LinkedIn CMO Melissa Selcher: “Don’t try to become someone other than yourself; Understand who you are, what you’re good at, and then build your career”

Yitzi Weiner
Jul 5 · 7 min read
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Understanding yourself and knowing who you are is the biggest advice I always give to people. Don’t try to become someone other than yourselves. Understand who you are, what you’re good at, and then build your career.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek advice. It’s not a sign of weakness to do that. You also need to build networks because that is how people get ahead or get jobs. So don’t be afraid to ask for help to build those networks.

Lastly, don’t stop learning. If you can do all I’ve stated, I have no doubt that you will be a C level executive and many of us will be working for you.

At the Collision 2020 press conference, we had the pleasure to interview Melissa Selcher, The Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at LinkedIn.

Melissa Selcher leads the team responsible for all of the company’s marketing, communications, and global social impact work. She moved into the CMCO role after serving as Vice President of Brand Marketing, Corporate Communications, and Social Impact at LinkedIn, where she oversaw the evolution of the company’s global brand, which resulted in the world’s largest brand equity database, BrandZ, naming LinkedIn one of the ten fastest growing brands in the world in 2019.

Prior to LinkedIn, Melissa was the Chief Communications Officer at Cisco, overseeing all communications and investor relations globally. Earlier in her career, Mel held technology marketing and communications roles at Sun Microsystems, Matrix Semiconductor (acquired by SanDisk), Continental Airlines, and Trilogy Development Group. Mel earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Princeton University. In 2017, she was named one of PR News’ Top Women in public relations and was named one of AdAge’s Women to Watch in 2019. Mel serves as a Trustee of the Page Society, sits on the Board of Directors of LifeMoves (the leading provider of homeless services in Silicon Valley), and advises non-profits and startups including One Love, Pensando, and others. Mel lives in Burlingame, California with her husband and two children.

Thank you so much for joining us Melissa. What advice do you have for young women in tech, particularly in marketing, who have C level ambition?

Melissa: This is a great question. The advice I have for them is that they should focus on getting really great at what they do. They should continue to increase their their consistency because thats supercritical.

Understanding yourself and knowing who you are is the biggest advice I always give to people. Don’t try to become someone other than yourselves. Understand who you are, what you’re good at, and then build your career.

You also need to focus on your development and continue to get better. When you do all these, they will propel you forward.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and seek advice. It’s not a sign of weakness to do that. You also need to build networks because that is how people get ahead or get jobs. So don’t be afraid to ask for help to build those networks.

Lastly, don’t stop learning. If you can do all I’ve stated, I have no doubt that you will be a C level executive and many of us will be working for you.

Do you think businesses can run a successful digital marketing campaign without paid media?

Melissa: We’ve had this debate a lot internally. We have certain camps that believe in organic lead generation. It’s really hard in many ways to gain the momentum you want for your marketing campaigns without paid media. It’s true. I also think it depends on the core of your idea, how distinctive it is, how much it stands out, how you leverage things like your networks, platforms, and communities to raise your voice.

From a LinkedIn perspective, how should companies showcase pages and leverage their LinkedIn network right now during COVID? What would you say would be the best practices right now?

Melissa: Yeah, it’s a great question. We’re seeing companies being more active on LinkedIn now than ever. In a number of ways, we’re seeing more executives take to the platform just to more humanly connect with audiences and share where they are.

For example, the CEO of Marriott, as they were going through their first wave of headcount actions, went to LinkedIn to share a great video. He explained where they were and why they were taking such actions. It is a brilliant combination of compassion and confidence. We’re in such a polarized world that networks like LinkedIn give brands the chance to connect directly with their audiences without passing through a filter or being interpreted by someone else.

We’re also seeing some innovative work. For example, what Johnson & Johnson is doing on LinkedIn is laudable. They created a fascinating set of video series titled, “The road to the vaccine,” where they are chronicling the path to get to a vaccine. It’s very engaging. I also think it gets people engaged with the brand in a way that they haven’t before. In this era, everyone wants to know who brands are and not just as corporate entities, but as human entities. They want to know the people behind the brands and those who are making the decisions. I think networks like LinkedIn give brands the chance to do that.

Has LinkedIn done any analysis on how polarizing it can be for people of color to even have their profile picture on there? This goes into something that was discussed earlier about blind resumes. There’s a major bias there.

Also how much does data come into your day-to-day job when it comes to you guys making creative decisions?

Melissa: We know that bias exists and will continue to exist. For example, if students in a business school are asked to describe a case where a man and a woman have the same resume, the two candidates will be described differently. The man may be described in positive terms while the woman may be described in negative terms. So bias exists, and we’ve always known it exists. It’s a problem we’re looking to solve.We have to work with our nonprofit partners and our customers to find ways people can use LinkedIn to hire in less biased ways. And companies need to do that. There’s a big education process in helping companies understand the benefits of doing that and the tools they need.

One thing we are doing on LinkedIn that really excites me is something called skills assessment. You can go to LinkedIn learning to take courses and you can get an objective skills assessment. So the more we can have people look at the training people have done, the skills they’ve built, the learning they’ve done, the more we will pull out those things that are naturally biased.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand-building campaign? Is it similar or is it different?

Melissa: When we do a campaign, we always measure it at every part of the funnel. This is because of the intelligence we’ve gotten over time. If you have fully integrated campaigns, those are going to be your most powerful ones. So, when we do campaigns, they tend to be fully integrated top to bottom of the funnel and we measure it all.

From a brand-building perspective, we measure things like awareness preference at the top of the funnel. We care deeply about LinkedIn being an inclusive brand. We always want to know if you all feel that LinkedIn is a place for you, if there are people like you on the platform and if it’s a place you can do whatever you need to move your career forward. Those are the three things I care about and I measure, and we do that through surveys every time we do a brand campaign.

There is no one formula that fits all for marketing campaigns, but do you think there is one channel medium that brands can’t ignore?

Melissa: It’s hard for me not to say LinkedIn. However, I think it just depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your marketing campaign. Campaigns are different, and the same creative work doesn’t work on every channel or social media platform. It’s not the right thing to do to create one asset and then put it on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. We should have known that already. So I think you should have the right concept to accomplish the same thing, but you have to understand the channels and mediums, how they operate, who are on them, and the mindset of the people you’re trying to reach on the different mediums.

Is LinkedIn trying to expand in terms of attracting gen Z and younger users?

Melissa: Yeah. We spend a lot of time trying to understand where different people are on their journeys. Some of it has to do with their generation and culture. How you think about your career in Japan and Germany is different from how you do in the U.S. So a lot of it is about understanding where people are, how they work, and their career views.

For gen Z specifically, we’re really playing with a bunch of different formats. For example, we will launch something like Stories in the U.S. We’ve launched it in several other countries. We know that many Gen Z engage with social media and are always looking for different things on these platforms. So we’re constantly figuring out how we can provide the tools so that each generation, culture, and geographic location need to be able to feel like they belong. And we’re spending time to figure out how to do that in a very LinkedIn way.

What have you done to create LinkedIn’s brand?

Melissa: The LinkedIn platform grew fast. We only started actively working on our brand a couple of years ago. We created our brand by spending a lot of time with other brands, trying to help them understand that the magic of their brand is in them, and not something they’re trying to construct or create. I think we have the benefit of not being a manufacturing brand.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film…

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Yitzi Weiner

Written by

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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