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Five Questions for Jessica Robinson, Content Strategist

As consumer expectations from brands continue to evolve, marketers need to ensure they create and maintain lasting relationships with audiences. We asked Jessica Robinson, Globe Content Studio’s Content Strategist for her perspective on why it’s essential to provide authentic value for audiences to maximize the benefit from content marketing programs.

What has surprised you over the last year in content marketing?

It’s been a pleasant surprise to have more clients invest not just in content marketing, but in extensive, year-long content partnerships with us, even (or especially!) during times of lockdowns, restrictions and struggle. Whether it’s our retirement-focused series Sixty Five with Purpose Investments, the multi-sponsor Globe Women’s Collective initiative we launched two months ago or CPPIB returning as presenting sponsor for the fourth season of our personal finance podcast Stress Test, brands across industries have been investing in long-term storytelling, because they are seeing the returns.

What brands are getting content marketing right and why? 

Travel brands have really capitalized effectively on the cultural moment, particularly destination marketing organizations like Destination Canada and Travel Alberta, despite being in particularly difficult situations over the last 18 months. They’ve embraced that an effective content marketing strategy is not about pushing products or services, it’s about immersing your audience in relevant stories that only your brand can tell. They understand the brand value to be garnered with top of the funnel, awareness-focused campaigns that centre on people and experiences over selling. 

In each of these campaigns I’m referring to, neither brand focused on selling ‘travel’—they instead found other ways to speak to their target audience of travel lovers about their destinations in creative ways that resonated. They reinforced positive relationships with their audience, creating a long-lasting connection that also drives consideration down the line when these audiences are ready to book or buy. It’s this relationship-building benefit that results from awareness-focused content marketing that’s so essential for brands across all categories and industries—not just travel.

What’s holding marketers back when it comes to content marketing?

Expecting one piece of content to do everything. A single, stand-alone article cannot create brand awareness, consideration and conversion in one fell swoop. Content marketing is a long game that, above all else, requires consistency over time. It’s just as important to ensure you’re producing content at every point along the marketing funnel, so that you’re reaching your audience wherever they are on their journey with your brand. 

Also, producing incredible content without having a solid promotion plan in place to ensure the right people see it. Creative ideation and content strategy are so important, but without the right strategic media mix promoting the content to your target audience, none of it matters.

What makes content marketing with The Globe different from other providers?

We don’t just bring journalistic storytelling to the programs we develop for clients; we’re thinking like journalists the whole way through, from our creative ideation during the pitch phase through to hiring editorial photographers and crafting our SEO-friendly headlines as we get ready for launch. 

We are always asking the question, “How can we tell the best story?” And by focusing on that question, instead of how much brand integration we can cram into the pieces we produce, the content resonates that much more with target audiences. Why? It’s a result of always focusing on audience needs; how the content can solve challenges, answer questions and ultimately, that’s the power of content marketing built on trusted journalism, that it helps readers make informed decisions in their personal and professional lives.

What are the biggest opportunities for content marketers right now?

I would say that, now more than ever, audiences have an appetite for content marketing as long as it is done right. Whereas 10 years ago, clients and readers were more wary of the advertorial, today—and especially among the digital-only, Gen Z audiences—there is an understanding that content that has been paid for by a brand needs to provide value or service to readers. It is our responsibility as content marketers to put that value in our storytelling first, to ensure it is clearly communicated upfront, in order to provide the sponsoring client the desired halo effect.

Audiences now expect brands to provide authentic information that transcends the transactional “here’s why you should buy our product” approach. But this is also an opportunity – to create meaningful relationships with your audience, to speak on themes that matter, to weigh in on trending topics with your brand’s unique point of view, the way only you can. It’s the best way to strengthen your connection with audiences and needs to be at the centre of your content marketing strategy.

BONUS question! What’s your most rewarding project in the last year?

Travel Alberta’s Art of Winter program remains my favourite and most rewarding project, ever. The campaign shared the most beautiful moments of Albertan winters with Canadians who couldn’t travel to experience it for themselves at the time. We worked with 10 local artists, commissioning their depictions of winter warmth in all sorts of artistic mediums. Readers from all over the country “walked” through the interactive digital art gallery we created thousands of times, leaving hundreds of heartfelt comments on our social pages, and some even reaching out to the artists to buy their works!

The content moved people during a time when they felt isolated, reminding us that the warmth of a travel destination is as much about the local community as the seasonal temperatures. It made a lasting impact on our audience and delivered strong results for our client, too.

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