In this episode, I chatted with Doug Bolton about the many challenges of content creation and how content producers at large in traditional B2B companies can increase the quality and quantity of their content. Enjoy!
For many content creators at traditional B2B companies, producing enough content is often a challenge. High-quality knowledge content needs to be created with expert input and aimed directly at solving prospects' and customers' most critical challenges. This is difficult enough - but considering that the people in these positions often have many other responsibilities, they often run into problems.
It was great to speak to Doug about this topic since he has both a background in a sizeable B2B company and plenty of experience from the world of Zooma. I also work with many other content creators in my role, so together, we were able to discuss the best way to produce large amounts of content, how to get internal experts on board, and what content formats you should be using to make the most of your time.
You can either watch the video version of this episode here or on YouTube, read the transcription or listen on your favourite podcast platform. You find direct links to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and the RSS feed below.
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AE: [00:00:01] Hi, Doug. How are you today?
DB: [00:00:05] Yeah, I'm not bad, thank you. I'm not bad, it's nice to be back at work after summer.
AE: [00:00:11] Yeah, and you work quite a while now during the summer.
DB: [00:00:15] Yeah. Well, now well, it's Friday now. So this is my third week back after my holiday and then most people come back on Monday. So it's been nice to actually have some people to speak to this week, before I've just been sat on my own and you go a little bit mad after a while.
AE: [00:00:32] And when this episode is published, then you are already married, right?
DB: [00:00:41] Yeah, exactly. If it all goes to plan, you know, if she doesn't change her mind at the last minute then hopefully. So everyone can just send their congratulations...
AE: [00:00:54] ...In the comments?
DB: [00:00:56] ...To Zooma's office, or in the comments! If there's presents then we can figure out somewhere.
AE: [00:01:03] So I think some of our listeners listen to you and see you in some previous episodes. You're always in the call making sure that the tech is working fine and, and kind of overlooking everything. And today we will have a more in-depth talk with you and hear what you do at Zooma. So please introduce yourself. Who are you at Zooma?
DB: [00:01:37] What do I do at Zooma? Well, my title is content producer, I believe. I know we're not so careful about title at Zooma and things like that, but I do a lot I suppose. I mean certainly all of Zooma's internal content I'm kind of responsible for in some way, you know, writing it or you know, like this podcast, for example, editing it, videos and things like that, and obviously kind of herding everyone else who writes like, you know, you write a lot, and Anders and Stellan and so on. And then I work with customers a little bit as well, on similar things that I do for Zooma. And then just on top of that, you know, kind of a mishmash of HubSpot, kind of HubSpot generalist, really. I suppose I've been using HubSpot for quite a while and, kind of more strategic stuff, I suppose you could say, a kind of long term content plan, you know how we think about how we produce content and what topics that we write about and that kind of thing. So, yeah, it's a bit of everything, really.
AE: [00:02:51] And what did you do before Zooma?
DB: [00:02:54] And I did a very similar job actually, kind of being like jack of all trades I suppose, when it comes to online. Except not at an agency then, it was a kind of large traditional B2B company, as we like to say. And I did that for a while. And then before that, I was actually a journalist quite briefly. That's what I studied, and then I worked for a newspaper for two years or so, which again, was a lot of content, same kind of ideas, really.
AE: [00:03:28] What's the biggest difference between your previous role and the role you have at Zooma?
DB: [00:03:34] Yeah. I think the biggest difference is that, you know, I'm not the only one, because previously, and I know this is also the case for some of our customers as well, and more generally at large traditional B2B companies that, you know, there's kind of generally like one person, or maybe a couple of people, who are full-time focused on online and digital. It's often the case of, you know, there's often like a team, but, you know, often those people have other duties as well, or maybe they don't even work full time. So that was kind of the situation. Whereas here at Zooma, you know, I still have my main responsibility, but there's lots of other people who do the same or similar things to varying degrees. And so it's kind of the difference between being, you know, the one go-to guy and then being part of a larger team.
AE: [00:04:34] Yeah, exactly. And I work with a lot of external content producers and content creators at other companies, and I think your role here is really, like you said in the beginning, here you are involved in everything that's involved with Zooma's communications, and the content Zooma produces. Even if you don't produce it yourself, you have it somewhere in some documents and then you kind of lead everything that we do. I contribute to the internal communications, sometimes by writing a blog post or recording this podcast. But it's really, I'm really confident with having you as a colleague who has the really the helicopter view og everything. Was that the role you thought you were going into, or is that something that evolved, the administrative workload as well?
DB: [00:05:43] Yeah, no, exactly. I mean, I think it's quite a good role to have, really. Obviously, it takes some time to come into it because you need to build up a lot of knowledge, and know how things work and stuff. The advantage for me was, was that I knew Zooma quite well before I started. But more at my old job, you know, is often, you know, like we said, it's kind of a marketing person who, at these B2B companies, who has that kind of helicopter role. And I think it's quite good to have that kind of role in the marketing team because you suddenly, start mixing with a lot of other departments that are very useful to kind of be acquainted with. So, you know, maybe your main task is producing content. But, you know, if you're kind of the online person, you often get roped into other projects with, again, I'm just using an example from my own past, but like spare parts or whatever, like the service department and helping out with some kind of digital project there. And then you get those contacts in another part of the company that maybe you wouldn't have spoken to otherwise, or maybe you're speaking a lot with product management and then, you know, upper management and so on. So, you know, I guess those kinds of generalists are always good to have in a company, regardless of what department they work in, but especially in marketing. When you work in the way that Zooma says you should work, at least, you produce a lot of knowledge content, and you have to kind of extract this expertise from the company and show it off to people. You know, it's good to have that kind of spider in the web, to use a Swedish expression.
AE: [00:07:30] So you've been at Zoom now for, is it eight months? Could you give some examples of initiatives you have made or been involved with during these eight months?
DB: [00:07:48] I suppose one kind of initiative, which is just has been ongoing for quite a while that I inherited was how we worked with, and how we still work with topic clusters and cluster content. I'm not sure if we've done a podcast about topic clusters. I know it's on the agenda, and I can also promote the webinar that we'll have later this year about topic clusters that people should watch out for.
AE: [00:08:15] But can you do a brief explanation of what it is?
DB: [00:08:21] Yeah, I suppose. What is it? Yeah, well, it's a content strategy that focuses on, you know, the goal is to increase organic search visibility. So, you know, a lot of companies produce content around a few topics, and in our case, as a digital agency, will be like 'content creation' and 'digitalization' and stuff. So, you know, most people do that anyway, but it's basically just doing it in a more structured way and having these different topics, or clusters, that answer a range of questions and cover like a very big range of keywords that people are searching for on that topic. And then kind of on the more technical side, it's how you actually publish and connect all of these different articles online. So you have very long pillar page that acts as the core of the cluster, and then lots of articles that kind of expand on the topics you have in your cluster and that link to each other. All of these pages have the same URL structure, and that makes it become a kind of collective search effect, really, that boosts everything at the same time. So so that's something I've been involved with. And then aside from that, yeah, lots of other stuff. I mean, generally kind of continuing with the expansion of Zooma.se, which when I joined was still very new. And I think it's kind of the first really proper website Zooma has had, kind of expanding that, improving it and testing things on our website that we do for customers so that we know how to do it.
AE: [00:10:01] And webinars as well?
DB: [00:10:04] Exactly. Yeah, yeah. That was new for me as well. But yeah, we've started with webinars, I think kind of late last year and then continued, which I mean has been natural obviously, because previously something that we might have done in the office with customers we can't do anymore.
AE: [00:10:22] So you are involved in many different kind of formats, the content clusters are very text-driven. This is video and audio, and you edit it and you also prepare all of the things in the webinars. But what do you think is the most, what do you enjoy most, what formats of content? Or what do you like most to consume, if we start there?
DB: [00:10:57] That's, that's a good way in. Probably video, I sit on YouTube far too much and have got a bit better at video, having worked with it in my old job and then here as well.
AE: [00:11:13] And did you do any content clusters previously or was that new?
DB: [00:11:22] No, no, that is as more of a new thing for me actually. Like I said, you know, we produce an awful lot of content at my old job, but it was, not unstructured, but not kind of structured in that same way. It was more, you know, "we haven't written about this in a while. So so we'll produce something like that. I'll speak to this person." Whereas with topic clusters, there's a lot more, you know, spreadsheets and looking in Search Console and things like that, which is quite interesting. And it makes also your life a little bit easier because, you don't have to sit and struggle and think about, "what are we going to publish this week?" Because when you do your research about these clusters to begin with, you have a long list of the top-performing search words, and if you publish two articles a week or something and you have 100 keywords, then there's plenty to be working on, really.
AE: [00:12:20] And what are the most biggest challenges with your role, assuming?
DB: [00:12:30] Well, I mean, I think it's the challenge that every person who has a job like ours has, and I'm sure even at you know, HubSpot, where they publish, like multiple articles every day, you know, not even two a week, is just producing the content at the rate that you actually need to. Because, I mean, you are quick writing, I can write a decent article fairly quickly. And I think that's kind of a big part of it, really, because a lot of people can write a perfectly serviceable article, but it's just like, how long does it take? You know, does it take like eight hours or does it take two? So that's probably the challenge. But again, the topic cluster approach makes that a lot easier. And then also what we do here, and what we try to convert customers to doing, which is to do ghostwriting, and getting experts and people from other parts of the company who aren't content creators to, you know, at least contribute in some way and provide at least the raw material that you can then work with.
AE: [00:13:35] How much do we publish? We publish at least one article a week, or?
DB: [00:13:40] Well, the goal is two a week and we generally stick to that. And then we have a podcast every week, and then and then a few more articles with news and stuff depending on what's going on, and then Swedish articles as well, which get translated.
AE: [00:13:53] So how do you make sure that something is constantly produced?
DB: [00:13:59] Just write a lot, really. I kind of had the luxury before of being able to set aside a day or something, or a few hours and say, "OK, well, I'll write now." But, you know, when you have a role kind of like this, whether it's at a place like Zooma or a larger company then, you know, you have lots of other things to do at the same time. So it's kind of like, if you have a 20 minute window or something, just try and write down like a few paragraphs or something and then constantly dip in and out. I don't know how you work, if you prefer to take everything at once, or if you do it a bit more like that?
AE: [00:14:45] Yeah, I often do half days, writing four hours on something and then four hours on something else, but not eight hours on the same article. But something we do at Zooma as well, and which you are leading is every second week, we have two hours looked at the calendars where we meet, we are five people who, who write either a pillar page or an article, and that I think that helps a lot with keeping the regular way of content producing as well.
DB: [00:15:26] Yeah definitely. And I think that's something that every company should do, really. It's kind of a no brainer, really, but a lot of people don't do it, so I guess maybe it's not such a no brainer. Obviously, if you're a content creator, then it's an effective way to get content. You know, you invite the people who know a lot about your products and services and either interview them, or let them kind of write a draft of something, come up with ideas for articles or whatever, but I think aside from that, it kind of really gets things moving a little bit and makes people a bit more enthusiastic about creating content in general. That's not such a problem at Zooma, really, because everyone here is fairly convinced. But perhaps if you're a marketer at a larger B2B company, then generally the marketing department is struggling for budget all the time, and isn't the top priority and that kind of thing. But when you start bringing in these people from other departments, then they kind of get it, you know, and on kind of a basic level, people like the idea of being experts, that people are interested in what they have to say. But then they also see the value of sharing this information, because within any company, there's always an awful lot of knowledge that's completely hidden and never really gets shown to the customers, at least not before they actually start making a deal or whatever. In that early phase when they discover a company, it's very kind of basic level, "these are how great our products are" and stuff. But, you know, that kind of expertise is a little bit invisible sometimes. And you've done that also with some of the customers you work with as well, right? You've organized these half-day sessions or whatever with them, and they invite in their experts and product experts and developers and so on. And you all sit down and staring writing content?
AE: [00:17:31] Yeah, and it makes a big difference and improvement if we, for example, sit and write ten articles about the topic for a month, and then after that, we invite their experts to write themselves. It's always something new that pops up that was missed in the interview or something, it's really efficient and a good way to get the knowledge content, to get a draft from an expert writing something, and then me as a content creator can just fine-tune that, into adapting it to SEO, and maybe structuring the story a bit and so on. I really like that way to get the unique two hours draft from an expert on something, I think if you're stuck and have created a lot of ghostwriting for a while, that's a good way to get new angles into your text and so on. So if our listeners have a blog up and running, if they have worked on topic clusters and are very text-heavy right now, what do you think now in 2021 and forward, if they should add a new format, what should that be and why?
DB: [00:19:04] I guess it all depends on, on how much capacity you have, you know, because it's maybe a bit unrealistic to think, "OK, we'll start working with video and we're going to produce 100 videos and they're going to be super nicely filmed and edited and stuff," when you don't have any video editing experience. You know, I'm not like a video expert by any means, it's taken me a while to get to this stage, you know. But I suppose it's just kind of to try it out really and get started. And then you learn as you go. That's what we always preach. It's better to just try it rather than investing, you know, two hundred thousand kronor in some kind of super nice video camera, and then and never, nothing ever really happens with it! But the best format, I don't really know. I think people have been talking about, you know, how great video is for like five years or something. So I guess it's not very revolutionary for me to say video, but maybe podcasts? I mean, I think it's it's a nice way to kind of get inside the company a little bit, you know, to have a corporate podcast. And there's maybe more opportunity to do some kind of like, fun angles on it that you wouldn't be able to do otherwise. I'm sure there was one, it was some kind of like truck company that, you know, did a podcast with truck drivers or something like that. And it wasn't about interviewing about their products or whatever, it was about the life of a truck driver, and some tips for truck drivers, and just a general truck-related podcast, which wasn't especially focused on the really particular details of their products. But it has their name on it and it reaches the people they want to reach. Yeah, I suppose you couldn't really do that on your website or maybe even on a blog, if you're aiming to get a bunch of search traffic.
AE: [00:21:01] And because now we are recording this for 30 minutes, what do you do when this is done? What what's the process of publishing your podcast, just for the listeners to understand?
DB: [00:21:12] Yeah, exactly. So podcasting is quite an effective thing to do, because when we've recorded now, what I always do is I edit it in Adobe Audition to clear up the sound a bit, put everyone's voices together, cut out silence and also some 'ums' and 'ahs' and things. So if people think we say 'um' a lot in this podcast, then they should know that in real life we say it even more because I cut out like half of them. So you do that and then you get the audio file. And then also obviously, we have our video episodes, so we just kind of put out the video recording as well.
AE: [00:21:52] Is that the raw recording?
DB: [00:21:57] More or less, you need to do a bit, like how we have it, that we have our faces all together, do that, but that doesn't take too long. And you transcribe it, and there's tools that automatically transcribe it for you and then you just need to correct things. So that doesn't take too long. So I've kind of got it now to like, from start, from having the recording, which takes, you know, 20, 30 minutes, to having the finished podcast, video episode, article, if you set up like a blog to have your podcast on, it takes about half a day, or a little less than half a day. Which sounds like quite a long time, I suppose. But, you know, even with an article that's just text, you know, if you have illustrations and things like that, then that can easily take four hours to finish. And then when you have the podcast, you know, like we do, you can repurpose it and you can use it to write an article and you can use your video where you want and so on. So you get quite a lot of bang for your buck, I suppose.
AE: [00:22:54] Yeah, that's good. Well, I think that's it for today. Thank you very much for participating.
DB: [00:23:01] Thank you, Alexander! Now Anders isn't here I have to be the one to say that.
AE: [00:23:02] Great, bye bye!