What nuances have marked the changes you have witnessed in marketing over the years?
I would think about the changes in “each of my little worlds.” In advertising, which I got into in the mid-80s, it was all about television, probably some radio. In the late 90s, it was broadening; the internet didn’t exist yet for all intents and purposes. Agencies were broadening and taking on promotions and public relations, trying to be more things to more people and, of course, an agency today is so much more and a lot of them are very specialized. Then you look at the academic world which has changed because so much of it has gone online.
Now, I’ve been at Nexstar for 11 years and this world is changing, too. The easiest way to think about it is we help people who, for the most part, grew up with tools in their hands to become businessmen. The other big thing that we do now that wasn’t at all part of someone’s marketing program is direct mail. Direct mail is so critically important in this business to stay in touch with current customers because those are always going to be your best customers, the people who already know you, like you, and trust you. Change is always hard; you have to learn to be an expert in the change so that you can coach and teach others. Most of these things are not really hard to learn at the outset, but it’s that, once you think you understand it, it changes again, and it changes again, and it keeps changing.
What were some of the biggest changes you experienced at Nexstar?
I would say there were two big changes at Nexstar. One is, when you start with a totally new industry like this, there’s a whole new set of marketing tools one might have to learn. I did find a few conferences and I developed my own ideas; hopefully you keep an open mind and you keep learning. The second big change was the internet. Social media, I couldn’t understand that at all. I resisted it, I didn’t understand it, I didn’t think it made sense, it didn’t feel right to me. But you’ve got to keep an eye on it, you’ve got to keep an open mind in marketing because things will constantly change on you. So, we kept that open mind and, all of a sudden, we realized we needed to use [social media].
What are the differences between advertising and marketing and how has marketing evolved into Integrated Marketing Communications?
Sometimes I ask that myself, what is advertising anymore? Today, I think that term is probably used a lot more loosely. When I was in school, marketing was broadly defined as all these things: packaging, promotion, and the product itself. And today, for my world, I don’t know that it’s really changed all that much. When you market, you’re communicating things. In traditional media, let’s say you’re communicating you exist, you’re creating brand awareness and what makes your company different and better. Anything that could harm or improve your brand, to me, is marketing.
Do you think there’s a stronger emphasis on brands and branding now than previously? How has it evolved over time?
I believe that, at its core, if we still trust Johnson & Johnson, then Johnson & Johnson’s products have a head start over a company that we don’t know and doesn’t have a strong, positive brand image in our minds.
Since you’ve been at Nexstar, how do you push yourself and your clients to stay at the forefront and move forward and change with, or ahead of, the times?
I read a lot: two newspapers a day and a lot of magazines, general interest magazines like TIME. I think about marketing all day. I never give myself the illusion that I’m done thinking about anything. Keep thinking, keep challenging yourself, keep letting people teach you. When you learn something new, it sometimes feels like, “I should’ve known that because I’m an expert, they’re paying me to be an expert,” but that is okay. Somebody else is an expert, too; let them teach you and you teach each other and, together, maybe you figure out something better.
What would you tell students about finding a job in the marketing field?
I think, even more-so today than when I was starting out, the world is about networking. When you figure out what you want to do and where you want to do it, you’ve just got to get out there and talk to people. So, I would say those two things primarily: read a lot, subscribe to some marketing journals that are specific to different areas, and then just start interviewing with people. As a student or young professional, I think you need to keep an open mind; that you don’t have to get it right and, if it isn’t right, don’t force it. For me, book publishing wasn’t right. I don’t know anybody that is still at the same company, or even necessarily the same industry, where they started – and that is okay.
Interview by Ammi White, Medill IMC Class Of 2017