Lauren Scott, chief marketing officer for the Produce Marketing Association, has spent her first year on the job taking a listening tour.

A veteran in marketing but a newcomer to produce, Scott has invested significant time in getting to know the industry, visiting companies in the U.S. and around the world in the months since she joined PMA last October.

Scott will be leading demand creation efforts like Eat Brighter! and FNV, and more information about the organization’s plans for those initiatives will be revealed at Fresh Summit 2017.

Another part of Scott’s role is working with members.

On her trips this past year, Scott’s questions have not been about marketing tactics — websites, contests, sampling and other activities — but about how each business got started, what the vision is for the future, and what barriers are present.

Scott aims to educate companies on strategic marketing, which is the practice of following the same process for marketing decisions as for other business decisions.

She suggests companies consider three areas as they develop marketing plans: collaboration, insights and implications, and execution.

By gathering input from all the relevant people early on, and by considering the larger environment — what is happening in food culture, in popular culture, in society as a whole — a company can increase the likelihood that the actual tactics it chooses will be effective.

“(As a marketer) you’re really a business strategist that then kind of goes off the rails and gets creative and starts to have some flair now and again,” Scott said.

PMA vice president of industry relations Kathy Means said Scott’s approach in bringing this message to the industry has been ideal.

“She brings an incredible amount of vision and expertise to bear,” Means said.

“One of the things I love is she didn’t jump in right at the front and say, ‘OK, here’s what you people should be doing.’

“She took the time to understand our industry,” Means said. “I don’t know how many miles she’s logged in member visits.”

The reception Scott has gotten makes her optimistic about marketing efforts increasing around produce.

“I think that the future is very bright to have many conversations and to provide guidance to the members in where they see that they need guidance,” Scott said.

“It’s not for me to dictate what people need to do. It is my job to help them to realize their dreams.”

When a company considers its broader goals as it thinks about its marketing, it can be refreshing as well as instructive, Scott said.

“When you’re running a business, you’re so focused on the going and the doing and the fire,” Scott said.

“When you’re applying strategic marketing, you’re essentially stepping back and asking questions, and I think just the fact of people stopping, even if it’s only for 15, 20 minutes, thinking through something and asking questions, it actually is very liberating.

“It’s hard to take the time, but I think that’s some of the benefit,” Scott said. P