Highlights and Full Video: ACMA Content Conversations with GE’s Penny Shone

For the first ACMA Content Conversations of 2018, we sat down with senior communications executive Penny Shone, who most recently was Managing Director for Global Growth Communications at GE, leading a team responsible for communications in 100+ countries. Penny explains how to win senior executive buy-in for content marketing, walks us through the global roll-out of content hub GE Reports, and explains why long-form content continues to be valuable.

Andrea Edwards, ACMA’s current chairman, interviewed Penny and shares her takeaways from the conversation. This post was first published on Andrea’s LinkedIn page here.

Read the full transcript here or watch the interview below. Thanks to our video partner Brand New Media and our venue partner LinkedIn.

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I was thrilled to interview Penny Shone, former Managing Director of Global Growth Communications at GE, who is now taking time out to consider what’s next. I know many people at our event were inspired by that alone – a senior business leader taking “a gap year!” Those breaks are so great for the soul.

This interview was part of the relaunch of the Asia Content Marketing Association (ACMA) – of which I’m proud to be chairman this year – as well as the relaunch of ACMA Content Conversations under our event umbrella.

Why I was excited to be interviewing Penny:

  • I have enormous admiration for the work GE continues to do in content marketing and great respect for Penny as a distinguished communications professional.
  • It was great to speak with someone who isn’t caught up in ‘industry jargon’ and has a great deal of a quality I value – common sense. Like all specialist areas, content marketing attracts its own insular view of the world, and being insular is dangerous in any field, right? Penny brings insights from ‘outside.’
  • So we had the opportunity to hear from a leader in our field, who led the communication functions for a company renowned as a leader in B2B content marketing around the world.

A lot was said (you can read the full transcript here). Here are my takeaways:

1. The perceived value or lack of value in the word content. “I didn’t even like the term when I first heard it because when you insure your house, you insure it for its ‘contents’. But nobody thinks about what you have in your home as ‘content’. You think about it as something you love that’s got a really important memory. And I know when I was furnishing my house here, everything I bought needed to be both functional and beautiful. And so, I think that’s the way I think about content. The danger is the word ‘content’ can make you think about stuff. That it’s just stuff.”

I couldn’t agree with this statement more. Devaluing content marketing has definitely been a challenge in getting the discipline taken seriously. Content marketing is not “stuff,” it’s how we have conversations with our customers today. It’s the way we have conversations with all audiences today.

2. The global, regional and local perspective. From getting buy-in from CEOs in each of the countries you work in, to making a business case at the local level, and then creating powerful content that is going to resonate deeply in the local market – that was very insightful and a lesson for all. The lesson of partnering with customers too — yes!

3. “A key point for anyone in an agency and in-house: It’s very difficult for an agency person to sell an idea if there’s not somebody in the company already like-minded about their area. You need an internal stakeholder to value this and to be able to sell an idea.” To that I say,  Amen! As content marketers, to be successful, you must find the business champions, whether in-house or out. Success happens when you can get business leaders, sales, marketing and communications aligned together. This is the core of content marketing becoming transformational for your business.

4. Audience focus:It becomes the responsibility of the senior person on the ground to understand what our business mix is in a market, and then to match our content mix, as well as our aspirations in that market. So, if we’re going off to a new market, we look around the company to find out what we can actually use and repurpose with that audience. I don’t think it’s brain surgery. I think it’s focus.Focus is a very strong message throughout the conversation, so take a look at your focus. Is it right? Too broad? Too narrow? Are you focused on the wrong things based on the business mix?

5. And Penny’s final point in my own words: If your leaders and your business cannot communicate with your customers (and other stakeholders) digitally, then it is a business operations failure. This comment floored me in its fundamental truth. To hear someone like Penny speak those words tells me content marketing (as a holistic philosophy) is moving where it needs to be – as a strategic imperative for business.

Please read the transcript. So much value in this content.

Before I sign off, one other comment I want to address was a question about content length. Please, PLEASE do not focus on this first. Focus on creating the most compelling and amazing content your customers are going to love and value. Long, short, video, infographic… (the list goes on), is not the priority.

Instead ask: Who is my customer, and based on the quality of my content, how much of my customer’s time do my stories earn? If it’s magnificent information, your audience will give you all the time in the world. If it’s same-same, you won’t get their attention.

Here’s a link to GE Reports, a link to GE Reports Africa that Penny referenced, and the stunning Instagram handle. Maybe not everyone will get excited by jet engines, but I like them. 😊