Amy Howell is the founder and driving force behind the Memphis based PR and Marketing firm that proudly bears her name. Howell Marketing Strategies has been successfully combining traditional and social media to offer integrated and effective marketing strategies for clients in Memphis and beyond since 1994. A transplanted Texan, we’re sure glad she claims Memphis as her home because she is one of our city’s biggest cheerleaders. Find out what makes her tick and and how she stays relevant in the ever-changing social media world.
How did your passion for marketing lead you to the world of social media?
PR and communications are all about managing information and consistent messaging. Social media is fertile ground for enhancing traditional media. I knew that if I were going to have a successful firm of the future, I had to be an early adopter and adapter of this space. Truly, I love social media. It allows small brands to have a big voice in the digital world, and that has helped level the playing field for organizations that don’t have big corporate resources.
How have you seen social media impact your industry?
Social media has greatly impacted the PR and communications industry; in fact, I believe it has been a game changer. It has allowed for an unfiltered message (that can be a double-edged sword, as many have learned) and can get a message out in real time, often in a viral way. If you are in crisis PR, you must be monitoring online at all times. The BP Gulf Oil disaster is a prime example of a tragedy that unfolded with both viral and social components.
Do you find that most people are willing to jump on board?
Most people are willing to jump on board now. Several years ago it was more of a challenge, but as I guessed, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are mainstream media now. Companies are benefiting from using these tools, along with the traditional ones, and these benefits are being noted and are also a source of new markets and ultimately, revenue.
You truly are on the cutting edge, and I love that you want to educate others on how to use these free social media tools to benefit their businesses. Can you share some tips with our readers who might be contemplating delving into the social media realm for their own business (or social) purposes?
READ, READ, READ all you can and find someone to watch and learn from. Three years ago when I was first learning Twitter, I watched and listened and read a lot of blogs about how to use social media the right way. There is a ton of great information out there now so it should be much easier for new folks to join the revolution. That’s what I call it because I think it is that significant. Never in the history of corporate America have we had such great opportunities. Technology leaps and the Internet have revolutionized the way we do business now and the way we will do it in the future. Companies that fail to use social and fail to invest in technology will die. I honestly believe this. But I’m off track now, so getting back to tips: Be gracious and engage. Social media is NOT about broadcasting but ENGAGING! Another great tip: Read these two books written by my good friend Mark Schaefer: The Tao of Twitter and his latest and very popular, Return on Influence. MUST READS!
What are your biggest challenges in staying ahead of the curve?
My biggest challenges are keeping up with the latest changes in existing tools, as well as new tools. The one thing you can be sure of is change, so if you aren’t using social media, you can’t expect to know how these changes and upgrades can help your business. Another challenge is knowing what to focus on and what not to. I think seasoned business people are perfect candidates for using social media because of their experience. Just because someone is tech savvy does not mean they are business savvy. Knowing what to say and what not to say in the social space is critical.
What are your tips for successfully managing family and business?
Managing a family and a business requires good help. I had a full-time employee who helped me take care of my kids during the day as babies and also helped me get laundry done. Her name is Ruthie and she works for someone else now, but we call her family and my kids love her. You also have to set priorities. People will suck your blood if you let them and I have learned when to say no.
Another tip: Hire only employees who are on your team and don’t tolerate mediocrity. That took me a while to learn.
Finally, shed the guilt. Moms feel guilty, but let me tell you, guilt is not productive. Instead, explain to your kids why you have to work and also involve them. Kids are great, creative thinkers because they are curious. I can recall a time or two when I’d ask them to help me solve a problem or help me think differently. I think when kids see their mom as passionate and successful, they see a good role model.
What inspires you?
New ideas, new ways of thinking about old problems, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking. Social media inspires me—I have met some of the most incredible people through social media and have had opportunities I would have never otherwise had. Seeing a problem and fixing it also inspires me. I often tell my clients not to tell me a problem if they don’t want me to fix it.
What has been one of your most favorite client projects to work on and why?
That’s a hard one because I am blessed to have so many great ones. All of my clients are tops and, more importantly, they are all innovators in their respective fields, so I’m surrounded by great work and opportunities. One of my recent favorite projects has been the re-brand and re-launch of Easy Way Produce in Memphis. Family owned for 80 years in our community, they are integrating social media as well as traditional media to tell their story, share their vision and hopefully expand into some exciting areas. I love working on projects aimed at earning market share or revenue development. When our clients are successful, we are as well.
What are your hobbies and how do you unwind?
I have a home on the Tennessee River and a wake-board boat that has pulled a lot of kids. I love teaching kids how to ski and wakeboard. I proudly take credit for teaching mine, yours and ours! I also love exercise and long walks. Lately I’ve turned into a gym rat. My son turns 16 in June, and I’m on a mission to be as fit as I can for my kids during their high school and junior high days. Not only is it setting an example but also I want them to be proud of their mom, and hopefully they are. My kids are also a huge inspiration for me. And, I love my yard and have no trouble with manual labor in it. I mow, plant, prune, water, rake, blow, power clean and love all of it.
Trips to Napa with my husband of 18 years and good red wine, anywhere in Italy.
Must have purchase for summer 2012?
Shedding extra pounds and getting into shape has been inspiring and motivational especially when trying on bathing suits! I’ll admit this: As I swim mostly in the Tennessee River with friends and family, I need suits that are economical and practical. I mix and match as well as I prefer a 2 piece any day. I order bra tops from Land’s end in black and white and then find the bottoms I like often at Target. I love Target’s suits and they have held up well during many a float trips on the river. Finally, I found a Juicy suit (it’s solid all black) at TJ Maxx the other day in my size and snagged it for $39.00. Rather than spend a lot of money for one or two suits, I go for variety at the bargain prices and at Target. Also, Target pays attention to the buyers and their designers rock!
Where do you take your out of town friends/family when they come to visit you in Memphis?
When people from out of town come to Memphis, I take them downtown always, and to Graceland, too. I’ve been there more in the last few years due to people from Twitter (who are now my friends) coming to town. A few of my favorites places are, of course, the Rendezvous, the lobby in the Peabody (a must), Gus’ Fried Chicken, South Main, Harbor Town (where I lived for several years before our kids) and Beale Street.
Favorite Memphis attraction?
Graceland and Memphis Zoo.
I can swim fast and for a long time when I train. Once I think I swam four miles without stopping; I did a triathlon once. I can also cook a mean spaghetti sauce.
What one word best describes you?
Assuming you ever have a spare moment to read, what books can be found on your bedside table?
Business books and Laura Bush’s book, Spoken from the Heart, which I am still trying to get to.
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God):
My new Jeep Wrangler soft top sport my husband bought me as a surprise, the Tennessee River and my iPhone.
Thank you, Amy! To find out more about Howell Marketing Strategies here: http://www.howell-marketing.com/
The lovely solo shots of Amy today were done by the talented Christen (Jones) Morrison. Check out Christen’s website here: www.christenjones.com