At Southerly, we like to share knowledge and pass on relevant snippets and insights. We keep some of our cards close to our chest – don’t we all? – but more often than not we enjoy nothing more than discussing learnings and offering up advice. We’re nice like that.
A couple of days ago, I sat down with Jonathan Bright, one of Southerly’s longest serving employees, to chat all things content. Jonathan is a self-confessed word geek, and loves nothing more than delving deep into an issue and subsequently emerging with a piece of marketing gold. He’s also a rapper, MC and passionate wearer of hats, but we’ll get to that another time.
Why is content such a powerful marketing tool?
Content marketing opens up a dialogue. It gives audiences the chance to learn more about a company and get a better understanding of what they do, and why they do it. Content is a great way of developing a relationship between company and customer, and that encourages loyalty. Content marketing is far less disruptive when compared to traditional advertising, and I think it’s far more genuine. Advertising is designed to sell products or services, while content marketing works to build trust and engage audiences. Content marketing is also a great sales tool, but only if you’re determined to play the long game. We often say that our industry is one built on marathons, not sprints, and that’s as true now as it was when the saying was originally coined.
You’re a bit of an SEO expert. Why is SEO so important?
SEO is basically quality control for the internet. By making the content on your website superior to that produced by your competitors, you’ll push yourself up the search rankings and therefore make yourself more visible to potential customers. The great thing about SEO is that if you produce content that is valuable, you’ll be rewarded. It takes time to produce enough work to get to the top of Google’s search results, but it’s definitely worth putting in the effort.
Do you think companies who fail to blog are missing a trick?
Without a doubt. It’s so much harder to enhance your SEO if you’re not producing a blog, and it also makes it far more difficult to put a voice and personality to your brand. Blogging is partly about discussing topics that your customers will find useful, but it’s also about building and developing a personality. You want to entertain and educate your audience, but it’s also important to have a relationship with them. Writing blogs can develop a bond of trust between you and your audience, which is one of the best ways to ensure customer retention and brand loyalty.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since being at Southerly?
The biggest lesson is probably realising how essential getting buy-in is. When working with clients, getting them to fully understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it ensures they respect your decisions, and can subsequently truly acknowledge the content you produce. Once you get the client on board and have their respect and support, it’s far easier to create campaigns that are cohesive, influential, and contain a consistent message.
What’s your favourite topic to write about?
I don’t have a favourite topic per se, but I do like writing content that provides value for clients. I’m very aware that content can help companies achieve goals, however ambitious they may be, and it’s great being part of that journey.
However, I must admit that on a personal level I revel in providing opinion. I’m never controversial just for the sake of it, but offering up commentary often means declaring a particular viewpoint or outlook, and when that’s the case then entering into debate is often par for the course. I’m never one to sit on the fence; having an informed opinion can be extremely powerful, and I like the idea of discussing ideas and seeing things from a different perspective. However, opinion should never descend into incoherent ranting and raving; if you ever hit that point, then the argument is lost.
Is there a company whose content marketing stands out as being particularly strong?
Aside from the companies I write for, I’d say one of the top dogs overall is Netflix. They decided that the way forward for the business was to produce original content rather than just curate shows created elsewhere, and it’s paid off big time. Being original and standing out is essential, whether you’re producing a blog or developing a multi-million-pound TV series. Curating content and promoting good work produced by other people will likely be appreciated by your audience, but bespoke work is far more impressive and attractive.
And finally… what one tip would you give to content creators?
Always try to be original. It’s something I really can’t emphasise enough. People sincerely value content that is unique and imaginative, and it really helps a brand to stand out. It’s important to ensure every piece of content is accurate and well-written, of course, but coming at an issue from an angle that others have failed to spot can be incredibly powerful.