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Kara Miller

Kara Miller

Family: Grew up in Milwaukee as the youngest of three. Is the youngest child spoiled? Maybe, but I’m also the funniest. 
I’m known in the office for . . . Being the newbie, terrible dad puns and my weird obsession with Irish folk bands.
My superpower: Telling stories. 
Brush with greatness: I’ve met the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Jonas Brothers…not at the same time. 
Professional accomplishment I’m most proud of: Landing a great job right after graduation and not moving back in with my parents.
Favorite thing about working at AMPED: The people. I knew I had found a great office when realizing that “going for a doughnut run” involved lots of doughnuts and little running.

Kara Miller has a degree in History and Communications from UW-Madison.


I’m 24 years old and I’ve been diagnosed with stage two Adultitis. According to the test, I’ve been experiencing very high levels of stress and have difficulty laughing. Alas, this fanciful diagnosis, unrecognized by the Center for Disease Control, originates from, a website designed by the Wisconsin Association of Executive Directors’ 2017 Summit speaker and founder of Escape Adulthood, Jason Kotecki.

Jason describes himself as “a professional reminder-er and permission granter.” A Madison local, he believes that “a life that embraces a childlike spirit is a life that is less stressful and way more fun.” At this past year’s WSAE Summit, he spoke on breaking away from nonsensical rules that we follow “because we’ve always done it that way,” and instead embracing childlike courage and curiosity. His book, Penguins Don’t Fly: +39 Other Rules That Don't Exist, expands on those ideas, and his playful writing style and illustrations reflect his carefree philosophy. Jason’s humor and personal anecdotes help bind together a collection of small truths used to revive the young at heart.

While Adultitis may be fictional, the diagnosis is all too real, and seems to be common among adults, especially around the holiday season. As 2017 drew to an end, and impending deadlines closed in at work, I took comfort in reflecting on Jason’s closing talk at the Summit, Curing Adultitis: Your Prescription for Less Stress and More Success, and other little wisdoms found in Penguins Can't Fly.

Jason writes, “The purpose of this book is not to tell you how to live your life. It’s to make you more mindful of the choices you make…My goal is to help you open your eyes to the way you think and the actions you take. I want you to question. Investigate. Experiment. Poke. Prod. Play.”

Is that not the definition of innovation: investigate, experiment, poke, and prod? Innovation, at its core, is used to improve; but how can we innovate if we’re stuck in autopilot, working without much thought or any real meaning? That’s how we fall prey to Adultitis. As Jason references, the opposite of success is not failure, but instead doing nothing.

Ultimately, something’s got to give. If you’re suffering from Adultitis, nothing’s going to change unless you do. As we prepare personal and professional goals for this new year, let us focus on mindfulness. Children constantly question, “why?” If you don’t have a good answer as for “why,” it’s time to innovate. Be curious and take courage in trying something new. Like children, live in the moment and make every day meaningful.

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When it comes to Photoshop skills, I like to describe myself as a “seasoned beginner.” With so many ways to accomplish the same effect, I’ve always viewed the software as a conundrum. It’s an easy excuse to say that I never have enough time to learn more. But when it’s crunch time and I need a last-minute graphic, I’m at a loss, with no easy way forward.

Canva is the easy solution. This free, online software describes itself as making “design simple for everyone.” It provides ready-to-use templates for everything from blog banners to business cards. I value their social media templates most; the exact dimensions and layouts for each platform makes it easy to transform marketing campaign graphics from one social media account to another.

canva 1

Canva offers preset layouts, as well. If you’d rather create your graphic from scratch, there’s a simple toolbar on the side that contains a variety of font options, images and illustrations. The drag-and-drop editor enables anyone and everyone to use it — even those who aren’t seasoned Photoshop beginners.

Canva 2

Canva prides itself in making design simple, but is it too simple? By simplifying the functions, it limits design possibilities. I’ll admit that there have been times when I was unable to create an effect in Canva that I know is possible in Photoshop. When it comes down to it, online tools like Canva are great for discovering new ideas for graphics and creating quick and simple designs, but if you have a specific design in mind, programs like Photoshop and InDesign will always deliver.

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AM2017 logo as doc banner
When our graphic designer, Kristin, first released the branding for the Society of Wetland Scientists’ (SWS) 2017 Annual Meeting, we all knew that the little tree frog that was featured was going to be a star. There had already been extensive discussion among the Society’s board as to the accuracy of the frog, in relation to the meeting’s destination: Puerto Rico. As a group of wetland enthusiasts, it made sense why they were so passionate about the frog’s geographical accuracy. With that conversation alone, it was clear that SWS had already embraced him as the unofficial mascot of the meeting; so, staff thought, “Why not just make it official?” From then on, the tree frog was at the center of all meeting promotions.

We started using the frog as a mascot as a way to promote different aspects of the meeting. At the end of each meeting-specific email, the frog spokesman would include an interesting fact about the meeting’s theme, field trips or hotel and convention spaces.

Humberto meetinginfo
In a similar way, we would use these “Did You Know” facts to promote Puerto Rico as a destination. While the Society of Wetland Scientists is an international association with over 3,000 members, most of membership resides in the continental United States. Therefore, most of our annual meetings do, as well. With that in mind, it was that much more important to support this year’s “destination” location.

Humberto passport
As members became more acquainted with the mascot through email, we determined that it was important to put a name to the face (plus, he was too cute not to name). And with the association already so invested in this little guy’s authenticity, it made sense to put the power in the membership’s hands.

Humberto namethefrog
We polled the membership on Facebook and Twitter, keeping it as simple as possible, by asking them to either comment on the Facebook post or tweet at us with #namethefrog. Admittedly, suggestions were hard to come by at first; however, once prominent members within the Society started submitting suggestions, others soon followed.

By hosting the contest via social media, we knowingly limited the member response. Yet, it was strategically marketed to encourage others to “like” and “follow” our social media pages. Those who had subscribed to our pages were then rewarded by having the privilege to vote for the frog’s name.

Humberto votethefrog

In the end, SWS cared just as much for the authenticity of the frog’s name as they did for his physical form. “Humberto” was chosen specifically for its connection to the Spanish word for wetland: humedal.

Humberto name
We used the momentum from the #namethefrog contest to create Humberto’s own Twitter account. Those facts that we had been including in the meeting emails were then also highlighted as #frogfacts on Twitter. While the account was specifically created to promote the annual meeting, we’ve since used it to cross-promote other SWS event and marketing campaigns. For instance, to celebrate Earth Day, we’re encouraging followers to share and tag us in their Earth Day photos, using #SWSEarthDay. To kick off this initiative, we had Humberto share one of his photos.

Humberto EarthDay
Social media, specifically Twitter, has enabled members to actively engage with Humberto. It has become a main source of meeting information and a direct line to ask meeting-specific questions. Any interaction helps to increase visibility, not only for the meeting, but for the Society, as well.

Humberto cousin
Humberto was originally intended to be an outlet for relaying important meeting information, organically. He has since formed a personal brand that has helped reinforce the overall brand of the 2017 meeting, and to some extent, rebrand the Society of Wetland Scientists, as a whole. SWS will always be a professional society, focused on wetland science, but its membership has shaped the Society into one that appreciates fun, too.

Mascots won’t work for every association, nor will they help for every meeting. In this case, from his inception, SWS was invested in this frog. Members’ dedication to accuracy, paired with their willingness to embrace his mascot status, made this marketing campaign successful.


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Miller on Abe

There’s a graduation tradition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to walk up its grand hill, climb up the statue of Abraham Lincoln and whisper your hopes and dreams into his ear. Why there’s a statue of Abe on Wisconsin’s campus and why it’s turned into a lucky charm is beside the point; what matters, is that that moment – sitting on top of the hill, on top of the world – is the moment for Wisco grads, to bask in all their glory and look out onto their bright, metaphorical future. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to feel…

In my experience, climbing up to ten-foot tall Abe was kind of a disaster. All I could think was, “Dear God, don’t let me fall.” I’d graduated with a double-major in History and Communication Arts-Radio, TV and Film, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was at the top, with a clear and open path ahead, and I couldn’t see my future at all –“don’t fall; don’t misstep; don’t fail.”

Do I sound like a liberal-arts, millennial cliché? Perhaps. But I consider that feeling of fear not just as a millennial moment, but a very human one. Whether it’s a “quarter-life crisis” or “mid-life crisis” – you can call it whatever you like — leaving behind one life stage/lifestyle and starting anew is overwhelming, and it’s not just specific to my generation.

Think back on your first job and feeling that moment of uncertainty. In my case, I walked into the world of association management completely blind. I didn’t know such a field even existed before my interview, and honestly, I still struggle to describe exactly what I do to my parents. Unsure of pretty much everything, I questioned the most basic things, like whether to use “reply” or “reply all” in emails or if I used the correct ratio of coffee to water in the coffee pot.

They say that millennials are more invested in their work environment than their actual work, and to a certain extent, I couldn’t agree more. But, it’s not the space that creates the environment, it’s the people who fill that space. I knew I had found a good office when my coworkers’ faith in me helped to regain faith in myself.

At AMPED, I’m surrounded by “people” people who encourage me to take those steps, and missteps down the uncertain road to success. As someone who has been working for just three months, I know that I will undoubtedly take those missteps and sometimes fall (let’s face it, I have yet to master the coffee/water ratio). But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that you don’t need to rely on one big moment to get you to where you want to go –it’s the series of those missteps that force you to readjust and set you in the right direction.

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