Q&A Pembroke

A word with … David Pembroke

In Interviews by Peter Gearin

Brand Tales speaks with a true Australian content marketing initiator.

Canberra-based contentgroup is a communications business that specialises in government and public sector work. As contentgroup’s founder back in 1997, David Pembroke has had a front-row seat in the evolution of modern content marketing.

Brand Tales: What’s your current role, David?

David Pembroke: Founder and CEO of contentgroup.

BT: What’s your career background?

Pembroke: Paper boy, worked in the family hotel, graduate marketing role at 3M, commercial radio reporter in Wollongong then ABC radio sport and current affairs, communications director of the Brumbies and Wallabies, CEO of my own content communication agency.

BT: How did you get into content-based marketing?

Pembroke: Back in 1997, I resigned as a member of the ABC radio current affairs team in the Federal Parliamentary press gallery. With a voluntary redundancy in my pocket, I discovered the future promise of the “information superhighway” where “media-rich content” would be delivered to compact mobile computers we would carry around in our purses and pockets. It was space-age stuff. Anyway, as someone with a background in marketing and media, I thought I could make a business out of that, and “The Content Group” was born. Interesting aside, we may in fact be the oldest content communication company in the world. Can anyone beat 1997?

BT: What have you learnt about content marketing since then?

Pembroke: The first, second, third, fourth and fifth most important thing in content communication is the audience. You have to understand their needs and their wants. You have to understand their lives beyond the transaction or engagement. You have to be narrow in your focus and consistent in your delivery. You must “earn” the right to a share of their attention and build trust over time. It’s getting harder and harder, but through staying true to the audience’s needs, by consistently delivering valuable information, education or entertainment, you won’t go too far wrong.

BT: Which international company is doing content really well, and why?

Pembroke: contentgroup’s mission is to be “the world’s leading content communication agency for government and the public sector by 2020” so I don’t spend a lot of time watching what international companies are doing. I do recommend people become part of the Content Marketing Institute’s community. They do content marketing well and there is a huge amount of valuable information on their website. And they are very nice people.

BT: Which Australian business is doing a great job?

Pembroke: One “content” company I admire is Mumbrella. Created from nothing more than an idea of better serving the media and advertising industry, Tim [Burrowes] and his team have built up a great blog, event and education business. They weren’t first but they have muscled in and do a great job of creating, curating and distributing useful, relevant and consistent content for a specific audience.

“Content is the path to influence and if you haven’t started yet there is plenty of time to catch up. The game has barely started.”David Pembroke

BT: Is there one specific content execution (not necessarily created in Australia) that you think works really well? Why?

Pembroke: The Red Bull “jump from outer space” was a classic “tactical” piece of content. It was off the charts in terms of impact and reach and reinforced its “rebel/risk taking” brand position. I love those “all in”, super expensive executions. You can just imagine the room when someone said “Why don’t we take someone to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and get them to jump?” Otherwise, all sorts of content executions work. It just depends on the audience. I have a podcast that examines the practice of “content communication” in government and the public sector and it’s got a solid audience all around the world. Not massive but it doesn’t need to be. I’m trying to speak to a very specific audience. I’m big on podcasting. It’s convenient and growing. By the way, if you’re wondering about the “content communication” description, government doesn’t like the word “marketing”. So we changed the description of our offering to create meaning for our audience. It’s the same thing. It’s just a different description to meet the needs of our audience.

BT: What advice do you have for business owners/marketers thinking about using content as a prominent part of their marketing mix?

Pembroke: Go all in. The gift of technology is that we can now all be “media” companies on behalf of our product, services, program, regulation or service. The factors of media production and distribution have been democratised and everyone can now be a publisher and a broad (or narrow) caster. We can all do it. Spend time understanding who your audience is and how you can build a relationship with them over time. How can you add value to their lives? Once you work that out, be in service of that audience and be patient. It takes time to earn their trust and attention. Test and learn with your various tactical experiments and evaluate their effectiveness. Be genuine and be patient and the results will come. Promise.

BT: What does the future hold for content-driven marketing in Australia?

Pembroke: I can’t see that there is any other future other than taking on the opportunity of creating, curating and distributing useful, relevant and consistent content to meet the needs of your specific audience so you can achieve a desired action or behaviour. The fragmentation of mainstream media audiences and the pervasiveness and influence of mobile has fried the effectiveness of traditional media channels. Those channels are increasingly expensive and ineffective. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I watched a television commercial?” Answer? “Can’t remember.” It simply doesn’t happen. Taking a “content based” approach requires the mindset of a publisher. You have to prepare yourself that once you start, you can’t stop. It’s the only way to sustainability. All sorts of research reports from Gartner to IBM will tell you that 60-70 per cent of a buying decision is taken prior to anyone picking up a phone or visiting a showroom. Content is the path to influence and if you haven’t started yet there is plenty of time to catch up. The game has barely started. And it’s also a lot of fun. Best of luck.

Please share