Eight Questions With: Terrie O’Hanlon

The CMO of GreyOrange, who once took the Grand Canyon by storm, divulges her obsession with rock legend Freddie Mercury

If you could teach a college class, what would it be called, and what would it cover?
I’d call it “Put Money to Work for You,” and I would teach it for free. High school and college core curricula don’t include basic financial principles essential to wisely earning, spending, saving and investing to build wealth and security. The 1996 bestseller “The Millionaire Next Door” was an eye-opener and life-changer for me. Begun as a research project to understand “the wealthy,” the data unexpectedly revealed that many Americans with ordinary jobs had amassed far more wealth than others with high-earning jobs.

They achieved this by following simple precepts such as “refuse to spend tomorrow’s cash today;” uncoupling the concept of “wealth” from “income;” making carefully considered investments across a range of instruments; understanding the compounding value of small investments; and resisting being “possessed by possessions and status symbols.” Today, I am astonished when I hear people in public positions unabashedly admit they’re swamped by credit card debt and unpaid loans because they didn’t understand compound interest works, and even more amazed when audiences nod their heads in understanding and solidarity. We can do better on this front.

What is the best business advice you ever received?
“Know the whole business, not just your business.” The best leaders are champions for the business as a whole, not just for the people under their direct purview. Understanding the points of view, objectives and constraints of all areas across a business helps a leader participate wisely in negotiations for budget and resources, rather than myopically championing only their own causes. Those leaders also can help their teams understand and buy into tough decisions that might have them sacrificing in the short term for longer-term gains.

What is your favorite place in the world to visit?
Anywhere my husband is, even if it’s just our home on a quiet weekend night. We’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world, and I’ve spent time in many wonderful places. But I don’t need that to be content. What makes me happiest is being with people I love, no matter where we are.

What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
Aside from stories that are too personal to share, the hardest thing I have ever done is hike the 24-mile route into, across, and out of the Grand Canyon in a single day. The 8,241-foot descent over 14.3 miles from the North Rim to the bottom wasn’t bad (all downhill, so it can be tough on knees), but the 4,500-foot ascent across 9.6 miles up to the South Rim almost defeated me. About a mile and a half from the top, I contemplated throwing in the towel and accepting my fate overnight, unprotected, on the trail. Somehow, I gathered one last blast of energy and made it, 15½ hours after starting out, to the South Rim. I went in May on the day the North Rim opened for the season. It was 39? F with melting snow still on the ground when I set out, 101 degrees at the bottom of the canyon, and 70? at the South Rim. People who do this hike later in the season can suffer 120? temperatures at the canyon bottom, so plan wisely. It is fun being part of the fewer than 1 percent of the Grand Canyon’s five million annual visitors to have accomplished this hike.

What is the smartest PR, marketing or communications thing you have ever done?
A smart strategy is to tell your customers’ stories within the context of what they’re accomplishing in their markets versus demanding that stories focus on your solutions. Many market-changing companies, particularly when they are publicly traded, have policies against endorsing products or vendors, which takes the traditional “case study” off the table. But if you’re willing to tell a broader story focusing on your customer instead of your product, you can create gold. For one supply chain company, we said to our customers, “You’re doing innovative things, and we want to tell your story to elevate the whole category, not just our solutions. Will you let us, on our dime, tell your story?” We made the program a “give” not an “ask” and inspired hundreds of companies to participate, with market-changing impact.

What are you currently reading?
I’m one of those people who read multiple books at a time, moving among them depending on how I feel. Currently on my nightstand:

(1) Judy Kramer’s “Changing Places: A Journey With My Parents into Their Old Age.” It chronicles the challenges of transitioning from being a son or daughter to one’s parents to becoming essentially their parent as they age. This is directly relevant to what I am living through, so is particularly poignant;

(2) Max Lucado’s “Traveling Light: The Promise of Psalm 23,” which is providing spiritual help navigating the challenges of parental death and caretaking, among other things;

(3) Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” to see what all the fuss is about; and

(4) Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel “Tinkers.” It’s a beautifully written meditation on life and death and the human desire to fully embrace life, which is chaotic and imprecise, while simultaneously desiring control and order.

Who would you most like to eat lunch with and where would you take them?
I am obsessed with Freddie Mercury and would love to take him to lunch at his favorite restaurant in Heaven. I’d love to pick his brain on his creative process and ability to move so fluidly among endeavors from rock to opera to dancing with The Royal Ballet. I also would love to hear about the incredible surge of creativity that sustained him through the final years of his life.

What is your favorite motto or quote?
My favorite quote often is misattributed to Steven Covey, who appropriated it in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s actually an observation by the character Lillian in Anais Nin’s 1961 novel “The Seduction of the Minotaur”: “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” Remembering this truth is vital as a marketer. Getting out of our own heads and imagining all the possible ways a single fact or situation might be perceived by individuals is the essence of one-to-one influence and persuasion. A strong second favorite also comes from Anais Nin: “How wrong is it for a woman to expect a man to build the world she wants rather than create it for herself?” That made sense to me as a teenager and has continued to inform my life view.


Eight questions with… is an occasional series where we ask marketers to share a little of their professional and personal insights. To suggest someone you’d like us to ask eight questions – or to answer them yourself! – go to https://arketi.com/8questions.

By Arketi – April 24, 2019

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