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Teresa Coles

With a heart for social good and a brain for marketing strategy, Teresa combines the two to provide counsel to nonprofits around the country. She has been a lead strategist at RP since 1992. - See more at: http://www.riggspartners.com/author/teresa#sthash.yyQ4Txft.dpuf
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posted by Teresa Coles Oct 18,2017 @ 05:05PM

20 all-nighters, 20 points of light.

I knew this day would come, and I knew I wouldn’t be ready for this CreateAthon Eve post.

How could I possibly describe in any slightly elegant way what it has meant to be part of CreateAthon for 20 years? So much has changed since that first crazy all-nighter in 1998, when a tiny band of us held our hands, hearts and breath together and dove into the literal creative darkness on Lady Street. We had no idea if we could do it. We had no idea if we could finish. We didn’t know if the work would be passable, much less great.

Then morning came, and with it, the light that would forever change us.

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A glorious reminder of all that’s possible, come CreateAthon morning.

If you’ve ever been a CreateAthoner, you know what I’m talking about. I’m not gifted enough as a writer to convey it in one sentence or two. So indulge me as I default to a list of 20 CreateAthon touchpoints that have lifted me up and brought me through these long and lovely nights. No doubt, you have your own.

  1. The first handshake with a nonprofit director in a pre-CAT briefing session.

  2. A TV shoot that made a star out of a young gymnast with Down syndrome.

  3. Sneaking downtown at 3:00 am to get a Snickers because someone had the bright idea to outlaw junk food during CreateAthon II (never again).

  4. The obliteration of job titles in 24 hours – “everyone’s a creative during CreateAthon.”

  5. The first tear that was shed in a CAT client presentation, and every precious one that has fallen since.

  6. Having my Jay beside me, from the very first CreateAthon forward.

  7. The Djoliba Don West African dance troupe pounding the pavement outside our door.

  8. The notes, emails and hugs from clients who have stood behind this work, always. Including the client who showed up to make pancakes at midnight, just ‘cause.

  9. The birth of the pochure — because we couldn’t afford a brochure AND a poster.

  10. All the RP family members who have delivered cookies, brought the kids by for a visit, run errands, and put up with our pre-CreateAthon stress.

  11. Hearing “what I can do to help?” from your teammate at 5:00 am.

  12. Getting my hair dyed onsite during CreateAthon because you just can’t have bad roots visible for 24 hours straight.

  13. Little Bit, who will forever be our CreateAthon pup.

  14. Grits in the morning, and the people who make it their business to get them to us. God. Bless.

  15. Our friends from the advertising and design community who pitched in to help us when our RP team was very small and we wondered if we could even have CreateAthon that year. You know who you are.

  16. The ride with Cathy to the office the morning of CreateAthon, and the ride home, when we always declare the reasons why “this year was the best CreateAthon ever.”

  17. The greyhounds that pranced through our office and reminded us why rescuing them mattered.

  18. All of the RP alumni who have come back to participate.

  19. The look on a newbie CreateAthoner’s face when he sees the reaction of a CAT client during the presentations.

  20. Peyton and Tom: the one who makes us laugh, and the one who makes it happen.

I could go on well past 20, but I’ll stop and encourage all my fellow CreateAthoners to take a moment and recall the things that have carved a space in your own hearts. My thanks and gratitude to you for being a part of this journey, and for teaching me what it means to go down a path that is lit with the purest of intentions.

Until tomorrow,

T

posted by Teresa Coles Mar 08,2017 @ 01:07PM

When all things work together

I’m a big believer that the right people come into your life at the right moment, as long as you recognize you’re not the one who’s in control of making those things happen. Call it Alchemy. Karma. Faith. Whatever your position on these matters, it’s enough to acknowledge that encountering and sensing the impact of a new human being along our path — often in a single, ordinary moment — is a true gift.

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That’s exactly what happened here at RP on a cold and dreary morning about a year ago. A young woman had reached out to me with the possibility of engaging us on an assignment, and I suggested we gather for coffee one morning in the Green Room. There in that quiet corner, I was immediately struck by this one in whom I saw remarkable insight and a sense of self-awareness I wish I’d had 20 years ago.

While it was not the right time and place for us to connect at that time, I felt there was perhaps a different purpose to our meeting. Today, I’m happy to announce that my hypothesis has been happily proven with the addition of Stephanie Owens as our newest account manager.

Stephanie brings with her the perspective of working in both agency and corporate marketing environments, no doubt a factor in her thoughtful and intuitive approach to collaborating with clients and RP team members. Her experience in managing the development of cross-channel programs that incorporate every modern marcomm element is a strength she’s already putting to work for a number of RP clients.

And did we mention she’s loads of fun? One look at her when we walked into the recent ADDYs celebration, and we knew it was all just as it should be.  

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We think she’ll fit in just fine.

 

posted by Teresa Coles Dec 01,2016 @ 03:10PM

Gain the secret weapon to building successful brands

Now that I have your attention, here’s a pop quiz. Pick one:
The most successful organizations — and their subsequent brands — are those that:

  • Have a multi-million dollar marketing budget
  • Have a culture that is synonymous with their brand promise
  • Have a diversified portfolio of products and services.

If you picked #1 or #3, let me know how that works out for you. While #1 is reserved for the Cokes and Targets of the world, many business leaders are disciples of #3 and are convinced that their success is dependent on diversification (also known as “we specialize in everything”).

If you picked #2, you’re a step ahead. Whether you’re an international retailer, a regional manufacturing operation, or a professional services firm down the street, your brand will only achieve its potential when everyone in your organization is part of a culture that is fully aligned with your external brand promise. That’s the mark of a healthy, leaderly and responsible brand.

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Back in the day, this was referred to as “building brands from the inside out.” While this concept still rings true, its executional requirements have evolved significantly. In the past, it was good enough for business leaders to talk about the fact that the company needed to deliver a customer experience that was “on brand.” In some cases, they went so far as to provide customer service training to teach employees specific service standards.

Fast forward to a day in which consumers’ knowledge, expectations and control are growing by the moment. This begets an environment in which the internal flaws and service shortcomings of an organization can pop to the surface at any time, exposing a gap between inner organizational reality and the external brand promise.

Moreover, we know for a fact today that employees are more and more discerning in their choice of employers and in their expectations surrounding that experience. They need to know what the company stands for. What it is setting out to do in the world. And what their place in that mission looks like. This is culture building, which is the direct route to operational excellence and a brand that is truly believable.

Look around, and you can see the direct connection between well-defined cultures and their highly distinctive brands: Apple vs. Dell. Southwest Airlines vs. United. BMW vs. Cadillac. These are organizations that understand the power of aligning culture, business strategy, and external brand marketing. They are not three linear business tactics. They are one collective strategy.

The good news is that entrepreneurs get this and are building businesses from the ground up based on this trifecta. But how do leaders in established organizations harness this imperative when there are so many competing initiatives going on in the organization?

Start with a vision.

This is not the benign statement at the top of a document in a matted frame. This is real vision, as defined by leadership and reinforced every day in language, tone and demeanor. It’s the Northern Star of the organization, and the CEO is the flag bearer.

Establish brand values.

These are not words like “integrity” or “commitment” or “quality” that sit right underneath the vision and mission statements on the aforementioned document. These are actionable, teachable and distinctive behavioral standards that let employees know what their brand stands for and what it’s striving to become. Employees need to understand how this journey benefits them and what their direct responsibility is in contributing to the organization’s vision.

Connect brand values to the business strategy.

Successful companies use these shared brand values to power its business operations, enhance innovation and set the business apart from competitors. It stands to reason that if everyone in the organization is united by and held accountable to actionable brand values, operational effectiveness is sure to follow.

Execute brand marketing that demonstrates all of the above.

When a company’s organizational health and business strategy are in complete alignment, a resounding brand promise can ensue. This promise can be easily internalized by staffers, because they understand it’s a reflection of them, the culture they’re part of, and the business strategy they help to execute every day.

*This post was originally published on Columbia Regional Business Report

posted by Teresa Coles Oct 19,2016 @ 05:14PM

On Riggs. CreateAthon. And more than a little grace.

Twenty-nine years ago today Cathy Rigg said enough. Enough to mediocre thinking. Enough to creative short cuts. She left her job on a Friday, bought a Mac SE with money from her grandmother, and opened up C.C. Riggs on Black Monday, October 19, 1987.

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What a little vision and a lot of believin' looks like

There were a million reasons why this company would fail.

And yet, here we are.

Nineteen years ago, she and I wondered if there might be something more for our company. A higher calling, if you will. So we came up with the notion of pulling an all-nighter to help nonprofits that couldn’t afford professional marketing.

There were a million reasons why this idea would fail.

And yet, here we are.

So what matters in all of this? What have these markers in our collective history taught us about our work, our lives and each other?

Consider it all joy.

On this birthday of Riggs and the eve of CreateAthon 19, I’m mindful of the cords of grace that have bound us over the years. The unspoken covenant that held us together when we just didn’t think we could do One More Thing. The willingness to listen generously to each other’s point of view in order to solve the unsolvable. The abiding sense of teamwork that pulled us out of chaotic seasons and returned us to a place of peace.

I'm grateful for every one of these challenges and foibles. They are testament to both our humanity and to what can be accomplished when we uphold each other in pursuit of something that’s bigger than any one of us.

Riggs Partners hasn’t been in business for 29 years because we’re smarter than anyone else in marketing. CreateAthon hasn’t delivered more than $24 million in pro bono service because we came up with the idea first.

It happened because we had faith in each other. And we knew that by standing as one, there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish – even if it wasn’t always perfect along the way.

Tomorrow morning, CreateAthoners will walk into the WECO building and breathe air that is electric, inspiring and humbling. We will bear witness to our very best selves. And we will see that as much as our CreateAthon clients may benefit from our gifts, the joy we receive will be tenfold.

That, my friends, is more than enough to say grace over.

posted by Teresa Coles Oct 13,2016 @ 04:34PM

24 hours, 24 dollars. That’s all it takes to change the world.

This time next week, we’ll be burning the midnight oil over at Riggs Partners during CreateAthon 19. It seems like only yesterday that we pulled our first all-nighter for good, working 24 hours nonstop to deliver pro bono marketing projects for nonprofits and the important causes they represent.

As you may know, CreateAthon has grown organically and exponentially since we founded the program. We’ve served more than 150 different nonprofits in South Carolina. Plus, we’ve recruited more than 100 different marketing groups throughout North America as CreateAthon partners, all of whom have hosted CreateAthon events for nonprofits that otherwise would not be able to afford professional marketing services. To date, the program has delivered over $24 million of pro bono marketing service to the nonprofit marketplace.

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What you may not know is that CreateAthon has recently become a national 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization. Moving forward, the goal is to generate $100 million of pro bono service to nonprofits by 2020. That’s a big calling, and it needs human and capital resources to make it happen.

That’s why we’re asking for your consideration in pledging $1 an hour for each of the 24 hours our team will be working during CreateAthon next week. All of the proceeds will go to helping us bring more CreateAthon events to nonprofits in the US and beyond.

To pledge, just visit the RP Power of 24 fundraising page. You may choose to make a gift directly from this group page or make separate pledges on behalf of your favorite CreateAthoners!

Thanks for your ongoing support and encouragement of our efforts to serve nonprofits through CreateAthon. Together, we’re putting creative super powers to work in some pretty remarkable places!

 

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