In the vast world of marketing, digital teams and PR teams seem to be crossing paths more and more. One person who knows this well is John Mallen, President and Owner of JMC Marketing Communications & PR. A public relations veteran, John Mallen has worked with big brands to refine their voice and establish their message. For companies that don’t have the resources and staff for massive customer research projects, John’s approach offers a great opportunity to use the internal team as brand experts to find the right way to communicate and connect.
I had the chance to sit down with John and discuss what it means to be part of ‘The Bigger Conversation’ – an approach which his team uses to approach establishing the conversation. By deepening the conversation with customers, John’s clients are able to provide more value throughout all their channels.
We hope you enjoyed our interview with John. Public Relations and Digital Marketing will continue to cross paths, and we’d love to hear any questions in the comments.
Abe: Thanks for joining us for another episode of Marketology in Motion. I’m Abe Uchitelle the Director of Business Development here at DragonSearch and I’m joined here today by John Mallen, who is the President and C.E.O. of JMC Marketing Communications and PR. Thank you for joining us John.
John: My Pleasure.
Abe: And John is an expert on branding, so we’re going to talk a little bit about that today; which is a really exciting topic for us on the digital side because it comes up in conversation a lot; but, there are true experts in the field, and John is one of them. So maybe we can start out by you kind of walking us through the journey that brought you into branding.
John: Well, I’d like to do that. The journey began in my career when I moved from working in the not-for-profit Government writing and editing to a PR agency in Manhattan, and over the years realize we had to step in and help clients work on developing their brand. So over those years, we’ve developed some methodologies that have really helped our clients find success using a brand.
Abe: And how exactly do you help you clients with their branding?
John: We look at a client as typically the organization already exists; typically they have a brand; in many cases, even some of the largest clients don’t realize that they actually do have a brand; and we have a process that we use called the messaging platform, where we help our clients kind of distill what are the key elements of their brand and their brand message.
Abe: So when folks call you up, is it typically because there might be a crisis or is it more of an opportunity that they’re taking advantage of?
John: They’ll contact us for any number of fronts: they might have a crisis, they might have an opportunity, something new to launch or a product that they want to bring out or a service that needs revitalization in the marketplace, or sometimes they just realize time is going on and they need to refresh how they engage the customers. All those things are entry points for us coming in and often when we do come in, we find that they really do need to step back and look at what their brand is and how they present the brand.
Abe: Now is there a best time to have the branding conversation?
John: I don’t know that there is a best time, it’s almost as though they know it’s time: something new has come up on the R&D front, competition has come in and it’s threatening their success, or a new team has come in and said, ‘we need to take a fresh look at things.’
Abe: Because I would imagine that there’s something to be said for kind of waiting for the brand to develop organically and then building a framework once that’s kind of happened naturally. Or is it more important to really architect it from the beginning?
John: It’s probably both. When you work on it with a company with a new product, or a new service, or a new division, or even a new company, you’ve got to obviously create your brand. As we talked about earlier, it’s probably more important today with social media than ever to do that, but we find that companies that have been in business a long time can really get value from looking at their brand and having us come in and work with them on their messaging platform. Typically what we’ll do in doing this is bring the leadership together. Typically a company would have 5-9 people in the leadership team and we’ll bring them together for a workshop session where we moderate that and take them through the various elements of branding. The reason that I mention that is that the funniest thing is that the most well established companies, they’re names that you would know, they sit around and we say to them; ‘Okay, now tell us what you are,’ we don’t have to say anymore, that can go on for 2 hours and people are talking/arguing. It was a donnybrook, and so much information flows out of that, and they realize in doing that they don’t know who they are anymore, that it has really morphed, and they really need to get at it.
Abe: And in terms of that question of who you are, how much does the customer, the end user, become part of that conversation?
John: That’s a really really good question, you want to say the end user or the customer should be part of that conversation. In the real world where I work, that’s not always so easy, because companies don’t have time, they don’t have resources, they don’t have the bandwidth to go out and do a lot of customer research. Now, big big companies yeah, they can do that, but in the world we work in, it’s typically a business unit or division of a multinational probably a billion dollars or less in sales, and companies of that size don’t have huge amounts of staff or huge amounts of research budgets. Our approach is to look at the people around that table as experts. If they’ve been in business for a long enough period of time they know their customers, they know the marketplace, they know the context. So when I say we kind of gather them in a workshop setting, what led the people to be around the table is typically some of the leadership folks but also folks that they will bring in who know the customers, who know the context; so we use the people in the company as our experts.
Abe: And in terms of that kind of conversation between customers and users and companies, in today’s age, how much has social media changed that conversation?
John: Well, it’s changed it with capability aid. Obviously everyone has a computer or a device and everyone can talk to anyone, so the capability is there. What we’re trying to bring in is the will to do it. So we’re trying to say to our clients, ‘you have the ability to be a really good brand ambassador, you have the ability to maintain a conversation with the people that are in your sphere of customers and various influentials, but you’ve got to do it purposefully. You’ve got to take the time and make sure that you connect with people.’
Abe: And do you find that that’s something that there’s more opportunity for with social media?
John: Well, we were talking about having conversations and when a person in a company has a conversation with a customer or the people in their customer organization, you can only have so many meetings, you can only have so many phone calls, and then they have other things to do with their time. So, take social media or they call it digital media, add some email to it, and you’ve got a really great capability for having long sustained engagements/conversations with your customer/people. So I think that’s a real plus.
Abe: So I’d like for you to talk a little bit about something that you provide for your clients that’s called ‘The Bigger Conversation’?
John: Yeah we’d love to talk about that. It’s a product or a service that we’ve developed in recent years. It’s a customer engagement process and what we realize working with B2B clients is that they have the opportunity, their salespeople, their customer-facing people have the opportunity to go in and meet the people they normally meet with, sell them the widget they normally sell them, but then go a step further and say ‘hey could we bring in a team/could we bring someone else to meet another person in your organization? Could you get us an introduction?’ And we’re finding that really works. The customer people like bringing value into their organization, the people in the organizations are interested in learning about ways that they can be more effective, more productive, save money, so we find that the bigger conversation has been very very successful.
Abe: Now how much of there in that conversation is there a role for that kind of upper tier of leadership in a company?
John: It involves both the upper tier and you might say the middle tier. It involves anyone who I call customer facing, so certainly senior management deals at some level with customers and they can be a part of it. The middle management, the salesforce, customer technical people, customer relationships people, they can all become part of that. And so the whole team, what’s really interesting is that it brings the whole group around having conversations with our customers and having bigger conversations with our customers. So there’s a lot of internal energy that gets created from doing this.
Abe: Great! Well that’s some really great stuff that you’re working on and I really appreciate you taking the time to join us today for an episode of Marketology in Motion. Everyone I encourage you to go checkout John’s website JMCPR.com, there’s some very cool stuff and some great content you can check out there as well. And feel free to leave us a comment below, whether you’re watching on YouTube or you’re on the blog, there’s probably comments down here, so check that out and we hope that you’ll join us again soon. John, thank you so much for joining us.
John: Thank you Abe, my pleasure.