Welcome to our first Confessions of a Content Strategist in 2015.
These interviews are so interesting to me because content strategists come from such different backgrounds. Yet, we all have so much in common. From our first epiphanies about what it is we actually do, to our passion for tools and documentation, to our concern for the web as it continues to evolve at light speed, we all are cut from the same cloth.
Heather Tweedy (@heathertweedy) is no different. Starting at Mutual of Omaha in 2014, as the Fortune 500’s only content strategist, Heather is knee deep in creating structures and standards. As she said, “I am putting some concrete frameworks around things so I can start having fun in late 2015.”
Mutual of Omaha is a Fortune 500 mutual insurance and financial services company based in—you guessed it—Omaha, Nebraska. To be the only content strategist in an organization so large and complex is challenging, and Heather was generous enough to share her experiences, challenges and wins.
Ahava Leibtag: Tell me about your background.
HT: “After college, I did an internship with an agency and was the only person who could read a Radian6 report. I started to get interested in how people’s sentiment changed based on content. I became obsessed with conversion rates; things like, how you lead people through the funnel? After that, I went to a mid-size company that had no social, and no content outside of the static website, so I built everything for them from the ground up. I was building governance before I even knew what that was! I was elbows deep in spreadsheets with language around what we say; these are the buttons we use, etc.
Then I co-owned an agency that did content development and web work. I saw all the documentation that goes around building a website. Our company was virtual, so documentation became super important because we were not face-to-face. Then I saw the job announcement at Mutual of Omaha and realized this: ‘This is what I do—I am a content strategist!’ so I threw herself into the profession.”
AL: Why make the jump to something so large and corporate?
HT: “I wanted to be in a big company and was at a point where I just wanted to get back to doing the work. When you own an agency, you are so busy doing so many things that don’t have to do with your core skill set, and I was ready to go back to doing content strategy. I am the company’s very first content strategist and everyone is trying to figure out how I fit in.”
AL: How do you find being in such a large company?
HT: “It’s interesting. Like all big companies, there are not enough resources devoted to the web governance. Trying to wrap your head around all the vendors, all the documentation—which domains do we own and auditing 200+ websites—which ones are duplicates, which ones to retire—getting people to be engaged to use shared drives and add their URLs to those spreadsheets. How do you get people to follow governance standards and inspire them to follow them?
AL: So how do you keep people focused on governance and inspired to follow all those rules and regulations?
HT: “You need to create a top-down culture. Kristina Halvorson consulted with Mutual a couple of years ago and created the structure for a governance board. Every month (ideally), we bring directors into the room from different parts of the company—a lot of high-ranking people sit in that room. We talk to them once a month and they go back to their teams and tell them this is a priority to me; therefore it had better be a priority to you.”
AL: Even so, with the governance boards you describe (and it’s amazing that you’ve been able to create and sustain that cultural change), how do you socialize governance?
HT: “All of Brand gets together once a month. Our team presents there and says here are the things that are happening. We are also building an internal shared site that will have all of our initiatives—voice and tone, taxonomy and intelligent content guide. It’s a socialization and training exercise at the same time.”
AL: Which tools do you spend the most time using?
HT: “I spend a lot of time in Excel for documentation. And, I love Google analytics: The goal setting and funnels and can see how a particular button performs.”
AL: What do you use to report? I’m always interested in which ideas are communicated best through visualization and other forms of reporting.
HT: “I use a variety of things—Powerpoints and programs like that. I also create custom dashboards so my internal client can see what they’re interested in. For example, product owners have customized dashboards.”
AL: What’s next for content strategy?
HT: “I really see the next big thing as independent content—things that we can move around—exist in absence of a platform—if it’s being seen on different size screens—it looks the exact same—not like responsive, which reorients screen sizes. This is exciting for our industry because it means you have to make sure that when you create a piece of content that it’s marked up for extra use—whenever we talk about this, it performs well on email—the next time we use it, the person will look and see what to put in the email. It’s an exciting time.”
What do you think is next for content strategy in 2015? Tell us and let us know if you’d like to be interviewed for Confessions.
Want to catch up on the previous Confessions of a Content Strategist? Check out: