Rooftop Chat: Carol Reeve

Part of Girl on the Roof’s success comes from the ongoing relationships we have with our clients. Our in-house interviewer, Roofus, gathered some questions from some of you and then sat down with Carol Reeve, the Founder, Chief Marketing Strategist and original Girl on the Roof.

Roofus: Good morning, Carol. You are right, the view from up here on the Roof is fantastic.

Carol: Thanks, Roofus. We like it.

Roofus: We’re curious about how you got into this field. Why did you choose marketing?

Carol: Interestingly enough, I gravitated to it from an education in microbiology! I enjoy the aspects of creativity, strategic thinking, problem-solving, and analysis involved in marketing. Marketing combines the principles of research, human behavior/psychology, design, and writing. I have been fortunate to gain nearly 20 years of experience in this field with companies of varying shapes, sizes and industries. Now I use that experience to help organizations that make a difference. I am passionate about doing marketing that matters.

Roofus: How did Girl on the Roof get started?

Carol: I ran a strategic marketing firm (Reeve Communications) in Cincinnati, Ohio from 2001 to 2005, after which I moved to Knoxville and worked for HGTV / Scripps Networks. In 2009, a former client of mine tracked me down and asked me to do work for him again. I was unhappy where I was, and I missed working for nonprofits, so I took the plunge again into entrepreneurship and haven’t looked back.

Roofus: In your position as Chief Marketing Strategist, what is the single most rewarding thing that you do?

Carol: Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my job is seeing the light come on for a nonprofit leader, that moment when he or she realizes the Why of the organization and how to articulate it. I love to witness the inspiration and energy that stem from that discovery and the inevitable momentum and success that come after it.

Roofus: You talk about messages worth shouting. What makes a message worth shouting, and why is that important?

Carol: Every organization needs to be able to communicate their Why, How and What. This information shapes their positioning statement, which serves as the foundation for all of their marketing and PR initiatives. Consistency with that messaging is absolutely critical, because we are all bombarded with countless messages in a day. In order to break through the clutter, a message must be concise and consistent. It must also be crafted in a way that resonates with the intended audience using a medium that reaches them where they are. If it meets that criteria, we think it’s worth shouting.

Roofus: What are your thoughts on the evolution of public relations?

Carol: “Public relations” has evolved as the news industry has. 24-hour news channels redefined what was considered newsworthy. Online news sources changed the scene even more, by giving us a way to control the news; we can now choose the specific news that interests us or agrees with us and skip that which doesn’t. Twitter changed the pace of news; it’s now in 140-character bytes that evaporate in seconds. Accuracy has been trumped by speed.

Sadly, the competition in the “news” arena is higher than ever, and with the choices people have for news, it’s increasingly hard to reach the audience you want to reach with the message you want to send them. This reinforces the need for a concise, consistent message.

Today I think social media is now the best way to reach media representatives. Even more importantly, it’s a highly effective way to engage your audience directly, without relying on the “middle man” to deliver the message.

Roofus: Can you provide some wisdom on what to do and what not to do when marketing a company?

Carol: If you cannot articulate why you exist and why someone should engage with you, your marketing efforts will not be effective. Even the best products, if poorly marketed, will fail. Sadly, the converse is also true; sometimes poor ideas brilliantly marketed succeed, at least for a while. This reinforces the importance of an underlying strategy that incorporates a solid understanding of your own positioning and your target audience – who they are, what they value, where they get their information, how they make their decisions… Without these insights, you’re just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And our culture’s walls are increasingly made of Teflon.

Roofus: What are the biggest challenges a marketing strategist faces today?

Carol: Well, I suppose that depends on who you’re talking to. For me, a big challenge is carving out time for my own professional development. In addition to the client work and daily tasks associated with running a business, we also have to keep up with changing technology, from the biggest trends in web design and functionality to the latest social media developments. Keeping up with evolving Facebook policies and implications is hard enough, and that’s just one outlet of many. As an entrepreneur, I face singificant challenges with life balance. Fortunately, my husband and daughter are very understanding and supportive.

Roofus: Based on the non-profits you have worked with, what have been the challenges you have observed, and what have been the paths you recommend them to follow?

Carol: The vast majority of nonprofit organizations I have worked with believe that most, if not all, of their problems could be solved if they had more money. I have found that in most cases, though, their funding is limited because of other problems they are not addressing… problems like the inability to articulate their purpose, not leveraging their board resources, operating from a mentality of scarcity instead of opportunity, and relying too heavily on one person (the founder and/or Executive Director) to do it all without sufficient training.

I have worked very closely with many nonprofit Executive Directors. The biggest challenge I see played out time and again is the expectation that Executive Directors are automatically instilled with superpowers in all areas of business and management; they are expected to be expert fundraisers, articulate writers, fluid networkers, eloquent public speakers, strategic marketers, savvy web developers, shrewd accountants, skilled attorneys… This is, of course, ironic because in the business sector, where CEOs are paid far more than Executive Directors, this entire skillset would never be expected of just one person.

I counsel Executive Directors to work with their board to develop and operate from a strategic plan that motivates, activates and engages their board while clearly delineating responsibilities of staff from the responsibilities of the board. I also encourage them to seek opportunities for professional development and to hire experts in areas where they are needed.

Roofus: Thanks very much, Carol!