It’s a content-centric world: A Q&A with March 30 speaker David Beebe

Every month, the professional development team will bring you a preview of the upcoming speaker. For March, we talk with David Beebe, vice president, global creative + content marketing at Marriott International.

beebeDavid Beebe knows content marketing. Beebe leads the Marriot Creative Agency, Marriot Content Studio and the company’s real-time marketing and brand newsroom M Live. To put it simply: he’s helping tell the stories of Marriot’s 19 brands to consumers across the globe.

Beebe hopped on the phone with us to answer a few questions to give PRSA Richmond members a preview of his presentation on content marketing. The conversation is below (answers have been edited).

Do you have any tips for getting the c-suite on board with a content marketing strategy?

In order to be relevant, brands need to change how they are marketing. We’re in a content-centric world. Customers, brands and publishers are all creating content. Content is a great way to become a part of the conversation and build a one-to-one relationship and loyalty with customers. If you look at the value of content and how people are already engaged with it – it makes sense.

A lot of people want do content marketing. They’ll jump in but they don’t know exactly why they’re doing it. What’s your purpose? What space do you want to own? For us, we want to own travel and the entire traveler’s journey. We wanted to identify a baseline of how to create a world around that [travel’s journey] with content of all types.

The numbers don’t lie. There’s a shifting media landscape. People aren’t engaging with traditional marketing anymore. The world is changing and we have to change with it. We (brands) have to be where they are.

That’s always a good starting point. There’s plenty of great examples of case studies that show what success looks like including GE, Redbull and Pepsi.

What is it like “giving up control” and working with influencers to create content?

I don’t know if it’s giving up control. But it’s not the brand producing the content – and that’s what key.

No one wants to listen to a brand or anyone else talk about themselves all the time. How do you help get your message to influencers who have gained an audience on whichever platform aligns with the topics your brand wants to own? Allow them to create content for it, around whatever the content is first. It’s not about the brand. They’ll figure out how to tie it back to the brand through it. We have a really good relationship with the creative community. We want to be known for allowing the creative community to do what they do best – tell stories. We let them figure out how to pull the brand through the content.

If you tell a great story, it makes people feel something. Consumers appreciate that. They understand the brand is involved, but appreciate you didn’t try to sell them something right away. We build the relationship first. We give them something that provides value first, and then you can sell to them. And [we] build a value-exchange that goes back-and-forth.

How do you balance creating engaging content with the need to answer to measurable business goals?

If the content is good, it will have numbers to show how it’s doing that. Content marketing shouldn’t be separate from whatever marketing you’re doing. It should be part of it – today, it should be a really big part of it.

Traditional marketers are putting out traditional content – in the sense of creative – that no one is engaging with. The shift should be happening to put out content that people do want to engage with. Stop interrupting what the consumer is interested in – become what the consumer is interested in. Stories and content marketing can do that.

Through that you can measure ROI. We have great examples of that like Marriott’s short film. It’s a 15-20 minute film where the hotel is a character. We’re able to measure traditional things like views, engagement and watch time. But then how are we building a community around it? Are people subscribing to the YouTube channel? How are they engaging with the brand? We create sales packages around the film, so we’re able to show that the films are driving bookings to the brand or a hotel. After watching the movie, you get presented a sales package that tells customers they can experience everything in the film. (Editor’s note: check out Marriott’s French Kiss film.)

There are a lot of ways we can attribute sales, revenue and ROI to content. But it’s important that you go back to what your purpose and strategy is. The whole purpose of it is to build a community of loyal customers. You have to give them the content they want, and build a community around that. It takes a while – it’s a marathon. If you do it right, you can attribute and track the ROI and show how effective the content is.


Sign up for David Beebe’s March 30 lunch presentation “How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of Next Generation Consumers with Content Marketing.”