Viacom’s VP Of Digital On The Fundamentals Of Content Strategy

Marketing is not solely responsible for building effective content


When marketing teams decide to direct resources to a content-driven strategy – and, frankly, they should – there is a temptation for them to get caught up with new technology. The opportunities presented by burgeoning technologies like AR are captivating, and brands will find new and engaging ways of telling their stories in time. But it’s important not to lose sight of the basics when putting together content, the company-wide fundamentals that create a platform for success before the more exciting elements can come into play.

At the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit last September 11 & 12, Viacom’s VP of Digital, Orlando Lima, talked the audience through the fundamentals of content strategy as he sees them.

Orlando opens with what is about as close to a dictionary definition of ‘content strategy’ as we have. Kristina Halvorson, Founder and CEO of Brain Traffic, described it as: “Planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” It’s fitting that he pulls it back to what is a basic, fundamental definition of a rapidly evolving and unpredictable industry; to Orlando, people have lost sight of why they’re making content in the first place. “A lot of people are going to drill down on content strategy and say, ‘you need to do this,’ ‘you need to do that,’ ‘you need to be thinking about your Facebook page,’ ‘you need to understand where you’re going to buy your ads,’ ‘what are you going to do on YouTube?’ Take 10 steps back from that. Right, if you’re there, if you’re really at that place, then you haven’t actually fundamentally got to the beginning of what it actually means to make dope content – cool stuff that people are going to really like.”

Ultimately, brands should stop viewing content strategy as marketing’s domain. Yes, the marketing team will often be the creative driving force behind campaigns, but there are a number of other teams that will contribute to the overall success of your content. Orlando’s presentation focused on the unique ways in which HR, product, financial planning, and leadership all play their part in delivering quality content. The teams all have to work in tandem to put together a successful strategy.

Orlando Lima, speaking at the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit in September

Orlando recalls his time at Complex Media, where he worked closely with a finance-focused partner to build a content strategy. His experience working so closely with finance formed a microcosm within his attitude towards content creation – that teams should work together cohesively, rather than in opposition to each other. This is basic, and any management guide will tell you how important cohesion is within a business, but it’s how Orlando relates that positive working environment to content that is interesting.

“In many cases, you work in a company and you have these people in finance and you fear them right,’ he said. ‘When they tell you something’s going wrong, the talks that you have with them are always like ‘I’m going to the principal’s office and they’re going to tell me I overspent… I didn’t have that type of guy. And this was the best partner I ever had and, ultimately, it was not because of his knowledge of creative at all, but his trust in me and my ability that we were able to grow this company.”

If the finance team were hidden away somewhere and less understanding and trusting as a result, Orlando may not have had the success he had at Complex Media. And this underpins his entire outlook to cohesive content strategy more generally. Leadership, human resources, cost management, and production – each one of these teams has the ability to derail a content strategy, and all cogs need to be working in tandem to produce something successful.

Viacom is home to some of the world's premier entertainment brands

It’s a mentality he’s taken with him to Viacom, a significantly larger entity. From a budget of 3 million dollars (not particularly large for a company of Viacom’s size) Orlando says that his team built a content strategy that generated “about a billion streams, something like 400 million page views - all of that obviously generates actual revenue from, in [their] case pre-roll ads, display ads, etc.” So, his approach is demonstrably effective, and brand can learn from the holistic approach to content that has gotten Orlando to such a senior position in a global business.

“People can tell you from now until the end of time that content strategy is just about hiring some really dope people who can do some animation and some video and some other things,” he notes. “But the reality is that those people will never succeed, they’ll never be in a position to succeed unless these four things around them [production, leadership, human resources, and cost management] are working and working properly. It’s just not going to happen. You have Michael Jordan on your team but he’s surrounded by a bunch of bums? He’s never going to win the championship.”

And this comes down to the leaders, Orlando explains. “If you’re really good at leadership in your organization, your employees will give you maximum effort. That’s what I’ve found. If you ride for them, they ride for you… Ultimately, if you’re great at leadership and you care about the other people that work for you, they’re going to ride for you.” When all of the different machines are working well together as a result of strong coordination from the leadership, they support each other, and the outcome is great content.

So, brands need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. “Fundamentally, you need to be in this middle space, where you know what you’re doing with your money, you’ve created a great team, you’ve created a great culture, you have them organized, and you are a flexible and agreeable leader.” Starting from the top, businesses should take a holistic view of marketing strategies, examining the structure of their organizations to ensure that their teams are in the best possible position to make great content. It is the role of the leaders to pull together the requisite departments Orlando picks out, to ensure that each one knows their place within the wider content strategy. Technology and new forms of storytelling will help keep content fresh, but proper structure within an organization is what will make it effective.

You can hear more from digital marketing executives like Orlando at the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit, this February 27-28 in New York. To see the full schedule and secure last-minute tickets, click here

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