Which mentors and managers helped shape and influence you the most through the years? Who made you a better person and marketing professional? Are most of them smart, talented women? According to the Association of National Advertisers, 67% of the marketing industry is female.
Today, my guest is Jodi Duncan, president of Flint Group. We discuss the current climate and ecosystem for women in marketing and business. What are some of the current challenges and opportunities that women face?
Eric: This coming January will mark 20 years that I had been a marketing professional. Oh, my goodness. I don’t know where the time went. But as I look back at those years and how I evolved as a marketer, I can’t help but think about the individuals who influenced me most. The mentors, the managers, and my directors that helped shape me and make me a better person and a better marketer. The vast majority of those people have been smart, talented women.
I did some research and I found out according to the Association of National Advertisers, 67% of the marketing industry is female. I wanted to dedicate an episode to talk about the climate and the ecosystem for women in marketing and women in business. I brought one of those mentors to me growing up in the marketing industry. Her name is Jodie Duncan. She is the president of Flint Group. She works for and runs an agency. We talk about what’s changing in the agency, but we really focus on what are some of the challenges and what are some of the opportunities that face women in the marketing industry today.
It’s a really meaningful episode for me and I hope that you will enjoy it. My name is Eric Piela, I’m the Brand & Buzz Manager here at CoSchedule. Thanks so much for tuning into another episode. Can’t wait to introduce you to Jodie. It’s going to be a great one. Alright, buckle up because it’s time to get amped.
Alright, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I am just tickled, I’m delighted—whatever the adjective is—I’m excited, okay, to have our next guest on the show. Her name is Jodi Duncan. She is the president of the Flint Group based here in Fargo, North Dakota just down the street. Welcome, Jodi.
Jodi: Thanks, Eric. Thanks for having me.
Eric: We’re cozied up here in the CoSchedule studio. I use that term lightly or in jest. It’s kind of a smaller closet but it’ll be perfect for our interview today. This is great. Jodi, I had the pleasure of working with you in the past. I was at Flint Group for about eight years before I came to CoSchedule. I worked with some that I admired. I love what you’re doing with the agency and I think you’ve got so much to share with our audience. But they don’t know you like I do, Jodi, so if you could just take a moment and share about your journey as to where you ended up here and your marketing background.
Jodi: Well, I’ve been in the business for quite a while. Probably 25 plus years now. We worked together at Great Plains…
Eric: We did. That’s right.
Jodi: …back in the day. I started my career on what I would call the client side. The first part of my career was really spent on the client side and working with agencies and then eventually ended up at Flint as a strategic planner. I did that for a few years. I still do a lot of strategic planning but have more of the data-to-day responsibilities at the president’s level of kind of overseeing the company and the finances and all that kind of stuff too. I really enjoy that working with clients and getting involved in that but I’m doing less of that these last few years.
Eric: We don’t often have agencies on the show. I believe that there are a lot of agencies or marketing professionals work in agencies that listen to the podcast. I think that there’s just a unique story I think to share. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been at the agency, but I think that the challenge of agencies is to one, understand the clients’ needs and also advise and consult on what might be best for them.
2019, I think marketing technologies are everywhere. Maybe that’s an open-ended question, Jodi, where do you see as some of the larger trends, they’re taking place in the marketing agency environment right now, and have you adopted those.
Jodi: The biggest challenge I think is the whole digital movement and of course, that’s been going on for quite some time. But as communications evolved—one-to-one communications specifically—and being able to measure everything and really have very tangible results from campaigns have put a lot of pressures in agencies and in clients. I think most of the clients that come to us now because there’s so many different things—so many tools, so many different ways to reach people, many different expectations from an audience level on what you should know and how you should reach out and where you can find people and how to best refine the messaging—it’s just a really complicated situation.
What we try to do with clients is help them figure out what’s their story, how do they need to segment their audiences, and then how do you best reach them through all the different channels, and what does that mean. I think the pressure on the client side is very much, “What’s the ROI on any marketing campaign?” We get that question a lot. Where it used to be you could be more evasive with that kind of stuff–with the more traditional advertising mechanisms because you just really couldn’t measure them. Now there’s a lot more pressure I think to be able to prove out how you’re spending your money from a marketing standpoint.
Eric: Full transparency for sure. I think you’re right. They know that we can measure everything and so those demands, and those reputations are higher. You bring up a good point. From a digital standpoint, we talk about all of those on this podcast whether it be content marketing, email automation, whether it be CRM, whether it be pay-per-click, the variety of things that the tools that marketers have in that space. How do you go about figuring out and evaluating which technology to leverage or what digital methodologies to implement for your clients?
If I remember back in the day, I was like, “We should do this, this, and this.” Let’s take a step back and is it right for you? When social blew up it was like, “We got to have an Instagram page and a Facebook page.” I’m like, “Woah, woah. What’s your story going to be there?” Are those things still happening? How do you evaluate and consult on them on where they should be?
Jodi: I think it all starts with what the client’s objective is. I would say that that oftentimes is overlooked. Really understanding what they’re trying to do without coming in with, “Okay, here’s the solution. Here’s where you need to be.” Oftentimes, people think they need to be at social or they need to be on Instagram, they need to be somewhere whatever is the hot, popular channel at the moment without really thinking what they’re trying to do with it.
From a strategic perspective, we try to get clients really through that and help them figure that out first. Then figure out the different channels based on their budget, what can they do, where can they go, and how can they most effectively reach their target audiences. But a lot of times, all of that, has to be really thought through and defined. You think that it is because you just think, “Well, of course, we have that figured out.” But when you start to dig into it, oftentimes it’s not already defined or planned out.
And then content is just a whole nother animal. Not only what content you want to get out there and what the messages are but how do you effectively communicate that content through all of these multiple channels that really have different parameters on how and what you can say.
Eric: I think content is a rebel where we can get lost in, but I think there’s a lot of conversation around, how do you create really great content experiences that are authentic. When you’re doing work and creating these experiences and this content and you’re doing that as an extension of their team and not actually at the organization, how have you relied on your team to be able to find that voice that matches that brand? How do you explore that?
Jodi: That’s a great question and it’s hard to do. What we’ve tried to do is we try to be an extension of their marketing team, and really know and understand who they are and what the product is, or what their service is and spend a lot of time understanding their industry. That helps to be steeped in that. When it comes to social, we’ve really encouraged clients to have maybe a dual approach so that if we’re doing their social or if we’re working through their content management from that standpoint, we want to have a really close partner on their side. We very often encourage clients to do their own social because it seems like that’s a better fit if it’s coming right from them. There’s a lot of discussion on how that can best work and it depends on how they’re staffed and some of those things, but it’s truly a partnership.
Eric: I feel like I’ll read some things like, “More companies are taking their work in-house.” And then I’ll read another one, “More companies are turning to agencies to help.” Have you seen that ebb and flow or what’s sort of the pulse at least in our area here?
Jodi: It definitely ebbs and flows, and it does seem to bounce back and forth. I think Flint Group has had a really good long-term relationship with clients and I think that that has bounced back and forth from the standpoint of who’s doing what. As they build their marketing teams maybe they’ll bring something in-house and they’ll use us as overage type of activities or maybe we’ll come in and do strategy and they’ll have someone in-house that’s doing execution.
The best client-agency relationship I think have that give and take and are able to leverage each other when it makes the most sense.
Eric: Sure. You guys are a large agency, you have clients that are national and international, and you have a large team with multiple locations. I think part of your role as to, “How do I make this agency hum? How do I make it sing? How do I make it work smoothly? How do I provide a workplace that is positive to come to each day?” What have you found are some of your best strategies to have Flint, not only be a place that does great high-quality work for your clients, but also a place that people want to work and enjoy their day-to-day there?
Jodi: One of the biggest lessons for me, and I think even going back to our Great Plains days, any company that you survey, and you ask what the biggest challenges are, it very often comes back as communication. There’s never enough communication. Not everybody knows everything all the time. That we’ve tried over the last few years at Flint to address really directly. We have found that we’ve had some really great strides and made some really good improvement in that area.
Some of that I think is due to technology and being able to use Skype and to have conversations where it feels like you’re face-to-face if you’re working with remote employees. We do quarterly town halls and really encourage employees to ask questions and have open dialogue. We just started something called ‘Flintication’ last year where we do monthly meetings. They’re supposed to be brief, half an hour to forty-five minutes, where we bring in breakfast and then do an educational topic. We do maybe 3-, 10-minute segments during that time, and that’s been really good. A good way for people to showcase work and to be able to understand different disciplines and different topics that are important at the moment, so that’s been good.
I think the whole communication issue internally is one of the biggest challenges, not just for us, for any company, and probably always will be. I think it’s amazing when to sort of point out and be like, “We don’t communicate enough.” We’ve tried to pay a lot of attention for that.
Eric: That’s good. I’ve always loved Flint’s ability to put the name Flint to anything like ‘Flintication’, ‘Flinterversary’.
Jodi: That’s ‘Flinteresting’!
Eric: Flinteresting. ‘Flinterns’ instead of interns. Yeah, there’s a lot of good examples. Anyway, I digress.
Well, howdy. It is half-time on the Actionable Marketing Podcast. I hope you’re enjoying the conversation with Jodi. Hey, I want to ask a favor if you will. If you enjoy this podcast, I would love a rating and review on iTunes. It helps us get discovered by more listeners and helps me know if I’m hitting the right topics.
If you want to, if you’re inclined to do so, I would love it. Simply take a screenshot of your rating and review before you submit to iTunes and send that to me. You can email it to email@example.com and as a thank you for your time and for listening, I will hook you up with a really fun CoSchedule swag pack that I will get along your way. I know you’ll love it. Anyway, I would appreciate it. Let’s get back to the show and our discussion with Jodi from Flint Group.
One of the things I think a unique opportunity with you here, as a leader of your organization, you kind of talked about this already in terms of communication, but I think one thing that I want to make sure we touch on is something really important to you has been a concept around women and leadership and women in business. There’s a lot of good conversation and dialogue happening about this. Obviously, if anyone’s educated on this situation, there’s a lot of progress we need to make as a society.
You’ve been vocal about what you think that means not only for you and your opinion but for Flint and maybe for other women in the industry. You actually created a blog series called Women in Business which had been great to read. I’ve been lucky enough, at least the first 15 years of my career, to work for strong, smart women in leadership including yourself. If you could, what are some of the things that you’re hoping to accomplish with this blog series? What are some of the lessons you’re hoping to share?
Jodi: Well, there’s a lot. This goes back to when I was going through getting my master’s degree. I had initially intended to write my thesis on how women undermine each other in the business planet. I was experiencing that early on in my career and it was really frustrating to me. I actually didn’t end up writing my thesis on that. I wrote branding and mergers and acquisitions which seemed more practical at the time. I like to joke that I miss my opportunity to be Sheryl Sandberg and have that lean in concept.
But that’s sort of what started me, thinking about it, was just my experience with how other women weren’t supportive and the challenges that that created early on in my career and then as I continued on. I have pretty thick skin and I was able to really accomplish some things without having that kind of support but throughout my career, I can point times when there were those kinds of challenges happening.
I have two girls: I have a 21 and a 24-year-old, and as I got older and they got older, I saw all of the exact same things. They were kind of challenged with the same things. The limitations that women have whether it’s in business or education or whatever industry. Some of the frustrations seem to permeate through all of the same things and kind of the same issues. I started writing the Women in Business blog just as more of a lesson outlet and it caught on. It has sort of a weird little following. But yeah, there’s lots of topics. I feel like there’s an endless brochure.
Eric: Sure. I think one, it’s great that it’s being addressed, and so kudos to you for having it out there. I think it’s an indication that it’s resonating with the followership that it’s got. Maybe this is a wild presumption, but it certainly feels that way that marketing can sometimes be a female driven industry, at least that’s the way it feels when I go to conferences. I don’t have the research to back it up, but I’ve always felt that way. There’s a lot of women working with women, I know at Flint there was, I don’t know what it was, 60/40, 70/30…
Jodi: Yes. Probably even better than that.
Eric: Yeah. In the industry, it even feels more prolific being in that space and having that. I think one of the things that you wrote about that I’d love for you to address more is sometimes women not having to [inaudible 00:19:01] back and sometimes getting in the way of each other’s success. Can you address a little bit more and some of your thoughts on that?
Jodi: With that I think, it’s a very real thing and I hear it a lot from women that are in positions that are similar to mine, that it’s sort of a battle to get into those leadership positions when the biggest naysayers are other women that you work with. They’re not necessarily your best true leaders. I’m not sure where that comes from. If it comes from a place of competitiveness or just the differences between how boys and girls are raised or how that starts. I think it’s changing in a lot of ways and I think that having the open dialogue has helped women recognize when they’re doing that, and hopefully, finding some different ways of supporting each other. It’s a very real thing.
Eric: I think the one that caught my eye, the most was—and these are your words at the tile—but are you a good bitch or are you a bad bitch? Where I think you can play off the good bitch or bad bitch, but I think there’s a big, strong message in there. You, as leader of Flint and a lot of women out at Flint Group, how are you helping support them in their careers? What are some of the things you’re encouraging them to do so that you can have the environment that is supportive?
Jodi: The biggest thing for me and this was really throughout my career, but coming into Flint, one of the things that struck is people didn’t have really direct conversations. I’d probably been pushing that since day one there and part of it is because I think the experiences that I had taught me to be more direct and to have hard conversations, and get it over with, and move on, and not harbor grudges, and all those kinds of things. That probably has been the most impactful from a change agent kind of approach is getting people to, “Okay, you have an issue with so and so. Let’s go talk to them and have that conversation,” because that was one of the things that really frustrated me, and I still see it. I see it in other places. It certainly isn’t something that’s a Flint exclusive thing, but people will talk to 10 other people about an issue they’re having before they’ll go directly and have that conversation with the person. That I think is one of the bigger things going back to that are you a good bitch or a bad bitch.
The reality for women that are in leadership roles and that have a more assertive nature is you’re automatically considered a bitch—that’s just kind of a label. That was something I really struggled with because you just always felt like that was a bad connotation. If you were doing things that are maybe more normal, like with leadership, there’s difficult decisions that you have to make and there’s hard things that you have to do, that you need to do to better the business and that’s your job, but as a woman, that’s looked at very differently than if you were a male doing the same kinds of things. That’s what started that whole thought and that theory, but I always go back to, I think it was Sally Field when she won her Oscar and she was like, “They like me. They really like me.” I think we worry so much about, “Who likes me?”
Eric: Being liked.
Jodi: Yeah, so it’s hard. I think that’s not exclusive to women. I think that’s kind of a true thing overall, but I think women are probably more sensitive to it, maybe more aware of it.
Eric: Sure. For listeners on the podcast that are men, what advice is there for men in terms of what type of understanding or knowledge should we be equipping ourselves to make sure it’s an environment that is a great place for either gender. Is there any advice you have there?
Jodi: I get asked that question a lot from men which I think is a really positive indication of how much everybody wants to change things. I don’t think it’s one of those things where we have to convince people that there needs to be change. There’s so many great men and male leaders and man and women that have tried to make places more inclusive. But one of the questions that I get a lot is, how do I get women to be on the board of directors, for example. It’s so obvious to me, right. It’s the same way that you get a man, you ask. I think that gets to be the stumbling block is like, we make it too hard. You just need to ask.
I think some of us when, going back to the Sheryl Sandberg stuff and lean in and how important it is to have a voice and all that kind of thing, I think what men can do is make sure that there’s opportunities to get that input from women. If you’re at a meeting, for example, and people are talking over each other or whatever, and maybe there’s someone that’s being quiet, the way to get him to talk is to allow them that opportunity and to give them the floor and a chance to express their opinions.
Eric: I know that you’ve been a mentor to a lot of individuals that have worked at Flint, outside of Flint, and you continue to help them moving forward. If there’s a marketer listening right now, and maybe they’re just starting their career—we see a lot of great interns that work in agency, I have an intern here at CoSchedule—they’re fresh, they’re figuring out what does it mean to work in a great place, what are the expectations, even to your own daughters, I’m sure you’ve passed along, what are things that you would recommend or some advice that you would say, “Hey, when you’re entering the workplace and you’re working with coworkers, how do you be respectful but also make sure that you’re true to yourself and to the value you’re able to bring.” [inaudible 00:26:10] advice that you would give.
Jodi: I think the biggest thing and I talk to my girls about this a lot is to pay attention and watch and learn from whatever is going on. We see this quite a bit with the younger generation, you think you have all the answers and you don’t. You need to take the time to learn and observe but also not be afraid to ask questions and to speak up. I know from my early days in working, I was painfully afraid to ask any questions because I didn’t want anybody to think I didn’t know, that I shouldn’t be there, or that I was going to get in trouble because I asked a question. I think the more you can ask and establish relationships with someone you can trust and learn that way is a really important characteristic to have.
Eric: Good advice. I also heard; everyone should have their own personal board of directors. You mentioned board of directors, right? Someone you’ve worked with in the past, some are younger than you, some are older than you, some of different gender than you, that you can go to and be that sounding board and have someone to go to advice. I guess it’s really important to have that.
Jodi: What really fired that concept for me, I have heard something like that at a seminar I was at, again, this is probably pretty early in my career, but what it grew to mean to me was that when I was maybe getting harsh criticisms or people are not liking me or not liking something I did, I started to think about and respected the people that I would consider are my board of directors. That’s not necessarily people that would agree with everything I say, but people that would be honest and truthful, but are also supportive of me and wanted me to be successful. That’s where that concept came from for me. I still find that to be a good way to think about things. It’s not whoever is upset with you at the moment or whoever who doesn’t like you at the moment, that it’s more a broader base, stronger founded group of people that you sort of rely on.
Eric: I love that. Well, this has been a great conversation—a fun, deep one but really good. I hope our listeners really are able to glean some of the actionable things that you were able to share in terms of how to approach a lot of this. I enjoyed it. Thanks so much for coming, Jodi.
Jodi: Me too. Thanks for having me.
Eric: Of course. If they want to learn more about Flint Group, you guys are a phenomenal agency, like I said, that help hundred of customers across the US, but if they also want to learn more, or read some of your blogs, where should they go?
Jodi: For anything they can go to flint-group.com and find my blog is out there and we have lots and lots of other good marketing information out there.
Eric: Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show, Jodi.
Jodi: Thanks for having me.