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CMWorld Interview: Getting the Full Story from Gartner’s Heather Pemberton Levy

While digging through data and market research, it can be easy to get lost in the numbers. But when assessing these insights, what really matters is the stories they tell.

This is a key point of emphasis for Gartner, and specifically its Smarter with Gartner content platform, which adds context and substance to trends surfaced by the research firm’s findings.

So it is quite fitting that Heather Pemberton Levy, who helps guide Gartner’s strategic direction as VP of Content Marketing, champions the “Story Comes First” method. This concept served as a framework for her 2016 book, Brand, Meet Story: How to Create Engaging Content to Win Business and Influence Your Audience, and will also be in play during her workshop at Content Marketing World, entitled “From 0 to 60: Building a Mature B2B Content Marketing Organization.”

We talk frequently on our blog about the crucial importance of storytelling — recently we discussed its impact as a trust-building tool — so we’re definitely on board with letting relatable narratives lead the way in content. We are eager to hear how Pemberton Levy and her team have woven this directive, and other elements, into the process of building Gartner’s highly-trafficked content hub from the ground up.

While we wait for her September session, we did have a chance to ask Pemberton Levy for her views on some important content marketing topics. Here’s what she had to say about flipping the traditional marketing model, the value of “version 0.5,” lessons learned from writing a mommy blog, and more.

What does your role as Vice President of Content Marketing at Gartner entail? What are your main areas of focus and key priorities?

I lead content marketing for global marketing campaigns and the Smarter with Gartner and Gartner.com platforms. Gartner equips business leaders across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size, with the insights, advice and tools to achieve their top priorities. I manage a global team of contributors who create original content for all major business categories in the form of articles, infographics, eBooks, and videos based on Gartner’s proprietary insights.

My main area of focus is to ensure that our content is valuable to senior business leaders while meeting our key marketing priorities to attract prospects, engage and nurture them through the buyer’s journey. This involves continuously evolving our editorial and platform strategies, working with stakeholders throughout the organization, and evangelizing content marketing within the broader corporate marketing function.

You created the “Story Comes First” method. How does this flip the conventional marketing model and why is it important?

The Story Comes First method creates a structure for creating content that always begins with a story your reader can identify with and uses this moment to bridge their point of view with your brand’s unique selling point. Many marketers still talk about their products and services in terms of what they can do for their audience rather than what the audience cares about, why that’s important and how their solution can help solve the problem. Stories have the power to engage prospects with an emotional hook that endears them to a brand more successfully than standard marketing copy.


Stories have the power to engage prospects with an emotional hook that endears them to a brand more successfully than standard marketing copy. @heathrpemberton #CMWorld
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How has social media changed the game for brand storytelling?

Brands are no longer dependent on publicity with traditional media to influence target audiences. Social media gave brands their own “subscriber lists,” effectively giving them their own distribution channels for content marketing.

You’ll be presenting at CMWorld on building a mature B2B content marketing organization. What, from your view, are the hallmarks of maturity on this front?

In my three years building a content marketing organization with my colleagues at Gartner, my views have evolved on what signals content marketing maturity in a complex global organization.

First, if you dig into your analytics, the data may tell a different story than what you see on the first page of your dashboard report. It’s not easy to get the right analytics so it’s important to constantly lobby for good data and pay attention to it.

Second, what people do with your content may be different than what you intended. If you’re willing to listen to the data, it will be necessary, at times, to upend your strategy and head in a new direction.


What people do with your content may be different than what you intended. @heathrpemberton #CMWorld
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Which content marketing metrics and KPIs do you think are most critical to growth?

Rather than list specific KPIs, which is a longer discussion that I will cover in the workshop, I’ll note that it’s important to be crystal clear what you are measuring and why. Our content marketing strategy centers around three key objectives and we have specific KPIs and related metrics for each objective. Everyone on my team is measured based on these objectives and KPIs. This is the best way to work towards the right priorities for the organization.

What are some shortcuts you’ve identified in your career when it comes to striving toward content marketing maturity?

One of the hallmarks of Gartner corporate strategy is to “get to version 0.5 and then test” and improve from there. This philosophy has allowed us to be agile and put new ideas into the marketplace quickly to learn what works. It’s how Smarter With Gartner was built and we constantly remind ourselves that when we are planning a new strategic direction, it’s best to find a way to do something quickly with low impact on resources first and build it out further based on data from our audience.

Looking back, is there a particular moment or juncture in your career that you view as transformative? What takeaways could other marketers learn and apply?

I wrote a mommy blog for four years that helped me learn how to tell stories and use dialog – all of which I brought to my content marketing career. The experience reminded me that I am an editor and publisher at heart and helped me find wants to create content, eventually for brands.

My takeaway for other content marketers is to read and write what you love for recreation or as a hobby and bring the best of what you see across genres to your own work. You never know how it will fit but it’s important to stay exposed to the masters of our craft.


Read and write what you love for recreation or as a hobby and bring the best of what you see across genres to your own work.@heathrpemberton #CMWorld
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Which speaker presentations are you looking forward to most at Content Marketing World 2018?

I’m looking forward to the sessions on creating video since the format takes time and resources to make standout content. I’m also excited for the keynotes by Amber Guild of The New York Times Company and, of course, Tina Fey.

Story Comes First. What’s Next?

We’ll find out when Pemberton Levy takes the stage in Cleveland. In the meantime, we recommend tapping into illuminating insights from her and many other content marketing leaders in The Ultimate Guide to Conquering Content Marketing:


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The post CMWorld Interview: Getting the Full Story from Gartner’s Heather Pemberton Levy appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Interactive Content Marketing: Why B2B Marketers Should Take Their Content from Boring to Bold

Why B2B Marketers Should Consider Interactive Content

Why B2B Marketers Should Consider Interactive Content

Show of hands, B2B marketers: How many of you know which Hogwarts house you belong in? Or which Disney princess best represents your personality and relationship ambitions?

via GIPHY

Don’t be shy. I’m a Gryffindor wizard through and through—and apparently, I’m more of a Jasmine than an Ariel. And I know all this thanks to the rise of interactive content.

From quirky quizzes to ROI calculators to guided eBooks, interactive content is a rising content marketing star. BuzzFeed is perhaps the most prolific example, creating dozens of quizzes each week that are making their way into social feeds and search results. (And almost all users reportedly finish them).

But why should B2B marketers consider adding interactive content to their mix?

Because B2B is often pegged as bland and boring. And in a crowded content market, not to mention the fact that buyers' content preferences are turning increasingly visual, interactive content is the next evolution.

But if that doesn't convince you, read on for a few more reasons why its time for B2B to embrace interactive content.

#1 – Interactive content is more engaging than static content—for the long-term.

Interactive content may seem a little gimmicky for some marketers—especially those in the B2B space. But the vast majority of marketers who use interactive content agree that it not only grabs attention, but can also hold that attention beyond that initial view.

In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and Ion Interactive 2017 Interactive Content Study:

  • 87% of marketers agree that interactive content grabs the attention of the reader more effectively than static content
  • 77% of marketers agree that interactive content has reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple exposures
  • 73% of marketers agree that interactive content, when combined with other more traditional content marketing tactics, enhances message retention among their audiences.

So, if you’re aiming for awareness, engagement, and attention, interactive content holds incredible potential. But I’d also add that this is only true if you deliver quality, relevant content in an interactive format.

As my colleague Josh Nite points out: “[Interactive content is] absolutely designed to grab attention. But if your content provides value—if it’s worth paying attention to—interactive elements can help you bring in an audience.”

[bctt tweet="#InteractiveContent is absolutely designed to grab attention. But if your content provides value—if it’s worth paying attention to—interactive elements can help you bring in an audience. - @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]

#2 – Interactive content can differentiate you from your competitors.

Content has always been a foundational element of B2B marketing. Buyers don’t make hard and fast decisions. Instead, they do their research, weigh their options, and have multiple engagements with sales reps before they sign on the dotted line. Interactive content can help you make an impression and stand out in a crowed, competitive content landscape.

In addition, according to the aforementioned report, just 46% of marketers report using interactive content right now—which was flat year-over-year. And if history is any indicator, I’d wager that interactive content adoption among B2B marketers is far lower since the industry is typically slower to adopt new tactics.

But that won’t always be the case. Harnessing the opportunity right now has the potential to differentiate your B2B brand from the competition early on, showcasing your commitment to innovation.

For example, Prophix, a leading provider of corporate performance management (CPM) software solutions in the FP&A industry, wanted to drive awareness in a unique way around its report on the evolution of financial planning and analysis, as well as its solutions.

By repurposing its original research and adding influencer perspectives, we created an interactive quiz to help empower their audience to "crush" their jobs to succeed now and into the future.

Prophix Crush It Interactive Quiz

This anchor asset, which was promoted using a supporting mix of blog content, social amplification, email, and more, saw a view rate 6-times higher than the benchmark for a similar resource. In addition, the page where it lived garnered 3-times the average share rate. This unique approach to interactive influencer content made Prophix stand out from the competition and deliver a great resource that performed.

#3 – Interactive tools can provide you with exclusive data and analytics.

Savvy marketers are driven by data insights. And many of the interactive content tools you’d leverage for an asset come with their own analytics dashboards, allowing you to get near real-time data on how your audience is interacting and absorbing your content.

For example, Ceros, an interactive content software that simplifies the creation process, provides all the basic KPIs such as visitors, opens, and pageviews, as well as engagement metrics like time spent and interaction clicks. But they also track inbound referrals, social shares, video plays, and outbound link clicks.

Oh, and that data is viewable in its Analytics Dashboard within second of it happening.

Ceros Interactive Content Tool

While traditional analytics platforms and the data within them is invaluable, from my perspective, this more niche data can help uncover some insights that can help you refine your asset on the fly or consider how to improve other content types moving forward.

#4 – Interactive content can drive results at every stage of the funnel.

From educating buyers to creating customer loyalty, interactive content can serve a purpose (and drive results) at every stage of the funnel. Interactive content users report using the tactic for lead generation, lead nurturing, customer retention, and the list goes on.

And interactive is especially powerful, when combined with other tried-and-true content marketing tactics.

To help promote the Influencer Marketing 2.0 report based on research conducted by Traackr, Altimeter Group and TopRank Marketing, we partnered with interactive content platform Ceros to produce an Influence 2.0 interactive infographic.

Influence 2.0

The infographic was promoted via blog posts, social channels, email, and through the influencers that contributed. With calls to action embedded within the interactive infographic, this content succeeded at attracting over 1,700 prospective customers to download the full report with a 43% conversion rate.

What Opportunity Does Interactive Content Hold for Your B2B Brand?

Interactive content is here to stay. But the real opportunity doesn’t lay in the interactivity itself. The real value creation is in the excitement or connection that you can make with your audience, as well as the potential to hold their attention for long enough to engrain your message or inspire action.

[bctt tweet="The real opportunity with #interactivecontent doesn’t lay in the interactivity itself. The real value creation is in the excitement or connection that you can make with your audience. - @CaitlinMBurgess" username="toprank"]

So, B2B marketers. If you’re ready to break away from boring and drive better engagement, interactive content deserves your consideration.

How can you leverage interactive content? Check out our post featuring five ways of making marketing magic with interactive content.

The post Interactive Content Marketing: Why B2B Marketers Should Take Their Content from Boring to Bold appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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