Thursday 29 September 2016

Blessed are the content creators and the storytellers

The Irish content marketing landscape is as cluttered as it is complex - and brands will need to choose their work partners very carefully

John McGee

Published 12/06/2016 | 02:30

While many international brands operating in the Irish market have embraced content marketing - with some shifting budgets from traditional media into content - the Irish market is a lot less developed than other international ones (Stock picture)
While many international brands operating in the Irish market have embraced content marketing - with some shifting budgets from traditional media into content - the Irish market is a lot less developed than other international ones (Stock picture)

There's an interesting battle that is being waged quietly among the many agencies that make up the Irish advertising, marketing and PR landscape. At stake is a slice of the growing content marketing pie, one that is growing by double-digit figures every year as more and more brands look to content as a way of engaging with hard-to-reach consumers tired of the old ways of marketing.

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A quick look at the membership base of the different Irish trade and professional organisations reveals that no fewer than 70 different agencies - ranging from PR firms, media and creative agencies, digital agencies and stand-alone content specialists - claim to offer content services to their clients.

This does not include the many online and offline publishers of newspapers, magazines and websites - such as INM (publisher of this paper), RTE, the Irish Times - all of which have dedicated content offerings and specialist units to create content for their clients.

Nor does it include a number of radio stations that have successfully woven digital content into their sales pitches. And of course it doesn't include the traditional web development and SEO specialists, many of whom have recalibrated their business offerings to include social media and content.

Finally, it doesn't include the software companies and social media companies that provide brands with the tools and platforms with which to create their own content marketing.

At a wild guess, it is entirely conceivable that more than 130 Irish companies, including PR, creative and agencies, media owners, digital shops and even video production companies, are now creating content (or claiming to) for their clients. That's a lot of content and a lot of suppliers for such a small market.

The reality, of course, is that the content marketing industry in Ireland is still in its infancy. While nobody has yet put a value on it here, the US consultancy firm PQ Consulting says that content marketing is set to become a $313bn global industry by 2019.

While many international brands operating in the Irish market have embraced content marketing - with some shifting budgets from traditional media into content - the Irish market is a lot less developed than other international ones.

Some of the bigger Irish brands have been successfully using content as part of their marketing armoury, with some success. Others, however, have been failing abysmally, possibly because they have been badly advised or have failed to tell their story to the right audience at the right time.

As it was in the early days of social media, the content marketing space in Ireland has its fair share of Wild West-like prospectors and 'pioneers' hoping to turn a quick buck. But pioneers often get scalped - and it's the big ranchers that end up taking the spoils when content goes mainstream.

So who will be the winners in this dash for dominance? Depending on who you talk to, opinions vary considerably and there is no simple answer.

PR companies, for example, would claim to have the upper hand because of their understanding of the wider media market and consumers. For creative agencies, the move into the content space doesn't require a huge paradigm shift in their business model - but they are lagging when it comes to the digital expertise their counterparts in the media and digital agencies can bring to the party.

Many Irish media agencies, particularly those that have digital and programmatic hard-wired into their business models, are already capitalising on their existing client relationships as well as their proximity to their media budgets (and, of course, their relationships with publishers). Indeed, some of the best examples of good content marketing at play in an Irish context originated in a media agency.

But media agencies also face their own challenges too, particularly when it comes to getting people with the right blend of content and digital skills - something which is hard to come by.

As every good story requires an audience, publishers are also jockeying for position in the content race. Historically, publishers have always been a few steps behind media agencies in terms of their digital capabilities - but the gap is narrowing and they have been upping the ante considerably over the past year.

While an agency may be able to create content, it still has to build and buy an audience, whereas publishers have a ready-made audience which they can segment, slice and dice and serve up to a client with very little investment. And, not surprisingly, they are adept storytellers and own many of the channels of distribution.

What the content marketing landscape might look like or who will rule it in five years is anybody's guess. But the Greek philosopher Plato once said that "those who tell the stories will rule the world."

He may have had something there.

Sunday Indo Business

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