Brianne Carlon Rush, VP Operations, Kuno Creative

Brianne Carlon Rush thrives at the vibrant intersection of creativity and strategy. With nearly two decades of experience, she has contributed significantly to Kuno Creative, a leading digital marketing agency. In her current role, Brianne aligns sales and marketing efforts, spearheads product development, and nurtures talent. Recognized as a trusted industry voice, Brianne has been featured in lists like “25 Journalists in Content Marketing” and “20 Content Marketing Twitter Accounts to Follow.” In 2024, she was honored as one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in Ohio. Her diverse portfolio includes esteemed brands like Aramark, BASF, and RapidAI. Brianne’s journey, from editorial beginnings in New York City to current leadership roles, reflects her unwavering commitment to communication and career development. She remains dedicated to making a positive impact and fostering a brighter future for those around her.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Brianne shared her professional trajectory, insights on gender equality and inclusion, personal hobbies and interests, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Brianne. Please tell us about your background and areas of interest.

I have loved to tell stories since I was a young girl “publishing” a newspaper in my childhood bedroom. I graduated with a journalism degree from Kent State University and moved to NYC to pursue my dreams before I even received my diploma. I worked for a magazine company that housed several dance and cheerleading magazines, which was perfect for me since I had danced since I was 3 years old, culminating in a professional stint with the Cleveland Cavalier Girls.

During 2008-2009, I saw a lot of magazines closing, so I reevaluated my career, and ended up applying my writing skills to digital marketing. I briefly worked for a growing tech company then landed at Kuno Creative, where I built the content marketing department. I worked exclusively in content for four years before expanding my role and mindset to helping to grow the agency as a whole.

What do you love the most about your current role?

In my current role of VP of Operations at Kuno Creative, I feel as if I am truly building something. The leadership team and I are passionate about growing a company where employees wake up excited to come to work and help our clients achieve their goals through digital marketing. I also love that we are creating an environment that prioritizes making a positive impact on those around us. For example, our employees enjoy a role that allows for a healthy work-life balance and time with their families. Our clients receive high-touch marketing strategy and execution, which helps them achieve not only their marketing goals, but their professional goals on a bigger scale. Finally, our mission is to do marketing that matters for companies doing good in the world. So, when we help these companies succeed, we believe we are helping them change the world for the better.

How do you approach the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and emerging technologies such as AI?

Digital marketing changes so quickly, so we have hired experts in each category, such as SEO, digital advertising, branding, etc. so they can dive deeper into their specific areas. When something completely revolutionary, like AI, emerges, we all have been exploring ways to incorporating it into our daily output.

With content marketing, we have been utilizing AI to research topics more efficiently, create SEO-friendly outlines and even first drafts. But we also recognize its limitations, so we take those outlines and first drafts then rewrite them to fit the brand’s tone and add in our proprietary information like quotes, case studies and real results.

Tools in space allow us to build reports faster, design eye-catching digital ads and so much more. It is all about diving in and getting comfortable, then pushing the limits.

What metrics do you measure to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing investments?

It all starts by defining your business goals. Marketing goals only exist to achieve your overall business goals. So, if your brand needs to generate more leads to hand to sales, your metrics will look different than if you need to focus on pipeline velocity, moving more opportunities to “closed won.” However, most of our clients focus on lead generation.

Our KPIs most often include website visits/sessions (organic, direct, by paid source) and form fills (prospects raising their hand for both awareness stage content through the sales funnel to decision-based forms like request a demo or schedule a consultation). We are also looking at reach, clicks and return on advertising spend for clients investing in digital ads.

Once we get visitors to the site, we are looking at how much time they spend on pages, how many pages they view and how long it takes them to bounce from the site.

What, in your view, should leaders in B2B be doing more to drive core business value through marketing efforts?

In today’s fast-paced B2B landscape, leaders must adopt a strategic, data-driven approach to marketing to drive core business value effectively. Here are three key strategies:

  1. Focus on Customer-Centric Marketing: Understanding the customer journey is critical. Develop detailed buyer personas and map out the customer journey to tailor content and campaigns that meet the specific needs and pain points of your target audience. Personalized marketing efforts can significantly enhance engagement and conversion rates.
  2. Invest in Systems for SEO, Content Marketing and Automation: High-quality, relevant, and SEO-rich content is a cornerstone of effective B2B marketing. Create value-driven content that educates and informs your audience, positioning your brand as a thought leader in the industry. Then implement marketing automation tools to help nurture leads through personalized email campaigns, manage social media interactions, and track customer engagement.
  3. Focus on Brand Building: Invest in building a strong, consistent brand presence across all channels. A well-defined brand identity helps differentiate your company in the marketplace, builds trust with your audience, and supports long-term business growth.

What are your thoughts on gender equality and inclusion? Do you think there is a gender bias in your industry?

Gender equality and inclusion are not just ethical imperatives but also critical drivers of innovation and business success. A diverse workforce brings a variety of perspectives, which fosters creativity and better decision-making.

At our agency, we are committed to creating an inclusive environment where everyone, regardless of gender, feels valued and empowered to contribute to their fullest potential. The agency is 60% female. And our leadership team is half females.

While the industry has made progress, there is still work to be done to ensure true equality. This includes addressing issues such as unequal pay, representation in leadership roles, and unconscious bias in hiring and promotions.

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

There are a handful of people who have helped me tremendously along the way.

Hanna Rubin, who created a new internship position at MacFadden Performing Arts Media so she could hire me and helped me in my ascent to Managing Editor of Dance Spirit magazine.

Dan Stasiewski who hired me at OverDrive, a growing tech company, then brought me over to Kuno Creative. He was responsible for my understanding of inbound marketing before it was mainstream.

John McTigue who made me realize I could be more than the head of the content department and who continues to encourage me even today.

Chris Knipper who founded Kuno Creative and endeavors to make it a place people want to come to work while also prioritizing their family time and mental/physical health.

What does the term “authentic leadership” mean to you?

Authentic leadership embodies a leadership style that is genuine, transparent and centered around integrity and ethical principles. It involves openly sharing information, decisions and the rationale behind them. Authentic leaders foster an environment where open communication is encouraged, and everyone feels informed and involved.

Authentic leaders provide immediate, clear, and constructive feedback, recognizing accomplishments and addressing areas for improvement promptly. This approach not only helps individuals grow but also enhances overall team performance and morale.

Leaders should also acknowledge their limitations and be open to feedback and learning from others. This humility fosters a culture of continuous improvement and encourages team members to share their ideas and insights without fear of judgment.

What are some of your passions outside of work? What do you like to do in your time off?

I have two kids (my son is 7 and my daughter is 4), so a lot of my non-working time is spent with them, which is a joy. When I do have alone time, I read as much as possible. I read about 50 books each year, spanning thriller and fiction to business and finance.

I am also a lifelong learner, and really enjoy learning new things. After a trip to Napa, I became fascinated with the world of wine, so I studied to achieve Level 1 certification through Napa Valley Wine Academy just for fun.

What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

I am committed to growing Kuno Creative into a strong, profitable agency. Since we are employee owned, our people can build careers they can be proud of, helping to make the world a better place in their own small way, while also building financial security for themselves and their families.

What advice would you give to somebody who is considering entering your field or has just entered the field?

First, choose a place to work that you actually believe in. Find leaders who share your vision for leadership and contributions to the world as a whole.

Once you find the right place, never stop learning. Don’t confine yourself to one “lane” of learning. Of course, become an expert in your role, but don’t stop there. Learn about tangential roles. If you see holes in the company, figure out how to fill them. The more you know, the more creative you can be in serving clients and building your personal and professional brands.

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