by Tiffany Brown

The “Influencer of the Year” award is an award given to an individual within the community who has greatly influenced the marketing sector that is voted on by the Reno-Tahoe AMA board. Past winners of this award have included Dave Archer with NCET, Abbi Whitaker with The Abbi Agency, and Stan Byers with StanCan Design.

The funny thing about this year’s award recipient, is that he is not a marketer by trade, but he is truly a marketing master. Let me explain why.

Many of you may know Dr. Bret Simmons, for he has spoken at countless local, regional and national organizations and businesses about such topics as personal branding, social business, and blogging. In fact, in the last few years, Bret has not only spoken at one of our monthly AMA luncheons, but was also a featured speaker at our annual marketing workshop whose talk generated extremely high ratings. But what many of you may not know, is that behind the scenes, he’s an avid supporter of our chapter, having worked with us over the years on bringing in notable speakers from outside of the area, and he’s always willing to help or offer advice where needed.

Bret Simmons 2

According to Bret’s co-worker at UNR’s College of Business, Jim McClenahan, Bret was first hired to teach “Google is Your New Business Card” in 2008 through UNR’s Extended Studies program as a non-credit class. While it struggled a bit at first, from that initial class an entire Social Media Marketing certificate in Extended Studies was created that today has now certified hundreds of professionals. Academically, while Bret will tell you that his primary interests lie with the topics of management and leadership, Bret started teaching his Personal Branding course as an elective to both MBA students and undergraduates around 2009, and today remains UNR’s most popular MBA elective.

In 2011 I was one of those students who took this mysterious “personal branding” class course. In the course he teaches students how to create, grow, and maintain their personal brand through the use of social media and blogging. But really what students are learning in this class, is a little bit about brand positioning, how to be an inbound marketer, create and distribute targeted content, engage with key audiences, and operate within the social business landscape.

Bret Simmons

Today, Bret has served hundreds upon hundreds of students in helping them to develop and communicate their unique value propositions and then carry that strategy over into their businesses. For me personally, if it wasn’t given the assignment to start a blog about marketing, I may have never moved toward becoming involved in the AMA. And if it wasn’t for blogging, I would have never connected with a few people in the national marketing scene who have since come to support AMA.

Needless to say, Bret is truly a personal branding master. He has a commanding presence, he’s lively, and is extremely motivating. And rather than just instructing his students about what to do in his classes, mind you, he is also an active participant, not to be outdone, always leading by example with his own leadership blog and active social media presence, not to mention the hundreds of teaching videos he’s now created.

Aside from being a personal branding expert, Bret is also adept at thinking like a marketer on the strategic business level.  In 2012 he approached Jim McClenahan to collaborate on the event known as TEDxUniversityofNevada. By applying for a TEDx license, the idea was to use TEDx as a platform to advance big ideas from the UNR faculty, students and community members.  Since their first event in Jan 2013 the event has grown significantly, with the 2016 event moving from the UNR campus over to the Pioneer Theater. As the producer of TEDx, he’s not only produced the #2 TEDx video of all time with Logan LaPlante (which now stands at over 8.5 million views), but he’s connected the College of Business, its faculty, and the community in was otherwise not possible or expected. He has even given his own TEDx talk, which you can watch here:

In short, Bret has contributed mightily to the community, and many of his students have gone on to great things, landing jobs at notable companies because of the skills acquired in his class. For these reasons and more, please join me in congratulating Dr. Bret Simmons, who truly embodies the title of our 2015 “Influencer of the Year.”