Structure follows strategy, but culture eats strategy for breakfast

James Lewis on why it is vital that your culture changes to fit your strategy.

There are some key alignments that need to be made within any organisation wanting to achieve new things. In this case, it would be brands or agencies wishing to shift their thinking from old methods of engaging consumers (traditional media) to new and improved ones like digital content strategies and content marketing.

Many organisations think that by deciding on a strategy to pursue these new engagement methods, they have done enough! Not true. If your strategy is driving towards a new way of engaging consumers, it goes without saying that these organisations need to redesign their organisational design. After any new strategy has been embarked upon, it is crucial that the correct team of decision makers ask the question: How must the organisation redesign and rethink its internal structure to be optimally positioned to be able to deliver on this new strategy?

This is a question that is seldom asked or properly answered, or even if it is answered it is rarely implemented properly.

An even rarer and less likely question is this: Is our organisational culture healthy and mature enough to handle this new strategy and what work do we need to do to assess this?

So what generally happens?

We talk about the brave new world we see ahead of us and then we don’t follow through with the work required to reconfigure our businesses to be able to deliver on this vision of the future.

Talking about a new strategy and doing what you have always done is really a massive problem in today’s business world. Things are changing fast and there is much lip service paid to these changes, but underneath all of the modern language and grand strategic thinking is an old model which runs on old oil and this needs to be changed (before the engine blows up and dies). This holds many businesses back from getting into a new mode of existence, one in which improved understanding and delivery of consumer needs becomes paramount to the success of these organisations in the future.

Why does this happen then? Why is it that strategy is so often just a ‘waste of people’s time and effort’?

There are a variety of reasons for this and here are some of the more prevalent ones:

1) A new strategy is decided upon without engaging the right people, at the right time, in the right conversations.
2) The organisational leadership has not truly got to grips with the true meaning of the strategy in terms of what needs to change internally in order to positively affect the external.
3) Organisational culture that is built on negative- or fear-driven behaviours or, even worse, on passive resistance!
4) A fear of releasing old models of business which have been, or still are, very profitable, in favour of a ‘new way of doing things’. This is why so many growth projects fail. Why change a profitable, working model with something that might or might not be the right decision? What happens if we lose our core method of making money in the process?

I could go on, but I think these are enough for you to think about for now. Each one of the points mentioned above can and will stop any new strategy dead in its tracks, so be warned!

The telltale sign that your new strategy is going to be squashed is found in the cultural DNA of an organisation. How an organisation expresses itself and engages (with staff, customers, and the public) through a set of desirable or undesirable behaviours and practices, will determine more than anything else whether your new strategy will stand a chance of survival or not.

It is easy to have strategy meetings and to draw up amazing plans on how the future is going to be profitably harnessed by your organisation, however, it is not so easy at all to change a culture. This requires deep and tenacious work across every facet of the organisation and not just in your little ‘growth area’. It takes time and it often means pain and discomfort!

For people who are keen on driving new strategies within organisations that have been built over time in a certain way, you must ask yourself the question: Does this organisational culture reflect a mind-set in which new things and thinking can succeed?

It is the culture of an organisation more than anything else which determines the answer to these questions.

Structure follows strategy, but culture most definitely eats strategy for breakfast!

By James Lewis

Stop that thief! How to deal with plagiarism

Andrew Hallett gives some hints and tips for dealing with plagiarism in the digital world. 

The unfortunate reality when it comes to content is that there are people out there who will steal it.

Plagiarism will never stop, sadly, but there are ways that you can prevent your content from being taken without your permission.

With content syndication thriving, readers do not bat an eyelid when they see duplicate content across the web, so it is your responsibility to protect your intellectual property.

Here are some tips when it comes to plagiarism:

– Search The Web

You have just written a fantastic piece of content, but someone has stolen it and is passing it off as their own. You won’t know that this has happened unless you scour the net. While this may be a tiresome task, it is worth your while to do it, even if it is just once a week. A good tool to check the web is Press Reader, while taking chunks of your pieces and putting them into Google also works.

– Make Your Website ‘Read Only’

By making your website ‘read only’, nobody can copy and paste your content. However, this can be a problem when you want to copy and paste your own work directly from the site, so you will need to keep saved copies at your disposal.

– Watermark Images

While some people believe that putting a watermark over images spoils them, it is the safest route to ensuring nobody else uses them. You need to be clever with the placement of the watermark though, as it must not be easily chopped off or hideously placed over the image. Think about how best to place the watermark depending on the image itself.

Wikimedia Commons

– Watermark Videos

The same principle applies for video as it does for images. It is best to watermark your work to avoid others passing it off as their own. It takes a long time to create a video, so don’t make it easy for someone else to piggyback on your hard work.

– “But I’ve Credited You”

Just because someone takes your piece in full, and then credits and links back to you, doesn’t make it okay. If you see that someone has done this, you need to take action. Yes, a link back is cool, but they cannot take your work and pretend it is their’s.

– Legal Action

If a website or publication continues to use your content, despite an email warning them against it, it is in your best interest to contact a lawyer. Yes, this can be expensive, but the damage to your reputation and potential loss of income can be disastrous. This is a last resort, but a necessary one if you cannot sort the issue out yourself.

If you can stay on top of things, you should be able to stop people from using your work before it becomes a serious issue. However, just letting it slide and not thinking it is an issue is the wrong way to go about it, so be as proactive as possible, as the reactive could cost you in the end.

By Andrew Hallett, Sub Editor at Content Studio

How To Survive In A User Generated Content World

User Generated Content (UGC) is not just another content marketing buzzword. Yes, it is thrown around like a Frisbee in meetings, with everyone claiming to be doing it, but in South Africa specifically, there are few publishers that are doing it well.

Why incorporate UGC into your content strategy?

With each person who adds content to your site or social platforms, a whole new group (friends/family/coworkers/the stalker of the contributor) accesses your content. You are now catering for a new audience that previously didn’t even know about you.

Content marketing isn’t just about content. It’s about connection. And for every brand, the one way to really win is by actively interacting with your audiences like you would with communities.

Just look at YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Their models are user generated content. The end user creates the content, shares the content, and ingests content that is personalised to their specific interests.

User generated content allows for instant gratification. People love to be seen; love to show off their creative skills and thinking.

Many brands use UGC to start two-way interactions with customers, but the end result usually appears as if they were trying way too hard. Liken this to a company that pays for UGC to that friend on Facebook who keeps posting those ‘wish you were here’ posters and tagging you. Or what about that friend who keeps posting her weight-loss supplements and how they have transformed her life. More than likely, she’s sharing this information because she’s being paid by the company or receives income through affiliate sales.

Remember, your audience is more likely to trust messages coming from their peers than from your marketing team.

At the end of 2015, The MidlandsMeander asked visitors to share their best Midlands Meander memories. The end result was a beautiful marketing video that I am sure will be used for years.

When planning your UGC strategy, incorporate social influencers

Social and digital influencers are viewed as leaders among their social circles, and for good reason. They typically boast large, active followings, beautiful photo feeds, and more than likely have at least one of their status updates shared every day. These are the cool kids in the classroom.

Why was the #feesmustfall cause such a success? Why did there appear to be such broad sympathy and support for the student cause?

Just think about how you heard about the protests in your circle of friends and then think about how you reacted? Yes, the power of the social influencer.

Sincerity is crucial for successful UGC

In March 2008, Sportingo, which empowers fans to become expert pundits through creating and sharing opinion, launched a new initiative with UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Sports fans, bloggers, and online commentators were able to directly influence and improve the lives of those in the developing world through donations of $10 per author to UNICEF for user generated content.

This innovative model pioneered and championed by Sportingo, at the time had over 2,000 writers.

Sportingo donated the equivalent of a child’s sports kit to UNICEF’s Sports For Development programme in South Africa on behalf of all new and existing writers when they submitted an article about any sport on the Sportingo website throughout March. Visitors to the site were able to make additional donations through links on the site. READ MORE HERE.

Know the purpose of UGC:

Do you want your user generated content to inform or entertain?

Television programmes such as Kwêla encourage users to send in video clips about anything from family life to nature and win prizes.

In 2013, to launch its new variants, Pink Pomegranate and Black Espresso, Ola Magnum hosted South Africa’s first ‘live’ Twitter Auction.

Hosted by Janez Vermeiren, a live auction hub was set up in Sandton City, as tweets from across South Africa came streaming in.

Over 1000 people from all over South Africa participated in the auction, with the aim to win one of 10 luxurious prizes.

The auction generated over 80,000 mentions on Twitter, which allowed the brand to trend for 26 hours on the day of the event and the day thereafter.

Why will your customers be creating content?

User generated content matters more now. Take a lesson from Coca-Cola. In preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Coca-Cola launched “Move to the Beat,” the single largest Olympics campaign in the company’s history. Coca-Cola’s multimedia campaign showcased millions of original and crowdsourced videos from loyal fans around the world. This user generated content was compiled into a 30-minute television show that was broadcasted in 40 major markets globally. Coke reached 45 million viewers on YouTube alone and ensured that 70% of the engaged audience actually fell within their target demographic of 13- to 24-year-olds.

From polls, to pet pictures, back to school pictures, recipe submissions, and even those stories about the 20 cats your neighbour owns, user generated content is a simple way of rapidly growing your pool of content with minimum effort from your side.

The moral of the story is this: Your customers and fans can create more stories, content, and conversations about your brand than any marketing or advertising budget.

By Charis Coleman (Head Of Content)

You want to go viral, do you?

The web is a busy place these days, and it’s getting harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. Every content provider and marketing guru desperately wants to attain the holy grail of digital content – to go viral and take their place in the internet hall of fame.

It can be difficult to define what viral content is, as different individuals, organisations, and audiences will all have a different perception about what constitutes “virality”.  For example, Facebook insights allows users to measure the ‘viral reach’ of a post, which refers to the number of people who see one of your posts because one of your Facebook friends commented on, liked, or shared it. However, this wouldn’t necessarily be the metric that another organisation would use to measure the virality of a YouTube video, or how Huffington Post would measure the viral reach of one of their articles.

In a nutshell, though, viral content is any piece of content or media that becomes an internet sensation in the blink of an eye. It gets an unusually large amount of attention in the form of likes, shares, views, and mentions across multiple platforms. The digital sphere has made it much more possible for content to go viral. One simple click of a mouse is all it takes to share the latest song, video, or funny picture with the world.

Viral content is set apart from other content by its shareability factor. If something is being continuously shared by almost everyone who sees it, then it’s gone viral. Whatever the topic, message, or medium, viral content has to connect with people in a way that makes them want to share it with friends, family, and followers.  Remember when you walked into your office to be asked ‘WHAT COLOUR IS THE DRESS?’, which inevitably sparked a three-hour long argument between you and your colleagues, you and your friends, and possibly came close to destroying your marriage too? Yeah, so do we.

So what is it about certain pieces of content that make them inherently shareable? Plenty of research has been done into this topic. So much so, in fact, that it’s become difficult to wade through the vast amounts of data to pinpoint the characteristics of highly shareable content and apply them to your own content creation strategy.

The golden thread running through all successful viral content is emotional engagement. If you can evoke such a strong emotional reaction that those who consume your content feel compelled to share it, you’ve already completed the first step. The problem is that emotional engagement is such a broad term – it’s easy to know that you need to engage on an emotional level with your audience, but what are the key traits of content that manages to do exactly that?

States of high emotional arousal are key

There are seven commonly accepted ‘high arousal’ emotions according to marketing professor and social expert, Dr Jonah Berger. These seven emotions are awe, anger, anxiety, joy, fear, lust, and surprise. Seeing something humorous also results in high levels of arousal. Eliciting these types of emotions from your audience will naturally result in more shareable content. Evoking sadness, however, is generally a much less successful strategy.

Eliciting anger is a risky strategy, and it has to be noted that the aim isn’t to provoke hostility in those who consume your content. The type of anger that results in shares and views of your content is generated when you convey a statement, message, or position that people disagree with. Writing a well-informed article which goes against common or accepted thinking is one such example. People will comment, share it with friends, write response articles, and generally defend their position or opinion. This is why you’ll notice many headlines and teasers gently encourage this type of response by challenging a common belief right off the bat. An article with a headline like ‘eating vegetables isn’t good for you anymore’ is an example of the kind of copywriting that is often employed to generate surprise or anger, and in turn make people want to read and offer their own opinions.

Some news discoveries can also give rise to feelings of anger. Examples would be the Nkandla scandal, or the pharmaceutical company CEO who wanted to inflate the price of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS by 5000% for his own monetary benefit. In this case, the anger or outrage elicited isn’t directed at you as the content creator, so you suffer no ill-effects. However, this kind of content is shared regularly as the community feels that they have a right to be outraged, especially if they are directly or indirectly affected by the topic in question.

Although content that evokes sadness can barely hold a candle to content that evokes joy, there are a few exceptions to sad content not going viral. These commonly include death of prominent people, natural disasters, or large-scale destruction, and sad content that people find inspiring (the story of someone battling cancer, a family coming together after a major setback, somebody fulfilling last wishes before death etc.). You might remember this story about a father singing ‘Blackbird’ to his dying son, for instance.

However, the likelihood of content that conjures up sadness in consumers going viral is much smaller than any of the other seven emotions listed. Let’s take the example of the incredibly successful ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The idea took the internet by storm in July 2014 and spread like wildfire with famous names like Taylor Swift, Bill Gates, Oprah, and Mark Zuckerberg quickly joining in and posting their videos online to their sizeable online networks.  Aside from the viral video response, the challenge raised over $100 million dollars in one month for the ALS Association alone. Had the attempt to raise awareness of ALS been made via a sombre documentary-style video detailing the debilitating effects the disease has on sufferers and their families – eliciting sadness from viewers, the success probably would have been far less. It is likely that it would have been mostly those directly affected by ALS and thus already aware of the disease who shared it. Although there’s no reason these types of videos shouldn’t be made, they have less potential to be shared amongst the masses and don’t encourage widespread participation in the same way.

The most difficult part of creating engagement via emotions is knowing exactly what emotion you’re trying to leverage off, and planning your content carefully around this. You need to research and understand what can and will trigger happiness, awe, surprise, or fear after consuming a given piece of content, and apply it to your own work. Once you have understood how to trigger a particular emotion in people, it becomes simple to create content which will elicit that particular emotion. Of course, if you can evoke a response that covers more than one of the high-arousal emotions, you’re on the path to success. Some will go together more naturally than others, like joy and surprise for instance.

Aside from targeting specific emotions to engage your audience, there are one or two other strategies to consider which can also help you create content that’s likely to be shared.

emptions

Positive content beats negative content

You wouldn’t guess it from listening to the news, but positive content beats out negative content every time. It is far, far more likely that positive content will be shared than negative content, regardless of the platform. Everyone wants a dose of happiness in their day-to-day lives, so if your content helps uplift people, even only for a few seconds or minutes, it has more potential to be passed on.

Content that is useful increases shareability

There are a couple of categories as far as practical and useful content goes. One is day-to-day stuff that applies to everyone. Think ‘lifehack’ type posts. Ways to make everyday tasks quicker, easier, or cheaper. DIY hints. Upcycling. Pinterest has essentially built their entire following by allowing users to ‘pin’ this type of content.

Then there’s the category that aims to expand people’s knowledge or help them understand something. Useful articles and information that get shared via social media fall into this category. Whether it’s advice on how to parent your kids, healthy eating, politics, financial planning, or any other given category, there are definitely a few articles that have been shared time and time again. These can, however, run the risk of being too specific and niche. For example, a parenting article might be interesting to a non-parent, but they are unlikely to share it if their network is comprised mostly of non-parents too.

Another category of content that regularly gets shared and arguably belongs under ‘useful and practical’ content, is that which people share with the aim of changing others’ opinions. This would often be informative articles as mentioned above, but it can also be related to topical issues or news items. A Facebook status written by a soldier who lost his leg when a bomb exploded in Iraq went viral recently, as he attempted to change people’s opinions of Islam and Muslims with an anti-racist rant. The Facebook post alone stands at just under 200,000 shares, but millions more will have seen his post across various websites, news channels, and blogs. This viral post has the ability to give rise to multiple thigh-arousal emotions within one individual (say joy and awe), but also evoke different emotional responses for each person consuming it. While one person might experience anger at the post if they disagree with his views, another might experience joy, and yet another might experience sadness, all depending on their own views, values, and circumstances. In this way, “useful” content combines with emotional content to produce something of a viral powerhouse of potential.

The takeaway lesson is that if you want to create content that will be shared across many platforms and reach a wide audience, you’re going to need to create content that is useful and relatable for the masses, not just a tiny niche. Generally, useful and practical content will not be enough in itself to go viral, though it may get some reasonable traction. If you can tailor it so that your content evokes an emotional reaction like humour, anger, or happiness too, then you’re doing a good job at creating content with a good chance of getting shared.

Readers love lists, quizzes, and pictures

Analytics experts BuzzSumo analysed over eight million posts, and of the top 10 most shared pieces of content in the last 10 months, eight were quizzes. Seven were from Buzzfeed, while one was from The New York Times. It’s assumed that people share quiz results for narcissistic reasons – to boost their ego, share, and solidify their identity, and teach followers about their values and likes. I mean, obviously you know that your ideal celebrity match is Channing Tatum and you should definitely have been a famous musician instead of working your 9 to 5 job, but your Facebook friends need to know too, right?

Judging from SumoBuzz’ findings, there’s no arguing that online content king Buzzfeed knows a bit about what makes good, shareable content. According to data from Buzzfeed, 90% of their list posts go viral.  Another simple way to increase the likelihood of getting shares and views is to include images in your content. Posts with images get more shares than without. BuzzSumo found that on average, Facebook users shared posts with at least one image twice as much as posts with no images.

If your content can easily be converted into a list or quiz without detracting from the quality of the content itself, then go ahead and give it a try! The popularity of images within posts held true for both Facebook and Twitter shares, so be sure to always add at least one image to every content piece you create for maximum shareability.

In the end, it isn’t just about you

The harsh reality is, however, that even with all the knowledge in the world you don’t simply sit down and “create viral content” as and when you feel like it. The reason viral content is so highly sought after and prized is that it really isn’t easy to create. If it was, everybody would be doing it.

Even if you have incredibly compelling content, applying all of these strategies to the letter, and creating a useful list that conjures up awe, joy, and surprise in everyone who sees it, you still can’t guarantee that your content will go viral. You can definitely make it more likely that you’ll go viral, but the audiences are really the ones who make things happen.

As such, there’s no fool proof recipe for creating viral content on demand. You’re just going to have to keep plugging away, putting good content out there, and continuing to fill people with surprise, awe, joy, or whatever other high-arousal emotion you’d like.

By Sophie Baker

FURTHER READING: Without Strategy, Your Content Is Just Stuff

Content Marketing’s South African Challenges

With all of the rapid change that is going on across the marketing, media, and advertising worlds, it is no surprise that people are feeling a little confused about the emerging communications landscape! In many cases it is more like A LOT confused. Why is this the case?

Metamorphosis isn’t ever easy and it is definitely confusing

Confusion happens to a significant degree whenever there is a transition between an established way of thinking and doing, and another newer and less defined way. Resistance to change or new thinking leads to limited thinking that will show no adaptation or willingness to participate in change towards anything new. This resistance to change is one of the key barriers in clearing the muddy waters of content marketing and online publishing.

It just so happens that the transitions I am referring to are so fundamentally huge and jarring that they are shaking the very foundations of the traditional methodologies, practices, structures, and processes used by traditionally purposed organisations to perform the marketing and advertising needs of brands in the past. The effects of these changes can be seen and experienced everywhere you look. You don’t need to be an insightful genius to see this either.

Self published stars from Facebook, Youtube, Linkedin, and other social platforms clearly show that if you are focused, dedicated, creative, and able to provide clear value to a target audience you can build a powerful, engaged, and transacting audience base without having to rely on traditional broadcasting or a huge budget. The broadcasting barrier to the public has been heavily eroded by the introduction of social media in South Africa and this trend will continue to devalue traditional television as a credible medium. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves though! We need to remember that South Africa is significantly behind the online penetration and prevalence of the first world (USA / EUROPE / ASIA), and South Africa’s brands and a large portion of its population still use traditional mediums to communicate with their consumers.

Because of this dynamic the communications process is more fragmented than integrated in South Africa. Some brands will be easier to satisfy with purist content marketing strategies and practices because these brands’ target audiences are largely part of the upwardly mobile bracket of consumer who is behaving more like a first world consumer in a completely online and multi-device world. Even though this may be the case, it is important to remember that South Africa’s online culture and behaviours are still in its developmental stages. So please remember to set goals that take these locally immature elements of our online marketing culture into account.

Some of these are:

The lack of use of data to drive iterative, relevant content marketing strategies.

The requirement for data science as a skill set is a globally felt need so you can imagine how lacking it must be here in SA. What this means is that while many agencies and brands may be talking about measurement, they probably aren’t doing much of it in reality. And even if they are doing some measurement you can bet your cotton socks most of it doesn’t actually provide the depth of insight and strategic application required to generative significant growth opportunities for brands either. Using technology to assess and measure impact is a key aspect holding many content marketers back in their pursuit for a closed-loop measurement system that can allow for predictive analysis and planning based on credible and owned data sources.

mobile-phone

Low E-commerce adoption and exposure to online engagement.

Just because the first world has an established online culture, it doesn’t mean South Africa does. In fact, we have been very slow to adopt this method of purchasing things. We tend to still want to walk into a shop to buy, or to make a phone call to a sales agent to purchase. This means that our online habits are not yet the primary driver of engagement and sales, which in turn means that the marketing content you will be producing may well not encourage a better user experience for consumers that are online.

A TV ad can’t just be forced online!

It is clear that many agencies are not clear about the significant differences between specific mediums or channels, and this is evident by the prevalence of flashy banner ads, TVCs forced on to Youtube inserts, and not to mention a huge wallop of sick, sweet brand-centric splurge that doesn’t actually talk to the consumer at all.

Are you trying to spend a client’s marketing budget or solve their business needs?

Having spent much time in the consultation space, I understand how important professional and effective consultation is in understanding the client’s needs properly. This skill is largely built up by figuring out which questions you need to ask in order to unpack the business challenge. It is my experience in South Africa that many marketers or agencies do not apply this initial consultation process, which often means that important up-front questions are not asked, which leads to a lack of clarity on why the marketing campaign is actually being done. It is my experience that many marketers are not actually interested in achieving business value because they don’t actually know how to deliver it. We have to start asking these tough questions and keep driving for the answers that will drive a successful content marketing or communications strategy forward in the right direction.

Ignoring the complete content marketing process in favour of tactics

Many organisations convince themselves that they are being guided by a clear strategy or process, but in truth they are stuck in Tacticsville! It is extremely important for South African creative agencies to start lifting the game from tactics to strategy level. Without a core narrative, strategic design and implementation plan you can forget about achieving content marketing success because it is all about strategy and holistic design, not knee jerk reactions based on clients not understanding what to do next.

Low levels of agency and brand education

Educating yourself, your clients, and your colleagues (not to mention consumers) about the changes discussed in this article is crucial if South Africa wants to experience content marketing greatness. While content marketing is important to the future of many brands, it is the process of education and facilitated learning which will raise the bar here for many players in this space. Education should be a key enabler which you can use across the board as your primary communication purpose – to bring others with you on a journey to the other side of the divide.

Content marketing requires failure and testing to work

If you are not willing to test and experiment with content marketing, you will never make it work. Testing and experimentation is core to content marketing having any value at all because it is a discipline born out of experimentation and tweaking based on consumer feedback. It is my experience again that brands are not aware of what this means when it comes to their own marketing efforts. Very few South African brands seem willing to entertain failure or testing as part of the content marketing process, which eliminates one of the primary processes allowing for useful feedback on their chosen user experience journey. It is in these crucial testing phases that your content marketing strategy is optimised to achieve the specific goals outlined in your marketing plan.

Many brands in SA serve consumers who are not engaging at a content marketing level

Other brands that service a lower end, lower choice consumer will still be heavily focused on TV, Radio, and promotions as its primary communication tools. It is true that this lower end consumer segment is also using mobile, social media, and social chat services. Have a look at this executive summary from worldwideworx called SA’s social media landscape, which provides some very clear statistics on how our environment is steadily being replaced by social media. The presence of social media in a traditionally geared marketing system is definitely impacting on the use of these traditional mediums by creating interlinking and interactive aspects of very static and one way mediums. Social media influence has changed the way in which brands are thinking about what they create for traditional platforms, and how these brands can access valuable and two-way dialogue with consumers based on the social engagement inspired or compelled by the new form content designed for TV and radio audiences. Despite these changes, many brands are still working on autopilot and producing mindless and aimless traditional marketing campaigns that show no sign of new thinking or adaptation, and are definitely not creating an improved offering to the consumer.

social

Social media presence and value has trumped traditional media value

It is important to note that here in South Africa the reality is slightly different to the headline statement. Here there is still a huge need for traditional marketing services. Many brand audiences still use TV, radio, and print to consume content, and they will continue to do so for some time to come. But the rise of social media as the omnipotent ‘voice of insight and reason’ has changed everything for brands, even if they are still going to be doing traditional marketing and advertising. Social media has enabled a gradual shift in the nature of traditionally-minded campaigns so that these campaigns also include a variety of additional and interlinking experiences for consumers, each of which should be targeted at driving a specific action or behaviour.

Marketers in SA needs strong leadership and a deep understanding of change, organisational design and facilitation

This may seem like overkill, but it isn’t. If you want your new content marketing plan to be taken seriously, you are going to have to develop strong leaderships skills so that your plans are taken seriously by the senior leaders in your organisation. You are also going to have to understand how an organisation’s strategy and structure determine a lot about the nature of the content marketing solutions you can enable. How organisations are designed have key influences on how these organisations need to be engaged and organised for content marketing to take its place in your organisation. Where your content marketing department is placed in the organisation is crucial, as is the reporting line that is set to enable ease of execution.

Change management is vital

Remember that the changes affecting every aspect of the communication cycle between brands and consumers are big and scary. People are naturally going to reject these changes because people do not like change in any form. so if you are going to be introducing a whole load of new methods, practices, and tools to get your content marketing efforts up and running, remember that you are actually running a change management program. Understanding some of the fundamentals of change management and facilitation will assist you greatly in achieving change in manageable chunks through high levels of engagement with all stakeholder groups involved.

South Africa’s content marketing landscape is still very complex and fragmented. We are moving towards a set of content marketing practices but these are still being defined through trial and error, so expect a fair to high degree of uncertainty when you play in this space. As a content marketing agency, you may well find yourself doing all kinds of content-related jobs on the traditional and non-traditional side of media. Don’t worry about that because it is going to be like this for a while. So long as you are clear about the nature of the project, what it is and isn’t, and specifically what the client is trying to achieve through the project, you should be fine for now.

It is going to take some time before the dust settles around content marketing as an established practice in South Africa. Get ready for uncertainty and complexity.

Are we ready to take the next step together?

By James Lewis

FURTHER READING: Without Strategy, Your Content Is Just Stuff

Without strategy, your content is just stuff

I simply cannot believe how much content is created every year without a whiff of strategic thought behind it?! The thing that surprises me the most about this scenario is that a ‘lack of strategy’ seems to be the norm, and not the exception to the rule. Over and over again it seems to me that there is never enough time afforded to think properly about strategy.

Perhaps a more telling truth about strategy would be the fact that many businesses will tell you that they are operating from a very clear strategy, when in fact they aren’t. What they are really doing is making a strategy up as they go along. This isn’t a problem if you have consciously chosen an emergent strategic approach, but it is indeed a problem if you think your strategy is pre-determined – and you work as such.

Without a clearly-defined strategy, your content will never reach its intended participants, let alone the goals or outcomes you desire. A strategy provides a clear plan on how to solve a client’s business challenge through your chosen content mix.

It seems to me that ensuring there is enough time and focus put aside for strategic planning and strategy formulation is one of the biggest challenges content agencies and clients face in the fast-paced world in which we operate. This situation can be made even more complicated by the fact that the brief may come from a third-party, which then immediately brings into question the quality of that third-party’s strategic processes. Perhaps they also just made up some nice sounding strategic objectives for their client to get the business?

So how does one actually go about formulating a useful strategy for content marketing projects? Well, it really comes down to asking some fundamental questions about what you are actually trying to achieve? From there, credible answers based on actual insight will become available.

Have a look at this list of key content related questions (ISCOOP.com) that a solid content strategy should answer:

Who are the buyer personas and what are their content needs and preferences?

This question looks at the type of information different ‘archetypes’ of buyers seek during their buying journey, and maps the customer touch points, preferred communication channels, and – to some extent – the content formats. Buyer personas haven’t been invented for content marketing, but are used for an overall marketing strategy. In a content marketing strategy, you do take a more complete look at them, though.

Which marketing and other organisational goals can we realise or improve by better using content marketing?

Examples here are: traffic building, conversion optimisation, event marketing, lead generation and management, email marketing, social media marketing, marketing automation, and customer service. These can all be improved by a better usage of content and content marketing. Your content marketing strategy looks at this. Many people, especially those calling the buying shots, have no clue what content marketing is, as with many executives, even in marketing. So, ask what organisational goals you can support and strengthen instead of trying to separate content marketing from the overall equation.

Which content marketing metrics and KPIs do we need to gauge success, in correlation with other marketing metrics and KPIs?

Although there are some typical metrics used in content marketing, it’s important to speak a common language across all marketing and even business efforts. Content marketing is not an island. One of the crucial success factors in implementing marketing ROI across the organisation is finding common metrics and using a common language between different departments.

How will we structure the internal organisation – or better yet: how will we make sure that all content marketing related processes and flows are properly organised, in correlation with other marketing processes and/or teams?

Often, content marketing thinkers advise to build teams that are more or less dedicated to content marketing. In practice, this seldom happens (except in some major firms) and teams better focus on the tasks and goals than the exact roles, realising each company is different.

Which other marketing goals and even business purposes – on top of the usual suspects – can we use content marketing for?

Examples: to support your customer service team, to empower sales, to optimise website conversions, etc.

Which organisational processes, stumbling blocks, competitor data, management goals, customer insights, business stakeholders, teams, external partners, overall marketing priorities, etc. do I need to know in order to succeed?

Before even thinking about content strategy, content inventory, or content production, these crucial questions need to be made known.

How is the industry you are in changing?

And more specifically: how is the buyer’s journey of your buyer personas evolving in the industries your customers and business are active in? What role can content marketing play? As an example: look at the evolutions in the B2B services industry. Content plays a clear role, but look further. For instance: Key Account Management is a priority in that industry. Can it be served using an optimised content marketing strategy? Also look at the influencer sphere of the buyers in that industry and at the different types of buyers.

What questions do we need to answer and steps do we need to plan to put our content marketing strategy in action and move to the content strategy that looks at more content-related aspects?

What existing budgets can we tap into to better achieve the goals using content in areas where return is below expectations (and what are these areas, of course)?

An example: you may have an overall budget for your website but maybe it’s better to invest in more relevant content for your buyer personas instead and putting that design makeover on hold this year? Or maybe your organisation invests a bit too much in generating traffic and leads but conversions stay behind. You can turn down the volume a bit and invest more in conversion optimisation and lead nurturing, using content.

How do we forecast and get budgets when no existing budgets can be tapped into or adapted?

If your organisation is missing out on important opportunities – and it always is – you need to make the calculated case for additional budgets.

Without Strategy there are no useful questions being asked about your challenge, which implies that there will be no useful answers found either, which in turn suggests that whatever content you are making is going to fall far short of its true potential.

Be strategic before being creative! It can only help!

By James Lewis

The Four Types Of Content Marketing

bubble of communication in illustration vector

We’ve defined what content marketing is and how it has completely changed the advertising landscape, obliterating what was once thought to be the right way of selling what your brand does.

While this new, inventive way of selling what you do has broken boundaries by ushering in an age where user-generated content is king, there are still some rules in this otherwise largely misunderstood content marketing world.

Below we take a look at the four types of content marketing that are available to your brand, breaking down what they mean and what the benefits and challenges of each of these strategies are.

 

1) Transmedia Storytelling

transmedia-storytelling11

Transmedia storytelling is a fully-participatory technique of telling a narrative story through the use of multiple media platforms, including print, films, video games, mobile apps, and social networks. Each media platform used should function as a separate story experience, while taking nothing away from the overall narrative, and still managing to create lasting satisfaction, enjoyment, and understanding from the audience.

In transmedia storytelling, the audience becomes actively involved in the story. The direction the story takes encourages the audience to engage with other members, seek out other parts of the story on other platforms and to contribute to the story by adding content. Essentially, the audience participates with the brand in telling the story.

Benefits:
It allows brands that are seeking a closer connection and improved dialogue with their audience an opportunity to achieve this.

Challenges:
While transmedia storytelling yields many opportunities, it remains a truly broad, competitive, and resource-intensive space.

 

2) Native advertising

native

Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. The modern consumer knows when they are being pitched to and can recognise an advert from a mile away. Native advertising seeks to combat this by blending your brand’s message to match the content around it. It camouflages your brand’s message, making it appear as if it is editorial content.

Benefits:
Due to its camouflaged nature, there is a higher likelihood that your ads will be watched, read, or listened to, resulting in the trust that consumers have in the publisher will rub off on your brand.

Challenges:
Once again, because of its camouflaged nature, consumers tend to have a much more unfavourable opinion of the brand once they realise they have been deceived/tricked.

 

3) Advertiser-funded productions

BEATS

This is a form of advertising where content programmes that are funded by a brand are made for broadcast channels in order to promote the brand’s message. It is a mutually beneficial agreement between a brand and the broadcaster – providing a tailor-made marketing solution for the brand, while offering entertaining content for the broadcaster.

Benefits:
It increases the brand’s television production revenue while generating media revenue for the broadcaster.

Challenges:
Both the brand and the broadcaster incur significant risk. Should the production prove to be unsuccessful, the brand will have lost a significant amount of money on the show while the broadcaster could take a knock in terms of viewership and ratings.

 

4) Custom Publishing

Custom

This is a content programme that is funded by the brand in order to engage existing communities, create cultural context, and acquire audiences for your brand. The content is produced for both owned and borrowed channels, and combines a brand’s marketing ambitions with the information needs of its target audience.

 

It involves the production of media (print, online, audio-visual) which has been targeted to appeal to a clearly defined target audience/market. Custom publishing is usually editorial in nature. It is intended not to be perceived as advertising, so when the desired audience is exposed to it, they consider it as a credible and informative source.

Benefits:
It can be a potential means of generating new external revenues by influencing internal publishing and audience gaining skills

Challenges:
Brands often struggle to find the skills and resources to plan, create and sustain all the content they now need to produce

 

 

 

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