In this episode Dan Kaplan, CoFounder of periscopeUP interviews Adria Saracino, Head Of Content Strategy At Distilled.

They discuss: what makes a good content strategy, how to get leads & sales with content strategy, how to craft a good content strategy on a limited budget, what makes good content, and they walk through an example of a content production and distribution strategy that received millions of views and was mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine.

In the podcast, she mentions a discount code for their conference videos. Get that discount here: ​

At Distilled, Adria is responsible for understanding consumer behavior and developing strategies that influence purchasing decisions.

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Dan: Hi everybody! Dan Kaplan with PeriscopeUP and welcome back to the Getting More Leads And Sales from your Website podcast. I cannot tell you how excited I am today to have Adria Saracino of Distilled.

Distilled is a full-service digital marketing agency and I’ve got to tell you to give them a little plug because I love them. I’ve been going to their Search Love conferences. I’ve gone in Boston but they’re offered in California and in London as well and these are the best of the best digital marketing practitioners anywhere in the planet. They get them all to come together and they give the secrets and their best tips and it’s the best way I know to stay on top of industry trends and to get some really good creative ideas. If you’re an agency, check out Search Love or

Adria is the head of content strategy at Distilled. Did I get that right, Adria?

Adria: Yes, you did.

Dan: Today we’re going to be talking about content strategy, what it is and she’s got a great example of a successful campaign that they ran at Distilled. We’re going to break it down. Get into the nuts and bolts of it and I understand at the end of the podcast, Adria, you have a free giveaway as well. Is that right?

Adria: Yes.

Dan: Alright, great. So why don’t you just give us a little background of yourself to start off. I’d love to hear your story and how you got to be the head of content strategy at a killer agency.

Adria: Awesome, yeah, of course. So, I actually went to school thinking I want to be a journalist and so, I went to Syracuse University. I had always written as a kid for as long back as I could remember. I decided that journalism was what I wanted to do but it actually took my freshman at Syracuse to have to take a graphic design course. And I thought this will actually be a little bit more useful. I know how to write and just Syracuse’s communication school, they require that you have to take journalism courses anyway so I was like, “This is way more strategic. Why don’t I learn more about design because I don’t know that?” And then I had also decided to do a dual degree in marketing as my “back-up plan” just in case my design career did not take off.

So throughout school and in my internships and all that I was very focused on design and photography and more art direction. And when I decided to move to Seattle, I actually ended up having trouble finding a job because they’re very web-based here and not so much print and that was always where my passion was – print publications. So I kind of had those hard discussions with myself and I had remembered in my marketing program in Syracuse, my last semester I actually took a course on SEO and I remembered thinking that it was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. It seems like a huge conspiracy theory trying to get rankings up in Google. I mean, this was a while ago so this was back when SEO was a little bit questionable but I thought it was amazing.

And so, I said, you know, maybe I should try my hand in marketing and pick up that back-up plan. And yeah, I found an entry-level job that said will train you in SEO and whatnot. I got trained at my first job out of school, my first real job doing that and it actually ended up turning more into outreach PR and biz dev.

So I did a lot of training and work to learn what the traditional SEO craft was. I started there and I worked there for about two years and then I actually met somebody who worked at Distilled at that time.

When he was moving on, he recommended me to take over their outreach division and they were just thinking about starting a new team. And so, I joined Distilled to start up their outreach team. I started at Distilled as head of outreach and grew the team to there were nine of us.

And then I moved to content strategy and started a new team and division there because it took only a few months to realize that’s what I was actually doing the whole time – trying to decide what kind of content we should actually develop before we even start the outreach process.

So we were like, “Let’s call it what it is and start a team.” So yeah, that’s how I ended up in Distilled and I’m in a program and in a job that I had no idea even existed a while back but it includes journalism, marketing, and some design jobs.

Dan: This is great because you’ve got a lot of experience and we’re going to talk about that experience and probably share some of that to our listeners today.

We’re here to talk about content strategy and my question on this podcast is always, “How do you use your area of expertise to get more leads in sales?” So, let’s dive into that.

What is content strategy? How do you define it? Why is it important for me to use it to get more out of my website?

Adria: So I define marketing content strategy as any marketing initiative in which you are using content in order to try to hit a goal, whether that’s to gain awareness, gain sales, sometimes retention. And that being said, it’s very broad.

I know a lot of clients come to us and the definition of what is included in the marketing content strategy, they oftentimes think that that’s either blogs, blogging or that means bigger kind of interactive pieces that they might see that you launch in a campaign by campaign basis.

And while content strategy and marketing definitely includes those, really anything on your digital properties is considered content. So that includes your whole website. It could be your conversion category pages. It could be your blog but it could also be your social channels, your email channel. So it really includes a lot of different things on the web.

So basically what content strategy is trying to figure out one, what channel should you be using because I think a lot of companies try to use too many channels but then it also is, “How can we use content in an effective way to hit our goals?” So it’s a lot of front-end research and planning and then it’s trying to take insights from that research and planning in order to define the direction you’re going to go in.

So we like to look at the end result of a content strategy as ‘what’s the vision of what we’re trying to achieve’ and once you determine that, that’s kind of the thread that you weave into your forthcoming content plan. So that could be a project plan, an editorial calendar for your blog, your social strategy because at that point, you’ll have decided that this is the vision and these are the channels that we should be prioritizing. Okay, let’s figure out step by step how we’re actually going to execute it.

Dan: Okay, good. I love that you mentioned goals because so many people come to us and they’ll say, “Well, let’s just see what sticks,” or we see so many people that their content strategy is to try different things and see what the results will be but I think that you’re much more goal-oriented, right? Your approach is to determine a goal. What would be some good goals to go for with content strategy?

Adria: The end goal that most companies what to hit is, “How do we get more leads,” and “How do we get more sales?” But really, in content strategy, your goal is to define the goals you need throughout the purchasing lifecycle.

People don’t just say, “I need something,” and go to your site and buy something. It’s a very sophisticated decision and sometimes, you need to be convinced in one way or another via marketing message to even realize that you need a product or service to begin with. So goals at that stage of the funnel higher up is very much about just getting people to know your brand and with the goals there, you’re not going to get a direct lead from that.

Dan:  Do you go as far as saying a goal might be increased visits by 20% or increase email sign-ups by a hundred people? Do you get that specific with your goals?

Adria: Yes, totally. It starts at benchmarking. You need to really see where you’ve been. It’s not a great idea to just arbitrarily be like, “I think we should get a hundred more.” But yes, it definitely has to be measurable and specific like that.

Dan: So you mentioned some of the processes here. It’s research, understand the context and then you talked about prioritization and planning. Part of that planning might be a calendar, an editorial calendar and then execute. That is creating the content and distributing it through whatever channels you talked about and one of the points you made that I want to make sure we touch on is you think that some companies go after too many channels and are trying to do so much. So, we want to make sure we hit on that.

Why don’t we go through those points and just talk a little bit about how you might approach each one of those, maybe give a couple of anecdotes. Let’ start with research and context.

Adria: How we’ve sort of distilled it down here at Distilled, sorry for the pun, is that there’s really three pillars of research that a company needs in order to come up with a content strategy and those include company research, competitor research, and then your customer research.

So going through each, the company research is usually a good place to start. That is doing things like first, benchmarking your current performance. So that could be anything from doing a deep dive of analytics, answering a lot of questions like, How much traffic are we getting, where’s most of our conversions coming from, what’s the user funnel through the site, doing those sorts of things.

It also includes understanding why your company exists and that is if you have a brand and you’ve developed your brand strategy already. Some companies are already at that stage. It’s revisiting those brand guidelines and saying, “Okay, what is our tone of voice? What are we trying to say here? Why are we different? What’s our core strengths?” and asking those kinds of questions. If you are a company that’s newer, maybe it doesn’t have those.

It’s starting to run those kinds of exercises, asking questions of why are we in this world and it better be answer beyond making money. And if that’s the first instinct, it should be like, “but what are we trying to change here?” And you’re asking a series of questions to get at your brand essence.

Dan: Right, because that’s what’s going to resonate with the readers and users, right? At the end of the day, I’d like to say, this isn’t about you. You might think it was about you as a company but it’s all about me.

Adria: Exactly. It can definitely reflect you and that’s why trying to get to your brand personality and what makes you different is going to be really helpful in the long run in how you’re going to position yourself. And so that company research is kind of the first step in answering the questions. That could be where you would be developing your tone of voice and that’s also the area where you will do a content audit.

With that benchmark audit, figuring our how you are currently performing, it’s also what do we have out there already, especially if you’ve done a lot of things. You want to have an inventory of what kind of social stuff have we done, email, and blogging.

Dan: What worked, what hasn’t.

Adria:  Exactly. And so you want that company pillar filled out and the next one is your competitor research. And that’s trying to understand how no only your direct competitors are performing but also content competitors because as you are going to start doing more content, you are going to be talking about things that might be a little more tangential and related but not right on track with your products and services.

And so, you might be entering into the realm of a publisher that might already be out there. You want to take direct and content competitors and analyze things like what channels are they using, what’s working, what isn’t, what’s their brand position.

One of the things I really like to do is I actually like to call competitors, direct ones, and pretend I’m a customer and go through their sales process. And ask them questions like why should I choose you or what makes you different and see what they are saying. I like doing those kinds of things. But it gives you a lot of insights because you’re going to use that later to figure out where your company fits in. So that’s the competitor research component.

And then the customer research is the last pillar and that is probably the one, I would say, is the most underrated with companies. They often go into strategy sessions thinking they know their customers. They say, “Oh yeah, we target women at ages 18 to 55,” and that’s it. It’s very general. It’s not specific enough because what you really want to understand is the typical thought process and behaviors throughout the purchasing journey – so, how does somebody discover your site all the way to purchase and then all the way to retaining business with you or moving on to the next one. And that includes creating personas, trying to generalize your customers into segments and including things like where do they hang out on the web, what’s their characteristics – do they want the information fast or are they type that will research heavily themselves and need assistance or not. So you really want to get huge investments in character when you’re doing that.

And so, after doing your customer research, what you’re doing with those three pillars is if you look at it like a Venn diagram, it’s as if you’re trying to find the holes in which what your customers say they need and what they want and what you’re competitors are giving them and then trying to find the holes in that in which to position your brand.

That’s why knowing your brand is so important because sometimes companies try to give customers what they need and want but it doesn’t relate to anything they believe in or that they can do. That’s when you see people making content that’s like, “Why is this insurance company caught talking about cats and zombies and what’s funny?” So that’s where the intersect is.

Dan: So maybe this is a good point to ask you a question I was going to ask you later on in the conversation – what is good content? I mean it seems to me like you’re doing all these research so that you can figure out what to produce that people will want to consume and get them in your funnel so that you can then convince them to buy. I mean, talk to me a little bit about what makes good content before we go back to the other conversation.

Adria: Good content is a very nuance discussion that’s different depending on the company because what’s good to your customers and your target market is going to be different than what’s good to others.

That’s why knowing your customers is so important because if you look at companies like The New York Times, their initial company brand is all news fit to print. Their customers like that. They like long form, questionably less visuals, more text but that’s not considered good for somebody else’s readership.

So good content is really about aligning what your customers want to the kind of content you develop.

And what else makes it good is making sure that it is reaching measurable goals. I see a lot of companies particularly with blogging where they just have somebody coming up with ideas that they think is cool not based on anything. They’re like, “Oh, we’re insurance. Let’s write something about the difference between landlord and business insurance. And they’ll just write it.” Really you want to have it informed by that research but also have a way to measure if that’s effective. And that can be a lot of different things. You can be going by social shares, if that’s something would attract people to share it with their friends. It could be comments. You could put event tracking in your Google Analytics to see if people are actually scrolling down the page. So there’s lots of ways to measure.

Dan: A tool that I’ll add is Google Trends for productive and also just looking what’s working out in the web, what’s getting the Reddit shares, or what’s getting a lot of retweets, or what other people are writing. That seems to be catching on.

Adria: And that’s where that competitor research comes in. And our VP of creative has often said there’s no such thing as a new idea. Everything is just taking old ideas and looking at new ways of angling it.

Dan: Old wine, new bottles, right? So let’s get back to the process we put out there – research, prioritize, plan, and execute. So research got that. What’s next? Prioritize.

Adria: So after you do all that research and just start drawing insights and getting a more intimate understanding of your audience and your competitors, that’s where you’ll start noticing holes. You might notice through your competitor research that, “Oh geez. All of our competitors and content competitors are really blogging. They are killing the blogging space but nobody is really doing email.”

That helps you prioritize a channel that you can own compared to your competitors if that’s what you want to go after, you make one. Sometimes it has to do with resources and it might be, “Oh but none of our competitors are actually doing blogging but do we have the resource to actually blog?” And then it’s really like, “We don’t.” So we have to prioritize something else. So it’s all about making those decisions based off the research and choosing which path to take because you can’t do it all at once.

Dan: And I think this gets to your point about some companies taking on too many channels. You want to talk about that a little bit?

Adria: I think a lot of companies have this, “Oh they did it? Let us do it.” And one really good example I could think of where there’s case studies about this is adding badges to your site. A lot of people think that it’s common knowledge to put a trust badge in your site because that’s going to improve conversions but there’s been studies out there that conversions have actually increased for brands by removing a badge. And so very different depending on your company, who your audience is. Having that kind of, “Oh let’s just do it,” and not being skeptical is not going to help you. And Rand Fishkin actually did a really great presentation on why marketers need to be better skeptics at our last Search Love Boston Conference.

I highly recommend people looking into it. It really resonates how I feel about things. Really what you should be doing is taking what you know about your customers, fairing out where they hang, what kind of channels they respond to and just prioritizing the ones that you think you have the resources to do well and not fracturing your attention.

Dan: I think of two things as you’re talking about this. I just had time management expert on, Jodi Hume, and she said saying no to something is saying yes to something else.

Adria: No, it’s a great way to put it.

Dan: I think the other thing that comes to mind is you’ve got to be in this for the long haul. I mean this is not a one and done, let’s throw something out there and see what sticks. This is you’ve got to be constantly improving and committed to it. You have to commit to your website and your content program because its…

Adria: Totally. It’s going to fail. That, I think, is one of the biggest mistakes that businesses make, especially the small ones is I think they are looking for quick wins, especially if you come from the traditional SEO space where it’s a very tactical industry in a lot of ways, where there is like, “What can we put in X and get out Y.”

Content is a bigger game. You have to constantly test things. Sometimes you’ll write some things, sometimes you’ll produce things that doesn’t do well but you’ve got to keep going because it’s more about the aggregate metrics and the aggregate achievements versus the step by step. And that’s why doing reporting updates daily, even weekly sometimes, I see companies panicking, “Oh god. Our performance is down this week.” Well, let’s compare it to a month, the minimum and then to the year because having your whole system panic because you have one bad day of traffic compared to the last causes panic and shocking reactions.

Dan: Good. Research, Prioritize, Plan, Execute. Let’s talk about plan. That’s where we get some people making the content calendar at this point.

Adria: If you remember what I mentioned that my definition of content strategy and marketing is anything on the digital web is fair game. And so your content plan can include your blog but also your social channels, your email.

And once you prioritize what channels you’re going to go after, and once you’ve developed that strategy and vision of what you’re going to try to achieve, that’s where it comes to just planning, Okay, what channel do we want to start with? Or channels. What should the messaging be in order to achieve it? and just figure out how you can launch the different piece of content by making a calendar plan to get it going and taking baby steps to getting there.

Dan: So is that a requirement? Do we need a calendar? And I ask you this because just yesterday, I had a conversation with Eli the computer guy. This is a guy who has a YouTube channel. He’s got several hundred thousand subscribers and he makes a living off of YouTube. He makes a decent living off of YouTube. And I asked him about content calendar. I said, “How do you choose what to talk about?” and he says, “You know when I wake up in the morning, I decide what I want to talk about.” and his point was that he’s a personality in his field. He’s up on computer repair technology, different programs, and he’s sort of tapped into what his audience wants and something can be current to him is going to be current to them. He’s more about what’s hot, what’s right now and not so much an evergreen play. He doesn’t have a content calendar. And I think to myself like, Wow. That’s basic 101 stuff I tell every client. You’ve got to have this. But have you seen examples where it’s not needed?

Adria: Yeah, and I think that example is a good one because I think it’s literally just him who’s dedicating to one channel doing one thing. But it gets a lot more complicated the bigger you get and the more channels you’re exploring. And I love the point you were making that he is more news and what’s trending right then. And so content calendar doesn’t need to be specific as we’re talking about this topic or this exact headline on this day.

It’s more about making sure that you’re filling all the holes because the more channels that you use, the more likely that you’re going to miss something and not be devoting your resources in the appropriate way. So what I like to do is that I like to make calendars that are visual so that the more channels you have, the easier it should be to skim it. I find visuals, color coding all that to be easier because then you can easily say, “Oh, we’ve absolutely have nothing happening on Wednesday. We have nothing happening on email this whole week.” And that’s where I think calendars are super helpful.

Dan: Or nothing on this topic for the next month or so.

Adria: Exactly. So I think it depends on your style.

Dan: I think it takes the pressure of, doesn’t it? It’s hard to every week come up with something and put it out.

Adria: Totally. It is hard. In that case, if you own your own blog, you own your own YouTube channel, I can see you not necessarily needing something that rigid because that’s the only thing you’re doing. But as a business where you have a lot more going on, it helps to set up that structure in the short term so that your company gets into good practices as you scale than having too many people trying to organize because it’s not that fun working backwards.

Dan: It’s a great tool for teams, to keep a team on the same page producing, which brings us to the last part – executing. Execute is the creation of the content and of course, the distribution of the content. I think those are the two areas that Distilled excels in. The content pieces that you have put out are phenomenal. I want to hear not only how you approach creation but how you approach getting it out there to the places where your prospects are spending time online and are coming back to your site.

Adria:  Exactly. And so I’m not going to dive too much into the actual creating portion because it’s going to be dependent on what topics you decide and what formats your customers and that customer research tend to resonate with.

But one thing I want to say is that topic and content first, not format. Think format later. I see a lot of companies being like, “Oh, they’re doing interactive or video. Video is where it’s at. Let’s do video.” Then you have this framework of a format that you’re trying to shove ideas into but there are only certain topics and executions that work for a single format.

So start with the idea, know what format your customers resonate with and then try to figure out which format makes sense. I think infographics are a really great example in that I see a lot of people using them incorrectly.

Infographics are supposed to be about visualizing complicated data in a way that makes it easy but there’s so many infographics out there that you still see people just writing articles with images on an infographic. It’s like this text box with images. I’m like, “Why is this an infographic?” You probably spent so much money writing this article on a jpeg image when you could’ve just put it in a blog post and then have a little thumbnail and call it a day. So that’s why thinking format first isn’t the best way of going about things. But once you do create the content, I think distribution is one of the most important things that a lot of companies don’t do consistently or they don’t put the effort into the right places. And so what I mean by that is first, that whole make it and they will come thing does not work.

I think it’s a good idea to have a baseline of good content if you’ve never done any kind of promotion ever because when your PR people or when your team starts to try promoting, if you have absolutely no content on your site and it looks kind of shady and thin, publishers are going to be like, “Hmm…” I don’t know what that is. So I think having a baseline of content that you think is good is a good start but that’s never going to get you seen in the long term. You really need to have a multi-channel distribution strategy for your content. For that, it includes manual outreach, manual PR pitching, but it also includes paid – paid social ads, retargeting. It can include your own channels, which include optimizing for social sharing, include leveraging your email. I see a lot of people so obsessed with customer acquisition and new eyeballs when they’re doing big campaigns that they don’t leverage their existing community and their email list.

You should be figuring out a way to let your existing customers know you have content because who knows? They could have their own blog. They could be amplifiers themselves and they already like your brand. So that’s something that I see people not doing enough of.

But I think distribution is where it’s at. And when I say the wrong type of distribution, I see a lot of companies trying to get coverage and lengths to blog posts and that is not the type of content that publishers want to link to. If it’s good content, it’s a good resource. That’s more of a long term play of having it rank well in Google and having a publisher find it on their own when they’re doing research for a topic they’re writing on. But if you think about it from the publisher’s perspective, if you get an email that says, “Hey, I wrote this really cool blog post. Can you write about it?”

Dan: Right, that’s not news.

Adria: Right. It’s not news. They’re not going to write an article that says, “Hey, somebody told me to share this. Here’s the link to it. Go to their site to read it.” Most publishers know duplicating the content is not an idea so they’re not just going to copy and paste it. So there’s really no way for them to actually include a blog post in the confines of what they’re doing with their own brand and their own calendar. The only way is you’re trying to hope that they remember it when they’re writing an article and they link to it as a resource. Blog posts with manual outreach are not a good game. I’ll just come out and say it.

Dan: I like that you said that because I think that’s a technique that a lot of SEO companies are still doing. What would be an appropriate format or topic or piece of data for manual outreach?

Adria: I think manual outreach does better with something like you had said that’s either novel or news breaking so it could be something like sometimes a video. It could be survey finding. Publishers, especially news outlets, love new data. Really, surveys are the only way to make new data as a company, unless you have proprietary data based off of your product or service. So that’s a great way for manual outreach to get coverage.

If you create some kind of interactive piece, like a quiz or something that a publisher isn’t going to make in the confines of their own written article, that could get coverage. But basically, you want it to be different than what they’re doing. Why would they publish yours when these publishers are trying to build up their own brand, their own career? Why would they just take your article? Yeah, guest posting still works but liking to an article that you already wrote on your site is not something that you’re going to do.

Dan: So yeah, I think you guys will probably say, “Put your energy into making the blog post so awesome that people are going to want to link to it on their own.”

Adria: I think social is a much better play for articles. I would never underestimate the power of social media because all journalists, all publishers are susceptible to social media. And no publisher ever has said, “Oh, look at this cool thing somebody told me to share in an email.” The always find something because publishers are curators and they’re more likely to see content on social and be like, “Hmm… I’m a journalist. There’s a story there,” and then write it on their own. So I think going after social, paid ads for blog posts, social is a great way of doing it. Looking at tools like Outbrain and whatnot is a really good idea for distribution and whatnot.

Dan: Great. Awesome. So, how are you doing on time? You still got a few minutes?

Adria: Of course.

Dan: I know you’ve got an example that we want to show but before we get to that example, can you give us some advice if we’re on a budget for a small marketing department or maybe we’re a small company and we don’t have a big budget to throw at all of these steps – the research, the high-end design, the use of all these channels and their advertising costs? Some of our listeners are in smaller companies, so I’d love to hear some strategies that you guys employ when the budget is not so big.

Adria: I think it comes down to doing the best you can with that research because research is an endless abyss. You can never do enough customer research. You can never do enough competitor research, never enough any of that. But I don’t want to say you shouldn’t do it because even when you’re a small business you definitely should because that’s what’s going to make you able to make better decisions that are smarter and not keeping trying all these things that you’re just hoping is going to work.

As a small business, you need to be a lot more resourceful and figuring out where you should allocate your money and whatnot and that kind of research helps you make better decisions. But you can do that really easily. For customer research, for example, looking at your existing customers, sending out a easy survey to them or giving them a nice $25 or $50 gift card or prize for filling it out, asking them questions around what their likes and wants are.

Survey Monkey has pretty affordable panels if you want to get a general population panel to fill out your survey. Pay them and you can do good consumer surveys. There’s a lot of easy ways to gather data. You can analyze social behavior of your user if you’re using and king of tool like Sprout Social or Simply Measure. There’s a lot of ways to gather insights for the cheap if you’re a small business. So taking those, I highly recommend still calling your competitors and going through their sales process because it only takes time and then just trying to figure out what can I do that’s going to be the best use of time. And really, if you’re a small business, prioritization is where it’s at. And then, do constant testing because you don’t necessarily need to make a big thing that blows up the Internet. Sometimes, you can get more leads and more sales just by fixing something that’s already on your site. So maybe, you’re getting a lot of traffic to a page but it’s not really converting that well. There’s a lot of split test that you could probably run to make that perform better. You can throw [on your site and ask people why they are leaving. So, sometimes it’s about making smaller changes than trying to hit everything from the ground up.

Dan: Great advice. Thank you.

Alright so now, we have an example.  This is the part that we’ve been looking forward to. I think you’re going to share your screen. Is there time for that?

Adria: Yes, of course.

Dan: So what I’d like to do here with this example, are you allowed to say or are you under an NDA? Are you allowed to tell us who your client was?

Adria: Yes, I can say who the client is. So, the client’s name is Concert Hotels and what they do is that they help people who are passionate in music find hotels around the venues of where they are playing. Yeah, that’s what I will be talking about.

Dan: So why don’t you share your screen and while you’re doing that, I’ll just set it up here. So we’re going to basically walk us through each of the phases – the research, the prioritization, the planning, and the execution for this example here that you guys did. I understand that we’re going to end with some stats about the success of this campaign, right?

Adria: Exactly. So can you see the screen?

Dan: Yes.

Adria: Perfect. So as I said, this is the Concert Hotels, our client who came to us. One of their objectives was they needed to just get more visibility for their brand. They needed more traffic to their site because they weren’t really getting enough to know where the holes were in their site and whatnot. So for example, what I had said before, do split testing. Figure out what the issues are on your current site. Sometimes if you don’t have any traffic going to those pages, it’s difficult to see what those things are. SO our main objective for this client was how can we get more brand awareness, more visibility because that’s really the first step to getting more leads down the road.

So when we were working with them, we were really looking at the objectives of getting social shares and getting media coverage. And so, when we were talking about those exercises of understanding your company and doing the customer and competitor research, the pillars, one of the things that we’ve realized as kind of their position as a company was that they were kind of data geeks in themselves. And during those mission-vision exercise I had discussed earlier, that came out as an insight. That’s a way they can position their brand from competitors. So our content strategy stemming from that was let’s analyze the music industry with a data, geeky driven approach. So, we went on to create quite a few data visualizations around music and the different data that comes out of music.

And this piece that I’m sharing right here is the output of one of those. And then what we did here is we basically plotted the vocal ranges of some of the world’s greatest singers based off of the Billboard Music Awards and then both from the current and the present. So if you see here, you can see that there are more current people like, Mariah Carey.  There are also people like James Brown and Marvin Gaye. So it goes down and it basically plots the different types of vocal ranges to see who has the widest range.

Dan: I’m just going to say it. I can’t believe that Steven Tyler does not have as high a note as Axl Rose.

Adria: Well, exactly. And it’s funny that you say that because when we did the data visualization and we got the results, seeing that Axl Rose had the widest vocal range over somebody like Mariah Carey was really interesting. We’re like, “Huh.” And you can see that it wasn’t even something that we initially though was a big deal because if you look at the top up here, Axl Rose’s face isn’t even up there. So we were just like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” But you know, Mariah Carey being up there with Prince and Steven Tyler; that makes sense.

And so what ended up happening is that when we started pitching this, one of our PR consultants had the idea of why don’t we try to look of a niche editor on the Huffington Post because I know that they have a music editor channel there. So she pitched one of the editors she found and tweeted them and they actually ended up covering it. So their headline was very news-oriented, “Comparing the Top Artists, Past and Present, By Vocal Range,” and you can see here on the results that it did pretty well.

Dan: Pretty well.

Adria:  Yeah, it did well. We lucked out there. But it wasn’t only just luck though in the sense of yes, it was lucky that the editor said yes, but it was very calculated in finding this editor.  We made sure that this writer had a lot of social proof on their past articles because a lot of these publishers, you know, we get a lot excited when we get on Huffington Post or Wall Street Journal or whatnot. But their industry, as they know it, is struggling and so they’re becoming almost like content farms where they put out way too much content and so, it’s very likely that your content will never get seen when it gets coverage. So you want to make sure that you’re pitching to people who have proof of social shares like this one did.

Dan: It’s something that we say as well. Find the influence of the writers because the people who have their own following are going to help you.

Adria: Exactly.

Dan: Hopefully, it will help you more.

Adria: Exactly. And so from this, going back to my point earlier where I said that journalists are just as susceptible to social media as your customers are, what happened after this kind of ends up having a snowball effect of its own because what happened is on this next piece, I think Consequence of Sound, the publisher’s name, their big in the music space, they saw the Huffington Post article and they decided to cover it and said, “Axl Rose is the greatest singer of all time – or, so says this chart.”

Dan: I see your point. They’re duping it out, right? They’re trying to use this to their own advantage.

Adria: Exactly. And that’s their job. Their job is to make an interesting angle. So they took this piece where we weren’t necessarily saying that but they decided that that was the angle and it just so happen that our data did represent that. And this ended up having a snowball effect because all of a sudden, all these publishers saw this and started fighting. “No, actually this is the greatest singer of all time, the widest vocal range, not Axl Rose.” It kind of started this media frenzy on its own and it ended up happening that Axl Rose ends up responding to this list, calling him “the World’s Greatest Singer” on The Rolling Stone.

Basically, it was pretty humbling. If I scroll down here, you can see that right here, it was a rather a lengthy two-paragraph response. He’s basically saying that, “I’m flattered but this is who I think are the best singers.” He started naming a few and saying thank you. And he even saw this and even commented on it.

The point here is that yes, this was a bigger piece of content. It was a big investment to make but it only took a really strategic distribution approach of finding the right person to pitch and letting the journalist kind of feed out the story themselves rather than trying to force feed the story down their throat in your pitch. It just goes to show that they’re susceptible to social media as your customers are.

Dan: Right. Also I think another takeaway from me, at least, is when you’re pitching to journalists like this, you have got to make them look good. You have to give them something that’s going to help them. Don’t try, like you said before about just any old blog post. You have to give them something that’s going to be useful to them.

Adria: Exactly.

Dan: Alright. So before we wrap up, I think you’ve got some stats, right?

Adria:  Yeah, so this piece actually, when it was all said and done, I’ve got 1.9 million visits back to the client’s site. And that was solely because of all these coverage from these big media players. And the social shares, when it was all said and done for the piece on Concert Hotels, was 110, 000 shares, which you can see each of these publishers have their own set of shares that exceeds that.

Dan:  That is great.

Adria: I know. It did really well.

Dan:  So why don’t you turn off your screen sharing. We’ll go back to picture on picture here and let’s wrap up with a question I always like to ask people who appear on the show.

If you could give us one piece of advice, what’s the one thing that you want to leave us with that we can really use and start to get some actual lift and start applying to our work when it comes to content strategy? What’s that one piece of advice you can give us?

Adria: I’m going to cheat and give you two because there’s two points from this discussion that I really want you to walk away with. The first being, be a skeptical marketer and don’t just do what everybody else is doing. Invest in research in the short term. Gather insights that are going to help you to be able to make better decisions. And to constantly be testing. Don’t just put up something on your site and hope it’s going to do well.

So that’s first – being a skeptic – and second is don’t underestimate the power of distribution because you’re not going to see results with that ‘just publish and hope they come’ mentality. I think that’s what causes that mistake we’ve talked about giving up too soon. So don’t underestimate it.

Dan: Awesome. Alright, Adria Saracino. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been really helpful, really good information, very great case study. Why don’t you leave us with a little bit more about how we can find out more about you and about Distilled. I know you also have a special offer for our listeners.

Adria: Definitely. So yes, again, I am Adria Saracino and you can find me on Twitter @adriasaracino.  Also, I was one of our speakers at our past Search Love Conference in California a couple of weeks ago and we are actually offering a free video from that session and so, it’d be great if you choose mine. It’s about content distribution but there are a lot of other great speakers like Rand Fishkin, Will Reynolds. You can grab access to their video session for free and we’ll send the link to that afterwards where you can get that.

Dan: Do you have the link? Do you want to read it for those who don’t have the video and can only hear it from the audio?

Adria: I don’t have it on me right now. It’s kind of a complicated email URL.

Dan: So what I’ll do is post on our website on PeriscopeUP if you go to

and we’ll put it up on that page.

Adria: Sounds perfect.

Dan: Alright. Thank you and I really appreciate your time.

Adria: Alright. Thank you!



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By / Published On: November 6th, 2014 / Categories: Blog, Content, Content Creation, Content Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Podcasts /

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