By Michael Marino, Owner/Principal of Marino Communications
Why would someone with a bachelor’s degree in political science, master’s degrees in urban planning and history, and three years of experience working in environmental due diligence open a communications firm? That does not sound right, does it? A little over a year ago, that would have sounded fool hearted to me too. However, that someone is me, and I now have the pleasure of seeing over a year of planning and sacrifice come to fruition. What motivated me to take on a career apparently unrelated to my background? The realization that it is one of the few roles where I can accel professionally, enjoy what I do for a living, and make a difference.
My decision to open Marino Communications was not made overnight. I was hesitant at first to commit myself to entrepreneurship. I left my first graduate program with a desire to obtain an analytical position with a government agency or nonprofit. However, like so many late Generation Xers and early Millennials, I entered a job market where I was either overqualified or lacked sufficient experience for entry-level professional positions. The positions I did find, while providing adequate pay, failed to allow me to utilize my strengths or demonstrate my true prowess.
The idea that would blossom into Marino Communications began during dinner with friends in December 2016. My editor at iHeart Media’s Two Wheel Power Hour Motorcycle Show asked me to create a social media presence for the show. I had never used social media for anything business-related, but decided to take on the project just to enjoy a new challenge. After I finished that project, a steady stream of requests from others began pouring in for similar services. The idea of turning my new expertise into a business crossed my mind. However, I was still convinced that the only way I would be happy would be to get a job as a public policy analyst.
However, the more projects I did, the more I saw the broader opportunities social media and digital marketing offered me. I grew to realize that I was not seeking a career in public service, but rather a career in using my strengths to help others. The political skill set I had spent two decades forging could be used to help a small business owner grow the customer base the same way it could help a politician grow their campaign. My aptitude with technology had allowed me to master the technological aspects of social media management. My 10+ years of working customer service jobs would help me both in working with clients, as well as representing clients’ brands. Lastly, my natural strategic thinking abilities would allow me to design social media solutions that effectively further clients’ overall business goals and strategies.
I also saw the opportunity for competitors to take advantage of the same businesses and nonprofits I would be pitching my services to. Despite the explosive growth of social media usage, social media, and computer technology in general, is still confusing or intimidating for many. Moreover, many business owners and managers bring in social media consultants because they lack the time to effectively implement a social media campaign. When I realized this, I knew I could design strategies and practices that would quickly and effectively provide clients with unmatched levels of transparency in my work.
The idea to add the motor sports service lines came later. Near the end of the 2017 MotoAmerica season, my now-business partner (Michael Brock of Brock Imaging) and I realized the opportunity to pool our media relations and photography skills to serve MotoAmerica teams that did not have the resources to retain full-time media relations personnel. While I saw an opportunity to diversify my potential client pool, I also saw a community of fellow motor sports enthusiasts in need. I have many friends and media contacts in the MotoAmerica paddock. Some of those individuals are in five figures of debt from trying to keep their racing careers going. Brock and I both realized that without professional media services, those individuals and teams were at a serious disadvantage in terms of attracting the sponsorship needed to continue racing professionally. We worked through the off-season to develop comprehensive, budget-oriented service packages that would help teams gain more publicity and attract more sponsorship.
So why did I start Marino Communications? Because I realized I didn’t need a specific title or employer to have a career that I wanted all along. Social media, digital marketing, and media relations all represent roles that many individuals lack the expertise, time, or both to do well. I realized the potential of my business idea in terms of its challenge (learning new clients’ businesses, responding to customer criticisms or crises), impact (helping an entrepreneur start or grow their business, or helping a nonprofit grow their cause), and reward (being in control of my career path). While I pride myself on my ability to plan and think strategically, I count myself fortunate that my original plan of having a traditional 9-to-5, safe desk job did not pan out. I would never have had a reason to change course, and discover the incredible opportunity that Marino Communications represents for me.