Getting a peek under the hood of GE’s content marketing strategy

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 Content Conversations under the ACMA event umbrella.

Please do look into ACMA if you are in content marketing. Agencies or brands, you are all welcome to help us transform business in Asia Pacific through content marketing.

Andrea Edwards

But getting back to the reasons I was excited to be interviewing Penny

  1. I have enormous admiration for the work GE continues to do in content marketing, and great respect for Penny as a distinguished communications professional
  2. Furthermore, 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.’ Always incredibly valuable

So, at our relaunch of ACMA Content Conversations, 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. I believe everyone who attended was fortunate to hear Penny speak. Me included.

A lot was said, but my take aways (you can read the full transcript here.)

  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 you know, 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 what content marketing is 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! Here’s a link to GE Reports Africa that Penny referenced
  3. “A key point for anyone in an agency and in-house, is that 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 really 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. Continuing the audience focus,it becomes the responsibility for the person on the ground, 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 could actually use and repurpose with that audience. I don’t think it’s brain surgery. I think it’s focus.” Focus was a very strong message throughout the conversation with Penny, 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 can not communicate with your customers (and other stakeholders) digitally, then it is a business operations failure. This is a comment that floored me in its fundamental truth and 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

Andrea T Edwards

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

However, 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.

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.

As content marketers, our goal is to earn time, so be magnificent. Break out of the pack.

I hope the above is useful and would love to know your take-aways, whether you attended or you just read the transcript??



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

Photo credit, goes to the fabulous Isabella Barbato.

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