You’ve read influencer marketing case studies. But believe me when I tell you, you’ve never seen an influencer marketing case study like the one I’m about to share with you (unless, of course, you’re a loyal listener of the Power Trip Morning Show on KFAN, in which case you’ll know everything by now).
This story starts a few months ago on KFAN’s Power Trip Morning Show. For those who aren’t aware, it’s the highest rated morning show in the Twin Cities comprised of a cast of thousands, but really run by Cory Cove, “Meat Sauce” (Paul Lambert) and Chris Hawkey (part radio star/part rock star).
For the last few years, they’ve been “competing” in something called the #CharchChallenge, named after the game organizer, fellow KFAN contributor, Paul Charchian. The challenge is simply to pick fantasy football players that will outperform the player not picked by anyone (the “ghost” as they call it on the show).
And, at the end of each year, the loser of the #CharchChallenge is essentially forced to do a fairly uncomfortable thing. One year, Cove grew his hair out for a year. Another year, Hawkey and Sauce were sentenced to dress like a pirate on the steps of US Bank Stadium. The stakes seem to raise each year.
And, this year, the loser (Hawkey) was sentenced to ride a bus back from Vegas, where the Power Trip had been recording live shows just last week (March 28-29). As you can imagine, that wasn’t a pleasant experience–especially after being in Vegas drinking, gambling and generally staying up all night for four straight days.
But, Hawkey jumped on a Greyhound bus on Sunday, March 31 and began the long road home to Minneapolis. And, the tweets began (Hawkey is one of the bigger personalities on Twitter on KFAN, so him tweeting non-stop about his experience wasn’t out of the ordinary).
Dear @GreyhoundBus really glad that I paid extra for priority seating just to have a lady at the counter tell me “that don’t matter.” (Direct quote). I’m in the next to last row. Also, the electricity doesn’t work on this bus either. Terrible #CharchChallenge #HawkonAGreyhound pic.twitter.com/cs26M5DFbd
— Chris Hawkey (@Chris_Hawkey) March 31, 2019
Not surprisingly, it didn’t get off to a great start. And, by the time he hit Nebraska, Hawkey was hitting the wall and tired of what you would expect were less-than-ideal cross-country bus conditions. But, when he got off the bus at Omaha, something happened.
— Chris Hawkey (@Chris_Hawkey) April 1, 2019
That’s right, one of Greyhound’s chief competitors, Jefferson Lines (based right here in Minnesota), sent a shiny, new coach bus to pick up Hawkey and get him home in record time.
What’s more, Jefferson Lines included a number of added “extras” to make the trip a bit more tolerable (hello pizza!). They also included a couple “how to win at Fantasy Football” books–a clear, good-natured jab at Hawkey and the reason he had the ride the bus in the first place!
— Power Trip KFAN (@PowerTripKFAN) April 1, 2019
Of course, as you can see, Hawkey was tweeting about this entire experience as it happened. Then, upon his return on Monday, he talked about it (at length) on the Power Trip Morning Show. You can listen to the full show here, if interested.
“The Bus” – Power Trip [FULL SHOW] https://t.co/LH0tSFVEVf
— Power Trip KFAN (@PowerTripKFAN) April 1, 2019
And, after that, it’s been a flurry of other KFAN accounts and celebrities retweeting and interacting with Hawkey and this crazy story (including Ben Leber, another Power Trip guest with 87,000+ followers.
— Ben Leber (@nacholeber) April 1, 2019
In the end, a simple operational execution (sending one bus to pick up one guest in Omaha) landed Jefferson Lines a crap-ton of media impressions and engagement across Twitter and mainstream media and radio.
Just absolutely beautifully done by the Jefferson Lines team. Really couldn’t have been done better. And, I see a few key lessons for brands looking to learn a thing or two from how JL pulled this off:
1: Always be paying attention–and be ready to act!
Apparently, a few folks at JL were fans of the Power Trip Morning Show (including the CEO, who started all this!). Not surprising, given its popularity. But, they were listening! Anyone who has been listening to the show knew about the #CharchChallenge and knew Hawkey would be riding this bus home from Vegas. All JL had to do was figure out a creative way to insert themselves into the picture. They acted. And all it cost them was a little time and a bus.
2: Put influencers in position to create content–and get out of their way
With modern-day influencer marketing, I feel like some companies are getting a little too prescriptive with what they want influencers to create. I mean, part of the reason you’re partnering with these folks is that they know how to create content a bit better than you do! JL was smart to set the environment (give Hawkey an express ride in a shiny new bus) and let him do the rest. With no direction, he created a number of tweets (including the video up top) and obviously shared his story on the radio Monday (and, as a bonus, he’s bringing the guy he met on the bus on the Power Trip Show on Tuesday, too–and I just listened as he brought the Jefferson Lines folks on the show to talk about the behind-the-scenes work). That video tweet he shared now has more than 3,200 likes, 280+ retweets and 280+ replies. And again, the Power Trip Morning Show is the highest rated morning show on the air in the Twin Cities right now.
3: Sweat all the details
JL could have just sent the bus to pick Hawkey up, and even just that move would have been great. But, they sweated the details. They included the pizza–they knew he would be hungry (duh!). They added the fantasty foodball books–they wanted to have some fun with him, given the show’s personality (and the fact that Hawkey is typically the punching bag for the show). They added the personalized toiletries (knowing he would full well check the bathroom–again, personality of the show shining through). Those details were all more content opportunities for Hawkey–and he took advantage each and every time.
Last week, I shared my news that I’ll be teaching social media at the University of St. Thomas. A big part of the reason I pursued this adjunct professor role was the opportunity to shape young minds. But, the truth is, young minds are kicking ass! And, they have been for a while now.
I think about people like LeeAnn Rasachak and Sarah Reckard whom I met more than 10 years ago now (they were one of my first PR Rock Star interviews!). I’ve watched them both grow into fabulous communicators and leaders!
Or, people like Allison O’Keefe (another PR Rock Star), whom I spoke to in a University of St. Thomas classroom many years ago. Now, she’s crushing it at Best Buy in social media marketing. I’m quite certain Alison will find herself in a senior leader role very soon.
But, who are the next LeeAnns, Sarahs and Allisons?
I thought I’d ask my network for help! So, I asked a few key local leaders for up-and-coming social media or communications superstars they admire. I put a few guidelines on this–these folks had to be non-manager/non-director level. They had to be younger than 30. And, they had to work in Minnesota.
Of course, I couldn’t write a post like this without nominating a couple people myself! I give you 15 up-and-coming social media and communications rock stars!
Sarah Schoeneck, Media Relations Manager – Patterson Dental (nominated by Arik Hanson)
I met Sarah (at right above) a few years ago when I started working with Patterson Dental. Then, about a year ago, I had the opportunity to work with her a bit more–and I was instantly impressed. Then, Sarah moved into a new role last year working in a media relations and influencer capacity, and we had the chance to work even more (we worked a trade show in Orlando together in the fall). On that trip, Sarah showed initiative, yet remained calm under pressure. And, she was doing it all at her very first trade show experience. Overall, what impresses me most about Sarah is her ability to absorb information quickly, learn and execute. Might seem simple, but there just aren’t a lot of people that do that well. I expect big things from Sarah in the years ahead.
Ashley Gustafson, Marketing Specialist – Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union (nominated by Arik Hanson)
I just started working with Ashley a couple months ago as part of a new engagement with Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. And, in those two short months I can already see the talent. So much of effective social media marketing is based on instincts. And I could tell early on that Ashley had great instincts. She’s just getting started in her social media marketing career, but I can see a path of growth and opportunity for her at Affinity in the months ahead.
Tess Montgomery, Digital Marketing Specialist – TPT (Twin Cities PBS, Nominated by Heather Olson)
Courtney Filipovich, senior specialist digital planning – United Health Group (nominated by Christy Warner)
Claire Wolt, senior external communications specialist – Allianz (nominated by Brett Weinberg)
Claire Woit has already blazed a trail of success in her eight years in the communications/PR industry. While at Padilla she developed innovative PR programs that garnered outstanding results for multiple clients across several industries. After making the switch to Corporate Communications, she has fast become a go-to source for counsel on multiple matters while developing a reputation for creating new approaches to enhance Allianz Life’s communications efforts.
Jordan Kruger, senior communications specialist, Sleep Number (nominated by Sarah Reckard)
Jordan has a true passion for communication and sports! And it’s a thrill to see him excel when tackling both of his passions for Sleep Number. From helping communicate “the move” – when Sleep Number’s corporate employees moved from their Plymouth HQs to downtown Minneapolis – to hosting IG-live sessions at the Super Bowl, Jordan is building a great foundation for a well-rounded comms career. Always a team player, Jordan is supportive, inclusive, authentic, and full of great, scrappy ideas. Jordan has balance outside of work, which tends to be a solid indicator of success, and he coaches youth baseball and also referees High School football and basketball games. A true gent, Jordan is an A-team player.
Justine Perez, social media specialist – U.S. Bank (nominated by Monica Wiant)
Justine Perez joined the U.S. Bank social media team in 2018 after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in journalism. She develops content for the bank’s social channels and supports marketing campaigns as a social media specialist. Whether she’s snapping photos for the bank’s Instagram story, wrangling the perfect bit of copy, or surprising and delighting a Twitter follower, Justine infuses her work with a sparkle of creativity balanced with an authentic understanding of the brand.
Amelia Friedrichs, manager, influencer and social engagement, W2O Group (nominated by Katie Schutrop)
Briana Gruenewald, senior account executive, Bellmont Partners (nominated by Brian Bellmont)
It’s tough to describe Briana Gruenewald in a small space – how much room do you have? Over her almost five years at Bellmont Partners, she has evolved into our very own unicorn – a gifted PR strategist, account lead, writer, passionate team member and mentor with exceptional graphic design skills. I met her when she was marketing director at ThreeSixty Journalism, where I’m on the board. When her commitment to ThreeSixty was drawing to a close, I knew she’d be an excellent addition to our team – and so did she. Her empathy, creativity and collaborative approach make her a fantastic colleague, and our clients continually sing her praises. In addition to playing key roles with clients like Second Harvest Heartland (she was instrumental in helping the organization navigate through its recent CEO transition), MnFIRE, Uptown Association and many others, Bri continues to lead Bellmont Partners’ design work, and will complete her Masters in Graphic Design at MCAD at the end of this year. With as much as she’s already accomplished, I could not be more confident that she’s really just getting started.
Theresa Reps, agricultural affairs manager, Midwest Dairy (nominated by Brian Bellmont)
I’ve known Theresa since she was named a Princess Kay of the Milky Way runner up in 2011, and then worked side-by-side with her the following year when she became the integrated communications intern at our longtime client Midwest Dairy. Her ability to connect with people and passion for telling stories about agriculture – and more specifically the people who drive the industry — struck me right away, and over the years that focus has only become sharper and stronger. She’s now putting those skills into enthusiastic, authentic action as Agricultural Affairs Manager for Midwest Dairy, and I continue to be impressed by her commitment to communications and to agriculture, especially as she works to cultivate and inspire the next generation of dairy leaders.
Megan Ayotte, founder, May Ott Communications (nominated by Allison O’Keefe)
Megan Tuttle, social media coordinator, Cambria (nominated by Allison O’Keefe)
Megan has worked at Cambria for nearly three years – and has become essential to their social media team, managing everything from content planning (managing monthly editorial calendar) to content creation (managing social shoots and product styling) to reporting (recommendations for content optimization) across all their platforms. In a visual content world, Megan is adept at finding ways to tell brand stories that are optimized for each platform, while ensuring a consistent brand aesthetic aligned to the brand’s positioning online. Megan stands out with her outstanding worked ethic combined with a positive attitude – bucking any stereotypes of the Millennial generation. This combination is essential for any digital team, where work hours extend beyond the traditional 9-5, and unexpected opportunities and challenges arrive in real-time. Simply put, she’s a hustler. Outside of the office, Megan has a blog focused on her passion for fashion, and shares her personal content via Instagram.
Libby Benda, director of accounts at The Social Lights (nominated by Allison O’Keefe)
Andrew Bradfish, social media manager – Cargill (nominated by Sue Serna)
Andrew Bradfish joined Cargill about a year ago, coming to us from Ameriprise and before that Caribou Coffee. In addition to standing up Cargill’s new Global Facebook Page infrastructure from scratch, Andrew quickly leveraged his experience as a social media marketer to start moving us toward more sophisticated social media campaigns. He’s been an enthusiastic leader, taking on work assignments as well as internal leadership roles (he was recently appointed the head of our Corporate Affairs People Team). In a short time he has become a trusted colleague and source of guidance for people throughout the company – and he’s just getting started. I am excited to see what Andrew’s next year will hold.
Cassie Roman, account executive – Pineapple RM (nominated by Rose McKinney)
Cassie Roman, account executive at Pineapple, has been key to a number of social media programs for our clients. In particular, she has established and grown a #SmallHelpsAll community for an annual campaign that recognizes the substantial economic contributions of the more than 500,000 small businesses in Minnesota (defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees). The campaign takes place during National Small Business Week and the local contingency includes (client) Calhoun Companies, and partners Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, and the James J. Hill Center. Not only does she build the content, she has created guides for the partners and conducted training for their participation. Further, the social media component is integrated as part of events, media relations and online strategies. In 2018, Cassie’s work on the #SmallHelpsAll campaign was recognized by Finance & Commerce – she was part of its inaugural group of Rising Young Professionals.
“Who do you report up through?”
It’s a question that’s been popping up a lot more lately–in conversations over coffee, in meetings and online.
And, apparently, for good reason. According to one recent survey, in-house comms teams report up through at least EIGHT different departments, including–GULP–legal! (I don’t want to know the story behind that one)
And, that’s just one survey. If discussions with friends and colleagues are any indication, reporting structures vary widely across the Twin Cities.
Some report straight to the CEO.
Many report up through marketing.
Others report through HR.
Others yet, strategy.
Some even report through the CFO.
And while I’d probably guess the largest percentage report through marketing, I’d also be willing to guess it’s probably more evenly dispersed across other departments than you might think.
And why is that?
For starters, comms and PR continue to be disciplines that are not widely understood among the executive set. How long have we been talking about this? (answer: far longer than this communicator has been in the business!) A lack of understanding is certainly contributing, as many companies simply don’t know where to put comms/PR. This is how you start reporting to legal, apparently!
I also think a big part of this is the fuzzy nature of comms/PR itself. I mean, if you ask 100 communicators to define PR/comms, you may get 100 different answers! Sometimes it involves social. Other times it’s more heavy in employee comms. The answer in how you define it often leads to where it reports up through. For example, if your comms team focuses more heavily on employee comms, chances are you probably ladder up through HR (or the CEO). Whereas, if your comms team gets more involved with media work and social media marketing (especially on the paid side), you’re probably reporting to marketing or strategy.
But, the big question most people want to discuss is this: Which structure works best?
That’s the million dollar question.
Again, I believe a good starting point to answering that is how you define comms/PR.
Beyond that, I also think about how corporations see some of these different functions. For example, HR is seen as a cost center whereas marketing is a revenue driver. That definitely makes a difference when we’re talking about setting future budgets and making the case for additional head count! I’d definitely rather be on the marketing side of the house for that very reason. And, reporting through HR can typically lead to an over-focus on HR-related comms (benefits comms, recruiting, etc.). Not saying that’s always the case–just a trend I’ve noticed.
You also have to consider the nature of the company. If you’re a sales-focused company, reporting through sales might not be the worst thing in the world. This is where the company is focusing its time and effort–you’d be right in the middle of it all! And yes, pressure would be on to drive leads, given this alignment, but I’d rather have that pressure than to be reporting up through the legal function (I hate to beat that dead horse, but man, it’s just so proposterous!).
At the end of the day, the tough answer to this question is: “It depends.”
There are many factors that go into developing the right reporting structure for corporations. I don’t think there’s a definitive right or wrong answer.
But, I would be curious as to what you think–especially if you’ve been on the corporate side and seen first-hand what some of these different reporting structures look like. Let me know in the comments below, or on LinkedIn.
The year was 2012. A good friend, Shelli Lissick, had recommended my name to Dr. Tom Grier, a professor at my alma mater, Winona State University. After chatting with Dr. Grier over the phone, I made the trip to Winona to speak to his class for the first of what would be many times over the next 7-8 years.
With that, my interest and passion for teaching was ignited.
Over the next few years, I would speak at Winona at least once a year. Then, long-time friend, Betsy Andersen asked me to speak at her class at the University of St. Thomas. I had never really spent much time on that campus, but fell in love with it almost immediately. Maybe I could, one day, teach at this wonderful school, I thought. Seemed far-fetched, but a dream started to grow.
Recently, that dream became a reality.
Earlier this month, I was officially invited to teach my first class (a social media class) at the University of St. Thomas this fall.
Now, I realize this might seem like an odd dream to some. After all, let’s be completely honest, there’s not much fame or fortune in teaching. No one accepts an adjunct position because they’re looking to get rich and/or “famous.” And, why would someone with a solid solo digital marketing practice agree to teach and take time away from that?
For starters, no, I’m not doing it for the money. And, I wouldn’t think many of the other adjuncts I’ve known over the years, were either. We do it because we love it (or, in my case, I think I’m going to love it). And, we want to help shape the next generation of marketing and communications’ minds.
Second, this will not affect my solo practice in any way–at least, that’s my plan for now. I actually think they complement each other nicely. I’ll bring much of the work I do in the industry into the classroom each week–I think this will be the area where I can add the most value for students, at least out of the gate. On the flip side, I think my clients will benefit, too, as I’ll bring new thinking to the table as a result of the research and reading I’ll have to do for class each week. What’s more, many of these students will soon enter the workforce–my clients may be needing to hire them! Who better to recommend the best and brightest than their professor!
Overall, I also see teaching as a “second act” for me down the road. My wife and I have designs on scaling back our work lives once our kids are out of the house (just six years away now!). For me, I’m hoping that means a mix of consulting (fewer hours) + teaching, with the idea of phasing out the consulting eventually. This is many years away, but that’s my tentative plan.
For now, I’m so excited to get started at UST. But, before I do, I have so many people to thank–people who got me to where I am today in this journey:
Betsy Anderson — Betsy has helped me in so many ways throughout the last 8-10 years, from inviting me to speak many times at UST and the University of Minnesota, where she now teaches, to mentoring and helping me out as I start this journey.
Mark Jenson — Another long-time friend and mentor, I will be following in Mark’s footsteps in a way, as I start teaching this fall (just like he did a couple years ago at the U of M).
Aaron Zaslofsky — Aaron initially introduced me to Bruce (see below) who introduced me to the Dean who hired me. None of this happens without Aaron’s generosity.
Bruce Moorehouse — I met Bruce after an introduction from Aaron. Even though we instantly connected, he certainly didn’t have to take the extra time to personalize introduce me to the Dean and vouch for me as an adjunct. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank Bruce enough.
Dr. Tom Grier — I’ve gotten to know Tom pretty well after speaking to his class probably more than 10 times over the last number of years at Winona St. I never had Tom as a prof when I was in school, but I certainly have come to admire and respect his approach and style as a professor–most likely a style and approach I will employ in the classroom starting this fall.
Angela Hanson — No one pulls off the independent consulting gig without the support of their spouse. I’m no different. And, this teaching position at UST never happens without me doing the solo thing the last nine-plus years.
See you on campus this fall!
Remember back to the early days of social media when we put customers/fans/people in convenient persona buckets?
Typically, these were titles like: commenters, influeners, creators, sharers, engagers, and lurkers.
Ever since, most companies have been focused on those engagers, creators and influencers. And, maybe for good reason. I saw one recent stat that claimed 22% of 18-34 yo’s made a major purchase after seeing an influencer endorse the product.
But, lately, I’ve been thinking a lot more about those lurkers. I’ve been thinking about the 90-9-1 rule which claims there’s one thought leader in each group, 9 others who are fairly active, engaging regularly, and 90 that are happy just lurking and listening quietly (although others have argued it’s closer to 70-20-10).
Regardless of the numbers, the majority of our social communities are lurkers. There’s no question about that. And, I tend to think that number is growing. I don’t have any data to back up that claim–I’m simply basing it on a few key factors:
- The evolution of social media platforms. As the platforms mature, I feel like more people are simply using them as news sources vs. communities to comment and ask questions. Think about how many people use Facebook and what we’ve seen with engagement rates lately. It’s flat-lining. Fewer engagers. More lurkers.
- The growth of chat apps. Growth curves for Messenger and WhatsApp have been steep the last few years. This is where people are “engaging” and talking with friends and family. And, the rest are using Fortnite 🙂
- Personal experience. Almost every month, I seem to get a note from someone that tells me they’ve either been a long-time reader of my blog or a long-time subscriber of the Talking Points e-newsletter, but they’ve never once commented on a post, or shared it publicly. And, I’ve also noticed far fewer comments on blog posts and social media posts the last number of years.
Lurker numbers are huge. Yet, we don’t pay as much attention to these people of these numbers. We downplay impressions. We minimize reach numbers. We spend billions of dollars, collectively, paying to partner with influencers to reach our customers.
Yet, lurkers still represent the most sizable, and potentially profitable, segment of our social audiences.
Consider the following hypothesis’ for a moment:
- Lurkers may not comment regularly, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually buy/convert.
- Lurkers may not share every week, but that doesn’t mean they’re not reading your blog content.
- Lurkers may not like your posts each day, but that doesn’t mean at some point they won’t share a piece of social content that they feel particularly passionate about.
Now think back to how you measure success in social media marketing. Most likely, you’re looking at engagements, traffic and probably leads. Impressions and reach may no longer be on the list.
I know these lurkers are hard to measure. They’re tough to quantify, and it’s next to impossible to explain to CMOs and SVPs the long-term business impact these lurkers can have.
But, I’ll leave you with this: Just because these lurkers aren’t engaging, doesn’t mean they’re not buying.