Tuesday 21 October 2014

The truth about content marketing: in conversation with IOP Publishing's Jo Allen and Karen Watts

H92: the place to be
Picture the scene. We're at the ALPSP stand in Hall 4.2 at Frankfurt Book Fair. Plans are being discussed for the forthcoming ALPSP Content Marketing seminar and the ALPSP team have got together with two communications specialists who are getting animated about what content marketing *actually* involves.

We joined in the discussion with Jo Allen (JA) who is Head of Marketing & B2B at IOP Publishing and Karen Watts (KW) IOP’s PR and Communications Manager, and captured some of the highlights of the conversation below:

ALPSP: What does content marketing mean to you?

JA: Using your content to do the work for you. All publishers are sitting on deep seams of great content. Effective content marketing makes use of these gems and does hard work for you.

KW: I think it's about utilising your best assets rather than looking for gimmicks.

JA: We're lucky we've got Physics World, it lends itself beautifully to this arena. To be honest we've been doing content marketing for a while unconsciously, but now it's more deliberate and far more strategic.

KW: Do you mean rolling out into different channels like social media and on the website?

JA: Yes. We now have a much more holistic approach. We focus on the content first and the channel second. Content comes first. It's a similar approach to the one we have with IOP’s design studio. Instead of simply designing a printed piece or an email communication, we consider the content first and make it adaptable to all formats right from the start.

Jo Allen: content marketer extraordinaire
KW: Let's face it, content marketing drives and informs every decision we make in communications now.

JA: True, we'd struggle to make a decision that doesn't relate to it in some way!

ALPSP: What do you think is the most effective piece of content marketing IOP has ever done?

JA: The Physics World 25th anniversary issue back in 2013 was incredibly effective. We produced a special issue with lots of special features. Do you remember the 25 top list? It had five top people to watch, five best discoveries, five puzzles GCHQ created…..  that really helped the comms team with newsworthy content. It made a big splash then, and we're still using it nearly a year later.

KW: It was hugely successful.  Because a key strength of Physics World is high quality reviews of physics news, it is not always easy to pitch the content as newsworthy on its own. It was a great opportunity to showcase the editorial quality of the magazine in a different format.

JA: And we've got good mileage from it. The new digital magazine app has just launched using the 25th issue as a free download to showcase the fantastic design and functionality. We're still using it as a recruitment tool for membership for the digital only member category.

KW: On the journals side, I think the video abstracts are one of our most effective pieces of content: the stats speak for themselves. Papers with a video abstract are downloaded three times more than those without. Press releasing articles is enormously important too. A press released article will see downloads for it jump from an average of 40 to around 7,000. That's a fairly impressive rise.

Karen Watts: an Oscars-free zone
JA: Agreed.  Mind you, content marketing can go badly wrong.

KW: Oh yes, I cringe when I see people using gimmicks instead of thinking about the actual content and audience. The worst is when you see someone try to put across a personality that just isn't them. Tone of voice is crucial!

JA: Talking of personality, something we have to remember is that while our authors are physics experts, they are also human beings!

KW: Exactly, our authors and readers aren’t just an audience segment or a specialist field. They have the desire to share and connect with other people just like everyone else. When you try and be something you're not, you're doomed. It's about authenticity and relevance.

JA: True. But when you think about tweaking tone of voice and changing marketing approaches, it’s crucial to bring along colleagues. Changes in marketing strategy can be scary so we need to support them along the way...

KW: You know my pet hate? Trying to be 'current' and shoehorning celebrity news into your channels. Don't comment on the Oscars unless it's related to your topic!

And with that, the discussion concluded and normal Frankfurt Buchmesse business resumed.

Karen Watts will be presenting a case study at the forthcoming ALPSP seminar Content Marketing - using your publishing assets? on how IOP’s content marketing strategy is changing lives, one Ferrari at a time!

Register for Content Marketing - using your publishing assets?  on Wednesday 12 November 2015 in London.

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