spring / 2015

The magazine of branded content
Three years after Youtility, Jay Baer sees companies facing challenges on a different front.
Apr 28, 2015

Five years ago Jay Baer got a call from Joe Pulizzi. The Content Marketing Institute founder told Baer that he was launching an event, Content Marketing World, and asked if Jay could come and give a talk, an 8-minute "micro TED Talk."

Baer said sure.

“Great,” replied Pulizzi. “Any ideas of what you want to talk about?”

Baer said that he had a new idea for a book. “It’s all about making marketing useful,” he told Pulizzi. “It’s about help, not hype.”

As the weeks flew by and the event drew closer, Baer began working on his presentation. A title eluded him until one day he began twisting the term “useful”…“useful…use-ful……u-tility…You-tility…!”

The presentation connected to the audience at CMW, which encouraged Baer to turn it into a 60-minute keynote. Audiences soaked that up too. “I knew then that there must be a ‘there’ there,” says Baer, “and so that became the spine of what eventually was the book.”

“The mistake most companies make is they start with a program instead of starting with a person.”

The “there,” of course, is the idea that providing information and value to prospects along their buyer’s journey is a powerful way to generate awareness, acquire customers and create brand evangelists—the bedrock of content marketing.

Since its release in 2012, the success of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype—it was a New York Times best-seller—has coincided with small- to mid- to enterprise-level businesses increasing their budgets for content marketing.

Perhaps the best proof that the Youtility concept has reached maturity is the fact that many companies are facing challenges with their content marketing on a front other than buy-in.

“What we’re seeing are enterprise companies who have bought into the idea of content and telling their story in social and digital, but are having issues scaling it; the next level of this is making sure that their customers and employees are telling that story.”

Baer’s been doing a lot of consulting around EGC—Employee Generated Content. The key there, he says, is to do it in tiers.

“The mistake most companies make is they start with a program instead of starting with a person,” says Baer. “Instead of saying ‘Look, we’re going to have sales create content,’ what you want to do is find two champions in sales and have them create content. They’re people who are already super enthusiastic. They’re people who don’t have to be convinced. There are people like that in every company. You want to take that person’s success and use it as a fulcrum to create a program.”

Still, with employee generated content, relying on a thin roster of two champions can, over time, be a burdensome task. So, frequently, companies request that employees do blog posts.

“That’s the standard ask,” says Baer, “and a lot of people have the job that they have because they don’t want to write. So when they’re given their Wordpress login, they see this blinking cursor and they’re like ‘This totally sucks. It sounds like school. I don’t want to do this.’”

Baer helps companies understand that the idea and the expertise is more important than the format.

“So instead of saying ‘Hey sales guy, write a blog post,’ it’s ‘Hey sales guy, can I call you for twenty minutes, ask you two questions, you answer those two questions, we record the call, we transcribe the call and now we have a blog post?” Operationalizing that expertise first, and formatting second—that’s a lot of the kind of things we do.”

As scalability is a frequent issue on the content side for companies, Baer recommends to clients some of the tactics that he uses for Convince and Convert Media.

“I used to write a lot more than I do now,” says Baer, who used to write four posts a week. “As my schedule has gotten busier and I’m on the road more, I personally write from scratch, one post a week. But I always see trends and have things I want to comment on, so I decided to start [VideoLog] Jay Today to give me the opportunity to do that.”

Baer points to the rise of video as a primary content consumption vehicle, particularly Facebook video, as a reason why the videos—he’s currently on episode 110—have worked.

But the real takeaway for clients, he says, lies in the number 9.

“That’s how many different pieces of content we make out of each video,” he says, “and with scale like that, for many companies it can become a real engine for a lot of other things.”

Re-purposed engines can fire on all cylinders too.