We have been working with Dian Terry for a couple of years now, helping her and the Teradata team produce the Teradata EPIC Awards program. In this Modern Media interview, Dian shares her insights and thoughts on how business marketers can use awards programs to help their customers tell their story.
You’ll also learn about Dian’s very interesting career path – the Thruway to Woodstock was already closed when she arrived in New York to start her PR career in 1969, and she has worked at non-profits, agencies and the corporate world! – and her perspective on how the PR profession has evolved in that time.
Awards Programs: From Self-Promotion to Customer Celebration
How do award programs fit into Teradata’s overall marketing strategy?
Everyone across our organization is passionate about one thing: our customers. Awards programs allow us to highlight our customers — and the business results our customers are delivering with Teradata products and services.
For a long time, our focus was on entering awards that offered recognition at a product level. Most of these programs were run by publications such as DM Review (now Information Management) or Computerworld. However, we’ve evolved to focus more on the business solutions that our customers were creating with our products, offering us an opportunity to highlight the results that our customers were getting, rather than just focusing on talking about ourselves.
Customer success – that’s what we want to focus on –– and so in 2008 we decided to create an awards program, called the Enterprise Intelligence Awards, and worked with Computerworld to run it for us.
By 2011, we decided to take this one step further and truly tailor to our exact needs. So we decided to work with Modern Media to create a dedicated, branded award program, the Teradata EPIC Awards, dedicated to showcasing the work that our customers and partners are doing and the results they achieve.
Beyond recognition in front of their peers, how do awards programs like the EPIC awards benefit Teradata customers?
We provide business intelligence, analytics and other enterprise data solutions that literally give our customers a competitive advantage. So, for most of our customers, it’s hard for them to talk about their achievements without revealing confidential information.
Awards programs give them an opportunity to tell their story and get recognition in a way that’s protected, because most of the information they submit for judging is kept confidential.
In addition, highlighting their success in our awards program can help our customers gain recognition internally at their companies, get approval for more budget for future investments, and attract more technical talent.
Are you continuing to participate in third-party awards programs, too?
Yes – 2012 will be a record year in terms of how many programs we participate in! If there’s an opportunity for us to help our customers win recognition for their success with our products and services, we’ll support it.
In addition to technology-centric competitions, we’re also supporting many industry-specific competitions in areas such as marketing or finance. For instance, this year, Teradata won the data management technology category in The Banker’s 2012 Innovation in Banking Technology Awards. We’ve also been included in Ethisphere’s list of The World’s Most Ethical Companies for three years running.
A Typical Media Career? A Theater Major with Roles in Association, Agency and Corporate PR.
You were a Theater Major from Dallas. How did you end up launching a successful PR career in New York?
While I chose to major in theater, journalism was always my other love. I was the first girl editor of my Dallas high school newspaper. For my work scholarship job, I ran publicity for the Drama Department at my junior college. After graduating from UT Austin with my theater degree, I followed my friends to New York – but I did not want to wait on tables.
In those days, the only jobs open to women were secretarial jobs, and I joined a PR firm as a secretary in 1969. My boss told me: “when you start adding more value as an AE than as a secretary, we’ll promote you.” And he kept his word!
But even with an enlightened boss, it was very difficult for a woman to gain recognition in the corporate world. In 1970, I joined NOW, the National Organization for Women, and in 1973, I saw an ad in their newsletter that they were looking for a PR director. I said what the heck, sent in my application – and I got the job!
I was 26, and running communications for an organization dedicated to women’s equality at a really exciting time. For instance, I wrote the first brochure on the “Right to Choose” – the slogan was actually much longer initially: “A Child’s Right to be Wanted, A Woman’s Right to Choose.”
We had to fight to get attention for our issues, and initially it was a real challenge to get the press to show up for our announcements. But we got there!
You ended up shifting back to the corporate world – was that a tough transition?
It was very difficult. Once I was ready to take the next step in my career, I couldn’t get a job because companies thought I would want to organize the secretaries!
I had to earn my way back in to the corporate environment by first spending some time at PR firms. It was great – I learned a lot, and Hill & Knowlton even sent me to China, where I spent 8 years as their Executive Vice President in Hong Kong. In 1998, I came back to the U.S., and in 1999, I was asked to head up PR for Teradata, which was a division of NCR Corp. at the time.
Today, it would be much less of a stigma to have worked for a non-profit, but in those days it was a tough transition.
Career Advice from a PR and Media Veteran
You have an incredibly rich background. What advice would you offer to someone who was just starting a career in PR today?
First, you must be able to write – even if you’re “just” composing a tweet. If you can’t write, this is the wrong career for you.
Second: learn how the business world works. Too many PR people have a liberal arts background and don’t take the time to learn how the corporate world works. If you don’t understand the business, you can’t tell your client’s or your company’s story. And you won’t get respect from your peers – or get anyone to listen to you — if you don’t understand the bottom line.
Finally, I’d recommend anyone who’s dedicated to a career in communications get a variety of experience, both agency and client-side. But it’s on the client side that you’ll really learn the craft, immersing yourself in an industry and honing your skills, without the distraction of constantly going after new business.
Where would we find Dian Terry on a Sunday afternoon?
Gardening. Or playing with my grand-nephew. For me, reading a good book is equivalent to a mini-vacation. And I always love to see the world with the top down!