How the Harvard Business Review Has Built a Content Brand

harvard business review

Today brands of all shapes and sizes are creating content. However, there are also brands known exclusively for the content they create. Such is the case of the Harvard Business Review, the separate publication arm of the Harvard Business School. How does a brand that’s over 90 years old and an extension of another brand that’s centuries old continue to innovate and evolve? I asked that very question and a few more to HBR Senior Editor Sarah Green Carmichael.

About Sarah Green Carmichael

Sarah Green Carmichael is a Senior Editor at Harvard Business Review. She also hosts their podcast, the HBR IdeaCast, which has been nominated for two National Magazine Awards under her tenure. Connect with her on Twitter: @skgreen.

Episode Highlights

Harvard the Friendly Octopus. In unpacking the Harvard brand with Sarah, I referred to it as having many tentacles but thought that sounded menacing. Sarah suggested a friendly octopus. I think a new spokes-character has been born.

Emotional ties to content brands. “Harvard is a tremendous brand,” noted Sarah. However, sometimes content brands like Harvard Business Review and The New York Times can get pulled — both positively and negatively — into the cultural zeitgeist.

How does the Harvard brand continue to evolve? “This is where being a part of the University helps. There’s a mandate to continue to innovate and he evolve.” Over the past 10 years, the HBR brand has grown from a traditional text-heavy print publication to a visually rich and diverse multimedia experience including the podcast Sarah hosts.

What lessons can content marketers learn from this venerable publication? After we both agreed that ‘content’ itself is something of a sterile term, Sarah shared a revealing insight on why many content marketers struggle. “Marketers at many organizations don’t have the independence to make great content.” The freedom to fail, the freedom to abandon a story if it’s not working out, and the freedom from confining corporate style and initiatives. How can you find more independence around the content you create?

What brand has made Sarah smile recently? In preparation for an upcoming trip to New York, Sarah had to say Amtrak as it offers a beautiful way to make the journey.

To learn more about Sarah and what she does, go to

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently past guest and HBR contributor Heidi Grant Halvorson gave me a shout on Twitter about my upcoming book Get Scrappy. Thanks Heidi!

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