TMM Marketing Innovators Interview Series: Pinky Gonzales: Entrepreneur, Fly Fisherman, Marketer and Educator
Join Portland’s entrepreneurs and marketers for an epic night of networking. You are invited to attend the SOBCon NW Kick-off, Thursday September 27, where key-note speaker, Pinky Gonzales, will lend his insight into maximizing social media for personal brand building and successful business strategy.
Pinky Gonzales lead a decade of innovation in Nashville, TN as a partner of echomusic, a company of 80 that designed and managed websites for a generation of artists, including Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Keith Urban, Korn, Bon Jovi, and many others, along with Fortune 500 companies like GM, Hershey’s and Kingsford Charcoal. After selling the business to Ticketmaster in 2007, he began teaching at Belmont University, where he was named the Adjunct Professor of the Year in 2010. Now the Founder of Portland-based Upriver Solutions and Mentor in Residence at the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE), Gonzales continues his legacy as a marketing strategist, entrepreneur and educator.
As part of our Marketing Innovators Interview Series, we interviewed Pinky for his insight into being a newcomer on the Portland marketing scene and his years of experience in the field.
You are fairly new to Portland, right? What brought you here and what are your first impressions? I am indeed! My wife and I moved out here from Nashville just over a year ago. Although she’s a bona fide country girl, my folks are both from Eugene, OR and I spent most summers exploring the Pacific Northwest. I have always wanted to live here, and finally had the chance to make it happen.
As for my first impressions? What can I say? It’s the most spectacular place I can imagine living. I’m an avid fly fisher and my wife and I love the outdoors, so being within an hour’s drive of glacial streams and rivers, Mt. Hood and infinite views and adventures is really a dream-come-true. All of that combined with a vibrant entrepreneurial scene, amazing food, and all the booze that’s fit to consume, well… you could say that I’m one happy camper.
Your experience runs the gamut: entrepreneur, fly fisherman, marketer and educator. What common themes have you found throughout your various pursuits? There are MANY parallels between these seemingly disparate interests, but here are a few of my favorite:
- Reading the water – One of the greatest challenges in fly fishing is locating the fish themselves. For all of the rocks and boulders, pockets and pools, there are only a few places on a body of water in which a fish can survive. Food sources, current, temperature and the threat of predators are all significant factors. The more one knows about the needs of the fish themselves, the easier they are to locate. The same is true when it comes to finding your audience. It is critical to know where your customers are. They may all live in the same vast digital river of information, but making true connections requires an understanding of the environment they live within.
- Learning is fun! In fact, acquiring information and sharing experience may be the primary objective of the entire human race. We can’t help it. We may not find everything interesting everywhere all the time, but when we hone in on something we do like to learn about, we experience a kind of focus and excitement that few other experiences provide. This can be just as true in conquering an iPhone game as it can in getting one’s PHD. The process of mastery is a powerful experience.
- At the end of the day, almost any happy professional will tell you that what they do can be learned by anyone, but for some reason, they chose this course. I am personally at my best when I am working with people that want to know why we do the things that we do, in addition to how.
Marketing, education, fly fishing and entrepreneurship all require patience, understanding, a dash of humility and a truckload of tenacity in order to get any good at. Although I have lost my share of sleep over the years, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What ‘do’s and don’ts’ can you offer to TMM’s readers as they build their personal brand to promote their professional development? This is the very crux of the presentation I will be giving at the next Social Media Club gathering. Every one of us has a reputation. We can choose to allow this phenomenon to happen TO us or THROUGH us. The personal story each of us has to tell can be curated, connected and presented in intentional ways to position ourselves in the best possible light, increasing our chances of success before, during and after every phase of our careers.
In your work with celebrities and companies, such as Kanye West, Bon Jovi, and Brad Paisley, General Motors, Anheuser-Busch and Hershey’s, what insights have you gained regarding the integration of business, brand strategy and community management?
This is an unbelievably powerful question, because the integration of business, brand strategy and community management IS the challenge that every small, mid and large-scale company faces today. How do we combine these things in a cohesive way, and how do we balance what we do with how we talk about what we do?
When I say the word “Hershey’s” you may think “s’mores” or picture yourself breaking off a block of delicious milk chocolate. The word “Kanye” may conjure images of ill-timed awards speeches or catchy rhymes about fast women. In either case, as long as these characters stick to the storyline, we as fans/customers feel comfortable with their brands. But imagine what would happen if Hershey’s started selling organic broccoli. Would anyone buy it? And what if Kanye were to seriously pursue a career as a ballet dancer? Or worse yet, endorse Mitt Romney!
Herein lies the thing we call “brand essence.” It’s at the core of our expectation. As far as brand strategy is concerned, the basic approach is to start at the center of what we want to create or be known for, and work our way out. Community can be formed around these common ideals, and monetizing large communities of likeminded people is never as challenging as building the communities themselves.
This is an oversimplification of the process, of course, but it’s a basic overview.
Tell us about your latest adventures with Upriver Solutions and Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE). How can our readers get engaged?
Upriver Solutions comes from this idea that rivers are really hard to work against. The Colorado River sculpted the Grand Canyon itself, after all! “Upriver” means to go against the current, and “solving” that challenge may require any number of resources… a powerful vessel, a bridge, a machete, some bug spray or a combination thereof. For the past 15 years, I have helped to develop applications that attract and sustain brand-centric communities, and this new company is my personal vessel to continue to do that from. (Are you tired of the water references yet?)
As for PIE… screw those guys. Who on Earth would want to spend their most valuable time helping Portland’s most talented and creative people build revolutionary products that could change the world at any moment? (Kidding.)
I work full time out of the PIE offices at Weiden + Kennedy and learn twice as much from them as they do from me, literally. It is an incredible honor to be able to interact with the companies that come through here. Last season’s class alone has raised more than $20 million in funding. If that’s not a group a guy like me would want to hang around with and learn from, I don’t know what would be… other than a school of fish. (I promise I’ll stop now.)
As far as how others can get engaged with either of these awesome things, they can always buy me a beer. I’m pretty easy to find online.
Give our readers a sneak preview of what you will cover as keynote speaker for the SOBCon NW Kick-off.
This is an intimidating group for me because I am assuming that I will at best have an average level of experience in the social media space as anyone in the room. For that reason, I am going to avoid philosophical pros about the value of social media itself, and get into some nitty gritty stats and a case studies. I’ll be talking open rates, conversions, and real-time results, all based on a group of 1,500 people I have personally connected with and curated though LinkedIn since 2006. I also plan to bring my tap shoes just in case things turn ugly.
I will also be drinking tequila beforehand. Wish me luck.
Social Media Club Portland and Citrix’s Podio host SOBCon NW’s kick-off! The Social Media Club, Podio and SOBCon NW invite Portland’s entrepreneurs, marketers and business people for an epic night of networking, socializing and learning. Come to Union Pine and connect with local and national thought leaders and strategists.
Open to the public with purchase of ticket. Includes Pinky Gonzales as key-note speaker, beer or wine, and light appetizers.