It’s all about meeting people where they live their lives, and helping them to see the path forward, not dragging them down it.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Craig Greiwe.
Craig Greiwe is the Chief Strategy Officer of Rogers & Cowan/PMK. Along with his long list of professional accomplishments, Greiwe is emphatically focused on social good, believing that being a good person is as important as doing good work. During his career, he has always prioritized the building of a diverse team of incredible talent and sits on the Board of three non-profits. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School, the University of Southern California, and DePauw University and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
When I was an assistant, we still sent out printed “caption sheets” with photo selects for theatrical film releases. And I had the mailing house staple two sheets together. My boss lost it — She wanted to know how and why I would do such a “stupid thing.” I was lost. To me, I thought, what the hell, it’s just a staple on two pages of paper. But she was right and I was wrong. I needed to see that the choices you make are not about what you think is logical, it’s about what works for your audience, your leadership, your company, your boss. You need to put others forward and expand your perspective.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I certainly crafted the career that I wanted, and the approach I thought the industry should take, but it always felt like I was pushing a rock uphill. I just didn’t get why the industry wasn’t moving at the same pace I was, with the same approach, or in the same way. When I started meeting people where they lived their lives, when I started approaching every problem from the perspective of the other person, I was able to more efficiently craft success, for them and for myself. It’s all about meeting people where they live their lives, and helping them to see the path forward, not dragging them down it.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
We’ve erased the lines between work and home, long before COVID-19 came along. Thriving is not about restoring those lines, it’s about leaning into them and making them work for you. Stop fighting the system, and make it work for you. So for me, it’s taking time before everyone’s awake to get ahead, and then getting a morning spin class in. It’s taking an hour out of the afternoon to do a workout class. It’s about taking ten minutes out of every day to stare at some plants. It’s about setting time with my friends that does not involve my phone. You’re never going to get away from the intersection of work and home life — what you can do is create boundaries for what and how you’re willing to engage, and clear opportunities for fulling your own emotional and mental health needs.
Great advice. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are?
My entire life has been filled with people, especially strong women, who have taken me under their wing and given me a chance when there was nothing in it for them. They believed in me and wanted to support me. Kristin Cotich, Sharon Black, Courtney Rogge, Debbie Miller, Francoise Coulont, Jane Ginsburg, Mimi Slavin, Jeanine Miller, Arlene Ludwig, Kerry McAleer. The line of women who literally looked at me, in my not-so-innocent youth — and said, “Let me show you the ropes, let me help you make the most of the potential I see in you,” is a long, incredible litany of industry lights to whom I am forever grateful and indebted.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
We’ve already seen a “gold rush” to content, but most brands aren’t doing it thoughtfully or correctly; they’re creating content that serves their needs or their stories, rather than something consumers want. On the other side of the equation, we’re seeing brands lean into down-funnel, last-mile conversion because it’s a known quantity with an established ROI. But that ignores the necessity of brand-building. Both these approaches — to content creation and last-mile media — are the right idea with the wrong execution. Marketing should be headed to a consumer-first approach that acknowledges the need for hard-to-measure brand-building through relevant and useful storytelling, which also exists as part of an entire chain of brand messaging down to the final point of sale. Only when consumers feel like they’re getting the “whole story” and a “useful story” on a journey they want to be a part of, will they respond in kind. We’re probably about 10% of the way there as an industry, which is pretty astonishing for how much more we can do.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
- Leadership isn’t about how amazing your vision is, it’s about how many people you get to buy into it. I used to think you could have the brightest idea and that’s all that mattered. Now, as a leader, I realize it’s about the buy-in as much as it is the quality of the idea. Many, many bruised egos would have been avoided had I just known differently.
- You need to tell people what you’re going to tell them. People need directional context. I would spin these wild tales in pitches, and there’d be a big finish, but the idea was so complex, I would have lost my audience. I realized that you need to break it down in easy, digestible chunks, and build in redundancy. The message needs to be so strong it’s unavoidable.
- Not everyone looks at diversity the same way. I have always thought about diversity based on a variety of criteria that reflect differing points of view. Not just race and ethnicity, but also socio-economic level, family type, and more. And that means I’m an outlier. The EEOC and most major companies, for example, don’t track LGBT — they mark a white trans man as the same as a white cisgender man — two people whose differences could not be further apart. And they don’t recognize the difference between a black woman from the Upper East Side of Manhattan and a black woman from the fracking fields of North Dakota — two people who will have dramatically different points of view. When I first saw IPG’s own diversity report and realized this, I realized I was just in a different universe, and I wish I had known that. Now, I’m fighting to change that, and making up for lost time thinking that everyone looked at diversity holistically.
- If someone isn’t understanding what you’re saying, it’s 100% your responsibility. The responsibility for communication is on the communicator. I would host team meetings all the time and share my thoughts on where we should go. And then we’d come out of it, and I’d never get what I asked for. I’d become so frustrated that no one heard me, or did what I asked. But the truth is, it’s on me. It’s my responsibility to make sure my audience, whether it’s my colleagues, my staff, or my clients, understands what I’m saying, and that means if they get it even part of the way wrong, that’s my fault. Audience understanding is 100% the responsibility of the speaker, not the receiver.
- Lots of people don’t do a good job, and it’s not always your concern. It would take more than my fingers and toes to count the number of people whom I’ve met that don’t do a good job, and my principled Midwestern nature used to get self-righteously indignant over the issue. An assistant who just doesn’t proof for typos, a manager who doesn’t respond to emails, a social community manager not engaging with audiences. But if you spend all your time being indignant, you don’t get anywhere. You have to focus on doing the best job you can do for your clients, and the best job your team can do, and bringing everyone along as far as you can — and let everyone be a part of the solution when it comes to failures.
Education definitely can’t be stressed enough. What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I read the New York Times every day — and not just the articles about politics and marketing. Everything is useful, and will come in handy someday, including esoteric articles on new frog species in the Galapagos and artisan craftspeople in rural Appalachia. Digest as much information as possible, and it will sharpen your perspective and your marketing skills. I’d also then add to that the General Social Survey, the most comprehensive study of the American public, and the Pew Research Center, the most non-partisan and informative research center in the U.S. Oh and read. First, read as many biographies of successful people as possible. There’s a million lessons in every book. Second, read every piece of good literature you can find. Compelling storytelling and quality writing are incredibly informative and educational for your own endeavors in those same areas. They make everyone a better marketer.
Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights!