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Meet West LA Digital Marketing Strategist: Suzanne Baran

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzanne Baran.

Suzanne, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Post 9-11, I moved to sunny Los Angeles to pursue a better overall lifestyle. I was a financial journalist in NYC and lost half my office in the attacks. Other deaths occurred the same year, notably my brother and best friend.

When I arrived in LA, financial reporter opportunities were in short supply. I didn’t have a network and began working at a series of odd jobs, one as an office manager for models and photographers. Shortly thereafter, I delved into magazine subscription sales for Magmall and learned SEO best practices in 2002.

Finally, DirecTV hired me in 2003 to write technical scripts for customer service agents on fixing snowy screens, aspect ratios, and I wrote DVR manuals.

I helped the Director of CS develop iconography for reps – using content strategy for the first time – to help agents retrieve information quicker for irate callers.

I dabbled in financial textbook editing for McGraw-Hill for a brief stint. In 2005, The Hollywood Reporter hired me as a web and newsletter editor. I attended parties and premieres, interviewed celebrities, costume designers, directors, and actors. I made a play to write print pieces and published a story on Mary J. Bilge, a true warrior.

On the technical side, I learned HTML and migrated content from TeamSite to a proprietary content management system.

Yahoo took interest and I was hired in 2007 as the lead entertainment homepage content programmer. I created, promoted, packaged and measured content for interior properties like movies, music, games, omg, kids, tv and others. Our audience grew to 189 million unique visitors on a monthly basis and each property began vying for homepage real estate to drive traffic to their interior pages. I negotiated proptitization and strategy to grow each property to the #1 destination, beating competitors like AOL and MSN.

Content boot camp at Yahoo set the stage for my future.

I programmed celebrity content and omnichannel social strategy for Celebuzz, a precursor to Buzznet.

At California Psychics, a 33 million dollar per year in revenue advice service, I programmed 150 pieces of content in 30 days across 5 channels and migrated content to WordPress to create a symbiotic newsletter and web experience. New customer referrals skyrocketed to 400k per week inside of 9 months.

In 2010, I began Content Empress – and became a consultant for top interactive agencies such as Sapient Nitro, Rosetta, Saatchi & Saatchi, Phelps, and others. I redesigned experiences for top brands like Cisco, Intel, Sony, Fox, Bethesda Games, TBN, THQ, Scottrade, MGM Resorts and more.

Has it been a smooth road?
LA is a tough market if you’re not connected to the right professionals and the right companies at the right time.

I dealt with my fair share of political noise at many corporations and agencies and learned through some painful experiences — and a lawsuit filed by an employee I was set up to fire at one corporation. I’ve had to learn content strategy, SEO, CMS development, workflows, governance and writing for multiple industries and verticals. A great deal of agility is my strength.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
More customer-centric experiences and personalized content. Less time to capture engagement and possible leads via forms — more creative content marketing. Less clicks, more augmented reality based content.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge for you over the course of your career?
Gosh, there have been many. Larger corporations seek consultants who haven’t pushed beyond the scope of work they hire for — they appreciate niche specialization and almost frown upon multi-level skill sets because it threatens their homeostasis and order.

It’s challenging to garner repeat clients who pay on time and realize you’re solving issues, not the other way around.

Sometimes having too much experience can hinder perception. Employers and clients see you as “pulling rank” when you’re simply trying to optimize and help workflow, structure and management work more efficiently.

Often it’s difficult to not offer sound advice or put forth more effort until asked.

What advice do you wish to give to those thinking about pursuing a path similar to yours?
Yes – be willing to take risks and talk to everyone. Use meetups, LinkedIn, friends and family to connect you to mentors. Study your field and abandon any sense of entitlement you have about boosting your ego to land work. In LA vs NY, it’s more who you know sometimes and less what you know,

Contact Info:

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Image Credit:
Intel mobile, Yahoo presentation, Hollywood Reporter article

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