Erica Schneider would say she’s garnered her substantial LinkedIn following—27K followers and growing—by being herself. While her contributions as Head of Content at Grizzle and her ongoing work as a professional editing and writing coach make her an expert in her field, it’s her authenticity that inspires loyalty.
Erica’s posts speak to her passions of writing and editing, but she doesn’t stop there. She’s comfortable posting about other topics as well—everything from the ups and downs of being a new mom to twins to the difficult decision to leave her day job—allowing her readers to see her as a real, candid person they can relate to.
In our conversation, Erica discusses the importance of letting her personality shine through her work. She also shares 4 lessons she’s learned during her years as Head of Content at Grizzle, and how you can apply those lessons to boost your own content. She’s also got practical advice for those starting their content marketing journey—and yes, it does involve setting your ego aside (sometimes).
Interview with Erica Schneider, former Head of Content at Grizzle
Tell me a little about yourself and what you do these days.
Erica Schneider: I’m Erica Schneider and I am a professional writer and editor. For the past four-and-a-half years, I worked my way up to Head of Content at Grizzle, a London-based content marketing agency. I was in charge of editorial recruitment, making sure we were fulfilling our clients’ requests, and that the quality was super top-notch.
I recently left my job and now I’m helping people with their writing and editing, whether it’s on social or longer form. I find the most passion and excitement from teaching people. Looking at content and explaining the changes I’ve made and why I’ve made them, that’s my sweet spot.
What was the motivation to leave the security of your job and go out on your own?
Erica Schneider: I re-found my voice by posting on LinkedIn and Twitter. Writing was my favorite class in fifth grade and all the way up through college. But for a decade-and-a-half, I essentially stopped writing for myself. Instead, I was writing for businesses to help them get clients. I lost track of my creative side.
Over the past few years, I’ve been posting on social and growing my personal brand—I call it a personal platform because I don’t love the word brand. I’ve been finding my voice again and it’s resonating with people. I was curious what it would feel like if I stopped working for other people and instead focused entirely on writing in my voice and teaching other people to write in their voice.
Leaving my job of Head of Content at Grizzle wasn’t something I took lightly, but I was curious if working for myself at this point in my life would work well for me.
Did having kids play into your decision?
Erica Schneider: Having twins has changed the amount of time I have in a day. I can’t sit down from 9 to 5 since I work from home. A lot of times I have to break my deep focus and go help them.
I realized that even though my job as Head of Content at Grizzle was asynchronous and project-based, I was falling behind. I would catch up by the end of each week, but it was constantly making me feel guilty. I was craving more control over my own time.
Can you explain the difference between personal brand and personal platform?
Erica Schneider: When companies brand themselves, they are creating a narrative around themselves. When you apply that to a human, it implies you’re creating a character or a persona of yourself and then projecting it online. When I do that, it feels hollow and stale.
I decided not to be so strategic with my personal brand, and instead share a little of my personality by writing about things that I’m passionate about that may or may not be related to content marketing or editing.
And that resonates. People have told me that because I am myself online, they trust me and that’s why they buy things from me or are interested in getting to know me more.
That made me think critically: What is a personal brand? Are other people feeling this way? The statistics show that people want to buy from people.
If we create a rigid strategy for who we are as a brand, a lot of times we find ourselves playing a character. And when you play that character, you end up not having as much fun. It feels like a chore to go post and spend time online.
The best way to keep industry authority and get people to come to your business is to show up consistently. The only way I can do that is if I like being there.
The difference between personal brand and personal platform is a bit of semantics, but for me, a platform is a bigger thing you can have more control over, rather than the platforms controlling you and you being a brand showing up on the platforms. You are building your own personal platform; you are the stage; and you are showing up as yourself as opposed to being in a box being controlled by other levers.
What is Power Your Platform?
Erica Schneider: Power Your Platform is one of the businesses that I’m running with business strategist Casey Jones. We have a newsletter and we run live cohorts a few times a year to help people—usually experienced entrepreneurs or experienced founders who may or may not have a presence online—through the process of figuring out how to show up online, how to write well online and how to convert these relationships into leads for your business.
And the other side of Power Your Platform is consulting, teaching and editorial coaching for any type of writing, for anyone who wants writing help.
What are some lessons learned from your time as Head of Content at Grizzle?
1. Know your audience
You have to know what your audience wants and how to communicate with them. The question becomes: how do I create content that’s going to drive awareness to my business, convert people and retain them? How do I make a documented strategy from that? It’s so much more than SEO.
2. Focus each piece of content on one idea
A lot of people have so much they want to talk about—but they aren’t sure how to translate that knowledge and experience into content. At Grizzle, we often had to take pieces of content back to clients and suggest cutting entire sections.
Nothing against the idea or the words, but we couldn’t use it because it wasn’t related to the topic. It was going to add friction and confuse the reader. It all comes down to organizing ideas and thoughts. The reading experience needs to be cohesive and the narrative needs to be about one idea.
If you’re starting from scratch and trying to sell something, the best advice is to identify the most important theme. What’s the biggest problem you can solve for your audience? What’s their biggest pain point? What theme will relate to your expertise? Start there and then create hub-and-spoke topic clusters from that. It’s a smart way to grow your authority.
3. Everyone needs an editor
It’s hard when you try to apply these guidelines to yourself, which is why we all need help. You need somebody to hear your brain dump and then separate the ideas into bucket 1, bucket 2, bucket 3, and then plan implementation.
4. Incorporate thought leadership–even if your content is SEO-driven
One of the best ways to offer thought leadership is with owned data. Having your own case studies or your own surveys are some of the best ways to create a unique angle—and be able to back it up.
Another really great way to offer thought leadership is through storytelling. How did you help a certain customer? How can you insert your product or your service into the story in a way that the solution is throughout—as opposed to having a final H2 where it’s like, ‘here’s how we can help.’
Again it depends on what your audience wants—what their passions are and how you can relate that to your experience and expertise.
What advice would you give to someone getting started in content marketing?
1. Seek out feedback
The most important thing you can do to improve is to not only accept feedback, but seek it out. That is the fastest way to go from A to B. If you don’t ask for feedback, you might not get it. And if you don’t learn from it or ask follow-up questions, the person offering the feedback might think that you don’t value it and they won’t spend as much time doing it.
I have gotten tons of feedback and given tons of feedback. I learn the most when I put my ego aside and say, ‘ok, I’m going to learn from this.’ I’ve trained a lot of writers and the ones that succeed are the ones who bring their own critical thinking to the situation and say: ‘I have a couple of follow-up questions,’ or ‘What do you think of this instead?’
2. Be clear on the purpose of each piece of content
You always need to think about and pay attention to why you are writing a piece of content. Why does the piece of content exist? Because hopefully you’re not just writing for writing’s sake. There has to be a purpose for that draft. And if you always pay attention to the purpose, then you start to think more strategically and that’s going to help you advance.
Thanks for spending time with us!
Thanks to Erica for taking us into the world of a content marketing editor—and thank you, reader, for spending part of your day with us. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Erica as much as I did.
I’d encourage you to connect with Erica Schneider on LinkedIn.
Want to read more about personal brands and LinkedIn?
Check out these related Uplift blog posts:
- Promoting Content on LinkedIn: 6 Tips for SaaS
- What is Account-Based Customer Marketing? With Leslie Barrett
- Product-Led Marketing: Insights from a Product Marketing Manager
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