Business Management

Avaya CMO Hires Journalists and Looks to Content

“What keeps me up at night?” Speaking by phone from California, Mark Wilson, CMO of communications giant Avaya, takes a deep breath. “Gosh, so many things. We’re targeting how we bring new solutions to market and the needs of market segments. The big opportunity in our category is enterprise productivity. You’ve seen ERP, eCommerce, mCommerce, business analytics and one of the next waves is making it easier to collaborate seamlessly. In recent years, we’ve got video on desktop, in rooms and on mobile and that’s taking friction out of decision-making. If you can get the right people in the [virtual] room, you can get to the right decision faster and we can make it much easier to collaborate and communicate.”

Decisions, decisions. Wilson, who joined Avaya in the summer of 2012, believes marketers have unprecedented options as to how they invest their resources. “It’s never been easier to get to a specific person and, as a result, people have never been as deluged,” he says.

But he has made a big bet in another direction — content development. Plenty of people are talking a good game on content marketing of course, but few have made the commitment Avaya has, hiring journalists to create what is effectively an onsite media operation.

“We want to differentiate on content and position ourselves as a thought leader,” Wilson says. “Hiring journalists is great. They’re the most savvy with social media. They’re steeped in it and they know how to write content in everything from long-form copy to medium-length pieces to White Papers and Tweets and blogs.”

That approach has seen Avaya hiring tech beat reporters who also understand the intersection with business and Wilson says Avaya has benefited not just in volume of content but by having a distinctive voice. “It’s the tonality,” he says. “They know how to be snarky but with the right editorial tone.”

Such is the change that Wilson sees a situation where “the office starts to look less like a marketing cubicle farm and more like a newsroom with a daily deadline.”

That approach is helping Avaya drive home its messages about collaboration and communications, how virtual meetings can get people off planes and lower costs. And that focus, Wilson believes, will be beneficial in creating campaigns that show real differentiation from companies with broader concerns, including the 800-pound gorilla of the communications space, Cisco.

The move comes as firms in the IT and communications field face up to a world where it’s not easy to identify the buyer, as a host of others join the IT leader in decision making.

“The number of people influencing and making a decision is expanding and increasingly the line of business is becoming more tech-savvy,” Wilson says. “It’s not just an IT sell; it’s line of business as well.”

However, that new level of complexity can’t be an excuse, for CMOs and the old discipline of having a clear view of the audience doesn’t change.

“You’re still going to get to that persona; all that’s happening is [the profile of the new decision makers] is still evolving. Marketing automation tools, sentiment analysis and other tools mean you can get much more granular about the conversation that’s happening on the web.”

Indeed, Wilson paints a rosy view of the CMO role today, suggesting that for smart marketers this is a golden age.

“People have got much smarter and the ability to measure is greater. That means we can get people interested at the top of the funnel and drive engagement.”


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The IDG News Service is the world's leading daily source of global IT news, commentary and editorial resources. The News Service distributes content to IDG's more than 300 IT publications in more than 60 countries.

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