Our firm, ComBlu, hosted the Midwest regional judging of the WOMMy Awards a few weeks ago, which are sponsored by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). A group of judges from agencies, not-for-profit and big brands got to determine the bronze, silver and gold winners in the engagement category. It was very interesting to see the state of the art of word-of-mouth engagement programs. The entries ran the gambit from internal stakeholder engagement to big brand extravaganzas. The winners will be announced at WOMMA’s Summit in Los Vegas in mid-November so I can’t say much more about the entries or the winners.

One of the best parts of the day was meeting our fellow judges and hearing their perspectives and different takes on the entries, the industry and their own campaigns and programs. One judge was from a local university and mentioned that they had launched a community for parents a few years ago. She relayed how much they had learned over the past few years and talked about how their skills and point of view had morphed to meet the needs of this new social medium. She told a story that occurred early-on when a colleague commented, “There’s no activity in the community this week; isn’t that great?” We laughed because in this instance, of course, “no news is bad news.”

The whole point of the community is engagement with the parents, helping them have a great experience with the university and to feel secure that their children are in good hands. A great mission for a university-sponsored community. Her colleague was applying old school thinking to a new media solution. In the past, no interaction with the parents was equated with no complaints! In the community model, however, they want action and reaction. They want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. They want to improve parent/university relations and learn from these constituents in real time. It’s a smart strategy; these parents will have a great story to tell other parents in their networks whose kids are considering this choice for higher ed.

This judge’s story was interesting; more so than some of the entries! Not all of them really had a lesson to teach, which I think is at the essence of what an award winning program must do. Award winners should model best practices against a defined business challenge as well as demonstrate exceptional ROI. They also need to be strategically brilliant and stun us with their creativity. Not necessarily their creative, but their creative execution of a well thought through strategy.

Many of the entries did just that while others are still representative of early efforts to give social marketing a whirl. Nothing wrong with that, but I was heartened to see how far the industry has come. Many of the entries demonstrated solid business results and used some tried and true techniques in unusual or new ways. That we have tried and true techniques alone speaks volumes of the growth and evolution of this marketing discipline. I can’t wait to hear about the winners in the other categories. I’ll share more insights from our group after the awards ceremony on November 18th.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.