FIR B2B podcast episode #140: Talend’s Lauren Vaccarello On Taking Marketing Virtual

Lauren Vaccarello’s first year as CMO of Talend has been about resilience, psychological trust and safety, along with frequent quick pivots. The former marketing executive at and Box and host of a marketing podcast has had to adjust to working with an entirely new leadership team, leading a full company rebrand (and a second rebrand thanks to COVID-19) and transforming a planned in-person event to a worldwide series of virtual events fielded across three continents in a single day.

In the process, Lauren has learned to think on her feet and how to rewire marketing in this brave new pandemic world. In our interview, we talk with her about the changes COVID-19 has wrought in the B2B world, what marketers still need to learn about digital marketing, how B2B is affected by the surge of e-commerce usage in the consumer world and why Talend is so transparent about pricing (its page is a model of clarity that every SaaS vendor should follow). She also tells why she is excited to be working for an all-female leadership team and the collaboration and shared responsibility they bring to the table. It’s something other Silicon Valley firms could learn from. Listen to our 30 minute podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast episode #139: Faulting and fixing Facebook’s hate speech problem

This week we discuss the Facebook ad boycott. Well, it really isn’t a total boycott but more like a brief pause by hundreds of major consumer brands in their advertising programs with Facebook and all of its social media platforms. CNN is keeping track of who is pulling their ads this month. However, the protests aren’t expected to hurt Facebook very much since most of its $70 billion in annual ad revenue comes from smaller businesses, something that Andrew Yang discusses on his podcast with cybersecurity pro John Redgrave and is worth listening to (after you listen to ours).

Montgomery College Pulls Ads From Facebook, Supports 'Stop Hate ...The effort was created by a group of anti-hate speech advocates such as NAACP and ADL under the banner of Stop Hate for Profit. That website lists their demands for changes to Facebook’s operations. We wonder why more B2B companies haven’t stepped up to this effort. I wrote a blog post with his point of view last month here. Shortly after we recorded this episode, the results of an internal audit were released, finding that Facebook’s “approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal.” Clearly the company still has a long way to go, particularly since top executives appear to be in denial that anything is wrong in the first place. I will post more about the audit results soon.

Facebook has also been criticized for some sloppy programming with its API, allowing discontinued mobile apps to still access private data. The company has made a lame and half-hearted response.

Speaking about other worthwhile podcasts, the NY Times tech columnist Kevin Roose has been producing a series called Rabbit Hole about how social networks in general, and YouTube in particular, suck people into echo chambers through their recommendation engines. It’s an unsettling series and well worth a listen if you want to know how Gen Z and  younger use social media.

You can listen to our 17 minute podcast here.

FIR B2B podcast episode #138: Keeping it real

COVID has given new meaning to the value of authenticity. Paul Gillin and I riff on a few examples:

Marketing Week speaks to’s CMO and what B2B can learn from B2C marketing. One thing is to keep it personal by forgetting about stock photos and telling personal stories. This helps to build trust and deliver better customer relationships. Of course, it helps to have a charismatic and opinionated CEO like Marc Benioff around to inspire the team.

Sprout Social’s Alicia Johnston writes about how to inspire action with your LinkedIn presence. Rather than making your vendor page a promotional smarmy read, take the time to be more aspirational and educational. This can help provide insights and make connections with your community. The piece also discusses ways to experiment to find your best corporate voice and how to time your posts for maximum impact.

Social media influencers are raking in the big bucks, and we think it’s because they build, rather than buy their audiences. But marketers and influencers alike need to keep in mind that paid relationships need to be disclosed, and penalties for failing to do so will grow along with paychecks. But we like this more toward promotion through authentic channels.

Our IT journalist colleague Sally Grotta writes that personal interruptions that once would have been inappropriate are now not just accepted as part of the online conference experience. The interruptions by kids, animals and delivery people make our interactions less formal and more real. Musicians have led the way, with many famous performers inviting us into their living rooms for concerts that seem so much more intimate than when given in a performance hall.

You can listen to our podcast here. webinar: Managing third-party risk in uncertain times

The world of risk management is undergoing some important changes. Security has become everyone’s concern and is not just the province of the IT department any longer. As our businesses become more dependent upon digital technologies, they become bigger targets for attackers to invade our networks and our endpoints. Understanding where our weakest links are located and how to remove them will become essential to ensure the future health and cybersecurity of our enterprises.

The world of risk management is undergoing big changes, some due to uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic. In this webinar done on behalf of Security Scorecard for, I explore some of these best practices to assess these risks.

FIR B2B Podcast #137: Invoca CMO Dee Anna McPherson on Building Strong Customer Advocacy Programs

We talk today with Dee Anna McPherson, the CMO at Invoca, an AI call tracking and conversational analytics vendor. That is a mouthful and one of the things she is doing is trying to define and own a new product category. That could be a daunting prospect, except she has done this before when she worked at Yammer (before they were engulfed by Microsoft) and then at Hootsuite. When Yammer began, no one had heard about microblogging, as it was called then. McPherson managed to define “enterprise social networking” as Yammer’s category and the company was off to the races from there. With working from home now the norm, that kind of technology has become the de factor standard for communications among remote team members.

Paul wrote about Invoca last year for Silicon Angle on how they use machine learning to transcribe and classify calls.

McPherson tell us about the importance of customer communication in building strong customer advocacy programs. You need to figure out a way to tell their stories without using the words “customer case study” or “reference account.” Customers really do want to help as long as they aren’t seen as shilling, she believes.  This is a topic we’ve touched on before, such as FIR B2B #118’s discussion about how customers should be your best advocates as well as Paul’s written work on social media marketing. We close out the podcast talking about how things have changed for marketers in the pandemic, how customer supply chains are evolving and how marketers can benefit from this transition.

Listen to our podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #136: The best and worst Covid-related pitches

Is your inbox overflowing with a virus? Sadly, it isn’t ordinary phishing or malware, but all COVID, all the time, with pitches and experts offered from all walks of life. It isn’t just the infosec vendors either. Paul and I have gotten pitches from genealogy vendors, from vendor selling ink cartridges and those who want to help us build a sales team working from home.

They have plenty of competition. Bad guys have come up with all kinds of scams and ploys preying on interest in information and remedies. Scammers cumulatively  created over 35,500 unique websites related to COVID-19 in the last month according to Atlas VPN research, Some of these sites tried to swindle money by selling masks, hand sanitizers, or even virus testing kits. Amazon removed over 530,000 coronavirus-related product listings due to price-gouging.

All this means communicators need to be judicious about what you are pitching. In this podcast, we look at the best and worst examples that we’ve seen cross our inboxes. For example, we both liked this piece that ran in a local St. Louis magazine. It looked into the role two local university medical research teams – one at Washington University and one at St. Louis University – were contributing to COVID research work. David’s wife is an interior designer, and she has gotten her share of coronavirus-related pitches too. One  pitch is for a bunch of expert tips on organizing your home while sheltering in place. We both liked the practicality of the piece and how it offers some solid suggestions that anyone can use to straighten up while living in isolation. .

The email at left had a subject line “building your sales team for a post-Covid recovery.” That struck us both as opportunistic and being somewhat tone-deaf to the worldwide misery we’ve all been seeing.

Then there is the pitch from Dell below right that is trying to sell printer ink cartridges, with the subject line “working from home made easy.” Needlessly exploitative. It has nothing to do with simplifying work from home.

Finally is the personalized pitch. If you are going to go make a pitch related to an epic tragedy, don’t start with “Happy Wednesday.” It just comes across as unseemly.

So what are some lessons that we learned? First sharpen your pitch and and make it as relevant to your business as possible. Don’t make a reporter have to search for an angle. And it doesn’t hurt to ask a reporter what articles they are working on and offer to help.

Listen to our 19 min. podcast below.


As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, businesses are being faced with setting up policies and procedures to enable everyone to work from home (WFH). Doing this presents several challenges, some of them brought on by new demands on your IT department and some by demands of a new way of working that you may not have anticipated. A good reference point for the complexities involved is this Twitter thread about what Slack did to move to 100% WFH model. In this podcast, Paul and I draw upon their own decades-long experience as sole business owners. Among our advice:

  1. Think about printing, email and sharing files and the IT services that will be needed to support that activity. Be careful about SaaS services such as Dropbox; if users aren’t trained property they could expose your corporate data unintentionally.
  2. Make sure your infosec is up to par. A VPN isn’t just the only thing you need to worry about it. Is your home router secured with an appropriate password? Do you encrypt your network traffic across the Internet? Has your laptop been screened for malware? These and other questions need to be addressed before rolling out any work-from-home solution.
  3. Does your staff have the right tools? Just because everyone has a laptop doesn’t mean anything, particularly they’re used to having multiple monitors and great audio/video gear. You may have to purchase additional accessories to make your staff productive.
  4. Make sure your staff has a separate workspace that is isolated from the rest of the house. You want to minimize distractions and unplanned family “visits” during the workday.
  5. Get a good mic (I use the Blue Snowball, Paul uses a Logitech wireless). You should be able to get something decent for $50-$100.
  6. Standardize on a video conferencing supplier (we both like Zoom at the moment, although there are privacy issues you might want to consider) and make sure all your gear provides solid audio quality when you use it.
  7. Make sure your home bandwidth is sufficient. Pay attention to upload speeds, because these can impact your latency and video quality.
  8. Learn new video conferencing etiquette, review our previous podcast on some of our tips here.
  9. Set up a shared scheduling tool for everyone to use and standardize on a corporate instant messaging tool, too.

Listen to our 15 min. podcast now:

FIR B2B podcast episode #134: Fred Bateman on the evolving role of PR in a fragmented media world

Fred Bateman has been around the tech world as long as Pual Gillin and I have: At the dawn of the PC era he worked for various PR firms and then founded the Bateman Group, which grew to 90 staffers doing tech-focused PR and content marketing. Fred recently announced that he will sell his majority ownership to his three co-owners, who have re-branded the company as Mission North. He plans to partner with nonprofits to teach disenfranchised groups of people the business, writing and communications skills required for a successful career in tech-focused PR.

Paul and I spoke with Fred about how far the PR profession has come sine the dawn of the Internet era, how PR and content marketing people need to work hand-in-hand and how branded news sites such as Adobe’s have created new avenues of influence for marketing organizations. Fred also reflects on the skills that distinguish the best PR pros he’s worked with from all the other and the complex role of influencers in today’s media landscape. You can listen to our 20-minute discussion here: