GE's Audacious Approach to Content Marketing

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Experimentation and innovation are in GE's DNA, so it's only natural that the digital industrial company pushes the boundaries in content marketing too.

A brand's content should fill a customer need; it should also have a distinct business purpose with a well-defined end goal in mind. Creating content that achieves these objectives takes more than an ideas list and an editorial calendar. At GE, experimentation helps the marketing team select the right stories, messages, and formats to keep its content relevant and edgy. Sydney Williams, GE's manager of global digital and social media marketing, explains the reasoning behind the digital industrial company's approach to content and hypothesizes that content marketing of the future needs to be bold above all else.

Content has many meanings in marketing. How does GE define it?

Regardless of where the content lives, it needs to be engaging and tell a clear story that fits a brand's story. Content can come in the form of a video or a blog or be micro-content, but it also can be told through e-commerce or a physical product, if executed in a way that adds value to both the consumer and the brand.

What are the types of content that GE uses to promote its message?

We like to experiment with all forms of content, especially on emerging and non-traditional platforms. Experimentation and innovation is in our brand's DNA, so we give ourselves permission to push the boundaries in the marketing world, as well. We pride ourselves on being early [adopters], and testing new ways to tell our brand story. Recently, we pushed out a successful sci-fi podcast, The Message, that reached number one on the iTunes charts; we launched the brand on Wattpad to reach a new audience of up-and-coming writers and creators; and we're constantly experimenting with live-streaming platforms [such as] Snapchat, Periscope, and Facebook Live to give our community inside access to what goes on within the labs at GE.

What do marketers at GE consider to be core elements of an engaging content strategy?

We focus all the work we produce on good storytelling. Whether the story is told in the form of a podcast, an ad, a digital short, or a product, it has to be clear and powerful. And, we think about our audience first: What content resonates with them, and how can we use different platforms to deliver our brand story in compelling ways.

When does GE know to add to its content marketing plan or eliminate a facet of it?

Our content and platform experimentation always has a purpose. Whether it's a new story we want to tell about our business or our customers or a new audience we want to reach, we approach our content thoughtfully. When we can't make a real connection to our audience with the content we've created or the platform we've chosen to use, we will then pivot or remove it from the plan.

How do GE's marketers gauge when a content marketing plan has been successful?

When we've ignited positive conversation about the brand, among new and existing audiences in unexpected ways, and inspired them to follow GE to learn more about us.

How open should a company be to covering a variety of topics in its content? How far can content topics safely stray from a company's branding?

The GE brand stands for science and invention and innovation. We cover many different topics, but they typically fall within this genre, whether we're telling our own stories or the stories of our customers. Some of our past campaigns have initially perplexed people. Why is GE creating a hot sauce? Why is GE using drones? Why is GE producing a podcast? It's not just because we can or because we want to. It's because we want to be relevant across platforms and verticals, and to do that, we have to take risks and experiment.

Define content marketing of the future.

Content marketing of the future needs to be daring. There are so many ways to meet audiences. There are so many new platforms popping up every day. Adapting the way you tell stories and produce content to fit into these new platforms is how a brand stays relevant.

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