Last summer, during a pandemic, The CMO Club and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA Pittsburgh) launched the VPP. Similar to a college internship, the VPP invites marketing professors from the tri-state region into Pittsburgh agencies, marketing departments, and marketing organizations for a mutually beneficial experience during the summer.
Professors found value in the VPP, commenting that it “was great to learn in real-time about real-world problems relating to supply chain, eCommerce, and B2B” and that the VPP experience provided “an opportunity to learn about things I could use in my classroom” and “forged relationships that I believe can help students when networking.”
Participating companies found value as well. A theme shared after working with the selected VPP professor “intern” was that company leaders were able to see their organization “through someone else’s eyes…” and that the workshops and presentations led by the professors were “relevant” and “valuable.”
The attached information provides details regarding the timeline, goals, benefits, and expectations. Please review this carefully, as well as the program expectations, which outline your company’s commitment to participation.
Please join us for AMA Pittsburgh’s Summer 2021 Visiting Professor Program by applying for one of the opportunities to potentially be selected to “visit” a local marketing department, agency, or organization to virtually (or in person if safe/regulations allow) become a Visiting Professor!
To be considered, please complete the application found at this link https://sru.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3NK2a9p3zjOhiSOby the end of day FRIDAY, April 23. The information you provide will facilitate the matching process and help companies identify professors best suited to their company and needs resulting in a mutually beneficial experience. Your application information will be available to participating companies to review. These companies will then rank their top three applicants. Last year, all participating organizations were matched with a professor from their top three!
If you have questions, please contact us directly, or contact AMA Pittsburgh at email@example.com or Nan Nicholls listed below. We look forward to a successful and meaningful experience for your organization! (Please feel free to share this invitation with your marketing colleagues.)
Justin Seibert’s search engine marketing experience can be traced back to 2001 when he transformed a Los Angeles-based financial firm’s internet marketing division into a multi-million-dollar revenue generator. Today, Justin serves as President of Direct Online Marketing (DOM), a company he founded in 2006 with the ambition of creating the same kind of growth for businesses all over the world. His transparent approach to client services has helped DOM gain its status as a top 200 Premier Google Partner. Learn more about Justin.
In case you missed the event (or attended, and need a
refresher to compare against your own notes!), Justin Seibert held an excellent
interactive seminar on SEO and how to strategically bring the right organic
traffic to your company’s website. Below is an overview of the key points that
Justin addressed during the event.
Justin began by speaking of SEO’s core benefits, which are:
SEO is free: SEO helps to drive organic traffic so you can decrease your spending on paid marketing.
SEO is targeted: SEO drives a large amount of desirable traffic to your site.
SEO creates legitimacy: SEO helps your company to have authority or makes your company appear valid about what you do and your expertise within the industry.
spoke of the main goal for every company when customers or prospects reach
their site, which he referred to as a conversion. Although oftentimes
conversions are thought of as form submissions or making contact with a company
after going through the company’s site, Justin spoke of how conversion can have
several different definitions. Justin defined a conversion as, “whatever you
want people to do on your site”. This means that if you wanted people to
view a certain page, then they viewed it. Or if you wanted a sale to come from
the customer’s interaction with your site, and a sale came of it. A conversion,
in marketing terms, can be thought of as the goal the company wishes to
reach. The key takeaway is that you can get better conversion returns without
necessarily driving more visits to your site; it’s all about driving the right
traffic to your site.
Justin addressed two key factors to increase your conversion rate, which were:
Increased Incentive: Provide an incentive
for customers to want to do whatever your conversion/goal may be.
Reduced Friction: Don’t make the
conversion process too difficult. An example Justin provided would be asking
for too much information within a submission box. Pro tip: “How can we help
you” open-ended question on lead forms can actually help increase conversions!
Another way to reduce friction is to focus on the user experience (or UX) of
your site. Make sure it’s easy for users to navigate and find what they are
Building Google Authority
There are also several different ways that your company can rank higher on Google other than just through utilizing SEO. Examples Justin provided were through the use of websites, images, videos, news, and maps.
To drive the best traffic for your site, choose to write your site content with keywords that are based upon:
There are two factors that go into how Google will rank your
Authority: on-site, information your
Credibility: off-site, not controlled
information such as company reviews or third parties talking about your
company/linking to your site. Credibility can be boosted by having a solid PR
Helpful Tips on Blogging
Justin spoke on blogging as well because blogging can drastically increase your SEO and company reach. He touched on the fact that in order for your blog’s content to be successful, you need to have good content, a lot of words, and ensure that the blog is more in-depth than that of the competition. You also need to utilize headings such as H1, H2, etc just like everywhere else on your site. If you’re adding photos to your blog (as well as the rest of your site), always re-name the image files and utilize Alt Text in the source HTML code, to describe what the image is of. This will help Google to categorize the image more efficiently.
He also discussed that when blogging, to always utilize an author box. If you’re creating blog content, it’s has a negative impact on blogs to have an author of “Site Creator”, or no specific author mentioned. Have an about the author’s box that discusses who the author is and their credentials on the topic they’re writing about. You can also hyperlink a byline to an author bio page on your site.
Another important feature that should be utilized when blogging is internal and external linking. By this, Justin meant that if you mention something within the blog that could link to a page on your company’s website, have an internal link that goes to that page for more information. For external linking, Justin mentioned that you can link certain points in the blog to external sites (not produced by your company), for more information. By hyperlinking keywords both internally and externally, it can draw in more traffic to the blog content you’re writing.
Be Mobile Friendly
Today, nearly 75% of all purchases are made on a mobile device. You need to ensure that your company’s webpages and any content posted is mobile-friendly. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it could deter potential customers from returning to your site in the future.
Ask for Reviews
Reviews can have a huge impact on your company’s credibility which also boosts SEO! As stated above, reviews are not controlled, meaning that customers are free to voice their opinion of your company to others. Asking the customers you already know are satisfied is a great place to start. Although you don’t want to tell customers exactly what to say in a review or state you’d like a “positive/5-star review” from them, you do want to ask for reviews in general. If you know that they’re a satisfied customer, then they will, more often than not, leave your company a positive review You need to ensure that you’re not only asking for reviews but that you’re keeping up with them and responding to them in a positive way.
We could have spent hours on this topic with Justin, as he has such a wealth of knowledge on the topic and we were lucky to have a very engaged audience. But this was a great crash course on SEO and wanted to share the key takeaways more broadly, for the benefit of our members and prospective members.
If you’re looking to break into a career in marketing, or to move up in the marketing world, the American Marketing Association’s Get Hired event on March 19 at WQED was the place to be. Five panelists, all marketing professionals with varying backgrounds, shared their expertise with those who were looking to move up in marketing.
To be expected, interviewing was a topic of discussion.
Jeff Revilla discusses red flags at job interviews
Lindsay Zaltman, CEO/Partner of Olson Zaltman, a market research firm, said that during interviews, he’s always asking himself, “Are my clients going to like them? Clients want to work with nice people.” There’s a time to be assertive and proud of your accomplishments during an interview, the panelists mentioned, but there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
Jeff Revilla, Digital Marketing Manager at Smail Auto Group, said that red flags appear when he sees the resume of someone who’s been at jobs for 6 months or 8 months. “They’re not a team player in my mind,” he said. “Stick with something, and get everything you can out of it” including training and conferences.
So you landed that coveted interview – how will you research the company?
David Horn, Digital Marketing Manager at ANSYS, a simulation software company, mentioned visiting Glassdoor.com to view the health of the organization by reading reviews of the company written by employees. He also mentioned the site BuiltWith.com, which he said will reveal what technology a company uses for CRM and marketing automation, for example.
Anne Parys, Director of Marketing at the law firm of Rothman Gordon, directed all candidates to visit the company’s website “but then go beyond. Do some digging…Who’s been interviewed in the papers?” Neil Owen, Director, Global Marketing for FS-Elliott Co., LLC, a compressor manufacturer, mentioned using Owler.com to view a company’s profile.
Jeff got technical, guiding candidates to look at the company’s SEO efforts on their own website as well as the company’s social media presence. “Look at their title tags…Look at their social media – do they post infrequently or have no comments? That’s opportunity. Find the answers to their problems.”
Lindsay mentioned viewing client websites when interviewing at an agency such as his. It can also be helpful to research partners, case studies, conferences presented at, and topics presented on. “The most interesting information [about Olson Zaltman] isn’t on our website,” he said.
You’ve done your research, but how exactly do you “wow” an interviewer?
Panelists Anne Parys and Neil Owen during AMA Pittsburgh’s “Get Hired” event.
Jeff relayed a story about hiring a writer who was part of a comedy/improv troupe. “It was a skill he had that we weren’t looking for that brought added value to the company,” he said. In other words, spin your talents into solutions to the company’s problems.
David said that he’s been wowed by how much someone knew about his company. “Find the company’s pain points,” he said. “In the interview, get to the root of why they’re hiring and how you can fit the role.”
Neil’s response was quick: the questions they ask at the end of the interview can wow him. “Probing questions are impressive,” he said.
What probing questions should you ask during an interview?
David and Neil agreed that asking about the marketing-sales department relationship can yield a lot of important information about the company. According to Neil, sales and marketing alignment is “a neverending battle” as they look at things differently. “A company that takes marketing seriously is one where marketing is working hand-in-hand with sales.”
Similarly, Jeff felt that asking about the marketing-IT relationship is an excellent question to pose. He said that the IT department “had better be on board” with marketing in order to move along marketing initiatives.
More specific to the role at hand, David said that asking “What’s your indicator of success?” for the first 30 and 90 days after hiring can be eye-opening. Lindsay responded that asking a question such as “Where do you see the company in 10 years?” shows that a candidate is curious about being at the company for a long time. “Over the long term, how are you going to be competitive?” is a brilliant question to ask, he said. Neil also mentioned asking about overall business challenges, not just marketing challenges. “It can lead to a really engaged conversation,” he said.
Don’t forget to ask about the culture.
Part of interviewing is looking for “cultural fit.”
Lindsay quit his first job out of college after four months because the culture wasn’t a good fit. “You have to be passionate about it,” he added.
Anne said that the importance of looking for cultural fit can’t be overstated. “Always look for cultural fit or else you’ll be miserable,” she said. “I hated working for a global company – it took six months to do anything.”
David responded that with larger companies, there may be frustrations with how long decision making takes, but there are resources available that don’t exist at smaller companies. At smaller companies, you must have a tolerance for things shifting quickly, while at larger companies, you need to have a tolerance for bureaucracy, the panelists instructed.
After an interview, don’t be shy about following up.
“Resumes are to get an interview, interviews are to get hired,” said Anne. “If you don’t get hired, just ask the interviewer why.”
Neil agreed, and said that asking ‘why’ keeps the dialogue going between you and the interviewing company. “It’s Marketing 101: understanding the customer [the interviewer].”
David also agreed, saying that you have nothing to lose by asking, and in fact you could gain a new contact that could lead to networking and possibly a job in the future.
Panelists Lindsay Zaltman and David Horn, answering questions about careers in marketing.
Part of interviewing is making a good first impression, and that includes your social media presence.
As Anne said, “Everyone is looking at your social media.” David instructed that all candidates should “be professional…Be careful about the image you put out, as you’re marketing yourself.”
Jeff suggested creating lists on Facebook to post content for friends or family. “All your wild and crazy stuff – keep it as private as you can,” he said. David felt that everyone should have two Facebook pages, one for yourself and one for hiring managers.
Regarding LinkedIn, Neil directed all candidates to keep their information correct, and when posting information to their networks, “don’t blur the lines between personal and professional viewpoints, as that’s a red flag.” He advised keeping everything balanced, and that will show good judgment to potential new employers.
No networking event would be complete without a discussion of…networking.
“Networking may be the most important marketing tool that you have,” said Anne. She told the audience that she applied to her first job via a newspaper ad, but didn’t hear back after she sent in her resume. She used her network to get an interview thanks to a contact she knew. “You need to work that network!”
Lindsay says he does his best to “help people out the way I was helped out. Find companies you like and do informational interviews. Ask, ‘Can I just sit down and learn a little about what you do?'”
Anne added that informational interviews are a great resource if you don’t like your current position, and would like to hear more about different aspects of marketing. Quite simply, Jeff said, “Offer to buy someone a cup of coffee.”
A behind-the-scenes interview with the creators of Pittsburgh Dad
We continue our interview with the creators of Pittsburgh Dad, Curt Wootton and Chris Preksta, ahead of their induction into the AMA Pittsburgh Hall of Fame, taking place at the 11th annual Marketer of the Year event on December 6th, 2017.
Pittsburgh Dad creators Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton
Q: What was your first move to start promoting Pittsburgh Dad?
CHRIS: Pittsburgh Dad came out in October, the first episode was released in October of 2011. That summer, in July of 2011, we had released a web series on the SyFy channel and NBC Universal, this black and white 1950s sci-fi thing, so we already, in that fall, had drummed up some local publicity about the web series. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Magazine were already talking about us. Pittsburgh Magazine was reaching out to us to do an article about that SyFy series [and] in the middle of that, Pittsburgh Dad dropped. When they suddenly realized, Oh, these are the same guys, then an article went out about Pittsburgh Dad pretty quickly. Sometime that summer the Post-Gazette ended up picking up a story that went on the Associated Press [newswire], and so a million other newspapers ended up running this story online which was bizarre to us – a random newspaper in Iowa suddenly was popping up with stories about Pittsburgh Dad.
And then, in the first couple of months, we got invited to the WDVE morning show. All these things in a very short period of time started helping getting the word out. Every opportunity we got, we just took it. WTAE ended up doing a news story on it in those first couple of months. It all happened really fast, and it was both surprising and fun for us because we’ve worked on a lot of projects where it has not happened like that. You know, where you’re out pushing it and trying to get it in front of eyeballs and really promoting it on social media, and it just doesn’t click, or the momentum never picks up. And so it was really refreshing for this time around, for it to pick up some steam of its own.
Q: When was the decision made to start getting into merchandise?
CHRIS: In the first couple weeks, we had started getting comments on Facebook and Twitter that people wanted to buy things for their dad for Christmas, so we very quickly threw together a print-on-demand t-shirt site with a company in Greensburg. So it was just real quick, it was just the Pittsburgh Dad logo on a t-shirt that people could buy. And then we started doing what we call meet-and-greets, where a store would invite Dad to appear and sign some autographs or take pictures with people, and we showed up…
CURT: The first time we showed up, we didn’t even have any merchandise. We didn’t really know what people wanted to do when they wanted to see you. They like to buy something too, little did we know. But shortly after that, we were ordering more t-shirts and posters so we can actually have merchandise with us on-hand for those type of events.
CHRIS: It was funny for people to walk up to the meet and greet, they’d walk up to the table with money in hand and like yell at us that we had nothing. We were just doing the meet and greet to meet people and do pictures. We didn’t want people to feel like we were trying to gouge them for money. But lesson learned: people wanted posters. Meet and greets are still a big function of ours. We do probably 2 or 3 a year. We do one annually down in Florida…there’s a Primanti Bros. restaurant down in Florida, and we go down every summer, and about 100 people show up to that meet and greet. We do one every year in Ocean City at a Pittsburgh bar down there. We did one this past July and there were 500-600 people in line.
CURT: It was crazy. I mean, it’s a Steelers bar in Ocean City, so it’s pretty much a no brainer.
CHRIS: But it’s nice, you know. You’re getting a face-to-face meeting. People get to get pictures, people share their ideas. For the past few years, we’ve done meet and greets at the Home & Garden Show down at the Convention Center, and once again, you get to make that personal connection so people see the people behind the show.
Q: Pittsburgh Dad can be considered a “social media influencer.” Are you working with an agency to help with contracts?
CHRIS: It depends on the contract, and it depends on the company. For larger stuff, we certainly have a lawyer and a manager that goes over the bigger contract stuff. We published a book a few years back with Penguin Books, so that certainly went through a bigger contract deal. We did episodes with IKEA and McDonald’s, and those larger brand things typically go through those contracts. And then there’s other times if we’re working with a smaller partnership and we got a good vibe about it, it’ll be a simple memo or a simple agreement, not necessarily some massive contract. It’s just a case by case basis.
Q: Do you guys have any must-have tools for creating and distributing content?
CHRIS: iPhone and laptop. Every single episode that we shoot, aside from the short film and chunks of our Back to the Future episode, but other than that, every other episode has been shot on my iPhone and edited on my laptop.
CURT: Very guerilla-style film making.
Q: Kennywood is also being honored as an AMA Pittsburgh Hall of Fame inductee this year, and coincidentally, you guys have done several videos with them. How did your relationship with them start?
CHRIS: Very early on in the show, fans started making requests for episodes, and Kennywood was far and away the number one request. One of the first couple years, we ended up reaching out to them with the idea of filming an episode. Our goal was basically, we wanted to film Dad spending a day at Kennywood to capture everything we could, the feeling and the vibe of what it was like to be at Kennywood, not just for the people here in Pittsburgh but for the people who have moved away who can’t come to Kennywood anymore. You know, a lot of our episodes are for those people out-of-town that miss these places and locations. And Kennywood was certainly very gracious. We had originally gone through their PR team, and they gave us an unbelievable amount of access. They were with us while we were filming. And we were certainly like, “Hey listen, I know Dad pokes fun and all that, but our job is never to trash something.” We’re never trying to really throw some local company under the bus. The only things that we openly trash are Browns and the Ravens. And the Patriots.
CURT: We’ve worked multiple times with the Pittsburgh Steelers, early on, because Coach Tomlin had been a big fan of our show. And we got a request to come up to training camp, and initially when we filmed with him, they took the script, they looked over it, and they were like “you can’t say this, you can’t say that.” Our relationship’s been great with them too. So even at this point when we work with Kennywood or the Steelers, they don’t even look at our script anymore, they just give us the green light. It’s pretty cool.
CHRIS: Yeah, so Kennywood’s been great. There’s been a couple – the first Kennywood episode, the Back to the Future episode has a scene in Kennywood, and then mostly recently we did the Log Jammer episode. And that was another one, where when we heard they were taking it out, I just reached out to them and said “Hey, we’d love to have Dad take one last ride on it.” We were up front with it, like listen, we’re not here to bag on your decision to get rid of it, we’re here to say goodbye and show some respect to it and have some fun with it. And that was another [episode] that went viral. It seemed like everyone in Pittsburgh was sharing that as their goodbye to the Log Jammer. That’s another one that ended up on the news, it ended up in newspapers, it ended up shared on the radio, and it went everywhere. We didn’t do an ounce of marketing, it just literally came out of: I thought it’d be funny.
CURT: We found out that the Log Jammer was closing on a Friday, and we were filming that next day on Saturday. You just gotta keep your ears open for that kind of opportunity in this town.
Q: So the brands let you have creative control of the content?
CHRIS: Steelers just wanted to be sure that if we were doing an episode with the Steelers, like that the Steelers were going to appear in an episode [or] the coach was going to appear, that we weren’t trashing another team.
CURT: But in contrast to that, we did a video for the Pittsburgh Pirates, for their scoreboard, and their mentality was “trash the other team as much as you want.” Different organizations, different mindsets.
CHRIS: We shot an episode of Dad shopping in IKEA. You know, typically, we go through the experience: we spend a day walking around IKEA getting ideas and concepts, we create the script, we send it to them just to make sure that we’re not making a joke about a product that’s about to get yanked off the shelves, or something that we’re missing. But I can count on one hand the amount of jokes that have ever been cut from all scripts combined, by a company. Usually if we cut a joke, it’s typically for time or it just didn’t turn out funny…we just didn’t think it was funny in the edit later on. Once you build a relationship, people know you’ve got their interest in mind as well.
Q: What does being inducted into AMA Pittsburgh’s Hall of Fame mean to you?
CHRIS: It’s simultaneously an honor and it’s also a surprise. Like Curt said, we’re not marketers. A lot of the marketing end of things is us figuring stuff out as we go. Or a lot of it is us reaching out to people that we think are better at this and asking their opinion or getting advice on these things. As we’ve seen Pittsburgh Dad becoming a legitimate Pittsburgh brand, you know, an icon…it’s still surprising to us.
CURT: If you were accepting my father into the marketing Hall of Fame, I would understand that because that’s what he did his whole life, but I’m just, you know, making fun of him behind his back.
Q: What would Pittsburgh Dad have to say about marketing?
DAD: You know what? First of all, there’s too many commercials. You don’t need all them commercials. I know what products are out there, I know what I like. I don’t need you to shove it in my face every 5 seconds. The only commercials you need…you need that Eat ‘N Park Christmas tree helpin’ the star ‘aht, that’s the only one I ever need. That Kennywood one…the girl and the guy fall in love at the park…that’s beautiful. That makes me wanna go dahn there every day.
But as far as all this marketing, you know, you don’t need all that! People know what’s out there. What the hell you gotta waste all that money for, putting it back in our faces? Geeez. Why don’t you go spend that money on something important?!
Q: You’re being recognized as an icon in marketing. Thoughts?
DAD: I just say work hard, do your best, and good things will come. Don’t expect anything handed to ya…that’s what Pittsburgh’s all about: work hard. But as far as being an icon in marketing…yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Join Pittsburgh Dad’s creators at AMA Pittsburgh’s Marketer of the Year event on December 6, 2017 at LeMont Restaurant in Mt. Washington. Reserve your tickets.
A behind-the-scenes interview with the creators of Pittsburgh Dad
Pittsburgh Dad has become a beloved character in Pittsburgh. Since 2011, his YouTube videos have accumulated over 72 million views, capturing the humor and nostalgia of growing up with a blue collar “everyman” father. With episodes ranging from watching Steelers games to Kennywood picnics, Pittsburgh Dad quickly hit a funny bone in the Pittsburgh region and from there, developed into a full “Pittsburghese” brand.
Pittsburgh Dad creators Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton
The character has inspired beer, pint glasses, hot sauce, themed Eat ‘N Park Smiley Cookies, a book, in-game jumbotron videos, t-shirts, and more. He even received a declaration of “Pittsburgh Dad Day” by the mayor. The videos have developed such a fan base that Pittsburgh Dad does annual meet-and-greets not just in Pittsburgh, but in Pittsburgh sports bars in Florida and Ocean City, Maryland.
So on December 6th, 2017, AMA Pittsburgh will honor the creators of Pittsburgh Dad, Curt Wootton and Chris Preksta, as Hall of Fame inductees at our annual Marketer of the Year event. We caught up with them as they were filming their Steelers vs. Titans football game episode to talk about the growth of their brand ahead of their induction.
Q: Pittsburgh Dad videos started as a something fun to share with your own families. At what point did you start to think of this as more of a business?
CHRIS: Shortly after that first episode. It was in the first couple months, anyway. We had been working on other film projects prior to Pittsburgh Dad, so thankfully we had garnered enough experience from those, trying to publicize and trying to advertise those projects, that when Pittsburgh Dad began to take off, we were at least prepared for how to handle that. The show already had social media, it already had its Twitter page and Facebook page – we had built that stuff in very quickly. But it was once the views started really picking up steam, once we noticed that there was something more there and that the views were climbing with each video, then we figured we’d at least give more videos a shot. We said we’d give it a shot for six months, maybe a year. We said if it lasted a year, we’d call it a win, and here we are, gosh, what is it? Six years later. How long it’s gone was surprising.
Q: You mentioned using social media early on. When did you launch those channels?
CHRIS: We actually set up the social media pages – once again not thinking necessarily business, not out of a strategy per se – but we started the social media pages maybe a week before the show actually launched, before the first episode went up. When the video was going to be released, we wanted to share it on something, so we at least had those social media pages ready to go and indicated to our friends and family to follow those pages because something was going to come out in the next couple of days.
Q: Is Pittsburgh Dad a full time job for you both now?
CHRIS: Yes, pretty much. We still do other projects on the side for our own enjoyment. We still work on other films and whatnot that are different from Pittsburgh Dad, things we like, but yes – Pittsburgh Dad is certainly the full-time gig for the two of us. Very blessed to have it that way.
Q: You guys hit your first million views pretty quickly, in just over two months. To what would you attribute the success of your content?
CHRIS: I think the relatability to people’s families…There’s certainly been plenty of other Pittsburghese characters done on radio, on YouTube, WDVE and Jim Krenn, there have certainly been other ones done before that. Our focus is so much on family, and putting a spotlight specifically on the time period that we grew up, the 70s and 80s, and even certainly the 90s. So I think it was the relatability. You know, the number one comment we got early on, and still get a lot of, is that people felt like we were secretly filming their own families. And so I think there’s certainly some joy in the fact that kids could share these episodes with their parents, and say “Oh my god, this is you!,” or siblings could share the video between themselves and go, “Oh my god, this is dad!” The authenticity and the relatability, I think, were key.
Q: Do you have a favorite episode?
CHRIS:The Back to the Future episode is very near and dear to our hearts. It was a lot of work, and a lot of prep and thought went into that episode. I think it really accentuates our humor. The Back to the Future episode is fun for another reason, which is, the entire Pittsburgh Dad show is back to the future. The entire show is about a fun and humorous, nostalgic look back at the way we grew up and our families. And so here was an actual episode that represented that visually, you know, where we physically sent Dad back to the time period. We jumped the shark pretty early on there so we don’t have to worry about that anymore, we’ve already done it! Another one would be the short film we just released this summer, Street Light Stories. I mean, it’s not necessarily an episode because it takes place outside of the normal episodes, but it was the film universe version of Dad where we get to see the rest of the family, and this episode actually takes place in the 80s. It was fun getting to explore that as well.
Q: How did the Back to the Future episode come about? And – follow-up question – did they let you actually drive the DeLorean?
CHRIS: There’s a guy here, Steel City Time Machine, [who] owns the DeLorean that was furbished out by the guys at Universal Studios, and I happened to run into him at a comic book convention. We just were chatting, and he was like, “Hey, if you ever need this for an episode, I’d be glad to include it in an episode.”
CURT: It was like, ding ding ding! We’ll figure something out!
CHRIS: We told him we will find a reason to have it in an episode. Then we just started kicking around [the idea about] what would Dad want to go back to, and the joke was that he would go back to something so simple, and he wouldn’t go back to anything like the JFK assassination.
CURT: He doesn’t go back to something big, he goes back to Hills!
CHRIS: He goes back to a football game that he knows the outcome of. And then he goes to Kennywood and rides the rides that are still at Kennywood. We shot that episode, the stuff with the DeLorean in a church parking lot up in the North Hills. And it knocked us off our feet – we’re in this parking lot waiting for the Delorean to show up, and to see that thing pull into a parking lot, it literally feels like it just pulled out of the movie.
CURT: I actually got to drive the DeLorean and growing up that was one of your biggest wishes that you could actually drive one. And I gotta say, after driving it, it doesn’t really handle that well, and you’re sitting on the floor, you can’t see…and it’s no wonder that car wasn’t really a big hit among consumers in 1982.
Q: You both have turned Pittsburgh Dad into quite a brand – we’ve seen items like candles and hot sauce, commercials, sponsored episodes – how did the partnerships with those brands and products get started?
CHRIS: The first sponsorship, or the first brand partnership we did, was with Turner’s Dairy. They reached out to us very early on. You know, we were surprised – in the first couple of months of the episodes, we started getting reached out to by multiple different companies about advertising and sponsorship, and we approached it very carefully. We were concerned, we didn’t want the viewers to think that we were just trying to sell them things. And so we felt good about starting it off with Turner’s – it was a local company, it was a family-owned company, it was very integrated into Pittsburgh culture. It’s a product that Dad would actually use. That kinda kicked it off for us. And those guidelines are honestly are stuff that we adhere to even now. We don’t agree to many partnerships that don’t make sense for Dad. If it feel disingenuous to us – to the character, to the audience – we try to steer clear of that stuff. As for the products, we started selling t-shirts fairly early on because fans for Christmas were asking for things to buy as gifts. And then other things like the beer or the candles – or we started this new partnership with Steel City Clothing, once again a family-owned, local clothing company here in Pittsburgh, we started a new partnership with them and we’ve got some new stuff coming out with them. A lot of those products and things we do, like the Hill’s candle, for instance, are just things we’re like – it would be fun. Or it’s funny. Or it’s something that fans would like. But we try not to saturate with too much stuff.
Q: Do you two spend much time thinking about marketing?
CHRIS: Yes and no. I mean, I can’t speak for Curt – I will say that the vast majority of our time is more focused on the episodes themselves and the humor and the content.
CURT: Chris and I didn’t go to business school so we’re kinda green at this. So I feel like we just – when something comes along, we take it in and then judge it from there. I think most of the time we’re just focused on making a good show that people enjoy.
CHRIS: We feel that if the content is good, people will want to share it. The marketing really comes into play more so when we feel like there’s a big moment coming up, a big episode or something that we feel is special, and we’ll certainly put a lot more marketing effort into it. So for the Back to the Future episode, we reached out to DVE radio to see if we can get on to chat about it, and we reached out to the local news stations, or newspapers and magazines, to drum up some interest. We did a similar thing with the Kennywood episode. Street Light Stories was another one. If we feel like there’s something unique or special about it, we’ll do a little bit more publicity. But the show really, at the end of the day, relies on word of mouth and relies on shares and retweets. It relies on viewers sharing it with their friends and family, and posting it online.
Q: When you are creating content for these new episodes and projects, are you thinking about how to increase all of those views and Tweets and likes, or does it come organically?
CHRIS: It’s a mix. I will say that once again, our first thought is and always has been – Is this funny to us? Is this moment something that we’re going to laugh [at] and enjoy? And often times that translates into also making the fans laugh, sometimes it doesn’t – sometimes we end up with an episode with lower views and we’re like, Eh, we thought it was funny! Other times there will be a hot topic that falls into our laps – for instance, a couple months ago we shot a “Dad watches the eclipse” episode because everyone online, on social media, was talking about this eclipse. If we can get the character involved with that, people are already talking about it, they’re more likely to click on that, we reap the benefits of whatever’s hot on social media. Just a couple of weeks ago, with the release the new season of Stranger Things – we did Dad’s review of the first season of Stranger Things knowing that people would be searching online [for] the term, “Stranger Things.” Episodes that like help us break out of just Pittsburgh. We’ve ended up in the past with about four or five episodes per year trending on YouTube’s main page. And typically those are more national things. They’re either a movie review, or a big football game that we talked about, or something like that that helps attract some of those other viewers.
In part two, we will talk to Curt and Chris about how they got started with promotions and merchandise, their relationship with Kennywood, how the final Log Jammer ride came about, and what Pittsburgh Dad would have to say about marketing.
Be confident. Prepare for your interviews. Learn to sell yourself.
The solid advice on how to break into marketing flowed through the evening at the Get Hired event, held by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Marketing Association at WQED on Nov. 8. The panel of marketing experts included a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels.
Bethany Tillilie, Senior Strategist for Deeplocal, was candid when asked for advice meant for the audience of college students and young professionals. “It’s okay to start out at a low paying job,” she said. “It’s okay to take a job for experience.” Nick Pitrone, Lead Guide at Bonobos Guideshop, mentioned how everyone should “take advantage of every opportunity.” Leah Moore, Pipitone Group’s Director of Digital Marketing, reflected on her internships and how they taught her what she didn’t want to do in her career. But she learned so much, and worked to take the skills she learned and adapt them for her current career. “Always look for that connection,” she said.
“Be completely immersed [in your work] – give 100%” recommended Dee Schlotter, Senior Color Marketing Manager at PPG Industries Inc. Mark Peake, Director Client Development at Centro, was equally candid. “Do whatever you need to do to get your first job,” he said. “You have to have communication skills – be confident. Set yourself apart by being professional, and come with questions.”
Mark talked about what he looks for in applicants. “We’re looking for that one nugget that sets someone apart,” he said. Dee mentioned the “curiosity quotient,” and said she can tell when someone is engaged and curious. Leah mentioned that she hears others regret that they didn’t learn about HTML and programming – which is another way of setting yourself apart from the other applicants.
When the moderator asked about networking, Bethany was frank. “I hated networking in school and avoided it,” she said. But she also admitted that her first position was gained via a contact. Mark brought everyone into the moment and said, “Talk to us [the panelists], take our cards!” ”Don’t be afraid to talk to anybody,” he said. “Everyone’s been in your shoes…Everyone likes to help someone.”
Mentoring was a hot topic during the event. Mark was frank – “No one’s going to reach out and say, I want to mentor you…It just kind of happens organically.” He also mentioned that “you have to be the aggressor” in this situation. Leah recalled that her best mentor was her high school accounting teacher. “Remember – some of the best mentors aren’t in marketing,” she said. “Ask yourself, How can this person help me be the best me I can be?”
When asked about a turning point in their careers, Bethany mentioned learning how to say no to jobs that weren’t right for her. “Know your worth and negotiate for it,” she said. Dee mentioned being given the opportunity to work on a customer newsletter. It wasn’t part of her day to day work, but “taking on the extra work was worth it.” She mentioned looking for opportunities to do extra work that could lead to something bigger someday.
Because the marketing landscape shifts so frequently, the moderator asked the panelists how they stay current in their roles. Nick brought up taking classes online, such as those in web analytics. Bethany reads newsletters and takes time to keep up with what’s happening in the industry. Leah mentioned reading blogs and Twitter feeds. Dee was focused on her customer. “It’s easy to read, but to me, there’s nothing like sitting with a customer,” she said. “You have to know your customer.”
Defining success was also a topic of conversation. Mark mentioned work/life balance as his definition of success. Dee said that “giving 100% is success.” Leah and Bethany both mentioned finding challenging jobs – “something that keeps you on your toes,” Bethany said.
Katie Krissinger of Pipitone Group was in the audience at the event. “[The panel had] a good spread of people – a recent graduate, someone on the corporation side, someone on the agency side, both older and younger perspectives,” she said. She said that she appreciated the honesty of the panelists.
“I took a lot of useful information away from the event,” said Paige Wolbert, Digital Marketing Specialist at J. Marcus Wholesalers. “I really enjoyed listening to the different perspectives of the panel.” Elizabeth Stoner, Associate, New Media and Graphic Design at Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy, was also thrilled at the diversity of the panelists. Referring to the advice given on moving out of one’s comfort zone in terms of networking and selling oneself, she said, “We should all jump into what we’re uncomfortable doing.”