If you’ve met me before, or are a frequent reader of this blog, you probably know I’m a big fan of the networking thing. Always have been. Well before I struck out on my own almost nine years ago.
In fact, I’m the guy that always said “let’s stay in touch” when I left a job, and then I actually did stay in touch. People were always surprised by that.
Anyway, before I started ACH Communications, I had many different jobs. Eight in about 12 years, to be exact. It was a lot of moving around, but it allowed me to meet a TON of people. And that’s something that’s been hugely beneficial in my solo life.
In those 12 years, I met a lot of talented people. And, many of those talented people have went on to bigger and better things. Some have started new companies. Some have went into completely new industries. Some went on to own successful Twin Cities restaurants. And some picked up and moved to Norway.
So, I thought it would be fun today (for me, at least) to do a “where are they now” post and look back and see where some of my friends from former lives are now, and what they’re up to.
Mariah Owens, principal, MCO Communications
I worked with Mariah (second from the left above) during my time at Fairview (in fact, this is much of my former FV crew above!). I could tell instantly she was someone who was meant for bigger things. And, she was. She wound up at Target soon after, where she held various comms roles for a number of years. And two years ago, she struck out on her own to form MCO Communications where she helps mid-sized to large companies with strategic communications.
Katherine Mudra, communications officer, International School of Stavanger
Some of your former coworkers go on to work at companies like Best Buy, Target and General Mills. Others pack up and move to Norway. Yeah, that’s what Katherine did and by the looks of her pics I see on Facebook, I’d say it’s worked out pretty darn well. She’s now a communications officer with the International School of Stavanger. And, she has two adorable children with her husband, Tony.
April Meyer, marketing director, Thomson Reuters
Another former Fairview colleague, April has been over at Thomson Reuters for the last five-plus years in different marketing-related roles. They must like her, because they keep giving her more responsibility! And, she now has a growing family with two young children at home. April was an ACH client once (during her time at MetroDentalcare), and I’m hoping our professional paths cross again some day.
Jatin Setia, executive director, Twin Cities Film Fest
Here’s another former colleague who took a hard left after our time working together. In this case, Jatin and I worked together at McGladrey (10+ years ago now). Today, he’s the ED of the Twin Cities Film Fest–he’s what we call a BFD in the film world.
Deb Franko, executive director-marketing and communications, Mission Hospital
Another former Fairview colleague, Deb was one of those people I wish I had the opportunity to work more with during my time at the health care organization. After Fairview, Deb spent a little more time here in Minneapolis, then shipped off to California to live the dream. Today, she’s leading marketing/comms for Mission Hospital in Orange County, California. I live vicariously through her and her Instagram feed most days (full of shots from warm California climes).
Beth Fratzke, owner, Butcher & the Boar/4 Bells
OK, so this former colleague is still technically working for the same employer we used to work for together 10+ years ago. But, what’s really interesting about Beth is that she’s also part owner (with her husband) of Butcher & the Board and 4 Bells restaurants here in Minneapolis. I discovered that when I organized a client event at the B&B patio a few years ago. Love being surprised when friends and former colleagues do crazy cool stuff like invest in super-awesome restaurants!
Tammy Barboni, chief marketing officer, Baker Tilly
This one surprises no one that worked with Tammy during my time at McGladrey. She was always very well respected among the partners and my fellow marketing colleagues. She’s been the CMO now at Baker Tilly for more than eight years. And, I see she’s been recruiting other former McGladrians like Brie Gunderson, too!
I’ve “known” Sarah Matsumoto for a long time now. But, for many of those years, that relationship was mostly based on interactions on Twitter and Facebook and seeing Sarah at events around town from time to time. Recently, I started a new relationship with Sarah’s current employer, Patterson Dental, and I’ve had the chance to get to know her a bit better. Sarah’s one of those people who’s never going to dominate a room. She’s not a big personality. But, she’s so much more. She’s genuine. She’s a good listener. And, she’s motivated. I’ll take that combination all day long. Let’s hear more about Sarah–and her qualities–in this latest installment of the PR Rock Stars series.
You recently took on a new role at Patterson Companies. Can you tell us more about this role?
The role of content strategist is brand new for the company, which is both challenging and exciting. I have the opportunity to work with a talented group of copywriters and marketing strategists to put together content plans that support new product launches, product category campaigns, awareness campaigns, etc. Patterson is shifting their way of thinking from a primarily sales-driven company to one that understands the importance of becoming a thought leader with our customers.
One of my favorite projects I’m working on as a content strategist (and in my past role as an account executive) is the repositioning of our flagship publication “Patterson Today.” This year, we updated everything from the name (now “Best Practice”) to the types of stories we’re featuring. The stories we’re telling aren’t just about the office equipment anymore – they tell a holistic, lifestyle story about the practice and dentistry. Last fall I visited an office in Milwaukee which is owned by an amazing dentist. We featured information about the state-of-the-art technology in her office, but also told a story about how she invests in the community by getting mouth guards for the local school athletics department. I think our audience is craving this type of lifestyle content more than the traditional, sales-focused content they’re used to seeing from us.
Now that you’re in this more content-forward role, what trends do you see in the content world that will impact your work at Patterson?
Using content for marketing isn’t new, but it is something that Patterson hasn’t done consistently. So I wouldn’t say that any of these things are new trends, but they’re new (and exciting) to Patterson!
In one of the campaigns I’m working on, we’re using gated, downloadable content as a lead generation tool for the first time and seeing results that have exceeded our expectations, which proves that our audience is ready to get content about dental industry best practices instead of strictly promotional marketing (although that will always be part of our campaigns because people love a good deal). We’re definitely going to be using this tactic in a lot of upcoming campaigns and testing which types of content works best with our audience.
We’re also dabbling in some influencer work, which I think is going to be more important in the future of content marketing. Consumers don’t just want to hear from a company, no matter how much they trust the brand. They want to hear from their peers and get unfiltered content where they are already spending a lot of their time – online.
In your 7-8 years in the work world, you’ve been on the agency and corporate sides. We all know there are differences to each, but what do you see as the pros to each side?
I’ve really enjoyed working on both the agency and corporate sides of the business, and there are definitely pros and cons to working at both.
The main pro I see to working on the corporate side is that you really get the opportunity to dig deep into one industry and company and become an expert in that category. My first internship was at CenterPoint Energy, and I’ve joked that if you can get excited about natural gas, you can get excited about anything. And it’s true! I learned so much about that industry in my short time there that it made it a really interesting job. The same has been true at Patterson. If you need any advice on tools for dental care, we should chat.
The main pro to working at an agency is actually the other side of the coin to the corporate pro – you get to work on such a wide variety of categories it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get bored. During my time at agencies, I worked on many accounts: the United States Army, Amway, Nutcase helmets, Gazelle bicycles, Meijer grocery stores, J.R. Watkins, etc. I would have never been given the opportunity to work on that many different companies if I would have started my career working at a corporation.
You’ve been heavily invested in IABC for years, serving on the board for the last 3-4 years. This month, you assume the role of president (congratulations!). Why did you choose to pursue the IABC president role, and how do you think it will impact your career and work-life?
When I joined the board, becoming president someday was always on my mind. I was approached about taking on the role when I was planning my wedding and knew my personal life was about to get crazy. While I was considering taking on the role, I talked to a couple of past IABC presidents, Jen Joly and Jennifer Doll, as well as current PRSA president, Heather Cmiel, to get advice on whether I should take on the roll. And, let me tell you, those ladies are the wrong people to talk to if you want to be talked out of doing something with a professional organization! They were so encouraging and supportive, and I plan on using their expertise throughout the next year (and probably longer).
This year will give me the opportunity to learn from some amazing communicators from around the Twin Cities, both about strategic communications and balancing work, life and IABC. I’m very fortunate to have such high-caliber, dedicated people on the board. I’ve also been lucky enough to be on the board under some amazing presidents who have set great examples for what it’s like to be a leader and visionary. I can’t wait to get the opportunity to do the same this year.
Any big plans or vision you can share about your upcoming IABC presidency?
I don’t think that it’s a secret that membership numbers in professional organizations have taken a hit in the past couple of years. When I’ve attending international events with other IABC leaders, it seems to be a trend among all chapters from around the country. I will be working hard with the board to make sure that we’re planning events and creating content that gives value to our members. We also need to communicate that value to members and non-members in the Twin Cities area.
Some of the events we’ve started in the past three years, like our Best Peer Mixer Ever and Convergence Summit, get stronger every year, and I’m excited to see what the planning committees come up with this year.
Little plug for IABC: make sure you check out our upcoming events calendar to see the awesome activities we have planned for the rest of this year.
You’re also expecting your first child in September (double congratulations!). How are you thinking differently about career and family heading into this transformational part of your life?
I’m a planner. But rumor has it that planning goes out the window when there’s a little one involved. I think prioritization and flexibility are going to be important for me. Some days IABC is going to be my priority because I’ll be prepping for an upcoming board meeting or attending an after-hours event. Other days I’ll have to put work aside to be at home with my little guy. And sometimes I won’t know what needs to be the priority, and that has to be OK, too!
I’m extremely lucky to have such a strong support system in the Twin Cities. My husband knows how important it is for me to do a good job in my role as president of IABC and knows my career is important to me. He’s so supportive and willing to do whatever he can to help me be successful this year. I also have a great group of friends, some of whom I met through work [see ladies from Weber Shandwick in picture below], and I know that they’re going to be an invaluable support system for me during this busy time.
We’ve talked before about networking and its vital role in career trajectory. I’ve written about this before–in fact, I just wrote about how I believe agency folks are a bit better networked than corporate-side folks. You’re clearly one of the outliers, but what is it that drives you to always be networking? What benefits have you seen?
I’ve always loved networking! There are so many benefits to meeting with people who work in the same industry as you at a different company. You can vent about work to people who understand, get advice, hear about new tools, etc. The benefits are endless.
Many people assume that networking should only be used when job searching, but I think it’s the opposite. You make many more positive, genuine connections by meeting with people just to talk without a motive like getting a new job. I’ve made professional connections, as well as developed great friendships through my networking.
I do agree the agencies stress the importance of networking much more than corporations. I think that the fact I started at agencies has a lot to do with why I find networking so valuable. I also really love to talk to people – so that helps, too!
I know a ton of people (even my brother) who defected after living in Minnesota their entire life, then attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You grew up in Stevens Points, Wisc., and defected to MINNESOTA! Tell me, how much heat do you take for that each time you go home? And, why did you choose Minnesota over any number of Wisconsin schools?
I didn’t even apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison! The University of Minnesota is where I always wanted to go because of their dance program. I also have family who live in Minneapolis so I spent a lot of time visiting the Twin Cities when I was younger. Shortly into my first semester I decided to go the communications route because I loved the classes I was taking in the J-school and communications studies programs.
And I love the Gophers! Anytime they’re playing the Badgers in any sport, I’ll get a text from my dad reminding me that the Badgers are better. I can’t wait for the year the Gopher football team beats the Badgers (it hasn’t happened the whole 10 years I’ve been a Gopher fan…) – I think this is our year!
But I do want to clarify… the Packers are my #1 team! We’ve had Packers season tickets in my family for the past 50-some years and most of my family has Packer tattoos (not me, yet). So, while I love the Gophers and living in Minnesota, I still bleed green and gold.
My daughter is nine (soon to be 10). And, apparently, age 9 is now the socially acceptable time to ask for (and in many cases, receive) a phone.
In fact, it’s happening earlier than age 9, believe it or not. Some of her friends had phones TWO YEARS AGO (yep–second grade folks). For all I know, some kids might have had phones when they were in kindergarten!
Put aside that fact for a moment–today,I want to talk a little about the app those 5-18-year-old girls and boys are using so much (more girls than boys): Musical.ly.
Yes, Musical.ly–not Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook is the app of choice among these young people. If you have a son or daughter between the ages of 7-13 you undoubtedly know what I’m talking about.
And if you don’t, maybe these stats will help paint the picture. Musically (launched in 2014) now has:
- 200 million registered users
- 40 million active users
- 12 million videos uploaded per day
Now, those stats pale in comparison to platforms like Snapchat (301 monthly active users), Instagram Stories (200 million monthly active users) and even Twitter (313 million active monthly users). But, we’re talking about a platform that was just introduced three years ago. And, it’s targeting a younger audience set that is just now getting phones (remember those seven-year-olds!).
And, it’s a platform that’s growing leaps and bounds. It had just 80 million DAUs in Sept. 2016. By the end of 2016, that number was at 130 million. And, now I’ve heard Muiscal.ly has 200 million registered users. Forbes recently reported registered users tripled in the last year.
The platform trends decidedly young. Mostly grade school, middle school and high school girls. That will have to trend a bit older is Musical.ly is going to take things to the next level.
For now, that’s still a powerful audience. Because those 10-18-year-old girls are the next generation of consumers.
So, why hasn’t Musically been working with more brands on activations?
Well, turns out, they have–in spots.
Brands like Coke and most of Hollywood (notably, a Guardians of the Galaxy integration that sounded pretty cool) have tested the Musical.ly waters. But, full-blown advertising options aren’t in cards just yet.
So, the majority of brands don’t have great options–even if they wanted to pursue it.
But given the growth curve shown above, this is one of the few social apps NOT named Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or LinkedIn you should be keeping an eye on.
Here’s another interesting angle to this whole Musical.ly thing: the impact it is having (and will continue to have) on this next generation of video creators.
Here’s why that’s particularly interesting to a 45-year-old like me. Like many Gen Xers, I grew up with a rotary phone, a boombox and Atari 2600.
Meanwhile, Gen Z will be the first generation to grow up entirely with: wi-fi virtually everywhere, a phone with them at all times (after the age of 7, apparently), and video editing tools at their fingertips.
For these kids, Musical.ly is the ultimate training ground for video creation and editing. And it’s happening every. single. day.
Contrast that with people my generation (and even a bit younger). We need to take classes to learn how to create and edit video (need proof–just look at your local PRSA, IABC or AMA programming).
Gen Z is learning how to do these kinds of things when they’re 9 years old.
My daughter is a living, breathing example. She’s creating videos (featuring her–separate topic for a different day) with real production value. I’ve been shocked at the ideas she comes up with. She’s learning “transitions” (essentially, editing in Musical.ly language). She’s learning how to frame a video up. And, she’s learning what garners attention in the video world online (even though she does have a private account–but, she is watching what others are doing and noticing what’s popular and what isn’t).
It’s absolutely fascinating (and a little terrifying, as a parent, at least) to watch.
Like I said, Musical.ly is definitely an app that should be on your radar–for a few different reasons.
Last weekend I was at The Dells with my kids (no laughing please–I grew up going to the Dells and have a strong affinity for the Upper Midwest’s Redneck Capital!).
As part of that adventure, we hit the Wisconsin Ducks. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check this out.
Our tour guide was a lovely 19-year-old woman who was going to school in Minnesota. She cracked jokes. She was great with the kids (my son got to drive the Duck!). She was affable. She was a perfect tour guide.
Except for one thing.
She started every other sentence with “you guys.”
Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s so pervasive on YouTube, even a search of “you guys” pulls up THIS:
If you’ve watched any “influencer” on YouTube or Instagram, you absolutely know what I’m talking about because they start virtually EVERY sentence with these two words.
That’s the question. And, I think there’s a lot more there to unpack than you might think.
For starters, “you guys” is largely used on social platforms like YouTube and Instagram because of its more informal nature. And let’s be honest, language on social platforms has gotten a lot more informal than this. Punctuation, grammar … it almost feels optional at this point. So, “you guys” is a phrase that’s hardly at the top of the list when it comes to things to get worked up about on the internet. I understand that.
But, I also think there’s some laziness at play here, too. To me, “you guys” feels an awful lot like “um.” People are using it as a crutch. They’re using it because they’re lazy. Instead of using “you guys” every other sentence, work on tightening up your presentation style. I know the influencers of the world would probably say this kind of language is helping them connect with fans. And to that, I guess I would say, you can still connect with fans while being a little more effective presenter.
And, you could also make the argument that this phrase may be killing the future of public speaking.
You have an entire generation of kids now that are watching these influencers and people on YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram and admiring pretty much everything about them. From the products they use and adopt to what they do to the language they use. Hey, I have a 9-year-old and 12-year-old–I’ve seen it first-hand!
My kids actually attempted to create their own mock vlog on our summer road trip this year in the back seat. The first two words out of their mouths to start the vlog: You guessed it–“You guys.”
So yeah, younger people are picking up on the more informal tone and phrases these “influencers” and people on the social web are using. And, it’s part of a larger trend around the erosion of punctuation, grammar and other more formal communications structures. I don’t think these structures are going away anytime soon–but they’re certainly taking some big body blows right now.
And, I think that’s a big threat to the public speaking world.
Think about all the jobs that require you to be a competent (if not above-average) public speaker:
- Government officials
I mean, you could argue public speaking is a skill set anyone should have in any profession. So yeah, public speaking is important in the real world. And I’m just a little worried informal phrases like “you guys” are helping spur the erosion of it.
I know there are far more issues more worthy of my outrage. I get this is pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
But, give it 5-7 years. Let’s see how the next generation of public speakers fares.
I think that will be fascinating to watch.
Influencer marketing. So hot right now.
In fact, influencer marketing has been hot for a while now. And, I see no end in sight as brands find new and interesting ways to partner and work with influencers (including agencies using influencers as creatives).
But, if you’ve headed up an influencer marketing campaign yourself, you know there’s one area of the work that’s especially tedious, and even painful: Researching and identifying the right influencers for your campaign.
Oh sure, there are a ton of “tools” out there to help you with your search. I’ve tried out a few of these tools over the years. And, much like other tools, they’re only as effective as the person using them.
Not to mention so much of influencer identification isn’t about finding the influencer with the biggest reach–it’s about finding influencers who:
- Don’t work with your competitors
- Have a “personality fit” with your brand (i.e., share common values)
- Create content that excites your brand, and your customers
- Don’t feel forced (read: They do this non-stop with other brands)
Very few–if any–tools can capture those criteria.
Therefore, influencer identification is, as it’s always been, a laborious, time-consuming endeavor.
And, as someone who lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I’m often curious about the influencers who are influencing right in our backyard. So, I thought I’d do you a favor today. Give you some free information and list out 10 influencers right here in the Twin Cities that I would be targeting for my next local campaign–and why.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of “top influencers”–it’s just a list of influencers that I think would be great brand ambassadors and a little around why I think that is.
26,400 followers; 2,592 engagements per post
What does she post about? family, causes (like her Still Kicking non-profit)
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Do the math on the numbers above–Nora sees an almost 10% engagement rate on her posts. That’s insane. But, not surprising if you know Nora and what she’s all about. She’s easily one of the most followed and dare I say “beloved” people in all of Minneapolis. Plus, if you love cute babies and kids, you’ll get a steady dose of the adorable #ralphiegrams and #stormtrooperluckycharm in her feed.
55,800 followers; 499 engagements per post
What does he post about? boots, men’s fashion, food
Why he would be a great brand ambassador: The shot above is probably one of the quintessential shots of Paul’s feed. But, he also posts regularly about food (we have similar tastes), hard liquor, and watches. If I were a brand with interests in any of those areas, I’d be reaching out to Paul.
7,410 followers, 242 engagements per post
What does he post about? Kids, coffee, food
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: OK, so yeah, Tom is on the media side with the Star Tribune. We all know that. But, he’s also a big influencer on the internets (notably, IG as his platform of choice). I mean, the guy hangs with influencers all the time (he was recently at the big influencer event in NE last week). But, more importantly, he doesn’t come across as a guy trying to BE an influencer (after all, he has the day job). That’s what I like about him–he’s not trying too hard. Now, you’d have to find a way around the media angle–definite conflict of interest there. But, as someone who’s been down that road before, I can tell you it is possible with the right person. You just have to be a little creative.
10,600 followers, 227 engagements per post
What does he post about? Food, family, things he does for his TV job, socks
Why he would be a great brand ambassador: Jason is, without question, the top media member in the Twin Cities in terms of social media. In fact, he’s the damn godfather of social media engagement in the media world. And, if there was a Twin Cities Social Media Hall of Fame, he’d most likely be in it. Unlike other media members, you’ll often see Jason responding to comments in his Facebook and Instagram feeds. The guy just gets it. And yeah, like Horgen ,I know he’s on the media side and there are conflicts, but there are ways to work around that… He’s definitely on my list (also: Did you know Jason is a HUGE sock influencer? It’s true. Also: Not a meteorologist).
13,700 followers, 443 engagements per post
What does she post about? Fitness, donuts, burgers
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: If you’re a restaurant that makes donuts or burgers, Erin is the de facto influencer for you. But, I tend to think she’s got a lot more to offer than just those niches. On the surface, she has an “it” factor that I don’t see with other local influencers. And, she’s extremely engaging as she replies back to folks who comment on her posts all the time (something, strangely, you don’t always see in the influencer set).
18,900 followers, 384 engagements per post
What does she post about? Pretty much all food
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Seems like food influencers in this town are almost a dime a dozen, but there’s something inherently attractive about Kathryn’s feed. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it’s there. Maybe it has something to do with the donut shot above 🙂
52,300 followers, 936 engagements per post
What does she post about? Food, Minnesota stuff
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Sure, she’s one of those food influencers I talked about above. But, what’s unique (I think) about Amanda is that she’s also a photographer. So, those food pics look even better! And, she doesn’t *always* post about food. If I were a brand, I might engage Amanda for the her visual eye alone!
Kim Ly Curry
34,500 followers, 1,683 engagements per post
What does she post about? Food
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: If you’re going to hire one foodie to be your brand ambassador, it’s probably going to be Kim Curry. She was recently profiled in the Star Tribune. And, she’s obviously getting approached by restaurants and hotels (her recent stay on the shores of Lake Minnetonka looked amazing!). So, I’d hurry if you’re a restaurant or hospitality brand in town!
1,046 followers, 63 engagements per post
What does she post about? Homemade food, beer, family
Why she would be a great brand ambassador: Precisely because she’s not trying to. A lot of the folks on this list are trying to be influencers. I don’t get that impression from Laurie. I get the impression that she’s much like me–she posts to Instagram because it’s fun. So she’s not a “macro-level” influencer. Big deal. I’ll take 10 Laurie J-K’s. You can have all the macros you want. Plus, a lot of the food she makes at home looks flat-out amazing!
22,800 followers, 1,919 engagements per post
What does she post about? Life, travels, family, some food (her food stuff is over at @pinchofyum–I like this account better)
Why she would be a great brand ambassador? Sure @pinchofyum is the much larger account. And, I’m sure that’s the one brands are targeting. But, if I’m a local org, I’m targeting this account. Because it’s more real and much more locally-focused. Here, Lindsay showcases her family, her travels (looks like she just went to Alaska and it looks amazing!) and really, just day-to-day life. She’s not forcing it. Not trying to gain fans. She’s just being her. Feels far more real. And, the more real the account, the more trust it engenders with its followers (for proof, look at her engagements per post number above–second-highest to only Nora locally).