Beyond the Editorial Calendar: New Rules of Content Strategy

Ashley Faus, Content Strategy Lead @ Atlassian
Sales & Marketing Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:03] Hi everyone, my name is Ashley Faus, and I am excited to talk to you today about the new rules of content strategy. You can find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter @ashleyfaus if you have questions after the presentation. So I want to start out with kind of an odd question, but I’m hoping you’ll indulge me. And that question is: what is the best piece of playground equipment? Now when I pose this question to friends, family, strangers on the street, I get a ton of different answers. I get the slides, I get the swing set, I get the seesaw. There’s even a few folks who really prefer the park bench. They don’t want to play on the playground. They just want to sit and enjoy the sunshine. I also get people talking about the crazy spinning merry go round. And what I take away from this is that there’s not a best piece of playground equipment that if we polled all of you, I would probably get a bunch of different answers. Shout them out at me.

[00:00:53] You’re probably wondering why I’m at this conference and this girl is asking me, like, what kind of playground equipment do I prefer? I promise you, there’s a point to this. But for now, let’s pretend that I spun you around on that merry go round, dumped you off, you hit your head. And we’re now in a place where we’re talking about the linear funnel. Now I know. Tough ride. So let’s talk about the linear funnel. At its core, it’s three phases: awareness, consideration and decision.

[00:01:23] Now, what most marketers do is they whip out their editorial calendar and they say, you know what, I’ve got three faces. I’m going to do two pieces of content per prophase. That’s two. And awareness to inconsideration to a decision that’s six pieces of content, one per month, six months worth of content strategy. Good job, marketer. Now, of course, we know that that’s not the way we should do it. And we also know that that’s not how humans work. So marketers being the smart crew that we are, we came up with a little bit more of a complicated model. This is the Google results for the linear funnel.

[00:01:57] Now, if you’ll notice, some of these have eight phases. Some of them have multiple phases and some of them are going up and they’re going down and they’ve got humans in them. Like this is really complicated and overwhelming, which makes it obvious that we needed to evolve from the one your.

[00:02:14] So we come up with a new model, and that’s the looping decision journey, and at its core it’s actually four phases: awareness, consideration, purchase and some sort of upswell retention. And somehow we’re just going to pop those people back into the awareness phase and start the looping decision journey all over again. So we’re going to add two more pieces of content.

[00:02:34] We’re going to do those one per month. We now have eight months of content strategy. We just whipped out a calendar, throw more to two more pieces of content on there, right? Wrong? Of course not. But that’s sometimes what we’re doing now. Of course, we know the humans are not just perfect circles either. I give you the results for the looping decision journey, and there’s some complicated stuff going on here, like one of those we’ve got to Mobius. How many of you have ever been stuck in the infinite loop of marketing or sales content?

[00:03:04] It’s terrifying. Very overwhelming stuff.

[00:03:08] So I was thinking about this, how do humans actually work? How does the buyer’s journey actually look?

[00:03:14] And so I decided it was time for a new model.

[00:03:18] And this is what I came up with. A jungle gym.

[00:03:22] I was feeling really smart that I come up with this jungle gym, but there’s a couple of problems with the jungle gym. Namely, there’s only two objectives. One is to get to the top of the jungle gym, and two is to go across the middle of it without touching the hot lava below. And those of you with kids are laughing because you’re like, yes, my kid is constantly trying to swing across the jungle gym without touching the ground. Now, the problem with that is it’s still me as a marketer forcing you into this journey and this objective that I’ve defined. It’s not giving you the opportunity as an audience member to explore and go on the journey that you want to go on. Which brings me back to the playground. What’s the right way to play on the playground?

[00:04:06] Is it to go slide then in swing and then seesaw? Is it to go seesaw and then slide and skip the swings altogether? Again, let’s think about those people who were sitting on the park bench. Are they using the park in the wrong way? And what’s the right way to play on the playground, if you ask the playground designers, they’re going to tell you you should go down the slide. You ask my three year old nephew every time he’s going to want to go up the slide.

[00:04:29] And what’s the best way to enter the park? There’s paint sidewalks all around three year old nephew every time runs straight across the grass. And what that kind of tells us is our audience is kind of like my three year old nephew. They want to play on the playground, how they want they want to use the content in the world, the way they want to explore. They want to enter. They want to exit. So we need to treat the buyer’s journey as a playground, people can enter and exit as they desire, they can go in any order and they can engage with content the wrong way. Now, what do I mean by engaging content the wrong way? Here’s a great example: pricing. This is traditionally considered a bottom of funnel discussion to have a bottom, a funnel piece of content. But recently, I was going through an RFP and I need to ask for budget. I wish I didn’t have a funded project. And so my boss comes to me and says, actually, how much money do I like? I don’t know how much money I need. So I went to several of the top leaders in the market and I said, hey, what’s your pricing at this SLA level for this many licenses? And several of them came back and said, oh, you need to sign up for a demo or I’ll fill out this form and we’ll send you a white paper. Oh, you need to take some extra step before we give you pricing. And the problem is, I didn’t even have a budget. I couldn’t start a budget to even get into the top of the funnel to move into consideration and to move into a purchase decision, even though I was asking for this traditionally bottom of funnel piece of content.

[00:05:59] So is Marker’s, how do we build this playground? How do we create a journey that is so smart that our audience can engage and educate, learn and build trust? So I want to talk first about a narrative framework. So here we need to address three content dumps and the first is conceptual. So these are your overarching themes. It should be limited to three to five core ideas. These are theoretical and philosophical in nature, and they are much more abstract in their application. So these ideas are the foundation on which we build our strategic and tactical ideas. So when we’re creating content at this level, you shouldn’t really be too concerned about the how. Instead, you need to think about the what and the why of the idea and the conceptual level content will focus on high level and the aspirational outcomes. If there’s measurement available, that’s great. But at this level, that’s unlikely. Next is the strategic depth, and this level focuses more on the processes, tools and key knowledge components that must be in place to make the conceptual ideas reality. So this needs to focus on the tangible outcomes that can be measured in the long run. Content should focus on equipping the audience to do their own research. So giving them frameworks and criteria for success and helping them envision the impact the conceptual ideas can have on their specific organization. And finally, the tactical now, this is where a lot of marketers and sales folks really want to focus because it’s the prescriptive step by step instructions and a lot of cases people are using this tactical content to say that the problem they sell or the problem they solve is what their product does. So in this case, this is the nitty gritty. It’s the instructions, it’s the how to. And here is where you really want to focus your measurements and metrics. You want to link to specific exercises and you want to help the audience implement the conceptual and strategic ideas. Next, we need to talk about the distribution framework, and first we start with our asset, so the asset type is the form that the little boy will take. This can be anything from a contributor. Third party, fireline could be a blog post. It could be an interview that’s written or prerecorded or a live video. It could be a live speaking engagement, webinar, podcast, ebooks, case studies, testimonials. And these could be from internal experts or customer experts or third party experts. So, again, a lot of teams focused very specifically on the skill that their team brings to the table. So, for example, when I sat on the editorial team, everything was a blog post. If you talk to a product marketer, everything is a downloadable sales sheet or e-book. Right. Think holistically about the different types of assets that you can create. Next is the channel and the platform. So this is your mix of paid, owned and earned channels, and it can be a place to both host the content and share the content. So, for example, places like LinkedIn want to become a platform where you both host and share the channels could be owned platforms like LinkedIn, medium or YouTube. It could also be your company blog or SlideShare. It could be influencer channels like a podcast host that shares on iTunes and their social channels. It can include your presence in third party outlets and it can include relevant websites and social media. And, of course, metrics, how do we measure all of this so all metrics are not meant to measure all things and all assets are not meant to be optimized for all metrics. So, for example, reach versus engagement for Ctor, it’s going to be really hard for you to drive engagement in conversation if you’re primarily focused on converting someone with a click through the website. If you highly target your content to drive engagement, you’re going to struggle with the reach. And if you target it primarily from an overreach perspective, you might not get the engagement rate because the audience is so wrong. So think very strategically about the kinds of metrics that you’re looking at for each asset. So once you go through and you look at the different asset types, the narratives that you want to tell using those assets and the distribution platform, you should be able to fill out a table or document similar to this one. So what does this mean in practice? Let’s talk about kind of a consumer example, what does it mean to be healthy and fit? Now, most people would agree this is some combination of the stuff that you eat, your diet and some performance metric. But you’re going to answer that question very differently if you’er Runner’s World versus muscle and fitness versus yoga journal. So I personally enjoy bodybuilder style workouts. Let’s talk about what that would look like if your Muscle and Fitness magazine. So at a conceptual level, when you say it means to be healthy and fit, you would focus on a protein heavy diet and strength as your fitness goal. At a strategic level, you might be talking about different types of compound exercises and slow digesting versus fast digesting proteins, and at a tactical level, this is your five tips to build bigger biceps or three chicken recipes for dinner this week.

[00:11:15] So how do we do that as a business and I want to talk a little bit about contemporary.

[00:11:21] So, for example, Atlassian used content for our demo den series, and in this case we paired it with an ask me anything in our community. And so what this allowed us to do was showcase new specific features that our audience would care about, but also gave them an opportunity to engage in this case. Both pieces of content. We’re at the tactical level. We’ve also had success updating and grooming existing content, so a lot of marketers feel like they have to plot their calendar and they’re constantly on this hamster wheel having to create net new content. But from an SEO and engagement perspective, updating and refreshing your content is a viable strategy. So in this case, we’ve paired a mix of strategic and tactical content on our Agile Coach website, which teaches people about how to implement and practice agile methodology. Another example is using a gated and unjaded pairing strategy. So when I was 14, we did contact pairing on SlideShare to drive in Belize. So at the time we were doing this, it was taking off and it was a huge powerhouse. And while I was no longer the powerhouse that it was then, it’s still a great platform to use to host and engage with your community. So in their book Illuminate, Nancy and her coauthor, Patti detailed 10 stories that we should tell on their transformative journey. And so we created a deck of examples with the first five stories and posted that to SlideShare. And then we included a companion story as the CTA at the end. So to get the motivating stories after they clicked over from the morning stories, they had to fill out a form on a landing page from HubSpot. And so we were able to collect those leads and then send them a nurture campaign to guide them toward workshops and additional content.

[00:13:14] Also today, we used a pairing strategy to pair strategic content with tactical content on LinkedIn.

[00:13:20] So we wrote a long form article about the value and tips for adding humor to your presentation. And then we pair that with a tactical SlideShare example of a bunch of case studies of different types of comedians and how they used humor in their presentations. And I want to talk a little bit about republishing content. There’s a couple of different ways to do that and we’ll talk about LinkedIn and also some syndication opportunities. So first, one way to do this is by using a problem and a solution. Parents, you frame up the problem on impulse and then you link to a piece that details the solution. So, for example, the news editors did this, they teed up this example of throwing away the perfect resume because it didn’t seem like a fit. And then it turns out that the person they hired who was a referral from one of their internal employees was a resume that had ended up in the trash. And so they basically teed up. How do you make sure that when you’re the perfect fit, your resume doesn’t end up in the trash? And then they linked over to the solution on the Musa’s website. Next, you can use case studies and research and you can pair that again, tee up the problem or the solution on either LinkedIn or on your own website and then cross-link it with Proofpoint. So, for example, when Atlassian released our State of Diversity in Tech report, our global head of diversity and blogging published a long form article on LinkedIn talking about why we conducted this research and a summary of the findings. And then she linked to the detailed landing page on our own site and downloadable PDF of the data from the research. So she also shared that landing page as a status update on LinkedIn. But we actually received more traction from her long form LinkedIn post. Finally, you can just straight up republish existing content, so just take that content, as is, put it on LinkedIn pulse and use the call out with a link to the original piece of content. So our word futurist does this all the time, and it’s increased views of his content substantially, several tens of thousands of views. Now, the kicker here is to make sure that you set the original publish as the canonical link and then wait somewhere between one and two weeks for that content to get indexed before you republish. But again, straight up republishing with a link back to the original has been an excellent tactic for us from both an engagement traffic and SEO perspective. And, of course, content syndication, so I’ve written a number of articles for the news talking about career development, team productivity, et cetera, and they have partnerships with sites like Mashable, Time and Forbes. So the nice thing about this is that you’re getting those back links from those contributors articles and their high quality backlinks, the other great things that gives the author additional links to share. So now I have the opportunity to share. Hey, I was published on the news when it goes live on Forbes. Hey, I was live on Forbes. Forbes can also link both to their own content and to the news content. And then the news can link both to the authors post and the republished content. So it gives you a lot of additional ways to share and promote the same content. Now, it’s not just long form content that has changed, social media is no longer just a place to put links to your own properties. And so we’ve seen how a lot of consumer brands do amazing content for social. But unfortunately, our B2B brands are still struggling to execute effectively on social. So let’s talk about a couple of examples of how to do this content right. So I worked for Cloud Access Security Broker and prior to being acquired by Oracle, we created a booth giveaway that gave us multiple entry points into relevant topics and also gave us social media fodder. So we placed an Amazon in a locked case and we had a boatful of what looked like identical keys. Now, there were a small number of keys that actually worked to unlock the lock for the case so attendees could choose the key and even open the lock. They won the tab. Now, as you can imagine at a security conference, a lot of attendees were very skeptical that there were any working keys in the vault. So every time someone won, we snapped a picture. We put it on our company Twitter account. And if they had a Twitter handle, we tagged them and asked them to tweet the photo. And so when people came up to the booth and said, there’s not even a working key, and there we said, go to Twitter and I could show them my phone or ask them to pull up the feed and they could see how often people had one. Again, they’re like doing the calculation in their head. OK, people are waiting every hour. It’s my turn. I’m going to come back in 30 minutes. So we were able to bring this experience from our booth to our social media accounts. We gained followers. We were also able to get engagement and it was relevant to the folks who were stopping by the booth. Now, the other nice thing is that we use the content for real customer stories to create a book that we printed physically at the booth and an ebook that folks could read either from our Twitter account or being sent this e-book after the fact in our emails. So the nice thing here is, again, we’re giving value to people who are following us on social, whether they at the event or not. Next, I want to talk a little bit about how Atlassian use this pairing strategy at our 2019 summit in Las Vegas. So obviously in-person events are not going to be happening for a while. So a lot of people have used live streaming. But think about how you can incorporate social live streaming with whatever your gated platform or registration platform requires. So in our case, we paired our traditional on demand strategy using an exposed platform with scheduled Facebook posts. And so you can go and watch all of these news segments that paired with long form sessions. And then we updated the description to include links to websites, blog posts, session downloads, template downloads, et cetera, so that people could do a deeper dove after the interview that was shown on Facebook. And, of course, engaging on social, so when Atlassian was going to do a huge update to our flagship product, JIRA, we created a whole strategy with our product and engineering managers to engage with people directly on Twitter. And so someone asked a question or needed help with a feature. We had someone go and thread and speak directly to them on Twitter. And as you can see, people really liked it. I like this trend of PMS directly answering some questions, direct accountability, direct feedback. Is this you answering or is this an official thing at Atlassian? And so that one to one connection was what was powerful. There was a name, there was a face, it wasn’t just a brand or it wasn’t just the feeling of a canned response. Now, this brings me to metrics, because obviously one on one is not very scalable and it’s really hard to measure the impact. But how do we do that? How do we measure all the things? Now, a lot of marketers are super focused on how many people click this, like how many people open, how many people clicked from the email, how many people went to this landing page clicks, clicks, clicks. But the problem is all the platforms are greedy. LinkedIn wants you to stay on LinkedIn so they prioritize content that keeps you on LinkedIn. Same thing with Facebook. They’re really into like video. In fact, live video gets six times the engagement and views that native uploads or image content receives. So if if the platforms really want you to stay there and people are also lazy, they don’t want to click a link, optimizing only for a click through on all of your content that’s being shared on social is a losing strategy. So instead, we have the same holistic approach to metrics that you have to content, so in our case we use a variety of metrics, including video branded page search. So this is when someone puts in a product name and a question, it’ll come up toward the top organic traffic. So this is one that’s common for people. This is how many entrances come to owned properties and then unpaid social. And that’s a mix of follower growth. It’s a mix of engagement. And also, of course, our favorite are to own properties. And I love this quote from Jay can do it says, Marketing is no longer about grabbing attention. It’s all about holding it. Today’s best marketers understand marketing isn’t about who arrives, it’s about who stays. And so it’s interesting when you think about these traditional top of funnel metrics or these traditional bottom of funnel metrics and the realization that the goal is to get people to stay and engage with you, not just hurry them through a conversion step. And so I want to talk a little bit about a unique campaign, this one in particular is consumer focused. But if I thought it was fascinating and it’s from the city of Vietnam, it says enjoy the CNN, not hashtag Vietnam. They don’t want you to hashtag your trip. Now, most campaigns that go on these social media platforms want to see how many times hashtag use, what’s to reach, what’s the penetration of the hashtag and instead said, no, we’re going to create an entire website of curated vacation journeys for the people who come to our city. And we want you to come to the tourist office and we want you to pick up an instant camera and only take 10 photos for your entire vacation. We want you to be here with us. We want you to focus. We want you to drink our wine. We want you to go on our hikes, want you to spend money in our shops. And so if you were to think about can we can’t measure the hashtag use, what do we measure to prove success of this campaign? So they went they did an entire out of home campaign and a lot of places that are very focused on social media and very focused on technology like San Francisco and New York. So you can measure revenue uplift, you could measure website visits, you could measure how many people came and picked up the Instamatic camera. And so I love this campaign because it’s so focused on the present moment and creating that one to one relationship and that deep relationship with humans, not with clicks, not with leaders, not with website conversions, humans.

[00:23:46] So what does that mean for the ideal customer journey, and I have a lot of people who are like, well, how does this whole playground strategy? What does that mean for the ideal customer during. And my question back is, how are you defining ideal, because for most marketers or sales people, we’re defining ideal as the fewest number of touch points to get you to a purchase. What we should be defining it as is the most seamless transition between touch points for our audience, they should be able to go up and down and sideways this way, then exit and enter up the slides and down the slides.

[00:24:23] They should be able to get pricing to set budget to start this whole process.

[00:24:29] So how do we build this playground?

[00:24:32] Let’s focus on the tenants of the playground, so first you have to delight your audience. This is all about creating deep quality content, not trying to sell them. Next, you have to build the relationship to the long term affinity for a brand is more important than driving a single transactional landing page conversion. So HubSpot actually does an amazing job of this. They’ve helped me find my marketing strategies. They keep you apprized of new developments in the space. And if I’m ready to make a purchase there at the very top of my list, because they’ve already proven to me that I can trust them, that they know what I’m looking for, that they understand my problems and that we have this long term relationship. And, of course, influencing at every touch point, so at this point, all contact can be considered top of funnel. It’s no longer about rushing people to a purchase. It’s about educating and empowering them for success.

[00:25:29] Who’s ready to play?

[00:25:33] And when you are ready to execute, I would love to chat with you a little bit about how it last tools like Jurez, Software, Chulo and Conflicts can help you build these assets and share these assets and get work done. And again, if you’d like to talk about content, strategy or tools, please feel free to follow me or me or message me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

[00:25:54] Thank you.

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