Know Your Goals Before You Create A Content Marketing Strategy

Bethany Chambers, director of audience engagement at North Coast Media, is an expert in editorial, marketing, and the media business. She learned the ropes of new product development, creating content strategy and building strong client relationships quickly.

Chambers has also worked as a reporter and has covered a diverse range of subjects including telecom, health care, manufacturing, and local politics. She is passionate about the convergence of journalism and marketing and loves to deal with tools that help her enable this process.

Bethany Chambers has many awards and recognitions to her credit including the Folio Magazine Top Women in Media award and a National Press Club fellowship. She has been honored by being named in the 2016 Folio Magazine Top Women. She is also a Feldman Fellow of the National Press Club.

Chambers also has immense experience in the technology, industrial, green industry, and health care fields. She has also worked in business-to-business and community publishing.

In 2017, Chambers presented at Content Marketing World and the Business Information and Media Summit. She was at the helm in online training sessions held on a variety of topics. She has also been an expert panelist for WMFE Orlando’s “Ballot” election series covering the Florida State House of Representatives.

Bethany Chambers is a proud alumna of Duquesne University’s A. J. Palumbo School of Business and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Bethany lives in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, John Lihwa, an industrial sales manager.

Read on to learn more about Bethany Chambers.

Leave a comment saying what steps you think we should take to make our content more engaging and let us know who you’d like to see us interview next!


Bethany, how did you start in Content Marketing?  You started pretty early before it became a buzz word.

That’s true, I think of northeast Ohio, Cleveland in particular as sort of the birthplace of Content Marketing.  And I guess I was sort of lucky to be here as part of that.  I started with Northcoast Media in 2012 and that is when we began our content marketing.  That was the first year that Content World was here at the Convention Center in Cleveland.  It was a lot smaller, there were only a few of these rooms and the vendors were right here in the middle of the aisle ways.  I think that is when it really started taking off.  We were doing small placements in e-newsletters and a little bit of sponsored email that was just beyond your custom eblast and more like a custom e-newsletter.  I was a team of one working on that. The last 5 years but the last 3 years in particular that we have really taken off.  It has blown up, there is no better way to describe it! Our offerings have blown up, our demand is probably more than we can handle.  My team has grown as a result.

How many are currently on your team?

We actually are restructuring some positions, we are currently at 12 but I see we will be back to 14 next year with a couple of new hires.   We did a full content inventory.  We have brands that are over 100 years old they had a magazine, it’s amazing to pull out a magazine from 1917 and be able to look through it and see how far we’ve come from a brand basis.   We did that full analysis and we started to realize that part of the challenge was that we were really starting to silo content marketing for our editorial team so that’s why weren’t getting as much traction from our own content and so with reevaluating and restructuring those positions we have a lot more touch points between our editorial team and our content team right down to the fact that we are actually renovating our offices. Our IMG Center right across the street is under construction right now to put all of the content players in one place together regardless of whether you work with our marketing partner or with our editorial content.

I see that you are the Director of Engagement.  How do you continue to manage your audience engagement in an industry with so called dull and boring subjects such as machinery, movable plants and geo spatial technology as a B2B publication?

It is a huge challenge because for one thing we work in 6 very disparate markets.  But I think the biggest challenge that we face is not so much the disparate parts of the market because there actually is some crossovers among chemical companies and technology companies’ non-endemic business, you know financial services that would crossover all of them. The bigger challenge I think that we face is really predicting ahead to do strategy for the upcoming 5 years and to really road map for success.  Because we have added to our team we are able to put more time in strategy.

With such a niche audience that you have, how do you manage to get your content seen?  So, what are spectrums you have?

As a media company we have the distribution model built in so people come to us from that, especially people who are multi-generational.  Because we have that brand loyalty we are able to create a very wide distribution model through social media, our websites, our e-newsletters, video and webinar educational content that we do whitepapers and really expand even into some new media and new technologies that have come out in the last 4 years.

How do you see the old generation adopting to the new media? Are they engaging with you equally on social media as they would writing in and sending you letters for your print publications. Are they sending you comments on Facebook, twitter and are they following you on linked in?

It varies widely.  I spoke to a largely older male population, over 50 over 60 and I did a social media presentation for them.  And I learned that because their grand kids are doing it and they want to be able to connect with them, they are willing to connect with brands too; although that would be secondary goal.   We’ve been trying to really fill that void, the need for the education component and helping with set-up. Members of my team have been getting out and doing more of those trainings to really create that digital competency that is needed for people to feel comfortable on social media

How are you using social media to engage with the younger generation of those family businesses? Do they want to engage on social media and the new platforms that you have?

We have both, it’s amazing. For example, our “Golfdome” magazine.  The average reader is a man in his 40’s, he is a super intendent or general manager of a golf course. These are really busy people, they work long hours.  One of the most popular sections in all of the magazines we print is our “Golfdome Gallery.” It’s a page that is almost like a scrapbook, we get a lot of submissions and it’s a big thrill for a lot of these guys to be in that gallery.  This is a print page, I’ve heard of stories of guys that were retiring, moving to different jobs who wants to have their “Golfdome Gallery” page framed.

How do you build curiosity in your industry?

It’s a natural undercurrent especially if you grew up in the business. One of the challenges for us is that we have to keep it fresh.  There’s only so many ways that you can tell a person how to treat their bed bugs, so we have to determine what’s the news peg for this story that makes it interesting and different and if it doesn’t have one then maybe it’s got to go to the side until we do get one to it.  We have to be able to go back to those to look for a story board that hits and address the pain points that our audience and readers feel.

What is the main focus of your promotion strategy, is it towards online or it is towards print or is it a combination of both and how much of social media are you using?  How do you see this happening over the next few years because the trends in the social media are changing almost every day.  How do you adapt to all of the changes?

Events is the fastest growing part of our business but digital is second. With that said we are still an 80% print business. So that tells you where we have come from over the last 6 years and I know that means that over the next 6 years we see an even faster escalation of that digital adoption.  But I think the biggest thing that I do personally to keep us going in the right direction, especially as my team grows, make sure that I am getting out to trade shows and conferences like this.  So I will be at Content Marketing World, I attend Folio, the trade show for magazines every fall.  There are several different associations that I’m a member of and I am constantly reading and following.  So, my theory has always been that failure is a good thing and there is no harm in trying.

Can you recommend any tools for our viewers for B2B content promotion?

That’s a tough question and a really good one. This is not a content promotion tool but it is a tool we use everyday in our office it is Trilow, that is for your project management and for your story boarding and your planning ahead for your content.  And its great to get the app, I’m here and I get the notifications so I can see what projects are getting done and which things are on hold, updates against deadlines. As far as the promotion part of it, we have had some good success with Credspark and that’s an educational quiz company, it’s a vendor tool that exists. That has been nice because it’s been helping us to gauge where there are knowledge gaps that exists and also to identify some of those pain points.

So how do you see Artificial Intelligence helping you or impacting the way you work in content creation and promotion?

There’s 2 really critical things.  For any brands that do any king of work internationally where you cannot be available 24 hours a day as a human being working on those things, AI and Chat bots create an opportunity for you to engage with those audiences. GPS world magazine which is covering the industry of positioning, navigation and timing in an international spectrum there is just no possible way that we can be available to all these people at all time and a lot of the things they are asking is very time specific or time sensitive questions. If you’re working in the defence field or their working in drones and autonomus vehicles so the questions they have we want to be able to answer so I think AI is really important for us there and the other thing is being able to extend your reach.   There is the predictive analytics to this and I find most intriguing because we don’t necessarily know. So for the landscape business for instance there are thousands of landscape businesses that start each year that pop up, but how do we find those people and how do we make sure we reach them with our content and that they come to be engaged with our brand if their not already part of a legacy family business.  I think predictive analytics and AI can really work together to identify a model of who that person is that is going to start a landscape business.  I mean how amazing is it if you could almost predict that a person is going to start a landscape business before they have even started it and then help them start their business because we have all of this content that is targeted to help them do that.

For more on Bethany Chambers, you can keep up with her on LinkedIn, and Twitter. Let us know in the comments who you’d like to see us interview next!