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JUL 2, 202219 MIN

How Successful DevTool Companies Manage Content Strategies

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Mina Benothman's Headshot

Mina Benothman

Growth Marketing Manager, Heavybit

    During times when traditional sources of cash become limited, it’s important to focus your marketing efforts and budget on channels that deliver.

    We reached out to folks at companies of all stages and sizes that we think are doing a terrific job at content marketing, to give early-stage teams a better understanding of how to build an editorial calendar and manage an effective strategy to increase reach and awareness, and drive inbound.

    Natalie Mendes, Brand Content Lead, Atlassian

    Tools and Metrics

    We run our entire editorial calendar for the Atlassian blog in Trello. More than 175 Atlassians have contributed to the board over the last few years and we publish just about once a day so it’s a highly cross-functional effort.

    We use automation rules and a custom workflow in Trello to receive new story pitches, collect information about them, ask questions, and assign editors who then work with the author on publication. We’ve used labels that help us know what section of the blog the story will live in, and we make sure to connect the Trello cards to all the necessary Confluence pages (where the draft lives) and Jira tickets for design assets.

    In terms of metrics, we are very data-driven, and make sure we know upfront how success will be measured for each article – whether that’s via organic traffic, MQLs and SQLs, evaluations, or other metrics.

    Roles and Responsibilities

    We have dedicated editors per section, so we have one editor overseeing the Work Life section and another editor overseeing the Products and News section. It’s their job to monitor the story ideas coming through and work with authors on the editing and publishing process.

    Addressing Audiences

    We want to make sure that we are serving our audience in every piece of content we produce, so on each Trello card we specifically ask who the target audience is and what the reader benefits will be from reading the article.

    If we are not serving our readers, then what are we doing?

    Planning Cycles

    We plan on an annual and quarterly basis. Our annual content strategy looks at the broad stories and themes we’d like to address, and any high-level notes about audience. For example, as we entered the 2022 fiscal year, we decided to focus on asynchronous work as we follow the trend of how the working world responded to the pandemic.

    Our quarterly planning is a reflection of the activities of the product marketing teams and our editorial team’s understanding and reaction to timely trends and areas of focus to meet our goals.

    Distribution

    After a story reaches the “Published” column, we have an automation that tags in our social media manager for promotion. Additional distribution avenues include email marketing, our blog newsletter, and republishing partnerships that we have in place.

    Ron Powell, Marketing Insights and Strategy Manager, CircleCI

    Tools and Metrics

    We use our editorial calendar to organize content into themes. For example, July is compliance month. During July we update existing compliance related material already published, we publish net-new compliance related topics, and we use organic and paid promo for distribution and engagement.

    Separately, we have a content calendar that reflects the publication date of new material. This calendar helps to organize work, especially cross-functional work, like GTM efforts. We use Monday.com to track and manage progress so that everyone has visibility into the content creation pipeline and the status of the project. All contributors and SMEs have access and can be assigned tasks.

    Much of the content published by our organization can have the publishing dates adjusted. The full list of content generated by the content team serves many purposes: GTM, awareness, recruiting, company news, and thought leadership. The only truly time-sensitive content that we produce is in service of GTM efforts.

    Our work on the content team is to weave our company’s needs (awareness, acquisition/conversion, engagement) into a content program that can deliver traffic. We achieve high traffic by creating and publishing the world’s best answers to the most asked relevant questions in our space.

    Our editorial calendar is an opportunity for us to answer questions really well and link out to content that is specific to our product's solutions. This is our version of a hub-and-spoke content program. Our hubs answer high level questions. Our spokes are tutorials and how-tos for our product. We use the hubs that gather lots of traffic to expose those readers to links to our product content. Those readers are far more likely to engage with our brand.

    Roles and Responsibilities

    At CircleCI, the Product Marketing team drives the creation of feature and product related content in service of our GTM efforts. They, along with the corresponding Product folks, all have access to Monday. All other content is first ideated by our Senior Technical Content Manager who uses tools such as ahrefs and SEMrush to identify related keywords with high volume.

    The content is then drafted by the appropriate third party or contractor (all non-feature related content we use contractors and content vendors to produce) including tutorials which are our largest category of content. Our STCM reviews and edits before passing to our Content Producer who performs the final QA checks and publishes the content to our site.

    Addressing Audiences

    Audience is considered for all of our content efforts. The balance of content types is a good proxy for how we engage with the different audiences that we serve. For example, a post about building modern mobile applications maps well to the audience of people who need to consider and weigh the implications of choices in their development stack.

    A tutorial about running unit tests on emulated mobile devices maps well to an audience of engineers who may be at work trying to do this exact thing right now. At CircleCI, we have one high-level mobile application post and a dozen tutorials reflecting our attempt to engage with our much larger audience of engineers.

    Cadence

    We publish new content 3 times per week. It took a long time to get to this rate. I see us remaining at this cadence for the foreseeable future. We currently update our content regularly, too. This updating program is one that I plan to scale.

    We have seen great success with linking to our new product releases and features in our evergreen content and using an editorial calendar to create amplification. Keeping that content updated is how we maintain its high rank and deliver traffic month over month.

    Planning Cycle

    We are still vetting the themes we’ve selected for our editorial calendar. Ideally, we will arrive at twelve themes for the year that will allow for folks to organize annually. Right now, we produce the following quarter’s themes as early as possible in the current quarter.

    The editorial calendar does not lock folks into the theme for the month. In fact, it is expected that ad hoc and organic content ideas will come up. The editorial calendar provides a way for the marketing team to sweep up all of the many assets created throughout the year and then promote it thematically for re-engagement.

    Guiding Principles

    Discoverability is the defining problem of content marketing. Ultimately, I need to get my organization's brand, value prop, and feature set in front of those who would be interested.

    The editorial calendar provides me with a framework for generating, updating, and promoting evergreen content that services a large audience of solution seekers all year round.

    This gives my Product Marketing Team the advantage of linking a release into an already existing piece of content that already ranks well and already has traffic. The number of folks who are made aware of new features through this strategy is orders of magnitude above what I could get with organic impressions for product announcement posts.

    Ivana Ivanovic, Head of Content, Retool

    Tools and Metrics

    At Retool, we follow company-wide OKRs to focus everyone on key company goals. The content plan stems from and supports the larger marketing strategy. To that effect, content OKRs sit as a part of marketing OKRs, and content plans are a part of a document that contains the larger marketing strategy. This ensures that both the marketing team and the staff (exec) team is aware of content plans and has an opportunity to chime in.

    Company-wide, we communicate on cross-functional content initiatives, such as the engineering blog, and exciting content initiatives that can benefit from employee amplification on social media (e.g., State of Engineering Time).

    Addressing Audiences

    We frequently revisit and discuss our audiences based on customer composition and analysis, surveys, information from sales and the bizops team, etc.

    Every content strategy document — as well as any brief we may give to a contractor or internal SME/writer — speaks about our audiences.

    For example, we may discuss if we are addressing backend or frontend or full stack developers, what their concerns are, and what they are seeking to find and learn.

    Planning Cycle

    From a strategy standpoint, we’ll focus on what we want to cover in the next quarter or half the year. For example, pillars of content strategy could be:

    • Our engineering blog (supporting our own engineers to write)
    • Tutorials helping developers who we think should learn about Retool (by coming to our blog)
    • Customer stories that will cover a certain aspect of Retool (for example, customers being multiple apps)

    From there, we decide on which authors, agencies, or internal writers should tackle what, and start preparing the content calendar. Some agencies have a longer planning cycle where we need to work with their editorial team to bring a plan to fruition. We have writers who are specialized in certain topics and may cater the topics to their expertise, or consult them on what’s new and hot in their world that we should write about. 

    Distribution

    Distribution depends on the content strategy pillar. For 101 or 201 tutorials that we know people will find via search, we actually don’t put them on social media. While that may seem controversial or counterintuitive, our social media followers are largely customers and Retool enthusiasts, so serving them very top-of-funnel content doesn’t make sense. So the distribution strategy there is really SEO.

    On the other hand, something like an engineering blog post, or a fireside chat with heads of engineering, or a webinar where an awesome engineering team at a famous customer company talks about their internal tool setup will be all over social media. And then there is of course Hacker News, Dev.to, etc. for those in-depth engineering blog posts.

    Kaitlyn Sun, Marketing Coordinator, Orbit

    Tools

    Our primary tool for planning at Orbit is Notion. We use a single calendar across product marketing, content, and community teams. The calendar is accessible to everyone in the company—anyone can see at a glance what we’re working on and what’s going out next. Using Notion allows us to keep all items visible across teams in the company to maintain alignment with the content schedule.

    Roles and Responsibilities

    As Marketing Coordinator, I handle calendar maintenance, social media content creation, and publishing of items added to the editorial calendar. Long-form content, such as blog posts or customer stories, are written by our Product Marketing and Community teams. Everything we produce gets reviewed by at least one other team member before it goes out.

    The creation of social posts is a collaborative process. I develop a draft for each platform and work with the original author of the promoted piece and the rest of the content team to fine-tune the messaging to showcase our content.

    To keep our team accountable, I’ve found it helpful to have a dedicated Slack channel for getting feedback and coordinating content publishing. Especially in a startup environment, priorities change rapidly, but this channel makes it easy to keep everyone up to date and things flowing smoothly from conception to publication.

    Cadence

    I’m mindful of the types and volume of content we publish on any day. The last thing we want is to create noise for our audience that doesn’t contribute value to them in some way.

    Considerations on publishing times include when our core audience is online and active, as well as the range of types of content we’ve recently posted. We share product announcements, tips, how-to articles, funny memes, customer stories, and educational material, including text, audio, and video content.

    But we don’t want to overwhelm our audience with any type, and we try to balance promotional content with conversation. Currently, we are on a schedule to publish on each platform 2-3 times per day during the work week.

    Planning Cycle

    To start, I meet with our Product Marketing Manager and Product Managers to determine the upcoming time-sensitive items to ensure we account for those in our schedule. Once those core items are in place, we fill in the gaps with promotional content for our community events, educational or thought-leadership blog posts, and essential insights for our audience. From there, the drafting and review process begins. Generally, we work 1-2 weeks in advance of our calendar to provide some room for flexibility if release dates are changed.

    Guiding Principles

    The North Star, or guiding light, we follow is to create value for our audience, providing high-quality information and insights to inform and educate our community.

    That means seeking opportunities to cover unique topics and craft better content about existing subjects. That may mean finding a new angle to spark understanding, adding graphics to help illustrate an important concept, or playing with formats and media types to reach an audience who learns differently than what is being catered for already.

    Kevin Smith, Technical Marketing Writer, LaunchDarkly

    Tools and Metrics

    We currently use Confluence for visibility of our editorial calendar, but the plan is largely communicated via Slack and Zoom meetings. We rely on Asana to help communicate various tasks. In terms of metrics, we track performance using Google Analytics for blog performance and Uberflip for general content performance.

    Roles and Responsibilities

    We have a couple of dedicated content team members, but rely on the entire team at LaunchDarkly for their expertise, from engineers to solutions architects. Since our audience is primarily developers, we also have a technical marketing team that helps write and edit some of our content as well. We're weary of people's busy schedules, but we hold team members accountable through OKRs and Slack check-ins.

    Addressing Audiences

    We try to ensure a lot of our outward-facing content is focused on things the developer community might find interesting.

    That comes through everywhere from our campaign planning to the topics we build content around. Some things work better than others, and we watch our metrics to adjust accordingly.

    Cadence

    We publish blog posts at least twice per week, and longer-form pieces two or three times quarterly. This currently feels like a good balance versus our resources, but ramping up in the future is all but a guarantee.

    Planning Cycle

    We hold quarterly planning sessions for longer form content pieces. For blog posts, we hold bi-weekly blog meetings that have an open door for discussion for staff members from around the company.

    Guiding Principles

    The speed of technology. Things are constantly changing and that helps give us new ideas for different ways to emerging tech topics. But in general, we also pay attention to:

    • Upcoming campaigns

    Content is either created specifically for the campaign or to align with the timeframe the campaign is running. So, for instance, if we kick off a three-month campaign focusing on something like software experimentation, we'll likely create content that fits within that topic and try to publish during that time frame for maximum impact.

    • Seasonality

    These are events that people are paying attention to throughout the year. For example, we know that Black Friday is among one of the biggest annual events for e-commerce merchants. 

    So if we're targeting companies in that vertical, we would publish something that helps them improve their Black Friday experience this year. Content such as this would likely get published in August or September, so there's plenty of time for the audience to leverage it.

    • Topics of interest

    Sometimes, new points of interest unexpectedly pop up, and we want to talk about them through the lens of LaunchDarkly. In that case, we'll whip up a blog post covering the topic and try to get it published as quickly as possible.

    We tend to supplement a lot of these sorts of time-based content with evergreen topics that aren't tied to any specific event, but still hold interest for our audience. Basic DevOps best practices is a good example of this.

    Distribution

    This is an area where we are constantly looking to improve upon, but right now we pass off content to our social team and email teams for wider distribution. We're working on a much broader comprehensive distribution plan for the future.

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