Rob Bancroft interviews PJ Wiese about marketing and building a community.
Patti-Jo Wiese - "Community Builder and Connector"
Never to be seen without her iPhone in hand, Patti-Jo is the lead on creative communication and marketing strategy at Allan Financial. Whether she’s creating hype for an event, building new alliances, or coaching the staff on professional development, she is always teeing things up. Patti-Jo is usually five steps ahead, leaving a signature wake.
Rob: Hi PJ - let’s start from the start. What do you actually do?
PJ: The start eh? How far back should we go…? People think of me as the woman who does Ross’ marketing. There’s always been more to it than that.
I’m actually a business community builder, but I’ve been marketing with stories for (gulp) 20 years in film and tech.
My passion is working closely with innovative senior leaders like Ross. The goal is always to invigorate their businesses. I come aboard sometimes to scale it, sometimes as part of a succession plan, or sometimes to set the stage for disruptive innovation. That’s my favourite.
Ross has been a dream client. He had such a strong community of clients and partners behind him but he needed to move it online to more effectively leverage his influence and impact. Over four years we’ve moved what he did offline into the digital world using beautiful images, playful video and storytelling.
Rob: Some would say Ross is a natural “personality,” and your marketing approach wouldn't work for just any regular company.
PJ: I’ll be honest: I was drawn here by some raw talent. Ross is a kind of fun-magnet, a charismatic salesman at heart and a natural relationship builder. But I’ve stayed because of his leadership courage. Ross delegates and empowers his staff fully to innovate and modernize. That takes confidence and vision.
And, hey …for a marketer, there was no greater challenge than making a life insurance company look chipper! We’ve managed that and way more.
Rob: What have been the most effective and most challenging aspects of your work?
PJ: Like I said, Ross empowered us to push boundaries. It’s a rare consulting relationship of full permission and full responsibility – it’s a symbol of the healthy modern, workplace he’s created.
I took great license in making videos. I could see his playful nature was his most compelling, trust- building quality. And only 3% of businesses make their own content. Videos made us stand out.
And they worked! Clients and partners shared these short clips because they were so unexpected, even random. With life insurance, people are prepared to contemplate their life expectancy and instead they get 2 minutes of whimsical improv. We never expected these to go kind of viral.
So yes, the videos have been a blessing and a curse. They made the unpleasant palatable, but created some backlash too. It’s not always silly-time at Allan Financial. My current challenge is to represent the side of the business that is deeply sophisticated. This is a cutting edge financial firm run by an agile, I’d even say brilliant, and experienced millennial team.
Rob: How are you addressing that?
PJ: Well, that's exactly what our new website is about. It looks simple, but it’s really not!
Our new site, www.allanfinancial.com, is mobile-friendly and built around beautiful portraits focused on the personalities of each of the staff. It’s a portal to 22 videos produced over 3 years, 100s of images, and access to our ground breaking Allan Financial Kiva Project which has moved $210,000 in micro-loans to 700 female entrepreneurs in 21 countries.
Oh yeah – damn right, I’m proud of this site!
The new Allan Financial site is a direct reflection of solid strategy, team tenacity, client connection, and the pure creative grit of Randal Kurt and Meralon Shandler of Bemoved Media.
We’ve built a website designed to nurture relationships: that isn’t normal for insurance, but it’s every day at Allan Financial.
Rob: What is powerful about the Kiva project from a marketer’s perspective?
PJ: You wouldn’t think that lending money to women around the world would sell personal life insurance policies. But it has.
I brought the Kiva partnership to Ross years ago because I knew he understood that social giving is critical to the success of his company. Because of the intergenerational nature of the insurance business, it is a must.
Social business matters to millennials. Ross’ team and the adult children of many of his long-time clients are young professionals. They deeply care about social innovation.
We’re getting unbelievable buzz about the Kiva project from way beyond the insurance business. I’m benefiting in the consultant’s chair because of Ross’ willingness to boldly try something so out of the ordinary.
Rob: So you don’t really do just Social Media after all?
PJ: Ahh no - that’s Emily’s job! Social Media still strikes fear in the hearts of Boomers. But, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – it’s simply a tool for connecting. Just like a text, phone call, or face-to-face meeting.
My advice is just to act strategically, build trust, and be real! And never forget traditional marketing initiatives like good ol’ fashioned events rooted in client appreciation. Take a genuine gratitude approach. Ross truly believes that he must keep earning trust: it’s his point of satisfaction.
Rob: What excites you for the future?
PJ: Ross’s wild, young team is changing the insurance industry! I use this office as an example of what is possible with clients in other sectors. I’ve never been more inspired by the business chops and social conscience of a group of young professionals in my 20 year career. They are game changers: just you watch.
See more about PJ at www.pjwiese.com.