Our very own Carlota Pico recently sat down (virtually, of course!) with Shaheen Samavati, founder of The Content Mix and co-founder of VeraContent, to kick off a new interview series highlighting content and marketing professionals in Europe. Carlota and Shaheen discussed their current roles and future goals, and explained what they hope to accomplish with this new project.

You can watch the full conversation in the video above or on YouTube, listen to the podcast on Apple and Spotify, and read our recap below.

Also make sure to subscribe to The Content Mix podcast!

Carlota Pico: Shaheen, we’re launching a series of interviews that we hope will create a community for communication and marketing professionals to engage in. Could you explain this initiative and give us some background on The Content Mix, VeraContent, and how they’re related?

Shaheen Samavati: Thanks, Carlota—I’m excited to be the first interview in this series! So, a bit about me: I’m CEO of VeraContent, a multilingual content agency. We help brands to localize their content marketing efforts and communication materials for different markets around the world.

At Vera, we’ve always been really big on community. I think we owe a lot of our success to our involvement in the international community, which has made us more visible. And we wanted to do something for the content marketing community that we’re a part of. That’s why we launched The Content Mix toward the end of last year.

From the beginning, our vision for it was to get real insights from people working in the field, and to create more of a connection between people in different markets in Europe. I think there’s a lot to learn from people’s experiences in these markets; to compare and contrast, to see what works in some and how it might work in others.

That’s why we started this initiative: to help marketers learn from one another and discover best practices, and to really create a community around content and communications. I’m from the U.S., and I felt there were more resources for marketers there. I wanted to do the same thing here in Europe, where I’ve been living for the past 10 years. 

Carlota, maybe you could also share a bit about your background, and what your role is going to be in The Content Mix.

We started this initiative to help marketers learn from one another, discover best practices, and create a community around content and communications.

Shaheen Samavati, VeraContent CEO & The Content Mix Founder

CP: Definitely! I’m so excited to be part of this initiative. I’m also a journalist, and I’ve been doing interviews for the past 10 years. I’ve interviewed state leaders, ministers and CEOs of some of the biggest companies worldwide. I also used to help different brands with their promotion in global markets. 

At VeraContent, I work in the business development and marketing team, where I have the awesome opportunity to help brands tell their stories to international audiences. I love it, I love our team, and I especially love our culture, and the sense of community that we’re always trying to transmit to our clients and our network.

Shaheen, can you tell us a little bit about your experience? Of all the different paths you could have gone down, why did you get involved in the marketing and communications world? Why is it so relevant?

SS: Good question! My path started in journalism, and then I kind of combined my passions. I got into journalism when I was in the U.S. It’s a long story, but I learned so much in terms of journalistic principles, and a lot of important skills for interviewing, gathering information and putting it out there. I came to Spain to do an MBA, and after that I started working in communications. I think this is the natural next step for a lot of journalists.

As you know, the journalism industry has drastically transformed since I started out in it. I think a lot of the outlets for creativity, and for putting out excellent storytelling, are now through brands. More and more brands are creating high-quality publications. Our goal at VeraContent is to get involved in those kinds of projects, and to help those brands spread their stories into other markets.

CP: Absolutely. I think it’s so important for every brand to have the opportunity to communicate their story and promote their interests worldwide. Can you tell me about the markets that VeraContent operates in?

SS: We focus on seven key European markets: the U.K., Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. These are some of the biggest economies in Europe, and where we’ve seen the most demand. Of course, we develop long-term relationships with our clients, so if they want to enter into another market, we build the team to do that as well.

We’re based in Madrid, but we have a very strong network of collaborators across the world. We’re really big on working with people who are located in the markets where the brands that work with us want to be.

CP: How exactly do we focus on those markets and adapt content to them?

SS: Culture is a huge part of it, which is why we count on people who really understand the context of each market. When it comes to managing blogs and social media pages and engaging with people, it’s super important that the community manager or linguist is up to date on what’s happening in their market. It’s not just a matter of speaking the language, but really knowing what’s going on, and being able to adapt to the nuances of the culture.

CP: What are your marketing goals for 2020?

SS: Our main goal is to continue to help our clients reach their own marketing goals. Obviously 2020 is a very unique year, and the current global crisis has changed some things. At Vera we had very ambitious growth plans, and we still do, but starting out the year there was a totally different paradigm. Actually, one of the things we’d like to do with these interviews is to learn how other people are dealing with this crisis.

Luckily, most of our clients at Vera are committed to content and social media as a long-term strategy, and as a way to build relationships with their audiences. And we’re able to work remotely, so our whole team is at home right now. We plan to keep getting the word out about what we do, and practicing what we preach in terms of content marketing. Really beefing up our own content channels is a big priority for 2020.

CP: The pandemic is definitely the biggest challenge the world is facing right now. In addition to that, what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities of working in Europe?

SS: Well, speaking of the pandemic, I think it does open up some opportunities, but it’s also a huge challenge. Obviously, tons of our clients and businesses around the world are being severely impacted, and it’s a difficult selling environment right now. Europe is one of the markets most impacted by the coronavirus.

Generally speaking, it’s a very fragmented and diverse market, and you can’t use the same strategy in different countries—you have to adapt your campaigns. We don’t just translate; we also create brand new content for each market, tailoring it to the specific messages that the brand wants to get across there. That’s no easy task, even in one language, so this is an ongoing challenge that we try to help solve for our clients. 

CP: Could you explain the services that we offer to clients, and which ones are the most in demand?

SS: We offer all kinds of content creation and adaptation into other languages. With some of our clients we’re on call for any content needs that arise, whether they want to revise an entire website, release an ebook, or whatever it may be. We also have ongoing collaborations that involve content creation for blogs and social media management. For example, for some clients we develop daily posts and interact directly with the audiences in each market.

CP: Now let’s move on to The Content Mix. Vera is also home to two other initiatives, Naked Madrid and SpainGuru, which have a lot of user engagement. Why did you choose to launch another one, and what’s The Content Mix all about?

SS: Those first two initiatives happened kind of organically, stemming from our involvement in the international community here in Spain. They were passion projects. As content creators, we have the urge to create, and our team—which includes a lot of international people—has been contributing to those publications. But they’re not really related to our day-to-day at Vera.

We saw that we had a high level of engagement on our existing platforms, and thought, “Why not do something for the community we actually work with?” So we launched The Content Mix to create a resource for sharing best practices and authentic insights from people in our industry.

That’s why these interviews are so important. We’re going to speak with people working in content management, marketing, communications and social media roles. We want to share what’s working for them, what resources they turn to and what tools they use. The goal is to help other members of this network to be the best they can be, to excel in their roles and advance in their careers.

Our goal is to help other members be the best they can be, to excel in their roles and advance in their careers.

Shaheen Samavati, VeraContent CEO & The Content Mix Founder

CP: It sounds like a great way to stay on top of how other people in the industry are moving forward—especially during the uncertain times that lay ahead of us. On that note, I’d like to ask you some questions that might be of interest to other marketing and communications professionals. What’s a lesser-known app or tool that you can’t live without?

SS: I use so many different tools, and a lot of them are pretty well known. But I use Todoist for keeping track of task management. It’s very intuitive and easy to use, and you can update it from any device.

CP: Who is a marketing influencer in Europe that you really admire, and why?

SS: I really appreciate Daniel Priestley, a master marketer from the U.K. He’s also an entrepreneur, and as an entrepreneur myself, I really like that perspective. I love his writing style; he gets to the point and gives you very specific frameworks to implement. He’s known for his book “Key Person of Influence,” but I also really like “Oversubscribed,” and he’s got others. Definitely worth checking out.

CP: Now more than ever, time is money, and unfortunately we don’t have time to go to every industry event in the world. If you had to choose just one event, which one would it be, and why?

SS: There are a lot of really great events, but what comes to mind is CMX Connect. It’s a global network that holds small, regional events for community builders across Europe. The ones in Madrid are really well run and practical, and they touch on a lot of interesting topics. I think community and content go hand in hand, so community building is vital.

CP: Exactly. Whether it’s a big event or a small event, it’s all about the power of the connections being made. Finally, what’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring communications and marketing professionals?

SS: Always ask for help, and learn as much as you can from others—don’t reinvent the wheel. There’s so much great information out there, in terms of how you can perform better or achieve your goals. Reach out to people and tell them what you need. And of course, follow The Content Mix, where we’re going to be posting a lot of that kind of advice.

CP: True! Thank you so much, Shaheen. It’s a privilege to work for such an inspiring female leader. I can’t wait to interview more marketing and communication professionals, to learn from them and to grow our community. Make sure you follow us for more tips—there’s plenty more to come!

Connect with Shaheen and Carlota on LinkedIn, and learn more about VeraContent.

This post was edited by Melissa Haun, a freelance content creator based in Lisbon.

Check out all our podcast episodes to learn from content marketers across Europe.