Doug Kessler on hiring writers, SEO and the return of interruption marketing

Doug Kessler: We make content for people
Doug Kessler: We make content for people

Refreshing: that’s the first word that pops up when you read anything by self-proclaimed content marketing junkie Doug Kessler. His colourful approach and genuine excitement for content marketing shines through in interviews like the one we did earlier.

And we thought that just screamed for a follow-up interview. Read on to know where Doug stands on hiring writers, SEO, the return of interruption marketing and toilet brush techniques.

You mentioned earlier that good writing is at the core of good content marketing. However most writers are free thinkers who tend to become unhappy in corporate environments or even steady jobs. Which HR decisions should a company make to produce top-notch content?

Doug Kessler: Great writers are rare. So when we find them, we ask, “How do you want to work?” If they want a job, we hire them. If they want to sell us 1-4 days a week on contract, we do that. If they prefer ad hoc freelance, we do that. If they want to work from home or from Germany, they work from home or Germany. If they want to bring their dog, we buy biscuits.

Many of the best writers don’t want a job. But some do. We never stop looking and when we find them we hire them! It’s even harder for client-side – writers like the variety that agency life brings. (But that’s one of the reasons Velocity makes the big bucks.)

Knowing your audience

You feel very strong about getting out there and getting to know your audience. Some dedicated copywriters take bus rides to eavesdrop on their audience. What are some of your favourite ways to know the buyer?

Doug Kessler: Buy them coffee or lunch or beer. Velocity writers do lots of phone interviews too – people tend to be really happy to share their experiences.There’s nothing like a hearing someone who’s in your target audience talking about their challenges and frustrations.

If you sell to manufacturers, get yourself into some factories. If you sell to off-shore oil platforms, get on that helicopter. Selling pig feed? Learn to wallow.

Online marketing seems to be all about content that is helpful or entertaining. Do you see a role for old school, direct-response style copywriting online, outside of producing spam of course?

Doug Kessler: I’ve always loved hard-sell direct response copy and I do think there’s still a place for it. It’s only spam if it’s badly targeted or timed.Under the shiny surface, we’re all salespeople. And I don’t think selling is anything to be ashamed about.

Should content creators care about SEO?

Looking forward, should content creators care about SEO at all?

Doug Kessler: At Velocity, SEO is not very high on our list of things to think about when we develop content strategies or create content. But it is on the list.

It’s important to know what terms your prospects use when they search for the kinds of things you do. And to keep an eye on who’s ranking top for these terms and why. Ignoring that is just negligent.

But when SEO is the prime driver of content strategy, the result tends to be soulless.We make content for people. When we succeed, the search spiders always figure it out.

The return of interruption-based marketing

Marketers are increasingly frustrated with results from content distributed through social media. Even for good content it’s hard to build decent reach. What do you tell them?

Doug Kessler: Building an audience around a strong content brand takes time. Until you’ve got that audience, content distribution will feel a bit thankless and discouraging.

Once you start getting known for useful, fun, intelligent, relevant content, each new piece has a following wind. It gets a lot easier. Until then, paid media can be important.

Facebook and Google are pushing brands to advertise. Do you think we are evolving to a situation in which brands have to pay for eyeballs just like in the mass media age?

Doug Kessler: Yes. We’re already seeing the return of what used to be scorned as ‘interruption-based’ marketing. Two good things:

  1. If the strategy is sound, content ads perform much better than product ads ever did.
  2. The better your content brand, the less you’ll have to spend.

So all the fundamentals of content marketing still apply. We just have to add paid media back into the mix.

If the strategy is sound, content ads perform much better than product ads ever did

Nothing is too boring for content marketing

I’m a toilet brush manufacturer. Can I do content marketing and how?

Doug Kessler:

  • eBook: Bog Brush Hygiene for Squeamish People
  • Video: It’s all in the wrist: toilet brush techniques
  • infographic: What Your Bog Brush Style Says About You
  • Pinterest board: Brush Ups: user photos of alternative uses for (clean) toilet brushes
  • Slideshare: Loo Etiquette: A User’s Guide

No product, market or topic is too boring, yucky or embarrassing for content marketing!

When SEO is the prime driver of content strategy, the result tends to be soulless