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PODCAST: Alison Tattersall on thought leadership and marketing strategy

Thought Leadership Insights

Thought Leadership Insights, Episode 3

In this third episode of Thought Leadership Insights, we speak to Alison Tattersall, Corporate Marketing Director at Barclays Bank, about the crucial role thought leadership plays in their overall marketing strategy. From digital-first and custom content, to smart activation strategies and essential metrics for tracking ROI, this rare glimpse into the world of global marketing at one of the world’s largest banks is essential listening for all senior B2B marketers.

Topics covered

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:40 Alison’s role at Barclays
  • 02:50 Building trust for your brand
  • 04:15 Thought leadership at Barclays
  • 06:40 Short-form vs. long-form content
  • 07:45 Marketing long-form content
  • 08:50 What does a good thought leadership campaign look like?
  • 10:40 Activation
  • 12:20 Timely vs. quality content
  • 13:45 The internal thought leadership process
  • 15:00 Measuring the impact
  • 17:00 Social media and thought leadership
  • 18:50 Industry specific campaigns
  • 19:50 Maximizing ROI
  • 20:55 Internal insights
  • 22:15 Responsiveness – attracting interest
  • 23:45 Future opportunities from thought leadership
  • 24:40 Making thought leadership relevant

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Podcast Transcript

Fergal: Welcome to episode 3 of FT Longitude’s thought leadership insights podcast. I am very pleased today to introduce Alison Tattersall. Alison is Corporate Marketing Director at Barclays Bank

Welcome to the Thought Leadership Insights podcast, Alison.

Alison: I’m delighted to be here, Fergal. Thank you very much for inviting me.

Fergal: It’s great to have an opportunity to speak to you today to talk about the work that you’re doing at Barclays… maybe a good place to start would be if you could tell me a little bit about your role at Barclays and how it has evolved in recent years.

Alison: Yes, of course. I look after the marketing for corporate banking at Barclays, which is everything from medium-sized UK businesses, right up to global multi-nationals.

My role involves the full marketing mix. So, we do above the line, digital, we look after our client facing website and we do lots of content and thought leadership from quite in-depth research pieces, to short snappy LinkedIn and Twitter content.

I’m lucky enough in my team that I’ve got both an industry and regional marketing team. So, I have a team of marketeers across the regions that we serve and also that focus on specific industry specialisms. And to me, the real nub of B2B marketing is making it really, really relevant. And showing our clients that we understand the communities in which they operate and the businesses and the sector that they serve and operate in.

I think, in terms of how it’s evolved in recent years, my audience are getting younger. They’re getting more familiar with mobile. And I think there’s a real variety of needs and appetite that we need to serve, from really short insightful content, through to more in-depth pieces.

I think it’s really interesting having this conversation in early 2017. I think the economy, the political landscape is so interesting and unusual and people are desperate for information and opinion from different sources and trusted sources, that to me it’s inviting that conversation and inviting that opinion and perspective and engaging in that dialogue with clients and with prospects.

Fergal: That’s very interesting. You talk about building trust. Can you talk a little bit about what needs to happen for this promise to be realised?

Alison: I think it’s a really interesting point. And I think it’s been really understanding, where as a branch you have permission to play and where you don’t have permission to play. And it’s really interesting.

If I look at the content we’ve done over the last few months, things like the apprenticeship levy on modern slavery act have done really well, because people are looking for information in a trusted brand, which Barclays is – to have an opinion and perspective to help direct them.

I know the best performing piece of content we’ve done over recent years has been our response to the EU referendum vote. So, I think it’s an ideal opportunity in the perfect storm that we’re in, is to actually have an opinion and perspective.

But, also, don’t try and go too far from where your brand operates. I don’t think we’ve got permission to go everywhere and anywhere. I think we need to understand that, for me, I work for a financial services brand. I help businesses operate in the UK and around the globe. But I don’t have permission to go everywhere. I need to understand what my heart land is.

Fergal: That’s a very interesting point you make and it speaks to the proliferation and the danger of thinness and straying into areas that you don’t have permission to operate in.

How does thought leadership fit in, would you say, into the corporate marketing at Barclays?

Alison: If I think about my team over recent years and also how I think it’s going to evolve over coming years, I think thought leadership is becoming increasingly important, both in terms of what we do and through digital, through webinars, but also what we do for our events.

And my audience are really interested in events and opportunities and content that enables them to learn something and to engage in an interesting dialogue. Gone are the days of more hospitality focused marketing and it’s got to have some real depth and content and it’s got to add some real value. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about what are the really interesting things that are coming up. Changing regulation, changing climate, changing politics and how can we leverage that and provide that content.

Fergal: There has been a proliferation of content – new types of content, new media- where does traditional thought leadership – white papers and surveys and rigorous research driven communications – fit in to content marketing at Barclays today, Alison?

Alison: I think it’s got a place and certainly if I think about what we do here at Barclays, where we do lots of industry specific thought leadership.

Whether your audience know an awful lot about their industry and they’re looking for real in-depth, detailed research and opinion and added value. But I also think there’s a really important role for content and thought leadership in parallel to that, that is more shorter.

We did some work recently with a writer and they were doing some teaching and training with my team. And they came up with a lovely quote they shared with us: “Just remember your reader is selfish, lazy and ruthless”.

So I think that we have to leverage new channels and social media to provide snippets and ready access to people on the move, on the go, who don’t have much time. How can we actually add value and share those snippets, as well as doing the more in-depth research at the same time.

Fergal: Right. It seems for many companies today this in-depth survey & research content provides a foundation, a base that feeds this shorter, snappier, easier to access content, but you need to have both.

Alison: Definitely. I think the more detailed research is really valuable, because it enables the perfect marriage of marketing and PR, because often journalists are looking for something that’s more detailed. You’ve also got the industry bodies and the KPIs who are totally immersed in their specific sector, they’d probably want that more detailed analysis.

So, I think it’s how we leverage that and use the snippets and the more detailed. For me, increasingly, our focus is not on one and done, from a content perspective. How can we actually amplify that research and the more detailed in-depth thought leadership and get those snippets out.

So, we don’t just do one piece of research. We actually leverage that through events, through social and we get much better reach and breadth through what we’re investing in.

Fergal: Right, can you talk a little about how you amplify the more detailed in-depth thought leadership?

Alison: We work with each of our industry teams and the PR team at Barclays to really understand what will be attractive to the sector, what will be attractive to the media for that sector and the industry bodies. And we work out what our thought leadership program’s going to be for the year.

And I think that that’s served us well. I think increasingly we’re seeing lots of opportunities to think pan-industry as well. If you think about it, for example, the supply chain across the UK from what we might manufacturer, through to how we serve that through retail and wholesale.

There’s different sectors that can go on that journey and that are interested in similar themes. Be it regulation, be it politics, be it the changing global trade landscape. How can we actually make the content relevant to the industry, but also potentially think bigger than that and think across different industries?

Fergal: Now, here’s a question, Alison, which probably doesn’t have a simple answer. But, what does a good thought leadership campaign look like to you?

Alison: I think it’s back to what I said a moment ago, which is, it’s got to have longevity, it can’t be one and done, it’s got to be highly relevant and targeted. And for me, that is increasingly important. It’s striking the cord. Really showing that we understand something that’s important to a client.

It also needs to be timely. We’ve tried lots of different things in terms of how we distribute our thought leadership. Getting things out really speedily in what is unprecedented in terms of how fast things are changing and happening in the current landscape.

How can we make it timely? How can we make it really relevant and how can we actually invite clients to drill them into different levels of detail and engage in that dialogue? And ideally for me, have an opportunity to actually have a face to face conversation through one of our events, or interactions with our relationship team.

If I had to think of an example that we’ve done a lot of work on over recent months, it would be cyber fraud, cyber security, helping businesses understand some of the threats that they face and how can they increase their own awareness and education within their business. And we’ve done that across every single channel we possibly we can and will continue to do so, because it’s somewhere where we’ve got a lot of permission to play.

We’re a trusted brand in this space. We’ve got a responsibility to educate and help businesses and by being relevant, targeted and timely, we can really see the benefits and the impact of the work we’re doing in that space.

Fergal: That’s interesting—you talk about the importance of a dialogue with your target audience: this brings up an important question – activation.

Can you talk a little bit about activation? What it means to you? And why you think it’s attracting growing interest from marketers?

Alison: I think it’s absolutely fascinating, the contact of activation and how do you do that. And I think, and this is probably my primary goal for 2017 and of my team, a marketing team in a relationship-led business cannot be successful on it’s own. So, we are training all of our frontline relationship teams on how they themselves use social media, how they share their content, how they build their own profiles. So for me, I don’t just have a marketing team. I have hundreds of colleagues who are engaging and using the content and thought leadership I will create centrally, to share onwards and to activate it and to leverage it and to use it.

So to me, the biggest opportunity is if you have a relationship team, how can you make them part of your marketing team. And that’s a challenge, because I work in a highly regulated industry. I work in an industry where my compliance colleagues sometimes are a little bit nervous about some of the things we may want to do, because we’re devolving some of the marketing out to the frontline.

But I think the opportunity of doing that is huge. So to me, activation is all about getting my coverage and my relationship teams to help me to share the work that we develop centrally.

Fergal: You mentioned earlier the importance of timely presentation of your thought leadership insights. On the other hand, there are often considerable pressures to make sure that the content is accurate & compliant…pressures that can delay things…can you talk about this tension?

Alison: Yeah, I think that it’s really important that what we deliver is really good quality. And it’s difficult and we’re on a journey there. We used to spend months and months getting the perfect shot, the perfect adverts that was beautifully there that was really impactful.

We simply can’t afford to do that anymore, because we’ve got so much volume and breadth and depth of content that we need to share. It needs to be timely. It needs to be relevant. But, I will not sacrifice the quality of what we send out and that means empowering people.

It means sometimes we will make mistakes there, but it’s about catching that and learning from it and how do we do things differently. But I think that because so much more is going out and it’s going out so much quicker than ever before, you have to make sure you have a really trusted relationship with your agencies and your team, to make sure that you really stress the importance of the quality of what goes out.

Fergal: Right. You mention the relationship team. Can you talk a little bit about what some of the generic challenges are of bringing them up to speed with thought leadership? And maybe one or two things that you’ve learnt about this process?

Alison: I think our relationship teams manage the relationships with UK PLC, with all the businesses that we look after here at Barclays. And so, they’ve got 101 things to do. I don’t want to give them anything onerous to do, but I know that they’re the face and the humanity of our relationship, so I want to make them and enable them and empower them to share the content that we create.

So, some of the challenges are how onerous is what I’m building? Is it simple and easy for them to share? Do we do it appropriately? So, can I have a simple audit trail so I know what’s happening.

But the real benefit of it is that I can track things centrally, so I can effectively perform this managing. I can encourage my relationship teams to share X amount of content on the specific topics and also invite their clients to a certain number of events every quarter. So I know that they’re having an opportunity to engage in really quality dialogue about some of the areas and issues of the day that will add value to the businesses.

So the ability to track it centrally is really important.

Fergal: Yes tracking. Measurement. Good thought leadership is I think. Always a mixture of art and science. We are seeing a lot more attention being paid to measuring thought leadership, which is surely a welcome development. And on the other hand, as you’ve said as well, the real impact of thought leadership often goes beyond simple measures.

Can you talk a little bit about this tension and a little bit about this question of measuring the impact of your thought leadership?

Alison: I work in a financial services business. I work in a business that is predominantly governed by numbers, is very analytical … So I probably spend more time with my finance colleagues than with any other team, because I have to be a commercial marketing team in order to show clearly the value that we add to the business.

But I think you have a responsibility as a marketeer to educate the business on the 80/20. What can you measure and what can’t you measure and also what’s the mix of the softer metrics around things like brand health versus the ones that are about your specific return in investment.

Unfortunately, we have been on a journey there at Barclays and we’ve got a robust way of measuring our marketing activity that the business is comfortable with and supports. And indeed, are active agents in helping us to do that.

So we have all the traditional marketing metrics around brand health and engagement and what’s our actual content drawing in terms of that activity. But also we have real specific return on investment of metrics that are predominantly led on far event activity.

But I can show really clearly that the value of the marketing investment and it’s an investment in the business and the cost to the business, what we’re actually driving. And the business now, through educating them on the science and the art of what we do, really buy into it and are very supportive and protective of my budget.

Fergal: What about social media? I’m just wondering, it’s a vast topic and very much in the news at the moment and changing as well with new platforms arriving and consumers, the way they access information is changing over time as well.

Can you talk a little bit about how that plays into your thought leadership campaigns?

Alison: I think that I am probably, from a Barclays perspective, not necessarily at the forefront of adopting new social channels, because my audience from a corporate BT perspective is predominantly leveraging LinkedIn and leveraging Twitter and that’s how I am engaging with them.

I’m really keen to explore how we can use some of the other social media platforms, but that’s quite embryonic today, because I want to almost put the foot in the water and test actually where do I have permission to go, from a B2B corporate perspective versus other more established channels. And also, I’m mindful of the fact that just because you’re a finance director of a FTSE 100, doesn’t mean to say you’re not a personal retail wealth client of a bank. So, how do we marry the different channels and the different propositions across the different segments.

So, it’s work in progress. It’s watch this space. But it is something that we’re thinking about how we actually try different things and innovate. And I’m quite conscious that we wouldn’t do that with 100% of our focus.

We would test different things and it may be that different industry sectors respond differently. So, actually understanding how we play and how that works will be really interesting.

Fergal: Do you do many industry specific campaigns? How important is that?

Alison: Most certainly. I think the core of the corporate banking proposition at Barclays is that we really understand your industry and have dedicated relationship teams who serve your industry. So, a technology company, a media company, a retail company, hospitality and leisure, they’re going to leverage marketing channels and engage with them differently. And also the individuals within those businesses are.

So, how do we use that and how do we use some of the industry bodies and partners to actually engage and enter into those interesting dialogues. So, we’re always up for opportunities to not just work on our own, but actually, who are the partners who we should be thinking about engaging with, who actually share content and to have an opinion and have Barclays bringing ready access to that.

Fergal: That’s fascinating, Alison. The themes that come back are the teamwork and the partnering again and again. And that it’s not something that takes place in isolation or in a silo. The key element of working together is a very interesting theme.

What’s your top tip for maximising the return on investment on a campaign?

Alison: I think my top tip is back to the quote I shared around remembering that your reader is selfish, lazy and ruthless. And don’t try and pour the ocean and be too verbose. But ensure that you have bite size content. And also, if I may indulge in having a second top tip, it’s leverage of frontline colleagues, leverage of relationship in team.

If you’re lucky enough to have a relationship team within your organisation, then how do you make those people marketeers.

Fergal: Thanks, Alison. It’s brought up an interesting question as well. Because quite often, again, talking about more of the traditional thought leadership style, with the content coming from maybe a survey, or looking at what’s happening in an particular industry, or indeed as you said, questions like regulation.

So, there’s a balance I suppose in some cases with material, which is drawn from outside of the organisation, but equally important to include perspectives, insights that are generated within the organisation, within Barclays.

Alison: Yeah, definitely. I think because of our summaries and because we’re a retail bank, a corporate bank and because we also have our merchant acquiring business in Barclaycard, we have access to a phenomenal amount of data around what is happening with the marketplace in which we operate.

So that is a phenomenal asset to have as a marketeer. To be able to share those insights, be able to go out to a specific corporate and to work with them, to help them to look at their own strategy and say, well you have a shopping centre here, let’s have a look at what data we have.

And obviously we’re very protective and the data privacy of that data, but how can we actually help businesses make strategic planning decisions by leveraging the power of the data we have across the Barclays group. And that’s a really exciting asset that we have, to help my clients, which is really exciting. And work out how we take that to market successfully.

Fergal: Right. Responsiveness. You mention this question that you’re generating and producing content over time and clearly some content takes all. Can you talk a little about the process you go through to make sure that particular content attracts greatest interest.

Alison: I think timeliness and really understanding is really important and we test lots of different things. We test different titles, we send things out at different times. We don’t beat ourselves up and actually, I do believe in celebrating when you get things wrong, because you learn a lot from it.

So we test lots and lots of different things to really understand it. Sometimes, I’m surprised about the content that doesn’t work as much as I’m surprised about the content that does work. But I do think that being brave in having an opinion and a perspective on some of the things that are happening in the current landscape of the world in 2017 is really important.

And I think that that’s quite challenging in some more traditional businesses. I work in quite a traditional business. We have checks in control as in what we can and can’t do, but I do believe in pushing a little bit, because I think there is real appetite for interesting opinions and perspective on what is happening and how that will influence trade and business across the world.

Fergal: Yes. Having a strong voice. You do see quite a lot of content that is saying on the one hand and on the other and laying these things out and there’s an appetite for perspective, for thought-out perspective and in-depth thinking and guidance.

Finally, I’m just wondering, looking forward, Alison, what opportunities do you see arising as a result of applying thought leadership approach to your marketing strategy at Barclays?

Alison: I think the future’s really, really exciting, because I think there are new tools and technologies that are going to help us improve our relevancy and also to really understand what our clients are engaging with and to really personalise what we do to make it really, really relevant and targeted and to really help.

And I think that that’s really exciting. I don’t ever want it to be too formulaic. I think it needs to engage. It needs to have humanity, but I think some of the technologies that are coming online are going to really help us to centrally produce lots and lots of different flavours of our content that really engages and helps businesses.

Fergal: Can you talk a little bit about making your thought leadership relevant?

Alison: I think the most important thing when you’re doing B2B marketing is really understanding the business. Really understanding the challenges and opportunities that business faces.

I’m really lucky, because I have both a regional team and an industry team whose job it is to work really closely with our coverage and product teams, to understand those sectors and those local communities, so we can make the content that we produce really relevant to that business and that region. And I think that’s the most important thing we can do in B2B marketing.

Fergal: Brilliant. Brilliant. Thank you, Alison, that’s been a very rich discussion. It’s been really interesting to hear about your approach to content marketing and thought leadership in particular at Barclays. Lots to think about. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to Thought Leadership Insights.

Alison: Thank you very much for inviting me.

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About the author: Thought Leadership Insights

Our Thought Leadership Insights podcast series, presented by Fergal Byrne, digs deep into some of the key conversations surrounding thought leadership, and its use.

From building brand reputation, boosting client relationships, and having a real impact on a firm’s bottom line, Fergal interviews FT Longitude’s three founders, as well as a number of industry experts in thought leadership.

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