The Pros & Cons of a Virtual Conference for Community Engagement

Last month, ADG blazed the trail with Henderson County’s first-ever Virtual Conference, which coincided with a live event for Speak Out 2014. We brought together non-profit groups and childcare professionals from around Henderson County to discuss issues facing children in our area and brainstorm ideas to help them. At the end, we were exhausted, mentally drained, and satisfied that we had brought something new and successful to deliver results to our client. Now that it’s further behind us and we have some time to reflect, Erica has some thoughts on the pros/cons of putting on a Virtual Conference (VC), and what you should consider before doing one of your own:

An example of an exhibitor "booth" at the Speak Out Virtual Conference

An example of an exhibitor “booth” at the Speak Out Virtual Conference


  • The VC works well for a regional campaign, multi-state or even international network of people who want to gather around a topic and do so over a period of time, rather than gather together physically in a location.
  • A VC can be a great branding and messaging tool, as was the case with Speak Out 2014: delivering a broad message with multiple touch points and subjects, to a diverse audience.
  • The cost for attendees is minimal, other than their time, it’s simply logging on with internet access and enjoying an array of educational opportunities or options. It was also much cheaper to put on a Virtual Conference compared to putting on a live conference.

Missing: ADG Team Member

Hello? Is it me?

I could have said we’re hiring, but that’s just too predictable, right? Instead, I’d like to describe the person who’s missing from our team.

ADG is missing a fun, smart, motivated marketing professional.

The missing ADG team member…

  • has worked in the field for at least three years
  • understands deadlines and their importance not just to the client, but to our business
  • has a sense of humor
  • likes coffee – or at least the smell of it since there’s so much of it flowing in this office
  • works well with others
  • plays well with others
  • has great people skills
  • can make minor design edits, if needed
  • embraces an “all hands on deck” attitude when it comes to working at an agency
  • understands what “integrated marketing” means
  • can write copy
  • can write press releases and pitch emails
  • has an appreciation for good food – we eat a lot of that around here, too
  • would prefer to grow with our company, rather than outgrow it

If you’ve seen this person, let us know. We miss them and really don’t want to go too much longer without them. To make sure it’s the right person, please use this description. It will give you more information before you just start scouring the streets.

When you find the right person (and we hope you do!), please tell them to send their resume to, with Account Services Coordinator in the subject line. If they’re feeling really spunky, tell them to call us. Our number is down below.

Thanks for your help,


Image via Flickr.

How To Make Stress Your Friend

This video couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. ADG is still recovering from our biggest event to date – the Speak Out live & virtual conference that culminated in a live event this past Saturday. For the past few months it seemed like this was the event that would never end, or at least the one that would do me in. When you’re in the midst of stress and deadlines, it’s easy to succumb to the desire for it all to end, to crave those times of peace and ease.

This video gave me a new thought –  what if, instead of looking at stress like a disease that needs to cured, we embraced it as a tool for making ourselves, stronger, sharper and better? Given that our schedule at ADG shows no signs of slowing down, I’m going to choose the latter outlook.

This post was written by Caroline Livengood, Digital Accounts Manager here at ADG. She can be found on Twitter @carolivengood.

Big Growth, Wearable Tech, and Customer-Centric Marketing

2013 has been a big year for Allison Development Group! With January 1st just days away, we asked Erica to reflect and comment on the big moments from this past year, and what she expects to see in 2014.

What were the biggest changes for ADG this year?

Growth!! We experienced tremendous growth this year at ADG: in accounts, revenue, and staff. That’s a lot to handle for any small business; it was even more of a big deal when it was condensed into a six month span.

Thankfully, I had been hard at work on business planning for six months prior and had started to put systems into place and clarify roles. Understanding how to forecast flow was critical to keeping our heads above water. We use Basecamp for our project management tool. I can’t imagine working without it now.

What was the #1 lesson you learned in 2013?

The perfect storm of under staffing and a lack of systems hit me mid-year and reminded me that in order to grow this business to a sustainable level, I was going to need to put the right people in positions that encouraged personal and professional development. Together, we would have to start the arduous task of creating processes to make the business run more smoothly.

As a business owner, you simply can’t do it all. Find the best and the brightest, stretch yourself to make it work, and then get out of the way. Oh, and stop being so fluid; systems and processes really are your friend.

Is there any one campaign that you are particularly proud of?

We are blessed to have had so many wonderful clients to work with this year. It’s hard to pinpoint one over another, but I can point to moments when I just knew that the outcome was going to be outstanding.

  • The branding process for MountainWise
  • The first note I heard from Mac Arnold + Plate Full ‘O Blues at Thrive’s annual Bids & Blues event
  • The moment that the entire ADG team knew that Speak Out for Kids  could be more than just a one day event and instead become something truly innovative and special for an entire community.

I’m lucky to have had lot of those types of moments and they never cease to inspire and amaze me, always reaffirming that I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. That feels pretty awesome.

Any insights on marketing trends for 2014?

ff_wearables2_largeI have two trends that I’ll be paying attention to this year. The first is wearable technology. It’s seriously everywhere and will become a huge part of how all of us interpret our personal outputs: how much we sleep and eat or how much energy we expend. I’m not talking Google Glass here, I’m talking about functional technology that people are already using or wearing.

For marketers like me, I’ve long been in love with data and how to use it to produce measurable outcomes. Now, we’re all mining data; only this time, it’s from our bodies. If I eat peanut butter 10 minutes before my run, can I go longer? Faster? If I eat a banana instead, what does that do to my pace? If do none of the above and get more sleep, what can I expect then? The options for exploration are endless.

So goes the marketing ramifications. Privacy issues notwithstanding, the actual mindset or physical status of a person could now be available. Going beyond mere psychographics to actual personal profiles, marketers will be challenged to forgo the push notification and broad brush approach and instead recognize context.

That brings me to my second trend: contextual, customer-centric marketing. Read: not the lazy path marketing. Even though wearable technology may be WAY out there for a lot of folks, it represents that once more, the customer is in charge in this relationship. Until we truly understand what they want, how they want it, and when they want it, our marketing will not be as effective as it could be.

The shift in Google to secure search this year really did a number on a lot of us who relied on their Google Analytics to show keyword search. It shouldn’t have. The same goes for this month’s latest change at Facebook: a new Algorithm that made many a news feed take a deep swan dive in reach. Again, not a call to panic, but rather a call to marketers and businesses to constantly evaluate goals, understand their customers, and adjust accordingly. We have to be in tune and responsive to whims, trends, and human behavior, and adjust our marketing accordingly. Today’s marketing isn’t for the faint of heart or those looking for the easy way out. Marketing in 2014 is active, focused marketing. You better charge up that Fitbit now.

Is there a trend from 2013 that you’re ready to be over and done with?

Selfies. Stop the madness, people.

Do you have any resolutions for 2014?

To stop taking selfies.
To practice being in the moment.

What do you hope to see for ADG in 2014?

Continued growth, but not so much that we overextend or drop the ball on client projects. I hope to see my fairly new staff feel like they’ve been here forever and take on more and more leadership roles as we grow this business together.

Welcome to the New ADG Website

ADGIconFBWell, things certainly look a little different around here, don’t they? Welcome to the new ADG website, we hope you enjoy our new look as much as we do! With all the work we’ve been doing lately, it took us a while to finally put ourselves on the priority list, but we’re glad we did. Let’s take a look around at some of the changes:

New Faces

As some of you may know already, ADG has grown quite a bit this year. We’ve added new team members to better serve our clients. Please take a few moments to get to know the folks on Our Team, and learn about what they do here at Allison Development Group. I have to say that without a doubt, we have a fabulous group of people here. Our mission is to do meaningful work for our clients; these folks definitely get that. I know our clients would agree.

New Work

We’ve been so busy here at ADG that we’ve barely had time to catch our breath, and it shows in the impressive results we’ve been delivering for our clients. This year has truly been a record year, with an almost 140% increase in sales over last year. No wonder I’m tired! I’m also energized by the innovative projects that we have been able to work on and the new partners we’ve had the pleasure of working with along the way. If you’ve talked to me, you’ve likely heard about a few of these awesome projects, but if you haven’t yet heard, feel free to browse Our Work to see what we’ve been doing with Websites, Branding, and Media Campaigns.

Same Great Service

You know the saying about the cobbler and their shoes? Well, that’s what keeps us so busy. We help other cobblers not only cobble their shoes, but market them and sell them. Turns out, we’ve not always done a great job of marketing ourselves and the work we do. Being an integrated marketing and Public Relations firm is quite comfortable for us, but it’s not always something the public at large “gets.” In fact, they usually try to put us in one of several boxes: ad agency, PR firm, social media group, or marketing shop. What I realized is that I need to do a better job of telling people that we really do all of the above and if we can’t do something you ask of us, we’ll definitely let you know. First and foremost, we want to be your partner and provide comprehensive, strategic marketing and PR services.

We’ve always known what we are capable of, now we’re happy to say more people will too! Explore What We Do and learn more about our approaches to Brand Development, Marketing and PR/Media Relations. Once you do, let us know what ADG can do for you!

What to Learn From the New Chipotle Ad

I want you to think about two different scenarios. In both scenarios we have a parent trying to convince their child to brush their teeth.

Scenario #1: A parent explains to their son the reasons why brushing their teeth is healthier. They do this over, and over again. When that doesn’t work, they yell whenever they catch the child trying to avoid brushing their teeth. And yet they’re still frustrated when, after weeks of cajoling, the act of brushing his teeth is not a formed habit.

Scenario #2: Another parent reads a story to her daughter at bedtime. The main character is everything this child wants to be: well-liked, talented, smart, AND she just so happens to brushes her teeth regularly. There are other kids in the story, kids who get in trouble or aren’t as well-liked, and as you might imagine…don’t brush their teeth. Her daughter loves hearing the story, and wants to be just like the main character.

Now, who do you think is having more success instilling life-long teeth brushing?

Don’t Tell Me What to Do. Tell Me a Story.

You might be thinking this type of persuasion only works in children, but kids aren’t the only ones who want to be guided to a conclusion rather than forced there. They also aren’t alone in wanting to feel that they’re part of a group, specifically, the “right” group. Chipotle knows this. Qdoba, Moe’s, Baja Fresh, and many others are all competing to be the best Mexican burrito chain. They all boast fresh ingredients and healthy options, but with their new marketing add, Chipotle is heads and tails above the rest when it comes to communicating that message. Check it out below:

Video Link

This add captures what is so often missed in marketing: consumers do not want you to tell them what to buy, they want you to tell them a story. They don’t want you to rattle off a list of why your product or service is so much better than the others, they want to feel that your product is the better choice.

A synopsis of the ad:

In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.

Chipotle is barely mentioned in the ad. With the exception of a brief glimpse of a tortilla, there are no beauty shots of burritos or tacos for the entire commercial. In fact, the ad isn’t even for Chipotle’s restaurants, but for a new game. And yet, anyone with a soul is going to feel connected to Chipotle by the end of the 3-minute video. Chipotle’s message is clear: all those other restaurants encourage unnatural, factory farmed ingredients that promote an unhealthy culture, but WE are the kinder, natural choice. This is conveyed without the use of words or a list of facts.

The lesson to take is that although you might be able to rattle off acts and logical reasons that your product or service is better, the real way to attract customers is to connect to them on a deeper level. You have to reach beyond their mind and engage their emotions as well.

Know your customer. Tell them a story they want to hear.

It’s a Beautiful Day. Slow Down and Enjoy It.

Self Discovery

Tremendously cheesy, I know. Bear with me. I’m feeling sentimental today. I just dropped my son off for his last day of school as a 4th grader. That means one more year in the safety of the Elementary School world and one more year before I send him off into the world of (queue the menacing music…) Middle School.

I looked at H and seriously wondered, “where did the time go?” and “can we stop time just for a little while.” I must have said it out loud because with his trademark grin and twinkle in his eyes, he said, “no, Mom. I have a sleep over tomorrow night.”

Speeding through life…

What triggered all of this sentimentality for me was not just the ride over on the last day of school, but the music playing on the radio as we traveled.  It’s a Beautiful Day — the entire All That You Can’t Leave Behind album — was played over and over and over during my pregnancy with H, to the point that we had it programmed to play (loudly) as we drove to the hospital to deliver him. We really liked it.

I’ve always been in a rush. As a child, I was in a rush to get to school. As a high school student, I was in a rush to get to college. In college, I was in a rush to be “an adult” and begin my life. That tendency to speed through life sets us up to miss things. For those of us on the fast track, until we’re hit with a major occurrence, we don’t stop, or even slow down. We just keep moving forward.

…and Business

The same applies to business. Whenever we speed through client work to meet deadlines or to get it done, we inevitably make a mistake or miss something. Most of the time (95%, I’d say), it all works out. We’re known for doing a pretty darn good job around here. For me, however, that percentage of error due to speeding through is what bites. It stings. It stings so much, that we’ve now adjusted delivery schedules to accommodate an extra day of review, and putting into place triggers to remind us to double check and to get a set of eyes outside of our own to look at things. It’s worth it. The trick? Making sure everyone, especially the client, understands the importance of slowing it down a bit.

The System I’m Missing

If you were to ask anyone on my team lately what my latest focus is, you’d get a chuckle and the following:

  • systems
  • processes
  • jumping the chasm

I know I’m a nut job most of the time, but there’s one thing for certain: I value the quality of work that we provide and the skill set possessed by those who deliver it. I value it so much so that I’m indeed obsessed with systems and processes and making sure we’re air tight before crossing over from one level of business growth to the next (that’s the chasm – ask them, I have it drawn on our white board).

I know the systems for my business will get worked out and we’ll make it safely across the chasm. What I worry about even more? Making sure I develop my own system to slow down and soak it up. I want to also recognize that the interruptions along the way…the ones that make me stop my forward motion cold…are the ones that I need to value most. As I was reminded at church on Sunday, it’s in the interruptions that we find discovery. Absolutely.

Many of you know that I have been reminded of how precious life is lately. As a result, I am indeed trying to slow down and enjoy moments. My wish for all of us is this:

Welcome the interruptions that flood in some days and remember that most of the time, it really is a beautiful day.

Tales from the Field: Raising an Entrepreneur

Join me in welcoming our very own Autumn Thompson, Online Account Manager and all around chaos tamer at ADG. She has a very special story to tell about her daughter that I for one think is just awesome. I’m sure you will, too!


My daughter is quickly approaching the eight year mark.  As I look back at those fast fleeing years, I’ve always encouraged her to feel like she can do or become anything she wants.  Sometimes it doesn’t come naturally, like sports, but with hard work and practice, you can get there.   I try to indulge her creativity even when it is a struggle for me.  I tell her she can be the president, an astronaut, a teacher, yes, even a horse trainer.  But, I always wonder if she actually gets what I’m saying.  I encourage her to visit me at work.  It’s more than sitting at a desk.  I encourage her and her scout troop to talk to women business owners like Erica Allison, who graciously endured an afternoon of 20 brownies asking her about her business.  I encourage her to be inspired.  I’ve seen a spark lately that tells me she does get it.

They Really Do Listen After All

I have been invited to Africa this summer on a mission trip with Compassion International.  Before I committed to such a large undertaking, I had to talk to my family. They are more than supportive of my trip. My daughter wanted to make sure I brought her something back and of course, take lots of pictures! This sort of trip requires us to do some fundraising because of the expense involved.

The Spark that Sticks

My daughter decided she was going to start her own business. Her proceeds would go to help fund my trip.  We had many discussions about starting a business. What type of product would you sell?  Who is your audience? What costs are involved?  After much thought and a morning art class, she found her passion for duct tape wallets.  She recruited six of her friends to help her sell her wares. After a few days, she learned a valuable lesson on competition as the six friends decide to start their own businesses. They didn’t venture into duct tape but they are competing for the allowances of the other children.

As she gets more creative, she has evolved her line into pencil holders, tote bags, pens and hair bows. We have spent numerous hours together finding the right tape, contemplating on what will hold up and what will sell.  I encouraged her to name her business. After several days of brain storming, she thought of it: Sticky Fingers. She said “that’s because that’s what you have after dealing with duct tape.”


We’ve spent a few hours making signs and yes, a Facebook page. (I figure I might as well teach her about social media!) Granted, as the sole investor, I’m in the hole. But the life lesson my daughter is learning on how running a business isn’t always easy or glamorous is all the return I need on my investment.

Who knows, the seeds we are planting today might blossom into a world famous designer. I can’t wait to find out!


Autumn ThompsonAutumn can be found online via Twitter, LinkedIn, and the ADG Facebook page. She’s one tough “mudder,’ having killed it on the USMC Mud Run, crushed up some color on a Color Run, and pretty much killing it 5 days a week doing Cross Fit, running, or keeping up with her active daughter and husband. We’re lucky to have her here at ADG!


Before You Endorse Me, At Least Get to Know Me

LinkedIn Centipede Participants in the 2010 ING Bay to Breakers

At the risk of sounding ungrateful here, please, for the love of all things genuine, stop endorsing me on LinkedIn for things you’ve never seen or heard me do!

I know. That’s going to get me just what I asked for, right? All of a sudden my endorsements for skills that I should possess are going to take a nose dive. I’m fine with that. You know why? Because unless you’ve seen me do it, been the benefactor of the results produced by my work, or heard me speak, then don’t endorse me.