The full stack of story-making

Production houses, PR consultancies, ad agencies... they all want ownership of the content marketing space. But only those delivering the whole enchilada will prevail

Kershaw...“You have to be a master of everything, from creative, culture and influencer management to media and distribution”
Kershaw...“You have to be a master of everything, from creative, culture and influencer management to media and distribution”

Some of the most dazzling tech businesses in the world talk about the importance of owning the "full stack". These guys know that, by writing all the code that runs their business – the top-to-bottom system – they can control the customer experience and capture more of the economic benefits than relying on third parties. Apple is full stack. Uber is full stack. BuzzFeed and Netflix are full stack. See a pattern here? What these companies are doing for code, we are determined to do for content.

The "full stack" for content is everything that exists between a brand and its audiences. All the ideas and creative concepts, expressed in films, pictures and editorial, packaged into formats and promoted, distributed and fed back through partnerships, paid media, PR and social channels. It’s the whole enchilada.

It’s precisely because the full stack of content is so multifaceted that so many players are trying to reinvent themselves as "content marketing" agencies. Great production companies that can make a cool bit of film. Ex-contract publishing companies that can write sparkling web copy. Ad agencies that can get to "big" ideas. PR and media agencies that can deliver an audience.

But to drive real meaningful value exchange in content, it’s not enough for agencies to be great at one part of the puzzle – they need to be the operating software that makes the full stack run efficiently an effectively.

This requires expertise across the piece. We’re past the era of the early-adopter client with a small-but-hot content agency. "Early-majority" content clients are looking for reassurance in scale and depth. You’ve got to be a master of everything, from creative, culture and influencer management to media and distribution. And, above all, you’ve got to know how to optimise using all the data.

Knowing who your audience is, where they are looking at your stuff, where they are on the journey to purchase, how they are reacting to and around what you’re putting out there – it’s this information that allows you to serve them the right content, in the right format, at the right time.

Using this approach, we’ve been able to move a sportswear client from being dependent on epic TV launches to a more target-appropriate model involving epic blasts of 15-second video content – content the audience could then "hack", allowing them to tell the brand story on their own terms. Result: 44 million views and five million likes/shares on zero media budget.

We’ve taken one quick-service restaurant chain from a reliance on value-led offers and voucher codes to being valuable in people’s lives by hooking into people’s passion centres and building content and communications around that. Result: orders up by 29 per cent year on year.

For an automotive client, we identified a content gap around the "exploration" phase of the car-buying process and refocused its budgets accordingly. We also realised that our great content was being undermined by a poorly designed sign-up experience, so we sorted that too. Full-stack thinking at its best. Result: leads up by 64 per cent.

So while it’s easy and of-the-moment for agencies to be dropping the "C-bomb" all over the place, if they’re not equipped to enable you to run the full stack of story-making effectively, it’s unlikely they’ll really be able to help deliver on the true potential of content for your business.

What’s your favourite storytelling medium? Has to be the modern TV drama, with its capacity for rich characterisation and multiple narrative arcs. It gives you the room to build a more complete world than even a big film franchise like Star Wars can muster. 
Which fictional character would you hire? Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead). Gets. Shit. Done. But also caring and selfless. Perfect employee material. 
If you could get anyone to write your story, who would it be?Keith Akushie, the writer of Siblings. Perhaps the most underrated comedy of our time. My id totally relates. 

by Matthew Kershaw, managing director, content, iris

Matthew heads iris’ content division, Content That POPS. Before joining, he was the content director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty for eight years and a key part of the innovative Audi TV channel

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