Esti Frischling

Esti Frischling: NewsCred’s woman on a mission

In Interviews by Peter Gearin

NewsCred’s first Australian manager wants to improve the state of content marketing in Australia.

NewsCred is one of the biggest names in content marketing. Its enterprise technology is used by some of the world’s best-known companies. Founded in the US in 2008, it has hundreds of customers in more than 70 countries.

Until recently, however, NewsCred had no colonies in the Asia-Pacific region. That changed when it dipped its toe into Japan. Then, in 2018, it opened operations in Australia.

NewsCred didn’t need to look far to find someone to run its Australian outpost. Former English teacher Esti Frischling was working in the NewsCred New York office when it decided it was time the company needed to develop an Aussie twang. Having spent a couple of years as senior account strategist at native advertising business Outbrain in Sydney, US-born Frischling was well placed to be NewsCred’s first Australian country manager.

“The plan was to replicate and expand what we’d been doing in Japan in Australia,” she says. “NewsCred realised what an important market Australia is; how much potential there is there.”

NewsCred is a company built on technology and strategy. It typically helps huge companies organise their content and gain insights from data to improve the business bottom line. It believes to its core that content without a strategy driving ROI is a waste of time and money.

“We found content marketing here is in a position where it’s almost like a ‘nice to have’,” Frischling says. “People are doing it and getting budgets for it, but they’re up against the need to prove that it’s working, so what they found is they need to understand the ROI of their content efforts.”

Finding ROI is just one problem for Australian enterprises. Another is getting their operations in order is another. “Brands with big enterprise operations produce lots of content across the board,” she says. “At this stage, many find there’s no way of unifying those efforts in a single place and understanding how to drive operational efficiency across their organisation.”

None of this surprised Frischling. They are issues businesses face everywhere. They were also confirmed when NewsCred teamed with the Content Marketing Institute for specific pre-launch market research.

“We’re not a content farm. We’re not looking to churn out huge volumes of 500-word blogs. We’re looking for partners who can create exceptional content that drives business results.”

“We found one of the biggest challenges, particularly with B2B clients, was just being able to connect the dots for content marketing – from leads to ROI,” she says. “Then particularly with the bigger enterprise brands here, ones that have more teams, it’s understanding how to break down the silos within organisations.

“I think we’re primed to answer the question here. Without sounding condescending, I think Australia is the market that’s closest to catching up with the States but maybe a little bit behind. When we evolved our operations to meet those ROI needs, Australia made sense to be the next place to roll that out because they’re ripe for doing that. They have all the steps in place up to that point. So they are able to understand engagement and the value of content marketing, but that’s the one place NewsCred can excel and close the loop.”

Frischling acknowledges one of NewsCred’s problems is convincing large businesses they need a tool to help with their content marketing. It’s not the marketers who need convincing, of course – they feel the pain every day. Often, though, not even the marketers know who authorises or produces enterprise content.

“The content marketing people don’t necessarily have access to the demand generation people in these big organisations,” she says. “They might not even know who’s running their email or marketing automation. Finding where those tech stacks align is not always something the CMO is on top of or aware of.

“It’s sometimes hard to find those people – even for them. Understanding the marketing operations functions in addition to the content marketing functions has been a challenge in terms of reaching the right people.”

NewsCred doesn’t develop content itself. It forms relationships with agencies and freelancers to feed clients’ content beast. In Australia, NewsCred has teamed up with Storyation, an award-winning Sydney-based content agency founded by Lauren Quaintance and Mimi Cullen.

“We always outsource our content creation, we never white label it,” she says. “We choose premium partners to create our content, either with partners like Storyation or freelancers. We always try to find partners that are more quality over quantity.

“We’re not a content farm. We’re not looking to churn out huge volumes of 500-word blogs. We’re looking for partners who can create exceptional content that drives business results.”

NewsCred also offers clients licensed content from deals it makes with global publishers. This is particularly helpful for brands looking to scale their content efforts and supplement their material with lower-cost premium publisher content. Frischling says she has been in talks with local publishers to provide this service for domestic enterprise clients.

Frischling says that at its heart, NewsCred is a software company. One of its key offerings, though, is a content marketing advisory service. She describes this as “almost like an internal consulting group” – a team of program directors and strategists ensuring clients’ strategies are clear and aligned with business needs.

“The exceptional storytelling goes hand in hand with business results being delivered,” she says. “There’s a lot of work on the front end. We build out a measurement framework and an action plan for customers to make sure we’re staying on track to reach their goals throughout the program.

“If you’re not doing it strategically to deliver on those business goals, then you’re just contributing to the noise because there’s so much content on the internet. We don’t need to be writing blogs for the sake of writing blogs.”

Frischling says enterprise businesses need to think broadly about the content they produce – not keep it siloed under “blogs”, “videos” or “social media”. They need to think of it less as “content marketing” and more as “content for marketing”. She calls it the “connective tissue” of all marketing efforts.

“It’s about thinking of the assets a person experiences when they come into contact with your brand – a blog post, a video, a banner ad or an event. So all of those things can be considered ‘content’. The goal is to make sure those things are all cohesive and speaking to each other so that they’re delivering a unified message to the customer.”

“I think we’ve been fortunate to find people who are still believers in content.”

She says it’s good most marketers now agree it’s wrong to interrupt people and force messages down their throats. “We have to become what people are interested in, but that doesn’t have to be an article,” she says. “It could be a quiz, an interactive. Think about the Nike store where you can go on a run and they’ll tell you what shoes you should be wearing. All of that ties together – not be interruptive.

“We say the consumer journey is the content journey. [Find out] what questions people are asking to help them make a decision and make sure that you’re there where they are to answer those questions.”

Surprising, the former English university graduate and writer gets excited about metrics. Frischling says she is “really passionate about” the subject, especially when it comes to choosing the right measurement tool for its proper purpose. She cites the example of a business complaining its high bounce rate as a reason for failing their content marketing efforts.

“Bounce rate is a metric created for landing pages or product pages or index pages at the advent of Google Analytics,” she says. “It’s not a metric designed to measure how people are engaging with content. These things we associate with actually clicking on a landing page aren’t necessarily relevant for the attention you give a piece of content.”

She says marketers should concentrate on metrics that look at “attention time” – for example, mouse movements or scroll depth actions – to assess how people are interacting with content.

As she drinks coffee with contacts and makes NewsCred’s presence known in Australia, Frischling is aware many local businesses are gun-shy about working with agencies promising big things. Following King Content’s catastrophic failure, some enterprise marketers remain sceptical about committing to a company specialising in content marketing.

“I think we’ve been fortunate to find people who are still believers in content,” she says. “People believe content works because they’ve seen that it works, but they have been very receptive to a more data-driven approach, which is what we’re offering.

“We have a proven track record, we have plenty of money in the bank and we have plenty of runway. I would say the difference here is that we’re expanding the definition of content marketing to think about it in an integrated marketing fashion.”

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