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CMA International Content Marketing Awards Shortlist Revealed
The world’s most competitive content marketing awards
London, October 9, 2017: The Content Marketing Association (CMA), the industry body for the content marketing industry, has revealed its shortlist for the 2017 International Content Marketing Awards. The winners of the world’s most competitive awards for the global content marketing industry will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 28 November at the Roundhouse in London.
This year has seen a boom in content marketing strategy budgets, with the value of the global content marketing industry now standing at over £5bn. Significant investment in areas such as video, social and data has been reflected in this year’s ICM Awards, with four new categories added to bring the total to 28. Shortlists of up to 10 entries per category will fight for Gold, Silver and Bronze.
In total, the 2017 International Content Marketing Awards has received:
Over 400 entries
Nominations from 135 agencies
Entries representing work for over 260 brands and businesses
Nominations from 23 different countries, including UK, USA, Canada, Germany,
Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Sweden and Israel
Catherine Maskell, Managing Director for the Content Marketing Association, said: “I am incredibly proud and pleased at the pace of growth of our awards. They are a true marker of the very best in worldwide branded content. The nominees and winners will achieve international recognition as best-in-class in this fast-growing marketing discipline. This growth continues to reflect the pace of change in the way brands market to their audiences.”
The first round of judging was completed by a panel of 65 judges from across the agency world, made up of senior-level representatives from CMA member and non-member agencies.
The CMA prides itself on the robustness of its judging, and the second stage will be held on Thursday 2 November, with an illustrious line-up of marketing experts forming the final judging panel.
To view the Awards shortlist, download the PDF or click here.
2017 – The Year in Content Marketing Quiz
On Wednesday 6th December the CMA’s Digital Breakfast will be taking a long hard look at 2017. Our panel of experts will showcase what they think have been the major innovations of the last twelve months while offering some predictions for 2018.
In the meantime though you can discover how much you have been paying attention this year by taking our content marketing 2017 quiz. Get 100% correct and you can win 2 tickets to a future Digital Breakfast, be careful though some parts are a tad tricky. Send a screenshot of your score to firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a go and see you on the 6th. There are more details about the last Digital Breakfast of the year here.
How can your content stand out?
There is now so much content being generated by publishers, brands and consumers that getting your work to stand out is becoming increasingly difficult.
How you achieve excellence and virality for branded content was the key topic of the digital breakfast held in the first week of November.
The first of the four presenters was Stefano Marrone, Managing Director, Nucco Brain. Stefano runs the visual storytelling studio working in the VR, animation, illustration, visual development and motion graphics field, creating high-quality cross-media content for brands and agencies alike.
He kicked off by asking the question “how do we get our audience to binge watch branded content?” In other words, how do we do get them to watch branded content in the way that they would watch Netflix?
Stefano explained that his company, which works mainly with B2B and corporate clients, sees the competition for his content as not just from rival companies, but as the entire media landscape. He argued that content “needs to be attention grabbing, as appealing as a Netflix show.”
Stefano then showed how people digest information which he likened to a sales funnel. He stressed the importance of a hook for the content, but lamented that some clients want to move the fine print to the top of the funnel. He believes that the most important thing is how to generate the hook and the level of awareness.
Stefano also believes that one of the enemies of content creation is insistence on perfection. He said this often leads to a campaign panic mentality. Rather content should be created in a sustained and ongoing way.
He highlighted that the key conflict in content creation is “budget vs quality of good content,” arguing that we need to learn from the old school with a format for each target audience/segment.
For Innovate UK the company created a series of strands targeted at different segments, with different level of quality and pacing. They also undertook an optimised production approach – asking ‘how can we squeeze as much content as possible from this?’ Stefano exhorted the audience to think about platforms, keeping in mind all the possible uses of content that they can do.
Creating digital scarcity
The second presenter was Seth Jackson, CEO, Landmark, a location-based experiences platform – the Pokémon GO for branded content is how the company describes it – powering branded, global campaigns for companies including Sony Music, Showtime Networks and CeX.
Seth took as the theme for his presentation – kinetic currency and creating digital scarcity.
Seth began by arguing that 2017 has been a year that has been characterised by movement in the currency markets. From the emergence of Bitcoin, through to the dollar jumping up and down like a yoyo and the Euro and pound volatility.
Another currency is kinetic currency, which Seth describes as physical movement in return for a reward. To illustrate this he talked about a Stormzy gig his daughter recently attended. Her kinetic currency included sharing that she was going to the gig on channels like Whatsapp, as well as actually walking to the show.
Seth added the kinetic currency was not a new concept either, adding that stores have used it and it is common in festivals too.
He then began to discuss the issues around experiential content acknowledging that “experiential doesn’t ‘scale, yet digital can scale beautifully, but it has no scarcity.”
He argued that if we can create digital scarcity people will care. So can it add value in tandem with kinetic currency? Seth believes that a year ago people would have said no. Then Pokemon Go came along, which proved that you can get people move from physical content to an experience.
Seth explained that a massive opportunity for brands in the future is that people are doing things to actively participate in a digital experience.
He cited Nike Snkrs as being a recent example of how his concept works. With Snkrs people want to have the limited edition shoe. To facilitate this Nike created virtual Snkrs in digital locations – people turn up and open up their phone in that location and then buy the shoe.
Seth explained that Landmark wanted to explore idea of a playground for marketers with concepts of digital scarcity and kinetic currency. They wanted it to be a web based platform incorporating AR. The platform, which can be white labeled, allowed brands to place digital content in the real world in real time. He argued that if you “create a level of scarcity you see interesting results.”
To illustrate this Seth cited a concept that was developed for Homeland Surveillance Mission – which turned the streets of NYC into an interactive walking tour. People engaged with the content as they walked around the city.
In other words if consumers have delivered their kinetic currency they get a reward – something worthwhile. Another example was for the singer Shakira. Content was placed in different hot spots. Different tracks were hidden in different places – and it was only when the content was found the tracks were added online. Seth explained how fans worked together to discover this content and deliver it to the rest of the world.
Seth finished by asking – can scarcity work? He said he thinks it can, but there needs to be a lot of experimentation first.
Harnessing AI in branded content
The third speaker was Alex Vaidya, CEO & Co-Founder, StoryStream, a content marketing platform helping global brands to deliver the content most likely to engage and convert customers across every digital channel.
Alex began by explaining how StoryStream is a content marketing platform powered by Artificial intelligence (AI), and is an innovation in how people will work with content and data. Alex described AI as the latest evolution in tech to help humans communicate.
He then ran through how technology had helped people communicate in the past; from cave painting through to the mobile phone. He pointed out that we live in an age of information overload and that 90% of data has been created in last two years. “We have reached the content crunch, what do we do?” he asked.
“Those who adopt new innovations first have competitive advantage,” stressed Alex. “We are awash with data but not using it –AI is the new era of human communication.” Alex added that AI will help humans process data and help us to make decisions about its conclusions.
Alex then highlighted four areas that brands can use AI in content marketing
1 Visual recognition – looking at sets of images and then making predictions about future ones. A key area is visual search.
2 Language – natural language processing- understanding the context of text and language, for example chatbots. Alex added that this was an example of the way AI can give humans more capacity.
3 Decision making – making recommendations as to how people use the platform. For example, videos you like on Netflix.
4 Data analytics – looking at the data such as web traffic etc and spotting trends.
“Data is like oil. AI helps you find the good stuff,” argued Alex.
“AI needs to be part of a brand’s marketing armoury. AI can’t do imagination – it frees up time, so we can focused on creative part – storytelling
Alex then ran through a use case of how brands can use AI to solve interesting problems – unlocking social data
He explained that for humans alone this was a non-starter as, for example, it would take 11 years of work to analyse 110,000 pieces of content. Using AI it is possible to identify trends in the content quickly and easily.
To illustrate this Alex spoke of social tribes and of a certain type of owner of Mini cars. These are women between 20-25 who own Minis and take images of the car’s key with their manicured nails. AI image recognition can be used note and identify this tribe.
As Alex said “the audience create the tribe themselves, once you know the tribe, you know where they are and what content they engage with etc. You are able to build a sophisticated profile of your tribe. You can aggregate the content around the brand and then apply AI and tag it, and you can group content together.”
The power of audio
The last speaker of the day was Clare Chadburn, Head of Development, Wisebuddah – who focused on how brands can engage through audio
Clare ran through a series of slides which highlighted how audio can engage with consumers in a unique way.
Her first case study was the creation of a radio station called Last Pirate FM on behalf of a group of charities who want to encourage people to leave them money in their will.
Clare explained that her company was presented with two challenges. Firstly to bring together the voices of 183 charities, and secondly to connect with a certain audience of people who grew up in the 60s who listened to pirate radio.
WiseBuddah created a narrative around an original pirate radio DJ from the 60s – Emperor Rosko – and billed him as the last pirate on his final stint. DAB licences were created in five areas and the content was available via Mixcloud, 24 hours 7 days a week.
The campaign was very successful in creating both a noise and a legacy for the charities.
Clare also cited the success of podcasting pointing out that in terms of engagement and attention it is the opposite end of the scale of the goldfish spectrum. She cited recent research that showed podcast listeners to be within the ages of 25-44 and many listened to podcasts for more than two hours per day.
She highlighted how podcasts such as This American Life, Serial and others were successful because of their informal, relaxed style and the way that they enabled people to share the type of stories that they might not share on traditional radio formats. She featured a snippet from Attitude Heroes, a podcast series from Attitude magazine which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The podcast was created in conjunction with car brand Jaguar.
Clare explained how savvy brands are now starting to create podcasts citing Virgin, Mr Porter and Microsoft as being examples of companies who have created successful and engaging podcasts.
Clare finished by stressing the reasons for creating audio content. These include:
Tell a different story
Generate shareable content
Humanise your brand
Gain a new audience and consumers
Offer thought leadership
Create a community
Whilst keeping production costs low
She finished by pointing to the future and the growth of smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and how these might create new demand for audio content.
Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA
Expert Panel: Best of Digital 2017 & Predictions for 2018 – 6th December 2017
Our December panel of experts have significant experience in creating and managing digital content today. In quick-fire succession, each will showcase the most important developments in digital marketing through 2017, both from their own case studies and the wider digital landscape.
You’ll also get each of our expert’s predictions for the most important trends facing marketers as they head into 2018. What major factors should you focus on, and what new challenges and opportunities will emerge for brands and marketers over the next 12 months?
There will be a chance to discuss this directly with our speakers in the panel debate. Our speakers will take questions from the audience and discuss the wider repercussions of the next wave of change in digital content.
2018 starts here, so book now.
Allan Stewart, Chief Strategy Officer, Croud
Tom Head, Head of Sales and Marketing, Lab.co.uk
Stuart Campbell, Managing Director at Bareska Creative Ltd.
Sam Bueno De Mesquita, Senior Content Strategy Director, Publicis Media
Ruairi Curran, Head of Planning, Gravity Road
Tim Tucker, Training Consultant – CMA.
Tim is a trainer, content strategist, online copywriter, user experience designer, and consultant who helps people to communicate better through digital media. He has over 13 years’ experience working in digital media.
Wednesday 6th December
9am – 11am (Breakfast consisting of delicious bacon sandwiches, pastries, fruit pots and smoothies is served from 8:30am)
51-53 Hatton Garden
CMA Members: £50 + VAT
General Admission: £100 + VAT
Is Personalised Content Getting Smarter?
Technology can be transformative, making lives easier and less stressful. However, if there’s one topic that seems to always raise the blood pressure of marketers it is tech-driven personalisation of content.
Content marketers not only have to think about ROI on the content they produce for their own platforms, but also invariably optimise it for social media too. Personalising it for individuals seems like an additional task that they really could do without.
However there are figures that suggest that companies that do optimise the content for their visitors are much more likely to have successful outcomes whether that’s brand awareness or direct sales. For example in 2015, technology market researcher Gartner published a statistic that suggested that by 2018, companies that have “fully invested in all types of personalisation” will outsell companies that have not by 20 percent. That’s a fairly significant margin.
Many online retailers have already achieved huge success with personalisation. Amazon has offered suggested additional purchases based on personal behaviour for many years now. There’s also a significant amount of personalisation in both online display ad words and in social platforms.
So why not content too? The good news is that the increasing sophistication of Artificial Intelligence has helped spawn a new breed of startups which in theory should make personalising content a lot easier and significantly more automated.
Much of the way that the content is personalised depends on the data that is generated by a person. The task for brands is to interpret this data and then come up appropriate solutions.
Brands can learn much about a person from not just the content they choose to read or view, but also other factors, such as the time of the day they visit, the length of time they spend reading the content, the device they use and their previous interactions with the site.
All this data can be harnessed to ensure that the content that is delivered matches the expectation of the visitor and ensures that they engage with the brand in a way that is meaningful for both parties.
At the moment a lot of the personalisation of content is at a fairly basic level. So, for example, brands will use the data they have on a visitor and make the call about where they are on journey. Then serve them pop ups or boxes highlighting additional content, offers, subscriptions etc.
Content personalisation is however likely to become a lot more sophisticated thanks to a new breed of startups who are harnessing Artificial Intelligence to take the concept further.
Liftigniter recently announced that it has raised over $6 million to help websites of all stripes to personalise the content they serve readers.
“Our customers’ websites are living and breathing things, and the connections between every piece of content is changing,” co-founder Adam Spector told TechCrunch. “The articles you write today could be super relevant to an article that’s five years old. The relevance may change over time. The world is constantly in flux, the idea of having a hard-coded, static list of connections doesn’t make sense.”
Liftigniter uses AI to look at a variety of signals to determine a person’s journey and the intent they might have in visiting a site. It then delivers the most appropriate web page.
The there’s Dynamic Yield, an Israeli startup which has raised a very significant war chest of around $50 million to enable brands to streamline and automate the personalisation journey.
It is not just web pages that are personalised in this way either. Clinch is a startup that has developed personalised video ads. The technology could however be used to deliver personalised video content too.
If you want to know more about personalisation of content then the Digital Breakfast this Wednesday (8th) is focusing on the topic with views from a range of speakers from both technology companies and agencies.
More information here.
Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA
The Sweet Spot Where Content, Influencers and Social Meet
There’s a growing industry consensus that the point where content, influencers and social platforms interact is a sweet spot for brands, says consultant editor Dominic Mills. The trick is how to take advantage of it, manage it and maximise the return
It’s one of the jobs of a consultant editor to roam the landscape, gathering and sorting truffles for the audience to consume. Not too shabby, as jobs go.
Let’s start with influencers, a hot subject. At last month’s Festival of Marketing the subject of influencers was near-ubiquitous.
What influencers do is create content. Not ads, not marketing collateral, not material necessarily aligned with the top or the bottom of the purchase funnel, but plain and simple content.
So…first stop is October’s CMA breakfast on ROI. Of the many nuggets on show, one comment from Jules Lund, founder of the Tribe social influencer agency, caught my ear.
Pointing to his smartphone, he noted that the current models came packed with camera-enhancement tools – filters, AR and so on – that made the posting of near-professional quality content incredibly easy.
Combine that with a) a profusion of platforms – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram etc – b) a millennial cohort with an appetite for recording and making public every aspect of their lives via video or image (including their interactions with brands) – and c) a whole new aspect of content marketing opens up.
As Lund sees it, these forces are ushering a whole new age, that of the micro influencer. Micro influencers are members of small tribes, he says, and are replacing celebrity influencers. What they lack in reach, they more than make up for in the engagement they can drive.
“The smaller the tribe,” says Lund, “the more personal the contact, the greater the trust and the higher the engagement they drive.” According to Tribe figures, influencers with reach of 3-50,000 followers achieve an average engagement of 4.12pc. Those with 100,000+ achieve about 2pc.
Rise of visual platforms
Truffling around elsewhere last month, I met Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, a tech-based outfit that manages social campaigns and helps advertisers sync between social and broadcast.
(By the way, 4C offers content marketers a new three-letter acronym to impress: SUR or swipe-up rate. Use that and feel epic.)
4C’s latest figures show the near-vertical rise of ad content on second-generation platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Some of that ad content, assuming it is properly labelled – which is important and failure to do so is potentially a fly in the ointment – is influencer generated.
What these platforms have in common is that: a) they have particularly large user bases amongst millennials; b) they are predominantly visual; and therefore c) fertile ground for easy-to-make content of the type produced by influencers.
As Goldman notes, they have different characteristics. One that he highlighted was Pinterest, which he described as the most “intent-driven” platform.
This makes sense. Search may offer the first signals of intent, but when people start pinning images intent has jumped a gear.
This potency is intensified as the platforms add new facilities, such as Pinterest’s visual search mechanic. Emily Kramer, senior media services director at data giant Merkle, describes this as “a capability so compelling that a brand like [US retailer] Target is building the offering into a native app – putting consumer experience at the forefront of the engagement.”
On Instagram, immersive full-screen capabilities on the platform’s Stories facility reinforce the value of quality content. Says Kramer: “Content reigns supreme and vertival video provides brands with a full-scale canvas to message their offering.”
The Nissan way
So what does this mean for brands? Over at last month’s Festival of Marketing, Nissan gave delegates a best-in-class and detailed breakdown of the way it uses content from influencers.
The Nissan principle is simple: align its influencer strategy to each stage of the customer journey, integrating it into the broader comms plan. The result is that Nissan now has one comms plan and one budget, out of which comes influencer content. And that content is judged on KPIs that are aligned to the brand objectives – in other words the same as any other part of the comms plan.
The mechanics are a little more complicated. Nissan breaks the customer journey into four – See..Think..Do…Care – but the priorities are different for each model in its range. Thus the Qashkai is more about the ‘See’ in order to build reach, while the electric Leaf model is more about the ‘Think’ to drive trust.
It has three categories of influencer, from from celebs in the top tier, high-reach individuals in the middle, and lower-reach ‘advocates’ at the bottom.
Nissan’s influencer efforts, therefore, are no small beer. Managing them and the process is a big task. All told it works directly with almolst 200, and watches the efforts of 600. This requires an in-house team of four full-time staff.
The role of content agencies
So, if all these influencers are producing tons of content, where do content agencies fit in? In many places, I’d say.
Few clients are of the size of Nissan, capable of funding an in-house unit, and even in-house units need support from outside agencies.
One starting point is devising an influencer strategy, which is pretty much an offshoot of constructing a content strategy. What does the brand need, where and when?
What role does that influencer content play at different points in the customer journey? Left to their own devices, this is not the sort of thinking influencers offer – and why would they?
Managing the process is equally complex and requires both specialist knowledge and an innate understanding of what makes good content. Going down the micro influencer route clearly expands rthe scope of the task. While platforms like Tribe ease the process, there still has to be some quality control and distribution skills applied. Again, these are both areas that fall naturally into the remit of content specialists.
Third, staying on top of the rapid developments in platform capabilities is a job that requires experience and expertise. Understanding the different roles of the platforms demands a deep knowledge of the landscape. Again, this falls naturally to agencies. Those working across multiple brands have a better view.
Last, there are the issues of measurement and optimisation. Agencies are better placed to understand benchmarks and norms for content engagement KPIs, and then the ability to iterate or optimise content to seek the maximum return.
And of course, content agencies are damn good at creating content themselves. Any brand that relies solely on influencers might be taking too great a risk.
Just as the confluence of technology, influencers and social platforms offers brands a whole new world to play in, so it does for agencies.
Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA
A Day in the Life of Joe Orton, Head of Platforms at SevenC3
Joe has worked at SevenC3 since January 2015. He has a long background in social media, working on brands from Under Armour and Nandos to UBS and Grant Thornton. Starting as a community manager and content creator, his role evolved – mirroring the evolution of social – into Head of Platforms. While distribution is key, his background means this is approached with content at heart.
I’m awoken by my alarm clock at 7:15am, rolling out of bed once I’ve pressed the snooze button. Twice. My mornings at home are all about brevity; glass of water, brush my teeth, shower and out the door by 8:00. It’s a fairly quick bus journey to work, which I spend staring out the window whilst listening to a podcast. I keep it light, with something sport or comedy-related normally. Adam Buxton, The Football Ramble and the Elis James and John Robins Radio X podcast are particular favourites.
I’m at my desk with a coffee and breakfast for 8:50am each morning, which I shovel down as I read emails, check for any trending news and monitor the performance of any paid distribution running. Constant vigilance is key to ensuring effective optimisation. Yes, I am a laugh. As it’s a Monday I also circulate my weekly social newsletter – an internal wrap of the biggest three stories in the world of social media and distribution. It’s a quick and easy way of making sure everyone in the agency keeps abreast of opportunities and big news, especially anything that could pertain to clients.
My first meeting of the day kicks off and I’m sat down with the creative team to take a new brief from our Client Partner, Gareth Thomas, who recently joined us from iProspect. As a rule, we ensure that I am present for any new brief to guarantee that distribution is a consideration from the start. It guides the creative process, but it’s also key that the creative idea lends itself to the objectives and the distribution plan, and vice versa. We call this holistic approach Creative Distribution.
11am and I get some more desk time. Presently we are working on a big campaign for Vitality, with the aim of encouraging women to get back into team sports at a local club level. As someone who is keen on staying fit and active for the physical and mental perks, it’s something I feel strongly about. For this campaign we are working on a phase-by-phase basis, constantly adjusting budget division between audience segmentation and creative variants to deliver maximum results to the most engaged audience. Pulling together a phase report highlights the successes, informing how we adjust our plans to maximise results in the next phase. We’re digging deeper into metrics at present, focusing on high engagement rates to avoid wastage. I’m a big believer in airing thoughts with the team, so am quite often annoying those around me by bouncing ideas off them. I’m seated as part of the strategy team, so I always get some good insights and a fresh perspective.
After a lunchtime stroll to Leather Lane or Exmouth Market for some ultra hip, new-wave fusion food, it’s time to tackle ad set-up. This is all about plugging in creative, targeting, and budget; a job that requires focus to ensure accuracy, so the headphones go on at this point. The team like this part of the day as they get some peace and quiet for the foreseeable. It’s not the most glamorous part of the job, but it’s where everything is brought together and comes to life. Each of the platforms has its own foibles, and constantly evolves in terms of minutiae, so last-minute amends to align with a new feature or update are not unheard of.
Having spent the past hour or so in the matrix (aka ads platforms) I go for a caffeine hit and a stretch of the legs before jumping on a call. We’re always keen to work with new platforms and tools, and a webinar with ToneDen to see what their platform can offer us is on the cards. They focus on audience building, following the user journey with engagement and ultimately conversion. After the call I collate my notes and circulate them to the relevant people in the business, particularly to any account leads where I’ve spotted a particular opportunity. This is followed up with a call with the Performance team in the Berlin C3 office (our partner agency) to talk through a pitch that we’re working on in London, so I give them an overview of the platform, too.
4:30 and a pleasant way to end the day; brainstorm time. My top tip for a brainstorm, especially this late in the day, is Haribo. Something about having a communal bowl of sweets helps people relax a bit more in a meeting. Not to mention I really like Haribo. While I’m not one for any over the top brainstorming techniques that have the potential to embarrass some people (me), I have built up a handful of techniques over the years to inspire some freethinking. I’m particularly fond of the approach where you put yourself in someone else’s shoes to try to get a fresh perspective. Today my colleagues will be variously Batman (not Ben Affleck), Michelle Obama and Gandhi. If that doesn’t win a CMA, nothing will…
Joe Orton, Head of Platforms at SevenC3
The Future Content Sessions Debut
On Thursday the CMA debuted its new event to a packed house. Held in the early evening – it kicked off at 4pm and was a tad more informal than the Digital Breakfasts – the sessions aim to highlight the people who are innovating in content creation and distribution.
As the series continues it will looks at new trends, the impact of technology on content creation and the continuing importance of social media to both consumers and brands.
The first event saw a trio of presentations which tackled among other things, viral video content, fake news and the renaissance in podcasting.
The first to present was Henry Hitchcox, who is Creative Director of Jungle Creations. As Henry explained Jungle is the brainchild of Jamie Bolding, who while at university began to experiment with ways to make content go viral on Facebook.
Several years on and Jungle boasts traffic unrivalled by almost every other media company on this side of the Atlantic, via its highly popular brands Viral Thread and Twisted.
Henry explained he saw how Jamie had created scale and wanted to work with him to enable brands to have access to that audience. He added that each time the company worked with brands they were able to guarantee at least one million, and in some instances two milion, views.
Henry then showed a series of clips including his first attempt at a viral video which helped establish his name.
He finished by offering a series of tips to the audience on how to create videos that could be widely viewed. His ultimate takeaway was only create videos that you personally would share. If you don’t want to share it how do you expect others to?
Tackling fake news
The second presenter was Holly Brockwell, who in her time has been both a marketer and an editor. She is also one of the journalists employed on the latest project by the founder of Wikipedia – Jimmy Wales – WikiTribune.
It is a news source where after the stories are created, they can then be edited and proofed by a team in a similar way to how Wikipedia pages are managed. Holly explained that Jimmy Wales had chosen to embark on the project as a way of tackling the issue of fake news. It is set to launch before the end of the year.
Holly also offered her views on the way that social media is developing referencing the recent discussions sparked by the revelations about US film producer Harvey Weinstein. She was critical of the ‘Boycott Twitter’ approach, saying that it was essential that women kept their voice on the platforms. Although she praised the #MeToo hashtag which she felt was having a real impact. She did add that she would have liked to have seen a hashtag that was more inclusive and worked for both sexes.
The final presentation was a discussion on podcasting helmed by Simon Baker, Managing Director, TCO London – the company hosting the event.
Simon quizzed Mike Fordham, Agency Editor TCO London and David Jenkins, Editor, Little White Lies both of whom have worked on podcasts, to explain why they have once again become so popular and influential. Both pinpointed the key moment as being the creation of the US podcast Serial, which has had a huge impact on both sides of the Atlantic.
David, who oversees the well established and very successful Little White Lies podcast, argued that it was intimacy that made podcasts successful. Unlike with video the presenters could relax and just talk and this has generated podcasts with great chemistry and sparked incredible conversations.
Mike, who has worked on podcast for the brand size? agreed. He described how size’s podcast which was recorded in the man cave of key cultural commentator, Don Letts. Mike explained that the atmosphere and range of conversations that followed could not really have been replicated in a more formal environment.
Both stressed how the slow pace and depth of podcasts were something of an antidote to the quick and instant world of social media content, and how this may have been a reason for their resurgence.
They also explained that there are number of ways that brands can work with podcasters, from sponsoring a whole podcast through to old US radio style messages placed in between the content. Podcasting presents a huge opportunity for brands to reach out to engaged and intelligent audiences.
The event finished with the presenters taking questions which was then followed by drinks.
If you want to get the details on who will be appearing in the next Future Content Sessions email us here.
Ashley Norris, Consultant Editor, The CMA
How Artificial Intelligence could change branded content
There is a huge debate in the media at the moment about the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and robots and whether their widespread use in the industry will destroy or create human jobs.
The optimists argue that technological change always does consign some occupations to history, but ushers in new ones too.
The pessimists believe that this time the pace of change will be so quick that there won’t be enough time for new roles to be created. It really is a case of time will tell.
What though of the media? Newspaper companies have been experimenting with Artificial Intelligence for several years years now. Simultaneously the big platforms like Google have been looking at how to generate interest in its AI innovations.
So what does this mean for journalists, and more broadly content creators who work with brands. Are their days numbered? I was recently at the FIPP Congress where a panel attempted to answer those questions.
Creating commoditised content
There may come a day when AI powered bots can successfully create think pieces reflecting the views of ‘composite commentators’ that might even reflect the personal biases of the reader, but not for now. Most of the innovation is using bots to create content in data heavy areas like sport or finance news. As Francesco Marconi, Manager strategy and development, Associated Press explained humans set up templates and the content (names of company figures and potentially standardised quotes from individuals), is then inserted by the bot in the appropriate places.
As Francesco argued the role of the bot is not to replace journalists, but rather to free up their time so they can focus on more creative work. As well as obviously creating scale for the media company.
“With automated content we can open new markets and better serve our client publishers with new forms of content. These are often in areas that we previously found difficult to scale. Automation of earnings reports, for example. We went from doing 300 companies to over 4000 stories, and were able to free up 20% of journalists’ time.”
Media companies aren’t just using AI to automatically create word based stories either – AI can also be harnessed for video content. Once again humans set up a template and then AI can be used to select appropriate words and images.
AI in social media
The opportunity for brands to use AI right now is in the lower rungs of content production with commoditised content that they can put out via social media. Bots might not just create the content too. They may also optimise the content to go out at different times, as well as power how an automatic message responder – whether they be one to one or one to many via comments – interacts with users.
In fact community management is clearly an area that social platforms are investing heavily in. At FIPP Alice Zimmermann – Global Product Partnerships, Google spoke of a project that does just that.
“We use AI to help technology to enhance media and make our professional lives and jobs easier. An example is Project Jigsaw which uses machine learning in different ways to protect freedom of speech online. We need to be able to participate in media in discussion boards etc without being subjected trolling and online abuse. We now have AI that can gauge the toxic impact the comments could have on a discussion, and thereby encourage a healthier culture in our media.”
As Francesco Marconi outlined, Associated Press has found another use AI – powering research into social media to isolate trends. “We also use augmentation to discover hidden insights. We used AI to analyse tweeted replies to Trump’s social media posts. By analysing the public discourse we were able to identify some key terms. We could see partisan bias when people are replying to tweets.”
For brands having this level of intelligent analysis of social media will be invaluable and it will play a core role in what is arguably going to be AI’s key role in branded content creation in the next few years – personalisation.
Essentially AI systems learn about individuals from what they read and how they respond to content, then deliver content that is most relevant to them. The way this has rolled out so far is often a mixture of encouraging readers to offer information – ticking boxes as to what they are interested in – and then using AI so spot their usage trends and fill the gaps. A classic example of how this works is the BBC’s MyBBC innovation. This is a receptacle of an individual’s data which is both implicitly and explicitly collected. In other words the individual makes choices to personalise the content but they are tracked too. They then serve recomendations on what is of interest to make the service more relevant. They can then use that data to create stories that are most relevant for individuals.
This quite clearly has huge potential for brands to meet the demands of their customers with appropriate content which may deepen brand relationships, or in the B2B sphere might move them a notch or two along the sales pipeline.
I think we are heading towards the tipping point with AI and brands. At the present time AI seems like an expensive investment (though Google for one is very keen to licence out its AI technology) and there’s evidence that not all brands are convinced of its merits. Next year though could see all that change as the cost of integrating AI systems falls and brands become more serious about personalising content.
Commissioned by The CMA
Is Digital PR getting harder?
Is digital PR getting harder? In some ways yes, but it’s not all bad news. Stay committed to good storytelling and embrace the winds of change – they bring a broad range of new and exciting opportunities.
For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge. With help from some key PR influencers, we address some of the most common fears about whether or not the industry is getting more difficult to navigate.
The first PR campaign on record was the work of Edward Bernays back in 1929. Down in the history books as the ‘father of public relations,’ Bernays was employed by Lucky Strike to convince women to smoke. Bernays wanted to show women that smoking cigarettes was not only respectable, but a step in the right direction in the fight for equality. He paid his secretary Bertha Hunt to smoke on a crowded street during the Easter Parade. While people were initially scandalised, other young women soon followed suit brandishing their ‘torches of freedom’. A few ads claiming cigs were great for those watching their figures and BOOM – Lucky Strike sales had doubled by the end of the year.
Today things are a bit harder. Back in the good old days the lunches were long and boozy, KPIs were an afterthought and getting coverage was a piece of cake. Then digital came along and everything got a bit murkier. As print slides ever more out of fashion, today most of us are out chasing those elusive backlinks – and they’re getting harder to catch all the time. Linked closely with content for SEO and link-building strategies, the rules for Digital PR seem to change on a day-by-day basis. People expect more compelling content, the pace of change is accelerating and yesterday’s news was forgotten before yesterday lunchtime.
For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get links and coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge. Since launching as an agency back in 2013, we have often found ourselves discussing changes in the landscape and the state of the industry with our colleagues and clients. Has it really got harder to make an impact, or are we imagining it? What are the new challenges faced by those working in PR and how can we turn them to our advantage?
Some things never change. Whether you specialise in link-building or traditional media relations, everything comes back to the essential need for strong storytelling. As for the rest of it, it’s simply a matter of navigating modern challenges and turning them into opportunities.
With help from some industry influencers, we guide you through some of the concerns shared by those in the industry and advise on how you can turn them to your advantage.
Things that once seemed new, now seem old
They grow up so fast. The internet is 28 years old now but many of us are old enough to remember when it was new and exciting. Online shopping is 23 years old, the blog is 23 and with ‘Dancing Baby’ being the best thing about 1996, the viral video is 21 – almost a responsible adult! As publishers started to wake up to the power of the internet, the volume of online content grew exponentially. This has its pros and cons.
41% of people (and 33% of millennials) claim to feel overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of content choice on the internet.
With so much content out there, it’s getting hard to surprise audiences with something new.
Make it work for you Don’t rely on cheap tricks and trends with a fast-approaching expiration date. If you have to spend time on refining that angle or money on sourcing that quality data, do it. To ensure you tell a strong story, stay authentic to your brand and its voice but also think about the sites you are targeting and the issues that really matter to their audiences. Embrace new technologies like AR, VR and chatbots, but to keep those links flying in, focus on getting creative with existing formats. Make sure you have a good story to tell – then tell it in a creative way.
“Has public relations really changed or is it that we just have various new definitions for what is essentially traditional PR? Influencer outreach, content marketing, stakeholder management – these are all classed as more modern PR tactics but they’ve actually been about for years under the umbrella banner of ‘Communications’. Yes, the platforms on which we unleash various campaigns are now wider than ever before, but the arsenal of tools available to the modern day PR professional makes tracking this work far easier than in days gone by. Not dark social though, that’s a whole new barrel of giggles for modern PR folk.”
More background noise
With new agencies sprouting every five minutes and more content uploaded in an hour than anyone could read in a million years, competition is stronger than ever.
400 hours of video are shared online every minute – and that’s just one format.
Make it work for you For standout content embrace creativity, weirdness and trends for stand-out content. Make the most of your in-house talent. If you make great video content, work tirelessly to stay up-to-date with trends and refine your skills even more and build your reputation in that area. Obvious but effective.
“It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is a huge challenge for communicators now more than ever. Everybody has the ability to access so much material instantly without going through traditional media channels, filtered by ‘professionals’. Equally, this means the opportunity for PR people to get their content directly to audiences without passing it through filters.”
More channels and platforms
As audiences flock to more channels and platforms every day it can be hard to know where to invest your time and energy
Make it work for you There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this one – your strategy should be tailored to the specific needs of the business. Rank social networks according to where the brand’s audience currently is and where they are likely to be in the future. Don’t just look at numbers but at engagement, demographic patterns, organic activity, alignment with the core product and content.
“New forms of media have supplemented and become a channel for old. Modern relations practitioners must be able to work across all forms of media, and paid and earned. Media relations is making way for influencer relations. Journalists in almost every category have been augmented by so-called influencers that have built their own networks on reputation.”
Journalists are so bombarded with pitches and requests (see Challenge 2) that it’s hard to get a response – let alone a feature.
25% of email pitches are rejected by journalists for being too impersonal [Cision]
Make it work for you The biggest complaint from journalists is that brands and agencies are sending impersonal emails pitching ideas and content that bear little to no relevance on their site/ publication. Spend time personalising your emails and targeting your content well. Try making the most of new and exciting contacts by asking if there are any specific topics they want covered and shape your campaigns and content around their needs.
“More and more PR pros are chasing fewer and fewer journalists. Journalists are being swamped with ‘spam’ press releases. It’s time the PR industry took their research more seriously and tailored their pitches. 90% of what is distributed needs to be cut out and the other 10% sharpened up.”
As content online gets ever more varied, authentic and often bizarre – audiences have more or less seen it all.
Make it work for you Packaging your content in the right way works, promoting it innovatively helps but it will all be for nothing if the angle doesn’t work. Finding a strong, unique angle may take time, more time than any other part of the process, but it is time well spent. Gather your whole team together, even those not usually involved in the content-producing process and try out some new brainstorming techniques. Our current favourite is the ‘hat’ or parallel-thinking method.
“Being able to target particular demographics means we’re still able to ‘shock and awe’. If all you’re trying to do is shock someone, you first need to select an audience that will react to seeing such a thing. By segmenting your audience, you’re able to more accurately predict how people will react.”
We’re so busy!
Technology has created a fast-paced 24/7 environment where PR pros are under pressure to be flexible and strong in multiple disciplines.
Make it work for you Try partnering up with other people to help bolster each other’s skillsets and relieve some of the pressure. Embrace change and stay flexible and open-minded. PR involves more tasked with the advent of social and digital media – but that’s also why PR is becoming more credible as a discipline – more value. Monitoring and responding in real time to negative sentiment on social and digital channels has become the norm for PR practitioners, consumers might knowingly or unknowingly become the catalyst for a major scandal, look at the American Airlines fiasco.
“At JBH, we think about PR holistically – it’s no longer a separate discipline with different objectives. PR is now so closely aligned with SEO, social and influencer marketing, it makes sense to combine strategy and activity.”
We’re drowning in data
We know the importance of an analytical approach but it’s hard to know where to find tools that pull the PR value out of all the data.
Make it work for you It already is! Today we hear news in real time and have access to everything we could possibly want to know about audience trends and behaviours.No one has time to analyse it all – pick three metrics (e.g. backlink profiles) that correspond to your goals and check on them religiously.
“PR is becoming more scientific and data-driven – this is a good thing. Content needs to be relevant, with clear benefits and actions. PRs are now starting to track the effect of their output and feed this back into doing things better.”
Our job roles are changing
We’re all under pressure to learn more skills, our roles are entangled and everyone is stepping on eachother’s toes.
Make it work for you No one can do it all. Work with your strengths and take the time to really listen to new professionals as well as those from other disciplines. Accept help and offer yours to others. Stay receptive to change, no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.
“Time served is the typical measure of competence in public relations. It’s a lousy metric in a business that is moving so quickly. I’ve 20 years in practice but my social media listening skills are a work in progress and I’m lousy at visual community management. The Global Alliance recently published a global competency model. It needs to be developed and adopted as a standard by organisations and industry bodies. Practitioners need to sign up to continuous learning.”
We hope this has helped answer any questions you might have about the changing nature of digital PR. Every industry changes but the rules of good PR remain the same. Keep your finger on the pulse. Deliver the right stories to the right people at the right time. Embrace change and keep good storytelling at the heart of everything you do.
See the infographic to go with this article here.
Rob John, Digital PR Specialist JBH – Digital PR
Living The Brand
In a departure from our usual A Day in the Life column, we’ve invited Zoë Francis-Cox, Director at content agency Dialogue, to tell us how she is living the brand every day with key client Harley-Davidson.
In the context of my work, I’m often met with surprise when I say I didn’t ride a motorcycle before Dialogue started working with Harley-Davidson… responses include “you actually learned to ride a motorbike for your job?”. The answer is simple: yes, I did.
As I browsed through the brief for a magazine for UK members of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) with the team in early 2007, I half-jokingly said that I’d learn to ride a motorcycle if we won this account. Not something I’d ever considered before, but all of sudden it seemed like a cool idea.
Skip forward 12 months and we were working on our first issue – not of a UK magazine, but a localized and translated magazine for six EMEA markets. And with female riders a clear outreach target for the brand, it was only natural that I learned to ride and reported on the experience for our first issue.
At the time, Harley-Davidson had a Riding Academy based in Wales; the test in the UK was far more relaxed than it is now, but an intensive course and two attempts later, I was the proud owner of a ‘big bike’ motorcycle licence. More importantly, I was now a customer.
I bought my first Harley-Davidson, a 2007 Street Bob in Denim Black, just three months later, and by autumn I was on a road trip to Belgium with my partner (I bought him a CBT test for his birthday so he could come too!).
As we published our first issue, I was learning fast about the lifestyle associated with this brand. There were events across the country, the EMEA region, and the world, that all sounded amazing. Riders were very proud to wear their apparel and the H-D badge proudly… and they LOVED taking photographs of them, their bikes, and the great places where they rode them. And now I do too.
Dialogue’s Agency Director Zoë Francis-Cox rides with 1000s of other Harley-Davidson owners in Croatia.
I wanted to be able to share my photos with fellow members, and see other members’ images; I wanted to learn about the best places to ride, the best places to stop for coffee, the best hotels, advice on how to look after my bike, and how to learn to ride better; and I didn’t want to wait three months until the next quarterly printed magazine…
Skip forward a decade… I’m on my fourth bike – a super-cool little Sportster Iron! I’ve ridden to a European event every year, sometimes leading a group. A Harley-Davidson Authorized Tours ride in South Africa resulted in a marriage proposal on the back of an elephant; my husband and I have customised five bikes between us; and road trips have become our escape and our passion.
Dialogue’s work with the Harley owners Group includes video, event management, social media, email communications and printed assets.
As a member of HOG, I now receive a monthly email with all the latest news, tips, event reports and tales from the world of H-D, with UK-specific content (other market editions are available too); the quarterly printed magazine is also digitised with even more members’ images in the digital edition; an online gallery website publishes every single image that is submitted (there are more than 100 every week!) – it’s also linked to an app that facilitates easy upload while on the move. HOG EMEA has a page on a number of social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, which communicate daily on really cool stuff – particularly around the big events. These platforms have really come alive with the use of 360 and VR technology, taking the whole immersive experience to a whole new level! As a member, I’ve never felt closer to this global community of Harley owners. And it’s never been easier to keep an eye on my team!
While working with Harley-Davidson has clearly given me many opportunities to indulge my passion for riding, being a customer as well has clearly influenced the ideas and initiatives I’ve worked on with our client over the years, which in turn has led to even greater engagement between the brand and its community.
Zoë Francis-Cox, Agency Director, Dialogue
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