Portfolio: Creative Brand Development

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Sometimes a business or organization is trying to play catch-up or needs to develop new marketing from the ground up. They may or may not know what they need to re-invent their brand. Or they may know what didn’t work, and need to revamp. This is where creative brand development comes in. (Or as I like to call it – having ideas that translate to Achievables.) 

 I love the creative development side of what I do. Here’s one of my favorite projects of all time.

 The Finger Lakes College Foundation Visiting Scholars Series
with National Geographic


Finger Lakes Community College is a SUNY two-year college with four-year-university advantages, abilities, and vision. Their development & foundation department created a speakers series, invited a celebrity as speaker, and hired a large agency to do the marketing and PR. Let’s just say – it was not given the attention they paid for, and the speaker was a dud.

They took a step back to re-think the series. Two years later, the college decided to revamp it.

The event needed a fresh pair of eyes. They asked me to be the liaison on their behalf with the National Geographic Society, and do marketing and media for the event.

They invited Dr. Robert Ballard — National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, world-famous deep ocean scientist, discoverer of historic shipwrecks including The Titanic, inventor of submersible robotics, author – to spend the day on campus, giving two presentations: one to students and an evening event for the community.

I brought in an art designer colleague who created a poster for the event. Many mysteriously disappeared from the college walls — the poster was so spectacular. She also created design for the invitations, brochures, and an outdoor banner – far more than the college had in their first event.

To develop the stories and create pitches to the media, I did serious research on Ballard. This allowed me to integrate the background material, saving the Foundation staff’s time.

For 7 months, I worked nearly every day with my National Geographic contact, developing press releases, arranging a live 1-hour radio interview with Ballard and the local PBS station in between his sea expeditions; I wrote content for 2 brochures – one aimed at teachers, the other for the general public.

On the day of the event, I spent 15 hours with Dr. Ballard, coordinating the media for print and TV coverage and generally acting as the “familiar face” in making his day go smoothly. The day ended with a reception.

The event was such a success and a major PR boost for the college they repeated the event the next year with investigative journalist Lisa Ling – the first woman host of National Geographic Explorer, and former special correspondent for National Geographic and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Did I get to do the project for a second time? You bet.

I’ve been fortunate to have met and worked with some famous people (add Jack Nicklaus to that list). I’m even luckier to have worked with those who are first-class, fascinating, fun and all about bringing as much value to the whole project as possible.

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