Tell me a little bit about your career. What events have shaped where you are today?
Well, before starting my own business and joining ArchPoint, my corporate career path was pretty well established. I started out of college with Edelman, one of the largest and most respected global PR firms, based in New York. A couple of years later I joined FedEx Corporation at their headquarters in Memphis, TN, where I worked in crisis communications, media relations and eventually managed the first social media team during my 8 plus year tenure there.
In 2012, I was recruited by a former colleague to accept the ultimate communications challenge of building a digital communications team at Philip Morris International in Lausanne, Switzerland. I had two young children at the time, and it was the opportunity of a lifetime. Eventually I was recruited over to the biotech/pharma industry with Biogen in the European Union, and ultimately ran global corporate and internal communications from the headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was only recently that I felt the desire to consult again.
How did you become interested in Corporate Communications?
In my mind, every business tells a story. This is how I process information. I’m a very curious person. I love to learn – and I was always a news junkie. Even as a child and into my teenage years, I read the newspaper every day and watched the local and national news religiously. It was a time when a limited number of media outlets held a very powerful influence over hundreds of millions of people in the US. And I realized later in life that the media and those I trusted influenced my buying decisions, interests, and even long-term trust in organizations, government officials, etc. The Exxon Valdez disaster and Tylenol recall – or even the rollout of New Coke, were major media events and I remember how they impacted the respective business for years – both good and bad. Those are all great case studies, by the way.
I went on to study journalism in college but realized that my calling was in business. However, I didn’t want to go into finance. So, I applied my creative skills, writing abilities and business sense to go down the path of corporate communications and marketing. I knew I could sell products by telling stories about them.
What advice can you give to leaders who want to improve communications in their organizations?
When I work with companies on OGSM, it’s immediately clear that many of them have a communications problem. They can’t define themselves, either because they are in the midst of tremendous change or have diversified so much that they sort of lost their core purpose. If you can’t look in the mirror and define yourself, then how can your customers see your value?
More than ever, companies are seeing the value of earned media, using digital channels to promote products without a significant advertising spend behind it. Again, it’s all about telling your story and finding a way to reach your audience in a cost-effective manner. Communications can do this. Both internal and external communications eventually define your place in the marketplace. FedEx sets the gold standard of using communications to both build and protect their brand – and they connect it very closely to the revenue stream. The ROI is massive.
How can communication help organizations achieve their goals?
As I mentioned with FedEx, communications must be tied to business objectives. Employee communications can drive engagement, improve productivity and eliminate waste. Digital communications and social media can target consumers where they spend their time. Crisis communications planning can really protect the hard-earned equity in your brand. And good old-fashioned PR can really generate a lot of exposure for a specific product. The channels have changed, and the influencers are broad, but the fundamentals remain the same.
What is the one mistake you see leaders making most frequently?
In crisis communications in particular, leaders tend to think they don’t have a problem until it’s too late. It’s important to plan ahead and think through scenarios before they happen. You can’t prepare for every specific turn of events, but you can plan through many of the basics and adjust accordingly.
What is the best business lesson you’ve ever learned?
I’m still learning. But there’s no substitution for hard work. And building lifelong relationships. I’ve been recruited by former colleagues, managers or friends for every corporate job I eventually accepted – and that’s because I delivered good results and maintained strong relationships.
What is your mantra?
“Everything happens for a reason.” It’s simple, but it helps shed a positive light when perhaps things don’t go as expected.
What’s a quirky detail about you that might surprise your colleagues?
I love to laugh. And I especially love stand-up comedy. When I’m on the road I listen to a lot of comedians on Spotify or SiriusXM. I have a lot of observational jokes roaming around in my head and think that if I focused, I could be a decent amateur comedian. The quirkiest part is this: most of these jokes remain in my head, because I rarely say them out loud! So basically, I make myself laugh. But I can be pretty funny.
What do you wish I had asked you?
My favorite food? Gumbo. I could eat it every day.