- story – 4 min read
- VIDEO – 34 min
- AUDIO – 34 min
Getting money in the hands of women:
Deedi Brown of Ellevest on a
community-driven content strategy
Listen to Ellevest’s story or read the edited transcript below
Writer is an AI writing platform for teams. From terminology to styleguides, Writer gives content strategists the tools to get everyone to write on-brand.
“The time we spent correcting style guide mistakes has been cut by 50-70%”
Senior Editor and Content Strategist
Deedi Brown is Senior Editor and Content Strategist at Ellevest, among an all-women brand marketing team, including fellow words-leader Kate Gustafson, Senior Brand Copywriter and Strategist. Read or watch the story of how Ellevest built its community-driven content strategy by women and for women, to get more money in the hands of women and others left behind because of their gender identities.
Ellevest’s content strategy team uses Writer to:
- Train writers on Ellevest’s evolving brand voice and inclusive styleguide
- Check that any content not going through a formal editing process still meets Ellevest’s brand guidelines
- Utilize Snippets for compliance purposes (relating to financial advisory disclaimers)
- Collaborate on new content across teams
How did you come up with the brand attributes for your voice?
Our CEO and founder (and Wall Street titan), Sallie Krawcheck realized that the financial services industry was built by men for men, and that they were leaving women behind. And that’s how Ellevest was born. From the beginning, we knew that the way that we talked about investing, careers, and money had to be different because nobody had cracked this code. We know how to talk to women, and it started there. We have an intentionally-designed, inclusive, intersectional style guide that has been built over many years with the help of many people that we rely on every single day. And that is what makes not only our content, but also our brand what it is. Empathy, relatability and something that we like to call internally, ‘fact-based sass’. We have the data and we will tell you like it is, and we may be a little bit sassy, but ultimately, we are there for you and that’s what makes the brand and our content what it is today.
The way that we talk about intersectionality and social initiatives that resonate with the world —they change, moment to moment. Our social media team really has their ear to the ground with their heart and their brains making sure that we’re putting the most empathetic and most heart-forward brand forward that we can. But that’s not something that we would necessarily be able to loop the whole company in on without Writer. Moreover, as we learn what resonates with people and as we get feedback from our community about what they not only want to hear, but also what makes them feel connected to the Ellevest brand, we can build that into Writer in a way that encourages anyone who is writing to adopt those best practices, so that we’re all united and ready to do our best by our community.
I think we’re all witnessing the end of the #️⃣girlboss era. The way that we might once have cheered on our community now might look and feel a little different. We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that to just make sure that we’re not accidentally falling back on the kinds of phrases that we maybe cut our teeth on when we started out to make sure that we are evolving.
How did you help take that style guide to the whole company? How did you train people?
That’s the journey that ultimately led me to Writer. Earlier this year we brought on our very first creative project manager. She introduced a lot of processes and new systems that exposed some inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the content creation and brand creative system. For example, we had a bunch of legacy knowledge living only in certain people’s brains, who had been there for years and who had really been able to internalize the brand voice and knew how to correct those inclusive style guide usage choices in their sleep. We needed to find a way to be able to train more people on the style guide more quickly and release those bottlenecks. And also make it possible for anyone on the team to be able work on different projects, not just the person who had done that piece of work before.
At one point we only had two writers who could do an editorial brand voice edit, and initially this was a bottleneck. But because we have such a commitment to the style guide and to the brand voice, the answer was not to take editing out of the process, but rather it was how can we make that process more efficient? How can we make it so that we’re not correcting the same small mistakes and empowering other people on our team to be able to write copy that everybody knew would represent the brand well. So that is what ultimately led me to Writer. I just knew when I saw on your homepage the Chrome extension in action, I was like “I need this yesterday”.
“When I saw the Chrome extension in action on your homepage, I was like,
‘I need this yesterday.’”
Senior Editor and Content Strategist
How did you choose tools for your team?
As a startup, we really have to be intentional with the tools and the resources that we choose to put in our team’s budget. They either have to help us influence and hit our goal, or they have to help us use our time more efficiently so that we can do more work to help hit those goals. That second one, especially, is top of mind for the editorial team, because we’re expecting to grow more in the next couple of years. So through that lens, I started to explore new tools and new resources that would be a sure bet to add to our stack.
How would you go about tying the impact of Writer to your business outcomes and getting Writer approved?
I’m very fortunate as a content marketer and writer that I have never had to prove the value of content to my organization. In fact, we actually have the opposite problem, where we have to be really judicious about which projects we choose to take on because we just don’t have time for everything. I was already getting questions about how we are going to scale content and writing and the Ellevest voice in a future where we expect to grow.
My manager said to me, “How are you going to train writers in months and not years?” And so when I found Writer, I said, “this is how I am going to do that, this is the answer that we were looking for.”
Being able to present a tool that could literally pay for itself in the amount of time that it was saving our team and our editors, even by a very conservative estimate — it was a no-brainer.
“Having snippets right in the Writer sidebar has helped us make sure that we are being more compliant and it’s just made everything more efficient.”
Senior Editor and Content Strategist
What were some of the successes in the rollout?
I think our biggest success is the Writer Chrome extension. We have people from multiple parts of the organization using it. It has really allowed us to feel more comfortable and more confident in the things that are low stakes that don’t go through an intense editorial process and it’s allowed that editorial process that we do follow to be more efficient…so that we can focus on things like ‘is this structured the right way’ or ‘have you left people with more questions then you’ve answered for them’ rather than…you should have a hyphen here etc. Which matters, but they take up more time than their weight. And so the Chrome extension has just been absolutely huge for us, especially as we do almost everything in Google Docs, and Figma, was a game changer as well.
And the other thing that is a success for us is snippets. We have sort of a unique approach to snippets in that their primary value to us is in our disclosures practice. Ellevest is a registered investment advisor, and so we follow strict compliance regulations for marketing and advertising as set by the SEC. There are disclosures for everything. Diversification, banking products, sales or promos. So having the ability for those snippets be right in the Writer sidebar as we’re writing a document so that we can just quickly copy and paste them into everything has helped us make sure that we are being more compliant and it’s just made everything more efficient.
Who uses the Figma plugin and what’s been the feedback?
It’s been the brand copywriting and strategy team who work in Figma. It’s really nice to know that they’ve got a reliable juiced-up spell check that includes Ellevest’s official style guide. I think that’s the piece that takes it from a nice to have to something that feels really critical: these are the decisions that we’ve made collectively about how we want to write and be perceived and how we want to serve our community in the best way possible. And so having that there for them at the end of the process makes everybody feel more confident and more ready to send something out into the world.
What’s been the business impact of a unified content strategy across the company?
I’m in a really lucky position to be at a company where the whole company believes in the necessity and the power of content, not only to hit company goals, but to achieve our mission of getting more money in the hands of women. Ellevest was started by women for women. We will say that all day, every day. It couldn’t have begun without content; in the early days of Ellevest, the team who came together to build it spent hundreds of hours of user testing and talking to women about how they felt about not only the financial services industry, but also their own finances and their own career. And they learned a lot of really foundational things that we have relied on to guide how we best help women get more money. They didn’t want the jargon. They didn’t want to be talked down to. And we felt the same! And so content and education and editorial, everything from long form on the Magazine to today’s live webinars that we conduct to our Instagram feed, which is such an asset and such a beautiful Community that our social team has built, is founded on that desire to help people get more money in a way that is going to resonate with our community and learn from them.
Content is infused into the brand and has been just a wonderful place for me to work and learn from my teammates, as we have built something that I think is really special and exciting and makes me love what I do.
What do you think the discipline of content strategy evolves to over the next few years?
There’s a tension that exists when you’re selling something between what does the company need, what does the audience need and what does the community need and, where you can find all of those things together. We would not be the brand that we are without the Ellevest community and everything that they have taught us and built the brand alongside us. I don’t think that’s going anywhere. Apps can come and go, platforms can come and go, video can come and go…but if you have a pulse on the people whose lives matter to you, as a brand and as a person who is working for that brand, you will be led in the direction that you should go.
I feel excited to have the tools and resources to dream about building a best-in-class educational and editorial team and brand and experience for our community. I want us to keep helping women and nonbinary people get more money and live the lives that they really dream of. I want us to keep helping people use their money to change the world, through impact investing or whatever it is that aligns their values and their finances so that we can all participate in wallet activism. I want to give people the tools and information that they need to live the life they want. And I want more content teams to look like ours does, which is so many smart and passionate women making content that resonates with our community in a way that changes them.
It feels like our whole lives have been at an inflection point for women. But, we’re not there yet. So the more we plug in and the more that we keep each other in mind, the more we can change the way that things are.