Melanie_headshotOCALA, FL – Branding is no easy task for any business, big or small. This month, area professionals have an opportunity to learn from an expert’s experiences with a highly-visible rebranding effort: repositioning the University of Florida and Shands. On Nov. 20, Melanie Fridl Ross, MSJ, ELS, Chief Communications Officer with UF Health, will share insight from this process at the Florida Public Relations Association Ocala Chapter’s professional development luncheon. The luncheon is set for noon-1 p.m., (networking begins at 11:30 a.m.) at The College of Central Florida Ewers Century Center, 3003 SW College Road, Ocala.

Ross oversees news and publications, marketing, public relations, strategic communications and public affairs, advancement communications, creative services, and web services for UF Health in Gainesville and Jacksonville. She teaches news reporting as an adjunct faculty at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Ross also oversees operations for two nationally-aired consumer health radio series.


Ross joined UF in 1992 from The Tampa Tribune, where she was a reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in journalism with a concentration in newspaper administration from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. She is a board-certified editor in the life sciences.


The meeting is not limited to members; guests and non-members are welcome to attend with payment and RSVP to [email protected] by Nov. 17, 2015. The registration fee includes lunch; $20 for members and $25 for guests and for members who pay at the door. Visit to register and pay online.


The Ocala Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association builds better public relations practitioners and communicators through professional development, networking opportunities and ethical practices. Formed in 1980, the chapter boasts a strong membership representing nearly every industry in the area, including: government, associations, nonprofit, education, healthcare, corporate, retail, agencies and small business. Members are committed not only to the betterment of the profession, but also to the community through a number of community service projects held each year.




Media Contact: Elaine DeIorio McClain, Communications Director

Phone: 352-438-2300  Email: [email protected]

Friendship and Branding – Common Links

Image credit: Allen Lee | Flickr


What does friendship and branding have in common? Maybe more than you think!

peter-gascaPETER GASCA
Entrepreneur and Small Business Strategist

What is the difference between a good friend and a great friend?

A close friend and I used to joke that a good friend will take your call in the middle of the night, get out of bed and bail you out of jail. A great friend, however, will be sitting next to you in the detention cell saying, “Damn, that was fun.”

While mentioned in jest, the analogy between great friends and companies should not be lost on entrepreneurs. Too many startups create a brand and a culture by combining a catchy trademark, a buzzword-filled vision and an eye-popping color palette, but miss the big picture. Instead, focus on developing your company’s customer relationshipsmuch as you would foster a friendship — not just a good friendship, but a great friendship.

Many people are still friends with their first college roommate. Why? Because of the powerful experience you both had the year you met. For many people, college provides their first occasion of living on their own and being responsible for their life, all while being immersed in an exciting setting with scores of others undergoing the same thing. It’s natural to bond with others under these circumstances.

If you want to build unbreakable bonds with clients, consider treating customers like a trusted college roommate. Here are some tips:

Related: Revive That Old-Fashioned Extra: Excellent Customer Service

1. Make a memorable first impression.

First impressions are everything. More than likely, you left a unique first impression with the great friends in your life. Your exchanges were exciting and memorable, which is what drew you together. Your company’s brand should be no less exciting in the early stages if you want to nurture a long-term relationship. You may not be able to control the exact circumstances when you meet your customers, but you can do a number of things to prepare the setting.

2. Stand for (or against) something.

With your closest friends, you share common interests and passions, be it football, politics or a hobby like home brewing. While your company may sell a product or service that customers want, in order to build a loyal following and encourage repeat customers, connect with their interests and passions.

Related: 5 Tips for Building Strong Relationships With Clients

3. Grow with your customers.

Good friendships are nurtured over time, by growing and becoming stronger through shared experiences. If you want to nurture a similar bond with customers, be part of their lives. This does not mean filling their inboxes with generic email ads Instead be comfortably present through appropriate activity on social media. Keep your company’s website updated with meaningful and useful content that adds value to customers’ lives.

4. Change your customers’ lives.

When I reflect back on the great friendships I’ve had, I see that my best attributes have been enriched and influenced by the people involved. Great company brands do the same: They enrich and influence the lives of their customers. While not every company can literally change people’s lives, your business can have a positive influence on your customers’ lives.

In the end, you are hoping that your customers stay out of jail. But be prepared to be with them in spirit if they decide to take a crazy and adventurous ride.