On the first day of Content Marketing World Sydney, attendees were treated to an array of keynotes on the power of content marketing from experts like Joe Pulizzi and Jay Baer. But there was another speaker that really caught my eye. Matthew Pinkney, Head of Content for the Australian Football League (AFL), presented an overview of the AFL’s content strategy, which provided some eye-opening insights into the challenges and opportunities of implementing content marketing on a huge scale.
As one of the largest sporting organizations in Australia, the AFL recently took the radical step of creating AFL Media — a separate business unit that operates on a 100 percent owned media model. It has created waves Down Under (especially with the traditional media organizations), but provides some great lessons about the power of compelling content to attract and retain loyal fans. Here are five that can be applied to your business:
1. Storytelling is at the heart of content marketing
No matter the company or the communication goals, every brand has a story. And telling that story in a compelling and engaging way should form the crux of all the content you’re producing. People have been telling stories since the beginning of time, and though the formats may have changed, our desire to connect with others through sharing stories remains.
2. Create opportunities for content
Although a major sporting code is unlikely to run out of content ideas, AFL Media has created the opportunity for content in perpetuity by developing itsvery own algorithm to rank every player in the league. Each week, this ranking system drives unique content about the leading players and key match-ups that the traditional media players can’t provide.
3. Determine your content “dead zones”
It’s not about posting content all the time. AFL Media quickly realized that content it was publishing on Wednesdays fell into a “dead zone.” Readers were no longer engaging with content about the previous weekend’s games, and it was too early to capture their attention about the upcoming round. It’s different with every brand, but trust your analytics and make sure you’re posting content when your audience is most engaged.
4. Tell it, warts and all
It’s important to Pinkney (as an award-winning journalist) that AFL Media produces genuine news content that conveys “the real story,” — even if it doesn’t paint the AFL in a very promising light. Whether it be drug scandals or a pay cut for the CEO, unless fans can trust AFL Media to give them credible information, they’ll go elsewhere.
Though this level of honesty might not get past marketing directors in all companies, it’s important to remember that transparency with audiences builds trust and engagement.
5. Try, test, discard if necessary
One of the many benefits of digital media is how easy it is to change and adapt. Some tactics will work for some brands and audiences, and others won’t. Perhaps Pinkney’s best piece of advice was to be brave — to at least try an idea, see if it works, and if it doesn’t, simply try something else.