5 Takeaways from Outbrain’s Content Panel @ SMX East

Stories matter. If only the work behind the stories was as easy as that statement…

Digital marketers like us struggle with content marketing daily. Are we using the right platforms to drive our content? How many dollars should we put behind content? Are our brand stories aligned with our greater goals and tone of voice throughout?

Introducing the Ultimate Content Panel, hosted by Outbrain and Online Geniuses, at this year’s SMX East conference at the good ol’ Javits Center in New York, NY.

There, we chatted with four content-loving industry leaders, currently powering through the same struggles that we’re all experiencing.

  1. Tom De Napoli | Senior Director, Content + Platform Strategy @ Viacom
  2. Pamela Piccola-Fales | Director, Performance Marketing @ Plated
  3. Athena Papanicolaou | CEO @ Milla & Co
  4. Zach Jacobs | Director of Marketing @ Mack Weldon

While content isn’t a perfect science, these brand experts opened up about the topics that matter most to us all.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out our panel this year (maybe next year?), here are five inspiring takeaways to help each of us conquer our own content games:

  1. Keep storytelling your main focus
  2. Get your teams and goals in sync
  3. Stay culturally conscious
  4. Look out for new mediums
  5. Do not lose your brand

1. Keep storytelling your main focus

Everyone seemed to agree on one major play: keep content as holistic as possible (while still reaching performance goals, of course). It should always be about storytelling. The mediums in which we promote our stories will continue to change, but the more unified we can keep our content throughout the journey, the better.

“Content is the least fun way to say storytelling,” said Tom De Napoli of Viacom. “Don’t allow it to become a commodity. Treat it preciously, figuring out the value exchange between you and who you’re reaching.”

Mila & Co’s Athena Papanicolaou gracefully added that content is a way of “experiencing the brand more authentically.”

Simply put, stay authentic, digital marketers!

2. Get your teams (and goals) in sync… ASAP

Whether we’d like to admit it or not… content tends to be a free for all, especially for mid-size to large companies. Marketing writes content. Acquisition writes content. Content writes… content. All with different end goals in mind. Marketing may care about the global voice and nurturing leads, while acquisition may care about all-things conversion (immediately).

Zach Jacobs of (underwear powerhouse) Mack Weldon agreed, mentioning how “there are a lot of [content] chefs in the kitchen.” But in order to get it right, “we have to compromise,” and “think about who the content’s for.” He playfully asked, “Is it to make ourselves feel good, or is it to get guys to buy a lot of underwear?”

Albertsons’ recently-acquired Plated’s Pamela Piccola-Fales, added “we’ve experienced growing pains between upper funnel-focused and lower funnel-focused teams.” But at the end of the day, we must “create a piece that meets the needs of each of our audiences.”

Be sure to cross-functionally align your goals, and break down the walls across teams. Cozy up with one another, and get your content on the right (aka same) path.

3. Stay culturally conscious

“Customers are 50% less likely to engage with a brand unless the content is local and is available in their language,” said Athena.

The more your business grows, the more it will likely (legitimately) grow and expand globally. You may be focused on a single language at the moment, but you should start thinking bigger, culturally. How? Translations, translations, translations…

Try to have your culturally-conscious content as a part of the planning conversation (versus scrambling after a piece of content is already written). Translations take time… especially keeping it “linguistically relevant.”

And Athena reminded us that “culturally, people have different online shopping habits, so we have to take all of that into consideration” while preparing our content (and geo-targeting!).

4. Look out for new mediums (and new rules)

The future is bound to bring change. It’s not all newspapers and magazines anymore. Now, we have influencers, and talking machines named Alexa, and black holes of data — oh my.

When asked about content consumption and platforms five years from now, Pam playfully added that we’ll consume it “in our driverless, flying cars.” She added, “people will consume things in new ways. The connection will always be the storytelling. Different ways we connect with it will change… but we can’t get pulled away by the shiny new toy.”

Tom jumped in, pushing us to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” And our very own “Outbrainer” (and panel moderator) Miko Levy mentioned, “every channel opens an opportunity to deliver more content.” Take advantage of the opportunities.

Though as we all know, with change (and opportunity) comes rules. Zach added, “I think there’s going to be a major FCC shake-up soon. Can you trust the brand? Can you trust the content?” Regardless, you must always keep the content honest.

Keep your ear to the ground when it comes to both new platforms, and new rules, folks.

5. DO NOT lose your brand

Last, but certainly not least… don’t lose your brand in the midst of the (content) mayhem. This goes for all marketing tactics (not just content). Always keep your brand in mind… tone, how it lives, where it lives, partners that you work with… all of the above.

Pam added, “you can’t let the marketers run wild… and that’s coming from a marketer! We sell one brand… make sure it’s one overarching brand, and have it ingrained in your product. The product is what makes you [the consumer] form the opinion of us… the brand is just the story.”

But my, what a story it is!

Special Thanks

What an interestingly diversified panel! One B2B, one media force, two DTCs. Some focus on impressions, other conversions. All with a content top of mind.

Thank you to the ultimately awesome teams at Online Geniuses and SMX East who helped make this ultimate panel possible! And of course, our amazing panelists, and guests.


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