Editor’s Note: Community is everything to us at Pixlee. We’re thrilled to welcome our community of #PixleePros in our latest series “Send Tweet: Insights From the #PixleePros.” This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Pat Timmons!
Pat Timmons is a social media marketer with experience in tech, music business, advertising, and PR. His journey in marketing began at Emerson College with his major in marketing communications and entrepreneurial studies. Since starting and finishing at Emerson, Pat has had roles in all forms of marketing and is a “Swiss army knife” in the discipline.
While marketing is a strong passion for Pat, so is getting to know people and understand why people do things. Ever since he could remember, he has been constantly curious and relentlessly empathetic.
Haley Fraser: Well, you want to tell me just a little bit about yourself and your background? What are you passionate about? And how did you get where you are?
Pat Timmons: I started my marketing career with getting my bachelor’s in marketing communications and entrepreneurial studies at Emerson College in Boston. When I was there, I was really lucky to start my internships early so I really got a sense of what I loved and what I didn’t necessarily love. I started out my career in public relations. My first job was working for King Richard’s faire, which was a small Renaissance Faire in New England. So that was interesting. From there, I went to Comic Con, and then I actually got a PR internship with tech. Between those two internships, I realized that I didn’t really love PR, and got into advertising at Hill Holiday in Boston. I worked with a few different clients like Bank of America, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Great Wolf Lodge and it was really fun to be on the account management side and just get to know clients. And then from there, I actually interned in the video production space in Boston. So I kind of got more hands-on experience with Bank of America and Big Brother, Big Sister, and really cool companies like that. While I was doing that, I was at Emerson College building their mobile app with the team about the UX experience, marketing it, and doing research. We pretty much built a product from the ground up and researched what other students would think about it. From there, I got into the music industry with my Master’s in Music Business from Berkeley, and worked at the Grammys for a little bit with UX writing and QA testing on their website and application flow. Then, I got more into the local music scene, did social media for a few artists and then wanted to really dive into video editing so I took an opportunity at Drift and learned about video editing there. Then, I took a social role at Drift and then now I work in social at Webflow.
Haley Fraser: Awesome. It sounds like you’ve seen a lot of different sides of the space. What do you think has changed the most? What have you seen change over the last little while since you started?
Pat Timmons: I’d say when I started out in marketing, I felt like it was a little bit competitive. People were really trying to work their way into jobs. In advertising at least, it was very much like, ‘Oh, what if I don’t get this role from the internship to the job out of all these people?’ But I think it’s transformed to be really supportive and we always try to root people on.
The Marketing Twitter community has blown up and it’s really awesome to be part of it because I feel like everybody is super supportive; whether people are having a bad time in their role, really want to have a new role, or if they just love their role, and they’re hiring for new people. I think we always have each other’s best interests in mind, which is awesome. It’s been really good to see that transformation from animosity to complete support.
Haley Fraser: I love that. And I love that you’ve talked about community because it’s such a good segue into the next question I had. I feel like I almost know the answer to this one, but how does community really impact your life as a marketer?
Pat Timmons: Being part of a marketing program at Emerson, it was just really awesome to work on the same projects with people, even though our interests lie in very different types of marketing. One of my best friends to this day and I worked on almost every project and were in almost every marketing class together, and she works in PR for DreamWorks. It’s a very different avenue than I’ve gone down but we’ve always had really great ideas and mesh really well together, so I think any marketer can work with any marketer. When we do get together as a community, it is always procreative and exciting.
Haley Fraser: What are some trends or campaigns that you think every brand marketer should try and emulate? Or, just kind of broadly, what are some things you’d like to see more of?
Pat Timmons: I think you might have heard this before but I really think when people bring a human tone to their brand, it adds a lot. Brands need to be more human now than ever because it’s way more fun to interact with them when they’re having a conversation with you, or are just very animated in their own way. Yesterday I even put out a tweet because Lexus and Barbie are using the word ’empathy’ in their marketing right now, and it’s super exciting. I tweeted about it and both of them engaged with it. They’re such different brands, obviously, Barbie and Lexus. But they understand that you need to be human, and you need to be conversational to make it work. I think everybody in social media should make sure that that’s top of mind all the time.
Haley Fraser: It’s definitely good to create that personal connection. Just for fun: if Twitter disappeared tomorrow, what would that mean for you?
Pat Timmons: That would not be great! I actually feel like that’s where I have the most engaged community of people. I started out on Twitter this past year with like 900 followers in November, and then it went to like 5000, just from talking about empathy in marketing. It’s really cool to have that engaged community but at the same time, I’m not sure what to do with that. I definitely am thinking of starting a newsletter and building an email following of people because I have a lot of people that have preordered the book and could share some content about empathy. I could also maybe interview Chief Marketing Officers or CEOs of companies and what empathy means to them.
Haley Fraser: Zooming out a little bit, and digging a little bit more about the empathy side of things. What is some of the best marketing advice you’ve either received or you’d give to others?
Pat Timmons: This was my favorite question on the list. I think the best advice I ever got was from a marketing professor, and it was random. On the first day of class, he sat down and had a very grumpy look on his face and didn’t talk to anybody. He was just sitting at the front of the classroom, and everybody was walking in, like, ‘What’s going on?’ 10 or 15 minutes into the class, he was still doing that, on the first day, and we were all like, ‘Okay, this is kind of weird.’ Then someone said something, and then he broke it and was very happy and animated. And he was just like, ‘It took that long for someone to speak up and look up, and acknowledge what was actually happening?’ He was just waiting for a conversation to start, essentially. I think the biggest lesson was to look up – the best way you can gain inspiration is just from looking around the world and taking action on it and being a student of the world. I think that was the best, most memorable marketing lesson I had.
Haley Fraser: Looking ahead 5 to 10 years, what do you think is the most important skill for marketers to have?
Pat Timmons: You’ll probably guess, but I think I would say empathy. I think having empathy in a way that isn’t just putting out statements when there’s a traumatic experience but actually doing something and acting on it. And saying, like, if we really want to incorporate voices of underrepresented people, then we should be interviewing those people on zoom calls, on phone calls, in person, and actually talking to them about our brand. Someone that does this really well is Adrienne Barnes. She started the better buyer persona company. And it’s really awesome the way that she thinks about things. The way that you can put empathy into action is actually talking to people, hearing what they’re saying, and using that and acting on it rather than just putting out a blanket statement. As our generation gets more into leadership positions, I think that it will naturally happen but the younger generations will have to do the same thing and embrace empathy, for sure.
Haley Fraser: Definitely. Do you think empathy in marketing is a relatively new concept? Or would you say that it’s something that’s just become more prevalent with how connected we are these days, perhaps?
Pat Timmons: I think it’s always existed. You know, when you think about the Mad Men era and all that advertising, it still existed then. People really wanted to know what emotions those people were experiencing. I think that sometimes we lose a little bit of that in day to day marketing, which is why I wanted to bring it back up and make sure people are really thinking about what they’re putting out before they put it out. Even if it’s just one social post or email, anything like that, it needs to hit the right tone, or it can be really negative and misleading, or it can just be annoying, things like that. I think people need to think like the customer 100% of the time when they’re working.
Haley Fraser: Yeah, definitely. Especially today, with brands not always seeming as authentic as they can with images being retouched and statements being kind of fudged, that authentic, empathetic connection is just very important. Speaking of authenticity – What’s your least favorite marketing job interview question that you’ve been asked?
Pat Timmons: I have a bad one that comes to mind. Someone asked in an interview when I was interviewing recently, “Have you ever had experience in growth hacking?” And I was like, “No.” I just said no. I really think that’s kind of annoying as a marketer to hear that because you can’t hack growing an authentic and engaged community. So it’s really kind of annoying when I hear that from someone that was higher up in an organization. It’s not great to hear that and needless to say, he was from a different company but I definitely don’t love that question.
Haley Fraser: Absolutely – what would be your advice to any marketer graduating college or someone trying to get their first start in marketing these days?
Pat Timmons: I think we’re really leaning towards everybody having to be a content creator in some way, whether it’s on Twitter, TikTok, or even a video resume. I think you just need to be more comfortable with putting yourself out there. I know it’s harder with some people because some people are very introverted. Unfortunately, in such a busy and content-oriented world, it’s easier to digest things that are not super old fashioned, I guess. So I think putting yourself out there in a way that is unique. It doesn’t have to be on camera, it doesn’t have to be making social posts every day, it can be something creative, like a website. It can be anything like that. Just putting yourself out there is big advice that I have. Whether it’s something you’re passionate about, whether it’s starting a small business, whether it’s helping a small business in your area, or something like that, and showing those results. I think there are so many ways you can put yourself out there, but I think you kind of have to, to stand away from just being a resume and a cover letter.
Haley Fraser: Yeah, definitely. That makes perfect sense. I know that you’ve somewhat recently moved from Drift to Webflow, so maybe this question is maybe a little bit less relevant but I’m always curious to ask, especially since you’ve got your book coming out. What’s next for you? What’s your next step?
Pat Timmons: I want to work on something like a newsletter and leaning into empathy in marketing as more of a consistent thing that I’ll share, whether it’s asking CMOs and CEOs, or if it’s my top three empathy marketing moments of each month, or something like that. Just really making it more visible. It was kind of exciting, because someone even tweeted something like, ‘Why do I keep seeing the phrase ‘empathy marketing’ on Twitter?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, hey, what’s up?’ It’s cool to see people talking about it a little more and bringing it up in conversation because I think empathy, in general, is being searched out a lot more. But I think empathy marketing can just be a whole new realm of empathy. That’s going to be in my book, out in August 2021.
Haley Fraser: That’s awesome. That’s so exciting. We’ll definitely have to get our team reading that and taking a peek at it. Do you see there someday being a need for an empathy marketer? Or that being a position at a company? Or do you think it’s more just a skill that kind of grows with every role?
Pat Timmons: I think every role needs to learn it. The people I talked about mostly in the book are social media managers and product marketers. I think those two people really need to understand empathy because in social media, you’re at the frontlines every day. You’re talking to the people that use your product, are going to use your product, or may be mad at your product. You need to have empathy in every situation like that. For product marketers, you need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes when you’re using and positioning a product. If you don’t position it in the right way, people will never really understand it and maybe not even adopt it. CMOs and CEOs also have a lot to gain from understanding empathy from a leadership perspective, not just the marketing. There’s a ton of books on that. I’m actually reading one from Harvard Business Review that is all about empathy and leadership, and it’s just really awesome.
Haley Fraser: That sounds very interesting. I love their content. It’s always informative and no fluff, it just is what it is. Say I’m looking to become more empathetic or say, marketers looking to grow in their everyday. Do you have any exercises that you recommend or things that you recommend if someone’s looking to take that first step to become more empathetic as a marketer?
Pat Timmons: It’s really simple, but get on calls with your customers. Listen to their stories, see what they’re posting about on social media, really just listen to them. I think that’s the easiest way to practice empathy and hear them out. From there, if you hear consistent themes, you’re going to be more inclined to act on them and put that into your marketing strategy and your everyday writing and copywriting; whether you’re a community manager, social media manager, email marketing person, anything. Just being on those calls with customers or watching videos that they share. I think that always really helps.
Haley Fraser: I couldn’t agree more. One of my favorite things I get to do is interview our customers, typically when they’re happy with us, because it’s for case studies. It’s always good to hear what their day to day sounds like. I just have these fun three questions at the end so hopefully, they actually are. What are your three most influential pieces of media in recent-ish memory?
Pat Timmons: I’d say the first one is definitely SNL. It’s always been part of my life. Even when I was a child, they had a Mr. Bill skit was just this claymation that would always just fall off buildings or stuff like that. Really comical, funny things would happen to him. As I got older, I was able to watch more SNL skits that were a little more appropriate for my age. Ever since watching those, I always like bringing comedy and levity to my marketing, because it’s just like, ‘Why not?’ People don’t get enough of like you said ‘the fluff’ earlier. Might as well make it funny and indirect. I’m actually reading a great book on that topic in general called Humor, Seriously and I’d highly recommend it. It’s all about the psychology of humor and bringing it into everyday life – the workplace, your marketing, and stuff like that. Books are a second. I don’t really read that many fiction books. I read a ton of nonfiction and marketing, business, and psychology books. Learning about humans and how they act really helps me be better in marketing. I watch Drag Race a lot, so that would probably be another one. I think there are a lot of things RuPaul says that work really well with life like, ‘You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else’ and ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously because life is way too short.’ At the end of the day, most of our products are saving lives so we don’t have to have that pressure of saving lives.
Haley Fraser: That sounds great. I like to close on this one, but what was the career you chose for yourself as a kid?
Pat Timmons: This is a funny one. I was always interested in being a mailman because I always loved talking to new people in a quick, informal way. I never wanted to have too many long conversations but I always liked meeting new people, seeing them briefly and moving on because I was a shy kid. So I was like, ‘Oh, perfect. Just wave to people, talk to them about their day really quickly and then go, because I had to get more work done.’ My parents always said that was my big one that I always wanted to do.