The Insider Series: Q&A with Catherine Daar, Commnation

Catherine DaarCatherine Daar (@catherinedaar) is the founder of CommNation, an integrated marketing agency based in Switzerland. She has 20 years of experience helping companies promote their brands and achieve business goals.

She primarily works with companies in the Geneva region now. However, she previously practiced in the United States, giving her a unique insight into the similarities and differences between the two markets, and international marketing trends.

Q&A with Catherine Daar

MAI: What are the origins of CommNation?

CommnationCatherine: CommNation was created in January 2010, totally inspired by PR 20/20 and its work in the U.S. We offer traditional and digital public relations services. On the digital side, this includes social media marketing, online press releases, community management, blogger relations, SEO, content marketing and more.

In addition, we place a lot of value on web analytics and measurement. Every campaign that we launch, we know exactly how and when we are going to measure the results.

MAI: Why did you branch out on your own?

Catherine: One of the reasons why I wanted to create my own job and agency was to better achieve work/life balance. I wanted to be able to organize my day however I wanted, and traditionally, you don’t get to be flexible when you have to report to someone.

Luckily for younger generations, this dynamic is changing. In some cases (even in Switzerland), women have flexible hours and can work from home.

MAI: Does your agency perform most of the work in-house or do you work with outside partners? If you work with partners, how do you evaluate agencies to determine that they are a good fit? 

Catherine: We do most work in-house. However, as a small company, we use partners to help on our larger accounts.

I judge partners by their work. I follow them, read their blogs and try to get to know them. However, you never actually know for sure if the partnership is a good match until you work with somebody. It’s that experience of working together the first time that really tells you if they are a fit.

MAI: Your agency is based out of Switzerland, but you’ve also spent time in the United States. What similarities and differences have you noticed between American and European marketing?

Catherine:  Swiss people really need to see that things are working for other people before they try it. This is not in the case in the U.S. In the U.S., you innovate, you create, you try things, and if they work, you implement them. Here, we’re more often followers than innovators. In many cases, clients wait until they see something working for their competitors before they jump on the train. I often have to ask my clients if they want to be innovators or followers.

The other thing I realized working in the States is that the Swiss take much longer to validate a decision and implement than in the U.S. This is mostly because the Swiss have a lot of processes. We can’t start anything until the boss above us has OK’d it.

MAI: With inbound marketing relatively new in Switzerland, what challenges has your agency faced? How have you overcome them?

Catherine: Inbound marketing is appealing to people, and it makes sense to clients. The main challenge is content creation. When I propose it, I usually get a response like: “It sounds great, but practically how am I going to do content myself? I don’t have the skills, the time or the money to pay someone.”

In many cases, clients don’t understand that content marketing can replace some of their traditional advertising. I often have to explain to them that it is transfer of strategy and resources, not an additional expense added on top.

MAI: What do you see as the future of marketing agencies?

I totally agree with Paul in The Marketing Agency Blueprint, in that we are going to work more and more in network. For example, I’m a small PR and internet marketing agency, and we work with a lot of partners. In fact, this is how everyone works around Geneva, because no one can actually cover everything. We all have our specialty.

In addition, the client doesn’t want to have five different people or agencies to talk to. Because of this, agencies are being forced to collaborate.

Catherine Daar is the founder of CommNation. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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