6 ways to nail short-lived content

Micro-comms is essential to brands – but how do you get it right in this super-competitive space?


I was in lively company this week at the Digital World Marketing Forum (DWMF), moderating a debate on ‘The art of short-lived storytelling’. With micro-comms now so essential to brands, it should have been called ‘How to be great at content marketing’.

Our panel included big content brains – Mark Stephens, Head of Content Marketing at The Foundry, Time Inc; Lisa Plumridge, Chief Content Officer at EnVeritas; and Mark Thompson, Account Director at ITN Productions. We were joined by the charismatic Jonny Lennon, two months into the job as Group Head of Digital at Sports Direct. With one client and three experts from different types of creative shop – media owner, production studio and agency – it could have been 45 minutes of ‘my content is bigger than yours’. Not a bit. It was a good-humoured, warts-and-all debate about what brands must do to make short-lived storytelling a high-performance part of their comms. Here are our tip tips (thanks to Mark, Mark, Lisa and Jonny):

1. Be relevant

This is always important. But for short-lived content, it is a MUST. No one is coming back to that post/piece later. Make like a toddler and keep asking ‘why’. Why will anyone be interested? Why will my audience be interested? Don’t fool yourself (‘because they can’t wait to hear about my brand’s USPs and ‘reasons to believe’). It’s just a waste of money.

Example: We cast a group of brilliant real people for Weight Watchers’ spring campaign, and based our social content on their mental barriers to losing weight. This simple GIF reassuring people that diet food doesn't mean boring food had more than 4,000 organic views.

2. Use the news

News is a powerful ‘do it now’ tool. Plan for the news you know is coming. More importantly, leave a space/budget/talent for the news you don’t know is coming. Lean into topics your audience cares about in a credible, considered (not cringe', as my 14-year-old says) way.

Example: In this genius Snickers campaign, the price of a bar goes up and down according to the mood of the internet, putting the product bang smack in the middle of the news.

3. Find the story

If you want to run an ad, do it. Otherwise, find the story. Get inspired by brands in the world’s most uninspiring sectors (energy, insurance, pensions) who have used these constraints (like any great creative) to become awesome shortform storytellers. Get excited about what’s possible!

Example: For global IT giant Fujitsu, we tapped into some of the world’s most exciting brains to inspire their target market CTOs, like this think piece with Obama's former CTO Harper Reed.

4. Be authentic

Know what your brand stands for, and hold your short-lived social content to this standard as fiercely as you would a 60-second TVC. Optimising content for every channel shouldn’t mean a different brand voice or values in every channel.

Example: ITN Productions’ Club 18-30 TV starred reps as roving reporters using UGC to create three shows a week. The UGC content made it perfectly on-brand and a hit with a millennial audience desperate for their summer hols!

5. Help your influencers

Influencer content works best in their style, not yours. But you can help them to do a great job – simple stuff like brand toolkits and co-creation workshops can make a big difference.

Example: We work with a blogger network as one part of a campaign to promote client Vitality’s new family fitness festivals. This charming video is part of an influencer programme that has produced 1.2 million impressions so far.

6. Don’t forget the future

Virtual devices and channels are coming, so plan ahead. 5G will be transformative for content – ask your agency to tell you what they think it means for your brand. This Econsultancy/Adobe report on digital trends is also well worth a read.