Craig Wales

VP of Content at Gaurantee Rate

Content Marketing Agility: Strategies for Rapid Scaling With Craig Wales

In the ever-evolving landscape of content marketing, where the fusion of technology and creativity holds the key to success, organizations are continuously seeking innovative ways to connect with their audiences.

In this quest to unravel the secrets of impactful content creation, Dheeraj Hasija, Account Executive at Pepper Content engages in conversation with Craig Wales, VP Of Content At Guaranteed Rate.

Join them on this enlightening journey as they explore the delicate balance between AI-driven efficiency and the human touch, discover the inner workings of an in-house content team, and delve into strategies for scaling content creation with precision.

Through this conversation, you'll gain insights into the core characteristics that define excellent content, explore how content aligns seamlessly with the efforts of the sales team, and uncover the thrilling world of content format diversification.

Here are some excerpts:

1. Can you share a quick introduction of yourself?

I'm Craig Wales, and I serve as the VP of Editorial Content at Guaranteed Rate Companies. Guaranteed Rate is a leading mortgage lender, ranking as the second-largest retail mortgage lender in the United States. Under the Guaranteed Rate umbrella, we have various companies, including joint ventures with other real estate entities. In my role, I oversee the editorial content strategy for all these affiliated companies.

2. How do you see AI's role in content marketing, and do you believe it will replace human writers?

AI undoubtedly holds immense potential for revolutionizing content marketing and writing in general. However, I firmly believe that it won't replace human writers. Having used AI to assist in content creation, I've observed that it falls short of capturing the depth and nuance of the topics we cover. When it comes to delivering content that truly connects with our audience—individuals looking to buy a home, seeking financing guidance, and staying informed about the ever-evolving mortgage industry—AI-generated content often lacks the emotional resonance and timely accuracy that human writers provide.

AI is something we should learn how to use, not fear.

For instance, AI struggles to keep pace with rapidly changing topics, such as how the Federal Reserve's announcements impact mortgage rates. It often cannot predict these effects or craft nuanced responses. While AI can aid in producing content more efficiently, it rarely achieves the level of excellence required in content marketing. Instead of fearing AI, I see it as a valuable tool to augment content creation. It can swiftly generate preliminary drafts or summaries, allowing human writers to refine and enhance the content, ultimately reaching greatness.

Replacing human writers entirely with AI would likely be counterproductive, as our audience values the authenticity and expertise that human-generated content brings. To truly excel in marketing, we need to harness the strengths of both AI and human creativity, ensuring that we deliver content that meets the diverse needs of our readers.

3. How does Guaranteed Rate approach content creation? Do you rely on an in-house team or external resources?

At Guaranteed Rate, we take an in-house approach to content creation. Our organization boasts an in-house agency that handles not only content marketing but also advertising, housing a team of designers and writers. Specifically, within the realm of content marketing, we've had up to three writers on staff, although the team size can vary. We've found that for the intricate subject matter we delve into—given the complex and rapidly evolving nature of the mortgage industry—having in-house writers who are well-versed in the field is highly beneficial.

Unlike some scenarios where freelancers might suffice, the financial intricacies of our products, coupled with the emotional aspect of home buying, necessitate subject matter experts as part of our core team. This approach ensures that our content remains comprehensive, accurate, and resonates effectively with our audience, many of whom are making one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives.

4. How do you handle situations where you need to scale up your content creation efforts quickly?

Handling situations where we need to rapidly scale up our content creation efforts is a crucial aspect of our strategy. To mitigate emergencies, our primary focus is on proactive planning. We aim to stay ahead of the curve by planning months, considering product launches, and recognizing the cyclical nature of the housing market. This foresight allows us to be well-prepared for anticipated content needs, often ensuring that we are up to two months ahead on the topics we intend to cover.

However, when unexpected opportunities or urgent demands arise, it's typically driven by a top-down approach within the company, such as responding to breaking news or capitalizing on a timely opportunity. In such cases, we're open to reallocating budget resources to bring in freelancers or additional support to bolster our coverage swiftly, ensuring we don't miss out on valuable content opportunities. This dynamic approach strikes a balance between proactive planning and the agility to seize immediate prospects.

5. What, in your view, are the key characteristics of a good piece of content?

In my perspective, crafting effective content involves several key characteristics tailored to our audience. First and foremost, we begin with a deep understanding of our audience's profile and content consumption preferences. While we produce various forms of content, including articles, videos, and podcasts, the foundation often lies in well-researched and well-written articles. These articles serve as valuable sources that we can repurpose across different platforms. However, regardless of the format, certain core principles apply.

To create content that truly resonates, it must be meticulously researched and up-to-date.

Stale information, especially in the dynamic field of the housing market, is of little use to our audience. We meticulously vet our sources to ensure that the content remains current and relevant. Our goal is to take complex topics, ideas, or processes and simplify them, making them accessible to a broad audience, particularly first-time homebuyers who represent a significant portion of our target demographic. We put ourselves in their shoes, recalling the uncertainties and questions we had during our initial homebuying experiences. By focusing on the needs of first-time buyers and addressing terms and concepts that may confound them, we create content that serves as a valuable resource.

By honing our content for those at the beginning of their homebuying journey, we effectively cater to a broader audience, including real estate agents and referral partners. Our content equips them with the tools to communicate effectively with individuals at various stages of the home-buying process. Ultimately, our approach centers on simplifying complexities and catering to the least experienced in our audience, ensuring that our content remains accessible and valuable to all.

6. How does your content align with the sales team's efforts?

Our content strategy is closely aligned with the sales team's efforts, and we approach this synergy in two key ways.

Firstly, we use our email newsletters as the primary channel for content distribution.

These newsletters are sent out once a month, not from Guaranteed Rate or any subsidiary, but from our retail loan officers who engage with borrowers in the housing market. The simplicity of this approach benefits our sales force, as they only need to sign up once a month or even annually. We handle the rest, sending newsletters to over 2 million recipients each month. This strategy keeps our loan officers top of mind with prospects, real estate agents, and potential referral sources. They don't even need to mention the newsletter, as it automatically positions them as a valuable resource in recipients' inboxes. However, they can also leverage it to initiate conversations based on the content.

Secondly, we recognize that our marketing and content teams aren't experts in the same way our loan officers are. We actively seek input from our loan officers, who are in direct contact with homebuyers and understand their concerns intimately. We regularly engage in dialogue with them to understand what would be most helpful for their conversations with clients. This collaborative approach ensures that our content addresses the real needs and questions that arise during the home-buying process.

Furthermore, our content creation process is highly responsive to their feedback. When loan officers request articles or materials on specific topics or loan products, we deliver, knowing that if one person needs it, there are likely many others who will benefit. This two-way communication and the emphasis on supporting our sales team's success are fundamental to our content strategy.

7. What content format excites you the most in your role?

That's a great question, and it's something I hadn't explicitly thought about until now. My background is rooted in writing; I began my career as a copywriter in ad agencies and have dabbled in journalism in the past. So, naturally, I have a fondness for long-form writing. Crafting in-depth articles for our blog, delving into complex topics, and simplifying them for a broader audience truly excites me.

However, what gets me most thrilled is taking that well-researched article and repurposing it into various formats. I like to think of it as "commoditizing" the content. Whether it's transforming it into an engaging Instagram Reel, a TikTok video, or creating social media posts and emails, the goal is to make the content as dynamic as possible. This approach allows us to reach people wherever they are, acknowledging that not everyone prefers long-form articles. Some might stumble upon us on Instagram, sparking their interest and leading them back to the original article.

Others may discover our content through Google searches. Ultimately, I find the process of taking a deep dive into a topic, starting with an article, and then transforming it into diverse mediums to be the most exciting part of my role.

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