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The Craft of Content

Marketing workshop guides young executives in shaping compelling brand stories

When it comes to marketing, the famous phrase “content is king” rings as true now as it did when Microsoft founder Bill Gates shared that message with his employees in 1995. Building brand awareness, boosting engagement, and acquiring leads demands compelling content. But it can be a challenge to discover precisely how to create it. This was the inspiration behind the workshop that Robert Heldt, CEO of Custom Media, led for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ). “Content Marketing 101: How to Boost Your Marketing with Content That Cuts Through the Noise” was held on May 28 at the offices of Edelman Japan.

Heldt began the workshop by explaining to the dozens of attendees about his own journey towards content marketing, which began when he was working in the hospitality industry in the Maldives. As he explained, creating activities for tourists of different nationalities and interests led him to insights that would later play a role in leading a digital marketing agency. “Understanding these audiences helped me to create exciting events for them—from excursions and candlelight dinners to get-togethers and shopping experiences,” he said. “And even though I didn’t know that at the time, I was meant to be a marketer. Because it was my job to create these events and content ideas for them, and then market to them while sharing information with the various groups in the way that inspired them to participate.”

He then moved on to the importance that storytelling plays in content marketing. “Content marketing powered by storytelling delivers impressive results, because stories can create those emotional connections. They help you to then build brand identity, and that brand identity can help you to drive results,” Heldt said. “Also, you need to share very complex information or messages with your audience, stories can help you to deliver them in a way they can understand.” 

Heldt went on to explain that it was crucial to conduct rigorous market analysis that considers buyer personas and competitors and allows businesses to develop strong connections with their audiences. And then, with this understanding of the audience in place, it is time to develop a strategy. The first element of this strategy is to develop a content plan, which takes into account the strength of existing content and areas where it can be improved. The next step is to then produce content in the most appropriate formats for the company’s audience and distribute that content on the right platforms. With this content out in the marketplace, it’s time to analyze the effectiveness of that content and iterate according to what you learn.

Collaboration and Creativity

Following the presentation the team projects began, which had the attendees break into teams to develop brand stories for two fictional companies. One was for a B2B company that offers a wide range of raw materials specifically tailored to the manufacturing industry. The other was for a B2C fitness gym with a pay-as-you-go model designed for busy executives and individuals who value flexibility and affordability.

The teams chose their companies and got to work with enthusiasm. After about 30 minutes, they were ready to share their ideas. The B2B teams developed specific stories about customers and supply chains that illustrated the implementation of kaizen and spoke to the company’s long history in the industry. Meanwhile, a team that chose the gym changed the business model of the company to one that reduced the price per visit if customers went to the gym more frequently in a given month. While the teams had just a short time to come up with brand stories, each one demonstrated originality and creativity.

After the teams presented, Heldt finished the workshop by discussing the role that generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) can play in the field of content marketing. “AI is important, especially in our industry,” he said. “It’s transforming how we produce content, in terms of efficiency and ideation, and so on. But I wanted to share with you that it’s crucial to use AI thoughtfully.” The primary points that he raised were to make sure to always add a human review and edit of any content created by GenAI tools, to always comply with copyright law when it comes to any content that you create with the tools, and to refrain from sharing confidential or identifiable details when creating prompts.

The engaging workshop concluded with a lively networking session, when participants could exchange ideas about what they had learned about the state of the art in content marketing.

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