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PR Rock Stars: Polaris’ Holly Matson Spaeth

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I really can’t recall how or when, exactly, I met Holly Matson Spaeth–it may have been on Twitter. But, we share a love for  “breakfast for lunch” and have gotten to know each other a bit better over the years as a result.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Holly. Not because we’ve worked directly together (we haven’t) or that she’s been a client (she hasn’t) or that she’s even been a strategic partner (again, she hasn’t). But, Holly always just seemed like one of those people I should get to know. And she seemed really, really smart. How did I know that at the outset? I didn’t really. Instead, it was a judgment and gut call based on her online behavior, what I have heard about Holly from friends and peers (which has been nothing but positive) and from my initial meeting with her a couple years ago.

Holly Jo

That’s a long way of saying I’m more than happy to highlight and profile Holly’s good work today here on the blog. Let’s hear from Holly.

You’ve been at Polaris now for almost two years. This is your first stint on the corporate side–or at least, your first stint at a larger corporation. Have you enjoyed working on the corporate side vs. the agency side? What are the pros of each?

I have been very fortunate to work at some amazing places with some amazing people throughout my career. The corporate experience, at least at Polaris, is not all that different from what I’ve experience in agency life. This is probably largely due to the fact that I work on all of our product lines. Generally one big benefit to the agency world is getting to touch a wide array of product types and businesses. With my role, I get to do this while sitting in the corporation. It makes for a lot of emails and meetings, but it couldn’t be more rewarding to be a part of all the different teams at Polaris. In terms of pros on the corporate side of things, it is really wonderful to work with agencies. We are very lucky to have some great partners like The Factory out of LA and Media Loft right here in MN that help us look smart to our consumers time and time again.

We’ve talked together about the crush for good mid-level digital talent in Minneapolis. I’m assuming the same issue is playing out in other major markets. What do you see as the key reasons for this lack of talent in the mid-levels? And what do you think our industry do about it?

If someone is labeled a social media strategist they are immediately “a must hold on to” or “must get employee.” This not only makes it extremely difficult to find candidates, it makes it  difficult to woo them to your organization, even with shiny objects. Literally, in our case, shiny, fast, heart-pounding objects. Our industry needs to start looking outside the labels of social at people’s cumulative skill set. People with customer service backgrounds, PR professionals, journalists, and more can be trained and sculpted to fit these roles. We find that it is far more about fit, passion, and a desire to learn than it is about the immediate experience.

You have an interesting background. You started out more in SEO/SEM marketing, then shifted to more of a digital marketing professional. Was that a natural change for you? What key skills have you picked up along the way? What areas do you see as areas of growth for you?

To me there really was no change. All of these activities are simply tools in the digital marketing tool belt and they function together. You can’t have an integrated online strategy without thinking about how media placements correlate to user experience and social media. It is sometimes a blur to think about all the things I have been fortunate to learn over the years. SEO, Sponsored Search, Influencer Outreach, Analytics, Social Optimization, and a slew of additional buzz words come to mind. Can I say again that I have been really fortunate with where I have worked and the people I have worked with? I have. The talent in Minneapolis is crazy. We have a pool of people that get ‘it’ like few other cities. When I think about growth areas for myself, I am diving in on global integration. It is really exciting to help make our business better in a way that fits the culture and behavior of various countries.

Polaris is one of many Fortune 500 companies right here in the Twin Cities–yet, I feel like I don’t hear about Polaris all that much. Why do you think Polaris flies a bit under the radar here locally?

We don’t feel like we slide under the radar, but some of that thought might have to do with interest levels. The mass use and appeal of some of the other Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities can draw further media attention, but if you talk to anyone who rides a motorcycle, snowmobile, side x side, or ATV…they know all about Polaris.  That is not to say that we don’t also get our media moments. Our CEO, Scott Wine, was deservedly named the 2014 Executive of the Year by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Any interesting digital work that you’ve led in recent months (as winter winds down–hopefully!) that you want to share?

Last summer I was lucky enough to be part of the re-launch of America’s Oldest Motorcycle Brand, Indian Motorcycle. We did some amazing work during that time, but one of the projects we were most proud of was “The Spirit of Munro.” When we unveiled the all-new engine, the Thunder Stroke 111, at the 2013 Daytona Bike Week, we did so in a custom streamliner that was built in honor of Burt Munro. If you don’t know who Burt Munro is, head to Netflix and immediately watch “The World’s Fastest Indian.” Trust me, you won’t regret it. Once people saw this streamliner they instantly began to ask us if we were going to run it and run it we did. We did a seven day countdown of images, but didn’t tell them until day seven that the something bigger was coming. That something bigger was this:

The passion that went into this project was astounding. Being able to say I had a hand in this piece is something that I will truly never forget.

You’ve won a fair amount of awards in your almost 10 years in the industry (I’m guessing most of those came during your time on the agency side). Now that you’re on the corporate side, how much does award-winning work matter when you’re selecting an agency or vendor partner?

We don’t put a ton of stake into awards when looking to select agency partners. We look for previous experience, vision for our brands, and team fit. If an agency meets those criteria and has won awards, that is just a great bonus.

You’ve spent time in San Diego and Minneapolis during your career. What made you come back to the frozen tundra? I mean, someone forced you, right? 🙂

I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Plus, a lake is just as good as an ocean in my book.

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PR Rock Stars: Polaris’ Holly Matson Spaeth

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