Nicole Yale (Vayner Media): “Make sure that whatever measurement strategy you have in place, is one that is tracking back what you want to accomplish”

Crisis Communication, Digital & Media, People

She build her career developing digital communication strategies for companies in Fortune 500. In 2017, she joined the team VaynerMedia (London), the famous digital marketing company founded by Gary Vaynerchuk. There, Nicole Yale runs the Digital Marketing department. Among the big brands she worked with are: Amazon Prime, PepsiCo, Unilever, Ferrero SpA, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs,etc. Before VaynerMedia, Nicole has worked at several WPP PR agencies, focused on digital crisis communications. I had the pleasure of talking to her while she was in Romania, a speaker at Digitalium 2018, and got an exclusive interview for you.

AdHugger: What would you say that are the key factors of a digital marketing successful campaign?

Nicole Yale: I think it probably starts with being a practitioner,because you have to understand the channels that you need to be on and how your audience and your consumers are using those channels. So many people have line readers and they see what the social media channels are doing and releasing,but they have no idea of a functionality looks like and what it really means,which actually means that when they are creating or doing something it happens without them knowing the context that you would never work without if you were creating something for radio or television. So it’s almost crazy when you think about it like that.

Then I would say that if you are a brand or an advertiser, it’s critical that you understand your consumer and put yourself in their shoes. So many brands’ representatives think that they own their brand and they do, maybe financially, on paper,but the consumers own the brand, the consumers if they have a bad experience or think about your brand in a way that you don’t, ultimately there is their opinion that matters the most,because they are buying and the ones that are responsible for your commercial success.

When I say understanding the consumers I don’t mean just the demographics, but going a couple of layers deeper,looking culturally what are they interested in and why. The same way we have empathy for each other as friends or family, we must be empathetic for consumers too,recognizing that they bombarded with thousands of things day in and day out and if we want our message to capture their attention we must be mindful about the best way to speak to them (in terms of culture and interests),but also from a brand EQ standpoint, to find the best way in.

And the last thing that I would tell them is: don’t be afraid to test and learn and to fail. Just make sure that whatever measurement strategy you have in place is one that is tracking back what you want to accomplish. So,if you are trying to accomplish brand awareness and you are starting with content that is more conversion-focused,you are not going to get learning that are going to tell you if there are more people aware of your brand.It’s all valuable and needed, but in what different stages does it come into play?

AdHugger: You also worked and handled a lot of communication crisis. How do you think that the situation has changed due or thanks to social media?

Nicole Yale: That is why I got started in digital. I went to Grad School and I started learning through an internship and it just so happened that I was working on a digital team and a couple of our clients had crisis. It all seemed really interesting to me,working with the traditional crisis team and looking at their thick guide books with a lot of steps. It made me wonder that while they were following all those steps the crisis was already up and developing on Twitter, therefore what do you do about that? And they were like: “we haven’t really thought about that”. That was years ago and this is how I got my start into digital. It definitely matured since then, but that was what made me interested in the subject: the “unpreparedness”, if you will,of the brands and how they just didn’t seemed equipped to move at the pace at which communication was happening.

And I was fortunate enough to work at an agency after Grad School that made me focus on digital crisis communications, so not just tracking the visible side of it – the reactionary side (what was being said, what were the responses, creating them,getting them out there),but also the preparedness side that I was so interested in. Actually helping brands and marketers and putting them into situations were they were uncomfortable. We did a surprise drill with one of our clients and we removed some of their key state holders and put them in a room and said “these people are in a 14 hours’flight to Asia,you cannot reach them and this thing has happened. What are you going to do?” And the people we put in the room are normally the people that will approve  if you need to put something really quick on Twitter or something on Instagram. And suddenly they didn’t have access to them and they had to figure it out on their own. And that is what I was very interested in when I started: working with brands and helping the people be able to better respond in key situations. You cannot predict everything, and even you predict that some sort of event  it’s probably going to happen in a different way that you thought it was going to be,but getting them in the mindset of acknowledging that these are important channels and mediums,people care about what is here and they need to hear from us, it’s really important to me. And I also see there is so much untapped potential still.

AdHugger: How long do you think companies should take in order to prepare for possible crisis and what would you say to make sure they have that in place?

Nicole Yale: I would think about it as similar to planning an advertising campaign. You have to sit down and think about what are the different things that could happen for this company,either it’s a consumer experience (we need to recall a product because it’s ineffective) or there is a scandal, where somebody at a very senior level in the organisation becomes the public face or something unpredictable, like a natural disaster and for whatever reason it impacts our company or our brand.

So, I would say that the first step is planning,like you would do in a marketing campaign,work on the strategy-what are the different thing that could happen,and then thinking on them what are the different thresholds of communication,because there is always a low degree and then severity.

That allows you as a next step to think about: what’s the messaging and how quickly does it go out? If its low degree across the situations versus severity and then,as a natural step, you get to thinking about who crafts the message,who approves it,who posts it, which platforms are appropriate for us to post on,because if we are running marketing across Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook,we probably don’t want to post the message on all of them right away. That message takes different forms. Maybe you start with Twitter, because that is where the conversation is happening,but then you post an acknowledgment on other platforms.

From a planning stand point, you are never going to be prepared for everything. But,if you start to think through some of the things that could happen,what the different levels are,from messaging to reaction and who needs to be involved, then you are most likely to be in a good place when something does happen.

AdHugger: When it actually happens, how fast should the response be? And what would you say to the company’s representatives in order for them not to be afraid to let the specialists have the final word?

Nicole Yale: The notion of fear is an interesting one,because that gets to me about people being afraid to give up control of the brand and what they don’t realize is that they don’t have the control of the brands to begin with. the consumers and the public own the brands. you do owe to the consumers to be a certain degree of transparent and open with them.How transparent you are depends on who you are as a brand and what you sell and who your consumers are. but in terms of speed I would say it’s depending on the severity. That is usually the factor that I go to. So,if there is something that is very severe, a natural disaster or a tragedy of some sort, immediately. And even you don’t have an answer,simply say it was an incident , we are aware and we are working on an update to provide to you. You don’t have to have all the answers up front, but you do have to show acknowledgement of it. Especially if people are talking about it.

AdHugger: What would you say that are still the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to a crisis situation?

Nicole Yale: Not reacting quickly enough or not reacting at all. And that goes back to the state of preparedness. When we used to do drills for our clients, it used to take them in some cases hours to agree on a tweet. And we used to tell them that wasn’t a press release,nor a news conference and in the hours that it took them to decide what they wanted to say, in that single tweet, there are thousands of people talking about this. All of whom haven’t heard from you and the are talking about you. And that is a perspective to think about.Because if you are remaining silent or you are only putting out a message,but not choosing the outlets, that is a miss.

Take away tips from Nicole’s speech at Digitalium:

  • Companies don’t understand what social media can do for them;
  • Choose specific platforms for specific objectives;
  • Get your audience to stop the browsing and immerse them in an engaging experience;
  • Culture is the shortcut to capture attention;
  • Empathy is the way to keep your audience’s attention.