Tom Idle
20th November 2018 - 5 mins read
T

his was Baptista’s revenge protest against a betting industry he claims regularly exploits people like him—those that have lost thousands of pounds betting on FOBTs and are encouraged to keep doing so, regardless of the consequences.

His actions, while destructive and illegal, garnered a wealth of sympathy across the media, raising serious ethical questions about the validity of FOBTs in high street betting shops. A lunchtime flutter on the horses has become legend across the generations. But offering the option of pouring hundreds of pounds into an algorithm- controlled giant computer is a relatively new phenomenon—and one that has raised concerns, particularly among local councillors and MPs. They continually face questions as to the social benefits (or otherwise) of betting shops popping up on every high street across the UK, especially when two million people are said to be addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

Of course, it is a narrative of which the gambling industry is only too aware. Being a socially (and environmentally) responsible business that plays a useful role for people and the communities in which they live, is front of mind for many CEOs—even those running companies in a sector constantly battling claims it is devoid of any positive social value whatsoever.

For those of you still unsure about whether it's worth ‘doing sustainability’ (largely defined as investing in measures to ensure your organisation is fit, proper and able to stay competitive for the long-term), you can stop it right now. More and more evidence suggests that those companies proactively looking for ways to make sure they are viable and attractive entities 50 years from now are already reaping the benefits. Just look at the consumer goods giant Unilever.

When addressing shareholder meetings, the softly spoken boss Paul Polman sounds more like Bono than a CEO, opting for soliloquies on global warming rather than detailed analysis of quarterly financial returns.

For the past six years the business has been building what it calls ‘Sustainable Living’ (SL) brands, such as Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s—businesses with a social or environmental purpose strongly attached to their operations or customers. For example, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s exists to “make and sell the finest quality ice cream” all the while sourcing natural ingredients and making sure its operations have zero negative impact on the planet.

All of the company’s brands are said to be focused on reducing their environmental footprint and boosting their positive social impact. Those that are furthest ahead are tagged as ‘SL brands’ and, collectively, they grew over 50 per cent faster than the rest of the business last year, delivering more than 60 per cent of Unilever’s growth. “Our results show that sustainability is good for business,” says Polman, pointing to a spurring of innovation, strengthened supply chains and reduced costs.

The telecoms business BT is another good example. It has spent plenty of energy and resources in recent years making sure its product and service offering can help its business customers be more responsible and efficient too. As part of its 3:1 goal, BT's consumer operations and products that contribute to carbon savings now represent 22 per cent of annual revenues and are worth more than £5 billion.

Waking up to the realisation that customers, of all shapes and sizes, care about what it is their favourite brands are doing to create a better world, or not, companies should know that CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility—or whatever you want to call it) is increasingly valuable.

And that’s largely because the next generation of consumers and customers want to know why companies exist, how they operate and whether their core business is having a negative impact on people and planet. A new study by Cone Communications reveals that 87 per cent of consumers say they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, while more than 75 per cent say they would boycott a product or company if the brand supported an issue contrary to their ethics and values.

It is a trend only likely to grow with Millennials and the Gen Z putting their money where their mouths are, purposefully backing more socially responsible brands over any others. Even if they don’t care about issues like climate change, pressured by peers on social media, they know they ought to so are more easily swayed to ‘do the right thing’.

So, if CSR has real value, why aren’t more companies talking about the good, positive things they are doing?

A lack of confidence and an absence of good, simple storytelling lies at the heart of the lacklustre response by all but a handful of progressive businesses. Ultimately, customers want their relationships with brands to possess the very same qualities they value in their personal relationships: Trust, empathy, respect, openness.

But in a corporate world defined by quarterly growth stats, companies blindly believe that acting more human will destroy any chance of economic success—a view that flies in the face of a growing mountain of evidence.

Maybe it’s too early for the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes to gamble on ripping out their valuable FOBTs, a move that would stake a claim to the moral high ground.

But what might the future CSR payback look like among a consumer base keen to defend and support companies that take an ethical stand? Might we see gamblers flock in unison to any betting shop willing to gamble on first mover advantage in positively responding to Baptista’s argument that they in fact may be destroying the lives of society’s most vulnerable.

In a world of continued divestment from companies unwilling to accept and respond to environmental and social risks, the corporate world can no longer bury its head in the sand.

Instead, it must rise in response to the big challenges the world faces—from poverty and human rights abuse, to global warming and water scarcity. To avoid being left behind forever, companies must change their course. But in doing so they must engage their customers effectively—a task that demands transparency, accountability, honesty and, above all else, fantastic communication and storytelling to bring them along for the ride.



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
6th 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.