If you’ve ever watched an episode of Locals, you’ll notice that Slagen’s pitch for the show is spot on. The Dirty Jobs side of the series takes you behind the scenes of a local business’s operations, teaching you how small business owners think about marketing, hiring, and culture — anything that has to do with running their business.
The Parts Unknown side of the series goes beyond these logistics to capture the adventure — the passion, tasks, challenges, victories, and hustle — that local business life innately calls for. And blending these two concepts into one reveals the core identity of these businesses just as much as the process behind their products.
But what’s even more impressive about Locals is that it was ThriveHive’s debut video series, and they managed to turn it into a real success. Read on to learn how ThriveHive crafted a truly original debut video series and how your team can do the same!
When Slagen first joined ThriveHive in September of 2018, the marketing team was invested in creating traditional written content, which attracted organic traffic, generated leads, and grew their business at a steady pace. Despite this success, though, Slagen noticed that their content wasn’t really separating their brand from the rest of the pack. There was nothing that they could call “their thing.”
“The marketing team was invested in creating traditional written content, which attracted organic traffic, generated leads, and grew their business at a steady pace. Despite this success, though, Slagen noticed that their content wasn’t really separating their brand from the rest of the pack.”
Slagen did some digging online to see what some of the biggest and best brands are doing these days and discovered InVision’s films and Mailchimp’s video series, which sparked an idea for what exactly his team could make to stand out — a TV show.
Like every CMO, Slagen had to pitch a marketing plan to his CEO to back up the concept behind Locals. The pitch included some standard demand generation and product marketing strategies, but when it came to branding, he really wanted to spotlight the opportunity that they could capitalize on with Locals. There was already a boom in podcasts in the B2B space, which proved that the demand for binge-worthy business content was surging. But only a few brands had launched a video series — which meant this was the perfect time to double down on one.
At the end of the pitch, ThriveHive’s CEO green-lit Locals, but on one condition — Slagen had to fully commit to the show. In other words, crafting Locals had to be a core part of his role. So, Slagen got right to work with ThriveHive’s in-house videographer Brian Higgins, who could help him plan, film, produce, and edit the show, as well as its two in-house designers Alex Niemeyer and Rachel Conway, who could further the show with branding.
Image courtesy of ThriveHive
After building out his team, Slagen’s next task was to plan the show. He knew he wanted the concept to resemble a combination of Parts Unknown and Dirty Jobs, but he didn’t know how long each episode would be, what the tone would be, and who would be the star of the show.
Fortunately, with a background in film, Higgins put a plan into place. The team set their sights on releasing one episode per month for the next six to seven months and were excited to see what would happen next.
The first small business Locals featured was The Chicken & Rice Guys, which operated just a floor below them in their building. After Higgins, Niemeyer, and Conway put together a pitch that described the episode’s feel and the benefits of participating in the series, The Chicken & Rice Guys were sold.
So, Slagen and his team headed to their warehouse where they housed all the food trucks to film the episode. Here’s a look at the final product:
With this episode in hand, ThriveHive was able to then pitch the show to other businesses. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t run into some kinks along the way.
Slagen and Higgins had improvised the entire episode, which took 15 takes to complete. Naturally, they knew filming on the fly wasn’t going to be a practical strategy anymore, so they decided to storyboard each episode. Slagen and his team mapped everything out from its theme and shots to what questions they’d ask and when. There were some instances during production, however, where they had to bag the script and just roll with it. Luckily, the storyboard’s structure and strategy still guided that improvisation.
Treating the first season of Locals more like a pilot, Slagen and his team also knew that there would be plenty of room for improvement. So they asked all marketing team members to watch each episode and suggest ideas to spice things up. Some of the team’s input included adding in more special effects, side notes, and fun pop-up facts about the featured business owners.
Once ThriveHive finished filming each episode, Higgins would record, edit, and add all the special effects to each episode. Then he’d send it to the designers, so they could upload the video to the landing page and tinker with the page’s aesthetic.
Next, the team would cut up all of their episodes into teaser trailers and write blog posts about them, craft email copy, and send each episode out to the video series’ email subscribers. ThriveHive also developed an internal marketing strategy for the show, where they would share each episode with their employees, advisors, partners, and brand evangelists.
Finally, ThriveHive would examine each episode’s analytics, such as views, completion rate, subscribers, and social shares, to understand the show’s performance and influence creative decisions. For instance, creative choices like throwing the audience right into the content and adding engaging pop-ups throughout. They also ended up figuring out that if viewers watch an episode for five minutes, they could get them to watch for the entire 20–25 minutes.
Slagen and his team would spend four weeks on this post-production process for every episode. This enabled them to take the lessons they learned from the previous episode about planning, shooting, hosting, editing, and marketing the content and apply them to the next one.
At the end of Slagen’s interview at Change the Channel, he left us with some moving final thoughts.
“Marketing’s hard. If you really want your brand to stick out, this is an area that you’re going to have to jump into. This feels just like when blogging was gaining traction,” he said. “We’re about to hit the golden age of video, which is a differentiated and better way to connect with your audience. But it’s only going to get harder, so get on the ship now or else in a couple of years, you’re going to have to swim to get on it.”