In 2019 the question should no longer be whether your brand creates content but how to make your content better. “No one questions a brand’s need for a website—content should be non-negotiable too,” Shawna Dennis, marketing VP at MD Financial, said onstage at the 2019 Contently Summit: Masters of Content.
Over 200 content marketers convened at the PlayStation Theater in New York City for a collegiate-themed day of talks designed to share tricks of the trade. Here were a few highlights.
1) “It’s the singer, not the song.” Back in February 2018 two pop stars belted out the same national anthem with very different outcomes. Fans cheered Pink’s performance at Super Bowl LII but jeered Fergie’s version at the NBA All-Star Game. Brad Young, Prudential’s VP of digital content strategy, likens the long line of people who’ve sung the same lyrics to the crowded financial sector.
“Lots of places sing the song of financial content—we just need to sing it better,” he said. To differentiate the brand from competitors, Young said, Prudential aims to tell well-reported but digestible stories with depth, authority and relevance.
2) “Think like a salesperson.” Content marketers often cite executive buy-in as a major challenge. Running a successful content program requires support from the top down, and finding allies can help grow your program.
“Consider forming an advisory committee—leaders across your organization, people of influence who can really help be an evangelist and a champion for your program,” said Whitney Jones, director of enterprise digital marketing and e-commerce at Cardinal Health. She recommends putting on your sales hat and trying to poke holes in your own program before making a case to executives. Ask yourself, “If I were the sales lead, what would I say to this?” she advised.
3) “Create conversations, not just content.” Starting a content marketing program changed the game for Genpact. “Every single piece of content, if done well, is the start of a great new conversation and hopefully the beginning of a wonderful new relationship,” said Genpact’s SVP & CMO Stacy Simpson. The professional services firm’s content draws proactive calls for opportunities and arms its sales team with conversation starters.
4) “Become friends with your data people.” Although today’s content marketers need to know a little bit of everything, the best programs come from diverse teams. Partnering with data specialists allows you to spend less time crunching numbers and more time translating last quarter’s results into next quarter’s content strategy.
Set a baseline of data, and don’t be afraid to share the numbers, RBC’s Sr. Dir. of Global Content Marketing Ashleigh Patterson recommends. “You can’t cherry-pick the data just to make the story beneficial for you,” she said. “It’s really important to be completely transparent.” If something underperforms, learn from what didn’t work—pay attention to data throughout the campaign, so you can optimize on the fly, she advised.
If you want to protect your company from the next major exposé and avoid GDPR violations, use consumer data with caution. Just because youcan, doesn’t mean you should, Patterson warned. “You have to always remember that there’s a human being behind that data, and it’s your responsibility as a steward of that to treat it very carefully,” she said. “A decision you make in 2019 may blow up in your face in 2025. You just don’t realize it yet.”
5) “We want high-quality eyeballs.” Sometimes reach is overrated, and less is more. “I would rather have fewer people looking at [the content] who are the right people vs. just the spray and pray method,” said Lily Wong, who leads digital marketing and sales at RBC.
As the old saying goes, If a video of a forest gets a million impressions and no one likes or shares it, did it even make a sound? Ultimately, knowing your target audience and creating content tailored to its needs will give you the best bang for your buck.