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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Um...I don't think I'm going to be any good at this." (How I was pressured into marketing by 60 women)

Ckcollege_reduced_3 Wanna know how I figured out "marketing" was to be my livelihood? It's embarrassing being it involves a sorority.

READER NOTE: A lot of negative perceptions surround "sororities" and "fraternities", and for good reason. First, they make a hell of a plot for a horror movie--so they're "bankable" in the entertainment biz. And second, a lot of them--depending upon university and members--can be very elitist. But the one I was involved with was a strong, supportive community, nothing like you see on TV. But if thinking that makes this post more interesting...go for it!

So I'm in college, in my sophomore year and my sorority is electing the next year's "Executive Committee". They're voting on different positions like President, Treasurer, etc. And they come to me as I was elected for some odd position titled "Membership."

To be sure, I did NOT nominate myself, nor did I really care such a role existed. I was enjoying my studies, crushing on college boys and loving everything about the undergrad experience, save the food.

And l reply, "You want me to be a 'Membership Chairperson'?" You need to understand, this was a role of honor, and it carried quite a bit of responsibility. And another thing to understand is that the women in charge of delivering this news were the "Seniors" so of course we looked up to them...after all they had two more whole years of college experience than we did (in college, two years is a lifetime being it's only a four-year experience).

And they explained, "You'll be in charge of creating all the programs to bring in new members; like all the events for rush week, our annual retreat, and the formal event."

And I'm looking around the Executive Suite that was plastered with huge composites of the last 50 years' of graduating classes--yes, this part was exactly like you'd see in a movie--and I'm thinking, "How in the hell am I gonna get out of this one? Are they on drugs? Is this a joke? Nothing...not a single thing...about this is good."

And then they said, "All the members have agreed it's the right decision. So you'll be in charge of marketing us!"

My concern in answering them was not so much the time commitment; I was 19/20 at the time so I had tons of energy. My concern was that I was going to be in a position where I had a responsibility to "create" things. What's more? While these were supportive friends, I promise you, be you male or female, you do NOT want to deal with the wrath of 60 ANGRY women if you screw up the membership role.

Especially being you live on the same campus with them.

So I went back to the committee a few days later, full of nerves and explained, "I am so sorry, I know this is an honor...but, um, I don't think I'll be any good at this."

And they explained,"We're not at all worried, you'll do us proud!"

And that's how it happened. All of a sudden I was tasked with this odd role and responsibility.

So that's when and how I figured out that I could actually "do marketing stuff." More to the point, I learned that I loved doing it. That said, I guess if they had elected me Treasurer I would have wound up an accountant.

PS: Yes, that is me in my sorority picture beaming like a total geek. Excuse the big hair but we were just coming off the 80s (taken in either 1989 or 1990).

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SO you knew what you wanted to do at 19? Wow, I'm 35 and still can't figure it out. OK, well I can, but I doubt the Red Sox really want to sign a 35 year old who can't hit or pitch to play for them at $10 million plus a year.

Hey Erik: I knew after a semester or two of actually doing it how much I enjoyed the process of creating the plans and developing the programs...and how very rewarding it was. Which is a good thing because it was a lot of work!

Hey, up until then I was double majoring in political science and philosophy...so it worked out. And I still love what I'm doing (well, most days ;-).

All of a sudden, a number of songs from the 80s resonate in my ears.......

It took me about 5 glances to realize that was you!

It's interesting how we all get into this- there's a coffee table book in there somewhere-- but it's not one of those jobs you play at when you're a kid.

And it's definitely not one of those jobs where anyone outside the industry has any idea what you do.

Ever.

Great story (and great photo)! And I am with Gia ... I am hearing a whole lot of 80s music in my head.

@Gia: Yep, we went from Go Go Girls to Grunge in what seems just overnight. (and I loved both eras)

@Toad: You should have seen me with a pixie haircut (like, military short I looked like a boy), or when I did one of those VERY, VERY bad Cyndi Lauper, shave one side, rebel hairdos. Not sure you would have recognized me at all. Such a dork...well, I still am. Yes, a coffee book. But now this picture is on the Web for all to see--and use against me.

@Gav: Let's see your college or high school photo. I know you were as fetching as now...did you sport a mo back then?

Fun story. Love the picture.

had you declared a major prior to this experience & if so what was it? i'm going to guess psychology.

Hey Brian: Gosh, psychology, can you imagine all the lost souls if I were a shrink? Oy ;-). I was a philosophy and poli-sci major. I was thinking I'd be a laywer.

Why? Cuz "L.A. Law" looked oh-so-dramatic and then I was told that most of my time would be spent behind a desk, not in a courtroom. But marketing found me--well, those girls pushed me into it.

Thanks for stopping by ;-).

I fell into p.r. at engineering school. I thought I wanted to be an electrical engineer, until I discovered it was all math. I thought being an engineer would mean tinkering with radios and stuff, which I enjoyed as a teen when I was into ham radio.

I switched majors to industrial management, but got involved with the school paper, where I became news editor, and the college FM radio station, where I became station manager. I realized media was my love, but I knew I didn't have the chops to be a radio DJ. I had done marketing and publicity for the radio station, and I enjoyed it, so I went on the get my MBA in PR, to learn more about the field.

The rest is PR history.

My college photo would have my then-black hair combed to the side, with really long sideburns. My glasses back then were the geek black plastic frames. At least the glasses weren't held together with a piece of tape, and I NEVER wore a pocket protector.

@Reich: Oh I know you were a stud (hey, ya still are). But...engineering?

No. I can imagine you taking things apart--but putting them together? Yikes! With PR, you've found your groove for sure. Thanks for this great story. If you get a picture I'll scan it for ya.

"That said, I guess if they had elected me Treasurer I would have wound up an accountant."

We have an ad around here that goes something like "No one in advertising ever said, 'Gosh, I wish I'd have become an accountant."

P.S. My wife is an accountant.

CK-I love the pic!

Everyone kept electing me to "market" as well. I was in the Business Professionals Association in high school and was asked to "promote and increase membership." Our adviser thought I'd rock at it. I guess it worked out. *smirk*

@Cam: Love the ad.

@Shama: How great a story--your team saw your future! Now I want to see the picture of you in high school (my high school pics shall stay locked in drawers. I swear I looked 12 until I was about 17).

I dont know if I am ever going to pull those 80s photos out of the album. Too frightening for words ;)

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