Advertising is telling someone you are a great lover, content marketing is telling them why

By Brendan Coyne | 2 July 2014
Burson Marsteller regional COO Margaret Key.

Advertising is telling somebody over and over again that you are a great lover. PR is hiring someone else to tell people that you are a great lover. Content marketing is telling people a story about why you are a great lover.

So said Burson Marsteller Asia Pacific chief operating officer Margaret Key at the DNA 14 event in Sydney yesterday.

The problem many brands face with content marketing is that there is no universal definition or set of rules. But the basics were simple: tell stories with relevance, value and authenticity.

"Content marketing is the Swiss army knife for brand," said Key. "But [marketers can find it complicated] because it has 56 different blades. The reality comes back to stories. Relevance and value is key. The art of communications can get lost with all the pressures [a chief marketer has to deal with] but you have the ability to be the da Vinci for your brands and use those tools to create a masterpiece."

She cited US agricultural machinery giant John Deere as one of the earliest brands to fully understand content marketing: Give customers relevant things to read.

"It launched [magazine] The Furrow in 1895. At its peak in 1912 it reached 4 million subscribers. Today it still reaches 450,000, it is the Rolling Stone of farming magazines."

Today, Key cited the New York Stock Exchange as a recent convert, with its standalone site The Big Stage housing content produced by Time Inc. "Who would have thought that finance could be cool?"

Key agreed with the Content Marketing Institute that it was critical to have a central point within organisations that took ownership of content marketing. She said that Ford refers to its "content factory" and over the last eight years had integrated its marketing structure and brought all communications disciplines together to execute its strategy. One of WPP's biggest clients (Burson Marsteller is also WPP-owned), she said the Ford model meant that nothing was "pigeon-holed" and that different KPIs could be given to different teams with every element measured.

While Ford has recently brought all of its Australian agency partners in house under the Blue Hive initiative, Key said that brands did not have to be a giant to effectively tell people why they were "great lovers" and the strategy need not be complex.

She said accounting software firm MYOB's blog The Pulse was a prime example. “If Australians want genuine, down-to-earth content, this is it. If [other brands want to go there] it doesn't have to cost a lot. This is useful stuff for small businesses.”

The starting the point was simply applying marketing basics, said Key.

"Research your target, no matter if you have five or 5,000 employees. Understand that first then build the message. Integrate resources, think 'content factory' and; think long term, be consistent" were the key pillars to successful content marketing, said Key.

Management buy-in was critical to securing the time to think long term, she said.

"We are pressed to create short-term value. We have so much to do so quickly. But you have to think further than tomorrow and you need executive buy-in to all that. Everything we do is about today and tomorrow. But you have to plan for three months out, a year, two years out."

Key asked the audience, containing more than 100 Australian marketers, whether they used content marketing. Not many raised their hands. She said they soon would.

"It has to be the future. You have to drive a story around what brands mean. Authenticity is critical. So [brands must] audit yourselves. Ask what are we doing to be genuine and real? It's actually very simple."

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