Victory by Association – Episode 4 | Nichole Kelly

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Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly has been helping marketers unlock their full potential for over 17 years. From running corporate marketing teams to leading a successful marketing agency she has experienced all “sides” of the marketing equation. As a Strategy Director at WebMechanix she helps brands discover their why and develop digital strategies that deliver impact beyond just profit, a gift she discovered after authoring the book How to Measure Social Media. She is a personal development aficionado and offers a level of self awareness and feminine leadership that is refreshing and inspiring for every marketer.

Jeff Tippett: You’re listening to victory by association, I’m your host, Jeff Tippett. Welcome to episode number four, with Nichole Kelly.

Well, hello everyone I’m Jeff, thanks for joining us for this week, so I’m grateful that you’re here and I am so excited today to welcome Nichole Kelly to the show. Nichole helps clients discover their why, and develop digital strategies that will deliver impact beyond just profits. Hello!

Nichole Kelly: Hello, thank you so much for having me,

JT: I’m excited to have you talk today. I love the whole digital space. I love this line that you have here about delivering impact beyond just profit. So I have a feeling we are going to unpack some great truth here today.

NK: Yeah, I hope so.

JT: So let’s start with this. I like to begin each episode, each show here talking about something interesting or unique about you that most people don’t know or something, they won’t find on your LinkedIn profile but it’s pretty cool about Nichole. What could you share with our audience?

NK: I would say that I’ve had a near-death experience.

JT: Oh my gosh, alright… You gotta tell us more about that.

NK: Well I, you know I think that as a species, as humans, we have great fear of death. And I had an experience where I had a near death experience and I saw what was on the other side and I came back and I was like, Wow, if we just knew how awesome it is, we would just have no fear. It’s the best day of your life, it’s like you’re literally your entire soul, no longer has the weight of the human body, it’s a magical experience, and there’s no reason to be scared.

JT: That’s fantastic. Thanks for that encouragement as we… If something happens to me on the way home, today, I appreciate it got a… You sent me a piece, I love that, thank you, if you will tell us a little bit about your story and you’re slightly different in that you’re with a firm but you’ve done a lot of work with associations so I’d love to hear some type of victory that you could share with our audience.

NK: Sure, so yeah, my background is really interesting, because I really grew up in corporate America as part of in-house marketing teams, and then I volunteered with the American Marketing Association as my service and this was all around the time when we were really — social media was really becoming the next tool that businesses and associations were gonna be able to take advantage of and leverage in order to grow membership. And it was also an interesting time where in my professional life, I was responsible for building a community of people who talked about debt and finance and this topic that at the time held set shame around it, and I had the privilege of working for an executive who understood that really it was important for us to heal the conversation and in order for people to be successful on their plans and as a result of that I was able to bring all of that into the local association, and build systems around social media and how to measure social media, down to membership and really kind of lay the infrastructure for the chapter in a way that is still hopefully in use today.

JT: That’s fantastic. So kind of like you… I was an early adopter on Twitter, I got on Twitter in October 07, and I had no idea what I was doing, we way back then, jumping on board and I know that even for those who have been in social media communicating online for quite a while, it’s also the struggle here, to understand exactly, like, we… What do I do, how do I reach people, and what metrics for success should I be looking at? I know associations work really hard to communicate not only with existing members, but also with potential members as well. People that might would become part of the association there, so… Or are some tips or some things that you might offer that would help an association to communicate better, especially online?

NK: Well, I think it comes down to mission I think as associations where we compete and we understand that we’re competing for both time-share and share of wallet with our audiences because they’re either taking time out of their work day or they’re taking time away from their families in order to participate in what we have to offer. And so a lot of associations use language-ing, around things like networking and to network with other people. Well, there’s just so much competition around networking there. I’m not coming to network, I’m coming to connect. And so, as associations, I think it’s important for one to understand what is your why, why are you connecting these people and what’s the impetus for that?

And then once you understand that, you can then translate that through your messaging. And I think the messaging through associations in particular, it has been with all due respect. You read it and it starts to get a little monotonous. And a little boring, and all the language is the same. And I appreciate that as marketers, we pick up and use things that work.

I also think that there’s an opportunity for us to really connect on an emotional level with our consumers in our audience and give them meaning in their lives as well as in their career and I… That’s why I’ve been really inspired around talking about how we market with emotional intelligence, and there’s a lot of conversation in business around EQ being a much bigger indicator of success than IQ, I think when it comes down to marketing especially to membership communities really understanding the emotional plane that your audience is on and how to communicate at that level is really how you build connections

JT: So I think you wanted something amazing here and I fully agree with everything you’re talking about in my new book, I took a whole chapter just to talk about the connection that you’re discussing here as I think that connection is extremely important. Well, I wrote out a few words as you were talking there. Let’s go back and let’s like hit some of these. First of all, you talked about the why and when I’m working with clients and pretty much like what you would do, I’d love to start with that. Why, why are you doing this, what is the goal, what is it you’re trying to accomplish? Because we can’t measure, we can’t know if we succeeded if we haven’t figured out our way, and all this. So I love the fact that you begin with the why.

NK: Yeah, and also when you look at the why it’s kind of a tough question, it’s like, why are we doing this? What is the point of all of this? And really, as you start to look at it and you start to look at how you can be in service to your audience and what your audience’s needs are.

So the why it becomes really simple, actually, it’s because you’re in service to those needs, how you package it and tell that story. That’s where we get to have fun and be more creative and learn how to really connect with people on another level. We just look at where we are around the world. You see people in their devices, constantly, so if you can pull someone up out of their device to have a conversation and look someone in the eye that’s special and that’s something that associations can do that nothing online can today.

JT: Yeah, that’s interesting. A conversation I had with a recent guest where we talked about this whole online connection versus the whole face-to-face connection and finding the value in both, and also using both of those as well.

Well, let’s try a just a little bit more different for just a few seconds, on this whole connection. When I was looking over your LinkedIn profile, I did see an article that you put out there about this emotional connection, and this is huge to me as a speaker, when I’m on stage, I want that emotional connection with my audience. I want to feel like we’re in this moment together like we are one, they are in the moment but there is, there is a little danger here. As I began to read your article as well, picking up somewhat on this, of manipulating and really using the emotion to play someone instead of truly caring about that person. Talk to us a little bit about this whole thing of manipulation of persuasion and emotion, like at a very genuine, real, level.

NK: Right. So Seth Godin, I think his book originally was marketers are liars, and he changed it to storytellers or something. And as a marketer, I had a real dark night of the soul with myself about the way that we were marketing. Because I think that we are unintentionally creating consequences that we don’t understand because we aren’t really in touch with our own emotions. And if you think about it, some of the tools that we’re using in order to convince someone to sign up or to buy are things like time pressure, false sense of urgency that we’ve created and manipulated out of thin air to meet some sales goals you know, and we cause anxiety and stress, we talk about things like risk and compliance and the language that we’re using is creating stress and anxiety in people’s bodies.

Well, guess what… Then these people, especially in an association audience go to work… Well, are we allowed to express stress and anxiety at work in a really productive way? Do we have an outlet? Some of us, perhaps, but I would argue that most of us don’t… And then at the end of the day, we’re getting bombarded with all of these messages of stress and anxiety day in, day out, we go home and then we get home. And is there some appropriate outlet, for stress and anxiety hopefully, but for some of us, there’s not… And so as I look at this, and I look at the trajectory of a motion, and I say that we are using this emotional spectrum and marketing and advertising that society has no outlet for and we’re also coming into an incredibly important time in our history of humanity.

This 2020 election, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, is polarizing. And if our society doesn’t know how to handle stress and anxiety, disappointment, like all of these things that are likely to come out of this, in some way, then where are we gonna be as a society? I think that we’re at a critical juncture in both our profession as well as in a humanity where it’s time to really take a look, and to pull back the veil and say, Are you creating the customer you want, that stressed and anxious customer who complains all the time or do you wanna create customers who are inspired and empowered to make a change in the world, what they’re designed to do as humans?

JT: Beautiful, Nicole I love your outlook and thought process at all this. Well, let me ask you this eco we’ve got about 50,000 association executives that are on our email list and we connect with about 25,000 through social media, so you could have a nice size audience here to answer this next question. Association executives have a lot coming out, there’s a lot happening in the world. They do amazing, amazing jobs.

What one thing would you like to offer especially from the marketing communications background from using your perspective on… What’s one thing that you would like to leave them with. If I’m sharing your area of expertise.

NK: I would say the most important thing when it comes down to marketing and marketing strategy, is to actually have a strategic plan for marketing. When we’re dealing with volunteer bases who are running our marketing communications channels many times, especially in local chapters, it’s important to have a plan that can be executed at every level, and this is where I see the biggest gaps in all membership-based marketing, is that the message is changing the audience is changing and not having that cohesive message is where we start to question whether or not that association has true value. Or does the association know who they are or not? And so that would be my number one tip is to have a really cohesive plan for your marketing that whether you’re there this year, or somebody else is there next year, that succession planning is really, really critical.

JT: Fantastic, I love it. Nicole, we wrap up each week, each episode talking about an association super hero volunteer. We do this because is I think there’s great value in telling other people, we appreciate them, telling them that they’ve done a great job, especially people that are volunteering. So, if you would give a shout out here to someone that you’ve worked with as a volunteer, an association that has really gone above and beyond and done some great work, we’d love to give them a shout out today.

NK: Absolutely, I’d love to shout out to Dove Hoffman. He is the President at the American Marketing Association in Baltimore and this is a really interesting market in Baltimore where we’re so close to DC and they’re totally different audiences and he’s just done such a beautiful job of creating a real unique Baltimore flair in a chapter and really created an excellent membership community there.

JT: That’s a fantastic, a great shout-out. Thanks Nichole.

NK: The easiest way for people to find you, you can find me on Twitter. I’m Nichole underscore Kelly. You can also find me on Facebook, and at

That’s fantastic, and we will include all of these links in our show notes, so thanks all for listening, and I’ll see you next week with another Victory by Association.

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