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It’s not an easy thing to ask for help, but it can be particularly important when you’re just starting out in business. It’s been said that the key to success – both in life and in business – is all about who you know. But how do you make the right connections with the right people that can benefit everyone mutually? Making these vital connections is not just about who’s popular now, but also seeking out those on the fast track with the potential to become influential over time.
Katey Dietz is a social strategist with a knack for making connections through conversations and stories, and massaging those into lasting business relationships that serve long-term.
Rich: Katey Dietz is a social strategist with a very unconventional path. Beginning her career in the accounting industry, Katey answered switchboards, coordinated sales and marketing efforts, structured real estate transactions, and managed bankruptcy case files.
Downsized during the recession, she tapped into her love of technology and communications to transition to a career in social strategy. Katey’s current incarnation has taken her from one woman consultancy, to CGE startup, to global PRE agency and finally to NASCAR.
Along the way she has coordinated volunteers from Social Fresh, managed the Blogger Lounge at SXSW, co-curated the Sports Track at BlogWorld in 2010, and participated in multiple award-winning social campaigns. Katey, welcome to the Agents of Change.
Katrina: Thanks for having me Rich, I’m really excited.
Rich: We’re excited to have you. And I know this is a busy time for you, the NASCAR season is just about to get started.
Katrina: Yeah, it’s heady days leading into the 2017 Monster Energy Series.
Rich: I know you took my co-worker Amanda down on the track – whatever you call the inside of the track – what’s that called?
Katrina: Into the infield in New Hampshire, yes.
Rich: I would just throw it out there that I would love to do that. Now I know nothing about NASCAR, but I still am just putting that out there, and now I’m recording it for public consumption that I would love to go to the infield one day.
Katrina: I’m pretty sure we could introduce you to NASCAR.
Rich: Alright, I’m going to get my trucker hat ready. So in the bio I kind of talked a little bit about your path, but you and I had a great pre-conversation about what you call “influencer networking”, and that I call “pre-influencer marketing”. So I want to talk a little bit about that, I want to talk about your path to success and how you made the connections with important people in digital marketing along the way. How you helped them and how they helped you, even if that help wasn’t immediately clear. So why don’t you take us back to your days at the Arlington National Cemetery bookstore.
Katrina: So my first job out of school was actually working in the bookstore at Arlington National Cemetery, still actually my favorite job I’ve ever had. It was minimum wage, but you’re surrounded by history and books and it was the perfect storm of joy for me. But it wasn’t a career, it was a great job when you’re early 20’s to keep the lights turned on, but I didn’t have a plan yet.
A friend of mine who was working at a local accounting firm and really wanted that signing bonus for referring a new hire, she said I needed to apply for the receptionist job. And on a whim I thought the benefits would be good, so I rolled the dice on that and found an amazing corporate home. I spent 7 years with that one firm doing everything from running the switchboard at the corporate headquarters, to eventually doing real estate transaction structures and managing bankruptcy cases.
And it was sort of one of those things where I knew someone and I said “yes”. And there’s been a lot of that over the course of my history of just crossing paths with people and being willing to say “yes” to opportunities without over thinking them. So I had an amazing career there but then ’09 happened and many of us in the industry found that we were on the chopping block.
But I had always been an early adopter of tech. I was that person who was addicted to their Palm Pilot and started snapping their phone peeve into the top of it so it could also be my full device. I actually did that before I owned a proper cell phone. But I went to this restaurant across the street every day for lunch and they knew that I was on Twitter and Facebook and checking out all these things, and as I was being downsized they were identifying that that’s where they wanted to be in business. But the owners of the business were both over 50, they weren’t going to learn this and figure out how to talk to the right audience to get business in the door, so they asked me to help them.
So I took over their social account – originally as a trade – and that became my first client. I got to do some really cool stuff just sort of by rolling the dice and being an early adopter. They were the first business to do a special on Foursquare where it wasn’t about spending money in the brick and mortar. It was actually a reward for gaining a “gym rat” badge. So if you had a “gym rat” badge, they’d give you a 10% discount because they wanted to support your healthy lifestyle.
Katrina: Yeah, and it was fun. It was a dumb luck thing, but that was an extension of a conversation I had by chance in a hallway at a conference with one of the folks who was at Foursquare in the early days who mentioned how they were really interested in the gamification, and they hoped it didn’t become just another coupon plane. So I thought let’s try to dream up a strategy around that, and that’s sort of how we landed in that lucky little side. But again, there’s a chance encounter in a conference hall snippet of a conversation that ended up being a business strategy that got a tiny little Charlotte restaurant coverage around the world.
Rich: So what are some other examples that you have of maybe meeting some people – in this case it was a snippet of conversation – but in other cases you’ve met people who then kind of went on to live interesting lives. What are some of the stories there?
Katrina: Yeah. So around the same time period I first met Jason Keath, who is the founder of Social Fresh. It was just at tweet-ups around town, and we became great friends and I helped for several years on the events side with Social Fresh coordinating volunteers at events and supporting that brand as it grew. And then Jason introduced me to Stephanie Agresta, and it was around 2010. She was in Charlotte for NASCAR races and she was hosting the first ever NASCAR tweet-up at Dale Jr’s restaurant, Whiskey River in downtown Charlotte, and he said I had to go and meet her and he couldn’t believe I wasn’t already following her on Twitter because I’m such a big NASCAR fan that I should go and check it out, that’s where I should be plugged in.
So I joined him and went and immediately bonded with Steph. She’s grown to become my mentor in career, and a great advocate as well in entrepreneurship and really helped me find my own footprint initially, and gave me the tough love when it was the time where you either need to really do the big jump and go work at a major agency, or decide that you’re just going to be the small local guy and you’re not interested in a big brand at career trajectory. Which is invaluable to have in a mentor sometimes, having that person who is willing to say to you that you’re capable of more if you want it. Not pushing you too hard, but getting in your face and making the tough call when you are comfortable and successful in a place.
So Stephanie was obviously one of the early community managers at iVillage in the 90’s and went on to lead digital and multiple PR agencies, and is now working more in the female entrepreneurship face and mentoring and supporting that culture.
So a really cool path to sort of be shadowing there, and through that relationship got pulled into some really cool event work. And getting to work with her and her partner, Brian Solis, and their events like the Blogger Lounge at SXSW, opening parties that they used to throw for BlogWorld and multiple other events, to get you into those hallways where the “think tank” hangs out. The osmosis of the big ideas and the broad strokes of where our industry is going as opposed to always being in the tactical space.
Rich: So along the way you met a number of people who then who later on became people you connected with as they kind of grew up. Tell me a little bit about that, how do you identify somebody who might be having an upward trajectory, at least as it happens in the digital space?
Katrina: When I meet folks at events or just out in life in general, I’m still very interested in stories, so the business card rundown, the LinkedIn rundown is interesting. But I tend to try to pull out of people where they’re going or what excites them about the possibilities and actualities of their life. And I tend to make notes on the back of everyone’s business card of what are those things that are interesting, whether it’s professional or personal things that they’ve shared that help me remember them the next time I run into them so I have a touchpoint that’s genuine, but also our potential opportunities in the future.
Early in my entrepreneurship, I did a lot of volunteering work at conferences to keep the budget under wraps, but also to get to know different sides of the tech space. So whether it was things I was doing with Social Fresh or with Brian and Steph in the tech set, or volunteering to work at conferences like Type- A Parent, it was all different phases on the digital and social space. But by being behind the registration desk, you’re then in a position where you’re forced to put names with faces and connect people and be forced to have conversations with them too, in a lot of cases.
At Type-A Parent for example, I met a really great person – Adrianna Domingos-Lupher – she is a military spouse who is also a blogger and starting this network of bringing together other bloggers and influencers who were in her unique shoes. And I was like, that’s really cool, I don’t know when I’ll need to at some point tap into military families or that kind of bloggers and influencers, but it feels like if I keep growing my career there’s going to come a point where that’s going to be the right answer. And just sort or listening to her and her plans of building out this big network and community in that space. I don’t know when it’s going to be the perfect connection for my business, but I just knew there was something there and this was somebody to watch because they were destined to do great things, but also there will be a moment where we’ll both be in the same place and really help each other in business as well, which paid off almost 10 years later.
Adrianna ended up being the answer – while I was working with Oral-B on a “Built In USA” campaign around their toothbrushes, and was able to tap into her network of military families to do product trials and produce content on behalf of the brand. But then also bringing her out as an influencer to participate in activities and doing Ad Track in NASCAR, because that’s the common thread that seems to be in my life is NASCAR. It was a great opportunity to get some business for folks in her network, for her to elevate herself as an influencer in front of a big brand, and then also for me to take back to a company like Oral-B and say there is this amazing community of military spouses out there that you don’t have to force America on them or patriotism, you can find influencers where it’s baked into their lifestyle. And so it increases authenticity in your activation.
Rich: You know, there are definitely a lot of people out there – and I see this all the time – influencer marketing is a huge thing, there are people that present on it and written books on it. I’m sure that everybody who is listening would love to be able to get a Chris Brogan or a Mari Smith or a Mike Stelzner to promote their stuff. Or certainly some of the people you’ve run into from Jason Keath to Brian Solis.
That’s great if you can get them, but the bottom line is, it probably would have been easier to meet and reach all of those people 10 years ago. And that seems to be really the message here, is that little bloggers grow up to be big bloggers, and little influencers grow up to be big influencers. And it’s a matter of finding these people when they are just starting to emerge – or maybe even before they have – which is something you seem to have a knack of. Would you say?
Katrina: I’ve got a knack or some really good luck. But I absolutely agree. It’s being inquisitive enough to sort of get at where somebody wants to go, what’s their drive, what’s their fire. It’s almost like when you’re interviewing at a company, it’s who they are today that got you to show up for that interview, but their plans for the future, where they’re growing and their approach to management and growth is that gets you to say “yes” to a job.
And I think it’s the same when you’re trying to identify a future influencer or make strong networking connections that are going to serve you long term, it’s not about where they are today as much as it is about where they’re going and what their potential is. And the only way you get to those things is by having those authentic conversations, it can’t be fawning over the latest thing they’ve published, or that great YouTube video you just saw, or how amazing their Snapchat was yesterday. It’s got to be what are you planning, what’s that thing you’re hoping to get done in 2017 that’s really exciting you about pulling together. Those are the things that I think give you the insight into what truly is that spark in a person that they’re hopefully going to harness and grow, but also may be an opportunity for you to harness and help grow.
Rich: This is almost like the Wayne Gretzky approach to networking. You don’t shoot the puck where somebody is, you shoot them we’re they’re going to be.
Katrina: Very true. I would say that’s very true, I’m going to steal that.
Rich: Please do. I mean, we have it on record that I said it first, so please feel free to steal as much as you want.
Katrina: I am now the Gretzky of circle networking.
Rich: There you go, I like that. So you’ve met a lot of powerful people, well connected influential people. How much of that is serendipity and how much of that is planned? Like, do you have a gameplan when you go to these events? You mentioned that you took on jobs behind the ticket counter – so to speak – just so you could meet some people. Is that part of the plan, and is there a certain thing that you do, or is that just being open to potential conversations?
Katrina: I think a lot of it is being open. There are some things that I go into with a strategy for. Not many.
Rich: Give me an example of going to an event or something – whether it’s in person or online – where you might have a strategy or an agenda. And I don’t want to make it sound like you’re manipulative, but it’s good to have a plan.
Katrina: It’s absolutely good to have a plan, especially if it’s a situation where you know you’re going to be in a hallway with Nick Cicero who runs Delmondo – which does amazing analytics for Snapchat and video – you want to try to figure out how do I make sure Nick Cicero knows me. And I think you’ve got to think about a business opportunity question almost to get in front of him. Obviously there’s great press you can refer back to, you can talk about his business and how it’s growing, but he knows all those things. So what’s the question you can bring up that introduces him a little bit to how you think, but also gives him an opportunity to get fired up about how he engages in the same thing. So in that case, maybe it’s the changes in Instagram Stories and the opportunities for brands to engage there because it’s a more public platform. Maybe it’s, “My brand is approaching it this way,” or “I’ve been using this tool to grow my fan base. We have some examples here in industry where folks are using Instagram Live and they’ve exponentially grown their fan base over a week. How does a guy like you, Nick, approach these emerging platforms to stay ahead, what’s getting you excited about what could come?”
So getting that future speak woven in helps you get an authentic connection with that person and get that real conversation going. Find those synergies between the two of you, because you want to both walk away feeling the same way about the potential relationship.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Now I have a tactical question or you, because you’ve talked about meeting someone and then being able to do something cool with them 10 years down the road. As a guy who suffers from insane short-term memory loss and the fact I can never remember somebody’s name until I’ve met them 74 times, what are some of the ways that you actually remember that somebody might be able to help you or you might be able to help each other down the road? Is it just that you have this insane elephant-like memory, or are you doing something different?
Katrina: I think a little bit is how I’m wired and I am just such a story person. So the fact that I’m trying to put out stories to people when I meet them, and then I make notes about those stories on business cards. Every so often you flip that stack of business cards to try to pull out the ones that are useful and seeing that name next to those story bullets sort of helps keep things fresh, keep them top of mind when I’m considering any of these on the business side. But I think that on the executional side that the big thing is not being afraid for there to be silence.
With the example of Adrianna, we didn’t really connect beyond the occasional Twitter exchange for several years before there was the right opportunity. And it was the not being afraid or intimidated by sending that email and picking up the phone and pitching. But then it’s that you also have to respect that you’ve now taken it to the business side. This isn’t about being friends, this isn’t about each other’s followers bases. It’s business and you pitch it like business and you be respectful on that level, knowing that the reason why you’re getting a reply or they picked up the phone is probably because you had these connections all along, but those aren’t what you used to leverage the opportunity.
Rich: Very interesting stuff. This has been great, I’m ready to go to my next event and try and find out who the future influencers are and who the future bloggers of America are going to be, and just see if I can help them and maybe they can help me down the road.
If somebody wants to check you out, where can we send them Katey?
Katrina: So on Twitter I am @kateymarie, because I needed a special spelling. That’s sort of the bulk of my stuff. And I am KateyDietz on Instagram. Those are my primary spots. It’s not a lot interesting, it’s mostly soccer, NASCAR, beer and my dog, Buckshot.
Rich: Those actually sound like 4 excellent categories. Who’s going to win the cup this year, who do you think?
Katrina: Oooh, my heart wants it to be Arsenal so, so bad. Oh, you’re talking NASCAR.
Rich: I was thinking, are you talking NASCAR, that’s a name I’ve never heard of before. Wow, you have some very diverse tastes, I have to say.
Katrina: My first love clearly is soccer. Nascar I can’t pick one driver over another. I will say I think we’re going to have some amazing storylines to watch this season. I think Clint Bowyer switched teams, he’s going to be one to watch. He’s been a little bit of an underdog and he’s right on the edge of taking the world by storm. And then we have a great younger driver who unexpectedly is getting to step up from a lower series and fill a vacant car. And Daniel Suarez who is the first Mexican-born driver in the cup series, and a reigning champion in the lower series. So really cool storylines that get you excited about producing content. So good stuff to come from NASCAR season.
Rich: That sounds very cool, and I can hear the excitement in your voice. Katey, thank you for making time for us and have a great season.
- Follow Katey on Twitter and Instagram for all of her soccer, beer, NASCAR and dog updates.
- Rich Brooks can be found everywhere online, but he particularly enjoys interacting on Twitter. You can find out more about what he does at his “day job” on his business website when he’s not busy interviewing great minds for this podcast, organizing the next Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, or writing his first book – The Lead Machine – due out early 2017.
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