Tom Idle
24th April 2018 - 8 mins read

I couldn’t bear to sit around on the sidelines any longer while some agencies just messed things up,” is how James puts it when I ask why he’s decided to venture into the world of content marketing.

In his six years as MD of Media First, James and his team have been asked more and more to help with different communications challenges – to present better, to deliver more impactful messages, to shoot and edit film, to hone communications. “We’ve been naturally moving towards helping with content marketing over the years. Now, with Thirty Seven we will get to help our amazing clients in a much more involved way.”

James is joined by Mark, an ex-Microsoft application development consultant, who has been running his own content and design agency for the last five years. Having worked together enhancing Media First’s own content marketing and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performance, the pair decided to team up.

“We’ve built a loyal following and I enjoy knowing that what we are producing is worthwhile and entertaining,” adds James. “I knew that, so long as we kept enjoying the creative process and stayed true to our journalist-led concepts of always putting the audience first, then there was a good chance that people would continue to enjoy reading, watching and listening to the content we were making.”

Enjoying the frisson of their new business launch, the pair were keen to tell me how and why they plan to do content marketing better.

 

It seems that your decision to establish Thirty Seven was based on a belief that most content marketing is poor. What’s wrong with it? 

Mark Mars (MM): So much content is produced without any strategy behind it and the quality just isn’t there.

When it comes to SEO, there has been such a focus on creating pages that rank for certain keywords. What you often end up with is lots and lots of content which might create a decent search ranking, but the quality is so poor that visitors don’t stick around for long. Google has caught up with that and now has more quality measures in place.

James White (JW): SEO and content are still considered by some agencies to be separate pieces of work. But they need to be considered together. You don’t produce good SEO with poorly developed content; it just doesn’t work.

Also, the content marketing industry seems to be in a race to produce the most amount of stuff. Quality is coming second to quantity.

 

But clearly your customers are increasingly aware of the need to improve content quality. How have you evolved to cope with changing client needs?

MM: A hell of a lot has changed in the last five years. Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million, so brands really understand that this is the best way to reach their audiences.

There is also more appetite from consumers to digest content in many different forms, which opens up plenty of opportunity for publishers and content creators.

But that is not to say that it is being done particularly well. About 80% of B2B marketers claim to use content marketing. But 70% of them lack a consistent or integrated content strategy—and that’s a big problem. There has been too much focus on quantity over quality.

JW: ‘Quality’ is such a generic term because it’s all subjective. You need to develop the right content, for the right audience, in the right format, at the right time and in the right place.

Brands need to think more like publishers to really get the value out of content.

 

You use journalists to deliver content for your customers. The benefits of doing that might be obvious, but what is it you’re getting from journalists that you might not get from other content creators?

JW: Well, content should be more than just marketing. It’s not just good enough these days to tell good stories. You have to educate, entertain and excite audiences. You have to give people a reason to care.

Journalists inherently get this. They know how to sniff out unique stories that make people stop, sit up and listen. My wife is a journalist and she has a great ability to be brutally honest. I could spend all day coming up with, what I think is, a great idea. I’ll go home and tell her about it and she’ll challenge me by saying something like, “Who cares? Why will your audience give a damn?”

And that’s what’s great about journalists. They can easily put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and work out how people tick. That’s why I’ve loved working with our team of journalists at Media First these past six years.

 

Back in 2014, spend in content marketing was about £125 million a year. By 2020, it is set to jump to around £350 million...

 

All of your customers will have very different needs. How do you approach each piece of work to deliver the best results?

MM: Well, you need to get into the mind of the client to find out what they want to achieve, rather than just blindly creating content. You need to help build a cohesive and coherent plan that includes not just what content you will create, but also how you are going to publish it and promote it.

JW: It’s all about meeting objectives. Is this content to raise awareness? Or is it to convert lurkers on a website into buyers?

It’s also about looking at data to find out what types of content a client’s audience wants and how it wants that delivered.

When we get into content creation mode, we work like an editorial newsroom to script, write, edit and sub-edit. That then goes through a cycle of refinements until we are happy for it to leave our office and reach the client for sign-off.

 

There’s a continuous debate about the virtues of long- versus short-form content. Which do you think is best?

MM: It’s not really about what’s better. It’s about what’s most appropriate.

We do live in a fast-paced world, but to say that nobody wants to read more than 500 words just isn’t true. Long-form content has always received more shares and links than shorter pieces. People do appreciate the time that goes in to creating quality long-form content. And Google does too, with their algorithm generally favouring longer content.

 

So, are there rules for creating great content that you stick to?

JW: We like to use the simple TRUTH test – that the content is Topical, Relevant, Unusual, Trouble (solves, raises awareness of or discusses) and importantly, contains Human interest.

But it has to be delivered in the right format as well. Many people were surprised to hear that Media First and Thirty Seven have joined forces to create this magazine. Yes, it might seem a bit retro but not all audiences are the same; not everyone wants to read a blog or get their information from social media. I have a Kindle and iPad at home but still buy books, newspapers and magazines.

 

The General Data Protection Regulation is coming, giving individuals more control over how their personal data is collected and used online. What will it mean for the content marketing industry?

JW: It’s certainly something our clients need to be aware of, not least because the new regulation is so far-reaching. It will affect not just marketing but internal comms and even supplier contracts.

You can either hide under your desk and pretend it’s not happening. Or you can see it as an opportunity to be proactive.

I personally think it’s a great thing. I will have more control over my data and who markets to me. And as a content producer, I will know that we are providing our audiences with information they want.

 

So, what does the future look like for content marketing?

MM: We are drowning in content and it is getting harder to get results. The average number of shares of any content has been steadily falling over the last few years. So the whole practice does need to evolve.

That means content marketers need to be a lot more strategic about the type of content they create, backed by better research. And instead of asking inexperienced or new writers to churn out low-quality pages of blogs for long-tail keyword targeting, content teams will be comprised of creative designers, developers, AI experts, videographers, as well as plenty of experienced writers and journalists too.

JW: We also know that it’s going to be important to work closely with our customers’ teams. I hate the concept of a full-service marketing agency, where everything is outsourced. I hate to see comms teams dwindling in size. We want to support our customers to retain in-house teams because we’ve seen just how important they are during the last 35 years working with Media First.

 

What’s with the name, Thirty Seven? How did you come up with that?

MM: Well, if you ask somebody to pick a random number between zero and 100, a disproportionate number of people will choose the number 37. The more you delve into the number – the fact that it appears more regularly than any other number in films, for example – you realise just how special it is. It’s attractive and we’re in the attraction game, so it made sense.

 

What’s it like working with each other? Do you always get on or are there things you disagree on?

MM: We’re very similar. We’re both ambitious and want to succeed.

But our work lives have been very different so we have different ideas about how things should be achieved.

JW: Sure, sometimes Mark and I approach things from a different angle. Occasionally this leads to disagreements. But we complement each other. If we were both the same, we wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as a team.

Ultimately, we both want to deliver projects that excite and motivate us. That’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning; not to just earn money to pay the mortgage. It’s about more than that.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper. 

Marketing

7 reasons your organisation should produce an eBook

Adam Fisher 10th December 2018 — 4 mins read
E

lectronic books, or eBooks as they are more commonly known, occupy the middle ground of the content world, between the shorter and more regularly produced blogs and the more formal, often academic approach, taken in whitepapers.

It is a format which has enjoyed something of a boom in recent years and it looks set for further success.

What exactly is an eBook?

When we talk about an eBook we are not talking about the publications you read through a device like a Kindle.

The eBooks we refer to are produced by businesses and typically come in PDF format.

They enable brands to explore a topic in deeper detail – often aimed at solving a problem customers may be experiencing - but through an easy-to-read style.

And producing them has many benefits.

So without further ado, here are seven reasons why your organisation should produce an eBook.

 

Cover a topic in more detail

If you are already regularly blogging, you are probably tackling topics in somewhere between 500 to 1,500 words.

An eBook enables you to tackle topics in much more depth, usually starting at around 5,000 words or around 20 pages.

This gives plenty of scope to educate, entertain and engage readers and potential customers.

Longer form content can appear daunting to a reader – many would be put off by a 5,000 word blog for example.

But putting it in the format of a well-designed eBook, which is supported by eye-catching design, will make them more likely to download it and read when they have time.

Not only that, but an information-driven, educational eBook could become a resource they refer to again and again.

This creates brand loyalty, enhance the reputation of the band and the connection the customer has with it and ultimately helps to drive revenue.  

 

Showcase expertise

Producing an eBook can help position your organisation as a thought leader in its industry and showcase its expertise.

Tackling important issues which matter to your customers in detail not only reveals a deeper level of understanding but will also encourage prospects to view your organisation as a trusted source of information and as a problem solver.

This in turn helps organisations cultivate the credibility customers look for.

 

Generate revenue

eBooks are a great way to generate new leads that could lead to new sales.

In return for your carefully crafted insight, potential customers typically need to provide their email address for the download link.

In some cases they may also be required to provide other details such as job role and phone number.

That means an organisation now have valuable information about someone who has expressed an interest in your content.

They are also a great tool for sales teams to use to generate interest and new business.

 

Reusable content

One of the great benefits of an eBook is that it provides a lot of content which can be repurposed and recycled in blogs.

I have written a few eBooks for our sister company Media First and I have been able to take parts from each one, whether it is a chapter, section or even just a paragraph, and turn that into a blog at later date.

For example, one I wrote on the importance of preparing for a media crisis has led to blogs on holding statements, risk register, the importance of communicating internally and identifying the right spokesperson.

Additionally, they also provide plenty of reusable content for social media teams.

 

Rise above the competition

Not only do eBooks provide another channel to promote your organisation, but they are also something many of your rivals may not be using.

There are plenty of blogs out there, for example, but how many companies in your sector go beyond that?

So, not only do they help to ensure your brand stands out, but they could also help you tap into a wider audience.

 

Retains its value

An eBook is an item of content which retains its value.

Unless it is on a particularly time sensitive subject, it can stay on your website indefinitely generating leads and interest.

You can also keep referring back to it in blogs to attract new readers and post about it on social media.

At the very worst you may just need to update it occasionally.

 

You may already be half-way there

If you are already regularly producing content like blogs then you may already be well on your way to producing an eBook.

Your existing content could form the basis of your eBook and may just need some repositioning, a slightly different angle, more detail and some good design.

 

In summary, eBooks are premium content which should form part of your content marketing strategy.  If they don’t, your customers may just find the information they are looking for through a rival organisation’s eBook.

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or an eBook.

Adam Fisher
2nd May 2018 - 6 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.