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Cover art for podcast episode Brand Consistency in the Rapid Content Era: Part 2

Brand Consistency in the Rapid Content Era: Part 2

Welcome to the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence.

Today’s episode is a continuation of our conversation with Jen Hovelsrud of Elevance Health. On our last episode, we talked about how we can maintain content harmony and start thinking of our company as a publisher. Now, we’re digging deeper and discussing how we, as brand leaders, can empower our teams to create content quickly in a way that ensures brand consistency and long-term brand health.

Jen, an expert in enterprise content marketing and social media, shares her strategies on empowering teams, utilizing tools for brand monitoring, and the delicate balance between creative freedom and brand coherence. We’ll also discuss budget allocation, the potential and ethical use of AI in content generation, and the pivotal role of strong leadership in fostering marketing success.

Thank you for being part of the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence. The future of healthcare depends on it.

Key Takeaways:

1. Harmony in Brand Consistency: While brand consistency is a cornerstone of strong marketing, it’s the power of a central source of truth and the avoidance of a perfectionist mindset that truly empowers content creation teams.

2. Leadership & Leveraging Strengths: Sara and Jen touch on the pivotal role of leadership within marketing. It’s important to foster a team environment where creativity is nurtured, strengths are leveraged, and members are encouraged to contribute unique perspectives, all within the boundaries of brand guidelines to maintain harmony.

3. Resource Realities & Focused Strategy: Sara and Jen discuss the common struggle of under-resourced content teams across organizations. Jen highlights the critical importance of a disciplined, strategic approach to content creation, especially when resources are limited. She advocates for a clear, purpose-driven strategy that defines a well-chosen area of impact, echoing the necessity of prioritizing and measuring for sustainable content marketing.

4. Ethical AI & Operational Potential: AI can provide useful first drafts but there will always be  the necessity of human oversight. This episode discusses the creation of ethical guidelines surrounding AI’s use in highly regulated industries like healthcare.

5. Empathy & Execution: There’s a need for balancing creativity with consistency without stifling innovation. It’s important to have a supportive environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities rather than failures. Empathy, respect for individuality, and space for personal expression are essential for both vibrant content and professional contentment.

About Jen Hovelsrud

Staff Vice President

Elevance Health

Jen leads Enterprise Content Marketing and Social Media for Elevance Health, a health company and largest licensee of Blue Cross Blue Shield Health plans. She is focused building brands through strategically-connected and purpose-driven driven content and communication.


Sara Payne [00:00:10]:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Health Marketing Collective, where strong leadership meets marketing excellence. I'm your host, Sara Payne, a health marketing strategist at Impella Communications, and I'm bringing you fascinating conversations with some of the industry's top marketing minds. On today's episode, we're gonna talk about content harmony and brand consistency in the rapid content era we're living in. This is part 2 of our conversation with Jen Hovelsrud of Elevance Health. We're talking about how as brand and content leaders, how do we empower our teams to create content quickly across many creators in a way that ensures consistency and long term brand health. Jen leads enterprise content marketing and social media for Elavance Health. For those of you who aren't familiar, Elavance Health is a whole health company and the largest licensee of Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Plans. Welcome back, Jen.

Sara Payne [00:01:02]:

Thanks for having me back, Sara. Yeah. Thanks for we we had so much content in that first episode. We just had to come back for another one. And in that first episode, we talked a lot about the importance of having a purpose driven brand narrative, brand strategy. And not only that, but then the strong architecture that supports content execution, your content program behind that. We touched on how you get an organization bought into that philosophy at the highest levels of the organization. The the hard work it takes the marketing team and marketing leaders like you to really evangelize that process, get everyone rowing in the same direction, and really elevating marketing as a strategic driver of the business.

Sara Payne [00:01:52]:

Just so much richness in that conversation. I I wanna I wanna dive in in a few areas we didn't get a chance to talk about. The first one being brand consistency. Brand consistency is a challenge for many organizations. And I'm wondering what advice, tips you have, and maybe even what tools or technologies you have in place for sort of managing and monitoring your brand consistency across not only multiple channels, but you've also got multiple brands. So talk a little bit about that.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:02:26]:

Yeah. I mean, I think some of them. Right? Everybody's familiar with, you know, your brand guidelines, your brand standards. I think we're probably better at the visual guidelines than we are the written or verbal guidelines. I think some of what we talked about in the first episode sets sets that up, deciding why we exist, what our point of view is, what the messaging around that is. We also have spent quite a bit of time at Elevance Health working with various stakeholders just on on language. Our public affairs department, our clinical departments, in terms of those writing style guides. How do we talk about people with disabilities? How do we talk about health equity? Again, it sounds like a pain.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:03:12]:

Right? And believe me it is. It's a lot of work, but again it allows you to to hold those brand standards in place around language, and that has a lot of meaning. It betrays you or reflects your value for other people often. So I would argue it's it's something that's worth having in place. Once you do put it in place, it allows your teams to move so much faster and with alignment. You've agreed on

Sara Payne [00:03:37]:

those things, upfront. So what do you do from an accountability standpoint to that? You know, I think you you made a, excellent point that as many many brands and organizations do this well in terms of the visual consistency and the visual brand standards. And, you know, the the the narrative, the the messaging, the storytelling component of it is not something we are as used to doing that, you know, we maybe don't have the muscles to do that. So are there, you know, they're called brand police. Right? That's terrible technology, but on the visual part of it, but, you know, walk us through tactically, yes, you gotta have the framework in place and get everybody on board with it, but then how do you actually make sure there's accountability to that and when Scale it. I'm sure things are cropping up where it's not consistent, then what do you do?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:04:31]:

Yeah. No. It's a great it's a great, question. How do you operationalize it? And I think on one end of the spectrum, it's distributed. You are loose about it, and it allows everybody total freedom and to be fast. So you're you're on the good end, you're fast. On the bad end, you're you're not very consistent. The consistency of your product fails.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:04:53]:

On the other end, you can be strict brand police, require everything to go through approval, and, you know, make sure that it's per perfect. Okay. Now you have a lot of consistency, but you've got an operational path that implodes on itself. You can't move fast enough especially in this day and age. So we have found that if you strike it somewhere in the middle, you put that infrastructure in place, you you create the tools, you educate people on the tools, and then you always have a central source of truth that people can come back to and you you don't beat them up. You you try to, you know, educate them on the why, educate them on the use, let them know where the tools are, and always have that source of truth where you can tap back into. I think that needs to come at how you talk about your company. So I would think of that as a typical, you know, brand team.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:05:45]:

And then I think with this, you know, when we talked about in the last podcast about being, being a publisher, I think that's almost another team that says here here is how we think about our industry, our point of view, how we operate. And there's gotta be someone that holds that source of truth because we know in a game of telephone, aside from tools and someone that that holds that truth and is the standard bearer, every now and then you have to come back to that and re level set. And then knowing we're human beings, we're not gonna get it right all the time and that's okay. And sometimes different takes on some of these things is okay and leads us to a good place. You cannot have a perfectionist mindset and strike the right balance here in in my opinion. I think you you put the things in place, the support, the education, and then, you you do the best that you can. You don't wanna discourage people from even trying to create something because the process to get, you know, to to get it published is so painful that no one wants to even try.

Sara Payne [00:06:55]:

Yeah. No. That's so great. I love I love that. Central source of truth, and then making sure there's sort of a level of empathy. Right? Where people want want to be a part of this and don't get discouraged. And love what you said about not a perfectionist mindset. It can be hard for a lot of us in marketing.

Sara Payne [00:07:12]:

Right? Of letting go of some of that control. But no. I think that's so important. Such a great point. Another thing that you brought up there is speed. So we we are living in the area of rapid content. Speed and nimbleness is incredibly important today, particularly when it comes to social media and participating in relevant conversations online. But that's not easy in healthcare, being a highly regulated industry.

Sara Payne [00:07:34]:

So what advice do you have for building and empowering a team within a large organization like yours to be able to move quickly with content creation without really compromising quality or these regulatory concerns.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:07:49]:

Yeah. Outside of the things that you just have no control over, which you've said, your, you know, your legal approver, your compliance, things like that. I think it goes back to not having a perfectionist attitude and having some compassion. I think that you have to choose where what hills am I gonna die on? Where does it really create a problem or, you know, a problem for your reputation, a problem for your brand? If it's not one of those things, I think you have to give your team a chance to put their own fingerprints on this content, their own take, their own topics, you just have to sort of set the sandbox out and say as long as you're operating within these confines, there's a whole lot of room to be creative. Again, there have to be tools. I think you also have to really look at your content approvals and skinny them down as much as possible. You know, we're we are not an organization that accepts risk very well, so I don't say that naively. But again, if you've done the upfront work and decided what territories you're gonna wanna talk, within, what what you want to try to own, what your point of view is, it it really allows people a whole lot of freedom in the middle to do what they want.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:09:09]:

That that a makes it faster to go from finding a valuable topic to execution, approval and execution, but I also think it motivates your teams to be excited about their work and generating more ideas, moving faster, you know, finding new people that help them get it get it through. Jen, any other thoughts on speed as it pertains to team structure?

Sara Payne [00:09:32]:

How do you set your team up to enable speed?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:09:36]:

Yeah, I'm I'm glad you asked that because I think that's the other, the other side to this that makes a huge difference to I think you have to to keep things moving. You have to have a really clear strategy so that people know, you know, what they're executing, how, when, what success looks like. You have to have a clear organizational structure that clearly defines roles. Where where do I fit in in this content machine? What's my role to keep things moving so nothing sits? I also think you have to leverage people's strengths on on a team. What do you what do you like to do? Can we always be looking at that role definition in a way that creates flexibility for people to learn new things? Because I think, people are people are, faster when they're happy learning new things. And then, I also think you have to have a repeatable process. So what are we what are we publishing when? Do we know if we're behind? Do we know if we're ahead? When do we do certain things? When do we brainstorm new topics? You know, when do we report out on the content that we've already reported? I think all of that is super important to giving guide rails and keeping the machine moving, in a way that that sets you up for success and doesn't put, you know, an undue or unexpected unnecessary pressure on people.

Sara Payne [00:11:01]:

This this concept of of of pressure, we talked about it earlier with perfectionism. I'm gonna go in the direction of talking about how do you balance the need for consistency without compromising creativity or innovative approaches to content. And I sort I think it's sort of in line with this similar theme. Right? Of, like, leaning into people's strengths and and leading with empathy and, you know, not putting too much, perfectionism around it. But when does this, the drive for brand consistency go too far that it stymies innovative thinking?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:11:38]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And and, sometimes I think that can be, a personal style problem more than anything else. If you've set up your infrastructure the right way, and I'm not saying that person a is good at it and person b isn't. I have found myself on both sides of that divide. When we first launched this program, for example, I knew that it was just one piece of content espousing a point of view that our legal or our clinical or public affairs department had had really serious concerns over would would kill our program. So, I could lean in at that point and go heavy control and say, I need to look at everything. So, I I think once you get past launching a program and and having it be respected and trusted, really checking if, how much control needs to be around those brand standards.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:12:34]:

Check, you know, set the program up to operate within a clear set of guidelines, and then I think, you know, hire people that are good at this and trust them to do their job. I know that sounds trite and there's nothing new there, but I do really think that works. And and challenge me there if you think any of that, you know, sounds off.

Sara Payne [00:12:56]:

No. I agree with you a 100%. I think that's so important. Again, I'm gonna I said it before, I wanna say it again. What we're talking about here is as much, if not more about strong leadership than it is about marketing excellence. Like, I don't think you get to marketing excellence without strong leadership, and that's about leaning into people's strengths and giving them space to do their best work and their best thinking. Yep. And that I agree.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:13:22]:

And you said, you know I'm sorry.

Sara Payne [00:13:24]:

No. No. No. Go ahead. Go ahead. Oh. I just wanna play off

Jen Hovelsrud [00:13:27]:

of something you said, earlier. You asked me about the creativity, and I think you're a 100% right there. Brand standards and consistency, again, are about guidelines, not finding perfection. It's it's about sounding like the same company over and over again, But, you know, you think you still sound like Sara to me every single day, but you do create you do creative and surprising things all the time. And I have learned so much from the team that I work with in terms of where they wanna take things, new directions, directions, new ways of expressing things. And again, as long as it's in the same confines and we sell still sound like the same company, and we still have the same point of view, I know I don't wanna work on a team where I have to check my brain and opinions at the door. And so, you know, I I try to to, you know, in influence that, with leaders around me and provide that, for the team that I'm working with.

Sara Payne [00:14:26]:

So great. I'm gonna shift gears just a little bit here for a minute. I wanna talk about budget. And and don't worry, I'm not gonna ask you what you what your actual budget is. I'm not gonna ask you for a number, Jen. So don't worry. But Good crime. But, Edelman and LinkedIn, just came out with findings from their annual b to b thought leadership impact report.

Sara Payne [00:14:47]:

And for our listeners, if you're not familiar, Google it, get your hands on it. It's full of excellent, insights and and statistics. One of the findings from the report this year was 50% of respondents said that one of their top barriers to producing more effective thought leadership content is that it's under resourced. I'm not surprised by this at all in any way. I see it in the work that we do with clients, and I know that this stat from from Edelman and LinkedIn is specific to b to b thought leadership because that's what the survey is is focused on. But I believe all content is under resourced in most organizations. I'm I'm, you know, I'm gonna go out on a limb there and and make that bold statement. It's not just b

Jen Hovelsrud [00:15:31]:

to b, but all content is under resourced in most organizations. What's your take, Jen? Feel free to disagree with me. Do brands have enough resources for producing content? Absolutely not. I don't I don't think we've gotten good enough at quantifying the impact yet to rationalize a larger share of our marketing budgets. I think we should. I just don't think we've we've gotten there yet. I think it's it's a relatively new function. We're maturing into it.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:15:56]:

We're figuring out how to rationalize it the way we do some of the other marketing functions. I think it's also a matter of what's upper funnel and brand, what's lower funnel, what can you measure towards the bottom line. So I I think that's absolutely the reality that we're all in. If you did ask me my my budget, I think everyone would be shocked at the size of the team and the size of the budget and what we're doing with it. And it's it's not because we're superhuman, and it's not because we're all working 80 hours a week. But going back to a lot of what we talked about in episode 1, I think that is even more reason to take a really intentional focused approach, which is is hard across the company and a lot of of content creators, Not just within one content team, but if you have multiple content creators across an organization, part of that that, purpose driven strategy. Again, I'm so sorry. I'm going back to episode 1, but, you know, choosing.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:16:54]:

What do you wanna stand out for? What's your point of view in in breaking through? Because if you have limited resources, then you you have to pick and choose what you are going to create content on and be even crisper about the results of what those are. And, you know, none of us can stand out for 20 things. It's a lot easier to stand out for 3 to 5. And so, I agree, and I I think that that's indicative then that we take a more focused strategic approach on what we do decide to to, create content.

Sara Payne [00:17:30]:

Yeah. Absolutely. And, of course, the $1,000,000 question would be, you know, what do we do as as an industry as mark marketing leaders? What do we do to change that reality? Right? What do we do to change the fact that, you know, most brands don't have enough resources for producing content? And and and, you know, obviously, it comes down to to proving the value to the organization and and the ROI. Do do you have any sort of, you know, secrets in terms of or any advice on on things that you've found works well in this regard in terms of, you know, trying to advocate for more resources?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:18:05]:

No. Other than, you know, just being methodical about telling people this is what we're gonna do, here's how we're gonna do it, these These are the results you're gonna see, or or these are the results we think we're gonna see. It's not like any of us know for sure. Being honest about that and then saying, if you want to do more, here's what it costs, or here are the results we have. If we had spent this, say on paid, here's what we would have seen, here's what that projection looks like. So being finding a really good analytics person who can help you project what it would look like and and helping them helping leadership to really understand the reality of the space that you are in. You know, there's still this belief that you create content and put it on own channels and and boom, people will come. And when they don't, people are disappointed.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:18:58]:

You know, you you this is a pay to play space. And so I think helping them to always understand the value and what it takes to have an impact, and then not trying to peanut butter spread your program, but picking and choosing when you have few resources where you are gonna have an impact. So I'll I'll just give you one quick example. At the Elavance Health level, again, parent company where I work, we we don't have a lot of resources. So we're choosing on social media to be in one place, and that's LinkedIn. That makes sense for audiences. And we have been really disciplined about saying we are not going to, create a really heavy presence anywhere else because we don't have the resources to do it successfully. When you can show that kind of impact then in one space, I think that, you're you're better able to rationalize future resources because they understand the value in the process.

Sara Payne [00:19:49]:

Thanks again for being so candid about that because, again, I think everybody struggles with this. Right? Re resourcing is a challenge, And so I just appreciate you pulling back the curtain and being really candid about, what's working for you, tough decisions you're having to make about prioritizing. The other thing I wanna make sure we touch on today, I I don't feel we can have this conversation without talking about AI. And I think we touched on that we mentioned it at least in the first episode. What's your perspective, Jen, on how brands should leverage AI and technology to accelerate content creation, without sacrificing quality and, you know, just talk a little bit about the role of AI.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:20:27]:

Yeah. So I'll, start by telling you how our our team is is starting to use it, and I think it's like anybody else. Yeah. There's strengths and weaknesses. I'm I'm excited about it. We've been I've I've seen it work really well, and I, for sure no expert. I'm playing with it like most all of us, but I I found it be, really successful at creating, first drafts that you can work with and maybe heading you in a direction you didn't even think about. We use it also, you know, we may produce content on research studies.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:21:04]:

It's been great at synthesizing things that we've put into it that helps you get to that first draft a whole lot easier. You know, I think the Achilles heel that most of us have as content creators and, you know, going back to limited resources, is truly understanding the audiences that we're talking to. We've been able to glean some good research tips, experience journey type things by asking the right questions in, using AI. Those are some things that, come to mind. It's also a really fancy synonym finder when you're writing. And so, you know, but in terms of impact on the industry, I, you know, it hasn't had an impact yet, I think, on our efficiency or effectiveness, but it can see it coming. I don't think it's gonna replace human beings. And I I think it's even more reason to have a really, really good brand infrastructure, language, brand voice, loaded in to if you're lucky enough to have a company that can build their own version of it.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:22:13]:

Because again, it's gonna get we're gonna be able to create more content faster, and that might be really good for reaching our short term goals, but it is going to hurt our long term goals in terms of building brand if we can't find a way to do that and keep consistency at the root of it. So have you built your own version of it? That is that what your team We well, when it the the company has built a version of it, and so marketing is just one of the consumers Sure. Of of that. And so, because we've built our own, we get to have conversations like, okay. When do we get to figure out how to layer in brand voice and our writing style guideline into this so that we get back a better first draft? Now that hasn't happened yet, but I'm told it is on the road map. And so, you know, you can just appreciate how great that's gonna be in, you know, you're talking about driving If if we can really get it to do that, to drive consistency across a lot of teams and work faster is is gonna be magic. I don't foresee the the place and time, yet where we get to just skinny down our teams to to do that. Again, I think it's a, a great first draft and a great synthesizer of, you know, information out there.

Sara Payne [00:23:30]:

I agree with that. I agree with that for sure. And do you also have, as a company, do you have a policy in place in terms of, you know, guidelines and sort of the ethic ethical use of Yes. Of AI?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:23:41]:

Yes. Yeah. I mean, as you mentioned before, we're highly regulated, you know, we, take data and data security and data privacy and data ethics, all that really seriously. So, yeah, we were probably even slow, to to launch that compared to some other industries because of all of those those issues. Sure.

Sara Payne [00:24:06]:

Yeah. Makes sense for sure. Well, I appreciate, this conversation so much. I appreciate you coming back for a second episode. I think there's so much richness to this conversation around purpose driven brands, purpose driven narratives, and content marketing, and the need for consistency, and how we do that and do it well. So many great insights from you, Jen. I feel like I know for sure I'm gonna go back and listen and take a bunch of notes, for a lot of things that you said. I think a lot of folks like me are gonna be nodding their head and and again, shouting, like, yes.

Sara Payne [00:24:43]:

You know, thanks, Jen. This is exactly what I've been thinking and dealing with. So I think it's been, it'll be, cathartic in in some ways for folks to to sort of share in similar, thinking with you. So thanks so much for doing this with me.

Jen Hovelsrud [00:24:58]:

Thank you. And I, if I can just say one more thing before we end, I would love to turn the mic on you and ask you all these same questions. So I think sometime you should have a guest host that that turns some of these questions on you as well. I'll just leave you that idea.

Sara Payne [00:25:13]:

I think you might have just signed up for that task, so we'll we'll have to look at the schedule and get that get that schedule that I would love to get. And, Jeff, how can listeners yeah. How can listeners get in touch with you?

Jen Hovelsrud [00:25:26]:

LinkedIn is probably the easiest way. I promise to get back to you. I'm Jennifer Hovelsrud out there, h o v e l s r u d. Love to connect. Thanks so

Sara Payne [00:25:37]:

much. Thanks, Jen. Thanks so much listeners for joining us today. If you're feeling inspired, do us a favor and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for being part of Health Marketing Collective where strong leadership meets marketing excellence because the future of health care depends on it. See you next time.

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