Social storm in a teapot

How important is content creation? Corp Comms magazine and agency Blue Rubicon have released a report entitled Content: Business Critical or Emperor’s New Clothes, which is packed full of stories and is a snazzy read. It includes responses from a survey of corporate affairs directors and is a picture of their views on and confidence in producing and managing content – a staple of internal comms professionals’ diets.

Blue Rubicon say on their website: “Content production, distribution and curating are areas of growing interest for corporate communicators while concern to deliver strong ROI (return on investment) remains at the fore. Many are investing greater resource in digital content to amplify their message in a way that is shareable and interesting enough to generate buzz amongst with wider or harder to reach audiences.”

I’m going to highlight one of the articles in the report as I think readers of Diary of an internal communicator will find it as interesting as I did. I like the quote ‘our content is dictated by our audience’ and Debenhams’ approach.

For non-British readers, Debenhams has 153 department stores across the UK and Ireland. So with a nod to Corp Comms magazine and Blue Rubicon, here is the story and you can access the whole document here. Do let me know what you think by commenting below or via Twitter @AllthingsIC.

Social storm in a teapot
For Ed Watson, director of public relations at Debenhams, every piece of content generated by the marketing and communications teams of the department store needs to focus on design, value or inspiration.

‘There is a danger that we can go off piste,’ says Watson. ‘We should be anchored in terms of content that reflects our strategy. It is very easy to get carried away but you have to be strict with yourself. It must be true to your brand.’

So when Watson learned that Debenhams’ teapot sales were in decline, he spotted the perfect opportunity to create a content driven campaign that also captured the nationalistic pride associated with the Golden Jubilee and London 2012.

‘This sat perfectly with our strategy,’ he explains. ‘It was about our home offering and was also about being British.’

Debenhams launched its Campaign for Civilised Tea Drinking with a press release highlighting the fact that demand for teapots had halved over the past five years while 165 million cups of tea are consumed every day in the UK.

Perfecting the teapot
The release contained a promise that Debenhams, which serves nearly five million cups of tea in its restaurants and cafes every year, would do so in a teapot with a cup and saucer, and an announcement that it was designing a new ‘non spill’ teapot to prevent hot liquid cascading over the side – ‘a common problem,’ says Watson.

Social etiquette expert Liz Brewer explained the importance of the act of tea drinking while a handy guide to a perfect pot of tea was provided. ‘When we send out a release, we also tweet about it,’ explains Watson. Debenhams currently has more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.

The campaign was soon picked up by Mail Online, while Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, wrote a robust defence of the teapot in The Daily Mail.

‘Our release provided news content and also Facebook content,’ explains Watson. ‘But it clearly struck a nerve. A buzz built up and we started to engage using the hashtag #savetheteapot and over a two day period, our campaign started trending on Twitter. It was done by the public without any advertising.’

Major tea brands swiftly got in on the act. Twinings, which has almost 7,000 followers, offered a teapot to one lucky follower who retweeted its message with the #savetheteapot hashtag. Tetley, with more than 62,000 followers, offered a ‘Tea Folk tea cosy’ to one follower who tweeted the hashtag while Typhoo, with more than 2,500 followers, offered a package of goodies for those who followed and retweeted the message.

Pouring out the content
‘We started with the traditional route of a press release, and eventually saw our content hosted on other websites, such as Tetley,’ says Watson. ‘Our day job is to provide the content, particularly for our social media channels. I have a calendar of events, such as the first anniversary of William and Kate, and other topical issues and sporting occasions. If there is a really juicy soap plot, we will ask our followers what they think about it.’

The decision by Royal Ascot to ban fascinators led Debenhams to launch a campaign to save the feathery headpiece, following the same press release route as the teapot model, which again fulfilled its criteria of design, value and inspiration.

‘We have more than 1.6 million unique visitors to our website every month. They don’t just want a shopping experience; they are cash rich and time poor and want to visit a retailer’s website to find out about the weather, read blogs and see articles that relate to them. They want interactivity. We create content that means there is no reason to leave our website,’ says Watson. ‘Our editorial approach supports the needs of our brands. Our content is not dictated by Debenhams but by our audience. Fortunately, we can produce content that is of interest to a number of different channels.’

If you’d like to read more about content creation, you can view the whole report here, Rachel.

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