image post 1Today is the fifth anniversary of Integrated Media Strategies. For many small businesses, surviving five years is a significant milestone.  For my company, the first year and a half was an Everest.  I'd left a corporate environment helping North Carolina develop a sustainable advanced biofuels sector to start up my company.  I needed the personal flexibility to support my wife whose breast cancer had returned.  I juggled the responsibilities of managing a startup with trips to the hospital for surgery, radiation, and pain management.  My laptop travelled with me.  I serviced clients on hospital wifi and from my Samsung Note.  When they sent her home, I set up a desk at the foot of her hospital bed in the living room to care for her and for clients scattered across the globe, collaborating with designers and data geeks in North Carolina and Australia in between catheters and tracking her meds.  She lost her battle against breast cancer, which had stalked her for the entire 13 years of our marriage.  I lost a friend, a counsellor, my book-keeper, and the co-founder of my business, and so much more. The struggle in the long, dark nights with little sleep while caring for someone for whom the stakes are so much higher teaches hard lessons that simply are not found elsewhere.

The tenacity I learned from my wife and from the process of caring for her around the clock in her final months is something that only my closest friends and family have known about.  But those values of going the extra mile and doing the little things that make the difference at three in the morning while giving meds weren't something I learned during crunch time. I won't pretend that I service clients with the same intensity of care as when I was her primary home hospice help.  But I do care fiercely that when I take on a client they will get the best service I can provide and that my work with them will be ethical. 

Working in communications strategy, tactics and implementation requires one to partner closely with clients.  You have to know what they are thinking and you have to know them well enough to speak with their voice; to emulate and shape their brand.  It is impossible to do this well without some immersion in their world, getting to understand their challenges, and partnering with them on solutions that are sustainable, cost-effective and practical.  I take pride that my company chooses solutions for marketing communications problem-solving that suits the company and the problem, not what is most profitable for my company.  The joke is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails.  Integrated Media Strategies has worked hard to grow its toolbox so that it is able to consider everything from billboards to advertising, from print to digital.  For most small businesses, digital offers the lowest cost-to-entry and sustainable impact.  But in the past five years, we've proposed and implemented solutions that include video Standard Operating Procedures; mini-brochures; website creation and redevelopment; improving business workflows and building branding across internal siloes; evaluation and troubleshooting; communications risk management; and a lot of content marketing tailored to the specific environment it addresses.  We've assisted a statewide advanced manufacturing workforce development initiative generating more than a billion dollars in new revenue in rural counties, along with thousands of new jobs.  We've been featured in a selection of best practices for economic development by the US Federal Reserve Bank. We've helped the telephone ring at small businesses as they've grown. And we've helped a local church grow their digital footprint, allowing them to punch a long way above their size.  These are just some of the areas in which we've been taken on and helped.

I've done a series of seminars in partnership with small business training and mentoring organisations, providing guides to take the mystery out of some of the best practices small businesses should be following with their marketing communications.  We've troubleshot underperforming websites and we've troubleshot and consulted on organizational practices and structures that got in the way of effective positioning. We've helped grant-funded initiatives and authors.

Perhaps a measure of who we are is that we have been retained by nearly all of the clients we've taken on.

So today, Integrated Media Strategies is celebrating five years.  Tomorrow, we will again consume ourselves with offering deep, ethical care to our clients and the most effective solutions for the challenges they face.


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