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

5 types of video content to help your business make an impact

Emily Stonham 12th October 2018 — 6 mins read
V

ideo content is the perfect way to achieve this. Using videos to interact with your customer shows them the person behind the product, and demonstrates how it could benefit them in real life. After all, the modern customer is busy. And with more content available online than ever, it’s important that your content stands out from the crowd and captures their interest.

Of course, different content will work for different people.  You need to narrow down your audience and figure out exactly what they’re going to be interested in watching. This means profiling your existing customers and talking to people who chose to buy from you, as well as those that chose not to buy from you. Content formats like surveys or social media polls can be really useful for this sort of research.

There are so many types of video content to consider. Here are 5 of our personal favourites for you to consider adding to your content strategy.

Behind the scenes

A video showing the inner workings of your business is a fantastic way to personalise your marketing and build a deeper level of trust with your consumer. If you’re promoting a product, show sneak peeks of how it’s made or a snippet of a brainstorming meeting. If your business offers a service, try filming a set-up before an event or consultation.

Obviously, you don’t have to show the whole thing, but giving your customers a glimpse behind the scenes can help them relate to your business on a more personal level and feel more interested in what you’re offering.

Some of the best behind the scenes video content comes from online brands. Fashion brands are particularly good at using this style on social media to keep their fans excited about upcoming products and collections.

A great example is the printing company Awesome Merchandise, who create personalised merchandise for businesses. They show behind the scenes shots of their machines embroidering and printing, and take a lot of photos off their staff working or on days out. These pieces of content help the customers feel like they’re in the factory or office with the team, and thus feel more connected.

Interviews

On the other end of the spectrum, an interview could be a great piece of content to film. This could be an interview with a team member, to find out more about the business and their day-to-day life. It could be an interview with a key influencer in your industry, perhaps talking about predictions for future trends or technological developments. You could interview customers, your boss or even strangers at a convention or networking event. There are a lot of possibilities with this idea - just figure out what you’d like to communicate, and work backwards from there.

Our sister company, Media First, often uses this video format to create customer testimonial videos such as this one. The benefit of using interviews in your content marketing is that it offers an engaging narrative for consumers, and can showcase different points of view.

Instructional videos

If you’re offering a product, a video detailing how to use it can be really beneficial for customers. Numbered videos can be really helpful e.g. ‘5 ways to use make the most of…’ or ’10 ways XX product can help your team’.

A key benefit of instructional videos is that it can also help to reduce the strain on customer services, sales and support teams. This style of video will often be created to answer a frequently asked question, and thus make the customer experience more pleasant overall.

A great example of this style of content would be makeup gurus, specifically on YouTube. Jeffree Star, a famous fashion influencer and businessman, creates makeup tutorials using his own products and techniques. The overall effect of this is that the customers gain more information about the product and engage more deeply with the brand itself.

Product launch

A great piece of content to create is a video promoting new products or events that your business is launching. A video could include sneak peeks/glimpses of the product, to generate hype around your brand. This could even tie in with other pieces of content, like competitions or give-aways to get more customers excited.

Alternatively, you could create an in-depth piece of content that highlights the key benefits of your new product, and gives the customer a reason to come back to your business.

This is often done really well by game development companies. When new video games are being released, companies often rely on social media hype to get the word out. They’ll post sneak peeks and snippets of game play, all leading up to an elaborate reveal of the game. A great example of this would be the most recent installation of the Super Smash Bros game from Nintendo.

Vlog

This one may be a less popular idea, depending on the industry you work in, but vlogging can be a great way to humanise your business and connect with your customers on a more personal level. A vlog is essentially a video blog. They’re incredibly personal, and are hugely popular on social media.

An example of the crazy hype that these pieces of content can create is the latest trend on YouTube called ‘mukbangs’. A mukbang is an eating show, with the creator simply having a meal and chatting to the audience. This might sound ridiculous if you’ve never seen these - who would sit and just watch someone eat for fun?

Surprisingly, tens of millions of people tune in to watch these on YouTube and Twitch. The appeal is the personal aspect, where the audience feels like they’re having a meal with a friend. Here's an example from a popular creator named Josh Peck.

Mukbangs can be used for marketing new products from fast food companies, like Taco Bell or McDonalds. They may not seem like the most obvious choice for a piece of content, but the cult following that they have online is immense.

Additionally, this type of content can be tailored well to fit most industries - for example ‘a day in the life of a digital marketing apprentice’ or ‘spending the day at a media training course’. They’re personal, fun and tie in well with the previously mentioned idea about a behind-the-scenes video.

Overall

Overall, it’s worth your time considering adding video into your content marketing strategy. It’s modern, engaging and also quite fun to produce. Customers love video content, and it can do incredibly well on social media.

And they don’t need to be long, either. When Thirty Seven launched a printed magazine earlier this year, we created a 15 second looped video to promote it that could be used on Twitter and LinkedIn- take a look at it here.

If you try out any of these ideas for a social media post, feel free to tag us - we’d love to see it.

Thirty Seven offers a huge range of content creation services, and we’d be happy to have a chat about any marketing projects that we could help your business with.

Mark Mars
19th February 2018 - 3 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.