Compelling content for Ignite: Creating stories Microsoft execs want to share

When Microsoft’s top executive gave his keynote address at the most recent Microsoft Ignite conference, nearly a quarter of all the customer stories he presented were produced by Yesler. Our teams of account managers, customer advocacy experts, project managers, writers, and video producers worked closely with Microsoft clients for months before Ignite to tee up compelling stories for Microsoft executives who would be key speakers. We supported our clients to help make the case studies in their product groups stand out so executives would share them to the enormous conference audience—and they did.

Background

Yesler has created high-quality Microsoft case study content, including customer stories and videos, for a decade. In that time, Microsoft conferences have grown, and presenters need compelling stories, featuring customers identified as heroes, to share at events.

Microsoft Ignite is an annual conference for developers and IT professionals that includes presentations, whiteboard sessions, and hands-on labs. Ignite draws an audience of 23,000 in-person attendees and 7,000 online attendees who want to see the latest Microsoft innovations and customer successes. We knew that Ignite was an important opportunity for our Microsoft clients to showcase their product groups, boost customer visibility, and show the customer advocacy work they’re driving—and we wanted to help them achieve those goals.

Our Yesler team worked hard to make key stories contenders for Ignite across a variety of product groups, including Cloud Marketing, Microsoft 365, Azure Data and AI, and Azure Security and Management. We hoped to help our clients gain a wider reach for the outstanding work they are doing, while also providing a positive evidence experience for the Microsoft customers we write about. We worked closely with all our clients, from developing new programs to expanding existing ones, with the aim of producing content Microsoft executives would want to use in their keynote speeches.

“It has been a productive first year. ... Now with our own program we are working on building a richer library of case studies, testimonials, and videos, and we’ll continue to add to that in the next fiscal year.”

Beatrice Tam

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Azure Security, Microsoft

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Strategy

We had November’s Ignite event on our radar starting in mid-2019. Each Yesler team took a slightly different approach depending on what worked for the needs of their client, but we all embraced key overarching strategies:

Tailor the storytelling as needed. While we typically produce a two-page story for each customer, that doesn’t necessarily make sense for every situation. For smaller customers or quick mentions, we created quote slides with logos, delivering bite-sized content quickly, not needing the time and resources required for a full-scale story. For a few large customers with a complex journey, we suggested a “chaptered” approach, and interviewed employees across an organization to feature multiple voices telling different aspects of the story.

Truly consider the customers. For enterprise customers, we took the time to meet with their internal communications department to understand their messaging and goals. We wanted to ensure a true partnership that produced valuable assets for them without asking too much of their busy schedules.

Be intentional with planning—but flex to any timeline. Well in advance of the conference, we proactively started conversations about how many stories were needed. Program and project managers met with the heads of our internal customer advocacy and creative teams to nail down a master list of stories so we could scale accordingly. We were also flexible, accommodating tighter timelines and adjusting as needed.

Make it a team effort. We worked together closely as cross-functional teams of writers, video producers, project managers, and editors. We used an internal matrix to show who supports which client so we could coordinate stories as needed and collaborate on details. As a result, we had valuable insights into stories across product groups, and could share pertinent information with our clients who might not have visibility otherwise.

How we did it

Customer Advocacy

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Research & Strategy

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Creative & Content Development

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Social Media

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Solution

By October, Yesler had dozens of stories in progress slated to be published in alignment with the Ignite event. There were a few in particular that became contenders for Ignite showcasing.

One was TruGreen, a Cloud Marketing Biz Apps story. We took a fresh angle by highlighting the CIO’s experience working in partnership with Microsoft from the very beginning to co-develop a solution.

We produced two video case studies for Azure Security and Management, sending our crews to Texas to film RapidDeploy and Switzerland for Balzano. We enjoyed working on these videos with the customers, and they had a great experience, too. “We wouldn’t have expected our values and ideas to be communicated in such an accurate and impactful way as the Yesler team did with our video and case study,” says René Balzano, CEO of Balzano.

The Azure Security and Management team is newer and typically produced 4 to 6 case studies, but working with Yesler that number jumped to more than a dozen. Beatrice Tam, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Azure Security at Microsoft, says “It has been a productive first year. We started our own evidence program last year as we used to have very few case studies dedicated to our Azure Security products, Azure Governance products, and Azure Monitor. Now with our own program we are working on building a richer library of case studies, testimonials, and videos, and we’ll continue to add to that in the next fiscal year.”

The Microsoft 365 team had worked with St. Luke’s Hospital earlier in the year to write a leadership blog. With that relationship already in place, it was a smooth pivot to develop multiple, chaptered case studies. We interviewed around 20 employees and wrote an overarching digital transformation story, a security-focused story, and a nurse-focused story about collaboration and patient care.

Derek Britz, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft 365, says, “The support that we got for Ignite and all through the year was phenomenal. The project team did an amazing job driving very high-quality written evidence and supporting us in our video work. It showed tremendously well over the entire year, both for me personally as a contributor and an full-time employee, as well as a reflection on the entire Microsoft 365 team.”

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“The support that we got for Ignite and all through the year was phenomenal. The program management team did an amazing job driving very high-quality written evidence and supporting us in our video work.”

Derek Britz

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Microsoft 365, Microsoft

Results

By the week of Ignite, we’d produced 74 assets in total, and executives mentioned 9 Yesler stories onstage. Of those, Microsoft’s top executive highlighted 6 of our stories, which accounted for 22% of all the customer success stories he presented in his keynote. Of the Security keynotes, 100% of the stories referenced were produced by Yesler.

For the Cloud Marketing group, Charles Lamanna, CVP of Power Platform, demonstrated TruGreen’s Power Virtual Agents during a breakout session. Then, the top executive cut to a video of Lamanna doing the demo during his own Vision Keynote. In addition, the published case study on Microsoft Customer Stories site performed in the top 5% of best-performing stories.

The top executive played the RapidDeploy video during his keynote address, much to the delight of RapidDeploy and our client. “One of the highlights at Ignite Orlando in 2019 was the integration of our customer story on RapidDeploy and their adoption of Azure Sentinel,” says Tam. “We’re proud to have the RapidDeploy story highlighted in the Vision Keynote at Ignite. I really appreciate the support from my Yesler evidence team on the production to help make this a great story to showcase.”

Microsoft’s top executive also showcased the Microsoft 365 story about St. Luke’s, which boosted the hospital’s visibility as a healthcare innovator and helped further its opportunities in other industry-specific events. For example, St. Luke’s became a speaker for HIMSS, an important annual healthcare conference. The hospital gained further exposure as one of four “featured” stories on Microsoft Customer Stories site.

And at Yesler, we’re proud to help our clients produce outstanding stories, share the success of Microsoft customers, and continue to create exciting stories in the future.

“We’re proud to have the RapidDeploy story highlighted in the Vision Keynote at Ignite Orlando in 2019. I really appreciate the support from my Yesler evidence team on the production to help make this a great story to showcase.”

Beatrice Tam

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Azure Security, Microsoft

22%

of top executive’s keynote stories by Yesler

100%

of Security keynote stories at event by Yesler

74

Assets produced for the event by Yesler

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