Episode 202: Heather Meeker on Mobile Social Location-Based and Proximity Service Opportunities

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Heather Meeker is a much sought-after marketing/PR/biz dev start-up specialist.

She's been involved in geo-location, location-based services and proximity consumer mobile applications.

Recently at Whrrl through the acquisition by Groupon, she's now looking for her next big opportunity.

Get into Heather's mind as she sorts her career options. If you are thinking about your next career move, the way Heather positions herself and thinks about the market opportunities will be a valuable thought process for you.

Heather updates us on how PR works now, versus how it worked even just a year or two ago - the whole process has completely changed. Listen so you don't waste your energy doing PR the old way.

Transcript

Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Heather Meeker. 

Heather’s recently the head of marketing and public relations for a company called Whirl. They were acquired by Groupon, and she has been in public relations, marketing communications in the digital space for many years, having worked at Yahoo and some other places that we’ll talk about because Heather’s in a transition.

She is PR and communications. She knows about location-based services in the mobile and social space, and she has an amazing career history already, and she’s getting ready to make a change and figure out what her next step is. And I thought that would be a really interesting conversation for us to hear.

When I talked to Heather about what her plans were I was really impressed with how she was thinking about what’s important to her and what she wants to do. And on the heels of interviewing Steve Little from The Perfect Biz Finder, I thought that we should continue this conversation with some real life examples of now there’s an opportunity in market expansion, how does somebody who’s really talented and sought after and well known and really good at what she does navigate her next role?

So lets get her on the show and talk about location-based services, mobile, social and our future careers. Welcome Heather.

Heather Meeker: Hi Susan. Thanks for having me.

Susan Bratton: It’s great to have you, and actually we’re doing this show live in the studio, so I’m glad that you’re here…

Heather Meeker: Thank you.

Susan Bratton: to do it with me in person.

Heather Meeker: It’s gorgeous. I’m lucky to be here. Thank you.

Susan Bratton: Well you came up from Southern California…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: ‘cause you’re thinking about the possibility of moving into the Bay area because it’s so rich with opportunity right now, so…

Heather Meeker: Absolutely. So I’ve been in Los Angeles for 15 years, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. And as I’m looking now at a job transition a lot of the opportunities are in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, the Bay area. So I decided to get in my car, drive six hours through farmland mostly and get up here to see you, chat with you obviously and spend some time here in the Bay area and meeting with some other folks and seeing what the opportunities are.

Susan Bratton: Well lets start with – and welcome.

Heather Meeker: Thank you.

Susan Bratton: And it was a beautiful drive.

Heather Meeker: It was.

Susan Bratton: It’s gorgeous in California right now.

Heather Meeker: It’s beautiful.

Susan Bratton: You and I both like the farmland.

Heather Meeker: Yes we do.

Susan Bratton: I know.

Heather Meeker: I grew up on a farm…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Heather Meeker: so I’m fine with it.

Susan Bratton: I grew up out in the rural, you know, rural Pennsylvania and I…

Heather Meeker: Exactly.

Susan Bratton: I really, we were talking about that last night. I’m a rural edge suburban liver…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: That’s what I like.

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: And, you know, it’ll be interesting for you to decide if you want to come to Silicon Valley.

Heather Meeker: Right because the part of Los Angeles that I currently live in is the suburb, and I’ve never really lived in a city before. And so it’ll be interesting to see if I make that transition and I, you know, end up here next, you know, next year. It’s all [inaudible], you know, will I actually go for the city. So we’ll see. It’ll be interesting.

Susan Bratton: It’s a nice opportunity. It’s fun to think about changing where you live. I love that.

Heather Meeker: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: So you’ve changed a lot of things recently. So when Whirl was acquired by Groupon you decided that was a good time for an exit for you. I want to hear about the Whirl and Groupon acquisition. Explain what Whirl was and why it made sense for Groupon and what that was like for you.

Heather Meeker: Absolutely. So Whirl is a location based service. We launched in 2006, and Jeff Holden, who was ten years at Amazon working under Jeff Bezos kind of came up with their technology for making recommendations, “If you like this book, you’ll like that book.”

Susan Bratton: Oh I didn’t know that.

Heather Meeker: That’s what Jeff did.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Heather Meeker: So he really worked on those personalized algorithms and recommendations, very consumer facing.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Heather Meeker: Jeff Bezos was an early investor in Whirl and we’re Kleiner Perkins back, so very, very well funded company. I started two and a half years ago. My old boss from Yahoo, John Kim who was a product guru in my esteemed opinion, said, “I really want you to meet this amazing guy Jeff. He has this great vision for the future of mobile.” And I sat down with him in San Francisco one evening at CTIA when I was there with another client. And they said, “Listen, we want to show this vision that you can check into the places that you go and keep a digital record of your life.” And I thought that was really interesting. And I came on board with the team two and a half years ago, and as of last Monday we were acquired by Groupon, primarily for that personalized recommendations technology that Whirl offers.

So there’s several players and location based space, Four Square being one of those prominent Facebook places, Gowala, etcetera. Each has something different they’re bringing to the table, but the check in is the thing that unifies us. What differentiated Whirl’s service and really set it apart was the ability to tell people if you’ve checked into these places and you’re friends with these folks, why don’t we recommend that you might like something around the corner that you never knew about, really all about serendipitous discovery. So that’s the technology that Groupon was very interested in and that led to the acquisition ultimately.

Susan Bratton: So can you go through the differences that you see from your perspective in some of these location based services, like the difference between Facebook places and Four Square and Whirl and whatever.

Heather Meeker: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Just tell us how you see the world. That’s very interesting.

Heather Meeker: So with regard to Whirl I think we’ve covered that fairly well. With regard to Four Square, you know, we launched at South By Southwest. We launched the second iteration of our product the same year that they launched. And what really made them stand out was their simplicity and the gaming element with the badges. So when you check in to places on Four Square you can earn badges, so people liked that. With regard to Gowala, when they launched they had passports, so you could go to different places and collect passports and also have personalized trips made for you. Scavenger’s also been on the scene latterly, and what they offer is kind of a scavenger hunt gaming element.

So as you can see, each one has something different that they offer. We wanted to be the personalized recommendations layer for the real world. You’ll hear scavenger talk about, “We want to be the gaming layer.” So each one brings something different, but at the end of the day, again, you check, you physically have to check in in order to be a part of the service. What you get from there is very different. So again, our focus was really providing value for people that if they went, they checked in, they had their friends and we also had groups called ‘societies’ where we’d group you with people with similar interests in the Whirl world, pulling this all together we were able to tell you new information of places to go and things to do and tell you why – because ten of your friends recommended it, because Susan and Tim Bratton are a part of this group.

So that was really our value prop and at the end of the day we delivered on that very well. And again, I think that the space will continue to shake out over the next probably year or two with Facebook Places being I think the biggest contender, they have obviously, you know, 500, you know, million users. So the ability for them to go beyond what they’re doing now, which is simply a check in and to provide value, perhaps deals for their uses could be huge. So I’m keeping my eye on them right now.

Susan Bratton: Lets talk about Path a little, that’s Dave Morin’s company. He was the original Facebook Connect designer. I tried at the beginning of this year to make a list of the people that I really wanted to share my personal life with…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: my non online. I wanted a private closed circle of my closest friends and the ability to photo share with them. And I think that’s really what Path is about, 50 of the closest people…

Heather Meeker: Mm hmm.

Susan Bratton: you upload a photo and then that goes directly to their phone. And I love the concept. The stopping point for me where I got caught up was that it’s an iPhone only app or it was at the time in January. This is a few months later. And a lot of my closest friends don’t have iPhones. Maybe 25% of them have iPhones and the other 75% have something else. And it was real non starter for me and an actual disappointment that I wanted to be able to, I work in imagery so I like pictures, I like photos, I like to take photos and I like to share them with my friends, but I don’t always want them posted on my Facebook page…

Heather Meeker: Right.

Susan Bratton: or my Flickr page or whatever it might be. And so I wanted this private closed circle, but the technology stopped me. The concept was good but the technology stopped me. What do you have to say about Path yourself and where do you see things like that, the closed private circle going, versus this whole idea of it being like your whole world is shared with everyone, with all the check ins and things, ‘cause it seems like there’s a bifurcation there.

Heather Meeker: There really is. So, you know, when we launched the second iteration of Whirl we interviewed thousands of people regarding the product itself, but also with a focus on the safety and the privacy. Because at the time Looped was the major player in the space and there was a lot of privacy issues with Looped and a lot of kind of hook ups and things happening with that particular app. So we made it very clear that you could have a very private closed network of just your friends or trusted friends or keep all of your check ins private. We did it on purpose because not everyone wants to tell everyone where they’re at all the time. And I think Facebook has unfortunately for many people become that.

You know Susan, as someone who’s very public, I’ve seen you have over 4,600 friends, and I know that you probably have done that because you know, you really know that many people. I have I think over 2,000 friends and I actually know most of those folks, and I turn down friend requests a lot, people that I either don’t know, don’t remember or I’m sure they want to connect business wise, maybe personal. But I’ve tried to keep that network a little more closed for that reason because I do feel like Facebook is a reflection of you, and if you let a lot of people into that network you don’t know what they’re going to do with your photos and personal information and they could use it against you. So I like the idea of Path for the reason of the 50 closest friends, keeping whatever you share is between that network, it doesn’t go anywhere. I think it’s a beautifully designed app.

With regard to Face – sorry, with regard to the iPhone, you know, that’s really a challenge these days of what platform do you launch on. Because as you know with startups, you just want to get the product out there. Get it out there and move from there. So with regard to Whirl, we were iPhone primarily and then we launched on Android secondarily and most recently Blackberry. With regard to launching on iPhone, that was obviously a calculated decision they made based on the market and the users that they thought were out there. But as you know, Android phones are out shipping iPhones right now.

So what we’re seeing is a shift where there are actually developers coming up with apps for the Android first. And I think it’s one of those things, do you go out with iPhone only, Android only, or do you get them both out at the same time from a development perspective? It sounds like they just made a quick call on that one. But you’re right, most of my friends are on Blackberry, Android, or iPhones, so if you have an app that’s specific to only one it really does limit you, and it is disappointment, and we ran into that at Whirl because we weren’t on Android for quite some time. We had a lot of people that were really disappointed in that, and it really was, we just were, we’re startup and we couldn’t get there quick enough, if that makes sense.

Susan Bratton: It does…

Heather Meeker: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: It does. So tell me more about your thinking, just from a market knowledge perspective, you know. What is Heather Meeker’s perspective on the mobile, social opportunity? Where do you see bright spots in the marketplace? What companies do you have your eye on? What apps do you think are valuable to people? Where is there a marketing opportunity? You could attack that question from any one of those perspectives, whatever comes to you.

Heather Meeker: I mean I really see a huge opportunity right now because of the pervasiveness of the geo location technology. After leaving Whirl I’ve spoke with quite a few startups in the past few days and most of them have some element of geo location or proximity in their product. So there’s a company called Social Stay that has a geo location component, when you check into a hotel it’s a concierge at your hand. There’s a company called Zapongo and they want to provide a health and wellness platform, but they would love to serve up really cool ideas of things for you to do like take a hike here or did you know that this restaurant is Vegan, those types of ideas, again, based on your location. So all these companies I’m speaking with in this space all have that element, as well as Color. As you know, they just received $41 million. You know, that is a proximity based platform where you can actually connect with people based on proximity versus actually checking in, which is I think kind of the next big thing that’s coming out. So…

Susan Bratton: So wait, describe that a little bit more…

Heather Meeker: Sure.

Susan Bratton:    describe it. I’m not familiar with Color. The first time I heard it…

Heather Meeker: Right.

Susan Bratton: was last night when you and I were having a glass of wine together, so…

Heather Meeker: Well I think the reason that they’ve become such a big story is the infusion of cash that they received.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Heather Meeker: It was quite substantial. And that started leading to stories subsequently about is this another tech bubble. Because there’s a lot of infusion of cash happening right now as you know…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Heather Meeker: living in Silicon Valley, and it’s primarily for apps. It’s for apps that, again, you know, picture apps and geo location apps, and they’re not really even platforms, they’re really apps at the end of the day. So that’s leading people to wonder is this a bubble or not, but this is a great opportunity for someone like myself because, again, mobile and social media kind of combing with geo location that’s what I do, that’s what I’ve done for two and a half years. Very few people have been in the space that long as well, so that’s a great opportunity for me…

Susan Bratton: Definitely.

Heather Meeker: which is why I’m excited to see kind of the future of geo location and proximity because it’s a space I’m really passionate about. And I think people find it right now quite frightening, but I think as time goes by it’ll be like Facebook. At first they were scared to share, now the people are quite open about it. I think people will be more and more open to sharing their location and where they’re at as time goes on. As long as they can make that decision in terms of privacy, friends, whatever, as long as they have the control over it, I think folks will be open to it.

Susan Bratton: So what is the application for Color? What’s the consumer app?

Heather Meeker: The consumer app is really nothing more than Path. It’s really nothing more than a lot of the apps out there. It’s just a photo sharing platform…

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Heather Meeker: at the end of the day. So it’s really nothing different than what we’ve seen. And so one night I was out at dinner and, you know, I’m using Whirl, I’m checking in and I’m uploading photos to Facebook and Twitter. Then I get on Path and I upload a photo and I share it on Facebook and Twitter. Then I get on Color, upload a photo, I share it on Facebook and Twitter, I’m looking at the quality of all three…

Susan Bratton: Oh.

Heather Meeker: And I mean really at the end of the day they’re all kind of doing the same types of things. So I’m not really sure what their edge is, but I do find it interesting that there’s so many of these apps out there right now that are really focused on sharing. And again, with regard to Path the angle I like with them is keeping it private within your group of friends. I like that.

Susan Bratton: Me too.

Heather Meeker: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Mobile marketing, mobile advertising, when I say that the first thing that pops into my mind is a banner ad on my cell phone screen and I know that that’s, you know, not what anybody in the world wants. What have you seen as an intelligent way to address a specific market segment with mobile?

Heather Meeker: With regards to mobile advertising, you know, this is a challenge that we faced at Whirl because it’s something that we really wanted to tackle is how can you advertise to folks in a meaningful way. So let me tell you a little bit about what we did and maybe that’ll provide some insight. What we wanted to do is help big brands, very established brands like Del Monte’s Kibbles and Bits or Marie Callender’s, which is a [inaudible] company, find a way to take their brand, which is so rich, and take that from, you know, the commercials, the print ads, you know, the television ads, etcetera, even online, and take that to mobile so that they have a really strong passionate engaged community.

So what we did at Whirl is we created groups called ‘societies’, and those were groups of people that had the same real world interests. How we grouped you together were based on the places that you go. So Susan lets say that you love Mexican food and so do I, and you’ve gone to a few of these places, you have the opportunity to opt into a group called [Inaudible] Mexican, which is Mexican food lovers. So think of the opportunity now. You’ve got three, four, five thousand really engaged people with a mobile phone in their hand that love Mexican food. What a great opportunity for a brand to come in, and at that point in a sense advertise to them with recommendations, and that was what we decided to do at Whirl, because we felt like that would be a very authentic way of answering that question, “How can a brand connect on mobile?” So a really great example would be the Kibbles and Bits I Love My Dog society has over 5,000 members.

And what Kibbles and Bits did is run an ad in U.S.A Weekend that hits over 50 million readers. They go online, they sign up for the society, they get a $3 coupon immediately. They can take that coupon to Walmart, redeem it for Kibbles and Bits. Also when they check in and they download while on their mobile phone they can win a $25 gift certificate. The beauty of this is that the society itself pops up recommendations on your phone, and these can come from the brand themselves. The only way it really works is if they’re authentic. If it sounds like an ad people don’t want to deal with it. If it sounds like it really, “I care about your dog and, you know, maybe take them to the dog park” or “Did you know that, you know, Kibbles and Bits provides the best nutrition for your dog.”

Those types of endorsements, recommendations I think that come off very authentic and very helpful to the consumer on the mobile phone work. That is the best, in my opinion I think that was the best route that we were going in terms of addressing that question. So that’s been my personal experiences. If you’re going to talk to somebody on their mobile phone you better make that extremely relevant to them. Again, if they’re walking by a café on your geo location app and you want to pop up a $3 coupon, that could be relevant to them, maybe it’s not. You have to know what their interests and likes are. And that’s kind of the quandary that we were trying to figure out is what are their interests and likes so that we serve up this information to these deals. We want to make sure that they’re of interest to you.

Susan Bratton: Who do you see is doing a really good job in the mobile advertising space? Is Ad Mob now owned by Google the top place where most of the action happens?

Heather Meeker: I’m not as familiar with that space.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Heather Meeker: Okay.

Susan Bratton: So not sure.

Heather Meeker: Not sure.

Susan Bratton: No problem. I don’t know either.

Heather Meeker: Sorry. That’s just one that I don’t know.

Susan Bratton: Yeah…

Heather Meeker: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: That was just a long shot. Okay, so lets talk about PR and marketing and social marketing.

Heather Meeker: Okay.

Susan Bratton: Lets talk about what you did at Whirl and even before that, and how you see public relations, that part of your marketing discipline, how is that changing? What’s the state of PR today?

Heather Meeker: Wow that’s a really long question to answer.

Susan Bratton: I know.

Heather Meeker: It has changed substantially from the time that I entered the field, which was 1997 at Earth Link. And I was brought on post-college and just graduated assisting the VP of Corp Com. And back in those days there were media tours, press releases that went out over the wire consistently, calling reporters on the phone, talking to them, bringing them into the office to meet with executives. It was just very, very hands on. You had a lot of one on one time I felt with the reporters back in those days because you could get them on the phone. And there was no Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist so email was your primary means of communication or the phone, and those were your two options. Or maybe Instant Messenger.

But you know, fast forward to today, I’ve worked at, you know, homester.com, which is now move.com, stamps.com. I’ve worked at Yahoo obviously, and now Whirl. I worked at Burson-Marsteller PR’s a while, and then worked at Pfizer when I, you know, decided to take a break from PR and got into sales for a while. And I’ve seen a slow progression with social media that’s really changed the way that PR professionals interact with reporters, so I’ll address that first, which is they are much less accessible in a lot of the ways that they were previously. However, if you know how to get to them in a way that they want to be talked to, they’re extremely, extremely available. So I’ll give you a great example. These days if you have a media list and you know that you need to talk to Robert Scoble, I can tell you that the best way to get a hold of him is a DM on Twitter. But in order to DM him you have to be his friend, and he has to have you in a circle, right. So that means you actually have to meet Robert Scoble in person. But I can tell you that’s a great way to get a hold of him because he’ll usually either retreat, respond or in some way you’ll hear back from him. He’s literally said, “Email’s not my favorite thing.” There are folks that I will DM on Twitter however, and they’ll say, “Don’t do that. I don’t like DM’s.” Sometimes you’ll send a Facebook message to them, “Don’t do that” or “I prefer that.”

So what you have to do is you don’t just have a list of, you know, your constituents, the people that you’re reaching out to; you have to know exactly how to reach out to them in the way that they want and also timing wise. But I can guarantee this: I have used my media info and there are no phone numbers for anybody in there that I know. I cannot find a phone number for most of the reporters that I deal with. So if you can’t get a hold of them on email and grab their attention or on Twitter and Facebook, if you don’t have a personal relationship, you can’t just call them anymore. It’s very, very difficult. So that leads me to say that as a PR practitioner and a professional, you have to meet these folks in person. You have to build relationships with the reporters that you work with. Really that’s the best way to work because they get, you know, Mashable, they get thousands and thousands of email per day, but I’m friends with Jolie O’Dell, I’m friends with Ben Par. Doesn’t mean they’re going to write about what I have; it means they’re at least going to answer my email. So that’s the difference.

So old school PR where you have these big lists and you have junior person there and smiling and dialing or sending out a mass email, that just doesn’t work anymore. It’s really all about a personalization and really treating reporters like you care. Know their beat, know what they talk about. Bloggers, read their blog, understand what their focus is. And make sure that when you talk to them about your product that you’re tailoring it towards their angle. Again, this takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of work, and quite frankly Susan I don’t think most people understand how hard PR is today, how much it’s changed. Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Is there any kind of little piece of advice that you can give to someone about the way that you package up a story? And I know it’s going to be different and unique for any individual journalist or blogger, but is there any particular thing that you’ve found really works to make it easy for them to write about you?

Heather Meeker: Absolutely. So I think the first thing is, again, knowing their beat, knowing their angle, understanding that if you’re going to reach out to, again, Jolie O’Dell at Mashable, that she covers startups and these are the startups that she covers and this is her angle. So first and foremost, just making sure that you have the right person and that you’re tailoring that story to them. But I have found that emails, I mean really have to make it concise. And I hate to say it because you want to package the story and make it beautiful and you want to attach the press release and all these photos and make it fabulous, but a really quick short to the point email saying, “Today we announce the following with three bullet points, let me know if you’re interested,” is unfortunately what I’ve found to be the best way. So to package up the story,

I do still, you know, press releases still are kind of, you know, “Should we do a press release or should we post on the blog?” As you’ve seen Susan, a lot of startups are just using a blog. In fact for the Groupon announcement Groupon announced it on their blog and Pogo announced it on their blog. There was no press release. So that even begs the question, are press releases going out of style? Regardless of which avenue you choose, and I would argue that for startups you could do the blog, for more traditional companies absolutely press release. At the end of the day you really have to package it in a way where you hit the key points in the email to grab their attention, and then just attach or in the body of the email have the full story. And again, you have to tailor it to that person’s beat, angle, etcetera. So, you know, you don’t want to send  a one size fits all blast email out to anyone anymore. It doesn’t work.

Susan Bratton: Thank you.

Heather Meeker: You’re welcome.

Susan Bratton: That was good. Yeah, I think press releases have turned into, are e-zine articles basically…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: Just to, you know, another method for inbound links, and with Google constantly changing their algorithm, not even sure inbound – you know, I know that they are important still.

Heather Meeker: Well can I say one more thing about press release?

Susan Bratton: You must.

Heather Meeker: Because two and a half years of working at Whirl, you know, coming from Burson-Marsteller, there for six months at a traditional agency, great agency, you know, well known around the world, I walked into Whirl and I was putting out press releases because that’s what I knew to do. And I’m telling you that I would put them out, I’d spend the $1,200 on it Susan, and I would see very little pick up. All the pick up I saw was from my individual outreach efforts, again, from in person, Twitter, Facebook and email. So then I decided, “Okay, lets just change this all around and use Pitch Engines to get there.” That’s a social media platform, Brian Solis is one of the founders of that. And I can put the press release on here, I can link to it. I can put all these different links to photos and images. I can have the press release there. I can track how many views there were. It’s going to cost me $50 a month to do this. Lets see if our cover changes, and I’m telling you it didn’t. So what that shows me is that the press release for our business was no longer relevant. The blog and Pitch Engine was a much better way for us to go.

Susan Bratton: That’s great.

Heather Meeker: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: That was really good input.

Heather Meeker: Yeah.

Susan Bratton: Thank you. All right, so we have just a few minutes left, but I really want to get through, you know, you and I have been talking a lot. I’ve been wanting to provide whatever support I can to help you land your next dream job.

Heather Meeker: Thank you. Thank you.

Susan Bratton: And I’ve really appreciated your thought process about, you know, how you’re deciding what you want. ‘Cause that’s hardest part, isn’t it?

Heather Meeker: It is.

Susan Bratton: You know, you talked about the fact that you’ve, you’ve worked at Burson-Marsteller, you’ve worked at Yahoo, you’ve worked at Pfizer, so you’ve worked at large conglomerate organizations…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: You’ve also worked at Whirl, very small Internet startup. What are you thinking?

Heather Meeker: Well, you know, it’s so funny because when I started at Whirl, I’d worked at startups previously. In fact, the most successful being Earth Link coming on with a few hundred employees. By the time I left we had a few millions subscribers. So that was a success story of massive growth. And boy, were those fun days, and I know you remember them. Coming on to Whirl, it was a company that definitely we had 600 thousand users, which is amazing, but we didn’t take off the scale that Four Square did. So I feel like I’ve had different startup experiences, but all have been extremely valuable to me. And I’m sure you’ve heard this before, when you work for a startup it’s very addicting, because you see the direct impact of what you’re doing everyday. And you take on several roles.

So I can tell you what I don’t want. I don’t want to walk in an organization, have a certain title and be siphoned to only work on these certain things. I would love to continue doing what I’m doing, which is the opportunity to really make an impact at a company that sees me as someone that can provide value and PR marketing business development because those are my strengths, that’s my background, as well as I’ve had quite a bit on the product side working for Whirl and having the social media, the mobile and the geo location focus, which is very hot right now. So I’ve been primarily looking at startups again. And a lot of people think that’s crazy, but at the end of the day I really love providing much more value in a smaller environment and knowing that I’m responsible for the success or failure, because at the end of the day there’s accountability there. There’s also the ability to drive a lot of new ideas. The sky’s the limit. I mean the best thing John Kin ever said is, “Any idea, lets throw it out there. Lets figure it out.” I love that. So that’s why I think I’m heading up here to San Francisco to see what’s available because there are a lot of startups in Los Angeles, but obviously as you know, there are just so many popping up left and right here.

So I can tell you that I know what I don’t want, but I know that a startup would be great. Whether that’s working for one or consulting for several I don’t know. But that seems to be where I’m heading right now.

Susan Bratton: And do you want to continue to stay in marketing, PR and business development or…?

Heather Meeker: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Oh you don’t think you’d be like, “Oh, I might be interested in becoming a product manager” or “I might want to do opps” or…

Heather Meeker: No.

Susan Bratton: “I might want to go to into sales.” You like…

Heather Meeker: I’m a communicator and a connector…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Heather Meeker: and I’m a brand evangelist. You know, one of the things that I had to figure out over the course of the last, you know, few days or, you know, “What are your strengths Heather?” And I’m a connector at heart. I’m the person that can bring point A to point B and make a connection whether that’s going to be a business deal, whether that’s going to be a media story. Whatever the case may be, that’s my strength. And I’m also a huge brand evangelist. I’ve lived the Whirl brand. If you look at my Facebook, you look at my Twitter, you look at my life, Whirl is a part of who I am because I truly believe in the brand. So I will not work for a company that I don’t believe in their brand, that I don’t believe that I can use every day and find value in. That much I can tell you.

Susan Bratton: What do you want to learn next in marketing, PR and business development? What’s next for you? If you could find somebody within an organization that had a serious amount of experience in a particular thing, what would it be? What’s your next lesson to learn?

Heather Meeker: Well, you know, getting some really good advice from folks in the industry, like Stewart Alsop who’s a friend, he really thinks business development is a great direction to go because there are not a lot of really great business development folks and it is an art. I feel like 15 years in PR and marketing, obviously PR is something I’m very strong in, I’m very comfortable in. So probably just focus on PR may not be the best route for me because you always want to learn and grow. So the business development side, why it’s interesting is I’m Pfizer trained. It’s one of the top sales organizations in the world, so that’s a huge benefit for me on the ground. And I’m very thankful that at Whirl our sales lead Chad Reid gave me the opportunity to be our west coast liaison and meet with the U.S.A weekend clients. Again, like Oprah Winfrey Network, Nestle, ABC, to go on joint sales calls and sell that idea of taking your brand to the mobile platform. And we had great success in those meetings.

In fact I’m really going to miss that part of the job is sitting down and explaining to these brands who say, “We know we need a mobile presence. We know we need a location based presence, but we don’t get it,” here you go. Here’s your one stop shop. Here’s your solution. They loved that. So, you know, obviously it would be great for me to keep those skills going, to give brands a solution, and that may not be a biz dev role, but it’s definitely a role that’s important to me. Again, kind of showing some leadership in this space and helping others figure out how they can put the pieces together, that’s important to me.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, market development is kind of what you’re describing…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: which is you don’t want to be the actual salesperson asking for the order and owning the number…

Heather Meeker: No.

Susan Bratton: But you want to empower the client…

Heather Meeker: Absolutely.

Susan Bratton: and you’re sales people with the information that they need in a clear step by step way to be able to take action on leveraging the technology.

Heather Meeker: Right. And a big portion of that is understanding the market and the trends and being able to walk in and say, “Did you understand that, you know, Smart Phones out shipped laptops this year.” I mean this was predicted years down the road. And give them the data and information that they need to see that if they don’t hop on this trend very quickly they’re going to get left in the dust. Once you do that and they understand the truth, then they’re interested to hear what you have to say, but you have to make the case for it going in with these large brands, absolutely.

Susan Bratton: Yeah. That’s great. Well I really have enjoyed having you on the show. Thanks for doing this.

Heather Meeker: Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Susan Bratton: And I’ll be really watching where you end up and the decision that you make, and whoever has the opportunity to work with you is going to be a very lucky company…

Heather Meeker: Thank you Susan.

Susan Bratton: and a very lucky group of people. And I really appreciated you being willing to just be vulnerable and open yourself up on a show…

Heather Meeker: Of course.

Susan Bratton: about your career change because, you know, with the market expanding like this a lot of people are thinking about what they want to do next. And I really liked not only the way you thought about your skills and how they apply as a benefit to a company, but also about what it is that you like to do and how you bring value, and you did a really nice job articulating that.

Heather Meeker: Thank you.

Susan Bratton: And I think that helps other people get a sense of how to position themselves. So you were really, you know, you were really in service to other people hearing how you pitch yourself…

Heather Meeker: Yes.

Susan Bratton: so that they can copy that, you know. Because not everybody has a good idea about how to articulate their value.

Heather Meeker: Right.

Susan Bratton: And I think that was probably the best thing about this whole interview was you modeling really good behavior in that way.

Heather Meeker: Thank you so much Susan. I appreciate that.

Susan Bratton: Yeah, you bet. All right, well you’ve gotten to know Heather Meeker. I feel like it’s a stay tuned for the continuing saga. We’ll have to have you back on when you get your new job.

Heather Meeker: Yeah, why don’t I come back? I like that idea.

Susan Bratton: You can tell us like all the frogs you kissed…

Heather Meeker: This is where I’m living, this is where I’m at, this is where I’m working, this is who I’m dating.

Susan Bratton: It’s the Heather Meeker soap opera…

Heather Meeker: I love that.

Susan Bratton: Tune in [inaudible]. It’s like another day of Guiding Light or whatever. I [inaudible] remember those old soap opera things from the 60’s.

Heather Meeker: I know.

Susan Bratton: All right, well thanks for coming on to listen to DishyMix today. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. I really appreciate you listening to my show. And don’t forget to Like me on my Facebook page. Just search for DishyMix, all one word, and you’ll find me. I give away lots of goodies all the time, and I’d love to have you like my show in addition to listening to it, which is definitely the best part. Have a great, and I’ll connect with you very soon, I hope next week. Take care.