No tricks, just content with Dave AuchterBy On Top of PR
April 4, 2023
In this episode, Dave Auchter joins host Jason Mudd to discuss all things content. Dave shares his no tricks, just content. They also discuss the three pillars of content and other information regarding technology Haskell uses and how they keep their job sites safe.
Tune in to learn more!
Watch the episode here
5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:
- No tricks, just content
- The technology stack
- The three pillars of content
- How Haskell is creating safer job sites
- Tips on attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent
- Listen to more episodes of the On Top of PR podcast.
- Find out more about Axia Public Relations.
- Connect and learn more about Dave Auchter on LinkedIn.
- Visit Haskell's website for more information.
Additional Resources from Axia Public Relations:
Disclosure: One or more of the links we shared here might be affiliate links that offer us a referral reward when you buy from them.
[00:51] What does Haskell do?
- One of the owners is a founder of the design-build process
- Has over 800 designers
- A global corporation
[07:27] No tricks, just content
- You need the right people and production efficiency
- Hire good people to produce good content
- Monitor and analyze your content consistently
- Video directors can help enhance content with video
Jason: “Was it around 2017 when you prescribed content as a solution to get you growing at the rate that some of your peers were growing?”
Dave: “Yeah, but not just content. We talk about business development in three stages.”
- Farming: helping current clients launch their businesses and scaled their businesses
- Hunting: to get prepared for what we wanted to do; to go out and get the results and business
- Self-selection: consumers identify us as the experts and come to us for our work
Dave: “We typically say 70 to 80% of our customers are repeat customers, but as you can imagine, as we've grown, it's taken new customers to help with that growth.”
[16:10] Technology Stack
- Some paid and free technologies that allow us to execute things proficiently
- Tools for management
- Tools for analytics
- Tools for social media
[18:07] Three pillars of content
- Business Development
- Talent Acquisition
- 20% of content is tailored to attracting new Haskell team members
Jason: “Optimize first for the human and second for SEO.”
- Position yourself as the thought leader
- Focus your message to your audience instead of being business focused
- Have the right position, the right people, and the right playbook
[23:55] Creating safer job sites
- It’s everyone's job to reinforce safety
[27:20] Attracting, recruiting, and retaining talent
Dave: “If you’re going to buy a mattress, buy a good mattress because you’re going to be on that mattress for a third of your life. That’s the same with your work.”
About Dave Auchter
Dave is the chief marketing officer at Haskell, overseeing enterprise-wide corporate marketing. Haskell delivers more than $2 billion annually in architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide.
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Welcome to On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.
Jason Mudd (00:09):
Hello and welcome to On Top of PR. I'm your host, Jason Mudd, with Axia Public Relations. Today we're joined by Dave Auchter. Dave is the chief marketing officer of Haskell. Dave, welcome to the show. We're glad you're here.
Dave Auchter (00:22):
Jason. Thanks for invitation. I look forward to an inspiring conversation.
Jason Mudd (00:26):
Yeah, me too. Me too. I'm glad to be here myself. For our audience, Dave is the chief marketing officer at Haskell overseeing enterprise-wide corporate marketing. Haskell delivers more than $2 billion annually in the architecture, engineering, and construction and consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Dave, what does that really mean? What does Haskell do?
Dave Auchter (00:50):
Well, Haskell's rooted in a concept that services can be presented to customers in an integrated way. So Preston Haskell, the founder of the company, is one of the founders of the Design Build Institute of America, which means the regulatory entity that seeks to get the integrated delivery through design build in the common procurement options in states or with private businesses or elsewhere. We're unique because we have over 800 designers on our team. These are engineers, architects with a variety of disciplines ranging from traditional MEP trades – that's mechanical, electrical, plumbing – to sanitary design. We do a lot of food and beverage design, and so a group like Frito-Lay can come to us. Not only can we design the facility, that's the box that holds the production, but we can also design everything in between. So taking raw product from one side of the building through all the way to packaging and palletizing so it can be taken to market. We do that whole process of design and delivery that makes Haskell very, very unique and an attractive resource for delivery of large Capex projects where owner teams typically aren't very large facility directors and the type, so we augment their capabilities.
Jason Mudd (02:13):
Got it. And Haskell is a global corporation?
Dave Auchter (02:16):
We are. We're headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. We've got about 700 employees that call Jacksonville their home office. Some of those are remote, most in the office here in downtown Jacksonville. And then we've got 25 offices around the world, predominantly serving the needs of domestic customers, U.S. customers in foreign countries. We've worked in every state and Mexico. We're in South America, we're in APAC region. We're just wrapping up the first Starbucks roasting facility in China and doing projects in Vietnam for the LDS church. So we have a pretty large footprint. I think I'm right. There's 13 subsidiaries that Haskell has in different countries to meet the needs of our customers.
Jason Mudd (03:05):
Wow. Wow. Well, that's impressive. I've been fortunate to watch your company grow over the years, and I worked a little bit on the Haskell account when I was an intern many years ago. So I've got some experience watching your company grow and flourish and as we were warming up and just kind of talking earlier before we pressed record, thought it was really interesting that you said your family has been in the construction business for more than a hundred years.
Dave Auchter (03:29):
Yeah, I can certainly trace. I'm George David Auchter the fourth. My son is the fifth. The original George David Auchter was born in the U.S. but his parents were the immigrating family members from Germany. And we just always had our hands in the design built world. And I feel like I was born knowing how to do certain trades. I don't mean to get to a journey of souls kind of thing, but I've tried different things. I've had wonderful opportunities in my career from professional sports to commercial real estate, but I always come back to construction, and this is a industry that has been slow to adopt marketing and PR technologies that are relatively mainstream and other industries because we're predominantly focused on technologies that keep our job safe safer, that deliver higher quality projects. So it's been fun to work in a industry where what I consider to be blocking and tackling is somewhat pioneering.
Jason Mudd (04:30):
And Dave, how did you get into the marketing and PR industry?
Dave Auchter (04:35):
My degree is in English literature, so I'm the son of a teacher. My mother taught for 31 years, so by golly, I was going to know proper grammar and syntax. And when I graduated from college, I had been working to attract an NFL team to Jacksonville. We were awarded that team in December ‘93. I wrote the press release. I was so young and naive, I didn't really appreciate the opportunity at the time. Great. And then fielded a team in ‘95, ‘6 and ‘7, and then I met my dream girl who's been my wife for 25 years, and I just wasn't going to give up my Sundays, which was necessary in that industry. So I just became a storyteller pretty quickly. Our story was about a community that loves football and an ownership group that was willing to make the investment along with the municipal leaders. And I've been telling stories it seems ever since.
Jason Mudd (05:27):
I was telling our mutual contact Karen Mathis just recently, that the day the Jaguars were announced awarded the franchise team. I was a high school student on a field trip at the Florida Times Union right up the road from where you office. We all remember where we were when that happened. I guess those of us that were living in Jacksonville at the time. And you, I've been married 25 years.
Dave Auchter (05:48):
Jason Mudd (05:49):
College sweetheart. Yeah, yeah. Well, Dave, let's get into it. I know the topic we were decided to talk about today is no tricks, just content. And you mentioned you're a storyteller. Tell me a little bit more about that, your thoughts on no tricks and just content.
Dave Auchter (06:04):
So I described a little bit about Haskell. So lots of markets, lots of services, lots of profiles to be had on projects, lots of subject matter expert profiles. We are typically the No. 1-ranked food and beverage engineer of manufacturing in the country. So we've got a real breadth of stories to tell. We just hadn't unlocked them. And so in 2016, the company leadership at the time made a concerted effort, a decision and a concerted effort to bolster their marketing ranks. They were still on some antiquated systems and asking people really not trained or conditioned to perform the marketing role. So I was hired to help the company grow, at least at the pace of our peers, if not more, because we hadn't by that time still a $600 million company, but really hadn't grown at the pace that we think we should have. So I came in and assessed what the opportunities were, and I'm going to back up before I talk content because really what we need at first is the right people, and these are marketers that have significant graphic design skills and experience and then production efficiency.
So over the last seven years, we've hired about 50 people that span business development and sales and marketing, and they often work very closely together. From my seat in over corporate marketing, I wanted to unlock those stories and use them in a way that would earn credibility with search engines and human beings. And so that's what we did. We started syndicating content in 2017, ‘18 to just confirm that we could post content five days a week at least. That was regurgitating old content. Then I hired an editor-in-chief. He's the former vice president of audience development for a large newspaper chain that had been sold recently, and a good friend. So we started generating content. There's some really talented people out there that for $250 or $300 can do an interview and spin up 400, 500 words that we can post on a daily basis, and that's very carefully curated. We then added this past year a technologist, I would call him an SEO expert, and he's our director of marketing operations, really helping us behind the visible assets by maximizing the technologies. We have a very robust technology stack. We're now monitoring and keeping robust analytics, and then we're in the process of bringing a video director in house who can enhance our content with video from all around our business.
Jason Mudd (08:46):
Wow. I know Preston Haskell, and he probably never envisioned having such an operation when he first started the company from a marketing standpoint.
Dave Auchter (08:55):
Well, Preston can run laps around me on just about any subject, and it's the greatest privilege of my professional career that I was able to work with all three presidents of this company. Preston is no longer in the building. He's retired before him. We had a a CEO who then became chairman of the board and then rolled off after a couple years. And then the current CEO is a Haskell lifer, started in the field and worked his way up through the ranks. He is a world-class leader, but also just a world-class human being, and that just makes coming to work and working hard to grow the enterprise that much better. So with those three people in the building and advising me and participating, we've tripled the size of the company in the last seven years, and that was the goal. Wow. Two billion. Wow. Two billion is kind of our benchmark. We feel like we can still serve our customers and serve our team members here at high school responsibly. We're about 2 billion in revenue.
Jason Mudd (09:56):
So was it really around 2017 that you prescribed content as the solution to get you growing at the rate that some of your peers were growing.
Dave Auchter (10:06):
But not just content. I talk about business development in three phases. We've enjoyed longstanding relationships. We typically say 70 to 80% of our customers are repeat customers, but as you can imagine, as we've grown, it's taken new customers to help with that growth. So we've been working for Frito-Lay for decades, but as the plant-based protein market has matured, we've been helping those companies launch their businesses and scaled their businesses. We call that farming, and somewhat crude term, and probably not as crude as hunting. The primary objectives of the BD folks is to reach out to new customers. And what I had determined in ‘16-‘17 is that we really hadn't mapped the addressable market. Went through a process of doing that and then identifying who we were working with, who we had worked with in the past, and then who we've just never even reached out to.
And so that mindset, when you go into the woods hunting, I'm not a hunter. I hunt at Publix or some other grocery store, right? But I've been in the woods, and when you go into the woods, you make sure you're downwind of the game, you're hunting and you have the right gun or the right ammunition, you're wearing the right clothes. My goal was just to get us prepared for what we wanted to do, and that was grow in respective markets. And then the last part is content. I've mentioned farming and hunting. This is self-selection. These are people that find us through good content, identify us as the authority, and just call us or email us, right? We have enjoyed about a 1300% increase in LinkedIn referrals as a result of us creating content, publishing it on haskell.com, pushing it through LinkedIn and other social channels. And we're starting to kind of monitor the phone and it rings, and that's a nice way to augment the efforts of our account managers and our business developers.
Jason Mudd (12:01):
Absolutely. Yeah. Dave. Hey, that's very helpful. We're going to take a quick break because we're at the midway point of our show, and then we'll be back with more with Dave Auchter on the other side.
Dave Auchter (12:11):
You are listening to On Top of PR with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted adviser to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.
Jason Mudd (12:35):
Hello and welcome back to On Top of PR. We're joined by Dave Auchter from Haskell. Dave, welcome back to the show. Really a good conversation thus far. And I wanted to ask you a couple follow-up questions based on what we've already been discussing. First of all, you mentioned earlier your technology stack. Walk us through kind of what that looks like and how it came together.
Dave Auchter (12:56):
I have to review the stack because as technology goes, we started out with maybe a dozen different platforms, but as we rebuilt the website and we optimized the website and changed up our posting and the tools we used to build content, we're very focused on experiential content because whether you immediately recognize it or not, your brain does. And so we've been doing a lot with animations. I don't have anybody on staff that does code, but there's some wonderful platforms out there that have pre-coded modules. Ceros comes to mind if your audience hasn't heard of Ceros, C-E-R-O-S. It's a really unique platform for creating experiential content. You just need to have people on the design side to populate it with art files. So we look for technology that makes us better, and in some case, it's free. Sometimes it's expensive. But by my count, we have over 20 different technologies, maybe 25 technologies that allow us to execute our website the way we want to. We have great security. We've got social channel management we've got tools for experiential content. We've got tools for monitoring and for gathering analytics and spitting out insights. When I say technology stacked, that's what we have going.
Jason Mudd (14:14):
Sure. Yeah. Good. All right. Well, thank you for sharing that. I know we want to talk about your three pillars of content, and I think we've talked around some of it. So why don't you outline your three pillars of content for us, Dave.
Dave Auchter (14:26):
When you're a 2 billion company and you're working across 25 offices, those offices have office leaders. Then the individual markets, which is not geographic markets, what I'm talking about is health care, federal food and beverage consumer products. There's leadership there. And then we have, like I mentioned, 13 subsidiaries in countries around the world. Taming the brand is a challenge. Content allows us to reinforce the brand. First and foremost, Haskell Big Blue has a very well regarded reputation in the industry and across industries. So branding is the first and frankly the easiest one. The second one is business development, attracting those self selectors through good, credible content, consistent content. And so first goal is to meet Google and Bing and other search engines where they want us in terms of the volume of the content, the uniqueness of the content, the interaction with the content. So we manage those metrics very carefully, but then the content itself needs to be compelling and result in somebody reaching out to us to help them with their projects. And then the last is talent acquisition. We can't grow if we can't find superintendents or we can't find project managers. And so a lot of our content, I'd say 20% of our content is tailored for attracting new high school team members. So those are the three goals of our content strategy.
Jason Mudd (15:55):
That's good. Years ago, or we started using kind of a mantra of “Optimize first for the human, and the search engine second,” and we've seen really good dividends on that as far as understanding that the search engines are getting better and better, and they're more focused on the human experience. So if you optimize for a human first, the search engines are going to ultimately reward that.
Dave Auchter (16:16):
I think that's a great point. Jason, I think can't emphasize that more. And that was the point of the title that we came up with this conversation is if you have stories to tell them authentically, tell them thoroughly, make sure that you're not just screaming in the forest. You need to make sure that you're syndicating them the right way and making them available in the right way. But we just committed ourselves to that a few years ago rather than trying to turn all the dials on the algorithm. And really what has allowed us to have triple digit growth year over year over year is we are true to ourselves. We're true to the stories that we're trying to tell, right? We're diverse in those stories. And then when it's appropriate, we refresh them. If there's been a major change in food sanitary design, we want to report on that because people are seeing us as the authority.
Jason Mudd (17:08):
You want to position yourselves as the thought leader. And the other thing that I really encourage companies to do, Dave, is to really think about creating audience-focused messages instead of company-focused messages. Focus the spotlight on your audience and helping them instead of with empathy messages that demonstrate that you care as opposed to just, “Hey, we're this-sized company, this many employees, this many divisions, this many offices.” Instead talk about, “Hey, we know it's hard to find a company you can trust to do these things. We'll help you in that journey, and that kind of thing.” So just shifting that focus onto them instead of onto the audience.
Dave Auchter (17:43):
Yeah, I mean, I couldn't agree more. What's interesting is we're not selling cell phones and we're not selling heart transplant devices. We're selling design services, engineering, architecture, and construction services. And the people that we work with, either that we're attracting as talent or that are working as facility directors in these facilities around the country, around the world, they worked hard to get an engineering degree. In many cases, they want to put that out there in the world. They put it on LinkedIn. We've got a very, very strong LinkedIn strategy for connecting with people. I'd suffered to sell cell phones because the market is so massive. The thing about our market is it's relatively bespoke and the people that lead on the client side are generally accessible. And the people who are joining companies like ours are typically working for peers who we respect a great deal, or for subcontractors or vendors. We feel that that small universe, even though it's a big universe, but in terms of how we reach out to our desired audience, it's actually pretty narrow and improving. Very accessible.
Jason Mudd (18:53):
I want to go back to something we've kind of been talking about. You've mentioned safety, you've mentioned talent. What's the role in your mind of corporate communications to create safer job sites?
Dave Auchter (19:05):
What we would tell you is that it's everybody's job to reinforce safety. So whenever you're on a job site, you should be safe in your own actions, seek out opportunities to make something safer. Safety drives our business. We often say that we're in the business of managing clients risk. Typically that's with large Capex spending and delivering projects that need to spit out the widgets on a very tight timeline. But a major part of that is helping them deliver these facilities safely. We're fortunate to be one of the leaders in the industry, incredibly talented safety group that oversees the program, but all of us are safety officers in some form or fashion. From a communication standpoint, I certainly support our internal messaging, internal training relative to safety. We do a big safety week campaign that's typical across the industry. And then I also serve as the PIO, public information officer, should there be some type of a significant event in our goals to have people back home the way they arrived at the office or the job site. But over the history of doing complex work that we've done, we've got a very robust crisis response plan that I'm part of. I get notifications throughout the day, usually three or four about incidents That could be somebody gets a laceration. I don't worry too much about those, but if it's an EMS event, I've got to look into it and see if we don't need to get somebody on site best represent the facts of what's going on.
Jason Mudd (20:36):
Right. Yeah, it's interesting, Dave. You're really in the business of creating safe products or safe facilities for your customers, and you're also responsible for making sure your employees are safe while they're doing that work
Dave Auchter (20:50):
Forever. You and I have been going to the grocery store and buying a carton of milk or some other food product, and if it's brand new, I generally don't even look at the date. I just crack it open and consume it. And we have no fear that it's going to be dangerous. You've heard the stories over the years kind of crisises and the yogurt industry comes to mind long before that. Some consumer products that have been tampered with certainly the fresh vegetable fruit market, we're in all those spaces, making sure that that stuff is fit for consumption.
Jason Mudd (21:24):
And Dave, then tell me about your thoughts on the role of corporate communications, public relations, marketing in attracting and recruiting talent and maybe even retaining talent.
Dave Auchter (21:36):
When I talk to employees, particularly young employees, I tell 'em about the mattress. If you're going to buy a mattress, buy a good mattress because you're going to be on that mattress for a 30 year life. I tell 'em the same thing with their work. You're going to spend more time in the office than you probably will with your significant other or your kids or whatever the case may be. And I think that we are authentic within our culture as we are in our external communications. We just want to do a good job, do it with people we trust and respect and serve the needs of our clients. So I probably split my time equally across internal comms and external comms, internal comms. As often in partnership with our LDE teams, we'd have extensive engagement initiatives that are going on all the time. Super talented team. I like to say that I'm in service to everybody inside the walls of HAS school, and I do have some unique initiatives that I own, but when you're in service to your teammates, that's a good culture and that's the way it is here.
Jason Mudd (22:42):
I want to just circle back on something you said earlier, Dave, I think is really important. You mentioned you started posting content five days a week, and I'm really glad you mentioned that because that's something I really try to hammer home to a lot of companies. For us and our company, we started blogging, and to me, blogging sounds boring, but when we started blogging around 2004 or ‘05, we doubled our website traffic and then we doubled the amount of blogging we were doing, Dave, we doubled our website traffic again, and then we doubled it. We doubled it again, doubled again, doubled again. And so I think that's kind of what your experience has been too. You know, start committing to producing good quality content regularly and consistently with the same kind of tone and the same branding and the same expectation, and then you get rewarded for it by the search engines and by your audience and their loyalty. Is that what your experience was too?
Dave Auchter (23:32):
So there's a compounding interest for sure, and I love
Jason Mudd (23:35):
Dave Auchter (23:36):
I just saw a disciplined way to do it, starting with syndication, then creating original content. Very common in companies, and it was the way it was when I joined high school. You'll have somebody sending an email out to a group of people saying, we need your content. Well, these people have a day job. And while they may be very skilled engineers, they may have gone towards engineering because they didn't enjoy writing. And so all we've done is unlocked their great stories by having qualified people on staff. Again, I mentioned the right people in the NFL, it was pretty common and probably still is. You got to have the right people in the right position with the right playbook, and you have to have all three of them because if you have somebody talented, but they're in the wrong job, you know how that ends up.
Or if you have talented people and they don't really know what the playbook is, that can cause problems too. Yeah, we feel like we've got the talent to syndicate. We've got the talent to create. And by the way, the market for creating talent is very ripe with incredibly talented people, journalists who've been displaced because of the changing climate and media, really good storytellers. And then we are turning the dials. Now that we have that system in place, we are turning the technical dials so we can performance-manage in a way that you just can't if you're only posting a couple things a week and mm-hmm. Right, you're asking an admin to write something or asking somebody that's not skilled, a skilled journalist or storyteller. You've got to dedicate the resources and I bet on those resources maturing into an important part of our business. And that's in fact what's happened.
Jason Mudd (25:18):
Yeah, love that. I love that. I also love what you said, write people, write position, write playbook. I may borrow that. That's, that's good. Dave, so we're wrapping up here. How might our audience who has enjoyed hearing from you today, how might they best get connected with you or follow you on social media? Or what would be your preferred way for them to connect with you, Dave?
Dave Auchter (25:35):
Yeah, I don't really put myself out there as a thought leader going to, I leave that to other people. I certainly have my own thoughts and I really enjoy the engagement with peers, and that's one-on-one engagement. Anybody can reach out to me and test me on some of my assumptions or bounce ideas off me. LinkedIn is the best way to do it, just because it's a good opportunity to kind of look at my background before you ask me questions. And maybe the same for me once I get contacted and reach back out. I enjoy what I do. I love my job. I, I've always loved the design and construction universe. Like I said, my degree is in literature. I love communicating and I work for a company that's worthy of that. So generally I, I'm accessible most of the time.
Jason Mudd (26:21):
Excellent. Well, Dave, you've been a great guest. I appreciate your willingness to come on. And with that, I want to thank our audience for tuning in as well. And as always our role here is to help you stay On Top of PR. And if you learned something today and you benefited from this conversation with Dave, would you please take a moment and share this episode with a colleague or friend who you think would benefit from it? And with that, it's been my pleasure helping you stay On Top of PR. Thank you for your loyalty to our show. And as always, if you ever have a suggestion, please let us know. With that, this is Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations, thanking Dave and Haskell for participating in today's program and we wish you well. Thank you.
Dave Auchter (27:00):
Thank you so much, Jason.
This has been On Top of PR with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode, and check out past shows at ontopofpr.com.
- On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
- On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.
About your host Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.
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