There has been much debate lately about who is best placed to deliver effective content (from a brand’s voice to a customer base), and also what comprises good content. What I will say about this is – content should be well considered (strategically led), well crafted (experts in that field) and effectively executed (via the right media channels). How it works for one brand or sector over another will vary.
Consumers are now being hit by a wide range of content (not simply delivered from a brand). It is being delivered from both free and paid sources, and from highly authoritative and expert curators or publishers as well as social and anecdotal commentators and individuals. It is one great big melting pot out there – more so in the online and mobile world.
In this pot, commercial (sales-led) content can jostle alongside credible or specialist and highly authoritative and creative sources. Possibly the worst thing a brand could do is blur any one of these boundaries, or distinctions, or simply cut corners. Great content is indeed well curated, well balanced and well considered, but fundamentally it also values the importance of our individual needs, and right of access and refusal to participate.
Let the content battle commence! So, what comes after a tectonic, techno-media shift? A battle for the middle ground. By middle ground, I mean the zone firmly wedged between above-the-line advertising campaigns, and through-the-line promotional activity – it’s that lovely “sweet spot” that branded content occupies – or does it? I’m sure there will be debate around this.
This critical middle ground is becoming the big battle zone for marketers (and agencies, for that matter). It’s a zone, or space, that customers feel really ok with engaging in. Why is this? Because, in that zone, you get a whole lot of great stuff going on – including branded content.
It’s all about WIFM! I will always argue that the success of branded content relies squarely on the concept of WIFM – What’s In it For Me? If a brand is willing to give me something and it’s something I can benefit from, enjoy or share, then I am more than receptive to it. Of course, the assumption is that whatever the product is (magazine, site, app, for example), it is a product that has value, expertise and authority and is meaningfully aligned or connected to the brand (giving it to me). I’ll leave the debate on authority and authenticity for another day.
One important ground rule to highlight, however, is that customers are made clear about the commercial context of any branded content – that the selling is well defined, and the informative or entertainment value is well meaning and makes sense when coming from that brand (or its association). Sometimes the commercial and entertainment value combine seamlessly, like an exciting architectural fusion, but mostly they better exist in distinction.
So, what is the secret to creating the best content or, even better, where to start when considering your content strategy? Well, now, that would be telling. But if you do want to speak to an expert, give me a shout @AgencyBelle. I will be more than happy to help out ;)
In the meantime, here are few starting points.
1. Know your customers.
2. Think about the kind of content you would meaningfully align or want associated to your brand.
3. Think about how you want your customers to interact with your content.
* Be educated or informed
* Be entertained
* Play with it
* Share it
* Be inspired by it
4. Consider the content mix:
* Pod & Vodcasts
* Case studies
* Interactive games
* Mobile content & apps
* Social content
* Research and surveys
* White papers
* Newsletters (electronic and print)
5. And check out my blog – Does your brand need a content MOT here:
6. This is also a great blog on 3 key pillars to successful content:
Does media fragmentation leave you with sleepless nights (sigh)?
Are you overwhelmed by the thought of integration (double sigh)?
Here are Seven’s seven guiding thoughts about why you should be considering a content strategy MOT and, hopefully, a way towards attaining a more restful state of mind.
What could an MOT stand for?
M = Mounds Do you have piles and piles of content? Is it becoming unwieldy? Is it aligned to your core strategic plan? In many cases, too much of the wrong (and sometimes right) content could be diluting your message and potentially reducing revenue opportunities. Are you maximising it to its full potential?
O = Out of date (often unnecessary content) Get back to basics. What do you really need and where should it be for your customer to access? Create an up-to-date structure and content plan to move towards a more integrated content strategy and, most importantly, one that considers your customer at its core.
T = Throw the old rule book away! Consider that the root of the issue could be how your organisation is set up, which is preventing you from realising a truly integrated content strategy. The effect of a siloed organisation can have a debilitating impact on your content strategy. Take a step back and consider what you need to do to make it all happen. A third party will inevitably be able to see this more clearly.
And here are some further, potentially helpful thoughts for you to consider:
- Content MOT thought 1: Get an objective expert in to do it. There is a very good reason why a third party is better placed to provide you with an objective view of what your content currently looks like to the outside world, as well as being able to provide you with some sound recommendations.
- Content MOT thought 2: It’s important to take stock of what you have. A complete content audit is the first step – before you do anything else.
- Content MOT thought 3: Identify all the key stakeholders. The audit really needs to spread throughout the business and right out as far as your customers.
- Content MOT thought 4: Know your customer journey inside and out. Important stages include: before they consider you, while they engage with you, and when they leave you. You can always win them back!
- Content MOT thought 5: Build a content strategy that has your customer at the core. This point should really speak for itself and should form as a result of the in-depth review, analysis and understanding of the critical business objectives.
- Content MOT thought 6: Create great content. Create a plan. It’s a wise approach to develop content based on key and timely triggers within your business (you will know what they are). It is also vital to keep a store of a reserve content to help you fill in any gaps when needed. Don’t work hand to mouth!
- Content MOT thought 7: Never rest on your laurels. It’s vital that today’s achievements are a part of a continual process of improvement to deliver on your business objectives.
With content, like most things in our lives, it is pretty easy to get into a state of unrest, particularly in our challenging and media convergent-times. But, as an eternal optimist, I will say this: there is always a great solution in reach, there are experts to deal with solutions (simply and cost-effectively), and moreover, solutions to our complex problems are usually never insurmountable. In fact, and in my experience, they tend to be a lot simpler than we had originally conceived.
@AgencyBelle works for Seven, a strategic content agency based in London, UK. Seven develop content strategies for leading global brands who are media owners, or who want to invest in content to drive increased customer engagement and maximise profits. Seven also deliver content across all platforms, including print, mobile apps, web and email. Seven are industry leaders in monetising content via third-party advertising. More about us here: Seven.co.uk
For a confidential consultation about your existing content, contact @AgencyBelle
I’m totally immersed in this topic right now. But what prompted me to get on my ‘Blog box’ today was a recent conversation I had with a very capable and aspiring account executive at our agency. She was asking some great questions, so I thought I would share these with you.
Perhaps she had taken some good advice from a blog on “how to climb the corporate ladder in 2.2 seconds”. You know, the type of advice: Make sure you always carry paper around; be the best tea-maker (I read that somewhere lately); ask regular, strategic and intelligent questions; offer to buy me lunch – OK, just kidding on that one.
She said to me: Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers? And what is media fragmentation? She didn’t stop there! And tell me, why do brands need a content strategy? And finally what is the difference between a publishing and content agency?
Wow! The questions, they were good ones, so she marks highly on strategic this week
Let’s work through a couple of these. But what would be great, and much more ‘PPM’ (post, post modern), is for me to open it out to you all. But I am happy to kick off with a couple of responses.
Q1 Tell me about owned, earned and bought media and why is this becoming the hot topic for marketers?
Owned media: As I understand it, owned media is simply media that a brand owns. It is usually a website, a customer magazine, an app, a TV channel, social media pages etc.
Earned media: Is simple too, and refers to the publicity gained through editorial influence. Earned media might include mass media channels such as TV, but more regularly: press (including newspapers and magazines), radio and, of course, the web, including community forums, social media etc. It includes, generally, any commentary about a brand, such as editorial commentary, and things like letters to an editor, features that include the brand as a case study and even extend to inclusions in polls, for example.
Bought Is simply media channels that a brand pays to be in – again TV, news press, magazines, the web, outdoor, experiential and again can include social.
Why is it becoming such a hot topic? Well, there are several reasons for this, but mostly I would say this due is to the rapid growth in new media channels and TV fragmentation. Marketeers now need to get to grips with how to communicate over so many more channels, and this can be costly. The other main reason is more brands are becoming serious media owners in their own right – a couple of examples include: Net a Porter’s iPad app, P&G’s supersavvyme.co.uk and Virgin’s Project magazine. Owned can also include brand-managed Facebook pages, You Tube sites as well as TV channels, for instance Audi TV and long-standing brands on TV: Thomas Cook and Visit Britain.
Q2 What is media fragmentation?
Now this is where it starts to become more interesting. How do I explain this one? To me, this is the hot topic right now.
So I started with “back in the olden days”(suddenly I could see account executive’s eyes glaze over). OK, well, before social media, (eyes came back into focus) brands had a fairly simple approach to pushing out their messages to us as consumers. Brands engaged a DM agency, an advertising agency, a PR agency and, most significantly, gave their media agency larges sums of funds to book media – and over very few marketing channels. Media was bought on a brand’s behalf, and creative was essentially delivered from a brand outwards. Nowadays, the media landscape is far more complex and often described as ”fragmented”. All this means is: more channels, more routes to a consumer, more choices for a consumer and essentially less critical mass.
Fragmentation has not escaped the agency world either – specialist agencies have now popped up and include disciplines like digital agencies (a plethora of varieties in this category), social media agencies (such as social media monitoring, content and engagement and also optimizers and, of course, pure consultants).
I also told account executive that the most interesting thing in all of this is how consumers now have the power to control how marketing messages are sent and to where. As consumers (enabled by technology) we are being far more particular about how we want to be communicated to, and are seeking more personalised content, and products for that matter.
We want brands to know what we like to know about and not be bothered by irrelevant information. We expect to be spoken to as individuals, not en masse. I had to then stop myself going into a parallel discussion about the increase in product customization. (Did you know that Fiat is marketing their new Fiat 500 in 500,000 customizable options?) Sorry, but I just love those little cars.
We also gather information via search engines, which “optimize content for us”. Online, as well as by word of mouth (WOM), we choose and recommend great restaurants, offers, travel destinations etc to others (“right,” she says). So as consumers we now have a great deal of influencing power. Brands want to get engaged with this influence.
Technology has definitely created this media fragmentation “revolution”, specifically technologies like Sky+ and, soon to be launched in the UK, Virgin’s Tevo, which gives us the freedom to watch what we like when we like. This is just one example of TV’s media fragmentation (notwithstanding the increase in channels alone). And then there is the world of Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, and it just gets bigger and bigger.
All this presents a significant challenge in terms of how a brand find its customers on a mass scale and then transmits a message for the benefit of the brand.
Q3 Why do brands need a content strategy?
This is what we do. Hence the question. The answer is simple.
OK, so we have already spoken about how brands are becoming media owners – with this inevitably comes investment in content. In order to best maximise a brand’s content, it needs strategic content strategy. This will ensure a brand has a planned and sustained approach to the commissioning, creation, distribution and management of content across multiple platforms, (including paid, owned and earned media channels), and that it fundamentally links up with the brand’s core marketing and business objectives. What a content strategy will also do is ensure consistently high editorial and creative quality, which fundamentally drives a coherent consumer experience.
Q4 What is the difference between a publishing and content agency?
A content agency is most importantly media neutral and should have editorial excellence at the core of its very being – that, coupled with strategic insights, provides the winning formula, and a core distinction from simply an agency that publishes magazines and builds websites.
For more on this topic see:
All Broken Up About Media Fragmentation? http://onforb.es/r2675F
Explain the term ‘media fragmentation’ and discuss the implications for a new Product trying to enter the market. http://bit.ly/pCwrWG