Storytelling & Career Building: An Interview with Carissa Lapura of McKesson

Carissa Lapura is Senior Marketing Manager and Storyteller at McKesson, a healthcare and pharmaceutical distribution company. Prior, she worked in several marketing roles for Microsoft. Carissa talks to us about the transition from tech to healthcare, how she finds creative inspiration and what being a marketing storyteller means to her.

To start out, what is a standout moment from your career in social media?

Having such a diverse background was a very prescriptive choice. I felt fortunate to work on this plan with all the opportunities granted to me at Microsoft. I loved being trusted to reach out of my current skill set and “run to the fire” (you’ll hear me talk about this during my session at the Social Media Strategies Summit in October).
Being behind the scenes to ensure support processes and escalations for the gaming division was always thrilling, but my favorite recognition came first from the Harvard Business Review article that called out the best and worst corporate tweeters.
Not only were we listed, we were in the top 25 and they wrote a line that melted my softie heart: “Another good example, @MicrosoftHelps, is an active broadcaster but also a sensitive responder, replying to queries in a casual, friendly, and helpful tone. The individuals who run it are clearly experts—and they have personality too.”
The reason this one was so dear to me is because this handle (along with others) was in my direct realm of responsibility and I was trusted to fully own developing a support brand voice for social media. One of the key components was “personality” — to see the direct correlation of the work I was doing was a great honor. I didn’t do it to get recognized, but I did… My amazing boss and team then nominated me for an internal award.
We couldn’t show up as a staff of 45 different tweeters, we had to show up as one voice. We had to show we understood our followers and engage on the same level.

What are the biggest challenges of your current role at McKesson?

Moving from technology to healthcare posed unique challenges in the last 2.5 years. Some silly. Previously I could have “Sr.” in my title and still have pink or blue hair, but healthcare is a bit more conservative so now I play with color on my shoe choices instead. [smirk]
The biggest challenge for me is going from an open source enterprise to an enterprise with an extremely healthy 185 years of experience, but a little more refined on social channels (of course this is the perfect place for me to put the disclaimer that this is my opinion).
While it’s challenging, it’s also allowing me to tap into my experience and skill set in a way I never thought I would. I’m honored that I am trusted to often “be the face of McKesson” so I am constantly brainstorming how we can expand and share that excitement.

Your Social Media Strategies Summit session, “Gaining Leadership Support (Even Skeptics): An Open Story of One’s Corporate Journey,” will share your workplace struggles and experiences. Without revealing too much about the session, can you provide a tip or two for securing leadership buy-in?

I think the biggest tip I can tell anyone on gaining any trust: Show up and run to the fire. Every. Single. Time. When people see that you are truly there to help them achieve their goals, you’ll find you start to become a trusted adviser. You can then use that to influence others very differently than if you were not a trusted partner.
I also always remind others about calculated risks. I’ll share some examples I have had in my past during the session as well.

When marketing for the same company or product day after day, it can feel difficult to brainstorm new material or find a unique angle. Have you ever had to deal with this content burnout? If so, what did you do to feel refreshed and inspired again?

This has to be kismet that this came up. I was JUST having this conversation with a now friend of mine that I met on LinkedIn. (Koy McDermott — if you’re not following this guy, you should be!)
Content is all around us. Almost like that relationship saying: If you stop looking for love, it will just happen. It’s that way with content. You just have to pause to appreciate it and find it. I usually find it by networking with folks. I can be frustrated staring at my blank screen, type … backspace … type … backspace. And finally I’ll stop, get up and go have a conversation. Before I know it, it naturally flows.
I also have this practice of when I am feeling less creative or stuck, I actively help someone on a work project or task. I started actively doing this about my seventh year at Microsoft. We were always so busy with awesome launches and projects that I felt I didn’t have time. But as soon as I started making time, I found I was rewarded with this renewed energy.

With your social media marketing experience in various industries, have you faced particular challenges when marketing for B2B vs. B2C? I think B2B marketers struggle with creativity. They see their product or service as a roadblock — it’s the reason they feel they can’t be as creative as when marketing to consumers, but maybe that’s the wrong perspective?

I really think of this differently than some, and it’s not always the popular opinion, but I’ll share it here too. There are so many that get stuck in the B2B and B2C, but we are all B2C. We no longer live in an age where you don’t know who is behind the order processing, or software, or even the nuts and bolts on your airplane you’re traveling in.
We live in a world where we have so much at our fingertips. We live in a world of activists. People want to know that the goods they get come from good intentions. Consumers research brands and influence so much more now so what I like to say is that B2B corporations are very much B2B — in front of many.
That “many” are the consumers. Even if you’re not direct to consumers, a B2B marketing campaign can be fun and sometimes even more creative!

Your title includes “storyteller.” It’s a frequently used term in the marketing industry, but what does storytelling mean to you, and how do you tell stories at McKesson?

This is actually a very funny story (pun intended). Having the deep social media experience that I do, when I came to McKesson, I actually didn’t intend on taking a marketing role.
I was given the opportunity to join someone I had wanted to work with the moment I met her, pulling from my SAS Support team management background.
The role I am in now just happened to post and it seemed like a perfect match of my passions. I not only tell McKesson’s story to audiences of all levels, I get to oversee one of our corporate Vision Centers. It’s a physical space for storytelling with a very sleek showroom display of some of the settings of care. It’s seriously a beautiful space, and shows how we are making better health possible.
But my team has these titles that I had a tough time explaining to my network of social geniuses. The titles are Experiential Marketing Specialists. I would tell people that and get the tilted confused head look, but when I said “storytellers,” my network got it!
I started introducing the term Storyteller and the concepts more and more this past year, so I just took the liberty of putting it on my title so people understood more easily what I do. Of course I have big dreams of my organization one day having multiple Storytellers, but right now it’s a bit of a passion project for me.

What’s the best piece of career or marketing advice you’ve ever received?

Leave Microsoft.
Now wait, before you think this is negative, I want to explain what my Microsoft Family means to me. I love so many of them. We have laughed, cried, supported one another through launches, illness, divorces and deaths. It was an environment that if you invested in yourself, someone else would too. I was allowed to grow and own my own career plan.
I did however have this doubt of how “amazing” I was in terms of talent. I questioned my skill and thought I just got lucky. So one day, one of my closest friends and mentors told me to leave. He thought for sure I’d be back after proving myself elsewhere, but I recognized that I needed to prove to myself I could be successful out of my comfort zone.
I had to do something totally different to know my worth. So why not go to the healthcare giant? I mean if I am going to fail, I might as well fail big, right?
It’s turned out great. I’ve found my tribe here, and while I still am growing my mentor circle, it’s amazing to know that the story I get to tell is built around things helping improve the health of many. We have this line that I nearly tear up almost every time I say it to an audience: “It’s more than a job, it’s a purpose.”

What excites you about the future of digital marketing (in general, or at McKesson, specifically)?

Specifically at McKesson, all the growth we have in us. Knowing that I get to bring experience that is vital as McKesson focuses on some pretty big strategic growth initiatives.
I also get giddy when I see digital marketing integration across platforms and modalities. I’m the person who loves to see the ads on Facebook getting it right to my taste. Some think that’s odd, but I also get jazzed when I see more corporations allowing vulnerability on channels.
Seeing a police force lip sync challenge or a senator dancing on social shows me that people are starting to get the access they crave while corporations are understanding it’s OK to be vulnerable.
Catch Carissa present at the Social Media Strategies Summit in New York on Oct. 11.
Follow McKesson: LinkedIn | Twitter
Follow Carissa: LinkedIn

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