Getting in the Zone: Marketing and brand

by Jenna Bantjes

Here at FTS, we’ve been talking a lot internally about health, wellness, efficiency, and balance. We’ve been making strides to recognize and celebrate each other’s personal and professional accomplishments. More of us are working remotely, adjusting to life changes, and exploring our work and lifestyles. At the end of the day, we recognize that it’s not the quantity of work that matters, it’s the quality.

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Today, we sit down with our Brand and Customer Experience Manager, Chris Wilcox, to hear about his role, his workflow, and how he balances everything brand-related at Fresh Tilled Soil.

Hi Chris! Tell me about your marketing role here at Fresh Tilled Soil.

It’s really interesting because my role is so varied, depending on what kinds of things we are focusing on as an organization. I’m working with my team to get the client welcome packet matching the overall brand. I also spend a lot of time working on events – anything from writing copy for the EventBrite pages, personally emailing attendees from past events, promoting events in our Slack channel, keeping an eye on ticket sales and learning when to create demand. I’m also promoting our events on social media and talking to our contacts at places like VentureFizz to say, “Hey, can you give us a retweet or share out to your network or even feature our event on your calendar?” I’ve also been planning with James White coordinating his designs and briefing him on the event theme to create posters for the event.

It’s very busy! You have to design what the experience is going to be from end to end in terms of what you want the attendee to experience, and then work backwards and say, “Okay, what are the necessary pieces that I need to put together to make sure that the event is successful?”

Outside of event-planning, I’m constantly asking myself: How do we translate a high touch, high value experience when we work with clients? How does that translate into physical materials — business cards or giveaways like t-shirts, coffee mugs, stationery, and other cool stuff. It’s a lot of exploration, a lot of trial and error. We want to make sure the brand is representative of all of us and that there isn’t a disconnect. When you’re sitting in a client project, it should feel the same as our representation on the web. So making sure that it’s not too conceptual and aspirational but grounded in and based on our actual capabilities and the people that are in the building. That is really our biggest strength. We hear time and time again that the people are really why clients come back and work with us and refer us to their peers.

Nice! To change gears just a little bit, do you ever work from home?

Yes, I do.

How does that affect your productivity or your work? Is there a certain kind of work that you prefer to do at home?

Yeah, I love to do planning and strategy at home, like tying specific to-dos to calendar dates. I tend to work with so many different people at Fresh Tilled Soil on a day-to-day basis that sometimes it’s hard to step back and see things from a holistic view because you are working on so many different projects at once. Something you need to be able to take a step back and ladder up how each individual piece of the puzzle will come together in the end. Having mental space for that clarity and perspective is why I really love working from home on occasion.

This big-picture thinking is often difficult to do in the office with people coming by and doing drive-bys, it can be distracting. But at home, I can kind of do a gut-check to think, “Is this important right now? What are my priorities?” You are on your own, you can crank some things out, you can re-prioritize things as you see fit, and just kind of do stuff [laughs].

So, I am focusing on design process and systematic thinking. It sounds like you have to do the same thing for event planning. Talk about that process and how you structure your day. How do you make an event happen from start to finish in terms of workflow?

Event-specific workflow starts with locking in the overall event brand, then making sure we find a product leader who has made a good name for themselves in their field, has brought something meaningful to their company, and has really made a mark. So that’s where we look first before we reach out to potential speakers. Then we work together on choosing a specific event-focused topic. We’ll branch out on a couple of activities that we do during our roundtable sessions, and then just start to flesh it out more from there. Next, we put together how we can shape the attendance, making sure that we select the right people that we want to attend in the first round of invites, and building that community while we produce the things like the posters that connect everything together. So it is funny because when you think about the design system, it’s more like a day-to-day kind of thing, every day. I basically work on six or seven different projects and have to shift my mental focus throughout the day because everything is so piecemeal that you have to take a step back and think how each individual piece fits to add up to the overall initiative.

With product design, you’re not designing products for yourself, you’re designing them for a target audience. It’s interesting that the same thinking applies for event planning as well.

Totally, yeah. And it applies in general with everything that we do at Fresh Tilled Soil. It’s in the way that we talk to people and the tone of voice that we use in everything from copy on the website to the blog to social media and making sure that the voice is consistent, and something that people would click on, attend, interact with, and share. It definitely does require a lot of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and thinking about how they would experience it, especially when your role and your backgrounds are so different. I’m not a designer, I’m not a developer, I’ve never worked on a product before in my entire life. So just understanding everyone’s perspective is really huge.

Cool. So we’re approaching the end of our time, but let me ask you this: This week- today- what are you super excited about? It could be a record or a book or any creative thing in the world.

I’ve been blasting The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat. The juxtaposition of the children who are having a conversation about love with the teacher in the intros and outros of tracks throughout the album and the themes in Lauryn Hill’s songs is genius. Especially when it’s made clear in the intro track that she is not present in this class – the premise for the album. She was inspired to write the album because of her pregnancy and relationships going on in her life both personal and professional, especially with the Fugees. She describes herself feeling in tune with the world, writing down lyrics to new songs after she felt like she learned something, felt a strong emotion, or reflected on her life and career. I’m inspired by how she really felt present and let her current experiences wholly shape her art; it’s really her raw human experience. It’s beautiful and imperfect at the same time and wildly successful. The authenticity is moving. It’s a reminder to me that being honest, real, and present at all times is always better than being polished and overly produced.

Stay tuned to the blog, as we’ll be interviewing other FTS members to showcase the work styles, habits and tips/tricks help them do their best work.

About Jenna Bantjes

A graduate of the Art Institute of Boston (and the winner of its annual Graphic Design Exhibition), Jenna joined us through our apprentice program. Before...