Maddie Simko, Senior Account Supervisor at Marina Maher Communications, is a recent PRSA-NY 15 Under 35 award recipient. She talks to Isis Simpson-Mersha and Dante Muccigrosso from Ragan and D S Simon Media about how she uses data and analytics to inform and plan client campaigns. Simko also encourages communicators to be curious and ask questions to learn and grow in their roles.
MADDIE: MMC is a creatively-driven, digital-first communications agency that delivers scaled influence, cultural relevance, and brand talkability. We tap the power of influence to connect brands to culture; breaking down barriers to spark conversations and drive business results. For MMC, data unlocks understanding and creativity brings communications to life. Now let’s get into the conversation.
ISIS: I am Isis Simpson-Mersha, Conference Producer and Reporter at Ragan.
DANTE: I am Dante Muccigrosso, Client Reporting & Media Planning Manager at D S Simon Media.
ISIS: Can you explain a little bit about how your role of data and analytics has impacted your career?
MADDIE: Such a great question. I mean, I don’t think I would be a strategist or a communicator without my interest or understanding and data and really access to the data that I have at MMC. I really think kind of my whole career has centered around it. When I was looking into college and what I wanted to do with my life 5 to 10 years ago, I was seeing that trend, that social media metrics and big data were becoming a really big part of the industry and not just a part of the industry, but really business in general. So, I wanted to dive into that and be on the cutting edge a little bit. So, I drove in headfirst. It also happened to align with my interests and then at MMC in particular, we use research and data to inform every recommendation. And as I said before, we have a lot of really great proprietary tools. So, it fuels all of my recommendations, it makes me more of a critical thinker. And I think the data also really helps our clients not just make sound creative decisions, but also help them make really sound business decisions. I don’t go a day without looking at a data set, or diving into some research, or talking numbers with someone.
DANTE: You’ve talked about how you use big data and analytics for a lot of your projects to help your clients out. Which project comes to mind when you think about, you know, a project that you’re most proud of and have been excited about?
MADDIE: We launched a really cool campaign for psoriatic arthritis, which I’m sure that doesn’t sound the most fun when you say it that way. But we worked with Lance Bass, who is diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, and we worked with him to create this dance that was in this boy band kind of vibe because of course Lance Bass and it was a dance that helped him remember the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis and data really informed all of the decisions, not just my decision as the planner and strategist but our talent and partnerships informed our media strategy, our social strategy, really everything. And it yielded a really great, awesome and viral campaign. It got a ton of earned media coverage, which is the goal always or often with communications. And I believe Lance actually was on a morning talk show to talk about his experiences because of the coverage and the campaign itself. So, it was really awesome. And that data played a huge role in that. It helped uncover the insight that a lot of patients who have psoriatic arthritis don’t actually make that connection to the fact that they have it. A lot of them dismiss the signs and symptoms and think that it’s just a part of aging. So, we uncovered that with our data and then leaning into nostalgia and boy bands, we know that has been huge in culture, but especially resonant with our target audience. So, that really led us into the direction of Lance. And then we also have really great tools that show us how celebrities and influencers and spokespeople resonate with our audiences. So, we use that as well. And then all the data really informed what was the right mix for social media in terms of organic and paid, and then also identifying the right target outlets for pitching and reaching out to journalists to make sure we maximize coverage. So all around really informed by data. And it was kind of a scrappy campaign and we were really proud of it.
DANTE: I know you already very touched on some exciting projects or parts of your role overall, but I guess more so. What are some challenges that you face perhaps on a day-to-day basis or with long-term projects? Clients, things like that.
MADDIE: Something the thing I love about working at an agency I think is also a little bit of a challenge. Working at an agency, its fast-paced. No, two days are the same. It’s really fun to kind of be in the middle of that controlled chaos or sometimes uncontrolled. And that can also be a challenge. Sometimes we are quite literally building the plane as we are flying it. We are we need to have a plan A through Z for everything we do and pivot at a notice because of something that happens on the client side or something that happens in the world that we need to react to or account for in our planning. So that can often be a challenge. I would say another challenge is in the broader marketing industry, I think communications as a practice can sometimes be misunderstood. I think communications has changed a ton, even just in the past decade. I think of traditional public relations from ten, 20 years ago. It’s completely evolved from what that is to what it is now in this communications landscape, because it’s no longer just earned journalists and media, but it’s earned everything. How do you get the attention of people without putting strong pay behind it? How do you go viral? What does it take to get something to take the interest of our consumers without it being kind of that traditional commercial? So, it’s something that we are on the cutting edge of and I think really leading the change at MCC. So, challenges and being kind of that first and figuring it out, but then also challenges in educating everyone about it, educating our clients, the other agency partners we work with, and figuring out how we fit together in the broader marketing ecosystem as things are constantly changing day to day.
ISIS: What advice would you tell other communicators in this industry?
MADDIE: Being curious, I feel like that has really led me down this winding, crazy path that I’ve been on over the past couple of years. I really like the question why? I like to ask it not in an annoying toddler way, but in an inquisitive way of challenging exploring and also just really making sure I understand what we’re doing, but pushing us to make sure that we’re understanding the big picture and then deciding that right next step, whether it’s in a campaign or about the process itself or really anything.
ISIS: Yeah. Maddie, it was just such a joy to have you.
MADDIE: Thank you for joining us today. Thank you for having me. It was really great talking with you guys.