How To Build Content Capability: Part 2
Opinions

Following is a discussion panel transcript from Content Marketing World Sydney held at Sheraton on the Park on 18 March 2015.  This is part 2 in a 3 part series - click here to check out part 1.

Panel members include Richard Parker: Joint Managing Partner and Strategy Director at Edge. Nigel Lopez Macbea: Associate Director, Social Media & Content Marketing at Optus. Jane Power: Director, Brand and Health Care at Bupa ANZ. Amanda Crews: EM Brand, Marketing & Corporate Affairs at Suncorp Life.

Part 2

Richard Parker:
(Amanda), the way we’ve worked with you on some aspects of Raising Black is to help you guys come up with the overarching creative direction strategy for that. I guess we’ve helped you with some of the higher-production-value content. You guys have retained the evergreen content production, the hygiene content production, in-house. Do you see that as being the kind of split that will go forward for a lot of businesses?

I think it’s interesting for the guys in the room: Where do agencies fit into the mix? It’s one of the questions. Obviously that’s the way you guys have used us. I’m interested in your view as to whether that’s the right way to use us.

Amanda Crews:
We do, and we do partner with video production houses right across the board, not just with you, but with others as well. It depends on the type of content and it’s basically, you know, marketing is content. It’s not as if it’s news to us, we’ve been partnering for a very long time on the content that we develop and deliver right across the marketing spectrum. In the content space I do see a future for continuing to partner with the right people to get the right content out, yeah.

Richard:
Yeah, thanks. Nigel, the way we work with you guys is slightly different in that you guys retain content management and moderation, generally, and that brand lens. Most of the content creation and production is actually done out of house. Do you think that’s the right split structure? It’s obviously different to the way that Amanda’s running things.

Nigel Lopez Macbea:
Obviously all organisations will do different things. That settles well, it works really well for us. I can see how that could work in many different ways. I think we’re quite lucky in many ways. I’m probably a lot more friendly with my legal department than any other organisations. I went out of my way to engage them really early on, which makes everything a lot easier. As a result we can be a little bit more hands off with what we produce and when we should produce.

Yeah, I just think the way in which we work together is fairly organically. I think the key is having somebody from your agency actually coming to your business and working internally, even if it’s on a contract basis, because that really helps to give the agency a sense of the kind of work we’re involved in. Often, agencies can be a little bit disconnected to the reality of what goes on, on the client’s side. I think we’ve worked quite hard to bring that barrier down.

Richard:
Yeah, pretty hard. Jane, you’ve recently appointed a content marketing manager. Right at the start of the content journey, you got someone in place who’s running that. How do you see your team developing over time? Do you see yourself developing a big content production in-house or totally relying on external sources?

Jane:
I think the answer is a bit of both. I suppose our challenge is potentially the opposite of what you’re talking about in that we need to very much bring that medical expert health lens to what we do. We have teams of dieticians and physios and doctors in-house. Our challenge is this: How do we actually extract the content from that capability and put it in bite-size chunks that a consumer’s actually going to engage with to even read? That’s our current challenge.

We’ve got all these resources. We probably say they write for a doctor, but we actually work with them to educate on helping the consumer. That’s probably our biggest challenge because we’re not going to get an army of 20 people to build in-house. We have this amazing capability, we just need to find a way to take it to the consumer. That’s our challenge. The more non-hygiene stuff – I think we need to get to a position where we do that in-house.

Potentially, evergreen – I think that’s the word you used – maybe that’s the piece we outsource. Equally so, [other] types of content. I mean, you need to know volume and scales. Video production – do I think we would do that in-house now? No.

We also try to be a bit smarter about our approach and we have Hawks as a sponsor partner, for example. They have a full production CEO. Never once have we asked them if we can use that as part of our partnership. We just need to be a lot smarter and, rather than looking at it as content, as its own little ecosystem, we see this whole piece around storytelling as the ecosystem. Just getting a lot smarter across every touch point, every channel – that’s what we are.

Richard:
Yeah, okay. My next question actually talks about that a bit. There have been a lot of structural diagrams presented at this conference so far. There was one that I was looking at the other day. I’ve singled it out and put it up on the screen here, partly because of its complexity. There are lots of ways you can structure a content marketing team. Econsultancy is one of the experts that claims this is the answer to structuring your team. To me, it seems incredibly complex, although when you actually look at the basic stages that the guy’s talking to, it’s relatively simple and obvious.

Amanda:
Yeah, when I heard this I thought this is not individual people in individual roles. A lot of this morphs into each other and could be a slick team of four with the right agency partnerships just to sit outside and drive the outcomes. None of it seems, like, real strange, but you wouldn’t have it like that with that many people. We wouldn’t have it like that because I think there’s too much overlap. I also think, from a roles and responsibilities perspective, it will be too narrow to say, “This is your job and that’s your job only.” People need a broader perspective than that to get more engaged in their business model.

Jane Power:
I think, in particular, around listening in the last minute, everyone seems to be listening because you’re all contributing to this overall brand story in consistent format. I do think it does work.

Richard:
Yeah, absolutely. I think there are some interesting roles in there that you can debate whether they sit in-house or externally, or whether they sit within a specific content team or brand insights team. Some of the ones that jumped out at me as being slightly new roles, and slightly more interesting, are things like data journalists. Have you guys considered that kind of a role? Mining into data for stories, is that something that happens?

Amanda:
Yeah, all the time. We do quite a bit of research-based storytelling. An example for us is labelled the Budgie, since that was a superannuation story that talked about the gap between when you want to retire and the reality of when you can retire. That was a dead research piece – it was 1800 Australians aged 18 to 64, so on and so forth – and then we mined that for information and insights and then created stories from that. That’s how we [create] content because the Budgies will keep coming up, time and time again. People keep retweeting and repeating our story for us. It’s been a good one.

Richard:
Is that something that happens within the content unit?

Amanda:
Yes.

Richard:
You have a capability to mine?

Amanda:
Yes. Previously, when we just had the external communications team, that was their job to make the important interesting. We did that off research base, but that part has been formed into our content team. It’s content marketing and external communications and it all happens internally, yeah.

Richard:
How do you go about recruiting a data journalist?

Amanda:
I don’t think I did. I just think it’s the skill set that we’ve always, so to say, relied on. In the life insurance industry it’s very hard to get, so you’ve got to find a story where none exists and create the human insight where previously someone hasn’t told that part of the story. That, for us, was the Budgies, but there are other examples as well.

Richard:
Nigel, from your viewpoint, you have a content team that you look after. Is that content team fairly silent in the business? Do you rely on other areas to put into it?

Nigel:
That’s a very personal question at the moment, because I’m looking at that matrix and the idea of having a chief content officer is going to become fairly huge over the next couple of years. You guys would have heard so much about content audience and all the rest of it over the previous day or so. Increasingly, in large organisations, that understanding of what you create from a content perspective – where it goes, who does it, where the budget lies, how it builds perspective, when it goes out, who it goes out to, and by what means – is a huge piece. It’s becoming more and more difficult to control.

Effectively having that one throat to choke, which would be the chief content officer, I can see working really well. I’d like to think we have that set-up in Optus, because that would be me, but that’s really not the case if you consider the sheer amount of stakeholders that we currently have to deal with.

The one thing I found really interesting over the past year or so is this: Since the whole idea and concept of content has become much more of a business discussion, particularly at sea level, content means a lot of different things to different people. On one small side it might be huge deals that will fundamentally change the nature of your business; on the other side it might be a guy who just wants a blog that he can send out to his customers.

When you consider the breadth of what that role entails, it’s increasingly important that somebody is the person that actually holds the strategy and is the guy that everyone looks to.

Richard:
Yeah, I’m inclined to agree. I think there’s one thing that’s maybe missing from this diagram that talks to the idea of paid media and paid pieces of content. Obviously we’ve heard a lot about … the fact that [you can spend] years building an audience based on Facebook, [only] to discover that you’ve suddenly got to pay to get content out there. With most of social gradually morphing into, effectively, a mass media pay channel, albeit with fantastic targeting opportunities, and the fact that we’re 10 years into online content marketing nowadays … launching a blog, it’s no longer easy to find white space and it’s no longer easy to own Google search terms and get organic distribution of your blog content.

Given that, you obviously need a little bit of, maybe, SEM budget behind that kind of content, even in your own media spaces. Given that paid media use is becoming increasingly important in content marketing, is there a place on the content marketing team on the client’s side for managing paid media?

Amanda:
We’ve got an e-commerce team, who we work really closely with, that is very helpful in that space, but it actually happens in-house in the content team. My most recent example is we spent $1000 to do a Facebook promo and got 155,000 hits on that promotional order. It’s not rocket science for us. We’ve got a budget, and within budget [we work out] how we’re going to balance it and then we just go to it with gusto as we normally would. We’re going into a different space than the traditional space. Taking away that, it’s starting to morph into a traditional space. Effectively, for us, when you at least send a team to us.

Richard:
Yeah, and only managing that – the actual spending, sorry, the buying process – in-house, you’re buying through a desk or through the native applications?

Amanda:
I don’t know the answer to that. I’d have to ask the people who bought it.

Richard:
How about you, Nigel?

Nigel:
It’s kind of your thing. We obviously don’t. I think [with] any content, even the forward-thinking content marketer is going to have to have an idea of how to conceive things in the right way and [have an] understanding of the paid media. There’s been a lot [about] the whole ‘paid media’ question; for something like Facebook there are a lot of people disgruntled about the changes that were made. In many ways it reduces a lot of the noise and has opened up the channel to people who actually have the money and have something of genuine value to say. From that perspective it’s been interesting.

Having someone on your team with those kinds of skills as a marketer is increasingly important, largely because we’re obviously going to move over, in the next year or so, into a world of [content use in a contextual manner], and already you know there are a lot of guys doing brand newsrooms, real-time things and all of that kind of stuff. To be able to do that sensibly, you actually need someone in-house, on the ground, who can implement those changes and react to what’s going on without having that lag between yourself and the agencies. I think, over time, it will become pretty much standard that somebody in-house will have that capability. I think the biggest problem at the moment is those people are few and far between. Most of them will come from here.

Richard:
Yeah, you’re right. On some of those other roles, let’s bring them out. We’ve heard a lot, actually, across this conference about journalists leaving traditional media and going to work for a brand as brand journalists. How do you think journalists fit into a kind of corporate structure? Do they slide in easily or do they find the corporate constraints difficult to manage? What’s your experience? I’m open to any of you guys, really, on that one.

Amanda:
I used to be a journalist, so I probably can answer this question. I think much of the exodus of journalists into the corporate world is probably due to the climate at the moment. Generally, they’re finding themselves without a job, so it becomes a natural progression for them. It’s also a natural progression for journalists who are getting older and wanting to taper as well; generally speaking, they go to the content world.

From time to time you’ll find people who put themselves out there as content specialists in a particular field and build content superannuation. They knock on your door. You have those engagements, that’s natural. We bring them in, in a deliberate way, and have them in-house. I don’t think there’s any particular barrier to a journalist coming into a corporate landscape. It is significantly different in some ways, but in other ways it’s just another source engine that you become part of.

Nigel:
I mean, I’m a big fan of it. I think there’s a lot to be said for them in their precious careers, creating content that was good enough that people wanted to pay for. Having that kind of capability in-house works really well for me. Also, if you take it one step further from a social media perspective as well, I think it’s really cool to have people who [will] actually think before they will post something or tweet, and who know how to structure words in the right way.

It’s a really small point, but the sheer number of people involved in the space who just don’t have that background and don’t have that experience is huge. I think the journalists have a massive part to play in all of this.

Jane:
I do, too. I also think [it’s their] ability to take a lot of content and analyse it and just [filter] it down it to a really clean story that people want to read. You pay money for that. That’s a great skill. It’s not one that everybody has.

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Look out for the final installment next week.