NTCA Members Ignite Innovation at Marketing + Sales 2019

By Ashley Spinks, Communications Coordinator, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association

May 2, 2019

At its annual Marketing + Sales Conference in New Orleans, La., April 28–30, 2019, NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association introduced a new type of program during the meeting’s breakout sessions. Inspired by the many stories we’ve heard of rural broadband connections facilitating emerging technology, education and economic development, NTCA held two “Ignite Innovation” sessions. “Ignite”-style presentations are akin to abbreviated TED Talks that give speakers an opportunity to tell a story around one key theme or takeaway using only 20 slides in five minutes.

Three speakers are seen in a photo collage, in front of a large screen and holding microphones.

The rural broadband providers in NTCA’s membership innovate every single day. It would be impossible for them not to do so—providing high-speed internet to the most remote and sparsely populated parts of America is difficult, expensive work, and it takes smarts to build the business case, much less the physical fiber network, for such provision.

While we can’t properly celebrate the daily, stunning accomplishments of our members, a year ago NTCA began an effort to highlight at least some of these Stories of Innovation by interviewing members and industry stakeholders and sharing their stories on our website. These stories are part of a larger effort by NTCA to build a narrative about rural America and the important work done there. Test cases are powerful tools for rural broadband advocacy and marketing.

During the Marketing + Sales Ignite sessions, NTCA Vice President of Strategic Communications Laura Withers led off with a personal story about her struggles with anxiety and how she was able to access mental health care via telemedicine and app-based therapy services.

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I followed by telling the tale of Citizens Cooperative Telephone (Floyd, Va.), an NTCA member in rural southwest Virginia that recently announced its fiber-to-the-home project. Ninety-seven percent of Floyd County will have access to gigabit speeds by 2021.

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Brianne Partlow, marketing coordinator at Dakota Central (Carrington, N.D.), followed with a presentation about the Anne Carlsen Center, a Jamestown, N.D., nonprofit that provides disability services and support and is served with Dakota Central’s broadband.

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Finally, Larry Montgomery, director of marketing and sales at Etex (Gilmer, Texas), closed the show with insights into marketing adaptation and how relationship-building is key to a successful sales strategy.

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While the innovation-themed presentation content was compelling, the format of the session itself was also novel and modern. Ignite sessions function well as a PR and marketing forum because they are brief, scripted and image-driven. NTCA looks forward to leveraging this format in future meetings, including next year’s Marketing + Sales Conference in Phoenix, Ariz.