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Animalz Former CEO Devin Bramhall on The Future of AI Content, Why Websites Don’t Matter, and Destructive Empathy

From Content Manager to CEO, The Future of AI and Content, and How Content Marketers Need to Evolve with Devin Bramhall

Content marketers rarely make it to the CEO position of a company.

Devin Bramhall, however, is one of the few who went from content to C-Suite.

In this episode, Devin drops contrarian takes on leadership and marketing, including the inability of modern marketers to think outside commonly used “playbooks.” She explains that modern content marketing scopes far beyond the blog, often starting with media initiatives like podcasting, video, and other forms of multimedia.

She also shares the flip side of decisions based on empathy as well as job title mattering a lot more than many leaders will tell you.

Devin is a marketing advisor with over 15 years of B2B marketing and leadership experience at startups and agencies. She is the former CEO of Animalz, the leading content marketing agency for B2B SaaS companies, where she 3x’d revenue in two years. She has also served as an Executive Director of Boston Content where she assisted in the building of a vibrant community of content marketers in Boston. 

If you are looking for nuggets on how to grow your career as a content marketer, then this episode is for you. Tune in and enjoy


  • Life-Changing Career Milestones 
  • Does the Job Title Matter?
  • Impact of Vision on Company Growth 
  • The Counter-productivity of Empathy 
  • DEI in Agencies
  • The Future of Content Marketing in the Age of Generative AI
  • Marketing Strategy for B2B Companies 
  • Power of Self-Motivation

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Key Takeaways:

[15:43] Life-Changing Career Milestones 

Growth happens when you know your abilities and can advocate for your role and responsibilities.

“Somewhat traditional, I moved up the ranks, and I was really, I was good at advocating for myself. So, you know, I got the opportunity at Spring pod, which was the startup I was working for, where I transformed from customer service to content marketing. And like, I went after that I was strategic, I went to the CEO, Jeff Chow. And I was like, This is what I want to do. And he’s like, but buddy up with Jacqueline, because she’s gonna be the new CEO. I did that. She gave me the opportunity I wanted. And then like, I don’t know, eight or nine months later, another startup came to me. And they were like, Hey, do you want to do customer support? And I said, No, I do content marketing now. And I want to manage a team. Like, I wouldn’t let them offer me they tried so hard to give me this role. They’re like, look, we give you both departments. And you can like hire a person. And I was like, great. And so I was like, I want this title. So I was always really focused on you know, title, responsibility, and pay the pay at that time, when a lot slower.”

[21:17] Does the Job Title Matter?

The job title improves your skills and level of exposure; it is as important as the responsibilities.

“But title, okay, anyone who says title doesn’t matter, doesn’t know what they’re talking about, honestly. And there is some nuance to that. So the same title isn’t weighted the same at every company. So if you’re smart, you understand that right? Like, if you want to move in your career, you have to understand how the business works. You don’t have to be an expert, you don’t have to go to business school I didn’t, I was homeschooled. I got my GED. And I did not go to business school. And I got and I made a ton of money. So like, you know, but the title matters. So it’s smaller startups. Title is title and responsibility. Sorry, the responsibility is an important piece, because you need experience in order to execute your title well. And that does matter. Like if you switch jobs, you do a bad job of your title, like you’re dead in the water, right? So, you know, for me, it was moving from manager, content marketing manager with no team as an individual contributor to content marketing manager, who managed a team. And then I forget on my other titles, and then Director at HelpScout, Director at HelpScout was huge. Because director, if you’re a director at like a huge corporation, like you’re leading a team of like, hundreds, potentially, and that’s like a really big job. And so, directors and then VP, and then see like, I’m telling you the engagement on my posts on LinkedIn, when I had CEO, my title were like, off the chart. Like, there’s a lot of stuff that flows down river for you. That’s a very small example, when you’re a CEO, like people just care more and I know that that’s unfortunate. But like, it’s true.”

[25:46] Impact of Vision on Company Growth 

A relatable vision motivates the team to improve their productivity and efficiency.

“Vision. And in the beginning, in the beginning, it was like, I was good at that. And I was good at team culture, like the culture was really good. I think the culture thing ended up being empathy and called empathy was what ended up being the thing that kind of like, destroyed me. But vision like, even, even after the big word, workforce changes, when it was like impossible to please anyone, no matter what you did, like, I knew, like, I knew how to activate them and get them excited about stuff like that is my sweet spot is like, I can rally people around an idea of like, and I’m, I have good idea. Like, my visions are very, like, they’re compelling. They’re interesting, they’re unique, they’re like, presented in a different way. Like, during the pandemic, I would write these, like long notes to my team, like one of them started off with was like something like, I’ve been thinking a lot about eels. And like, people used to cry, like, it was a whole, right. And like, all of that is like the storytelling, the vision. And then again, like sort of translating that into how you treat your team, how you care about your team, how you lead your team.” 

[28:14] The Counter-productivity of Empathy 

As a leader, make decisions that will bring people together as opposed to making them happy.

“This has been my like my dream as a leader and the thing I was dying to fulfill that was completely wrong. But I was like, I just want to show that you can lead a successful company and be great and do great work and now be an asshole. Yeah, it was the my desire to not be an asshole that caused me to lead in ways that were unproductive, I sought my team’s approval too much. And I created like, I created a monster, basically. And that there were areas where I should have held stronger ground, I shouldn’t have tried to please them I shouldn’t have, I should have just said, No, I’m not going to do this, or I don’t believe, you know, like, kind of been bent, okay, with taking a stance on things, and making decisions that I knew all of the team wouldn’t be happy with. The other thing I did, and this is such a rookie move, it makes me so sad that I was like the most basic in this way. But I listened to the leg, I listened too hard to a small group of people who are strong, like the loud ones. It’s the first lesson in customer support. There’s this group of loud people that as an early customer support person, I would go to my engineers to be like, this is a big problem. And they’re like, how many people don’t say one, but he told me I was ugly. Really, I’ve been told I was ugly over email before. And people have never seen any feature. And I’m like, Why did I listen to that guy? It was a guy, by the way. But you listen to the people who are the meanest and you listen to people who are the loudest. And I did that. And it was such a mistake. I you know, there are there are people I should have. Like there’s just culture is more than just making people happy. Cultures making decisions that keeps everyone together. And I just, I made such a rookie mistake. I wanted people to like me, I wanted them to tell me I was good. And that is like a mistake.”

[38:25] DEI in Agencies

DEI policy fosters diversity and inclusivity, it should be exercised by all agencies.

“That is why we focus. Fire time, like there was not there were no DEI initiatives when I joined. Right, and like that was, look, it’s hard to agencies. I get it, but we kept at we changed our entire hiring process multiple times. Yeah, make it like to refine it for that, specifically, like, we did so much behind the scenes to support that. And it still, I’m telling you, it wasn’t enough, it’s actually very difficult because like, I’ve been that token hire, I was the only one of my manage the first time actually, the first time I was hired as a manager, I walked in that office, and I was like, Oh,I am the woman.I hired the second.You know, and like, and so like, I got it, it’s hard to not like it’s a balance of like, not tokenizing people and investing in it in systematic ways, where it’s a part of how the business runs and thrives. And that was my, that was my true belief. I was like, content marketing is very white. And until recently, very male, I think that’s starting to balance out a little bit more. I was like you can, our mission was to make the internet a more helpful place. I was like, internet’s not gonna be more helpful for only writing for one group of people. And from one person’s perspective, I was like, if we’re filling that funnel, with talent that is influencing all these companies, and then that talent is going off to work for other companies, too. I was like, it starts with us. And that’s why that mission was never going to be fulfilled. Because we were the like, to me, we were the origin story of that mission. Being an agency, and I was like, we it was never going to be enough. But you just have to keep trying”

[40:47] The Future of Content Marketing in the Age of Generative AI

AI makes a great helper but it does not generate new ideas.

“My stance has never changed. AI is going to be a great helper. It already is. I’ve used it multiple times to create some graphics recently that have been very useful. I tried to use it to write a LinkedIn post. And it didn’t work, because and this is something that Bernard at Clear scope just said on a podcast, that he crystallizes it really well, for me, the reason why the LinkedIn post didn’t work, is because AI doesn’t contribute anything new to the conversation. It’s synthesizing what exists. Therefore, it makes a great helper, it can help with very, like, sort of foundational stuff, it can help, you know, with if you give it the right structure, it can help you with like, I even think it could help with an outline, right? Help with idea generation help with sort of that like baseline content that you can augment, right? That can help you with the teasing-out process, right? It can probably even produce headlines pretty easily, like I imagine on like, east side of things, it’s gonna be it’s super already super useful, right? So I think it’s a really useful help are but because it cannot contribute anything new to the conversation, creatively or otherwise, right, then it’s never going to be able to do as interesting produce as interesting work as a human can do. They can’t tie these things together as well as a human can do they can’t come up with new ideas they can’t analyze.”

[50:03] Marketing Strategy for B2B Companies 

Marketing is swiftly shifting from blogs to audio, videos, and other forms of content.

“I think I think I actually said this on a LinkedIn live with Ashley recently, where I was like, blogs are dead, they’re not important anymore. And I like mented. You know, it’s, that’s full of nuance, but like, yeah, who cares? Like, another five years, like, no one’s gonna be reading them. And I didn’t make that up. Right. Like, there’s a trend towards different types of media. So like, audio and various formats, including podcasts, video and various formats. Like, I didn’t make that trend up, it hasn’t stopped. It’s going to continue and so like, you know, I think that you know, and I think there needs to be a turnover and influencer too. You know, I think there’s a lot of people but in the space longtime were really smart have really interesting things to share what we kind of know what their stances already. And it’s remarkable. There’s a lot of like, people who are out there talking who have like, you know, there’s sort of like the Dave Gearhart level where he was in early and like Ann Handley, like, there are these like, sort of, largely like, there’s this huge space of people who are sort of like, you know, really, like really smart too, but they have like, they just have different like, the way their brand is is like it’s it’s I don’t know how to describe it. But so I think there needs to be more voices saying more contrarian things to each other. They need to be more argument.”

[58:01] Power of Self-Motivation

When there is nothing left to burn, set yourself on fire.

“One impactful piece, oh, this came from my coach. She sent it to me over a year ago, and I didn’t understand what it meant. Until now. She said, when there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire. And when she said that, to me, I didn’t understand how to interpret it. And now that I have reached this point in my career, I realized that burning doesn’t necessarily mean an act of anger or vengeance or destruction. It actually is a rebirth. And I think that There is a strength and bravery required to rethink something that you’ve always held to be true. So the way I ended up applying it was with my career. But there have been multiple times in my career where I held a belief about something creatively process, the way content marketing works, like, for example, like certain playbooks I’ve really been dedicated to in the past certain beliefs, social media event, right, like I’m being forced to, like quite literally rethink everything about that. And what that invites, is a complete like, it’s a blank slate. When you when you are willing to set everything when you when you set yourself on fire to me, what you’re doing is you’re removing all of your beliefs, all of your experience all your preconceived notions, and allowing yourself to take in brand like net new information, and think about it in completely new ways. And that, to me, is the birth of a creative, like a completely new wave of creativity for yourself. That is transformative, exciting, life-changing, both for you and the people around you. And it took me over a year to finally understood say what that meant. And I feel like I’m living that right now. And I’ve, I’ve, I’m busier than I’ve been in a while, and I’m having so much fun.”

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David Khim

David is co-founder and CEO of Omniscient Digital. He previously served as head of growth at and Fishtown Analytics, and before that was growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives to scale the product-led go-to-market.