062: Queen of Content Solutions: Empowerment Through Mentorship

C: Podcast

This episode features Purna Virji, principal consultant of Content Solutions at LinkedIn, and explores her holistic view of content marketing. She dives into what has shaped her perspective through her 20-year career in marketing as a content creator, program manager, SEO public, instructional designer, and brand evangelist. Tune in to learn more about mentorship’s role in Purna’s journey in content marketing and hear some of the best engagement tips from one of the industry’s social media marketing gurus. 

Key Points + Topics

  • [1:35] Born and raised in Mumbai, Purna quickly realized she was a storyteller after enrolling in journalism school in England. The rigorous program and her professors showed her how much she loves to learn and teach people. Purna realized early in her studies that she didn’t want to do the same thing for the rest of her life and that she would be someone who enjoys regular professional change. 
  • [2:37] One of Purna’s most significant life lessons came from a professor she admired. He taught her to be ethical, responsible, and, above all, unbiased in her storytelling. She says she’s infused his teachings throughout her career since college.
  • [5:11] Purna describes a mentor as someone who can ‘shine a light’ on a person’s talents and strengths. Based on her experience, a good mentor can provide constructive criticism while lifting the person with positive encouragement.
  • [6:07] Purna has had some highly influential mentors throughout her career who have shaped her, including Wil Reynolds, founder of Seer Interactive, one of the most influential digital marketing agencies in the U.S.
  • He said when someone ‘sends the elevator down for you,’ you need to send it down for someone else. That nugget of mentoring advice was deeply meaningful to Purna, and she continues to follow it today.
  • [10:37] Purna often lovingly describes her mentors as a ‘board of directors’. From Leticia Boardman to Maor Daniel, both at Microsoft, they have been incredible sounding boards and supporters for Purna. When she has a question, she approaches one of them. She knows they’ll answer her honestly and with concern.
  • [12:37] Purna is also an active mentor, especially to women in tech from underrepresented backgrounds. Not only does she enjoy learning alongside her mentees, but she feels she gets as much, if not more, from the experience than they do.
  • [16:02] Purna says her learning, development, and instructional design background shaped how she constructed her latest book, High Impact Content Marketing. Unlike more theoretical marketing books, hers was more actionable in its suggestions and advice because this is how she learns best. 
  • [17:49] Purna’s varied career and life experiences have helped her define her life purpose of lifting others. She accomplishes that through education and empowerment.
  • [19:51] Purna says she learned early on that regardless of the different trends in marketing content, the key is to always focus on being very clear about your goals, the outcomes you’re driving, and understanding your audience. 
  • The essence of the message or idea you’re trying to communicate is ‘like water’; it can take the shape of any container. But if you remain focused on what you’re doing, why, and for whom, you will be successful.
  • [21:59] Having worked in almost every corner of marketing, Purna says she’s been able to create a holistic understanding of the industry by finding the transferable skills and ideas that work from one platform to another.
  • [24:26] Purna emphasizes the importance of getting to know your customers. Often, she sees personas that have been made up and have no bearing on a brand’s actual customer base. 
  • She’s learned that researching the top 20% of your customer base to understand what they have in common, what they like, their motivations, and their problems is the foundation of good marketing content. She stresses that when you’re able to ‘study your customers,’ you have greater success in marketing to them. 
  • [25:53] Purna learned much about companies that went above and beyond to understand their customers while writing her book. For example, Nike’s ability to pivot from using highly recognizable basketball stars to focusing on diversity and inclusion in sports attracted a new generation of younger customers. Up until that point, these customers weren’t interested in Nike. Purna was impressed by how Nike went beyond the usual superficial thinking to dig deep and learn who their customers were.
  • [28:30] She says that all too often, a newly established company developing marketing content for growth tries to create material similar to its competitors. Instead, Purna’s experience has shown her that they will be successful if they identify their core values, brand purpose, and the ‘connective tissue’ that links their audience to their product or service.
  • [30:49] Conversely, Purna says working with a more established brand requires a look into what content has been working and what hasn’t.  She adds that this is essential to determine the root issue preventing this brand from further growth.
  • [32:35] In her book, Purna explains ROTS (Return on Time Spent) and that many spend too much time in certain areas but not others. Purna often suggests that creatives extensively research their customer base before creating content. Whether reading customer reviews or examining their competition, the more research, the better. Once you understand your customers, she says your content will almost write itself. Purna adds that the well-researched and ideated content can be effectively repurposed, another excellent example of ROTS. Using an analogy, Purna explains that you should treat your content not like ‘fast fashion’ but instead like an heirloom, perhaps repurposed but still as valuable as the day it was created.
  • [35:55] Repurposing content is not harmful, according to Purna. In her experience, content marketers give up on content that isn’t working too soon. Purna compares well-researched content to a ‘little black dress.’ Like the item of clothing, you know this content will work, but you need to experiment to find out how. It may need to be repositioned, reworded, or moved to a different platform, similar to adding a necklace or belt to the dress. But the foundation that is the content will succeed.

Guest + Episode Links

Full Episode Transcript

Danny Gavin, Host  00:05

Hello everyone I’m Danny Gavin, founder of Optic, Marketing Professor and the host of the Digital Marketing Mentor. Today we have Purna Virgi, Principal Consultant of Content Solutions at LinkedIn. Having worked at a social media network, a search engine, advertising platform, agency site and in house at global corporations and start-ups and in television as a talk show producer, Purna has a unique, holistic perspective on content marketing only a rare few have. Over the past two decades, she has marketed content as a creator, storyteller, program manager, SEO, publisher, instructional designer, and brand evangelist. She’s now the principal content solutions consultant at LinkedIn and wrote and released a book, High Impact Content Marketing. Today, we’re going to be talking about her book, Content Marketing strategy and of course, mentorship. Purna, how are you?



Purna Virji, Guest  01:12

Danny, I’m thrilled to be here. Like I said, I am an avid listener of your podcast and such great advice and mentorship is such a topic close to my heart so thank you for having me.



Danny Gavin, Host  01:23

Pleasure and your name definitely has come up in previous episodes, so it’s a big deal that we have you here today.



Purna Virji, Guest  01:28

It’s a big deal to be here today.



Danny Gavin, Host  01:31

Awesome all right, so let’s jump right in where you go to school and what did you study?



Purna Virji, Guest  01:35

I went up to high school in India, in Mumbai where I’m from, so I studied my first degree in business and economics and finance and then I’m like, this thing is really not lighting up my bones on fire. And so this isn’t my passion and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do and so I moved over to the UK and then I studied journalism there. And then I realized, like, I found my calling. Because one of the things about me, as you can tell from my diverse career, is that I love to tell stories and I love to teach people, but I also like to touch and learn and work on different things i don’t want to do the same thing for the rest of my life like, I’m not one of those people that you’ll hire and like 10 years later she’ll be in the same job like I would to learn and grow and diversify. And so you said journalism was a great place for me to start.



Danny Gavin, Host  02:27

So we often ask people, and when you look back at your college experiences, was there anything that happened inside and outside the classroom that you feel like was impactful in directing your path today?



Purna Virji, Guest  02:37

For me, everything always comes down to the people so who did I meet? Who should I learn from like, what did something that somebody say, like, spark something in me i would say one of the biggest lessons that stayed with me from journalism school has been that we had a professor who would say, like, you know, never forget that what you do has consequences and like, there’s serious, serious consequences because sometimes you just think, I’m going to write this thing and put it out there and it doesn’t it has such a big ripple effect and paying attention to that, questioning things and looking beyond the story. He had shared three different publications’ coverage of the same event and you could see how he was like everything has a bias like even if you think like and this was in the UK, so they’re like, oh, even if you think like it’s the BBC and it’s like so neutral but like everybody will report on something from their perspective and so you have to be really careful to tell a balanced story and be really responsible and ethical and so that was, I think I’m so grateful that I learned that from him, because that’s been this connective thread that I’ve tried to infuse in everything that I’ve done in every job since then.



Danny Gavin, Host  03:45

I love that. And when you talk about journalism, I see a little bit of a passion. Is there any part of you that misses that or like, oh, I wish I could have, you know, been more in that arena? Now I know in a way you are like a journalist right now, but you obviously know more in the true sense of the word.



Purna Virji, Guest  04:00

You know, it was the best job I ever had. I worked in TV production. It was so much fun and I absolutely loved it. Sadly, the life of a TV producer, you don’t know your schedule with the two weeks in advance, it’s like super long hours and my son was born with a lot of health issues at the time and so it was just unsustainable for me and so I moved over to the dark side, which is PR, where they’ll be like you’re all. He had told us the same Jeff Manjam, our professor, had been like, you know, most of you in this room. This is our first day. We’ll be working NPR one day and we were like, no, never are we gonna go and, like, covers strife and be like the serious journalist and then I’m like, of course, like, you know, five years of TV journalism to be like, OK, I’m going to the dark side the dark side has better pay and better hours. But it was a little soulless for me like I I I didn’t really. I wasn’t on a drone trip but then I discovered digital marketing and so, you know, the dots always connect when you look back and it was mentors and people that have come at the right time to sort of shine a different light for me or show me a different path that I may not have seen.


Danny Gavin, Host  05:08

Love it so talk about mentors. How would you define a mentor?



Purna Virji, Guest  05:11

I would say probably a mentor to me and what I try to be for others to my mentees as somebody who can shine a light on your awesomeness, so the strengths and strengths in you that you don’t realize and it can bring them out of you. They can sort of shortcut your learning and be like rather than, you know, I’m a graduate of the school of Hard Knocks so if I can save myself some Hard Knocks and be like, oh let me lift you up to where I am and then also like call you on your the constructive like on the not so good parts as well, be like, listen dude, you can’t be acting like this so you can’t be doing like this, right people who will genuinely want to see you grow and thrive and will share their lived experiences and their learnings to help speed up your learnings.



Danny Gavin, Host  05:55

So I know you’ve had some pretty influential mentors in your life. Rand Fishkin, Will Reynolds, Leticia Boardman would love to talk about them and how they were influential mentors to you.



Purna Virji, Guest  06:07

Oh my gosh well, when I first got into digital marketing in the 1<sup>st</sup> place, it was what you learned and there was this early two thousands there’s no there’s no, degree for it at that point you know, I I would read as you Moss, as it was at the time and like I just learned to learned a lot from Moz and from Rand and his post and his generosity and like putting out the knowledge. Just learning from him all the time was such an honor and then I remember him and then Brad Gettys who was on the paid search site, right his book like advanced Google Adwords is still like I’ve read i’ve read that book probably more than I’ve read any other book like every edition that taught me so much it was Bisu. And then I would reach out to them because I’m like Oh my gosh, you’re so awesome like I want to stalk here and be my friend when in a not right now creepy way. I remember bumping into Rand at an event or something and then Long story short, SEO Moss because they have this whole passion of giving and animating others and shining a light on new talent. They did this SEO Moss on the road where they would go to different cities and put on a speaking gig. And so it was with Will Reynolds and Sears and it was and Sears offices used to be a converted church, used to be a Comer church building. It used to be called the search church so it was like, I see a Moss at the search church and they put out a call from local speakers and then I wanted to impress my boss at the time like, I started a new job and he was very much like being the industry, you know, young and dumb and like, whatever i’m like, yeah, I went and threw my hat in the ring, boss like, I’m just impressed i was thinking, I’ll never get selected. I got picked and then it was like, holy crap, like, what do I do now like, this is like horrifying, ’cause I have to speak on the same stage i was like, well, Reynolds that ran Fishkin and Joanna Load and like all of these amazing people who I’ve looked up to and learned from and they provided so much advice and guidance to newbie speakers and here’s how you show up and it was only 9 minutes, but they made sure it was so comfortable, right getting there was so great they made it a point to tell me all the good that I did right now build your confidence when you’re trying something new. And then I had expressed interest that I wanted to do more of this. I really enjoy it. People who spend their privilege will and run like have time and time again invited me back to come speak at different events so it was Moscone they’ve, you know, given me great career advice i’ve gone to them and asked them questions they’ve they’ll come and call me on stuff i wouldn’t 2016 it was all about voice search that was all I was talking about and Will Reynolds their own risk like what are you talking about This isn’t immediately applicable for most people like you need to connect future to current to it i’m like that is such amazing advice because working in Microsoft and you’re sitting there with technology that’s like you know 10 years ahead and it’s so exciting because that’s normal but then he’s like, you’ve got to translate it for people like, everybody’s not sitting there with that ice and, you know, it’s people who teach you, give you your confidence, but then spend their privilege to elevate you and and go up so I’m very, very grateful for all of that they’ve done like, even now, if I have a question, if I need help, I remember my book came out. I was like, oh, you know, would you mind like helping, you know, we share a post or something like ran about my book and he did a whole review video on the first day and it got so many likes and reactions and comments and engagements and I got like 20 podcast invitations just from that, right it’s people who spend their privilege to help you and I’m like, I need to do that for others and so I’m this is a very long answer i’ll end it with one sentence that stuck in my mind it was from Will Reynolds i remember we were sitting there in Dublin after an event that we’re all spoken about we’re in a bar like having a dream in Dublin and I remember like Will trying to be he was like paradise somebody sends the elevator down for you. You need, it is on you to go send the elevator down for somebody else and I’m like, that is the best advice and I’ve actually followed that advice to the T, and it’s something that’s very, very deeply meaningful to me today.



Danny Gavin, Host  10:09

And I think what’s so cool is, you know, when I look at you Per, now you’re like this rock star, but every rock, rock star has their beginnings, right? And it’s so cool that you have those people in your life who like to give you the chance and give you the input. So when I hear people you know, especially on the podcast like yeah my mentor is, it is Purna like it makes so much sense now like you had the best teachers to do and then so for you you actually go and give back and help people as well it’s absolutely lovely.



Purna Virji, Guest  10:37

So Danny, you’ve been to India. I don’t know if you ever heard this term, but it’s something called guru dakshina, which is sort of like the price thing. You give a price to your teacher, to your guru so guru really just means teacher and I know I hate the whole, like, marketing group typing. And I’m like, hey, I’m not also, I’m not a Rockstar like, I think I’m just as fallible and panicked and, you know, trying to figure things out like everyone else is. So I I always rely on other people i have this like board of directors in my life who I’ll go to for different things where I’m like, I do not know how to effectively present to like my VP so I’ll talk to like my former boss at Leticia Boardman at Microsoft, who is a dear dear friend and a dear mentor and somebody that I go to for advice from like, I’m feeling really panicked about this like am I looking at the right way And then she’ll be like you’re overthinking at this is this right and it’s you go to different people for just some things i’m like, how do I sell this to sales i have my other senior director at Microsoft, Mayor Daniel who’s just incredible and he that what did they say, the blarty stone in Ireland if you kiss it like you, you know you’ll speak really well and I think mayor just has that, like he’s just born like that so I’m like please teach me, teach me your like wonderful ways of like packaging things and getting people excited about it and so you know, I believe in this concept of having a board of directors in your life who you go to for different things and and you have to go seek it out like sometimes they say that the when the student is ready, the teacher appears yes but you also have to recognize that they are the teacher and then ask for advice and and follow their advice, right the best thing you can do to go back to my goals actually, that is paid forward like, you know, give the price back to the teacher for the teachings and the value that they’ve provided you and it can be different forms it could be paying it forward as Will wanted me to. It could be showcasing like, listen, I’ve taken your advice like this is what’s been happening, this is the learning. So that’s a tip for me a good mentee as well.



Danny Gavin, Host  12:33

Love it so talk about mentees. Who do you mentor now in your current position?



Purna Virji, Guest  12:37

So I have a few different mentors, some within LinkedIn, some within the industry in general so within LinkedIn, there’s a program called Impacting, which is about people from underrepresented backgrounds per southeast and like to elevate them. It’s hard enough being a woman in tech it’s hard enough being a woman of color in tech and so it’s like I learned lessons along the way. You know, how do you handle being the the only sometimes in the room and like sometimes there’s a multiple only and how can I take away the uncomfortableness for somebody else and show them that actually it’s a big deal like maybe in some cases like, you know, here’s how you can show up more confidently and be that so I’ll talk to at Microsoft, I used to run. I used to call leader a mentor ring where we’d have 8 or 10 people across the company and on women in leadership so I’ll try to give back like, who do I want to help these people who if I can be one or two steps ahead of somebody else and I can, you know, put my hand back and be like come along with me like I’m also learning this. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert or Rock Star or superstar like I am. I’ve learned through Hard Knocks I’ve learned through amazing people and come along with me like let’s go on this journey together and that’s how I approach it. So some people will ask me sometimes like how do I have more effective one-on-one with my manager. I have one of my mentees so she said most of my one on ones with my manager feel like I come home from school and I’m telling my parents what I did that day so it’s like I’m talking about the week and so I’m like how did you make it more strategic And it’s things to kind on from others who were like oh, you know you can try to use this PPP framework when you talk about it hey, here’s our plans for the week and priorities like are we aligned. Here’s the progress from last week that they can, you know, you can just be like it’s yours written and then problems or questions or anything that you want their help to overcome and then that’s such a way to have more structure to the conversation so things like that i learned that from somebody else i implemented it worked great so I’m like I like this. Try it.



Danny Gavin, Host  14:35

In the industry, I know you’re a mentor to many. Some of these are like friendships. But are there people who actually come up to you and say, hey Purna, can you be my mentor?



Purna Virji, Guest  14:43

It’s sometimes it’s it is an official question like that or sometimes it’s just close friendships and that’s what I found so somebody where and we’ll both ask each other for advice and I think that’s the funny things like sometimes there’s people who are so humble that they will be like oh Pranab mentors me and I’m like no, you’re kidding me like I learned just as much from you so people like Nava Hopkins for example like I love Nava she’s been on your show before like she’s so great. And then there’s tons and those are people like I don’t I don’t know how comfortable people are to be named like that’s why I won’t but of course there are and we’re all peers we’re all learning like if something comes easy to me doesn’t mean it’ll come easy to you or like the things that you do Danny, that are just so obvious and you’re like who would pay money for this and I’m like, no, I would because I actually don’t know this so come help me and so find those and ask questions i think that’s also from my journalism background is like hey, how do you approach it i’m like are you struggling with this like what else could I do and that seeking out that feedback, good and bad, is is really important to?



Danny Gavin, Host  15:47

Yeah, these are really amazing ideas and sage advice. I appreciate it pivoting to content marketing and your book. So many of the reviews of your book mention how actionable the suggestions are. Many marketing books tend to take a more theoretical approach. What led you to take this approach?



Purna Virji, Guest  16:02

Two things one was I have a background in learning and development and instructional design and so I the whole point of sharing an idea is so that people can actually implement it and act on it like I would feel so much joy of some, you know, when people come to me and be like, oh, you know, the thing you had in this chapter, I tried it at work really well i mean, that’s what I want to see. And I know how I learn or how adults learn and study is that, yes, you get the theory and you get the strategy, but then it’s always missing that oK, so then what’s my first step or what’s the next thing that I can go do? And that’s always been my approach and how I present, even when I’m key, noting which is meant to be more high level. I’m always like 3 things you can do. I find that I value that a lot and so that’s just my style and I found. So that was the one thing and the second thing was also it just goes back to to mentoring and Takea Burt who is the LinkedIn ads blogs like editor in chief and she in her review i think this like made me cry because it was like literally what I wanted to do And I didn’t know anyone realized she was like, oh, reading this book is like listening to, you know a kind one mentor And she used the word mentor i’m like, ah, this is so lovely, ’cause that’s something like a come with me like, you know, I feel your pain i’ve walked in your shoes, I’ve been in your position. And let me, you know, come along with me like, let’s go do this, Let’s act on it together and I’ll share exactly what I did it ’cause I don’t, you know, to court what’s a tik tok like i don’t gatekeeper there’s no gatekeeping here.



Danny Gavin, Host  17:33

But that’s amazing, ’cause I know that. I mean, I haven’t written a book, but I can imagine that when you put a book, you want to put your soul into it, and you want people to like when they read it to feel you. So to get that testimonial review of exactly what you wanted is just, like, amazing.



Purna Virji, Guest  17:49

It was, it was so special And you know, just people saying that, oh, we tried this, it worked like that’s all I want to do i think that I found was very authentic to me and like I found my life purpose not to get too sentimental, but during the time like when my my son was born, really very severe health issues and it was, you know, the first two or three years were really like touch and go and it was a really hard time like I was so, you know, I was so dull and miserable and worried and I tried everything i, I stress ate. I tried, you know, talking to people like what else do you do and somebody said that, you know, be of service to others and that’s one of the ways that will actually lift you and that was the only thing that helped made me feel better i went and like you know supported like an animal charity like did a lot of stuff there where I went out and went and was of service to others and that was literally the only thing that I found that helped me. And I’m like, this is and it felt right, like it felt like something clicked in my head like this is what I meant to do and it sounds so cheesy and I bet like people listening will be like rolling their eyes now with the concept of like purpose but as cheesy as it sounds, I just found like that was right for me and I believe that I my purpose here is to lift others, and how I can do that is through the power of education and empowerment.



Danny Gavin, Host  19:06

Yeah, I don’t think it’s cheesy, I think that it’s a little counterintuitive. People think that if I’m going out and serving others, that’s about helping other people. But people don’t realize that when they do that, they actually feel better themselves so I’m a big believer in that, you know, there are some people in my life who’ve gone through some tough things, and I see them very active in helping others. And sometimes I ask myself, like, how do they have the strength to do that like they’ve been through tough, but you can see that by them helping others and going out there, you know they have that purpose, so I’m a big believer and that’s wonderful that you know, that’s something that helped you as well. So a major factor in successful content marketing is adaptivity. You have to adjust your approach and content with the trends. How do you balance staying true to your message while also keeping up with the Joneses?



Purna Virji, Guest  19:51

I think the biggest thing to do is being very clear in my goals and the outcomes that I’m trying to drive. And if I know the outcomes are trying to drive, I know what my goals are and how I’m going to try them back to the business. And then the other thing is if I know my audience, because times change. You know, technology changes, how we communicate changes, but people and who we are innately doesn’t change like human nature is very consistent and it has been since the time we were Neanderthals like roaming the planet and so if you understand the core ways of what makes. Us as people take what more to you know, who am I targeting and what do they really care about? What would they value? How can I serve them? How can I be of service to my audience? Because ultimately your content is never about you, it’s always about your audience. Then it’s just, where are they spending their time and how are they preferring to consume that content? And then it’s just as easy as taking your timeless, you know, the essence of your message or idea, which it’s like water it can take the shape of any container and then putting it in so I’d rather, you know, I put it as a video. Well, then I’ll take the video and just take the audio out of it and do that or if I create an image or a long-form article like or a social media post, right it can take any form and as long As for you, it serves your business goals, and I’m clear on what I’m doing and why and then for whom. It doesn’t matter that technology can come and go, platforms can come and go. It makes no difference, and we’ve been in this industry a long time now, Danny, like we both see, you know, it was the era when, you know, it was all about this platform, and then it was like, well, now this is the next big thing, right? You just have to think about one of whom we’re trying to reach. What am I trying to say to them that will move the needle for my business and where’s the best place to reach them and and just focus on a few things and do them really well?



Danny Gavin, Host  21:45

You know, as we described in the intro, you’ve held positions in just about every corner of marketing, in house, agency, SEO PPC content, and more. How do you zoom out from your current position to create a holistic approach taking into consideration all of your previous experiences?



Purna Virji, Guest  21:59

The biggest thing that any of us can do, regardless of how many years we’ve worked or not, is to find transferable skills and ideas that can work super well from one platform to the other and use it to spot trends. One of the things from working agency side that I miss when I’m in house is getting to work across multiple different clients when you see those trends so that it’s in the same way now that I’ve worked across different channels in like the last, you know, several years that I can almost spot tricks i’m like, ah, OK, so just as we got these, you know, one of my teammates was saying like, oh, there’s all these people who don’t work at LinkedIn that are giving advice about the LinkedIn algorithms, like how do they know stuff i’m like, it’s the same as every SEO is trying to give feedback and advice on how Google’s algo works like this is you see these trends across industries so it’s more So again, if you go back to the people like, who is it am I trying to reach out to like C-Suite like CMOS of Fortune 500 companies, where do they hang out, where do they spend their time like who is actually in their Europe. It’s they’re not always the one that are going out there looking for info i mean sometimes who gives who influences their decision, who’s doing that And then it’s letting your audience guide you on which platform and knowing where different platforms sort of have a role in the in the funnel like if I’m PPC at this point people are going out there and searching they know what they want if I’m going to use social more so to tell the story and like more up or a more often awareness and education tactic, of course social will converge as well i’m not saying it doesn’t, but how are you using those channels together to amplify each other because we’re being siloed for too long? How can I use search and social to be Better Together how can I use TV and social to be Better Together to amplify and create those sort of win wins amongst different channels?



Danny Gavin, Host  23:53

It’s funny that you mention personas and who you’re actually targeting. I feel like for so many people it’s obvious, but it’s not like in my course recently, so I gave a digital fundamentals course. One of the students didn’t have time to go through all the material they’re most probably going to go into the next cohort. But they said like the one big thing they picked up was personas like who are we actually targeting she’s like in my in my company, we, you know, we just mark it, but we never actually think and it’s it’s funny how like you think like people are actually thinking about who they’re targeting, but a lot of people don’t it’s crazy.



Purna Virji, Guest  24:26

But then the one thing on Persona sometimes is I have an issue with them if they’re just like made-up if you’re like, oh, marketing Molly does this, I’m like who says that how do you know like you made you made this up in your head Like that’s just you guessing. So it’s more like how I say to find your ideal customer profile. If you have an existing business, look at your Hoyer, the cream of the crop like who’s your top 20 % customers. If you’re like oh, if I had you know 20 more people like this, I would be sad. And what’s unique to them are the characteristics like what type of position they are, what business is like, what they do that’s different And then try to understand their pains and their motivations. That’s how you’ll appeal to people like them. You don’t want your bottom 20 % of all just those like problems, you know, the ones that will keep churning and no, no matter what you do. So then, yeah, study, study who you have and who’s doing really well and find traits they have in common and that will be very helpful.



Danny Gavin, Host  25:27

So bottom line, don’t go to chat GBT and just get a persona for marketing Molly you actually have to go and see who your customers are.



Purna Virji, Guest  25:33

That’s my possible representation. People can certainly do what they like, but I would say you’d be in my experience, you’ll have a little bit more success if you study your customers.



Danny Gavin, Host  25:44

So there are a few different case studies featuring different brands in the book. Are there any examples or case studies that didn’t make the final version that you will that you still find interesting and noteworthy?



Purna Virji, Guest  25:53

Well, yeah, there was some stuff about like Nike i always found it so interesting how they pivoted from being like those big bustable stars and everything in in there to them taking this very sort of diversity, inclusion and belonging type approach where it became so personal it was less about the shoes and how cool we are and all of that, you know, not the the Jordans and all of that it was because the younger generation is so interesting they were losing core mass so sort of they were not so much of A desirable brand for the younger audiences because those younger audiences hadn’t grown up watching those sports stars play and so for them they were like, how do we, if we want to be in business for a long time, then we got to evolve and keep up with our emerging audiences and so they just took that whole approach and the whole, so see how they shifted i mean, they’ve got such incredible moving commercials that every time a new one comes out it, you know, we all share it on social media like look at this. So I would say that was a really interesting one about understanding and keeping up and pivoting with different audiences. There was a really good one from Microsoft then I was like, no, am I putting too much Microsoft in because I’m a former Microsoft E and so there was just an Xbox I love. I have a chapter on accessibility in my book and there was this amazing story about how they made the adaptive controller for the Xbox and but the cool part was it wasn’t just the controller one of the moms of a child who in their focus group they were studying people with different those different conditions that they were trying to help overcome and so it was one of the moms in the group that said, well, what about the packaging And, you know, packaging tomatoes, clam shells, even like to buy a pair of scissors you need a pair of scissors to open up the packaging. Your scissors come in. And so there was such a good point and they were like, Oh my gosh, we, it’s not just about the accessible controller we’ve got to make the packaging accessible and there was just such incredible stories about that that I think my publisher said we won 80.000 thousand Words i wrote it’s a hundred and eight thousand words at the moment in my book and so I had to cut something i had to make some hard choices to cut things out. But yeah, those were two examples that I thought was so compelling and just goes into like go beyond surface level thinking like the, you know, the surface level is great, but everyone’s there on the surface if you can just go two three levels deeper, no one else is there you just set yourself apart and it’s just much more meaningful change.



Danny Gavin, Host  28:20

So imagine a startup company for a consumer good, let’s say men’s casual wear. What’s the first misstep you’d caution them to avoid when it comes to creating their initial content strategy?



Purna Virji, Guest  28:30

The first minister of the content is trying to be like everybody else i think then most, even in my work at LinkedIn, if I’m like working with different customers, advertisers, so on, they’ll be like, well, I do XYZ, tell me about all the other people who do XYZ and tell me exactly what they do because then that’s what we should do and I’m like, that is not what you should be doing. Because if you were talking about chat GPT and like there’s eight thousand other articles about top prompts for chat, GPT then buddy, like you’re not going to stand out if you do the same. So one is like, look at what’s a different angle like what’s something that your audience is not being served with or what’s an unmet or inadequately met need in the market or what’s your sort of angle or pivot that you can come in that’s different so think about chocolate, right tony’s Ciccoloni, when they came out, like one of the things that they talked about was not wanting to you know be very adamant about not supporting like the child labour that goes into the chocolate manufacturing processes and in in that way they helps them stand out from a very broad market so then if you’re a clothing company, like what’s different like I use sustainable you know, Tom’s shoes when he came out was he’s like I’ll give away a pair for everyone it was just what’s the attention grabber and sometimes it just doesn’t have to be it just can be like the quality or like we don’t. This is such high quality, we don’t even need to talk about it but here’s what it is like there’s a different angle that I would think about so I would start by who’s most popular and look at your audience what are they hearing? And then who are other tangentially related industries that speak to the same audience and maybe you are just clothing. Who’s a shoe company that does that? Who’s a man’s perfume company or who’s a car company that speaks to those kinds of audiences? How are they doing it, how are they talking to your audience in a way that resonates well and what can you learn so that’s probably where I would start is let’s see what we do not want to do. Let’s see what’s authentic to us as a brand like what’s our core brand values, our brand purpose and like to find the connective tissue between what’s important to you and what’s meaningful for your audience and see if you can connect that.



Danny Gavin, Host  30:37

Now imagine that same clothing store is five years into its business. They’ve built out a solid content library on their website and they have a comfortable customer base. How would you then advise them to adjust their content approach as a more mature bread?



Purna Virji, Guest  30:49

There are so many different ways I could go with that. I think the first thing I would want to do is look at them and sort of like look back at what’s been working, what’s not working, find what they are feeling like. Is it a genuine issue like do you just need to change because you’re bored of it? And this is a big issue with marketers today like we get bored and fed up with our content before the market ever does and so I would see this all the time. What else at Microsoft like oh, it’s a rebrand things aren’t going that well let’s rebrand here’s our brand new colors, brand new logo i’m like, why you just you. You’re the brand marketer you just checked a lovely you know you showed I did work. Change happened but did it connect with the audience like did it resonate and so if that’s what I would try to figure out is what’s working, What’s not working? What are the audience thinking like, what are the pinpoints let me go back and look at some of the, you know, the reviews, look at the customer service, things like what’s what’s the root issue that may be blocking for their growth or what may be like Nuggets of gold that are just hidden that you’ve got to mine out and do that so that’s what I would start like i wouldn’t have a clear direction on where to go beyond that’s pause for a moment and take a strategic analytical look, so that anything that we can create or try to test out is very like deliberate and thoughtfully approached.



Danny Gavin, Host  32:10

In the book you talk about ROTS Return on Time Spent. There’s also a lot of discussion about scaling. Talk to us about spending time on strategy and content creation, and how to know when to put the paintbrush down, something many creatives struggle with. 


Purna Virji, Guest  32:25

Oh yeah, me too I will sometimes want to edit things and they’re just like knowing the good enough, right. So we’re drawn on time spent and scaling so this is something that’s really near and dear to my heart and Frank, that’s something that I’ve been doing for the last three years at Lincoln was like I built a small program for a small segment of customers which got so successful then they were like OK, we tried a larger subset and now it’s like global and it is across five different teams within my entire org and across all our segments and so how do you know scheme is all about like profitable repeatability like what are motions that we can repeat that are structure, that are proven to work that cross that balance effectiveness and efficiency. And doing that is the biggest thing you should do where you should not scrub on time. And if I had to say like that I used to read what it was like Marie Claire which had a splurge versus save and I was comparing outfits and like what you should splurge on and what you should save on so like let’s apply that concept to time. Splurge your time before content creation. Learn as much as you can about what moves a needle for you, talk to sales, read online reviews, look at your competitors and see what different angles you can take to stand out. Understand your customers and talk to your best customers. Talk to people that churned or people that just never chose you because you can understand, like, why did they know when I chose you. But there’s so much awesome stuff that you can find out so invest that time i said literally, like if you if I was going to put money into my retirement account today, I’m not going to have expectations to withdraw it next week like, I know it’s going to build up and it’s the same way with your research. Put in the time, put in, if it takes two weeks if it takes three weeks, yeah and if it takes a month, it’s a time well spent i mean, it shouldn’t take a month, but even if you’re dedicated a full week to this, you’ll be miles ahead of anyone else. And then your content will almost write itself that you know, with full confidence that I think I need to do this on LinkedIn or I need to do this on Instagram because this is what’s going to work best for me this is where they are i can take this and then see what you can repurpose in different ways because another thing about instructional design is that not everyone, even though they hear your message, it may not always go into what is repeat things way more for things to stick. It’s OK to repeat your own content four or five times. And I I love to use an analogy that if you go to a wedding and and the Macarena comes on, which is now a really old song, probably chances are you’re going to be like, I’m excited, I’m going to dance through this because it’s a great song, right hit content can work time and time again. So if you’ve got your greatest hits, reuse them, update them, refresh them, you know, don’t feel bad or don’t think you always have to be repeating content they give, you know, save your time there by taking these like well researched, well ideated concepts and then just using them more, get more use out of what matters. I compare it to fast fashion in the book versus sometimes like in India where my grandmother’s sarees were passed down like I have them and it was a badge of honor to have like, oh, I’ve got this, sorry, which is like 3 generations hold it’s heirloom, it’s treated very carefully you pass it on whereas if I’m buying something off like a Sheehan or you know, one of those fast fashion type places, the expectation is like wear it once and toss it. But you don’t want to treat your content like that, you want to treat your content like those heirloom clothing that you’re going to pass down. 


Danny Gavin, Host  35:50

I know for some people, repurposing existing contents is difficult. What are some steps for approaching that?


Purna Virji, Guest  35:55

Don’t give up on it too soon like let’s say you put out some content i mean, it didn’t do that well maybe it was some different format, maybe it wasn’t the right timing, maybe it wasn’t the right platform. If you know you’re onto a good idea, which your research will tell you, then like, I’m on to something it just needs to be repositioned. So can you come at it differently? Can you try it in a video? Can you try it in a podcast so you can try changing the format? You can also if you know you have a good idea and let’s say you’re B to B for example there’s multiple people involved the decision maker isn’t just the one that signed the contract, there’s a whole buying committee. Can I create this content for different sort of role types of people like this is the CEO, he needs this type of info whereas you know here is the end user who will need more tactical implementation advice. How do I take one idea and scale it up or down another one? You could take the same ideas. Can you come at it from different levels of awareness? This is one of my favorite concepts that I’ve written about in the book. It comes originally from Eugene Schwartz and it’s the five stages of awareness and he applies it to advertising and like we can repurpose it for content marketing. Wherein, you know, if I was explaining what I did to a 10 year old versus a fellow marketer, like I would talk about it very differently because people’s levels of interest and awareness would be very different i want to find how do I make it relatable to them, meet them where they’re at. Same thing with your content, if I’m you could have the highest fanciest AI solution but if you’re going to talk about it to like, hey nonprofits, here’s all the things that this LLM and this acronym and this jargon and everything can do. You’ve lost that you’ve overestimated their level of awareness or interest. But if you’re like, hey, nonprofits, like, here’s why you need to be paying attention to AI solutions and what it can do for you, that’s like really higher level they’re like, oh, I never even knew that it would apply to me in this sector versus, you know, something that’s more humane just Microsoft does this really well where they’re like, oh, on one of their blogs they have this article about, here’s how our product managers, the people who built the AI products, are using it to enhance their creativity and productivity and I’m like, oh, that’s super cool like they built it no one knows the tool better than them. I want to see how they’re using it so it’s, again, you’re now meeting people at their level of awareness and interest but ultimately, what it is doing it’s kind of promoting their AI tools, but they’re just doing it in a different way so again, your idea is the same. What do you call a little black dress? You could dress it up for daytime or you could add heels and go out at night time and so treat your content like that.



Danny Gavin, Host  38:31

I love that visual. All right, well, it’s time for our lightning round. So we’ll talk about three things it’s not going to be super lightning because I want to hear a little bit of depth, but we’re going to talk about traveling, guarding and cooking so left in a number one, where’s your best place that you’ve traveled to or where you like to travel to?



Purna Virji, Guest  38:48

Oh, so many i’ve been so lucky in my job that has taken me all over the world i would say one of the the three best places that I we really loved one was Peru to get to go to Lima and then of course I had to go to Machu Picchu like you can’t go to Peru or not i think it was super gorgeous the people were just so lovely and kind and warm so that was a big thing and so much to see in history and like that energy i think you and I were talking about just energy of different places and especially the sacred Valley in Peru like just the energy there so powerful and sling. Another place I’d been to was Slovenia where I loved it. It was so beautiful I did a conference there in Portridge, but then the place that I keep going back to is like Italy because I find Italy is just good for the soul. And no matter how many times I go, I love that and then of course I go home to India to just eat all the food and see all the friends and family who I grew up with.



Danny Gavin, Host  39:46

All right, What about gardening? What do you like about gardening?



Purna Virji, Guest  39:50

Oh, it’s so rewarding, I absolutely love it so I grow vegetables and then in the summers I have my little, like Portage or my little veggie garden, The kitchen garden. You just forget about everything else you’re in the moment you’re tending to plants and veggies and watching them grow. It’s like my happy space, like so much work . I have to be so like Taipei and driven and get things done and. And then I go back and then I can just retort and almost like return back and like realize what’s important in life because sometimes, like some, it’s so easy to magnify some of the silly little in the grand scheme of things, silly little challenges and work i’m like, Oh my gosh, this content isn’t perfect i’m like, listen, who who gives the crap and this will not matter five years from now and I sometimes it’s just returning back to myself and grounding myself into what matters is what gardening is and so just pulling those weeds, it’s a repetitive, you know, calming task. Watching the plants grow, seeing the joy of the first green tomato and then, oh, cooking from stuff in the garden and challenging myself to come up with, oh, I’ve got like 20 poblano Peppers all ripe like, what the heck am I going to do? And then coming up with a new recipe or idea is always exciting.



Danny Gavin, Host  41:03

Oh, I love it. Now, moving to cooking, what’s your favorite dish to cook?



Purna Virji, Guest  41:06

So many, so my husband is Albanian, Which is a tiny country in the middle of Italy and Greece for those who might not know. And so he and he spent a lot of his life in Italy and Greece. So we cook a lot of Greek food, a lot of Italian food and a lot of Indian food. So I think for me, if I had to say the favorite dish is not really quite a dish, but it is my morning routine of my masala Chai that I make every morning where I will freshly I have a little mortar and pestle and I’ll like found the ginger and I’ll take the little cinnamon and the cloves and the cardamom and it’s my little routine in the morning that suits me to get my cup of Chai and then it’s just home come far to start off my day on a good, good note.



Danny Gavin, Host  41:48

That sounds so good I’m gonna have to get that recipe.



Purna Virji, Guest  41:50

Oh yeah, with you, My grandma’s recipe is one of those ones that I’ve cherished for years.



Danny Gavin, Host  41:56

Yeah, I’m a big tea drinker, so that’s lovely. So Purna, what are you currently working on and what is your next big project?



Purna Virji, Guest  42:02

I just did a pine net where I took this big customer education programs so this is something called innovate with LinkedIn, which is customer science or so I sit with the customer science org which has like 5 different orgs under one bigger org. And so I tried to pilot taking it with LinkedIn just from like my team, but now covering like 5 different teams so whether it’s the insights team, whether it’s the measurement team, whether people have come at advertising and marketing at a different angle, how can I take all of the different perspectives and weave together very holistic stories and do that at scale globally across customers from all our different sort of sales segments so think about customers who maybe are smaller solopreneurship versus also a customer that’s a giant like Fortune 50 company. How do I help marketers from all of these different walks of life be more effective both on and beyond LinkedIn so that’s been my big I love it because I work, get to work with the coolest people ever like the team that works on this project, on the program with me, like the ones that I’m so proud of them, like they’re just incredible humans who come up with amazing ideas. And so, yeah, the boys like, how can I? My big thing is like, how can I make sure that they feel very setup for success? How do they feel how valued they are how do they feel empowered to, you know, work in new ways some of them have never worked with another team, let alone work globally and so how do I build meaningful experiences for them? My team first and then it is of course for our customers as well. Adding value, lifting others is what I can do so I love it i love it i get to empower customers through education.



Danny Gavin, Host  43:45

So where can listeners learn more about and follow you?



Purna Virji, Guest  43:47

Linkedin, of course i’m pretty active there all the time, not just because I work there i genuinely love the platform. Or I’m on Twitter or Twix, as people are calling it now, like Twitter. So you’re going to find me on either well.



Danny Gavin, Host  44:00

Apparently this episode was like a cup of masala Chai. It was so rich. It was so wonderful. I feel like I went through a university class and I love that it’s wonderful for me, wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today and being a guest on the digital marketing mentor and thank you listeners for tuning into the digital marketing mentor we’ll speak with you next time.



Purna Virji, Guest  44:19

Thanks for having me, Danny.



Danny Gavin, Host  44:20

Thank you for listening to the Digital Marketing Mentor Podcast. Be sure to check us out online at tdmm.com and at the DM Mentor on Instagram. And don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts for more marketing mentor magic. See you next time.


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