The content marketing industry has had a good year. In a largely unstable media environment, where traditional media is under threat, custom publishing is growing. More agencies are joining the market, the standard of work is better, and brands are becoming increasingly aware of how strong content solutions can be the most powerful tool in engaging customers. It’s an exciting place to be, and 2013 promises more growth and change. There are a few things I would like to do better next year to make full use of the opportunities. These are personal reflections but, if you’ll forgive me being presumptuous, I think they’re pretty true of the industry as a whole.
It’s a relief to find that we’re no longer pigeonholed as the “guys who make our customer magazine”. We know that for content to be successful in achieving business objectives it has to be built on a deep understanding of the business and must be closely tied to all other strategic initiatives. Our clients know this too.
It’s imperative that we get enough time and attention from our clients’ senior management team. In order to really make a difference, it is essential to get a deep insight into the minds of the senior executive team, understanding their challenges and our role in their business.
That said, I also want to work harder at proving our value, and charging appropriately for it. As content marketers we can have a significant impact on our clients’ businesses. To do so, it’s important to allow the right people the right amount of time to get to grips with the business, and this costs money. To be valued as critical business partners we must raise the stakes, and deliver.
Possibly the most critical thing to come out of the proliferation of channels used by marketers is the message that consumers expect you to engage them wherever they are and that a brand’s message must be consistent. The treatment they receive in a store, the way a social media comment is handled, the tone of voice in a TV campaign, the value offered through an in-store magazine must all tie together and offer a smooth brand experience. This requires significant collaboration among those who tell a brand’s stories. In a perfect world, we should be working hand-in-glove with all our clients’ marketing partners.
Find more of the right people
We deliver effective work only when we are able to match the right people and skills with the client’s requirements. And we’re looking for more from our people. Traditionally, we’ve employed from the ranks of magazine and other media companies, people who know how to tell stories and engage people. That’s still critical, but more and more we’re expecting our people to have solid marketing credentials, to have knowledge and experience of the industry they will be focusing on. Our craft is still about telling great, engaging stories, but we also need to be good strategic thinkers and problem solvers. Not to mention that we need our people to have a good understanding of a plethora of different channels. We need to constantly find people who are eager to learn and who understand that we’re providing business solutions, not only a good read. Then we need to invest heavily in training and the sharing of knowledge. Specifically, we must find ways to attract and retain young black talent. We need to find the right people, court them, train them and hang on to them.
Be better at measuring and adapting
As we become more strategically important to our clients, it’s critical to evaluate the efficacy of what we’re doing. To do that, we need to make quite sure we understand what we’re trying to achieve. Too often custom content is produced without a clear understanding of the objectives. It’s often the ad-funded work that loses its way, and clients let it ride because it’s not costing them – third party advertisers are paying for it. That’s not good enough. We need to be clear about our objectives and how we measure them. Whether it’s sales tracking at the till, sentiment on social media, or affinity through brand tracking, we need to work harder at identifying the right key performance indicators and delivering on them.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re in for another year of growth, exciting work and hard-fought pitches. But, for now, my mind’s wandering to a tall, cold cocktail on a short, hot beach. See you there.
Andrew Nunneley is the business development director for New Media.
Content2013 – The Whole Story is taking place at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town on 25-26 February.
This story was first published in The Media magazine.