Last week, Martin wrote about how necessary content could make it simpler for B2B media firms to carve out a significant piece of the digital landscape for themselves.
The problem for a lot of content businesses, particularly consumer-facing ones, is that despite the merits of what they produce, it’s not essential for their readers.
The long-term viability of digital publications that rely on scaling audience has been called into question in the last few months. Digital advertising has continued to grow, but increasingly the idea of a business model focused on generating a massive readership or viewership is becoming outmoded by the fluctuating demands of advertisers.
There’s also a prevailing feeling in the media industry that there’s too much content chasing too little advertising cash. This doesn’t necessarily mean that cutting back on both content and audience size will be beneficial, just that a new way looking at the quality of content and its ‘appropriateness’ to the audience is taking hold.
With this new approach come a requirement for new skills, and increasingly digital media businesses are looking to hire heads of Audience Development to their senior management teams.
In 2013, communications strategist Zan McCulloch-Lussier wrote about the overwhelming torrent of content that consumers face.
In the article for charity leaders, published in NTEN Change, he wrote: “48 hours of new video on YouTube. 684,000 pieces of content shared on Facebook. 100,000 tweets. This is just a sample of what happens every minute of every day on social media. Overwhelmed yet? The people you’re trying to talk to certainly are.”
Stats vary: but the challenge for brands to be heard amidst such noise is immense. McColloch-Lussier argues the only way forward is to curate content – on behalf of the audience – so you are seen as a trusted source of information. There is, in his view, no point in shouting louder. The only way to be heard is to become so trusted that your voice can be heard in a whisper.
Well, love them or hate them, they are all titles that have bucked the wider media trend and maintained strong brands and readerships over the last few years. They have become trusted voices by delivering appropriate content in the way their audience demands – across print, digital, social and video media.
So what can content marketers learn from their success?
It’s all too easy nowadays for marketing messages to be avoided. In such a super-saturated time it seems obvious to say this but, nevertheless, it’s true. Print advertising is growing less effective; ad-blocking software fights against pop-ups and intrusive Google Ads; and YouTube has provided us all with the ultimate get out – the ‘skip ad’ button.
With so many firms throwing digital campaigns in our direction, it’s a wonder any break through and connect with individuals. It’s almost like we need a guide on social media to sift the rubbish on our behalf, tell us what’s stylish, and what to buy. Well, welcome to Influencer Marketing and its cabal of hip, young things waiting to fill us all in on what’s made the cool list.
With so many interested parties involved in the conversation over content marketing, it’s understandable how criticisms – and occasional notes about its limitations – can sometimes get swept under the carpet.
So it’s refreshing to see, in recent days, two well-meaning – if not entirely earth-shattering – counter punches.
Data, data, data… it’s everywhere. Regardless of whether your role is commercial or creative, a good understanding of the uses of data is evermore important if you want to progress.
As an executive search firm used to hiring content teams and senior digital heads, we work closely with client organisations to source the best possible candidates – and questions about their knowledge and experience of working with data are asked increasingly.
One of the growing requirements for content specialists, we have found, is knowing what data to gather, analyse, and how to use that to personalise, and successfully shape on-going content programmes, build a loyal following, and convert into leads, and eventually customers.
Now, content managers don’t have to be data specialists, but a bit of knowledge can be very useful.
So when recruiting content managers, a hiring firm might be tempted to look for candidates with a good understanding of how to use data constructively and in a way that is timely, cost-effective, and entirely practical for their business.
Content marketing. It’s come to save us all, hasn’t it? With consumers looking around every available social network for information and entertainment, all brands have to do is provide satisfying content and in return people will be only to pleased to fill their coffers. Right?
Well, stone me. It’s a little bit more complicated than that. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, brands are either having difficulty (or simply not bothering to…) to measure the value of their work.
Just 21 per cent of B2B marketers claimed they were successfully tracking the ROI of their content marketing campaigns.
If you’re a upstart brand looking to carve a sizeable place in your market and grow quickly, then a little controversy never really hurts. The theory goes that nothing stretches the money you have available for publicity like running edgy campaigns that risk censure.
Step forward online bookmaker Paddy Power and its roster of ads featuring the tranquillizing of chavs, tasering tea ladies, and refund offers if Oscar Pistorious was found not guilty – an ad eventually banned by the authorities.
Paddy Power has deliberately set out to drive business forward with an edgy and irreverent content marketing strategy that appeals to its target audience of young men, but the online bookmaker’s approach isn’t simply a matter of producing shocking ads time and time again, it’s more nuanced.
None of us needs a technology worthy or a digital consultant on £100 an hour to understand the importance of mobile devices. Cast a glance down any high street and you’ll soon get an idea for how inseparable we all are from our phones. Even Google tells us now that more searches are made via mobile or tablet device than via desktop.
Why then have so many businesses failed to create dedicated mobile sites or build specialist optimisation into their existing digital platforms? Do they think – unlike them – everyone else is happy to endlessly scroll, searching for a button or link that’s impossible to press?
Well, not so Domino’s Pizza. A couple of years ago the fast food chain took the decision to use mobile – on its own terms – as the venue to drive for competitive advantage.
Nick Dutch, head of digital at Domino’s UK, told the Smart Insight’s Digital Impact conference, in London earlier this week, how his firm had adopted a mobile-first strategy and sought to grow sales by focusing on this channel.
For business publishers webinars can be a dream. They offer a satisfying mixture of editorial heft and readership engagement – and let’s not forget the sponsorship revenue they bring in.
But let’s put aside those benefit for a second and focus on the sponsors. What’s in it for them?
If a brand can find the right publishing partner, one that allows it to position itself as a trusted and authoritative voice to an audience of prospective customers, the potential to enhance its Thought Leadership credentials can be great.
Let’s face it, Thought Leadership is an awful term, but if you can show expertise and position yourself ahead of the competition without resorting to squirm-inducing cliché, then you’re on to something. There’s also the (not so) small matter of considerable lead generation from a new and previously untapped database of interested individuals.
Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the last few weeks, it would be hard to avoid knowing the 2014 World Cup kicks off tonight in Brazil.
As with many other large sporting events, the build-up to the tournament has been littered with stories about institutional corruption, levels of preparedness, and disquiet in the host country about about staging the event. Yet, if the Brazilian World Cup follows the traditional pattern, all this noise should fade away once the football begins and fans will get down to the serious business of shouting at their televisions as they watch men run about in the searing heat.
Imagine running a business where behind the scenes there wasn’t just lots of dull clerical work, but a ton of switched-on, enthusiastic people experimenting at the cutting edge of technology to push your organisation forward.
Wouldn’t that be great? Isn’t that probably something you’d like to tell your customers about?
Previously, we have asked what makes good brand publishing and looked at best practice in financial services – a sector notorious for its heavy regulation and conservative approach to storytelling – but when looking for brands that are really good at developing innovative ways to talk about what they do well, technology companies are a great place to start.
Social media may have brought a wholly new way for brands to engage with consumers – but in an digital environment where attention spans are short and content is abundant, how do you stand out and make an instant connection?
Shira Feuer, head of social media EMEA for The Walt Disney Company, told The Economist’s Big Rethink conference the proposition was simple – to get attention, brands need to create something that is of value to the consumer.
But how does a brand define what is valuable? How does it know what consumers want to connect with across social media?
The traditional ‘funnel’ model used by marketers to map how consumers move from being interested in a product through to purchase is broken and a new set of factors has been brought into play by the rise of social media, according to a leading media consultant.
Bjorn Timelin, a partner with McKinsey & Company, told The Big Rethink conference last week that despite the ‘consumer decision journey’ being nothing like it was ten years ago, many companies still use the funnel model to plan their marketing campaigns.
For brands that want to prolong their relationship with customers, he said, it was essential to understand how technology had changed purchasing journeys and adapt accordingly. It is no longer a linear process, he said, but a circular one. The old model of customers moving neatly through the funnel from the ‘marketing’ phase to ‘store purchase’ was gone – as was the old idea that ‘advocacy’ came after a purchase.
Libor, PPI, and high-profile stories about boardroom incompetence have done little to end the public beating dished out to the finance industry during the economic crisis. If that wasn’t bad enough, the sector’s pedestrian approach to content marketing seems to have done little to help win back old sympathies or convince new customers of its trustworthiness or expertise.
In part, the problem is one of justified anxiety. Perfectly reasonable fears about breaching regulations and falling foul of one penalty or another have fed a culture of risk-averse marketing in the financial sector. Consequently, everything has a beige hue and fails to light the imagination.
With its traditional conservatism and complex regulations, the financial services industry doesn’t immediately strike you as a sector ready to embrace the brave new world of content marketing, but scratch the surface and what emerges is a set of compelling reasons why it should.
Unlike consumer disposables, buying a mortgage or a pension product is a significant purchase. When faced with such a big decision, potential customers tread carefully and have important questions. Digital technology has enabled them to seek out answers like never before, meaning firms that can engage individuals with high-quality content have the potential to build lasting relationships. But how do they go about doing that?
When you click to a web page how often do you notice the adverts that surrounds the content you’re interested in? One in ten? One in 20 times?
It may be a crude approach but banner advertising is the established – if unspectacular – way publishers generate the bulk of their online revenue.
But as mobile usage increases publishers have found it hard to innovate the humble banner ad and link valuable click-through info to customers; couple that with increasing consumer ‘blindness’ to banners and you have a system in need of overhaul.
In a short space of time almost all discussions on business communication have become discussions about content marketing – but unlike previous hot topics, this isn’t just a passing fad.
An interesting evening at the Medical Society of London, where the Guild of Health Writers was holding an event on how to ‘Broaden Your Horizons’ as a journalist in the sector. What was compelling, for me, was that the challenges faced by journalists in this most specialist of areas are reflected right across the media world: a decline in print journalism, the rise of content marketing, and the need to adapt to the changing world.
Three of the panellists are living proof of how you can change mid-career: Simon Warne, now the Media & Marketing Director of Creston Health; John Isitt, the founder of Resonant Media; and Maureen Rice, Editorial Director of Cedar Communications.
At this week’s Retail Week Conference, Kingfisher chief executive Ian Cheshire told delegates that they need to improve innovation in order to remain competitive and that retailers will need to recruit people with a “real point of difference and who understand brands” because it is a different skill to those who trade the business.
As well as recruiting for technologists who can lead innovation recruiting into media executive jobs is vital. Retailers should carefully consider
In an article called Social media is still minefield for brands, Gideon Spanier, the paper’s media commentator, writes:
There is no doubt that brands must embrace social media. Tomorrow,
I wrote a marketing letter today. Not surprising, I grant you. Except that I mentioned – without irony – that non-media brands require “media skills” to create trust. Given the current crises in the media sector, this may have seemed chutzpah of the highest order.
The Leveson enquiry, and all that it encompasses, shows that (in the UK, at least) trust in traditional media is collapsing. The newspaper watchdog, the PCC, has failed. The industry has been accused
This article first appeared in Press Gazette
How commercially-minded are you?
If that question brings you out in a rash, take a deep breath. With B2B publishers fighting for every penny, journalists need to think broadly about media jobs, they need to be to able make a real-terms contribution. They are expected to create supplements, roundtables, and conferences, and work with advertising sales to maximise revenue opportunities. So what does this mean for editorial integrity?
We are all media companies now. And we need media skills to match.
The phenomenal pace of change in internet and mobile technology means that retailers, banks and other consumer-facing businesses are no longer just competing with their high street rivals; they are competing for consumer attention with anyone who has a presence in the digital space. To be effective, they are having to think like media businesses.