The art of a successful content marketing strategy

Hannah Blake interviews Bruce Rogers

Forbes

In our digital focus month, pharmaphorum speaks with Bruce Rogers from Forbes’ Insights about thought leadership, brand reputation and the steps to a successful content marketing strategy for pharma companies.

Content marketing is a form of communication whereby a brand speaks to a customer without selling. Some consider it an art – probably because not every company manages to achieve this communication strategy successfully.

But there is still plenty of opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to jump on this bandwagon – but only as long as you have a strategy in place, says Bruce Rogers from Forbes.

Bruce heads up Forbes’ Insights, which is a section of the brand that conducts primary research designed to support both strategic and tactical decisions for business executives. We speak to Bruce about the critical success factors of content marketing and which companies he believes have overcome the challenges and are accomplishing this form of communication well.

Interview summary

HB: Hello Bruce thanks for speaking with me today. How do you describe content marketing, and what do you think are the critical success factors?

BR: Firstly, I’d like to define content as information, education or entertainment – it can be any or all of those things. Content marketing is not anything new, people have been doing it for years. What has made it new and more important, in fact imperative, is the recent changes in the communication landscape. Today we have fragmented media and social media, and we live in a world in which most people communicate some portion of their day through their mobile devices. And this means that one of the biggest challenges for traditional broadcast messages is to be seen in an advertising environment like that.

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“The highest form of content marketing is thought leadership…”

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The highest form of content marketing is thought leadership, which I believe is the single most important point of differentiation for most companies, certainly for professional services, or particularly in the pharmaceutical category.

The factors for success around content marketing are inevitably the same for any marketing initiative. Firstly, there needs to be a strategy, then there needs to be an implementation of that strategy with skilled and expert partners or inside folks who understand how to create and develop and story tell in whatever format that might be, such as video or a white paper or a book. And then thirdly, you need a way to measure what you’re doing and tie it back into business outcomes. A content marketing programme without those three elements is a tactic untethered to any business objective.

HB: What are the biggest mistakes you see companies making within content marketing?

BR: I think the biggest mistake is jumping on the bandwagon of content marketing. Everybody knows that it’s becoming increasingly important, everybody knows that the reason social media works is that people need something to share with their friends, or family, or business colleagues, and content is the thing they share most. But I think the biggest mistake that folks make is not having a strategy, you can’t execute on a tactic without a strategy.

HB: What companies do you see doing content marketing well and why?

BR: Well I would say the technology sector is the most successful at this, and maybe that’s because there’s a certain amount of historical connection at this enterprise level. One example is SAP, the German world leader in enterprise software, who I would say is probably the most enlightened marketer when it comes to content creation and distribution. This is one company who ties its content into a thought leadership marketing programme that meets its objectives, helps closes sales, and shortens the sales cycle. The company has a pretty enlightened CMO, Jonathan Becher, and under his leadership SAP has initiated what they call a “brand news room”, they’ve got 40 writers or brand journalists if you will, who are creating content and developing a stream of information that helps position them as a leader in their field as the go-to source for information around enterprise software. So I would hold them out certainly in the technology arena.

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“I think the biggest mistake is jumping on the bandwagon of content marketing.”

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Also, Virgin Mobile is particularly adept at creating content, in fact it is the centrepiece of the company’s whole marketing initiative, for the demographic, which is a much younger, very media-centric, digital-focused customer. For this customer, Virgin Mobile creates a stream of content around music and entertainment that entertains and delights their customers while at the same time sells cell phones and cellular service.

HB: Comparatively, where do you think the pharma industry is in terms of social engagement and content marketing?

BR: I have to admit I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in the pharma category specifically. From what I’ve seen in my experience so far, is that there is still quite a bit of way to go for the industry. I have had a similar experience with the financial services, in that it is a highly regulated industry where communication cycles are particularly challenged around the fact that everything you write has to go through some legal approval process.

So I can understand why there is the challenge of creating content at the moment, with federal regulation authorities looking over their shoulder. Having said that, I can think of no other industry that requires the content more..

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“…I can think of no other industry that that requires the content more…”

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Healthcare professionals and healthcare providers are the ones who are looking for information, the ones who are in need of this information the most. And it certainly seems to me that it is an amazing opportunity for pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry as corporations, and not only as branded pharmaceutical services, procedures or products, to be seen as the expert around a particular topic. I wouldn’t feel that Pfizer or AstraZeneca, or any company like that, is going to give incredibly in-depth information that’s going to help them understand what their healthcare options are.

HB: How do you think content marketing affects brand image and what could it do for pharma’s reputation?

BR: It all impacts on brand image. Although many, if not most, pharmaceutical companies have underplayed their brand and focused on the product, and maybe there’s regulatory issues that surround this, but I think that’s an incredibly under leveraged opportunity. Maybe in the past 20 years of mergers and acquisitions, as companies get even bigger, no one has stopped to think about the value proposition of someone having a feeling of safety and trust around the brand. I can’t imagine that would be a bad thing, but there are very few folks that do that or do it well if they do it at all. So I think it could and should have enormous impact on reputation. Why wouldn’t you want someone to have that reputation as being a go-to source and expert on whatever field of healthcare that they have products or services in?

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“Maybe, in the past 20 years of mergers and acquisitions, no one has stopped to think about the value proposition of trust…”

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HB: Finally, what key lessons can pharma take from what other industries are doing within this space?

BR: Looking at the financial industry, as I said previously, you can find many similarities for pharma as it is also highly regulated and has had similar challenges around developing ‘in-the-moment’ content that becomes relevant. That’s how people consume content these days, it’s a series of information snacks that’s in their stream depending on their particular devices there in front of them at any given point during the day. It could be a physical magazine, it could be digital media on their desktop or a mobile device or an iPad – all having various different behaviour around it. But people snack information throughout their day, and perhaps even throughout the evening in more of a relaxed mode.

I think some financial category leaders have been fairly successful at positioning themselves as experts and thought leaders, and again I would point to the technology category as the best and most likely group of folks who have elevated content marketing to the centre of their marketing strategy.

HB: Thank you very Bruce, it’s been really interesting.

BR: Great, you’re very welcome.

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About the interviewee:

Bruce H. Rogers is the Chief Insights Officer for Forbes Media, responsible for managing the Insights division, which creates and distributes thought-leadership, research-based content for blue-chip customers such as IBM, Google, KPMG, SAP, CIT and Deloitte and oversees the Forbes Insights content channel on Forbes.com. He writes a column for Forbes where he profiles Thought Leaders changing the business landscape.

He is also responsible for the company’s CMO Practice overseeing the group’s creation of content through the Forbes CMO Network section of Forbes.com and events such as the annual Forbes CMO Summit.

Prior to this role, Mr. Rogers was the Chief Brand Officer responsible for all integrated marketing, brand communication, research and sales support activities for Forbes Media.

How can pharma create a successful content marketing strategy?