Recently I sat down to interview our new VP of Strategy and Operations – and new SE2 co-owner – Brandon Zelasko and our new Director of Client Services Kate Julian. Here’s what they had to say about their new roles at SE2.
Brandon Zelasko, VP of Strategy and Operations
SM: What are some of the most interesting and challenging things you have worked on at SE2?
BZ: I came to SE2 more than six years ago, starting as an associate and digital strategist. During that time I’ve worked on some great projects – for health care organizations, public health agencies, school districts and more. One of the more challenging projects was the creation of a CRM-based communications and engagement platform for one of our advocacy-focused clients. The project included scrubbing and managing more than 100,000 advocate records, strategizing and implementing the technology platform, persona develop, content strategy and ongoing campaign management. Given the great return on investment, this combination of communications automation and analytics-informed communications is really something I’d love to see more clients commit to doing.
SM: How have you seen communications change during your time at SE2?
BZ: It’s no secret that digital communications has undergone massive changes. One of the most impactful has been mobile. Six years ago, people were still fretting about hitting the “Internet” button on their phones because it cost an arm and a leg. Today, many of our clients’ website traffic comes almost exclusively from mobile users.
Additionally, creative continues to be incredibly important and I’ve been excited to see how our process of using personas and research to drive creative strategy has led to the production of some really great and engaging work for clients. Every communicator should be using personas and data to drive creative strategy because it helps you channel your audiences’ values, attitudes and lifestyles into content that “speaks their language” and meets their needs.
SM: Are there specific industries SE2 works in that are seeing more pronounced transformation?
BZ: Getting consumers engaged in their health care continues to be a hot topic for many of our clients. This will only happen when health-related organizations get even savvier with their communications – crafting their messages to speak to the values, attitudes and lifestyles of their audiences and using the most effective channels to disseminate their messages. No matter what industry they’re in, we push our clients to understand the journey their audience has to go through to complete a desired action, and then build their communications campaigns to remove barriers or facilitate movement through each stage of that journey.
SM: What does your new position mean for SE2? What does it say about where the agency is headed?
BZ: I was inspired by a book that came out a few years ago called Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki. My goal is to produce work that changes people’s hearts and minds and drives impact. To do this, I believe there’s an opportunity for us to even further enhance the collaboration between our owned, earned and paid media and creative teams. In a few years, I hope clients are hiring us to manage their owned, earned and paid media as if it were their own news network – where we tell their stories live and in real-time, develop editorial content that is responsive to the day’s events, and disseminate that content through various online and offline channels to activate and engage audiences. That day isn’t far away.
SM: What does your new role mean for SE2’s clients?
BZ: I want to spend more time mining and sharing innovations that increase activation and improve outreach with our clients. Many marketing innovations come from the for-profit world, so I am actively meeting with innovators in that space to identify ways we can translate innovations to the world of non-profits and public issues. One example: We are one of the only agencies in the country that is using influencers to engage audiences in behavior change and public policy campaigns. We started the service about a year ago when we saw how for-profit organizations were using influencers to circumvent social media burnout and the increase in ad-blocking software. Since then, we’ve run several influencer marketing campaigns for clients and seen the average ROI range from 200 to 700 percent.
SM: When you’re not at work, what do you spend your time doing?
BZ: Hiking. I’ve completed fourteen 14’ers so far and am shooting to complete them all by 2030. When I’m not hiking, you might catch me line dancing. It’s a fun way to do cardio and I think trying to memorize the dances really sharpens your brain!
Kate Julian, Director of Client Services
SM: How does your past experience, particularly in digital communications, translate to SE2?
KJ: Over my 15 years in advertising and communications, I’ve seen a massive transition from clients demanding traditional media channels to near digital domination of their media spend. This ongoing transformation is what keeps me engaged and passionate about my work. My role at SE2 is to help clients make sense of this new media landscape, so they can reach their audiences in the most effective ways possible in order to drive action. As VP of Client Services at Location3 Media, I led a department of 20+ digital-savvy strategists to find the right mix of paid, owned and earned media to successfully influence behavior change along the path to purchase. I am excited to bring the same passion and strategic drive to SE2 and apply it to moving the meter on the issues that matter.
SM: What drew you to SE2?
KJ: SE2 affords me the opportunity to combine my passion for communications with my desire to positively impact people’s lives. Our focus on important issues is what propels me out of bed each morning. My job is no longer about moving products, but rather moving people.
SM: What does the addition of your role mean for SE2 clients?
KJ: It signals a rededication to leading our clients and identifying the most innovative strategies for them. It means digging a little deeper to ensure the right strategies and tactics are in place and challenging our team to ask tough questions, measure everything and use data to inform every recommendation. Above all, it reflects SE2’s commitment to taking care of the current client base. By creating a director-level position, SE2 is ensuring current client satisfaction is top priority.
SM: SE2’s expertise is in mission-driven marketing, behavior change and public policy. Do you feel your skillset lends itself to one of those areas in particular?
KJ: At the end of the day, regardless of whether you’re trying to pass a policy or sell more Oreos, the mission is always to propel people to action. I’ve spent my career deriving insights and forming strategies to do just that. In terms of demonstrating outcomes, there has to be a definition of what success looks like for every single initiative. It is my job to be the client’s advocate, to help them articulate what success looks like to them and then work with our internal team to drive toward that goal and course-correct if necessary.
SM: When you’re not at work, what do you spend your time doing?
KJ: I can be found training for my next race, surviving my 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys, playing with my dog Henry, and drinking Chardonnay in the time in between.