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Confab Continued: An Interview with GE’s Katrina Craigwell

GE’s head of global and digital programming Katrina Craigwell gave the opening keynote address at Confab Central, the leading content strategy conference in the field. iAcquire sat down with her minutes after to discuss the company’s exceptional content initiatives. Here are her insights.

GE's visual storytelling

The fourth annual Confab Central conference kicked off last Thursday in Minneapolis with a keynote from Katrina Craigwell, head of global and digital programming at GE. One of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing & Advertising, Katrina is responsible for driving content strategy across GE.com as well as their international corporate properties and social platforms. Her opening address shed light on the outstanding visual storytelling created under her guard at the company. Under her creative direction, GE has spearheaded visual storytelling campaigns like the #GEInstaWalk campaign and the science meets popular interest videos with YouTube phenoms The Slo Mo Guys.

We sat down with Craigwell minutes after her exceptional talk. Below she discusses the teams that brought GE to the heights of digital storytelling, influencer marketing, and the way to utilize visual content to your company’s advantage.

Katrina CraigwellHow many agency partners do you have and what is that ratio compared to in-house?

Thanks for having me, iAcquire! Our in-house team is very lean, so we rely a lot on our agency partners to be our boots on the ground. To give you a number, we probably have 10 or 12 across our teams at a time. Some of them are ad agencies that have worked with us for a long time, and we have agencies that handle brand work for us. We also have groups that do a little bit more regional content strategy with our teams.

Photo source: Forbes

How many are there of you in-house?

In-house, there are three of us. I have a colleague who I sit with in New York, and then we have a colleague in Singapore who leads a lot of the work with our global teams and makes sure they’re taken care of day-to-day. That’s just the digital brand side, and then there are other parts of our team—our advertising team, our commercial digital strategy team and our brand team, as well.

Only three, that’s amazing!

We have a lot of fun.

You emphasized The importance of influencer outreach. That’s what every agency and brand is aiming to do now—leverage influencers. Is there a specific monetary compensation that comes with finding and recruiting influencers? How do you lure them in?

Well, these guys are pros. They don’t work for free; they shouldn’t work for free. We’re happy to pay them to do the work that they do. It’s kind of a case-by-case depending on what the project is, but yes it’s a partnership. Our goal is really to find the right partners who are excited by the material at GE and feel that it would be additive to the work that they do and to their audience. We definitely don’t want to force fit anything.

influencer-landscape-philippines

Image source: Paula Gabin

Can you gauge that just from a conversation from them?

Yes, I absolutely can.

What kind of brands does visual storytelling work for? Do you think it’s universal or do you think visual storytelling might not work for all types of businesses?

I think, at this point, we’re in a more visual time, period. Part of it is the shorter attention spans, the shorter bytes of information. Tumblr provides an interesting case for what spreads. Granted, it’s a specific network, but the adoption is pretty high, especially in the U.S. So photos and gifs are way up there even above videos on what gets passed around. It’s those quick hits. I think that visuals get people to respond. They capture your emotion for a second. If you do it in the right way, I think they can serve anybody.

I think for some brands or teams it might be more obvious, like if you’re doing make-up—you’ve got to do it visually. For us, it was not as obvious or maybe not as intuitive, but the pay-off was huge. We put out a white paper about the Jenbacher gas engine. It’s kind of great to three people, but when I show you the Jenbacher factory which sits in Jenbach, Austria and its scenery—it’s incredible green hills with cows running around and engines that look like something out of Batman. Then, it provides context and connection.

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Image source: Instagram

Do you think every brand should have a different type of emotional connection that someone should draw on or do you think it’s all about intrigue and getting that first bite?

I think, for us especially, it’s all about curiosity. Across the board, we’re all about curiosity and inventing a better way to help improve the way that the world works. There are different passion points across the board, so curiosity is definitely the spirit and the tone, but there are passion points in aviation for example. There’s a whole part of our audience who lovingly calls themselves AV geeks, and we’re AV geeks and we love it. Those passion points are incredibly special and we’re all interested in the future of flight. We want to know about supersonic. That passion point is very specific, but if you go across the businesses, curiosity is what brings it all together.

Want more things Confab Minneapolis? Look out for more interviews with conference thought leaders on the iAcquire blog in the coming weeks.