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Who makes the best content marketer (part two) – Not the Journalist?

November 30, 2015

By Simon Kearney, CEO

A COUPLE of weeks back we ran a blog about who made the best content marketers.

The idea was to look at skill sets and backgrounds in the hope we could provide a useful guide to anyone setting up a content team.

As a journo, I was kinda hoping the luminaries we asked, like Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute or Damien Cummings of Standard Chartered might come down on the side of putting a few hacks into new careers – but it was not to be.

Joe was in favour of people with a publishing background but it was more than that. You really need to find someone who gets brand marketing in particular and understanding an audience.

Journalism skills are important, but not the be all and end all.

Then one of the region’s pre-eminent journalists covering the marketing services space, Robin Hicks replied to the piece – and his response is worth covering as a second part to this.

His response was that no, journos don’t make good content marketers because, they’re err, well, journalists.

“Forget about the ability to tell a story. Instinctively as a journalist, you will want to question, dig and expose, attributes no brand will want to see played out in a piece of content marketing,” Hicks said.

Hicks goes on to defend creative agencies. Now this is controversial because the central idea of content marketing is not to interrupt folks with advertising but to be part of their content network and be the publisher.

As Joe Pulizzi argued in our earlier piece, creative agencies think in terms of campaigns and not as a publisher. As such they’ve been much maligned as slow and expensive in content marketing circles.

Are Creative Agencies less creative than Content Marketers?

But are they less creative. Hicks argues definitely not, in fact they still house the best talent.

“I would say creative agencies still produce the best content, mostly because at the moment they still have the best storytellers and craftsmen,” Hicks said.

“The work that ad agency BBH produces for Ikea in Singapore and Malaysia is the best in the market, I would say, and most of that is not scheduled stuff that runs on the tele, it’s content that is seeded in social media that may eventually run on TV.

“The idea, the writing and the quality of production through to the unpaid media exposure its work generates is way above what I’m seeing content or media or PR agencies generate for their clients at the moment – and the skill sets are the same.

“A few examples. Nissan has a huge content producing team in Yokohama run by a former Thomson Reuters journalist, but the stuff they produce I would say is less engaging and shareable than the high-octane TV ads that TBWA\Japan produces for them.

“The ads that Singapore Airlines is producing at the moment are fairly vanilla and uninspiring, a far cry from the legendary work of the Batey era of decades past. But they’re more memorable and shareable than the stuff produced by SIA’s social media/content agency, which is filler at best.”

The difference is more than just ability, it is execution. Hicks said the Singapore Tourism Board’s recent strategy to use short-form films to show an unseen side of Singapore is spot on but the execution, dropping JWT and going with a content/production company was poor.

Talent follows profits

I’ll admit the big creative agencies, the big ad agencies, do have the best pools of talent, they’re still the best resourced by far. But they are also big lumbering corporate entities fixed on a business model that relied for the majority of its profits on a mass media that is in decline. Talent follows profits, and then as Hicks argues, good content follows talent.

At the moment we content marketing agencies compete on having a new way of looking at marketing in a communications world that is in flux, but when you get down to brass tacks it’s as much about cost, ROI and speed of execution. There’s not many budgets in our world that will match the cash still being offered around to the big agencies.

Content marketing agencies are catching up though, but we won’t see who’s right for many years yet.

What I will say to Robin’s kind response to our piece is that he’s better at content marketing than he thinks. Content marketing is all about understanding your audience and writing for them – and Robin does this with aplomb both in his response here and in Mumbrella.

Only time will tell, and the Journo is not for turning!

That being said, I’m not going to take this lying down. I’ll keep fighting because I firmly believe that journalists are the best at this stuff because we are curious, thorough and we know a good story better than most. You’ve got to remember that I’ve spent much of my life relying on my own instinct for what will run and what will fail, and it’s served me pretty well up till now.

But what do you think? Come on marketers, which camp are you in?