Content marketing take-homes from Sydney to Singapore

Rakhal Ebeli reports back from Content Marketing Worlds Sydney and Singapore to share the key points that made an impact.

As a journalist, thrown headlong into the world of content marketing, I find the intersection of the two worlds fascinating. The trend that has seen quality storytelling become a driving force in the way brands connect with new audiences has scooped up my company and brought us to the cusp of what feels like a rapidly building wave. So it was with great anticipation that I joined the ‘Godfather of content marketing’ Joe Pulizzi and a long list of international speakers at Content Marketing World (CMW), Sydney and Singapore.

CMW is more than a just roadshow perpetuating hyperbole to further fuel the content marketing boom. Insightful and often exhausting deliveries from Joe, Robert Rose and my personal favourite, Andrew Davis, beyond justified the outlandish orange crocodile leather shoes, shirts, specs and ties, donned by aforementioned keynote presenters.

The tips, tricks and forecasts were too many to list. (For that, I recommend digging back through the @newsmodo_com Twitter feed.) Furthermore, it would not justify the gravitas of the visions being disseminated by trawling through notes to regurgitate quotes and lists. Gravity however, was theoretically a critical influence (bear with me here).

To me, the four days I spent in Sydney and Singapore helped illuminate a bigger picture of the digital galaxy in which our audiences play, taking my view of how we create and deliver brand stories from a narrow-minded perspective that the galaxy revolves around us or our website, to a truthful and perhaps at times confronting Galilean scaled paradigm shift.

As Andrew Davis put it, Google is the new sun, the social media and popular platforms for content consumption are the planets, and where is ‘our’ website, product or campaign? Waaaaaaayyyyy out over there. Probably off your monitor, mobile or tablet that you’re reading this on right now. So, as marketers in the new era of brand storytelling, we must adapt to this evolution. We must be part of their world and their everyday enjoyment of the myriad of messages in which they live.


You’ve been Drewed!

To me, a speaker who puts his passion into practice and practices what he preaches stands out like a beacon. Andrew Davis is one of those presenters. I thoroughly enjoyed the Boston native’s high-octane sessions, jammed with insights on how to package your pitch, add value to your client’s content strategy and incredibly importantly, identify trends that will boost the likelihood of your next big idea catching on.

From Sydney to Singapore, Davis implored onlookers to go beyond the campaign and start exploring the real content mission. Coming from a TV background, like myself, participants were encouraged to, “Think like a movie producer.” A movie producer builds a content brand, not branded content. Take Finding Nemo for example. Within days of its release in 2004, the movie sent sales of not only Nemo fish, but all the other gaff that goes along with buying fish at the local aquarium into hyperdrive. Take a look at Google Trends and check when the next global spike of Nemo fish took place. Eight years later, when the DVD was re-released in 3D. As Davis explained, “Valuable content increases demand for the products and services you sell… Stop making campaigns and start making commitments to things that are bigger than you.”

‘Engaging’ content is not a box to tick. It is a vehicle for extending your brand into the world that we all enjoy. The moment of inspiration shouldn’t need to be a button that says ‘click to subscribe’. It should be a voluntary act by the consumer, driven by the content, to develop their relationship with the product.

If you are creating your content to check that box, if you are counting the likes to justify your last campaign, then maybe, as Davis suggests, you might be on ‘content autopilot’. In order to engage, we have to put the story first.

At the conclusion of his energetic sessions, Davis points across his equally absorbed audience and proclaims with a signature sweep of the eyes behind a set of now foggy orange glasses, “You’ve been Drewed”. I was ‘Drewed’ four times in four days and was still felt inspired to dive deeper into the topics. If you ever get the chance to see him speak, I would highly recommend it.


Measurement that (really) matters

Pinning down the perfect measurement of ROI on our content marketing strategy is like trying to reel off the value of Pi. Ask 10 marketers and you’ll probably get 10 different answers, most of them ticking off the usual list of likes, shares, impressions and so on. But we can become obsessed with these and lose sight of genuine touch.

Conversion from audience, to customer, to advocate is hard to track but also takes time. According to Joe Pulizzi, who shared this insight in both events, “the average time to get a business result from content marketing is 15 months”.

In terms of website traffic, SEO expert Arnie Kuenn from Vertical Measures believes it takes on average six months “before content receives an organic lift from Google.”


Building loyalty

Have you seen the meme about ‘skipping leg day’ with the guy who looks like he went to the gym everyday for his entire adult life and did nothing by upper body workouts? Lo and behold, he looks like a chicken on steroids. Well, in the same way, marketers need to change their routine to improve results.

As Pulizzi said, “We need to build the audience or nothing else will happen”.

Brand cycles will come and go and sure, we can get people through the door of a website and yes, some will like the look of the product and purchase. But true content marketing will smash that cycle. Create a content brand, build a story of value and mean something to someone. This is where granular marketing comes into play. Brands must narrow the target market. Effective content marketing is targeted, it speaks to what specific consumers want and need. This approach produces ‘better’ audiences – an audience that subscribes, buys and evangelises the brand. The point, in the words of Robert Rose, is, “To create more valuable clients not more leads in the pipeline.”

ROI is not instant. This can be a very difficult for marketers and businesses to accept. As Kuenn explained, “It takes courage to give away something of value without the expectation of immediate return.” But we must if we are daring enough to leap away from the easy, campaign based strategy, and place ourselves in another world, or galaxy even.



Rakhal Ebeli
BY Rakhal Ebeli ON 24 March 2015
Rakhal Ebeli is managing director of Newsmodo. An award-winning journalist and presenter, Rakhal founded global journalism agency Newsmodo ( in 2012. Since then, the company has grown to become the largest network of freelance media professionals, who can be engaged by brands and publishers to create high quality content and coverage. He also co-hosts The Brand Storytelling Podcast: