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Senior Member Profile: Susan Shelby

September 9, 2010

In our second senior member profile, meet Susan Shelby, CPSM. Susan is the Principal of Rhino PR, and has been an avid supporter of SMPS Boston for years.

Susan ShelbyHow long have you been working in the marketing industry?
I have been doing sales and marketing for approximately 20 years. I spent six years doing PR for high-tech companies (working at agencies and in-house) before moving into the AEC industry in 2001.

What has your involvement in SMPS been like? When were you president?
I attended a SMPS Boston event shortly after joining Vanderweil Engineers in October 2001. I met Steve Woodworth who was the Communications Director and offered to help out with PR. I have been involved with SMPS Boston ever since. Here is a recap of my involvement with SMPS Boston:

  • Immediate Past President 2007-2008
  • President 2006-2007
  • Vice President/President Elect 2005-2006
  • Communications Director 2003-2005
  • Co-Chair, 2005 SMPS Northeast Regional Conference
  • Communications Committee Chair 2002-2003
  • Member, Golf Committee 2009-2010
  • Member since 2001

The thing that impressed me about SMPS Boston right from the start was everyone’s willingness to help each other out. I had attended industry events while working with high-tech companies but it was truly a dog-eat-dog world. Being new to the AEC industry I had a lot of questions and it made my life so much easier to be able to talk to people I met through SMPS Boston.

How has the industry changed since you started?
Web 2.0, e-mail marketing, and social media have all evolved over the past nine years. I had a friend who worked for an e-mail marketing company and I launched an e-newsletter while I was Director of Corporate Communications at Vanderweil Engineers. From a PR perspective, we’re seeing a lot of publications go out of business and/or switch to a digital format. We have to really pay attention because it’s like musical chairs with editors these days.

What is a lesson learned from your time in the industry as a marketing professional?
The basic fundamentals of marketing still apply – regardless of all the changes we’re seeing with social media, etc. As marketing professionals we have to clearly articulate our differentiators – what sets our firms apart from others.

What piece of advice would you tell a young marketer just starting out?
Get involved (it’s the best way to meet people and build your network) and be a sponge (ask questions, attend events, read).

The recession has made a large impact on the marketing profession and the marketer’s role in a firm. What would you advise marketing professionals to do in terms of “showing their value” to firm principals?
Great question. It is extremely difficult in this industry to show a return on investment (ROI). When I was in high tech, I could put a 1-800 number in an ad and track how many people called about that month’s special. It doesn’t work that way in the AEC industry. No client is going to give you a project just because they received a brochure. It’s all about staying visible in front of clients and “touching” them in different ways. It’s a relationship business so people need to be out there interacting face-to-face with people. E-mail and social media are great tools, but they cannot replace the value of a true relationship. I always advise marketing people to get out of the office. Or, at the very least, to pick up the phone!


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