Pearl Chen

Head of Content Marketing at Shutterstock

Pearl Chen on Aligning Content Needs Across Your Organization

When it comes to content marketing, it’s important to make sure that your content aligns with the goals of people throughout the organization. After all, they are the ones who will be creating and distributing the content. By doing this, you can ensure that your content marketing efforts are as effective as possible.

In a conversation with Prasad Shetty, Sales Manager – North America at Pepper Content, Pearl Chen, Head of Content Marketing at Shutterstock, talks about how you can ensure that the goals of your content and organization are aligned. 

Here are some excerpts. 

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the Head of Content Marketing at Shutterstock. Historically, we've essentially been a blog but right now, we are reimagining what content marketing can be, expanding what it means in the organization, diversifying the types of content we do, and making sure that it is driving some key goals like traffic, engagement, and ultimately business results. 

2. What got you into the content marketing space? 

I originally started in editorial publishing, editing, and writing for digital and print properties. I was an editor at Time Inc. for a long time before I went to grad school at Columbia University for a master's program in strategic communications. It included people with a background in journalism, marketing, PR, and communications.

This program transitioned me into content marketing. I realized I could use the editorial skills I already had, enhance them with marketing knowledge, and apply them to different content disciplines. It was a lightbulb moment for me in terms of reinventing my career. 

I started creating branded content at a non-profit in finance and switched to a late-stage startup for video tech. In the last few years, I have worked for corporations like IBM and Bloomberg, all in content capacities. I enjoyed it because it involved marrying my passions for creativity and writing with larger business goals. It was very gratifying for me to realize that not only are people reading my content, but people might be buying or taking action because of it.

3. Do you have any learning or insights for somebody who's starting as a content marketer?

Content marketing is a relatively new field. A lot of times you have to go in with the perspective and expectation of needing to educate and evangelize in an organization because people have different perceptions of content. 

If, as a new content marketer, you have the flexibility, breadth of experience, and ideas to make different things, it's important to make that known because employers might think that you only create certain types of content: you might only write blogs, only make videos, or only create e-books, for example. As a content marketer, it's better to have all of that in your tool belt.

You should also be able to adapt quickly to different business needs and make sure that your content is speaking to that particular need or point in the buyer journey as well as the personas that you're targeting.

4. There has been a lot of debate in terms of content quality and quantity. Which one do you lean towards? 

Both quality and quantity matter. But I’ll go back to something I learned at IBM, which is “Make less, matter more.” There is a tendency in many organizations to want to scale content. For things like traffic, you need volume but at some point, you have to think about resourcing and understanding what it is about a certain piece of content that can grow legs beyond what you're making. In that sense, you must make sure that the original content is of great quality because you want to make derivative assets and scale. 

I don't want to say one or the other, but I do think that one comes from the other. Being able to scale implies that you have a high-quality core asset that can be adapted into a great number of derivatives. So when I'm looking at new content, I put a lot of thought into the quality as well. 

5. There has been a dramatic shift in terms of the way we work nowadays, especially post-COVID. What's your take in terms of the content market?    

I think hybrid is here to stay. It's interesting because when you're in a creative field like content, sometimes you will think it's better to be in person and brainstorm together. When people are hybrid, in-person workshops and brainstorms can certainly be valuable. 

Having said that though, my team almost entirely collaborates remotely. At the end of the day, it's important to make everybody's voices heard, ensure that ideas don't sit in a Slack channel or Zoom call, and make people realize that there are real actions to take. 

6. What's your secret sauce for success in content marketing?

Content marketing isn't restricted to creating high-quality and creative content. Instead, it should include an understanding of the stakeholders and the people who will use that content or promote it, making that content a big piece of their overall strategy, business sales cycle, and more. Only then will your content matter beyond your team and what you think it should be. When you have the stakeholder buy-in, then you can evangelize further and explain why your content matters and what its purpose is. Your content should serve the organization as a whole.

When you are operating in silos, sometimes your success is measured within the confines of your own team. But when you collaborate cross-functionally, your success metrics can scale as well.

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