We were lucky enough to have Andi Robinson, Global Digital Content Leader at Corteva Agriscience and Founder of Hijinx Marketing spend a few minutes with us talking about her background, what it meant for her to be honored as a Community Champion at Content Marketing World, and what she’s been up to with Corteva.
Our conversation even went into non-GMO labeling, why scientific-sounding ingredients in food shouldn’t scare you, the correct pronunciation of Corteva, and the evolution of content marketing as more than just storytelling.
She truly is a beacon of digital marketing knowledge and it was a real pleasure to interview her!
Andi Robinson is the Global Digital Content Leader at Corteva Agriscience and Founder of Hijinx Marketing.
Francesco Montesanto is a Senior Manager of Content & SEO at Welcome.
Anthony Aiosa is the VP of Product Marketing & Comms at Welcome.
Here is a transcript of our conversation.
FM: Let’s start off by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of what you’ve been up to at Corteva.
AR: It’s Corteva, just FYI, like Corteva foreva.
FM: Good way to help remember it. Now I’ll never forget it.
AA: Think if that’s not a hashtag, you should make that a hashtag.
AR: Well, when we first became a company we actually did have graphics that had the pronunciation of it because it’s a made up word.
It basically means the heart of nature, but it’s a made up word. We actually had graphics when we were announcing our name on how to say it. I probably still have some of the posters in my office.
Anyway, I’ve been with Corteva Agriscience and previously Dow Sciences for about eight years. I used to lead digital marketing for our external affairs function at Dow AgroSciences before Dow merged with DuPont and then Corteva spun out of that as a pure play agriculture company. With the merger, I moved into the role of Global Digital Content Leader. And this was not really a role that we had in any of what we call heritage companies.
I touch a lot of different areas that relate to content and content marketing. I lead our social media efforts on the commercial side of the business and I work with our external affairs and our social media manager on all things related to social media.
I help our marketers all over the world with their content marketing efforts. So, I work with probably 40 or 50 different marketing teams in different countries around the world. I also lead our Content Council and there’s a blog about it on Content Marketing Institute’s website.
I’m responsible for our global content marketing campaigns, which we’ve just started this year and are doing more of next year. I also advise on SEO, taxonomy, digital brand, and visual communications. I also manage several pieces of software including Welcome that really play a role in our content execution. Together with my teammates who lead different channels like eCommerce, web marketing, automation, and CRM we work together to help advance the digital marketing goals of all our commercial teams.
FM: That’s super interesting to hear because I think with the way marketing is shaping up now, content is its own industry in and of itself. And it kind of extends to not just SEO. Like you mentioned, you’re doing everything from social media to internal taxonomy with the site. It’s just really fascinating to see just how much content and SEO branch out into other aspects of marketing and how that works with managing other marketing teams.
So with that, can you describe your approach to content strategy? Is it SEO? Organic traffic? Branding? Conversions? All of the above? I’m sure it’s kind of a mix, but what would you say your approach is to content strategy and the goals behind it?
AR: Yeah, it is kind of a difficult question to answer. Our business is very complex and so, in different areas of the world, different countries, we focus on different things. We focus on different content, best practices, and go-to- market strategies. For example, what’s visually appealing in one region may not be visually appealing in another region. So, that’s something we need to take into account.
If you think about if you’ve seen any marketing in the APAC region, the visual style is very different and that is what their audience reacts to, versus what we have here in North America. It’s really kind of a mixed bag.
There’s a little bit of each one of those things that you mentioned in your question and more. Every country really has a slightly different approach, but I would say overall when it comes to content and content marketing, everybody at Corteva has a laser focus on our customers’ needs. We look at every piece of content and digital campaign we’re doing and we make sure that it meets the needs of our audience, whether that be customers or consumers. We don’t sell directly to consumers, but consumers are definitely an audience of ours as well as other stakeholders like investors. We also (the Content Council), when we launched early last year, came up with a content philosophy.
It basically is eight principles of content that kind of run the gamut. Our content should ladder up to our Corteva purpose. Basically all of that is part of our philosophy.
We say if you create a piece of content that meets two of those philosophy points you probably want to revisit it. If it aligns with three of those principles then you’re probably good to go and it’s going to be amazing content.
Things like positioning Corteva as an industry leader in innovation, showcasing our shared values, informing, and educating our audience. We have those and it’s on our intranet site where people can refer back to it so we know what our north star is.
FM: That’s really fascinating about the Content Council. I think a lot of content strategists out there really don’t tie it back to the company’s mission as closely. A lot of people when they produce content they’re looking at, well, what are the SEO guidelines here? They don’t really think about the content’s purpose, which is to propel and accelerate the brand or the company that it’s tied to. So with that how does content and digital marketing play a role in helping or Corteva’s mission specifically?
AR: Our purpose at Corteva – and this is on our website – is to “enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come.” As an agriculture company, we have a role to play in modern agriculture as it relates to farmers and the food chain, but also those who consume. Those are your consumers and really everybody in the world who consumes foods derived from agriculture. That means we’re not just a company that sells products and services, but we see our purpose to enrich society as a whole. Content marketing plays a huge role in that purpose. Through our digital channels, whether it be website, social media, emails, etc. We can reach not only our customers but others who are interested in modern agriculture and the role it plays in feeding the world.
It’s difficult because some people chastise modern agriculture methods. Genetic modification and things like that. But without modern agriculture, we wouldn’t have enough food to feed the world. And so, it’s part of our goal to help people realize that what they’re buying in the store has been thought about very carefully. I mean, farmers, aren’t just your stereotypical guy in in overalls with a pitchfork anymore. They’re businessmen or businesswomen. Every decision they make is not only for their own business benefit, but for the benefit of the people who are eating the food that they’re growing. Part of our role is to help them tell that story to their communities and to the broader world as a whole around the importance of modern agriculture and the part it plays in feeding all of us.
We actually have a blog on our Corteva global website called Plate-Wise and it’s all articles written by our employees about things related to food. I’m actually working on an article right now about how shopping for groceries shouldn’t be scary. It talks about how a lot of these words that you find on ingredient labels sound scary, but they’re really not. Just because it’s a long word or something you don’t know doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. I mean, a lot of the vitamin B one, two, etc. They all have scientific names and they may be in your ingredients and people are like, “oh, that’s bad.” It’s vitamin B.
FM: It’s just so important to demystify all of those long ingredients that have like 16 letters in their name because people will just assume that it’s made in a lab.
AR: Don’t get me started on non-GMO (laughs).
There are only eight or nine foods in the world that are actually GMO. I go grocery shopping and see fresh herbs and it says “non-GMO”. It’s just marketing.
FM: Awesome. I could talk about this for hours, but I do want to get into what it means for you to be recognized as a community champion at Content Marketing World. What does it mean to you to be recognized for something as prestigious as a community champion and to share your experience with so many people in the industry?
AR: It was a huge shock! I had no idea it was coming. I was still eating my lunch. Honestly, I had to swallow really quick when I realized she was talking about me. I kind of blacked out after that. I don’t know what she said after that or what I said.
Since I’ve been in this role as the content leader for Corteva, I’ve really become more involved in the content marketing community as a whole, whether it be on Twitter chats on Tuesdays, live streams, webinars, and things like that. I just really find inspiration from seeing what other people are doing.
AR: It was so hard to come back from Content Marketing World because it was just so invigorating to talk with people who speak the same language of content marketing and really understand what you do since I’m the only one who’s 100% dedicated to content marketing here. It’s nice to speak with other people and hear what they’re saying. I really love that people have such a robust dialogue about the advancement of content marketing as an industry.
We talk about the basic process of content marketing and SEO, different types of content, content formats, channels, strategy, all of those things. But really the content marketing community is pretty tight knit and they have a vested interest in making sure that more companies are using content marketing, because I think there are still so many companies out there that really don’t understand the importance and the power of content marketing. And it’s really up to us as an industry to help spread the word. Getting recognized was super exciting.
FM: That’s amazing. Yeah. I agree. To us content marketers, we kind of get myopic in a way where, to us it’s just so obvious where it’s almost not even worth saying in some ways. You’re creating a blog, but you’re also creating a media channel for your industry. Google just came out and said that it’s one of their top, if not the top ranking factor, is still content.
AR: I think it was Joe Pulizzi at CMW actually mentioned that one of the first known examples of content marketing is from agriculture. John Deere’s The Furrow publication that they used to print way back in, I don’t know, 1918 or something like that. But they still do it to this day. It’s just in the digital format and it’s one of the first examples and it actually came from agriculture.
I think the fact that in many ways in agriculture we talk about product benefits. That’s what we traditionally do. This idea of not talking about our products specifically, but talking about other things that are important to us and about our sustainability goals. It’s a little bit new, but really it has its roots in the agriculture world.
FM: And on that note, speaking of talking about your product in a roundabout way, let’s do that with Welcome. How does our product help you and your team achieve your content and marketing goals overall?
AR: One of the things we knew was that we needed to put something into place that would help us manage our marketing campaigns because we were still doing email and meetings with agency partners. And so, we did an RFP and we ended up choosing Welcome. It’s really helped us keep better track of our marketing campaigns. It leads to increased transparency not only internally, but also with our agency partners with all of our stakeholders. It gives us better accountability across the campaign planning process. From an operational standpoint, we can see how long things are taking or we can see where they’re stuck in the process very easily through the use of workflows.
If somebody’s late on getting their approval or whatever, it’s very easy to see that. Whereas, when you’re just doing email or doing things in SharePoint or something like that, you end up having to go back and try to figure out where the bottleneck is or figure out who made the last comment. I love that part of it. It just gives us more operational efficiency from a marketing process perspective.
But we’re also starting to do more integration. Right now, we have an integration with Bynder which is our enterprise DAM. If something gets created Welcome and it goes through the review and approval process, once it’s approved it can be pushed to either Bynder or Showpad, which is our sales enablement platform.
We have those two integrations and we’re looking to do more of those as well. So, it really is part of a whole cycle of the grunt work in Welcome; putting everything in there, getting all the reviews and approvals, getting all of the signoffs, and keeping a record of everything.
But then, actually pushing the content out to our execution channels is what completes the process of pushing that out the door.
FM: Yeah, I’m glad to see that it’s actually making a difference on your team and really glad to hear that about the integrations too. Because that’s obviously a huge point of emphasis is to not replace tools, but actually just kind of work together. That tells the whole story of what Welcome is trying to do.
With the time we have left, I wanted to make sure I got into this, too. You run your own agency called Hijinx. What inspired you to start your own agency and could you tell us a little bit more about what Hijinx is doing at the moment?
AR: I don’t know if I’d call it an agency – more of a consultancy because it’s just me. I’m a sole proprietor. But I started it about 10 years ago when I was in a period of unemployment. I thought: “I know so much about marketing, I can bring my skills to bear in other ways than just working in-house for a company.” And there are a lot of small businesses particularly in a big city like Indianapolis that could use some marketing help. Most small business owners know their products and they know their service really well, but they’re not necessarily marketers. My goal with Hijinx is really to bring marketing best practices and principles to these small business owners in the Indianapolis area to help them increase sales.
I’ve worked with some restaurants around here, service service entities, and people who sell software. I’ve worked with a number of different small businesses here in central Indiana, helping them with anything related to marketing. They may need help figuring out what their social media strategy should be, what their channel mix should be, and giving them ideas and inspiration for how they can better market their products or their services.
The last several years I’ve been super busy with Corteva work. I’ve been traveling a lot since we became a new company. I’ve been traveling to our offices all over the world. I haven’t had clients, but I’ve continued up the brand and content.
I’m actually writing a book that will be affiliated more with Hijinx than with Corteva. Hopefully that’ll come out in the Spring. It’s kind of like my public persona for my consultancy.
FM: Tell us a little bit more about this book that you’re writing.
AR: It was kind of a bucket list item. I have content marketing books all over the place. I’m like: “Other people have written books. I can write a book.” (laughs)
It’s (tentatively) called The Content Puzzle and it talks about how content marketing is really a puzzle and how you fit the pieces together. It’s kind of the basics of content and content marketing for small businesses or other content marketers who are just starting out. But then it also has a focus on how psychology plays into content and marketing as a whole. I think it’s a missing piece that people don’t take into account; the possible psychology of their audience.
We do audience personas and we talk about their interests and their needs. But psychology is a little bit different in that people come to your content with preconceived biases and life experiences. While you’re not going to be able to talk to every single person and figure out their psychology, there are some things that you can do as a marketer to help identify what a broad area of psychology could be and how to adjust your content to make sure that you’re accounting for those possible preconceived notions that people may be thinking about when they are looking at your content.
FM: Yeah. Great point about preconceived notions. I think that a lot of people, when they consume content, they’re always going to be looking at it through some kind of lens, especially if it’s somebody that’s within your industry, within your audience.
AR: I have a very weird background. Psychology has kind of woven its way through my whole like adult experience. I thought that would be a good take on the book to make it a little bit different.