, Editorial Director at Incisive Media, is an experienced journalist, editor, presenter and broadcaster with expertise across all enterprise technology areas. He has successfully lead and developed editorial teams, set editorial strategy, improved brand integrity and focus, developed audience numbers and engagement, and built communities of C-suite executives.
Without that audience understanding, brands will struggle to produce relevant content. There’s no substitute for knowing your audience.
MEDIA 7: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
STUART SUMNER: I’ve always been interested in writing. As a child I filled exercise books with stories, later I wrote comedy for TV and radio. After a decade working in IT, I realized I wanted to turn my hobby into my profession – and managed to combine it with my experience of IT by becoming a journalist with Computing.
M7: What is your approach to branding your company, its products and services?
SS: The key is to approach it from the audience’s perspective. What response are they likely to have to your brand, your message, your personality? What are their pain points, their needs? If you understand all of that you’ve got a good chance of success.
The best way to win the content war is to have better, more valuable, and more timely content than your competitors.You need to offer audiences a regular supply of high-quality, in-depth content which they can’t get elsewhere.
M7: How do you ensure that your content team understands the requirements and curates content in an engaging manner?
SS: Again it comes down to understanding the audience. The best way to develop that understanding is to spend time with them and develop industry contacts. Ensuring the team is regularly interviewing the right people, and attending events (virtual or otherwise) is a good way to do that. As for writing engaging content, that’s harder to develop. Hopefully, if you’ve built your interview process properly you’ll already know something of their writing style, and that ability will come built-in. Otherwise, you’ve got a job on your hands!
M7: What channels do you think are the most relevant for Content Marketing? How do you gauge which ones are the most promising, given your target customers?
SS: It’s important to understand what your channels are for. I see a lot of brands treating every channel as yet another opportunity to fling sales messaging in front of audiences, most of whom don’t want it. Content marketing works best when it’s entirely native and fits seamlessly with the brand’s other content. That means it needs to be every bit as colourful and interesting as the best editorial, and meet audience needs just as effectively. You can gauge effectiveness by measuring the usual things like engagement, bounce, etc. But there’s no replacement for having a steering committee of senior audience members who you can ask – what do they think of your content marketing and what works best for them.
It’s important to understand what your channels are for. Content marketing works best when it’s entirely native and fits seamlessly with the brand’s other content.
M7: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses worldwide. What has been Incisive Media’s strategy of survival during the tough time?
SS: Incisive Media moved quickly at the start of the pandemic to move our face-to-face events online. We very rapidly developed a brand new style of a virtual event called ‘Deskflix’, a half-day, multi-sponsor event filled with panels, presentations, networking and even a quiz! The series generated £4.6m of revenue, had over 100 sponsors and served more than 100,000 delegates. We were lucky that we were already very well set up to put on virtual events, given our expertise with webinars, and our dedicated teams of events organizers – not to mention our wealth of excellent editorial presenters.
M7: How do you target content to your audience, and what are the challenges that you face while producing effective content?
SS: Every brand today faces challenges to secure eyeballs online. Audiences have content thrown at them from every angle, and it can be hard for them to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s why it’s more important than ever to build and safeguard trust with your audience. Once they start to see your content as trusted and view your site as a safe place away from misinformation and empty marketing, you’ll see improve engagement and lots of returning ‘super users’. You need to offer audiences a regular supply of high-quality, in-depth content which they can’t get elsewhere. Of course, that’s not easy to produce – and thank god for that, because that’s how we differentiate ourselves!
M7: What are your views on content shock? Is it a worrisome trend or a content marketing myth?
SS: It’s a long-standing trend that will continue, and it’s what I’ve been talking about already in this interview. The way to win the content war is to have better, more valuable, and more timely content than your competitors. How do you do that? Proximity to your audience. If you really know them, including their sub-groups, niches and quirks, then you should understand what they want, how and when.
Computing is very lucky to have an experienced team who’ve worked with the technology sector for many years. We have long-standing ties to hundreds of senior technology leaders, and we speak to them all regularly. We believe we understand our audience better than anybody, and that gives us huge confidence, even in the face of rampant competition and ‘content shock’. Without that audience understanding, brands will struggle to produce relevant content. There’s no substitute for knowing your audience.