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Inspiring Conversations with McKenna Brooks of The Scout Guide Cincinnati

Today we’d like to introduce you to McKenna Brooks.  

Hi McKenna, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am the owner of The Scout Guide Cincinnati, which is a community of locally-owned businesses that my team and I work to promote throughout the year. I’m also the co-owner of The Social Story Lab, a content creation business that focuses on video, photography, and storytelling. I’ve lived in cities across the U.S. and getting to know new cities really sparked an interest in local businesses–they really are the fabric of the community. 

My background is in branding. I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder and worked in consulting and sales. I then received my MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, where I learned how to build brands and marketing strategies. From there, I spent 14 years working on some of the biggest and most loved brands in the United States including Pillsbury, Totino’s, Jergens, O’Keeffe’s, and Simple Truth, a Kroger exclusive brand. 

When the opportunity to become the editor of The Scout Guide Cincinnati emerged, I was excited at the opportunity to use my marketing and branding skills to help fuel the growth of smaller, entrepreneurial brands and businesses. I love helping passionate business owners build their own businesses. When locally-owned, small businesses thrive, it makes a difference to the business owner and their family, but also to the community as well. 

I started The Social Story Lab with the Associate Editor of The Scout Guide Cincinnati because we saw we could further help local businesses tell their own stories on their own platforms. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Being an editor of The Scout Guide Cincinnati is different than what most people expect when they think of an editor. Each business included in our print publication receives a photo shoot that visually tells their story visually. Then throughout the year, we continue to tell their story online through editorial on our website and social media. Plus, we typically have events that we plan and manage each year to help connect businesses to their customers. And we are also there for our clients to help them brainstorm, acting as a partner for brainstorming or as a sounding board. When I first started as an editor, I wore many different hats, which could be a challenge because there are only so many hours in the day. As I have grown in my role as Editor, I have also grown my team, so I can focus on what I do best. My team now consists of two photographers, an assistant editor/writer, two artistic directors/photo stylists, a makeup artist, and a logistics coordinator. We all work across both The Scout Guide and The Social Story Lab. We have a great synergy and I love the work we are now doing together. However, it takes time to assemble a team like this and I’m glad I had the ability to juggle the many responsibilities of business ownership as I carefully built my team. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about The Scout Guide Cincinnati?
The Scout Guide Cincinnati is a community of locally-owned business owners. Each year, I scout out businesses that might want to participate in our community. Our business community is carefully curated. My team and I work hard to find passionate business owners with a great story to tell. We love showing how robust the small businesses landscape is here in Cincinnati. Each business receives a custom photo shoot for digital assets that we will use throughout the year to tell their story. We tell their story in our printed, annual guide, and then continue to tell it through our web and social channels. In addition to planning events that helps connect business owner to customer, we also work to connect the members of our community through networking and social events. Sometimes I think of us as a mastermind group, all focused on supporting each other. We love seeing people begin to work together and maximize their success, all because of the introduction we made through our community. 

We understand that a marketing spend for a small business is a very important decision. And we understand that there are many other ways that a business can decide to advertise. We are proud of the tremendous value that we provide. When a new client joins The Scout Guide community, they receive 365 days of promotion that is authentic and meaningful. We have several clients who give a copy of our most recent print guide to people who are new to our city, knowing that we can be a great resource to introducing a newcomer to all that Cincinnati has to offer. In some ways, The Scout Guide is a publication, a marketing organization, a professional networking group, but also a city ambassador. We’re not just telling the story of local businesses, but about Cincinnati as well. 

Who else deserves credit in your story?
The Scout Guide can be found in over 60 cities around the country, each with its own local owner/editor. I am very connected with the editors in Guides in other cities. While we each work hard at supporting our own clients and markets, we also are constantly sharing ideas, tips, and best practices with each other. We frequently connect through email and by phone, and once a year, we all gather in person. Jennifer Buchholz, the associate editor of The Scout Guide Cincinnati, and I just returned from The Scout Guide’s annual conference this year in Richmond, Virginia. The pandemic kept the group of editors from gathering in person over the past few years, so this year was particularly great as a way to connect in person with people who have first-hand experience in doing the same job that we do every day. We left the conference with a renewed energy and enthusiasm. It feels great to be a part of a group of hard-working professionals who are making a difference for small businesses across the country. 

This network doesn’t just provide a great resource for me as a business professional, but for my clients as well. The Scout Guide can make a great conduit to connect a small business owner to resources or additional exposure in other markets around the country. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Ross Van Pelt

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