Michelle Cunningham: Marketing in aid of youths
Jody-Anne Lawrence, Lifestyle Reporter
When you think of marketing, branding a product or finding a niche market for it may be the first thing that comes to mind. But Michelle Cunningham is more than a marketing executive. She is using her skills to help young people find their place in society.
Cunningham's fascination with marketing began with her interest in consumer behaviour. Delving into her courses while studying for her degree at the University of the West Indies, she became acutely curious about the psychology of marketing. She wanted to know more about what motivates consumers and how this drives their decisions, and, most importantly, how marketing pieces these elements together.
The St Andrew High School old girl who claims to have been 'born an Andrew's Girl' received a Bachelors of Science in Management Studies and Marketing with honours. She then moved on to the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) three years later to pursue a masters in business administration with a concentration on marketing, where she was the youngest student in her class at 25 years old.
Now at the age of 27, she is a marketing executive at MC and Associates. However, Cunningham emphasises that marketing is not as glamorous as many might think.
"Most people think marketing is only about parties, glamour and fun, but it's serious hard work. All those campaigns, events, press releases and impressive tactics don't just appear out of thin air. With clients' uncompromising expectations comes the need to consistently and successfully guide every project, campaign, brand development and promotion plan with effective strategic marketing, coupled with efficient formulation and implementation, to achieve growth and sustained competitiveness. Clients demand and expect results, and deliver we must," she told Flair, adding that one thing that she admires about the field is that you never stop learning.
And her hard work has not gone unnoticed by her co-workers. "Michelle is an unflappable and objective member of the team who is motivated, methodical, efficient and highly customer driven. She is truly a team player and a hard worker who pays keen attention to details," notes her director, Melody Cammock-Gayle.
For Cunningham, her rewarding periods come from jobs that allow her to interact with, help and touch people's lives, especially children and youth. She was recently one of the driving forces behind the successful staging of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce's Jamaica Logistics Hub Symposium, a national affair, and played an integral role in the merger of Churches and GSB credit unions, two years ago, the largest credit union merger at the time.
"I think, so far, the best programmes and most rewarding I have worked on would have to be The Re-Birth Project. This was a project I designed along with the MC and A team. The idea for the Re-Birth Project was not client-driven, but was our team's response to what we saw as a need to act instead of merely talking on our verandas," Michelle explained.
The Re-Birth Project saw Cunningham dedicating alternate Saturdays helping 20 at-risk teenagers from volatile areas in Kingston and St Andrew and their parents through workshops and motivational presentations designed to effect behaviour modification, and providing the parents with actionable strategies to deal with their brilliant but troubled teens. Cunningham led the team in developing the programme, soliciting sponsorship, locating the ideal facilitators, promotion, plus organising and planning each week's sessions. The acclaimed project ran from March to June and is scheduled to resume in January 2015.
"Michelle is a very loving and caring person. She motivates me," shared Avril Malcolm a parent from the Re-Birth Project.
Cunningham also spearheaded the production of the Child Development Agency (CDA) 10th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine, one of many projects during the Agency's one-year celebration. "I particularly liked this CDA project, because I believe the agency has and continues to do so much for children and families in Jamaica."
To top off her list of memorable projects she has undertaken, she notes that the Nathan Ebanks Foundation Conference which educates schools and parents about supporting their special-needs children, soliciting major corporate support for the Jamaica Reading Association's National Reading Week for the week to have a larger islandwide impact; and finding a strategic angle to promote first-time author, Hope Barnett and her Jamaican-based children's novel, No Boy Like Amanda.
She also worked with the Cari-Med team, headed by Glen Christian, to officially launch the Evelyn Mitchell Early Childhood Institution, the school Christian built in honour of his mother. This saw the merger of three basic schools to create a state-of-the art learning facility in his Clarendon hometown.
There is also a playful side to Cunningham, as she is a movie buff. Her friends call her Carib cinema's best customer, the party planner, confidante; go-to person and the glue that keeps her various groups together. She also keeps herself acting with her running group, Kicking Asphalt. "I love surrounding myself with positive, ambitious, fun, people and just joy and laughter. So I like to go out, celebrate milestones with loved ones, try new restaurants, bars, do adventurous things, just about anything active," she said.
Her advice to her peers: "My advice for anyone pursuing any dream would be to trust the timing of your life. God has a plan in store that is much greater than anything you have experienced. A very good friend said to me, 'be still and know that He is God, for pathways steep and rough, not what He brings, but who He is, will always be enough'. Believe it, think it, do it!"