Informa to focus on digital and content marketing
Informa is undergoing a massive transformation to grow its audience via content marketing and a renewed focus on digital channels. We caught up with Informa’s Chief Audience Officer Isobel Peck to discuss the changes at Informa and how it has impacted her marketing and recruitment strategy.
Question: We’ve heard a lot about big changes at Informa recently. What’s going on?
Isobel Peck: Like every other business we are really focused on growing the top line. We are restructuring the business in a way that will make us more productive, customer-focused, have more standardised business practices in place and operate as one homogenous business, rather than a group of smaller business.
We are restructuring into three core verticals: finance, life sciences and telecoms. We do cover other vertical markets like maritime and customer insight & information, but these are our key areas.
In terms of marketing, we are focusing on building a team of people who are absolute experts in their fields. So we are doing a lot of restructuring around content marketing and digital as well as social channels. Our objective is to have people who are experts in maximising the potential that those channels can give us.
We also need people who are excellent at campaign marketing, who are working with speakers and sponsors and the key stakeholders to ensure we are pulling everything together in the right time, in the right way. Our ultimate aim is to grow our audience and our top line.
Q: Does the restructure reflect an underlying strategy change within Informa?
IP: Yes, we are moving from being a highly transactional business, where customer relationships are usually confined to the duration of an event, to a more value based relationship, where we have an ongoing dialog with our customers. Our strategy is to use digital to provide our customers with value 365 days a year.
I don’t think that’s a new thing, but the bigger the business the harder it is to tackle. We are trying to make the investment once, but do it really wisely to ensure our digital transformation is pushed everywhere throughout the business, rather than thriving in little pockets. Obviously, this involves investment in platforms, investment in skills, creation of new processes, branding and product development. It pretty much touches every little thing in the way we communicate to our customers.
Q: Do you think it’s still viable to just do conferences?
IP: Conferences are still a profitable area to work in and I think this will remain so for the foreseeable future. I simply don’t believe conferences are dying out. There will always be a need for the face-to-face. By bringing people together you are creating the opportunities to do business, come up with new strategies and new ways of approaching industry issues. There will always be a need for conferences that deliver that.
However, we also need to extend those relationships digitally. That’s probably an area where we can do better. There are lots of product opportunities than run alongside that as well. So, I don’t think conferences are dying out, but I do believe they can be supplemented by digital channels.
Q: How do you deal with internal skill gaps as you’re moving more to digital?
IP: I think it’s a combination of training and smart recruitment. We have some people internally that possess digital skills innately and we just need to identify those, look at where the skill gaps are and supplement that with training. And it’s always good to bring in some fresh blood as well. The whole millennial generation has a very different way of looking at the digital world. New people can bring a lot fresh experience, which can only help us move forward as a business.
With the people we’re hiring I’m not looking necessarily for a conference background. We’re looking for people with inquisitive minds and creative ability. And we are specifically looking for smart ideas on how you can take a piece of content and repurpose it in different ways across the year and still keep interest and engagement going.
Q: Is digital content a revenue opportunity or a marketing tool for Informa?
IP: I think there is potential for monetising content online, but I’m not convinced that this is our primary goal here. Our opportunities are more around customer engagement and customer centricity. In the conference business we’ve been quite guilty of looking at things from our perspective as in “how can we do things to make our lives easier” rather than “how can we do things to make our customers’ lives easier”.
Q: As your company is venturing into a digital world, what is the core value Informa can provide to its customers?
IP: I think we are uniquely placed in that we have fabulous relationships with people that the markets want to access, whether it’s our speakers or sponsors. It’s something that’s much easier to do through a company like us than try and do it on your own. Right now we have an event running in Berlin where Al Gore is speaking. Not many people would be able to access a person like that unless they came through us. So, we’re really the middleman, curating exclusive content as well as creating unique and valuable experiences.
This interview was conducted for the Conference Awards (July 2016), which are sponsored by Kontenthaus.