Interview with Jessie Newburn, PR Gal at Nemetschek NA

Who is the face customers identify with a typical CAD company? Maybe the CEO whose smile appears on the cover of business magazines, or the tech support guy who handles the most challenging cases, or perhaps the well-dressed salesperson who convinces big customers to buy dozens of licenses? All of them or none of them, it depends on who you ask, until yesterday. Now, if you ask people who is the most familiar face at Nemetschek NA, very likely most would respond, Jessie! She is not the CEO, not a member of the technical support team, nor a saleswoman. Jessie is the person in charge of Social Media, or the “PR Gal,” as she likes to be called. Everyday Vectorworks users find Jessie online in a variety of environments, from Facebook to Twitter, Delicious, and so on. I managed to disconnect Jessie from her laptop and her iPhone for a short while to get some insight about her online activities and her role inside Nemetschek NA. Here is the interview.

Jessie, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional activities?

the company (has) a loyal, passionate and, perhaps, a bit geeky customer base

Certainly. I’m the PR gal on the global mar-com team at Nemetschek North America. We develop CAD products for designers under the name Vectorworks. Strengthening our global community and supporting our international distributors is a key component of my job. I was drawn to work with Nemetschek NA because I could tell – even from the outside looking in — that the company had a loyal, passionate and, perhaps, a bit geeky customer base. As I have a strong orientation to the opportunities emerging in and around social media, this was a perfect storm, so to speak, of the type of company I wanted to work for. I’ve been with NNA for about a year, and it’s been everything I hoped for … and more.

How do you see the current state of social media in the CAD industry? Is it affecting only a small community or is it having a larger impact?

social media opens the doors to serve people more specifically and genuinely

Well, as a newcomer to the CAD industry, I don’t believe I’m qualified to speak to how social media is impacting this one industry differently than others. I think for all companies, the touch points for reaching customers, prospects and the press have exploded. As well, consumer sentiment in wanting actual engagement and personal value, and less messaging about a product’s grandness, has shifted. Social media opens the doors to serve people more specifically and genuinely.

Do you think social media technologies will ever become a daily tool for CAD end users?

I know, with a personal certainty, that social media is, for some, a daily tool, indeed

LOL. Well, in my eyes, social media technologies already are a daily tool for some people. Present company included! For others, of course, the tools don’t even register as significant. But weighing in on the side of daily use, my morning includes reviewing my Google Alerts to discover what new content about our products and brand is now online. I check in on Twitter for reasons similar, engaging with users and scanning the tweets to see what others in our community are reading and saying; I communicate with press and the public in Facebook, and I use, for example, social book-marking tools for tracking press activity and sharing it with my colleagues. In my own life, I also approach data, projects and communication using many of the same tools and technologies I use at Nemetschek NA. So, I know, with a personal certainty, that social media is, for some, a daily tool, indeed.

People approaching the new social media tools frequently complain about the amount of time they must invest in them in order to get some tangible feedback. Would you say they have wrong expectations, the wrong tools, or a wrong approach?

to ignore social media tools or think they can be avoided in the long term is, in my opinion, a mistake

I think their frustrations probably stem from a combination of all three points you mention. Let’s call a spade a spade: Anything can be a time suck, right? News, TV, even relationships and hobbies can pull my attention in a disproportionate way. My experience is that I’ve had to invest time in learning social media … and not just learning the technology, but also the culture around these technologies. Oh, and as an early adopter, I’d add that I’ve even had to invest time to monitor shifts and adjust my activities as the culture shifted. So, yeah, it can take some time. Then again, I used to spend gobs of time on email, and now I’ve pared that down to a bare minimum. I used to organize files and data on my hard drive, and now delicious.com, YouTube, my blogs and Twitter carry more of that function for me.

Frustrations and worries aside, to ignore social media tools or think they can be avoided in the long term is, in my opinion, a mistake. So, I believe that professionals in any industry benefit from learning more about these tools, both for technical skills gained and for being connected to the cultural vibe around them.

The new social communication channels promote individual relationships rather than companies, brands, or products. How can companies participate in this new world?

Cultural values have shifted with more people wanting personal communication along with corporate branding

I approach this corporate dilemma differently than a lot of folk. I think social media tools are ascending in use specifically because they facilitate individual relationships, raw-and-real communication and personal branding. Understanding that component of the motivation for using these tools is one of the keys for how companies can “participate in this new world.” The tools don’t make someone be a fool. Or be likeable, for that matter. If someone lacks even a modicum of style and elegance in their personal behavior, social media will just exacerbate that fact. And make it public. Likewise, I believe there is a significant amount of untapped intelligence and capacity trapped in hierarchical-based organizations. Social media can help identify that and bring it forth. I think companies have a golden opportunity at hand in helping people inside their companies by modeling online activities that are engaging, real, respectful and professional. Cultural values have shifted with more people wanting personal communication along with corporate branding. Not one. Not either. But both.

Getting feedback from a customer is not as easy as social media gurus sometimes often promise. More vocal users are not always the most representative of the community. What are your suggestions on this topic?

I listen.
I respond.
I engage.

This is a loaded topic and not one easily answered in but a paragraph or two. Yes, I agree that vocal users are not always the most representative of the community. But the bigger question here is how to get more feedback from customers. I’d add that “feedback” is much more than a call-and-response process, where companies ask questions and customers dutifully respond. Feedback, vis-à-vis social media, is much about watching where users are. Engaging with them on their turf and in their culture. And then listening, participating and adding value to the community. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record of the social media mantra, but this stuff is not about automation and gimmicks. It’s about engagement.

Twitter is just one example of where this is possible. It’s a bit awkward, but I use it and love it. Nemetschek NA has three broad categories of users: architects, landscape architects and entertainment designers. We’ve also got a large and diverse international community, student users, long-time users and brand-new users. With Twitter, I watch the conversation in and around our brand. I listen. I respond. I engage. I also bring in other people from the company when I need their help to answer specific questions. And our CTO, interviewed earlier on Novedge, is the recipient of the stream of tweets about our products’ features and functionality. So, “feedback,” in today’s environment, starts with listening, not asking.

What is the Nemetschek NA strategy for social media and how does it fit in the Nemetschek group strategy?

our product, our customers’ success with it and their clients’ satisfaction with their work is what counts

Now, Franco, as you know, our global headquarters are in the Washington, D.C. region (read: DOD/NSA/CIA). We have a popular saying in these parts: “If I answer that question, then I’d have to kill you.” 🙂 But for real, people can easily find us on TwitterFacebookLinkedInDeliciousNetvibesFlickr and a few other sites. Plus, we have some neat global-facing projects on the horizon, so stay tuned.

For now, we’re like many companies: engaging and monitoring, measuring where we can and dynamically adapting to a shifting landscape. At the end of the day, our product, our customers’ success with it and their clients’ satisfaction with their work is what counts. Social media can facilitate and support many of our goals in supporting our customers and in deepening our engagement in a worldwide community of users, so it certainly has our attention. The reasons I was initially attracted to Nemetschek – the loyal, passionate and just a bit geeky customer base – give us – and all industries in the CAD industry – an opportunity to serve our customers and support their success with our software. Now that I have a stronger sense of the company’s direction, the people working here, and the capacity of our users, I’ll answer your question by saying, “Our future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” 🙂

I would like to thank Jessie for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have any questions for Jessie or for Novedge, please leave a comment below and we will be glad to answer.

Franco Folini

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