Two weeks ago, the eyes of the world were on Minneapolis during Super Bowl week.
And, among other things (including a fantastic game), that meant brand activations. At parties. At Mall of America. And, at Super Bowl LIVE in downtown Minneapolis.
One of my clients (my longest-running client, in fact) was particularly active that week with two big brand activations on Super Bowl LIVE and a number of other brand milestone events throughout the week. Needless to say, it was a huge week for Sleep Number (although, to be clear, I was not involved with the work described below).
So, I thought it would be interesting to hear from one of the team members at Sleep Number about what they did, why and how it all worked out–and I thought Chanel Schmidt would be the perfect person to talk with. Chanel’s only been with Sleep Number for a year-and-a-half, but in that time she’s emerged as a true star for the social media team. Let’s hear from Chanel about Sleep Number’s plan and approach during Super Bowl week.
First, could you talk a little about your role at Sleep Number and your primary responsibilities?
I’m Chanel Schmidt, Sleep Number setting 35, and I’m a social media + influencer specialist at Sleep Number. My primary responsibilities are running our influencer marketing program, and also contributing to social content creation.
You had quite the week earlier this month. Sleep Number was seemingly everywhere during Super Bowl week! And you were a big part of that from a social standpoint. Can you give us a quick run-down of everything Sleep Number was involved with last week during the Super Bowl?
The entire team had a blast during Super Bowl week, and the many weeks and months of planning that preceded it. When you go into a project as big as the “Big Game,” it takes an exponential degree of planning, organization, and executional excellence. That’s what the team did. I’m lucky enough to play a role on that team and to be surrounded by such talented, socially savvy people. It makes content creation on-the-fly so much fun. Sleep Number HQ and all of Downtown had an energy to it that I hadn’t experienced in the workplace before!
We spent the entire Super Bowl week, and the game itself, live covering from our Social Command Center. That allowed us to monitor conversations in real-time and jump in where it made sense from a brand perspective. For instance, when “#MNnice and “#NiceOff” started trending (as a challenge for local brands and businesses to welcome folks to the Bold North—a.k.a. the frozen tundra), we were able to work cross-functionally to give away blankets to freezing fans. In less than 24 hours’ time, we compiled blankets, assembled our “Blanket Brigade,” walked to Nicollet Mall to give them away, and created social content from it. This required input from many teams: Product, Legal, PR, Social, the list goes on. Those who received the blankets were absolutely overjoyed, and we were able to get some great imagery to tell that story through social and contribute to the trending conversation.
From a social perspective, what was your overall approach? What did you hope to accomplish based on everything else you had going on from an experiential and brand marketing perspective?
We wanted to represent our brand—and Minneapolis—in the best, most engaging way. That meant we had to amplify all of the amazing activations that were happening at Super Bowl Live experientially through social—so consumers that weren’t present could feel like they were still a part of it all, and people that were there could relate/reflect on it.
What worked best for your team last week? What really exceeded your expectations? Were there any surprises? Things that popped up that you took advantage of that you didn’t see coming?
The biggest surprise activation was the blanket giveaway on Nicollet Mall. That worked very well for us. We also capitalized on how cold it was to other degrees (pun not intended)—really hitting home on the #BoldNorth theme, creating engaging content that freezing fans could relate to.
You also emcee’d two Facebook Lives during the course of the week—I thought you did a great job! But, I always tell folks it’s an easier job than it looks—especially when it’s done well. First, how were you feeling going into what I believe were your first FB Live jobs? And second, can you talk a little about your team’s process and how you guys prepare for a Facebook Live at that level?
It definitely is not as easy as it looks (though I’m not completely convinced yet that I made it look easy 😉 ). The team knew that Live Video would be a great content integration to reach and draw people into the excitement of Super Bowl Live. We started brainstorming what we could showcase via live video, and our event activations on Nicollet Mall seemed like the most logical way to pay it off. We had a phenomenal virtual reality experience game at our booth, and we wanted people to know how it worked and why they should come visit.
To be completely transparent, there wasn’t a ton of pre-planning beyond that. Once we decided what we wanted to capture, we made it happen within a 2-hour timeframe. Something our entire team is so great at is thinking creatively, yet in a nimble, agile way. Given the fast pace of the social/mobile environment, you need to be able to work quickly and efficiently and respond to trends and opportunities in real-time. We needed someone to step up and emcee the live videos, so I volunteered—it helps that I’m extroverted and used to being on stage. For me, it’s all about taking risks where they need to be taken when it benefits the team, and giving your best effort in every situation, and letting the chips fall where they may. The stakes are always higher when it comes to live video, since there isn’t a way to edit anything that comes out of your mouth. Luckily, it all worked out and we saw some great performance on the videos!
You also had a number of celebrity activations last week with Brad Paisley, Harrison Smith and Terence Newman. How did you guys bring those activations to life from a social perspective?
Again, we worked cross-functionally with a lot of different teams to bring it to life through social. Our goal was to amplify anything that felt relevant to our community or the general population, and celebrity appearances are great ways to gain broad interest (see: influencer marketing J). We featured their experiences in relation to our brand. For instance, Brad Paisley visited our virtual reality booth and played the game, followed by a pop-up concert at our Sleep Number store in the Mall of America and a Media Party later that night. MN Vikings players Harrison Smith and Terence Newman participated in radio interviews on media row, and we featured those segments as well. We also added Facebook Live videos into the mix wherever possible. They are all fantastic individuals, and great representatives of our brand and what we stand for.
We also announced a brand new partnership in the same week: Sleep Number is now the Official Sleep + Wellness Partner of the NFL. We know sleep plays a crucial role in an athlete’s success—their ability to train, recover and perform at their best on and off the field. To echo Shelly’s words, we are all so excited to make a difference through better sleep for these world-class athletes. To help amplify the announcement, we live covered a press conference between Sleep Number’s CEO Shelly Ibach and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and created a robust amount of social content to spread the word.
Last question: Career highlight so far? This has got to be right up there.
Super Bowl week was definitely one of them! Some other highlights for me include getting the opportunity to work with awesome people like Gwen Jorgensen, Melissa Stockwell, Sarah Hendrickson, and the list goes on. It’s a sweet thing to build genuine relationships with people that have such inspiring journeys, and helping to share their stories through our brand’s channels is truly life-giving.
The other highlight (because really, do I have to choose just one?!) that’s been consistent throughout my time at Sleep Number is the people—my teammates. They’d go the extra mile for anyone. You’ll find that standard across our entire organization; it’s in our DNA. I can’t imagine working anywhere else!
I graduated from college in 1996. And I remember thinking when I graduated how cool it would be to work for either General Mills or Best Buy–two of the bigger Minnesota-based companies at the time.
As I joined the workforce, I remember talking to agency folks, and the singular mantra seemed to be how cool it was to work with Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company and Johnson & Johnson.
Working for a huge company was a big deal. And it was definitely a status symbol.
I just wonder if that’s still true today in 2018.
Because there’s been a confluence of trends I’ve noticed in the last couple years that lead me to believe that people may be beginning to believe otherwise.
First, you have the rise of the start-up scene, which seems to be incredibly alluring to the younger set. Look no further than the startup culture for your reasons. It’s fast-paced. It’s fun. You have foosball tables and beer-thirty every Friday. I mean, that’s not even close to realistic (just ask any entrepreneur), but I feel like that’s what a lot of people think. Perception is often reality, folks.
Second, you have what seems to be a growing frustration with working for larger companies with an endless sea or red tape. I’ve worked for and with big corporate clients for years. And yes, there is definitely some of that. I’m one of those folks who probably isn’t bothered by this as much as others, but that red tape is there. And, I think that has been and will continue to be a barrier for some people.
Finally, think about the pervasive social media scene. Who dominates that in the PR/comms/marketing world? Consultants and “thought leaders”, right? Those are either independent folks or agency people. You won’t find too many big corporate people active on social networks for work because they’re busy DOING THE WORK! But, I think sometimes people get caught up in the social media hype. They see people showing up on social media, speaking at events and think: Man, that looks fun. I think that would be a lot better than working for General Motors.
I think these three factors have led us to a place where working for a Fortune 500 that’s not named Google, Apple or Facebook isn’t quite as cool as it was 25 years ago.
Now, I happen to be one of the people who would feel the exact opposite–and I know I’m not completely alone. I think working for and with big companies has all sorts of advantages and benefits. For example:
Working for a big company usually means bigger overall budgets, which means you get to work with vendors like Facebook, and LinkedIn and agencies like Edelman.
Working for a big company sometimes means you have access to star power. Think about Walmart’s annual meeting and the celebrities they bring to Bentonville for that event each year. That’s definitely a perk and draw for those employees.
Working for a big company usually means more access to professional development like attending big events like SXSW (an event I still have not attended to this day).
Sure, working for a big company has drawbacks. And, sometimes they can be painful. But every job has its drawbacks. At the end of the day, I tend to think the drawbacks of working for these large companies is easily worth some of the pain.
What do you think? Have attitudes changed in recent years? Has working for a Fortune 500 company really lost its luster?
Last week, my friend Amanda Oleson sent me a note about a post I had written that featured her that popped up in her “Facebook Memories” from 2012. The post was about Path. Yeah, you remember Path. The hot new social networking app destined to dethrone Facebook in 2012.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
But, that post and Amanda’s note got me thinking: How far have we really come in social media marketing circles in just five years.
Because, lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the NEGATIVE effects of social media marketing. And, how disappointed I am in how things have worked out.
But, Amanda’s note had me reflecting in a different way.
Think about how MUCH has happened in five years.
Think about how MUCH social media marketing has evolved in five years.
Think about how MUCH that has impacted jobs in the PR and marketing worlds.
Yep, as I started researching, a LOT has changed in just five short years. And, I think I can point to seven posts from my blog in 2013 as proof:
Some of the hottest social networking sites of 2013 aren’t even around anymore
Vine. Foursquare. Path. I mean, I could make a list…
Sometimes technology doesn’t move as fast as everyone thinks it will
Remember when everyone thought Google Glass would change EVERYTHING? Yeah, me, too.
In some cases, we’re still facing the same challenges
I’ve been talking about this a lot lately. How many executives don’t even have a LinkedIn profile! In 2018! I mean, we’ve come a long, long ways in many areas. In others, not so much.
Some trends thankfully expired
Thank, God. The next trend to die (hopefully): Emoji marketing.
Some platforms completely TOOK OFF
Instagram had 90 million users in January 2013. In January 2018, that number had swelled to 800 million. It is now one of the big three social media platforms used by most brands. That’s some serious evolution in just five years.
Some things just won’t die dammit!
What do I have to do to put an end to this trend? Five years and it’s still here? C’MON!
Some platforms entirely changed their focus
What was LinkedIn known as in 2013? A jobs site. People went their to find jobs. Pure and simple. Fast forward to 2018 and LinkedIn is a completely different social media platform. Sure, people still visit LinkedIn to find jobs, but they also visit it to get smarter, learn best practices and develop professionally–all by consuming content on the network.
I first met Heidi McGuire three years ago through a mutual friend. She was referred to me for a potential piece of business with Thermo King (at the time). After a couple meetings, Heidi and I were working together. That work ended a couple years ago, but I knew I wanted to stay closely connected with Heidi so I invited her to be a part of a corporate communicator mastermind group I manage. Through that group (and the fact that we live just two blocks away), I’ve gotten to know Heidi a bit better over the years.
What I’ve always admired about Heidi is her willingness to learn and her ability to be a strong team member, but also a team leader. That’s not a skill everyone possesses, but it seems almost second-nature to Heidi. And, it’s served her well–in her 10-plus years with Ingersoll Rand, she’s moved up from communications specialist in 2007 to communications lead for Thermo King, and now, Trane, in the last few years. Let’s hear more from this Rock Star.
You’re a communications business partner at Ingersoll Rand, for the Trane Commercial business. Tell us more about your current role and what it entails.
Thanks Arik for the opportunity to chat with you. I always enjoy reading your interviews with other communications professionals, and I am humbled you asked me to participate.
As the communications business partner, I’m accountable for leading Trane’s communications strategy, spanning internal and external communication responsibilities across multiple regions of the world.
My current role is a very unique and interesting position because I am able to collaborate with many different people across the company and create connections.
Every day I get the opportunity tell our company’s story about where and how we are breaking new ground in the building and energy industries. Buildings are one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and I work alongside the business leaders, engineers, marketers and others who want to solve this problem. My job is to help communicate about how we can create a positive impact on the efficiency and sustainability of our world.
You’ve been with Ingersoll Rand in various communication roles your entire professional career. That’s amazing! What’s kept you with the company for 10+ years now?
Easy – my team! Communications is a team sport, and I am very fortunate to work with a “small but mighty” crew of hustlers…who also have a sense of humor and support one another. I feel privileged to work with talented, smart and scrappy professionals who continue to impress me and stretch my own thinking daily.
Beyond the people, I also believe in the company and respect the leaders. The company has evolved and changed so much during my tenure, and I feel lucky to have been part of the journey. Corporate social responsibility and ethics are important to me, and I am proud to work for a company where I believe in its values, which I think should be a non-negotiable when you are a corporate communications professional! It’s so much easier to do your job if you truly believe the company’s mission.
And lastly, I keep learning and find new ways to stretch myself. Organizations are constantly evolving, and as communication professionals, this is when our skills are needed most. I’ve had fun stepping up to this challenge in every role I’ve had with the company.
Many jobs in the comms world require you to manage a broad mix of internal AND external communications. In your roles at both Thermo King and Trane you held responsibilities for both. Do you think that’s benefitted you earlier in your career as opposed to being in a role where you just focus on media relations, social, etc.? What do you see as the pros of this type of role?
Absolutely, in fact I think it should be core to any communicator’s background. There is no such thing as an internal only or external only message. I may be bias, but I think the integrated communications role is more rewarding – not just because of the variety of work – but because you can add more value to the business when you have a more well-rounded perspective.
I am very grateful that early in my career my wise mentor and long-time manager, Perri Richman, encouraged me to tackle the basics of both. No doubt the function keeps changing, and our roles as communicators look very different than 10, 15, +20 years ago – but the basic skills and principles for all disciplines of communication remain highly relevant.
Over the last 10 years, you’ve also worked your way up to a more senior communications role at the company (starting as an intern years ago, moving to a manager roles, and now in your “lead” role). What were your keys to success in moving up the corporate ladder? And, what advice would you offer up to younger folks today looking to take a similar approach?
My favorite inspirational quote is “Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.”
I think in order to be successful with a career in communications, you really have to believe in the value of the function. It’s hard to demonstrate ROI of what we do, which means you have to always prove your contributions are important. Failing forward, and doing the non-glamorous part of the job is so important to understanding the value of the function.
Beyond the grit of working hard, you also have to be grateful for every opportunity you have to learn – no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is. Take advantage of being thrown off the deep end into uncomfortable assignments.
I almost didn’t go to my internship interview because I had to drive 2.5 hours each way during my final summer vacation before college graduation. My life would be so different today if I had taken the lazy way out. After graduation I took another chance and moved New Jersey. During this experience I learned more than I ever thought possible.
I am so grateful Perri, and other communications executives over my tenure, took chances on me, invested in me and offered me opportunities. Answering this question has been a good reminder for me in my current role to appreciate where I’ve grown, but to keep running those extra miles.
You’ve traveled domestically and internationally quite a bit during your tenure with Thermo King and Trane, which is not that unusual for a lot of people in our field. But what tips would you suggest to others looking to better manager work-life balance when traveling?
Business travel can be tough on your mental and physical health. But one thing that always keeps me motivated is taking my husband’s advice. When I leave for a business trip, he always says the same thing to me: “Make the most of your time away.” This means, if you are going to take a business trip, take advantage of the opportunity. Learn. Add value. Experience something new. While not always easy, changing your mindset can give you the boost of energy to make it a meaningful trip.
Speaking of work-life balance, you have two little guys at home. How are you attempting to balance a full-time career in corporate communications and also your family?
Coffee J (only half joking). Work-life balance is really just “life” and we constantly challenged to figure out how to spend our time. While I’m not perfect at these, here are a few principles I use to help guide me when work-life balance is off course.
Pick the top things you won’t sacrifice – and hold yourself accountable it.
Determine what is non-negotiable for you to give up. And then hold yourself accountable for staying on track. For me, I spend as many evenings with my kids as possible. This means I’m always up very early to either work out or go to the office before most people wake up. But this allows me to pick up my kids every day at preschool, and we spend the evenings playing, reading and eating dinner together.
Build your village, and appreciate them.
I am one lucky lady, and I recognize how privileged I am to with my support network. My husband (who also works full-time) is a true partner and he is my #1 fan. We are also VERY fortunate because our immediate family members are local and enjoy spending time with our boys as much as they can (thank you Mom, I am eternally grateful!) …and we live on the best block in South Minneapolis with neighbors who we have been able to rely upon in a pinch (#community). Full disclosure – our village also includes the Instacart grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime and a regular home cleaning service.
Recognize when you’re off-balance…and then give yourself some grace and reset. A career in public relations / corporate communications is frequently listed on the top of lists for “the top high stress jobs” because our work is very visible, fast paced and complex. When you find yourself off-balance, you have to take a pause and reset. We are not perfect – but our work is expected to be. If you need a lifeline, ask your team for help. Give yourself grace (thank you Ginny Mackin). And when you’ve caught your breath – get back to it.
What’s the number one challenge and opportunity you see in working on the corporate side in comms/PR?
The growing expectation for organizations to be transparent regarding their views on social, health and environmental issues is changing the game. Our strategy must balance the art of “always being prepared” , yet we need to be “nimble and ready to adapt” because no situation is the same.
As a profession, we should hold ourselves to high standards to understand the issues that impact our organization. And we then must be able to help our leaders (and employees) articulate it. We also must be strategic and thoughtful about when / where / how our company choses to voice those opinions and be ready to make decisions quickly.
This is the time of year we see trend posts galore! What 1-2 trends do you see really impacting PR/comms pros work in the year ahead?
One interesting trend is the desire for people to simplify their lives. The word “busy” has become meaningless. This term is the new norm and it quite mundane. Professionally, people are being asked to do more with less. In our personal lives we have become so over scheduled, over committed and over synthesized with news and information.
For communications professionals, I think really means if it’s not simple, or easy, or creates an immediate feeling driving people to act, it will be lost.
I think the future is not about more – but about the higher value stories and opportunities. This shift will a definite challenge, because we also have to balance the need for finding and telling the more meaningful stories, while also being repetitious and visible so your brand remains top of mind.
I think 2018 will be an innovative one for the function, and I look forward to what my team and other professionals in this space come up with.
Now that 2017 is in the books, what were your personal and professional highlights from the past year?
Professionally, I am really proud of the work our team delivered related to our energy efficiency and sustainability content strategy and thought leadership work. Ingersoll Rand was the first diversified industrial company to make a bold commitment a few years ago to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emission related to our operations and products. We are walking the talk, and the progress we’ve made as company to tell our story was a big highlight.
Personal highlights include the many adventures taken and memories made with my husband and our two boys. We took our first big adventure as a family of four to Florida in the spring. And thanks to our village, John and I were able to sneak away for two weekends, once to Napa Valley and then later to New York for the holidays.
Living in Minnesota, I feel compelled to write about Super Bowl-related topics this week. After all, I’ll probably be north of 75 the next time the Big Game comes to our state!
Last weekend, we visited Super Bowl LIVE on Nicollet Avenue downtown Minneapolis. I’ve been following along online all week to see what brands are up to. And, just yesterday, I snuck over to the Mall of America over lunch to check our more activations and see “Radio Row.”
In general, I’ve been more interested in the social tactics, given that’s the focus of my work. And, I’ve seen a lot of “stuff” over the internet airwaves. But, to me, three tactics and companies have jumped out as winners:
Surly — Welcome to Minnesota: A Primer
I wrote about this fabulous piece of content marketing yesterday. Probably the best social media tactic I’ve seen this week. Smart. Well written. And brilliantly devised in a way that targets Minnesotans, as well as the out-of-towners who are descending on our city.
U.S. Bank – #NiceOff campaign on Twitter
How does a bank activate its brand during the biggest sporting week of the year? With a #NiceOff on Twitter, of course! The idea: Simple–to tweet at other Minnesota-based brands and challenge them to tweet about our “Minnesota Nice” behavior and how we aim to help those coming to Minneapolis/St. Paul over the next few days. Here’s U.S. Bank’s tweet that got things started on Wednesday:
— U.S. Bank (@usbank) January 30, 2018
From there, a slew of brands from Target to Sun Country to Caribou Coffee got involved and kept the Twitter thread going. You can view much of it here in this Twitter Moment:
Now, does this do more to sell more U.S. Bank checking accounts or loans? Probably not. But, I thought it was a creative approach to a common challenge for many brands sponsoring the Big Game this week. Well done, USB team.
Best Buy — Facebook Live with the Minnesota Vikings’ Stefon Diggs
Celebrity activations were a big thing this week. But, you didn’t see too many brands truly “activate” the celeb like Best Buy did with its Facebook Live with Stefon Diggs. In fact, I saw Diggs at the Ford Truck booth at Super Bowl LIVE on Saturday night, and it appeared the only thing he was doing was taking pics with fans. Now, Best Buy didn’t really do anything all that innovative. But, asking Diggs to participate in a four-minute interview with the Best Buy team in their huge booth at the Mall of America was simple, yet brilliant. And, the execution was even better. Shane Kitzman did an outstanding job of emcee’ing (a job that’s much tougher than it looks), and I thought Best Buy did a great job of not pushing product too much on the broadcast. Proof that sometimes it’s not as much about the “big idea” as it is about the execution.
Caribou Coffee – User-Generated Content/Best of the North Cups
This wasn’t truly a Super Bowl activation (Caribou unveiled the new cups last week), but I think it definitely counts, as the intent was surely to allow the new cup sleeves to pervade social media during Super Bowl week. And, that’s exactly what’s happened. Just go check your Instagram feed. Take a peek at the #cariboucoffee hash tag, for example, and you’ll see it’s littered with those red-and-black checkered sleeves.
Plus, I love how Caribou is actively responding to a ton of folks on Twitter who are posting pics of the new sleeves. In fact, we’re seeing a lot of people loving the Gray Duck sleeve, in particular.
This is another one that falls in the “simple, but brilliant” category. From the design of the sleeves (uniquely Minnesotan) to the sayings, I thought Caribou nailed it from the perspective of creating something everyone would want to share online during the biggest sporting event of the year. Kudos, Caribou.