Our episode guest is Adam O’Daniel, director of marketing and communications at Movement Mortgage. He leads marketing, communications, public relations and corporate events.
Five things you’ll learn from this episode:
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About Adam O’Daniel
Adam leads marketing, communications, public relations and corporate events at Movement Mortgage, a top 10 retail mortgage lender and six-time member of the Inc. 5000 list.
His background includes 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, public relations, content strategy, financial journalism, writing, and editing.
Adam’s contact info and resources:
About your host, Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/OnTopofPR)
- This is On Top of PR. And I'm your host, Jason Mudd. Today, we're talking to Adam O'Daniel with Movement Mortgage and he's gonna share how their organization was too dependent on news coverage, and how they used social media and web content to attract and engage their audience directly. And then pivoted to even get sharper at doing that and attracting the best audience for their staff who is out there selling mortgages. This is a great episode. You're gonna enjoy it. I'm glad you're here. You'll be glad you're here. You'll also be glad you referred a friend to this episode who would benefit from hearing it. Here we go. - [Narrator] Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by Review Maxer. - Hello and welcome to On Top of PR, I'm your host, Jason Mudd. Today, I'm joined by my friend, Adam O'Daniel. Adam, welcome to the show. - Hey Jason, thank you so much for having me. - It's a pleasure to have you. I'm glad you're here and I'm glad to be here. So Adam, for our listeners, I'm just gonna tell them. We met years ago when I was visiting Charlotte on behalf of one of our mortgage clients. And you were working at the Charlotte Business Journal at the time covering finance and banking. I think we had breakfast at a pretty cool diner together. And- - We did, we did. - Yeah, started building a relationship on behalf of that client. And it's since expanded beyond that. And look at you today. Now you're, the tables are turned a little bit where you're now in the PR and corporate communications role with Movement Mortgage. - Yeah, that's right. I'm the Director of Communications and Marketing here at Movement Mortgage, and lead all the PR and communications function. And yeah, it was really great that we were able to just reconnect kind of on the other side and flip the tables a little bit, and work together on a few things. And I'm just excited to kind of share our story with your listeners and, you know, maybe get some advice while I'm here from you. I'll share a few of our problems. Maybe you can diagnose them for us. - Well, that's what we're here to do today. This is great. We're here to help our audience stay on top of PR and everybody learned full circle, and 360 degrees of learning and sharing. So thank you for offering that. So Adam, why don't we just get started and just tell us kind of briefly what were some of the surprises for you converting from being a journalist and a business reporter over to doing public relations and corporate communications work? - Yeah, absolutely. You know, honestly the biggest surprise it was a positive one, was a really good one. And that was how transferable the skills actually were. You know, you see a lot of people make the transition at some point in their career. And so it seems like an obvious path, but I still had this, you know, very much, you know, apprehension within me like, hey, am I gonna be able to do this? Can I transfer these skills? And if anything, I would say, you know, my belief only has increased over the years that the skills you learn as a business reporter, especially, but anybody who's in journalism or in media, the ability to process information quickly, the ability to ask really sharp questions on the fly, to condense a lot of complicated information into short bits and bites that anybody can understand quickly. I mean, that is just so valuable. I have a hard time finding great people that can do that now when we go out and hire. And so I love looking at people that have media in their background. And it is just, that's been the biggest surprise for me, honestly, was how well you're able to transfer those skills. And then I think the other thing that I would just mention as men, you just never get over the rush of a newsroom on an election night or on a breaking news situation. And so, you know, here we are. You know, what, gosh how many years has it been? I feel like it's been seven, eight years now since I was in journalism. And, you know, still miss those days on election night, still wish I was eating cheap pizza in a newsroom somewhere watching (indistinct) (laughing) - That's the part of journalism I don't miss, but yes we all bring different things to the table, right. - I'm an adrenaline guy, I guess, I love the deadlines so. - Yeah, yeah, that's great. Well, you know, speaking of people transitioning from a career in journalism or news into PR, I'm in complete agreement with you, Adam, that there are skillsets that are very applicable. The one challenge I said before we pressed record, you and I were talking back and forth about personalities. And I think a lot of it has to do with personalities where I've met reporters who are very transactional, and then they try to work in PR, and they're, they can't remember people in their Rolodex that they've interviewed before. They can't remember companies they've covered. And so it's kind of that churn and burn mindset, right? I know enough to, what's the term, cram for this exam or cram to produce this new story, and then I purge it, you know, that night. And you can't do that in this realm, especially if you're working on the agency side and you have multiple clients, right? - Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's certainly a challenge. And, you know, I think just even like the longer cycle, you know, of how communications develop, how a PR campaign might develop over time, has been an adjustment for me, you know, that I've had to learn. I'm, you know, would much prefer for you to say, hey, here's an amazing announcement we wanna make. Here's a big initiative and we're gonna get started tomorrow. And, you know, you just kind of have to figure it out and put together a plan quickly. I had an editor early in my career that told me that I was better if I had 24 hours to report a story than if he gave me a whole week. That my best work would be those final 24 hours. And so that's been an adjustment for me to create a sense of urgency to in order to do my best work, even if this is a long play. And this is like we're gonna have to build some string over time. We're gonna have to work with a lot of business partners and different departments, different vendors, maybe, you know, business affiliates, and other companies that we're partnering with. And it's gonna be a months long, maybe even years long process - [Jason] Right. - before this all comes to life. And can I bring my best to that kind of work when it takes a long time to develop. So certainly understand that challenge. - I can relate to that for sure. Absolutely. So sometimes nothing happens quickly, especially the larger the company is you're working with or working at. So, good, good. Well, Adam, I know one thing we talked about before pressing record also is, you know, the topic. And the topic here today is just kind of you sharing, you know, having, working in, you working in the mortgage industry, sharing some experiences you've had with, you know, converting your efforts more towards content marketing, right? - Yeah, yeah, it is. It's really interesting. I'll give you a quick snapshot of our company. We're the fifth largest retail mortgage lender in the nation, right. - [Jason] Wow, okay. - But Movement Mortgage is not a household name for most people, you know. - [Jason] Right. - If you're,, you know, just a regular middle-class guy and, you know, wherever you happen to live and are raising your family, Movement Mortgage doesn't come to mind the way like maybe a Wells Fargo, Bank of America might come to mind because they have branches all over the place. We're very specialized as an independent mortgage lender, but we have thousands of employees, we're coast to coast in every state. In some states we're the number one mortgage lender in the entire state. So, I mean, we have a big powerful brand, a big powerful business, but we're not really well-known. And so one of the things that we've done is really just kind of lean into that. And say, hey, there is a small group of people that know who we are and are big fans of what we do. And that's real estate agents and other referral sources, like financial advisors, accountants. People that would be your natural source to tell you, Jason, hey, you're thinking about buying a house, you should call Adam over at Movement. They do a terrific job. And so we just made a strategic decision a few years ago. Business was slowing down. It's not the case today, but a few years ago business was slowing down. And we just said, you know, the news cycle is changing. It's not as easy to get the kind of coverage that we used to get. We're gonna build our own content machine. We're just gonna really lean into this idea of building a community on social media of the people who like us and follow us, and drive content to them. And it's been a really big success. - Well, that's great to hear because that's what we're advocating to our clients on a regular basis is to make sure they're participating in, you know, what's called shared, earned, and owned media. We typically call it news, social media, and web, just to speak more layman's terms. And so that, you know, people can really understand what we're talking about, those outside of the industry. But yes, you know, recently I heard someone say, and I've been borrowing this because I don't even remember the person's name who said it, but they said, "You know, it's time we put the public back in public relations instead of always thinking about media relations and earned media coverage." Which I think is very healthy for every corporate communications department to be thinking about because, you know, the right type of news coverage is great, but unless you're a billion dollar household brand, you know, like Tesla, General motors, Microsoft, Google, et cetera, you're just not gonna be able to blink your eyes and have everybody suddenly, you know, report what you want them to report on. Unlike people who have the privilege, I guess, of working at Disney and other big companies where, you know, they just simply change their hours and suddenly it's all over, you know, the news. So, you know, it's just, it's different companies and they have different experiences. So I've always said, if you can't get done in the news what you wanna get done, then, you know, you either by advertising or you get creative and- - That's exactly what we did, that's exactly, what you're describing, Jason, is what we did. And the company, we've almost doubled in size over the last three years. - [Jason] Wow. - We tripled the amount of, the amount loans that we do on an annual basis has doubled from where we were three years ago. And I'm not taking credit for that, just based on our PR strategy, obviously. But it has contributed to the growth. And what we noticed, and I'm sure you've experienced this with other clients, something happened about four years ago. And the news cycle started to change drastically. And that was, you know, president Trump was elected, and a tweet could change everything, right? A tweet just changed everything. And so, whereas, you know, six, seven years ago we had a strategy where we would once a quarter, we would try to earn some national news media maybe with CNBC. In 2016, we actually had Becky Quick and Squawk Box come and do a live remote from our office. That was a huge, you know, booster for us, really good experience, our CEO on Squawk Box. And we would, you know, once a quarter try to check in and pitch them some stories. And our CEO is a really dynamic guy. He played in the NFL for a few years before he went into the business world. So he's got a great story and, you know, it made my life easy. It was an easy pitch. Well, things changed and the cycle picked up. And suddenly, you know, the former football player with a mortgage company, it just wasn't as an appealing of a story to the masses as it had been before. And so we had to do something different. We got bumped several times. And so we had to do something different at the same time the business was slowing down. We were getting, you know, our story itself wasn't quite as good, the growth wasn't there. And so, yeah, you know, Jake Fehling, my boss, he and I, I distinctly remember I was driving in my car we're on the phone. And we just said, hey, let's go all in on the content, man. Like, let's go in on, I think what you would have said would be shared media and owned media. And let's just do an amazing- - [Jason] Using social media. - Yeah, that's right. Social media, web, right. Let's do an amazing job there. And so we launched our own podcast. We started, you know, we put our YouTube presence on steroids. We started cranking out all kinds of great video content, highlighting who we are, our community, our culture, our impact, our employees, and really targeting it at, you know, our community who we knew wanted to follow us, real estate agents and others. And, you know, it's paid off. We've seen the numbers go up, we've seen the business grow. And, you know, now I'm looking around saying like, okay, well, how do I get back in the media a little bit once in a while? - Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. Well, and that's a good thing to do, right? You don't wanna abandon an entire strategy completely, but certainly having that balance and where you're not depending just on the media. And where you have things like shared and owned media channels, or social media, and web content that you can control a little bit more, and guide and direct those messages. So Adam, that's very helpful what you've shared with us and you've kept it at a very high level. Let's dive a little bit deeper. - Let's go. - Let's start with social media. What did you do to make your social media more engaging? What did you do to improve the efforts you were making there and, you know, what have you seen that would be tips for our audience to do something similar? - Yeah, you know, I think the first thing that we did was do a better job of defining who we were talking to. And so it was a little bit more, a little bit of an exercise in audience. And so we just looked at both who our audience is and then who we want our audience to be. And started crafting our content for those folks. The other thing that we did, and I guess I should give you some examples, you said you wanna dig in, right. So real estate agents are a huge piece of the puzzle when it comes to buying a home and that's our sweet spot. We love to help people buy homes, help them overcome whatever misconceptions or challenges they face with financing. And so we want every real estate agent in every market that we're in. We wanna be the top of their Rolodex, right? If they have a client that needs to be referred to a mortgage lender, we wanna be that company. And so we just started asking more questions about like, what is it that they want that we can add value to them? And it was education. They said, "Hey people don't understand the mortgage process. They don't understand underwriting. They don't understand credit scores. They don't understand how you get approved and why some companies take two months to get their loan done. And then their neighbor got their loan in two weeks. And why is it different?" And so we just started making a ton of great creative content. You know, I reached back into my journalism days and it was a bunch of how-to blog posts with, you know, corresponding social media. And we did a really good job with that. And then the second thing we did was on the recruiting side, right. We said, okay, so that's our referral source. Then we have another audience, which is the people that we wanna make them wanna come work here, right? Like we want the best sales people in the country to come work for us. And so we looked at brands outside of our industry. Frankly, we just said, who does social media so well that you just love to follow them? And my boss and I are both big sports fans. Just be honest with you, big sports guys. I actually took a lot of cues from what sports teams were doing, right? NFL teams, college football teams, that are always recruiting young players. Like what do they do to stay relevant and interesting on social media? And how can we kind of use some of those principles in our social media content? And so we started making our salespeople, our loan officers look like superstars on social media. And, you know, make them look the way you would make Trevor Lawrence, the first round draft pick for the Jaguars, and my Clemson Tigers, my big team, you know. What are people, what are the brands doing on social to make him look like the superstar that he is, and how can I apply that to our best employees and make them look like heroes and superstars as a way to attract more to come work here? And that's paid off for us as well. - I love that. That's really good advice, Adam, especially the idea that, you know, a company is made up of people and individuals with personalities and the company has personalities. No one shows up to the movie theater to watch a movie that's about a corporate entity, the legal corporate entity, and the building that they all enter every everyday, right? It's never about the building. It's about the people, the obstacles, the challenges, and the way they help others. - Absolutely. Nobody thinks I need a big mortgage company to help solve my problems. Nobody thinks that. But like a kind face who it gets helping educate you and looks like they're having a lot of fun while they're doing it. Then I'll call her anytime and ask for help. And then, so that's what, that's the persona we've tried to create with our social media content. - That's great, Adam. With that we're going to take a quick break and be right back on the other side where I'm gonna ask Adam some more questions about how you can improve your content marketing strategy. So hang in there and we'll be right back. - [Narrator] You are were listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the Managing Partner at Axia Public Relations. A PR agency that guides news, social and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show. - Welcome back to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd. And today we've been talking to Adam O'Daniel. Adam is with Movement Mortgage. And we're talking about all the movements that he's making in the industry as well as his company, who's become a fast-growing mortgage lender in the industry. Adam, welcome back. We're glad you're here. - Yeah, man, this has been so much fun. I'm glad we get to do this and talk about some of the things that we're working on. Hopefully it's helpful to your listeners, and, you know, I love, you know, what you do here, where we get to kind of pause for just a minute, and share some best practices, look back on what we've done. So this has been great. Thank you. - Yeah, my pleasure, my pleasure. So earlier you mentioned that you guys are actively looking to recruit or use communications to recruit other employees. I gotta say you guys do an excellent job with that. I mean, it looks like you're having the most fun at work than anybody I know. 'Cause half the time I'm thinking to myself, do they actually pay him to do this kind of stuff? Number one. And number two, how do they stay in business if they're just like going to summer camp every day disguised as work? So I know you work hard, Adam. I know you do a good job of putting on a show, if you will, on social media, about how much fun you guys have. And I love it. And I think you do a good job storytelling in that way. So good for you. - Thank you, thank you. We do have too much fun. We may have been known to, you know, I think we did a video about chicken sandwiches one time that has nothing to do with mortgages. We have big Christmas parties where I dressed up as Santa Claus for a video at one time. I mean, we do crazy stuff, Jason. - [Jason] Right. - That has nothing to do with mortgages. But, you know, our CEO says, and I think he's right, you know, you spend more time with the people that you work with every day, usually than your own family members, right? - [Jason] Yeah, unfortunately. - And so work in an environment and with other people that you actually enjoy being around and that you wanna do life with. And so that is part of our culture is that, you know, we do things that are not the typical office environment in our day-to-day. And we wanna share that with the world. So we put it out on social media. And yeah, we do some crazy fun things. - Well, I know you're hiring. So where do people go if they wanna have the best time of their life working in mortgage marketing? - Yeah, come on, we'd love to have you. movement.com/careers. You can find all of our openings there. We have a couple openings in our department right now. We have integrated marketing communications, branding, creative, all in one shop. So it's a lot of fun to be a PR and communications pro, and then turn around and see like just insane graphic design and video production being done by the person sitting right next to you. That makes it a lot of fun. movement.com/careers is where we post those jobs. - All right. So if you loved summer camp and you wanna keep doing summer camp for a living, talk to Adam, he's got jobs. So I'm teasing. I know you work really hard, but you have fun doing it. And I admire that. Appreciate that. And that's kind of what we try to do here as well at Axia. So I'm gonna pin up against the ropes here a little bit because earlier you were saying some good stuff, which is that you looked in and kind of figured out who your audience is today, right, and who do you want your audience to be. And you talked a little bit about, you know, how you improved your content in that regard. What I wanna know is how did you go about figuring out who your audience was? What did you find out? And then how did you, what was your, kind of your true strategy to pivot into that new direction? So I'm thinking of like a compass and you were headed one way. What did you do to kind of tweak your content to get to the other way? - Yeah, I think what I would, the way I would answer that is it's not as technical as maybe you might assume, or maybe that other brands probably are using tools that are incredibly valuable leveraging a whole lot of data. We're pretty basic. I'll be honest with you, Jason. What we did is we just started paying more attention to be honest with you. Social media for us, I think was an afterthought for a little while. As a fast growing kind of early stage company, we use social media as just like this giant blow horn, right. And so we spent a lot of effort on developing our brand, who we were as a company, right. Which is normal. Our company is only 13 years old. So the first half of that was a whole bunch of just who are we? What are we doing? How are we different? And then we just told the whole world, posted every video on every social channel and just blah. There it is. - [Jason] Right. - Well, you know, as we matured, we just started paying a little bit more attention. So we use, you know, a lot of the same analytic tools that a lot of folks do, things like Sprout. And we would, we started just saying, hey, let's take a look at what's actually happening. You know, it's not just the top line numbers. Like what was the, how many views did this video get? What are the demographics of our followers on Facebook? And we got 50,000 people that follow us on Facebook, but who are these people? So we started digging into that. Same thing on every other platform. I'll be honest with you on Twitter right now, we have a, we're not good. We're not doing a great job there. We don't feel like we understand our audience very well. That's still new ground that we've gotta make up. But Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, we've been able to kind of crack the code. And what we found out is, you know, it was a lot of the audience was who we wanted it to be because by, I think just a natural extension of us sharing ourselves so transparently on social media, who we were as a company, we attracted the people that we wanted. And then the other thing we did, Jason, we just asked. I mean, we went to our sales force and we said, who would you like to follow you? Who would you like to follow our corporate brand? And I think the thing that surprised, especially some of our younger teammates, who came in from the outside with no mortgage experience was, it's not always the end consumer, right? Like most consumers don't follow mortgage companies on social media. - [Jason] Right. - You know, that's just not what you do. And so creating content that speaks directly to that consumer just wasn't resonating, those weren't resonating. So what we, as we started to kind of peel back the layers, looking at the data, at who is following us, what are these demographics tell us about our audience, and then talking to our salespeople who are our boots on the ground in communities. Hey, what are you hearing? Even though it's anecdotal, like what's going on? What we started to peel back was that what was happening is we had a very much, a what we call a B-to-B-to-C audience. And so the second layer is where the consumer was. The first layer was the referral source. And so we we had to adopt this B-to-B-to-C content strategy on Facebook and Instagram. And so it's like, hey, we know, ultimately this is gonna get consumed by a home buyer, by somebody looking or shopping for a mortgage. - [Jason] Right. - But it first gonna be consumed by their real estate agent. So how do we make the content something that a real estate agent sees, resonates, and then says, man, I should give this to my customer. They would really like this. And so that was the process that we went through. - Yeah, that's great. Thank you for sharing that, Adam. I think our audience will find that very valuable and helpful. I can't believe that we've really started running out of time. And I feel like we're just getting started and we could keep going. - Yeah. - So I'm gonna ask you one kind of final closing question here. And that would be, Adam, what are you working on today that's got you excited? - Ooh. Well, I think, you know, we talked about recruiting a minute ago, and I think, you know, recruiting for us is really important. We're a relationship business, right. You know, we're in the mortgage space, but, you know, kind of like the state farm agent in your community that is out in the marketplace. That's how we generate business as well. And so we are seeing a lot of success right now in our business at recruiting terrific people in cities all over the country who wanna come work for our brand. And so we're developing video content. We're developing new kind of like pitch strategies to go after some of these top producing folks. That's really exciting to me. And then the second thing that we have barely had, I don't think we've had any time to talk about it, Jason, but our company is owned by a nonprofit foundation. And we, last year had $200 million in profit that we were able to transfer into that nonprofit foundation. And so over the next few years, my job, I get to be part of the team that gets to tell that story of how we're gonna deploy $200 million to change communities. And we're gonna do that through building schools, especially in neighborhoods where there's underdeveloped communities or lack of options for education. And so we're gonna be developing public charter schools in those neighborhoods. And so that's a really fun story to tell. And I can't wait to kinda get to push that out over the next few years. - I don't know how I didn't know that already, Adam, but that's pretty impressive. - I saved it for the end and I should have led with that. But it's a cool thing that we do. It's not what we do in business every day, but that's why we're here is to use our profits to make the world we live in a better place. And so that's part of the job too. And I'm excited to see some of that dream start to now become reality. And we get to help tell that story. - Well, there you have it folks. If you're looking for a dream job that lets you give back to the community at the same time. I mean, Adam, I don't know what else you can do to top that, my friend. (laughing) - Well, I'm sure that there's a lot. I know you've had some amazing guests on here, so I'm honored to be one of them and thanks for having me on. - Yeah, it was my pleasure. Glad you were here. I know we've been working on scheduling this for a while. And thank you for sharing, and hopefully we can have you back, and we can dive more into these topics. - Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. - That'd be great. Well, there you go. That's another great episode of On Top of PR. I'm glad you were here. I trust you are glad that you were here too. Take a moment and share this episode with a colleague who would benefit from this content. And again, thank you for tuning in. Be well. - [Narrator] This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd presented by Review Maxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode, and check out past shows at OnTopOfPR.com. (upbeat music)