“Merrill Moments” and “Member Moments”
TINA L. SCOTT
What do you do when COVID has you trapped inside and away from all of the contacts you normally have out in the “real” world? Ken Neff, part-time (“supposedly”) Member Services Rep for the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce and Information Center, was inspired to start a video series featuring things happening in and around Merrill, in addition to things happening with Merrill Chamber of Commerce member businesses. But, Neff said, he can’t take all of the credit for the idea.
“Shortly after I was hired at the Chamber [July 2019], we tried to get more digital, based on input from some of our board members (younger people) who told us video is where it’s at,” Neff said.
“Initially we started doing ‘member moment’ videos for anyone that wanted to showcase new employees or special things they were doing,” he said. “Then we posted them on our Facebook page, Instagram page, and on our website.” But that came to a screeching halt when COVID hit, Neff said.
“As far as benefits to our members, we really provide a networking service, in that we connect our members with each other in just about as many ways as you can think of,” Neff said. “We always try to promote our members through referrals, whether it be on the phone or on our website or through social media. The ‘Member Moments’ videos do just that. We do basically the same thing for non-members … distributing their information through the same means, as well as through the media (the Foto News for instance) when we do our ribbon cuttings for new businesses,” Neff said.
“So I guess the inspiration behind this video series is that during the pandemic, I couldn’t really get out and visit Chamber members like I had hoped or ‘like I was supposed to according to my position,’” he said. At that point, his primary way of staying in touch with Chamber members became email.
“I quickly decided that is a boring way to communicate, and I think members felt the same way,” Neff said. “So I did some research and played around with sending a quick/short hello video to everyone.”
Cheryl Skoug, co-worker and Programs Manager at the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce and Information Center, has been with the Chamber since September 2009 and saw some of Neff’s first videos.
“Cheryl and some of her friends talked about how they enjoyed the little video clips and thought we needed to name them,” Neff said. “We decided there are two categories of stories to share … ‘Member Moments’ that highlight things that members are doing, and ’Merrill Moments’ that highlight things in our community, whether that might be events or points of interest. That is how we progressed to where we are now.”
“The Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce is always looking for ways to get the word out about what our members provide to the people of Merrill,” Skoug said. “Ken is trying to keep the videos short, but give enough information to answer questions for people.”
“In my short tenure at the chamber, one thing I have discovered is that the Merrill Chamber serves both the community and people from outside of the community, as a very often-used resource for many things,” Neff said. “We receive phone calls everyday from people asking for phone numbers, addresses, and information about businesses or events in our area. So really, it seems like we are on the front line in getting out the positive impression of Merrill to those wanting information about Merrill or those needing information from within.”
“Our goal with the videos is to post one category or the other at least once a week and, in doing so, draw attention to our Chamber members and to our community,” Neff said.
“The Chamber also works to promote the community and all it offers, with the goal of growing our businesses and organizations through activities and events, and letting people know what this community is about and what it has to offer (thus the ‘Merrill Moment’ videos),” he added.
“We are always here for our members,” Skoug said. “Not only are we the Chamber of Commerce, we also are the Merrill Chamber Foundation and handle tourism for the area. If you are having an event in Merrill, please let the Chamber know.”
Skoug said they often get calls inquiring about tournaments, fundraisers, or attractions in Merrill they aren’t aware of, so they aren’t able to share the information with those callers. But if they have all the details, they are happy to help promote those events and attractions. And you never know, your event might take center stage in a “Merrill Moment” video.
Past “Merrill Moment” videos have showcased the Merrill Noon Optimist Club, the handicap-accessible fishing pier on the Riverbend Trail, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and more.
For future episodes, Neff said he is considering new ideas, including some about “some of the ‘Merrill Legends’ that people may or may not know about. … An example is ‘Boom Decker Becker,’” he said. “The Sawmill Brewing Company named one of their beers after the legend.” But how many who drink it know the story behind the beer’s name? Neff asked. He is also working on some story ideas about points of interest along the Riverbend Trail and some ideas “with the help of the Historical Society.”
At the moment, Neff uses his personal YouTube account for these videos, but creating a YouTube channel specifically for the Chamber is on Neff’s “to do” list. Got an idea for a video? Contact Neff at the Chamber. You never know where that idea may lead.
In the meantime, you can watch one of the most recent “Merrill Moments” about the MAC House Warming Center here: https://youtu.be/9dBuk4mtiSU.