Most B2B content these days lives somewhere between two poles: tactical how-to content (“5 Ways to Improve Your Office Culture Now”) and more sophisticated, strategic content (“How AI Is Changing the Way We Work”).
The platforms that content lives on can look very different, too. In the early days of content marketing, every company wanted a corporate blog front and center on their website. But these days, a lot of marketers are taking a different tack, building separate content sites and digital magazines, sometimes with their own branding and URLs. Digital magazines often relate to the company’s core sales goals, but they aren’t as closely connected to the sales and marketing funnel as traditional B2B blogs.
Where should your content fall on the spectrum of tactical vs. strategic and corporate blog vs. magazine? There’s no right answer.
To get a view into how one B2B brand is exploring the digital magazine approach, I talked to Eleanor Whitney, managing editor of All Hands, “the office life magazine” from the office services company Managed by Q.
Eleanor says the content strategy is pretty straightforward: “All Hands is a place to talk about how the workplace is evolving, the future of work and how to build a great workplace.”
All Hands is targeted mainly at office managers, plus a wider secondary audience of founders, company leaders and people who work in culture roles.
“We don’t just share practical advice about how to manage an office,” she says. “We wanted to take a more lifestyle approach to the workplace, because as people are spending more time at work, their personal and work lives are really blended together. There's less balance between them and more of a blend. Because people’s work identities are tied up in their personal identities, we want to speak to that cultural shift.”
The days of tired corporate stock photos and tiny text are over. How content looks — the layout, design and images — has grown increasingly important. If your content doesn’t show up elegantly on any screen, your audience won’t stay. When I first found All Hands through an article link on Twitter, I was immediately struck by the beautiful design.
Eleanor says that focus on design has been critical since day one. “We worked with a designer to conceive the look and feel and the color palette. It has a print-inspired look. When I look at it I feel very calm.”
As the site’s managing editor, Eleanor has also had to take on the role of art director. “That was part of the job I didn’t fully anticipate. I have a deep appreciation for aesthetics thanks to my background working in art museums, but I don’t have the skills of a visual designer. Creating the vision for what All Hands can be aesthetically has been a learning process, because that is something that wasn't in my skill set before. The design of the publication is very visual, so that's been a fun challenge.”
She worked with a designer to create a photo guide, and considers the visuals that will run with every new piece. When considering the topics she asks herself, "How do we represent this visually? Is this a photograph? Is it an illustration? Who should do it? What should the direction be?"
“The more visual content is, the more people gravitate towards it,” she says.
Eleanor plans content several months in advance. Every quarter, she asks the company’s account managers, “Are there clients that really love Managed by Q and would be excited to be featured? Do you have any clients tackling big, interesting projects?”
She also reads a lot to stay current on the trends happening in work culture. “We're working on an article about the benefits and pitfalls of transparency in companies, because that's a big focus right now. How do you be transparent, but also keep employees and data safe? What's the line there?”
“I pay attention to what’s in the media, and think about how we can talk about those topics through the lens of work. I think that's my favorite part — figuring out how we translate an abstract idea into something that people will read and will be useful and thought-provoking for our audience.”
Eleanor works with a group of freelance writers on All Hands content. Over the past year, she’s learned each writer’s specialty area. “I invite them to pitch me pieces, but often I’m pitching them: ‘Hey, I think this piece would be really great for you. Here’s why.’ I try to make it worth their time. It's really thinking about where that person's expertise and interests lie, and finding a way to tap into that and set them up for success.”
She shares editorial guidelines with writers, and tries to be clear up front about what she’s looking for. “Sometimes I’ll send them articles that really capture what we're trying to do. I think so much of what people think of content marketing now is ‘5 Ways to do This,’ and that is not what I'm looking for.”
Eleanor knows that All Hands content can be powerful when it’s used as part of sales campaigns. But it can be a challenge to get sales teams interested in the content that marketing teams create. So Eleanor’s team started a biweekly internal newsletter for the Managed by Q growth team — salespeople, account managers and the customer-support team.
“It helps them remember what we're doing and see what's available, and the newsletter itself is just really simple,” she says.
While Eleanor is building a design-heavy, sophisticated content brand, she always remembers that her core mission is to build an audience and a pipeline for Managed by Q. “At the end of the day, I work for the marketing department. I have to justify the time and budget I’ve spent.” And while a general audience might read and enjoy All Hands, the main goal is to attract potential customers.
She defines success as building an audience, and measures that audience by site views, traffic from organic search, time on the site and the number of email subscribers.
“Brand awareness and trust are really important, and that’s where content comes in. It’s been really gratifying to hear from office managers who say, ‘I love All Hands!’ [Managed by Q] started offering our services in Boston earlier this year, and we heard from Boston office managers who already knew us and trusted us because of All Hands.”
“That’s what makes me excited to work on this. We’re celebrating people who aren’t always celebrated or recognized. That’s powerful to me.”
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