Over the next few months I will be interviewing practitioners from the world of public relations and digital marketing from across the globe, people I respect and look up to. I have decided to call this series 20:20 Vision. The concept of this is that I ask these practitioners 20 questions about themselves and they give us a glimpse into their working lives and what makes them tick. Most of the people I speak with will have an interest in digital, online or modern public relations strategy.
My first interview is with Arik C. Hanson from Minnesota who is the principal of a marketing and communications consultancy called ACH Communications. His business focuses on delivering results through an integrated mix of digital and traditional PR and marketing channels – so very much like myself and my agency Prohibition. Arik is an award-winning communicator and has nearly 20 years experience in marketing, communications and PR. Over the years, he’s worked with large, Fortune 500 clients like Select Comfort, Walgreens, General Mills and Deluxe, as well as smaller, more local organizations like UCare, Minnetonka Public School District and Bike Walk Twin Cities.
1. What is your area of specialism/industry?
I primarily help clients in three areas: corporate communications, traditional PR and digital marketing. Six years ago, I would have said I specialise in healthcare and B2B, too; however after almost six years working as an independent consultant, I’ve had a chance to work with a number of big retail companies (Walmart, Sleep Number, Walgreens, Sleep Number), so that would probably be an area of focus for me as well.
2. What are you passionate about?
Helping brands make smart, pragmatic decisions that will help them achieve their business goals. Sounds simple, but brands get derailed easily in so many different ways. Helping them set a strategy, and then stick to it, is often easier said than done.
3. Walk us through your daily routine?
7:30 am: Drop off kids at school.
8 am: Coffee/reading.
8:30 am: First meeting of the day.
1030: Draft social content for a client.
11:30: Meet a colleague for lunch.
1:00 pm: Work on a social strategy for a client.
2.30 pm: Tackle some work for a board I current sit on.
3.30 pm: Reach out to some media on behalf of a client.
4.30 pm: Work on a blog post for tomorrow.
5.30 pm: Pick up kids/eat dinner/hang.
8.30: Watch latest episode of Veep and/or Mad Men (the two shows I’m hooked on right now);
10.30 pm: Wrap up a few items for the day heading into tomorrow; 1130: Sleep.
4. Tell me one interesting fact about you that you have never revealed on your blog?
I’m not all that interesting, but one fact I haven’t talked about on my blog before: I played golf collegiately at Winona State University for a year. Not a huge deal since no scholarships were involved, and we were a NAIA school at the time (read: small school), but it was a huge deal for me as I was a big golfer growing up. I played in a national tournament my freshman year. It was really a dream come true in many ways.
5. Which is your social media platform of choice and why?
I spend the most time on Facebook, but I love Instagram. I’m a wannabe photog, and it’s just so easy to flip through each day. Plus, brands haven’t junked up the feed yet, so it’s still fairly clean.
6. What’s the best campaign you have been involved in and why?
As an independent counsellor, I don’t head up too many campaigns (after all, I’m only one person!). But, I’d say I’m most proud of my work with Sleep Number over the years (client for five-plus years). I’ve helped them in a variety of ways over the years from training to strategy to content development to media relations. My clients at Sleep Number are great partners in every sense of the word.
7. What do you think the biggest issue effecting your clients or business is this year?
Lack of resources-at least for this year. And keep in mind, I work with a lot of larger clients! It’s not just small and mid-sized companies that struggle to get the resources they need.
8. What is your favourite blog/website/podcast (in relation to the topic) and why?
Josh Bernoff’s new blog (Without Bullshit) is awfully good. I love how he writes about bad writing–imploring us, as communicators, to write more simply (a lesson we could all keep in mind). I also really love the Ad Contrarian. Not a big morale builder, but he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. And, I laugh a lot when I read his blog. And we could all stand to laugh a bit more.
9. What advice would you give to those starting out in the industry (Top tip for newbies)?
1) Write every day. EVERY. DAY.
2) Raise your hand. For everything.
3) Always be networking–have coffee with at least two people each week. You’ll be surprised where that leads you.
10. Do you believe Marketing, PR, and SEO will merge into one?
Haven’t they already? Walmart is the best example–see this case study I wrote about them earlier this year where they broke news using a blend of paid (marketing + SEO), owned (PR), and earned (PR). http://www.arikhanson.com/2015/02/25/how-the-biggest-company-in-america-walmart-breaks-news-in-2015/
11. Is content really still king and if so which type?
I actually tend to think we may be getting close to a tipping point with content marketing. There’s just an unbelievable amount of brand garbage out there. And yet, brands continue to pour money into content development. It has to ratchet back eventually.
12. Do you think Google will eventually rid the world of SEO?
I’m no SEO expert. I don’t even come close to claiming to be one. So, I’m not sure I have an informed opinion on this one.
13. Do you think brands will have less marketing power over customers as digital grows?
I’m not sure brands have any marketing power over customers now. Research suggests friend, colleagues and family have more influence over purchase decisions than brand marketing. I think those days are long gone.
14. Could you point out a campaign that really impressed you this year and why?
As I mentioned, I LOVED the way Walmart broke its big news earlier this year. So smart with it’s mix of paid/owned/earned media.
And, even though they took a ton of heat for the launch, I actually liked a lot of what Target did with its #lillyfortarget launch earlier this year, too.
15. How do you think an ever increasing growth in technology will change the marketing sector?
Technology has a chance to change our industry even more in the years ahead–specifically, I believe, the changes we’re seeing in VR. As VR develops and goes more mainstream, I really think it has potential to change the ways brands interact with customers. Just look at what Victory Motorcycles did earlier this year.
16. What do you do in your spare time?
I have two small children, so most of my “spare time” gets gobbled up by them. But, on those rare instances where I actually do have free time I spend it playing golf, biking or reading.
17. Email or call discuss?
I spend too much time on email as it is each day. I take every opportunity I can to call my clients, colleagues and friends.
18. It’s the end of the world what would you spend your last £10 on?
Coffee, chocolate and beer. Probably in that order.
19. Who would you have your last meal with?
My kids and wife. No doubt. Never been a big celebrity guy.
20. Name one tool you have started using recently which you think is useful?
It’s not really a new tool, but I continue to love using Diigo, my social bookmarking tool. It allows me to bookmark and organise so much content on a daily basis. That content is the basis for my e-newsletter, podcast, blog and client reads. So valuable.