Atlassian, the software company behind work management products such as Jira, Trello, and Confluence, had a blog that covered products, updates, and news going back to its founding in 2002. In February 2019, it launched its brand publication, Work Life. The redesign and content strategy pivot started when the Atlassian blog editors experimented with high-level teamwork content as a way to attract and support a wider audience. Now Natalie Mendes, Senior Content Marketing Manager, runs the day-to-day editorial operations as Work Life’s Managing Editor. Her “small and scrappy” team are working to scale up and optimize production to meet the tremendous traffic growth they’ve seen since the launch, and Work Life recently won Best B2B Branded Content Site from the Digiday Content Marketing Awards.
Did you lead the redesign and strategy pivot?
I was at the helm of it, but I had a lot of support from my team. The three of us had been editors across our product content on the blog. We have 13 products at Atlassian, so we were very busy, but we formulated a hypothesis: “If we talk about bigger topics around teamwork and productivity that are related to our products but not overtly selling them, we can bring in new customers to the company.”
We chose to talk about teamwork and how to work well among teams, because Atlassian’s company mission is to unleash the potential of every team. It’s a very lofty mission, but we believe that the way you work and the people you work with are just as important as the tools and software you use.
So we were writing about effective teamwork in our free time and we were discovering really great results. We were seeing higher traffic numbers on average to these types of stories, and attracting a whole new audience. Getting that information really armed us to be able to make a big pivot in our content strategy, which included our redesign.
There’s a link on the header of Work Life that opens the Products & News section. Was that a key redesign choice, to put that content in a different spot?
Yes. Before the redesign, we had sort of lumped everything together on the blog homepage. You would be reading about updates to our products, but then you would also be reading about teamwork strategies and personal stories from the world of work. And we felt like it was a bit of a jarring experience for our audience, especially for people who were new to the company. It was hard to figure out what the blog was really about.
With this redesign, we decided to present our teamwork content as the homepage experience, because it is the unifying theme underlying all our products. And then, as a deeper experience into our brand and suite of products, readers can explore the Products and News section for all of the news and updates. Each of the products has their own landing page and those pages are visible on search. So it’s helped us too, because in creating sections, it’s made it a lot easier for our different stakeholders across the company to own their blog strategy and helps users navigate through the site.
Is it mostly your team writing, or are there contributors from across the company?
We have a principal writer on my team now, and she writes at least a story a week, but we also have been very fortunate to be able to source content from across the company. At Atlassian, we have a team of 5,000 people who are kind of obsessed with unleashing the potential of teams. And we use Confluence, which is our internal wiki and a product that we sell, to share our experiences and stories with each other.
When we find stories in Confluence that we like, we reach out to the author and usually people are very amenable to being published externally. Some of our best stories on Work Life have come from within the company.
We also hire contributing writers to bring in outside voices, [such as] people from different industries and people with a more specific focus than we have. So we are always looking outside, looking inside, and then we have our own little writing group as well.
In dealing with challenges in scaling and growth, how have you optimized production?
We’ve reallocated our focus and can better deliver on our different channels. Instead of the three main editors each looking after four of our products, we have specific swim lanes. We have someone who writes our biweekly newsletter and is dedicated to that channel. We have someone who looks after distribution, since we have distribution partners that republish our content. And then me, the managing editor and assigning editor. We also added a dedicated Products and News editor who looks after our product content full-time.
We’re also being really channel specific in knowing where our traffic is coming from. Before we might just find a story that we thought was cool. Now we make sure we vet ideas against trending keywords and do SEO research to make sure that we can get our articles to rank, or we’ll work on stories that can bring in a huge social following. We’ve been able to identify which types of stories will work on different channels and take that to the bank when we publish, because we want to be as impactful as we can with every story. Sometimes it means saying no to stories or reframing them, but it’s always worth it in our mind when we can commit to a story that we feel pretty confident will bring in a good amount of awareness and traffic.
What’s the primary measure of Work Life’s success?
Work Life is all about brand awareness, so we hang our hats on traffic, especially in net new traffic to our website. When we launched, we were delighted to discover up to 80% of traffic to the site was net new, compared to a baseline of 35%, which was a great sign that Work Life could be used as a powerful brand tool.
That’s a new focus because it was predicated on our hypothesis that if we made this pivot, we could bring in a net new audience. Before, we would be looking at entrances and page views, and also conversion down the funnel. We still look at all of those things, but in terms of knowing who’s new to the brand and who’s returning, that really helps us see, “OK, these types of stories are resonating and bringing in new people, let’s focus here.”
For the editors of Work Life, what sort of qualities are necessary for a good blog post?
It always has to be new. And that doesn’t mean new as in breaking news, but rather offering a new angle on the world of work. We’re really inspired by the hidden forces behind everything, so we try to bring that out in the content. We don’t want what is read on Work Life to be read anywhere else on the internet, or be something that any other brand could produce. So the newness element, the element of curiosity and surprise. We like to answer questions that people didn’t even know that they had, like, “How would imposter syndrome influence my ability to give this work presentation?”
We try to bring in external sources, that’s something interesting that I don’t think I’ve seen before my time at Atlassian. With a corporate blog, the temptation is to really focus on your company, your experts, and your perspective, but bringing in external voices really lends to your credibility. We’ve been influenced by the world of journalism, so we think like, how can we be the Harvard Business Review of company blogs? We look to a lot of that journalistic integrity in the writing that we produce.
Do you have any final thoughts on editing, content strategy, or brand storytelling?
We just won an award for best B2B publication from the Digiday Content Marketing Awards, that felt really good. I think in the world of B2B content, we’ve let our standards be low but they don’t have to be. I think we’re proving to ourselves that when we tell good stories with high quality, it doesn’t matter if we are a software company. If we’re giving people useful advice, things that expand their understanding of teamwork and productivity, that’s a win.
Knowing our brand identity has helped us a lot in terms of forming this publication. Having that mission that we can all rally behind has informed our content strategy from the inside out. So I’d say to anybody wanting to do something similar with a brand publication, really look inside the company to see: What are our values? What is our mission? What do we stand for aside from the product that we create? It’ll make your strategy decisions so much easier and connected to your brand.