Fiona Jensen: Welcome to Market Mentors, a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow. I’m Fiona Jensen, a director and co-owner of market recruitment. For over a decade, I’ve been helping B2B marketeers find the best jobs with great companies. Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reach the top and learn from their experience. Ask career related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere. Be tough, be challenged, be mentored.
Fiona Jensen: What question should you ask yourself and your business before you start creating content? How do you build an effective content marketing team? Are we near the end or still at the beginning of the content marketing revolution? Hints, hacks and hindsights shared from journalist turned global head of content strategy at SAP, Jack Dyson. Drawing from his experience working in the media and magazine world, agency side and working as a successful freelancer, to now leading a global content marketing team for one of the largest software solution businesses in the world, Jack shares his opinions, life lessons and tips to help you work more efficiently and help you start telling your company’s story in a credible and engaging way.
Fiona Jensen: Here with wonderful Jack Dyson. Thank you ever so much for joining us today Jack.
Jack Dyson: Thank you for having me.
Fiona Jensen: Pleasure, pleasure. Why don’t you give us a summary of who you are, how you got to where you are today and who it is that you’re working for currently?
Jack Dyson: Currently, I’m the global head of content strategy for SAP customer experience but my road to get here had been long and complicated. I started out as a journalist after university. I did an arts degree. Ancient history and then jumped into finance journalism. What was challenging and interesting about that was that I had to speak to experts and translate what they said. When you speak to someone who’s deep in a topic, they’re not always the best person to explain to a layperson what they do. That was always a constant challenge, was to speak to experts about what they love and translate it and make it engaging but also to tell the stories of companies.
Jack Dyson: That’s always been part of what I do. From there, I worked at The Week, MoneyWeek, GQ. I was employee zero on Wired. I worked there for a number of years as well and was a freelancer as well. In the latter part, when I was at Wired and GQ, I was the senior copywriter, which meant that I was part of what’s now the partnerships team. At the time we just called it advertorial. I was working there during a transition period when we added to the magazine iPad additions, much more online. There was a greater sophistication. There was a greater awareness of the customer journey and what the customers might be looking for, as well as the access points to those customers and also, of course, what the monetary value of that is. In that role, I work very closely with an art director as well as the account executive and then would stand in for either or both occasionally as well.
Jack Dyson: It was really interesting because what would happen is, if you pick up GQ, for example, and it’s a month when it’s got a supplement out, they do the watch supplement, for example, travel supplement, car supplement, all of these things will have interventions to the reader in them, to the audience. Each of those interventions will be an advertorial or a partnership or something like that. At those points, that’s a brand asking for you to tell their story in familiar enough terms for the reader that it’s a seamless experience. For Gillette, for example, or Clinique or any other cosmetics company, you’re trying to find a way into the reader that feels seamless, that feels engaging, doesn’t feel like they’re being sold to. You have to focus in on the individual stories.
Jack Dyson: You have to find reasons that people can take part without being seen as sell-outs. You have to push their ambassadors and often actually push the companies to work harder to tell their story. That was always quite an interesting point because when you’d be speaking to the people on the company’s side or on the agency side on behalf of the company to have them say, “We want to tell this story,” and for your pushback to be, “Well, yes but it won’t be interesting. So how can we make this engaging? Or it won’t feel credible.” Or, “But that won’t server your business needs,” was another one, because you’d often get people saying, “We want a sponsor a race car,” whatever. It would have no relevance to the reader or to their business. So how can you focus on that?
Jack Dyson: That was the journalist to copywriting advertorial side of it and partnerships. From there, I worked in ad agencies. I would often be outsourced to by large agencies who didn’t have the capacity to do what I offer, which is, as I just described, telling stories for audiences in a credible way. This was at the start of content revolution, you could call it, or whatever you want to call it.
Fiona Jensen: Definitely was a revolution.
Jack Dyson: Yeah, and so I went to, what was it? It was Euro RSCG at the time, which is now Havas, and a really good example is they pulled me in to talk about Chivas to them. Chivas Regal, part of Pernod Ricard, which was going through a big rebranding. All of the tear sheets that they had were actually articles that I’d written for other alcohol brands at GQ and at Wired for Conde Nast so they were trying to do something that magazines had already been doing for some years. This was right at the start of Facebook and so on so I was able to help them build up audience personas as well as understand what the different social platforms were, how different personas might work on them. It was very sort of, agency specific B2C side. Then from there I ended up also with them, independently doing internal communications and B2B communications for them. So with my agency I would actually create publications, for example, that set out all of the activations, all of the brands and sub brands that were part of Chivas Regal so that they could market them internally, within Pernod Ricard group as well as on [inaudible 00:07:15] so they could see what everyone was doing.
Jack Dyson: That was my stepping stone into this idea of doing content for B2B marketing. Then, SAP was one of my clients and I ended up working with them doing, initially thought leadership and then much more strategic stuff. So now, three years into SAP, I’ve got a really useful combination of magazine/media experience, agency and now core business as well.
Fiona Jensen: Absolutely. I think with regards to your experience, you’ve been freelance, agency, client side. That gives you a really unique perspective because there’s actually very few marketers who cover all of those different working scenarios or situations I think.
Jack Dyson: Yeah, lots of people do it the other way round. They’ll start off in a big business and then slowly work their way out of it. But I think doing it this way round is, I found, really interesting because it means that I’ve been able to take really valuable tools and understandings and kind of, get to the heart of a lot of matters very quickly and easily without such encumbrances that you might get from having worked at a large company for a long time. I’m taking my ways of doing things from journalism or agency side as well. It’s also really handy in negotiation as well because it means talking to agencies or talking to individual contributors, I can be a little bit more firm and realistic in terms of, okay billable hours. How much something should cost. How much work is involved in doing something. Because I’ve done those jobs myself.
Fiona Jensen: Yeah really good perspective. Like you say, that’s a good way to add value to your current employer also but I love the fact that you’ve also gone outside of the work environment as well and continued the passion for content and writing in other fields as well, with the magazine I think you founded with your sister.
Jack Dyson: Yeah so that in fact was done while we were both working in magazines. I was at GQ and she was at Vogue. We realized that a lot of the content we were doing, I call it content advisedly because in magazines a lot of it’s about supporting the publisher’s model in terms of, if you look at the actual editorial it’s about adding layers and context to the industry. So in a way it is almost B2B. What we found was that a lot of what we were being asked to do lacked authenticity. It wasn’t a direct communication to the reader or to the audience. It didn’t share or celebrate, it was actually relatively dry. We’d both hit snags in our passion for the roles. So we set up a magazine called Rubbish, which would in a friendly way allow people to lampoon what they did but also serve as a shop window for what they really wanted to be doing. I think that if you ask someone to tell you something about themselves, if they tell you their dream, that’s much more interesting than if they tell you what they did this morning.
Fiona Jensen: No absolutely. I love that. You’re a rebel without a cause for me. I love that. So how’s marketing changed since you started out on your career.
Jack Dyson: I think there has been, certainly recently, a much clearer appreciation of the value of quality content. If you look at what people in SEO talk about, that’s a really good indicator because when I was learning HTML or teaching it myself, you’d have to input quite weird terms and tags and so on to optimize a page. You’d hide it up at the top. It wouldn’t make sense necessarily linguistically. Whereas now, with the new Google algorithms and the new ways things surface in search, it’s actually much more contextual. It’s actually much more quality based. If a page is engaging, then it will surface. In our thought leadership platforms we’ve been able to do this really well. We have something called TheFutureOfCustomerEngagementAndCommerce.com, which is a website that has two percent bounce rate and massive organic views as well. People stay on the site. They come there to read something and they stay there because it’s good and it works. The challenge now is also to convince the rest of the business of its worth.
Jack Dyson: So I would say that an emerging trend is that, as marketing and sales are almost starting to overlap a bit more, there’s an emerging head of content role, which not many companies fill yet but they’re certainly starting to see a demand for it or an awareness for that need. Because marketing and sales necessarily cross over. They feed one another. Content done right feeds the whole operation because it hits every single customer touch point and in fact speaks to the customers more directly than marketing or sales. So if you make it a sub function of one of those things, you’re kind of hampering your strategy. Actually if you had objectively… The content role should see the whole customer journey and affect it all and make sure that it’s consistent throughout. From awareness obviously with thought leadership, right through to, I mean to nurture again at the other end. There shouldn’t really be much difference between a nurture piece and an awareness piece because both of them are helping the expert do their job better.
Fiona Jensen: I agree. We’re definitely seeing an increase in content marketing manager positions coming through. Even small businesses are starting to invest in content so I think there’s definitely still the movement there. I think when we were at the CMA event recently, there was this phrase where they sort of said, “Is content dead?” I was shaking my head in the audience because really we’re still seeing the fruits of that initial revolution coming through now. I think people are only just starting to really appreciate and put value on content and seeing it more as a revenue generating potential for themselves.
Jack Dyson: Well I think how quickly you expect results has a great bearing on how your content can be valuable. So the website I mentioned just now, Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce, that is doing spectacularly well but that’s at the end of a six year… Not masses of money but certainly masses of time and care and effort and curation has gone into building that as a viable property. You can’t just start up the Sunday Times tomorrow. It takes a great investment and a lot of care. I think that’s something that people involved in content would do well to remember in a supportive way.
Fiona Jensen: Absolutely. So how do big corporates justify spend on difficult to measure campaigns around brand and thought awareness?
Jack Dyson: I don’t think there’s any single answer to that. I think there’s a lot of ways that you can do it and you certainly know a wrong way when you see one.
Fiona Jensen: How have you spoken to SAP about… This six-year journey obviously like you say, that’s quite a long term investment and time, which a business is potentially not seeing a specific revenue or pipeline. How have you communicated-
Jack Dyson: I think that what my colleagues and myself have all agreed on from the start is the potential for what this idea, and not just this one but all the other overlapping strategies that we have as well, could have. In common we have a reporting background. We’re all trained journalists, or mostly. So naturally we’re very good at compartmentalizing stories and content and themes. We can see easily ways for many things working together. When I first arrived at SAP, I could see all these myriad ways of doing things a little bit better, making small efficiencies, joining up dots between things. I put them into this massive deck and showed it to everyone but because I hadn’t done it for them, it seemed like an unnecessary disruption. It wasn’t until we were actually working with our colleagues, I mean this is a personal lesson. It doesn’t reflect on them.
Jack Dyson: It wasn’t until I was working with them and using live content and making a difference with it, that they saw what I was trying to say. I think that the best way we found of doing it is to do numerous small pilots that prove a point and overlap and complement other strategies already anyway. Because then there’s no large investment in it. You’ve got deniability of it if it doesn’t work and you can easily just, you know, expunge it. But that’s a really useful way of showing people the potential of things.
Fiona Jensen: Like it. So test, prove, test, prove.
Jack Dyson: Definitely test it. Definitely prove it. And don’t try and prove too much at once. You might have many points that you want to make out of one activation but you don’t need to prove them all at once because you start sounding like you’re bragging a bit, you know? So choose the problem that you’re trying to fix first and then say, “This pilot is to fix this problem and now I’ve done it. Oh and by the way it also solves problems B, C and D and so therefore saves us X.” That’s a really nice way of doing it. The other thing is, that benefit needs to be sold internally, not just to marketing but also to sales, pre sales, anyone who works with the customer, anyone in enablement as well who helps the customer understand what they can do. A good content strategy should be able to wear many hats.
Fiona Jensen: Nice. So how to build the most effective content marketing team might be a good next question.
Jack Dyson: Yes. So I would say that the best teams I’ve worked with have all had mixed abilities. I don’t think that a team of 10 MBA students is going to necessarily solve as many problems or be able to have the diversity of perspective that you need to be able to solve a rounded problem in a long term way. So I would say that shared goal is really important. That journalistic candour and curiosity are really important. In your team you need to look for people who share your appreciation of success and when I say that I mean, in terms of enjoying the solution itself and so therefore being able to aim for that and roll up their sleeves and be able to do that without being too proud. Among that team you need to have people who are dreamers as well as doers. You need to have people who are talkers and persuaders as well as counters and quantifiers and dot joiners.
Jack Dyson: You need to have people who are able to navigate the corporate world as well as talk to the customer. So there’s a real blend of attributes that you need to look for. Some of them won’t be there straight away.
Fiona Jensen: So you can hire for potential as well?
Jack Dyson: Definitely. Yeah. But also someone who wants to learn and is curious to learn. People I, avoid is the wrong word but, you don’t want anyone who’s too placid and who’s not full of energy and entrepreneurial and so on. This isn’t that sort of a role. You don’t want a box ticker in content. You want someone who’s going to be able and have the passion and energy to try and reinvent the same message or similar, overlapping messages over and over again. The other thing that I would say is, to do that you need a good quality and breadth of relationships outside the company. You know this from your podcasting. You don’t just want to talk to one sort of person. You need access to many different people to tell the different stories and bring them all in.
Jack Dyson: When we talk to customers, it’s really interesting to find how many of our actual end customers and their audience use LinkedIn for example and trust peer to peer networking and will actually find value in an event, not because of what’s in the keynote but because of who they sit next to at the keynote and what their problem is. That whole thing of a problem shared and so on is really important. So you need to be able to access those networks in order to unearth the stories that you can tell.
Fiona Jensen: Brilliant. Really good. Really interesting. From the content people that you’ve met and interviewed, how can you tell? Is there a particular question or sort of thing that you look for to help you make that decision on a person?
Jack Dyson: Yeah. I mean the simplest thing is to see if they ask any questions.
Fiona Jensen: And what type of questions.
Jack Dyson: And what type of questions, yeah. Not like, how much am I going to get paid or like, when can I go home but like, why did you choose this or what is so clever about that? The other questions that people need to be able to ask are things like, is this good enough? How could this be made better? You do need to have people with a certain robustness. I don’t mean like, espousing radical candour, or anything like that because I don’t-
Fiona Jensen: Well it’s quite a good idea.
Jack Dyson: Well you can end up being rude that’s all or just being mean or bullying or whatever. So when I say robust I mean it as in, they need to be able to change their idea when it’s… Let’s say you and I started doing something now and we found out it wasn’t working, are we going to carry on pig-headedly doing it to the end or are we going to say, “Okay how can we change this to make it work?” Or, “We’ve already done this, how can we make this work better?”
Fiona Jensen: Or improve it. Yeah.
Jack Dyson: Or if it’s your idea then I’ll say, “That’s a really good idea. I love it. Let’s forget about my one and just concentrate on yours.” It’s that sort of a thing. The ability to have a good working relationship I think is really important and often underrated.
Fiona Jensen: Yeah I love that. If you were to join a tech software startup tomorrow, what approach would you take to content marketing?
Jack Dyson: What approach? I would say an open minded one first of all. There’s so many different ways that you can deal with content. I think first of all, the biggest question is who’s it for and how much you would need. Not how much do you want. Those are very different things. Certainly as a freelancer or running my agency, I would find myself recommending people didn’t do things. You can really easily make a rod for your own back. So I would say who’s it for? Look at the audience. How do they consume content? Look at the audience. What need of theirs are you addressing? Look at what you’re producing. Divide it into explicit and implicit content. Explicit, go to market. What we do. Why you need it. Implicit is more curation and ownership of the conversation, it’s more of the thought leadership side of things.
Jack Dyson: So then you’ve got this combination after that of evergreen versus reactive content versus testing content. You might have say, an 80/20 split between evergreen content and reactive content on your site at any one time. I’d actually say well, maybe within one of those, save off another five points that you could use for testing new content. New types of content. You know, “We’ve never done an infographic before, let’s try that.” “We’ve never done something on LinkedIn before, let’s do that.” Don’t get too obsessed with social.
Fiona Jensen: It’s very time consuming isn’t it, social.
Jack Dyson: Very time consuming and you can end up again, like maybe just… I was saying to someone the other day, it was a startup in fact, they were asking me for some thoughts. I’d said, just do LinkedIn for now. Their customers aren’t on Instagram so, doesn’t matter. Then also this, again as we said before, the idea of looking at content across the business and across all the touch points. So you want to map them out, really, crucially early on. The other thing I would say is to involve partners and customers. Not just for endorsement but also for amplification.
Fiona Jensen: And input and feedback.
Jack Dyson: And input exactly. How did you solve this problem? What was the outcome that you were looking for here and how was it met? If you are the nexus that owns that conversation and curates that conversation, then you’re automatically a trusted adviser on their, and their peers and their whole network’s journey of discovery. If you curate content or create stuff like a podcast for example that someone’s going to put on their own network, then that has way more value than an interview with someone that you’d put on your network.
Fiona Jensen: It’s the whole ecosystem isn’t it.
Jack Dyson: Yeah and it’s quite complex but if you just concentrate on certain areas of it and get them working well, the rest should tick along quite nicely but always, I would say, for this mythical startup I would just quality check stuff at the end of it as well, before you go live. You know? I think that’s really important.
Fiona Jensen: So do you do that yourself or do you get other people within your organisation?
Jack Dyson: Yeah pretty much. You don’t want to make stuff just for the sake of it because you’re only going to add to the noise. So key to that we found, in our teams at SAP but also best practice as identified elsewhere, is when you have a good governance committee. So going in from fresh is a really good point at which to say, “Right, we’re going to set up solid governance for our content.” That means we’re going to have a champion, who’s the ultimate arbiter, so that might be CEO, CMO, founder, doesn’t matter but that person has the back of whoever’s doing the content and running that strategy. Then you have your working groups who execute it but you have your steering committee above that, that makes sure that everything that you’re doing is on message, is published in the right cadence and that it answers the right questions.
Fiona Jensen: Got you. Then literally you’d send them the piece of content that you are creating to sanity check and feedback? And speed, time, how can you get that done quickly and efficiently or, what sort of learnings have you had around that sharing piece? Because I know it can often fall to the bottom of the pile.
Jack Dyson: I think if you’ve got one or two key pieces of content then those should be thought of because they’ll embody the messaging, for example fundamental content. That can be decided by, or not decided by committee but approved by committee. So in a sales driven organisation if you don’t have someone representing the customer, then you’re screwed. So I would say bring in someone from sales who is in the field and who speaks to customers. Bring in a customer advisory board. How does this resonate with you? Do you like this? Is it something you would share? What are we missing? What could we be doing better? You’ve got to be curious about how you can improve always. So that’s certainly stuff I would be looking for. Then the other thing is to treat it as an investment because the fruit ripens over time. I mean you can see, if you look in B2C content, you can see much more of a sort of fast fashion approach, people churning out stuff.
Fiona Jensen: Often far too much stuff, if I’m honest.
Jack Dyson: Often far too much, yeah.
Fiona Jensen: It’s an unsubscribe, you know. Get off the wheel.
Jack Dyson: Exactly and actually you’re much better off being a place someone comes to than the other way around. So you could be like, Which. Which is great because A, it’s super trusted, B it’s non-invasive and C, it fulfils a need. It is this destination that you come to and you have to invest but you get what you pay for, sort of thing. It’s not super expensive. Rather than being, Take A Break or the TV Times, [inaudible 00:30:43] just kind of disposable.
Fiona Jensen: Exactly but then when you see Which recommended, then that often raises that product in your opinion straight away towards the top doesn’t it?
Jack Dyson: Very much so, yeah.
Fiona Jensen: And that’s without even buying a magazine, you know immediately thanks to their strategy that it’s trusted.
Jack Dyson: Right. So if you’ve got a good CEO who knows cool people and they’re doing a panel at your event, then film that panel and also take the audio from that panel and then transcribe that audio as well and then you’ve got five or six pieces of content easy out of one interaction. So it’s that sort of an approach that makes a really big difference.
Fiona Jensen: Working smart I like it. How do you approach your content writing? So is there a formula or do you take a different approach with each employer, customer, segment that you’re working on each time?
Jack Dyson: When you say your content writing, do you mean my personal?
Fiona Jensen: You, personal, yeah. I mean the beauty of asking you is the fact that you’ve worked in so many different facets so do you have a formula and if so, what is it please share. Or do you just look at what the problem is and who the customer is and approach it differently every time? How do you do it?
Jack Dyson: There’s loads of different ways I have of doing it because it depends on what piece of content I’m trying to make. So, first of all I need to work out what it’s for and then I need to ask myself what else it’s for. So here’s a thought leadership piece I’m writing up based on having done the keynotes for our president last year or whatever. So I’m synthesizing the messaging, how else could we use that? It might make a series of LinkedIn posts and it might make 10 one liners on Instagram and it might make a really nice video series. To understand what the segmentation’s going to be before you put finger to keyboard is really important.
Fiona Jensen: So who your audience is and what you’re trying to effect?
Jack Dyson: And also what other audiences internally and externally could it also affect because you don’t… The key to working efficiently here is to only do it once. You don’t want to have to come back and do it again.
Fiona Jensen: And then be able to repurpose it for a variety of other causes or-
Jack Dyson: And then to understand, okay well if this is enablement based, what’s the call to action it’s going to have at the end of it? Where do I want the person to go next? Obviously I want to keep them in my ecosystem but is it going to be a buying decision after this or is it going to be, “I want to get more information”? Or “I want to request a demo”? Or “I’m just kind of shopping around and actually I want to now read another sort of magaziney piece”? So that’s the kind of first level bit. Then in terms of whether it’s a newsy piece of more of a magaziney piece, assuming we’re going written here, the news ones should always… It’s classic news writing. So you’ve got an inverse pyramid. You say everything first, so the broadest brush answer first has the who, what, where, why, when, which. So everything’s in the first sentence. Company A this week launched new product that does X, which means Y. That’s your one paragraph that tells everything. Then you can add supporting, amplifying statements underneath it. That’s how you would approach it in news.
Jack Dyson: If you were doing it in a feature you might make it personality led, you might make it need led. Trick is to show not tell so rather than… In fact let me rephrase slightly. The other thing is to always with B2B, I think, to focus on the outcome over the feature.
Fiona Jensen: As in the outcome of the reader or the outcome of the-
Jack Dyson: So the outcome of the product. The need you’re fixing. If I’m buying a stereo, I’m not really necessarily going to care about the megahertz frequency, whatever it is, or the diameter of the [inaudible 00:35:18] or whatever, as I will care about the emotion I get from listening to the sweet music that I put on it or whatever. I think that that’s often overlooked in B2B, just because something is B2B doesn’t mean it should be all about function, right?
Fiona Jensen: Or boring.
Jack Dyson: Or boring. Yeah, yeah. And so you have to look for these emotional touchpoints and how you can make them. So always with B2B we try and imagine that the person who’s reading it is at their Monday morning meeting, their stand up or whatever it is in their office and they want to add to the conversation. How can we make their day better? We make them seem clever or help them do their job better.
Fiona Jensen: That’s a really good way of looking at it definitely.
Jack Dyson: I think that’s really important. That’s often your way in to what to say next. Then you can go more kind of writing schooly-
Fiona Jensen: Detail.
Jack Dyson: … and put a post it note for each paragraph and make sure each one says something.
Fiona Jensen: What are your thoughts about the use of click bait? When is it useful if at all?
Jack Dyson: I would say never. I would say, very simply, it’s like really bad sugar. People will be really cross that they’re eating processed food rather than something you’ve taken time to prepare and if you are setting up a beautiful restaurant, going on about the quality of your ingredients, you need to prove that. You need to walk your talk.
Fiona Jensen: Good answer. We’ve seen a lot of journalists making a transition into content marketing recently. How does content sit with a journalist’s experience of ethics and standards and objectivity and a lack of bias?
Jack Dyson: I think going back to what we said earlier, you want to be clear that you’re addressing a specific issue when you’re writing. That said, you’re not setting yourself up as anything other than a company that’s selling a product so you can justify selling a product quite easily. I mean I can’t really think of ways that ethics might get involved in it in a weird way unless you were making false claims or exploiting people in order to produce your product. I think that there’s a separate conversation to be had around how you amplify your brand’s purpose through your content and how much that affects the type of content that you do and your expectations of what it should achieve, which you do have to be a bit more careful about, where you can be quite nuanced in what you’re saying or should be aware of the nuances in what you’re saying. But I think that journalists fundamentally are just trying to tell a story or communicate an idea as elegantly and quickly as possible.
Fiona Jensen: Yeah. Very true. Describe one of the best B2B marketing teams you’ve worked with. So examples of how they succeed, budget and activity they undertook.
Jack Dyson: So the team I’m in now has a really good cross section of skills. We are international simply by virtue of the fact we’re a global team in multiple regions. We all share the view that a piece of content can have multiple purposes and multiple uses and we all share the idea that what we’re doing is of value to the company ultimately and that we’re trying to always explore ways of increasing the value of the customer journey. And yet, at a time where right across the board, and I don’t just mean in our company but in all companies, budgets are under pressure. This isn’t some dot com boom time.
Fiona Jensen: Massively. Especially with content as well because it’s such a long term strategy often you can feel the pressure then can’t you?
Jack Dyson: Yes exactly. And so we’re being forced by the market to think cleverly about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So what’s really nice is the way that together we are addressing our content at everything within the customer journey. We’re reaching out to other teams and building bridges with them and we’re telling them about what we’re doing and sharing it with them. That comes back. People offer us stuff in return. We are together building something that’s greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Fiona Jensen: And more value to everyone who uses it and imparts into it.
Jack Dyson: Yeah.
Fiona Jensen: Yeah. Very good. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt in marketing or business and how did it come about?
Jack Dyson: We learned a really good lesson. A couple of years ago we did a big… I had this idea that I wanted to prove, which was that you could really squeeze a lot of value out of a single event. Like a typical roadshow event or keynote style corporate event. So you’d have multiple sessions and multiple keynotes as well and so on and so on. We had a thing called the [inaudible 00:41:22] network that I created with my colleague Amy that’s an on-demand service of journalists who are acting as freelancers, who come in and basically report as a journalist but a friendly one on what you’re doing. We had a write up for every single session and we had articles on the keynotes of what was said at them. We had Q&A voxpops as people came off stage and we had all sorts of things. It was great. It was a really good strategy but I just couldn’t put it anywhere except for the top tier content. We’d made so much that we had six months worth of content from one day and kind of proved one point but shot ourselves in the foot with the other. It was a really valuable lesson that you can be too clever and make a rod for your own back really easily and to respect that much more in future, which I do.
Fiona Jensen: Both ways.
Jack Dyson: Yeah.
Fiona Jensen: Really good example. What past failure or uncomfortable experience set you up for success at a later date?
Jack Dyson: I would say, from my agency days but also now as a marketer, expecting other people in the room to understand what you’re saying and offering and to share your joy at how wonderful it is, is a really big no no. It’s also a real frustration as well. It certainly was at the time. You kind of need to think a bit more like a therapist and a bit less like a egotist in order to A, persuade people round to your point of view but also B, to do it in such a way that you’re doing it for them. You have to be a bit more altruistic in your content strategy. That was quite a useful thing that a friend who is a therapist put me onto.
Fiona Jensen: Oh really?
Jack Dyson: Yeah. I think there’s a lot to be said for listening and modes of listening to people in a room and if you are in there and you’re trying to say something and people back away slightly from your idea, A, don’t take it personally but B, work out why. Then if necessary and if it’s the right time, then say, “What were you expecting?” Now when I’m being briefed by someone, I will often ask them, “What do you want to be holding in your hand at the end of this? When I’ve delivered this, what do you want it to be like? How do you want it to feel?” Because often that’s a quicker way to, not working out what they want you to do now but what they want it to solve or how they want it to be in the end point. They’ll say, “Yeah actually all I want is 12 videos,” or something like that. Suddenly that changes the whole briefing process because you’re not expecting it to be… People get lost in metaphor and jargon.
Fiona Jensen: And also it’s really easy I think from listening to a brief for a person to over complicate it as well isn’t it? Because you have so many ideas maybe as a content marketer or as a marketer in general as to what that could be and then as you say, often the answer is quite a lot simpler than you might have perceived.
Jack Dyson: Absolutely. You can solve a problem in a pitch really easily if you’re lucky and you’ve got the right people in the room you can go in to sell yourself, but actually what the meeting is doing is getting you into the room. It’s then how you fix the problem with people that gives them the vision to see you accompanying them on that path. It’s something that we do at SAP in terms of, we will go through design thinking exercises with customers at events as well as in private meetings. That’s a really good way of being a trusted adviser and therefore a first choice. But also on a much smaller scale, it’s really useful. It’s really handy to have a clinic approach to things where you can workshop stuff really quickly and put people together to fix a problem because on the karma scale, you know, that’ll come back to you actually and in my experience it does.
Fiona Jensen: And then as you say, the main core of a really good content marketer is again, having the ability to ask those questions rather than just start talking but to be able to really get to the bottom of what is going on. Who is it for? What is it there to achieve?
Jack Dyson: Absolutely so like talking about your podcast, who’s it for? Why do they listen to it? Things like that. Really that then informs the whole texture of the conversation we’ve just been having.
Fiona Jensen: Yeah. With pressures of general life, how do you manage the work life balance and how important is that in today’s society Jack?
Jack Dyson: I had a medical last week and the day before the medical… I’ve got three kids, two of them are under three now but for a while two of them were under two, so I had my medical and you fill out the form and they say, “What do you want to achieve and blah blah blah.” So I said, “Well I’d really like to sleep more. I’d like to be less stressed. I’d like to spend more time on myself and my family, less time at work and the time I do spend at work I’d like to be more efficient.” So then we had the medical, blah blah blah and, “I’d like to be able to do more exercise.” Because in our team, I’ve got a lot of hours where I need to be available and on the phone. So they went off and did blood tests and you know, made me breathe into tubes and things and then came back and said, “Yeah, you need to be less stressed. You need to do more exercise.” So I think, yeah it’s all stuff we already know is the short answer.
Jack Dyson: Yeah, it’s really important and lots of, not just companies but people are active participants in paying it lip service rather than doing what should be done. Looking around me at other industries as well, there’s on the one hand an awareness that yeah, this is really important and we really value wellness and we’re going to invest in it and so on, but at the same time if you could just make the call at 8:30 tonight that would be great. So I think leaders should be looking at how they answer that question because people lower down the decision chain don’t have the luxury of time for yoga every morning.
Fiona Jensen: But we are all children aren’t we? We don’t do as you say. We do as you do. So you have to set the example and if you genuinely believe or want the people that you work around with to improve their lifestyle and to look after themselves better, then it has to start from somewhere. Someone has to make that first move and start having that, “I can’t make that call at 8:30 actually because I’m sweaty after yoga,” or whatever it is that you’ve done to let off steam-
Jack Dyson: Yeah or I’ve just put the kids in bed and I need to sort of, have a bottle of whiskey.
Fiona Jensen: That’s me.
Jack Dyson: So yeah so I think it’s really important. The first marketing job I had, or an early marketing job I had when I was freelancing was a six monther and I came into this place and they had a really unhappy office. You could tell. People didn’t take lunch because they were afraid and they would turn up half an hour early because the MD had shouted at them for being on time. “No, nine o’clock is when I expect you to be at your desk working.” Then they would also stay late anyway because they weren’t working efficiently because they were stressed. It took three or four months to turn that around, of taking people for lunch, making them have a break and yet still expecting them to do the same work but also have… It’s a tricky one. It depends on the team and their environment as well. It’s also such an emotional issue.
Fiona Jensen: But people put themselves under pressure a lot of the time as well because actually I think often the case is, everybody’s kind of suffering for everybody else’s perception of what needs to happen whereas actually if you can start that motion towards having a happier life outside of work, it feeds into your work and it makes you more efficient. You spend less time stressing about stuff that actually is completely irrelevant and just focusing on doing one or two things really well in your current job and the whole team, the ecosystem, the whole company becomes a lot more successful thanks to that.
Jack Dyson: The team I’m in at the moment I’m really lucky because everyone has very high empathy for one another. Mostly parents already-
Fiona Jensen: That does help.
Jack Dyson: Some with older kids, some with younger. That makes a massive difference.
Fiona Jensen: It really does. It’s like a different world when you become a parent I think. Completely.
Jack Dyson: And it’s all right to say, “I’m running late today or I’m slow today because X.”
Fiona Jensen: “I’ve had like two hours sleep.”
Jack Dyson: Yeah, or, “The kids are throwing up,” or, “Our childcare’s screwed,” or whatever it is.
Fiona Jensen: Everyone knows it happens. That’s the difference.
Jack Dyson: It’s really important. In Japan they’ve started giving people extra holiday if they don’t smoke to encourage smokers to give up, which is quite cool.
Fiona Jensen: It’s a great idea that.
Jack Dyson: Yeah to make up for the extra time and blah blah blah.
Fiona Jensen: I like that.
Jack Dyson: But yeah, you need to be aware of that injustice building up, that culture of quiet counting of affront.
Fiona Jensen: Yes, that simmering animosity. What’s the lowest point you’ve reached where you thought, is this really worth it as a career?
Jack Dyson: I’d refer back to the challenge of persuasion and expecting people to get your idea straight away, which I really struggled with early on because I’d walk in with my super creative head on, expecting people who were XL motivated to understand what I was trying to prove. It took me a while to appreciate that I had to moderate the target as well as the creative as well as the response to get them on side and that also sometimes it takes multiple meetings and persuasions and so then, what would happen is yeah, you can get quite dispirited. You do need to watch that. You’ve got to appreciate why people are saying what they’re saying.
Fiona Jensen: What’s the book you recommend the most for B2B marketers today?
Jack Dyson: I would say, the book is not a book, it’s a quarterly. It’s called Lapham’s Quarterly or Lapham’s, I never know which. It was started up by a guy called Charles Lapham in the US, it’s L-A-P-H-A-M’s. So it’s Lapham’s. What he does is, every quarter he chooses a theme, so it might be time or anger or comedy or love or whatever. Instead of looking at 20 writers now to write about that, he’ll actually look through history. So he might have some Bede and he might have some Herodotus and he might have a bit of Pliny and he might have a bit of, I don’t know, Swift, you know? All of these perspectives from history, all on this one subject, visual, metaphorical, poetic, factual, reportage, doesn’t matter. He gets the best that has ever been said on this one topic and presents it in a single volume that’s really collectable.
Jack Dyson: I think that’s really elegant as a solution. Looking at them, flicking through them, is a really good way of understanding that the most valuable thing you’re creating, you might not be creating for today. It might not be valuable for a little while. That affects the care that you put into things.
Fiona Jensen: Very nice. What parting words of wisdom or advice would you share with our audience?
Jack Dyson: I would repeat my dad’s last words for me, which were, “I don’t have a big message, it’s all there in how we live our lives.” So you could rephrase that as Yoda and say, “Do or do not,” but it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that matters. If you are trying to be a strategist then be creative and curious and interested in order to be interesting and do the same on behalf of your company and your clients and you’ll be doing the right thing.
Fiona Jensen: Very good. What a way to leave it. Thanks ever so much Jack, that’s fantastic.
Jack Dyson: My pleasure. Thank you.
Fiona Jensen: So there you have it. Career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying this podcast then please leave us a review in iTunes. We’d love to hear your feedback.