Brand Tales speaks with a former metro editor who is now a commercial content leader.
Kate Cox is one of the most senior journalists in Australia to make the transition from news stories to branded content. The former editor of Sunday newspaper The Sun-Herald and magazine Sunday Life is now editorial director of Made by Fairfax, the media company’s brand and content studio. Typically, Cox says she’s up for the challenge.
Brand Tales: What are your main responsibilities, Kate?
Kate Cox: Ideas! Lots of great ideas! Also building a bank of quality contributors, and commissioning stories. Analysing trends in content. Conducting content audits and building content strategies for clients. Editing and producing great storytelling across platforms. Managing a team of smart people – across design and editorial, product, data and web development, project management, events, business development and sales. And, of course, meeting clients and meeting their budgets, quality expectations and success metrics…
BT: What have you learnt about the content game since leaving front-line journalism?
Cox: I do a lot more with data these days – in terms of working out what people want to (or are about to want to) consume and in measuring what they have consumed – we have to be measurable and accountable. When I was an editor in the newsroom, I had to be across dozens of stories and tools at once, but on them, not always in them. These days, I enjoy working end-to-end – doing the whole process, from coming up with content ideas for clients and making the stories happen, through to helping build websites, make podcasts and amplify it all. But in the end, not much has changed. It’s all about engaging audiences, right? I’ve always believed that everybody has a great story to tell and I’m loving working in commercial content. We work with excellent, brave, invested brands and we get to spend time making sure it works.
BT: In your opinion, which international company is doing content really well, and why?
Cox: There are so many companies that are using content in inspiring, innovative ways. GE was one of the first to embrace content marketing and has really set the agenda in the Internet of Things space. Its hit podcast, The Message, was inspired, subtle, sophisticated, influential and clever – it showed leadership and innovation and gave the brand a halo effect without explicitly forcing the GE brand. In the publisher space, I’m obviously also really energised and enthused by all the cool stuff T-Brand Studio is doing – they create and produce provocative, engaging and interactive storytelling for brands, with proven results and no compromise on quality. That’s what we strive for at Made by Fairfax: to create quality storytelling for brands that can inspire, engage and make a difference.
BT: Which Australian brand is doing a great job with its content? Why is this so effective?
Cox: GE has made a huge impact in the content marketing space here. We have produced a news website, an impactful podcast called Decoding Genius and much more with them. They really want to have a positive impact as a brand and are invested in everything they do. Most of all they’re brave and willing to try new ideas – I have loved working with them. Tourism Australia is another exciting brand in this space. We have been working with them for the last nine months on a project that I reckon has changed or certainly will change the way brands do content. Using Fairfax’s The Power Index (which is based on data and analytics) and audience insights to get measurable results, we provided a really deep, immersive strategic content audit, then strategy and production. TA is an example of a brand that has huge and powerful brand currency, but continues to innovate and redefine what they do – and ultimately bring more visitors to this great country. Chemist Warehouse really invests in print and does a lot of content with us in the health, beauty and lifestyle space that I think works really well. The content is interesting and meaningful, and works.
“Brands can be innovators in the content space as they aren’t tied to traditional expectations.”Kate Cox
BT: Can you nominate one specific example of a content execution that you think works really well?
Cox: The diversity area is very strategic for brands, and it’s an opportunity for them to challenge themselves to create content without looking patriarchal, patronising, tokenistic or opportunistic. Among others, Nike, Samsung, Airbnb and Dove have all inspired me in this space.
BT: What advice do you have for brands (and their agencies) that want to use content as part of their marketing mix?
Cox: It’s so important they figure out ways to tell their human stories and not just add to the noise. Now more than ever, brands need to be authentic about the way they market, as the growing audiences out there are so wise to anything too corporate or fake. Before they create anything, they also need to consider audiences really carefully. Because it is always about the audience – create content for your audience, not your brand. Who is this for, and why will they share it? They need enthusiastic, energetic, intelligent audiences – and they should talk to Fairfax for the best ones!
BT: What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to creating and executing branded content for a client?
Cox: I thought it would be convincing brands that they can’t just tell their corporate PR stories but actually most Australian brands are pretty wise to this. I think it’s that there are now so many content agencies creating content for brands, and brands doing it themselves, with mixed results, so it’s really important to innovate and iterate to get heard. Having said that, a recent eye-tracking research study at Fairfax showed that sponsored content had a huge impact, in fact 20 times as much recall as ads.
BT: What are the immediate prospects for branded content in Australia?
Cox: In many ways, brands can be innovators in the content space as they aren’t tied to traditional expectations. So they can embrace so many of the new immersive storytelling opportunities on offer, from gamification to VR to bots. And of course, video and podcasts – I love podcasts! Brands can do so much in the audio and visual space. There is a lot of opportunity and growth.