How To Organize + Create Engaging Content In A Niche Industry With Abby Boggs-Johnson From Discovery Benefits [AMP 029]
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You might have the best product or service around, but if you don’t humanize your brand, you might not be as successful as you’d like to be.
With all of the focus on digital content, making your brand something that people will know, like, and trust can be a challenge.
Today we’re talking to Abby Boggs-Johnson, the director of content for Discovery Benefits, a third-party administrator for consumer-driven health care accounts and COBRA. She’s going to be talking to us about how she has been able to position Discovery Benefits as a thought leader and major player in its niche and how she has helps to humanize the brand.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Some of the core values of Discovery Benefits, as well as how those core values and processes impact the types of marketing projects that Abby will take on.
- Some projects that Abby and Discovery Benefits are involved in.
- Tips on planning ahead with an annual content calendar, as well as how Abby breaks down the overarching plan into months, weeks, and individual content pieces.
- How the small Discovery Benefits marketing team collaborates and what a content planning meeting looks like.
- How the workflow goes for a typical project.
- How the marketing team collaborates with the sales team and how CoSchedule helps with that.
- Abby’s best advice for marketers who are in a “dry” industry and want to humanize their brands and boost their marketing efforts.
Quotes by Abby:
- “When I say humanize, I mean making it obvious to people that there’s a human side to what we do, because it’s really easy to get caught up in the logistics.”
- “We definitely look and plan ahead about a month at a time. That way we have the general sense of what’s coming up … but then we really get more nitty-gritty about two weeks out.”
- “I think the biggest thing is thinking of what you could do to get started and focus on what you have at your disposal that does make you different and interesting.”
Nathan: People buy from people they know they can trust, that said, there’s so much focus on digital content lately. How can you humanize your brand so your prospects will know, like, and trust you? That’s a challenge Abby Boggs-Johnson has been solving at the Discovery Benefits.
Abby is the director of content for a big player in a super niche industry. To help her marketing and sales teams be successful, Abby focuses on developing processes, frameworks and tools that help her prioritize content based on their company values. Abby has really figured out how to position Discovery Benefits as a thought leader. A lot of her strategy involves planning ahead and enabling her sales team to succeed with not only digital content and social media but with some other really interesting projects too.
I’m Nathan from CoSchedule and you’re going to learn how to plan engaging content that humanizes your brand on this episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast.
Hey Abby, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.
Abby: Thanks for having me.
Nathan: I am excited to have you because it’s always fun to talk to CoSchedule users but specifically CoSchedule users from North Dakota, we really like that. With that Abby, I was wondering if you could just tell me a little bit about Discovery Benefits and what you do there.
Abby: Yes, for sure. Discovery Benefits, we are a third party administrator for consumer driven house care accounts and COBRA. What that means, essentially, we simplify employee benefits processes for our clients and for participants who use products. Those are things like Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, Commuter Benefits, different programs like that.
My role there, I’m the director of content. What that means is I work on the marketing side of things and I oversee all of our content initiatives who really support our content marketing and marketing strategies.
Nathan: The last time we talked, you mentioned that you have some core values at Discovery Benefits. I was wondering if you could tell me about those content values.
Abby: Yes, definitely. I think because our industry is a little more complex and it’s very specific, then our content values are really important to us so we do have brand guidelines, brand guide like most companies do but then we also do have a style guide. That outlines some of our style, kind of requirements and guidelines but then also those content values. Some of the most important ones within that, we really look to humanize our content, simplify it, and differentiate. When I say humanize, really just making it obvious and join people that there’s a human side to what we do too because it’s really easy to get caught up in the logistics especially being in such a complex healthcare related industry.
Similar to that, we want to make content accessible so you really want to simplify it. There’s a lot of jargon in our industry so it’s really easy to get lost in the jargon there. With all of the logistics that go behind anything healthcare related so just making sure that we’re making content accessible to people, making it easy to understand, writing it and showing it and producing it, sharing it in a way that’s easy for people to access and quickly get the info they need and go.
Differentiating, just as we grow, we’re a big company, we’re growing and we have in the have in the past few years especially growing pretty rapidly. As we continue to grow, just looking for ways that we can differentiate ourselves with the content that we’re producing and really differentiate ourselves from other companies in our industry.
Nathan: That sounds really smart. I want to dig just a little bit deeper into the values. I was wondering if you could tell me how do your values impact the kinds of marketing projects you take on at Discovery Benefits?
Abby: Sure. One example, I think would be that humanizing aspect kind of content value that we talked about. We recently, probably late fall, early winter maybe, started a new campaign that we call phases of DBi. Essentially, it’s a campaign that shows people the people behind the titles and the jobs and lets people share, employees share what they love about working at Discovery Benefits, what interest them about their job. Something like that is how we determine what campaigns to take on because we do want to keep those content values in mind when deciding where to spend our time, energy and resources. Really just looking to those anytime we think of a bigger overarching campaign or concepts, we ask ourselves where within these values does this fall and what could it help us achieve.
Nathan: I know you have another unique project example that you’ve taken on recently that replicates your values. Could you tell me a little bit about the Time Square project?
Abby: Yeah, absolutely. This year is our 30th anniversary so we’re really excited about that. Just this year being that milestone for us, we’re taking advantage of it as a whole and trying to do internal events every month to celebrate, external initiatives and different events. Because of that, one of the things that we did earlier in the year right in January was, we had our 30th anniversary logo displayed in Time Square.
That was really cool especially because in that kind of differentiation content value, one of the things that we’re trying to do is just spread general brand awareness about our company especially because we are based at Fargo, North Dakota. I think sometimes it’s easy for people to not totally see that we are a big player within our industry. That was one exciting, unique opportunity that we were able to seek out and take advantage of to differentiate ourselves a little bit in the market place.
Nathan: The last time we chatted, you mentioned that stuff like that helps position Discovery Benefits as a thought leader. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?
Abby: Yeah, absolutely. Since we have been around for 30 years, we are a company that really has learned a lot. As we’ve added different products to what we can offer, as we’ve grown, we really are thought leaders within our industry. Because of that, we continue to grow, we continue to work with really big clients all over the United States. We just want people to gain more awareness of our brand, our growth and really just gain more awareness of our dedication and our potential because we have learned a lot in the 30 years that we’ve been in business and we continue to learn a lot. We’re able to, as we go bring on people who have really good experience, really good employees who are professionals and who work to become thought leaders themselves in our industry, that’s really important to us as well.
Nathan: I definitely see that. Something I wanted to ask you Abby is, I know about phases of DBi, that’s really interesting project, you’ve got the Time Square project, what other sort of marketing projects do you typically take on at Discovery Benefits?
Abby: We really take on any marketing project that may come our way. Our team is fairly small. We’ll be up to six when we hire a new team member pretty soon here, hopefully. We filled any type of marketing request from other departments. We do a lot of different things like we’ll do more traditional print ads, we’ll do digital ads, we manage the blog on our website, we write all that content, we manage social media.
We’ll do any kind of marketing collateral design, displays, even things like internal communications since our company is so big, there’s a lot of internal communication that goes on. We have a number of internal committees and those committees need help sharing messages about different events or awareness activities, things like that. We do a lot. Just about anything that you could think that you might have a request for when it comes to marketing, our marketing strategy, our team catches that in some capacity.
Nathan: That’s really good. I was going to say, the last time we chatted, you mentioned that you keep an annual calendar to organize some of that stuff. I was wondering if you get specifically talk about that, the annual calendar. How do you plan ahead with an annual calendar?
Abby: Yes, for sure. My background before I came to Discovery Benefits, I worked for an agency. Because of that planning, I think it’s just huge, we were able to create an annual content calendar that we worked off of. Essentially, what that was is we spent a lot of time compiling one big document that list out different observances even things like national HR month or things like that where we can maybe pay a little tribute or shout out to our HR professionals within our company.
There’s different observances like that, different important dates even like our 30th anniversary logo was going to be in Time Square, noting that so we can make sure that we captured that and shared that on social media. Different events, whether that’s internal more kind of employee facing culture related event or something bigger, external like we had our VP of marketing staffs spoke at Chamber events earlier this year that had a pretty big crowd.
Basically, compiling all of that together and then adding things to it as other opportunities and other things arise. But that way, we have this one nice, big snapshot of different things that around the horizon so then we can refer back to that as we plan and look ahead and as we to get to each month and we know what’s coming up and what things we might want to plan for when it comes to content.
Nathan: That’s smart, Abby. It sounds like that’s a really high level look at it. I was wondering if you could explain how you take that overarching plan and break it down into real content that you’ll take on.
Abby: Yes, absolutely. What we’ll do is I will look at that as the month gets closer. For example, this week I’m planning and putting placeholders into CoSchedule for April’s content and even the beginning of May just so we can start to work ahead a little bit. We look at that on a monthly basis and just make sure that we have our place holders in CoSchedule since that’s the tool that we obviously use for all of this.
From there we also have a few members of our team who meet weekly. We’ll actually pull up CoSchedule in those meeting. We’ll look what’s on the calendar, what’s coming up and then from there figure out what’s realistic to take on or what we really need to make time for based on if it’s part of a larger strategy or initiative. From there, we brainstorm together. We’ll brainstorm ideas for content. We’ll brainstorm, if it’s an event, what kinds of things we want to capture there? Do we want to do a video? Do we want to do a photo? From there, we deviate and have different team members take on different pieces. One person may rate the actual post or rate the actual content, rate the blog, another person works on design and we collaborate on it from there.
Nathan: Smart. You alluded to this that you’re working a little bit ahead. I was wondering how far ahead do you plan like if you had to talk about weeks, months, that sort of thing.
Abby: We definitely look ahead and plan ahead about a month at a time. That way we have the general sense of what’s coming up especially in case there is a bigger campaign or some bigger event that we know we’ll need to put more time or resources into planning for in terms of making sure we’re capturing the content or if there’s something that we want to be sharing leading up to it. We’ll plan about a month ahead at a time but then we really get more nitty gritty about two weeks out.
For example this week, our little team met about social media, about content, things coming up and looked at this week and then the following week just to make sure that we had things in place, that we knew what we’re wanted to be talking about, that we knew who was owning what. I would say for the most part, the core focus is about two weeks at a time.
Nathan: You have about five people on your team, going to be six, congrats by the way, it’s always fun to add a new team member.
Abby: Yes, it is.
Nathan: I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about your team. How do you collaborate and that sort of thing?
Abby: For the size of our company, we’re a small team, for sure but we’re also a newer team and we’re growing so we’re figuring a lot of that as we go. Like I mentioned, we do a lot of different types of projects. We talked about ourselves like we’re in house agency, almost because we do touch so many different thing and we do work with so many different departments and do so many different things both internal and external. When request come in then the process pretty select us in that because we’re a smaller team, we do have people who can specialize so we have someone who’s more focused on digital strategy, marketing, automation, someone who’s more focused on design.
We make at a request for a project or even if it’s a campaign or something that we’re initiating from our team from a marketing standpoint then we’ll be able to, someone like I or staff or someone else in the team will own the content and then from there we’ll collaborate on edits and then our design focused creative coordinator will be the one to create any graphics or design that’s needed and then we collaborate on and that’s from there. That’s really how it works for us.
Nathan: I’d love that by the way, Abby. I specifically asked about your team because you mentioned you have those planning meetings. I was wondering if you could walk me through what a content planning meeting, looks like for your team.
Abby: Sure. What we do is we basically, all of us will be in the office and we’ll just either meet in a meeting room or we’ll go, we have a really nice employee lounge, almost big space at our company that has a nice little fireplace and comfy furniture, sometimes we’ll meet there like it’s not anything super formal. We like to take the time to do that because it’s a good time for us to connect and a good time for us to know that we have that standing weekly time for people to come with ideas especially because since we look ahead a little bit then we may talk about the same observance or idea for a content more than once. We may come up in a couple weeks worth of meetings.
Basically, we just meet once a week. We pull up CoSchedule and we look at what’s coming up. We brainstorm any new ideas that we might have or somebody saw something over the weekend that they think would be an interesting thing for us to translate and see if we could make it work for our brand. It’s really an open kind of meeting and that way we don’t even have a formal agenda, it’s more suggest. We start by looking at CoSchedule, what we have in place already, talk through ideas and next steps for the thing we want to do. From there, more of a brainstorming, what’s new, what else should we be doing, questions, ideas kind of approach.
Nathan: Sounds really collaborative, I like that idea a lot.
Abby: Yeah, absolutely.
Nathan: Abby, I was wondering, let’s say you’re working with your team to create a project, you picked one out of your brainstorm session and it’s a rock star idea. In general, I was wondering if you could share what does your workflow look like for a typical project at Discovery Benefits?
Abby: In general, we’ll have a kickoff depending on what the scope of the project or what the project request is then that might be a meeting, that might be simple as kicking it off among our team just to make sure that we know who’s going to be working on what and what the deadline is, that kind of thing. We’ll do a kickoff. Sometimes, depending again on the scope and if it’s a brand new thing or something that’s part of a bigger initiative or a bigger campaign, then we might have a brainstorming session among our team before that project get started on actual detail, like task of the work. From there it goes through writing and design and then editing and proofing and finalizing and then if it’s a request from another department they gets proof back to them.
It’s very similar to a lot of workflows that I think you probably would see at agency just in terms of the steps and the process that we have, we use and online based tracking tool just to make sure that we all have this ability into our projects, each other’s working on and if everyone has capacity based on the time we estimate the projects can take. It’s definitely very collaborative, very kind of what you would maybe find in more of an agency setting for sure.
Nathan: Another side of collaboration is what you’ve done with your sales team. I was wondering if you could share that with us, this idea of collaborating cross departments especially around social media. You guys have done so much with that, could you share that story with me?
Abby: Yes, definitely. That’s an exciting one. I think that one is one of my favorite used cases for CoSchedule. A lot of people actually knew what the tool was, I think, just from being in the area and hearing CoSchedule in the news and the growth of CoSchedule in general but it was exciting because we’re able to get everyone really excited about the tool right away even people who don’t necessarily use it everyday because they saw the potential.
Our sales team, just like other teams at Discovery Benefits, they’re growing and they want to make sure that they’re doing a good job of sharing resources with partners, with consultants, with people that they’re making these professional connections with. A lot of them already had LinkedIn and Discovery Benefits branded Twitter accounts in place. They just weren’t using them to the full potential. I think, especially if it’s not part of your job description and if it’s not something that’s really top of mind for your day to day, it’s easy to forget to post on social media for a week and then one week sometimes turns into two and so forth. They just really wanted a little extra help making sure that they were making the most of their presents on social.
What we were able to do just with how the capability is of CoSchedule with the scheduling feature, our team now is able to help them plan ahead. We recommend topics based on what we know might be coming up, if we know that we’re going to be publishing a blog post from the Discovery Benefits blog in the coming week then we’ll recommend that as a topic. Health Savings Accounts are really popular in the news right now just with administration changes and different things are going on there.
There’s a lot of this conversation in general about Health Savings Accounts. Making our recommendation for articles in different topics within that product line, with that, we can help them plan out the content too so we can help refine it. Because CoSchedule is so easy to use, there can be multiple of us involved in that, actually in the tool editing, scheduling content and letting them publish it. It’s really cool because they’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on that too just from people who have noticed their own accounts being more active and they’ve had comments from individuals of like, “Oh that article issued the other day was awesome or that blog is really helpful.” That’s been really a good feedback to hear too because it’s obviously a little more time consuming for our team but it’s a lot more strategic and I think it’s awesome to hear that feedback right away because we’ve only been doing that since probably December, I want to say maybe January.
Nathan: That’s sounds like a really good use case for CoSchedule. If you think about social media in general as a way to build relationships, it sounds like that’s what you’re doing through the sales people’s accounts.
Abby: Absolutely. I think it also goes back to those content values that we talked about too. Our sales people, they’re maybe even more so than anybody, they’re really the face of our company because they’re the ones who are out meeting with people all the time, they’re the ones travelling. They are the humans behind a lot of this too. It’s awesome that we can give them ideas and share content but still have their own spin and feedback on it. Also, deserving as that resource, that simplifying aspect, the topics that they have to meet with people about and talk about are still complex but when they’re able to supplement with these articles and things that are easier to understand and refer back to that and say, “If we connect on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter because I share information about blogs or about HSAs and I’ll share and then your contribution limits are announced like you can better all share some resources on that.” It really goes back to all of that which is pretty cool for us from a marketing standpoint just that they can be a really authentic extension of our brand and of our company.
Nathan: I absolutely love that you tied it back to values because that’s why we kicked off these conversation. It’s fun to hear that even something like that connects back into those content values that you have.
Nathan: Just for marketers who are maybe in a stereotypical dry industry, we have talked about this, we’ve had this conversation before where it may be difficult to get started. I was wondering, what is your best advice for marketers who may have a similar challenge with that?
Abby: I think the biggest thing especially just thinking of what you could do to get started and even just for inspiration is really just think about and focus on what you have at your disposal that does make you different and interesting. I think even just in terms of a task as sitting down, writing a list, even if it’s not a one-time thing, if it’s something that you work on if you set aside ten minutes over the course of a week just to jot down things as you think of them.
I say that because one of the thing like we talked about the humanize, that’s a big content value for us and we have a fantastic company culture so that is one thing that truly does separate and differentiate us. That’s one thing that we want to showcase and though it does not tie back maybe directly to the industry or the products that we sell or the things that we do for clients and consultants, I think it does shows what kind of a company we are and what we stand for and how we appreciate our employees and how we value employees. That phases of DBi campaign, even though it’s not necessarily content that’s about products, it still ties back to who we are and who we are as a company.
I think just starting there, just looking at what you have at your disposal, what’s different and interesting, what things you think you have whether it’s like employee based, if it’s something you offer, even like location based, like if you’re surrounded by interesting visuals or if you’re physical space is really interesting, just starting there to differentiate and then from there think of ways that you can really showcase that and then tie that back to your overarching goals.
Nathan: Yeah. Abby, I think that’s been really great advice. With that, I think we could probably wrap it up. Thanks so much for sharing everything that you know about values, about sales enablement with social media, about just marketing and tough industries. Thank, Abby.
Abby: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks again for having me.
Nathan: My team at CoSchedule recently made a pivot. We used to call ourselves the Content Marketing Team, now we call ourselves the Demand Generation Team. We do that because it’s a simple definition to attract more of an audience that is similar to our best customers. Now we think of it in terms of sales enablement. That really helps us publish content and not only attracts that great user base for CoSchedule but gives our sales team the opportunity to answer our customer’s questions by simply sharing the content that my team produces.
Abby, thank you so much for sharing your story on this episode of the Actionable Marketing Podcast. You definitely let me know that my team is on the right track here at CoSchedule. I also want to thank you for listening to this episode. I couldn’t do this without the support from you, loyal listeners. Thank you so much. You know the drill, because you’re an awesome podcast listener, you get free CoSchedule.
While you’re on the website, you might was well catch this episode’s show notes and full transcript too. It’s at coschedule.com/podcast. Alright friends, I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. I will catch you on the next episode.
April 11, 2017