Why Millennials Make Great Marketers

Forget whatever you think is wrong with Millennials. Here are some qualities, which I think get overlooked, that make them the best generation yet to be marketers.

There have been a lot of articles about what’s supposedly wrong with Millennials. That’s OK, there were a lot of articles about what was wrong with Gen X, too. It happens to every generation (and here’s a selection of historical quotes to show you just how far back that goes). It even happened to the Baby Boomers.

Red Foreman calling 70s kids hippies.
Actual dialog from 1970s households (probably).

And yes, one day Millennials will be the elder generation and they will glamorize their generation’s exploits while talking down whoever comes after Gen Z. That’s just how it works.

I was born in 1977. That makes me a late Gen Xer. I’ve had the chance to work with many Millennials, though, and overall I’ve been pretty impressed with what I’ve seen.

Here are three qualities, based on nothing more than my own personal experiences, that I think get overlooked when we’re worried about who’s staring at their phones.

Taken as a whole, these qualities are why Millennials make great marketers.

1. Millennials Are True Digital Media Natives
When we’re hiring someone coming out of college for an editorial role, I’m looking for candidates who’ve been doing daily blogging, vlogging and/or social media on their own as a personal pursuit. Many Millennials enter the workforce knowing how to shoot and edit video the same way I knew how to use Word and Excel. They’ve lived with multimedia capabilities in their phones since school, and they’ve used it. They get how to build audience on social media and interact with them. They communicate visually.

One does not simply generate a meme.These are valuable skillsets that you generally only find in specialists from Gen X and Baby Boomers. Many Millennials picked them up on the side, and bring them to employers essentially for free. These bonus skills alone mean Millennials have the opportunity to move your marketing forward like no generation before them.

Want a Job in Creative? Do These 7 Things

Let’s be clear: The job interview process is rarely fun. It can be nerve-wracking, drawn out and just plain exhausting. Perhaps even more so in creative fields where you’ve got to show the interviewer exactly what makes you that special snowflake.

Job Interview memeLet’s be clear: The job interview process is rarely fun. It can be nerve-wracking, drawn out and just plain exhausting. Perhaps even more so in creative fields where you’ve got to show the interviewer exactly what makes you that special snowflake.

As a managing editor, I’m at the frontline for hiring new creative talent for our team. I conduct phone interviews, grade editorial tests, assess candidates in face-to-face sessions, and then prep the rest of our editorial team for their meetings with candidates.

In other words, I’m the guard dog you have to get past in order to be considered by anyone else. And while I don’t make it easy, I also don’t set anyone up to fail.

And since I’m currently going through a hiring process again for a new member for our creative team, I thought I’d share a few pointers. Who knows, maybe a clever candidate will do his or her research about Target Marketing, will find this post, and knock an interview out of the park. I challenge them.

Tom Hanks typing You've Got Mail1. Résumés Should Never Go the Faulkner Route: All right, yes, I was an English major, and I’m being a smart ass. What do I mean? Résumés should be tightly written and get to the point (the exact opposite of William Faulkner). When working on yours, channel your inner Hemmingway — without the issues — and keep it from wandering. I’ve been a publishing professional for almost 12 years, and my résumé fits on 1 page … so if you graduated in 2013, your résumé should not be 2-3 pages, I’m sorry.

Another résumé tip? Nix listing all those years you spent working at the mall; Red Lobster; Dollar Tree; etc. I’m sure you learned important customer service skills, but if you’re fresh out of school, showcase your internships, on-campus jobs (Were you a writing tutor? Awesome!) or perhaps a major capstone project that is relevant to the job you’re applying to. Otherwise, I’m sorry, I simply do not care.

Zoe Deschanel Wink2. Portfolio Sites Are Dreamy: You know what I love better than fresh baked cookies or a crisp gin and tonic? Well-designed portfolio sites whose links have been included on the resume and in the cover letter. It’s almost luxurious being able to click a link and peruse a selection of articles, blog posts and videos. No googling, no hunting around to see if I’m looking up the right person’s content … ahhh. It’s like being on a beach with a tropical drink in hand. Well, not really … but it’s appreciated and again, makes you look like a professional and pulled-together candidate.

whatdidyousay3. Don’t Take a Phone Interview in a Crowded Arby’s: Okay, so maybe the person I spoke to wasn’t in an Arby’s per se, but three minutes into the conversation I had to ask them to go some place quieter because the background noise was horribly distracting.

Now, chances are you might be taking a phone interview during the work day, which presents its own challenges, but be smart. Sit in your car, find a quiet park nearby, or if it’s a really important call to take, think about maybe staying home. Don’t be the dude bogarting one of your current job’s conference rooms to take the call … that’s just tacky.

It's Too Late4. Do Not Be 20 Minutes Early, Do Not Be 5 Minutes Late: This is a bit of a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation. If you show up super early (I prefer folks to arrive no sooner than 10 minutes), then you throw me off because I’m not prepared for you. If you’re late, I’m irritated. That simple. I know traffic can be a bear, or you’re not familiar with where the office is. Leave early to beat traffic, and simply figure out where the office is. If you do arrive early, find a place to cool your heels for a few minutes.

If Your Brand’s Future Is in the Hands of Millennials, You Should Be Worried

As marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them. Want to know why?

Group using mobile phonesAs marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers through elaborate loyalty programs. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them.

Want to know why?

Forget the ridiculous phone research surveys (those alone make me want to leave my new automobile manufacturer). Or the online survey interrupters that pop up in the middle of searching for that beautiful little, black dress (“We’d love your feedback!” — um … stop bugging me while I’m still shopping, for starters…).

Nope. I’m here to tell you the problem is what’s going on at the retail level. And, if my colleague’s recent experience at a Comcast/XFINITY store is any indication of our future generation of customer service reps, then all brands are in trouble.

If your brand’s future is in the hands of millennials, you should be worried.

It seems that most customers are in a store on their way home from work because when she entered at 5:30 pm, she was not surprised that there were 20 people ahead of her. So why was there only ONE person servicing the floor?

Every so often she’d see someone (yes, a millennial) come out from the “back,” take a look around at the hoard of customers waiting, and scurry back from whence they came.

When she boldly inquired why the rep was working alone, she was told there were 5 – 6 others working in the back counting cash (… um, can you say “hold up?” Apparently this gal missed the training module ‘What not to say to a customer’).

After my colleague got home and the brand new remote she just picked up didn’t pair with the brand new XFINITY box (that’s a customer service/retention story for another day), she had to return to the store the next day — and wait with the rest of the unwashed masses that were being serviced by one cashier.

No wonder DIRECTV is gaining market share.

And then there’s my local Safeway — another example of how not to let the kids run the asylum.

After spending nearly 45 minutes strolling the aisles and loading $200 worth of groceries in my cart, you’d think the cashier and bagger would do everything in their power to ensure a pleasant check-out experience so that I’d come back again. The cashier (a little older, wiser and a lot more savvy) was trying to get me through the line efficiently, but the millennial bagger found his cell phone far more fascinating than my groceries piling up at the end of the runway.

I finally caught the cashier’s eye and murmured “tell him to put his phone away.” Her response was barely a whisper: “YOU tell him to put it away. No one listens to me.”

So I did.

And he did.

And I filled out the survey at the website at the bottom of my receipt, suggesting it be a store-wide policy that workers leave their cell phones in their lockers. Shouldn’t that be an obvious “rule” in 2016?

When I repeat this story to others, I hear equally challenging experiences from clothing boutiques to shoe stores, cafés to bookstores. Young, entry-level workers choosing to keep their heads down, eyes focused on a tiny screen instead of looking at customers and offering help.

Retail stores, while declining in total traffic as compared to websites, are still the brand face for many businesses. So instead of pouring millions into automating back-end, online, shopping tools and sending me daily emails with specials, invest in some in-store customer service training. My experience with your brand is in their hands. And for the folks at Comcast/XFINITY and Safeway, that should be a scary thought.

Your Job Search Is Like a Marketing Plan

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

Job SearchA client recently came to me frustrated.  He had been applying for jobs for about a month and was not getting any traction/response. In the past he had never had a problem, and he couldn’t figure out what might be going wrong. From my experience, I know he is not alone in his thinking.

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

When I first got introduced to direct mail 15-plus years ago, I was told, “Direct mail is like the salesman that lands in your mailbox.” Well, this scared the heck out of me, because I was coming from a graphic design job and knew nothing about sales. Yet, those words always resonate with me whenever I plan marketing campaigns. In job search, it’s really no different. Your LinkedIn profile, resume and cover letter are your sales team. And they are going to help your ideal employer find you.

So, you really need to run your job search like a marketing campaign. Let’s walk through the critical components of a campaign. Then I’ll show you how it translates to job search.

1. The Target = Your Ideal Company and Position
You would never go to market without knowing who your target audience is. So why would you launch a job search without knowing where you want to end up? Everyday I see people launch their job searches by updating their resumes and then blasting them everywhere. In reality, it pays to take the time to figure out where you want to be.

Just like you have buyer personas for your company’s products, you need a company persona for your job search. With your company persona in mind, it will be easier to write your career marketing materials. Answer questions like these when creating your company persona:

  • What industry?
  • What size company (staff and revenue)?
  • Agency or Corporate?
  • B-to-B or B-to-C?
  • What type of culture are you looking for?

Once you have your company persona, start researching companies that fit your description. Find out what their pains are and how you can solve those pains.

If you want to go a step further, write out your ideal job description. It can serve as a guide when you’re wondering if you should apply for a posted position.

  • What title do you want?
  • Who do you want to report to?
  • What type of projects do you want to work on?
  • Do you want to manage or be an individual contributor?

Now, you truly have your target defined. Then instead of searching for a job, you’ll search for companies with specific challenges you know you can solve!

The One Thing to Learn From Donald Trump

Some weeks I have the time to obsess over a new marketing strategy or the possibilities of the year ahead. Other weeks my interests are more scattered. This has been the latter kind of week, but that doesn’t mean the world runs out of interesting marketing! Here are four quick ideas I’ve been mulling over while winter’s settling in over the Northeast.

Some weeks I have the time to obsess over a new marketing strategy or the possibilities of the year ahead. Other weeks my interests are more scattered. This has been the latter kind of week, but that doesn’t mean the world runs out of interesting marketing! Here are four quick ideas I’ve been mulling over while winter’s settling in over the Northeast.

Donald-Trump-Make-America-Great-Again-TFPP
On Twitter that’s #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.

1.The One Thing You Should Learn From Donald Trump
In an interview with CNN, Tea Party activist Scottie Hughes pinpointed the one thing Donald Trump and Sarah Palin could teach almost every marketer: How to reduce complicated issues to hashtags.

Said Hughes: “[Palin] has these great catchphrases, these great catchlines, these great hashtags that trend. And that’s something that Mr. Trump is good at as well — sitting there and taking a large issue and putting it down to just a key phrase that people repeat days after the statement is made.”

What complex idea should you simplify to a hashtag? #MarketingMatters.

2. Discrimination Costs Talent, Sometimes the Best Talent
I was watching a show about the history of Captain America, and they brought up that a lot of the guys in comics were Jewish kids who couldn’t find “legitimate” work in the Madison Avenue ad agencies because they were Jewish. This includes Jack Kirby, perhaps the most talented action illustrator America’s ever seen. Could his talents have saved brands? Absolutely.

The "Kirby Hand," one of Jack Kirby's trademark action panels.
The “Kirby Hand,” one of Jack Kirby’s trademark action panels.

This blows my mind, but you find stories like it all over history. Forget fairness for a moment. At some point, everything becomes a number game. If you have access to a million people, you’ll probably find a 1-in-a-million talent. If you have access to 2 million, you’ll probably find a 1-in-2-million talent. If you have access to 10 million, etc.

If you cut Jewish people, or black, or women, or Indian, or Muslim or Latino or any other large group out of the talent pool for non-talent reasons, you’re just reducing your chances of finding geniuses.

Not to mention, you’re being a prick.

3. A Too-Perfect Metaphor for Marketing
There’s a riddle going around Facebook: There are 10 fish in a tank. Two drown, four swim away, three die. How many are left?

fujzosdcc6cvdmvdugnsThe answer is, all of them. They’re all still in the tank.

This is a great way to think about the customers and prospects who got away. Whether they stopped responding to your marketing or went to a competitor, those customers are still in the tank with you, ready to be won back.

It’s still an unfortunately accurate metaphor when it comes to the dead fish. We still get marketing mail for our apartment’s previous owner, who died before we moved in 4 years ago.

Don’t forget to scoop the dead fish out of your lists.

4. Totally Tasteless Marketing for a Tasteless Age
And finally after the way January’s gone for musicians, I am relieved and surprised to have never seen an ad like this:

“Cole … Lemmy … Bowie … Fry …
Eddie Van Halen US Tour 2016: See him while he’s still alive!”
–Ticketmaster

But seriously:

SandmantoDeath
The Sandman and his sister Death trademark DC Comics.

7 Marketing Resolutions for Younger Marketers in 2016

Fear not, I’m back for 2016 and will be posting again on a monthly basis. Starting right now, with my very own “2016 Marketing Resolutions.” I’ll also list a few great resources I’ve found to help me on the road to resolution glory!

I’m baaaaaaack! Did you miss me? Did you feel like 2015 was just a little darker and a little colder as it drew to a close? You may have assumed it was just a result of the earth’s regularly scheduled journey farther away from the sun, but I’m here to tell you that chill in the air was merely the lack of my presence in your life and on your screen.

But fear not, I’m back for 2016 and will be posting again on a monthly basis. Starting right now, with my very own “2016 Marketing Resolutions” (because there’s never enough “My New Year’s Resolutions” posts in the world, right?) I figure I’ll fare better with these guys than I will with “go to the gym 3x a week” or “limit myself to one season of a show on Netflix per night.”

I’ll also list a few great resources I’ve found to help me on the road to resolution glory!

Business group of people standing on the hill and looking aside
According to iStock, a significant number of people have a goal of climbing a mountain and/or doing the Rocky pose in business suits

 

1. Get to Work Earlier
Here’s the problem with having flexible work hours: you can actually take advantage of them. Add that to my just-two-blocks commute and you’ve got a perfect recipe for snooze-button-dependency. I’ve never been an early bird, and generally I’m of the mindset that I work better when I come in a little later and leave a little later. But I have to admit I feel an extra sense of pep and motivation when I manage to start my day an hour or two ahead of schedule, and having that extra time to enjoy my coffee and clear out the cobwebs logically results in more productivity. So I’ve decided: 2016 is the year I start getting to work before 9:00.

I recently found this simple yet brilliant post on LifeHack for people like me, and I’m eager to try these strategies out.

2. Better Time Management
Another daily struggle for me: deciding what on my list needs to be done and when, and how much time should be spent doing it. Since it’s a point I’m always looking to improve, I’ve found a few basic tools that seem to work best for me when used together.

I’m a visual person, so I always love a good to-do list; it really helps me to be able to look at my tasks laid out in front of me, and physically move them into an order that makes sense. My favorite of the many online options available is Wunderlist. You can create separate folders within your to-do list and categorize each task, set due-dates and alarms, enable email notifications, and sync your lists to the mobile app to access anywhere. Plus, that “ding” noise it makes when you complete a task is super satisfying. Oh, and it’s free!

Another must: The StayFocusd browser extension. No more “two minute web surfing breaks” that turn into ten or twenty; this app blocks all but your allowed websites after your allotted time runs out. Pro-Tip: Put the Chrome Extensions store on your block list, so you can’t cheat and remove the app 😉

What Do Marketing Executives Seek in Ideal Candidates?

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the job search process can be frustrating. I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing, and directors of marketing

Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning
Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning

Whether you are an active job seeker, or just seeking a promotion at your current employer, the marketing job search process can be frustrating. It can often seem a mystery why you don’t get calls for jobs where you think you’re a match. And if you do get calls for interviews, then sometimes it’s a mystery why you don’t get the offer. What are they looking for in ideal candidates?

Well, I’m here to shed a little light on the hiring process from the perspective of hiring managers — CMOs, VPs of marketing and directors of marketing. Recently, I spoke to Russell Evans, CMO of OnCourse Learning. At OnCourse Learning, Evans manages a team of 41 that defines their overall go-to-market strategy across multiple on-line campus websites. His own expertise is in brand and product management and he has even developed three patents relating to marketing business intelligence for the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Michelle Robin: What types of qualities do you look for in candidates?

Russell Evans: It varies by candidate. We follow a process called “Targeted Selection” which is a program put on by DDI (Development Dimensions International). We train our people how to interview using this method, and the specs for our jobs are based on competencies. Depending on the position, these might be things like strategic thinking, follow through and planning. We look for people that excel in those competencies tied to that specific job.

We have a pretty high standard on the quality of candidate we look for. In addition to the competencies, we also look at intangible qualities like teamwork. We want people who are good communicators, able to work through conflicts, can collaborate across different types of organizations, and then achieve break through results with that collaboration.

Robin: Where do you like to find candidates?

Evans: My best success has been through LinkedIn or referrals. I’ve been able to find top quality employees through people I’ve worked with over the years. Sometimes we use local publications like Crain’s Chicago Business and Careerbuilder to advertise openings.

Supremely Better: A Multi-Generational Workplace

Personally and professionally, I get a lift from counting among my colleagues Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials — and I definitely am more aware by encountering, engaging and collaborating with each, individually and collectively.

I’ve never enjoyed hanging out solely with people just of my age group.

Personally and professionally, I get a lift from counting among my colleagues Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials — and I definitely am more aware by encountering, engaging and collaborating with each, individually and collectively. And that’s just counting “age” as diversity. There are many other components of diversity: gender, race, religion, politics, geography, national origin, veteran status — but I’ll focus on age here.

Mentoring is increasingly a two-way street, and even better a hub-and-spoke. As seasoned marketing and communications professionals, we have a lot of experience to share. But better believe it, I learn every day from younger colleagues — and I appreciate every lesson I get. Likewise, there’s always someone with more experiences (or different experiences) to keep an open door to. Here, too, I sponge. Simply said, there’s very little to “grow” by surrounding yourself with people exactly like yourself.

Yes, there’s community in like-mindedness.  But even recognizing like-mindedness means continually challenging and exploring other points of view.

Here’s What I Learned in 2015….
• Student debt is burdensome: There’s no sense in comparing your experiences as a Boomer new graduate years ago to those entering the workforce today. Unless someone enjoys a full-tilt academic or athletic scholarship, chances are young adults are carrying a hefty amount of student debt.

Education inflation has far outstripped the cost of living — college costs today are a world away from what I experienced just three decades ago. As a result, very few grads can stand on their own at 21, even if they want to. Few starting salaries allow them to live on their own, while repaying debt. Families with grown children are staying together for longer, as an economic reality, at least financially so.

Is there a professional takeaway here? I’m not altogether sure how this affects risk-taking, or the timing to pursue advanced degrees, but the zeal to contribute in the workplace, and receive commensurate compensation, is perhaps heightened.

• You really don’t [have to] retire: On the other scale, woe to any business that sends senior execs packing prematurely. Some businesses might offer early retirement packages to move more expensive workers off payroll, or just lay folks off — but are they harnessing all that experience before they do so? Is there a knowledge sustainability plan? “Peak earning years” must translate to “peak productivity” — the dynamics of business no longer allow anyone to rest on his or her laurels and nominally contribute.

Alternatively, I’ve come across more and more firms who are “hiring back” would-be company retirees as contractors, and as project and long-term consultants. For the aging, many of whom have under-saved for retirement, this removes the shock of a suddenly missing paycheck and a perception of being no longer valued, enabling them to contribute to business growth while softening the financial blow. For business, where experience is a teacher, common mistakes of the under-experienced are avoided. The bell curve of post-peak earnings, and the idea of “retirement” are being redefined, out of necessity.

• Mentoring should be bi- or omni-directional: When a project team, or workplace environment, is cross-generational, there will be better outcomes. In marketing, where target audiences may involve one or more age (or other) demographics, it simply makes for a more informed strategy to have architects who share personal knowledge and experiences of the market. So older teaches younger, vice versa, with in-betweens, too. I know of agencies pitching new businesses who ensure such diversity is “built” into the campaign planning team. That’s smart.

Here’s to a healthful, prosperous New Year, at any age.

The First Marketer Daymond John Ever Hired

One topic that came up during our interview with Daymond John was what he looks for in a marketer, and what made him hire his first.

TM0915_preferredcover
Daymond John — Star of Shark Tank, Founder of Shark Branding, Founder of FUBU.

One of the interesting topics that came up during my interview with Daymond John was what he looks for in a marketer, including who was the first marketer he ever hired, and why.

Here’s that story. And if you want to read more, including his recommendations when you’re marketing to a culture you don’t know well, click here to download the full interview (transcript and audio).

Thorin: Do you remember the first time you hired someone in marketing for FUBU?

Daymond: The first time I hired somebody in marketing was basically public relations. It was a fusion of public relations and marketing, and perfect example of what you’re asking if people weren’t part of it and how did they help.

I did an event at Macy’s, it was with LL Cool J. The woman that worked over at Macy’s side who was there to look over the event, she was an African-American woman, but she had just came back from Japan, and she was a ballerina for most of her life, and she was in France and Japan and wasn’t exposed to hip-hop — didn’t know what it was. She grew up in Jersey at a younger age.

But she handled the event with LL Cool J and us. And the people at Macy’s, they were okay, but they kind of were like … they weren’t treating us — remember, this was when hip-hop and hip-hop empowerment was young — they weren’t treating us, like, the best. You know? They kind of gave us a side area and they told her, “Eh, Just do what you can for the guys, they’re cool, but you know, whatever.”

And I loved her, and I loved how professional she was, and I hired her. And I remember her coming on board, and she didn’t know not one rapper, not one artist, but she knew how to communicate and get this information out to whatever magazine. Once she started talking to all the rap magazines and all the media outlets, she carried herself like a professional like she did in France and in Japan, and she communicated like she was at Macy’s.

A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett's "Shark Tank" in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).
A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett’s “Shark Tank” in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).

She didn’t go in there and try to have the hip-hop lingo and everything else. She went in there and she treated other people like professionals, and they actually stepped up their game and respected her, and the communication got better. And I think that that was part of how hip-hop has grown, from people of different cultures and different levels taking the same fundamentals they practiced and moving it and using it where, initially, hip-hop was just the music from the streets.

That was my first person, and she stayed with me for 20 years. She’s still with me today. Her name’s Leslie, Leslie Short. She handles some other stuff now, but that was the prime example of what you were talking about [earlier, about how to market to an audience you don’t know well]: She didn’t have anything to do with hip-hop at the moment, but she was a professional and she acted and carried herself that way and treated the brand that way.

At the Front Door: How First Impressions Serve a Brand

First impressions deliver impact. For nearly 33 years until this week, the Direct Marketing Association demonstratively put its best foot forward through its reception steward Curley Hudson. Whenever a member, prospective member, or guest visited the DMA office in Midtown NYC, Curley was there to greet them …

Curley Hudson at DMA 1983-2015.
Curley Hudson, DMA’s smiling reception steward, 1983 to 2015.

First impressions deliver impact. For nearly 33 years until this week, the Direct Marketing Association demonstratively put its best foot forward through its reception steward Curley Hudson.

Whenever a member, prospective member, or guest visited the DMA office in Midtown NYC, Curley was there to greet them. Whenever a phone call was connected to a live voice off the general number, it was usually Curley with whom the caller spoke. And many, many times, Curley was one masterful ambassador when a consumer called with a concern: oftentimes, Curley transformed hostility — about “junk mail,” “annoying phone calls” and “spam” — to empowerment, hopefulness and even tranquility. (I’m sure there were some incurable complainers amid the mix.)

Year in, year out. Dozens of visitors per day — and dozens more by telephone.

DMA also made sure Curley staffed the desk at conference headquarters at the association’s annual event, bringing that same can-do attitude to all types of on-site problem-solving — making connections happen for the betterment of all.

Practically everyone in our field knows Curley, or at least knows Curley’s voice, and the adjectives we use to describe her are truly ones we value: optimistic, patient, understanding, resourceful … an embodiment of the power of positive thinking.

That’s why DMA and direct marketing have been honored to have Curley on our team. She is what some might call a brand asset. But for many of us, she is a loving friend, and a steady face among constant change.

In the early 90s, during the heyday of the Total Quality Management and prior to email, my employer (DMA) gave us mirrors to place by our telephones. We taped the word “opportunity” to the handset. The goal was to remind ourselves to smile when answering the phone – because that smile is conveyed in our tone and in perception on the other end of the line. In every 1:1 connection there is indeed an opportunity, for selling, for service, for solutions, whatever we are charged with. But I already had that lesson in just watching and listening to Curley go about her work.

Now we’ve evolved — for better or worse — to chat rooms, instant messaging and emails — and less so by mail, phone and in-person visits. I regret some of this. Perhaps it’s harder to project such positivity as Curley’s in our world of digital communication — but any brand should teach all its front-line ambassadors to bring forward that happy confidence, empathy and “how-can-I-make-your-day-better” attitude in customer, prospect, member and donor communication.

It worked for DMA — for 33 years. Curley, I am going to miss you, and I celebrate you as our industry colleague. I’m certain I’m not alone. In fact, thousands of times over.