Brand Story, Episode 7

Khalil Garriott

Be First Second

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Episode Summary

Khalil Garriott, Director of Branded Content and Executive Editor at James Madison University, has his two degrees in journalism to thank for greatly shaping the way he approaches content marketing. After spending 14 years in the competitive field of sports marketing at the NFL and Red Bull, Khalil returned to his alma mater to lead a team of content marketers all dedicated to advancing the JMU brand.

Khalil takes us through the content creation process, from finding and telling stories with a journalistic eye and why content should celebrate and not sell, to staying on top of content trends and why understanding your audience is key to success.

Episode Highlights

Be right first, be first second. Khalil’s training as a journalist taught him this important adage: be right first, be first second. While there’s a rush to get the content out the door, always take the extra time to fine-tune a piece before it goes out. A few extra minutes can go a long way in how the audience receives it – it’ll help prevent you from making a highly visible mistake. Sometimes it’s OK to not be first. Instead, focus on being accurate and polish your message before hitting ‘publish.’

The only constant is change. Things move fast in the world of content marketing  – new trends, platforms, and changes to best practices emerge almost daily. Khalil says if you’re using the same strategy now that you did in 2010, you’re behind. While it can be challenging to keep up with all the changes, it’s necessary to evolve. If you want to make a career out of content marketing, embrace a change mindset.

Give your team room to create. As a leader, Khalil manages a team of 20 creatives and knows how important it is to give his staff room to do what they do best: create. Leaders who micro-manage can stifle creativity. Trust your people to create through their own vision but be accessible if they need help.

Strategy: celebrate, not sell. JMU’s social media properties rank #2 in social engagement among other NCAA Division I institutions. Want to know their secret? It’s all about celebrating, not selling. JMU’s content puts people first, celebrating their students, staff and faculty, athletes, and alumni. Khalil says they aim to create 2-way conversations with their social followers to create a community.

Understand your audience. Khalil says the biggest mistake he sees other content marketers make is not understanding their audience. When creating content, ask yourself: who are you trying to reach? What do you want that audience to do once they experience your content — is there a call to action, or is the content purely for awareness? Use data to better understand your audience, but don’t get caught up in vanity metrics — use it to better inform the bigger picture.

About Khalil

Khalil Garriott

What he does

Khalil leads a team of content marketers in his role of Director of Branded Content and Executive Editor at James Madison University


James Madison University

Words of Wisdom

“Words truly matter. Everybody in marketing recognizes the power of video as a tool, but inclusive and precise language that leaves no holes, that’s what truly matters.”

About Steve

Steve Gilman

As the President of Gravity Group, Steve is passionate about helping brands reach their goals through honest, creative marketing and powerful brand stories.

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