Transcending the Modern Workplace
Peers-on-Point with Microsoft’s Anne Walker
July 14, 2016
We’re excited to kick-off the summer edition of Peers-on-Point, LinkedIn’s exclusive interview series showcasing technology marketers and their unique insights, with an exploration and conversation around B2B video marketing and digital storytelling led by Microsoft’s Anne Walker.
Anne is an Executive Producer of online content for Microsoft’s business shows, online series, and online events. Her role bridges marketing and video production to delight Microsoft’s unique audiences and bring Microsoft workplace solutions to life.
What brought you to Microsoft and what types of programs are you responsible for?
AW: I come from an art background — starting off as an artist, then working at museums and figuring out how to translate special exhibits for the general public — so I am keen on figuring out how to combine visual information and stories in a way that is special, interesting, and easy to consume for a broader audience. Thinking about how to constantly improve content for business audiences is my current obsession at Microsoft.
Right now, I am focused on and passionate about a few projects — one being the Modern Workplace series that we developed for Office. Modern Workplace is a talk-show format series that presents strategic issues for business leaders to consider. It is now on its third season and growing by leaps and bounds. It came about to solve a very specific business problem for Office, namely driving awareness beyond the IT pro audience. As we know today, more people outside of IT have sway on how companies use productivity tools and leverage the cloud. So it was imperative we think of creative ways to delight and captivate the broader business decision making community by leveraging digital channels and social media.
How does your team think about presenting the Microsoft brand, from a storytelling perspective?
AW: To set context, Microsoft has certainly evolved as a company over the last few years — which I am very enthusiastic about. It’s exciting to both witness and play a part in the brand’s transformation and we’ve certainly excelled at humanizing the company and bringing Microsoft to life in many different dimensions.
First and foremost, my team is constantly striving to find new and innovative ways “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” So there has been a noticeable shift in our marketing to emphasize storytelling rather than products. Our priorities are always: stories, solutions, and the customer point of view. We’re never going to approach the world from a defensive posture and say that everybody should use Microsoft products. Instead, we look around and realize that it’s a complex tech world.
People use multiple devices, multiple platforms, and multiple systems — so we champion how customers can use our solutions, whatever their situation is. And that, alone, is a very different and practical approach everyone at Microsoft has adopted.
On that note, Microsoft recently held Microsoft Envision, the company's inaugural conference for business decision makers. Coming off of that, how did video and digital marketing play a role in the success of these new field marketing ventures and how do you take content from live events and leverage it back into market?
AW: Interestingly, that is an area we are still refining, and one I very much focus on today because online audiences are viable, important, and capable of rich conversations. I believe that each audience needs to be considered individually — what works with a decision maker audience might not fly with an IT pro audience. Even though we are talking about technology, at the end of the day it’s all about people and how technology is helping people.
Right now, the changes in our event portfolio are truly in line with the larger changes for the company. Previously, we had a lot of different products and product groups who would each come up with their own events, their own way of doing launches, their own way of building audiences, and their own style of communicating with customers.
Envision is a fantastic example of Microsoft’s holistic marketing programs coming together and thinking about audiences first. From a video perspective, we were eager to showcase our amazing business communities and their thought leaders talking about what they see as key issues. In terms of strategy, I believe you should think of events as key pieces in an already sophisticated communication portfolio you’re cultivating with your audience. They aren’t one-off things, so it’s paramount to plan in advance and understand how events fit into a broader narrative — then repurpose and activate your key conversations, respectively.
How might someone become excellent at video marketing, or B2B marketing in general?
AW: It’s such a broad topic because the space is changing rapidly and there is much to learn. What works for me is not trying to boil the ocean. I would never claim to be a marketing expert, but I do seek out learning situations that give me the ability to try new ideas. That said, one should also be willing to consider ideas that have worked in the past. Those aren’t to be tossed out either!
What are your thoughts on production, distribution, and measurement?
AW: Depending on who you are working with within the enterprise, there is more or less of a sharpness when it comes to measurement. Today, measurement is one of the things Microsoft is very focused on. It’s a priority — especially in marketing. But make sure desired outcomes are well defined at the beginning of a project so you are measuring the right activities. Ask yourself, “what is this measurement telling me? Is it needed? Is it too broad? Is it a useful business insight?” We’re not in the business of collecting “likes”, we’re in the business of trying to engage a very specific target audience with each project.
For distribution, the same thoughtfulness applies. There is a tendency to rush and make video projects without an effective plan to distribute content to target audiences — this includes hosting, placement, promotion, etc. What I recommend is to think of the journey your audience goes through. What kinds of questions are your customers asking themselves — is your content the right answer to those questions? Where do they go to find answers? You should be there. Figuring this all out at the beginning will improve your strategy and help inform the length, tone, and style as well as placement of your content.
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