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Past Presidential Thoughts: The Recurring Value of SMPS

SMPS Boston is celebrating our 35th anniversary in 2016-2017, so we’ve invited a slew of past presidents to reflect on their experiences with the chapter. This edition comes from Mike Reilly, FSMPS, president of Reilly Communications and SMPS Boston president for the 1993-1994 program year.

I found SMPS in 1985. At every phase of a three-decade journey in A/E/C marketing, SMPS members helped me to meet the right people, have fun, master new skills, and share knowledge with my employers and clients.

The story of my first day on the job as a rookie marketing coordinator tells a lot about SMPS. I was an unemployed journalist with zero experience in marketing, inexplicably hired by the nice people at Anderson-Nichols to launch a new marketing department. On day one, I was the department.

By early afternoon, my boss began to realize how little I knew. An old-school engineer and principal, he called me into his office for a chat. It began to dawn on me that he didn’t know much about marketing either. But he knew something I did not. “Mike, you ought to call Sylvia Wheeler over at Haley & Aldrich,” he said. “She’s part of a group called SMPS. Introduce yourself to her and take her to lunch.”

Connecting with Sylvia and her SMPS network completely changed my knowledge base – and career. And wow, guess what? Marketers were fun to hang out with! I was hooked. Committee work, board roles, and later chapter and national president positions helped me build my own network and pay the learning and introductions forward. Every time the unpredictable journey hit a fork in the road, SMPS colleagues inspired and informed me. Often, it was their courage, more than mine, that made it easier to take a risk.

The key lesson learned? SMPS offers career-long value, a benefit too often left behind as marketers take on senior roles for their firms. The Society’s best-known feature, educating and developing young marketers, is a tremendous thing. Yet the next levels of active involvement provide equal value for members willing to engage and contribute. I am just one beneficiary of this evergreen character of SMPS involvement. I can introduce you to dozens of others who will describe a similar experience.

Beyond the early years of helping me learn the game, SMPS and its network put me in position to:

  • Form unbeatable teams and win highly-desired projects
  • Meet experts in every niche of the marketing profession, inside and outside the industry, and develop long-term relationships
  • Contribute to the marketing body of knowledge as a speaker, AIA Handbook author, Marketer editor, conference speaker, and meeting facilitator
  • Participate with the best and the brightest A/E/C marketing pros via award juries, Fellows programs, SMPS task forces, content development initiatives, publishing, and teaming
  • Get to know clients and understand on a strategic level their business issues via SMPS research initiatives, one-to-one interviews for Marketer, and conference planning roles
  • Build a national consulting practice where my SMPS colleagues are an ongoing source of new work, referrals and recommendations
  • Apply my experience as a trainer and speaker for SMPS to a classroom role teaching media relations to undergrads at BU’s College of Communication

It’s hard for me to picture what direction I might have taken if I never made that phone call to Sylvia. As our chapter celebrates 35 years and countless success stories, I invite you all, including my fellow senior marketers, to contribute and be a part of the next 35 years.

Do you have your own story on the recurring value of SMPS? Share it below in the comments.

Michael Reilly

Author

Michael J. Reilly, FSMPS is president of Reilly Communications, a public relations and marketing consulting practice based in Boston. Mike is a past Boston chapter and national president and a recipient of the Weld Coxe Marketing Achievement Award. He served as subject matter expert for the communications section of the recently-published Markendium series, and is a contributing editor for the Marketer.

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