Are you content with marketing or like your marketing with content?

Content Marketing imageNo, this isn’t a crossword conundrum or trick question but in fact the essence of the debate I chaired on Thursday 1 May at the offices of BNY Mellon ahead of the PRCA’s PR Council Meeting.

Like most things in life, there are at least two sides to every story – whether it’s the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation that threatens to obliterate the freedom of marketers to track behaviour of consumers or the ethics of sponsoring education content in the classroom.

You can be sure that whenever you get two marketers in the room, you’ll have at least three points of view.

So when it comes to ‘content marketing’… well, you can bet there’s as many views on the subject as there are glasses in Specsavers.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to chair the discussion on the topic as I was seriously concerned whether we’d still be trapped in the building long after the security guard on reception had gone home.

But I shouldn’t have worried.

BuzzLYOn my left sat Scott Stevens, Head of Marketing at BNY Mellon, who cut a dashing figure with his athletic build and square cut-jaw more reminiscent of another hero of mine – Buzz Lightyear.

To my right sat Christian Gladwell, dapperly dressed in a laid back way and it turns out he’s the cousin of Malcolm Gladwell, and yes, another hero of mine!

Malcolm GladwellChristian had just become the CEO of Naked, which sounds like a trendy health food cereal but in fact is the hottest digital agency in town. Well, that’s what it said on his LinkedIn profile so it must be true.

Unfortunately we were due to have the fabulous Sarah Gavin of Outbrain Europe join in the fun, but events and the RMT strike took care of that, so I look forward to her company on another occasion.

My brief from Rob Ettridge, who chairs the PRCA Council, was to deliver a stimulating debate with our ‘Titans of Marketing’ on what is ‘content marketing’, who owns it, and actually what’s all the fuss about?

There are of course loads of definitions about what is ‘content marketing’ but there’s no consensus on the subject, so all views are as valid as each other.

It’s one reason why the PRCA set up a special taskforce and why we’re working with YouGov on a new survey to see just how much – or little – clients and the industry understand and agree on this stuff.

There was lots of great insight from Scott who controls the purse strings to just about anything and everything that can be called ‘marketing’ at BNY Mellon.

telephoneAs for ‘content marketing’ Scott said it was “vastly oversold by agencies that constantly call me up.”

Scott then went on to explain how from an organisational perspective it was useful to ring fence different aspects of the marketing mix, including ‘content marketing’.

Scott didn’t have time for the point of view that ‘content marketing’ was somehow being like a librarian and curating bits of valuable marketing output. Instead, ‘content marketing’ was best integrated into the overall marketing strategy and was about owning media rather than renting it.

In fact, Scott told us about a mini experiment he was in the midst of conducting that measured the ROI of wholesale advertising and ‘content marketing’.

“A big challenge is do customers remember who that content is from?” asked Scott and he proudly told us how successful the investment bank was in having higher than average click through rates on the advertising of its products with fancy graphics and other whizzy things.

The discussion quickly moved to exploring the view that ‘content marketing’ was the art of communicating with desired audiences and customer segments without actually selling to them.

Dot“Anyone watch Eastenders?” asked Christian. Oops…maybe there was something better on the telly than being stuck here discussing ‘content marketing’?

A few hands popped up and I wondered whether Christian was going to describe some sort of initiation ceremony marketers had to go through with Dot Cotton or something before they got their ‘content marketing’ stripes.

P&G funded the first ever soap opera and they never gave a second thought as to whether this was ‘content marketing’ or not. It’s simply marketing. Let’s cut the jargon!” he exclaimed.

Phew. Initiation test over.

There then followed a discussion around objectives that marketers try to achieve through marketing, particularly as consumers “are exposed to over 5,000 brand messages a day,” explained Christian.

“We’ve got to get better at filtering content and help people filter content. That’s what Google have done.”

Christian was also dismissive of the idea that audiences and consumers were hungry for more branded content.

red Bull and slide ruleThe experiences of brands like Red Bull parachuting a bloke on the edge of space was a bit of a one-off and could be explained with the help of a slide rule and millions of sales of the caffeine-fuelled red stuff.

Coming back down to earth with a bump, we closed the debate thinking about how organisations can get better at connecting with customers and clients they want to serve without boring the pants off them.

And then there was a flash of inspiration – “Think. Feel. Act.” – announced Christian.

Without knowing it, he’d just created the PRCA’s new ‘content marketing’ campaign.

Ardi Kolah is an elected member of the PRCA Council


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