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Career Management Speaker Series: Melissa Branford, HR Director, Gen 3 Marketing

May 26, 2023 by Michael McNerney, Publisher, Martech Record

Our interview with Melissa is the first in our new Career Management Speaker series, made possible by Affluent. In this series we interview leaders at marketing organization to learn what it takes to succeed and grow in a career in affiliate marketing. 

As the HR director for Gen3 Marketing, the largest affiliate marketing agency in North America, Melissa Branford maintains a pivotal role in facilitating a seamless integration of talent, culture, and HR operations.  


Melissa's role grew bigger – and more complex – when her previous employer, OPMPros, was acquired by Gen3 in 2019. Since then, Gen3 has acquired three other affiliate marketing agencies, which means as the company grows, so does Branford’s responsibilities.

“As you bring five agencies together, it’s a big challenge,” Branford said. “It’s like bringing five families together – it’s a different environment and you have different cultures, different processes, different types of talent. You want to be able to merge all of that together.”

That requires an understanding of the jobs across the whole company in order to standardize job titles, job descriptions and benefits packages to be equitable. It also calls for efforts to engage teams and ensure that they feel a sense of belonging amongst themselves and within the company. 

“It’s about creating that one brand community and bringing everyone together through a gradual, staggered process,” she said. That can be challenging and entails looking at the cultures that each agency fostered before the acquisition to determine what should and can carry over into the cultivated community at Gen3. 

As Gen3 grows, Branford and her team are looking for top talent.

“It’s important to understand that the affiliate space is not something you could necessarily learn in school,” she said. Branford said she seeks candidates who have:

  1. Knowledge in the space and a good foundation of digital marketing fundamentals.
  2. Effective communication skills (“We know the affiliate space is all about partnerships and being able to bond and the connection is important to present yourself well,” Branford said.)
  3. An understanding of the technology used in the industry and a willingness to stay up-to-date on the continuously updating tools.

“Often when we hire individuals, we look for the soft skills first,” Branford said. “The hard skills can be taught.” Those soft skills aren’t simply inherent and they may not come naturally to all, she said. Rather, they come from experience and can develop and strengthen over time. An ideal candidate has enough experience to have developed those soft skills and can pair them with the hard skills that can be added onto with internal training. Still, it’s in an employer's best interest to continuously offer opportunities for coaching and development in all of those areas. 

Gen3 offers a great initial onboarding training and encourages one-on-one meetings between employees and managers to set goals and action plans together. Additionally, the company utilizes an internal performance evaluation system that generates a scorecard, highlighting areas that may require improvement.  Gen3 places significant emphasis on providing continuous training sessions to enhance the skill sets of their teams. Team members are actively encouraged to pursue network certifications, stay informed about industry news and trends, and participate in ongoing professional development.

Even in remote teams, the significance and opportunities for mentorship and training persist beyond the initial onboarding or orientation phase. Branford said, adding that “it’s really an evolution process.”

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