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SHRM’s CMO Talks 4 Ways to Win the Content Marketing Continuum

Published on Feb 16, 2024

SHRM’s CMO Talks 4 Ways to Win the Content Marketing Continuum
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Back in 2019, SHRM (The Society for Human Resources Management) embarked on a journey that many companies are currently on: pivoting from a product-centric model to a renewed focus on putting their audience first. “We’re a 75-year-old organization, but we knew that we had to pivot before the business started to show that need,” says Chief Brand & Marketing Officer Tina Beaty.

If you change before you have to, you’re in the driver’s seat.

Since then, Beaty has helped oversee that transformation, ensuring that all marketing strategies and efforts revolve around customer and community needs. Now with five clearly defined primary audience segments, plus three to five sub-segmentations under each primary, Beaty’s team has their work cut out for them — but the sailing’s never been smoother. In a candid interview with springboard’s Editor-in-Chief, she shared expert insights and advice on what marketers can do to mimic SHRM’s success.

Leverage AI to Supercharge Human Intelligence

AI has been a hot topic for years, and with the latest advances, industries of all kinds are scrambling to keep up while some worry about being replaced altogether. “But until the robots fully take over, people are still our customers,” Beaty says. “And that’s why we have to have a human-centered strategy.”

At SHRM, the marketing team utilizes AI at a tactical level to find efficiencies and boost their overall effectiveness. And while it doesn’t drive their approach, “there’s really no part of our marketing function that’s not embracing AI in some way to make us better,” says Beaty. “We’re tinkering with it heavily on the content creation side as well as ideation, grammar, and other processes, asking:

How can AI help us get more creative, faster? How do we let it refine the ideas we already have and amplify them?

Tina’s Takeaway:

Think about where your team may still be doing a lot of manual effort that could be enhanced by certain AI tools. Maybe it’s data analysis, or time spent connecting the dots to identify trends that then fuel your content strategy and output. At SHRM, “Manually, that takes us a week,” Beaty says. “If running it through an algorithm takes half an hour, that’s a good use of technology” — and a great way to free up resources for other key tasks.

Related Reading: Mastering AI for Content Design: 3 Impactful Tips + How Generative AI Is Forcing Changes in B2B Content

Play the Long Game to Build Audience Trust

While most businesses and marketing teams are mainly looking to grab eyeballs, convert them, and bring them to the point of sale, SHRM starts a few steps back. “There are certainly short-term wins we’re aiming for, but we look through a lens of long-term value,” Beaty says. “We know that if we’re seen as a trusted resource on a topic, that positions us differently when a consumer starts to consider competitors and get to the point of purchase” — precisely because their relationship with us has been based on providing real value instead of proactively selling.

“We’re purposefully positioning ourselves as the voice of all things work and we’re not afraid to build trust across various related issues, because we know that’s what’s important to our audience,” she continues. “It might not be the fastest way to a sale, but we’re truly here with a mission in mind and it’s worth it for us to have that dynamic relevance across a wide range of topics.” Because, at the end of the day, that’s why HR professionals turn to SHRM. 

We spend a lot of time purposefully creating a trusted environment and we won’t relinquish that just for conversion of traffic or getting people deeper into the sales funnel.

Tina’s Takeaway:

Don’t just look to drive traffic to your site with a buzzy headline. Work on becoming a verified source on whatever your niche may be. “We pride ourselves on the facts, the proprietary data you can’t get anywhere else,” says Beaty. “As the news cycle swirls on any given work-related topic, whether or not we’re the ones breaking the story, our guarantee to the reader is that it’s validated. It’s based on research and facts. That’s our guiding light for anything we create, and we believe once that reader does get in the funnel, they’ll be motivated buyers because of the work we did upfront.” 

Related Reading: 6 Ways to Build Trust With Your B2B Audience + How to Create Ownable Conversations: A Step-by-Step Guide to Engaging With Niche Communities

Focus on Holistic Storytelling From the Inside Out

For brand marketing to truly succeed, cross-functional collaboration and commitment is crucial. Luckily at SHRM, the CEO and senior sales leader are fully aligned, making it easier to instill the company’s message and messaging across teams and departments. “It’s become part of our internal ethos,” Beaty says. “As much as we talk about our guiding principles from an internal perspective, we talk about what our story is and ask, what are we trying to convey? Why are we here? Why do people want to turn to us?”

With a multitude of entry and exit points in the consumer journey, “We look at everything holistically. That’s why we have to be really confident in our overarching marketing strategy,” which means ensuring any story SHRM tells — from national television commercials to smaller, targeted campaigns and everything in between — follows the same look, feel, and tonality. So that “even the smallest touchpoint is going to immediately connect and make sense, enabling the recognition of that story, the brand, and the decision to turn to SHRM for their needs.”

Every touchpoint is a continuum of storytelling that’s designed to motivate your buyer to change their behavior.

Tina’s Takeaway:

Your brand is more than a logo or tagline, and to get all employees and stakeholders on board, it’s just as important to know its story as it is to understand the why of it. “We offer that story, along with our brand strategy and storytelling guidelines, internally to everyone,” Beaty says. “As people begin to understand the power behind a consistent message, they can start to pull that out to their teams — so that it’s not just the marketers and content creators absorbing it, but truly the entire company.”

Related Reading: How to Tell An Unforgettable Brand Story + 5 Ways Marketing and Sales Teams Can Still Thrive During a Recession

Pause Before Addressing Your Audience

Beaty’s final piece of advice? “Don’t market to your audience,” she says with a smile. “By that I mean, first understand who you are as a company and the story you want to tell. And then stop. Pause. Take a step back. When they’re wearing a ton of hats and their budgets are stretched thin, too often marketers race to an idea without taking a purposeful pause — both at the strategy and at the messaging level — to really ask: What is my audience doing? What do they wake up thinking about in the morning? What do they reach for first?”

To figure out how your message is going to land, you first have to understand the world in which your audience is operating.

Tina’s Takeaway:

Invest in understanding. “We spend a lot of time ensuring that everything we put out into the market understands and is ready to welcome each prospect into their journey — knowing that it’s only going to make sense for them. That’s why we have to personalize, but do it at scale,” Beaty says. 

Beyond internal team training and help from AI, SHRM’s also “investing in our martech stack and bringing in a customer data platform (CDP) and data lake to drive our content and marketing strategy as well as product development. At this point, there’s not much that doesn’t go through that process of audience understanding — at least as a gut check, if not driving the whole strategy.”

Related Reading: How to Refine Your Content Strategy with Audience Insights + Audience Data and the Future of Content Marketing + Demand Gen


Interview & editing by: Lauren Smith & Emily Noel

Feature written by: Anastasia Dyakovskaya