Renee Blodgett is the founder of Magic Sauce Media, a strategic communications consultancy based in San Francisco. She is best known for her social media, PR and viral marketing campaigns as well as her established reputation as a social media influencer and technology pundit and consultant, which has garnered her kudos and accolades from renowned pioneers in the industry. She is also the founder of We Blog the World, an online luxury travel site focused on Transformative Travel. As someone who plays in both the journalism and consultancy world, she is a master of storytelling for the lifestyle, travel and technology industries and has helped dozens of global brands, companies and products succeed, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
How did you get into the industry?
I’m one of those rare people who actually majored in International Marketing Communications, of which PR was an integral part of the curriculum. I started my career in advertising and then sales in London until I moved back to the states and realized that it I was better suited for PR.
My first PR gig in the states was with an agency that specialized in healthcare PR and crisis communications and then I migrated to technology when it started to boom in Boston now more than twenty years ago, both at an agency and later in-house. I loved that the field combined writing with strategy and dealt with the media since I initially wanted to get into Journalism.
Any emerging industry trends?
I am seeing a lot of what I’ll call Tribe Marketing, where brands are starting to look at influencers who already love their brand or who may not know about the brand yet, but would make a great fit for them. Alignment is key because it then becomes a natural partnership rather than a fabricated one – consumers can tell the difference. With curated influencers, a new community emerges which ultimately leads to extended reach through viral buzz on social media platforms and even old fashioned word of mouth – on and offline.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
One thing I’ve noticed over the last five or so years is that brands want to spend less because they feel that with so many free platforms to get the word out, marketing should be free or close to it. So, with brands and clients wanting to spend less, it makes it difficult to do creative yet cost effective campaigns when there’s more clutter and noise than ever. This requires being very unique in your messaging and positioning, which isn’t easy when you have a zillion funnels throwing content in a zillion directions. I still believe in event marketing since that high level touch can go a long way when you don’t get layer of personalization online.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
I work with clients a lot on their alignment which starts with identifying who they are as individuals (the entrepreneurs behind the idea, vision or product) and who the company, service and products are, then I move to alignment between the two. It’s astonishing how often they’re mismatched.
My vision for a more personal strategic approach came from working at a few traditional agencies where cookie cutter pitches and extensive dog and pony Powerpoint presentations were the way to win new business. It always felt so empty and I never felt ONE with my clients in the way that I do today. I think of my clients as my family – part of my tribe so to speak and this extends to every decision we make together. It’s a much different approach than acting as an external machine.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
I’ve been particularly passionate about wellness, wellness travel, mindfulness and consciousness in the last few years and how and where this is moving into products, services, events, initiatives, non-profits and beyond. I also think that how we experience travel has changed so am interested in the viral marketing and communications themes and campaigns that will need to work alongside that trend. We need to combine influencer marketing with traditional media relations and smart messaging that conveys well across every platform where our client’s customers hang out.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Education is an important part of this transition. Clients in the travel, lifestyle and wellness space are still doing things the old fashioned way, particularly destinations in more remote locations around the world. Because the data is increasingly reporting that people are purchasing trips and making other bookings online – even luxury ones – the mindset is changing. Educating what we need to do collectively will be a critical part of that process. Influencer campaigns will be a key part of this. Smart curation of those influencers will either make or break those campaigns however, so ultimately having years of experience knowing how influencers think, how to communicate with them and get them on board will be more important than ever.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
It’s so important to stay RELEVANT and part of staying relevant means being out there – all the time. When I first moved to the Bay Area, I went to every event on every topic that mattered to my client base and after awhile, it not only became exhausting but boring – you begin to hear the same trends discussed by the same speakers over and over again regardless of what event it is and start to realize that you’re in a bubble, which can be dangerous. We’re preaching to each other, I soon discovered. When you become so integrated into the fabric of what you do, it’s easy to lose perspective and have a unique value prop that others don’t see when they’re too close to their industry OR product. The realization reminded me how important it is to get into the clutter and get your hands dirty. Get close to customers, listen to what they have to say, travel far away from your home base, get fresh ideas and ask lots of questions. Creativity and success stems from taking risks and not being afraid to change it out and change it out often.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
I’m still a fan of doing high touch events and love the results from them, especially when you can repeat them a few times a year. These experiences allow us to get close to our influencers and customers in a way we can’t digitally or on the phone. You learn new insights through taking the time to listen to what their needs are and how they change over time. When we assume we know our customer based on original data, we forget that preferences change as do needs. I love doing VIP and influencer events that promote dialogue in real time in a transparent and comfortable setting that is memorable and most importantly connected. Remember that quote: They may forget what you said but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.
How do you motivate others?
I start by identifying what makes them tick and what they’re most passionate about. What they thrive in is what they’ll spend the most time on and give the biggest effort to. In other words, heart besets heart. Often, people are mismatched for tasks, so identifying what makes their heart sing is the best way to get them into the right role. Once they’re in the right role, self-motivation takes over since they’re in it for their own joy which ultimately means, they’ll stay for the long haul.
Career advice to those in your industry?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. And ask them often. I’d also argue that the more granular you can be about those questions the better. Secondly, don’t be afraid to fail. People get hung up on not doing A or B because they don’t think it will work out, so stick with boring c instead. Boring C will never lead to an extraordinary campaign nor will it lead to an extraordinary life. Lastly, honor your word and follow through. I’m always astonished at how few PR people, especially in the beginning of their career, will give you the passionate pitch as if there’s no tomorrow and then earn F’s on the follow through.
Renee was ranked as the #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes for two years in a row, #6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes, selected as a Top 70 Bay Area Digital Leader by the United Nations, named a Top 10 Social Media Mentor by Women Online Magazine, was a Shorty Awards Business Influencer Finalist and served as a Smitty Awards Judge for Travel & Leisure Magazine. She has served on a number of advisory boards, including BlogHer, PopTech, Shocase, a global social network for the brightest minds in the marketing, creative and communications industries and Transformative Technology Lab, who helps engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs create new tools for the well-being of humanity. She is also the co-curator of TEDxBerkeley, one of the largest TEDx events in the country.