Today’s Best PR and Marketing Executives Employ “Creatalitics”

“How do fevers in the human brain produce the dreams and visions that become transformed into blazes of insight?” The Creative Brain

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When I was in college, I was proud to be studying at a University that had its PR program in the School of Business, resulting in a Bachelor of Science in Business degree. This was – and stills seems to be – a rarity in the field. Most PR and Marketing degrees are housed in the School of Communications and/or result in a Bachelor of Arts. In the past, this seemed to make sense for PR – it reflected the creative arts side of the field – writing, event planning, branding, messaging, etc. But today, with the explosion of analytics and data in the field, PR and Marketing executives have to think differently. They need to use both sides of their brain – the right, creative side and the left, analytical side. (Luckily, my degree prepared me for both before the market turned that direction.)

The creative side of the brain is still crucial to coming up with marketing strategies, branding and messages that appeal to people. We have to understand how to entice strong emotions that lead to action. Once that action is taken, we now have to use the right side of our brain to determine if that action resulted in value to our organization (or our clients’ organizations). Our creativity is crucial when it comes to content – we are in fact content creators and publishers in the day and age of social media. It takes fun, whimsy and innovative risk taking to create content that’s really going to stand out. But in order to truly create the best content, we need to use the right side of our brain to analyze how that content – if that content is working.

It’s not enough anymore to say “That was a really catchy headline” or “The logo is awesome” – or even to just write a creative pitch that gets a reporter’s attention. We now need to drill down and, after the reporter writes his or her article, analyze if the messages within drove the right interest. Was the article placed in the right outlet? Did the messages appeal to the right audience? What did they do as a result? Did they click through to our site? Did they buy? Why or why not?

This movement is also reflected in the banter about CIOs and CMOs battling for budget and suddenly sharing some tech responsibilities. CMOs are responsible for more data-driven decisions than in the past, and that includes managing the website’s content (which CIOs also need to make sure doesn’t then result in slower performance or other issues), and purchasing analytical software. As Dell chief information officer Andi Karaboutis recently told ZDNet, “Things for which I work together with Karen [the CMO]? Analytics, big data.”

And thus, today’s best PR and Marketing executives are what I’ve dubbed “Creatalitics” thinkers. They combine really creative and innovative ideas – those “dreams and visions” with data and analysis – the “blazes of insight” that tells them if their creations go beyond initial appeal and into the world of actionable value to the company’s bottom line. How are you using “creatalitics” in your PR or marketing position? If we can help you better undersatnd and merge this new way of thinking into your organization, let me know.

PR – A Great Thing, but Not a Miracle Worker

It’s a funny thing about PR…sometimes it’s viewed like other professions that people have a love/hate relationship with – like law enforcement, insurance providers, lawyers. Or like those that people expect magic from – beauticians, plastic surgeons, teachers.

Here’s the thing. Anything can be branded, marketed, promoted. Anything can get a first look. But public relations won’t make or break your business without a little help from you.

Stop making your PR department/firm/executive the scapegoat for your crappy products.

It’s not our job to convince people that your products are good when they aren’t. We don’t “dumb people down.” PR isn’t to blame if you can’t sell. PR isn’t to blame if your product doesn’t do what you promised – or told us to promise. Even Apple can’t pull that off.

I’m not being over sensitive. I’ve been in this business long enough – heading into my 15th year of owning my own firm – to recognize the unbelievable expectations that executives can have about PR. And I’ve seen many executives that don’t get PR at all – who have no idea that their CMOs are throwing money out the door jumping from agency to agency trying to find the right match.

I also know that PR agencies can seem like a dime a dozen. There’s one on every block like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. I know that it can be tough to find the right match – chemistry with the team – on your first try. But if you or your marketing head have gone through more than two agencies in 12 months, maybe it’s time to take a look inside.

Here’s a few things you can expect a good PR team to accomplish:

  • Get your products in front of the “right people” – those can vary, but for most companies it means reporters, bloggers, analysts and others who influence the buying decisions of your prospects.
  • Connect executives with these folks for personal meetings/briefings/interviews – beginning and helping to maintain a more personal relationship.
  • Get these influencers to listen – based on long standing relationships and/or the talent to understand what they want, how they want to be connected with, what they care about, etc.
  • Give you inside views on where to be (events, online and off) to connect with the right folks who can help you – whether it’s media, VCs, analysts, customer/prospects, partners – a good PR team can help with all of those, making sure your valuable time isn’t wasted, and that you’re not missing anything crucial.
  • Help you write, message, brand and promote what you want to say in a more eloquent manner.
  • Help “roll out the red carpet” for sales by spreading awareness of you, your company, your products consistently, and in the right places. Ideally, PR sets the stage so that when a sales executive walks into a deal, the prospect says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you – I see you guys everywhere.” That’s always a nice start.

Here’s you should not expect PR to do:

  • Get people to keep using your product if it’s not working right.
  • Cover up bad customer service – certainly we can try to help fix a crisis, but this shouldn’t be the ongoing plan.
  • Work in a black hole – share information with your PR team and trust them to help you come up with the best, most strategic plan on what information should be communicated, to who, how, where and when.
  • Make reporters personally like you.
  • Tell reporters what to write. We can give them facts, we can encourage certain angles. But they’re not puppets and we’re not puppet masters.
  • Be responsible for repeat buyers. That’s your job – through great customer service, good products, stellar relationship management. We’re matchmakers of sorts – we get people interested but it’s up to you to maintain the relationship.

Of course, good PR executives can help with more than these things – it’s just a quick list. We can help you maintain relationships to a certain degree. But we’re not miracle workers. If your product or service isn’t working right or your customer service team isn’t treating customers well, don’t blame PR. Understand – and manage – the difference between positioning communications and information, vs product development, customer service and executive management. Too often, PR is blamed when all three don’t come together well.

What do you expect from PR?

 

 

 

“Effective Executives” Series with Bill Piwonka, Janrain’s VP of Marketing

This week’s “Effective Executives” interview is with Janrain‘s VP of Marketing, Bill Piwonka. Bill’s background is firmly rooted in B2B marketing operations. Over the past 20 years he has led marketing teams and initiatives spanning strategy, product marketing, product management, demand generation, marketing communications and business development. Prior to joining Janrain, Bill was the vice president of marketing at EthicsPoint. He has also held marketing management positions at Centennial Software, Serena Software, MeasureCast, WebTrends, Intel and Oracle. Bill earned a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the The University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in quantitative economics from Stanford University.

We caught up with Bill and asked him about his leadership style, how marketing has adapted to the changing economy and what is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012.

Can you tell us a little bit about Janrain and your role?

Janrain is a leader in providing User Management solutions for the Social Web.  You’ve probably encountered our technology many times without even realizing it.  You have, if you’ve ever been offered the opportunity to login or register on a website using an existing identity from a social network such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, etc. – rather than fill out an onerous registration form.  Not only does offering social login help business by increasing registration conversion rates, decreasing cart abandonment on eCommerce sites, improving data quality of the user database and reducing support costs from not having to respond to lost username/password requests, it also can significantly improve efficacy of marketing programs.  That’s because when a user logs in using a social identity, the business has the opportunity to ask for access to a rich set of profile characteristics, such as interests (e.g. music, sports, movies…), location, friends, birthdays and more.  This data can then be used to more finely segment customers and deliver richer online experiences and targeted promotions and offers.

At Janrain, I am responsible for overseeing our marketing efforts, including driving demand for our solutions, preparing our sales team for success and launching new products, services and solutions.

What kind of data do you use to make marketing decisions? Analytics apps, etc.?

We are very much a data-driven organization, even though we are still relatively small.  As an organization, we use Salesforce.com for CRM, Act-On Software for Marketing Automation, and Google Analytics for web traffic.  From these solutions, I monitor which campaigns are driving the highest quality leads, the health of our sales pipeline, our sales cycle length, average sales price, win/loss percentage, cost per lead, sales funnel conversion rates and a host of other metrics.  I encourage my team to take risks and try new things, but I want to know if those efforts succeed or fail, and have a common barometer for making those assessments.

Favorite CMO-type media outlets you follow?

I actually don’t follow CMO-specific sites as much as I do Analysts (Altimeter Group, Forrester, Gartner, etc.), industry specific news (GigaOm, News.com) and general business sites and email groups (All Things D/WSJ, McKinsey, Wharton, Harvard Business Review, Marketwatch.com, etc.).  I also try to follow interesting, insightful people on Twitter, where I get access to articles and research that they find compelling.

What do you see as your chief role? What’s your leadership style?

I see my role as setting direction and strategy and providing the tools and environment necessary for my team to succeed.  I tend to be very collaborative, seeking input from both my team and peers within the company to help guide my thinking.  I also am not a micro-manager.  I want to hire the best and the brightest people I can find – even if they don’t have direct role-specific experience – and give them the freedom to deliver outstanding results.  We set quarterly objectives that are tied to our overarching corporate goals, and identify how we will measure whether those objectives are met.  Then I’m available to review progress, suggest approaches, edit written content, and roll up my sleeves to help when needed.  But I want my team to feel empowered to do what it takes to be successful – not be afraid to take risks or make mistakes, and know that they are developing skills and experience that will help them progress in their own careers.

How has marketing changed with the economy’s twists and turns?

I don’t know that it really has.  Of course I’m held to my budget and am always looking for ways to drive costs down while improving results, but that’s always been the case.  And while technology has changed the way we can interact with our prospects and consumers, the fundamentals still hold.  You need to have a product or solution that solves a specific pain point, communicate that message simply and elegantly and be the type of organization with which customers want to do business.

How much do you weigh social media in marketing goals?

Social media provides a great way to interact with customers, communicate your company’s personality, culture and values and developer higher brand advocacy and loyalty (when done right).  All of those things are important to me; thus social media is an important part of our overall strategy.

If you had to make a pie chart of your marketing goals, how would you divide?

Ideally, it would be split into three equal wedges – Drive Demand, Enable Sales and Launch Products.

What is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012?

The biggest challenge we have moving forward is managing our growth.  We just about tripled in size in 2011, and are on a path for similar results in 2012.  That has meant additional headcount, the implementation of appropriately scaled processes and a never ending list of deliverables to support this growth.  It’s a really challenging environment, but one that is super fun – I can’t wait to see where we take it!

 

 

 

Effective Executive: David Baeza, CMO of Apperian

We are delighted to share another interview in our “Effective Executives” series. This week’s interview is with David Baeza, Chief Marketing Officer at Apperian. David is well known as the founder of several private and one public tech company. He’s the former VP of Global Demand Gen for Citrix Online, makers of GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC. He regularly blogs about marketing and social media, contributing blogger at workshifting.com, producer of online mobility conferences, and speaks on the topic of media and brand positioning. He is also the Advisor to TreeHouse and TwitterKids.

You have a very dynamic background including roles as CEO, VP, Advisor and CMO. Which role fits you best and why?

What most people don’t know is that while I was CEO of a public company, I was also officially the CMO. I have never been able to let go of marketing, so to be perfectly honest with myself, the role that fits me best is CMO. I love all aspects of marketing, but disruptive positioning, design and content creation are closest to my heart. The real role of the CMO is that of a story teller. We tell stories through content. We make promises of what could be. However, CMOs are only as good as the products and services they market. The price of entry is an amazing product. Great CMOs don’t get behind products they don’t deeply believe in. If they do, it is all but guaranteed your marketing is going to fail.

When did you spark an interest in working in the technology field?

It was less of an interest, and more of an accident. After grad school I landed at a small financial consulting firm in L.A. Our clients were in the telecom business. I joined one of our clients to manage sales. That client was a technology provider to the large telephone carriers. I never looked back. Fast forward to 1998 and I launched the first national ISP to compete with AOL. Damn that was fun! During that time, I launched a television campaign called saygoodbyetoaol.com. We figured out that people would switch from AOL if they could keep their AIM account. So that’s exactly what we advertised. Yes, we got sued. A lot. In the end, it really worked. Since then, I’ve launched a few tech companies, and had the opportunity to work at some amazing tech brands. I am certain that there is no other industry that is as sexy as technology. My job is to make it even sexier.

What do you love about your role as CMO?

It’s the only profession that you’re paid to break all the rules. At best, “best practices” in marketing are directional. For example, I was reading a survey from Sirius Decisions about marketing to the CIO. Last on the list as an effective tactic was newsletters. I thought, Wow! What an amazing opportunity to reinvent the newsletter. What if I simply blew up the standard, boring newsletter template and created an amazing digital experience ? Think Flipboard for the CIO. A completely immersive piece of content. I get excited just thinking about it! That’s the reason I love what I do.

You are a lead organizer for Twestival, benefiting Charity:Water and Concern Worldwide. Can you tell us a little bit about your role and about the event?

Twestival is a global event that takes place on a single day to benefit one charitable organization. It uses crowd sourcing and volunteers to organize in person meetups for the benefit of the charity. The founder of Twestival, Amanda Rose, has taken that formula and teamed up with Jamie Oliver to produce FoodRevolutionDay.com to educate and highlight the world’s food issues. My role at Twestival was that of a sponsor and fund raiser. I managed the Santa Barbara Twestival, both online and meetup. I think that any company of any size should always strive to have charity as part of their DNA, even if the company is not profitable. By starting early, even if it’s just donating your company’s time and resources, it builds a foundation of character and giving. That ultimately results in a broader perspective of the world. Recently, we created a living art project in Spain at Mobile World Congress for the benefit of Global Hope International Network. The impact far exceeded our expectations. An artist from Misfit flew to Spain and created a living art project – which means that she painted live during the exhibit and finished the project on the last day. People came up and were given the opportunity to paint different portions of the art. Each time someone painted, Apperian donated $50 to Global Hope. In the process, we created an amazing exhibition, had insane engagement from attendees, and raised a lot of money.

Besides technology and branding, what else are you passionate about?

Family. I know that sounds boring but I’m deeply committed and believe in family first. I’m married, and I have two little girls, 6 and 8 years old, and they are my life. I instill family first in my team. I don’t value them based on butt-in-seat time. I care about their results and I insist that they have a well rounded life. I am not impressed by people that work 10 -12 hours per day. In fact, I have the opposite reaction. I tend to think, “What’s wrong?” Are they inefficient? We have amazing tools that allow us to workshift from anywhere in the world. There is simply no excuse for not having a balanced life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s 10pm as I’m writing this from Boston, and I live in California. I do what needs to be done, but I have boundaries. My family needs my time more then they need the money I earn. I don’t let anything stand in the way of them.

How do you define “innovation”?

If a company ever declares innovation is a strategic imperative, it’s the beginning of the end. Innovation is a cultural paradigm. It starts with an intense desire to explore, challenge and break things. Yes, break things. It can’t be contained to a budget item on a spreadsheet. Innovators come in all sizes and shapes. It comes from all aspects of company, not just engineering. It comes from customer service, interns, lawyers, accountants…it’s everywhere. Great companies seek it out and wrap their arms around it. They encourage idea generation, transparency, and failure. If companies let their people fail, without fear of consequence, the speed of innovation is absolutely staggering.

What is next for you in 2012?

Since 2012 is almost halfway over, it’s about execution. We have some great products that we are about to ship. It’s about narrowing the scope of opportunity and focusing on those things that have the greatest impact. I’m also trying to figure out new extensions of content. By that I mean things like Pinterest and Instagram. I’m also thinking about new formats for video, online seminars, and more. On a personal level, I’m going to be speaking at more conferences about marketing. I love to speak, but I hate to travel. That’s like saying I love to eat, but I hate food. The two things go hand in hand. I have a personal blog I’ve been threatening to launch for a year, so I intend to get that out as well. I also love wine. I was dabbling with a wine blog but I put it on the shelf because it took too much time away from my family. I’m planning to travel to Europe in July to do some serious brand disruption and to attend my first Shakespeare play. It sounds crazy, but I think Shakespeare is going to have a significant impact on my marketing in 2013. I feel inspired by his work, and that always leads to great ideas.