Education

It’s a Get It Done Thing.

It was pouring rain, loud on the tin roof. I could barely hear the drill in my own hand as I forced the last two-inch wood screw into the transition strip that lay between the kitchen and living room floor. I heard the crunch of gravel once, twice, three times. “Must be everyone on time” I chuckled to myself. No one in Blue Ridge shows up on time. It’s the mountains, and this was a Monday morning. I’d scheduled the electrician, the HVAC guy, and the WIFI technician for exactly the same time on a Monday at nine because that’s when I could be there, and being there is important. It’s not a control thing; it’s a get it done thing.

My cottage is 625 square feet. On the outside it looks like a cabin, dark brown, round logs, green tin roof, screened and covered porches. On the inside, a cottage. Small, quaint, gray painted floors. It sits on an internal peninsula that leads to the lake. All lake house owners and guests must pass by the cabin as they turn into their steep driveways to mountain laurel and cool, deep, healing water.

The cabin is tiny, and it is not on the lake. It has a lake view, and it is HIGHLY VISIBLE, which is why, as a property, it is so valuable. To me.

The story of “Critter Cottage” has a timeline as long as a branding campaign with almost as much construction, IMG_7843redevelopment, and angst. It started when the previous owner rented it to really bad people. I could use a thousand words to describe these tenants; instead I’ll let the photo paint the picture for you.  This was their front porch.

Hoarding was not their worst quality. Sewage from their septic ran down the road, they harbored a fugitive, burned their garbage, got drunk and fired off guns, hung confederate flags for curtains, and sub-let the cabin to random strangers while they did their time in county jail.

When I began my campaign to buy the cabin, fear was not my motivation. Value was. The owner of that “Critter Cottage” was messing with the experience and property value of every single person who lives on that point. Want to sell your lake house on Elizabeth Point? Your prospects must drive past a literal dump first. Want to sit on your porch at night? Be willing to inhale the wafting scent of burning plastic.

No need to elaborate. After a year-long, monthly arm-twisting of buyer (my husband) and parallel manipulation of seller (anonymous), we finally bought the cabin.

It wasn’t in the budget. Not even close. And we bought it “AS IS.” It’s possible we would have to tear the whole thing down. I promised I would do it all. I would remove, clean, paint, contract, improve. I would make it all happen, and I promised it would work. This was my big project, tiny budget, tiny house.

So now I’m standing in my tiny kitchen talking to the WIFI guy about how I go about changing the 20-character password to something simple like “Critter Cottage,” the electrician is pulling down wire off the front porch, and the two HVAC guys are setting up their ladder to the attic where they’ll level the furnace to fix the ceiling leak. I can’t do any of those things, so I have to prioritize, wait for when I can afford it, and ask for help.

In this specific case, I’m using my loud, more southern than usual voice because it is pouring rain on the tin roof, and I need to connect. Here’s why: the lights flicker, flicker, and with a click, they are gone. Power is out in my tiny cabin, and I’m there with four men doing three jobs, all that require electricity. I have this one day in this one month to be here to manage and control the quality of this project. And to make sure it gets done.

What do you do when the lights go out? You do as much as you can.

This is the story of a Marketing Director.

I’ve consulted at numerous schools and businesses where they struggle with marketing because no one is really in charge. It’s a Venn diagram of people in different departments who dabble here and there, connected lines but blurred responsibilities.  It’s the graphic designer Marketing Director, the Admission Associate Marketing Director, the Webmaster Marketing Director, the communications team Marketing Directors, the parent volunteer who likes photography Marketing Director, the social media intern Marketing Director…

So what I always ask is: where is your GENERAL CONTRACTOR?

That is what a Marketing Director is—a contractor, a project manager, a persistent person willing to gently (and sometimes not so gently) push, pull, and gather…to build. Building the story requires multiple tools, some the Marketing Director holds and some she does not.

There are four successful Marketing Directors in my immediate family: my sister, my mom, and me. My daughter is studying Marketing at Emory so I’m adding her in too. She’ll direct something one day for sure. What all have in common is we like to learn and do. We connect with people and know when, where, and how ask for help. We have a passion for lists and task completion, and we are obsessed with value and quality.

Often schools and businesses miss the mark on hiring for marketing. They throw someone into that role because he/she seems creative or knows how to make videos and manage social media. You don’t have to be an artist, writer, designer or a Millennial to be a good Marketing Director. In fact, I’d argue none of those attributes are the most valuable to success in this job.

Persistence, organization, initiative, and interpersonal (motivational) skills are mandatory. Getting what you need, culling through resources, managing multiple tasks, and learning to do the work yourself…these are the qualities that make a Marketing Director great.

When the lights go out, you have to convince the electrician to stay and pull down the wires even if he can’t reconnect them, you find a battery-powered lantern for the HVAC guys in the attic, and you stall the WIFI technician with questions about passwords until things get quiet, the refrigerator fan clicks back on, and the lights brighten your workspace just in the nick of time. And then you get out your paintbrush and finish the wall in the laundry room you left unpainted the last time you were there.

Here’s “Elizabeth Cottage” before and after.

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