Taiste Talks is a video podcast series where we give the stage to the people behind digital products. This is how it changed our approach to content marketing.
For us content creators, it's easy to lose sight of what the audience is really interested in hearing. Especially in marketing, we often focus too much on what we think will look good or give a good impression. But with polished surfaces, we often lose what connects us with each other the most: the oh-so-relatable (and sometimes messy) human experience.
Marketing materials don't often give room for how it's really like to work with the people from an agency. This is what the cool references and trendy catchphrases often leave out, forcing your audience to fill in the blanks. Whether you're searching for an agency to help you with a project or someone looking for a new job, it can be frustrating to navigate options that on the surface all look very similar. This is not to say that more traditional marketing content can't be well-made or informative – just that it's missing an important part of the puzzle.
In 2022, we came to realise that we needed our marketing content to be more diverse. The issues we wanted to tackle were:
1. Being able to create more content without sacrificing quality
2. Letting the voice of our team members be heard more clearly and equally
The first issue was more practical. Being a fast-growing but still a medium-sized company, we have to work with limited resources when creating content. Our philosophy has been that since quality is so crucial to Taiste's DNA, it makes sense to focus on that in marketing as well. We always prefer releasing material that has substance, rather than filling the social media feeds with fluff. The downside of this is that this approach can sometimes be too slow for its own good.
This is what the audience really wants to know: who are we as people? How do we approach the work? What do we think about the current hot topics? What is it really like working with us?
The second issue had to do with how well our marketing represented us as a community. At the time of writing, Taiste has over 60 people working here. In a way, who we are as a company is the sum of our different areas of expertise, backgrounds, stories and experiences. And yet, so much of this was left underutilised in what we communicated to the outside world. This is what the audience really wants to know: who are we as people? How do we approach the work? What do we think about the current hot topics? What is it really like working with us?
The irony, we came to realise, is that often you would find out much more about these things by hanging out with the employees over a cup of coffee than you ever would by browsing company websites. Trying to emulate this experience is how Taiste Talks came to be: we wanted to see what would happen if we simply asked our people and selected guests to sit down and discuss topics that matter to them. To make sure the results would look and sound great too, we teamed up with Brave Teddy – a video production company we trusted and had worked with before.
The tech world loves its flashy Keynotes and rehearsed presentations such as the TED Talks. While there's nothing wrong with those formats, it gives the illusion that in order to successfully communicate ideas in this realm, one needs to be an experienced performer.
But people who don't necessarily fall into this category are so much more interesting to listen to than we give them credit for. So is their capability to talk about their work life. Where things fall apart is when we try to put words in people's mouths, to force them to fit the mould of business evangelists or paid actors. Every company that's ever produced a promotional video featuring scripted employee/customer "testimonials" is familiar with this dilemma: people seem to be awkwardly following a script (because they are) and the audience finds it cringey and doesn't buy it (why should they?). We've dabbled in these types of video productions before and while they weren't bad, they still left a lot to be desired. In the end, ads are just ads.
With Taiste Talks, we took a radically different approach. We selected a collection of very broad themes and invited a number of our own team members and guests who we knew to be knowledgeable in the said topics. Then, we had a preparation session with each group explaining the format of our video podcast and asked them what they could bring to the discussion.
There would be nothing to memorise; we simply wanted them to share their real thoughts and experiences with the other participants to see where that leads. No one would be interviewing them or leading the conversation. Instead, we encouraged them to ask each other as many questions as possible – this is more natural and less stressful than focusing on what one "should say next".
These preparation sessions were revelatory. They reassured even the most nervous participants of the fact that they have interesting things to say – and that they can trust each other to keep the discussion alive. We also told the groups that they would have the chance to review the episode before it gets released; anything they don't want in there would be edited out.
In practice, all of the episodes so far have only had a minimal amount of alterations done to them in terms of the conversations themselves. We've been constantly amazed by just how relaxed people have been during the actual video shoots: you'd be hard pressed to tell apart the more experienced performers from the ones who have never participated in making a podcast before.
People are interested in people, even when they're looking for work-related content. Our most successful content has always had one thing in common, namely some kind of relatable human element. This makes sense: digital products are made for humans by humans, and this is by far the most fascinating thing about them.
With Taiste Talks, we encouraged the participants to share their own perspectives and stories, to represent themselves rather than companies and organisations. Trusting the participants is the key to quality content. We've had episodes where this has resulted in some truly funny and entertaining moments – but also ones where the discussion got much deeper and reflective than it otherwise would have.
Our most successful content has always had one thing in common, namely some kind of relatable human element. This makes sense: digital products are made for humans by humans, and this is by far the most fascinating thing about them.
After the first episode came out in November 2022, we have released a new episode of Taiste Talks every month. This has worked well with our original goal of increasing the amount of released content while maintaining quality. From each episode, we're able to create "mini-content" such as blog posts, Instagram stories and so forth. This way, each month's episode serves as the main content around which we can loosely create the content strategy for the rest of the month.
For us, it has often proven useful to approach our operational environment without traditional divisions between agencies and clients, employers and employees. Rather, the people in this field often find themselves working together in different roles in relation to each other. In this context, the role of marketing is to create open and honest dialogue amongst peers. What better way to do that than to offer a stage for our colleagues and partners to have those conversations, unfiltered and uninterrupted – and share them with the community.