PR Rock Stars: United Health Group’s Madeline Strachota
We Gen X’ers like to stereotype Millennials. We label them as lazy. We say they’re entitled. We call them title-grabbers. But, the fact of the matter is this: There are plenty of Millennials that don’t fit into that mold at all. In fact, there are a lot of Millennials like Madeline Strachota. No, let me start that again–there probably aren’t too many like Madeline Strachota. She’s definitely unique. And, a perfect example of a Millennial who’s breaking the mold when it comes to stereotypes. What am I talking about? I’ll let you hear it from her.
You took a (relatively) new role at United Health Group 10 months ago–what are you doing at UHG and how is going so far?
I love it here! I feel like I drank the “koolaid.” I work with such hardworking, talented people every day, and it is very rewarding to do so. On top of that, it’s really exciting to work at a place where leadership sees digital and social media as a huge opportunity.
What do I do? Arik, that is a good question. My elevator pitch is always changing, and that’s because no two days are the same here. I work alongside an exceptional team of people managing social media listening; so for the most part, I shy away from the earned piece of social and focus on everything else from strategy, advertising, tool management, governance, content optimization and more. Since I sit at corporate, I wear two hats, managing corporate social media accounts, while also working with my counterparts across the company to ensure we are collaborating and sharing expertise.
We met a couple years ago through MIMA when you were volunteering on the marketing committee. Why did you (and continue to) volunteer your time with MIMA?
When I joined MIMA, I had a great boss who encouraged me to volunteer. Plus, I definitely have the personality type where I can’t just sit on the sidelines; I am always looking to do more. So, when I joined MIMA, I thought, “well, why not go all in and volunteer.” And, I am sure glad that I did. I have found so much value in the events I’ve attended and relationships I have formed. Since I am passionate about MIMA, it’s fun to volunteer and to share it with others.
In the 4-5 years you’ve been in the workplace, you’ve worked for two huge health care/medical brands in town (UHG and Medtronic) and one smaller one (American Academy of Neurology). What is it about health care that has piqued your interest? Do you see yourself staying in health care long-term?
Two things: the purpose and the challenge. All three of the organizations I have worked for have strong mission statements to improve health care for all. I think it is SO cool that I can be in the social media field and be contributing to a mission like that. To me, it gives me purpose and inspiration every day that I do my job.
Second, the challenge. Using social media in a highly regulated environment can be challenging. There are many considerations and sometimes limitations I have encountered that I would not have at a CPG or retail company. I like this a lot. It requires a high level of discretion and creative thinking to realize the value of social media over the risk in a highly regulated environment.
You’re one of those people that I would call “a student of digital marketing/social media marketing”. Constantly learning, soaking things up all around you. But, I would also say younger people like you are rare–I see more young people pretending to know it all instead of being a student of the profession. Why do you think that is?
I’d say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For millennials, social media is ingrained in our everyday life. When you know all of the latest SnapChat hacks or have become a brand ambassador via Facebook Live, it’s easy to get a little cocky in your social savviness. Staying on top of trends is important, and I applaud that, but it is important to remember that the social media world changes in real time. There are new ways to use this medium (pun intended!) every. single. day. And, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes with brands that many consumers might not even realize–take, for instance, analytics (traffic data, listening data, measurement…). If you think you have handle on everything, just start digging in to what you can do with social media data. Keep digging. Keep going. And let me know when you’ve learned everything.
You were a Skimmbassador before that was a cool thing. What drew you, initially, to the Skimm and how have you applied what you learned with the Skimm to your day job?
I actually helped the founders in the research phase of launching the Skimbassador program! During my Senior Spring, I read about theSkimm in Vanity Fair. At that point, theSkimm wasn’t even a year old. Somehow I tracked down one of the founder’s email addresses (probably through borderline creepy stalking online), and I reached out. I explained that I was graduating soon, loved their concept and wanted to be a part of it. Somehow, I made the intern cut along with one other person, and had one awesome (and very intense!) summer of doing anything and everything to support the founders, including writing for the newsletter. I learned a lot; perhaps most importantly that I loved contributing to theSkimm’s social media presence. Before the internship, I had some experience with social from my college days of managing our school newspaper, but on day one of my internship, the founders asked if I was good a tweeting? I was very mediocre, definitely not good… but what are you going to say on day one of your internship?! So, I had to become good at writing social content really fast! It’s no secret that social media has been a huge contributor to theSkimm’s success and rapid growth, and I saw up close how social media can positively impact a business.
What’s the most interesting component of social media marketing right now? What’s driving your interest?
This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but I think it’s really important to drive decision-making with measurement and analytics. Compared to traditional marketing and advertising vehicles, digital differentiates by the amount of data available for planning, testing, and measuring activity. It’s important to figure out what data is relevant to your decisions and to operationalize the process of data-driven social media decision-making. I find the challenge of aligning social KPIs to business KPIs particularly interesting. Data speaks for itself and I am always interested in how other brands measure their business impact of social media.
You’re also a member of SocialMedia.org as part of your work at UHG. I know you can’t disclose specifics, but what’s the one issue that all these big brands are struggling with that we may not hear as much about in the news/blogs?
SocialMedia.org? What’s that? 😉 (Editor’s Note: Touche. I had to try though!)
In your free time, you run a boxing class in Edina (I’m officially a little scared of you, just so you know). You’re also a big skier. Talk a bit about the role balance plays in your life. How do you find balance with a job that often requires you to be “on” 24/7/365?
That’s something I am still figuring out. Last year, there was a point when I was working five different jobs, volunteering, and training for a marathon. While it can be exhilarating to maintain a schedule like that, I also realized that there is, in fact, a limit to what I can do, and do well. Everyone has a different limit, and that’s OK. I’ve started to better prioritize where I spend my time and learn to say “not now.” It’s REALLY hard, but I’ve noticed that with a little more balance in my commitments, I am able to give more of myself to my priorities and slow down to enjoy everything a little more. You’re right that social media is “always on” (which might not be the best career for everyone) but I’ve found that with a career you love and balance in other commitments, there is no work-life tug of war, it’s just life!