Jessica and Melissa and I met at Shaws coffee last week. They both work in marketing for Mills Properties. Imagine a job where not only do you not get reprimanded for being on Facebook, it's encouraged. More and more companies are moving in this direction, but the majority have been slow on the uptake. Mills Properties must be ahead of the curve because these girls write a blog, tweet, post to Facebook, Instagram and create interactive contests for St. Louisans and the residents of their properties. The best thing, by far, was their rendition of the Harlem Shake.
Jessica and Melissa both didn't intend to go into marketing (aka fun) for a living. Jessica graduated with a degree in Animal Sciences in Champagne, Il but realized she didn't have the qualifications to take the kind of job she wanted. So, she started working in customer service at hotels, restaurants and finally, Mills Properties. That's when she began working with Melissa to do the marketing. Four years later, she's still having fun! So much fun, in fact, that she compares it to a relationship that you've been in for so long that you forget the anniversary (I've been guilty of that). So...after a little math, we decided its been about four years!
Melissa studied psychology for her undergrad and received her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Don't try to figure out what it means because I sounded pretty uneducated when I did! Her studies revolved around how people work and how to help them and the company become more efficient. Melissa did work in the field for awhile but after having to fire someone for the first time and crying, she realized this wasn't going to be her career. She'd done some event planning in college, so when Mills Properties asked her to take the marketing position in 2010 and spearhead this new department, she felt like it was a natural fit (she'd been with the company for about 4 years at that time).
Both of the girls feel like social media has been a huge help to the business. They feel it really makes them stand out from what a lot of other similar companies are doing, especially because they are so engaged.
All of us agreed that marketing should be a conversation between the consumer and the company, but we think this is a new way of viewing marketing. For example, their website and blog, reallifestl.com, gives their current residents ideas of things happening in St. Louis but also provides a creative and content-driven way to reach people who might not be looking for an apartment...yet.
Melissa really enjoys getting out of the office to do on-site marketing at events like the Earth Day Festival, Susan G Komen, and Mardi Gras. I think Jessica's favorite part of the job is dressing up in a chicken suit to do the Harlem Shake. I hear she's a pro. She also participated in the STL Improv no pants event on the metro-link (I know what you're thinking...she wore shorts with tights...which is cheating!).
We shared success stories of conversational, content-driven marketing successes we'd had. They held a contest where people submitted videos of the things they love about St. Louis to win an apartment. They received 18 incredibly well done videos that were voted on at a party they held. They also received hundreds of entries for the naming of one of their properties!
I shared my success with a contest for Branson, MO that brought in over 1,200 entries and helped Branson get an idea of how to fine tune their St. Louis marketing strategy.
The final thing we discussed, besides Jessica's adoration of Bobby Bones, was St. Louis. Melissa summed it up when she said that we're all St. Louisans, Mills Properties (and she and Jessica) are just using resources other people might not have to get the word out about the interesting developments that are happening here.
It was so much fun meeting these two!
Insights: I knew social media was important but talking to them gave me some ideas of how to use it in unique ways. They seem to have a social media plan that helps them navigate the different mediums while maintaining a consistent message, which is critical in all advertising.
When can I meet you for a free coffee?