Joe Chernov Interview The ID Group Talking Content Marketing

Talking Content Marketing welcomes another content figurehead to the table, VP of content at HubSpot, Joe Chernov.

Joe leads the team that runs HubSpot’s popular blog, creates the gated offers and publishes the broad-appeal content (such as infographics and SlideShares). His role is to help feed his creative team new ideas, refine the concepts they propose, and clear the debris impeding their path to producing lots and lots of great stuff.

Lets get down to business…

Is it getting harder for businesses to be heard? Or is it a case of being creative on the myriad of platforms we have to choose from?

There was high drama about this topic on Mark Schaefer’s blog recently, so perhaps fellow “content” people will grimace at my answer. But yes, I think it’s getting more difficult for businesses to be heard. When brands become publishers, the amount of noise increases by orders of magnitude. There’s a glut of content and it’s being pumped indiscriminately across social channels. Further, it’s no longer being distributed “organically” — social platforms have productised distribution, and the unit economics can be very attractive. It doesn’t cost much to jam peoples newsfeeds with your content. The Onion just published a headline that read, “Online Content Creators Outnumber Consumers 2,000 to 1.” Satirists identify a pattern and play it out to the point of absurdity. The Onion rightly spotted a pattern here.

Do you think that the B2B world considers content platforms as a privilege or a place where ‘everyone else is, so we should be there’?

If by “content platform” you mean distribution channels (like SlideShare, Facebook or Twitter), then I don’t think *any* marketer thinks in humble terms of “privilege.” The most effective B2B marketers are hyper-efficient capitalists. Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners once wrote, “In an efficient, data-driven marketing department, each new dollar spent is slightly less efficient than the previous dollar spent.” Bingo. It’s not about privilege, but rather the perceived right that accompanies a budget. Frankly, the “platforms” think this way as well. I attended a presentation by a senior guy from Facebook who said, “We don’t distinguish between your grandmother and a bar of soap.” I’ll never forget that.

Consumer brands are better at communicating on a human level. B2B marketers appear to forget that while companies may pay for their products, people still buy them. Think of the P&G “Thank You, Mom” campaign that ran throughout the Olympics. If a B2B company could combine storytelling, empathy and creativity in the way that P&G did, it would be unstoppable.

Great content encourages loyalty. While we all look to brands such as Red Bull as leaders of producing content, is loyalty down to being consistent with our efforts?

I’d challenge the assumption that great content encourages loyalty. *Some* great content does, sure. But other content may be created simply to get someone to discover the brand for the first time. That “first marketing touch” is no more a catalyst for loyalty than a first date begets long-term fidelity. Broadly speaking, however, I agree that a great content *program* will encourage loyalty — not from any individual piece, but rather from the sum of the total content *experience* — consistency, quality, originality — provided by the brand.

What content platforms do you champion ie. that has longevity?

Looking at this from a B2B perspective, I’d say LinkedIn. They are becoming a media company. Between Pulse, Influencers, SlideShare and the new “open” blogging product, it’s a publishing powerhouse. Add to that the incomprehensible amount of business-relevant data they’re sitting on and the fact that their “newsfeed” ad product is hugely effective, and I can’t think of a better long-term bet for B2B marketers.

Is the ability to position ourselves as influencers (storytelling, authentic, useful, human) one of the biggest opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the industry competition?

You can’t position yourself as an influencer — not in a way that has any staying power, anyway — any more than you can position yourself as being clever or attractive. That determination isn’t yours to make. It’s up to the “influenced” to decide if you are influential. I think that’s one of the challenges marketers struggle to overcome. We focus on the symptom not the ill. To try to be seen as an influencer is likely to fail; but to create content that’s inherently valuable, or surprisingly human, or unexpectedly useful, *that’s* how, over time, you’ll be seen as an influencer. Chasing the term itself will, ironically, pretty much guarantee that you’ll never achieve it.


A HUGE ‘thank you’ to Joe for his time and response. If you’d like to find out a bit more about Joe’s approach then:

Joe on Twitter: click here
Joe’s great Slideshare presentations: click here
The HubSpot blog: click here