Linda Descano on Content Marketing, Women in the Workplace and Where to Go For the Best Business Dinner in NYC
Linda Descano, CFA and Former Managing Director at Citigroup, Sits Down with Paper to Pixel Group to Talk All Things Content Marketing
By Cassandra Paré
You could call Linda Descano http://www.lindadescano.com something of a content Queen (if not also, a true Queen of connections). She’s one of the most fashion forward and brilliant minds in the digital marketing space that we know, so, naturally, she was perfect for a Paper to Pixel interview.
Linda Descano, CFA is a former Managing Director for Citigroup and an intrapreneurial executive and strategist distinguished for seeding, structuring and scaling cutting-edge programs that deliver results. As a conversation architect, Linda integrates content, communications, and community to create branded experiences that engage with audiences and drive action.
We met up with Linda at Le Pain Quotidien over cappuccinos and croissants to talk content, strategy and engagement. Oh yeah – and to find out where to grab the best steak in NYC.
P2P: How do you think brands today can really drive engagement and connect with their customers in meaningful ways? How have you seen these conversations evolve in your time as a Marketer?
Brands today really need to go beyond advertising and collateral to content. Content has emerged as the connective tissue that helps brands go from push messaging to true engagement. The digital environment has certainly evolved over time – brands used to be in control of their messaging so that they could really drive but today social really moves those conversations from top to bottom and side to side. That means that so much of how marketing messaging is driven today is via the exchange and sharing of information between people.
As consumers, we are curating our own trust circles and brands have to find a place in that circle. They can do that by leveraging compelling content written in the right mindset for the platforms they are on – this becomes the content that’s really contributing to the conversation vs. just repeating what is said. The content can’t just be about products, but it needs to be aligned with the brand’s values and really integrated with the entire 360° marketing program of the brand.
I also think that getting your employees involved in this process is really important. Your employees can really bring your messaging forward and they can also be leveraged as internal subject matter experts to write great content.
P2P: Let’s talk metrics. Do you think there is any type of metrics brands should be using to measure the success of their content marketing?
There is no one metric that can measure success since your metrics really need to be aligned with your objective and brands have all different objectives. For instance, I think if your objective is to create social buzz than you should be looking at reach, mentions and impressions. If, on the other hand, it's conversion to sale, well then of course it’s a different metric. Brands should start with the question – what is the content meant to do and then ask, what should we measure? They should be thinking in a very iterative way. Start by identifying the low hanging fruit from an objective point of view and then determine what’s the closest indicator that could help you align with that.
P2P: We know that you are also the President of New York Women in Communications. We’d love to learn more about your work with them and what the program’s mission and goals are?
New York Women in Communications’ (NYWICI) mission is to help women in the communications field create, connect and communicate to reach their potential. It’s for women in every stage of their careers and every field of communications from entry level PR to Barbara Walters. They focus on how women can keep their pulse on the changing landscape of communications so they can really lean in and be effective, but it’s also just as much about how women can grow as leaders in business.
NYWICI does this through programs aligned for these different levels of career. We curate events that give members exposure, offer scholarships to college students, bring high school students into different organizations, provide empowerment grants for active members and much more.
I’ve been involved with them for ten years. What I love so much about the program, among other things, is that it creates a virtual cycle of learning and a virtual cycle of giving. It’s important to me to pay it forward.
P2P: Are their any marketing tools that you really love for brands to help manage their content and social media marketing?
I don’t like to think of content in a bubble so I tend to like tools like Sprinklr and Percolate that create robust systems of record and enable brands to aggregate multiple digital assets – that includes both content streams and the original digital assets. I think many organizations tend to undervalue systemic solutions for content. In fact a lot of them are still managing their assets and calendars in a spread sheet. Because content isn’t tagged or integrated, you see a lot of companies re-creating the same content.
P2P: You’ve always been an incredible advocate for women in business -- how have you seen the role of women in the workplace change since your earlier days and where do you think the direction is moving forward? Are we “there” yet?
No, we aren’t “there yet”, but I have certainly seen a lot of progress in women in the workplace over my career. What I’ve noticed is more women coming into the workplace with a sense of confidence, skills and expectation of equality – meaning they really believe they can and will have it all. I’ve also seen that as women reach mid-career and aren’t seeing the opportunity they want, they are more frequently saying ‘to heck with this’ and taking risks for themselves by building their own businesses – whether that’s being a solopreneur or wanting to scale to a big business. I think that sense of confidence to leave and forgo the ‘corner office’ for the ‘corner café’ is so exciting. Of course, it’s sad to see the exodus of really great female talent from corporations but, at the same time, it’s thrilling to see so many women taking the risk.
I also would add that I still don’t think there is enough diversity – that goes beyond just race – I am talking about diversity from a cultural and physical perspective as well. I think that there are still a lot of issues around how we define women and, unfortunately ,a lot of perceptions still revolve around what a woman wears or what she looks like. For instance, I was the first generation in my family to go to college and I come from a less affluent background. It can be more difficult for women who don’t come from these pristine Ivy League backgrounds to have the same access to networks to get a leg up. I’ve also always been curvier and believe there are a lot of unintentional bias around women and body type in the workplace.
We have to stop pigeon holing women into a specific set of expectations that we have around cultural norms and what women at work should “be” like. In order to change those expectations, we have to get both young women and young men to see this point of view.
P2P: How would you describe your personal style?
I would describe my style as classic with an edge. I am a huge fan of Lafayette 148, Karen Millen and Vince Camuto. For jewelry, I love Alexis Bittar and David Yurman. And as far as shopping goes, I love walking the streets of Soho and shopping from the stands -- you can uncover the best jewelry finds!
P2P: What are your favorite things to do in NYC?
I love walking the neighborhoods and just absorbing sights, sounds and languages. I am also a big theatre buff and love to see a Broadway show. My other favorite things to do include walking The Highline, going to a museum and just taking a moment to enjoy the energy of NYC.
P2P: Okay, tell us where is your favorite place for a business dinner in NYC?
I have to say, I have been repeatedly impressed with STK for how they treat women and how they appreciate the female steak connoissieur. I’ve had business dinners in NYC at other steak houses and have been sat near the bathroom or not treated the same as the “business men” eating around us and so I’ve always appreciated STK for really getting it. I also love Del Posto for a great meal, their level of service and for treating everyone with equity.
To learn more about Linda’s work, check out her site at: http://www.lindadescano.com/