On the content couch: Alex Cheeseman

Newscred’s Head of Global Marketing Solutions talks great content brands, picking the right measurement strategy and the number 1 attribute of top content marketers

April 27, 2016

As Newscred’s Head of Global Marketing and International Strategy, Alex Cheeseman knows what it takes to bring content ideas all the way from concept through to delivery – and just as importantly, how to ensure that they deliver meaningful results. As part of our new Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Content Marketing, we sat down with Alex to talk through the key changes he’s seen in the content marketing landscape, the brand that most impresses him with his approach to content, and the metrics that really matter for success.

In your eyes, what is the biggest difference between content marketing five years ago and content marketing today?

The fundamental principles of content marketing haven’t changed. People tend to forget that it’s been a marketing strategy for over 100 years. What’s changed is that technology has pushed content to centre stage, and focused marketers on building relationships with value-based communication rather than push-based advertising. At the same time, the techniques for bringing content to life and distributing it are changing. We’re seeing a massive rise in the use of video to tell longer form stories that often spearhead traditional content marketing. We’re also seeing brands having to look at different distribution channels for getting in front of the right person at the right time – particularly as the use of ad-blocking rises and the choice of where to access quality editorial content increases daily. This has been one of the drivers of the importance of native and programmatic.

If you are tasked with hiring a content marketer, what’s the number 1 attribute you look for?

The most important attribute is the ability to drive organisational change. Increasingly, content marketing is marketing. Everybody’s doing it, and this has led to lots of people busily creating content in siloes, in a way that’s ultimately ineffective and inefficient. The number 1 job for someone coming into a content marketer role is therefore to build an effective content ecosystem. They must leverage what different teams are doing, and implement a marketing programme with content at its core that everyone can buy into. You need people to understand what the business’s overall objectives are, how that waterfalls into all brand communication and then feeds into the content for different areas.  But that’s only half of the battle. It’s also critical to put in place the right framework for measuring success, for continual monitoring to ensure you’re going in the right direction.

Tell us about a brand that’s impressed you with its content strategy and execution

I think there’s a really clear winner here: Lego. This is a company that saw its patent expire in 1989, which threatened to take away its competitive advantage. Lego responded by leveraging content – and doing so with some of the best executions that anyone has ever seen. Now we’ve got theme parks, brand partnerships with The Simpsons, DC and Star Wars, all of them with their own microsites rich in content. They then layer this up by building an actual Theme Park for kids and their parents to truly experience the brand, parodies of TV ads to demonstrate their brand personality and a feature length Lego movie for the entire family. In my mind, the ultimate test of content is whether someone would pay to read or watch it. Millions of people paid to go and watch that film. It’s a phenomenal, value-adding extension of a brand through content.

What are the top metrics for measuring the impact of content marketing on a business?

It depends on your overall business objectives. When working with clients I like to help them focus their efforts, as it’s not possible to do everything at once. There’s many frameworks you can use, but at the simplest level I like to bucket objectives into: awareness, perception, action, advocacy and loyalty. I then assign diagnostic metrics into each of these areas based on your overall objectives. With perception, for example, you may want to track Net Promoter Score, social sharing, brand favourability or page engagement.

For me though, the most important measure of content isn’t actually a metric; it’s more a way of setting the right standard. I like to ask, as with Lego: would someone be prepared to pay for that piece of content? The problem people in your audience have isn’t lack of content, it’s the opposite. There’s too much poor content out there – if your content isn’t outstanding, if you’re not proud of the asset you are publishing, my advice is to scrap it and start again.

How important is curation to content marketing? How can brands use it to supplement their content strategies?

The important thing is to be clear about what objectives you need your content curation to achieve and to ensure you’re tracking, measuring and improving what you’re doing. We’ve seen it making really valuable contributions in a few different areas. It can be an efficient and cost-effective way to validate the content your audience is interested in, and use this insight to fuel the content you produce yourself. It can help to increase your publishing cadence and supplement what you create in-house. We also see a lot of clients using licensed content to help drive down costs, whilst increasing on-site engagement with their paid media spend. Finally, it can be an important way of continuing to test and try new things – which is crucial for any content marketing programme.

Tell us about a brand that does an excellent job of incorporating curation within its content strategy?

Full disclosure, they’re a client of ours, but I have to pick CapGemini with its Content Loop site. It provides a great experience for an audience of IT and business decision-makers, and it does so by mixing owned content with licensed content from the likes of Fast Company, The Next Web, Lifehacker, and Forbes. It leverages content curation superbly to establish itself as a destination for thought-leadership and this ensures CapGemini is front-of-mind when it’s time for someone to take an investment decision. Content Loop has generated 1.8 million shares, and results in CapGemini adding 3,000 new LinkedIn followers each week.

Alex is just one of the EMEA content experts offering tips and advice as part of our new, Sophisticated Marketers Guide to Content Marketing, which is available now as a free download. In the Sophisticated Marketers Guide you’ll find insights from the likes of Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi and top content marketers like Doug Kessler and Ann Handley. You’ll also find our most complete guide yet to developing, executing and measuring the right content strategy for your brand.

Click here to download the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.