By Yasmine Abdelkhalek, Consultant, FTI Consulting
(Image credit: Netflix)
Companies are constantly striving to communicate their corporate narrative to their key stakeholders. Devising a comprehensive content strategy has always been integral to successfully build a brand and attract the right audience. With advancements in data science and data analytics, content strategists have been given a golden opportunity to create smart, personalized and channel-focused content strategies.
In January 1996, Bill Gates published an essay on Microsoft’s website titled “Content is King.” Since then, this phrase has become a mantra for marketers, communications specialists and content creators. Although the term was coined nearly two decades ago, content still remains the most important way to connect with audiences and now, with the rise of smart data, it has become more important than ever.
Over the past few years, content format, platforms and consumption habits have evolved and changed dramatically. Technological advancement, the prevalence of smartphones and the rise of social media, have disrupted the entire communications ecosystem; everyone has become a publisher with social media feeds becoming the source of news. New content formats are continually being introduced and access to information has become much easier and available 24/7.
With these fast evolving digital-led trends, new communication paradigms have emerged and the way we consume and receive news has been transformed radically. Companies today, therefore, face major changes in how they communicate and engage with their audiences.
Despite these radical changes, the only constant is the delivery of a targeted content strategy tailored for each type of corporate audience. While technology has made our jobs as communications professionals much easier, it has also created a lot of new dilemmas and challenges. Communicating and controlling corporate messaging over a myriad of media platforms including corporate websites, digital, social media bloggers and influencers, to name a few, has become more challenging and requires communications professionals to adopt a more tactical approach.
The need for companies to understand their audiences, predict demand and create a holistic strategic communications strategy has become a necessity more than ever before and in turn has driven significant demand for big data insights.
In the mid-2000s, the concept of “big data” started to gain momentum along with the need for turning data into insights and profits. Big data has influenced the landscape of almost everything to varying degrees across different industries and professions.
Content strategists have seen the immense importance of analyzing their content and its performance alongside their previously defined goals and KPIs. Many content strategists and marketers benefited from utilizing data and analytics to track content performance either to measure a strategy’s success or to ‘tweak’ the strategy on the go as well as using it to generate better-informed content ideas.
Smart data can help communications professionals to better define audience demographics, their reading/purchasing/consumption habits and how they interact within their day-to-day world. These insights and data points can help content strategists make informed and targeted decisions and reduce the risks of a ‘gut feel’.
One good example is Netflix’s House of Cards and how data guided its content investment decision for a new series. The Internet giant didn’t rely on its intuition or instinct that the cast and director will make the show a big hit. The show was all backed by big data from the creative ideation, casting, production to the actual release of the show and its targeted marketing campaigns.
Netflix used big data to establish a profound understanding of various viewer profiles to determine their interest level in political dramas, the interest in a specific actor/actress, and who is likely to watch movies directed by a specific director. It even tweaked the trailers according to audience preference. All these insights made Netflix confident that an audience was out there and that the show will be a big hit.
In Q1 of 2013, the success of House of Cards reflected positively on Netflix’s financial performance as it reported $1.02 billion in revenues for the first time in its corporate history, as well as a significant increase in the number of domestic and international subscribers. With its strong data-driven content strategy, Netflix now leads the category “best original programming” in 2018, according to a survey by Morgan Stanley.
There is no doubt that content creation is a creative process that has an element of risk in it. However, fuelling it with data and insights from the very beginning makes the communications professional or marketing expert less prone to such risks since they have a much more detailed and clearer vision on who their target audience is and what they want in addition to how to reach them.
These data-led audience insights are essential to develop and deliver a well-informed and optimized content strategy,s which is both bespoke and targeted.
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