RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands

10/21/14

personal_branding-1Whether you call it Cobbler’s Children Syndrome or just basic neglect, talk to a cross-section of CMOs and you’ll discover a startling anomaly—though they dedicate their careers to building brands, very few have made time to take care of their own personal brands. This oversight leaves many a senior executive poorly positioned – especially when they become suddenly unemployed around fifty years of age, two fearsome and often concurrent inevitabilities. (If this article looks familiar, then you read it first on Forbes.com).

The good news is that many current heads of marketing are awakening to this issue.  At The CMO Club’s recent summit in Los Angeles, nearly half of the 150+ attendees joined a workshop on personal branding.  An informal survey of those folks revealed the degree of neglect—less than 20% rated their personal brand at 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and over 60% rated themselves below a 5!  This was not a case of modesty (remember we’re talking about CMOs here!) but more like deer transfixed by headlights, they want to move on but somehow they can’t.

When confronting this group with the obvious need for developing personal brands, there was little dispute.  In fact, 98% acknowledged having Googled themselves, fully recognizing that if they didn’t take care of their own reputation, Google would do it for them.  At the same time, these marketing leaders felt there were some pretty significant barriers to overcome and ranked them as follows:

  1. Insufficient time—they were simply too busy doing other aspects of their job;
  2. Conflict of interest—many felt time invested building their own brand might be interpreted as self-promotional rather than as a good for their companies;
  3. Building CEO’s brand instead—many felt obligated to focus on increasing the profile of their CEO while sublimating their own;
  4. Not sure how—in light of the above issues, many felt overwhelmed at the prospect of building their own brands and just weren’t sure where to start.

To encourage these CMOs to stop flaking out on their personal brands, I offered up a tongue-in-cheek acronym, FLAIC, which they both appreciated and responded to with a request for greater detail.  And at the risk of oversimplifying what is a career-long exercise, here is FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate) spelled out, a 5-step process for marketers to build their personal brands:

FOCUS:  Though an obvious foundational component to any marketing campaign, many CMOs have not thought about the need for a strategy statement, a document that helps bring focus to one’s personal branding efforts. These statements help senior marketers define what makes them compelling or unique, an exercise that requires at least an ounce of ambition and a cup of introspection.  Since just about everyone’s career is a work in progress, these statements encourage the writer to challenge and stretch his or her sense of self.

LEAD:  With a personal brand statement in hand, senior marketers can then turn their attention to providing thought leadership around their area(s) of expertise.  This thought leadership can be shared in writing (articles, blogs, comments), videos and of course speaking engagements.  The key here is that the content is well crafted and reflects positively on the both the individual and the company for whom he/she works.  (Note—part of leading means making sure your company sees the value of having thought leaders and savvy CMOs secure this understanding prior to taking a job.)

ADAPT: Like corporate brands, it is easy for marketing individuals to get pigeon holed as experts in only one area (i.e. “he’s a car guy” or “she’s a traditional media pro”) which can become career limiting.  While still being focused on your overall brand strategy (i.e. innovator, metrics-oriented, team builder, etc.), you can use your content to demonstrate your breadth of expertise (e.g. “What Pharma can learn from car marketers” or “What TV can learn from digital”).  Note—for many CMOs adapting also means learning new skills via rigorous course-work.

INVEST: Building a personal brand can’t be done without investing time, money or both.  Roberto Medrano, CMO of SOA, started writing and blogging regularly 5 years ago, a commitment of time made more challenging by the fact that English is not his first language.  This investment, which included finding native editors, paid off for Medrano as he was recently ranked 12th among 250 top CMOs, a fact his company celebrated in this release.  For CMOs who don’t like to write, paying ghostwriters or creating video tutorials are equally viable options.

CULTIVATE:  Initially, I had this as C for Connect, given the critical nature that a network plays in building personal brands. But after Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy, shared the story of how old connections often come out of the woodwork during Grammy season; I suspect Cultivate is more instructive.  The idea here is that building a personal brand also includes cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.  Support your fellow marketers, even if it’s just the occasional retweet or a pithy comment on an article, and watch the good karma boomerang.

Final note: Though personal branding is hardly a new idea (Tom Peters wrote about The Brand Called You back in 1997,) it does seem to be getting fresh attention from senior marketers as evidence by interest in this basic strategy worksheet.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not this next generation of marketing leaders will step up to FLAIC or merely flake out.

CMO Personal Branding Worksheet

10/5/14

Personal-Branding-Naming-AlternativesI recently had the pleasure of leading a session on Personal Branding at The CMO Club Summit with Evan Greene, the CMO of Grammys.  The session was really well attended and it was clear by all accounts that this was an area of great interest to senior marketers. The following is a document I prepared for the attendees that is a compilation of guidance team Renegade found from a number of sources (see credits at the bottom).

Why CMOs Need to Care About Their Personal Brand

  • Enhances your value to your current employer.
  • No job is forever.
  • If you don’t control your reputation, someone else will (i.e. Google)

 Personal Brand Statement Overview

  • A short and sweet statement that describes who you are and what you bring to the table. It answers the questions, “what makes you great?” and “what makes you compelling?” but should not be confused with a mission statement (which tend to be more lofty and less job specific).
  • You could be a “reliable, strategic planner” or “a innovative professional connector.” Or, your statement might be something like, “inspiring others to excel.” Are you amazingly well organized? Do people enjoy working with you for your fantastic sense of humor?
  • Your brand statement should be consistent with how others perceive you. Don’t describe yourself as a team builder if your team thinks otherwise.  However, if you have hit some professional brick walls, it may be time for reinvention and it is okay therefore to make your brand statement aspirational.

 Three Components to Consider

  1. Figure out your emotional appeal
    1. How do people benefit from working with me?
    2. How do CEOs benefit from working with me?
    3. How do I make people feel?
    4. What words do others use to describe me?
  2. Determine your description
    1. What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
    2. What are the words I would use to describe my work?
    3. Who is my target audience?
  3. Describe your role
    1. What service do I have to offer people / companies?
    2. What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?

 

Draft Your Personal Brand Statement (here are a few statement starters)

All modesty aside, I am great because_________________________________________________

Yes! I am compelling because______________________________________________________

But seriously, I am special because___________________________________________________

I am different from your average CMO because…________________________________________

Making it Real: Getting Started

If you say you’re an innovative leader you better innovate on the job and lead a productive team.  If you claim to be a results-driven marketer then you should have the case histories with hard data to back it up. Now we can consider all the things you can do to build your personal brand beyond simply doing your job:

  • Basic Appearance: Are you dressing the part?  Does your business card reflect your personal brand statement?  Your resume should express & support your personal statement.
  • Social Basics: Do your social profiles back up your statement?  Are they consistent?  If you claim to be digitally savvy or cutting edge, are you on the latest social channels?
  • Social Channels: How many you choose to be active on is up to you but the key word here is active.  The only way to understand and claim social savvy is to be active.
  • Content Creation: If being a thought-leader is an important part of your brand, then you need to demonstrate that by creating content for your personal blog/website and/or for other legitimate publications. If you don’t like writing, find a ghostwriter or better yet, learn to like it. Or make a video.  Whatever you do, your content should be authentically you and focused on what you want to be known for.
  • Content Upgrade: Does the content you post support your personal statement?  If you claim creativity as part of your personal statement, make sure your content is creative.  (Hint: post better content even if that means posting less!)

Making it Real: Additional Tactics

  • Rekindle Old Ties: Contact and meet with old friends.  Make new ones by going to networking events.  Use these encounters to sharpen the elevator version of your personal statement.  No more “same old, same old” responses.
  • Learn A New Skill: This skill should support your brand statement and give you a new area to write about and discuss with peers.

Good Sources on Personal Branding

The above merely scratches the surface on this topic. I have an article in the works that I will share shortly spelling out FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate), an acronym I whipped up just for the unique challenges of marketing execs.  As always, let me know if you have thoughts to add.

7.5 Surefire Ways to Drive Brand Hatred

09/30/14
deadlysins

Note: Found this cartoon after I wrote my post.

Recognizing that brands have sabotaged themselves since the days of Noah via a host of slowly eroding sins, the purpose of this article is to put the spotlight on the flash faux pas that instantaneously dissolve loyalty and ignite brand hatred. This hatred, often expressed with the exclamatory #EpicFail on social media, is typically motivated by one of the following sinful ineptitudes. Some of these might seem laughable unless, of course, they happen to you.

1. Sloth: “We care about you–your call will be answered in 600 minutes.”
Ignore me at your own risk.  I am not just one customer any more.  I am me AND my social media-empowered army of friends and associates.  Make us wait longer than we think we deserve at your bar or store or so-called hotline and our wrath will be heard faster than you can say, “may I help you.”  68% of us will leave and never comeback, but that’s just a fraction of your problem.  A mighty minority of us will attack you like ninjas on Yelp or TripAdvisor or some other rating service leaving a lingering trail of forewarning rage.  Yes, be afraid of sloth.

2. Avarice: “What exactly do you mean your service doesn’t work as expected?”
This one is as easy as 1-2-3. 1: Over promise. 2: Under-deliver. 3: Duck and cover.  I think I’m safe in saying that everyone hates feeling they’ve been ripped off.  This is less about the feeling that you paid too much for something.  Sure that hurts, but that’s usually on us for not doing our homework.  No, this is paying for what you think is a premium service only to find out it’s unreliable or doesn’t perform as advertised.  That tactic will guarantee recognition, however, on the list of the Most Hated Companies in America!

3. Wrath: “You’re pissed off? How do you think I feel?”
Chances are I wouldn’t last five minutes on a customer service desk especially when the 4th boneheaded caller/yeller in a row refuses to realize that his miniscule problem is, in fact, a user caused error.  Be that as it may, shouting back at your disgruntled customers in person, on the phone, or online is a shortcut up “Schlitz” creek without the proverbial paddle.  Just ask the folks at Amy’s Baking Company how their epic tirade on Facebook worked out (hint: not so well).  Even in the face of “wait until you hear this one” user incompetence, customer service interactions need to start with a bit of empathy AND be driven by the sincere goal of turning each and every detractor into a brand promoter.

4. Gluttony: “We’re so happy you’re our customer. Want fries with that?”
We get it.  Just about every business wants to sell more products especially to its existing customers.  And reaching out to your existing customers in person, via email, direct mail or phone can be beneficial to both parties, especially if the interaction coincides with a need cycle.  But there’s a line here where enough is way more than enough. It’s a line that once crossed, replaces receptivity with fervent animosity followed by a vitriolic tweet decrying the 13th contact by Brand X that particular week.

5. Pride: “Honestly, we’re too busy right now to care about your little problem.”
The flip side of overselling is acting disinterested.  This is especially the case in social media when brands have a presence but consciously or unconsciously ignore relevant conversations.  To label this behavior prideful may be a stretch, though it does send a message that the brand simply can’t be bothered to converse with the hoi polloi.  The big risk here is that you could unwittingly ignore a customer with influence; who responds by turning your cold shoulder into a hot topic.

6. Lust: “Nice to see you again Mr. Jones. You there, get back in line.”
Showing preference for one type of customer over another is tricky business. Airline reward programs come with a sense of fairness: Fly more and enjoy clearly defined perks. But treat one customer better or worse because of who they are and you’re begging for animosity. For example, the cable company that breaks protocol to respond faster to an outage at a celebrity’s house is likely to get an earful from the regular (and ignored) guy around the corner. The extreme case here is when Chick-fil-a’s CEO expressed preference for “traditional” families, generating a firestorm of brand hatred.

7. Envy: “Did I mention, we’re just like Apple only…”
Perhaps this has happened to you.  You’re shopping for something and the sales person says, “This is just like the leading brand, only many dollars cheaper.”  So you buy it, head home, and open the box only to discover that instead of saving money you wasted it on an inferior product.  Yeah, that pisses me off big time, especially since it’s so avoidable.  It’s okay to make cheaper products (in fact, thanks for giving us choices) as long as you manage our expectations and don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

7½. Control: “Press 0 as many times as you want, there are no humans here.”
Want to see unadulterated ire? Piece of cake–just make your customers feel helpless. For example, don’t bother telling the passengers in the terminal that their plane is delayed until an hour after its obvious and too late for them to do anything about it.  Or don’t offer a digital support center that empowers your customers to make adjustments to their accounts at any hour of the day from any device.  Or, my favorite, remove the hit “0” option from your customer service phone tree, setting up the opportunity for fruitless loops of avoidable anger.

Final Note: There is a silver lining within all this talk of hate and sin.  Customers that express brand hatred are a bit like the friend that tells you about the spinach in your teeth.  It’s embarrassing for sure but not as bad as the real enemy here—indifference. Vocally angry customers are creating the opportunity for you to address their issues. You just need to be listening and then try to remedy the situation.  Indifferent consumers are quietly unsalvageable.

 

Negative Ads: Politics versus Products

08/17/14

lincoln_attack_adv_web_copyOvertly negative advertising in which one brand attacks another has always seemed to me to be a failure of imagination. Truly creative people can find a way of telling a brand story without having to punch a competing product in the face.  I’m not saying that a challenger brand with an offering that is superior to the leading brand shouldn’t tout such facts, I’m just saying that in most cases they can do so without naming names.

Jeffrey Katz, a freelancer journalist, recently asked me why this was not the case for political campaigns which are often dominated by negative advertising.  Katz’s story does a great job explaining the fallout of such negativity while featuring some quotes from yours truly on the fundamental differences between political campaigns and product marketing. Here for your reading pleasure is our entire interview:

Katz: My fundamental question is if negative ads are generally (though not entirely) effective in the political realm, why are they avoided when selling goods and services?

Neisser: Let’s start with the fundamental difference between political campaigns and product campaigns. Political campaigns are zero sum gain battles in which there is only won winner. Political campaigns are also finite in that there is a voting day deadline so the pressure to be victorious shapes their approach. Thus politicians are willing to risk going negative even though it brings down the image of their category and this is just one of the many reasons consumers don’t trust politicians. There is a desperate urgency to political campaigns that often forces politicians to go negative and attack their opponents. Interestingly, most political campaigns start with positive ads to establish the candidates credibility and likeableness. The negative/attack ads start when one or the other candidate believes its the only way to make up lost ground and/or when they believe their bone fides have been sufficient established.

Conversely, product campaigns can result in category growth and rarely have deadlines (new movie releases being a notable exception). For example, when JetBlue started flying to Buffalo, NY from NYC and advertising that fact, they didn’t need to go negative against a competing airline like US Air since it turned out JetBlue could dramatically increase the number of passengers flying this route thus helping the category. It wasn’t JetBlue versus US Air, it was JetBlue to Buffalo versus other destinations and forms of transportation.

Also, product campaigns always have a different way of going negative by focusing on a problem that their product & category solves rather than having to single out a direct competitor. Keeping with the transportation analogies, Amtrak can campaign against air travel and all the hassles of getting to/from faraway airports.

Katz: In other words, why are brand fights “rarely positive for either brand,” as you put it, when that’s not generally true in politics?

Neisser: It’s really a question of efficacy and marketshare. On the efficacy front, if overtly competitive ad campaigns for products worked as a rule, then more would consider this approach. Leading brands have nothing to gain by picking on a direct [smaller] competitor so they are more likely to focus on growing their category. Second tiers brands are the ones that are more likely to consider overtly competitive ads. These folks have lots of options in terms of their approaches, a classic being “compared to the leading brand” without actually naming that brand. The risk of going negative for products is that consumers will associate your brand with negativity, the very opposite of the desired result. That’s why a brand like Pepsi will use a tongue in cheek approach versus an overtly negative approach when doing competitive ads versus Coke.

Katz: Are those who sell products and services more respectful of their industry than politicians tend to be of theirs?

Neisser: Not necessarily. If product managers thought overtly competitive advertising worked many more would undoubtedly make this choice.

Katz: Do consumers feel that choosing among candidates is an inherently different process than other choices they make when responding to advertising and marketing?

Yes. Selecting a candidate for office is a more of a considered “purchase” decision then say buying a plane ticket. Brand decisions can be corrected more easily than political decisions. Have a bad flight experience you can simply avoid that airline the next time you fly. Make a bad political choice and you live with the result for a minimum of two years but more often generations given the advantages of incumbency.

Q+A on Niche Social Networks w Gerry Regan

08/10/14

wild_geese_logo_betaGerry Regan, Co-Founder & Executive Producer of  The Wild Geese, was kind enough to not only join a panel on social media for Duke Alums earlier this summer but also to recap some of his observations in the Q+A below.  As you will soon discover Gerry brings a world of experience to his latest venture, a relatively new social network dedicated to the all things Irish.  (Side note: As a social media practitioner, I’m rooting for niche networks like The Wild Geese with the hope they can provide engagement opportunities beyond those currently offered on Facebook and Twitter). And with that bit of cheerleading, here’s Gerry:

Drew:  How did your end up in social media and what are your principal responsibilities?
I found my way into social media through my work as a journalist. After pursuing acting in Durham for a time after my Duke graduation, somewhat half-heartedly, and sampling other pursuits,  I decided to focus on journalism, and received a masters degree toward that end from NYU in 1985. I then worked for several years for Gannett Westchester Newspapers, was let go, and then joined the news team at Prodigy, with AOL a sort of proto-Web. From there I made my way to Newsday Direct, Newsday’s first foray into digital media and the forerunner of newsday.com. It was at that point, in 1996 or thereabouts, that a colleague at Newsday introduced us to HTML and promised us that, together with the burgeoning Internet, these technologies would revolutionize our work.

So in 1997, Joe Gannon, Micah Chandler and I, all three friends, devotees of history and fellow Civil War re-enactors, created TheWildGeese.com, what we anticipated becoming the first of a series of websites designed to facilitate exploring the history that we relished. In the case of The Wild Geese, the focus was the dramatic history of the Ireland and the Irish diaspora. We hadn’t much understanding of how to sustain our efforts as a business, but thought we could figure that out as we went along. We kept our day jobs, though, and kept working on The Wild Geese, using our hand-coded website right till March 2013, when we determined that sustaining a social network held much greater chance for our success than our homespun online magazine. Plus, we saw great value in this opportunity to vastly multiply the voices we could thus bring into the conversations there. Hence, we re-launched The Wild Geese as the only social network focused on exploring and celebrating the epic heritage of the Irish worldwide.

My principal responsibilities these days are crafting and implementing a sustainable revenue model, a pursuit that engages me in building our team, researching digital marketing’s promise and capabilities, exploring our target market’s needs and wants and how to utilize both our team’s passion and technology to cost-effectively deliver on these. I also handle the bookkeeping; write the checks (I’m self-financed for now); write articles (occasionally); suggest and help implement content, community and marketing initiatives; sit in and often lead team meetings; and identify and assign spheres of responsibility, all in an effort to forge a foundation for our mission that will allow us to grow and prosper for years to come.

Drew:  What role if any did Duke prepare you for your future career?
I came to Duke as a world-class introvert, and dreaded public speaking and writing papers, and Duke certainly gave me plenty of opportunities to overcome those phobias. In fact, I chose to major in physics, all in an effort to steer clear of public speaking and paper-writing. When I headed off to Dublin for my third undergraduate year, though, I decided to pursue Irish and British history, along with physics. It was at Trinity College Dublin that I found my metier, discovering that though my perfectionism led to an aversion to writing, when I handed in research papers, I found them hugely satisfying. The storyteller in me emerged, as well as my passion for history and Irish culture. These all have stayed with me. During my final year at Duke, I joined Duke Players and studied public speaking, both, in prospect, very intimidating. But I particularly enjoyed acting and the bon homie it provided. So Duke essentially provided me two things, a vehicle for personal growth and a springboard for professional advancement, even though it took me quite a few years to understand that.

Drew:  You’ve built a very interesting niche business.  How many “members” do you have in your network now and how big would you like to see it?  What do you think it will take to get there?
We’re not a business yet, Drew, in that we’re far from profitable. I think we may need a year or even two to reach that point. We are closing in on 2,300 members, garnered in our 17 months as a network, with very little marketing spend to date. We understand that needs to change, and will. though. We need to grow dramatically if we are to achieve sustainability. We are about to launch our first marketing campaign, with the help of Facebook, and expect within a year to have close to 8,000 members and garner nearly half-a-million page views each month, an eight-fold increase. The page views are really more vital to our sustainability, at least in the short term, than the membership count. We believe that with this marketing thrust, and bringing additional revenue streams into line, such as premium memberships and innovative sponsorships, we have a shot at creating a viable business, and, to us, equally importantly, one that promotes and supports Irish culture ‘wherever green is worn.’

Drew: What are the advantages to potential marketing partners to working with The Wild Geese site?
We believe there is an underserved niche in the cultural space, and particularly in the realm of Irish culture, a space we know increasingly well. Small marketers have limited and cost-effective choices. These options include, most notably, Facebook and Google, but these platforms, while easily managed, lack one ingredient we feel is vital — the human touch. We believe that an engaged, dynamic community of potentially tens of thousands of cultural devotees around the globe affords a ready-made audience for purveyors of Irish culture, for artists, artisans, ‘solopreneurs’ cultural institutions, and businesses large and small who can and do support our members’ passions for exploring the Irish experience worldwide. Using the growing technological and human connections that we aim on our mission has powerful appeal, we’re learning, appeal that provides both reach and the personal touch that the mass social media seem to have no interest in providing. Ultimately, we believe we’re offering members — and marketers — a chance to claim and / or support this passion for their own, to in effect ‘get a piece of the rock.’ Connecting our growing membership with hundreds of Irish marketers in direct and personal ways we believe represents a distinct differential advantage in this space.

Drew: What’s the most exciting part about working at your company right now?
Most exciting to me is seeing our team step up and meet our day-to-day challenges, my work in helping forge this team, and seeing it respond to direction and innovate solutions to our challenges. And seeing The Wild Geese’s influence, along with our reach and revenue, grow!

Drew: Talk a little about your own involvement in social media.  How active are you and on what channels?
I use Facebook to communicate with friends and colleagues, and LinkedIn as a professional resource. I tend to limit my Facebook circle to people I either know or whom I’ve met or at least spoken to. Other colleagues and other networkers I steer to LinkedIn (or The Wild Geese). We auto post to Twitter from our Facebook page, so there’s quite a lot of Irish chatter on it that I don’t personally create. I am beginning to appreciate the potential of Twitter, though, as a fascinating real-time news roundup, and may use it more frequently in the months ahead. I’ve used Google+ least of all, but am finding that Google Hangouts are an increasingly important platform for multimedia content for us, so we’re using Google more and more, both for the Hangouts and for chat and talk. It’s become easier and more common for us to post for WG in Google+. I don’t use Google+ for personal use, at least not yet.

Drew: Relative to the other Dukies on the panel, you and I are on the “seasoned” side of our careers.  Do you encounter “agism” when presenting The Wild Geese to younger social media professionals?  Can you speak to the advantages of having more work experience when working in social media?
I’m not aware of age-ism, LOL, perhaps because I never act my age. I don’t have the technical grasp of social media that seems prevalent among our younger peers, and perhaps that’s a plus. I like to operate on a need-to-know basis, which helps keep me better-focused and my life simpler. I understand my limits, but won’t let a disinclination to reach out to those who can and want to help be one of those. These ‘whippersnappers’ inspire in me a sense that with technology (and passion) everything is possible. Drew, when you say ‘more work experience’ do you mean outside of social media? I’ll presume you do. I majored in mathematics at Duke, though  through my years as an undergrad I really found my passion in history and storytelling. I like the approach I stumbled into, that of learning how to think and problem solve as an undergrad, and then pursuing softer sciences and interests later. After all, if one wants to learn a trade, why spend tens of thousands of dollars. I find there’s real power in focusing on what I have in front of me — the challenges and the resources — and looking back for lessons, but not ‘staring’ back. After all, we each have but ‘one day at a time’ to move forward with our dreams and ambitions, no more and no less.

Drew: Finally, how important do you think it is for our peers to be active in social media?  What are they missing if anything?
The average age of a member of The Wild Geese is now 54, and I find that both gratifying and amazing, that is to see how these boomers are increasingly finding their way into not only The Wild Geese, but also Facebook, which is clearly pacing the trend. We have members in their 80s, a few of whom complain that they are having trouble figuring out how our platform works, but, Drew, it’s the individuals who complain that we relish, it’s those who walk away without a word or with a bad word or two to others that we fear. I’m not sure boomers ARE, in fact, missing anything — I sense they are joining the social media revolution in increasing numbers. In the case of The Wild Geese, it would seem many are only waiting for a reason to join. For us at The Wild Geese, that would be ‘coming home’ to our Irish roots,  the satisfaction of looking back, getting answers about our past and our ancestry, and saying, yea, we’ve got a few years on us, and what a journey it continues to be!

Q+A on Social Media w Susan Hammes, American Express

08/3/14

Every once in a while one’s past and present collide in fun and unexpected ways.  Such was the case when several Duke alums gathered for a conversation on social media in front of a crowd of about 150 fellow Dukies.  With the ambitious title, “Like it Or Not: The Pervasive Influence of Social Media,” representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, The Wild Geese and American Express faced the challenge of connecting their time at Duke with their current careers along with the more daunting task of dealing with yours truly as their moderator.  Happily, it turned out to be a vibrant, informative and thought provoking conversation that concluded with an extensive audience Q+A.

susan_hammes_AMEX_MR48407-008Since many more people wanted to attend than the space allowed, I thought follow up interviews with the panelists would be of interest (to at least some of you). First up is Susan Hammes, Vice President, Digital Brand & Social Media Development at American Express. Susan has been in the middle of some truly noteworthy social campaigns at AmEx, a company that in my humble opinion leads the way in social & content marketing (as you’ve read about before on this blog — see interview with AmEx CMO John Hayes).

Drew: How did your end up in working in social media in content marketing?
Started working at traditional Advertising Agencies and over time discovered a passion for digital marketing.  In particular, I’ve always been passionate about finding right person, right message, right context, something that is critically important to social media and content marketing.

Drew: What role if any did Duke prepare you for your future career?
Duke taught me the importance of curiosity, empathy, and passion – the three keys for just about any career, but particularly essential in marketing.  Duke also taught me importance of working hard and playing hard.  These are ingredients that are necessary as a marketing professional.

Drew: What program or programs that you’ve touched at AmEx are you particularly proud of?
Most recently, I worked on a social content program called #PassionProject.  This was a program designed to put the customer at the center and provide them with a tools to help them realize their dreams.  I’m particularly proud of this as not only did it far exceed our business objectives, we also truly impacted the lives of the participants of the programs.  I regularly received notes from the participants that said we had changed their lives – given them the tools, the compass, and confidence to take their passions to the next level.

Drew: What’s the most exciting part about working in SM/Content marketing right now?
The ability to forge a new path forward and to use technology to create stories and experiences for people.

Drew: What’s the most frustrating part?
Measurement.. and not having enough time to experiment and learn all the things we need to learn.

Drew: Do you see a future for “organic” social media (vs. paid) and if so, what does that look like?
Yes. Influencer marketing and Social influencer marketing will continue to be a critical role.  However, like the past, paid social will continue to play a huge rule (although it will continue to evolve as the platforms and users shift their social platforms to an ever broader set of platforms).

Drew: Zeroing in on content, what are some tips you can provide to others about creating successful programs? Feel free to provide pitfalls as well.
Customer First is the most important aspect.  It is critical that you start with what the customer is looking for – which is to be entertained, informed, inspired.

Identify the emotion that you want to elicit.

And finally, ensure that if you’re doing branded content- that there is a clear and authentic role or enablement role for the brand/product.

Pitfall – don’t think that content will just be discovered- need to think through the owned/earned/paid ecosystem of distribution to help the content be searched/discovered.

Drew: Finally, how import do you think it is for marketers to be active in social media themselves?
It is critical that marketers use and follow social media – this is to understand your consumer.

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