Content Marketing Conversations: Kasey Hickey of Asana
Mia Quagliarello / October 6, 2015
We first met Kasey Hickey when we featured her and husband Matthew Hickey’s food and music blog Turntable Kitchen on Flipboard, but then we learned about what she did in her “day job” and our interest piqued even more. At the time, Hickey was Senior Content Manager at Evernote, and we admired how she and her team created compelling content and community programs around what was, essentially, a note-taking app.
Now she’s at Asana, a product that helps teams move work forward (and Flipboard advertiser), creating a strong editorial voice in the company’s Workstyle Blog around key themes important to Asana—things like how teams can work well together, personal productivity, leadership advice and “tough topics that everybody struggles with, like giving feedback or having disagreements at work.”
Why bother to spend all that time extending the brand’s tentacles and writing a ton of content? Hickey has a great answer for that in our first Content Marketing Conversation here on Flipboard’s Business Blog.
You’re a master of content marketing. Why do you think it’s important?
It’s important because it really creates a direct connection between your brand and your customers. It also allows your brand to go places that it wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to if you’re just speaking to your customers about your product. If you’re doing it in a smart way then you’re actually connecting with people who are “would-be customers”—people who may not have even heard of your brand; they come to know you through your content, your personality and the topics you care about.
What I see happening a lot is high-quality content bubbling to the top, with the source of that content becoming less relevant, to a certain extent. Brands are able to engage in a playing field that, in the past, they wouldn’t have been able to play on. And in terms of getting attention, it’s becoming somewhat easier: a lot of publications are open to syndicating content. They want high-quality content but they don’t necessarily have the resources to have a lot of staffers and journalists to create that content, so they are actually looking at brands and what brands are creating. So if you are able to differentiate yourself, you are actually able to get your content in places that are beyond your channel.
Productivity tips and hacks are everywhere. How do you ensure that yours stand out?
We try to strike a good balance. We focus on variety of content, so we are not trying to be the productivity destination on the Web. The way we differentiate is by tapping a variety of sources both internal and external. We have a huge pool of talent within our walls and we have access to them, as writers.
I am also really interested in tapping into external resources. As a content marketer, I think your job is to network and research a lot. Get to know as many interesting people as you can so you can tap their brains—and don’t necessarily stick to the most obvious players—I interviewed a brain scientist for one of my pieces! I spend a lot of time reading other content out there, both industry pubs as well as personal blogs. I try to seek inspiration both from B2B and consumer channels because ultimately, the audience I’m trying to reach is someone who has interests as a whole being, not just a worker bee.
How frequently do you publish and how do you know when it’s enough?
Generally speaking, on a company blog, my ballpark has always kind of been three to five blog posts a week; I think that’s a good baseline. Sometimes that means two, sometimes that means six, depending on product cycles and company news. In terms of Workstyle, because it’s just been me writing, my goal has been to publish one new post a week. And I’ve been keeping up with that pretty well and I’m actually at a point where I’m trying to understand how much do we want to increase that, to maybe two or three or four posts a week, and whether that would actually help us or if we would start seeing some diminishing returns. We’ve recently begun to introduce new voices to the blogs through contributors and freelancers and, so far, it’s been really exciting to see the variety of ideas and writing styles we’ve been able to share with our readers. Obviously we are tracking our experiments.
Yeah, how are you tracking your efforts and what do you look for—traffic, conversions?
Right now, a sign of success for us is new user traffic. Workstyle was an experimental offshoot from our company blog so we’ve really been focused on driving new user traffic. In terms of conversions, I would say that’s a bonus—you’d be surprised to learn that many companies don’t track blog conversations focusing instead of engagement, brand lift and the typical stats like pageviews and social shares. We are actually converting people through our content marketing, which is awesome, but it wasn’t necessarily something we set out to do out of the gate. We are also tracking time spent on individual articles. Another key metric we’re tracking is social sharing and, in particular, social share ratio (unique sessions / # social shares). The higher the ratio, the more engaged (we believe) the readers are. And then, just internally, we are a very process-driven company and always trying to better our efforts so even though we are tracking all these metrics, we are also spending a lot of time thinking about whether our content is actually reaching our audience, how effective is it, and what’s the level of quality, in a subjective way. So we are constantly trying to iterate and improve on that as well. In a lot of ways, content is never ‘done.’
How does Flipboard fit into your content strategy?
I actually don’t manage the Flipboard relationship, my coworker Ted does, but we want people to find our content in the places that they are comfortable reading it, and we want them to share it. Flipboard’s been great for that—and also just seeing which of our stories people are reading on Flipboard is really insightful, too, and comparing it to what people are reading on our site. It’s actually pretty aligned.
How do you decide which of your articles go to third party sites?
We actually have a distributed framework for the different types of content categories that we want to be talking about, from team management to personal productivity. In Asana, we list out all the categories that we are interested in, so ideally, if we are working with a [third-party] partner, we want to pull pieces that support a variety of those topics.
We’ve done some experimenting here, as well. For example, we decided to publish our co-founder Dustin’s piece on work-life balance on Medium because it just felt like it made more sense there. We followed up with a more Workstyle-oriented piece on our blog. Whenever we are working with a partner, our aim is to leverage the topics that align with our content framework. At the same time, we try to keep as much original content for ourselves.
Is there a content marketer or brand whose work really inspires you?
I’m really inspired by Camille Ricketts, who runs content and marketing at First Round Review Capital and launched The First Round Review. Not not only do I think she does a really good job with the content and understands the audience, but I also just really admire that she’s super into the idea of creating a conversation for content marketers around our ever-evolving field.
One really cool thing that I admire about my industry is that we are mostly really open about sharing and helping each other, understanding, and learning. It’s such a new frontier and it’s one of those professions where a lot of people don’t really understand what you do and it’s very difficult to prove value, especially over a short period of time. The value of content marketing doesn’t become readily visible until you’ve been doing it for a while.
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