Chris Amson

A word with … Chris Amson

In Interviews by Peter Gearin

Tourism WA’s content head on the fusion of great stories, data and technology.

When Tourism Western Australia’s content marketing manager Chris Amson isn’t dreaming up ways to entice people to go west, he’s thinking of the future. As well as looking to data and technology to tailor customer experiences, Amson believes marketers need to shift towards “emotive” and “progressive” storytelling.

Brand Tales: What are the biggest mistakes large or small businesses make when it comes to producing or measuring their content efforts?

Amson: One of the biggest challenges is spending time developing the strategy around it. Content is at its best when used as more than the sum of its parts. Deciding not just what content you need to create but how you intend to use it is probably the biggest factor in measuring content efforts. It’s at that stage businesses can start applying measures for content effectiveness to acquire leads, grow audiences and take people along the purchase path with meaningful content engagements.

BT: Can you explain what you mean by “progressive storytelling”?

Amson: That’s the concept of developing content featuring people whose story builds over time, and telling that story across media and in different formats. It’s when a story starts in one channel and builds progressively across others. We do this through our “Just Another Day in WA” creative platform, which surfaces the stories of real people, travel writers and visitors in a number of ways. We have sought to put real people and their stories at the heart of our content creation in recent years. We’re selecting certain stories that can build across video, editorial and social posts. I think an extension to this approach will emerge over the coming years when businesses start to plan campaigns, content and story concepts with the same objective – to move an audience from awareness and engagement to decision and action. At that point, content takes on a central role. All of the work in recent years to drive content marketing forward is leading in that direction.

BT: What do you say to content marketers who believe tourism boards have a natural advantage when it comes to telling great stories?

Amson: Destination marketing organisations have the advantage of promoting places, which by and large are home to great stories. We’re certainly no different, although the competition for people’s discretionary spend has almost never been higher. A new car, a home extension or a new TV are all influences on holiday spend before we’ve even got towards rational barriers and the enormity of destination choice people face. I really believe, though, that when businesses think differently about content, it unlocks a range of great stories they may never have considered. In that sense, there’s an advantage for anyone in just thinking differently about content.

“Great content can only go so far. It’s the fusion with data and technology that will help take it the final mile.”

BT: What role do data and technology play in helping businesses create effective content experiences?

Amson: I think we’re tremendously fortunate to have access to great stories, storytellers and product, but I also think that’s only part of the solution. On the one hand, there’s a growing range of content planning, analysis and distribution tools. We use Percolate to manage our content workflows, organise our assets, manage our social production calendar and publish to social channels. This has brought us a good level of efficiency for managing content at speed and scale across teams and markets. The other side is how businesses use data and technology to create a digital experience using their content. This is a transition stage towards a future state when content takes on a central role within a bigger marketing framework underpinned by data, technology and advertising.

I think businesses at all levels are looking at how they can do this. It can be anything from gathering cookies and profiles from those engaging with your content in Facebook, and the demand side platforms you or your media agency might use for retargeting, to wholesale digital transformation, data management platforms and fully connected digital ecosystems. Whatever level of transition towards this a business is in, there will be common themes in the way they are tailoring the experience. Such as developing audience segments for intent levels, interests and product clusters. Then aligning a content experience to those segments, and either retargeting them via paid media or their own CRM and owned media, to serve content that moves them from awareness and engagement to decision and action.

Great content can only go so far. It’s the fusion with data and technology that will help take it the final mile.

BT: What is your definition of “emotive” content?

Amson: We’re weird and wonderful creatures, and we know that if you give a human a difficult decision, they will replace it with an easy one. We tend to rely on what has made an emotional impact to decide; no matter how much rational evidence we see, we prefer to use fast, instinctive and emotional thinking to help us navigate life. Because of this, I think the inclusion of really good emotive content is a very powerful asset for a business. Good emotive content draws you in with a personal insight, tells a bit of history, talks about why something is important and humanises an experience. I think we’re lucky in Australia to have some great agencies and businesses doing some exceptional work in this space.

BT: What are some of the best ones you have seen lately?

Amson: There are some great examples out there from a wide range of sectors, too. A few that spring to mind is Nulon Oils and its “Born this Way” content series. Presenting the product through the people who are most passionate about using it creates a sense of community around the brand. Adding a video series alongside this featuring the stories of the offroaders and modifiers from that community is a good example of progressive storytelling, and creates an impactful customer experience. Vic Health took a similar approach with its adaptation of the “This Girl Can” platform from Sports England, which is supported by layers of useful content to make a healthy change in girls’ lives. Bupa, Tourism Australia, Virgin Australia and Qantas are beginning to fuse content, progressive stories, data and technology into their customer experience.

BT: Why do you think this approach works so well?

Amson: It uses characterisation and people to form emotive content, and supplements this with genuinely useful content for different information needs. I think you can recognise the planning that has gone into these approaches, and ultimately they’re effective because they have created authentic and useful content with meaning. The latter examples from some of the bigger national brands have the benefit of being able to invest and adopt some of the major technology platforms, and you can begin to see more personalisation and targeting behind their content. It’s really starting to create quite a different digital content experience to what was possible a few years ago. Of course, there’s a lot that can be done without these. The advances in data and audience management in Facebook, Outbrain and more accessible tools are helping businesses increase the effectiveness of content across the board.

Links & references

Tourism Australia’s journey of discovery in Brand Tales

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