In a period where Covid-19 has disrupted “normal” business practices, content marketing has really come into its own. Why? Because it’s inherently about putting people first.
Reconnecting with our humanity has been a key trend of the Covid-19 era. Businesses had to support their employees, ensuring they could overcome the unique challenges of working in lockdown. Our colleagues invited us into their homes via Zoom, allowing us to get to know them on a personal level. We saw a great sense of solidarity with front-line healthcare workers and an outpouring of help for those who struggled to put food on the table in a distressed economy. The message was clear: We’re all in this together.
Being empathetic to the lived experience of others has been the core of our new reality, and all it took was a global crisis to get us here. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the world change, and with it the way we do business. As content marketers, we were primed for this moment. Our kind of marketing has always been about people rather than product. We don’t do hard sell; we provide useful and relevant content that helps people solve their problems. When we do this for a brand, it helps them build long-term relationships with their customers.
We share the stories that matter most
Founded in 1998, New Media was one of the pioneers of content marketing in South Africa. Today, we have more than 30 clients and provide a suite of services from strategy and insight to full content production, business intelligence, web and app development, and ROI measurement.
So what do we think makes an effective content marketing agency in 2022? Sure, financial growth, awards and work with real ROI all matter. But, as the most uncertain times in recent history came knocking, we decided it was time to fall back on our inherent humanity and pledged to do good by our people. That meant really listening to our employees and our clients, and doing what it took to be there for them.
All around us, people have been facing uncertainty. As storytellers, we wanted to listen intently – and then share the stories that mattered most.
Through working with our client Mediclinic, we know first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on the healthcare industry. Mediclinic employees experienced enormous challenges during the Covid-19 peaks, supporting severely ill patients under emotionally demanding conditions. To align with our client’s new circumstances, we moved from monthly planning to weekly, switching in a moment from Covid-19 education to urging consumers not to put off potentially life-saving treatments between peaks.
Meanwhile another client, AB InBev Africa, faced with multiple alcohol bans under lockdown, needed to keep their employees informed and aware of the heightened risk to their personal safety during unprecedented times. Working with the company’s enterprise risk team, we developed a campaign aimed at keeping all employees safe: on the roads, in the streets and in the breweries themselves.
These are just two examples of why, despite seeing success in the traditional metrics, what we’re most proud of is how our humanity shines through.
Our purple people
While our employees have strived to help our clients, they’ve gone through their own hardships. When the pandemic arrived, we knew we had to be there for them more than ever, so we examined our business and how we could really put our people at the heart of it.
The pandemic has been an opportunity to reimagine work. Since March 2020, New Media has worked entirely remotely, yet we managed to show remarkable engagement statistics in our 2021 annual spirit survey. Our net promoter score was 84%, up from 81% in 2020, and 95% said they were proud to work for New Media.
Now New Media is embracing the next stage of our reality. As a creative business, we require occasional “face time” to thrive. The ability to bounce thoughts off each other in real life and real time leads to great opportunities and ideas. However, we’ve learned through frequent surveys that most of our people prefer to only come into the office occasionally. We’ve taken this into account, while being mindful of our business objectives, and introduced a hybrid working model. This will help us maintain our culture of collaboration while continuing to allow our people work in the best way that suits them.
Values are a core part of humanity
Our values inform our words and actions, and help us reach the future we envision. During the pandemic, we authored a new set of values collaboratively with a cross section of our people. New Media’s new values are simple and really encompass who we are and how we achieve success:
We show up: This is about bringing your best self to your workday. There are many factors that influence an employee’s mindset, which is why we’ve placed a huge emphasis on empathy and understanding. We’re determined to provide solid support – whether that be through our employee wellness programme or our Diversity Committee initiatives – so that our people can be at their best.
We team up: This speaks to collaboration between all teams, on all levels of the business. We don’t believe in hierarchy, silos or the “correct channels”.
We speak up: With all the changes happening globally, we realised there was a vital need to empower people across our business to be brave enough to share their experience. Accepting differing opinions leads to growth, and we want to hear what everyone has to contribute. To help with this, we introduced the company-wide Purple Collab, and are continuing to explore ways to give everyone a voice, and encouraging everyone to listen first and fully.
We level up: When all the above is in place, that’s when people truly get the chance to shine – and our people really do. The key to improvement is a solid foundation coupled with continuous learning and development. That way, all you have to worry about is reaching your potential. Apart from an overall increase in our training budget in 2021, we also launched our Accelerated Development Programme specifically aimed at advancing people of colour in the business. All 10 candidates completed this course and have bespoke development plans in place. The next intake has just begun and we are excited to grow with them.
These are New Media’s values, but they shouldn’t be unique to our business. They are born of the times we are living through and reflect the world we want to help build. Indeed, we all need to listen before speaking and collaborate on things that have real impact in the real world to co-create our future. Where do we find common ground and unite? This is where showing up, teaming up, speaking up and levelling up transcend the world of business and shape the world we live in.
We are proud of our business
We’ve focused on our humanity since the pandemic started, because we value our people and what they can achieve. Throughout this period, we’ve shown significant growth with our existing clients as well as winning completely new work, and we’re raking in the awards.
In October last year, New Media won four gold Eddies and Ozzies in New York for Woolworths TASTE, plus the coveted Editorial Team of the Year and Overall Excellence in Content Marketing awards. Then, in November, we were the most successful South African agency at the International Content Marketing Awards in London, winning gold in two categories, silver in one and bronze in three. Despite operating in a volatile and uncertain business environment, it was one of our best years on record.
Why? Because our people are firmly at the centre of every single thing we do. In 2021, we stood proud on the global stage but, more than that, we focused on our humanity, supporting the people around us and telling the stories that really matter.
Aileen Lamb has more than 20 years’ experience in all aspects of UK and South African media, and was the driving force behind the digitisation of successful brands including Eat Out, VISI and Woolworths TASTE. Since taking the helm of New Media, she has led the company’s transition from custom publisher to digital content marketing agency. Facebook: www.facebook.com/NewMediaSouthAfrica/, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/new-media, Instagram: www.instagram.com/newmediaza/, Twitter: twitter.com/NewMediaZA, web: newmedia.co.za.
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