marketing and I had to be there to see if your viewpoint was in line with mine. I used to be in sales in the event space — first in a venue and then in audio visual production. I happened upon sales by accident, but I was pretty good at it. One thing I never did, though, was cold call or what I like to call “dialing for dollars.” 

See, I learned early on that I could attend industry conferences and networking events, and meet people who could become customers. I was strategic in which events I went to and with whom I (intentionally) spoke, but I never overtly sold to them. I established a relationship – they would learn what I do – and one day we might get an opportunity to work together (I built a $2.5 million book of business this way, btw).


Of course they matter because that’s how you build trust. A highly respected consultant in the AV space said once that people who claim they are “relationship sales people” are kidding themselves (I’m paraphrasing). Now, of course there was more dimension to the discussion, but I’ll never forget reading that and thinking – nah, not if you do it right.

THANK YOU, Jessika, for articulating the C.A.R.E. approach: “Capture Attention, Articulate Message, Relationships (for repeat and referral business), and Exceptional Experience” in your talks.

I was delighted to hear this was recognized as “a real thing” in marketing also, as I had seen it work for me first-hand in sales.

RETURN on Relationships

About 11 years ago I read a book called It’s Not Just Who You Know by Tommy Spaulding. He talks about “relationship economics” or “relationship capital.” There are many levels to this (too much to get into in a thank you note!), but at the heart of it is what you teach, Jessika. One quote from his book highlights it well: “…it’s never been more important to figure out how an organization can give more than lip service to the idea of building a culture that values authentic relationships, because relationships have become the currency of the modern economy.” 

I know I’ve heard you say a version of this, and it’s remarkable how you not only walk the walk yourself, but you have built a culture in your company NOW Marketing Group where everyone is on board with this concept. And as an event professional myself, I was beyond impressed earlier this month to see how you built this concept and feeling into your conference, Social Media Week Lima (SMWL).

Your company, your event, your personal brand — they have all expanded because of who you are. Because you not only live in authenticity, empathy, curiosity, and gratitude, but you make those around you want to live in these too.

THANK YOU for proving that relationships matter, but also that we need to nurture them.


The Memory Jog slide from Chad Illa-Peterson's talk at SMWL21As Chad Illa-Peterson gave his talk at #SMWL21 on how we all have stories within us, he shared that our stories are our unique selling proposition. He provided some exercises we can do to work our creative storytelling muscles. After one of the exercises he shared I found myself thinking about how, exactly, I ended up in that event center in Lima, Ohio.

In brief (succinctly going back ~9 years)…

    • I worked for a non-profit where I needed to learn more about social media
    • I joined the San Diego Social Media Club 
    • The club had an event at a restaurant owned by a group I had worked for
    • I approached them and won the business (managed their marketing for 6.5 years)
    • Club members talked about an event – Social Media Marketing World (SMMW) in ’13
    • I attended SMMW14 where I made a ton of friends I still have today
    • I met Phil Mershon (SME’s SMMW Director of Events) in ’15 at the Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA) Summit, and shared I had attended his event for the past two years
    • I got to know Phil and helped him with his audio visual production selection for the following year
    • I volunteered on the SMMW Community team, working under Jen Cole in ’17, and a wonderful friendship was formed
    • Jen and I started a marketing podcast with our friend Elizabeth in August of ’17
    • Jessika Phillips was referred to have on the podcast–and our relationship started
    • I got to know Jessika and this extended group of amazing friends over the years
    • Jessika hosted a networking event she invited me to at SMMW
    • I kept hearing about what a great experience SMWL was, but wouldn’t make 2020
    • 2020 happened and #SMWL20 did not
    • Jessika hosted me at #SMWL21
    • I made a handful of new contacts & friends – new relationships… What’s next?


Margo, Ali, and Megan holding Mark Schaefer's Cumulative Advantage booksAnother cool thing that happened at SMWL — Chad gifted me a signed copy of Mark Schaefer’s new book Cumulative Advantage. As I read this book, I can’t help but think it’s these relationships I’ve built over time that are cumulative. Those relationships I built while in sales? They are exactly what led to the success of my own business for almost eight years now! “Success is a collision of events” is one section of the book (in chapter two). I was able to build and maintain a successful business because almost all of my clients came by referral from this accumulation of relationships.

Of course, I wasn’t thinking about it in this exact way at the time, but I built relationships and did good work… Looking back, Mark has also made me realize I took specific actions to “sway serendipitous fate” in my favor. I intentionally built relationships, hoping they would bring me business in the short term, while knowing it was about more than that (even back then).

THANK YOU for bringing this incredible group of people together.

EVENTS In Person – They Hit Different

I nurtured existing friendships. I have a dozen new friends. I have several new podcast guests. And I have some potential for new business relationships. This happened because you brought us together and you enabled me to be there! 

Jennifer Watson on stage at SMWL21Jessika, you also put together a rockstar speaker lineup. I didn’t leave with a long list of tactics to put into place, but almost every speaker got me thinking — truly thinking — about how to move forward on goals I’m setting for myself.

Relationships are only as good as the work we put into them — we have to nurture them. Environments that meetings and events afford us provide the framework, but it’s the people who Chad Illa-Peterson on stage teaching about storytellingtruly make experiences memorable.

THANK YOU for all you do to teach about relationship marketing and for what you do to bring people together. I look forward to speaking with you and Mike Gingerich LIVE on Magnet Marketers on September 28th to explore exactly how events bring us together, and enable us to establish and nurture relationships.

I think this quote by Priya Parker from her book The Art of Gathering puts your event perfectly:
“A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others.” 


P.S. For those of you who are reading this (who aren’t Jessika)…

If you aren’t yet convinced relationships have a HUGE role in our marketing (nee, business), then you should sign up for this cool relationship marketing managers thing she has going.

Has Social Media Made us Less Connected?

This notion is not new. Ever since social media emerged, we’ve heard that “we’ve never been so well connected, and yet so out of touch with each other.” Communication studies focus on all different aspects of this. More studies are trying to prove it’s improved our lives, but I’ve had some really interesting conversations recently, so I thought I’d post about it.

A few thoughts to explore…
1. Are we truly connected because of social media, and are you not being honest if you don’t share everything?
2. Is it a good or bad thing that people mostly only share the good stuff?
3. Has live-streaming (Periscope, Meerkat, Blab) changed the game on our ability to truly connect in real-time socially (putting the “social” in social media)?

Honesty (1): In the “beginning” it was so amazing to be connected to people I hadn’t seen in YEARS—first on LinkedIn with former co-workers, and then on Facebook with people I’ve been friends with throughout life. I’ve seen people face-to-face on business trips who I had been reunited with online, and I’ve continued friendships online that I developed in my travels… And it’s been awesome!

But after a while the shiny element wore off a bit, and it turned to some people sharing everything about their everyday lives. Is there such a thing as being too authentic? I’m not discounting people who share things that aren’t awesome, but are you being honest, and is what you’re sharing adding any value to your follower’s lives (or your own)? I don’t know the answer… But I do know that many of my friends who have been on Facebook are certainly interacting MUCH less than they used to, and some have abandoned it all together. The reasons vary, but I think it’s mostly because they grew tired of the over-sharing or extreme opinions that are different from their own.

I travel a bit, and it got to a point that people made me feel like I was bragging by posting photos of my travels. Their comments may have been in gest, but like most jokes, there’s a motivation there. This caused me to not want to share – but when I told some people that I was holding back, they got mad about it! I know I have some people who want to live vicariously through me, and I enjoy sharing, but I also want my family to know I’m safe (I often travel solo). 

There’s a delusion of connectedness that many of us have… People will tell me when I haven’t seen them for a while that they feel like “they’re all caught up on my life” or that they “see me traveling all over”… And they feel like we’re truly connected because of that. Most of these people proclaim to be lurkers, saying “I just read on Facebook—I don’t like or interact on there.” So, really, they’re only caught up on what I’ve posted that I’ve been doing, and not on ME as a person. AND, this communication has only been one-way. I don’t share everything, and Facebook photos and posts don’t define who I am. They’re fun updates, but they certainly don’t serve as a replacement for spending time face-to-face with my friends and family.

The Good Stuff (2): Facebook is an incredible environment for empathy. I truly believe it’s an environment where people who need it can post and get heartfelt responses from their friends and family. Hopefully it doesn’t back-fire if they don’t get the responses they hope for (FB algorithms constantly changing and all–we don’t see everything). Personally, I choose to not post much about being blue. I have posted when something crazily irritating has happened (luggage being stuck in my taxi’s trunk when on my way OUT of town for the biggest meeting of my career comes to mind!), or when I’m super mad about a customer service issue or something (Verizon). Of course, we’re all individual in our choices.

When my brother Terry passed away I chose to take a couple of days, and then I wrote a blog post. I posted the blog link on Facebook, but I didn’t make a big declaration. I’m not saying it’s bad if you do because everyone has their own journey. My life isn’t all butterflies and unicorns, but does it appear like I’m not portraying my authentic life if I don’t post the good *and* the bad? What are the limits?

Do you feel more connected to people who share the good and the bad, or does it not matter? 

Live-Connectivity(3): I watched a recording of a Blab recently that spoke to the fact that authenticity is now more important than ever in light of the emergence of live-streaming. If you’ve been putting forth a personality or demeanor online that isn’t in line with your true self, you’re sure to be “busted” once you enter the foray of live-streaming.

On a talk show last week Jason Sudeikis said he doesn’t really tweet because  “I, uh, like to tweet in person,” to which the host said “Oh, so you prefer conversations – nice!” I’m inclined right off to say “Don’t we all?” But the reality is everyone isn’t comfortable networking in person with people they don’t know, or putting themselves live on video, whether recorded or live-streaming. This was one of the most interesting angles on communication that I enjoyed in my grad school program… So many people are more communicative and open online because they’re more comfortable behind the computer, but the research varies on whether the same things can be accomplished online that can be accomplished face-to-face.

The results of my thesis on the subject uncovered that people feel a combination of online and face-to-face communication is the best solution as it relates to events. Because there is true value in both, I think live-streaming does a great job of marrying the two. On Blab we’re “face-to-face” with the four people who are in the video squares, and the platform provides the ability to allow different people to pop in and out, giving their input, along with interacting with them in the chat stream.

I think the live-streaming environment provides the chance to get to know people more on a personal level (putting the “social” in social media), but it’s probably not something friends will use to stay connected because of the publicness. As it evolves more and more it will be interesting to see what people use it for both in business and personal life.

What do you think? Should we filter ourselves in what we’re posting? Everyone is going to use social media in different ways, and everyone gets different value from the interactions we have on there. I personally do think our lives ARE richer as a result of social, but we need to remember to have REAL social interactions with our friends and family—and we shouldn’t assume we “know it all” because of the information we’ve learned from Facebook… There is surely MORE to know and learn about how we’re all doing, and not just WHAT we’re doing.

We can be truly connected in real life, and online.

The Word Blab has Taken on New Meaning! (w/Updates)

(Updated 9/18/15)

Being a blabber-mouth has never really had a positive connotation. I believe many of my elementary school teachers might have considered me a blabber, which wasn’t something to be proud of! Now I’m happy to be a blabber.

New things in technology are shiny for many of us. Those of us who are keen on the latest tech typically want to check something out right away to see if it has value. I thought Meercat was genius. And then Periscope came right on the heels—also great. But now? Now there’s another new kid on the block & I think this kid has staying power!

Blab’s a new live-streaming platform that’s still in beta, but so far, so really good. Mashable said it’s like Periscope for a group of friends, which is a good analogy. The first one I got on was a group of friends trying to figure out how it works. It felt odd to have people watching us without anything compelling to say, but we had 6-7 viewers at one point.

It’s a Little Buggy Still
 – I found it impossible to click the link to our “scheduled event” (from Facebook) to the app on mobile. Two of us on our call had the same issue with it asking us to download the app when we already had. I was then stuck in an infinite loop, unable to get back to Facebook until I closed it and re-opened it (so I bailed and went to the desktop). >>(FIXED) 
– I was able to get on it on my desktop after some stumbling (again, clicking the link to the event from Facebook), but it didn’t give me the choice of what Twitter account to link from. Many people have more than one Twitter account they manage, so that’s a link that will be crucial to clean up (does it use the one you were on most recently?). >>(WORKAROUND – Make sure you were in Twitter on the account you want connected before logging in to Blab, as it seems to pick up the latest cookie)
– One of our attendees really struggled, and initially also looked to be joining us as her employer’s Twitter avatar, but eventually got it worked out as herself (unlike myself)… And another was able to chat and listen, but was unable to “take a seat.” >>(Still issues w/connectivity sometimes, but they’re working through them, and sometimes they’re user-connection problems)
– On the mobile app the chat window displays at the bottom (on desktop it’s on the side), and when I made a comment I couldn’t figure out how to get the video squares back? I could still hear the presenters, but I couldn’t see them, so I bailed out of the blab. >>(FIXED! Click “Hide”)

Some of the Awesome 
– Four people can have a video conversation where they get visual cues for whether they can step in and
speak. I enjoy this much more than many experiences with GHO where whomever is speaking (or making noise enough for the mic to hear it), takes over screen ownership. Caveat: I’ve never done a GHO on-air, so it might work similarly, but I’m told this is *much* easier to use.
– You can use tags to narrow down a search of blabs you might like to get into.
– Listeners and blabbers alike can ask questions and partake in a side IM/chat while the blab is going on—there are many great comments & side-convos taking place there.
– You can record the blab and make the archive available if you want (the person running it is in control of that).
– The person running the blab is also in control of who can “take the seats,” and that can be switched around throughout the blab to enable different people to hop on and off.
– Blabs can be scheduled, and the topic is displayed on their site where others will see it and can subscribe to it, in addition to being able to share the link with people who you’d like to attend (and on social, of course). >>(UPDATE: The original link is the replay link, and if you subscribed you will get emailed the link, which is awesome if you couldn’t make it!)
– It’s still so new that plenty of great features and fixes are on the way—but making any blabs private is NOT in the plans. The purpose of Blab is to be able to blab with the world, gathering people in on conversations who might not connect otherwise.

I sat in on four different Blabs on Friday, and I’m SO intrigued for what this could mean. I’m pumped to attend an #EventProfs blab on Tuesday morning (9am PST)—I learned about it because someone saw me on the blab as my client & tweeted at me about the blab. My head is spinning regarding the possibilities this could have for my clients in our marketing efforts. >>(UPDATE: Just ran my first EventCollab blab, and it was awesome!)

Just when we think we’ve seen it all something unique comes along. I love technology! And I’m pumped to be a blabber-mouth again in an environment where it’s encouraged.

Check it out:

P.S. You click those little hands to give what they call “Feels”… Props when you like what someone is saying. >>(UPDATE: They’re now called props.)

Small Biz is Big Biz

Growing up the youngest of nine children, the value of a dollar was very strongly impressed upon me over the years. Any item of clothing I wanted my Mom would ask “What else do you have that goes with it?” I wore a uniform five days per week for seven years, so as far as she was concerned I didn’t really need many other clothes anyway (tell that to a 12-year-old these days!). We drank powdered milk, and so on. Because of this I admit I truly do enjoy saving a dime, but as I grow older I’m realizing the value of good service and good business (and a really great vacation!) even more.

I also joke that I’m an anti-wal-mart-ite. That is one store I’ve never been able to get on board with, especially after learning how they force their vendors to lower their prices to such a level that they’re then forced to manufacture overseas. The lure (the volume) is too much to turn down, but then it forces businesses into a place they don’t want to be. I read an article in Fast Company in 2003 called The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know and it stuck with me. It doesn’t even speak of the labor and low-wage issues that come with the monolith, but sheds light on the business, and it’s a must-read.

I’ve come to understand this Wal-Mart way is capitalism in the highest form, and that I’d prefer to patronize smaller businesses. Small business owners might need to charge more than the Wal-Marts and Amazons of the world, but I’m willing to pay it to do even a small part to keep the little guy in business. Today I bought two real-life books with paper pages and all—in an actual bookstore! Upstart Crow is a bookstore & coffee shop located in a tourism-rich area called Seaport Village in San Diego. It’s beyond charming, and evokes feelings of how bookstores used to be, much like “The Shop Around the Corner” in the movie You’ve Got Mail. Most of the stores and restaurants in the Village are owned by small-business owners, and I love it.

According to the Small Business Association (SBA), in 2014 28.5 million small businesses were in operation in the US, 22.7 million of which were single-owner ventures (like my own). It goes on to say that small businesses have been touted as having a huge part in ending the U.S. recession, and that 58% of business owners expected growth in 2015, further encouraging us that the economy is solid.

Do you have small businesses in your community? Show them some love! Buy a book. Buy your flip-flops from the corner surf shop. Hire an independent consultant or a small agency to help you with your marketing… You’ll be helping the economy, in addition to helping individuals vs. the big box corporations.

Ten Tips for Using Instagram for Business

I had a young college student ask me for some tips on Instagram because her employer has asked her to take over their Instagram account, and she had only used it on a personal level. How we use Instagram absolutely depends on the product, service, audience, etc., but I really think these tips should help anyone who is just getting starting with a business account. They’re in no particular order!

1. Create a hashtag that you’ll use with every post that is reflective of your business–hashtags is one of the main ways your account will be found.

  • Keep in mind whether there are other locations or businesses that yours might be confused with, and use location as part of the hashtag. For example, there are several Harbor House restaurants around the world, so the San Diego restaurant uses both the #HarborHouse and #HarborHouseSD hashtags. The SD one reflects the location, but by also using the other, the restaurant also has a chance of being “found” by a larger group of people.
  • Search on hashtags using to see if the hashtag you want to use is already in use.

2. Look at what hashtags similar businesses, the competition, and industry are using—and use them also. 

  • Also use variations on the hashtags that are a bit more unique. Some are totally over-used, so it makes it harder for your posts to be seen. #SanDiego, for example is one of the most used hashtags (so popular people who aren’t in SD use it!). 
  • See what the “top Instagram hashtags” are: 

3. In your initial post* how many hashtags to use for “maximum impact” is different depending on which expert you listen to, but 5-11 seems to be the range. However, you can then add a comment with numerous other tags, and your post will still be found by all the tags attached to it.

  • This also makes your post more visually appealing to followers in their feed—there’s nothing worse than hashtag overload!
  • Use a notes app on your phone to store your most used hashtags so you don’t have to re-type them every time you post.
    * Instagram now “auto-completes” hashtags (& lists similar ones) as you enter them in the initial post (only – not in comments), so you can see how many times the tags are being used. 

4. Each time you log in to post, I recommend searching on your top hashtags first. This will show you posts your guests or customers might have posted of or about your business. 

  • Go through and like all of them, at a minimum—but make comments on as many of them as you can to show your appreciation. 
  • Repost the good images, and give the initial poster attribution. This gives you more content (“user generated content”), and people LOVE being highlighted for their photography! 
  • NOTE: Some people will include your location in their post (like a check-in), but haven’t used your hashtag, and you do NOT get notifications on those posts, so seek those out in the posts that have used both… it was a goldmine of content once I figured this out.

5. Good community / social media managers are also relationship-builders. In addition to liking posts using your hashtag, you should also be regularly following those people who you think are good, and who might be following your account also. 

  • Make sure to like a handful of posts by those you are following whenever you log in. 
  •  Also make comments on those posts you like—they should be genuine, though—so you don’t need to overdo it. 

6. What to post & how often? Visually appealing photos get the most activity, period. 

  • Colorful product photos, scenery… along with clever words—make your caption brief, and try to use your business hashtag within the sentence structure. 
  • Mix in some videos in your posts if it makes sense for your business—Instagram has them auto-play in the feed. 
  • Do not post a bunch of images all in-a-row because that’s the quickest way to get un-followed! How many will depend on your business–I typically post just one per day (5-6 days per week) for my client’s accounts.

7. Be sure to reply to every person who comments on your posts. 

  • Make your comments personal based on what they have written, and know that you have to use their handle in order for them to get a notification. 
  • To include their handle, swipe left on the comment, and click the arrow–this will add their handle w/o having to re-write it.
  • Many times people will just say “Great!” or post a thumbs-up emoji, and for them it’s okay to reply “Thanks” in one comment using all their handles. 

8. If you’ve noticed you made a mistake after you’ve posted, you can edit your post (yea!)—click the three little dots to the right of the heart and comment bubble, and click edit.

  • You cannot edit comments, so if you need to edit your own comment, you’ll need to delete it and re-write it. 
  • You do have the ability to delete comments that other people have made—occasionally people will spam your posts, so you can either report them (which will delete the comment) or simply delete.

9. The only “hot link” (clickable URL) you can have in Instagram is in your bio.

  • Normally you would want this to be a link to your Website or blog, but if you’re running a contest or have some information that’s particularly important (like a press release), you can always switch it up. 

10. Instagram provides the ability to simultaneously post to different social platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Flickr. 

  • Unfortunately, either the Twitter or Instagram engine gets confused… So, if you’re managing multiple accounts, that post can go to the wrong Twitter account! 
  • As a workaround, I recommend posting to Twitter separately — I copy the initial post after I write it, put it into the notepad file, copy out the additional hashtags in a comment, and then post it to Twitter. 
Of course, this isn’t everything, but hopefully it’s a good start as you get going with Instagram! And perhaps even you veterans learned something new? If you have any additional tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments, and perhaps I’ll use them in a future post.