Kelly Hungerford
Kelly Hungerford

Kelly Hungerford has been using content marketing for quite some time as part of her job at On top of being the company’s head of content operations, she’s also in charge of community management, user experience and so much more.

Kelly lives in Europe and knows the market well. At the Content Marketing Conference Europe 2014 this community champion shared what she has learned “doing” content marketing as part of a broader strategy and operation. It’s a real “ask anything” master class with an experienced practitioner. In this interview, you learn more about Kelly (LinkedIn profile here), her views on content marketing in Europe and the key role of community.

Kelly, for people who don’t know you and your employer who are you, what is and what do you do at the company?

Kelly Hungerford: Who am I: that’s always a fun question. I’m an optimist, altruist and native Californian living in Switzerland. I’m a fiercely proud mom and wife. I love traveling, discovering new cultures and meeting people. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked in Europe the past twenty years.

When I’m not exploring the Swiss countryside with my family, you can find me at is a service that enables people to easily collect social shared content on a topic. In short, users tell us what type of content to monitor for them and we go out and round it up, analyze the content, filter it based on their preferences and then present in the format of an online newspaper. Each time a new edition of the newspaper goes online, we send the owner of the paper and the subscribers to the paper an email alert letting them know there the latest collection of topic relevant content is available.

Be the change your consumer or end user wants to see - Kelly Hungerford
Be the change your consumer or end user wants to see – Kelly Hungerford

Small business owners love the service because we provide a lot of value for a very low price. I think of as the Swiss Army Knife of content marketing: there’s functionality for just about every situation. My role at is multi-faceted. I am responsible for Customer Experience and the wellbeing of the community. On a tactical level I cover Marketing, PR, Communications, Community, Customer Service, Social Media, End-User Experience and Product Development. Early on, I covered a lot of it on my own. The team grew to last year. Whew!

Content is not enough: the power of community – or caring about your customers and fans

I watched a video made at Content Marketing World 2013, where you are interviewed by MarketingProfs. Among others, you explain the ambassador program you created at, Business Heroes. You were inspired by a book by Mack Collier, “Think Like a Rock Star”, you say. What exactly did you learn from it and what role does content play in your ambassador program?

Kelly Hungerford: I have a few must have books on my desk and Mack Collier’s Think Like a Rock Star is one of them. What I love most about the book is that it so hands on and so practical. Mack delivers case studies along with the actionable steps necessary to cultivate a thriving community of brand fans.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from Mack is that creating content, or even a program, is not enough: you need to give your fans something to love you for. What you give them doesn’t need a large budget, it simply needs to be something that they find awesome and brings value to both parties.

Our community is comprised of hundreds of thousands of solopreneurs, hobbyists and small business owners. I identified early on that the greatest gift we could our users was the gift of promotion: promotion of their business, a charity they might be raising money, a book release and so on.

I’ve been working with Mack since February to create an overarching strategy for our Ambassador program. We launched BizHeroes Twitter Chat in February. The chat shines the spotlight on experts within our community, and carries two goals:

  1. Raise awareness around the awesome talent within our community
  2. Connect our community with people within the community and industry that can help them get ahead in business

The pre-chat and post-chat content is wrapped around the Tweet-Guest for that specific chat. So far, so good. The chat generates between 10 and 12 million impressions per chat and this is excellent promotion for our featured Business Hero.

Now we’re working on a second element to our Ambassador program: a referral program. That should be a lot of fun!

As you said, you did it alone at the beginning and mentioned one of the key success factors was being close to the users of In your bio, you also say your motto is “Everyone wins, when the customer comes first.” Is it easier for smaller organization to be close to their community without too many resources? What tips do you have for businesses, small and big, to really put their customers/users first?

Kelly Hungerford: I think small organizations do have an advantage over larger ones when it comes to building relationships. Simply by building social listening into your job you instantaneously have a pulse on what the community feels and says about you. Take that a step further and interact with them and you have just opened a feedback channel. Act upon that feedback and you have started to build a relationship. Continue to build that relationship in an selfless way, a way that puts their best interests at the heart of your company, and you’ll not only have a customer, but also a fan and brand friend.

You don’t need an official mandate from your management to listen to what your community has to say. And don’t leave the listening up to the role of the community or social media manager. Everyone within the organization needs to understand their customers and should get out there and shake their virtual hands. Be the change your consumer or end user wants to see. It’s fun and rewarding.

Your ambassador program has grown. And you do a lot of Twitter, which is closely related to your audience. What other channels do you use and how have you determined the mix?

Kelly Hungerford: Twitter is by far our strongest channel. We’re present on G+ and FB as well, and I personally connect a lot over G+ and blogs. The mix is simply determined by where our fans are. Connecting with your fans is a much more efficient way than targeting users in general. Your fans want to talk to you and they want to share your message. It’s easy to find them. Grow big ears and listen to where they are hanging out.

I listened to a podcast in which you refer, as a self-confessed huge Twitter fan, to one of our other keynote speakers at the Content Marketing Conference in Antwerp, Jay Baer. You refer to one of his famous quotes: “content is fire and social media the gasoline”. Please explain and elaborate.

Kelly Hungerford: Twitter is awesome and it is by far my favorite platform, probably because it requires a lot of work to be articulate in 140 characters. Hit the right blend of wit and intelligence and you can almost see the virtual smoke.

The effect of watching a tweet gain momentum is truly like leaving a gasoline trail and then lighting a match.

On content curation and visual storytelling

For some of our visitors content marketing is still relatively new. Nevertheless, let’s take a quick look at what in the end is much about and is not a standard part of how businesses use content marketing: content curation. You were named one of 50 Great Content Curators recently. Congratulations for that. What is content curation and how can a business use it to better serve customers and audiences?

Kelly Hungerford: The beautiful thing about curation is that we are all doing it on a daily basis. We just don’t think about it. If you are passionate about something, take a hobby, you have probably been collecting articles and images, and bits and bobs around that hobby for a long time. You share that with others because you care. Because the quality of what you are sharing is extraordinary, or rare, or interesting, your passion elevates you to a different status in their eyes. You are now the go-to expert on sewing thimbles, bumble bees or creating wearable technology.

Online curation is the same. It’s all about daring to share what you care about. By taking time to share what is good and what is meaningful, you naturally please the people who are looking for that information and, as a by-product, leave a good impression.

In business it is a little more calculated, but the end effect should be the same.

  • Share with a goal in mind
  • Including people that you want to take notice
  • Make sure the content that you share is audience appropriate for that platform
  • Be available, and be ready, to actually speak to people! The best part about online curation for me is meeting people and sharing experiences and thoughts around a piece of content
  • Don’t be too calculated. Let your hair down and throw in something random. Show your personality and what you stand for

In one of your #BiZHeroes Twitter community chats you had Ekaterina Walter as a guest on visual storytelling. What are your thoughts on storytelling in general and on visual storytelling specifically?

Visual storytelling expert Ekaterina Walter – via Ekaterina’s website
Visual storytelling expert Ekaterina Walter – via Ekaterina’s website

Kelly Hungerford: Ekaterina is brilliant and her book on Visual Storytelling is another book to add to the list of helpful books.

The decreasing attention span of adults is definitely a worry for marketers and the one with the best visuals for the day will win. We see that one of the greatest benefits the ability to scan a page of content and quickly make a decision on which piece of content is of interest to read or share. It’s a time saver and people are short on time these days.

When it comes to building a relationships with our community though longer form content works best for us. Our users are looking for tips and help on how they can be more awesome. I make them a lot of How-Tos and Show-Yous. They aren’t catchy, sexy or snackable, but they are helpful and sometimes entertaining. You really can’t ever go wrong with empathy and a little humor.

Content marketing in Europe

You are based in Switzerland and worked in different European countries (more about the why in this interview on Xantipus). You also joined us to share views on content marketing across Europe. As a result of your job and community work, you know many people doing content marketing. Do you see any differences regarding the way content marketing is used across Europe?

Kelly Hungerford: For as much progress as we are making in Europe adaption is still behind our North American friends, and the UK is probably closer to North America in practice than continental Europe. I see culture and language as the greatest barriers, but if I had to pick one, I’d say blame it on culture.

Adaptation begins on a personal level. If you don’t believe and you are using or active on social channels then it is going to be difficult to get your head around the opportunities. And if you are pitching to a decision maker who isn’t socially active they aren’t going to have a clue about what you’re talking about. Good luck!

As you might have read in previous interviews with content marketers and speakers at the event in Antwerp, I always end with asking people to complete short sentences. I picked a few for you:

  • Compared to Swiss chocolate, Belgian chocolate… is so much better!
  • The main lessons Kelly Hungerford learned as a former project manager are… be a good listener, trust your team members, communicate and don’t go home early.
  • Content marketing is… a lot of hard work.
  • Women….rock.
  • The link between social and content… is the conversation.
  • Without content marketing, a community… would not be as much fun to build.
  • The first thing anyone wanting to improve the way they use content for marketing should consider is…how their customer or end use feels.
  • The customer…is an extended member of your team.
  • Passion…trumps logic any day.
  • Kelly Hungerford gets nervous when…someone calls me an expert.
  • The main challenge in ‘doing’ content marketing…having the confidence you can do it.
  • A good editorial process for a brand… is often created on the fly.
  • This evening Kelly Hungerford is going to eat…vegetarian pizza with my girls and husband.
  • Antwerp is…a truly awesome city!

Thanks Kelly for sharing so many useful insights.

Here are more content marketing insights from Kelly, shared at the occasion of the event.

Also check out these interviews with Content Marketing Conference 2014 speakers: