Heard Around the Agency

There’s always something exciting going on at SAM. Check out a few updates from our various departments below.

Production

  • The Production department celebrated the completion of Midtown Studio, located on the first floor of SAM’s headquarters. Due to flooding a few months back, some of the studio was damaged, giving us the opportunity to upgrade both the space and its equipment. You can read more about the studio redo in this article.

Media

  • Elizabeth Rodriguez, Casey Quattlebaum, and Liz Elder have been working on their Google Analytics Certifications. They have been training via Skill Path with Google. The training has consisted of 15+ hours per person. After completing their training, they will test. Testing is online and will take about an hour and a half each. This will be a huge accomplishment for both the department and the agency!
  • In personal news, Liz has an upcoming mission trip planned with her daughter. And Katie Reeves is heading out West this June. Sheila Grandy-Morrison has started baking again, and is in talks to begin supporting a non-profit organization via her culinary craft.

Accounting

  •  Bethany Alexander has been working with crochet and has an online shop where she sells various handcrafted crochet products. She also owns several chickens and is known to bring fresh eggs to share with the department.
  • Laura Dobbs is expanding her multilingual skills by studying French on her own.
  • Shelby Fields is learning exceptional time management skills by juggling completing her degree with full-time work at SAM.

Account Team

  • The team has been excited to celebrate Kelsey’s Plemmons’ recent engagement!

Digital

  • Rachel Blackerby is due to give birth any day now!
  • Erica Brock is getting married at the end of this month.

Launching #StrongTok

What began as an app for Gen Z dance challenges has turned into the most viral social media platform of 2022. Though it ranks as the sixth most-used social media platform globally, it was also 2021’s most-downloaded app. Its user base is rapidly expanding, taking hold of generations well beyond today’s college crowd.

Even more pertinent to us at SAM, TikTok has become a lucrative new platform for advertisers. Ads on the platform reach 18% of all internet users ages 18 and older. Consumer spending on TikTok increased a whopping 77% in 2021, totaling $2.3 billion.

SAM’s foray into the TikTok landscape serves two purposes. First, it gives our brand exposure to a new platform with a new audience. The video-only format of the app also lets us experiment with new tactics for sharing our brand story. Secondly, it serves as a sandbox for TikTok advertising, a feature the agency aims to roll out to clients in the near future. This represents an enormous opportunity for our clients to capture buyers in the infinite loop of purchasing.

Celina Leggiere has played a lead role in getting the company’s TikTok up and running, working with the Organic Social team to develop and execute the content strategy.

“I wanted to start STRONG TikTok to give SAM a new, fresh, and fun exposure on social media,” Celina said. “Running the account has been very fun and rewarding. It’s a nice break from the desktop, and it has been amazing watching staff from various departments come together to have fun with it. It has helped me grow creatively in more ways than one.”

Watch the Account and Join the Fun

TikTok is lighthearted by nature. If you’re interested in participating in some of SAM’s videos on the app, reach out to Celina for the next shoot!

You can see all of SAM’s TikToks here: https://www.tiktok.com/@strongautomotive

How to Refer an Employee

They say that birds of a feather flock together. That’s exactly why SAM encourages employee referrals whenever there are open positions to fill. Better yet, employees can cash in on these referrals – with a $1,000 reward for a successful hire.

Like any referral program, there are some limitations. This article discusses why the employee referral program exists, stipulations necessary to claim the reward, and why it’s set up this way.

Let’s dig in!

 

Why Offer A Referral Bonus?

To make the best product, you have to have the best talent. And recruiting a quality workforce takes a considerable amount of resources. Referrals have the advantage of being pre-vetted by an existing employee who can serve as both a reference and an ambassador of the company. Referrals save the agency time and money sourcing talent, so in return, employees are rewarded for helping provide quality staffing.

 

How Do You Qualify for the Referral Bonus?

Before encouraging a friend to apply, it’s a good idea to check out the official Employee Referral Policy. And please note, SAM no longer allows the hiring of relatives.

The company will pay a $1,000 cash bonus to the employee who refers a candidate that is subsequently hired if one of the two requirements below is met exactly:

  1. Employee sends the candidate’s résumé directly to the COO and hiring managers prior to the candidate submitting their résumé elsewhere.
  2. Candidate submits their résumé and lists the employee who referred them.

 

Examples

Let’s look at a few examples of how this could play out.

Situation 1: Somebody applies for an open position via LinkedIn. They have edited their résumé to include a line saying, “referred by [SAM employee name].” In that case, the employee is eligible for the referral bonus.

Situation 2: A person applies via Indeed using their Indeed profile. It’s the candidate’s standard résumé, not customized and no message included. An employee emails their manager later that day recommending the applicant. Here, the employee is not eligible because the application was submitted before the referral was given.

Situation 3: An employee emails the COO and hiring managers the résumé of a candidate to refer. The candidate later applies via LinkedIn. Now, the employee is eligible because they submitted the referral before the candidate applied.

If you want to be eligible for the referral bonus, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must communicate the referral before the candidate applies in any way. This ensures that SAM received the application due to an employee referral, not other job marketing channels.

When an employee referral works out, it’s great news for everyone. You’ve saved the agency time and money, earned yourself a bonus, and gotten your friend a job! By sticking to the referral policy, you can make sure you’re rewarded for the referrals you send SAM’s way.

Reaching a Multilingual Audience

When you’re in the advertising business, you’re always looking for ways to make ads more effective. We spend countless hours adjusting strategy, A/B testing, and researching to find the best targeting. But one of the simplest things you can do to increase an ad’s response rate is to serve it in your audience’s mother tongue.

SAM Reaches Multilingual Audiences

While English is the predominant language in the U.S., you may be surprised to learn that it is only spoken at home by approximately 78% of the American population. This leaves a double-digit number of Americans who could be better reached in another language.

SAM recognized this opportunity to reach car buyers in the language that is most familiar to them. One of the more interesting languages the agency handles is Navajo. It is spoken primarily in the Southwestern U.S., especially in the Navajo Nation. Currently, only one client – Amigo Automotive – uses Navajo translations in its advertising. SAM works with each of the market’s three Navajo stations to provide 30-second English scripts that are then translated.

In the past, the agency has also handled pieces that were translated into Asian Indian languages for specific New Jersey markets.

Working With Hispanic Advertising

Of the multilingual advertising SAM has been involved with, Spanish-language ads are the most prevalent. The Production department works with a Hispanic talent agency to facilitate the ads. Typically, the talent agency sends SAM audio to edit together with our graphics. Recently, the team has begun working with two Hispanic spokeswomen to market to Texas and Florida accounts.

After assembling a spot, SAM outsources proofing to a trusted ally named Mohana Shull. She has been a partner of the agency for several years, and she provides valuable insight into the nuance of the language. Mohana checks the regional influences, specific dialects, and unspoken communication tendencies for a certain market region. She also provides suggestions for spelling and punctuation on the graphics, as well.

Since the agency does not currently employ an in-house Spanish proofer, partners like Mohana and the Hispanic talent agency allow us to keep a tight grip on quality control.

Hear Examples of Navajo Ads

Are you wondering what SAM’s Navajo-language ads sound like? You can listen for yourself here.

“The Navajo with Amigo has been a new experience,” said Traffic Manager Andrea Kring. “They market to different parts of the Navajo Nation with different styles of presentation. One is county, another rock-n-roll, and one just straightforward talk. No matter the style of their radio spots, they all feel amazing to hear in such a beautiful, ancient language.”

Social Takes on Turkeys

Each year, Mike Shaw Toyota (MST) in Corpus Christi, Texas, honors veterans and military personnel. The dealership’s favorite way of saying thank you is by providing Thanksgiving dinner for those who have served. Turkeys for Troops is a signature event and a key part of the partnership between MST and SAM.

Like many other events in the past 12 months, things looked a little different for the 2021 Turkeys for Troops. Paid Social Coordinator Brad Price and Social Media Assistant Celina Leggiere traveled to Corpus Christi to represent SAM and manage social media promotion for the event. Both have been working on MST’s social strategy and have built a relationship with the client.

“This is the 5th year MST has done Turkeys for Troops,” Brad said. “They passed out gift cards instead of actual turkeys this year. People could use it to get a smaller turkey and pair it with a ham if they wanted, or pick up other Thanksgiving sides and supplies.”

For both Brad and Celina, this was their first time traveling for SAM.

“I was very excited,” Celina said. “I’ve been handling MST’s reviews and comments on social platforms, so I had already forged a relationship with Cory. It was nice to actually meet him and the rest of his team.”

During the event, the two set up a system for enhancing MST’s social media reach. Brad was inside the dealership publishing content and interacting with fans online, while Celina was on the ground capturing photos and videos.

The team focused most heavily on video and live content. The most successful post highlighted a car given away to a military widow.

“It was really impactful to see her be taken care of,” Brad said of the giveaway.” Her husband died serving in Iraq in 2015.”

In addition to video strategies, the team used countdowns and boosted promotional posts in the days leading up to the event. Brad and Celina also made sure to collaborate with the event’s sponsors by tagging the companies to increase social reach.

“My favorite part was getting to spend so much time with the client, and the experience of seeing how a dealership operates on the back end,” Celina said.

“There was constantly something going on the day of,” Brad recounted. “That’s how I like to live my life, constantly busy like that.”

More than just a learning experience, Celina and Brad’s work at MST improved the client’s ability to drive traffic. Facebook page views for MST increased 225% the week of the event. And the dealership’s website saw an 8% overall increase in traffic.

Great job to Celina, Brad, and all who helped make MST’s Turkeys for Troops successful in its fifth iteration.

A Flood of Changes for Midtown Studio

One day before Halloween, Digital Marketing Coordinator Karli Burns was working in the office. It was a Saturday, so there weren’t many people around. She ventured downstairs to buy a Pop-Tart, and that’s when she realized that Midtown Studio was underwater.

“Wear your waders,” warned Sr. Copywriter Dennis Johnson during his call to David Whitson, Director of Editing. Word traveled fast that the situation downstairs required backup.

David and Dennis were among the first to witness the true damage of the flood. Not only was much of the building’s lower floor soaked, but the two also discovered that the floor tilts toward the studio. That was where most of the mysteriously leaking water was concentrated.

Determined to find the source of the leak, Dennis ventured into the first-floor women’s restroom to find a commode spewing water. It wasn’t clear what caused the leak, but the water was unrelenting.

Rushing to the studio, David and Dennis began trying to salvage equipment. Luckily, the computers and cameras were high enough off the floor and came out undamaged. Power cords, control boxes, and the carpet were another story.

With the building’s plumber en route, it would still be several hours before the leak could be stopped. In the meantime, David and Dennis thought about the silver lining behind this unexpected Saturday.

“We realized the studio is probably due for an update anyway, and now is the perfect time,” David said. “The flooding gave us a chance to rethink how we want it set up, and how we can build it back better.”

 

An Opportunity for Modernization

Since the power boxes for the studio lights were damaged by the water, Production will have the chance to replace them with more modern technology. When the studio was built, fluorescent lighting was the highest-tech option. Now, the lights will be LED, giving the team the ability to change hues and colors during shoots.

There will also be a riser added to where the cyclorama (cyc) wall is, helping elevate this backdrop to prevent warping from humidity on the ground-level floor. The cyc wall will be replaced with a newer version as well.

Of course, new carpet is required, as well as new baseboards and a fresh paint job for the studio. Overall, the studio’s configuration will remain the same. But the upgrades mentioned above, along with new additions like a pneumatic camera pedestal (like the rolling camera stands at TV stations) and cable management devices will help modernize the studio and its capabilities. Luckily, insurance funds are able to cover the cost of these upgrades.

Construction is set to begin this week. Be on the lookout for the grand reveal of Midtown Studio 2.0!

An Interview With Sheena

Accounting Director Sheena Griffin was named a finalist for the 2021 BBJ CFO Awards. These awards recognize the top financial officer in a Birmingham organization. We’re very proud of Sheena and all she has accomplished during her time with the agency. We sat down with her to find out some of the secrets to her success.

How do you view the role of the Accounting Director?

As an overseer for all finances of the company, this role guides the allocation of finances and provides direction to others on how to book against different clients, projects, and ledger accounts. You must lead, follow, and expect adherence to specific policies and procedures while implementing checks and balances involving cash and finances.

How has COVID-19 changed the dynamics of the Accounting Director role due to new challenges companies are facing?

We learned to quickly adapt to different payment terms and ways that we pay our vendors. We had to be flexible with clients’ needs, as they may need longer to process payments due to their own challenges. We had to jump in and be more hands-on to assist as employees needed to be out of the office, and embrace technology to keep things running from home.

What role should an Accounting Director play when it comes to managing a company’s growth?

You must be able to turn in timely and accurate reports and provide any reports needed by the top decision-makers of the company. It’s important to set, review, and adhere to department budgets, making sure those stay in line.

What’s a success story from your time as Accounting Director that helped the company?

Coming on board 15 years ago, there were only two of us in accounting. Not long after I started, that dwindled to just me. Today, I’ve built that into a team of nine accounting professionals. My biggest success story is the team we have and how they’ve developed their own roles to succeed as individuals

What is your best advice to Accounting Directors about navigating a crisis?

Take one day at a time. Pray. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the situation. Keep a clear head. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with your team for fresh ideas. If your team is anything like mine, they are willing and able to jump in to tackle problems, and they want to help and support you.

What’s your best tip or best practice for leading a company’s financial operations through a challenging economy?

Be flexible with changes. With Covid, if one thing isn’t selling specifically, or clients reduce budgets, you must be willing to be flexible with anything new that your salespeople are selling. You can’t be rattled by all of the changes coming through. STRONG has developed several new products as growth opportunities for revenue, and as Accounting Director, I had to be flexible learning how to implement them and make it work.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from a mentor?

It feels to me like God has been teaching me to be better about not judging a situation based on what I first hear or see from somebody. I’ve learned to not let myself get puffed up with pride and think you know everything about the situation or read too much into it. It’s important to treat everyone fairly and with respect.

A Beary Happy Tale

Fame is easier than ever to achieve in today’s world. Sometimes, it takes but a single post on Instagram or TikTok to go viral and make a name for yourself. 

It also helps if you’ve got a furry friend in front of the camera.

Senior Social Media Coordinator Amanda Dunn has transformed her passion at work into what may become a profitable hobby. This past July, Amanda’s golden retriever, named Bear, enjoyed his third press appearance.

Bear is the star of the Instagram account Amanda started with her husband, titled Bear The Golden. The account boasts more than 2,100 followers and 200 posts. Bear was recently included in Bham Now’s “7 Adorable Pets You Need to Follow on Instagram” article. This is the second time the golden retriever has been featured in Bham Now. He also made it into a post on IN Birmingham.

The Dunns grew the account from the ground up, and Amanda says the skills she’s learned at SAM have supported Bear’s rise to fame.

“It’s fun because it’s an extension of what I’ve learned here,” Amanda said. “I can try new things based on what we’re doing at work, and I’ve also tried out new strategies on Bear’s Instagram that I can bring into the workplace.”

To develop her following, Amanda has relied on tried-and-true audience acquisition techniques. She began by finding other local accounts of dogs in Birmingham, or by viewing posts from dog-friendly locations, and following the accounts that posted.

Bear enjoyed an in-person celebrity moment when the Dunns traveled to a dog-friendly hotel in Panama City Beach, Florida. 

“Everyone loved him,” Amanda said. “Groups of people came over to ask if they could play frisbee, and kids were asking others at the beach if they had met Bear yet. He was like a celebrity!”

The hotel noticed, too, asking Amanda to tag them so they could share the post. Her goal for the account is to generate business opportunities, like when Visit PCB contacted her for permission to use Bear on its Instagram account. Or, more recently, when Bear was shared by The Nashville Guide, an account with more than 180,000 followers.

Amanda’s next big project for the account is creating a virtual trail of dog-friendly places in Birmingham for others to enjoy as well. Make sure to follow for the latest updates of what is without a doubt a Beary Happy Life.

Understanding Culture Index

Have you noticed the multicolored charts under each nameplate around the agency? These are taken from each employee’s Culture Index (CI) profile. For some, these charts may be hard to read. This article gives a brief overview of the different personality traits measured by CI so you can better understand yours, along with those of your coworkers.

Why Do We Use Culture Index?

Culture Index isn’t a screening tool; rather, SAM uses it as a complement to the hiring process. It works by assessing an individual’s inherent traits, as well as which traits they perceive as necessary for their job.

The history of Culture Index began in 444 BCE when Empedocles theorized that people behave in four distinctly different ways. He categorized them according to the classical elements – water, earth, fire, and air.

This theory was expanded on by Hippocrates shortly thereafter. However, more than two millennia would pass before personality assessments regained significant momentum. Psychologists began developing more scientific approaches to categorizing human behavior in the early 20th century. In 1956, industrial psychologist Walter Clark expanded on the work of his predecessors to produce a self-administered behavior test, based on the still-popular DISC model. Subjects would respond to a checklist of adjectives and choose those that best described them. Sound familiar?

The founder of Culture Index worked for the J.P. Cleaver Company, the first to commercialize the DISC assessment. Eventually, CI founders Gary and Cecilia Walstrom branched off to develop their own version of a workplace behavioral assessment. They enlisted the help of Dr. Louis Janda, who developed the CI survey after five years of research and testing.

Today, SAM uses Culture Index to measure seven work-related personality traits. In addition to matching job candidates with positions they will more naturally succeed in, these assessments give valuable information about the best ways to communicate with coworkers.

How to Interpret the Dots

We’ll focus on the four dots in the main graph for this article. Here’s what each represents:

  • Red (A): Autonomy. The ability to choose and be self-sufficient.
  • Yellow (B): Social ability. Relating to the way people in groups behave and interact.
  • Blue (C)Patience. The particular speed at which somebody moves.
  • Green (D): Conformity. Behaving or thinking in a socially acceptable or expected way.

The vertical red line on the graph represents the average level of each trait for the general population. So, a dot to the right of the red line means you have a higher level of that trait than most people, and a dot to the left represents the inverse.

Everyone has a high and a low trait. To find your high trait, look at the dot that is farther to the right than any of the others. We’ll only focus on the high traits here.

The Four Personality Types

Each high trait has a set of characteristics that typically accompanies it. Of course, no person can be fully described using a set of words. Rather, these serve as a general guide to understanding how someone behaves.

High A

  • Traits: Driven, independent, future-oriented, risk-takers
  • Motivators: Freedom to achieve their goals, money, undefined challenges, facts and data

High B

  • Traits: Personable, outgoing, persuasive, external verbal processors
  • Motivators: Personal interaction, status, public recognition, consensus-building opportunities

High C

  • Traits: Patient, laid-back, procedural, steady
  • Motivators: Limited interruptions, checklists, limited chaos, low pressure and stress

High D

  • Traits: Perfectionist, detailed-oriented, historical decision-maker, cautious
  • Motivators: Factual information in writing, removing risk, training, knowledge

 

All in all, Culture Index is a valuable tool for understanding the eclectic mix of personalities that make up Team SAM. While there’s much more that goes into a full CI profile, this information should help you better understand yourself and those you work with.

Professional Development Opportunities

While much of the world has revved back to life, in-person learning opportunities for professionals haven’t quite picked up steam. That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to continue growing your skillset, however.

From digital marketing, to copywriting, to graphic design – here is a list of free online professional development courses you can take this year.

Content Marketing Courses

1. HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification – HubSpot Academy

2. HubSpot Content Marketing Certification – HubSpot Academy

3. Internet Marketing for Smart People – Copyblogger

4. Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content – Coursera

5. The Strategy of Content Marketing – Coursera

6. Copywriting Blunders – Udemy

7. Content Marketing for B2B Enterprises – Udemy

8. Content Marketing – Udemy

 

Social Media Marketing Courses

9. Free Social Media Certification – HubSpot Academy

10. Developing an End-to-End Instagram Marketing Strategy For Your Business – HubSpot Academy

11. Strategic Social Media Marketing – edX

12. Diploma in Social Media Marketing – Alison

13. Facebook Blueprint – Facebook

14. Social Media Analytics – Quintly

15. Social Media Week of Webinars – Buffer

 

SEO Marketing Courses

16. SEO Training Course – HubSpot Academy

17. Google Digital Marketing Course – Google

18. SEO Training Course by Moz – Udemy

19. Advanced SEO: Tactics and Strategy – Udemy

20. SEO – QuickSprout

 

Email Marketing Courses

21. HubSpot Email Marketing Certification – HubSpot Academy

22. Email Marketing – QuickSprout

 

Web Development and Site Design Courses

23. Make a Website – CodeAcademy

24. Learn Javascript – CodeAcademy

25. Learn Ruby – CodeAcademy

26. Learn Python – CodeAcademy

27. Learn HTML & CSS – CodeAcademy

28. Learn to Code Awesome Websites – General Assembly

 

Online Advertising Courses

29. What Digital Advertising Is and How to Do It – HubSpot Academy

30. How to Build a Paid Media Strategy – HubSpot Academy

31. Paid Advertising – QuickSprout

32. Wordstream PPC University

33. Advertising Your Business Online – Alison

34. Copywriting 101: Crafting Your First Ad Campaign – Skillshare

35. Advertising Foundations – Lynda

 

Graphic Design Courses

36. Basic Graphic Design – Canva

37. Photoshop 2020: One-on-One Fundamentals – LinkedIn Learning

38. InDesign 2020: Essential Training – LinkedIn Learning