Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Executive Q&A column [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 06--Anne Zizzo was "a young woman with a dream" when she started a marketing firm in the basement of her Milwaukee home in 1995.
In the years since then, many dreams have come true for Zizzo Group Marketing + PR + New Media. Now one of the biggest marketing firms in metro Milwaukee, it has about 40 employees and clients across the country. Zizzo Group has acquired four firms over the last 12 years and is looking to acquire more, Zizzo said.
The period in which Zizzo's agency has existed has been one of big changes and innovation in marketing and advertising, among them the prominence of the Internet and all the digital advances -- and fallout for traditional marketing vehicles -- that have come with it.
Although the full-service firm has clients from coast to coast, Zizzo said having the headquarters in Milwaukee has been an advantage, one that has given her a chance to grow the business in a smaller metro environment where she could thrive.
Zizzo, who is chief executive of Zizzo Group, recently took questions for the Journal Sentinel's Executive Q&A. Here is an edited version of that conversation.
Q. How has your industry changed since you started in the business
A. What's really been happening over the last couple of years are two trends. There's been a movement back toward looking at creating deeper relationships with marketing firms. (Companies') budgets are tighter, their marketing staffs are leaner and they need stronger ROI and results than ever before because measurement is such an important aspect of how they're looking at every area of their business.
Now we're seeing this trend back toward looking for companies that provide both short- and long-term strategic marketing plans to clients. They are looking at integration across multiple practice areas of marketing and multiple communications channels, and looking more at those full-service types of relationships.
The other thing is that for a long time, organizations -- if they had a choice between 'Should we hire a traditional agency that's maybe a little weaker in digital, or should we hire a digital agency that's a little bit weaker in traditional ' -- they were looking for the traditional agency that was perhaps a little bit weaker in their delivery in digital. And that paradigm is shifting now.
Q. How important is social media today
A. Social media is very important. The thing that we like to stress about social media is that having a strategic approach to social media is what is important for companies to take a look at today.
Social media interactions can't be random, they cannot be haphazard. They are probably one of the most powerful ways to create two-way dialogue and discussion with your customers, whether that be (business-to-business or business-to-consumer).
But if you don't have a strategy and a planful way to go about listening in those conversations with customers -- responding in those conversations with customers and ultimately maintaining that conversation -- that's where social media becomes a bit of a train wreck for organizations.
But when they look to committing to social media as yet another key imperative in their marketing-communications portfolio, it can be very, very powerful because it gives companies the opportunity to hear from customers and respond to them.
Q. What makes for a good company website
A. One of the most important attributes is that the website is designed around the user's experience. It's not designed around what a company thinks a user wants to feel, experience, hear about when they come to the website. It's built around research with users.
Whoever all the different stakeholders of an organization are, their needs and expectations of what they're going to experience when they come to that website need to be nailed down and defined up front and then built into all the different parts of the website: functionality, a content strategy, making sure that proper keywords and tags are used so that the site is search engine-optimized and gets in front of all those stakeholders when they are looking for a company like yours.
You want to avoid surprises, make customers and users feel comfortable when they come into that site, and know that kind of intuitive experience translates into a good user experience that translates to a good feeling about your company, your brand, your products.
The other thing that I think is really important is that you don't just look at the website, but at the same time, companies are looking at the right mobile and tablet approach. Not just apps, but actual mobile sites. Design the site so that it's responsive, so that whichever online format you're engaging in, the site comes across to the user as being intuitive, as being easy to navigate and just providing overall good user experience.
The other thing is that organizations just don't look at building a site, but committing to maintaining a site and updating it regularly. That site needs to be integrated with other marketing channels. That's a really important kind of priority focus around social media.
Q. Although circulation of newspaper print editions is decreasing and we keep hearing the newspaper industry is dying, here in business news at the Journal Sentinel we receive more pitches and press releases than ever before from PR firms or marketing departments that want to see their client or company written about in the newspaper and its online editions. What do you make of that
A. The way that organizations look at the power of having the credentials of a reporter speaking about their company, their products, their people, their story -- whatever it is -- is still valued and held in very high regard. Over the last couple of years, a lot of organizations had to trim back advertising budgets and they've looked at channeling dollars over to public relations to tell their story in the press so that they can get that endorsement and that credentializing out of the press by having the earned-media side of their marketing start to supplant some of the paid advertising.
Q. If the president of a company was about to be involved in some negative news, is there some fundamental advice you could offer
A. The fundamental advice that we would offer around negative news is don't engage with the media or with your general internal stakeholders until you have first stepped back, hired outside counsel to put together a crisis communications strategy for you relative to that instance.
Companies should also have an overarching crisis communications strategy that provides a framework for the moment when the specific crisis happens. So you have to have the umbrella crisis communications strategy as kind of an institutional document, institutional plan for your company on the macro. And then on the micro, if, God forbid, a crisis or negative news moment happens, then you go in and develop a custom strategy for that.
Q. You probably work with lots of creative people. What's the hardest thing about managing them
A. I like to call them the 'Mac' people and the 'PC' people. The Mac people are the creatives here and the PC people are the numbers people, the researchers and that sort of thing.
I really think that the energy and creativity that our writers and art directors and broadcast producers and the creative folks in our business, what they bring to work every day is exciting. It's probably one of the major thrusts of what creates energy in our workplace. Some of the funnest moments we have with our clients are around the introduction of, development of, and ultimately the launching of, creative products.
So the tension that exists between the Mac people and the PC people in our business is a very healthy, needed tension. It's because of the different sides of the brain that are working when creatives and noncreatives come together to theorize and conceptualize and test ideas -- it's out of that perspective that comes, ultimately, great creative products that are still on strategy that we know are going to be measured for results.
Here at Zizzo Group, we harness the creative approach into really pushing us into further exploration of good, sound, creative ideas that are rooted in research and strategy.
(c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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