Internship Diary #3 – Community in the Virtual Workplace

On day one of orientation at Adelsberger, you hear a lot of information. This includes all the usual things: passwords, time cards, getting added to the Slack channel, and so on and so forth. The necessary tools that allow the modern workplace to function. There is, however, one more ingredient, aimed not at function but at understanding. This understanding is not sought after for the purpose of anything strictly utilitarian or even for executing a job at all necessarily, although that may be a by-product. Every incoming intern is expected to set up, on their own initiative, a meeting with every other employee of the company simply for the sake of getting to know that person and their skillset more fully. 

Last week was meeting week for me. It was my second full week with the company after orientation, but week one was full of school and papers and the boatloads of writing that you have to do when you choose writing as the primary thing you want to study. So all of my meetings were scheduled for this second week, a bit of flexibility that made my schedule much easier. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday each held slots for multiple meetings, a staggered little list of reminders filing down the afternoon slots of my Google calendar. As work goes, this was about as easy as it gets. It helps that creative people with creative jobs tend to be fun to meet with. 

When I entered my virtual Zoom meeting, Alex Russell’s face greeted me in close-up, high definition. He stared, nose almost touching his laptop, directly into the camera and so therefore directly at me. After a beat or two of me waiting to see if he was lagging or stuck somehow, he jumped back from the screen, danced for a second, and abruptly sat down. 

“So, let’s talk about Jake Scott.” 

A singer-songwriter we both like and who Alex recently got to meet at a dinner. We discovered this during the photoshoot for my company headshots and I included it as the reason for our meeting in my invite to Alex. We talked about Jake Scott for a few moments; favorite songs, his upcoming album, the things you discuss when you share music with someone. 

He sipped almost delicately, pinky finger in the air, from a tiny espresso mug. I asked about it and the conversation switched to coffee. He brewed the shot from a Nespresso. How good were Nespresso shots? Decent, not all that strong. We both were curious about upgrading our setups and learning to pull quality shots, we both were skeptical about the cost and knowledge required. Eventually, we did talk about work (don’t worry, Kevin, this was actually productive). 

Meetings, of course, are a part of any workplace. I’m not young enough or naive enough to try to spin “we have meetings!” into some kind of revolutionary statement. That said, these meetings are not about agenda items. This is about fostering community, cooperation, and curiosity. This is also about integration into a working apparatus that is by and large physically separated. Other than occasional brainstorming meetings and welcome lunches when a new hire joins the company, this workplace is not a physical work place. 

The post-Covid corporate world has forced everyone to adjust, of course, but not everyone has adjusted with the same priorities in mind. Every week some online magazine publishes a think-piece about how virtual work is destroying the productivity of the American workforce. Clearly, those writers have not met Alex Russell, who uses Zoom not only to produce but to perform, or Ricky Santos, who taught me (most of) how to create an animation from a still image over the course of a 30 minute virtual meeting. These one-on-ones unite a seemingly ragtag group of designers, videographers, photographers, writers, and random 20-something interns into a team which values overlapping knowledge and mutual learning and convenient espresso. Community can be achieved in the modern workplace which isn’t a workplace at all. You just have to value the people who form that community in the first place. 

We love stickers.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. 
We love a good sticker. But really: 

There are a few reason we love stickers. Its a way for us to show our alignment with a product/thought/group/brand. It can be a great way to make ideas sticky or persistent. Putting the right sticker in the right place can help you remember an important thought or a motivational concept. 

So we produce lots of stickers, some of our favorites above: 
Our Theme stickers for our annual themes. 
A sticker sheet that we produced for our Pretzel Day celebration. 
Stickers from our successful campaign to help get AJ Massey elected Mayor. 
PURRFECT Cat milk joke stickers from a CO video a few years ago. 
Stickers for members of the OMSL. 

These custom stickers and more we have made for ourselves or clients have all one thing in common – they were printed by Sticker Mule. Sticker Mule is great and we use it a few times a year. We have always had a great experience with them and the hot sauce they send with it, is pretty tasty too! 

Internship Diary #2 The First Mistake isn’t the End of the World

Last Friday, the end of week two in my internship with Adelsberger Marketing, was one of the first days that you could tell that fall would eventually penetrate through the dome of heat radiating from every building in Jackson. This was cause for celebration the way that these things always are: a universal mood booster, the type of thing that sends people walking through the streets with a skip in their step like a newly transformed Ebenezer Scrooge looking for the biggest goose in the window. Photos of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and pumpkin-scented candles landed in the company Slack channel as celebration of this inkling of seasonal hope. 

I sat in my room at my desk, ambient lofi music playing in the background as it always does when I work, feeling content. Classes were over for the week and all that remained was the routine plugging away of moving around images and video clips to be posted on various social media as promotion for the Content Machine podcast. This work flow, and the atmosphere of working from the pleasant comfort of my dorm, made me especially happy not to be drudging in an office somewhere. Obviously, remote work has its perks. 

Without warning, the easy-going simplicity of my afternoon ended. I was confused about one of the tasks outlined for posting the podcast, and searched through any resource I could find for the answer. Nothing — not in my Google doc, not in my Slack messages, nowhere. It crept upon me slowly, like a horror movie villain which the audience can see but the protagonist can only sense, that Kevin was the only one with the answer. This would not have been an issue except for one hang up: Kevin had already clocked out for the day. Interrupting my boss, the founder of the company, during his time off was not a thought I relished. Nevertheless, I faced the music and texted him my question.

He responded quickly, then called me to walk me through the problem. Within five minutes, the issue was solved, but it felt like an eternity. My gratitude for remote work took on a different form; now I was just glad I didn’t have to make this mistake while looking Kevin in the eye. Phones are a godsend when taking responsibility isn’t your cup of tea. It’s so much less personal. 

I completed the task and closed my laptop. Honestly, the fix was simple and easy. Kevin didn’t sound bothered at all. Still, I apologized via text. Kevin responded: “We didn’t set you up for success.” This was not entirely true. I could have listened better, asked better questions, or taken better notes. Still, the important thing is that he was gracious and he put my mind at ease. A five minute mistake wasn’t the end of the world. The first mistake will happen. Don’t let it get to you. 

Clarity Brings Power | 2023 Annual Theme

If you know where you are going, it’s much easier to get to where you are going. 

And if everyone is pulling in the same direction, it will be easier to climb that next hill. 

As a leader, it is really easy for me to give unclear or incomplete directions to the team. As a business, it’s easy to communicate to customers in a way that is not clear. Both of these can lead to weakness and failure. And we see the effects of lack of clarity everyday. 

Whether it’s people working on the wrong priority, a business that is failing to meet its potential, a website that makes it hard for people to find information or a new app that people don’t know how to use because the interface is not user friendly. Lack of clarity is all around us. 

I think clarity brings power. 

Why? Clarity allows people to work together toward a common goal. People can work together when each one knows what the others are supposed to be doing and work toward something when they know where they are going. 

Clarity provides a goal, expectations, priorities, communication, and trust. 

Provides a Goal: When a leader fails to clearly communicate the goals of an organization or a project, people working on that project can impose their own goals which can affect the outcome. The leader likely already has a goal in mind as well as a reason behind the goal. Without the team knowing those thoughts, there can be team members pulling in different directions. This leads to wasted effort and likely a leader who will send a team back to the drawing board to better reflect their vision. 

Provides Expectations: One of the most dangerous things in the world is expectations. If you have heard a restaurant is the best in town and you get there and it’s just good not great, you will be disappointed. If you approached the same restaurant with no expectations, it might have received a better review. Clearly communicated expectations to members of an organization, or a potential customer, or a volunteer, sets their mind in the right place to be a good fit. Alternatively, when the expectations are clearly communicated to a team, when someone doesn’t meet those expectations, you have clear grounds for any needed conversations. 

Provides Priorities:  Do people know what the bigger priorities are when you are not around? If someone has to choose between two good options, do they know which to pick? What about for yourself? Do you know how to prioritize between two urgent tasks? Having clarity around priorities can help you to make distinctions between what is good and what is best. 

Provides Communication: In my experience, most people think they communicate clearly, but many do not. When we are communicating many of the things above, we start with a good base for future clear communication. But it is important to consider the points of the view of the communication. Are we designing communication for our intended audience or is it for us? Are we using the right platforms, does our team know which platforms to use for what?

Provides Trust: Finally, clarity brings trust. Trust in an organization brings power. Trust allows us to work well and work together because we feel safe to go all in on something. If you are waiting for a teammate to stab you in the back or a boss to blow up on you for something silly, you are going to not want to lean into the work. A culture built around clarity, allows team members to commit themselves to work and create an environment that encourages good work. 

Clairity is a better way to build a business.  

How are we doing this now and how are we going to improve? 

Communication- We are big on communication at Adelsberger Marketing. We even have a communication policy in our company. We use a lot of GIFs, but we make sure that things are communicated. What things are communicated? We are working on spelling out all of our expectations, talking through projects, talking through important things to the company, and involving everyone in how the company is doing. 

Transparency- Major decisions happening to the business are shared as soon as practical with the team. When we sold part of the firm to ATA, our team knew it was on the table and was able to ask questions about it as soon as it seemed like a likely reality. When we are expanding staff or when we have attempted to purchase other firms in the past, the team is aware. Our team receives monthly updates on how the finances are going and have a view into the deal pipeline. When people have clarity on what is going on, it increases trust, and trust increases the organization rowing the right way together. But even on smaller tasks, if the team knows why we are doing something a certain way, it allows us to be on the same page.

1 on 1s- I regularly (not necessarily weekly because schedules can be hard) meet one on one with each team member. These are short meetings, 15 minutes or less, but it gives me a chance to see how they are doing individually and how we are doing as a team. As the organization has grown, this has been necessary and a blessing. It can be a bit awkward, but it will be a core event moving forward. 

Staff Meetings- We have two staff meetings each week to help make sure we are aligned on priorities and communication is flowing. Most projects have multiple team members touching it, so having everyone together can help reveal project issues or hangups.  It helps us stay on the same page and row together. (And I genuinely enjoy having the team together, even over zoom.)

SOPs- Standard operating procedures. These documents give us a jumping off point for all of our work and our basic expectations from staff. These range from our new leads checklist to a checklist on how to set up a new wordpress environment. We will continue to enhance these and create more of these to cover all sorts of things, including an out of office procedure. 

Annual Themes-  We also have annual themes, like this one (and 2022 and 2021). Annual themes give us something to rally around for a limited time, to help us focus on improvement on one specific area of the business for the year. We print stickers, talk about it regularly, create an emoji, and this year are giving out shirts. We make it a big deal. 

Coming soon to Adelsberger Marketing: 

EOS- We have now reached a sufficient size to start implementing the EOS system. EOS is a framework for getting an organization to continue to develop as the whirlwind of work for clients grows. We will be attempting to implement this in 2023. 

Core Values- As part of EOS, we will be implementing Core Values. We have had a mission/vision statement for a while. We have developed and revealed them to the team, but we will also be rolling them out to the public this year as well. Core values will be something we can consistently lean on for guidance for years to come. These will also serve as more clear expectations for team members and a helpful guide in hiring. 

Long Term Goals- An additional component of EOS is sketching out long term goals. Five and ten year goals are things we have talked about but have not set in writing. We will be working toward this as we set a picture for the team to look forward to. With EOS, you move from vision (10 year) to traction (90 day goals). This will allow us to work together to make the proposed future a reality. 

Focused Project Management- In the summer of 2022, we hired a project manager. She will continue to grow in skill and responsibility and help me keep a tight connection with the work going on at the firm. This will allow the creative team to spend more time on their projects and less time wrestling with clients. This also frees me up to work on things like implementing EOS and more business development. 

I think we have already had a good amount of clarity in our company. But I seek for more of it because we are going to need it. As the size and complexity of our organization grows, the number of people grows, the number of people touching a project grows, clarity naturally dims. As the leader, it is my responsibility to work to ensure we maintain and even improve clarity to allow us all to be successful. One of the great joys of my life is putting our team in places to be successful professionally but also personally. I am thankful for each member of our team and I want to create a culture that values them and allows them to thrive. 

Clarity does that. Clarity brings power. 


Good Times at Gerdau

It is a surreal feeling to be standing near what looks like and feels like man made lightning. But that is exactly what you experience in the bowels of the melt shop at the Gerdau Steel Mill in Jackson, Tennessee. Gerdau hired Adelsberger Marketing to come in and create a new library of images and video for use locally and for their corporate office. We had an adventure over two days in safety gear exploring all facets of the mill. (In the height of summer among molten and piping hot steel.)

The Gerdau team did a fantastic job of keeping us safe during the entire excursion, even though Kevin was constantly trying to get in trouble. We were even able to get the drone involved for some of the exterior work. 

We paired our on the ground work with design back in the office and helped develop some advertising options for Gerdau to use in the Jackson area. This is one of our favorite shots that we took just before our camera overheated!

A few years ago Kevin was on a tour of the facility with Leadership Jackson and at that time, he asked for a chance to go in the skycrane. That request was quickly rejected by the tour guide, but 6 years later, Kevin finally made his way into the sky crane!

We really enjoyed working with Gerdau. As an international company, it was fun to work with their corporate marketing department and the local representatives to help document this mill. It’s fun knowing our photo, video, and design could be used here in Jackson, in Florida at Corporate or down in Brazil at the company headquarters. 

Major Changes Coming to Email Analytics

Tim Cook doesn’t giveth, he just taketh away. This time it’s inbox tracking. 

Most marketers are well aware of Apple’s recent war on digital marketing. The changes to tracking with iOS14 are just starting to be felt and the change of the direction and tone they are setting will change our ecosystem. 

But Apple is doing what they said back in 2019: “The future is private.” 

With the latest WWDC, Apple announced the next big swipe at marketers: Apple Mail users will have to opt-in to allowing email opens to be tracked. While the numbers are still being sorted out from the last update, it looks like most people will not be opting into tracking. Which is a reasonable step for most people to take when presented with the request to allow tracking.  Therefore it seems likely that people will not opt-in to email tracking. 

While this is currently just going to be in Apple Mail, it stands to reason that Apple sets trends in this industry. Remember how everyone made fun of the iPhone for dropping the headphone jack? It was not long till everyone else copied that.

The arms race will be interesting to watch: Will Mailchimp throw a public fit like Facebook did? Will Constant Contact develop a work around? Will Apple launch its own email service that doesn’t follow the rules?

What to do about it? 

Know that Apple is once again changing the rules. In the near future email reporting will be affected. 

-Make good use of the time we do have left by testing open rates on different types of headlines. Headlines will be awfully hard to test against each other when these changes take effect so use this time and make records. 

-Start building better content. Using the data you have currently and focus on making better emails going forward. Stop sending lower quality emails and focus on good ones. In other words, make it hard to not open. 

-Use UTM parameters in email messages. If you are not already doing advanced link tracking in your emails, now might be a good time. UTM parameters might end up being one of the first and last working reliable analytics. 

-Diversify your marketing methods. Email will still be a good tool to use. But as Google tries to sort people’s email for them, and Apple takes swipes at tracking, determine how else can you reach your people reliably. Unfortunately, I think this means that texting will continue to grow in its use by commercial entities. The second best attention feature left to use is push notifications, so getting customers to download your app will also become more prominent for marketing. 

Steve Jobs believed in hardware and software that worked perfectly together. This ended up creating a walled garden that was a hindrance to Apple for many years. But now, this walled garden, where they get to dictate the rules for so many people, may end up being the greatest advantage of our age. Apple sees the future as private for our benefit but also their benefit. It will continue to make our jobs harder, so begin communicating that to your clients to help set expectations of performance as these changes come down.


Attention is one of our more important resources we have left. But as a culture, we have not yet started treating it as essential as time. Attention can be garnered in a multitude of ways: bright colors, billboards, attractive people, cute dogs (and ugly dogs), notifications, emails, tv ads, and newspaper articles. While evaluating these multitudes of ways, one should also consider whose attention you are trying to gain and at what cost. 

Gathering attention and reselling it is the principle that media companies are based on. Facebook isn’t the product, we are.  Facebook gathers our attention by showing us things we think are interesting and fostering a sense of community with people we may not see every day. We are the product because it sells our attention to advertisers. Newspapers gather attention by producing journalism and then sell that attention for advertising. I think that having an app will be standard in the future because the ability to have push notifications on the consumer’s device/watch/glasses/other wearable technology will be a key attention-getter in a noisy world (call our friends at Sodium Halogen for custom app development).  

The cost of gaining attention has never been lower which means that we as a culture are more distracted than ever. As a result, it can make it harder to get good attention from your audience (it’s a painful cycle). We should think about the cost of each medium we are trying to use to get attention. Right now, the most affordable methods of getting attention are generally digital. There will come a day when the cost of digital ads will rise and the cost of traditional advertising will slide down. Because of the current state of prices, we almost never recommend our clients purchase traditional advertising. There will be a day when the cost of the traditional advertising has dropped enough to make it competitive with digital again. It is important to remember: Marketing is about attention, not necessarily the platform of how we get that attention. 

It is also important to consider whose attention you want. Understanding your customer is crucial to getting the right attention. If you primarily sell hemorrhoid cream to senior citizens, the attention that a tiktok influencer gathers is probably not the attention you want to pay for. Study: Who buys our product/service? What are they paying attention to? What do they find valuable? How do we talk to them and get their attention? We will talk more about this later in this chapter.

An additional cost of garnering attention is the cost of trust or social capital. We can see this most clearly with “click bait” headlines online. If we do something extremely bold to gain attention and do not back it up with value, we will erode the trust that our audience has with us. The only exception to this rule seems to be state and national level party politics. You can see this in email marketing as well. If you subscribe to an email list and it proves to be annoying, you do not continue to open those emails. Also, as a society, companies continue to push the edges further and further to get and keep attention. There is an atrophying of the minimum level of excitement required to get and keep attention. This is a cost we and all of our children will pay for. 


This blog post is a portion of Attention and Action. The book walks you through the marketing process that Adelsberger Marketing follows with its clients. You can read this book for free as a blog on the Adelsberger Marketing website or purchase on

Marketing and Sales

Marketing vs Sales
The gap between marketing and sales is often a small crack in small organizations. However, that gap is more like a wide gulf in large organizations. The size difference is a result of the broad definition of marketing. We believe, in short, marketing enables sales to happen. Marketing includes all the things that lead someone to be ready to make a purchase. Is a brochure sales? No. Can it enable sales? Yes.
Marketing helps generate sales. If someone comes across your brochure and then picks up a phone and calls you or visits your website to buy something – then mission accomplished! It helped create sales. Where this line gets fuzzy are things like eCommerce websites. Where does the line get drawn there? There are many elements of marketing on an eCommerce website: the photos, the copy, the branding, and the way the website works. But the actual transaction is sales. 

Why does this matter? It’s important to know who is responsible for what. If your sales teams need something to help enable sales, marketing should be responsive to that. If it’s a new sales slide show or a new landing page on the website, those are tools that marketing can provide to help sales be successful.
Working with an outside marketing agency can be self-defeating if you are horrible at sales. Bad sales skills can kill good marketing. Likewise, bad marketing slows good sales. To help everyone be successful, we need to ensure open communication between marketing and sales. We need to help ensure each part is doing a good job with their tasks and that they are not afraid to ask for help.
In each organization, it is important to break down the goals of each department. In marketing, is the goal to generate leads for sales to then follow up with? Is it to grow the public perception of the organization? Is it to generate eCommerce sales? In your organization, it will be important to specify where sales and marketing mesh and who is responsible for what. The smaller the organization, the more cross over happens, especially when the CEO/Owner is responsible for all of it. 


This blog post is a portion of Attention and Action. The book walks you through the marketing process that Adelsberger Marketing follows with its clients. You can read this book for free as a blog on the Adelsberger Marketing website or purchase on


The simplest definition of marketing that I have is this: Marketing is the effort of getting someone’s attention and motivating them to take your call to action/goal.

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