COVID MARKETING LEADER SERIES

Noetic is excited to a share new Q&A series discussing what senior leaders and colleagues are doing to extend their brand and share advice with other marketers within their industry and beyond. Today’s episode features Jan Slater CMO from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign Gies College of Business.  

  1. Be intentional about your efforts. Think about your audiences and how to best communicate with them to share helpful information without bombarding them.
  2. Now more than ever it is important to stay true to your brand. Your brand is how people know you. During crisis people turn to brands that are familiar.
  3. Communicate thoughtfully.  Focus on what’s coming and the positive things that are going to happen, rather than what has already played out. Move fast but be thoughtful.
  4. Start with your internal audiences.  Translate content into meaningful communication meant for your own staff and community.   Put information in smaller chunks and into consistent channels making it easily accessible for those who need it.
  5. Do not hunker down and go radio silent, but also don’t go to the other extreme trying to do everything with little impact. Prioritize your actions based on your brand identity.
  6. Focus on the future rather than past decisions and regret. Rather than focusing on what you could have or should have done, focus on what you’re going to do. Ensure your human and financial resources are in the right spaces getting ready for the other side of this.   By focusing on the past, you will miss the opportunities in front of you.

To see more content from Noetic Consultants be sure to connect with us on LinkedIn and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

How to ensure your brand has purpose in crisis

Marketing one’s business in a typical business environment is a practice that is expected, commonly accepted, and even welcomed – when the messaging is relevant.  When a brand’s message feels too aggressive or self-serving, consumers usually vote with their feet (and their wallets) by not giving these businesses their time or money. Only when a brand is blatantly inappropriate or inauthentic will it be called out or shunned by consumers. Most brands know these “rules” and abide by them.

Not so in a crisis – and certainly not so in a global pandemic with foundational health AND economic challenges unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed. Suddenly, brands are seen as tone deaf if they are not entirely retooling how they do business – both internally (especially if they have workers who physically convene) and externally (what and how they message in the market.) What is a brand to do?

Adjust all efforts, but do not change who you are. Staying authentic to one’s brand promise is crucial during times of crisis. Actively living and breathing the organization’s mission, vision and values are key to keeping that brand promise. These elements act as a “North Star” for leaders and employees, especially during crisis. These elements, if authentically operationalized, bring organizations together and provide the guidance for the decisions that need to be made, and for the emotional support employees and customers need.

A great example of a brand and business that has done just this is WTOP. WTOP News is a leading 24/7/365 all-news outlet in the Washington, D.C. area. An all-news brand since 1969, WTOP is a mainstay that people in the region have grown up with and there is truly a brand heritage and affinity with the “locals.” My firm Noetic has had the distinct pleasure of working with WTOP, and we are truly impressed with their proactive leadership and culture.

When Covid-19 became critical in the DC area, WTOP’s leadership, like many other companies, were faced with questions they had never dealt with before – how do we keep our employees safe, how do we operate effectively when the world, and news, is changing by the minute, and how do we message about our brand in an appropriate and welcome way during a COVID environment?

Joel Oxley and Julia Ziegler put safety as the top priority. Employees moved to home offices – with only 10% staff working in the building, at safe distance, at any given time. As one of the only businesses deemed essential in their office building, WTOP worked tirelessly to reorganize operations and comply with safety requirements. They deliver updated news around the clock, with this skeletal staff in-office and all other team members working from their home studios, many reporting live from their homes.

WTOP’s brand promise is to “never miss a moment.” This promise has been taken very seriously over the years and is evermore true in this crisis. They have gone further to extend this brand promise during the crisis by supporting their advertisers and local businesses with Community Callouts. These callouts allow businesses in the region to deliver complimentary messages on what they’re doing and how they can help. Twice per day, they are also running a Frontline Heroes campaign recognizing essential employees and emergency responders nominated by the community for their efforts during the crisis.

A company’s vision, mission, and values act not only as a guide for decision-making, but they also provide strength, support and cohesiveness for a brand and the employees who represent it. As your brands finds its way in these rough waters, remember WTOP as a shining example of how to adjust and extend how you work, while staying true to who you are and have always been. 

Help First

At Noetic, everything we do for our clients and colleagues is through a “help first” lens. Whether it’s helping you to recalibrate your mission to meet your long-term goals or helping you think through and devise practical next steps executing against your brand strategy, Noetic practices help first moments daily. And we always keep our partners top of mind.

To that end, we’d love to offer you a 60-minute consultation session on us. Now, more than ever, Noetic is here for you with a simple message – how can we help you?

Thank You Mayo!

Noetic is especially proud to partner with The Mayo Clinic. Their amazing research and speed has aided in identifying health care workers exposed to  COVID-19, and has implemented a streamlined process and electronic tools to close that loop within an average of two hours of a confirmed case helping to slow the spread of Coronavirus. Thank you Mayo Clinic for your innovation, working around the clock and working to keep us all safe!

#DynamicPositivity

At Noetic Consultants one of our company values is “Dynamic Positivity.” Living that value, we always start our weekly status meetings sharing a positive update to the team. Even in a time of extreme fear and uncertainty, as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing incredible selfless acts of kindness and empathy all over the world. At Noetic, we believe in the power of positivity and how it can change lives. We’d like to highlight some of the people showing their Dynamic Positivity and we’d love to hear from you and how you’ve seen this – let’s all try to spread some positivity!

Today we’d like to highlight one of our clients, St. Clair Hospital based in Pittsburgh, PA. We’re proud to be affiliated with great people going above and beyond to support their community.

refreshing our brand: why now, why bother?

Noetic has experienced a lot of growth in the past few years, as many businesses have in what was a long standing, booming economy. Times have suddenly and drastically changed and, like all businesses today, we are grappling with leaner and more difficult times. Before COVID-19, we began a brand refresh to reflect our growth as a brand and a company, and turning into the final mile of our launch, life as we know it changed.

Like so many aspects of business and life these days, we thought about tabling it. Delaying it. Even skipping it all together. We thought, with so many difficulties going on for us personally and in the world at large, why refresh our brand NOW? It seemed a luxury, a lesser priority and perhaps “tone deaf” to the struggles of our world.

But as we thought about setting it aside, at least for the time being, a voice deep inside told me this would be the exact wrong thing to do. Caring for our brand is exactly what we need to do right now – more than ever – all of us, each day, even each minute of each day.

WHY? Your brand, during the most trying times, is all you have, and one of the few things you can control during even the most uncertain times. I have always believed that one’s personal brand, as well as the brand of a company – large or small – is one’s promise to the world: who you say you are and will be, then, how you act – to be consistent with what you promise. When we are stripped of certainty, when we are fearful, when we are frustrated, disappointed, not feeling well, worried for our family and friends, worried about our finances, our freedoms…when we are deeply challenged personally and in business, this is when our brand is most tested, and we are most at risk for wandering off course. Perhaps Emma Jameson said it best: “Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal a person.”

At Noetic, we are focused more than ever on being true to our brand, and launching this refresh at this extraordinary time in our society is helping us remember who we are and who we always want to be: A company that leads with kindness and helping, with collaborating, with dynamic positivity, even in the darkest of days. A trusted partner and strategic advisor that empowers and inspires, especially if you’re struggling to find hope. A team that thrives on helping people and brands be the best they can be: authentic and true to themselves, and to the audiences they serve. A “North Star” for brand authenticity, who guide clients as they unlock their full potential and ensure their customers’ believe in what their brand represents.

As you work your way through your day to day, adjusting to the ever-changing and difficult climate of your personal and professional life, please know that we are here for you. We will continue to pursue our “North Star” and wish you good health and peace of mind as you pursue yours. We are here to help at any time.

The Noetic Brand-Building Framework is your brand’s lifecycle

Recently, Noetic facilitated a brand positioning workshop with a client group of 20 leaders and “next generation” leaders. We divided the group into five tables of four to answer these key brand-building questions:

  • WHO do you serve?
  • WHAT do they want or need?
  • HOW can you – above all of your competitors – satisfy that want or need?

The result: The group had five different points of view on their brand positioning.

Most brand marketers would have been uncomfortable with that result. However, we were happy to see this in the room! The differences sparked a candid and passionate conversation about the brand and the value it creates for clients. Moreover, ideas and “a-ha” moments filled the room. In the end, the group agreed on a brand positioning that connected to its vision and mission.

The story continues

A few months later, our client rang us. The brand positioning exercise sparked deep internal conversations about their business strategy – specifically, their mission and vision. At the workshop, they were committed to their existing mission and vision statements but now wanted to revisit both.

Hearing this was music to our ears because although we all landed on a strong brand positioning, we know that a brand strategy not only connects to a business strategy but also emanates from it.

Noetic Brand Builder: Business Strategy to Brand Strategy to Brand Activation to Brand Optimization

The Noetic Brand-Building Framework

Business Strategy and Brand Strategy are stages of the Noetic Brand-Building Framework. We use the framework to help brands see where they are in their lifecycle and within their broader business context. 

Each stage of the framework has a specific purpose and a set of hard-working questions to ask about your brand. Ask the questions at any point in your brand’s lifecycle to understand where it is, where it needs to go next, and what it needs to do to get there.

1. Business Strategy

Purpose: To clarify your “north star” by asking questions like:

  • What is our vision for the company?
  • What is our mission?
  • Do we have a strong growth strategy?

2. Brand Strategy

Purpose: To identify your brand distinction, we ask questions like:

  • Who is our core target audience?
  • Who are our main competitors?
  • What is our unique offering (vs. that of our competition)?

3. Brand Activation

Purpose: To bring your brand to life internally and externally by asking questions like:

  • How do we educate, inspire and empower our internal teams to grow themselves and our business?
  • How do we prioritize messages and media spend?
  • What campaign metrics should we track?

4. Brand Optimization

Purpose: To improve your brand’s performance by asking questions like:

  • What are the right benchmarks for us to track against?
  • How will we adjust to optimize our brand?
  • How do we optimize our culture for growth?

A strong brand marketer embraces two things about the Noetic Brand-Building Framework.

  1. The Noetic Brand-Building Framework is cyclical. Your brand is a living, breathing entity that needs to be cared for continually. Last summer, I planted sunflowers in my garden. They grew over six feet tall, wilted, and went away. I decided not to plant new ones this year. To my surprise, little sprouts popped up in the soil a couple of months ago. Last year’s sunflowers dropped seeds that turned into new sunflowers this year. Similarly, a brand will root, grow, and produce the information needed to help develop or evolve into a new brand. Continually nurturing it will help it survive and, more importantly, thrive.

  2. Brand Activation and Brand Optimization are just as critical to a brand’s success as Business Strategy and Brand Strategy. We’ve seen brands come out swinging with a Business Strategy and Brand Strategy they love and wonder – a year later – why it seems no one is “living” their brand. The lack of traction is usually due to an ineffective Brand Activation or Brand Optimization, the two stages in which most brands do not spend enough time. 

When a brand does not gain the traction marketers hoped for, we will conduct a brand audit to help uncover what may have gone wrong. 

The review usually reveals one or more of the following about the brand and its efforts:

  1. A Business Strategy does not exist or has not been adequately communicated.

  2. The Brand Strategy was developed in isolation without the contribution or – more importantly, the buy-in – of key stakeholders outside of marketing. (Read more about the perils of this approach in this article adapted by Fast Company).

  3. Internal Brand Activation was limited to making a brand guide available to employees who were expected to read and execute rather than understand and embrace. Limiting internal communication negatively impacts marketers’ ability to create brand experiences externally effectively.

  4. Brand Optimization elements were not put in place to ensure continued learning, innovative thinking, and progress measurement (i.e., learning programs, KPIs, etc.).

What do you do next?

In conclusion, we hope you use the Noetic Brand-Building Framework to look at your brands – and the business strategies from which they emanated – with fresh eyes and objectivity. If you feel you would benefit from help with this, we hope you reach out to Noetic Consultants. We are committed to strengthening brands and the people who build them. Guiding your brand through the lifecycle – in whole or in part – is a big part of that. We welcome the opportunity to explore with you.

art and science

Jack and Jill: One Year Later

Today marks one year from the day my book arrived at my doorstep. I smiled broadly and did the only thing anyone would do upon receiving the book they wrote – captured the moment for social media!

art and science
Fall 2018, seeing my book for the first time

As I look back on that picture today, I remember how forced my smile felt. I sat there on the floor with those shiny new books and self-doubt descended. Rather than feeling euphoric, I felt the opposite. I wondered if anyone would find this book worthwhile. I wondered why I had not realized how uncomfortable I would feel to have it out in the world. And I wondered how I would muster the confidence to promote it.

But I forged ahead knowing that I owed it to myself, my team, and my company to try. Fortunately, I quickly learned that my anxiety was misplaced. The community of marketers who generously gave their time as interviewees assured me that there was tremendous value within these pages. Across the past year, I have spoken on Jack and Jill around the country, sharing the stories of these fantastic Jacks and Jills of marketing who are scaling the heights through art and science. Their stories – and the insights they unlocked for me in Jack and Jill – are inspiring and informative for both rising and senior leaders alike.

Art and Science in the Marketplace

It is exciting to witness how the importance of art and science in marketing – and the power being a marketing generalist – have become widely and passionately held beliefs within organizations. A recent article on Forbes.com called “Why You Can’t Choose Between Creativity and Data,” asserts that creativity and data cannot be isolated from each other. A recent report from Walker Sands found that 56 percent of marketers believe that creativity and technology will be equally vital to developing effective marketing strategies five years from now; 41 percent feel today’s strategies are already driven by an equal mixture of both. Likewise, McKinsey’s recent study with CMOs showed that the most successful amongst these leaders know how to identify and nurture talent who “balances creativity and analytics.”

When I speak on Jack and Jill, I share what I’ve uncovered on the power of learning, facing fear, and the value of being a generalist. Individuals and teams also take the Art & Science AssessmentTM, which, I have heard countless times, helps people gain a deeper understanding of their skill strengths and opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, they understand that strengthening their weaker side is within their grasp.

From East to West and Back Again

A year later, I am in quite a different place when it comes to promoting the book. Beyond grateful for the time and feedback readers have given, I am now motivated and inspired to promote this book. And what a year it has been! DC events included launching the book at Busboys & Poets with the amazing Heather Roymans, speaking to the local broadcast marketers at Tegna in Northern Virginia with Meredith Conte, and spending a morning with Jessica Wilson and her inspiring students at American University. On the west coast, I met with all of Discovery Channel’s marketers led at the time by Lara Richardson. I also spoke at Promax with AlterEgo’s Heather Roymans and Justin Kanner on the power of being a marketing generalist.

art and science
Nancie McDonnell Ruder and Alter Ego’s
Justin Kanner and Heather Roymans at the 2019 Promax

Leo Burnett in Chicago hosted a gathering of marketers to celebrate Jack and Jill where my friend and colleague Dan Baldino was MC. It thrilled me to have colleagues from my 25-year career attend this event, including Andrew Swinand, CEO of Leo Burnett (and one of my book interviewees). 

Recently in NYC, Tim Nolan, Executive Creative Director at A+E Networks, invited me to speak to his entire department. We workshopped “Balancing Art & Science” action plans for his whole team, which they will use throughout the year. Next up is an event in northern Maryland for TechFrederick, hosted by Tom Ehart and Nick Domaulokis. I will round out the year by hosting an event at my company’s headquarters with our valued partners at Accelerent.

art and science
A&E in New York City

In between these live events, I’ve done podcasts and my team has written blogs (with “vlogs” soon to follow) to spread the word about Jack and Jill. The more people I reach, the more grateful I am that those Jacks and Jills of marketing shared their stories with me. Their stories of resilience, learning without fear of failing, embracing generalization, and unlocking the power of art and science are truly inspiring. These marketers scale the heights every day. I am honored to give voice to their stories to help marketers understand that they, too, have what it takes to scale the heights. All they have to do is strive for it.

Give the Power of Art and Science

I would be delighted to bring the power of balancing art and science to you and your team. If you would like to learn more, please email hello@noeticconsultants.com. I would be happy to provide you with more details or answer your questions.

They say if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. Thank you for your continued support on this exciting journey. I know we will go far together.

Nancie McDonnell Ruder

NOETIC FROM THE OUTSIDE IN: A SUMMER INTERN’S PERSPECTIVE

By Stephen Ruder

In summer 2019, I was Noetic’s very own Intern. Having no previous experience in the corporate world or as an intern, I was ignorant to the type of work and involvement I would be conducting. What I learned about Marketing, Noetic, and the people that make up Noetic’s team is something that will stay with me for years to come. It truly has been an amazing experience that has given me incredible insight to use as I plan my future career. 

At most companies the intern is the bottom rung of the ladder, and this makes sense because they have little to no experience. This often manifests itself within the company as turning interns into glorified errand runners. This is not the case at Noetic. While I did get lunch semi-frequently for the office, it was something I strongly pushed for because while I do believe that it should be an intern’s responsibility, it also gave me a chance to catch my breath out of the office. Why did I need to catch my breath? Because in my ignorance of the responsibilities I would have as an intern, I had misjudged the workload I was receiving. My initial (unfounded) assumption that my daily routine would be getting coffee and lunch for the office, quickly reconciled itself. I was given a laundry list of projects that I, the wildly inexperienced intern, was to complete by the end of the summer. Quite the wakeup call. 

Some of the projects that I was tasked with for the summer included doing an extensive competitive analysis of how Noetic matches up with other marketing consultancies, nominating individuals within Noetic as well as the whole company for various awards, helping refresh our online presence and creating this blog post :). The summer kicked off with trying to get acclimated to the work environment, a 5am wakeup call on my third day for an all day meeting, and a daunting list of projects. By the end of the first week I was rethinking the whole real world internship job that I had committed to for the whole summer. 

What followed that first week changed my mind about the trajectory of the summer. I decided that I would not be mailing it in this summer and that I would throw myself into this opportunity to make the most of it. What I realized as soon as I began working on the first task on the list, the competitive analysis, was that the entire team at Noetic was chomping at the bit to aid me. My belief that help from coworkers would present itself as an “it’s your first week I’ll offer half hearted help then leave you to your own devices” was truly incorrect. The interactions that I had were much more in resemblance of “when is your schedule open? Let’s meet for two hours instead of one so that we have time to become familiar, then I’ll help you do significant work.” 

The competitive analysis of Noetic took over a month, and since it was my project, my totally unbiased opinion is that the finished product and presentation was top-notch. This was not how I felt leading up to the completion of the project. Laura Longbardi will deny the credit but she was integral to my success here. Consistently she gave both constructive criticism and was able to point me in the direction of our end goal for the project. The last bit of the competitive analysis was to present my findings to the company with a Q&A session. 

What I realized as I looked more towards making the slide deck and gearing up to present, was the position I was actually in for this project. In essence, I was about to stand in front of the entire company of which I held the title of intern, and in detail critique everything they were doing wrong and cite what their competitors were doing right. After the 45 minutes of picking apart Noetic I would then field questions and comments from the people of whom I had just critiqued. Needless to say, I was THRILLED to give the presentation and not the LEAST bit anxious. 

The day of the presentation was a Friday and this meeting was the last bit of work I had to do for the week. Despite over a month of gathering information, compiling findings, creating numerous drafts of slide decks and rehearsing in abundance, I felt wildly unprepared. I had a quick conversation with Laura where she tried to hype me up and I realized it was too late to call in sick that day; we began the meeting. 

As soon as I got the first sentence out I realized that not only was I absolutely equipped to give this presentation, but also that I wasn’t highlighting Noetics shortcomings. The presentation was about raising awareness for areas where we could grow as a company. A question that had been bothering me for most of the project was also answered. ‘Is this work I am doing even helpful for Noetic?’ The answer was a resounding yes. Everyone was engrossed in my presentation and had thoughtful questions and commentary that left all parties with the feeling of collaboration and productivity. 

It is very easy to tear things down, whether it is individuals or businesses, being critical is not a daunting task. What is difficult is acting as a company in such a welcoming and sincere manner, that an outsider can feel at home. This is what sets Noetic apart in who they are. Noetic brought in a summer intern and the first concrete task they gave was to look as critically as possible at the company and point out its flaws. This sense of humility and pursuit of self betterment on a company wide level is scarce in the professional world, and is just one part of what makes Noetic so special and unique from any other company in the market. 

The rest of the summer has blown by with each project being more challenging and rewarding than the last.The “first week version of myself” would not believe me, but I am immensely saddened to be leaving Noetic. I wish the company as a whole, as well as each individual, nothing but the best in future endeavors.