The Community-Led Show

Public's GM of IR Innovation discusses how she thinks about Public's evolution, Community-Led marketing, and working cross-functionally.

Show Notes

In this episode, GM of IR Innovation at Public, Katie Perry discusses how she thinks about Public's evolution, Community-Led marketing, and working cross-functionally. 

Public is an investing platform that helps people become better investors in the same place where they invest. 
They offer stocks, ETF (exchange-traded fund), Cryptos, and soon-to-be NFTs and collectibles — all in the same place.

Find Katie on LinkedIn

For more Community-Led resources, head over to, where you'll find the Community-Led Growth Model, The 2022 Community-Led Report, and the Community-Led Assessment

  • Alex Angel is the Chief Community Officer at Commsor and The Community Club, with more than 12 years of community experience under her belt.
  • Kirsti Buick is a journalist turned Community Content Creator, and heads up the Content team at Commsor and The Community Club.

What is The Community-Led Show?

Join Alex Angel and Kirsti Buick as they talk to a variety of leaders about how community and Community-Led impacts their organizations.

Alex Angel 0:00
Hello, hello and welcome to the community led show. I am Alex Angel chief community officer at comScore and the community club.

Kirsti Buick 0:07
And I'm Kirsti Buick, the content lead at console and club. And this podcast is about all things community led, where we talk to community leaders, as well as founders, investors and other leaders across industries to understand how they're thinking about community and how to build community led companies.

Alex Angel 0:24
For the uninitiated, community lead is more than just having a community it's about treating community. And that's the team building and supporting it and the community itself as a core part of your organisation and not just something that's siloed or transactional. And there are a whole host of reasons why folks should care about this movement and the benefits to structuring your organisation this way, which we unpack in every episode of this podcast. And if you'd love to read ahead and be on top of everything that we are talking about. You'll find great resources about this on community

Kirsti Buick 0:59
Okay, now that we are done with Asheville, today, we are joined by Katie ferry current GM IR innovation at Publix. Thanks for joining us today, Katie.

Katie Perry 1:08
Hi, I'm so excited to be here.

Alex Angel 1:10
Katie has had Katie had a few different roles at Publix, one of which was the VP of marketing. And that's actually when I got introduced to Katie. And I understand that community used to report into marketing at Publix. But that has since changed. And I'm super curious. And I know that our listeners are to understand what the catalyst to have community moved out from under marketing and become its own department was

Katie Perry 1:38
absolutely, well, for those who don't know,, we're an investing platform, big goal is to help people be better investors in the same place where they invest. So we offer stocks, ETF, Kryptos, and soon to be NF T's and collectibles. All in the same place. I've been with the company think about two and a half years. So a lot has obviously changed. You know, when I joined, we were a much smaller startup. And one of the sort of natural progressions of when a company evolves is you kind of start off with a lot of generalists. And then as you mature as a company, you sort of pop out pockets of specialists. And that's sort of the the natural evolution that happens in a lot of companies in public too. So when I first started, as, as one of the first full time marketing hires, community was really important. And it was actually the the first hire I made when I joined was our, our current director of community. And at that point, it was sort of rolling within the marketing org because we were in that kind of sort of generalist space. And over time, I mean, when I joined, much smaller member base, we recently surpassed 3 million members in the app. So with that kind of change, yeah, the growth of the community just has new needs. And that was sort of the genesis for really making community as a function its own thing outside of marketing but still incredibly cross functional across the entire company.

Kirsti Buick 3:17
I love that you said cross functional that's like my favourite word at the moment with with community has not moved changed any of your community strategies or objectives. Since coming out from under marketing,

Katie Perry 3:31
since day one the role community is has played out in public is that a facilitating education and levelling up as an investor that is remaining the same, what's changed is sort of the the approach for navigating that with a much larger member base and also a member base that is getting better at investing over time and becoming more sophisticated and their needs are changing as as the company grows. And now you know, some of our earliest members have now been investing for two, two and a half years. So it's, it's kind of the way it's been structured as evolved and our director of community has done an amazing job of setting up what that framework should look like. So currently, our team kind of has two sort of functions. One is on member engagement, so proactively helping people find each other and connect and share ideas. And then there's also a an ops side of it. That is that is technical, data driven, and that is required of a community of our size. And so it's a really nice balance of having those two things working together. And I think it's it's been working quite well.

Kirsti Buick 4:44
Can we just just jumping in here just to mess up your little question cycle, Alex. But um, can we talk a little bit about that cross functionality and how, how community works within with the other departments because I understand you work you still work really close to the community still works really closely with marketing.

Katie Perry 5:03
Absolutely. It community is one of the most cross functional kind of units we have at the company. And it's because if you think about what our community represents our audience, in terms of marketing, it's it's actually part of our community is part of the product itself itself. It's part of the product experience. There's natural interplay between customer support and community. So our community team is really embedded and connected with marketing CX product. And what's really interesting about community that makes it so innately cross functional, is that it is sort of like this real time feedback loop we have with our audience at all times. And so there's instances where we spot trends in the community, or we hear people aggregating around certain needs or feedback on the product itself. And it's really important. And actually, it's a unique differentiator that we kind of have that feedback loop all the time. And we can use that to optimise marketing messages, we could use that to give product feedback. So it's, it is really kind of the, the foundational layer across everything.

Alex Angel 6:22
I love that. Yeah, that's amazing. And I've really appreciated being able to see like the evolution of the community from the outside and kind of getting bits and pieces about how it ties into the rest of the organisation. So hearing how you're describing it right now is just like such a wonderful peek behind the curtain. And I'm really curious, like, what, what are the benefits of having this community department that functions independently to the others, which I guess you kind of have talked about, but to put this in a different perspective, like, digging into that a bit more?

Katie Perry 7:03
Yeah, I think it, it creates space for for the team to have a true community vision and directive that is outside of supporting something else. And that is that's part of that natural evolution. There's just naturally added responsibility of community and added impact of community that happens when the company scales things like moderation. And so that all it doesn't it just as the scales, it doesn't fit as nicely. And also, the power of community isn't just as another kind of marketing channel or a piece of marketing. It really is this separate sort of thing that needs the space to have its own goals and vision outside of being placed under another piece of the organisation.

Alex Angel 7:51
So I'm actually really curious, because I know that you ran an ad campaign at one point where the folks on the ads were actual community members. And I'm wondering, like, what other marketing initiatives have you run that have tied directly to the community? What impact has your community had on marketing goals? You know, what sort of value Have you seen come from this approach?

Katie Perry 8:21
You think about marketing and acquisition specifically, that's kind of the step of of getting the right audiences and users in the door. at Publix, we're really focused on helping people in the long term, we want long term relationships with our customers, we want them learning and getting better over time. And so if you kind of get someone in the door, that's step one. But what keeps them around and part of what keeps people around non-public And part of the reason why we have such an active member base active in a sense of engaging in content and community in the app, and not even necessarily trading all the time. It is community is a really big part of that. And so one way we've discussed it in the past is like if a promoter is getting someone in the club, like who's the DJ, keeping them there for multiple hours. And so it's, it's important to retention to our retention goals. And it also is, you know, we want the community and the the feel of the community to reflect the values of our brand. What we're putting forth in our advertising needs to be real in the product and the community is a really big piece of that. We always said from the beginning that we we believe at Publix that our brand comes across in everything we do, whether it's a chat, one of our support reps has with a member who's having challenges with something or if it's, you know, the what how someone feels when they're engaging in our community that is our brand. And so it is it's supporting a lot of the was brand and marketing goals despite being it's its own separate entity?

Kirsti Buick 10:05
How do you make sure that that like tone of voice stays consistent with, you know, with a growing team, a growing community? And now you know, the marketing and the community team is separate? How do you make sure that that? So this is something I'm totally fascinated by? How do you make sure that brand feels the same everywhere.

Katie Perry 10:21
One thing I did that was really important early on is I mentioned, like a community hire and the community team was was early in sort of the development of our marketing org, when it was a part of that function. And one thing I think the team did really well was set the tone of the community when we were much smaller. When you establish norms in a group, and what is acceptable, and just the patterns in which people behave, when that's set at a smaller scale, it sort of allows you to scale that vibe, as you grow. I think naturally, human beings don't want to go against the grain, they don't want to be the one person who's acting out of line in a community, generally speaking. So if you know, you can set those set that tone early as it grows, people enter, and they kind of follow the behaviours of the others in the group. We also build community guidelines and expectations right into the app onboarding, we make it very clear kind of this is the type of community we're building. And this is what's expected. And upon entering our community, you have to actually kind of accept those terms. And I think that's, that's a really important moment, that allows us to kind of maintain that what makes the community so special as it becomes bigger and bigger and bigger.

Kirsti Buick 11:46
That's awesome. I want to know about those community guidelines. I'm gonna go and check them out, because I'm working on an article about community guidelines. Well, our team is so looking for some more examples. I would love to talk to you about your new role. Is it can we still call it new GM AI or innovation? Is that how long have you been in that role? Now,

Katie Perry 12:06
it's pretty new since January. I'm really excited about it. It's something that we've kind of the concept has been around for a while. And we finally at the place where we're ready to kind of go live with it, essentially, what what we're talking about. And what I'm kind of leading in my new role is think about this wave of retail investors coming in some estimates say 30% of all trade activity in the stock market is now retail investors. For people not kind of deepen this historically, a lot of the activity was from what are known as institutional investors, small or concentrated groups of people. And that meant that at the companies, the way they thought about reaching investors was mostly tailored to the institutional investors, small group, you know, things that would be effective with that group might be a CNBC interview, might be a small investor day for kind of these institutional investors, as the share of of a company's total investors, as that share includes more and more retail investors, those are two totally different audiences. We've seen so many interesting differences between an institutional investor and a retail investor. One really interesting example is just how many signals and the diversity of signals that a retail investor uses when they make a decision, they want to know about the character of the leadership, they want to know about ESG and sustainability or Dei, there was actually a really interesting article that came out in the Wall Street Journal about how investors want companies to share in employee engagement metrics to understand are people happy working there. So these are these in addition to like the financial performance, that's kind of how how everyday people make decisions. So basically, to get to the point, my new role is about helping companies better engage with the retail crowd, as retail is becoming more influenced, influential, it's completely kind of changing how the function of like IR teams and corporate comms how they think about those two audiences, and this new audience sort of requires a new approach and public comment can kind of help them in that aim.

Kirsti Buick 14:28
Can I know this is probably a bit of a dumb question, but for the uninitiated, what exactly is a retail investor?

Katie Perry 14:37
Absolutely not a dumb question. Retail Investors are everyday investors who use apps like to to build portfolios. Another good kind of like similarity would be like if you think about D to Z companies versus a company that's selling goods to like a Macy's or a retailer, one is through a smaller channel. models, and the other is directly to people. So it's retail sort of like direct to consumer investing.

Kirsti Buick 15:06
Okay, so I need to join the public community basically is what I'm is what I'm hearing to understand all these, these grown up things. I'm going to do it, I'm gonna do it, I'm

Alex Angel 15:16
excited to hear it pretty great.

Kirsti Buick 15:19
Got a great, great director of community as well, I've heard the best shout out to Willow who is fantastic. Um, back to community and your new role, how are you leveraging the community to help do all the things you just you just laid out?

Katie Perry 15:35
Yeah, I think the community is really key to the kind of success of our ability to help these companies get better. So having the reason why Publix is sort of in a fairly unique position is that we do have this social aspect, this community aspect in our app, where there's a participatory nature of the app that really makes it conducive to helping companies connect with their investors. One really straightforward example would be our town hall events, these are q&a. So it basically allows an everyday investor to ask questions of the executives leading the companies that they either invest in or want to know more about. So a lot of times in the past, we've had companies, they do their earnings call, and they go over the financials for the quarter. And then a few days later, they'll do sort of like an AMA on public, and people will ask questions like, Okay, you mentioned this, can you break that down a little bit? Or can you talk about this new partnership? How should I think about that, it's another layer of engagement that really requires a healthy, engaged community that is in the mindset of learning for that to function. So they go hand in hand, and it's really important to have the one in order to have the other.

Kirsti Buick 16:50
So basically, community is the way because what I'm hearing

Katie Perry 16:54
for community is definitely a competitive differentiator when done right. And I think our team has done an amazing job of kind of setting up what this paradigm looks like. And also aligning it up with our business goals of helping people get better. And so it is that educational component, and the tone of which people are engaging, that is, is really unique, I think, and what makes our community special.

Kirsti Buick 17:18
And you guys are clearly doing an amazing job, as you say the community is evolving. And they're much smarter about the way that they invest now in the way that they use the app and, and all of that. So I mean, that in itself is is a sign that you guys are doing a great job.

Alex Angel 17:32
I am really curious about I feel like I always say curious, but this is like the state that my mind is constantly in so sorry, listeners. But you've talked a little bit about different measurements of success in you know, how communities interacting with marketing and other teams and whatever. But for your new role in in what you've just described, there's clearly very heavy reliance on community and partnerships in that sense, like, what, what are you thinking about when it comes to measuring success for this? Sure. So if you can speak to that,

Katie Perry 18:12
yeah, for us, obviously, we want to work with as many companies as possible and help them ensure their information is reaching retail investors, one of the the, if you think about an investor relations team at a company, their big job is to ensure that all investors institutional retail have the same access to information and news about the company that is their duty and responsibility. And so it's it's kind of it's not just an innovative thing for a company to do, it's actually very aligned with the role that they have. And we want to make it easy for them to do this. So an example is an earnings call, you know, a lot of retail investors in order in the past in order for them to listen to an earnings call earnings calls happen quarterly, they're required by law of all publicly traded companies, they share financial metrics over time. Usually, to join an earnings call, you would have to know what's coming up. So either see a press release or something to get the date, and then you would go to the IR website for the company, then you would usually have to register, then you'd have to remember to dial in, and then you dial in. There's a lot of friction there for a retail investor. If you think about if they're used to using an app like Publix, they're used to getting updates from their phone and talking in the community. And it's a much different experience. So there's some friction there. So a couple of weeks ago, we actually live streamed an earnings call directly through the app using our audio show feature. There were 3000 people in the room and so I this was just so validating because I think we've all seen a lot of headlines around retail investors saying, Oh, they're chasing memes and they're gambling. And I mean These are 3000 people listening to a CFO go over financial metrics. So if that's the what we want to create is like helping these companies just democratise the way they're sharing information, and bringing that content to audiences that are really interested in that. And no matter where you are on your journey, I really believe that listening to earnings calls and just learning in context is so helpful. Even if you're a beginner, you might write down a couple of terms, okay, I don't know what that one means, in the context of a real company, especially in the context of a company you might be familiar with, it makes it much easier to learn versus kind of reading a conceptual blog post about a metric. And so that I think, is what's really special. And so our goal is to kind of work with as many people as possible so we can kind of get this information in front of the audiences that care about it in the places where they engage.

Kirsti Buick 20:55
I love that. So retail investors don't just want memes. You heard it here first.

Alex Angel 21:02
I do love my Dogecoin though.

Katie Perry 21:07
What's interesting is it's not all like black or white. So you see, like, some people might come in through a meme and the meme stock or a meme crypto. And then that's how they learn about other things over time. And you know, you're not all one thing, a lot of P I tend to be like a more. And this is not financial advice. But a more conservative investor, I don't like risks. I have a couple of things. I do that I'm like, Okay, that's a little more risky. But it's it's kind of a mix for people. Most of our community are mostly long term. But just like human beings are made up of a lot of different things. And you can be both.

Kirsti Buick 21:42
That's very true. I mean, I think a meme would definitely help me understand complex terms, like retail investors, which I learned today.

Katie Perry 21:49
We've talked about this a lot actually have like, our data shows that the people that their first asset they bought on public, if it was like a meme stock, like GameStop, AMC or a meme crypto, like a Dogecoin. Most of them went on to diversify over time. And so the way we see it is like for a lot of people these days, like maybe they saw Pete Davidson on SNL in the in a meme stock sketch. And that's kind of got them in. And that was just their hook. And for me, it was, you know, my first job, the HR person setting up my 401k. And I didn't even know what that was. And then I learned so there's just different entryways and more of them now. But it doesn't mean that someone stays at that place. And I think that's a really important thing to kind of keep in mind.

Alex Angel 22:38
Absolutely. Katie, that

Kirsti Buick 22:40
was hugely insightful. Thank you so much for joining us today. It's been wonderful chatting to you. And I feel like I've learned so much, definitely going to go and sign up to the fabric DICOM community now. Is there anything else that that you would like to add or highlight that we haven't touched on today?

Katie Perry 22:55
I just want to shout out our community team, obviously, our public and also our CX team. I think having the responsibility of of navigating human conversations all day is really tough. It's like a frontline worker, essentially, plus the strategy plus, and it's another layer and it requires really special I think kinds of people to be in those roles. So I have so much respect and just admiration for our community and CX team. So wanted to give them some love. And thank you so much, Alex and Christi for having me. It's always such a fun time. It's always a fun time chatting with you all.

Alex Angel 23:36
Yeah, I really appreciate you joining. And for those of you listening if you were on the hunt for resources on community led growth and building community led organisations like public, you can find those over on community Link is in the show notes, you will find our community led growth model, a whole lot of blogs that Kirsti and the team have written the 2022 community led report that just came out this quarter, and the community led assessment which will help you understand just how community led your organisation actually is

Kirsti Buick 24:08
and also in the shownotes. We will include all of the necessary links to public so you can learn how to invest with me. Thanks for listening. Until next time,