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AHFA sets annual Marketing Meeting for June 26 in Charlotte

HIGH POINT — A learning and networking event for industry marketing, communications and public relations executives is set for June 26 in Charlotte, N.C., sponsored by the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

The theme of the two-day forum, which will be at the Charlotte Marriott SouthPark, is "Outperform the Competition! Marketing Strategies and Tactics for High Impact Results."

AHFA's 2012 Marketing Meeting is open to all home furnishings manufacturers, retailers and suppliers. The program will take attendees on a journey into the psyche of today's head-of-household female consumers, across the frontier of social media marketing and will offer new insights into crisis communications, brand protection, credibly communicating "green" and marketing for export, officials said.

In a new spot on the program, professional public speaking coach Amy Griggs Kliger will help marketing executives hone their presentation skills. A former actor and professional spokeswoman, Kliger has hosted global conferences and faced audiences of all sizes. She has coached CEOs, salespeople and executives for a broad range of clients.

The meeting will open with a 6 p.m. reception and group dinner Tuesday, June 26. The education program runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Thursday, June 28. An optional retail "safari" in Charlotte will conclude the program Thursday afternoon.

Registration is $599 for AHFA member companies and $999 for non-members.

Key program highlights include:

+ Game-Changer Research: How Female Consumers Are Redefining the American Marketplace. Today's female consumer is increasing her impact as receiver, broadcaster and influencer of key information. In research conducted by Hearst Magazines and Fleishman-Hillard, 54% of the female respondents agreed that it is their responsibility "to help friends and family make smart purchase decisions." The study provides new insights on how female consumers are exercising their influence. Results will be presented by Nancy Bauer, senior vice president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard, and Kelly Peterson, southeast director for Hearst Integrated Media. The Women, Power & Money survey was conducted in September among 1,270 women age 25 to 69 with annual household income of $25,000 or more.

+ The Power of Social Media Marketing. AHFA has invited several pioneers in the field to share their insights. For the business strategy side of digital and social media, Brandi Boatner, a member of IBM's Global Business Service communications/PR team, will address marketing meeting attendees. She is responsible for digital and social business strategies for IBM's C-suite study series and also handles media relations and works along side IBM's think-tank organization, The Institute for Business Value.

Chris Phillips, sales and marketing director for Apartment Therapy, will provide an overview of one of the first social media sites focused on the home. With a mission of "helping people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy by connecting them to a wealth of resources, ideas and community online," Apartment Therapy has attracted more than 7 million followers.

Bill Indursky, co-founder of VandM.com, one of the largest vintage, antique and design websites on the Internet, will offer a recap of his popular 2012 design trend forecast for the home decor and antiques industry and will explain the larger context that shaped his forecast.

Gretchen Voth, of the Charlotte-based Luquire George Andrews agency, will present "the power of Pinterest," while John Mader and Amanda Willliams of WrayWard will help attendees understand the importance of providing engaging online content.

To help industry marketing executives track the success of their social media strategies at retail, AHFA will draw on the expertise of Denise Keniston, CEO, and Sev Ritchie, executive vice president, Web4Retail. Andy Bernstein, CEO of FurnitureDealer.net, will introduce attendees to his company's newest venture, DoBizBuzz, designed to help bricks-and-mortar retailers harness the power of online networks. Finally, Johne Albanese of MicroD will discuss how manufacturers can help enable retailers' online and e-commerce initiatives through standards.

• Crisis Communications Refresher. Rick Amme heads the crisis and media relations firm Amme & Associates and has consulted with companies, institutions and executives for 17 years on how to protect and enhance their reputations, especially during times of crisis or urgency. His guiding philosophy is simply "do the right thing and say the right thing." He'll offer meeting attendees a refresher on how to manage difficult public issues, such as lawsuits, product recalls, closings and layoffs.

• Credibly Communicating Green. Kathryn Blanchard is a 25-year public relations veteran whose firm, Crown Communications, has longtime clients including Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, Crescent Resources and Bank of America. Crown focuses on offering marketing solutions that reduce a company's impact on the environment and protect its bottom line. She'll offer practical advice for ensuring that your company's sustainability efforts are reflected in your marketing.

The program kicks off with an economic outlook by Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist at Charlotte-based Wells Fargo. In addition, the program includes an update on regulatory issues that impact marketing messages, and some insights on marketing for export. Mike Padjen, director of the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Furniture Export Office, will help attendees understand the basics of developing an international trade strategy and Ed Burke, director of marketing at Scentair, will share his company's successful export marketing case study.

A limited number of rooms at the Charlotte Marriott SouthPark are available for a discounted rate of $139 a night until June 8. Make reservations at http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/cltph-charlotte-marriott-southpark/ or call (704) 364-8220.

Registration information for the meeting also is posted online at www.ahfa.us under EVENTS.

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