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Talking Content Marketing – With AJ Huisman


Talking Content Marketing gives a warm welcome from Dutch law firm, Kennedy Van der Laan, Albert Jan Huisman (or AJ for short).

AJ is the co-founder of Content Marketing >> Fast Forward, a platform to “fast forward” people’s knowledge of Content Marketing in an interactive, informative and fun way through online and events. He is a regular speaker on the subject of Content Marketing and an ideal port of call within Europe for the Talking Content Marketing project.

AJ stands for businesses providing value through their marketing instead of shouting how great they are. He believes that marketing can be a change agent in organisations with regard to how people think and act.

Six questions on change and businesses embracing a content mindset.


How difficult is it for a company to move from a broadcast mindset to one to educate and inform?

It is extremely difficult.

My team and I have accomplished a lot but we are still fighting that battle on a daily basis.

People are reluctant to change since they think that the old way of marketing still works.

Professionals, like our lawyers, are great as experts in their fields but they are not managers, business developers or marketers. For some reason they think they are all of the above and that is hard some times. But the trick is to create a (content marketing) vision, evangelize your vision, show proof of how this vision will get results and step-by-step you will see that people will follow.

Not as fast as you might think or want but they will. You need stamina, a great team and a lot of patience.


What is the make or break of a content approach? Is it when it becomes the function of a business or beyond the three-month campaign mentality?

The essence is that the whole organisation gets the content approach in their DNA and that’s a long process.

We start with the on boarding to get people on the right page from the outset. We constantly share our vision and how it gets results. With those, sometimes tiny, results we show the organisation that it works to try to get a following.

We measure until we are blue in the face and still we think we don’t do enough. We take risks and fail but then we start again.

It’s all about setting joint goals and convincing people that they should produce content and be active in all sorts of business develop activities themselves.

When you do both you can create value, if you do one and leave the other you are selling yourself – and your organisation – short. Thought leadership is the push and business development is the pull, you need both to maximise results.


How has a law firm embraced a content mindset? What has been the biggest challenge?

Our biggest asset and our biggest challenge are the lawyers themselves.

Our lawyers are great matter experts. They know so much about the law and how it can help our clients and prospects grow their business and avoid all pitfalls that go with it. But they are so deeply passionate about doing great work for their clients that all else is dead weight.


You have to show them first that with a little extra effort they can use that knowledge more broadly and let it work for them in a one to many situation instead of only advising one client. Then you have to facilitate that process, help them write, teach them to write, write for them or find other ways to extract valuable content from them, for example making a video with them (in many cases not a good idea because some are terrified but it works in some occasions).


How do you determine what is useful content for your audience?

We constantly ask our clients questions, at the end of all our seminars and events for example we ask not only about the event itself but also what’s on top of their minds.

We do polls in our newsletters or have an intern research business issues of our target audience. But most important is to let the audience decide for us by constantly measuring what visitors of our websites and blogs read, what they download and which articles in our newsletters they click on.

If they don’t read certain articles on certain topics we feed that back to the people that write the content, apparently it is not as popular as we thought it was. Maybe not produce so much on that then! And what is being read, maybe we need an extra event on that!


You have been part of Content Marketing World since the first event in 2011, how have you seen this event progress in a short space of time?

I was very fortunate to have met Joe Pulizzi in 2010. We had diner and we chatted about what I was doing and he said that he wanted to organise a little event in the US and if I was willing to come and tell my story. So I became the only Dutch speaker, and one of the few Europeans, at the first edition of Content Marketing World, USA.

Back then we were with 500 people and the event was in a hotel in Cleveland. A few weeks back I hosted the Sales Track at Content Marketing World and there were 3,500 people from over 50 countries in the world.

It is great to see that there are so many people interested in learning about Content Marketing, the vibe is awesome (as the Americans tend to say) and the speakers are world class. I am very lucky to have been involved from the outset and as a result can count so many great speakers and authors as my friends. This helped tremendously in getting them involved in our first Fast Forward event where we had contributions from Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Ann Handley, David Meerman Scott and many more.


What was the biggest piece of learning you took from CMWorld 2015?

The biggest learning was that Content Marketing is still in its infancy in so many countries and that it is still not implemented in many (large) organisations.

That it is still viewed as yet another instrument while I think it should be at the core of your marketing strategy. Another big theme was: create less content, create better quality content and focus more on the effective distribution.

Don’t go pumping it out as if there’s no tomorrow but step back, listen to your audience and create quality over quantity and distribute wisely (no not another newsletter!)

Many thanks to AJ for providing insight into making change work, no matter what sector of industry. Here are some more spaces to find out more about AJ.

Content Marketing >> Fast Forward – click here

AJ on Twitter: click here

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