By Angie Myers, Director of Digital Media, David James Group
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) uses brand journalism to connect with its membership, attract new members, and further the goals of the Society. To rise above the flood of information and messages SWE’s members receive every day through digital media, SWE must develop enterprising stories and relevant content to capture their attention.
SWE is a non-profit diversity organization with almost 40,000 members and more than 400 local sections and international affiliates. The Society has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade, increasing its membership by about 30%.
SWE’s mission is to help women advance in engineering and technology and to encourage girls to pursue a career as an engineer. To fulfill that mission, SWE offers professional development, networking, scholarships, awards, and advocacy for public policy supporting women in engineering and other STEM fields.
SWE is headquartered in Chicago and has about 20 full-time staff members in departments including educational programming, engagement services, publications, and administrative services. The marketing department is made up of staff members from David James Group (DJG), an integrated marketing agency. The marketing team is responsible for SWE’s communication with its members, potential members, partners, sponsors, and the media. These messages come in many forms such as marketing emails, websites, social media posts, blog posts, press releases, videos, podcasts, ads, signs, flyers, and other promotional items.
Phil Thakadiyil, SWE’s Vice President of Business Services, is responsible for human resources. “Because of the enormous growth of the Society, in terms of membership, in terms of revenue, and in terms of needs of the members…the whole idea of the Society is for communication and networking, so we need to provide them channels for that,” he said.
The Society has a large social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with a growing following on Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. The marketing team develops content such as videos, photos, and podcasts and posts it on SWE’s blog, All Together, which won Publicity Club of Chicago Trumpet Awards in 2017 and 2018.
SWE’s All Together blog is a good example of the marketing team’s newsroom approach to digital content, a key component of SWE’s marketing mix. DJG’s team uses its expertise to identify storylines, storytellers, and messaging. As a former TV news producer, I use my background in journalism to tell the story of SWE. I develop a monthly content calendar that organizes the information, initiatives, and programs that SWE would like to promote. Each article page on the blog has social media sharing buttons, so the content is easy to distribute through social media channels. SWE members and partners are encouraged to contribute.
It works like this: the marketing team creates a blog post on a topic of interest such as letters from 1919 in SWE’s archives (from universities showing how few women were enrolled in engineering programs). DJG pitches the story to news media using the blog post that has PDFs of the letters, and the story is picked up by national publications including The Atlantic and Glamour. Then, those stories are shared on SWE’s social media, gaining “likes” and engagement with SWE’s audience.
Each member of the marketing team has a special skillset he or she brings to the table such as visual design, writing, analytics, video production, and social media expertise. The marketing team relies on interactive and creative professionals to enhance and distribute their work. They provide the web development, images, graphics, and technical expertise to manage SWE’s digital media.
According to Senior Social Media Content Strategist Mike Niemczyk of Groupon, “The most important factor for bulletproof content strategy is collaboration. There is no better way for a team to stay on strategy while breaking new creative ground than with representation from multiple teams. In addition to great ideas, collaboration promotes camaraderie.”
Columnist Seth Price of MarTech Today has a similar take on the importance of collaboration in today’s marketing landscape. According to Price, “Cross-functional collaboration is crucial. Collaborating both internally and externally is the new sweet spot for successful content creation and distribution.” He argues that the best way to develop effective content is to partner with other organizations and draw upon experts and influencers within your field.
STEM Re-entry Program
More examples of brand journalism are stories the marketing team created about SWE’s STEM Re-entry Program. The program is a partnership between the firm iRelaunch and SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council, which has 80 members including some of the largest engineering companies in the world. The STEM Re-entry Program is designed to help women who have taken a career break get back to work with a paid internship at an engineering firm.
To execute a campaign around the program, the marketing team provided the planning, creative thought leadership, images, graphics, design, web development, and technical expertise to manage SWE’s digital media. The marketing team relied on creative professionals at DJG to develop an eye-catching digital media package. They designed the logo as well as the look and feel of the STEM Re-entry Program. The story was pitched to reporters and dozens of stories have been published about it.
Participants in the program agreed to write All Together blog posts with photos and personalized stories. One post featured a mother of three who successfully used the program to return to the engineering workforce after a 13-year career break.
As SWE’s Digital Media Manager, I shot and edited video interviews about the program and posted them on the blog. Those videos and other blog posts were shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites. The program started with seven companies and has expanded each year.
It is the responsibility of the marketing team not only to create impactful campaigns and authentic content, but also get it in front of the correct audience. This is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s environment. Every minute tens of millions of messages are sent on Facebook, hundreds of thousands of tweets are posted on Twitter, hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, and tens of thousands of photos are shared on Instagram. Of course, billions of emails are also competing with all of that for the audience’s attention.
The marketing team tracks analytics and sends SWE’s managers monthly reports on social media engagement and impressions from DJG’s PR efforts. Key measures are video views, likes, followers, and downloads of assets such as podcasts, PDFs, white papers, and eBooks including SWE’s comic book series that the marketing team developed.
The marketing staff know how much mobile technology is impacting their work. Team members realize they must consider the user experience on mobile devices when creating content because half of SWE’s audience is viewing its content on these devices.
Five Key Brand Journalism Takeaways
- Carve out separate and robust social media profiles apart from the association
- Create 30-day and one-year editorial calendars for content
- Position yourself as a journalist covering the association rather than an employee marketing it
- Consider SEO: how do your key words track?
- What is your platform? Think of yourself as a political candidate. What issues do you want to address? How do you want people to think about them?
With the help of DJG’s marketing team, SWE is using brand journalism to break through all the noise and reach its members. The team creates stories about women engineers with their voices and focuses on the work SWE members do to make their communities and the world a better place. DJG tells their stories with innovative graphic designs, professional videos, creative writing, and the latest forms of communication using a newsroom approach.