What's Working in Marketing™: The Future of Content Marketing with Sean Tyson, CEO at Quietly

Content & Messaging
Brand & Positioning Strategy
March 1, 2022
Marketing & Advertising

What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.

On this episode, we spoke with Sean Tyson about how consumers' expectation of quality content is at an all-time high and what that really means for brands in the era of content marketing. He started Quietly Media over 8 years ago and has been helping leading brands drive their business with content since. Sean is acutely aware that content plays a role in marketing all across the customer journey, and he points out how many businesses need a more sophisticated view of their content marketing efforts. Listen in as we question the term 'Content is King'.

You can listen to What's Working in Marketing™ – A Podcast by RightMetric wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Tune In, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts.

Here's a full transcript of our conversation with Sean:

Charlie Grinnell: Welcome to What's Working in Marketing, a podcast for marketers that uncovers what's working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world's best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. I'm your host, Charlie Grinnell. On this episode, I'm joined by Sean Tyson, CEO at Quietly. Sean, thanks for joining me today.

Sean Tyson: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Charlie Grinnell: You and I have known each other quite a long time. We go way back in the agency landscape here in Vancouver, but I usually open these episodes by going back to the beginning of our guest's career journeys so maybe let's start there. Can you share how you got your start in marketing, how it's progressed over time, and how you ended up at Quietly?

Sean Tyson: Sure. Yeah, I did an undergrad in business and then I concentrated in marketing so I knew I was going to end up in the space to some degree. Most of my experience is agency side, all things marcomm, and the first gig was in PR. I worked for a small agency. Did everything from traditional media relations to more experiential and guerilla stuff, which was cool. From there, I went into advertising formally. I worked at a creative agency called TAXI, which is now part of the WPP network, but that was fun. Learned quite a bit, and then from there went to a little digital shop that you know well called Invoke, doing websites, mobile apps, and of course, social media.

Sean Tyson: Actually, when I joined, it was pre-Hootsuite. It was pretty formative time figuring out the space as we saw the mix of activities and market and change but also, as we were putting edges around product and software and playing the venture games. Yeah, I mean that led us to where we are now, which is with all these channels across social media and these tools to manage on what content are you putting on these channels and why, and how are you using data to make those decisions? And so really, Quietly was born as a response to that but for the most part, it was in-tuned agencies and then the mix of activities that led me into content marketing basically.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, and it evolved from there. And so yeah, anybody who's listening who isn't familiar with Invoke, that's where Hootsuite came from and was born from, right? Yeah, you've obviously seen a lot of different things in working on the client side of things through agencies, but also witnessing the birth of a huge tool that's used by hundreds of thousands of marketers around the world. The topic of this episode is all around the future of content marketing. What a clickbaity title here. Where's the state of the union for content marketing as you see it right now, right? This phrase, "Content is king," or "Content marketing," like duh. Everybody listening is like, "Uh-huh (affirmative)." But as someone with your background, you've been in it a long time, you were someone who I looked at as an early adopter of, "We are a content agency or a content marketing agency and that's our core competency that we want to focus on." Yeah, maybe just start with some color and background context around that, how you're seeing it, how it's evolved, and where it's at today.

Sean Tyson: I can go super deep here, but I'll start by oversimplifying a bit of a context for how we arrived at content marketing. At the beginning, we were in a broadcast era. For hundreds of years, it was television, radio, whatnot, and essentially, advertisers were using that as a medium to get their message out. Then the internet is born and search engines are quite helpful. Digital marketing essentially is born. Then you get into social media, like I mentioned before, all these different channels and conversations and user-generated content, and then now it's getting into what is being described as essentially the content era. And again, what are the things we are providing on these channels to provide value because it isn't a one way street. It's a two way street. And so, brands are effectively acting like publishers because they're competing for attention with publishers.

Sean Tyson: And so if you are a consumer brand, you're not just looking against your direct business competitors, but your content has to be as good as the best publications out there. Whether that's GQ or Esquire, your consumer expects your editorial and your content to be as good as theirs and those expectations transcend across categories from publishers to brands. I think content marketing as a practice has become more important because of this reality. I also think HubSpot helped make us all understand content marketing in its current form. I think they equated it with, "You have a blog and you create content to get organic search traffic," and there's jobs to be done there.

Sean Tyson: But I think the evolution of how consumers engage with brands and channels and content, I think we've essentially arrived at this content era and Seth Godin talks about this a lot where content is the only form of marketing that's left. And so, yeah, the definition of content, or content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of information or assets, but it's not explicitly promoting the brand. It's simulating interest in it. I think that's more important than ever when you have to compete so much harder to get attention.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's interesting hearing you talk about that HubSpot example because I think about that. The parallel that I draw in my mind is almost like what Amazon has done to e-commerce and shipping, where it's like HubSpot was the original gangster. There are probably dozens of other examples that you and I aren't going to mention on here, but HubSpot being like, "Hey, we're going to invest in this because we want to compete for people's attention and share of their time to spend time with our brand, whether or not they buy something from us or not." But I think about with Amazon, why I draw that parallel there, is this expectation of same day or next day delivery or free shipping or whatever that is. That has been transferred on to other brands and that's just now consumer's expectations, right?

Charlie Grinnell: What you were saying, just around from a content perspective is previously brands were like, "Yeah, we don't really compete with GQ because we're selling a consumer packaged good," like a can of pop or soda water, but now the demands that consumers, or the expectations that consumers have around content is like, "Yeah, when I'm engaging with a brand or spending time, I'm choosing in my 24 hours of the day, what I consume and who I spend time with." And so previously, it was like, "Okay, this is the time when I buy something." But now we're seeing a lot of brands are having to extend even further in to that editorial side of things to be able to earn their attention and I think my hypothesis, and I'd love to be able to get your take on this is why do you think that is?

Charlie Grinnell: I think it's because of an oversaturation. We're just seeing so much stuff and with social media, things have evolved. But yeah, it just seems like more and more, we've been marching to this. "Your company needs to think like a media company, regardless of what you're at." And now, we're very much there where it's like, "If you're not thinking like a media company today, you're completely out to lunch." What do you think about that?

Sean Tyson: Yeah. No, great comments. Two things. Number one, HubSpot also in that equation to inbound and content marketing, it was a quantity game. It was create all the content to capture all the things and get all the traffic. I think there's that quality versus quantity argument there and I think there's also been a tendency of brands to almost overindex on being a publisher, but they lose track of the business objectives depending how this investment is going to return. And so, you've seen brands create a magazine and the content can be good, but is it driving the business? Do they have a sophisticated understanding of how that's going to attribute success, and I don't think they've done that. In many cases, it hasn't been done super successfully.

Sean Tyson: The hype curve came. We swung into content marketing, editorial magazine and such, and then peeled back to be like, "I don't know. Was it working?" I think we will continue down this path as you're describing into this, I guess, competition to see who can create the best content and therefore, capture the most attention. But I think there needs to be some nuance around, are you saving your audience's attention? Are you seizing it? And if you're going to seize it, you've got to do it with utmost quality because as we said, the expectations are there and they're high. And so, I think the brands can behave like a publisher, but that can mean a lot of different things and-

Charlie Grinnell: Totally.

Sean Tyson: ... this example with GQ and Esquire, that's great for B2C, but even in the world of B2B, which over half our clientele is B2B, their customers expect your content to be as good as Gardner, Forrester, IDC. The same principle applies and you do need to be differentiated and you have to have a point of view and you can't play that HubSpot game where you're just cranking out content to capture attention. It's got to serve a purpose. It's got to play a role.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, a couple things that come to mind there is you're speaking of this pendulum, the brand and performance pendulum. To your point, first, it was like, "No, no. Wow, marketing, let's swing over to brand, editorial," that sort of thing, whatever. And then to your point, shit gets real and people are like, "Whoa, whoa. Hold on. There's a business here that needs to happen and we need to strike a happy medium," so the pendulum swings back to performance. And yeah, I don't know. I think there are probably a handful of brands that have figured out that balance because it is a delicate balance of how are you making sure that you're doing both?

Charlie Grinnell: I think about something back in my time when I was working at Red Bull, really around this mentality, and this has shaped my mentality for how brands should market in general, is whether you buy our product or not, you are going to spend time with our brand and that's how we operated when we were there. And I think we're starting to see a lot of other brands do that as well, which is, "Hey, whether you're in store buying our thing, ideally, we hope you do." That's the idea of marketing is art for the sake of commerce, to get someone to buy, commerce, being the keyword. But at the same time, "If you're not going to buy, I want you reading our magazine, reading our blog posts, watching our videos, tuning into our webinars," whatever it is in B2B, B2C.

Charlie Grinnell: What do you think about that? I mean, that's something that I'm always trying to preach to customers of ours, just to think about it in that way. Getting someone to spend time with you, it's like how can you use content to take care of your audience or consumer until they're ready to buy if they need to buy?

Sean Tyson: Yeah. Well, if we think about content in the way that we're describing it now, which is essentially editorializing some sort of experience, we also need to unpack that into where in the journey or where in the funnel that's happening because to your point, I think most brands were like, "It's editorial. It's all upper funnel activity." That doesn't have to be the case. You could be editorializing things from a post purchase, like a cross-sell upsell. It could fall under loyalty or advocacy. And so, I think we need to have a more sophisticated view of where the practice of content marketing can play a role within the journey of your customers or segments. That can help. And then to your point, not everyone's going to be funding a full-fledged media network though if you do it right and the content is good enough that people are willing to pay for it, then it can be rev center, not a cost center. It can be accretive to the business.

Sean Tyson: And the last thing I'll say if I really zoom out, is if you are a CMO or you are ahead of demand gen, you're going to need these things to drive the business, but we can remind ourselves that people buy magazines. They pay for this content. And then on the other hand, they actively block ads. And so, I would just ask the director of marketing and communications, "What side do you want to be on?" I get there's a mix of activities you're going to do. You're advertising. You're programmatic. You're going to do lots of things in PR and media relations and the owned, earned and paid stuff is converging. We know that, but again, I come back to that very trite and simple analogy, which is if we're talking about consumer engagement, which is what we're talking about, then what side do you want to be on? A place where people are willing to pay to spend their time, or where they are actively avoiding being interrupted by you no matter how hard you try, how much money you spend.

Sean Tyson: And again, I come back to that evolution from broadcast to search. It's all around the nature of how we choose to spend our time. And if time is value, then what are you delivering in exchange for that value?

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Yeah, you just reminded me of one question that I wanted to specifically ask you. When you and I would always jam over beers around content marketing and that sort of thing, early on in Quietly's existence, you were always talking about content across the business and I think that was quite a novel thing that I'm thinking five, seven to 10 years ago when we first met is, I think most people listening are like, "Yeah, content marketing sits in marketing." But you've done a lot of work over the years of content in different areas of the business; HR, sales, all that other side of things. I'd love if you could just expand on that and talk about that, and maybe just give some examples of not necessarily speaking out a turn about confidential things for clients, but innovative ways that people are taking content that would typically sit within marketing and deploying it across the business.

Sean Tyson: Sure. In a nutshell, we help clients understand what to create and why, and then we help them create it and we help them measure it and then build capabilities around communicating in these spaces. But as you said, those spaces vary and it's not necessarily content to support a campaign in market. It's not content that would fall under marketing or even communications. But even if you start to just unpack those two things yeah, is it internal communications or is it external communications that you're still looking to editorialize versus just put out a release? And then there's a lot of programs internally where you're driving awareness. From an HR perspective, it's not just to project an image outwardly to attract candidates. It's also internal enablement and in internal coms. And again, I think the people who run those areas of the business understand those areas of the business, but they're not marketers. They're not communicators and they're not professional editorial people.

Sean Tyson: I think there's opportunities to elevate content and the way they are communicating the respective things by adopting some of these content marketing principles. Some examples that I can offer would be you're launching an internal program and you're just driving awareness around it. Your employees are busy. They have a lot of things to do and so we do work with very large organization to drive awareness and engagement and essentially, adoption of the tools within this program. And yeah, by looking at it from almost a marcom lens, we were able to make it seem a lot more appealing than just, "Hey, this program exists. Please read the memo. Go to our internet." It was like, "Hey, we have these stories to tell around what's happening within this program and the success that we're seeing as a result," and that can hook people in and get people more engaged as a result. I can't really say who that's for, but-

Charlie Grinnell: Totally fair.

Sean Tyson: ... that's internal enablement, but broad scale coms and content programs around an internal program. I mean, you talked about HR. For sure, everyone's trying to get their employer brand in order, their employee value proposition, but how they articulate that, I mean, is that falling on the shoulders of an HR professional or a marketing professional who really can see through the lens of all things, human capital people as well. And so, a lot of work there and then that immediately leads to work in and around diversity and inclusion because how you are communicating and how aware you are of the language you use, tends to fall under DNI. But again, are they professional communicators looking at all those inputs and data points and contextualizing that within everything else the brand is doing, either in market externally or internally? There's a lot of projects and missions that take us into these areas that I would say are adjacent to marketing somewhat.

Sean Tyson: And then the last comment I'll make is being brought up into the C-suite because everyone... a thought leader, but they don't have time to write or create all these op-eds or this commentary because they're busy running the business or they're busy in the boardroom. And so, we have the privilege of interacting with the C-suite or very senior stakeholders within an organization and helping them get their point of view out or evangelizing certain things. And so, that's pretty fascinating too, because you're therefore totally up out of marketing and you're almost looking down at marketing and it feels a bit like it's falling into earned and public affairs and corporate affairs, but we're trying to editorialize and create a more compelling so what, because like you said at the beginning, everything's competing for attention.

Sean Tyson: Yeah, it certainly takes us into very interesting territories and because of that, we really have to understand the businesses we are operating within their business models. And so, for a lot of our, I guess, for our strategy team and our analyst team that are like BAs more than just marketing or creative planners, because they have to understand the ecosystem in the industry of the space and the economics of what we're doing because we're making a case for content programs to drive the business. We're not just spending marketing budget on content, if that makes-

Charlie Grinnell: Yep. Yep, totally. I want to switch gears here a bit. We've talked about how competitive it is to just earn someone's attention in 2022 and beyond. What would you say are the key ingredients for great content marketing? What would be the buckets, and then I will have a follow up question after that, around some of those pieces. And that follow up question, I think, is what is it an obvious miss that you see brands making?

Sean Tyson: Great questions. Okay. The first one is pretty easy because we have some key tenants here that we follow so just three things. Number one, know your audience. It sounds obvious, but know your audience, know your content. Number two, know their respective journeys and therefore, the jobs to be done with the content. If you understand your audiences, your customers, your segments, where do they spend their time and how they spend their time across the life cycle of the journey with your brand or without. Objectively, what's your coms planning if you understand how they behave across their journey. And then the last part is use data. Use a lot of data to substantiate your understanding of all that. Some things can be anecdotal. Some things can be already defined, but if you know your audience and you know your journey, and you're taking a data-driven approach to confirming all of what I've just said, then you're cooking with gas.

Sean Tyson: The other thing I would add to the journey part is when we think about the journey, we think about where they spend their time where it's implied that you're considering threats or others competing for their attention. Through that, you would uncover insight and opportunity from the landscape or the white space around what are other people doing or not doing. Yeah, those three things are typically the fundamentals to our approach and if we are doing those by doing that sequence, then you're probably going to uncover the right jobs to be done and the right creative opportunities or territories. And then your content should, I guess, by definition be engineered to perform because you're in the fertile territories.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep, that makes a lot of sense. And so, yeah, I don't know. I imagine you've had a lot of exposure to different businesses over the years or different just marketing people talking about things or approaching things. What's something that you think that maybe content marketers or marketers in general get wrong when they're approaching? What's a big mistake that you commonly see?

Sean Tyson: Yeah, I don't know if it's a mistake or if it's something they're not thinking about. I think all of us as marketing professionals are thinking a lot of things and we're up on it, but I think it's the way they think about certain aspects that could be improved. And so for that, I'd probably say there's a default assumption to be on social media, number one, or we over index or... It's hard for us to imagine doing what I'm describing outside of digital but if you know your audience and you know your journey, then the channel should come as a result. We've had some clients where the channels aren't digital. And so, if you're business to business and you're selling into doctor's offices and it's medical records, they get their information by fax. Sometimes-

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's probably not TikTok.

Sean Tyson: Fax... Yeah, yeah, 100%. And even then, like LinkedIn, are your perspective buyers on LinkedIn? Maybe they are, but are they spending time on LinkedIn? Are they in the feed? Are you trying to target them? Maybe that's not the move. And so, you could look at less traditional areas like forums or blogs or trade publications where they're less obvious to the current, digital savvy marketer, but I would make an argument that's the more appropriate path. And so all of that is to say, I think we just tend to default. You should be on Twitter, Facebook instead of maybe TikTok and I think the channels should be dictated by again, an understanding of your customer and where you can provide value for them and importantly, where they spend their time. Yeah. I mean, that would be my-

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, it's funny. I can echo that. I feel like channel selection is such a hot topic and I feel like it's... Recently, I was just on a call earlier this week that I said this phrase out loud to someone. I was like, "If I got a nickel for every time a marketer asked me, "Should we be on TikTok," I'd be a millionaire right now sitting on a yacht somewhere." And I feel like that channel selection, to your point, the last decade has been pretty straightforward, right? You have your standard default mix. You're seeing TikTok as a platform rise up recently, but I'm always shocked at just how many marketers are just showing up everywhere. They're like, "Well, this is what we're doing everywhere"

Charlie Grinnell: Again, yeah, I'm just shocked that how many don't stop and look around and go, "Wait a second. Does this actually make sense for us as a business?" It might have made sense 2, 3, 4 years ago to be as active as we are in this platform, but is the juice worth the squeeze in terms of channel selection? And then obviously going a layer deeper is, "Okay, how much time, resources, money are we spending programming that channel with content? Are we doing it effectively?" I feel like that's the thread that starts to get pulled on the sweater, so to speak. Yeah, it's interesting to hear you say that, because it all is intertwined and connected.

Sean Tyson: Well, and just to follow on, I think there's also a tendency to say, "Well, if you're B2B, you shouldn't be on Insta or Pinterest," but I think the strategy... I mean you can still target professionals on those channels. They're people and they're going to spend time personally, and their own time on... channels so maybe it's a paid or some type of performance. Maybe there's a strategy to target them on those channels from an aided awareness perspective but that doesn't mean you need to be posting tons of organic content on that platform in order to drive that objective. You could say, "You need to show up there," but then your real content or your middle of funnel or owned channels is probably where they're going to come if there's intent. And so, yeah, again, as we're talking, it's all about strategy, but I do think that where people are spending the time is changing.

Sean Tyson: Great. It's going to continue to change so we have to continue thinking about what's appropriate. But all of these channels offer such sophisticated paid and targeting capability that you can get on there and get in front of people but that doesn't mean you have to be creating tons of content for that platform natively or have a lot of organic content. And you're seeing a lot of brands too, where it's all paid in dark, but there's nothing on their feed or maybe they just have one post. That's it. And so, again, I think the business case around the resources required to do that and do you put it into working spend versus non-working spend? Yeah, it's-

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, you know what? It's an interesting mix and I want to get your opinion on this. I've talked about this on previous episodes, and with my background working in content marketing, you have the phrase, "Content is king," and then you have... I actually sit more on the fence that I think distribution is king, and you do have these two... Make something awesome and if you make something awesome and put it out there, people will find it and it'll go off. And then you have the flip side of it to be like that doesn't actually work anymore. Everybody is creating great stuff. And so, optimizing it for distribution is really how it gets picked up. And the thing that changed my thinking on this was I read a book called Hit Makers by a guy named Derek Thompson from The Atlantic and it's basically the science of popularity and why things go big.

Charlie Grinnell: And he gave a bunch of examples of things that when they were first released, totally flopped. And then later on, they popped off because of distribution. One example he gives in the book is the movie, the Shawshank Redemption, right? This film, I think it costs 25 million bucks to produce. It debuted at the box office. I think it did 16 million in sales and last time I checked, that's not really a success when you're spending 25 million and you make 16. It lost a bunch of money. I think it got nominated for an Oscar. It didn't end up winning and then it went away.

Charlie Grinnell: But two years later, TNT bought it as a TV movie and it just took off and now it's on IMDBs Top 100 Movies of the Last Hundred Years. It's on this list. And it's like, people who say "Content is king," that piece of content was the same as it was on day one, versus when it made that list. It's just the difference was distribution. It was getting piped into millions and millions of homes via television. I know that's a long-winded my thoughts on it, but I'd love to hear your take on that.

Sean Tyson: Yeah. No, I totally agree. It's classic content versus pipes battles. This is where you see the Comcast and the NBCs and the... It goes up to that level. But I think you're right. Content is king. Context is queen or distribution is king. It's a relationship, for sure, and I think with the decline of organic reach on some of these social channels, you're seeing distribution being more important, for sure. And then on the other side, the person's going to be like, "Well, if you don't have good content, there's nothing there at all to search."

Sean Tyson: I think there's a balance, for sure. I would never be flippant to say, "It's not about distribution or paid." It's all part of the mix. I would come back to a more philosophical approach to marketing and I would say if you have content programs and you're developing audience on your own channels, then you don't have to pay to rent or access those channels. And so, I think for a lot of businesses that were developing audience on Facebook and their related properties, they were frustrated when the organic reach was declining and they had to pay more to reach them. And they're like, "Dad." It's like, well, if you had your own email newsletter that was really solid, you wouldn't have to pay to send them an email every time, or if your website was just so good, then-

Charlie Grinnell: They would come to it. People would come to it on a regular basis.

Sean Tyson: Yeah. There's good examples of that and there's bad examples of that but I think that debate is age old and will continue. I think we'll see that continue and it will be even more interesting when we're entering a cookieless future and tracking and targeting will become arguably less effective, and people like Apple are taking a stand. And so there you could argue, "Okay, well, the scales will tilt a bit more in their favor," but yeah. Yeah, we'll see. Yeah, that debate will continue, for sure.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I wonder. I'm curious about that just because you think about... You need both, right? You need to have these shared earned platforms, but you also need to build to own and how do you strategically structure all of that stuff in a way that can benefit you, but doesn't cannibalize your efforts as well, right? Cool, you're renting a big audience versus how are you bringing them to your own land that you own, so to speak, to continue that metaphor. That's something that I feel like marketers struggle with day in and day out and I don't think there is a perfect answer. I think it's case by case basis and setting things up and taking a more strategic look to it. But yeah, I always think about do what you can to get people. There's different layers of the funnel, right?

Charlie Grinnell: If they don't know about your brand, you're obviously going to maybe try and advertise to reach them or create content for them to search and find it on Google. Cool. Then it's like, "Okay, can we get them to follow us on social?" And then once they follow you on social, can you get them to come to your website and maybe spend a little bit of time there? Can you get them to subscribe to your newsletter? It's almost like these micro commitments down the funnel as you go. But I think thinking like that can be quite a tough subject or a concept to grasp because marketers are juggling so many different things. I completely agree. I think it is going to continue to be one of those age old battles, but it will be really fascinating to see how this impacts it.

Charlie Grinnell: One of the things where my brain goes to is I'm like, "Are there going to be some companies that just go absolute gangster and are like, "We're just going to produce the coolest stuff, but it's only going to be on our channels and that's it," and they take a stand. I think, what was it, Lush was like, "We're quitting social media. We think this is bad." And I think they were able to do that because financially, I think they were only taking a $10 million hit. That would sink some businesses, but they were like, "Hey, it's 8% of our revenue. We're willing to take that hit." Yeah, I don't know. I'm curious to continue watching to see where that goes.

Sean Tyson: Well, and to your point, I mean, the Lush example's provocative and they're a client of ours and I think they've made a case to understand how to approach it. And it's in line with how you see consumers are... Okay, put it this way. 10 years ago when social media appeared, or 20 years ago when it appeared, everyone started following and subscribing to things and I think we're seeing that decline as well. People are less likely to just follow and sign up and it's like you're seeing it. And so, maybe they're playing into that, but also organic search as this huge bucket of intent, we used to think of organic search traffic as owned, but now with rich snippets and Google's developer kits, you can get the content from your site, but you don't even go to the site. You just see it within Google.

Sean Tyson: It's like well, then what's the play there? And then publishers, or the brands are thinking about, "Instead of spending millions of dollars advertising on this publisher each quarter, why don't I just buy the whole publication?" We have several of our clients that are considering that as well and then you really do own and retain and develop an audience. It's again, provocative, but the best examples, and these are total shameless plugs because they're clients, but software brands that have done a good job of creating publications that are brands in and of themselves and they're hedging against what we're describing here. Cmo.com by Adobe, right? Intercom and Slack have incredible blogs and so those are good examples of brands who are doing content marketing in a very sophisticated manner. They're running it like a publication. It's content operations, not marketing operations. But to your point, they own those assets. They're not renting them. They own them and they're so good that people want to come and pay to advertise on them. Again, it becomes a rev center instead of a cost center.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I mean, the one example that everyone recently pulls up is HubSpot buying The Hustle, right? And it's like, "Okay, I would love to think about that a little... When I think about that is, "Okay, they probably got to a point where they're like, "Here's how fast we've been growing our audience as HubSpot. How much has it cost for us to do that, and if we want to increase our audience, our potential customer base, what's a way that we can go out and do that? Should we build it or buy it?" That was really interesting and I think that's probably a trend that we're going to continue to see happen. We've seen Thinkific here in Vancouver. I'm going to be talking with Cameron Uganec on another episode about that, about building a media company within a tech company.

Charlie Grinnell: This is a trend that we're going to continue to see. I want to switch gears a little bit here as we wind down the episode. You've been in the industry a long time, so I want to ask you, what excites you? You've seen a lot. I feel like it's been stable. The last three to five years have been pretty stable, but the last 12 months has been big changes with privacy clampdowns, TikTok rising up to the level of Facebook, Google duopoly. We are seeing a lot of big changes. What gets you most fired up from a content perspective today?

Sean Tyson: Well, I get fired up that content is pretty durable and is the lowest common denominator, as you were describing all these changes. For us, we're excited to play a role in this mix of activities and feel pretty good about it. If I had to answer it more discretely, I'd say a lot of people think about creating net new content all the time like, "We need to create more content and it's all acquisition." And I think what excites us is the artful repurposing of existing content, and to put it another way, the iteration of content on your owned channel. You've created a piece. You've put it out for full public consumption. You look at how it's performed and what people are getting excited about and how they're consuming it and then you can edit that piece and you can republish it.

Sean Tyson: And so, you've already invested in the asset. You can update the asset. You don't need to... And by the way, I'm saying that figuratively, but also tactically, like the asset should be updated based on data. And so, we've built a lot of software behind scenes to allow us to do that but I think that becomes interesting because you're tending to your content and you're nurturing it. It's creating new stuff, and out with the old, in with the new. And Neil Patel talks about this all the time, a lot of your best performing content is very evergreen and toward the aggregate of over the time, the traffic attributed to that is going to far outweigh these flashes in the pan of-

Charlie Grinnell: Totally.

Sean Tyson: ... you have to start paying stuff. For us, iteration on content and you see iteration in advertising because there's these huge DSP. These ad tech is just optimizing in real time and often it's dynamic creative, but it's still an ad whereas I think from a storytelling perspective, you can get the data and understand what's working and Xero does this famously, right? Xero, the accounting software, will put a bunch of videos out organically on YouTube. They'll see how people are watching them and then 24 hours later, they recut the videos and ship them again. And so, that becomes effective. Not saying we need to optimize around what people are reading. You need to challenge your readers and do all the good stuff but I think for us, iteration, we're very data-driven in how it informs our creative planning, but there's a loop, right? It's iterative, if that becomes exciting for us, especially with the tech and stuff.

Charlie Grinnell: That's interesting. The thing that comes to mind there is I feel like we're starting to mature, or the marketing industry is starting to mature in thinking less about these communication cycle spikes. I put a post. It goes big for 24 hours, two days, and then it goes away and that more long form stuff. An example that I can give is back in the day before I got into marketing, I was a video editor. And so, I worked at Arc'teryx here in Vancouver and I was 20-year old, little action sports kid who was super interested in editing the videos of gnarly climate and mountain bikers and skiing and snowboarding. And one day, the head of customer success came to me and said, "Hey, Charlie, I have a video I want to brief in."

Charlie Grinnell: And I'm like, "Okay, like, what is it," and he's like, "How to wash your GORE-TEX jacket." And at the time I was like, "Well, that's super boring. I don't care about that." Went through, they shot the video. I ended up cutting it together. It was funny. There was washing machines in the forest and it was Devon, the customer success, or customer service guy talking about, "Here's what you do to wash your GORE-TEX jacket. And me being a little 20-year old shit head, not knowing anything, I was like, "This is lame." I checked back. I'd have to check it recently but as of a year ago, it was their second most watched video of all time on their channel. And now when people type in, "How to wash GORE-TEX jacket," that video comes up above GORE-TEX. Arc'teryx outranks a brand for their own thing and it had millions of views because not only were people actively searching for it, their customer service team is literally using that in responses on live chat, via emails, on the phone, being literally type into YouTube, "How to watch your GORE-TEX and watch our four minute video about it."

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I think thinking about that, when people, I think, think about content marketing, they're like, "I want to go viral. How can I make this thing go viral," whereas what you just explained in terms of expanding that cycle and taking a piece of content that maybe you created three years ago and increasing the shelf life of it. It might not do a million views overnight, but if it does a thousand views a day for five years?

Sean Tyson: Yeah. Well, you remind me of another example of where content could play a role outside of marketing and that is customer support. And so, in talking to Article and the gang over there, FAQs are helpful. People want to know if they're buying furniture online. There's a very large consideration set. And so, content can play a role in number one, reducing calls to the call center. Number two, reducing call times. These are very real business problems they have. And so, simply by editorializing FAQs and then creating it more lifestyle editorial, but then they can use it as ammo in their paid campaigns, because if you're looking at furniture, you get retargeted not just with the chair or furniture you're looking at, but with these things you probably care about. It's a job to be done. And to the GORE-TEX jacket, if you own the jacket, you're like, "I don't know. How do I wash it? Do I wash it?" And so, there's for sure a job to be done there and yeah, those are great examples, exactly, of content marketing.

Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I have a couple rapid fire questions before we wrap up here. Are there any brands out there, clients or non clients, whose content marketing you admire?

Sean Tyson: Yeah. How much time have I got? No, I'm just kidding. I said a few examples that I think they just do a really good job of that. You can go up a level to what you're talking about, the Red Bulls of the world. Shopify's launching their Shopify Studios, the venture who produce their content. Even closer to home like Rotman. They've got a magazine now. It's very a la HBR, but that's a good example of content marketing to drive this to the university and to the program. But for me personally, we work with very sophisticated and large scale enterprises that are B2B software infrastructure. We may not know the brands, but for sure we're using their technology every day and they completely understand the pains and gains of their segments and their space and they run very broad scale content programs that totally drive the business, drive pipeline, drive everything.

Sean Tyson: Yeah, Okta, Exabeam. I mean, maybe not the sexiest examples, but certainly the most sophisticated. And then for us at Quietly, we're working with them on how to operationalize the strategy and how to think around the people process tools to continue building those capabilities and mature their content game because it is already so good. For me, it's just impressive. They have total coverage of content across personas, regions, stages of the journeys. They know what people are searching for within those very niche areas of their industries and verticals. For me, we get pretty fired up on that because it's pretty nerdy stuff, but-

Charlie Grinnell: Totally.

Sean Tyson: ... I would offer that to balance the cliche examples of the Airbnb's Magazine that I'm sure you guys know. Those are fun, and Red Bull, great examples. Yeah-

Charlie Grinnell: But different. One question I always ask everybody is how do you stay up to date on business and marketing? Who are you following? What are you reading? What are you listening to?

Sean Tyson: My clients. Our clients, I mean, they're category leaders. They're paving the way and talking to them is forever inspirational. And so, I would offer that. I don't get too inspired by the trade pubs and marketing, to be perfectly honest. I read The Drum and Axios. It's helpful, but yeah, I'd say the discussions with clients are extremely insightful and again, the people we're working with are making all the right moves and they're inventing the next practices. They're not worried about best practices. And so for us, that's a very intellectually stimulating place to be. I stay up to date by staying close to the customers.

Charlie Grinnell: Yep, makes sense. Okay, very last question for you. Where's the best pay place for people to find you online or get a hold of you? I'm sure there's probably going to be questions coming in after this episode goes up.

Sean Tyson: Discord. No, I'm kidding. I don't know. LinkedIn, I guess. I have a one year old now, so I'm pretty busy and I don't spend a ton of my free time hanging out online in the conversations, but for sure, I mean, LinkedIn is probably the best space to contact me.

Charlie Grinnell: Cool. Awesome. Well, Sean, thank you very much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. I always love nerding out and jamming all things content with you and I'm sure everyone listening to this episode is going to find a ton of value. Appreciate the time.

Sean Tyson: Thank you for having me.

Charlie Grinnell: For show notes, other episodes and more content, check rightmetric.co. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for listening.

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