Author: virginia.miracle

I am a passionate Word of Mouth Marketing practitioner. The juxtaposition of my experiences in WOMM vs. my time in the trenches of one of the country’s most voluminous direct marketers has given me firsthand understanding of the power of customer conversation and the relative inefficiency of shout and interruption marketing. Currently, I am the Director of Word of Mouth Marketing at Brains on Fire, a national Identity and Word of Mouth marketing company. There, I champion the client services group and intimately shepherded the Fiskateers crafting ambassador program for the first 18 months of its existence. Brains on Fire is a supremely creative and intuitive company. If you ever are in search of examples for how to make every customer touchpoint express your true personality, try calling the Brains on Fire front desk. I was first turned on to the power of conversational marketing through a role I was asked to tackle during my 4 years at Dell, Inc. in Round Rock Texas. I began my time there in Corporate Strategy and rolled through various roles in consumer marketing including word of mouth marketing manager (believed to be the first WOMM title at a F50 company) and leading the company’s online advertising to consumers and small businesses. Before that, I was a proud member of the late-90s phenomenon Trilogy Software and earned a BA in English language and literature from Princeton. I am a member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s Board of Directors. I am also a new mom, a mean Scrabble player, and a (formerly closeted) Bruce Hornsby superfan. I recently completed GH3 for Wii on Medium, but secretly doubt if I’m going to get good enough to go through it on Hard. I’m not sure how many more times I can listen to Metallica’s “One”, anyway.
A Community Of Practice: Growth at Light Speed

A Community Of Practice: Growth at Light Speed

My name is Virginia Miracle and I am a Customer Success practitioner (hi, Virginia). This is not what it says in my bio, but I think it just might be the truth.

Last week was a long, revelatory, and inspiring. I spent time in beautiful surroundings and part of two different Communities of Practice – the first was the Gainsight Chief Customer Officer Summit (hosted at the secretive Skywalker Ranch, hence Yoda) and the second was serving as a speaker at a customer’s internal social media summit. Despite the awesome work that Gainsight does on forwarding customer success as a practice, I am not sure that I would have self-identified on a reptilian level as part of the “Customer Success Community” prior to last week. I’ve spent basically all of my career as a marketer, I serve marketers and heck it wasn’t that long ago that I was honored to be part of TopRank Marketing’s 25 Women Who Rocked Digital Marketing in 2017. Walks like a duck…But then there’s this whole Customer Success gig I seem to have. The 6+ years of on the job lessons from building Spredfast’s Customer Success methodology and team appear to have armed me with both much to give and to learn. I found it very inspiring to engaging in debate and sharing with fellow CS leaders who served customers as diverse as procurement and pastors.

The second part of the week was at a customer’s internal social media event which brought together geographically disparate social teams for 2 days of training and best practice sharing. The way the logistics worked, I was able to attend all day and visibly see the crackle between the attendees in the same way I had felt that myself at Gainsight event. They all walked away feeling closer to colleagues and committed to sharing more on their best practices calls.

3 takeaways from a remarkable week in these 2 special communities:

Prescriptive Practice is not the enemy of Artistry – Embracing playbooks, automation, and other technology tools to deal with the repetitive or high frequency motions frees up your limited human resources to do the things that defy playbooks and repetitive motions. This is true for everything from social care inquiries to troubleshooting docs to thanking promoters. Being prescriptive creates room for grace and learning.

We Can Learn Faster Together – No one and I mean no one at the CCO summit had everything figured out. Given how quickly the space moves, that would be nearly impossible. But I have no doubt that the number of ideas, frameworks and new practitioner colleagues I walked away with will help me optimize solutions far faster than if I was in this alone. The same goes for the large customer team I was with at the end of the week. The comfort of all being in this together, still learning, and that being OK is powerful stuff.

Connecting in Real Life Sparks Meaningful Digital Sharing – Connections that were made in both of these forums that will no doubt be taken forward with gusto and bear meaningful acceleration.  And what better time to remember than 4 days before SX kicks off! Building and maintaining meaningful connections to our loose tie Frolleagues (<- see what I did there) is an investment in the braintrust that can grow our smarts ahead of the pace of market change. And is well worth the investment of the upcoming weekend…

 

 

 

3 Lessons from 3 Months of Prepping to interview Michelle Obama

3 Lessons from 3 Months of Prepping to interview Michelle Obama

2017’s professional highlight without a doubt was interviewing former FLOTUS Michelle Obama on stage for the Spredfast Summit in October. Before we go further, the answer to your first two questions are: “Yes, she’s as amazing and warm and brilliant as she seems” and “No, I was not freaking out, I was extremely honored.”

While I learned a lot from Mrs. Obama during the interview (some takeaways here and here), the process of preparing for the day itself was rich with lessons. These are heavily informing my 2018 personal goals and I’m sharing in case they might help others as well.

Review the Game Film – The Spredfast Marketing team who pulled off the coup of securing Mrs. Obama in the first place started me on a steady diet of looking at available previous interviews with Mrs. Obama to critique and second guess everything from editing to question flow. The major challenge is that much of what is available are other celebrities conducting the interviews. While everyone is interested in the FFLOTUS and Oprah comparing notes, I was well aware that the audience was there to hear from her, not me, so I needed to take a slightly different tack.

Preparation sets the table for Serendipity – I ritualistically prepare for keynote presentations by building muscle memory. The better I know the material, the more I can be present in the moment to connect with the audience and perform on the day. While I have done a number of onstage fireside chats previously, I have never actually acted out rehearsals or done technical practices – those I prepped by “warming up” the interview subject in prep calls which was not on the table here. Thus, we needed to rehearse with surrogates. I’m not going to lie, I felt a little (ok, VERY) silly at first. However, knowing that I could juggle interview cards and a handheld mic and had practiced the questions over and over meant that I had more mental bandwidth in a very adrenaline fueled moment to try to actually LISTEN and simply guide the course of the conversation. My favorite moment of that hour was riffing with Mrs. Obama about her comments about making sure to review tweets – a moment only made possible because I wasn’t obsessively trying to remember or get to the next question.

Leadership is Everywhere –  Mrs. Obama was amazing, but truthfully, I learned a something from everyone who stepped in to help me practice and polish – including WPEngine’s CEO Heather Brunner and my own husband who got dragged into the prep process in the final week. Turns out, I don’t turn to the man I walk through life with and ask him hard questions about leadership every day, but he’s pretty wise. While its amazing to be able to ask the former First Lady serious questions about how social media has changed the electorate, what it will take to get the next generation into politics, and how to tell a story through a team, we have leaders in our midst whose perspective is similarly valuable. We should be asking hard questions of everyone.

As I think forward to 2018, I am spending a lot of time reviewing the ups and downs of 2017 – not what happened, but how I reacted and chose to act, to speak, to prioritize, to spend my time and to behave. This year my goals center on being more thoughtful about how I spend my time. I wish to spend more time proactively investing in myself, my children and my community and far less of it in my comfort zone of reacting to incoming items. And I do want to spend more of my time with my remarkable friends, colleagues and my spouse discussing about things that will make a difference in the world or right here in Austin, TX.

Wendy’s & The Audacity of Personality (video)

Wendy’s & The Audacity of Personality (video)

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Brandon Rhoten on stage at the Times Center in NYC (photo credit @msspinach)

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to interview Wendy’s head of social/digital, advertising and media, Brandon Rhoten live in NYC at the 2017 WOMMA Summit. Brandon was pithy and forthcoming, sharing the story behind the Wendy’s brand personality and how their approach to audience engagement has led to runaway successes like fan/competitor “roasting” and “Nuggs for Carter”. Check out the live counter of Carter’s free nugget retweets vs. Ellen’s Oscar selfie retweets – he overtook Ellen about a week after this interview transpired.

Perhaps most valuably, Brandon shares techniques for watching what is starting to grow organically and how a brand can gently encourage that tinder to catch fire. Brandon also shares the way management built their tolerance for their “charming challenger” personality being able to take risks and tolerate mistakes.

Check out the video here or the Forbes article on the interview here.

Little Hands for Diaper Need

Little Hands for Diaper Need

 

This spring, my son went through one of the new Little Helping Hands tracks programs aimed at grades 3-5. The program combines age-appropriate education with a series of activities exploring different aspects of a single issue facing Austin – in this case, poverty. Luckily, 9 year olds can’t drive so this was also a pretty formative experience for the parents as well. We found a major difference between volunteering once or twice a month at a smattering of different agencies (takeaway: “we volunteered”) vs. thematic volunteering around a greater topic (takeaway “poverty impacts fellow Austinites in a huge number of ways…”).

Perhaps the biggest shock of this experience was that when it came time to chose an independent extension project, my son chose the Austin Diaper Bank – not a part of this track of volunteer exercises and seemingly less appealing to a 9 year old than the microhomes of Community First Village or direct service of a food pantry. In the end, we realized my son’s attraction was that other people weren’t focused on this issue and that it is simple:

  1. There are babies in need right here in Travis County
  2. Government assistance doesn’t cover diapers, so
  3. We need to help bridge the gap for parents who are making hard choices between things like hygiene and lights

My husband and I have been very interested in the ADB as years ago at Ogilvy I had been staffed on creating a CSR project focused on diaper need. Through that experience, I had met a number of independent diaper bank founders and been inspired by their relentless pursuit of shedding light on this issue and helping mothers in need. As such, I have been a relatively regular volunteer at ADB with my son and he knew their story. The project he chose was one to help the ADB both with funds and in raising awareness – it grew from there.

He wanted to raise money at a the equivalent of a “lemonade stand” to take advantage of the hikers who come to our neighborhood to go down the Hill of Life. Over the course of a few weekends, he raised money, but had the opportunity to have dozens of conversations about WHY he was raising money for the diaper bank and why it exists.

From there, I sent out a post on Facebook that we’d be collecting diapers. I assumed people would stop by with open packs of diapers for us to take to the bank. However, in the world of Amazon, we were shocked to see diapers arriving at our door almost daily from all over the country. Co-workers at Spredfast leaned in to donate as well. By the end of the project Fletcher had collected $228 and 2,689 diapers to help fill some of the most in demand shelves of the bank. We finished by gathering friends and family to inventory, wrap and shelve the diapers so they would be ready to go out to local agencies.

Fletcher was proud of his work and my husband and I were shocked to realize the impact of putting just a little focus, effort and time against an issue. This will not be the last time we set our sights on improving our community.

 

Austin CityGram Piece Live!

Austin CityGram Piece Live!

In December, I had the pleasure of spending the day with the talented Nadia Chaudhury.  We walked though a very fun day in my life – including interacting with Natanya Andersen and Jan Ryan who are two of my Austin favorites as well as my team.  It is a rare and special thing to have talented artists capture in words and images the joy that you find in your daily life and I adore this piece. If you’re interested, the full article and amazing photos at Austin CityGram here.

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