AMA Washington DC’s Marketing Mentors Network success story, and how the chapter has made winning adjustments during the pandemic
Every year, AMA Washington, DC’s mentor program, the Marketing Mentors Network (MMN), serves 40-50 professionals who are just starting their career, looking to level up, get a foot in the door to their chosen field or earn senior positions. In 2016, the Marketing Mentors Network was reimagined and relaunched as a more interactive and engaging experience, focused on building long-term relationships.
Over the six-month program, mentors and protégés meet one-on-one at least two to three times monthly, and group events are held every other month to act as support beams for growing relationships. Past group activities have included career strengths exploration using the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 tool, expert roundtable discussions and interactive workshops on networking tips with speed networking. Encouraging peer-to-peer networking, the protégé-only and mentor-only happy hours are always a big hit.
The program is offered as an AMADC member benefit, and protégés pay a nominal fee to participate.
MMN is run by a leadership team that serves as an advisory board to help support and guide the program. The team is made up of past mentors who have shared their marketing leadership, creative and market research skills to continue to improve the quality of the program.
“I have been a member of the American Marketing Association Washington, DC chapter for many years, but I didn’t fully connect with the organization until I joined the Marketing Mentors Network,” says the program’s assistant vice president Cathy Johnson, managing director of marketing at TDI. “I was a mentor during the 2016–17 and 2019–20 seasons and now I’m proud to be a part of the leadership team. My favorite aspect of marketing is helping and teaching others. In 2016, I found myself in a role that did not include direct reports. The MMN gave me the opportunity to help when that opportunity wasn’t available to me at work.”
MMN is built on a foundation of mentoring best practices and analytics. We are thrilled to have created a program that not only makes a positive impact on a marketer’s professional life, but also receives rave reviews. Since the beginning, we have focused on tracking our progress. A few highlights from our 2019-20 program from both mentors and protégés:
• 94% indicated that the program met or exceeded their expectations.
• 90% agreed that the program was a valuable use of their time.
• 78% rated the program excellent or very good.
• 74% said they would be very likely to recommend the AMADC Marketing Mentors Network to others.
We have gained such great momentum, even a global pandemic cannot stop us. Naturally, as marketers, we are always reviewing and evaluating the success of the program and making adjustments. This year is no different. We have made some changes taking into account the new global landscape:
1. Fully Virtual Program
The program initially involved live group events for peer-to-peer networking. Last year it evolved into a hybrid model with the addition of Zoom mini coaching sessions, so it’s not a stretch to be offering the full program online this fall. We’re even figuring out fun ways to deliver on virtual networking.
2. Marketers Impacted By COVID-19
Mentoring is not job searching and we don’t want the program to turn into a job search tool, therefore we usually limit participation to protégés who are currently employed. However, given that so many local marketers have been furloughed, laid off or have experienced pay cuts, this year we are expanding the program to include those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
3. Support of a Happiness Coach
The program’s foundation is deeply rooted in professional coaching and training methodologies. With the pandemic’s impact on social morale, we believe that happiness is a key topic for many and for the 2020-21 session we are excited to be collaborating with certified Chief Happiness Officer and Happiness Coach JoAnna Brandi of JoAnna Brandi & Company. JoAnna helped to set the stage at the program kickoff and will lead a session dedicated to happiness in the spring.
Although setting up a program from scratch can be daunting, you are not alone. Other chapters can learn from existing programs such as ours, or those of AMA Dallas/Ft. Worth and AMA Toronto. Both of these chapters have an established program and are willing to help. The initial setup is the hardest part, but once there is an operational framework in place, you can sit back and enjoy fine-tuning it to make it an even better experience for participants.
Tips to Enhance Your Chapter’s Mentor Program
1. Set up a leadership team.
It’s best to share the workload. Having four to five people working together can generate brilliant ideas and can troubleshoot and solve issues more easily.
2. Measure and improve.
We have consistently measured the success of our program through mid-point and post-program surveys. Having a professional marketing researcher engaged with the program is beneficial.
3. Have fun.
The best part about running a mentor program is that the fun outweighs the work. You get to meet and talk to a variety of marketers, develop interesting events and expand your professional social life through networking.
Our mission for the Marketing Mentors Network is to create a local community of marketers who are united by helping each other to succeed. We have found that we are doing exactly that. Although individual events definitely have their benefits, a longer-term engagement is a great way for members to get to know more about AMA—as well as each other—over time. It’s also a great way to encourage members to volunteer and gain additional experience. Several past participants of the program have joined the AMADC board. For instance, the current president, Patrick King, is a past mentor in the program.
It was our vision that the Marketing Mentors Network would be a gateway into the local community as it connects marketers through a shared experience. Our research has shown it has done just that.