This week saw the 2nd annual You Are The Media Conference taking place at the Shelley Theatre in Boscombe. The YATM project, founded by content marketeer Mark Masters (author of The Content Revolution) not only attracts respected industry speakers from around the world to the Bournemouth stage, it also highlights and celebrates the success stories of local businesses who are making their marketing communications activity work for them, on their own terms.
I was fortunate enough to get to attend this year’s conference and have put together some summaries of each of the talks I heard, with some suggestions of what these trends and developments in communications could mean for our business, and yours.
The day started with a fantastically tongue-in-cheek presentation from cheeky Newcastle duo Andrew and Pete who crafted their presentation in real time across the duration of their allotted time. They arrived at the conclusion that their talk was ultimately about not falling into the trap of believing that posting content, whatever that may be, is better for your business than not posting at all. Content creation can be time consuming and if ineffective, may not be the best use of your resources. In a worst case scenario it can even be damaging to your brand.
Their recommendation was to apply a 90:10 rule to your marketing strategy. Trial content with the purpose of seeing what has the best results for your business, then double down on what works for you, including which platform (be it Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube..). That’s the 90%, the other 10% is spent continuing to trial content elsewhere and maintaining a general presence in the places you’ve opted not to focus on.
Margaret Magnarelli’s talk on empathy in marketing was possibly the most relevant to our business and I expect many of the other delegates may have felt the same. The presentation focused on the importance of listening as the most effective tool for relieving the vary levels of stress experienced by others, in this case the clients who approach your business looking for a solution to their problems. As a provider of business technology and communications we recognise the role these services play in ensuring a business runs smoothly. Often the enquiries we receive are from businesses who have been let down by their infrastructure, as you can probably expect, the stress levels are high.
What interested me in Margaret’s talk was the potential for this level of empathy of demonstrated at a service level to continue across your marketing communications. The toughest stage of marketing for many businesses I speak to is knowing where to start. Margaret’s message of starting from a position of empathy for your audience seems an intelligent place to begin, particularly following years of a considerate approach having been abandoned in favour of telling people what they need to buy. To me it all reaffirms a concern I have about a slide toward the allure of automation in marketing. Human is still important.
Another talk very appropriate to our business came from Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners, a B2B marketing agency with a focus on the tech industry. I’m not a big fan of the bandwagon jumping we’ve seen in recent time with the concept of needing to ‘disrupt’ within markets to be successful, or at least make yourself known, but Doug offers a credible case study for how this can be done effectively and in a way that doesn’t come across as entirely transparent or desperate. Those in attendance will have likely made the connection to the disruptive trend, though Doug barely even nods to it, with total conviction in a single belief that B2B doesn’t have to be boring.
The key take away from Doug’s presentation, and the strength of it, was exactly that, total conviction. With so many voices in this space, often with conflicting messages, depending on which services they’re pedalling, businesses can lack confidence in their marketing approach. Not that reflection isn’t an important part of marketing, equally important is that you don’t reveal that self doubt in your communications. That said, Doug spoke equally confident of some examples of marketing activity that didn’t work for his agency. I don’t think these were necessarily bad ideas, they were as bold and brave as the successful content that followed. Content will always need a perfect storm to an extent and there’s only so much you can do to influence weather conditions.
Jake Moore from Bournemouth based ESET gave a compelling account of his journey from jobless Maths graduate with a fascination for crime (specifically bank robberies) to writing his own job description. That sentence makes it sound quite a simple transition. In reality it was a 14 year journey that saw Jake start out as a filing assistant for Dorset Police, slowly building his career within the organisation, becoming somewhat of a local hero for championing awareness of cyber security amongst everyone from regional SME’s to the Women’s Institute. I’ll admit I was jealous of his stories of the number of cakes he received from the latter. Jake’s story is refreshing in this era of the gig economy where we’re led to believe that the only way to progress is to jump from job to job, rather than truly embedding yourself within a role and making a significant impact.
The secret of his success, beyond his enthusiasm and sheer determination, was a series of videos that he self produced, highlighting the need for awareness of cyber crime. Jake recalled being given this remit with no budget or resources, despite his initial ambitious ideas for the production. In reality, it was restrictions on budget that made the content more accessible to his audience. Aside from the exposure he generated for Dorset Police’s campaign, they success of the videos raised Jake’s profile as an expert in the area of cyber crime, attracting the attention of his future employers at ESET.
Former journalist Janet Murray opened her talk (on the importance of building an audience before you try to sell) with a head-turning stat that only 1-2% of online engagement translates to sales. Janet uses this to support her belief that you have to strive to be the very best in your area of content creation to generate the level of engagement needed to support such low conversion rates. In my experience this differs massively depending on the product or subject matter, but I’m not surprised that see figures as low as this shared.
Janet encouraged attendees to make use of the features introduced by social media platforms, as and when they become available, giving the example of how polls have worked for her as a form of engagement. I’d agree that there is potential for benefits to be had for a whole manner of different businesses with what may, at times, seem like quite tacky tools. The key, I find, is to strike while the iron is hot, the novelty of these features wear off as quickly as they’re introduced.
The day’s programme of speakers closed with a thoroughly entertaining and at times, genuinely hilarious talk from Steve Lamb, the man with no job title, from River Cottage. I had a passing knowledge of the brand, but until now hadn’t appreciated how far the company expands beyond the Channel 4 TV show, which celebrates it’s 20th anniversary this year. Steve equates its longevity to a strategy of telling stories, something he claims to enjoy personally, as well as a commitment to the principles of the organisation.
Steve spoke of some of the things River Cottage have done to promote its values of authenticity, including resisting the urge to brand the project ‘Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage’, something that would perhaps make business sense, yet wouldn’t reflect Hugh’s own belief that it doesn’t belong to him and is as much about the other people involved. Steve made a very timely joke about having once seen Jamie Oliver branded garden furniture in B+Q and asking himself “Does Jamie even know this exists?”. River Cottage are opting to tread carefully as they move into the world of licensed products, with Steve revealing that they are prepared to level the playing field with their soon to launch healthier bacon option, by offering the production method and technology to competitors for free. It’s a move similar to Brewdog’s sharing of their brewing techniques. So far nobody has taken River Cottage up on their offer.
To learn more about the You Are The Media project and future events please visit www.youarethemedia.co.uk