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Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

Don’t retrench. Self-assess.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Build an organization ready for a unified trip into the future. Prepare the hearts and minds of the junior staff to senior level managers during this terrible economic time. I wanted to share one of few bright lights in the economic darkness in today’s “Inside Higher Education.”

It is tempting to freeze hires and cut budgets, but now may not be the time. Adjustments are surely needed. We can learn now from the crisis of higher education endowments and from Bard’s president Leon Botstein as reported at Inside Higher Ed.

Name the programs that should prevail and grow them.  Everyone and everything cannot be treated equally. We can all take a lesson from the endowment debacles of most large universities and the announced plans to cut programs equally across the board.  Think about it: Given the sprawling nature of the large college or university, there may have been no other decision to take. Higher ed is not in the habit of differential treatment of valid programs and less-effective research centers or teaching programs. (Community colleges may operate differently, when current income is by necessity closely tied to program expansion or contraction.)

Set expectations. A college president who has always thought differently, Bard’s Leon Botstein is focused on the current endowment crisis. Importantly, he has already set an expectation within Bard about change and growth, although I expect this dynamic approach has earned detractors as well as supporters. I think Botstein’s wisdom pertains to nonprofits in the present moment. Just substitute “income” for the word endowment in the following:

Institutions should be going through programs, eliminating some, but building others — and spending their endowments to make institutions (themselves) more creative. Operating on the assumption that endowment growth or losses matter “ is a tragedy (says Botstein) that makes everyone risk averse.”

There are three “take away” messages here:

(1) Endowments gave false confidence during good times and promote growth for growth’s sake. As Botstein says, highly publicizing decline on endowment by wealthy institutions may backfire form them. Everyone knows despite the decline the institutions are still wealthy and can afford to be thoughtful about what next.

(2) It’s not possible to produce a responsive and creative leadership group mid-stream. Nonprofit leadership needs to start now to create a culture over time in which everyone buys in to effective strategies for change. Again, this may be a significant cultural change for your and your nonprofit.

(3) Today’s news of broad cuts is a cautionary tale about restricted funds and growth for growth’s sake. In the first case, take the example of creating a program to suit a particular donor) that may be related to mission but taken out of the context of the entire organization’s goals and revenue projections. 

Next steps? How does this translate to nonprofits small or large? Start now to:

-Make it safe for people to look at programs that aren’t working.

-Create ways re-deploy program directors and mid-level managers in shaping new priorities so people are more willing to shed old jobs or outdated roles.

-As the CEO or communications senior leader, be public and consistent in the ways you will encourage growth, self-assessment and change, and the best possible work within your organization.

On the marketing front - John Deveney (Deveney Communications) advises that during times like this, nonprofits can’t afford to miss the target: You must know your audience and carefully pick and implement the social media that will help you meet your goals. Shel Holtz interviewed John recently after he received PR News Nonprofit Award for his work on behalf of New Orleans.

Having done quite a bit of pro bono work on the Gulf Coast myself, I know that the recession visited the Gulf Coast at least three years ago. It takes optimism and creativity to pick ways to promote the city when so much mythology still circulates about its ability to “come back” Could there be a harder PR challenge?

To leave a comment, please double-click on title. 

Bev Freeman is a communications consultant to nonprofits and higher ed based in Boston, specializing in planning and implementation of communications strategies to support fund raising and visibility efforts. Her clients have included Harvard School of Public Health, The Harvard Humantarian Aid Initiative, MIT, Tufts, Oxfam America, Screening for Mental Health, and leadership organizations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (post-Katrina) where she has done visibility work, federal-state relations to keep federal sources of funds flowing to the area, and fund-raising for summer camps and mental health services. Prior to consulting, from 1991-1999 she was public affairs director at the Harvard School of Public Health and also special projects coordinator for Harvard’s provost. She was director of a national infertility counseling nonprofit, RESOLVE, Inc. for 8 years and also has experience in state-level social services.

Diane Schmalensee - AMA Boston Past President Interview

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

The history of marketing has always been a personal interest of mine; I believe we can learn a lot from reviewing the past history of marketing.

During my year as chapter President, I helped celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association; the chapter was started in October of 1940.

With this post, I am starting a series of interviews with Past Presidents of AMA Boston. My first interview is with Diane Schmalensee who was past president during 1983-1984. During my year as President I met with Diane and she provided a lot of good advice, and she has continued to act as a mentor to other incoming Presidents in recent years.


John: Welcome to the Past President’s interview. Perhaps we can start by you giving us a little of your background before the Presidency?

Diane: I joined the AMA in San Diego while I was in graduate school and quickly became head of membership (along with a fellow student). This was an outstanding way of meeting other members and getting connected. It also helped us get jobs!

When I moved to Boston, I joined the chapter there and held many positions in the organization before becoming president. I loved the camaraderie, learning new things at each meeting, and feeling part of the marketing community.

John: How long had you been volunteering with the chapter before you became President?

Diane: See above. I guess I had been volunteering for about 8 years or so.

John: I recall you had some interesting personal circumstances. How did you prepare for your chapter year?

Diane: I worked for the Marketing Science Institute, whose president was a past AMA Boston president and who encouraged us to follow our interests.

The biggest preparation as incoming president was to prepare an annual plan, complete with the big, hairy goal of becoming the best AMA large chapter of the year. I did that in August, and then had a late summer meeting with my team so that we could go over all of the plans and everyone’s role. It was a fun meeting as I recall, with everyone getting pumped up. After that, all I had to do was watch my team and help them when needed. After October or so, I was actually coasting.

John: Can you recall some of the highlights of the chapter year?

Diane: We made a LOT of money, which we badly needed. We did this by offering several conferences as well as our monthly meetings. We expanded our membership and increase our member retention. We started a networking group for young members and services, research and healthcare interest groups.

The workshops were our big money makers and brought a high level of education-content to the chapter. They usually consisted of 2 -3 speakers on a common topic and lasted half a day. I can’t recall the topics exactly, but we had a half day on research methods and a half day on internal and external marketing for service firms. The speakers were usually local experts (we have plenty here), but sometimes from out of town. If we held the workshops in conjunction with a dinner meeting, we were able to save money on the facility and negotiate better prices for meals. I think we had about 30-40 people attend these afternoon events and then would have them stay for dinner, which swelled the dinner audience to perhaps 100. Of course we always allowed plenty of time for networking during breaks and encouraged people to exchange cards with others there so they could benchmark or stay in touch later.

John: How did you run the chapter then, and how do you think it contrasts with today’s AMA Boston for changes in the industry?

Diane: Today I see the chapter being more focused on advertising and communications than we were then. This may reflect changes in the market. The Ad Club was very strong then, and we collaborated with them on sharing lists for appropriate events. So, our events were less about communications and more about research (about half our members then were in research) and issues such as new product development or internal marketing.

John: How did you communicate with members during your Presidency?

Diane: We had a printed newsletter that we mailed each month. We also had special mailings for our conferences and special interest groups.

John: Who were some of the friends and contacts you developed during your chapter year? Have you kept in touch?

Diane: I recall Chuck Comegys, Alden Clayton, Mary Lou Roberts, Tony Armor, Larry Gulko and many others. We were all good friends and I do stay in touch with some of them.

John: What has the presidency of the chapter meant for you on reflection?

Diane: It was a great chance to be a senior manager. I learned a lot.

John: What advice would you give to chapter leaders as they prepare for their new chapter year?

Diane: It’s best if you can hold other positions first and serve on the Board so you observe what other presidents do. Then, think about what you believe the chapter most needs and make that your goal for your year. Definitely have goals for your team.

John: Lastly, can you tell me more of your background since you left the presidency?

Diane: I have started my own market research and consulting firm, Schmalensee Partners, and feel good about how my clients have succeeded in achieving their goals with my help. I have continued my association with the AMA at the national level - serving on the Board twice, chairing several conferences, speaking at many conferences and now acting as the head of the national nominating committee. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of the AMA!

AMA Boston Board Meeting, March 11th @ 6pm

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Any member wishing to have a voice in the chapter is welcome to attend our monthly board of director meetings.  If you are a current AMA member and either want to participate or have an agenda item you would like the board to consider, then please write to president@amaboston.org.

-Steven Halling, President of AMA Boston 

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.