Signing off

Signing off

Hey AMA Pittsburgh family,

As my time as President comes to an end, I can’t help but look back on the amazing journey we’ve been on together. It’s been an honor to serve as your President and lead our organization through some big changes.

When I first took on this role, our main goal was to “reboot” after the pandemic. I’m proud of the great strides we’ve made. After a few years of declining membership due to the pandemic, our membership has grown to all-time high levels, with so many passionate marketers joining us. This is all thanks to your dedication and enthusiasm.

We’ve had some amazing events and programs that have helped us all grow professionally. From inspiring speakers like Robin Landa to interactive workshops through the AMA Momentum program, we’ve given you the tools to succeed in this ever-changing industry. And our networking events have brought us all closer together.

I’m also proud of the partnerships we’ve formed with organizations like PRSA, MPI, Ad Fed, AIGA, and Ad Fed. These alliances have helped us reach more people and create a thriving community for marketers in our region. And our sponsorships with universities have allowed us to impact the next generation of marketers.

One of my favorite accomplishments has been strengthening our relationships with student chapters at universities like the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration, Slippery Rock University, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. We’ve bridged the gap between academia and industry and helped prepare aspiring marketers for their future careers.

None of this would have been possible without all of you. I’m so grateful for your support, hard work, and resilience. Together, we’ve secured a bright future for AMA Pittsburgh.

As I pass the torch to our incoming President, Katie Bennett, I know our organization is in good hands. I’ll still be around as Immediate Past President, and I encourage all of you to stay involved and keep growing.

Thank you for an amazing journey filled with accomplishments and memories. I can’t wait to see what’s next for AMA Pittsburgh.

With appreciation,

RJ Thompson, MFA, SMS, CDMP

President, American Marketing Association – Pittsburgh Chapter

Marketing A Public Art Project

Marketing A Public Art Project

It was just slightly over 2 years ago that Bellevue resident, business owner, and friend Scott Streit reached out to me regarding a new building he purchased. Scott purchased a storefront property on Bellevue’s main business corridor, Lincoln Avenue. His vision was to transform his building into a property that signaled local ownership and investment as well as revitalization in the community. He didn’t quite know how that transformation would occur, so he reached out to me for some ideas. My recommendation was to produce a mural on the side of his building that was designed, painted, and installed by and for the community.

As a board member of Bona Fide Bellevue, a community development corporation that focuses on Bellevue’s revitalization and my background in public arts marketing and funding, Scott was immediately on board with the mural. I contacted my friend Jennie Denton of Lamplight Creative to put some ideas together for Scott’s space and she turned around two amazing designs. Soon after, I set up an IOBY fundraiser to raise the $2,000 we needed to produce the mural. We formalized it by calling it the “Bellevue Mural Arts Program.”

The original Bellevue mural concept by Jennie Denton of Lamplight Creative

Marketing the fundraiser may have been an arduous challenge had it not been for some research work my business partner in +Public, Kent Kerr, and I completed for his master’s thesis. As graphic designers, we knew that to produce the best outcomes, you had to design for your audience. One of the best ways to learn about your audience, especially in the civic/community context, is to recruit residents and business owners into design charettes that produce the data we need to make strategic decisions. Though out work, we realized that Bellevue had a large appetite for public art and that the market could bear $25-$150 donations per person. The ability to fundraise effectively and efficiently came into focus.

We set up our fundraiser through IOBY, a civic-focused fundraising platform. We advertised the fundraiser primarily via three-specific channels: Facebook, E-Mail, and Word of Mouth. Each member of the team wrote posts emphasizing the different aspects and benefits of the project on their personal profiles and in community groups. The enthusiastic reactions we each received was inspiring.

Through the IOBY platform, we were able to raise the $2,000 we needed within 2 and a half weeks. Having met our goal before the deadline, we collectively felt optimistic and justified that our research was accurate. We were going to make a mural! However, further serendipity hit our project and through IOBY we were the recipient of a matching arts grant which ultimately brought our fundraising to $4,919.

With our fundraiser being completed in December 2019 and being a huge success for all stakeholders, we could then focus on the production of the mural for a spring launch. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and effectively put our project on hold for another year and a half. All the capital, awareness, and expectations that we built through our marketing efforts were at risk of being lost due to long-term inactivity. Fortunately, throughout the duration of the pandemic there were few complaints and most people understood that if we were going to do this right, we had to it right the first time – and safely. Still, we wanted to keep public enthusiasm as high as we could.

During the pandemic, we had sporadic events and updates that supported our marketing. Our focus was on community building through affinity. Through Bona Fide Bellevue, we created a Community Arts Committee, a Public Arts Inventory, and offered a few webinars for volunteers and other stakeholders to learn about the history and future of the project. The Community Arts Committee was intended to spur and sustain conversations about how public art could manifest in Bellevue and empowering artists to put ideas forward to the artistic community with hopes of collaboration. The Public Arts Inventory, while even to this day is still in its infancy, is a record of all the physical places that public art could be placed. Garage walls, cement steps, sidewalks, building walls, open green spaces, and more. The Webinars covered both the committee and inventory, but also the genesis of the project and where it will go once, we were able to safely paint. We recorded all our efforts and made each of the assets publicly available. Once you start down this path, you can’t turn around – and when motivation is high, you need to sustain it and nudge it forward to create proof. When it comes to the promise of public art, I firmly believe that most people do not believe anything will happen until they see tangible proof. Ultimately, these efforts did sustain our marketing.

Bellevue Elementary School Principal Michael Amick and Naomi McKivigan painting the hills and houses in the mural.

When it came time to start painting, we had to consider the cache of engagement we built up throughout the pandemic. We started a Bellevue Mural Arts Program Facebook group so we could collect volunteers and stakeholders in one place. We secured space to paint in the art studios (also known as “The Cove”) at Greenstone Church. We held a community painting day that had about 40 people, ages 3-65, show up to paint. We asked volunteers to signal-boost their experience by offering a testimonial post on their Facebook profiles, which sought to recruit more people into painting. It was critical that our mural maintain its concept of being painted by and for the community.

On November 6, the mural was installed. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn posts saw hundreds of likes across several people’s posts. People who followed me or Scott or Jennie on these social platforms, but were not from Bellevue, were actively engaged and invested in the story of the mural. Now that we’ve installed the mural, people are asking, and rightfully so “what’s next?”

Community artists young and old painting the mural via a “color by numbers” strategy.
RJ Thompson demonstrating the scale comparison of human to mural

The Bellevue Mural Arts Program marketing started as a small grassroots social media campaign that evolved into community building that evolved into storytelling that converted followers from Bellevue and other locations into stakeholders. The narrative formula we utilized throughout this process was based on three core ideals: be visual, be personal, and be positive. Whenever we made a post, attach an image of the mural artwork or as it existed in-progress. Tether your personal feelings to that artwork, giving it soul and purpose beyond creative expression. Be positive, as the pandemic has made quick work in cutting down positivity across the board.

Artist Jennie Denton in front of the freshly installed mural.

So – what’s next? Get people to the mural to take photos in front of it and post to social media. The social proof that can be created from this will hopefully bring people into the Bellevue community to visit, enjoy our amenities, and make a few friends…and probably starting a new mural.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2021

AMA Pittsburgh Members Encouraged to Participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and all members of AMA Pittsburgh are encouraged to participate. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate in NDEAM.

For specific ideas about how AMA Pittsburgh members can support National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit Suggestions range from simple, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive, such as implementing a disability education program. Regardless, all play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities — every day of every month.

Social Information:

Website Resources: – Job Accommodation Network – Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion

Image Resources:

Large red text that spells hashtag NDEAM
Image with text that says “America’s Recovery Powered by Inclusion – National Disability Employment Awareness Month”
Image with text that says, in Spanish, “America’s Recovery Powered by Inclusion – National Disability Employment Awareness Month”
The background color of the 2020 poster is royal blue. All lettering is gold. To the left, in upper case letters, is the theme INCREASING ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY. Under the theme in upper and lower case lettering are the words Celebrating 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this statement is blue space.

At the bottom left are four elements:

Two logos side-by-side: 30th/ADA ANNIVERSARY 75th/NDEAM ANNIVERSARY
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
#ADA30 | #NDEAM75 |
DOL’s logo with the following, in upper case letters, to its right: OFFICE OF DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT POLICY UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

To the right, cascading down to the bottom of the poster, are triangular shapes containing images of people with a range of disabilities working in various settings.
Super Analytics Challenge at Katz

Super Analytics Challenge at Katz

#KatzImpact: Super Analytics Challenge

Graduate Students Team Up to Combat Homelessness in the Pittsburgh Community


A new opportunity for Pitt students to be catalysts for change is underway in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

Recognizing the importance of leveraging business skills to positively impact critical social issues, the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business developed and launched its first-ever Super Analytics Challenge, a new community-based initiative. The 2021 challenge addresses the complex issue of homelessness in the Pittsburgh community and formally ran from March 5-26, 2021.

“Our team at Pitt Business worked alongside the University and Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) to examine scenarios that either led people and families into becoming homeless or factors which may prevent homelessness,” says Christopher Barlow, Director of Corporate Engagement and Career Services. “Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, homelessness was selected as our focus because of its increasing prevalence as a global issue.”

The many contributing factors of homelessness, such as physical and mental health, the affordable housing supply, economic conditions, and the intersection of the judicial system, as well as the wide availability of published data and research, present an urgent opportunity for Pitt graduate students to provide meaningful insights and proposals for targeted mitigation efforts.

The Super Analytics Challenge served as a one-week hackathon-style competition where graduate students from across the University teamed up to frame a problem, create a data methodology, and generate an operable solution. Twenty-five students were appointed to five teams.

“The goal was for all student teams to generate innovative solutions that Allegheny County DHS may implement,” says Andrew Hannah, Adjunct Professor and Executive in Residence for Pitt Business. “Solutions were judged not only on the depth of their analytical thinking but also the pragmatism of the solution proposed.”

Pitt Business organized an advisory committee consisting of representatives from corporate partners at UPMC, Highmark, Accenture, SAP, the National Association of Counties, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Executives from these organizations not only helped shape the challenge, but served as executive coaches, analytical methods experts, and subject matter specialists who worked alongside the graduate students to share experience and knowledge and provide guidance on the proposed solutions.

“The Super Analytics Challenge is an example of Pitt Business reinventing business education,” says Sara Moeller, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs. “Our strategic goals include doing more to partner with our community as a catalyst for change, and to combine classroom concepts with integrated learning opportunities.”

The Super Analytics Challenge is designed to provide impact for all participants, so graduate students may leverage their business skills to work with local experts to combat homelessness. In addition, they will have the opportunity to hone their understanding of real-world concepts by working with experts on a critical issue.

The winning team from the Challenge was awarded a Katz Bridge Program fellowship to continue to implement their solution as a team. This is enabling students to drive even more impact related to this year’s Challenge topic of homelessness.

“At the end of this challenge, we hope that these collective efforts not only enrich our students’ learning experience but leave a positive impact on the wider Pittsburgh community,” says Moeller.
To learn more about how you can get involved in a program like the Super Analytics Challenge here at Pitt Business, please contact our career management team at

“We’re using our skills learned at Katz to dig deep into the data and draw some useful and applicable solutions. It’s helped me realize what we can do to better support homeless people in need.”

– Cara Chun Zhang, student in the Management Information Systems program

Hear more about the inaugural challenge…

…from Sara Moeller, associate dean for graduate programs and executive education in the Katz school, in this conversation with the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Jonathan Kersting.

Listen further to learn more on the results.

“The Super Analytics Challenge is an example of Pitt Business reinventing business education. Our strategic goals include doing more to partner with our community as a catalyst for change, and to combine classroom concepts with integrated learning opportunities.

Events like the Super Analytics Challenge showcase our students’ ability to use their leadership knowledge for good. We hope that these collective efforts not only enrich our students’ learning experience, but leave a positive impact on the wider Pittsburgh community.”

Sara Moeller

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Executive Education, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

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Create Your Own #KatzImpact

Prepare to be a catalyst for change with your Katz MBA degree. Here at Katz we prepare
leaders to shape organizations that embrace and impact humanity.