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Volunteer of the Year: Kait Miller, Sammons Retirement Solutions

Posted on 06/06/2019 at 1:00 PM

Each year, the AMA Iowa Board of Directors nominates fantastic volunteers from the past year for the honor of Volunteer of the Year. This year, we are pleased to announce Kait Miller as the winner of this award. 

Kait is a Marketing Strategist at Sammons Retirement Solutions in West Des Moines and served as the Communications Lead for the 2019 NOVA Awards. Her experience with copywriting, project management, development and execution of marketing plans, corporate communications and social media was a huge asset to the committee and helped us attain record attendance at the event.

As one of the largest events of the year, the NOVA Awards require a considerable communication effort. From calls for entries, finalist announcements, and People’s Choice Award voting online, to deadline reminders, registration invitations, and winner announcements, Kait organized and managed the content calendar and executed everything in a timely and organized manner. This included emails, social media posts, and press releases that she coordinated through our board members and PR sponsor, Hanser and Associates. In addition to her communications duties, Kait regularly attended committee meetings, where she actively provided ideas for the event and always offered a helping hand to her fellow committee members.

“This is a huge amount of work, and something Kait enthusiastically took on and completed without hesitation,” said Christy Gooding, AMA Iowa Immediate Past President and NOVA Awards Co-Chair. “We couldn’t have done it all without her.”

Kait was recognized at the luncheon on June 5 and was presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award. A big thanks to Kait for all the work she put in this year!

Want to send well wishes? Send Kait your congratulations today! 


AMA Iowa Recognizes Top Marketing Talent in the State; Names Marketing Executive & Marketer of the Year

Posted on 05/28/2019 at 8:27 AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (May 10, 2019)—The Iowa Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Iowa) held its 14th annual NOVA Awards on Thursday, May 9 in downtown Des Moines.

In addition to recognizing the top marketing campaigns completed in 2018, this year’s AMA Iowa’s awards also showcased top marketing talent working in Iowa’s businesses and organizations. With two new award categories, Marketing Executive of the Year and Marketer of the Year, this 2019 addition to the awards allowed for individual recognition of those making a significant impact on their company and the community.

Through a reciprocal judging agreement, a panel of marketing professionals from the AMA San Antonio Chapter judged all categories for the 2019 awards. Top award recipients in each NOVA category include:

  • Advertising – ZLR Ignition, Wellmark-Medicare Campaign
  • Copywriting – Indigo, Indigo Premier Brochure
  • Direct Marketing – Sammons Institutional Group, Inc., Tax Season Care & Safety Package
  • Integrated Marketing Campaign – OBI Creative, Cobalt Credit Union Rebrand
  • Interactive Marketing – Bank Iowa/Lessing-Flynn, Bird’s Eye View – Bank of Iowa
  • Marketing Communications – Sammons Financial Group, Midland “MVP Playbook”
  • Marketing Department of One – ASI/Signage Innovations, Reflections Campaign
  • Marketing Research – Sammons Financial Group, Empowered: Women and Retirement
  • Non-Profit Marketing – OBI Creative, Nebraska CASA Campaign
  • Public Relations – Vermeer Corporation, Vermeer Corporation Survives the Storm and Comes Back STRONGER THAN EVER
  • Small Budget Campaign – Sammons Institutional Group, Inc., Tax Season Care & Safety Package
  • Special Event – Iowa Finance Authority, Flock to the Block
  • People’s Choice Award – Goodwill of Central Iowa, Styled by Goodwill
  • Best of Show – Iowa Finance Authority, Flock to the Block​​​​​​​

Marketer of the Year was awarded to Abby Delaney, Digital Marketing Manager at Bankers Trust. Receiving this award,​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ which recognizes one up-and-coming marketer who shows potential to shine as she rises in her career, is a testament to the “h​​​​​​​igh volume of high-quality work” Abby produces for Bankers Trust. She leads a variety of digital campaigns and projects, all positively contributing to the bottom line. Because of her work in marketing automation and digital advertising campaigns, Bankers Trust is now able to run… “consistent, regular email touchpoints with all customers, customized to the individual based on their current bank relationship and anticipated future needs,” said her nominator.   

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Marketing Executive of the Year Award was created to honor one individual who inspires, leads, and achieves excellence in the field of marketing, and has contributed significantly to the region’s marketing community. At the 2019 AMA Iowa NOVA Awards, this achievement was given to Emily Abbas, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Bankers Trust. 

In her time with Bankers Trust, she has built a highly-functioning and fast-paced marketing team. Most recently, her team launched a new “Bankers Trust Difference” branding campaign and an updated website. Her team has also done tremendous work in documenting personas and customer journey mapping for all customer segments and has created advanced marketing automation systems to drive business results. 

In a recommendation letter, her team wrote, “Emily is a leader who encourages collaboration and creativity,” stating she “has helped shift our Marketing and Communications team’s role from order takers and brochure makers to consultative, strategic partners for our business units.” They added, “she inspires the people around her to be better” and continually “motivates everyone around her to reach higher. She achieves results and shares her successes.” 

Visit for a full list of award recipients.

Balancing relevance versus privacy: The state of data in email marketing in 2019

Posted on 05/24/2019 at 1:00 PM

Q & A With Jessica Best – June Luncheon Speaker

On June 5, Jessica Best will join the AMA Iowa Chapter to share her perspective on data and email marketing and how we, as marketers, can become more relevant and leaders in privacy and protection for consumers. To get a glimpse into her journey into the email marketing world, we asked Jessica a few questions before her presentation. 

Can you give me some of your professional background? How did you get to where you are today?

I started out as an elementary education major but then switched and became a Broadcast Journalism major at Mizzou. After college, I learned on that degree as I became a content writer for email and social. At some point in time, I became really interested in digitally-based content writing and was really intrigued by data-driven tactics. I was able to see which blog post got the most views or which emails got the most clicks. That’s where I really started to build the foundational knowledge for data-based marketing. Now, that seems archaic, but the big deal with me was that I loved that was able to use data to drive and inform things.

Before I came to Barkley, I worked for an email platform called emfluence for seven and a half years. Everything that we did there was data-driven — for example, most of our clients’ emails included variable data or some kind of dynamic content, creating email sends based on what someone is interested in. For me, that was the next step in data-driven thinking.

When I came to Barkley I started out as the Director of CRM or database-driven marketing. That position was quickly relaunched and evolved into a broader definition of Data-Driven Marketing of all kinds. The idea with that evolution was that all marketing should not only be data-informed (analytics and metrics optimizations), but also data-driven (meaning data that drives the timing of emails, like automation).

Now, as VP of Data-Driven Marketing, I get to do to anything in data and marketing. This includes partnering with our media team and talking about how we use data to execute programmatic buying, lookalike modeling or other things like that. My eyes always light up when I talk about the ability to make something automated or make it more relevant by incorporating the data element. I love the full channel planning, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for email marketing, where every send can be personalized for everyone on your list.

Why are you so intrigued by email marketing and data?

I have an insatiable desire to have the answer to things. I want to know what someone needs, what they think, how they are feeling and when they need it — and all of that is in the data we collect as smart marketers. I love to be able to “read someone’s mind” and be the most relevant and most useful resource when it hits their inbox, hopefully, right when they need it. I don’t want to be spam. So, I think my love of email comes from the fact I have the power of knowledge.

How has email changed in your time as a marketing professional?

In some ways, it hasn’t changed at all — but the big changes that I have seen are pretty cool, like mobile-optimized email marketing, for example. In today’s best designs, there’s lots of white space with big call-to-action buttons, and everything is optimized for 300-pixel-wide screens. Before 2012, most emails were a compilation of text and links. Now we can send very visual content, with rich images and in some inboxes even a bit of motion.

In the past couple of years, data connections are getting stronger, and social media has turned to video-rich content, so email marketing is trying to play a little bit of catch up. Unlike social media or even websites, email has the challenge of trying to make content work across forty different types of inboxes! Outlook won’t play a video or even an animated GIF, but we can try fun things like those for our Gmail and Apple Readers, as long as we have a graceful option for our Outlook readers to see instead. And usually it’s worth trying: rich media, dynamic content and personalized data have made a significant difference in email marketing.

Your presentation topic is focused on “Balancing Relevance vs. Privacy: The State of Data in Email Marketing in 2019” — what does this mean for marketers and what should they expect?

It’s ever-evolving, to be honest. In 2018, we saw the first implications of GDPR in the EU even though GDPR was passed into law years ago. It took effect on May 25, 2018: I remember that day because I was in Spain teaching a class at the time. When it happened, a fair number of U.S.-based newspapers had to shut down their sites in the EU because they hadn’t been ready to offer an option NOT to track site users’ behavior. During my time in the EU, I saw a bunch of sites requesting for permission to opt-in, while other sites were basically saying “We’re not ready for GDPR yet, come back later.”

At the time for U.S. marketers, GDPR implications didn’t necessarily apply if they didn’t have customers who might be EU citizens. However, just three or four months after the roll-out, California perked up and kind of said, “Yea, we’ll also have one of those.” So, then we started to see the beginnings of the California Consumer Privacy Act. I think we’re closer to see this level of privacy expectation in the U.S. than we hoped as marketers.

Here’s the truth of it though: If you just ask a user, “Do you want this company to have all of this data about you?” They are going to say no, that should be private. If you ask a user, “Do you want me to remember you, your order or your credit card for the next time you buy something?” They’re likely to say yes for convenience. There’s a big difference between people wanting their privacy philosophically, and giving them the choice for how they want their data to be used. Data makes things more relevant and convenient, so as long as you make it their choice -- and make it clear with what you are going to do with that data -- most people will opt for the convenience to give you a little bit of that data as a trade.

In the U.S., we’ve historically been self-regulated. The data industry has always said that as long as we’re responsible with data and provide a benefit to the end-user, we won’t put the handcuffs on you. We’ve been keeping ourselves in check, holding ourselves to a high standard.

Now, we’re probably looking at some legislation in the coming near future — California has already taken the first step. In the U.S., we’ve almost forgotten the data breaches of the last couple of years, because we [American citizens] are still willing to trade data for convenience, entertainment, or use-of-platform. I don’t think we should wait for legislation; marketers need to be the leaders to continue on the path of self-regulation of what we need to do to maintain permission.

What is the primary point of information you’d like to share with folks attending your presentation? Who should attend?

What data versus privacy means for a company is one area that marketers – and frankly accounting and legal teams – of all levels are truly afraid of and unprepared for. If you ask marketing professionals “Are you GDPR compliant today?” About a third still don’t even know what that actually means in practice.

If you’re considering attending, ask yourself how well you feel you have a handle on what privacy expectations are of your consumer today? Do you feel like you know what restrictions are and what the reasonable use of data is? There’s a lot of confusion about what’s legal and illegal under U.S. law — for example, distinguishing what is the law versus what current “best practices” are. A lot of marketers have for years said “I want to collect all the information I can now in the case I need to use it later,” but there’s a fine balance of what you actually need in your marketing database to make your message effective.

>> Want to see Jessica in-person and join the conversation? Sign up for the AMA Iowa June luncheon today here.

Hitting a Home Run with Digital Content: A Look at the Chicago Cubs’ Rise to the Top with Kevin Saghy

Posted on 04/30/2019 at 1:48 PM

Q & A With Kevin Saghy – May Luncheon Speaker

When the opportunity for his dream job opened up with the Chicago Cubs about ten years ago, Kevin Saghy jumped on it. As a fresh marketer at a time when brands were just starting to utilize social media, it was the perfect fit. On Wednesday, May 1st, Kevin Saghy will share his experience while working with the Chicago Cubs – not only on the tactical social media strategy that brought the team’s presence to the top of the league but also the fun, behind-the-scenes work environment with the legendary baseball team. 

Can you give us a preview of your professional background and how you got to your position today?

I came from a marketing communications background and started out at a PR firm, Ketchum, my first three years—financial, corporate, you name it. Several brands we worked on at the time were using social media for the first time such as Kellogg’s and Best Buy.

When the Cubs job came open, I had the experience they were looking for both in traditional PR and social media. Essentially, we launched their presence on social. We had a strategy in place, but we weren’t where we wanted to be as a brand, so we hired a social media agency to look at our strategy and how we could better support the business. Ultimately, that helped us grow from average to number one in the league—which we’ll talk about during my presentation.

After eight great years with the Cubs, I wound up having to juggle the tough schedule with my newborn daughter, which became tough. First and foremost, I needed to be a good dad, so we moved closer to family in Ohio. Now I’m almost a year-and-a-half in as the Senior Director of Social Media for The Ohio State University.

Your presentation topic is titled “Hitting a Home Run with Digital Content: A Look at the Chicago Cubs’ Rise to the Top”. What does this mean for today’s marketers and what should they expect when they attend?

I’ll touch on how to integrate marketing communication efforts to better support their business. A lot of what I worked on [with the Cubs] was specific to social media, but I will talk about how it will expand into other marketing areas that we have to also dedicate time to as marketers. We’ll talk about what that build out looked like at the Cubs and how that helped us build a smarter business.

It’s fun for me to revisit these memories at the Cubs, so we’re going to talk about the “fun stuff” as well. I’m happy to answer questions about working for the team.

What is the primary point of information you’d like to share with folks attending your presentation? Who should attend?

The flexible framework we are going to talk about will be applicable to different industries and business models no matter what the goals. Just because this is focused within sports, doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to other folks in the room. Even at the Cubs, a lot of the goals changed throughout the time working on social media and utilizing this same framework and principles, we were able to keep moving up.

As far as who should attend, this isn’t just for Cubs fans. Anyone within marketing and communications across a wide variety of industries would benefit from hearing about the framework and process we went through. Senior-level folks who are in positions critical to driving change in their organization would truly benefit from these insights, but anyone can learn from a foundational framework such as this.  

How has social media changed in your time in the marketing field?

It has changed in a number of ways, but really, social media drives the news cycle now. It went from this thing that we needed to fight for attention and to prove the work of social media. Now it leads a lot of the communication efforts and it’s how people consume the news and information. Tactically, the platforms have also changed so much. It puts us in the position to learn in real-time to help increase your reach. It’s a challenge, and a fun one if you’re up for it because there is constant change in this space.

About Kevin Saghy

Prior to joining The Ohio State University in his current role as senior director of social media, Kevin worked for eight seasons at the Chicago Cubs, most recently as assistant director of communications. Kevin was responsible for promoting the club’s business
and community initiatives through integrated communications channels, including the overall direction of the team’s social media strategy and reporting. Kevin led cross-functional strategic planning, collaborated with corporate and community partners, and served as a team spokesperson to local and national media.

Under Kevin’s leadership, the Cubs’ social media team was nationally recognized for its compelling content, entertaining voice and focus toward personal engagement, including the most total interactions with fans on Twitter among any Major League Baseball club. In a 2017 social engagement study released by SportsBusiness Journal, the Cubs were recognized as the top-performing baseball team, and the only MLB club ranked among the top 25 global sports organizations. 



You Need to Think About Key Messaging – Here's Why

Posted on 04/16/2019 at 9:37 AM


Key messaging is all about creating a strategy (with an accompanying document) to use as a quick reference guide for communicating about your brand. This is not about creating a catchy tagline or an advertising headline. This is meant to be an overview piece to be used internally and with external partners to help ensure your brand is providing consistent messaging in marketing campaigns and more.


A good key messaging document includes:

  • Positioning statement – Think of this as your brand’s elevator pitch. How do you describe what you do for your customers in two sentences or less?
  • Personality – Try establishing four to five personality traits you’d like your brand to emulate and incorporate those traits throughout the document.
  • Target audience – You don’t have to go into great detail, but provide a general framework of the audience you are trying to connect with. If you want to go above and beyond, you can develop key messaging in conjunction with persona research and create messaging specific to each persona.
  • Differentiators – What makes you different? If your sales team or spokesperson can’t answer this question quickly, they won’t be effective.

The real key? All of this should fit on one standard piece of paper — this should help you stay concise and be direct in your messaging (and make it easy for employees and others to print it off to hang at their desk).


It can be intimidating to just sit down and try to write key messaging, and that isn’t even the best way to do it. Start by spending time talking to others in your organization, including leadership, customer support and sales, to identify what they think makes the company unique. If available, you can also review your organization’s mission and vision, past customer research, as well as reviews and feedback. Starting with research will help your resulting key messaging be effective and, more importantly, accurate to the customer experience.

From there, venture into your target audience and brand personality sections. Once you’ve got alignment on those pieces, the positioning statement, differentiators and any other key messaging can be developed.

>> Download Lessing-Flynn's Key Messaging template to get started!


While Laura Plumb debuted at Lessing-Flynn in 2013 as a public relations intern, she has since evolved into a strategic digital marketer. Using her serene personality Laura tackles countless projects with calm precision. She’s also known for her penchant for discovering new techniques and platforms — you might say she keeps us “in the know.”

Lessing-Flynn was founded in 1907, some eight decades before Al Gore got around to inventing the Internet. But Lessing-Flynn, in the spirit of its brilliant and/or crazy founder, continues to use powerful storytelling and savvy marketing strategies to help bra​​​​​​​nds and entrepreneurs in agriculture, construction, financial, insurance, health servic​​​​​​​es, tech and other industries grow their business.​​​​​​​

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