Pearl Chen

Head of Content Marketing at Shutterstock

Pearl Chen on Aligning Your Content Needs With Your Team

When it comes to content marketing, it's important to make sure that your content needs are aligned with those of your team. 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, Sr. Account Executive - 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 team are aligned. 

Here are some excerpts. 

1. Why don't you go ahead and give a quick introduction about yourself?

My name is Pearl Chen. I am the head of content marketing at Shutterstock. We are expanding our program. Historically we've been a blog and only a blog essentially, 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 started originally in editorial publishing, so my first few years out of school was really about editing and writing for digital properties and print properties. So I was at Time Inc. And I was working specifically mostly for People magazine. I was basically an editorial for a long time and I went to grad school. When I went to grad school at Columbia, it was a master's program in strategic communications. It did include people like myself who are more of a journalism background, but also a lot of marketers, a lot of PR, a lot of people who work across this kind of discipline of communications in general. So that program really opened my eyes into the types of work I could be doing, using the skills I already had and then enhancing that on top of what the editorial skills were with marketing knowledge.

So I realized, it was kind of a light bulb moment for me, that you really can still use the skills that you had before and really kind of reinvent yourself a bit and apply it to a different discipline. As long as you're getting the experience, as well as, I guess, the expertise of your peers and try to reinvent a bit about your career. That's essentially what happened. I  started to work very closely with content marketing organizations in general.

It was at first a nonprofit in finance and then went into a late stage startup for video tech and then more recently in the last few years working for bigger corporations like IBM and Bloomberg, all in content capacities. So working on branded content or pushing certain products for our launches. And I just really enjoyed it because it was kind of like 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 stuff, but people might be buying or taking actions because of my content. Which was extremely gratifying. I realized content these days is such a big part of most organizations that if I can really help in that effort, it feels like I'm in this place I should be, which is helping businesses while being creative, while creating something that helps other people as well.

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

I think it's a relatively new field. So I think a lot of times you have to go in with the perspective and with the expectation of needing to educate and evangelize in an organization because a lot of people will think of content a certain way and maybe only a certain way. 

So if you, as a new content marketer have a breadth of experience, or ideas of making different things, I think that's super important to make that known. Many places might just think that you do a blog, make videos, or make e books. And in my view, it's better as a content marketer to have all of that in your tool belt. You really have to be able to adapt quickly to different business needs and make sure that your content is speaking to that particular need or that particular point in the buyer journey or personas that you're reaching out to. So having that flexibility and that breadth of experience would be very important for a content marketer. 

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

I'm going to give you the answer you don't want to hear, which is both. But for the purposes of our conversation, I think I'll go back to something that I learned at IBM, which is make less matter more. So there is a tendency in many organizations to want to scale content and you're making a lot of stuff and there's nothing wrong with that. For things like traffic, you just need that volume. But as I've gone through my career and content, at some point you want to think about your resourcing your ideas and understand what it is about a certain piece of content that can grow legs beyond what you're making. And so in that sense, you want to make sure that the original thing is of great quality because you do want to make derivative assets, you do want to scale. So the volume, the quantity does become very important. But what is that quantity coming from? Is it coming from a place of something that can be adapted? And that means the quality truly has to really be there up front. 

So I don't want to say one or the other, but I do think that one probably comes from the other. Being able to scale does mean you have a core asset of some sort that is able to be scaled and derived from. So I usually put a lot of thought into the quality as well when I'm looking at new content. 

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. And 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 be brainstorming together. There's certainly value in that. When people are hybrid and able to get together, those types of workshops and brainstorms can be very valuable. 

Having said that though, my team is everywhere. We are almost entirely collaborating remotely. So it's definitely possible. It's more of a matter of making sure everybody is heard and some of these ideas don't just sit in a slack channel or zoom call. Ultimately it's getting people to realize there's some real actions we can take. 

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

It's not just on making the thing and making it very creative and high quality, but understanding the stakeholders and the people who will use that content or will promote that content or help make that content a big piece of their overall strategy, business, self cycle, whatever that may be. 

Because then your content matters beyond your team and what you think it should be. When you have the stakeholder buy in, then you can evangelize further and say this is why we matter, this is what this purpose is. This piece of content is serving for the organization as a whole. I would also say because of that buy in, sometimes the cross functional collaboration is even better because of the connections that you may have.

Let's say you're, for example, sourcing talent for a webinar or podcast. You may not have the visibility to the different types of people who can speak, but when you have the buyin and the cross functional collaboration, they'll probably find that the right person with the right ideation and concept along with it. So I think that's what makes content super relevant for organization. When you are operating in silos, sometimes your success is measured by basically your own team within the confines of your own team. But when you cross-functional collaborate, I think your success metrics actually can really scale as well.

7. What do you think are the most working KPIs in the content marketing space? 

Top of funnel right now is the biggest concern. Our strategy is primarily geared towards the top of funnel, which is our KPIs. Traffic, time on page, and SEO are huge for us. Overall, I feel like full funnel is the way to go for content marketing. It depends on your organization and type of company you're in. And right now for Shutterstock, traffic is one of our biggest priorities.

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