Last week, I interviewed Phil about talking his way into new opportunities, non-linear career tracks, and the importance of thanking people who’ve helped you along the way.
1. What are some of the things you read, follow, or attend to keep up with the latest trends?
- my bff Morgan Siem who I have no doubt will soon be a national social media celeb
- Brian McDonald whose brain is a fine tuned marketing device
- Jeremy Smith because he talks shit for 30 minutes but when you walk away you realize he left you three diamonds in the turd piles
- Wayne Sutton because he has his finger on the Triangle’s social media pulse
- Cord Silverstein‘s blog is always smart even though I have to wait a while between posts
- Adam Covati who is clearly one of the brightest lights in the Triangle
- Dan London who gets smarter the longer I know him
- Rachel Healy who I bounce crazy ideas off of all the time and she still puts up with me
- Greg Ng who I tend to follow around since he always finds the best stuff
- Karl Sakas who has a smart new blog that is always good reading
2. What do you do professionally, and how did you get to where you are today?
I run the search and social program for The Sinclair Institute. Last fall, their flagship site (bettersex.com) tanked in organic search over a two-day period. From 10K visitors a day to 5K. Needless to say sales plunged as well.
I’ve been working with them since January to shore up their SEO on their main site but have also helped build out a network site that acts as a content play for them as well as a community meeting area. I’ve taken over control of the blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and am now driving a few thousand additional visitors to the site each week.
My journey is not linear. I was unemployed and took a temp job doing data entry at Houghton-Mifflin for their educational workbooks or something. When that ended I was deemed a database guy, so I got a job setting up an Access database to track ISO 9000 compliance for Varian.
My job was pretty much done in about six months, then I only had to use the DB about an hour a week. That’s when I started teaching myself HTML and such nack in the late 90’s. I eventually lied my way into a real web company where I learned the basics of perl, php, and mysql before they figured out I didn’t know what I was doing. I learned enough to actually do pretty well at my next job at a tiny start-up where I was the first full-time employee, but we died in the bubble.
I did some more web development both as an employee and as a freelancer until I started at McClatchy in 2006. I started getting interested in search about 2008, and by 2009 was a social media guy, too.
When they cut the Marketing dept, there was no one left doing SEO so I became the de facto SEO guy, and eventually the de facto social media guy. Eventually I became frustrated at the glacial pace in the newspaper world and decided to move on to where I am now.
3. What’s one of your most memorable projects?
We were running behind schedule. We were on a conference call with the people at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, CA on a Friday afternoon and the Project Manager was telling them we were too far behind schedule to get them on the new system by the following Thursday (we had been taking about a month to move sites over). Then I said that we could do it by Thursday. The developer next to me looked at me and nodded and said, “yeah, we can do that.” The PM reiterated that we couldn’t and told SLO the new schedule. We walked out of the meeting and we told the PM again that the site was going to launch on time. She laughed at us.
We ended up launching the site on time. We migrated the entire site from their old CMS platform, with all their old stories to a new completely different CMS in roughly four days. We did it because Robbie, Brad, and I were stubborn, vain, proud developers who hated being told we couldn’t do it.
When we hit our mark, the people at San Luis Obispo were amazed and we had made friends for life out there. For me, that was the highpoint of the four years I spent at McClatchy. I wish I felt that challenged the rest of the time.
4. Since you started your career, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in marketing?
I’m just barely on the fringe of marketing, but I’d have to say it’s the web in general and social media lately. When I was working at Varian, I used wais and gopher to try to fetch data off the Internet. Now I use my smart phone. The web is now with us all the time.
5. What’s your advice for early-career marketers?
6. What do you do for fun outside of work?
I have an almost 3 year old, that is most of my fun time outside of work.
7. What’s something most people might not know about you?
When I transferred to Northeastern, I was going to try to walk-on to the baseball team, but the auditorium was jammed, so I went across the hall to the “Crew” room. I had never rowed before. Within a month I was in first position.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to thank everyone who I’ve met over the last two years. The people in the Raleigh area have been wonderful to me, and always made me feel comfortable and welcome.
If it wasn’t for Ashley Berman Hale, Wayne Sutton, Ryan Boyles, and Jeremy Smith I probably wouldn’t have stuck it out. Each one of those people gave me a push when I needed it, which allowed me to keep moving forward.
Phil, thank you for sharing your experience, advice, and sense of humor!
This is the third in my new series of interviews with marketing and business leaders in North Carolina and beyond. If you know someone I should speak with next, let me know and I’ll try to feature them in a future profile.
What else would you like to learn from Phil? Please share your followup questions in the comments below.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Phil Buckley