Interview with Christopher Lynch, Chief Marketing Officer, Cision
On Marketing Technology
MTS: Tell us about your role at Cision and how you got here? (What inspired you to be a part of a media intelligence company?)
I’m Cision’s Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for our global marketing strategy. My team is responsible for digital marketing, PR & communications, product marketing, web strategy, social marketing, customer advocacy and content marketing.
I arrived at Cision based on my experience with marketing and brand strategy for companies that grow through acquisition. If I had a marketing superpower, you might say it’s taking a complex or diverse set of product assets, and developing a story that makes it easy for the general public to understand.
Before Cision, I ran global product marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud. There, we acquired and integrated products into a portfolio. At Cision, we’re on a similar journey. We’ve spent nearly $2B on technology and services aimed at transforming the way companies do public relations and marketing communications. I’ve assembled a team here that will help our customers understand all the unlocked potential they can get by making their marketing communications programs more targeted and data-driven.
MTS: Given the changing dynamic of online engagement with customers, how do you see marketing analytics platforms for media communications evolving over the next five years?
Moving forward, communicators and marketers will require analytics that show them how their campaigns drove specific business or revenue-generating outcomes. Today, most marketing metrics still focus on engagement metrics for engagement metrics’ sake. In comms, the focus tends to be vanity metrics like competitive share of voice. Now that marketers can track users down to the device or browser, we need to demonstrate how the totality of their interactions drove revenue. The way this will be accomplished is tying marketing analytics to more transactional systems of record, like CRM or ecommerce systems.
MTS: How does CISION’s Visible Intelligence platform ease the burden of social media monitoring?
This capability is now an integrated part of the Cision Communications Cloud, and is purpose-built for communications professionals. Many aspects of social listening and monitoring have become fairly commoditized, so our focus with social in the Comms Cloud is to help brands do two things: first, understand how their target influencers affect customer behavior on social channels; and second, analyze social media results in the context of an overall communications campaign In Cision Comms Cloud, brands can monitor social media alongside traditional media outlets, like print, television, and even radio. We recognize that social media is part of a larger comms strategy, and should be monitored and measured as such – not solely as a standalone function. Because results can be tracked as part of a larger communications campaign strategy, communications professionals will see a more complete picture when analyzing results.
MTS: How does CISION analyze audience data to improve marketing campaigns?
We look at customer and prospect data across a few different variables. The first is based on customer attributes – or simply put, who are we engaging with? Is the person a manager or director versus a VP or c-level executive? Since each requires a different customer experience from our team, we tailor their experiences a little differently. We collect attribute data both implicitly – such as through anonymous cookie tracking – or explicitly based on something they tell us (such as sharing their title during a content download). Just as importantly, we then focus a lot on their behavioral data – or simply put, what does a customer or prospect do? This includes a variety of behaviors that span our paid, owned and earned channels, such as engagement with an ad, attending a webinar, or visiting our website based on specific press coverage.
MTS: With the recent changes in data privacy policies, how do you see audience identification and tracking platforms delivering personalization?
The technology today allows you to deliver a personalized experience to both known and anonymous users across a variety of different channels. You, of course, need to think about the legal and philosophical implications of how you do it. Data can now be tracked down to people’s specific devices and browsers. That is a responsibility that marketers shouldn’t take lightly. In fact, if it’s too good to be true from a privacy perspective, you should assume it is. For me, it’s all about transparency and user empowerment. In all regions around the world, you should give users the ability to opt out. For regions like Europe, you need to be in even more overt about the fact you’re tracking users and you should be absolutely sure you’re in compliance with local rules. To keep yourself honest, you should assume users don’t know because it’ll force you to think carefully about your policies.
MTS: What startups are you watching/keen on right now?
I still think 80% of the marketing world relies on soft engagement metrics to justify their craft. As someone who believes deeply in the art of storytelling, I’m keen on startups that focus on the science of marketing to justify more of those stories being told. I think the first wave of attribution companies made some good faith efforts, but they were riddled with problems as historical things like last-click attribution demonstrated. So anything that improves the marketer’s ability to measure return across their paid, owned and earned channels is compelling.
Another area I’m watching is influencer marketing. It’s interesting to see paid media start to permeate that space. It could just be our society’s celebrity fascination. Either way, I’m skeptical that paying someone to tell your story and calling it “earned media” will be the right bet over time. Most of those influencer marketing services to date have focused on algorithms to show whose influence is important, but I find most of the decision-ing fairly arbitrary and not tied to business outcomes. An influencer marketing tool that lets marketing pull that lever of that program with more transparency would be interesting, as well as the ability to see what earned media it truly generates.
MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?
Depending on your point of view, my team has been blessed or burdened by the fact I have a few opinions on this one! What’s interesting about our stack is we’re at an interesting inflection point as a business. As we shared at the time of going public, we’re now a $600M+ business in revenue. To support that kind of growth, we’re outgrowing some tools that the team added early on to do some noble use cases, but now simply can’t scale to our environment. For example, we use a leading Marketing Automation platform to manage our lead scoring and customer journey management. While it’s served us well overall, it doesn’t easily route leads to multiple CRM systems without a lot of custom API or services work. We have real reasons – either product, sales org, or geo-related – for managing multiple CRM databases, so that’s a real consideration for me and the VP of digital on my team to consider over time. Elsewhere on the owned media side, we manage a large CMS environment to support the Cision.com and PRNewswire.com experience, along with Adobe Analytics in the background to measure effectiveness.
The earned media side is easy! We obviously use our very own Cision Communications Cloud and Cision Distribution by PR Newswire to instrument our earned media. That includes identifying influencers and media contacts, distributing campaigns via PRNewswire, and monitoring and analyzing how that coverage drove key business outcomes for us.
On the paid side, we do a lot of media buying with Google and some of the big players you’d expect. We haven’t yet gone in the direction of a DMP or DSP internally to manage that part of our media mix, but maybe could be something we explore next year if we see efficiencies can be gained.
MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success?)
We embrace digital campaigns that are rooted in a powerful message that can resonate with our target audience across the channels that matter to them – especially earned media, social media, and the other channels where our clients spend their time. A great example of a digital cross-campaign we orchestrated was the 2017 Cision State of the Media Report.
Both my campaign and content marketing teams developed a plan to create a primary research asset on the state of journalism in North America. Especially in light of the recent presidential election – and the erosion of trust in many journalistic institutions – we knew the timing was right. Our target buyers are people who work in public relations and communications, so issues in media are very important to them. But my digital team was scientific about it, and we identified the personas in our client and prospect segments we knew would get value from the content. The release of the research was supported by a powerful cross-channel push. That included earned media coverage in key industry pubs, a livestream event with a panel of leading journalists and communications influencers, targeted paid social content syndication across networks, SEM, targeted emails by vertical and persona and efforts throughout the organization to maximize the reach of the content.
The effort helped us more than double the number of engaged leads sourced in March versus the year prior – including capturing leads from our earned media and press release distribution platforms. Outside of those quantitative demand generation metrics, we were able to capitalize on the momentum of the campaign to continue a dialogue on this key topic in our successful, global events series – the Cision World Tour. This campaign was the type of effort that helps us cement our credibility with our audience.
MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?
I think it comes down to focusing on use cases and not being distracted by the noise of that space. AI, machine learning, predictive, and other such terms are used interchangeably in the MarTech space, which can be hard as a practitioner trying to consume it. Really, some of these are just old data append vendors trying to re-brand themselves. For our business, the account-based marketing use cases are interesting. While everyone gets jazzed about personalization at the 1:1 level, marketing and selling to businesses has the added wrinkle of group decision-making. Analyzing the data of an ideal account and then having your data models automatically adapt to find more accounts just like it is something that can be very laborious for humans to do at scale, so that’s an area I’m interested in where we can do more.
This Is How I Work
MTS: One word that best describes how you work.
Deliberate. I’ve learned that once you get into a c-level role, you need to be extra thoughtful about where you spend your hours. When invited to a meeting or asked for an opinion, I constantly ask myself, “does the team need me to carry this forward?” And if the answer is even remotely no, I move on to something else and trust the amazing people who work for me to handle it.
MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
For all the apps out there – and the revolution of mobile devices in general – I still couldn’t live without a little piece of hardware called the Macbook Pro. I know that sounds funny since the first MacBrook Pro is well over a decade old. But I get a new one every three years, and it still adds so much value to me. Even as I progress in my career to a role that’s mostly management, I carve out time for storytelling in the little time I have left over. I still have a low comfort level with anything being ghostwritten for me, so if you read a byline or a blog, you can be sure I wrote it. While everyone loves to hate on PowerPoint, I embrace the fact that corporations are nowhere close to getting off of it, so I treat it like an art form. I craft the majority of my presentations (at least as a first draft) on my Macbook, so the Adobe Creative suite and PowerPoint are vital tools for me.
For apps, certainly all the travel ones are big for me since I’m on the road a lot (Uber, United, SPG, to name a few). I also pay for app subscriptions to access can’t-live-without content. For me, that’s the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Economist. For music, I can’t live without Spotify.
MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
I put in tough security measures against calendar burglars. We’re a ~3,000 person company, so if you don’t block out times to take care of some deliverables or review your team’s work, you’ll pay the price on nights and weekends. I obviously can’t avoid that all together, but blocking times deliberately helps.
MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume
As it relates to books lately, a lot of fiction. It keeps my creativity up because so much of the other reading I either do during my work day is dense (business and tech literature) or depressing (politics). I just finished reading “End of Watch,” a detective story by Stephen King. I love his writing. Though I know modern academia shuns some of his earlier horror works, I think history will look at him as one of America’s greatest writers. Right now, I’m reading “Juliet, Naked” by Nick Hornby. I was a huge fan of his other works, such as “High Fidelity” and “How to Be Good.” He writes human emotion and love in a way that isn’t trite. A hard thing to do for a modern author.
MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When you pick a job, pick a lifestyle. If you just accept that we’re losing grip on work-life balance because of technology and media saturation – and let’s face it, we are – the best you can do is pick a lifestyle that makes you happy within that context. The answer to that whole “do you work to live or live to work” question is really no longer so binary. So I try to look at it this way: My nature is to work really hard, so I might as well have some fun doing it and work with people I enjoy. There are of course life trade-offs with my job. The travel is hard, and it impacts my relationships with those close to me. But on the other hand, I get to lead people I respect, be creative every day, give things to my friends and family that make me happy to give, and pass on things that I’ve learned.
MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I write faster and at a higher quality than most people I encounter in the business world. Especially as we embrace new communication mediums, it’s amazing how hard it is for some people – and I’m talking really smart people I respect – to write a lucid or thoughtful email or message. Having a strong command of both the written and verbally-spoken word has served me well in so many contexts, such as the creative aspects of campaign planning or messaging, developing thought leadership, or content. It also helps me articulate exactly what I mean during more tense business meetings or in the day-to-day communications that happen in between. I’m thorough, if not sometimes exhaustive, in my communications, so it’s hard for people not to understand my intent.
MTS: Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Ann Lewnes, the CMO of Adobe. What they’ve built from a marketing perspective is a gold standard in the software industry so far as I’m concerned.
MTS: Thank you Christopher! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Strategic marketing leader with several years of experience in managing multi-product portfolios, with special emphasis on product positioning, messaging, branding, and actionable go-to-market strategies.
Proven success in developing go-to-market strategies for innovative products in emerging markets, aligning product, sales, demand, corporate marketing, and post-sales functions. Strong ability to craft sophisticated, yet digestible, messaging and content that communicates tangible value to buyers.
Cision is a leading media communication technology and analytics company that enables marketers and communicators to effectively manage their earned media programs in coordination with paid and owned channels to drive business impact.
As the creator of the Cision Communications Cloud, the first-of-its-kind earned media cloud-based platform, Cision has combined cutting-edge data, analytics, technology and services into a unified communication ecosystem that brands can use to build consistent, meaningful and enduring relationships with influencers and buyers in order to amplify their marketplace influence.
Cision solutions also include market-leading media technologies such as PR Newswire, Gorkana, PRWeb, Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and iContact. Headquartered in Chicago, Cision serves over 100,000 customers in 170 countries and 40 languages worldwide, and maintains offices in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Australia. For more information, visit www.cision.com or follow @Cision on Twitter.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.