Download

A big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. Today, I have an exceptional guest, Amy Higgins. Amy is a Director of Content Strategy at Salesforce.

Today, we are going to talk about planning and creating an editorial calendar and editorial strategy for an enterprise.

In this episode:

  • What makes the content management and editorial strategy process different in an enterprise?
  • How to ensure feedback from everyone involved in planning and creating an editorial calendar and editorial strategy?
  • How does the team size impacts editorial planning?
  • What s the best way to learn about what the audience wants and how much content they can consume?
  • How to manage a mix of content topics, and how to get feedback from everybody?
  • What is a good pace of editorial management, creation and how often to refresh content?
  • How to do proper research for content editorial?
  • When collecting data, why it’s important to observe both the aggregate level and individual content pieces?
  • What are the planning stages and step-by-step processes before creating an editorial?
  • If you have a lot of content to manage, what is the best way to track every piece of it?
  • What kind of tool should be used for SEO, and how?
  • When and how should businesses optimize their current and past content?

Quotes from the episode:

“You need to understand what you currently have in the market: What’s resonating with people, what are people clicking through, what are they engaging with, what do they like, and most importantly, what do they not like?”

“I’ll give you something that many people go wrong where they target, going to write this article, and it’s going to target this keyword and only this keyword, and you have to think about natural language.”

A big hello from Raleigh, North Carolina. Welcome to another episode of B2B Marketing & More. Today, we have a very, very special guest, Amy Higgins. I love her, and she’s also a friend. She’s a Director of Content Strategy at Salesforce, so welcome, Amy. So happy to have you.

Amy Higgins: Oh my God, Pam. I love you so much. You’re so energetic. I just, I wish I could give you a big old hug.

Pam Didner: All right. Virtual hug.

Amy Higgins: Virtual hug.

Pam Didner: So Amy, given that you are a director of the content strategy, what I want to talk about today, it’s really about editorial and also content planning. And given that you are managing the editorial planning in an enterprise, and Salesforce is a huge, global company, can you talk to us? How is that different from just managing typical editorial planning in a normal company? Is there any big difference?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, so first of all, define normal because nothing is normal.

Pam Didner: Oh yeah. That’s a good point, but what about kind of like a medium-sized company with a marketing team of 10, 15 people or even small size company, and they have a marketing team of five people. And they do always have somebody manage the content. Still, given that the company’s size is smaller or the product is homogeneous, the scope of content planning tends to be manageable. Still, in the global enterprise, that’s a completely different story. So can you talk to us from that perspective?

Amy Higgins: Yeah. How you go about it, is always the same, but the number of people involved in what scales or contracts.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: So with an enterprise company, you might have those five people who are very, very close to the product, but then add on another five who are adjacent to the product, and then add another five, and then add another five, and you get where I’m going with this, right?

Pam Didner: I do. I know, you’re saying you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Yeah. I get that.

Amy Higgins: Always a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but the thing is, is it’s like a, I don’t know, have you ever been to one of those really good restaurants that have dessert cook and then they have the amuse-bouche cook, every single cook brings something different to the table. It’s good to have all those cooks in the kitchen. But you do have to allow time for it. And you do have to know what each cook is coming to the table with.

Pam Didner: That’s a very good analogy. You have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and they all have something they can bring to the table. They probably also have something like you were like, “We don’t need that,” so you have to know what you would like to get from the cooks, and you also have to somehow manage the cook’s expectation, is that right?

Amy Higgins: Yeah.

Pam Didner: When you say you need to take time to do that, does that impact your editorial planning? Like if you work for a smaller company, five people, you probably can plan your next quarter’s topics pretty much in two meetings, but in an enterprise, you probably have to do more meetings and get everybody’s feedback and that kind of thing.

Amy Higgins: Correct, but I would take it a step further that it might not be like 20 meetings. It might still be two meetings with a lot of work in between.

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Amy Higgins: And then you can do a lot of work asynchronously, either through collaboration docs or collaboration tools like Slack.

Pam Didner: Got it. Got it, so basically have your tools in place when you have many cooks in the kitchen, managing your expectations and a tool and process. It doesn’t matter if it is meetings or just getting their instant feedback, have that tool in place to solicit the feedback and understand where they come from, and you can determine what you want to take or whatnot.

Amy Higgins: Exactly, and if we continue the same analogy about cooks in the kitchen, you also have to think about how large are your audience appetites?

Pam Didner: Oh, I like that.

Amy Higgins: How much can they consume in one meal?

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: And so if you’ve got 20 different cooks with 20 different dishes, Pam, if we were going to Mabel’s in Cleveland, you could probably eat 20 ribs. You would be down for it.

Pam Didner: Oh my God, I’m such a good eater.

Amy Higgins: Yeah.

Pam Didner: You know that.

Amy Higgins: Ribs, Pam, done. But many people might just want a couple of ribs and some greens and some cornbread, so you have to understand that mix of what your audience wants and how much they can consume in any given time.

Pam Didner: How does that help in terms of creating your editorial? Do you manage your editorial quarterly, or do you have whole topics that you planned out for the whole year, speaking of 20 dishes?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, so in smaller companies, when I’ve managed content, we plan a year, sometimes 18 months in advance.

Pam Didner: I’m not surprised. Yeah.

Amy Higgins: This quarter, I’m focusing on this quarter, I’m focusing on that.

Pam Didner: You have a specific theme associated with it?

Amy Higgins: Mm-hmm. This quarter, we’re just going to focus on ribs that I’m hungry for dinner.

Pam Didner: I know. Me too.

Amy Higgins: Sorry. This quarter, we’re just doing cornbread. But at enterprise companies, especially fast-moving enterprise companies like Salesforce. You have to be, “Okay, we’re going to cook a meaty dish,” but you have to be flexible each quarter, depending on what that dish is.

Pam Didner: Got it. You have to make adjustments as you go, pretty much.

Amy Higgins: Yeah, exactly.

Pam Didner: Now, talk to us a little bit in terms of the content mix. Do you mix that with the user’s pinpoint and along with the products? Do you divide that by different personas, by industries? How do you manage a mix of topics, and how do you get that feedback from everybody?

Amy Higgins: I would say the mix comes from a lot of research.

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: So you need to understand what you currently have in the market. What’s resonating with people? What are people clicking through? What are they engaging with? What do they like? And most importantly, what do they not like?

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: You go in and look at your data specifically, so each channel has a different goal.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: And you want to see, are those channels hitting their goals? So if you’re doing thought leadership, external. The whole purpose is to drive traffic to your website, drive awareness, and drive your name up in the market. Is that happening? Say you have a how-to blog. How do you make the best cornbread there is? You want to make sure that people read the entire blog, so you look at time-on-page. You want to look at the click-through rate. Are they going to the next stage in the journey? And you also want to look at shareability. Are they sharing it on social? Are they clicking through to it from your newsletter? Some of those metrics will tell you how interested people are really in your content.

Pam Didner: You gather a lot of data. Do you look at the aggregate level, or do you look at every piece of content how they perform?

Amy Higgins: Both.

Pam Didner: Okay. That being said, because you generate tons of content and how do you manage that to keep track, like every piece of content you manage? It can be overwhelming.

Amy Higgins: It is overwhelming, so we have a number of systems in place. We use a content management system called Kapost.

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: Everything is outlined in there.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: Right now, my team is updating the work workflows, and some workflows have 75 steps through them.

Pam Didner: Can you imagine that? Oh my God, that’s just overwhelmingly stressful, like there are 75 steps you have to go through before a piece of content is created or completed. I assume that includes the approval process, right?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, and that’s one of the reasons why you do all of the work beforehand because if you’re putting that much effort into something, it needs to be good. And if you try to do it just like, “Oh, let me just create this and publish it,” the juice is not worth the squeeze, so you want to spend some of the time researching what are your competitors doing?

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: Researching how something is working, researching SEO data, are people searching for the right type of answers that you’re giving? Or are you giving answers that no one cares to hear about? And then you go through the system.

Pam Didner: You spend a lot of time doing research, and the research has a lot to do with planning. Can you also talk to us about your planning stages in terms of some step-by-step processes that usually go through before you create your editorial?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, so one of the first steps is finding out the need? So we usually tie this around the product, so what products are launching? What products, maybe the sales aren’t doing that well. What are the new features we’re launching? And you tie that there. Then you go through, and you’re like, “Okay, if we’re talking about this product with this feature, what content do we have that is in the market right now?” Then I go through the research of looking at, is this content working for us? Is it doing what it needs to do? And at the same, time I’ll go through and look at what are our competitors doing? And then, I’ll also do an SEO audit because I love searching.

Pam Didner: What kind of tool do you use for SEO?

Amy Higgins: We use a combination. We use, of course, Google Tag Manager, and then we use Brightedge.

Pam Didner: Nice.

Amy Higgins: And then we also use SimRush. My team of writers uses SimRush to research content, come up with new titles, look at the performance of content as they’re writing it, and then look at it after the fact.

Pam Didner: Wow, so that’s a lot of steps, and I know a lot of small companies, myself included, a lot of time when we write a blog, we just write a blog, and we do a very minimal SEO search. I do a keyword search, and I also do a title search. Still, based on my experience of the specific topic, I’m either very passionate about it, or I know some other B2B marketers encounter similar issues. Still, I didn’t go through such extensive in-depth research before publishing or writing a blog post. And it sounds like you guys do so much homework before you determine what to write.

Amy Higgins: Let me ask you a question.

Pam Didner: Sure.

Amy Higgins: When you write content in that way, and you don’t do that research, and you’re like, “I have a thought. I’m going to share it,” what are your results?

Pam Didner: I got mixed results, but I do agree with you. I agree with you about doing research and doing your homework before writing a piece of content. I think that’s the right way to go about it, but for me specifically, sometimes I’m just passionate about a certain topic, and I know so much about it. Even though I know people don’t search that much, like, for example, global content. That’s, I’ll be honest. The search on the word global content, it’s very minimal, but I know so much about it, so I write quite a bit of the content for it. And I know that it’s not performing compared with ABM or sales enablement or whatnot, but I’m so passionate about it, so sometimes I’m torn between that, “Should I write it for business reason, or should I write it for passion?” Do you know what I’m saying? So I hear you. I hear you. Yeah. I’m torn.

Amy Higgins: So you have a passion project.

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Amy Higgins: Global content.

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Amy Higgins: Do you go back and see, of the people who landed on that blog or ebook, how did they come to your site? Do you look at that?

Pam Didner: Yes, I do, and unfortunately, I cannot go by one by one. I don’t have IP Sniffer to find out who that person is or which company they come from, so I look at more on the aggregate type of data, and the majority of the data that has pointed to me in terms of how they find me is organic traffic. They either type global content, or they type Pam Didner. So when people are searching certain types of keywords, they need that help pretty much at that time, so what I have noticed is the conversion for that type of content usually go up and down quite a bit. Does that make sense?

Amy Higgins: Yeah.

Pam Didner: And sometimes, it’s performed incredibly well, and I attributed that to a lot to do with a pool of people probably looking for similar stuff at that time. But then, for some reason, it dropped big time for months and then got another spike, so yeah. For my data, it’s very hard to dissect.

Amy Higgins: For our data, I’ll give you something that a lot of people go wrong where they target, going to write this article, and it’s going to target this keyword and only this keyword, and you have to think about natural language.

Pam Didner: Yes.

Amy Higgins: How do people reach it? And then you have to go back and look at it, so you asked about editorial planning. Part of our editorial planning is we reserve 20% of our workload to optimize. So we look at stuff of, okay, we really wanted this to work, but it’s not landing, and then we do a deep dive. Why is it not landing with our audience? What’s going on?

Pam Didner: That being said, when you do a deep dive, do you go back and also change and optimize rewrite the content as you fit?

Amy Higgins: Mm-hmm. I’ll give you an example. You asked about too many cooks in the kitchen. We had a blog post. Specifically, that was aligned with a launch, had a lot of eyes on it. Probably more than 20, all the different opinions, the messaging got watered down.

Pam Didner: Oh, that is very typical. I ran into that situation multiple times when I was in corporate. I completely understand everything you said, and I sympathize with that.

Amy Higgins: And on top of that, we had some people come in and edit it to a way that removed the storytelling aspect, so immediately within the first day, that thing was a flop.

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Amy Higgins: Within a week, it was still flopping, and my execs were like, “Why is this flopping?” And I would push back and say, “Let’s give it 30 days so that we have enough data.” So after 30 days, we redid it. We took out all the corporate jargon, added it back in the storytelling, simplified the content overall, and our bounce rate went from 93% within the first 30 days to 70%.

Pam Didner: Yeah. I completely understand. There were way too many cooks in the kitchen, and it is not delivering that art piece, centerpiece, or even that work well. You are like, “Okay, fine. Now everybody gets out,” or you look at that piece of content one more time, and you think from your audience perspective, what they want to see, and you rewrite it, what it should be.

Amy Higgins: Yeah, but we had that data because we knew from the bounce rate being so high, people were coming, but the first couple of paragraphs, they were like, “I don’t understand this,” and they would leave. So by adding the story back in, it resonated.

Pam Didner: The bottom line is you did drive some sort of consensus. You kind of let that blog just run its course, and then you gathered the data, and then you recorrected the course in a way.

Amy Higgins: Yeah, exactly. Data is your friend.

Pam Didner: Sometimes that’s the right way to go about it, so how often do you refresh your content?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, as I stated before, we reserve 20% of our time to refresh content.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: Now, depending on the number of that 20%, that varies. So sometimes we look at stuff, and we’re like, “This was supposed to be a very prominent piece of content. It’s not performing. Let’s spend all of our 20% just on that one piece.”

Pam Didner: Got it

Amy Higgins: Other times, we have stuff that just needs a little tweak.

Pam Didner: Tweak.

Amy Higgins: Tweak, just a little tweak, and so we’ll spend that 20% with a number of pieces that just need that little tweak. Maybe they need a new title. Maybe the meta description isn’t right. Maybe the subhead isn’t right. Maybe the picture needs to be changed, but just those little tweaks can help things perform better.

Pam Didner: I love it. I love it. I mean, we spent pretty much in the past 20, 30 minutes talking about just editorial and talking about content writing. How do you optimize the content? And there’s so much go into it. A lot of executives or management think it’s very easy, “Well, go ahead and finish your blog post. You should publish a blog post seven days a week. It’s like magic. You have to make that happen.” Still, it’s not that easy, and you are just telling all of us how hard and challenging and how in-depth you can go about it in terms of the content. So let me ask you another question, so how do you build your editorial team? Given that there are so many kinds of the ins and outs that you have to think through, you have to look at the data, you have to do SEO, you have to do research, so talk to us. How do you build your editorial team?

Amy Higgins: The editorial team is built around different skill levels and what you need.

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: So for our team, the way Salesforce operates is we have a content strategist. Then we have editorial leads, then we have writers.

Pam Didner: All right.

Amy Higgins: Then we have agencies.

Pam Didner: Agency in just doing what?

Amy Higgins: Agencies will cross over from video, audio, creative, writing.

Pam Didner: Creative development and production. Okay. Got it.

Amy Higgins: And then we work tangentially with creative customer marketing.

Pam Didner: Oh, my god.

Amy Higgins: Evangelism, which at Salesforce, we call our Trailblazer Team.

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: Social.

Pam Didner: All right.

Amy Higgins: PR.

Pam Didner: Okay.

Amy Higgins: AR.

Pam Didner: Ah, you’re killing me. Should I use my feet now?

Amy Higgins: Yeah. Use your feet. I know you do yoga. I want to see those feet come up. And then we have all of our channel-specific owners, so like the blog channel.

Pam Didner: Web and-

Amy Higgins: The social channel.

Pam Didner: But your core team, I would say, is a content strategist, the editor, the writer, and also agencies.

Amy Higgins: Yeah. Those are the core. Mainly for written content, those are the core.

Pam Didner: Got it. So now I’m going to go through the question, and you have to answer me, in-house versus outsourced.

Amy Higgins: Okay.

Pam Didner: All right. In-house versus outsource decision. Editor?

Amy Higgins: In-house.

Pam Didner: Creative?

Amy Higgins: Both.

Pam Didner: Writing?

Amy Higgins: Both.

Pam Didner: Social media?

Amy Higgins: In-house.

Pam Didner: Influencer?

Amy Higgins: In-house.

Pam Didner: Subject matter experts?

Amy Higgins: In-house. Oh wait, and exterior, so both.

Pam Didner: Okay. SEO?

Amy Higgins: In-house.

Pam Didner: Data analytics?

Amy Higgins: Definitely in-house. Yeah.

Pam Didner: Social media, you think that’s in-house. Okay, that’s interesting. And the editor, that needs to be in-house, and SEO, you said that needs to be in-house as well. Is that right?

Amy Higgins: Well, I’ll give you an example. Editor, people refer to differently.

Pam Didner: True.

Amy Higgins: There’s editors as far as proofing and copywriting. Copywriting or a proofer that can go either in or external.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: The way we view editors is that it’s almost like the editor of a magazine. It’s someone who can see everything, and they can come in and say, “Okay, let’s tweak this. Let’s tweak that. Let’s make this better.”

Pam Didner: Right.

Amy Higgins: Similar to if you think about it, I will hire an editor for my book.

Pam Didner: Yes.

Amy Higgins: You might have all the chapters of your book done, and you hand it to an editor, and they make it pretty.

Pam Didner: That’s outsourcing. Yes.

Amy Higgins: Yeah, and then they hand it to a proofer, and the proofer corrects all your grammar and punctuation.

Pam Didner: Got it. You say that to determine the in-house versus outsourcing, you also have to look at the skillset a lot of time. What kind of job is performed? Then you can determine that if you want to build an in-house team, do you want to do a combination of both or outsource that 100%?

Amy Higgins: And it’s not only their skills but also the amount of depth they go into. So let’s take proofreading. Proofreading, you don’t need much depth on the actual content. You need to have depth in grammar.

Pam Didner: Right.

Amy Higgins: For an editor to frame that story and tell it well, they need to know the whole picture of your product catalog and your audience. Our editors speak for the customers. Our editors, I always ask them, is like, “How would the customer feel? What would the prospects read?” Put your head in their seat, not in the product marketer’s seat, but the customer’s seat.

Pam Didner: I like that a lot. It’s a great conversation with you to talk about this topic in depth. So anybody who is watching this video or listening to the podcast, please subscribe and comment below. Talk to us. Share your thought. If anything that I said or what Amy said that you think resonates with you, let us know. If there’s anything we need to add, let us know as well. With that being said, on a separate note, I would like to ask you, I know, how long have we known each other? Probably six or seven years, and you have done many different jobs over some time, and a lot of them are great jobs, all within the content and editorial related role. And you’ve been to startup, you’ve been to established startup, you’ve been on the agency side, and now you are actually on the global enterprise. With your wide range of experience, can you talk to some of our young marketing professional listeners? Do you have any specific marketing advice that you can share with them?

Amy Higgins: Yeah, so I would say it depends on what you want to do, which is a very loaded question.

Pam Didner: A lot of them want to be VP. Many of them want to be CMOs in the long term, so if they have that kind of goal in mind?

Amy Higgins: It depends on the VP, so if you’re looking at CMO level, Pam, I think you and I have spoken about this, the T theory. So if you think about a T, the horizontal is every little thing you need to do. If you think about the vertical axis, that is going deep in a subject.

Pam Didner: Yeah. Some skillset you will need. It doesn’t matter what kind of job you go to, and that’s horizontal, right? Management skills, for example, leadership skills. That’s horizontal. But if you want to tailor your marketing expertise, if that’s a specific type of skill set for SEO, is that correct? Okay.

Amy Higgins: So if you want to go higher to a CMO, it’s understanding how does demand gen work? How does awareness work? For the vertical, like your vertical is global. You understand global marketing well. That’s where your strong expertise is. And I’m not saying one to go abroad or go deep; one is better than the other, but that would be the biggest advice is to figure out what you want to go deep on? And is that where you want to hang your hat?

Pam Didner: Yeah.

Amy Higgins: And that comes back to the editorial team. All of my editors have different Ts.

Pam Didner: Got it.

Amy Higgins: And if we go back to the small startup versus the big enterprise and everything in between, the small startups, you’re going to be that horizontal. You’re tossing up many different hats and wearing many different roles.

Pam Didner: Right. You have to do many different things, so a lot of the skill set developed during that time is horizontal skills.

Amy Higgins: The larger the company, the more your vertical axis comes into play, so I love data. I love SEO, so my team, as opposed to some of the other teams at Salesforce, focus heavily on SEO because I love it so much.

Pam Didner: But it makes sense. I mean, that is so closely tied to content. If you create content, especially digital content nowadays, SEO plays a vital role.

Amy Higgins: Where I have other counterparts who love the podcast. They do well at the podcast. There’s not a perfect answer. It’s what gets you excited. What gets you up in the morning.

Pam Didner: Amy, thank you again for coming to my show. Final virtual hug!

Amy Higgins: Hug!

—————

Enjoy the podcast? Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, leave a 5-star review and subscribe to Apple Podcasts.

If you prefer watching a video, I also have a YouTube Channel; check it out and subscribe.

If you want to chat, reach out to any social media channels or email me at hello@pamdidner.com. You can also join my Facebook community: Build Your Marketing Skills to Get Ahead. When you join, you get a free Starbucks on me. You can go to the Announcement tab and click on the barcode of the gift card.

To expand your knowledge about content planning, and editorial strategy, check out some of my previous podcast episodes, blog post, and videos.

Podcast episodes

Content Marketing Strategy for Startups

How to Build a Winning Content Marketing Plan

Why Performing Content Must Start With The Right Culture

Blog post

How to Create Scalable Global Content Marketing Strategy: A Guide for B2B Marketers (+ Templates)

The Ultimate Content Marketing Guide

Video

Building a Marketing Strategy and Aligning it With Your Business Goals

 


Want to get Pam's easy-to-follow templates and tools?

Pam's personal observations tie back to her knowledge and passion for sales, marketing, and technologies. Enjoy her stories and use her templates to start thinking differently about marketing and sales.



image
image
image

Book Pam to Speak