Ian Helms (Q Digital) - A Little Bit of a Facelift

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This is a podcast episode titled, Ian Helms (Q Digital) - A Little Bit of a Facelift. The summary for this episode is: <p>While Ajay is away Vincent chats with Ian Helms, Director of Growth Marketing at Q Digital. He talks about how engaging, and creating a relationship, with marginalized communities is more authentic than using diversity as a PR act in building a foundation of trust. Vincent is excited to meet Marketing Stir listeners at AdWeek</p>
Ian's role at Q Digital
02:33 MIN
How Ian got into marketing
01:21 MIN
What can marketers do better to reach the LGBTQ+ Community
06:36 MIN
What sets Q Digital apart from their competitors
01:53 MIN

Speaker 1: Maybe big data has gotten too big. Whether you're a B2B marketer or a consumer brand, your data needs to be viable, relevant, and accessible so that Stirista can help you retain customers, acquire customers, and make it personal.

Vincent: Welcome to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Vin, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their takes on the current challenges of the market. And we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, while Ajay is away, Vincent chats with Ian Helms, Director of Growth Marketing at Q. Digital. He talks about how engaging and creating a relationship with marginalized communities is more authentic than using diversity as a PR act in building a foundation of trust. Vincent is excited to meet Marketing Stir listeners at Adweek. Give it a listen.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's, The Marketing Stir. I am your host, Vincent Pietrafesa, with maybe a little bit more rasp in my voice today. Something's going on in the city here. I know people are not feeling well, but I'm here. I can't abandon my listeners. Speaking of abandoning, I'll get to my co- host in a second. No, I'm kidding. He really didn't abandon me. But ladies and gentlemen, it's so good to be back with you. I am fresh off of a conference. Adweek just happened in New York City. It was great, and guess what? You listen to the podcast. There are so many people who came up to me at Adweek and was like, " I love your podcast. I love your podcast." I was like, " Yeah." So many, maybe like eight. Let's say eight people. That's okay though. That's a good amount. Who came up to you yesterday, listeners? Eight is good. We're happy to be back and we're happy that people are listening. Let's talk about first of all, Stirista. Who are we? If you're the first time listening to The Marketing Stir, we are a marketing podcast. We have fun. It's like if we met our guest at a bar, at a conference, what are we talking about? That's the episode. That's what they're like. We try to make them like. But Stirista, we are a marketing technology company. We own our own business- to- business data, our own business- to- consumer data. We help companies utilize that data to get new customers. Who can't use new customers? Right? I need new customers. You do as well, I'm sure. Email me, vincent @ stirista. com. That is how confident I am. I just gave you my email address. You're only hearing from me. I know my very brilliant- minded co- host, Mr. Ajay Gupta, our CEO can't make this episode. I think he's making up for the time I missed 15 minutes on our season opener, so that is why. But no, he will be back on the next one. We wanted to keep this episode moving because we have an amazing guest coming up, ladies and gentlemen. Because I want to talk to you about this guest. Again, I say this not all the time, but a lot of times where I'm like, " I feel like I knew this guy before." He reached out to us. He's a listener. He is a listener like you are all doing right now. He's a listener and I always put it out there. I said, " Hey, if you'd like to be on the podcast, reach out to us." We normally don't have a problem finding guests. We never do, so it's like please, a compelling story, a great guest, reach out to us. PR agencies do it all the time. We don't usually get those guests on. They better be really good, if you're listening PR agents. If you're really good, we will get you on the podcast, but we hit it off. I felt like I've known this person for a long time and he's just fun. You'll get that when we talk to him, ladies and gentlemen. I think Ajay's so tired, he was just in New York City. And I got to tell you, and I'll only say this because he's not on the podcast, because I can't compliment him. He certainly doesn't compliment me, but he did an amazing job. He hosted a panel at Adweek along with three other companies. He rocked it. He knocked it out of the park. It was a sold- out event, and it was fantastic. He did a great job. Shout- out to our CEO, Mr. Ajay Gupta, but enough about him. Again, only one compliment. I'm crazy. I can't go on. I want you to give a warm Marketing Stir welcome to the director of growth marketing at Q. Digital, my new friend, Ian Helms. What's going on, Ian?

Ian Helms: Hey, Vincent, thank you so much for having me. I love what you said about having this conversation like we're at a bar, that's honestly basically what I did, walked up to you at the bar and said, " Hey, I want to be..." But via email, right?

Vincent Pietrafesa: But via email.

Ian Helms: I want to be on the podcast. Hear me out. I'm glad we met that way, and I'm excited to be here.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, yeah, we're excited to have you. It's one of those things, Ian, where again, it's like, I wish it was a real bar that we met. That would've been fun. Then also, it's I love your story. You have just also kind of. I was like, "Oh, you know what? I want something, I'm going to go after it. Hey, Q. Digital. I would love to work there. I think it'd be great." Or just you love what they're doing, your own voice, the way you know, market to people I love that drive about you. Let's get into Q. Digital. Tell us about Q. Digital, your role within the organization as well.

Ian Helms: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm Ian Helms, as you had said, I'm the director of growth marketing at Q. Digital. Q. Digital is an LGBTQ owned media company with four different brands under our umbrella. The first is Queerty, which is an entertainment site geared at the LGBTQ community. The second is LGBTQ Nation, which focuses on queer and queer adjacent politics. We have INTU, which is geared at more intersectional and younger audiences. And then we also have GayCities, which is a travel site for LGBTQ folks looking to travel the world and find safe spaces and places to be. Where all of the Q. Digital brands are on a shared mission to create a world where everyone is free to be themselves and live their life to the fullest, which is obviously a mission that it's impossible not to get behind. And honestly, part of my journey in finding this role and creating this role was I having opportunities like this to speak at conferences and other places about marketing to the LGBTQ community year round. Through that, my new boss, the CEO and co- founder of Q. Digital, reached out to me and one thing led to another through our conversations on Twitter, to me creating this role. And it's an exciting place to be. We're a certified LGBTQ business enterprise from the national LGBT Chamber of Commerce. We're a certified diverse supplier by the Association of National Advertisers. It's been awesome as a former employee of agencies in other companies, where I was one of few queer folks, to be in a company of all queer folks. And to be able to truly have a pulse on the community, to be a part of contributing to the community in a positive way. That is a part of my actual day- to- day role and not something that is an afterthought or a side project or volunteer time on my side as well too. My biggest goal in my role here is to, as a media company, we have lots of peaks and valleys as we chase headlines or news topics. I'm looking at increasing our baseline of traffic, increasing those valleys, and therefore, the peaks in our traffic that we get. And that's about that on that.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, no, I love it. That's what I meant about you, Ian. It's like people found out about you on Twitter, you're out there. And you were talking about the community and then this role, you get to essentially create a role for yourself. And it's something that you're very passionate about. We're going to get into that passion because you and I are having some fun conversations about marketing to the LGBTQ + community, and it's just like, " Oh, it's just one month everyone just seems to throw the flag on things." We'll get into that in a moment. Because it was like, we were like, Yeah, then what about the other months? What are you doing? Anyway, before we get into that, a stable question we always ask is a lot of people just starting out, a lot of students also listening to this podcast. How did you get started in marketing?

Ian Helms: Yeah. I'm one of the rare stories where marketing was actually something that I've always wanted to do once I discovered it. I took a marketing class in high school. Had a great teacher, Mr. Wizmer, if he's listening.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Big fan, Mr. Wizmer.

Ian Helms: inaudible shout out.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. He loves the podcast.

Ian Helms: Had a really awesome experience in his marketing class. And then went to school at UW Madison in Wisconsin, started to take business classes. Honest candidly hated it. I was terrible at accounting. Econ was not my jam. And then I was disheartened because I was like, " Oh no, I can't get into marketing." But funnily enough, somebody that worked at the Burger bar that I worked at the time was in the school of journalism and mass communication as a strategic communications major. And told me about what that all entailed. And so I applied to the school of journalism at UWB Madison. And ended up double tracking in reporting in strategic communication. Also majored in Spanish. And then got my first career in digital PR at MSL Group and then went in house to a couple places for digital marketing and found myself at an agency. And now I'm here in my role at Q. Digital.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. Yeah, I know it is a rarity where you're like, " Oh, I went to school." It also rarity because marketing, studied it, but also rarity in high school.

Ian Helms: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: They didn't have marketing. I mean, you're younger than me. But in my day, back in my day when I had newspapers for shoes. No, I'm not that old, but it was like...

Ian Helms: Walked up the hill to school. inaudible

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I walked up the hill. It was a flat walk. I had it made very easily. But no, it's like, marketing. That's great, just know at that age. A lot of things that I studied in college I'm doing now as well. I'm in that rarity sense as well. But yeah, no, it's great to hear. Ian, talk to us about what's the favorite part of your job?

Ian Helms: I think the biggest part that I enjoy the most is problem solving. In creating this role, I've been able to come in from the outside, identifying some areas of opportunity. That was a big piece of the conversations that I had had with the team before I started here now that I've gotten a full look behind the curtain and under the hood, I've been able to continue to identify challenges and opportunities that those lead toward in terms of solving put... We don't have traffic issues by any means. We have nine and a half million audience members.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow.

Ian Helms: Across all of our sites on social and on the web. But we're always looking for more as well too. Trying to solve problems like when Google changes its algorithm and a site sees a hit. When Facebook stops allowing brands to get organic visibility or essentially makes it a requirement that everything that you publish is animated or a video of some sort. Getting ahead of those or trying to mitigate those challenges when they come. I'm always, I don't know if you've ever taken the strengths finder, but I'm an activator and an achiever.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh yeah. Me too.

Ian Helms: I like to get things started and I like to finish them. Whenever something new pops up, I love to dive right in and try and figure out the fastest way from A to B, but also the best way from A to B. And that's, I mean, digital marketing excites me about every day. It's why I like to get out of bed every morning is because there's always something new happening. There's always a new channel that comes out. There's always a new strategy or trend or whatever to latch onto. And that's why I love this role and marketing in general and why I get out of bed every morning.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, no, I love hearing that. And it's great. And you and I were talking about it where it's like, I should say why or what. It's like what can marketers do better to reach the LGBTQ + community? It's like it, and why do we... Of course, Pride Month, I feel like it's... Do you feel like it's underutilized or underserved community for marketing?

Ian Helms: Yeah. Yeah. I mean it's really interesting because I think a lot of people underestimate marginalized communities. Not even just thinking about the LGBTQ community, but I pulled some stats recently around all essentially minority groups. The buying power that marginalized groups have is huge. It's almost, I think between Hispanic, Asian, black, LGBTQ + and people with disabilities, they have$ 6. 7 trillion in spending power.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow.

Ian Helms: And that's about, I think 40% of all of the spending power in the country.

Vincent Pietrafesa: It's amazing.

Ian Helms: And from an LGBTQ + perspective, we make up about 7% of the population in the latest surveys, but we have over eight or 9% of the spending power in the country. I think that's a big opportunity and a big reason why companies ought to feel incentivized. If not just for being good human beings, to make sure that they're connecting with and engaging with us in authentic ways. But I think too, yeah, outside of Pride month, there's a major missed opportunity. October is LGBTQ history month. Not quite the celebrations and riots that happen in Pride Month in that sense but a time to recognize where we've come from, where we've got to go, and for brands to potentially leverage that. We have tons of Awareness Days, just like every other marginalized community also has. And it's not just June 1st through June 30th, every single year. It's every day that I'm here living and breathing, that I'm buying products, that I'm consuming content that I'm shopping for my personal life. But also doing things in my day- to- day career where I forge stronger bonds with brands that communicate to me in a way that makes me feel like I'm welcome there. Or that are taking steps, big and small alike, to show me that they see me, that they recognize me and people like me. And I think that's a major opportunity that not a lot of brands lean into outside of just, like you said, June Pride month, putting a rainbow logo on their social media, maybe having some rainbow products that they sell. And then calling it a day on July 1st and moving on onto the next thing.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. On July 1st the flag disappears.

Ian Helms: Disappears.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's funny. What differentiates a company from rainbow washing to being an actual ally?

Ian Helms: Yeah, I mean, One of the first campaigns that I think I saw as a budding queer person in the world was in, I think it was 2012. I actually wrote a paper on this in college. Where Oreo had this iconic moment on social media where they posted for, it was toward the end of pride, a rainbow Oreo. And it had different color like rainbow colored cream filling or whatever to make up a rainbow. It was before gay marriage was legal, it was before LGBTQ people were commonly elected officials and before there was a lot of representation in media. I think that was really powerful and one of the first times that I saw a brand really step into the LGBTQ space. And saying, "Hey, we see you and we recognize you." That was a pride campaign to start with, but they've continued to evolve that as time, learning about the community, learning about how diverse we are outside of just being LGBT, but also QIA + and all the other identities. Partnering with queer creators and artists, partnering with agencies and other folks who actually live and breathe this perspective and have this diverse experience that they can bring in and share. I think that's a major thing that differentiates companies. Because on the flip side, If you're only doing it for press, for PR, for the money, we see through that. And we know that what you're doing while representation matters, and while it's great to see some rainbow products out there, that it's not as authentic as if you were to do it with a goal of engaging and creating a relationship and a connection with us as a community versus just doing it to do it. One of my favorite tweets from a few years ago is somebody tweeted a picture of, it was a shampoo and conditioner and mouthwash on a shelf in a Target or something. And they had rainbow stickers on the labels. And they said the cash in with something along the lines of, "So glad I have a way to wash my gay hair and rinse my gay mouth now."

Vincent Pietrafesa: What?

Ian Helms: There was no connection for mouthwash and shampoo to be gay. It wasn't a gay-owned company or there was no give back campaign associated with it. There was no partnering with gay creators.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, that's crazy.

Ian Helms: It's cool. Sure. Do I want to have some rainbow stuff in my house? Do I own some rainbow flag things? Do I own this shirt that says, " Inclusion matters?" that has a rainbow on it. 100%, absolutely, but my purchases of this shirt part of it went to charity. The things that I buy and the brands that I buy that stuff from, and others like me in the community, not just me personally obviously, are often geared toward the ones that are actually doing the extra piece that isn't just doing it to capitalize on the queer community. But also doing it in a way that also creates a mutually beneficial relationship.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. No, wow, That's crazy. It's like, you're right, but it's a, yeah, just a, " Oh, here's a rainbow. Just put a sticker on it." It's like, "What? No." But what you said there, Ian, it's like there's brands that do it and there's brands, for me. Tell me and the listeners, what are some of those great brands there that are for and support and go towards different organizations or non- profits that support the LGBTQ + community?

Ian Helms: Yeah, yeah. I mean I think one of the biggest industries that supports the queer community is often the beauty industry. There's Haus Labs by Lady Gaga, there's Fenty by Rihanna. There's lots of other brands like that. Curology, H& M has done some really great campaigns as well. Fashion and beauty are just always at the forefront of a lot of those opportunities, I think because fashion and beauty is a way that queer people express themselves and can be extra visible in who they are. There's not always a safe space to do that necessarily in the world, which is a whole nother topic for a different day. But I think that there's something really special about that but. Also at the same time, one of our clients at Q. Digital was just announced as a finalist for the Shorty Awards Chevrolet. They're doing an authentic Voices of Pride campaign with us. Which features, it's an interview series with really sometimes unsung heroes in the LGBTQ + community, that are doing things that are making an impact on the world that people don't necessarily always know about or hear about because there's not outlets and places and people covering those stories. I think that's something that's really special about Q. Digital and the work that I'm able to start doing now too in my newer role here, and that the team has already been doing for many years at this point. That doesn't also mean that it stops at just D2C brands or e- commerce brands. Traditional businesses and SaaS companies can do it too. I love seeing, reading posts from social media companies or other marketing agencies or sites that use gender neutral language, that don't assume that people shopping for Valentine's Day are in a heterosexual relationship. That don't assume or that have products that aren't gendered. Taking those little steps again, aren't necessarily going to be so out there and wild. But people like me, people in the community notice those things, that they have pictures on their site that are representative of the diverse people under the LGBTQ umbrella. That they have language that's inclusive, that they don't assume straight cis white narratives on everything that they're creating. And there's lots of brands that do that, both more forward and sometimes just as, again, being good humans in the world. And just doing it to do it because they know that's the right thing.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, exactly. And you know what? And I think you and I talked about this, Ian, before the interview here. It's like I love that I grew up, yes, and I also live in New York City. And it's sure, Pride Month is huge here and it's big and I love exposing my two kids to that. And say, " Hey, kid, this is what this is about." And showing them. But also, it's New York City is great because it doesn't stop there. I love living in a city that does that, and it doesn't stop there and it's ever present. I love that. And I love being able to teach my two young men about that. But like you said, not every city is like that. And not every company or not every town is like that.

Ian Helms: Yeah. I mean, it goes to things like Texas and Florida have really bad laws candidly about anti- trans bills and bathroom bills and things like that, that are attacking the LGBTQ + community. That's another way that doesn't have to be marketing related, but companies don't have to have headquarters in those places if they don't want to. They don't have to do business in those places if they don't want to. And there's lots of companies that have signed things like the Equality Act or other business coalitions that are out there that show not just outwardly to the public, but also to the people that are working at your company that you care about them. And that they can be their authentic selves and that they can bring their diverse perspectives. Again, like LGBTQ + black, Asian, Hispanic, otherwise to the table. And to feel comfortable in their own skin and that they're welcome at the table. That goes a long way I think as well too.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, no, exactly. I mean, our headquarters are in San Antonio, Texas, but we have a really supportive organization. We're inclusive. Our cohost is a minority- owned business. But yes, I totally understand that. You're absolutely right. It's all about the influence that you make. It's all about the people. It's all, you can make a difference no matter where you are hopefully people do and should. Let's get back into, let's Q. Digital. I love talking about you because we always, you talk about so many great things. Q. Digital, I want to get, what sets Q. Digital apart from the competition?

Ian Helms: Yeah, I think going back to some of the conversations that we've already had, I think authenticity is a major piece. We became the number one most viewed LGBTQ site on the internet by creating content, publishing news, showcasing stories and helping people and our clients see the world in our rainbow lens. And to connect them with people who they might not otherwise know about to bring awareness to these issues. And create visibility and representation that wasn't otherwise previously there. Aside from our daily news articles, on behalf of our clients that we have that advertise on our sites, we create custom video and branded content and custom emails. It's by our network of LGBTQ + employees and writers and creators for our audience of LGBTQ + people and allies that we bring that perspective. We have those intersectional identities to come into a brainstorm, to come into the conversation and say like, " Hey, this idea that you have maybe isn't the best idea because it's performative. Or maybe we could do that and build upon it in this way." We're able to have those candid conversations because the people who are coming to us and partnering with us and working with us are clearly trying to take the steps of being as inclusive as possible. We have the platform and the right and the position to take some of those stands where they may be uncomfortable otherwise for somebody who's directly working in those companies to have those perspectives. Where we have the pulse on the space, we are the experts in this space because we are the audience that we're reaching at the same time.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, and I love that. Also, I remember talking to you, a word and I haven't heard before. You said the benefits of content pruning. Tell us more about that. I understand the term, but I remember, you and I talking about it and I wanted our listeners to learn more.

Ian Helms: Yeah. Yeah. One of the things that we started to talk about a little bit earlier were some of the channels that we rely on at Q. Digital. One of the biggest areas of opportunity that I identified in coming in here was on the organic search space. We do a lot with Google in terms of Google Discover, Google News, getting visibility as a publisher on those areas of Google. All of the content that's been created to a point has some SEO best practices in it. But Q. Digital and our brands have been around for dozens of years at this point. Early on, not everybody knew everything about SEO. There was things that were happening in the SEO world have definitely evolved a lot since then. Maybe it's time to thank it for its time and let it go. It can be as easy or as straightforward as just archiving the content, deleting it all together. Or for us, when it comes to a journalistic integrity perspective, we don't want to get rid of all of our stories. We no index some of our content so that Google knows that we don't want it to be competing against our other content. And it's led to super great results. Most of them see immediate increases in keywords, rather because of the fact that you're not competing against yourself with topics that you might have forgotten that you had already covered that are competing against yourself in the search engine results pages. Some of our clients have had success of 30 to 50% increases in page one keywords the month or two following pruning. I think it's a really underrated art of doing that because everyone's constantly thinking about what's next, what's new, what are we going to publish tomorrow? To keep contributing to the void that is the internet at this point. And not really reflecting back on the performance of what they've done and to make sure that it's achieving the goals and doing what it was originally set out to do. Yeah, it's not always just about pruning either. I know I'm getting a little long- winded.

Vincent Pietrafesa: People are learning this is learning some great stuff here.

Ian Helms: But I think optimizing a content is also an opportunity. If you see something that's ranking but not ranking well, it's a way for you to look back at that also from a data driven perspective. And say, " Okay, does this need to be refreshed? Can we just add a section to this? What was this missing because it was created before my time here? Can we just of refresh it a little bit?" It's like a multistep exercise that you can take that, that isn't just taking an axe to everything, but also taking a makeup brush to it too and giving it a little bit of a facelift at the same time.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, no, that's good because a lot of people will write in and they'll say, " This is great because the tactics, you're giving an actual marketing tactics." This is The Marketing Stir, ladies and gentlemen. I love the Marie Kondo reference. If it doesn't bring you joy, Ian, get it out of your life. I love that.

Ian Helms: Yes.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I also watched the home edit. Come on, we don't mess around either. A couple other questions I have for you. We're almost at that time, but there's a few. Well, I have to ask one of our staple questions in a moment. But Q. Digital, I know it's only been three months, but what are some of the cool company goals coming up or any exciting news that you want to announce here on the Marketing Stir?

Ian Helms: Yeah. Well, I shared earlier my goal is to help us increase our baseline traffic and broaden our awareness, so thank you for being a part of that in this point as well to you. We're also focusing on learning more about our audiences. Thinking about zero and first party data collection and trying to come back and combat the death of the third party cookie that I'm sure you heard a lot about at the company you were.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, yeah. Were for the last three years. I know. I'm like, " What? Enough with the cookie already."

Ian Helms: Yes, yes. We're trying to think about segmentation a little bit more, personalization a little bit more. We do a lot of direct ad sales for our sites, but there's a lot of data out there that you can leverage and use, like what Stirista even has to help inform those strategies that you're implementing. In a way that is more pointed and more educated. That will get you, in theory, and in pretty much every case that I've ever done, extremely better results. That's a big thing that we're looking at from a goals perspective. From an exciting news perspective, we're launching our Best of GayCities campaign in a week or so.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice.

Ian Helms: Which is the largest LGBTQ travel awards. I mentioned how our Authentic Voices of Pride campaign was just shortlisted as a finalist for the Shorties. We recently launched some really great new cover stories. One that's really timely right now is on our site INTU. It's about moving beyond the barrier gays trope and reclaiming queerness in horror films. Really interesting read. Lots of great interviews in there and some associated video content as well. We're doing some other stories on queer chefs and being gay in Atlanta, which is Marjorie Taylor Greene territory. If we don't know if you have to bleep that out when we air this or not. But yeah, we're continuing to just evolve the concept that we're creating, the level of depth in interviews that we're doing and it's becoming something really special. And it makes me continually excited about being here as well in this such a short time as well.

Vincent Pietrafesa: No, I love hearing that. Ian, a couple more things. We have a staple question here. I mean, you're such a nice person. It's going to be hard to find some of the pet peeves in it, but maybe. I don't know, people think I'm nice and I have a lot of pet peeves. LinkedIn, it's our LinkedIn question. You probably get reached out to all the time on LinkedIn. What's a message that resonates with you and what is one that just you hate, pet peeve? Don't do.

Ian Helms: Yeah, I mean they both of go hand in hand. I like when somebody takes some time. If you haven't been to my LinkedIn profile, it's very robust. I have lots of featured content. I use all of the bells and whistles that LinkedIn offers to share work that I've done, awards that I've been a part of, and the work that I've helped with my former clients and in my current role. I put a lot of time and effort into that. I want people to see me, to know what I do. And to recognize me as special because I like to think that I'm a special person. It reflects well when people reach out and include some of that and mention like, " Hey, I love what you did. This is a reason why I want to connect it with you, or why I think that working with you would be relevant because I've actually done a minimal amount of research to see what you're about and what you care about." The messages that I don't like are the desperate ones and the ones that assume things. Like I tweeted about this the other day because I got one of these self- loathing messages where it was like, " Oh, you don't care about me. You haven't opened my message. And you must find me to be a terrible person." I'm like, I get the tactic. I get that you want me to open this and be like, " No, no, I'm here."

Vincent Pietrafesa: I was like, " Yes, you are. You're the worst person."

Ian Helms: But I'm at the same time like, " No, it's really annoying because you actually clearly didn't look at what I do, what I care about. And what you're offering me also wasn't enticing. It's not that I didn't see your message or want to reply. It's that you simply have the wrong person. I'm not Ian, the person with director in his title and growth marketing. I'm Ian, a director of growth marketing who is way more complex. And that works at a queer- owned company. And has goals of working with other diverse own companies and brands and achieving broader awareness and all of those things that often get missed when people reach out to me with random messages on LinkedIn."

Vincent Pietrafesa: Well, and that's the thing, it's LinkedIn, there's so much information out there and your LinkedIn profile, there's a lot of information. Like you said, there's content that you put out there. It's and do some research on. Q. Digital, when you do it. Basically, yeah, it's the research. And it's like, yeah, I get that too. " No, I'm a nice person. I'm not just trying to... I'm very busy. I have other things to do if it's a message that doesn't resonate." Also, when people reach out to me and like, " Hey," PR agencies. " Oh, hey, I'd love to get this person on the podcast." How about you say you like the podcast.

Ian Helms: Right.

Vincent Pietrafesa: How about you say you listen to it? Come on.

Ian Helms: Right. How many other people did you send this exact same message to? I think that's it. I think that's it. It takes a lot of time, obviously and effort to try and reach out. And lots, people have quotas and stuff that they have to reach. I get it also but at the same time, I can't respond to every single person just to help you reach your numbers as well. I think if there's a little bit more personalization that goes into it. And like I even said we're trying to do even more with our audience outside of just recognizing that queer people are queer people, but that we're also have diverse interests and things as well too. That it goes an extra step to create that relationship that you want to create that will actually allow you to get your foot in the door in a more effective way.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Speaking of personalization and personal. Let's get to know you personally here, Ian. What are you? You're not in Wisconsin anymore, are you? You're in Chicago area?

Ian Helms: Oh, yes, yes. I'm in Chicago.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Tell us about yourself. Yeah.

Ian Helms: Yeah, yeah. I live in the neighborhood formally known as Boystown. It's now called North Halsted. It's our LGBTQ neighborhood, which to your point earlier about New York being a really special place, I grew up in a town of 3, 000 people. It's always been a thing where I've wanted to get, not away in the sense of escaping per se, but to be around more people like me. And to see other folks that aren't just the people that I grew up with. The 75 people in my tiny graduating class.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. That had marketing apparently. What? Come on.

Ian Helms: Yeah. I know.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Get with it, other high schools. Yeah.

Ian Helms: I know. But yeah, I live here with my partner and my little dog. He's a not so little. He is a little chunk boy. He is a 20 pound chihuahua mix.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That is a big chihuahua. Yeah.

Ian Helms: Yeah, he would normally be sitting in the sun right here behind me, but was at the groomer earlier getting his nails trimmed. I love cooking. I'm plant- based. My go- to recipe on the weekends is a vegan chilaquiles with tofu scramble.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, I love chilaquiles. Yeah.

Ian Helms: Yeah. I eat that every single day if I honestly could. When I'm not in Chicago and I'm traveling, I love exploring local breweries and getting a taste of the local beers wherever I'm at.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. Yeah, your chihuahua's more of an Ajay fan. And since he's not on, she found out. Like, " You know what? He's not going to be on. I'm not listening to the other guy." I get it. I have a bone to pick with her. Right. See what I did there? Boom. It's a little pun.

Ian Helms: So bad.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Come on. We're having fun here, Ian.

Ian Helms: I see what you did there. I see what you did.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ian, this has been great, my friend. Thank you so much for coming on. I'm so glad you reached out, so glad we got to know you, so glad our listeners will get to know you. That's Ian Helms, the director of Growth Marketing at Q. Digital. Check out Q. Digital. Check out Ian Helms. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. Ajay Gupta will be back. Thank you so much and we appreciate you listening.

Vincent: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir @ stirista. com. And thanks for listening.


While Ajay is away Vincent chats with Ian Helms, Director of Growth Marketing at Q Digital. He talks about how engaging, and creating a relationship, with marginalized communities is more authentic than using diversity as a PR act in building a foundation of trust. Vincent is excited to meet Marketing Stir listeners at AdWeek

Today's Host

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Vincent Pietrafesa

|Vice President, B2B Products, Stirista
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Ajay Gupta

|Founder & CEO, Stirista

Today's Guests

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Ian Helms

|Director of Growth Marketing, Q Digital
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