Catherine Boera, Active International

Catherine Boera

Planning and
Social Evolution

Editors’ Note

Catherine Boera brings 15 years of strategic communication planning experience in traditional and digital media to Active. Her expertise runs the communication gamut – consumer, digital, social, and experiential – and a wide array of clients including Ford Motor Company, Chiquita, and AT&T.

Would you provide an overview of your efforts at Active?

I head the Strategic Planning team and we focus on helping our clients who need assistance developing their communication strategy to better reach their consumers.

Our offering varies; we provide full planning and research for some clients. For others, we work with their agency to provide supplemental research or insights, or help with new tools where they might not yet have the expertise.

In those specific cases, are you seen as a partner to those agencies?

We’re seen as a resource to the client and the agency. There are a number of agencies I’m working with now who don’t have social or digital expertise. We provide research and insight and, in turn, help them gain knowledge since it’s not an area of competency for them. We share the goal of providing the best results to the client and since we offer unique services, it works really well.

How far has social progressed in terms of overall planning?

Just as we look at the traditional media, digital and PR as communication touch points, social is just another avenue to engage the consumer.

There is still a lot of learning and work to be done in the area. Most companies have to realize that social is a dialogue; it provides an opportunity to have back and forth communication with an audience in a seamless and scalable way that has not been available before.

Companies have preconceived notions about what they think consumers want from a brand. Social allows them to learn from their consumers and provides a way for consumers to voice their opinion about a particular brand, and share their experience with the brand and their social sphere.

They also need to be aware of the difference between earned social and paid social: earned social involves your social discussion on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and gives you the ability to have a dialogue without a great deal of expense. Paid social is growing significantly in terms of the dollars being applied to it because of the highly targeted environment it provides.

Finally, brands need to understand that supporting this function requires resources and buy-in from management. In order for it to be successful, it really can’t be an add-on to someone’s job, and some industries are further along than others in their approach. For example, the hospitality industry is making investments to answer the demands of travelers. Other industries, such as package goods, have a range of involvement and investment.

How do your clients best apply your expertise in media research?

Media strategy has historically been guided by consumer research. The growth of digital platforms has fueled the increase of the amount and accuracy of available consumer data. Improvements in tools to synthesize the data are forcing planners and buyers to become research experts.

Our expertise is in balancing the art and science of applying the insights gained from the data. The analytics that we receive from the digital world, when applied appropriately, allow us to buy the right media and optimize it as needed.

How do you imagine it will evolve in the future?

The data and the technology are going to move forward toward continuous customization for the consumer.

The power of making messages relevant to what is going on in a customer’s life will change how we look at advertising. How quickly we get there depends on how fast people embrace available technology (i.e. Smart TVs) and how that technology evolves, including the supporting infrastructure.•