Content marketing is difficult enough in the financial industry, where the subject matter can be complicated, and dare we say sometimes rather practical. But throw in the need to have a flexible approach and you’ve got a challenging task ahead in such a regulated sector.
Traditionally, the focus of any marketing effort was the campaign. It was a set piece whereby you/your agency came up with a creative concept, it was drawn up, sent to compliance/legal, planned in and off it went. Your campaign message ‘Here for you’ was published. Job done.
That carefully managed, standalone sign-off has now been joined by the regular content calendar to cope with the demands of social media and an ‘always on’ culture. It’s taken some getting used to, and some financial organisations are still struggling to provide this regular feed of relevant information and stories that consumers expect. With good planning though, it is possible to keep it going, like a heartbeat underpinning your wider business aims and objectives.
But is this simply good enough in such a competitive market? What are the additional demands beyond your set campaign and content calendar? How quickly can you change your plan if necessary, and is there flexibility to alter it if it’s just not working?
Simply put, you have to be agile in terms of coping with external influences and internal business changes, as well as knowing and adapting to what works in your content strategy and what doesn’t. Okay, it’s not that simple, but it is possible. Let’s consider two scenarios.
You turn on the news at 7am. Something’s just been announced that could affect your customers, or resonates with what you’re trying to achieve as a business. What do you do? This is not in the ‘Plan’.
To make the most of a situation like this you have to have an agile content marketing strategy. That means being culturally relevant and responsive, and being able to turnaround a piece of content quickly (whether that’s a statement, a social media post or an interview plan).
It’s difficult, but you can plan for the unplanned with:
Understanding: You need an understanding of the right conversations to join and how you might do that. First and foremost that means having an agency or in-house team who understand your brand positioning. This awareness has to include the tone of voice, vision and values of your organisation, as well as the current ATL campaign and the key messages around it.
Listening & Filtering: This is the monitoring of any culturally relevant stories or events driving conversations that could apply to your business and/or your current campaign proposition. It’s about filtering and interpreting - finding an opportunity and figuring out whether you can respond to it.
A whole range of tools can help with this. Digital, social, broadcast and print media monitoring should inform you of relevant hot topics. Working closely with any industry influencers who are known to be up-to-date with current trends and have the ear of the public, can also help you stay one step ahead.
Your campaign is live, your content calendar is running smoothly and you’ve even created content in response to topical events that have been relevant to your business. But it shouldn’t end there. You’ve done the hard work, but is it performing?
You need insights into the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, and to be able to react quickly to these. When measuring performance you should look at what metrics are appropriate for your objectives, the targets associated to those, how frequently these need reviewing, and identify the tipping point where action is required to make changes.
For this to happen, it is necessary for strong decision-making at the front line, and the willingness to change or tweak a strategy that has already been approved. Again, the process has to be agile in order for this to happen, and for further compliance to be carried out quickly.
Understanding the performance of your work is critical - having measurable results can show how effective any campaigns or even one-off pieces of content have been, what works and doesn’t, and therefore what you need to do more (or less) of.
So, responsiveness is key to agile content marketing, whether you’re listening and reacting to a culturally relevant story/event, or to insights on the performance of your content. Understanding what triggers to look out for and planning in the capability to act quickly enables content to be produced and approved fleet-of-foot.
Brands effectively have to work like newsrooms, checking for relevant stories, coming up with ideas on how to cover them, producing content of their own and publishing it (on their own website or sharing externally). The same applies to any review of your own content - the process below still applies:
Ideation and Production: If your content isn’t achieving what you’d expected, what should you do instead? If you’ve found a relevant topic you want to respond to, you need to decide how to respond and where. Whatever your decision it needs to be turned around on a sixpence to keep it current and relevant.
Approval: Finally you need to get your content approved and through compliance as quickly as possible. Here it is vital you have access to the right people to get this done. As part of your planning process it is essential to make sure those working on the compliance/legal side are on board with what you’re trying to achieve as a business and understand the need for a quick turnaround.
You can plan to be reactive - to outside influences/ business changes - and be adaptive with your content strategy. Dedicating that kind of resource to a ‘what if’ scenario when you simply don’t know how you’ll need to respond can be a hard sell within any organisation though.
We often find businesses benefit from working with a specialist agency with experience of the wider financial sector that has the ability to understand your brand. Their strict and rigorous processes are designed to deliver high quality content and they have the capability to monitor culturally relevant stories from a wide range of sources. This is combined with an ability to analyse the corresponding impact on your business objectives to demonstrate / prove the tangible benefits of this type of approach.
Aviva UK Health asked Headstream to help identify the purpose for social and content within the organisation. Headstream conducted interviews with key stakeholders, ran workshops and conducted an audit to produce a strategic roadmap.
Headstream worked with Skandia to provide a high level strategic recommendation, demonstrating how social media could be used to strengthen relationships with intermediaries and customers across their key territories.
To generate awareness and encourage usage of Zurich’s ‘My Community Starter’ initiative we made direct contact with event organisers who might benefit from using MCS. We then worked with them to create advocacy content.