The Future of Content Marketing

Joe Pulizzi has been at the forefront of content marketing in the past 10 years, and has 7 laws for what content marketers need to think about in the next 10 years.

Content marketing has existed for decades, if not more than a century now.

But in the past 10 years, things have changed and evolved at an extremely high pace. Digital and social media are the key drivers behind this, along with the changes they’ve brought to consumer behaviour.

In that time, Joe Pulizzi has positioned himself, as the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, as a great thinker on the subject, with a keen eye on the current state of things, but also on where we are going as an industry.

In his 2019 Content Marketing World keynote, he revealed a list of 7 laws that are at the core of what will make content marketing programs successful in the next 10 years.

Of those, many have slowly been building up in the past 10 years, but are now so true that any content marketer needs to consider them and adjust their thinking on governance, revenue and beliefs.

Here is the gist of the 7 laws he describes:

  1. Always be selling internally.
  2. Plan for multiple lines of revenue.
  3. Buy before you build.
  4. Do one thing great.
  5. Stay away from content campaigns.
  6. Plan for the end of social.
  7. Have conviction in the practice.

I strongly invite you, as a marketer and content enthusiast, to read the full article or watch the 18-minute keynote.

It is a deep dive into the foundations of content marketing, where we come from, but most importantly, where we need to head.

If you would like to discuss the future your content marketing program with us let us know and schedule a consultation with our experts at Toast today.

The Guide to Choosing a Content Agency

Nearly 86% of B2C companies and 91% of B2B companies say they use content in their marketing strategies.

Of these, 62% (B2C) and 56% (B2B) use external resources for certain content marketing activities. Content creation, content promotion, performance measurement and strategy are just a few examples of activities that are regularly delegated to experts outside the organization.

However, in more than half of the cases, the internal team is composed of a single person serving the brand as a whole. One can guess that this person has to wear several hats! … and may have to deal with burnout in some cases!

The choice of which external resources to hire becomes very important, especially with the speed at which the content marketing landscape changes each year.

This article aims to help you in your decision-making process towards the choice of the best content agency for your brand.

We will cover the following topics:

  • Agency or freelancers? 
  • Category experience of content agencies
  • Niche content agency vs digital agency
  • The breadth of services offered
  • Auditing the internal services of a content agency
  • How to evaluate the price 
  • How to evaluate an agency’s clients
  • The final selection

Once you’ve gone through our recommendations below, don’t hesitate to also read our articles on:

Agency or freelancers?

The first question you have to ask yourself is: Do I need an agency?

If you are currently experiencing one or more of these challenges, an agency may well be needed:

  • Lack of time to create content
  • Produce a wide variety of content
  • Produce truly engaging content
  • Measure the effectiveness of content initiatives
  • Develop a solid content strategy

But first, let’s define what we mean by content agency.

In our view, a content agency is a group of experts dedicated to content, working with a varied client base by providing them with one or more of these services: content strategy, production, publishing, distribution and amplification.

What is very important to us is the notion of a dedicated content team. A content department within a traditional or digital agency may not be your best ally. You will be better served by an agency with deep expertise in its field, content in this case, working together with your agency ecosystem including creative agency, digital agency, media agency and PR agency.

Experience has shown that trying to combine all these capabilities under one roof rarely results in a happy outcome. There is real relevance in entrusting different expertises to different agencies.

The birth of content agencies

The term content marketing agency has only been around for a few years now.

We see this situation as a repetition of what happened in the early 2000s with digital agencies.

When having a website became a necessity for any self-respecting brand, the traditional agencies tried to integrate this new service into their offer by hiring teams and developing internal expertise (programmers, integrators, etc.).

However, over the years, many brands came to realize that they had poorly performing digital properties, which were all too often copies of traditional TV campaigns (for example).

That’s when digital agencies came into being and became an essential part of any marketing manager’s life. A digital agency dedicated to the evolution of the different e-commerce platforms, user experience (UX), user interfaces (UI), and so many others.

That’s why nowadays, you will often see a creative agency working together with a digital agency.

And we believe the same thing is happening with content.

We are currently seeing several advertising agencies trying to integrate content expertise into their teams, sometimes working with the same creatives on both direct response promotional campaigns and content initiatives.

And as you can guess, in many cases the process is arduous, the result does not live up to expectations and so on.

The relevance of a content agency thus becomes more and more meaningful each year, with different teams than what the other agencies have (our employees come more often from journalism and television rather than advertising) and different timeframes (we work with content programs, year-round initiatives that medium- to long-term, rather than ad hoc content campaigns).

A question you should ask yourself before any agency search process is what structure you want to set up. What positions are to be filled internally, which positions will be outsourced, etc.? This topic has often been covered in various media, and we have also published an article on the subject.

Working with freelancers

One option chosen by many brands is where the internal team manages a list of freelancers, hiring them based on initiatives and needs.

This approach is interesting because it ensures great control over costs, allowing a lower average hourly rate than what you might get working with an agency.

By working with freelancers, it is possible to have a team that can cover a very broad spectrum of expertise, without the weight of managing a full-time internal team.

However, you should be aware that by working this way, you may find yourself working without a net. If a freelancer gets sick, takes a vacation, works on a different mandate than yours, you’ll have to deal with it on your own.

These are things to consider in the workload of the person who will be responsible for freelancers in your organization. This type of management can sometimes quickly become a coordination task, far from strategic thinking.

Several platforms allow you to find freelancers in your area, depending on your specific needs. Upwork is one of the platforms often mentioned for finding freelancers anywhere on the planet. Although the hourly rates offered by these freelancers are sometimes tempting, be careful, quality is not always a given. Be sure to offer test mandates before you entrust a major project to a new freelancer. Learn to know the resources that will be part of your address book.

Working with an agency

Working with an agency can have several advantages.

In many cases, the range of services offered by your agency will ensure consistency between the strategy, production and deployment phases of your content. You will be assured of the continuity between each step, obtaining a solution that can be very close to turnkey.

Your input into the process can thus be at the level of overall direction and strategy, without having to coordinate every step of the mandates in detail.

Working with an agency also allows you to be assured of consistency in service and depth from their team. If a team member leaves the agency or gets sick, you will be assured of continuity and a constant capacity of work.

However, these advantages also mean that an agency’s hourly rate is higher than that of a freelancer.

The questions you should ask yourself when choosing an agency are:

  • Does the agency have any experience in my category?
  • What services do they offer?
  • Are these services provided internally or via partners outside the agency?
  • What is the agency’s rate card?
  • Who are the agency’s clients?

All these factors mean that when you make the decision to change your content agency or find your first one, you must take care to make your choice in a thoughtful and structured way. There are a very large number of content agencies in Canada and elsewhere, making it all the more difficult.

Ask yourself whether you have the internal capacity (and desire) to manage freelancers, or whether the concept of a turnkey approach from an agency is what you need.

Category experience of content agencies

You know the sector and industry in which your brand lives. Is it in a highly regulated sector? In an industry where legislation has a strong hold on marketing and communication opportunities?

If this is the case, it can obviously be interesting to call on an agency with experience in your category. However, it may become a hindrance to innovation, with ways of doing things that are based on other customers who may not have been as innovative as you are.

As we have seen in the previous section, by using an agency, you free your internal teams from the coordination of projects, while allowing them to be able to work with your agency at a strategic level.

By default, you are also the ones who have the most intimate knowledge of the legislative framework in which your brand evolves. This gives you the opportunity to work with your agency as it navigates your category, while opening the door to innovative and unexpected ideas.

However, the comfort of an agency that has made its teeth on former clients similar to your brand may be what you are looking for and it is in such cases that it can make sense to pay particular attention to the category experience of the agencies you will consider.

Assess whether your industry is so specific and unique that it requires more experience from your marketing partners. In many cases, your own internal experience will be sufficient to guide and direct your external partners.

Niche content agency vs digital agency

One thing to always consider is if the agencies you are considering working with are specialized and experts in content marketing or if this is part of their larger digital service offering.

Many traditional agencies have started building content teams inside their organization, but make sure you do your homework. In many cases, these teams are actually composed of a couple content strategists that outsource a lot of the actual content work to subcontractors.

While it can be relevant for you to work with an existing partner that has an in-house content team, ask yourself if it could be relevant to integrate an expert content agency.

Working with a wider-offering digital or traditional agency can be relevant in many cases, but for some brands, existing partners might not have the processes or internal experts to support an always-on content program.

The spectrum of services offered

You have an internal team, you have developed specific expertise and your objective is to get support from an agency that can handle a certain number of expertises that you do not have in-house.

An important step in finding the ideal agency is to make a list of the services you will need. What internal capacities do you have? Which ones do you need?

Also, remember that while a member of your team may be able to take on a task, it does not mean that it should be done by that person. You may wish to delegate this task to your agency so that you can develop new expertise in-house.

At Toast, we divide all content-related tasks into three broad categories:

  1. Content strategy
  2. Content production
  3. Publication, deployment and amplification of content

These three categories comprise a series of tasks.

Content strategy

Content strategy is the initial step of your content program. The one where you define the tactics that will be put in place, the initiatives that will be implemented.

However, content strategy is also a series of tasks that must be present throughout your program, which allows you to constantly adjust and adapt the content produced according to the results and performance you achieve through the deployment of it.

Here are the main elements to consider when evaluating your agency in terms of content strategy. Assess whether the agency is able to accompany you on the following areas of expertise:

  • Analysis of business objectives
  • Establishment of performance criteria (KPI, ROI)
  • Market research and analysis of your audience
  • Audit of existing content assets
  • Development of personas
  • Editorial calendar planning
  • Definition of the tone and manner of the brand
  • Accompaniment in the hiring process of internal content teams

These services allow you to establish your content strategy, but also manage it along the way.

Content production

If you are one of the companies that have a single person serving the entire organization in terms of content, it would be very surprising if that person could manage strategy, write content, shoot video and make the media buys necessary to amplify what is published.

Content production is by far the type of mandate most often delegated to external resources.

Here are some examples of what may be needed in production:

  • Writing team (editors, journalists, copywriters, etc.)
  • Light shooting crew (for the production of simple digital videos, where you shoot 5-10-15 contents assets in one day)
  • International film crew (if your content needs require you to meet with foreign experts in your field for example)
  • Shooting crew for premium video content (these pieces of content you produce only a few times a year, at a higher budget)
  • Product photographer
  • Photojournalist
  • Translation team for the languages in which you operate
  • etc.

Your goal in the search for the ideal agency is to ensure that it will be able to provide the services you need. The idea is not to have to hire freelancers again for some of the services you need on a regular basis.

Publishing, deploying and amplifying content

Once the content is produced, it needs to be distributed to your audience.

A function often delegated to an external agency is the management of social media. This approach ensures that a team is responsible for adapting and publishing the content produced for the different platforms where your brand is active.

But this deployment stage may often require additional initiatives to ensure that content performance is met and results are measured and aligned with the performance indicators of your content strategy.

You could use an agency for the following services:

  • Content performance measurement (KPIs, analytics)
  • Social media management
  • Community management
  • Native advertising
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Influencer marketing
  • Real time listening
  • Consultation on brand command centres

It is up to you to evaluate the different types of expertise you need, those you wish to keep internally and those for which you need support.

To properly evaluate your needs and the requirements of your future agency, build a table where you will make a list of the capabilities that you will need (you can use the three lists above). For each capability, indicate whether it will be performed internally or externally. The list of external tasks will be key in your search for the ideal agency.

Auditing the internal services of a content agency

Another important factor to consider when choosing your agency is whether the services they offer are performed in-house or whether the agency itself uses external partners and resources.

If, in the end, you end up using an agency that outsources all its services, there may be very little added value for you to use it instead of hiring an additional internal resource.

However, even an agency that outsources some of its services does not mean that you could recreate everything in-house as well. It may have developed processes with its partners, allowing it to be very efficient, thus offering you a significant gain on the challenge of creating the same structure in-house.

Ask the agencies you are considering what services are done in-house and which ones it uses partners or freelancers. Visit their offices, their facilities, meet their team.

How to evaluate the price

An important factor (often considered the most important) in choosing an agency is its price.

Where is it on the price scale? Is it rather high-end or does it focus on producing lower-cost, simpler content?

At Toast, the founders have been stressing for several years the importance of covering the entire budget spectrum for our customers. Thus, we are able to produce simple content assets where a single videographer can do the work, up to more complex productions, internationally with a team of 15-20 people. The same is also true for editorial content.

The best way to evaluate the price of an agency is to ask for a formal proposal. However, much like the production of a website, the same considerations can be done in several ways, having a significant impact on the overall budget.

What we often recommend to our customers is to give us a comparable, existing production, and ask us to price the cost of production of such a deliverable. The idea is to respond upstream to several production considerations by using a finished product and thus being able to establish the cost of production more precisely.

This can come from your own existing content assets, but it can also come from an example you want to reproduce.

This method makes it easy to establish the price range in which the agency works. This approach also simplifies the work of the agency team when pricing your example.

This method is not infallible, but it can allow you to easily obtain different proposals from different agencies, knowing that they will all have based their budget on the same level of production and work.

By asking an agency to quote on one or more existing deliverables, such as strategy, production or deployment, you will have better assurance that the price provided can be compared to other proposals you receive or even the price you paid if it was a production for your brand.

How to evaluate an agency’s clients

The logos on a site and its portfolio are only part of what is important in an agency’s history.

Ask to contact some of the clients of the agencies you are considering. Obviously, just as in the references provided for a CV, they will only be positive.

But when talking to these clients, ask them the following questions:

  • How is the relationship with the agency going? Are there several contact points or is it a key person who manages the account?
  • How does project management work when a resource is on vacation or on leave? Does the agency ensure depth in their service?
  • Are there any services on which it is particularly strong and others on which it is less strong?
  • How long have you been with the agency? How has the agency evolved during this period?

You can also consult this article from the Content Marketing Institute, which details a number of other questions you can ask the agencies you are considering, particularly when it comes to evaluating their performance.

By talking to existing clients, you will gain an overview of the relationship you may have with the agency. When working with an external agency, your goal must be to build a long-term relationship and the past can be an excellent indicator of the basis on which your future relationship with it will be. 

The final selection

In the end, you will likely find yourself with a list of three to five agencies you would like to work with.

A good way to make your final selection is to build a scoring system, weighing the importance you will place on each element that may influence your decision:

  • Category experience
  • Spectrum of services offered (be careful to distinguish their capabilities in strategy, production and deployment)
  • Auditing internal vs. external services
  • Price
  • Customers and their relationship with the agency

You may decide to give twice as much importance to the services offered (and what is done internally at the agency) as to the price, knowing that you will get value for your money. You are free to give more or less weight to each element in your calculation.

By creating a scorecard, you will be able to compare each agency in your shortlist against established criteria, a more formal approach to help you make your choice.

In conclusion

Throughout this process, also keep a little space for your instincts. In the end, it is you and your team that will work on a daily basis with the teams of the chosen agency and your instinct can often dictate what seems to be a good fit for you and your brand.

You will find many other articles on the subject, but we hope to have covered most of the factors that may influence your decision in selecting your future content agency.

At Toast (you can find us on DesignRush), we often find ourselves at the heart of a content agency selection process and appreciate marketing departments that take the time to evaluate an agency as a whole, not just on the basis of its online portfolio or a summary evaluation of their website.

So don’t hesitate to evaluate us, to include us in your scorecard, to ask us to talk to our clients, to come and visit our offices!

Content marketing agencies in Canada

Every year, as a content agency in Montreal and a content agency in Toronto, we here at Toast meet with dozens of active and potential clients. People often ask us who our competitors are, who we compare ourselves to.

Be sure to also read our Guide to choosing a content agency.

So in the interest of transparency and honesty, we are perfectly comfortable listing some of the content marketing agencies in Canada that we have had the pleasure of running into or getting to know:

The Content Company — Based in Toronto, The Content Company has a focus on content creation for agencies, brand managers and business owners. They approach content form an SEO standpoint, helping brands’ discoverability.

Content Refined — This firm approaches content from a packaged-services angle. Through various packages, they focus on article creation, content upgrades and keyword packages.

THP— This firm has built a on-demand custom content and social media services offering. With offices in New York, London and Toronto, they’ve worked with over 720 brands since 2013.

Strategic/Objectives — A PR-oriented service offering that also caters to a brand’s content needs. They create “inventive communications strategies that deliver honest-to-goodness, real-world results.”

Harbinger — Harbinger is an independently owned marketing communications firm with deep expertise in launching brands, products and purpose in Canada. They opened our doors as a public relations agency, over 30 years ago and have partnered with clients across multiple industries from beauty/personal care, food & beverage and parenting to commodities, financial and not‑for‑profit.

Flawless Inbound — Specializing in inbound tactics for B2B using Hubspot, Flawless Inbound works with a various array of brands and corporations, helping them enable sales, marketing and customer service.

Evidently — Storytelling and an authentic message can help a brand build a strong connection with their audience. Toronto-based Evidently has experts around the world working to create authentic stories for brands seeking content marketing services.

Espresso communication — Recognized for its strategic specialization in brand identity and content design, this Montréal-based company draws on its 20 years of expertise to provide web strategy, print, digital media and event services.

Bookmark Content and Communications — On the ground, in the air, wherever your audience may be, memorable content can help you reach consumers. Bookmark Content and Communications, an international agency with offices in Montréal and Toronto, uses content marketing to connect and involve brands with their target audiences.

37th AVENUE — 37th AVENUE specializes in strategy and the creation and production of original content, and helps organizations in the Montréal area to develop and expand their client base through content marketing.

The Mark Studios — The Mark brings creativity and performance together under one roof and produces authentic content to meet its clients’ marketing objectives. This Toronto-based agency’s multidisciplinary team is equipped to develop custom content strategies to help brands engage with their audiences.

Fifth Story — Awareness of a brand is proportional to how much it can engage its audience. With this in mind, Toronto-based agency Fifth Story draws on its 30 years of experience to provide content marketing production, amplification and measurement solutions to make a connection between consumers and brands.

Bang Marketing —Mass marketing has led to resistance not only among consumers, but also among businesses. Montréal-based Bang Marketing is your B2B expert specializing in the production of content targeting businesses.

Kuration — Building a brand starts with producing quality content to engage consumers with the brand. Toronto-based Kuration specializes in brand identity design through content marketing.

Combustible — Your brand can generate more prospects by publishing relevant content and using search engine marketing automation. Montréal-based Combustible serves SMEs that want to use proven web marketing techniques to get to the next level.

La Flèche — Choosing the best content platform and vehicle is key to the brand-consumer relationship. La Flèche, a Québec-based agency specializing in content marketing, offers strategy services based on useful, educational and entertaining content that moves along the conversation with your audience.

Indaba Digital — Content marketing is a tool for fostering growth and innovation within today’s businesses. That’s why Vancouver-based agency Indaba Digital uses content to drive brand engagement with consumers.

Noodle Wave — The best memories often make the best stories. Vancouver-based Noodle Wave and its skilled production team offer brands a unique form of storytelling that attracts and engages audiences.

Republik — “Real talk, no bullshit”: Authentic content helps brands build consumer loyalty. Montréal-based agency Republik sets itself apart by creating content designed to be shared and distributed to target audiences using optimal media strategies.

Totem — Creating original content, directing content toward the best audience and getting a return on investment from the brand-consumer experience: that’s what Totem does for clients seeking their services. This Toronto-based agency specializes in content marketing.

Substance stratégies — Digital media is all about new paradigms, putting content at the heart of communication. To tackle this, Montréal-based agency Substance strategies offers planning, production, amplification and measurement services to continually optimize its clients’ brands.

Tavanberg — Made up of brand builders, social media geeks and storytellers, Tavanberg uses content to reach its clients’ audiences. Based in Toronto, the agency is supported by a team of experts who are ready to help brands plan and produce a content strategy that will meet their needs.

The Tite Group — There is always room for improvement—a better way to invest your money to hopefully get a better return on investment. For The Tite Group, content marketing is the way for modern businesses to improve their marketing strategies. The Toronto-based agency meets the needs of clients looking to boost awareness of their brand by producing quality work.

Toast Studio — Oh yeah, that’s us! We’re a Montréal-based content agency capable of building audiences for a great many advertisers in Canada and the United States. In the last (almost) 20 years, we’ve built an expertise in content strategy, content production and content distribution.

So, who will your content agency be? Give us a shout—let’s talk and see whether Toast is the right agency for you.

Content marketing agencies in Quebec

Every year, as a content agency in Montreal and a content agency in Toronto, we here at Toast meet with dozens of active and potential clients. People often ask us who our competitors are, who we compare ourselves to.

Be sure to also read our Guide to choosing a content agency.

So in the interest of transparency and honesty, we are perfectly comfortable listing some of the content marketing agencies in Quebec that we have had the pleasure of running into or getting to know:

Adviso – A digital agency based in Montréal, Adviso develops and deploys content and audience strategies for a large number of local and national clients.

Codmorse – Web content and strategy agency, with strong expertise in social media and video production.

Espresso communication — Recognized for its strategic specialization in brand identity and content design, this Montréal-based company draws on its 20 years of expertise to provide web strategy, print, digital media and event services.

Bookmark Content and Communications — On the ground, in the air, wherever your audience may be, memorable content can help you reach consumers. Bookmark Content and Communications, an international agency with offices in Montréal and Toronto, uses content marketing to connect and involve brands with their target audiences.

Globalia —Founded in 2003, Globalia is specialized in strategy and web development. Over the years, they have developed extensive expertise in e-commerce projects and the implementation of Inbound Marketing strategies.

Canidé — Canidé is a marketing communication agency offering services in two principle areas: strategy and public relations.

Digitad — Digitad is a web marketing agency dedicated to SMEs.

Propage — For 30 years, we have specialized in B2B2C communication with Quebec manufacturing companies taking on major challenges.

37th AVENUE — 37th AVENUE specializes in strategy and the creation and production of original content, and helps organizations in the Montréal area to develop and expand their client base through content marketing.

Bang Marketing —Mass marketing has led to resistance not only among consumers, but also among businesses. Montréal-based Bang Marketing is your B2B expert specializing in the production of content targeting businesses.

Combustible — Your brand can generate more prospects by publishing relevant content and using search engine marketing automation. Montréal-based Combustible serves SMEs that want to use proven web marketing techniques to get to the next level.

La Flèche — Choosing the best content platform and vehicle is key to the brand-consumer relationship. La Flèche, a Québec-based agency specializing in content marketing, offers strategy services based on useful, educational and entertaining content that moves along the conversation with your audience.

Republik — “Real talk, no bullshit”: Authentic content helps brands build consumer loyalty. Montréal-based agency Republik sets itself apart by creating content designed to be shared and distributed to target audiences using optimal media strategies.

Substance stratégies — Digital media is all about new paradigms, putting content at the heart of communication. To tackle this, Montréal-based agency Substance strategies offers planning, production, amplification and measurement services to continually optimize its clients’ brands.

Maison 1608 – Creative agency, specializing in brand strategy and content creation. As a member of the Solisco group, also works in custom publishing.

Agence META – Offers content creation, digital marketing, PPC / SEM and inbound marketing services.

Toast Studio — Oh yeah, that’s us! We’re a Montréal-based content agency capable of building audiences for a great many advertisers in Canada and the United States. In the last (almost) 20 years, we’ve built an expertise in content strategy, content production and content distribution.

So, who will your content agency be? Give us a shout—let’s talk and see whether Toast is the right agency for you.

The organizational structure of content marketing

How have you structured your team, internally, for your content marketing program?

Most of the companies we work with do not yet have a content marketing department per se (and for most of them, that’s OK). Content responsibilities fall upon various people in the organization, but rarely with an actual plan or structure as to how this content is ideated, produced and distributed.

In some cases, we’ve seen structures where the people that work on the quarterly printed brand magazine aren’t working with the social media and/or web people, which creates this disconnect between what consumers see online and offline.

But in a reality where hiring or creating a content marketing department isn’t possible, how should your brand organize itself?

This is where we’ve seen the power of having an editorial board, a notion that a Newscred article by Giuseppe Caltabiano recently described extremely well.

In short, the idea is to create a board of existing team members, each with specific expertise, that work together on a regular basis to plan and execute the content marketing strategy.

For example, Caltabiano mentions the following macro-areas of expertise that should be around the table:

  • Content and Persona Owners;
  • Channel/Content Distribution owners;
  • Geographies.

Now ask yourself, who in your organization has this expertise and how could they be brought together to work with a managing editor who would coordinate the board and oversee the implementation of the strategy.

Your board could differ from the list of macro-areas above, but the idea is to leverage the expertise you already have internally and structure it under an editorial board umbrella.

The Newscred article dives deeper into roles you should have on your board and how you should work on the editorial calendars and what kind of meetings you should plan with your board.

Who should be creating your content?

“Anybody can paint, very few should exhibit.” – Simon Daglish

This is one of the great quotes from a recent panel wrap-up on content creation and who should be responsible for it. Simon Daglish, Group Commercial Sales Director at ITV, explained how content seems to very easy to create, but not everyone can do it very well.

The panel asked the infamous question: who should be producing content?

Brands themselves? The creative agency? A content agency?

The response from panellists was pretty unanimous: brands need to work with content specialists if they are to see tangible results and a high-quality strategy in audience building.

Content is not the asset brands need, audience is what they need and a proper content strategy does just that.

The problem is that too often, a creative agency will work in short campaign bursts that will create a short-lived, unengaged audience. This has no value in the long run and does not serve the client.

We are at a place in the industry where we were some time ago with digital marketing. At first, creative agencies thought they could do it and they built internal digital departments. In the end, the experts won and we now have very large digital agencies that have integrated themselves in the marketing ecosystem. This is what is happening with content.

I was in a meeting with partners of a very large advertising agency last week and this is exactly in line with what they were saying: they try to do content internally, but in the end they are not specialists. They have a hard time with the creative process and with the measurement and reporting of how it performed.

This article, published over at Mediatel, is a great read if you want to know about the current state of agency thinking behind content marketing, content production and branded content.

Live content: how to validate and factcheck

What can we learn from large media corporations when publishing live content?

With all that buzz about live video, we could be tempted to think of it as if it was a new thing, but it’s not, of course. Big media has been doing this for decades and have made it a form of art.

It’s during those large, live events that you can really admire what live content creation involves.

Last week, a lot of us watched the first live presidential debate in the United States, and it’s always a rendez-vous for fact-checkers and researchers to work on what each candidate says.

I found the methodology used by NPR for validating and fact checking very interesting. Live (or with a couple minutes’ delay at the most), they were able to publish a verbatim of the debate, complete with annotations and journalistic verifications.

How did they do it? You can discover the magic behind this in a Nieman Journalism Lab article:

  • They used the live closed-captioning feed;
  • They had about 50 reporters, research specialists, visual editors, copyeditors, etc.;
  • One Google Docs file.

Of course not all live content creation or video feed your brand puts out needs such a rigorous process, but it can be interesting to see how a large media group used the tools at their disposal (tools you also have access to) to generate live content, as fast as possible, but also as true as possible. 

Accenture, Deloitte, PwC: The Content Arms of Large Management Consultancies

Accenture Interactive’s content practice employs around 5,000 full-time staffers globally.

Most large have consultancies have built in-house agencies able to service clients on multiple levels (content, creative, marketing, experience, etc.). And they are brining in a lot of money through it (for example, Deloitte Digital had around $1.6 billion in revenue, and PwC Digital had nearly $1.1 billion last year).

Donna Tuths, head of digital content at Accenture Interactive, was recently interviewed by Digiday and she added: “Our clients spend around $600 million a year on content while agencies only provide maybe $250 million of that content today.”

This means that globally, clients take care of close to 60% of their content production in-house.

In many cases, this might work well. Some corporations need to have content initiatives in-house, close to the business. But in most cases, it is always good to work with a content agency that can work on multiple levels (strategy, production, distribution), that can not only bring fresh eyes on the business (eyes very similar to the consumer’s), but also cross-breed best practices with other clients, making sure the brand can have a differentiating factor in its category.

In the end, a combination of the two will often be the perfect situation, with the agency supporting some content tactics that are executed in-house, but larger programs made possible through the agency’s expertise and capabilities.

“There’s an ongoing trend where brands consolidate their creative agencies and move their production to a single partner,” said Tuths.

When content marketing is done right, the best way it is done is by leveraging the experience and capabilities of a dedicated content agency.

I will let you read further on how Accenture structures its content operation in this Digiday article, and see how your content strategy, production and distribution is set-up to evaluate what the best agency structure should be for your brand.

Marketers drowning under too much content

Half of surveyed senior marketers say their marketing organization has more content than they can manage.

Accenture just released a new report called “Content: The H2O of Marketing” that polled 1,078 senior marketers from 17 countries who work in 15 different business disciplines, ranging from finance to consumer packaged goods and retail.

“Content is arguably a marketer’s most vital natural resource: it fuels and sustains the marketing activities that connect businesses with customers and drive business outcomes. Content is to business what water is to life: an essential element for health and growth. ” – Accenture

But overall, the main message from this report is clear: we are generating more content than most can manage. We’ve often talked about how the consumer is flooded with content coming from left and right, well it seems marketers are themselves drowning in their own content.

Organizations need to work in making sure content is managed properly with workflows and processes. Content agency partners can also be key in making sure that quality and relevance are maintained throughout the chain because in the end, business objectives are key. Currently, only 45% reported that they are very confident that their digital content investments will achieve these business objectives, and with so much focus on the operational side of digital content management, just 16% analyze how content contributes to customer lifetime value.

We must all work together, marketers, agencies, producers in making sure that the content that is produced is relevant, that it serves a business objective, and that it is generated through a sustainable content strategy.

Take some time to read the executive summary of this Accenture report. And if you want, don’t hesitate to download the full report, it is also worth the read.

Getting Executive Buy-In for Content Marketing

Remember, the phrase “Content is king” is false. Revenue is king.

The lead above is not there for nothing. This is how you have to see things when building your case for content marketing buy-in at the executive level.

If you can tie your content tactics and content marketing plan to conversion rates, average deal size or other metrics of the like, you are really speaking the language they want to hear. The language that can help you secure budget and resources.

In today’s article, Elizabeth Clor of the Content Marketing Institute shares four key steps to get executive buy-in:

  1. Understand and articulate the ‘why’ (define the business objectives you will be working with)
  2. Demonstrate the ‘how’ (but keep your strategy explanation simple)
  3. Explain the ‘what’ (if you can’t tie a tactic with a business objective, ditch it)
  4. Support your story with data (and choose your metrics carefully)

It’s always good to regularly revisit the basics. This article does it very well. It focuses on B2B content marketing, but you can definitely apply these 4 steps to any type of business.

To those of you that are on vacation, leave this article aside and make a note to read it when you come back to work. In the meantime, take some to rest, and come back re-energized in 2016! (but I’ll be right here next Monday)