Why an in-house content team is not a threat to content marketing agencies

Bringing specific marketing functions, such as social or digital, in-house is not new. Now, with content marketing on the rise, we are seeing many client-side marketers creating in-house teams.

Recently, a number of FMCG powerhouses and hotel chains have greatly expanded their in-house marketing teams, and are cutting back their agency rosters. Hotel chain Marriott established the Marriott Content Studio two years ago with the aim to develop, produce and distribute compelling and relevant content to inform, entertain and engage its consumers. PepsiCo strengthened its media and content creation division with the opening of its own in­-house studio in New York.

While many content marketing agencies might view this as a threat, Neal Moore, a member of ACMA, said this should not be the case.

“When the trend started, we thought people building in-house content teams was a threat, but we could not be more wrong on that,” he said, adding:

With an in-house content team, agencies have someone who speaks our language be it the copywriter, filmmaker or director.

"Everything is better. The relationship is better, the content is better, the risk taking is greater because there is no language barrier between the agency and the client. Even if just one person has the word content in their job title, it makes life a lot easier," said Moore.

Meanwhile, Lisa Ortner-Ghouze, head of content marketing and channels, institutional banking of ANZ bank added that currently she has an in-house team which works in collaboration with agency partners. This ensures a smoother system in place. An issue she faced in the past was that while an idea from a content marketing team might make sense in principal and theory, execution might be very different.

"With agencies, many of the people on the team have never worked in-house. So there is a challenge in helping them understand the barriers we might face in-house and getting things done. On paper, their ideas might make complete sense, but practical implications might be different," she said. With a hybrid model of having a content team in place, the client-side briefing is better and "there is a mutual learning", Ortner-Ghouze explained.

Lack of education and originality in the market

Our panelists agreed that on the agency side, more education is needed for the client-side marketers. There is also a need to emphasise on the production of original content. Moore added that many a times, clients are still doing "me too" content.

“There is a huge amount of copycat content,” he said. Many a times, he added, clients are still asking agencies how much it costs to write a certain number of words on a piece of content. This should not be the way. Discussions need to be more along the lines of styles and formats rather than "how much".

"If you want to tell an original story, go and find new and interesting stories. Quality is the way to stand out," he added.

Blanca Menchaca, co-founder and chief operating officer of BeMyGuest, also agreed that quality and originality are lacking because of the pressure digital puts on content. Today, a large volume of content is needed to stay relevant. Asia is also behind Europe and America in terms of the maturity of content marketing. As such many content pieces seen here tend to be rehash of content that might have worked in Western markets. She added:

Yes, it is true that sometimes we clients don’t know what we want. But this is also because we don’t know what we can do, or what the agency can do for us.

This, she added, can only be countered through a long term relationship and more education. She added that in today's landscape, the unfortunate truth is that more money needs to be spent to make sure your content is being seen.

"If you have a great piece of content it is not going to go viral just because it is cool. You need to invest in distribution and exposure. You need to be ready to see it through. It isn’t ever about one piece of content, it is about a bigger piece of marketing," Menchaca added.

Ortner-Ghouze also added that while spending is important for your content to be seen, you need your internal key stakeholders to buy in into the content and understand why it is valuable to them.

"We have some senior management who get content and why it's valid to them, and hence there is a trickled down effect to embracing content," she said. But for the naysayers, you need to understand their business goals or sales goals and challenges and "show how content can help them so they buy into it", she said.

"As with any organisation, once word spreads of the successes of content marketing, it gets easier. Initially, it might be a bit of an uphill struggle, but it gets better," she added.

But whether you work in-house, or with an agency, what is important is owning your own channel said Hedvig Lyche, general manager of King Content Singapore.

“In owning their own channels, brands can own the complete conversation,” she said. This lets brands own the audience they want to reach out to.