PR’s Top Pros Talk… Integrating Communications with Marketing
Amy Bonitatibus, CCO, Chase and CMO, Chase Home Lending
How is communications different from marketing? Amy Bonitatibus shares how she navigates a dual role as the CCO of Chase and CMO of Chase Home Lending. She discusses how creating synergies between both teams amplifies the impact of the message. Amy also emphasizes the increased importance of bringing the earned media voice into paid content.
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: AMY BONITATIBUS
DOUG: Amy, you’ve got two pretty important jobs under the Chase umbrella. Can you maybe share some of the distinctions and sort of give our audience a quick view of what you’re responsible for?
AMY: Well Doug, first, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to join. I’m a frequent listener, so I’m honored that you’d have me on as a guest. And yes, I do. I’m currently toggling two different roles. So, today I hold the role of Chief Marketing Officer of Chase Home Lending. I’ve had that for about five years. And then I also run communications for all of Chase.
DOUG: Yeah, I mean, how do you find the balance between two such roles, and obviously you got to be pretty good at delegating.
AMY: I have mastered the art of delegation, but communications is my baby. That’s what I’ve done my entire tenure. And it was interesting about, well, five years ago when I was running communications for multiple Chase lines of business, including home lending. The CEO approached me and said, look, there’s an opportunity that I want you to consider, and it’s the CMO job. And I kind of laughed because I said, Mike, I understand that many people think communications and marketing is one and the same, but they’re very different. And I started to educate him, and he laughed. And he said, Amy, no, you’ve been doing marketing, you’re just calling it communications. And so, I sat on it for a week, and I decided, you know what, he’s right. There’s a lot of similarities there. I knew I’d have to go pretty deep and get up to speed on the data and analytics piece, which has been awesome, and I feel like I actually have become even a better communicator as a result. But yeah, it was one of those points in my career where I said, I’m going to take this risk. I’ve loved and just enjoyed every minute of it. But last year, when they approached me on taking the CCO job, I was really excited because for me, that’s like coming home.
DOUG: So, maybe just from your perspective, why don’t you take them one at a time and sort of define what you see is under the communications or CCO role? And then we’ll get to marketing and then we can talk what’s different? Where’s the overlap and how do you navigate those?
AMY: Today, I manage them essentially as two different organizations. There is overlap, which we’ll get into. But on the communication side, of course, that’s everything from the day-to-day employee communications, letting them know what we’re doing, whether it’s around return to office or org announcements, or just here’s what our strategy is, and here’s how we’re executing against it. The PR is constant every day, fielding inquiries from the media, some reactive, some proactive, or announcing a new credit card or a new consumer banking product, for example. And then, of course, social media, which is how many of our customers like to engage with us day-to-day. So, I have all of those and just a super talented team that is stacked against any of those various communications channels and tactics. And then on the marketing side, we are driving revenue for the home lending business. It’s been really an exciting time to be with home lending. These last five years, we’ve gone through a massive transformation, and we now have a fully end-to-end digital mortgage, which you might say really, that’s exciting? Isn’t that circa 2000? But the industry has been a bit archaic and not just Chase, but across all players. And so having really to focus on the customer’s needs and cutting down on paperwork and just simplifying the process, but still making sure we have all of the information to give someone a very, very, large loan that they’re going to be paying over the next 30 years has been a challenge, but we’re there and we’re just like cranking out our marketing and seeing a lot of leads and applications come in. We’ve got a good rate environment working in our favor, so that’s always nice to have as well.
DOUG: Yeah, and it almost seems the pandemic in a lot of areas has not only driven up prices, it’s sort of driven up people’s needs and desires to relocate and move, not to mention fix up and improve where they are because they’ve been spending a heck of a lot more time in their homes.
AMY: You’re exactly right. That is, if you ask me, what are you most surprised by with the pandemic? I would say two things. One, we’re just very excited that most people didn’t need a lot of the forbearance relief efforts that we were actively marketing and trying to educate people on, there was a lot of misconceptions early on that I’d have to make a balloon payment if I, all these deferred payments that I’m not making. I’m going to be saddled with that in four to five months so am I just kicking the can? We’re like no, so, we were doing a lot of education around that. But what was so surprising was the amount of purchase volume we were doing. So, we literally had to shut down our call centers because we had to get our employees to a safe work from home setting and route all those 1-800 numbers into our employee’s cell phones. And so online, we had said, hey, we know this is the rate environment. There are low rates, you want to take advantage of it. Submit your application here. We don’t have anyone you can speak to, but they’ll call you. You can’t call the 1-800 number, but rest assured you’ll get a call within just a few minutes, and people had a hard time trusting that before. They always wanted to talk to someone first and not start online. COVID allowed us to really lean into the digital trend and essentially shift consumer behavior to start online first and then have that trusted advisor to answer any questions with.
DOUG: So, I don’t want to be anti-moles with this one, but a lot of fun, there’s a perception that when you’ve got so many different groups that you’re overseeing, it’s kind of a whack a mole of what’s going on. So, how do you keep sort of them separate an individual but still creating that synergy for the whole company and manage that portfolio?
AMY: It’s a good question. And this is where I have really come to appreciate the synergies and finding that there is more than less. So, those two teams, my home lending marketing team relies on communications to get out, for example, the educational content that I just alluded to during COVID. The communications team was running that and then marketing was putting paid lift behind it and making sure it got in front of all of our customers who needed to see it. So, there were these organic synergies that were already in place that actually just amplified more by having me over both areas. I was inviting the marketing team to my communications team, town halls and vice versa, all of my communications will go to both organizations, and the feedback was actually, I love learning more about marketing or I love learning more about communications. And now people within the team call up some of my marketers and be like, hey, have you ever thought of… we just launched a new podcast, beginner to buyer, and my head of communications for home lending called the marketing person running the campaign like, hey, have you thought about, printing all of these flyers and deploying them across our branch footprint? So, customers, when they walk in can see that this podcast is live, and they can download it on Apple Podcasts or all of the other places that it’s available. So, that never happened before. So, it was really exciting to see that play out.
DOUG: Yeah, one interesting thing I find, and I’ll show you where I’ve been on this side of this discussion or argument. You can say Doug, you’re way off base or you can agree with me, either is fine. Is that even for the paid stuff, it should still have the voice of earned stuff because people have a choice to opt in and opt out. So, how do you bring that sort of it’s good enough that a journalist, a reporter, or a human beingm individual looking for info would say, I want this content. How do you bring that even into a paid environment?
AMY: Well, and Doug, actually, that’s never been more true than it has in the social media space. We’ve done a lot of analysis and we have a lot of insights on social media content performance. And the content that performs best is the content that doesn’t feel paid, it doesn’t feel forced. And honestly, even the product driven content. We do a lot of social media around products, but we try to do it in a way where we’re not talking about the product, we’re talking about the benefits, or we’re talking about the the journey, and why you might need to plan for college savings or that kind of thing. And so, we come at it from a very different approach. So, if you look at our social content, hopefully most people would never know if there’s paid lift behind it or not, because seeing it would all feel very organic and very earned.
DOUG: Got it. So, you talk about the need for organic, but you’re also working in a regulated space. And I know people, sometimes in pharmaceutical or finance, say that limits what you can do on social media. Does that really have to be a limiting factor? Hopefully, it’s not just an excuse for bad communications because you’re regulated, but can you operate within a regulated environment and still be effective?
AMY: You can. And when we focus on this deeply because we certainly have to comply with all of our regulations and in the banking space, there’s a lot of them. FINRA is a big one when we’re talking about social media. So, if we are putting out something that is product specific, it has to go through a legal and compliance approval. But that’s kind of counterintuitive to social media, which is all about speed to market. So, we try to minimize the amount of posts that are hyper product driven and where we have to go through that approval chain. Most of our content is organic and it’s lifestyle driven, it’s insight driven and therefore my team is empowered to just go ahead. And of course, we have our own approvals, but for the most part, we can turn that around very quickly and post in real time. Things that happen in everyday life crises and other moments, you don’t have time to run it through the gamut of approvals. And so, we thankfully have worked with our controls and legal team to come up with a process that they feel great about where we’re still complying with regulations, but also living up to the spirit of the channel, which is real time, speed to market and content that customers want.
DOUG: Well, given the scope of what you’re doing, we really appreciate you carving out some of the time, and you probably better get back to it, but I know you’ve shared a lot of stuff that are tremendous value for the people who watch and listen to this segment.
AMY: That’s great, Doug. This has been a pleasure. I appreciate you having me.
DOUG: Thank you.