We asked industry thought leaders for their tips on creating great content.
Chief Content Officer
OMD's Content Collective
On winning content: It's not really about putting out content for the sake of it—remember "I want a viral video" anyone?—but more of a pivot to embracing content as an inevitable way to connect with consumers. There are many factors that go into embracing a new marketing enterprise, including rethinking success metrics, reconnecting to new data, recalculating a strategic approach, reallocating budgets, reworking infrastructure, reimagining communications and asset creation—phew, a lot of RE-invention that is ultimately necessary.
Give an example: We just finished an incredible program with our Pepsi clients and MTV for the Video Music Awards. We collaborated with MTV to create talent-driven, exclusive content experiences all summer long, Pepsi's peak selling season, with Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran—culminating at the VMAs with a social meet-up and content capture with Usher that aired in the show. This is content that fires on all cylinders—broadcast, digital, social—and is efficient because we developed with a media partner that can structure a deal that benefits everyone.
On the future of content: The business is converging. Disney and Maker, Apple and Beats, Dreamworks and Awesomeness TV, ATT and Fullscreen—all are examples of the evolution of utility plus creativity plus direct-to-consumer. Brands have the ability to be part of the early-stage development of these new models if they can think creatively, deconstruct the traditional models and be brave.
On winning content: Winning at content marketing requires aligning your brand with consumer interests. We do this in a variety of ways. For example, we surface our editorial content strategically in places where we know our consumers are and bring them back to our site where they can find more stories they're interested in. At USA TODAY we focus on empowering consumers to live smarter, faster and more colorful lives. We developed a brand campaign that markets our editorial product by surfacing the benefits of our content to the reader and highlights the voices behind the stories. We proactively use social media to market our content as well. Our daily TRENDS TODAY posts showcase trending Twitter topics with links to related USA TODAY articles to go beyond straight news reporting and focus on entertaining information that's driving the national conversation.
Give an example: As a marketer, I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to mention some of my fellow marketers who strategically use our platforms to market their brands within relevant content. For example, when Farmers Insurance wanted to engage with an audience seeking financial advice, they worked with Studio Gannett, our custom content team, to develop original relevant content and surround it with their brand, in our trusted environment. In a similar, but slightly different format, we built a gallery of amazing facts about your heart with Cleveland Clinic. This compelling visual style lends itself to social media sharing and resonates with the USA TODAY audience.
On the future of content: I believe we will start seeing brands better integrating their content with actual transactions. The more seamless that experience is, the higher the potential for conversion, loyalty and referral. In native advertising, we are seeing a lot of growth in the financial services, tech and travel categories.
On winning content: It starts with strategy. You have to first determine exactly who the audience is, what they're reading, what moves them to take action. You have to understand the cultural and competitive landscape and, of course, the brand's core objectives. Only then can you begin to build a content strategy that will effectively reach and engage that audience. Today, more than ever before, consumers want to learn, to be moved, to have interesting dialogue—they want value. The onus is on brands to provide that value and earn trust—great content can do just that.
Give an example: I keep an eye out for marketing that builds and activates audiences through ongoing content experiences—not just one-off campaigns. An example is CDW, a leading provider of technology solutions. One of their key objectives is to build a trusting relationship with their audience. We helped them develop a strategy around a hub-and-spoke media model targeted to different constituents. The hub is a media-style website and the spokes are the social, mobile, video, print and email channels that engage the audience when, where and how they want the information.
On the future of content: It's such an exciting time to be in marketing, and I see content playing a progressively important role for brands as they must build and activate audiences directly. Increasingly, personalized content experiences, fueled by technology and data, will continue to drive innovation. And I can't wait to see what the opportunities will be with the Apple Watch and other wearable technology. I enjoy the adventure of it all. We have to adapt and experiment and work with our clients to capitalize on these new channels and experiences.
On winning content: Begin and end with great storytelling and make sure your content and your communication teams think like journalists. Your content needs to be timely, relevant information, not a blatant sales pitch! This begins with understanding your buying personas and their pain points. Figure out where your customers look for content and how they consume it at different stages of their buying journey. Then build your content strategy, aligning it to your customer journey map and the stages of the sales funnel. The content that works to make them aware of your product is likely far different than the content that is going to move them through the evaluation stage, and different still from the content that will convince them to make the purchase.
Winning includes applying this to social media, too, where you have to monitor and engage your champions (and detractors), because you never know where you can find the next piece of content for a release, article, post or even a case study.
Give an example: I think GoPro is doing an incredible job with their content marketing strategy. From user-generated video to tutorials to their Instagram feed, they exemplify the power of sharing content multiple times in multiple places. Their efforts really bring their brand to life, and they create a compelling urge to buy their product.
On the future of content: Given that humans' attention spans seem to be getting shorter, I think we'll see a continued movement away from longer-form content like white papers and hourlong webinars, and see more short-form videos, listicles and tips or tools.
Director of Multicultural Marketing
On winning content: Have a strategy, tell a story and lead them to sales. We're lucky to have guests who are passionate about our brands, so being authentic and staying relevant with our evolving consumers is critical. We do this by utilizing our market research and making this a driver of our strategy. Millennials and multicultural consumers love technology so we now provide content where they choose to consume it: mobile, desktop, TV, radio, etc.
Give an example: I was recently a judge for the 2014 ANA Multicultural Excellence Awards and reviewed more than 400 pieces of creative and discussed them with my fellow judges. We saw a lot of great work. The brands that stood out to me (beyond our work, of course!) were Godiva, Intel, Allstate and Duracell. Their storytelling was very insightful, effective and moving.
On the future of content: People are on the go and, with the fast pace of technology, mobile has become the primary source for obtaining information. To utilize this platform successfully for marketers, content development should be considered first.
Producing valuable content is also constantly going down in cost. The means of production are everywhere. Analytics and social listening will increasingly play a stronger role in our strategies and will provide more agility to shift methods as data is analyzed.