Picture this. You’re at a Gourmerican burger joint chomping a cheeseburger, when an outspoken vegan friend starts preaching that you’re killing the planet. Last week, that same vegan downed a pricey glass of pinot before their flight to a far-flung destination, armed with their strongest mossie repellant and first aid kit. Anything amiss?
For many, 2014 is heralded as the year of content marketing. Increasing swathes of brands ramped up their investment into owned media, launching everything from media partnerships (GE, for example) to their own newsrooms (such as ANZ’s BlueNotes brand journalism offering and Tourism Australia’s newsroom approach).
Yet according to the latest Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and ADMA report on Australia’s content marketing practices, many marketers are still struggling with effectiveness and strategic practices.
In light of these findings, we asked marketers and content marketing consultancies to comment on the year that was for content marketing, as well as their predictions and investment plans in 2015.
GE: Stronger media partnerships and more targeted audiences
With content a long-term pillar in its brand strategy, GE Australia vice-president of branding and communications, Emma Rugge-Price, said 2014 was the year the organisation took its content marketing efforts further through strong media partnerships and new site, GEreports.
“Our media partnerships with the Australian Financial Review, The Australian and The Guardian Australia explored critical issues facing Australia in energy, healthcare and resources and how technology is redefining these industries,” she told CMO. “Through these partnerships, we were able to connect with business leaders, policymakers, engineers and academia and demonstrate GE’s role in helping solve some of the biggest challenges facing industry.”
GE has also chalked up more than 1 million unique visitors to its technology and innovation news site, GEreports.
“It’s been exciting to see GEreports gain traction and engagement with more and more visitors fascinated by everyday stories of innovation in Australia,” Rugge-Price said.
A key lesson learnt this year was the need to obsess about producing and curating great content, she said.
“People have infinite choices when it comes to consuming or sharing content, so marketers need to think about their audiences first and be fearless critics of their own content,” Rugge-Price said. “Also, distribution shouldn’t be an afterthought. A strong distribution strategy will go a long way in ensuring your content reaches your audience and is impactful beyond the short-term.”
As a result, GE will put more emphasis on distribution and better audience targeting in 2015. “We know who we want to reach and we will focus on being smarter about revealing our content and placing stories where our audiences already are, and on the kinds of stories and content we know they are interested in,” Rugge-Price said.
A strong distribution strategy will go a long way in ensuring your content reaches your audience and is impactful beyond the short-term
There also continue to be challenges around understanding the most effective ways to measure content marketing in terms of brand perception or lead generation, she said.
“As brands increasingly act like publishers, the standards and ROI expectations will continue to rise, and we need to leverage technology to gain greater insights into how content is performing,” Rugge-Price said.
In addition, GE plans to better utilise social media platforms to expand its audience targeting capabilities.
“We are seeing incredible new developments in audience tracking and look-a-like targeting, which will give marketers new insights and new customers to reach,” Rugge-Price continued.
“We’re also seeing a return to long-form content. Our audience seems to engage positively with longer articles that explore issues in-depth and bring insights from relevant experts. In a world where attention spans seems to be shortening, it’s interesting to see that there is definitely still a place for thoughtful, feature-style content.”
CPA Australia: Back to basics and quality in the spotlight
CPA Australia executive general manager of communication, content and publishing, Lisa Carroll, said her focus in 2014 has been building on the success of key content initiatives. Milestones included the second season of the accounting association’s television program, The Bottom Line on Channel Nine nationally, along with growing Asia-Pacific interest from university students and young professionals in its leadership content offering, The Naked CEO.
A book version was released in November called The Naked CEO: the truth you need to build a big life, sharing personal stories, life lessons and practical advice from The Naked CEO, Alex Malley, chief executive of CPA Australia.
CPA also upgraded and relaunched the digital version of its Intheblack business magazine this year. Carroll said the site was designed to increase engagement and content sharing and to reach a broader business audience, a core business strategy for the organisation.
2015 will be about quality of content as well as distribution, Carroll said.
“In a way, we’re going back to basics and really focusing on the quality of the content we produce,” she said. “Aligning the content we create with our business objectives, while still providing genuine value for the readers, is our key goal.
“We’re also focusing strongly on amplification and ensuring our content reaches a broad audience and the right audience, particularly online and through social media, and through ongoing optimisation of all our digital content and channels.”
Measurement remains important, and Carroll said her team will focus on analysing CPA’s current content performance to help shape its content strategy as the year progresses.
In a way, we’re going back to basics and really focusing on the quality of the content we produce
“The complexity of multiple touchpoints and interactions with customers or potential customers means it is challenging to determine the exact role a single piece of content or even a single channel has played in conversion,” she said.
“The purchase decision of those who join CPA Australia is a complex and life-changing one, so there are a range of contact and research points along that journey. We believe content plays an important role in building credibility, trust and forming an ongoing relationship, but pinning that down can still be difficult. Building thought leadership also takes time so we need to have some patience as well and not expect overnight results.
“We also focus on the performance of the content itself – if it is engaging with the audiences we want to reach, then it is doing its job for us.”
With regards to technology advancement, Carroll said the ability to optimise content through CPA’s digital channels is a capability she’s looking forward to maximising next year.
“We’re also looking at further personalisation of our offering to ensure the right content reaches the right audiences, taking both a behavioural and data-driven approach,” she added.
Intrepid: Mapping content to customer journeys
Intrepid Group general manager of central marketing, Helen Stevens, said the travel group had lifted the importance of content marketing within the business in 2014, developing a framework both for content production and distribution.
“The key emphasis has been on improving the quality of content on our owned channels, and we’ve started better mapping our content to the customer journey,” she said. “We’ve recognised that quality content is not only improving our SEO, but it is helping to grow our audience, and over time those visits are converting to sales.”
This year, Intrepid joined the world’s largest group of adventure travel companies, which saw teams working across multiple brands. Stevens said it has been crucial to develop brand narratives and align content to those narratives for each brand.
“It also means that we’ve produced more written and visual content this year than ever before,” she said. “To do this, we’ve had to act more like a travel startup, creating and curating engaging content, and developing our staff to become content-creating wizards.
“The result is we’ve been able to learn from the experience of our different brands and channels, and we’re now seeing exponential growth in the size of our audience and our referral traffic.”
A key lesson from this year is to always put the audience first, Stevens said.
“We’ve learnt it’s critical that we produce quality content that is relevant to our customers, the channel where they are engaging with us, and the point that they are at on the customer journey,” she said.
“We’ve also learnt we need to structure our content production around key business objectives.
“Content marketing is a long game and it’s about building trust. You have to earn that trust over time. You wouldn’t take a first date to meet your parents, would you?”
We’ve also learnt we need to structure our content production around key business objectives
Among the priorities for Intrepid in 2015 is putting more emphasis on video output.
“We’re also seeing what we can do to keep our bounce rate as low as possible and our time on page as high as possible,” Stevens said. “They’re the key indicators we use to determine how engaged our readers are.”
Metrics are also still a talking point, and the travel group reports on referral sources, unique page views, time spent on page and bounce rates, as well as the month’s best-performing articles.
“While it’s important to track our wins and losses, we’re shifting towards viewing our content as more of an ‘always-on’ exercise, as opposed to a quick conversion tool,” Stevens said.
“We believe people always come first. It is important to recognise that some things – like providing useful, engaging and insightful travel content to travellers you'd like to start a relationship with – are just good ideas.”
Up next: Why next year will see more strategic and technology driven content come to the fore