Talking Brand and Experience With Karen Budell, VP at SurveyMonkey

June 25, 2020
To listen to the full episode, click here

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us, but I'm really excited to have Karen Budo with me, uh, VP of brand at survey monkey. Um, I've been a big fan of survey monkey for a long time, and I'm excited to have Karen on her and I connected on a call a few weeks ago, and it was great to kind of just, uh, share some stories about marketing and brand, and also just kind of this crazy workplace environment we're in right now. So Karen I'd love if you took a minute to talk a little bit about yourself and maybe your journey and what you're excited about working on at survey monkey survey monkey.

Karen: (00:51)
Awesome. Well, first of all, Joe, thank you so much for having me really excited to be joining you today on, on the LinkedIn live and for the podcast as well. And I too have been a long fan of survey monkey over the years, having used it while I was in grad school and at previous jobs. So it's so exciting to be a part of the troop at survey monkey, but I will say that, uh, when I joined in mid January, um, I certainly wasn't expecting to, to join a new company and lead a team through really uncharted territories and, and, uh, a world that none of us could have prepared for a year a year that has continued to bring new change and challenges. Um, but I'm excited to be here a little bit about me. I am a very proud native Chicago and who grew up on the city Southwest side.


Uh, but for the past six, a little over six years, I've been proudly calling myself, um, a native or I'm sorry, a Northern California and, and now the Bay area is home to me. So, um, you know, that, that is those cities are really part of, um, why I have grown to love marketing. I've had the opportunity to work at some incredible companies like Chicago Tribune company, uh, in the storied Tribune tower on Michigan Avenue for over nine years and now working in the Bay area. Um, you know, I've, I've had the opportunity to work at Google and YouTube and now survey monkey. And it's just been a really exciting, really exciting journey.

Joe: (02:28)
Yeah, that's so wild. I still think it's crazy. Like I imagine, you know, I jumped into this role at cloud app a year ago and kind of like the first 90 days were pretty chaotic, especially going from a big company in Adobe to a startup and kind of like prioritizing and, you know, you're reestablishing yourself and you're trying to like prove your credibility to new people and, and establishing yourself. And so it's, it's crazy that, uh, you know, you made that jump and then kind of jumped straight into, uh, you know, this, this chaos. So it's, it's really a pretty cool skill set. I'm sure you've learned.

Karen: (03:08)
Yes. Um, it's kind of interesting because I've, I've long had on my LinkedIn profile for those of you watching live long, had that I'm, I'm comfortable leading through change and I'm comfortable in ambiguous environments. And part of that was having worked at the Tribune company when they filed for chapter 11 and then, you know, rolling through all the changes that, that followed that. Um, I never thought that that would apply to, to leading through this level of change and uncertainty. Um, they're a global pandemic, but, um, I I've been learning a lot, uh, and have, have been trying to pull from that ability to, to kind of roll with it, um, to, you know, you, can't, there's a lot of things that you can't prepare for, um, but finding ways to be resilient and to tap into your peers and your team and other leaders to find a path forward is, has been really great stuff. I'm, I'm very grateful for, for the team and, um, truth that I find myself in at survey monkey.

Joe: (04:11)
Absolutely. You know, w the trend was, was kind of moving to this remote work anyway, what do you think kind of the modern workplace looks like? You know, you're at home right now. Um, some people are opening offices back up. A lot of companies are saying we're going to support working from home for, for quite some time, what's your own opinion on kind of modern workplace and also, uh, you know, how marketing and brand kind of fit within that.

Karen: (04:41)
Yeah. Well, it's been super interesting to watch how different companies are responding to the evolving situation and how they're changing policies. I think the modern workplace to me is really about increased flexibility. It's about finding ways for, for teams and people to have more autonomy and distributed decision making. One thing that I've, I've always thought was key to the modern workplace, but probably even more so moving forward is greater cross functional alignment and collaboration. Um, you know, being able to work across functions or teams or business lines has always been critical, but more so, uh, now today and moving forward. Um, and then I would also say with that because everyone is, or has been working virtually for awhile, you know, may move back into physical office space at some point we're, we're in this truly global virtual workforce. So chasing the sun, uh, and, and working with your, your colleagues in different time zones and offices is a new thing to get used to.


Um, and, and being a little bit, going back to flexibility, you know, you might have to change your schedule and when you start and end meetings these days, um, and, uh, I would say, you know, one other thing on the virtual kind of nature of work, um, is that those lines between work and life are really blurred and it's, it's harder to find that balance, uh, when you, you know, are you can't really escape the office so to speak you're, you're living in it day in and day out. So, um, that piece is a question Mark for me, I don't know how that will change moving forward in a, in a modern workplace, but I do think that it's allowed more people to bring their true selves to work. So we're getting to know each other more as people and as humans and individuals versus just, you know, a title or someone that comes to the table with, uh, an area of subject matter or functional expertise.

Joe: (06:50)
That's a really good point. Yeah. I think there's a lot of good comments in there on, uh, flexibility finding, you know, we're, we all have lots of stories of what it, what it's been like to have every call kind of be at home over zoom or whatever over the last four months, um, you know, with, with, uh, we did this actually survey through survey monkey, uh, last fall, and we had a thousand respondents, uh, U us office workers, and we're focused on remote work and kind of understanding what the trends were like. And when we sliced it by demographics, uh, we found that younger generations, um, were already working remotely more than 50% of the time. Um, so with the trend kind of moving that way, uh, what, how do you think this has kind of accelerated that, um, what are the skill sets we built as people and Mark marketing leaders, or, you know, leaders of brand, um, that can help us, you know, with the future of remote being a piece of that?

Karen: (07:59)
Yeah. Um, well, I will first say that I have worked on teams or at companies where management has had a discomfort with work from home, or, you know, disbelief that people could be productive in that environment. And I think what's different now is that everyone's in the same boat. Uh, and now we're seeing that we all have to, you know, work virtually and trust, uh, our colleagues that maybe we're not keeping the same, you know, traditional hours as we've got other personal or family obligations, but we are finding ways to, to be productive, to work smarter, to still hold ourselves accountable to teammates. And so I think that's certainly changed, um, you know, working in a creative field, especially in brand and marketing. There's always that, that belief that getting together in a room for that brainstorming and working session, um, I've loved participating in design thinking workshops when she cut out the colored post it.


Now it's in, you're putting them up on the wall and grouping them. And, and just that energy that is created in working together now, who you are, we are trying to figure out is Brandon creative leaders. How can you continue to inspire that same level of creativity and productivity in a virtual environment? Um, and that's been a challenge, but we're lucky to have so many, um, you know, SAS solutions and, and, um, tools to help us with virtual white boarding or collaboration, obviously video, um, who who's not on zoom calls these days while simultaneously slacking and you know, what have you. So, um, it's been an interesting challenge for sure, but working from home, I think now we'll see more people doing it. I also do things well when, when people feel ready and comfortable, there will be a new, um, new way that we'll all cherish that time together and in face to face meetings or in the office. And so I'm really interested to see what that is like. I think we'll have a different level of presence and commitment to each other as his teammates and colleagues when we, when we do show up in the same space at some point in future.

Joe: (10:23)
Yeah. I really liked that. You know, one of my favorite, I love that you touched on design thinking. One of my favorite classes at Stanford was, was design thinking and really kind of finding ways to implement that. And it has been challenging to replicate, not just the ideas, but that energy. Um, now here at, on my team, we've mostly tried to do zoom zoom calls with like, yeah, like the G suite collaborative doc open or Slack open, and then, uh, using know cloud app in between with like a async stuff. Uh, you dug in on some tools I'd love to kind of hear, you know, how, how you guys are trying to create those creative moments, uh, that are crucial for brand, um, pairing up, you know, what is, what is the value of like a zoom with, with like an async tool or like task management or collaboration, uh, how are those kind of pairing together to, to really help you get what you need done?

Karen: (11:27)
Sure. Um, well, the good news is that survey monkey had recently moved to zoom. Um, you know, the week before we all moved to a shelter in place and, and work from home scenario. So we've all gotten quite good at switching on our virtual backgrounds and figuring out how to use the chat. Um, I I've actually hosted a virtual workshop with our executive leadership team over zoom, which was quite nerve wracking, you know, being, being still new to the job. I haven't even been on the job five months yet, um, and had to find a way to, to foster an engaging and lively discussion with our executive team and other folks from brand. Um, but we've been, I think what our team's been doing well is, you know, learning, learning, zoom and its capabilities, and it kind of has, you mentioned how to pair it with other tools.


So we do use Slack as an organization and figuring out how to best set up channels and threads with the right teammates. So you can have that continuous conversation, especially when you have teammates and other time zones or cities. You know, we have, um, a global footprint at survey monkey. So it's important for us to be able to, uh, keep our teammates and Amsterdam, for example, up to date on the latest discussion around a project. So you want to keep to move things forward, but find a way to have that continuous conversation, um, sharing, sharing docs and finding ways to, you know, provide feedback and comments and edits when one team might be signing off or going to sleep and keeping that moving. I think that's been helpful for us, and it's really caused us as a brand organization who does a lot of our, um, most of our creative work in house to look at the processes that we use for project management.


You know, we have a high volume of creative requests running through our content design and video teams. Um, and I think this new virtual environment, sure. You can have a five minutes stand up on a zoom call, but we haven't quite cracked that one where figure out, we're trying to figure it out. Um, but you know, trying different tools, um, Miura we've used as, as whiteboards as a creative team to, to capture ideas and do some of that virtual design thinking. Um, and then just getting better about how we present our work, um, through whether that's, you know, a designer pulling up, um, a mock and envision and walking us through or finding a way to, um, communicate the different evolutions of, uh, of a design or a piece of content. Um, we're, we're, we're experimenting.

Joe: (14:09)
Nice. Yeah. You bring up envision there they're like one of our larger customers. They they've been using us for a long time. We love working with those guys that were there.You know, you, you've definitely, I think one thing I've learned is, um, that it's, it's good to have some authenticity and, you know, we're all, this is kind of a global moment that everyone's going through and, uh, recognizing that, um, you know, really empathizing and growing together, uh, I think has been really interesting and kind of struggling through it together, you know, like, like you said, uh, everyone's trying to figure it out. Everyone's trying to figure out what works for them. Um, it's been pretty cool to see like massive companies that were able to completely shut down in a couple of days and, you know, are developing playbooks for remote work and working from home. And how do we enable our teams, you know, with tools and desks and monitors, if they need 'em or whatever. Uh, it's been really interesting to see, um, what are some tips that you've really kind of learned as a leader? Uh, you mentioned some standups and trying to find ways to connect as a team and, and, you know, these brainstorms and other things, what are some things you've learned about yourself and also your team that, uh, kind of leading virtually?

Karen: (15:36)
Yeah, well first let me say that I joined SurveyMonkey in mid January, and I think I had only been on the job and in our San Mateo headquarters for about eight or so weeks before we started moving to shelter in place in the Bay area and worked from home environments. So I am very fortunate that I did have that time to meet my brand team and my peers and teammates in person. Um, one thing that I prioritize as a new leader, um, that I'd recommend whether someone's starting in a virtual scenario or just in general, was, um, I made time for one on ones with every person in the brand marketing organization. And it was really important for me to get to know them as people, um, beyond you know, who they are as a designer or maybe what product line they're working on. I scheduled those within my first 30 days. And I'm so glad that I did, because I was able to have a little bit more detail about their, you know, who they were as people, what their passions were, what they enjoy doing outside of work to help foster more of that connection as we move to a virtual scenario. Um, and I would say beyond that, I I've tried to really flex my style and frequency of check-ins depending on the circumstances. So every week has, has brought, um, you know, new challenges and new ways of thinking about our world and how we work together as humans in the beginning, it meant I was having daily, um, check-ins daily end of day, check-ins with my creative directors, because so much was happening in a day that slacks or emails or any other mode of communication, wasn't gonna be able to capture all of the, um, emotion and urgency happening.

So we started doing daily checkups and then after a while, that felt like too much. So really just, you know, being flexible. Um, and in terms of what works, uh, I wouldn't say that one thing that's been helpful with my large brand org is making myself available through office hours for the team. So we all, what our calendars look like with back to back zooms, uh, during any given week, there are two hour slots, two, one hour slots that I hold each week, uh, where anyone in the brand organization can schedule time with me for any topic whatsoever. Some people might drop in to get feedback on some designs or, or copy. Um, I've had people use it to spend time just talking with me and seeing my dog on camera. So, you know, just having that, um, availability, uh, for the team to, to check in as they need to, and making sure that I'm still holding a monthly, a monthly meeting for the entire brand organization to get together, uh, to talk about whether it's business, um, business updates or our brand strategy, um, or, or just fun topics, we have that standing time together. And, uh, and then one thing I did to surprise them, um, I don't know if they all know this, but it was a little bit of my calendar mistake. I somehow the April monthly meeting fell off the calendar or disappeared. And it was really important to me that we stay connected as an organization.

So I put a one hour slot on calendar for a Friday at 9:00 AM, Pacific time. It actually was the first day. I think it was like the first day of may, but that's okay. It was close. And, um, instead of putting a zoom link and then meeting invite like normal, it was blank. And instead I shared a little video update with the team through our, um, brand Slack channel and told them that the agenda was their choice and they could use that hour for whatever they needed at that moment in time, if that was sleeping in, if it was calling a family member playing with their kids or their pets, um, or just sitting outside and, you know, having, having breakfast with some fresh air, it was their choice. And so I tried to turn a mistake into a little bit of fun and flexibility so that I think that went over well. But, um, those are, those are different ways that I would say we can as leaders think about how to use our time and make ourselves available to our team.

Joe: (20:00)
That's really great. Yeah. I think, I think we're on kind of similar wavelengths. Like when I w I, like you said, you had kind of daily, no touch bases. Uh, I was kind of the same way as like, let's have a daily, standup, Intel, we're all kind of acclimated and then figure things out. Um, and then, yeah, I mean, our cadences are pretty similar. I like that you did that, um, skip the monthly meeting and kind of give yourself an hour. Um, do you feel like your meetings have gone down being virtual? Um, I'm interested in the big, the bigger company. Um, you know, I'm at a startup, so like I gained probably four hours of my day back when I left a big company, uh, for a smaller one. Have you seen some meetings drop off or is it kind of business as usual? And you're just in like six hours of zooms every day?

Karen: (21:00)
Uh, that is a good question. And I would say it, it has changed. It's, it's really been, um, there have been peaks and valleys in terms of meetings. There have been some weeks when I've been able to really reserve good chunks of time. I would say from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM for deep thinking work, um, you know, strategy our, our brand evolution and, and spending time whether that was alone or just with a small group and in more of a collaborative working session. But I'm, I'm back in a time where the zoom calls just keep piling up

Joe: (21:40)
A little bit, like back to normal.

Karen: (21:43)
Exactly. So the nature, um, of, of meetings has changed. I would say it's forced us to think through those recurring meetings that everyone has on calendar and you just, they just sit there because they've always been there. We've gotten better about thinking through that, trying to shorten meetings by five or 10 minutes. So people have a chance to get up and move around. Um, I really miss all of those serendipitous run-ins with colleagues and teammates, just, you know, on the way to the cafeteria, the migration in the bathroom, not only was it a chance to interact with and get to know other people in the company, but I realized how much work actually got done just within a couple of minutes, you know, whether it was a quick burst of communication and update on a project. Sometimes you'd get a decision, um, if you ran into the right person. And so I do miss that a lot, but, um, trying, trying to be mindful about zoom meetings and really only attend or invite people to ones that are critical.

Joe: (22:47)
Yeah. It's really funny. Like there were so many times that Adobe that I would be, you know, walking the halls in San Jose and I'd walk past someone that I had emailed like four times and they're like, Oh, shoot, I need to like, get back to you. And then, you know, the problem was immediately solved cause they saw me. Um, yeah, it's really interesting. You bring that up. Uh, we also had a saying at Adobe that was, uh, this meeting could have been a cloud app. Video was like, you know, I'm sure there's always like, you'll be halfway into a meeting. You're like, Oh man, why am I even here? I'm not really a part of this. Um, so hopefully virtual has kind of made people think, Hey, does this need to be a meeting? Could it be some other, you know, non real time, medium. Yeah. With, uh, kind of looking into the future, I'm wanting you to pull out your crystal ball. Um, this has been a really great conversation. I've loved kind of learning some things that you're doing at survey monkey with a brand. And I want you to kind of look into the future and make your, you know, bold predictions on what you think the future looks like in marketing brand. Um, you know, how that fits into what the modern workplace is that you mentioned earlier and, you know, final parting tips and tricks.

Karen: (24:12)
Okay. That's a lot, that's a lot. Let me see, I'll say just on the, on the crystal ball question and in terms of a modern marketer, I, I think what this time is teaching us is, um, you know, kind of what I mentioned earlier that we're all humans. So that building, um, building skills and empathy and understanding as human, uh, understanding each other as fellow humans can help us be better marketers because sometimes we forget how important it is to, to know your audience and to understand your audience. And so this brings a, a different level to understanding who you're talking to or who you're trying to reach on the other side of the video. I think that will be key. Um, I would be remiss if I didn't mention data. You know, I had previously worked on Google analytics, analytics three 60 suite and data driven marketing is, is an incredibly important, and we're a time we're at a time now where more data is available and of interest to us as marketers and business leaders. But I think what I'm working through our pandemic has taught us is no matter how much data you can have, that's, that's not enough to make a decision. So finding that balance of, you know, having enough data, um, to move forward, but not waiting for all of it to make decisions. So I think I I'm curious, but I feel like data driven marketing will take on a new meeting moving forward. Um, and then I think creativity, you know, kind of related to data, data can inform creativity and inspire creative thinking. I think we've all been, um, forced to be much more creative thinkers and this environment, whether it's how to inspire the team or how to come up with a campaign, that's going to resonate in the moment knowing that we're in such a fluid environment and situations change daily. So, um, I think creative creativity and creative thinking and problem solving is going to be really critical to modern marketers and also just that comfort and ability to work and any medium, uh, with, uh, you know, video words are important, whether you're saying them or writing them or slacking them. Um, so I, those, those are areas to me that I think will continue to be, to be critical for marketers moving from.

Joe: (26:34)
That's really great. I love that response. I think, you know, we're, we're all kind of learning on the go. Um, we're trying to find ways to connect with our audiences right now. Um, you know, and that will be, you know, recognizing that along with the data, uh, and really being open to communicating with our communities early on.

Karen: (26:55)
Crucial. Yeah.

Joe: (26:57)
Awesome. Thank you, Karen. It was so great chatting with you, apologies for the technical difficulties earlier and, uh, and I appreciate your time today.

Karen: (27:09)
Thanks so much for having me, Joe. It was great chatting with you, um, and, uh, interested to hear how this all comes together. Yeah, for sure. Thanks Karen. Thank you.

Joe: (27:23)
Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and gifts. Perfect for both internal and external communication. Get started for free@wwwdotgetcloudapp.com. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.