2015 Winner Spotlight: One Loudoun, Community of the Year

02 GRAND COY One LoudounUrban, hip and electric are all words that can be used to describe the 2015 GALA Community of the Year Winner, One Loudoun.

It is an extraordinary mixed-use community with endless entertainment options. One Loudoun boasts a wide variety of shops including a Fresh Market, and Barnes & Noble and Northern Outfitters are coming soon. Plenty of trendy restaurants to choose from such as, Matchbox, Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande, Bar Louie and many more. Catch a movie at the one of a kind Alamo Drafthouse Cinema or catch one of the many community events on the Downtown Plaza. One Loudoun features nearly three million square feet of office space, a clubhouse with pool and an amphitheater. Beautifully designed streetscapes and walking trails can be found throughout, providing residents easy access to everything the community has to offer. From the Summer Concert Series to the Tree Lighting during the holiday season, One Loudoun has something for everyone. With a packed calendar and an ever-growing list of merchants, One Loudoun has quickly become one of the hottest destinations in Loudoun County and the new downtown.

See more at: http://www.oneloudoun.com/

Posted in Winner Spotlight | Comments closed

Tips For Creating A Winning Entry

The Great American Living Awards are now accepting entries. This is your chance to be recognized among the Washington market’s best in new home construction design, sales, and marketing. The early bird deadline is tomorrow, May 6 at 5pm.

Here are some tips to consider that will help you prepare a winning entry for the 2016 Great American Living Awards:

Choose Your Category Wisely: Research and review all of the potential categories, eligibility criteria and entry requirements. Start planning early and ensure that what you want to enter meets all the criteria and requirements for your selected category and subcategory.

Know Your Audience: The judges who evaluate all entries are professionals who work in various parts of the new home construction industry–such as, sales leaders, architects, land planners, interior designers and marketing/advertising professionals. While everyone works in the same industry, not everyone has the same knowledge base. Keep your content professional and concise to ensure a clear understanding from everyone on the judging committee.

Write Clear & Compelling Project Statements: Articulate the story about your entry through concise sentence structure and descriptive details. Convey your challenges and strategies in a way that is relatable for others in the industry who may not be familiar with your line of work. Show your entry to a colleague or two from another department to see what they think. If their interest is peaked, you are more likely to spark interest from the judges. Also, always avoid using consumer-facing language. Remember your judging audience!

Ensure You Have Top Notch Photography: Every category requires photography to be submitted, and these images impact how your entry is received by the judges. When evaluating your photography, consider these things:

  • Lighting: Can you clearly see how fabulous the kitchen finishes are or is the sun so bright in the windows that it distracts from the beauty of the space?
  • Extraneous Objects in the Image: Is the landscaping lush or are there dead trees and construction vehicles in the background of the home exterior image?
  • Resolution: Is everything visible in the image, or is the image blurry or small?

If you don’t have photography or are looking to upgrade your photography, there are many talented photographers in the new home construction industry. You can get great photography without breaking your budget.

When preparing your images, follow the photo requirements. Files should be 7″ wide by 5.25″ tall at a resolution of 72 or 96 DPI, no larger than 10MB. The file formats that are accepted are JPG, GIF and PNG. Please avoid using special characters in your file names, and the “dot” or “period” should only be used preceding the three digit file extension (for example: ImageName.JPG). Also, don’t forget to submit your photo release forms!

Don’t Rush or Procrastinate: Waiting until the final entry deadline on May 27 will create stress and pressure. Plan ahead and get started early. Use your resources and get help from your team members who can collaborate on your entries. If you have questions, Dora and Laurie are happy to help in any way.

Be sure to mark your calendars for the final entry deadline of Friday, May 27, at 5pm. The 2016 Great American Living Awards Committee is looking forward to honoring the brightest stars in the new home construction industry in 2016!
Posted in Entries | Comments closed

The 2016 Early Bird Deadline Is May 6!

Mark your calendars–the early bird deadline for the 2016 GALA Awards is fast approaching on May 6th. This is your chance to be recognized among the most prestigious industry professionals in residential design, sales, and marketing in the metropolitan Washington market.

To get started, simply visit the My Forms page and enter your login credentials or register as a new user for the 2016 GALA Awards. Your username is your email address (assuming you previously created an account during the 2015 award entries). You can utilize the “Forgot Password” feature to retrieve your password if necessary.

To set up a new account registration form you will need to provide a valid email address and password along with your basic contact information, and choose your company from the list of members. Once you have submitted this information, you will receive an email that confirms your registration. Then, you’re ready to start submitting entries!

You can view and create entry forms once you log into the system. Just follow the simple steps and fill out the easy form for each entry. Remember, for each entry, you must create a unique name for your form to distinguish it from your other entries in the same category. For more specific instructions on entry forms, visit the Entry Forms page. Once all information is completed on your entry forms, you can submit your entries and proceed to payment.

Remember to get your entries in before the May 6th early bird deadline. After that, prices go up for entries submitted through the final entry deadline of May 27th!

Posted in Entries | Comments closed

Do you know Dora?

Dora Muhammad is our much respected Events & Communications Coordinator for the Northern Virginia Building Industry. We’ll be honest, she ensures any time there might just be a cog in the wheel as we work hard to achieve success and all the to-do’s leading up to each year’s GALA, well…Dora is our fixer!

Dora has worked in the communications and advocacy fields for over 20 years. She is an artist, author and advocate for women’s, children’s and human rights. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Journalism and Documentary Photography, with a concentration in Magazine Production and completed her photography thesis at Dartington School of the Arts in Devon, England.

Additionally, she has worked as an arts administrator for Autograph-ABP (Association of Black Photographers) while studying International Law and Human Rights at the University of London. Dora also earned her Master of Public Administration and has extensive work in government relations and public policy formation in the U.S. and the Caribbean, through her work with the National Policy Alliance and as Chair of the Women’s Leadership Initiative for the Institute of Caribbean Studies. A daughter of Indo-Caribbean immigrant parents, Dora is a native New Yorker who resides in Woodbridge. She is a member of the inaugural Prince William County Arts Council Poet Laureate Circle and was named among the 2014 Top 40 Under 40 by Leadership Prince William and Potomac Local.

We’re lucky to have Dora on our side!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Meet Laurie and Julie!

These two gems in our ever-growing and evolving Real Estate Industry bring years of experience, funny stories and both offer an honest, collaborative environment in whatever they are leading for the Great American Living Awards committees. From planning, to orchestrating, to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s necessary to get this annual awards event off the ground and organized; Laurie and Julie are leaders and appreciated for all they do.

Laurie Matthews founded LM Marketing with the goal of creating a unique kind of agency – one that combines the resources of a large agency with the advantages of a sophisticated, boutique agency.  She comes to the agency world from the client side – having worked with builders and developers, as well as advertising agencies in the Washington metropolitan market.  She brings over 15 years of executive leadership experience, and is adept at real estate market analysis, branding and positioning.

Laurie began her career with Charles E. Smith Companies (now Archstone-Smith) before moving on to leadership positions with other prominent development companies – to include Trafalgar House/South Riding, Lansdowne Development Group and Van Metre Companies.  On the agency side, she provides a full spectrum of marketing and advertising services including digital, social media, direct mail, media placement and planning, follow-up programs, public relations, and event planning and execution.

Laurie is a true Washingtonian – born and raised.  She graduated from the University of Maryland with a BS in Marketing/Communications and is a member of Northern Virginia Builders Industry Association (NVBIA) and Women in Real Estate Marketing (WIRM).  When she’s not bringing marketing concepts to life for her clients, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son.  Laurie enjoys running, traveling, experiencing new restaurants and reading.


Julie Miner Dillon is a senior level marketing professional with nearly 30 years of diversified Real Estate experience. Currently, she is Vice President of Marketing for Miller and Smith at One Loudoun, a 365- acre award winning community in the Washington D.C. area.  She is responsible for the development and execution of all marketing efforts including branding, advertising and public relations.

Julie was previously the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Eakin/Youngentob Associates (EYA).  As a member of EYA’s Executive Team, Ms. Dillon was responsible for managing one of the most successful sales teams in the region while overseeing all marketing efforts.  She was recognized with the Marketing Director of the Year Award for the local Washington Metropolitan Sales and Marketing Council as well as the Silver Award for the National Sales and Marketing Council.

Additionally, she has played roles such as  Chairperson for the Sales Achievement Committee and Program Committee for the Major Achievement in Marketing Excellence (MAME) Awards and is the current chairperson for the 2015 GALA Awards.

A true Hokie at heart, Julie received a BS in Business Management from Virginia Tech and completed the Leadership Development Program at The University of Maryland National Leadership Institute.  She is an active member of International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), NAIOP, ULI, Women in Real Estate Marketing and a prior Board member for the Washington Metropolitan Sales and Marketing Council. She currently lives in Fairfax, Virginia with her daughter Kathryn and their black lab Gabby.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

The who’s who of the GALA committee continues!

Continuing the effort to introduce the homebuilding industry and home buyers in the DC Metro area to the who’s who on the Great American Living Awards Committee. Here are this week’s folks to follow and pay attention to:

Have you met Greg Hadley? Greg specializes in environmental portraits and architectural photography, especially residential interiors for architects, builders, designers and advertising agencies. Work has taken Greg to over 30 states and 20 countries. 2015 marks his 25th year in the business as an award-winning photographer in the DC community. In addition to numerous magazine contributions, he has been featured in 4 books including : Cape Cod : Gardens and Houses, Mustique and Mexican Style. Greg was the Chairman of the Awards Committee of NARI for 8 years (DC Chapter), and remains a participating member of AIA and NVBIA local chapters. He’s an active member of the PR Committee for GALA and brings great ideas, strategy and thoughtful conversation when discussing the current and future mission! He resides in Fairfax, VA with his family. Learn more here! www.greghadleyphotography.com or go directly to his residential portfolio page to check out his stunning work http://bit.ly/1CUVx4G

If you attend or have even been in a conversation about GALA, we’d be surprised if you haven’t met our GALA sponsorship chair, Cindy Nairn. She’s been the lead person on this amazing committee for 5+ years and has set the bar high by being an excellent example in how to raise money for GALA, in a kind and and meaningful manner. Day-to-day, she’s second in command for the New Homes Guide (http://www.newhomesguide.com/) and has been rocking and rolling for 11 years, selling ad space and ensuring the bible of our industry is successful for all builders, in every issue. From web listings, to selling the latest and greatest to the homebuilding industry, she makes the job look easy and we know it’s not! We’re all a big fan of hers!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Meet the Faces and Folks On the GALA Committee!

Thrilled to be entering the GALA season! The Public Relations Committee is off and running with new ideas to ensure both the industry and consumers know, not only what the awards are all about, but to meet some of the best in business. From the seasoned members of our committee to the new faces that will help us bring this industry award to the next level, year after year. Let’s meet some folks, shall we?

 Introducing the two new faces of the PR Committee…

 Meet Gabby:

Gabriela (Gabby) Isip joined Miller & Smith in 2007 and is responsible for implementing all corporate marketing activities. As the senior marketing manager, Gabriela manages the advertising, public relations and digital efforts for Miller & Smith’s residential division and is integral in developing the model home merchandising and onsite marketing programs.  Gabriela also oversees the marketing on several of our land development projects and planned communities. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from George Mason University and previously served as part of the product development team at Miller & Smith. Outside of work, Gabby spends time with her husband Jimmy and their baby boy Benjamin. Want to learn more about Miller & Smith? Click here: http://millerandsmith.com/

Meet Heather:

Heather is an Account Executive at LM Marketing – a company that specializes in Strategic Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations. Heather’s ability to translate complex client goals into seamlessly executed products – that makes Heather a top-notch account executive.  Clients admire her ability to juggle multiple projects at one time – paying attention to the smallest of details.  She is an expert at promoting social media sites and effectively driving traffic.  Heather manages all statistics for client’s sites – ensuring online visibility.  She is also an exceptional event planner – providing memorable celebrations and successful events. When Heather is not promoting clients, she can be found enjoying local restaurants and wineries, traveling and spending time with her boyfriend and her very active puppy. http://lmmarketingdc.com/

Check back often to meet the faces of the Great American Living Awards! #itsawardseason


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Hot Interior Design Trends | Spring 2014

While lots of folks continue to be in the market for a new home in the DC Metro area, many people have also learned they can learn a lot from touring models for their inner-interior designer self. No matter why you’re visiting the new communities and models, it’s fascinating to see what designers do and how their styles, color palettes and ideas change over time. It’s an art, really. I suppose one could think the same about an architect (HOW did that floorplan idea come to mind?), or a Marketing Firm (HOW did they know that was going to be such a hit? Who designed that? How cool!) or a new Homebuilder and their stories behind each community (HOW did they know that’s what we or I wanted?). But, really, interior design is in a league of its own. Always fascinated, most of us on the Great American Living Awards Committee are Real Estate junkies to some capacity. We not only support the industry we are lucky to be a part of, but we are also intrigued by the annual entries from the many categories available. One big hit this year at the October event will be interior design. So, is your home designed similar to what the trends are? If not, here are some ideas to get your brain going! And, have fun. So much of interior design is about who you are. So, own your inner Interior Designer.



Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Email Subject Lines and Their Click Rates; And So Much More

What is an Open Rate? There are two types of “open rates”- one for electronic mail (aka e-mail; see below) and one for physical mail (aka snail mail via the USPS or other physical mail carrier). The email open rate is a measure primarily used by marketers as an indication of how many people “view” or “open” the e-blast they send out. It is most commonly expressed as a percentage and calculated by dividing the number of email messages opened by the total number of email messages sent (excluding those that bounced.)

Do you track your email blasts? Or overall email correspondence? Open rates are typically tracked using a transparent pixel, or small transparent tracking image that is embedded in outgoing emails. When the client or browser display the email requests that image, then an “open” is recorded for that email by the image’s server. But! The email will not be counted as an open until one of the following occurs…The recipient enables the images in the email or even better, the recipient interacts with the email by clicking on a link

The open rate of any given email can vary based on a number of variables. For example, the type of industry the email is being sent to. In addition, the day and time an email is scheduled or sent to recipients can have an effect on email open rate. The length of an email’s subject line can also affect whether or not it is opened. See, there’s lots to be aware of! 


Subject line lengths and their corresponding open and click rates are as follows:

4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click

16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click

28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click

40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click

51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click

Check out this link; how to write the perfect subject line. The infographic tells the story you need to know.

Now, get to emailing! There are sales to be made!


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Cinco de Mayo + Women Giving Back = Great fun for a great cause!

Early celebrations begin tonight for Cinco de Mayo as many of the committee members of the Great American Living Awards will be showing our support for #womengivingback tonight! Women Giving Back (WGB) is a HomeAid program that provides free clothing to women and children in Northern Virginia homeless shelters. Many women in the shelters are employed or attending school, and need professional clothing and accessories to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We provide the clothing free of charge to women with shopping vouchers provided by their case workers.

Tonight is the annual Cinco De Mayo celebration with tequila and wine tastings; where the energy level is high and the money raised has exceeded all expectations leading up to the fundraising event itself. It’s a thank you to their sponsors and friends and it’s going to be a great night of laughter, support and celebration for an organization that has wonderful initiatives.

Anyone is welcome to volunteer or donate, you can learn more here:  http://www.homeaidnova.org/in-our-community/women-giving-back/

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead (1902-1978); Cultural Anthropologist



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed