Q. How has your career evolved over the years?
A. I’ve led marketing communications for a variety of global consumer packaged goods companies, but I’ve evolved my career on two key principles. First, you need to have a meaningful brand identity and a set of values that shows what you stand for, and it needs to resonate through every aspect of what your company does. Second, you need to deeply understand your core consumer, whether you are selling beauty items or deli products. If you know who your fans are and why they love you, you can design programs to touch their souls. That’s what marketing is about.
Q. What positions have you held in industry associations?
A. I’ve served on the Board of Directors for IDDBA, as Immediate Past President of Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and on advisory boards for Social Media Week Chicago, iBlog and I-COM.
Q. What is your leadership philosophy?
A. I believe in finding great people, helping them uncover their inner fire and encouraging them to be trailblazers. I like to build a culture of fast-paced creativity and relentless innovation, where we work hard, celebrate victories together and face failures head on so we can learn from them. Teamwork is everything, and I have a truly brilliant and talented group that inspires me every single day.
Q. Are you married? If so, how long? How many children?
A. My husband and I just celebrated our 28th anniversary—with a romantic trip to a cheese festival of course! We have two sons—one is currently working on his MBA and the other is an agronomist and artisan maker who recently started his own hard cider business. We also have a daughter who just graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a degree in biology.
Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why?
A. My best career advice came from Chad Vincent, who was CEO at another company I worked for over a decade ago and is now CEO of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. He said, “Every day you should do three things—have fun, make an impact and learn something.” Those words have served me well personally over the years and helped me realize the importance of keeping my own team happy, productive and inquisitive.
Q. How involved are you with social media and what are the benefits?A. Very—but social is not about blasting out information to us or getting hordes of people to follow us through sweeps and shallow growth initiatives. It’s about building a community of cheese lovers, giving them meaningful content to rally around and finding ways to interact with them that’s so relevant to their lives that they’ll be naturally compelled to share with their social circles. In fact, I surprised the team when I started, by saying I don’t care if we grow our number of followers at all. I only wanted to grow our engagement. Are people sharing, are they commenting and does it feel like we are feeding their soul and identity as cheese lovers? Since we took on the new philosophy, we’ve increased our social engagement by an overwhelming 4,000 percent, and our quality fan base has naturally increased, as well. While we’re doing our own consumer social content in-house, we are also moving towards more digitally-driven retail promotions by developing larger digital partnerships with key retailers. We’re supporting retail marketing teams and their marketing strategies overall by providing them with inspirational content like recipe videos that the retailers can share on their own channels to meet the specific demands of their shoppers, which then leads to more sales. Now we’ve taken it to the extreme for our uber enthusiasts with an online/offline community called Cheeselandia.