Melissa Fiorenza Cannon is the associate vice president of content strategy at Creative Communication Associates, a full-service marketing agency based in Troy that specializes in higher education. She is also a freelance writer for places like Orangetheory Fitness and Eat This, Not That. Before returning upstate, she was a journalist with Hearst Magazines and Time Inc. in New York City. Melissa and her husband Matt live in Latham with their two children.
Q: Marketing, at its most basic, is convincing a consumer to purchase your product. What is the trick to making your product more desirable than your competitors?
A: At CCA, our “products” are all colleges and universities — so we’re tasked with encouraging consumers (students and families) to make one of the biggest financial investments of their lives. To help differentiate one institution from another, we get to the heart of what makes each one special and who it’s right for, and then we communicate that in all kinds of ways — storytelling, media, experiential marketing, etc. — so that students can choose the best place for them. I think the “trick” here is really just about authenticity.
Q: All products and services are marketable. But what do you do when you have to make something look good to a consumer if you really don’t like it?
A: In my freelance work, I’ve definitely had to write about and market products that don’t particularly interest me for whatever reason — but I’m not the audience. In those instances, it’s important to find out why consumers already love the product and highlight those testimonials, features, and benefits. That said, if I ever can’t stand by a product for ethical reasons or I don’t believe in its mission, I wouldn’t take on that assignment.
Q: Social media is a relatively recent phenomenon that has, in many ways, changed the way we are exposed to products and news and entertainment. How do you utilize social media and what do you think of its impact on our society, now and in the future?
A: In marketing, social media is one of the primary ways we connect with our various audiences — both paid and organically. In the higher ed world in particular, it’s a fantastic way for students and families to learn more and see more when it comes to their potential college or university. But while social media can be both informative and entertaining, I’m very aware that it can negatively affect one’s mental health and self-worth. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I’m hoping we, as a society, can figure something out soon.
Q: In your work as a journalist, what kinds of people have you had the opportunity to interview—and who was the most interesting?
A: I’ve interviewed winemakers, perfumers, scientists, comedians, entrepreneurs, interior designers, police officers, chefs, and even some household names like Florence Henderson, Carson Daly, and Sinbad. I learn something from everyone, but I particularly love interviewing physicians and wellness experts. I’m passionate about health, and I come from a family of doctors, so I have such an enormous respect for the amount of information they retain. Also, as a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, I enjoy getting factual answers to my many questions!
Q: As the lead writer at CCA and a mom of two, what’s your advice for keeping a work-life balance?
A: I’ve learned that it takes a few things: set boundaries, it’s okay to say no, take advantage of help when it’s offered — and if it’s not, ask for it — and make time to take care of yourself. It’s not easy, but I try to wake up early a few mornings a week to get a workout in. I’m also very fortunate that the agency I work for is extremely understanding when it comes to personal responsibilities and raising a family. So that’s another tip: Work someplace that gets it!
If you would like to see someone featured in Five Questions contact Jim Franco at [email protected] or 518-878-1000.