Three months ago, an old friend from high school sent me a simple message on AngelList.
I was happy to hear from him, but the truth is that at the time I was more concerned with all that wasn’t good. I’d been writing online content for a little over a year as a freelancer, and was fed up with working for companies that wouldn’t communicate with me, and frequently made decisions that demonstrated that producing quality content was nowhere near the top of the priority list. This confused me, I understood the value of SEO and keyword integration, but to my mind that kind of optimization was a prudent accoutrement, akin to floorboards or doorframes in a house: critically important, but useless if the house itself (content) was slapped together with scotch tape and a prayer.
“I feel like I’ve seen the underbelly of online content through all my freelance gigs,” I wrote back to Smooke. “But with [one of my publishers] in particular I feel like they don’t really give a shit about the quality of the content. They let so much subpar shit through the door.”
I’d always wanted to be a writer, but the freelance life was too lonely, and I couldn’t stand not being able to communicate with the teams I was writing for. I saw clear problems around me, but didn’t have the opportunity to try and fix them. It was frustrating.
Marketing is storytelling. Digital companies have myriad tools at their disposal to make their stories compelling, and to me – if you’re not using every single one of them to make sure your story is told effectively, if you’re not doing whatever it takes to be certain that what you put out to the world represents the pinnacle of your abilities, an ironclad statement of quality – then I don’t understand why you’d ever start in the first place.
I couldn’t just be a one man content mill. I couldn’t keep churning out words for companies I didn’t believe in.
I wrote to David, “I want to transition into some kind of content development/content marketing role at a startup.”
“It is lonely on your own,” he said. “[I’m] about to build a team.”
Three months later and I’m sitting in a cafe on the corner of Lombard and Columbus in San Francisco – onboarding as ArtMap Inc.’s first hire.
The first part of the company David had me look at twelve weeks ago was, “Equity Hours,” and it told me everything I needed to know about his priorities as a founder, and his philosophy in general. The idea of focusing on the work-with relationship over the work-for was something that resonated with me on a personal level. I spent my first three years out of college working temp gigs, doing the drone work of an entry level corporate employee, and when I finally started to get regular writing work, I felt disillusioned. I was tired of working for.
At ArtMap we believe that good marketing is good story, and that it doesn’t matter how much IQ is behind a company, in the algorithms, or in the SEO, if the firm isn’t also engaging customers on an emotional level, icing the IQ cake with EQ that earns brand equity beyond the brain, and in the heart as well. The modern customer engages with companies on an unprecedented level. We carry our favorite companies around with us in our pockets, and we interact with them constantly. We keep our favorite brands close to us, and the decision to download a new workflow app, to share on a social network, or to subscribe to the hottest saas company on the market, is an invitation to those companies to become part of our personal narratives. For us, this level of interaction represents more than opportunity, it is a responsibility to create content of the highest quality by combining the art of good storytelling with the power of current marketing techniques.
I am thrilled. The opportunity to work closely with exciting, young startups, and develop marketing strategies that grow their audience, and establish them in the turbulent startup marketplace is rewarding and exciting. We care about each of our clients as if they were our own companies, and the execution of our responsibilities is something we take very seriously.
I couldn’t be happier as the first hire here, where creativity is our currency and execution our obsession. The future is bright with ArtMap Inc.
[Check Out John’s Answers to The ArtMap Inc. Think Big Questionnaire.]
What would you put in your breakfast burrito?
- Sausage, eggs, cheese – I call that sauegchee.
- Salt ‘n Peppa (the ingredients, not the influential ladies hip-hop group)
- TLC (Tender Love and Care, not the influential ladies hip-hop group)
What’s the last book you read?
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
If any painter could paint you who would you choose and why?
Jackson Pollock, because I don’t like to think of myself as having a body – I like to think of myself as just a big splattering.