“Good Organization Is Good Strategy” With Lindsay Scarpello From OBI Creative [AMP 083]
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Does it feel like you are trying to herd cats? Managing your marketing that way is not strategic. Get organized to manage your time, help you predict how long projects will take, and plan ahead to get real results.
Today, we’re talking to Lindsay Scarpello, an organizational mastermind with a background in journalism. Marketers need to think like journalists. Learn organizational and time management skills, as well as how processes and workflows are imperative for success.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Lindsay’s role at OBI Creative, a research and communications advertising agency
- Lindsay’s employment background in journalism and marketing
- Build trust with customers through education and high-quality content
- Organizational skills needed for marketers to succeed
- Time Management: You can’t miss deadlines and must be willing to hustle
- Decipher and present data in a digestible way
- Find and implement tools to maximize your time; keep using what works for you
- Lindsay plans ahead to stay organized with her time
- Be aware of what’s going on by using To Do list apps, notebook, or other tools
- Build a foundation of organizational skills to boost results and be an investment
- Organization becomes a habit in your personal and professional life
- Spend time defining processes to be able to execute them
- Content Planning Process: Research, build strategy/create steps, receive feedback, and implement
- How to plan content ahead of time using rules of marketing
- Be tech savvy and have working knowledge of all Microsoft Office programs
- Know how your brain works and your company’s goals
Nathan: I hear marketers say things like, “I feel like I’m hurting cats all the time.” It’s funny but managing and marketing that way isn’t strategic whatsoever. Getting organized will help you manage your time efficiently, help you predict how long projects are going to take, and help you plan way ahead. As Lindsay has experienced, that kind of focus will help you get real results.
Lindsay’s background stems from journalism and if there’s one quip we hear all the time is that marketers need to think like journalists.
Today on Actionable Marketing Podcast, you and I are chatting with Lindsay. You’re going to learn the skills you need to stay organized as a marker, get Lindsay’s best advice on personal organization, and time management, learn why process is imperative to your success, and you’re going to learn how to implement solid work flows. In short, it’s time to get organized and I know of no one better to help you get there than Lindsay.
I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Now, let’s get to it with Lindsay.
Hey, Lindsay. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Lindsay: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Nathan: Yeah. I’m glad to have you. I know you just shifted positions, and you started at OBI Creative. Could you tell me a little bit about that and what you do there?
Lindsay: OBI Creative is a research and communications advertising agency. It’s in Omaha, Nebraska. Our founder and CEO, Mary Ann, is best known for working with Gateway. Her research studies that she came out with which are called the O’Brien Voice of the Customer, Voice of Employee, and Brand Landscape Review.
Basically, they were a big deal because they were the first time, way back in the ’90s, when someone actually just said, “Hey, maybe we should look at this from the customer point of view.” All those studies, all those research, they’re the guiding principle to OBI, and they’re the foundation for all of the work we do for ourselves and for our clients.
I recently joined the team as their Strategic Communications Manager. That includes shepherding the inbound marketing strategy that we’re employing within the agency.
Nathan: Excellent. Just to get a little bit of background of you, could you fill me in on some of the other things that you’ve been up to before joining OBI?
Lindsay: Yes. Previously, prior to OBI, I was at Omaha Steaks, that big steak company. I was their Social Media Manager. My background is in journalism, I graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in 2012. My background is largely editorial until graduation.
I worked at Meredith Publishing, which most people know for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine or in the Midwest, maybe Successful Farming Magazine, which actually a pretty big magazine.
After graduation, I moved to Chicago, and I got my first job as a Marketing Coordinator at a nonprofit. That was back when content marketing was not even a word yet, really, but for journalism kids doing marketing jobs, because those were the jobs they could get, it was a big deal.
Over the years, it’s just been deeper and deeper into content marketing, and social. For the last couple of years, I’ve been mostly working in social media at a tech company in Seattle, and then in Omaha Steaks, and now I’ve made the move to agency life, and going back to more of a holistic inbound marketing role.
Nathan: I think that’s a fascinating background coming from journalism into marketing. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? How has that served you well in some of the roles that you’ve had in a marketing capacity?
Lindsay: Sure. I think it all goes back to writing. I think being able to write content, and create content as we’ve learned in the marketing space has been paramount to brand success the same way it’s paramount to publication success. It was just a shift that I saw happening at my first job out of college.
It was just like people, in order to engage on social in order to attract customers, regardless of what kind of customer you have, you have to build trust. The way to build trust is via education and via good quality content, whether you define that as a social post or a white paper or an ebook or whatever it may be. I just got into it because my skill set was, “Well, I’m a writer and I need a job where I can write.”
I’m not necessarily going to move to New York and try to work at GQ and be eating ramen noodles every day. Instead, I moved to Chicago and I was like, “Okay, I’m just going to try to get a job where I can write.” Then, over the years being able to write really helped.
Nathan: Yeah, definitely. Just seeing your background, you’ve done some pretty amazing things. I know one of the other skills that the last time we chatted, we had talked about that you’re an organizational mastermind.
Lindsay: Well, thank you.
Nathan: I’ve seen this in action. It’s 100% real. I wanted to pick your brain on that like what are maybe the few top organizational skills you think marketers might need to succeed?
Lindsay: Before I say the actual skills, I just want to say that the idea of organization skills as an asset to your marketing strategy goes back to my editorial background. Because when you’re working for a publication, you have to be organized, because you’re often working three, four months ahead of time, maybe not if you’re working for a newspaper. Even then, you have to have those same skills. You’re just working on a much shorter timeline.
You have to be planning ahead because the news doesn’t wait for anyone. With the shift that we’re experiencing now in content marketing and social, the same is true. Whether you’re a brand writing about the latest Facebook algorithm update, which you guys would do for your blog or whether you’re an actual news organization.
Anyway, to actually answer your question, I think some of the organizational skills marketers need to succeed, for sure, time management. You can’t miss deadlines and if you’re behind, you have to be willing to hustle to get back ahead of yourself. I think that’s true at any job, but for sure marketers need to have good time management skills. If you do, you won’t have to hustle as much, but you should also know how to do that.
The second skill I would say is you have to be willing to look at and decipher data. Also, you have to be able to present that data in a digestible way for whether it’s your client or your boss. You need to able to speak to what it is you’re presenting in terms of raw data.
For me, that means using very specific color coded templates in Excel, because I’m kind of crazy. I need that to digest what I’m working at and figure out what patterns I might be seeing.
The last organizational skill marketers need to succeed is the ability to find and implement the right tools in order to maximize their time, because there’s a lot of tools out there right now. You got a tool like CoSchedule, you got something as simple as Excel. But, basically, you just have to be able to take stock of everything that’s out there, and know how you work internally to figure out what’s going to work for you, so that you can make it work for your organization or for your team.
Nathan: You talked about being the number one skill, what are some of the ways that you personally stay organized with your time so that you hit those deadlines, and maybe you don’t have to rush? I think that’s a big problem for marketers these days and I love to get your perspective on it.
Lindsay: I would say that I try to plan ahead as much as possible, so I usually take an initial amount of time. Like more time in the beginning to plan a road map for myself. Whether it’s on a specific project or like at OBI, for instance, if we’re working with the client and they need a social strategy in two weeks, I’m starting that social strategy as soon as I find out about it.
I’m doing some initial research typically and I’m planning when I’m going to be working on it based on my current schedule and then basically trying to get as much as I can done as early as possible.
Sometimes that’s not always possible, so I would say in addition to that, I think being aware of what’s going on in your own life like I use a lot of to-do list apps, I use Wunderlist, I use Evernote, I use CoSchedule, if that’s how you work, that works well for you, and that could be an app, it could be a notebook with a pen, however you can best organize yourself. That’s how I schedule my time management.
Nathan: I know organization has that feel good perspective, you feel more productive. I’m wondering from your perspective, how do you see your solid organization skills boost some of the results that you’ve been shooting for?
Lindsay: I would say that it’s an investment into your future, because once you’ve figured out your personal workflow and you’re confident in what you’ve built in terms of, “This is how I do my work,” or, “This is how I structure my time,” you’ll be an example to other people around you. For instance here at OBI, I’ve used the same editorial calendar template for years. The reason is because it works for me.
When I joined the team here, they sorely needed one. Now we’re using that because someone came in and said, “This works for me. I think I can take ownership of this process.” We can obviously collaborate on how we can make it work for everybody, but it’s always good to have a foundation.
If you spend time building that foundation, it will carry you much further than you ever thought possible.
Nathan: Lindsay has more advice to share coming up in a minute. If you’d like even more advice from other marketers like Lindsay, would you mind helping me out? I’d love to see your rating and review from you for this podcast on iTunes. Simply leave your review, take a screenshot, then email it to me along with your postal mailing address to email@example.com.
From there, I’ll send you a CoSchedule care package as a way to say thank you. Please, leave your review on iTunes, then send a screenshot of it with your postal mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alright, now let’s get even more organized with Lindsay.
What are some of the ways that you stay organized maybe even outside of those skills that you have mentioned earlier?
Lindsay: I have to go back, I think it’s a mindset a lot of it. Once you start building these workflows and process in your career, it starts to translate into your personal life. You start to think that way, because you’re more practiced at it.
The other thing I’d say is that, again, I just lean heavily on technology. When you find a good tool and you know how to use it or it works for you, keep using it. Don’t be tempted to look for a shiny new object necessarily.
There’s a reason that I’ve recommended CoSchedule and I’m not even just saying this for your benefit, but it’s totally true. There’s a reason I recommend it to clients and I’ve used it throughout numerous jobs, because I know it works well. I know it works for me and I don’t need to necessarily try out the latest thing, because I already know what works for me.
Nathan: That’s awesome, Lindsay. Something that you mentioned just now is process, just from your perspective, why is process important and maybe could you give me an example of how that works for you?
Lindsay: Sure. I think process is important. I think defining process is you run into the danger of never executing on things. But I definitely think that if you just spend some time defining a process in the beginning of a project, then hopefully you’re not having to do that over and over again. That same process will be adaptable and translate to all of the different projects that you take on.
For example, one of my processes that I’ve had to do at every job was build an editorial calendar, because I do a lot of content. The process for that has been different in every organization. Whether you’re working with a team of writers or you’re the one writing the content, but creating a process of, “Okay, we’re going to do a brainstorm. Here’s our content for the next year,” or whatever and then we’re going to distill that into buckets of time.
I think just having that in your head like, “Here are the tasks that need to get done in order for us to achieve what we’re trying to achieve.” Defining that process makes it so much easier to actually execute.
Nathan: Could you walk me through how you might plan workflows or plan a process like that?
Lindsay: Absolutely. I think first, I do research. I’ll give a recent example of that. At OBI we’re working on our Organic SEO Strategy. That’s something I don’t know a ton about, because I’ve done more of the social and content side, and not so much the optimizing the content side of content marketing.
Basically, what I did was I, on my own, just did some research into more than just the basic SEO parameters and it’s also constantly changing, because Google is always making it more difficult but also easier in some respects.
I did some research and then I put together a list of, “Here’s step one of what we need to do to research long tail keywords for out content. Here’s what I think step two is,” and then so on and so forth. Send that to my teams and ask for their feedback and their collaboration.
Once that’s done, we’ll put it into another doc and then each time we’re creating a new piece of content or a planning content, ideally, the goal is to get to a point where we’ve done enough keyword research that it informs our content planning.
For now, the content plan is already in place, so it’s like a weird effort. Generally speaking, I would say that the process starts with research and then it becomes building a strategy, then it becomes vetting that strategy with your team.
If you’re a team of one, that could be as simple as checking yourself and checking your work. Then, the final stage is implementation and trying it out and then the B side of that, I would say, is if it’s not working, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
Nathan: Coming from your background of journalism and editorial management, you had mentioned planning way ahead even three month ahead. I want to pick your brain on that like how do you plan ahead? In general, how do you that?
Lindsay: I think it definitely depends on your organization. For instance, at Omaha Steaks, we did plan ahead. That was informed by totally different kind of business, so very seasonal business. We planned our content based on our keyword strategy and also based what we knew consumers were interested in that specific times of the year in terms of food, et cetera. Totally a different kind of business.
Whereas here at OBI, we planned on our whole year’s worth content based around content campaign about the old rules and new rules of marketing.
That was pretty simple because we thought, “What are our capabilities as an agency? We’re fantastic at research and strategy. We have an amazing design team. We have an amazing web team and we have an amazing communications team.” Those are four pillars and those are the four things we’re going to talk about all year long.
We’ll use those topics or those themes and we assign each one to a quarter of the year and then, basically, we started big. What are our goals for our content, and for our business, and how do we create content out of those goals, how do we ladder up to those goals within our content plan, and then just getting more and more granular we were able to plan out constant for the entire year.
I don’t think every organization necessarily has the capacity or the need to do that far in advance. But I do think by planning content in advance and figuring out how to make your content ladder up to your business goals, you’re just going to get much better results. Your content is going to be better, because you’re going to be writing, and teaching people about things that you’re passionate about as business or as a business owner or as an employee, you’re going to be more successful because it’s going to be connected.
Nathan: If anything, I’m hearing that echoed from lots of different marketers these days is the closer you can get your content to the products or services you offer, the more successful that content actually is.
Lindsay: Right, and that’s not to say you’re only writing about, “We’re amazing because of X,” that’s not what I mean. I think if we go back to the model content marketing that CoSchedule does or like HubSpot or inbound whatever, it’s about teaching people, education.
t the same time, there are certain things that we can teach you that totally relate back to our business, because in some cases like for us, we’re an agency, you don’t necessarily want to execute on some of these activities. You either don’t have the budget or the time or whatever and that’s when you would contact us.
Nathan: As I’m thinking about this in making these changes and taking your advice, what tools might you recommend to help those busy marketers stay organized and why might that be? I know you’ve dropped a few names here, maybe we’ve covered a little bit, but fill me in a little bit more detail.
Lindsay: I do think millennials are really poised to take ownership of what I’m talking about, because you’ve grown up using these tools. You know how to use Excel. You know how to use WordPress or you’re familiar. Generally speaking I would say, all of the office applications you need to have a working knowledge of that, especially Excel because when we’re talking about presenting data, it’s still the number one tool for that.
I would say it depends on what works for you. Like I said, for me I really like to-do list apps, I really like Wunderlist. Generally speaking though I think you just need to be tech savvy enough to the point where if you’re not familiar with the tool or CMS or whatever it is, you need to be tech savvy enough, and confident enough to go in, and learn how to use it.
I think there is a disconnect with a lot of people these days who are like, “Oh, well, that’s too techy for me. I can’t learn it.” No, you can absolutely learn it. I’m not a developer, but I know some HTML because I was like, “Okay, I guess I’m just going to have to go and learn some HTML.”
I think that is the shift that we’re seeing with marketing and just the world that you need to be able to move with the time and learn how to speak the language even if you’re not fluent.
Nathan: Lindsay, just to wrap this up, I’ve got one more question for you. Let’s just say, I’m feeling super disorganized in my marketing lately, something is just not right. You, with your organizational expertise, where would you recommend I focus first to get organized?
Lindsay: Number one, you need to know how your own brain works. Like for instance, my husband is not a person that likes lists. He hates Excel. He hates all of those things, because he is dyslexic, and he just can’t. His brain doesn’t work that way. He is more visual. He’s more creative type.
He did some research and he found this thing called Panda Planner. I think it’s basically like a bullet journal and it works for him because it helps him think through each of the things that he needs to figure out in a more organic way than like a list. Then, he’s able to start creating tasks and taking off those task when they’re complete.
First, you need to evaluate yourself and figure out, “Okay, how do I know I work well?” If you don’t know how you work well then know how you don’t work. Figure out what does not work for you first.
Then second, I would say that from a marketing perspective, you need to know your business’ goals and then you can start big and get smaller. Really that’s as simple as that. Start big and then figure out, “Okay, how do I achieve that larger goal, and what are the tools, and the pieces that are going to help me do that?”
I do think CoSchedule is an amazing resource. You guys have an amazing resource library and we’ve built these templates that people can and should use. That start that big organizational goals down to big content goals, down to tiny social post.
I definitely think that’s a resource I would recommend to people. Still, I recommend it to people all the time. Other great resources are HubSpot, Buffer, Flywheel. There are some great companies out there that are helping people get organized within their marketing organizations, so do some research, that’s the number one thing.
Nathan: That’s awesome advice. Understanding the value of getting organized in marketing is paramount to success. Thank you for sharing your story with us today and thanks for taking the time to chat with me.
Lindsay: Yeah, you bet. Thank you for having me.
May 1, 2018