Editor and content strategist Jess Pike couldn’t have joined Southerly at a better time. Now a part of the Spoon group, the agency is rapidly evolving – and with multi-talented Jess in charge of the content team, exciting times lie ahead.
The former journalist first cut her teeth in content marketing nearly a decade ago, and since then she’s earned her stripes in print and digital content production and content strategy, working for an impressive range of B2B and B2C clients. I caught up with her to learn more about her move into marketing, her approach to content strategy, and the types of briefs she loves the most.
You used to be a journalist. What inspired you to make the move into marketing?
I loved everything about print journalism – building flatplans, flicking through the finished project, even arguing over ad placements and covers. But I knew that the digital revolution was going to change how we consume content, and I wanted to be part of that. I joined a company in London producing content for marketers, and its co-founder (my boss) was a former journalist, so it was there that the two career paths converged. In that role, I actually edited a quarterly magazine for senior B2B marketers, so I managed to keep one toe in the world of print communications, which was perfect. Beautiful print is still very much alive and kicking!
How have your journalism skills supported your marketing career?
You’ve got to be curious to be a journalist – and not be afraid to ask lots of questions (even the ‘stupid’ ones). The same is true in marketing. Interrogating a brief, and asking your clients lots of questions about their objectives and audience, is crucial. Both journalism and marketing are about putting yourself in the shoes of the reader/viewer/audience, and thinking about new ways to grab their attention. Test and learn, test and learn, test and learn! What I love about marketing is the abundance of data – being able to track the success (or otherwise) of a piece of content, something that was much harder to do in the world of print.
You also have extensive experience as a content strategist. What tends to be your strategic process when faced with a new brief or tender?
It very much depends on the brief, but we often start with a content audit, audience research, persona development and competitor analysis – before coming up with content pillars that fit in with the overarching client objectives (whether that be repositioning, brand awareness or lead gen). We then put together a solid distribution plan and put some strong KPIs in place so we can track and iterate. Distribution is actually something that’s so often forgotten about but it really can make or break a content campaign. We recently visited our Spoon colleagues in Sweden and were delighted to see a big focus on distribution with their clients too. We’re all very much on the same page!
What are your favourite types of briefs to work on?
It’s all about the three Cs: clear, creative and courageous. ‘Clear’ because give me an agency that doesn’t hanker after a well-thought through brief! ‘Creative’ because that’s very much what we’re are all about here – coming up with creative ideas and telling a brand’s story in new and exciting ways. And ‘courageous’ because the best agency work is made possible by clients who trust you to lead them away from the status quo and try something new. Courageous clients are the best!
Being a strategist is very much a behind-the-scenes role, compared to the content creator role. What’s the best way to convince clients that the work of a content strategist is beneficial?
An overarching strategy is the bedrock of any communications plan, just like a marketing strategy is the foundation of a marketing plan. If you’re investing in content, you’ve got to be thinking strategically. There’s so much of it out there – there’s no point creating more if you haven’t thought about what it’ll deliver to the wider business and bottom line (or, ask us to do it for you!).
You’ve joined Southerly just as we’ve kicked off our merger with Spoon. How’s the transition going so far?
It’s been a really fantastic time to join: Spoon’s doing some amazing work for lots of impressive clients, including Microsoft, Volvo PostNord Sweden, National Geographic, Tetra Pak and Wärtsilä. I’ve just been on a whistle-stop tour of the offices to meet our new colleagues – and have been struck by how many talented people are part of the Spoon network. Their expertise spans the whole content marketing spectrum – from strategy and content creation (B2B and B2C) to distribution and analysis. And they’re brilliant at video: we’ve been wowed by this video that they produced for Microsoft and this for Volvo Trucks. It’ll also be great to tap into the wider network and work more closely with Spoon affiliate brands like InFunnel (automation optimisation experts), Trickle (distribution experts) and data platform Story Engine.
Finally, what have you enjoyed about working at Southerly so far?
The team in London is super talented – small but perfectly formed (and growing)! And they love snacks as much as I do, which is a big relief. I’m also really excited about the brilliant things we’re going to be able to achieve with Spoon in the months and years to come – watch this space!