At the end of last year Cisco announced a restructuring of global marketing and corporate communications, letting over 100 people go. This was part of a strategic shift from traditional marketing to ‘real time-personalised marketing communications’ from new CMO Karen Walker. The tech firm is now recruiting for over 200 new roles in content marketing at the company.
From fluffy marketing to content marketing?
As far back as 2014, Walker talked about the need to shift from business-to-business (B2B) communication to a ‘human-to-human’ approach, engaging customers in a new and more meaningful way through personalised content. This is all part of her strategy to “reposition marketing as being a business partner and a revenue generator versus a fluffy function”.
For me it is obvious how a ‘content marketing strategy’ and a ‘marketing as a revenue generator’ approach go hand-in-hand. True content marketing engages your target audience and moves them towards a profitable action, whatever that action might be for you. It breeds connection, loyalty and trust. Cisco has been driving this shift to content marketing for a few years now and seeing results. Walker’s own LinkedIn page states pre-2012 they “delivered a new digital experience for Services using inbound and content marketing strategies that engaged the customer, increased marketing qualified leads from the web by up to 25%, and tripled traffic on key pages.” In 2013 they were recognised as the company to which customers say they are most emotionally connected (Google/CEB 2013 study). It goes to show Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will a marketing strategic shift take hold over night.
Building an internal content marketing team
There is now a well established trend in the modern business to have an internal brand ‘newsroom’. A core internal team (read small team) of marketers with content expertise – writers, editors, designers, community managers. A team that can deeply understand the corporate and brand strategy and combine that with an understanding of the target audience and today’s communication channels to create content that has an impact with those people you’re trying to reach most. Importantly this internal team can create content more quickly that you have ever done before, allowing you to capitalise on opportunities and become more relevant in the fast evolving, social media world. They can collaborate with, and be complemented by, external agencies on key campaigns.
Coca-Cola have a small team internally managing properties such as the Coca-Cola Journey where they publish 12-15 articles weekly as part of a global strategy. Others, such as GE, have strengthen their internal team with seasoned journalists. They have a former Forbes writer, Tomas Kellner, leading their efforts with GE Reports in addition to experienced content marketers such as Content Marketing Director, John Perry. This is not all that is going on at GE. The company has content partnerships with The Economist and active social media channels (check out #emojiscience). They co-produce a podcast and even supported segments on the Jimmy Fallon show (spot the GE branded lab coat).
Stepping back into the healthcare world for a moment, consider this. The need to communicate and educate around all aspects of healthcare – policy, care pathways, disease education and management, support – remains. The number of informed and hyper-connected ‘digital native’ healthcare professionals and e-patients grows. In this challenging environment the old marketing model of cyclical marketing and communication campaigns and periodic updates to visuals and printed materials is almost laughable but is still a reality for many. Moving beyond this to embrace agile, targeted, content-driven marketing across digital and traditional channels is now the must-win battle for healthcare marketing and communication professionals.