In an extraordinary year, extraordinary content marketers rose to the occasion. They demonstrated what’s possible, moved us to action, and taught us how to protect ourselves. Here are one group and two individuals who are at the top of the game – the 2020 B2C Content Marketer of the Year finalists.
Show the people they have the power
Bozoma Saint John
Luvvie Ajayi Jones
We’ve gone beyond the B2C constraint to include the founders of #ShareTheMicNow in this category. It technically isn’t a business entity, though the campaign is directed to consumers. But some of the most creative ideas bubble up in response to constraints. And the #ShareTheMicNow founders’ idea fits perfectly in that category.
Black women face specific constraints in their careers. They’re underrepresented in traditional media, social media, government, board rooms, medicine, interior design, retail, marketing, movies, and magazines. And even when represented, they’re often overlooked or underheard. The reasons are multilayered, but the effect is profound.
That’s the situation the founders of social media campaign #ShareTheMicNow set out to change, according to its mission statement:
When the world listens to women, it listens to white women. For far too long, Black women’s voices have gone unheard, even though they’ve been using their voices loudly for centuries to enact change. Today, more than ever, it is NECESSARY that we create a unifying action to center Black women’s lives, stories, and calls to action.
For far too long, Black women’s voices have gone unheard, even though they’ve been using their voices loudly for centuries to enact change, say @iLuvvit @badassboz @aliceandolivia and @GlennonDoyle. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
To create this unifying action, the founders brilliantly capitalized on a force that creates and perpetuates the imbalance – social media networks.
Bozoma Saint John (marketing superstar and Netflix’s new CMO) explains how limiting social networks can be in this June Forbes article: “I think all of us, right or wrong, we have our Instagram feeds and our social media feeds are very much the same. We’re usually talking to people who look like us, who think like us, who agree with us.”
Smart marketers and digital strategists (like Bozoma and author and podcast host Luvvie Ajayi Jones) know how this works. People “like,” share, and comment on posts from people in their network – mostly people who are similar to them. Then that engagement prompts the algorithms to add more and more similar content to their feeds.
That’s how social media networks become echo chambers. No one sees or hears much beyond what they already amplify.
#ShareTheMicNow uses those very networks to break down the echo chambers. On June 10, nearly 50 Black women took over the Instagram accounts of the same number of white women. On that first star-studded day, for example, journalist Katie Couric’s 1 million followers saw stories and posts from activist, entrepreneur, and “creative powerhouse for good” Eunique Jones Gibson, who created Because of Them We Can, an online content-sharing platform that helps its community “embrace, amplify, and exude Black excellence.”
The 2.5 million people who follow U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren heard from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
And the 9 million people who follow actress Julia Roberts heard from fashion and beauty editor Kahlana Barfield Brown on black maternal death rates, reproductive justice organizations, and other anti-racism efforts.
The high-profile names involved that day guaranteed copious press coverage before, during, and after. But what happened next was even more powerful.
With the founders’ encouragement to #KeepSharingTheMic, women all over the United States took up the mantle and organized #ShareTheMicNow events in their industries and communities. To get an idea of the impact of these events, consider this post from #ShareTheMicNowHomeEdition organizer Alberthe K. Buabeng.
“…[T]he Black designers/bloggers/influencers in round two [of #ShareTheMicNowHomeEdition] made up 8.5% of the reach of their non-Black counterparts!” The difference in real numbers seems even more staggering. The white participants in #ShareTheMicNowHomeEdition had a combined reach of over 7 million compared with a combined reach of 655,495.
That’s the kind of gap this campaign highlights and starts to address industry by industry. There have been #ShareTheMicNow editions for Broadway, yoga, home, local government, medical specialties, and universities. And more are planned.
The impact echoes beyond the U.S. – inspiring a #ShareTheMicNow campaign in Australia, which aims to amplify the voices of First Nations people. And the movement long ago jumped the boundaries of Instagram. People have “shared the mic” on podcasts, Facebook Live, in webinars, and recently on syndicated TV. Luvvie appeared this month on the new daytime talk program The Drew Barrymore Show to explain the campaign’s origins and introduce Drew’s first #ShareTheMicNow guest (Rachel Rodgers of Hello Seven).
On the show, Luvvie explains how she, Bozoma, author Glennon Doyle, and Alice + Olivia CEO Stacey Bendet first created the Instagram pairs by matching women according to their industry or personal chemistry. Luvvie says some of the original pairs are now collaborators and friends.
And that means the program’s working – and meeting the founders’ goals: “To form a social media campaign that magnifies Black women’s lives and stories. To form relationships among Black women and white women – so that our future activism is born from relationships. To create a network of disruptors who know and trust each other. To create action that could make change.”
As #KeepSharingTheMic continues, new relationships develop, new networks are forming, action is happening, and change is happening.
A spoon full of ice cream helps the activism go down
Photo: Ben & Jerry’s
Global head of integrated marketing
Ben & Jerry’s
Among the flurry of brand statements against racism and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd by police, Ben & Jerry’s call to dismantle white supremacy stood out.
CNN called it “extraordinary,” and “unusually comprehensive and direct.” Sample this passage to understand why:
The murder of George Floyd was the result of inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy. What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent. Floyd is the latest in a long list of names that stretches back to that time and that shore. Some of those names we know — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King Jr. — most we don’t.
That’s no bland corporate statement. That’s the language of activism.
Ben & Jerry’s usually avoids the rocky reception some brands find when tackling these issues because it has built advocacy into its work. It partners with organizations already working on these issues and relies on them to inform the strategy and guide the messaging. The company also hires people who are activists, not only for its dedicated social mission group that supports advocacy partners (and collaborates with marketing) but also in the C-suite and on the board.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) June 2, 2020
Until relatively recently, the brand grew from consumers’ experience with the stores, packaging, and ice cream – and the media coverage the company earned when it would speak up on issues important to its core values. Jay Curley, global head of integrated marketing, says that hard-won place in culture positioned the brand perfectly for the rise of social media.
“Standing up for our values and having core values that aren’t just related to driving profit are deep in Ben and Jerry’s DNA. But publishing and developing content in service of those values isn’t something that’s been happening forever,” Jay says.
Over the past decade, Ben & Jerry’s has built a sophisticated publishing function that evolves with consumer media consumption trends. It has experimented with everything from Facebook posts to Instagram to video to articles and long-form content built around stories.
Stir through the company’s social channels and the pages of Ben & Jerry’s site and you’ll turn up a distinctive mix of ice cream puns, invitations to explore weighty issues, and strongly flavored cries for action.
Everything is measured and tested, including advocacy campaigns. Goals for the advocacy work are not business related. Instead, the team measures how effective their messages are at getting people to sign up and “move them up a ladder of conversion” – a ladder to “bring people into a movement and get them to continually act to create systemic change.”
Lessons from its advocacy digital marketing have been applied to its business-focused digital marketing. For example, the team applied what it learned from climate-change conversion campaigns in 2015 to its e-commerce business. While those lessons such as, “If you don’t ask for something explicitly in copy, you’re not going to get it,” aren’t earth shattering, they’re the helpful result of careful test and measurement campaigns. And because his teams share what they have learned among the publishing, marketing, and advocacy work, Jay can say, “We’re better at marketing ice cream because we’re about more than ice cream.”
Just as not everyone likes Chip Happens (salty potato chips in chocolate ice cream), Ben & Jerry’s blend of ice cream and social justice isn’t to everyone’s taste. And that’s fine with the company.
Jay and the integrated marketing team track backlash to Ben & Jerry’s messages and activities and measure their impact on brand affinity and sales. In the 12 years he’s worked at the company, Jay hasn’t seen a negative impact.
Even so, they don’t fear negative reactions. As Jay says, “We’re pushing against really big, entrenched systems to create change. If we’re not doing things that may elicit backlash or people getting upset, we’re probably just perpetuating the status quo.”
Do it right and bring the receipts
Director of content marketing
The genre-defying (and defining) Malwarebytes Labs blog serves many audiences: IT pros, security researchers, journalists, and a whole lot of people who aren’t experts but still want to know how to protect themselves and their families from criminals online.
Even with that many audiences, Wendy Zamora has made sure the blog serves only one purpose: to cement Malwarebytes as a thought leader by informing, educating, and engaging in smart discourse on security research, best practices, and cybersecurity trends.
It isn’t an easy task. Veer too far toward one audience and risk losing another. But under Wendy’s guidance, the Malwarebytes content team has gotten it right a lot.
In 2019 – for the third time in four years – Malwarebytes Labs won Best Cybersecurity Vendor Blog at InfoSec’s European Security Blogger Awards. Including the blog in the consumer newsletter and product dashboard – along with improvements in related-content algorithms – led to record-high page views and lowered the average bounce rate by 14%. Malwarebytes researchers have been interviewed by Reuters, The New York Times, BBC News, WIRED, Forbes, and VICE’s Motherboard.
Recently, Malwarebytes won Best Blog Post – Parental Monitoring Apps: How Do They Differ From Stalkerware? – and Best Corporate Blog in the 2020 Content Marketing Awards. It won Best Blog Post and Best Infographic in the 2017 CMAs. (And if there were a category for best author bios, it would have a good chance of winning that too.)
But getting to these record-setting and award-worthy results took a few iterations. In early years, Malwarebytes lead researcher and cybersecurity expert Adam Kujawa led the blog (then called Malwarebytes Unpacked) and developed its reputation among hard-core security researchers at IT security-focused publications. But running the blog wasn’t Adam’s primary focus.
He initially hired Wendy to broaden the blog’s appeal by writing for the layperson – translating experts’ tech-speak into terms everyone could understand. When her content performed well, people started asking for her secrets. “I was just writing to a level that people in our list could understand and relate to,” she says.
After becoming the blog’s editor-in-chief in 2017, Wendy began a steady stream of improvements, starting with consistency – a tenet of content marketing. Previously, the team published whenever pieces were ready, which sometimes meant multiple posts on one day and none on another. Wendy set a cadence (one or two blog posts every day) and a regular publishing time (8 or 9 a.m.). Traffic grew.
She created a style guide and helped her team (most of whom are researchers first, writers second) improve readability and asked them to choose a specialty beat. She hired writer David Ruiz, who has a journalism background and worked for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, to lead the privacy beat. He has branched out to host the company’s first podcast, Lock and Code.
Eventually, Wendy led a redesign and rebranding of the blog pages. The new name, Malwarebytes Labs, signals the research nature of the site without a tech-oriented name. The new front page features more content above the fold. Those top stories are chosen for newsworthiness and impact rather than by their publication date.
But Wendy is careful not to ignore the marketing part of her content marketing role. “Our blog is often the first stop for someone to learn about the problem, and it’s an integral part of setting the tone of the relationship,” she says.
Moving people along the customer journey is critical to a content marketing program.
To move people to the next stage, the Malwarebytes Lab team built a campaign around an e-book based on several blog posts plus some advice on solutions. Later in the funnel, the audience can gain access to briefs for a specific solution.
Still, Wendy knows Malwarebytes Labs stands out because it’s product agnostic, something she is confident her team will maintain as it builds and reaches new milestones.
“Stand up for what you believe in,” she advises fellow content marketers. “Have a deck ready so you can show them ‘This is why content marketing works. This is why it’s so important to separate church and state. This is how it drives results.’”
Catch Luvvie Ajayi Jones, co-founder of #ShareTheMicNow, on Oct. 13 in her keynote presentation for Content Marketing World. Join us for all the keynotes and dozens of breakout sessions to inspire your future award-winning work. Register today!
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute