In this episode, Stacy sits down with Lynne Goldoner, the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Your People, a marketing and public relations company that uses strategic storytelling to help companies and organizations grow. The two discuss how important it is for a company to find its story and purpose in order to help build their brand awareness and grow their bottom line.
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Transcript For This Episode:
Stacy Jones (00:01):
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics for us to share their insights and knowledge, on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Speaker 2 (00:31):
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:35):
Welcome to marketing mistakes and how to avoid them. I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today, and want to give a very warm welcome to Lynne Golodner. Lynne is the founder and chief creative officer at Your People, a marketing and public relations company with a focus on purpose and story that revolutionizes how companies and organizations build brand awareness and grow their bottom line. Her agency’s core focus is on helping schools, universities, and education-focused entrepreneurs, organizations, grow through strategic storytelling, mutually beneficial relationships and higher purpose. Additionally, Lynne is the host of the podcast, Make Meaning, a Forbes agency council member, and she’s received numerous awards for her innovative leaderships in marketing and public relations. Today we’re going to talk about the role of story and relationships in marketing.
We’ll learn what works from Lynne’s perspective, what should be avoided and how some businesses miss the Mark. Lynne. Welcome.
Lynne Golodner (01:31):
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Stacy Jones (01:33):
Super happy to have you here today. And I would love for you to start off and share a little bit about what got you to here today in your career.
Lynne Golodner (01:42):
Sure, so I’m a storyteller first and foremost, and I have been since I was a little girl. I would carry around a corduroy covered journal in the 1970s and 80s, and just write down poems and skits and stories wherever I went. And that was just my first love. And so as I grew up and started thinking about careers, it never occurred to me that I could actually make a living storytelling. So I thought, “Is it business, is that law, is it medicine?” While I was on the school newspaper at University of Michigan and I was freelancing for local publications.
And then one day it hit me. This is what I love, and this is what I should do. And so I started out my career as a journalist and I lived in New York City and Washington D.C., came home to Detroit in the late nineties. And I was a journalist writing for magazines and newspapers all across the country until about 2007 when the economy was changing and journalism with it. And I was becoming a single mother to three little kids ages one, three, and five, and I thought, “Okay, what do I do? I have these skills, I can communicate. I know how to tell a good story. And so how can I use these skills to help businesses that will pay me?” And Your People was born. And so at first it was just a hunch. I want to take my communication skills, go to companies, see if they’ll hire me and do what they need.
And over time that really grew into focus on public relations and marketing. And I pivoted those journalism skills into marketing savvy. And so I do it from the perspective of telling a story and connecting with people. It’s not cookie cutter PR, it’s not cookie cutter marketing, but I’ve done a lot of trainings since then. So I do have those skills in my toolbox as well. And my hunch was that if you connected with people on an authentic level, a person to person, heart to heart, with a story that really pulled at those heartstrings, you built a relationship that was mutually beneficial. Then it benefited the business, it benefited the customer, and that would have some longevity. And all of this revolves around having a higher purpose. So businesses that I work with are not just out to make a buck, although we all are, we all want to earn a living and do it well, but really there’s something more than that.
They want to make a difference. They want to affect change. They want to make the world a better place. And so that is what connects their customers with them and really ensures their success.
Stacy Jones (04:00):
Well, two points on that. One, it makes absolute sense that you were able to craft this whole idea of telling your story with your journalist background, because I think so many brands, and we’ve worked with them done PR. They think that, “Oh, I made this product. It is press worthy. It is newsworthy. People will love it.” And a journalist, if you go out and pitch that and knock on doors, they’re like, “This is another crack pot, what? Great. What’s the story here? How am I going to write about it? Hey, this new thing is blah.” So having that story is so essential on that PR side.
Lynne Golodner (04:37):
Yes, definitely. And it’s interesting. because over the years, and I’ve been in business now for 13 years, and except for two of those years I’ve always worked from home and had a remote team, which I really appreciate.
And so we’ve transitioned well in this time, but you know, we had different niches over time and it was always purpose-driven businesses. So for a number of years, a lot of yoga studios, yoga conferences, yoga for healing companies where our niche, I did a lot of food writing as a journalist. So I had a lot of food entrepreneurs, not necessarily just restaurant chains, but mom-and-pop restaurants or carry out or somehow taking their culture and their family history and ancestry and putting it into the food. So there was a story already at the beginning. And then, and over the years we’ve had other niches as well. Right now we really specialize in education. So universities and schools, education-based nonprofits and entrepreneurs, and we work with cities a lot. So municipalities, smaller cities that have a sense of community and really want to understand the fabric of the people who live there.
And so again, there’s a purpose driving all of this. It’s more than just the, “I’m doing business. I’m making a buck.” It’s really about, it’s caring about people’s fate and their wellbeing. And so with education there’s just no limit to the stories we can tell, to the theories and philosophies behind how we educate ourselves and our children. And oh my gosh, we could talk about it until the cows come home. So there’s a lot there. And I think it has to start from that place of meaning and purpose if it’s going to have staying power.
Stacy Jones (06:08):
Yeah. And the second point that your earlier conversation that actually ties directly to this is you are actually super ahead of the game, because there’s a whole generation that they only care about the story, the purpose, the passion that’s coming up. Your gen Zs and your millennials, especially your younger millennials, that’s what their driving force is. They don’t care about the logo. They don’t care about what the product is. It needs to be a good product, but they care about that story. And you’re able to help companies actually find that better, which is going to help them more marketable, be more marketable tomorrow.
Lynne Golodner (06:46):
Absolutely. And I love that actually. It’s funny because some people will sort of dis the younger generation and I see so much wisdom and energy and also not being bound by certain parameters or expectations, really living outside the box in a way that feels right for them. And that’s something that I’ve always tried to do. I come from an entrepreneurial family. And so it was always well, why does it have to be the status quo? Why can’t we do things differently? And so I try to work with clients who don’t see a box. They don’t want to be pendant. They’re imagining the work they do in totally different and new ways. And when you do that, the sky’s the limit. And so it’s interesting, it’s innovative, it’s exciting. You want to get on board and be swept up with that.
Stacy Jones (07:30):
So when you’re working with a client and it’s a new client that come to you and they’re like, yeah help me with my story, I want PR, I want the world to love me. How do you start off? What is the first thing that you do with them?
Lynne Golodner (07:42):
So it used to be that a client would come to us and say, “Get us on Facebook and that’ll grow us. Or can you send out media, press releases,” whatever it is. And then I would look at them and I’d say, and I just have a sort of methodical way of looking at a client and getting to know them. And so I’d say, “Well, let me understand what you do and why you do it, and the backstory.” And that’s when it would occur to me. You guys don’t have a clear story, and everybody is saying different things about this brand. So we need to take a step back and we need to define who and what you are and why you do what you do. And so it sort of just happened in the natural course of working with a client.
Now we really try to start with the story development, what we call foundational narrative development. And we try to have clients bring us on for that and then build a marketing strategy. And then if they want us to help implement it, we will. But we try to impress upon people that that story is where everything begins. And so where do we start with that? Well, I always go back to the origin. So why did this organization come to be, and was it a founder? Was it a need? What was the story that really started it all? And then how has it evolved over time? So I want to see that progression. And then if I’m lucky, I’ll have the time to interview people. So people who have already, maybe they’ve been past customers and they were thrilled, maybe they’re current customers, maybe it’s the CEO, maybe it’s somebody who was just hired and you know, why did they come to work here?
And I try to interview at least a dozen people and listen to what they say. Why did you choose to engage with this organization? What was your experience like? What do you think they do well? And the same words start to come up again and again, and that’s when you know you’re hitting on some truth, because when a variety of people from all different backgrounds and interests can say the same thing about your brand, then you know that you’re hitting on something that’s really important. And I don’t even think a lot of companies know what that is. You know, what their value is. They think it’s one thing, but their customers perceive it differently. And so if we have the time and luxury to really dig down and determine what that is, the story is going to be stronger and richer and way more successful.
Stacy Jones (09:44):
And I know you’ve worked with a lot of, you said food entrepreneurs right, so smaller, but you also work with very large educational driven companies that are a little bit more corporate. And that storytelling is not about the size of your company. Storytelling is really about the ethos of your brand.
Lynne Golodner (10:03):
Yes, it’s a willingness to connect. And so it’s funny, because you would think with storytelling, you don’t want to be doing all the talking. But so much of it begins with the listening and to understand really what your market niche is. It may not be what you intended. It may not be what you started out doing. It might have grown and evolved, but you have to be open to that shift and that flow. And so you listen in order to really get a story that satisfies you, that satisfies the people you’re attracting.
And then you use that. So what we do is we have, it could be five to 10 paragraphs. It’s not super long, but that’s the foundational narrative. And we establish it. Everybody agrees on it. And that is sort of what we’re empowering everybody within the company to use when they speak about it. And then those are the words and anecdotes that we go back to for all the communications. So when it comes to our media relations, our stories should really align with what they want to stand for. When it comes to social media, we want to know have a content calendar that keeps hammering home the same concept. And the same thing goes with events and just anything we do, email blast, I’m a big fan of editorial calendars so that all the communication channels are interweaving and speaking about the same topics in the same way, because then we’re really hitting people with a brand message that’s consistent. And it’s compelling.
Stacy Jones (11:20):
When you say five to 10 paragraphs, that’s not five to 10 pages?
Lynne Golodner (11:24):
Stacy Jones (11:24):
That’s literally something that’s digestible, that all of your employees should read, that maybe you wouldn’t give the whole thing to a reporter if you’re trying to work with them on a PR pitch, but you would give them the best nuggets off it?
Lynne Golodner (11:38):
Yep. And so you can distill those five to 10 paragraphs down to what we call a boilerplate in press in a press release, which is the bottom one to three paragraphs at the end of the press release about your company. And so we usually do that for clients. So we’ll have the foundational narrative and then we’ll have a boiler plate that’s a lot more spare and concise. And the thing is that, and I realized this many years ago when I started working with schools and universities, that there was a school I was working with and I had a child in that school as well.
And I was just waiting after school for pickup. And this teacher went by and I had a question for her and she responded really abruptly. And it was just, I think we were both just sort of caught off guard, but it was a really unpleasant interaction. And I thought, “Okay, she’s a brand representative of this school. And I’m a consumer at this moment because I was a parent in that moment. I wasn’t the marketing person at that moment. And that interaction could sour the relationship with a constituent irrevocably.” And so that’s when I realized, every single person who represents an organization is speaking for the brand, and in every interaction. And if you’re not empowered to know how you’re representing it and aware that this is what you’re doing every single time you open your mouth, you could do damage.
And so it was just really important from that moment on to make sure everybody’s on board. Everybody embraces the story. Everybody can easily let it roll off the tongue so that they don’t have to think, “Well, what were those words? It’s just something that they’re really living.” And that way you can ensure that it’s a consistent brand message, and it’s appealing to people who receive it.
Stacy Jones (13:09):
And I think that goes into even making sure that that story that you’re working on is filled with your core values of your company.
Lynne Golodner (13:18):
Stacy Jones (13:18):
Because if you have someone who is answering your front desk phone and they’re sharp and they’re snide and they’re off putting and not patient, and your story is that you come from a place of love and appreciation, and you did this, you built this to help the community. It’s completely not in alignment.
Lynne Golodner (13:40):
That’s really true. And it’s funny, because when you have core values or value propositions and you’re putting it on your website and you’re putting these words together. If you look at a lot of what companies do, they’re kind of unrelatable words that they choose. And so you have to make this specific and livable and they have to be words that people can access. So if you say dependability is one of our values, well, what does that mean? Let’s get specific about it and really talk about how you act in the day-to-day, how you interact with customers to paint that picture. So they know what it means to be dependable. Because what you might think it means and what I might think it means are two different things. And then all of a sudden there’s a disconnect.
So it’s really important. I think this is a great time to bring up the idea that when we work in an industry or in a particular niche, we speak a certain language that people outside of it may not. And once you bring customers on, they speak your language, but you have to get them in the door. And so your story has to be relatable to people who just don’t know anything about you. It has to be something that really pulls at the humanity in them. So it’s that relationship, that person to person connection. And so it’s really important that we get these words right, and that the average Joe on the street can understand it.
Stacy Jones (14:53):
It’s dependable could mean, “Oh yeah, I show up on time for work, I’m dependable.”
Lynne Golodner (14:58):
Right, right. Or it could mean that when there’s a crisis and somebody is calling you at midnight, you answer the phone and you make them feel better. I mean, who knows what that means? And so we have to define the words in ways that the majority of people can really digest them.
Stacy Jones (15:15):
So you have the story development, you have the boiler plate, you are now fairly well prepared to go out and pitch to media, what are the next steps? What do you do then? You’ve gotten that piece of business, they’ve hired you on, now what are you doing with it?
Lynne Golodner (15:36):
So you have this story, and then the next piece is building mutually beneficial relationships. And so I believe that marketing is a relationship. You know, we’re in a really different era of business. It used to be that you could pay for an ad and people would buy whatever was in the ad. And it was just an easy transaction. It’s not like that anymore. People are purchasing ways of living. They’re purchasing values, they’re purchasing perspectives and hopes and dreams. And so you have to rise above and actually be more than whatever you’re selling. It has to be integrity based. It has to be something that’s really going to change people’s lives. And so with that in mind, it has to have mutual benefit. And this goes for your customers and for you and also for media. So when you’re pitching media, what’s in it for the reporter or the editor or the producer, why would they want you on the air or in the pages?
And so there has to be a benefit all around. And it’s funny because the way that I’ve built relationships with journalists, because I was one, is one of person to person. So I’m not as schmooze person. I’m actually more of an introvert than I should be for this industry. But I build relationships with journalists that are real friendships. And so I want to get to know who they are. I want to really interact and care about them and have them care about me. So I’m not pitching people blindly. There are reporters that I know that I pitch maybe once a year because I know that the other times just not a fit. But then when I do pitch them, they look at it and they respond. And even if it’s not a fit, they’ll tell me why and they’ll send me to someone else. And so I have to know that what they’re looking for in their coverage and what’s going to help them do their job and make sure that that’s a fit.
And that’s a really responsible approach to pitching media. So that relationship element is probably even more important than story. Once you have your story, you have to have that respect for the customer, respect for the media. You have to make sure there’s something in it for every person along the way.
Stacy Jones (17:33):
I think when, we have a lot of media coverage at our agency and it started, it was driven by … It’s grown over the years, but you know, a lot is because you can find so much about us through inbound content in our blogs and this podcast, and obviously relationships have been cultivated. But the reason why I think we’ve had so many journalists who stick around and move from one outlet to another and they stay in contact, is because when we’re being, when I’m being interviewed, I think less about it of, can I get my point across, whether it’s for my agency or for one of our clients, it’s more about how can I help this reporter tell their story better? What do they not know?What insights do they need to know that, I have nothing to do that they’re going to quote me about, how can I help them actually gain knowledge very quickly so that they are better prepared to tell their own story? And in that way, tell my story along the way. And it really does [crosstalk 00:18:37] work.
Lynne Golodner (18:37):
Yeah. You know, it’s funny. Because anytime I’m interviewed, I’m so curious about the person interviewing me. So I’m sitting here talking with you and I’m happy to share my expertise, but I’m like, “Okay, I have 12 questions about you and your life, let’s talk after.” Because I want to know this person in front of me. And that’s just, that’s what made me curious as a journalist. That’s what makes me love working with clients because I can do the job really well, but I really want to know the person. And I think that’s the fun right there is getting to know what makes somebody tick, what worries them, can I help in some way, we’re in a very relational time.
Even social media, social media can be a drain. It can be really superficial, but it also is a lifeline and it can be the way that people become real and we can say, “Hey, I’m here for you. Or maybe thousands of miles away, but I really do care, I’m listening and you’re not alone.” I mean, I think people need to be seen and heard and know that they’re not alone.
Stacy Jones (19:32):
And I think that social media has really been the driver for the more casual video, the more casual comments and the reality of who a brand is, who an individual who an entrepreneur is, because it used to be that all of the content you created had to be so perfect, no [inaudible 00:19:51], you know, no ums and ahs, no weird looks or something. But that reality that we get across because we’re seeing so much from social feeds now and people actually trust that authenticity more when they hear some mistakes along the way.
Lynne Golodner (20:09):
It’s funny, I obviously am podcasting from home in this time. And so I’ve been playing around with like, which room in the house has the best sound. And so I have a great microphone and I was trying to decide if I wanted to muffle the sound that also I took like a winter sock and put it over the top. And I’m like, “I’m taking a picture of that for social because that’s very real and it’s hilarious.” And it actually made the sound better that day. So, it was just, I love that. I love when people are goofy and honest and because you know, all of us are nerds or insecure or whatever. And just being, realizing that and relating on that level, I think is a lot more authentic than anything else.
Stacy Jones (20:51):
Yeah. And it can be part of your story.
Lynne Golodner (20:51):
Stacy Jones (20:54):
So what is the next step? Where do you go from there?
Lynne Golodner (20:55):
So story and then relationships. And so the idea is to be consistent. So people, I love the question of like, “Well what’s the return on investment?” And I’m like, “Well, it’s not going to be in the first month or two. I can tell you that.” And so as you know, marketing is a gradual and consistent build and it’s something that you have to be in for the long haul. So if you want to see that your revenues are up a 100% in a month, please don’t hire me, because it’s not going to happen. But I will say that over time, when you are faithful to the process, it definitely happens. And I’m not going to say a 100%, but it definitely happens. So you develop the story, you create the strategy.
So for me, even before the relationship piece, it’s coming up with, what’s the roadmap, what’s the plan, let’s understand the market. I love delving into research and understanding the competition and the niche. And I think a lot of people have a hard time dialing in their audience. And so when they say, “Everyone can be my customer,” that means nobody can. And so you have to really get specific. And frankly, specializing is a brilliant thing to do, because you can be more clear on your audience.
And then deciding what tactics. So how are we going to build relationships with that audience we’ve just identified. So we’ve mentioned media relations, social media, e-blasts, blogging, anything that you’re doing, podcasting. You know, we have a podcast, events when we can meet in person, Zoom events when can’t. Anything that we can do to get in front of people and stay in front of them.
Because as you know, the marketing research is that you need to be touched by a brand an average of seven times before they interact. The most likely way that they interact is a word of mouth referral. And so somebody that you trust says, “You got to check out this brand.” And that’s what solidifies the deal, but all the other things validate that decision. So seeing you on TV, hearing you on a podcast or radio, getting you, watching you on social media and engaging that way and all these different things. And so we do the story, we do the strategy and then we start to implement. And so, my preference, because I’ve always worked with small companies, small institutions, and I respect small budgets because I believe everybody needs marketing and PR and not everybody can or should pay a fortune for it.
And so what I would rather do is set people up with their story and their strategy and then coach them to implement it, doesn’t usually happen. People just say, can you just do it? And so I do, but it’s a lot more expensive. And so I do coach people and give workshops and things like that to try to empower people, to take on what they can because social media is something frankly that you’re in every day, why not do it yourself? So that’s the implementation. And I do think it takes time and repetition and then nurturing those relationships over time, reminding people that you’re glad they’re there, getting in front of them in a lot of different ways and being there in a true caring sense to continue that relationship.
Stacy Jones (23:39):
And with influencers even, that’s another touch point. And when you were talking about nothing’s going to result in an overnight sale, which it’s not just you, it’s, our listeners can hire anyone. It’s not going to happen overnight.
Lynne Golodner (23:55):
Stacy Jones (23:55):
It isn’t, unless you’re a [inaudible 00:23:58] and you put some magic formula out there, and kaboom, it happens. And then later on the [inaudible 00:24:04], he gets sued and there that goes-
Lynne Golodner (24:07):
Right, right, right.
Stacy Jones (24:08):
But you know, you touched on all the different what you can do and in trying to get people to be aware of your brand, that influencer marketing, your social media, your print advertising, TV advertising, radio, outdoor billboard, all of that come together to actually create and support your story, at least sharing brand awareness to get to as you were saying, until that point, someone says, “You should really check out,” and you have the word of mouth and off you go to purchase.
Lynne Golodner (24:38):
Yeah. And it can feel really overwhelming too, because there are so many marketing channels and so many ways to tell your story through different communication channels.
And so the best way to do it is to start slowly and pick one thing and master it. So if you want to be on social media, why do you have to do LinkedIn and Instagram and TikTok and Facebook and Twitter, why don’t you pick one and do it really well and build a following. And you can branch out into others in time, especially if your budget is limited or if your human power is limited. All of these channels are possible. And we’ve had clients that we do all of them simultaneously for and others that just want us to focus on one. I do think over time it’s really wise for any organization to be in all of these marketing channels, but maybe you’re alternating, maybe you do four media pitches a year and you do social media posts three times a week.
You know, it does not have to be 24 seven five days a week. I think a pace that you can keep up with and be consistent. I mean, blogging is a great example. I’m a huge fan of blogging. I think it is so helpful for SEO as well as for thought leadership. But if you can’t commit to writing a weekly blog or a daily blog, don’t, do a monthly blog. And just have something consistent that you can commit to and your readers will know to find you, and build it as you go. But if you’re going to take it on and then drop it, it’s just not worth it. So gradual is okay.
Stacy Jones (26:04):
Because after three years, once a month, at least you have 36 blogs that you didn’t have before.
Lynne Golodner (26:08):
Yeah, exactly. Maybe you publish a book of your blogs. That’s great. You know, and that’s another marketing channel, so there’s all kinds of possibilities.
Stacy Jones (26:15):
Or you turn your blogs into the start of a podcast-
Lynne Golodner (26:15):
Stacy Jones (26:19):
… and then you just keep on repurposing the content and it goes on and on sharing the story.
Lynne Golodner (26:24):
Yes, absolutely. Yeah.
Stacy Jones (26:26):
So how can people find out more about you, find out about your workshops, find out about the tools you have to help them tell their own stories better?
Lynne Golodner (26:34):
Yeah. So yourppl.com is our website for Your People. We’re also on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, we blog we’d send out an e-blast. We have all kinds of workshops. And I just launched the Make Meaning movement, which is an expansion of our Make Meaning podcasts, which I would love for people to tune into. And that’s makemeaning.org. And so it’s sort of merging the concept of meaning and purpose with marketing. And we are helping people to find their individual meaning and then use that information to build a company or a career that they love that is purpose driven. And so through Making Meaning, we’re talking about meaningful marketing as well with that sense of purpose. Which is sort of inherent in everything we’ve talked about, but sometimes it’s not as explicit. And it’s really helpful if you’re an established company to go back and say, “What’s the purpose? Why are we doing this?” And then that can infuse your storytelling with a whole rich level of awareness that people really connect with.
Stacy Jones (27:31):
That’s awesome. Any last parting words, advice Lynne for our listeners on how they should be taking steps to tell our story better?
Lynne Golodner (27:42):
Yeah. So I just think that slowing down and reflecting is really important, and trying to understand not only what your company means to you, but what does it mean to other people? So sort of getting outside of yourself a little bit. The story is something that is ever changing. As you grow, as the company evolves, you’ve got to revisit the story. I like to revisit it every year and it doesn’t change that much from year to year, but every five years you probably have a rewrite, probably have a whole new story because the origin is the same, but how far you’ve come has changed. And I think you have to let the change, change the story too. So it’s a journey and it’s something that should be fun.
And it might teach you things about what you’re doing, that you had no idea about.
Stacy Jones (28:26):
Or make you realize that maybe there’s different directions you should be going.
Lynne Golodner (28:31):
Absolutely. I think the biggest mistake anybody can make is to not actively work on marketing. It doesn’t have to be aggressive. It doesn’t have to be all the channels we talked about, but little bit each day goes a long way.
Stacy Jones (28:43):
Well, Lynne thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate your time and your thoughts and leadership here.
Lynne Golodner (28:50):
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Stacy Jones (28:51):
Off course. And to all of our listeners. Thank you for tuning in to Marketing Mistakes and how to avoid them. I look forward to chatting with you next week.
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