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Kellogg delivers MC's Whiteman Lecture

Barry McNamara
04/05/2014
Mary Kellogg, co-owner and executive vice president of marketing, sales and operations of Cedar Bay Entertainment, makes a point during her Whiteman Lecture at Monmouth College on April 3.
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During Mary Kellogg’s highly successful 30-year career in the television industry at CBS and The Walt Disney Company, and in her current role as co-owner and executive vice president of marketing, sales and operations of Cedar Bay Entertainment, she has lived by the motto “It has to be perfect.”
 
Kellogg returned to her Monmouth roots earlier this month to inspire Monmouth College students with her story and to share the business principles she uses at Cedar Bay, which oversees the Titanic museum attraction in Branson, Mo. (opened in 2006) and in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (opened in 2010). True to its namesake, Titanic is the world’s largest museum attraction.
 
Speaking to a group of students, as well as faculty, staff, trustees and local business people in the college’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium, Kellogg first set the stage for her current career, then devoted the rest of her talk to ways that she and her staff endeavor to make the Titanic experience perfect for their guests.
 
There are more than 400 real Titanic artifacts at each location, and they do draw in visitors, Kellogg said. “But the heart and soul of Titanic is her passengers and their stories. We focus on bringing their story to life.”
 
Kellogg used an example from the college to illustrate her next point.
 
“At Monmouth, you want to make sure your faculty is happy,” she said. “If the faculty is happy and engaged, that will benefit the students and enrich their experience. Similarly, in our company, our employees come before our guests. If our employees are happy, then the guest experience is a happy one.”
 
In addition to providing specialized training to employees to help them create that perfect atmosphere, Kellogg believes it’s important for her staff to have a sense of ownership in the business. She listed a few ways to accomplish that, including sharing important data about the business with the team and instituting a “backstage magic” peer recognition program.
 
In relating a story about the importance of social media today, Kellogg shared a quotation about the importance of change and moving forward that applies to other facets of her business, as well. If you are on a downward moving escalator, she said, you will go down if you stand still. The only way to go up is by running hard.
 
Some of Kellogg’s other business tips and examples of how they are implemented include:
 
• “Extending the brand,” which her company does by putting on a play about six of the Titanic passengers, and by selling Titanic jewelry once a quarter on a cable TV network;
 
• “Creating an image,” which includes the blazer she wore for the presentation, and the use of Janie the first-class maid, as the “face” of the attraction or, in other words, her company’s Mickey Mouse; and
 
• “Core vs. niche marketing,” which included taking reservations to see the attraction so that visitors are never overwhelmed by large crowds, and realizing the importance of “coach” bus sales to the business’s bottom line. 
 
Kellogg closed by telling students that “the world is so wide open, full of new excitement and new possibilities. Embrace it with joy and excitement. Your foundation is being built right here at Monmouth.”
 
Kellogg titled her presentation “How Does One Letter Change Your Life.” The letter was one she received from city officials in Branson, Mo., during her time as executive in charge of the Disney-produced “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.” Months later, after attending a television conference in Houston, Kellogg decided to see what Branson was all about, traveling there with her TV producer husband, John Joslyn, and with Disney CEO Michael Eisner.
 
The short-term gain was a successful “on the road” production of “Regis and Kathie Lee” in Branson, and her time there also set the wheels in motion for building the first Titanic attraction in the tourist-friendly city.
 
Kellogg’s connection to the sunken luxury liner is quite personal, as her husband helped lead a 1987 expedition to the ocean floor to gather footage for the first television shows about Titanic. At about the time that Kellogg was looking to make a career move, her husband was envisioning a tourist attraction based on the ship. She told him, “John, I have an idea. I’d like to work with you, and we can build this company together.”
        
The Wendell Whiteman Memorial Lecture series, which began in 1992, brings prominent leaders of American business and industry to the Monmouth College campus. It is named in memory of Wendell Whiteman, an alumnus of the college and long-time executive of Security Savings Bank in Monmouth. Two of his sons, MC graduates Ralph Whiteman ’52 and Dick Whiteman ’64, were in attendance for Kellogg’s presentation.