Marketing has a critical role to play in driving business growth in post-Brexit Britain. But to do so effectively, the industry needs to embrace digitalization, build trust and develop its talent base. At the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Digital Summit 2018, marketers discussed the importance of the industry sitting at the heart of disruptive trends shaping business, Brexit amongst them.


Paving the way into new markets

As the UK sets out to trade with new international markets, a study by the CIM and PWC finds that many businesses lack the required export marketing skills and capabilities. And marketing is well placed to step into this breach, according to CIM marketing director, Gemma Butler. She pointed to the profession’s unique ability to help businesses with challenges such as adapting their strategies internationally and overcoming cultural and language barriers.

Adding to the challenges of Brexit, the industry still has to master its own digital transformation. The CIM Digital Summit brought together both ‘digital natives’ and established brands that have used digital channels to reinvent themselves and their relationships with customers.

SortedFoods is an example of the former. It was started by a group of university freshers who found their cookery skills distinctly lacking and started exchanging recipes and cookery videos on social channels.  Fast forward to today and SortedFoods is a social business with nearly 2 million subscribers. Co-founder Jamie Spafford ascribed the company’s success to its community values and focus on storytelling rather than selling – which chime with millennials’ marketing weariness.

And digital communities like SortedFoods are not alone in answering to modern consumers’ preferences. The CIM Summit showed that established organisations can also make the transition successfully. Lonely Planet’s ‘Best In Travel’ annual was designed with millennial audiences’ need for immediacy in mind, according to editorial director Tom Hall.  Instead of old-fashioned guide books – which easily become dated – Best In Travel works multiple digital platforms to place up-to-date, highly shareable content at readers’ fingertips. Last year, it reached 3 billion people and garnered 10 million video views on YouTube and Lonely Planet’s own platforms.


GDPR as an opportunity to build trust

But no matter how good a company is at making itself relevant to its audiences, overseas medications online goodwill can easily be shattered – not least by the impact of ‘fake reviews’. As the CIM’s James Farmer highlighted, the only bulwark against this is to have all your marketing “P’s” aligned, from a quality product to customer interactions that reassure the market that your brand deserves their trust.

Critically, this must include data protection. The Royal Mail’s Emma Fletcher suggested that brands embrace the new EU GDPR framework as an opportunity to become more relevant to their customers. They should adjust how they communicate to overcome rather than encourage consumers’ tendency to ‘opt out.’ Fletcher highlighted that combining digital and ‘offline’ methods of delivery – like traditional mail – can play an important role in personalizing brand communications to establish consumer trust.  


Skills still at large

While the opportunities of digital marketing are evident, some raised concerns that the profession is being held back because digital marketing knowledge is “shockingly bad.” This is how Target Internet’s Ciaran Martin summarised the findings of the latest Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark, conducted jointly with the CIM.

Across all levels of seniority, there is little understanding of digital marketing tactics – whether it’s SEO, analytics, social media or content marketing. Only email marketing is widely understood – and hence relied on heavily.  

While junior ranks have a better understanding of digital tactics, they are missing key strategic skills. The reverse is true for senior marketing roles who appear to guard their strategic knowledge.  

Dr Geraint Evans of Swansea University and recruiters Mark Lawson Jones and Huw Jones from Page Group echoed Ciaran Martin’s assessment. Senior players need to increase their understanding of the breadth of digital tactics and analytics to keep up to speed. More, the industry to invest in giving those coming through the ranks the strategic capabilities to become future leaders.


Marketing 2018 – a patchy landscape

Marketers are uniquely placed to help British business conquer new global markets, but the sector is missing key skills to harness digital channels for this purpose. The industry needs to embrace the latter more holistically and commit to boosting its digital nous if it wants to remain relevant in post-Brexit Britain.

Financial services firms boast a wealth of expertise – the problem is that most fall short when it comes to showcasing their knowhow.

Digital communications is an effective tool, but corporate barriers must be broken down for this strategy to flourish.

The companies that are best at getting their message across are those who can create a buzz around the products and services they offer without promoting them explicitly.

The idea is that swerving the so-called ‘hard sell’ and tapping into topical themes instead is more likely to pique the interest of potential customers and clients.

However, this is often easier said than done.

When it comes to the financial services industry, companies must walk a fine line between producing eye-catching content and adhering to strict regulatory requirements.

But with the right approach it’s possible to turn even the most complex business proposition into something that will appeal to everyone, from board-level execs to the man on the street.

Why are financial services firms turning to digital communications?

In highly-commoditised markets like banking and insurance, websites that are designed purely around products and services are becoming a thing of the past. Companies are starting to realise they must offer more if they want to boost brand awareness and convert prospects.

Insurance products, for example, will always be a grudge purchase (who gets excited about shopping for car insurance?!). But with the right messaging it’s possible to drum up interest in the vital role insurance plays in safeguarding the interests of people and businesses.

Fortunately, digitalisation has opened many doors – organisations can now tell their stories on multiple platforms via journalistic-style articles, blog posts and social videos.

What are the obstacles to adopting a digital communications strategy?

Financial services has got a reputation of being slow to react to innovation. This is largely due to the regulatory burden that’s placed on the industry. But corporate culture is also partly to blame.

When it comes to communicating to prospective customers and clients, financial services firms can often get bogged down by organisational silos.

The key is to get board-level buy-in for a digital communications strategy that recognises these issues.

Another stumbling block is style and tone, which needs to shift away from sales language and towards providing informative and personable content that both resonates with prospects and highlights brand values.

Which financial services firms are best at digital communications?

Financial services companies all over the world are beginning to adopt a digital communications approach – although some are better at it than others.

Here are a few stand-out examples of those financial services brands investing in this new type of corporate communication, built on the foundations of targeted conversation and community, rather than traditional PR and marketing messages:

Like this post? Read ‘Why you should be writing for an intelligent goldfish’ for more tips to make complex messages easier to understand.

If you’d like to talk to us about the ways our team of experienced journalists and marketers could transform your digital communications, get in touch: Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Callum BrodieCallum Brodie is a Content Editor at Formative Content with years of financial journalism experience.

Formative Content is a UK based corporate content agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.



The many challenges facing event organisers have been highlighted by a unique survey into the industry commissioned for a new report The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, from Formative Content.

As the ways in which people network and consume information continue to evolve and proliferate, over a third of event organisers believe that industry needs to adapt to reflect a hyper-connected world.

While 56% think events have a secure future, 35% believe their survival is contingent on significant change.


The report examines the challenges and opportunities presented as the industry tries to invent new ways to engage and leverage digital without threatening the very reasons audiences attend live events.

The survey shows what organisers are now expected to provide, with a decisive 97% of event attendees saying an online presence was vital if the event was to have credibility.


Source: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, Formative Content

As time constraints grow and budgets are tightened, the competition for event audiences is growing, notes the report. Audiences are being bombarded with huge volumes of information via multiple platforms presenting both a product and a marketing challenge.

So how do event organisers respond to these challenges? The answer is carefully tailored digital engagement: a Digital Action Plan.

By developing content for use before, during and after a meeting, the event gains resonance and reach while its impact is amplified and extended.

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

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Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content, specialising in the creation of first class live reporting, blog writing and film making. Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.

Events are undergoing a profound change, transformed by digital technologies and content like so many other industries. But what does the future really hold, and how can events professionals harness the opportunities presented by these dramatic shifts?

These were the questions we set out to answer at an event in London this morning, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, to coincide with the release of our report of the same name. The session was moderated by Formative Content CEO Gay Flashman with presentations from Jazmin Beale from Olympia London, Una O’Sullivan of KPMG, Lucy Eldred from KNect365 and Joe Edwards of Sage.

One of the key questions surrounding digital content for events is – if you put all of your event content online, won’t delegates be less likely to actually attend?  It’s a moot point, according to Joe Edwards, a comms industry veteran. Whilst the digital toolkit now available to event organisers is the most varied it has ever been, there is still one central purpose of holding an event and that is to network, he said: “People talk about ROI and leads, but one of the most important part of events is connecting people together face to face.”

It was an attitude shared by Una O’Sullivan, who runs a biannual internal KPMG event: “A conference is a social event,” she said. “It’s about getting people talking together.”

Indeed, research conducted by Formative Content for our report shows that almost 50% of those that attend events do so predominantly for the networking opportunities that the event presents.

The key challenges

But of course, you still have to get people to the event in the first place. This was one of the enduring challenges for organisers, according to Jazmin Beale.  Jazmin was perfectly placed to outline the problems faced, given that she stewards 220 events every year at Olympia London, with a combined footfall of over 1.5 million.

The main challenges were threefold, she said. Firstly, driving revenue by getting people to the conferences and getting exhibitors to hire stands; secondly, maintaining the quality and quantity of attendees: “Like any party, the people who attend contribute greatly to the event experience,” she said; and thirdly, the realisation that digital engagement throughout the year encourages repeat attendance and word of mouth referral, and is therefore key to any event.

“Many leading shows are on the journey to become a brand in their own right, and are engaging their industry with great content,” she said.


How to make digital content work

How are events making digital content work for them? Joe Edwards thinks that organising social media at events is a bit like herding cats, but, that said, it can be done very effectively.

“The most important thing for social, when looking at events: it’s all about increasing awareness – and that has to be emotive, exciting and engaging,” he said. “If I see another video of people walking through doors and vox pops saying how great the conference is, I will shoot myself,” he promised. “It’s got to be done differently.”

Among the more inventive methods Joe said he has used was demonstrating the Internet of Things by having delegates send a tweet with a hashtag and a particular number in order to switch on a lightbulb. The key was to “connect the message of the event to some sort of activation idea within the event,” he said.

Lucy Eldred’s KNect365 Finance runs 48 events under 13 different brands every year, and also tries inventive ways to engage the audience. She tries to make her content stand out with a Graham Norton-style chat show for one of their key annual events, the FundForum Asia.

“We try to do content that speaks to people as people,” she explained. “We do a daily livestream chat show, like Graham Norton for the Asset Management community, and it is relatively entertaining given how dry the subject matter is. We send it out immediately to our global audience and it’s a way of them accessing the content of the event in an engaging way.”

Joe Edwards recommends implementing a social command centre at events, with social media managers dedicated to pushing content outside of the physical event. “They can identify and direct conversations; they can promote questions and promote engagement while the talk is going on. The command centre can also manage the live feed with photos, vox pops, and videos, as well as moderating the social conversation around the event.”

Una O’Sullivan also makes great use of video and pictures, “We have a video booth where we get people talking together, and it shows that we are a collaborative organisation.”

Living beyond the moment

But perhaps the biggest take-away of the event was the importance of maintaining that audience engagement across the year.

Una O’Sullivan faces this challenge in mobilising internal engagement at KPMG. She runs a bi-annual gathering of 200 – 250 financial services leaders within the organisation, which serves as an opportunity for financial services leadership to set out their strategy and gather inputs from partners at the coalface. The most valuable part is getting that information and knowledge to cascade down the organisation, as she explained:

“There is very much a before, during and after,” she said. “The purpose of the conference’s digital output is to firstly, help the delegates get the most out of the conference by preparing them; secondly, to capture the news and the conversation at the event, but thirdly, and by far the most importantly, for the delegates to be able to take the information back and cascade it. There are some really important messages that can be taken back to member firms, global account teams, and of course to the clients.”

Among Una’s box of tricks is a well-designed message from KPMG’s global chairman, which is sent out pre-event to the delegates, summarising the purpose of their attendance and imparting relevant information. Then there are daily updates sent to delegates, as well as a wrap up of the day’s discussions. There is a global news site which enjoys very good engagement and which, for the week of the conference, is full of stories from the event.

Finally, there is a toolkit produced at the end of the event, which is sent out to every member of the financial services team – some 30,000 people.

“Content is so much more than telling people what happened at the event, it’s a year-round process,” agreed Lucy Eldred. “If you can get them to engage at the time of the conference and come to you because of the insightful information that you are providing, then you can continue to provide that content year round and become a source of insight for your prospective conference-goers.”

The future is bright

According to the research conducted by Formative Content, over 90% of event organisers believe the industry has a secure future – but only if it embraces full-time digital communication.

“In an increasingly digital world, events bring communities together – face to face,” said Jazmin. “They share a common belief, a passion or hobby, through a shared industry or as part of a local, national or international community.  Events make things happen.  They ignite ideas and knowledge.  They progress education and understanding.  They create and enrich the communities they serve.  They bring investment to the country and local communities.”

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

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Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Alex Gray is a Senior Writer at Formative Content responsible for writing fast-turnaround, engaging blogs on a variety of topics and industries.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.

Events need to undergo profound change in order to survive. That’s the clear finding of a new report into the future of the industry, which examines the way digital technologies and content are changing the events landscape.

A survey of event organisers conducted for the Formative Content report The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital found that more than a third think only significant change will ensure a long-term future for the events sector.

The survey also found that 97% of event attendees feel that an event needs regular blog content and social media postings to be regarded as credible.


Significant challenges

The report explores how the proliferation of mobile devices and availability of information online has created many opportunities for the industry, but is also throwing up significant challenges.

It shows that with the cloud-based video conferencing market expected to be worth $2.9 billion by 2020, and many companies even making their AGMs ‘virtual’, face-to-face meetings are under pressure like never before.

Attendance drivers

Despite the challenges of selling-in large-scale events to clients and to internal audiences, there is still a strong desire to meet people in person. Of the survey participants who had attended a business event recently, almost half went primarily for the networking.

The desire for events is there, but the type of event that customers demand is changing.

Take action

The report includes a range of practical and detailed steps on how event organisers need to engage audiences before, during and after events, through the creation of a Digital Action Plan.

It suggests the content offered to support a live event might range from social media posts, infographics, blogs and longer-form articles, to videos and specially commissioned research.

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

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If you’d like to hear how we can help you amplify your corporate content, then get in touch today. Email: or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content, specialising in the creation of first class live reporting, blog writing and film making. Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.