Unlocking the Power of Social Media, with Holderness Family CMO Ann Marie Taepke

Ann Marie Taepke has produced some of the most amazing, hilarious, and memorable videos for brands like Velcro, Chrysler, and  AstraZenaca.  She’s a social media savant who has taken her talents from Ignite Social Media to Walk West, and now she’s the CMO of Holderness Family Productions.

Today she talks about what it’s like to have a viral hit, lessons she learned from watching the great Kobe Bryant, and social media strategy we can all implement today.

Also, Ann Marie has partnered with Walk West to offer a social media course that provides the philosophy and tools needed to have a successful brand on social media. Through a combination of lectures, worksheets, and expert interviews, with this course you’ll be able to master the art of crafting an effective social media strategy.

And if you go to social.walkwest.com before the end of July, you’ll get 30% off.

Donald Thompson: Hello and welcome to the Donald Thompson Podcast!

I’m so excited to for our guest today. She’s someone who I’ve had the chance to work with in-person for the past three years, and she has produced some of the most amazing, hilarious, and memorable videos for brands like Velcro, Chrysler, and  AstraZenaca.  She’s a social media genius who has taken her talents from Ignite Social Media to Walk West to now she’s the CMO of Holderness Family Productions.

That guest is my friend Ann Marie Taepke. I’m excited to hang out with her because she talks about what it’s like to have a viral hit, lessons she learned from watching the great Kobe Bryant, and social media strategy we can all implement today.

Also, I’m thrilled to announce that Ann Marie has partnered with Walk West to offer a social media course that provides the philosophy and tools needed to have a successful brand on social media. Through a combination of lectures, worksheets, and expert interviews, with this course you’ll master the art of crafting an effective social media strategy.

And if you go to social.walkwest.com before the end of July, you’ll get 30% off.

With that, let’s get right to my conversation with Ann Marie. And even though she’s a social media Rockstar now, she didn’t exactly get her dream job right out of college.

Ann Marie Taepke:  I got a job down here—in, cold call sales for financial software.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: Guys, let me tell you, this was a, you know, real, real good job for someone outgoing like me. It was a really dark time in my life. And the reason why I share that is because I am a big believer that you have to look at experiences that you’re in, and even if they’re not what you thought they would be and if—even if you’re miserable in them— there’s lessons to be learned and there’s something to take away from that job. That job was very humbling. It taught me a lot of hustle. I mean, you had to hit so many calls in a day. I mean, you had to hustle every day. And it really taught me some of the value of hard work, even though it was an awful job to have right out of school. And then after that, when that didn’t work out, I started to get into social media. So, social media wasn’t something you could study when I went to school, which is interesting. So, the digital space was not booming yet. There was like, you know, I had one E-COMM class in college and I thought maybe I would be a media planner, like I would just buy media for commercials or something. I didn’t know what I would really be with that advertising and marketing degree. But, when I saw this new space and I saw it kind of blooming, it was something that really, kind of peaked my interest, and I would volunteer just to learn the platforms for different organizations, nonprofit groups- anyone who would let me touch their accounts, I was in. I was like running campaigns for them, I would do little giveaways and things just so I could learn, waiting tables on the side, and that’s when I fell into, Ignite Social Media. Jim Tobin, who gave me a chance at having a job there, having just seen some of the merit I had done with these volunteer positions.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s awesome. And one of the things I wanted to segue to as we get into the career, you talked about Ignite, you spent some time here with us at Walk West-

Ann Marie Taepke: Yes.

Donald Thompson: You now work for the Holderness family, their CMO-

Ann Marie Taepke: Yes.

Donald Thompson: Tell me a little bit about, as you’ve transitioned career-wise and then also worked with Chrysler on a lot of projects in the big three, so a lot of varied experience, a lot of varied companies. Tell me some of the takeaways, either from leaders that you worked with at the companies or projects that you’re super proud about that you could bring that insight to our audience.

Ann Marie Taepke: Absolutely. I did get to work and not only on big brands here at Walk West, but also at Ignite Social Media.  And I, I love the thrill of it. I mean, I’ve never done like, hard drugs, but having a successful campaign is like, probably the closest thing I would think to like having—it is a, is euphoria, you guys. If you have a successful campaign it’s phenomenal. And what I learned was it was like, a lot of, you know, watching other people and how they conduct themselves in business and things and, starting in the account role, I really got to learn how to work with clients, how to really connect with them. In terms of what, different leaders had taught me, I remember very early on there was a woman named Deidre Bounds who really showed me the value of, you know, relationships in business, and, and, you know, she, she was tough on me. She told me I was a paper pusher and I needed to really-

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: Really, you know, like, lean in and get to know these people and connect and I’m so grateful for that. And not, not in a mean way. I mean, she’s a very funny person. And so that was a big- that was a big lesson. Um, another is just seeing how, you know, some of our competitors in the space early on were doing campaigns and they felt very shallow, and that was when we had this mantra that, you know, we were really going to make sure that ours were meaningful, they had engagement, they had multiple touch points. And that’s really what’s blossomed into my theories that I’ve even taught at Wake Tech through the course on how you create a ecosystem with marketing. How you really let people dive down the rabbit hole. Interact with your brand or your product, your launch, whatever it is, as much as they want. That’s what the Internet’s for, right? Like, we all have been down the rabbit hole.

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Ann Marie Taepke: And so why are you not doing that with your brand? I mean, it’s so much more than just like, creating ads and getting clicks and getting sales. I mean, you want people to really be ingrained in the product, that you’re selling.

Donald Thompson: No, that is super good. One of the things, when Ann Marie and I worked together on a more daily and regular basis, I remember being in a meeting with you, and I was kind of hedging on giving you some feedback and one of the things that I really just appreciated and helped our partnership, the way I would describe it, blossom, is she just looked at me and she said, “Don, tell to me straight, I can take it. We can dialogue on it. Right. If I agree, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll work on it. If I disagree, we’ll keep talking. Go ahead and like, like, let’s, let’s talk.” Right? And a lot of times in this environment, I’ll be honest, working with and learning how to work better with all different types of people as a male supervisor with a hard edge, I’m a little more concerned about giving direct feedback that could be taken harsh by female employees, and Ann Marie met me as a leader and gave me that space—we were very professional in different things—but that helped develop a trust for us to do bigger things together. And I don’t know if you remember that moment, but I do.

Ann Marie Taepke: I, you know, thank you for saying that. Yeah, no, I do remember that. And I am a big believer on just, just being honest. And you can be honest without having to be cruel or-

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Ann Marie Taepke: You know, angry, you can be honest in a way that you really are trying to learn from what that person’s thinking. I always wanna know where I stand. I want to know where I stand with clients. I want to know where I stand with my boss. I want to know where I stand, you know, even with people who are beneath me that I’m helping lead and mentor. I want to know, you know, “are there things going on that are bothering you?” Or “what, what could I be doing better? What could we be doing better as an organization?” If you don’t know where you stand, that’s where you lose the business. I mean like, it’s very easy if you’re not getting that feedback from somebody.

Donald Thompson: So, you said a couple things that are powerful for our audience from a personal and professional- if you’re not getting that feedback, if you don’t know where you stand, you could be losing the business, but then that also delves into some of the critical elements of social media, and really try fail and adjust, and testing, and those feedback loops. Give me some direction on some of your thinking around social media best practices and how we need to be super creative and willing to try new things.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah, absolutely. So I love, I love social media and I love it for brands, and even personal brands, so much because it’s really like a real time focus group all the time. If you’re willing to have, you know, your mind open, you’re open to feedback, you’re open to even looking at things that are off your channel of how people are talking about you or maybe talking about your competitors, talking about people like you. If this is your personal brand, it’s really helpful. I mean, you’re getting that all the time. Versus if we didn’t have that, I mean, what, what would you be doing? You’d be like trying to find people on the street. Right? And this is like at your, at your fingertips all the time. Now sometimes, it’s hard, I think, for organizations that are moving quickly to stop and take time to look at that, but that’s one reason why I love it. Another reason why I love it is because it is so honest and transparent, and the brands that are doing that well, and even when they make a mistake, are owning up to it. You know, those are the brands where, I think, people have more affinity for. It’s so easy to see when someone is being fake, when someone is not addressing a problem it’s, it’s really easy to pinpoint that, and we all like have basically a radar for it now we’re like, ‘Oh, like, they don’t really care.’ I remember like United Airlines a couple of years back when they relocated—and I’m doing  air quotes— they relocated a passenger, A.K.A., they dragged him off a plane. Like, who wrote that press release? That was awful. I was like, ‘Well, okay. Like self-awareness, much?” Like, I mean, everyone in social sees through that and so it can be a little scary, I think, especially for like regulated industries to be open, honest, transparent for people who come from old school of, you know, keep everything very politically correct. You know, don’t admit when you make a mistake, try to keep it positive. But I think that space is changing. I mean, that’s what people are craving. They want that human touch to the brand. They want to know what the person on the other side, not like a robot.

Donald Thompson: No, that’s super powerful. One of the examples. That I remember that that you worked on in a very significant way was the Velcro campaign and project that Walk West put together. Take the audience through that project, take the audience how we leveraged creative storytelling through video, through song, and really the impact in terms of the distribution. Is that social media launch planning?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Well, you can’t have a great launch plan, and if you don’t have a great, I think, nugget of an idea or something that you really can lean into, sometimes it falls flat. And luckily, with the Velcro campaign, one of the things that we did was when we were given the problem of like, essentially Velcro companies wants people to stop saying “velcro,” which gives you pause. You’re like, “I don’t think I understand.”

Donald Thompson: Right.

Ann Marie Taepke: And one lesson people can take away from that was we were very confused, P.S., by this ask when we first got it, I felt like we were in our very first brainstorm, like just trying to research the issue because we didn’t fully understand it. And that is another, you know, kind of crux that people fall into where they’re in it all day every day. They forget sometimes the lay person just hearing something for the first time.

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Ann Marie Taepke: They’re, you know, if you were confused when you first heard it, then someone else is going to be, and you know, once we understood it, we had some really cute ideas. We had like a , you know, they want them to call it the hook and loop fastener. So like, I want one idea that hit the cutting room floor was like this buddy cop, like Hook and Loop, and they were like people and like they reached going up Twitter accounts and like banter at each other. And that was like, that was, that did not obviously make the, the cut, but the creative genius of Penn Holderness who helped with that concept and that song was like, let’s really lean in to like, this is ridiculous. Like, this is a first world problem. No one else is like, worried about this and other countries that have a lot more to worry about. And it’s confusing. So like, let’s lean into that. Let’s not shy away, and I think that’s what made it so successful was this brand was super self-aware and thank goodness we had a client that was willing to take a risk, and that’s half the battle is getting your client on board with you. There was enough trust that they were, you know, able to take that leap with us. But you know, we had singing lawyers, we- and these actors we cast were phenomenal. And they’re all local, which I love so much.

Donald Thompson: Yep. I mean, singing lawyers by itself. Like, you’re like, what?

Ann Marie Taepke: You’re like. What is happening here? mean it was a very, a la the style of, “We Are the World” from the 80s like a benefit that we’re trying to do. And then what was really cool about that is when I was younger, I studied improv comedy, and that’s also helped me a lot with my marketing because I liked to look at idea and say “yes, and,” which I know is very trite phrase that everyone says now. But,  I like to look at something and say like, “yes, and with this singing song like, we could also do like, video responses in song form or we could do something else off of that. We could pull threads out of that idea and start to create that rabbit hole, that ecosystem experience.” So we did. The launch plan was awesome. I mean, not only did we have a coordinated effort with PR and a couple of other partners that were also with Velcro companies, we like created a lot of longevity with the campaign.

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Ann Marie Taepke: So the video came out, there was a really cool interactive website. A couple of days later, we went and found people who were mentioning the brand name wrong. We did video musical responses to them. We did 21 in one day.

Donald Thompson: We had a war room, didn’t we?

Ann Marie Taepke: We had a war room. It was-

Donald Thompson: Like a Twitter takeover.

Ann Marie Taepke: Oh my God, yes. Like, this is the euphoria. Like, it’s  like- coming off of that, I remember going to the bar afterwards with the client being like, “This was so great.” And we used the very, you know, Detroit-in-me style of an assembly line. I mean, that’s how we got this out is everyone pretty much had one to two jobs, that’s all you had to focus on, and that was how we were able to crank out 21 in one day, and people, people loved it, people ate it up, they thought it was fabulous.  We did a couple of other things too, but those were the big pillars.

Donald Thompson: One of the things is when you look at social media from a CEO or CMO point of view, creative looks great, video’s fun, but what are the results that I can look to to understand that this campaign had real value? And you know, I don’t remember all the details off hand, but I think we were up to like a billion impressions. Right? Anderson Cooper, highlighted our video on his show. And there were probably, I don’t know if you remember any other other metrics, but it was very significant in terms of both the organic reach and then also the engagement, right, that people had with the brand based on the way that we not only created the creative, but the social media construct around it, which was super cool and something that you should be super proud of. One of the things that people ask is, what if I don’t have a full team and I’m the marketer of one? How do I get educated on social media? You mentioned a minute ago that you taught a class at Wake Tech, so you can talk about that a little bit, but how do I get spun up, and what are some of the platforms I should focus on as a marketer of one?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah, one man band. That is, it is, it is hard. So yeah, let me back up. So the class you could engage with, you know, a local institution, community colleges, see if there’s anything that is available to you at least it, depending on what level you are, there might be, you know, introductory classes, intermediate classes. There might even be advanced classes that can help just bring your edge up. I mean, the more you can get educated and comfortable with something— you know, like ad platforms and things of that nature—the faster you’re going to move as, as a one man band marketer. Um, another thing you can do is there are a lot of, you know, I hate to discount it because you’re getting it from a instructor it is going to be more valuable, but if you’re really strapped, you don’t have much of a budget either, I mean, there’s a lot you can learn just by going through, looking for people who are giving information away, tips away, through YouTube. There’s also even some of the larger, you know, Ivy league, even universities who give away like kind of pop up courses for like $30. It’s not going to be a full fledged semester, but it might be an hour or two of something. Um, that you can learn from. Even just going on like a free webinar, like before they’re trying to sell you the thing, there’s usually one or two nuggets you can grab out of those. I still do that. I find webinars like very soothing, I don’t know. That in tech demos, like if I need to calm down, I just go on the tech demo. I’m so weird, but like, you can usually get something out of those and even just like finding people who are prominent, Scott Monte is someone I follow that kind of, he’s up on the trades and what’s going on. So I don’t know if that’s helpful, but really you can find a lot online if you look around. Or finding somebody, I’ve done this before, finding somebody that you admire in the space, even if you just LinkedIn stalk and you’re like, that person has a cool job. They do social media. I want to learn more about that. Take them to coffee, take them to lunch. I had somebody recently who I just thought their job sounded cool. I wanted to know more about what they did and we met for coffee and it was really, really cool.

No, a couple of things I’ll just,  piggyback on, so to speak. One is coffee is an inexpensive way to get great knowledge. And a lot of times the folks that will ask me for a cup of coffee, that I appreciate the most, are those that will pull information for things that I know well or mistakes that I’ve made that I can pass on that learning, but also share something back. Whether it’s a contact or an opportunity, it is really a networking coffee when both people gain value, right, from that time spent. One of the things back to education for a minute that we’re working on and that you’ve worked on, talk a little bit about the building out of the social media course that Walk West did in partnership with Wake Tech.

Absolutely. It was, it’s still one of the things I’m so proud about so far in my career and very cool, very cool to pass on knowledge. It’s interesting. I think people fall into a little bit, especially in the digital space a little bit of like an imposter syndrome thinking like, I don’t really know that much, or everyone knows what I know. And in teaching the course, just for me on a personal note, that is so not true. I mean, we had what was it, like 90 hours, of course, like time that we taught like that is, that’s a lot.

Donald Thompson: Significant.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yes. A full semester. So what was really cool about that from a marketing standpoint was being able to take a student through the whole experience. To not only educate them on platforms, to take them through what we thought was the right way to do campaigns, the right way to do ads, the right way to structure a customer life cycle. And in a way, it’s like we felt like we are doing a service to the industry in teaching these people things, you know, and telling them not to take shortcuts and to really dive in-

Donald Thompson: That’s right.

Ann Marie Taepke: And be meaningful and be caring with the work that you’re doing as a, as a marketer. So that was, that was really neat. I mean, we got to touch on all different facets of marketing. We got to take them through like, a crisis situation of, you know, how do you handle a social media crisis? What things do you need for a war room? How do you run one successfully? And we, we did simulations around that. We brought in real businesses and had them, especially startups who don’t have a lot of money, who they’re like the one man band times 10, cause they’re the business owner and they’re trying to do like, 75 different jobs. They were able to create a full plan, a full rollout for them in terms of social media marketing.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: So it was really, really meaningful work.

Donald Thompson: One of the things that has transpired, and we want our listeners to know that this is available, we believe that everybody deserves great marketing and independent of the size of organization that you’re a part of. We really want to make sure that the knowledge that we’re building, that we share. And one of the things that, I’m very much a proponent of is that people that are strong enough, courageous enough to start their own business, that we make tools available that they can really succeed and social media is a pretty, a pretty important tool. Ann Marie, there’s a dark side of social media, you kind of mentioned it, but I want to get into it. The naysayers, whether you’re working on a farmer project and you have folks that are anti-vaxxers, whether you have people that go onto your brand, and no matter what you say, how you say it, they’ve got some kind of negative overtone to it. There are people that are trying to push forward, political agendas and different things on social. How do you combat that negative side to social media, number one, and then why is it still worth it? Like some people are afraid to put themself out there because of the negative associated with it.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah, it can be really intimidating— very intimidating—that side of social media. I always steal, a note out of Jay Baer’s book, which is called hug your haters, which is a couple of years old, but it really has principles in it that hold up and you have to address everybody. I mean, even if there is a lot of negativity. I mean, as long as it’s not vulgar, you know, using a lot of profanity. I mean, maybe even if it is you, you have to, kind of have that touch point. There’s different types of complainers too, by the way.

Donald Thompson: OK.

Ann Marie Taepke: There are people who, you know, they just want to be heard. There’s people that no matter what you say, you know, it’s not going to work. And then there’s people that genuinely are telling you this because even if it’s coming off in a hateful way, because they want you to take action, they want you to change and improve. So it’s important to make everyone feel heard, even that person that’s going to like, no matter what, the Karen’s of the world, you know, they’re just never going to be happy.

Donald Thompson: Gotcha.

Ann Marie Taepke: It’s important to address that with everybody. Now, there’s principles in that where there’s only so many touch points that you do. You know, you try to take things offline if you can and remedy them there , a lot of people do that within the service industry, and then there’s also some really interesting strategies. So especially if you have a local business or you have a product. There’s ways that you actually can turn your haters into helpers.

Donald Thompson: I love it.

Ann Marie Taepke: And this is something that Jay Bayer teaches. I hope I’m not like giving too much away. This is genius though. He tells a story about a woman who was like, you know, a friend of his that had a coffee shop and this woman just like berated them online. Never had anything nice to say. Always said the place was awful, dah, dah, dah, dah. So, this person, flipped it on its head and was like, you have an eye for something we’re not seeing. You are now going to be basically like our secret shopper and we have a bunch of different locations and I’m going to give you this gift card that I’m going to reload every month. And your job is once a week to go into each of these locations and you tell me what you see. And the- I mean, this empowered this woman. I mean, clearly she had a lot to say. She kept going back cause she had finding things wrong, you know? So, that’s just, I mean, you can’t do that with everybody, but let’s say it’s a product. You have an eCommerce business and someone’s just bagging on you. You know, why not send them something for free and say, “Hey, we want you to test this, and we really do want to improve and be better.” I mean, chances are someone- people love to share that kind of stuff online too. And just to see that you are listening, you are open to feedback, you’re humble as a brand, and you do want to learn and get better. I think those are really cool strategies to implement.

Donald Thompson: That is really powerful. And I’m thinking as I learn and listen to you, that also works as business leaders with your employees, right? Because where people have things that they’re not quite excited about, and you give them a role and an opportunity to help you fix it, right? And you turn that negative communication or conversation into as positive a trend and as big a learning experience as can be. And I think that is as much mindset as anything else, and that’s super powerful.  One of the things that you’re doing now that I want to get into is you’re working with one of the most influential and sought out after influencer couples in the nation. Tell me why you did that, why you accepted the role and, and a little background on that and a few things that you’re learning industry wide about working with and for influencers.

Ann Marie Taepke: Absolutely. So, yes, I am CMO of Holderness Family Productions. I work with the Holderness family, Penn and Kim Holderness. They are just like what you see on video, and I think that’s what makes my job really easy is they are genuine people. You know, they’re real people there. They don’t have egos or airs about them. I have actually known them for quite a while. So before I joined Walk West, I was at a company called Greenroom Communications, which then merged with Walk West and I had been working with them there and actually it goes back even further than that. I used to be on the news at Ignite near the end of my tenure there, and I would actually go on with Penn quite often, and we talk about social media.

Donald Thompson: Awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: That’s kind of how he found me. But, you know, it’s not a decision that I think, I- I think that I had to go through all of the things I’ve done up until this point, or else I would not be, I don’t think, as successful as what I’m doing now. And the thing I enjoy the most about their personal brand is, you know, people see them, but what they don’t see is that there’s a whole business, there’s a whole production company behind it. And I get to really flex a fun, you know, business strategy, muscle that I haven’t been able to before because on the agency side, you can try to influence that, but you’re not necessarily the brand manager. You’re not the one keeping that, making those calls, and now you know that I am on the other side of things. It’s really fun to say like, let’s expand. Let’s get you guys out of the video player. Let’s do some really fun and cool things, and then actually go forth and do those things. So I’ve, I’ve really been enjoying my time here. It was an easy decision to make when they asked me, only because I’ve known them for so long.

Donald Thompson: Yeah.

Ann Marie Taepke: I know how genuine they are, and they have a really fun brand. I have a really fun job. It’s funny, I’ll like tell my mom what I’m doing this week, and she just like, I can hear her shaking her head through the phone and I’m like, “I know, mom. I have a super fun job. I’m, I’m shooting a silly video today.” But yeah, it’s great.

Donald Thompson: When you think about- and echo what you’re saying about Penn and Kim and now working with them more closely from a business standpoint on a few things. They are genuine and that comes back to marketing in general. And so, I want to ask you, how do brands keep and maintain that authenticity, right, in their social media communication when volume is important in social media? Staying in front of consumers and engagement, how do you keep it fresh when you’ve got to be there so much?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah, so one thing you can do is you can really divide that task out. You can identify people at your organization—even if it’s small—people who are good ambassadors, good spokespeople for your company and you can, you know, give them a role in that. You can do takeovers, things where people are helping create that content for your channel. Or even just having employees, you know, take more behind the scenes. These authentic looks at what the business is doing in a meeting on the production floor. You know, whatever you are doing. I think it’s easy to get the volume that you need and not lose authenticity when you divvy that out, and you allow people to also help share in communicating that message.

Donald Thompson: Oh, that’s awesome. I’m going to switch a little bit personally.

Ann Marie Taepke: Sure!

Donald Thompson: How many kids you have?

Ann Marie Taepke: I have three.

Donald Thompson: Married?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yes.

Donald Thompson: So your husband is a business owner. You have three kids. You’ve got a super cool job, like you are a rock star. Right? Talk to our audience a little bit about- how do you blend all of it together?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: This is a very diverse set of things that you’re trying to be excellent at at the same time.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah. And P.S. like, you’re not going to be good at all of them all the time. This is like a bad, this is, I don’t even know if I should give this piece of advice, but I had an old boss tell me, he was like, “you know, just like keep a little score and then like, just shortchange everyone equally. That’s how you balance, like work and life. Just keep a little score. Like you worked late that night. So like, then you’re going to leave early this day.” Anyway. I don’t subscribe so much to that, although it still sticks in my mind. It’s funny the things you remember and like that was such a one off conversation.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: So how do you be good at everything at once? Well, one thing is that, in my career, I’ve actually- there’s been times I’ve taken steps back. I’ve reduced my hours. I’ve still tried to keep my foot in the door, but I’ve, you know, maybe decided, ‘OK, I’m only gonna work so many days a week or I want to take a, you know, semi-part time role for a little while while my kids are young. It’s funny because those always lead to like, very quickly- I’m just a very passionate person, so I feel like that lasts for a little while and then it’s like, OK, I’m back doing like 40 hours because I can’t help myself.

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Ann Marie Taepke: Especially when you’re a creative person, it’s really hard. When you’re creative and like, you’re driving to carpool and then all of a sudden you have a great idea, like, you go home and you were like banging it out on the laptop and you’re always like, ‘crap, I have to make dinner.’ Like, I mean, it’s really hard. Like, sometimes it- like, the struggle is real. But let me go back to your question.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: So yeah, you can’t be good at everything all at once. I do try to compartmentalize. Actually shortly after my daughter was born in 2015, my husband and I watched Kobe Bryant’s documentary. And I like, didn’t really follow the NBA that much- like early 2000s, like Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, like that whole Pistons team. Like, I’m down, I love you guys, but I did not follow like pass that, P.S., and definitely not- I’m not falling the Lakers. Are you joking? So, I didn’t know much. And when I watched this documentary, we watched it together while I was on maternity leave, this huge light bulb went off because, I mean, the late Koby Bryant taught me like the whole- the black Mamba, you know, outlook and the way that he compartmentalized anything that was going on in his personal life and he left it and he would go onto the floor. I really took that to heart and that’s one of the ways I’ve been able to bounce back after having a baby and really like try to make sure that, you know, yes, I’m stressed out because now we have another kid, or my husband’s starting a business. Or, you know, I’m still breastfeeding. I might not be making enough. They’re going through a growth spurt, they’re not sleeping. And I try to compartmentalize that whole mantra, that whole outlook that he had where he was able to really focus at work on the court. And so I try to really focus, like, be present where I am really try to lock out anything else that’s bothering me. But then I try to do that on the flip side, too. I mean, if I’m home, I really try to make sure, make an effort that I’m present, that I’m there, that I’m, you know, being attentive. I’m not checking my email every five minutes on my phone. It’s so easy, such an easy habit to fall into. And then I also have a great partner. I mean, my husband’s awesome and you know, Steve.

Donald Thompson: I do. I do.

Ann Marie Taepke: And so, I mean, there’s weeks where like, he’s doing laundry and even grocery shopping. I mean, there’s no shame in that. Like, we both chose to be parents and so we’re- he’s a good teammate.

Donald Thompson: That is super good. I mean, you said a bunch of amazing nuggets throughout. The thing that most of us are challenged with, that our parents and married- and everybody’s not, and we’ll talk about that in or I’ll talk about that in a minute. But for a lot of people chasing their goals and dreams, just because you have kids or just because you’re also married, doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious. Right. And we’re all fighting for the space to be that individual in a team game, which is when you’re part of a family, right? And not losing yourself in the process of doing these things for other people. And I’m super proud of of what you’re accomplishing and what you’re becoming. And the cool thing about my role in business and the things that I get to see is I get to see people really evolve and grow and cheer for them and maybe help just a little bit along the way. And it’s just one of the neatest things of all time. If someone’s starting a personal brand, they’re starting a new business. Right? Cause a lot of your experience has been with larger organizations, but you also help people that are just starting things from the ground up.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: What are some of the things, or pieces of advice, you would give to people in their marketing in general, social media maybe, when they’re building a new company—and whatever that company may be—to get their name out to, you know, our business cards still matter. Right? Does a website still matter if everything’s on Facebook? What are just some nuggets you might advise?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah, absolutely. So,  this sounds weird coming from a digital person, but you can’t be all digital. I mean, I do think there’s merit to like, going and knocking on doors and introducing yourself and being a real person. I do want to touch on that more later, just how the pendulum is swinging. But, I think another thing too is that you can’t be at all places all the time, especially if you’re the one man band. You need to be really prescriptive about where you think your target audience is, the people you’re trying to reach, and you don’t need to be on every single channel. That’s one thing we would teach in the course was to have a hierarchy of social channels, and there might be some that you just leave on the cutting room floor. It doesn’t make sense for you to be there. Another thing too is that, you know, you’re only going to get back what you put in. So, you know, if you are engaging with others, commenting on things, sharing other things, chances are your stuff eventually will also get bubbled up by those same people. They’ll see you enough. So, it’s really important to not just be throwing things always into the void. But social media, I feel like, was created for a two-way conversation, and even as a brand or as a personal brand, you have to always remember that. You have to really talk with the other person and not just have them.

Donald Thompson: That is, I mean, you said a lot of powerful antidotes. And the one thing I would just, you know, as I think about my brand is I think about my goals and different things is being a part of a conversation with people that are engaging with you. And you know, I’ve seen- LinkedIn is kind of my jam, right? I use Facebook for like funny things I’m thinking and things that are ridiculous, whatever.

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: Right? But, for business, Facebook to me seems more social. In what I’m doing. But LinkedIn, I take serious in terms of the kind of messaging I’m trying to put out and the kind of brand I’m trying to build. And LinkedIn is still a place where business is being done. It’s not really overrun by ads completely. People are having still good business dialogue and trying to share their message of how they can help new clients. When you look at the social media landscape, is there anything new, any new platforms that you think matter?

You know,

Ann Marie Taepke: I get that question a lot. I also get like, okay, what’s new? And then I also get, like what, what do you read or consume? So you know, what’s new? Here’s the thing. I do like to be up to date on tech stuff, but I do, I mean, and I like to read other people’s theories. I don’t like kill myself to do that because I think one thing is social media is very driven, too, by our cultural perspective at the time. So there’s a lot of things, there’s clues you can take and pick up on if you’re being in, like kind of knowing what’s new in terms of what people are watching, what they’re listening to, what they’re consuming, what pop culture things are going on not that you have to also kill yourself there, but I also look for little clues. So for a long time, you know, I think people were saying, and I, it is true that social media was going, you know, away from just being broadcast and more of these smaller niche groups are popping up. And you know, Facebook groups are very prominent people doing private channels. I think there is a pendulum swing kind of going a little bit away and I’m interested to see what happens with Facebook in the next couple of years, because I think at some point it will probably go away. Um, and I don’t think that’s a scary thing for people in social media because it’ll be probably replaced with something else and we’ll all just learn and we’ll adapt. And I mean, like. I mean, if we’re all sitting here being like, you know, “MySpace is never going to die.” Like I mean, it’s going to die.

Donald Thompson: It did.

Ann Marie Taepke: Something will happen. It’s just evolution. Things are going to change. Or maybe it will be around, and it’ll be something completely new. So, it’s nice to know, you know, what’s going on, but then also using those clues in pop culture. So, I, maybe this is just top-of-mind right now for me, but like, Love is Blind. Oh my gosh. Do you know about this?

Donald Thompson: No.

Ann Marie Taepke: OK.

Donald Thompson: Talk to me.

Ann Marie Taepke: Netflix show. They talk through like a, basically a wall. They don’t see each other and they decide from that if they’re going to get engaged and get married, having never seen each other before, to find out if love is really blind.

Donald Thompson: No.

Ann Marie Taepke: This will- if I- I am actually like scared that I’ve introduced this to you, like this will wreck your weekend. Donald’s going to be really busy watching Love is Blind. But OK, here’s the interesting part. They, you know- these people are just like over Tinder. There are over like the whole, you know, just like swipe right. Like, “Oh, if this doesn’t work out, I have 20 other matches waiting for me. It’s so superficial,” right? And so, there’s a thing that people were talking about in it. It’s like all this genuine connection. You know, people like getting rid of small talk, getting down to issues, like having meaningful conversations and every, I mean like, any news outlet that you turn on, like CNN, even like USA today, someone’s written about this. So, it’s interesting to pull out clues like that, right? Where it’s like.

Donald Thompson: Huh.

Ann Marie Taepke: I would, I would not be surprised if like a Love is Blind-esque dating app pops-up tomorrow. Like, so, it’s interesting to see those pop culture clues and like, how is something like that and the mantra of people feeling that way and being frustrated with the current situation going to influence other social channels down the road? You know, how are we going to, you know, get rid of the highlight reel, get more real, get more meaningful with people. And so, I always look for stuff like that because I think that those are clues to where we’re headed.

Donald Thompson: I mean, I can’t recap all of that, right? Like one thing you described was in terms of authenticity for brands is distributing the work, right? So fresh ideas stay prevalent, but the overarching theme is that things are going to forever change and look for clues, right, to be on that next wave. Right now, Gary Vaynerchuk, is that how you say it?

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: Gary V. So, certainly a popular marketer, does amazing stuff on social. One of the things that I like that he does is he usually has nuggets that are reasonably actual- actionable, excuse me, not actual like he just lies all the time.

Ann Marie Taepke: He’s “reasonably accurate.”

Donald Thompson: He’s “reasonable actual.” And one of the things that I heard recently as he was talking about authenticity and tell people something you learned that day, right? And I, and I was like, “you know what? That’s cool,” because we’re all learning something new every day. We’re all looking at clues and that’s a simple way in the social media platform, right? To be real. Right? And a lot of times we try to create in the social space, this, this superficial aura of perfection in our lives, perfection in our brand or our company. Right? We don’t talk-  I was talking to- a potential partner came in, but I was juggling one of our folks about a client that fired us and he was like, he was kind of taken aback. I was like, “yeah.” I said, “we got enough of them that the lights stay on, but some of them don’t think we were amazing.”

Ann Marie Taepke: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: “We did some things that didn’t work out great and we had to learn from them. And so how do you grow a company from a couple hundred thousand dollars to where we are now from a walk West standpoint, without trying, failing and adjusting?” And that authenticity is what creates your story and people only believe stories that are real or that have that real feel to them. Last question from me, and it’s more macro. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about our world?

Ann Marie Taepke: Oh my gosh. That’s like the deepest question ever, Donald. I have to really think about that. Wow. That is really deep.

You know what? If I had a magic wand, I would. I just would want there to be more increased understanding and empathy. Like, I feel like a lot of struggles in our world and people having animosity toward each other and not understanding different cultures, different backgrounds- I think if people took the time to really listen and understand that we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do, so that that’s what I would do. I would just bestow on everyone understanding to be, to just treat each other better, you know?  I don’t know if that’s what you’re looking for.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, I would agree with you. I just think that one of the things with social media, one of the things with media in general is unfortunately, people like train wrecks a lot. And a lot of times I’ll read social media and my phrase is, you know, “digital tough guys,” right? People are way more aggressive on social media than they are in person, right?

Ann Marie Taepke: One hundred percent.

Donald Thompson: Like, the smack talk is like really, really heavy. And I’m like, “man, I do not remember you being that super tough when we were in college,” right? You know what I mean? Or whatever. Friends that you know, and it creates a super aggressive discourse that everyone’s taking kind of really stands without. Looking at another point of view. And so while I’m a big fan of marketing, obviously, and I’m a big fan of social media, to your point on the magic wand, and I think if we took a step back and kind of looked at the other people that are on the other end of the statements you’re making, we’d be a little bit more gracious with each other.

Ann Marie Taepke: Totally.

Donald Thompson: You know, as as we do. And it parting-

Ann Marie Taepke: And that’s- no, just digital tough guys there, too. I don’t want people to feel like- sometimes, I think people just feel so like discouraged by like, ah, the way our world is, and dah, dah, dah. P.S., like digital tough guys like those have been like, around since like, the dawn of time, like newspapers used to basically be Facebook. They used to like, tell you the news of the town and like, people were mean in them, P.S. And so like, it’s been going on forever and I’m sure people that wrote mean things back in like the X number hundreds, whatever it was. Or like old books and like, you know. Then I’m sure they would say different things to their face. So like it is, there’s a lot of things that it’s like “tale as old as time,” so people shouldn’t feel super discouraged by that. They should find ways to combat it. But yeah, I think that’s interesting.

Donald Thompson: Final question. You’ve pause another thought. When you look back through your career, what’s the—and business wise on this point —  what’s one or two of the things, like you’re just most proud of. And then the second piece is what’s a turning point moment in your career?

Ann Marie Taepke: Oh, okay. I’m going to answer the last one first. A turning point moment in my career probably was getting out of, I mean to take all the way back, getting out of that cold call sales situation. I was like it was a depressing time of my life. I’m not trying to get like super, super dramatic, but I mean like I was waiting tables. I would like basically cry in my car before my shift cause I thought I was such a failure. I was like in my early 20s. Everyone’s life’s amazing. P.S., Facebook highlight reel. You know? And here I am like, waiting tables with my college degree and just feeling like a failure doing volunteer work. I mean, and so then, you know, having someone take a chance on me and really launching the whole trajectory of my career when I did take that job with Ignite, I can never thank Jim Tobin enough for taking that chance on someone who basically didn’t have a lot of experience and just liked my personality, liked my outlook, liked you know, the way I was basically hustling at that current time.

Donald Thompson: That’s awesome.

Ann Marie Taepke: So, that was really cool. Things that I’m most proud of. I mean, the Velcro campaign is something I’m very, very proud of. Even before that, there was a major campaign I worked on with Jeep called the Arctic Yeti Dig, and I’m very, very proud of that. It was the first time I ever did a large scale campaign. It had an event component at the X Games.

Donald Thompson: Good for you.

Ann Marie Taepke: I mean, you couldn’t bring me down off that  euphoria. I was like having a beer at 10 in the morning when it was done. Just like a calm down. My team’s like, “you are like, on another planet right now. Calm yourself down. We’re all happy. We’re all happy.” So, that’s a big thing. And then, you know, I am really proud of, I guess where I am now. I think when I was younger, I wasn’t a super great mentor, leader, or maybe I didn’t really know how to do those things. And I’ve stumbled along the way and trying to make sure that I’ve gotten better and I just feel like, you know, really secure in that now having been an educator and doing these things now and feeling very confident- I hate the phrase “fake it ’till you make it.” It should be more like “believe that you can make it.” So like, even if you don’t necessarily have the tools right now, have the confidence that you’re going to get those tools. Like, that is how- that’s how you should have your outlook. And so, being a CMO now and just feeling like I’ve helped influence other people’s paths and I’m helping now shape a business, it’s really exciting. I’m really happy about where I am.

Donald Thompson: I have nothing to add. That is a perfect way to end our conversation.  I learned something from know- Ann Marie and I still talk about once a month more than that, but for sure, once a month, and we don’t really have an agenda. We just say, “Hey, what’s up with you? What’s up?” And then we-

Ann Marie Taepke: I tell him about Love is Blind, basically.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, exactly right.  And we learn something, I’ll speak for myself, like I get something, a nugget that’s meaningful, right? And one thing I would encourage our listeners, as you grow your careers and chase your dreams and grow your families, is just take that cup of coffee and keep getting out and about with other smart and talented people and share and learn information. And you can never have enough smart, creative, thoughtful, giving people in your life, and Ann Marie is one of those people for me, and I mean that in a sincere way, and I always want to be able to give back and continue to grow and chase our dreams. So, thank you so much for spending time with us.

Ann Marie Taepke: Thank you for having me.

Donald Thompson: Thanks for listening everyone!  As a reminder, the course that Ann Marie and I talked about, which  provides you the philosophy and tools needed to have a successful brand on social media so you can master the art of crafting an effective social media strategy, is available at social.walkwest.com. And sign up by the end of July for 30% off.

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On the show, Ann Marie and Don discuss the success of the viral Velcro video.  Here it is, as well as a Behind-The-Scenes video with Penn Holderness, Ann Marie, and the phenomenal cast.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit Earfluence.com.

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