Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Michael Awdish and Justin Hyde of Volkswagen

By NativeAI / June 16, 2017

What happens
when you combine a historic brand, passionate audiences, and great

You get the Volkswagen Newsroom.

The digital offering
from the automaker is more than just a PR site: It’s a beautiful home for engaging
stories about the company’s products, corporate efforts, and – most importantly
– its enthusiastic community of owners, dealers, and employees.

Recently we
chatted with Michael Awdish, Digital Marketing Director of Volkswagen of
America, and Justin Hyde, Editor of Volkswagen Newsroom, to learn more about
the site and the firm’s overall approach to digital content.

Check out the full Q&A below:

Q: What role does digital content play
for Volkswagen? Why are you creating it?

A: Digital content is our way of telling deeper brand

We have one
of the most passionate fan bases of owners, dealers, and employees. Digital
content allows us to tell their stories, not only from the voice of the brand
but also in their own voices.

It’s a give
and take. We’re producing our own stories, but we’re also listening to others
and giving them a platform.

Q: We love the Newsroom; how it looks and the stories it is telling. Can you talk a bit about how
it came about and what the goals for it are?


A: A few years ago we relaunched, which was
groundbreaking in terms of the digital shopping experience. It redefined how
you shop for a car online.

But one thing
we identified pretty quickly was that the site was missing storytelling. It was
great as a shopper, but it didn’t tell me more about the brand. We’re a company
with such a rich history, and there were so many stories to tell.

So, Newsroom
started off as a Marketing project, but as soon as we presented it to the PR
team they loved it.

The core idea
is to tell stories targeting different audiences. Pieces might be aimed at our
enthusiasts, or journalists, or even the public at large.

The platform allows
us to do a lot of different things: We can go from a deep-dive long-form story
about the technology in our cars to a product announcement to a piece aimed at
the #VanLife community on Instagram.


Q: How is the content being created? How
do you determine what to cover?

A: Most of it is done in-house; it’s a team of Marketing
and PR.

We step back
and think about who our audiences are, then plot out ideas and follow through
from execution to distribution.

Every week
we’re talking about what stories are we hearing, what insight are we getting
from social about trends, and what people are engaging with. That way we stay
on target and find the most interesting stories.

On top of all
that, we know there are certain milestones, such as when auto show season is
coming up or big product announcements are happening or a motorsport tally is
taking place that we’re racing in.

Q: How do you approach distribution for
the Newsroom content? Which channels work well for you?

A: We’ve got three primary distribution channels.

there’s social, which drives a lot of traffic. We’ll share a piece via Facebook
or Twitter, then sometimes amplify those to drive more reach.

Another major
audience is our own VW owners. After we launched the Newsroom we began to
incorporate content from Volkswagen
, the owner magazine,
into the site. Now every time there’s a new issue of Volkswagen Life, we put up
the articles and email a large group of owners.


Finally, our
PR team works to drive earned media opportunities for our pieces. We’ve had
success with outlets like Maxim picking up our Newsroom content.

Q: How do you measure the success of a
piece of content? Which metrics do you pay attention to?

A: We look a lot at time spent.

visits are great, but what we really want is for people to engage and spend
time reading the pieces.

Our goals are
very much awareness and engagement, not directly selling cars. If we can get
people interested and going deeper, then that’s a win for us.

Q: Do you have any personal favorite
pieces of VW Newsroom content?

A: Our owner stories are great. Because of our history and
some of the models we’ve had, people have amazing stories to tell.

For example, we
had a story
about a couple
that loved Volkswagen so much they got matching wedding bands. There’s
another one
about a guy who
is so passionate about the brand that he has owned 16 VWs.


There’s a piece about passionate community of owners
of Volkswagens up in Idaho. It’s a great story that also has great visuals.

And there’s a
about how a collection
of fans helped to inspire the pink Beetle model. They’d been changing the color
of their cars on their own for a while, and it showed the company that there
was really a passion and demand.


Q: Finally, are there any content
marketing trends you are watching closely right now?

A: Publishers in the space are still wrapping their heads
around all the new social media and digital distribution models.

If you look
at something like Facebook’s Instant Articles, it’s hard from a monetization
point of view but from a brand awareness point of view it’s an interesting tool
that we might be able to take advantage of.

Also, we’re
watching new content formats. Earlier this year we created a
360-degree video
to showcase
the I.D. Buzz concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. Those sort of new
techniques allow us to tell deeper stories.

Written by NativeAI / June 16, 2017