In his BrightonSEO debut, Alex Jones discusses why supporting content is key for PR success. Using different angles to support your main asset is the key to unlocking insane amounts of coverage! If you missed him on the day, check out the presentation with the transcript below.
Hi - thanks for having me Brighton SEO, and thank you all for coming. My name is Alex Jones, not the lady from the One Show, and not the conspiracy theorist from America, but the one who does digital marketing... and I’m here to talk to you about supporting content and why it’s the secret to content campaign success.
So what’s this talk about?
Essentially, why you should prioritise supporting content in the planning and ideation of your next big campaign.
Why? Because it's the aspect of content campaigns which is often overlooked, but often ends up playing a vital role in delivery.
A lot of talks today will be focusing solely on nailing that main asset, and whilst I’ll touch on that, I want to concentrate on the pieces usually given less attention, because what I’ve found is that these are often the vital final pieces to completing the puzzle that is content campaign delivery.
I specialise in Digital PR focused campaigns, and I spent several years working specifically on getting these types of projects into the media and achieving those all important links. As well as the digital PR side of things I’ve done a lot of link building my time, and actually studied journalism at university, before realising there was no money in that and transferring some of those skills over into marketing.
Obviously speaking at BrightonSEO, means I have at least a passing interest in SEO - who doesn’t love a good canonical, right? And I’m a big music fan, so if anyone wants to talk to me about early noughties post punk, or how good the Gender Roles album is you can catch up with me after the talk.
I’m fortunate enough to work For Zazzle Media, a 10 year old company with over 50 employees operating just outside of Peterborough and with a rich pedigree in Content Marketing. We’re part of IPG Mediabrands working both in the UK and internationally. I was actually employee number 16 at Zazzle Media, so am really proud to see it grow into the prospect that it is today. Anyway, shall we get on with it?
Well, this is the stuff that surrounds a main asset, the re-enforcements, the Dave Grohl and Krist Novesalic to your Kurt Cobain if you will.
Supporting content can introduce flexibility to your approaches on social media, PR and link building by giving you more to work with and by dedicating time to reactive content creation it gives you the ability to activate and access trending conversations.
And it can come in many different forms, here are just a few examples.
But in reality this list is as big as your imagination.
So why do I love it so much? Well, what can I say, we have history!
Having worked on over one hundred of these big content campaigns in my time at Zazzle, I’ve had my fair share of amazing and not so amazing experiences in the creation and delivery of these pieces.
In the early days, It felt like big campaign content was like playing at the high stakes table. You’re putting all your money on this asset to dominate and deliver everything on its own. And if it didn’t well you were up shit creek without a paddle. However, we quickly learned that this strategy was best left for the blackjack community of Las Vegas and that diversifying opportunities and changing the way we view a campaign was the order of the day. And supporting content plays a huge role in that.
I also love it because, frankly people expect a lot from these campaigns nowadays. This is Zazzle’s very own example of a content campaign, and we’re pretty proud of it. Each year we run The State of Content Marketing (as well as the State of SEO) to understand UK businesses thoughts on the practice, if they believe its showing them dividends, what they use content marketing for, and if they plan to continue content marketing going forward. The reason I bring this up, is because our survey has found that we expect a lot from our content marketing efforts.
We asked UK business how they measured the success of content marketing, and found that success comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. At the top we have increased web traffic before going into everything from increased SERPs to brand lift. A myriad of marketing wishes. So... unless you’ve got a main asset which has had tens of thousands of pounds spent on it you’re going to need some supporting content to make these happen.
And to make supporting content a core part of our campaign philosophy was integrating it into our ideation strategy. Which is a very 'marketing' way of saying the art of coming up with an idea.
For me, *ideation* is as important as anything else you will do on the campaign, and ensuring supporting content is sold in at this stage enables the campaign to grow and develop with this in mind. Happily doing this is a simple change.
Here’s how a lot of people brainstorm currently. Putting tonnes of ideas into coming up with the main asset. And this is how we used to do it, a pretty simple process of coming up with a strong idea for a main asset and making sure it was bulletproof and fitted the brief. Whilst this is a good starter for ten, we need to add another layer to our process.
By creating a whole new tier, where we funnel all ideas through a main asset and into a supporting row of ideas, it allows us to bring supporting content to the table at the very genius of these ideas.
The first question you’ll probably ask is... how long did he spend on these slides. To that, I’d answer... no more questions.
But creating a framework which ensures supporting assets are given their own space in the process will reap rewards.
We can then ensure the campaign can target and has assets for owned, earned and paid opportunities, which is the basis for any strong digital campaign.
So our ideation process starts with an audience. Now if you work in-house you probably have a pretty good understanding of your audience already, but if not the knowledge is vital for understanding which topics and types of content appeal to your target demographic.
This starts by ensuring the sources you get your audience insight is trusted. As part of IPG media-brands, we’re lucky enough to have access to a tool called Pinpoint, which joins data from tools such as The Global Web Index and YougGov to help give us an enormous amount of insight into our clients audiences.
Using sources like these are a great way of getting a good impression of what is going to resonate with your target market. Facebook audience insights and sales data are brilliant as well if you have access to those.
From these sources, we want to learn more about their online behaviours, so things like device usage, social network preferences and more. Next we do some in depth profiling, so what demographics are our audience, whereabouts do they live, what are their political leanings, professions, disposable income, etc.
Finally we go a bit deeper and unlock any additional key insights we can such as hobbies, outlook on life, brand role preferences etc. Having all this gives us a nice foundation of knowledge to feed into our ideation/brainstorm process. But that’s not the only audience we need to think about.
Not only do we want to think about what our audience want however, we need to make sure that the wider world would be interested in it too. Now journalists are complex creatures, having trained as one at university, being friends with several and have worked with many more, I can tell you that their thoughts on a good story are pretty wide ranging. However there are a few aspects which are bound to warm your idea to more than the average amount:
The first is abbreviated to FMD, and unfortunately that first initial is a particularly rude word. This is a phrase which has become popular in the newspaper world, and sums up the reaction editors want to their stories.
"Fuck me Doris, have you seen this?"
So will the outcome/angle of your content make your audience do that?
It can also be handy, especially if its an SEO orientated brief to do some preliminary keyword research. What are they ranking for, what could they be ranking for better? What are their competitors ranking for? Opportunities etc. This can also be done once you’ve got the idea of course.
Pre-brainstorm research is crucial and we have a bit of an amnesty at the start of any session where we say, if you haven’t done any pre-meet research please raise your hand. They are kindly escorted from the building. No, but they are asked to do their homework before the session. Because, we need to be informed if we’re going to nail this.
Trending or seasonal ideas are next, these are ideas which we can hook on pre-existing topics in the press and will need to be turned around pretty quickly.
Unique data opportunity is a big win if you can get hold of some. In theory this is data that no-one but your business or client is privy to and therefore can make for compelling reading. It’s at this point we start to think about the wider marketing plans of the business, are they going to any events, is there a tie in we can work somewhere, is there a particular season of the year that we need to pay more attention to? Think of human interest angles or case studies that would be pertinent for this data, are there any FOI requests you could leverage to get hold of the data and angles?
But when it comes to big content campaigns, validation is crucial, especially when other supporting angles will be explored.
Our ideas are then fed through our validation process, which is called the JULIA process.
It’s named after our content director Julia Ogden, who has banned me from including a picture of her here... so here it is. Nobody tell her.
Essentially it ensures that all ideas are up to scratch and will be warmly received once deployed.
Once you’ve gone through this process, you should be in a position where you’re armed not only with a solid gold main asset but an assortment of strong supporting content to give your distribution effort enough heft and variety to ensure you have every chance of achieving those all important KPIs.
So to finish I thought I’d share a couple of examples which have re-enforced this ideology and provided great returns for our clients.
The first is in the form of a report around addiction we pushed out for an addiction rehabilitation provider.
Now the report itself was the main asset which we put together for this rehabilitation client, but we quickly realised that whilst data was great and all, when it comes to addictions its those human interest stories which are going to really capture the public and press’ attention.
So in support of this asset we decided to look for willing case studies to speak up and offer their support to the report and raise awareness of the support out there for addicts.
Out the back of this we actually got a celebrity reply to us and offer their first hand story up for us to use.
Once we had the interview, we then reached out to our freelance network, and found a journalist who we had worked with before and had the contacts to get this fast tracked into the press.
Now the truth is, we could have done this part ourselves, however sharing is caring and keeping freelancers and that journalist network onside is a key to recurring big wins.Fortunately they didn’t let us down on the results...
And the pros fo us? Well we strengthened those key relationships in our network and delighted our client with some big wins.
The next focuses on this title. Now most of you will be aware of the Ladbible and their unique brand of editorial content, as well as their astonishing figures across social media.
The power the page has is pretty crazy, so if you want traffic or exposure to a specific piece of content, depending on your audience, this a pretty powerful place to get a placement. All the alliteration.
At the time we working on a piece of content which was an interactive style quiz, I suppose, which would allow you to choose your perfect holiday destination based on your characteristics as well as your wants and needs.
Unfortunately, the client wanted coverage for this piece, which really was more of an on page venture.
So we turned to the idea of expanding the pieces scope by creating supporting assets. One such asset came off the back of a conversation with the Ladbible, who had picked up that in the generator it featured a section which told you the average price of beer in that country, because of course they did.
Since we new this could be a big opportunity we managed to turn around the piece quickly, which went down well and resulted in...
Both of these recent instances resulted in... a very happy client. And yes, I’m aware the best slide in this presentation is a gif of a dog.
So to summarise, don’t neglect supporting content. Don’t have your focus be pulled on the development of the main asset so much that you develop tunnel vision. Its easy to do. How do you stop this? Integrate it into your ideation process. Attack those earned owned paid and shared channels to maximise reach. And remember, always ask WHAT ABOUT SUPPORTING CONTENT.
Cheeky plug, if you fancy reading more about content campaign strategy and Digital PR goodness, I’ve written a ton about this stuff on these blogs so give me a quick google. And skip past all the one show and conspiracy stuff...
And finally., thank you all for coming, and if you have any questions after this block feel free to come say hello. I can’t promise to know the answers, but I can promise to pretend I know the answers. Cheers!
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