Behind the Headlines With Meghan Gross
Meghan Gross, executive vice president at Grayling, says a successful communication strategy starts with a strong internal foundation.
In this interview, Meghan discusses the process of developing solid communication, driving authentic content through employees and keeping all stakeholders informed and engaged.
What’s the biggest lesson about marketing and communication you’ve learned throughout your career?
I’ve been lucky to have worked with many smart, talented people, and I learned from some of the best. However one of the most important moments in my career was realizing that our job as communicators isn’t just to be prescriptive.
I believe we’re at our best when we bring the right insights, ask the right questions and help our organizations or clients develop the most authentic personalities and resonant voices. That process takes input from both internal and external clients as much as it requires of us as communicators. Plus, it is never done; it’s constantly evolving.
What are you most excited about in your new role as executive vice president at Grayling?
I’ve always been a natural collaborator and networker and enjoy connecting the right people to make things happen. So I’m really excited to work with all my Grayling colleagues across the network to drive client-focused programs and attract new clients to our agency.
I’m also a builder, so I like to take things that are partially formed, add structure and watch how fast they can grow. There’s just so much opportunity for an agency of our size. I can’t wait to see where we are a year from now.
What are some of the key components of a successful strategic communication strategy?
As I mentioned earlier, developing a good strategic communication plan is a two-way process. It requires us to bring our best thinking, grounded in research and insights and validated by past experience.
Combined with deep industry, company or sector knowledge creates a great foundation. After that, it’s absolutely vital to listen and learn from stakeholders, otherwise the greatest strategy on paper will fall flat in real life.
With so much content saturating the marketplace, how can brands stand out?
When I think of the most enduring brands, they all start from the inside. It’s important to have the employee engagement piece figured out because so much of the great authentic content that will drive a company’s external program can start from within.
Today, one comment on social can impact a brand’s reputation. How do you combat that?
As I mentioned above, it all starts from within. Reputation management doesn’t begin when a crisis hits or when a bad comment is posted online. A company needs to work hard at earning its reputation, and keeping it, every day.
It’s unrealistic to think a company will never feel the heat of a negative review or bad comment; however if a company has a connected, loyal following both internally and externally, it will be able to weather a storm much better.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing brands today? How can they overcome it?
Because brands now interact directly with all their stakeholder groups, constant communication and engagement is key. I would say the biggest challenge is having enough time and resources to cultivate those groups.
It’s no longer enough to say “we did our media relations” or “we did our consumer marketing;” companies need to be mindful there are other, often vocal, stakeholder groups and they all need constant connection and want to feel they are part of the brand.
From current and prospective employees to community leaders to business partners and down the supply chain, a brand must have a full 360-degree view at all times in order to maintain a successful engagement strategy.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their communication strategy?
Start with research; don’t jump to what a peer has done just because it looks good. Understand your customers, your employees, your other stakeholders and create targeted programs that speak directly to the greatest needs.
Rapid Fire Round
1. If I won the lottery, I’d…let my daughter skip school for a day and spend time dreaming and planning about what we’d do with it.
2. My hobbies outside of work include…being a soccer and basketball mom, fitness and enjoying fresh air with my golden retriever.
3. I always thought I’d be…a press secretary on Capitol Hill.
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…knowledge that there’s a great cup of coffee in my near future.
5. My favorite social media platform is…Twitter for work and Facebook for friends and family.
6. My dream vacation would be…a fitness retreat in a gorgeous remote location but still not too far from great restaurants and city life at night.
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