Learn how to tell a good story

John Keeling, partner at executive search firm Grace Blue, looks at what the rapidly growing area of "content" means for marketers' roles.

We talk to dozens of senior people across the global media and communications sector every day, and thousands of people during the course of a year. We also interact with creative agencies, media agencies, production companies, media owners and brands.

One thing is common to all of these. Senior marketing executives across the board are wrestling with a common theme: branded content. They are all asking themselves whether they have the right vision, strategy, structure and, ultimately, the best people, with the right talent and skills for their companies to enter this sphere.

Content marketing has not changed the basic qualities that underpin all visionary marketers - a deep understanding of the target market, combined with absolute clarity about the "truth" of any product.

The requisite skillset has evolved, however, and an understanding and a passion for storytelling via the written word, video, technology and experiential are all qualities that our clients are looking for in marketers.

Forward-thinking companies are seeking senior marketers with experience in strategy and brand planning, and the ability to manage senior relationships.

A creative vision and an editorial sensibility are becoming as important to our clients as a deep understanding of consumer research, audience segmentation and econometric analysis.

A creative vision and an editorial sensibility are becoming as important to our clients as a deep understanding of consumer research, audience segmentation and econometric analysis. Marketing today demands an understanding of multi-platform storytelling - above the line, online, mobile platforms and social media - reaching and engaging an audience where they already exist.

Marketers should plan a career across the industry (agencies, client-side brands and media owners) in order to develop a portfolio of skills and experience.

The lines between technology, product and communications are blurring like never before. The astonishing growth in the penetration and use of mobile devices allows content, by way of video and smartphone apps, to be available at all times.

Branded content started out as an evolution of sponsorship, with television as the principal distribution network - the Gillette World Sport international magazine programme, for example. Restrictive regulation of traditional marketing channels for products in sectors such as alcohol and tobacco drove the need for more diverse and creative advertising solutions.

As technology passed the power to skip ads to the television viewer, new sources of engagement - web pages, social-media portals and online video - have allowed for ever-more creative approaches to the development of messages that can develop consideration, affinity and trust for a brand.

One of our most recent assignments was to find a director of moving image for a global drinks brand - just a few years ago, a commissioning editor was the preserve of television broadcasters.

Creative agencies, media agencies, production companies, media owners and brands must all be fit for purpose, and marketers must embrace and celebrate the opportunity afforded by this contemporary communications space.

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