Good content is good storytelling.
That simple idea often gets overlooked when marketers dive into the nitty-gritty elements of content development and
One brand that has not lost
sight of the essential importance of good storytelling is State Street. With
its content the financial services firm consistently tackles complex topics in creative,
engaging ways that capture and hold its audiences’ attention.
Recently we chatted with Kristie
Helms, Chief Content Officer at State Street, to learn more about how the
company approaches its content strategy and creation.
Check out the full Q&A:
Q: Starting broadly, what do you believe the
difference is between good content and bad content?
A: Since I
grew up in the South, I always think of myself as more of a storyteller than a
content generator. Just the word “content” sounds more like an asset or a
widget than what it is.
To me good content is just a
good story. It is something that makes you feel some sort of emotion. I don’t
ever think of a good content as making an ad or writing a white paper; I think
about the story behind what we’re saying.
Q: Speaking of stories, we love the listen content that State
Street is creating. Can you tell us a bit about that area?
A: When you
look at State Street from the outside you see this huge company that’s part of
the Fortune 500. We are in 29 different countries, have more than 39,000
employees, and we are responsible for 11% of the world’s assets. So, we are one
of those big companies that people often don’t know much about but which can
have a very real impact on your life.
The goal of listen is to offer a bit
of a peek into that world. The people who work here have such incredible
stories and insights. They are passionate about what they do, and at the end of
the day they want to ensure that you hold the right assets, or that your 401k
contribution is calculated correctly, or that your pension fund has the right
amount of money that it’s supposed to have.
Our job, my job, is to tell
those stories. I started my career as a crime reporter for a newspaper. I don’t
think that’s a common path for a financial services marketer, but what connects
that job and this one is that I love hearing the stories behind the headlines.
The financial services world
can be opaque and I feel that our ultimate goal with things like listen is to make it more
Q: How do you develop ideas for the content?
A: We have a
brand newsroom setup. We have daily meetings where we gather all the generals across
our marketing teams. We have folks on the phone from all over who are part of
the business, including internal employees and some agency partners.
On the call we just start
batting around ideas. So, for instance, if we start to see oil prices creep up
in the news, do we have someone on staff who understands the market impact? Who
can explain what this means for the end-consumer? It’s a very newsroom feel: we
ask questions and find the stories.
Q: How do you ensure that your content reaches its
intended audiences? Which distribution channels work well for you?
A: Well, we
just launched listen in November so we
are still getting our feet wet a bit.
That said, what we focus on
is making our own employees our advocates. As I mentioned, these are people who
are very passionate about what they do. And we have a specific set of social
media ambassadors, executives and experts across the company who are very
active on social media. They do a lot to help us push out stories.
Beyond that we also do a good
amount of promotion, and also push out stories via other channels.
Q: How do you measure the success of a piece of
content? Which metrics do you pay close attention to?
A: We pay
attention to the usual metrics like the click-through rate, time spent on
articles, that sort of thing. But we also put a lot of focus on measuring
sentiment and the impact of our content.
I think volume only tells you
one side of the story. It’s one thing to make sure that a story gets in the
hands of someone; it’s another to understand how they actually feel about the
You also have to be careful
not to become overly reliant on data without understanding the underlying
There’s a great phrase that
came out of an analysis of the last US presidential election: “Data doesn’t
vote.” In other words, data doesn’t fully capture people’s perceptions or
Q: How do you actually measure sentiment?
A: We do a
lot of sentiment analysis and examination of social shares.
We also make sure to have
conversations with our clients, specifically at industry conferences, about
content effectiveness. We ask if our stories are resonating, and if they’re
interested in specific topics.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece of State Street
A: One is
one of the first pieces we did on listen.
It was called “Do You Speak
I love it because the
underlying topic was about investment choices but the approach of the story
was: how do we evaluate each other and speak with each other?
It just shows how smart people
are here at State Street, how they can approach financial services through
thinking about the language of dolphins.
Q: Finally, is there a content trend that you’re
watching closely right now?
always watching how content gets distributed and how stories get told.
We used to tell stories just
orally, then on cave walls, then via Facebook. I keep telling my team to think
about what’s next.
death of the website may be just around the corner. It seems that content is
increasingly getting spread out – across different screens and formats – it’s
not just in one spot anymore.