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CMO50 2020 #26-50: Bianca Bryson

  • Name Bianca Bryson
  • Title Chief marketing and partnerships officer
  • Company International Justice Mission Australia
  • Commenced role August 2019
  • Reporting Line
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function 8 staff, 3 direct reports
  • Industry Sector Not-for-profit
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    While the rest of the world was cancelling events earlier this year, Bianca Bryson had a different idea.

    As the chief marketing and partnership officer at International Justice Mission (IJM) Australia, Bryson works in an organisation whose mission is to create a world where slavery no longer exists. Achieving this mission involves a network of field officers who work in some of the most far-flung parts of the world. It’s a big change from her previous roles in fast-moving consumer goods.

    “While the work at IJM has clear impact, the idea that we can live in a world where slavery doesn’t exist anymore is very aspirational and far less transactional than my previous experience,” Bryson says. “It excites me to dream big, build vision and use the skills and profession I have been given to bring a greater good in this world and to push for change that positively affects millions of people.”

    Since its formation in 1997, IJM has seen more than 59,000 men and women rescued from violence and slavery with a further 150 million protected through justice system transformation.

    Innovative marketing

    Bryson had no intention of letting COVID-19 derail that progress, so when in-person events and travel were taken off the agenda, she starting creating strategies that would help the organisation carry its mission forward.

    One trend she noted early in the crisis was that people were missing the ability to travel in their lives. So she took the bold step of bringing forward IJM’s annual in-person fundraising gala from November to May and re-staged it as a virtual event where field staff and other speakers could connect with attendees virtually from around the world.

    IJM’s supporters were able to meet with IJM staff from locations including the Philippines, Kenya, India and El Salvador, and see and hear firsthand the work they do. Bryson took the travel metaphor one step further by issuing pretend airline tickets as the event passes while weaving a travel narrative into the events script, and also delighting supporters by delivering wine and cheese to their doors.

    Coordinating this activity required Bryson to work in close collaboration with IJM’s operations team to rapidly pivot the event, at some risk, and at a crucial time, with technical skills and rapid response were needed from all staff. This pivot also required the upskilling of some staff in data acquisition and technical requirements, including working with new digital fundraising methods.

    And all of this was achieved in the space of just four weeks. “While this period has had strong challenges, we have adopted the mantras of agility, risk taking and leaning in,” Bryson says. “This has stretched and grown the marketing team, but has given us skills to seize all challenges, and turn them into opportunities. The team has worked hard to understand the environment, the industry, and our competitors, and then deliver on new plans of which we have seen tremendous gains in despite the season. I am proud of the team’s tenacity and the results we have seen during this COVID-19 environment, and we now have a bank of learnings to draw on.”


    This emphasis on ‘pushing forward’ through COVID-19 came at a time when other organisations were shrinking back, and represented Bryson’s determination to see the organisation adapt in the face of the changes that were happening around it. However, this work is likely to have a lasting impression on the team, with a shift in mindset towards agility and creativity and a desire to be a first-to-market responder in the sector.

    The COVID response around the world also created a number of challenges for IJM, particularly its impact on the very people the organisation seeks to protect. Bryson developed a hypothesis that online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) was likely to rise during the pandemic, and while data to support this was initially  scarce, she prepared campaign activity in preparation for an urgent need being detected. Bryson then set about liaising with regional organisations, including the Philippines’ Internet Crimes Against Children centre, to gather supporting data.

    She quickly established that during the pandemic tipoffs tripled with a number of arrests made in relation to OSEC activity. As a result of her preparatory work, Bryson was able to shine a spotlight on these incidents by launching a mass social media campaigns well as generating earned media through discussion with media contacts. The #unsafeinlockldown campaign kicked off in April, and its data principles and marketing assets were subsequently used by other IJM offices around the world

    And with Bryson not having access to the normal resources she would use to run such a campaign, she was able to tap into new functionality in Facebook that enabled IJM to accept donations.

    “Usually we utilise Facebook for driving content, but the rapid changes in how we all socialised and lived during COVID-19, required the ability to fundraise right within people’s entertainment channels,” Bryson says. “Engaging consumers within the comfort of their own social networks was key in trialling the ability to influence consumers through these networks to raise donations and revenue.

    “We all know that word of mouth is the best marketing, therefore harnessing that philosophy digitally and multiplying it was a great experiment and one we will use again.”

    This led to higher peer-to-peer engagement than had been noted with other IJM campaigns.

    Data-driven approach

    Another project undertaken through the past year has been to improve the quality of marketing data within IJM, especially in relation to customers and their engagement with the organisation. IJM had operated only an elementary system for managing customer profiles with limited automation and customer journey planning, with no clear paths for taking customers towards deeper levels of engagement and higher levels of giving.

    Though 2019, Bryson worked closely with IJM’s operations team to improve data hygiene, in support of the marketing and partnerships team. Upon completion of this exercise the organisation adopted the Salesforce CRM and Autopilot marketing automation platform. This combination has enabled the IJM to be more clearly focused on the needs and relationships with key audience segment members though being more informed by analysis of data, behaviours and sales conversion.

    As a global organisation with coverage of a wide range of issues, IJM had tended to operate campaigns in isolation with little coordination of common message threads. So Bryson has also worked to streamline the messaging and storytelling for each customer segment. She also implemented an Annual Communication Plan that unified communications and synchronised them with global storytelling and established multiple touchpoints for each target segment.

    As a result, there is now greater coordination around how each segment is communicated to and the information they receive, which has driven greater retention and share of wallet.

    Furthermore, Bryson has worked with IJM’s finance and IT departments to establish crucial tracking and analytical tools, resulting in the establishment of real-time reporting on acquisition and retained giving during campaigns, including greater insight into channel impact and return-on-investment.

    The overall result of this work has been a lift in retention and share of wallet, with IJM now more focused on results and impact. This has also translated to a 42 per cent increase in baseline revenue between January and July 2020 in comparison to the previous year.

    Business smarts

    Bryson has also championed a strategy to target corporate partnerships and the overall marketing transformation program, and has helped lead a conversation with corporate leads regarding the reputational risk that flow from modern slavery, as well as the brand opportunity that resides in aligning with these issues.

    This was in part enabled by a decision to bring together IJM’s partnerships group with the marketing group under Bryson’s leadership in August 2019, to take advantage of the complementary skillsets that existed in each group. Marketing and partnerships team now work collaboratively to achieve revenue targets within the organisation, enabling new campaigns to be better activated through traditional marketing channels such digital mail, but also through one-on-one engagement via Zoom calls or mini events.

    Bryson says now her goal is to build a team that sees an obstacle but builds a strategy to work through, over or around it, and that thrives in challenges.

    “Industry standards and practices are no longer the benchmark,” Bryson says. “Instead an innovative, creative and strategic team that adapts to the external environment is key for our future, and the ear mark of a high performing marketing team. A group of people that both recognise and deploy what has made us successful in the past, whilst also being open minded to seize practices from across multiple industries to test their relevancy to their consumer.”

    In the short term, that means increase data-driven insights for customer engagement, followed by further upgrading of martech resources for automated journeys to deepen customer relationships.But Bryson will also be keeping a close watch over for new technologies, as well as new remote and virtual tools that develop out of COVID-19 learnings and ways of living.

    “COVID-19 has shown a rapid uptake in existing technologies and platforms such as zoom, Tik Tok and more, and as marketers we have had to adapt quickly to connect and stay relevant with our customers,” Bryson says. “Innovative and creative thinking coupled with these newly developed platforms and technologies will need to be learnt in order to reach people within their homes. Therefore, I will be looking for environments to learn early and adopt where appropriate. Keeping on top of marketing conferences, publications and networking will be crucial avenues to do this through.

    “Being a future-fit CMO requires a focus and investment not only on myself but into my team in developing them in the knowledge and understanding of new technologies, marketing methods and strategic creative thinking. I have found that maintaining a team where the generations, personalities and skillsets are all represented is primary in keeping up to date and ahead of the curve in what’s best in class and how to push the barrow past it.”


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