Don’t fear the content beast! Getting to the bottom of what makes great content

|Anthony Hearne

At our last Content Conversations Meetup in Singapore back in November 2013, we debated about whether content marketing was worth its hype. We decided collectively that it is real, powerful and here to stay.

Yet we see many brands today hesitate to embark on their own content marketing journeys. What’s stopping them? In a word – fear.

Lack of knowledge of how to create good content is the single biggest barrier to brands embarking on their own content marketing journeys. To tackle that challenge, we brought the industry together again for our 3rd Content Conversations Meetup in Singapore late last month, to discuss and dissect great content, and find out just what makes content discoverable, searchable and shareable.

Armed with a new ‘in the round’ format and a star-studded line up of some of the best content creation minds in the region, we packed the house with a record turnout of over 100 social media, marketing, start-up and public relations aficionados to tackle the content beast itself and find out how brands can create great content.

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 With my co-host Don Anderson from Fleishman Hillard, we facilitated an enlightening, fast-paced, and sometimes controversial discussion that yielded some great insights from the likes of Click2View’s Neal Moore, BrandNewMedia’s Nick Fawbert, P&G’s Omer Sher, Yahoo! Singapore’s Alan Soon and more.

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©Copyright Outbrain 2014

Not limited to the on-site discussion, we also saw a fluid exchange of ideas via live Tweets from the audience, using the hashtag, #ContentConversations.

Here is a recap of some of my key takeaways from the night:

1.     Good content is a great story

At our last event, we talked about how people love to tell and share stories, and the most compelling stories appeal to people the world over, regardless of geography, culture, age, gender or language. That is in a nutshell, what brands need to get to. Every brand has a great story to tell – they just need to find it.

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 The challenge is finding honest stories that also resonate with the brand identity. It is not just about creating content that appeals to the consumer. It should also be built upon a brand’s goals and objectives. Alan Soon from Yahoo! Singapore shared the example of Bowen’s Big Mango publicity stunt. The ‘disappearing act’ certainly stirred up hype, but enraged consumers in the end when it turned out to be a stunt for a local fast food chain. Alan emphasised the need for an ‘elevated view’ on how to encourage brands to dig deeper into what that brand really stands for.

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Taken from ABC News

2.     Keep it real

Talking about cheated feelings. Following on the Bowen Big Mango example, the second insight that stood out for me was a lesson on authenticity.

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Alan questioned the extent of deception that some brands would go to in order to drive clicks to their content. Brands need to realize however, that content marketing can and will blow up in their faces if the content doesn’t deliver value, or if they try to camouflage sell tactics as content. So what if you succeed in driving eyeballs to your content. If it doesn’t deliver value, consumers will rebel. In a nutshell – don’t try to bullshit the audience.

3.     Think differently about measurement

Unfortunately, many marketers focus on clicks and thus fall into the deception trap because that is the only way they know how to measure success. The challenge to prove the business value of content is real, and this was something that Omer Sher from P&G brought up. He explained that even before creating the content, brands have to determine the “business objective of content” to ensure that the marketing component of content marketing is realised at the end. He added that content must be viewed as part of the larger “content marketing ecosystem” and created with the business uplift factor in mind.

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Content marketing requires investment, but how do you translate that into business outcomes?

The group discussed the need to switch the yardstick of success and to base success on the audience’s perception on content quality, instead of just the number of clicks. An alternative idea from Jim Ribbans at Fox International Channels, was to split one good piece of content and dedicate resources to developing more good content out of those separated pieces. At a lower cost and with a wider outreach to non-traditional platforms (e.g. websites, social media), these pieces of content can achieve both quality and audience reach. Of course, content quality needs to be prioritized over platform quality.

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Omer also talked about choosing the right agency partners because they can help you explain the business of content, and link it back to the business strategy, which leads me to my last point.

4.     Partner with the right people

There are multiple parties in the content marketing ecosystem. Who delivers the most value? What roles do they play? Kudos Content shared that journalists are no longer sole content creators and need to work with brands to finalise a piece of editorial content that is of value to both parties. At the same time, media or public relations agencies help mediate the two parties, whilst working to bridge the gap between creation and distribution. The whole content marketing process is now a giant amalgamated concept.

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The content creation process

Content creation is a lot about collaboration and finding the right partnerships. The key to success is effective communication across all partners so everyone is on the same page and can rely on each other. Of course, this takes effort and calls on today’s content creators to invest quality time in their partners to guarantee a project’s success.

I personally find this new content creation process very interesting in the way it engages everyone, from creator to distributor to consumer. I attempted making sense of this huge “ecosystem” and my main takeaway is the need to jointly assess all the content assets with partners and work together to craft out a content creation process that suits your brand’s specific needs. But the job isn’t done once content is published. What is critical is to also put in place a process that allows brands to take signals and feedback from consumers’ interaction with the content, and feed it back into the content creation process. Content creation is never linear.

P.S. if you ever feel boxed in by the wealth of options (e.g. platforms, publishers, industry contacts, etc.) or face a ‘tyranny of choice’, keep calm and ask yourself Nick’s simple guiding questions:

5 Simple Questions to Get to the Content Marketing Strategy:

1.     What are your goals and objectives?

2.     Is your editorial strategy top-down (from supplier to consumer) or bottom-up?

3.     What form or content do you want?

4.     What distribution channels are you using?

5.     How do you monetize this?

The biggest pitfall in content creation is to let the ‘tyranny of choice’ lead to a ‘paralysis of choice’ – where content creators cannot decide on one platform and therefore, take zero action.

To wrap it – this was certainly a night to remember, and I look forward to taking the conversation to the next level at our next Content Conversations, where we will be discussing content distribution. Stay tuned for more details to come. If you are not already part of the Meetup group, please sign up here.

If you want to hear more about how Outbrain can help you get results from your content marketing in Asia, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me directly or through our team email address –

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Anthony Hearne

Anthony Hearne

Anthony (Ant) Hearne leads the Global Sales Marketing efforts at Outbrain from its U.S. headquarters in New York. An experienced... Read more

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