A condensed transcript of a conversation with Jamie Pham, Content Marketing Evangelist, LinkedIn, at the 2015 National Summit on Strategic Communications (www.strategicsummit.com)
Robert Grupp, Director, National Summit on Strategic Communications (NSSC):
What is your definition of content marketing?
Jamie Pham: Content marketing is building a relationship with a key constituency by consistently delivering helpful, inspirational or entertaining content…. It’s about building a relationship, which means you can’t just take one message, push it out one time and think that you’ve done your job.
Social media is, in its own weird digital funky way, about building relationships and relationships take trust and consistency over time. So, great content marketing is going to establish trust, it’s going to do that consistently and it’s going to do that over a long period of time.
Content marketing originally was just thought of as delivering helpful content to your audience in order to make them better informed and to earn their trust. That content doesn’t just have to be helpful, it needs to be inspirational, especially on LinkedIn, and it has to be entertaining, or else you’re not going to get their attention, and you’re not going to be human, and you’re not going to be relevant.
NSSC: Why has content marketing become such a critical tactic for B2B marketers?
JP: Two reasons; search and social. A couple of years ago, Google changed their algorithm so that if you were going to rank for a specific topic, keyword or key phrase, you had to have a website full of actual helpful meaningful content that got shared and distributed and linked back to. And then the second was the rise of social. You have to be on social media if you are going to reach a large percentage of your population no matter what your target population is. And the only way to break through the noise on social media is through relevant content.
NSSC: Give us an example of an effective use of content marketing.
JP: For Levi Strauss, one of their key communication points is sustainability. They’ve published a lot on water usage and energy usage and where materials come from and manufacturing. Their President and CEO, Chip Burgh, wrote an article on his take on sustainability, and he put his own personal spin on it. He called it the Dirty Jeans Manifesto and he claims he doesn’t wash his jeans. There was a lot of really useful information in this article about water usage and recycling and all of that stuff, but this article got 97,000 views and 265 comments because the guy said he didn’t wash his jeans.
It’s transparent, it’s real and it’s authentic. They’re taking a corporate message, they’re taking it straight to the top, they’re putting a human name and a human voice behind that message.
Target has had a lot of issues in the press. In addition to all of the security issues that they were having, they then had an employee relations issue where they had a disgruntled employee go [to an online publication] and start complaining about the working conditions at Target. So Jeff Jones, their Chief Marketing Officer, wrote an influencer post on LinkedIn: open, transparent, honest about all of the issues that they’ve been facing but how much he still believes in the potential, the mission, the values, etc., for its employees; 332,000 views, almost 2,000 links, 554 comments and some secret coverage in the press.
I think it was even ghostwritten by a PR firm or a content firm but it was honest enough and human enough and transparent enough that it didn’t seem like a corporate message. It didn’t feel like a corporate message, it felt like an honest message coming from a chief executive at the company, and it started a dialogue.
NSSC: How important is it for your employees to also have a professional social media presence?
JP: When somebody goes to research your organization on LinkedIn, one of the first things that they’re going to see in the upper right-hand corner is who in their network works there, and they’re going to click on those people. If those people don’t have a complete profile they’re not representing your company or your organization in the most efficient manner. This is going to hurt your recruiting efforts, it’s going to hurt your sales efforts, it’s going to hurt a lot of efforts.
Employee activation is a big trend with PR and corporate communications teams in the private sector, especially in Silicon Valley and especially in high tech which is what I’ve been focusing on for the last year or so.
NSSC: How does LinkedIn foster this with its own employees?
JP: At LinkedIn we have a social media policy. It’s super simple to understand, super simple to train on. Every new hire goes through it in new hire training but it’s easy, it’s not complicated and it treats employees like grown-ups, and it trusts that we’re going to do things in our own best interest. This, in turn, is in the best interest of the company.
We empower employees with tools to be their own content creators.
Meet the new press release. LinkedIn not too long ago announced its intent to acquire online learning site Lynda.com and…we sent out [press releases] to Mashable and TechCrunch and Forbes and Wall Street Journal. But more than that, the guy at LinkedIn that is responsible for the acquisition…wrote about it in his own personal profile and on the LinkedIn blog. The cofounders of Lynda.com and the CEO of LinkedIn also wrote about it on LinkedIn.com. If you search LinkedIn and Lynda.com, [our CEO’s] blog post outranks the Wall Street Journal coverage and the Business Insider coverage and I think even the TechCrunch coverage because he’s got a million followers and so he’s got some credibility on the site.
Your employees combined connections on social networks, on average, is ten times larger than your company’s followers so you may have a LinkedIn company page, you may have a Facebook fan page, you may have a corporate Twitter handle but if you took one message and blasted it out to your LinkedIn company page and got 2,000 views on it and took that same message and sent it out across your entire employee base you could get up to two million views on it.
NSSC: Give us three tips on how to create the most effective content to influence your audience.
JP: Number one, be helpful. Helping professionals or helping your target audience or helping your constituency become more productive and successful is going to create affinity. And lots of organizations are doing this on LinkedIn from Secret deodorant targeting professional women to CPA Australia.
Second, be human. Bernard J. Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, has written a lot about his life, about leadership, about trends in healthcare. But he wrote one post about how it’s time to revolutionize race relations and that one post got 441,000 views. That’s one of the biggest posts I’ve seen on LinkedIn to date and [it has] 2,623 comments. So, just because you are the CEO of a company and you have things to say about your industry, doesn’t mean that people don’t want to hear about your real life and your personal struggles and what you’ve overcome and the journey that you’ve taken to get there.
And third, aim to inspire. Every single person on LinkedIn is hoping to be the… next director, they’re hoping to be the next C-Suite executive, they’re hoping to be the next entrepreneur that makes it big with their own business and so they’re coming to LinkedIn looking for inspiration. So articles like “Five Things Successful People do that Others Don’t” aren’t going to inspire. Articles like a case study on an intern who’s going to get her first job in the industry are going to inspire. Five leadership lessons I learned from (Coach K) are going to inspire.
So, be helpful, human and inspirational.