Boost your Content Strategy with Insights from Erika Heald, VP of Content

Tatiana Beale
April 29, 2016
Top Influencers

Building relationships is the most powerful way to engage with influencers. But, all too often, marketers don’t know how to get started. What do you ask for? What if you say the wrong thing?

One relationship building tactic I like to rely on is interviewing an influencer in order to get to know them better. Once you have established a rapport with an influencer (e.g. they have followed you on twitter, you retweeted something they posted, and then they ‘liked’ your retweet of their content!), then it’s appropriate for you to ask something of them...but only if it provides them with value. To illustrate an example, I reached out to Erika Heald, VP of Content at Highwire PR, and asked if I could interview her for the Traackr blog. I’ve already established a relationship with Erika, as we have worked together in the past and continue to stay connected, so it wasn’t overstepping my welcome by any means. By sharing my objective with her, which was to highlight her as a SME and leader in the content marketing/PR space, I established the WIIFT factor (what’s in it for THEM). She was happy to participate in the interview, which only took about 20 minutes via phone call.

When you conduct your own influencer interviews, start out by getting to know them a little better. As the VP of Content for Highwire PR, you might say Erika knows a thing or two about content marketing, but her professional background is in journalism (and before that, she worked at a record store!). Beyond her impressive resume, I’ve also learned that Erika loves to bake and maybe loves her two cats even more.

See? That’s how you get to know an influencer. But I’d like the rest of the marketing world to learn from Erika’s expertise, because Erika gets how to do content. And I don’t have to remind you of common, overused phrases, such as “content is king.” Yet nearly 75% of businesses created more content in 2015 compared to the year before, but only 12% feel they have an optimized content strategy.¹ Marketers who’d like to improve their content will get a ton of value from following Erika Heald, you’ll find her posts to be helpful in your everyday job.

Below you’ll find my Q and A with Erika, revealing her take on the current marketing ecosystem, her ideal mix of marketing tools, her remedy to mediocre content marketing, her advice for crafting the ideal influencer marketing strategy...and some predictions for the future. Enjoy!

About marketers:

TB: What are the top pains marketers face in their roles today?

EH: What I’m hearing is most marketers are fighting to justify their budgets, and struggling with being able to understand what marketing activities, and specifically what pieces of content, are really moving the needle for driving leads through their funnel.

TB: What’s the magic fix? What do they need to do in order to overcome these hurdles?

EH: Adopting a multi-touch attribution model is an important step towards being able to accurately determine the ROI of your marketing efforts. If you are relying on just first-touch or last-touch attribution, you aren’t going to have the full picture of what’s having an impact. Without that comprehensive understanding, you can’t make smart marketing investment decisions.

About Erika Heald:

TB: Describe your role as VP of Content at Highwire PR. What are you responsible for delivering?

EH: I work with clients across the agency to create a range of content–everything from e-books and contributed articles, infographics and Slideshares–and also work with content-only clients for integrated content projects.

TB: What is your top challenge in your role?

EH: My biggest challenge is finding freelance writers with deep enterprise tech expertise, or with a background in specific niche topics. I’m always working on sourcing more writers.

TB: Describe your ideal mix of marketing tech tools. How can marketers make the most of their marketing tech stack? With so many options, how can marketers narrow it down?

EH: The marketing pitches you receive for all-inclusive marketing tech platforms are so seductive, but I’ve yet to find any single marketing platform that meets all my needs. I think it’s important to identify the tools that will really encourage collaboration and streamline workflow across your team. That’s why I’m always using G drive, Evernote, WordPress, IFTTT, Canva, Hootsuite, and SproutSocial. I also have to give a shout out to TrackMaven which is one of my all-time favorite tools for understanding what’s driving engagement with your competitors’ content and social activities. At the end of the day, you have to make sure that the tech provides enough value to your team that they’ll bother using it. If you have a cumbersome workflow tool, for example, your team will slide back into the task management by email routine.

About influencer marketing:

TB: You specialize in Content Strategy (among other areas of expertise). In your opinion, how does influencer marketing fit into this discipline? Does it apply more to other disciplines over this one, and why?

EH: Understanding who influences your buyers is a key requirement for successful execution of your content strategy. In addition to tapping them for collaborative content creation and participating in your events, borrowing their audience is a great way to boost your reach. This can have an especially big impact if you’re a start-up, and haven’t yet built significant name recognition, and don’t have a big marketing budget to spend on advertising.

TB: Describe your own experience as an ‘influencer’. What does the ideal relationship look like with a brand?

EH: I get excited when I’m pitched a content project that has a strong professional development component. I like to have the opportunity to give back to the marketing community. Bonus points if it involves a podcast!

TB: How would you go about creating an influencer marketing strategy?

EH: You have to start by truly understanding your buyer personas. What are the primary information sources they turn to when making a purchase decision? Who are the influencers they go to for product recommendations and as a best practices source? After you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s also important to get to know the influencers and ensure both that they are a good fit with your brand, and that you are able to offer them a mutual benefit.

TB: Do you think influencer marketing is critical for marketers to overcome their top pains? Why or why not?

EH: Definitely (although not as much on the reporting side). Working with influencers is a great way to gain insight into your buyers, and extend the reach of your marketing activities, both of which will positively impact your ROI.

About the PR industry and the future:

TB: How has the PR industry changed in the last 5 years? What will it look like in the next 5?

EH: Content has become an increasingly more important part of PR programs. From creating visual content to accompany releases, to leveraging PR survey data to create infographics and whitepapers, to amplifying PR campaigns on social. This is also leading to breaking down some of the internal silos, and encouraging client PR, content, and social teams to integrate, or at least collaborate on a more regular basis.

Now it’s your turn - go out and interview your favorite influencer

I hope you took away something of value from my interview with Erika. The point is, I didn’t just ask Erika for an interview and then go radio silent. After our blog post interview, I then invited her to an event hosted by Traackr (which she attended), I continue to engage with her online, and we have become friends! That’s the best way to get someone influential on your side, and it’s nothing but genuine. I hope you’ll go out and interview your favorite influencer--and eventually, become their friend too.

1. Chaffee, Dave. Competing with Content Marketing [Infographic]. Hub Spot and Smart Insights, 16 Apr. 2016. Web. 27 Apr 2016. 

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Tatiana Beale

A B2B content marketer and publisher with a passion for creating unique story ideas. A stellar planner and executor with a “customer first” journalistic approach. A resourceful problem-solver motivated by deadlines and impacting business results.