Big Brand Marketing with Denise Vitola of Bayer (@denisevitola)

Today we’re speaking with Denise Vitola of Bayer. Marketing & Communications pro and celebrated health and wellness influencer Denise Vitola wakes up every day on a mission to make people feel inspired, healthier, and stronger-willed. A slew of awards, industry-wide admiration, and years of personal and professional accomplishments are proof that she gets the job done.



Jessy: So Denise, we are super excited to have you here today. We certainly heard a little bit about you in the intro to the show but I’m excited to have you here and chit-chat all about influencer marketing and your experience, your perspective.

So just welcome, how are you today?

Denise: I am fantastic today, and thank you for having me. I love power women and when I get girl-crushing on people and the things that you’ve done for influencer marketing and in the industry, while I’m the guest, I’m definitely honored to be here. So thank you for thinking of me for this.

Jessy: I am also girl-crushing, which is why I wanted you to be on the show. So the feeling is super mutual. I certainly like having a sense of who you are. We’re getting to know each other over the past many weeks. But also just in preparation for this interview, I was like looking into everything that you’re doing and I’m still surprised.

I was still excited in finding things that I didn’t know before, which we’re gonna dive into, in our conversation. But before we dive into some of the surprises, all the things about you, we heard about you on paper in the intro, but I always appreciate hearing a little bit more about you, but in your own words off paper.

So I think that would be an awesome place to start. Could you tell us a little bit more just about you, like even as a kid, even like how you ended up in influencer marketing in the first place?

 Denise: I’m glad you asked because paper is very flat and I’m a multi-dimensional type of person I’m glad you ask about a kid because I think as you develop as a person, the older you get, I think things start to come full circle. And me, myself, when I was a kid, I was very much a tomboy and very much into sports.

Had a very competitive, personality. I played a lot of sports. I always say that my father treated my brother and I like we were the same, which is awesome. And that’s why I get on my pedestal about women empowerment and women having the same opportunities as men because as I said, I was raised like my brother and I were the same.

And, that’s how I tackle everything in life. Nothing is too big for me to conquer and that has served me well in my career. So I started my career in PR event marketing on the sports side, and that’s because that’s my passion, right? I played sports all through college, played sports since I was a young girl, and I wanted to do that.

That was really my passion. So traveled the world, worked on the Olympics, worked on many super bowls, world series, tennis, you name it. It was a lot of travel and it was very very busy. 

So with that, I was in my mid-twenties at that point, and I’m like, okay, I think I wanna get married and I wanna do all of those things too.

So I was looking for a little bit more work-life balance. So I say I went from the locker room to the cheerleading squad because I started working a little bit more in beauty and fashion. 

And, what that did for me was a great opportunity to learn a new industry, but understand that’s not what I wanted to do.

So really worked in integrated marketing, my whole term at the agency life and, spent the large majority of my career at the agency, but the more I rose in the ranks, the more I was a president of an integrated marketing agency and I was like, gosh, I hate my job.

I’m not here to decide what holidays we take off. I’m not here to decide what client toilet paper we have in the bathroom. I’m not here to decide if our coffee is sustainable or not. I’m here because I want to solve clients’ problems. I’m a creative, and I wanna think of, creative ways to solve people’s problems. And I really wasn’t doing that anymore.

So I took a few steps back and I said, I’m gonna start my own thing. Let me really do the entrepreneurial thing cause I have that fire in my belly. And that’s really what I did.

I built, Vitola strategies, which was an umbrella of many things. It was an umbrella, because I’m into fitness coaching and also teach spin.

I wanted to bring all of those worlds together under a wellness category where I offered integrated marketing. But at the same time, if there was like nutrition coaching or things that I could do to support women in their careers, I would do that as well. 

So that’s where influencer comes in, because I said to myself, okay, I’m doing all of these great things. Women’s Health Magazine awarded me as a women’s health action hero, and they had selected, 20 influencers around the states and I was one of them, and I said, okay, this is a big opportunity.

Let me really focus on the influencer side of it where I’ve always been promoting and working with different influencers on the marketing side, cuz that’s what I’ve done my entire career in the marketing side.

And I really loved it, but I loved the education I got. I didn’t love, leaving the marketing world, marketing side of it. Because then what I did is I said, I’m going to help all the influencers in the world because now I understand what’s going on and I’m going to make sure that wherever I’m working, whoever I’m talking to, really understands this disciplining category. So now I’m at Bayer.

 Jessy: That’s cool. So the surprise that I guess I alluded to earlier was that I checked you out on Instagram and I guess like from your handle, I should have known that you were like into fitness and in that world. But I’m like, impressed with you have like over 11,000 followers and you’re like posting about your workouts and stuff like that.

So it definitely is making more sense to me. It’s clicking what sport did you play growing up? Did you play multiple sports?

 Denise: So my main sport was basketball, but I ran cross country and I played soccer as well. So I was a three-sport athlete. But when I got to college, I focused solely on basketball.

 Jessy: And I firmly believe that our upbringing and those like super impressionable years absolutely make an impact on the whole rest of our career and our lives in general. 

So like what through line do you see in terms of that upbringing and like being at Bayer today and the work that you’re doing in marketing?

 Denise: It’s funny because not a lot of people talk about that and ask that question, but I’m like, you and I do all of these interviews and then I’ll send them to my dad because I talk about how my father raised me. Again raised me saying, Denise, you can do anything. You could play any sport you want.

You could be anything you wanna do in life. And literally, if somebody’s telling you that all the time, you think it, you believe it, and I step into any situation and I immediately say to myself, I can conquer this, I can do this, I can be that. There was never a question for me. If I couldn’t do something, it was how do I do it?

So with that approach, I applied it to work and everything that I did, and where I’m at today, I inspire and empower my teams to think the same way. When we’re faced with a problem and we’re being asked to solve it, there’s always going to be a way, it might not be the most obvious way, and it might not be directly in front of us, but where we can figure it out, we can figure it out.

 Jessy: Totally, and first of all, like I’m obsessed with your dad. I think that’s the coolest thing to just like to have not only like a parent, but a father in particular who like really like treats you as an equal, it’s like a unique scenario that you were in, right? Like it could have just been you could have had a sister, be it a brother, right?

And so it’s really interesting and awesome to see that not just your mom, but like your dad was the one to be like, no, like you were equaled and just encouraged you and empowered you as a woman and a young girl at the time. So that is such an everlasting experience and like to be able to now pay it forward.

I feel like what you’re telling, what I’m hearing is that it’s well beyond you now implementing those things. Like you certainly get to reap those benefits, but also it sounds like now that you have a team, you’re able to instill those things in other young women who maybe weren’t fortunate enough to have those, like really, incredible, like that sort of an upbringing from parents and hear those things from an early age. So that’s amazing. 

Also, I think that like working in-house at a brand is something that I hear a lot of our members and a lot of people in the Wiim community talk about as being their goal, so many of them are currently at agencies.

And I know you have an extensive agency background yourself, and my background’s in management, so that’s not my background.

But so like I hear though from a lot of women that they’re like, oh my God, I would dream to just focus on one brand and be in house somewhere. And I’ve heard that so many times. So I just love to hear from your experience tell us more about how it is working in-house at a brand and maybe like how it differs from all that agency experience that you have.

 Denise: Yeah, I’m laughing and giggling the whole time because I was never that person. I was always an agency girl, and when people asked me, do you think you’ll ever go in-house? I’m like, God, no. I’m like, they’ll close the doors after I walk in there. I’m very direct, I’m very honest. I often drop the F-bomb.

I’m literally Logan Roy from Succession, and I dress in my own way. You could see now yes, I’m working from home, but I have my look and I’m not willing to change that. And I can tell a story in a minute about that, how that sort of came to be but, the whole in-house opportunity presented itself to me in the oddest fashion.

I wasn’t seeking out. It was never again, something that I wanted to do. I was consulting, I had viola strategies, I had plenty of clients. I had a partner, and we were doing extremely well. 

I had a relationship with a former client, who was at P&G who went into Bayer, contacted me and said, we could use you here. I said, sure. I’m consulting. I can step in and I consult a little bit. But Vitola strategies, it was really about helping, challenger brands, emerging brands, especially women in the health and wellness category succeed and to launch. So it’s not like Bayer really fits there, but because I had an existing relationship, so sure I can help you.

And came into that and I was so pleasantly surprised, Jessy. I was like, oh God. I’m like, I’m gonna offend all these people. They’re not gonna be as creative. This isn’t like the environment for me, but the culture at Bayer is just so amazing. I would recommend to anybody, if you see a job listing at Bayer, you should absolutely apply for it.

Welcoming, entrepreneurial spirit. Want to think out of the box? Definitely, growing talent, supporting talent, leaning into all the places they should lean into.

So for me, when the opportunity presented itself to join Bayer, and, you wanna work for the perfect boss. And that sort of shifted and there was the perfect boss there and the perfect team.

I said, I’m going to do this. And I did take a full-time job, but what I will say is for the people that think I just wanna focus on one thing, I’m focusing on 30 things a day. 

There are 20 brands at Bayer. I work in the consumer health, division and focus on all of our brands. I could be talking about Midol one second, and then I’m talking about MiraLAX, how to go to the bathroom.

Then I’m talking about, itchy fungus feet to them. Speaking about taking your daily vitamins, with one a day. Flintstone Vitamins for Kids.

I bounce all around and I oversee PR, influencer, and social. So these conversations can go in various directions. I have six or seven agencies that I manage, so it is a very busy job.

So if people think that they’re going to go in-house and it’s going to be easier, it’s in your DNA. If you are type A and you’re hard driving and you wake up early and you work out, and then you get to work and you’re gonna work all day and do all the things, you’re never going to shake that. It’s just the job’s going to be somewhat different, but you’re going to make that job into any other job that you’ve ever had.

 Jessy: No. I so appreciate that and I think that we all are probably guilty of falling into that trap, but the grass is always greener, and do so like romanticizing for hops, what we don’t experience ourselves, the other side of things. And so I appreciate the heck outta that perspective because, perhaps there are some roles in-house that are like, you’re twiddling your thumbs and you have all this extra time and you’re very focused on one thing. Like I’m sure those exist, but like they might not be the majority of experiences. So I appreciate your perspective.

I also, appreciate you talking about it’s this giant company and while it’s an incredible experience, I’m sure that, you’re talking about some of the products that we like, advertise, and talk about all the time that I’m in charge of, like they’re not the most glamorous.

And I actually think that’s a cool topic to dive into a little bit more, because that can be incredibly challenging from like a marketing perspective and certainly from an influencer perspective. I do remember back in the day when I was managing talent and certain people would come to us and be like, we really wanna work with your influencer, but it’s about this like taboo topic or product or whatever.

And it’s like some of my clients’ open books, happy to talk about anything. Like the more taboo the better, right? But others would be like, I don’t know. Or like, how that be perceived? Do I really wanna put that out there into the world about, this fungus or go into the bathroom or a number of different things that even you mentioned?

I’d love to explore that a little bit. Like how has it been working on some of those campaigns with taboo topics? Are there any learnings that you can share in terms of if someone listening is, working for a brand or with a brand where it’s, not as simple as promoting like Google?

Everyone wants to talk about Google’s progress or whatever. If it’s like an item that’s not as easy to talk about, are there any learnings of how to best work with influencers in that way?

 Denise: That’s why I love influencers because it’s all about authenticity. It’s all about what you truly believe in. And I mostly lean toward Instagram.

The brand I built there is all about health and wellness. I’m very honest. Like I ride the gain weight, lose weight. I ride that wave all the time. I’m honest about being a Kirby girl. I’m honest about my workouts.

Now, if all of a sudden I stepped on my platform, and I’m talking about something that doesn’t fit within that brand, people will stop following me and they’re not going to take me seriously. And that is truly what makes a really great influencer. 

So when I’m picking influencers, I’m looking at that level of authenticity. So if I see people talking about, one vitamin company one week and another vitamin company the next week. I’m like, eh, this looks a little screwy to me. Which company do you truly believe in? What do you truly believe in? 

So authenticity is so important, and I feel like that is your calling card as an influencer. So say true to who you are. So I’ll give you an example from MiraLAX. It’s about going to the bathroom.

The majority of the population deal with constipation. It’s a real topic that people are talking about. And also the other thing that you said is like these taboo topics, but as we go on and post covid really what is taboo anymore?

There’s nothing that’s truly taboo. You have Megan Trainor talking about going to the bathroom on her dueling toilets next to her husband. I never thought I’d hear somebody say that never mind a celebrity. People loved it. That post and then what she was talking about that went through the roof.

DJ Khaled bought Drake a toilet for his birthday. These things that are happening are very unique and very interesting. And then you have influencers who are seeing these things as well that are dueting them, green screening them. It’s genius.

I always say In anything that you’re promoting, whether it is MiraLax or it is, for Athlete’s foot or something along the lines treat it like any other CPG product. Just treat it like any other CPG product.

What is the message you wanna get across? We don’t necessarily have to always push going to the bathroom. Going into the bathroom. It’s free your gut so that you can live your life to the fullest. If that’s the message. We all want that so we can align that authentically with truly anyone.

Jessy: That’s really good advice too, cuz I’ve observed that with certain brands that I had, like partnerships that I had worked on where it was like one of those taboo products. 

Sure, of course, some of the conversation should be, or is typically about the product itself, but it’s also like some of the brands will have bigger, more like broad messaging, that could be spoken about as well. So that’s definitely an opportunity and I think that’s really interesting advice. 

We recently, hosted a conversation within Wiim about, conversions. From different perspectives a creator was on that panel, a manager was on that panel agency people, and brand folks, like everybody, were pretty much represented. And was just talking about let’s put out there.

There’s a lot of pressure to convert and to provide metrics post-campaign about the progress that was made in that capacity. I wanted to ask you a little bit about that, because again, you work in-house and I feel like the buck stops with you, right? At least in my mind, you maybe have agency partners, or maybe you don’t, but as it trickles down the line, they all look to you as the person at the helm for a mandate on like what type of conversions are we looking for and how much weight are we putting on those conversions?

And are we weighing those in, for a one-off partnership? Or is it an ambassadorship? You do get a much better sense of what can be realistic in terms of conversions and a whole slew of other things. 

So my question to you, cuz I just love your perspective, in particular, is, 

how much emphasis does Bayer put on conversions when working with influencers?

And if you could share any insights into what you guys look at and how you maybe measure it.

 Denise: Measurement is so important, and that’s how I was able to grow our investment and influencer . Because I came to Bayer, and no one was really executing influencer programs. So when I came to the company, I started talking about, hey, there’s influencer marketing. You can do this. You can do these five things.

But when you’re talking to brand managers and people that are managing the brand, they really are first managing a P&L. They’re managing their budget based on what’s going to bring the best ROI to their business. 

So I always say speak the same language. You don’t wanna start talking about apples when they’re talking about oranges. So that’s why I feel personally. That supporting your influencer content with paid media is super important because you can bring the same analytics forward that you can now compare to how all of these other paid investments are performing, and how influencer is performing. 

So on the flip side of that, when I had my own consultancy, paid wasn’t as important because I mentioned I worked with a lot of, startup brands, emerging brands, and a lot of it was DTC, which I loved.

And I wish that we did that because it was just, sales. So I can just put a link, that was driving, anyone that was engaging with the post. They could go to the link and they can purchase. That was an easy metric that I can serve up that was very, quantifiable. 

Now I also say in addition to the paid media, what am I looking at? What am I holding my agencies accountable to? Now, engagement to me if metrics in and of itself is the king, then the queen is really engagement rate because you know this just as well as anybody else, I’m flipping through Instagram, flipping through TikTok, and I’m looking and I’m looking and I’m looking.

But if I’m actually going to touch it, comment on it, share it, or do something with it, then I actually paid attention to it. There’s something about that caught my attention. So I do keenly and squarely look at engagement rate. So if we weren’t doing paid media, I would definitely look at the engagement rate. 

Impressions aren’t as important to me because, let’s say a certain influencer has a million followers and you are going to have X impressions off of that. You can’t really say that’s exactly who it reached because you’re only reaching a small portion of their audience because of the algorithms on these platforms. So it’s hard to just lean in on impressions. So really that’s what we try to do at Bayer. 

Jessy: And in terms of what that engagement looks sure. If we’re talking about Instagram, it could be, a comment or like a, like on the photo, but do you guys ever specifically look to, let’s say drive traffic to a landing page or I don’t know, attend an event or I’m just thinking of a bunch of different things and are there any tactics in that capacity that have worked well or like even like instances where you could draw from, I don’t know. 

Is there anything that comes to mind in terms of just a very specific call to action that worked particularly well for you?

 Denise: Yeah, I’ll talk about two things because we do both of those. So for example, on Midol, we had two programs. One was called No Apologies, period. And we created content where, menstruate don’t need to apologize for having their period, if you have your period Just Go With it, Girl. You’re empowered to march on.

And then the second program was Reach For Comfort, and we did hashtag real reason. So instead of saying, oh, I have a headache, I can’t do this, or I can’t do that, I gotta cancel plans. Just step up and say menstruators, the real reason. I have my period and that’s okay to reach for comfort because I’m empowered to do so.

So with both of those programs, there was amazing content that we developed and both of those were housed on YouTube and also on our website as well. But really the link that we were driving to was the YouTube page, and we were measuring the success of the program based on how many people were actually going and watching that video. 

Video To completion rate. So those were things that we were looking at click-through rate, and then completion rate, and all of those metrics that aligned with the video portion of it. 

The second part of it is, working with a lot of our brands, our retailers are extremely important to us. So we have a program that’s executing right now called Flintstones Foodies, and it’s all about picky kid.

And then not really wanting to eat all of the things that are giving them the nutrients that they need to grow strong. And what better way is to supplement those diets with Flintstone’s vitamins? We have macro influencers. We have mid-tier.

We always use a variety of influencers. And these influencers are driving to retail partners. Now, we cannot, quantify sales because we need to get them from the retailers, but we do use click-to-cart.

So we will know how much traffic we drove to click to cart. And as you probably know with click to cart, the product’s already in the cart. So we understand carding value as well. 

So at the end of the program, if let’s say 800,000 in carding value, click to cart says is probably about 10% of that actually was purchased. So we can go forward and we can say, okay, this program drove $80,000 worth of purchase.

 Jessy: Yeah, and that’s like really incredible to be able to glean those types of insights and to be able to just like, track everything is, I think probably like the utmost importance and just also testing and learning as well. I can imagine. 

And so that is one thing that I do think is pretty cool about, where you sit presently, right? You do have a lot of different brands under this one umbrella so the ability to test and learn, is there.

 Do you feel like you can do that, or do you feel pressure to just get it right the first time? I can say ideally I would feel that, but like, how do you feel in real life?

Denise: I feel very bold and I’m going to take risks because with great risk comes great reward, and I’m a huge fan of test and learn. I’m a huge fan to go out sampling something try it. It’s okay to fail because, from your biggest failures, you will get your biggest learnings. And that’s originally how we started influencer marketing at Bayer.

No one wanted to spend the money, so I said, okay, that’s fine. I’m going to do a test and learn and I will do a scale program. So if no one wants to spend six figures, then I will Tin Cup get five or six brands. You all give me $20,000. Rounding error, who cares? They gave me the money and I proved it out, and I provided all of those metrics and they were like, wow. Oh my God, this is a success. 

Fast forward, all of the brands not only execute one influencer program a year, we have 20 brands. They’re executing multiple, multiple influencer programs every year.

 Jessy: And how long did that sort of take to ramp up? Because I think I heard you say that they weren’t really doing anything in influencer marketing before you got there. So like, how long did it take for you to really build that up to the point that you feel like you were getting traction? You feel like you had systems, like what period of time was that?

Denise: It was fairly quick, but I can be quite convincing. And I’ll bully my way into every meeting. I will write a million decks and present them and prove this to you. Use all the stats that are available to me on the Innerwebs, if you will.

And I was quite convincing, so it happened pretty quickly, but I had the right people on my side. I had the organization trusting me, but I was proving it through data and analytics like you talked about before. 

So I was now serving up numbers to them that they were understanding that would move their business. It was a business-driving initiative, so I can’t say that at every organization you’ll ramp up that quickly, but, you just need to make sure that you’re backing up everything that you’re doing with the data, and you need to ensure that the right people are on your side.

You need to build allies and make sure that they’re championing the work that you’re doing, and then get some trusted partners. Get some brand managers that are as bold and brave and ambitious as you are, and have them take some risks with you so that when you take those risks, everyone will be rewarded in the long run.

 Jessy: Oh my gosh. That’s so good. You’re speaking my language. Yeah, I love that. That’s such good advice. You also spoke about how, before your time at Bayer, when you had your own consultancy, you were working with a lot of, smaller businesses and doing influencer marketing with them. I am all for small businesses and I think that it’s just an incredible also vantage point as an influencer marketer to work with small businesses because you feel the wins that much more. You feel opportunities and maybe the losses that much more like the stakes feel higher in a lot of instances, even though maybe the budgets are lower. 

So I would love for us to talk about, how can small businesses utilize influencer marketing, in particular, more. Is it only for big businesses or is there a really significant place for small businesses as well?

 Denise: I think it is a must-do for small businesses. Take a look at some of the businesses that started solely by working with influencers and that is how they built their brands. Through influencer partnerships. We have a brand that, we acquired a couple of years ago called Care/of, and it’s a vitamin supplements brand.

You go on, you take your quiz and then you get your little packet and it says, so I open it every morning. I happen to be a customer as well. You open it every morning and it’s hello Denise. And it gives you a quote of the day and it’s very inspirational and fun. 

They grew a lot of their business. Through partnerships with the influencers and influencers showing this really unique, hey Denise, good morning. Take your vitamins. All these things. 

And that’s how the business grew. And there’s lots of beauty brands and there’s lots of examples of how that’s been done in the past. 

So my advice, is what I believe, and we also have an influencer ambassador program at Bayer too, but I believe these smaller brands, if you can really bring influencers in as part of your company.

Show them what you’re about, show them these partnerships will benefit them and you, and invite them behind the curtain to understand what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to achieve. And work with them in the long term, not on these short projects. And that will help build your brand while they’re building their brand.

you don’t wanna work with a million influencer sort of followers. You want to work with those people that are also trying to build their brand. So you’re subsequently both working together on building something. And I do believe that there are tons of benefits to that.

 Jessy: I agree with you. I think that there’s so much opportunity and you hear these success stories like Care/of and these like other, like e-commerce, maybe first brands that like I associate pretty immediately with influencers. I heard about them through influencers before anywhere else.

And then you hear these success stories about how they were acquired by companies like Bayer and stuff like that. That’s pretty remarkable. But I also conversely hear, like just nerves from people who work at small businesses or smaller businesses. Just essentially saying I see, and I agree with you, and I see the potential, but either I don’t have it, or I’m super nervous to invest monetarily and will I even be able to make a dent with X amount of budget.

 So I don’t know, is there a way that they could be more like clever with their budget or their tactics? Is there anything specifically that, you’ve seen that’s worked?

Denise: I would work with the influencers who, have high creator skills so that. You’re not just working with the influencer for their influence. You’re working with the influencer to create content that you can use across the consumer journey. So they create an asset. And now you can use this in paid. If you have e-com pages, use it on your e-com pages.

Take that content, and use it on your website. Where else can you use it? Create a partnership with this person, so that they’re not just putting it out there on their influencer channels. Maybe you have organic social and you can’t pay an agency to populate that. How do you work with a handful of creators to do that at the same time?

So it’s about utility, right? So if you’re going to work with somebody and your budget is tight, how can you make sure that you are feeding multiple birds with one seed?

 Jessy: And maximizing the shit out of what you’re investing Okay. That’s what I’m hearing. I get that. If it gets great advice, to really, and if you’re gonna give it a go and you’re like, all right, I’m like pressing the I believe button and I’m gonna, Test it, give yourself a real full shot of making the most out of that experience.

I think that’s awesome advice. I wanna pivot a little bit because we were talking earlier about like your upbringing, how you are fortunate enough to have these wonderful parents who like really empowered you as a woman. And I would be remiss if I didn’t. Talk about that a little bit more.

as a women’s focus organization and just influencer marketing broadly as such a women’s dominated industry, which is very unique. 

Why do you think it’s that way? Why do you think influencer marketing is so female-heavy in the first place?

 Denise: I think because females are the best storytellers, so that’s what people are gravitated to initially these real and authentic stories. So I remember when I was growing up and I’ll age myself like Jerry Springer was all the rage. And that’s really what social media is. Peeking into people’s lives and I feel like women have stepped up and it started that way.

When I first started doing influencer marketing, it was called mommy bloggers. There was a thing called Block Her, and that was the biggest conference where you can start learning about influencer marketing and they started writing blogs and then social media dipping their toe in that. It was short form and we started doing a lot of things.

They used to work on TJ Maxon, and Marshalls, and they have one of the best influencer programs going now. But I can gladly say that I was one of the first, team members to actually get that. Off the ground with them. but I really do feel like it goes back to how women are nurturers and they’re truly, more emotional beings.

So they’re happy to invite people into their lives to really express themselves. Men tend to be a little bit more closed off. it’s like my husband, I’ll ask him a question and he will say, yeah, that’s good. But if I ask my girlfriend, oh my God, yes. And you get a whole story with it. So I feel like that’s the difference.

But where I’m at in my life, I want to do everything I can. Like this is my legacy, is to make sure that I have imprinted on women’s lives to help them get to the next level. And one of the things that I’m working on now with the ANA is fair and equitable. Will pay for all influencers, and that includes women as well.

So if we as Bayer are hiring influencers, we want to first and foremost make sure that we have a diverse group of influencers that we’re working with, and we want to pay them all fairly and pay them all the same. We don’t want to, pay somebody more money because of their gender or race. Everyone needs to be paid, fair, and equitably.

 Jessy: That’s an interesting take cuz I, certainly have heard a lot of people say things like, I’m looking to pay people fairly, but not necessarily. Really the same. 

So I’d love to hear more about like the philosophy behind that and, how that’s been going for you those efforts.

 Denise: Yeah women will tend to ask for less and women of certain, ethnicities will tend to even ask for less. So let’s just say we have an influencer program of 50,000 to 100,000 followers. we pay X or somebody’s asking for X. Well, okay, say we pay it. Now, if somebody comes in the same range and asks for less, we will pay them more. We will pay them what we’re paying the other person.

Jessy: Got it. So it’s more of like favored nations a little bit. just raise the bar and have the bar be higher. Just start. that sounds, really admirable that you guys are focused on it. And anything that a company is looking to change, sounds daunting.

Change anything, but I feel like you can simplify it and give yourself a better chance to actually succeed at it. With simply just making it a focus. So like it’s a mandate, like everybody at the company has to be mindful of X you’re so much more likely of making that change and making a significant change.

I’d also love to talk about, I. Like how you guys determine pricing. I feel talking about finances is already taboo. everyone’s uncomfortable. It’s not even like a gender thing. A large majority of our community, our talent managers, and I know that some people that listen to this podcast are the creators and whatever side of the equation you sit on, I think there’s still as much as we, even as an organization try to dispel some of this veil, we tried to take that down. There are still a lot more questions than answers. Like, how do I determine what I’m worth? How do I charge for this partnership? People can go in with the best intentions and still end up where they make a big swing to have a sports reference and they still miss. And so like from your perspective, like as somebody is. 

Negotiating a deal with you or with someone on your team? What’s some advice that you would give them so that you on the other side, feel as if there’s fairness happening? Feels as if there’s the budding of a future partnership happening with a partner that you would wanna continue working with, beyond that scope. 

 Denise: I work closely with my agency, so it’s based on years of, data, right? So we’re taking a look at engagement rates, and followership types of content, and you create these criteria. And then you create the criteria and allocate a number to it. So it is somewhat arbitrary. And then I think that’s why, organizations like the ANA and organizations like yours are really trying to ask these questions and standardize things.

But we ourselves are holding ourselves accountable. So by creating these criteria, we’re saying, ok, for years and years, typically we are seeing this range for this level of influencer, but then if they have this kind of engagement rate, their content’s a little bit better, whatever the criteria are, that’s how we’re standardizing things and we’re very transparent with influencers.

They understand how we’re approaching it. So we hope that in turn, it’s helpful to them so they will know, Hey, I agree with that and I feel like I’m worth that. Or maybe, they have some information and feedback they wanna give us that we will consider and apply, but it’s something that we’re trying to standardize on our end, to be helpful for the people that we’re hiring.

Jessy: Yeah, I do think more conversations about it need to happen, right? Like just more transparency and I feel like even just a mindset shift, right? Like. Where it doesn’t feel adversarial. when I’ve observed people on the, either the management side, agency side, whatever, and I’m just like a fly on the wall, and I’ve , observed I feel like these people have like really healthy relationships, like professional relationships with people.

I’m like, what makes it different? What are they doing right? And it really is that it’s like. It’s feeling as if they’re really building real partnerships. It doesn’t feel like they’re using anybody for a partnership. It doesn’t feel like they’re adversarial with anybody. It just genuinely feels as if they’re there and they know that the other side, like they’re just on the same team.

and like that just seems to. Go over so well. And, the people that I’ve observed, who like, I feel like they’re really successful and really good at that. They’ve mastered that. That’s what it is. it’s the way that they interact with others. and also, I think a great way to even finish out our chat today is talking a little bit more about work-life balance, right?

I would love to get a sense from you about your opinion on like how women in particular, because we are a female-dominated industry, can best handle work life. Balance, to live their best lives, to have families if they want to have time with their family to be able to take trips, and vacations, but also be passionate about the work that they’re doing and be the best version of themselves.

what advice would you give to women who are listening and who might be struggling with those things?

 Denise: Yeah, and I know everybody does, and I used to as well, but something pivotal happened in my life that changed that for me and will have forever have changed that for me and what I did learn, and I hope. That my learnings can be an example that people can just simply change and they don’t have to go through crazy things like I had to do.

But If you are sacrificing your family, and your personal time, I’m here to tell you, and I’m sorry to say this, and your company may disagree with me, but on any given day, that company can turn on you. And on any given day, that company can replace you. Everybody is replaceable, so you have to put on your mask first.

Make sure you’re healthy, make sure you’re well when you’re on, be the best version of yourself. So when I’m working, I’m 150%. I’m hugely dedicated to my job. I make sure all the work that I’m producing is 150% great. And then when I’m not working, I make sure that I’m not working and that I’m fully dedicated to the things in life that fill my cup.

The more I fill my cup when I’m not at work, the better person I will be at work. Setting boundaries. I know that people say it’s hard, but it’s like anything else. If you’re going to go on a diet, you cannot have, you cannot drink alcohol, right? Or you’re going to do it occasionally. And this is the same thing.

If you’re going to set boundaries, you have to do it. Nobody else can do it for you. And people are like, yeah, I blocked my morning. But if so-and-so wanted to meet with me, know the answers. No, my mornings are always blocked. It’s for me to work out, go to the gym, teach, spin, and get my emails answered before I jump into the day.

If you jump into your day in a hazardous way, your whole day is going to be chaotic, so you figure out what. Your schedule is, and some people like to take that lunch break, I could care less about lunch. That’s not an important part of the day for me. again, my mornings are sacred, but I’ll work till seven o’clock at night.

Everybody’s different. But if you’re going to block off the time, stay committed to it because if you don’t stay committed to it, then it’s never going to happen. You’re the only person that can be accountable for yourself.

 Jessy: I love that. And also I appreciate you saying, to find out what’s meaningful to you. Cause I feel like even like this show, like people might listen to our podcast or some other podcast and hear somebody be like, oh, I love meditation.

Denise: Yeah, exactly. 

Jessy: And if I heard that for example, I’d be like, good for you. That’s phenomenal. But I can give two shits about meditating. I’ve tried. It doesn’t do it for me. And so to your point, it’s maybe like a morning, something in the morning, a workout, a walk with my dog, like 

Denise: A cup of coffee listening to a podcast. 

 Jessy: Absolutely, like whatever that is to you, build up a callous to find out, like to continue to be on that journey of self-awareness because that’s the most powerful thing that you can do to create like a rich life for yourself is knowing what’s meaningful to you, not to other people. So I appreciate the heck outta that. And then, of course, that’s the first step. The next step is. Holding yourself accountable and doing it on a regular basis and setting those boundaries that some people are so nervous to set.

but it sounds like in your experience, at least, you’re seeing way more. Benefits to anything that’s maybe, perhaps negative from maybe setting that boundary because it’s easy to be fearful of. Oh, like what are other people gonna think if they see, my calendar’s blocked off every morning?

Try it. Just try it and see what the reaction is. Don’t predict what it’s gonna be. And like it sounds like in your experience also, it’s been positive as well. It’s been, So great having you on the show. I have a million other questions, but I also wanna be mindful of chatting for a while.

So I assume that our listeners would love to just connect with you and reach out. So beyond, you being a member of Wiim, and just like seeing you in the community, what are other ways that our listeners can reach out and get in touch if they wanna chat with you further?

 Denise: Yeah I’m all over LinkedIn and I post all of the time, so you can find me there at Denise Viola. And you can also find me on Instagram as we spoke about. But FairWarning, it’s going to be a lot of authentic content about health and wellness and my personal journey there. And that’s at D’S workouts, both with Z’s.

Jessy: And we will link to all of that in the show notes. Sydney, thank you so much. I know I learned a ton and was super inspired. Thank you so much for joining us today, and thank you guys so much for listening. We will see you next week.

Denise Vitola

VP Brand Integration PR, Social and Influencer, BAYER

Marketing & Communications pro and celebrated health and wellness influencer Denise Vitola wakes up every day on a mission to make people feel inspired, healthier and stronger-willed. A slew of awards, industry-wide admiration and years of personal and professional accomplishments are proof that she gets the job done.

In July 2021 she became Bayer’s VP Brand Integration PR, Social and Influencer for Consumer Health and quickly applied her proprietary process emphasizing social and digital consumer outreach, building Bayer’s digital footprint from a tiptoe to a tidal wave. Within months she launched nearly 100 influencer campaigns and award-winning integrative marketing campaigns like Midol’s “No Apology Period”, Aleve’s “Worst Golf Swing in America” with Charles Barkley, Bayer Aspirin’s “Most Meaningful Melody,” and T-Pain’s remake of the classic Alka Seltzer jingle, resonating with consumers and elevating Bayer’s market reach by the millions. In 2021, she was named a PRNews “Top Woman in PR.”

Denise is the Co-Lead of GROW (Growing Representation & Opportunities) at Bayer, an employee business resource group focused on equal representation, leadership, and recognition, and she actively works to recruit a diverse team of employees that can speak to the health needs of diverse audiences. Outside of the office, she continues to follow her own passions: working out, teaching spin, and walking her dogs near her home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Creative and confident. Playful and proactive. Bold, badass, and a leader in the business of making people and communities healthier and stronger…that’s Denise Vitola.

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