The advent of hyper-relevant real-time content marketing is here

The impact of social media means brands need to be ever more reactive. Simon Baker, Head of Branded Content at ITN Productions, explains how the 20,000 content clips ITN’s digital news team produces a year can be shaped to create topical video content that meets this modern need

Simon Baker, Head of Branded Content, ITN Productions

Every day, news editors compete to be the first to cover a story. Whoever claims a story first, wins. The infrastructure of news is built around this first-to-market culture, broadcasting consistent, highly responsive content. Because social news feeds are all about topical content, brands should start to think more responsively. Typically, however, brands have focused on images and copy, ignoring video content.

But this oversight is something worth reviewing. In recent research for Dotrising, the results for using video for content marketing made for compelling reading. Carried out by HighQ (source:, the research revealed that 65% of video viewers watch more than three quarters of its content – food for thought in terms of brand immersion and engagement.

By simply using the word ‘video’ in an email subject line, open rates for brand emails were boosted by 19%, and click-through rates increased by 65%. Video content was found to add two more minutes of dwell-time on average to websites that host it compared to those that don’t. And 52% of marketing professionals worldwide named it as the type of content with the best ROI.

So what’s stopping brands from using it?

In part it’s because video production is still being driven by the campaign calendar rather than external events. This ‘traditional’ approach to video production, which tends to take five or more weeks, also limits opportunities to be topical.

As Head of Branded Content at ITN Productions, I see first-hand how our broadcast news (ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) and digital news teams operate. While there is still a need for traditional marketing content, there is a huge opportunity for brands to leverage a news-making approach, which will allow them to be both reactive and proactive.

By combining the approach of a digital editorial news team and a branded content team, you can create branded content that sits legitimately alongside non-branded content. This gives brands genuine editorial video content on subjects that are core to their brand and their audience, all with the reactiveness of a news producer.

Building a consistent stream of engaging, relevant content would create ongoing brand engagement with a loyal community or subscriber base. By subscribing, these people have given you permission to market to them, so long as your marketing is contextual with a relevant subject matter.

“By combining the approach of a digital editorial team with a branded content team you can create branded content that sits legitimately alongside non-branded content”

Simon Baker, Head of Branded Content, ITN Productions

How reactive is reactive?

It’s fast. Five minutes is all it takes after every premiership goal is scored for ITN Productions to edit, add commentary and play it out on The Sun newspaper’s Goals app. A single multi-skilled editorial producer can produce five voiceover clips a day using ITN footage.

To be successful, start thinking of your comms teams like a newsroom

ITN Productions’ approach to real-time marketing delivers planned, topical content to support a campaign calendar. To do this brand teams need to adopt a ‘newsroom’ mindset. By developing a structured editorial process and agreeing on their ‘news’ agenda, they will know immediately which types of stories to react to.

Typically, in a newsroom, reactive content is split into two approaches; ‘planned reactive’, where you know something is going to happen and you react to it as soon as you know the outcome; and ‘fully reactive’, where you don’t know something is going to happen but when it happens, you react quickly.

As an example of ‘planned reactive’ consider a car manufacturer which has sponsored a sporting event. It might not have the rights to show the actual sports footage. However, through a ‘planned reactive’ approach we can create a studio discussion clip each day covering the developments in a tournament or competition, such as the Rugby World Cup or the Tour De France.

So what would a ‘fully reactive’ approach look like? Let’s consider how insurers could have improved their comms response to the floods that hit Devon and Cornwall last year.

In real life, one insurer sent out a fast-response lorry, providing support to the families affected. Another sent an email to those affected saying, “Don’t worry, we have you covered, make all the arrangements you need to”.

It takes ITN just eight hours to produce and deliver a reactive clip from the time it’s briefed in. So a morning briefing would have seen a video clip including news footage and the insurer’s key brand messaging for its customers ready on the same day.

It’s an argument that is proving convincing to many of ITN Branded Content’s new clients, including Jamie Queen, Marketing Director of Thomas Cook. “We are moving to a real-time model because of the need for much more relevant, targeted creative content for our different types of customers,” says Queen. “If you are a brand, and you have access to data, and understand your audience well enough to target and use that data, programmatic content enables you to target that spend much more sensibly into those digital platforms.”

What will this look like for the travel brand as their peak summer months approach? Watch this space.

What brands going real-time need to think about

1. Find the overarching story.

What topics can you own that are highly relevant to your audience, and which all of your content is tied in to?

2. Think back over the past year

and the opportunities that you would have liked to react to that match the subject matter you would like to own

3. Trial real-time,

whether via a pilot covering a period of time, or by tying it into a specific event or sponsorship activity

4. Who was the content shared with?

What are their interests and how do they spend their time?

4. Decide how much editorial control

you are happy to give to your real-time team. For opportunity spotting, look at Twitter’s #OwnTheMoment calendar

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