Part 3: Marketing lessons from Successful Communications Professional of Industry Leader Axis Communications

Agility PR’s founding client invented the world’s first network camera in 1996, became the industry leader in the IP Surveillance market it created and was purchased by Canon Inc. in early 2015 for $2.8bn. Today it has annual sales in excess of £1bn and employs more than 3,700 people around the world. That company is Axis Communications.

Kristina Tullberg

Kristina Tullberg, Communications Manager, Northern Europe, Axis Communications

I decided to go back to interview Kristina Tullberg who is the Communication Manager for Axis sales region in Northern Europe. The below Q&A-style article is based on a in-depth conversation I had with Kristina on 30thNovember 2020.

In this piece, our discussion covers to the importance of ‘democratising’ creation of content, while recognising the crucial role communications professionals must play in curating all content to ensure purpose, message, tone and audience are properly considered. They must also select relevant channels and the degree of content adaptation needed for those channels. Enjoy my first blog post of 2021 below:

Q8. How do you involve your employees and Axis partners to get them creating blog content for your website?

Axis is very democratic. So, if you want to provide content and have ideas then anyone can send an outline and we’ll write them for them. Business development managers, sales managers and product marketing specialists tend to offer these ideas the most.

We also offer our partners the opportunity to ‘guest author’ on our site. The only stipulation here is that it addresses a topic which a Northern European area account manager/sales person confirms is a driver in the market likely to be of interest for the Axis stakeholders. If we can involve an actual customer so much the better.

Q9. For those wanting to create more video content, what do you need to think about?
You need to recognise that it takes more time than you think. For example, to create a video customer case study you need to get commitment from a partner, as well as several people within a customer and normally an Axis key account manager. You have all the story boarding as well as question and briefing document preparation before it goes ahead. The filming can go on for more than a day. The time is not generally there.

On the other hand, we’ve been able to set up a studio in the office where managers, and partners can go in, keep socially-distanced but still do talking heads, broadcast-quality, videoed discussions. These are proving very effective as all you need is a little research on a topic you’re due to discuss and ideally some differing points of view to stimulate a discussion.

Q10. What communication changes has Coronavirus hastened?
We have become more disciplined in areas like programming of talking heads vlogs and tutorial-style webinars. We are pretty sure we have higher levels of engagement. But we need to be careful to apply the same communication rigours you apply for all other content we’re creating.

“So, you need to ask the questions: What is the audience for this? What do you want them to do? Does it fit into a campaign project that we are already doing or planning? Will it build brand, educate the market, or get them to sign up for an event, for example? I’m looking for a little more planning but sometimes the sales guys want things yesterday, so you just have to do it, explore, feed off their urgency and energy – applying our marketing creativity to the engagement challenges they put in front of us. Very often the sort of experimentation generates breakthrough results you did not anticipate.”

Q11. Are you still creating a great deal of vertical sector specific content?
What’s interesting about this is that as the market has matured, the content has gravitated towards a deeper focus on solutions which then only need slight adaptation for each sector. To some extent, this goes hand-in-hand with the Smart Cities concept in which transport, public space and retail video surveillance start joining up. We are beginning to move away from the traditional segment-based structure. The overriding themes are permeating all sectors.

That said, it’s still worth doing case studies which show specific applications. Also, it’s important to reflect the changes that are occurring in specific markets. So, in retail we need to be talking about how our products and solutions can support increased levels of distribution and logistics which have come with the increased volume of online shopping and home deliveries during the pandemic.

Q12. Would you say you are focusing more on business benefits than specific product communication?
I think we tipped too far away from product promotion a few years ago and we are now heading back towards it a little bit more. You only really get the benefit of talking about the products in detail if you are talking to a highly targeted audience.

Before we used to promote the latest camera to everyone, while a retail store owner or headmaster of a school was not interested in the name of the cameras he was buying. He just needed his IT person to get some video surveillance in place to mitigate specific threats and meet a specific need. However, showing and talking about technology and products in a more function and form way works better. Technology and innovation and new product areas like body worn cameras and camera analytics also gets lots of attention.

Q13. How do you communicate best practice and shine a spotlight on your partners?
I create a Partner magazine called #AxisInnovates which is an opportunity for partners to contribute and share content and for us to communicate the latest successful product news and trends emerging from right across the Axis eco-system. We ask for solution-led copy from partners. Then we need to edit it to fit our editorial style and tie it in with the overall message so that the end-user gets the complete picture. It’s important to keep in touch and appeal to different types of partners: different sizes and different types of partners from IT integrators to more traditional physical security specialists.

Q14. What, if anything, do you lose working in Communications for a company like Axis which has grown so big, so fast.
Inevitably, in a larger company there is room to do more interesting things and operate at the cutting-edge of digital marketing technique adoption, for example. However, it also means that individuals’ within my team see their remits naturally becomes narrower and more specialist. So, we have a technical Pardot champion, a content creation specialist, and a dedicated marketing co-ordinator for the Axis Academy for example. You don’t have the same entrepreneurial work-style and I can miss that ad hoc if chaotic style of working.  It’s not enough to co-ordinate adverts or write all content regardless of the channel. You need to hone your skills and leave some tasks to others.

Q15. What implications does this have on agencies likely to be serving you nowadays?
It means I’m gravitating away from the ‘Old school’ PR agency who tend to focus on media relations alone.

“I’m looking for specific skills, whether they be digital marketing or thought leadership content creation today. There is the technology enabling digital marketing and then there’s the content which enables the audience-specific engagement which we are looking for. Needless to say, we tend to work with smaller, specialist agencies rather than the big brand agencies for that reason.”

Q16. Finally, what does Sweden’s approach to managing the pandemic say about the Swedish psyche and do you think the looser approach worked better than the full lockdowns which the UK and other countries across Europe brought in?

In Sweden, as you know, we are highly democratic. It’s very hard to tell Swedes what to do. We really have to work it out for ourselves personally. This approach worked okay for us for a while but in the end we’ve had to bring in some restrictions to keep the spread under control.

Top 6 Tips

Top 6 Tips for Delivering content which remains relevant to your audiences as you grow

Top 6 Tips for Keeping your Content Relevant as you Grow

In summary there seem to be a few key elements to think about when running marketing communications inside a large enterprise today. I’ve tried to pull these together into a Top 6 Tips below:

  1. Communications today involves 2 core skills: Technical Digital Marketing and Content Creation
  2. Localisation is key as you get larger – if you want to cut through you need to tailor the message more to locality and translate fully into local languages increasingly
  3. Video is at least as important as the written word but don’t forget the PR disciplines of Audience and Message Targeting when you embark on this work.
  4. When creating content, think in terms of 4 layers from Corporate ‘Umbrella’ Topics, through Tech ‘mega trend’ content, and finally Sales & Partner content.
  5. Use the disciplines of a campaign in all new communication initiative. Remember to think about the audience first, the message relevant to that audience next, and the format or medium well after that. Don’t be led by the communication channel just because it’s shiny and new. Be led by customer/target audience and make sure you know the purpose of every piece of content you create or curate.
  6. Democratise the process of creating content as much as you can. Involve any members of your sales and business development team which have something to share. Your partners can help write content which appeals to and motivates other partners for example. Recognise that you must retain copy writing skills to ensure the professionalism and consistent tone of voice is maintained. By curating others content, you nurture and build your audience to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Miles Clayton who wrote this piece hosted a one-hour online workshop on ‘Building your Content Journey to Turn Prospects into Customers’ which can be viewed below: