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posted by Teresa Coles Oct 31,2011 @ 06:39AM

CreateAthon: Grown up and ready to go.

For 14 years we’ve labored through September nights, consuming ungodly amounts of coffee, Coke and cheese puffs in the name of CreateAthon. It hasn’t always been pretty, and it never is when you’re facing drastic shortages of time, money, manpower and supplies. Yet somehow the work always gets done, and every year we leave CreateAthon pondering the same question:

Why doesn’t everyone in our industry do CreateAthon?

The simple, truthful answer has to do with resources. If only we had the time to put more into CreateAthon. If only we had more money to spend on marketing it. If only we had the resources to hire someone to run the program, full-time, we could recruit more people into the program to do more good for more nonprofits.

For as long as we’ve faced this conundrum, we’ve known what we had to do to address it. So I’m thrilled to announce that CreateAthon has become a 501(c)3 in its own right, joining the ranks of the organizations we’ve proudly served over the years. As a 501(c)3, CreateAthon is now in a position to pursue funding opportunities that can help us build much-needed organizational capacity — with a goal of adding full-time personnel and other resources to help the program grow.

When this sheet of paper arrived in the mail the other day, there was a collective gasp, immediately followed by parental-caliber squeals normally reserved for a child’s college acceptance letter. Proof again that our little idea is growing up.

posted by Apprentices Oct 28,2011 @ 06:00AM

On costumes.

What's your best/favorite Halloween costume?

 

Teresa Coles
The floor of the movie theater: black turtleneck and leggings with movie
trash hot glued all over.

Pete Anderson
I was a hotdog at one time in my childhood, but this year I'll be action
hero MacGruber. My friends and I are currently in talks to
acquire a red Miata.

Kevin Archie
My best halloween costume is a toss-up between Tinkerbell and the Big Bad Wolf desguised as Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother. Coincidentally, both happened in the same year.

Julie Turner
One year I dressed as American Maid from The Tick. Best. Costume. Ever.

Cathy Monetti
Gypsy!!!

Kevin Smith
Devo

Got any legendary costumes of your own? Tell us!

posted by Julie Turner Oct 26,2011 @ 08:47AM

A marketing lesson from my dentist.

Now that I am an adult, I have been to a few dental offices. Some I have dreaded. Others I didn’t mind. I have patiently waited hours past my appointment time in an uncomfortable chair reading a two-month-old golf magazine. Then there was the time my dentist quit without sending any sort of letter or announcement to warn me about the stranger who was to be my new dentist.

But that’s all history now. I have the best dentist ever.

I came to the practice by a referral from my husband. Actually, not really a referral. It was more out of frustrated disgust. Unbeknownst to me, my dentist of many years had “retired” and sold his practice to a new dentist. When I learned this, I was in the chair. I didn’t leave in a huff. I let the nice new dentist clean my teeth then decided to find another new dentist who was a little closer to home.

My husband suggested I go to his dentist, Dr. Thomas Pitts. Initially, I hesitated since the office was all the way in St. Andrews. Yes, all the way. I live in the city. A drive on the Interstate defeated my whole closer to home qualification. So naturally I made my next appointment with them.

Ten years later, I am positively head over heels for this practice for so many reasons.

They are nice. Everyone who works there treats every patient with full courtesy. Do not confuse this with catering to customers’ whims and complaints. They treat you respectfully and they ask the same of you.

Snowflakes. Each year starting around December 1, they leave white paper, scissors and tape in the waiting area. They want you to make a cut-up folded paper snowflake (a la Kindergarten) and tape it to the window. They don’t mind if you leave the paper bits on the floor either. There’s only one downside to this, which is the next reason I love them.

I never wait more than five minutes. During December no wait is a bit of a bummer. There’s only time to make one snowflake. They have nice, comfortable furniture and all kinds of up-to-date magazines. If you ever had to wait, this would be a great place to do it. You never will though. Not here.

Halloween. Last year I was actually there on Halloween and everyone had on a costume. Even Dr. Pitts. My teeth were checked by a pretty creepy looking vampire. How often can you say that?

They care about their patients. They know and remember me, my children, my life. They have called me to let me know they could see me earlier because of a cancellation. Their goal is not to simply meet patients’ expectations; they truly want to exceed them. While that good to great stuff is lip service for some organizations, this one lives and breathes it effortlessly.

The staff. Dr. Pitts is a very nice guy. He’s got a wry sense of humor and he’s a great dentist. He shakes your hand at every visit. The office staff and hygenists are all very nice and good at what they do. From what I can see, Dr. Pitts is equally kind to his employees. They appear to be valued, respected, included and empowered. Obviously, there’s not much turnover.

When I was in the other day, I asked them how they get most of their new patients. I really wasn’t surprised when they said they don’t advertise. All of their new patients — 100% — come via patient referrals. When you treat patients that well, you don’t need to advertise.They get a key part of marketing so many businesses never grasp.

How you treat people is the biggest message of all.

 

 

 

posted by Apprentices Oct 25,2011 @ 01:28PM

Chess

I'm on the job hunt.

The Riggs apprenticeship program has given me the chance to learn a new craft while actively putting it into practice—a rare opportunity in the world of coffee-fetching internship programs—but the apprenticeship format’s finest attribute is this: it ends. The urgency of a finite deadline lends an invaluable immediacy to any undertaking. The late Steve Jobs paid tribute to this principle in the Stanford commencement speech that has littered the airwaves in the wake of his passing. A deadline forces decisions and, although it seems counterintuitive, often yields the best work. I hear time's winged chariots hurrying near, so how have I spent my free time lately? Trolling job boards? Fine-tuning my resume? No… I've been playing chess!

Last night I found myself scrambling against an opponent stronger than I am accustomed to, but I forced myself to remain committed to one of the fundamental principles of the game—make the best possible move every time—rather than pursuing the abstract end goal of checkmate. Grand Masters are capable of envisioning a final scenario for victory once they've sensed the texture of a game in its first few moves. My tender wits can't think that far in advance, so I did everything I could to stick to the few simple principles I've learned.

I made a few blunders and lost some valuable material (non-pawn pieces) due to oversight, but, making every move with as much thought and preparation as possible, I finally got myself into some advantageous scenarios. I skewered a rook, the endgame’s most powerful piece, absent the queen. Then I wheeled my knight into position. All of a sudden, I looked at the board on my turn and found myself a single space away from leveling checkmate on the opposing king. I had by no means followed a pre-determined strategy to arrange for the conditions of checkmate, I simply looked up and the winning scenario was before me, a move away. Dumb luck, one might say, but I’d care to argue. By making each move carefully and thinking through the ramifications of every possibility, I put myself into circumstances conducive to victory, even without concentrating solely on the goal of checkmate.

Giddy with victory and uncharacteristically optimistic, I began to draw parallels between what had just transpired on the chessboard and the institution of the Great American Job Hunt. If my sole focus is simply to get a job, I will overlook the tiny preparations and possibilities that present themselves only when I commit to the simple goal of putting myself in the best possible position to get hired: arranging informational interviews via every possible avenue, fine-tuning my personal brand message, narrowing down the attributes of the position I’d like to end up in. Maybe if I can focus on those small things, thinking through every move, I just might look up soon to the surprise of an interviewer shaking my hand and offering me a job... only I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at all.

-- Pete Anderson

Editor’s note from Cathy: Pete Anderson may well be the only 20-something writer in America today with a professed love of long format copy writing. That in itself makes him a rare commodity; brands cannot live by pithy headlines alone. But do let us mention he also has some serious talent. Read more about Pete at about.me/pfa.

 

posted by Kevin Smith Oct 24,2011 @ 05:26AM

Otherwise Occupied

I’m trying to understand Occupy Wall Street. It’s ambiguous desperation, and it’s fascinating and puzzling all at once.

We live a country built on compromise, with an economy based on negotiation. At present is only impasse. The political polarization is so vast that thousands are willing to congregate in mutual frustration to no end whatsoever.

Occupy Wall Street demonstrates the power of polarization.

Regardless of your political bent, we nonprofit marketers can learn from the politicians. Too many of today’s marketers are terrified to exclude anyone. They want their messages to have universal appeal. This is the highway to mediocrity.

Great marketing doesn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator. The best marketing creates both a tribe of devotees, and a group of outcasts. The outcasts don’t have to like you, your cause, or your marketing materials. Having loyalists, and some folks that don’t care much for your organization, is indeed a sign of success.

If your target audience is comprised of everyone, it’s time to reassess. Stand for something bold enough to draw a crowd, or your customers may well be otherwise occupied.

posted by Apprentices Oct 21,2011 @ 05:06AM

On writing utensils.

What is your writing utensil? How deep does your loyalty run?

 

Pete Anderson
I have no loyalty to any style, brand or color of writing implement. I'll use whatever I can get my hands on and count it as a victory if I get through the day without losing it.

Ryon Edwards
for pen: Uniball Vision (fine point)
for brush/ink: Dr. Ph Martin's Black Star HiCarb
for pencil: Staedtler Mechanical (.5) with B or 2B lead
Loyalty factor: 6/10
Do I win the most nerdiest answer prize?

Teresa Coles
Any one of my very fine Clemson pens. Go Tigers!

Kat White
At work: Sharpie fine point pens. At home: Pilot G-2.Always black ink, never blue. Pencils make me shudder. High-maintenance?

Julie Turner
Zip. Crayons, Sharpie markers and refrigerator magnets all make equally good words.

Kevin Smith
Blue felt tip.

posted by Ryon Edwards Oct 20,2011 @ 03:27PM

There’s a story behind that.

I love finding a good story behind the design of something, especially when there is meaning and symbolism involved. For instance, the ubiquitous barber shop sign – the revolving, helical red and blue striped sign that’s typically mounted on the facade of the shop.

Back in the day, barbers used to perform medical procedures, including tooth extractions and bloodletting services. Apparently, they would hang the bandages on a pole outside to dry and the wind would wrap the bloody bandages around the pole. Yes, disturbing, but we’re talking the Middle Ages here. Leeches are part of the story, too, but I’ll leave that out for now. The pole represents the staff that was used for the patient to grip to encourage blood flow. The color red is symbolic for arterial blood, blue represents venous blood and the white symbolizes the bandages. It’s also possible that the blue was added when the signs were used in the United States, to honor the national colors.

And a note of caution: If you’re in certain parts of Asia, the barber's pole design could be used to advertise and disguise a completely different type of business establishment, but I’ll choose to steer clear of that story.

posted by Cathy Monetti Oct 19,2011 @ 11:33AM

Celebrating The GOOD Night

This is not so much a blog post as it is a love letter—a love letter to the Power of Good. To Open Hearts. To Friendships, new and well-seasoned.

Three years ago, on what would turn out to be merely the cusp of a game-changing Recession, I got a phone call from David Kunz, executive director of The Cooperative Ministry. I did not know David at the time, but I heard something in his voice that prompted me (against all sense and reason), to take the request he made of me to my business partners.

"The Cooperative Ministry serves the working poor in this community," he said,"and the economy has dealt us a double blow." Financial support for TCM was way down at a time when more people than ever were desperate for the kind of help they provide.

Would you be willing to develop a television spot to run during the holidays? David had delicately asked.

But there was more to the story. The Cooperative Ministry had been gifted a performance of the Hootie and the Blowfish megahit "Hold My Hand," sung by the incredible Benedict College Gospel Choir. Perhaps the song could be a powerful soundtrack for the spot, he offered.

Interesting, I thought. But still there were a thousand reasons to graciously decline.

(1) No Production Budget DOES NOT = Powerful TV.

(2) We were already in work overload, doing our best to support clients in a crippling economic downturn.

(3) We had an event in place to support nonprofits, and we had held it just two months prior to this phone call. CreateAthon allows us to focus our pro bono efforts into one concentrated time period—and we hadn't quite wrapped up that work yet.

And yet I felt compelled to approach my partners with the possibility of helping The Cooperative Ministry. They really need us, and right now, I said. With no hesitation, there was a unanimous partner vote. Yes, they said.

It was not an easy assignment. We were committed to creating television, yes. But we also believed there was a larger story to share about the gifting of the song. We brought in volunteer creative teams to help craft what ultimately became a movement, With A Little Love. The team built a website. Keely Saye oversaw an inbound program. Ryan Cockrell produced a phenomenal video. Mad Monkey created TV magic:

[case_vid vid_url="http://riggspartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/With_Little_LOVER.flv" bg_url="http://riggspartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/blkbgrd.gif"]

Many on the team also developed a heart connection with David Kunz; his phenomenal deputy, Courtney Thomas; and the starter of this movement, Hootie and the Blowfish drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld. Each of those light-filled souls gave way more than they took, and they introduced us to other heart connections that have filled these three years with so many grace-filled moments the power of Doing Good simply cannot be denied.

So it is quite the understatement to say we were humbled when CreateAthon was honored by The Cooperative Ministry at their oh-so-swell gala, The GOOD Night. We thank them from way deep down for their generosity. And we thank every volunteer who has been a part of Riggs CreateAthon since its inception in 1998, as well as the nonprofits who have supported us and cheered us on all these years. We especially thank David Kunz, Courtney Thomas, and all the folks at The Cooperative Ministry who worked so hard to make The GOOD Night sparkle so brightly.

You have, do doubt, been a gift to us.

posted by Apprentices Oct 18,2011 @ 12:09PM

Tearing Down Walls

Last month, I had the privilege of participating in my first CreateAthon, a 24-hour marathon of sorts where creatives come together and do promotional work on a pro bono basis for nonprofits in need. We began early in the morning with bright spirits, copious amounts of coffee, and enough energy and excitement to tear down the walls of the WECO and rebuild it again seven times over. And if I didn't know any better, I'd say that's exactly what we did.

I met with my team and dove into the work for my nonprofit organization MIRCI, the Mental Illness Recovery Center, Inc. They were going to have a fundraiser in the coming year and the main attraction would be an art auction of refurbished windows that were decorated by local artists. After considering many names for the event, we went with 52 Windows, despite the fact that we had no idea exactly how many windows there would be. Though the number was random, the name had the serious attitude of an art exhibit while being curious enough to grab a person's attention. I created a variety of different logos but in the end went with the first one I made.

Somewhere between the tenth cup of coffee and the fifteenth, I must have drifted into a caffeine-dazed coma because before I knew it, the sun was down and I was sitting at the briefing table with over 30 amazingly talented people as they listened to my botched attempt at describing the work that lay before me on a measly 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. That's when I really saw what I'd been staring at for the past twelve hours—and I didn't like it.

I cowered away with the night ahead of me, uncertain that I could pull it all together and wishing I could start over. Then it hit me (in a creepy Yoda voice of course): exactly what you must do, that is. I scanned over my sketchbook, saw a forgotten idea from earlier in the day, and immediately began scrapping what I had and going in a new direction. The walls were falling down around me and the hours left were enough to count on one hand, but I somehow managed to finish the required work in the allotted time.

In the morning, the clients—one of whom was my next door neighbor— loved the work and were thrilled that we had chosen to use the number 52 since their event would be held on MIRCI's 52nd Anniversary. I just nodded my head and smiled, no longer surprised at what CreateAthon can do.

posted by Apprentices Oct 14,2011 @ 05:10AM

On coffee.

How do you take your coffee?

 

Kathryn White
Dark and strong. You're welcome for refraining from any "like my men" jokes.

Kevin Smith
Very cold in a coca-cola can.

Teresa Coles
Black. Why would you mess up a perfectly good cup of coffee?


Julie Turner
As soon as possible, please.

Pete Anderson
Yuck! Coffee is gross!

Cathy Monetti
Strong, but with extra milk.

Kevin Archie
Black.

Ryon Edwards
In mass quantities.

How do you take your coffee?

posted by Apprentices Oct 12,2011 @ 04:49AM

Be True: a Wednesday reminder.

After a job interview this summer, I got a follow-up email that said several nice and normal things before closing in this unusual way:

Keep painting your nails any color you want.

See, I had taken a small risk by deciding to keep my robin’s egg blue nails for the interview. Robin’s egg blue – however pretty – isn’t exactly a “professional” shade of polish. But it is a true reflection of who I am, a woman whose nail polish changes as often as the weather. And apparently, that small, honest glimpse worked in my favor.

I can’t think of a better reminder for today, whether you’re a nonprofit, a company, or just a regular person like me: be true to who you are. Marketing cycles through trends, just like any other industry. Don’t board a train just because every other brand in your market is riding it, and conversely, don’t be afraid to pioneer just because no one has gone before you.

In this hyper-connected, new economy world, consumers choose to connect with authentic brands. In fact, research proves that the more genuine a brand feels, the more likely a consumer is to become a high value customer and recommend the brand to others. (This goes for people, too.)

So be exactly who you are. Hold firm to the values that have shaped you. Don’t suppress the personality that makes your brand distinct. Keep painting your nails any color you want.

posted by Apprentices Oct 07,2011 @ 06:00AM

On Apple.

In reverence to the man who pioneered the technology we use every single day, we ask:

What was your first Apple product?
And when did you get it?

Cathy Monetti
A Macintosh SE, in 1987. That fabulous machine, along with a used metal desk from Bell Office Furniture, were the investments I made when I first opened C.C. Rigg's 25 years ago. (I didn't even have a printer. Carried a floppy disk to Marka Advertising—thank you Karen!—to print.)

Thank you, Steve Jobs. And thank you La-La, my dear grandmother, who left me the $5000 I used to start this company.

Kevin Smith
A Mac Classic II greeted me on my first day at C.C. Rigg's. Tidy and swell.

Julie Turner
In 1987 (I think), Pepsi donated two Macintosh Pluses to the Spring Valley High School Journalism lab. That tiny 9" window kickstarted my professional career.

Kevin Archie
I grew up in a PC family so I didn't have any Apple products until I got my first iPod a few years ago.

Kathryn White
White Macbook. 2006 just before I left for college. Within ten minutes of that glorious powering-up sound, I knew I'd never go back.

Teresa Coles
The itty bitty Mac, circa 1992

Jody Piland
The iPod Video in 2005. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world because I put a season of Family Guy on it and could watch it whenever I wanted to. I'm pretty sure I still have it.

Ryon Edwards
1991. Macintosh LC (meaning low-cost color). I think it was around $2,200, with my Mom's Educators discount. It had a 2MB of RAM and a whopping 40MB hard drive. Did not include the 12" color monitor. This is the machine that I first learned Adobe Illustrator!

posted by Ryon Edwards Oct 06,2011 @ 06:39AM

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posted by Apprentices Oct 05,2011 @ 04:51AM

Nothing but good and more good.

I have been lucky in life to be able to work on meaningful projects. I spent 2010 working on the successful lieutenant governors campaign in South Carolina, something that I am very proud of in my young life. The experience I gained on that campaign was incredible, and something I will never forget. It prepared me for many things in life, both good and bad. I witnessed candidates who truly wanted to help our great state, but I also personally learned you never know whom you can really trust. (Hence my favorite way to describe politics: it’s Mean Girls for adults).

The reason why I am explaining all of this is because I’m sitting here, three weeks after CreateAthon, trying to pinpoint what my greatest memory was. I’ve been staring at a blank computer screen trying to find the exact moments that have defined my experience and I’m starting to realize, I don’t think it’s possible. So much has gone into this, by so many that I don’t think it would be fair to the cause if I continued to try. In politics, there are so many ups and downs that it is easy to look back and point out the good. With CreateAthon, this isn’t possible. There is nothing but good and more good. There is a lot emotion attached to CreateAthon, but it’s all happiness and gratitude.

National CreateAthon Week may have already passed, but it is not over for me. My job is to help it grow on the national level so that we can continue to bring in more agencies and nonprofits. I want this program to mean as much to our fellow and future agencies throughout North America, as it does to everyone here at Riggs Partners. Our 24 hours may have ended, but we still have three agencies left that are working hard to prepare for their CreateAthon. Be sure to cheer on Hypno Design, Flipside, and Trickey Jennus as they bring CreateAthon 2011 to an end and we’ll begin preparing for an incredible CreateAthon 2012.

-- Jody Piland

 

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