Welcome to a new season of the WordBirds Podcast: Friends of the Bird! For our first episode Gideon (Gidi) Pridor joins Chris to chat about why investing in content marketing is a must for business success.
Gidi is the Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo (a Zoom company) and an expert in all things related to content marketing strategy. Gidi shares insight and tips for how to grow your brand awareness through content, how AI will impact marketing budgets, the benefits of content marketing for turning potential customers into brand advocates, and how to create high quality content.
Are you ready to improve your marketing campaigns, build brand loyalty, and start creating content that truly resonates with your target audience? Tune in below!
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Hello, Gideon, welcome to the show!
Hello, Chris. I’m happy to be here. It’s been ages, right?
It has been ages. I think people should probably understand where we know each other from. I took a job at a company.
We used to be married, we used to be married,
We did. I wasn’t gonna go that deep, but yes. I mean, that was a scenario that we were in.
We worked together at Perfecto, back when it was Perfecto Mobile, before the big rebrand into Perfecto and the acquisition by Perforce. Gideon and I spent a lovely and fascinating two years together.
It’s been pretty crazy! After my last company, called TravelPerk, became a big unicorn in the business travel software market.
We’re actually turning it on here. We’re gonna be using TravelPerk starting next month.
Cool! So I was there from really, really early on and I lead marketing there. I always do the same in companies that are disrupting a category, building a category because I love storytelling.
I always say that every marketer has a lot of stuff that they know about and usually one thing that they’re really good at. It takes an age to understand what’s your thing. And my thing is storytelling, which is why I like category disruption.
We did that and it became big and all that. And then I started consulting mainly for equity for various early stage startups, which is usually where I enter. And I met John, the CEO and founder of Workvivo. I loved what they’re doing and got connected to the mission.
It’s basically an internal communications and engagement platform where you go to an employee app where everything happens from the CEO communicating to staff, to me telling you, “Hey, shout out, kudos” and people chime again. So it’s digitizing a lot of the culture and engagement aspects in an organization. It boomed since COVID for obvious reasons, right?
And I got lured in. I started to do this full time, built a team, and told stories. The marketing strategy was and is very, very story-driven. We do a lot of content of different types. Then we got acquired by Zoom in order to complement their growing portfolio of Unified Collaboration as a Service, UCAST.Content drives everything else. If you don't have it, nothing's going to work. Click To Tweet
We bring in a whole new aspect, which is less about productivity and collaboration and much more about the employee experience, the relation of the emotional connection of employees to the company. And together we’re building something that’s a true digital workplace platform where all communication happens. Synchronous, asynchronous, productivity, engagement, and so forth. So it’s the beginning of a new journey. It’s been really exciting and really intense.
Are there offices in Israel or are you just moving home?
No, there are people that are working from Israel, I know, but there aren’t offices. So moving home and also for a year, that’s something we always had planned out since you and I worked together in Boston. So we’re going to do that and then probably go back to Europe.
Fantastic. Giddy’s wife is from Spain, which is how this all evolves. When I met him, here in Boston, and they were living here. Then they moved to Barcelona, which is lovely. And now back to Tel Aviv, which is also nice. I spent a lot of time with Gidi in Tel Aviv. It’s how I learned Israel. It was fantastic.
But hey, let’s talk some content. So sort of a quick fire round. I’m gonna ask you three questions, short answers, then we’re gonna dig in. First, what’s your best and most successful content campaign?
I’d say, at Workvivo we did a campaign called HR burnout. You want me to explain?
Not yet. What was your worst content campaign?
“Ditch your travel agent.”
I want to get into that. Out of the two of those, which one taught you the most about moving forward?
I think the worst one.
Let’s dig in. So I’m guessing I can guess what the problem was with the “Ditch your travel agent,” campaign but go ahead. What was that campaign?
So we’re at an early stage at TravelPerk. It’s a trillion dollar business travel market. It’s huge and we were very small. Today it’s a huge company. Us and our competitor back then are both valued in the billions and became really big. Back then, we were tiny and we’re trying to fight all these huge travel management companies, American Express, Global Business Travel, and all that. And we tried to do content. We tried to be provocative.
One of my main narratives was “why would you use a travel agent when you have a thing that you could do yourself and you get the support and like it’s tech-y and it’s fast.” So nobody used to visit the blog and nobody responded on social media so I asked for more provocative stuff and I wish I could have blamed somebody else but I wrote the narrative myself. I sat down and said, “I’ll do it. Fine. Move aside.”
I wrote a few narratives, like skeletons. And all of them were around the theme of ditching your travel agent. Basically, it made you feel that travel agents are obsolete. It’s like, “oh, that’s dinosaurs. It’s not good.” And the good news was that for a company our size, it blew up. It really blew up, like LinkedIn, conversations, opinions, stuff.
The bad news is that in the beginning, I was proud, and I was saying, “hey, every publicity is good publicity,” which is obviously not true. It’s things that bad politicians say, right? After the first hype of, “yeah, here, here. Very good. Right. We hate traveling with a travel agent.” Then travel agents started to respond. And it’s like millions of people that I just attacked their job and their reason to exist basically, and called them bad things, or at least that’s how it’s perceived, right? And then a lot of negative energy started to accumulate around these things. And I couldn’t even erase it anymore because it was a thing. It was a lot of content and blog posts and stuff that people reposted, and so forth.
What I learned from it is that the positive, like a thumbs up and all that, your fan base, disappears in like a day. The other thing, the real impact of how people absorb good content, if it’s being circulated for good or for worse, that stays for longer. You need to be responsible with it. It also taught me that you should always lean towards positive more than negative. Negative is always easier. It’s easy to insult someone. It’s harder to explain why you’re good. Or if you’re not talking about yourself, it’s harder to explain why your approach to the market and how it’s supposed to change is the right one, it’s much easier to say that sucks.
We never did that again. We talked about improving business travel as it is. We highlighted stuff that’s not working as it used to be, but it was a guideline for my account marketing for the years to follow. It’s okay to be provocative, but never cross the line. Never be offensive. Nobody wants to get enemies and these things stick in the internet forever. So I learned a lot of that.
So you don’t have a lot of friends that are travel agents right now?
No, no, not a lot, not a lot.
I think that’s interesting because what you were doing was fun. It sounds like a fun message. It’s an attention getting message and it got attention. It just didn’t necessarily get all the attention that you thought it was going to.
And we’re seeing that now in the world of AI. AI can come and change the way that you build content and people are hearing that. Content creators are hearing that and saying, “oh cool, so when are you sending me home as a result of this new product advancement?”
Where do you come in on that? How does this change? How do you change the way that you work without changing all of the people and all of the process and everything that you do?
It’s a good question.
Or do you? I mean, you could also be very evil.
So it’s a really good question. And I don’t mean it in the American way that you just say something is a good question, like a lot of times in a conversation. I mean it in the Israeli way, like it’s really a good question. But I don’t know the answer to that question.
I could tell you how I’ve been looking at it so far, it does definitely create anxiety because you ask this thing stuff and it brings out stuff in a minute that you’re like, “OK, that doesn’t seem so far than what my content writer would have done.” Now, when you do a bunch of them, then you see that there are, of course, gaps. And it’s already becoming easier to identify what was written completely by AI or not. I think that it’s changing, and it will change everything. What people don’t agree on is exactly how.Everything is going to get easier if you're spending the money in the back end to tell the right stories, to engage the right audience. Click To Tweet
I disagree with the statement that it will, let’s say, replace content marketing. I never thought that good content marketing was about volume. Because even before AI, you could outsource it somewhere and write thousands of articles for SEO. And then SEO becomes smarter, and these become obsolete. And they find another way to try to trick the system till they find out that it’s maybe a better investment of your money and attention to actually write good content that says stuff.
I think that there’s a huge opportunity in AI that would enable people to produce more content and save time on stuff like research, for example. I like to write skeletons. So my content team could write stuff after I gave a base idea. Like if there’s five reasons for why democratized open communication is the way to go, I want to think of the five suggested in five bullets and they could help me write it, for example. And I like to back that with research, but research would take a long time, like reading a hundred-page Deloitte study.
If you know how to use the right prompts, it could really, really make that easier and help you come up with a skeleton that actually has references and statistics and researchers find the bottom lines in there, validate that the sources are real, but it lets you do very comprehensive work quicker. If you know how to use it, I think that the actual brains will remain human, at least for the time being until Artificial Intelligence becomes non-artificial intelligence. That will happen as well at some point.
But for now, I think it could help. It could help with research. It could help with developing more skeletons with fine tuning, like titles to be more provocative or less provocative, and a bunch of stuff like that. But it’s mainly an empowerment tool that I think would let you run a much better content team with fewer people.
But still people that write that bring the tone of voice and people that architect and bring the actual ideas and knowledge to life. So it’s an amazing enhancer. If you know how to use it, I feel I’m just getting started with understanding how to use it, but I’m pretty convinced that it doesn’t replace a content marketing team.
For us, it seems to replace things that we don’t have, right? So you’ve met Charlotte, our producer for the show. She’s also one of our content creators and she creates this amazing content that then we get the BDR team saying, “okay, well, we need an email cadence on this, or we need to turn this into landing pages.”
All of this additional use from this key asset, that’s a great use case for generative AI because we don’t have somebody responsible for creating email cadences, where does that fall? Is it a digital role? Is it a content marketing role? It’s somewhere in the middle, but the ability to take something and say, “okay, here’s the thing, turn it into what everybody needs.” That’s super valuable and it doesn’t replace anybody.
It fills a gap that I know I have and it makes the team better and more efficient and delivers more value from a single piece of content. So our workload from a content marketing standpoint isn’t changing, the product of what comes out of our work is changing.
But when you think about yourself scaling, then it would potentially change how many people you would have hired over time. Because you could have hired people that all they do is take the thing and repurpose that into different things. So I think there will be smaller, sharper, more powerful content teams that leverage this thing. The main thing, I forgot how you like to say “thing,” by the way. We love to say “thing” So it’s a thing, right? You say it all the time.
It’s a “thing,” yes.
My prediction is that with AI there’ll be more work for smart people or imaginative people that know how to imagine stuff. There might be less work in some roles that are mainly about repurposing or like harvesting something, right? But creating the thing is still the most important thing.
Like the concept message that you want to talk about. And then taking that and reducing a lot of the work of repurposing that into different channels and types of content and all that, it lets you be a much leaner, meaner content team that could produce a lot more, but you still need to be able to produce the core message, the core knowledge, the core intelligence, and then use the tool in order to repurpose and replicate that.I feel that most SaaS companies out there aren't good at this side of marketing. They're good at data. And most of them aren't brave, bold enough in order to invest, truly invest in content marketing and a content marketing brand. Click To Tweet
Absolutely! If we go into ChatGPT and say, “write me a 45-page eBook on content governance.” It’s going to go look at our website and create something that we already wrote, it’s not going to create new. So we need to create the new and then leverage that new for the derivatives and that becomes super interesting.
There are all kinds of additional things that you could be doing in the workflow, but that one thing, that’s the promise of automation. It’s taking the best of what creative minds can do and taking the manual work out of it. That’s super interesting.
I tried to trick my team various times lately by writing stuff with ChatGPT. So, I got to the stage where I pitched really good skeletons with actual research. Then they go to the research, they validate it, and then I get good feedback: “Wow, that’s a really good skeleton.” It’s really backed up by data, we have statistics, and I use the prompts better and better. Like, “Hey, ChatGPT give me this and each point needs to be backed up by an industry lindustry-leadingcompany. And I get that.
But when I try to do the full article, they catch me. They already identify that it looks ChatGPT-ish, you know?
Yep, it starts to look familiar. All of a sudden you find a question that it asked and you didn’t answer. I’m like, “ah, damn it, all right. Clearly I didn’t write this part.” Yeah, that’s a hoot.
One of the things that I’ve been talking about lately with folks, I had this conversation several days ago, was Factors Magazine. Remember Factors? Randall and Carlo put it together. It was the guide to all of the cellular devices in the market at any given point that we handed to the sales team at Perfecto to go sell more product. You remember that beautiful magazine? It was probably in your last year.
Oh, that’s so disappointing. Because to me, that’s my example of an amazing content campaign. Because it wasn’t just DemandGen — it still was, we got a lot of leads out of the webinars that came out of the announcement of each new issue. But it was handing something to a salesperson that dramatically shifted the value of their deal.
You walk into a major bank and they say, “well, we’d like to test on 10 devices.” Cool, flip, flip through the book. That’s given me 30% test coverage vibes. Is that about where you intended to be? “No, we’re an incredibly important global bank.” Okay, well, where do you wannabe? 100% test coverage? No, that’s not a thing. How about 80% test coverage? Flip, flip, flip. That’s 100 devices in this country, another 50 in this country, and we need to split across multiple continents.
We’ve just changed this deal from $150,000 a year to 1.7 million first year deal value. That’s a hugely successful piece of content marketing. And it goes beyond the expectations of content marketing because it reaches into the middle and end of the funnel, closes deals and makes those deals bigger while it’s closing. If we could do more of that, like those were the good old days. We need to find more things like that.
You can still find things like that. So if you manage to involve product marketing, for example, or people that are in the frontline selling, in the sales organization, then you get this sort of input in order to even understand what’s the gap.
Content marketing could help with a lot more than what people traditionally think. But In order to do that in the marketing team, you need to have people that know how to produce content marketing and understand the business and the gaps and why stuff isn’t moving down the funnel in a good enough way.So, I said that there are two ways in order to really get through. And one of them is humor. And one of them is empathy. Click To Tweet
I don’t remember that magazine, but I remember before that, I was involved in doing the optimizer, a thing that used to always have the top 30 devices in the market. And it used to change and show you your coverage. All these things came out of an understanding that people want coverage and they don’t know exactly what it means. They go to the store and buy it. So it’s more than just thought leadership. It’s something that actually pushes you to action. That’s an amazing impact.
Yeah, it felt so easy to overlay that on top of that business. Not every business has that kind of a play. Tell me a little bit about HR Burnout. What’s that campaign about?
We, in Workvivo, the sale is very emotionally driven. The CEO is involved a lot of time. You talk about pains like this connection and this engagement. Especially since people started to work remotely, people in the frontline that like aren’t involved in the company culture and all that.
So, we wanted to produce content around that that resonates and creates a movement or highlights a problem that creates empathy that people — that our personas, which are comms people or HR people, respond to.
We tried a few things and none of them were interesting enough. We did surveys and stuff and it was only okay. The key take away is that communication is important, authenticity is important. It enters here, it goes out here, right?
Our Head of Comms came up with an idea. The idea came from outside of content marketing. A lot of it was written by content marketing. So we did a big survey with HR leaders. Not about their role, we asked about them as people, their job, what happened since COVID, how hard it became, stuff that we realized after a lot of thought that a lot of these surveys are missing. They’re talking about the employee, they’re talking about the company, the culture, the engagement. We focused on the person, on you as an HR leader.
The results were amazing. We had four or 5000 people that we asked, and we collaborated with communities as well to give it credibility. One of the questions showed that 98% of the HR leaders that we surveyed said that they feel completely burned out and a slightly lower number said that they were considering leaving their job. They’re done, basically. That’s after a year and a half of hell, really, of being there trying to manage all of these craziness and changes in the workplace.Content marketing could help with a lot more than what people traditionally think. But In order to do that in the marketing team, you need to have people that know how to produce content marketing and understand the business and the gaps. Click To Tweet
So we went out with that, and with these really, really powerful statistics, and it really became a hashtag, like #HRburnout. It’s still being quoted until today. That’s two years later. I think that we got at least a thousand earned mentions from Forbes and World Street Journal to other places around this thing. We wrote dozens of content pieces that related back to that thing. It became like, I wouldn’t say a movement, but a mega campaign that we developed campaigns from. It got us a lot of leads, a lot of brand recognition, and it’s still alive after two years. So we’re planning the second one. And it all came from that idea to actually focus on the person and not on the function of the person or the company.
It’s even beyond value messaging. It’s aiming right at their emotional state. They’re being heard and understood.
At a time where they tried to make sure that everybody was being heard because people have fatigue from being remote and this and that, and they’re not engaged. All these problems, but nobody was talking about the people whose jobs just became 10 times harder. Everybody complains, people have anxiety, people in HR are pushed to the limit. I talked to dozens and dozens of them.
That thing brought this obvious thing to life, but nobody was asking. And suddenly we got a lot of interest from these people that felt understood and that this represents something they feel. CEOs felt that this is a risk that they’re having inside their team, are their HR people going to leave? What’s going to happen? They’ve never been more important than now, right?
It was like a bull’s eye and it came out of thinking very differently and thinking from the comms side, I remember. What potentially could unveil something that’s not more of the same? So we were thinking angles and angles and angles, and then we’re like, okay, let’s ask about them. And the results were spot on. So I still see every week on Slack what the media mentions that we still have on a weekly basis. Articles in different places, referencing this thing, calls for collaboration on content, rights to use it, and stuff like that two years on.
It makes a case for really knowing your persona because if you know who you’re going after, then you can understand their psyche and how to speak to them in the emotion, the tone, the voice, and the words that they need to hear. Versus just throwing value at them: “Hey, we got this thing, you should look at it.”
Which is what so much of marketing is, is look at the thing, look at the thing, look at the thing. You’re saying, no, I hear you, I understand what you’re going through. Let’s talk about how we can make your life easier. I feel like people will be attracted to that.
Yeah, completely! I also think there’s an angle that has to don’t only with content marketing, but with marketing. And that has to do with humanizing stuff. I did this talk in SaaS talk in Dublin about story-led marketing this year, or end of last year.
End of last year, I watched it.
So, I said that there are two ways in order to really get through. And one of them is humor. And one of them is empathy. And when you create anything, it could be communication, social content, articles that you’re writing, or just your general messaging, thinking about the person, not only the business side of the company, is always a good place to go. Because we’re people and we’re selling to people and the human factor really gets disregarded too commonly.My prediction is that with AI there'll be more work for smart people or imaginative people that know how to imagine stuff. There might be less work in some roles that are mainly about repurposing. But creating the thing is still the most important… Click To Tweet
Like, you sell something, you’re not fixing the fact that they’re completely burned out. But, i’s a part of the problem because they’re so burned out because everybody suddenly has problems because they’re working remotely in 2021. And you don’t have an office and they’re not used to it and they’re not equipped for it. We have software that helps people feel recognized. You know, it gives you a shout out. It connects stuff to company values and goals. You hear the CEO all day long. There’s a cultural thing that happens digitally.
So without pushing it too hard, it’s connected to that problem that that persona has on an emotional level and you don’t have to push it. You just have to empathetically show that you understand that they’re going through a lot right now.
That’s fantastic. I’ve taken so many notes on that. I wonder if I can do that here.
So the last part of this, I won’t keep you all day, but the last part is the PSOTD. I feel like I learned this working with you. The PSOTD is the Provocative Statement of the Day. It’s a closely held opinion of yours that other people might not agree with, but that you feel pretty strongly about.
I don’t think you learned that from me. Nobody ever taught you how to be provocative. You were born this way.
Fair enough. So what would your Provocative Statement of the Day be? Right now, at this point in your life, what’s your provocative statement?
Well, I feel that you might really disagree with this one. I feel that content marketing can’t really be 100% measured. Parts of it could. And I also feel that most SaaS companies out there, they’re not that good at this side of marketing. They’re good at data. And most of them aren’t brave, bold enough in order to invest, truly, truly invest in content marketing and a content marketing brand. And realizing that there’s a lot of good that would bring that they can’t measure.
But the ones that do and do it from a very early stage would see great, great benefits in terms of inbound. And in terms of general brand recognition and stuff that you only start to think about when you’re a much later stage scale up.It's already becoming easier to identify what was written completely by AI or not. I think that it’s changing, and it will change everything. What people don't agree on is exactly how. Click To Tweet
So I think it’s two in one. I think that even comes to content marketing. I really think that most SaaS growth stage startups aren’t doing a good job and are only looking at stuff that they could feel that they measure like SEO stuff.
And I feel that in general, great content marketing could be measured only to an extent. We should also respect our feedback, the feedback that we’re getting from our own instinct about what kind of impact this thing has, especially if you want to change an existing market, change a paradigm, do stuff like that. But yeah, that’s what I think.
No, I buy that completely because if you look at it at surface value, I know what a lead costs, I know what a meeting costs, I know what the progression is, I know all my conversion rates. I also know the leads that I get from an individual piece of content, but there’s all kinds of programs running around that, so then the content has a cost, it doesn’t really have a measurement.
But I think what you’re saying is that good content is an overall lubricant of the process. So that content that becomes recognized, that becomes valuable to your audience, is going to make it easier to get leads. It’s going to be easier for deals to progress. It’s going to have an impact in the middle of the funnel from a thought leadership standpoint. It’s going to engage a champion that’s going to allow them to drive up to an economic buyer.
Everything is going to get easier if you’re spending the money in the back end to tell the right stories, to engage the right audience. Is that Essentially your message?
Yeah, my message is that, on the positive side, I think that great marketing leaders today from a very early stage should be bold enough to invest not only in what they could measure perfectly, but also in what they could measure only partially. And then accept that and not try to measure fake leading metrics to stuff.
It’s very important to excite the market, to excite your audience, your customers, your prospects. And in order to do that and produce stuff that’s not just good for SEO, but like are also genuinely interesting and reflecting your belief system in how you’re changing the market or where the market should go, or specifically the personas that you’re talking to, then yeah, then you need to be bold enough in order to put good stuff out there. Even if you can’t measure the impact completely.I think that there’s a huge opportunity in AI that would enable people to produce more content and save time on stuff like research, for example. Click To Tweet
Because if you measure it just by direct leads, it would look like an inefficient channel. But then again, you’ll do it for two years. And then one day, you’ll shut this whole thing down, and you’ll see the decrease in inbound and everything. So I think we all know and feel that it works like this. But sometimes, or even most of us, don’t have the guts to invest in a channel that just seems to spend money and doesn’t look ROI positive. But I think that it’s more important than ever before, especially if you’re in the business of disrupting something.
Absolutely. I know that when budget changes and budget allocation occur, the area that I very rarely impact is the content creation. It’s easier to do things creatively with the DemandGen budget than it is with the content budget. Content drives everything else. If you don’t have it, nothing’s going to work, I think.
Any who, it’s been eight years since I walked into Cummings Place in Woburn and met Gidi Pridor. You’ve gone through a lot of different experiences since then. I’m very impressed with where you’ve come to today. Congratulations on the most recent acquisition and thank you for being on the show today. This is fantastic.
Thank you, Chris. It was fun to catch up.