Rani Mani at Adobe formerly led that enterprise company’s influencer relations across company’s marketing department. But she then shifted to take on the role of employee advocacy. Her role is to help Adobe employees to be the voice and face of the brand, much like the role of doing that with influencers.
This is a significant sign from one of the world’s most successful companies — the person most in tune with influence was promoted to apply her expertise to employees. That’s a clear sign that Adobe considers employees influencers.
In this episode of Winfluence, Rani and I talk about the importance of employees as one of your channels of influence, but also how an enterprise company with both B2B and B2C products, as well as different business units with different influence needs manages the practice.
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Winfluence Podcast – Rani Mani Transcript
Jason Falls 0:02
Want Instagramers and YouTubers to mention your brand or do you want to influence an audience to buy your product? I’m Jason Falls author of the book Winfluence: Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand. In this podcast we explore the people, companies, campaigns and stories that illustrate the difference between using influencers and actually influencing Welcome to Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast!
Jason Falls 0:34
Hello again friends thanks for listening to influence the influence marketing podcast, Rani Mani at Adobe formerly led that enterprise companies influencer relations across the company’s marketing department, but she then shifted to take on the role of employee advocacy. Her role is to help Adobe employees to be the voice and face of the brand. Much like the role of doing that with influencers. This is a significant sign from one of the world’s most successful companies. The person most in tune with influence was promoted to apply her expertise to employees. That’s a clear sign that Adobe considers employees influencers. Rani and I talked about the importance of employees as one of your channels of influence, but also how an enterprise company with both b2b and b2c products as well as different business units with different influence needs manage the practice. She describes her influence role at Adobe as being the connective tissue between each department and influencer so there was consistency from product to product because of her own influence in the industry. She’s the connective tissue for many of us and becoming better at how we activate the practice to the conversation with a true gym and the influence marketing space. Rani Mani of Adobe comes your way next on Winfluence
Jason Falls 1:48
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Jason Falls 3:32
Rani, you were leading social influencer enablement across the Adobe enterprise, I believe, but moved into this employee advocacy leadership position earlier this year, I think, yeah, I’ve heard that you really don’t see those two roles to be all that different. Is that true? And tell me how they are or are not?
Rani Mani 3:49
No, I do I do see them to be a part of the same spectrum in terms of the way the treatment plan for mobilizing employees is very much the same as the treatment plan you would apply to mobilize external influencers, because ultimately, who are employees, right? They are the names and the faces and personalities behind our logos. And if done properly, influencers serve the same role. So you might say you have a little bit more of an advantage with employees because they’re your peers. And you could apply some internal pressure, if you will. But you know, if you’ve got the right relationships with the external influencers, it’s really one in the same. It’s one of the same in that they’re going to be the handful of people that are going to rise to the top who want to be super engaged to really get what it means to represent a brand. And then there are going to be the masses who kind of want to lurk and be part of the game, but not necessarily play all out. So you know, it’s the game of human relations, right? Whether you call it employees or influencers To me, it’s all one of the things.
Jason Falls 4:57
Okay, I want to go down two different paths. with you here, but let’s go down one at a time. So take me back to leading social influencer enablement across the Adobe spectrum. Adobe is a huge company with many business units. Many people think of it as a software company that produces Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, other creative software’s, but Adobe has an entire line of enterprise product offerings for analytics, website development, hosting AI, advertising platforms, Adobe is to digital and creative product, what Ford is to vehicles, there’s a lot of products there. Explain where exactly you fit in the organization, from that influencer role, and as it relates to influencers and which brands at Adobe actually engage them.
Rani Mani 5:40
So originally, when I moved into this role, about five years ago, there was the centralized a center of excellence. And within that centralized Center of Excellence, my role was to be that agitator and and connector of influencer relations across our corporate marketing function, and work with the different business units. So as you correctly said, Jason, that enterprise segment, the Creative Cloud segment, the document cloud segment, and within each of those teams, they had social teams in each of those social teams owned relations with influencers for their area of expertise. And my role was to build a framework to offer some best practices and lessons learned and be that connective tissue so that if an influencers, if an influencer kind of straddled all the different business units, they felt like they were doing business with the same company, as opposed to three or four different companies based on who signed their paycheck, right. So having that unified voice, having that kind of fluid treatment of the person, right, that was kind of my role. And so I still play in that capacity somewhat, but I’m a little bit more focused on the b2b side, like I actually own the relationship for the b2b influencers. And I run that program specifically. And then in addition to that, my, you know, so that’s more of a passion project or a stretch project, if you will, just a true passion of mine. But in addition to that, my actual day job is employee advocacy, which is across the company globally, to mobilize and rally our everyday employees to be the voices and the names and personalities of our of our logo. Because, you know, I feel like we often take for granted people in our own backyard, right, and we’ve got phenomenal talent within the four walls of Adobe, who are entrenched in who we are, what we do, and the impact we’re having on the world. So why wouldn’t we tap into those voices? and elevate those as well?
Jason Falls 8:02
Right? Absolutely. So So before we dive deeper into the employee piece, though, I would imagine that the different product lines in Adobe have very different influence, or someone who’s influential in the thought leader in AI, for example, isn’t going to have an impact on designers for InDesign or Illustrator, how different are the influencer audiences from product to product there and how many people are are working on influencer programs at any given time?
Rani Mani 8:27
So there is the many programs because there are product in many cases, right in the sense that, and you’re right, if you go down a very specific product route, you can really segment very fine lightly, but we tend to try to roll up to the bigger thought leadership buckets. So let’s say customer engagement, or as you’ve rightly said, Jason, AI and machine learning, or within the creativity spectrum, there’s, you know, designers versus, you know, graphic designers versus UX designers versus illustrators. Right. So we try to mirror influencers based on the job or the work the family of products allowed the community to do. So. The short answer is, there’s a number of influencer personas out there.
Jason Falls 9:24
Yeah. So in speaking of that, I’m not sure if you saw recently that Onalytica, which is an influencer platform that has done a lot of top 10 lists rankings of influencers and top 20 lists. They recently announced. They’re now dividing influencers into six different categories. There’s the social influencers kind of the way we think of them today. But then they also separate out and say, well, there’s social influencers, and then there’s content creators, which can be two different things. Then there’s Industry analysts, then there’s public speakers, then there’s brand influencers, people like you who are influential, not completely but in in some part because You are at Adobe, which is an influential company. And then the sixth category is actually the brands and publications themselves. I wonder if thinking of influencers like that are divisions that something you naturally separate and employ at a company the size of Adobe, especially on the b2b side? Because I don’t think you guys are just locked into dealing with like, Instagramers. I would imagine that you’re looking at an industry analysts and media and Brand Partners and influencers in that type of approach, am I am I correct in assuming that
Rani Mani 10:32
Very much, so very much. So I did just get an email from Tim and team at Onalytica, and I haven’t had a chance to dig into it. But the surface reading I did was very much aligned to how we do business at Adobe. And in terms of more categorically, you know, who is the audience that we’re trying to appeal to, as opposed to, you know, there will always be that product segment or that kind of slice to it. But I think the higher arching or umbrella categories of analysts versus media versus content creators versus people with really massive social followings, those make sense? It’s just my word of caution would be there’s a lot of overlap. And we need to be okay with the messy and the gray, and not try to, like, you know, fit people into these nice, neat boxes, because those really don’t exist, right. Because ultimately, social influencers, for example, right, what good is the really huge following if they also don’t have some co creation? content co creation chops? Right? I don’t, I don’t want to leverage people just as mouthpieces or billboards. Right. Those are such archaic ways of thinking about influencers. And the good news is, in today’s world, Jason, we’re blessed with so many multi passionate experts, who can wear so many hats, that you you’re really not at as shortage for talent. And especially with iconic brands like Adobe, we’ve got just the best and most high class problem ever right with, with people lining up around the corner, wanting to work with us, which is wonderful.
Jason Falls 12:17
Sure. All right. So now let’s move into this role of employee advocacy. First of all, how many employees does Adobe have
Rani Mani 12:24
24,000 globally. That’s a lot.
Jason Falls 12:27
So I’m, I’m curious if you’ve walked into that role, with your influencer hat on and said, okay, who internally? Do I need to target to engage so that I can engage the greater audience? Have you looked at influencers within the company for internal communications?
Rani Mani 12:44
Yeah, no, they’re definitely you couldn’t identify on, you know, a couple of hands, people that are really, really into it. And just by nature, do it right, like it comes so easily to them. And it only makes sense to leverage them to appeal to their networks and kind of almost do Jason, multi level marketing scheme or a letter cascade and lead each individual tap their people that they kind of run circles with and kind of infect one another, if you will, right, engage and in fact, and enthuse one another. And so that’s been a nice strategy. And we’ve got lots more work to do. I mean, my overall vision is get to the point where it’s not even considered a program, right? That it’s actually so much hardwired into our DNA that it says, easy as when you onboard, you get your badge and you get your computer. And you get a toolkit of what does it mean to be an employee advocate, right? What does it mean, to be an employee ambassador, and of course, there will always need to be someone who’s program managing the content curation, and possibly providing some training as you go. But, uh, you know, we’re still at the infancy stage, right, there’s still lots of work to do. But that is the holy grail that is the ultimate vision of and make it so that I don’t have a job right, in the sense that it shouldn’t be, oh, you know, cheerleading and pulling people into web that you by signing up to work for Adobe, you’re signing up to advocate and evangelize?
Jason Falls 14:24
That’s, that’s an interesting approach. And I think, obviously, Adobe is a very forward thinking company. I wish a lot of companies would would have that mindset. So, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re hopefully getting to a point where just by being an employee, you are an advocate of Adobe, I wonder if you also have this vision of sort of formalizing external influencers for the company based on their internal roles because I know when I think of influencer marketing and Adobe obviously the first name on my list of influencers is Ronnie money. So is there an intentional cultivation plan in place for, let’s make sure that we are elevating our own employees to really be those influencers we need for the market.
Rani Mani 15:07
Well, then there is that. And that’s a really interesting thought. I mean, we’ve, we’ve thought about it from an executive standpoint, right, like, making sure we’re coming at it from the top down, and the bottom up, and what are we doing to equip and empower our executives, as well as your everyday employee to be that voice and that thought leader out there, and to have a indelible impact on the industry. So there is that kind of cultivation happening as dead. And that is a very intentional strategy, Jason’s bed has gone deeper into the orb, probably not, because I think we’ve got enough work to do with the executive ranks. And there are some natural folks within the company. And I would hope myself included that just naturally take to that. So it makes sense to invest in those folks. But I think, you know, first things first, let’s get our executives who are out there any way feel uncomfortable, and I’m really kind of embracing this approach. And then from there, go for it. Right? We’re not trying to boil the ocean a minute,
Jason Falls 16:24
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine, and we were talking about how that influencers are actually a better path a better Avenue than corporate executives these days. Because I think the public has a perception that a corporate executive is always going to be a mouthpiece and there’s not that sort of transparency reality, this is a human being in front of me. I wonder if the the future of internal influence building at companies like Adobe and others isn’t to humanize those executives and make sure that they’re not only, you know, camera ready and and, and media trained, and all that good stuff, but also kind of humanizing them a little bit and producing a sense of personal brand and influence for them individually, so that they can make a more human connected connection to potential consumers. What are your thoughts there?
Rani Mani 17:19
Oh, no, I couldn’t agree more. Jason, the whole point of influencer relations in my mind is to humanize a brand. And executives aren’t nearly as believable or authentic in the, in the eyes of consumers where trust is increasingly falling, right in terms of people don’t trust brands and executives who stand for brands nearly as much as their peer or an influencer. But executives do have the opportunity to become that authentic, believable voice with the right training. And honestly, with the right mix of content that they’re putting out there, which is why we still have a long ways to go. I won’t even profess to have this figured out. But we definitely have had executives where we very intentionally draw out their personality. Like we had an IE VP of sales, who is no longer at the company. He recently retired. But we’ve were very intentional about making sure that he spoke about his love affair with golf, and all the other things, you know, his his dedication and commitment to raising women within leadership and just all those things that make him him beyond just propagating Adobe stuff out there. Right. And that when we were done with that work with him, gosh, the his followership his engagement. It’s just skyrocketed because he he was very approachable, very relatable. And that’s what we would like to replicate across the board.
Jason Falls 19:05
That’s a great case study. So I’m curious when it when it comes to your job and in your role, your industry, customer experience, employee advocacy, and even marketing? Who influences you?
Rani Mani 19:17
Oh, my gosh, I can’t even tell you so many people. I mean, there’s so many people, the influencers that I work with on the b2b side, are absolutely heroic, you know, the Lee Odden and the the David Armanos of the world. You know, Ian Gertler. The list goes on and on, Jason, that just so many people doing such purpose driven work in the world, who are phenomenal at their job, right table stakes, but who are just amazing human beings, who are constantly giving a hand up to others, to people around them, and it’s just it’s a joy to watch. And then of course, I’ve got Love, you know, but non industry people that are also heroic and influential to me, right? Like, I’m sure you’ve heard some of my story days and I had the privilege of working with Mother Teresa for a year. And she’s a huge influence on me and how that how I attack the world, right? A little known secret about me as I have a huge love affair with Dennis Rodman
Jason Falls 20:24
Rani Mani 20:27
who I find incredibly influential in terms of tenacity and just like the indomitable spirit, right, of unapologetically real and raw, and so many, many people from all walks of life, I drawn for inspiration.
Jason Falls 20:46
That’s great. So give us a little bit more depth and background on the on the Mother Teresa story, because I can’t imagine. I mean, you’re talking about a saint here. So how did that come about that you got to work with her?
Rani Mani 20:59
Oh, just absolute magic and luck. I was part of a program as an 18 year old called partnership in service learning. And from college, and I thought I, you know, there was like 10 of us being sent to Calcutta to work in her home for the sick and dying. We were told we were there. Jason to do some light marketing and PR fundraising, if you will. And here we are on day one, and who, who meets us at the door, but mother herself and she has given us a rag, right? Very, very dramatic cure. Here’s a rag cures people who are literally wrapped around the building. And she says to us, here you guys go and help these people die with dignity. Right? And he Miami tiene like, Do I know how to spell dignity? What does dignity mean? Let one die with dignity, right? And just, we were supposed to be there for a month and I ended up staying for a year because it was some of the most gratifying life altering moments of my life. Wow.
Jason Falls 22:13
That’s amazing. Amazing. Rani, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us today. Really appreciate you giving us some knowledge.
Rani Mani 22:21
You bet Thank you for having me was a fun fun conversation.
Jason Falls 22:26
With influence the influence Marketing Podcast is a companion piece to my new book influence reframing influencer marketing to ignite your brand do in early 2021 from entrepreneur press, head to win influence book.com to sign up for notifications and updates on the book and the latest ideas about influence marketing. If you or someone you know is an influencer, a brand manager that uses influence marketing, or one of the many amazing people working in the influence marketing services world and they would make a great guest for the show. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is “One More Look” by the K-Club and Grammy Award winning producer Jacquire King. Thanks for listening and remember when it’s not about the person but about results. It’s Winfluence
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Transcribed by otter.ai