Question: What happens when you mix an enthusiastic brand marketer from Toronto with a content marketing agency from North Carolina?
Answer: A content marketing program that’s the envy of the hospitality industry!
As they discussed in their presentation at this year’s Content Marketing World, Robert Simon, Director of Interactive Marketing at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Craig Waller from Pace Communications steered the global Four Seasons hotel chain on an entirely new venture – they transformed a hotel brand into a publisher.
Four Seasons currently has 91 properties in more than 200 countries worldwide, priding itself on affording its guests a luxurious and comfortable stay. Simon recognised, however, that even “luxury requires a narrative”. By engaging customers in the narrative of the company, Simon and Waller believed they could fundamentally change the way people interacted with the Four Seasons brand. And they did.
Wholeheartedly embracing content marketing, Four Seasons developed dedicated content platforms and an integrated distribution strategy, which sees more than 3400 pieces of content produced per week across nearly 400 distribution channels.
This content network utilises top travel writers, journalists and photographers to deliver truly engaging content that moves far beyond the bland ‘room with a view’ content usually served up by hotel brands. Four Seasons’ highly targeted content strategy is exemplified in their specialised wedding and family holiday content properties.
The reward for this content strategy? An average of 2 million weekly impressions.
Four Seasons’ transformation from hotel chain to content brand is truly inspiring, so let’s take a look at the key content marketing lessons Four Seasons offers.
1. Harness powerful stories
Four Seasons is a huge global organisation combating issues of branding on a major scale. However, it continues to turn around content at an extremely high rate. The success of this turnaround – especially in a company whose content team is admittedly quite lean – is due to its ability to harness homegrown stories.
Some of the best and most powerful stories come from people within your organisation – people who not only have a stake in the brand, but can provide emotion-led, experience-rich stories the consumer will respond to. Make content creation an intrinsic part of your organisational culture.
2. Be an agile brand
Planning for your content is equally as important as the content itself. The framework you consider for your content strategy must enable adaptive planning, development and coordinated multiplatform delivery. If you achieve this trifecta, you enable flexible changes depending on real-time developments. You can be – as Waller terms it – a brand that is “always on”.
3. Publish everywhere!
There are few times when using too many platforms is too much, so spread your brand message. Don’t be afraid to adopt new platforms if your current content platforms aren’t working – your content must be accessible, shareable and offer a number of opportunities for engagement. If your brand is agile enough, this will be seamless.
4. Expect results and measure them
Four Seasons has quite a sizeable content marketing initiative. As a result, it’s imperative that its content proves to be a channel that delivers on leads and revenue (as with most businesses). Housing everything from core brand messages to tackling emerging markets, it’s important to have an attribution model that is multi-touch, not last touch.
Ask yourself the question: what content does my audience consume that drives them to the sale? Not: what did they click last? This measure will also allow you to better sculpt your content based on consumer preference and value.
5. Have a happy marriage
Interestingly, this session offered a lot of food for thought on the process of creation. Specifically, creating a road map of how a brand and agency should work together. Fostering a relationship that prioritises transparency and immediacy will help your content marketing strategy succeed.
Tips on how to apply these lessons to your content marketing
- Look to your employees for powerful stories.
- Create a strategy that allows for movement.
- Take calculated risks – the more platforms your brand is across, the better.
- Forge a partnership with content specialists.
For more great insights from Content Marketing World 2013, check out our slideshare.
By Craig Hodges – CEO
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