Anne-Marie McConnon has seen some changes in her time. In more than eight years as a leader in investment marketing at M&G and then BNY Mellon Investment Management, Anne-Marie has overseen rebrands, implemented digital strategies, and headed brand-awareness campaigns across Europe and the Middle East – while also finding time to help launch the massively popular Bond Vigilantes blog.
Her last two years, though, have seen her take on one of her biggest challenges yet. Charged with overhauling BNY Mellon’s content strategy, Anne-Marie transformed her writing team into what she calls a “news room”, ushering in a profound shift in BNY Mellon’s marketing along the way. And she’s clearly doing something right: just this year, Investment Week named Anne-Marie its Marketer of the Year and her team as Team of the Year, while the content team was recognised for its achievements in creating outstanding content.
We sat down with Anne-Marie, now BNY’s Head of Marketing for EMEA, to find out what she’s done, how she did it, and what’s next.
Q: How have you changed BNY Mellon’s marketing strategy?
A. We’ve spent a huge amount of time on digital. Three years ago, about 80% of our efforts were on events, and anything that was left over we could allocate to other elements of marketing. We didn’t have a fully integrated approach and some core elements such as digital were almost non-existent.
About two years ago we took the strategic decision to outsource our fund reporting to you guys at Copylab, and basically create our own news room. We brought in some journalists, hired Kira Nickerson as the Managing Editor and rebranded the team as Investment Editorial.
The key thing was making the content audience-centric. We spend a lot of time focusing on what’s newsworthy, what people are talking about, and where the conversations are taking place around investment. Our writers are actually encouraged to go out and speak to clients, and to find out what they want to hear. It seems like an easy thing to do but the fact is that most fund management houses don’t do that.
We’ve also set up core partnerships with Citywire and Trustnet. These partnerships allow us to access insight and knowledge from sophisticated audience development teams all over the UK, who are talking to clients all the time. The partnerships provide us with an insight into what our clients are most interested in and we aim to provide content to meet these needs.
We’ve also re-launched the UK Intermediary website, which looks more like a news site rather than the traditional corporate site that you’ll see from our competitors. We feel that intermediaries no longer come to sites like ours for fund information, but instead for content they find challenging, insightful and newsworthy. We’ve got an infographic blog called MarketEye, which is now getting really good traction in the UK – that’s quite different from many blogs out there, in that it’s a 10-15 second view of an investment topic.
I believe we’ve done it in the right way – to focus on getting the content right, we’ve brought in a particular type of writing skill. Over the past two years, the editorial team has concentrated on building relationships with the clients as well as the fund managers and writing teams in our boutiques, and it’s a model that has worked from our perspective. The Editorial Team has become a centre of excellence that the wider business now wants to take advantage of on a global scale.
Q: Where do you distribute your content?
A: We distribute through paid, earned and owned media. Regarding social, just putting out corporate news via a Twitter handle will eventually switch people off. What we’ve done is spend two years getting our editorial and content strategy right, so we’re in the right place to start engaging more seriously on social channels. We now have a Twitter handle specifically for MarketEye, and working with ITN, we’re just about to launch a LinkedIn pilot for UK intermediaries, which is mainly going to focus on creating viewer-led content, primarily through video.
Q. Who are your target readers and how do you reach them?
A. Mainly UK intermediaries at the moment, though we have increasingly been pushing out some of the content across Europe. We are just about to re-launch similar versions of our UK Intermediary site across all channels in Europe, which will provide us with a sound platform for distributing content and increasing engagement. But, I believe that if we want to truly become more digital, we ultimately have to produce more content for the end user.
In terms of targeting, our writers are out proactively meeting clients, so if there’s an event, our writers are there. Every single meeting we have with ratings agencies, the writers go along with the fund managers. As a result, they all have quite a lot of client-focused content. We’re also able to measure, through the digital platforms and technology, what is and isn’t working. That’s actually quite motivational for the writers, as they can see for themselves what’s effective.
In order to succeed, you have to be able to respond quickly, and to have some freedom to talk to the market in a unique way, ideally with some personality. Persistence is also key. There are plenty of other fund managers who have tried to launch fund manager blogs, but few have succeeded. It’s really tough to make it work. It requires passion and real commitment, and it needs a clear editor who can ensure that the content is of a high standard.
Q: What have been some of the key challenges you’ve faced?
A: Generating audience-led content may seem like a no-brainer – but the reality is that as an industry we are very used to talking in jargon and about products first and foremost. It requires something of a cultural change to do this effectively, in my opinion. We had to instil a journalistic culture in our writing team – this meant giving them the freedom to generate ideas and being deadline-focused.
I genuinely think that one of the biggest problems is the sheer volume of content. There’s actually a lot of really boring content out there. One, nine, 90 is the social web’s twist on the Pareto Principle, and it says that in an online community 1% of people will create content, another 9% will engage with it, and the remainder will simply lurk. This now looks a bit more like 70, 20, 10 as digital and social channels expand.
Our approach is quality over quantity. We aim to test and learn. If we see a piece of content is being engaged with, we break it into smaller pieces and extend the reach or expand on some of the points to form additional content. Similarly if something isn’t working we can learn from this and move on. We’ve brought in a content-distribution platform, which gives our marketers a means to push out content further – whether that’s through paid, earned or owned channels – really easily and effectively from their PCs.
Like everyone, I have also experienced resistance to implementing new ideas. You know when something is truly innovative when it scares the hell out of people. If you really believe in an idea, in my experience, there is usually a way to influence the situation. A good idea is to spend time to think about who the key stakeholders will be and include them as early as possible.
Q: You talk a lot about being responsive and newsworthy. Does this raise any issues with compliance?
A. We’ve been really successful with working closely with compliance from the beginning on any new ideas. MarketEye is an example: the editorial team come up with the ideas, then they go to the investment teams for the data and the commentary. We’ve agreed guidelines with compliance which enables us to move quickly.
Q. What results have you seen and can you gauge your success in terms of ROI?
A. ROI is a difficult one, not least because we think about it a little bit more in terms of customer experience and customer journey. Quite often, though, we’re now passing on leads [we find through monitoring the site and blog] to sales, so marketing’s moving from being just a sales support function to a lead and revenue generation area.
When we started investing heavily in content we actually halved our advertising budget and reinvested it in content. That was quite a punchy move. As a result, we have increased engagement with our brand and content by about 300% since we started pushing the content. If you look at our website, since we’ve refocused purely on content, we’ve had an increase in traffic flow of at least 160%.
Measuring ROI is getting better. We’re looking to make marketing more of a science, so, if we can’t prove it works we don’t do it.
Q. What is one of your most notable recent marketing successes at BNY Mellon?
A. About two months ago the BNY Mellon marketing guys won Team of the Year at Investment Week, and the editorial team was specifically acknowledged for some of its content. They did a series of reports called “Debating The State Of”, looking at places such as Germany and China, and it was highly acknowledged for how in-depth it went into the market. That team really does research their topics very well.
Something else that we did earlier this year was a project to coincide with our sponsorship of the Oxford and Cambridge boat races. 2015 was a game-changer in the world of sport, as BNY Mellon and Newton were actively involved in bringing the women’s boat race to the same tideway as the men’s boat race for the first time ever. It was our that hope this breakthrough for diversity in sport would be felt far beyond the river, the track and the playing field. Diversity is key to innovation and success in business.
With this in mind, ahead of race week, we hosted a Womenomics event and commissioned a research paper with Cambridge University on the global rise of women in society. Though we joke about the term “thought leadership”, we felt that this really was a first, because it looked not just at how women can rise to board-level roles, but how they can stay there too.
The research was done in record-breaking time, maybe five or six months, and was carried out by Cambridge University on behalf of BNY Mellon. That study won an award at Investment Week as well, which we’re also really proud of.
Q. Do you have a nomination for your most hated piece of financial jargon?
A. To be honest, I hate all of it. As an industry I don’t think we’re very good at simplifying our products. One of the challenges we have as an industry is really getting inside the mindset of the consumer. If we really want to go digital and embrace social, you have to be prepared for that content to be accessible across the internet.
Q. Where do you think the industry is headed? What are the major challenges?
A. There’s so much more content out there, so getting heard, reaching the right people, and moving quickly enough in this increasingly digital world, is one of the biggest challenges. I think that the teams that are set up right are the ones that will win. I’d like to think that BNY Mellon will be one of those companies because we’ve spent time laying the right foundations.
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