Q&A: Pamela Merritt, Federal Marketing Lead for Deloitte, Discusses Value of Targeting Government Decision-Makers - (Archived)

We recently spoke with Pamela Merritt, Senior Manager, Federal Marketing Lead for Deloitte, about the importance of effective targeting for a recent positioning campaign aimed at increasing brand awareness—and familiarity–in the federal marketplace.

Deloitte is already a well-recognized brand, a global professional services organization where 200,000 professionals serve clients in more than 20 different industry sectors.  Here in the U.S., more than 6,600 dedicated professionals and former government executives provide consulting, risk, financial advisory, and tax services to Federal clients.

[pullquote]Effective targeting was critical to helping us make our overall advertising program more impactful – particularly now when there’s increased expectation of marketing return-on-investment.

– Pamela Merritt, Deloitte[/pullquote]

Pamela’s advertising agency, Keiler, also joined in on the discussion. Lisa Geissler, Media Director at Keiler; and Alicia Fidalgo Wise, Senior Account Manager at Keiler, provided some key insights into how their agency uses the Market Connections’ Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) online tool, which follows the news and information habits of government executives, to enhance their media buying and targeting efforts.  The annual study measures readership by government decision-makers of more than 35 federal and general news publications, frequency of visits to more than 50 different web sites, social media and mobile tool usage.

FedPulse:  Tell us about your role at Deloitte.

Merritt:  I have the privilege of working with a talented group of marketing professionals who create issue and account marketing programs to enhance Deloitte’s reputation, relationships, and revenue in the Federal marketplace.  We bring together a wide range of stakeholders– subject matter specialists, former government executives, account teams, researchers, and designers– to bring these marketing programs to life.  The firm’s commitment to marketing is impressive.

We’re known for building marketing programs that blend research-based thought leadership with innovative, engagement platforms.  Take, for example, the issue of immigration reform:  We recently co-hosted an Anti-Human Trafficking Symposiumwith Georgetown University featuring keynote speaker Mira Sorvino, followed by a Google+ hangout Q&A session.

This year, you’ll see us be even more focused on the issues that matter most to our clients, and collaborate with our national marketing colleagues on cross-industry priorities, like veteran hiring and wounded warrior support.

FedPulse: What kinds of positioning efforts do you manage for Deloitte?

Merritt:  In 2010, we began a sustained effort to raise our profile in the Federal marketplace.   Last year, we felt compelled to refresh our positioning, in light of the threat of sequestration and anticipation of sustained budget pressures—the “new normal.”  So, in 2012, we did just that.

We engaged the team at Keiler to help us articulate how Deloitte could help Federal agencies proactively and strategically address the impact of extreme fiscal pressures.  It was important to us to frame how the breadth and depth of the firm’s resources, private sector insights, and public sector experience could help our Federal clients do things differently.  The last two sentences of our positioning statement really bring it all together:  “By imagining the possible, we help you seize opportunity and make it happen. Wherever you need to go, Deloitte sees you there.”

FedPulse:  Why is it important for you to effectively target government decision-makers in your positioning efforts?

Merritt: Our next challenge was to bring the positioning to life.  Advertising was just one way of achieving this.  Effective targeting was critical to helping us make our overall advertising program more impactful – particularly now when there’s increased expectation of marketing return-on-investment.  Even more so when you consider how complex the federal marketplace is, with such a wide range of decision-makers and influencers.  It’s an important consideration when you think about how your brand will be perceived by different groups – federal agency executives, the Hill, media, analysts, academia, think tanks, employees, teaming partners, and recruits.

We initially planned to launch the new positioning in February 2013, but decided to launch in January 2013 around the Inauguration.   I know, this sounds counter-intuitive.  Some people thought that we’d be competing for attention in a noisy environment–or worse, during a post-election season hang-over.

But launching during the Inauguration was the best decision we made.  It created a definitive stepping-off point for the campaign and it launched an ad portfolio of visual images tied to iconic Washington, DC, milestones and landmarks.  More importantly, we were able to capitalize on the intense media coverage and our target audience’s desire for news and information during the Inauguration.  Results of the launch phase far exceeded industry averages and our expectations.

GeisslerI have actually used the federal media marketing study since its inception.  Because the federal marketplace is so complex and rich, there are often too many targets to choose from and it can be overwhelming.

[pullquote]The FMMS online tool allows us to track the usage habits of government executives, which are combined with real demographic data – this information is nirvana to a media buyer.

– Lisa Geissler, Keiler[/pullquote]The FMMS online tool allows us to track the usage habits of government executives, which are combined with real demographic data – this information is nirvana to a media buyer.  We now know what the audience is reading and this tool helps us get a sense of trends and how we are moving from print to the web to mobile apps.

With this campaign, we have a wide range of audiences that we are trying to influence, which includes media, the Hill, analysts and more.  In addition, the company has a great story to tell and we also had to be effective within certain budget parameters.  We used the FMMS online tool to help us target a few key places for radio, digital, and print advertising.  Now we are expanding more into digital media as we move into the sustainment phase of the campaign.

Fidalgo Wise:  I would also like to add that, in ADDITION to helping us create new and targeted advertising, it allows us to easily maneuver the message so that we’re more responsive to our targets and what’s happening in the marketplace.

FedPulse:  What did you learn from this initiative? 

Merritt:  That you can’t beat the sixth sense of a seasoned marketer, but you do need the point-counterpoint perspective of hard data.  Research tools such as the FMMS online tool help us make smarter decisions about where and how people interact with our brand.

Geissler:  Having these types of research tools is like bring another perspective to the table during the planning phase.

Merritt:  Yes, and it’s important to follow the data –be open to where it may take you.  We learned that it helped us explain where our targets are –where they are not—and build a better business case for investment in tight times.

We would like to thank Pamela, Lisa, and Alicia for sharing these great insights into the value of targeted marketing in the federal space. To learn more about Deloitte’s federal capabilities, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

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