“Pandas, penguins, video and goddesses” - Content Strategy Lightning Talks part two

 by Martin Belam, 13 November 2012
“In my role as a content strategy deity, I have many arms” - Kate Towsey at #cslondon12

I spent Monday night at Together London’s Content Strategy Lightning Talks. I’ve already blogged my notes from four of the sessions from the evening, and here are the rest...

“Broadening your content marketing approach” - James Perrin

James Perrin is Content Marketing Manager at Koozai, and he started by explaining how Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have created positive change in the industry, by getting rid of poor content and link wheels. Content marketing has moved away from being a pure SEO play, and become more about creating social content. “Now we are told”, he said, “we have to create sharable content.” Although I wasn’t quite clear who was doing the telling.

He recommended a tool — Linkdex — for seeing what content has gained the most links, and who it has been shared by. This helps more closely target content in the future. I was slightly reminded of one of the issues I had with the Guardian Facebook app and the idea of “social CRM”. Frankly it is all very well knowing that Barry from Harrogate is really good at propagating stories, but for most publishers the question is “What am I going to do with the info — friend him on Facebook?”

James made a great point that sometimes less is very much more. Their corporate blog had gone from publishing four pieces a day to just one piece a day, with a focus on quality rather than quantity, and had seen an uptick in traffic.

He was full of suggestions as to how to generate ideas and material for content. Creating surveys was a sure way of being able to write up white papers and mini-ebooks he said, and it was possible to create great video content on a shoestring budget. Good quality images and photo content are also valuable, James explained, but he did observe that “the days of spamming the balls off Flickr and Pinterest are over.”

And in a sentence that would have struck fear into the heart of any decent data journalist out there, James explained that for “quality, sharability and fun you can’t beat a good infographic.”

James was an engaging and energetic presenter who raised some laughs with his slides, but I have to confess I found this talk a bit depressing. Clearly there are businesses that have a need of producing content in this way, but to me it all rather felt like putting the cart of “I want lots of traffic” before the horse of “I actually have something worth publishing.”

“Great video Content on a budget” - Steve Keenan

Steve Keenan introduced himself as “a recovering print journalist”, and went on to show ten great examples and tips for producing video content.

His niche is travel, a topic which lends itself to stunning visuals. He showed some brilliant photography and videos of mountain views, and pointed out that if anything was going to make you want to book a walking holiday, it was going to be stunning and tempting imagery, rather than text on a page.

People often worry about the cost of video production, but Steve suggested competitions were one way to source material for next-to-nothing. He cited a blogger competition, where most of the video entries had been dreadful, but amongst them were two or three with potential. The company running the contest despatched the winners to Japan to make a series of short films — effectively getting a multimedia shoot for the cost of some flights and the time invested in running the competition.

Another technique Steve recommended was time-lapse footage, which can be spectacular and very viral. Sadly, when I lived in Austria, my own attempts to produce some time-lapse footage of winter settling into the Alps were ruined when the snow began to cover the markers I was using for setting up the camera every day.

Steve also reminded us that brands and companies can sometimes overlook video assets they already have. He showed one campaign that had re-used a lot of vintage footage from the 60s and 70s, with a production and rights cost of nearly zero.

“The hundred-armed content god(ess)” - Kate Towsey

Kate Towsey is a freelance content strategist, writer, and project manager, and she finished off the evening with a lovely talk about being a hundred-armed content god(ess).

Her bio might list her as lots of things, but on the night she introduced herself as “a content something” — essentially accepting any job title that a client wanted to call her.

She explained her job in terms of road infrastructure. She said “Generally I walk into a place and their content looks like the road traffic in Delhi or Rome, and my job is to come in and put in straight lines and make it like a freeway.” That doesn’t always get the traffic moving though, so she added her job is also to give the content some sparkle and to make it interesting and exciting.

Her career path had taken her down many routes, including being a radio producer for content aimed at children between the ages of 3 and 7, writing specs for PHP programmers, and working in different places around the world. She described the moment she saw a description of “content strategy” and realised “That’s me!”

It reminded me very much of when I left the BBC in 2005, and whittled down what I enjoyed about my job there, and realised that all the bits I liked most fitted the description of an “information architect”. Zingo!

Kate described a further shift in her skillset bought on by working at a start-up. Content strategists are often bought in to established websites where there are problems. In this start-up role, Kate described being cut adrift in a world where there is nothing to audit, no customers and no archive. She’s moved from creating forty page documents describing brand voice and tone, to coming back with tools. She said that now she is doing “content prototyping” and “playing with things to see what will work.” It sounds like great fun.


The next Content Strategy meetup is on January 17 at the Google Campus, entitled “Future-Proofing Business with Content Strategy”. Another lightning talks night is planned for February.


Thanks for all the notes! That last talk especially -- I'm a (very) young Content Strategist at a start up, all I do is play around (and read up as much as I can to learn more). It's the best job ever, to me.

Hi Martin,

Thanks for another good write up, I will try and make the next event.

Keep up to date on my new blog