In little more than a year, implementation specialist and IT consultancy Orbium has built a successful content programme that not only won over contributing staff but also impressed a global marketing head at new parent Accenture, writes Sophy Buckley
“We have achieved so much more than I dared hope so quickly,” says Carole Putallaz, head of marketing at Orbium, the Swiss management and technology consultancy and services provider acquired by Accenture in January 2019.
Putallaz joined the Geneva-based company, which was keen to use content marketing to raise its profile, in 2017. However, it had little experience upon which to draw to create a consistent content strategy. There was minimal budget to use outside help so in-house experts were writing blogs in English, often not their first language, while also doing their day job. Fast-forward 18 months and not only has the company raised its profile, but its content programme has won some big fans – not least at new parent Accenture.
“I met the global marketing head of financial services at Accenture just after it acquired Orbium and he was surprised by the mix and quality [of the content]. He asked how we did it and so I told him. ‘Don’t change it,’ was his reply. His team is now trying to see what they can repurpose of our content for their newsletter.”
Showcasing the company’s skills
One of Orbium’s main goals has been to tie the content programme into a marketing strategy designed to showcase the company’s skills and achievements, and to build brand awareness.
This helped with the launch of a business unit focusing on management consultancy, because Orbium’s management wanted to create a buzz about the launch and also the rest of the company. “I know good content can make all the difference,” Putallaz says.
A learning process
Initially Orbium tried to support in-house experts by using a freelance content writer. But there was poor communication about how this was meant to help people in their day job. There was also a lack of review and re-edit processes for the content that often left pieces in limbo, trapped in an endless cycle of revisions. Everyone involved felt frustrated.
Although this period was painful, Putallaz says that as a learning process it was worth it as the company realised that more dedicated resource was needed to really get the programme going and relieve pressure on staff. “We all realised we needed professional skills and a proper strategy,” she says.
Outside specialist help
It stopped using the copywriter and Putallaz started looking for specialist help. She began with the website of FirstWord, the content marketing agency that had already been assisting with Orbium’s career blog for about two years.
“We had started the career blog because it was hard to recruit in the numbers needed – Orbium was taking on more than 100 people a year. It had hired a writer to back up HR, but English wasn’t her first language. I knew that FirstWord took the blogs and made them read as if written by a native English speaker, so I dug a little deeper to see what else they could do,” she says.
Following a meeting with FirstWord, she was convinced that its top-class business and financial journalists would be able to understand and communicate what Orbium does. “I knew that if I was going to win over senior management and get the necessary budget and human resources, I would need to offer people of that calibre,” she says.
The new process takes shape
In March 2018, FirstWord sent a team of three to Orbium’s headquarters in Zurich to “speed-date” the managing directors and in-house experts. In a whole day of back-to-back introductions and meetings, Orbium’s partners and experts told FirstWord what they did and FirstWord asked them questions. “FirstWord would catch a fact and pursue it, feeling a story or something of interest, and I could see that the managing directors quickly understood and got it, too,” Putallaz remembers.
From that day of speed-dating, FirstWord produced a story list of some 30 pieces, each with a clear synopsis and sorted into one of three agreed themes around private banking and wealth management, delivering integration, and smart compliance and data management.
“The initial reaction internally was to cover everything immediately – and that FirstWord could produce maybe three pieces a month and we could do three more in-house,” she says.
As it turned out, everyone soon realised they would have to prioritise, but outsourcing was still a stumbling block. Putallaz admits it was difficult: “It was really hard for some people to let go and let the agency get on with their job,” she says. “We had to win their trust.”
How it works
Putallaz worked with FirstWord to establish a way of working that was clear, achievable and capable of producing content at the right pace and volume. Each piece starts with an Orbium expert having a call with a FirstWord writer. The call averages 45 minutes; sometimes the expert has an outline of what they want to say; sometimes the writer sees where the conversation takes them. Together they stick within the remit of the agreed synopsis to make best use of the expert’s time.
The writer completes the piece and it is edited and sub-edited before being sent back to Orbium and the expert for approval. The process soon demonstrated that it was less painful and time-consuming than doing it all in-house.
One of the first pieces to be produced was an infographic illustrating how the persona of the private banking client as old and male with family money has been superseded by five new ones, each needing different services and products from their bank. Another piece, this time a blog playing to Orbium’s strengths, set out how to organise and run an IT implementation project so that it comes in on time and on budget. There were also pieces about Agile working, the new skills needed by today’s relationship managers, the different choices involved in replacing legacy banking systems and guest blogs by Orbium’s digital partners, such as Backbase and Indignita.
“FirstWord’s output is good and they can cover really diverse subjects,” Putallaz says.
Building on progress
The next big development was the hiring of a dedicated content manager in-house. Calvin De-Freitas, a social media and content media strategist who had previously worked with banks, industry and in publishing, now oversees all of Orbium’s content.
Part of his role is to support in-house writers – a pool of up to 15 people still produces one or two blogs a month that mainly focus on the company’s work with banking platform provider Avaloq – but he is also the main point of contact for FirstWord, arranging interviews between the ghostwriter and the Orbium expert, keeping track of where pieces have got to in the production process and chasing them if they get bogged down.
“It’s working really well. The experts get really well thought through blogs published under their own names. These go up on the company website and also on their own LinkedIn pages, so it’s great for their professional profile,” says Putallaz. “FirstWord do about two or three a month on subjects they’ve highlighted and we’ve chosen from a list.”
Sometimes the topics are chosen to coincide with a particular marketing push; sometimes it has more to do with who’s available to be interviewed. Since getting to grips with the content strategy, Orbium has published nearly 60 pieces of content over 15 months, significantly more than the company was able to do before.
“The content programme has become turbo-charged,” Putallaz says. “We now have an editorial board of the five senior managing directors that meets once a month to discuss topics that might be covered and there’s very strong engagement through the company and beyond.”
Counting engagement success
She quotes statistics from Orbium’s community members – people who follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter. In early June 2018, the community numbered about 5,000. By May this year that had almost doubled.
“These are exactly the people we want to be talking to. They are industry people, clients, prospects, people who might come to work here and business partners,” she says.
She’s also pleased with how many of them read the pieces. The LinkedIn engagement rate – the number of reader likes, shares to their own social media accounts, comments and clicks divided by the number of readers – gives an idea of how well followers interact with what they’ve seen. It was close to 1 per cent in June last year; today, it’s typically 5-7 per cent. An engagement of 2 per cent or above is generally regarded as good.
“This compares with our peers who get maybe 3 per cent,” she says, adding that the content programme with FirstWord has had the wider benefit of raising the profile of all the company’s written output.
Orbium has also been approached by readers who want to follow up on what they’ve read, asking to meet the experts. Clients also tell them when they’ve read something pertinent or interesting. She was particularly pleased when a digest of 12 of the best blogs of 2018 was printed at Christmas. Not only did it look good, but it was very well received.
“We sent out 400 and were asked for more copies. This year we’ll print double,” she says.
The HR blog, meanwhile, is being migrated to the main Orbium website, and its promotion strategy has been widened so there are partnerships with universities and careers fairs to try to extend the readership pool.
“It’s really important that whatever we publish, whether it’s a blog ghosted for a senior partner or something by our HR writer or written in-house, it resonates beyond Orbium. And I think that’s what we’re now achieving,” Putallaz says. “I’m very pleased.”