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

Celebrities vs locals- the rise of the micro-influencer

Emily Stonham 7th December 2018 — 5 mins read
T

his used to be the best way to use influencer marketing in business. Looking to sell a new perfume? Find out who your target audience is, figure out who’s on the posters on their bedroom wall and there’s your answer. And there’s nothing wrong with this, per se. Celebrity endorsements do still work, specifically for brands and luxury goods on social media.

But there’s a fairly new form of endorsement sneakily taking over the marketing and advertising industries: micro-influencers. Using these influencers is becoming more and more common as modern brands see the value of scaling down their campaigns to reach a more targeted audience.

Firstly, what exactly is a micro-influencer? Tribe (a popular platform which connects influencers to brands) defines micro-influencers as ‘everyday people with a decent following’ who post about specific niche interests and passions. ‘Micro’ is fairly subjective, but in terms of social media it usually revolves around having a few thousand followers who interact with your content regularly.

This is a great way of summing it up, as one of the main advantages of micro-influencers is that they’re just normal people who’ve done well for themselves online.

One of the reasons that celebrity endorsements sometimes don’t do as well in modern society is because consumers are now aware of how polished and honed a celebrity appearance online is. Sure, they might be raving about how much they love that new sweatshirt, but they’ve probably been given it for free on a PR list and had six people work on the social media post before posting. It looks great, but it just isn’t authentic.

Most modern consumers want authenticity - specifically younger consumers, for whom this form of marketing is so relevant. Despite the media raving about how younger generations are addicted to social media and celebrities, many are actually turning away from a digital-focused life. The pressures of keeping up a perfect appearance online and trying to live like idols can have a huge impact on mental health and well-being.

Thus, highly polished celebrity endorsements just don’t have the same impact that they did 10 years ago. There seems to be a rising lack of trust in big brands and celebrities, which is affecting the way consumers behave. Just Google a brand name with ‘conspiracy theory’ or ‘scam’ behind it. There’ll probably be someone who’s convinced that the brand works for the Illuminati. And who’s to say they don’t?

In all seriousness, marketers need to be aware of this shift in attitude, especially if they’re targeting younger audiences. Micro-influencers are the perfect way to promote products and communicate with an audience, without losing their interest and trust. This may not seem like the best marketing strategy if you’re a large brand, but like I said earlier, there’s a lot of large brands using micro-influencers to their advantage.

One key example of micro-influencers being used is ASOS’s insiders. The ‘insiders’ are a team of fashion influencers who use their personal social accounts to promote ASOS content and engage with their audience. This particular influencer marketing scheme is famous in the industry as it’s incredibly successful.

The influencers all have unique styles, ranging from 90s tomboy chic to over-sized LA vintage. There’s something for everyone, and it’s clear that these are all styles that the influencers are genuinely passionate about. Therefore, it’s easy for consumers to relate to these people and feel more invested in their lives.

Obviously, these influencers now have large followings, but they all started out as just regular folk posting on Instagram. They’re now present across multiple platforms and constantly growing their audience. The appeal is how normal these people are. Who would you rather listen to for a review? A multi-millionaire celebrity or someone who you’d probably bump into in your favourite store?

Another great user of micro-influencers is Glossier. The company has a great online presence, particularly on Instagram. There are two elements that it’s aced for influencer marketing: fashion micro-influencers and niche memers.

Firstly, it uses a lot of user-generated content and micro-influencers to promote its products. It recently launched a referral program to reward its most loyal and influential fans online, which is boosting its profile even further.

Glossier creator Emily Weiss said recently in an interview that something that motivated her team was the idea of ‘every woman being an influencer’. This can be seen on its Instagram where it frequently reposts and celebrates its followers who promote its products. The overlap between micro-influencers and user-generated content is growing, and it has created nothing but positivity for Glossier.

It has also cracked the niche meme market well, which is notorious for the number of micro-influencers it’s created. Niche memes are a unique style of online content, specifically found on Instagram, which are very personal and visual posts. They’re often in the style of mood boards or aesthetic posts, but they originally started as more of a scrapbook/visual diary-styled post for people to express themselves and talk about sensitive topics online.

The fact that these niche memes are so personal means that people often post about their favourite brands and shops, and this is where micro-influencers come in. Glossier has collaborated with a number of moodboard/niche meme accounts and given them discount codes to promote to their followers.

This was a great move on Glossier’s part, as niche meme followers are normally incredibly invested in the pages that they follow and trust the owner’s opinions much more than they’d trust a celebrity. A lot of brands have done this, but few have achieved the success rates and status that Glossier gained from this marketing move.

So, what does this mean for your business?

If you’re considering using influencers, it’s worth looking into micro-influencers. Take some time to research what pages are relatively popular on your chosen platform, or look into influencer platforms like Tribe or AspireIQ. Using a smaller but more targeted page can often lead to better results and a more positive reaction from your audience.

If you’re set on using a celebrity or someone with a huge following, think about the authenticity of your message. Would that person’s audience really like what you’re asking them to promote? If not, your brand is going to seem fake and untrustworthy. Try chatting with them for a while to find out more about their audience and previous sponsored content, to get a better feel for how you could work with them.

On a broader level, think about the authenticity of your brand’s advertising and marketing campaigns. Consider whether your audience is going to actually like your product and your message, or whether you’re just trying to reach as many people as possible. Modern consumers are intelligent, and they can spot a fake review or endorsement a mile away.

 

Thirty Seven is proud to offer a huge range of content creation and marketing services. Get in touch with us today to see how we could help your business.

Adam Fisher
16th May 2018 - 7 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.