It’s Been 20 Years Since College Graduation …

Last week I remembered that it has been 20 years since I graduated from the University of Tennessee’s College of Communications. I loved my time at UT and the opportunities the school allowed me to learn and grow in the profession before graduating. Knowing it has been 20 years got me thinking about how much marketing and communications have changed since then and what has remained the same.

A trip down memory lane …

In my first job at Center for Nonprofit Management, I helped move their paper and fax announcements to email-based communications. Social media and text messaging didn’t exist yet. A new website was my first major project. What was the goal of our marketing?

Our goal was to promote programs that helped people learn more about managing a nonprofit well.

Next, at Guildcrafts Arts and Crafts, I helped convert mail-order catalog sales to e-commerce based sales. Way back in 2005, we started Freebie Fridays, offering a free PDF craft download to help drive organic traffic from our target audiences. We were also an early Pinterest user, and I quickly saw the value of its referral traffic. What was the goal of our marketing?

Our goal was to sell crafts that could help teach Bible lessons, entertain children, and assist in therapy.

When I moved to Keystone in 2012, our team began talking about the value of website strategy, content optimization, and lead generation. Inbound marketing was the newest hot term in marketing. Yes, we all needed a website as the digital front door of a business, but how could we use it as a tool to convert new customers and drive repeat business. We turned a website development house into a full-service marketing agency as we tried to answer this question for clients. What was the goal of our marketing?

Our goal was to help businesses use their website to increase their audience and teach them how to communicate how they help their clients.

Inspire Kindness allowed me the opportunity to get caught up on the changes made in e-commerce after several years of focusing on lead generation and search engine optimization. I relearned the value of an email address and a phone number, especially in the overcrowded social world. Still, I loved using social media not to sell but to inspire. Inspiring people was especially important in 2020 when we needed kindness reminders more than ever. What was the goal of our marketing?

Our goal was to inspire kindness any way we could and help people remember that kind deeds, little or small, matter.

As I begin this new business, I have all the marketing tactics I’ve learned and relearned through the last 20 years, and I’m still learning new skills because this world is constantly changing. However, the heart of what I’m trying to do as a marketer hasn’t changed. The goals from one company to the next may be different, but what’s behind them really has never been that different at all. That’s because I know the most significant marketing results have come from efforts designed to help and inspire people. If it is solely about the promotion or the product or the business, it usually doesn’t work. If it does work, it isn’t sustainable.

1 question I’ve learned to ask marketing clients at the very beginning of a project:

How do you help people?

3 questions I now ask to evaluate content:

  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it entertaining?
  • Does it inspire?

And, 5 things I would tell that 21-year-old new graduate:

  • Find joy. There is this feeling in your gut that happens when you are doing something you love. Sometimes it feels like tiny flutters, and sometimes it feels like big fireworks, but it is joy. If you haven’t felt it in a while, try something different.
  • Travel. Say yes you’ll attend the conference. Stay an extra night in a new city. Take the quick weekend trip. The world has things to teach us, even if we just wander around our own cities.
  • Put the phone down and pull your head up. Don’t miss the serendipitous moments of human connection that happen in lines and in waiting rooms because you are willing to look someone in the eye, smile, and say hello.
  • Ask for help. Know when you are out of your league and know it is ok. Collaborate with someone else that has different strengths. You’ll enjoy the teamwork, and the end result will be better because of the additional talent.
  • Be more of a cheerleader than a competitor. There is abundance in the Kingdom. You can win, AND they can win. She might get the job, but you’ll get a different one. Want what is good for others, and know that goodness is coming your way.

Here’s to the next 20 years of learning, growing, helping, and inspiring. Thank you for a solid professional foundation, UTK-Communications, and thank you to lots of bosses and mentors that supported me along the way.

Good luck, new graduates; you have important work to do, and I’m cheering you on!

daily beacon ut knoxville
Here I am at UT’s Daily Beacon offices where I served as editor of the Volunteer Yearbook. The computers have certainly changed a bit in 20 years!

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