CoSchedule is a North Dakota-based SaaS company that provides over 8,000 customers the ability to organize their marketing in one place. The rapidly growing marketing suite (#153 on Inc. 5000) helps marketers stay focused, deliver projects on time, and keep their entire team happy. When they tell their customers and prospects, located in 100+ countries, they’re located in the Midwest, it’s not unlikely that they’ll receive a jaw-drop or double-take in return.
With this insight in mind, Eric Piela, CoSchedule’s Brand & Buzz Manager, saw an opportunity to revamp CoSchedule’s original series #OverheardAtCoSchedule to showcase the company’s unique culture and location, while building a deeper connection with their audience. Before Eric joined the company, the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series focused on building thought leadership and saw the videos as an additional way of sharing information that was typically detailed in a blog post.
Early #OverheardAtCoSchedule video:
Late #OverheardAtCoSchedule video:
From outsourcing a production company to help tell their story to distributing their video series and measuring success, we dug into how the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series was created and the outcome it had on CoSchedule’s business. Hear what Eric had to say below!
Wistia: Tell us about your role as a Brand & Buzz Manager?
Eric: What a trendy “millennial” title — ha! How fun is that, right? Truth is, I started as the Head of Public Relations and Community but we quickly determined the needs of our startup were less traditional and brand & buzz hit on the two key focal points for the role. At the end of the day, my job is to tell the CoSchedule brand story and find the opportunities to tell those key storylines to the right audience. As part of that, I make sure I know who our target demographic is, where they seek marketing information, what technologies they leverage, and what marketing influencers they go to for thought leadership. Seeking influencer marketing opportunities and managing our social media presence are also a big part of this role.
Essentially, the Brand & Buzz team’s job is to help shape the CoSchedule narrative but to also amplify it — ensuring we’re telling the right story, in the right way, to the right people. For example, CoSchedule was recently named to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Content Marketing Platforms, this is a killer accolade and my job is to bang that drum as loud as possible so that both our prospects and our customers know we’re the fastest-growing up-and-comer in the enterprise space with the credibility to back it up.
Wistia: How did the #OverheardAtCoSchedule idea come to fruition?
Eric: #OverheardAtCoSchedule actually started before I joined the team. I’ve been at CoSchedule for two and a half years now, and prior to that #OverheardAtCoSchedule actually began as just an intern’s Twitter hashtag for funny things overheard in the workplace in 2015. We have two offices in ND, so it was a way for us to share experiences across locations by injecting some levity and humor. Later it evolved into a way to give external audiences a look inside what the strange brains here at CoSchedule were talking about and eventually it really became an extension of our culture. And yes, it’s still an active twitter hashtag and entertaining as hell to follow.
If you look at the docuseries as a whole, there is definitely a clear transition point. In its inception, the video series was owned by our content marketing team and started out as a way to extend the success of our blog by bringing some of our posts to life via video. However, when I started working on #OverheardAtCoSchedule, my vision for the series was to shift the focus primarily on our culture and share our unique story. That meant transitioning the content to be more about the quirky, Mid-Westerners who were proving the naysayers wrong and building one of the top 15 fastest-growing software companies in the U.S. smack dab in the breadbasket of North Dakota.
At the end of the day, I think part of developing brand affinity is not only connecting people to your product and what you provide, but also to the individuals and the creators. The series ended up being a great recruitment tool for us too because it gave potential candidates a feel for our passion and personalities.
“I think part of developing brand affinity is not only connecting people to your product and what you provide, but also to the individuals and the creators.”
Wistia: Did you outsource others to help with production or other creative needs?
Eric: When it came to #OverheardAtCoSchedule we decided to go with a third party video production crew. We used another fellow startup out of North Dakota, called Threefold, to help with the more professional production we were looking for. There are certain times when I think an unpolished video does a great job, and there are times when a little more production value helps you tell your story better. We decided to take the latter approach with #OverheardAtCoSchedule. It’s also all about knowing what your strengths are as a company and the talent you have internally. At the time, we were a marketing team with strong writers and graphic designers, but we didn’t have someone who knew video production on staff.
We leveraged Threefold to help us tell our culture story — we’d create the script, describe our vision and they’d help us bring the video to life. They did some art direction, editing, and helped to make sure a 2.5-minute video held attention and flowed exactly right.
Wistia: How long did it take to get each video produced from end to end?
Eric: We published an episode once a month but we’d aim to have our series planned out for the entire quarter. We would then try to shoot the videos in sprints. If I was feeling very ambitious, we could record up to three episodes in one day. Beforehand, I would create a creative brief for each video, which consisted of things like the goal of the video, the brand message we’re highlighting, talent needed and suggestions for video shoot locations. I would then create talking points and storyboard everything out about two weeks in advance and get it into Threefold’s hands for our pre-production call. They really provided strong art direction and a specific vision in mind, like “We’re going to find a pasture in North Dakota outside of Bismarck and you’re going to sit on a hay bale like so — I know just the spot.”
I’d create a detailed schedule for the day of the shoot, we’d do a quick kick-off sync, and then we’d record from about 9 in the morning until about 4 in the afternoon. Doing multiple episodes in one day meant that sometimes I would have to hop from one episode to another, jump from scene to scene, and throw on different shirts so that it looked like we filmed across multiple days. After the day-long shoots, the production team began editing the videos and would turn those around back to me about one to two weeks later. Lastly, I’d create the marketing promotion plan and schedule distribution.
Wistia: How did you distribute this series?
Eric: We began by promoting the series to people who were already familiar with CoSchedule — a fan of our blog, our Headline Analyzer, and even existing users of our app. We leveraged our large 100K social media following and, on occasion, did boosted posts to our target demographic. In addition, we had an email list that was around 350k people at the time and made sure to work it periodically into our e-newsletter. We created a blog post about each episode to ensure our large blog followership were introduced the video series as well. Lastly, we added the videos to our Youtube channel.
Wistia: What was the feedback or outcome of the series?
Eric: The series was really well-received — we garnered 90K views and from my perspective, it is one of our most successful social media efforts to date. You can measure social a variety of ways, of course, but our goal was to get targeted reach, sustained viewership and drive engagement. We saw great engagement with people watching a majority of the video, instead of dropping off right away. It was just an awesome feeling to create content that our viewers were actually sticking around to watch since the audience retention can waver at that video length.
The series also helped generate some additional earned media coverage. We were able to get a number of guest posts published and additional coverage in publications like, Entrepreneur, Inc.com and Startup.com discussing how a small startup based in North Dakota was making waves in the technology scene. The series was an amazing way to share our story that ended up being a gateway to even more opportunities for our brand, especially for recruitment. In 2017, our company grew by 40 employees — many of which referencing the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series during interviews.
In terms of hard numbers and ROI, this stuff is always tricky to measure and tie back directly. We analyzed the vanity metrics, which were the number of views, engagement, etc. My CEO, Garrett Moon, said, “Eric, you’ve been doing these videos. They’re really fun, I’m laughing, and you’re good at this, but how are we able to track the true impact?” And that’s always a difficult question to answer. It’s tricky with anything that’s brand-related because sometimes you don’t see the fruits of your labor until a year or two down the road. So, was it a success? I believe it was. Can I go back and accurately measure how it affected our bottom line? Not definitively.
Wistia: Was it hard to get buy-in from other stakeholders to make these videos?
Eric: As I mentioned before, when I joined CoSchedule the series was already in motion. However, we believed there was potential to go beyond doing a video blog format and leverage the #OverheardAtCoSchedule series in a more profound way. Instead, I saw the opportunity for us to use video as a tool to share our culture, our brand, and just maybe people would fall in love with who we are. By this point, people were already eager to connect with brands on a personal level and actively develope “relationships” with brands, and we thought this was our chance to provide that. So, that’s when we completely reimagined what #OverheardAtCoSchedule looked like and got our CEO on board with the new vision for the series.
Wistia: What was the most challenging part of the process? What felt like the biggest risk?
Eric: I think the biggest risk was changing the format of the series. I didn’t know if people would care. I didn’t know if our story was going to be enjoyable to watch or hear. When I drastically changed the format, it was extremely risky because we already knew that CoSchedule was known for delivering thought leadership — our blog was crushing it, and when the series first started out it was a learning tool.
I knew that was our wheelhouse, but we were really missing an opportunity from a brand and buzz standpoint to share how we weren’t content machines, but people and marketers, just like our customers, trying to figure this stuff out. There were risks associated with changing the show’s narrative, trying to build in some goofy humor, and thinking people would relate to someone from North Dakota. It was challenging to get over that voice of fear in our heads that this wasn’t going to work. But that’s the beauty of CoSchedule — we’re a company that believes in taking risks and failing fast, and I was empowered to do that.
“I knew that was our wheelhouse, but we were really missing an opportunity from a brand and buzz standpoint to share how we weren’t content machines, but people and marketers, just like our customers.”
Wistia: Does CoSchedule plan on investing more in episodic content?
Eric: I think we accomplished exactly what we wanted to at the time. It was about telling our startup story and growing our brand awareness — I think the docuseries definitely accomplished that throughout the year. I still have people asking, “Hey, when are you going to make more of those videos?” For this year, if I could find a way to tell the story of how CoSchedule is the only way to organize your marketing in one place with a docuseries, we would definitely consider doing it again. At the end of the day, it’s all about making sure that a series works with your goals and what you are trying to achieve with your brand.
After hearing the story behind #OverheardAtCoSchedule, it doesn’t matter if you’re a SaaS company in the middle of North Dakota–video can help you build brand affinity and connect your audience to the individuals inside your company. Is this the year your business will create an original series, or do you already have one out in the wild? Be sure to share with us in the comments!