MSP-C’s creative and strategic braintrust shares what they’re seeing and excited to bring to clients in 2019.
1. Using What We Know to Make the Web Better
I’ve noticed a marked trend in partnering with clients to audit and enhance existing content, make top-performing content work even harder with repackaging and make email lists work smarter using segmentation. All of these services can be seen as enhancements and as I progress into my 2019 planning, I’ve recommended —or been asked to perform them for every single one of my clients.
For one client, my team is making their email program more personalized and dynamic, leading to a highly engaged customer. For a banking client, we’re adding visual and design enhancements for a better customer experience, establishing them as a trusted financial partner and for another client, we’re using the customer journey to inform how we map and repackage content, which ultimately shortens their sales cycle.
I’ve always believed as we get better at the web, we have an obligation to make the web better. Enhancements are a resourceful and cost-effective way to hold this value high.
—Kate O’Reilly, Content Director
2. Talking with Customers, Not at Them
Video-based content marketing has been a weirdly one-sided conversation for far too long but I believe 2019 is the year that changes. In the era of live video and stories, audiences are increasingly demanding to be “spoken with, not spoken at,” and it’s imperative that we listen.
Influencer marketing has been an easy way for brands to engage audiences. But just as those dollars have moved to the hands of influencers, so has the ability for a brand to have an authentic dialogue. People are more skeptical than ever of brands and their branded content. Why? We would argue that it’s a fear of getting too real.
Influencers may have large audiences, but the more powerful tool they have is sensitivity. Sensitivity to how they communicate with the precious ears they have gathered. Sensitivity to the emotions they want to garner and receive. Sensitivity to #sponsoredcontent and how to bridge the gap of authenticity. Let’s shift our perspective toward the audience and invite them to the conversation.
—Liz Giorgi, Founder and CEO, Mighteor (MSP-C’s strategic video content partner)
3. Moving Beyond the Limits of Your Graphical Infrastructure
I know I’m not the only designer who’s felt that the content I imagined has only occasionally been the content that we created or deployed. Whether dreaming about websites, videos or infographics, these ideas for richer experiences often languish because of the knowledge and resources required to produce them. But modern in-house and third-party solutions for creating engaging graphical content are vast and economical, so no more excuses for boring or limited creative!
Here are three ways teams can unleash creativity and see it come to life:
1. Empower Designers: At a minimum, most designers are equipped with the full array of Adobe Creative Suite tools. The number of features available is bananas, but most designers lack the time to explore them. Encourage playtime and experimentation as an investment in your organization. When designers can take time—or are incentivized—to learn and test new creative solutions, it expands the organization’s versatility as well. Having time to recharge is also essential for generating fresh ideas.
2. Make It Move: Speaking of tools, it’s now easier than ever to create imagery that moves. You can easily export movies and GIFs from Adobe Animate (formerly Flash). In planning phases, remember to encourage illustrators and photographers to think about various states of motion. A designer can quickly assemble these assets into GIFs for your social media channels and emails. If more time is available, having someone on staff who can deftly navigate video applications (Premiere and After Effects) is a huge boon for an in-house team.
3. Getting Rich Quick: Still feeling stuck? Assess whether partnering with third-party services (SaaS vendors, developers, designers) can help you elevate your visual content. Reach outside your own organization to find strategic, economic solutions for the content of your dreams. Compromise may be necessary, so reserve an open mind and some flexibility, too.
—Mike Kooiman, Experience Design Director
4. Mapping Content to the Buyer Journey
Many MSP-C clients are beginning to determine if the content they’ve been creating (or we’re creating for them) is truly helping move their customers along the buyer journey.
For one B2B client, we recently concepted and launched a content hub. In the interest of populating the site, the client didn’t spend a lot of time considering what type of content was needed. As a result, certain topics may have several early-stage assets, a few late-stage assets but no middle-stage assets. Now that the hub is up and running, we’ve recommended we take a breath and strategically plan content creation.
In 2019, we’re planning to develop content packages that contain existing and new content around a given topic, making the most of what we’ve already produced and using new content to address the gaps that will help move buyers through their journeys.
—Evelyn Hoover, Content Director
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5. Combining Art and Science
A good storyteller always reads his or her audience first. But instead of scrutinizing faces aglow with firelight, we craft stories using data.
As content creators, we recognize that data can come from many sources: Google Analytics, yes, but also reader surveys. Focus groups. Editorial advisory panels. Networking events. After all, data is merely a reflection of human behavior.
This year, we’ll continue to chase the alchemy of data and storytelling—creating elevated content that is effective and meets our audiences where they are.
—Molly Bennett, Content Director
6. Expanding the Definition of Diversity
We’ve always put an emphasis on featuring diversity on the cover and inside the pages of Sky, the in-flight magazine we create for Delta Air Lines. In the past, that mostly meant paying close attention to racial and gender equality. Now we’re further expanding that definition as we look to feature more people in diverse communities or with unique attributes that put them outside of the typical Hollywood ideal.
This focus on broader diversity is a goal for Delta and for Sky. Given the fact that millions of people travel on the airline every month—to some of the most culturally diverse places on the planet—interacting with its employees and each other, we want our pages to reflect the diversity of our readership in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
—Sarah Elbert, Content Director and Editor in Chief
7. Content Marketing as Customer Advocacy
I consider these more guardrails than trends, but from a B2B client perspective, every single time we’re working with a marketing team we need to continually focus on five key areas:
1. It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of clearly understanding the challenges and values of our clients’ customers. This is particularly critical when working with larger clients that often create marketing programs and campaigns from the insulated confines of a corporate HQ. Customers are generally more receptive to a story when it’s delivered in their language and tone, as opposed to messaging laced with buzzwords and jargon that ultimately communicate “we don’t know who you are.”
2. Producing sustainable content marketing programs that consistently deliver quality material. This is the practice of working with brands to become/evolve into publishers and emphasizes the commitment required of the client’s entire organization in order to realize success.
3. What is the client’s definition of success? How are they being measured? And how to do we validate ROI?
4. Don’t be afraid to go “long.” B2B customers and prospects require context, detail and real-world examples to assist them in making informed purchasing decisions that will show a return on their substantial investment.
5. Keep the marketers behind the curtain and allow those in the trenches to tell the story. Influencers from outside of the company are often utilized and can be effective, including industry SMEs and current customers, in telling your client’s story; however, don’t ignore the client’s internal experts as potential storytellers—they know the product and are often recognized and respected commodities in the industry.
—Doug Rock, Director of Client Strategy, Business and Technology
8. Lifting the Curtain (and Bragging About What’s Behind It)
In the same way that consumers are demanding to know exactly where their food and products come from, they’re demanding to know where their content comes from. Not just which brand or company, but who exactly is behind the curtain creating it. What makes them qualified? Google isn’t demanding to know, per se, but it is adjusting algorithms to favor sites that demonstrate strong E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust: a major part of Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines). Consumers want the same thing from us, and we should give it to them!
In 2019, we’re taking opportunities to brag about our expertise in the food media space by shining the light on our team of food content creators, the experience they bring to the table and the high-quality content they develop; we’re doing more to highlight our rigorous processes and the awards we’ve won to demonstrate authority for our Fortune 200 CPG client. And on the incredibly important topic of trust, we’re enhancing user experiences to further strengthen our relationships both on- and off-site. By doing so, everybody wins.
—Kayla Knudson, Content Director
Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?