Expert One-On-One Series with Taunya Renson-Martin
In this recent Indicate Media interview, Mach Media’s Founder and Managing Partner Taunya Renson-Martin talks MarComs, storytelling, social media and the power of chutzpah!
1. Your company uses the slogan ‘Every Great Relationship Starts With a Story’ - can you tell us more about that, and why 'story' is so important for your company?
One of my favorite things to do with good friends is to reminisce about how we first met. For instance, at least once every 2 years, my best friend and I dredge up the story about how we met in the communal bathroom of our dorm rooms at JMU. And the story of how I met my Belgian husband at a BBQ in Washington D.C. is near legendary among our friends.
People love to tell stories about how they met, about the interesting times they had, about first impressions, about near disasters and how they pulled through together… These tales weave us together, make us laugh, sympathize…They draw out our emotions. They bond us together. They help build bridges of trust.
At Mach Media, we are storytellers. We help companies tease out the motives, shared memories and shared ambitions that bind together team members or connect businesses with their clients. And we help organizations communicate these stories through words, videos, animations, imagery, performance….
Finally, we also enjoy fantastic long-term relationships with each of the companies with whom we work. There are many great stories to tell there too!
2. Are there any tried and true marketing/communication rules you follow when it comes to working with businesses? Why?
I’ve never met a rule that I wasn’t interested in breaking!
So, let’s see… make an impact. Don’t do stuff to just be doing stuff. Communicating and marketing isn’t about “putting stuff out there”. It’s got to hit people in the gut. It’s got to compel them to act; and preferably act the way you’re hoping they will. So the only way to be sure that’s happening is by measuring the impact of the campaign or activity. And the best way to measure whether or not you’ve reached “the goal” is to first establish what the goal is. So, 1) set KPIs, 2) act and 3) measure. That’s a 1, 2, 3 rule that’s hard to get away from.
3. Do you find that your clients in the United States and the types of stories they want to tell are different than clients and their stories outside the U.S.?
The stories aren’t different. The way the stories are told can be a little different.
If I can be so bold to paint a large generalization, our clients throughout Europe tend to be way more modest about “tooting their own horn”. There’s a reluctance to “let’s talk about me”. Now generally, that’s not a bad thing. The downside is, however, that some corporate cultures (the US for example) may mistake modesty for “lack of backbone”. Not saying something is equated with not having something to say.
So, we work with a number of Europe-based companies with international operations, helping them to better explain or demonstrate what they do and the benefits their products or services deliver, in a way that feels comfortable and credible to them and that still engages their non-European counterparts.
4. What led you to choose marketing/communications as your profession?
Now that’s a story related to the story of meeting my husband!
Long story short. I was an actress in Washington D.C. until age 26 when I met my Belgian husband and moved to Belgium (as all impulsive actresses do).
Armed only with my English language, writing skills and chutzpah, I started freelancing as a copywriter and journalist for several marketing & communications agencies and magazines (private jets and fashion, don’t ask). Eventually the workload grew large enough (and so did my family with the birth of my second son) that it made sense to turn my freelance work into a small agency. Eight years later, there are 15 of us and two offices, one in Gent, Belgium and one in Washington, D.C.
5. How is Mach Media adapting to the quickly changing world of Internet and social media? Has this changed your view of marketing, and how so?
We certainly use social media, but so far it’s not heavily used among our clients. We have many B2B clients who are still a bit reticent about the ROI of social media. The investment in their time to engage on social media is one they choose not to prioritize.
Of course, we still run social media accounts for several of our clients, but frankly, there is no comparison to having direct access to the CEO through a social media channel or having an engineer spontaneously share new ideas or witty observations that arise during the course of the workday. Social media should be personal. I for one disdain “polished corporate media accounts” – you know the ones where you can practically hear the chain of validations being checked off before the tweet gets out there…
We’re also interested in internal social media. Many companies still struggle to encourage people to engage on platforms like Yammer and Chatter… Employees feel they don’t have enough time, consider it to be yet another office tool or don’t want to appear “stupid” in front of their peers (this is particularly the case in global companies where the unwritten rule is to communicate in English, but non-native speaking colleagues don’t feel comfortable enough with their English writing skills to engage in public written discussions).
6. In your mind, what are the three most important characteristics of a successful marketing/communications campaign?
- It knows its audience. (Make the effort to segment your audience, not only by role but also by behavior and needs!)
- It’s super creative, smart AND simple. (Make it interesting, but make it easy. We now have the attention span of a gnat. Help us “get it” quickly.)
- It has SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) objectives and is measured against them.
7. What is your favorite project you've worked on and why?
Building Mach Media is my favorite project! I was an actress before. I definitely did not study how to run a transcontinental business. That said, a few of the skills I learned in the theatre are paying off. One of them is improvisation. Always say YES and then play out the scene.
8. What do you think will happen with branding and marketing in 2016? Any predictions?
No real predictions. But I’m excited about mobile phones and the unlimited possibilities due to having a photo studio, film studio, recording studio, the world’s largest library, communication hub… in our pockets. That’s where I’m going to throw extra focus next year (my 13-year-old son is making some amazing no-budget movies)!
9. On a lighter note - if you could go back in time to any point in history, where would you go and why?
1973, Georgetown Hospital, Washington D.C., when I was born. I’d be happy to do almost everything all over again!