This week (2nd July) we were pleased to be part of the Content Marketing Association’s (CMA) first ‘On Tour’ event in Manchester.
Held at WeWork, Spinningfields, the breakfast meeting offered a chance to get together with like-minded professionals and glean different perspectives on the challenges and opportunities we’re all wrestling in this fast paced digital world.
Our Head of Insight, Rachael Crowe, joined the speaker line-up to tackle what she sees as a heavy over-reliance on data without meaningful interpretation.
What was interesting is that data was central to the topics explored in every presentation but each (coincidentally) took a different slant on the treatment of the theme. This is very telling of the content marketing landscape. Just as ‘content’ means different things to different people, the way that data-driven ‘insight’ is being interpreted and applied is insightful in itself.
Depending on whether your main focus is on generating search engine ‘juice’, driving highly targeted paid outreach or taking an authoritative thought leadership position will determine which data camp you most closely align. As an agency that prides itself on really substantiating the content-led routes we’re recommending to our clients, we dig deep to understand the context behind the data we’re presenting and being presented with. Overlaying these firm insight foundations with the technology to maximise reach and – most importantly – measure impact.
Our ‘take’ on the data piece was making the point that too many content strategies are being based on numbers being generated by search engines and social media algorithms. While we absolutely recognise the need to interrogate these data sets (they’re great for identifying general trends and can help guide a general direction of travel) they shouldn’t be relied upon. This so-called ‘structured’ data served up in isolation can be exceptionally misleading. Why? Because you’re missing ‘the why’. The context. The ‘unstructured’ human insight that will help you uncover the real reasons these trends are occurring and how your brand can be both a useful and inspirational source for your prospect and customer base. Because that’s the true definition of relevance.
While every presenter touched on the need to understand your customer, how can you – if you don’t listen to them? And how can you listen if you don’t give them a voice? Talking to actual buyers and gaining feedback from your teams at the coalface of customer interaction is invaluable. After all, insight can only actually be considered insight if it delivers “a deep and accurate representation of someone or something”.
Think of it as a bit like ‘painting by numbers’- the picture simply isn’t complete without the colour to bring it to life.
Of course we’re not saying that the numbers are invalid. These are a critical part of the execution. And an exceptional finished result relies on bringing both together. What’s exciting is the potential for what can be achieved when you put technology in the mix too. We heard some amazing stats on the power of people-based profiling from Personalyze’s CEO Andrew Ko (check out their Topic DNA tool currently in BETA testing – it understands Facebook audiences better than Facebook!).
Ultimately, there’s a need for structured and unstructured data; and a place for technology – just not in place of human insight. This was evidenced by the complementary perspectives presented on the day. Coming at it from an SEO and digital PR stance, JBH’s Jane Hunt showcased why data driven content is so important, while demonstrating how you can use free data to generate formulas for clever consumer engagement. Opening the session, Progressive’s Sara Downes echoed the need to talk to the customer as a means for making B2B content specific, interesting and fun.
So, congratulations CMA on a successful and thought provoking first event outside of The Capital. We look forward to hearing more about October’s plans and applaud your efforts in creating more buzz around Manchester’s content marketing scene. Bring it on #CMAmanchester!
Read the key takeaways from Hattrick’s presentation, ‘Walking the talk: Customer-centric content strategy’ here.