Making Change Happen in Utah

Last night at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used the stage to speak about an incredibly important issue to me – equality for women. Unfortunately, her memorable Oscar speech was followed with backstage words that didn’t help the cause. You can agree or disagree with her backstage follow up, but I hope that it is hard for any of us to disagree with what she said behind the microphone.

“To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”             – Patricia Arquette

The issue of equal rights, and equal pay for women has been on my mind a lot lately. Since last fall, I have been spending a lot of thinking time about how I can help the women in my life succeed professionally. Whether it be giving my time to them, or clearing the path for their success, I have become more aware that I have a key role in helping the people around me succeed.   Last nights speech from Patricia renewed my energy, and I decided to write tonight about an experience I had last December. I had intended to blog about it then, but lost momentum. Thank you Patricia for helping me to get pissed off again (the most productive time to channel my inner feminist!).

In December, Jon and I were watching television after our kids were in bed.  He was on his iPad browsing Facebook, and ran across an article from the NY Post that caught his attention.  The headline….”5 places women shouldn’t spend their travel dollars.”  He asked me to guess to see if I could come up with the list of places before reading me the article.  I rattled off Saudi Arabia (on the list), Iran (not on the list), a few countries in Africa (not on the list), and he continued to say no until I couldn’t come up with any more ideas.  Finally, he just started reading me the article.  My jaw dropped with the mention of Utah as #5.  And Turkey for that matter, which when visiting I found a wonderful open place.

The article leads with:

 “It’s a sad fact that in the 21st century, women around the globe continue to encounter rampant discrimination, harassment and inequality. Sad — though not necessarily surprising. Here are five places where women’s rights are being exploited and sexism reaches into the highest echelons of government — reason enough to take your travel dollars elsewhere.”

The state I love to live and work in meets this description?  That sucks.  I found myself a combination of pissed off at the state of affairs for women in Utah, and frustrated with the quality of journalism demonstrated by the NY Post.

Part 1:  As I mentioned in my previous post, we do need to make progress in Utah.  We need to raise young men and women who think about many options for a woman’s career – both going to work and being a mom.  We need to close the pay gap between men and women which is ranked 49th in the United States for equality.  We need more females in our state government.  We need more women in company leadership.  We need more young women to complete post-secondary education.  And, we need companies to lead the way to make this change happen.

Part 2:  Good journalism is dead.  This may be extreme, but so is calling Utah one of the top 5 worse spots for women to put their travel dollars based on discrimination, inequality, sexual exploitation, etc.  There are countries around the world where women cannot show their face, where over half of new brides are under 16, where over 80% of women report domestic abuse, and you put Utah as #5 on this list?  I appreciate the journalist bringing attention to women’s issues, and even the women’s issues of Utah, but do your research.  This article was simply inflammatory (which of course I fell for hook, line and sinker).

I feel lucky to have a support network in my husband, family and friends that help support my desires professionally and personally.  I am grateful for my upbringing where my parents taught me to only see what is possible for me, never the barriers in front of me, and to work hard to achieve what is possible.  I feel proud of my company, CHG Healthcare Services, for creating a culture to work where women in Utah (and around the country) can have the career that they want, while balancing a family at home if they choose.  Our leading brand, CompHealth, has an executive leadership team with 50% women leaders.

This recent speech by Patricia Arquette and the preceding NY Post article has elevated my commitment and my desire to utilize my experiences, and the experiences at CHG Healthcare to lead Utah out of inequality, to show other companies, and women living in our state, that change can happen if we all put our energy, our money and our time towards making it happen.  In doing so, we will not only create a better culture in Utah for females, but equality for others who are underrepresented.

So what, you may ask, am I going to do about it?  No answers yet, but stay tuned.  Today it begins with telling you that change can happen.  We are doing it at CHG Healthcare….why aren’t you?

Time Study: How Do I Become More Productive?

I have been doing a little study of the way I run my calendar and how it correlates to my productivity and my energy level.  For the last eight weeks, I have been making notes throughout the week on my calendar relative to my feeling of productivity, how much energy I leave the office with to bring home to my family, and how effective I feel like I am as a coach and leader of my team. This week I looked back at the notes, and my calendar the days I took the notes, and decided to see what I could learn.

Some interesting facts:

  • I average 45 meetings per week.  Roughly 70% of these appointments are one to one coaching/status meetings with individuals, primarily in my marketing and sales team.
  • Although this pace sounds like it would drive most people crazy, it doesn’t stress me out.  It does stress my assistant out (who has to work to squeeze it all in).  This makes me chuckle because although I know maintaining the calendar is stressful, it shouldn’t stress her out more than me.  I am the one who actually has to live it!!
  • The highest number of meetings within a single week over the last eight weeks was 56 (ugh!).  And, that was the worst week of the bunch.  I ended up getting sick that week.  Don’t know if it was due to my over scheduling and lack of energy, or my kids bringing home daycare germs (or likely some combo of the two).  The thing I can say is that I don’t want another week like this any time soon.
  • The weeks that I have around 35 meetings or less, I feel like I am at least twice as effective in helping my team and feel generally happier with my life at home with my family.
  • If I add 30-90 minute breaks throughout the day (between meetings) it helps me a ton in replenishing my energy and creativity.  The best weeks are those where I have a Friday that has at least 2-3 hours of open time to clean up from the week, and a Monday morning with at least an hour of schedule planning time to prep myself.
  • Confirmed….it does take a lot of energy!

One of the more interesting observations during this not-so-scientific study was about how my calendar gives a good lens into my priorities.  My time is allocated on my work calendar where I place my priorities.  In the first two weeks of my study, I realized that I was spending too much time in technology meetings.  Although technology is important, and marketing technology is ever changing, did I really need 5+ hours a week regarding this topic?  Easy answer = no.  So, I adjusted my calendar (and thus my priorities) and changed it to about 1-2 hours a week.  I know that this may seem like a simple realization, but sometimes we get so busy “doing” the calendar that we lose site of “planning” our time.

On the bright side, I learned that I am pretty good at this, likely by necessity.  Ever since I have had kids, my ability to accomplish things in the time windows that I have (such as this 15 minutes I have to finish this blog post!), has ramped significantly.  There is simply more to do than there is time, so I must be productive and decisive.  I actively review my calendar daily looking ahead 3-5 days to make sure my time is scheduled where I want it to be, and where it can produce the most effective results.  I know that this may sound pretty obvious, but so many people on my team (and others I work with), don’t do this effectively.  Because of this lack of planning their time, they get sucked into things on their calendar that have low return on time (ROT – should I brand this?).

So for tonight, as I prep for the week ahead, changing my calendar around to create those 30 minute windows of time in my calendar to build energy and creativity, I figured I would share this with all of you.  I hope that it helps someone else become a little more effective, or at least not stress about what lies ahead.

Marketing Plan Choices: What Do You Recommend?

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Do you recommend we invest in additional lead generation or shift our marketing mix towards brand awareness spend?  In just the last week, I heard or participated in this discussion at least 5-6 times within my team as we put together our marketing plans and budgets for 2015.  Although our operationally-focused company has a conceptual belief in building name recognition, our willingness to do things that build awareness, particularly things that cost money, is limited.  One of our company strengths is that we invest in marketing (and other programs) and focus on measuring their success with a laser-like focus.  The good…It brings an attention to execution excellence that is outstanding.  The downside, it often brings a lack of focus on long-term choices which cannot be simply measured.  The implication of this is those long-term choices often get put on the back burner in our plan recommendations.

It takes me back to my days as a P&G junior marketer, and the introduction of marketing mix modeling (MMM).  I don’t know when this process first took hold at P&G, but my first exposure to them was in 2003 when we were trying to effectively plan our multimillion dollar marketing budget and identify the right balance between advertising and trade spend.  At the time, retailer influence was growing dramatically, and the only way to afford the trade spend and price promotions being requested was to cut our television and print spend.  Was this the right plan?  If you looked at the traditional media metrics of reach, frequency, GRPs and TRPs there was no way to spread our message more efficiently than with these marketing choices.  As brand managers had a fundamental belief that investing in this media helped drive the effectiveness of our customer promotions (price promotions, coupons, displays at retail, etc.).  Our sales partners, and our retail buyers didn’t necessarily share this belief.  The beginning of MMM was an attempt to not only guide our decisions, but reinforce to these other important constituents how all of these pieces worked together to drive revenue.

As with anything, the results of this effort were only as good as the information and effort that was put into the tool, as well as how effectively we interpreted the outputs.  I don’t know if we ever reached the goal of driving cross-functional alignment to our marketing choices, but we did learn a lot.  At the core, we learned that all of our marketing choices helped make the others more effective….that in a perfect world we would run in all parts of our marketing mix simultaneously as this created the best revenue results.

Since then, the progress in both the modeling and the marketing analytics industries has been substantial, as has the shift to digital media.  About a year ago, the Council for Research Effectiveness published a whitepaper regarding the state of MMM.  Don’t read this one unless you are ready to geek out.  As I think about the conclusions in this analysis, one particular thing comes to mind:  no modeling, no analytics, no measurement of return-on-investment works without applying our human instinct to interpret the analysis.  We are often stuck believing that the “data will tell us something.” My experience is that although true, the data will tell you something, applying experienced-based reason and intuition is the critical step to turning data into something that drives the business.

This brings us back to the fundamental question for our marketing plan next year…should we invest in additional brand awareness spend (media and content) as a part of our marketing mix?  Smaller companies, like CHG Healthcare, don’t have the budgets to invest in sophisticated models such as those P&G put together, yet we still need to to make decisions regarding our budget and marketing plan choices.  So, my recommendation as we work to put together our recommendations for next year is spend time in the modeling, in the data and analytics, but to more importantly apply your reason and intuition and recommend what you believe to be the best plan to grow our business.

‘Femvertising’: Authenticity Sells? Let’s Hope So.

I was interested to see at the AdWeek 2014 conference this week that they had a panel on ‘Femvertising’ moderated by Samantha Skey, the Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.  A few definitions if you haven’t hear about this.

Feminism – the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Advertising – the act of producing an advertisement which is something that is shown or presented to the public to help sell a product or make an announcement.

Femvertising – defined by Samantha during that panel as pro-female messaging within advertising.

Although conceptually I get it, and support the rise of advertising that shows women and girls in authentic ways, I sit here feeling frustrated about this new term.  For some reason it gets me asking why we need a ‘slogan’ to simply communicate what seems like what should be common sense?  Shouldn’t pro-female messaging sell without needing a movement?  Shouldn’t this be what marketers bring out of the gates in our work?  Okay – insert idealistic groan.  This just isn’t how it works no matter how much my idealist wants it to be that way.

So, how does it actually work?  As marketers we are accountable for advertising within an organization.  Per above, this means we are responsible for producing advertisements that sell a product or service or help to make an announcement.  Generally, in organizations we are considered ‘spenders’ of money.  We work long and hard to come up with ideas that sell, and then to sell our ideas internally to our organizations so that they can get funded to be produced and distributed via a media buy which is again a part of funding we must secure on the inside of an organization.

As we do these marketing plans and work on aligning the leaders of our organization, especially in a world where digital marketing is a predominant force in the spend wars of advertising, we talk about measurement.  How are we going to measure if our advertising is working?  What are our expectations for return on investment from the money we invest both in the production of the idea and the media buy?  In order to answer this, we look to historical performance as a benchmark.  How has our audience responded to our advertising in the past, and how much has it helped to sell our products or services?  Often times this gets us back to applying what has worked in the past to sell stuff.  Generally, this is the retouched image removing some inches around a waistline, the aspirational (read that as unrealistically beautiful) model flipping her hair over her shoulder and other unattainable visualizations of what being a woman/girl (and a man for that matter) is supposed to be.

So, as marketers (and advertisers) we have generally been either creating the problem, or are simply doing our jobs which is to sell stuff.  The less progressive position is to assume the latter…to assume that the only way to sell things is to present these ‘aspirational’ images assuming that is what sells.  The more progressive position is to change things.  To not look back at history to direct the choices we make in our current advertising.  Instead, to take on ‘femvertising’ as presented in the panel despite the potential difficulty this brings in making your case in the internal sale for funding of your advertising.  This may require a shift away from a direct sales link of our advertising (like television advertising had a direct link!) and cause us to think differently about how positive reputation of our brands will drive sales over time.  The work from Always in the #LikeAGirl video gives us measurable hope (48 millions YouTube views and counting) that this idealistic view of success is achievable.  But, does it sell product?  Let’s hope so.

So instead of being frustrated that we need a new term like ‘femvertising’ to bring authenticity in advertising out, I am channeling that frustration into action within my marketing team.  Let’s hope other marketers out there are on board.

Commitments: Staying Fresh

How do you stay fresh amongst an ever changing marketing landscape?  I was reading a number of things this week regarding programmatic buying.  I am amazed at the speed of change in marketing as well as the amount of content written about it (insert irony as I am writing about it!).  It made me think a lot about staying fresh.  It is so hard to do while trying to spend my day doing my day job – or at least what I perceive as my day job.  On a daily basis, I pride myself in linking what we do in marketing to sales results.  I often worry that by spending my time so focused on analyzing this linkage makes me and my team too focused in the past.  All the while the future is being scripted through change in the marketing landscape.  Welcome to my mental dilemma.

So, I am channeling my inner problem-solver, and here is what I am going to do…

Listen to my customer:  No matter the change in the marketing landscape, one thing never changes….what my customer needs, we should deliver.  Without listening, it is impossible for our marketing, and ultimately the products and services we sell to deliver.

Ask more questions that I ever have:  I love inquisitiveness.  That said, sometimes it is easy to get lazy versus to ask why.  With enough questions, I learn from every encounter and experience more than I ever could another way.

Read everything for real:  Sometimes in light of my busy life, and my short attention span, I skim.  The number of content outlets, particularly Twitter, just makes this worse.  There is so much to consume and not enough time to consume it.  So, instead of the skimming, I am committing to really reading again.  This almost makes me giggle just writing it.

Look for inspiration in the unlikely:  An Executive Creative Director I know preaches to look for creativity in the ordinary.  My version of this is looking for great marketing in the unlikely.  This evening while watching a movie with my kids (from Disney’s Fairy series), the power of marketing was crazy.  Matthew (my two year old) told me in his toddler-speak, “Mommy, me go to magic kingdom.”  Say what?!?!  How does he know this already?

Discuss:  Per a previous post of mine, often time the best ideas come through discussion.  I am surrounded by smart people every day, and to talking about marketing with them and what is or isn’t changing can help sharpen my point of view.

I am committing this evening to staying fresh and making this a part of my day job.

Change in My Job

This week at work I had a few meetings centered around technology choices to set up our company (and our marketing team) up for success.  It dawned on me how much being a marketer and a marketing leader has changed.  When I started my marketing career in brand management at Procter & Gamble I thought a lot about brands and products, offline marketing, and connecting with consumers.  Occasionally, I would think about websites but at that point it wasn’t a big focus for me.  My leaders and I reviewed marketing plans, revenue results and return on investment of our programs.  We were traditional marketers at a best-in-class marketing company.

There was a marketing manager on our team called the “interactive marketing manager.” It seemed so novel at the time.  We staffed this role to begin to test programs that included web microsites, social marketing ideas and email communication plans.  We were trying to figure out if investing human resources and money in this digital marketing thing was worth it.  Irony.  Today, my team builds marketing programs with digital tools at the center of what they do.  In my job, I think and discuss technology options daily.  Based on this difference, you would think that my P&G experience was decades ago and not just the 10 years that it has been.

Beyond the shift toward digital and social, another massive change in the job of the marketer today is the ability to leverage data in our marketing planning process.  There is more data available than most marketers know how to use.  My experience is that often too much data is worse than none at all.  With too much data, many of my team members get stuck in analysis paralysis versus idea generation and marketing planning.  Often times my team members don’t have the experience and skills to be effective at drawing conclusions from data fast enough to build great marketing.

As a marketing leader, these two shifts amongst others have caused me to change how I approach my job.  I believe that my core functional objective is the same.  What has become different is how I do my job, how my teams bring our marketing to consumers and how I lead my people.  I have had to become more connected both in my own life (social marketing, blogging, reading business and marketing news) as well as in my work life (listening more actively to the consumers of our companies services, being online and available more often to my team).  I have had to put myself in a frame of mind to constantly learn and ask questions.  With the technology changes and the willingness of consumers to go with the change, marketing teams have to be change agents and risk takers within their companies.  As a marketing leader, I have learned to encourage and teach this behavior to my team many of whom don’t come to this naturally.

P&G’s cosmetics interactive marketing manager was the tip of the iceberg in terms of the evolution I have experienced in my marketing career.  I am counting on the next decade to be even more filled with change.  It makes me excited about what I can learn, teach and contribute.

 

 

Becoming a Marketer

In way of professional introduction, I am the head of marketing and corporate sales for a Healthcare Staffing company specializing in helping physicians and other healthcare professionals find jobs.  My company, CHG Healthcare, is the leading physician staffing company in the country, and one of Fortune magazine’s top places to work in the United States (3 years running in the top 20 in the country).  I feel luck to work there, and be a part of an organization that helps make a difference in healthcare while also building a great organization for our people.  I am hopeful to retire at CHG, whenever and whatever that looks like…..too far away to think about.  I am sure you will hear a lot more about this on here later.

The path to here took many turns, many of which I will talk about at a later time here, but one of the more interesting turns is my move into marketing.  I went to school originally thinking I was going to be a chemical engineer.  My aunt, and role-model, was a chemical engineer by training and went to work at Procter & Gamble where she ended up as a General Manager leading a division.  As a young-person, I looked up to her so much.  So, I started school with that career path in mind.  As I started school,  I realized that I actual loved where she landed and not necessarily her journey and that there were many ways to get to that landing.  Pretty quickly, I switched to a business major in Finance and Accounting.  My logic was exactly that of an 18 year old.  I liked math, and finance was the closest thing to engineering in the business school. 

One of my first classes in undergraduate business school was a marketing class, and ironically I hated it.  I found the professor, an adjunct who was up teaching at Miami of Ohio on a sabbatical from Procter & Gamble, pretty worthless.  It seemed like it was her way or the highway, and I didn’t agree with much of what she said.  As students asked her questions, it appeared like she was always making things up on the fly (at the time I was convinced this is what all marketers did) versus grounding her teaching based on facts and experiences.  She had no credibility to me.

As I reflect on that now, 19 years later, it was a pivotal moment for me.  First, I decided that there was no way I would ever be in marketing (ha ha!).  Second, I decided that I always wanted to work hard to be humble versus trying to be right or authoritative.  Finally, I decided that my business existence would always be grounded in facts and hard work and not smoke in mirrors.

Quite ironic that this rough introduction to marketing became one of the moments I believe helped me find my way professionally.  It has helped me to establish my philosophy as a marketer.  It helped to create in me an underdog mentality; always out to prove that marketing isn’t smoke in mirrors and that creativity and logic can come together into a set of ideas that when implemented with excellence can help to grow a business.