Home Blog HAPPO|PR Rock Stars PR Rock Stars: Melissa Berggren

PR Rock Stars: Melissa Berggren


Confession: If you’ve followed this series for any length of time, you probably realize I tend to highlight a lot of people I either work with, or have worked with in the past (or, worked for, in some cases). That’s not an accident. You see, throughout my career my approach has always been this: Work with and for people who are MUCH smarter than me. I always figured, if I was the smartest person in the room, I was in a whole lot of trouble 🙂 And, that most certainly holds true with today’s rock star, Melissa Berggren. I’ve been working with Melissa for two years now on the Minnesota Blogger Conference, which we co-founded back in early 2010. What I’ve enjoyed most about working with Melissa is that she’s a lot like me (in some ways). We both grew up working in corporate settings. We both have health care backgrounds (hers is more extensive). And, of course, we’re both bloggers. But, in many other ways, we’re very different. She’s MUCH more organized than I am, for example. A trait that comes in handy during our conference planning each year 😉 There’s so much more I want to share about Melissa, but I’ll let her tell you the story…

You took on a new leadership role within the marketing department earlier this year at Allina—can you talk more about that new role and some of your primary roles and responsibilities?

After leading the marketing and communications at one of our hospitals for three years, I was asked to move to the corporate office in Minneapolis and focus on brand for the organization. Much of the work is future-focused on brand strategy and planning. I’m leading a team and a number of vendors to accomplish this work. I spend the balance of my time directing advertising campaigns for many of our key services, such as cardiology, oncology and clinics. This summer I was quite busy producing a handful of TV spots and a series of print and outdoor ads.

You have an awful lot on your plate—full-time job at Allina, two young kids at home, a blog, the MN Blogger Conference, and a host of other events I know you participate in. How the heck do you find the time? What tips would you give to others in terms of balancing job, social media demands and a regular life?

I always laugh when people ask me this question. Of course there are no easy answers or we wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time trying to live the dream! With age comes experience, of course, and we learn our limits. For example, I try to crank out a lot of work after my children go to bed – but I also know I can only function on 5-6 hours of sleep for no more than 3 days in a row before I start to lose my sharpness (or patience).

I’ve also learned how to say YES to the really important things and NO to the ones that won’t have much of a payoff (personally or professionally). I gave up all hopes of meeting everyone’s expectations years ago. And there are always many more projects and events I’d like to do than I can actually manage, so I try to keep my eyes on what’s the most important to me personally and professionally.

You’ve been recognized all over the place locally as a blogger in the last year-plus—and for good reason. Your Marketing Mama blog is well read and respected throughout the local community. But, how has that played out at work? Are they supportive of your blogging ventures?

Possibly the most tangible demonstration of their support is the fact my CEO agreed to host the 2nd Minnesota Blogger Conference at Allina’s corporate headquarters (we typically don’t do this for external groups). That was a bold statement of support – not only for me as an employee and a blogger, but for the PR/marketing & social media communities in the Twin Cities.

I check in with my leaders from time to time on my social media work, especially if I’m involved in a high visibility situation that involves controversy or media coverage.  And, of course, I take their support and trust very seriously and remember my social media presence impacts them as well.


You’ve been blogging now for several years—we’ve talked privately about the life-cycle of blogging and whether or not there’s an end in sight to the blogosphere. Where do you see your blog going in the next 2-3 years? And, what do you see as the future of personal blogging for all these young mothers such as yourself that have used blogging as a creative expression as they watch their kids grow up.

This is a tough one to answer and might require a cup of coffee to sort through! A few thoughts – first, I began blogging long before I used other social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It served a definite purpose – to share what was on my heart and mind and to help others through my experiences. The thing about blogging, though, is it takes time and effort – and I don’t always have that time, especially this past year as I’ve devoted more time to my day job. As a point of reference, a solid blog post can easily take three hours to research, write and edit.

On the flip side, more swift social platforms such as Posterous, Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram, give me a mostly similar sense of satisfaction but with much less time investment. For example, in the past I might have written a blog post to share a great article I found, add a few thoughts or opinions, then solicit reader comments. Now I quickly shoot it out on Twitter with an introductory comment. My network still reads the article if they are compelled, and many respond to me 1:1.

So if the investment is low and the payoff is high with these platforms, why even blog at all? Which topics require a full blog post and how do I decide when to make the investment of time? I have no shortage of topics stirring around at any given time. Here’s what I’ve found…  if a topic sticks with me for more than a day or two, I know it’s worth sitting down and taking the time to develop a full essay (as opposed to a brief tweet, Facebook post, etc.). So, back to your original question – where do I see my blog going in the next 2-3 years? It will probably fade to more infrequent posts. I also question if “Marketing Mama” is a moniker I’ll still feel comfortable with 5 or 10 years from now. That’s part of the reason I bought a URL for my full name (melissaberggren.com) and blog professionally there as well, part of an overall exit strategy for the parenting/lifestyle blog.

We co-founded the MN Blogger Conference together two years ago—just had another great event in September. We’ve been lucky enough to have a great team of folks help out, and an outstanding blogging community that participates each fall. What do you see as the future for #mnblogcon?

People who typically connect online want to meet and create communities offline. I sensed this when I started pulling together blogger events a couple of years ago and it has only increased since then. The Minnesota Blogger Conference has been a fabulous event to help people collaborate and make meaningful connections. A trend you and I have discussed quite a bit this year is the forming of niche blogging communities, such as food, fashion and sports. These groups have begun hosting their own focused events and gatherings – which is fabulous! While we worked hard to embrace and showcase these niches at #MNBLOGCON this year, I wonder if the conference will continue to serve the needs of the greater community or if there will be a natural break-off into smaller educational events focused on specific niches. We’ll have to see what the appetite is for future events!

We’ve talked about this before privately—about the issue of “paid posts” or those in which a brand trades free product or a giveaway in exchange for a post. I’ve had many discussions about this (a few recently with Greg Swan, in fact), and I tend to believe that these “paid posts” don’t impact reader trust as much as we might think (completely my opinion, and based on little fact). Where do you fall on this discussion? Do you think readers care when bloggers accept free products/giveaways from brands in exchange for posts?

There are three groups to consider here – the bloggers, the brands and the readers. I could talk at length about each of them, the dynamics of the relationships and the trust continuum for each. Readers are smarter than we (or the FTC) give them credit for – it’s usually pretty obvious when a blogger is giving something away or being compensated in some way. This wasn’t always true just two years ago.

At the end of the day, each group is asking “What’s in it for me?” If the answer is something satisfactory for all parties involved, you have success. But it takes a lot of work to have a happy brand, blogger and reader equation. This is why I skip over about 95% of the pitches that hit my inbox.

Finally, I just have to ask. What’s the deal with all these smart Drake alumni in town? You. Bridget Monroe. Greg Swan. Kasey Skala. I mean, are you planning a city-wide PR takeover at some point?

Definitely! I didn’t know any of these individuals when I was at Drake, so it’s been fun to get to know each of them as fellow alums (I’m afraid I’m the oldest of the bunch). Drake has a solid PR/Comm program that prepared me well for my career. Students graduating from Drake have a great foundation, and that’s why I scout their Minneapolis networking events for interns and future employees. It’s been great fun connecting with the group you mentioned, plus a host of others. I think the bigger question here, Arik, is what attracts you to be friends with all these Drake folks?



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