Oi logo bigOne of the joys of my side project, The Online Influence Conference, or Oiconf for short, is that I have been able to meet some amazing people.

Here is a little chat I had with Tamsen Webster, SVP of Digital Strategy at Allen and Gerritsen in Boston, and the opening speaker of the conference in June this year.

Oh by the way. maybe you are coming to see Mari Smith or Mark Schaefer, those guys being the big names on the line up, but I’ve a feeling that Tamsen is going to be the star of the show. Just have a look at what she has to say before she has even arrived in the UK!

Hi Tamsen, welcome to the blog, and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us. 

Firstly, can you tell everyone a little bit about you? I know you’re a Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at a big time ad agency in Boston called Allen & Gerritsen, and you are one of the leading content marketing experts in the US, but what about Tamsen the person? 


Tamsen Webster

I love to find ways to make things better, to make it easier to get done whatever it is you want done. My chosen toolbox has always been communications in one form or another: how can I use words and ideas to make change happen? That’s been true both personally and professionally, and for as long as I can remember. I grew up mostly in Virginia Beach, VA, the daughter of a US Navy Submariner and an anthropologist, loved the arts in high school, and went to college (where I studied marketing and American Studies) and grad school convinced I wanted to run an art museum. But I fell in love with the field of Organizational Behavior in grad school, and saw just how much how a company’s internal processes affected it’s ability to communicate its brand and messages externally — and never looked back. Whether for a museum, or for colleges and universities, and now every day with A&G’s clients, I get to work on designing messages and structuring frameworks to tell brands’ stories.

I mentioned that technical term ‘content marketing’ earlier, and not everyone will be familiar with it – how would you describe ‘content marketing’ to someone that had no idea what it means? 

To me, content marketing is marketing. If you define content as any piece of interaction with a brand that affects how people view and understand it, then everything a company does is “content marketing.” More typically, people define content marketing as the generation, distribution, and promotion of written, visual, and audio content with the aim of achieving specific business results.

Where is content marketing in relation to its fit within the whole social media industry?

I’d say it’s actually the reverse: social media fits into content marketing, not the other way around. Social media is an important channel for content, to be sure, since it not only is a way to promote other forms of content and a place to actively engage with current and potential customers, but it’s not the only channel for content marketing. All the channels have to work together.

And your talk at the Oiconf will actually be about content and its power as a marketing channel? Can you tell us a little more about what to expect from your talk? 

I’m really excited about this session, because so often we hear we need to use social media, or content marketing, or paid media, or whatever, and we don’t know how to pull it all together. This talk will give attendees a repeatable process for planning, diagnosing, and analyzing your content efforts to make sure you’re not only getting the results you’re looking for from your marketing efforts, but also making the most of all the channels available to us as marketers.

You’re becoming a really established speaker in the US, appearing at Mark Schaefer’s Social Slam for instance – is that where you are going these days? What are your ambitions for your career right now?

I’m happiest when I’m helping people, period. I wouldn’t be able to talk with any authority if I weren’t still actively involved, day-to-day, in helping my clients. I love giving talks like these and at SocialSlam, as it gives me an opportunity to take what I’ve learned with my clients and use it to help other people.

What are your expectations of the UK audiences? Have you visited any of the Oiconf cities Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow before? 

I’ve been to the UK a number of times, but never to these four cities. I studied in London while I was an undergraduate, and I’ve made it as far west as Cornwall, where I have cousins in and around Hayle. And while I’ve been to Gretna Green to see friends of mine get married, blacksmith and all, I don’t really consider that as having experienced Scotland! So needless to say, I’m thrilled to have a chance to visit Wales for the first time, see more of Scotland, and get further north than London.

What do you think are the main themes those in the social media industry, or even the content marketing industry, should be really looking out for this year? 

I think this year, more than any previous, is the year in which social media will be expected to grow up and pay off. Companies understand the value of what social media has to offer, but they don’t buy that it can’t be measured or that it can be tied to results (and yes, this applies to content marketing, too). There will be increasing pressure to tie social and content effectively in with other marketing and sales enablement efforts, and to prove its value as part of that whole. I also think this year will unquestionably be about how, and how quickly, companies can respond to their customers’ need to interact on mobile devices.

And whats going to catch us all out? 

Part of the fun of life is not ever knowing what’s going to come to trip us up, so I’ll answer it this way: what catches us out is not structuring for serendipity. We have to plan our businesses and our marketing efforts to be nimble and to respond to the ever-shifting environment. I’m sure we’ll see some new platform arise, and some previously unassailable platform start to falter. Since we can’t know what the future holds, we can only do our best to plan for what we know will happen, and change is inevitably a part of that.

If people want to find out more about you and your work, whats the best place for them to visit? 

I’m the only Tamsen Webster in existence I think, so any Google search on me (or my former name, Tamsen McMahon) will produce anything anyone could possibly want to know. It’s all about content, after all!

Thanks Tamsen, Im really looking forward to meeting you in June! And I know you are going to knock ’em dead at Oiconf – see you soon! 

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