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040: From Journalism to Marketing and Keeping the Human Element in Mind with Chelsea Castle (Chili Piper)

040: From Journalism to Marketing and Keeping the Human Element in Mind with Chelsea Castle (Chili Piper)

Journalists often make the best marketers. That’s because journalists are trained to focus on the human element of a story, and good marketers understand what drives a human connection with content. 

According to Chelsea Castle, the best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. Chelsea is a former journalist turned empathy-driven marketer, currently serving sales and marketing audiences as the Director of Content Marketing at Chili Piper. Her 10+ year career spans diverse industries, from agencies to publishing, branding to SaaS. She draws on her multi-faceted experience and journalistic roots in her entire approach to content. An approach that is, effectively, hyper-focused on humanity and the human element of all things.

Show Topics

  • Use journalism skills in marketing
  • Create content with tangible takeaways
  • Balance analytics with other measures
  • Cultivate content from the whole company
  • Rethink gated content and the traditional SaaS funnel
  • Use passive CTAs

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Key Takeaways

05:24 – Use journalism skills in marketing

Chelsea started her career in journalism and believes that some of the best marketers are former journalists.

“Now I just feel like the skills are so directly transferable, and journalism is inherently about the human element of a story. The interview skills you learn, this way that you structure content, focusing on the human element again, like I said. And understanding what drives a human connection with content, because that’s your goal outside of just holding people accountable in the stories you tell. But the storytelling, the interview skills, the dissecting of content too, and just understanding connecting with the human on the other end of it makes marketing feel less like marketing. And I think the best marketing today doesn’t actually feel like marketing. So when you’re just telling a story and you’re being strategic, intentional about it, then I think that’s the best content that I see out there. So journalism is just a really nice foundation to work from.”

06:54 – Create content with tangible takeaways

Think of the human at the other end of your content and try to create something valuable and useful to them.

“As a marketing team, as a content team especially, our mission at the end of the day is to create helpful, high-quality content that serves our audience. That’s helpful to them, whether they’re a customer already, community member, or not yet a prospect, or a prospect who’s actually interested in what we’re writing about or potentially in our product and the problems that it solves for. Our goal is just to serve them with content that’s helpful, that’s valuable, that actually gives them tangible takeaways, that’s not fluff. So that when they do have a problem that we can solve, they know to come to us. Or we’ve also just gotten really good at brand affinity, even if you’re not a user. So that’s how we think about everything that we do, whether it’s an email, whether it’s an ad. I always think about the human on the other end of it.” 

09:00 – Balance analytics with other measures

Don’t only make decisions based on what the analytics show you. There are other qualitative measures that will tell you what’s resonating with your audience.

“We over-index on measuring traditionally as marketers, and you are just so focused on over measuring and then you’re under-serving your audience and under-delivering. So I think it’s a balance. Because data and analytics are important. I love all my spreadsheets. I love all of the data that we get from our myriad of tools in our tech stack. But at the end of the day, it has to be a healthy balance. There’s a lot of qualitative data that we see in the marketplace that gives us indicators of what’s working and what’s not. So if something has a million page views, but no one is really responding to it on a social post, or we’re just not seeing any resonance in qualitative data, then those page views don’t mean a whole lot to me. So it’s a balance, I think of consideration of data and research and whatnot.”

11:43 – Cultivate content from the whole company

Work with other departments to create content based on their expertise. Chelsea worked with sales and marketing department heads to find out what content their target audience needs.

“Something that we put in place in January of this year is something called centers of excellence. And it’s really just the idea that as a company, we want every department to be its own center of excellence. So we draw from what other people and other organizations do really well in that respective function, learn from it, and take our own expertise and shape how we want to be excellent in our own way. And some of the output of that actually is content. So through that, it’s kind of happened organically for me and my team. Mostly me, because I was a one-woman team at the time. I just hired a bunch of people over the last couple of months. So for most of this year it was a one-woman show, but I got to work with department heads who are our own target personas, sales and marketers are our personas. So working with on-target personas to write content that would be valuable to our audience, to write about what they’re doing, how Chili Piper uses Chili Piper, et cetera.”

19:37 – Use young confidence to your advantage

Chelsea’s first job out of college was as an editor-in-chief of a magazine. She thinks her confidence at that age helped her to jump into things and take risks.

“I think I had a little more confidence, not more confidence, but there was no imposter syndrome. I was never like, who am I to be building a magazine? I’ve never done this before. I was just like, okay, I’ve been given this opportunity for a reason. So I’m just gonna do my best. So I don’t know how that works. You know how they say when we’re little we were just more fearless because our brains are literally so different when you’re 10 versus now, your perspectives are different. So I think at the time I was like, okay, he thought I could do this. So I’m just going to do it and try my best. Where now I’d be like, who did I think I was? There was no imposter syndrome at the time. It was not to say I was super, like I knew 100% what I was doing, because it wasn’t. Some days I’m like, I have no clue what to put on the cover. It was a hard job.”

22:21 – Question imposter syndrome 

Imposter syndrome can come from making comparisons to others, but it’s also a side effect for women and underrepresented groups trying to operate within a system that’s not set up for them.

“Social media I think in general is the culprit for a lot of those feelings, a lot of comparisons. I remember this quote though. I can’t remember who it was from. I’ll have to find it. But she was talking about how imposter syndrome is a phrase that almost feels like career gaslighting. Women and underrepresented groups aren’t suffering from imposter syndrome. They’re suffering in a system that wasn’t designed with their success in mind. So I’ve been doing a lot of pondering on imposter syndrome this year around is it actually imposter syndrome, or are we just functioning in systems that weren’t really built for us to succeed? Especially for underrepresented groups and for women. It’s 2021, but we’re still operating in systems that were built a long time ago and not necessarily for us.”

29:46 – Learn from each other regardless of title

Chelsea’s experiences in content marketing positions where she had to push for support and a decent budget made her realize the failings in traditional org structures.

“I think it made me learn a lot about just because somebody is in a position, or has the platform, or has the title, doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about. Which sounds a little aggressive, but I think there’s a lot we can learn from each other, regardless of your level or title. And just because you have a certain title or a certain responsibility doesn’t mean that you should be wielding so much power over others. And I think in general it taught me a lot about org structure in general, which is nice. We don’t have a lot of that hierarchy. We have a traditional hierarchy here, but we don’t think about it that way. We all own our shit and have our lanes, but we’re very collaborative and there’s no, ‘oh, well I have this title, so I have say over you.’ We just don’t operate that way. We’re all humans, we’re all on the same team.”

31:54 – Rethink gated content and the traditional SaaS funnel

Two things that Chelsea has strong opinions on are gated content and the way SaaS companies try to fit website visitors into the funnel.

“In general, I don’t believe in gated content. I don’t believe that’s how people buy. I don’t believe that’s how people should be consuming your content or is the most effective way to offer up your content. So gated content and the funnel. We think every marketer knows what a funnel is. There’s sales funnel, traditional funnel, marketing funnel, blah, blah, blah. I do think intent is a real thing in terms of somebody is most likely at a certain stage of intent when they’re interacting with you, no matter where that might be. But the traditional funnel in terms of oh, well this person went to this website and then they clicked on this ad. So let’s put them in the email nurture and then send them a case study. That’s not how shit works. That’s not how we buy. It’s like a spiderweb or it could be an A to B. It could be like, ‘I’ve heard about you.’ That’s not attributable.”

34:08 – Wanting content doesn’t mean intent to buy

Chelsea dislikes when downloading content is automatically seen as a sales lead. Some people just want the content and aren’t in the market to buy anything.

“It goes back to what I was saying about the human element. If I want someone’s content, I want the content. That doesn’t mean that I’m a lead. That doesn’t mean that I’m a qualified prospect. I just want the content. This has happened most recently, I think it was, I won’t shout out names. I just was really interested in this guide or this template. Filled out the form because I wanted it and then I got a phone call the next day. Okay. How did you get my phone number? That wasn’t on the form. I just wanted your content. That doesn’t make me a lead. That’s really frustrating. That doesn’t give me a good impression of your brand. I even told the dude, I was like, look, I know this is your job so, respect. But also like, I just wanted your content. I’m not interested in being a customer. And he’s like, okay, cool. Got it.”

35:15 – Use passive CTAs

Instead of forcing people into the funnel in order to access your content, make it their choice. Use CTAs that give them a way to follow up or get more information, but don’t assume they’re a lead.

“It’s all about entry, I think. So we have a lot of CTAs that are I guess you could call them passive CTAs. So while you’re engaging with content and you like it, it’s like, hey, if you enjoyed this content, follow our newsletter, just keep in touch. Or some of our content that is really bottom of funnel, especially like versus an alternative content. If you’re like, Hey, if you’re interested just based off this content, obviously these are not the words we use, chat with us, check out the product. So it should always be their choice. And it is their choice, but especially with gated content, the intent is misfired there.”

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Allie Decker

Allie is co-founder and Head of Client Success at Omniscient Digital. She previously led content initiatives at HubSpot and Shopify.