In this episode of The Kula Ring, Jeff and Carman talk with Kristin Fallon, Marketing Communications Executive at GE Power, about creative content channels, connecting across cultures, and crafting marketing that works anywhere.
How Global Companies Can Create Universal Marketing 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, my name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how are you doing?
Carman Pirie: Fantastic. Fantastic, Jeff and I’m really excited for today’s guest.
Jeff White: Yeah, yeah, me as well. Really interesting company…
Carman Pirie: Living in interesting times…
Jeff White: Yep.
Carman Pirie: And a fantastic career trajectory.
Jeff White: For sure, yeah. Joining us today is Kristin Fallon, who is the Marketing Communications Executive at GE Power. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Kristin.
Kristin Fallon: Thanks guys, happy to be here.
Carman Pirie: Kristin, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you do at GE.
Kristin Fallon: Sure, so I work at GE Power and as most people probably know, GE is a conglomerate, so we’ve got aviation, healthcare, many businesses. I work at the GE Power business, which sells big, large power generating equipment and then all of the great distribution equipment. I lead our marketing communications or customer communications team, we kind of call it both, which includes events, content and then the brand and narrative for the business.
Carman Pirie: And look, I think we may as well jump right into it ’cause you’ve just gotten back from a bit of a whirlwind tour, producing some content that’s going to be going live here shortly, if it hasn’t already. Talk to us about that.
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, so we are in the midst of a really cool partnership with CNN. Some of you guys may have seen some of the content already. It’s a partnership where we’re actually working with Turner’s Courageous Studios on some branded content, so together, we’ve been building out a series of what we’re calling tier A, or kind of anthemic videos, about the work that GE’s doing globally in the energy industry.
Then, to supplement those videos, we’ve got a number of shorter form or smaller assets like articles or really short videos. Those have started rolling out on CNN’s social media channels already. They’ve been live for probably a month now and actually tomorrow, the first anthemic video is gonna go live. I am recently back from a trip with the Courageous Studios team, out to Ethiopia, Pakistan and several countries in the Middle East.
Carman Pirie: That’s amazing. When we first started chatting, I heard about delivering higher content-driven impact. I’ve got to admit, my mind didn’t immediately go to a partnership with CNN, necessarily. Unpack that strategy a bit more for us and talk to us about the part this plays in the larger strategy moving forward.
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, so there’s two key pieces to this. One, is the creative that we’re building and so these videos, which you’ll get to see very soon, they’re really different. We hired a host and we sent him out on location to visit places where GE technology is delivering real human impact. He’s there and he’s exploring how the energy industry is transforming and what sort of technology is available to really help people ultimately get access to electricity. It’s cool, it was inspired by Anthony Bourdain, so it’s got a really fun, kinda fast-paced, curious style to it. We think the creative is really unique, so that’s part of why we went with this partnership.
The other piece is the distribution, so the channels to market. Just to say the elephant in the room, GE is going through a tough time right now and we’ve got some operational challenges and that’s really playing out in the media, so we thought that CNN was a really great way to get branded content out on their channels, to a really broad audience, where we can tell some really positive stories about the impact we’re having.
Carman Pirie: What I find really interesting about that… well a number of things, but one is that, I think a lot of people, their initial instinct would have been to kind of hide a bit more. It seems like yours has been to push forward, not to hide from the news channel in a time of… tough times, as you say, but rather actually say let’s use the same channel and tell another story.
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, absolutely. I think what’s playing out in the media… its gotta run its course. We do have operational issues we are committed to fixing. You hear that straight from our CEO. The other reality is that we’ve got a lot of great stories to tell. We are very committed to excellence, we have incredible technology, we’ve been innovating for over 100 years and we continue to innovate. We hear from our customers that they want us to win. We know from our employees that they want GE to win. It’s an easy story to tell, actually, and it’s just a matter of really finding, I think the right creative approach to it in that distribution channel.
Carman Pirie: When we talk about winning, one thing that you’ve said previous that just resonated with me was this notion that your competitors for content are in some ways different than your business competitors, you have to think about that differently. Could you explore that at this point?
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, so as we think about how we can grab people’s attention, or how we can get them to feel something from our content, or even pay attention to. I think you have to be, as a marketer, really honest about just how much information people are receiving on a daily basis. We’re all humans, we’re all getting it from so many different angles and we have a finite amount of time in a day in which we can consume information. Me, as a consumer of information, if I tend to consume information, let’s say in the morning over coffee, or in the evening or on lunch break, that’s a finite amount of time and I’m going to be consuming what’s most interesting to me. In many ways, I think we feel like yeah, we know what our product competitors are, but from our content competition standpoint, we’re competing with ESPN, cat videos, all these other things that people are consuming, so we’ve gotta find a really creative way to grab them.
Jeff White: It’s almost like for a while there, certainly with smaller organizations, there was an allowance for lesser quality or low-fi solutions for this kind of thing, but it’s almost like we’ve moved to a point where that’s no longer acceptable and we have to start to go high, in terms of quality for these things. Have you found that the sorts of content that you need to produce as an organization, that the expectation for quality is just so much higher than it was five years ago?
Kristin Fallon: We have and I think like most, we’re still figuring out what that balance is of volume and noise in the marketplace, versus really high quality content. I think there still is value in… let’s say on social media, just sending out lots of nuggets, because you know you have to catch eyeballs at any given moment in time, but we know that if we really want to engage people in a meaningful way, we need higher quality content.
Carman Pirie: Every marketer whose been within a mile radius of a marketing conference in the last three years has heard somebody drone on about how video will be the next big thing and everybody needs a video strategy and on and on and on. What you just said that, in some ways our attention spans… we don’t have any more attention, we only have more noise, which leads me to think that more video will be ignored next year then in every other year in history.
In some ways, everybody likes to focus on the other—that more video will be produced. It’s like, yes, and more will be ignored than ever before, which is daunting I think, if you’re a producer of video. But I also think for a brand like GE Power, I kind of wonder… you mentioned how you’re looking for lots of different nuggets, if you will, that you can put out in social or what have you. I think, in some ways, that was a nod to lower production quality of content. Some of that’s a little bit more quick and dirty, if you will. How do you, as a brand leader, ensure consistency across a landscape where the number of touchpoints is multiplying dramatically?
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, it’s hard. For a company of our scale, it’s definitely hard. I think one way we do it, or we’re trying to do it, is to be more consistent with what I would call primary assets. Those key pieces that you can then break up into or atomize into derivative assets that could be pushed out in multiple places over multiple times, but everything kind of stemming from one point of view or one anthemic video or one really solid piece of content. That’s one way we’ve been going about it.
I think another way actually gets into how we work on the backend. We’ve been for the last two years, working on building out content operations. Looking at a software platform that can help us on the backend to better coordinate. The tool we’re using really helps all of our content creators get in there and have visibility to all of the content we’re creating and when it’s going out. That’s driving better dialogue across all of our teams as well. I think in a number of ways the world is more and more decentralized and content is too. I think having a good structure and framework of what your brand guidelines are or what your core beliefs are and core messages are and some idea of what that should look like and then, to the next degree, just kind of letting people run with it, within those guidelines. Now, that also includes our internal communicators, which is an interesting element actually because content is 360 today and so we are looking at how external facing content can be more effectively repurposed internally, but it’s definitely a lot of people.
There was something that caught my eye a few weeks ago. Scott Brinker, who is the visionary behind the big Martech infographic that everybody knows so well.
Jeff White: Yeah, he’s part of HubSpot now.
Kristin Fallon: That’s right, that’s right. So he came out and he said recently that one thing that really excited him about Martech in 2019 is you’re starting to see how this sort of technology helps you balance out centralized behavior versus distributed behavior. That gets at how do we keep a consistent messenger brand? Well, you can kind of decide, what are the things that are universal to all and then where can, let’s say regional teams, take that and localize it?
What he said is that he’s seeing Martech really better enable that and we’re definitely feeling that at GE with our content operations.
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, conversations on manufacturing marketing. Don’t forget to subscribe now at Kulapartners.com/thekularing.
Carman Pirie: There must have been some key milestones of complexity, if you will. At what point did you really feel like we need a better system to organize what’s happening here?
Kristin Fallon: We’ve been feeling the pain for a while. You can imagine, before we had this platform, which by the way I tend to draw big parallels between this platform and CRMs because when you think about the sales team and everybody’s got a CRM, or most people have one. The concept behind that was, hey, we’ve got this highly distributed sales force out there, we need to just have better visibility and better support for them, let’s create this platform. It’s really, I think, empowered sales people and empowered teams to work better together. That’s very much how we’re using this platform as well.
Before we had this platform, we were collaborating through email, through Word documents, through Excel, through smartsheet, dropbox, you name it. I could go on and on. So many different platforms and we’ve now consolidated into one space. Simply the simplification of it, has really helped us to work better together. When you adopt a platform, and this is again why I love the CRM comparison because I think CRM administrators know this very well, when you roll out a new platform, there’s always some resistance to it and it’s because it’s a different way of behaving. Maybe not everybody sees value in the same way. The other complexity to rolling this out has been just getting everybody on board and into the platform and it’s certainly a journey. We’ve got a really tremendous team helping to onboard our users, help people in the tool, but it’s kind of like running a marathon. You have to train and you have to change your behavior to really excel in it.
Carman Pirie: Absolutely, you’re quite right on the CRM front. The adoption is always a harder hill to climb than the implementation.
Kristin Fallon: Yes.
Carman Pirie: The decision to purchase the tools is almost the easy part of the journey there.
Kristin Fallon: Yes.
Carman Pirie: Fascinating to me is I think that in some way, what you’re responding to with that challenge of distributed content creation is really informed by the global footprint that GE Power has and that cannot be, in my mind, divorced from your global career trajectory, if you will. I think it leaves you to think about it in a unique way. Can you perhaps tell our listeners a little bit about how you’ve come to this role in GE?
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s a very fair observation, in that I’ve got a global perspective. Just after university, I joined the Peace Corps, which in the US, it’s a US program, it’s government funded and you basically go out for two years on a volunteer assignment. So I was placed in a small village in West Africa, where I was working with entrepreneurs, very hands on, grassroots-level work. In this case, the bulk of my work was focused on helping a group of cow herders to build a milk pasteurization facility and as I look back on my career, sometimes when you’re in it, you don’t see it, but you look back on it later and you’re like oh, it makes so much sense.
I think that as probably the first time that I really saw the impact that technology has on humans and just how amazing it could be to work for a technology company one day. So, that was an incredibly empowering experience to have to be out in a village and figuring things out on my own, working in a different culture and a different language. That led me to continue down the field of international development. So, I joined a consulting firm after that, that was doing work with USAID around the globe and they sent me out to manage operations in one of their projects in Indonesia. I was there for a couple of years with them until that contract ended.
It was in my late 20s I guess, I was out there, really loved the work, but really wanted to explore what I could do in my career and, frankly, take some risks. I was unmarried, I didn’t have a mortgage, I just had a suitcase. I ended that work and started my own consulting business. So, I was consulting to eight organizations that were looking to get into the region or work in the region, so doing business development and sales work for them and marketing and communications. So, really exciting work, really hard work, but I think being based in the region, working throughout so many countries in that region, I’ve really got an appreciation for just what it means to be working in a global environment and… different cultures work together differently. You have to, I think, work in a way that’s acknowledging that and listening for that. I learned very early to do a lot more listening than talking. Just bring that global mindset to everything I do.
Carman Pirie: It’s really interesting, just connecting these pieces around the global management of content and your understanding that different cultures communicate differently. I think it drives to that heart of consistency and the challenge in it. I’m just imagining even brand language documentation, if you will, a document that helps people understand the brand voice and how we’re going to express ourselves in the market.
Even the words that are used in that document probably have different meaning in different cultures and could be expressed in different ways. It just must really add to that consistency challenge.
Kristin Fallon: Absolutely. I think that this is an exciting space for content actually, right now. We even felt what you’re describing on the CNN project. So, how do you take elements of your brand that are universal, or elements of a narrative that are universal and then, make it applicable to one region, or how do you do the reverse, which is take a story that’s very regional specific and now, elevate that out to be universal.
For example, one of the stories that we’re telling with Courageous and airing on CNN is a story about the Middle East and how they are really leaning into a diverse energy mix to power the region. For those of us not living in the Middle East, this is a pretty cool story because we all kind of have this perception of there’s a region that’s risen and grown in the last 60 or 100 years around gas and oil. Here they are, aggressively going towards wind and solar. So, the story talks about why is that and what’s the technology to support it.
For somebody in the Middle East, this is not news. For those of us in the rest of the world, that’s really interesting. So, we needed to make a video that was going to be both interesting to our Middle Eastern audience, but also globally applicable because so many other regions in the world are also moving towards an energy mix, but they’re doing it for different reasons.
I think you’re right. Every single one of us as a marketer really has to come in with that global perspective and that appreciation because, if you want your message to resonate, you’ve really got to get at those nuances.
Carman Pirie: I think this is a huge challenge for manufacturing marketers as M&A activity continues to drive a lot of marketing communications effort in the space and with that comes global expansion. I just think there’s a ton of manufacturing marketers that are struggling with this very thing that you’re speaking of.
Jeff White: Even just how to bring together multiple organizations that are coming from different cultures and trying to co-exist or begin to become a single brand. It’s incredibly difficult to see those gel without being empathetic to where people are coming from.
Kristin Fallon: Yeah and I think, at its most basic, it starts with just a foundation of getting to know each other and appreciating the perspectives that each of us bring to the table. I will say, I think what’s helped the global environment a lot is definitely the ease of communication and even video conferencing. We could be sitting in our home and turn on a video camera and talk to our colleagues in China. I think the more that we can create those human relationships with our colleagues across the ocean or wherever first and then tackle what is the message and always being open-minded, I just think that that really makes for better content, ultimately.
Carman Pirie: I can’t help but think as you said that, that really in some ways what you’re telling us is that the key to producing great content, especially for an organization of your scale is really the key is cultural.
Kristin Fallon: Yeah, yeah. I think that’s very true. I think it absolutely is. I think as content continues to reach everywhere, I mean for example, this content we’re putting out on CNN, it’s actually going out on CNN International, but we know that it’s appearing in US media, let’s say. I think we really have to recognize the different cultures and make it all harmonious.
Carman Pirie: Kristin, this has been I think an interesting exploration. I think we’ve bantered around between some content production, almost best practices, and then to a very inspiring career trajectory that I think would give a lot of younger listeners who may be thinking about how this marketing field looks as their career unfolds. I think you’ve given people a lot to think about in a variety of areas today.
Kristin Fallon: Thank you, I’m so glad.
Carman Pirie: Thank you for that.
Jeff White: Well thanks very much for joining us on The Kula Ring, Kristin.
Kristin Fallon: Thanks guys, it was great to be here.
Carman Pirie: We look forward to catching up on your next CNN adventure or wherever it may take you and to the extent that you want to feature The Kula Ring on CNN, you’re welcome to do so.
Jeff White: Yeah.
Kristin Fallon: [laughing] Well, I’ll definitely be putting you guys on my LinkedIn and if you guys want to see the work that we’re putting out on CNN, I’ll be posting that on LinkedIn as well.
Jeff White: Awesome.
Carman Pirie: Wonderful, we’ll be sure to follow you there. Thanks a lot.
Kristin Fallon: Thanks guys.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to The Kula Ring, with Carman Pirie and Jeff White. Don’t miss a single manufacturing marketing insight, subscribe now at Kulapartners.com/thekularing