Marketing & More: A tête-à-tête with Rod Brooks [PART 1]
In trying to explore the field of marketing, I chanced upon the opportunity to write for the MarketMix 2012 blog. Writing what I feel is one thing, but putting an experts opinions into text sounded really exciting and meeting with a CMO of a company that “gets it” ought to be interesting, so when PSAMA gave me the opportunity to interview Rod Brooks, I just jumped at it!
I did some background reading – Rod’s blog, his previous interviews (hat tip: Håkan Söderbom), and set out for the PEMCO Headquarters on a muggy March afternoon. On my way to Seattle, I memorized cues that would help keep the conversation going, and when I got into Rod’s office I promptly forgot every single one of them. But with Rod totally turning the entire affair into a conversation I don’t remember using those cues at any point. Rod had a lot of experiences, anecdotes, and lessons to share, and I have split the interview into three parts.
Information: Rod Brooks
- Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company
- Graduated from Washington State University 1975, BA in Communications
- Blog: http://www.rodbrooks.com
- Twitter: @NW_Mktg_Guy
- Board of Directors, Immediate Past President, Word of Mouth Marketing Association
- Past President, Marketing Communications Executives International, Seattle
- Washington DECA (Past Chairman)
- Dean’s Advocacy Board, Washington State University’s College of Education
In this first installment of a three-part interview, PEMCO’s Rod speaks candidly about his career insights.
Leaving my car in the parking lot, I soon found myself sitting comfortably in Rod’s office, talking about my background and my fondness for marketing. I reckon Rod would have liked to chat more about interests, but knowing that my readers would rather prefer reading about Rod, I quickly brought the focus of our chat on Rod [conversation economy, anyone? ].
An executive having scaled great career heights must have a philosophical take on life and career and so does Rod. I started our tête-à-tête asking Rod to look back and reflect on his career, and Rod said he had started out like any other youngster. Looking for career opportunities then, Rod felt he was prepared, ready and educated to become the Creative Director at an agency, but the pile of job rejection letters kept telling him otherwise. Having made some wise career decisions thereon, he learned many lessons on the way and he shared one with me – to look at each job like a course. We learn a course, we get good at it, and then it’s time to move on. When you think you’ve learnt enough to get promoted or get a raise, that’s the best time to quit! Rod says it all makes sense when you see it holistically, that after you take a few courses you know which ones you like, which ones you don’t and what more you need to go where you want to go. I can’t agree more!
Life is too short to go to work somewhere for forty years. I think I’ve gone to work maybe 5 years, and never more than 2 in a row. If it starts to feel like work that much it’s time to leave.
Is it just me or do you also not often hear similar things as Rod expressed above? According to Rod, if you can figure out what your passion is, then find someone to pay you for it, you are going to be a much richer and in a more satisfactory place than someone who is in that position without that passion. You would agree that the common thread running through all successful people is that of passion, and Rod is no less passionate about his work. He believes everyone must have a passion to be successful; he also offered a recommendation on how to find your passion.
Rod didn’t want to be credited with this idea but I think it’s worth sharing. List twenty “what” type of activities you like to do (reading, swimming, playing, etc); list twenty “where” would you rather be (stadiums, crowds, alone on a dock fishing, on a boat, on a stage); list twenty “how” you’d be behaving (adventurous, cautious, calm, etc). In each category you’d find a theme. Put these three themes in a Venn diagram and the intersection of these three categories/themes defines the “why”– or passion (see illustration). I am going to try out this fun exercise. Will you?!
We then talked about networking. Rod believes in creating and nurturing relationships and in his own words “we must never underestimate the power of the relationship and the power within your own network – which sometimes could be just 2 or 3 people – is sometimes more influential in a person’s career or success than hundreds of relationships that are shallow. Never walk away from a mentor or an advisor or a confidant too quickly”.
For the last few years, Rod he has been trying to identify people from his online network of relationships who he can somehow meet face-to-face, to create and build traditional relationships. While he does his bit of reaching out, he also lets folk know he’s available when he has something to offer. For instance, Rod currently mentors three grad students from Seattle University, and a few employees within PEMCO.
In general, for those looking to begin a relationship and nurture it, Rod says you’ve got to own the relationship right from the start, know what you want from the other person, know your agenda for the time you are with them, tell them how they can help you and know if you have been able to help yourself. The real successful relationship building for Rod himself, he said, came from listening. He says he does not showcase his 36 years of experience to folks who approach him to be mentored. Instead, he is willing to listen to what the mentee seeks, where they are curious and then fill in their blanks. Noted!
Now, follow this link to part 2 to find out what Rod Brooks has to say about the business of marketing.