It’s all about understanding and respecting the nuances between local and global markets to stay agile, shares our latest guest, Ashley Riley, the Director of Global Marketing Campaigns and Content at Nilfisk. In this week’s episode of The Kula Ring, Ashley talks about the power of process and alignment, specifically referencing the RACI setup to keep team members informed and accountable on where they fit into the organization. She dives deeper to talk about how she’s keeping her workforce connected through the power of technology, process automation, and systems to give her team the tools they need to thrive.
Best Practices for Globally-Coordinated Manufacturing Marketing and Sales Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: I am delighted to be here. That’s how I’m doing.
Jeff White: Fantastic. I’m delighted you’re here, as well.
Carman Pirie: Well, look, well then that makes two of us. And you?
Jeff White: I’m doing great. I’m doing great. It’s a nice fall day.
Carman Pirie: Nice. Fine autumn Halifax day.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: East coast of Canada doesn’t get much better than autumn.
Jeff White: Yep. And I was able to bike here this morning in short sleeves, so there’s only a few more days of that.
Carman Pirie: I love when we get to be all Canadian on this podcast and talk about weather.
Jeff White: I know.
Carman Pirie: It’s there, and you kind of work in an eh question every episode, I’ve noticed.
Jeff White: Yes. Yes I do. It’s my schtick.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. It’s a thing.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: I like it.
Jeff White: But I am interested in what we’re gonna talk about today because as we talk to a lot of manufacturers, especially those that are global in nature, but executing on the ground in very localized markets, obviously there are some complexities there in terms of how you roll that out and how you manage it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And I would say that there are a couple of… I don’t know, almost different categories of manufacturers. You have some who, yes, they’re a global manufacturer, but they have more experience marketing where they’ve been more local. So, maybe they’re a German-based global manufacturer, the German marketing is very well developed, maybe even the European marketing is very well developed, but the North American marketing is not as much. And you have the reverse is true for organizations based in North America, as an example.
And then you have others that have been global for a long time but just haven’t done much marketing at all, or that marketing’s been very distributed, or-
Jeff White: Yeah. Not centrally run.
Carman Pirie: Right. So, as you start to, I think today’s technology advancements and things of that nature, and just marketing environment writ large, I think it has led people to want to take a more global coordinated approach often, but as you say, that comes with some complexities and I think today’s guest is going to help us define some rules of the road, as it were, for this.
Jeff White: Fantastic. So, joining us today is Ashley Riley. Ashley is the Director of Global Marketing Campaigns and Content at Nilfisk. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Ashley.
Ashley Riley: Thank you very much for having me. I’m very happy to be here.
Jeff White: It’s great to have you on the show.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Ashley, Nilfisk, first of all, let’s start with Nilfisk. What is it that you actually make and sell?
Ashley Riley: Yeah, so Nilfisk is a leading supplier and manufacturer of cleaning equipment. So, everything from the vacuums you see at a hotel to large, centralized vacuum systems. Floorcare machines are the core of our business. I often explain that to people as if you are in a retail store too late at night and you hear the hum of a machine coming along behind you, that’s the kind of equipment that we make in the floor care space.
Jeff White: It’s the, “We’re closing, please go.”
Ashley Riley: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: We make the approaching hum equipment.
Ashley Riley: Yes. Yes. Exactly. And also, pressure washers are a large part of our business, and we are a global company, in 40 countries, with distribution in many, many more.
Carman Pirie: And headquartered where?
Ashley Riley: Headquartered in Denmark. So, Brøndby, Denmark, which is just outside of Copenhagen.
Carman Pirie: Well, Ashley, it’s wonderful to have you on the show, and can you tell us a bit more about what you do there?
Ashley Riley: Yeah. Sure. So, you mentioned my title, and essentially I am responsible for the campaigning and content that comes out of the global organization that is then passed down to our field marketing experts and localized for their markets. I also run what we now consider an in-house agency in terms of supporting the local and regional teams with the types of content and creative that they need, as well.
Jeff White: And how big is that team? How big is your marketing team overall across the globe and how big is this agency within that master planning and work?
Ashley Riley: Sure. So, my team has about 15 people in-house. We are supported by multiple vendor partners and outsourced creative teams across the world, so the number fluctuates regularly, but we in-house what makes sense, and we partner with experts in other areas. We also have an entire digital team that is managed by one of my colleagues and that is a similar size team. And then once you expand globally, we have regional hubs that are made up of anywhere from 15 to 20 people, as well as local marketers, which is typically one to two per country. So, it is a diverse setup with a lot of people, and our team also includes product marketing and all of that, so that makes us quite a large organization for Nilfisk.
Carman Pirie: That gives us a sense of the beast we’re trying to wrangle here, as it were. Yeah. Yeah, so-
Jeff White: I was just gonna say, you started just doing more marketing, and you’ve been with the organization for almost a decade now, I believe?
Ashley Riley: Yes. Yes.
Jeff White: Yeah. That’s exciting. But you know, you’ve certainly seen it all the way from doing those local campaigns now to being the director. What’s been the most interesting thing that you’ve learned as you’ve moved up through that organization?
Ashley Riley: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, as you said, I started in a division in the U.S., and we pretty much handled most of our own marketing ourselves. Pretty agnostic from the global setup. And so, I’ve watched the organization morph between centralized marketing and decentralized marketing through the last 10 years or so and what’s been the biggest learning for me is understanding the specifics of each market and really making sure that if you’re taking a global approach, you have to take into account what that means at a local level across a lot of different… whether you have the capacity, or the capability, or the tools, but just making sure that the global view is not an ivory tower type of view. That they’re very ingrained in the local business and understanding what happens at a local level.
And having hubs of experts helps with that, so maintaining that kind of trickle-down communication and understanding of the markets is the biggest learning.
Jeff White: That has to be one of the more difficult things to wrangle is the coordination of that local knowledge, the product expertise, what products are most appropriate in which markets, and all of that. How have you operationalized that transfer of knowledge?
Ashley Riley: Yeah, so process, process, process, and I just recently had a new hire say, “Don’t we talk about process too much?” And my answer would be you can never talk about the process enough. And that’s especially surrounding the RACI setup, setting a matrix of who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who’s consulted, and who’s informed is extremely important, and that everybody understands where they fit in the puzzle, and when they’ll be consulted, and what type of mandate each counterpart has, you really can’t do it enough and it always changes. And that’s the one thing you have to be willing to know, is that you will set a process and then it will change, and then it will change again, and that’s okay as long as you have it in place and everybody kind of knows where they fit, especially in a matrixed organization. Everybody needs to know where they are on the web.
Carman Pirie: It’s this kind of notion of transfer of local knowledge, et cetera, I guess I suppose it always happens in some way that oftentimes there’s a local priority that’s somewhat in conflict with the global campaign priority. Maybe there’s one area of the business that is more popular in one part of the world even than it is in another.
Ashley Riley: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: How do we reconcile that as you try to go to market in a coordinated way?
Ashley Riley: Yeah. I think for us, it has been a journey where we were very local, and then we swung the pendulum and tried to go quite global, and what you learn or what we’ve learned in that is that somewhere in the middle is probably the right way to do it. And making sure that your organization is set up to support that and understand that is extremely important. So, finding that balance of global to local, so when there is a truly global priority, then you globalize that campaign. There are no questions asked. If there’s something that’s regional, you respect that it’s regional and you put the resources behind it to support a regional campaign, and same with local. And so, respecting the need for those things is part of what I was saying, to begin with, is understanding that it is not very frequent that you can globalize all communications.
Not only because of different segments or product lines, but even the way cultures want to communicate. So, in some cultures, they are very much, “Give me the facts. I want to know the technical specifications.” There’s no relationship building, right? And in other parts of the world, it’s very much about starting at the top of the funnel, understanding their business, selling solutions, so there’s a lot of ways and reasons that you need to respect those local needs. And so, that’s part of the reason that we moved more to this type, in-house agency setup because that gives us the flexibility and agility to do that instead of trying to mandate totally global messaging.
Carman Pirie: I’ve got a couple of different questions on that, actually. I’m gonna try to remember them. We’ll see how well I do. I’ve got a great memory, it’s just not very long. I guess it’s on the one hand, I think a lot of marketers can kind of wrap their head around the notion of communication tonality, sales processes being different across cultures, and that’s certainly true. I wonder how much the product adoption side of it, how much that’s shrinking, or if you’re noticing over your tenure with the organization that that’s shrinking. It just strikes me that we live in a world where a tweet on one side of the planet can create a tsunami on the other side of the planet. I mean, communication doesn’t really respect those borders very much anymore. And I kind of wonder if product adoption across geographies is accelerating as a result, i.e., is it maybe a little easier for Europe and North America to be on the same page than it was maybe five years ago from a global, or from a product priority perspective?
Ashley Riley: In terms of the actual products we sell? Or like the marketing technology we use?
Carman Pirie: Yeah, more like the products that you use… What do you want to be putting in the front window, as it were, you know?
Ashley Riley: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, certainly the pandemic has helped kind of make more common goals for probably all businesses, but we are in the cleaning business, and the whole world is going through the same pains, so that has certainly accelerated that, I think. What has been interesting, though, is to watch as some countries open, and some countries close, remain closed, managing the communications there. Even imagery is difficult. It’s like in what part of the world do you wear a mask, in what part of the world don’t you? Thinking on those lines.
But in terms of product, that has helped stabilize that for us. But again, we do have to be really respectful that there are emerging markets that are much more into a certain product line than other markets, so technology in terms of video, and virtual demonstrations, and people really coordinating more virtually has actually brought us close together. Not only in our strategy but also that resonates down to the products we sell. So, I can’t say that I’ve necessarily seen it change dramatically except with the pandemic impacting kind of a global message.
Carman Pirie: Pandemic impacting everything. Yeah.
Ashley Riley: True. I mean, it’s a total understatement, right?
Carman Pirie: The other side of the thing that I am happy with my memory for remembering this is that I was kind of curious, as you were talking about the notion of mandating, if you will, global campaigns versus respecting regional differences, I like… I found that choice of language interesting and it kind of took me back to an early part of my career, actually, which I won’t get into, but it kind of knocked on the door of this same question, because I operated a kind of an internal service operation inside a bigger enterprise. And I think one of the things, the challenges that you run into there, and I’m curious how you handle it, is when are you a service provider and when are you a regulator? When are you enforcing rules versus when are you providing a service, and do you find that to be a hard balance beam?
Ashley Riley: It is a hard balance beam. It absolutely is. I think we’re still finding where that balance should lie, and I think it does come down to what alignment does the whole business respect globally. So, commercial priorities globally, CBI mandates, tone of voice guidelines, we really kind of use our weight in those ways and then respect the local markets in terms of segments, product promotions, target audiences. It’s a matter of always finding what works and what doesn’t, but that… I would say that’s where I’ve found the most success, is if you’re grounded in certain global priorities from a sales or CEO perspective, then that’s where we align, and then you respect the boundaries locally. And you always have to abide by certain design standards, and tone of voice, and so when we can back ourselves up with that, that’s what we do.
And I’ll add that the more you can do that and make it high quality, the better, right? So, implementing not just a CBI, but also a corporate platform, as an example. One message that everybody has some level of buy-in to globally that can be tweaked and morphed to local needs will help you maintain that global consistency while respecting local needs. And that’s very much the direction that we’re going in now.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s just such an important learning I think that our listeners can take from this, is just learning from your approach there. This notion of when it comes to working in areas that are more… I guess nuanced regionally and locally, your tone has to change as the marketer to understand that you’re more of a service provider than… Whereas, when you’re enforcing corporate visual policy standards, well, that’s a different deal.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And I do like the notion of frankly if the stuff that you can enforce is of higher quality, it probably gives you a bit better permission to talk about the other stuff. It’s kind of hard to have credibility going to talk to the sales organization if they don’t think you have your house in order otherwise.
Ashley Riley: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, stakeholder management is huge in that. It’s understanding bringing people along with you, and that there’s definitely a certain skill set in keeping everybody engaged, and feeling informed, but also consulted along the way will go a long way in adoption in the long run.
Jeff White: Have to think so. And I mean the other part of the experience and the materials being of high quality is I would think that you’re probably also using a high-quality platform and experience for your local and regional teams to be able to access that kind of information. This isn’t just sent out in an email the day before the campaign starts or something like you probably have a very well organized… As you iterated before, process, process, process, to digitally enable the distribution of this.
Ashley Riley: Correct. And we are on a journey. It’s by no means perfect, but we have recently implemented more tools to help us with that. So, yeah, asset management tools, using proper marketing service type communication tools where there’s a ticket system with high-quality proofing capabilities so the communication is always documented, and then a properly organized kind of shop that the local markets can come to access materials. That is a journey we started about a year ago and we’re still on, but now we’re at the phase of the organization. Proper tagging, sorting, all of those kinds of things. But yeah, giving the markets the kind of tools to find global materials and use them readily on the fly is extremely important. And templatizing, so we also have a really good tool where as much as we can, we can load in web banner templates or point of sale templates that can be customized locally. So, they have the ability to change only certain parts of it, so copy into their language or a certain photo, but then it’s self-service.
So, it is a globally supported initiative, but it’s essentially self-supported.
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Carman Pirie: That’s obviously key to bringing this vision to life, and you’ve shared lots of I think other kinds of best practices, if you will, in this journey towards global campaign coordination. I wonder if there are any other items on your list of best practices that we haven’t been smart enough to ask yet that we can just extract out of it?
Ashley Riley: Yeah. The one that I always bring up, because I’m passionate about it and I helped implement the system, is the CRM system. I don’t want to speak for all other businesses, but I think sometimes it can be left as a sales-only system, or a sales-supported system, without support or understanding from the marketing team. And for me, a CRM is as important to the marketing team as it is to the sales team. Everything you have in there is what you need to talk to your existing customer base and most of us get most of our business from repeat customers.
So, the more ownership marketers can take in the CRM and the data in there, and the campaign management capabilities, the better. I just think it’s certainly overlooked sometimes, and even here, and I think that’s my number one tip, especially in sales and marketing alignment as an overall topic, which could be a whole nother podcast, right? But CRM ownership and sales enablement is high on my best practice list.
Jeff White: So many marketers only want to see the CRM when they found out that the lead they brought in is now closed-won.
Ashley Riley: Exactly.
Carman Pirie: Well, it’s a nice thing to see.
Jeff White: Oh, for sure.
Carman Pirie: You know, let’s be honest. But yeah, I think your point, if you can’t get in there, if you can’t begin to glean the insights out of that customer information to power your marketing, you’re really… It’s a huge, missed opportunity.
Jeff White: Yeah. So much info.
Ashley Riley: Yeah. It is. And taking a bit of ownership and even training sales in some cases on the use of the CRM for marketing can be very, very valuable. If they understand the why of needing the information in there and how it can help them, then they’re more likely to put the information in there. And there’s also a lot of ways that get overlooked of actually automating processes and almost adding headcount to your team without really adding headcount by just letting your sales team put people into campaigns or add them to email lists on their own. So, there’s so much technology that can be used on both sides if sales and marketing know the end game and the goal together.
Jeff White: Well, and I think too, you talked a bit about the struggles and the difficulty of coordinating with a very distributed marketing workforce. I have to think that it’s even another level to be able to also do that with your distributed sales force, as well. It’s fantastic that they can leverage marketing assets within the CRM, and marketing can leverage their knowledge and input about specific customers in there, but how else are you engaging with sales and staying in touch with them? Because that’s as important as having coordinated marketing on the ground.
Ashley Riley: Absolutely. So, as I mentioned, a part of our structure, and I’d recommend it for any structure, is not just having global marketing teams align, but really that alignment with sales being owned by the local and regional teams. So, consistent communication, and then as many meetings as that make sense to maintain that alignment is important. But I also think that it can really be a game-changer when sales enablement becomes the priority of marketing. So, we can market all day, and of course, we have to do that in a broader sense, but if the aim is to enable the sales force to then be able to sell based off that campaign, or based off the tool that you’ve created, that is really I think where you can move the needle significantly in an organization.
So, yeah, I would prioritize sales enablement tools and content, as my title is content. It’s not just marketing content. It’s sales content. Virtual demonstration videos. Tools to help them sell. It can be all kinds of different things, but if that takes the same priority as a global campaign, then you can really start to see the difference.
Carman Pirie: I’m kind of… There’s no way I could ask the question without you having to kind of almost spill secrets about what really works well with the sales enablement, so I’m not gonna do that, but I guess just where my head was at is like yeah, and I bet the minute you start having those kinds of sales conversations about sales enablement content, that the hooks that you use in content start to change. You probably even start to look at the marketing content differently, maybe realize that some of the things you were talking about from a marketing standpoint aren’t as important as some other items.
Ashley Riley: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: So, I guess one, is that true? That’s probably the easier question to answer. And then two, is there anything that’s surprised you there? That is just surprisingly effective that you didn’t think would be? Or that you can actually tell us about?
Ashley Riley: That’s a great question. I think to answer the main part of it, it’s absolutely true. The salespeople depending on how your organization is set up are probably in front of customers every day and can really help guide your messaging and understanding of what’s important to the customers. I can’t think off the top of my head of a specific example of something that surprised me, but I will say that making sure the people that you hire and the team that you build are invested in understanding those things is very important. You know, with the kind of mantra of knowing the customers and then making your business known, so that comes first. Know the customers. And sales is your ticket to that, right?
And being willing to adjust your messaging based on your input. And that can be regionally changed, as well, would be a great best practice for any company, I think.
Jeff White: One of the things that we’re seeing with a lot of organizations that are getting more experienced with account-based revenue competencies, where they have marketing and sales, they’re not just well aligned, but they’re working together, common KPIs, all of that sort of thing, is that the… and you alluded to this earlier. The customer service organization starts to come into play with existing customers. How are you… First of all, are you, and then second of all, if you are, how are you enabling their experience in terms of leveraging content in the CRM or other things like that? Is part of your role in marketing to assist the-
Carman Pirie: The exact expansion side of the equation?
Jeff White: Yeah, the account expansion side, and the current customers.
Ashley Riley: Yeah, it is. And I would say don’t also overlook your service team. So, there’s customer service sitting in-house, and then your service team going out to service your equipment, which is a real… could be a really amazing opportunity for cross-selling and upselling. In my experience, that is very local based on the skillsets of your service team, or your customer service team, the capacity that they have, and the capabilities they’re required to have. That can be a very localized thing based on their local management. How much are they expected to be using the CRM, and aligning, and upselling? At least in my experience, it tends to happen on a more local level.
But the more that we can push that in terms of strategy recommendation with the field marketing teams that come to us for support, the better. So, the way that we handle it is by making sure that we have a checklist of all of the possible opportunities you can take advantage of. Do you have advertising space on your eCommerce site? Does your customer service team use a certain place to resource information? Do they have access to our webshop? Can we templatize emails for people? Those kinds of things. So, make sure from a global perspective you know the right questions to ask and the ways to push the local marketers so they’re also always remembering to think of those things.
As I mentioned, in a lot of places it’s one or two local marketers, so they’ve got a lot on their plates, so as much as we can remind them about the different touchpoints they should take advantage of, like customer service and service, that’s where we really try to chip in.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. I think you’re really smart to point out that that field service component, the people on the ground, can be a real bit of secret sauce. We’ve certainly seen quite a bit of success in helping organizations design that content in a way that just gives the field service people an excuse to have a different kind of conversation with their contact. Sales often aren’t their main strength. That’s not how they think about what they do, and they don’t want a quota on their head, typically. But-
Jeff White: As a result, they’re fantastic at it.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. Exactly.
Jeff White: Just like a trojan horse.
Carman Pirie: Exactly, exactly, exactly. I think half of the battle, so this will be the most secret sauce I’ll give away in this conversation. I think the battle in the content there is at least as much about building the confidence of the field service person as it is about convincing their target like the collateral has two audiences. It’s gotta sell the messenger first and then it can be messaged. Whatever. I don’t know, but you get my point. Hopefully.
Ashley Riley: Yeah. Absolutely. And the more that you can take on the heavy lifting for them, the better. So, if you have systems built into your CRM, for example, that are tracking service calls, or the more you can automate the communication directly to the end-user, and then use sales as kind of like your cog in the wheel to answer the call, right? Actually, providing them opportunities to sell instead of expecting them to find them themselves I think is a great way to start, at least, so they feel supported and they’re more answering the question that they get asked versus trying to position the company to upsell or cross-sell is a good first step to get in the door with your service team.
Carman Pirie: Really cool.
Jeff White: Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Carman Pirie: I’m curious, Ashley, as we kind of reach the end of this episode, it’s been quite a journey for you over the last decade and taking this more global role. I’d be curious, what’s the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered that you didn’t anticipate? You kind of almost didn’t see it coming?
Ashley Riley: Yeah. That’s a great one. This is going to sound so simple, but the impact of translations on your business.
Jeff White: No, it’s not simple.
Ashley Riley: It’s a no-brainer. It’s almost like a silly thing to think and it’s a very… I often couch it as like a very American perspective, right? But really understanding not only the translations but the nuances in culture, that there is a lot to it and that’s why it is extremely important that you respect the need for regional and local campaigning. It has to be there. And so, you know, I think I went into this thinking, “Well, of course, you can have a global campaign. It would be great to sell everybody the same thing.” But even if you can agree to tell everybody the same thing, the way you tell them has to be different. And this includes that massive beast that is translation. When you want to translate into 30 languages, even the time that takes is significantly longer than I ever expected it to be. That means you have to be prepared even sooner than you thought, so when you go into it thinking you need six months to prepare a global campaign, it’s probably more like eight, right? Just from localization.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And can I just say to our listeners, please hire professional translators. Don’t ask your local sales and marketing teams to do the translation because they know both languages. Knowing both languages is not the same thing as being a translator. Oh, my goodness, and I’m just… I’m on my soapbox now, but one of the services that we provided in that organization I was referring to earlier, where we were a service provider and a regulator, one of the services was translation. And that’s very early in my career, I was like, “What? Your people are certified? This person’s certified to translate from English to French but they’re not certified to translate from French to English. Explain this to me.” You know, as somebody new to it I just thought that was so peculiar, but of course, I guess of all the things, if we’re talking about respecting the regional teams, also respecting those languages means proper translation.
Jeff White: Yeah. The respect that is given by actually wanting to ensure that you’re speaking appropriately is just massive.
Carman Pirie: But it’s a big investment for companies to make. And as they make that quest to serve global markets, I think it’s a cost that most of them underestimate. So, I really appreciate you bringing it up.
Ashley Riley: Yeah. A cost in actual cost, right? For your quality translator. But it costs in time, so if you haven’t properly resourced or staffed your local team because no matter how high quality the translation is, it still needs to be validated, right? So, that’s another additional responsibility you’re adding to an already probably booked local marketer. So, the better, more efficient you can get at translating, also the more time you’re getting from the local marketers, and also the more likely they are to actually implement the content you’re giving them, because if they don’t have time to translate it, or they find it as more of a weight, then less likely they are to actually use the content.
Jeff White: Wow. That’s fantastic advice. I really appreciate you taking us through everything in terms of how you approach global and local campaigns, Ashley. It’s fantastic.
Ashley Riley: Absolutely.
Carman Pirie: It’s been wonderful having you on the show. Yeah.
Ashley Riley: Yeah. Thank you for having me. It’s been good to remind myself also.
Jeff White: Cheers. Thanks.
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Ashley RileyDirector of Global Marketing Campaigns and Content
Ashley Riley is a marketing communications executive with 15+ years of experience in integrated B2B marketing, from public relations to advertising and digital marketing, now with a focus specifically on campaigning, content marketing, and creative services for a global marketing organization. She is motivated by transformation, with a demonstrated history of building high-functioning teams that shape brands, drive engagement, and increase sales. Ashley is most passionate about sales and marketing alignment, and understanding the challenges of all global stakeholders to find solutions and create sustainable organizational change. She believes in a people-first approach to management and marketing with an emphasis on “why” in all communication, internal and external.