Diane di Costanzo experiences the best of two worlds in a unique content marketing role.
As chief content officer, vice president/editorial director at Foundry 360, Dotdash Meredith’s branded content division, she exercises her brand-content strategy muscles by overseeing about 30 traditional client-side programs at any time.
And as editor-in-chief of the editorially independent (and single sponsored supported) print and digital publications Millie Magazine and PawPrint, she uses her journalism experience daily.
This powerful combination of skills works well for Foundry 360, which experiences high client retention – some client relationships span 15 years and counting.
And all that success earned Diane the 2022 B2C Content Marketer of the Year title. Here’s a look at what sets her work apart.Combining brand #Content and journalism skills led to impressive results for Foundry 360 clients – and the B2C Content Marketer of Year title for Diane di Costanzo via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
A content strategy-forward approach
“We become a sort of editorial department attached to clients but not embedded,” Diane says of the Foundry 360 business model. Foundry’s work doesn’t involve responding to brands’ requests for proposals. Instead, it starts with brainstorming content strategies that could work for interested brands.
In a split from her traditional media background, Diane works hand in hand with the sales team. Their mutual goal is to get the doors opened for prospective clients, so they can talk content. Then, they talk about what success looks like and what company goals the content should support.
“We create a well-organized understanding of what we want to do and how we’re going to measure it,” she says. “If you don’t measure it, it’s hard for the client to rationalize, ‘Let’s do it again,’ because they haven’t been able to quantify what the content did.”If you don’t measure #Content impact, it’s hard for clients to agree to repeat a program, says Diane Di Costanzo via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
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Broad skills and a deep content bench
That focus on success – and understanding that content isn’t a one-and-done thing – prompts most clients to continue working with Foundry 360.
Though the Foundry 360 team executes over two dozen content programs at a time, the team includes only six full-time people. They all serve as executive directors who head up verticals, such as finance, health and wellness, and medical science.
The rest of the work gets done by freelancers. “We’re able to hire the exact right person with the exact right editorial skillset for any given project,” Diane says, adding about 50% of her job is finding those right people.
Of course, the full-time staff also pitches in on other projects when they have the bandwidth. “We don’t just wear one hat,” Diane says.
A repeatable model for success
While the Foundry 360 team invests time in identifying what content projects would work well for the brands, it also creates projects from a traditional media perspective.
That’s possible because Foundry 360 operates under the Dotdash Meredith umbrella, the largest digital and print publisher in the United States. (The publicly traded company includes iconic media brands such as People, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Investopedia, and more.)
Recognizing that the unique structure could benefit potential brand clients, Diane expanded Foundry 360’s content product line in 2020 with the launch of Millie, a print and digital content program about women and money.
At the time, Meredith – later acquired by Dotdash – had sold the Money Magazine brand, leaving the company without a financial editorial brand. But their research showed many financial companies still had money to invest in acquiring audiences.
Women frequently have been left out of conversations around money. (Less than 50 years ago, it was still legal for a company to require a man to co-sign for a woman to get a credit card.)
“There is this cultural, societal, and historical context as it relates to women and money. Our research came together to say when you talk to women about money. It’s a different conversation than when you talk to men about money,” Diane explains.
Meredith liked the sponsorship model because a client’s investment would come from a marketing budget and not its advertising spend. The latter could have been a threat to its traditional magazines that rely on advertiser support.
And, unlike traditional magazines that must first create an editorial product to attract advertisers, a sponsor-based magazine has an investment commitment before it’s created.
Synchrony signed on as the sole multi-year sponsor, receiving four pages of advertising in each 48-page magazine. They have a 100% share of voice in the magazine. They also benefit from free distribution to over 1 million targeted readers as Millie mailed in the same bag as Real Simple magazine.A sole multi-year sponsor gets 100% share of voice under the unique model behind Millie Magazine, led by 2022 B2C Content Marketer of the Year Diane Di Costanzo via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet
Repeating the successful model
Millie’s success led Diane to wonder what other brands might be interested in being the sole sponsor for a new publication with wide distribution. The answer came from a target that had been on the sales radar for a while – Mars Petcare.
Mars owns the largest portfolio of individual pet brands. They wanted to target the dual pet (cats and dogs) audience – an innovative marketing idea since most large brands tend to silo the pet type.
Mars signed on to sponsor PawPrint magazine as quickly as Synchrony came on board for Millie. Unlike with Millie, though, Dotdash Meredith has a digital editorial pet brand – Daily Paws. So PawPrint (the magazine) and Daily Paws (the website) act as companion content outlets. PawPrint, like Millie, gets bagged with and mailed to over 1 million Real Simple readers.
While Mars shares its content guidelines (such as showing pets in safe and humane settings) with Foundry 360, it doesn’t have a say in the editorial content. And it can’t if they want the Paw Print magazine to be mailed with Real Simple to over 1 million subscribers.
As an editorial magazine, Real Simple receives the lower cost periodical rate from the U.S. Postal Service. If it included a branded content magazine, it would no longer qualify for that rate.
“It’s been great for Mars. They have coupons and other offers (in their ads) so that they can track what happens next with the readers because we want to make sure what we’re driving is valuable to them,” Diane says.
Surveys are a critical tool to measure audience reaction. “It’s about as unvarnished an opinion as you can get because no one’s paying anybody to say anything,” Diane says. And the surveys show that readers think PawPrint is great, too.
“It’s just been wonderful to hear that it’s so well received, and it helps to know there is love for this animal publication Mars Petcare is sponsoring.”
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute