CMO Q&A: Hannah Grove, State Street

State Street EVP and CMO Hannah Grove talks to Lindsay Stein about the challenges of leveraging social in the financial services sector.

State Street EVP and CMO Hannah Grove talks to Lindsay Stein about the challenges of leveraging social in the financial services sector.

What makes State Street's approach to marketing unique?
Our marketing strategy is absolutely built around our clients.

We are very much in the institutional or b-to-b world, so from the marketing perspective that means we have a finite list of clients that we are looking to engage with.

Our marketing strategy is built around illustrating how we solve our clients' challenges. The financial industry is more complex, dynamic, global, and competitive than others, and we try to fit into that landscape by articulating how we can help solve those challenges, as well as identifying opportunities [for clients].

We put together integrated campaigns that start with speaking to our clients about their needs and what keeps them up at night. We do research so they can get insights into the rest of the industry, because we all like to know where we sit versus others.

From that, we put together thought leadership based on insights from our subject matter experts, as well as other industry participants, client roundtables, and PR efforts. It is equally important to make sure our employees are versed and understand the issues and trends, so we also focus a lot on internal staff communications.

What has changed in terms of marketing since you joined State Street in 1998?
Traditional marketing used to be very silo-oriented. You would have a PR, employee communications, advertising, and brand strategy. Now, there's no such thing because as much as author Thomas Friedman said “the world is flat,” the marketing landscape is very flat.

You no longer look at standalone strategies. It's the integrated mix of how you tell your story that matters, and more than anything it is that you know your audience. The number of ways to get a story out has mushroomed and the biggest marker in that is social media.

That is where a lot of firms can go astray, because they think they have to have a social media strategy and it's like a checkbox. But it's recognizing that social media is not a strategy into itself – it is another component in your integrated mix, and essentially all media is social media because we live in a 24/7 world.

How does State Street use social media?
It's interesting when you're in the b-to-b space because you do not think of social media being a conduit in that space.

We started off slow, but it's about going back to understanding your audience, so we started off talking about corporate citizenship to keep part of our values and culture. Then we engaged through some of the sector-solution campaigns we have done around our clients and shared our thought leadership.

State Street signed up for video-sharing app Vine as a way to attract more followers

One of the things we just started to do, and we're one of the first institutional service companies to do so, is use the mobile app Vine. We've seen our following grow and it's interesting because we see our clients retweeting us, so we get keen insights into what interests them.

Another place where we've used social media as a conduit since the beginning of the year is through our sponsorship with the nonprofit TED.

It has enabled us to have a broader social media presence and discussion, but it's not all about State Street, which is an important tenet for social media.

Companies cannot constantly talk about themselves and TED conferences are a great mechanism that allows us to engage in innovative thinking.

How do marketing and communications work together?
The two departments are inextricably linked. We just did a study with the Economist Intelligence Unit about how the financial industry looks at risk post-crisis and the lessons learned from that. What was interesting in those findings is that reputation risk has sky-rocketed to the top of people's lists of concerns.

So when you think of managing your brand from a marketing perspective, it boils down to managing your reputation and making sure your communications strategy is completely aligned with overall marketing.

What we've worked on, both externally and internally, over the last year is our voice. In financial services, the vocabulary can be overly complicated. The industry has not met an acronym it hasn't wanted to embrace. For State Street, it's about having a direct tone that everybody can understand, making communications as transparent as possible, and avoiding jargon.

On the marketing team, we have competitions on words or phrases we're going to ban because the world is sick and tired of “out-of-the-box thinking” or “blue-skying.”

Let's just speak English. At State Street, we have done a lot of work on that for our voice, but also making sure we have as much plain speak as possible externally, and that is part of our brand.

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