Interview with Rhona Bronson, Delaware River & Bay Authority

For this year’s International Women’s Day, our team at Slice is proud to celebrate women across the marketing and communications industry through an interview series. Follow along throughout the week leading up to International Women’s Day to read about these inspiring women and their stories.

This interview is with Rhona Bronson, the Director of Marketing for the Delaware River & Bay Authority, a government agency that provides vital transportation links between Delaware and New Jersey as well as economic development.

How do you define your leadership?

Forward-facing: My goal is always to monitor trends, understand developments, and keep our team resistant to status quo marketing.  Marketing is changing at a pace not seen before, and marketing teams are challenged to be responsive and maintain a culture of continuous learning. Adoption of new ideas, trends, platforms and channels of communication is difficult for all human beings, and I’ve tried to instill a sense of excitement about new possibilities. I’ve never been in an industry that is bleeding edge, and could never afford to be leading-edge, but I’ve sought to keep my teams edging forward.

How has your leadership changed over the years you’ve been working?

It’s become more intuitive and has required faster response times. 

After seeing many examples, being in multiple situations, and dealing with numerous teams, you start to get an intuitive sense of what it will take to be successful with a campaign, new program, or team challenge. You try to set a vision, excite people to come along on a journey, and assist people to take leaps of faith based on your experience and knowledge base. It’s hardest with entrenched teams, but not impossible if the mission can be articulated and visualized. I have always used storytelling and analogies to help people visualize a path forward. I’ve learned that marketing needs to be marketed within the organization from senior leadership on down and, like all audiences, internal stakeholders need to know why something is a benefit for them. It’s not as obvious as we’d like to think.

Can you share a story that demonstrates a key learning for you in your leadership journey?

One of my most dynamic hires was a Gen X-er who brought an entirely new perspective to our team.  Many advised me not to hire her as she would not, according to them, last a year. My response was that I felt she would last about a year and I’d rather have one year with her than none to help move the needle forward.  She did leave after a year to pursue her MBA, but we were far stronger for our time with her on board. During that year, we did a complete web overhaul, introduced Slack as a team communications tool, and tested several project management platforms that she brought to our attention. It was a great kickstart that continues to fuel our engines today.

What role do you think marketing communications should play in the future of organization or industry? 

MARCOM is critical to the future success of my organization, which previously believed that marketing was only for B2C efforts and only when times were hard. As the world has become more digital, our goal is to increase the digital literacy and footprint of the organization at all levels. It requires more integrated cross-departmental project teams where we bring the marketing toolkit to bear to ensure greater project success.  The initial challenge continues to be to get marketing involved sooner in the project process.

What role do you think young women entering the marketing communications field should know? What advice do you have for them?

Never say that you want to be in marketing because you’re a people person. Marketing is an ever-increasing technical field that requires solid, broad skill sets from graphic design to SEO and Google Analytics. Some of the best marketing people I know are extremely analytical and not people-oriented at all, but they do believe in interpreting data to determine what is going on in any situation. Some of the best creative people I’ve worked with have sadly abandoned some fantastic creative pitches because they just didn’t test well. You have to be able to gain expertise in various aspects of marketing and learn which parts of marketing are most in tune with your skillset and talents. Then you have to commit to staying current and constantly learning. Nothing stays the same.  Finally, you have to realize that you are not the market, but a conduit for bringing concepts, products, and services to audiences who may not be like you at all.

Interested in more? Check out the full interview series here.

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