Yes We Can
Ashley Faus is a marketer, writer, and speaker by day, and a singer, actor, and fitness fiend by night. Her work has been featured in TIME, Forbes, and The Journal of Brand Strategy. She's shared insights with audiences at Harvard Business Review, INBOUND, and MarketingProfs. She currently works for Atlassian, a collaboration software maker on a mission to unleash the potential of every team.
Yes We Can is a recurring series presented by Cloudflare Co-founder, President, and COO Michelle Zatlyn, featuring interviews with women entrepreneurs and tech leaders who clearly debunk the myth that there are no women in tech. To watch more episodes of Yes We Can — and submit suggestions for future guests — visit cloudflare.com/yeswecan
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of Yes We Can. Actually, it's my second episode this week.
So it's an extra special week with a couple of Yes We Can episodes.
And I'm super excited to have Ashley Faus here today. Hi, Ashley. How are you?
Hey, good. Good to be here. We were just chitchatting behind the scenes and I was like, OK, two, three seconds till we go live.
So we were like very laughing and chatting about, you know, exactly upcoming holidays.
So super excited to talk to you today, Ashley, and talk about marketing and writing and public speaking, which is something you love to do.
And it's terrifying for a lot of other people and so many other great topics.
But before we do one housekeeping item for all the viewers tuning in, if you have people you'd love to see on Yes We Can, please email me at YesWeCan at Cloudflare.TV.
I love getting your emails. I love getting your suggestions.
I reply to everything, every email I get. And also, if you have questions for Ashley, you can put them in the Q&A prompt at the bottom and we'll try to get to them.
So let's dive in, Ashley. So when I first met you, I met you through, we were introduced from another Yes We Can guest, Lorraine.
And I remember when I first met you, you said, I said, OK, you described yourself as I'm a marketer slash writer and speaker.
And you're like, but I'm really specific about putting marketing first, marketer first.
So why don't you start by telling the audience, what do you mean by marketer, writer and speaker?
Sure. So it's funny because I think of myself as like a capital M marketer and like lowercase writer, lowercase speaker.
And it's funny when you when people first hear that, they kind of think like, well, it doesn't matter that much.
And I'm like, OK, but if you ask a writer kind of how they identify, they're like, oh, no, no, I am a writer.
I love it. I have these stories just that have to come out as the written word.
And I'm like, no, to me, writing is a tool. It's a very effective way to communicate.
Marketing, on the other hand, that I identify with as a capital M for two reasons.
The first marketing is about people. So that's what led me into it.
It's fundamentally about figuring out how to match problems and solutions for people.
And then the second thing is from a philosophical perspective, I never want to sell anything to anyone, which sounds funny for a marketer to say.
But again, if you ask kind of adjacent skill sets, how they identify or think about their career identity, there are people who are like, no, I convince people to do things or I sell things to people.
And I'm like, oh, I never want to sell anything to anyone.
And I don't think that marketing is fundamentally about selling things.
Again, people first match problems and solutions. When that happens, sure, someone will buy from you or there will be an exchange of value.
But that's why I focus so heavily on that kind of capital and marketer or marketing led way of describing myself.
I love that. I've actually never heard marketing described that way, but it's very illiquid.
It's like matching people to problems that they might like to products that can help solve problems that they have.
There's something very elegant about that.
So I've never heard it that way. Did you come up with that or did someone did a mentor tell you you learn that in school?
So, again, I mean, I work with a lot of marketing folks.
I just have never heard it described so so succinctly.
That's a good question. I will say, I know the first when I was choosing a major, I was actually switching from musical theater and trying to figure out like, OK, what should I major in?
And the class that I walked into, it was like a marketing one on one class.
And the professor had actually written one of the textbooks and I opened it.
And the first line said marketing is about people.
And then that I think for me was like the foundational element that then led to saying, OK, well, if it's about people, then you have to figure out what people want, what problems they have, what challenges they have.
OK, well, then how is this different from sales or how is this different from advertising or a variety of other either adjacent skill sets or specific niches within marketing?
And so I think that's kind of how I arrived at like match problems and solutions.
You will help people. And like that's kind of the practice.
So I don't know if I if I came up with it specifically, but it is something that I have been saying kind of as my philosophy for practicing marketing for pretty much my career.
So it sounds awesome. It sounds like you kind of had the ingredients in front of you and like like a great chef.
You assembled them up and created a unique, delicious meal that you that you invented.
So I love that. OK, that's good.
That's great. Marketing is all about people. I just learned something new.
So thank you. OK, so what's your role today? So today you work at a great company called the Lassie.
And I recently joined the board. So I love this company. I love the people.
And you are on you work on content. Your your title is a content strategy lead.
So like a content. And and I think there's probably a lot of people listening who don't know what that means.
So maybe you could just talk a little bit about what does somebody who is a content strategy lead?
What does that mean? What do you do on a daily basis?
And how did you end up in that job? I will say that my role in Atlassian is a little bit unique.
And so I would say I think that the things that I encompass don't necessarily reflect what content strategy or head of content would be at every other company.
A couple of the big differentiators, I think, for my role.
Obviously, yes, I do content things, but it's a pretty broad view. So it includes email.
It includes social media. It includes community. And yes, it does include long form content that is related to SEO, keyword sets and topic areas.
And it does include some video strategy as well. But I think that's that's one of the biggest changes is for me looking at the intersection of all of those things and figuring out how do we make the most seamless handoff between asset types, channels, learn intent in terms of topics or practices versus learn intent about the product versus leading more into that sales or enablement side on the product.
How does that whole journey look? I tend to be more responsible for the earlier part of that journey.
So another quirk of my marketing practice, I kind of skew the funnel.
I think it's a retrospective measurement tool, not a forward looking strategy tool like nobody wakes up and says, I shall now do the awareness today.
I shall now have the consideration like that doesn't happen. So even though I technically own more kind of traditionally considered awareness or top of funnel types of topics and outlets, from my perspective, I think that if you get into a product, you're not going to be successful with it unless you also pair it with the correct practices, the correct culture.
It's not just about the tool. And so once you get in, you're not suddenly just doing product things.
You need to sometimes pop back up to the top of the funnel and think about, OK, what is the practice that pairs with this or what is the culture of the mindset that goes with it?
So that's particularly handy. I work across agile and DevOps topics, so pretty, pretty technical audience.
And both of those are much more focused on first principles, mindset and culture shift, not just the tool chain.
And so it's highly aligned both for how I think about things and then how our audience is also thinking about things.
I mean, you know, just listening to you speak where I've had a couple other folks with a marketing background on Yes, we can.
And one of the themes that have come up is just like how much it's changing and how kind of what was maybe considered best of practice before.
It's best practice is just like our point in time.
It's constantly evolving and changing and the tools and the channels and the audiences and how people interact and what they want.
It's really, I think, a craft where you can't sit still.
And so just listening to you speak, obviously you're at the forefront of it.
You're thinking about it in a very different way.
Even the language you're using is very different and kind of forward leaning than what I've heard before.
So that's that's that's super exciting.
That must be very energizing to be able to kind of kind of create the next generation of marketing in a really technical topic, like you said.
Yeah, and I think Atlassian is a pretty unique place to do this.
As you've seen, we so one of our values is be the change you seek.
And the way that that manifests in a daily basis is being able to come up and say, hey, the way we've been doing this for the last five years, the conversation is starting to change.
The tactics are starting to change.
The tools are starting to change. The mindsets are changing. OK, how do we take advantage of that?
And so I am very fortunate to be able to come in and say, hey, this kind of style of thing and it's tactics that I've run myself.
So I've been advocating for more of a content playground versus kind of a content funnel or a marketing funnel.
And so thinking about letting people go in any order, letting them enter and enter and exit as they choose, letting them use content the wrong way.
So if we think about pricing, for example, that's traditionally considered a bottom of funnel conversation.
But if you're trying to get budget, you're not even in awareness or consideration in terms of a product because you don't even have budget yet.
And so all of these old school mindsets about, oh, fill out this form or book this demo, and it's like, I don't even have budget.
It's a waste of everyone's time. But if this mindset is pricing equals bottom of funnel, then you're struggling.
And so Atlassian obviously has more of a flywheel model.
So we are very transparent about our pricing. We share that information right up front on the website.
And so even from a mindset standpoint, like Atlassian was kind of ahead of the game on adopting that flywheel style of growth compared to a lot of other companies.
And so if you bring somebody in like me that kind of has a little bit of a different mindset about marketing and you drop me into a company that has a different mindset about growth, revenue, measurement, et cetera, it tends to really accelerate the stuff that we're able to do.
That's amazing. You know, there's so many things you just said there that I just want to like poke on a little bit, because I cannot tell you like your pricing situation is like your pricing example is such a good one, because I cannot tell you how many times over the course of just building Cloudflare where someone has said to me, hey, we have to gate what our pricing is so that people are like you have to gate content so that we can get people's email addresses so that we have a reason to reach out to them.
And it's like, well, we should make it as widely as accessible as possible.
But it's and it's like, well, no, my last company did it that way.
And it's like, well, rethinking and whether you call it first principles or whatnot, it's you almost have to unlearn or be open to trying a different ways.
Maybe, maybe, maybe I unlearn or be open to trying it. Great.
That's one way to do it. What are five other ways we could do it? And let's try all of them and see which one works best.
But that's really interesting that you you've kind of been able to pave the path and try things.
And I love this idea of a content playground.
I've never heard it described like that. I've heard that in careers, like describe someone's career path, like have a playground approach, not just a linear approach, but never to content.
So that's super interesting. Yeah, I was thinking about it.
I got the idea because I was I was basically struggling with mapping tactics to a linear funnel strategy.
And I was like, that just it doesn't make sense.
Like, why? Why would you gate case studies? Why would you gate content like product demos?
Somebody actively wants to consume content about your product.
Why on earth would you put a barrier to that? Like, this is stupid.
And so then I started thinking about, OK, what should it be? And my first thought was a jungle gym, because, you know, you can kind of go up, down and sideways.
But there's still really only one objective, and that's to get to the top of the jungle gym.
And so it's still me forcing you to go on this journey that I want you to go on.
And so if I go back to my fundamental practices, that marketing is about people and it's about matching problems and solutions, then what what is something that doesn't have an objective in the way that we've traditionally thought of it?
And so that's how I started thinking about the playground.
And I have some young nephews and I was like, man, the nephews, like they're so delighted.
They want to go to the playground every day. They'll spend hours there.
What if, as a marketer, I could create that experience for my audience to where I don't have to chase them?
I don't have to tackle them. I don't have to capture them.
Like we use such adversarial language about our audience. What if I could invite them?
What if I could delight them? What if we could we could hang out together at the playground?
And so the more I started thinking about it and as I've kind of shifted how I talk about marketing strategy to this playground mindset, I've had the opportunity to kind of stretch the metaphor of like, oh, if this is the sandbox or thinking about the pricing and the wrong going the wrong way, and it's like, yep, every time three year old nephew wants to go up the slide, even though the playground designers, you're supposed to go down the slide.
But he gets it. He gets it done. The objective is he plays on the playground.
That's what they ultimately want. And so if you the more you start thinking about it, it's like, what am I actually trying to do?
And if that's especially in SAS, like that's been all of my tech experience has been in SAS, so I'm highly biased toward that lens.
But you have to win and rewind the hearts and minds of your audience over and over again.
It's not like you sell them one thing, they consume it and either they buy again or they don't.
Literally every month they can renew or turn.
And so this idea that you don't have to create delightful experiences or you don't have to keep them or you're just going to pass them on to the next team fundamentally does not work in SAS.
Mm hmm. I love there's so many things you just said.
I mean, you just summed it up so perfectly. There's so many things that just resonate with me.
And and again, I really feel like you're so forward leaning and how you're thinking about this, actually, just different, very fresh lens and language and description than than somehow I've heard others describe it.
And I guess that's why you're such a good public speaker, which we're going to come to.
But before we get there, I feel like I'm I'm totally with you. I understand.
I'm keeping up. But I think there's a lot of other people who are like, OK, only maybe understand 5% of what Ashley just said, which is OK, because it's like it is very forward leaning and it's different.
It's like content and this and that and what final pipeline, all important maybe to help just bring some context.
Maybe you can go through like one or two projects. And highlight ones that you're really proud of that maybe can just share with the audience who maybe aren't marketers, aren't experts of like, oh, to help illuminate what you mean by some of these things like on a data like give give us one or two projects you're most proud of and take us through those.
Sure. So this one, I think, actually covers a nice mix of almost kind of product management or release notes, social media slash content, which is my world.
And then I would say like the agile community, which there you may have a lot of listeners who are steeped in that, given that, you know, we're both in tech.
So we had a situation where we were basically doing something that got a portion of the product to product parity.
And somebody had written the release notes in a way.
It was basically talking about story points. And the way they wrote the release notes was kind of punny and basically saying like, hey, story points are now available and in decimals and with more precision.
And the agile community freaked out.
They were like, who uses story points with decimals? That's not the point.
This is like freaked out. And what's interesting that the community kind of kind of missed is that actually, yes, there's a lot of people who are doing that.
And that's part of the reason that we took that product feedback to say, you know, there are a lot of ways to measure and some of that.
Happens in product.
Some of that happens in how you run your team. So why don't we have this discussion about why that was such an inflammatory moment?
And so I got a chance to work with one of my colleagues.
She's a product marketer. She's also an agile coach.
She has a ton of experience on both kind of agile methodologies and then also operationalizing them.
And so she said, what if we hold a roundtable with a bunch of experts and we kind of ask this question about story points, estimation and all of these different styles of tracking time?
Everybody wants to know how long is it going to take to get this?
When is it going to ship? Is it going to ship on time?
Everybody wants to know that. And so we got this roundtable of folks together, hosted this conversation, and basically were able to turn that into multiple pieces of content.
So we had an hour long discussion with six experts, published that on YouTube, gave clips to each of those experts so that they could share it on their social media profiles.
That extends the reach. We then embedded that piece of content into we have an article that generally talks about a variety of different estimation methods.
So we embedded that conversation and then also updated that piece with, hey, there's this is a hot topic.
There's some best practices.
We also have integrations that help you do things like planning poker, which is around kind of bets of how long things are going to take.
We created a discussion in our community so that other people could weigh in and talk about how are they doing it?
What changes have they seen? Why are they doing it that way? And then we cross linked all of that.
And so no matter again, from a playground standpoint, what's the right way to enter the playground?
Well, there are multiple sidewalks.
My three year old nephew runs across the grass every single time. So if you think about that from kind of this mindset of this one conversation, you could enter that conversation on YouTube.
You could enter that conversation on the community.
You can enter that conversation on LinkedIn. You can enter that conversation by typing in what our story points for agile estimation and landing on this article.
And then nowhere in there, there's no dead ends. So because it's all cross linked, you can continue this conversation in whatever way you want.
And then obviously we have tutorials to say if you're looking at doing estimating work, we have a variety of ways for you to do that in product.
And then the other reason that I'm so thrilled about this project was that it led to more conversation.
So we now have relationships with those experts and we've been able to invite them back on.
We've already done two of them to do live stream conversations about other topics within the agile space that are highly relevant to our audience.
It expands our reach into the audience that these people have.
It aligns us from an expertise standpoint and a brand standpoint with these other experts.
And so it built that relationship.
It's not just, oh, this one time I forced somebody into product to do story points.
It's like that's not what this project was about at all.
This project was about furthering the conversation and helping people match the reality of how agile practices have evolved with.
You know where they are in that evolution and that that adoption curve and what's possible, both from a mindset standpoint and a team standpoint and a product standpoint.
I love that example.
I mean, that is such a good example of how like one conversation you repackage, reuse, re like and it furthers the conversation.
I think that is the definition of like marketing and content today and moving it forward in the conversations forward to help all the people in your community, in your case, like all your users and customers.
Like it's just that done right is feels so much more fluid than just like these very static points in time.
So I think that's a really great example of how you can leverage content.
Thank you so much for for taking us through that.
You know, one of the things. So these are that's a great example of it done very well.
I would say that's done extremely well and has paid dividends over and over and over and over time, and it continues to evolve and will continue to pay dividends.
But there's also like a lot of people who are not who don't get this, that have a really hard time.
And it's like they they write content that just doesn't go anywhere or or it doesn't take on this dividends where it's like just keeps evolving.
It's not fluid. And I'm sure you see a lot of that in your role.
I'm sure a lot of people ask you to like review things. You're like, this is totally wrong.
You're thinking about this wrong. So any maybe any tips or insights you can give to the audience who maybe obviously you you have a skill here.
This is something you lean into.
You bring that to the world. But for someone who is maybe not an expert, any tips of how people can kind of make sure that their content is finding the right audience and singing versus kind of falling flat.
Any tips you can give us?
I think the biggest thing that I see is and the way I think about this.
So going back to the shift away from the funnel, it's like, well, if you're not going to map content to the funnel, how are you going to map it?
And I suggest mapping it to content depths instead.
So what I see a lot of people doing when their content falls flat, it's one of two things.
Either it's trying to pack too much depth into the content.
So they end up with this 20 page white paper. And it's just it's like every possible thing.
And you're just like, I don't care. It's too much.
Right. It's just this wall of text that overwhelms you. Or they do the complete opposite where there's not enough depth.
Like they focus on just this tiny little sliver and they give no context to anything.
So what I would suggest is picking up, you know, call it three topics to start and map them out according to conceptual, strategic and tactical depths and see what has enough depth to it.
And I and then, of course, the next question is like, well, exactly how many pieces of in each do I need?
And I'm like, well, I can't tell you that. Right.
Like that's that's the again, it's the difference in mindset where it's not about publishing X number of pieces of content per week or per month or, you know, OK, we need to get this many views.
That's not the point. The point is to generate conversations, create sticky content, have those quality relationships.
But at the conceptual level, this is helping people frame up the problem space.
It's the what and the why of the idea at the strategic level.
It's helping people think about the solution space.
So what's the criteria? What are the processes? What are the key knowledge components?
What are the tools that you need to have to make that conceptual idea reality and solve that problem?
And you want to equip people to do their own research kind of at this strategic level and then the tactical level.
This is prescriptive. It's nitty gritty. And this is actually where a lot of people like to spend time because it's straightforward.
It's much easier to say how to write five blog posts per week than it is to say, should you be writing like is is blogging dead?
Right. Like that's a kind of a quippy way to say it. But that's that would be my suggestion is map out what you're talking about and see what things go together.
And do they have enough depth across conceptual, strategic and tactical depths?
What stuff is kind of off to the side? Like what made you think of that?
Does it actually belong in something? Is there a bigger topic or is that something that you need to set aside because it's actually pulling you off course from where you want to be?
And it's hard. It's hard to do that. I have plenty of things that I'm like, oh, I want to chase this.
But it may be fun. It may be useful.
But if it's not actually serving my core goals and my core audience, then it's just a random something that's not going to resonate.
So sometimes it's like you want to put you don't have to say every single thing, but it's almost like being a good editor and and paring it back and setting aside.
And then eventually maybe it'll become something.
But just don't have to include everything, you know, that it's interesting.
You said that because once we were in the proliferation of content creation phase for a long time, because when you're building a company, everything, you got to create everything from scratch.
Yeah, so you're doing a lot. But then there was a few years ago, especially in our support portal, where we went through a huge process of like, actually, what we have to do is we have to reduce the amount of content and we have to find the the links to and make it clearer versus 10 top 10 articles on one topic.
How do we shorten this and maybe reduce it to three that are more fully feature complete and get rid of the other seven?
And so we kind of went through a reduction of content to it almost. And then now we're back to like creating a lot of content.
There's a lot of new things that we're building in areas.
So it's almost like it changes what you need to, depending on where you are in your company history.
Yeah, well, and and I wrote a post on LinkedIn a couple of months ago because I was kind of in this battle of net new versus optimization and kind of repurpose, repackage and then tailoring things to different channels.
And I had kind of gotten stuck in this wheel of net new, net new, net new.
But the metrics were not doing well. And so I was like, OK, stop, put a hold on it.
And some of this, too, was having a great manager. My manager basically was like, OK, what are you dropping?
What are you saying no to to fix this thing?
Because it sounds like you're just adding, fixing it. And that's not going to work.
You don't have headspace or bandwidth to do that. So what are you saying no to?
And I think that another thing we do really well in Atlassian at the company level is we articulate what we're saying yes to and what we're saying no to.
And there's it's not the things on the no list are bad or wrong or ineffective.
They actually might be really great. But if you only have space for five things on the list.
That means all the rest of the other five, 10, 20 things that are really great, like there's only five slots.
And so when you start to really hone in on saying no to the things that they might be great, but they're the wrong thing right now, that'll help you hone in to on that net new versus optimization kind of balance.
Yes. Yeah. No, there's there's something there. I am saying no as a superpower or not peanut butter.
Don't don't fall into the peanut butter trap.
Retry everything and do nothing. Well, no, there's a lot of there's a lot of stage words in what was just spoken.
OK, I know we like to bite off a lot of Cloudflare.
So it's a good reminder of like you got to sometimes say no to things, too.
So it's good. Thank you for the reminder. I needed that this week, actually.
So thank you. I'm saying it to you, pretending like I don't also need it said back to me.
But maybe we just every so often say it to each other is the tactic.
We each other accountable. I love it. It's good. So one of the things we're about five minutes.
We have about four minutes left. But one of the things I want to make sure, because back to where we started, where you're like, I'm a capital and marketer.
I'm also lowercase w writer, which we've talked a lot about and then a lowercase as speaker.
And it's so interesting. You're obviously an amazing communicator.
You spoke about being in the performing arts. We'll talk a lot more about that.
But it seems like you actually really enjoy public speaking. So let me start there.
Do you? I freaking love it. So I love being on stage. I love I love. Yes, like I love it.
And I maybe I should actually like put those in my bio because I again, writing is great.
I like it. I'm I'm a solid writer. But speaking, it's like, oh, it's just so fun for me, which I know some people are like, that's literally my worst fear.
Why? But no, I I just love it. That's what well, that's what that again, as we were prepping and you're you kind of had this reaction.
I love it.
I love it. It's like, well, that I don't hear that very often because it is a fear for a lot of people where it's hard or they don't be center of attention or they're worried they're going to make a mistake.
And so maybe, you know, you talk about being in the performing arts and that you love to perform in the performing arts.
Like tell us like that moment before you step on stage. Tell us about the feeling that you go through.
Yeah. Yeah. So it's it's weird. Like when you're standing backstage and I do musicals, so there's an on track to where, you know, those those first downbeats of the show, right?
And you're backstage and you're like.
I get it's time to go on, like it is the biggest adrenaline rush and frequently for most of the actors backstage like you see us and we're just like, it's time, it's time to go like.
And you just get so excited and there is something very special about kind of the the energy that happens and this sense that you get to go out, you get to do the thing you love.
The audience is there. They and this is one thing that I tell people, whether it's their first time auditioning for a community theater show or their first time stepping on stage at a conference, the audience wants you to do well.
Nobody wants you to fail. Everybody is there to have a good experience.
They want to learn something. They want to have entertainment.
They want you to do well. And so when you're standing backstage and you hear people and they're applauding and, you know, they're so excited for you to come tell the story and you're so excited to tell that story yourself.
Like that energy exchange is I don't know.
I just don't I don't know. I'm sure other people can replicate it in other ways.
But for me, there's just nothing like that feeling of stepping on stage.
Amazing. I love this. I wanted you to tell the story because I just think there's a lot of people who are are scared about public speaking.
Hearing you enjoy it so much and seek it out, I think, is a good reminder that it doesn't have to be like you.
I think we can all find joys to enjoy public speaking more.
And this is speaking from my own personal experience. I don't really enjoy it very much, but I have to do a lot of it for my job.
So I've gotten better at it over time.
But I think what I've learned from you, Ashley, is like I should find the joy in it.
And so I'm going to try and find the joy in my I'm going to find this energy exchange that you're talking about and lean into it.
So thanks for thank you for helping me be more mindful of that.
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is just find find the piece of why you're doing it in the first place.
Like, is it because you're so passionate about solving this problem and you just want everyone to be able to solve it?
Is it because you love the topic and you just want to nerd out with other people like yourself?
I think most people get so focused on, oh, I have to be a good presenter.
And it's this facade. And it's like you built this expertise and secured this opportunity for some reason.
And if that's helping people with the problem or nerding out with your peers, find the thing that you love, that you genuinely love about it.
And don't be so concerned about, oh, I have to be this specific person.
I love it. I love it. That's amazing.
Ashley, we're out of time. We're going to go off air in five seconds. This was amazing.
Thank you so much, Ashley. Thank you for being here, everybody. Yes, we can.
Thank you so much for tuning in this week. Thanks.