Carrie Sloan is the Director of the Global Content Lab at Johnson & Johnson. She is an award-winning digital executive who has created content for blue-chip companies including Procter & Gamble, Amazon, and J.P. Morgan Chase. Carrie has also led editorial teams at AOL and spent her formative years as an editor at magazines such as Marie Claire and Mademoiselle. Her work has been published in over 25 national magazines and newspapers, and she has appeared on CBS, NBC and the Today Show.
Ahead of her presentation at the Content Strategy Innovation Summit in Los Angeles this September 15-16, we sat down with Carrie to talk all things content strategy.
How did you get started in content marketing strategy?
I fell into it, actually. I had always been a journalist, and eventually an Editor in Chief of several sites. I was the Chief Content Officer at LearnVest, a personal finance start-up, and I managed an editorial team producing personal finance stories to teach everyday people how to create a budget, get out of debt and save for retirement. When I took the job, someone said to me: 'Personal finance? That’s so boring. You write the same ten stories over and over.' I completely disagreed. Money is personal, and I personally believed we’d never run out of stories to tell.
We created a new content type, the 'Money Mic,' which was a personal essay series about personal finance. Topics ranged from trust funders who’d blown their inheritance, to one woman who bought one stock on her 26th birthday and grew it into a significant nest egg. It was financial voyeurism at its best, and our readers ate it up … and learned a lot in the process.
Around that time, J.P. Morgan Chase came to us and said: 'You seem to know how to talk to women about their money.' They were launching a new campaign for their Blueprint credit card, teaching consumers how to be more mindful about spending, and they wanted to make a foray into content marketing. Through our partnership, we pitched ideas and wrote stories, actually partnering with a leading behavioral economist Chase had brought on board, who taught us all valuable lessons about how even good intentions can go awry based on how our brains are wired. That was the beginning.
From there, other blue-chip financial firms came to LearnVest, and we started up a Content Lab within the company to partner with them on content marketing campaigns. In 2014, we won an Influence & Co-MVP Award for creating the most influential financial content on the web. The lesson for me was that I loved finding just the right idea to help a particular brand connect, and as long as you’re authentic, and can really connect to your reader or stakeholder in a voice and on a topic they can relate to, it can be a win-win for everyone.
How have new technologies impacted your organization’s content strategy?
Significantly. I got to Johnson & Johnson a year ago, and my first task was finding the best technology to enable best-in-class storytelling. The current corporate site wasn’t created when content marketing existed. Simply put, it wasn’t built to be a storytelling platform. Sure, we had a blog, but that was the only place (and only type!) of content you could publish. The homepage would allow you to 'host' content, and point out to a story published on a third-party site, but that meant we weren’t capturing any of the SEO value of publishing stories, which is a significant strategic advantage in the long-term.
We looked long and hard for a great Content Management System with global capabilities, because we intend to scale: Johnson & Johnson is the largest broad-based healthcare company there is, with 128,000 employees around the globe.
I think when it comes to the stories you tell, of course, it’s about the quality of the ideas and the channels you choose to push them out in, but often the technology is overlooked. That impacts not only your output but the type of talent you can attract. Smart writers hate working in a wonky CMS, and this might also mean you need to hire agencies or producers to do that work.
What metrics should organizations be looking at when judging how successful their content is?
That depends on your strategy, and the distribution channels you’re using. We’re going to be looking at so-called 'vanity' metrics of visitors to the site year-over-year, and especially pageviews per visit, or how much content they’re consuming.
But we also know that most people are busy, and don’t navigate to a portal, so you need to meet them where they are: On the social channels, you’re looking for reach, engagement, and we’re also looking sentiment, particularly for specific activations, because it’s a good proxy for how we’re impacting reputation.
How do you see content strategy changing this year?
For us, the Global Content Lab will launch in earnest this year, with a new corporate site, six dedicated channels of content and 20+ different storytelling templates, ranging from long-form stories to listicles and animated GIFs. It’s also Johnson & Johnson’s 130th anniversary, so we’re looking at how we talk about both our heritage, and how we’re leaning into innovation … the breakthroughs for the next 130 years.
I think we’re also seeing a lot of new strategic partnerships. Not just with content being promoted via paid amplification on Facebook, but an actual content partnership with Facebook itself.
What will you be discussing in your presentation?
I’ll talk more about that partnership, as well as how and when to tell a story. The importance of timing and knowing what’s going on in the outside world, and how, sometimes, you have to marry that to your brand’s own strategy to get lift on the content.
I’ll also discuss some cool visual trends we’re seeing, and new ways to spike engagement on video content. But I’ll save some of that for the presentation.
You can hear more from Carrie, along with other industry-leading executives, at the Content Strategy Innovation Summit this September 15-16 in Los Angeles. To register your interest, click here.