Food for thought: Why CMOs are building content creation capabilities in-house

We ask four leading brand marketers to share how in-house content production is driving their marketing programs and partnerships

Content production is beast that needs constant feeding, particularly as the number of adaptive owned, earned and paid digital channels proliferates. So it’s no surprise to see marketers ramping up internal capabilities accordingly.

This year’s State of the CMO report shows half of all respondents have invested in content production capabilities over the last 12 months. One in four also told us they’re investing in content creation and production technologies in the next 12-24 months.

In our latest Food for Thought feature, we ask several leading marketing chiefs to tell us why in-house content creation and production is attractive, what channels, activities and customer interactions/touchpoints it’s been of most importance to have in-house content creation and production capability for, and what it’s delivering in terms of marketing programs.

Alix Russell

General manager marketing media, digital, communication and active wellness, PharmaCare

For the remainder of 2022, digital marketing, content creation and ecommerce are the key areas of focus for PharmaCare’s dedicated in-house healthcare ‘mini-agency’, The Hive.

With its HQ located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, PharmaCare is an Australian born and built success story, 35 years in the making. The Hive has been an integral part of its success – working as an extension of the brand team to produce compelling creative and content for healthcare and wellness brands, from well-known vitamins and deodorants through to moisturisers and superfood snacks.

Credit: Alix Russell, PharmaCare

Rather than working with creative agency partners to develop ad copy, point-of-sale and other brand comms, PharmaCare has chosen to invest in growing the in-house team at The Hive to lift and strengthen its content capabilities across a growing portfolio of products. These include trusted names such as Sambucol, Nature’s Way, Skin Doctors, Redwin, Bioglan, Ease-A-Cold, KP24, SUP, Go Natural, Brut and Norsca.

Over the past 12 months, The Hive has grown its expertise by hiring five new digital marketing specialists into its team of 23 talented individuals. The team now includes strategists, designers, creatives branding experts and insights and analysts professionals, who are responsible for everything from brand communications strategy to bespoke creative concepts, packaging, and end-to-end TVC production.

Building our own in-house team means campaigns can be executed faster from brief to in-market. Changes can also be made quickly, and we can better support the brands’ biggest customers to drive sales – including the likes of Coles, Woolworths, and Chemist Warehouse. Review timelines are virtually non-existent as a simple walk across the office and a chat gets the job done.

In addition, we’ve also found keeping a flat structure at The Hive – rather than the traditional hierarchical structure you might find at an agency – keeps innovation, creativity, and variety alive and thriving in-house. We’re buzzing with ideas every day; hence – The Hive!

Charlie Spendlove

Head of marketing and communications, Guide Dogs

Chiara Belluomo

Digital marketing manager, Guide Dogs

At Guide Dogs, we have a highly engaged audience with a voracious appetite for content that extends beyond our beautiful Guide Dogs to the incredible stories of the people with low vision or blindness that we serve.

Three years ago, we undertook an extensive review of our content strategy across the many channels we operate within. The new strategy that emerged from this work has seen a 4,331 per cent increase in engagement, which is an 2,543 per cent increase over previous years. Having a right team with the right smarts to dynamically feed the content our audiences want, at any given time, has been critical to our success.

The case for an in-house content team was compelling. Staff are closer to the brand and the rich stories to be shared. They are also intimately acquainted with audience insights and the goals of our business strategy. But it can be hard to scale in-house teams quickly and efficiently.

Credit: Guide Dogs

We didn’t let this be a blocker. We found the benefits of an in-house team far outweighed the negatives, especially for Guide Dogs, where our passionate staff are the best placed to tell our brand story and deliver the most impactful organic content to our loyal audiences. Early on, we identified social media is one of the key areas where in-house content teams can have the greatest impact.

As social media content trends towards authentic, off-the cuff content, we are investing in supporting and inspiring all staff – not just the marketing team – to become content creators. Training staff on how to capture content when they’re in the field delivering services to clients or training future Guide Dogs is important. But just as important is shifting their mindsets and embedding the value of content to our audiences, which in turn makes them feel proud to tell our brand story.

Among examples of our work is our sleeping puppies filmed by our puppy raiser, DYI dog toys from our puppy development advisor, and our four-day YAP trip [Young Adults Victoria], as part of our peer support program in Victoria.

We’ve done this by working with our staff to remove perceived barriers in creating content and developing strategies to overcome these challenges. This included setting clear expectations with real life examples and co-designing content guidelines, timelines and templates.

At the core of our culture are the values of teamwork and the encouragement of others. As a result, it was no surprise we found the most effective strategy for motivating everyone to be accountable for curating the stories of our organisation was through the celebration of success. This closes the loop by making every content contributor aware of the impact of their stories in terms of social reach and engagement. It has become quite the competition internally to see whose stories get the most traction.

As we invest in new social media channels like Tik Tok over the next 12 months, we expect to see this strategy reap rewards and create a wellspring of authentic, employee-generated content that will inspire, bring joy and educate all our audiences about the extraordinary impact Guide Dogs for the people we serve.

Holly McCarthy

Marketing director, Reckitt Health Australia and New Zealand

A few years ago, our team launched Energy Studios – a content production arm designed to develop bespoke communications for Reckitt Health Australia and New Zealand, in a move towards a more agile and competitive approach to creativity. Made up of a group of talented creative directors, copywriters, designers, animators and project managers, we’ve built a team of in-house brand champions who develop personalised digital experiences for our consumers and retail partners. 

As marketers, this investment has opened the door to an experienced group of creatives who go into any brief with the ingrained background of what we want for our brands. Having this resource at our fingertips has above all given us the power of agility, with the capability to swiftly develop bespoke content that accurately reflects what’s happening in the world of our consumers and retail partners. It’s important to us as a business that we can quickly respond to any product or cultural changes with updated digital content or creative ideas.

Credit: Holly McCarthy, Reckitt Benckiser

This became particularly prevalent as Covid-19 hit, with our brand teams working closely with Energy Studios to develop tailored, real-time communications for our stakeholders, retail partners and consumers.  

Alongside Energy Studios, we also work with a range of creative agencies that give us the invaluable support we need to create engaging campaigns. Under this hybrid model, we lean on these outsourced companies for their specialist insights, creative diversity and strategy. Together, these partnerships mean we have the best brands and skills working to constantly challenge the way we do business, so we continue to deliver great work that creates impact for our brands.

Check out more of CMO's Food for Thought pieces with marketing leaders on key capability development:

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