Propolis’ Scott Stockwell, editor-in-cheif at IBM, divulges the secrets to global content marketing success. Lucy Gillman reports.
LG: To kick off the interview, could you give a quick overview of your role at IBM?
I’m the Editor in Chief for EMEA. I connect the regional campaign teams with the worldwide campaign teams to ensure that the campaign content delivered in local markets resonates.
LG: To start off at the basics, what does successful global content marketing look like in 2022?
I think the key ingredient to any content, not just global content, is being the most relevant answer to your audience’s most pressing question, delivered at a time and in a format that best suits them. The additional consideration with global content is to make sure nothing is ‘lost in translation’. Any translation needs to consider the spirit and intent of the original alongside the culture and context of where it’s delivered. It’s not just about the language.
LG: How can global organisations plan their content schedule in a way that is cohesive, and yet also takes into account regional differences?
I’m sure many of us know the challenge of ‘doing diaries’ and balancing meeting priorities. The same holds for planning content. Different locations have different occasions, priorities and customer demands. If you can aggregate your local editorial calendars into a global view, you’ve got the best chance of a cohesively planned content schedule. If that proves too complex, finding the balance between a global schedule and local market selection of what’s delivered, should achieve a similar outcome. The most important thing is to always take the customers’ view – what are they receiving, from whom, how relevant is it to them and what can they do with it?
LG: Where does a global organisation’s central voice come from? Does it begin in marketing HQ and stem out from there, or does each region need to have its own voice?
It’s both. Global organisations generally have a ‘tone of voice’ as part of their corporate ‘expression’. Done well, it stems from the organisation’s purpose, values and behaviours, and is an important component in the character of the brand. Expression is the key here. How you express an emotion, feeling or sentiment in one locale varies to another. We start with what we mean, then consider what we say, and once we’ve said it (if we’re being attentive) we check how it’s been heard and understood. To make sure what we’d like our audiences to hear and understand, we’re best to think about what we say and the way we say it – so that the ‘reception’ is what’s consistent, not what’s ‘broadcast’.
LG: Translation agencies have traditionally helped organisations get their message across in different languages. However, is this just too simplistic an approach in today’s world? For instance, if you had a US-based organisation which wanted to get a message across in France, is the answer really just translating your US message, or should a new message be created by the French marketing team, in order to account for regional nuance?
If we translate something literally, we run the risk of losing the meaning. If you think of something like humour, what’s funny in one location probably isn’t funny in every location. For your example, I’d recommend the following: The US to talk with France to explain their planned outcome and what and how they’re planning to communicate that for the US market. France can evaluate how to achieve the same outcome for their market. The communications and channels might be the same, but they might need some adjustments to the formats and timing. When the US team creates the content and it’s translated, the French team check that the outcome is likely to be as planned, and nothing’s been ‘lost in translation’. Checks at the design point and at the translation/production point help ensure that content varies as little as possible to be as relevant as possible in as many places as possible.
LG: B2B content comes in many forms, but it feels to me like there’s a shift towards people wanting more accessible content (i.e. a podcast over a daunting whitepaper). Is this something you’re seeing too, and what does this mean for content marketers in 2022?
There are as many preferences as there are customers. If you’ve got the budget to deliver your message in multiple formats, you’ve optimised your chances of delivering your message in the way your intended prospect is most open to receiving it. I think the Carlsberg ads that ran in various formats a while back show this well – “If Carlsberg was a bank..”, “If Carlsberg was a holiday…” etc. They showed a brand expressing itself in different ways, but still being consistent to it’s values and identity. It’s useful to think of content in the same way. If this research was a video, whitepaper, podcast, tweet, picture – what would that look like? Then, if budget is limited, think of the target audience and what they’re most likely to be moved by, and start there.
LG: How has the transition to digital affected global content marketing? Is it now easier than ever to produce stand-out global marketing content? What does the future landscape look like?
Digital makes global content marketing easier to create and easier to distribute at scale, but in doing that, it also makes it more challenging to retain consistency and timing without ‘bottle-necking’ it with editorial checks . There’s a fine balance between centralising production and distribution yet building in sufficient flexibility for localisation and publication. For future landscape, I think distribution will drive the most change in the near-term. If you consider the impact Netflix has had on broadcast content. Then look at early movers in marketing like Salesforce who are consolidating their content in various formats, and distributing it through one location. I think this is the direction that stand-out global content will go.