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Season 02, Episode 16

How To Approach Marketing During The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

With Director of Marketing at Fellow, Digital Marketing Instructor & Startup Mentor, Erin Blaskie

About the Episode

In this episode, I chat about the Process of Building a Brand Remotely with Erin Blaskie. Erin gives tactical advice for things that you can be doing now with few resources to build your brand at your company. She’s got great hacks for how to repurpose content across different channels and tells you exactly where to focus to build your company brand. Then we got into a conversation about personal brands and how you can leverage the time you might have instead of commuting to get yourself out there in the world.

Erin leads the marketing team at Fellow.app – a productivity tool for managers to help facilitate better one-on-one meetings and team meetings. In the fifteen years since starting her first online business, Erin has helped so many businesses come online, establish their web presence and create community. She’s an expert in leveraging the power of the Internet to create culture and inspire change. Erin has worked with companies such as Disney, Post, Kraft, Travelocity, Microsoft Canada, Ford Canada, PepsiCo., 3M, and more.

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Full Transcript

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Erin:

This is not a time that is normal. And I think we need to just approach it that way, that this is not normal times. So do things that you wouldn’t normally do. You know, like, like we’ve talked a lot about, um, you know, this is the time to experiment with your personal brand. So just do it. Don’t overthink it, don’t think you need to have this really big plan. Just start and see, see where it goes. Um, so I think if I could just, yeah, if I could just say anything it would be, now’s the time. Attention is here. Leverage it and just start.

Chris:

What’s up everybody? I’m Chris Ronzio, founder and CEO of Trainual and this is Process Makes Perfect as always, we’re talking with experts in process creation, automation and delegation. Basically the people that know how to make business easier. You just heard Erin Blaskie in this episode is all about the process of building a brand remotely that could be building your company’s brand or building a personal brand, but doing it in these new remote times, it’s, it’s a different market. So she’s got some great tips. Aaron leads the marketing team at fellow a productivity tool for managers to help facilitate better one-on-one and team meetings in the 15 years since she started her first online business. Aaron has helped so many companies come online, establish their web presence and create communities. She’s an expert in the power of leveraging the internet to create culture and inspire change and she’s worked with companies like Disney, post craft, Travelocity, Microsoft in Canada, Ford and Canada, Pepsi co, 3m and more.

What I loved about this episode is that Erin gives such tactical advice for things that you can be doing now with few resources to build your brand at your company. You can create content, you can shoot videos. She’s got great hacks for how to repurpose content across different channels and tells you exactly where to focus to build your company brand. Then we got into a conversation about personal brand and how you can leverage the time you might have instead of commuting to get yourself out there in the world. So if you want to learn how to become an expert and a personal brand or if you want to spread your company’s message far and wide to come out of this market ahead, this is a great episode to listen to.

Chris:

Welcome to Process Makes Perfect. I’m your host Chris Ronzio and as you heard in the intro today we’re talking with Erin Blaskie. Erin, thanks for being here.

Erin:

Yeah, thanks so much for having me.

Chris:

So I got to meet Aiden actually about a month ago and so I learned a little bit about Fellow, the company that you’re with, but if you could, for anyone that’s listening, just give us a brief overview. What is Fellow and how did you come to be with them?

Erin:

Yeah, yeah. Well, and it’s funny as I’ve been with the company for about six or seven weeks, so still relatively new, but, even before joining the company, I was actually using Fellow at my previous employer for my own one-on-ones. So essentially Fellow is, I like to call it a meeting productivity tool, um, or like a productivity tool for meetings and their managers or managers in their meetings like whatever way you want to say it, but essentially, I use it for all of our one-on-ones, team meetings, all hands. It lets me build collaborative agendas. I can ask for feedback from my team and provide feedback and a number of other things. Integrates with Slack, all kinds of good stuff like that. But it’s a great tool. Honestly, if you’re, if you’re, especially if you’re running remote meetings, um, it’s a fantastic way to make sure that you show up to those meetings with a collaborative agenda. You know what you’re going to talk about and everything’s really clear and transparent. So I really love it.

Chris:

So stop hacking together project management tools to run your meetings, right? Use something specific.

Erin:

Well, yeah, and honestly, like a lot of people I know don’t even show up to a meeting with an agenda or they show up with like a Google doc, which is not great long term. Um, the last thing I’ll say about Fellow that I love is that there’s a meeting history that happens. So if I am having one-on-ones or even a recurring meeting every week, I can go back really easily and look at the previous notes to see what we covered. So, um, I love that, uh, for so many reasons, but so not only do I drink the Kool-Aid working here, I was already a huge fan before I joined.

Chris:

Well, I think the best thing a company can do is have customers that are such big advocates that want to come work with the business. And so what we’re going to talk about through, through this interview, I guess, is you’ve built this expertise in marketing and brand building and you’re bringing that to Fellow recently, but you’ve been a speaker and published a ton of content and recently you’re putting out a lot of content about remote work. So, this whole world has been thrown into this remote pivot, I guess you could say. And I want to talk about how what is the process for going remote? So, you, you worked remotely for a long time, right?

Erin:

Yeah, yeah. So, before joining Fellow, I was with a startup accelerator, and right before that, I spent 14 years working remote. So,  ran my own company, uh, started the company at 21. So, I was pretty young when I, when I drove into that, ran a fully distributed team, uh, worked from my house. I mean, it was, honestly, it was one of these things where I was so young when I started that I didn’t even realize the difference of, you know, working sort of in-office versus remote. So it was very just what I knew and it was, you know, kind of that, that’s all I knew. Um, but coming back to it now is really different and we can obviously talk about that, but yes, 14 years we’re remote. And it was honestly one of the best things. I loved every minute of it to be completely honest.

Chris:

So, it’s such a broad topic that there’s so much we can dig into, but let’s start with just optimizing as an individual, you know, people that have been thrown into this and aren’t used to working remotely, what could you suggest for them to set themselves up for success?

Erin:

Yeah. You know and part of the conversation I’ve been having with so many people lately is the, is the difference between this situation we’re in right now being a true example of what it means to work from home versus kind of working from home in a crisis. And so what I want to say first and foremost is that those two things are obviously very different. When you’re, when you’re moving into, you know, remote work full time, that is just the way it is, maybe the company’s already set up that way. Uh, that looks one way. Um, working from remote or working remote during a crisis, it looks a lot different. You know, you’re usually, or in this case, not you, not even usually this is honestly unprecedented times where like this is something that anyone really has a playbook for. But for so many people, they sort of been thrust into this, right?

Like it’s brand new, they’re not set up for it. The companies themselves aren’t set up for it. Companies themselves aren’t really set up for it. So I think as an individual, when you cut when you’re sort of thrust into this environment, I think getting some schedules in place early on, really key, um, boundaries are really blurry when you work from home. Uh, I’m sure you know, anyone that’s listening to this can relate. Like for me, I’m set up on my dining room table right now because I’m sharing a space with my partner who also is working from home. Um, and this is brand new for him too. And so I’m on the dining room table, which means like if I’m working away and then you know, it makes it harder to stand up, but it also makes a way easier to come back to work any hour of the day. So getting that schedule in place I think really early on is so key. And then the environment you’re in, right? Like if you can set up a home office, fantastic. Um, if you can’t, because you’re sharing like we are and there’s just, we’re both on calls, we’re both doing things like this. Um, you know, then it, you have to get a bit more creative. So I think space schedule, those two things I would say like right out the gate, absolutely need to be put in place.

Chris:

So it’s funny, our director of marketing, the same thing, she’s at her dining room table and her husband’s walking around and taking calls and she said it feels like a call center. Like it’s hard to be on two conference calls. So the space is super important. How do you stay connected with the rest of your team? Like, are you communicating all day? Are you over-communicating or do you each have a list of things to work on?

Erin:

Yeah. You know, I think that’s, that’s really a the primary difference, right? With working in an office versus working remote when you’re in an office, even if you’re not actually chatting with everyone all day, you see people, there’s that visibility. If you do have a question, you can just simply go tap them on the shoulder. Um, but working remote you have to leverage technology. So at Fellow, we’re using Fellow of course for our meetings and that’s been really helpful in terms of being able to, again, collaborate on those agendas and make sure that we’re showing up to meetings intentionally and making those effective. But we’re also using things like Slack. We’re using Zoom. For video calls, it’s sort of a mix. Some of our team members are using Hangouts, summit, zoom summits, the video on Slack. Um, but we’re just sort of using what works, right?

Like we have access to all this technology. And I think the best part about this, um, happening when it’s happening, not that it’s great that it’s happening at all, but is that we are so, um, like technology is so accessible today and um, not expensively either. So you can get a fairly robust system in place for communicating remotely without it costing you a fortune. And to your point about over-communication, that is so key. You know, you have to be communicating so much more than you ever would in person because it’s really easy for it to almost feel like an out of sight out of mind or a bit of a black hole. Like if you’re delegating, especially or even if you’re trying to report up or whatever you’re doing, it’s really easy for it to feel like nothing’s happening, especially if the person is in deep work. So I think that over-communication is huge.

Chris:

Yeah. So you mentioned a lot of the tools that we’re using too, but now I’m curious from a company standpoint, Fellow and Trainual are both positioned as kind of remote work tools. You know you can use them from anywhere. So do you feel like you are already in a perfect position for this? Or have you had to pivot your messaging a lot to appeal to this new flood of buyers?

Erin:

Yeah, so I think yes and no. So I think, we were never positioned as a remote-first tool. So I think like that’s something that, um, even in this condition, I don’t think we’re going to do. I think we can position Fellow as being very beneficial for remote teams because it is, but it’s also beneficial for all teams. And so we’re, we’re really like, you know, looking at it like we want to provide as many resources and, you know, um, advice based on the experiences that we have collectively on our team working remote and, and building and growing a company remote. But at the same time, we’re still a tool that’s used by all teams. So I think pivoting wouldn’t be the right word I would use. I would say it’s more of a bolstering of like remote work resources and content onto, you know, existing resources. We already had.

Chris:

Okay. So you’re an expert in brand building. You’ve talked a lot about this, put content together. So if you’re bolstering your brand with this new market, it feels like the playing field has been leveled and everyone is reacting in some way positively or negatively to the new market. So how do you think about building brand through this environment or what kind of activities are you guys doing?

Erin:

Yeah, so you know, it’s interesting. I think the landscape has definitely changed and when it comes to marketing and brand building for companies, that has entirely changed. I’m actually on a call with a large number, I think there’s 200 plus CMOs. This call happens once a week. It’s got, you know, the CMOs from Privy and Gong and Drift and big companies that I admire that they’re marketing. Um, a lot spend. Anyway, on this call we’re all sort of talking about the shift in this environment and what do you do, right? Especially if, for example, let’s say leads are down or sales are down or whatever the case may be. Um, for you, this is a really important time though for companies to continue to do some very foundational brand-building activities. So things like content generation, um, building guides, doing videos, podcasts like this is the time, to really build out the foundation of your content so that when things do pick back up, you’re already a bit ahead.

Right. Um, I’m also hearing from some people that a lot of companies have scaled back on their like paid ads. They’re not doing as many, you know, for obvious reasons. Um, budgets are being slashed and there’s layoffs and all kinds of stuff. But if you are in a position where you can afford to still maintain budget in those areas, or let’s say you had budget and like event, you know, let’s say you going to conferences or events to build brand there, you can actually divert a lot of those funds now into your digital spend and take advantage of doing some of that list building and again, audience and brand building in this time. I think the thing to be careful of is not to try to sell too hard in this environment. That’s a really tricky thing right now for a lot of companies because obviously like they need to keep the lights on, they need to keep their teams and staff in place. But it can come across a bit tone-deaf. I think if you double down a little too much right now on any kind of hard selling or hard marketing.

Chris:

Yeah, I agree. So we’ve pivoted a lot of our strategy where it used to be all about conversions and acquisitions and signups and pushing that. And now it’s been a little bit more into the content and the traffic and the retargeting. And if, if a team had a pretty lean budget and maybe they’ve had to make some cuts or they’ve got, you know, the one do it all marketing person, are there a couple top ideas that it’s like, if you can’t do everything, just do these things.

Erin:

Yeah. So, I mean, and this is, this is a, in a way, a tough question to answer based on the company’s own kind of goals or objectives for sure. But I think you can’t go wrong building anything – like I’ll go back to my previous point, anything foundational – so anything content-oriented like that now is the time to start a podcast. You don’t have to, you don’t have to launch it yet, but now’s the time to start getting some of those interviews. Like we’ve been really leveraging that time to do different things we wouldn’t normally do because people are more free, you know like they’re more available. Um, in some ways, in some ways they’re not, but in some ways they are and everyone’s home. So now it’s a great time and they’re not kind of managing their lives and commute and in-office meetings, and a whole bunch of events and everything else. Like it’s in a way, a lot of ways really quiet. So I think if you could start anything now where you’re targeting these really big well-known individuals or influencers in your space to engage with or work with you now, you don’t have to launch it, but get some of those things in place right now, while you still can.

Chris:

Yeah, that’s a great recommendation. I think a lot of people have more time than they had previously because they’re not traveling. They can’t go out. There’s no meetings, you know, so everybody is, or no less in-person meetings I guess. So they’re, they’re sitting at home and responding to their LinkedIn messages. So how do you…

Erin:

I was just going to say a prime example. We just had a manager chats yesterday. So, um, and actually we had Jonathan from your team on there. We did a manager chats. It’s a Twitter chat fully, obviously like free virtual, anyone can join in. And um, and I went out to a whole bunch of people asking them to be hosts for the event. Thinking like, okay, like with, you know, normal sort of no responses. I’m going to get maybe six panelists. We ended up with 22. Um, and we had the CEO, I Gitlab, the CEO at WordPress, um, you know, like the VP of marketing at HubSpot, a CTO at Shopify, like these, these are people who are, you know, fantastic. Like they’re uh, you know, everyone’s fantastic but like they come with both the clout of their position and the place they work. Um, and I, I don’t know that that would be as possible. I’d like to think it is, but like, you know, I don’t know if it would be as possible if we weren’t in, in a time when their attention was just a greater, so I think take advantage of it.

Chris:

Yeah. Even like, you know, I bet if anybody needs to get ahold of NBA players or something right now like they’re not doing anything, so

Erin:

Yeah, hop on Instagram, follow them and send a DM. What do you have to lose?

Chris:

Right. So, so funny you mentioned Instagram. I was noticing early on, you know, the first couple of days of this, everyone’s posting these memes and funny things. And it seems like the content production is almost trailed off. Like there’s this void of production because there’s now an oversupply of attention. Everybody’s at home looking at their, at their thing. So there seems to be a void if you can produce

Erin:

Well, yeah, and I would say like, and this is going to be dependent on your business of course, but if you can leverage platforms like TikTok or Instagram for your company like now is the time people are so hungry for it and you’re right, there is this oversupply of attention. I’m even noticing it myself, like my, when I go, you know, like I’m not, I’m barely opening Instagram anymore because I’m just sort of like, I have nothing to share right now other than the same four walls that I’m in. I don’t have those like glamorous moments that are happening in my life. Not that they happen often, but, um, you know, I’m not traveling. I’m not doing you like my adventures, rock climbing, whatever.

Chris:

Less, less FOMO at the dining room table.

Erin:

Yes. A lot.

Chris:

So, all right. So for anyone that’s listening, you’ve done a great job with building up a personal brand. You’ve got your site, you do speaking, and so do you think this is a great time for people to be investing there as well?

Erin:

Oh, a hundred percent. Honestly, it’s funny, I’ve had this conversation probably five times in the last two weeks, two or three weeks, however long it’s been. I’m losing track of time. Um, but yes, now is the time. Like this is, this is a fantastic time to do things like that. Creating a website on WordPress or Squarespace or Wix. Grabbing your Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, whatever channels you want to be on and really starting to create and develop content there is so key. I think this is the greatest thing anyone can do, especially if you’re early on in your career. But honestly at any time because, and this is like something I say all over the place, it is the one thing you take with you, right? When you, whether you’re working at like where I’m working now or whether I go self-employed or whether I go to a different company.

The one thing people can’t like can take with them that’s not proprietary to the company they worked, worked for is the, is your personal brand. So I think it’s a fantastic thing to build. Do a lot of show and tell of your talents on your personal brand sites like I think it’s just a great way to show people what you can do. And not only that, but even if you’re in a company, it’s a fantastic creative outlet. And sometimes we’ll actually give you ideas for things you can do internally and will give your employer ideas and you know, kind of examples of what you’re capable of, especially if it’s not part of your core job. So I think there’s benefits all around.

Chris:

That’s a great idea. And I think people more than ever are investing in online courses and teaching themselves new skills and updating their LinkedIn. It still blows me away when I see someone’s LinkedIn. That’s has no photo and it hasn’t been filled out. And so like, if there was ever a time to work on your, your brand, I feel like this is the time.

Erin:

Yeah. And make a little checklist. Like I’ve done that for myself too. Um, you know, I’ve sort of have like a quarantine checklist of things that I want to accomplish and what some of those things are definitely producing more content for my own, you know, personal,  Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube. I have a YouTube channel that has almost 10,000 subscribers that I’ve basically neglected. So reviving that is on that list. Um, and I think like, you know, and I signed up for a course at Harvard, so I’m doing a leadership principles course there because it’s related to my job, but also because it’s great to just, you know, freshen up some skills. So there’s a lot you can do. Udemy and Coursera, like there’s, there’s really low cost-free options, LinkedIn learning another great platform, get HubSpot certified. Like so many things.

Chris:

No excuses anymore. Okay. So back I guess to the business, you know, what can companies be doing right now to build community and connect with their audience because if they can’t be selling and converting people, what, what should they be doing to at least connect with them?

Erin:

Yeah, so I’ve seen lots of great examples. Um, I think, you know, the Twitter chats that we’ve done this week are one, one way. I think doing more sort of live, Q&A’s on LinkedIn or Instagram live like these platforms exist. I think you can leverage them to just even, and it doesn’t need to be fully fleshed out. Like think about a topic, think about a problem that your audience has quite a bit. Throw on your, you know, like a live feed through LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, whatever, and then just simply answer questions that come in from your audience. Um, I saw someone else doing office hours where they set up a recurring zoom. Um, and this is coming down from some of this C-level folks in these companies where they’re hosting office hours, they put zoom up, anyone can join again, ask questions. The CMO office hours thing I’m a part of was is great. I’m connecting with so many people that I might not, I may not otherwise connect with. Um, start a Slack channel. Like there’s, there’s so many things, um, that I think you can do like LinkedIn group. I mean the list is honestly endless, but now’s the time. Like create containers for conversation and start inviting, you know, people within your, you know, that are already within your audience to participate, and then they’ll naturally start inviting people within their own circles as well.

Chris:

Containers for conversation. I wrote that down, underlined it a few times. I love that this is the perfect time to do that. And the office hours idea is so great because I think it’s easy for people to get flooded with questions on a one-off basis or requests for phone calls. And if you can batch all that together and say, here’s the hour I’m doing this every day or every week and just join in. That’s a great way to, yeah.

Erin:

Yeah. And then I would say like report it. The last thing I’ll say, record those, then get them transcribed, then turn each of the questions and answers into like LinkedIn content and honestly like you’ll be gold for like a month. So really easy something to do.

Chris:

Okay. So marketing hack, you heard it right here. Just do a live stream, get it transcribed, record it, make LinkedIn posts, blog posts. That’s an endless content. Such a good idea. Okay. So as we wrap this up here, we always do this thing double-tap just to learn a little bit more about you. So five questions, just answer whatever comes to mind. First one, what’s a brand that you think has perfected its process that you admire?

Erin:

Only one or can I have a couple? I would say, I would say one of my biggest like I like a role model brand for me is definitely Drift. Yeah.

Chris:

Yeah. I love their books and everything they do. Yeah. Yeah. Who is someone who’s coached or mentored you?

Erin:

Oh gosh, that one is harder cause I like, honestly, I feel like I’ve had so many fantastic mentors. Um, and I feel like I learned something from everyone, up, down. So like everyone, I try to learn something from. So I think everybody I’ve ever met.

Chris:

Across the board. I love it. Yeah. Your favorite book or podcast?

Erin:

Oh, Everyone Hates Marketers. It’s a podcast, honestly. Great. It’s super tactical. If you’re a marketer or even like in a company growing anything of growing a brand, listen to it. It’s very tactical and practical.

Chris:

Cool. I’ll check that out. Uh, the most entertaining person you follow online,

Erin:

Probably Gary V even though I am not a humongous fan of hustle culture, but like I do think he does have some solid points and he’s honestly like, uh, an amazing brand builder. Like whether you love him or hate him, cause you probably will do one of either. He’s a great brand builder.

Chris:

He is just like an exclamation point as a person. Like you, you can’t, you can’t ignore it. All right. And what’s one app you can’t live without?

Erin:

Uh, right now. Um, okay. Well this is hard cause there’s some apps like I categorize is productive and then others that are like, I can’t live without. Okay. Entertainment value right now. Um, definitely TikTok.

Chris:

I am, I’m like, weirdly obsessed. I agree with you. It’s like you open it up and you just can’t stop watching it. So if you haven’t seen TikTok yet, yeah, it’s so fun. So creative, the people on there. All right. So, so to summarize, I knew we talked about a lot of things. We said, you know, I’m going remote, some tips for that, building content, building community. Is there any big lesson or takeaway you want to leave people with?

Erin:

Uh, I think just like this is an unprecedented time, right? Like this is, this is not a time that is normal and I think we need to just approach it that way. That this is not normal times. So do things that you wouldn’t normally do. You know, like, like we’ve talked a lot about, um, you know, this is the time to experiment with your personal brand. So just do it. Don’t overthink it, don’t think you need to have this like really big plan. Just start and see, see where it goes. Um, so I think if I could just, yeah, if I could just say anything it would be, now’s the time. Attention is here. Leverage it and just start.

Chris:

Perfect. So take Erin’s feedback. Try something you wouldn’t normally do. Experiment now is the time. See how it works for you. Aaron, I really appreciate your time. This was a fun conversation.

Erin:

Yeah, thanks so much for having it was, it was a lot of fun.

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