Copper’s Christina Scannapiego: Use Content Themes to Build a Cohesive Story

Christina Scannapiego cut her teeth in magazine publishing, where every issue has a theme. Now she's applying that approach to marketing.

min read

Christina Scannapiego cut her teeth in media, working her way up the ladder and eventually landing a leadership position at Primedia’s SG and Surfing magazines. From behind the editor’s desk, she defined the publications’ editorial strategies, writing mission statements, refining their branding, and carving out unique perspectives.

But Christina’s successes belied a wider malaise. The print industry was in dire straits with falling readerships and fewer advertisers. Faced with an industry in decline, she parlayed her journalistic chops into a content management role, kickstarting a new career in marketing.

Her earlier media experiences provided a unique perspective on content strategy. Where others saw keywords, she saw stories. While some content leaders obsessed over ranking, she crafted quarterly themes around product launches and events. Now Director of Content at Google Workspace CRM Copper, she's testing that approach in one of B2B's most competitive categories.

I caught up with Christina to talk about how her journalistic background set her up for success in content marketing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you navigate the transition from editor to content leader?

When you're a contributing journalist, someone gives you pieces. When you’re freelance, you’re lobbing pieces at different publications. But when you're an editor, you shape the publication and give it a very specific voice. I wrote our mission statement. I had a natural knack for branding. As an editor, I was really doing marketing for our magazine.

At Copper, I helped to create our brand voice, style guide, and brand deck. It's very similar to being an editor of a magazine. The transition wasn't that hard for me.

I also had a wonderful editor-in-chief, Melissa Larson. To this day, her editorial guidance rings in my mind when I'm editing and shaping our content. It’s about telling an engaging, interesting, and human story. It’s avoiding cliches and formulaic writing. That helped me develop unique and differentiating voices for brands that I've worked for.

How does content help Copper stand out in a crowded space?

As opposed to thinking about it as “cutting through the noise,” we want to publish content that's true to us. I always want to stay true to our brand narrative. I have themes and sub-themes for each quarter, depending on product releases and strategy.

Here’s an example. We released some exciting features around Google Workspace. I wanted to build a theme around that for the quarter. I had to think through our whole marketing ecosystem, what was going on with the economy, COVID, the whole business zeitgeist.

I started to pull out themes that relate to Workspace like team collaboration in a remote environment and equity amongst your workforce. They were themes that I thought would help other companies and other businesses, especially those that use Workspace.

During the pandemic, the ability to be nimble was another of our themes. Our sub-themes covered the ability to pivot, adopting the right technology, entrepreneurship, and creativity. That's sort of how my brain works.

Does thematic publishing differentiate Copper from your competitors?

Definitely. Not everyone thinks like this. They're just putting out piecemeal content. It’s like a patchwork quilt. It can work for brands, but it doesn't build a cohesive story. When you look at Copper, you can see the evolution of our narrative and how it's mirrored the evolution of business.

Giving limits to something also helps you create more ideas. I got it from publishing, because every one of our issues had a theme—the Australian issue, the summer issue, and so on. It helped us generate more ideas. It gave us structure, allowed us to build a better calendar, and helped us say yes or no to projects.

Does thematic content include an SEO strategy?

I'm never going to do SEO for SEO’s sake. Our approach is to find people how and where they're searching and offer them true solutions. We’ll never put out an ‘SEO blog.’ We won’t put out anything unless we think it can be useful for someone who’s searching. It's more about the psychology of our customer persona and what they want to learn about.

If we create a web page, it needs to have an SEO strategy behind it. But we're not into tricks, keyword stuffing, or anything like that. People start to lose sight of the user experience. People are searching for something. We don't want to be found by someone if we can’t help them.

What have you done to develop Copper’s brand voice?

When I started at Copper, I just listened to everyone. We have a weekly playback on Friday where all our departments give their updates and our CEO talks a lot about what’s in his mind. I learned a lot through osmosis and careful observation. I came up with a list of traits of adjectives, and we workshopped them. These traits are Copper personified. Imagine the company as a person. There's gonna be a way that they speak to people and relate to people.

At the very beginning, our CMO always imagined Copper speaking like Michelle Obama. I started thinking about her traits. I envisioned Copper as feminine, dynamic, and opposed to the sales bro culture. I imagined a more empathetic, nurturing, and genuine person, someone that you could open up to, someone who's going to talk to you honestly and kindly.

How did you make sure Copper’s whole team engaged with your new tone and style guide?

We did a show and tell. Actually, we’ve done a couple of them. We'll come in and remind people that it's there. Then we have a lot of fun monthly AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with our CEO, Dennis. We also do quarterly AMAs as part of our quarterly review. Every now and then, people will have a question about our brand, and we'll remind them. But we're not a huge company. We’re around 100 people, so we have a lot of opportunities to remind folks about the brand deck and talk through it with them.

I also noticed that everyone at Copper really cares about Copper. It's not something that's in one ear and out the other. They want to learn about it.

David is a former craft beer journalist turned writer and digital strategist. He now helps ambitious technology brands tell narrative-driven stories.

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