I had initially thought that this ought to be a ‘listicle’ – something with a randomly picked number in the title, intended to try and grab a few more eyeballs. But it occurred to me that that might be a bit limiting. After all, there are already more than ‘5 UK startups doing great content marketing’, and I’m fairly confident that the number will grow significantly during 2015. So why put a cap on what could be an ongoing article? Far better for all of us that this piece stays open-ended, posing as a kind of infinite roundup. With that in mind, feel free to offer up your own favourites in the comments section below.
I’m a big believer in the idea that startups are best positioned to make the most of content marketing. I’ve written about it before on this very blog, and I’ve worked with a number of entrepreneurial brands to define metastories and strategies where content has come quite naturally. I think it has to do with the fact that startups often have a central, somewhat mercurial figure around which the company revolves, who embodies the personality of the brand in a way that large corporations have long since lost. Often (but not always), they’re already good at telling their ‘brand story’, having done it so many times in an attempt to get the idea off the ground, and – with a bit of refining – this helps to define the content route that they ought to take.
In the US, content strategising and working with metastories is far more commonplace than it is in the UK, but I think we’re catching up. Indeed, if the number of people at London media conferences who claim to read Contently is anything to go by, we’ll have content marketing perfected before tea time. But while you wait, here are some examples of a few smaller UK brands that are experimenting with content marketing in an interesting way.
I’m a big fan of brands that take magazine-style approaches to their content strategy, not only because it makes me nostalgic for my younger days as a Time Out editor, but also because it helps to shape something that is far more audience-centric. Done well, it can move your company blog from being a navel-gazing report on your company party to being something that addresses the interests and concerns that you share with your audience. It also helps you to define a broad selection of topics and categories – areas that you can populate regularly, offering the audience a sense of regularity that may tempt them to visit your site more often.
Oliver’s Travels has Oliver’s Journal, which curates ‘travel advice, tips and destination information to inspire you for your next great holiday’, written by their own team alongside guest bloggers and travel experts. This could be a fairly straightforward branded travel blog (there are so many of them out there), but I think the quality of the content lifts it above some of their competitors. I particularly like the mix they have of written and video content. Check out their use of drone cams to explore some of the luxury properties you could holiday in. Want aspirational content? The sky’s quite literally the limit!
‘When technology and life come together, amazing things can happen.’ So says Bizzby founder and CEO, Rohan Sinclair Luvaglio, introducing a video that will either have you reaching for your smartphone or taking pot-shots at the sky. According to Bizzby.com, the company’s main product is an app that matches specific service providers with people who need their services, all in three quick clicks. It’s suitably futuristic, which is clearly how Luvaglio sees himself, and subsequently a massive part of this startup’s metastory.
And it’s the high-tech future that Bizzby’s biggest content marketing piece to date taps into. Sure, their main bread and butter uses state-of-the-art tech to help you get things done in the here and now, but look at what they’re working on in the backroom. Yes, it’s those drones again, this time transporting a forgotten set of keys through an office window, across midday London, and onto a strangely subdued woman’s doormat (she must know Luvaglio personally – she’s clearly seen it all before). Nothing says ‘the future’ like tech, and nothing says ‘the future of tech’ like drones operated by your smartphone. Put the shotgun away, mamma – that’s a future I want to be a part of!
— Boxman (@BoxManLondon) October 24, 2014
I had the privilege of working on the content strategy that Boxman took, and so I’m delighted to add them to this list. Again, their work follows an audience-centric, magazine-inspired approach, publishing weekly as The Box Room.
As a company dealing with the somewhat unsexy subject of on-demand storage (that’s self storage with an online twist – they deliver plastic boxes to you within a few hours of you ordering them, tag them, store them and then return specific boxes to you when you need them), they wanted to find a way to connect. Realising that their service essentially allowed ‘better living in small spaces’, they launched The Box Room to help inspire people to do exactly that, offering hints and tips along the way. It’s worth a look if audience-centric content is your bag.
Everyone’s a fan of Transferwise, aren’t they? They’re just about the coolest startup on the Shoreditch block, largely because they’re taking those shady bankers to task, any chance they get.
I’ve talked a lot elsewhere about hero, hub and hygiene, and I suspect that Transferwise are employing the strategy without even realising it. They’ve got their #StopHiddenFees petition right there at the top of the strategy, they’ve got Money Without Borders as their regularly-published hub section, and they’ve got 85,000 ‘hygienists’ engaging with them on Facebook, letting them know what they’re doing right or wrong. It’s poetry in motion.
I’m particularly impressed with Money Without Borders, as it demonstrates three important points. The first is that British readers will indeed comment on branded content if the subject moves them strongly enough. (I’ve heard people say on several occasions that ‘Brits don’t comment’. Try starting a blog on finance or snow and see how long you can keep them quiet.) The second is that long-form written content has a valuable place in the branded content arsenal (take that, 700 word limit!), and the third is that these small financial startups instinctively seem to know how to talk to their audience in a way that their bigger, more traditional counterparts no longer seem capable of understanding. It’s in this sector that I think the content revolution is at its most effective, and Transferwise are, once again, the trailblazers.
As I said at the top of this article, feel free to suggest any other startups with content strategies that have intrigued you. I’d be happy to include them in the next update.