Adam Fisher
19th November 2018 - 4 mins read
O

ther forms of content, such as the less formal eBooks, blogs, infographics and interactive games appear more exciting and attractive and ultimately seem to have become more popular.

You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that whitepapers have had their day and are just another victim of digital progression.

But there is another school of thought – one which we subscribe to at Thirty Seven – that whitepapers are alive and well and continue to play a crucial part in effective content marketing strategies.

In fact, we believe they have an integral role in providing the comprehensive, detailed material which is all too often missing in other parts of content marketing.

It is the perfect long-form content medium in which to position a brand as a genuine authority in its field and take a deep look at the issues which matter to its clients and potential customers.

Here are a few more of its strengths:

Whitepapers have longevity

A whitepaper which successfully tackles an important issue will be saved and printed out and people will refer back to it again and again when they make important decisions.

Whitepapers are shared

They may not go viral in the social media sense, but whitepapers are typically shared by colleagues and teams and can travel extensively within just one organisation, greatly increasing the size of the audience and spreading awareness of your brand. My boss, for example, will regularly share whitepapers with me that he has downloaded and found useful and I often pass these on to other colleagues and even people in other organisations.

Content that can be reused

A common concern organisations often have about whitepapers is that they require considerable time and effort for just one piece of content. But actually that isn’t the case. A good whitepaper can typically be sliced and diced into a series of blogs. Not only is this fresh content, but each resulting blog can be used to encourage the reader to download the whitepaper for detailed analysis of the wider issue.

Whitepapers create strong leads

Whitepapers are not for the casual reader – they require too big a time commitment from the consumer for that. So, when someone signs-up to receive a whitepaper they are looking for a solution to a particular problem and they are trusting your organisation to provide it.

If whitepapers have all these benefits, how can you ensure yours doesn’t fall into the ‘unsexy’ trap?

Tackle a topic which matters to your audience

As with all content marketing, understanding your audience and the issues that matter to them is pivotal.

For your whitepaper to gain the interest of your customers it needs to tackle both an issue they want to be resolved and offer a unique perspective.

This involves detailed research, information being verified and experts being interviewed - and a clearly communicated argument.

Improve the visual

One key way to improve the image of whitepapers is to make them look visually better. Page after page of text is only going to cause readers to lose interest and stop reading, no matter how well it is written.

Photographs, infographics, charts, pull-out quotes and even coloured boxes all have a role to play in adding a creative touch and making whitepaper content more visually appealing.

Length

Even though whitepapers are long-form content a careful eye needs to be kept on length.

A 10-15 page document should easily be enough to construct a credible and persuasive argument and will be much more digestible and less daunting than something double that length.

This means that writing needs to be sharp, concise and waffle free.

Use variety to spice it up

If you’ve already got whitepapers as part of your content, try using different templates and styles to make new ones stand out. Find different ways for readers to test what they have learnt in different sections of the paper, add bullet point summaries after specific sections and use different layouts.

Produce an attention-grabbing headline

No matter how strong the content of your whitepaper you still need to find a way of ensuring you customers are going to read it.

The headline is key to ensuring that your whitepaper stands-out, generates curiosity and promises the solution to a problem.

Enable people to preview whitepapers before they download

Allowing customers to preview a few sample pages of the whitepaper before they need to enter their details and download it is a great way to entice readers and highlight the quality of your document. If it is good enough for Amazon and the books they sell then I think it is something we should all consider.

Check out this example we created for Every Angle.

Whitepapers may not be sexy. They may not provoke instant excitement. But get them right and your customers will find them hard to resist.


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

Content should be more than just marketing

Tom Idle 29th March 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. 

Adam Fisher
9th April 2018 - 5 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.