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Marketers at Dell believe articles about over-the-top TV services and women in tech will help the company sell product. It won't happen immediately. They don't think someone will necessarily read "Overlooked Women in Tech Innovation History" -- which was published on Dell's content-hub Tech Page One -- then run out and buy thousands of laptop computers for her company. But content, they believe, is a significant part of the sales process.
Stephanie Losee, managing editor of Dell Global Marketing, brings a journalist's sensibility to all that content, which consists of a variety of articles and videos on Tech Page One, as well as essays from so-called influencers published to Dell's digital channels as well as LinkedIn.
That means she's part of a multi-million dollar content operation that continues to gain importance at Dell, which spent nearly $161 million on measured media in 2014, a 20% increase over the previous year, according to figures from Kantar Media.
Ms. Losee, who's also an author and former Fortune magazine writer, will be among several panelists discussing content marketing at the Ad Age Digital Conference in New York this month. Ad Age checked in with her ahead of the event for a brief chat about content-marketing. Here's a lightly edited excerpt of the conversation.
Advertising Age: Dell was the first company to buy a native ad on The New York Times website. Was that a success for Dell?
Stephanie Losee: It was an enormous success for Dell, but you have to think about which metrics you're going to look at. It paid for itself within the first 48 hours -- and it was a 12-week program.
Ad Age: How?
Ms. Losee: Because of the enormous amount of earned media that that engagement resulted in.
Ad Age: So why does Dell, a tech company, produce editorial content in the first place?
Ms. Losee: There are two components. Dell has individual conversations with our customers through social media. If you tweet at Dell, whether positive or negative, you'll get a tweet back. Our role as a media company is the next step in deepening the conversations that started in social media. The other component is that Dell's tagline is "Do More." That makes my job super easy because our content strategy is content as a service, content that can help you do more and understand more about your topic of concern, whether it's security, mobility, the cloud, data and so on.
Ad Age: How do you get this content in front of people? I imagine Tech Page One isn't on many favorites bars (outside of Dell).
Ms. Losee: We don't imagine you're hanging out on Dell's site. For the purpose of our publishing, we're using owned media and applying paid media in an effort to gain earned media. We put it wherever you might live on the web and would take an action. So you might click on something and find out more on our own sites or within our content ecosystem. Or the content may be one step on the customer journey. My work is meant to inform them of our point of view and give them information they need while they're Googling and searching along that path.
Ad Age: What are the key performance indicators for what you do? Is it tied to sales?
Ms. Losee: Some of my work right now is trying to answer that exact question: How am I going to tie that top of the funnel awareness and information layer to that middle layer and then to that bottom layer? It's not that we'd say that reading something on Tech Page One is going to prompt someone to buy a thousand laptops for their company, but it will be a piece of that puzzle. How to measure that piece of the puzzle is something I'm very much engaged in right now.
Ad Age: What needs to happen in order for content marketing to command a larger share of marketing budgets?
Ms. Losee: Metrics and measurement. We have a lot of numbers. We certainly know a lot about what our content is doing -- how many views it's getting, how many clicks, time on site. We have to decide which of those metrics is serving us well and then decide what to focus on. I think we can all agree that impressions are pretty much useless. They're not helpful to me. We certainly measure them, but everyone on my team agrees that how many impressions a piece of content got doesn't tell us much. It's action. We're shifting from how many people saw this thing to how many people did something after seeing this thing or eventually did something after reading a series of these things. That's hard to figure out. But I think that as we get closer to the metrics that we all agree are important and start measuring them in a standard way, and when PR and marketing can come together to measure them in the same way across the company, it will be the tipping point to making the budgets flow.
Stephanie Losee will be part of the panel "Blurred Lines: Content Marketing—Who Benefits? Who Doesn't?" at the Ad Age Digital Conference on April 14 and 15 in New York. Learn more about the event here.
CORRECTION: The definition of Stephanie Losee's role at Dell has been clarified.