Special Guest: Matt Marshall Part 1 | Content Machine Ep. #30

Welcome to the Content Machine Podcast. This week, we’re joined by Matt Marshall, who’s a friend and local Jacksonian, who is in charge of the United Way here. But, Matt, why don’t you start by tell them just a little bit about yourself?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m married to Rachel, we have three kids, Arianna, Enora, and Elias, so two girls and a boy. I’m also a pastor at the Historic First Baptist Church in downtown Jackson. And yeah, long time member of the Jackson community for as long as I can remember and then some. Kevin, I know you’ve heard me tell this story before, but I’m actually a fifth generation Jacksonian and a seventh generation West Tennessean. Actually, just got to attend a family reunion, not this past weekend, the weekend before last, for the fourth. And I learned things I didn’t even know. And I thought I had dug through a lot of our family history quite a bit. And so, I found out that I was related to even more people in Jackson than I realized. So yeah, there we go. But yeah, I’ve been at United Way for about three and a half years and loving every moment of it.

So professionally, how do you get to the United Way from being a Jacksonian?

So, I’m born and raised here, went to school here, graduated from JCM back in 2002. And then I went to Union, so we share that in common for sure. I went to Union and I originally went to play soccer. So, I was on the soccer team my freshman year. And I did travel a bit growing up. So, I always felt as though I would go to school somewhere else. And so, I did actually, after my freshman year, transfer out and went out to Arizona and lived in Arizona for a couple of years. My wife and I were actually just looking at the apartment complex on Google Maps that I stayed in just this weekend, oddly enough. But went and lived there for a couple of years and then came back and finished at Union and got a job at Union right after. I ended up working at Union for eight years. I started out in admissions, recruiting students, and I did that for three years. Then for two years, I worked in the Vocatio Center where I helped students who were getting ready actually to graduate on the other side of things with building the resume and interviewing techniques and MBTI and all that stuff. I had a lot of fun with that. Then my last three years, I worked in university ministries. I got to lead go trips, but also work with Chapel and a number of other things. It was towards the last couple of years that I was at Union that I knew that I wanted to do something different.

When I first got back to Jackson from Arizona, I actually took two years off of school and worked in the public school system as a special needs assistant teacher. I had worked at elementary school at Thelma Barker. I really, really loved that and working with kids. And so those last two years, I was feeling like a pull back to that. I wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. I ended up being contacted by Donna Agnew, who was the founder of Hands Up Preschool and she was getting ready to transition. And she had founded and run the school for five years. And so, they were looking for her replacement. I didn’t really know hardly anything about that process. But I knew about Hands Up. I’d heard about them before because one of the other things I did in university ministries was coordinate our campus and community day. I interacted with all the nonprofit leaders through that. One thing led to another. Lord opened the door for me to take over at Hands Up. I love that. Got to even – that first year, my own kid, Elias, that was his year for PreK, and so he went to the school with me, which was cool to be able to go to school every day and see one of your kids at work. Anyway, I ran Hands Up for two and a half years. When I had taken over the program, one of the things they had really tried to figure out was how to make the program more sustainable. And that’s a struggle in early education as a whole and in childcare historically. And so, I began to work with my staff there and my team as well as with the board. And together we came up with what we felt like was a good model to help get the institution to that point of being a lot more financially stable. And so, over the course of that two and a half years, our revenue grew by about 240%. And what happened by end of that second year of being there, so Scott Conger was the President of United Way at the time. And so, his very last thing that he did as the President of United Way was to host the celebration breakfast that they have annually. And at that celebration breakfast, they announced the nonprofit agency director of the year. And so, Hands Up was a United Way partner agency. And so, they selected me, which was a big surprise. I totally came out of the blue. And so that was the last thing that Scott did as the President of United Way. Then on Tuesday, as he was just starting out as the mayor, he called me and he said,

“Hey, the board was really impressed and they would just want to invite you to consider applying for the president position.”

I won’t go into that whole long story, but while he did extend that invitation to me, it was not a foregone conclusion at all. If I remember correctly, found out later they had over 80 applications and they flew four people into Jackson to come in for interviews from across the United States. And it was a whole process. But again, the Lord opened the door and so I was able to become the next president of United Way. And so probably a whole lot more I could share, but I’m going to try to keep it to that. And it’s been by the Grace of God.

When was that? When did you start?

October 2019.

2019. So how is the United Way… You want to give us a pitch of what it is traditionally known as, and then talk to us about where it’s involving?

Yeah, sure. So, when I first came to United Way in October of 2019, again, I mentioned I’ve been at a partner agency in United Way. Union had always been big donors. They ran a United Way campaign for a long, long time as well. So, I was familiar with United Way. I always tell people, and it’s funny because I see this NFL thing right here hanging on you guys’ door. So, the NFL is one of United Way’s biggest supporters historically. So, I always tell people, the thing I remember most about United Way growing up was the NFL commercials that they would do with them with quarterbacks and stuff.

And the Saturday Night Live Peyton Manning commercial.

Yeah, for sure. Legendary. Yeah, for sure. And so that was what I remember most about them. But I probably was like a lot of other people that if you asked me, what is it that United Way does? I would struggle a little bit more to understand, to be able to articulate that for you. But remember, again, I’ve been from a partner agency, so I even understood a bit more about that. But when we talk about that, and for the listeners, we go, well, what does United Way do?

So historically, I always love to tell this story here. Everybody’s played Monopoly, generally speaking. And there are typically two cards that you can draw on a Monopoly board – and the one that you really want to draw, so you have chance or you have the community chest. Chance, you never know what you’re going to get. You could win money or you could go to jail, right? Well, the card that you always want to draw in Monopoly is community chest, because all you get from community chest is just money. And so that is actually United Way’s old name. We were originally the community chest.

And so now that being said, it drives me crazy that United Way never talked to Milton Bradley or Parker or whoever owns Monopoly and said, “No, just change the name. Just update the name.”

But anyway, we historically are the community chest. So, what that means is that for decades, people and communities all across the country, all around the world, have contributed or donated into a common community chest, a bucket, and those funds then get dispersed out into the community to other nonprofits. So simple way I’ve always explained it is we’re the nonprofit of nonprofits. And so that’s what we’ve done for decades and for generations at this point. So, we go into companies and we do campaigns where we ask each employee to give a little bit out of their paycheck that goes into that community bucket. And then volunteers in each county, in our case, we serve 15 counties, each one of those counties, a volunteer group, then makes decisions on who gets funded and how much. So that’s who United Way has been forever. But I recognized, literally in the first week, that as great as that is a process and a role to be able to play and to have the privilege and honor of having the trust of the community to do that, which we don’t take for granted. I also felt like because of my background and where I was coming from, that there probably were some other things that we could address as well. And so, we started to try to identify what those things were, but for all intents and purposes, we’re still that United way. We just added some things.

But you’ve added things that are a little bit of a different vein, right?

Yeah, for sure.

Because you’ve moved from being the nonprofit of nonprofits to, you’re also doing some direct service now. So, talk about what that change is like and why that change has happened.

I hinted at it a moment ago that I really felt as though when I came to United Way, again, being a son of this community and having been raised in this community and spent almost all my life here, that when we talk about the pillars of United Way, so health, education and financial stability primarily, when we talk about those, what we’ve done historically is we have partnered with other organizations that are doing service in health, education and financial stability, and we have funneled money their way to execute those programs. And we still do that today. But because of my background, and I always say this, I’m biased. My background is education, so I’m biased, first and foremost. But I also think that there’s a reason for that bias because I tell people, well, if you want really a healthy community, you want an educated community. And if you want a financially stable community, you want an educated community.

Yeah, chicken or egg situation.

Right. So, for me, education always really stood out among our pillars. But because that was my background, I also knew from my experiences that that’s where there was still a lot of need and a lot of opportunity to invest. And so, I immediately began to have conversations with our board and with our staff and with other leaders about needs in the arena of education. And so, what has transpired over the last three and a half years is us trying to better understand what those needs are in West Tennessee, and how can we step in to fill some those gaps. So, I want to be really clear, the thing I didn’t want to do was start working in an area where there were already people doing work, particularly nonprofits. We didn’t want to do that. One of the reasons why United Way has been as focused on those community chest type of initiatives is because we don’t want to duplicate efforts. We don’t want other nonprofits to duplicate efforts.

That would make any sense. That’s wasteful.

That’s right, completely. And so, we want to stretch every dollar to go as far as it absolutely can. And so, I didn’t want to get in that business of saying, well, I don’t care what anybody else is doing. We’re going to do this. Not at all. We want to better understand what the needs were and where those gaps were and then try to meet people there. And so, what that has looked like is, to your point, us for really the first time for our United Way, getting involved in more direct services. So historically, our programs look like the Vita program, which is a partnership with Cadence Bank locally, where we help prepare taxes. We offer it as a free service to citizens in our community during tax season. So, we’ve run that program. We have Christmas partners, which again, going back to the duplication thing, that was set up to work across various different nonprofits to serve people in our community during the Christmas season to make sure kids had something underneath their tree without there being duplication. And so, we helped run and facilitate that program. Then we had our single care, which is a prescription program, which really all we really did was market it. It wasn’t really a program per se of ours. And then we had disaster and emergency assistance as needed. And those were for the most part, the programs we were running. And so, again, where the shift has taken place is, okay, well, where were there still gaps? One of the biggest things, there were two areas in particular that we saw huge need for investment.

One, the field I came out of, childcare. And unfortunately, it was already tough. That field was tough when I was in it. And there was already not enough access and not enough support for families in our community of all different types. But then the pandemic hit, and we had childcare centers all around the region closing their doors and not being able to make it on the other side of that. And so, it was already an issue before and now it’s exacerbated. And so back in 2001, when the Department of Human Services first started tracking the number of licensed childcare facilities across the state, there were about 81 to 83 childcare facilities at that time in West Tennessee. And licensed childcare facilities, I should say. Not in West Tennessee, in Madison County. In Madison County, there were 81. Now, there’s somewhere underneath 30. And so, this is a need. This is a need. This is a huge issue. And so that was one of the first programs or one of the first things we started working on. So, I hired Olivia Abernathy. We partnered with Tennessee’s for Quality Early Education, and we started doing research. Again, we didn’t just dive in and just say, oh, we’re going to do something here. We want to even more so better understand the need.

So that was one area. And then the other really big one was the Financial Empowerment Center. The other big need that we saw was just around, again, the financial instability of our communities. So, shout out to the mayor. Again, Mayor Conger, when he was in my role, had already begun to look at this and analyze it. And we had produced the ALICE report and the data about needs in our communities across West Tennessee. And as he became Mayor, he started an anti-poverty task force, of which I had the privilege to chair initially and work alongside Lauren Kirk from his office. And we started diving into that and saw the need for a financial empowerment center here that would offer free financial counseling services. And so that was another area where we really pushed heavily. And so, we were able to get that launched in March of 2022. And we have a shared services platform now to begin to work on the childcare issue. And then both of those things led to a bunch of other programs.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Content Machine Podcast. This was part one of a two-part episode with Matt Marshall. Stay tuned for the second half.

Core Values Part 1| Content Machine Ep. #29

Have you mapped out your company’s core values?

Core values should be one of the most important things for a team, which is why this week on the Content Machine Podcast, we’re talking about everything you need to know to start defining your team’s core values.

Sometimes core values are unspoken. Every team is built from different people, so every team develops its own set of values. But oftentimes, you should flesh out these ideas. Why? Because unlike a mission statement that generally talks about our why and our team goals, and you can check out our episode on mission statements if you haven’t already, core values talk about how we should act on a daily basis. Something to consider is that core values ought to be simultaneously true and aspirational. So here are three things that make core values meaningful presence, celebration, and evaluation.

With core values, you want to make sure they are visible and present with your team. If you are not regularly refreshing their value and meaning to your team, why should you expect them to remember them and work by them? We want to make the ideas behind our core values sticky. Sticky meaning easy to remember when considering how we operate the company. How can you do this? Well, one, make a standard graphic for each value and make it easy to use. At Adelsberger Marketing, our multi-talented designer Katie Howerton, took care of this for us. She took our values and put them together with graphics that are fun, visually appealing, and match our company’s themes. Having something that your team can easily find and visualize will make the concepts easier to remember. Think about ways that you can get these graphics in front of them. Maybe it’s on stickers or a weekly review of one of the core values as pieces of the company’s identity. I have seen several places that put the core values on the wall of the organization, and I’ve seen others make swag like coffee mugs with the values printed on them. Help build them into your company culture by making them a regularly occurring part of the life of your team. Ideally, like a mission statement, the team should be able to say what those values are if prompted, and that isn’t just going to happen through Osmosis.

You should celebrate your core values. We work every week to cover one of our core pieces of identity, which I include as themes, mission, vision, core values, during our midweek catch up call. This is a way for me to keep those things in front of the team, but it is also a great opportunity for me as a leader to look for staff members who are doing these core values in a notable way and celebrate them for that. It’s not always a weekly thing, but it’s a tool I can use to encourage staff members who are going above and beyond.

And finally, we use it for evaluation. This is a methodology used by EOS or entrepreneurial operating systems. Each quarter we sit down with each team member and work with them to review on a small scale whether they are practicing core values or not. The scale we use is plus, plus minus, or minus, meaning I did this and I’m doing this, I could improve in this or I’m sometimes showing this value, or I did not do this. The simple scale gives some additional accountability to team members because they are having to evaluate themselves, and it helps them see the core values more clearly. With our team, we start with a self-assessment, and then go over that with them and talk through each point.

Core values need to be true, meaning team members and even clients can see them in the organization. And they need to be aspirational because the truth is, we can always be a little bit better. In a future episode, we’ll talk through the core values at Adelsberger Marketing and what they mean to us. But if you’re wanting some more information on core values, or if you need some perspective on a jumping off point for developing your own, make sure to tune into future episodes of the Content Machine Podcast.

If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to drop us a comment or an email or text it to a friend. Does your team already have a set of core values? We’d love to hear back from you. Shoot me an email, send me a text. I’d love to hear what you’re doing at your organization.

Gear Review: Ronin4D | Content Machine Ep. #28

One of the difficult things about being in the video production industry is the need to buy new gear on the regular. This week on the Content Machine podcast, we’re talking about a game changing piece of equipment that you can add to your video toolkit.

Video gear is constantly evolving to better fill production needs, which means gear is either becoming higher quality or becoming more affordable for higher end gear. This is actually the reason we were able to break into the video space eight years ago. We happened to start at the magic moment when recording gear became really affordable for the first time. Gear cost was no longer a barrier to entry that it had always been. So, because gear is more affordable than ever, there is more competition than ever, and because there’s more competition than ever, the space is forever changing. We are always looking for an edge against our competitors. Bar none, the biggest edge that Adelsberger Marketing has is its videographers and editors. We have talented people that create amazing videos. It’s the creativity of the scripting, shooting, and editing that set apart any project. But with that being said, creatives need their tools, so we always stay on the lookout for new tools to bring into our inventory to allow our team to have more options for their creativity.

Fun fact, we even have a dedicated Slack channel so we can communicate and stay on top of all the new trendy tech. The day the Ronin 4D was released, we put in our order. We had no doubts it was going to be a game changer, and change the game it certainly has. The Ronin 4D is a best-in-class camera with every bell and whistle you can imagine on it. And we wanted to wait a while before we put out a review about it so that we could put it through its paces first. But this thing is the real deal. The quality of the video is top notch. Not just that it can record 6K or 8K, but the image coming from the sensor is crisp. With all the recording formats DJI has available, color grading is very flexible. But the capabilities of this camera are really what we’re here for. The three main capabilities to highlight today, stability, focus, and teamwork. While all three of these capabilities are not new to the camera industry, the Ronin 4D is unique because it has all the capabilities packaged together straight out of the box.

So, stability. Prior to this camera, we would need to take an extra time to set up our cameras on stabilizers and make sure the gimbals were balanced and ready. Also, we always had to make sure those stabilizers stay charged as well. The Ronin, having a built-in stabilizer, saves time and potential error and adds some additional upgrades to the stabilizing system. With the ground radar that is built in, it adds an extra dimension to our ability to stabilize a camera. The radar means I can run nearly at a full sprint and you can’t tell the camera is being carried by a human. It is wild how good this stabilization is. That also means we do not need to take time in post to stabilize or crop any of our footage in to hide stabilization issues.

The Ronin has an amazing autofocus and focus pulling system built into the camera. No more searching for a specific lens with focusing gears and having to have a second person waiting by to rack focus. On the fly, you can spin a dedicated wheel located right in the Ronin’s handle to change the focus point. Additionally, its facial recognition is ridiculously fast. In our testing and usage, its ability to focus is nearly instantaneous and very, very accurate, thanks to the camera literally using radar to read the scene.

Finally, teamwork. A native component of the Ronin 4D is the monitoring system and the secondary controls. This setup allows someone to support the camera operator with focus, exposure, and gamble controls. Sometimes with and talk shots, you need to be focused on not tripping or just keeping the subject in frame. This team method allows our operator to focus solely on safety while a second person can make the shot look perfect. The transmission speed and quality on the wireless monitor is crazy and it looks as good as it does on the camera. It can also serve as a great way for a client to watch along with us if they are concerned about certain shots.

Now, one thing I was concerned about is the battery life. We are using proprietary batteries and the inclusion of a built-in gamble. I wasn’t sure how the battery was going to hold up over the usage of the device. It has not been an issue. We get great battery life from the camera and with just a few extra swap outs, we have not had any issues.

The Ronin 4D has been an excellent addition to our toolset, and I would recommend it for any videographer looking to improve their stability, focus, and teamwork, and most importantly, anyone who’s looking to take up their production capabilities.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Content Machine Podcast. We don’t normally do gear reviews here, so if you like this episode and you want more reviews like this one, drop us a comment and please let us know.

Interns 102: How? | Content Machine Ep. #27

Our internship program has become a key strategic priority for Adelsberger Marketing. We talked about the why of an internship program in a previous episode of the podcast, but I wanted to talk about some of the hows that we’ve pieced together along the way that have led us to what I feel is a successful internship program.

The first point to note is consistency. At Adelsberger Marketing, we are going to hire interns to work with us through every semester, summer, spring, and fall. This allows it to become a pattern for us and part of our identity as our company. Also, by keeping it consistent, it allows us to keep learning from our internship program and to avoid becoming rusty at any point in the process. We get referrals from teachers. Building relationships with teachers allows us to get a better quality of student to apply for the program and to spread word about our program to more potential students. Another potential benefit is that it allows us to receive instructor recommendations about specific students that we may not pay enough attention to otherwise. Instructors know students way better than we’re going to get to know them through a series of interviews.

We treat them like adults, and some of them are. Our interns are all college students and likely late in their college experience as well. But not always. Some may be earlier in their college journey, but we try to focus on late college experience interns. We want to treat them like adults. Because of our remote working environment and the working style of our company, we all work somewhat independently, and so the interns do too. We try to communicate with them regularly and check in with them, but they are entrusted to go and do, to learn and to be successful through their own motivation. But we let them start with internal work. All of our interns start with an internal project. Internal projects give them a safe space to start working, both for their self confidence and for our trust in them. We have had interns in the past work on video editing for our company, editing our podcast, working on our onboarding materials, and working on branded slide decks. These types of activities give them a chance to prove themselves in a way that does not endanger our customers’ businesses and allows them an opportunity to make mistakes in a safe space.

After earning trust, we allow them to start working on additional projects, some of which may involve client work. As they earn trust and respect, they earn more responsibility. We want to be an environment, as one intern described, as safe and friendly. We want our team to treat them with respect, but also to give them the freedom to learn. Let them develop new skills in a situation that won’t result in a stressful situation if they make a mistake. Many interns who come to us are having to learn to do something differently from what they usually do, or are taking on their first public facing projects. There is no need to make this a high wire act for them. But we also want interns to be able to see multiple areas of the business. To help with relationships with the staff and allow them to see more of the world of marketing, we have each intern spend time with each staff member learning about their work and how they do it. This builds a relationship and exposes the students to new things. We use this later in the semester as well to see if students want to spend more time in different areas of the business.

And who knows, this could be their opportunity to learn about a role that they love that they never knew existed. We check in often with our interns. I put in an effort to talk with them directly every week or every other week to make sure that they have what they need and to see what they are learning. Being able to interface with leadership is an important way for interns to feel valued, but it also gives me a chance to make sure that we are doing a good job of supporting their learning experience. Sometimes there is a debate whether you should pay interns. You should absolutely pay interns. If you are not in a position to pay interns, even a small amount, you should reconsider starting an internship program. Maybe consider just having job shadow opportunities instead. Paying interns is fair because we expect them to produce some work for us. We also look for ways for them to help us beyond simply being around. Maybe it’s making a delivery or helping us on set. Pay your interns because it increases the commitment between both the company and the intern. A successful internship program is mutually beneficial to both the company and the student.

This should be the goal when you start your program. Think about what values you can bring to one another and how you can bring those values to fruition. With these thoughts in mind and a little bit of leg work, you’ll be on a good track to having a great and successful internship program. If you’re looking to start an internship program, I would love to just chat with you about that. Thank you for listening to the Content Machine podcast. Be sure to subscribe and share this with your friends if you found it helpful.