Christine Perkett, named one of the "Top 100 Must Follow Marketing Minds" in Forbes for 2014, has helped brands, individuals and institutions worldwide increase the value of their professional reputations via social media. As one of the first marketers on Twitter, where she has nearly 50k followers, she wrote about its value for businesses back in 2008, and was included that year in "Twitter Means Business" - one of the first books on the subject by Julio Ojeda-Zapata. Christine is the CEO of SeeDepth.
Christine trains business owners, executives, marketing, PR, HR, sales and customer service teams on social and digital tools to improve business, reach departmental goals and expand corporate brand awareness. Some examples of brands and individuals she has worked or is working with to educate or manage social and digital content include:
• Constant Contact (CEO, customer service and sales)
• International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its CEO
• Northeastern University (D'Amore McKim School of business and individual professors and executives within)
• St. Louis Children's Hospital (and personnel including physicians, nurses, communications dept.)
• Style Coalition
• Susan Cain (Author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts)
Christine has been recognized with various accolades for her social marketing work, and she or her work have been featured in many publications including: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Associated Press, Businessweek, Small Business Trends, Dun & Bradstreet, ABC, and others - on the subjects of social business management, tech, PR, marketing, digital media, startups, women in business and more. In addition to her client work, she is also currently a regular online contributor to Forbes, Marketing Profs and Working Mother Magazine.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I recently spoke about this at Hubspot's INBOUND conference in September. I've faced hurdles, just like everyone does, that have taught me the power of resiliency. In particular, I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (note: not at the hands of my parents), and struggle with self worth as a result. I'm divorced. I moved twice as a kid - once in the middle of my sophomore year of high school - and it was tough. Kids can be very cruel! I was constantly bullied and threatened, although I also had plenty of friends. It taught me a lot about making others feel important so you're less "threatening" to them (and psychologically, seemingly more interesting when you spend time asking them questions about themselves) - a skill that has served me very well in dealing with all types of people in business. Just start asking them questions! On the flip side, I've had plenty of positive life experiences that shaped me into a leader - my parents were (and still are, in their 70s) very adventurous. We traveled around, camped and hiked - and you learned quickly how to make food, keep a warm bed, pay attention to your surroundings. My mother worked many different jobs and taught me women can do anything they please. I was taught to be polite and gracious, but assertive and stubborn. My mother, in particular, taught me "there is no fair fairy," and that if you want something in life, it's up to you to make it happen.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at SeeDepth?
SeeDepth was actually born out of a challenge faced in my past jobs - and one faced by all marketing and communications pros. How do you measure the value of what we do, and prove such value to the C-suite? PR in particular has traditionally been such a squishy metric - "We received 20 media stories this month, and we secured 5 speaking opportunities for the CEO, and we won two product awards!" Great - but what does all of that really mean to a business? Does it impact the bottom line at all? It's been traditionally hard to prove that - and PR executives often spend too many otherwise-billable hours culling that information and analysis. With SeeDepth, it's instantaneous and easy to prove what's working, repeat it, and pivot from what isn't.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at SeeDepth?
We're still in our infancy stage - we only recently launched our first product - so the highlights have been getting a stellar team on board that really has great ideas for not only making this platform work - but continually making it better. It's amazing the faith that people put in your ideas and experience. It's humbling. Our first sale was a highlight, of course - it's always an amazing feeling to have your idea come to fruition and to be something people want to pay for. Our challenges have been pretty typical to any startup - engineering challenges, HR obstacles, breaking through to VCs. But so far, nothing major that has impacted us negatively. In fact, any challenge we've had so far has ended up getting us somewhere better, and that's what makes them worth it.
What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Break the rules. Women worry way too much about doing everything the right way. If you want to innovate and create, you've got to be bold. That, and trust yourself first and foremost. Be assertive and build a great network. Ask for help. You'd be amazed at how willing most people are to help you out or listen, mentor, introduce you to others, etc. But you've got to ask!
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
To trust my gut.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I struggle with this, just like everyone else. Some days, some years, are better than others. It became especially challenging when I went through my divorce - I needed to continue to run my business and take care of my two sons, while fighting depression and lack of motivation. That was tough. The thing to remember about maintaining a balance is to understand that some days you lean left, some days you lean right. It isn't balanced every day, but rather, on average. But my biggest advice on balance is to take care of yourself - you're the epicenter of that balance, so if you don't take care of yourself (mentally, physically, emotionally), nothing will ever feel good.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Demanding what they deserve and not taking no for an answer. The fact we still make less for men in the same exact positions - or that out of all the VC-backed tech companies, on an annual basis, only THREE PERCENT of them are female-founded companies - is archaic and unacceptable.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I think mentors are so important, and I think that women could use help creating stronger connections with other women who can and will make the time to mentor. Most of my mentors have been informal - but I've put myself out there and said, "Hey, I really admire you and what you've done here and here, so can I ask you for some unofficial mentorship? Can I tap you from time to time with questions? Can I get an hour with you here and there to learn from your experiences?" The key is remembering to be generous back, and that mentors can change over time depending on what stage or challenge you're at in life. Mentors have helped me through so many facets of life - everything about starting my own business, how to handle a divorce with grace, parenting advice, handling rejection (in life and work!) and more. It really runs the gamut. Mentors can be a bit less biased than friends and family, and that means often their advice is better for you.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I'm a big fan of Kate Brodock. Kate is the President of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit focused on empowering, educating and engaging women in technology and entrepreneurship. She is also my friend, a new Mom, an entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor at The Newhouse School at Syracuse University. She has been so generous in connecting me with influential beings in both work and personal life, and I admire her approach - I call it "grit with class." She's someone I'm thankful to know.
I can of course point to the usual suspects, and women I don't know personally but admire, like Arianna Huffington, who I admire as an example of a determined woman who doesn't always follow the rules - I think it's so important, especially for women. She broke a lot of boundaries, not the least of which is founding the Huffington Post at the age of 55. We see the successes, but she has faced plenty of rejection and tough times, too - divorce, a failed gubernatorial campaign, 36 rejections of her second book, and more. Yet, she keeps thriving - as women do.
There are so many women to admire - Malala Yousafzai (what courage), Ellen DeGeneres (she paved a lot of roads for lesbian women), Gabrielle Giffords (resilience), J.K. Rowling (single Mom who MADE. IT. HAPPEN.), Martha Stewart (some may roll their eyes, but she's a fantastic business woman who rose to fame during a time when women weren't exactly dominating the work force, and she takes responsibility for her mistakes), Tina Fey (funny with a heart)... I could go on and on. The women I admire the most are the rule breakers who pave new roads and break down barriers for women, all while maintaining their dignity and class.
What do you want SeeDepth to accomplish in the next year?
Oh, so much! We plan on launching at least two more products and like any company, I'd like to see our customer base - both brands and PR agencies - grow exponentially, and am excited to grow our team as well. I'm proud of what we've accomplished in our bootstrapped mode, but now we're focused on reaching product and revenue goals to take us to a different level competitively. I'm also excited about some partnerships we're working on, and looking forward to doing some marketing - until now, we've been fairly stealth. We're considering the VC route, and it has been fun debating its merits with people on both sides of the argument. Should we or should we not take outside investment? It's all a new challenge for me, and with that, I also look forward to the personal growth I'll experience running a software startup. It's much different than the last company I founded, which was a services business. I'm loving the change.