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In this episode we discuss:
- The advertising trend towards hyperlocal and what that means for brands
- How brands can adapt and thrive with hyper local advertising
- Competitors… Who does Nextdoor compete with?
- How Nextdoor has evolved during the last five years
- How could Nextdoor evolve in the next five years following the IPO
- With a product built around local, does Nextdoor change each country?
- What’s the difference between marketing and strategy?
- The lessons from working at Pinterest and Twitter
Emma Mondolino is the Head of Nextdoor Create, the sales marketing and strategy group at Nextdoor.
Currently she’s focused on creating value for brand partners by building bespoke creative campaigns.
Before she joined the Nextdoor team, Emma worked at Pinterest in both Sales and Marketing. Prior to her time there she was a foundational member of the Brand Strategy team at Twitter.
Find Emma on LinkedIn
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This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
So my next guest on the strategy sessions is Emma Mondolino, who is head of business, marketing and strategy at Nextdoor. Emma, welcome to the strategy sessions.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Right. Let’s get straight. First of all, a quick question. Where are you based? Where are you sitting at the moment?
I’m currently sitting in New York where I hunkered down for most of the past couple of years, which seems to be the most interesting question because we’ve all been all over but state of New York.
Excellent stuff. Excellent. So Nextdoor, people who across the world really have got Nextdoor downloaded, which has been a godsend for them during lockdown and probably before that as well. But for people who don’t know what Nextdoor is, could you just give us a very quick the elevator pitch, if you will, for the app?
Sure. So Nextdoor is the app for the neighbourhood. And what that really means is it’s the app for everything that’s happening in your community around you. I like to explain it with a fun little tagline, which is that you really come to Nextdoor for the utility and you stay for the community. So when you lose your dog, the best people to help you are not your friends halfway across the world. They are, in fact, the people that live right next to you. Then once you get to meet some of those people, you might also be interested in recommendations. They have four restaurants that are in your general vicinity. So anyone that’s living within the same community as you and you start discovering lots of those types of recommendations and what people are doing as you’re on the app and that’s why you stay and you keep coming back. So really a forum for the communities around you.
Andi Nextdoor has seen some phenomenal growth since it was founded and is a huge business now, which has a commercial element to it as well. So there’s a strong part of that. So you’ve got people using it, but also commercial element. What is it that brands really like about tapping into this localism, this local trend for current content and people to really tap into their local network?
Yeah. Local is really tricky. I think when I got here about five years ago, I was really intrigued about the potential of local, but I also was figuring out what it could mean for brands. And I think what got me excited and also what’s gotten them excited is local. When you think about it a little bit differently, can mean how you connect offline and online in a lot of ways. And that’s a part of local we haven’t thought about. There are things like local news and local happenings. Sure. But the idea of localism, I think, is that you can have what’s happening in one local place and scale that nationally. So brands in this case, have an opportunity to really connect with these individual communities in real life ways. They can connect with them both online and offline, and then they can scale their message. Because you have really easy ways to personalise locally, but not really need to be truly everywhere at once and not need to be so broad that you don’t feel like you’re personalised. You really have a lot of options there if you can understand local in that way. So localism, I think, has been a trend that’s taken off.
And brands are now really in the thick of seeing what they can do and how they can be creative.
You mentioned when you started there five years ago that you still trying to get your head around it. Is that the same for brands? Are they still trying to work out? Because for so many years, brand communications was built around the big TV or the outdoor campaign or radio, probably a little bit of all of those things. And then sort of digital came along and it took a lot of brands a long time to work out. We can kind of granulize some of this, but you’re almost taking it a step further. Is that freaking the planners out? We just don’t understand this.
Of course. It always does. I think that you use the example. Tv is something that many brands are still figuring out. How do we find a balance? Tv is a staple, so they don’t feel like they want to move away from it altogether. But the majority of their budgets for the brands that are winning awards for phenomenal campaigns or that are growing and are being called innovators are moving most of their budget into digital. And then suddenly digital becomes the new TV. So what is the next thing and always looking forward? So I think, like myself, I think there are lots of marketers that are trying to get ahead and figure out what’s next. And social media as a whole has certainly taken off and has had brands thinking differently. But then it almost went too far. Right. We’re constantly in the marketing realm swinging the pendulum too far one way to come back and are now looking for in real life connections, meaningful connections, not just feeling like something is so distant Andi you don’t understand a brand Andi think that’s part of what we offer. But it’s also scary because it is new.
And I think that’s why you have roles like mine, teams like mine that look to connect with brands, to help them navigate and really understand that.
I know from my own experience when brands try to scale, maybe not on such a local level, but often the number one go to is automation. Let’s use automation to scale it, which leads to some really clunky ads and some really bits work in certain places but don’t work in others. I’m not going to ask you to name and shame any brands. Don’t worry. But is it that sort of thinking where the brands just have to and the agency is working with them, just have to really be able to get their head around the potential of this first and that will then you’re almost teaching them as you’re building the product. Is that kind of half the job that you’re doing?
It is. And they still love automation and we don’t blame them. Media planners have so much going on. They have a gazillion line items that they’re looking at, they’re figuring out how to make sure they balance everything and nothing falls through the cracks. And so we do need to help them there. So what we’ve done on the platform is to help actually not fully automate, but pretty close to help them locally, personalised. So it can be as easy as don’t just tell someone to go to your local retail shop, but here is the address of the one that is closest to you. And what we have over other players in the space is that we know where you live. Andi so we’re able to make sure we’re telling you where the closest retail or closest you name it is to your actual home. And so we can just basically put that in Madlib style, if you remember those of where those locations are. And even take that further to say, if you have brand lists already of top managers or events going on, we can auto populate that at a national scale. So now suddenly brands have, dare I say, an automated way to be local, but with national scale.
Brilliant. Is this easier in certain places than others? What I mean by that is my limited knowledge of the States and how everything’s laid out nicely on grids and in blocks. I was talking to a company that do local SEO Andi they’re based in Chicago, and what they mean by local SEO for auto dealerships is really quite different Andi on a phenomenally different scale to what you would be doing locally or here in the UK. Andi even I think of big retailers. I was speaking to somebody at Target, not a client or anything, just. Andi he was like, yeah, I think we have 1200 stores in the US. And he’s like, wow, that’s a lot. So is it easier in places like the States or is it just another challenge for your team, for places like the UK to go, okay, we have to think about this differently.
Once you grow, it starts to be a lot of the same. So I would say it’s always different in different markets. So I’ll start there. The US and the UK just simply are different markets. The way things operate, the way things are done, the culture, even semantics of how you bring things forward. And I think the main principle of any marketing is know your audience. And so that is true if you are a brand. It’s true if you’re building a platform. So always different. I think some of the core principles that are there. And so building in the US, what we saw is it took us a little chunk of time to really get to the number of neighbourhoods that we are now. But once you start scaling, it grows rapidly and we’re seeing the same thing in the UK, so you really take off quickly. And once you have that, you can learn how to scale the neighbourhood. The reason I bring that up and why it’s important is we stuck with the type of growth we had because we always built from the ground up. So we built neighbourhood by neighbourhood. And so while it took us some time, all good things take time.
We’re now really a grid of different communities, no matter where you are. So in the UK, for example, you may have communities that are set up really differently from the US, but we built them one by one on the platform, and so that each community makes sense for that community really. Andi so therefore we are able to personalise localised build in different ways. And we’ve brought on both small businesses and large businesses, and we’ve turned large businesses, oftentimes into local businesses. So Target, for example, Gazillion stores, let’s call it very scientific number for us. We can say that the Target store in your community is your local Target. So now we’ve turned that into a local business that you can work with. So that’s where we’ve kind of found this bridge and have had a better and easier time working with brands. And whether it’s US or UK really been able to help our brand partners.
I think, Andi this is probably my limitations. I certainly got my head around the Nextdoor proposition for brands in a US context, much easier almost based on the conversations I had with Target, which were about how they differ in different places. So in the UK, my gut feeling and my experience is that there’s a push for standardisation. So it doesn’t matter what store you go into. In the north of Scotland, in the south of England, it’s the same experience. Target have taken a very different approach, that if you go into a store that’s maybe on the Mexican border, that might feel very different if you’re in Delaware. Andi actually, then I really easily got my head around the proposition, why wouldn’t there be an Advertiser with you? I think I struggled a little bit more to get my head around it, which is why I was thinking, well, if I’m struggling, maybe all brands are struggling. So education is a key part of what you do, then that’s basically it’s massive.
And the more examples we have, the better we think of brands like a Waitrose or someone like that, where they still have lots of different locations, but there are different elements of just what’s happening in those individual stores. So their brand message is still always the same. But if there is something that’s happening where they are setting something up in their stores or they’re highlighting something that they are doing in a specific community, that’s where we can really bring those types of brands to life, even if they are the same across multi locations.
Yeah, brilliant. With a product that provides a difference Andi feels different in local areas. Who do you see as your competitors? Do you look at global competitors? Are you looking at dollars that go to Facebook and Google, or do you sort of see it on a granular level of we have different competitors in different zip codes Andi postcodes.
We see it as more of the bigger players. So at this point, Nextdoor is in eleven countries. We’re in over 285,000 neighbourhoods, so lots of them across the world. Even in a place like the UK, we’re in one in five households. London, it’s even one in four. Andi so we’re really much bigger than I think people think we are because we say we’re so local, it seems smaller. So with that, we see bigger players as more of our competition. I always like to say that there are compliments between our platforms, but of course, a Facebook that has local groups and things like that is someone that we see as a competitor. At the same time, we have local business recommendations. I wouldn’t go far enough to say that someone like a Yelp is a direct competitor, but there are certainly similar pieces of our platforms. So we see all of those types of players as those that we compete with.
And there’s a lot written, a lot spoken about the duopoly of Facebook and Google in terms of ad spend, you’d probably have to open that into a trilogy. Now, given Amazon’s rise in there, you look at these companies who collectively have, I think, to use the scientific number, you used a gazillion dollars and enough money to throw around at everything. Is that not really daunting? When you look at going, what’s my job to do today? Take on Facebook’s ad business. Right. Okay. How do you eat that elephant?
I try to wake up most mornings and pretend they don’t exist. And then I continue on my wife. But the morning that I do think about it, I think that they’re staples, their reach is tremendous. I don’t think that you can compete with their reach for any of the platforms. Look, there are huge players like a TikTok or Snapchat that are different than our platform, but they wake up with the same idea in mind as we do, because these platforms are just ginormous. But I think that also takes away some of their value. They are table stakes. So if you want to make real marketing connections, if you want to do a really cool, creative things beyond just reach really broadly, then I think you’re missing out if you’re not looking at other platforms. And again, they’re Staples brands are looking to drive sales. They’re looking for broad awareness. It makes sense for that. But I think there’s so much more to that. And when we think about marketing and storytelling and bringing those sorts of things to life, I don’t know. They’re the big jacket that everyone has heard of. Come hang out with us.
We’re more fun. So that helps me sleep better at night.
I’m not going to ask for an opinion on this. I’m going to present it as my opinion rather than put you in an awkward situation. But I’m a regular conference attendee and various bits Andi bobs, Andi it’s probably the first time in a long time I’ve heard such a negative set of views coming from people in the industry about Facebook’s ad product, about rising costs, falling effectiveness, and the first time in a long time that people are now looking at where do we go to next to get the effectiveness? Because we’re not getting it from Facebook now, look, this is a small subset. I’m not presenting Facebook’s gazillion dollars a week on ads as a problem. It’s a problem I wish I had in my business. But it does feel like there is a groundswell of opinion within the marketing industry. People go, where do we look to next, which probably is quite an exciting time to have a hyper local product like Nextdoor. It must be an exciting thing that wakes up in the morning suit too.
It is. I think brands are really curious. They’re really curious to see what else there is. They’re intrigued. And I think the types of briefs that we’re getting are really exciting Andi thinking differently. Being more open, we’re seeing a lot more even test budgets, but substantial test budgets for we want to try something new. And I think that is coming from, as you described it, the groundswell of people saying, what else is there? Where else do I try? And they’re willing to really invest? And I think the same way we think of who our competitive landscape is, their competitive landscape is growing too. You have so many different direct to consumer businesses. You have so many businesses that have evolved, taken out different branches, have become far more general brands than niche. Andi so I think for them, they also are thinking how do we compete, how do we stand out and how do we differentiate? And that differentiation piece is where we’re seeing really exciting work and are able to do a lot more. So I’m really pumped about that.
Excellent. And do you find that companies who are working with you tend to do more of that sort of. You mentioned direct to consumer brands, which always makes me think bottom of the funnel conversion type activity, probably an oversimplification, but do you find companies are coming kind of all across the funnel, or is it still a lot of bottom of the funnel conversion activity that they’re looking to do we definitely work with brands across the funnel.
But I would say we’re actually the majority of the business that we’re working on right now is top of funnel. So more of that awareness. And it’s interesting because going back to our conversation of localism and how that’s growing, it can still be that awareness play. So you’re driving broad awareness, but with that local, personalization. So that is a lot of what we’re seeing. We do have part of the platform which is called for sale and free. It’s our marketplace, so you’re able to buy and sell or give things away directly in your community. And so there are definitely parts of the platform like that, ways to think more conversion based. But I think right now I say personally, I’m the most excited about those awareness plays.
Yeah, brilliant. You mentioned earlier, five years at Nextdoor. Given the things that have happened at the company across those five years, it must have changed hugely. And that’s not just the internal things covered and all the external things as well. What’s it been like spending five years at Nextdoor, especially these five years?
It’s been a trip. I think there’s so much that has gone on, so much growth. I wanted to say so much that has changed, but I think the reality is our core and what we wanted to do has always stayed the same. It’s just been the hyper growth that you get from a company like this. When I came in, it really was a start up and it had funding and it was going somewhere, but it was still finding its legs Andi think, we just kept on going and building and growing and you really start to see that come together. And then you get to what I think is really the sweet spot of a company, which is where we are right now, where we’re a real public big company with all of these members to take care of. But we also can still operate in some of the start up type of ways where we can experiment Andi learn quickly. We can dive into different ideas, but then we can also have enough people now with formalised processes and really operating in a real way Andi think you’ll you can look back and say, Four years ago I probably thought, I wish this was less scrappy, I need more organisation, we need more people.
But now away from it. I look back really fondly and I think that’s always what I’ve loved in my career as being at these types of companies where you’re just in a hyper growth mode. So mission and statements and what we want to do has always been clear. But hyper growth pulls you in a million different directions. No day is the same and it’s been a while.
Five years, I can imagine. How do you work to keep that startup mentality in awful in a grown up company? How do you keep that bit alive because at certain points and at certain sizes and certain scales, all the processes have to change and all the things you used to be able to do just disappear out the window. Andi how do you keep that spirit and ethos in your team? You can only control the bits that you’ve got. How do you do that?
It’s people. It’s always people. I think that you really need to be selective in some ways of who you bring on and have people that are really after your mission, believe in the culture and want to grow it because when you are building something the way that we have at the speed that we are and with the pressures that we have, you have to be a hustler and you need the people around you to be supporting that and everyone has their days. But I think that you really just need that type of group of people because you just go off of each other and keep growing and building that way. I think the leaders that we have brought in on are phenomenal. I have both learned, collaborated and get excited by them all the time. Andi so I think that’s a big part of it. I think the other is you grow up with the company as it’s growing. So who you are and how you set processes have to change as the company is changing. And sometimes you do things too early, sometimes you do them too late, but you start seeing it and saying, well, you do need to be formalised meetings.
We do need a set of approvals legal as a team that we really need to cheque in with now. And so I think you evolve that with the company and your team sees you change and I think you pull them along for that ride. But I do think it comes back to people where the way I managed my team three years ago is very different from now.
But you have to I’m going to set the Corvid clocks Andi off if you bear with me a second, obviously, look, it’s changed every business, right? You’re joining us from home in New York that building the team and keeping everyone together, bouncing off each other and all of a sudden you’re on teams calls all day instead of being in the room with the energy there. How did you manage with that? Did you love it at first? Did you hate it at first and grow to like it? What was your experience?
I’m sure I’m a broken record from lots of folks that you’ve spoken to, but I missed so much being in a collaborative room to brainstorm so much. It was really tough. I am to a fault, a very open leader in the sense that my fault. My quirky points I own and run around with. So when we were home, I made no joke of it. My team over the past two years and even now has inevitably seen me make coffee on calls that we are on at least twice on each one on one endless. And so I haven’t pretended to have it all together. And I think that’s worked. And the creative energy has kept flowing. So I think with that, especially having a more creative marketing based team, I tried to make it real life wherever you’re comfortable working, if that’s moving around, if that’s doing whatever you want to do, no problem. And I think that did help. Not always. There are certainly the harder conversations where they’re just different overcall you hang up, you have a sigh of relief that it’s great you can walk away, but also you want to have those conversations in real life.
So I don’t think any of us quite know how to get it right. But I think finding the balance and just being your authentic self, whether you’re in an office or not, has done well by me. It has been really nice to get back. I actually just had my team together, the folks in New York recently, just last week, so that you can get to meet each other live at least once. So now at least we have new hires starting that are at least meeting the team within two weeks instead of two years. So I think we’re at the next phase. You need a new alarm sound for that.
What’s the next phase? As long as you didn’t say new normal, in which case if you did, I would have had to end the call straight away. Sorry. Thanks. Bye.
Next phenomenon is the next phase hybrid. Next phase at Nextdoor. Is that hybrid. Are you in the office a bit at home? A little bit. What’s the approach?
It is so we’ve been open. We are telling people that there are office spaces. We have them in our major markets. I had the pleasure of actually being in London just about a month ago and coming into our office there. Our office here in New York has been going into a couple of days a week. So it’s dealers choice when you’d like to go in, but the spaces are there. We’re testing with what we call traffic week, allowing kind of folks to come in and say this is the time where we’re encouraging collaboration and bringing people together. So like all companies, I think we’re seeing how it goes. But definitely a hybrid model.
Yeah, it seems it’s a strange thing. The British governments are held bent on getting everybody back into the office five days a week. So civil servants have been told they have to come back to the office and some companies Andi you’ve got to go back to the office. Andi again, I just can’t get my head around it. Has work suffered? Have people been delivering things? Have you gone through huge transformation projects in the last two years? Yes, it works. Okay. So why not trust people.
Absolutely. I think you can argue too. We’ve definitely seen hyper growth, but there has been hyper growth across companies. We’ve all figured it out. Andi so I think I look at it and think it was pretty harsh. From one day to the next we were suddenly home. All of the quintessential stories. We left all of our stuff on our desk. Yada, yada. Why does it need to be as harsh again? Right? We managed that. That was difficult. We all took a while to recover from it. Why do exactly the same thing when we can shift in? It just seems crazy to me and I think there’s been so much success and so many different ways of working that we’ve worked out. Why not learn from that and really figure out the next phase instead of trying to go immediately back? The world is different. We can’t go back to exactly what it was.
This is the beauty of you working for a tech company Andi not a government.
There totally there. I think it’s different. One of my off topic, but one of my closest friends is a mechanic that works for the government here. And it turns out cars are not showing up to your home. You do need to fix them in a shop and you need to be there. And those jobs are very different. I think some of their phases never really changed though. A lot of their work, yes, there was different security measures, but it needed to keep going somehow.
For you though, I suppose just around this. But you must be trying to attract talent in the same pond that all the other tech companies are trying to attract talent. So the bar is set by some companies. You are setting the bar, but you have to look around at what everyone else is doing in the industry Andi kind of react accordingly. But it must be ferocious with the number of tech companies ever growing, trying to tap into the talent, small startups, big funded companies. It must be brutal trying to hire Andi return stuff.
It is. It’s really tough right now, I think for those that are looking to hire, with the amount of opportunities that are out there, I am thrilled for the group that is looking for new jobs, new graduates, all of the above. I think I remember a very different world not so long ago where jobs were really scarce. Right? Mba and graduate programmes were through the roof. Not because people were maybe looking for the next level of education, but they had no options. This was the thing to do and so it’s great to see that turning around. That being said, I’m hiring a role in the UK for anyone listening. I am looking for the new lead for our marketing and strategy team there to help us build and grow across the entire European market. So you are out and branding everywhere right now because there is such a swell of talent that we’re looking for that has definitely been daunting. I try to look at it optimistically again that there are just such great opportunities across the board. It’s also given us the opportunity to see what other companies, maybe not our direct competitive side, but in the industry are doing Andi learning from them in terms of what they’re doing.
Going back to the office, what are the perks? How do we need to grow all of that? I think to the point you made before, also of even the government realm, totally different from our industry, but on our platform we do also recognise specific agencies that exist and so we also learn about how they’re working and what they’re doing. I do tend to be an optimist. I try to look at it that way. At the same time, it is hellish right now hiring. I feel for our recruiting team and it’s something happening across the board.
I know from talking to some companies I work with, they definitely feel like it’s the tail wagging the dog when it comes to recruitment process at the moment, but it’s cyclical, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s like this Andi sometimes and it won’t always be like this, but I think culture is important, as you touched on there it is.
Sorry, no, it definitely is. I think there’s also really interesting accolades and things that are out there. We were named as one of the 100 most influential companies right now and you have things like that that I think really spur on people noticing you and not only looking for interesting tech jobs, but employees are also looking to make an impact. If there’s one thing that stuck with us over the past two years, it is power of community, wanting to give back people really being in places where not just the holidays, when you think, oh, wow, I should really do something. That feeling is constant Andi so I think having something like that has also just one worked in our favour, but also a happy accident. It’s been what we’ve been about anyway. And so I’m hopeful that more and more folks will realise that. And there’s a killer team over here.
Come apply, we’ll get the link in the show notes, so wherever you are, have a look around. There’ll be a link to that job in the show Notes and it sounds fascinating. I want to dive in on the job title, on your job title particularly, but also in the Department, you’ve got marketing and strategy in your title. Now, this may well turn into the next five to ten minutes may well be the geeks corner. And please do keep listening because I love this sort of thing. But how do you differentiate between marketing and strategy? What’s the view from your end?
So I think of them in a couple of ways. I’ll think of it in my role directly, which is how I think of it. Marketing, I think is your overall storytelling. So you need to have your marketing lens, your marketing story. Who are you reaching? What are you trying to reach them with? What’s the message, what’s the takeaway? What do you stand for? And so you need that side, something like you come for the utility and stay for the community as part of our marketing message and how we do that. So I think of that as the marketing side. And one half of my team is really focused on who are we for brands specifically. So what is our narrative when we get up on stage? What’s our punchline? What are our products? Why do they matter, how do we position them? And I think that is a huge part of what any brand needs to do. So that marketing side specifically and then strategy, I think of in two ways as it relates to my team specifically. It’s what our brand strategists Andi some other places. So what are individual strategies? Not your holistic messaging but more of that, one to one strategy of what’s the big idea for someone?
You have a crazy brief, endless budget, the unicorn of all briefs, what is the strategy you recommend? And I think those are more of the specifics. And then it’s also strategic vision. So you don’t always need a brief. What are our briefs? What are our dream ideas that we want brands to come in and do with us Andi think that is then where you really get more into strategic pieces of it. The team, by the time this airs, will have had some public PR about what we’ve rebranded the team as, which is Nextdoor create Andi did that because I wanted to have something that really incorporates both marketing and strategy. And what it came to is we are creating four brands, whether it is the story or that individual vision. So I noticed they were two different words Andi just a hefty title and it felt like Create was easier.
Pull it all together. Do you find that because they are slightly different parts of your job? Do you find it difficult prioritising each element? Do you find that at some point you’re all focused on the narrative and the storytelling and then other times you’re up and you need to get back or is it easy for you to kind of stay with a foot in both camps?
I think it’s part of my superpower. I think it’s easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy in general, but it’s part of how my brain operates. I have rolled into marketing organisations, revenue organisations, product organisations across my career and I think I’ve seen how they all operate. And I actually think that having marketing and strategy together is a really powerful, unique way of operating. And so I find it easy. I think they go hand in hand. It’s really cyclical. Story impacts which big strategies you should go with then actually seeing strategic vision impacts your next story. Andi so if you think of it that way, it all works together. That being said, the two parts of the team are not siloed. They are connected all the time, but they do operate as two separate parts of the business because their goals are certainly different.
And do they throw things at each other across meeting rooms and go, no, we’re doing this. We’re more important. How dare you? Absolutely.
I told you about my energy. I like to have it a little chaotic running all over. We hired a few new folks, but just before that, we had the full team together out in California and maybe call it the sun. Everyone gets along well. But it was one of my to sound really corny, really proud moments as a manager of my team, of watching just their interaction. They really balance off of each other and someone will throw out a big idea and someone on the marketing side says that’s maybe not realistic, and so they find that balance. So if you open that door the right way and set them up so they can have that openness, it goes really well. I’ve seen that not work in lots of my past lives, and it was one of the reasons I was excited for the opportunity here to build that from scratch and see if it could work.
And it did. You’ve referenced your past life several times, and I’m going to now open the door into your past life. I’ve though introduced that makes it sound quite sinister. Emma has worked a terrible place.
My past life.
Your past life. Yes. So you mentioned earlier as well about making sure that the language is right in different places. So for the UK listeners, I’m going to talk about your CV, and for the US listeners, I’m talking about your resume. So you’ve worked at Pinterest and Twitter and Nextdoor, you’re kind of like the Queen tech effectively. Right? Pinterest.
I love this title.
This has got to be on your LinkedIn by the morning, otherwise it’s going to be trouble. Right?
I can quote you.
It feels real.
Queen of tech. There you go. So let’s work backwards. You left Twitter, I think, to come to Nextdoor. What were you doing at Twitter and talk us through your role there?
Sure. So it was Twitter, Pinterest Nextdoor. And no problem. I do refer to the past lives often because I’m so proud of the work there Andi so proud of what I carried here and how it evolved. So Twitter over there. I was one of the first members on what became brand strategy and is now called Twitter Next. I give them lots of kudos. I think that that is one of the best teams in the business. I’m still very close with the teams there, and it was the inspiration for also thinking through Nextdoor create. I think imitation is the best form of flattery and I think we’re ready and it’s different, but it’s got some roots there. Andi so I was one of the first members on that team and was working by the time I left, specifically on the entertainment vertical, thinking about big ideas for brands and that team was flourishing, I was ready for something. Also, the Twitter had found its sea legs and felt like it was an operating company. Andi so I thought, what else is there? How else can I get mixed up into the mess of the start up again?
And when I got to Pinterest, I was on their marketing team, focused on vertical marketing. So you can see the two branches of my team already working across two different organisations. I was on the marketing team there thinking about verticals. At the time, Pinterest was very focused on CPG and retail Andi was working with sellers. And I kept hearing about how hard it can be to be a seller and I thought, Well, I want to try it. So I actually jumped into a direct sales role. So I was working on the retail vertical. There was selling directly and I liked it. I also felt like I was the type of marketer that was already out in the market, was already pitching. I think that you can choose that path from a marketing role and I missed that side. And I kept wanting to scale. I kept coming up with newsletters for my set of brands and then would share it on with other sellers and thought, well, clearly my home is meant to be in marketing if this is what I keep going back towards and my neck for building is what always gets me.
Andi so colleagues reached out to me and had said that there was this company called Nextdoor and would I be interested in coming over and thinking about what to do for big brands? And with those two experiences, I thought, yes, and I think there’s a way to pull these things together and really have a holistic team. So I had the chance to pull bits of culture from those companies. I have seen them be in start up mode to growth mode, to real functioning phenomenal companies, changes of leadership, all of that. So I had some foresight into what was to come in Nextdoor. And I knew the type of team I wanted to build and I knew that the brand strategy team. I never thought I had enough of a strong link with marketing. And then when I was the marketing team at Pinterest, I thought there was a miss in the strategic side and I wanted to pull those together. So I’ve been a really big believer in learning from those experiences, having been in the trenches Andi then into what I built.
Now, if I have asked that question is the first question. We could have just finished the podcast. There would have been like three minutes of podcast because everything else makes sense. So then you’ll be like, no further questions for you. Emma, thanks very much for coming on. The way you just explained it there, your current role makes absolute perfect sense Andi how you’ve pulled those bits together. Yeah, I think I’m done. I’ve always got more questions.
I’m so glad that I was able to pull it all together, though.
That’s a rehearsed answer, isn’t it? I’m not the first person to ask this.
There are people get pretty excited when you can say that you’ve worked for a handful of these social platforms before. I think, especially in those stages, I feel so fortunate. I think I hustled for the jobs I had there, but really fortunate in both leaders and the opportunities at those companies. I think the other piece that’s interesting is they’re all social platforms, but is it a social platform? Is it search? Is it a creative hub? It’s so many different things. And Nextdoor has something interesting here, too. And that part of a company that can’t be defined who are our competitors, I also think is really exciting. It’s that unique that it stands on its own.
So two questions I’m going to ask. I’m going to warn you about the second one now, so you have time to think about it. There’s a lovely section of the show called Top Tips where I sing a terrible theme tune and then you give a top tip to people. But I think what I’m going to ask you about for a top tip is you do have a resume that most people in market would be like, how do you get into one of those jobs? And you’ve had three of them. So if you have a top tip for people as to maybe making their way through the career, if you have a top tip for that. But before we get to that, but just to give you a little bit of time to think, one of the early episodes, I had a guy called Michael Mitchell, who is the global brand director from MailChimp on the show Andi was really pushing him about how are you a brand director in a SAS company that kind of focuses on annual recurring revenue or Appu or various metrics like that? You’ve been in the brand world in some of your roles, in companies that are effectively now looking at ad dollars.
How do you manage that? How do you help to justify that position in there? Because everybody looks at Brandon Andi goes, It’s the fluffy thing. You’re spending, you’re spending and the sales team are like, what we’re making. How do you get through that fight?
Well, on a day to day basis, I deal with both sides of those teams. And I will pray it to myself here that you need to have the patience of Saint internally, because you have two hugely different types of personalities and teams. And goals and you have to appease both of them. I think part of again going to why I thought that a team like this could be successful is we share both of their goals. So that helps a lot. Part of that strategic vision that we can come up with for brands is part of it is selfish. We’re looking at goals that we have and what we think is really powerful for Nextdoor in a branding moment Andi saying, who are the right partners to fund this for us? But we can also find benefit for them. So I think there are opportunities like that that helps you build both trust with brands because you are giving them something innovative and you’re also covering their goals and they then trust you for other crazy ideas you’ll come up with. And internally it buys you a little bit of clout because you’re helping both your sales team to bring in their revenue numbers and hit their targets and give them something interesting to sell.
Even I would argue, even at a fast company, you get excited when there’s something a little bit out of the box and you’re also helping your brand team who is working on whether they’re Fluffy or not moments that can make huge impact, but being able to show that. So I think it always helps. I will say I have always found that being on the revenue side of the house, someone early on said to me, Follow the money. There are opportunities there when you can tie the revenue goals. And I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to tie brand there if you can have the right ideas.
Yeah. Andi I’m absolutely not a believer in brand bringing Fluffy. And if you look at the research Andi the data from the long and the short of it from lesbian and Peter Fields and anything that you ever look at that the brand does pay off. We sometimes need to look at the metrics differently or even just look at different metrics. But it’s definitely, like you said, Follow the money is a really good piece that might have even been the top tip.
Yeah, maybe yes. No, go ahead.
Are you ready for a top tip? Right. It’s terrible, but let me go with it. Right. It’s time for Emma’s. T-O-P-T-I-P. That’s it.
I wouldn’t know what comes after it. Okay. I feel like I screwed up that entrance, I think in terms of it was for people how to think about breaking into this kind of career path. Good thing I remembered my top tip too. I think the biggest is not being focused on breaking into this world is the main thing. Think about what you’re good at and focus at companies there. What no one asked me about is the company I was at before Twitter, which was called Zoomed Media and Marketing. They had billboards in gyms and in restaurants and also even in bathroom stalls a far less glamorous role. I took that job because Mark Darcy, who was the chief creative officer at Facebook, who probably does not remember this conversation with me, maybe he does came into his office at Time Warner in the very beginning of my career and I said something like, I want to be a chief creative officer one day. What do I do? And he said, Say yes to everything Andi had two offers on the table. One was Zoom Media that no one had ever heard of and one was one of the companies we mentioned called Google.
And he said, Take the Zoom Media one. I was like, that’s insane. And everybody would think it just break into the company. He said, you’ll have more opportunities, you can say yes to more. You can grow to a better place in the company. You can work with more teams. Google will follow you. It was the best advice I ever got. I did so much. I had a marketing role, sales development role. I bounced around Andi talked to different teams. I learned about inventory Andi restaurants and it set me up that when I walked into Twitter, they did not care where I had come from, they cared about what I had done. Andi so I think holding on to that, just being focused on what you want to be doing Andi proving that anywhere versus saying I have to prove that I have social experience or something like that. We’ll be excited to have you based on experience, not where you work.
I always think I worry about I’m biassed based on my own career experience. And if someone asks me for advice, I’m always worried that I try and give them their advice based on my career. But my early career worked in professional sport and in education. It enrols that were quite broad, small teams that you just had to get involved in everything and what you needed most was a candle attitude to get stuff done. And you weren’t just this narrow silo marketer. And I found that really beneficial as I’ve grown. But I do sometimes I wonder where I would have gone if I’ve had that sliding doors moment and being siloed quite early on because I always had a can do attitude anyway, but who knows? I always worry about that. But I do find the opportunity to understand and learn from different people and spend time with a sales team and work with the PR guys. Andi those things are really beneficial in just shaping how I look at a lot of things now because I’ve got a diverse experience. It seems like you got that with Zoom as well, by just being able to bounce into different bits and learn lots at an early stage and then maybe specialise as you mature, I suppose.
Absolutely. I think you just get so much from that. There was a company called Daily Candy which has since sunset similar to a thriller if anyone looks at thriller these days. And when I was there early on it was an internship, turned to freelance basically. And there I thought I was going in for an events marketer role. I thought that I was going to be very cool and very posh and working on big events and they had me in an ad trafficking role and I had no idea what that trafficking was until I got there. I can confirm that I am not the right person for ad trafficking. Adopt teams are at the heartbeat of a lot of our business and I love them and I cannot do and do not want to do their jobs. I wouldn’t have known that had I not been in. But learning things like double click at the time has been really useful. So you follow different paths and I think early on do a bunch of random things and figure it out and then those experiences all tally up when you go to some of these larger social companies.
I remember being in a fairly big local radio network in the UK and they took me in and introduced me to their trafficking team and I just assumed in very early on in my career that they were doing and there’s been a delay on the M one this morning. I thought that by traffic I was like people here just doing traffic report.
Yeah, it’s phenomenal. And also I think tying it all the way. We were joking about the word fluffy because it has that connotation for brand. When you work in these different roles, you start thinking about those different metrics because you also have this exposure to how lots of different things are measured and you think of different creative ways because brand is such a difficult measurement. But you’re exposed to these different things Andi thinking about how did radio measure? What was listenership like? What does that look like? I thought about restaurant inventory Andi foot traffic from that perspective and how that led to business and that all ties into giant brand goals. So I think the more you can have that. So I forgot to think about my top tip, but I think I saved myself post.
Listen, I really enjoyed it. It was brilliant as we’re running out of time and you’ve probably got something much more important to do next. So I’ve got two more questions to ask you. The first one is do you have any book recommendations, newsletter, recommendations or podcast or anything you listen to that you find really useful that you’d like to share with the audience?
So my husband was telling me about Apple News for a very long time, which is just a conglomerate of pulling media together. And like any great spouse, I tried to ignore him for a while. I actually opened Apple News. It is great if you have not looked at their interface. It is just a really nice one. I am a big fan of just knowing generally what’s going on. I think that impacts all of marketing, all of us right now. And so being able to see world headlines. Apple News also does a really nice job of international papers. I read a couple of German papers to see what’s going on with family there, as well as US as well as UK kind of across the board. I also like being up to speed on my celebrity gossip. Influencers are very important in our industry and then I also have Ad Age and Ad Week in there. I think those sorts of trades are one fun and easy read, but it also gives you a sense of some really cool brand campaigns that are going on where different people are going Andi learning about different people in the industry.
So I am one just highlighting that interface. Husband will be proud. But those trades in general and then books wise, I am not the best at reading true marketing books. Fun story. And in case anyone listening is interested, there was a LinkedIn post that our CMO set off asking which offers people to ask her questions. And a woman came back and said she’s discovered that there are very limited marketing textbooks written by women. And I saw this as an opportunity and have now decided that we should consider writing the new age marketing textbook. So I’m about to be diving into far more very academic marketing books.
Faults and praise. I’m a fault and praise. Thank you.
I’m going to try to make some fun so I don’t read them as often. A couple that have stuck one is not. I think real life stories makes such a difference when you are considering marketing stories. So Setting the Table is a book by Danny Meyer who runs Union Square Hospitality Group. It’s all about hospitality and how you run a business. And from having punching bags in the kitchen to being able to have the best service and best quality, I think is kind of life lessons I prefer. So that one is one that’s stuck with me. And then another kind of on the cusp is called The Art of Possibility. And it is a book that has a series of different stories of optimism, but they’re fun. It’s not just a total raw, raw book. There’s one top section that has a woman that’s walking on the beach, she’s throwing seashells into the ocean one by one, or starfishes, sorry. And a guy comes over to her and basically says, why are you bothering? There’s so many of them, you’ll never throw them back in. And she looks at him, links one in and says, it certainly makes a difference to this one.
And I think it’s those types of messages that are just really impactful and help you think about things differently. I’ve read through the other ones about measuring success and so on and so forth. I wanted to give you something a little different. Definitely read your marketing pieces. But I think the real life context always does it for me.
More brilliant stuff. It’s one of my favourite questions in the whole show because you get such diverse answers from people. Someone gave me Ottolengi’s Cookbook. I think this was peak lockdown. It’s just the thing that’s keeping me saying so anything is brilliant. So thank you for that. My final question is an awkward one, but what one question are you usually asked on podcasts that I haven’t asked you?
I think you asked it in some form, but it’s a little bit different, which is not just how to get jobs at these companies, but I think I’ve been getting a lot of especially given the hiring verse. What is the main quality you look for or what’s? Something that you do in interviews and maybe continuing with my current style, I ask very little about actual skill sets on interviews. A little bit different for more junior roles. Of course, knowing programmes is better, but just types of people. And I think that being a generalist in marketing roles is just something that probably no surprise based on our conversation. But it’s really big and hustle is the word that I’ve come up with that I think you either have it or you don’t. And I think that that is the part you can’t teach. I think you can teach people almost anything. You can learn a dashboard, you can learn about how a measurement system works, you can learn about how to pull slides together. But either you have hustle or you don’t. Andi so I think getting that, you learn just from conversations and energy and there are introverts that are Hustlers, you still get that through, I think.
But I think it’s just in conversations with people. So that’s been one that’s come up a bunch of like, what’s the one quality that you think is the thing that’s making people successful in interviews? And I think it’s getting your hustle through quickly.
Brilliant. I love that if anyone has listened to the show a long time, they’ll be like, but I’m going to pick him up on that because I’ve slated a certain chap who goes by the name of I’ll not say his name. I’ll not mention Gary Vee’s name because it’s not fair to him, not that he cares or he’s listening. But we talk about hustle and this hustle culture. But you mean something slightly different. I think you don’t mean this kind of you should be up at 05:00 A.m. And doing that. It’s a state of mind, not an action almost. It’s like, how do you approach a problem where you’ll hustle your way through it? You mean something slightly different, don’t you said to the Benachok Hustle, totally.
It’s a mindset there is if you get 12 hours of sleep a night and you take your dog for four walks a day and can do 19 things and you work for me, you can still have hustle. It does not mean that you need to go to the gym twice and have 19 careers. I think it’s just the mindset piece exactly that you can hustle through anything you want to be able to do things you want to build. You’ve got the go getter side of it. I think curiosity is the other piece of it right. You just got that and I think it’s such a Hollywood term where somebody’s got it or they don’t from that end and I think there’s something in this business too Andi think those are the types of leaders where I don’t want them to feel like they can’t apply for roles because they haven’t had the direct skills or something like that. I think if you have that the skill sets can come after. So that’s the piece that I’m really looking for.
Brilliant. Listen, Emma, thank you very much. If that sounds like you if you want to go and work at Nextdoor, you want to go and work as part of Emma’s team in London. The link is in the show notes. Get your application in as quick as you can and get your hustle out fairly early on so listen, Emma, thank you very much for your time. This has been absolutely wonderful and really enlightening for me so thank you.
Thank you so much.