Suppose you’re one of the world’s largest, most recognizable technology businesses – and you’re emerging as a new, innovative company with exponentially more capabilities.
How do you reintroduce yourself to loyal customers and build affinity with your target audience?
That’s the challenge Dell faced in September 2016.
At the time, the storied technology company had merged with EMC, creating a family of brands that includes VMware, Secureworks, Virtustream, Pivotal, and RSA. The result was the world’s largest, privately-controlled technology company, worth $74 billion, christened Dell Technologies. Despite carrying the Dell name, the company needed to redefine its new brand as a leader in digital transformation, rather than a heavyweight in the hardware space.
From the beginning, there was no question that content marketing would be a major component of that strategy. After all, “this wasn’t our first rodeo,” says Anna-Lee Muck, Editor-in-Chief, DellTechnologies.com/Perspectives. “Over the years, we launched and learned from a few different branded content platforms. And we knew that content would be really important in building awareness of who we are, the brands that make us Dell Technologies, and all the capabilities we bring to the table as a combined company.”
The content marketing initiative that Muck and her team launched to meet those goals was the Dell Technologies Perspectives content hub and “Trailblazers” podcast. It’s first-rate content, and it’s landed Dell Technologies numerous accolades. Dell Technologies was named one of the NewsCred Top 50: Best Content Marketing Brands of 2018, and Perspectives is a Digiday finalist for Best Branded Content Site. In addition, “Trailblazers” is a Webby nominee and a Digiday Content Marketing Award finalist for Best Branded Podcast.
A longtime Dell employee, Muck has been with the company for more than 14 years in a number of marketing, communications, and messaging roles for product and vertical lines, plus brand teams. “Thought leadership, storytelling, and writing were parts of each of those roles,” she says. “This [Editor-in-Chief position] is, by far, my favorite role.”
Here, Muck shares more about how Dell Technologies has been using creative storytelling to meet its larger, corporate goals over the past year and a half.
Anna-Lee Muck, Editor-in-Chief, DellTechnologies.com/Perspectives
Confirming the Power of Storytelling
Though one would assume that storytelling is a universal means to capture people’s attention, Muck and her team ensured that was true for the audience they were targeting: C-suite executives, ranging from CEOs and CMOs, to CIOs and Chief Digital Officers. Muck’s team conducted in-depth research to glean insights on how business executives were feeling about digital transformation and how they consumed that information.
“One of the most reassuring findings was that this audience responds to assertive narratives over any other content format,” says Muck. “At this point in the conversation, stories are the way to break through. Content marketing and telling stories at this high level, this brand level, are key from the beginning.”
Meeting Audiences Where They Are with the Content They Want
When launching Dell Technologies Perspectives, Muck and her team knew they needed to meet audiences where they were, in terms of their current stages of digital transformation, but also literally, wherever they were in the world, in transit and traveling.
“That’s where the idea for a podcast came up,” says Muck. “It’s the perfect medium to tell stories and meet customers where they are.”
Dell Technologies tapped Walter Isaacson, former CNN chairman and CEO and best-selling author, to be the host of the “Trailblazers” podcast, which takes an in-depth look at disruptive technologies that have changed every facet of our lives, from education to dating.
“Trailblazers” launched in March 2017, along with Dell Technologies’ new brand campaign, plus the first iteration of Dell Perspectives. The team also launched content programs with established publications like Forbes and Business Insider.
“That was in the spirit of meeting our customers where they already were and getting content out there that builds credibility as a thought leader in the digital transformation space,” says Muck.
In September 2017, the team launched the latest and current iteration of Dell Technologies Perspectives.
“We truly became a brand publishing platform,” says Muck. “We publish stories on topics important to our target audience on the technology behind digital transformation, like AI, robotics, and VR, but also leadership topics they’re grappling with, like dealing with change management, encouraging a diverse workforce, and cultivating innovation.”
Aligning Content Marketing across Brands
Most of the Perspectives content sits at the upper stage of the funnel, at what Muck calls the “explore level.” But as the content program matures, the brand publishing team is looking to better connect it to the rest of the customer journey.
It’s no easy task, given that each of Dell Technologies’ seven brands has its own content marketing team.
“It’s great, in terms of the capabilities we have as a technology company and in being able to solve digital transformation challenges,” says Muck. “But it’s a labyrinth. It’s challenging to connect the dots with all the right people.”
Muck holds a monthly editorial council that includes stakeholders from the different brands.
“They’re coming from communications teams, marketing teams. Content sits in multiple functions, so they’re all welcome,” says Muck. “We share content plans, what’s coming down the pike, and we look for ways to connect those dots. If we’re creating explore-level content, what’s the deeper-level content they’re creating that we can immediately connect to and form that complete journey for the customer?”
They’re starting to make progress.
For example, Secureworks is a Dell Technologies cybersecurity company that recently developed an in-depth cybercrime report. For Dell Technologies’ C-suite audience, the Secureworks team created several pieces of short content, including an executive summary and a SlideShare on the eight best jobs in cybercrime. This created an ecosystem of content on Dell Technologies Perspectives that drove back to the original Secureworks report.
“We’re doing this slowly but surely,” says Muck. “In the beginning, it was retroactive. Now, we’re making in-roads of getting these cross-promotions and cross-pollination into the planning process.” Though most of the content Dell Technologies produces is lightly-branded, Muck and her team look for opportunities to feature Dell Technologies leaders in Perspectives stories, like Dell EMC’s CTO or Dell’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
Muck’s team has a few layers of KPIs that they use to measure success. For Perspectives content, they measure content resonance using standard engagement metrics like site traffic, time on site, and return visits. For “Trailblazers,” it’s downloads, subscribers, and finish rates. In addition, they measure search rankings, social impressions, and click-through rates.
Through both qualitative and quantitative surveys, the team also tracks how it’s tracking against its initial corporate goal of building thought leadership credibility with its target audience and whether Dell Technologies is gaining brand awareness.
Now that the content marketing program has a strong foundation, the team has added capabilities to see who’s coming to the content hub and from which accounts.
“We’re starting to look at their journey across the site: what content they’re digging into, the pages that they’re going to, and their journey beyond our site,” says Muck.
Building a Customer-first Community
One of the Dell Technologies brand publishing team’s goals is to fully operate like a media company that produces content so compelling that it builds a passionate, loyal audience. “It’s always having that hyperfocus on what the audience is concerned about,” she says. “The amount of content marketers put out there continues to grow and the mindshares that it goes to is shrinking. That shift is going to be transformative for content marketing, when brands are putting out content that’s so customer-centric that your audience doesn’t care that it comes from a brand.”
Muck’s focus in 2018 is building the Perspectives and “Trailblazers” audiences and transforming them into communities.
“One exciting initiative we did in the spirit of building that community was our first live podcast taping at SXSW,” says Muck. “We had a packed house of fans who had the chance to see their beloved host, Walter Isaacson, live. We’re looking into more opportunities to do that kind of community-building in the future.”
Heather Eng is NewsCred’s Executive Editor.