Incoming CMA MD Catherine Maskell: ‘My views on content and my vision for the CMA’

April 28th, 2017

Catherine Maskell, who joins the CMA as managing director this month from Reed Global, tells consultant editor Dominic Mills about her Damascene conversion to the power of content and her plans to keep the CMA moving forward

Catherine Maskell, the former head of global marketing for Reed who takes over as managing director of the Content Marketing Association this month, well remembers the moment she grasped the importance and power of content marketing.

“At the first hint of a recession an employment business like Reed Global is exposed,” she says. “Quite naturally, employers put recruitment on hold. We could stop above-the-line advertising, but we needed a way of maintaining our relationships with clients so that when confidence returned – as we knew it would – we were top of their minds. We wanted to be seen as an organisation that hadn’t cut and run, and that was still part of their working lives.

“The answer for us was content,” Maskell says, “and it was the mechanism through which we demonstrated our usefulness to them, and our skills and knowledge across the 20 key sectors we served.”

Thus Maskell took Reed on a programme of thought leadership, creating a series of reports on HR, skills and employment issues.

What at first was the written word developed over time into a multi-media experience, including social and video, short-form and long-form, and ranging across varied platforms and channels: LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. “I suppose the only channel we hadn’t used was Snapchat,” Maskell says.

It certainly paid dividends. “There was a great moment,” says Maskell, “when one of my MDs said to me: ‘Ok, I get it, content is king’. We could demonstrate the difference content made to our revenue line.”

A gold and a silver at the CMA International Awards in 2015 also bestowed public recognition on Reed’s efforts. “Those awards really mattered to us,” says Maskell. “You can’t put a price on the way they energise your teams.”

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If Reed’s content journey from predominantly the written word to video and social is a measure of the rapidly evolving nature of content marketing, so that is an echo outgoing MD Clare Hill sees in her stewardship of the CMA.

Change is progress

As she leaves after four years to take up a post with the Cannes Lions organisers, Hill says the best way to understand the change is to look at the composition of the CMA’s membership. “When I started, the CMA was composed of members that were all focused content marketing agencies, many of them owner-managed. Now our membership includes group or network agencies as well, and represents the breadth and diversity of content marketing efforts. The agency landscape servicing content marketing is diverse and dynamic where many different types of entity have valuable contributions to make to their clients, and you can see that in the CMA.”

New members include media agencies like MediaCom, MEC and Havas; digital or performance agencies like iProspect; broadcasters including Sky, Bloomberg and ITN; established publishers like Time Inc. and Hearst; content-tech platform Genero; and PR agencies like Remarkable.

Hill’s legacy also includes two other major initiatives. One was a revamp of the awards scheme, adding new categories and bringing in senior-level marketers as judges. “Last year we had over 40 brand marketers as judges. That gives the awards real rigour and enhances their status. We focus the awards on demonstrable effectiveness, and it’s paid off because they are now the most competed-for international awards on the calendar. Over four years we’ve seen a doubling in the number of agencies entering to around 120, entries themselves have expanded rapidly, and last year they were from 23 countries versus just six in 2013.”

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The second was the launch of a focused thought leadership programme. “We knew that many clients found the world of content marketing confusing, and that our members were best placed to guide through it,” says Hill. “They are an ideal platform for our members to show the quality of their thinking. We’ve produced set-piece thought leadership reports on areas like data, social, video and measurement. They’ve been downloaded over 2,000 times from 50 countries, with big-brand names up there including Barclays, John Lewis, Tesco, Direct Line and Red Bull. And members says they have won new business as a result.”

CMA evolution

So how then does Maskell see the continuing evolution of the CMA? “Clare started the process of bringing brand owners into the CMA as members, and I intend to build on that. I brought Reed in, and that exposure and access to all the expert members deepened our understanding of what was possible and, just as importantly, what we could achieve with certain budgets. It opened our eyes.

“I’ve been a marketer for more than 25 years, including with Santander and Levi’s, and I know one of the real challenges for marketers is figuring out how to join everything up and optimise it. Which platforms work best for which purpose? How can you put content throughout the entire marketing mix? How do you repurpose and re-use your content to get the most from it across all the channel options? These are very real questions marketers deal with every day, and it’s where the CMA and its members can play a vital educational role.”

Next on the list is forming better links with the tech platforms. “We increasingly talk about ‘con-tech’,” says Maskell, “so the CMA has a role to present the industry to the tech platforms, and help them understand what we do and what we need. If these platforms want our members to invest in them, then they need to understand them.

“I believe ‘con-tech’ is the future, and the CMA can be a centre of excellence in that area. That will benefit our members, and their clients.”

Maskell continues: “I’m a marketer by training, which means taking the best things about the CMA and its members – its breadth, its expertise, the credibility of the awards, that special thought leadership quality that you can only get from people on the very top of their game – and scaling that as effectively as possible.

“I’m very excited by the challenge, but also very grateful that Clare has built an incredible platform from which to do it.”

Dominic Mills, Consultant Editor, The CMA

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