Tommy Walker spent years as a freelancer before getting hired at ConversionXL as the Editor-in-Chief. He was recruited to Shopify Plus as their first marketing hire, rounding out his tenure there as Editor-in-Chief. He went on to be the Global Editor-in-Chief at QuickBooks. Now, he’s the founder of his own shop, The Content Studio.
With that plethora of experience, Tommy is uniquely qualified to define what quality content looks like. But Tommy uses a unique approach to help him determine what quality content looks like within an individual organization. Learn more about it in this episode of the Content Callout podcast!
Outline of This Episode
- [0:48] The pair of pants that got Tommy fired
- [5:07] When companies don’t understand content marketing
- [8:48] Implementing automation to solve the problem
- [15:43] How to effectively trial a tool
- [19:31] Don’t be afraid to outsource
- [22:26] Tips + tricks for working with freelancers
- [28:10] How to take ego out of the equation
- [31:38] Has Tommy ever seen a perfect piece?
- [33:48] How do you define high-quality content?
- [43:30] How to learn more about Tommy Walker
Tommy Walker’s Content Code
To define what high-quality content is for each company Tommy has worked in, he creates a “Content Code.” His content code is a summary of the heart and soul of what the publication should be about. He made one for Shopify Plus that consisted of 10 rules. One was “Opinions are BS—do the research.” It’s not about outlining that “Articles need to be 1850+ words, include an image,” etc. It’s about defining the voice and heart of each piece of content.
How do you define high-quality content?
Tommy believes that a good piece of content should be a reflection of some part of your reader or viewer. It should also demand that someone comes back; they can’t consume it all in one sitting. And that’s not because the piece is long but because there’s a lot to digest. It needs to evoke a visceral response.
There needs to be depth to the pieces that you’re writing. You have to ask, “What story am I telling here? Is it the story of what’s just on the page?” Writing is an intensely personal experience. How can you speak to challenges, problems, and joys? How can you be honest about the work that you’re doing? How do you tell the truth of a situation?
That’s why Tommy always defines early on what quality content is based on the research he’s seen and done with a specific audience in a particular space. Shopify Plus and QuickBooks had two very different audiences. Shopify Plus was trying to shake up industries and disrupt the establishment. The QuickBooks audience is happy selling cupcakes (or whatever their wares are) and making a living. They don’t need to become the next empire. You have to understand your audiences to find out what those differences are before you write your code and define good content.
Don’t make your content something it’s not
It’s also about taking a piece of content for what it’s meant to be. When I’m browsing through movies and looking at a comedy and see a terrible critic score but an excellent audience score, it’s because the audience accepts it for what it is—a comedy. It’s supposed to be funny. Sometimes a meme is just a meme. There are different barometers for different types of content, just as there are different objectives.
Did your piece achieve its objective? Will your audience resonate with it? Your content will always appeal to an audience—you just want to be sure it’s the right one. You have to be aware of that when you’re creating your content.
Has Tommy ever seen a perfect piece of content?
In all seriousness, Tommy says “no.” He notes that there are authors that have made him flex, and they bring their A-game. Tommy edited Aaron Orendorff for a long time and had to dig deep to give honest feedback on his pieces because he was that good. But he always tried to find something that’s missing or a part of the narrative that could be altered. Tommy emphasizes that he will always find a way to flex his skills. He constantly questions, “How am I going to get better if I’m not being challenged by the person who is on the other side of the page?” It’s a collaborative process of pushing each other to constantly improve.
Tommy takes us deep into a conversation about automation, optimization, and his strategies for working with freelancers. Don’t miss this conversation!
Resources & People Mentioned
- The Content Marketing Institute
- Aaron Orendorff: Episode #8
- Hana Abaza
- The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts
- Story by Robert McKee
- The Canadian Lad