Meeting Satellite Sister Liz Dolan – FOX Int. Channels
We’re standing at the end of Santa Monica pier overlooking the Pacific. On the railing a seagull is looking at me as if he expects me to fish a sardine out of my pocket anytime soon. The pier is also the end of Route 66, part of our itinerary. We rented two Harleys and rode them from Flagstaff Arizona to here. Tomorrow we’re taking Highway 1 up to San Francisco, but today we’re meeting Liz Dolan, CMO of Fox International Channels, and former Head of Marketing at NIKE.
We spoke to her over the phone yesterday to set the time and place. “Let’s meet on the pier,” she said. “It will give my story some more air and at the same time give me the chance to get out of the office for a bit.”
So here we are, the three of us leaning on the railing. Four if you count the seagull. “Liz, you have a very busy job at FOX,” Maarten says, “but in your spare time you also have your own small multi-media brand called Satellite Sisters. What is Satellite Sisters?”
“Actually, Satellite Sisters is a business I invented with my four real-life sisters because we decided we wanted to reinvent talk radio,” she responds. “I couldn’t understand why the only thing you ever heard on talk radio was men arguing with one another about sports, or men arguing with one another about politics. I had a revelation one day – it’s women who actually enjoy talking to each other! So I created the show with my sisters to capture that sound of women who enjoy having a laugh with each other sharing their real lives.”
“I can relate to that,” I say. “Whenever I talk to my sister on the phone, we are both enjoying just listening to each other. Just connecting.”
“Exactly,” Liz agrees. “The show became nationally syndicated across the US. We connected live on the radio three hours a day, six days a week, while living in three different cities in two different countries. It’s a great feeling to come up with an idea and to then actually make it happen!”
“I can imagine,” I say, “did you expand the show to online from there?”
“From there, we created a magazine column, wrote a book, created a website…” Liz says. “We won lots of awards and started podcasting. Now Satellite Sisters is a successful podcast and an online community that thrives on social media.”
“You have a very demanding day job,” I say. “Where do you find the time for Satellite Sisters?”
“Some people have a day job and then write songs or scripts in their spare time. I do Satellite Sisters,” Liz says. “When we started, you needed a whole radio studio and satellite uplink to do what we did. Now, all we need is our laptops. We connect through Skype. I record and edit it myself, post it to iTunes and keep the conversation going on Facebook and Twitter. Our listeners are incredibly engaged and loyal, plus I have learned SO much about what it really means to be a social media-fuelled brand by doing everything myself.”
“What has Satellite Sisters taught you about brands?” I ask.
“I started Satellite Sisters at the time I was still running Marketing at NIKE,” Liz says. “One thing I learned during an action-packed decade there, was that it’s all about genuinely understanding what role your product really plays in someone’s life. At NIKE, we always knew that it’s not just about the shoes. It was about understanding what a runner LOVES about running. What it means to feel strong. Or how playing in a team or climbing a mountain can enhance your life.”
The seagull gives us a last look before taking off. Fair enough I think. It’s probably more into sardines than ‘social media-fuelled branding’.
“With Satellite Sisters, that emotional insight was very instinctive,” Liz continues. “I simply understand what female friendships mean to women, how satisfying they are, how important it is to have a Satellite Sister in your life – the person you call when the best or worst things in your life happen. I wanted us to be the brand that really represented that. And we are.
“At a big brand like NIKE, or at Fox International Channels where I manage many brands, there are so many big moving parts that you do not experience that one-on-one connection to individuals as much. At Satellite Sisters, I read every Facebook post, respond to every Tweet. I learned the ins and outs of social media in an organic, hands-on way, not as just another marketing tactic. My little brand is like a personal laboratory where I can experiment and then apply what I learn to the big brands I manage.”
“What’s the hardest thing for a marketer to do right now?” I ask.
“Getting people’s attention,” Liz answers. “It’s never been harder to get someone’s attention. But I know you are never going to succeed in doing so by doing the same old thing. Not at NIKE. Not at FOX. Not at the National Geographic Channel. And not at Satellite Sisters.”
© 2012 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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