Hot Topic: Keynotes, Networking, and More – My Takeaways from AAM Summit 2024

Becoming your Firm’s Leading Internal Consultant, Mari-Anne Kehler, Partner, Chief Strategy Officer, GHJ

Closing out day one of Summit, Mari-Anne spoke on the importance of why marketing should be thought of as our Firm’s internal consultant or strategic advisor. “How I was perceived was as important as what I knew,” a noteworthy line that I took away from this session. We all have access to insights and trends that make us an invaluable thought leader to our Firm. How is what we are sharing helping to build the story of what we want others to know and think about us?

  • What is our superpower?
  • What do people count on us for?
  • What is our reputation?
  • What do we do better than anyone else?

Find people that you trust, who will tell you the truth, and ask which three adjectives they would describe you as. Then, compare that feedback with what you think your best adjectives and attributes are. The gap between those responses and what your thoughts of yourself are, is what you need to fill, change, and improve.

Remember, your ability to effectively communicate key insights at the right time will make you an influence within your Firm and among your colleagues.  Fight for your right to have a seat at the table as your knowledge is invaluable and is likely to help key leaders make the right decisions that really matter. I found this session to be a perfect ending to the first day of Summit, inspiring us all to reach for more and to embrace the “superpowers” that are inside each one of us.


Courageous Conversations: The Inner Work, Natalie Johnson, Co-Founder and Chief Visionary, ViDL Work

Kicking off the second day of Summit, this session was inspiring and one I wouldn’t soon forget. Natalie started the session with asking the audience to get up and go meet someone new. We all know this can be uncomfortable, but I believe that is the overall point of her message and the start of pushing us to think about our inner selves and how having courageous conversations is important. We all have things in our life that impact how we show up in life. Emotional triggers, such as neuro or psychological triggers that make us feel anxious or want to shut down. When we have difficult conversations both in the workplace and out, these triggers can get in our way.  “Communication Traps,” or as Natalie described them, include both soft and hard behaviors. Apologizing unnecessarily, procrastinating, and burying the main point are just a few examples of soft behaviors, while talking without listening, reacting defensively, and failing to ask questions are just a few of the hard behaviors.

Learning and thinking deeper into which of these behaviors we often portray, can help us see how we show up in life and how we handle situations. “How I see a person is how I feel about them”- is something I remember vividly from this session as it makes you ponder how your behaviors and communication may rub off on others. Learning and growing are more important than always being right.

Another powerful segment I embraced was “The Line,” and whether we are living below or above the line in our day to day lives and how we can adjust that. Staying open, curious, and committed to learning are examples of living above the line, while being closed off, defensive, overwhelmed, and finding fault and blame in others are living below. It is our responsibility to recognize when our interactions are falling below the line, as this directly translates into how we communicate with others. Seek connection in the way you communicate and find ways to bounce back if you find yourself here.  Take some time away, take some deep breaths, listen to some music, change locations, journal, or even give yourself a good laugh. All of these resets can help you to “trampoline” back into a positive space and will in the end protect your team and those around you. Natalie’s overall message pushed me to remember to stay positive and creative and that I will be a better marketer and person because of it!


Leveraging Generational Differences for Internal and External Marketing, Dawn Wagner, Principal & Christine Nelson, Communications Consultant, Ingenuity Marketing Group

Concluding my summary of favorite Summit sessions, I come to this one—a crucial message from Dawn and Christine that resonates with everyone. Do you know that right now, stakeholders inside each of our firms and clients outside of our firms could include up to five generations? As you can imagine, each generation brings its own preferences and methods of communication. Traditionalists (born after 1928), Boomers (born after 1946), GenXers (born after 1965), Millennials (born after 1981), and GenZers (born after 1997) make up these five generations. Leveraging these differences can be a key technique for competitive branding, marketing, and messaging.

When planning an event, what are some ways we can bring together these generations? Dawn and Christine discussed the concept of “Phygital” and why it can go beyond and engage your audience even further. Phygital is a term that combines “physical” and “digital” to bridge the gap between the digital world and the physical world using technology. The purpose is to provide a unique interactive experience for all users. Blending the online and offline worlds to create seamless experiences can help leverage the strengths of both environments.

It is important to survey your employees about their communication preferences, as we all know the culprits who never fully read an email or skip over that physical invitation. Where are the communication breakdowns? Are your internal communications inclusive of all generations? Are phygital tools in play? How can you make internal communication more effective overall? Things such as training on the uses of your company newsletter/intranet, emailing updates monthly, and key announcements reviewed in team meetings are a few of the ways to keep everyone on the same page.

Take time to learn the preferences of both your internal and external audiences. Use various formats when disseminating content such as blogs, videos, infographics, and podcasts to cater to different preferences. Create different messaging depending on who your target audience is, use date analytics to explore and understand best strategy. Remember to always maintain a consistent and authentic brand voice no matter how you are distributing your content and information, and you can’t go wrong!

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About Jenna Ward

Working as the Marketing Manager for a regional CPA Firm, I work alongside the Chief Growth Officer, the Firm Partners, and Staff. With three locations throughout Western New York, I lead the firm through our day-to-day internal marketing efforts and managing our public relations relationship. I also oversee the proposal process, community sponsorships, social media, firm volunteer efforts and assist with our wellness program.

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