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Talking Content Marketing – Simon Swan

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 19.07.53Talking Content Marketing comes back to the UK shores and welcomes Simon Swan.

Simon Swan is a digital marketer who has worked for a number of different organisations in different sectors from start-ups to blue chip brands. He has spent many years working in the “front-line” applying skills and building foundations on the number of digital marketing tactics.

He is a firm believer of rolling your sleeves up and learning digital by doing it yourself and the best advice I give to anyone is to go and work for a start up at some point in your career

Away from work he a keen cyclist and recently completed Lands End to John o’ Groats raising money for Cancer Research.

I wanted to find out how Simon thinks the marketing landscape has changed within the UK and the challenges that businesses find themselves when adopting a new content driven approach.



Where do you see the opportunity for businesses to reinvent themselves (both online and offline)? 

There are still so many brands waking up to and realising they have to migrate their offering and what they stand for to a digital audience.

What I find brands do is jump right into creating digital tactics to support their objectives without much time spent on why, how and what these tactics will be complimenting the strategic and overall vision of their brand.

Creating a digital knowledge centre is an opportunity for brands to connect what their purpose is and using their brands history as a USP to build a strong foundation in launching the right digital tactics.

A good example is the National Geographic. A well recognised brand who traditionally was created as a magazine publisher but has migrated its offering to a digital audience whilst retaining it’s brand USP and using the right digital tactics and channels to help compliment the brands purpose. e.g. story telling through content marketing and the insightful and rich content they have at their disposal. Their social media strategy involves their users by generating user generated content



From your own perspective how has your profession (within digital marketing) changed from where you was three/five years ago?

The majority of my career has been in digital but even five years ago the number of tactics available to a digital marketer was pretty limited in comparison to now. It meant that understanding and researching your audience (and competitors) was relatively easy as well as knowing where to assign budget and measure ROI.

Now, the number of channels and tactics available has exploded and with it where your audience resides and how you can reach them. Just by researching the tactics available to digital marketers is a job in itself and it’s easy to be engulfed by the shear range.

What I’ve learnt or learning to do is to step back from the tactics, learn more about your audience and the unique selling point your organisation can offer and craft your digital strategy and learning from here. I definitely believe in the T-Shaped marketer where you look to develop and learn across a number of digital tactics, rather than focus just on one tactic.

Also, get away from your desk and from your analytics reports. As a profession, we’ve become so drowned out by the vast volumes of data available from users that we are at risk of becoming siloed in our thinking of what we “assume” users want.

I’ve spent a lot more time speaking one to one with users and customers and to get opinions from people on the street. It’s essential to build both quantitative and qualitative data into your findings and I’d recommend this book as to why



How can businesses become a knowledge centre? Is it perseverance, is it understanding an audience, is it consistency of thought?

Understanding your audience and understanding your business/brand and what it stands for.

The most important part in developing your strategy to a knowledge centre is to get a rich, in depth understanding of what and why your brand stands for, the competition and what your point of difference is.

Take this learning to market and understand if this resonates with your audience (and new audiences) and begin to build your digital strategy by applying the right tactics to service the right audience you are looking to build a relationship with



Do you believe companies can be too quick to jump into tactics, without understanding what they stand for and the role they play for an audience in the first place?

Definitely – and it’s so easy to see why right?

Jumping into the tactical side is relatively easy to do – we are engulfed with research, blogs and case studies of companies creating successful tactics such as launching a blog, creating a series of white papers – but the question you need to ask is – why are you doing this, what is the purpose and how will you be measuring the impact?

Take social media – we are obsessed with measuring likes, retweets, mentions and vies of video content – what are you planning to get out of this engagement and how is it going to benefit your strategy?

If it’s brand awareness that’s fine but if you’re in the business of retailing products or in B2B trying to generate new leads, are your objectives based on the actual ROI of delivering social media?



Are there areas that you believe will start to build prominence within the UK?

I think there will be a shift and realisation from brands that building their digital strategies through 3rd party platforms is not a long term strategy.

Sure, running your brand social media strategy through Facebook, Twitter and optimising your content for the best search visibility through an SEO strategy tailored to Google is indeed going to reap rewards and support your objectives.

But it’s more than this, at the same time in launching your strategy through these 3rd party platforms, brands need to be using these insights to better understand their audience and to look at way to build a direct connection to their audience (without the reliance of 3rd party platforms).

Brands should use these learnings to help build their USP, something that not only differentiates themselves from the competition but also from Google, Facebook etc – a reason why aggregators may need to reach out to you to support their own development

Take Amazon for example – there is little need for the brand to benefit from promoting their offering through 3rd part sites – they’ve built their brand as the ‘go-to’ destination without the need for referral/social engagement.



What are the resources/places that you regularly soak up to inspire you? 

In no particular order: Books I would recommend:

Seth Godin – Linchpin & Purple Cow

Steven Pressfield – The War of Art

Mitch Joel – Ctrl, Alt, Delete

Tim Wu – The Master Switch

Joe Pulizzi – Epic Content Marketing


Online Resource:



Gary Vaynerchuk

London Real

Social Pro Podcast


Thanks to Simon for his input and perspective. Why not connect and find out more:

Simon on Twitter: click here

Simon’s site: click here

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