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Taking on a newsroom approach to content marketing

Building a strategy that meets the bottom line is often the hurdle stopping brands from getting ahead with content marketing.

To gain insight into the steps needed to create a winning content team, A+M spoke with Christopher Ross de Cruz, associate director at Edelman, about his experience working as the editor in chief of GE Reports ASEAN (the region’s arm of General Electric’s award-winning content hub), and Edelman’s approach to communications and content marketing.

“Brand communications, and by default brand storytelling, should be a discipline that helps brands earn trust, attention and relevance in a rapidly changing landscape. At Edelman, we help businesses evolve, promote, and most importantly protect their reputation. This naturally translates into any content marketing work we take on as well,” de Cruz said.

“Many companies struggle to see the value in spending money for content. First I would ask, how much does it cost to adopt an approach?” Nothing, it costs zero to change your mindset. The scale of your output however, depends on the resources that you have. Then it’s an honest, but informed conversation between a brand’s marketing and business teams.”

[de Cruz will be speaking more on content marketing at the Content 360 conference on 27 October at the Aloft Sentral Kuala Lumpur, more details here.]

While unfortunately there is no one perfect formula the first action is about the mindset of being content and value-led, and not product-led.

“We adopt a newsroom approach to storytelling we call collaborative journalism on behalf of a number of our clients, including GE. Our goal is to put news and content where it earns attention, accessible by our audience on a multitude of platforms that they interact on. We reach our audiences where they are instead of asking them to come to us,” de Cruz underlined.

He explained that the first step is to ensure marketers have adopted the approach and then that the business is open to it. Then marketing and communications increasingly becomes a functional contributor to business goals.

“Not everyone has to be a master of everything but all must understand the mindset. Skill sets combined with a singular mindset will lead to an approach to a nimble newsroom,” said de Cruz.

I really don’t want to discourage brands who don’t have the resources to adopt this approach, it can be done by one or twenty.

The next crucial step involves listening through analytics to understand your audience and how they are engaging with the content.

“Your overall objectives and content calendar act as your north star and then everything needs to be tied to analytics. Otherwise you get content that’s all about me and all about the brand. And once you have a reader saying ‘this is an ad,’ you have it wrong,” he said.

One of the most important metrics is total time spent on a piece of content. De Cruz stated that one to two minutes acts as an industry benchmark and over the three years of GE Reports the average total time spent has gone from one to two to four minutes and it’s growing.

He referenced that 12-24 months ago many were heralding the demise of long-form content but that it can be some of the most effective if it is culturally relevant.

People are staying on content because it provides value but it also depends on the platform. Entertaining content will get you shares, but educational content has the power to change behaviour.

“We aim to talk to the people and the businesses on the ground and ask them what challenges they face and how can our storytelling help them reach your business stakeholder”

One of the most timely and culturally relevant stories through GE Reports that stood out for de Cruz was the coverage of the fight between boxers Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao last year.

He said at first they wondered if there was relevance in the trending topic for GE but they found a way  through a visual approach and had a data person and a designer analyse the fight and create an info-graphic while linking it back to some of the research on head trauma conducted by GE.

“It was one of the best performing content pieces of the year and the one line that spoke about the brand was informational.”

De Cruz stressed that it’s about latching onto a conversation where your audience is while also providing value.

“GE Reports is not a company blog. It’s run like an online magazine rather than an owned branded platform,” de Cruz emphasised.

Just because you have a platform it doesn’t mean you have to use it as a direct promotional tool. If you showcase cultural and local impact, then you are more aligned with the audience.

Edelman runs a weekly editorial process for GE Reports in collaboration with the General Electric team. The main tools are email marketing through opted in subscribers, social media and being part of events.

“It may sound old school but email marketing is a direct, hard-wired way to reach the readers and it’s even better when used in combination with the strength and power of Facebook’s targeted amplification capabiltities.”

De Cruz added that the team is staffed with consultants from different backgrounds including from the creative and business sides and writers from traditional media. The focus in the newsroom is on research, community management, collaborative journalism and influencer engagement, and social listening capabilities.

“It’s a unique machine in ASEAN. There’s a dichotomy with highly advanced countries, some at the cusp of mass internet adoption and some still in the emerging stages.”

De Cruz also said some of the most exciting and fastest growing markets they have dealt with include Myanmar and Vietnam, and the pace of change in the past 6-10 years has been phenomenal.

“You have an obvious print media focus but then there is a group which is completely mobile-first and on-par with the rest of the world in digital content consumption.” De Cruz said that the outside assumption without proper research would be that it wasn’t mobile ready “This region needs to embrace change. We need to be culturally relevant. We need to start conversations that permeate different cultures by reaching the audience in the way they prefer.”

“Increasingly, brands and enterprises will have to stop demanding attention, and start earning engagement. This region will continue to evolve, rapidly. What will not change is the need for us to be quick and nimble. And to constantly adapt our services to the media reality in which we operate.”

Join Christopher Ross de Cruz on 27 October at Content 360 at the Aloft Sentral Kuala Lumpur where he’ll be sharing more on content creation, measurement and repurposing along with a lineup of other content experts.

Get in touch with Daing Hazran at +65 9186 9324 and to reserve your place now.

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