The Content Marketing Association (CMA) is quickly becoming the go-to membership body for creative industries around London. It spans marketing, advertising, public relations, production, a variety of inhouse sectors: unified in the belief that content marketing can help businesses reach audiences in creative and impactful ways. I recently spoke at their annual ‘trends’ breakfast, alongside a colleague, to share ‘Corporate Content Marketing Trends in 2020’.
It’s no secret that one of the major flaws with January ‘trend talks’ is they can be far-fetched. The years have taught us that promises of artificial intelligence, sophisticated automation, and virtual reality as a day-to-day factor in a public relations practitioners’ life have not come true. Yes, the technology exists, but our work remains largely unchanged.
So, I made sure that the subject of my talk was simple; it’s about storytelling for corporate. Although for many, something about this phrase doesn’t sound right. Particularly in the highly regulated worlds of financial services and healthcare. Shareholder value alone rarely equates to a captivating story that can win hearts and minds.
As I sat in a London coffee shop planning some last-minute revision before getting on stage, I knew three things:
- The CMA audience is likely to be unfamiliar with the corporate communications world I operate in.
- Corporates are usually a couple of steps behind in terms of consumer ‘content marketing’ trends.
- Corporates are continuing to face a crisis in trust and reputation.
The main corporate trends from the talk were:
#1 Purpose-led campaigns
Part of the talk inevitably focused on the importance of purpose-led campaigns and how this can lead to a form of candid and interactive storytelling. But this had to be balanced with the growing fear of ‘purpose washing’, the idea that some companies are claiming victory on topics without actually affecting any real change. The highest-profile example of this recently was the criticism aimed at BlackRock off the back of Larry Fink’s urge to Chief Executives (FT). You can read more thoughts of mine about purpose here.
#2 Employees as influencers
Influencer programmes often conjure images of Instagrammers holding consumer brands in beautiful locations. The reality in the corporate communications space is quite different. Employees tend to be the biggest influencers for business, particularly with their niche LinkedIn followings.
In some situations, employees may already be actively promoting a company on their personal social channels, without any clear guidance or recognition from communications teams. In the corporate world, the trend is to move from untapped social advocacy to sustained, proactive advocacy. Using storytelling to bring a company’s culture to life.
#3 LinkedIn continues to rise
There are over 645 million professionals on LinkedIn, and over 60 million can be considered senior-level influencers. This social network is more than a CV and a priority for corporate communications teams. LinkedIn provides a window onto a companies’ business culture and is increasingly becoming a critical internal communications tool.
#4 Storytelling inspired by the creative industries
It’s not a secret that most corporate content could be considered dull. This is beginning to shift though, as corporates are beginning to understand that storytelling is the best approach to support (and even drive) major announcements. A lot of this is being driven through a higher investment in research that shows that audiences are engaging less with written content and instead highly visual pieces.
Using content marketing in corporate communications isn’t rocket science. It requires purpose-led convictions, confidence to test new approaches, and investment. It’s important to look beyond business-as-usual and be inspired by other creative industries.