Daniel Hochuli

A word with … Daniel Hochuli

In Interviews by Peter Gearin

This evangelist’s job is to spread the word about content marketing.

The former head of strategy at King Content Asia, Daniel Hochuli, is now a content marketing “evangelist” at social media platform LinkedIn. The heavenly sounding role is the latest step on Hochuli’s journey from blogger to agency expert to content strategist. His job is to help business clients in APAC create content magic.

Brand Tales: What does a work day look like for LinkedIn’s content marketing evangelist?

Daniel Hochuli: I’m part of a global team. I manage four evangelists in the APAC region and my team sits in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and India. My working day really consists around three core pillars of tasks:

  • Delivering expert client content consultancy services to LinkedIn’s premier clientele
  • Education through internal upskilling of LinkedIn’s employees and our agency partners on best-practice content marketing for the platform
  • Evangelism, which includes keynoting at large content marketing events in APAC, and blogging or creating content that champions content marketing across our region.

BT: How did the role come about?

Hochuli: My journey began nearly 10 years ago. I’ve always been a content creator and worked in digital spaces where content performance is rewarded by merit (PR, SEO, content marketing) rather than by paid. In the early 2000s, I ran a history blog on my local suburb of Balmain in Sydney. This combined my two passions at that time, property and history (I have a degree in ancient history). From there I moved into public relations, working as a finance content creator for brands such as BlackRock, Westpac, Aussie Home Loans and finance influencers like Paul Clitheroe.

Around 2011, I became interested in changes Google was making in digital content and SEO. I moved agency-side, working for Amnesia Razorfish and later Group M as a content creator and SEO consultant. This was around the time “content marketing” started coming into vogue. The more I looked into it, the more I realised it was what I’d been doing for years.

I moved to King Content in 2015 as a content strategist. I truly believed we were the best content marketing agency in the world. We had some of the best content marketing minds in the country who have gone on to work in other organisations like Salesforce, Facebook, NewsCred and CNN. It was an exciting place to work.

I was asked to move to Singapore as King Content’s Asia head of strategy around the time Isentia acquired the company. As we know now, the acquisition didn’t have the best outcome for either firm. I’d seen the writing on the wall about six months before Isentia closed King Content down.

At that time, LinkedIn was looking for someone who could position the platform as a major player in the content marketing space in APAC. I was flattered when they approached me for the role. I’d always been a fan of LinkedIn, primarily because it was the only social media platform I felt provided real value and outcomes in my life. Morally, I felt LinkedIn was a company doing all the right things by its members, and I jumped at the chance to evangelise the method of content marketing to LinkedIn’s clientele.

BT: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

Hochuli: The work I do with my “hivemind” team of intelligent content marketers to solve some of content marketing’s biggest questions. There are still sceptics out there – those who think content marketing isn’t viable for a brand, or that you can’t measure it, or that it’s a misleading way to promote your brand. I look at these arguments and love chasing answers to them. It’s incredibly rewarding when you can sit in a room with like-minded professionals and innovate in the space, and then share those methods with your peers for review.

BT: At what point will content marketing no longer require evangelists?

Hochuli: Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s chief evangelist, sums it up nicely: “People often ask me what the difference is between evangelist and salesperson. Here’s the answer: A salesperson has his or her own best interests at heart: commission, making quota, closing the deal. An evangelist has the other person’s best interests at heart: ‘Try this because it will help you’.”

When people no longer need help with content marketing or when they no longer need help running successful social media campaigns, I will hang up my laurels as an evangelist. But there is still a lot of education required in digital marketing. I aim to position myself and my team of evangelists as content mentors guiding clients through the fog.

I don’t see it as my job to sell LinkedIn. It’s my job to help clients strategise, create, distribute and measure better content for LinkedIn’s members. If our clients create better content, the value of the platform becomes self-evident because with better content comes better results in their business and marketing objectives. Likewise, if a brand’s content maturity improves because my team helped them, I feel we’ve shown them the value of engaging with LinkedIn as a partner for their marketing.

BT: What trends do you see emerging in branded content and content marketing?

Hochuli: I see three trends on the horizon. First, employer branding is the next frontier for content marketing. Twitter recently combined its marketing and HR teams and no doubt we’ll see other progressive firms follow suit. As HR and marketing combine, the value of corporate storytelling to attract the best talent is something many companies will start to take seriously. Moreover, as we see brands like Telstra wanting to evolve from a telco to a “tech-co”, they will need to acquire the right talent to make the transition a reality. Enter content marketing as a tactic for re-branding the organisation and attracting talent.

Second, content marketing will be leveraged as an audience research tool to build products with its own revenue stream. I’ve written a lot about this subject, and it’s still not the way most brands think or use content marketing. As brands get savvier with their content, they will start building five-year content strategies with the ultimate objective of monetising content after building a viable audience. We’re already seeing some enterprise brands like GE and American Express taking steps in this direction.

Third, there will be more realistic expectations on content performance. We see many marketers expecting content marketing to be this magic wand that makes customers fall in love with their brand and the only source of leads for their business. This misunderstands content marketing’s method. Content is about acquiring an audience, not just customers. It is about helping, not selling; which means it should be always on, long term and a full funnel play. This means content marketing is not for everyone, and that’s fine. If you need conversions right now, advertise – don’t create content. But conversions will only get you so far if you’re not investing in higher funnel ways to convince new potential customers.

BT: How do you define great corporate storytelling?

Hochuli: It must originate from a place of genuine authenticity. A brand needs to walk the walk with what they say in their content. A fantastic way to source this authenticity is to survey your customers, partners and employees to understand what people know your brand for, rather than what you think your brand is known for.

I’ve worked with many clients and agencies who create content without properly researching the audience they’re sending the content to, and then they’re stumped why the content doesn’t resonate.

“Research your audience, understand your point of difference and use this to create content that is authentic to your brand. That is how to achieve great corporate storytelling.”

Brands that often struggle with content marketing struggle with authenticity. They hide behind stock footage or creating same-same advice content their competitors have already created (financial firms that write copious amounts of vanilla content on blockchain, I’m looking at you!). They create an online persona that isn’t reflective of what they are.

Research your audience, understand your point of difference and use this to create content that is authentic to your brand. That is how to achieve great corporate storytelling.

BT: What is the biggest challenge facing content marketers in 2018?

Hochuli: Changing marketers’ expectations around content performance. Not all content leads to a product acquisition and that should be completely fine. An ROI from every piece of content should not be the metric to measure results. Likewise, vanity metrics should not be measures either. (I have written a lot about this.)

Despite everything being measurable on digital, marketing will always be a combination of art and science. This sometimes means a more macro and long-term view of content performance will give you a better indication of performance than looking at every piece of engagement earned in real time.

BT: Is there one content execution from anywhere in the world you wished you’d come up with?

Hochuli: HP Studios’ digital web series The Wolf is my favourite B2B content series. I like that it’s a well-produced, well-written production and the logic behind the execution. It’s full funnel and incorporates online and offline effectively.

The brand objective behind the content is to raise awareness around a relatively boring subject, printer security. What HP did was incredibly refreshing. They made printer security interesting to more than just their customer audience – they made it interesting to the broader buyer committee and indeed those who could influence the IT decision maker.

The content leveraged the theme of the popular series Mr Robot, even casting Christian Slater in the lead role as The Wolf – the antagonist who hacks companies via non-secure printers. The protagonist, The Fixer, is played by Jonathan Banks of Breaking Bad fame. The format of a web series using a pop culture theme and star power is a conscious choice. It’s designed for mass appeal.

Here is where the digital content starts to work with offline. The content will be shared among co-workers online and by word of mouth (over the printer, instead of the watercooler). Eventually, the content will find its way through to the IT department and “printer security” is on the radar. Soon the CMO or CIO is talking about The Wolf, and the sales team is sharing the videos and their IT colleagues are talking about it. Suddenly everyone in the organisation is asking: “Are our printers secure?”

HP then follows up with bottom-funnel content from The Fixer, which is far more product-focused and talks specifically about how HP Enterprise printers are the solution for the mess The Wolf made. Over the long term, this approach will translate into topic ownership and revenue.

Links & references

Lessons from King Content’s failure in Brand Tales

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