Laura Bergheim is the Founder and CEO of Wordsmithie, a content marketing agency providing content development and strategy services. She is a writer, editor, content strategist, and entrepreneur with extensive experience with all media formats. Laura has written for global technology, retail, healthcare, travel, and financial industry brands.
Before Wordsmithie, Laura was the Senior Program Manager for Content Strategy at Google, responsible for creating and managing site and customer support content for Google Ads and other monetized products. She founded two agencies, served as Creative Director at Resource Interactive (now part of IBM), and managed a 20+ person feature-writing team at Lycos. She is also the author/co-author of eight non-fiction books and two novels.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [03:18] Laura Bergheim talks about Wordsmithie and what it does
- [04:48] The challenges Wordsmithie solves for its clients
- [06:56] Laura’s experience at Google and the lessons learned
- [09:51] How Wordsmithie narrows down the content to focus on what resonates with its clients’ audience
- [11:39] How does Wordsmithie choose the customers to write a story for?
- [15:12] The essential components for a good story
- [20:00] The evolution of the Internet and content marketing
- [23:03] Laura’s journey as an author
- [29:07] Tips for attracting and hiring top-notch talent
In this episode…
Are you trying to get the attention of your target audience and convert them into customers? The secret to success lies in how you tell your brand’s story. So how can you craft the messages that accomplish your brand goals and suit your business?
According to Laura Bergheim, having a good brand with good products is not enough to succeed. If no one knows about it, the brand will fail. She recommends hiring content marketing agencies — experts who will evaluate your brand, your products, and your target audience to help you tell your brand’s story in a way that will capture and convert people into customers.
In this inspiring episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz welcomes Laura Bergheim, Founder and CEO of Wordsmithie, to discuss how brands can effectively tell their story. Laura talks about Wordsmithie and what it does, how it narrows down the content to focus on what resonates with its clients’ audience, and the essential components for a good story.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- The Ten Demandments: Rules to Live by in the Age of the Demanding Customer by Laura Bergheim and Kelly Mooney
- Weird Wonderful America by Laura Bergheim
- The Map Catalog by Laura Bergheim
- “The Pixar Story: The Letter of a lifetime That Started Everything With Alvy Ray Smith, Co-Founder of Pixar” on Inspired Insider
- “[Top Agency Series] Navigating a Merger and Becoming an End-to-End Digital Partner With Kevin Hourigan of Spinutech” on Inspired Insider
- “Terracycle.com: How to Make Money from 1.5 million Cigarette Butts & Save The World with Tom Szaky” on Inspired Insider
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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Laura Bergheim of Wordsmithie. And Laura, before I formally introduce you, I like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. And actually, we were talking before we hit record, Laura sitting in a room that is modeled in Toy Story. So I had the co-founder of Pixar on LV Ray Smith, and he talks about creating Pixar and Steve Jobs stories and George Lucas stories and actually, Laura is sitting in a part of history, which is what was it saying you’re saying?
Laura Bergheim 1:00
Andrew Stan. Yeah, so this was Andrew Stan’s house I bought it from his mom Gloria and Andrew Stan’s one of the original animators at Pixar is still there, the guy behind largely behind or somewhat behind Toy Story and a lot of the other big Pixar movies. But this was this jokingly we call SIDS room because it looks just like SIDS room in the movie Toy Story. We think this may have been Andrews room at one point. So it was my office go figure it’s a great place to torture toys professional.
Jeremy Weisz 1:34
Another episode people could check out is Kevin Hourigan. Since this is part of the top agency series. And he has had an agency since 1995. And this relates because Laura has been in this industry for a long time, which we’re going to talk about as well. And this episode is actually brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 partnerships and relationships and how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do strategy, strategy, accountability in the full execution. In law, we call ourselves the magic elves that work in the background to make sure everything happens. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I’ve found no better way over the past decade a profile of people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should do you have questions you can go to rise25.com. Laura Bergheim, she founded Wordsmithie in 2010, she actually started her content marketing agency after a stint as one of Google’s early-on content strategists. She’s author and co-author of eight nonfiction books and two novels and Wordsmithie is a certified woman-owned business with clients that include companies you’ve heard of Google, Shopify, Square, Atlassian, Audacity, all the major ones, really, Laura, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and so many more. Laura, thanks for joining me.
Laura Bergheim 3:11
I’m happy to be here. Thank you.
Jeremy Weisz 3:13
Just start off and tell people a little bit about Wordsmithie. And what you do.
Laura Bergheim 3:18
Sure. We are a content agency. We were founded in 2010. Before, there were many content marketing agencies out there, we were founded distributed, which means that we were working remotely but well before COVID. Everybody works wherever they live and lives wherever they work. Because the very best talent isn’t necessarily in your backyard. And that was our philosophy at the beginning. And thanks to email on G-Suite, then was called, we were able to do that. We also have a great design team as well. So we do everything from case studies and white papers to email campaigns, blog posts. We do the layout as well as the writing and the research. We have a lot of journalists on our team, former journalist we also have a Jeopardy champion of champion winner on our team. We have two Emmy winners on her team. We have a beekeeper on our team. A New York Times bestseller everyone needs a beekeeper. I wish it was not me. I wish it was me. But she’s not. Yeah, so beekeeper I know that’s always the one that stung people are stings people. It’s like the Village People skit in SNL. But yes, she’s an amazing writer, and also a delicious beekeeper. She makes wonderful honeybees and things. So we’re kind of a team of sort of really talented senior people who have deep experience and love to tell brand stories and help companies reach their audiences wherever they are.
Jeremy Weisz 4:34
Talk about so like Google, and we’ll get into what you learned at Google and some of the things from Google but a company like Shopify or Square, what are they coming to you with? What are they in need of?
Laura Bergheim 4:48
Usually they’re looking for help in reaching their audiences through blog posts and case studies, collateral things like that, that are really used by their sales teams but also put up on their websites. So to potential customers, we’ll learn more about how other people like them are using the products. And because we are brand storytellers, and journalists, and designers who can reach those audiences, we bring those stories to life so that people can really see themselves in the shoes of the customers of those brands.
Jeremy Weisz 5:17
What’s the process look like? Again, like a Shopify Square, Google. I mean, you worked at Google. But what does it process look like when they come to you?
Laura Bergheim 5:26
The first time out, they’ll usually reach out for a single project, we’ll do a pilot, it’s often we’ve been very fortunate in that virtually all of our work until recently, has come through referral, which means that we really don’t do a lot of outbound marketing or sales is just people that we work with, they change jobs, they bring us in, they move companies, they bring us in. So it’s often a very warm lead, right? It’s somebody we’ve already worked with in the past most of the time, and they’ll say, hey, I remember we worked with you on this amazing project. XYZ, can you help us do something similar here, and we’ll hop on a call, we’ll get to know them, we’ll understand what the needs are developed the brief sign the team, get the whole ball rolling. And then usually after the pilot, things just kind of widen. I think with square we went from one client team to four client teams within six months. At Google, we work with over 50 product teams. So, once your kind of inside the door? People get through word of mouth here about you. And then I jokingly say we spread like an oil slick, but that’s really not it because we don’t harm any shorebirds. But we word of mouth is our friend. And our colleagues very quickly, share the word, spread the word so we literally Wordsmithie is also a word-of-mouth agency as well. It’s been very beneficial.
Jeremy Weisz 6:41
You’ve done some amazing things with Google. And we’ll talk about the annual goal, e-commerce, or economic impact report in a second, but go back to your Google days for a second. And what did life look like then? And what did you learn from Google?
Laura Bergheim 6:56
So, I used to joke my friends would want to come and visit the unicorn petting farm at Google I’m keep waiting for you know the Simpsons to do an episode on that. But the first thing is, it is a little bit like working at Disney World is just so many fun things going on massages, author talks, etc. A lot of that is going away thanks to the tightening of belts. But the first thing that you experienced it just kind of shock and awe and being around all of these amazing brilliant people from around the world going to lunch felt like hanging out at the UN all these different accents, colors, voices, languages being spoken. Some of the most brilliant people in the world surrounding you. The first six months classic imposter syndrome, you keep waiting for somebody to tap on a door or a window until you don’t belong there. And so I went through that period so many people did, I filled a notebook with acronyms, they speak like a foreign language or Google all these internal code names and process terms and stuff that I just never come across. So part of it was just a huge learning curve. But we were relatively small, I was hired around 4000. And I was actually hired at the time I reported up through the chain to Sheryl Sandberg who later went over to Facebook now Mata. And I still remember when we first kind of my graduating class, which is August 15, of 2005. She met with us and she said, I know it seems like you guys, you may feel like you’re taught you know the last in. But I guarantee you in a couple of years, you know higher 4000 will feel like you guys got in early. And now of course with over 120,000 people that is indeed the case, we were still pretty scrappy down, it was really a lot of fun. A lot of many hats wearing and my particular team was called OSL editorial, we supported online sales and operations, all the monetized products. So we were writing all the help center content, all the product content, collateral, etc, for all for what was then called AdWords, and checkout in AdSense. So our job was to really help connect the customers with the products directly the pain products, but it was a wild time there. And just in my five years there, they kept growing the campus. I think I changed office buildings and campuses multiple times. Just in a few years I was there. I made lifelong friends around the world while I was there, it was really the greatest experience of my life. And when I left in 2010, a lot of the people that I worked with the Google, some of them have come to work with me. So about half of my team at Wordsmithie comes from Google originally, which is a lot of fun, because we get to keep the play going.
Jeremy Weisz 9:36
When you’re working on those type of products. I mean, there’s so many directions you can take with content, with AdWords or whatever product you’re gonna Google how do you decide, narrow it to what you’re actually going to talk about?
Laura Bergheim 9:51
That usually comes through from the product marketing lead, so it’s not necessarily up to us to ideate that although sometimes we do, we will often work on for and pillars or more personas and messaging to help understand what messages will resonate with which audiences and which points in that messaging structure, you want to deliver that story. But usually, the insights are coming from the marketing team. And they’re also gleaning them from the product team, what are the core value propositions you want to communicate? A lot of what we do are case studies, those are really business stories, right. And I even sometimes joke about the business very well, where the wicked witches the challenge people face, the white knight is sort of the product running and writing into save it. Although I will say at least with Google, you don’t talk a lot about the product. You talk about the customer and their needs, and what they benefited from and what success they had with it. But trying to figure out what stories you want to tell about the products that really resonate with the audience on a very personal level, you can be a walking piece of collateral, and have a million bullet points about benefits, and it doesn’t sink in. But you see one company or one small business, whose business took off, because they use particular products in particular way, boom, you’ve landed other companies like that. So really it is about fishing with the right bait. And understanding which bait for which fish. Not that customers or fish or product marketing is bait, but you get the general idea.
Jeremy Weisz 11:22
I’d love to hear what stories stick out to you. Because I mentioned the annual Google economic impact report and you have to interview 50, sometimes 60 plus or more businesses for that. So what stories stick out to you.
Laura Bergheim 11:39
So this year, I haven’t had chance to review all the work we did for it. But I know in the past, we’ve done some really fun stories, and we have a whole team we spin up to do this. I think we have 10 writers and editors and two project managers running it. And Google tells us who they want us to interview. And this just launched the new version just launched yesterday. So we’re very proud of it. And they were also doing a big SMB made-up as well, which is fun, where they bring the studio directors all the SMBs together either. So if you for example, there you go click on Connect care hero, for example. That’s an example of one of the case stories, case studies that we wrote. And each of these business stories is really up in Chicago. Yeah, there you go. And so each of these business stories is really a chance to show we love to tell the superhero story, what’s the origin story of this small business? Where do they come from? What drove them to start this company? What were some of the challenges they have along the way. And that’s the storytelling piece of this. And in this case, for Osvaldo, you can see that he his company, to a certain extent, extent was created based on the fact that they needed some family care. And often it is a personal need that drives the birth of a business. And so those are the stories we wanted to glean, to pull out. I know, in years past, there was wonderful one Dog Tag Bakery, I remember them in DC, that’s a group of veterans that run a bakery, and they hire veterans, and they have veterans services, we’re often looking for stories of people that are making a difference with their businesses, not just for their families in their communities, but sometimes for the greater good. And so those are the stories that we love telling. And often, I’ll share this. I know the guy that runs this program every year for is a brilliant guy named Steven Kent. He’s our lead Project Manager for case studies. Studio director for this. Last year, all of his Christmas gifts were created by the various SMBs, who interviewed last year for more this project. So we actually get to know the company so well that we often give the things that they create as gifts to our friends and family. I love that. We get very close to these folks. We just love them so much.
Jeremy Weisz 13:51
I want to look at all these we could see if you’re watching the video part. We have it up here. And the way out in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and also the ClockShop in Fort Wayne, Indiana, How do you decide, I mean, there’s so many options of small businesses, how do you actually narrow it to even 60.
Laura Bergheim 14:11
So that’s usually Google, they tell us who they want us to interview, they spend a lot of time getting to know these folks learning the mix of products or using the stories they want to tell. They want to get a good distribution geographically. And so they’re working throughout the year getting to know which businesses they want to profile in the coming years report. And then they come to us with a list and they make the connection. And then we just roll through these waves of case studies we right over the course of two or three months. We also work on proofreading the website and the PDF and a lot of other comps involved as well. But the case studies are always our favorite part because we get to literally talk to these wonderful small businesses. Everybody has a story whether you’re an individual or a company, you have a story to tell. And that’s really what we do.
Jeremy Weisz 14:58
Laura, what are some of the companies ones that are must to include in a case story. You mentioned the Wicked Witch, you mentioned the White Knight, what are some of those other pieces that are essential for a good story?
Laura Bergheim 15:12
Well, just like in a fairy tale, the first thing you want to do is introduce your hero or heroine. That’s the business, right? So the first thing you do is you talk about who they are, when they were founded, where they were founded. Maybe if you have room in the case study, depending on the length, you talk a little bit as we do here about their origin story. And then you go into what their challenges that’s the Wicked Witch. So their challenge was XYZ they were struggling with getting enough traction on their website, they had rolled out a new product, but nobody has discovered it. And then the solution, which is the White Knight is the product or the service that they found that help them get there. And so you want to talk about the background of the company, often the why behind the company, because that’s very compelling, connects with people, what their challenges were, how they found the solution, how they applied the solution. And then what happened afterwards? What’s the happy ending? How many additional sales did they make, or what was the percentage increase and awareness as to their brand based on a YouTube video, they ran, things like that. So those are really the core at the heart of the case study is about the company, the challenges the solution, the implementation and the outcome. And then you can tell that story, either in a very cut-and-dried way with literally those headers. Or you can tell it in a more journalistic way, where you almost read it as if it’s an article for The New York Times, and you weave that story and coming back and forth to different aspects. But you’ll always want to hit on those high points that I mentioned,