Driving Content Marketing in Large Brands - Digital Sparx Marketing

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Driving Content Marketing in Large Brands

Many enterprise marketers would agree that content marketing in large brands is a different ball game. It is less about churning out new content and more about working through the “system” to get approvals, collaborating with stakeholders and managing content as a project.

In this podcast episode of BobCast, we discuss Content Marketing & Social Media with Scott Spjut on the unique set of challenges when it comes to Content Marketing & Social Media convergence at large brands.

Tune in to this podcast and learn:

  • Convergence of Content Marketing & Social Media
  • Blending Content & distributing through social
  • Challenges of building content team – approvals, inputs, creation, etc.
  • Building content teams
  • Social Media – what’s working, what’s not
  • Career path for budding marketers

Driving Content Marketing in Large Brands

Our Guest Speaker for this Episode:

Scott Spjut is a writer, editor and consultant with more than 10 years of marketing experience. His focus on content marketing and SEO — on both the agency and client side — has helped companies get their stories and their ideas in front of the right people in the right ways.

Transcript of this podcast – Driving Content Marketing in Large Brands

Bob Tripathi: All right. Welcome to BobCast, your Digital Marketing Podcast and this is your host Bob Tripathi with Digital Sparks Marketing. And as you know I bring in some great guests all the time. And today I have a guest who has been in the industry for a long time.

Bob Tripathi: And his name is Scott Spjut. Sorry did I mess it up. I’m sorry. It is Spjut, Spjut. Sorry I should have practiced.

Scott Spjut: It’s like the word dispute.

Bob Tripathi: Let me say say it’s a welcome to the show and today I have a great guest which is Scott Spjut and Scott. Welcome. Great to have you. I know your last name. I’m sure I butchered it but I would love if you can introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.

Scott Spjut: Sure. Great to be here. Thanks. My name is Scott Spjut. I’ve been in the marketing industry really ever since college after a couple of years as a journalist which has its own story to tell. But I’ve been doing content marketing and general marketing social media email really for about twelve or thirteen years now I’ve done it on both the agency side for some well-known companies as well as on the client side. Within an internal team. I just really enjoy marketing enjoy content marketing specifically telling good stories we’re debating with our teams in order to inform and educate and empower our current and potential customers.

Bob Tripathi: Nice. So that’s a great career path or rather not the often charted career path has become a journalist. There you are breaking stories. Being a storyteller and then how is it different from being a journalist to being a content marketer.

Scott Spjut: Sure. Yeah. I mean there some similarities obviously with the storytelling. I realized pretty early on that I was a pretty good writer but not a very good reporter I having to sit in a courthouse all day and come up with with stories and all that. And it was much more methodical especially when you’re first starting out. Then I mean the switch to the marketing world for various reasons the least of which being the pay is much much better than many journalists. So there are a lot of great principles of storytelling the basics of the who what when where why and those elements that I’ve brought with me how to conduct a good interview how to break up the story in a way that’s engaging. How to have the most relevant content and principles at the top of an article for instance. But I really I feel like I found a good niche and being able to both serve a business purpose which is a priority for the content marketing that everyone does as well as just something that’s still fulfilling and engaging and you get to tell sometimes really great and exciting stories.

Bob Tripathi: All right. Well I mean it’s all storytelling right at the end of the day if you’re a journalist you got capture but I know you spend a lot of time if you’re a journalist writing the headlines and reporting things like that. Right yeah.

Scott Spjut: And there’s a you know there’s a team obviously when you’re when you’re working with a newspaper and proofreaders and editors and all that. And so depending on the kind of work you’re doing in the marketing world whether with a small group or a large group you’re sometimes having to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of those things. But yeah I think everybody wants to tell a good story everybody likes hearing a good story. So it’s been a part of our culture for hundreds and hundreds of years. So I think there’s something authentic and genuine about being able to tell stories that really resonate with people.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah and you know I have an opinion on that too like you know a lot of times you’re a writer you’ve written some novel and then people call themselves content marketers. But I think content marketing is so much about strategy it’s about thinking it’s about getting it right and less about writing per say. Would you agree to that.

Scott Spjut: But I do agree I think that there are a lot more factors that go into good content marketing than just the writing maybe ten years ago it was as long as you wrote the right things with the right keywords and all that content marketing is a really good balance of both the art and the science. And it isn’t and we kind of romanticize it a bit by saying it’s storytelling and this that and the other but really with with content marketing the information is the product you are trying to give away in most cases information that is valuable that is engaging that empowers the person not just something that’s fun to read or has really nice prose to it.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah. No no I can tell from experience because I made many hiring mistakes and you know we all learn from mistakes and yeah I raise my hands when it comes to that you know. So I think it’s great. I mean looking at your bio and interacting with you you’ve had a you’ve had a great career where your work goes on the agency side but also on the in house side. But to top it off you looks with some larger enterprises also with some SMB as well. So according to you what is the difference when it comes to content marketing see you’re when you’re working for an enterprise vs an SMB.

Scott Spjut: One of them is just the process and bureaucracy that you can imagine exists in a bigger enterprise you have more cooks in the kitchen are more people who want input you have a bigger emphasis on approvals and reviews and all that. And then when you get into spaces like the healthcare industry or the financial industry they are especially regulated in terms of what you can and can’t say. Now what I’m working for some little shop somewhere we can and again I mean we’re not talking about health or finances we can kind of get away with whatever we want. On the plus side of the bigger entities is the brainpower that you have access to. So we in content marketing really we use this term thought leadership a lot and I think it’s overused or maybe incorrectly used because real leadership comes from people who are leading the thinking who are thinking about things in a way that others are. Who are leading the industry and the intuition about what’s to come. And so you’re not gonna get that sort of thought leadership from just some mom and pop shop down the street or some small entity. You know what I’ve worked for big energy companies or financial companies they really do have a handful of people who are very good at their jobs and very in touch with the industry. And then I’m able to come in and do what I like to do which is to tell their story. These people are not writers they’re not editors they’re able to to lean on me for that which is which is a good experience and gives me a lot of exposure to a lot of different things. On the flip side when you’re working for these smaller businesses you have to have the flexibility and the freedom to do what your gut tells you to do to do what you feel is really going to best suit your customers often outside of any sort of business objective that’s set in stone you know form for a company that’s so focused on sales and everything is sell sell sell sell sell. You know if you have a smaller group a little more nimble you can be talking about other factors that you want to contribute. It may not be directly related to sales but it’s giving you that direction.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah I mean I completely agree. Like in a large company it’s all about how good you are particularly to many times. But you’re right there are so many thought leaders so you can harness that and as a content writer I think your job is to harness as say as you’re alluding to. But at the same time having a lot of patience. Right. Yeah yeah.

Scott Spjut: When I first started in the industry and the content marketing world, I should say I was writing two or three or four articles blog posts essentially a day. Now if I’m wanting to do an article I’ll be lucky from beginning to end. It gets done in under six weeks. So it just kind of depends. It was much more quantity over quality back then. And in today’s ecosystem not just with how busy people are but with the way you know SEO works Google’s algorithm works having that more quality over quantity is is ever more important.

Bob Tripathi: Now what do you do to mind quality. Right. Like for example you know I mean one obvious way is through measurement through performance. Right. That is one way but any other way that you know that you can measure that. Oh this is a good quality article.

Scott Spjut: The best way to do it and this is what I tell people and when I’m working with companies the best proxy the best measurement. Your key performance indicators should be your organic search traffic. So we have lots of different things that we toss around and you get a room of 10 people in you get a room full of 10 people and they all have different key metrics that they care about one cares about school that that one cares about bounce rate and time on site. Well Google has these massive supercomputers and they have these brilliant people these nerds which I say with all affection who are who are updating these algorithms these search algorithms on a constant basis to best inform actual human behavior. So it’s not just it’s not just these nerds thinking well this is what we think is important. It’s it’s these supercomputers and these experts measuring actual human performance human behavior and that that reinforce so their algorithm. On average Google changes their algorithm about once a day a couple hundred times a year Google changes its algorithms and every time they do it it is to align better to the way users actually interface with the content. So if your content is good if it’s a good user experience if it’s a good article if it’s on a website that’s mobile optimized that’s ada compliant. It has good load times your content is going to rank better. You can you can have the most beautiful article ever written but if it’s on a website that’s crap. It’s not good content. It just isn’t. It’s not a good content experience it’s not a good user experience it’s not good content marketing good content. Good content is ranked well in Google guide content is not the best indicator of whether the things you’re creating are any good is whether or not you are driving organic traffic from Google from search to those pieces.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah I think that’s the whole performance side of things and that’s how you know how you know you can go back. If you’re working in a bigger companies build a case to produce more local alike or similar type of articles when you go about that but then are there any specific reports or metrics that you measure and you say OK. This is a good article. The third is the obvious which is traffic.

Scott Spjut: I mean if there’s a specific campaign that we’re trying to connect it with there will be an additional kind of GPI but once I’ve established that Google likes the article then I can take that article and put it into whatever piece I want I can use it for a campaign I can use it for email I can use it for social and I know that it’s going to perform well because it’s a good piece of content so we may have a specific metric for time on site or a specific metric for bounce rate or whatever it may be. But that is not more important it does not supersede the key metric which is this organic traffic. Yeah.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah. I mean you know which. Which brings me to another point is like this. Everyone is out there right. Like I was there. I don’t like it and don’t create too much content because everyone has this content calendars does Oh I got to produce two blogs posts of my week because someone somewhere said and I read it that you know you gotta produce to blog posts a week for example.

Bob Tripathi: Right. But when you when you go in that content distribution side because that’s how the measurement comes. What are some of the tactics you go after to distribute your content.

Scott Spjut: Yeah. So really what I found and I think this is interesting because like I said I have worked for some really well-known companies and I’ve worked some really small companies and a lot of things you would think you can use from one to the other aren’t necessarily the case. So what I mean by that we may have a company where they their consumers their customers really like getting their monthly emails. They like it every month. They want the first of the month for instance. And so I go to another company and I’m consulting with them I say you know what do you send out a monthly email and it needs to be the beginning of every month. And we do that and it doesn’t work. And I look like a fool because their industry is different their people are different. So there is a good baseline that everyone needs to have. They need to have a good email program. They need to have a good social media program. They need to have good distribution channels in events or paid advertising. Rising or paid search. All these different things. But once you get that foundation then it’s constantly tweaking levers. It’s constantly adjusting here and there and seeing what is getting me toward my business objective because one thing that works for your industry even for your competitor might not work well for you.

Bob Tripathi: So when you look at some large companies I like say regulated industry you say financial industries you produce a content. Are you just dependent on the traffic that the inbound traffic comes in. Or do you do you employ some kind of a push tactic as well

Scott Spjut: Yeah it has to be both because you can’t just publish something and just hope eyeballs get in front of it. You know what my priority has always been as a content marketer and often coming in to help build these content programs from scratch often is is having the foundation there so every topic be relevant keyword or maybe not every but the priority ones are are already set up are already there. So that next spring when you want to do a campaign on X Y Z the content the articles the infographics. That’s not the weak link in the chain. It’s already there. We grab it. We dust it off. We make some updates. We put it in the email or we put it on the social media. The the content being the product lets it be there. Most of the other campaigns that are going on and we want people to learn these things regardless of what else is going on. But when we do have the opportunities to push with syndication or native advertising or any of that we were able to take what already exists. We’re not inhibited by saying OK well we’ve got it now we’ve got to create this great that or it’s an opportunity to combine some articles or reformat it into a white paper or something else.

Bob Tripathi: Nice nice nice. You talked about building a content basically from the ground up which I believe you’re referring to building content teams. I know you were in a phase like few years back was people were building out this big content teams but I don’t think we’re in that phase anymore because in it it has evolved and matured. But what are some of the primary pillars if you will of a content marketing team.

Scott Spjut: Sure every every company is going to be a little different because some of them do have in-house people for instance who can tackle some of it. Sometimes you have. An agency that’s dedicated just to content marketing and sometimes you’re in an industry that is hyper specialized. So I have I have done content for companies like energy companies or financial companies where you can’t just have anybody write a piece of content because there’s expertise in both. But to get to the point of creating an actual content marketing team you need some sort of strategy element. You need someone who is thinking about what content could be created what content should be created and what the target audience is potentially going to want to read. That is a little different than being an editor or a writer. Writers do often come up with their own content topics but you need someone there to be able to. Say hey does this align with the broader strategy that you love then you have to have you have to have writers and or designers and or copywriters and or art directors like the doers of the work the creators of the thing. Right. And some sort of editor ideally with that sort of experience. So I’ve worked in places where the quote unquote editor in chief is not someone who has that background. And some do better than others and some kind of catch up to the learning curve. But we talk before about journalists. If you really want someone to lead the execution of your content marketing the day to day overseeing it it’s a really strong person with that sort of background. Maybe it’s a journalism background or something like that. But being able to coordinate and collaborate all of it. And then sort of getting alive. And you’ve got to have a proofreader that made some fundamental. Somebody has to read the thing to make sure everything is spelled correctly. Luckily in the digital world you can just always go back and edit it. But you know coming from the print world you print a hundred thousand copies of that magazine with a typo on one hundred thousand copies have a typo. That’s how printing works. So having a proofreader and then having someone on the back end who’s able to do the SEO. The necessary elements of SEO there’s schema markup up there are your URL slugs. There’s method descriptions embedded tags and all of these elements depending on the company. That’s that whole team is two people or it’s 20 people. It really just depends. But you’ve got to have strategy you’ve got an execution you’ve got to have an opportunity to review it and optimize it and you’ve got to make sure that the code side of it the back side of it. All of that is is up and running in the way it needs to be.

Bob Tripathi: Now have you seen some places where content marketing as a team sits in a different department and not in marketing. I would love to use an example.

Scott Spjut: So I actually don’t blog as much as I used to. But I wrote once about this very factor and in my you know 12-13 years I reported to creative directors on creative teams I’ve reported to planning directors I reported to chief innovation officers I reported to Chief Content officers I reported to really kind of anything you can think of editorial content, content marketing is sometimes the stepchild. They kind of get handed around and in some cases that’s fine. There’s a bit of autonomy and independence and when you have a good team and you can trust them then that’s fine they go and they do their thing and deliver it. But there’s also some sort of ambiguity when you don’t have a leader of that group or a department of the group whose who’s steering the ship to use a cliche someone who is saying these are the priorities this is how we get it done because content marketing in the digital space is relatively new you know 20 25 years. I mean it’s getting to be not new anymore going to be established. It’s often like OK well we’ve got to stick it somewhere let’s stick it here and the same with social media. You know it’s well this is new this is different where does it fit. Let’s find somewhere it ties or whatever it really the most important thing for people who are building a team is to have a good manager and a good leader and doesn’t necessarily need to be someone who has that kind of experience although that’s ideal. But I would rather report to a really good manager who knows nothing about editorial content kind of marketing than someone who you know quote unquote is an expert in content marketing. But just isn’t a good people person isn’t a good manager isn’t a good leader.

Bob Tripathi: The team. Yeah it’s just like sports so I like not the best players become the best coaches and the other way around too right. So when you when you look at these content pieces what is your focus like. That is a written content which is a blog post that you mention of videos and infographics what other some of the go to content types if you will.

Scott Spjut: Yeah. So you I mean you cover the main ones there are articles and then white papers which is. Kind of an industry term you know it’s not something that the public or really cared too much about but it is essentially more in-depth more long form and more academic type understanding of a certain principle. The white papers tend to tend to be kind of dry reads which has its place especially when you’re talking to engineers or you’re talking to the scientists or whatever infographics. One quick note about that is very often depending on the website you’re on you’re having to just upload an image. It’s just one big long JPEG which is not Google is getting better about reading that but wherever possible you want to be able to have live text. You want to be able to have a whole ecosystem on that video as you mentioned as well. And there’s a lot of different options with videos. You have ones with voiceover without voice over You have ones that are animated you web ones that a live action. The really the biggest factor often is is time and money is always the case. Which makes voice over In animation really a good option in a lot of cases or at least some sort of slide show because the voiceover is easy to record and rerecord. And if you need to make an update you’d rerecord it. If you’re if you’re shooting people live you need to change something or something it’s just it’s a nightmare. But the other big one that’s that’s unbecoming is Podcast which he reel recording while I’m right and it’s it can be a good passive way to interact. It can be a good way to share information that can’t be shared in other formats. So depending on the industry you shouldn’t just do it just to do it you shouldn’t do it because well everyone else has a podcast. So we need a podcast. It’s an opportunity to give that sort of in-depth analysis hopefully hopefully that’s what we’re doing here today. Give me some in-depth analysis. But being able to decide are we going to do one where we sit down we had record we talked for a while we hit stop and uploaded or we’re gonna do one that’s more maybe produced that we work in interviews we work in all this and it’s just what is going to be the best way to speak to your clients and your customers and some of the most popular ones out there are our guys or gals sitting around talking and and they’re engaging and they’re helping to inform people in a way that’s valuable to them.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah. I mean you know whatever you spend like 20 minutes twenty five minutes you want to make the most of it. And yeah at the same time engaging enough. So yeah we’ve been doing it you’ve had about twenty nine twenty eight episodes and this fun and we also do a transcript of podcasts now so that people can read too sometimes when you don’t have the time to listen.

Scott Spjut: That’s really important as well for a SEO it’s also important for ADA Americans with Disabilities Act right. We want to make sure that we’re providing all of the resources that. Anybody regardless of any sort of disability they may have be able to consume the content we’re creating.

Bob Tripathi: Yeah. And I think another thing that you mentioned is social media how in sync should the social media team should be with the content marketing team. Right. Because at the end of the day you can produce content but you’re not distributing it and social media is one big channel. So how is saying this to teams should be.

Scott Spjut: Yeah. And I’ve been on teams where content and social are the same person with the same team I’ve been in groups where they’re completely separate. Ideally you’re figuring out what works best for you as a company based on the business in fact if you have. I see social media as a channel. So you’re sharing the same way you’re sharing on email or with paid advertisement. It is a way to get it out there. And again having the content there to support that so that it’s not the weak link that would be the priority. That being said there are lots of companies and I think maybe more in the startup world maybe more in the software as a service world that are really wholey digital entities where social needs to be driving the conversation. Social does need to be putting out there what it is that they want their customers to do and not just being a child to promote something else. So it’s a it’s a balance and it needs to be a conscientious decision. It is our social just going to be regurgitating what the content is and adding. Some some insight and feedback and commentary. Or are we going to be able to create an experience independent of anything else on social media which has its value and has its place and is incredibly difficult to do and to do well but can have a huge payoff if that’s the kind of market and product and service that you’re offering.

Bob Tripathi: All right all right. I mean yeah. That’s so true. I mean social media is what you just mentioned is conversational and that’s the way it should be now. Any companies that you can think of let’s say enterprise company who’s been doing content really well that you admire you like the sites you own.

Scott Spjut: Yeah I mean my default answer to that is whatever is ranking well in Google is just content. Right. Because I may think it’s great or I may think it’s crap but I’m not necessarily the target audience. I’m sure that there are mommy bloggers and wedding people and interior design companies that are doing some really great content. I will have no idea because I couldn’t care less about any of that. So there I do see the ones that are integrating nicely that are providing good experiences. Honestly the best often the best content experiences I have are Wikipedia. It’s the New York Times it’s these various publications that are giving me the information that I want without a lot of fluff because that’s what I like to experience. And I may not be the typical customer. So there are lots out there that you get wild with with bells and whistles that you say oh this is beautiful. This is an interactive innovation for the sake of innovation is not necessarily a productive thing to do.

Bob Tripathi: Nice Nice. So I think what I’m hearing is if it does blessed by the Google gods then it’s great efforts on go back to the drawing board

Scott Spjut: and start all supercomputers and Google nerds. Yes then you’re probably on the right track.

Bob Tripathi: Now Scott you’ve been in the industry for so long and you know you’ve had a lot of listeners and otherwise you want to break into the industry in one day work for a big corporate company. So what would you suggest their career path be.

Scott Spjut: I think the important thing is to get a diverse understanding. I came from a journalism background and was kind of pigeonholed for a while into oh he’s just a writer or you just as this. And frankly you know I didn’t go into my journalism degree thinking I was going to become a marketer. So that’s mostly on me but for people who are getting into it now they might be drawn to like oh social media I love it so much or video production I love it so much. Or some other aspect that is just what they really care about and that’s good. But you’ve got to make sure that you have a foundation not only because your first job is likely going to be a whole slew of things but the industry I’ve seen industry evolve over the past 10 years and I’ve had to keep up with the evolution and if I had just stuck with my silo you know I wouldn’t still have a job. everyone always says the robots are coming to take over our jobs right. But it’s always somebody else’s job. It’s continual taking over my job my job and everything taking over somebody else’s job. The robots can take over but it’s wrong me my job. I’m a writer I’m an editor. Pretty soon some robots can come up with an outline. Some robots can come up with a beef. They may not spell everything correctly but you know a robot will be able to do that pretty soon so I’m going to have to be able to add value outside of just producing a content calendar. And so the more broad background you can get. Not just in the marketing world but just as a person you know when I’m interviewing people to hire you. I just want to have a conversation with them and we’ll get into the expertise and we’ll get into the skill set and all that but you know what. What are you really passionate about. If marketing is what you’re really really passionate about that’s kind of a little terrifying actually that you don’t have something outside of your career aspirations that you care about. So being a well-rounded person and having a lot of experience is having a lot of background being able to dabble that that should be the goal as you’re starting in this industry and getting into it because you also don’t know what industry you’re going to end up with. I have worked energy home good health as well. As financial hospitals and some other random ones that we don’t need to get into. But like I know nothing about any of them. I’m not an expert in any of that stuff but being able to be exposed to it all and being able to carry a conversation about it all has been super helpful in getting me to where I am today.

Bob Tripathi: Be curious and always keep learning. That’s what I hear now. This is great Scott. This is great. Great insights. Thank you so much for all this. And you know super insights and thank you again for your time and. Yeah. Great to have you.

Scott Spjut: No problem. Anytime. It was great conversation. Yeah.

Bob Tripathi: Thank you. Bye

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