100 Years of Transportation Marketing and Sales
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In this episode, Blythe and Jennifer Karpus-Romain, the Executive Director of the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association (TMSA), discuss the organization’s 100-year history, digital transformation, and the upcoming ELEVATE 2024 conference in New Orleans from June 9-11, 2024. Jennifer also shares insights into TMSA’s marketing strategies, award programs, and educational content designed to help logistics professionals enhance their marketing and sales skills.



“We have a benchmarking study. That’s a sales and marketing survey that we do to our members and people in the industry. It tells you what is going on and sales marketing today what people are spending their budgets on. How many sales and marketing people do they have at their companies? That’s always a question I get all the time. What are people outsourcing like? What are people keeping in house? What software’s are they? What types of software are they using? Are they integrating their software’s all that kind of stuff lives in that benchmarking study, and that’s accessible only to members so it all lives inside the member portal.” – Jennifer Karpus-Romain

“Like when people are always like when you’re starting new things like what what’s your advice? And I’m like, well, like anytime you’re starting new things you need to evaluate its actual purpose. And like half the people, especially as the marketing person, like you get thrown so many things and you’re like what is the what is the point of this? Like, what how does this serve our business purpose?” – Jennifer Karpus-Romain



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Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 0:05

We have a benchmarking study. That's a sales and marketing survey that we do to our members and people in the industry. It tells you what is going on in sales and marketing today, what people are spending their budgets on. How many sales and marketing people do they have at their companies? That's always a question I get all the time. What are people outsourcing? What are people keeping in-house? What types of software are they using? Are they integrating their softwares? All of that kind of stuff lives in that benchmarking study and that's accessible only to members, so it all lives inside the member portal.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:43

Welcome into another episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI Logistics and I am your host, Blythe Brumleve. We've got Jennifer Karpus-Romain. She is the Executive Director of the TMSA Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. We're going to be talking about the history of the association, because we just celebrated the 100-year anniversary back in March, I believe and so all of those festivities are going to be taking place at the June Elevate event, which is the premier annual event taking place in New Orleans. Jen, welcome to the show or welcome back.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 1:20

Yeah, Thanks for having me. Always a pleasure to come on the show. And yeah, saying TMSA the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association is a mouthful, but it is how I say it.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:33

Do you? Because sometimes I mess up and I'm like transportation, sales and marketing, because I think that moniker, I'm so used to saying sales and marketing instead of marketing and sales, and I don't know why. But do you find yourself like messing that up at times, or is it so ingrained now it's?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 1:48

so ingrained. But I will say my son, who's seven, the only thing when people are like, what does your mommy do for a job, he's like she's a boss, she runs TMSA, but he always wants to flip them and tells me to change it, as if that's something that I can just do.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:06

Yeah, I mean, it's a hundred year, you know organization just super simple to change that there's like paperwork and stuff but.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 2:15

But so I do pretty well with it. But you know, seven year olds it's tough.

Blythe Brumleve: 2:22

Well, I, I did want to. So we kind of we were talking before I hit record that you guys just dropped this TMSA timeline. 1924 was the date of incorporation and I was scrolling through this like 30 seconds before we start or after we hopped on the line. So I want to go through like obviously you know from a high level view, but what kind of can you give us a background of the TMSA from its inception while I pull up this timeline? That was that looks really great. I'll link to it in the show notes but for the audience can you kind of set the stage as how TMSA sort of came to be?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 3:08

how TMSA sort of came to be. Absolutely so we formed as the American Association of Railroad Advertising Agents and from my understanding it was men coming together at the time. They're in the newspaper article. I find it's very like it mentions men very specifically multiple times and I'm like, okay, like I guess that makes like women were we just got the right to vote, like four years before this, like that's crazy. But anyways, so we it says Railroad Advertising Men Forum Association. So they were coming together, they wanted to make sure they were getting fair rates for their advertising, to make sure they were getting fair rates for their advertising, and so they came together and then it kind of transitioned to ARAM, the Association of Railroad Advertising Managers. So you'll see that in 1948, kind of that shift, and then it stayed that way for quite some time. In 1997, it switched to the Transportation Marketing and Communications Association and then in 2011 is where it went through its final name change, at least for now of the first 100 years who knows where we'll go but to the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 4:23

So there's so much history in here and we really tried to just hit big highlights and then also condense some of the information. So like right here our previous leader, brian Everett. He served as CEO for quite some time but he sent me all these annual conferences that you see he sent like the full list and I'm like that's so much to put into the timeline if we did every single year. But we have this map right here that you'll see where then all the annual conferences were held and I love the visual of it. Florida was a place to be for TMSA for a long time. We've slowly made our way out of that a little bit over the past couple of years, but I just love seeing the history and also like the awards program throughout the year. We it started as, like the golden spike awards and then the compass awards, and when we were able to in 2021, kind of when I was coming in as the leader we changed it to the Trailblazers Awards and that's what it is today and it's really cool to see all of that Like. If you scroll down a little bit more, you'll see like these are a bunch of photos of all of the award winners in the different categories. Over there you go that one over the years, so it's like a bunch of photos from the past and now, and then, of course, where the culmination of this will be at Elevate June 9th through 11th in 2024 in New Orleans.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 5:57

So our official incorporation date was in March and so we did some things. Then it was right by MODEC, so we had a networking reception there and we had a pretty cool cake that had the anniversary logo on it, which I've never seen a fancy logo on a cake before. So that was really cool to see a TMSA that way. We're sharing fun facts on our social media of TMSA's history, where we came from photos from the past, excited to get this timeline up and out into the world. At conference we are doing a second line, so our opening cocktail reception will actually have like a parade through the streets of New Orleans without beads Because, I said, that seems like a dangerous thing to do at a professional business function. But we will do the parade and there's just so much we have planned.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 6:55

It's, you know, a couple of weeks away now at this point and it's been a lot of like hard work and dedication to both incorporate all of the things that TMS is and what we do for our conference attendings the great educational lineup, the networking but also then have these tie-ins to our own history. I interviewed Holly Loboda on so. Tms has a new podcast on the move. It comes out at noon on Wednesdays, but we have. I interviewed Holly Loboto, who's one of our education chairs, earlier and we talked about how much work goes into the educational lineup and all of the cool pieces. So if people are looking for more information on that specifically, they can go there.

Blythe Brumleve: 7:40

Yeah for sure. I definitely want to get into some of the speakers and the topics for Elevate in just a little bit. I am curious. Back to the timeline for a hot second. Was there anything that surprised you about the timeline?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 7:53

So it's been really interesting. So at TMSA, we serve all modes of transport. We want and welcome members from all of them, and I would say that we're more trucking heavy now than but we came from rail. So that's been one of my missions in taking over. It was like really bringing in all of the modes, being able to create content and marketing and all that towards all the modes so that and hopefully be able to grow so we can create more customized content, to be mode specific. So like those are like my lofty goals for the future, but it is something that we keep in mind is how do we really create a space for for everybody to come in? So nothing super surprising mean.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 8:46

Looking at the photos of the past is really funny and seeing I knew when I came in, so I came into TMSA as a member in 2017. So most of the conferences I went to were in Florida, but I remember like hearing from older members that like we did have things in California and we did like go other places and I was like, oh, who knew? Because I went to a Nashville conference, but besides that, it was mostly in Florida. So like that was cool to see like where, where we went and where we could go.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 9:20

So it's just a lot of history, like, yeah, and I know that the name changes happened, but like seeing when they were and kind of when that shifted with what was going on in the industry at the time, and just because people are like, oh, like, I think, if I'm talking to people outside of the industry, of course, like they see trucks more than the other modes and that's what they think about, but they're like, oh, what did those companies talk about 100 years ago?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 9:45

I'm like, well, they, they didn't, it was the railroad people. So, like, just like thinking about that, and it is also like, personally, for me, it's really cool to see my footprint in TMSA and like the things that we've done as an organization over the past couple years that have been historic, even though it's only been a couple of years, like in 2023,. We did like two major things we launched the DEI task force, which is something that we're really, really proud of, and we changed the name of our conference to Elevate Like up. Before that it was just called the annual conference, like the Logistics, sales and Marketing Conference, and now we've branded it, we have a name and that's what people are talking about and so it's cool to see my piece of it too and what we've done collectively as an organization over the past couple of years.

Blythe Brumleve: 10:36

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Blythe Brumleve: 11:16

Hit the freight agent link in our show notes to listen to these conversations or, if you're ready to make the jump, visit spi3plcom. Do you know if they were always sort of throwing events from the inception or was it more like a localized, because it got started in Chicago? I think was the on that timeline? Do you know if it was sort of localized meetups and events there? What were some of? I guess maybe those early meetings for an association like?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 11:48

Yeah, the earliest stuff we don't have information on, but what I can say is our and he is very prominent in this timeline but our most legacy member his name is Denny Grimm and he is celebrating his 50th year at TMSA, or you know, in the association during ARAM and and how it transitioned, um, so he is a wealth of insight of what they actually. I just got pictures from the past earlier today and was like looking at them. So he has all stories about all the things that happened and where they were meeting and how it grew, and so he is based in Chicago. So, like in those earlier days, but I wish, I wish I had files from like the 1930s and what they were talking about. I was actually one of our board members found those newspaper articles talking about the incorporation, which was really cool and that's for me that's been. The fun part too is like people getting excited about 100 years and thinking what that really means, like 1924?.

Blythe Brumleve: 12:54

It's a whole different. I mean, I believe the country was still at World War I during that time frame. Possibly, or maybe World War I just ended and it was before World war ii started. I would have to look up that one.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 13:10

I'm like I don't even. Yeah, it was between world war one and then world war ii would have been coming. Um, it's, yeah, it's just crazy and like the flappers, like it would have been like dressing, like flappers in the 20s.

Blythe Brumleve: 13:24

Yeah, because I mean essentially the roaring 20s. Everybody was excited that war was probably over, Probably never, thought that it would happen again and celebrating accordingly, and then oh surprise.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 13:38

It's just crazy to think about that history and just for me, it's also thinking about serving the industry for that long. We are a trade nonprofit. What we do is to give back to the industry. So like that's what I think is. The coolest part is also looking at the board of director lists over the past. Like we have access to the past, like 20, 30 years, Like it's not like just a couple of years, Like we can look back and see all of the companies and the names of the people that served in the past couple of decades and the locations we were at and what people were talking about, the agendas, the keynote speakers over, you know, from the nineties on, and just seeing how things have evolved, Um and then how some things stay the same which is also.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 14:26

So I was talking to. The first female president of TMSA was in the nineties, so the first board president and we were talking about and I'm actually interviewing her as well but in my like pep call with her, we were talking about what it's like to be a younger female in a male-dominated industry while also being a mother. I was like, well, that's my whole life right now. Um, but and how much things we are. There are so more many women in the industry now than they were in the 90eties. Um, we don't have the experience as much of walking in and being the only female in the room, but we're still talking about being a woman in a male dominated industry and what does that look like? And how do we balance motherhood and being a professional and what that looks like, and in the weight that carries differently than men.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 15:28

Like I still get asked who has my son when I'm traveling for business, and like his dad, like what do you? Like I don't, I don't understand. Um, and it was actually this is but like my husband had to work late the other night and I was putting my kids to bed, he was like where's daddy? Because, like, he's adjusted to mommy, like traveling sometimes for work and like, but daddy's always home to put me to bed, and so it's different, but it's hard.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 15:53

But so it was really interesting to me that, like we were having this conversation, I was like, but with so much time in between, but then also seeing like we do have things like DEI task forces now, and where the women who are here are talking about it, like we're talking about how hard that is, like we aren't as alone because we're having open dialogues, and to me that's really powerful and like that's where the shift is happening. Like I could be like you know what's really hard being a mom and also being a professional, like I was telling you before, um, I, we had a virtual award ceremony a couple of weeks ago and my son had to come home sick from school and I was like what am I supposed to?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 16:37

do with this child who immediately hears me talking and knows I'm on camera and will come into the office no matter what's going on. He'll leave me alone for the whole day, but as soon as he sees that he comes in. So I called my mom and she came and like watched him for an hour. But like those are just real things that are happening and and that is different though, because you know, in 20, 30 years ago people weren't on camera all day long. We were in offices talking to each other, not this way. So I think that's one of the biggest shifts too is work-life balance is different. Like, have you ever sat and thought about what it would be like working 20 years ago and when you left work, you just didn't talk to people you work with until the next day, like there was no email.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:25

People weren't texting you.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 17:27

I kind of envy it there was no LinkedIn, like you literally were like bye, see you tomorrow, and then you went home and work wasn't there. I don't know what that's like.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:42

I personally struggle with that, like turning work off and being able to focus on personal life. So I definitely, as you're saying, that I envy those who could leave an office and leave work and leave it there, truly leave it there, Not, you know, modern day problems, as you know, as you were referencing is more um, I guess being able to check your email and stuff like that is is available now, but I do, as you were talking, I do kind of envy the folks who could just leave work and not have to worry about any of that.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 18:15

I was out of office yesterday for um, a nonprofit I volunteer for, and I was like I am not going to bring my laptop. I'm proud of myself as I'm checking my email on my phone in between speakers and I'm like so this is great and it was good, because if TMSA needed something, I want to not just check out for a whole day when we're a couple weeks away from conference. I don't want to do that, but being able to actually sit in in time, like I think those are. But I mean, that's what everyone's going through and dealing with and figuring that out and that's I do think people talk a lot about.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 18:51

Like what changed over COVID and like people working from home definitely happened more and more. But what I found is it was harder for me to not have work creep into my personal life. They're not have like people are so concerned of employees working from home because they're like going to be doing their laundry Great, they should, like it's five minutes to throw a little laundry in but like I also then work way too long in the day and like how do you balance it out Like when work is always one foot away. You know how do you actually separate from that?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 19:26

Yeah, I feel like we really interestingly derailed from our conversation. Like these are the things that I think that people are actually dealing with, but they don't always talk about in a real vulnerable way.

Blythe Brumleve: 19:39

Well, as you were talking, it brings up a perfect segue into evolving the landscape for TMSA from a digital perspective. Because we've talked about the historical aspect. You know TMSA was very much you know in-person events, and then when you took over, you added on the digital component. So I'm curious as to when you first took over, what were your primary sort of, I guess, digital strategies of how you wanted to sort of modernize the TMSA.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 20:11

So the first step that I really took was knowing that we needed a big upgrade in terms of our website and our member portal. So we had both of those things, but they weren't incredibly accessible and they were built on a pretty old program and so we needed to switch that and really think through how do we make it easier for people to scroll mobily? How do we put the bare basics on it? Like, I feel like we had a lot of deep dives on the old website, but I'm like, if I'm someone just trying to sign up for membership, where is the button? Or like, where is the thing to just click? So we now have a membership area and a join thing that you can look at in both of those places, which makes it pretty easy. And then we have a big button that says member login, because once you're a member, then you get access to the back end, and then the same thing in there.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 21:08

Okay, what are? If I'm a member, what would I be looking for? Well, I would be looking for member directory, being able to see other members of the association, the resource section. So where is all the information I could be looking for If I want to look up a webinar or a conference presentation from years in the past from. We have a benchmarking study. That's a sales and marketing survey that we do to our members and people in the industry. It tells you what is going on in sales marketing today, what people are spending their budgets on, how many sales marketing people do they have at their companies? That's always a question I get all the time. What are people outsourcing? What are people keeping in house? What types of software are they using? Are they integrating their softwares? All of that kind of stuff lives in that benchmarking study and that's accessible only to members, so it all lives inside the member portal.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 22:04

We also have our partner network for people like Blythe, who support TMSA through a partnership, and we have so people that are looking for services, whether that's a sales coach or recruitment firm or software provider marketing agencies, pr firms firm or software provider marketing agencies, pr firms. We have all kinds of different partners that live in TMSA now, which not as a digital strategy. But one of my strategies was like we can't just have marketing service providers as our partners anymore, like they're still fundamental to who we are and the support that marketers need in the space, but we have marketing and sales, and those people are also now working with customer support and working with HR and having shared revenue goals, and there's so many pieces to that that people need help with that. We need to make sure we have a diversified partner network that's able to help them be more efficient and better at their jobs and then being able to showcase them so people can now like click the type of service that they're looking for and those partners pop up.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 23:06

And then our events. So we do have both in-person events. So we've always had what we now call the Elevate Conference, but in 2022, we also added an executive summit, because we had leaders of companies say what are you providing me? Like I get my, I can send my employee to Elevate and that makes sense, but what content are you developing for leadership? So we created this event that's director and above, and it's in October. It's October 10th through 11th in New Jersey this year, um, but that is for the leaders of the companies. In budget seasons, they're looking for what is coming next. What should I be paying attention to? What am I missing? How can I be better? How can my team be better? How can I better support my sales and marketing staff? So that's really exciting. And then we added the pod, so we just launched our podcast.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:05

Oh, perfect segue.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 24:06

That was going to be my next question, which has been, as you know, like on my 90 day goal sheet from three years ago we had this conversation and I was like you guys have so much content, and that was my biggest gripe is like you have so much, but it is challenging to.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:26

you have to, especially in today's environment. You have to almost shove the content in people's faces over and over and over again for them to digest it. And so that was my biggest gripe is like get TMSA a podcast and now it's finally, you know, sort of come to light. So what was the? What was the reasoning for starting it?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 24:44

now, so, um it, it was multifunctional, Like part of it was I needed a very strong administrator who was able to back me up. So, um, Tiffany is that person. She is the executive assistant now here at TMSA and she now serves as podcast producer for On the Move as well. So, getting her up to speed and being able which I like shout out to her for someone who has such strong administrative skills but never did the marketing stuff she just rolls into Canva and creates the graphics and does all the stuff. Like it's so rewarding to watch people really like fall in love with marketing and so she's been doing really well on that and so I'm able to do the exit.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 25:30

Like the this part, like I get to sit and interview people and like do the questions, and I started my career in journalism, so interviewing people, like being on this side, is actually harder than being like on your side. Like I'm used to asking people questions, not answering them, so I love to do that and it's also rewarding for me because I do still some journalism on the side. But like being able to interview people is like a core function of my person. So like I now get to do this weekly and it's so fun to be able to merge those things together. But also, this industry moves really fast and so we have to be able to share the information about what our members are doing, what the industry trends are going on, how people are supporting sales and marketing, putting a shine on our members and what they're doing and the people themselves. And I feel like I love our webinars and our webinar series and we take this deep dive and we're really able to get into some of that stuff.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 26:34

But in terms of regular information being put out into the space, we needed to have that function and finally kind of have the support staff to be able to execute on that. And then in terms of, yeah, you've been like you guys sit on so much content, what, what is going on up there? So, like, we're also looking at how can we modernize ourselves, what AI tools can we potentially use to like take some of that content and repurpose it in different ways? Um, so we're trying to get more sophisticated as we go too. Um, so excited to see what comes next there?

Blythe Brumleve: 27:10

What's been the biggest challenge of launching a podcast so far?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 27:14

The biggest thing of launching the podcast. Um, the biggest thing of launching the podcast, I'm going to share my real answer. I was going to give like a. I saw and there are a couple of them that are live here at the beginning, but when I was really honest with myself and my time and also the people that were interviewing time, the thought of like, everyone's going to be available at this one time every week was really hard, especially because, like, there was a Tiffany was like um, you have a scheduled LinkedIn live but it says that you're on a field trip with your son, like I was like oh yeah, I can't do that from the farm. So, like, and that was really hard because it's something I wanted to do for so long and I I wanted it to be live, but I'm like okay, what is the purpose of the show? It's to give relevant content, it's to showcase what TMSA is doing, it's to be a trend evaluator and, like, let people have that information regularly. And I can achieve all of those things and not do it live. And so that's.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 28:37

I had to like, swallow my own advice a little bit, cause when people are always like, when you're starting new things, like, what, what's your advice? And I'm like, well, like anytime you're starting new things, you need to evaluate its actual purpose. And like, have the people? Like, especially as the marketing person? Like you get thrown so many things and you're like, what is the? What is the point of this? Like what, how does this serve our business purpose?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 28:59

Like, um, can I have the materials that you need me to do to produce this thing? Because you just told me an idea and I have no idea, like a timeframe or blah, blah blah. So, um, I had to sit in that advice a little bit myself and was like, okay, if the purpose of this is to be providing relevant and timely information to our members and our followers, I'm able to do that with a recorded video. So sometimes we go live if that's what works better for the person we're interviewing or for special events, still definitely go live, like our virtual award ceremony that we did 100% live, had the crowd interaction, had a lot of moving parts to it. But for the on the move, we've kind of switched to a recorded.

Blythe Brumleve: 29:43

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Blythe Brumleve: 30:31

It's interesting to hear you talk about what your thought process is like for marketing the association versus what people are. The members internally are thinking about marketing their own company. So it's almost like you have to think about it in two different ways, Like what does the audience actually care about for takeaway tips for marketing their organization, and then who are the people that I can talk to from TMSA standpoint in order to make that resonate with those members? So it's it's it's interesting to hear the parallels of how you market an association and how you give content to those same marketing. Members of the association.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 31:13

Well, right and like. One of the hardest things is like we're helping people be better marketers or salespeople so effectively. We should be experts at sales and marketing and I like to believe I have a lot of capabilities in those spaces. But you know we go through all the same things everybody else does. We, you know, our headquarter teams is two people like and I don't, and we have this wonderful, um, volunteer base and so I'm not discrediting the work that any of our our board of directors, all of our committee members, everybody really um, if they didn't exist, tmsa wouldn't exist, hands down. But in terms of like that headquarter level, like we are, we have two people executing all the stuff and like people want more and more and more from us, which we love. Like I love that TMSA has grown to a space where people are understanding more of who we are and what we can provide and want more from us. But then you know prioritizing that, putting it. Then, how do you do that? How do you put that out? Because people will be like, oh, I would love if TMSA presented this type of content. I'm like, oh, I would love if TMSA presented this type of content. I'm like, oh, totally, we have that Like. Somebody was like oh, I would love if TMSA did more like industry trends or economy, like deep dives, and I'm like great.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 32:28

We had a webinar in February with Dean Crook and he did an awesome job deep diving and he's also on a panel at Elevate and there's three economists coming so that we have three different perspectives and not just I love the deep dives, but I'm really excited about that panel because I personally get lost in the deep dives. When we talk about the economy in too many numbers, my brain it takes a bit to process it. So I'm excited to have a different perspective of three people talking about what actually we're supposed to do with the deep dive numbers, like what does it actually mean and what are companies supposed to do with that information? And so I'm excited to look at things a little bit differently and then push that out and then see, hey, did that work? Did you guys like that format? And then adjusting as we move forward.

Blythe Brumleve: 33:21

Yeah, I think that that's key because you're experiencing the exact same things that other small teams, other small marketing and sales teams are, which is, frankly, most of the logistics company in this country. They have a very they're very lucky to have one person that's dedicated to marketing. They typically will have a lot of sales reps that are smiling and dialing, but there's no central sort of mission that marketing is driving for them. So if you can experience those things firsthand, I think it helps you better plan and communicate future educational materials for those same members. Now, you had mentioned earlier about the purpose awards and these were taking. Typically, they were taking place at the elevate conference, but you did something in a virtual environment, uh, just last week, I believe. So, depending on when you're you're listening to this, we're recording this on May 1st. Um, we're going to drop it, you know, very quickly after we record, cause it's so timely because, with the event coming up so soon, um, so tell me a little bit about the the purpose awards and why the shift and how those are given.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 34:25

So we we did a lot of shifting with our recognition program and, um, the biggest thing that we've found is we effectively have five categories and for the past two years they lived all under trailblazer, like they were the Trailblazers award. So it was Trailblazer Purpose, sales, mountain Mover, marketing, mountain Mover and Rising Stars. And so what we found was all of them have great purpose and I love how much we do with the award program. So part of why we have so many categories in the awards program was when we launched Trailblazers, I had asked one of my members hey, why do you submit for what was then the Compass Awards? And he said I really like highlighting the work that my team does and so I like putting in for the Compass Awards because if we win, it's like look at all the work, like what matters, your work matters and is really good, and I said I love that. That's a great answer. Also, why don't we have a rising stars category where we can actually recognize the people that are five years in the industry or less? Because there's so many of them and they're all like they're doing really good work and could be recognized Like they're not in that mountain mover where, like the top of their career, top marketing, top sales. But we should be recognizing young talent too, especially when we always talk about, like how do we retain people, we'll like recognize them for the awesome work that they're doing, so, um, so that's why we created the rising stars category and then for the purpose awards.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 35:59

We are a trade nonprofit and one of the things that mattered to me was for us to let people know that and then also do things that are non-profit-y, for lack of a better term. So, like we now do the community give back at our Elevate event. So last year we partnered with the Children's Hospital in Savannah. We made tied blankets and we gave them to them. This year we're partnering with the Covenant House in New Orleans. So giving back to the local community that we're in for three days. You know things like that, but I really wanted to be able to showcase the amazing ways that our industry gives back to the industry, but also to the communities that they serve. So we have a purpose award and we have five winners and four of them.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 36:53

So we kind of shifted this to. It used to just be the purpose category, but now we have a sustainability winner and purpose winners, because what we learned in our first year is that they need to be judged differently, like the community based programs and the sustainability programs, because the rubrics are just different, like what makes a good sustainability program versus giving back to your community, giving back to your community. But what we found doing all of those awards at Elevate meant that we had one hour to roll through every oh and Trailblazers are like the best marketing and sales campaigns. I was remiss to like leave out the biggest category and we wanted to shine the reviews. The reviews, the surveys from the conference were like funny because like one of them would be like that took too long, like the award ceremony took too long, and then other people were like I have no idea what these awards are, and then other people were like I have no idea what anybody won for.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 37:54

And there were so many winners like I'm so confused so I'm like, okay, like let's take these comments and break them down a little bit. So one um, we cannot go past one hour's time at the award banquet. For sure, two people are winning and they and they're deserving of their win and the time to shine the light on them. But doing them all together also makes it then too much in one space. The other part, from like a purely logistical standpoint, we can't talk about any winners on the main day of conference because the award ceremony is at the end of Monday. So I'm like we can't. Like we do lunch roundtables where people will talk about, you know, things that they have going on, but we always have to like go to last year's winners because we can't talk about any winner, and so I'm like if we move purpose award, we can talk about it. So like Taylor Logistics won and Noelle Taylor is doing a 15 minute presentation at Elevate to talk about her sustainability award winner or sustainability award and what they do and why it's important, but like we couldn't announce if we kept that in Elevate. Like those are things that we couldn't talk about now or we couldn't highlight that session. So we decided to move purpose into a virtual event in April, and so that was last week and we brought in, we did a LinkedIn live and me and Courtney Keenan, who's our recognition chair, interviewed the award winner. So what we did is they each got a 30 second clip to to like kind of shine a light on what they're doing, but we slid in each winner one at a time. They each talked for about eight to 10 minutes to talk about their, their program and why they do it and their why's in their house, and then we slid them out and slid another one in and then at the end they all came together and there was a couple of questions from the audience that they answered collectively and then we were done.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 39:50

But it was so rewarding to be able to actually give the time for them to sit and talk about what they do and how they do it and who's involved in it. Like, these programs were so amazing and it was just really really cool to be able to showcase that much differently. And then actually today we've been breaking out those sections and then giving them to the award winner because then they can use it for however they want to as well. So when you talk about a digital shift, like very much and that was like me and Tiffany like practice, like who was running what part of the show, because that was a lot. There's five winners, so that's a lot of coordination of like bringing people in and out, making sure the right video is playing for the right winner, all of that. But I got really great feedback from the winners and that is what mattered to me that they felt like they were able to really shine a light on what they do.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 40:49

So, that was cool. And then now we can openly talk about it and what they do and how they do it in a different way. And then, just for reference, the Mountain Movers who are the top sales and top marketing winners they will be announced then at the Executive Summit in October. So those ones actually just opened up. So if people know top sales or marketing professionals, you can access that link at tmsatodayorg. Backslash awards.

Blythe Brumleve: 41:19

Yeah, we'll definitely make sure to put links to that in the show notes. I and I I agree with the sentiment that when you're listening to the award ceremony it is a little bit of a like I want to see the work, I want to see what got them there on the award stage, and so I think you know that transition into talking about it ahead of time allows those same people to then kind of boast about their programs and their award winning programs at the event itself. So then other people can ask questions and get feedback, and it could, you know, relate to something that they're working on. Was there anything in particular or any award that that kind of stood out to you from that last week demonstration?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 42:02

No, they all, they all. So like herb group, they work with so many different types Like I don't know how they keep track of all of the groups that they support, that they support GLT Logistics. They've started a movement to give back and want to grow this program even more. We did Next Generation of Trucking Foundation and saw how they're engaging. Like we got to watch one of their like 30 second commercials and like how they're engaging the next generation and like making trucking cool for people. And then Bennett companies they help support REITs across America but they have they do all of the graves at a location, which is so many. But the cool thing about that is so we always talk about like race across America in December. They support them. Like their program is year long. Like they have events to be able to then execute what they need to in December year round. So I think there's different ways to approach a community give back Like okay, we're going to do like 18 events and they're all going to be for different communities. Or we're going to go all in and we're going to like have the all these different events but it's to execute this one big thing. So like that was really cool to see the differences there.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 43:30

And then Taylor Logistics did the sustainability award and or the sustainability program and talked about like the little steps that they took to get where they are and like why it's important, and I think to everyone feels like sustainability should be something that they do, but they don't actually take the steps to or because they think that there's no roi in it.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 43:54

But like, if you really start making even small changes, there's roi to to do that. It's the same as like when I like to talk about dei like people, small changes, there's ROI to do that. It's the same as like when I like to talk about DEI. Like people are like oh, there's no financial benefit for me to not all people, but like that's that's one of the pushbacks you get, but it's like no, if you hire a diverse workforce, you also appeal to a more diverse customer base, and so there's ROI there. You just have to like think through how to do that effectively. So it was really cool to see all the different programs and how and they it was like cool, you could see them like in the back watching each other and stuff which is really fun, and like and they like would chat with each other like go blah like and it was cute, so I really liked being able to do that and really taking the time to let them have their space.

Blythe Brumleve: 44:41

So Well, as we're talking about sort of incremental improvements, you know pulling you know a historic organization into sort of the modern digital age as we shift, and sort of talk about the Elevate conferences you go to outside of the TMS conference. You go to a lot of other conferences as well. I'm curious what you've learned, or are there any things that you've learned from other events that you have implemented or maybe want to implement in the future or maybe don't want to implement for TMSA?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 45:14

So this I'm so. We didn't even prep this, but I'm so glad you asked this, because my one of my favorite things that we're implementing this year is a wellness room at TMSA, and it will be like a soft space with like down lighting and like some nude music in there, cause I feel like conferences can be very overwhelming um, especially for like our newer divergent friends, and I want to create like a safe space for you to like go, like just chill for like a minute or 18, whatever you need to be able to like decompress and like encourage people to your safe spaces aren't just going back to your hotel room, but like we will continue to like help and grow in that way. So I'm really, really excited about that. I saw that at. I volunteer at the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. I'm actually the VP of the board of that organization and I went to their annual conference last year and that was something that they did and I'm like that is so wonderful. I love that. So I wanted to implement that for this year, so that's something really cool that I found at a different conference.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 46:23

The Manifest app is one of my favorite things because you can request meetings with any person and I would love that our app. I keep like sliding that into like the like. We should put this in development because I love that. I mean I love our the fun. There's a lot of in development. Um, because I I love that. I mean I love our the fun. There's a lot of functionalities in our app that I really like, but that's like the one that I'm like can we figure out how to get that in there?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 46:46

But, um, I think, as like, an attendee, being able to um request a meeting with any person is wonderful, and then, as an attendee, being able to accept or decline any meeting with any person is also wonderful. I feel like it gives authority and autonomy to everybody, which is the goal. And then I've been to conferences, so I'm really really, really strong. Component on never removing coffee I keep make sales and marketing people very mad. You remove the coffee every 9 am, like I can't, and it actually like um. We had a break room last year but it was a little off to the side and we tried to like notify people where it was, but it was just not like in a in a space. So it like hurt my soul reading somebody.

Blythe Brumleve: 47:38

be like where was the coffee? And I was like no, everyone should know.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 47:44

So I'm just putting it in the foyer this year because I'm like I just I don't know why, but I, that's what I feel. Like it's one of the first things I said to the board. Like look, we're always going to have coffee. Because I can't, like there's something that is really I could come on a rampage about it and I don't know why. But like I just you're at a conference, I'm a pretty caffeinated person to begin with, but like even people who don't drink caffeine need that push at 3pm to get through a day. Like it's just part of what you need to do. So I care about stuff like that.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 48:16

I do try to focus on some of the little things. Like we have optional networking that you can engage with. So like we have a riverboat jazz cruise that people can opt to attend, and some of these things come at additional prices Some of them don't. But like we have a port tour in the city of New Orleans, we have private ghost tours on Tuesday night. So those are just like people in our TMSA group. So I like to do that kind of stuff for a few reasons.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 48:43

One, networking is a part of why you go to industry events, and so I think that creating more opportunity for people to do that is important. Two, we have a lot of young women coming into the industry and the more I can create group safe spaces for them to be able to explore cities is really important to me and all people. But I just being a sales and marketing group, there are just a lot of younger women that come to our events and I was a young woman and I would prefer creating like okay, like we as a group are going to go do this, instead of them trying to explore on their own and they can if they want to but just having those options. And then three, it can be terrifying to be a person who's never traveled, or you've never come to this show or you don't know any of these people, to then try to go out and network at night, like, but at least here it's like okay, or not even at night, like on Sunday it's in the day, it's a brunch cruise.

Blythe Brumleve: 49:41

I already have my ticket. As you were talking, I was like I need to go in and I need to go ahead and buy all my stuff Because I typically am a last minute sort of ticket buy and I know event people hate me, I'm sorry. I actually there's a few of you on the board that I know like, oh, they'll register, this will come like the week before. I'm sorry, I know I make, I've thrown events myself and I hate the last minute registration. Make sure that you plan it all, but I just, for whatever reason, I just didn't just wait until the last minute to plan on any conference travel, just make sure you get your hotel before the room block comes off.

Blythe Brumleve: 50:19

Oh yeah, cause I did not do that at the last TMSA event and I had to stay at a different hotel. It was still a nice hotel. It was right beside, you know, the, the, the conference location, but it was. I always like to stay at the place, cause it is a different kind of energy when you can walk into the lobby and you know, network with folks and and be able to to able to have those moments there as well. Last couple of questions. I mean not last couple of questions, but yeah, kind of last couple of questions here. Speakers, topics you mentioned Dean Croke earlier Anything else that folks can look forward to as far as speakers for the event?

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 50:56

So our keynote speaker this year is a fellow named Ty Bennett and he is I don't know why I said it like that and I feel like our interviews get so weird so he is talking about the power of storytelling and to me as sales and marketing professionals, this is really important to understand. Everything that we do is about the power of story and like how to make people care about what we're saying and what we're doing, and we've tried to also weave those concepts throughout conference. So one thing that we are starting this year which I'm really excited about are these 15 minute power sessions, and we have people that will take the stage for 15 minutes and no slides, no gimmicks, just telling the story, and I love that. And, like one of them, we call them 15 minute chronicles, stories that leave a mark, and we have, like Cassandra Gaines is coming and talking about safeguarding success, how sales and marketing can protect against freight fraud. So I feel like we talk about freight fraud a lot.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 52:09

It is bad but, like what, as a sales or marketing person, can you be doing? Can you be relaying to your customers and your prospects so that your company is shown to be like the leader of, like not doing freight fraud? Or like, how are you conveying the transparency of like yeah, this is a scary issue for everybody and like, but reassuring your customers that it's okay? And these are the steps we're taking and and all that kind of stuff, and I I feel like we should be showing our commitment to combat it and not just being like freight fraud, it's a problem.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 52:42

Like, that's like that's not good enough. So but you know what I mean Like and that's really important. Um, we have, um, dionne Nassette with FedEx is coming and she's been at FedEx for like 17 years, so navigating this really long time career in logistics and a big company name and what does that experience look like? We also like one of my personal favorites is so two of our board members are Candy Sybator and Jodi Cape and they've been best friends because of TMSA for like 20 years and so, um, to me, tmsa is special in the sense that you do make these like we're laughing and giggling and trying to keep a straight face because we are friends outside of this interview because of TMSA. And so it's called the lasting bonds of TMSA because, like I talked to TMSA people probably more than most of the people in my real life, like I, it's just you meet these people, you have regular touch points with them. It's not just like, oh, I see you at this conference once a year and then we never talk again and then we catch up once a year, like you're regularly engaged with the people in TMSA. So I really wanted, especially as we celebrate our 100 year anniversary, to talk like, to me that's part of the greatness of the organization is this you know these bonds that are formed, and so I convinced them to do that. I'm really excited and they're funny together. So we have, just like a few of these and the sustainability winner, taylor Logistics. They'll be doing a 15 minute presentation talking about the sustainability and why they did it and how. So we have those things Super excited about it.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 54:32

We have a shippers panel, which I know people will be pumped about, will be pumped about. We have other panels, so one that I'm really looking forward to is from surviving to thriving using disruption as a fuel to accelerate positive change. So everybody's been experiencing mergers, acquisitions, global growth, soft markets, all this. But like, how do we deal with that? Like how do we actually not just like breathe and get through the day, but actually like get through a month, a year? And so we have people talking about that, um, and we have that economy panel I mentioned earlier and there's one more yeah, that'll be a good one too, yeah.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 55:15

And then, uh, we have one more panel it's called called People, profit and Purpose Unifying your Workforce for Business Impact. So that's really looking through how your people can help you go forward and kind of intertwining business strategies and securing collaboration across your business units to really like make alignment actually happen and what that means. So that's like Camille Gaines, charlie Safro and then Caitlin Cambria with NFI Industries and then Holly Laboda is moderating that. So like I'm so proud of these, these panels that we've did. And then, of course, we have our breakout sessions. That are always then your like sales, marketing or general breakouts. You can kind of go through through your track and focus on which one makes the most sense for you. So really excited about those as well. I just this educational lineup is something to be to be proud of, and our education committee does a really great job putting that all together.

Blythe Brumleve: 56:23

Yeah, very well said, because I mean just to sort of bring it back full circle, it's really about the networking and the communication and how to better yourself and better the organization and better the industry that you're working in, and that's essentially why the association got started to begin with. So it's really cool to see all of those things come full circle.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 56:44

Oh, there's one more I forgot to mention, sorry. Our last session on Monday, before we then go into our awards banquet, which does have a Mardi Gras theme. And our last session is with Kern Studios, who owns like Mardi Gras world and all that stuff, and they're talking about navigating the logistics of Mardi Gras.

Blythe Brumleve: 57:04

That's right up my alley.

Blythe Brumleve: 57:05

I'm so excited. I like I talked to them. It's a lot of things. We have a regular series on the podcast called source to porch, where it talks about sort of the logistics behind your everyday favorite products and services and just how things work, and that is always a crowd pleaser. So when I saw that topic on the agenda it's definitely like a must attend. If I had that, if I'm going to purchase the ticket and then I imagine I'll have access to the app, because that was immediately like I need to save that to my app. Oh wait, I need to buy my ticket. So all of those things are sort of coming together in this conversation. All right, jen, as we sort of you know. Rounded out, where can I send folks? Is it eventstmsatodayorg? I think I got that right. Yes, good job. Yes, so tmsatodayorg, in order to just check out the association altogether. But if you want to register for the event, we will also put that in the show notes. That is eventstmsatodayorg.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain : 58:05

Yes, so regular website tmsatodayorg. If you're looking for Elevate in particular, it's eventstmsatodayorg.

Blythe Brumleve: 58:13

Well, perfect. Just trying to make it simple, jen, I will also put a link to your LinkedIn in the show notes as well, just to make sure it's easy for folks to get connected with you and and check out those, those award ceremonies that you know, or their award ceremony that you guys just had in order to check out you know who's doing the good work and you know who can I kind of learn from. But if you want to learn from a variety of these folks, all you got to do is get a ticket to Elevate. That's happening in June, it's happening very soon. So if you're a last minute planner like me, go ahead and get your ticket and come have fun with us in New Orleans, because it really is going to be a good time. So, jen, thank you so much for coming on again. Thank you for having me Absolutely. I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at everythingislogisticscom. And, in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate, and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website.

Blythe Brumleve: 59:22

Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a coworker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website.

Blythe Brumleve: 59:38

Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and give potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on digitaldispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags. Thank you.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.