Perfectly Content — Episode 2
Adrie: I'm really, really excited to be welcoming Bianca from Elementor. I'm really excited for you to be on the show for a lot of reasons. One, because you have a really deep background in brand and content, obviously that's music to everyone's ears here. And also, Elementor is, of course, a content-centric company as well.
So somebody working in content for a content-based company — really exciting! And then, of course, I've used Elevator before to build an event website on WordPress, and it was super easy to use and I love the product. So I think that's enough reason to be on the podcast, but I really just want to give you a warm welcome.
Bianca: Thank you so much; I appreciate it.
Adrie: Could you give us a quick introduction to who you are and how you got into content? I find those stories always pretty interesting.
Bianca: Amazing. So basically, especially when it came to getting into content, I am now the Director of Content at Elemental, and I had to handle everything to do with the blog, as well as other things in terms of helping a lot of with the community, any of the growth strategies, and the brand strategies.
It's a very encompassing role where I'm very involved in a lot of different aspects of what the company does on a day-to-day basis, where they would need content to support them and their efforts. But more importantly, well, I have only been at the company for two-and-a-half, three months now, so I am still fairly new, but how I got into content, I think, is a little bit more of an interesting thing.
Once I finished university in South Africa, I decided that in order for me to really understand and get the most out of what I wanted to do and figure out which direction I wanted to go in, I decided that I was going to touch every single avenue of marketing content and strategy that I could possibly find.
So from starting out in promotions and coordinating things as operations to video production, to TV production, digital marketing, I can go onto all of them and high tech. When I moved to this role, that's a very, very focused area here specifically. And that's where I am today. And yeah, I've kind of realized that after being in tech, while I did love it too very, very much, I wanted to go back to my core of what I'd studied.
And I went back to the Berta branding and I worked with an amazing branding agency called natie.com and they've done amazing work and they do continuously do amazing work. Eight 10 is absolutely a hero of mine. And he really, I can say that I was a very big influence in me continuing and really progressing with content marketing specifically.
And specifically, I think that after that I realized that I had found as a native English speaker in a foreign country having English and especially in Israel when a lot of people my age, when I moved to Israel, were only finishing the army and they were going into university. I already had finished university and had a few years of work experience and then came to a foreign country, and I was like, oh wow, I really can use my skills here and get ahead. And it really has proved to be a really interesting pathway. And it's something which has kind of grown from one strength to another. And I’ve loved my journey.
Adrie: Honestly love hearing everyone's different ways that they've kind of gotten to where they are because I think there is no one career path for content marketing. And also branding as well because branding is, I mean, they often go hand in hand. So it's nice to hear that.
What are the biggest projects that you've worked on in your career? Maybe the top two, because I'm sure there are quite a few.
Bianca: It's an amazing question because, especially as I said, my time in Israel has been so vast and varying with my experience here. There are two, which I would probably say have been not only challenging but really incredible. One was when I worked with a company called Reactions.
Learning how to run everything with a five-man team. Like when I say to you that high tech is not for the faint-hearted and startup world is really something. You do work those 18-hour days; there was something which was absolutely incredible. And I'm so proud of everything which happened with the company and how we did it was, it was wonderful.
And the second one, I would probably say I would go back to natie.com, and I really think that they were absolutely brilliant because we worked while I was there. I worked on everything from the rebranding for the Jewish Agency for Israel to amazing brands like UBQ, and I think the list goes on. But when I think about like half these brands I see around the world now, and it's amazing how such a boutique branding agency created so many beautiful languages and manifestos and things which really impacted the way that the companies grew and raised money.
Another one would be Veltin, there's a whole lot of other companies, and they really are special. Those two examples really stand out for me.
Adrie: Nice. And it's good that you also had that experiences because going into the challenge that we discussed — this big project where you kind of didn't necessarily get stuck. I mean, you've obviously unstuck yourself, but really hesitated, I would imagine. Cause it's a big one. If you could describe a little bit about what we spoke about how you got stuck, and the situation around it.
Bianca: Sure. So, at the start of Corona, I started off at a company. It was, my former company was called Traffic Point.
Bianca: And during this period of time, it was chaotic around the world. Everyone knew there was so many people going into furlough and, as I joined the company the content writers and content managers had just also gone on to furlough. So it's literally me as a one-man show. And the other one of the other girls was also a way overseas and she was working on half-sabbatical and half-time while traveling.
So it was very much about myself and working in taking this all on by myself and getting to learn not only this system, this company. But also really making sure that everything ran on a day-to-day basis and making sure the content was done and updated, all while at the same time, coming up with brand new language for them, for the new website and redoing their brand values and building another brand of theirs and doing the branding and strategy and content and language for that.
And the research. So there was a lot involved in a very short period of time. And well, first of all, time management and project management was a huge part of that. And I think that most people can relate to that and to being organized. And the second thing really was the fact that I learned very quickly that your freelance workforce is probably the best asset that you can use when you're in a very stressful situation and there's time constraints and there's lack of hands and availability on a full-time permanent basis. Because when you have a freelance workforce that really made a difference to my life. Being able to find freelance writers.
What I really like about the freelance writer workforce is that compared to having an in-house writer — and I'm not against in-house writers, I think that if you're writing about a company and in the company's tone of voice is so important and thought leadership pieces from the actual company's perspective. But when you're writing about topics which are marketing and top-funnel topics, it's better to work with people who really understand and are experts in one or two areas, rather than having one person who can write about lots of different topics. It really shows in their writing and their passion comes out in the way that they do that.
And I found that during that period of time during Corona and I had full support from my VP, it made such a difference knowing the fact that if I would need the resources for more freelance writers and finding experts at a higher price... it really pushed me to build that little network up for us.
And it helped me with distributing the content and delegating specific tasks. It's obviously content writing and articles and it was organized. It was really easy to manage, but it also gave me more time to really focus on the strategy side of things. So when we finally got a team in a workforce together again, and we were able to hire and we grew and people came back from furlough and we continued — it really made such a difference because not only did I learn so much about the company, but it really pushed me in such a short period of time to remind myself why I loved the freelance workforce to start.
Because even when I was a freelancer, I realized you can't take on everything by yourself. You can do an aspect of it, like you can do the design or the strategy. And I think, again, that kind of ties in back to like the web creator kind of movement that Elementor really believes in is because web creators kind of pull things from all different avenues and you really kind of, especially for web, and this is something where, even as a content marketer, you can pull information from one place and images from another place and sources and everything, and you really kind of build this whole world and this whole system of creating this type of content without having to stretch yourself to your absolute wit's end.
Adrie: I'm always a big proponent of using the right freelancers. And also people who you work with on a long-term basis. I think that's really how you're going to create really great content. And especially if you have good relationships with these people, I think it can be a huge asset for any content team.
I do want to get into your kind of approach to freelancers for sure, because I think that is really valuable, but I also want to go back to a little bit more of the strategy of how you approached both a rebrand and building another brand at the same time, because there's the time element of it, for sure. But there's also, I can imagine a lot of other strategic elements that have to come together, and I'd love to hear about that.
Bianca: I feel like in most of my roles that I've had— obviously not in terms of the branding — but when you're working with clients and trying to really understand what their values are, and what they really want to say about themselves. Trying to get a CEO to tell you his, his pitch or his one, his elevator pitch about a company in one sentence is probably the most difficult thing I think anyone and most people struggle with. It is so complicated because they have so many ideas about themselves and can describe what they do in so many ways.
And trying to really break it down into very simple terms. My best approach is always asking every single person that I speak to, whether it's been Traffic Point or whether it’s been previous companies or companies I’ve freelanced for. It's always really been about, tell me about your company as if I was a five-year-old child. If you can explain to a child what you can do or what you do in general, then that makes a difference because people really over-complicate things, and they use big words and they use phrases which are just so over the top and very vague.
And if you really go, okay, I make computers talk to each other. People understand that! It's a very simple way of doing that. Or, back to Traffic Point and it's focused on intent marketing and being at the right place at the right time and giving users the knowledge to make informed purchasing decisions.
It's a very, it's a simpler way of describing things. I think that that's one of my key strategies of really trying to understand what the company does. And when it comes to the brand values, people throw out a lot of words, like “respect each other” and “integrity” and until you're really break each one down and understand why, kind of similar to Simon Sinek, start with why. And if you kind of answered those questions, it makes a very big difference. So when it came to the rebranding and helping the language, which, wow, that was a project I took on halfway through. I'd already been started and I already took over that. And I always try to put myself in the audience's shoes and if it doesn't appeal to me and if I still don't really understand it, someone else's not going to understand it either. And I'm not going to really relate to it.
So I kind of really tried to spend time with the VP, the VPs of the different departments, with the CEO, and interviewed them and kind of asked them their perspective. Another great method which I've done in the past is actually also interviewing customers, because that's a great way to really understand what they see as value, rather than like the value that is provided by the company.
Adrie: So one question, because I know I've also experienced this before, and I think it is really complicated when you speak to different people — especially C-suite — and you ask them, okay, how do you see your company? If you were going to explain it to me as a five-year-old, exactly like you're saying. How do you reconcile different stories about what the company does?
Bianca: I asked the same questions all the way through. So it’ll be very much like. Why your company? What do you think that the main values are that you provide? It's just two examples of question — I've got a whole laundry list of them, but most of the time you'll see things will start to overlap.
That's when you really start to see, okay, well, so some of them are actually on the same page. They're saying the same thing, but just in slightly different ways. And it's constructing a language and then representing it to them and asking them, does this relate to you? Does this, does this do something? Do you feel something? It's kind of like when you read a manifesto about a company, does it touch your heart?
Do you feel something towards it or does it stem some sort of emotion?
Adrie: Do you ever risk having almost like a Frankenstein of all of these different thoughts and opinions? Or in your experience, has it always come together like a beautiful mosaic?
Bianca: I'm happy to say I've been lucky enough that it always has kind of come together.
I've had one situation when there was a company I was freelancing for and both partners had completely conflicting views. And that was really hard because one person sees things as X and doesn't want to change their mind. And the other one sees them as Y and I kind of had to come up with the Z option because the Z option is kind of a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And you kind of keep both parties happy without really playing to either one of them.
But in those kinds of cases, I’d rather focus on the actual audience and what the audience wants to hear and not rather what they seem to feel — their mission or whatever the vision or languages.
Adrie: Right. So I want to pick it back up this tactical element of how you kind of, I guess, skillfully executed both a rebrand and creating a new brand, which is the freelancer part of things, because I think that is so important for a lot of content people to really master having a good freelance workforce that's well-managed a well-maintained. Having good relationships can really make or break you just like you experienced. What would be your kind of top tips to make that happen?
Bianca: First of all, it's kinda like wireframing when you, when you lay out and you have a good understanding of everything that you will be needing and everything that needs to be involved, for me, that was a really like a base point because then I kind of started ticking things off.
So it was obviously target audience research, understanding who the real audience is. Understanding who our competitors are, that, that landscape and moving from there into the freelance thing. The freelance thing really came into the writing specifically for this, for this case. In past cases, I've also worked with freelancers for design, and I've used a developer and I've used like a photographer and those types of things where every single one of those people will also freelancers. But when you pull them together and you pull their work, you give each one of them individual guidelines.
It's the same thing as delegating. When you sit, you have to also understand who you're going to be delegating to and delegating the correct tasks, and delegating the correct amounts of information and what is expected of them, and make sure everyone understands the end goal.
Even in the brief writing, I can say to content writers, it was so intricate, like this is the target audience, these are the main topics, this is why this article is important and what it really needs to cover from SEO phrases and terms. And when you get into a rhythm of writing those types of briefs and sending them out, eventually the writer gets used to who you are and they can produce things much faster because they understand the standard. And it’s the same thing when it comes to freelance designers, if they have a good understanding of the wireframe, what's expected of them, what needs to go into it, the color schemes, the why, the mentality behind things, they can then play with a whole array of different looks and feels. Especially, obviously within the visual language, if you don't have a visual language and you only have colors, then it's a bit more difficult. But if you do have a full visual language and you have your VI and you have everything, they understand how to use them, and you have your, your brand book and your guidelines to everything.
I can say that those types of things really helped when it came to the tone of voice and the writing and the style and how we speak with, for example, where it's very informative and it's about knowledge and being an authority and things, but it's also about being the helping hand, which will help you make decisions along the way.
Adrie: I think that's also why I'm a big advocate of the, like the long-term relationships. Because eventually those people also contribute to the standard as well. They help shape what kind of quality is expected from your brand. Of course, it has the added value that if you're working with them, long-term they know what to expect; they can deliver on-brand content for you, whether that's visual or copy. But yeah, I think it's, it's always going to be a benefit as well.
Bianca: And I also really think that example when, when people perform really well, or they perform really great with an ongoing relationship with articles, I'm also a very big believer in rewarding.
I feel like bonuses are definitely a big motivation for any freelancer. I think that it's, it's only fair, especially if a person really is going the extra mile and turning things around in a much faster period of time than what's usually expected. I know most articles are what can take two to five days.
And if people turn them around, literally at the two-day mark, that's beyond incredible. And I believe that people should be also rewarded. Those are things that, when it came to crunch time and last-minute things and the crazy things which happen when you have deadlines with a small amount of people — those things really matter. And they make a difference.
I can say that really saved my life. It saved my ass a number of times. And it was a very big factor which assisted in the launch of the new brand that we launched.
Adrie: Yeah. So let's, let's talk about that — the actual end results. So obviously doing all of that kind of on your own, of course, with a lot of freelance support and buy-in from your VP, because that's also super critical. Can you tell us a little bit about kind of the end result?
Bianca: I think after we had already established a brand language and we had established the look and feel, I was lucky enough to where I was able to actually start hiring new content managers to join the team to assist with the actual site.
There was a lot of stuff to then also input. A lot of information to really manage and continue producing. And that really made a very big difference to the final outcome. I had an absolute superstar of a content manager, who I still am very, very fond of and keep contact with still today. She knows who she is and I would hire her in a heartbeat.
And I can honestly say that having a team, which also, you know, understand how each other work and you really are working towards a common goal, it made such a difference, because having a look at different features and having quick research done and quick turnaround times as to why we should maybe add this additional feature as a last, as the final run and final stretch, they made such a difference from input to care, to understanding the little nuances about alignment, which most people... I know designers pay attention to, but I know that maybe not everyone else would see these things.
I know also the idea that with startups and new products, first to market and fastest to launch is always best. But when you do manage to catch these things along the way, it makes such a difference. And I'm happy to say at the end of the day, we launched an amazing B2B site. It's a software as a service site and it was — and is — very exciting in the realm of comparison websites, and for me, it’s got to be one of the most exciting projects I can also say that I've worked on because there was something from scratch and we had taken the brand language and the original ideas from a branding agency, which had worked with them and then fleshed them out and really carried the idea through, all the way from brand language, the visuals to everything.
I wouldn't have managed at the end because when it came to the strategy and the language in the beginning, that was one thing and the visuals were the designer, but when it came to everything else about actually managing and uploading and commissioning new content and new everything, it made such a difference having that supportive team by my side, when I eventually had it.
Adrie: I really do feel they are very often career-making, right? This is something that you can now point to and you can say I did that from scratch and under less than ideal circumstances during Corona with a furloughed team — that's pretty impressive.
Bianca: And I can even add onto that. The person who originally started, who was one of the content managers, who, who we then hired — the one that I mentioned previously — she started off really as a junior. And within that short period of time of a year, I see her as mid-level to senior with the way she, like she really conducted herself where her professionalism has really given opportunity for — because it was such a small team — it gave her an opportunity to really grow in such a short period of time and develop those relationships with the freelance writers. Learn the language the same way, but really build and learn what it took to really go into building. So for me, it was rewarding to not only just build it, but also to bring a person from a junior level to how I see as mid-senior with just her work ethics and what she learned in that short period of time.
Adrie: I definitely hope that she listens to that because that's a standing ovation, to be honest. But I also hope that it kind of serves as like a flicker of hope for a lot of people in difficult situations or who are thrown a similar challenge where you look down a kind of an endless hole and you think, is this going to be possible? Well, it is, and we have someone here who's done it. So hats off to you.
Bianca: To be honest, I think in general, the entire team and every single person that was hired really made a difference and took ownership over their portals, over their sites, over everything that they had. And I can't just say it was one single person who made the difference — I can’t even give myself the credit — because I believe that every single person who took on a new portal or a new website or a whole group of websites, they really owned them.
We were so specific about who we hired and how we actually found the correct people, because they were so proud to take ownership all the work that they were doing, that they did make a difference. And they're happy making a difference, which has been probably the proudest thing and made it the hardest decision for me to also leave them.
Adrie: Hiring matters, guys, for sure. I think good hires can really make your team of course, and make all of the big projects that you take on. But that's a kind of a sideline — would love to get into that with you.
I do have a closing question — the one that I always ask. What is one piece of content — a course, person, idea, project (even though we've already talked about projects) that really shaped the way that you view content?
Bianca: I did mention him right in the beginning and I'll mention him again. The creative director of natie. I can say that he is a person to look up to in the world of branding and advertising and everything, and I cannot say it enough that he is every piece of content that he ever puts out, I'm a follower, I'm an avid reader and he really has been a person who's really shaped the way I even look at content or approach a piece of content.
I have no other words to describe it. He is revolutionary with the way he approaches things and does things and he is incredible with the executions of what he produces.
And each piece means so much. It’s about care — he really puts it like that extra piece of effort into it.
Adrie: Well, I think he's just about to gain a few followers from here. I'm definitely going to be following him. So I look forward to seeing some of the content that he also.
Just to close out, I really want to thank you for coming, Bianca. I really appreciated the talk and we'll speak soon.
Bianca: Thank you very much.
Adrie: All right. Well, that's it for this week's episode of Perfectly Content. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode and want to stay tuned for more, click subscribe wherever you're listening and you'll receive updates on our very next episode.
And finally, one last thing. We have an editorial-style newsletter that goes out once a week, called The Crave. We talk about all of the content that we've been craving this week and each week it's curated by a different content person from the Foleon team. You can check it out at foleon.com/the-crave. See you there!