What content marketers can learn from broadcasters

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Over the last decade, technology has exploded, offering up ever-increasing ways of communicating with people. In just 30 years we have developed from what was once a family activity, sat around a radio or TV to tune into the weekly programmes, into a content-on-demand industry where we can’t seem to move a step without having a new piece of content trying to entice us.

The birth of the internet and mobile phones have brought with them the exciting prospect of each person being able to create their own content and to engage with people that we’ve never met. This makes the evolving digital landscape an incredibly exciting place to be. Filled with opportunities for small and large organisations to take back control of how their stories are represented and communicated.

The evolution of our communication through digital platforms has brought with it a boon in content marketing, and brands vying for people’s attention to engage with their content, join their network, buy their product, subscribe to their coaching etc etc etc. So, just what can content marketers learn from broadcasters, and what should broadcasters leave behind?

How Can We Stand Out?

How can people stand out in this? Is it just the big brands who are able to capitalise on this? Or are the smaller brands able to compete? Also, does the use of digital mean doing things entirely differently? Or, are there things that we can learn from the broadcast methods that can improve the newer arena of ‘content marketing’?

Do we need to tear up the rulebook and become innovative disruptors of the digital space? Ignoring the processes of the past? Or, are there things that we can learn from the previous broadcast models that enable us to create content that engages and inspires, and stands out from the digital noise?

Having started in TV at a time when digital was just beginning, it’s been incredibly exciting to see the evolution happen, and also to see the range of newer content marketing companies that have sprung up to capitalise on this. In the early years, it seemed that broadcast production companies kept to their old channels and it was the new content marketing companies that embraced the new ones, but this is changing.

I’ve pulled together just a few thoughts of what content marketers can learn from broadcasters, and what is really best left in the archives.


1 – Be Agile

Television programmes are created around a changing landscape and also team numbers. Necessity is the mother of invention. The fact that life isn’t always predictable meant that broadcast teams very early on had to be agile in their approach.

If a news crew is going to produce an Outside Broadcast (OB) for example, they can’t guarantee exactly how the day will go. They need to be detailed in their preparation and then agile in their response on the day. At the end of the day, they still need a programme to go out that day, and so they need to adapt accordingly to make it work.

The word ‘agile’ is now a popular approach in project management, and yet it’s how TV teams have been working for years. To be adaptable to both events, budgets and personnel and expectations, they need to be agile and work accordingly to the changing parameters. This is something that content marketers can learn from. For content marketing to be truly effective, it needs to have some sense of agility. The preparation must be detailed but, to create the best content for the audience, the team often need to be agile in their approach, adapting to changing parameters and frequently feeding back and finding creative solutions.

2 – Know The Audience

For any TV programme created, the team will have a sense of the audience that they are aiming to connect with. This is done through carefully researched metrics from the channels and previous programmes and informs the production team’s development of the programme’s approach, style and content. This is a key area for content marketers. By better understanding their intended audience, it’s more likely that content will be created that speaks directly to them.

The other advantage that digital evolution brings is the accessibility to analytics. By better understanding the analytics available, a content marketer can better understand the audience that is currently engaging. They can also understand what content has worked well previously.

3 – Clear Brand And Voice Across All Platforms

For every television programme, there is always a clear sense of brand developed. This will be the development of a logo, an intro, the graphics used, the tone of voice, the press release etc. All of these work together to ensure that a programme has a clear representation of its brand and voice. The branding developed for ‘I’m a Celebrity’ for example is very different from that created for ‘Gardener’s World’.  A clear representation of the brand is paramount to the audience engaging. If ‘Gardener’s World’s’ Twitter feed used the same tone as ‘I’m A Celebrity’ for example, their audience would become confused.

A clear brand voice across all platforms is paramount in effective content marketing. If each platform is confused and does not compliment the others, an audience is likely to become confused and move on to a brand which is consistent in their tone, wherever they are encountered. This is just one of the mistakes we see content marketers making. For more read 7 content marketing mistakes to avoid.

4 – Effective Storytelling

The broadcast industry has developed around effective storytelling. How to craft a narrative and to bring an audience on a journey are key skills in a programme maker’s toolkit and here lies the most valuable lesson for content marketers. Learning how to not only make a piece of content but pull it together into a compelling narrative is what will engage with an audience on an emotional level. For more information on how this is done, read our recent blog ‘A Producer’s Guide to Storytelling’.


1 – Broadcasting

Once upon a time in the UK, it was enough to create a programme for one of the three TV channels and know that there would be an audience. This brought with it the ability to ‘broadcast’ to the audience. To speak at them. The audience were sat comfortably at home, with little other methods of media entertainment. The TV held a respected place in the living room, around which the family would gather to watch their programmes.

Nowadays, there are screens all around us, and people have their choice of ways to consume content. There is no longer a captive audience. Content marketers have to work hard to reach, engage and retain their audience. The era of broadcasting is long past, and those that persist in doing it will get ignored.

2 – Repeating Formats

Over the years there have often been programmes that follow a format. Format programmes take a little longer to develop. Once a format (a bit like a recipe) is developed however, they are easy to replicate and sell on. This makes them a lucrative business move for production companies. Popular formats include Big Brother, the Apprentice, The Voice, Gogglebox or Masterchef. It used to be that these formats were then used for many series before innovating. However, formats can quickly become tired as the audience develop an understanding of what to expect. As an audience adapts to a content-on-demand landscape, there is a need for more frequent innovation. To keep content feeling fresh and relevant.

In content marketing, there is a significant need to keep bringing the audience something that will stand out. A tired format is not going to work.  There is a need to keep paying attention to the audience and engagement, analytics and keep innovating.

3 – Becoming A Dinosaur

Channels that were thriving just a few years ago are now struggling because they stopped innovating. Even the BBC a few years ago were beginning to lose their audience to new platforms. Then, they finally took the decision to take digital seriously. Fortunately, they acted just in time, but time was running out as newer digital brands like Vice took their younger audience. By taking BBC3 into a digital-only service and the other creation of various digital platforms, they have refreshed their brand and re-engaged with a broader audience. There are other channels and production companies that have not fared so well.

In our agile digital landscape the need to understand values, voice and audience are paramount. But, assuming that an audience are forever going to be consuming content on the same platform is a huge mistake. For example, the rapid adoption of voice technology brings with it emerging opportunities. In time, this too will be replaced by a new innovation. Will content marketers be ready for it? Or will they adapt their strategy once, and then keep that fixed for the next 10 years? I would argue that, if they do take this approach, they will most likely find themselves obsolete like the old broadcast channels that stopped innovating.

What next?

I personally get excited at the newer digital arenas. What they bring are new and accessible communication platforms. Putting communication back into the hands of the many, and not the few. This does make for a noisy landscape but also one filled with opportunities for small and large brands alike. Effective methods of creating engaging content can help content marketers as much as they can programme producers.

The evolving digital landscape brings with it endless opportunities for content marketing. Some of the critical communication lessons of the past are still as valuable now. If this is something that you’re struggling with or would like to understand more about how you can make the most of these opportunities – please do contact one of our consultants to speak further.

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