Mark Puppe

Mark Puppe







Many public relations campaigns struggle because they make the “relations” secondary to their marketing materials (aka “bullets”). Neglecting how, when, and even whether bullets reach their target does not foster the relations required for any business and organization to succeed.

Focusing on marketing materials more than how effectively their message matches the audience causes campaigns to be scattered, inwardly aimed, and driven by speculation.  Sure, bullets are important, but making them primary leads to loss because audiences run when they get shot at – especially with hollow points they sense faster than we can get a business card in front them.

Every business that’s still in business knows that third-party referrals generate bigger returns than any tangible marketing tool.  People trust those who have common interests.  A common interest does not have to create harmony or absolute unanimity, but no relationship exists without one because it fuels the ascension from awareness, to acquaintance, and finally into relations.

Same thing with an audience.  Trying to convince an audience by talking about our interests, products, or services will definitely make it aware of us, but more determined to ignore the message and forget the encounter.  It'll run away and leave our brochure and business card at the door.

Giving precedence to the audience enables us to learn about and attract it more effectively than the materials we match to our own perceptions. Therefore, by first determining the interests we share with those we want to convince, we develop stronger relationships rather than dire dependence on materials that most people consider propaganda.

Our own marketing materials might impress us, but we don't create them to convince ourselves.

Every business has a message, but the only time that matters is when it attracts an audience and the only time it's effective is when it makes the impression we desired.  Forgetting that causes many campaigns to miss the mark.

Focus on the audience before throwing anything at it.

*Published by Fargo-Moorhead Chamber of Commerce



We know creativity, industry, and culture thrive in North Dakota and fervently among its people, but also recognize how incomplete and inaccurate information cause them to be underestimated, unnoticed, and even belittled.

Just like anywhere, North Dakota has its flaws, but as a lifelong resident who has lived throughout the state, I reject the common notion that North Dakota is simply a barren and blizzard prone place north of South Dakota.

North Dakota offers far more than what population statistics, weather reports, generic postcards, and photo books of abandoned farmsteads cause many people to believe.  Much of what distinguishes North Dakota is intangible and never truly experienced by those who view or capture those photos portraying the state as only isolated and cold.  Negative perceptions of North Dakota even abound among its own.

Nonetheless, people believe what they see and enlightening them to the state’s intangible assets requires more than a brochure telling them to discover the spirit or that the people here are nice.  Instead, people need an experience potent enough to trump the preconceived.  North Dakota Realized delivers the images and means to effectively introduce North Dakota for what it is and the people as who they really are.

Fargo media artist and professional photographer Kevin Tobosa and I launched North Dakota Realized as a statewide, multimedia journey to discover and capture unique photo opportunities that reveal the underlying identity of the North Dakota people.  This venture searches for what is now largely unknown, but those who follow and participate in the project will determine its path and focus.

Kevin and I have different roles and reasons for executing the project, but share the same mission and are determined to purse it with passion.  His media talents and expertise capture, format, and post the photos, video, audio, and online networks available at the project hub,  Kevin recruited me to identify contacts and feature opportunities, cultivate, engage, grow, and retain our audience, and expand the project’s public presence.  Our duties inevitably overlap, but the differences give us a powerful, yet balanced chemistry.

My enthusiasm for the North Dakota Realized project comes from experiences I have both enjoyed and endured while living and working in North Dakota.  Establishing my career has been anything but a cakewalk and not until a staffing agency saw my fruitless job search generating opportunities I did not.

Then, two agencies suddenly started referring job seekers to me for resume help.  It seemed unethical for me to help others find a job when I couldn’t find one myself, but the agencies saw potential in something I perceived as an end and they made an assertive effort to help me tap it.

It took an independent third party to show me that I had more going for me than I believed.  So, I took a step back, asked others what they saw as my strengths, evaluated my interests, and determined writing resumes as a practical starting point for what is now a referral-based communication consulting company.

After serving only a couple resume clients, I realized that the Midwestern modesty of which so many North Dakotans are proud actually represents a disappointing tendency for them to sell themselves short.  Cracking that modesty is perquisite to making them confident applicants, but compares to removing lug nuts with pliers.

For whatever reason, they’re programmed to renounce praise and almost dislike success.  It takes energy, diplomacy, and patience from me to convince them that they need not feel guilty for sharing their achievements, taking in pride their talents, or recognizing unique projects as an invaluable way to distinguish their resumes from others’.

The same can be said for North Dakota’s people at large.  They’re humble, honorable, hardworking people who silently and selflessly contribute to their communities, but need a third party to reveal how those attributes, activities, and principles make them resourceful and praiseworthy.  North Dakota Realized is that third party.

Over the next year and probably beyond, Kevin and I will travel the state using multiple media strategies and resources as to seek, showcase, and celebrate noteworthy characteristics about North Dakota that would otherwise go unknown.  Our web site, online social networks, personal and email correspondence, and especially Kevin’s photography provide an interactive forum for residents, natives, and nonresidents to meet, understand, and appreciate each other.

For me, North Dakota Realized functions as a dynamic, experiential resume that enlightens a limitless audience to how this state and its people are typically underestimated and overlooked, but constantly performing beyond expectation and without any expectation of title or premium pay.

North Dakota Realized finds and features things that provide every audience an honest introduction to North Dakota, its people, and culture rather than what outside sources already perceive them to be.

It’s an admittedly an abstract objective, but pursuing it will be educational and inspiring for anyone who’s ever heard of North Dakota and everyone we’re fortunate enough to bring along.  We invite you to hop on at

*The North Dakota Humanities Council published this text in the 2010 Winter issue of its publication "On Second Thought." Special thanks to NDHC Executive Director Brenna Daugherty for all her support!  Be sure to visit NDHC at



It may come as no surprise to you, but absent  the computer and Internet, my communications / public relations firm (and quite possibly yours) would be dangling over a black hole of uncertainty.  Instead, over the past 8 months, it's put me on planes to serve clients in California, Arizona and Florida next week.

One client hired me to work with his four member team (three in California, one in Singapore), to coordinate a conference in Miami that has attracted one of the largest and most prominent audiences in agriculture conference history.  Regardless of the numbers, the audience is among the most influential ever assembled, or at least it's gotta be close.

Over 250 executives and public officials will represent 150 of the world's largest agricultural companies and 38 nations at the Rice Americas Conference.  I don't know a darn thing about rice, but it's been rewarding to build worldwide attention and interest in it by engaging people via the Internet.

One downside of the Internet is that it's shortened peoples' attention span to about 30 seconds.  That fact alone makes my point.  Note: If you continue reading, either you're one the few who's maintained your brain or I've thus far done my job and won your interest.

Most marketing and public relations companies make sharpening their Photoshop skills the top priority.  Few, if any, have a job description that matches mine: Identify, intrigue and motivate prospects to willingly and unknowingly advance my client's interests.  Sales?  No.  It's a process called "identification" which accomplishes a goal I've coined as "audience optimization."  I can take at least some credit for that phrase because Googling it May 3, 2009 produced only 551 hits; add "communication" to the search and you get a whopping 154.

Despite the amount of work, time and creativity this process requires, audience optimization generates rewards that transcend what traditional marketing accomplishes by leaps and bounds.  Why? Because you're devising strategies that cultivate the field, sow the seeds and get the grassroots to grow greener than even an environmentalist can dream.  That is, we're matching the message to the audiences rather than matching colors on a web site template or tri-fold brochure that the recipient probably didn't want in the first place.

Network, network, network and the Internet enables us to do that.  However, it has to be done carefully and sincerely.  If people introduce themselves with a business card or try proving their public relations accomplishments with brochures, they're blowing you off.  Yes, those things are important, but they're not a foundation for building interest -- the goal of communication and that requires an audience.   Engaging that audience requires more than 30 seconds of attention.  Thanks again for reading this far.

People don't want to be sold things, they want to belong.  If they don't identify with a project or product, they don't become part of the marketing or public relations process. Most marketing firms don't understand that and ultimately fail at what clients are paying them to accomplish, but comprehending that process and engaging it is why and how Master Manuscripts will make your mark.

*KFGO Radio, The Mighty 790 posted "Grassroots Grow Around the Globe" online.



The Red River stimulated tidal waves of media attention for Fargo and waves of community enthusiasm that impressed the planet. Volunteers’ unbridled commitment to defeating the flood ran so strong that it made The Forum’s front page “Fight or Flight?” challenge a rhetorical question. However, keeping volunteers requires keeping them informed. A new marketing strategy helped volunteers prevent what would’ve been perilous for other communities and here’s proof that creative communication can spark and sustain interest.

When the Red started rising, Kevin Tobosa and I created Facebook and Twitter groups that allowed the volunteer coordinating group First Link to provide volunteers actionable, real time information. When the city needed volunteers, network members received an email from First Link about where to go and what tasks they would perform. News of these groups spread like wildfire and over 6,000 volunteers joined.

We then added a popular and seemingly addictive weapon to our arsenal – text messages. These things typically cause calluses, but this time they engaged that "get out of the way, let's get the job done" attitude in thousands who got up and threw sandbags in valiantly successful effort to save Fargo. The text message service distributed the same information as the online groups, but didn’t require internet access, only a cell phone.  If you didn’t sign up for this service, you probably know someone in Fargo who did.

Next, we tapped the talents of Fargo communications expert Jason Spiess who owns three publications, operates three web sites and hosts two radio broadcasts that usually market homes. But Spiess helped save them during the flood by stacking sandbags and filling his sites and shows with announcements about our online response efforts. That generated even more interest, web site hits and network members.

These strategies won immense attention themselves. How? A press release that grabbed the eye of local and national media. Next thing you know, the Associated Press shows up, takes a picture of Kevin and writes a feature that was catapulted onto the internet and around the world. Google Fargo - Flood - Tobosa and you’ll get over 3,000 hits! Newspapers and radio stations interviewed us, links to the groups were posted on The Forum’s homepage and local media followed our footsteps by starting their own online networks and using our content.

When the Red began to recede, State Farm donated 2,000 free McDonald's cheeseburgers to honor volunteers and local radio station AM 1100 needed our help getting the word out.  So, we engaged the networks and made one last call.  Volunteers attended in droves and took down the burgers with as much courage as they stacked the bags.

I could go on and on about how our project attracted volunteers and expanded audiences, but you get the point. Countless other strategies can promote your interests and business, but engaging them effectively takes more than know what they are. Communication companies in Fargo can accomplish that and now you know which will serve you best.

A second crest is coming and we'll use these networks again.  Another flood will bring some challenges, but couple the die hard spirit of the volunteers, relentless service of the National Guard and repeated reputable service of public officials with an effective communication strategy and beating it will be a piece of cake.

See the press release HERE.



It was President's Day on Monday and everywhere politicians were purporting themselves as the great Abraham Lincoln.  No matter how hard people try, none can even come close to matching that eternally honorable yet humble man.  Words are amazing and Lincoln's will forever remain monumental.  One simple phrase will illustrate when I mean.

Eight score and seven days ago, I brought forth a new company dedicated to saving you time, money and peace of mind.  --There you have it.

Poetry is not my proficiency, but here's one I thank you for reading.

People hate writing and constantly ask,
“Why should I bother? It’s a pain in my _ _ _”
So, on Sept. 1, 2008 Master Manuscripts
Boldly shot out of the gate

Well, since then I’ve been proven right.
My clients grow, get published and prosper with might.
Poetry wasn’t thought a tool at the time, but
I offer you now some tear jerking rhymes.

Last fall, I had a dream and a big wakeup yelp
Staffing agents sent me job seekers for resume help.
A magazine made me its editor and writer of letters,
It was working real hard and I made it better.

But this was all new because until then for my best
I was rewarded by just one flattering request:
“Hey Mark, could you please us today?”
“But oh yeah, we’re sorry, we don’t want to pay.”
Yet I was happy to give and without delay,
I’d answer, “No problem, I’ll help anyway.”

It was unity for purpose, no more or no less
My talents were harnessed I really was blessed.
I still paid my taxes, insurance and rent, but
No couches, no cable or dollars I’d spend
‘Cause there was no way I’d go into debt.

The hundreds of jobs for which I applied
All rendered the form letter,
“Sorry, but thanks for your time.”
None of that mattered because deep down I knew
Someday I’d progress, but it had better be soon.

The bill stack got higher and one cloudy day
I saw the depression stampeding my way.
So all those degrees, talents and me
Went out to the streets our savior to see.
We stood up and demanded things change,
Big time inspired by the ‘08 campaign.

So now here we are and everyone fears,
What’s gonna happen when
Obama and Limbaugh join for a beer.
They ramble on ‘cause everything’s wrong,
But I know you have praiseworthy song.

Your message it matters,
You’ve got something to say.
Don’t hold back,
Today is your day.

But if time and tension
Keeps it locked in the dark
Call Master Manuscripts,
I’ll make your mark.