Kristi Daraban Nationwide

Social Personas and Culturally Relevant Content: An Interview with Kristi Daraban of Nationwide

Kristi Daraban is no stranger to the marketing world. She’s been in executive leadership positions in the digital and social media marketing space for over 15 years at companies like Disney Channel, Nestle and Universal Studios. Now, she’s an Associate Vice President within Nationwide’s Digital Center of Excellence. At Nationwide, Kristi spends her time overseeing enterprise social media for both B2B and B2C brand platforms.

Her session at the 2019 Social Media Strategies Summit in New York City is titled “How Nationwide Leverages a Social Persona to Create a Culturally Relevant Brand,” and she aims to teach attendees how to build and leverage their brand personas, foster social engagement and grow a relevant audience. We were lucky enough to get the chance to pick her brain about her thoughts on this topic!

How do you define culturally relevant content? Why do you think it should have a significant role in your brand strategy?

To me, culturally relevant content is activating on trends, identifying and participating in relevant conversations, and publishing about topics people care about. You always want to provide value to your followers and fans, and often what’s valuable is timely or seasonal. When thinking of your own brand, you may not always resonate with every event but for the ones that fit your brand characteristics, it’s worth the effort to turn content around quickly. By doing this, your current and potential customers realize you have credibility and take action.

Being active on social media can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive undertaking. How do you measure ROI in a social media strategy when the numbers aren’t always there?

To every social marketer’s dismay, no platform tracks the same metrics and data in the same way. This can make it challenging to be consistent and understand the impact of your effort. We track a few things that are important to us – reach, engagement, growth, sentiment, web traffic and mentions. Depending on the story we’re looking to tell or campaign we’re activating on, we always look back at the objective and strive to match a KPI that will emphasize the importance of our tactics.

Often, social is one piece of the marketing and communication puzzle and the data can be used in tandem to shape a larger outcome.

Your session at the 2019 Social Media Strategies Summit is about Nationwide’s brand transformation to become more culturally relevant. Can you tell us the biggest benefits of departing from completely product-driven social content?

One of the biggest benefits changing our strategy has provided us is that people are noticing and talking about it. Outside of our current customers, we’re starting to attract potential customers through a “cool factor” we never had before. I always ask myself, “Why would ANYONE want to follow their insurance company on social?” and I often answer with – “Give them a reason to.”

Those reasons range from providing information and guidance to entertaining and access. Our brand was already so much more than insurance and finance through partnerships with the NFL, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and athletic and musical talent, so we just needed to talk about it.

Organic social has many purposes in fulfilling all parts of the funnel and in parallel with our media team, we can tackle all of them. Tracking journeys of customers has been important to us, especially when understanding what content might be priming people to take action. As we lean more into understanding these journeys, we can adjust to hopefully optimize for different customers.

What are the first steps you take to create a persona and how does that inform your social strategy?

There are two key things to focus on when starting to build out your persona.

The first and most important is knowing your audience. By understanding who you’re trying to reach, you can build a foundation based on their interests and habits.

The second is truly rooting your brand in values, characteristics and traits. Outlining what your brand stands for, what resources and partnerships you can leverage, attaching the brand to a location(s) and then forming an actual personality with words (e.g., knowledgeable, friendly, etc.) is a great place to start.

Once you have these on paper, you can start to create guardrails and swim lanes so you automatically know what permissions your brand has or doesn’t or if you need to ask the question. Politics can be the most tricky, so it’s good to know where your brand stands before you get started.

Can you provide an example of how you leveraged a brand persona to create engaging content?

One of our most recent successes was on Twitter when we decided National Compliment Day was something our brand truly aligned with. We decided to compliment our competitors like Jake From State Farm about his khakis and other big brands. People thought we were funny, interesting and a little bold. Many brands tweeted back to grow the conversation and participate with us.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?


When you have a great idea, it’s not always possible to get the right creative, copy and approvals done in the amount of time that would keep the content relevant.

If you could give advice to other social media professionals, what would it be?

Documenting and outlining as much as possible will always be to your benefit.

Get stakeholder buy-in as soon as possible, whether it is the owner of a startup or 20 senior executives, so you have alignment right away and are able to run with your strategy in real time.

Additionally, be willing to take a little risk and know everything you publish comes with risk, just be smart about it. Have a plan in the event the risk goes awry or succeeds!


Catch Kristi at the Social Media Strategies Summit in NYC on Oct. 17, 2019.

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