A few weeks ago, Atlassian Editorial Director John Ville was named B2B Content Marketer of the Year at the 2020 Content Marketing Awards.
John is a powerhouse in the content marketing world. He leads a scrappy team of highly talented content creators and marketing strategists and works closely with us on the production of Teamistry.
Last week, I reached out to congratulate him on the win and ask him about it. I was keen to get his take on the enormous success of Teamistry so far and also wanted to ask him a few more general questions about podcasting, why Atlassian was keen on making a podcast, what makes a good branded podcast, and how and where podcasting fits into Atlassian’s overarching content marketing strategy.
Stephen Robinson: Congratulations on the big win. How does it feel to be B2B Content Marketer of the Year for 2020?
John Ville: I was pleasantly surprised. To be named content marketer of the year is a great honour. It’s a very packed field, and to be honest, I don’t really regard myself as a strict content marketer. I’m more an editorial person and I just focus on telling great stories. Of course, it’s good for my team as well, because it’s an indication of all their hard work.
How big of a team are you?
There are six of us total. A couple of them are contractors. I’ve got four full-time staff but that’s spread across blogging, content distribution, syndication, social media, newsletters and podcasts. So my staff, we’re pretty much spread across different things. We don’t have a single focus. We try to get our fingers into many different things.
From a content marketing perspective, why podcasts? Why was making one important?
Relatively speaking, it’s fairly new. And it’s a space that a lot of consumer brands and media have gotten into. Not necessarily B2B tech companies. Some have. There are some leading the way. But it’s not a blanket adoption across the B2B/SaaS market, so we saw an opportunity there to get into an area with new media and also a great storytelling vehicle where you get fantastic engagement. The kind of engagement you get in podcasts is nothing like you get anywhere else. With blog and video, it’s very quick, you’ve got seconds. But [with podcasting] you’ve got minutes, and these folks are devoting a significant chunk of their days to your storytelling. And that’s a lot of trust they put in you. So we felt that: (a) it’s a great opportunity to target a new audience; and (b) to develop our storytelling and engender trust and authenticity amongst the new audience and knowledge workers and decision makers and leaders around the world. So it’s new, it’s fresh for us and super immersive. And for someone like me who comes from a very traditional journalism world, it’s another great opportunity to try something new.
Teamistry doesn’t make an effort to overtly advertise your products and services. Why was that important?
Yeah, we deliberately went out not to talk about our SaaS products. So we’re at the top of the funnel in terms of, you know, the content marketing funnel. It’s about awareness. It’s about developing broad awareness of Atlassian as a company that knows teams and teamwork. And so we took the deliberate decision not to tell stories about our products and not to have our Atlassians talking in a room about what they did and how they did it. Our brand mission is about teamwork, so we asked ourselves, ‘how can we tell surprising and fantastic stories about amazing teams?’ which led us down that path. And the more we’ve learned about podcasts, the more we’ve learned that deep storytelling is essential to hold listeners for that 20–30 minutes of your podcasts, that golden 80%. And touch wood, we seem to be succeeding there. And it’s credit to your team and our own teams, who have really pushed the idea and thought about what would appeal, what would hold listeners’ attention, and how can audiences also learn about something new and something surprising about teams or stories they’ve already maybe read about? So we try and do that. We try to look at big stories, but to go one click down, and to almost find that hidden or unknown story behind that. And it’s also great to work with someone like Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who adds that level of sophistication knowledge, authenticity. Again, I come back to using the word authenticity, but it’s so true. And deep storytelling experience. And then during her reads, the passion she puts into it as well. I think that appeals to the audience too.
Have your experiences suggested that you’re reaching new or different kinds of audiences through your podcasts?
We think so. The whole podcast analytics world is a bit of a black box, as we all know. We are currently undergoing a brand lift study to find out whether we are hitting a new audience and the audience we want. I suspect we are. I mean, I don’t know for sure. Just purely anecdotally, I’m getting comments from folks who just wouldn’t necessarily have heard of or have been involved with Atlassian in any way, shape or form. They’re not necessarily from the IT world. Anecdotally, I’m hearing that folks who have never heard of us are listening and are intrigued by the stories. The ratings as well — that’s encouraging too. It’s coming from a global audience, which is something that I’m very appreciative of. It’s not just a US-centric audience. We will know for sure very soon once we get the results of our study who the audience is and if we’re reaching the audience that we are looking for, which is the IT decision-maker and that kind of upper-level management.
What metrics do you use to evaluate podcasting success?
Awareness is a key metric for us and we have certain trackers where we can score awareness of the Atlassian brand. And then the connectivity between Atlassian and teamwork and effective teams. So we look at that. There’s a sort of tracker to see if we’re getting to be known as the company that accelerates effective teamwork. So there’s that and really basic stuff like reviews and ratings we love. I think that’s an important part of the mix with the results of a podcast. It’s not just downloads and subscriptions. It’s hard for my management team to understand that, I think. They work on pure data, but we sit on the brand team and I think they certainly understand that a brand isn’t necessarily just scored on how many downloads and impressions you have. It’s more than that. It’s connectivity, awareness, sentiment. There’s a lot of other metrics that are important.
What was your promotional strategy for Teamistry?
For season one we had a fairly healthy promotional budget. [Podcasts] are on trend and are the cool thing that folks are listening to. Everybody is loving podcasts. So [my bosses] gave us a fairly healthy promotional budget for season one. And then we did a lot of internal promotion. And we have a number of levers we can pull internally in terms of our newsletters, external newsletters. We have audiences that we can kind of tap into. And then [for season 2], we have a slightly lesser promotional budget. But that doesn’t seem to be playing out in terms of any negative performance. We’re killing it right now. I think what’s happened is that [Atlassian’s chief executives] put the money behind it. And then we proved the quality is there, and I think that’s engendered the growth. So you know, we love having a huge amount of money to promote everything, but the reality is not there. And we have our own audiences. Social media is very important for us, the Atlassian brand audiences. We have a robust newsletter subscription basis. We promote it there. As often as we can, we cross-promote with blog content as well. So we’ll drive folks to the download page and Teamistry pages. So there’s a few leavers. There’s internal — there’s internal to external, then there’s the external play.
How big is the internal audience?
The company is 4,000 employees spread around the world. Our home base is in Sydney. We’re an Australian company, but we have — well, we did have — offices in San Francisco and Austin, New York, and then offices in Europe and in India as well. So it’s a global company. And then obviously by its nature, we have a huge customer base. Every company you can think of pretty much uses one of our products at some stage of their development. So it’s right there. I think there’s a real opportunity to promote our podcasts with our own customers. We really haven’t jumped into that. But you have to be careful. We don’t want to be seen as promoting Atlassian too much.
We want to be able to almost say, this is actually going to equip you to do your job better. And that’s what the purpose of Teamistry is. It’s not just about our products. It’s about ways of working. And we hope that listeners glean information, tricks and tips that will help them be better in their roles. So that’s the way we were going in. And we do that with all of our content. It’s not, “what’s good enough for us?” It’s “how can we help you? How can you be better at what you do day-to-day?” So again, Teamistry fits very closely into the way we approach content — at the brand level — across the board, where we try and add depth. You can compare listicles with two guys in a room podcasts, two guys and a mic. The way I see it, [those shows are] okay. There’s a time and a place for that snackable stuff. But this stuff has a bit more value.
How and where do podcasts fit into Atlassian’s overarching content marketing strategy?
So Teamistry is a lever we pull. It’s one of the four levers that we have. There’s blog, there’s social, there’s podcasts, and then there’s content distribution. So they’re the four levers. So it’s one of our big leavers now. It’s not the biggest — we have a much bigger lever to pull with blog and social — but we are now seeing the value of this particular lever and I see it being an incredible part of our content portfolio moving forward. We have overarching goals as a company to influence at a particular level of audience. So it’s that C-suite leadership. And Teamistry kind of delivers on that. And we will know very soon whether that’s been backed up, we’ll have proof. We already have anecdotal feedback, but we’ll have that knowledge very soon hopefully — that we are talking to them, that we are getting in front of the right audience and they are actually finding our content useful.
Note: The above exchange was edited for clarity.
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