Twitter hires former Refinery29 COO Sarah Personette as Head of Client Solutions

Twitter announced this morning it has hired Sarah Personette, previously COO at Refinery29, as its new head of global Twitter Client Solutions. Personette will start in mid-October. She will be based in New York, where she’ll report to Head of Customers Matt Derella, also previously head of Twitter Client Solutions. The company says this will […]

Twitter announced this morning it has hired Sarah Personette, previously COO at Refinery29, as its new head of global Twitter Client Solutions. Personette will start in mid-October. She will be based in New York, where she’ll report to Head of Customers Matt Derella, also previously head of Twitter Client Solutions.

The company says this will allow Derella to focus on his expanded role leading Content Partnerships, Self-Serve Advertising, Operations, and Twitter Services.

Personette, meanwhile, will oversee all of the global regional TCS leaders, Client Solutions Development and Global Brands.

Derella welcomed Personette this morning in a series of tweets.

“Sarah will be taking the reins in overseeing our our strategy and execution in helping the world’s largest businesses grow with Twitter,” he said. “Sarah has a career anchored in putting the customer at the core. She’s led global marketing and agency teams across publishing, tech and advertising. We are thrilled to bring her range of expertise and her leadership to Twitter and our partners.”

Personette was not long in her last role as COO at Refinery29, where she had been only since January 2018. Before that, she was VP of global marketing at Facebook from 2014 to 2017, where she ran a 500-person group focused on getting its ad products into the hands of clients. She also built and led Facebook’s Global Agency Team.

Prior to Facebook, she was the U.S. President of Universal McCann Worldwide, Inc. and Senior Vice President at Starcom Mediavest Group.

Since 2016, she has been serving as a corporate director for publicly traded retailer, Build-A-Bear Workshop, which was recently in the news for a disastrous “Pay Your Age Day” deal that overwhelmed stores with crowds.

Personette is also a director of Northwestern University’s Alumnae Board, She Runs It, and the Reisenbach Foundation.

“I feel incredibly honored to be joining Twitter at this time and with this team,” Personette said, in a statement. “Twitter creates the forum for people’s voices to be heard, and that is hugely meaningful for brands who want to make genuine connections. I look forward to working with the top marketers in the world to help them move consumers from inspiration to action.”

The hire comes at a difficult time for Twitter, where it’s being hauled into the Senate to face questions over how foreign influence is impacting domestic politics, and how consumer data is protected.

The company also recently banned Alex Jones from using its platform, following a backlash that saw tens of thousands of Twitter users blocking the accounts of major brands like Nike, Pepsi, Uber, McDonald’s, Red Bull, Starbucks, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Visa and Capital One, and others in an attempt to pressure the company into banning Jones.

The brand boycott had been led by #GrabYourWallet, an organization headed by Shannon Coulter. She had created a brand block list that included nearly 500 major companies, which Twitter users could subscribe with a click. Coulter said she would automatically unblock every company on the list when Twitter kicked out Jones – which she did on September 6.

The ease with which users could take a stance against Twitter’s policies – a stance that greatly impacted brands ability to do business on the platform – could continue to be trouble for the company, and a challenge for Personette, if users revolt against other executive decisions in the future.

Will big brands disrupt higher education?

The role of brands in higher education may be changing. Mega brands from outside education are beginning to transform the way students and employers think about learning.

In the years to come, who will hospitality hiring managers trust to credential students: Cornell University or the Four Seasons? Will it be Google or Penn State that sets the standards that determine who qualifies as a good computer programmer? Could GE define competency in aeronautic engineering rather than Vaughn College? Should employers place more value in a fashion credential backed by the editors of Vogue or the Pratt Institute?

Institutions of higher education are, of course, not unfamiliar with branding. The brands of top-tier institutions shape not just consumer sentiment, but the market and regulatory landscapes that have governed their existence for decades. The single greatest determinant of U.S. News & World Report rankings is reliance on “reputation.” Eight of the top 20 U.S. News universities are Ivy League schools which are, on average, more than 250 years old.

Brands evolve slowly in any industry. Just ask Arizona State University’s Michael Crow or other leaders of a cadre of innovative colleges and universities that tout dramatic accomplishments, but fail to crack the spaces dominated for centuries by big brands like Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

But the role of brands in higher education may be changing. Mega brands from outside education are beginning to transform the way students and employers think about learning.

Owners of global consumer brands sense two broad shifts in higher education that make it ripe for “brand extensions.” First, traditional education is under assault. Employers are increasingly skeptical of the correlation between a college performance and workplace outcomes. Depending on how you count, coding schools may be graduating as many computer scientists as traditional universities.

Peter Thiel offers $100,000 to brilliant minds willing to drop out of college. Major companies like Google and IBM are looking beyond the degree to find employees with the skills and competencies they demand — regardless of whether they went to college. The New York Times partnered with Cambridge Information Group, which operates Sotheby’s Master’s degree-granting Institute of Art, on art business, contemporary art and fine and decorative arts and design. And startup MasterClass has made a splash by teaming up with celebrities like Wolfgang Puck, Serena Williams and Malcolm Gladwell to teach classes in their respective fields.

Will it be Google or Penn State that sets the standards that determine who qualifies as a good computer programmer?

The definition of education credential, too, is changing. As the shelf life of skills shrinks, the degree is fast losing relevance as the primary unit of measurement for post-secondary education. Our nation’s colleges and universities are, increasingly, using digital credentials to help their graduates show-what-they-know and enable employers to make sense of skills or accomplishments. Even the U.S. Department of Education is supporting “experimental sites” that decouple financial aid from the credit hour in favor of a focus on the underlying competencies that employers value most.

The economics of higher education also makes sense to big brands. Consider the potential for old-line media companies faced with falling revenues as digital distribution models take market share and compete for advertising dollars. Media brands desperately seeking product extensions understand that education is a big market, with over $500 billion of higher education spend in the U.S. alone. No-name private colleges charge $50,000 in tuition and fees. Name-brand colleges create massive profits, and emerging brands like General Assembly command premium fees to train students for the hybrid jobs of the future. Contrast the lifetime value of credential seekers with average revenues per customer selling ads and magazine subscriptions.

But the opportunity for brands is not just economic. Media companies bring other assets to the table, including more curated, and often times high-quality, content than virtually any university. Imagine working with Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and author of The World Is Flat, to create a course on the Middle East — or a product manager of Samsung on mobile computing.

This is not an either-or for universities. Parsons partnered with Teen Vogue Magazine to launch Certificate in Fashion Industry Essentials. Bellevue University teamed up with Chipotle to build a restaurant-oriented business degree program that maps to the Chipotle career path. And Queen Latifah — perhaps one of the best lessons in branding — is building with Strayer University an online course for aspiring entrepreneurs covering confidence and perseverance. Smart global brands and universities with stellar reputations will partner with each other to build up their respective competencies. Great universities will bring tradition and academic excellence — while the global brand has connections to employers and incredible content.

The formula is simple: Well-structured, branded programs will be superior to an unbranded degree. They will give elite institutions a run for their money. It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. News & World Report rankings are riddled with global brands.

Apple’s Business Chat signs up five more brands, more tech platforms

Apple Business Chat, Apple’s new platform for allowing companies and brands to communicate with customers over iMessage, is expanding. In addition to Dish becoming the first TV provider to support Business Chat, Apple says it has also added four other brands, Aramak, Four Seasons, Harry & David, and American Express, in addition to five new […]

Apple Business Chat, Apple’s new platform for allowing companies and brands to communicate with customers over iMessage, is expanding. In addition to Dish becoming the first TV provider to support Business Chat, Apple says it has also added four other brands, Aramak, Four Seasons, Harry & David, and American Express, in addition to five new technology platforms businesses can integrate with.

The platforms that now support Apple Business Chat include Cisco, eGain, Kipsu, Lithium and Quiq. They allow the brands to develop their Business Chat systems with a variety of features, integrate them with their own apps and services, track activity through reporting, and more.

The new brand partners represent a variety of use cases for Business Chat, from real-time ordering to shopping to general customer service.

As noted last week, Dish will now allows its pay TV customers to reach a live agent with their questions over iMessage, make account changes, schedule an appointment, and even order pay-per-view.

DISH on Apple Business Chat (PRNewsfoto/DISH Network Corporation)

Meanwhile, the Four Seasons will allow guests to search for any Four Season property and engage with “Four Seasons Chat,” a multi-lingual service that will connect guests with the hotel’s team for any need.

Harry & David will help customers shop over Business Chat, by allowing them to ask questions about products and services and get help from a gift concierge. When customers are ready to buy, they can check out with Apple Pay – as they can with 1-800-Flowers, an existing Business Chat partner.

Aramak is piloting a 10-game “Brew2You” program at Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Fans will be able to scan a QR code on their seat back in three sections to order beer or water over iMessage, and have it delivered right to their seat.

And American Express is piloting a program for card members to allow them to get their account information, including their balance, payment due dates, and points balance over Business Chat. They’ll also be able to ask for a card replacement, dispute a charge, or get information about card benefit.

In addition to the five new brand partners, Business Chat also powered the official concierge service for the Cannes Lions festival in June, with LivePerson, notes Apple.

Launched into beta in March with the release of iOS 11.3, Business Chat offers companies an alternative to using social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, to reach their customers.

It arrives at a time when messaging is becoming an important means of addressing the needs of consumers, including the millennial audience, analysts claim.

According to Gartner, support requests over consumer messaging apps will exceed those coming in from social media by 2019. And Nielsen says that 56% of consumers prefer messaging to calling, with 67% expecting to message more over the next two years.

Research from Sapio says that 63% of consumers cite satisfaction when reaching out to brands via messaging to resolve their issues. And digital natives (aka millennials) turn to direct messaging to first reach out to brands 40% of the time.

To some extent, businesses may prefer Apple’s Business Chat system, as it allows them to get closer to their customers – their chats live right in the same Messages app, alongside conversations the customer has with friends and family. Plus, they can brand their service as they like – like as Four Seasons is doing, for example – and keep their customers’ data in-house, instead of making it available to a third-party like Facebook.

Plus, Business Chat can benefit from integrations with other macOS and iOS apps and features, including Spotlight Search, Siri, Apple Maps, and Safari, and can be added to brands’ websites and apps.

However, it’s not likely that businesses will drop social media-based customer service and support for Business Chat, so it becomes another platform for them to manage and support.