The ‘Future of Work’ is the editorial topic du jour, but software company Atlassian – makers of Jira – have been covering it for nearly five years, via a service-y publication about productivity, teamwork and leadership called Work Life.
Work Life was launched in 2018, and includes a website and twice-monthly newsletter. It also hosted its first conference earlier this year, which sought to bring its coverage to the physical realm. The publication has seen 160% growth in unique visitors year-over-year, and newsletter signups are up 70% year-over-year, Atlassian says. It’s powered by a small team of four editors and a stable of freelance writers – plus an original design style that’s set it apart in this crowded space.
We spoke with Natalie Mendes, who runs all content at Atlassian, about establishing Work Life’s editorial mission, serving a variety of audiences, and building “The Atlantic of brand publishing.” Edited highlights below:
Going from product marketing to brand publishing
“Our journey started as many other brands do with producing product marketing content. But in 2018, we started experimenting with different content types. Atlassian’s mission is to unleash the potential of teams, and so we wanted to bring teamwork content into our mix. If we believe that our customers believe in the power of teamwork, they probably want content that’s related to that. So we started very small, we put out some kind of test stories about teamwork and productivity. We saw a huge uptick, quadrupling our traffic to these specific articles, we were also attracting new audiences to those articles that would not be going to our product content. Then we eventually created our flagship publication, called Work Life, which blends what we call brand and product content. We’re trying to build trust between our target customers and Atlassian.”
Connecting the business to an editorial mission
“At Atlassian even though we are a workplace productivity software company, our company mission is to unleash the potential of teams. As we’ve been building out our brand, content, discipline, and areas of focus, that’s really been like our guiding star: How do we create brand content that serves that mission? Atlassian products can be used by knowledge workers, really anywhere across industries. We speak to a wide audience. It’s really an awareness-building technique for a company. And content is a great way to do it, because we have so many wonderful channels at our disposal with SEO and social media and new types of media as well.”
Creating content for specific audience segments
“We started with individual contributors, ICs. Through some subscriber research that we did, we found that about half of our audience is actually a team lead. Team leads are a large audience. So we’ve kind of segmented it into actually three more categories, including traditional department heads and C-suite audiences. We don’t expect [C-suite audiences] to be particularly engaged subscribers of the newsletter, which goes out every two weeks. But the content we create for that group also gets syndicated out in other publications.”
Reader surveys and engagement
“Everything on the site is free to read, and people can give us their email for the newsletter. When we gain a subscriber, we see it as a really positive signal that whatever content we’re creating for them is serving a need and providing value. We can see the top stories that bring subscribers in and that informs our editorial calendar. We also run surveys yearly to ask what types of content they’re resonating with and what they’d like to see from us. “
“We learn a little bit more about their reading histories, and something we asked them recently is what else they read. The most common answers were Harvard Business Review and Quartz. These were the types of publications that when we started Work Life, we said we were going to be the HBR of brand publishers, we’re gonna be the Atlantic of brand publishing. We’re going to do good journalism and we’re going to approach things from the outside in perspective. We represent Atlassian, where we can, but it’s not going to be all about Atlassian and the company and what it’s doing.”
“It’s sometimes a point of contention because we may have leaders reading something and say, “Oh, this isn’t the Atlassian stance.” And that’s kind of the point: We need to reflect what our readers are interested in. That can be missed in b2b publishing, where you feel everything has to be your own and your own thought leaders and your own writers. But we’ve found, bringing in external influences is really great for our readers and what they’re looking for. People may care less about where it’s coming from. Citing external sources is good for SEO. External sources are also highly trusted and highly valuable. The more you produced high value, trustworthy content, it’ll help even your organic performance rankings, which I think a lot of people forget when they’re chasing keywords.”
Events and brand publishing
“We wanted to start with our thought leadership, because that’s actually a place we’ve been really strong, where we have some name recognition. Every company is a media company now, right. We have that ambition too. So we need to think more expansively and extend Work Life to other forms and venues. We had our principal writer present a the event, covering a topic she’d covered before, and it gave us a chance to externally grab thought leaders who aren’t writers but are on the event circuit. And then of course we turned that into content.”