The Content Strategist

Contently Case Story: How Storytelling Is Helping Chase Build Its Brand

Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.

If you go to the Chase.com homepage, you’ll find something that’s unique in the finance industry: a company website that puts investigative, multimedia stories prominently next to customers’ banking and servicing. Under the banner of “News & Stories,” you’ll find everything from an in-depth profile of LeBron James’s mentorship programs, to a series from business owners called “What I Wish I Knew,” to a masterful five-part series on the revitalization of Brownsville, New York. It’s not necessarily what you’d expect from a bank that serves 50 percent of U.S. households, but it’s also telling. America’s largest financial institution has now become one of its most ambitious brand newsrooms.

Chase’s foray into content reflects the evolution of its brand. “We aim to deepen our relationships with customers into lifelong relationships. We want our customers to know that we are here to create content that can help manage their lives,” said Susan Canavari, Chief Brand Officer at JPMorgan Chase.

A content strategy two years in the making

Chase’s evolution into a storytelling-driven brand did not happen overnight. It takes a lot of work to build a successful newsroom inside a company as large and storied as Chase. From the start, Chase was driven by a belief that “content humanizes financial brands and builds relatability,” said Stacey Warwick, Head of Brand Innovation at JPMorgan Chase. “It’s important to provide [consumers] with content when they need it—[content] that impacts them at every point in their lives.”

Beginning in 2013, Warwick and Brian Becker, Head of Content for the Chase newsroom, strategically rallied internal support for the company’s newsroom. The duo took a three-pronged approach. First, they established a system of governance and standards; then they developed relationships with creators; finally they created an editorial board chaired by the CMO and attended by a broad set of senior-level employees.

“We had to set up our infrastructure and then show the organization how it could work,” Becker said. “We needed to prove that content can improve marketing’s effectiveness. We also built standards, governance, and communication that reinforced that we would be responsible and thorough.”

This structure allowed Chase’s content operation to grow quickly. So did the success of the content. “News & Stories” launched as a platform to provide customers with high-quality financial tools and advice, often from internal thought leaders. The impact was immediately clear: Users who consumed content spent three times as long on the site and were applying for Chase products at a higher rate. Content was helping Chase build stronger relationships with its customers and connect with new audiences.

That helped the Chase newsroom make a case for getting even more ambitious with its content, partnering with Contently and other creators to produce inspiring pieces of multimedia storytelling that tie back to the products and services Chase offers its customers. “Partners such as Contently helped as we built more structure in our organization around the newsroom and provide access to talent across different locations and topic areas,” Becker said.

Particularly impressive was “Brownsville,” a five-part series highlighting the leaders working to revitalize the Brooklyn neighborhood. Through investigative reporting and accompanying video interviews, Chase revealed how Brownsville residents are coming together to build a stronger community. The stories highlight important programs like Quardean Lewis-Allen’s Made in Brownsville, an organization that employs at-risk youth in the fields of technology, design, and advertising.

The fascinating story is a sign of what’s to come for the Chase newsroom.

“That really reflects where we’re trying to go, which is a lot more content that’s episodic, tied together visually, and increasingly aligns to our products and services. Additionally, this reinforces the commitment we have to the local communities we operate in,” Becker said of “Brownsville.”

It’s also a reflection of Chase’s unique approach to content. In addition to providing customers with crucial financial advice and small-business tips and stories, Chase also aspires to broaden its reach by telling stories that get to the heart of what’s important to the communities it supports. Ultimately, Chase’s ability to reach a large number of people with its content might be the most impressive thing of all.

A sophisticated distribution strategy

The addition of “News & Stories” to the Chase homepage in late July was a big deal, introducing the 35+ million people who visit Chase.com each month to the company’s impressive storytelling. But when it comes to content distribution, the newsroom didn’t stop there. First, it was able to pull off an impressive feat by meeting the notoriously tough standards to be accepted into Google News. The company has already seen a tremendous growth in organic traffic as a result.

The company recently partnered with theSkimm, a daily email newsletter for millennials, which regularly sends articles from “News & Stories” to its subscribers.

“It’s been a tremendous win,” Warwick said of the partnership. “Readers who viewed us on their emails felt more favorable towards our brand, and theSkimm’s target audience is getting financial information they need.”

Chase also leverages it sponsorships through partners like Madison Square Garden and the US Open to create timely and engaging stories tied to major sporting events. For instance, when the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning faced off in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals this year, Chase interviewed spectators and former players to tell the story behind the game. And when Serena Williams made her run to win the 2014 US Open, Chase provided a behind-the-scenes story that reinforced its commitment as a sponsor.

Naturally, all this relevant content has proven to be powerful ammunition for Chase’s social channels. “Good, relevant content is inherently shareable, so we are very focused on using our content as a source for social channels and search,” Becker said.

Measuring success and moving forward

Chase is deeply committed and disciplined when it comes to measuring the success of its content, measuring views, shares, time spent on site, and lead generation for each piece, among other metrics.

“Most of the feedback we’ve received from customers is positive,” Canavari said. “I think a lot of them are surprised. We feel much more authentic, and we’re trying to be much more helpful in the environment we operate in. It’s always something we intend to do, but I think we’re really showing it better through the content we’re creating.”

Chase plans to keep growing its newsroom in order to build stronger relationships with its customers.

“We need to continue to find surprising and unexpected points of contact in our customers’ lives where we can communicate and relate to them,” Canavari said.

Appropriately, this plan fits Becker’s advice for big brands looking to jump into content: Step up to the plate and be brave. “Be an evangelist at your company and strive to make things better,” he said. “Establish risk and controls early on, and train the organization from being challengers to supporters until this becomes business as usual.”