EP278: The Power Of Journalism In Branded Content With Ben Worthen | Message Lab

In today’s episode, Stacy sits down with Ben Worthen, who is the CEO of Message Lab, an award-winning agency that helps organizations get results by bringing stories to life, through leveraging journalism, data, and design. The two discuss Ben’s experience in journalism, and how it has impacted his approach to marketing and creating content. Ben also shares why, he believes, it’s important that each piece of content has a job and adds value. They also chat about ways in which brand owners and agencies can create a culture where their team members create and share company content. The two also chat about leveraging SEO and social targeting to create ROI.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them). Here’s your host Stacy Jones.Stacy Jones (00:13):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them). I’m Stacy Jones and I’m so happy to be here with you all today, I want to give a very warm welcome to Ben Worthen. Ben is the CEO of Message Lab, an award winning agency that helps organizations get results by bringing stories to life. Through leveraging journalism, data, and design, Message Lab has created eye catching content that has helped organizations connect with their consumers such as Facebook, Forbes, Airbnb, and Silicon Valley Bank. With their success they received seven content marketing awards in just the last two years alone.Stacy Jones (00:49):
Before joining Message Lab Ben was the head of content at Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm that backed Google, Apple and more, as well as a reporter at The Wall Street Journal where he crafted stories covering the tech industry. Today Ben and I will be chatting about creating branded content or using journalism to focus on engagement and education by creating content that’s actually interesting and leveraging SEO as well as social targeting to drive the ROI metrics you as a brand marketer are seeking. We’ll learn what works from Ben’s perspective, what should be avoided, and how some businesses miss the mark along the way. Ben welcome, so happy to have you here today.

Ben Worthen (01:25):
Thank you Stacy, happy to be here.

Stacy Jones (01:27):
Well, Ben, I always love starting off by having you deep dive on, how did you get here today? I highlighted some of your career steps along the way but you are now this content marketer, you have been a content marketer since your days as a reporter, what drove this and how did you end up here?

Ben Worthen (01:48):
Yeah, thanks. So going back to before I even knew what the term content marketing was, I actually really distinctly remember the first time someone told me that term when I was thinking about leaving journalism for the first time and I was like, oh yeah, that’s kind of what I’m doing now. But going back a little bit, as you mentioned, I was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and for me that was my formative learning about how to tell a story and how to tell it well. And I’ll confess, as a reporter you’re oftentimes talking to marketers, you’re oftentimes hearing marketers put forward their version of the story and most of the time I felt like, oh man, that sounds like BS, and I didn’t find it very engaging, I didn’t find it very interesting and so when I had the opportunity to begin to transition into the marketing side myself I still felt like, gosh, we can tell stories better.

Ben Worthen (02:44):
There’s a lot of things that we can borrow from the world of journalism in terms of thinking and empathy for the person who’s going to read your content, the techniques that you use in terms of structuring a story and telling it, finding it, determining what’s interesting and giving that to people. And what happened over the course of my career in marketing, this is now the last act of my life the last seven or eight years was I gained a lot of appreciation for the rigor that went into marketing, the thoughtfulness that went into a lot of the things that were then presented to me as a reporter when I was having those kind of snippy snipey reactions. But I still felt as though so much of marketing is inside focusing, it’s looking at yourself, it’s talking about yourself, the instinct for most companies very natural it’s talking about their product but they don’t talk about their product they oftentimes talk about themselves just not their product and it’s like they’re the annoying person at the party who just won’t stop talking about themselves.

Ben Worthen (03:41):
The thing that I felt I’ve been able to do, again, drawing on those lessons from the newsroom, was to turn that around and try to say, okay, well, how do you think about the things that your customers care about? And the reality is that most of the time most people aren’t thinking about products, most of the time most people don’t want to buy something, they just want to be informed, they want to be entertained, they want to be engaged, sometimes it’s like you’re just waiting for the bus and you’re on your phone and you just want to have a moment of levity, sometimes you have a problem and you just want to type something into Google and find something that’s relevant to you.

Ben Worthen (04:17):
And when you’re in one of those moments where you want to buy when you’re thinking about a purchase or you have a problem that can be solved by a product then, yes, the number one thing that you want is information about a product, but most of the time I don’t think most people feel that way. So what I’ve tried to do at various points in my career is work with people to figure out, okay, well, how can we take all of the good marketing stuff that we’re doing now and layer on top of that, another level above the top of funnel even, which is this idea of focused content or engagement based content where you’re doing something because there’s so many non-sales moments where we have an opportunity to have a meaningful engagement with someone and you can make something to put into those moments and share it with them where your worldview and their worldview are aligned.

Ben Worthen (05:06):
And you can make an impression on someone and build an impression, help change their mind to get them to think one way about you to which isn’t going to result in a sale in the moment, most likely not, very few people are going to read some cool B2B business advice for instance, and then click on the link to buy a million dollars worth of software, right? People don’t do that. Or, you mentioned Airbnb, they are another good example where the moments in time in which I’m thinking about travel vastly exceed the number of instances if I’m going on vacation. So there’s all kinds of moments where you could just engage me around some cool travel thing and it’s not bad because I didn’t click buy now it just means that, I don’t have a vacation plan right now.

Ben Worthen (05:51):
So going through and working with our clients to try to figure out how can we add that layer on top has sort of what’s been the journey of my career and then I would say more recently over the last five years, then what? To what end? Because increasingly with marketing making something that the internal team feels really good about isn’t enough, you have to be able to show results, you have to be able to have some sort of impact and especially as performance marketing becomes the prevailing trade wind, everything is measurable, everything is quantifiable. If this isn’t designed to lead to a sale, what is it supposed to do? And what is its value? And that’s been a big part of the thing that we as Message Lab I’ve been trying to answer.

Stacy Jones (06:31):
Yeah. And that’s exactly what content marketing is supposed to do, it’s not supposed to slam you over the head, it’s not supposed to be brand, brand, brand, brand, it’s supposed to more so be about something that the brand is able to help shape and present and share and inform and educate and provide value.

Ben Worthen (06:49):
Yeah. Right. Exactly. And provide value is the thing that we latch onto really hard and I think the first thing that we can do when we engage with someone is just help bring that outside perspective of, okay, well, what’s going to be valuable to your audience, to your reader? If we stop thinking about people from a sales persona standpoint and thinking about them as a reader, what are the problems that they have and how can we use content? How can we make stuff that helps them there? One of the exercises and one of the metaphors that we like to use is this concept of an idea store, you have your store of your products and it’s great, that’s where people go to, they buy stuff from you. But if you had a metaphorical store of ideas, what would be in it? What would you put on the shelves? What would the store look like? What would the experience be? And then how can we populate that store with the goal of making people repeat customers your ideas? How do we get them to come back, engage again, and engage again and engage again?

Stacy Jones (07:45):
And so when you’re starting to work with a brand what is the first step? It’s not like, we’re going to create something of value for you, right? So how do you approach getting the brand on board and getting them to understand what they need to actually dig in to pull out to share about the brand ethos versus just, here’s my brand, here’s our tagline, and this is our messaging?

Ben Worthen (08:08):
Yeah. I mean, it’s a great question and it sounds straightforward but can be really complicated. I would say the first thing that we would need to get them to do, which has not been a problem the last several years, I think we’ve noticed a real shift where two or three years ago people were coming and they were saying, now, we’re trying to decide between doing content or billboards, how do we decide? It’s like, I don’t know, here’s an apple and here’s an orange, which do you like better? But I think we look at it as sort of layers of publishing maturity and the first thing we want to do is just figure out where you are, and then really the first thing that you have to be able to do is just make stuff and get it out into the world.

Ben Worthen (08:44):
And that can be hard and it could be hard for a lot of reasons, but if you can’t successfully make something and get it out into the world then everything else doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter whether we’re promoting it right or whether we’re successfully correlating the data clicks onto content with some downstream thing, right? So that’s the first thing that we want to help with. Because there’s so much content and if we’re being truthful the world doesn’t really need any more content, it needs though better content, it needs content that has a purpose, it needs content that’s going to stand out for some reason and so the first thing that we try to do is just look at, where is there an opportunity?

Ben Worthen (09:28):
And for us that exercise begins by looking at, what is it that you believe? And usually this is just something that’s a derivative exercise from your brand. If you’ve done brand work it’s so much easier to figure out what is the editorial identity that can be a part of this, if we are going to be the journal of something what would that be? As sort of a thought experiment that we might do. And from there depending on how much content you really want to make we can figure out what kind of categories, what’s your worldview and do an exercise like that. But I think that really only makes sense when you do it in parallel with a separate exercise that’s looking at what is it that your customers or the people you’re trying to reach, let’s say, are interested in? What are the topics and issues that they care about?

Ben Worthen (10:13):
What are the things that they have and not from the, how does our product help them? Standpoint, but just as they live their lives, what are the things that they care about? What are the things they might talk to a friend or a colleague about? And then on top of that, where’s the opportunity? Because it’s so hard to do the same thing as somebody else and try to make your version of the same thing be better and different. And how do you say it or what do you say rather, which were those first two things I really focused on can only get you so far, how you say it is increasingly important. And sometimes how you say it is the platform that you’re going to use, is it going to be a digital magazine? Is it going to be social? How are we going to reach? With maybe a podcast, maybe a video, that kind of thing, how do we get it to people?

Ben Worthen (11:02):
All of these questions end up coming in because it’s only when you sort of think that way do you see, everybody has their favorite process diagrams and we have them too, but you kind of layer these little reverse Venn diagram type things and there’s a middle and once you kind of identify where that middle is that’s sort of where your opportunity is and then you can go into a creative exercise in trying to figure out, okay, what are the stories we can tell? What are the things that we can make that can fit in here? And then how do we bring those to life and reach people?

Ben Worthen (11:33):
But again, just to sort of try to top it off, it’s really thinking about, what’s your big idea? What are you about as a brand? Again, not product but sort of your worldview and the problem in culture, the problem in the world that you want to align yourself against. Where’s the opportunity in terms of, not just your direct competitors from a product standpoint but competitors for mind share with people that you’re trying to reach, where’s the opportunity there? And then what do those people want? What do they need and what are the problems that they have?

Stacy Jones (12:05):
So to start off you’re working with brands who actually typically have established their why, they know what it is, or… Anyone who is not watching this right now and you’re listening, you could have seen his eyes light up and this big smile and he’s like, no way, they do not know their why. I’m going to tell you this right now, the biggest brands in the world sometimes don’t know their why, which is true, right?

Ben Worthen (12:33):
Yeah. And in fact I almost think that it’s sometimes inversely proportional to how big you are as how well you know it. If you’re two people who just started a company, you probably know your why even better than you know your what because something caused you to start that company and you’re probably more a passionate product at this point. And then you get to the point where your company is 100,000 people and nobody remembers why it exists and you know what you do, you know what your product is, but it’s hard to sort of figure out what’s the big idea at this point. So yeah, I think what we do works better and is easier when it’s layered on top of a really healthy well-branded organization where everybody knows their why but we’ve definitely had a lot of experiences where you have a content strategy that’s pretending to be a brand strategy.

Stacy Jones (13:30):
I’m assuming you will often develop a why for the moment that makes something actually work and it actually can evolve into a true why if it’s built out with more legs around it.

Ben Worthen (13:41):
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, we always think about what is your editorial mission statement and it’s going to be separate from a product mission statement, but it’s really at that division why level. And if I was going to be reductive and formulaic about it, it’s what is the problem that the people you’re trying to reach are experiencing today and what is the vision for what the future could be like, if they didn’t have that problem what could they do? What would be possible? And somewhere in there in that structure and that formula is what we consider that editorial mission statement which is a pretty good proxy for why.

Stacy Jones (14:16):
Okay. So you figure out the why, you have the essence, you have the ethos, you know what’s driving this organization, what then?

Ben Worthen (14:25):
Yeah, easy-peasy, right? Okay. We’re good, we’re done.

Stacy Jones (14:27):
[inaudible 00:14:27] you’re ready, it’s out the door, it’s everywhere.

Ben Worthen (14:30):
Yeah. So honestly at this point it then becomes a question of appetite and then a question of ambition. We have a strong point of view about how to do content well and it means thinking about it as a program and not just as a bunch of assets. So if I could back that up for a second, you can make something and I’m sure we’ve all had this experience where, I’ll just use the example of, and this happens, we do this sometimes, we’re ghost writing an article for the CEO of some company and we do an interview, we’re talking to the PR people or the marketing people, and we’re in a Word doc and we’re writing and then we give it to our client, they have some feedback, give it back to us, we do it again, right? It goes to the CEO’s chief of staff, the chief of staff is like, oh no, this isn’t right, do this as this, come back, revising it, the CEO then goes in and spends two hours trying to get it just right, right? We clean it up and it goes to the lawyers who look at it.

Ben Worthen (15:27):
And if the meter was running on this article you’d have $100,000 worth of premium executive time going into getting the words and this Word doc right. And it’s a process that a lot of people have gone through, it happens countless times a day across multiple companies. And then, okay, so we have this, what do we do with it? I know, let’s stick it on the web, right? And people just put it online and that’s kind of it. And what you all too often end up with is this wall of text on a website that’s running and running and running.

Stacy Jones (16:03):
No one is reading.

Ben Worthen (16:05):
And no one is reading it. Right. Exactly. And you’ve spent all-

Stacy Jones (16:10):
Like SEO. That’s it.

Ben Worthen (16:10):
Yeah. Right. Well, but the funny thing about SEO is that if you’ve done a good job with SEO people will come to it but coming to it doesn’t mean you’re going to read it more often than not. It could be the most brilliant, it’d be Einstein, actually I’ve never read Einstein’s Relatively so it’s a great example.

Stacy Jones (16:21):
Could be the next TED talk, best topic ever.

Ben Worthen (16:22):
Right, best topic ever. And if all you see is this impenetrable wall of black ink on a white background you’re just not going to spend any time, you’re just going to look at and be like, too hard, back button. And so for us that’s assets, right? And it could be a video, it could be an article, it could be whatever it is but you’re thinking about, let’s make this thing. And what you’re not thinking about is, what is the experience that someone has when they see it, when they arrive at it? What you’re not thinking about is, how do we get people to it? What you’re not thinking about is, what do they do after they get there? We don’t know precisely what they’re going to want to do but what are the most logical choices that we could give them? What do we want them to do after? All of those sorts of things.

Ben Worthen (17:09):
And what we see through our data is that on average if were going to sort of normalize it across all of our clients, half of people will leave a piece of content on the web before they hit the 15 second mark. And if you have ever sat there with a stopwatch timing yourself trying to read an article online, which as a normal sane rational person, you probably haven’t, but I’ve done it a lot of times, you can’t read anything in 15 seconds, it’s like one, two, three, the page is loading, four, five, where am I? Is this a cool place to be? Is this a bad place to be? Six, seven, eight, cool headline, where is the photo? And maybe you can read the first sentence. So to go back to our fictitious CEO $100,000 blog post, half of the people are going to make their decision to stay and read it or leave and not read it based on something other than the words that we all just labored over for weeks.

Stacy Jones (18:10):
Lots of sweat and tears gone that you can never get back.

Ben Worthen (18:14):
You can’t, you can’t get them back. But if you accept that as being true it changes the way you approach content because all of a sudden it becomes less about, okay, how do we make this thing? How do we give birth to this CEO article? And it becomes more about, what kind of experience are we creating for the people who get here? And what steps are we taking in order to make sure that they have a good experience? When we get that they are going to engage how do we fight for better load time to get them for the first three seconds? How do we make sure that the UX of our blog, whatever it is, is inviting, is going to not be confusing to them? How do we make sure that the images are either non-existent or beautiful or do some sort of work to further someone in there?

Stacy Jones (19:04):
And have all text. And actually has things like that.

Ben Worthen (19:09):
Yeah, totally, exactly. And then right, because once you start thinking about what is the experience, once you’re here you start thinking about, well, how are people getting here? And then it’s like, is this something that people are going to find, meaning, do we expect them to type something into Google and be delivered here? Or is this something that’s going to find them? It’s not really a problem that they know they have but it’s a big idea that might be sharable. Okay. If we think this is shareable, how do we get people to share it? Right? So it’s like this giant rabbit hole where every question that you begin to ask starts to beget five more questions.

Ben Worthen (19:47):
And I find it posthumously fun and entertaining and amusing and intellectually stimulating to start digging into it but it can be a lot of work. And it’s like I kind of feel sometimes in the world of content you’ve got the red pill or the blue pill to go back to the Matrix, right? And if you can just sit there and have your brain of that and just crank out your Word docs and videos and put them on the web and not really worry about anything else or you could be in the Matrix and you can begin to see the world differently and then have to take a whole range of different kinds of actions.

Stacy Jones (20:28):
It’s a really good analogy.

Ben Worthen (20:33):
Well, see, and then we can talk about how do you get to the point where you’re dodging bullets-

Stacy Jones (20:37):
In slow motion.

Ben Worthen (20:38):
… and bending time. Right. Exactly.

Stacy Jones (20:41):
Yes. So okay, is one of the approaches you take then when you’ve created this wicked piece of $100,000 of time content, and of course it does not cost them 100,000 but yeah.

Ben Worthen (20:52):
And to be super clear for everyone listening, that’s not the fee structure, that’s not actually the way it works, it was an exaggerated example.

Stacy Jones (21:01):
Of course, but not that exaggerate. But when you’ve done this, now, I bet you’re looking at ways that you can repurpose, chop it, redo it. You’ve created this why, you’ve created this message, you’ve created these words and let’s just start with words, but you can turn this into your video, your social, this can just be a piece of your entire structure that content is built around, right?

Ben Worthen (21:26):
Yeah. And in fact, there’s a couple of different ways to unpack what you just said there, all of which we agree with. On the economy of effort standpoint, exactly, you have to atomize things, you have to package things together. If you begin with a broader point of view you can design your editorial calendar or whatever you’re using to sort of control the range of assets that you’re going to make over time in such a way where it’s towards a purpose, you’re building to something, and you don’t just spend, I don’t know. Take this podcast for instance, right? This isn’t just a conversation where you and I are going to have, let’s just make it a podcast, right? But there’s a transcript that can become out of it, transcripts are amazing for search and so let’s utilize it that way, it can be shared out over social, different parts of it can be kind of carved off and that sort of stuff, so yes, I think.

Stacy Jones (22:19):
Typographics, you can do video clips, it’s endless.

Ben Worthen (22:24):
Yeah endless, exactly. And again, once you’re thinking about a program as opposed to imageable asset you can begin to think about, what are all of the different ways that we can hide this off or even do things that are related and adjacent to it? The other part of that question is sort of, I think, something a little bit more strategic, right? Happens a little bit earlier on, it’s one of these questions that we always say which is, every piece of content has to have a job and has to be towards some end and the job of each content whose content is going to be different. And things can do more than one job and so forth but the thing that we see often, and this goes back to your question before about, what do you see when you engage? Really often we’re beginning to talk to people.

Ben Worthen (23:10):
They’ve done a good job of getting to that first step of we’re making stuff and we’re publishing it, but they don’t really know what it’s doing for them. And we can come in and we can do weird analytical things to be able to give them some insight into what it’s doing for them but effecting change means starting with, what’s the job in this piece of content? And sometimes it’s going to be SEO. But thought leadership, as an example, isn’t really great for SEO. One of my colleagues likes to say, SEO is really great for thought following, if people have the thought already and they want to know more about it, they’ll type it into Google, it’ll do great for SEO.

Ben Worthen (23:59):
And thought leadership can mature over time into something that plays really, really well in SEO but when you first put it out there it’s something new and novel and that’s valuable but it’s not going to drive search traffic, right? So it’s job shouldn’t be to drive search traffic, something else’s job has to be to drive search traffic. So then if it’s thought leadership, what’s its job? Okay, well, this is going to be intellectually planting a flag with a strong point of view that our company has and then in order to get people to it, well, it’s not going to accrue through search until two years from now, so what can we do in the interim? We have to have other ways to make it active, and then, what do we want people to do after? Thinking about the user journey.

Ben Worthen (24:42):
So that second step of maturity after just making stuff is, can we define a purpose? Can we figure out how different content types, not formats although formats are sort of like content types, but how these different content types can work together, to redesign a smart editorial calendar backed up by a process that allows us to create it and harvest the most possible value out of it. And then make sure that we can define what it’s supposed to do, what are the things that we wanted a program level to achieve? What is the user journey that we think we’re creating through content? We’re adding layers to a funnel so we’re doing something here, right? So let’s try to imagine how someone moves all the way through it. And then, so what is the job of each piece? We put things in the right place and have them do the thing they’re supposed to do.

Stacy Jones (25:41):
And so with all of the things that you’re talking about they’ve really been about brand owned content and bring it out on traditional brand channels, are there times where you’re creating the content and then you’re finding homes in other content to be able to really position and drive and get those eyeballs? So when your thought leader has this excellent idea, excellent video, excellent writing, whatever it might be, that Google is not going to be scanning for that two year time period so no one is going to know about it for a little while, how can you help people leverage that and actually build some additional legs around it?

Ben Worthen (26:20):
Yeah. So we do have a bias towards publishing it yourself. Now, the reasons are twofold, one, you can control the experience if you control the real estate. So if you have an op-ed placed in Forbes or something, or even if you’re publishing something on medium, you’re not in control of the ambient experience. And going back to that notion about those first 15 seconds and losing half of your audience in that time, you don’t have influence over the first 15 seconds or not as much in those cases. And then also in terms of structuring a user journey you don’t have as much control over what they do next, you’re not necessarily putting the things in the right rail that are either be circulation opportunities or the email newsletter sign up as an example, isn’t something that you have direct control over there.

Ben Worthen (27:11):
The other reason we like having an owned place where you can put content that you’re driving people to and I realize this is sort of so 1990s, but you get the data and you can have insight into the behavior of what’s happening with the content. And one of the things I really believe strongly and that guides all our workers is initiative time-based engagement. So going in it requires a little bit of tweaking to the out of the box analytics in order to be able to see it but how much time do people spend with each piece of content? And for us, that is probably the most meaningful signal that you’ve created something of value for someone more so than a click onto a CTL, that’s valuable too. So what we like to see and what we like to do is we like to be really meticulous about the metadata.

Ben Worthen (28:00):
That’s another reason, if you control the platform you control the backend tagging metadata about things. You know what things are about and you know how much time people spend with things, at an analysis level you can begin to figure out, okay, well, what ideas do these people we’re trying to reach spend the most time with? And then that can both inform your future creative work, we should make more of that stuff, but it can also be valuable feedback for other parts of the organization. And if you are in content you’d almost be a front end of behavior based message testing and share those insights back to the other people so that they know how can they better communicate, how do they better craft their messages in the other kind of marketing channels that they’re making.

Stacy Jones (28:45):
So we’ve got to the point-

Ben Worthen (28:49):
I didn’t answer your question.

Stacy Jones (28:51):
Okay. That’s okay. I’m going to have you answer it but before we do I’d love for all of our listeners who are like, what Ben is saying makes sense, this makes total sense, I would like to talk to Ben, I want to drill into this more. How can our listeners find Ben?

Ben Worthen (29:08):
Yes. Great message. messagelab.com is our website, I’m [email protected] if you want to send me an email, Ben Worthen on LinkedIn, all of these are great ways to find me. So yes, thank you for the opportunity for that little plug.

Stacy Jones (29:26):
Of course, because I knew, yeah, we should probably let people actually know also. So even before you go in and drill into that more, so is one of the things that you’re doing, are you looking for ways, are you encouraging companies to dig from within? Since you like working with own content, are you looking for ways that employees can help share? That you’re looking at if you’re doing thought leadership and you’re putting something out on the CEO, or you’re doing videos that you’re building an actual culture inside your organization where you’re developing that content and pushing it out through lots of things including employee resources.

Ben Worthen (30:04):
Yes. And do you mean employees as part of the channel through which something gets out into the world?

Stacy Jones (30:10):
Yeah. That kind of got into the world. Because I think this is something that a lot of brands haven’t really wrapped their heads around on how do you bring something that actually is super powerful, your own burgeoning thought leaders that you’re growing within the organization, they might not be your CEO but they certainly have knowledge and insights and they have their own followers, their influencers, nano as they may be they still have impact.

Ben Worthen (30:36):
Yeah. So I think in terms of, how do you get people to participate in the idea generation process and contributing towards making content? If people have the inclination and time to do it they can probably be a meaningful contributor. I think we’ve all probably had experiences where you’re pulling teeth and someone doesn’t want to participate and so forth, my point of view on that one is just, just don’t do it, don’t try, you’re just going to frustrate yourself, you’re going to push the boulder up the hill and it’s going to come tumbling down. But the other thing I think is really latching onto what you said here is something that I really believe strongly about is, how do we turn the people in the organization into utilizers of the content that you’re making and how do we get them?

Ben Worthen (31:23):
So for us too we’re trying to layer on non sales content, we’re trying to create moments for you to have meaningful interactions with people in non-sales moments. And for salespeople in particular usually you’re kind of tunnel focused on those sales moments but a lot of conversations you’re going to have don’t want that, you can’t necessarily reach out to Stacy every second a day and be like, hey, Stacy, want to buy something? But there could be an opportunity to reach out and say, hey, last time we talked to you said that you were thinking about your dog’s health, here’s this cool thing we wrote about, like cool exercise routines for dogs. And it’s non product based but you’re creating opportunities for those salespeople to reach out and connect with the people that they’re trying to attract on a daily basis.

Ben Worthen (32:13):
You’re creating value in the content, not necessarily by web based metrics but by building internal champions within organizations. And I happen to believe wholeheartedly that if you can figure that out more so than any sort of web metrics that you want to champion, having those people who have become fans and advocates and connoisseurs of the content because it is integrated into their day-to-day work life and the relationships that they’ve built with the people who they are dependent on, I think that’s a huge opportunity that most people don’t really try to connect the dots to create.

Stacy Jones (32:50):
And I will tell you from an agency who does this, we do this, we have a blog that our whole team writes for. Everyone has X number of blogs they have to write on a yearly basis and it’s just known as part of our culture. So once you get that buy-in, I will tell you, back in 2012 when I started trying to do this that was one hell of a mess of trying to get people to Google, right? But we changed our culture and it’s just part of who our ethos is as an agency.

Stacy Jones (33:16):
But getting them to become part of it to share that sales attempt we’re all told, send out touch bases to the potential contacts that you want to sell in, instead of just sending, hey, here’s an article I recently read that, it was a book that I thought I’d share with you, being able to say that I’m sharing an article that our team wrote, that our CEO wrote, that our founder wrote, that our so-and-so wrote, that sheds exact lights on what you need to know and that I think would just be so great for you without being like, and buy our product followed by that, it’s so powerful and it makes friends and it’s a value. And it’s why we have so many people who read our blog and who follow us because we’ve actually figured out how to do the value and it’s not overnight, you mentioned, putting something out there, written words specifically, it takes years to build.

Ben Worthen (34:08):
Yeah. And, I mean, you’re kind of describing hand-to-hand combat and there’s a degree to which it’s kind of like that in the trenches and you have to be prepared for that and yeah, like I said, those benefits are going to accrue over time. But yeah, I think we believe that it’s that kind of effort and I don’t say that in a way of scaring people off from going down the path of doing content, it’s just that people’s attention is so hard to get and so even if you can solve the making it, I mean, convincing your team as you were describing to write, it’s hard. And even if that’s not your strategy to get your team to do it and even if you hire the trained journalists at Message Lab to come out and find stories and write those stories and tell them and publish them, it’s still hard to get people’s attention and you just have to be prepared to do the work to do it.

Stacy Jones (35:05):
It’s a lot of work but it’s so powerful. I mean, I can attest again, as an agency, we get unbelievable inbound outreach by companies all over the world because of the content we create. Not because we advertise, not because we put money in different places, but because we do videos and education, podcasts and blogs, and yes, we do it ourselves, but you can certainly work with someone like Message Labs and brands out there who don’t have that bandwidth and agency mindset. It’s so great to be able to partner with an agency like yours, to be able to bring that vision to life.

Ben Worthen (35:37):

Stacy Jones (35:38):
Well, yeah. Of course.

Ben Worthen (35:40):
I mean, yeah, exactly.

Stacy Jones (35:44):
I know.

Ben Worthen (35:45):
Oh great.

Stacy Jones (35:47):
Fantastic. Thank you

Ben Worthen (35:49):
Okay, cut, it’s a wrap.

Stacy Jones (35:50):
We are running out of time. Are there any last insights that you would like to share with our listeners today?

Ben Worthen (36:00):
Yeah. I think I would just say that again, we view this as a journey and creating the content, getting the organizational buy-in, giving it purpose is part of it and the thing then that you can do on top of that is really around focusing that effort in optimizing it. And I think we really believe strongly in having data based feedback, being able to do the hard work of connecting engagement with content at a point in time with some sort of outcome that happens later on. And it allows you to participate in the same kind of conversation, that is, colleagues of yours who are like, yeah, well, we can just put 10% off coupons into Facebook and we’re going to generate a million dollars worth of revenue. You can play that game too you just have to kind of look at the stats, the data, differently but once you do it’s really powerful.

Ben Worthen (36:56):
The kind of change that you can make across an organization, and we do think it takes an organization, you begin to get into organizational culture and you get into, finger quote, digital transformation at some point but how do you use these different channels for engagement? How do you use analytics for engagement? How do you do A/B testing on the website for engagement and all of that. And once you begin to start going down that path you can do a lot of optimization and we call it the editorial feedback loop, you get a lot of fast feedback that can result in fast change that can lead to really fast better results.

Stacy Jones (37:35):
Well, Ben, I really appreciate you being on the show today, thank you. You share a viewpoint I have so I always love talking with guests who say exactly what I think in so many ways so thank you for that.

Ben Worthen (37:48):
Yeah. Thank you so much for the opportunity, it was really fun.

Stacy Jones (37:51):
Awesome. And then for our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them), I look forward to chatting with you this next week. And if you’re not quite ready to start going out developing your own content or having someone else develop it for you, now, I would highly, highly encourage you to dig in and figure out how you can leverage your brand and other people’s content. So that’s another way [inaudible 00:38:18] specializes in, and we’ll leverage influencers and celebrities in TV in film in music to help bring more eyeballs to your brand by integrating you into their stories. So give us a call, reach out, and I look forward to chatting with you soon. Have a great day.

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Marketing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them Reviews 

Must-Listen For Every Brand Marketer (And Owner)

This should be required listening for everyone who owns a business, works in marketing, or is interested in the business of entertainment. Great stuff!

The Best Marketing Podcast Ever!

Stacy is a brilliant branding strategist and she really knows how to bring out the best in her guests! This show is fun AND educational! If you’re looking to understand the world of marketing, branding, digital marketing, influencer marketing and more, look no further. This show has awesome insight into some of the greatest marketing minds out there today, and they provide practical advice you can use in your business today. #FanForLife

Awesome podcast for all marketers!

Keep them coming

Practical and pointed advice.

Stacy does a really great job making this a highly actionable podcast for business owners. With a focus on marketing, she covers a wide range of related topics as well and is always very specific with her questions so that the listener gets pointed advice instead of vague concepts to take away. It’s also really helpful to the hear the why behind any marketing tactic so that we can decide if something sounds like a good fit for where we are at in this moment.

Love this marketing podcast!

Lori has a way of finding new insights to share every week. I loved being a guest, but I enjoy hearing her many fascinating conversations with other marketers even more. Great show!

I love Stacey Jones!

I absolutely loved being on this podcast! Stacey is amazing – real, down to earth, and genuinely curious and interested in learning – this makes for a very engaging conversation and valuable podcast!

Thank you for your podcast! I LOVE IT

I just listened to the episode named Insights To Product Placement Brand Marketers Need To Know, and I really enjoyed every minute of it! There are so many ways to approach product placement in a manner that provides wins for many – and it is not always driven by money. I am looking forward to listening to more!

Stuff we need to know!!

Anyone who is in business should be listening to this podcast! Incredible insights and advice.

Such a wealth of knowledge! 🧠

This is one of the most insightful podcasts that I have ever come across! Stacy does such a great job of sharing her wisdom and I love how she leads meaningful conversations with guests who bring so much experience to the table. Highly recommend checking this show out – you won’t be disappointed!

Awesome Podcast!!!

Stacy, host of the Marketing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) Podcast, highlights all marketing and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!
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