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Galvanizing brand reputation

Jeff Gadway (BBA ’07) recently launched Galvanize Worldwide, a Waterloo and New York City-based marketing and public relations firm taking a unique approach to helping companies tell their stories.

A sought-after communications professional, Gadway began his career at BlackBerry following a co-op placement with the company in 2006. He eventually rose to become director of worldwide product marketing with BlackBerry, serving as a company spokesperson in international media and a point person for celebrity BlackBerry users including Alicia Keys, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Allen and others.

You started at BlackBerry on a co-op placement and went on to become director of worldwide product marketing. Was there a secret to your success?

I got some advice as I was graduating from Laurier from a VP at BlackBerry (now the CEO of Sonos). He said, 'Keep your head down, stay focused and be the best at whatever it is you're doing and opportunities will present themselves.' I tried to do that for the first number of years and was presented with some pretty cool opportunities. And I was lucky to have managers who encouraged me to pursue those opportunities, even if that meant leaving their team or taking a different path. Part of it was also focusing on relationships. I had built really strong relationships with people across the company.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of your time with BlackBerry?

When I joined the company, BlackBerry was a rocket ship and a beloved brand around the world, so it was really fulfilling feeling like I was helping to shape a product that people relied on every day. Being a part of what was then a Top 50 brand globally at such a young age and feeling like I had the opportunity to really shape the business, that was pretty cool. I do joke that I was with BlackBerry through the rise, the reign, the fall and the rebirth. I think that experience taught me a lot of resilience and perseverance. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Jeff Gadway
Jeff Gadway in his Uptown Waterloo office.

You left BlackBerry to become director of product marketing at Vidyard, a Kitchener-based firm that helps businesses harness the power of video. What prompted you to make the change?

I was coming up on 10 years at BlackBerry and it was the only experience I had, so I felt like I needed to diversify my experience to continue to grow. I started looking and interviewed with the big tech companies – Google, Apple and others. I also interviewed with a bunch of small, local companies. I happened to meet with Michael Litt of Vidyard and I was immediately drawn to the business, not because of what it was doing, which was cool – I believe in video and think that is how businesses will be communicating more and more – but I loved the idea of what Michael and Devon Galloway were trying to build: a company that put its people and its customers first, ahead of shareholder interest, a company that was trying to have a strong community impact here in Kitchener-Waterloo. I thought I could add a lot of value and learn a lot along the way.

You recently launched the marketing and PR firm Galvanize Worldwide. How did the company get started?

I co-founded this business with Heidi Davidson, who was senior vice president of corporate communications at BlackBerry and a mentor to me. She left BlackBerry shortly after I did and now lives in New York. One day, our families were sitting around her kitchen table and we were talking about what the next era of PR will look like. We had worked with the big global marketing and PR agencies and found the experience to be inefficient. We weren't getting strategic counsel, it was really costly and we never felt that they truly cared about our business – all of these challenges. So we thought we could build a leaner, more effective model where we serve as an extension of an organization's team. At first, it was just the two of us doing some side work for businesses that needed help. I was doing this evenings and weekends while I was still at Vidyard and we started picking up steam.

What happened next?

Heidi and I started meeting other people like us, who had marketing backgrounds, journalism backgrounds and communications backgrounds, who didn't wan't to go into the city every day, who wanted to be home more for their kids, who wanted to have more control over their lives. So we started adding them to the Galvanize team, building a network of marketing and communications professionals who could work remotely. Fast forward a few years and we were really hitting our stride. We were growing the business and noticing a lot of businesses needed outsourced marketing support. So I made the decision to leave Vidyard. Today, we've grown the Galvanize network of professionals to about 50 people across Canada and the U.S., which is something we're really proud of. There really isn't a facet of marketing we don't touch.

Jeff Gadway

How does Galvanize Worldwide distinguish itself?

A big part of it is that we provide both the strategy and the tactical execution. A lot of agencies will give you the big idea, but often smaller companies who hire the agency don't have the resources to execute the idea. Or there are agencies that can provide lots of doers, but they don't have people with 10 or 15 years experience as marketing leaders to provide strong strategic counsel. We give you both at a fraction of the cost of traditional agencies because we have a really low-overhead operating model. The other thing that's a real point of difference is that our clients are really just investing in hours and can use those hours for whatever they need. Maybe one month they need help with an internal communications project and the next month need help with content development, web development or graphic design. We can just move those hours around without locking clients into finite resources.

What are the biggest changes you've noticed in marketing and communications during recent years?

From a technology perspective, things like marketing automation, video and AI are really helping to personalize marketing. You need to be super targeted with who you are speaking to and what you are saying. I really feel like marketing is swinging from an art to a science, or at least a blend of both. If I look back on my early days at BlackBerry it was the marketing and communications team that was the power centre and had the budget, the ones creating the big ad campaigns, measuring their value in awareness and impressions. Fast forward to the onset of social media and social media garnered power and influence because of the ability to communicate directly with the client. Fast forward to today and demand generation teams, marketing automation teams – teams that can actually demonstrate the impact of their work – are the teams that are seeing budget dollars flow their way and seeing their influence and impact increase.

How did your education at Laurier prepare you for the real-world challenges you've faced throughout your career?

The skills learned in the classroom were obviously important, but I think a big part of the value in my Laurier education revolved around what happened outside of the lecture hall – the group work, the collaboration and learning interpersonal skills. I was a residence life don for three years, so worked as part of a team on conflict management and building a sense of community within my residence. I also worked on projects as part of ICE Week and the New Venture Competition. Learning the role that you play in teams, both as a leader and a contributor, as well as emotional intelligence – understanding people, listening and taking an interest – those are the kind of soft skills that were cultivated through my Laurier experience.

You give back to the Laurier community as a mentor with the university’s LaunchPad entrepreneurship and business incubator program. Why is contributing to LaunchPad important to you?

I want to bring practical, real-world knowledge and skills to students because there is an important balance between theory and application. Interacting with students also brings me energy and their thirst for learning is infectious. I've also served as a judge at the Pepsi Pitch competition, New Venture Competition and ICE Week at Laurier and I always go back to work energized by these young, inquiring minds. When I was invited to mentor as part of the LaunchPad program, I thought it was fantastic because it offers another opportunity to interact with students and allows me the opportunity to share what I've learned. I'm currently mentoring four LaunchPad companies and it's great to see them growing.

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