Mastering Modern Content Marketing with Devin Bramhall
Content marketing, an ever-evolving domain, has seen transformative changes over the past decade. From the rise and fall of certain content formats to the constant debate of viral vs. evergreen content to the recent advancements of AI in the content realm, the journey of content marketing has been nothing short of spectacular.
To get a better grasp on these shifts and understand the future of content marketing, we sat down with Devin, a seasoned marketing consultant, agency growth advisor, and co-host of the "Don't Say Content" podcast. With over a decade of hands-on experience and a prior stint as the CEO at Animals, one of the leading content marketing agencies in the U.S., Devin offers a unique perspective on the current landscape and what lies ahead.
Can we start with a brief introduction to your background and experience?
I'm Devin, a marketing consultant and agency growth advisor with over a decade of experience in content marketing. I co-host the "Don't Say Content" podcast, where we address the unique challenges faced by marketing leaders. Previously, I served as CEO at Animals, a leading content marketing agency in the U.S., and worked with various startups, including Help Scout. I'm passionate about content marketing and excited about my new journey as a content marketing leader.
Given your decade-long experience, how has the content ecosystem evolved, especially with the advent of new technologies and content forms compared to the past?
Content marketing has truly evolved. When I began, platforms like Business Facebook and Twitter for companies didn't even exist. Tasks like publishing a blog post on WordPress were manual efforts. However, with the advent of tools and platforms, everything became more automated and sophisticated, enabling better measurement of impact.
However, a challenge arose: while content marketing's measurability increased, it began being treated like performance marketing, leading to a period of over-measurement and undermining brand value. Tactics became mechanical, losing touch with brand essence and user experience.
However, the pendulum is now swinging back toward the brand. The tech world is slowly realizing the importance of brand, community, and thought leadership. AI, in my view, will bolster creativity in marketing teams by freeing up their time. But with the talent pool thinning out, AI will also force professionals to elevate their skills.
Lastly, I foresee a shift towards a media-first strategy due to platforms like TikTok, YouTube shorts, and podcasts. These platforms inherently support growth metrics and will lead the content game. Traditional sites and blogs might take a back seat, serving more as administrative tools to nurture deeper relationships.
You highlighted the emerging emphasis on personal branding, not just for companies but for individuals like founders and marketers. How do you view the strategy for personal brand development, especially when starting from scratch?
Absolutely. My core belief is that startups can minimize expenses by leveraging their internal influencers and community connections. But not every founder is keen on being front-facing. Still, with people today being accustomed to visual mediums and online communities, there's potential.
Marketers, in my view, will transform into coaches, guiding company personnel in creating original content. A primary challenge is reshaping beliefs around personal branding. Authenticity often resonates more than polished presentations. I recall my early marketing days with a startup in Boston, where authentic videos built a robust community.
For founders, I feel they should invest time in content creation. Just an hour of daily recording can be gold for marketers to repurpose. Platforms like TikTok reward regularity, and there's a noticeable increase in consistency.
A real-life instance? The podcast I'm associated with, "Don't Say Content", is produced by a company called Share Your Genius. A recent prospect mentioned she followed the podcast and valued my insights, proving the influence of personal branding. We need to educate business leaders that such efforts are scalable, time-efficient, genuine, and cost-effective. With AI tools like ChatGPT aiding content creation, quality content is more accessible and affordable.
Considering the short attention spans today, often compared to a goldfish's, why are you so bullish on video content? And what do you see as the future for long-form or thought leadership content in this era?
Certainly, I never advocate for a one-size-fits-all approach. Video content is powerful and underutilized. Even as video consumption rises on platforms like YouTube, it's still less saturated than written content. As brands lean into video, it might create a shift back to quality, in-depth written content. Instead of just writing for search, there could be a resurgence in community-based content. While I don't believe written content is dead, the traditional blog format might need a rethink. The future might be about delivering written content as more of an experience, possibly complemented by other forms of data delivery.
With so many aiming to be thought leaders, especially in the era of AI-generated content, how do you recommend differentiating oneself and truly establishing genuine thought leadership amidst all the noise?
What stands out most is authenticity and having a unique perspective. To truly make a mark as a thought leader, it's crucial to be genuine and not merely wear the title. Not every founder or professional will make waves, but consistently voicing genuine opinions, engaging with a community, and committing to continuous learning can create an impactful presence. It's about fostering a community around a distinct viewpoint and being willing to put in the effort to nurture that community. In today's age of content saturation, authenticity, consistent engagement, and collaboration can set someone apart.
What elements make a podcast truly stand out? And secondly, how do you measure its success? Is it purely based on engagement or are there other nuanced metrics you consider?
That's a fascinating question. When we launched our podcast at Animals, our primary aim differed, and measuring podcast metrics still feels somewhat underdeveloped due to the disparity across platforms, with some like Spotify being notably opaque.
However, I firmly believe no single approach guarantees success. What worked for us might not work for others. With "Don't Say Content", we intentionally targeted a niche audience: B2B SaaS marketing leaders. We didn't seek to reach everyone; instead, we focused on authentic engagement with this specific community. The positive feedback and resonance among this group validated our approach.
Unexpected successes, such as inbound sponsorship from Ahrefs after just six episodes and increased downloads in season two, further confirmed our strategy's effectiveness. But success metrics go beyond numbers. For us, engagement, feedback, community building, and alignment with our audience's needs are all pivotal.
To anyone thinking of launching a podcast, my advice is: Define your audience narrowly, ensure your content offers a unique perspective, and continuously experiment and adapt. Ultimately, success in podcasting, like many endeavors, lies in genuine engagement and staying true to your brand's authenticity.
Your approach of continuous innovation and experimentation until finding that sweet spot is commendable. Best wishes as you continue this journey!
You absolutely need genuine passion and care. Fake thought leadership, where individuals merely mimic others, falls flat. If your podcast approach is purely business-driven, you'll likely face disappointment. To truly resonate, a podcast needs authenticity and uniqueness, anchored by participants who are genuinely enthusiastic. If your founder isn't fully committed, it's better to explore short-form platforms that align with their comfort and interests. Even if your podcast serves a business purpose, like agencies interviewing potential clients, genuine interest and the desire to create meaningful content are essential.
For my final segment, I'd like to know what common mistakes you see marketers and content marketers making. Additionally, what advice would you give to budding content marketers just starting out?
Effective marketing hinges on genuine care. Many marketers seem to replicate the strategies of thought leaders without truly understanding or connecting with them. This disconnect is especially noticeable in tech companies and startups, where there's often a misconception about what marketing truly entails.
For content marketers, it's crucial to dive deep into their work with enthusiasm and curiosity. Today, many content marketers view their roles more transactionally, missing the spirit of creativity that arises from a genuine passion for the craft. Instead of just completing tasks, they should be excited and curious about them.
Understanding performance metrics early in one's career is equally vital. Being data-driven doesn't just lend credibility; it also opens the door to innovative strategies. This understanding aids in "managing up," making pitches more compelling, and ensuring that marketers can speak the language of those higher up, which is usually centered around financial metrics.
Broadening skills and building relationships with other marketers is another key aspect. Learning from peers, diving into reporting, and understanding one's strengths and weaknesses can lead to rapid career growth.
Another reality to embrace is the inherent messiness of marketing. Every company has its challenges and quirks. Success often comes down to finding a work environment that resonates with one's personal level of "crazy."
While it's essential to move on if a company isn't aligning with growth goals, consistently hopping from job to job can rob one of valuable learning experiences. It's often beneficial to stay long enough to truly understand challenges and grow from them.
Lastly, self-awareness is invaluable. Regularly reflecting on actions and behaviors can lead to personal growth and better interpersonal relationships. In essence, for a marketer to truly thrive, they must care deeply, continually learn, understand the metrics driving success, and always be self-aware in their journey.
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