What Did You Learn? Episode 12
“We’re in this together.” You’ve probably heard that phrase a lot over the past 6 months. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, many brands fell back on “safe” messaging instead of adding their unique voice and perspective to the issues.
Brandon Scott, VP of Digital for the healthcare marketing firm, Ten Adams, tells us why so many brands had a hard time rising above what he calls, “the sea of sameness.”
During this episode of “What Did You Learn?” he shares why healthcare organizations need to join the conversation and how they can do it effectively. He also gives his tips on leading your team during times of uncertainty.
Ahava: Hi everyone. Welcome back to “What Did You Learn?” I am so excited today to have my good friend and colleague Brandon Scott. Besides having the cutest kids on Instagram, Brandon is the VP of Digital for Ten Adams, a healthcare marketing firm. Thank you so much for being here, Brandon. Great to have you here.
Brandon: You are far too kind. Thank you so much for having me.
Ahava: So let’s talk about the pandemic a little bit because it’s been 7,000 years. Tell me, did you do anything different than you’ve done before? New hobbies? Did you learn a TikTok? Did you download Taylor Swifts’ Folklore?
Brandon: I wish. I’ve been asking my niece who’s at Clemson to teach me more about TikTok and she went from, I mean phenomenally. She went from, like, 5 followers to she’s almost at 40,000, doing a lot of fun things, and it’s insane. But she’s doing such a good job. And for me, I feel so old. I’m like, just teach your uncle how to do this? Quarantine has been a little bit different. You know, we, my wife and my kids, they ended up going out to Arizona right before everything hit. And so they ended up having to stay out there. So I ended up spending about 45 days alone to myself during this time.
Ahava: So was that a good thing?
Brandon: It was an interesting time. I think you spend a lot of time being alone with your own thoughts and so trying to figure out I wasn’t as far as, like, Tom Hanks in Castaway, talking to myself the entire time. But I definitely was talking to myself out loud. I think during that time my hobbies or anything else that I picked up, I just looked around at everything you need to get done. And now that you, all of a sudden, have a little bit more time on your hands, I started doing just home renovations and trying to, you know, read some extra things and just pay attention and study a little bit more.
Ahava: Yeah. So, Brandon and I work together a lot, you’re probably picking that up in the rapport, but talk to me about what you wish you had known before this started. What could have prepared us better for this?
Brandon: That is such a phenomenal question. It’s tough to Monday-morning quarterback it. But if I thought about what I wish I had known before the pandemic hit, it was just probably how people are going to respond. And, that’s always weird. It’s tough to even say that. But at the end of the day, you know, not just like, how long is this really going to last? How long is this? When is this going to be over? The kind of instinctive questions, but what is the response going to be like from close friends from coworkers from family, from the leadership at different levels? For me, it’s just, it’s encouraging to be able to listen to take the time to try to listen to what other people are saying and doing. And so I think I wish I had known, had a little more insight into what I maybe would have predicted their responses would be, or lack thereof, a little bit earlier.
Ahava: Were there any brands where you thought to yourself, you know, I really think they got out there and they knew who their audience was and they figured out how to communicate sharply in this time period?
Brandon: You know, I don’t know if I would really look, at who was leading per se, what other brands were really doing exceptionally well. I think we were overwhelmed by the sea of sameness. You saw so many other brands just trying to adopt the same exact message and regurgitate and be a little bit repetitive. “We’re in this together.” It felt it’s a message that could only work in this moment. So I understand that. But it’s also, it felt very forced and pushed for a lot of people.
I think you know, if there’s anything that I was able to learn, not to over harp on listening, but just taking the time to really tune in, you know, paying attention to what people say, to drop my own filters because I think we always have our own filters and only trying to hear the information that we maybe want to hear, that will fit a certain narrative and instead really tune in to what’s being said, what’s not being said. Instead of just forcing a judgment, I think there’s a place for brands to really, brands are so buttoned up. I mean, you work with them every single day and they don’t, they’re not necessarily emotional. But people are. And so it’s tough to try to build empathy when a brand is so entirely buttoned up, at times, and I think you know it, that sea of sameness to me just felt like you’re forcing it. So finding other brands who were willing to say, listen, we do have a voice in this conversation and there is an opportunity to say and share great things on how that comes out could be a little uncomfortable at times, but that’s OK. I think those are the things that I want, that, I was probably most inspired by.
Ahava: So when you’re talking about this sea of sameness and the brands who did a good job of really sort of tuning into the conversation, what about the brands that, so I guess my question is, do healthcare brands have a responsibility to step into those social situations? Do they have to say something and what do they have to say?
Brandon: Phenomenal question. And It’s a phenomenal conversation. I don’t think there’s a really a short answer. My gut thought is absolutely. If you’re dealing with some, if you’re a brand who you know your audience, you understand that you’re here to serve a patient population. And if that’s true, then you have to be able to address the entire patient population. You can’t just, you know, pick and choose based upon several other factors. I think you really have to be honest and true to yourself and say, listen, we’re not turning away certain people. We have an open policy and we embrace people with open arms. If that’s the type of organization that you are, then be true to that and actually go ahead and put yourself out there to speak on things, where it makes sense. You don’t want anybody to walk, specifically, anybody receiving patient care, to feel uncomfortable or to feel less than or undervalued in any circumstance. And so I think it’s super important to have that voice and to make sure that it’s very much communicated, it’s clear and it’s articulated at a high level. I think anybody else who falls back, there’s so much to be learned with what goes on. You know, it’s like when you don’t say certain things, that is very loud and clear.
Ahava: Silence is acceptance.
Brandon: For sure.
Ahava: When you’re talking to your clients and when you’re challenging each other at Ten Adams, how do you close those loops like, how do you braid these messages together?
Brandon: It’s a fantastic question, and one that I think is a never-ending cycle of How do we do this? How do we take the steps to make sure that we’re very, very clear and braiding this together? I think…
Ahava: I’m glad you don’t have an answer either because I don’t.
Brandon: I don’t have an answer. I think when you, when you’re talking about kind of social messages like that and you’re saying how do we, how do you get… Let’s go to some client challenges because I think that’s the most kind of tangible for them. Alright, a lot of times they come to us and they’re saying, listen, we don’t know right now with this climate, is it the right time to really invest in our brand? We’ve got to furlough a lot of employees right now, is it really going to make a lot of sense knowing everything that goes into this and the expense of the investment that it’s going to take, or how do we know how to prompt engagement on social without really being tone-deaf or overreaching? How do we kind of maintain or build and grow our reputation, knowing that there’s a lot of stickiness and a lot of stakeholders that we have to kind of appease. You know, I think it’s ultimately at the end of the day, how do we grow? So I think trying to weave that together and stitch that up is very, very interesting.
It’s a fascinating conversation. It has so much nuance, and I think it’s just, let’s just look at whatever is right in front of us for right now. Try to create a plan as much as we can, but let’s just take one item at a time. And if we’re willing to at least engage in that conversation, I think we can make some progress. That’s the first step.
Ahava: That’s a really good point. So what have you learned? What’s the thing you’ve learned the most? Besides the fact that you are shocked sometimes by the way people react to things?
Brandon: I think you know, we talked a little bit about leadership and thinking, what have I learned throughout this process? I think probably what jumped out to me. Maybe not necessarily learned it, but it was a reinforcement that leadership is a stewardship. You know, I think leaders’ uncertainty is OK, not to know or not to have all the answers is absolutely OK, but accountability is going to be critical at the end of the day, for sure. I think as leaders, we don’t always have the answers. But we need to be present. We need to be transparent, need to be accessible. But we really need to drive clarity and it starts, you know, again, we talked about it before. It starts with listening, having those uncomfortable, seemingly uncomfortable conversations, because if we are on a team and you’ve got a team that you’re working with and we’ve committed ourselves to constantly transforming or just getting better than you’ve got to address the gaps or the elephants in the room and take them head-on and be honest about them and give it your best. If you can do that, I think that as a leader, then I think you’re going to get the best out of your team.
And so I just think that that’s something for me that’s been really, really important to think through and say, listen, not only is our team of Ten Adams, what are we doing to get better? But we are also stewards on behalf of a lot of other great healthcare organizations around the country. We want to make sure that we’re doing it in the right way and so you know, how do we, again, take a step back, have really tight-knit team conversations, talk through issues, address things, not being afraid to share how you’re really feeling, anxieties or pressures that you’re going through and then saying how do we again, relying on those who were in a position to be able to lead, to try to galvanize the best of the of the team for the betterment of the whole. And that’s really, to me, it’s a reinforcement and it’s like, now more than ever, in this moment, if we’re not doing that, then we’re going to be left behind. Or it’s just really reflective of poor leadership qualities. And I think that, again, isn’t, you’ll be left behind.
Ahava: You and I are having cocktails. Hopefully, it’s less than a year from now. We’re kicking back. We’re enjoying the latest success we had on a co-project. You’re going turn to me and you’re going to say, you know what, Ahava, the one thing I don’t want to lose from what I learned from the pandemic is what?
Brandon: Oh, the one thing I hope I don’t lose? I think it’s relationships, you know. I think right now, again, you’re seeing maybe not the most glamorous version of a lot of people, and maybe not those who say, you know what? I can be raw and it can be really honest. Sometimes it’s backfiring on them in ways that they’re like, you know what? It’s not acceptable to not parent your kid this way or to not make this statement or to say exactly the right thing because all of a sudden you’re getting backlash and a lot of people are now losing, unfollowing, unfriending, removing themselves or distancing themselves from one another. I’m hopeful that the relationships that are most valuable and meaningful, that those definitely remain intact. And I think that’s probably something that I hope that regardless of this moment, we’re going be able to have that moving forward.
Ahava: If you had to pick 6 words that describe the pandemic, mine is what fresh hell is it today?
Brandon: That’s awesome. What 6 words? Let me throw it back, all the way, back dating myself. Vanilla Ice. All right, stop, collaborate and listen.
Ahava: If you’d like to follow Brandon, he is at @theodoreanderson on Instagram. And what about your Twitter?
Brandon: Don’t have Twitter.
Ahava: Good for you. I know.
Brandon: I stay off of Twitter. You can absolutely hit us up on LinkedIn as well.
Ahava: Thank you, Brandon, for being here This is great.
Brandon: Thank you, Ahava, for having me. This is amazing.
Watch Previous Episodes
Get caught up on our “What Did You Learn” series! Catch the most recent episodes below.
- Episode 1 feat. Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic
- Episode 2 feat. Ann Handley of MarketingProfs
- Episode 3 feat. Aaron Johnson of Penn Medicine
- Episode 4 feat. Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks
- Episode 5 feat. Lauren Smith of UT Health
- Episode 6 feat. marketing consultant Chris Boyer
- Episode 7 feat. marketing expert Katie Martell
- Episode 8 feat. Jennifer Balanky & Jennifer Price of Sharp HealthCare
- Episode 9 feat. Andy Gradel from Wolters Kluwer
- Episode 10 feat. Tanya Andreadis of UCLA Health
- Episode 11 feat. Whitney Little of The Knot
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