Actor Warren Beatty once said “you’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.” That’s my mantra…every day!
One thing I’ve tried to instill in my adult children is that life is too short to not be happy – so find out what makes you happy, then figure out how to get paid to do that! In doing so, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.
Fortunately, I became aware of my career aspirations when I was in high school. Years of working on the school paper and yearbook, organizing homecoming activities, sitting on student activity committees and broadcasting at a local radio station prepared me for a life of communicating with others. If I look back over the last 25+ years, I’m basically doing about the same thing as I was then – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Like most Michiganders, I took what we had around us for granted for a long time. I didn’t realize all we had to offer in terms of history, diversity, seasonalities and culture. I knew of bits and pieces – like Greenfield Village, Lake Michigan and Mackinac Island, but I never truly understood all the amazing things that make up this great state of ours.
In 1997, I was hired by the West Michigan Tourist Association (WMTA) in Grand Rapids (celebrating its centennial this year) to handle marketing and media relations for their 1000+ members spread out over 41 counties. This was a pivotal point in my life. This is when I first opened my eyes to the real Michigan experience!
Within the first six months on the job, I learned that Michigan had more miles of freshwater shoreline than any other state, more lighthouses than any other state and was second only to California in agricultural diversity. Later, I discovered where all the state parks were located, heard about countless shipwrecks and met legendary figures in the tourism industry who inspired me with their stories. I sampled locally-crafted wines, and later craft beers, ciders, meads and spirits.
Over the years, I been sailing on the Tall Ship Manitou in Grand Traverse Bay, visited a handful of islands, kayaked crystal-clear rivers, played championship golf courses and snowshoed through national shorelines. And it was all work! Basically, I was getting paid to play – and then share my adventures with others in hopes they’d follow along and do the same!
I spent about seven years at WMTA, getting intimate with the nooks and crannies of the mitten. The more I found, the more I learned and the more I experienced, the more I craved. During those years, I essentially fell in love…with Michigan!
Thirteen years ago this August, I made a leap of faith and launched PROMOTE MICHIGAN – an independent consulting company offering public and media relations services to businesses and organizations around the state. I help plan and promote events, work closely with media outlets, write and distribute news releases, manage social media channels, coordinate with photographers and videographers and juggle countless projects simultaneously.
In any given week, I could be promoting a craft beer festival, working on a news release for an auto show, planning a breast cancer fundraiser, speaking to a group about any number of historical topics, writing an article about a visit to a local spa, attending a conference planning meeting, coordinating a media tour to a dairy farm, attending a wine dinner and all the while, tweeting, Facebooking, posting on Instagram, checking in on FourSquare / Swarm and blogging about it all…just another day in the life!
Being PROMOTE MICHIGAN is more than just the daily workload – it’s a lifestyle. Everywhere I go, everything I do, I’m on the lookout for the people, places and products that make this state so great. When I need a cup of coffee – I look first to Biggby – founded in East Lansing (which is also where I buy coffee for consumption at home). When it comes to groceries, I’m seeking out companies like Kellogg’s, Garden Fresh and Kowalski, or even SpartanNash or Meijer (as Michigan-based companies). Dining out, I’m in search of independently-owned eateries serving fresh farm to table fare over chain restaurants whenever possible.
Buying a gift for a colleague? It’s a bottle of Michigan wine or a six pack of Michigan beer. Maybe, a Michigan shaped cutting board (both the Upper AND Lower Peninsulas, of course), accessories from KitchenAid or something extra special from Shinola in Detroit.
Ready to get outside after the long winter months? Lace up a pair of boots from Wolverine World Wide in Ada, put on a Stormy Kromer hat (crafted in the Upper Peninsula since 1903) and don a coat from Carhartt, headquartered in Dearborn to head out and explore the woods and trails.
Head out on the water aboard a hand-made wooden stand-up paddle boards from Little Bay Boards in Petoskey, paddle along one of the 32,000 miles of rivers in a wooden kayak from Mackinaw Water Craft in Grand Ledge or cast a line with a Mystic Fly Rod made in Portland.
Looking for a good book to read beachside? Stories from Michigan authors Ernest Hemingway, Jim Harrison, Wade Rouse, Robert Underhill, Michael Lindley, Steve Amick, Viola Shipman, Tobin Buhk and Mardi Link are sure to please. Or, check out the list of Michigan Notable Books that were just released for 2017. And, when looking to purchase these titles, make a day of it by visiting a locally-owned bookstore – like The Cottage Bookstore in Glen Arbor, McLean & Eakin in Petoskey or Nicola’s in Ann Arbor to peruse the aisles.
I’ve been told that I have an addiction to Michigan and that’s probably true. Each day, I look for opportunities to learn something new about this fine state of ours and more importantly, to share these nuggets of information with others. I hope my passion is addictive and that others begin to feel the unconditional love and pride that I have for Michigan. So, tell me, what is that YOU love most about Michigan?