AMA with Airtable: Content workflow, automation & collaboration tips

Jimmy Daly
April 20, 2021

Content lead, @Margaret Jones and @Cody Henshaw (technical product marketing) at Airtable spent some time with the community to share best practices and capabilities of this incredible product. We also recorded a few tutorials together, check out the link below!

Also, if you're interested, you can get a $500 credit towards airtable's plus or pro version. Just use this link:

Airtable has basically infinite use cases. How do you even begin to plan a content calendar?

Margaret: Beginning is actually the hardest part. We start with focus areas pulled from across the company. My team uses Airtable (natch) to directly solicit inputs from leadership on basically every team at the company. Ideally (not always) we have a few use cases that the whole marketing team is focusing on at the same time, which makes everything more efficient. For example, right now we're focusing on content operations and marketing teams, so it's all very meta.

Margaret, you're a content marketing veteran who's seen it evolve from the early days. What's changed in your approach to building content engines the most? And what's stayed relatively the same?

Margaret: I would say the biggest change for me has been PATIENCE. Some tactics give you results overnight, but most of what you'll ship really proves it's worth (or lack thereof) over time. These days I'm thinking: OK, I've got to invest early in tactics like SEO that take a long time to start showing results, so then I've got to balance that with conversion-driven campaigns that will drive results fast...basically need to do a little of everything.

ALSO: the thing I edit/review for MOST these days is point of view. We've been talking about how crowded the content space is for years now, but it's only recently hit home for me that so much content has value, but no perspective. My most frequent comment on my team's work these days is "What's the unique POV here?"

Where do you see content marketing as a whole headed in the next 5 years?

Margaret: My glib answer is "everything on TikTok." But in all seriousness, short-form, low production value, deliver the goods in the most direct way possible. That's the 2 year plan. In 5 years we'll all be eating radioactive cockroaches right?

How does content marketing collaborate with product marketing at Airtable?

This has been different at every company I've worked on, but on my team now we are in serious lockstep with the PMMs at all times. We plan quarters together based on their product roadmap, positioning updates, and focus areas.

Everything PMM ships is either written or produced my by team, depending on the level of product depth — the deeper it is, the more likely that PMM is driving and Content is reviewing. Higher in the funnel is likely to be the opposite. My team also works on in-product, educational content, so as you'd imagine that requires a ton of alignment with PMM (esp compared to something higher in the funnel).

One of the tutorials videos we made was about fielding internal content requests. Does the airtable content team work sort of like an internal agency? Or do you just support other teams who also create content?

Margaret: We have kind of a hybrid model — 50ish % of what we do is in the agency model, producing requests that come through from other teams. The other half comes from our own analysis of past performance, topics we think will resonate, ideas that come out of brainstorms, etc. My team is also pretty senior and knows the product inside and out, so they have a strong voice in strategy conversations.

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of cool use cases for Airtable. What have been some of your favorite/most creative that might be non-obvious, but you wish they picked up more traction among content marketers like us?

Margaret: I used to use these scorecards to review quality of content before it went into the wild. We did it in a Google Sheet because IDK, we just did. At Airtable my team has taken the same concept, added a bunch of cool automations and formulas, and made it part of our workflow. I basically love any use of automations to make content workflows less painful.

There seems to be a trend in content marketing that I can only describe as "build a media company" in which the content marketing function is becoming an in-house publishing and production house that pumps out everything from documentaries, feature films, and books. What's your hot take? Do you perhaps see that potentially being the future of content marketing at Airtable?

Margaret: I feel like this trend keeps coming and going. There was a minute when every brand had their own media publications (thinking Casper, Airbnb, etc). And I kind of love it, because I love all kinds of content and I have worked with so many smart and talented content creators within tech companies (present company included). BUT I also feel like there's something inherently off about brands being the major creators of art? Like, shouldn't art be produced by groups and individuals for its own sake? Do we lose something when the majority of art has a  financial incentive? IDK.

Could you talk about the advantages of using airtable for content pipeline tracking vs a more specialized tool? Also, do you have any advice on what to do as your team grows? I find airtable can be intimidating for new team members who haven't been part of the evolution of using airtable as a tool.

Margaret: So I'm NOT going to say anything disparaging about specialized tools because I know they work well for some teams. My problem has always been that when you use a specialized tool, it's SO HARD to get other teams into your workflow. When I was using a content publishing tool that shall not be named, which was designed specifically for content teams and had some rad features out of the box, I couldn't even get PR to use it, let alone Product Marketing or (gasp!) Sales.

On the flip side, Airtable works for every team at your company. BUT to your point, it can be intimidating because it can do SO MUCH and out of the box, it just kinda looks like a fancy spreadsheet. I highly recommend our educational content. is a good place to start with team training and to just de-intimidate the whole process.

How does social proof fit into your content strategy and mix?

Margaret: With Airtable in particular, we have a product that's REALLY hard to explain without social proof, so it's very important to us. We're actually currently building out our team to do even more customer storytelling, because we believe we need more customer stories in truly EVERY aspect of our marketing.

What do you wish all content marketers knew about product marketing?

Cody: I can't speak to all product marketers, but for technical ones like myself — we're good at telling stories from a technical lens, and broadening to how X tool helps businesses, but the earlier and more in-lockstep we can work, every aspect of our "product marketing" gets better. Also, we love content of all kinds — I reuse everything from the content Margaret Jones team produces for everything from demos to exec pitches.

How do you know when it's worth the time and effort to develop and mentor someone?

Margaret: The short answer is, if they want to be developed and mentored, they are worth the time. We've all seen the skill/will matrix, right? Some people have a lot of skill but no will to improve, some people have a lot of will to improve but are low-skill, yada yada. WILL is what makes someone coachable.

I should also add that some people are good at their jobs (or just OK at their jobs) and don't want to improve. And that is TOTALLY FINE. Not everybody you manage needs to be coached. As long as they aren't doing a bad job, no need for alarm. Will that person get promoted or be your right-hand person when your team has a new challenge? No. But will they cause problems for you? Also probably no.

The first time airtable "clicked" for me—all of a sudden I realized that I could build things without code—I got hooked. Is there a metric for that? Can you someone how measure that aha moment for new users?

Margaret: That IS the metric, right? I feel like it gets talked about a lot in terms of product "stickiness", or about "creating aha moments" in the product. Everyone (I think I can safely say) at Airtable has had that moment with our product. We use it every day, constantly talk about how to improve our usage internally, etc, so it comes up a lot. And when we talk to customers we hear the same thing, that there was a moment that they really "got it" and there was no going back. For me it was building automations for my review process.

For folks who have not automated any part of their content workflow yet, is there an easy one you'd recommend to try first?

Cody: Request intake is a really simple one that I like to start with — simple form view to ingest the request and automatically send the submitter a confirmation and updates as the request is reviewed.

Is there a simple way to share with a client a content marketing framework you built an airtable for clients who don't have it or want to learn how to use it? Something simple like a content brief and deployment plan with limited automation.

Margaret: we've actually been updating our content templates recently, might be something perfect for you in there. This might be a good starting place:

What’s your greatest pet peeve about the content marketing industry today?

Margaret: I am really struggling to answer this one! Maybe I'm not feeling particularly peeved lately? Generally I'd say, search-driven content that has no value or perspective

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