As marketers, sometimes we are not the rock stars, but the DJs that drop their tunes. However, founder and CEO of Lately, Kate Bradley Chernis, ticks both boxes. As a former DJ with an audience of 20 million listeners, she’s dropped the tunes and in this backstage interview we find out how this experience made her a Rockstar marketer that even got Walmart dancing.


Hello Kate!

What would be top of your rider for your next marketing gig?

Duh… Lately! And an obsessively-organized Slack channel. That said, I find myself halfway between analog and digital in all things, which makes white sticky notes an absolute must. I blow through them like toilet paper (sorry, environment, it’s my one true weakness). Plus, it gets worse… a paper calendar – don’t tell anybody! (I prefer Peanuts.) And there better be a stash of Repasado lying around somewhere, so help me.

What or who are your marketing influencers?

Recently: Bryan Kramer the King of H2H. Google it :-). But the inspiration behind my career was… me!

Because, in another life, I was a rock ‘n’ roll DJ (my last gig was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day for XM Satellite Radio). And after wrangling with the boys’ club that the music industry was (and frankly, still is), I’d had enough. I was MISERABLE. Thankfully, one day, my father lovingly shook me by the shoulders and said: “You can’t work for other people and there’s no shame in that.” Lightbulb!

So, I read Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start. And about nine pages in, he recommended that enterprising entrepreneurs should stop making plans and just get started. Naturally, I immediately ditched the book. The next day, I met my first investors who gave me $50,000 to start my first company. Crazy, right? True story.

Then, as I was marketing that company, I used what I knew: radio. And in radio, if you want listeners to listen, to become fans and evangelists, they have to trust you and they have to like you. And I knew that involved letting people in a little bit – giving them a peek behind the black curtain – not being afraid to make mistakes, letting your personality shine, that kind of stuff. So I translated that into the writing I was doing for our marketing, and it worked. Like gangbusters.

So much so that someone else came along and said: “Hey, you’re really good at marketing. Would you consult us and we’ll pay you a lot more money than you’re making now?” Hell yes. And suddenly, I was project-managing a multimillion-dollar Walmart account. So I pulled out every radio trick I had in my back pocket. And I got us a 130% ROI, year-over-year for three years :-).

If I was Spotify, what would I play for you first thing Monday morning to get you going?

Monday, by Wilco (back when they were good – people will hate me for saying that LOL).

The curtain pulls back, you step out on the stage of your new marketing gig – what do you open with?

I mean, you got me thinking music here, with that last question, so let’s start there: As a startup entrepreneur, I’ve done a lot of pitching and you get to pick your enter-stage soundtrack. I always pick my husband’s band, the Damnwells, and the drum and guitar intro to their song I Am a Leaver. My husband is lead guitar – so I love having him play me into the room. It’s a power move. Because that song rocks the eff out!

But to answer your real question… I’d say trust. A new leader can’t function without trust. It doesn’t matter what role you’re in.

The audience is dancing in the aisles, it loves that track. What keeps the house jumping?

Learning and evolving – as far as tools and strategy goes. But remembering the three marketing basics: writing, organization and chutzpah. Without those three, it all falls apart. The first two can be taught. The last one, that’s the magic.

You’re playing a huge stadium. How do you know the audience can hear your tune?

I mean, that depends on a million things :-). But at the moment, engagement drives our most meaningful traffic and inspires the action in our calls-to-action.

If there was a billboard chart for marketing trends, what would be your Number 1?

Lately. Lately. Lately. This is my life. We use Lately to market Lately. And we have 100% organic marketing, no paid. The result is a 50% trial to sale conversion. So, you know… Lately.

What would you throw from your hotel window into the Rockstar CMO pool?

The phrase ‘check out’ which is the most vapid, lazy, call-to-action ever invented. STOP IT. Verbs are your friends, people! Think about it: when’s the last time you ever checked out anything anyone ever told you to check out? Never? Exactly.

What’s got you rocking today?

The combination of humans and artificial intelligence. Each one has a power on its own. But together, EXPONENTIAL. Showing our customers this power – and how they can harness it – is super money. I love it.

If there was a marketing hall of fame, who would you induct?

Me. I invented this software to give you the power to do what I did for Walmart for a teeny tiny fraction of the cost and time. That’s a ballz answer. But hey… A girl’s gotta pat herself on the back every once in a while.

Any final words before you drop the mic?

Imperfect marketing is the most powerful. Stop polishing and let it rip. Humans react to humans. So be one.


Kate Bradley Chernis

Kate Bradley Chernis is the Founder & CEO of Lately, which uses Artificial Intelligence to automatically transform blogs, videos and podcasts into dozens of amazing social posts.

As a former marketing agency owner, Kate initially created the idea for Lately out of spreadsheets for then-client, Walmart, and got them a 130% ROI, year-over-year for three years.

Prior to founding Lately, Kate served 20 million listeners as Music Director and on-air host at Sirius/XM. She’s also an award-winning radio producer, engineer and voice talent with 25 years of national broadcast communications, brand-building, sales and marketing expertise.

Learn more about Lately

Follow Kate on Twitter


Also on the podcast..

After this Backstage Q&A we caught up with Kate on Rockstar CMO FM.


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