“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.”
- Jon Miller, founder, Marketo

Blogging is important for every business. So we don’t just offer ghostwriting services for others. We blog for ourselves. Why? To discuss big issues such as content strategy, commissioning and ROI, as well as tactics for effective copy creation or editing, not to mention news about Collective Content.

Remember, over a third of marketers say blogs are the most valuable content type. Let us know what you’d like to read about here.

What’s in a job title?

I was looking at an invite to an Economist event at the Cannes Lions festival this week (not that I’m there). It was for a CMO panel and something struck me.

When I looked down at the three speakers – all eminent, all from well-known companies – only one had a CMO job title. The other two were chief brand officers. Nothing wrong with that, from my point of view. I’m sure they’re all worth listening to.

But perhaps this struck me because for years I’ve seen the same dance performed around IT job titles, with the same hand-wringing in some quarters about who is worthy and senior enough to be given attention.

I’m sure we all know that while semantics and words in general are important, what someone does is more important than what they say. It’s certainly more important than what they describe themselves as on a name badge or LinkedIn.

And note here the difference too between someone’s official job title – usually the decision of that person’s boss and an HR department – versus how people describe themselves in a chat over a cocktail or on that LinkedIn opening blurb.

So we’re left with a situation where people who are appropriate to listen to at an event or, more to the point, target as people to sell to, are ignored because of what they’re called. Or the reverse happens.

In IT, about 10 years ago everyone wanted to reach chief information officers, or CIOs.

At the time I was running a CIO club at a B2B tech publication and, while we knew some CIOs, a bunch of other job titles were still commonplace. We had:

IT director – still the big title of the 1980s and 1990s.

Head of IT – speaks for itself

IS director or Head of IS – where IS stands for information systems.

CTO – though we always championed this as the head of a company’s own tech, say if you’re a telco or tech company.

Then all kinds of complementary or new roles came about – director of change, chief digital officer, you name it.

And of course we heard flavours of CIO – group CIO, global CIO and so on.

The point of all this is that plenty of people with these titles were the right people to listen to. And they often still are (though ‘head of IS’ has gone out of fashion –  for obvious reasons).

We had to assess them one by one. That’s not great news for someone doing mass marketing. But in an era of account-based marketing (ABM) and B2B marketing in general, profiling a target and being genuinely in tune with them is important.

A good starting point is being genuinely helpful. Are there nuances to different job titles? Sure. This is a way to tailor content to them. But be careful writing off whole layers of management or those who don’t fit a strict target title.

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Amazon’s efficient storytelling

It’s been a while since we drilled down on an ad. But Amazon – just as in its core business – has shown incredible efficiency in its series of 30-second TV/web slots, which is worth a quick analysis.

You possibly know the ad in question, which is part of the tear-jerking series (the priest and the imam, and so on). Though set in Japan, this one has been aired around the world and during the Superbowl. The ultimately promote pushing one-click ordering and next-day delivery.

Here’s the version for a Japanese audience, though note how the storytelling works anywhere:

Now Amazon, like other leaders such as Apple, Facebook, Google and (still) Microsoft, is no stranger to pulling on our heart strings. But this piece is about much more than a sad-looking dog.

Think of the structure:

Part 1: Dog, new family with baby, baby cries at dog – pure rejection.

Part 2: Family in house, baby happily plays with toy lion, father notices the saddest-looking (or just nonplussed?) dog ever. Father seen ordering using One-Click.

Part 3: Dog appears in a toy lion’s mane, dog walks up to baby – cue big moment – baby reaches out to a worried-looking dog. Acceptance. The End.

So three parts, each 10 seconds, for an evenly-paced 30-second spot. In a conventional format that’s been around for decades, there’s a rhythm there that leads to a natural – happy – conclusion.

Now you may or may not like this kind of thing. It’s certainly not the deeper engagement with customers that we usually talk about and do. But the bigger point is that it’s really hard to be this economical and effective. Much like Amazon’s core retail and logistic services, there’s a lot going on out of sight.

The lesson for all of our storytelling is several-fold:

  • Simple is good.
  • Play to your audience’s heart and head.
  • Think of stories that travel – regardless of culture or language.
  • Have a distinct voice (or could we argue the tone here isn’t that different to a Google ad?).
  • Get in a cute dog. Or cat. OK, maybe that’s not going to happen in your world. But you know how often this must get suggested?

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Download our exclusive research and report, ‘Will PR and content marketing play together nicely?’

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PR and brand journalists speaking a common language

Native advertising is no longer a mystery. And almost everyone in PR knows their ‘brand publication’ from their ‘brand storytelling’ – as you might expect.

These are just two of the findings from this year’s research into how the PR community is working in the field of content marketing in general.

Our research of 348 UK-based PRs found:

  • Understanding of ‘content marketing’ is up. Now 91.7 per cent of respondents say they know what the term means.
  • Around three quarters (75.7 per cent) of our sample say they understand ‘brand journalist/journalism’ – a less-than-satisfactory term for creators of some kinds of commercial content. This is up on 2016’s 74.9 per cent and 2015’s 69 per cent.
  • Native advertising’ remains the most confusing term on our list. Only 46.8 per cent of respondents say they understand what it means*. However, this is up on previous years and ‘Not sures’, while still much higher than for other terms, are declining fast.

Across some terms, native advertising is one of them, the comprehension levels stated by agency PRs are markedly higher than for their in-house colleagues. We can only speculate as to why that is.

Of course, all of this comprehension is self-qualified. We don’t know if someone who says they understand something really does. But it makes sense that we all learn over time, especially as some of these disciplines grow and are undertaken by those in PR.

Our ‘Defining terms’ questions are near the start of our research every year, even if the findings don’t lead our report. That’s because understanding the shifts that are going on is critical to PRs, whose industry is changing in important ways, just as it is to the wider world of marketers, journalists and others.

In general, levels of understanding are trending upwards. This is quite possibly because PRs are engaging in broader content initiatives such as more content creation for clients, including tactics like ghostwriting, social media marketing and content that doesn’t touch traditional media.

We will be drilling down into further aspects of this year’s research over the next few weeks.

 

*Native advertising, to Collective Content, means brand journalists working for or at publishers, creating content in the style of that publication but paid for by an advertiser and usually labelled as such or ring-fenced.

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Contact us

Contact us to find out how we can help you:

Email:  tony.hallett@collectivecontent.co.uk

Twitter:  @ColContent

Facebook: facebook.com/CollectiveContent

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/collective-content

Phone:  0800 086 9333