|Interview with Content PR-chitect Anja D’Hondt, Managing Director at duomedia|
The boundaries between earned, owned and paid media continue to dissolve at an exponential rate as consumer preferences constantly change communi- cation dynamics. We are moving into an ‘on-demand’ society with more critical audiences who will not just accept any commercial message. Companies are using multichannel media techniques to capture their stakeholder’s fragmented and short attention spans, and nurture them on a continued basis.
PR experts have been acknowledged for creating and tailoring stories to specific audiences. A content PR plan & strategy can perfectly leverage and fuel marketing channels, adding credibility and resulting in an engaged community.
duomedia has been a Content PR agency in European B2B technology markets for over 15 years. With their clients they successfully integrate PR techniques into multilingual marketing plans. Driven by new media platforms and technologies, new opportunities arise on the Content PR horizon. An interview with an expe- rienced Content PR-chitect on the challenges ahead
Anja D’Hondt is Managing Director of duomedia, the pan-European Content PR agency in B2B technology markets (www.duomedia.com). Based out of Brussels, Belgium, duomedia offers multilingual content strategy, creation & publishing services.
Prior to founding duomedia in 1999, Anja managed the European Marketing Communication for Brady Europe and coordinated Creative Services at Scitex Europe. In both positions she developed strong relations with colleagues who would eventually become duomedia team members, partners and clients.
Anja studied PR and Communication Sciences at the University of Brussels.
Since many years she is also Board Member with BPRCA, the Belgian Association for PR agencies. Anja enjoys living at the seaside with her family.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE TERM ‘CONTENT PR’?
Everyone knows content marketing as selling content by applying marketing techniques, usually through company-owned or paid channels. We approach content from a PR perspective, which means we first develop a strategy geared towards channels to reach stakeholders and engage communities. On the content side we apply successful PR-principles into the tactics, such as third party validation, ambassadorship and thought leadership. We always search for ‘angles’ to upscale the content – even more so when product or technology oriented – and tailor it to specific or local markets.
HOW DO YOU DEVELOP SUCH A CONTENT PR STRATEGY?
We usually start with an audit, researching a company’s image perception and positioning. This is done via customer surveys, share of voice and competitive analysis. The next stage is developing the messaging framework, in line with the corporate and marketing strategy. Based on all this we then finally set out a Content PR strategy and tactical plan with objectives & measurement parameters, content matrix, media channels & tools.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THOUGHT LEADERSHIP?
Thought leadership is based on the premises that a company’s leaders are sharing their expertise, knowledge and ‘thoughts’ on their business in an educational and informative manner. It looks at issues and challenges within a specific industry or market and offers solutions dealing with them. It cannot be commercial but should build a company’s reputation, strengthen relationships and garner respect amongst target audiences. Thought leadership is an important part of the Content PR plan, and should be sustained by the company’s management. It should also include the company’s social responsibility with regards to the world we all live in.
HOW DO YOU CREATE THE ACTUAL CONTENT BASED ON THIS STRATEGY?
Depending on the channels and audiences content is produced in different formats: white papers, news releases,featurearticles,blogs,newsletters,testimonials, etc. An important technique is third party validation and ambassadorship so we usually include quotes from customers, industry experts, associations, influencers… these are all pre-defined in our strategy and content matrix per market, country or campaign. Independent surveys also solidify content and add to its credibility. As we work closely with the media we also match content with feature calendars and reader’s interests. All content is crafted and localised in any language, from European to Asian, and then distributed across multiple channels.
WHERE DOES VISUAL STORYTELLING FIT IN?
Communication has become more visual over the last years due to the information overflow, especially on a digital level. A strong image can draw attention and arouse interest. We spice up stories with images, video and infographics — our own blogs and newsletters always feature a strong visual. A recent scientific study from a university for one of our clients was processed
into an animated video. This reflects the key findings, leading into the full study and article containing all details, facts and figures. It is not an easy task as you need to carefully prepare the script and capture key elements in about 3 minutes. Another challenge is to make visuals work on a global level, supported by messaging and content in the respective regional languages.
HOW DOES REDUCED ADVERTISING SPEND IMPACT CONTENT UPTAKE BY THE TRADE PRESS?
It is very diverse from one country or market to another. Overall reduced advertising budgets have led to thinner publications and less space for valuable content, as well as reduced editorial capacity and resources.
Some publishers have adapted very well and come with new creative ideas offering valuable platforms for content distribution, New hybrid content publishing formats like sponsored content and native advertising gain more interest.
We prefer to establish a partnership with the media and produce relevant content in function of their distri- bution channels. At trade events, round tables or even in producing white papers & testimonials we work very closely with journalists and publishers. We believe in a multichannel campaign approach balancing social, print and online media channels.
HOW HAS MEDIA OUTREACH EVOLVED THE PAST FEW YEARS?
The role of trade journalists has changed significantly. Also in the B2B world there are more channels available, more content crafters beyond the traditional publica- tions. Journalists have become curators, establishing themselves as experts and influencers – sharing their opinions through blogs and columns, even moderating at events.
New technologies facilitate processes for media outreach. We are switching at duomedia to a new online media influencer platform to help us track news release traffic, manage relations and analyse online, social and print coverage. We developed our own digital and social newsroom (www.duomedia.com) which is a measurable platform for content publishing of news releases and articles in multiple language versions. All of this significantly changes dynamics of media & influencer outreach. Basic PR tasks become mainstream and we are now more valued for our strategic competences.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DO SOCIAL MEDIA OFFER IN TERMS OF CONTENT?
Engagement is key in social media. We are getting beyond the regular tweets and postings into a more quality approach. There are great analysis tools that help us define and track key followers and influencers,
help us understand their needs and preferences. We organise tweet chats, set up and drive twitterwalls at conferences, compose twitter newsletters, and develop strategies for more effective social media implemen- tation across all levels of an organisation. Google and twitter analytics help us to assess effectiveness of newsrooms, content, keywording and web traffic.
To capture the attention on social media you need to be short and witty, consistent and relevant, responsive and informative. We often create links to blogs, surveys or larger content pieces as social media do not allow long and tedious messages. We very closely follow new trends and technologies in social media as these develop very rapidly, and also differ from one market and country to another.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CORPORATE SELF-PUBLISHING?
It means that corporates create their own channels to publish content. This goes from websites to marketing collateral, social media channels, direct marketing, newsletters up to owned trade events like seminars and open houses. And not only do companies use this for their own content but very often also for content of industry partners and even customers. Owning and managing these self-publishing channels implies companies can control the entire process up to the final lead generation. B2B environments are more suitable for this as companies have a more direct and personal relationship to their clients. These channels represent great opportunities to create exposure through Content PR.
WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A GOOD CONTENT PR-CHITECT?
Content PR is an exciting but also challenging and complex field of work. Our people require strong copywriting, communication, technology, language, strategic and social skills. Training and self-education is very important as we do need to be abreast of new trends and technologies. We have our own internal newsletter to capture the latest on Content PR from twitter and other social platforms. Above all however the drive, passion and commitment are key to success – you need to love what you do and inspire others. I am very proud to say that we do have built a great team at duomedia, supported by dedicated freelance specialists. Day by day we work very closely with client marketing teams which creates positive interaction and dynamics between us all.
A LAST THOUGHT ON CONTENT PR?
There is so much more to tell about Content PR, to conclude I would say that a solid strategy and plan with guidelines is really key for every organisation.
The content should be genuine and truly reflect the company’s values. This way it can be empowered and carried out by all internal stakeholders – from manage- ment, marketing teams, employees up to distribution partners. They all have faster and easier access to media channels today. One negative or wrong message can do a lot of damage to a company’s reputation, and as we say in PR ‘perception is reality.’