From The Diary Of

Mark Semmelmayer


Mark, Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Some fun facts and anecdotes from your life.

Been paid to be a “communicator” for over 50 years.  Started with working local radio and writing for local papers when in high school.  Went on to a broadcasting career that ended with a stint in the news department of an NPR affiliate,.then got seduced by the “dark side” of communications…ad agencies.  10 years in agencies as copywriter, account guy and account supervisor.  Moved on to corporate marketing/communications with Kimberly-Clark for 32 years.  Now run my own marketing/advertising consultancy

Where are you from originally? What are some of your favorite memories as a child?

Childhood was kind of split into two phases.  Born in Rochester, NY, but spent my “tweens” and early teens in Atlanta GA.  Favorite memories?  Rochester Redwings baseball games and walking out of our house in Atlanta, Christmas day in 1964 in shirtsleeves. Realized December didn’t have to be snow-covered.

How do you maintain the balance between your professional and personal life?

Rule #1.  Never worry about office politics or climbing the ladder too quickly.  Do your best and apply yourself.  Job progress will take care of itself.  Rule #2.  Work to live, not the other way around.

What do you do to relax? Any therapy you would like to share?

The more interests you have, the less likely you are to be bored.  Used to run, a lot, and loved it, but my knees won’t take it anymore.  One of the best stress reliever and free-thinking time exercises possible.  Travel, international or any kind, really, are high on the list.  Reading, writing, photography, playing my guitar, provide some nice, quite moments.  Right now, acting in a community theater production is providing a good, albeit time-consuming diversion.  But my best therapy?  Move somewhere that has good weather and a beach.  Recently relocated to Saint Simons Island, GA and love it here!

They say that first impressions last and are made in the first few seconds of meeting someone. What personal attributes convey a positive first impression to you?

Well, I look people in the eyes, shake hands firmly, repeat their name and ask them about their day.  Or, if we’re at an event, their thoughts about it.  I’ve a fairly quick wit, so if the conversation continues, I find a little humor will open things up.  From there, it’s asking about them.  Nothing deep, but getting a few facts helps a conversation flow.

Which people helped you to get where you are today and what did they do for you?

Many, many of them.  Certainly my parents.  My dad was a lifelong employee of a Fortune 100 and showed me the ropes of surviving that environment without compromising myself.  Teachers…high school and college.  A couple of my first bosses in agencies.  They weren’t “Mad Men”, but they’d worked for them.  Like old story tellers and travelling bards, you’d learn at their knee and carry the lessons on to your life.

Who or what inspires you?

Everything, every day.  My spouse, who is so admirable in so many ways.  My business associates, who, while aging as I am, still have fire in their bellies to do it right for clients. I recently moved to an island on the Georgia coast, and the beauty and calmness of this environment are life changing, not to mention the wonderful people of many backgrounds we’ve met here. Importantly, I’m never going o stop reading heavily and researching topics of interest.  Learn something new every day.  As Bob Dylan put it, “He who is not busy born is busy dyin.”

Often people find inspiration from great thinkers, writers and prolific people in history. What is your favorite quote and why is that quote noteworthy?

“The most obvious difficulty in the process of communication is the illusion it’s been accomplished,” George Bernard Shaw

It’s a corollary to one of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits.”  First seek to understand, then to be understood.”  Communication is the capstone.  Without sender and receiver being on the same wavelength, cooperation and teamwork fail.  No one is an island in the business world.

To paraphrase the old carpenter’s rule…I don’t care it it’s an email. memo, phone call or comment in a meeting…think twice, send once.

Can you briefly share your professional journey?

I started working for radio stations and writing local newspaper items in high school.  I also had a deep interest in drama and stage production.  In fact, began college as a drama major, but gradually transitioned to a more immediate and impactful course of study in communications.  I wanted to be a good journalist.  Went on to work for an NPR affiliate in news and public affairs.  Then, in producing a show for a working man's audience with a local savings and loan, got asked by their agency if I’d like to come to work for them.  They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse…half again my salary for half the working hours!  Agency career lasted about 10 years, then was recruited by Kimberly-Clark.  Thought I’d spend a couple of years client-side, then go back to agencies.  Alas, not to be.  32 years later, I could look back on my career with KC and think, “what a ride.”  For the past few years, I’ve had my own marketing/advertising consultancy.  Enjoy staying in the marcom game…on my own terms.

What is your current role in the industry, and what are you aiming for in the future?

I’m a one-man band, with deep experience in many marketplaces.  My vision is to bring that experience and expertise to bear in helping small-to medium (SMB) B2B marketers find the wave of change and ride it to success.

Did your career turn out just the way you wanted it to?

It turned out very well indeed. As often as not, though, I felt like a poker play trying to figure out the value of the cards dealt and how best to play them.

What impact has your educational background had on your professional activities?

My BA is in communications, including a lot of graduate work in broadcast media, communication dynamics and journalism.  Given the expansion of digital media and  changes in the impact of broadcast and print media. I think the broad background of study prepared me well for all phases of my professional “journey.”

Can you share some of the interesting projects you are working on these days?

Most of my real interesting projects go back to agencies or Kimberly-Clark.  At K-C, I had a lot of responsibility for marketing infection control products, as well as creating and deploying very significant efforts in accredited education for healthcare professional.  I’m very proud of that last one.  Right now, as an “independent”, it’s a different challenge every day.  At this date, I’m working on helping a small business market a sanitizer that kills many viruses, including Corona.  They just got FDA approval to go to market, and we have a fairly narrow window to get to market and make hay while the sun shines.

You have had a varied career to date. Explain some of your proudest achievements?

A short list. Just a few:  1979 Clio Award finalist, copywriter; International Chairman, Business Marketing Association (BMA), 1996-7; 2015 recipient, G.D. Crain Award, BMA; Inductee, Business Marketing Hall of Fame, 2015.  K-C Legacy Award-Product Commercialization, 2011: Telly Award, Producer, Promotional Video, 2007; 2009 HCMA Gold Award, Promotional Campaign; BMA ProComm Award, Best of Show-Product Introduction, 2010.

Proudest, though?  Coaching several championship youth baseball teams between 1997 and 2010.  Watching young men…and yes, women…grow and learn in skills and sportsmanship is as rewarding as it gets.  That’s my favorite legacy.

What advice would you give to anyone seeking a career in your industry?

A degree in marketing, advertising or communications is a good start.  Just understand, the “world” is continually evolving.  Learning doesn’t end when you walk the stage and get the diploma.  Use your education and your intelligence to plot a path as the world unfolds before you.  Professional association membership or participation is a definite plus.

What advice would you give newbie entrepreneurs about being successful?

You have a passion.  Follow it.  Just make sure you have the knowledge and expertise to turn it into a business.  Fund it with cash.  Don’t start borrowing to build it until you’re pretty damn sure cash flow will allow you to retire any debt in short order.

In the Information Age, millennial's tend to be interested in leadership roles. Do you have any advice for millennial professionals starting their careers?

As said, follow your passion.  Seek the advice, counsel and company of people already successful in your discipline.  The introduction to their network, whether via professional associations or their circle of like-minded pros, will be invaluable.  It works.  Older and experienced hands...thought leaders, if you will...are flattered to the extreme when a promising young person asks to learn from them.  Think of it as an apprenticeship, a practice that, in this impersonal age, is probably more relevant than ever.

In your opinion, what is the essential personality trait to consider when hiring an executive-level employee?

Functional intelligence.  If someone is smart enough, and aware of the lay of the land around them, they can adapt and forge a solid path forward.

We are at the door of the 4th industrial revolution(4IR). Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Block chain Technology are thought to be the foremost pillars. How you foresee the future of your industry?

By trade and experience, I’m a B2B marketer.  Those technologies, loosely the “internet of things”, will have a greater impact, sooner, on B2B.  Technology requires the talent and participation of younger, digitally native buyers in the process.  B2B marketers need to embrace that 25-40 buyer demographic and talk to them earnestly.  That includes a much more ubiquitous and powerful online presence in digital outlets. The old model of 50+ buyers is fading away.

What is your favorite book and can you explain what you like about it?

Good gosh, I’ve read so many.  OK, “All The Pretty Horses” by Cormac McCarthy.  His use of the English language is masterful, even though it’s anything but textbook.  He paints picture you can see in your mind and characters whose skin you can crawl into

What do you think about Executives Diary?

An interesting endeavor.  Would love to see some metrics on visitation and views, and research feedback on the nalue it brought to readeers and what would make it more useful to them..