‘Always On’: C3’s Kircher Embraces The New Approach

“We have had to build a new model,” says C3’s founder and managing director Lukas Kircher, who will be speaking at next month’s Adobe Summit EMEA.

‘Always On’: C3’s Kircher Embraces The New Approach

Content marketing is on the verge of becoming a truly disruptive force for both agencies and clients alike. This is the view of Lukas Kircher, founder and managing director of Berlin-based content marketing agency C3, which counts Porsche, MunichRe, and Sainsbury’s among its client base.

Kircher is speaking at next month’s Adobe EMEA Summit in a session called “Accelerating Content Velocity with Creative Cloud & Experience Manager.” (click here to register) (Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company).

As the pressures on agencies and marketers to deliver content at speed and at scale increase, CMO.com caught up with Kircher to ask about the challenges of an “always-on” approach and what the future holds for content marketing. We began by asking him how his agency handles the demands of content delivery.

Kircher: Over the past 10 years, we have had to build a new model for an agency working in an always-on content framework. It’s something between a publishing company and a strategic agency, and we had to build new processes and structures that enable us to push out 50 pieces of content a week on both a strategic and highly creative level.

One part of our agency model is the centralised strategic and technology side, but more and more of our people are embedded in the communications department and processes of our clients. It’s a very good way to help our clients make the transition to always-on communications.

CMO.com: What steps have your clients needed to take to restructure themselves for always-on?

Kircher: Our strategy framework for content marketing projects starts with the business goals and working out the right questions to ask clients about the new communications set-up. We call it “Game of Content,” and it’s a standard framework for B2B and B2C clients. Quite often our projects are 50% change management, when we’re breaking down silos in the company and helping them invest in the newsroom structure and bring in staff. The other half is building a new form of communications department with their own in-brand staff and the embedded C3 guys.

The size of the embedded teams can vary. MunichRe, for example, only has a tactical need, so there’s one journalist and one digital strategist. But we’ve just won a global content marketing lead contract with a big automotive brand, so we’ll put more than 15 people in there.

CMO.com: What new roles are you now having to bring in to service changing client needs around content marketing?

Kircher: The level of strategy work we now have to do before starting a content marketing project is astonishing. It’s forced us to build our own business development strategy team. One of the most important new roles is a new breed of strategic thinker who brings together the strategic know-how—the big strategic narrative—with content creativity. It’s someone able to convince the client to go the extra mile to do something extraordinary on the creative side and who is also deeply engrained with our in-house technology team. It’s someone who knows a lot about technology and how to make strategies fly.

CMO.com: How do you see content marketing itself changing, as it becomes more sophisticated and scaled?

Kircher: The way Red Bull approached content marketing was for a long time wholeheartedly embraced. It’s great work, but it was more content than content marketing—there was no strategy behind it. What has changed and has driven us to restructure the agency set-up is that everything we do now has to be tied to clear KPIs, and show how it’s helping the brand and sales communications to grow together. Content marketing without KPIs is just dead in the water.

Secondly, I worked in the publishing industry and have a really good feel for how disruption works from the inside—how it’s exciting at the beginning, and then it doesn’t work, and people want to go back to old ways. Over the next year, I think content marketing will start to become a very disruptive force in the industry and will force a lot of agencies to rethink their whole business models and the way they structure their operations.

I’ve seen so many classic agencies that want to bolt on a little bit of content marketing to their services, so they buy three journalists and three social media guys—it’s just not working because the whole operation is completely different. We’ve seen this with our clients and how they’ve forced us to completely change our structure. We’ll see a lot more disruption—it has the same feel to print 15 years ago.

CMO.com: What about disruption in terms of content distribution? Do you think we’re really seeing “the death of the homepage?”

Kircher: We find more and more clients are beginning to let go of the idea of a homepage for content strategy, and go to where the real conversation and action is. With MunichRe, for example, we found so many more interesting topics and discussions on LinkedIn, so we decided to get rid of most content silos on the client site and go directly into those channels.

This kind of tactical approach has a great future because it forces you to focus on the most important thing—can you do something that kills or saves time? Those are the only two options you have with content—can you entertain or can you help the customer make better decisions? That trend towards distributed content is very much alive and growing in content marketing.

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