Dell’s Tech Page One Managing Editor Nicole Smith on Content Marketing Planning

    Tech Page One Managing Editor Nicole Smith
    Tech Page One Managing Editor Nicole Smith

    Dell’s Tech Page One is a news site covering tech, business and gadget geek culture that bears the tagline “Insights from the evolving world of tech”.

    Tech Page One publishes a robust offering of original content, breaking news, curated editors’ picks, in-depth analysis, stories that are sourced with Dell’s own experts and features such as an interview with a CGI specialist for the blockbuster hit “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

    Managing Editor Nicole Smith spoke to Engage Magazine about their content marketing planning and what other marketers can learn. She said Tech Page One launched on Dec. 5, 2012, and that back then they were definitely were in start-up mode back when they were experimenting with the website and piloting for projects. That’s not the case any longer.

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    What hasn’t changed is navigating the enormous technology company to produce content. Coordinating and generating content across a company with more than 100,000 employees is no easy feat. Smith said there’s a core team behind it made up of Dell and agency staff and it’s an 80-20 mix of original content, with that 20 percent consisting of what she calls “Dell POV content” that comes from the company.

    Creating Content Opportunities

    “Dell is a very large company. We have over 110,000 employees located across the globe, so it is always kind of tricky to coordinate content coming from different teams, different subject matter experts, [and] making sure a piece of regional content is aligned with a global strategy,” she said. “Sometimes we may have a really knowledgeable subject matter expert, and it’s a matter of working with them so that we strike on a content format that allows them to share their expertise.”

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    by Dell via YouTubeFor instance, Smith pointed out that if you’re an engineer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a comfort level with producing blogs. She said the Tech Page One content team would need to create an opportunity for them to participate that works best such as creating a video blog or an ebook where they’re going to create a very short, specific section that ladders up to their area of expertise.

    “Not everybody is comfortable sitting down and writing out 700 words of a blog and feeling like that they can also be a writer in addition to what their day job is. So that’s something that we have to be sensitive to, and I think a lot of brands need to be sensitive to,” Smith said. “We all have subject matter experts who could stand up on a convention room floor and they could talk to somebody about what they do and what’s happening in the industry and maybe even give insight into potential trends, but that doesn’t mean that writing is always second nature. I would really challenge brands to think in terms of how can they tell their story in a different way that can be ultimately more compelling and easier for their internal ambassadors and subject matter experts to engage in.”

    Combining organic expertise, freelancers and curated content offers depth and breadth to the digital efforts, but without a good measurement system in place, it’s difficult to know how to grow.

    “What I can say is that it would be foolhardy to start a project like Tech Page One without defining KPIs [key performance indicators] as a system to measure, so we definitely have a strategy in place before we did any type of execution,” she said.

    Starting With Strategy

    How does Tech Page One gauge their content’s success? Dell starts with strategy, but it looks at a variety of measurements.

    “What I can say is that it would be foolhardy to start a project like Tech Page One without defining KPIs [key performance indicators] as a system to measure, so we definitely have a strategy in place before we did any type of execution. Dell is a data-driven company, so we are always definitely looking at a number of areas to measure success. They’re proprietary, but yeah, it is a mix. We do have measurement tools, but we start with strategy,” she said.

    Tech Page One runs both original and curated content. Smith said she likes to use curated content for breaking news and to increase freshness on their site. How content marketers curate content varies, so marketers have to think about what will work best for them and the size of their operation.

    “The type of curation varies and the reason why you might use can vary also. I just think that if you have that firm idea in your mind of what you’re using curation for and what you hope it can do for you,” Smith said.

    Paid, Owned and Earned Media Tactics

    When it comes to distributing and promoting Tech Page One content, they use a combination of owned media, which is Dell’s own content, paid media to promote that original content and earned media such as getting their original content picked up by other websites to increase the content’s value and, most importantly, ROI.

    “It’s like a triangulated approach where paid, owned and earned all work together to increase our ROI. There are definitely teams that are related to each arm that whole system,” Smith said.

    That earned media includes Tech Page One content being picked up by Venture Beat and the Smithsonian. Furthermore, she said the website is being indexed in Google News searches and their content is being recognized. “We are producing quality technology news. That’s a validation for us,” she said. “That validation is very important to us.”

    “If what you need is to generate leads, are you engaging in a constant endeavor that could result in that or are you pairing awareness content with a goal that really is for a reader that is in the consideration stage?” Smith said.

    Right Content in Front of Right Audience

    When it comes to lessons in planning, what can content marketers learn from Dell’s Tech Page One?

    “Start with your goal and then be very firm in evaluating whether or not what you [have] striven to execute [or] can it even support your goal? Well, to get specific, if what you need is to generate leads, are you engaging in a constant endeavor that could result in that or are you pairing awareness content with a goal that really is for a reader that is in the consideration stage? So you’ll have a disconnect there if you’re waiting for that one-to-one relationship goal,” Smith said.

    She stressed that if you are pitching content to an audience at the awareness level, there’s going to be a disconnect between what they’re looking for and what content and message your company is delivering to them.

    “There’s probably going to be a lag between when you publish and when you see a lead show up and you might not be comfortable with the length of that lag. So you need to be — long story short — [tying] your content activities to the appropriate part of your customer journey,” she said.

    Organization is Key

    So how do you avoid having that disconnect with the content along the customer journey to begin with? That’s where planning is key, especially for those who need to get better at it.

    “I would say be organized and be transparent and I know that to be organized sounds like a bit of a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people [are] doing sort of ad hoc publishing. They’re accepting content from whoever has it, internally or externally, maybe they’re getting crowdsourced content, maybe they are working with their subject-matter experts to get content and they don’t have a plan,” she said.

    The content may not be timely or have any sort of news hook. “There’s no rhyme or reason for how or when the content shows up. So to me, that’s disorganized. I would say get a plan, figure out a rationale around what you need to be publishing at a particular point in time as it is relevant to your audience,” she said.

    As part of that planning process, determine what your audience wants to know so that the content you create is relevant to them. Smith recommends assessing how you are connecting with your audience to know what types of questions they’re asking and the types of information that they might logically need from you.

    “So what types of activities are you doing to listen to your audience to get feedback and to make sure that your content is useful. If it’s not useful, it’s not going to be relevant. If it’s not going to be useful then it’s certainly won’t be shared,” she said.

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