By nickjohnson - August 12th, 2014
This November, Laura Kane is going to be speaking at Incite Summit: East about how Marketing, PR and Communications can work together to better serve the customer. To see who else will be joining us this year, check out our agenda (http://incitemc.com/east/conference-agenda.php).
Many of the marketers I speak with have an eclectic work history. However, Laura Kane’s path to Aflac’s door has been one of the most intriguing I’ve heard.
“We were mobile on the Palm Pilot. Most people don’t even remember what the Palm Pilot was!”
Laura started her professional life working in production on the set of One Life to Live. After become a script reader, she moved into the editing side of things for National Geographic. She then returned to ABC to work in their multimedia department, where her experience became even more differentiated. She launched ABCNews.com, ABCTV.com, and a joint venture with the Washington Post, Electionline.com. However, this was at a time before web developers and tech people were de facto members of a team:
“We were a small division, and all of this was new. I ended up having to learn how to code and do all of that, because we were just trying to figure out what this thing the internet was!”
She continued to chart the digital frontier at an ad agency, where she created Intel’s first mobile site, “We were mobile on the Palm Pilot. Most people don’t even remember what the Palm Pilot was!”
Laura’s diverse experience led her to her place as Aflac’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, where she’s overseen the media and marketing for the now ubiquitous “Aflac Duck” campaign. Her years spent roving through the media and tech landscapes have given her a broader view than most how marketers and communicators can fit into their organizations.
“I do think that all of these disciplines are melding. And that’s the challenge for the future. I think to be effective in PR, you really have to understand everything that touches your role. So as you move up the corporate ladder, you’re going to need all of these skills, because what everybody wants is someone who can do it all.”
She’s learned from experience that working with other teams and disciplines allows you to learn, and be surprised by, what is possible.
“When I was producing videos, I used to sit in with editors. I’d say, ‘I want to be able to do this’, and they’d say, ‘I don’t think we can do that.’ But once we started to look at it, we’d start to say, ‘But I think we can.’ The same is true with coding. Can we make this animate from here? Can we do whatever? Then they say they don’t exactly know how, but it’s possible. Then it turns out we can.”
“I do think that all of these disciplines are melding. And that’s the challenge for the future."
In her current role, this type of collaboration has proven invaluable. After Aflac had to let the spokesvoice of their mascot go, Laura and her team turned a PR nightmare into a triumph. They took control of the story, rapidly launching a highly successful nationwide search for a new voice. Before and after, working with other departments was critical.
“I think as media relations people, because we’re so deadline orientated and things move so quickly in our world, this collaboration really helps us understand that while things might seem instantaneous on the web, they’re not.”
“We learned that a lot in the voice of the Aflac Duck campaign. We needed to build a micro site so people could submit their auditions and be considered. And of course as media relations people, we’d want to put that information out there as soon as word came through. But it couldn’t be built that fast!”
“Knowing what everyone else has to do helps to set expectations, so that when media is calling us, and they’re saying, ‘Where’s the information?’ and we’re saying, ‘We’re going to get it up as soon as we can, there’s things we need to do on our end, we need to make sure this micro site can handle the number of applicants’, then people go ‘Oh, okay, that makes sense.’”
And through working with the communications and PR department, other teams have been able to adapt as well.
“I think our social media team would tell you that one of the things that they have learned is that they don’t need to respond to every single post from users. That was their gut reaction, but from a media relations standpoint we said, ‘You know for some posts, there’s no advantage to doing that, they just want to vent.’ I think that, and the fact that some conversations need to go offline, is what they’ve learned.”
As marketing continues to draw in more employees with work experience as far-reaching as Laura’s, it’s no wonder that departments are becoming more cross-disciplined (and vice versa).
“That’s the beauty, I think as these businesses continue to evolve, that’s what you’re going to look for. People who are just kind of well-rounded and bring something interesting to the table.”
As brands continue draw in marketers with interesting and non-traditional backgrounds, I think we’re going to be seeing the marketing itself becoming more interesting and less traditional.