Author, Speaker, Digital and Social Transformation and social advocacy expert, founder of Brands Rising.
Susan Emerick is recognized by industry leaders as the foremost authority on building, implementing, and measuring successful advocacy programs for leading brands.
Susan is the co-author of The Most Powerful Brand on Earth: How to Transform Teams, Empower Employees, Integrate Partners and Mobilize Customers to Beat the Competition in Digital and Social Media – A must read for anyone striving to build brand advocacy.
Prior Susan led global enterprise social business and digital marketing programs for IBM where she led the technology giant’s social media strategy including social media listening and planning, brand engagement guidelines, social media governance, policy and measurement standards. In her current role, Marketing Director of Individual Markets at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, she leads customer acquisition and retention marketing communications strategy for the Individual Business Unit (IBU) where she is applying her extensive brand management, digital, social media and technology transformation experience to develop growth strategies for the emerging retail individual insurance market in Michigan.
She serves on the advisory board of Social Media Association of Michigan and Social Media Today. Susan has served as a long standing member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association where she serves on the Research and Measurement Council, and in 2013 she co-authored the WOMMA Influencer Guidebook. In 2011, Susan was named to the elite iMedia Top 25 Internet Marketing Leaders and Innovators, in 2015 Susan was named amongst the 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing by TopRank.
She joins us from Detroit, Michigan to discuss the role of the Enterprise Digital Strategist. You can hear our conversation in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud or below now.
The human element. We’ve discussed before how central it is to the successful execution of digital strategy. And nowhere is it more important that at the enterprise level. The reason is scale. It is virtually impossible for an individual to make a meaningful impact on the results of an enterprise if they are relying solely on their own efforts. After all, an enterprise is a highly scaled business, and needs that consideration in all efforts. But while people often look to technology as the vehicle to scale, Susan argues that in her experience, it is people that hold the keys to scaling efforts in order to achieve objectives. The mantra she uses to articulate the order of priority is “People, Process, Technology…start with the human experience whether you’re designing user experience or information architecture on a website…making it easier for humans to accomplish a task…that is going to get a lot of adoption. What a lot of people miss is not thinking about that human interaction and starting with the technology – the ooh shiny”.
This focus on people first is reflected in her book, where Susan writes about how to build safe environment and empower teams of people to become your advocates. She reinforces this point by highlighting that at IBM, they “were focused on finding the best talent and skills that could help customers with very complex technologies, whether business analytics or cloud computing or data centre management…having those types of deep skills and exposing them to the customer base…thought leadership…what we are doing in research and development to our customers to help them through complex implementations was what set us apart in our programs”. In order to do this, they “focused on equipping those technology leaders and that’s a very different thought when you think about a marketer, we are totally flipping it into ‘I’m equipping humans to help them get exposure, to help them get their thought leadership out there’. This is not necessarily a media buy. This is an enterprise wide transformation in terms of getting the experts to help the customer accomplish their tasks and become known as that trusted advisor”.
In other words, the role of the digital strategist in an enterprise is not about necessarily executing on the tactical work, or of being a technologist, but much more about being a translator and an enabler, someone who is there to empower others. As Susan says, “you don’t necessarily have to expose everything that you know…skills in user experience, information architecture, SEO, the production aspect and commercial aspect of the way that social networking and the web works. The folks you’re working with can be aided by your understanding but don’t need to know that technical detail – you’re that translator to help them become the one that is the beneficiary of your skills and the ability”. This is critical since setting up others is the only way to scale at the enterprise level. It is about the “talent you’re hiring…they have skills that if exposed to your customer base and equipped, that’s the ability to scale. Enterprise works very different to small and medium business but the power is in the skill people bring to your company and if you give them the support and the training and the appropriate recognition for their efforts then that’s a really good recipe”.
So who does this well, empowering teams of experts to carry the message at the enterprise level? Susan identifies three in the technology space who are out ahead, IBM, Cisco and Intel, who are amazing at embracing employees and equipping them. Outside the technology space, Susan identifies Nordstrom as a retailer that is excellent at designing for customer experiences. Again, they do this by focusing on the human element and the task you are trying to accomplish in the moment. She also points to Lego and the way they have developed an online community around building and being creative. What is striking about these examples is they are simply translating what their brand represents into the digital space and made the technology experience invisible to the consumer and brought them into their business. When you interact with them you are not thinking about the digital experience, rather you’re interacting seamlessly because they have made it simple and focused on the customer.
Susan’s advice to those starting out as strategists in the enterprise space is to follow your passion because you’ll be working long hours. Focus on the business goals first and apply your skills to how you can address achieving those goals with the best mix of techniques. This is a reflection of how she got started, transferring her skills in direct marketing at a time when companies were looking for people who could transfer skills based on targeting and engaging directly with customers into the digital environment. Most of all, don’t rush to execution or chasing “the ooh shiny”. Too many people focus on that and don’t think about how it impacts the business goals. Finally, whatever you put in place needs to be measured against achieving those goals. This is critical in enterprise digital strategy since your objectives will only be achieved through the work of others, and that must be measured to determine the quality of your recommendations, your thinking, and of your strategy.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.