CoSchedule is a North Dakota-based SaaS company that provides over 8,000 customers the ability to organize their marketing in one place. The rapidly growing marketing suite (#153 on Inc. 5000) helps marketers stay focused, deliver projects on time, and keep their entire team happy. When they tell their customers and prospects, located in 100+ countries, they’re located in the Midwest, it’s not unlikely that they’ll receive a jaw-drop or double-take in return.
With this insight in mind, Eric Piela, CoSchedule’s Brand & Buzz Manager, saw an opportunity to revamp CoSchedule’s original series #OverheardAtCoSchedule to showcase the company’s unique culture and location, while building a deeper connection with their audience. Before Eric joined the company, the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series focused on building thought leadership and saw the videos as an additional way of sharing information that was typically detailed in a blog post.
Early #OverheardAtCoSchedule video:
Late #OverheardAtCoSchedule video:
From outsourcing a production company to help tell their story to distributing their video series and measuring success, we dug into how the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series was created and the outcome it had on CoSchedule’s business. Hear what Eric had to say below!
Wistia: Tell us about your role as a Brand & Buzz Manager?
Eric: What a trendy “millennial” title — ha! How fun is that, right? Truth is, I started as the Head of Public Relations and Community but we quickly determined the needs of our startup were less traditional and brand & buzz hit on the two key focal points for the role. At the end of the day, my job is to tell the CoSchedule brand story and find the opportunities to tell those key storylines to the right audience. As part of that, I make sure I know who our target demographic is, where they seek marketing information, what technologies they leverage, and what marketing influencers they go to for thought leadership. Seeking influencer marketing opportunities and managing our social media presence are also a big part of this role.
Essentially, the Brand & Buzz team’s job is to help shape the CoSchedule narrative but to also amplify it — ensuring we’re telling the right story, in the right way, to the right people. For example, CoSchedule was recently named to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Marketing Platforms, this is a killer accolade and my job is to bang that drum as loud as possible so that both our prospects and our customers know we’re the fastest-growing up-and-comer in the enterprise space with the credibility to back it up.
Wistia: How did the #OverheardAtCoSchedule idea come to fruition?
Eric: #OverheardAtCoSchedule actually started before I joined the team. I’ve been at CoSchedule for two and a half years now, and prior to that #OverheardAtCoSchedule actually began as just an intern’s Twitter hashtag for funny things overheard in the workplace in 2015. We have two offices in ND, so it was a way for us to share experiences across locations by injecting some levity and humor. Later it evolved into a way to give external audiences a look inside what the strange brains here at CoSchedule were talking about and eventually it really became an extension of our culture. And yes, it’s still an active twitter hashtag and entertaining as hell to follow.
If you look at the docuseries as a whole, there is definitely a clear transition point. In its inception, the video series was owned by our content marketing team and started out as a way to extend the success of our blog by bringing some of our posts to life via video. However, when I started working on #OverheardAtCoSchedule, my vision for the series was to shift the focus primarily on our culture and share our unique story. That meant transitioning the content to be more about the quirky, Mid-Westerners who were proving the naysayers wrong and building one of the top 15 fastest-growing software companies in the U.S. smack dab in the breadbasket of North Dakota.
At the end of the day, I think part of developing brand affinity is not only connecting people to your product and what you provide, but also to the individuals and the creators. The series ended up being a great recruitment tool for us too because it gave potential candidates a feel for our passion and personalities.
“I think part of developing brand affinity is not only connecting people to your product and what you provide, but also to the individuals and the creators.”
Wistia: Did you outsource others to help with production or other creative needs?
Eric: When it came to #OverheardAtCoSchedule we decided to go with a third party video production crew. We used another fellow startup out of North Dakota, called Threefold, to help with the more professional production we were looking for. There are certain times when I think an unpolished video does a great job, and there are times when a little more production value helps you tell your story better. We decided to take the latter approach with #OverheardAtCoSchedule. It’s also all about knowing what your strengths are as a company and the talent you have internally. At the time, we were a marketing team with strong writers and graphic designers, but we didn’t have someone who knew video production on staff.
We leveraged Threefold to help us tell our culture story — we’d create the script, describe our vision and they’d help us bring the video to life. They did some art direction, editing, and helped to make sure a 2.5-minute video held attention and flowed exactly right.
Wistia: How long did it take to get each video produced from end to end?
Eric: We published an episode once a month but we’d aim to have our series planned out for the entire quarter. We would then try to shoot the videos in sprints. If I was feeling very ambitious, we could record up to three episodes in one day. Beforehand, I would create a creative brief for each video, which consisted of things like the goal of the video, the brand message we’re highlighting, talent needed and suggestions for video shoot locations. I would then create talking points and storyboard everything out about two weeks in advance and get it into Threefold’s hands for our pre-production call. They really provided strong art direction and a specific vision in mind, like “We’re going to find a pasture in North Dakota outside of Bismarck and you’re going to sit on a hay bale like so — I know just the spot.”
I’d create a detailed schedule for the day of the shoot, we’d do a quick kick-off sync, and then we’d record from about 9 in the morning until about 4 in the afternoon. Doing multiple episodes in one day meant that sometimes I would have to hop from one episode to another, jump from scene to scene, and throw on different shirts so that it looked like we filmed across multiple days. After the day-long shoots, the production team began editing the videos and would turn those around back to me about one to two weeks later. Lastly, I’d create the marketing promotion plan and schedule distribution.
Wistia: How did you distribute this series?
Eric: We began by promoting the series to people who were already familiar with CoSchedule — a fan of our blog, our Headline Analyzer, and even existing users of our app. We leveraged our large 100K social media following and, on occasion, did boosted posts to our target demographic. In addition, we had an email list that was around 350k people at the time and made sure to work it periodically into our e-newsletter. We created a blog post about each episode to ensure our large blog followership were introduced the video series as well. Lastly, we added the videos to our Youtube channel.
Wistia: What was the feedback or outcome of the series?
Eric: The series was really well-received — we garnered 90K views and from my perspective, it is one of our most successful social media efforts to date. You can measure social a variety of ways, of course, but our goal was to get targeted reach, sustained viewership and drive engagement. We saw great engagement with people watching a majority of the video, instead of dropping off right away. It was just an awesome feeling to create content that our viewers were actually sticking around to watch since the audience retention can waver at that video length.
The series also helped generate some additional earned media coverage. We were able to get a number of guest posts published and additional coverage in publications like, Entrepreneur, Inc.com and Startup.com discussing how a small startup based in North Dakota was making waves in the technology scene. The series was an amazing way to share our story that ended up being a gateway to even more opportunities for our brand, especially for recruitment. In 2017, our company grew by 40 employees — many of which referencing the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series during interviews.
In terms of hard numbers and ROI, this stuff is always tricky to measure and tie back directly. We analyzed the vanity metrics, which were the number of views, engagement, etc. My CEO, Garrett Moon, said, “Eric, you’ve been doing these videos. They’re really fun, I’m laughing, and you’re good at this, but how are we able to track the true impact?” And that’s always a difficult question to answer. It’s tricky with anything that’s brand-related because sometimes you don’t see the fruits of your labor until a year or two down the road. So, was it a success? I believe it was. Can I go back and accurately measure how it affected our bottom line? Not definitively.
Wistia: Was it hard to get buy-in from other stakeholders to make these videos?
Eric: As I mentioned before, when I joined CoSchedule the series was already in motion. However, we believed there was potential to go beyond doing a video blog format and leverage the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series in a more profound way. Instead, I saw the opportunity for us to use video as a tool to share our culture, our brand, and just maybe people would fall in love with who we are. By this point, people were already eager to connect with brands on a personal level and actively develope “relationships” with brands, and we thought this was our chance to provide that. So, that’s when we completely reimagined what #OverheardAtCoSchedule looked like and got our CEO on board with the new vision for the series.
Wistia: What was the most challenging part of the process? What felt like the biggest risk?
Eric: I think the biggest risk was changing the format of the series. I didn’t know if people would care. I didn’t know if our story was going to be enjoyable to watch or hear. When I drastically changed the format, it was extremely risky because we already knew that CoSchedule was known for delivering thought leadership — our blog was crushing it, and when the series first started out it was a learning tool.
I knew that was our wheelhouse, but we were really missing an opportunity from a brand and buzz standpoint to share how we weren’t content machines, but people and marketers, just like our customers, trying to figure this stuff out. There were risks associated with changing the show’s narrative, trying to build in some goofy humor, and thinking people would relate to someone from North Dakota. It was challenging to get over that voice of fear in our heads that this wasn’t going to work. But that’s the beauty of CoSchedule — we’re a company that believes in taking risks and failing fast, and I was empowered to do that.
“I knew that was our wheelhouse, but we were really missing an opportunity from a brand and buzz standpoint to share how we weren’t content machines, but people and marketers, just like our customers.”
Wistia: Does CoSchedule plan on investing more in episodic content?
Eric: I think we accomplished exactly what we wanted to at the time. It was about telling our startup story and growing our brand awareness — I think the docuseries definitely accomplished that throughout the year. I still have people asking, “Hey, when are you going to make more of those videos?” For this year, if I could find a way to tell the story of how CoSchedule is the only way to organize your marketing in one place with a docuseries, we would definitely consider doing it again. At the end of the day, it’s all about making sure that a series works with your goals and what you are trying to achieve with your brand.
After hearing the story behind #OverheardAtCoSchedule, it doesn’t matter if you’re a SaaS company in the middle of North Dakota–video can help you build brand affinity and connect your audience to the individuals inside your company. Is this the year your business will create an original series, or do you already have one out in the wild? Be sure to share with us in the comments!
Episode 5: “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast with Lauren Fleshman of Picky Bars
From tactics to taglines, Wistia’s CEO, Chris Savage, chats marketing with the brains behind successful brands on our new video series, Brandwagon. Last time, Chris sat down with Veronica Parker-Hahn, SVP of Growth & Innovation at Effie Worldwide, to learn why she believes strategic rigor is essential to building an effective brand. Today, we’re excited to share our extended interview with this week’s guest, Lauren Fleshman, Co-Founder and CMO of Picky Bars.
Check out the episode to hear how Lauren learned the power of identifying and marketing your values from her experience as a two-time US track and field champion, and a Nike-sponsored athlete.
Or listen on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher
Watch the actual Brandwagon episode here!
Before becoming the co-founder and CMO of Picky Bars, a real-food company that makes energy bars, oatmeals, and granolas to fuel active lifestyles, Lauren Fleshman was a highly decorated professional runner. She’s a two-time US 5K champion (her fastest mile time is 4 minutes and 23 seconds!). When she signed on as a Nike-sponsored athlete, she soon realized she was Nike’s own brand marketing asset. From this experience, she learned how to be an exceptional storyteller and the importance of marketing her values to renew sponsorship deals.
Using this wisdom, Lauren started Picky Bars and grew the business in the energy bar market. On this episode, we hear all about building your brand for the long-run by paying attention to how you make your audience feel.
“I think you can make an interesting story out of anything. Because if you have a goal — no matter what the business is — there’s a journey involved in getting there. Everyone can relate to a journey.” On this episode of The Brandwagon Interviews, Lauren Fleshman highlights how knowing your values and telling your story will help your audience connect to your brand.
Here are some of the lessons learned throughout the episode:
- Identify your story and decide it’s worthwhile to tell
- Figure out why people like you and lean into that
- Go narrow yet deep with your current audience and trust that your brand will grow from there
Short on time? Check out some of our favorite moments during this interview between Chris and Lauren.
1:22 – “I think it’s helpful sometimes to be a beginner at something”
After Chris runs the best mile of his life, Lauren and Chris sit down to talk about all things brand. Chris kicks off the conversation by asking Lauren about learning how to play the violin. Despite being a champion runner and a business owner, Lauren talks about how it’s important to be a beginner at something. It’s helped her in her coaching career and has pushed her to understand certain aspects of her business in new ways.
4:14 – On being a marketing asset
Not long after her highly successful collegiate career, Lauren signed on as a Nike-sponsored athlete. She quickly came to understand the world of running from an interesting perspective: she was another brand’s marketing asset. Fleshman talks about what it was like to pitch herself to companies in hopes of renewing sponsorship deals and how being an influencer helped her learn to tell her own story.
8:55 – Changing values at Nike
Even though she had a demanding training and race schedule, Lauren still found the time to tell her own story. Early on, she realized women athletes at Nike were treated differently than male athletes. Nike advertising for women featured models instead of professional athletes whereas ads for men’s shoes and clothing featured top male athletes at the time. Fired up, Lauren emailed Nike’s CEO on a whim and ended up changing the culture at one of the world’s largest brands. The company worked with Fleshman to make the first Nike catalog featuring female athletes and produced a commercial with her.
14:04 – “Everyone can relate to a journey”
When you’re a national champion and a Nike athlete, you’ve got a pretty cool story to tell, right? But what if you’re selling insurance or golden-toe socks?! Chris asks Lauren what companies should do if they feel like they don’t have a story, or that their business is “boring.” Lauren says if you just start telling your story, and if you accept that your story is worthwhile, you’ll be surprised by how people will be interested. If you have a business, you have goals. And if you have goals, there’s a journey involved in working toward those goals. Experiencing this in her running career and with Picky Bars, she believes everyone can relate to a journey, and they’ll be invested in your successes and failures along the way.
17:40 – Layering risks
What happened after Lauren missed competing at the Olympics due to injuries? She took the downtime and started four major projects, all of which she fully expected to fail. Fleshman describes how low-risk ventures can feel worthwhile in the face of failure because impacting even a few people in your community can have a great benefit.
21:26 – Starting Picky Bars
Chris asks Lauren about how she started Picky Bars, which are energy bars made with whole foods and balanced for sport. The story began when Lauren was on a break from running and wanted to help her husband and triathlete, Jesse Thomas, find an energy bar that wouldn’t mess with his digestive system (and fill the house with unwanted…gas). Lauren continues to tell the origin story of her business and how the brand grew organically.
26:47 – Growing a business in a crowded space
The energy bar market is saturated with products of all shapes, sizes, and claims. So, how did Lauren begin marketing Picky Bars and differentiate the brand in a crowded space? She first focused on her community and doubled down efforts on her personal blog. Then she drew on her experience as a sponsored influencer for other brands to market Picky Bars.
28:32 – Understanding your values
Lauren’s personal values have a ton of overlap with the brand values at Picky Bars. Chris wonders how you discover and define your values as a brand. Lauren explains how she began to define her own values and why she thinks it’s important for brands to lead with their values. Often, it’s about looking at what’s working and identifying why people like you in the first place, and then leaning into that.
32:14 – Finding a home at Oiselle
Amidst the discussion about values, Lauren mentions how she began to feel out of alignment with Nike due to their policies around athletes starting families. At that time she fell in love with Oiselle, a clothing company for female athletes, and left Nike to work with Oiselle, who helped her scale her values to affect more change and impact more people. Fleshman describes how she felt more motivated to work for Oiselle because their values aligned. This has fundamentally changed how she feels about sponsorship opportunities and how to inspire employees.
36:53 – Marketing your values
Chris asks how companies should market their values once they define them. Picky Bars and Oiselle both tell brand stories that reflect their brand values. In doing that, Lauren’s noticed that brands have the power to change the culture of the industries in which they operate.
40:15 – Creating brand affinity with Work, Play, Love
In 2018, Lauren and her husband started a podcast called Work, Play, Love. The podcast focuses on the intersection between sports, entrepreneurship, and relationships. On the podcast, the couple talks about their experience running Picky Bars — including all of their mess-ups and struggles — they offer advice on balancing life with goals in sport, and they talk about their relationship. Chris asks why they decided to be so open about their business and Lauren talks about how it gives their audience an opportunity to have a deeper connection with them and the Picky Bars brand. She describes how doing a show like Work, Play, Love has helped their business.
44:43 – CEO recaps
Lauren recommends that small businesses create a CEO recap for their fans, the same way a CEO would brief investors on the state of the business. She talks about the benefits of being open with your audience, both for your customers and for yourself.
47:24 – “Decide your story’s worthwhile”
What advice does Lauren have for marketers who are thinking about making shows and being their own spokespeople? She says that the first step is deciding that your story is worthwhile. Then? Go narrow and deep with your current audience and trust that your brand will build from there.
Announcing Change the Channel: A Live Event from Wistia HQ!
Online marketing is getting harder — there are fewer new channels, the best tactics are known, our playbooks don’t work like they used to, and our technology is no longer a competitive advantage.
To stand out in a world with unlimited distractions we have to build brands that are strong. Brands that have clear values and brands that our audiences care about.
To win, we need to create more brand advocates who believe in what we are doing and who will help us share our stories.
On October 2 at 1 p.m. EST, my-co-founder Brendan Schwartz and I are going to be hosting a special live broadcast called Change the Channel. We’re going to share what we’ve learned about building brands, where we see marketing heading, and what you can expect from Wistia in the coming years. We’ll even hear from a few special guests from InVision and ThriveHive — companies that are already building incredible brands.
Now it wouldn’t be Wistia if you weren’t able to be involved in this announcement as well. Before tuning in, be sure to download our Change the Channel Bingo Card* and play along for the chance to win an all-in-one mobile video studio, aka the Wistia Soapbox Station. Print a card out for yourself, or pass them around your office! Three winners will be chosen at random on each channel. Here’s how to enter:
- Snap a picture holding your winning card
- Post it to Twitter or Instagram
- Tag @wistia & use the hashtag #watchCTC
Be sure to register and watch the livestream on Wednesday, October 2 at 1 p.m. EST. And if you can’t make it, don’t worry — all registrants will receive a recording of the event once we’re done broadcasting. We hope to “see” you there!
Sign up to watch live:
*Participants and winners must be U.S. residents. Limit of one entry per person on Twitter or Instagram exclusively. Submissions must be posted by 9 AM on Thursday, October 3rd in order to be considered. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 7th. Soapbox Stations provided to eligible winners are not transferable, redeemable for cash or exchangeable for any other prize. If a winner cannot be contacted or is disqualified for any reason, Wistia reserves the right to determine an alternate winner or not to award that winner’s prize, in its sole discretion.
What We Can Learn from Streaming Services About Audience Viewing Behavior
There once was a time where sitting through 18 minutes of ads to watch your favorite one-hour show was an unfortunate necessity in life. Today, however, a 10-year-old wouldn’t be able to distinguish a cable box from a DVD player and binge-watching a show for hours on end is the norm. Video streaming services have clearly been dominating the space for some time now, but television networks aren’t ready to go down without a fight.
Media conglomerates that were once disrupted by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are now entering the race to win back long lost customers. How will they go about doing it, you ask? Our best guess is by crafting impressively entertaining content. After looking at different trends in audience behavior on streaming services, marketers would be wise to take a similar approach when it comes to capturing and holding the attention of their audiences.
Over 600 million people are now subscribed to streaming services worldwide, and the average U.S. adult watches 6 hours of video per day. However, the popularity of streaming services doesn’t just tell us that consumers expect on-demand content from every media company. It also tells us that audiences are hooked on entertainment.
To feed our voracious appetite for both shows and films and, in turn, claim a healthy slice of the market, AT&T, Disney, Apple, Viacom, and Discovery all plan to launch their own streaming services this year.
This battle for market attention should push brands to raise the bar creatively, crafting content that their audience can’t help but want to consume. For instance, imagine if your audience held your docu-series in the same regard as Last Chance U, or if they listened to your podcast over This American Life while commuting to work? That would be an unprecedented level of resonance.
“This battle for market attention should push brands to raise the bar creatively, crafting content that their audience can’t help but want to consume.”
To survive and thrive in this war for attention, it’s time for brands to start tackling what the streaming service industry has already mastered — the ability to entertain.
When content marketing was first gaining steam, earning consumer attention by providing educational advice was a novel and revolutionary idea. Nowadays, educational content is rather ordinary, and people have become habituated to the standard listicle or ultimate guide.
Fortunately, the human brain is wired to pay instant attention to novelty and narrative, so crafting creative, story-driven content can attract and retain an audience. That’s why Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV, and Disney spend the majority of their combined $24.5 billion annual content budget on original productions — they understand humans crave novel experiences.
71% of millennials are now subscribed to streaming services to watch original content. Additionally, the average American subscribes to 3.4 streaming services to access as much variety as possible. In other words, novelty sells.
In the content marketing space, Mailchimp has taken a page from the streaming services industry’s playbook by making sure Mailchimp Presents — their creative studio that produces original series — hits a diverse range of notes. In just eight months, Mailchimp released three docu-series, two comedy series, two documentaries, and two podcasts that all cover different (yet targeted) subject matter. And in the months since Mailchimp Presents officially launched, the people who have engaged with the original series tend to buy their products faster and spend more money with the software company.
Not all marketers should feel like they have to mimic Mailchimp’s showrunning moves, though. Since the content marketing space is already so flooded with similar-looking content, starting with a single, creative, story-driven series is enough to get started and cut through the noise.
While online video streaming is only 12 years old, the number of streaming-service-only households has tripled since 2013, and the number of cable-cord-cutters is expected to increase by 33% this year.
It’s easy to see why so many people are ditching cable for streaming — streaming services provide instant access to commercial-free content and personalized recommendations based on viewers’ history and preferences. On top of that, streaming is much more affordable than cable: subscribing to all four of the main streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO, is cheaper than subscribing to Spectrum Cable TV.
“The number of streaming-service-only households has tripled since 2013, and the number of cable-cord-cutters is expected to increase by 33% this year.”
Brands can easily offer these same benefits, too. One business that has emulated these qualities and has built a loyal, passionate audience is Yeti Coolers. As a company that makes coolers, drinkware, bags, and other gear for outdoorsmen, Yeti has crafted over 70 short stories and films about the pursuit of hunting, fishing, the outdoors, ranch and rodeo, and barbecue. All of their binge-worthy content is hosted on a single webpage that’s easy to find through their homepage, making it accessible for any visitor.
Any business can easily host their binge-worthy content on their own website, driving visitors to a home-base where they can consume more content at their leisure. And when it comes to making the content itself, brands can (and should) cater it to their specific target audience while leaving out any mention of their products, just like Yeti.
As marketers, investing in producing documentaries and original series might seem like a big risk, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from streaming services, it’s that our audience craves something that most brands have neglected to provide — binge-worthy content. Maybe channeling our inner screenwriter isn’t a risk after all. Maybe it’s our safest bet!
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- Google’s John Mueller on Where to Insert JSON-LD Structured Data
- Episode 5: “The Brandwagon Interviews” Podcast with Lauren Fleshman of Picky Bars
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