Erin Gulden Q&A

January 6, 2020
Erin Gulden believes data doesn't need to be intimidating and can enhance a brand's storytelling.

“I think it’s easy to put your personas in the background, or become so familiar with them you start to create false memories of how they really act or consume content. I make a point of revisiting our personas on a regular basis and figuring out what still does or does not ring true.”

It seems like best practices for combining data with content and storytelling is changing by the minute. Is that stressful or part of the fun?

I think it’s part of the fun. Honestly, I have stayed pretty consistent in my approach — I let the data guide our content strategy and complement consumer insights, business line objectives, and other key inputs while creating content. Now, when it comes to using data to serve up our content to the right audience – that is where things can get a little overwhelming. There is so much data and so many approaches to personalized content, it can be tough to know where to start. But you can’t go wrong with small single variable tests to help build your direction.

What do people get wrong in understanding how analytics can inform content?

That it takes away from creativity, or a marketer’s instinct. I think it’s the opposite, and it can enhance a good marketer or creative’s skillset by providing direction and focus.

Do you feel that many executives are still intimidated by analytics? What do you do to help non-technical people get comfortable?

I don’t think executives are intimidated by the complexity of the data we are pulling; they just don’t have the bandwidth to boil it down. You want data to tell a story about your content or campaign, so take the time to do the analysis and write the story for your leadership and peers. They are certainly smart enough to put the pieces together, but when they have five minutes to focus on your project, it’s in your best interest to do the work for them.

You graduated from one of the top journalism schools at Northwestern. Does your journalism training come in handy in your current role?

Every day. My team works on both owned content (most via our financial empowerment platform, usbank.com/financial) and branded content (think paid posts w/ the New York Times), so we are storytellers and educators at heart. We just do it with customer insights and clear business objectives in mind. But we keep the principals of good journalism at the heart of what we do. We make sure our sources are strong and our content is objective. Even when we create paid content in partnership with a publisher, we push to make sure our voice is part of a balanced conversation. That’s what is best for our content and our customers.

What advice do you have for content marketers in how to accurately measure and analyze data for actionable impacts?

It’s important for content marketers to start with a goal in mind whenever they are creating content, and then measure success against a KPI in line with that goal. It’s easy to get excited if a piece of content is performing above benchmarks for page views, but if the goal is engagement, and it’s not meeting those benchmarks, the piece isn’t successful. It can be hard to stay that focused when creating a lot of content, but it’s the only way to really determine content’s effectiveness.

How important is it for marketers to set a goal in advance of campaigns so they can establish relevant KPIs?

It is imperative. If you don’t have a clear goal for a campaign, and a clear understanding of the desired KPIs, you need to reconsider whether a campaign is needed, or you need to establish those things before creative starts. Otherwise it can become a waste of time and resources really quickly.

Do you find that marketers too often don’t fully commit to personas and keep them top of mind when sharing content?

I think it’s easy to put your personas in the background, or become so familiar with them you start to create false memories of how they really act or consume content. I make a point of revisiting our personas on a regular basis and figuring out what still does or does not ring true, but it’s a conscious effort.

How do you help marketers resist the urge to use every platform out there just because they can?

I think most marketers are working with a smaller budget than they’d like, so that makes it easier! But if you are using your personas and understand how they are consuming content, that should be your guide. Make sure to hit hard where they are. If they are not on TikTok, don’t feel pressure to show up on TikTok.

Do you fully endorse analytics in baseball or do you find that it slows the game down?

Ha! I haven’t noticed that it has slowed the game down but I’m really there for the fresh air and for Target Field’s top-notch vegan hotdogs.

What is your favorite part of your job at U.S. Bank and how is the company innovating with content in the marketplace?

I think those things go hand-in-hand. We’re really expanding our content partnerships and looking at the audio space (creating and sponsoring podcasts), expanding video content with national partners like People.com, and determining what third-party partnerships work hardest for us. It’s been interesting to learn how we should (or shouldn’t!) show up in the marketplace via branded content, and what new spaces we can explore.