Wednesday, 01 February 2023

Morgan: On making Middletown more economically viable

Recently it was brought to my attention that three businesses in Middletown had shut down in a two-week period of time. Perhaps the fact these local merchants were concerned about the amount of tax that had to be paid on unsold inventory had something to do with the timing. Nevertheless, it is sad to see any business that chooses to serve the area decide to close up shop. Is there anything the community could do or should do to help prevent such such events from reoccuring?


Well, I happen to be an advocate of business networking something that is NOT very common in Lake County. In the six years I have lived in the area I have seen nonprofit fundraisers canceled or restructured due in part to a lack of consideration of people. There is a serious lack in caring and connection here that is "off the charts." I am not sure if the problem is that people have decided they:


1) Don't NEED to CARE about anyone's business other than their own; or,


2) Do not know HOW TO CARE about anyone's business other than their own.


Make no mistake, willing to CARE and knowing HOW TO CARE is important. I plan to be a featured speaker at the upcoming Middletown Area Town Hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Middletown High School Multi-Use Room. I plan to address this issue in the process of sharing tools which I believe can move Middletown forward in such a way that the town truly becomes the "Gateway to Lake County." That is to say, Middletown actually becomes a destination rather than a drive-thru to somewhere else.


Caring matters. What would the intensive care unit be within a hospital if no one really cared? Answer: a place to die.


In 2006, I approached two well-known Middletown organizations to ask if they would like to help me do something special for the town's annual western festival, "Middletown Days." The idea was to bring the Fox News Channel to Middletown to cover the festival. Neither organization showed any interest. Put another way, they did not CARE.


Since the adults would not help me, I sought the help of local high school students. Had I simply TOLD the students what to do, their answer would probably have been, "No deal." But, we negotiated with one another. For example, the kids would say, "We'll write the letters, but you provide the envelopes and postage" to which I responded, "Done."


I actually was able to "connect" with 30 high school students. They understood the vision I had for the town. They actually WANTED to help MAKE it come to pass. There was no community service credit attached to getting their help. Each student was simply a volunteer. To make a long story short, the students succeeded in bringing Fox News Correspondent Adam Housley to Middletown to address the parade crowd and get this event mentioned on the network news, June 17th of 2006.


It is important you understand Fox News did not come to Middletown simply because 30 students wrote letters to the network. No, Fox came because those 30 students set into motion a campaign that had caring people around the world writing and calling the network on behalf of the effort initiated by those young people. The students actually engaged in a technique known as "pay it forward" or "netweaving." The students connected with caring people around the world. Those caring people went out of their way to contact Fox News on behalf of those students. Why? Because the student effort "connected" with those adults in such a way that the project became an adult desire as well as a student desire.


It has been said that nothing succeeds like success. The following year when students were once again asked to help spread news about "Middletown Days," it was not just 30 letters that got written. It was 110. And, it was not just high school students that wanted to participate. Middle school children wanted in on the action as well. Teachers were so impressed that this time around every student participating in the business letter-writing program was given community service credit toward graduation.


Meanwhile, a Middletown organization was offering students the opportunity to participate in a T-shirt drawing contest. The winning artist would have his or her artwork displayed on the famous, "Middletown Days T-Shirt," which is always a big seller during the annual western festival in Middletown. An article about the contest was published in the local newspaper. A personal appeal was made to the students at the high school.


But, something was wrong with this approach. There was no serious "connection" made with the students. They were simply given marching orders and expected to carry them out. Why should the students care about the T-shirt drawing contest, anyway? Because the adults told them they should? Was it merely a coincidence that only one person out of the entire high school volunteered to participate in the contest?


Make no mistake, good intentions, are not good enough. Both CARING and knowing HOW TO CARE are crucial in life. For the most part, no one reads the newspaper, listens to the radio or watches television for the advertising. Why then do people pay attention? They pay attention for the news and entertainment value. But, the advertising is there to pay the bills. But, when the advertising CONNECTS with the audience in the same way the news and entertainment does, something marketers love happens. People start to CARE about the advertising message. Often, people will remember that message long after it has disappeared from the media. I doubt anyone reading this commentary will have a problem completing this line, "Please do not squeeze the ________." (Answer: Charmin').


Insanity has been defined as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting things to change." If that pretty much sums up your advertising experience in Middletown, the time has come to think "outside the box." Try something new and different. Here are some suggestions:


1) Coop an advertising campaign with a group of businesses. Find a way to coop your advertising needs with a group rather than going it alone.


2) Join Project-Middletown on Ryze.com. This FREE online business network allows you to freely advertise your business every Saturday four different ways plain text, HTML (pictures), audio clip (radio spot) and video clip (TV spot). Help is also freely available for those who need it. This business networking site is also a great place to get an online education. There are a lot of helpful people from around the world who really do want to help you succeed. Why not get acquainted?


3) Be a featured guest on a free online talk show, like Lake County's own Power Networking. It just might be the best 30 minutes of your day. Call 707-709-8605 for more information.


4) Establish a presence at monthly business mixers. If you cannot attend every mixer, make sure someone shows up to spread your business message on your behalf.


5) Learn how to use Jott.com. Send both email and voicemail to a group of people using only the telephone and making a single toll-free call.


6) Create your own free broadcasting online network with Orb Networks. This can come in extremely handy for folks wanting to make public or online slide show presentations. It is also useful for "placeshifting."


7) Get yourself a Skype account for free Internet calling. This is especially good for people who have a high-speed Internet connection.


8) Learn how to create and utilize an online lens at Squidoo.com including connecting an Evite.com invitation to it.


Above all, remember to CARE and CONNECT with your community. Life is not all about you and your business. It is all about us.


Helping us helps you. Think "better together."


Lamar Morgan lives in Hidden Valley Lake.


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