Consider this scenario: You’re moving to a new city and want to have a fresh start, a clean slate, and a chance to reinvent yourself. But when you get there, you realize that everyone has already heard of you, and has their own preconceived notions about what you stand for. Now, you’ve got to work even harder to get them to see the “new” you.

That’s pretty much the challenge that Barbara Basney, VP Global Advertising & Media at Xerox, shared with attendees at NewsCred’s #ThinkContent Marketing Summit. “Everybody knows the brand. It is iconic, and beloved in many ways. But when I say Xerox, what are you thinking? You’re going to think about printing/technology of documents,” she said.

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What she’s trying to do is change perceptions about a company that earns $19.5 billion in revenue, and operates in 180 countries. Essentially, her team is using content marketing to reinvent Xerox as a business process services company. For instance, there were a lot of surprised faces in the room when Basney revealed that Xerox actually manages the infrastructure of E-ZPass. Who knew?

“Transformation is hard when you have a fully embedded view of what your brand stands for and you want to change it,” said Basney.

Basney believes that content is playing a strong role for Xerox to tell its story. “It’s not immediately understood when I say we’re in the biz processing services. Content is a tool for us to use,” she said.

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Here are Basney’s four strategies for using content as a tool for brand transformation:

1. Have a north star.

“The content beast is hungry and needs to be fed often, and that’s a big job for most companies,” she said. In other words, Xerox has lots of cooks in the content kitchen from marketing/PR, agency partners, media partners, freelancers, and more. That’s why it’s important that everyone understands the brand’s purpose and goal. “If everybody isn’t laddering up to the same north star, it won’t mean much in the marketplace,” she said.

2. Embrace paid, owned, and earned media – POEM.

Today, brands need to use real-time integration of these marketing opportunities. Basney says her teams are constantly meeting and collaborating to ensure they are getting the most out of the content they’re putting out. “You can use your owned and your earned media to inform your paid content. It’s a great listening device and a directional compass,” she said.

3. Explore media partnerships.

“If you’ve got the stomach for it, it’s the best time ever in the media industry,” says Basney. Measuring through impressions is just the starting point of the conversation. Media partners can help you amplify those impressions. As for native, we don’t have a “church and state” situation anymore. “That’s gone,” says Basney. “There are more than 50 shades of gray between the two.”  Having an equal respect for your own brand and your publishers’ brand and being transparent is key.

4. Measure success.

“Build a directional repository of metrics,” said Basney, “but give yourself the permission that it isn’t going to be perfect.”

If you’re ready to begin working with a publisher, Basney offered a cheat sheet of questions to ask up front:

  • Who is going to be handling content development and tone?
  • Will you be doing a one-off or a long-form series?
  • Do you want a custom program for your brand, or do you want it to be an editorial initiative by the publisher and you’re the sponsor?
  • Do you care where the content lives? On the hub of publisher, on your site, or on your own hub?
  • What will be the content traffic drivers?
  • What metrics will the publisher measure, and what will you measure?

Xerox Publishing Case Studies

Basney shared three very different examples of content initiatives that Xerox pursued with media partners, and what her team learned from the experiences.

1. Content on “The Week”

Approach: Publisher created content sponsored by Xerox.

Basney explained to the publisher that Xerox’s “north star” for this project was simplifying the way work gets done in the context of customer care, HR services, and public transportation. “They hit it out of the park,” says Basney. “The Week” brought in leading industry experts to discuss topics, trends, and concerns that people in those industries care about. They filmed it and created 60 pieces of short-form videos for a series called “Business Made Simple,” which was owned by Xerox. They added a navigational link on their header, a rotational unit of content on their homepage, and it was promoted on their social channels as well as the social channels of the experts.

Result: Xerox ended up with 70K views on the hub, with a 180% engaged visitor rate to Xerox (which is 3x the average engagement).

Lesson learned: Basney was happy with the results, but admits that because this was a new venture, they didn’t do a great job at measuring brand lift.

XeroxVoice for “Forbes”

Approach: Xerox created content to be featured on Forbes.

“We had to fit in with “Forbes'” mentality, so on a more general business level,” said Basney. The aim was to publish three times per week, and after a few false starts, Basney says they started creating content that was good for both brands.

Result: With better tracking in place, the 400% lift in top of mind awareness and 188% lift in unaided awareness of Xerox was a result that Basney’s team was very pleased with. There was also a click through rate 10x the average campaign, and an average of 2.5 minutes spent on the site.

Lesson learned: While all of the content served up on “Forbes” was well received and did its job, when users clicked over to, they bolted. “What we teased them with and where we took them was an ill fit,” says Basney. Users went looking for more of the same, and didn’t get it. A landing page could have helped.

NBC “30 Seconds to Know”

Approach: The content started with a Xerox commercial touting how the company helps simplify how work gets done, and was followed up by native video from NBC.

This program ran on NBC news and sports, and had lots of social promotion. Each of the 240+ videos began with a Xerox 15-second unit that said “Sponsored by Xerox, the company that simplifies how work gets done.” The videos featured one topic and one expert who explain something in 30 seconds.

Result: There were 174k organic social interactions, 1.8 million video views, a 500% brand awareness lift, and a 3-minute average hub visit. The program was recognized by The International Advertising Association New York Chapter’s BrillIAAnce Awards.

Lesson learned: “This one fired on all cylinders,” says Basney. She wouldn’t change a thing.

Overall, each of these content initiatives has contributed to the beginning of Xerox’s brand transformation. Basney was especially happy that “Fortune,” which puts out the world’s “most admired companies” list, placed Xerox into the information technology services category for the first time. “That’s exactly where we want to be.”

Watch Basney’s presentation and other #ThinkContent 2015 speakers here.