How to create content for the C-suite

Does your content marketing resonate with your toughest and most valuable audience? Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director of Cision EMEA, unlocks the secrets to content that captures the attention of the time-poor business leaders
Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director of Cision EMEA
Jeremy Thompson, Managing Director of Cision EMEA

RM: What are the 3 core ingredients of C-suite-worthy content?

JT: C-suite-worthy content, like any worthy content, must be:

  1. Timely
  2. Relevant
  3. Insightful

C-suite executives are notoriously time-poor, so we’re looking for information in bite-sized chunks that are easily digestible.

For me, it’s all about unique, great journalism. Don’t just jump on the content bandwagon – if you’re looking to target the C-suite especially then it can’t be content at any price.

What you do has to encompass the three points above – or there’s no point doing it. Quality gains you credibility.

What’s the one thing that everyone does on the train, the bus or the tube in the morning? Consume content.

RM: What common mistakes are marketers making with content? Is there content which immediately turns you off?

JT: I don’t like spam. In my opinion, spam is anything you’re sending me that’s not relevant to me – something where there has been no thought given to the specific target audience.

Email subject lines and the first lines of an article are key because there’s only a limited amount of time I will spend flicking through my emails, deciding whether or not the content you are offering me is worth reading.

So make the subject line to the point - what I am going to learn from this piece that will help me in my day-to-day role? You’d be surprised how many companies get this wrong.

Keep in mind these 2 things:

  1. “Tell me something I don’t know”
  2. “Make me look smart”

Let’s face it, everyone wants to learn more, and everyone wants to look knowledgeable. If your content does those two things, you can’t really go wrong.

RM: Who are the publishers that offer a great example to brands wanting to produce shining examples of content for the C-suite?

JT: It’s got to be the likes of the FT, The Economist, McKinsey Insights, Merger Market, Editorial Intelligence and LinkedIn. The Times online and their alerts are particularly good as well.

RM: How can marketers adapt to a C-suite executive’s demanding schedule?

JT: It’s not just the C-suite that’s time poor; everyone is, because we now live in a frantic 24/7 news cycle. There’s just so much content out there - it’s a sea of noise. So how do you cut through that? It goes back to what I said before about bite-sized chunks.

Easily digestible alerts sent straight to your inbox are great; information that appears in front of me that I don’t have to go and download saves me time. Something that tells me the 10 things I need to know, or a fantastic piece of insight into something I’m interested in.

The key thing I’m looking for in any piece of content is data. It really does root the content in credibility.

RM: When is the best time to push out content?

JT: In terms of attention span throughout the day for education and learning, the main bulk for me is done between 6am and 8.30am – as it would be for most C-suites commuting into work.

What’s the one thing that everyone does on the train, the bus or the tube in the morning? Consume content. To some extent this is mirrored in the evening, but I’d say less so. You tend to go to work at the same time everyday, but you won’t necessarily come home at the same time. So capitalizing on that regular time for learning in the morning is crucial. Then I’ll just get shorter updates sent to my inbox throughout the day, with any breaking insight or news.

RM: Tell us about the devices and mediums you most prefer - do you read magazines in print? Articles online?

For c-suites, tablet is the preferred device for reading news
For C-suites, tablet is the preferred device for reading news

JT: When travelling, I personally prefer tablet. Mobile is too small, and reading broadsheets suddenly seems so old fashioned, and not so practical on a plane.

I do read some things in print – mostly the free papers thrust at me like City AM and The Evening Standard where you don’t have wifi, or magazines, which I still like to browse. It is exciting to have something tangible to read. But I prefer to read news, for example The Times or the Economist, on tablet – it’s cleaner, the navigation is excellent and they embed quality picture and video.

The Economist audio commentary function for each issue is so useful – it’s a very quick way of getting the salient statistics and data that you need, on the move.

RM: Does this spell the end for more traditional forms of marketing to the C-suite such as whitepapers?

JT: I don’t read ‘traditional’ whitepapers. I just don’t have the time. Especially when you can get shorter pieces of insight, expertly produced with the salient information.

RM: What’s key for you in terms of content substance?

JT: With any piece of content, the key thing I’m looking for is data. Data really does root the content in credibility. And it’s important to remember that we consume data in a much different way now – it’s not boring, hard-to-understand charts and graphs, thanks to the rise of the infographic – humans learn in a visual way, and data visualisation has now caught up with that idea.

We produce a lot of infographics at Gorkana and Cision. Signposting to extra data is also very useful. Hit me first with the key findings and statistics, and then send me to the full data if I want more information.