The future of search engine with content marketing

[Music] [Applause] so red hat software is an american multinational software company and provides open source products to enterprises founded in 1993 today the company has more than three billion dollars in revenue and recently became a subsidiary of this super huge technology company ibm for a company that prides itself on community-powered approach to providing enterprise technology red hat found its content team isolated and siloed laura hamlin director of the company’s global content team within corporate marketing set out to change exactly that and establish a coherent voice for the brand she had to make that tiny team matter to the business barely seven years later laura won title of 2019 b2b content marketer of the year laura is now the senior director of the global content team at red hat focused on content creation curation ux content strategy brand affinity story development and governance we ensure red hat has an authentic voice in the technology industry says laura laura truly is the embodiment of what it means to be a marketing maker [Music]

 

of course this our interview segment where we bring in a wonderful practitioner to talk about all those things and i could not be debuting the show with someone more important more lovely and more wonderful in the world than laura hamlin laura welcome to the show wow thank you that’s a great that’s a really great introduction i really appreciate it well you and i have known each other for a number of years um and i’ve just watched you know it’s amazing i often tell the story about how you and i when we first started working together like eight years ago and you were a team of six at red hat um and have now grown to i think it’s now 45 or 50 people that you have now in content at red hat and it’s just been this amazing story um tell me how you know i think one of the most remarkable things that you’ve been able to do there is truly sort of embody the spirit of reach and frequency you know the classic marketing idea of reaching audiences and you know impacting them with with content and tell me was that an idea that they had prior to your arrival or is that something that you started to build into the process as you came into the job or how practically did that really start to get its legs at red hat you know when i joined red hat they already had a magazine um and the magazine became a website so there was already this theory that if you put good content out in the world they will come i mean i know you talk a lot about john deere and and that what is it the furrow referral yeah so you know it’s not a new idea i mean it’s it’s this old marketing um but you know they already have that in their brain um the challenge is you know we’re also uh we were also a you know kind of an up and comer trying to bust into the cloud world so if anybody out there worked in software you know cloud was you know it was just the thing you had to sort of uh yeah everybody had to talk about everybody had to have a you know position on and so it was interesting because there was this dynamic of like no no we serve these technical people who are in the trenches and they’re building the software and we give them good content whether it’s of course we have a terrific docs team you know but beyond that really put stuff out there that helps them figure out how to use this stuff and and how to navigate you know the it world then there’s the other side of it which a lot of people marketing run into which is these product marketers who are out there also trying to sound you know they they’re all trying to sound like they know exactly what’s going to happen in i.t

 

and nobody does you know it’s a i mean this is a this is a wild wild world i t is is wild it changes all the time which i love and i think that’s something that you know our ceo um paul cormier he’s our new ceo um fairly new you know he’s he’s got that voice if you if you watch him do interviews he’s very plain spoken and you know you i remember years ago our head of pr said something like you know they let’s they people wanted paul to come in and tell them what was really going on you know um because there’s a lot of you know there’s a lot of obfuscation when it comes to i.t there’s people are just trying to be like this is where this is where it’s headed and nobody really knows you know so i like that dynamic at red hat of like having this leader because paul was our head of products and technologies before that who who sort of did does tell it like it is you know he’s a boston guy he’s he’s very plain spoken and so you know to me that was kind of like um uh when i when i came in i was like well you know on the one hand i hear a lot of private marketers trying to talk the talk you know everybody’s using uh the uh the terms and the and the um and you know even just you know trying to sell new concepts like you know when you think about you know seo and people coming up with i mean i’d say we come up with new words all the time and new terms and you know paths and infrastructures of service and all these things we’re trying to explain these very complex ideas and sometimes it just doesn’t work i mean we you know um so so for me it was you know when i came in i did see a we you had a magazine it became a website i see that you’ve got an idea of how we could do this but but you know um i know when i first started we were a very reactive team and we were just kind of taking what people threw at us and trying to make sure was in the right template and you know uh let’s start there um and maybe in the right you know cms or damn you know like stored in the right place and then you know we that’s how we started um funny because i i often tell the story about how you know you’ve gotten started through this idea of mechanizing content right getting it into the right damn getting it into the right you know process

 

and template and and all of that and i think that evolution that you made is even more interesting which is you know just to your point you’re talking about things like uh you know speaking in plain terms and letting people really know what’s going on and educating the market and sort of teaching customers how to be customers and teaching you know all of these wonderful things tell me as you made that evolution was it you know we get lost sometimes in this idea of brand journalism and we need to cover the facts and we need to do this and we need to do that and it sounds like and you correct me if i’m wrong here but one of the things that you did was you said no we had a you know our ceo our head of technology we have a point of view on the world we have a point of view on how technology and iet should be managed thus we can sort of surface that and it’s not just educating to facts but it’s actually bringing our red hat point of view to the world to tell that story to teach those customers how to be our customers is that am i getting that right i think so again i want to emphasize you know i work for a company that has a very strong point of view we’re an open source company so i feel lucky there you know i mean anybody who’s in marketing knows i mean it’s a struggle to make people care about what you’re doing and and why and what is your point of view and does why does it really matter does it really matter so and and we’re you know at red how are a bunch of skeptical people so um so you know we but we have gotten feedback that our mission matters in the industry you know that when it comes to certain topics people look to red hat to say what what do you guys think you know and i think you know you talk about brands embodying a person so like when i was in grad school you know we would say all right uh this brand who is this brand like name a person like is it you know is it oprah winfrey who’s the voice of this brand so you know we we did that with red hat at one point we had some you know some some uh you know um neil degrasse tyson you know we think about him and how he talks about the universe but he brings it down to something you can understand you know um trying to find people who aren’t necessarily like you know you know polarizing figures but also people who have a point of view so it’s an interesting dynamic um but yeah i mean it it is true like we you definitely have to connect your voice to what people want to hear you know that’s the whole dynamic of marketing and and what is your voice and do people even care that that’s your voice you know i mean we celebrate companies that have marketing that that really um speaks to who they are you know and so um i think i came in at an event with an advantage working for red hat because of that because we do have a mission yeah well tell me a little bit about so as you evolved this idea and started scaling right so there’s this sort of idea of okay we’re gonna first of all this is gonna work right it’s one of those things where yeah it started to work we started reaching more audiences we started becoming more popular within the business people started demanding more content from us we start building in all these wonderful points of view you know and now there’s pressure right now there’s pressure to say hey we need to get into podcasting and we need to have a blog and we need to have white papers and we need to have presentations and we need to have all of these different content things fulfilled how did you practically start to think about you know other than just being able to hire more people which i have to know that you weren’t able to do right away how did you start practically being able to address the need for scale to reach more audiences through different channels and at the same time maintain the quality of that point of view that you you know had you had taken so much care to develop yeah yeah it’s uh different content types and you know uh we manage i have four divisions of the team so i have a team that you know edits and and they do editing but they also do keynotes and they do you know messaging so there’s a whole there’s one group that does that there’s one group that works on content strategy for the web there’s one group that works on localization and some measurement strategy and then there’s a copywriting group advertising group that writes you know ads and also works on podcasts and things so i do have a team set up and you help me figure that out navigate that early on like how do i set up a team um and i definitely would say that headcount isn’t the solution like you don’t just be like give me more people and i’ll do this thing that’s that’s not the way you know i think you know i honestly have i still love the model of like you know working with a team and them saying let me put a head one head count on your team now because i believe that you can do this you know just one person maybe it’s a contractor we start small you know what i mean by that is i build a relationship with somebody using the team that i have so the team that i have terrific team they go in they start doing work on the side if they can like they just work the work in the team really loves them they usually you know love the work they do and go okay if if i can get a contractor and that support that is supported by your team like on your team then we’ll scale so that the scale for me is start small prove a proof of concept those little you know we call pilots or proof of concept like do a little thing see if you can prove the model and then get buy-in and then grow and and you we do look for executive sponsorship i mean we’ve got a couple of executives at red hat who have been benevolent you know um caretakers of my team so they come in and they’ll say oh you did a great job on this podcast let’s do another winner i see you did that let me see if i get some money for this you know um and we also try to build an organic play with everything we do so that you don’t rely on budget you know you don’t really own a big budget or you know a lot of promotion you try to get let the audience because when you build that organic side of the house you can let the audience tell you what they want their their whether it’s from a you know web perspective and they’re coming in you know because they found your content um i we’ve just done a brand study a second um brand affinity brand lift study with our podcast and found that most people are finding it i mean they’re finding it so they’re they’re it’s being shared or they’re finding it from other we’re advertising on other podcasts or you know they’re being hearing about it from other podcasts so you know trying to make sure that your program from the start has some sort of organic play to scale so that you don’t have to have budget or head count all the time to do the thing yeah did you end up scaling and starting from saying okay here’s an audience we want to attract in and here are the channels that we want to use to do that or did you rather go from sort of the inside out looking at okay well here are the products that we have and here’s the audiences for them and we need to scale that way which was there one particular way that you found was more effective in sort of reaching more audiences um you know that’s a very interesting point because one of the struggles that we’ve had at red hat is we weren’t really in the c-suite you know so like i mean just abysmal you know uh awareness and so um that’s hard for a product marketer to think about like you know they they understand the technical audience you’ve got the sysadmins you’ve got the developers you’ve got those audiences that are um you know or you know uh architects they’re more technical and they’re like yeah we got those but we need these you know we need the c-suite and so we had that dynamic for years at red hat where we were just like oh how do we how do we do both you know because we’re really good with that technical audience so i think the technical audience just was always with us they’re always like we like red hat and we like your content and we’re all we were just good at that and it’s almost like you take your eye off the ball of what you’re good at you know and you go and you’re like wait we need this big thought leadership you know work so over the years i’d say we started with product we started thinking like okay i mean red hat enterprise linux was the reason behind you know command line heroes because we were launching red hat enterprise linux 8 and we needed we wanted to do something different so the the product marketing team said we’ve got to do something different so that was a that was a the kernel of the idea we just you know this is a big deal when you do something different and you know their idea was to maybe do some videos or you know they started there like well let’s do some videos about the operating system and does the operating system matter and just asking these questions and that led to research which led to the podcast it was you know over time um so yeah i think just we were really product focused we always have been and in order as a marketer again if you’re thinking about making how do we make this stuff how do you do it you got to get the product marketers to buy in so you got to be all about that product sometimes and like really just say like let’s figure it out let’s really think about what that product can do and let’s sell that product

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but then you know as a marketer you sort of go out concentric circles and go okay i see what the product can do i see that idea let’s build out on that and figure out something different that once we get the buy-in from the product marketing team maybe there’s budget there and then we figure out if we can build something that that’s what happened with command line here’s it just got bigger over time it was it started as a as an operating system podcast it’s funny because you know i think the idea here is is that what i’m hearing you say is is that it’s independent of where the original idea for you know whether it’s a platform whether it’s a campaign whether it’s a one-off video wherever the idea comes from it has to integrate into the classic marketing mix right it has to integrate into your product mix it has to interview with or integrate with where you’re going you know with your audiences and with your customers and and that integration piece is such an important component of what it is you’re doing once you’ve got it up and running however tell me a little bit about so okay it’s command line heroes which for those of you in the audience who don’t know is an amazing wonderful podcast that laura’s referring to um that is all about red hat you know and and linux and it’s a you know award-winning um great podcast um do you look at that podcast now a bit like its own product do you have you know sort of its own caretakers and own sort of idea of how it’s how it’s managed as its own little platform or how does the team see sort of the the you know the command line heroes these days um well one thing that i love about the podcast is the name because you know it kind of says what it is and it makes it it’s a big idea like it’s you know these command line heroes these people who are on the command line changing the world in some ways and and so that makes that sounds cheesy to me all of a sudden but um but you know what i mean because because we keep it real though because you know we did we did venture into some really big heroes this year we actually had like our branding included like action you know figures and stuff we didn’t actually make them but one day maybe um but you know we actually had these people who the one of the the themes was people who were behind the technology that you maybe used and had no idea that this amazing person was behind it um but you know the podcast is actually lightly branded so we didn’t do advertising on the podcast although we thought about it you know we had like the our store say our storage product team were saying hey can we run ads on command line heroes and we really thought about it um but we work with a vendor with a with a podcast uh company who um you know they gave us uh really good direction on maybe you know state sticking with a kind of a non-branded podcast and we have found that people actually know it’s most all most of our listeners know it’s from red hat um and so um you know for the the podcast itself we we actually we weren’t we knew that we would get a technical audience we knew that the the audience for you know because we started out with like the os wars it was like a star wars feel and it was just you know that’s a really dramatic story about you know apple and and you know you know all the different um os’s and how they sort of fought the battle and where open source kind of came in and and you know eventually won in many ways for an enterprise companies so we felt like we had a kind of a cool dramatic story and we also employ a bunch of giant nerds like our our teams the people that work at red hat are just they love this stuff and they they kind of geek out on it so they are very intriguing people because they really bring it to life so i think it was for us you know uh it the podcast uh definitely feel it definitely is and started about you know uh with an idea of talking about the operating system but the way that we told the story um because we work with uh pacific com name pacific content our the folks we work with to build the to make the podcast you know they’ve got show runners they’ve got production folks they they gave us all these you know basically all the insights we could have on how to build how to make a podcast and make it work so um so anyway i think it you know it started as a kernel of an idea to to target technical people and talk about an os and it has grown into you know just something i mean so much bigger um we actually are looking at the audience now and seeing some you know executive not a lot but just a little bit it’s sort of my theory is that people work through the ranks like they start in a technical role and they get into a manager role and they kind of work up and they remember the days and i know you’re like this when you you started you you have a sort of an i.t marketing background you remember those days and some of those stories you geek out to because i think that’s an incredibly important point which is you know and even bringing it back to this idea of reach and frequency that you know consistency and time with an audience builds in sort of loyalty right which is you know in many ways some of the things that you know and but we’ve seen this happen at content marketing institute which is in the early days you know the hallways were filled with interns and junior assistants and marketing managers and marketing directors and over the past 10 years i’ve just watched all of those people rise through their own ranks where now we have many more senior level of executives in our audience not because we’re attracting more senior level executives but because those people grew up with us right exactly it’s an incre it’s an incredible thing and it speaks to how this is really a long game right this is you know a a long-term investment you know one of the questions i often get is how do we reach c-suite um you know how do we how do we get them involved as an audience and one of my answers is target them when they’re not in the c-suite right because eventually they will be and and you can’t get them and if but you’ve got to have the long game in mind well yeah and on that note maybe talk a little bit about how you’re starting to measure what you’re doing and certainly you know we we talk a lot in content marketing about lead gen and mqls and sqls and all that stuff but talk a little bit about some of the things that you’re doing which i know you’re passionate about sort of the brand and and some of those ideas you know reaching audiences that really affect the brand as we talked about in the early part of the interview and how you’re how you’re actually quantifying some of that yeah so one of the things we’re really i i talked to the team i think it was last year early last year maybe the year before and said imagine so command line here is super popular which immediately i go uh-oh what if it doesn’t what if people ask it like try to take the budget away from us everybody because it bothered me that people were like oh i just love it it’s just great and i’m like but but why and how you know and i mean even you know our i mean uh you know our our ceo is wearing the command line here his sweatshirt and meetings and stuff and i’m like okay they love it but like how can we give them talking points about why it matters like why it’s a great show okay so they love the stories and honestly that’s the hardest part so we’ve done that and we’re doing that so that’s the hard part is getting terrific stories out there but how do we measure it and so that’s one of the things that our team is really super uh focused on now is what do we what do we as red hat look at when we think about brand awareness how do we create brand awareness and how do we create brand affinity um and how do we define brand affinity and to be honest with you that is an ongoing conversation right now so we don’t have all the answers um and you know we never will but we don’t we actually literally are saying to ourselves what does brand affinity look like for red hat and how can we create more programming that generates brand affinity so we’re working with a third-party um uh team that works really only on podcasts and they’re doing surveys of our audience so they’ve done surveys now for two years um and i’ve you know got my little list of factoids um but 99 of listeners knew and it was a third-party company that surveyed them knew that red hat was the sponsor of the show which to us and especially to uh specific content that we work with they were super excited about that because it’s lightly branded so people are so nervous about lightly branded podcasts so they’re kind of looking to us to say no they know it’s red hat um and then uh it says so our research also says that um eight uh let’s see red hat they gave red hat an average brand favorability rating of eight point one out of ten compared to six point three among non-listeners um and six and ten reported taking a positive action with red hat since they started listening um and we’ve got a list of like what positive actions look like um and then most of them found command line here is by searching for a tech like a technology podcast which is because the reason behind that i think is

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because we actually identify podcasts as a place where there weren’t that many um folks it was a good watering hole for us so that’s kind of pays that off that back in the day we said you know there’s room for this um and there is because people are actually searching for it i think it’s becoming you know there’s more and more podcasts every day so we know that but um but we sort of got in on a place where people were actually looking for this content um and then eight and ten so they had shared command line heroes with others um 85 percent of engaged listeners said they loved the podcast up from 64 last year and um we have a love like score increase from 95 and 99 um with folks saying they like or love the podcast and the feedback that we got verbatim say we want more content so that regular i know you talk a lot about regular publishing that matters um you’ve got to continue to put out your product a lot of people want to launch a blog or something and they don’t have an editorial plan they don’t have the long game plan um and so you know believe me when we said we were on season eight i was like are you kidding me we have people still want to listen to this but they do you know and they they ask for more technical content so that was interesting too like they’re interested in those technical stories we kept it kind of middle to more technical but still you know they want more technical content um and they just want more they just want more stuff more content from us so we actually are putting out another podcast um that’s going to be more product focused and it’s going to be more regular um then or more often i would say not more regular more often more frequent than command line here so that’s just some of the those are some of the things we’re measuring um we also are measuring what people think about red hat as compared to some quote competitors because you know we we’re partners with uh you know everyone in software so it’s i wouldn’t necessarily use the word competitors but like what do they think about red hat versus microsoft or you know other people in the industry um and their opinion of red hat goes up um and their opinion of our competitors sometimes goes down which is has nothing to do with the editorial it’s just maybe they don’t have a podcast that they maybe don’t have a podcast that that people like as much i don’t know where that comes from but that’s a weird that’s a weird fact that is not something we’re gunning for or targeting um but we are asking people what they think about red hat you know um if they think positively about red hat after listening to the podcast i love all of that i mean you know because what it speaks to is that you’re measuring impact right you’re measuring the impact that the content has you know what i didn’t hear you say which i was very refreshed to not hear you say um are downloads right which i’m sure you’re measuring and i’m sure you’re watching and sure and i’m sure your you and your team care about immensely which is certainly you know a measure of reach right however you know if we can increase the number of downloads or listens we’re certainly reaching more people however what is was important for the brand measurement wasn’t the number of downloads or the number of listens it’s the impact that you’re creating through you know is it creating a more brand affinity worthy customer yeah are we helping to drive education are we helping to drive you know awareness of what it is we do to a new audience or to an existing audience and are is it helping us develop even better content right whether it should be more technical or whether we should launch a new podcast i think those measurement techniques are you know it’s one of those things where i so often will we’ll we’ll talk to folks who are measuring content marketing and i’ll say you’ve got to get your eyes out of google analytics you know you’ve got to get your you know you’ve got to get into asking working and talking to the audience because they’ll tell you what’s working and what’s not not just watching their behavior on a website yeah and you know one of the things we’re doing i mean our web team is doing this too you know we definitely look at downloads and page views uh of course i mean it’s a it’s one metric but we don’t we don’t talk about that with command line here’s we’re looking at how long people are like is it eighty percent ninety percent of the pack especially without commercials and there’s no break so we’re looking we really want like a you know 85 percent we want people way into the deep into the podcast i want to listen to the whole thing and they do um and i didn’t report on that with this because this is kind of more about the brand and not but but that’s what we look at metrics every day like those are the metrics we look at as time spent um because you know imagine somebody spending 20 minutes with your brand every week i mean that’s unbelievable um and you know so so that’s kind of what we’re looking for from the podcast and then from web traffic we really do look at do people go from you know we have um different levels of of you know kind of like we have topic pages that are kind of broader like what is this thing and then we have article pages which are how do you do how do you do this with that thing or how do you know what about security in that thing or storage and that thing and so we look for people to dive deeper into the topic or go laterally from topic to top because you’re like wow you you guys are covering a lot of things so we kind of look for people you know to kind of move around from topic to topic or topic to article um certainly ctas um we won’t be able to sign up for our newsletter um you know we want people to uh webinars we found are really big yeah of course right now you know coveted times absolutely online online events are big and we understand there’s fatigue there but but over time we’ve noticed webinars and virtual events were a big conversion point for us from a content marketing perspective on our website um you know outside of the fact that we want them to eventually get the product page and download a white paper which some you know people come into 700 doors in your website your website’s basically got you know as porous um and so you know most people a lot of people just go straight to product because they just need to know about that product and so you know our our data analysts have even said like let’s build an upside down you know whatever you want to call it funnel where it’s like product first and then build up and go you like this thing what about this thing did you know this topic you know we kind of go up from the product yeah that’s an amazing amazing way to look at it well in the final moments of this what practical so for those that are watching this show and saying okay what i’m just starting i’m just a beginner at this and and what practical advice would you give to perhaps yourself you know five years ago eight years ago um for those who are just beginning to make the business case for this and just starting to dive into this what are you know what’s the one practical thing that you would advise someone to do if they want to get to where you are today well you know i feel like we built this on you know the idea of partnership like finding a partner then adult marketing shouldn’t be an adversary to you know other things you know marketing should be a partner so i think solving a problem in a small way with marketing you know is is where we started so looking at a you know our whole web team started because we had a competitive situation where we needed to be known for a thing and so we started building content on that and just just that one thing that one topic and started watching that traffic and now that’s basically how we have our whole content strategy for the website you know so so so really thinking about something that’s kind of meaty that’s a challenge and jumping in and trying to figure out like how can i partner with this other person at the company and build alliances so that you’re not working in a vacuum you’re not just thinking about marketing you’re thinking about a bigger picture a business challenge the audience you know really um my team would say uh you know we know that the whole adage of the customer is always right but what what we really mean by that is what are they what do they want to see like what you know you it’s probably not what you think and so maybe even couple your partnership and you’re starting small with research like just think about somehow or another including research and we did research at events we were already going to events and you know maybe one day we will again so let’s just do research there like let’s just set up a little booth let’s give away some things and ask people questions and interview them so you know try to build things into the way that you naturally work even use your internal audience as your audit you know you have people maybe with titles that your audience has that maybe you could use so i i don’t know if that sounds trite but we start small create partnerships solve a problem together and that way they’ll always remember you like oh yeah you’re that person that helped me solve that problem let’s do it again absolutely i love it i love it as a piece of advice laura thank you so much for all of the wonderful advice and i love your story so much um and uh thanks for being on the show today well thank you i’m so excited about the show i cannot wait to listen to it so i i need all the help i can get so yeah keep just uh you know keep making episodes i’m into it i will be a subscriber awesome thank you

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