The Talent Fairy Chats With People Who Hire Content People
The best part of my role as Talent Fairy is that I get to talk to people constantly. I talk to folks who still work in print magazines and love it and want to ride it out. I talk to folks who have transitioned to new roles outside the magazine industry (oh, so many different roles!). And I talk to lots and lots of people who are trying to transition out of traditional media into new roles and new careers. But what I’ve found is that those three groups don’t necessarily talk to each other. There is a knowledge gap between those who are looking for content jobs — and those who are hiring for them. So I’m doing a series of posts: Chatting With People Who Hire Content People. I will attempt to bridge that gap, and answer questions that career pivotors might have about roles and organizations outside of traditional media. I will be talking to folks who have content backgrounds and “get it” and those who don’t, but they will all have one thing in common: They hire content people, people like you.
My interview this week is with Rachel Hofstetter, the CMO of ChatBooks. Rachel and I worked together at CosmoGirl where I hired her out of college to be an intern (best cover letter I ever received). She went on to editorial roles at O! The Oprah Magazine and Reader’s Digest. She then wrote a book about being an entrepreneur, Cooking Up A Business, and became one herself launching Guesterly, a customized magazine service for weddings which was acquired by Chatbooks in 2015. Rachel is now the Chief Marketing Officer of Chatbooks. I talk to her about what it means to be the CMO of a nimble startup and what she looks for in content creators.
Here is an edited transcript of our recent chat:
Talent Fairy: It’s been a minute! Could you explain to me your role within Chatbooks?
Rachel Hofstetter: In short, I’m in charge of acquiring all of our customers and giving them reasons to buy over and over again. Internally, we think about what my team does into two categories: “Brand” and “Demand.” Brand is our mission, how we talk about things, and what our visual identity is. Demand is how we go out and get people in the door, track how much they spend, and what we need to do so they buy again. On the Demand side, we’re very focused on things like “CAC.” That’s the Customer Acquisition Cost, or how much it costs to acquire a new customer. It’s one of those “insider” phrases that I’m always impressed when content people can speak to!
TF: How do you keep track of all those acronyms? Was there a time when you didn’t know what they meant?
RH: I still google things! I was in a board meeting and someone used “ASP” and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I had to google it and nothing came up! (So I just asked—it means average selling price.) But just like in magazines where we had Heds and Deks (and Dektros!), there’s a whole business language that just takes some getting used to.
TF: How is your job as a CMO different from the job you had in media?
RH: The biggest difference for me, coming from print, is how data-based everything we do is. I have to always be thinking about what the data says, and using that data to guide the strategy. For instance, if I give a customer 20% off a product, I need to make sure that I’m making up those lost gross margin dollars by getting a higher order rate. For example, when it comes to content creation, our social media manager spends at least a third of her time analyzing the data. She likely spends more time on data than she does on content creation!
TF: Why couldn’t you just have one person who does the data and another who creates the content?
RH: Well, if you’re not in the data, you won’t be able to have that fundamental understanding of how the content performed yesterday and what you should create so that it performs tomorrow. She has to have the creativity, but also at the end of the day she has to look at follower growth and engagement rates and what kind of content impacts those.
TF: What does your team at Chatbooks look like?
RH: We are about a 20ish person marketing team, Chatbooks is about 120 people total. It feels like the size of a large magazine staff. We have product marketers who write the product marketing copy for our photo books, cards, and other products we sell. My team also works closely with the product team, which designs the technology (like the Chatbooks app) that our customers use to create photo books and cards. These product marketers handle everything from the website copy to the emails, and any content that’s directly connected to the products we sell. [btw: You must stop and watch these hilarious Real Mom webisodes Rachel and team created last year.]
TF: Do you work with outside agencies to create your content or brand storytelling?
RH: Yes; and they are deeply integrated with the team. We consider them our team too, and try to share data and what’s working for us internally so that they can use that in their strategy. We have influencer agency, a PR team, and a performance content agency, who helps with SEO strategy.
TF: Was that a big shift for you to be focused on data and analytics when you come from a journalism background?
RH: I think where it changed for me was when I was building my own company [Guesterly; see my intro!]. Things had to work because it was our own money! So I became extra conscious about making sure that what I was doing had a return. Like this sure seems fun, but I have to make sure that it works. This is my own personal money. That is where it actually started from.
TF: So how did that change the way you approach your role now?
RH: Everything has an opportunity cost, whether it’s the dollars you are putting into it or people’s time. Time is expensive. We’ll take risks on experimental projects, but they have to be educated risks. That is where content can be really challenging. Content usually has a long funnel. Like, you’re listening to a podcast and you may have an affinity for the brand [Chatbooks just launched a podcast; check it out!]. But that doesn’t always translate to a trackable purchase in the near term; it’s just harder to track that. Sometimes with content we have to take educated leaps, and then try to figure out the attribution in the meantime.
TF: That is where quality content is important right?
RH: Right. I have to say, I’m still a content snob. Now I am a data snob, too. But there is nothing more horrible than bad content. For a brand, I believe that bad content is worse than no content.
TF: What skills do you look for when hiring the people who create your content?
RH: People who can create good content and who can return and report on the data. It’s about being able to look back on what we’ve created and optimize and shift as needed based on the data. It’s someone who can think: What was the goal? Was that achieved? What did we learn? How did whatever we do ladder up to a number that we can measure and track?
TF: Is that the kind of question you would ask someone when interviewing them for a job at Chatbooks?
RH: To be honest, if they didn’t have any metrics [experience] on their resume, I probably wouldn’t be talking to them in the first place! I need to see experience with some kind of metrics. I need to know more than that they created beautiful copy. I need to see how that copy drove the business. Even if it’s simple as show that you wrote XYZ and as a result, X happened. The easiest way to show that is with numbers. But even if you can’t, just try to tie ANYTHING you did to some sort of effect. If they have that metric thinking, that’s what I’m looking for.
TF: Anything else you would want to know when hiring a traditional content creator in a more marketing type role?
RH: I want to know: Can they write with clarity? Our copywriters have to be able to write clearly. It’s clarity over clever. The voice that works with our audience is fun and friendly and not taking ourselves too seriously. But that fun voice doesn’t work if it’s not clear first. And honestly, we don’t have time to edit for clarity at this stage in the game! And the ability to sell yourself is so important. I have interviewed a number of content creators recently and the ones that stick with me are those who do a good job of talking through their personal story. One even shared a deck with me. It was very thought out and well designed. It had her personal story and bio, and then screenshots of her work: articles and clips. It was all very visual with photos and headlines. It definitely made her more sticky. I probably talked to 10 people and this is the one I can’t stop thinking about.
TF: So are you going to hire her?
RH: Well …. That’s where I’m stuck. The one thing this woman was lacking is more experience with metrics. She had done all this great content but she didn’t know how well it performed! I need her storytelling, but also her initiative and involvement in how it performed. I want someone who can create the content and can find out how it performs in the same hour. At the end of the day, my job is not simply to produce beautiful content. My job is to bring in new customers at a good price, while creating brand affinity. I have to run everything through that lens.
TF: So fascinating! I’m dying to know who you end up hiring for this role! So for the folks reading this at home, will you be hiring more content creators? What is your vision for content at Chatbooks?
RH: Yes! Our goal is to create fun, helpful content for moms, wherever she is in 2019. That means everything from our podcast and social media to blog posts, videos, offline events, and more. We’re currently wrapping all those unique content channels into a destination content hub.
TF: I can’t wait to watch it all unfold! Thanks so much for sharing all this great info today; I learned a ton.
RH: My pleasure!
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010. She offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career. This year she launched Talent Fairy to help brands recruit and develop high-quality creative talent.