WashingtonExec recently interviewed Mark Amtower, host of Federal News Radio’s Amtower Off-Center. Since 1985, he’s worked as a home-based consultant for a variety of companies marketing to the government. He’s also an author, mentor and frequent public guest speaker.
Widely quoted in about 250 publications worldwide, Amtower is an official LinkedIn blogger. In the interview with WashingtonExec, he speaks about the importance of social media including LinkedIn to spawn company growth and success, differentiation and thought leadership.
Amtower said his all-time favorite job, however, has been serving as a room dad for his daughter’s kindergarten class. He also finds time for interests including martial arts, a knife collection and the history of warfare and battles. He serves as a mentor at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and a member and committee chair at the Howard Tech Council. He was also the first male member of Women in Technology in 1994 and sits on the board of advisors for FOSE and eGov, two of the largest trade shows in the government market.
WashingtonExec: How did you get started in radio and how did Amtower Off-Center on Federal News Radio come about?
Mark Amtower: I started hosting a government contracting show in Annapolis in 2006 and I had some pretty good guests and the word was starting to get around. Federal News Radio had already been around for a few years, but was exclusively focused on federal employment matters. One of the companies WFED wanted as an advertiser was Anteon (now part of GDIT), and the CMO, Mark Meudt, had lunch with WTOP/WFED general manager Joel Oxley, and he invited me to attend. At lunch, Mark suggested that WFED expand editorial into contracting issues and he indicated that I was the best one to do that.
A couple months later I had lunch with several key people at WFED and they offered me a show. I was still publishing an e-newsletter at that time and one section was called Amtower Off- Center, my perspective on what was going on in the market. My first show was in February 2007. WFED Program Director Lisa Wolfe thought that would be a good name for the show.
“…Overall, the importance of media exposure is number one on my list for my clients.”
WashingtonExec: What are your thoughts on the importance of media exposure and social media, including LinkedIn?
Mark Amtower: Any media exposure can be good for individuals, executives and companies. It is always better if it is in media germane to your market, but regardless of venue good exposure can and should be leveraged.
Traditional media is going through some serious changes, but if you can get covered by trade publications, there are dividends. Being quoted or interviewed indicates the media views you as a subject matter whose opinion matters. But the same applies to e-media (like WashingtonExec) and social media. E-media outlets often focus on niches that are core to those that read them. Being one of those cited is always a big deal and should not be treated lightly.
Social media, especially LinkedIn, affords something similar, but it is where you control the message and delivery. You can still get in front of key audiences, but the caveat is there is no editor or reporter to ask for clarification if you mis-speak. LinkedIn has become integrated into the business landscape in a way that nothing else ever has. Its primary function is networking, but it is also a publishing and distribution platform; a place to define, develop and mange a professional network; a great venue to showcase your talents and develop that subject matter expert platform, for individual and companies. I get more exposure through LinkedIn by sharing my other activities. Overall, the importance of media exposure is number one on my list for my clients.
WashingtonExec: As a consultant, author, radio host, spokesman and more, you wear a lot of hats. What do you enjoy the most?
Mark Amtower: Wow, can I say, all of the above? I love helping companies; I write almost every day; on my show I get to pick who I want to speak with and share some great thoughts, and I get calls from other media on a very regular basis.
If I had to pick one thing, it would be speaking to industry groups. I love doing keynotes and lunch speeches, breakout sessions, sales meetings, you name it. If I get a good interactive, audience for a public or private session, it’s like I’m on a different plane, in the proverbial “zone.”
I recently spoke at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference and the audience was fantastic. I get great audiences at NVTC and APMP events. I’ve done training recently with Brocade and LMI and the people I get to interact with are great, engaged and they challenge me to get to a new level.
“…I have the most fun and satisfaction when I know we’ve done a show that adds value to the community, where some modicum of really good information got out.”
WashingtonExec: What’s the best advice you were ever given? What’s one piece of business marketing advice you would give to a new company?
Mark Amtower: My mentor, procurement guru Lynn Bateman told me to trust my instincts and to stay current on the market nuances. Lynn mentored a generation of B2G experts on both sides (government and industry) from the 1970s through the 1990s. She’s helping companies in North Carolina right now.
I would offer similar advice: Be very good at what you do; develop your own point of view and be able to substantiate it; don’t be afraid to be wrong or admit that you were wrong; and stay current on your market niche. When you become good, get visible.
WashingtonExec: How has your radio show changed over the years? Do you have any favorite topics or guests?
Mark Amtower: My show has changed because I have gotten to be a better interviewer. I am nowhere near as good as I’d like to be (asking questions like Jason Miller or Tom Temin but sounding like Francis Rose), but I am much better than I was in 2007. Several of the people I interviewed early ended up getting their own shows on WFED. One even became a drive-time host.
Mostly, I love talking to people who know more than me and are willing to share, people like Larry Allen, Kevin Plexico, Scott Lewis, Bob Lohfeld, Steve Charles, Lisa Dezzutti and Lee Frederiksen, to name a few.
I also occasionally interview business authors like best-seller David Meerman Scott, who has been on my show several times, mega best seller and icon Ken Blanchard, Ann Handley, Paul Gillin, John Jantsch and Brian Halligan. Each of them brings business savvy that is not B2G, but still germane.
But I have the most fun and satisfaction when I know we’ve done a show that adds value to the community, where some modicum of really good information got out.