Annalisa Camarillo on NetApp’s Content Transformation

By Juliet Stott  |  January 13, 2017

Sparkler in the shape of a star

Digital transformation is top of mind for many companies. What does that mean, and what role does content play in that transformation? To find out, MSPC sat down with Annalisa Camarillo, NetApp’s head of global content development and distribution. She is responsible for producing and overseeing 75 percent of the Fortune 500 company’s content.

The data management innovator, with more than $4 billion in revenue and offices in 130 countries worldwide, helps provide businesses with technology and insight to give them a competitive advantage.

Here, Camarillo talks about her company’s content transformation, the challenges she’s faced in implementing changes to achieve new goals and what makes great content experiences possible.

What is an insanely great content experience?

“Sell dreams not products,” advises Steve Jobs in his seven success principles. My money goes on this as being the biggest marketing game changer and the most important ingredient for insanely great content experiences. Let’s break this down.

I buy Apple products because I obsess over living productively. I imagine the day when everything I want is a simple click away—even trying on clothes. I love the possibilities of mobility, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it.

Apple products have almost nothing to do with my purchases because I’ve bought into their promise of productivity and mobility. But it goes beyond Apple selling me this dream. It’s also about the experience with the brand and its people.

The product look and feel haven’t changed much in the last 10 years, but the experience has. The company’s “films” show me what I can do differently with its new solution. This is what it means to be insanely great.

What is a content strategy? What do you include in one?

A content strategy addresses your mission. It should answer these questions: What are you trying to achieve with your content and why? What is the end game?

A content strategy is the thinking behind your content, to ensure that your choices and actions are guided by the right decisions. It always has to start with why. Why are we creating content? What are we expecting to get out of it? A strategy sets objectives, and considers the customer’s and the business’s needs.

You should then map out your decision against a buying journey. Does the content have a place? Is it going to meet the reader at that place? Is your content going to be contextually relevant? Will it answer the problems your customers are seeking to solve?

You don’t create any content until after you’ve gone through those steps; then you know you’re ready to build something that’s insanely great. You bulletproof the plan and know the right way to get it to the reader, and then you create.

You’re in the process of implementing a centralized content marketing model at NetApp. Can you talk me through the good, the bad and the ugly of this process?

The good is the building. It’s great to create and see your work pleasing someone else and hitting the mark. When we start to generate engagement because we’ve helped somebody, that’s magical.

The bad is the aspect of ensuring you have the processes to get content to market quickly: making sure we’re all speaking the same language and we understand how we’re going to work together.

The ugly is the necessary internal behavioral changes. Human behavior is hard to change. No matter how much technology you’re relying on to take the heavy lifting out of creation, humans must manage the process and ensure that everything is going as planned.

I can be moving and thinking as fast as I want, but I will get nowhere with 20 people pulling me back because we’re not moving at the same pace. It’s about getting people rowing in the same boat so we’re all moving forward at the same pace, as quickly as possible; that’s the hard part.

What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced working in content marketing, and how have you overcome it?

Technology. We started thinking about content marketing in 2008 when we had a twinkle in our eye to do brand journalism—telling stories at the speed of news, published by a corporation, not a media outlet. We wanted to publish great content, but we realized we didn’t have an engine, a content management system, that enabled us to do it. So, we signed up for Forbes’ BrandVoice program.

My team got to the point where we were publishing content every single day, five days a week, for more than a year. We reached the 1-million-reader mark and continued to see blogs with 200,000 to 400,000 views. Why did it work? We realized it was a combination of people, process and technology—something Forbes had that we didn’t. That experience compelled us to start looking at our technology and how we could set ourselves up to do this.

Five years later, we still haven’t figured it out. We have a lot of technology and databases, but none of them talk to one another. We have a content management system, but it only works for our external website. We have a different content management system for our blog and community than for

We have many sites and content databases, but the good news is that NetApp recognized our extensive need for change. Now we’re undergoing a 180-degree change to prime ourselves to be ready for the future. This gives us the license to make dramatic changes.

You’ve been in the content creation world for 18 years. What advice can you share from your experience?

Take a step back to think about the right problem to solve. It’s taken me a long time for that to come into view. I would often tackle problems one by one instead of letting the challenges emerge and examining them as a whole. Think about accomplishments that are going to make a broader and more demonstrable impact. Stop thinking about all of the little challenges that will always exist. You can wipe them out with one big goal.

  1. Stop pruning the tree if the root is dead. That’s so hard for leaders to do. We want to get a lot of stuff done to prove we’re making an impact. Take time to do things right. Remember, if you can’t do it right the first time, do you have time to do it again?
  2. Content is not the job of a one-man band. It’s the job of an orchestra; get comfortable with conducting or make sure you have a conductor. Think about the song sheet and then work your way back to the players who need to hit the right note to make it a beautiful song. Little by little, make the orchestra better and stronger.
  3. Don’t fly the content plane without the best engine; you’ll never endure the best flights. No human can manage and sustain repeatable success without eventually burning out. The high-performing content marketers rely on technology to automate the mundane and make the content brilliance repeatable.

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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