Stephanie McGrath, Director of Content Strategy for National Public Relations asked me how the Yackler team accomplished what we had for Workopolis.

Here’s a look at that conversation:

Steph: Talking content strategy with someone who’s working it.

I am bored of myself. Know who’s more interesting than I am? Peter Harris. So this week, we’re all about Peter, Editor-in-Chief at Workopolis.

Peter is the best kind of colleague – creative, smart, deadline-driven, flexible and funny. In the mid 2000’s we worked together on the Sympatico/MSN portal. At that time, I ran MSN’s entertainment/movie channel and Peter was the homepage gatekeeper. It was his job to determine what stories made the front page, how to properly crop photos to grab the reader’s attention, when to drop something mid-day if it just wasn’t working and run a daily story meeting to pick and choose what he’d highlight. He constantly optimized the homepage, helping each channel editor (like me!) to meet their traffic targets.

We’ve both moved on. Now he runs a content marketing shop that’s so powerful, it can move politicians to act. For real.

Steph: You’ve had a rich and varied career, working as both a poet and in the media. How has your background influenced your approach to content marketing/strategy/storytelling in your current role?

Peter: I was an ad copy writer and a travel writer early in my career, and in that line of work, you have no choice but to finely hone your writing and story-telling abilities. But that doesn’t always transition to the web. Talented writers and journalists who’ve always worked in print don’t always fare well online. That’s because on internet, the audience is never wrong. It doesn’t matter how insightful or important your story is – if nobody reads it. If your piece doesn’t find readers, you can’t blame the audience, it’s you who have failed.

And online you have the tools to measure audience response in real time. So you can learn what engages people, and what repels them. It was through being the homepage editor of two portals (Sympatico/MSN & Yahoo! Canada) that I learned to read an audience and optimize accordingly.

Prior to editing those portals, I had spent five years building the original Canadian content for Monster.ca. But we just wrote and published stories that we thought were interesting or useful. They didn’t drive much traffic, because traffic for a career website was easy to come by in those days, and content marketing wasn’t much of a thing yet. But it was about to be.

When I took the job at Workopolis, I was excited to see what we could really do. I had the career site knowledge, and now I knew about reaching new audiences, optimizing content, and truly generating web traffic. And that’s where it all came together.

Since then, our media impressions are up over 1000% with my team running PR, and editorial traffic has increased by 254%.

Steph: How do you describe what you do to someone who’s not in the business?

Peter: We analyze data to find interesting or informative insights to share, we read the news, study labour market trends, and we write stories. The key is to find the editorial that will resonate with the targeted audience you are hoping to connect with. This keeps you top-of-mind as a trusted advisor. Your audience likes and trusts you because you genuinely help them with useful and engaging information. Therefore they visit your website, share your stories, and recommend your content. (And eventually use your products and services because they like and trust you.)

Read the full conversation over on Stephanie’s blog. Thanks, Steph!