Making content the heart of your brand

Once a quarter e3 runs a thought leadership series on an important digital theme to help us and our clients keep pace with consumer behaviour. This autumn, we’ve taken Experience as our trigger topic. With support from two of our close technology partners, Sitecore and Rackspace, we held the final of our breakfast briefings of this series on 23rd November, looking at the role content has to play in defining the experience that brands deliver.

Senior Marketers from organisations such as Goldman Sachs, Cancer Research and BUPA joined us for thought-provoking presentations and discussions led by Kate Fitzpatrick, senior strategist at e3, James Locke (Head of UX, e3) and Kay Banfield (Senior Project Manager, e3).

Over the course of the two hours it was clear that, in an increasingly fragmented and pluralist cultural and technological landscape, ensuring you’re producing content to deliver an excellent experience isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only does it require everyone in your organisation to have a consistent and genuine understanding of your audience segments’ needs, it requires the model in place to deliver against them.

Kate’s keynote looked at the changing nature of content marketing over the past two decades and the content framework that organisations should be considering today, to ensure success. Kate showed how theory translates to real world practice, with a compelling overview of our recent, ongoing work with Arthritis Research UK – work that is underpinned by the framework she’d explained. As an organisation with over 40 years of academic research to lean on, wanting to support over 10 million people in the UK living with over 100 different forms of arthritis, getting content right is imperative.

People and culture are increasingly the challenge

An interesting finding we’ve noticed ourselves and one that was echoed by several attendees during the event, is that the ‘people’ components of the content framework are increasingly the challenge to get right – particularly for large organisations. That is, while the democratisation of production hardware and software has made it easier to produce and edit a wide variety of content across a whole host of formats and channels, the real difficulty is ensuring the right workflow and governance models are in place to co-ordinate and produce effective content, efficiently. It’s clear many organisations right now are struggling with:

  • the politics of content ownership and responsibility – who’s in charge
  • specific types of content production being produced in silos, to the detriment of others
  • a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth”, when thinking creatively

Indeed, Arthritis Research UK has experienced some of these challenges themselves, so it was great to hear first-hand from Kate and others in the room what methods they’d put in place to overcome such challenges.

Our biggest research project yet

Following attendees’ discussion around the content frameworks they had or didn’t have in place, James and Kay delivered a fascinating overview of one of the most significant projects e3’s undertaken in over five years of being the lead digital agency for the Royal Navy. In 2015 we began work on a programme to re-vamp the entire recruitment section of the Royal Navy website. The challenge? Well, the Navy has over 100 different Officer and Ratings roles to recruit for from today’s modern, vibrant youth, all of whom have hugely varying backgrounds, education levels and understandings of military life. It should come as no surprise then that ensuring the right content is in place to cater for each individual, throughout their entire application process, is both central to the success of their recruitment efforts and no mean feat!

Research, research, research

Before any draft sitemap could be started or wireframe sketched, e3 needed a crystal clear understanding of the audience they were serving. Over 80 in-depth interviews and a quantitative survey gave birth to 12 personas and a comprehensive experience map detailing our target audiences’ relevant perceptions, behaviours and needs at every stage of the recruitment process. This significant body of research informed every single content and design decision that was made throughout the project. This proved invaluable particularly when otherwise difficult or political decisions that challenged well-established assumptions.

As one attendee asked, “how do you know when you’ve got enough?” whether that be research information to include in a persona or content to cater for that audience. The same attendee referenced one of their personas ‘Mary’ that liked Instagramming photos of her cat for example. James’ response: “Fundamentally, these outputs [the personas and experience map] are design tools – that is tools to inform design decisions. As a rule of thumb, unless the information within them can usefully inform a decision it is superfluous”. So that’s when you know if you have enough: ask yourself when presented with a design choice to make, are you able to make that choice based on research insight or assumption?

From a content standpoint, how much is enough? Well, everyone’s budgets are finite and you may feel you never have enough resource to meet your audiences’ needs continually. It’s the old economic problem: infinite wants, finite resources. But again, when faced with difficult decisions to make regarding where to invest in content, the type of research James and his team produced was invaluable in highlighting priority areas – where the right content would have the most impact. Taking this sort of guesswork out the equation is fundamental to the research process and something we pride ourselves on at e3.

If you’d like to learn more about e3’s approach to content marketing – the use of frameworks to ensure you’re producing content effectively across your organisation; or rigorous audience research to inform content decisions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Miranda Glover at or 0117 902 1333.