Marlo Dorsey, who stepped into the job as chief marketing director of the Mississippi Development Authority in early December, has hit the ground running in a job that remained vacant for more than a year. That has led to a backlog of demand for decisions on how to best market Mississippi.
“Now, every time I see someone at MDA, people need help,” Dorsey said. “That’s fine, and I love it.”
Dorsey has a background as a successful Internet entrepreneur, working for 10 years as CEO of Cybergate Internet Services, which provided Internet services to the Pine Belt region until it was sold in 2008. She was a volunteer economic development leader, including serving as president of the Economic Development Authority of Jones County. And as vice president of marketing for Jones County Junior College, she was part of a team responsible for the college’s publications, websites and public relations efforts.
“I followed the model used in my private business experience at JCJC, and it really worked out well,” Dorsey said. “My time at JCJC helped prepare me for my present job because I learned about how important education is, why we need a skilled workforce, the importance of community involvement, and what we must have in the state to be successful.”
Dorsey has a long list of “to do” items in her new job. One is to make sure that people know about the state’s positive business climate.
“I love Mississippi,” she said. “I love what I do. It is my job to get everyone else excited about getting a job here, living here, and doing a business here.”
One of her top priorities is improving MDA’s website and social media offerings.
“It is the 21st century, and we know that means we live in a global digital age,” said Dorsey, who has a degree in broadcast journalism from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Canyon College. “Online marketing is certainly a very dynamic environment. We have to be effectively marketing Mississippi 24/7. At any given moment, someone from anywhere in the world could be looking at us online. We have to effectively position ourselves to a number of different audiences.”
She considers a top priority providing information on the website about MDA’s offerings to help existing industry in the state continue to be successful. That is in addition to putting forth a web presence that showcases the state’s competitive business climate and workforce training capacities to new prospects.
“The website and materials need to detail the benefits of doing business in Mississippi,” Dorsey said. “We are not only trying to attract businesses domestically, but internationally. We may be asleep while Japanese companies are looking at our website. We need to make a conscious decision that we will be dynamic in our marketing to stay competitive on that level. I have to be very mindful of that. We always have to be in presentation mode so anyone can look at our website any time and see our competitive advantage.”
Currently MDA is in the strategy mode developing a plan to improve the quality of the state’s online presence. By the end of the year, she expects to have a new look and new offerings for their website. To accomplish that, stakeholders such as local development officials and site consultants will be involved in a discussion about what tools would make it easier to do their jobs.
“And we will work with other state agencies to see what needs they have,” said Dorsey. “This will be a collaborative and comprehensive effort. People expect the latest information at their fingertips to find the results they are looking for. We need to be very mindful of that. Over the next six months, that will be a big priority for me.”
The work will include not just the main website, but micro sites that effectively target micro industries. An example is MDA’s aerospace micro site.
“We have had a lot of success in our aerospace sector,” Dorsey said. “For example, we recently had the Aurora Flight ribbon cutting.”
Dorsey said they want more video content on the website, and want that easily found through search engines. They might consider YouTube videos that provide vignettes in areas like aerospace, infrastructure and transportation.
They will also be working on honing an effective social media strategy. The goal is to get key announcements out to stakeholders and let Mississippians know all the positive things going on in the state.
“We are looking at strategies to see how we can do that,” Dorsey said. “We are studying what other states do, and also training our staff so we can have a strategy about how to implement that. We know there are right and wrong ways to use social media. We are gung ho about using social media, but we want to use it effectively. We want people trained properly and the program implemented the right way. We also want to partner with other states agencies and be collaborative with groups such as the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Municipal Association and the Mississippi Tourism Association. We want to be partners with their success online.”
Dorsey said print advertising will remain a significant way to communicate their message. Coming up soon will be an insert showcasing successes in Mississippi featured in Fortune magazine. That will be in both the print and online editions of Fortune.
“We might be reaching a different market with online Fortune users as opposed to those who get the magazine in the mail,” Dorsey said. “The cross marketing mix is definitely something we are looking at. We want to make sure we are reaching people on multi-levels. We will continue to use print advertising as long as it is giving us the results we need. A printed publication can be picked up and read by multiple people. We do live in an instant age, but we want our message to have lasting value, and not be gone in a blip.”
Dorsey recognizes the challenges of doing more at a time when the economy in the state is still recovering. But she is looking forward to guiding the state’s strategies for actively marketing Mississippi in all the available media.
“That means we have to be on our toes,” Dorsey said. “We have to be trained and communicating effectively not only within our agency, but with all our partners. It makes for a very fast-paced, but fun environment.”
Dorsey was valedictorian of South Terrebonne High School, Houma, La. A graduate of Leadership Mississippi and Leadership Jones County, she has served on the Leadership Mississippi Advisory Board. She and her husband, Christopher Dorsey, have two children. Their daughter, Peyton, is 15, and their son, Carson, is 10.
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