Content is one of the best and most powerful ways to create brand awareness and showcase a company’s expertise. For example, contributed articles by our clients have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, CNBC, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and many other business, trade, and vertical outlets. Talk about tremendous exposure.
Steve Eisenstadt, a former journalist and a veteran PR pro, joined Offleash in January 2015 to help build content into a key service offering for the agency. Offleash content and social media specialist Georgia Kulesa talked to Steve about his role and his vision for the practice.
GEORGIA: What’s your job?
STEVE: I lead the Offleash team that works with our clients’ CEOs and other senior executives on content-driven thought leadership campaigns. These usually take the form of the written word, with a heavy focus on contributed articles published in important media outlets as well as blogs. We’ve also done white papers, ebooks, customer and internal communications, you name it.
“Thought leadership” is a buzzword that gets thrown around so much that it’s easy to lose sight of its essence: fresh, interesting, and meaningful points of view on a range of tech, business, and general management topics. The people we work with tend to be top experts in their fields. We help them join or, better yet, move conversations with their valuable perspectives.
G: What led you to the role?
S: I was a newspaper reporter for 14 years. Journalism is so in my blood that, as a little kid, I made imaginary newspapers with my crayons. A few years later, I single-handedly produced a monthly paper for my elementary school. When I made a career change in my late 30s that brought me to tech PR, I was somewhat surprised to discover that in many ways, PR is just a different way of developing stories.
Later in my PR career, I increasingly gravitated toward content because I saw big opportunities there and because, to me, content can be so fresh and impactful. Timing is everything: Offleash and I found each other more than five years ago as I was looking to focus exclusively on content and the agency wanted to invest more heavily in a dedicated content practice.
G: What makes good content?
S: The perfect piece of content engages the audience with original thinking on some topic they care about. More precisely, some topic they care about right now. The piece has to be vendor-neutral, because if we’re asking a media outlet to publish it, none will run something that comes across as a commercial. And of course it should be very well-written. All of this may not sound like rocket science, but getting there is an involved process of ideation, research, critical thinking, and composition.
G: What’s your favorite part of the job?
S: First, I find our clients really interesting, both as industry leaders and as people. It’s just a gas getting to know them and seeing how their minds work. I learn a lot from them as experts in their field, but I also enjoy breaking through the barriers of industry speak and understanding what makes them tick as people and as thinkers. Second, I get a huge adrenaline rush from the final result – when a piece is published and reflects well on the client and their company.
G: What’s the hardest part?
S: There’s no place to hide — a piece of content either is good or it isn’t. You can’t fake it. And the quality bar keeps rising because of intensifying competition to get content published in today’s media landscape and because, even when a piece is published, it better be good to hold people’s short attention. I enjoy this pressure, it’s just my nature. But it can make the work quite challenging.
G: What’s surprised you?
S: I’m not sure if this is a surprise per se, but I’ve been struck by how some of the highest-impact pieces we’ve worked on weren’t necessarily the ones I’d have expected to make such a bang. Take the one that ran in Entrepreneur about how a CEO blocks his calendar every evening to have dinner with his family. I thought it was a nice article, but I didn’t anticipate the extent to which it went viral, with thousands of shares. Another example is the essay about a CEO’s Syrian heritage that received a great deal of attention. Actually, those two pieces show why we always urge clients not to limit themselves when thinking about content. While so much of our focus is on hard-core business and tech angles, as it should be, a great human story can go a long way too.
G: What would you say to a company on the fence about instituting a content program?
S: Get off the fence. I’m reluctant to use the cliché “content is king,” but, well, that’s true more than ever. Content should be a vital element of any digital marketing or communications strategy. And life is too short for crappy content. I believe our agency’s content offering is industry-best, but I’d tell a company that hasn’t committed to a content program to bring in somebody good to handle it, whether it’s an agency or a contractor or in-house.