Creating integrated multiplatform content strategies can be overwhelming and complex projects to embark upon for marketers. But Fairfax’s custom solutions team works in tandem with its content studio to streamline the process, both designing and delivering the product across platforms. It aims to create content that takes advantage not just of the publisher’s incredible reach into Kiwi homes – nationally through Stuff, the Sunday Star Times and a host of magazines, as well as regionally through its local newspapers and neighbourly.co.nz website – but its multimedia storytelling skills and community ties to identify the right kinds of people to tell those stories.
Like many media owners, Fairfax has been moving towards delivering custom in-house content solutions for advertisers for a while, but it’s within the last year that the company formalised its efforts and launched the Content Studio. Maria Ryan-Young, who heads the studio as its creative content editor, says the move comes in “direct response” to the demands of the market but additionally reflects Fairfax’s view that custom content partnerships will be a major area of future growth. It also allows them to pull together a team of strategists, creators, producers, writers, designers and developers into a focused department.
The studio works closely with the custom solutions team, headed by Susana Leitao. Her team works with advertisers and their agencies to design bespoke solutions that can be cross channel, cross platform, white label or even those that sit outside Fairfax’s owned platforms. “It’s totally channel agnostic, so we’re producing the right creative solutions for whatever the client’s objective is,” Leitao says. “We can go back with media and channel recommendations as well as a creative solution to bring a client’s message to life in the right way for both that audience and for that environment.”
This kind of integrated approach has led to some great content partnerships. Take a look at these two examples.
Microsoft Wins Awareness – and Sales
In the lead-up to Christmas last year, Microsoft wanted to launch its Surface Pro tablets in New Zealand and drive awareness and understanding of the product in a relatable way that could drive sales. “Microsoft was keen to use an influencer strategy,” says Leitao. “Clients often come to us saying we want to have your editors or celebs talking about the product, but our focus is always on the right approach for the brief. With this project, we set out instead to find a group of influencers across New Zealand that were really the type of people that the product would support on a day-to-day basis.”
With that directive in mind, the content studio reached out to the editorial team to help identify community influencers and narrowed it down to a list of five, which then anchored ‘The Change Makers’ series across online, print and specialist publications. For example, profiles of Roman Jewell, founder of Fix and Fogg peanut butter in Wellington ran with ‘The Change Makers” launch in the Sunday Star-Times, online in Stuff and as a feature in Cuisine magazine. Interior of the Year-winning architect Felicity Brenchley was profiled in the main features and on her own in NZ House & Garden for her work teaching design in an underprivileged Northland community.
The campaign was a way for Microsoft to raise its own profile as a thought leader and innovator along with the profiles of the people it sponsored stories about and was an example of “higher order storytelling,” says Ryan-Young. And while awareness was the key focus for this campaign and brand integration was softly handled—that is, brand and product mentions were limited to copy surrounding the stories, not within them—it worked well. Microsoft reported a 29 percent increase in sales above target and a 33 percent growth in category.
Raising the Flag Debate
Around about the time of the second flag referendum, the Flag Consideration Panel turned to Fairfax to help it solve two big challenges: low engagement with the debate among Maori, Pacific Island and new migrant groups and; secondly, a whole heap of misinformation about the existing flag.
To solve the first issue, the custom solutions team identified where those low-engagement communities were geographically and the content studio again turned to Fairfax newsrooms for help finding representatives from those communities to talk about why they supported a particular flag. It had to be evenly split, so for every existing flag supporter there was a blue Lockwood supporter too. Short Q&As highlighted what was important to each person and why they supported the flag design they did. “It was a very human interest aspect,” Ryan-Young says. The approach also served a dual purpose in giving a voice to people in those often under-represented communities as well as demonstrating, with voices from those communities, why the flag debate was worth engaging with.
The second issue, misinformation, was handled through online quizzes as well as Five Fun Facts features in Community newspapers and in Stuff during the month leading up to the referendum. An online video also showcased both flags – bolstered by user submitted content – in real world settings around New Zealand, during 24 hours of the day.
The strategy designed and delivered across distribution channels stimulated debate and high engagement on and off Fairfax’s platforms.
This story first appeared in the Awards issue of NZ Marketing.