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.