Q&A With HLK's New Associate Content Directors
May 17, 2018
We sat down with our two new associate content directors to better understand content, what inspires them, and their beverages of choice.
HLK: Tell us about yourself.
- Lucas Miller: I'm a St. Louis transplant originally from the Pacific Northwest by way of Phoenix. I went to journalism school and always thought I'd be the next Edward R. Murrow, but then found that content marketing and audience strategy was a better fit with my skill set. I've lived in several different regions in the country, doing different types of agency work in each place. I love my adopted city for all of the vibrant cultural events and the renaissance of art we're experiencing. I'm a bit of a hippie and I enjoy spending time outdoors. I think it is important to disconnect from the digital world.
- Sean Connors: Growing up, I wanted to be a sports journalist because I enjoyed writing and telling people stories. I transformed that into a career first as a copywriter, then a freelancer and onto several St. Louis-area agencies. I've dabbled in a variety of industries from nightlife and entertainment to agriculture to CPG. I've worn many hats, including a copywriter, social media manager, strategist and an associate creative director. Most recently, I worked at We Are Alexander as its corporate communications manager, helping to navigate the agency through its rebrand. I enjoy spending time with my wife and my dog, Toby, a lab-chow mix. I'm a sports junkie and I spend a lot of time on Twitter talking to people or reading about tech innovations and consumer behaviors.
Warning: if you continue reading, you may soon be craving a Busch Light. Don't say we didn't warn you.
HLK: Content can mean a lot of things to different people. What does "content" mean to you?
- LM: A few years ago, all that was required of brands on social and digital platforms was just that they show up. Now, we live in a vastly different world. Brands can't just exist on these platforms — they need to be there with a purpose. Content isn't just an article or info graphic that you posted, it is providing someone with a tool, an insight or story to make his/her life better. I see content more as what the audience gets out of consuming it rather than a physical deliverable.
- SC: To me, content is telling a story and offering supporting information to create an informed opinion on a topic or item. It is similar to journalism, but we then incorporate brand information and work with clients to help shape the story we want to tell.
HLK: What is your approach to content marketing?
- LM: I view content marketing as a blend of art and science. In order to make a killer content marketing salsa you need three main ingredients: (1) a deep understanding of the intersection between your audience, a brand's purpose and what the mutual benefit for both is; (2) a clear and concise objective; and (3) the ability to have open and honest conversations about quality of work. Sometimes we are so focused on KPIs and audience intelligence that we don't take the time to ask each other if the content we've created is actually worth a damn.
- SC: I take an audience-first approach. I put myself in the audience's shoes and think, "What would I be interested in? What would I want to see, read and learn about? What can I take away from this?" I examine the insights and sociology behind decisions. And, at the end of the day, it's all about delivering the right message at the right time and in the right place.
HLK: In your opinion, what are some brands that are doing content marketing the right way?
- LM: There are quite a few brands that are doing it right, but I'm particularly keen on what YETI is doing. They do a great job of telling stories that align with their brand ethos without being overly saccharine or commercial. They take long-form stories and then atomize them across different distribution channels without simply publishing the same story on each social network. This is also complemented by an ambassador program and smooth e-commerce experience. The brands that are winning understand that they need to invest in providing people value beyond transaction, even if that's simply quality-branded entertainment.
- SC: Wendy's attention-grabbing, sometimes irreverent approach seems to connect and comes across as spontaneous rather than planned. It's almost fearless. MoonPie is funny and very personable. As for other content realms, I think American Express does a solid job with all of its branded channels, especially in customer service. It essentially made itself the destination for small business owners to seek information and advice.
HLK: What do you see as the future of this growing department?
- LM: First and foremost, we're fortunate to exist at an agency where our thinking is supported and where leadership believes in the value of content marketing. Our department is at the intersection of digital culture, engagement and content, which provides us with a unique line of sight into the audiences that our clients are trying to reach and allows us to better integrate marketing efforts across the board.
- SC: I'm excited to see what our team can do and where it can go. When combined with the great resources we have within our agency walls, I believe we have a tremendous opportunity to grow and find new ways to connect with audiences.
HLK: What inspires you?
- LM: I'm most often inspired when I make a conscious effort to push myself out of my comfort zone. Feeling uncomfortable is a great way to pull new ideas from myself that I'm not overtly aware of. I'm also inspired by people who are kind without reciprocal expectations.
- SC: My role models inspire me: my parents and my wife. Without their continued support, trust and love, I don't think I'd be the person I am today.
HLK: If you weren't in content marketing, what would you be doing?
- LM: I'd either be a bartender or I'd go back to school to study sociology. Sociology fascinates me. I think all communication, marketing, advertising or journalism majors should be required to minor in it. Understanding culture and the diversity of experience that exists is table stakes for doing great marketing work.
- SC: If I had the patience, I'd be a craft brewer. But since I'm not patient with things like that and the world has enough folks brewing excellent beverages already, I'd probably be a bar owner.
HLK: How do you connect with one of our core values and why? (Be curious, Be thoughtful and Be brave)
- LM: Be thoughtful. I'm a naturally curious person, but being thoughtful means you are truly listening to and being empathetic for your audience. You can't be thoughtful without being empathetic.
- SC: Be curious. I'm always looking for more information. The best decisions you can make are informed ones.
HLK: What advice do you have for someone who may be just getting into the industry?
- LM: Be confident in what you know and what you don't. You have something to bring to the table. Don't be scared to say you don't know how to do something. And, if you screw up, admit it and then figure out how to fix it.
- SC: Listen. When you are talking to other people, listen to their stories. Reflect and see how you can use their experience and knowledge to improve yourself, and then put that into action.
HLK: And finally, the lightning round.
- Cats or dogs?
- LM: Dogs.
- SC: Dogs.
- City or county?
- LM: Both. I live in the city, but I like being able to get out to the county to clear my head.
- SC: County, but for St. Louis to thrive the city needs to be at the center of it all.
- Favorite movie?
- LM: Out Cold.
- SC: Stripes.
- First job?
- LM: As a dishwasher at a sushi restaurant.
- SC: In the bag room at a golf course.
- Coffee or tea?
- LM: Tea.
- SC: Coffee.
- Alcoholic beverage of choice?
- LM: I'm fond of a lot of alcoholic beverages, but if I had to choose just one to drink for the rest of my life it'd be Busch Light. It was the beer of choice during my college years, during which I somehow subsisted on only it and Little Caesars pizza. Judge me if you want. I'll be over here enjoying an American light lager with a refreshingly smooth taste and easy finish.
- SC: Bourbon or an IPA.