Publicis Sapient has 53 offices and more than 20,000 employees. We caught up with CMO Teresa Barreira to find out how the business has adapted recently.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
Over the last two years as CMO at Publicis Sapient, I’ve focused on building a purpose-driven brand and a data-driven and agile marketing organization to drive growth. We make an impact through our clients and we achieve our brand purpose of helping people thrive in the brave pursuit of next. It’s not always direct, but it is very distinctive. It’s about helping established companies and brands that we love today, and have cherished over the years, become relevant in the digital age, enabling them to continue adding value for their consumers. That impact improves experiences and ultimately, people’s lives.
More than ever brands need to earn the right to come into people’s lives not only sell stuff. Today most brands are competing for share of life not share of voice. Great brands have become integrated into our lives not just our purchases.
How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?
The rapid change around us forced us to respond and act fast. And we have. We rallied around a common collective purpose and adjusted to be even more agile. The crisis not only forced speed but caused a burst in creativity and innovation. We looked for scrappier and more innovative ways to engage with our clients and build deeper connections. It forced us to reinvent our client engagement and outreach. One example is how we have adopted a video-first approach and created a new platform and channel to visualize and humanize our content.
We recently launched an on-demand streaming channel and crowdsourced ideas for the channel from the entire company. It’s allowed us to ideate, test and learn in so many ways and uncover some of the raw talent within our own organization. Giving the team the chance to be curious and think creatively is a big part of my job. This experiment is now being rolled-out and implemented as our new approach to creating content and engaging our clients.
On a personal note, I’ve been more connected with the team than I was before. I’ve taken the time to be there, to listen, to answer questions. It’s made me a more present and authentic leader and it’s something I’m grateful for.
What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?
Wellbeing is really important to me. I have encouraged my team to prioritize wellbeing despite our full schedules, and I am striving to do the same. At the height of the pandemic we made a point to prioritize our physical health together by doing Pilates as a team via Zoom. We’ve tried out different things. Most importantly, I continue to remind everyone to practice what works for them as individuals. I know this enables everyone to bring their best self to work.
We also need to carve out time for ideation. This week we launched Thinking Thursday, an initiative allowing us to dedicate time each week to focus specifically on thinking and identifying new ideas to bring to market. Our team will spend Thursday mornings using our creative muscle and refrain from scheduled meetings. We’ll manage these ideas as a portfolio and if given the green light, the creators will secure funding to take the concept forward for execution.
When I’m able, I find it helpful to take walking meetings to get some exercise and energy and it’s also when I bring some of my best innovative thinking to the conversation.
Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?
I’ve been impressed with companies that are taking action and acting with extreme transparency. Whether the need to have difficult conversations around business decisions or to talk openly about diversity, there are a lot of companies that have been incredibly authentic and put their people first. I’ve found that admirable. The collective call to action and response has shown a lot of humanity and integrity. I believe companies today need to move from less “saying” to more “doing.” This means focusing less on storytelling and more on taking action and bringing those actions into the storytelling.
What changes are you making to help your brand/brand’s clients connect with how people are experiencing the pandemic?
As a company we have always been focused on helping large established companies like McDonald’s or Walmart maximize their digital business to drive growth. This has never been more relevant than today.
We’re partnering with our clients in industries that have been particularly impacted to help enable and accelerate growth for them. We are also helping clients unlock value with our digital tools. Throughout the pandemic we’ve been working with state and local governments to alleviate pressures they’ve faced, enabling them to swiftly provide resources to those most significantly impacted. In recent months our clients in the public sector have handled larger volumes of communications and rapidly deployed and distributed resources to those affected, leveraging our technology and innovative approach to crisis management.
What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?
We’ve seen companies at different stages in their digital transformation journey get a wakeup call throughout this crisis. Most companies understand the critical imperative of reimagining their business to be digital. For retailers it’s about integrating the physical with the digital, driving efficiency while enhancing the customer experience at the same time, and maintaining human connection while pairing science with humanity.
Brands are also realizing the importance of diversity, in leadership and at all levels. I’m glad to see this. Having a diverse organization is common sense. Diversity of thought, background, race, gender – all these things make a company and its offering more valuable. Creating that space for multiple voices and integrating perspectives is something we all need to do.
The recent events around the world and particularly in the US remind us of the challenges in our own communities and we’ve witnessed a lot of compassion and empathy. I’ve seen brands act with urgency in more ways than ever before.
What advice would you give a marketer right now?
Being at the forefront of change requires challenging yourself and having a willingness to continuously learn. To succeed in marketing right now you need to be a continuous learner, with the ability to question everything once believed to be true. As we adapt, it’s important for us to continue to think about what’s next, about building something better in the future, rather than going back to normal. Marketers need to be great “cyclists” – always moving, constantly evolving, and never stop pedalling or lifting their foot off the gear. Speed is what gives momentum and creates balance and stability, allowing innovation. The moment you stop innovating someone else can enter and find a solution.
What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your company?
We need to continue to accelerate, working smarter (not just harder), and rethink our approach when and where we need to. We cannot plan on an annual or even quarterly basis right now; we are experiencing such extraordinary change in the market and in our businesses. So, we have to act with urgency and try new approaches, get comfortable with the uncomfortable and keep adjusting to make the most impact.