By Jeffrey Davis, Baltimore Editor

Welcome to a new and expanded Buzz in Baltimore! I’ll use this column to take a deeper look at what’s going on in Baltimore’s communications community, offering insights and observations that go beyond the press releases. Have any news, ideas, tips, invitations or rumors to share? DM me on Twitter (I’m @contactjeff), LinkedIn or email me at jeff.davis@capitolcommunicator.com

SUSHI AND A HARBOR VIEW — The AMA Baltimore awards show took place earlier this month and what struck me first was the venue – the Baltimore Visitor Center right on the Inner Harbor. In all my years attending communications awards shows at hotel ballrooms this choice really stood out, so kudos to the AMA planning team. Check out the photo in our event coverage. Plus, it’s the first show I’ve attended that offered a full sushi spread as the appetizer. Big congrats to the entire AMA crew for a well-run event, especially to the executive planning committee of Dov Hoffman, Right Source Marketing, Joe Wagner, HBP Inc. and AMA President, and Brynn Devereaux of Coyle Studios. In March the Baltimore ADDYs event featured a contortionist, sword swallower, blockhead, two acrobats, and a fortune teller at the B&O Railroad Museum, so the challenge is on for the next communications awards show!

BIG PLANS FOR MINDGRUB? — Two comments from Mindgrub execs stood out after they accepted their AMA award on behalf of client Royal Farms. Vince Sharps, Mindgrub’s EVP & chief business officer, noted how the firm known for mobile, web and digital marketing should be known for much more and is entering the broader traditional marketing space. Then President and CEO Todd Marks made a similar comment. Something’s up there – maybe they’ll get into PR as well? – and we’ll be following them to see what’s next.

A WHO’S WHO OF BALTIMORE MARKETING — I lucked out by sitting at the Grand MX winner’s table with the National Aquarium’s marketing team (in photo, left to right): Emma Wesoloski, Director of Marketing Programs; ; Jen Rudolph, Advertising & Programs Specialist; Christine Johnson, Manager of Digital Strategy; and Margot Amelia, Senior VP/Chief Marketing Officer. The Aquarium’s agency is HZ and the creative team led by Ron Thompson.

During the pre-awards networking it was good to catch up with business development and “Technology Evangelist” Betsy Collie, who introduced me to Chris Chodnicki, SVP Business Development and one of the co-founders of R2integrated. I also spoke with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s Garret Ohm, who later accepted the award for Runner-Up Campaign of the Year. Dan Franko, of Maryland Auto Insurance, was there with his team to accept Best Marketing Collateral Campaign and Best Direct Mail Campaign of the Year, and I re-connected with SMEI colleague Barnaby Wickham, who is now Marketing Manager at Annapolis Micro Systems, Inc.

WILL BALTIMORE ALWAYS BE ‘THE WIRE’? – Kicking off a busy May, I attended PRSA’s Counselors Academy meeting in St. Pete Beach, Fla. where the most common topic – not during the sessions, but in the hallways and after hours – is the search for (and retention of) prime talent. Agencies across the U.S. are well aware of this issue and are going up against the Googles, Amazons and Fortune 100 companies in the larger cities. A session on online reputation management and those quick-fix firms that guarantee to erase all bad things from the internet was the most eye-opening for me, as it pits traditional PR vs. a “guaranteed” solution that many times makes things worse. And speaking of image, the battle to stick up for or at least explain Baltimore is real when you’re walking around with a name badge (right) that identifies where you’re from. “Oh, Baltimore, what’s it like to live there?” is the typical skeptic’s intro line. “How’s your mayor doing?” And more than once, “Is it really like The Wire?”

Banner Photo: Bee on Lavender, by Jenna Lee via Unsplash

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